Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bomb Scares and Hijacking

A child rides his bike past a burning lorry in Belfast, Northern Ireland (AFP)

Oh no, here we go again! Is it back to 1969? Goes to show how easily one spark can set everything off. The scary thing is that one of the bomb scares was on Tenement Street which is not too far from where I live. Mind you, a Protestant area not Catholic! Relentless is the word for these IRA dissidents. I honestly think they're trying to push the loyalist paramilitaries into action. If they keep it up, they may very well succeed.

It feels funny reading about Belfast from 5,386 miles away. The news leads you to believe that this is happening ALL over Belfast and the city is going down in flames. But the reality is...these are just isolated areas. Craig called his mom twice this week and she hasn't mentioned anything.

I showed Craig the headlines. He rolled his eyes and didn't bother to read the article because he knows it's the same damn story, like a broken record playing over and over again. I asked him if it made him feel homesick. He was like, "Are you having a laugh?". Then he proceeded to call the airline and postponed our return date a week and a half later. I would take that as a "No, I don't miss the shithole and would rather soak up the sun and the good life in California".

I guess if he's feeling really homesick and nostalgic in these 4 weeks, we could always make a trip out to Oakland.

Suspected IRA dissidents and their supporters hijacked cars Monday in working-class Catholic areas of Northern Ireland in a coordinated effort to block roads and threaten police stations, police said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it was receiving a wave of reports of vehicles being hijacked by masked gunmen in several parts of Belfast and in the Kilwilkie district of Lurgan, a power base for Irish Republican Army dissidents southwest of Belfast.

Some vehicles were being set on fire in roads to disrupt traffic at rush hour, while others were abandoned near four Belfast police stations and on Northern Ireland's major motorway near Lurgan.

Police said they were treating all the abandoned vehicles as potential car bombs, although they cautioned this was unlikely. They urged motorists to avoid Kilwilkie and parts of Catholic west Belfast entirely.

Monday's upheaval came at the end of a month in which IRA dissidents shot to death two soldiers and a policeman — the first killings of British security forces since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland's peace accord.

Police said at least two cars were hijacked in Lurgan's Kilwilkie district, the power base of suspected IRA dissident Colin Duffy. Duffy, 41, was charged last week with murdering the two soldiers.

One of the hijacked cars was abandoned on the M1 motorway, which connects Belfast to Dublin, 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the south. Authorities shut part of the motorway as a precaution.

One abandoned vehicle — which police said did not contain a bomb — was left near the Stormont Parliamentary Building, the center of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government between the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority.

The coalition's Protestant leader, First Minister Peter Robinson, said the rising dissident IRA threat would not spur Protestants to sever links with Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics today.

"The criminal terrorists responsible for the series of bomb scares and hijackings are beneath contempt and have no support whatsoever in the community," Robinson said.

The hijackings and security alerts also coincided with a widespread breakdown of Belfast's traffic lights system. Police in a statement called that an "unfortunate coincidence."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Adventures of an Irishman in San Francisco

Ferry to San Francisco

Bay Bridge

The Embarcadero

The Cable Car

Union Square

North Beach


Musee Mechanique

Ghiradelli Square

Aquatic Park

Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid

Pier 39

Sea Lions at Sunset

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oh Glorious Sunshine!

Getting baked in 2008!

I never understood why Craig was so obsessed with the sunshine and heat. When he would come visit me in California, every chance he would get, he would sit underneath the rays of the scorching sun and tan himself. He, in turn, would never understand why I would avoid the sun at all costs. My excuse was always, "Skin cancer!". Frankly, having been born and raised in California, the sun bored me. Believe it or not, seeing blue skies and sunshine 10 months out of the year can be very monotonous. You want a little variety sometimes. Of course, this was before I ever step foot in Belfast where the sun makes a very rare appearance and seeing another gray sky makes me want to scream my head off. I guess you don't know how good you have it until you lose it.

This whole week the days have been gorgeous! And we were finally able to go outdoors, now that Craig is feeling better! We drove to the waterfront and had a nice walk, we sat in the grass, closed our eyes and soaked in the rays. It was so good to feel the heat against our skin. Craig describes it like being wrapped in a warm blanket except you're outside. It's a different kind of heat here. A dry pleasant kind of heat not a muggy kind of heat that saps your energy like on the rare days in Belfast.

I wish I can take this California sun with me and pack it in my suitcase.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Recession, Ya Say?

Giving a Bailout to Main Street not Wall Street

Wendy's 99 cent value meal - 3conomics

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Well, this has been an interesting start of our holiday. So far we have managed not to travel outside of the zipcode. With my heartburn and feeling sick to my stomach earlier in the week, life was at a standstill. Just when I am finally sorted out and ready to venture out to Berkeley today, Craig gets sick with a virus! He has been hacking and coughing all night! Now I am paranoid that I might get sick again, and I am washing my hands like crazy. I am willing as to go far as wear a face mask! (If I can get my hands on one) I just got over a nasty virus the entire month of February and no way am I going back there again!

On a happier note, Craig and Maggie have warmed up to each other. It's about time! Notice how Craig has assimilated to the NoCali dresscode?

-Cal (UC Berkeley) baseball cap? CHECK!

-Oakley sunglasses? CHECK!

-Northface pullover fleece? CHECK!

