Friday, April 28, 2006

all the right ingredients

Shaggy XII > Knackered Kaz

I’m the kind of blogger – scratch that – I’m the kind of PERSON who likes to make things difficult.

If something looks too easy, I presume there must be some flaw or other, so I tend to look for all the alternatives first, which produces either an overly complicated result, or no result at all.

But enough about me.

I admire people who can just get out there and do something and make it work. In the realm of blogging, this means taking what could seem on the surface as an ordinary occurrence in the household and fashioning it into a damn entertaining post.

This is one of the rare occassions I get to give a “Shaggy” award to someone I have actually met. And so, with all roadblocks to any further ado firmly in place, I would now like to award the Twelfth Shagadelic Contribution to Blogland Award to Knackered Kaz from “Life’s A Bastard…and then you die” for her excellent offering “Nigella Lawson, I ain’t!

There are not many writers out there who would be able to find humour in a family meal. In this post Kaz has managed to combine all the right ingredients and I’m sure you will agree that once you tuck into it you will be going back for more and dying to know the recipe.

OK – I’d better not get carried away with the culinary puns. Bravo, Kaz, take a bow.

On a side note, though I know Kaz is not responsible for this, I’ve always wondered why “bastard” is popularly used as the male equivalent of “bitch”…



Previous Winners :

I > Shandi – “Who says you can’t have the fairytale?"

II > Dol – “Corporate Whore!

III > Buffalo – “Bangkok

IV > Mike Todd – “Et tu, Mike?

V > John - “You Are Not Alone, I Self Harm Too

VI > Michèle - “Toyota Pickup vs. The Monte Carlo

VII > Shan - “Panic Stations

VIII > Red Mum - “The Last Time I Saw You

IX > Paige A Harrison - “Education Is Such A Pain In The Back

X > Alan - “52 Movies, 52 Weeks - 5. Munich

XI > Omani - “Our Lady of Lourdes : Institutionalized Contraception

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

you can call me andy

The divorce went through without a hitch yesterday. I will definitely blog about it soon, but there is still a lot of work to be done on other things before I will have the time. Instead, I will republish this poem I wrote last year when I saw the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" and noticed several correlations to my current predicament. Let's just say - now I'm free.



Hi there nice to meet you
My name is Andy Dufresne
Yeah just like the guy outta that movie
You know, the one with the jail
Well that’s me
I’m inside for something I didn’t do
So what if everyone in here says that
I don’t care about everyone
I care about me
I’ve been guilty of many things
But I'm
not guilty of what got me here
And it’s a long stretch
The screws give me grief whenever they can
It’s not because they hate me
It’s because they hate their jobs
The warden gives me grief whenever he can
It’s not because he hates me
It’s because he hates himself
But even though they give me grief
They need me cos I got smarts
I got smarts so they want me here
But what they don’t know is
I got more smarts than they know
I got enough smarts to get out of here
You see, I have a plan
Not only do I have the plan, and the smarts
I have the determination
I’d crawl through 500 yards of sewers to get out of here
This place is one big human sewer anyway
What difference is five football fields of it gonna make
But it’s not what’s in here that makes me wanna leave
It’s what’s out there
The possibilities
The freedom
It’s been so long now
My imagination is running wild
It should be me that runs wild
It won’t be long now
When the weather is just right
The booming thunder will beckon me
The driving rain will beckon me
Never before will such a miserable night
Have been so inviting
So inspiring
So beautiful
Oh to rip these prison clothes from my body
Oh to let the driving rain cleanse my body
Oh to hold my hands aloft and taste my destiny
Oh to be free

© JL Pagano 2005

Monday, April 24, 2006

bitesize bullets

NB : I tried all bloody day Monday to publish this - was anyone else having the same trouble?



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…
IS IT COOL TO WISH PEOPLE LUCK WITH THEIR DIVORCE?…



BUSY : Even if it isn’t cool, I’d appreciate it if you wished me luck anyway – this is a big week for me in that not only do I have my divorce hearing, I will also be moving my grandmother to her new accommodation so hopefully it will all work out ok.

TUNES : Though I have seen the Kinks in concert, they were actually the support act and you’ll never guess who was the headline – ZZ Top! They were free tickets, by the way. Honest! Ray Davies and the boys have their greatest hits playing in my car this weather.

PONDER : If “beggars can’t be choosers” then why do lobby groups, which are practically begging organizations from the private sector, hold so much sway over the democratic process? Probably because nobody ever speaks for the biggest lobby group of all, the general public or when they try, they are often ridiculed.

NEXTBLOGGING : This week’s NextBlog excursion was quite interesting. For someone who has published lyrics myself, I appreciate blogs like this one, though they perhaps could do more to explain what’s going on when you first log on to the site. I liked the explanation further down of the phrase “memento mori”.

LYRICAL : “Your blouse, your skirt
I’ll undo them so gently
With beautiful care
I’m a lonely man
With five bottles of wine
I’d like you to share”


David Gray, “Debauchery”, taken from “A Century Ends”

HUFF : Despite an excellent first year, it was apparently touch and go whether Hank Azaria’s psychological series “Huff” would be renewed. Judging from season 2 so far, I’d definitely keep it going indefinitely – it’s right up there with Six Feet Under and the Sopranos for impressive cable drama.

LINK : This week’s link shout-out goes to Aine Livia who has judged via her Midnight Court that both of my blogs are worth referencing. Sorry if I seem a bit obsessed with court and judges this week!

