Besides my review of Whiplash on Thumped, and a few of my quick news bits for Afloat taking off with hits in the hundreds, which is always nice, there’s little remarkable to report in terms of the work side of the work/life balance.
So let’s talk life, and more to the point, my consuming passion: since Wednesday last week (after finding out about the soft launch) I’ve been mostly spending countless hours watching WWE Network, trawling the archive of WCW pay-per-views and shows that I never saw back in the day. I’ll be writing about it in greater detail soon.
So yesterday I ran into a weird bug in InDesign, where the up-and-down-arrow boxes for changing the font size in single point increments were greyed out for no reason (and just those buttons; the similar adjusters for leading right underneath were just fine). A little rooting around with Google and the Adobe forums threw up a fix that worked for me, but for whatever reason I can’t link directly to the forum thread in question, so here are the steps I followed:
1 Draw a text box (2″ x 2″ is plenty big).
2 Fill it with some text – just make sure the text doesn’t overflow the box … yet.
3 Select a portion of the text.
4 Enter a number in the Text Size box that is large enough to make the text overflow (500 pt. should do the trick).
5 Click outside of the text box to finish editing the text.
6 Click the Selection Tool (Keyboard Shortcut “V”).
7 Re-select the type tool – the arrows should now function properly.
Such a weird glitch, but great to have the solution in case it ever happens again.
The Xmas break, as it was, was decent enough, though I didn’t recharge as much as hoped. I certainly didn’t get my 2014 heavy music round-up finished like I planned, but I’m almost there.
The new speakers for my desktop are helping. I got these from Logitech, cheap but stylish and with a surprisingly rich low end, on a par with my old mini system. It even beefs up the tinny sound of my Steepletone turntable, which is a definite plus. But what it also means is that I can play stuff in the background while I’m doing other things and not have to deep-listen with headphones, which can get pretty exhausting when it comes to the dense and difficult music I like (it’s even worse with the stuff I don’t).
Week 692 was fast and slow. The Sunday saw a trip to the National Crafts and Design Fair at the RDS; I have to say it was underwhelming compared to the last time we went two years ago, but at least we found an Xmas present or two. Plus some lovely jars of chutney. You can never go wrong with some chutney.
Monday to Wednesday was spent on production on the final newspaper of the year, which was as variably paced as usual, hectic hours broken up by periods of waiting, whether for copy or adverts or corrections or what-have-you. But the pages got to the printer on time, without headaches or hair-pulling. I was supposed to have some extra work prepping for stuff in the new year by the end of the week, but it never materialised, so my Xmas hols started early.
Just the one press screening for me since my last weeknotes, of sports biopic cum true crime drama Foxcatcher. It’s not out till January so I won’t have my review scribbled up till after Christmas, but suffice it to say I liked it a lot, especially Steve Carell’s performance: the scariest screen presence this side of Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. Seriously.
There have been other screenings, of course, but the dates and times didn’t work with my schedule; among the gems I’ve missed (the ones I know of, anyway, as I’m not on Fox’s or Universal’s PR radar yet) is Paddington, which, inexplicably, has been getting almost universal praise (I’ve seen the trailer and it looks rotten). We’ll see what’s left for the rest of the month, as the press machine tends to wind down early for the end-of-year break.
Something I completely forgot to mention in my previous weeknotes, maybe because I’d love to pretend it never happened, is that my iPhone was hacked a fortnight ago. There I was, awake with a start on a Sunday morning as my phone blared some random video (I don’t remember what; I wasn’t in the best of moods to take notes, like) and witness to someone, somewhere, bumbling their way remotely through a number of my open apps, and attempting to access others, most unsettlingly 1Password — which I could see them open, chancing their arm at my master password (good luck with that, chumps).
It’s been a few weeks, so it has, but few working particulars to catch up on, mostly extracurricular activities.
