The Dublin Arabic Film Festival

I’ve always been the sort of person who has thrown himself towards film festivals, stuff on in the likes of the IFI and the Lighthouse, the World Cinema section of HMV…

On top of that I got a renewed boost from my recent very positive experiences at the Japanese Film Festival in the Lighthouse. Saw two movies one of which I thoroughly enjoyed (The Story Of Yonosuke) and one of which I urge you to see out immediately called The Great Passage.

Thus, I give you for your consideration, the upcoming Dublin Arabic Film Festival in the same location. They ever have Omar Sharif turning up :-)

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Mmmmmmmmm…. Steak……

Someone suggested the other day that I should stick other things I like here. Fair enough As long as you get that I’m not a reviewer of anything. What I might do is stick up quick references every now and then to things I see, places I go, stuff I think you should eat, do, whatever…

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First out of the traps is Bull And Castle up facing Christchurch. Stumbled on it yesterday while heading into town for a quick bite. To be honest it used to be a very touristy, slightly manky looking old pub and I’d never been in. FXBs have turned it into a very, very nice steak and craft beer joint.

I had the 2 course earlybird including this delicious rump for €19 and a pint of the gorgeous craft beer of the week above…

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Not that I’m up that way very often but I’d definitely recommend and go back.

One suggestion? They were very heavily booked yesterday so you might need to call in advance.

Book Twenty Five

Book Twenty Five 2014: 

 The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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As I’ve said here before I love books that tilt the world slightly on its axis and cause me to look at things differently; this one is no exception.

Ostensibly a book about events that occur entirely outside of the range of what one would normally expect to happen (9/11, financial crashes, tsunamis, the fate of Lebanon in the 80s, Facebook) it also ranges widely across vast territory how the financial system works (he used to work on Wall Street) to the very art of predicting anything in *any* field of life and why doing that is usually a complete waste of time.

He goes to huge lengths to say that he makes no predictions about anything himself (he sees attempts to do that in all but the most tightly scientific fields utter nonsense) but that he wrote this book in 2007 and makes no small suggestion that the banking system is build on sand and is liable to be swallowed up at any moment does no harm to the rest of his theories. There’s a fair amount of overlap in places with the wonderful Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman as well, another book that is nothing short of brilliant if you’ve never stumbled across it.

If I have one small criticism it’s that there are sections of the book that are almost impenetrable and that I lightly skimmed over. I’m no genius, but I’ve read this sort of stuff all my life and am fascinated by pretty much everything, but parts of this are not for the man in the street like me…

Having said that, it’s head-opening in places, wide-ranging and will make you look at the world differently. Highly recommended.

The Poem That Escaped

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If you do listen to the RTE Arena special on Radio 1 on Bank Holiday Monday evening that was recorded last night in Dublin Castle you might hear Sean Rocks asking me about the one poem I’ve ever written that escaped into the real world…

I had been asked to paint the giant egg above for a charity auction the Jack & Jill Foundation were running last year. With no artistic training (or aptitude!) whatsoever I spray painted it gold and then thought it looked a little dull.

So, I took one of the many, many poems that I’ve written in scattered notebooks over the years and asked my wife (who has lovely handwriting unlike my own) to scroll it around the egg. Eventually it sold for €1200 and sits in the foyer of the Golden Irish Egg company in Monaghan.

On the show, Sean then asks me could I recite any of it and, of course, could I remember even the first line? No.

To be honest, even if I’d had it to hand would I have read it on Radio 1′s arts show flanked by 2 of Ireland’s best known contemporary poets? Not on your nelly.

Well, in case you were interested, this is what’s on the egg…

 

Phoenix

She is the summer sun,

Falling blue, gently but relentlessly

Against eternal sandstone,

She is the reason dead green shutters have undone,

Flung everything within them to the day,

She makes ruins glow,

Folds shadows under waiting stone,

Even, unbeknownst to her, from half a world away.

I’d painted

1 City 1 Book In Dublin Castle

It was a unique experience for me. To be invited to be on a panel as someone who ” is a tireless promoter of reading and books in general” according to Sean Rocks who was presenting the Arena special for Radio 1…

Myself, poets Pat Boran and Enda Wyley on a panel discussing this year’s 1 City 1 Book “If You Ever Go” in a glorious room in Dublin Castle with readings done by the incredible Owen Roe, Gabriel Rosenstock and others while Lisa Hannigan played a couple of tunes in the corner.