HAUNTLESS : I’m not sure which was more annoying about going to watch “An American Haunting” – the fact that kids beside us thought they could act as though they were in their living room, or the fact that Bambi was scarier. We told them to shut up, but we shouldn’t have to.

UNLINK : I’m not sure what the etiquette is for this, but last week I noticed I had been removed from the link list of two award-winning Irish bloggers. I guess I should just come out and ask them why - I really didn’t think I did much here to cause offence.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“willow park opera dowling”

“who starred in rescue me”

“grudge throat rattling”

“ms o'leary's cow song words”

“envelope rubber band joke”

“virgin mega store dundrum my space” *


I hope they all found what they were looking for.


Google phrases of the week courtesy of StatCounter.com

Friday, April 21, 2006

bare minimum

Hi folks,
I have a lot on my plate this weather, so I'm going to have to change my blogging habits for a while. The first casualty has to be the World Cup posts I've been doing on Fridays. I toyed with the idea of putting an end to blogging altogether until I have more time to do it properly, but then I gave in to the fact that the cold turkey would be too much to bear!
And so, for the forseeable future, the "bitesize bullets" feature is all you will see on this blog, though I may fill in the gaps with some re-published bits from my archives. Over on my Irish site, I will continue my monday media review plus the weekend sports.
When I do have more time I hope to completely revamp my contribution to the blogosphere. But for right now, I'm sure you'll understand that there's a little thing called the real world that's far more important. I'll be sure to tell you all about it in good time.
Thanks again for dropping by.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

extra! extra! read all about it!


I reckon this picture of Sean O'Casey bridge in Dublin was taken close to where they had their cameras set up for the scenes filmed at City Quay. If so, that's the biggest I will probably appear on the big screen in the final production.


THE SEQUEL


So here is part two of my LifeSlice story about my film “career”. If you missed the first instalment you will find it here.

I left things just as I was being taken up the stairs and towards where they were filming for the first time. Though there was a lot of activity on the first landing I was taken even further up into the heavens toward the second one. There was electrical equipment strewn all over the corridor up there and people scurrying to and fro. Sarah directed me into one of the rooms near the top of the stairs.

Upon entering I could see it was set up to look like a bedroom from the mental institution. My fellow male nurse extra Hertz van Rental was standing beside the bed plus another guy in white who apparently was a professional actor. Lying on the bed was a kid of college student age and he was being strapped down as I arrived. I stood there for a few minutes taking it all in wondering what I was supposed to do.

There was a one chap barking out instructions in a deep southern English accent. I presumed it was John Boorman himself, but it turned out it was the 1st Assistant director. I will refer to him as Charlie. He and the actor chap were going over how he was to use the fake needle he had in his hand. Then the kid on the bed started flailing around a bit on the bed as Actor and Hertz began to practise doing the straps around him. I presumed I was eventually meant to get involved in the restraining. I was SO wrong…

At one stage as Charlie was moving around the bed to perfect the shot he stood on my foot. Despite the size of me, that was the first time he realised I was there. After apologizing, he asked me my name and then told me he needed me to go into the next room. At first I thought I had been banished for getting in the way. However when I got there I realised what he had in mind.

For some reason the rooms were only half separated by walls. From about four feet off the ground there was a window which was opaque for about a foot then clear the rest of the way up. Charlie wanted me to press my face up close to the opaque part of the glass to simulate someone looking through from the adjoining room to notice what was happening to the patient on the bed.

And so I put my face up close to the glass, but seemingly it was not close enough. One of the other guys came in and demonstrated exactly what I was to do. He put me into the crouching position I explained right at the very start of the first part of my story. My biggest dilemma was keeping the uniform clean. Though he wanted me to press my chest right up against the wall, I told him about the no-leaning ban so he said to get as close as I could instead.

If you tried that position as I instructed, you will realise it was awkward. Imagine what it felt like standing there for several minutes! When I was put into the pose the guy left to go back into the main room. Another chap ran back into me with electrical tape and put marks on the floor where my feet were. It gave me the impression that I was being used merely for positioning, but nobody told me to get out of the pose.

Through the window I could hear much mumbled discussion. Then I could see what was clearly the figure of Brendan Gleeson arrive in dressed as a patient. The college kid who was obviously also being used for positioning got up and let the main man lie on the bed. Then I was told to take a step to the left, so I complied and assumed I was still required to stand as I was. I wondered if they knew they would have to move the tape at my feet.

The minutes ticked by, and from my perspective I had no idea what was going on. Though my face was close up to the glass, I was extremely self conscious about my breath fogging up the window and affecting the shot whenever they were going to do it. A couple of times different people came in and made slight adjustments to my stance. I must have been there a good fifteen minutes all told before anything happened.

Then finally someone yelled “Rolling!”, a yell which was echoed by others right the way back down the stairs. From my limited view up against the window I saw everyone get into position so I held my breath one more time. Eventually I heard the famous cry of “Action!” and Hertz and the professional actor began doing their thing. Gleeson started flailing wildly on the bed and they strapped him down. I could see the camera moving slowly towards him and the light aspect was changing behind him.

Finally, came “Cut!” I was asked to move back to my right. They did the whole thing again. And again. And again. The more I stood there in my weird position, the more of a prat I felt, but I figured that was all part of the process so I guess I really didn’t mind.

Finally I heard someone from the corridor say that I could come out. When I emerged from the room I could see an elderly man seated in front of a monitor. Now I know I can be paranoid at the best of times, but all the people around him were definitely giving me that look you get when someone had said something funny about you. I doubt it was anything derogatory, I assume the man, who turned out to be John Boorman, made some remark which was empathising with my contorted part in that particular scene.

