Friday, February 27, 2009

Cajun Squirrel

At Tesco today, they were selling three-packs of chips with these flavors: Fish and Chips, Crispy Duck and Hoisin, and Cajun Squirrel. Cajun Squirrel? Cajun Squirrel. I'm just not sure that Squirrel goes well with Cajun seasoning. Aren't squirrels more prevalent in the northeast? Shouldn't it be Squirrel Chowder, or maybe Squirrel Cheese Steak? I just don't know about this "cajun" thing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photo Post - Colours Competition

VERY excited about the next jump

I'm pretty sure that this is right before I made my first mistake...
yay team! (they both got rosettes)
looking like I am about to go to my doom
this was an article being passed around about the competition that I didn't go to
jumps I didn't have to jump (probably about three times what I usually jump)
rolling around, after...
...a shot of whiskey!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Apologies...Last Week, a Week Late

Sorry again for the lack of communication! Last week was incredibly busy, and this week I'm writing various midterm essays. But I'll take a break to document the events of last week, which was spectacularly awesome.

Wednesday: Jessica and I were invited to the launch of Samuel Beckett's letters at Trinity College, which was attended by so many incredible people that I can't name (my head is too full of Ottoman religious architecture). The launch was held on Trinity's campus, in the room above the bookstore where they keep the Book of Kells. Sadly, the Book of Kells was 'undergoing repairs'--I think they just didn't want to leave it out in a room full of bibliophiles. We were tempted enough by the rest of books in the room! Imagine a space right out of Hogwarts, with vaulted wooden ceilings, two levels of wall-to-wall shelving full of deliciously old, leather-bound books, and moveable ladders--and all this punctuated by life-size marble busts of former Trinity graduates, who, in an ideal world, would have been able to speak and direct us around the library. Oh, well. They looked beautiful anyway.

Various persons made speeches about Beckett, which were really interesting and made me want to read his letters. We got to hear some of them read out loud, and it seems like Beckett was really sarcastic and witty, and slightly obsessed with fart jokes (I'm not kidding.). It was a really great evening; I got to imagine myself in thirty years time, living the literary life surrounded by brilliant scholars, of whom I will still be in awe.

After the launch, we headed over to Screen Cinema for another movie from the film festival :"Tokyo!" I'd been waiting to see that for a while...and apparently so had a lot of other people. The line was stretched around the block! We got seats, though, and it was definitely worth it. I give "Tokyo!" four stars! (I know it might seem like I give everything four stars, but it's not my fault that the film festival keeps showing such great movies) It was actually three shorter films by three different directors, all set in Tokyo. Isolation was definitely a theme in all three, but they were incredibly different, dealing with transformation, the concept of usefulness, xenophobia, cultural miscommunication, and extreme social hibernation (the hikikomori, which, by the way, is a really interesting phenomenon and something that you should read about. Check the NY Times Magazine archives). Two of the directors are known for doing horror films, so just imagine how eerie these were.

Saturday: I saw another film, "The Burning Plain." I actually had no idea what this one was about...I'm not sure what made me buy a ticket, but I'm really glad that I did. I won't say anything else about it, other than the fact that I also gave this one four stars. It's the kind of movie that really unfolds within itself. You'll just have to see it to find out what I mean! (if you're not a fan of movies that make you cry, maybe avoid this one.)

I also got a chance to walk around the city a bit more afterwards. We ate lunch at the Epicurean Food Hall on Liffey Street, which was great since Danielle has been craving burritos. Sadly, my Greek food was sub-par, and now I'm craving burritos.

Sunday: Finally, the horse show! One of the girls on the team was nice enough to let me ride the bus with her, so there was no aimless wandering this time. I saw the end of the dressage competition, which was fantastic. I really wish that the IHSA had more room for different types of riding. The UCD team competes in dressage, show jumping, and prix caprilli (mini dressage, which was what I did), and they have polocrosse lessons! They also compete in a tetrathlon--running, swimming, shooting, and riding a jump course. These people are seriously awesome.

Anyway, the dressage riders were amazing to watch, which was good considering that I have had virtually no instruction in dressage. My own test didn't go incredibly well, but hey! The judge's comment card--which I was so excited about, considering that the IHSA never gives feedback--said "You have a nice quiet seat. Well tried." So, not the highest of praise, but I'm proud of myself for getting out there and competing when I had no idea what I was doing.

