Thursday 20 December 2007

Get The Party Started

My Christmas party is tonight and then I'm finished work for 2007. Actually, there are a plethora of little jobs that need doing around the embassy so I should say "I'm finished working for financial reward for 2007".

I would assume therefore that there will be no more blog posts until 2008 - presumably by which stage the en-suite will be a dust filled crater, I will have abandoned any refurbishment attempts and will be desperately in need of some respite. (Grand Designs it won't be - I have all the artistic ability of a 3 legged Peruvian mountain goat.)

So.... I would like to wish everybody who has ever read this blog a Merry End of December and a Happy New Year. Thanks for reading, thanks especially if you've left comments or if, being masochistic by nature, you come back on some semi regular basis.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Slip sliding away

Travelling by motorbike is a risky pursuit at the best of times. When travelling upright the combined area of contact between the road and your tyres, the source of all grip, is roughly the size of the palm of one hand.

Although a little reckless when younger, I would like to think that I have developed into a mature sensible biker who doesn't put himself directly in harms way. For the most part this is more down to bike-preservation instincts rather than ones of a self-preservation variety.

This does not mean that my heart doesn't leap out of my chest at least twice a day. Sometimes its because a driver decides to changes lanes without checking their blind spot. Sometimes its because the guy pulling out of the side street simply doesn't see the man in a dayglo vest on top of a quarter ton lump of moving metal with a great big headlight. Sometimes its because I goof and misjudge the situation. Then sometimes, like this morning, its nobody's fault...

Thanks to the current M50 works at the N7 junction, just beyond the red cow roundabout there is a short stretch of road that dips and turns sharply. It is immense fun to negotiate on a motorbike when traffic is light - you flick the handlebars causing the bike to flip over sharply onto its right hand side as you turn, drop and accelerate out of the bend. It strikes me as being not unlike the Corkscrew corner at the Laguna Seca circuit.

This morning, traffic being quite heavy, I approached it in a sensible manner - so sensible it may have warranted wearing slippers. I was in the middle of 3 lanes travelling at about 50kmh and, when it came to flipping the bike down into the right hand bend nothing happened. Sure the bike was leaning over slightly but I was still going straight - I couldn't brake and I certainly wasn't in a position to accelerate.

Thankfully easing off the throttle slightly allowed the wheels to grip and pull the bike back onto my intended course... but not before convincing me that I would soon be more acquainted than I would normally like with the side of the Ford Focus in the lane beside me.

Still a little bit shaken but thankfully the bike (and me I suppose) are in one piece.

Good morning!

Monday 17 December 2007

I'm going under cover...

According to the breaking news section on, Fabio Capello is expected to be officially "unveiled" as England manager later today.

I find the misleading nature of this statement mildly irritating - he will not be unveiled, he will simply walk into a press conference, sit down and field a short Q&A session. He should be unveiled in a much more literal sense.

Capello should be sat at the table in the press room, covered from head to toe in an expensive red, velvet cloth. The journalists sill arrive and nudge each other, whispering frantic speculation as to who could be beneath it. Eventually the press conference would start and after a short statement an FA suit would whisk the cloth off (in the same manner you might attempt to pull a tablecloth from under a number of plates, cups and glasses) while enthusiastically announcing "Ta Da!"

It reminds me of how the Spire was "unveiled" with great fanfare - despite the fact that we all knew it was there and what it looked like. Unable to find a cloth big enough to cover all 120m of it, they simply left the bottom 20 feet covered in clear plastic. The unveiling involved removing this plastic.

If something more opaque had been used we could have enjoyed weeks of speculation about what would be unveiled - maybe the 3rd secret of Fatima in braille or a caricature of deValera on a moped racing a badger in a Model-T Ford - I dunno.

If removing the plastic from something is now considered unveiling I feel it only fair to announce that I unveiled 3 Easi-Singles this morning.

I'm here all week, try the beef..

No matter how good or bad a gig goes, there is generally something to take from it. A witty, off the cuff ad-lib that can be permanently written into the material for future use or a note-to-self that, no matter how clever you think it is, the stuff about excommunication and augmented 4th chords doesn't really work and should either be dropped or re-written.

