Monday, August 31, 2009

bags down, kettle on, bath awaiting...

home from the 'belt.
feels very strange to have left before it's over. but it's been a good one. calm, was jayne's word for it. and mine too.

i hardly went to anything, but had some lovely human encounters of varying kinds with some incredible people.
more on them later. for now, i need some dinner.

first pic of pyrotheology (from left: pete, shirley, me and chris, 3 of us still blindfolded, on the pyre. sarah, pad, jonny and rachel are in the 4 in the shadows making music)


Saturday, August 29, 2009

the morning after the night before... and afternoon

greetings from the 'belt.

delighted to have hooked up with several familiar but not seen often enough faces.
much laughter. tent cosy. all is well.

Lynn wields the spoon for first dinner. Moroccan cous cous.

Chris, the elder brother by choice; me; Pád, my love, aka my gay
boyfriend, and Jon, my favourite orthodox anarchist.
we didn't intend it to be quite the band photo it became.
Pád says to call us, Ten Pence None the Poorer.

full text and photos from Pyrotheology to follow at some point on the ikon wiki.

gathering went really well, one of our strongest ever. which is lovely, given it's very likely our last.
my desire to both offer something and participate and be transformed by the experience was more than realised. one point actually brought me to tears.
just don't ask about the health and safety fiasco we went through. but all the scavenging for the set could not have been smoother. i love it when a plan comes together.

those present by their absence can follow the weekend via the gb09 flikr photostream.


for now, this is my own piece, albeit out of context, from last night. Pádraig played leonard cohen's who by fire underneath my words, and sang the highlighted text, which i echoed in spoken word. first time Pád and i have done something together for ikon@gb, so we relished the opportunity.
when i approached him with the idea, he said he had been learning the piece over the summer.
gotta love synchronicity.

this is my confession... these are my crimes...

i grew up beneath pulpits. reformed pulpits carved, draped, emblazoned with the image of the burning bush.
burning, yet not consumed. burning, yet living.
but the church was not on fire. not burning. not living. ashen grey. cold. dying.

who by doctrine? who by apology? by schism? by silence? who by exclusion?

and i was dying. firestarters not welcome. not heard. i sat playing with matches in the back pew.
and then i did what anyone would do, what conformity always wanted ... i gave up. i walked.

who by discontent? who by apathy? who by despair? who by frustration, and anger and not being able to take the banal mediocre reasonableness of it all...?

i went looking for a house on fire that i could call home...

17 pilgrimages have i made to this space... first as disciple, now as radical... as anarchist...i stand here on the margins. without pew. without priest. or pastor.
and for all i have gained from you... for all the answers you have helped me find, now i bring you questions... interrogation... i want to see you burn...

who by irony? who by hierachy? who by the party line? who by the left? who by the right?

who am i to set fire to your words, to your pews, your tents, to your conditions, your public testaments and your private dogmas... to your scared cows, your Gods...?
it is for you to strike the match if you dare...

i hear you fear. as i once feared. when the wood, the hay, the stubble is burnt away... will there be nothing left?

i no longer fear. i am guilty. for i set fires gladly...
because heresy is nothing
just as doctrine is nothing
as the church is nothing
as greenbelt is nothing
as ikon is nothing.

what is true cannot be destroyed.
what is pure will rise from the ashes
i need none of this.
and i am free.
i believe.

right, off to hear Pád perform some poetry, surrounded by good friends. bliss.


and here he is in action. search out the Theology of the Human - Pádraig O Tuama
on the greenbelt talks download page. there's nothing like experiencing your friends doing what they love and being reminded of how beautifully they embody themselves when they're doing it.


Friday, August 28, 2009

people get ready

for joel, for everyone...

a sermon, and a hymn, from the one band that have never played Greenbelt that really should.

fuck banality. go light yourself on fire... because none of this is a drill. this is it. this is the only life you'll ever have. so let it burn, if it be love, justice, fidelity, compassion, living under questions, in the eternal now. drink it in. let it burn. all the way down... risk being a heretic for what is holy.

"we have all the time in the world
to get it right, to get it right
and we have all the love in the world
to set alight, to set alight,
just look up."

look up. and hang on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

my heart's one desire...

this is not a drill.

there is a fire in the building. please move inside.

you may be refused entry if you are not carrying flammable materials.

this is not a drill.

there is a fire in the building. please move inside.

tonight, friday :: 2130hrs :: centaur :: gb09

- the only church that illuminates, is a burning church -


this is not a drill...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

counting down

reposting this. brought a tear to my eye, as it does every year.

one of the most beautiful prayers

thanks for sharing it Paul. see you on site. :)

2 more sleeps...


