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Archive for July, 2008

I’m in a giving mood….blame the good weather.

Anyway, I thought I’d divulge a few of the things that have been making my life more fun as of late. First up, time to get a little Beaut.ie on yisser arses:

I have discovered two new beauty products that have made my life a lot easier. First up is the Bourjois 1 Second Fan Effect Brush nail polish. No more waving my hands about like a muppet to get my nails dry (and then, per sod’s law, getting them fucking well smudged on something): this stuff works in record time. And you literally need to use one stroke of the brush…hell, a cracked-out chimp could do her nails with this gear. The first time I got introduced to it in fact, I had several Martinis taken and used it with one eye closed. And you know what? I looked like I’d gotten a frickin’ manicure. In the middle of Solas.

I’ve also been curious about getting eyelash extensions, but now I don’t need to, thanks to the L’Oreal Double Extension Beauty Tubes Mascara. Seriously, it makes your lashes hit your bloody eyebrows. Plus, there are no smudges, at all at all. I woke up one morning with the full face of make-up on and a rather handsome young specimen there next to me. Initially, I panicked, thinking that the poor chap would be a little freaked to see me in my grizzled panda-eyed state, but no…the lashes stayed put. Even if he didn’t.

Right, onto the music recommendations before the boys start to doze off.

I, along with about 30 others, went to see a rather lovely band last night called A Sunny Day In Glasgow, who are in fact from Philadelphia. I’m a sucker for twee, shoegaze, lo-fi indie and this lot really did it for me. Those fabulous folk at Foggy Notions really have an ear for a brilliant, obscure act, and have brought some fantastic, lesser-known luminaries to Ireland in the last year. It was a criminally short set, and the vocals sounded fairly manky in a live setting, but on record ASDIG are really rather incredible. Think the shimmery, glazed dreaminess of Cocteau Twins or Velocity Girl mixed with something a little more robust like Superchunk or Drop Nineteens. A match made in heaven if you ask me. And yes, I did leave my heart in 1995.

Sure give this ASDIG song a lash:

A few nights ago, I dropped in on Honoria for a sociable cup of tea, which then of course turned into an impromptu, 8-hour Sauvignon bender. That lass is such a feeder!! Anyway, we ended up yanking out old records at 4am (profuse apologies, Penny’s neighbours) and found a long forgotten gem from Rollerskate Skinny entitled Shoulder Voices. And, having not heard this lovely album in well over a decade…well, it was simply the nicest shock you could get. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing the sadly defunct Rollerskate Skinny, take a gander at this (and pay no mind to their ridiculously charmless singer, the albums really are worth a listen):

Another of my favourite defunct bands is Swirlies, who created one of the best shoegaze albums ever, in my mind. You can download their albums here, legally and for free. Start with They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days, and see how you go. And don’t say I never give youse nothing.

Or if you don’t fancy doing all that, just listen to this:

What with the renewed interest in My Bloody Valentine, I am optimistic that shoegazing will make a comeback. Oh happy feckin’ day.

For purposes of gainful employment, I had been working with a lot of music since very recently, and I admit, dear reader, that I became so jaded and sated with music that couldn’t bear to listen to anything new. But I am finally coming out of hibernation and am finally able to stomach the sound of a decent album again. In fact, I have been monstrously excited by albums from Beirut, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear.

So if anyone has any music recommendations along those lines, please lob ‘em on over. At this moment in time, I like my music like I like my men; woodsy, earthy, robust, sincere, a little bit dark…and with a kink.

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So, someone has a crush on us. That’s deadly, so it is. Right back at ya, Rosie. Though I’m not sure what Twenty Major would make of our little love-in.