Sarah’s colleague Chris was at the top of the stairs, and he told me to go “to where the others were located”. I took that to mean the extras room from where I had been originally summonsed, so I went all the way back down there. When I arrived, however, the room was empty. Now I started to think I had made a balls of the whole thing and was about to be politely told I was done for the day. Luckily, that WAS just me being paranoid.

Chris appeared at the door and said “What are you doing all the way down here?” Seemingly he meant for me to go to the first landing, where they were to film another shot. And so I went with him back up the stairs and lo and behold there were the other two male nurses, Mr Extra and Billy the Kid. They told me all the other extras who were kitted out as patients, were in one of the other rooms shooting a scene. Seemingly they did not need us just yet but we were to be on standby.

That was about two thirty in the afternoon. At seven in the evening, they called a wrap on the day. In that time, all the male nurses did was wait. After about an hour we decided to flout the no-sitting regulations. Between idle chatter between takes and staring blankly out the window, there was not much else to be done. Pretty much anything out of the ordinary became interesting after a while.

One thing I noticed was that as well as “Rolling”, “Action” and “Cut”, they would also occasionally call “Stop the Traffic!” When I looked out the window onto the South Circular Road I could see that there were two gardaí doing just that when so required. I guess Bono was wrong, and it’s not just rock ‘n roll that stops the traffic!

It was also interesting watching John Boorman’s face as a scene was being shot. He always sat outside the room looking at the monitor, and you could always tell by his face whether or not a particular take was worth keeping.

Then at one stage the pseudo-mental patients were sent for a short break down to the extras room. As they filed down the stairs someone above from the set which was one flight up dropped quite a heavy piece of equipment down the gap between the banisters all the way to the ground floor. Luckily it went straight down and made its loud crash without hitting anyone. There was a collective silence for a few moments was even quieter than a take from the shooting.

Alas the only other thing of interest from the afternoon was Charlie and a few of his associates staring out the window trying to ascertain which way the clouds were going to move so they would have sufficient light. The rest of us were just sitting around staring blankly into space. I suppose it was all hardest for Billy the Kid. At least Hertz and I got a bit of action, and Mr Extra had seen it all before. Billy threatened to go home several times, but we told him he was mad to do so since you would not be paid unless you had your docket signed by either Chris or Sarah at the end of the day.

Speaking of Chris and Sarah, and one point an older blonde lady walked up to Sarah and whispered in her ear. I was well into my trance of having been waiting in the same spot for hours, and I was drawn to noticing that the lady looked like an older version of Sarah herself. Just as it was occurring to me that it could be her mother, the lady walked away, and Chris walked up to Sarah and whispered, “Hey, you know what, she looks like she could be your mother!”

I guess the point of telling you about this incident was just how little it took to seem interesting, what with all the waiting around. I let out a loud gasp to show how weird I found it that Chris thought exactly the same as I did. He pointed to my reaction to prove to Sarah that he was not the only one to hold this view. She said that she had never met that woman before and quickly ran after her to see what she looked like!

Yes, the afternoon really was that boring. Finally, around seven, I heard the phrase “OK, everyone, that’s a wrap!” Thank God for that. The rumours throughout the extras room as we were leaving was that the male nurse scenes would be shot the following morning, and we were to be there at 7am.

And so it was time to come home and tell Sandra all about the day. Then around 10pm I get a call – it’s Chris. Funnily enough he introduced himself as “Hi, this is Chris from the film production of A Tiger’s Tail!” Er - yes sir, I do happen to recall where I was earlier that day!

Anyway – he asked me if my face had actually been used in shot that day. I guess I should have just said no, but instead I went the long way round and tried to explain what I had actually done. He cut me off mid sentence with a “so that’s no then” and told me I didn’t have to come in until one the following afternoon. Not only would it be a shorter day, but it would be more money since this time, they did need my car.

The second day was not only shorter, but a lot less interesting than the first, and that’s REALLY saying something. Around three o’clock the whole crew packed up and moved up to Collins’ barracks which was where the driving shots were going to be taken. The entrance to the premises was done up to look like that of a mental institution. All I had to do was drive back and forth up the Arbor Hill road and honk at people as they tried to cross the road.

Funniest part of the second day was being given directions from one location to the other. Sarah nominated one of the other drivers to give directions to the group. He was a short Dublin man in his late forties I’d reckon, and as he looked squarely at just one of the other drivers, this is something like the directions he gave:

“Well ya know da road dat leads up ta Kilmainham? Yeah, that one. Just take dat, then ya know the way ya toorn right den left den roight again, den straight on dowun, den its over the bridge and, yeah, ya know when ya toorn roight den left again at da pub on da corner der, well Arbor Hill is roight on yer left after dat!”

I was standing right behind the guy he was giving these wonderful instructions to, and apparently the look of confusion on my face was a source of amusement to everyone. When he finished I just said, “In other words, everyone follow this guy.” It was ok, sure I knew the way anyway.

And so we drove back and forth past Brendan Gleeson and the other mental patients for a couple of hours, when it wasn’t pouring rain that is. Billy the Kid was actually used this time as a male nurse escorting the patients out of the hospital, so he was happy.

Around half past five, we wrapped. I got my docket signed, and so my movie career was over. Or so I thought.

Having composed the first half of my blog post last Wednesday, I decided to let the Easter weekend pass before I finished it off. Then, as I was out drinking on Saturday night, my phone rang. Once leaving the pub so I could hear, I found out it was Sarah asking me could I do another couple of days’ shooting. This time it was to be downtown at City Quay beside the new Sean O’Casey pedestrian bridge. It wasn’t to be until eleven am, so I agreed to forego both my Easter Sunday and Monday.