Friday night threatened to be an exception to the rule. The room was less than half full and this was in no way helped by the fact that everybody decided to sit towards the back of the room creating some kind of comedy moat. The MC, who had something of an off-night, and was unable to coax people to move forward which was unfortunate for all involved as laughter, although infectious by nature, tends to have problems bridging gaps of more than a few feet. One of the hardest things on nights like that is motivating yourself to put the requisite amount of energy into the material and its delivery when you know that, no matter what you do, the energy returned will be vastly disproportionate as your audience don't enjoy the comfortable anonymity of a large crowd.

Oh and there was the spotlight! The last time I played this particular club they used 2 desk lamps to illuminate the stage (this gives you an idea as to the size of the venue). It was quaint and charming and made it seem like the club was part of an underground comedy movement. On Friday, I discovered they had invested in a great big spotlight to shine in my eyes making it impossible to see any further than the first 3 rows - which happened to be empty. I have no idea what they were expecting me to do - but I confessed to 3 counts of murder, 1 of extortion and and 6 of aggravated assault. I also broke down and explained how the corpse of Lord Lucan was rotting in the boot of my car.

So, on to the set...

In a bold move, I opened with the new Katy French material. It had been hastily reworked because there were so few Irish people present and I'd added a new gag to it. It went down very well which I was naturally delighted with - my only grievance is that this material has a limited lifespan but there is nothing I can do about that.

From that point, given the odd dynamic in the room, I decided that tried and tested material was the only way to go so out came the material about traffic infringements, social faux pas and strange compliments. It proved as reliable as ever and allowed me to close with a string of one liners that I love but rarely include about entrepreneurial ideas, my father playing Yahtzee! with the grim reaper and the passing of Grandad Ambassador earlier this year (I know he would have loved these).

At the beginning of the gig I felt that, like a man who makes coupons for a living, I would have my work cut out. Overall though I was very happy with it - the laughs came at the right places and although they may not have been riotous, when taken in context were more than acceptable.

I also managed to bag the MC slot for a gig after Christmas which I'm excited and nervous about in equal measure. Must remember to wear dark glasses.

Friday 14 December 2007

Life's Little Mysteries #4

Will we ever see a newspaper article about Cecelia Ahern which does not have a headline that starts with the letters P and S?

It might have been a little clever the first time - but still?

Thursday 13 December 2007

Mark Thomas MP3 found...

Here is a link to the Mark Thomas MP3 i mentioned yesterday...

Download it (just shy of 22MB), listen to it and let me know what you think.

Decisions, decisions

Warning: this post contains content of a dull IT nature. If easily bored look away now. Although it does contain an endearing wee anecdote about Grandad Ambassador.

I'm a software developer by trade and today I find myself with the unenviable task of making a number of complicated changes to a piece of already very complicated code (which was originally implemented by A.N. Other).

With the new functionality being sufficiently similar to what already exists it would be foolish to add completely new code to handle the requirements, however, it is also sufficiently different to ensure that new and old will not play together nicely - or not as things currently stand anyway.

This leaves me with two options.

1. I can be a diligent developer, print out the existing code, then tear the whole lot down and implement both pieces of functionality from scratch in a clear, logical , concise way that will allow them to cohabit peacefully. This approach also ensures that the next poor sod to find themselves looking at this code will be greeted with code that is easy to understand and follow. There is a real danger however, that in rebuilding the original code, I will find myself shouldered with the responsibility of supporting code I had nothing to do with first time around.

2. I can hack the bejaysus out of of the existing code to make the new features fit. This will ensure that I don't change the original code and as such, will not be stuck supporting it. However, it would be akin to sticking the aforementioned new features on with blu-tack, sticky tape and chewing gum. Needless to say, it is generally considered bad practice.

Right now a little voice in my head is chanting "Hack it! Hack it! Hack it!". Unfortunately the bigger voice - the one which takes pride in its work and believes that, as Grandad Ambassador used to say, "if something is worth doing, its worth doing right" - has told the little voice to shut the hell up unless it wants its ass kicked.