Sunday, August 23, 2009

we may catch fire yet...

i've been in belfast for a long weekend in what is always the busiest week of the summer.

i've just landed back into my little abode, immediately put the espresso pot on the stove, ran across the road for some milk while it brewed and opened up my blinds to see some very thirsty plants.

so, i'm finally sitting at my desk, getting a much needed caffeine hit and taking stock...

3 more sleeps in my own bed and then we hit the road, and sea for the gb09. so the next couple of days will be busy packing and crafting words and props for this Friday night's incendiary eVandalism in Centaur.
but the weekend was productive and i'm feeling we're probably at exactly the level of organised we can expect to be. friday will be hectic but creative and do-able.

it's perennially curious to me how ideas that over the summer have made my stomach flip when they erupted in our collective imagination are now sitting comfortably, and i have to remind myself that for those who don't know what's coming, this gathering has the potential to be a radical provocation. hopefully to everyone, including ourselves, including me. whatever comfort i feel right now will be ruptured in the midst of it... and i find myself looking forward to undergoing the experience...

if you're joining us, i hope you too might find your stomach flipping. or your breath catching. or your mind fizzing and crackling. or your fingers sparking with visceral energy... my prayer is that we might stoke a reaction, and that it might prove worthy of considered response...

my elder-brother-by-choice-or-by-grace, Chris, suggested some time back that Tuesday group breaking of bread and wine becoming the breaking of bread and whiskey...

when we swallow the gospel, it should burn our throats and set a fire in our gut...

in other news, i've returned from belfast no longer blonde.


dad joke part 2...

what's harder than getting a pregnant elephant into a Mini?

getting an elephant pregnant in a Mini.

well done to Jude S. (clearly channeling my father) and high five to Shirley for a rather clever alternative. :)


Saturday, August 22, 2009

dad joke...

what's more difficult than getting a pregnant elephant into a Mini?

answer to follow in next post...


Thursday, August 20, 2009

and justice will reign supreme

Scalia's Catholic Betrayal by Alan M. Dershowitz

and yes, i admit to reading this while imagining Ron Silver's voice.
all the same, challenging stuff with regards to separation of church and state.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

for those soldiers in petticoats

'Happy Birthday' to the 19th amendment to the American constitution,

It was on this day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Seventy-two years earlier, at the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott had called for the rights of women, and begun the cause of women's suffrage.

Charlotte Woodward was the only one of the women who signed the Declaration who was still alive to see this day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified. She was 91 years old. But she herself never got to vote—she was sick on election day in 1920, and by the next spring confined to her house, and probably died soon after.

- from today's Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor (well worth checking out - includes a stunning piece of poetry from Martin Steingesser)

it is therefore by happy coincidence that today i received my provisional lecture timetable for the MA in Women's Studies. colour me extremely enthused...

here's some harmonic subversive politics from the comic brilliance of Glynis Johns, which for me really is where it all started...


this is a humble, yo

for fans of The Wire:

In Defense of Difficult Dialog(ue)

my take? George Pelecanos and Peter Suderman both frankly need to get over themselves, if only momentarily....

the comments beneath The Independent article are frankly hilarious in places, but in defense of subtitles - which i never used simply because it never occurred to me - if it helped someone stick with the show i really don't see what the fuss is about.

i spent much of season one having only the slightest idea what was going on. i loved it, but i am certain i missed a lot of plot detail. there were countless scenes where i relied on facial expressions and body language to tell me what was going on and many of the characters on the corners were just baddies - some baddies were merely bigger baddies than others and i knew that by the way the littler baddies cowered or dropped their eyes in the big guys' presence.

i think George Pelecanos is doing viewers a disservice. they actually bothered. now, it's not as hard work as watching without subtitles, but at the end of the day, i see no major difference to switching on subtitles for a foreign language film, bar the fact the writers of The Wire intended the dialogue to be incomprehensible. to watch with subtitles maybe therefore miss the point somehow but i'm not sure it makes it a comedy or even makes mockery of the writing as Suderman suggests.