I only need one paragraph to describe the two days. Apart from a bit of walking back and forth over the bridge as Brendan Gleeson ran past, together with a bit of driving in loops back and forth across the river Liffey, the bulk of the two days was spent waiting around the double decker bus that had been converted to house the extras on the set, which was located behind the Grant Thornton building on the quays.

So now, I reckon my movie career is well and truly over for now. All I can say is that even though it is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds, even when you do get to be on set, it is definitely a worthwhile experience.

If it sounds like something you want to do and you live in Ireland, I recommend you sign up with www.MovieExtra.ie – you can tell them exactly when you would be available so that if they do get in touch, you can be sure it will be for something you can do. They need people of all ages and of all shapes and sizes. You even get a few extra quid in your pocket to go with it.

Just don’t be surprised if you are waiting around for long periods of time. You realise quickly that you are at the very bottom of the pecking order to those around you, though in this case at least, they do what they can to accommodate you – I was never found wanting for refreshments and the like. If I were asked and I had the time, I would definitely do it all again.

Now all I have to do is wait until Autumn 2006/Spring 2007 for the big release and see if my mug somehow gets its way into shot.


Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories

Monday, April 17, 2006

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…
I AM TOLD THE BUNNIES AND EGGS ARE BOTH FERTILITY SYMBOLS…



UPCOMING : For those of you on tenderhooks for the conclusion of “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!” which I started last week, I will publish it on Wednesday. I generally think it best not to publish much more than 2000 words in one day so I split the story in two.

RISING : Even though it is a predominately Catholic country, when Irish people use the phrase “Easter Rising”, it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ whatsoever. They are referring to an attempted rebellion against the English in 1916. Alas, fifty words are nowhere near enough to explain its consequences. Try here.

HOLIDAY : An even more significant non-religious consequence of Easter for Irish people is the fact that it results in that amazing event known as a “Bank Holiday weekend”, which basically means the entire country shuts down for over a week! Well it takes a long time to pray you know!

TUNES : In keeping with the “one album wonder” theme I started last week, I now listen to a cassette called “Infected” by a group with the innovative name of “The The”. By the way, this feature could last a while – I have about 600 cassettes to choose from!

LINK : I have a very easy choice for my link shout-out this week. Muchos gracias to Fiona at Mental Meanderings for her kind words about these very bitesize bullets last Monday. It sent quite a high volume of blog traffic in my direction.

NEXTBLOGGING : I forgot about this feature the last two weeks! This time hitting the “Next Blog” button brought me here. It’s obviously set up to promote one of Madeira’s swinging hotspots. For the life of me I can’t work out why they think this blog will bring them business.

DEPRAVITY : I will let your imagination get to work on the kind of Google phrases I must leave out of my final bullet every week. Suffice to say their depraved searches all include the word “shag”. I sincerely hope they DON’T find what they are looking for, the sick bastards.

RENTAL : Last week’s DVD rental by mail was called “Red Eye” and starred Irishman Cillian Murphy as the principal baddie. His American accent is impressive, and the plot keeps you going, but there’s a major anticlimax. Still, I’d say it’s just about worth renting overall.

LYRICAL :
“And I must be
An acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
…don’t let the bastards grind you down”


U2, “Acrobat”, from “Achtung Baby”

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“failed driving test three times”

“easter clues hunts poems”

“where does the term bleeding heart liberal come from?”

“what is the proper way to carry a rugby ball”

“male nurse veteran poem”


I hope they all found what they were looking for.


StatWatch and Google phrases of the week courtesy of StatCounter.com

Friday, April 14, 2006

sprechen sie fußball?

8 weeks to the start of the World Cup Finals 2006 in Germany, and I feel duty bound to spread the word about the planet’s most popular sport’s biggest festival, so I will post every Friday until after the tournament is over.

Now it’s time to go over the eight first round groups one by one and try and predict how I think they will pan out. The results I predict here will eventually become real bets with PaddyPower.com as I try to put my money where my analytical mouth is.


GROUP B : COULD THIS BE ENGLAND’S YEAR?

With four world-class players at key positions, it’s hard not to consider England as one of the tournament favourites.


Naturally, no sport is ever played on paper. However, as any fan anxiously awaits the start of a particular event, it is the only available playing field.

Having examined the 32 teams, and having committed myself to going out on a limb and predict an overall winner of the tournament, I won’t make many fans here in Ireland when I say I think this is the year England can go all the way. It’s quite ironic that I hold this view really, since this is a weekend when Ireland is celebrating 90 years since a band of rebels tried to get rid of the English from these shores for good!

Maybe I am biased as I follow the English club league week by week, but I reckon this is definitely the best squad they have brought to the finals in all the years I have been watching them. And they appear to be at their strongest in all the central positions, as you can see from my picture, and it is said that all the great teams have world-class players down the middle.

It is also said, however, that just one player can make the difference to any team between success and near success, and this year, I feel England have that player in one Wayne Rooney. I have seen him play again and again over the last couple of years and I am in no doubt that he has all of the ability to become one of the game’s all time great players. And if you are in any doubt as to how can handle the highest level, you need only look back at the European Championships back in Portugal in 2004.

At the tender age of 18, he was the leading light of England’s charge through that tournament, and amazingly the moment he was injured and could not continue, they were eliminated. I remain convinced to this day that if he had remained fit, England would have won, and would be natural favourites this year.

