Saturday 16 August 2008

Dublin, rain, the street

I had a Dublin moment tonight, as I left the Luas station in Ranelagh. "How're you doing", asks the tall man to my left, quietly, on the street. "Grand, thanks", I reply. And we chat a bit, a few more sentences to the corner, where we part ways. "Lovely talking with you", he says. It is genuine and friendly. So nice, especially after a walk through the very weird parade that is Dublin's nightscape.

On Grafton street: a very old drunk man, stumbling down the street, a fresh gash across his forehead, yielding blood. At the top of Grafton street, several large bouncer-looking working class Dublin men held large yellow placards emblazoned with the legend, JOHN 3:7. Getting off the Luas, presumably to join them, was a very pious looking pale faced type, definitely more the 19 year old pioneer pin-wearing stereotype of fifties Ireland, but with a yellow tshirt on over his coat, again declaring, JOHN 3:7. This is a verse from the opium eater's gospel, the young one, and it has been showing up (some sort of cult seems to be emerging, on the face of tonight's attendance) for some years now just behind the goal posts at rugby and Gaelic matches, and, I suppose, has taken on a life of its own. My guess is that it preaches something about abstinence, maybe the guys holding the placards were fresh from some 12 step programme. I don't know.

I won't bother getting started with Temple Bar. As Friendly Ranelagh Man said, sure there's no one Irish in there at all. Truly. And for good reason.

I often encounter these random moments of friendliness, actually. They always come as a surprise. It's amazing how a momentary meeting with a stranger - nothing intense, nothing fancy, no big ideas - can feel very intimate. Some intimate part of you, touched. And then you say goodbye, and walk down the street. I remember a conversation I overheard on the bus from Girona airport to Barcelona, a month or so ago, between a girl from Texas and a softly spoken Spanish man. I sat behind them, it was a rainy night, they were speaking English, I am curious, I listened. It was largely chitchat, but you know, chitchat is some of the most interesting chat there is, really, especially when other people are having it. She was intelligent, independent, a 'good' girl, conditioned to be guarded with strange men. He seemed such a lovely sort. I sort of hoped they would exchange email addresses or facebook contacts or something. Afterwards, I saw her, on the train to Catalunya. She looked like she was thinking hard. Like the part of her that was forgotten from the thought, was suddenly sad.

Do you know the feeling of sudden sadness? The one that comes like a whirlwind, and tears through your body? The active sadness, the living sadness, that leaves space after it has gone, energy and joy the next day? Do you know that feeling, or anything like it?

So, according to my late night chat tonight, news from Roscommon is that apparently no one even says how-are-you-doing there anymore. What a pity. I'm glad they do in Dublin.

Friday 15 August 2008

Pocket monster

This guy's physical and vocal resemblance to an android is, truly, remarkable. But his product seems to rock.

So I saw this yesterday.

I've had a three year old old-for-2005-got-it-cheap mobile phone that I have felt no need to upgrade because it's basic and simple, and doesn't try to pretend to look like a computer, like the current crop of mobile phones do, without doing much, if anything, else. They're trying to chase iPhone's arse, but they've just gotten wider and bigger and have more flashing colours and mimic the physical appearance of the iPhone, but basically all they do is transmit voice and short text information.

So far, my reluctance to hook up to an iPhone subscription is twofold: I am living rootlessly at the moment, and currently you have to subscribe for some lengthy period of time to a particular server, and this just doesn't rhyme with the way I live. And secondly, it's not cheap. I hardly ever use my mobile phone. But I use the internet constantly, and I spend hours every day on my laptop. And that's what the iPhone is talking about.

Ultimately, the iPhone is a small device, which is what is great about it, and also its limitation. I can't edit movies on an iPhone, I can't record songs, it's not really feasible to pore over a tiny screen to write anything for much time, without getting a headache. So it is what it is, and its scope as a work tool is limited. But in terms of a constant internet companion, now THAT is something I can understand. Maybe it'll mean I'll get out more!

