Friday, November 16, 2012

Please don't do nothing.

Dear Citizens of the WORLD,

Here's how you can protest the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland from the comfort of your own home, without having to tell facebook you care about Human Rights.

If you'd like to do something about the barbaric laws in Ireland regarding women's health, you can simply copy and paste this email below and send it to the following recipients. It's literally THE LEAST YOU CAN DO, especially if you're like many of my friends and family who don't want the world to know that horrible things are happening in Ireland right now that can easily be stopped. 

To: Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister) 
cc: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs) 


Re: Death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway 
Honourable Taoiseach, 

We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was repeatedly denied an abortion in Galway. This tragic case demonstrates once again that the prohibition of abortion in Ireland is not just undermining the autonomy of the women across the country, it is leading to unacceptable suffering and even death. 

Savita Halappanavar made repeated requests for an abortion after presenting at University Hospital Galway on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused, and she died one week later after several days in agonising pain and distress. 

The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable. There are numerous clinical situations in which a serious risk posed to a pregnant woman's health may become a risk to her life, and delaying emergency action only increases that risk. There is only one way to know if a woman's life is at risk: wait until she has died. Medical practitioners must be empowered by law to intervene on the grounds of risk to life and health, rather than wait for a situation to deteriorate. 

You will be aware that the European Court of Human Rights, as well as a number of United Nations human rights bodies, have called upon the Irish government to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards. Had these calls been heeded before now, the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been prevented. 

With the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland joins the ranks of countries worldwide where abortion is denied to women and leads to their deaths. 

We call on your government to take urgent and decisive steps to reform the legislation that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Until the Irish legal system is reformed the lives, health and autonomy of women across Ireland are in jeopardy. 

Yours faithfully, 

Copy also to the Irish Embassy in your country. Find contact details HERE

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stop being afraid of admitting you are Pro-Choice. We need you.

When I was a teenager in the late 1980s, I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Christenson, who taught a Women's Studies in our very small public high school. How she managed to convince the school in our conservative little town to teach such a progressive course, I'll never know, but I felt incredibly honoured and privileged to take part. A book she recommended was Our Bodies, Our Selves, by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. This book became my health bible, answering questions I wouldn't have dreamed of asking another human being, let alone my doctor. It allowed me to hear women's voices, read women's real life experiences, and opened a door into how feminism matters in the lives we lead, not just as a concept.

Today, I'm reminded that feminism's primary concern is one of human rights. But because so many of the rights that are denied women are tied to our reproductive organs, people shy away from talking about it. Abortion is not a pleasant thing. Most people, including me, don't enjoy bringing up the subject. However, abortion rights are some of the most basic rights that women have fought for and still need to keep fighting for.

In Ireland, a woman cannot get a legal abortion for any reason. Not if being pregnant is endangering her life. Not if she was raped. Not if she was raped by a family member. Not if her foetus has a fatal abnormality and will die the minute it is born. Not for any reason. Twenty years ago, a fourteen year old girl who was pregnant from being repeatedly raped by her neighbor won a historic case against the attorney general for the right to an abortion because her pregnancy caused "a real and substantial risk to her life." But no legislation was ever enacted. In other words, although the legal right technically exists, there is no way to actually avail of that right. Women still cannot, even to save their own lives, obtain an abortion in Ireland.

It doesn't take Einstein to figure out what results: the unnecessary deaths of women. This morning, a news story broke telling a horrific tale of a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar  who presented with a miscarriage. It was quite clear that the pregnancy was not viable. However, despite international recommendations to the contrary, and despite the woman's desperate pleas to terminate her pregnancy, the medical staff refused to remove the foetus until it died inside of her, citing that "This is a Catholic country." She developed an infection and died a painful death. Now a family is mourning for a woman who should be alive today.

Of course today the media is flooded with this story. However, while the story was held up in the Irish Times' legal department for at least 24 hours or more, they decided to run an opinion piece entitled, "Abortion is Never the Basis for a Humane or Compassionate Solution"  knowing full well that the next day they'd be running a gigantic story about a woman who died as a result of being denied abortion services. Today, in tandem with this story, they have also decided to run an article headlined, "Death as a result of infection during miscarriage rare" as if to say, "Hey guys! This, like, almost never happens, so what's the big deal?"

Another thing you should know is that abortion is not just unavailable. It's actually outlawed in the actual Irish Constitution. So to legalise it in any capacity, we can assume, would require a change in to the 8th Amendment. This past weekend, there was a referendum to change the constitution of Ireland for another issue, called the Children's Referendum. Turnout for that vote was very low, but it was passed. What do you think The Irish Times made of that? Why, this of course: "Low Turnout a Lesson Not to Tinker with Constitution." Keep in mind that this "analysis" was printed with their full knowledge of the floodgates that were about to be unleashed by the news of Savita Halappanavar's tragic death. So while they report the news, they manage to get their propaganda into the message, which is that we shouldn't legislate on the X case and we shouldn't allow women avail of their rights to abortion services, not even to save their lives.

I can't help but think back to my experiences during the 1992 Brookline Massachusetts clinic shootings.  It felt horrible and wrong to hold up the death of someone I knew and worked with as a rallying cry. But I knew that it was necessary, and it was right. Today, we must all remember that Savita Halappanavar was a person, a person who was loved, and who is now being grieved for. But we must also think of all the women we know living in Ireland of child bearing age, and speak out so that this doesn't happen anymore. No matter how rare they claim it is, it happens. Women die because their rights are being denied. Basic health care is being denied. And everyone, all around the world, needs to start talking about it.

Like I said, abortion is not a fun subject. No one enjoys having to talk about it. But talk we must. March we must. And shout. And write. Do your part, even if it's just sharing Savita's story. Even if you think everyone already knows. Have the courage to bring up this sore subject. Stop being afraid of what people will think of you. Start thinking about the people you love who are trying to have families, like the Halappanavars. What if this happened to me? What would you do then? Now, do it.

If you are in Ireland, come to the Dail today at 6pm, or to the vigil on Saturday. Make your voice heard!

Monday, November 12, 2012

In lieu of a political rant...

Something strange is happening to me. Since last week, I can't stop thinking about US politics. This is strange because a) I don't even live in the US and b) I've never really cared about it that much before. So what's changed? I can tell you exactly: facebook.

In the last election, I was a facebook user, but a lot of my immediate and extended family did not. And we definitely did not use it as often or as reliably as we do now. And in elections before that, facebook wasn't even a thing. The reason why it matters is that if you didn't want to talk politics with your family, you just didn't bring it up. Don't want to know that your cousin or your sibling is a bigot? Don't ask them their stance on immigration. Easy peasy.

But now, it's different. We have all had to make choices about whether to remove members of our own family from our facebook news feed so we don't have to read their infuriating political updates. And that's after facebook's nifty news feed filters, which, without you even knowing it, conveniently hide the facebook activity of people whose views aren't your own. Sometimes, it's all just a bit too much and you think, "I love you Aunt Sally, but I can't read about your obsession with _____ anymore," and you reluctantly deselect "Show in News Feed." Good-bye, Aunt Sally. See you at the next wedding or funeral. And isn't it great that we can do that? But what if you just can't help yourself and you take a peek back at Aunt Sally's facebook page and you are horrified at what you see?

