Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Guinness Jazz Festival

WOW. What a weekend.

There were thirty members of the UCD Jazz Society that journeyed out to Cork for the festival, and we essentially took over Sheila's Hostel for the weekend. It was a very nice place, if only by virtue of it's putting up with the lot of us. We got there Friday evening and were assigned our rooms; I was in with Jen, Jessica (an American who goes to Bryn Mawr and knows Rachael), John (an Irishman I knew already who looks like Kevin Bacon), and Emma and Niall (an adorable, proper Irish-Catholic couple who slept in the same bed for the first time ever while on the trip). The first night, Niall enjoyed playing up the stereotypical Irishman for Mandy, Jessica, Jen and I, while Emma looked on in a slightly head-shaking way. We wandered Cork for a while, had some drinks at a pub to some live music...a pretty low-key evening.

The next day, Mandy and I walked around Cork and did some shopping. We had breakfast in this cute little juice bar called The Berries, which I also recommend to anyone in the area. The owner was extraordinarily friendly and the food was quite tasty. And for lunch, I had the best curry ever at some Thai place. Eventually we made it back to the hostel and relaxed in the cinema room. Somewhere along the line two other girls and I got talked into getting in the sauna with six guys, and let me tell you, it was not a large sauna. I was very sweaty, but very little of that sweat was my own. So naturally that was followed by a shower, and eventually everyone made it out for the 11:00 gig JazzSoc had gotten us tickets to.

This brings me to the highlight of the weekend: JazzKamikaze! THEY WERE AMAZING. They're a five-piece band, based in Denmark, that place jazz with, in some pieces, a touch of metal. Go, listen, and be happy — though their recorded stuff can't compare with the thrill of seeing them live and experiencing the amazing energy and chemistry they have. There's nothing quite like seeing a guy with a mohawk play the soprano and tenor saxophone at the same time. They did one of the coolest covers of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" I've ever heard. And best of all, I was right up front, practically sitting next to the guitarist (who's my favorite, coincidentally). It's a shame for the next band that JazzKamikaze went on first, because there was just no way more traditional jazz like that of Greg Abate and the Organics could live up to it.

The next day, more Berries, and then at 3:00...another JazzKamikaze gig! Which managed to be even better than the first! I really hope University of Buffalo is running their field school in Denmark this summer, because I want to be able to see these guys live all the time. Anyway, the rest of the afternoon was whiled away with more cinema room and goofing around and a certain degree of semi-humourous sexual harrassment directed at me, until the next gig. I had a significantly lousier seat for this one, and found it pretty unremarkable anyway. Jessica, Mandy, and I ended up leaving to poke around Cork a little more and grab a snack. I ended up in bed pretty early on, which was good, since we had to be out at 11:00 the next morning.

Monday was spent mostly in traveling, and by the time I got back I was too tired to do much more than make dinner and do some token schoolwork. Oh, and load both JazzKamikaze albums onto my computer. All in all, it was a pretty fun weekend. Thanks, JazzSoc!

Oh, and here's one of my favorites from...guess who:

This one is longer but jazzier and also amazing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Valuable Discovery

So while I was not as productive as I would've hoped this week (no big surprise there) I did get enough done to make me feel okay about spending my weekend away at the CORK JAZZ FESTIVAL! Woo-hoo!

Apart from doing stupid paper stuff for classes, I managed to see Dr. Strangelove with the History Society on Monday, go to an Irish language student wine reception after Irish class on Wednesday, and generally spend my evenings in leisure. Yesterday evening I spent it in the company of a young man I have not seen in five years: Steven, from my CTYI days! I found him under his old alias on YouTube, finally, after looking for a while. We spent the evening playing music and videos and such for each other. It was super cool! Yeah!

The other thing that happened this week is something I was unsure about posting here, but I'm doing it anyway because then all 4 of the people reading this will know and I won't have to say it 4 times, and that is that on Wednesday Jon told me that he couldn't keep up the long-distance relationship. On a purely logical basis I understand, and I don't feel like going into my other reactions, but there it is, and that's that then, I suppose, at least for the time being.

Anyway, that's about it for now. I've got to go grab a book from the library for the trip and then hoof it to the bus stop to make my way to Cork!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Which way to the gun show?