Still and all, where would we be without our girlie crushes? Here are some of mine:

1. Dawn Porter

Truth be told, I never had much time for the Balls Of Steel-era Dawn Porter, but my appreciation for the Porter really took flight when she got her own BBC 3 seriesof documentaries last year. Unapologetically candid and real, the documentaries explored lesbianism, being single, childbirth, nudity and the much maligned Size Zero debate. Dawn is, quite frankly, a lethal combination of doe-eyed sexiness and quirky, unassuming sass. On top of all else, she rides a folding bike and is an Aquarian, therefore rendering her pretty much perfect in my eyes. Arguably one of the most natural and charming TV presenters out there, Dawn is the sort of girl that would make truly drinking company. Good old Dawn would be the saucy, bat-yer-lashes yin to my violently smutty, X-rated yang. I’d be going on about my gagging-for-it cuntflaps, curved cocks, gay porn, double penetration and the like; she’d blush, peer coyly over the rim of her Pimms & Lemonade and in her cute, posh Veruca Salt voice, say something cheeky like, ‘Actually, they’re called fanny-flaps, Leigh’. You can tell I’ve had a think about this, right?

2. Diablo Cody

You can’t not have a girl-crush on someone whose name is Diablo Cody. When the opening credits started for Juno – hands down, the best film of last year – I couldn’t wait to get out of the cinema and Google the heck out of this person on the strength of her moniker (her real name, Brooke Busey, makes her sound like a prissy, bitchy prom queen in a John Hughes film). Imagine my delight, surprise (and, oh Jesus, cold-blooded envy) when she turned out to be a foxy babe in the LA-rockabilly vein. I love those kind of broads, all jet-black fringes and tatty leopard print coats. Not only is Diablo a sort of glamorous, old-Hollywood throwback; her writing kicks serious ass. Say what you will about its Degrassi Junior High teen speak, but Juno has as whip-smart, perfectly-pitched and touchingly funny a script as you’ll find anywhere. Still, as much as I love Diablo, I do have to take points off for her watery Oscar acceptance speech. That’s the other thing: I really was downright jealous of her Oscar dress, and indeed of her Oscar win. She didn’t even have to fuck sing with Glen Hansard to get it.

3. Immodesty Blaize

Dita Von Teese me hoop…Immodesty – sturdily created in the original burlesque tradition – is a proper ridebag. Much like me, this lass – born Kelly Fletcher – has plenty of junk in the trunk. (Hell, what am I talking about? I have junk in the backseat, the bonnet, the glove compartment. Fuck, even my air fresheners have junk on ‘em. Anyway). On top of being endlessly sexy, Immodesty has a devilish glint in her eye that suggests that she too might be a rather fun girl to down cocktails with. What’s more, in addition to becoming the world’s most smoulderingly sexy burlesque dancer, she’s also written two novels. Is there no end to the wagon’s talents, I ask you?

4. Julie Burchill

The one thing I adore about Julie Burchill is the fact that she could – and readily would, without much provocation – eat a young one like me for breakfast. Seriously, The Burchill would probably pick a fight with her own shadow – you have to dig girls like that. It’s not so much Burchill’s colourful and strong opinions that do it for me – girls who rail against boys and Daily Mail readers are a dime a dozen, after all – but it’s the way she undercuts her vitriol with this puny, girly voice. It’s incredible, really. Float like a Minnie Mouse, sting like a motherfucking bee. Still, imagine getting on the right side of The Burchill though…how incredible and gratifying an experience would that be? One of my favourite Burchill rants was aimed at housewives who bang about making ‘a contribution’ while watching Jeremy Kyle all day: “it’s just tidying up after yourself!” she once squeaked. Brilliant. Yet for all those perfectly-pitched pot-shots, Julie came a little unstuck when she became particularly vocal while defending chavs, and celebrated her own chav existence. Yet surely she knows that marrying boys called Cosmo and writing for the Guardian does not a chav make?

5. Peaches

Good old Merril Niskel. I love the fact that Peaches used to be a schoolteacher and coined the phrase ‘hermaphrodite envy’…what’s not to like? Also, can you believe this girl is 41? Hot feckin’ dang! There’s something about her caustic , tough-as-boots sexuality that really cranks my proverbial chain. I should imagine that going down on Peaches would probably be not dissimilar to sticking your tongue on a car battery. And I do mean that in the best way possible.