Mind you, Grandad Ambassador was the type of man who would say "Its all fun and games until somebody loses an eye... unless its some type of eye gouging competition, in which case you continue until you find a winner" - so maybe his advice isn't all its cracked up to be.

What fantastic grandparents I have.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Text from the CPF

Knowing how these thing have a tendency to spread at an exponential rate I realise most of you may have received this 6 or 7 times already...

A pantomime for paranoid schizophrenics and homosexuals descended into chaos when somebody in the audience shouted "He's behind you"

Don't say I never do anything for you...

Yesterday evening as I was mulling over some possible set lists for Friday night, I was hmmming and hawwing over whether I should include a couple of "lines" that occurred to me during the whole Katy French/cocaine saga.

Given that the nation is in mourning over the death of the pretty blonde girl (well according to the Indo anyway), it might be a little soon to do such material - especially as I generally aim to present an affable, genial persona during gigs... but wait too long for fear of offending anybody and its no longer relevant or topical.

Anyway, in thinking about all of this I was reminded of an MP3 called "My Life In Serious Organised Crime" which was available from the website of English comedian Mark Thomas.

Essentially it centred around the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (Socpa) which made it illegal to demonstrate anywhere near the Houses of Parliament without official police permission. Dismayed by what he saw as draconian legislation Thomas set about using the law in an attempt to have it scrapped. He began organising Mass Lone Demonstrations whereby hundreds of people would descend on Charring Cross Police station once a week to submit an official form requesting permission to hold a one person demonstration inside the exclusion zone defined by the act. They requested permission to protest for things like the revival of the twinky perm or the banning of fox hunting - swamping the police in paperwork in the process.

Thinking the nice boys and girls who chance across this blog might like to hear Mark's story, I though I would make it the topic of today's post. After checking his website to find the required link I found it is no longer there. Blowing my post idea clean out of the water.

Instead, I will just have to tell you that I saw a box set containing all of Eddie Izzard's DVDs in Virgin for €23. I can't recommend them highly enough, go buy them - you won't regret it.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Some people call me the space cowboy..

On Friday, I have my first gig since I can't remember when.

Last year I had set a target of doing 50 gigs and met it with minimum fuss. No target was set for 2007 and it's just as well for, unless the target was 7, I would have failed miserably.

If my memory serves me correctly, I have just 5 gigs under my belt since January - one at the start of the year, 3 at the Kilkenny fringe in June and a final one around September/October. This shameful statistic is due to a reluctance on my part to "get the finger out", contact the people who run the various gigs about the country and arrange dates for myself. The lethargic reluctance is in turn driven by an irrational animosity for the material which served me so well last year.

I like performing it - I know it almost inside-out and it is generally received very well. The problem is, the more you read something like that, the more you rehearse it, the more you say it in your head in the days and hours before the gig, the less funny it seems. While this is to be expected, it can be very hard to convince myself that my audience will find it funny when I don't. If I am unsure of the quality of the material I will, by extension, be unable to generate the level of energy needed to ensure a sufficiently lively delivery.

I should explain that, in my opinion, I am probably one of the last people who should be standing in front of a room of strangers trying to make them laugh. I am a relatively shy, very self conscious individual and in order to perform stand up comedy to any reasonable level it is necessary to be more or less completely uninhibited. You need to mimic accents, make exaggerated gestures, convey mock rage and present outlandish suggestions as reasonable ideas. I am barely willing to try that in the presence of close friends for fear of failing spectacularly. This is why, in the 10 minutes before I take the stage, you will generally find me outside repeatedly asking "Why do you do this to yourself?"

In the early days I tended to start my set quite nervously until I got that first laugh. In some cases (most cases actually) this is the worst thing you can do - the audience sense your mood and draw a conclusion that you must be terrible. An air of unease then descends upon the room as everybody waits to see some poor sod die on his arse. So begins the vicious circle where the performer senses the unease of the audience causing their performance to deteriorate and the audience grow even more uneasy.

I discovered pretty quickly that the best approach was to fake the required level of confidence - a kind of bouncy, assured ease -just enough to get me to the first laugh. After that, I feel more confident, I can settle down and start to enjoy making people laugh.