-Croc flip flops? CHECK!

Fingers crossed that we get over our sickness this week. Luckily, we have 2 more weeks to make up for this bout of bad luck we've been having.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mixed Nuts

My neighborhood

It's a long way from the rugged streets of Belfast to the manicured lawns of suburban Northern California. Craig and I took a gruelling 11 hour flight last Saturday. Long flights are the bane of my existence but I can't say it wasn't interesting along the way. From Belfast to New Jersey, we met a lovely couple from Portadown. They are spending a two week holiday on the westside: 4 days in San Francisco, 4 days in LA, and 4 days in Vegas. Craig never understood how people can spend so little time in one place and move on to the next. Where's the fulfillment in that? I couldn't agree more but maybe they don't intend on visiting that part of the country ever again so they pack it all in two weeks. Whatever floats their boat! When we arrived in New Jersey, we chilled at the bar until our next flight. I was the only wimp who drank responsibly and ordered cranberry juice while the other three downed four pints! Before they went on to an earlier flight, we exchanged numbers so we can meetup in the city for dinner (and drinks).

From New Jersey to San Francisco, we met two dapper young gentlemen who are computer game designers. They are spending a week in San Francisco to attend a gaming convention. Both live just outside Belfast. They've never been to San Francisco and they were very excited. I really appreciated their constant barrage of probing questions about San Francisco. One important question was, "Where are the good Irish pubs in San Francisco?" I tell them there are none. You'd have to go to Ireland for that. They laughed. But all joking aside, I told them to check out the Sunset District because that's where most of the Irish in San Francisco reside. It's considered Little Ireland. You're bound to find a close to authentic pub there. My only respite from the barrage of questions was when the three of them had a drinking party! Yes, another one! Surprise, surprise! While Craig ordered his second, I was thinking how plastered he was going to be when my parents pick us up from the airport. Just great, my dad would love that. Fortunately, it didn't even make a dent.

It's so nice to be back home but it feels kind of different, kind of off. Like it isn't my home anymore, maybe because it's true. Nevertheless, it's nice to see my old room which hasn't changed since I left. Everything is in its original place.

We've been here two days so far and we've done fuck all because I fell ill. The first night I couldn't sleep because I was freaking out I was having a heart attack. I went to the ER the next day and found out it was only heartburn/acid reflux. The US healthcare system was a first for Craig. He couldn't get over the fact that I had to take my wallet out 3 times. One to pay for my initial visit, another to pay for my EKG, and another to pay for my meds. (Thank goodness I am still covered by insurance.) He was looking at the price list in the X-ray lab and couldn't believe how outrageous they were! But he was really impressed with the facilities, everything looks new and state of the art, everything is run efficiently. He was especially impressed with the wait time. There was no wait basically. And he says the doctors are different here, better bedside manners and they spend more time with patients. He says the NHS treats you like you're on an assembly line. "I guess you get what you pay for", he says.

Later in the day, Craig and my mom had their one on one time. They were watching the news in the living room. My mom asks, "So I heard on the news people are killing each other again in Northern Ireland? Why do the Catholics and Protestants hate each other?"

Craig responds in the most watered down, simplest kindergarten terms,"Well, there are some people who want to remain part of the UK. There are some people who want to break away from the UK and become a country with the Republic of Ireland. And there are some people who want to break away from the UK and become its own country."

My mom pauses for a moment and blinks. Then she says, "Oh. You want some mixed nuts?".

Craig bursted out laughing and says, "Yes, I wouldn't mind some. Northern Ireland is full of them."

Friday, March 20, 2009

The First Time I Fell In Love with Ireland

Sean-nós: A rare and beautiful artform

Last February, two months before I embarked on my journey, Ulsterman asked me what was the one thing that I would like to do when I get here (besides him).

Without hesitation I said, "Sean-nós!"

A bewildered Ulsterman replied, "Sean knows what? And who is Sean?".

"No!", I replied, "Sean-nós is an old song genre unaccompanied by instruments. It is the oldest form of traditional Irish music. Very rarely performed and an often misunderstood genre. Mostly performed in the West of Ireland, but can be found in villages in the countryside throughout the island, north and south."

Ulsterman relieved let out a resounding, "I see. Sean-nós it is then."

I was first introduced to traditional Irish music when I was studying Ethnomusicology at UCLA. We were given an elective to take at least one class on the music of Western Europe. I was stuck with the Traditional Irish Music class. I wasn't looking forward to it and thought it would be a snoozer. How exciting can fiddles and tin whistles be? That was until my professor brought his grandfather in who came all the way from Galway!

I remember a very tall distinguished looking gentleman wearing a tweed jacket walking across the lecture stage. He sat himself on the stool, took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and sang like I've never heard anyone before. It pierced right through me, and the cadences of his voice were echoing throughout the hall. It was so beautiful and I was so moved, I couldn't hold back my tears. It was amazing. Just him and his voice. There was a deep soulful genuine-ness to it. Pure and clean. No nonsense bullshit. When he finished his song, there was a 5 second silence which seemed to last forever. Everyone finally picked their chins off the floor and we gave him a well deserved standing ovation. That was the moment I said to myself, "That's it. I'm going to Ireland!"