The first two weeks of last month were spent chaperoning Bee’s parents around the city and beyond as they came to visit from South Africa. That, of course, was preceded by a number of ‘why is this all happening right now?’ chores ahead of their arrival, such as getting our toilet unblocked (the local kids had kicked gravel into the drain, it appears) and our immersion timer fixed (can’t be having no hot water in the mornings). A lot of stress there as you can imagine, hence my brief entry previous.
So I got my bicycle back from the shop on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I crashed on the way home from a morning ride. Slipped on something, didn’t see what, coming up to the roundabout that marks the last turn before home. But the bike went sideways and flattened under me (buckling the rear wheel slightly; I can feel it drag when I wheel it) and I fell hard chest-first on the end of my handlebars. Yes, it left a mark. No, you don’t want to see it. At least it hit my sternum and not my ribs. I don’t think anything’s broken, though it hurt like a mofo and I was winded for a few minutes after. Oh yeah, and I scraped up my left knee pretty bad; it’s bruised black and there’s numbness above my kneecap. But I can walk if I keep my leg straight, though stairs are a bit tricky.
I’m currently without my bicycle as I’ve left it into the local shop for a service, and won’t get it back till Monday afternoon. I’ve got so used to pottering around the neighbourhood on Ol’ Greenie (as I’ve just named it; it probably won’t stick) that I’m at somewhat of a loss. What am I supposed to do now? Walk?
Lots of bicycle commuting this week: to the office, to the cinema, to the shops. My thighs are feeling it, but in a good way. Here’s hoping that (and not stuffing my face with Nando’s on Wednesday night) reflects in my WeightWatchers weigh-in next week.
My review of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For went up last Sunday evening, and it’s been mostly a quiet week since then. Just the one press screening for me, on Thursday morning, and catching up on my Afloat contributions after putting the paper to bed on Wednesday. Here and there I’m brain-dumping bits for future reviews and whatnot. (Oh, and reading: I finished [one book](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1826048.Notes) and started [another](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19488308-hatchet-job).) Sometimes you need to let things steep for a while before they’re ready, y’know?
Only one published-elsewhere thing from me this week — my Thumped review of Into the Storm — but I attended three press screenings (two on Wednesday and another on Thursday), and I’ll be writing up one of them (the new Sin City movie) over the weekend, because it’s out on Monday (yeah, weird, I know).
Other than that, it was a slow week, capped off by a Friday where everything seemed to go wrong for me. Feck it, I’ve got pear cider in the fridge for later; not the one I wanted, mind, but some is better than none.
I’m typing these up at the end of a tiring week. I’m looking forward to taking a day off this weekend to decompress a little, maybe watch some TV or movies, or listen to music, just for the pleasure of it, like.
Monday saw my latest piece for Burning Ambulance go online, a review of the debut from Irish post-metal band Raum Kingdom, as well as my newest film review for Thumped, my take on The Congress.
Meanwhile, I was deep in the word mines till Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday night I ventured out (despite my 6am start that morning) to see Earth play at Whelan’s, with local psych-rockers Wild Rocket supporting. I’ve missed all of Earth’s previous visits — and I interviewed them last month! — so it was about damn time I saw them, and I was not disappointed. I got home some time after midnight slightly spaced out and bleary-eyed, but it was worth it.
So here’s the thing. I had a month’s worth of weeknotes almost ready to go at the end of week 671, and then promptly forgot about them as life got in the way. But here I am now, a couple of weeks later, putting my thoughts back together.
Late June and most of July was a time of ups and downs, but mostly ups in fairness. I attended by first film premiere, for one (more on that later). And the last full week of July was especially busy: two film reviews written up, and two quick phoners in the can (again, more in a bit).
What’s more, I’ve started cycling to the office in town via the Royal Canal, now that the upgraded towpath between Castleknock and Ashtown is finally open. We’ve been blessed with some nice sunny days (some of them a bit too nice) so I’ve been making the most of it, cheered by the sight of swan families and dragonflies. Good for the aul’ well-being in more ways than one.