The Wire is not like Hitchcock's "Pure Cinema", in which the framed image rules supreme and where, amongst other things, the plot itself is intentionally told without words where possible. Because of Hitch's early career in German silent films and the strong influence of Expressionism, the easiest way to see how Pure Cinema works is to cut the sound, which of course means losing the likes of Bernard Hermann's amazing scores and the typically strong scripts - and superb dialogue in the cases of Psycho and Rear Window - but it's a worthwhile experiment. the all-too-often derided Marnie, is a great example. just last night i stuck on the Rutherford safe scenes as a pick-me-up. and ironically, you don't even need to cut the sound for those scenes to appreciate just how scalpel sharp a visual filmmaker he was.
despite being more diffuse, much of David Lynch's work could be put in the same category to my mind.
a couple of recent French films that come to mind where a non-fluent French speaker could watch without subtitles or indeed sound at all and still have a very strong sense of plot and mood, were Hidden (which i thought blended Hitchcock suspense with Lynch's visual style) and the highly Hitchcockian, The Page Turner.

i'm not arguing it's necessarily better, it's just a different way of telling a story and The Wire is by contrast almost entirely dialogued based storytelling. and which is probably why Pelecanos is so derisive. but point being, there were times watching The Wire, when having the sound switched off wouldn't have made much difference. i would have had no less idea of what was happening. and therein lies the rub.

i have no idea what it would be like to watch it with subtitles. but if that's what it takes for someone to connect to the story, so what?
do they lose out on the pay-off when you find yourself gasping at a sudden turn of events even though you thought you didn't have a clue what was going on? almost certainly. does it draw the viewer into a false sense of security that they understand these characters? probably. does it mean the viewer is a bit lazy? maybe. does it mean the viewer is missing the point of why you went to that hard work to show how corner culture is foreign to, and alienated within, American society? perhaps.

but does it make a comedy out of tragedy? hardly.

in some ways the perceived need for subtitles on the part of some viewers only goes to proving the strength of the close attention paid to writing in patois as a device. rather than going on the defensive and feeling insulted, perhaps Pelecanos might do better taking it as a compliment. because it shows that he helped write one of the most stretching and demanding pieces of television created to date. that it uncomfortably exposes how social divide is manifested. maybe he might then be a little more forgiving that some viewers switch on the subtitles in order that they might understand the other better. because if they didn't care at all, they'd have stopped watching. so cut folks just a little slack, mate.

and i'm liking how similar subtitles and subtleties look. might be something in that...


Monday, August 17, 2009

as seen on bbc RSS news feed

Twitter tweets are 40% 'babble'

a recent study* also showed 21% of bbc news headlines on rss feed are not worthy of breaking news, while 37.9% tells us things we already know.


* a study i just made up in my head.

Friday, August 14, 2009

liberty, dignity, responsibility for all

i find it interesting how the public conversation on end of life issues such as euthanasia are playing themselves out on either side of the atlantic.

as i understand it, both discussions turn on how one understands the ethics of self determination. while concerns exist over the abuse of the elderly in both debates, what strikes me as positive potential is that discussion about end of life counselling is intended to ensure every or any patient has had the opportunity to think through and, if they wish, determine, in advance, while they have all their mental faculities, how they wish their life to ideally end. the conditions under which they want not to be resuscitated. or in the case of
euthanasia, at what point, a patient wants their suffering to be brought to an end.

both debates if engaged with seriously, maturely, sensitively and cautiously are about the ethics of human dignity.

what strikes me as interesting also is that the need to protect the elderly is framed in the UK, (by contrast with the US), as an implicit need to protect 'grandma' from abuse or pressure by her family, not the state.

the quality of debate could not be more different. i think the US could learn a lot about how to handle sensitive issues such as this... that this is the kind of ethical debate that needs response, not reaction. it demands that we think. and think very calmly and carefully about how what we might want and what others want. and how to ensure everyone gets the dignified ending they deserve and desire.

and i'm provisionally thinking, and i am sure there have been tomes written about this throughout history, that having a written constitution, which outlines one's right to liberty does not necessarily mean the debate of what that looks like in practise is any better than when you live (even under monarchy) without a constitution.

or to put it more provocatively, does the abjectly infantile nature of the current US discourse over health reform, (as well as being based on fear and partisan politics) exist in part because the founding fathers having written a constitution down created a perfect excuse for at least some of their children to never have to think or question what it actually means to have liberty at all? or is it simply, as is all too evident here in Western Europe, that when we think about rights, we all too easily forget about the responsibility that comes with those rights. not simply of the state, but each person's responsibility. starting with honouring one's freedom by giving it the serious attention it deserves.

i'm not convinced that having a written constitution automatically results in freer or more dignified democracy. nor am i saying there's good reason to not write it all down. i just think it's easy to fall back on the words of one's forebears as if they had done all the necessary thinking, rather than engaging thoughtfully in the present.

i heard a commentator suggest the other night, freedom of speech needs to be balanced by a willingness and responsibility to listen. and i think that listening is bound to exercising the freedom to think. because when one is shouting, one is not only not-listening, one is also not likely to be thinking.

which when i think about it is how a lot of folks engage with religion. and it's surely no coincidence that fundamentalist Christianity is embedded in right wing politics. for Biblical literalism risks us simplifying things so much that one need never think about it all. it makes us mimics rather than free thinking humans.

i'm just thinking out loud. i don't claim for a second to know the answers. and i'm sure this question has been asked many times before... but i am repeatedly struck that the debate in the US right now has so little to do with ethics.