If you're me, you ruminate on it.  You start to wonder how on earth Aunt Sally could feel that way, and so strongly. You start thinking Aunt Sally needs to read a book. And get a dictionary. You start to worry for Aunt Sally's children. You start plotting how you're going to expose Aunt Sally for the fascist that she is. You start having evil thoughts about Aunt Sally.

And then you realize wait a minute! I love Aunt Sally! She bought me my very first teddy bear! She's the one that loaned me money so I could buy my first car. She has a big heart and she's got a funny sense of humor, not to mention that cool spoon collection.

Herein lies the rub. I want so much for my family to have the same values as me, because obviously I think they're the best. But we're all different, and while I could spend loads of time pointing out inconsistencies in their beliefs, their ideas about humans, poverty, government systems, etc., I know, deep in my heart, that it would only drive a further wedge between us. And what I really want is for Aunt Sally to know that I love her no matter what, no matter how she voted or how she feels about the election. It's easy to forget sometimes, when you feel so strongly about certain issues, that the people on the other side are just that: people. People that you love.

So before you make that post on facebook, get your anger in check and think about how we can help each other understand each other's points of view rather than shoot virtual arrows at each other. We can try to educate each other without insults. We can lovingly disagree with respect and we can humbly question our own beliefs. Because after all, that's really the only way for two opposing views to agree. But in the absence of consensus amongst family members, our first focus should not be on rallying the war cry, but on loving the enemy. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Because you were wondering what I thought about the elections...

Super Tuesday has come and gone. Everyone else seems to feel ok about sharing their opinions on the matter, so I've decided to weigh in.

Before I begin, you should know the following:
  • I am an American citizen who moved to Ireland nearly four years ago in December 2008 at the age of 35. Obama was inaugurated in January, 2009 so I haven't lived in the US since he took office.
  • I voted for Obama in 2008.
  • While I'm a registered Independent, philosophically I am an Anarchist.

Most people reading this will be a little confused, a little alienated, and a little scared by that last one. So let me pause briefly to explain what that means. Anarchism, “a political theory which aimsto create a society within which individuals freely co-operatetogether as equals” is not to be confused with Anarchy, a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority. In other words, anarchists get this reputation for being randomly violent punks, but actually anarchism as a movement encompasses a broad range of actions – academic, social, artistic, and subversive. But anarchism is not chaos. It's the strong belief that we should organize against inequalities and oppressions of all kinds.

ANYHOO...about the matter at hand. Back in August, when I was visiting the United States, the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, was in the news for saying, “rape is just another form of conception” -- in other words, we shouldn't give rape victims a pass on abortion. This came on the heels of Senator Todd Adkin saying, five days earlier, that when women are victims of “legitimate rape” their bodies “shut down” and conception doesn't occur. The implication was that rape victims don't need abortion and any pregnant woman claiming to be so because of rape is actually lying about being raped. Normally I don't talk politics with people I know don't agree with me, but I couldn't help complaining about these statements out loud to a family member who happened to be in the room. His first response was that while he agreed that a woman should have the right to choose, still, “No one cares about that stuff. They're just going to vote over issues of the economy.” He further added that I shouldn't believe everything I read. I knew I was wasting my time and energy arguing, but the idea that no one cared about social issues such as women's access to health care (including abortion) really haunted me. Maybe he's right, I wondered. What did I know? I only live in the US vicariously through facebook!

When the voting began on Tuesday, I started to get very nervous. Being five hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, I went to bed hours before the results. I dreamt all night long about the election. I dreamt that it was really true, that people in America don't care about anything but the economy.

If people only care about the economy, then we can assume that they only care about their own bank accounts. Now we all know that every Republican party member has a job. I mean, unemployment doesn't exist in Republican circles because they all work, right? Joking aside, I guess I don't understand how so many people who have enough money to live on, quite comfortably, don't look around at the world around them and feel compassion for those living in poverty. Why is it easier to think that poor people who don't work are spongers asking for handouts than it is to think of rich people wanting tax cuts as spongers asking for handouts? And I'm not asking for an explanation of the trickle-down theory. I'm asking for an explanation of the moral outrage being expressed about disadvantaged populations who benefit from government policy over privileged ones. If you make a million dollars by, say, investing your money in stocks or real estate (ie sitting on your backside, pushing papers around), it's a pat on the back for you. But if you earn a few hundred dollars a month from social welfare, then you're a giant asshole.

Now let's look at that for a brief moment. I'll choose my home state of New Hampshire, a small, traditionally conservative state in the northeast. Check out this website by National Public Radio. An infinitesimal 2.7% of households receive assistance. According to NPR, “In order to receive cash benefits continuously, you have to be either poor and blind; poor and old (over the age of 65); or poor and permanently and totally disabled.” For example, “In order to be eligible for any assistance including federally funded food stamps, a mother with two children must be earning less than $675 per month.” So how much money are we talking here? “Recipients of cash assistance receive an average of about $215 a month. In total, this represents about 1.7 percent of the state’s total annual revenue.” Now let's compare that to the state's millionaires. There are over 27,500 of them. That's 5.34% of the NH population. Doesn't that inequity bother you? If you're up in arms about welfare spongers, aren't you being just a little bit hysterical? So this idea that people care most about the economy is truly problematic. I don't think they do. I think they care about themselves. They care about the fact that they might have to pay more if the government decides to increase aid to disadvantaged people. But what doesn't make sense to me is that they'd rather make those people suffer than increase taxes for the richest members of society. And why should we do that? Because no one gets rich without exploiting the poor. NO ONE.

Today, the Irish news is reporting that Obama is proposing to increase taxes on the very rich. Now I know what my Republican kin are claiming, as they have been doing: that he's a scary socialist.

On that August trip home, while sitting fireside on the lake, I overheard the aforementioned person claim, “Bono (lead singer of the band U2) is a wicked socialist.” (Wicked is Northeast slang for “big time.”) I couldn't let that one go. I mean, as a resident of Bono's homeland, I felt more qualified to evaluate that claim. “No, he's not!” I said. “Yes he is,” he insisted, “And he's best friends with that Obama.” My words fell on deaf ears. That's when I started to wonder, first of all, if a stinking rich tax dodger like Bono can be considered a socialist, what on earth do Americans consider socialism? While in Florida two years ago, when Obamacare was being debated, I passed by a group of people on a street corner holding signs about how we can't allow socialism in America. Which makes me wonder, second of all, what is so bad about socialism? Did I miss that lesson in history class?

In a critique of Obama, “Compromising Positions,” published in Harper's Magazine, Thomas Frank makes the point that , “by insisting with such unanimity on the absurd charge of 'socialism,' [Republicans] have actually done a very canny thing: they have defined whatever Obama embraces—bank bailouts, kill lists, herding the public into the arms of private insurers—not as the Democratic mainstream, but as the outermost fringe of the party.” In other words, if you're one of those people calling Obama a socialist, you've probably been suckered into believing something you don't know jack shit about. If you're going to criticize Obama, at least do it for the right reasons.