In many ways I suppose it suits them that many presume they will under-achieve. English soccer fans have had to get used to year after year of disappointment at the highest level since their World Cup victory on home soil back in 1966, and every year they seem to have one incident to point to by way of an excuse for their demise, be it the lottery of a penalty shoot-out or of course, the famous “Hand of God”.

Although the knockout stages are notoriously hard to predict, given the relative ease of their first round group, with the only real challenge apprearing to come from Sweden, which is ironically the birthplace of England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, I can see them building up a head of steam in the first couple of games which will make all opponents wary should they have to face them.

Of course I mean no disrespect to any Paraguayans or Trinidadians out there!

Given all of this, I present to you my predictions for Group B.


June 10 England v Paraguay 2-0
June 10 Trinidad & Tobago v Sweden 1-1
June 15 England v Trinidad & Tobago 1-0
June 15 Sweden v Paraguay 1-1
June 20 Sweden v England 2-1
June 20 Paraguay v Trinidad & Tobago 4-1


One of the quirks of these four-team groups is that in the first four out of six games, if you win your two while the other two end in draws, you clinch first place before anyone plays their third game. I predict this will happen to England so they can rest their top players for their final encounter with their coach’s fellow countrymen, who will grab the second spot. Though any seasoned World Cup tipster will claim that you rule out the so-called “weaker” nations at your peril, I don’t see a surprise coming from this group.


Next week – GROUP C : THE GROUP OF DEATH

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

extra! extra! read all about it!

If you haven’t seen “The General” which is another Boorman/Gleeson combo, I suggest you put that right asap.


If you have a spare few seconds, stand up. Find a space on a wall with room for you to stand right up against it.

Now go as close as you can to the wall without touching it, and crouch down with your legs spread apart so that your head is roughly where your sternum would be if you were upright. Now hold your hands up in the air as though someone was pointing a gun at you. Thank you. Now you can read the rest of my story, just keep in mind that position you were just in.

About two years ago I signed up on a website known as MovieExtras.ie, which is exactly what the name suggests. You give your details together with a relevant photo and supposedly the production companies will all be beating a path to your door for their various projects.

In all the time since I first signed up, I would say that I got a total of three actual offers of work, and for one reason or another I was unable to honour any of them. It got to a point where I decided not to pay my annual subscription fee last September since I presumed it was an area where you needed to know someone who knew someone to get anywhere.

Then, out of the blue came an email followed by a text message, saying that there was a film shoot that required extras plus their cars for a bit of driving. Just for the hell of it I replied saying that I would do it. I have been dealing with a lot of headwrecking stuff recently and this seemed to be just the thing to take my mind off of it all.

The first day of shooting was to be my birthday on March 21st, but when I didn’t hear anything from them, I presumed that either they didn’t need me or they realised the oversight of my unpaid subscription. The following Monday, however, I got a message on my phone.

“Hi, this is Sarah from Tiger’s Tail, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in being an extra in our production on both Thursday and Friday of this week. Please ring me back at this number if you’re available.”

I have to admit I was a bit of a chicken at first. Since I mind my own kids on those days every week, I managed to use that together with the fact that I would probably be eventually uncovered as a non-payer as excuses to reply in the negative. But shortly after I got that message, I happened to also check my emails.

As well as an email version of the same offer from Sarah, there was one from my mother. For the past year I have been trying to get her to weigh in on my plans to re-house my grandmother, with absolutely nothing constructive being ventured in reply. Now, having found accommodation for her, she decided to weigh in and suggest that the whole thing was a bad idea.

Now that the camel’s back was well and truly broken, I was convinced that this extra thing was just what I needed to take my mind off of everything for a couple of days. I first called MyX and told her I needed to change around my days with the kids, and she duly agreed. Then it was time to ring Sarah.

Apparently they did not need drivers for this particular stint. She told me that the movie starred Brendan Gleeson, and was set in a mental institution, and they needed male nurses. Seemingly I fit the bill because of my height. They were shooting at the abandoned John Player cigarette factory near the centre of Dublin city, and I was to be there at 9:45 on the Thursday morning.

Over the next couple of days, I went through the typical mixture of excitement and trepidation that you normally experience when faced with something completely unknown. My kids thought I was going to be a movie star – I toyed with the idea of letting them think that for a while before deciding to let them know that my part was to be a very small one and I may not even appear in the final production. Luckily my daughter then said: “That doesn’t matter, Daddy, it’s still cool!”

On the Thursday morning I got myself ready and gave Sandra a lift into work before going to the set. Just after she got out of the car, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. Here’s what it read:

“Hey! Please be sure and have white underwear with you this morning!”

Now THERE’S a message you don’t get every day, I thought. Unfortunately my underwear-colour decision was a done deal at this point, so I had to stop off at the Crumlin Shopping Centre en route and get a cheapo pair of white briefs. It was as I was waiting in line to make my purchase that I came up with the title of the blog post which was always going to be written after this experience.

Eventually I found parking close to the factory, and bang on 9:45 I tentatively walked through the front door. There was equipment lying around and people walking in all directions, with the exception of one big student-type bloke who was standing at the bottom of a long winding staircase in the foyer. I asked for Sarah, and he led me to a room deep into the factory with had a piece of paper with “EXTRAS HOLDING ROOM” on the wall beside the door.

First to catch my eye in the room was Sarah. Maybe it was because she was holding a clipboard and sported a secret-service-style earpiece, maybe it was because she was a good-looking blonde; you can decide that one. She introduced herself and asked me to help myself to coffee and wait there with the others. It was then that I realized there were at least a dozen people in the room most of whom had similar nervous dispositions to me, which set me at ease.