"pulling the plug on grandma" is not primarily a political issue, let alone a partisan one. and anyone making it so has already robbed grandma and themselves of a whole lot of human dignity. screaming about it only debases the discourse further. first and foremost any end of life decision is an ethical concern for each individual, that has political and legislative ramifications in order that those individual ethics are (sensitively and with dignity) supported, respected and protected as best as society is capable.

regardless of topic, politics, and religion, without being underpinned by mature ethical consideration and discourse makes for poor forms of both.

the way to avoid totalitarianism is not to create a circus of democracy...


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

a Blink, so you might not miss it

i didn't bother to go looking for meteors last night. the sky was cloudy. and so was i.

but that's okay.

i read neil gaiman's blog for moments like this.

it reminded me of and undid me like this song.

some things don't need to be seen to be believed...


song of the week

during the second innings one Sunday afternoon the jeeves and wooster theme tune and the grange hill theme tune set down their Pimms and cucumber sandwiches and slipped behind the clubhouse for a bit of jiggery-pokery. the result of this union was the birth of The Age of Revolution... and it seems, from Bangalore to Kingston, i'm not the only one who can't hold still...

The Duckworth Lewis Method's cricket concept opus could easily end up being my album of the year. available on iTunes and in all good record stores...

sublime, esoteric, infectious and ingeniously clever songwriting,

go on. get your pads on,


* recently seen in semi-acoustic and comic guise here on grafton street.

valuable currency... or, respect profanity part 2

as is my usual habit, i'm listening to the ray d'arcy show on today fm with my morning coffee and correspondence. it's as ridiculous and serious a show as you'll find, but it's been helpful in re-adjusting back to living in dublin and the irish psyche (as manifested south of the border), and the music generally tends toward the better.

the show just played Creep by Radiohead. and not the radio edit version. i sat here waiting for it to be interrupted, turned off but no, it was played in full. i expected a flustered apology. but what we got was so much better...

after the final chord, ray d'arcy said with the calmest kind of conviction,

"Apologies if that caused any offence. But it shouldn't.
If Seamus Heaney used the F-word in one of his poems for effect people would think it was acceptable. I think Thom Yorke's art should be understood in the same light."

and then it was on to the next item...

Sitting on my desktop, waiting to be blogged, was this article from the irish times on the value of culture... which is worth reading if only for the beautiful turn of phrase, imaginative footprint.

i want you to notice when i'm not around
you're so fucking special
i wish i was special
but i'm a creep
i'm a weirdo
what the hell am i doing here
i don't belong here


Sunday, August 09, 2009

critical thinking pays

recently posted at the bbc:

Camp offers 'godless alternative' and brings whole new meaning to materialist thinking...

A prize - a £10 note signed by Professor Richard Dawkins - is offered to any child who can disprove the existence of the [invisible] unicorns.

what do you think dawkins would give me for this...

is it better to have money? or an imagination?


Saturday, August 08, 2009


i know several folks for whom this will be of interest...

Rewriting the Psychiatrist's Bible on Radio 4
Matthew Hill investigates the links between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. Should there be increased transparency over top psychiatrists' links to the industry?

He looks at the influence of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM), produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which has been heavily criticised in the past for a lack of transparency between the panel members and pharmaceutical companies.
Matthew also examines the 'Chinese menu' aspect of the DSM's diagnostic criteria and the sheer number of conditions it includes. Matthew investigates whether the APA's transparency policy goes far enough and if we are medicalising real conditions or just traits of human personality.

the programme makes particular focus on what in the UK, & increasingly in the US, is considered the highly controversial diagnosis of bi-polar disorder in children and equally, if not more, controversial treatment of children with anti-psychotic drugs.

which is to say, there's really not much in the programme that makes for easy listening. but it's a well produced show about a serious issue.

available for the next week at the link above.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Shermer days never end

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are.
You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is a brain,
and an athlete,
and a basket case,
a princess,
and a criminal.
Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club.


Shirley passed me this touching tribute to a good man. beautiful..


RIP John Hughes, (1950-2009). danke schoen...