In Ireland, where I live, there is a Socialist Party, and its members are actually elected to public office. There is no picketing against socialism. People understand what it is, and do not fear it even if they themselves do not agree with it. I think the error people in America make is confusing socialist policies with communist regimes. Socialism aims to distribute wealth equally. Consider the Nordic model. The Scandinavian countries are considered some of the most egalitarian societies in the world. And what's the problem with that, exactly? Seriously. What is the problem with that? The mistake that people are making in their hatred of socialist policies is that they view the enemy as the very poor, not the very rich. (But I'm not here to convert anyone to my anarchist views. I mean, the sad irony is that most or all of the people who will read this aren't the people I am speaking to. If anyone has read this far, I'm amazed and thankful.)

I'm not done, though. Back to Obama. He's not my hero. But here's the thing. You know the story of the frog and the scorpion? You can't expect a person who becomes the President of the United States to be an animal he is not. The President of the United States is going to do some reprehensible shit. He's going to do things like order a drone attack on Yemen hours after he's re-elected. He's going to fail to deliver on promises. He's going to keep Guantanamo Bay open. Because, let's face it, there are three branches of the US government. The President, no matter who he or she is, can never be our savior. The office simply doesn't have the kind of power that people give it credit for.

But let's talk about the power he does have. If Romney had won, what would the victors be celebrating? Ending Roe vs. Wade? Outlawing same-sex marriage? Eliminating social welfare programs? Sending jobs overseas? Getting rid of FEMA? Lower tax rates for millionaires? Drilling for oil? Increasing military spending? What kind of victories would those be? I'll tell you what kind: shitty, selfish ones.

So while I can't get very excited about any US President, there are a few things that I personally found exciting about President Obama: how excited people are that he's come forward to speak against discrimination. He actually came out and said that he supports same sex marriage! He even made an “It Gets Better” video. “Don't ask, don't tell” was repealed. He supports upholding Roe v. Wade. He supports Planned Parenthood. He lifted Bush's ban on stem cell research. He actually reduced military spending. He issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (admittedly not much, but at least a start). He made it so Cuban Americans can visit their family. In fact, he's done a bunch of pretty cool stuff. Does that take away from the massive disappointments? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Some people believe that it doesn't matter who is President – they're all the same sort of evil. The USA Patriot Act is one of the most terrifying (and unconstitutional) laws I've ever heard, and I can't believe it was ever passed, let alone extended by Obama in 2011. You could write a list a mile long of the atrocities committed by the American government around the world in the past four years. But still, I can't subscribe to the belief that all Presidents are equally bad. And I actually wholeheartedly agree with that family member who said, “Don't believe everything you read.” But what scares me more is the things we don't read because they aren't being reported. And I don't mean that in a conspiracy theory way, but rather in the most practical and realistic way possible.

When I woke up on Wednesday, I was happy that my nightmares hadn't come to pass. I haven't mentioned all the other elections and referendum decisions that happened on Tuesday. Actually, those elections, maybe more than anything, have proven to me that people do actually care about things other than the economy. An openly gay senator! Legalization of marijuana! Women in office! There is a lot of celebrating, and celebrating that kind of progress can't be a bad thing. But as long as Americans worship wealth over equality we'll never unburden ourself from our own oppression.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A few words about something important

Hi there! In case you haven't noticed, I've been having a little bit of trouble updating this blog. So I decided to change the format slightly and also use it as a regular blog as opposed to a mere report of events and places I've gone to.

So today I have SOMETHING TO SAY. And it's about these horrible facebook photos I've been seeing, sadly posted by people in my very own family. They look like this:
Let me tell you something if you didn't know it already. I've been on social welfare for almost four years. And while I haven't bought cigarettes or gotten any manicures or tattoos in that time, I've travelled to three different countries, eaten out countless times, bought presents for people, bought myself new shoes, a new computer, and a bunch of other stuff. Feel free to judge me, but let me tell you why you're a fucking hypocrite if you subscribe to the above attitude about welfare recipients.

You think that only people who deserve food and a place to live are people who live puritanical lifestyles. Anyone who doesn't spend their money the way YOU think is acceptable should live on the streets. You act like welfare is "stealing" and target poor people as thieves for getting "handouts" from the state, but you aren't posting snarky .jpgs about how your employer and insurance companies are stealing from you in much greater amounts. You aren't posting about the fact that people who make millions of dollars/euros/pounds a year don't earn that money. No one got rich without exploiting other human beings, but I don't see you posting about the much, much larger sums of money that are being amassed from putting profit first and people last, no no! Those are just "smart business people." 

As blogger Sierra Townsend said, "The reason we have welfare and food stamps is to prevent assholes like you from withholding charity from the starving because you don’t approve of their lifestyles." Have you ever thought for a second why people buy cigarettes, drugs, manicures, tattoos, and cable TV? TO MAKE THEMSELVES FEEL BETTER ABOUT BEING FUCKING POOR.

Oh sorry if I'm not degrading myself enough for you by sitting in a room with no working television (we don't live in an analogue world anymore; you need cable TV to work a television), drinking water (since coca-cola costs as much as beer, don't you know!), wearing rags, saying the rosary and thinking about how great my life would be if I could JUST GET A JOB. I honestly can't get over how infinitely shitty and judgmental people must be to "like" and re-post such bullshit. 

Let's see...a six pack of good beer is about a tenner. Let's say you drink two of those a week. I'm going to guess that a dimebag of weed is about 50 bucks. We'll give our hypothetical welfare scrounger one of those a month.  Cigarettes (depends on where you live) let's estimate at 8, and say two packs a week, though it truth most people here roll their own, which is a lot cheaper. A manicure is about another 15. I don't personally know people who get them, but lets say once a week because our person is classy like that. Plus one tattoo a year, a good one, for 500 dollars. That's about 3,550 of a person's yearly income going to what you would call luxury items. That's about a third of what I get from social welfare a year.

Translated into plain English, these two statements that people are liking so much say this: 
IF I SPEND A THIRD OF MY 11,000 ANNUAL INCOME ON THINGS YOU DON'T APPROVE OF, THEN I SHOULD HAVE NO HOME AND NO FOOD. You'd rather see poor people on the streets than commit the horrible crime of spending money on non-essentials like the rest of society because they don't deserve it -- they're poor! They need to concentrate more on being poor and the reality of their poverty! They should be constantly reminded that they can't do things that the middle classes and the rich do! They need to be kept in line!

We brand poor people as undeserving, yet rich people, well, they earned it! Sorry. A janitor earns money. A construction worker earns money. Nurses earn money. Teachers earn money. Bank Tellers earn money. But we don't say shit when Mark Zuckerburg becomes a billionaire. Good job, Mark! Enjoy those private jets! What a hero! Did you know that if Zuckerburg was walking down the street and saw a five dollar bill on the ground, it's actually not worth the five seconds it would take him to bend over and pick it up, because he makes more than that by doing nothing? But I don't see anybody creating .jpgs for facebook about the injustice of that, probably because it would take time away from the moral war being waged against the poor. Make no mistake about it: you and your moral judgements are engaging in social control. 

And I'll tell you what else. This image of yours that the world is just crawling with welfare frauders who, if we could only just put an end to it, we'd lower taxes and we'd all be rich! rich, I say! is a complete fallacy. And it's an important smokescreen. You're meant to think that the problem with welfare is that it doesn't help those who want to help themselves -- namely people who turn around and spend it all on booze, drugs, manicures, cigarettes, and tattoos. Because while you're so busy buying into this false idea, the people who actually receive welfare are bearing the brunt of your misdirected prejudice. 