Fast forward 9 years, I'm here in Norn Iron a year out and no Sean-nós. We travelled to Galway last May with intentions to see it, but we were trapped in the middle of nowhere in Fanore! The trip turned out to be a disaster and I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't meant to be. I was gutted. I doubt I would be able to hear Sean-nos here in Belfast, I'd probably have to go to the countryside and even then it's not a guarantee that I will see it. Like I said, it's a rare sight because they only do it when it moves them. I'd be lucky to catch one.

***Ethnomusicology = the study of culture through music. Just in case you were wondering. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Belfast Google Street View (Finally)

Google took its own sweet time getting here. A few weeks ago, Craig rang me on his way to work and saw google cams on the street. He was really excited! Ever since it has gone live, I can't get him off the computer. He's been playing with google maps since yesterday! What a map freak!

I took a glimpse and they couldn't have chosen a better time to show Belfast. On a Sunday when everything is CLOSED!!! Typical. So anyone who is planning to travel to Belfast, make a note that Sunday is when you do FUCK ALL! It's a ghost town by 3PM. Look how dead the Shankill is...

View Larger Map

Now you can walk down the Peaceline without leaving your living room...

View Larger Map

Note: For Internet Explorer Browsers, you may not see the API windows. To view, please click "View Larger Map". This link opens up a new window to take you to the street view page.

A Wedding in Cuba

Craig's brother and his fiancee called down to the house last night. This is the first time that I've seen them since last year. I find it strange that they don't visit more often because they only live a few streets away. It seems they only come to the house if they want something. Also, the fiancee keeps her future mom-in-law at arm's length and doesn't give her the respect she deserves. This pisses me off about her because the mom is awesome. I don't know what her deal is.

They are in the midst of planning a wedding in Cuba which I cannot go to because I'm American. After more than 40 years, the US still has an embargo on Cuba which I think is unnecessary. For those of you not up on your American history, the reason why the US imposed the embargo was because the Castro government expropriated the properties of US citizens and corporations, because of Cuba's alignment with Russia during the Cold War, and the US's paranoia with Communism. It doesn't make any sense how the US granted China "the most favored nation" status while continuing to impose a trade embargo on Cuba. Both are communist countries. Maybe it's because we owe China billions of dollars and they're practically running our country.

Back in 2000, I went to Cuba to expand the research I did when I was living in West Africa. I couldn't take a direct flight from the US obviously so I had to sneak in through Mexico. I requested that my flight itinerary not show Cuba on any of my documents and my passport not to be stamped by Cuban immigration. They stamped a post-it note, stuck it on to my passport, and retrieved the stamp when it was time for me to leave Cuba. When I returned back into the US, instead of showing immigration my passport, I showed them my birth certificate. This was before 9/11 where you didn't need a passport to travel from Canada and Mexico. Now a passport is required. It was a piece of cake. If I had gotten caught? A $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail! I'm actually jealous that she's having her wedding there. Cuba is beautiful, the music is awesome, the family I lived with was uber awesome, and I'd love to go back and visit them someday. Maybe that someday will be soon? I hear President Obama has plans on extending an olive branch to Cuba in hopes to lift the embargo and loosening travel restrictions. We'll see if he can pull this one off.

I asked "what's-her-face" where her wedding was going to be and she said, "Santiago de Cuba".

I said, "That's way down south, I never got to explore that area. I hear it's beautiful. Is it?".

"I don't know. I've never been to Cuba", says what's-her-face, "Have you?".

"Yes, I have a few years back. I stayed in Havana with a family and did research in Matanzas."

"Where's Havana?", the-bride-to-be asks.

"Um...it's the capitol city of Cuba." (you know the country where you're going to get married?)

She gives me a blank stare and says, "Oh, I didn't know that".

Ok? You're going to have a destination wedding in a country you know nothing about and have never been to before. In addition, you're going to make everyone spend a shitload of money to attend your wedding. Furthermore, have strict orders not to have anyone stay in the same hotel as you, and not see anyone after the wedding. So she expects guests are just going to attend her wedding for a day and leave the country after that? Bridezilla anyone?

Craig shook his head in disbelief, "What a numpty! Obviously, she was absent the day they handed out intelligent cards!".

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Riot in South Belfast???

PSNI officers clashed with revellers during rioting in south Belfast today. Photograph: PA

Yesterday there was a riot in South Belfast. When I saw the news I was completely shocked because South Belfast is generally a quiet and peaceful area. Not only that, but I was astounded that the riot was incited by Queens University students living in the Holylands. I guess with St. Paddy's Day it reached the brink with drunk party revellers everywhere.

The Holylands is an area located near the University. Much of its residents comprise of rowdy students and frustrated local homeowners. Over the years, the students' rambunctious behavior has gotten out of hand to the chagrin of many private homeowners in the area.

Homeowners are fed up and want them out including this blogger who has been chronicling the deterioration of the community since 2006. His blog was so controversial that he was arrested and at one point was beaten to a pulp. So much for free speech!

