Saturday, November 28, 2009

A strange thing happened the other day. I was on the 123 bus, headed home, getting off at the next stop. I stood a couple of feet back from the driver, behind the line, facing a row of seats, waiting to get off, when the woman across from me leaned over, touched my hand that gripped the pole, and said, "Dear....Would you say a prayer for me?" I said, "Sure!" As soon as I said that, we passed a church, and everyone around me crossed themselves.

It was a truly surreal moment. The poor woman probably chose the only atheist on the bus to say a prayer for her. But I did it just the same.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember Gary Numan? If you grew up in the 80s or were an adult in the 80s, you do. Maybe you were even a "Numanoid" back in the day! Well, can you believe that his album "Pleasure Principle" came out THIRTY years ago? I know, right? Here, you can reminisce over the video for one of his biggest hits, "Cars."

I've never seen someone look so cool while playing the tambourine. (I tried to find a youtube of his performance of it on Urgh! A Music War, but to no avail.)

Anyhoo - the show was at Tripod (you may remember me complaining about their stingy whiskey pouring a few weeks ago), which is a pretty good-sized venue (maybe a third bigger than the Paradise in Boston), and I had honestly wondered if maybe it would be half empty, not knowing if anyone would remember him after all this time, and especially after that industrial phase he went through in the 90s. But when we showed up during the opening act, the place was already quite full. And the crowd was enthusiastic!! Which was good because it was a pretty elaborate setup compared to the shows I generally go to. Lots of lights!

(photo by Barry Delaney)
Of course, since this was the "Pleasure Principle Tour 2009" he started off with a bunch of old hits, which the crowd went wild for. At the start, I rolled up a napkin and shoved the rolls into my ears, like I always do (I really need to start buying earplugs!), because I am fiercely protective of my hearing. But then halfway through the first song I thought, "You know what? I'm going to live a little. This isn't so loud. I can take it." He had four synthesizers, a bass player, and a drummer. The sound was big. I thought to myself, if he keeps this up, it will be amazing! But then, out went two of the synthesizers and in came two guitars. Time for the new stuff. I thought people would be rude about it, but as I looked around, the crowd was still very supportive. There wasn't the loose excitement in the air as with the old songs, but that could have also been because of the nature of the new songs, which are extremely heavy. For those songs, I put the makeshift earplugs back in!

But it made me think of something. Here's Gary Numan, he had all those hit songs when he was young. Then the years went on. He explored other musical avenues -- he evolved. He isn't the same person or the same musician as he was back then. But the love for his older music lives on, and let's face it, he has never had a hit like those old songs. He moved on, but his fans, overall, have not. It must be such a pain. I wonder if he resents his earlier music.

Here's what Gary had to say on his website about last night's show: "So, just finished the show in Dublin. Great crowd. We had a fairly catastrophic failure of one of the keyboard computers during Pure (we are using three this time for various duties) which took a few minutes to sort out. Luckily the crowd were very understanding. Our trusty back-up system failed at its first challenge. That idea obviously needs a rethink. Apart from that, the tour has been amazing so far. I'm playing keyboards on most of the Pleasure Principle songs which is a lot of fun for me and I'm really enjoying myself. The PP songs sound far stronger than I thought they would, the newer songs in the second half seem to work really well, the lights (when we can fit them all in) look absolutely stunning. I'm very happy."

Poor Gary though. He is wearing the worst rug I've ever seen. It looks like a crow died on his head. I guess we all have to age. Here's another shot from the show last night

(photo by Barry Delaney)

I really enjoyed the show overall, but towards the end I was disturbed by some of the images he used as his backdrop were not cool for me -- they were images of women looking like cadavers, clearly alive, but dripping in blood and looking like they'd been dug up alive. First off, that really isn't an original motif. It's like yeah, yeah, we know you're heading into goth territory, we get it. But maybe throw some bloody guys in there, too? I didn't like the sort of sexualisation of bloody dismembered women. It wasn't cool. Or frightening. It was just lame.