*flexes arms* That a-way!

That is going to be me pretty soon if I keep up what I've been doing lately. That includes the Beginners' Bouldering Competition on Thursday, from which my arms are still slightly sore. I came close to winning something, but mostly only because there was a separate women's division and there weren't that many women there. But I'm definitely interested in keeping that up since no top rope means no needing to find someone to belay you, and it was damn good exercise.

I've also been taking good advantage of my new [to me] bike. Friday I made a trip to the Stillorgan Shopping Centre. What I'd failed to take into account was that the trip is, unfortunately, almost entirely uphill from UCD. At least it's not uphill on the way back, though, with groceries on my back. I also biked into town today; it's only a 20 minute trip, which is shorter than it takes on the bus sometimes. (And don't worry, mom and dad, I've been wearing my helmet.) The trip from the entrance to the school to Merville is also very uphill, meaning I get a nice little burst of difficulty at the end of every trip. Hey, whatever, I need the cardio.

In other news, I went to Loughcrew, in Co. Meath, yesterday with my Art and Ritual in Prehistoric Europe class. We passed through Kells on the way there for a rest stop, and I think I walked through most of it in half an hour. There's not that much, really; check it out on Google maps. No wonder those monks made such a beautiful book there; there was shit-all else to do. Though there were quite a few beauty salons and barbers for such a small town (and of course, at least one pub every block).

Loughcrew itself is actually a bunch of hills, atop which prehistoric people built a bunch of passage tombs and carved some neat stuff on the rocks inside them. It was in some gorgeous countryside, and since they were the only significant hills in the area they had a great view. The only downside to that was the wind, which was wickedly cutting at that height. I was certainly jealously eying some of the sheep's wool; maybe that's why they ran away every time I came near them. But it was a pleasant day, and I actually got to meet some of the people in my class, so it was definitely well worth it.

This week is reading week for the Archaeology Department, which means I only have my Study of Irish Folklore class. The rest of the time I'm meant to be working on reading and preparing for my papers, which I of course will be doing during the day. And on Friday afternoon I leave for Cork with other members of the Jazz Society to attend the Cork Jazz Festival. It looks like it should be a pretty rockin' time; the Blind Boys of Alabama are going to be there! And for now, I'm cooking up some Zucchini Pasta — thanks New York Times!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Fun Day at the Garda National Immigration Bureau

[The Dingle entry is coming, but as it is photo-intensive it is taking some time, and I've got some other stuff to say in the meantime.]

My passport had been stamped upon my entrance into Ireland with the date October 3rd, and I had been told to go to the GNIB, in City Centre, to register and get my nifty little ID card before then. I did try to go before that date, but at 3:00 in the afternoon they had long since stopped giving out tickets (think "deli counter") and so I resolved to come back the next day. Unfortunately, the next day was the day I came down with tonsillitis, and so the trip was put off. When I did try again, which I believe I mentioned here, I gave up, as the line was not only ridiculous but immobile, and I had better things to do. And so, I decided that yesterday would finally be the day I made it in and registered. I didn't have class until 2, so I thought I'd have plenty of time since I planned to get there well in advance of the 9:30 opening of the student office.

And so, yesterday morning, I awoke at 6 a.m., showered, dressed, ate breakfast, made it to the bus at around 7:45, made it to Garda at 8:50, and was faced with a line that was still around the corner (only one corner this time, though). I stood and waited while reading up for my upcoming essay for about 40 minutes waiting for them to open, and at 9:44 I got my ticket (the time is printed on) saying that I was 218th in line, and thus the 282nd person to get served overall for the day. The garda who handed me the ticket told me to come back after 1:00. "There go classes," I thought. But I decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to wander the city, buy a bike, and stop in the National Museum for a while, where they have an exibit on bog bodies that I really should've been to see by now. Alas, however, Square Wheel Cycleworks was out of second-hand bikes, the National Museum is closed on Mondays, and the cinema didn't open until 1:30. I did, however, have a really nice bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese while sitting next to the Liffey being stared down by seagulls.