6. Floria Sigismondi

You can keep your Zadie Smiths and your Cate Blanchetts…Floria Sigismondi is, bar none, the most talented person in possession of a fanny out there. You may know some of her music videos: she has directed ‘Untitled 1 (Vaka)’ for Sigur Ros, ‘Obstacle 1’ for Interpol and, famously, ’The Beautiful People’ for Marilyn Manson. In fact, she’s largely responsible for much of the latter’s imagery.

Her elaborate books of photography are like crack-fuelled space shuttle trips for your eyes. The daughter of Italian opera singers, this Canadian is responsible for some of the most incredible goth/Victoriana imagery out there. Steely, original and uncompromising, Floria describes her images as “entropic underworlds inhabited by tortured souls and omnipotent beings.” Oof! On top of that, Floria is a bit of an imposing babe herself. Some girls have all the luck.

I think I’m beginning to see a pattern to my girl crushes – they are all multi-talented, alpha-females who can (probably) drink like fish, curse like sailors and might go off like a pocket of firecrackers in the scratcher. Being from Canada and having a sexy fake name: optional.

Over to you peeps…got any girl crushes you might like to share?

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I’ve been to a lot of weddings over the past year, and they’ve all been a lot of fun. Except for what comes afterwards – the inevitable Facebook sharing of the photos. Because that means I have to look at photos of myself, usually gurning hideously (why am I never captured on camera smiling serenely? I always seem to be caught mid-grimace).

Smile!

Smile!

And like a lot of people, that’s not something I enjoy. In Saturday’s Times, writer Leah Hardy wrote about her own hatred of looking at her holiday snaps. It’s a good piece, with which I think a lot of us will be able to identify: like Hardy, we’re perfectly happy with the way we look most of the time, aware that we’re reasonably attractive, but we’re capable of being plunged into despair by a photograph of us laughing with our friends. And psychologist Linda Papadopoulos makes a good point:

Papadopoulos says that in the old days people used to compare themselves with their neighbours and friends. “But today we are more likely to compare ourselves with the airbrushed images of perfection we see in magazines and on movie screens. These are not only of the most beautiful people on Earth, at the peak of youth and fitness – but they have also been professionally made-up and styled. It’s hardly surprising that we don’t feel we match up. The bar is impossibly high.”

But here’s the good news – we’re not really as hideous as we look on Facebook!

“Photographs aren’t very representative of what we look like in reality,” she says. “It is just a record of one static moment. People are never completely still like they are in a photograph, and animation changes the way we look. In studies, people are often rated as significantly better-looking in person than in photographs, and that’s because of personal qualities, such as confidence.”

But some day we might regret our camera-phobia. Like Leah Hardy, I have relatively few photos of myself taken after I moved out of the familial home. The purchase of a digital camera has changed things a bit, but my avoidance of the camera (and the fact that my partner has no interest in taking snaps) means that most of my twenties are visually undocumented. And I suspect that in twenty or thirty years, I’ll wish I’d gurned for the camera a little more often.