But I am still very happy that we went! After the show we grabbed a pint at Anseo, which I had never been to. I liked the atmosphere. It might be a little too packed on a weekend night, but for a Tuesday night it was perfect. But having skipped dinner, I was starving, so we grabbed a couple of Falafel sandwiches and then headed home!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Irish Times featured two articles about immigration/emigration. While I wasn't surprised at all by what the articles said, the story they tell is no less annoying in my mind.

The first article, "Poll shows hardening of attitude toward migrants" says that according to the newspaper's poll, "the vast majority (72 per cent) of people want to see a reduction in the number of non-Irish immigrants living here." They go on to say that young people (ages 18 to 24) feel this most strongly. YET, the article goes on to say that the poll also showed that "some 40 per cent of those in the 18-24 age group say they are likely to emigrate" -- the highest of all the groups. So many of the same people who want to get rid of immigrants also want to become immigrants themselves. That's sort of hypocritical, don't you think?

The sad part, to me: "People in rural areas and those from less well-off backgrounds are also more likely to support a reduction in the number of foreign workers based here." That is, people who are most exploited by the government and capitalist system are least likely to blame the actual problems causing them to have lowered access to work rather than the scapegoat of the immigrant.

The other related article was called, "Lack of jobs brings change in attitudes to migration." The article seems to justify people's misguided fears, saying, "With mounting job losses and increased competition for scarce posts, it is little surprise to see enthusiasm for immigration has cooled significantly." Sure, it's not surprising. But it's also frightening. With these attitudes come action. Violence against immigrants has risen by a third over the past two years. I have personally seen people with dark skin on the street get yelled at by Irish nationals on more than one occasion. (Three, to be exact.) And yet the Irish are literally sprinkled around the globe. The proclivity for the Irish to migrate is a well known fact. So why this attitude? Maybe those who have chosen to stay and tough it out feel they have more rights than other people. I've heard people say that Irish-born have more of a right than non-nationals to get State financial aid. But what makes one human being more deserving of food, water, shelter, and health care than another one? It's an attitude I cannot get my head around. People who emigrate do so in search of something better for themselves, just as the Irish themselves have been doing for hundreds of years. We are all the world's citizens. I don't understand why we can't try to take care of each other.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last weekend, Mark and I wanted to do something a little different. We biked over to South William Street to a place called Spy, which Mark had read reviews of. When we walked in, the music was very promising. We grabbed a drink upstairs, and I figured we'd enjoy some dancing there. However, we search up and down for a dance floor, and there wasn't one! All the ladies looked like they just came from Penny's (that would be like Rave to you US folks). I had put together what I thought was a very cool and fashionable outfit, but I definitely didn't fit the crowd. We agreed to try somewhere else where we could get our dance on.

We chose the Button Factory. When we walked in, no one was dancing, but there was some good people watching. Neither of us recognized any of the music, which isn't really a big thing -- I like to hear music that I've never heard before -- but none of it made me want to get up and dance. It wasn't until rather late that people started to move onto the dance floor. They sort of trickled in -- the first was a drunken couple doing a sort of sloppy lambada.

Anyways, it was an ok night out, but I don't think I'll go back to either of those places looking for dancing!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When I told people I was moving to Ireland, some people said, "Oooh! Free healthcare!" Well, on the one hand, it's pretty cool to have a medical card and not have to pay for medical care. On the other hand, here's how that plays out. Remember my rant about the new Irish policy about pap smears (aka smear test)? Well I figured I should run out and get one before the policy was implemented, so I did.

Several weeks later, I received a letter from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to call my doctor for the results. Admittedly, I put this off. So a few weeks ago, when Mark was in our doctor's office, she told him to tell me to give her a call. I called. And called. And called. And...called. Finally, I got in touch with the doctor, who told me that my test came back abnormal and that she would refer me to have a colposcopy.

Let's compare to how this went down in the US five years ago when I had a bad pap: A couple weeks after my appointment, my doctor called me personally to tell me the results, and referred me for a colposcopy, which I was able to get within a week or two.