If you posted or liked one of these statements on facebook, I challenge you to re-think your attitude. The problem isn't "welfare fraud." It's the fraud of wealth. You've been completely duped by capitalism. But I'll save that can of worms for another day. For now, allow me to point you to an essay from the publication "Social & Legal Studies," an international peer-reviewed journal, called Welfare Law, Welfare Fraud, and the Moral Regulation of the 'Never Deserving' Poor, written by two Canadian scholars.  I don't expect you to read it (unless you're a wacko academic), but I read it in its entirety with great interest. They make this cautionary statement: "Recent experience of welfare law reform and preoccupation with welfare fraud – this redefinition, restructuring, harassment and disentitlement, coupled with the ever present threat of criminal prosecution – suggests to us that the state and its coercive apparatus continue to play an important role, analysis of which is neglected at our peril (223)." In other words, think about why you think what you think. Trust me, it's not about taxes, because if it were, you'd be liking facebook posts about how millionaires and billionaires should pay higher tax rates or raging about wealthy tax exiles (people who pretend to live elsewhere so they don't have to pay taxes). But you aren't, are you? Because rich people are awesome! One day we'll all live the American dream and be rich! rich, I say!

But here's what your winging is actually doing: it's creating legislation that gives less to people who honestly need welfare, widening the poverty gap, making poor people poorer. So congrats on that!  According to the essay, "The discourse and politics of welfare fraud have obscured the imprecision of what is considered to be fraud, and by whom." In other words, policies are created just to shut you people up. In Canada, when a committee was created to review social assistance, they made their recommendations NOT based on their findings, but rather to placate public opinion, saying, "We have no evidence to suggest that fraud in the social assistance system is greater than it is in the tax system or the unemployment insurance system. Nevertheless, because public confidence in the social assistance system depends in large part on the belief that the funds are being well spent and that abuse is being kept to a minimum, we accept that some of the measures adopted to control social assistance fraud may need to be more extensive that they are in other systems (229)." 

And here's the problem with the way we think today: we don't give a shit about poor people, and we think it's their own fucking problem. In our celebrity worship we have forgotten the systems at work which cause poverty. "The slight and grudging acknowledgement of social responsibility for the poor that marked the Keynesian state has been rescinded. Now, as in the nineteenth century, poverty is a problem of individuals in civil society and the solution to poverty is an individualized one to be found principally in the labour market and/or marriage (233)." Read: women get the shaft, yet again. The idea that some poor people deserve assistance and other poor people don't belies a complete lack of understanding of how and why poverty happens, and how the welfare system works. It shows an absence of compassion. It shows a dangerous naiveté and black/white thinking. And if that's how you think, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I generally post about interesting events and places that I go to, but today I'm going to share something else. Today I'm going to reflect on one of the best days of my life: 26 July, 2012. Yes, that's today! I wanted to mark it because, well, I want to remember it.

I woke up at about half past eight, feeling kind of tired (as usual). Made myself the usual one slice of toast and two eggs with a banana and berry smoothie. Took my vitamins, made a blog post, and holy moly was it nice out so I decided to run outside instead of going to the gym. Ran nearly 3.5 miles, returned home, planned to go into the studio to do some work, but the idea sort of pained me on account of the beautiful weather. Now, non-Irish residents cannot comprehend how much we were all coveting the sunshine today. Going indoors felt like a sin. So when I received a text message from a friend to go to the park, I decided to play hooky and go for it.

A long time ago, I decided that having experiences with people is the number one greatest pleasure in life. Sure I could have spent the afternoon creating a great dress, or working on a novel, but I decided that whenever I get a chance, I'm going to spend time building relationships rather than a legacy. There's just more pleasure in it. And let me tell you, you can't beat sitting in the sunshine in the park on a sunny day, eating home grown peas out of the pod, shooting the shit with a good friend. You can't beat it!

That is...until you go to the pub with your in-laws and they are in a lively mood, and you make jokes that they laugh at, and they tell you stories you have never heard before. You look around and think here, this moment, I want to remember this because we're all here, and we're together, drinking and enjoying each other's company. Then they give you and honeydew melon and you cycle home....

Where you eat home made soup and dance in the kitchen to Roger Miller's "Do Wacka Do" and "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd." When you're done eating, you both watch Louis C.K. do standup on Netflix and laugh your butts off while eating the aforementioned melon.

It really is kind of like Roger Miller says: "You can be happy if you've a mind to."

I want to talk about the humble Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. For the most part, having been living in Ireland for over three and a half years, I think I manage to fit in pretty well. Nearly all my local friends are Irish, and they make me feel loved. And when I travel to touristy areas where a lot of Americans can be heard, I get really annoyed and wish they'd just pipe down already.

Yes, I have become prejudiced against my own kind. American accents are grating. And they're SO LOUD. Sometimes I shudder with embarrassment knowing I'm one of them. But I am, although my accent has softened and I try to keep my volume down (not always successfully).

But sometimes...sometimes I can't escape where I'm from. And I say things that cause the people around me to roll their eyes and shake their heads and say, "You're SUCH an American*!" Which is kind of funny because I suppose most Americans would take that as a compliment.

Yesterday I re-learned that our beloved sandwich, the meal that nearly any American child or adult will happily eat, the holy PB & J, is not a world-wide phenomenon, but rather more or less American fare. Now, I have no idea what sandwich Irish children love universally, but I assume it has something to do with cheese and mayonaise, since it's practically impossible to buy a sandwich without mayo in this country.

But what amuses me is that after I was scorned for suggesting we feed children peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I thought to myself, "These poor depraved people! They don't know the joys of PB & J! I feel sorry for them." Which, I suppose, is more American than suggesting PB & J in the first place.

*sometimes they say "Yank" instead of "American," which I just want to re-iterate from an earlier post that FYI Yank is mildly offensive and you shouldn't use it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So, I'll admit right now that I like the Fall. I LIKE them. Do I adore Mark E. Smith? Does the Fall stir something deep inside of me? Well, no. But I was game to travel to Galway to see the Fall in a small venue, Roisin Dubh. We arrived before the opening act went on, and were pleasantly surprised to enjoy their set, though I can't for the life of me figure out who they were, even after an extensive search. Ah well. If anyone reading this knows, please let me know.

We stood at the front in anticipation. Who knew what would happen? No one, that's who. Because no one ever knows what's going to happen at a Fall show. The obvious die-hard fans made their way to the front. I settled in with a good view, with only one person in front of me: a relatively nondescript guy of medium height with a shaved head and a Current 93 t-shirt. He seemed pretty excited. Like, really excited. That's cool. I mean, I was at the front, what did I expect? But here's the thing. I've been to a lot of shows in the past 20+ years. Hundreds of shows of dozens of genres. I understand what is appropriate behavior depending on the band and their fans. And this guy didn't fit in. If you looked around, you'd see people nodding, singing along, maybe even jumping up and down with excitement. Maybe even jostling the crowd. That's cool. But Current 93 dude was flailing around, dancing as if the crowded space were his own personal disco floor. He kept doing this one really bizarre move where he'd crouch down, almost like he was tying his shoes, sticking his butt into whomever was next to him (usually me) and then he'd pop up again and flail around some more.