Scary thought that these co-eds (academia's cream of the crop supposedly) will be Northern Ireland's future! Looks like Queens will have a mess to clean up at their expense. They should all be kicked out of university with that kind of behavior!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Barak Speaks Norn Iron

Yay! It's St. Patrick's Day! Craig warned me that St. Paddy's Day isn't a big deal here as it is in the States. I was quite surprised as I was really looking forward it. You'd think that it would be a grand shindig since well, it's IRELAND! This year proved him wrong with the biggest ever St. Patrick's Day parade in the City Centre. Vibrant costumes abound, elaborate floats, and festive music from around the world. It was a multicultural event which was a nice touch. Craig and I just chilled out at home scarfing down "authentic" Thai food. He glugged his Guinness as I sipped my green tea. I know I'm weak. But it's tea that is GREEN, it should count for something!

In other news, Martin McGuiness and Peter Robinson celebrated St. Patrick's Day across the pond with Barak Obama. Aside from touting his Irish ancenstry (his mother's side is from County Offaly), Obama gave an uplifting and supportive speech reassuring Northern Ireland that "the US will stand by those who work towards peace." Other discussions included prospects for investment and the relocation of US businesses to Northern Ireland. And in light of the occasion, the White House Fountains were dyed green! A first in White House history thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama!

President Barack Obama receives a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen at the White House Photo: AP

From BBC News:

US President Barack Obama has said the people of Northern Ireland responded "heroically" to recent murders.

The dissident republican murders of two soldiers and a policeman sparked widespread public outrage.

President Obama said after watching former adversaries uniting in the face of what happened, he had never been so confident that peace would prevail.

He was speaking at a St Patrick's Day ceremony in the White House after meeting Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

"I want everyone listening to know this - the United States will always stand with those who work towards peace," he said.

Barack Obama met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness
The murders earlier this month by dissident republicans of a police officer and two soldiers in the space of three days has placed renewed international focus on Northern Ireland.

President Obama said the "real question" was how the people of Northern Ireland would respond following the killings.

"Now we know the answer - they responded heroically. They and their leaders on both sides have condemned this violence and refrained from the old partisan impulses," he said.

"They've shown they judge progress by what you build and not what you tear down. And they know that the future is too important to cede to those who are mired in the past."


President Obama also met Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers PeterRobinson and Martin McGuinness in the office of his national security adviser.

Mr Robinson said he believed both he and the deputy first minister had reassured Americans about the prospects for investment following the recent dissident republican murders.

He said that several US businesses were looking to relocate to Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said "the dissidents' strategy would never unite Ireland in a million years".

The DUP and Sinn Fein MPs who lead Northern Ireland's devolved government had twice delayed their departure for the US because of the killings.

St Patrick's Day visits to the US by politicians from Belfast and Dublin have become a tradition, and the White House marked the occasion by putting green dye in the fountains.

The idea came from First Lady Michelle Obama, who was inspired by her hometown of Chicago's custom of dyeing the river green for the day.

After his meeting with Mr Cowen, President Obama said he hoped to visit Offaly, the Irish county from which his ancestor Falmouth Kearney emigrated to America.

He joked to Mr Cowen: "We may be cousins. We haven't sorted that through yet."

British Manners Americans Can Learn From

A group of upper middle class Brits talk about Americans and what's wrong with America

I simply had to stop viewing after exactly one minute out of this 2:58 video clip.

This is what I gleaned from a SINGLE viewing, albeit stopping (but not rewinding) to write these quick notes about not what they were saying but what they were doing:

1. Many, if not all, had their elbows on the table, even for extended periods of time;

2. A full, very rude arm reach across not just a neighbor's plate, but almost essentially in her face to snatch up a piece of bread;

3. Openly, absently picking teeth with fingers;

4. MAJOR over use of pearls by the one woman when the woman seated across from her is wearing a cheap, sleeveless sweater; apparently proper attire instructions were either not given or not understood;

5. Open wiping of nose with index finger while speaking;

6. Full, gaping yawn without covering up mouth with hand, or preferably a napkin, or ideally, learning how to stifle a yawn at a party (it's really not that hard to learn how to do);

7. Major oratory interruptions by attendees - ubiquitous in this instance;

8. Openly picking teeth with finger (different attendee).

9. Chewing with mouth open and talking with mouth full.

My god, these acts are offensive of just simple, basic table manners, nothing special, nothing high-brow, nothing expensive. Simple, decent table manners. And these people are lecturing Americans such as myself (even though I never voted for Bush) on our shortcomings? I mean who is the barbaric and uncivilized one here?

No wonder they lost The Colonies. A very childish and curlish people. At least this set. Seriously, I had to stop at the one-minute mark, it was all just so absurd.

Now that we have Barak Obama and you have Gordon Brown, what are you going to talk about at the dinner table? At least we elected our leader into office. :P

Please note: I am aware that these people do not encompass the entire British population. Even "idiot" Yanks like me realize that truly intelligent people don't generalize.

And oh yes, before I forget...

Póg mo thóin

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Boys at Lurgan Ain't Nuthin' Compared to This Riot!

Thousands of starving wannabe models riot over a bologne and cheese sandwich in New York City...

Six women received medical treatment and three people were arrested after what local radio described as a stampede as thousands waited in New York to audition for the reality show America's Next Top Model.

A New York Police Department official said two women and a man were arrested on charges of inciting to riot and disorderly conduct.

WINS radio reported that chaos erupted outside a midtown Manhattan hotel after a car belching smoke pulled up near the line of women late in the afternoon, leading to a cry of "fire" that sparked panic. Witnesses told the station the situation was compounded when a man leapt from a car and began grabbing women's purses.