Week 666 (ooh, scary!) was a busy one for press screenings, my most out-and-about week for a while, at least since mine and Bee’s double birthday at the end of May. (We went out for dinner and saw Cirque du Soleil, which was great. Don’t let anybody ever tell you different.)
One of the films I saw last week came out three days after the screening, which should tell you something about its quality, but 3 Days to Kill is a special kind of awful. Much better, thankfully and surprisingly, is Oculus, which I got to see a couple of weeks previously. Also up on Thumped are my takes on Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and Irish skateboarding documentary Hill Street.
Numerous things in progress here at Procrastination Towers, though I did see a couple of new items published recently — namely my review of The Wind Rises, and my take on Dead Rider’s Chills On Glass. In the days to come I’ll have something at the relaunching Burning Ambulance, too; I’ll link it on Twitter well before here, so you know where to go.
Not much to show and tell for the last two weeks. The paper went to press on a Monday for a change, but that messed up my mental schedule for the week. Then a sore neck put the kibosh on plans to see Robin Ince on the 16th. Next time.
Then there was Easter, and my regretful consumption of far too much milk chocolate, which anyway I’ve discovered I really don’t like all that much any more. Give me a bar of Lidl’s 60% any day.
On Tuesday I attended my first press screening in a while, Miyazaki’s swan song The Wind Rises; that’ll get written up before it’s out in early May. Don’t ask me about music; I’m working on it.
Late with the notes this week due to a reshuffled production schedule. But the paper’s been put to bed now so I’ll get these thoughts down as I decompress.
Week 656 started with the NUJ’s Freelance Forum for spring 2014 at Buswells Hotel all day Monday, which was mostly helpful to me in terms of my confidence in making pitches for writing work. Not that I’ve made any pitches yet, but I feel like I know what to say when the time comes (ie not too much, just enough; and for god’s sake proofread it before you send it).
Most of the rest of the week was devoted to production: lots of subbing, laying out pages, and emails, emails, emails. That bled into the weekend a bit, too, meaning I didn’t have a lot of time for my regular freelance bits. So the week to come will see a bit of catching up there. It helps that there’s a long weekend to come.
Yesterday was Tabletop Day, and I spent a good chunk of it with Bee watching the live streams, playing Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (fun in the middle, but ultimately not really suitable for two players) and getting reacquainted with Race for the Galaxy (much better for two, and a lot quicker to play). Here’s hoping for some good board game vendors at the comic con in the RDS next weekend.
Work was mostly correcting InDesign page proofs this week — so time consuming! — with some review writing along the way. My few hundred words on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah went up on Thursday evening, and I’ll have some on new Irish film Calvary next week.
The first half of this week was another one of those times when things just pile up out of my hands. The end of any production cycle is often super-stressful, but I’ve had enough experience to know such stress is amplified by the notion that it doesn’t always have to be that way. And I’m acutely aware of the affect it has on the quality of my work. So that’s what was on my mind Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday evening I was at the IFI for Breadcrumb Trail, the new documentary on Slint and the making of their classic album Spiderland, with director Lance Bangs in attendance for a Q&A afterwards. I liked the film quite a bit, and wrote about it here.
Gonna make a renewed effort to be more disciplined about my working/living week and keep weeknotes here on an actual, y’know, weekly basis. Not that I need to guilt myself into working (I’m pretty much doing something every day) but I could be Getting Things Done a lot more efficiently, if not better as such. And that’d leave the rest of my time for living better, too.
Even if I don’t have much to write about for any given seven days, I think even that is worth mentioning, so that I can look back later and see how things pattern week to week. So that’s what I’m doing right now.
Around about this time last year, I surprised the hell out of myself by walking the 25km or so from Howth to Dun Laoghaire. Yeah, you might run marathons in your sleep or whatever, but it was a big deal to me. And I’m sure Aware were pretty happy with me too, seeing as I raised €200 in sponsorship for the charity in my first Harbour 2 Harbour Walk.