So I was getting annoyed. I actually started wishing I was drunk so I'd lack the inhibitions to stop myself from beating the crap out of him. But I took some deep breaths and let it slide. Ok, for a while. Then I guess I just got frustrated, so this one time when he leaned his butt into me while crouching over, I kneed him in the ass. Twice. And then when he stood up to do his flailing thing on me as he'd done so many times before, I shoved him. Twice. Not hard. Just "get the frig away from me" hard. But here's the funny thing. He said to me, "If you touch me again, I'm gonna call the guards!" (For my American readers, the guards refers to the police, not the bouncers of the venue.) So I said, "Hey, you've been hitting me way more than that, buddy!" And he was like, no I haven't. So I did an impression of him, flailing and dancing around, right up against him as he'd been doing to me. To the people around us, it must have looked pretty funny. Not to mention that this was all happening while the band was playing. But he relented, saying, "I'm going to keep away from you, because you're clearly crazy." And I thought, I can live with that. And he did. And I laughed my butt off.

About five minutes later, Current 93 guy put his hand out to me, and I shook it, even though it was sweaty and gross. Then he danced over to the other side of the stage and I didn't see him again. There's always that one person who has no notion of their own personal space and doesn't give a crap if they ruin the show for anyone else. And I know from experience that politely saying, "Hey, can you not flail around like that?" doesn't get the intended results. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Or crazy with crazy. Or something.

But here's the thing about the show. The Fall is essentially a rotating roster of musicians who revolve around Mark E. Smith, who really is The Fall. The other members are incidental. He's famous for being wildly drunk, often too drunk to perform, or for doing extremely short sets. Everyone goes to see Mark E. Smith. And I suppose the anticipation of how he'll perform is part of the excitement. We were lucky because he played a fairly long-ish set (all things being relative). But I started to observe the band. The guitaritst was staring down at his guitar, sweat dripping off the tip of his nose. The drummer was drumming away. He did nothing when Mark E. Smith purposely knocked the microphone out of his bass drum. The bass player stood in one spot and dispassionately played his bass, and similarly did not react when Smith turned the knobs on his amp, distorting his bass. And the keyboard player, Smith's wife, came on stage with her overnight bag, which she hung from the keyboard stand, and her handbag strapped across her chest. She didn't even take her coat off when they came on stage for the encore. She didn't seem to crack a smile through the whole show, but watched Smith intently. When he stumbled off stage, she was the first to follow.

But as I watched the band, who had the demeanors of abused children onstage, my eyes traveled back to the enamored audience facing them. Then back to the band. Then back to the dancing onlookers. It was as if they were completely unaware of each other. The band seemed unaware of the adoring audience; the audience seemed unaware of the band's obvious sense of drudgery. And I thought this must be what it's like to watch someone have sex with a prostitute.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the show very much. How could I not? It was The Fall in a venue that fits like 140 people! And no matter what, it's a great band. But I did feel a little sad about the whole thing, knowing that something eats so deeply at Mark E. Smith, and by extension everyone he chooses to work with.

Here's a video I found on youtube from the show by someone with a far better camera than mine:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I haven't even looked at the last time I posted. I know it was a long time ago. And I've done SO MANY THINGS since then, that it gets a little overwhelming! But right now I want to talk about something in particular so the recap of goings on will just have to wait.

Today I'd like to talk about living in the moment vs. recording technology. In April I went to a mindfulness retreat led by Thich Nhat Hahn of Plum Villiage. Breathing was discussed extensively. But here we were, in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, with one of the most profound teachers in the world, and what were a good number of people doing? Taking photos and videos. Now, I understand wanting to capture a moment. I took a couple of snapshots myself. But when I say "a couple," I really mean a couple. Other people at the retreat seemed to have  their recording devices throughout the entire weekend, despite the fact that Plum Village records all their retreats and posts them online. Did no one understand the irony of going to a mindfulness retreat, and then trying to record the whole thing in video and stills for future consumption?

So the ubiquitousness of cameras/iphones is one of my pete peeves, along with a lot of other people, I'm sure. I mean, don't get me wrong: I take my camera with me wherever I go (if I could afford an iPhone, I'd have one). But I take a couple of photos, and then put the device away. Some people's jobs are to record events, such as political events. I get that. But last night at a Bruce Springsteen concert, where the cheapest tickets were 89 euros a pop (that's nearly 110 US dollars), I wondered why so many people seemed hell bent on standing there looking at the show through the screens of their phones rather than just experiencing the show and relying on their good, old fashioned, tried and tested method: their own damned memories. Like, if you just pay attention, enjoy yourself, be present in the moment, and have a good time, the movie you replay in your head of your experience will probably be more accurate, more robust, and more fulfilling than watching some shaky, far away video which, by the way, will probably feature other people's iphones more than the thing you're all supposedly there to "see." Has everyone forgotten that we have five senses, not to mention the emotions we feel when we do things, like go to a music concert or do walking meditation with an incredibly inspiring Buddhist teacher? Things that can not be recorded anywhere else but in our mind's eye. Things that are more important than recalling what way the Boss pointed when he sang "Born to Run", or what the people in the stands looked like at 9:03pm. Look around! Pay attention! I promise -- you'll remember it later.

And I want to say something else about group situations. When you're in a tightly packed space, like a mini-marathon for charity where everyone is walking, or a political protest rally, or an outdoor stadium, the person next to you can't really move somewhere else. They're there in that same packed area for the same reason you are. They also may not be able to change the fact that they have asthma, or are pregnant and sensitive to smells (no, I'm not pregnant, btw), or have another illness or allergy. I understand that you may be addicted to nicotine. That's what patches, gum, and lozenges were invented for. What I really want people who smoke in spaces packed with other people to know is that you're probably making someone next to you feel ill. And I don't mean this in a judgmental way. If you want to kill yourself, and make the people who love you most watch you die a horrible, painful death, that's your business. But if I pay a crapload of money to be somewhere, I just really wish I didn't have to put up with being made physically ill while I'm there.

You'd think from my complaining that I didn't have a great time seeing Bruce Springsteen. I totally did! But the experience was negatively affected by these two distractions. I was going to say something nasty about the oafish guy from Boston standing next to me at the show, but I'm going to refrain. Instead I'll post some photos. The photo at the top of the page, by the way, was taken by accident when I was trying to take a photo of the stage. The people in front of me were so much taller than me that that photo was taken with my arm raised as high as it would go. I kept getting great shots of dude's heads.

