Words Of Dan

…we watched the Earth burning, and as it burnt we burnt you too.

Canal Bank Walk

Canal Bank Walk – Patrick Kavanagh

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven 
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

Click Photo to Enlarge

I took this photo while walking down the canal near where I live. I’d say it has changed immeasurably since Kavanagh wrote his poem. Still it retains a certain charm.

Ender’s Game – Review

            Being honest I expected Ender’s Game to be brainless. A lovely, completely trashy, space novel with nice, easily digestible themes and characters. I expected straight-forward-right-to-the-point dialogue, shallow characters, and laser guns going pew-pew. My expectation was completely accurate for the most part; everything except the completely trashy presumption, where I couldn’t have been more wrong. Published in 1985 it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

In brief, Ender is a prodigous child born into an America that is bracing itself for another battle deep in space with an alien invasion force, affectionately called buggers. Ender, however, is no ordinary child, and neither are his brother and sister. They are examples of children with outstanding talent who could one day lead an army against the bugger force.

The most widespread criticism of Ender’s Game is the advanced nature of conversation between the large cast of children. While I would usually agree with the basis of this argument in most cases, speculative fiction is an exception for me. Ender, along with many of the children in this story, are not the children we know but rather the children that could be. Orson Scott Card sells this very, very well. Despite their acute awareness of social and political superstructures as early as six, they still jostle with the old problems of peer pressure, bullying and finding a secure place within a family unit.

Battle School, the special school for gifted children, is also quite cool. Large battles with laser guns in a constantly-changing, ever-challenging virtual environment… every kid’s dream really.

Definitely worth the read. It’s far better than I thought it would be, and has made me think twice about writing off mid to late-80s speculative fiction without giving it fair time. Light, casual read with fun action sequences, likeable characters, and some impressive thematic undertones.

4/5

Grass Is Greener?

Being a Mac user, sometimes I wonder if the grass is greener on the other side 😉

Click photo to enlarge.

Irish Tram, Not So Irish Sky

I had to take a photo of the remarkable sky today, being totally uncharacteristically unclouded for an Irish February! Sitting beneath the ocean of blue is the LUAS, the tram system that operates around Dublin. Click photo to enlarge.

The Countess

First woman elected to the House of Commons, and the first woman ever to hold a cabinet position. On top of that she was a scrapper, and was involved in the 1916 Irish Rising. You can find her gazing over St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, the position she held during the Rising. If you wanna’ know more about her check out her Wiki.

South Anne Street and St. Anne’s Church

South Anne Street is a busy little lane caught between Dublin’s Grafton and Dawson Streets. To sum up the street, burger joints to the left, expensive outfitters to the right. It’s not recommended you frequent both at once. Click on the photo to view full size.

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson

I Am Legend is one of those books that everyone should devote a couple of days to reading. No man is an island, but Robert Neville sure as hell feels like one at times in Richard Matheson’s masterpiece.

It’s rare to find such a good book clocking in at the 40,000 words mark. I usually find stories that length too slow to begin, and too quick to finish. Matheson gauges the pace just right. There are sweet f*ck all other characters in the work, Neville’s wife, a dog and an odd person or two fill the entire cast, but those that are elaborated on are perfectly crafted. I have a particular softspot for a neighbour vampire who gives the story a nice sense of the familiar. Of homeliness. Despite being terrifying, he is a pillar of normalcy (yes, I just used that word).

Which is the overwhelming nature of the book. Despite being completely alone, surrounded by ravenously hungry neck biters, Neville adjusts to his new condition with aplomb. Not just surviving, but almost thriving. Ok, maybe thriving is an exaggeration. He deals with crippling loneliness and savage internal monologues aplenty, but his personal evolution to suit the needs of this new empty world speaks volumes for humanity. It also seems to suggest that we are our own worst enemy, and internal demons are far deadlier than the external.

Anyway, it’ll say different things to different folks. In short it’s a great read, good suspense, a nice bit of mystery, and a satisfying conclusion. It won’t change your life, but it’s good craic, which might not be what Matheson intended, but after three decades of sh*t vampire and zombie themed works they’re hard not to read lightly.

It’s one man’s struggle against a new world, and himself. And there’s vampire zombies.

4/5

His Dark Materials – Review

I finished up reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy during the Christmas holidays. It was a heavy tome, so I’m glad I’m not carrying it around anymore. I was essentially carrying a bag with me everywhere just to accommodate it. But I liked it, I really liked it… then I loved it.

Without doubt it’s one of the most stirring, imaginative and engaging series I have ever read. Its reputation, for the longest time, is what put me off reading it. Its reputation was so good that I had no interest in jumping on the bandwagon. I didn’t want to read it because it was so widely read. That and the abysmal film effort.

It’s a series that can be, and is, read by teens, as well as a more mature audience. After reading it I honestly don’t know how any teen would adequately absorb its many nuances, and many there certainly are. I have often heard the argument that you had to have read it/seen it/played it as a child, with an open imagination, to fully appreciate a work of art. That’s a load of b*llocks. It’s the authors job to make sure it’s as engaging to older readers as to the younger crew. Pullman does this very well. The only thing that anyone who hasn’t read it before could possibly be missing out on is a sense of nostalgia on a second perusal. I do, however, plan to read this again at some stage of my life, so I might be treated to a dose of nostalgia yet.

In short, it’s almost the perfect story. Childhood, growing up, relationships, love and death are all constant companions in this epic. It manages a perfect blend of new-age religion, spirituality and theoretical science, and the challenges that face each.

