Friday, October 31, 2008

Burn After Reading

If you like the Coen Brothers, you'll love Burn After Reading (we went to see it last night, despite the rain and hail - though we drove down to Dundrum Town Centre, rather than walk). Definitely lighter than No Country for Old Men. A couple of gruesome deaths, but nothing too dark. Brad Pitt was hilariously dim, Tilda Swinton played the ice queen to perfection as always, George Clooney's character went from sleazy passion to manic meltdown in one fell swoop (and he looks gorgeous, if a little pudgy!), John Malkovich was at his maddest since Being John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand's Linda was scarily focused on the one thing she wants (she's the actress who played Marge in Fargo). How men fall for one woman's whim!

Halloween Night

It's Halloween, and our neighbours have the best decorations ever! They have a big illuminated balloon pumpkin with an illuminated balloon ghost coming out of it in their front garden, they have a "Pirates of the Carribean" skeleton to the side of the door, they have some scary thing hanging from above the door, and best of all, they have a wooden face mask attached to one of their trees, and it talks to you when you go by, and its eyes light up. They have small children and they go for Halloween more than anybody else in the neighbourhood. Certainly more than us, who turn off the lights and don't answer the door. And our poor Willow is hiding behind the sofa. He came out around 9 this evening, and went back in again 2 minutes later, as the percussion of large fireworks was felt through the house!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Warriors of Heaven and Earth

Last night, we watched a DVD Brendan got me last Christmas, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, a Chinese movie set on the Western end of the Chinese empire, which runs like a good cowboy movie, with 2 warriors who happen to be on opposite sides, but are actually very alike - with a strong sense of right and wrong. The story is told without too many words, and there are some gorgeous visuals (a lot of beautiful desert scenes, and one very bad CGI desert-storm). The story is fairly straightforward, though it wasn't easy at the start to figure out how some of the characters got together - the scene explaining it all wasn't very clear to us. It was only later that we understood what the bit with all the monks was about. And I have to say that to the very end, I wasn't sure how the only woman in the movie was connected to the 2 main guys (and isn't she pretty, by the way?).
It wasn't a Chinese kung fu movie, nor a big period drama, with fabulous dresses. Some of the men's costumes were more gladiator-like than what I had imagined Chinese warriors wore in the old days. But what do I know?

That said, if you want a good cowboy movie and don't fancy Clint Eastwood, Warriors of Heaven and Earth isn't a bad substitute.

Top 40

We were listening to the Top 40 on the radio on the way back from seeing Brendan's Dad (unfortunately, no JK Ensemble on a Sunday), and I recognised one of the top songs, much to my surprise, as I'm not up to date with young people's music.

Then it dawned on me that I had heard that song while checking out Laura's blog last week, where she has videos of her favourite songs!

In case you're wondering, the song was Hot N Cold by Katy Perry. I'm not going to rush out to buy it, but it was certainly better than the Number One, whatever it was!

Restaurant in Brussels

When I went up to Brussels to see Françoise, we went to a little café-restaurant not far from her apartment. We had lovely food there - she had "tomate crevettes" and I had "croquettes de crevettes", 2 very Belgian dishes, accompanied by lovely "frites", our national dish.
Before we got our food, we noticed the smell of cigarette, which was really strange, as smoking is banned in restaurants in Belgium, like it is in Ireland. We looked around us, and couldn't see anybody smoking, until we realised it was the waiter (who was probably also the owner of the place) smoking in the hallway at the back of the bar, with the door open! Both Françoise and I were really annoyed by this, but we were not sure what to do. You couldn't complain to the boss, as he was the one smoking. I know that in a situation like this, Brendan would not have hesitated for one second. He would have got up, gone to the bar, and, politely but firmly, asked the man to stop smoking. I'm just not as confident in situations like that!
Anyway, it didn't stop us enjoying our food!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


More than a week since my last post - that's unheard of! I was in Belgium for 5 days last week, visiting parents, brother & family. Thankfully the weather was good - plenty of sunshine, and mild temperatures. Had a great time, loved seeing the kids, and glad I made time to drop over to Françoise. It's always good to catch up after such a long time.
Busy busy since I got back. It's late now so I'll continue tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Home decorating

The only painting this weekend has been of the bannister. Brendan did a bit yesterday, and I did my bit today. We're still doing the first undercoat - if we can do an hour tomorrow evening, we should be done, I'd say. It's painfully slow. Hopefully the 2nd coat will be a bit faster. We thought we'd be finished by now, but it's not the kind of job you can stick at for hours and hours. I don't want to be all achy tomorrow. Slow and steady will get the job done - it's not bad, once you get in the zone!