Ok, so back to the here and now. So when I talked to the doctor on Friday, she mentioned that I would need to pick up a referral letter from her office...on Tuesday. Okey doke. On Tuesday I show up, get the letter, and I'm not sure what to do with it, but I call the Rotunda and the dude on the phone tells me that I have to physically bring the referral letter, which contains the lab results, to the Colposcopy Clinic, at which time my results will be evaluated and scored in terms of how severe it is. The people who do the lab test triage (only two doctors) only do so on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In two weeks, I'll get a letter saying that I've been put into the list to get an appointment.

When I brought the referral letter to the clinic, I was told that if my lab results are as bad as they can be, the soonest appointment I'll get will be in FEBRUARY. So I could have cancer and I wouldn't find out for three months, basically. Luckily, I looked at the labs and I know that I only have a slight abnormality, and I'm not overly concerned for myself. But if I were actually ill, I would be majorly screwed. Still, I won't get an appointment until March or April, most likely.

Know what's crazy though? The guy at the clinic said that the clinic has only been swamped like this since Jade Goody died. So essentially her death caused loads of women to get smear tests. And those who had abnormalities probably never would have gotten them checked out and would be walking around not getting treatment. I know that a lot of people thought it was lame how public she made her death, but actually it seems like doing it that way has done some good in educating people.

I don't want friends and family reading this to be worried -- I'm sure it's nothing at all, and even if I have dysplasia, there are treatments to take care of it. So I'm not worried, and neither should you be! However I wanted to make this post because I think people should know that "free" medical care isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I just realized that I never blogged about Halloween! I guess it's a bit late, but better than never! Mark and I went to a Zombie party at Seomra Spraoi. Boy, zombie costumes are easy to get together. First off, for my outfit I used clothing that Mark's mom had given me. (I think she thinks I don't dress girly enough!) And then for Mark's outfit we went to "the Hill" aka an outdoor flea market area where he picked up a shirt and some jeans for a couple of bucks. Then we shredded them all up and I used red watercolors that I had in my art supplies for blood, some talcum powder, and eyeshadow. The effect was nice! Though I'm only going to post small versions of the photos:

The party was a whole lot of fun, and we danced a bit, which is always good. But it's funny, I've seen hundreds of photos from the party, and in those, not one is of me and/or Mark! Oh well!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ripped from the headlines!

Supreme Court confirms golf club's right to exclude women

I find this to be a bummer, but it isn't surprising at all. It was only a few years ago that women were even allowed in bars here. See, most pubs are set up in a manner I don't think I had ever seen in the US: you've got the Bar section, which was traditionally only for men to bro down, and then you've got the Lounge section, which is for men and women. Even though it's been a few years since it became illegal to refuse to serve women in the Bars, still many Bars are predominately male.

A few months ago, Mark and I went to this pub called the Hut in Phibsboro, and we decided to sit at the bar. There was an old dude sitting next to me, ranting about something or other. I didn't really pay him much attention, and then after a drink or two Mark said he wanted to leave. When we got outside, he said to me, "How about that guy next to you, huh? Going on and on about women in bars!" Then I thought back to what the man had been saying. He was talking about how bars used to be so great, but now they are crap because they aren't all men anymore. He was ranting about a pub in Fairview that refused to serve a woman, so she sued them, and ("Can you believe it?") she won! Yes, the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket.

So I guess that dude from the Hut must be feeling pretty smug today.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Well I have a lot of catching up again, as usual! After today I will make a concerted effort to be more regular with my updates. I've been procrastination city lately!

So, after months of hard work, RAG finally produced the fourth issue of their magazine,"The Rag." And if I do say so, it looks pretty amazing. Here I am, holding my brand new copy fresh from the printer:

The magazine was printed just in time for the London Anarchist Book fair and our magazine launch party at Housmans Book Shop.