It might be unfair to discuss or criticise the series as a whole as it’s comprised of three separate titles: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

And no, the books are not equally great. The Amber Spyglass is better than the others in many ways, but lacks a lot of the imaginative character of the previous two. Northern Lights is the most typically straight-forward, being the foundation of it all, with a feeling that Pullman hadn’t exactly decided where he was going with his story either when he started or finished it. The Subtle Knife, however, puts you on the deliberate course you wanted with a lot of “Ah! It all makes sense now!” moments, and The Amber Spyglass takes you home neatly. Pullman feeds you the right amount of these revelations at the right times throughout the series. And lots of action.

Now, after saying all that, yet not discussing any part of the story (intentionally; it’s so good you shouldn’t need a blurb) it must be said that the series directly speaks to a part of our condition, our mortality, yada yada yada, and the lonely burden of it all. It’s all very Robert Frost and his Mending Wall. If you aren’t up for feeling a little less impressed with your reality, then maybe give it a miss. If you do persevere, I can tell you when you close the covers you will feel infinite sadness, dejection and then slowly, but surely, transcendant optimism creeps in.

One last tip if you’re going to take the plunge, maybe buy one volume at a time so it’s easier to carry rather than getting the hefty compiled trilogy!

5/5

Coffee and Getting Shit Done

Right. I’ve locked myself in my room, and I’m going to get this fucking shit done. Ok. I’ll just make myself a coffee first. I leave my room, and walk out on the tiles, should have worn slippers, the tiles are freezing. In the kitchen I wash the mug I decide to use, the one that has a picture of Bugs Bunny on it, and a spoon. I always lose baby spoons. I don’t know where they go to, but for some reason I find myself buying baby spoons every other month. Forks last for years. And big spoons? Forget about it. At least two. There must be a baby spoon thief.

            The kettle boils up, shaking the counter-top as it approaches the boil. The steam rises and condenses, forming little waterdrops on my woodwork kitchen unit. Two spoons of coffee, or three? Three would keep me up all night, and possibly give me the shakes. But it’d be some craic. Nah, I’ll go for two, play it safe for tonight. Better safe than sorry. The aroma of coffee, goddamn. I’ve been cutting down on sugar lately, so the one spoon, not heaped, will do the trick.

            Ah, coffee. Right, so I’ll just clean up the desk so I can get this shit done, finally. Magazines over here. Wrappers, old receipts and stray pages in the bin over there. There’s I Am Legend! I’ve been meaning to read this. I really enjoyed the movie with Will Smith. I wonder if it’s similar, or completely different. Sure I’ll read a few pages, and then get my shit done.

            This is nothing like the movie! Ok, it’s sort of similar, but there are so many drastic differences! I drain the last of my coffee, it’s always cold and too sweet at the end.

            I boot up my laptop and lay back on my bed, quick check of the emails it is so. It makes the usual droning Apple sound that sounds a little out of kilter with the modern looking machine. Two hours later I am none the wiser what I have been doing all that time. I remember Facebook. And Twitter. And an episode of Peep Show. What a television show. They don’t make enough of it.

            I throw all my stray clothes into the washbasket, and throw on some music to psyche myself up for getting my shit done. I love this album. Definitely Alter Bridge’s best album to date. I decide, as it gets a little later, to throw on something a little more laid back. Beatle’s Revolver. Definitely their best album. I pick up my guitar and strum through a few of the chords. That string section on Eleanor Rigby, flawless.

            Christ, its one in the morning. I’ve got work at nine. Right, I’ve got everything set to get my shit done tomorrow night.

            Right. Ok. The following night I make myself a cup of coffee, where the fuck are all the baby spoons?

Shadow and City

Templebar by Roisin O'Farrell

Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit of yesterday comes off easy, leaving its fresher face gleaming on a cool Dublin evening. Winding down cobbled streets, bowing and nodding to familiar faces I meet, breathing the scene in deeply. In the air hangs the sweet smell of sawdust and tavern ale, mixed with fragrant perfumes and tobacco smoke. The chatter and bustle fills the street with merriment, accompaniment and solace.

My own face, wizened but pleasant, betrays my spirit, young and vibrant. The youthful rush past, sparing an odd glance, but ultimately I am a walking ghost. I had my chance. I danced and sung. And drank. I courted and loved.

In my youth I walked these old cobbled streets looking toward my uncertain, yet exciting, future. Now I look nowhere but to the past, because the future terrifies me. Then I see an old friend, stooped and creaky. “Not long now!”, he says. We laugh at the ridiculousness of it. We recount old days, pity the youth, and we part feeling better.

Walking in the shadows of ghosts fills me with hope, and pride. There is Kavanagh by the canal, Wilde overlooking the square, Burke’s and Goldsmith’s ruminations, and O’Connell’s firm gaze.

I inhale deeply, sucking as much of Dublin into me as I can. The cool night air refreshes me. If I could bottle some of this jovial old city and carry it with me through the out door I would never fear leaving. I would sup it eternally, and tell stories to make other souls green with envy.

Part of me I’ll leave here, in these living stones. I helped with this, I built that. I ate here, I studied there. My first job was over there, and I met my wife over here. We kissed for the first time over there, under the orange lamp glow.

Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit comes off easy. Renewal comes naturally to brick and mortar. I am not of a thousand layers; my layer is one, and it is now cracked and frail. But my soul remains whole, and unfettered. On it will glide towards its next destination, never forgetting home.