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!