The police spokesman could not confirm the details of the radio report. Police said six women in the crowd were treated after complaining of feeling faint. Some of the women had lined up all night to audition for the show that airs on the CW network and stars former model Tyra Banks.

Sidewalks were littered with chairs and sleeping bags from those who waited overnight, as well as clothes and shoes abandoned in the rush of screaming women, radio reported.

The auditions were for the show's 13th cycle of competition, for which about a dozen contenders will eventually be selected.

More auditions will follow in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, according to the show's website

Friday, March 13, 2009


A major epidemic called ADPS,otherwise known as All Day Pyjama Syndrome has been sweeping Belfast for the past couple of years. Each year, sufferers have been increasing in large numbers. I notice around where I live, I see a lot of women out and about along the busy thoroughfare wearing furry slippers or UGG boots, pyjama bottoms, and bathrobes. Accessories include giant hoop earrings and a pram. Most of them are young mothers who are walking their children to school but I have also seen them out and about doing their grocery shopping at Tesco or socializing on the street. This style is not only limited to chaavy moms but their babyless coherts too. It's the new "Chav Style". Dontcha know?

I must admit that some Americans are guilty of this fashion crime as well. If it had to be any nationality, Americans would be the posterchild for slobby dressing. In America, you would spot one or two shopping at Safeway on a late night, but I have never seen so many in one area during the daytime as I do here! It's like a big slumber party out in the street! I'm not surprised that someone will catch on to this trend and design pyjama clothing for outdoor wear. I predict pyjamas will replace the ever popular white track suit soon enough. Pyjama Couture.

So many women in Belfast take their children to and from school while still dressed in their pyjamas that a headmaster has appealed to them to show some respect.

Joe McGuinness, principal of St Matthew’s primary in Short Strand, a Roman Catholic working-class enclave of East Belfast, was moved to action after seeing as many as 50mothers arriving at the school gates in their nightwear.

In a bulletin to parents, Mr McGuinness wrote: “Over recent months the number of adults leaving children at school and collecting children from school dressed in pyjamas has risen considerably.

“While it is not my position to insist on what people wear, or don’t, I feel that arriving at the school in pyjamas is disrespectful to the school and a bad example is set to children.”

Mothers in pyjamas on the school run prove codes that once governed how we dressed in the morning have all but disappeared

Women walking round Belfast estates in all-day pyjama gear is a phenomenon that has been well documented by Robin Livingstone, a columnist in the Andersonstown News, but until now it has been confined to the west of the city.

Mr Livingstone said that he first identified All Day Pyjama Syndrome (ADPS) in 2003. He knows a student at the Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education who is writing a dissertation on the subject.

The women are colloquially known as “pyjama mamas” or “Millies”. Their pyjama ensembles are often complemented by large, gold hoop earrings known as “budgies” – because such cage birds could swing from them. They also sport “scrunchies” to create the “Turf Lodge facelift”, in which the hair is scraped so tightly to the back of the head that it pulls the facial skin taut.

There is even a dress hierarchy among those suffering from APDS: the wearing of silk-effect, baggy pyjamas with fluffy, mule-type slippers contrasts, for example, with the traditional dressing gown and hair rollers.

Mr McGuinness told the Andsersonstown News: “There used to be about 15 to 20 pyjama-wearing parents, but there are anything up to 50 now, and they are all women. People don’t go to see a solicitor, bank manager or doctor dressed in pyjamas, so why do they think it’s OK to drop their children off at school dressed like that? It’s about respect and setting children a bad example.

“There is an old word called slovenliness, which means messy and lazy. I think this can be applied to people who spend the day dressed in pyjamas.”

The Andersonstown News supported Mr McGuinness’s stand in an editorial. “Quite frankly, we believe that Mr McGuinness is absolutely right and we wish other teachers would follow his lead,” the newspaper said.

“Those people all over the city – and they are almost exclusively women – who wear pyjamas as they go about their daily business will argue it is their right to do as they choose and they are breaking no law. Perhaps they do not care what the rest of us think. If so, then they should seriously ask themselves what message they are handing to their children.” -David Sharrock, Times Online

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peace Protest at Belfast City Hall

Thousands stand in silence outside Belfast City Hall in one of a number of rallies across Northern Ireland to protest at the murders of two soldiers and a policeman. Photograph: EPA

When I spoke to my parents back home about the shootings here, they were unphased. My dad said, "And? Police get shot here everyday!". I thought that was callous but I didn't expect them to understand. What they don't know is that just one event can set off another civil war. That is how volatile and fragile this society still is.

I asked Craig if we can go into town for the Protest. Without hesitation he said, "No". Not that he was against it but in the back of his mind he can't help but think what might happen. I didn't want to argue because I know he'll give me a speech about getting caught in the middle of a riot which he has experienced many times as an innocent bystander. He's told me numerous times that just one minor incident can trigger a riot that can escalate very quickly. He even gets paranoid that a riot will ensue walking among the drunkards on the Dublin Road. I don't blame him for looking out for our safety. So I just watched it on tv. I saw people in droves gathered in solidarity to express how much they don't want to relive the past. People holding signs "No more killings" and "No Going Back". Everyone from all walks of life gathered today with one goal in mind...for unity and peace. I can't imagine what people felt. Probably disappointed and confused. A protest like this is unnecessary during a time of peace. Their healing wounds have been reopened and are reminded of the painful memories of the past. They never thought they would go back to this again. But today was the perfect opportunity to show themselves and the rest of the world that Belfast is redefining itself. And that its people will continue to strive for peace because their children and future deserve it.