This one here was lucky. Mostly I watched the large screens to the left, right, and center of the stage. After a while I almost forgot that the real people were even there. I was actually quite close to the stage, but hey, that's life as a shorty. As you can see, it was a sold out show. He played for three and a half hours, and really gave it his all. If you ever have a chance to see Bruce Springsteen play live, whether you're a fan or not, he's definitely worth going to see.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Well... I haven't updated in a while but of course it doesn't mean I haven't been up to much. First and foremost, I am sad to report that I was in my first proper bike accident (we won't count that time when I was 14 and I wiped out on a sandy road). I was going straight through an intersection, and was hit by a car coming from the opposite direction who was turning. She didn't see me (remarkably, since I was right in front of her). Here's my poor little bike:
It took two weeks and two x-rays, but they finally decided that my wrist is broken, so I got a huge cast! It's very annoying. I can't do yoga, go running, ride a bike, or do anything sweaty! Here I am looking very tired after getting my cast:
So it's been taking me a long time to do things without the use of my wrist -- but on the up side, my left hand is becoming more dextrous! The accident was a month ago, so I'm mostly over the feeling sorry for myself stage, however I still have at least a month to go with this cast, so I reserve the right to self-pity at a later stage.

I've gone on a couple of outings with friends who were kind enough to cart me out of Dublin to the "mountains" (large hills).

Visitors Centres in Ireland never cease to amuse me -- this nation sure loves its taxidermy. Here's the visitor's centre near Glendalough:
and here I am with a yak:
Not surprisingly, the yak looks better than I do, as I was feeling rather car sick from the journey. I will try to refrain from posting too many nature scenes:

What else? We had a fun time a couple weeks ago at Seomra Spraoi's first ever Karaoke night! I co-MCed as "American Diddly Idle" with "Darby O'Chill" -- it was a St. Patrick's day theme, so I wore my father-in-law's green Ireland sweater vest with an Ireland scarf.
My co-host held up signs to increase audience participation:
(photos by Andrew Flood)

And who can forget last week's big protest against the Household tax? I have a lot to say about it, but unfortunately I don't have the energy to say it all here. It was moving. It was energizing, but it was also sad. It was also funny! As always the signs were clever and heartfelt.

CLICK HERE for photos of the rally

But wait...there's more!

Way back when it opened, we were all wondering what the HELL could be in the National Leprechaun Museum. Every time we walked by, I'd ask, "What's in there??" So when a LivingSocial coupon came up for it, I couldn't resist paying 9 euro for two tickets. Then the challenge was finding someone to go with me! But go we did, and let me tell you, and I don't say this lightly, it was shit. Total shit! Our tour guide/story teller was a nice dude. He was someone I'd totally love to have some pints with. But it isn't his fault that the Leprechaun Museum is 100% a complete waste of time and money. Though I don't regret paying the 9 euro to sate my curiosity.
Here's a pot of "gold":
Here's Una and little Lola sitting on a giant chair (designed to make visitors feel like Leprechauns)

And last but not least, we went to the last ever Miss Alternative Ireland. I have a real knack for ending up with the worst seat in the house. I don't know how I manage it! I'm always in the last row. Despite paying to be in the circle, our seats were not so great. But it was still a good time! I liked the set design this year.

There's more stuff that I've been getting up to, of course, but I'm going to end it there. The weather was glorious for a while, then it went cold again. Hopefully we will have some warmth soon because I have a fantastic new yellow spring jacket that I want to wear!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today I was in Smithfield and needed a quick bite to eat, so I popped into a restaurant I only just recently noticed, Third Space. According to their website, it's more than a restaurant: "It is a social business venture to open and run eating and meeting places in the areas of Dublin that lack community hubs. With a simple and great menu and an informal friendly environment, they will have a creative buzz that connects into the varied life of a modern Dublin neighborhood."

All I know is that they had a roasted red pepper and tomato soup that made my heart soar. The space is open and friendly, and they have bookshelves holding some really great books that make you just want to hang out and browse while sipping on some tea. Highly recommended. I'm happy to have a new spot to go to!

Third Space's facebook page

Monday, February 27, 2012

Last week I attended an event at the Sugar Club hosted by the Irish Feminist Network: a screening of the American documentary "Miss Representation," followed by a panel discussion.

The movie was of course angering, frustrating, touching, and educational. Afterwards, the panel featured Dr. Katherine Zappone, who, among many other things is a member of the Seanad, or in other words the Irish Senate. She is also originally American, and went to Boston College, so of course I felt a camaraderie with her purely on that basis! Margaret E. Ward was another speaker, and coincidentally another American ex-pat who is a journalist and also runs a writing consultancy business called Clear Ink. I'd seen her speak before, and she is very compelling. Next we had music journalist Una Mullally who has done a lot of research about gender divides in Irish media. And sadly I cannot remember nor find anywhere the names of the other 2 participants in the discussion.
It was nice to take this very US-focused documentary and bring it into a more Irish perspective. There were some criticisms of the movie, however, not the least of which was that it didn't include working class and minority women enough, citing Condoleeza Rice, who is interviewed for the film, and a couple of other minority women as just thrown in there for good measure. I see her point, though she was mistaken that the teenage girls in the film were "all white." In fact, most of them were minorities. Just because they weren't African-American doesn't mean they don't qualify. But yes, the people interviewed were academics, activists, actresses, and film-makers, none of whom were disadvantaged (currently). But I don't think that negates the message of the film. As much as we'd like everything to be inclusive, I don't think it's realistic to expect.

I thought of the film Miss Representation as a sort of primer for people just starting to think about issues of gender and media. I commented that I'd love for my brother-in-law, an avid objectifier of women (sorry dude, but you are) to see this film and think about not just the effect media portrayal of women and girls has on his daughter, but also his son. The problem with these kinds of films is that most of the people who watch them are not the people who really need to watch them. I wish I could pull a Dark Crystal move and force parents who don't think that gender issues are important to watch it, to be honest.

So, despite the criticisms, I definitely recommend Miss Representation. Find it, rent it, watch it with your friends, watch it with your (adult) family (it's not appropriate for younger kids because of the sexual images). If you can't find it, look online. It's there if you look hard enough.
My valentine surprised me with tickets to see none other than pop sensation John Oates (of Hall & Oates/moustache fame), who played this past Tuesday at Whelan's. I was pretty excited, though after looking up his more recent career, I realized that most of the night would probably not be devoted to Hall & Oates songs. Still, it promised to be good fun.

So I rushed from my class...which reminds me! I'm taking an evening class through the Dublin City Enterprise Board called "Start me up! Start your own business." It's uber exciting and one of several DCEB classes I've taken and will be taking. And that reminds me further - my business cards came in the mail the other day! I designed them myself, after much hemming and hawing. I love them so much I want to marry them. Here is one side, with my happy face (kinda disheveled after Pilates):

So I rushed from my class at the IFSC over to Whelan's, and I managed to arrive three songs into Oates' set. I missed Maneater, unfortunately. There were quite a few people there! And a big mix of age groups for sure. His style has evolved a lot over the past couple of decades (and I'm not talking about the fact that his signature moustache is long gone), but it's funny how everything he played seemed to have his stamp on it. You can hear how much influence he had over the songwriting in Hall and Oates from listening to his newer music. He told lots of stories and interacted with the crowd a fair amount. Possibly his #1 biggest fan was in attendance. The guy was drunk as hell, but boy oh boy was he ever excited. He kept responding to/talking over John Oates as if the two of them were the only ones in the room. After a while it was really entertaining, especially when every so often, something he said wouldn't make any sense. He was harmless, really, but a bit distracting! At one point he went back to the bar, came back to his seat, and yelled, "It's ok now, I've switched to water!!"
My only suggestion for Mr. Oates, if he ever happens to read this is regarding lyrics from a new song he played that was written with someone else (whose name escapes me) called "A Day in the Life of an American Man." He refers to his father and mother, and his sister and brother with descriptive words like "strong," "brave," "loving," and "kind" or words to that effect. I'd just ask him to consider less gender normative or constricting descriptors. It's expected and frankly boring. Women are strong; men are loving. What if he switched them around, or used more unique, quirky adjectives? I think the song would come more alive, personally. That's just my two cents. I know lyric writing isn't easy but you can think outside the expected, just a little bit.
He did sing some Hall & Oates hits, but completely re-worked them so some of them were almost unrecognizable. I don't blame him though -- I always thought that if I were a musician with hit songs, I wouldn't be able to stomach playing them over and over again for years and years. All in all, I think John Oates enjoyed his time in Dublin and I hope he comes back again soon. For those interested, here's another review of the show.