This coming Monday is St Patrick’s Day and I’m doing it all again, hoofing it from one side of Dublin Bay to the other on the 2014 Harbour 2 Harbour Walk — this time hopefully in less rubbish weather!
Good riddance to 2013, then; a year that started off pretty well but then turned a bit shit. Obviously it wasn’t all bad, though, and I’m looking forward to carrying over those positive traits — in my personal life and professionally — into this new year.
What of the last four months, then? Clicking back in Google Calendar, I see that September was quiet but for my grandad’s 90th birthday, and finally seeing Soundgarden live; in October I reviewed more films than music, a trend that would continue as the weeks ticked away; mid-November was a bust, a big sucky bust; and December flew by, as it always tends to do.
No forced optimism for January, however; the crappy weather today’s done enough there. Nothing else for it but to knuckle down and Make Things Better. Call that a resolution if you wish.
First things first, must finish off this year-end music round-up before ’13 is too distant a memory…
If you’re reading this on my site, you should be seeing my brand new design (if you’re in a feed reader, click through to have a look in your browser). It’s been seven years since the last redesign, not counting the odd minor update here and there; even this one is just an evolution from what came before, rather than a complete change. The single-column layout is the most obvious switch, aside from the updated logo, and moving my status info to the About page.
Where to start? February began, as I wrote last time, with my interview with punk rock legend, and my musical hero, Mike Watt. You can read the whole thing here on Thumped if you’ve got a spare half-hour. I finally, properly met the man himself at the Il Sogno Del Marinaio gig at Whelan’s earlier this month, which was a great night only marred by the last support band and their truly horrible fans (all I’ll say on that note is: kids, don’t do drugs).
A busy December — plus a mostly sickness-free Xmas — ploughed into a busy January, and February’s already shaping up to be equally packed. Not that I’m complaining.
This month I’m working on a feature that could well be my first print-published piece since my student days; it’s shaping up nicely and I’m looking forward to the finished article, which should appear sometime later in the spring. I should give it a code name or something, let me think about that… let’s call it Pole Star.
I meant to do something like this for last year — to summarise my choice cuts from the previous 12 months of media consumption — but time got away from me in the end, and anyway, who wants to read about 2011 at the end of 2012?
Let’s just pretend I never intended to do that and start over right here with my picks of music, film, TV, books and whatnot, both old and new, since January of this year.
Not much of an autumn this year; winter came hot (or rather the opposite) on summer’s heels, and now that the clocks have gone back the days have gone black. Bummer.
At least I’m getting some writing done: lots of reviews for Thumped over the past few weeks, and I’ve started doing some pieces for Burning Ambulance too. Reviewing aside, my first interview in years was recently published, and I’ve got another one in the works which should be promising. Updates will be here as ever.
Notational Velocity, or NV, is weirdly enough harder to explain than it is to use. Basically it’s an open source app for plain text notes (about anything you want: blog posts, recipes, to-do lists, etc) and a way of organising those notes so everything you need is at your fingertips. You give your note a title in the top bar, you type what you want to type in the main window, and it’s saved in a designated folder. Every note constitutes its own text file in that folder, but you never need to see the folder: everything is consolidated within the app.
You might remember the Cornerhost debacle from a few months ago. A panicked thread on a mailing list for the host’s customers (myself included) led to a tweet from me that led to a post on Gizmodo that blew the whole thing up for a couple of days.
The controversy prompted Michal Wallace, the owner, to resurface with a blog post allaying fears among Cornerhost’s site owners that the servers were going down. Then he disappeared again, but at least my website was safe, and I could FTP in, and downtime hasn’t been an issue.
Well that was a few months ago, and now Michal has finally posted again on the Cornerhost status blog, announcing his return to the company and attempting to explain things from his side.
So I finally joined the future and upgraded my mobile to an iPhone 4S. I’ve had it for a couple of months now, which I think is enough time to build a solid impression of what it’s like to use the thing.
