Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pay or Pain

Further confirmation this morning that our government is hell-bent on forcing us to adopt a U.S. health care model.

I required a routine hip x-ray so I rang my friendly local public hospital (St. Michael’s, Dun Laoghaire). After an hour or more on hold to the x-ray department, I gave up and called in. I could hear the phone still ringing as I waited by the reception desk. Eventually a frazzled-looking woman appeared and after listening to my request she told me that I could have an appointment for 3-months hence – late July.

Not impressed by this I decided to go private and rang the Blackrock Clinic. The phone was answered immediately and I was told to come in as soon as I wanted as they had a walk-in service.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pictures of Barcelona 2

Off to the Sagrada Familia on Wednesday morning - Gaudi's epic obsession and surely one of the wonders of world. The place is full of tourists so thankfully there's no chance of getting the lift to the roof - the queues are 2 hours long. It's quite surreal really: there's neo-gothic sculpture, areas decorated with bright ceramics, words such as "sanctus" and "sursum" seemingly scattered randomly around the towering exterior, pillars shaped like trees, a Christ sitting on a ledge looking like he's contemplating a jump, and of course the sheer scale of the building. It's estimated that construction will continue until 2026 so I may struggle to see it in its finished state.

We also tackled Gaudi's Parc Guell which was obviously designed to strengthen the limbs of the locals as it's set on a very steep slope reached by walking about a half mile up another very steep slope. This is much more playful and Disneyland-like with wonderful views across the city.

The best meal we had was in a trendy beach-side eatery called Bestial. We reclined outside on large sofas amidst trimmed down olive trees while we waited for our table - listening to some very tasty jazz. The we were served a very delicious meal (seafood, duck etc.) from a menu that was more international than local. The staff were all cool and beautiful and so were most of the diners - so food for the eye also.

Some tips: buy a Bracelona Card - getting around on the undergound is the best way to travel, even if some of the line changes involve serious treks; avoid the Ramblas - it's full of tourists and hustlers, move 100 yards east or west and you'll find leafy squares and cheap bars and restaurants.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pictures of Barcelona 1

Staying North of the Ramblas in the relentlessly trendy Jazz Hotel, muted, minimalist, cool music in the bar, pool on the roof, and a very decent buffet breakfast. But the towels and the bog roll are also a bit minimalist, and that's not a good thing.

We get the Picasso Museum out of the way first. Very disappointing. It's mostly very early work from his time in art school in Barcelona and later in Madrid. Worthy and conventional stuff. The only work that wasn't painted in his teens and early twenties is the crude and vastly overrated "Las Meninas", his homage to Velazquez. There are some gems though. A few of his blue period works and one self-portrait that catches him on the very brink of cubism ( one eye noticeably higher than the other). There are also a number of amusing pornographic doodles that caused some mirth amongst the scool kids who were being marched through.

Far more like it was the Foundacion Miro in the hills to the south of the centre. Here we were treated to the full range of Miro's genius, including sculpture and ceramics. You saw the evolution from Daliesque surrealism to his very own circumscribed world of women, birds, and the sun the moon and the stars. You also saw the older Miro become very gestural indeed and close to taking the piss with work such as "Painting for the Room of a Recluse", which is essentially a crooked line. A great museum with an excellent layout and a cooling glass of San Miguel in the garden afterwards.

Ten 911s

The Yanks will keep sticking to this "right to bear arms" anachronism and will continue to pay the price in lives lost. The sight of that grotesque old buffer Charlton Heston playing to the gallery with his "from my cold dead arms" nonsense makes your flesh crawl. It's not as if the fucking Sioux are still climbing in their back windows.

After the latest spectacular in Virginia |another lone loser with legal weapons|, there will be renewed calls for gun control and like before they will peter out with time. More than 30,000 people lose their lives to guns in the US every year. That's ten 911s folks. A nation of terrorists.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lower Middlebrow

I mostly listen to Newstalk these days when I'm driving to and from work. There is however one exception to this. Whenever Orla Barry comes on in the morning I'm off to Lyric FM quicker than you can say Magic Flute. She is relentlessly lower middlebrow and petit bourgeois. I'm sure lace curtains figured in her upbringing - and there are far to many references to her mammy to be healthy.

Also, while I take as much interest in women's health problems as the next man, I occasionally like to think of other things.

This morning, being a bit slow on the button, she started a rant about an impending Michael Jackson concert. "how could anybody go to see him after he admitted to having boys in his bed" etc. As if there's a single star of any magnitude who's not behaved in a manner at variance with Barry's ethical standards.

She is also very badly informed for someone hosting a talk radio show, at least Aunty Marian Finucane has a breadth of general knowledge to call on. Also, she has Roisin Ingle on her show regularly - the banal leading the banal.