January 31, 2005

White and Brown Dwarfs, mostly

Last night I was in a pub off O'Connell Street, waiting for The Ill n' P and DDK to arrive. I started to jot down these notes...

You'd think (just spelled that "tink," by the by; the Irish are getting to me) that a pub fifty yards off the city's main artery would be either guady or touristy or both, but The Sackville feels more like a village pub. It is small, quiet, clean and bright, a square room carpeted in cadet blue, with a bench lining two walls and the rest of the space dotted with stools, all in red leather. The Sackville's dominent theme, however, is mahogany: Walls and ceiling are completely panelled in it; the scattered low-slung tables and the bar that dominates half the room are all its rich reddish-brown, touched here and there by brass.

The village pub atmoshphere isn't because of the decor, though; it's far more the fact that they've drawn down the blinds over both windows and the whole pub is sitting around watching RTE and conversing quietly. Specifically, they're watching You're a Star.

You're a Star is the Irish version of American Idol. Sort of. Your reward isn't an album being put out on a major label; it's being the Irish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Americans, if aware of the thing at all, are aware of the Eurovision Song Contest Mainly as a punchline, Exhibit No. One in considering the question "How can an entire continent have such terrible taste in music?" Least, that's how I think of it. I've never seen it. I'm looking forward to it, though; it happens in May. From what I understand, twenty-odd countries send in a contestant, either a singer or a band, and they do their number before a panel of twenty-odd judges --- one judge from each particitpating nation. Then the judges assign them points --- twelve points to the performer they thought was best, eleven to second, and so and so forth. Whoever gets the most points wins; you can't vote for your own country. A fairly reasonable system, but supposedly there's lots of backstabbing and backroom dealmaking that goes on. Ye shall fear the wrath of the mighty Scandinavain block, etc.

For a nation that, while small, is famed for its musicality, Ireland has apparently been something of a non-entity of late in the contest --- many might consider this a point in its favor rather than otherwise --- but RTE is determined to remedy this and to milk the occassion for as many hours of cheap reality programming as possible. So they set up the usual auditions, and sent out judges to frown menacingly at the yowls of delusional fame whores, and then the picked a hundred acts and sent the to boot camp in Killarney. There they had a week to learn new songs selected for them, and then they auditioned again, and they got whittled down to, I think, sixteen. Now they're at the stage where they're paring down them down one by excruciating one.

When I came into the bar a contestant was just finishing up; he had an excellent voice and a charismatic stage presence, but I couldn't even tell you what kind of song he was, because I only heard the big finish.

The band that played next, Jade, is a four-piece, all women. The sound is nouveau-country; bit of the brass and twang of country, but speedy and punchy with a rock-like steady thump. Like a cross between the Bangels and the Dixie Chicks. (You may not have been able to perceive it from my commentary thus far, but I have absolutely no musical training. Or talent.) Their stage clothes reflect these cross-genre influences, as well. The drummer's got pigtails and they're all wearing kicky little skirts you wouldn't be surprised to see at a line dance; they've paired this with knee-high suede stiletto boots. During the inteview potion I was worried the bassist was going to tip over. She reminded me strongly of a picture book I had as a child which featured three ponies forced to disguise themselves as princesses and walk around on their hind legs. They seemed competant, and the crowd seemed to like them okay --- though this being RTE, what the crowd seemed to like was determined largely by how successful the bandmates were at cramming the studio audience with their relatives --- but they had a singing drummer, y'all. I have more than once surveyed friends and acquaintences on this point, and nobody has yet been able to come up with a good band that had a singing drummer. (There's the Eagles, the Phil Collins version of Genesis, and The Monkees, at least for the Micky Dolez numbers. The prosecution rests.)