After chatting to the fellow extras, I realised I was one of four male nurses for the shoot that day. My colleagues included [not real names of course] Hertz Van Rental, Mr Extra and Billy the Kid.

Hertz was a burly South African in his early forties. Apparently he had been called for the rehearsal shoots in Ardmore Studios, and he seemed to be a nice enough bloke. I gave Mr Extra his moniker because he seemed to be a seasoned veteran of this particular pastime, and he after telling us about all his previous experiences he kept pretty much to himself. Billy was the youngest, I’d say early twenties at the oldest, and he was the chattiest of the bunch.

In the holding room there was a makeup girl and a hair stylist chap. After making the extras who were slated to be mental patients look good and crazy, she came over to check out the prospective nurses. She began by staring at my face.

“You seem grand. I see you shaved this morning. Yes, you’re ok.”

“Why thank you,” I replied with a wink.

As it turned out, we all fitted the bill. Then after an hour of sitting and small talk, a girl with clothes draped over her arm came in and said:

“OK, who here is going to be a male nurse?”

The four of us stood up. She told us to sit down again.

“It’s ok, lads, I just wanted to let you know that you won’t be getting into your uniforms until the very last minute before the shoot. They are completely white, so once you are in them you won’t be able to sit down or lean against a wall or anything, ok?”

That was fine by us. A few of the others wanted to smoke and since it was a sunny morning we all decided to go out into the area behind the building to wait for our call to get ready. Outside we saw a car park, plus everything you would expect to see on a film set – lorries filled with equipment, old double decker buses, and, of course, a line of trailers.

During the course of our chatting while waiting I learned a bit more about the movie and what it was about. Seemingly the flick is to be called “A Tiger’s Tail” [NOT “Tale” I am reliably informed] and stars Gleeson who is to play two roles – a man in a mental institution, plus his “twin brother” who is a successful businessman but who apparently is in his imagination. I was also interested to learn that the director was the great John Boorman, though if pressed I could not have told you what the man looked like.

Of course the biggest curiosity among our group was the actual set itself and what it was like. Billy the Kid told us how he had arrived way too early and accidentally wandered upstairs close to where they were shooting, only to be quickly directed to the holding room. Still, I could not help but have this fascination about what the set actually looked like, and I was very eager at this stage to get a look at it.

Alas, I was forced to wait a while. Scratch that, it wasn’t just a while – it seemed like an eternity. When noon came around I suggested to the others that it was highly unlikely that we would be involved in anything before lunch. Sure enough I was right. At one o’clock the wardrobe girl told us it was time for food and that things should definitely get moving at two.

Then a load of people started coming out of the building, and clearly they had just been at the Valhalla which was the film set. We were told to wait for them to get their lunch before we stood in line. As we waited, I got my first glimpse of Brendan Gleeson himself. I was tempted to take a picture with my phone to send to Sandra, mostly to appease her constant text messages which said things like “What’s it like so far?” and “Have you seen him yet?”. I thought better of it, however.

The lunch was impressive, steak and chips was my choice out of the three options, with apple crumble for dessert. While on the “extra’s bus” eating our meal, we overheard someone say that Kim Cattral [aka Samantha Jones from Sex In The City] was also in the movie. I nearly fell over myself to text Sandra, neglecting of course to include the information that she would not be on set either of the two days!

True to her word, bang on two, the wardrobe girl gave us our whiter-than-white costumes, and directed us to our communal trailer. Of the four of us, I was the only one to give accurate measurements, and the other lads had to have alterations made. Luckily the top was long enough so as to make the cheap briefs unnecessary, so I didn't even try changing into them. Once we were resplendent in our male-nurse whiteness, Sarah called us into the building.

As the four of us were strolling along towards the back entrance, I made what I thought was a pretty witty comment that we must look like Reservoir Dogs in reverse with our white garb, but I guess nobody picked up on it because they were as nervous as I was.

Sarah led us back into the Extras holding room and we were to wait there until called. This was where our no-sitting, no-leaning ban began to take effect. We were standing there like lemons for about half an hour. At least the mental patients were allowed to sit down in their dressing gowns!

Then Sarah appeared at the door, and called Hertz to join her, saying they only needed one Extra for now. I turned to the other lads and suggested that it was quite possible we would not be involved at all in shooting that day, but at least we would be paid no matter what.

No sooner did I have those words out of my mouth than Sarah reappeared at the door and said,

“Well, it turns out they need a second nurse after all, how about you? Want to follow me?”

Yes, she was pointing at me. I guess this was to be it. I followed her back to the foyer, up the winding staircase and into Valhalla.

Monday, April 10, 2006

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…
I STILL DON’T GET THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BUNNIES AND EGGS…



THANKS… : …to everyone who commented in response to the “My Own Personal D-Day” post last week. Though we all have various forms of baggage in our lives, I find it helps to vent on my blog from time to time, and this was no exception. The feedback was very helpful.

TUNES : You’ve heard of one hit wonders, well this week’s occupant of my car stereo is definitely a “one album wonder”. An excellent blend of eighties pop/rock tracks throughout (most notably “Mary”) it’s a shame The Four Of Us never properly capitalized on their “Songs For The Tempted” collection.

LINK : I had a good week for new linkers to my Irish blog, so a big shout-out must go to Plurabella, Ms Ann Thrope and Arrogant Cow [her choice of name not mine!] for adding me to their blog-roll. As always, I’m happy to return the favour.

