Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Category: Self

Weeknotes #741-743

Week 741 saw the writing calendar fill up a bit, with two gig reviews plus a handful of press screenings. It’s that time when the screenings bunch up a bit so the PR people can knock off early for Christmas, so there are a few January releases coming up shortly, it seems. (January releases for us, anyway; most of them seem to have come out in the States weeks ago.)

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Weeknotes #739-740

Getting paid. Getting a haircut. Writing up some newsy things, editing others. Solving layout problems with InDesign. Oh yeah, and completing my tax return. That was week 739.

Then week 740: deadline crunch time, then more newsy writing, more editing, and a night out with Mick Foley marred only slightly by the three drunk idiots sat in front of us, who thankfully didn’t get the mic to ask their presumably inane question during the Q&A portion of the show.

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Weeknotes #736-738

It’s well and truly winter now. The clocks have turned back, meaning the black of night comes as soon as half past five. And coupled with the kind of gloom that steals what little available sunlight we have, I’ve been in a shitty mood too much of the time. I need one of those SAD lamps or something.

Not every day has been so shitty, mind you. I can see blue through the skylight as I write this. The Mets made it to the World Series (I know!). I watched a half-decent live WWE show (twice!). And I dragged myself out of the house to see the Deathcrusher tour in Dublin on the bank holiday (Voivod? Great, set too short. Napalm Death? Also great, poor sound. Obituary? Tight as fuck but no stage presence. Carcass? Second time round, a bit too slick for me; the light show was like something from Vegas).

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Weeknotes #734-735

Time to write something about the last fortnight, so. Not much pause for self-reflection: subbing, layouts, writing, wrestling, gardening and housekeeping, in no particular order. I’ve got some things I want to say about recent grappling happenings but those will have to wait till the end of the week, after I finish this album review I’m still working on.

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Weeknotes #732-733

Week 732 saw me spinning a few plates more than usual, with press screenings in the first half (that I still have to write about) plus an impromptu trip to the old neighbourhood for new shoes (there’s a factory store, y’see), then the usual production tasks throughout, plus a whole bunch of InDesign proof corrections and extra freelance subediting towards the latter half. There went my weekend!
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Weeknotes #730-731

Week 730 was a non-eventful one, subbing and layout bookending a day of press screenings and some review-writing midweek. It’s tiring stuff, though, all that thinking and brain work, so most evenings, after dinner and Great British Menus, I was dead to the world.

Little energy to muster to read the few new books I’ve loaded on my Kindle, for instance. I’m on a short story kick — or rather, I would be, if I were reading them and not just thinking about it — so I’ve got some Joe R Lansdale, some Lydia Davis, some Kelly Link, some China Mieville. Bit of a mix there, I think. I’ve even got Borges in my Tsundoku folder, for the classics quota.More…

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Weeknotes #726-729

The predominant experience over the last few weeks? Tiredness. I’ve been sick, mostly minor ills in the big scheme of things, but for the better part of a month. First the threat of a cold that turned into a horrid chesty cough that took a week (and two bottles of Benylin) to shift, then a few days later a proper headcold that blindsided me for a whole weekend, and left everything smelling and tasting of slate mucus for even longer. Even as I write this a week later I’m still groggy from congestion, the kind that sloshes around inside your head and makes your ears sting when you bend over. Ugh.

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Weeknotes #715-725

Towards the end of May, we received notice that the rent on our apartment was going up by 25% from July onwards. And that was that: we were finally priced out of Dublin. The city where I was born and grew up, and where we can’t justify spending to live anymore. That’s Ireland in 2015.

Anyway, cue a somewhat frantic, stressful search for a new home — which we found three weeks later, 80km to the north, in Dundalk. That’s where you’ll find us today, paying less rent for a house with a garden, in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood that’s still a short walk from the town centre. And paying less for faster broadband, too.