The next up was a chick called Loirraine Maher. Will it sound bad if I tell you I can't remember much about what she sang because I was distracted by the backing band? It will if I tell you that what I was most struck by was their overwhelming aura of generic, souless competance, such as you find in an award-show orchestra. I think a triangle may have been involved. Man, on the basis of that performance I have no idea how this chick got this far. Her voice is really weak --- tremulous, in fact. The celebrity judges --- huge figures in the Irish music scene, apparently, whcih means they're nobody you've ever heard of --- seemed to have some sympathy for her, so maybe she was just ill-served by the song, but I'd bet money the voting public will be axing her ass. [ed. note --- yeah, I was totally wrong.]

The next woman, one Ann Harrington, had lovely green eyes, a feature she almost succeeded in completely obscuring with a liberal slathering of turquoise eyeshadow, picked to match her top. Her peasant-sleeved top. This she accompanied with a buff, fringed buckskin skirt and knee-high buckskin boots. You may have seen Cher wearing this outfit in the early 1970s.

Her voice reminded me of Cher a bit as well, it had that same quality of power contending with strain. But hers had a smokieness to it; it was really quite pleasent. She had a tendancy, however, to stalk the stage, flipping her hair and shaking her hips, and after her performance one of the judges accused her of "overdramatics." At which point she hissed and four adamantium blades shot out of her knuckles, and she leapt upon the judge. Metaphorically.

I didn't see how any of them fared in the end that night; on Sentana Sport a soccer match between two Italian teams had just begun, doubtless vital to the outcome of some cup or other, and there the channel remained. But I have learned from perusing the You're a Star website --- which had a couple fascinating tidbits --- all the acts I saw made it through.

Perhaps Wednsday I shall post a bit about that.

Posted by Diablevert at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 30, 2005

Lorem Ipsum

I can't stand looking at the disappeared blog any more. So here's some placeholder text. So that there will be a slightly larger little white box at the top. I promise a real post tomorrow.

Also, I updated the MT to 3.1, so's I can delete the spam that was popping up all over the archived posts and depressing me so much.

Nobody cares about that but me, but that's cool.

Posted by Diablevert at 06:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 17, 2005

My Grandfather

My grandfather died early yesterday morning. I'm going home for the funeral tomorrow.

I'm glad to be going; it's been tough talking to everyone on the phone and not being there to help if I can.

I've been thinking about him a lot, of course, the past few days. Remembering. He's been sick the past few years, although his final illness was rather sudden. I'm the oldest of the grandkids --- there's thirteen of us. The youngest is four and a half. Mostly I've been thinking about that; I wish they could have had an chance to know him the way me and my siblings got to know him.

When I was about ten or eleven and my brother was about eight or nine, we often spent the afternoon at my grandparent's house after school. My grandmother worked at a high school herself, and she got off work a half-hour or so after we were let out of school. Oftentimes, my grandfather would come pick us up, and then we'd all go collect my grandmother.

My grandfather had gone to the same primary school as me and my brother, and the act of driving back through its grounds always seemed to call up for him memories of his own school days, some fifty-odd years before. Sitting in the back of his baby blue Oldsmobile sedan as we waited for my grandmother, he'd tell us all these stories, about the desks with their set in-inkpots, and the dull-nibbed fountain pens they set you to write with, about how the worst chore the nuns could assign you was to have to collect all those inkpots and clean them out with a wire brush. The best was clapping erasers. He remembered how once a week they'd have a movie night in the old school auditorium, and you could buy candy from a little store set up in the lobby, licorice whips and bull's eyes and sour balls; he seemed to remember every type of candy they had and how much they sold it for. As he told you a story his hands would spread wide --- this long, those licorice whips --- and he had a repetoire of sound effects to punctuate his every description, pocks and squeeches and clicks, squelch of the wire brush in the soapy water, plosh of spilled ink. These memories were so vivid to him; he didn't want to just tell you about it, he wanted you to see them, to hear them, to share in his pleasure in them. He was a man who wanted to share all his pleasures; he never saw a spot of white on your dinner plate without encouraging you to take another slice, lifting his arm to ladle on another spoonful, a man who never dug into a pint of Brigham's without offering you a scoop. Enthusiasm guided him in all things.