We had a very pleasant time, and headed home, but when we got to where we'd take a left onto the quays at the Dublin Civic Offices, I noticed three guys in track suits who were picking up Centra (convenience store chain) bags from the middle of the intersection, which was weird. Just as I was about to make my turn, I noticed that there was a cyclist on the ground in the middle of the street on the bridge in front of us. I didn't put it together at the time, but he'd just had the crap beaten out of him by those three guys, who were laughing and strolling away. He was on his knees, face down on the road. So instead of taking our left, we went straight to help the cyclist. At first (I guess I'm slow/naive), I thought maybe he'd been hit by a car. He was bleeding from his eye, and I mean his EYE. Already the area around the eye was extremely swollen, and it had only been a minute or two. A woman in a car pulled over to help, and a pedestrian also stopped. They attended to the cyclist while I called 999 (emergency services).

It was a really aggravating conversation. The operator answered, and as soon as they did I said that a man had been assaulted and was bleeding on Wood Quay on the bridge between the Four Courts and the Civic Offices. Now, anyone who's lived in Dublin five minutes will know where that is. There was a pause and the person said, "So do you need Ambulance, Fire Brigade, or Gardai?" Since the cyclist was badly injured, I said, "Ambulance!" and was transferred. I explained to the next person what had happened. The guy asked for my location, which I repeated. He then asked, "So, Dublin 7?" Anyone who's lived in Dublin for five minutes would know exactly where we were standing. We were on a bridge over the river. On one side of the river is Dublin 8, and on the other is Dublin 7. Debating the post code infuriated me. Were they going to send the ambulance in the post? I reiterated exactly where we were. It took AGES for the ambulance to come, and when we did spot it coming from the west, it was as if it were purposely trying to dive as slowly as possible. Then it passed right by us. By then the cyclist had insisted he didn't want to wait for an ambulance, and started walking his bicycle home. However he was practically blind, and was having a hard time of it.

I waited for the ambulance to go down to the next bridge and make its way back to us while Mark went after the cyclist, who was in deep denial as to the condition of his face. Mark found him up the street crying because he'd accidentally walked into a pole. I told the EMTs where they were (in front of the Bridewell by then), and then followed the whole lot on my bike. Me and the other two good samaritans were completely blown away that no police had been sent. Thinking back, I hadn't asked for the Gardai. However if they just had synthesized the information, they'd have sent someone. When I complained to a friend about this she said that you actually have to hang up with 999 and CALL BACK AGAIN if you want more than one service. So when you're assaulted in Dublin, you (or someone else) has to dial 999, ask for an ambulance, explain the location, etc, and then hang up, re-dial, ask for the police, and do it all over again. So if someone breaks into your house, beats you up, and sets your house on fire, you'll have to make three phone calls I guess!

Adding to the craziness, Mark went to school with one of the ambulance drivers, and they hadn't seen each other in probably 20 years. They chatted while me and the other EMT driver tried to get the dude to go to the hospital. No dice. He said his girlfriend was waiting for him in front of his house and he had to get home. He was also worried about what to do with his bike. I told him he was literally going to go blind in that eye if it wasn't seen to immediately, but I don't think he believed me. Not only that, his nose looked broken. The EMTs couldn't force him into the ambulance, so we all had to let him go. But he could barely see, so I followed him. I took his bike and wheeled it for him while he held onto my shoulder as I guided him. We managed to get his girlfriend on the phone and convince her to meet us (it was no small feat; she was convinced he was blowing her off and hadn't been assaulted that badly). When she saw the state of him I think she felt some remorse. In the half hour or so that we walked with him, I think we managed to convince him to call an ambulance as soon as he got home. At least I hope that's what happened. We left them to make their own way home, feeling that there was nothing else we could do.

He seemed like a nice guy -- in drug recovery and drug-free for three years. He is living in a halfway house but is moving out into a regular home in only three months time. While waiting at the traffic light where we found him, his assailants walked by, apparently debating whether they should steal his bike. Half recognizing one of the guys from a rehab facility, he said "How ya" or some kind of greeting, thinking that if the guy recognized him, they'd leave him alone. But the other two guys were like, "What'd you say??" thinking who knows what, and basically just decided to kick the crap out of him for fun, dropping their groceries in the street in the process. The cyclist was on his way home to meet his girlfriend to eat some pizza and watch a movie. The saddest part was hearing him lament the fact that he couldn't just go home, relax, and have a nice quiet night in. He was now looking at a long wait in a hospital A&E. But funnily enough, he didn't seem to bear his attackers any ill will. He kept saying, "I'm going to pray for those guys," which touched me completely. My mind tends to veer towards revenge in such situations, so I was inspired by the sentiment. I wish I could describe him better but Mark and I both wished we could have done more for him.

Strangely, we didn't get the guy's name, although I did give him my phone number in case he needed a witness. He lives rather close to us, though I don't know exactly where, but I hope one of us runs into him on the street sometime, and that he's ok, recovering, and still managing to keep his life on track despite this staggering setback.

When we got home, I thought I could really use a beer. But since I'm on a really restrictive diet, that wasn't on the cards. All in all it was a pretty strange night!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The other day I was going through Smithfield and I decided to stop into Fresh to buy a couple of groceries. It's more expensive there but they do have cheap Tahini and I didn't feel like cycling all the way to Tesco. Anyhoo, I noticed this in the middle of the courtyard:
(click on the image to view larger)
What are those? Are they supposed to be cows? Pigs? And what are they? Statues? Children's toys?
This past Saturday I attended an Anti-Authoritarian Assembly at Seomra Spraoi. What's that, you ask? Well, it was really a meet-up for local political and social activisty groups to meet, check in with one another, share resources, and have a discussion about various topics.
It was nice to hear from groups that I was less familiar with. Clare from RAG put the whole thing together, and afterwards everyone had a cool togetherness vibe that, to me, felt energizing. I am looking forward to the next one in two months time. I'll post about it here in case anyone is interested in attending!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Can you believe how good I am? I'm really on it!

Today I went down to Buswell's hotel for a press conference by the Action on X campaign. This is a really important campaign that will hopefully gain momentum over the coming months.