By noon, I'd run out of ways to amuse myself, and seeing as the weather was being generally unpleasant I decided to just go back to the GNIB and wait there. I had brought quite a bit of school reading with me, which was good, because I had plenty of time to read it — 282 wasn't called until around 4:30. When the number counter hit 280 I was fidgeting pretty badly and the African woman sitting next to me, the Eastern European woman on the other side, and I joked about the building pressure. Finally, it was my turn, and I handed over the stack of paper they required of me along with my passport. The man behind the counter was very nice and everything went very smoothly. After I paid my €100 fee (and I can't believe had to pay them to spend my day there) and had my picture taken, I was told to stick around just a little longer for them to call my name and give me my card. It was after 5 p.m. by the time I actually got out of there, meaning I spent longer than a full day's work at that hell-hole. But it wasn't all bad; people watching was pretty high quality, and there were a lot of absolutely adorable babies and little kids to make faces it. Also, my ID photo is the most badass I think I've ever taken.

So after this ordeal I treated myself to a surprisingly delicious veggie burger at Abrakebabra and went to see Superbad, which was just what I needed. It's a very funny movie while still remaining fairly loyal to a fairly genuine sense of the high school experience, and the ridiculously awkward characters made me feel a little better about myself.

In other news, today I bought a second-hand bike at Joe Daly's Cycle Shop in Dundrum and got plenty of exercise finding my way back. And now, I'm going to take it over to rock climbing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I got called "Sir"...

...at an Ani DiFranco concert, of all places. You'd think the crowd there would have a passing familiarity with androgyny (always double-check gender in such an environment). I was even wearing a skirt! Anyway, the reason the mistake was able to be made is that, as you may be able to tell from my updated picture to the right, I got a haircut! It was more than high time for it to happen, but the salon prices in Dublin are absolutely ridiculous. Finally, I decided to go to the Peter Mark Academy (a hairdressing school), where they told me the price would be €15. It took a while, as I expected, and I had to keep telling the girl (Julie, I think) to go shorter, and her teacher helped her out some, but it came out really well in the end. AND I didn't have to pay anything after all, because I've agreed to be her graduation assignment. This means that at some point in November I'm going to go back in for a trim and a color of some crazy kind and then on the 22nd model for her. She said that either the cut or the color has to be kind of bizarre (it's her "fashion cut and color"), and I told her that she can do whatever she wants, so I'm excited for insane happenings on the top of my head. By the way, here's a second shot of my new hair:

So that, I suppose, brings me to the Ani DiFranco concert that I went to Tuesday night. It was excellent, which is no real surprise, I guess. She had the same opening act as when I saw her last November, which was Hamell on Trial. He can be a bit heavy-handed with the crazy left-winger schtick (as on his anti-death penalty song "Don't Kill"), but overall he's got great energy, really funny lyrics, excellent guitar skills, and seemingly no social filter. As for Ani, she was her delightful, energetic, smiley, chatty, ridiculously talented self. People kept shouting requests, but she uses all these crazy tunings and has a bunch of guitars to accommodate them all, so she can't do impromptu songs so easily (she managed a couple, though). The crowd was also great; there were waayyyy more guys than at the show in Boston, and it was a standing-room venue as opposed to the seated auditorium I saw her in last time, so it was, I think, a positive change.

It was enlightening to go to a show of two such politically-charged American performers in a different country. There is an overall shared ideology, but it really made me think about some basic assumptions in their songs that are rooted in playing to an American audience. For instance, Ani has more than a few lyrics about race relations, and while the rapidly increasing diversity in Dublin is making such things more of an issue, the Irish simply don't have the same perception on the subject as an American would. And when Ani did a spoken word piece about her own patriotism, I almost felt like crying.

"I love my country, by which I mean I am indebted joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government to make right."

Something that has really been brought home to me in my over-a-month living abroad that I didn't really understand in adolescence is how rooted I am in the history and culture of my country. I don't know anymore how comfortable I could be living permanently in any country but America. For all its pigheadedness, willfulness, strong-arming, ignorance, conservatism, and blatant stupidity, there are many, many great things about America. Virtually anyone can find in it a place where they can comfortably live the lifestyle of their choosing relatively unhindered. It becomes so easy to live a revolutionary lifestyle. And I truly believe that what we are going through politically right now will pass, and changes will be made and we will begin moving once more in a more correct direction. (Oh, and I've mostly decided: Obama '08! I just...can't handle Hillary.)