But it was tempered by a meticulousness. The licorice whip was this long, not that; his hands as he talked shaped the air, but they did it precisely, not sketching an outline but drafting it, smoothly tracing remembered dimensions. He loved to figure out how things worked; also to figure out new ways to make them work; after all, he was an engineer who helped design subs and missiles for Raytheon. He seemed to me happiest assembling something, down in his basement workshop or out in the back yard (the Irish music station blasting from the transistor in either case). He could take a thousand small parts and making a whole: a picnic table, a dollhouse, a model plane, a radio. When my grandmother and he moved into it, their house only had one storey. As his family grew he literally built the roof up over them.

It also saddens to think my cousins will miss out on an infamous touring double act doing one of their best routines: Pilot and Navigator.

My grandmother doesn't drive; my grandfather tried to teach her once. Once. (He was apt to be a little impatient with beginner's mistakes; my grandmother was apt to be a little intolerant of being yelled at. You can sense the impasse to which they arrived.) What she does do very well is remember: routes, restaurants, jaunts, junctions, trips, stops. She can tell you three ways to get anywhere she's ever been, why she went there in the first place, who she was with and what they were wearing at the time. So when the two of them drove somewhere, it was she who generally knew the best way to go, and if there was disagreement it was she who could generally offer up unimpeachable evidence for her side. Disagreements were still fairly frequent, of course; my grandmother just won a lot. This freed my grandfather up to concentrate on two things: steering that big blue boat of an Oldsmobile down the highway and the glaring ineptitude of other drivers, the latter of which produced in him a ferocious irritation completely unlike his normal affability. (I've realized just now that this is exactly where my father gets it from.) His commentary on the surrounding drivers and my grandmother's muttered rejoinder has resulted in my learning the only bit of Gaelic I know besides "Erin go bragh." Phonetically, it sounds like "Doom the vail inish" and I derived its meaning from context: "Quit swearing!" Now that I think about it, it might be pig latin, not Gaelic. But the sense is clear.

She kept the logs, he steered the boat, they both enjoyed the arguments; it was a pretty good system. I only saw it break down once, on a trip to Maine, when a tense five-minute round of "Our Exit: Before or After the Toll?" was won in overtime by my grandmother; my grandfather's late concession necessitated an abrupt rightward turn and a brief but eventful passage over a hundred yards of grassy median. The backseat critics --- me and my brother --- thought it about the coolest manouever ever executed outside of Bullit, but our review was censored.

Perhaps it saddens me most of all to think that my young cousins will miss out on my grandfather's sense of humor, for it was made for eight-year-old. I think he knew more elephant jokes than anyone else I've ever met. Many's the time, at the end of dinner, that he'd look across the table at me with a wink and recite,
       "One day I looked up in the sky,
       A little bird was flying by
       It did a twitty in my eye
       Boy, am I glad elephants don't fly."

Great poetry should be preserved. I guess I'll have to remember it myself.

Posted by Diablevert at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 12, 2005

Bullseye and Red Bull

Following the Simpsons on Sky One the other night there was a program. This program was ---- well, maybe I should start by saying that Sky One is the channel Spike TV wishes it was. Occasionally it tries to throw something in for the chicks, though. Like, you've heard of Desperate Housewives? Maybe you've even heard of Football Player's Wives, which was a racy soap on British TV last year about the Posh-esque and their exploits. Well, brace yourselves, people, because nine o'clock tonight was the premier of ....Darts Players' Wives.

There was a subtle difference, though. While the first two shows are fiction (well, Football Player's Wives had a certain ripped-from-the-headlines quality) Darts Players' Wives was a reality show.

The woman in back of the men who. I assume they discuss stool-perching skills, how to pace yourself on the Harvey Wallbangers while trying to sit through a six-hour darts tournament (hint: focus on the prize money), when and when not to holler.

Posted by Diablevert at 07:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)