I really lucked out because I was informed about this Anarchist Seminar that was taking place in London the day before the launch party, and they were offering travel funding for participants. So I applied, and they actually paid for my travel to and from London! Otherwise I would not have been able to go. It only cost about 71 euro (105 USD) to get there and back, but that's 71 euro I really didn't have.

I further lucked out because one of the London anarcha-feminists agreed to put us up at her place, so I also didn't have to pay for accommodation. With free travel and a free place to stay, all I had to pay for was getting around on the bus and tube (a 20 pound Oyster card lasted me four days), and my food -- and I actually managed to get some extremely cheap food while I was there, so to be honest, I probably spent less on my trip to London than I would have if I'd stayed home!

Anyhoo - I had a fantastic time. Here's a rundown of my trip.
Thursday: My friend and fellow ragster, Holly, and I did the sail and rail, which entailed taking a DART (that's like the commuter rail to my Boston friends) to Dún Laoghaire, then we went to the grocery store to stock up on cheap eats for the trip and beyond because the prices for food along our journey were going to be ridiculous, not to mention the nutritional value. Then we hopped on the Ferry. I don't know WHY - but I was expecting something a lot smaller and a lot skimpier -- more like the ferry that takes you to Staten Island or the ferry that takes you to Burano and Murano in Venice. But this was much bigger and flashier, complete with a "casino room" that had electronic slot machines in it. I took a photo just to give an idea of the interior:

The ferry was about two hours, which was plenty for me because there were a lot of swells and I was feeling quite green by the time we got to Wales. From there, we got three trains into London. I actually have no idea how long that took -- over three hours, I think. By the time we got to Euston Station in London, I was pretty freaking tired. But then I said good-bye to Holly, who was staying with a friend, and hopped on a bus to a neighborhood called Stoke Newington. A very nice woman, my host for the weekend, named Sue, was waiting for me when I got off the bus.

You know what is cool? Getting off a bus in a foreign country, meeting up with a complete stranger, having a nice chat, and staying over her house, knowing that you are safe and taken care of. The anarcha-feminist community is such a small and supportive network -- I feel blessed to be part of it. So I fell asleep, and in the morning Sue gave me keys to her place so I could come and go as I pleased.

Friday: I set off in search of the seminar. It was called a "Drifting Seminar," and you were supposed to figure out where it was taking place by following Twitter posts. This was a challenge, as I don't have internet on my phone, and I didn't have my computer, but I managed to figure it where it was (luckily in Hackney, not far from where I was staying), and Holly and I spent the morning sitting in a circle in a park with about 15 other people talking about all different sorts of things. I wasn't sure I would have anything to say, but as it turns out, I did make a couple of comments that added to/ sparked an interesting discussion, so I didn't feel useless.

Then we broke for lunch, and everyone walked up the road to Pogo Cafe for a nice vegan meal. I had a "punk burger" which was delicious. Everyone started mingling and chatting each other up and getting acquainted. Here we are after lunch, waiting to make our next move:

Then we all hopped on a bus and went to the London Action Resource Centre, or LARC for short, which is kind of like a small Seomra Spraoi (and if you're a Boston friend, I have no analogy to make). We were joined by a few more and continued our conversation, which didn't flow as naturally as before, but was productive nonetheless. But then Holly and I had to bag out because we had to go to our magazine launch party!! YAY!

Clare, Ariel, Shonagh, and Sheila were all coming from Dublin on Friday, so we kind of expected that they'd all beat us there, with piles of magazines in hand, but we were a little surprised and dismayed to arrive at 7:05pm, five minutes late, and be the first RAG people to arrive. But all was saved when the others arrived shortly thereafter! The book store provided wine and chairs, and we presented our magazine and our individual articles, and took many questions from the attendees. Here's what it looked like from my perspective at the back of the store:

And here's what it looked like from the front of the store, facing towards me:

The launch was so successful. We sold about 40 copies of the magazine, and left a bunch more. The respect given to RAG was impressive -- this group has been going strong for over four years now, and is well known in its little circle. I think a lot of groups like ours would really like to produce a magazine as well, and so we got a lot of questions about our process and about some of the nuts and bolts of production. I felt like we were sharing valuable information and ideas. I wish everyone in the group could have been there.