Dare I say it, but props to loyalist paramilitaries for keeping their heads straight by not retaliating and adding fuel to the fire.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Northern Ireland today for silent vigils to protest against the murders of two soldiers and a policeman by dissident republicans.

Carrying placards reading "No Going Back", more than 2,000 people gathered in front of Belfast City Hall. As a lone bagpiper played a lament, the crowd fell silent for five minutes.

Former paramilitary convicts stood alongside mothers cradling children. Some people wept while others shook hands and offered condolences to police.

Aidan Kane, a paramedic who attended the rally with his six-year-old boy on his shoulders, said he was a Catholic who grew up in an area "where the police were the enemy". But he said: "If my wee lad here wants to be a policeman when he grows up, I'd be proud."

John Batch, 49, told Reuters: "What has happened over the last 10 years should not be surrendered. I grew up through the Troubles in Belfast. I don't want that for my children."

Other vigils were held in Londonderry, Newry, Downpatrick and Lisburn.

Speaking outside Belfast City Hall, Peter Bunting, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which helped organise the protests, said people were delivering a strong message that they did not want a return to bloodshed.

"This lunchtime thousands of citizens are gathering to collectively share moments of silence," he said.

"The trade union movement stands together with all citizens in solidarity to prevent any derailment of the peace process. The callous attacks of the past few days were an assault on every citizen who supports peace.

"Here in Belfast, and in Newry, and in Londonderry, and at spontaneous gatherings across our land, workers and their families are making clear their abhorrence at these murders and the direct threat to the peace process."

Security on the Irish border was tightened today in response to the upsurge in terrorist violence.

Additional checkpoints have been set up on the frontier after a security review by the Garda Siochana. The assistant garda commissioner, Mick Feehan, who heads the force's northern region, has instructed local commanders to increase checkpoints and mobile patrols on the border with Northern Ireland.

Fears of loyalist paramilitary retaliation over Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks subsided today after the Ulster Defence Association ruled out any revenge attacks.

The UDA leader, Jackie McDonald, praised the Sinn Féin MP and deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, for his strong condemnation of the killers.

"The IRA blew the two communities apart during the Troubles but the Real IRA and Continuity have actually united the people like never before," the UDA chief said at today's rally in Belfast.

"There is no place in this society for these people [the dissident republicans] but it's up to the police alone to deal with them," McDonald said. "People on the loyalist side are determined not to fall into any more traps. That's what groups like the Continuity IRA and Real IRA want us to do. There is no reason to go there again and nobody wants to go back. Loyalism has matured an awful lot in recent years."

The UDA commander revealed that the organisation's political allies, the Ulster Political Research Group, held talks this morning with the Sinn Féin mayor of Belfast, Tom Hartley.

Hartley later confirmed that the ground-breaking meeting between himself and the UDA's political voice had taken place, with the aim of calming fears within the loyalist community. He said loyalists had a "very important" role to play in building peace.

The other main loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force, has already made clear its opposition to any return to violence in response to the recent attacks.

During prime minister's questions, Gordon Brown said the murderers should not be allowed to destroy the achievements of the peace process and said today's vigils showed "the unyielding resolution to say with one voice that the peace that the people of Northern Ireland are building no murderers should ever be allowed to destroy".

The prime minister sent his condolences to the families and friends of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, who were shot dead on Saturday, and PC Stephen Carroll, who was killed on Monday. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said the most important thing was that everyone in the province worked with the PSNI to ensure the "callous killers" were caught, charged and convicted.

The pope joined in the condemnation of the killings, describing them as "abominable acts of terrorism" during an address to pilgrims in St Peter's square, Vatican City.

Feehan said that despite the murder of Carroll, there were no plans to withdraw a small number of Garda officers who were working on secondment at the PSNI as part of an exchange programme between the two police forces.

A man, aged 37, and a 17-year-old youth remained in custody today after being arrested in the Craigavon area yesterday. They were being questioned about the Continuity IRA murder of Carroll, the first member of the PSNI to die at the hands of terrorists.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have left for the US after twice postponing their trip because of the murders. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are hoping to persuade US investors to set up businesses in Northern Ireland. During their tour, the DUP and Sinn Féin MPs will attend a St Patrick's Day celebration at the White House hosted by Barack Obama. - Henry McDonald, Esther Addley and Haroon Siddique, guardian.co.uk

Star Trek Predicts Irish Reunification in 2024

Data says that Ireland would be reunified in 2024 as a result of a successful terrorist campaign. Due to what no doubt many people will still consider to be sensitive content, the episode has never been shown on terrestrial TV in UK or in the Republic of Ireland and initial airings on Sky One were edited.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big Eva

While Craig was at work, it was just me and Big Eva in the house. They call her Big Eva (aka The Mom). She is a petite woman. She looks as if she couldn't hurt a fly. But nobody messes with Big Eva because she can knock yer bollix in if she wanted to.