So today begins the battle to remind myself of how good the material can be and to generate some level of enthusiasm for Friday. I also need to decide which different bits of material I will use and how I intend to link them. I must have 40 minutes worth of material which I can chop and change. Some bits I like more than others, some bits are stronger, some work well at the start, some better at the end and some depend on the night, the audience and the general mood of the place.

Generally this can all be squashed into the few hours before the gig - but, given my recent hiatus and that fact that I will more than likely have to learn some of the material again, I suspect it will take longer this time.

Wish me luck.

Friday 7 December 2007

Katy French

They say only 2 things in life are certain - death and taxes. Yet, despite their inevitability, both have the potential to hit us hard - paricularly when they arrive announced. One of the saddest, most heart wrenching things in the world is when a parent has to bury their child and I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

While I don't particularly fear death, I tend to think about it more than is probably normal for somebody my age. I'm not worried about when it will come or how I will go. Instead I tend to ruminate on the words of Jim Morrison...

The program for this evening is not new
You've seen this entertainment through and through
You've seen your birth your life and death
you might recall all of the rest
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?

When I eventually leave this world I don't want to do so tugging at the sleeve of the grim reaper, crying "But I'm not ready - I still haven't done this".

"Enough to base a movie on?" - that's quite the yardstick!

Thursday 6 December 2007

By comparrison, its easy to get your hands on a Wii..

(Strangely, despite the title and my most recent posts, this is not a further missive on my nocturnal bathroom habbits.)

Its almost eight o'clock - time to call Rabo Direct and talk to one of our representatives about a savings an investment plan for you.

WHAT? WHY? I despise these type of adverts and, by extension the monkeys who devise them. (I saw "monkey" because somebody is clearly applying the Infinite Monkey Theorem to the world of advertising).

Why is 8am the time to call Rabo Direct? What happens if I call them after that - are they grumpier? Is the investment advice dished out better in the morning? Do they only open their phone lines to the public for a pre-determined 10 minute window each day? Rubbish!


Its almost November - time to buy a birthday card for the close personal friend because there will be no decent "Happy Birthday Close Personal Friend" cards to be had in the 3 weeks before her Christmas Eve birthday.

Now THAT would be a worthwhile ad.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

You're damned if you don't....

So at 10 minutes to 5 this morning I found myself with a that choice again - make a quick trip to the toilet or stay curled up, under the duvet, with the close personal friend.

Conscious of my experience 2 mornings ago I gently lifted her hand from my chest and, in an effort to stop cold air infiltrating the bed's cosiness, slid out sideways without lifting the covers. Making my way slowly and sleepily across the bedroom to the en-suite, eyes barely open lest I wake any more than absolutely necessary, I went about my business listening for the sound of water on porcelain (water-on-water being far too loud when trying to keep yourself in a state as close to sleep as possible).

If it was up to me, the flush could have waited until after the radio had switched on and the curtains opened - but the proximity of cpf meant this wasn't an option. The first step of my journey back to bed would have met with a very sleepy, and equally grumpy "FLUSH!".

Despite my best efforts, could I get back asleep? Not a chance. Well actually, that is not strictly true - I did manage to fall asleep but only 10 minutes before I was due to wake up and, typically, it was the type of slumber Rip Van Winkle would be proud of.

Drinking 8 glasses of water a day may be good for you, but its probably best not to drink half of in the hour and a half before you go asleep.

Monday 3 December 2007

Life's Little Mysteries #3

Why, at 5am in the morning, do I insist on ignoring the pleading of my bladder, believing instead that it will be possible to enjoy a few more hours' sleep without necessitating a short trip to the bathroom?

The last 100 times I have been faced with this decision I have opted to stay within the warm confines of the duvet - and each time, with the benefit of hindsight, have reached the conclusion that I chose badly. "Next time I'll just go to the bathroom" I tell myself - but the next time I re-evaluate the situation and decide that my resolution was made hastily and without a proper understanding of the circumstances (mainly the fact that its cold outside the duvet).

What makes me think that things will be any different this time?