Whether I get an iPhone, however, despite my affection for the Mac OS, is moot. Check this out: a Linux/Google version of iPhone is on the way by the end of this year, the Android platform, which, if you look at the video at the top of this post, seems to be really drawing together the various google applications into an open platform pocket internet device. I'm excited to find out how they release it.

The interesting thing about all this generation of device, of which the iPhone is clearly the first to emerge, is that they really make redundant the telecommunications industry standard of paying in terms of 'minutes' spent engaging with the network. There has been a revolution in my own life this past year since I got this laptop (a year old tomorrow!) and iPod and basically the software therein: the iLife suite, the iWork suite, and New York city's freely available wifi. Not every city has wifi running on tap in the same way, partly to do with the sheer density of New York and the way it runs, partly to do with the fact that networks in Ireland, at least, and Spain and Denmark I think also, embed a password as a requisite part of signing onto their broadband package. I have only found an open individual subscription in Ireland once: people seem to guard their wifi access as if throngs of laptop owners would be likely to flock to their doorstep and hang around in the rain, nudging ever closer to the wall, eagerly googling.

It is only when a city's culture understands the need for the internet to be like running water, freely available, run on individual subscriptions, but with an open sensibility so that if you find yourself out of range of your own house-based connection, then you'll always find a friendly port to give you access. It's an alternative community idea, it's about building internet infrastructure, understanding that people live mobile lives, and some live more mobile lives than others.

Less than a year ago, I found Dublin to be a very inhospitable place to wifi access. Everything was on a charge-basis, none of the hotels had open access, and cafes offered 'free' wifi in the form of a password that gave 20 minutes of access, presumably because of a fear that people would linger ever slightly over their coffee if the wifi was on tap. Well, it's a long way from Brooklyn's fields of white laptops, one to a table, that have colonised some of the city's hipper cafes, mini office spaces for cash strapped writers, developers, designers, students. Yeah, I don't know how these coffee shops pay their rent either, but it's a part of what makes New York so interesting: subcultures develop and teem over. Endlessly dancing circles.

Anyway, last weekend I found a few more Dublin hostelries advertisting 'free wifi' in their windows. I also got the impression that it had been a bad summer for the hospitality industry, so maybe they've got to work a little harder for that five euro skinny vanilla latte, but it seems like a step in the right direction, a necessary direction.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Tall man/ short woman on Grafton Street

Get your wet Irish summer pictures here, folks!

It appears that just living in a drenched out summer reality is not enough for some of you... at least the ones in Ireland, who are the ones getting drenched! So, I'm getting some google traffic from people in search of pictures of our wet Irish summer, and most of this traffic is coming from within Ireland itself... well I have plenty, and am happy to oblige this particular special interest group. Pictures are fuzzy because of the meeting of a digital non-SLR interface with rapidly moving rain-sodden humans.

Pretty enough

Thoroughly flawless girl (except perhaps for the fact that she has been made a fraud, but by the time this will show in her character she will be probably be already too old, ie. over 10, by then anyway)

Not thoroughly flawless girl.

So the stories are oozing out of China. One can only suck in for so long.

Big hooha as it is revealed that the little girl who was seen 'singing' at the Olympics opening ceremony was just lipsynching. "The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi [girl in the second picture] was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all team". So says some spokesman, explaining the actions that led to Yang Peiyi standing behind a screen, singing into a microphone, while another girl mummed for the cameras out front.

The real singer was not used, in favour of the girl in the first picture, who was considered flawless, presumably, in her image, internal feelings and expression. The original child chosen to sing the song turned out, at 10, to be too old for the job. Ah. Dear.

I didn't see the opening ceremony, and I haven't been watching any of the events either, but this story caught my eye. There are a lot of stories coming out about western journalists being roughed up, and fake fireworks and such.

So here's the last word, from the girl behind the screen...

"Yang Peiyi is said to have reacted well to the disappointment. "I am proud to have been chosen to sing at all," she said. "

Sunset Motel

Just watched this. American passion. Bee you tee full.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Tweet me!