The woman is a cleaning fiend. Her house is spotless, not a speck of dust. It's so clean a baby can lick off the floors. Observing her house, now I know where the boy gets his OCD from. She takes pride in her house being clean. She says, "Your house is a reflection of who you are and I'd hate to think of what people thought of me if I had a dirty house." The woman lives for cleaning. Craig told me one time that the neighbors saw her dusting the window blinds at 3am. "The woman is crazy. It's not normal," he says.

The first heart to heart we had was when Big Eva and I went out for an ice cream on a very warm sunny day back in May. That is the last time I ever felt anything remotely "summer". I was even wearing short sleeves. My short sleeves have been buried underneath sweaters in the bottom drawer, they have never seen the light of day since then. We went to an ice cream parlor down the street that had only two tables against a mirrored wall. I had a banana split with sprinkles and she had a strawberry milkshake. "It's hot isn't it?", she says fanning herself. I told her, "Yeah it's really hot!". "You probably think this is cold compared to the weather you're used to in California." I tell her that California can sometimes reach triple digits. She looked shocked and said that when she was on holiday in Tenerife, she was so hot that she had to stay indoors. She doesn't understand how people can stand that kind of heat.

We continued to eat our refreshments. There was an awkward silence. This is my first one to one with Big Eva. I know she's sizing me up and making sure that I'd be a good wife for her son. I'm not as clean as her so I guess I lost points in that department. Nobody is as clean as her. She continues to talk about Craig. About the funny stuff he did when he was a kid. Surely stories that would embarass the hell out of him if he was sitting here with us.

She asks me about my parents. What do they do. How old are they. I told her how my mom emigrated from the Philippines to the US. How my grandfather was allowed to go to the US because he served the US Army in WWII fighting alongside Americans against the Japanese and how he was in the Bataan death march where the Japanese would just march and march enemy soldiers to death. Someone saved his life when a bystander at the side of the road pushed him into a ravine and he hid under a woman's skirt. When she heard this, she was very intrigued. She wanted to hear more. I told her how my mom experienced hardship and lived her entire childhood in a war. She was the eldest daughter who helped my grandmother take care of her siblings. They were a family wanted by the Japanese because of my grandfather. My grandfather participated in covert operations blowing up bridges, major roads, and Japanese supply camps. So the family ran village to village, slept in the jungle hiding from the Japanese. "The Japanese were cruel and sadistic," I told her. My mother would tell me horror stories about how she witnessed a Japanese soldier grab a baby from a mother's arms, threw it up in the air, and catch it with a bayonette. "That's awful," she says. Japanese soldiers would also go into household and rape women. There was one time when my mom was around the age of 15. Japanese were raiding the households. My grandmother was afraid for my mom so she rolled her in a bamboo mat and set the mat at the corner of the room. Big Eva had no words, she just shook her head in disbelief.

"So, how did your mom end up in America?," she asks. I told her that she came to America through my grandfather. At the time she was married to my dad and my brother was 6 months old. She had to lie that she wasn't married otherwise she wouldn't be able to go to the states. She left my dad and had to leave my brother behind. She didn't trust my dad back then because he was young and hung out with the bad crowd and drank alot. He was in a gang or you could say Filipino mafia. So my mom left my brother in a convent that was run by Irish nuns. At the time, there was no choice for my mom, even though she had a degree in nursing, there were no jobs. So she went to the States for a better life. She worked 4 jobs and sent money to my brother. "As a nurse?", she asks. I tell her, "No, back then coloured people were not allowed to hold white collar jobs." So she worked oddjobs as a waitress in a cafe, an usher at a Chinese movie theater, picking flowers in a field, peeling onions in a Woolworth's basement. Anything, really. Then time passed, she recieved a letter from one of the nuns saying that a couple from New York wanted to adopt my brother. My mom panicked and didn't know what to do. It just so happened that the Irish nun had family in Oakland and it was time for her holiday. They are allowed vacation every 7 years. She offered to take my brother with her as a visitor. My mom hired an immigration lawyer and worked on the papers when my brother got there and was allowed to stay. He was 4 at the time. Then 3 years later my dad came along. My mom straightened him out. He stopped drinking and smoking. She made him get his degree in accounting so he can get a good job. Big Eva laughed at this. And then I was born. My parents were separated for 7 years before my dad came to the States.

"Seven years?!?, she says shocked, Your mom is very strong. I can't imagine leaving my children behind. I certainly don't have stories like that to tell." "But", she whispers,"It was brilliant when I was growing up back then. Catholics and Protestants didn't have a problem with each other. We lived side by side. Then the Troubles happened."

She continued to talk about her experiences during The Troubles. How they had checkpoints everywhere. And as she continued, the volume of her voice got fainter and fainter and was drowning out from the fans. But I listened intently and I felt sort of privileged that she was divulging this information to me and wary at the same time because she was discussing this in public. She talks about The Troubles in these faint whispers like it were a contagious disease.

She continues, "I remember one night when everyone was sleeping. I woke up when I heard glass break and smelled smoke. I went down and saw that someone had thrown a petrol bomb in our house. I had to get everyone out of the house, my two brothers, mum and dad. Everyone was moving out because of this. We had to move up near Glencairn. It was a good thing I didn't have my boys yet. I wouldn't have wanted them to experience this. That is just the way it was back then."