What I guess I'm trying to say here is that, while I'm having a blast in Ireland, and I plan to continue having a blast, and travel more around Europe and such, and I'm getting a better education spending this year here than I would spending this year pretty much anywhere in the states, I love my country and I am looking forward to getting home and getting involved once more in working to make it a place I can be even prouder of.

But speaking of traveling, I'm journeying out this weekend with interstudy to the Dingle Peninsula in the southwest of the counry, an area which is widely believed to be one of, if not the, most beautiful part of Ireland. There will be hiking and horseback riding and cruise-taking (and possibly seeing the local dolphin) and pub-going (I've heard the Guinness is better in the west) and general fun-having. I'm quite looking forward to it, and I suppose I will try and remember to take pictures — I have been very bad at that so far.

Oh, also of note is that I finally made it to a céilí on Monday, though I did not take part in dancing. It was pretty entertaining, though, with good music provided by members of the UCD TradSoc. Think square/line dancing, except with better steps, better music, and better drinks.

So that about wraps it up for now. What with the concert on Tuesday starting at 7:30, I didn't make it to Mountaineering to try out my new shoes, so I'm gonna get to that right now.

I almost forgot: I got the new Radiohead album! Definitely worth the $5 I paid them, at least. I wasn't blown away, but it's some quality music, and a most original distribution method.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Change of Heart

I think I've changed my mind about the group of people I'd rather spend time with. I went out Wednesday to this club called Spy Bar...it was pretty lame. I think partly that was because it was with this Erasmus club thing, which meant that there were a lot of Eurotrash (a.k.a mad sketchy) guys. Also, it was club. I have solidified my negative opinion of clubs. Anyway, I went with Mandy and Paul and Bryan and Folky (a Czech guy who I'd not met before but heard Mandy talk about) and this kid Drew from Vassar. The boys had been pre-gaming in some Merville apartment with a bunch of other people before we left (Mandy and I weren't drinking), so they were already a little scattered when we got there. Mandy was not in a very good mood right off the bat because all the guys ran off godknows where without saying anything to us. Mandy is I think a bit too touchy about being included; she complains a lot about so-and-so forgetting that they were supposed to text her at such-and-such an event or something, where I would just forget it and move on. Whatever, anyway, she was kind of in a funk after that. But eventually they came back and Folky and Drew and Mandy and I were talking, and then Drew and I got into a music conversation and the other two tuned out. So the beginning of the night was pretty good.

Eventually, however, things degenerated into that state where everyone is running around looking for nothing and doing nothing and not having any fun (at least, I never do). I don't know if anyone else knows what I'm talking about, but it happens more with some groups of people than others. It's that time when person A is looking for person B, person B is looking for person C, person C wandered off and ran into person D who drags person C and E to introduce them to person F who isn't actually very interesting so person E leaves and person C doesn't realize until 5 minutes later and goes to try and find them, and person B and A are still running around with no idea what's going on, and all the time I'm sitting off to one side somewhere wondering why we didn't just stay at home and have a few calm drinks with conversation or something else that seems in any way worthwhile. Whatever, the point is, it sucked, no one was anywhere, the music was awful, it was a weeknight, and Mandy and I were tired, so we left around 1:00.

The upshot of all of this is that during the few times I've hung out with Bryan and Paul & Co., the evening never seems to achieve anything. I'm left with an empty feeling of time wasted. While Tommy and crew are perhaps a bit too wild at times, they are at least something. Also, they don't go to clubs. Check and mate.

In other news, I had a grand day out on the town yesterday. I got up bright and early, all set to go wait at the Garda National Immigration Bureau so I could pay my €100 to register with them. On Saturdays, the Bureau opens from 10 to 3 and serves students only, so I figured I'd aim for getting there at 10, and if I was a little late it couldn't be that bad since it's only students.

I was wrong.

I got there at 10:23 and followed the line from in front of the door, around the corner, down the block, around the next corner, and nearly to the end of that block and stood at the back. I stood there for over twenty minutes, and the only time I moved up in the line was when someone ahead of me gave up and walked away. So I gave up, and walked away. I'll try again on Thursday, when the bureau opens at 9:30 and I have class at noon. If I get there maybe 30 minutes before it opens, I hope I won't be late for class.