I haven't touched a brush or a pencil all week, and the week ahead is hectic too. Though, I feel that once we're finished the last bits of decorating, I'll have time again for painting and drawing. We got 2 new bins (Brabantia touch-bins, very nice - not cheap, though), and our table and chairs got delivered this Saturday morning, so the main rooms are done now. I still have a bit of a mess upstairs, caused by a radiator that leaked. Kevin is due back later in the week to sort out the living room ceiling and close up the floor boards in the front bedroom. This was a bit of a setback - the heating system was losing pressure every few weeks, but Ray the plumber could not find a leak anywhere. So, he did something in the attic (I have no idea what) and adjusted the pressure up. Unfortunately, the increase in pressure made the leak worse, with the positive result that we finally found where the system was losing pressure. But the negative result was that on Monday morning, I saw water dripping on the floor in the sitting room, and when Brendan looked up (he is the clever one, who thought to look up!), there was a big stain on the ceiling. A bit of detective work, and we found the leaking radiator in my front office - it must have got a knock when the floor was laid down or when bathroom fixtures were taken in and out of that room during the tiling of the bathrooms.
The ceiling beams were quite wet and the ceiling plaster well damaged. So, Kevin will be back later this week to sort it all out. Hopefully it will be completely dry by then. Just as well we didn't have a big party planned for this weekend!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Flower

This one was also done using the same scratching technique. I haven't done any painting this week, unless you count helping Brendan to paint our bannister. We have decided to paint it white (it was dark brown). We're at the first undercoat, and it's going to take a long time. We must go back to Woodies tomorrow to get better brushes.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cheap Imitation

We are looking for a nice big painting to put up in our new dining room. So far, we haven't found exactly what we're looking for. Well, we saw a lovely big colourful painting in a gallery in Ranelagh, but it was about € 1,000 and, though the colours are bold and beautiful, I thought I would be able to do just as good! So, far, I've done a test, in a smaller size (40x25cm), and it's lovely, so I'm going to go out and buy a big canvas, and plenty of acrylic paint, and I'm going to paint a big painting! Brendan suggested I design my own, but I don't have the confidence to do that. The lines, the colours and the shapes work so well together, I can't think of a better design. I guess that's why it's worth €1,000!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Orange Flower

I'm doing acrylics at the moment (I think I'm staying away from the drawing of Willow, which will require more skill than I feel ready for - I've done both eyes so far). Acrylics are great fun - you get instant results, brilliant colours, no need for technique or talent.

This is a 6cmx6cm square, done by layering purple, orange and purple, then using a stick while the last layer is still wet, and pulling through the paint to reveal the layer underneath. A great way to play with colours. Takes 2 minutes.

Marlay Park World Food Festival

We live a short drive away from Marlay Park, and as the weather was lovely today - cool and crisp - we went to the Festival of World Food, which was held there this weekend. As you know, I'm not a foodie, but Brendan is, so I was quite happy to go for a walk in the park (which is at its best at this time of the year) and have a look at the food stalls. There wasn't much free food going, but there was plenty of variety, and we bought some sweetcorn from Co. Longford, cabbage and tomatoes from the organic fruit & veg stall, and we sampled the pretzels and the hot dogs.

We watched 2 pigs being roasted on a spit - it takes 8 hours to cook, and one pig will feed 100 people. It's stuffed with onions and garlic and oregano. And we went to the food demonstration tent, the best thing in the festival. We attended a Thai cookery class and a sushi demonstration, both very good.

The Thai chef was from a restaurant called Saba, which we've seen in town and looks nice. We always said we must try it out. After tasting the food today, we definitely will. And I think Brendan will try out the 3 recipes we got - all very simple. I think I would be able to do these myself even.

The sushi demonstration was by, Michel, the chef at Michie Sushi, a take-away place in Ranelagh. Michel isn't a very Japanese name, I hear you say, but his skill and dedication to sushi really came across - just to see him handle a full salmon and slice it and cut it, you knew that this man knows his job and cares about sushi. The bits we got to try were very tasty, and we'll be planning a hop to Ranelagh on the Luas to try it out.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

JK Ensemble Session

It's been one of those weeks - non-stop work, and that's always the week when you have plans in the evenings, so really no time to take a breath. Not even today - it was all go, between returning fixed computers and fixing more, and there are a good few more to be done before the week gets started.