Magical.

It’ll be going out on Bank Holiday Monday on RTE Radio 1 at 7pm

Some pics were taken by me and the 1 City 1 Book people…

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Social Media Awards 2014 – We’re Where?!?!

And the cat is very much out of the bag…

This year I’ll be hosting the Social Media Awards in the glorious Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on June 5th.

No pressure, so :-)

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You can nominate your business here and nominations are free!

http://socialmediaawards.com/nominations/

There are a whole bunch of other pics over on FB:

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Book Twenty Four

Book Twenty Four 2014: 

 The Three by Sarah Lotz

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Typical. You haven’t read anything great by a female author in ages and then four come along at once :-)

The pitch for Sarah Lotz’s The Three is best left at one line – four planes crash across the world on the same day, there are only 3 survivors, all children…

The story is told in a fragmented style from inside the construct of a book that has been written about the events of what’s become known as Black Thursday soon after those events themselves.

You hear about what happened from people on the ground, people with the surviving children, people unconnected but with large, powerful interests that are driving events around the world the book is set in.

Honestly, telling a story like this means that Sarah Lotz has given herself a huge, uphill battle here. She pulls off all of the individual voices effortlessly while driving us along at speed even if once or twice I found myself wandering a bit as the vastly disparate strands were being slowly teased out.

It’s in the last 100 pages or so that The Three really flies and makes itself a must-read. Things all come together and wrap up, convincing you that it’s first one sort of story, then another, then another yet again. Was the survival of The Three a coincidence? A supernatural occurrence? The hand of God?

I pretty much always find myself being unsatisfied with endings of books. Not here. It finishes brilliantly.

It’s out on May 22nd, make a note and grab a copy.

Book Twenty Three

Book Twenty Three 2014: 

 The Second World War by Antony Beevor

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Does what it says on the tin. It’s an extensive and exhaustive history of not just 1939 to 1945 but the events preceding it in Asia and elsewhere. If I have one small criticism it’s that there are times when the maps peppered throughout the book aren’t detailed or frequent enough, other then that it’s terrific.

I’m keeping this short as you’ll know immediately whether or not this is for you by the size and the subject :-)

The one irony? I had to read it in 2 sections as my brain got so top-heavy with information – I ground to a halt just before Stalingrad. Not making that up…

Book Twenty Two

Book Twenty Two 2014: 

 by Sinéad Crowley

Can Anybody Help Me, Sinead Crowley

First things first – I will be astonished if someone hasn’t made this into a 4 part thriller for d’telly in the next year or so.

It centres on a women with a young child who chats regularly with a number of women on a popular internet forums for mums. One of them goes missing… And then another… And then she has to try to convince a pregnant detective that there is no coincidence involved.

Again, as with so many other books I’ve had land on my desk this year this probably isn’t something I would have chosen for myself on a trip to the bookshop (notwithstanding the fact that I know Sinéad – she’s RTE’s Arts & Media correspondent and a first-time author). Again, I’m so glad that it did.

Can Anybody Help Me is alternately creepy, honest, breakneck, unsettling and reeking with the reality of modern Ireland. There is one great “what if” moment in here at the beginning that she’s turned into a thriller that will make internet users that reveal a bit too much very, very unsettled…

This isn’t out in shops until May – keep an eye out for it.

Book Twenty One

Book Twenty One 2014: 

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

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I’m going to have to be straight with you and say that if I’d come across Liz Nugent’s Unravelling Oliver in a bookstore there’s probably almost zero chance I would have picked it up and bought it.

How wrong could I be?

It’s a story that starts with a rich, older So-Co-Dub man beating his wife to within an inch of her life in their home. He’s never laid a hand on her or anyone before. Ever. By the end of the first chapter you want to punch *him* in the face. Then it unravels the story of him, her, the people around them and the past that has led him to that point.

Firstly can I say thanks to everyone who recommended this to me as part of a trawl I did online on International Women’s Day for more female authors for me to read this year and thanks to Penguin in Dublin for seeing the same and taking a punt on sending it in to me.

Just like Donal Ryan’s wonderful The Spinning Heart it takes simple situations in contemporary Irish lives and then tells the whole sweep of the story with the voices of those involved being given their own chapters. No plot here, no spoilers. Read it yourself.

Her writing is stylish, the characters are vivid and the line of the story all too real and plausible.

Can’t recommend it highly enough.