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I first heard Laura Nyro when I was 19, and fell in love pretty much straight away. Her song ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’ was one of the many, many gems on a legendary 1968 sampler from CBS records called The Rock Machine: I Love You (a sequel to the also rocking but even more hilariously/awesomely titled The Rock Machine Turns You On).
I discovered this album in my dad’s record collection and played it constantly; all of its funkier moments ended up on every compilation tape I made for the next two years. Even now, just the opening chords of any song from The Rock Machine sends me back instantly to late nights in my bedroom after a long day arsing around college, listening to that crackly vinyl record while smoking a very weak spliff and writing in my diary about the stupid boy who was making my life a misery at the time. I loved the album so much that I made it my mission to find more by my favourite Rock Machiners – not all that easy in the pre-internet age (well, 1995 – pre-being able to find anything you want on the internet, anyway) and though I soon tracked down one of my othe favourites, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield’s slightly mad Super Sessions on vinyl, it took several months before I got my paws on Nyro’s debut album Eli and the 13th Confession, which had, luckily, just been released on CD. I’d been craving more Nyro for months. And I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s kind of hard to describe Laura Nyro’s complex music, but a mixture of gospel, soul, showtunes and crazy experimental weirdness will do. Which, I’ll admit, can make her a bit hard to take, especially if your tolerance for random shrieking is, like mine, limited. But her unpredictable song structures mean that at her most soulful, like Eli….‘s kickass ‘Woman’s Blues’, she’s unbeatable. Her album with Labelle, Gonna Take a Miracle, is particularly fantastic. And her influence, direct or otherwise, can be felt in countless slightly eccentric female songwriters from to Kate Bush to Joan as Policewoman. Alas, I can’t find ‘Woman’s Blues’ anywhere on line, but here’s the sweet, mellow song I fell in love with back in 1995. Oh, the nostalgia…

By the way, I just checked iTunes, and the subject of my other great Rock Machine alumni quest, The Electric Flag’s An American Music Band, which I once found in that cool little record and cult book shop on South William Street but, to my great sorrow, couldn’t afford because I was a poor student and never found again, is now available to download. I love you, internet!

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If only Viggo looked like this all the time...

If only Viggo looked like this all the time...

On this lovely Monday morning (it’s July, it’s actually sunny, what gives?), I’m looking for a little help with a definition. I’m not quite sure what to call it, but for now let’s loosely dub it “Man in certain role syndrome”. It all started way back when the first Lord of the Rings film appeared, and there like a vision of rugged, long-haired loveliness was Viggo Mortenson. It’s well over a decade since I had a thing for men with long hair (cringingly circa 17 years old, I considered leather trousers and the wearing of Doc Marten’s to be a prerequisite for going out with someone), so the Viggo-as-Aragorn thing crept up on me. And here’s the thing – I’ve since seen him in A History of Violence and Eastern Promises and I haven’t felt the same attraction. Recently, this has happened again, this time with Jon Hamm, aka Don Draper in Mad Men.

Smoking-is-sexy poster boy Don Draper

Smoking-is-sexy poster boy Don Draper


The excellent TV series (Season Two started last night in the US, download fans!) about the New York advertising scene in late 1950s/early 1960s features Hamm as a suave, quiffed chain-smoking sex God (well, to me anyway). After watching a few episodes, well and truly hooked on him, I sauntered off to IMDB to poke around his profile, something well within the acceptable non-stalkerish realm of fandom. And my heart dropped. There he was, in non-Don Draperish floppy hair and stubble. The illusion was shattered.

So what I want to know is this: Is there a name for this fetish/syndrome/predilection? And does anyone have any other examples they’d like to share? Any guys or queer gals got examples of women?

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I hate it when I fit into a cliché. I like to think of myself as being, I dunno, vaguely individual. And yet, sometimes I find myself fitting the early-30-something settled-down middle-class former-teenage-riot grrrl cliché. To give but a few examples: I still have a huge pile of Sassy magazines in my wardrobe. I shop at Buy Olympia and Threadless and wish I could afford Marc Jacobs. I have subscriptions to Bust and Bitch. And yes, I knit.

And even worse, I actually started knitting for the first time since primary school thanks to Bust. In my feeble “I’m not a sheep!” defence, this was about ten years ago, long before the publication of Stitch and Bitch and the media hype and many copycat “hipster knitting” books that followed, but still, it’s true – in the late ’90s, Bust going on about knitting so much reminded me that I had, many years ago, rather enjoyed it.

My knitting heroine

My knitting heroine

In fact, I had knitted a platypus (yes, a platypus) at the age of about nine. If my nine-year-old self could fashion a platypus out of wool, surely my 24 year old self could, well, not knit another platypus, because frankly one knitted platypus is more than enough for anyone, but knit something? So once lunchtime (I’d just started my first ever post-college job) I went down to that yarn shop at the top of Dawson Street that’s now a preposterous whiskey shop and bought some glittery blue lurex yarn with which I planned to knit a scarf.