I’m not going to go too much into the positives, because they’re pretty obvious, and I can’t really judge them against the competition. What I will say is that the retina display is impressive, as is the camera (from what little I’ve used it, and I haven’t shot any video yet), and the battery life is fair enough considering it’s more a mini-computer with a phone than a phone with computery extras.
The first quarter of the year’s almost done and there’s so much I haven’t written here. I’m well overdue a catch-up, I know. This one may be brief, but it’s better than nothing.
The highlights: Hitting the four stone mark in my weight loss efforts (I’ve dropped more than 57 lbs so far) / Getting stuck into Netflix for lots of TV shows (and the odd movie) I missed before / Trying to cook a proper meal for Bee once a week (I’m a bit behind on this, if I’m honest) / Getting my writing chops back / Meeting the hardcore legend Mick Foley, if only for a few seconds (he appreciated my Cornette Face shirt):
Thanks to Twitter for helping me remember the following:
4/7 — I find a hole torn in the back of favorite plaid shirt. Annoyed. Proper, durable (non-fashiony) plaid shirts are hard to come by round these parts.
Later in the day, the beginnings of a bad week of hayfever-induced sinusitis. Ugh.
13/7 — Markham sent me an invite to Google+ a couple of days ago. First impressions? It’s like Facebook, but more Twittery in its de-emphasising of symmetrical relationships. But at the same time, it’s kind of boring without my friends there. I don’t feel the same way about Twitter, funnily enough.
16/7 — Made up a batch of my tomato, carrot and onion soup. The secret ingredient is habanero sauce. Yum.
17/7 — Watching Sunday morning wrestling. Zack Ryder has a QR code on the front of his shorts. Genius! Although I’m not sure that’s what they really meant by the Internet of Things.
April closed out nicely with Knut and Keelhaul playing a free show at the Button Factory. This is what hardcore’s supposed to be! Knut were quite good, if slightly on the hostile side (their vocalist didn’t seem the warmest of chaps). But Keelhaul blew them off the stage with time changes, awkward rhythms and riffs galore. So happy to have finally seen them live.
More gigs in May. Rush at the O2 was what you’d expect it to be: a show. But what a show! Spaceship lights, fireworks, elaborate sets, videos – the whole package. Even if it threatened to veer into Spinal Tap territory at times (mandolin on a stand, anyone?) these Canucks are no dinosaurs; three hours of hits is a breeze to them (it was much harder on my feet).
Some highlights (and lowlights) of the past few weeks:
My commute to work in the mornings takes me over the old Broadstone rail line, of which only the trackbed remains. I’ve got a thing for disused rail lines (maybe it stems from wanting to be a train driver as a kid) so I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and wondering how one might go about walking the stretch from Broadstone to Liffey Junction, where it abuts the current Sligo line. Without breaking any laws, of course. Seems such a waste to ignore the space; Dublin’s own equivalent of the High Line, perhaps?
In the middle of February, Bee and I paid a visit to IMMA to catch the last day of The Moderns. It was portrayed as an exploration of “the development of modernity in Ireland through the visual arts”, but the resulting exhibition was a bit of a hodge-podge of whatever it seemed the curators could shoehorn into it, and it didn’t cohere as a whole.
Why, for instance, was work by French artists in France (who merely happened to influence a handful of Irish painters) displayed next to photographs evoking the changing character of Ireland and Irish society? There’s no context! If juxtaposition was the intention, they missed the trick by a mile.
These conceptual problems aside, there were some gems to discover, particularly in photography.
Fed up with the Wii Balance Board‘s fluctuating readings – and the time spent getting through the menus in Wii Fit – I’ve bought a proper doctor’s weighing scales so I can keep better track of what I’m losing (or not, as the case may be). After a few days, I seem to be a kilo heavier on the scales than what the Wii tells me; I’m more apt to trust the scales.