After the launch, a large group of people went to a pub to continue celebrating. I couldn't believe how inexpensive the alcohol was compared to Dublin. I got a shot of Knob Creek whiskey (KC - how I missed you!) for like two pounds -- I couldn't believe it. Luckily, we didn't stay out too too late, because I was tired! Here's a photo outside the pub of Sheila and Sue (left), the woman I stayed with:

This captures the jovial mood we were all in.

Saturday: The day of the Anarchist Book Fair! Held at Queen Mary College (part of London University, I think) his thing was pretty huge. I think there were three big rooms full of tables with vendors. You could get all manner of items: t-shirts, patches, books, posters, art prints, magazines, fanzines, DVDs, and more. People think of anarchism as a term to mean chaos, or even nihilism, and so it can be a little confusing for those who think of anarchy as only a punk thing. It's not. People of all ages and styles and races are anarchists. This was my first anarchist book fair, and so it was fun for me to see so many people there. And there were workshops being held in different rooms throughout the day.

Here's a photo collage to give an idea of what the room we were in was like. It was actually much more crowded at times than in this photo:

There was also really tasty vegan food there that you could feast on for merely a donation. YUM.

Here's our table, which we shared with a fantastic RAG friend from Finland, with her lovely patches and things, and our distro stuff. That's the lovely Clare on the right:

I guess it's customary to go to this one gigantic bar down the street after the fair each year, so of course we had to do that. Then we were off to a party at the anarchist book store called Freedom Bookshop:

But then everyone I was with wanted to go to a squat party. I went along, but felt really uneasy once we got there because there was a mob out on the sidewalk and the police were there. When the police started to multiply, I started to get more nervous. However, I think I was the only one! Here's what it looked like from across the street (sorry that it's so dark):

I was trying to go with the flow, but then when they announced that they wanted to get everyone inside as quickly as possible and to "get your five pounds ready" I was like NO WAY. I just had to admit to myself that I wasn't comfortable going inside to a place that I envisioned as being really crowded. I realized that I officially am not punk, and maybe have turned into an old fart, but I was like "I gotta go!" and gave everyone a hug and took off. It wasn't the best neighborhood and I had literally NO idea which direction Sue's apartment was (though I did know that it wasn't that far away), but I managed to hail a cab and get home for only ten pounds -- much cheaper than paying to get into the party and buying drinks all night. When I walked into Sue's, the relief I felt to be in for the night told me that I'd made the right decision.

As it turns out, the party was not crowded inside, because the place was gigantic, which you couldn't tell from the outside. But judging from the rough shape everyone was in the next day (not to mention stolen items at the party), I never regretted my decision.

Sunday: After a nice late sleep in, Holly and I met Sheila at a feminist networking meeting at LARC. Getting to chat with so many like-minded women made a huge impression on me, and felt comforting in so many ways. We brainstormed ideas of things we'd like to do in the future, and they served a much needed meal to all the attendees.

After the meeting, we had a little time to kill, so Holly, Sheila and I walked around London over to Tower Bridge, which embarrassingly I had never even heard of. It's huge:

I took some silly photos, and then Holly insisted that she take one of me too:

You might notice that I chopped off my hair. I forgot to blog about that!

Another couple shots of the bridge:

And then we all spit off the bridge into the water below, because that's what ladies do:

We went back to Sue's for a nice early night, where one of the other London women was hanging out over some wine. Holly and Sheila made hot whiskeys and we all chatted for a few hours. On Monday, Sheila and I woke up early and caught a bus, five trains, a ferry, and two other buses back to Dublin. Holly stayed on for another day.

The long weekend was one of the best I've ever had, full of positivity, fun, new friends, and incredible kindness. My host, Sue, was generous and kind, and not only that, a real cool lady. I hope she comes to Dublin so I can return the favor! Although I have to say -- I was really, really happy to come home. :)