 

I am not lying when I say that now, nearly ten years later, as I write this at my kitchen table, I am looking at a bag on a nearby chair containing that unfinished scarf.

In fairness, it hasn’t been sitting there for a decade (I’ve moved house several times since then and besides, I’m not that scarily undomesticated). I just unearthed it in a box of knitting stuff the other day and have been trying to decide if the blue spangly stuff is worth keeping. But it was a reminder that scratchy lurex and tiny needles wasn’t the best starting project for a nouveau knitter. I had better luck with my next project, which was – you’ve guessed it – another scarf. By then the Dawson Street knitting shop had closed down so I had to go to Hickeys on Henry Street, which had a pretty crappy selection. But I found a rather nice russety velvety yearn and, lo and behold, made a scarf out of it. The feeling of satisfaction (and, let’s be honest, smugness) was huge. As was the scarf – it was about six feet long.

Since then, I’ve made scarfs, socks (I love knitting socks), jumpers and hats (no unusual animals, though). I find knitting both stimulating and relaxing – if, like me, you find it hard to concentrate on one thing for a long time, knitting is sort of grounding. It gives you something to do with your hands while you talk, or watch TV, or listen to the radio (knitting while reading is much more tricky, but it can be done). It’s a great stress-reliever – like worry beads, except you get a jumper at the end of it! And while when I started knitting again it was very hard to find patterns for cool, fitted, non-boxy garments, these days it’s not hard to find lots of patterns for stuff you’d actually like to wear. And after the death of decent yarn shops in the early ’00s, there’s been a bit of a knitting shop renaissance in Dublin, with the wondrous This is Knit in Blackrock and a new yarn café opening soon in Santry, so it’s possible to buy gorgeous yarns and get helpful advice from the friendly knitting enthusiasts behind the counter.

Today’s Guardian featured a tiresomely titled but rather cute Guide to Rebel Knitting, full of easy, kooky but practical patterns perfect for the beginning knitter. If you’ve ever been tempted to pick up the needles, it might just give you the push. And you never know, some day you might end up with a knitted platypus of your very own.

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To kick off our inaugural Blast From the Past spot, I’m cheating a little by picking not one, but two acts, because I can’t think about one without the other. Back in the day when my little flat looking like it was being slowly eaten by a large record-shaped vinyl monster, I discovered the Dynamite compilations. Made up mostly of reggae and its spin-offs, they were also home to various ska, dub, rocksteady, breaks and soul classics. Genre golden boys Barrington Levy, King Tubby, Toots and the Maytal, the Upsetters and Lee Scratch Perry all featured, but crucially they gave a platform to some of reggae’s most influential women, from Sister Charmaine to Marcia Aiken and Phyllis Dillon (who along with Marlena Shaw recorded the seminal ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ *) and switched me on to some of the original reggae queens.

A fuzzy memory of seeing the booty-shaking Top of the Pops turn by a teenage Althea & Donna resurrected itself (check out Donna’s awesome ‘fro!). I was part confounded, part charmed by the lyrics to ‘Uptown Top Rankin’’, and these ladies were ridiculousy young at the time (Kate Bush was the same age that year when she hit no. 1 with ‘Wuthering Heights’). By coincidence, A&T popped up on 300% Dynamite, where I first discovered Sister Nancy. Her track ‘Bam Bam’ (listen here:*) became the standout on the compilation; the song I lifted the needle back on to over and over again. Tracking down her other work has been tricky, but I have a fuzzy tape of her 1982 album One Two somewhere. ‘Bam Bam’ is on there, and as much as I love the name, it can’t beat the sassily-titled ‘Only Woman Dj With Degree’.

Live footage of Sister Nancy at a dancehall in 1996:


* I used youtube clips to avoid anyone having to download stuff.

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