Aside from the fact that UCD competes in so many more 'genres' of riding, the show atmosphere was utterly the opposite from the shows that I'm used to. The IHSA has incredibly strict rules about alcohol consumption, and competitors usually don't talk to each other. When there is negative talk, it's usually meant seriously, and can get really petty. Well here, it was the complete opposite. One guy (not a competitor) actually showed up completely drunk, holding a liter bottles of vodka. Between the final rounds of dressage and showjumping, the last two competitors had to sit on male team members' knees, take a shot of whiskey, and then roll around in the dirt. There were tables full of sandwiches, chips, tea, coffee, etc for everyone, and members of both teams were talking to each other, singing dirty songs and good-naturedly insulting each other. I think the IHSA should adopt the shot-of-whiskey competition...I'm sure it would make a lot of the riders less nervous...

Pictures to follow!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bill Nighy!

The Literary and Historical Society honored Bill Nighy with the James Joyce award today...and I snooped through the window and caught a glance of the man himself! So excited!!

"I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, feel it in my to-oes, yeah!"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

film festivalicious

really cool monument outside Screen Cinema
Saint Stephen's Green

National Museum of Ireland - History and Archaeology

This past weekend has been pretty busy--the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival started on Friday, and I've been going to a bunch of the movies. So far I've seen four ("The Grocer's Son," "Good," "Gitmek: My Marlon and Brando," and "Dogging: A Love Story"), and it's been a really interesting experience. The audience is asked after each screening to give the movie between one and four stars...makes me feel important! Various people involved with the movies are often present as well, which is really cool. The film festival does a Q&A with one of them (usually the director), so you get the inside scoop. I never knew how personal a film festival was, but I like it! I've decided to review the movies for you, but I promise not to spoil anything.

"The Grocer's Son": ****
This was absolutely beautifully filmed and acted, and set to music that fit it perfectly. Set in the French countryside, "The Grocer's Son" is a story about a prodigal son and a way of life that is changing and disappearing--as romantic and idyllic as that sounds, the film manages to skirt the edge of nostalgia, avoiding melodrama and the sickeningly sweet. All of the characters, including the people Antoine meets on his forays in the grocery truck, are fresh and darkly comical. The contrast between the film's humor and its deep sadness was really what made this movie for me.

"Good": *
This title is extremely ironic. Ostensibly an interesting concept--an attempt to show how good German people were swept along with the Nazi party during World War II--"Good" pretty much fell on its face with every scene (my fault for thinking that Viggo Mortensen was worth watching when not on horseback). Either the film was just fuzzy at the beginning, or someone thought it would be a good idea to use filmography to echo the evolution of John Halder's view of the Nazi party, from blurry to clear. Halder's character also has a strange gimmick; every so often, he hears people singing. This does not add anything to his character, or to the movie. It only makes him seem insane. The film is incredibly melodramatic, to the point of being painful to watch. There are so many films out about the Holocaust this year--I'd recommend staying away from this one and seeing those that have actually won awards.

"Gitmek: My Marlon and Brando": ***
I like movies with an opinion, and this movie definitely had one. A true story about Turkish actress Ayca Damgaci's journey to find her love, Kurdish actor Hama Ali, in Iraq just as the war begins to escalate, this film really drew its strength from Ayca's rage and desperation. She is most definitely not a typical leading lady, which the film is well aware of, but her love and determination are wholly redeeming. Similarly, Hama Ali's video love letters at first seem cheesey, but in reality are genuine and (by the end of the film) excruciatingly painful. We see so much of the landscape of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq that many Americans will never see; the land is so breathtaking, and the destruction so rampant. There is a lot of anger in "Gitmek," and justifiably so, but the film's anger and rawness are what make it worth seeing.

"Dogging: A Love Story": ****
This film goes in a completely different direction--it's more of a documentary-like romantic comedy with a controversial twist. I'm not sure what made the writer interested in dogging, but it made for a really great movie. The actors were brilliant, and the script was hilarious. The characterization of the main characters, as well as the people in various vans and cars, was really, really excellent. People that seem either obscene or uptight are reversed; the young, aspiring pimp was one of my favorites. If I say too much, it would ruin the movie, so I suggest that you just go see it.

I also saw the first two movies by myself, which means that this weekend, I finally went somewhere on my own! It was a momentous occasion, fraught with dangerous beeping crosswalks and strange glances from strange people, a ghostly bus stop and theaters of dizzying height! See, melodrama is completely fine if you're not Viggo Mortensen (sorry Mom, I know how much you love him).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mission Accomplished

I came to Ireland and got to hear Seamus Heaney speak. I hoped, before I left, that I'd have some opportunity to stay in touch with poetry, but I didn't seriously expect to hear a reading by one of my favorite poets. Last year, at the same time that I was taking a class in contemporary Irish poetry (and reading Heaney's entire collected works), the poetry that I was writing suddenly became more real in some way; I'm pretty sure that the overlapping of these two events was not coincidental. My poetics have changed since then, and I'm sure they'll change again, but in the beginning, Heaney (along with Mahon and Muldoon as well) was a huge factor. So, this night meant something in a big way. I'm actually kind of disappointed that I didn't wait around and try to actually meet the man, but there were so many people there, and if I were in his shoes, I'd probably be fed up with all of the camera flashes and the awed faces (mine included).