At any rate, I had several errands I wanted to run while I was in town. I picked up a lot of spiffy yarn, since I have finally finished the socks that I've been knitting since...May? June? (Whatever, they're done now. I'm going to knit up a swatch to use to make sure that they're machine-washable, then send them off to Liz, who I promised them to during Onas pre-camp.) Yes, so I have three new projects to start on. (The first one's first.) I also bought pretty rock climbing shoes for increased success at the wall. (Side note: my belay test is Tuesday, eep!) And I got semi-permanent royal blue hair dye, for use at some future date. I wanted to get my hair cut, too, while I was out, but every salon I saw cost at least €50, which is just ridiculous, especially with the exchange rate like it is. I've been told of a cheaper place that I'm going to try and get to on Tuesday. And I wandered through a lot of interesting alternative clothing shops in the Temple Bar area, but they were a bit overpriced.

At some point (noon) during all of this, I met up with Mandy so we could go to the Liffey and watch some Catholic monks throw red flowers into the river as an expression of solidarity with the people of Burma. It was nice, and there were maybe 50 people there as well with signs and such. I gotta say, though, as horrible as things are in Burma right now, at least they're not as bad as in Congo. The New York Times has an article today talking about the explosion in sexual assault on women there. It is absolutely horrifying, but I don't see it getting as much press. Maybe it's just too bad to face. I can't imagine having to live it.

I can't end on as absolutely depressing a note as that, so instead I will leave you with yet another link in my link-filled entry: something else.

EDIT: Here's an even better finale! I went grocery shopping on Friday and found mac and cheese! IN A CAN! WHAT?!?! Further updates forthcoming on taste and texture quality!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Kraft Gods, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

There is no boxed mac & cheese in this country. What the hell sort of country doesn't have boxes of mac & cheese? It's a national disgrace! Mom, put it on the list of imports to Ireland for our future import/export business. Honestly, what an abomination.

See, the beauty of mac and cheese is that it's squishy, cheap, and filling. At this stage of my throat issues, I've begun judging foods by how squishy they are. Toast with butter I choked down before class this morning? Not that squishy, so not that good. (I knew that in advance, too, but I was running late.) But the chips (oh right, "french fries") with ketchup that I had for lunch were pretty squishy. Mac and cheese is very squishy, so I decided that it would make a perfect dinner, especially accompanied with applesauce. (Melted cheddar + applesauce. Try it.) But, there is no mac and cheese in Ireland! Unless you make it yourself!

That is not what I did. I do not have the initiative to make it myself. Also, I don't like baked mac & cheese because it's crispy on top (to review: crispy is not squishy and therefore undesirable). So what I did instead was to go to Centra, buy a packet labeled "Cheddar Cheese Sauce Mix", follow the directions on the back, and then pour it over some cooked seashell pasta. (While I was there, I also noticed a packet labeled "Smash", which I bought for tomorrow — instant mashed potatoes are very squishy.) This worked out adequately. It was definitely squishy, though the flavor was definitely not Kraft-worthy. Unfortunately, I made way more sauce than pasta. That's okay, though, because then I made more pasta, put the sauce on it, and refrigerated the whole mess. I'll see if it looks edible tomorrow. And the applesauce went well, too.

In unrelated but equally if not more interesting news: Radiohead has gone extra-crazy in an AWESOME WAY. I plan to pay £2.50 (but kind of which I had a decent excuse to myself to buy the discbox).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sick sick sick ick.

The first time I'd left the house since returning from class Friday afternoon was to go buy ice cream last night. After that, it was to go to the student health clinic today. This is because I've had a very sore throat, really swollen and tender glands, probably a mild fever, and various other unpleasant sick-related conditions. The doctor today said that it's tonsillitis (though I still think it could just as well be strep throat) and I now have lovely antibiotics, medicated lozenges, and a bunch of oranges. Hopefully I will be functional again soon. Maybe I'll even make it to my one class tomorrow!

On the bright side, I got to watch a lot of Firefly online. I would've finished, too, if the second half of each of the last two episodes hadn't crapped out on me. Also, I've almost finished knitting the second sock. And I got to sleep a lot guilt-free. So it's not a complete loss.