But we had booked tickets for the JK Ensemble Session in the Button Factory in Temple Bar, on Thursday night, so we had to leave the work behind, hop on the Luas, eat a pizza in town, and face the music.

And what music it was. As you know, I'm a big fan of the JK Ensemble on RTE Lyric FM, and when John Kelly advertised a concert of a few of the acts he likes, we were keen to give it a go, although we had never heard of any of them before.

It was a great night. Of course, we had never been to The Button Factory - we don't go out that much really. It's on Curved Street in Temple Bar, not far from the cinema there. We didn't get seats, but we got a nice little corner on the side where we could lean on a pillar and the stairs. And we could see everything that was going on in the Sound and Lighting control room! While the Sound guy was quite focused on his job, the Lighting fellow didn't seem to have much to do, apart from writing emails, browsing the web, checking what's on in the cinema, checking some technical questions on Experts Exchange, and installing a new version of Adobe Acrobat Player. He seemed quite unaware that there were people behind the glass panel! Very entertaining.

The concert was very John Kelly in style - that means everything from classical to jazz to electronica to girl playing the guitar and singing!
The acts were, in order of appearance, Chequerboard, Ensemble ICC, Bill Carrothers with Kevin Brady and Dave Redmond, Carly Sings and the Callino Quartet, and The Jimmy Cake.

My favourites were definitely Ensemble ICC - a viola, cello, bass, saxophone and xylophone (it wasn't a xylophone - it was like a vertical version of a xylophone - I don't know what it's called). ICC stand for "Irish Composers' Collective" - they play pieces by Irish composers, all very contemporary - it blew me away. There was one piece where the viola player, Cora Venus Lunny (daughter of Donal Lunny, according to Wikipedia), sings at the same time as she plays - amazing. And another piece where the strings are quite percussive - again, not what you'd expect from classical instruments.

Chequerboard was just one man on stage, with his guitar and guitar pedals - he basically lays tracks of rythm and melody on the fly and -re-plays them in a loop while playing the guitar. (Brendan has put the CD on his Christmas wishlist). And there was a projection above him which I feel enriched my experience, though some of the images were disturbing. It reminded me of the El Nino (by John Adams) video I got, where opera, dance and film are all working together.

Bill Carrothers with Kevin Brady and Dave Redmond are a jazz trio - they were very good. I'm not that much into jazz really. The piano player reminded me of the main actor in the French movie Delicatessen. And the bass player reminded me of Serenity's captain in Firefly. He reminded Brendan of Ethan (one of the others who infiltrates the plane-crash survivors in Lost). Funny how the mind works. Bill's website is very good by the way. He even has pictures of his house restoration project. Have a look!

Carly Sings played with the Callino Quartet. The arrangements were lovely. She was a bit like a young, sweet and shy Suzanne Vega (though I don't think Suzanne Vega ever came across as sweet or shy). Like Suzanne Vega, the lyrics are anything but sweet. I loved the way she took her golden shoes off to stand up and sing.

The Jimmy Cake was more of a novelty act, from my point of view. A lot of people on stage, playing a lot of different instruments, and playing together perfectly. But the music itself, while it had a deep beat that made me want to dance, didn't really build up to anything. While listening to them, I kept thinking of Ravel's Bolero. Ravel really builds up to something big. The Jimmy Cake didn't. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

All that for € 15 per ticket! Definitely better value than Eric Clapton! And I didn't say "eclectic" once!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Duchess

Lucinda and I went to see The Duchess on Monday night. It was a quiet night in the Ormonde cinema in Stillorgan. There were only 12 of us in Theatre 6.

I'm not particularly fond of Keira Knightley - she is too skinny and she seems to only know one face (pout with the lips pursed - she will have fine lines around the upper lip when she gets old, I'm telling you) and one posture (shoulders back, elbows at an angle - that is supposed to be the aristocratic posture, which she used in Atonement, The Duchess, and I'm pretty sure in Pirates of the Caribbean too).

But if you can put up with her, I think The Duchess is a not a bad movie - it's a very good story (of power, glory, love and humiliation), and the period costumes and designs are fabulous. Ralph Fiennes is pretty good in it, though he does walk through the whole movie with the same puzzled expression on his face. He is a very different character from The English Patient! And I did shed a few tears at the end!

I recommend the "Discover" section of the website -plenty of interesting facts about the real Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.