So I joined Twitter and Facebook as initiatives toward having a more interactive relationship with the internet, which takes up, as it is, so much of my day. Facebook is easy: so many people are on it. Twitter, for those of you who don't know it, is the "What are you doing right now?" question on Facebook, and that is the full extent of what it is. Twitter is exciting in terms of group communications and short burst information sharing. I love the idea of Twitter and the accessibility of it. I have, however, only got four contacts on it. It's on its way up of course, but for now, it's still a little underground compared to Facebook. And really, though I log into Facebook at least once a day lately, there is so much about it that is overly fussy, with an arseways sense of privacy, and heightened appetite for bollockry. Twitter is an open platform, with, as far as I can see, no bullshit applications, and no vampires sent to 'bite', courtesy of the more inane aspects of your friends and acquaintances...

So basically, I'm rooting for Twitter, but most of the internet's social traffic is currently on Facebook and Myspace. My Myspace profile is like some atoll in the middle of the Pacific: totally inaccessible to all but the very rich or adventurous, or those who are native to the atoll. I haven't even visited my own Myspace page in a Very Long Time. Well, I really just need to make another one, so, um, well, yeah.

So, currently, only one of my Twitter contacts is a regular Twitterer, and boy is she a regular Twitterer, so I'm getting a steady stream of what are basically diary entries from her. Now, she's an entertaining writer though a somewhat remote acquaintance, but what's really odd about it is that I get this steady feed from her, through Twitter. I feel like I'm finding out too much about her. This thing needs a little biodiversity... so, if you feel like doing so, you can join Twitter and find me there, under herecomeslucy. Lets broaden this ecosystem!

Monday 11 August 2008

Sheep shit/ Thought shit

Dublin this past weekend was pouring pouring rain like a monsoon pours. It was kind of fun, taking pictures of people huddling together under umbrellas while running, like eager three legged race runners. There's a kind of pitch of excitement that happens when there's a real downpour, a gorgeous smell in the air, something about it I love.

You know, it's cold here in Ireland this past couple of days. Actually cold. Tights weather, boots weather, though I am holding off. There is constant and heavy rain. My mother speaks of Egypt like it's calling her to its heat. Only two weeks ago I was living in shorts.

Today on my wet walk through the local wilderness here in Clare, I met some wildish horses, some were mares suckling their foals, and there was a stallion who was sniffing deeply, savouring the aroma from a dusky mare's hind quarters as she carefully positioned her rump in front of him, and twitched her tail. God, the things women could do if we had tails.

I stopped to watch them. He sniffed at her, then rubbed his nose against the grass, against his legs, sniffed the air, she danced a couple of graceful paces ahead of him, twitching that tail, and stood before him once more. He followed, she led, thus. I wondered why he wasn't mounting her. I was standing what I considered to be a subtle distance away from them, but clearly it wasn't subtle enough: he craned his neck around and stared right at me for several seconds. I moved on, looking behind me every now and then, to see one or other of them looking behind them at me.

Then it was my turn with sheep, to get up close and proximate. A sheep's baa up close is a different thing altogether, you can feel the baa, rather than just hear it. There were lots of mothers calling to their smallish lambs, their teenaged lambs, and lots of smallish and teenaged lambs baaing back (different tones). Sheep tend to move in a flock, and they're not too keen on humans. Maybe this has something to do with humans' peculiarly keen appetite for eating sheep's babies, who knows, but they tend to run in a hobbledy kind of way when a human is in their path. And so I climbed a little down the hillside, and let them pass, baaing and hobbling and jogging with the bright blue and red splodges of spray paint decorating their backs.

My shoes were covered in shit when I got home. It occurred to me that sheep, goats, horses and cows, any animal that lives in fields principally, shits and eats in the same place, but they probably don't get sick because it's just grass, cycling itself. Sheep shit, horse shit, even cow shit, doesn't smell bad to me. It's rich with wildness. Sure I get thrills from big cities too, but these long walks I take around here are such pleasures.

I was plagued with intense thoughts of the kind that insist themselves but can never be resolved as thoughts. Maybe some day they'll just go away. I'll take sheep shit over thought shit any day.