ADDICTIVE : I must apologize in advance for introducing you to this game if it ends up keeping you hooked for hours. Just take solace in the fact that you are not alone. Here is pictorial proof that I eventually managed to score 27 in Optus Tennis.

LENT : As Easter approaches, I recall two original responses to the age old Catholic question : “What are you giving up for Lent?”. One was : “I’ve decided to give up giving up stuff”, while another was “I’ve given up drinking for Lent, and instead will be doing it for Height”.

CLOUSEAU : My daughter has been raving about how she enjoyed the latest Steve Martin flick “The Pink Panther” but I’m a die hard who insists that only the portrayal by Peter Sellers will do. I bought the DVD set yesterday to try and convert her, alas it was to no avail.

LYRICAL :
“I went to a shrink
To analyse my dreams
She says it’s lack of sex
That’s bringing me down
I went to a whore
He says my life’s a bore
And quit my whining
Cos it’s bringing him down”


Green Day, “Basket Case”, from “Dookie”


24 : I now know why I keep watching this show even though it bugs me. Though the plot is good enough that I am left wanting to see what happens in the next episode, once I find out, I simply don’t care anymore. I wonder if that affects DVD sales.

STATWATCH : Though the numbers of daily hits to this blog are dwindling, I was still proud to have passed the 14,000 mark last week. As the saying goes, you always feel fondly about your first, and I’m sure that applies to blogs as well…

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“backyard nudity”

“guten abend what does it mean”

“blackrock college posh”

“oral pap”

“fancy a shag carlsberg text message” *


I hope they all found what they were looking for.


StatWatch and Google phrases of the week courtesy of StatCounter.com

* = from my Irish Blog

Friday, April 07, 2006

sprechen sie fußball?

9 weeks to the start of the World Cup Finals 2006 in Germany, and I feel duty bound to spread the word about the planet’s most popular sport’s biggest festival, so I will post every Friday until after the tournament is over.

Now it’s time to go over the eight first round groups one by one and try and predict how I think they will pan out. The results I predict here will eventually become real bets with PaddyPower.com as I try to put my money where my analytical mouth is.


GROUP A : HOSTING THE FINALS – BLESSING OR CURSE?

Though he was a hero for my Spurs even though they never won anything with him at the club, I doubt the German fans will feel the same about his reign as national manager.


I can think of three different ways you can approach the answer to the question which is on many football follower’s lips : “How will the host nation do at this year’s World Cup finals?”

First, you would have the response of a casual observer, who would no doubt speculate that playing in front of their home crowd would have to give the Germans an edge over the other 31 participants in the tournament.

Then, you would have the more season football supporter, who would be aware of the form guide and be able to tell you that with the exception of Michael Ballack, they have produced very little in the way of world class players over the past decade or so. They would also tell you that apart from the obvious advantages to the local economy, being the host nation carries with it a number of hidden drawbacks, for example, an immense amount of pressure to win it all, as well as a lack of competitive preparation in the months leading up to the finals as the hosts gain automatic qualification.

Pessimism over Germany’s chances can also be supported by the fact that the job of national team coach was something of a poisoned chalice when it went on offer after the European Championships in 2004. There are a number of quality homegrown coaches out there, most notably Ottmar Hitzfeld as well as Otto Rehhagel, who actually led Greece to victory in 2004. Neither of them were willing to step forward, however, and eventually the post was accepted by former goal-scoring hero Jurgen Klinsmann, who had no previous managerial experience, and who also was allowed to assume his new role while himself being based in California. It didn’t exactly augur well for a successful German campaign.

Finally, you have my perspective. If there is one rule of thumb I have learned over the years following the World Cup finals, it’s this : “Never, EVER, rule out the Germans.” This fact was borne out in 2002 when despite a succession of extremely average performances, they still got all the way to the final where they succumbed to Brazil. I firmly believe that though they will more than likely make heavy weather of the first round, Germany will squeak through and once you get out of your group, anything can happen.

Just in case you don’t know, maybe I should tell you how the World Cup final tournament works before I go on. The 32 qualifiers are drawn into eight groups of four teams. You play everyone in your group once, giving you three first round games. With three points for a win, one for a draw/tie and none for a loss, the four teams are ranked in order and the top 2 in each group progress to the next stage. The 16 remaining countries then play a knockout format until the champions are crowned after the final.

Germany were drawn into Group A along with Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador. Again, the casual observer would see this as an easy draw for the home side. The thing about the so-called “unfashionable” teams is that many of them are coached by experiences Europeans and South Americans, and they can turn them into teams that can be extremely difficult to beat over a 90 minute game.

Given all of this, I present to you my predictions for Group A.

June 9 Germany v Costa Rica 1-1
June 9 Poland v Ecuador 3-1
June 14 Germany v Poland 0-0
June 15 Ecuador v Costa Rica 0-1
June 20 Ecuador v Germany 0-1
June 20 Costa Rica v Poland 1-2


These results would see Poland winning the group with seven points, followed by the lucky Germans with five. I will place a total of ten euros on that sequence of results taking place, and do likewise with the other first round groups. I wonder if I will at least make my eighty euros back come the knockout stages…


Next week – GROUP B : COULD THIS BE ENGLAND’S YEAR?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

my own personal d-day



One thing is for sure – Tuesday April 25th, 2006 is going to be my D-day.

All I need to work out is - what does the “D” stand for?

I suppose the obvious answer is “divorce”. It is just over six years since I first realised that my marriage was well and truly doomed, and that date in April is when I finally get a judge to seal the deal.

The more I think about it, however, the more I realise there are other d-words worth considering.