For those of you who don't know (probably most of my readers), the "X case" isn't a new reality TV show, but rather a court case from 1992 when a 14-year-old girl, called "X" was raped in Ireland by a neighbor and became pregnant. I'm just going to quote from Wikipedia here: "Before the abortion was carried out, the family asked the [police] if DNA from the aborted foetus would be admissible as evidence in the courts, as the neighbour was denying responsibility. Hearing that X planned to have an abortion, the Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, sought an injunction under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland (which outlaws abortion) preventing her from having the procedure carried out. The injunction was granted by Justice Declan Costello in the High Court." So basically, X and her parents went to England for an abortion and they were forced to return to Ireland before it could be carried out. The case went to Ireland's Supreme Court, where X basically won her right for an abortion based on the fact that her own life was in "real and substantial risk" (via suicide). Strangely, the court ruled that a woman in Ireland has a right to an abortion if her life is at risk, but not if her health is at risk. How they draw the distinction is beyond me, but there you have it. So X later had a miscarriage, but there was never any legislation put in place -- in other words the ruling did not become law. (By the way, her rapist was sentenced to 14 years in prison, served 4, and then became a taxi driver, which gave him the opportunity to subsequently rape a 15 year old girl. He only got 3 and a half years for that. But I digress...)

There has also been the A, B, and C case in the European courts, which was won, but no legislation has even been proposed by government. They've put together some kind of "expert committee" which is basically their way of kicking the ball down the road.

SO - 1992 was 20 years ago. Action on X is trying to push for legislation to finally get going. It's just getting going, and today's press conference marks the true beginning of the campaign. There were four speakers and a chair with about thirty people in attendance.
photo by Clare B

There's a short article about the event and the campaign HERE. There's also a really interesting timeline of the X case HERE.

Anyone interested in this cause can find Action on X on Facebook and there's a public meeting on February 21st at the Gresham Hotel. I'll definitely be posting more about this as events unfold!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hey so I figured strike it while the iron's hot, right?

Tonight we went to The Patriot Inn's monthly comedy night, "Inn Jokes." The idea is that it's free in and you don't really know who's going to perform. Tonight was definitely a mixed bag! First, we had a treat with a visit from David O'Doherty. Here's a clip of him from Edinburgh Fringe 2010 (there's one from 2011 too, but I like the 2010 just slightly better):

Next was a comedian who was so god awful I couldn't even bring myself to clap for him when he was finished. He was just...not funny. I won't even mention his name. It was awful. He was followed by a kind of ok guy whose name escapes me. I actually saw him once before at the International nearly three years ago. I guess my comedic pet peeve is when people try to do that "guys are like this; women are like this" act. I find it boring and often not true. Like, you can make those same jokes without the absolutes, you know?

The last comic was good, so hopefully someone will remind me of his name at some stage and I can edit this post. Overall, we had an enjoyable and inexpensive night out, had a few laughs with friends, and had a nice cycle home through the park, which is a little scary at night, but that made it all the more exhilarating!
What the who the????? How has it been five months since I last posted? Seriously, how'd that happen? I'm actually ashamed of myself! All of my readers probably figured I was in a coma or something. And the sad part is that one of my New Year's resolutions was to post to this blog more! And here it is, February 15th, and I am only just now posting! RUH ROH!

So, shall I even attempt to recap August, September, October, November, and December 2011 (not to mention January 2012!)? But I did so much cool stuff! I couldn't possibly recap sufficiently! Maybe I'll post some highlights....
Well of course, lots of outings with my in-laws! Bill, Joyce, and Billy are still kicking, with only a few health-related scares that have so far all turned out a-ok. Here's a great photo of Bill and Billy:
And here's one of Joyce:

Those photos are actually from April 2011 (our trip to Kilkenny) but I think they weren't developed until recently, so I decided to post them. Mark's Aunt and Uncle visited from Chicago, along with an entire flock of cousins and their friends, so we had an exciting couple of weeks socializing. Here's one of my favorite photos from that time. I LOVE what everyone in this photo is doing:

You can see the family resemblance. Bill is all the way to the right and his sister is the older woman to the left. Their niece is between them. It was a happy family reunion.

In August we took a trip to Belfast, which is only a short train ride away, and availed of my birthday present to Mark: Iron Maiden!

As (bad) luck would have it, we were as far away from the stage as possible. Seriously, we were against the back wall farthest from the stage! But still we had a fun time. We didn't have enough time to do too much cultural sight seeing, but we sure bought a lot of books!

September must have been pretty low-key, because I can't find that many photos from that month. I did MC a fundraiser for Fumbally Court Studios, which mostly involved introducing acts and trying to be funny. I should have asked someone to take a photo of me, but I always get shy about doing that!

In October, Mark and I had a weekend in Cork City. I loved Cork! We saw a play called Breathing Underwater, visited museums, ate fantastic food, and...bought more books! I must have forgotten my camera because I don't have a single photo! But I would definitely go back to Cork and hope to!

November was an exciting month. We went home to the US for Thanksgiving!! It was amazing. Amazing! First, we went to Savannah, Georgia, where my brother was getting married. Savannah was so much fun!
We had some fantastic family bonding time, and so many laughs. I managed to get my siblings to go to a gay bar (we were the only ones there aside from two dudes at the bar), Mark and I got our dance on, and my sisters and I got in a couple of runs together. There were times when we were laughing so hard we could hardly run! We went to museums (I recommend the SCAD museum) and...bought lots of books! Here's Mark in front of a film of fire. It looks real, doesn't it?
The wedding was a lovely affair featuring a stretch hummer and massive quantities of food and alcohol. A good time was had by all! I'd post photos but I kind of don't have any! Here's one of me and Mark:

Then we flew up north to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving! I got to frolic with my nieces and nephew, and meet my lovely niece's son (yes, that makes me a Great-Aunt!), Kieran. I also saw my mother, my Uncle Joe and Aunt Joanne, my cousins Geraldine, Cynthia and her fantastic husband Tom, and not least my Aunt Annie. Sadly, Annie passed away last month. She was an amazingly strong, understated, and determined person. She fought cancer four times. Now she is with her husband, my father, my uncles, and my grandparents in the party in the sky. I hope they are enjoying themselves, wherever they are.

We ventured to Boston for a day or so -- just barely enough time to see a few people -- and then before we knew it, it was time to come back to Dublin!

By then, it was nearly December. The holiday season was upon us. This year, we actually bought a tree! Decorating was fun and all, but of course once January rolled around, I was happy to pack it all up and put it away.
It was definitely party season, and here's our friend William dressed as the Angel Gabriel. Irish people love a costume, what can I say!
And here's Eilis and Andrew dressed up as one of the wise men and...I'm not sure what that leprechaun hat is for!
Here I am with my friend Clare:

We had a low-key New Year's at home in front of the television, which I found very enjoyable as I hate to go out on New Year's Eve. Then it was only a couple of weeks until I was finished with my community employment scheme, so I bid the folks at the Rediscovery Centre a fond farewell! But I have big plans for 2012, so I am not sad about being unemployed.

I just finished a fantastic course at Griffith College, Adobe Illustrator for Fashion Design. And I am starting another class next week through the Dublin City Enterprise Board that I'm really excited about. Otherwise it's been a LOT of yoga, chilling out my mind, and making plans for the ole futurama. So far 2012 looks promising.

So I should really do this more often! Hopefully the rest of the year will be a more blogworthy one!