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Thinking out loud about grief

My grandfather told a story of an old farmer whose wife of 60 years died. “Ah well,” he said, “had a good innings.” A month later his bull died and he was broken up. “Losing his wife,” my grandfather, a doctor, said, “was too big. This was small enough for him to get his tears around.”

This quote, from a short essay on grief on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, leapt out from my stew of thoughts and memories last night, upon news of the death of Rowdy Roddy Piper.

I didn’t know him, never met him, but to me and millions like me, the Hot Rod was an indelible part of my childhood, and my wrestling fandom. He was arguably the best talker in the business, not to mention one of the greatest heels ever, and maybe the first (well before Steve Austin at any rate) to transition from ‘most hated man alive’ to perennial fan-favourite without losing the attitude, the edge that made him so magnetic.

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Weeknotes TK

It’s been an unsettling couple of months since my last weeknotes, with various doses of news good, bad and just plain awful in the interim. Things are finally settling down now, though — he hopes — and I’ll be able to spill out some words on what’s been happening around here the last few weeks over the coming days. Making lemonade from life’s lemons, as it were.

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Weeknotes #713-714

So, a busy, stressful couple of weeks, then.

Some good things: new reviews on Thumped (Paul G Smyth/Chris Corsano Duo live at the NCH) and Burning Ambulance (the new Bosse-de-Nage album), plus a couple of press screenings (one just for leisure, the new Mad Max movie last night at the Savoy’s big screen).

Some bad things: a ridiculously late night on Tuesday (working till 2.30am) that didn’t have to be that way, and a head cold just about kept in check by decongestants that seem to have had the undesired effect of leaving me dry-mouthed and constantly thirsty.

But hey, it’s Friday, there’s live wrestling this weekend and there’s Lidl chocolate in the fridge, so I’m alright.

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Weeknotes #711-712

With the paper schedule out of whack the last couple of weeks, I’m still playing catch-up on a few things: album reviews, a gig review, a press screening write-up. At least with this bank holiday weekend I’ve had a breather of sorts to triage my commitments and carve out some valuable time for thinking and contemplation.

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Weeknotes #708-710

Little to report over the previous few weeks that I haven’t already mentioned.

Press screenings have been thin on the ground for me lately due to scheduling conflicts. I did attend one this Friday morning, for the new Avengers movie, but we’re apparently embargoed till Tuesday, so yeah.

Music-wise, I’ve got another heavy stuff round-up in the works for Thumped, on top of a few other reviews. This past week I’ve been mostly listening to the new Bosse-de-Nage record, All Fours, which is the best thing I’ve heard in ages. That’s been at the expense of everything else, however, so I’ve got a fair amount to catch up on.

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Jack

Jack, July 2007, by MacDara on Flickr.

This is Jack, a few months after my mam adopted him from Dogs Aid in 2007.

His first owners must have lived locally; he ended up at the sanctuary after he was hit by a car and treated at the vet on Raheny Road. His hip was messed up but the vet did a great job, and though we knew he’d get arthritis when he was older it never really gave him much trouble.

They estimated he was about three years old then. He spent the next eight years in my family home, happy and loved. St Anne’s Park is just down the road and he had the run of the place. More…

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Weeknotes #706-707

I’ve had a nagging illness the past two weeks, sinusitis that started with the usual stuffed-up back of the nose but turned into an earache that made my jaw throb whenever I chewed anything bigger than a crumb, and a dull headache, with attendant surface tenderness, localised roughly in the same area of my skull. Not nice at all. So forgive me when I say the fortnight’s been quite a blur, of working and waiting and a missed solar eclipse, all around and in between that discomfort.

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Weeknotes #705

Week 705 was a quiet one. From Monday it was head down to the deadline at my semi day job, then a well-earned break on Wednesday afternoon involving a sunshine cycle to the park, where I met these deer. (I’m planning to return with carrots and my good camera on the next sunny day.)

In the meantime, my first album review in ages (not counting my round-up last month) went up on Thumped. There’s a few more in the works where that came from, though it’s still a challenge to sit down and just crank ’em out, y’know? Still chasing my mojo in that respect.