First, there is “delight”. Some of my friends think I am mad to get married again, though that is only because they have not had the chance to see Sandra and me together that much over the years.

But if THEY think I’M mad, imagine how her friends felt when she first told them she was seeing a separated man with two kids! My delight comes from the fact that on April 25th I can once and for all show to her my ties to MyX have been broken for good.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however, and the “D” could very well stand for “depression”. Though being around Sandra and my kids does nothing but fill me with confidence, I realise now that when on my own for the past six years, I have spent a lot of time blaming myself for everything that had gone wrong in my life up now. It was a vicious cycle of self-pity that was hard to break free from, and it meant my life was stuck in neutral and I could see no way of moving on.

Of course when I was feeling low on self-esteem, I needed something to keep me occupied in order to prevent me from going round the bend so that nobody could tell what was going on, and this lead to another “D” – “distraction”. You are currently reading what eventually became my biggest source of this over the past year and a half – setting myself goals and deadlines on my blog went a long way to help me fool myself that I was doing something meaningful with my life when in reality I needed a kick up the arse to get over myself and get on with things.

Then there’s “denial”. Out of the depression and the need for distraction came a wave of anger towards my mother which became something of an obsession with me. Not long after my grandfather passed away, I allowed myself to be consumed with rage over my history with her. Though much it was justified, I see now that my real target was myself. I even wrote a song which I thought was all about her but the more I read it back, the more I see that applies to me just as much if not more so.

I cannot forget all the “despair” either. Although much of my plight was of my own doing, it was helped along by several factors which were out of my control, for example…

• Finding a note from my daughter where she is asking God to make sure her mother and I get back together.

• My grandfather passing away in care, and all the guilt that went with it that I could have done more for him in his final days.

• Knowing that for all the care I was giving my grandmother, I would eventually have to find her alternative accommodation, and the prospect of a move would be terrifying for her, no matter how suitable the new arrangement may be.

• Being constantly knocked back in my quest to sort out the legal framework of the divorce. Since there was no contest from the other side, I decided to go through the process myself, and although those at “DIY Divorce” have been extremely helpful throughout, a combination of procrastination, presumption that everything would go wrong, and things actually going wrong got me to a stage whereby it was touch and go whether or not I would get a divorce date in time to obtain a license for my wedding in August.

For a while there, you would be forgiven for thinking the “D” was for “desperation”. After I lost my job in the sports store and was driven inward emotionally, Sandra and I spilt up for a while and I started smoking hash round the clock and meeting women from internet chatrooms who were not right for me at all. I really and truly believed this was my only chance of meeting people, my confidence was that low.

Now, in spite of the depression, the distraction, the denial, the despair and the desperation, I have finally gotten myself to the point where I am on the brink of moving my grandmother to suitable surroundings, I have a date for my divorce hearing, I have all but patched things up with my mother, I seem to have come to terms with my grandfather’s death, and plans are falling into place for my wedding which fills me with nothing but hope for the future.

For once, I can actually see my glass as half full.

Maybe the real meaning of the “D” is “destiny”.

Monday, April 03, 2006

bitesize bullets



TEN TOPICS…
NO PARTICULAR ORDER…
ONE MAN’S OPINIONS…
FIFTY WORD LIMIT ON EACH…
NOBODY APRIL FOOLED ME THIS YEAR…



CHANGES : I am planning some radical changes for my blogs. I won’t have time to implement them for a while, but hopefully they will turn out well. I like to think I’m one of those “no point in doing it unless you feel you’re doing it right” kind of people.

TUNES: Since he was honoured last week by the Irish music industry for his achievements with the Boomtown Rats rather than his recent charitable exploits, I’m giving Bob Geldof’s band a listen on my car stereo. It’s ironic that I post these bullets on Monday; I hear he doesn’t like them!

ESSAYS… : …are something I haven’t been doing much of lately, so I plan to put that right this week, with one called “My Own Personal D-Day” which I will publish on Wednesday, and more to follow after that. I still haven’t plucked up the courage to have another stab at fiction!

NAMEDROPPING : Another essay I plan to write soon is one outlining my experience towards the end of last week, when I got to be an extra on the set of the next Brendan Gleeson movie, called “A Tiger’s Tail”, directed by John Boorman and due for release in 2007.

LINK : This week’s link shout-out goes to Gavin Sheridan, who with his “Gavin’s blog” was one of the pioneers of weblogging in Ireland. I got the chance to speak with him at the awards ceremony a few weeks ago, and I am honoured to now be on his blogroll.

BUSHBASHING : Just what Dubya was thinking sending NeoCon-doleeza to a mosque in Liverpool last week, I’ll never know. Her rhetoric was interesting when she referred to the numerous protestors as a sample of the democracy she was trying to bring to Iraq. Man, she has some set of teeth!

LYRICAL :
“And if a double decker bus
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die”


The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, from “The Queen Is Dead”

RENTAL : This week’s rented movie highlight was the sequel to the serial killer thriller Saw. As follow-ups go, it definitely rates as one of the better ones. If you saw (ahem) the original and were impressed with the plot and its interesting twists, you won’t be disappointed here either.

STATWATCH : Although stats can never tell you preciesly who is reading your blog at a given moment, with a bit of common sense you can learn to be able to tell when your regulars are stopping by, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for doing so.

GOOGLING : Latest phrases to lead people here include …

“irish and pet and girlfriend”

“funny story and pictures of priests with beards”

“pampering words for a guy”

“see ya in irish” *

“pint size minister” *


I hope they all found what they were looking for.



StatWatch and Google phrases of the week courtesy of StatCounter.com

* = from my Irish Blog