Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas movies

Christmas is a great time to cuddle up on the sofa and watch lots of TV. I’m not a big TV fan – I often feel like I’m wasting my time watching programs about people buying houses in exotic places, cooking dishes that I could never dream of making myself, or sitting around a house and bitching about each other. Yes, I do watch all of those, though giving out about them at the same time alleviates the sin, doesn’t it?

But at Christmas, I feel no guilt, and I enjoy watching movies old and new. The weather is too dull for walks, so what else is there to do on a wet afternoon?

This year has been no different. My Christmas menu this year included: Casino Royale (with the virile Daniel Craig), Strictly Ballroom, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (with a very young Leonardo di Caprio), Inside I’m Dancing, Serenity, and House of Flying Daggers.

Three of these I had seen before, and probably will watch again and again over the years.

It was my first time watching Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. I did struggle with the language a bit, but this movie was a visual feast – beautiful colours throughout – the party at Juliet’s house, where guests are wearing the strangest costumes, the morning light in Juliet’s bedroom, the dark skies over the beach when Mercutio curses the houses of Capulet and Montague, the chapel where Juliet is lying, with blue neon crosses and hundreds of candles all around her, and, of course, the eerie golden light of Los Angeles.

Casino Royale reveals the story behind James Bond’s disregard for sentimental attachment, and also shows the darker, more brutal, side of him. And Daniel Craig's body is worth a look!

Strictly Ballroom is lovely of course – I love a story where the ugly duckling gets the prince!

Brendan gave me a few DVDs of modern Chinese movies for Christmas. House of Flying Daggers was the first of the series – I had seen it in the cinema before, but it is one of these movies that I will be happy to watch over and over again, just for the gorgeous dresses, choreographed fight scenes and surreal colours. Never did blood on snow look so beautiful!

Inside, I’m Dancing is an Irish movie about 2 disabled young men who decide to live their lives independently and to the full. It’s very sad, but also full of hope.

And Serenity is one of the best Science Fiction movies, as far as I’m concerned. It’s got 3 love stories running through it, great fight scenes, and just a very good story about the world and what happens when you try to interfere with nature.

That’s it now – I won’t watch the telly for another year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

On our anniversary, we treated ourselves to an exhibition in the Chester Beatty Library - One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints by Yoshitoshi, one of the last masters of the art.

I had heard about this exhibition on The View, which I don't watch on television, but on the web. Very handy, as I can skip the bits I'm not interested in.

I had never been to the Chester Beatty Library before. It used to be on Schrewsbury Road (same as the Belgian embassy), which was awkward to get to if you don't have a car, so it probably didn't get that many tourists. It is now situated in the grounds of Dublin Castle, right in the city centre. Yet, it was fairly quiet on our visit. Dublin Castle has plenty more to offer (as you can see from the link, there is even a Norman tower from 1226!), but we headed straight to the Chester Beatty, as we didn't have that much time. There is a lovely garden and mini garden maze at the back, which we'll explore in the summer - one of these lovely oases (is that the right plural for oasis?) in Dublin, like Trinity College or the Iveagh Gardens, just behind the National Concert Hall.

This temporary exhibition is situated in a little room upstairs. When the door closes, you feel like you've just stepped into a dark temporal rift - it's very quiet and the dark orange light gives the room an eerie feeling. But the prints - oh the prints, they are so gorgeous, they make my heart sing - they stand out in this light and you can admire them in their colorful and fresh glory. A lot of this series of prints are quite modern - very striking shapes and colours, like this one, of the Edo firebrigade! I found this picture on the site of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Have a look at their online gallery for plenty more views of Yoshitoshi's beautiful work. I'd also recommend you click on the Series link, which includes a series called "New Forms of the Thirty-six Ghosts"!

All 100 prints are shown in this exhibition (I think), and it's hard to take them all in. I bought the book in the library's shop. It is good , as a reminder of each print, but the colours don't sing with the same intensity as the real thing. I'll leave you with another picture, called Moon at Yamaki Mansion, which I love for its strong zigzag composition.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Ikea have opened their first store on this island on 13 December, just outside Belfast, near the George Best (Belfast City) airport. I was thrilled with the news. I had a look online and there were plenty of goodies I wanted to look at. We tried to get there today, but we turned back, as the traffic was crazy. From the point where we turned, not far from Hollywood Exchange, I reckon there would have been another 90 minutes in the car (you couldn't even call it driving) before we would have got in. At that stage, we were both tired and we wouldn't have enjoyed the experience. God knows what the queues at the checkout would have been. I probably would have abandoned my loot anyway, and would have been very upset at that stage, so it was for the best!