During the Q&A, what I wanted to ask--but didn't have the guts to--was if he ever doubted himself as a writer. Getting past my own hang-ups and cliches was, I'm sure, a phase that everyone goes through, but does the self-doubt ever go away? Since I didn't ask him, I suppose now I'll have to wait years before I figure it out, if ever. Let's hope I get another poem out before that day comes!

On another, more terrifying note, a second spider has taken up residence in my apartment. It's bedded down outside my bedroom door. I'm so excited about all my new spider-friends.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Things I Have Learned Since February 3rd

1. The Common Irish Cold is brutal and persistent.

2. Tesco's delivers! Now I don't have to waste precious time going to the grocery store every 2 days to refill my refrigerator with incredibly perishable foods!

3. Kickboxing is a dangerous sport (by that I mean gym class). You might faint if you don't bring water.

4. Seamus Heaney will be at UCD tomorrow! All I have to do to see him is sign up for the Law Society, for a few paltry euros.

5. An Irish load of laundry (Irish load of laundry = 0.5 US loads of laundry) costs 6 euro at UCD. I might not be quite as fragrant as usual. Luckily, it's so cold here that people hardly ever sweat! Unless of course, they kickbox.

6. There is a spider living in my bathtub. He's not paying rent, but I'll offer him sanctuary for now. It's cold outside, and the birds are huge!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Photo Post - Snow and the City

the view from my window yesterday morning
the River Liffey from the bridge to O'Connell Street (after getting my immigration card)
the amazing not-brownie

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dun Laoghaire: "Dun Lee-ree"

a Christian Science building with beautiful architecture
the Dun Laoghaire International Food Fair
no caption needed
a church in Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire harbor

I'm so sorry it's been so long since my last post! To tell you the truth, there wasn't much to tell about last week, but I've been meaning to write this since Sunday.

As you can tell from the pictures, I got off campus on Sunday with a few friends. We went down to Dun Laoghaire, which is on the coast--should have worn more clothing. What with the wind, and the sea spray, and the extreme cold that has settled on Ireland in the past few days, it was absolutely freezing. Luckily, we were on our way to a food fair that made it all worth it! My friend Danielle was disappointed with the lack of Spanish/Latin food, but I love all food, and what variety of food they had was great. I had a gargantuan falafel wrap for lunch; it had some sort of spicy sauce in it that went perfectly with the as-good-as-the-falafel-from-Israel falafel. It was really that good. After my never-ending falafel fantasy, I convinced myself to try a suspicious-looking substance at the sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free dessert stand. It turned out to be some sort of cacao and coconut mixture, with a naturally sweetening ingredient, and it was amazing. I will be attending many food fairs this semester, I can tell! Next week, Thai cellophane noodles and savory crepes.

I was also a huge fan of the location, despite the cold wind. There's a causeway with a lighthouse that I didn't get to explore, and the (slightly terrifying) waves were breathtaking (so much so that I risked my camera lens trying to get pictures of them...sorry if there are little dots on the pictures. That's the salt!). It made me miss Maine, and think of traveling to more natural sites in Ireland. Horse trekking, caving, all sounds like fun.

It's been alternately snowing and hailing here for the past few days, which was pretty to begin with, but has ceased to be amusing. Lugging my laundry to the laundry room seems less and less appealing. Yesterday, since it was my day off from class, I thought I'd take the opportunity to register with the Garda Siochana as a foreign resident. I also thought that I'd have to wait in a shorter line because of the slush outside, but little did I know that I am apparently a wimp. We arrived at Burgh Quay at three in the afternoon, waited half an hour to take a ticket, and were told that our numbers wouldn't be called before 5:30. After a leisurely lunch, we showed up again at five, and didn't leave again until eight. At least I have my identification card! I really hope that no one asks to look at it, because it is honestly the worst picture ever taken of anyone anywhere. Imagine, after a day of sloshing through the snow and waiting in line for three hours, that you were surprised by a camera that was inconveniently at the wrong angle to your face, and you have just imagined my picture.

In other news, I finally discovered what 'Americano' coffee is: watered-down espresso. I feel slightly insulted! Or I would, if the scones here weren't so delicious.