What else this week? To town on Saturday night to see Wire at The Academy 2, which is one of the shittier venues in Dublin. It’s basically a wine cellar with a dancefloor surrounded by iron columns and a stage that’s barely six inches off the ground, so there’s no hope for me when the tall motherfuckers push up to the front. We can do better than this.
Looking back over the last two weeks, I find two prevailing themes: reviewing the past, and predicting the future.
The past I’ve already alluded to in my first Blogfodder link dump. Some of those links are nearly eight years old, which is forever in internet time. It’s incredible that so many of them are still accessible. (Yet maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, as there’s many a site from even further back that hasn’t yet shuffled off this digital coil.)
As for the future? Last night I watched Bob Roberts again for the first time in years, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t prophetic: its parallels to the current social and political climate in America are franky scary.
I’ve been ploughing through The Creation Records Story over the past few days. By now I’m at the stage where my interest is trailing off – I can’t stand Oasis – but that’s only the last couple of hundred pages; the rest is essentially a survey of the British indie music scene of the 1980s, and Creation was right in the thick of it.
The label’s earlier days are the most interesting to me: 73 in 83, The Jesus and Mary Chain, the House of Love saga, and the infamous My Bloody Valentine – as much remembered for almost bankrupting their label as they are for breaking musical barriers.
My intention was to keep a mini-journal of our six-day trip in New York last summer. I even bought one of those Moleskine city guides as the perfect notebook for my observations. Sadly the day-to-day busyness and exhaustion put paid to my plans. But I’ve still got that notebook for a return visit, and I’ve had the benefit of a few months to distill the experience into thoughts which are better off here than stuck in my head, unarticulated.
Everything gets back to normal a little too quickly post-Xmas, don’t you think?
Little to report from Week 478. No big New Year’s Eve partying for us, just lunch at Nando’s and adding to our puppet collection. Seriously – The Puppet Company and Melissa & Doug come highly recommended.
Oh yeah, and we bought a telescope. Though we haven’t had much chance to use it yet, what with the cloud and the haze and all. When the worst of winter passes we should have more to see.
The pre-Christmas rush to the shops was all the more intense this year due to an extra blanketing of snow, and the infrastructural craziness that came with it.
Lucky for us we’d done the majority of our shopping in the weeks before, and only had to pop out for a mere handful of things before holing up for the weekend. If we’d had any more to do there might well be blood on the streets.
Monday — Train is quick into town this morning. Getting home takes longer, however; these icy pavements are frustrating me no end.
Tuesday — I finally get around to watching Aguirre, Wrath of God only to find the DVR missed the last two minutes. Gah! Everything was building up to that moment! Also, putting on Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny right after wasn’t the best of moves.
Wednesday — Adventure afternoon: I take Grimmson out questing in WoW. It’s the first full day of Cataclysm proper, but no sign of any new races. Never mind; Grimmson’s levelling pretty fast at the moment which makes me happy. Was a good idea to upgrade to Burning Crusade, methinks.
Monday — Another day working from home, as I twist my ankle heading out the door. On the plus side, home is much warmer than the office. But my ankle’s sore, the backs of my legs hurt, that weird malaise from Sunday evening returns – and news of the deaths of both Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner doesn’t help at all.
Tuesday — Production day frustrations aside, little else to report. My ankle doesn’t fare too badly on a trudge through the snow to the supermarket, and I spend the rest of the evening with Bee on an epic session of Arkham Horror.
Later, when I go to bed, I chance a look out the bedroom window to see if it’s snowed again. As I pull up the blind I surprise a fox just feet away, right in front of me. Haven’t seen one that close in a long time! I hope he found some food, he had a cold night ahead of him.
Monday — Dublin Bus is really pissing me off. Missing buses on the 37 in the morning and afternoon, and bad traffic on the 39 in Blanchardstown means it takes me nearly two hours to get home. I thought this was the future and we should all be telecommuting by now. Sigh.
Tuesday — Day of administrivia: I need to change my address on the electoral register, lest I miss my chance to get that shower of gobshites out of power.