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Weeknotes #704

Two press screenings in Week 704: British war film Kajaki (out in April, so review to come closer to that date) and Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie, which I reviewed for Thumped.

I cycled from home in West Dublin to Rathmines for the former screening, and that was a fairly pleasant ride, apart from the deplorable condition of what Dublin City Council would purport to be cycle lanes in the Islandbridge/Kilmainham area. That and the cycle home was into the wind, which had picked up a bit too much for my liking. But on the bright side, the fog has cleared from a new area of my mental map of the city.

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Weeknotes #703

Week 703 began with WWE Fastlane, an event I don’t think I can bring myself to write about other than say it wasn’t any better or worse than the average edition of Monday Night Raw. I’d much rather talk about the WWE Network when I have a chance to whittle my thoughts into shape.

Later in the week my review of Focus went up on Thumped. That was a tough one, to write about a fairly average film that did not excite nor disgust me to any extreme. I’ve got two screenings scheduled for next week, one of them being Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie, which might prove more fruitful.

Which reminds me, I must find the time to watch Elysium this weekend, around the extra editing work I’ve got going on, and a record review that needs completing. Boy, am I tired. I’m eyeing up the end of March for a few days off; the week between WrestleMania and Easter looks like a good one for a bit of a break.

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Weeknotes #701-702

Bit of a blur, the past fortnight.

I spent a few afternoons last week putting together this year’s website awards feature for Afloat magazine; not sure when that’s getting published as yet. Took a bit longer than expected to write as I developed a head cold around the same time, and had to fight through the fog of that to get anything done. Obviously I was useless for much of the rest of the time. I watched a lot of TV and WWE Network, and finished a couple of books while my head was clear enough to handle it.

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Weeknotes #700

Seven hundred weeks, eh? That’s a long time blogging. More than 13 years, in fact. Which reminds me, I completely forgot my blog became a teenager on 1 November last. That’s crazy! So is the fact that I’ve had a website in some shape or form for more than 15 years now. Whodathunkit?

Anyway, enough reminiscing. There’s some new stuff from me up on the new-and-improved Thumped. For one, my review of Jupiter Ascending, the new film from the Wachowskis (and a very enjoyable one it is, too). And at long last, the latest edition of my Noises On! column, surveying my last 12 months or so in heavy music.

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Weeknotes #699

Getting these notes done early today. I’m feeling tired and burnt out after a stressful, frustrating first half of the week, ending with a long day on Wednesday putting the paper to bed, that may have caused by first bout of sleep paralysis in years. Fun times.

Still, other work is chugging along fine: things are being written, music is being listened to, films have been seen and scheduled to see.

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Weeknotes #697-698

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.

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Weeknotes #696

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.

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Weeknotes #694-695

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).

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Weeknotes #692-693

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.

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Weeknotes #691

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.

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Someone tried to hack my iPhone

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).

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Weeknotes #687

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.

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Weeknotes #680

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.

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Weeknotes #679

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?

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Weeknotes #678

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.

One new review online from me this week — my thumbs-down of amnesia-themed psychological thriller Before I Go To Sleep — and two press screenings, one of which (way out in Dundrum, at a multiplex furnished like the Overlook Hotel) I attended with Bee so it was more of a date night than work. Still took some notes, mind.

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Weeknotes #677

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?

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Weeknotes #676

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.

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Weeknotes #675

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.

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Weeknotes #667-674

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.

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Weeknotes #662-666

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.

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Weeknotes #657-658

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.

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Weeknotes #656

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.

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Weeknotes #655

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.

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Weeknotes #654

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.

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Weeknotes #642-653

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.

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The long walk

Taking a break 6km into the 2013 Harbour 2 Harbour Walk

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!

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Weeknotes #627-641

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…

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Weeknotes #616-626

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.

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Weeknotes #595-601

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).

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Weeknotes #584-594

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.

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