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

it's _all_ fiction

when it comes to elevating insult to art, some are working on a whole other plane...

people power. without the encumbrance of people. brilliant.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Hippie Replacement
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTasers


flamin' nora

noted in the midst of a furious argument in an online forum:

"p.s. you have to have a character for it be assassinated!"

ouch! :)

not that i think for a moment that the internet should be used for brutalising anyone, but that's raising verbal insult to something of an art form. best put-down i've seen in a long time.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

respect profanity, despise mediocrity

only a couple of days since Brook mentioned the late Layne Staley on these pages - which had got me thinking about these two lives of such prominent artists of my generation, both lost prematurely, eight years apart circa April 5th - i saw this:

F-word in Cobain quote sparks controversy - Celebrities-

as i read that article, i was reminded of that Tony Campolo tactic of swearing while sharing poverty statistics in church... and his question, what shocks you more? and i'm reminded of the number of times my dad tells me that someone in the pulpit in his church talks about wanting to be "relevant" to post-modern society and the number of times i respond with why i think that's the gasp of a dying institution and why it is i say i can't go back to that pew with him.
and that gets me thinking about Cornel West and piety and critical thinking, and about when it's time for kids to tell their parents they're wrong. and thinking about getting older and what my generation might have worth teaching the one that follows. of when it's time for us to start listening to those who've gone before us and having enough respect to listen to those who come in our wake. and wondering whose voices are worth holding onto, whose lives might we learn from...

and i wonder if the war on drugs might be served better if more folks showed their kids Alice In Chains Unplugged on MTV and then got them to read the last interview with Layne before his death. and then listened to some Nirvana served up with a side order of Bill Hicks, saying,

Because you know if you play New Kids on the Block albums backwards they sound better. "Oh come on, Bill, they're the New Kids, don't pick on them, they're so good and they're so clean cut and they're such a good image for the children." Fuck that! When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children to listen to people who fucking ROCKED! I don't care if they died in puddles of their own vomit! I want someone who plays from his fucking HEART!

and wondering if then maybe we'd all be served a whole lot better by not worrying about profanity so much as looking for honest conversation across the generations about how all these prophets had something worth listening to and thinking about...

about how clean is good for an addict, but rarely should it be found in the language of an artist, because the raw beauty and tragedy of life is never ever clean, from the moment we are born... maybe there'd be some intelligent, imaginative talk about how things might have been different for Layne and how he may or may not be any different than they are, or any different from Kurt or Bill or even you or i...
of why some are lost to us and others aren't, and wondering what legacy these lost voices might want us to remember them by...
and why it might be so: that deep listening and loving music and writing our stories from the fucking heart really matters...

if education is that which leads to liberation, then some lessons in life deserve to be expressed in profanity. and some lessons are worth carving in stone.


Monday, August 03, 2009

i think it's very likely...

well, i guess it's time to say our goodbyes. it's been nice knowing you.
any moment now the price of bacon is gonna go up, there's gonna be a run on thermal undergarments from hell, and the sound of apocalyptic hooves will be heard approaching.

they said Obama would be bring unity, would bridge divides.
well, it's happened. i agree with bill o'reilly. excuse me, i have to lie down for a moment.

as we wait for the end of the world which is now so clearly and inevitably nigh, i've been finding myself prompted associatively to hum this 80s kids theme tune while reading news from America...

whilst folding laundry this morning, i went so far as to consider rewriting the lyrics for the purposes of my own amusement, but then realised there's actually no need for anything more than the most minor of adjustments:
all that's required is the addition of an 's', (not necessary if you are only serenading Orly Taitz) and intend the meaning of "lovely" to signify, you're so tin foil hat crazy, it's wonderful!, and job done. it's a tribute to a movement right there...

Berthas, lovely Berthas,
You are a lovely machine!
And anyone who works with you,
Will know just what I mean!

Berthas, lovely Berthas,
Sometimes I think you're a dream!
And when we work out what you have to do,
You can always churn the goods out,
Always churn the goods out,
We can depend upon you!

Clicking the day, flashing the night,
Your computer is shining brightly,
Some people say you've a mind of your own,
And I think that's very likely.... likely!

Berthas, lovely Berthas,
Sometimes I think you're a dream!
When we work out what you have to do,
You can always churn the goods out,
Always churn the goods out,
We can depend upon you!

Birthers. bringing a whole new conspiratorial twist to the satirist's line, "you couldn't make this stuff up."
well evidently, someone is.

thanks for the entertainment, America. i think of this movement as a kind of balancing act - kind of like Agent Smith vs Neo in The Matrix: the moment you got The One, this was inevitable.