We're both pretty tired now, and it will be a long time before we contemplate going back there! My sink tidy and sofa light will have to wait!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I'm not There

On Friday, Brendan and I went to the pictures to I'm not There, a movie about the enigma that is Bob Dylan. I'm not a Bob Dylan fan (I can't understand a word he sings, so there's not much point!), but Brendan is, so it was a special treat for him.

We both are glad we went to this movie - though I have to admit that for the first 10 minutes, I could not understand a single word that was being said by the actors, and I was thinking that it would be painful to watch a 2-hour movie like that! But it got better, and I actually enjoyed it, particularly the scenes with Charlotte Gainsbourg in the role of his estranged wife, and the scenes with Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan himself. Have a look at the clips if you're not convinced! Christian Bale was excellent too. Richard Gere was not quite as convincing - he's such a well-known face it's hard to forget he is Richard Gere.

A lot of this movie was lost on me, as I know nothing about Bob Dylan's life, except for the bits I read about when we went to an exhibition in the Morgan Library in New York. Thankfully, Brendan is a fan, and he enlightened me afterwards, and it made a lot more sense then. If you want more information about it, have a look at the Wikipedia entry (for which you'll have to do a search yourself - the link contains an apostrophe and blogger keeps on bringing me to an entry on hieroglyphs instead). Not a movie to watch with a fuzzy head, I'd say - you need your brains fully functional to get the most of this one!

Belge Side Story

Here is a link I got from Véronique: one of the funniest things I've seen on the web in a long time! I guess you need to be Belgian to enjoy it! Who said we don't have a sense of humour!?

Belge Side Story

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dead Man Walking - a clip

Now that I've discovered The View on the RTE website, I'm finding all sorts of interesting things to watch, read, and listen to!

I haven't had much time to trawl through it, but what I've found is already pretty good - Have a look at the review of Dead Man Walking - the opera, which I talked about a few weeks back (see here). The only disappointing thing about the review is that the clip they chose to show is not the best part of the opera (which all reviewers agree is the ensemble piece with 6 of the characters singing at the same time).

And I got my RTE Guide for Christmas, in which I've found that Dead Man Walking (the movie) will be showing on TV over Christmas. Not exactly Christmas viewing, but I'm looking forward to it. I think Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance as Sister Préjean.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Turandot - the teeth

Remember in one of my recent posts, I mentioned that the Italian singer who played the part of Turandot herself in the Opera Ireland production had a peculiar way of singing, opening her mouth high and wide, and showing her teeth - not very attractive.

Well, I have actual footage of this, in case you didn't believe me.

I found this clip on the RTE website. An arts program presented by John Kelly (of JK Ensemble fame, on Lyric FM), called The View, had the artist in the studio, and she sang one of the key pieces from the opera. This link will bring you to the website, where you just need to scroll down to the last section of the program, called The Performance, then click on Watch the clip to see what I'm talking about. You will need Real Player installed on your computer to see it I think.
I'm not sure how long RTE are keeping these archives on the website, but the earliest one is from 2001, so this link should stay live for a good while yet.

Not for the faint-hearted ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mary

Wishing you all the best on your birthday! Here is a view of the Castleblayney golf course, taken the last time we were there.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Holidays are coming, holidays are coming...

I'm taking a well-earned break from a busy busy weekend.

After a PC Medic pick-up in the morning and a quick trip to the post office to buy stamps and - finally - post our Christmas cards (I hope the cards don't get too wet, or the watercolour will run!), I got my parents' present in town yesterday afternoon, despite the storm. It was the most miserable day to be in town, cold, wet, windy, and yet, town was as busy as usual.

I quickly retreated to Café en Seine, with an Irish Times and a hot chocolate, and was joined by Lisa around 2, for a nice chat, and another hot chocolate.

I called around to Susanne after that, and we chatted for a couple of hours, and I sampled some of the Jewish Bakery's lovely croissants, and a couple of very Christmasey gingerbread and chocolate biscuits sent over by her mum. Yummy!

This morning, after a bit of work on a customer's website, I had to go to PC World to buy ink for a customer's printer (Bizmart was closed yesterday - it was a bit of a bummer). Since I was in Carrickmines, I had a quick look in 53 Degrees North, where I purchased a nice pair of good, light, waterproof walking shoes for myself. And then, I went to Smyth Toy Shop, which wasn't as hectic as I thought it would be. I didn't really find anything there, though, as none of the girls are into Barbies any more. I asked about the Nintendo DS - they were sold out, but were hoping to get some more on Monday or Tuesday. The helpful shop assistant cautioned my optimism by saying that last week, they had received a shipment of 400 (FOUR HUNDRED!) of these, which were sold out in 3 hours - people were queuing for them! (Sorry, Brendan, I love you dearly, but I won't be queueing for 3 hours!)

So, this afternoon, as the weather was still dry (a glorious day compared to yesterday, despite the cold), I hopped on the Luas, and went into town, where my next target was The Toy Store, where I found all the toys I needed for the nieces and nephews and godchildren who are still young enough to enjoy toys! That shop is an Aladdin's cave if you're looking for slightly unusual toys or craft kits. I still have to shop for the older girls, who are at the stage where they are more interested in clothes than toys, and for our oldest godson, who is 15 (money is probably all he wants!). Supplemented by Véronique's parcel from Japan, which contains tons of goodies, I'll have plenty to keep everybody happy!

I have a bit of catching up to do on my paperwork this evening, so I won't get a chance to draw or paint (I messed about with some ink drawings earlier today, but not very successfully - I need to think it through before I set paint to paper - I'm going through a bit of an artistic dry patch at the moment - we've just been so busy, I haven't really got into my next project)

And tomorrow will be hectic too, as Brendan's ferry back from Cherbourg has been delayed because of the storms - so I'll be holding the fort all by myself tomorrow! By the way, we heard this mad expression on the telly last week - we were watching a fly-on-the-wall RTE program about 3 girls' debs, the shopping, the date, etc. etc. - one of the girls (the posh one from Dublin 4, who was going to spend €2,000 on her outfit!) said "I'll be on my tobler". I had never heard that expression before (I'm not cool, obviously!). Our guess is that it means "I'll be on my own", as in "toblerone". Isn't language mad? I love it!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Holidays are coming, Holidays are coming...

There is a real Christmas feel about. Our neighbours have their Christmas tree up since last Sunday already, the Christmas lights were lit on Grafton Street 2 weeks ago I think, and Airfield have opened their live crib - with 2 ponies, 2 sheep and 2 gorgeous calves who stare up at you with big black eyes. All the ladies (including myself) at Tuesday's yoga class were oohing and aahing. The design of it is very nice, I have to say

I must take a stroll down there on Sunday to have a better look.

PS: despite appearances, it hasn't snowed yet - it's very rare for Dublin to get any snow before Christmas. This picture was taken from Airfield's website - I'm not sure when's the last time we had that much snow. I don't remember much snow since I've left IBM, actually. The last big snow I remember, I was still working there, and most staff couldn't make it to work. Many managed to work from home, and one of the engineers in my team, Tom, skidded on ice and had a small car crash - no broken bones, thankfully. It was one of these days when Dublin grinds to a halt, but thanks to modern communication technology, our work schedule wasn't too severely affected. As we were working on a project with a mad aggressive schedule (as they all were), any delay in getting staff online would have been a major headache! Those were the days of madness when my life was dictated by ridiculous project schedules (which probably had more to do with Executives' bonuses than market requirements!). I'm glad I'm not there any more!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Birthdays this month - OMG, it's December again

It never ceases to surprise me, how quickly the year goes by, particularly the last 2-3 months!

For the birthdays this month, here is a detail of an old picture - it was an impression of a clam in the ocean in Baros, which I had reworked in Adobe Photoshop Elements on my Mac.

As I can't find my CD for Photoshop for the Mac, I can't re-install it on my Mac Mini. I've looked everywhere, but it's nowhere to be found. I will probably have to buy it again - That's the lesson for today: make sure you keep you essential CDs all in the one place!

Birthdays we will be celebrating this month:
  • Mary: 12th
  • Christine: 15th
  • Erika: 30th

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Tenth Circle

Another book that will appeal to all mothers, but also to fathers (as it looks at the story from the point of view of a stay-at-home dad), or to people like me who just like a good story with a heart - Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle was as good a read as the previous books by her I've read.

This one deals with the scary world of teenagers - alcohol, drugs, and sex - God, I'm glad I don't have children when I read all of that - what a minefield, or as the title implies, what a Circle of Hell (plenty of references to Dante, for those of you who may be interested - I probably missed most of them, as I've never read The Divine Comedy!)

What I liked most about this book was that it included other media, cleverly incorporating a comic strip in the book (the father in the story is a comic strip artist). As any Belgian from my generation, I was raised with cartoon strips - we used to get the weekly Spirou magazine (which I see now has a web version!), and my brother was an avid reader of "bande dessinée" books. My favourites were Yoko Tsuno and Valérian & Laureline, but I read pretty much everything that came through the house.