That is just the way it was she says. The Troubles were an inconvenience. She would complain about the checkpoints going into town and getting searched. She said it was such a bother and an inconvenience, she just needed to get her shopping done. How much it was of an inconvenience to get her windows replaced every week because someone would throw a brick in it. She remembered the day it was announced that Bobby Sands died. She was worried for her sons. They were playing outside and she didn't want to have them get caught in the middle of rioting. She screamed for them to come inside and as stubborn as Craig was, he just wanted to play. "That boy was stubborn as a mule," she says laughing. But never once did she say anything bad about Catholics. Never. She wished that it was like the brilliant days when everybody got along and it didn't matter whether you were Catholic or Protestant. This is the reason why she put her youngest in an integrated school, so she can learn to get along with others.

I admire Big Eva, she could have been caught up in the contagious Troubles disease. But she never bought it, she refused to have a part in it. She could have raised her children to hate the other side but she didn't. As with any mother, she just wanted her family to be safe and out of harm's way. She did a pretty good job in raising her son and I tell her this. She laughs and says, "Craig was always a good boy. He was quiet, so he was. I could have had six of him."

"It's gotten better now," she says in her faint whisper, "much better now than it was 20 years ago. I hope it stays this way."

This is Not on Seriously!

A policeman was shot in the head yesterday at Craigavon 20 miles outside of Belfast. As if the 2 soldiers weren't enough? Remember the post about what I said about PSNI? This is a prime example.

And why the heck did it take Sinn Fein 12 hours to release a statement after the first shooting?

I'm so done with this shit.

Captain Planet Saves Belfast

Thanks to Captain Planet, Catholic Sean and Protestant Stewart unite Northern Ireland by opening a bakery together. Awwwwww :D

Monday, March 9, 2009

This is How They Deal with 'Stuff' Around Here

The mom asked me if I noticed the neighborhood being quiet lately. I never noticed it before but come to think of it, yes it has been eerily quiet. I can actually have a good night's sleep without being awaken by drunken tirades echoing throughout the whole neighborhood and people breaking bottles. This is nothing new. Worse has happened on this street such as someone getting their head kicked in by a mob. Not sure if it's the same crowd but ever since then in the wee hours of the night, there's always some LOUD argument going on outside whether it be a pack of girls or a pack of guys.

She told me that the reason why it's quiet is because of a certain U to the V to the F told a woman and her two sons to leave their house. They didn't put up a fight, just left. I'd hate to think what would happen if they refused to leave. Most likely not good. This is how they deal with stuff around here.

I don't know what it is about the PSNI that people have an issue with. Maybe it's the lack of response time (see this post), maybe from a loyalist's perspective it's because they have too many Catholics on the force, or complete distrust, disdain, and absence of respect from the republican side. For the longest time, whenever a crime occurred on the Falls or any other Catholic area, Gerry Adams (from Sinn Fein) urged witnesses to come forward to "a family member, a solicitor, or any other authoritative or reputable person or body". Notice he never addressed the PSNI? It was a way of indirectly discounting them and repudiating their authority. The PSNI seems like a useless entity especially on this side of town. But you get the gist; the "boys" rule and they do the majority of policing around their own areas. It kind of gives you an idea how much stronghold and power they have in this society which is kind of scary.

As for the family that was kicked out of their house, who knows for sure if they had anything to do with the same chavvy crowd bringing chaos to the neighborhood. All I know is, it is sure quiet in these here parts and I can finally get a good night's sleep.

Sidenote: Sinn Fein are now members of the policing board.


Despite what happened last night, it was just a typical Sunday. People here at the house aren't glued to the tv watching updates on the latest news or aren't interested in recapping a blow by blow of what happened.

Like any other day, mom cleaned the house from top to bottom and tended to the Sunday roast in the oven. The wee sister hung out with her friends. The stepdad parked in front of the tv watching a movie. The boy took a nap coming home from work while I plow away at reading.

It's like nothing ever happened and why make a fuss? There's nothing for them to do but shake their heads and say, "Not this...again?". Then they get on with life.

But honestly, if it were the other way around and soldiers shot the "republican dissidents", I think there would be some reason for concern.

The story completely changes when the tables are turned.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

There's Always Some ASSHOLE Who Ruins It for Everyone!!!

Just when you think everyone in Northern Ireland is finally at a stage where they can sit back, relax and get on with their lives, this shit happens:

Two army personnel were shot dead during a drive-by shooting at an army base in Co Antrim last night, raising fears that the grim spectre of terrorism has returned to haunt Northern Ireland.

Two more military personnel were wounded along with two civilians in what is believed to be the first major terrorist attack in the province for over a decade. All four are said to be in a "serious" condition.

The shootings occurred at the Massereene Army base in Antrim, 16 miles north of Belfast, at 21.40 last night. It is understood that a car or van pulled up outside the main gates. Soldiers and security staff thought pizzas were being delivered and walked straight into an ambush.

Read more from The Observer

This saddens me. It really does. But to tell you the truth, I saw something like this coming. Everything I've read about The Troubles, social unrest escalated at the highest point of unemployment at the lowest period of the economy. And guess what, people? We're in a recession! When people don't have jobs to go to, what else is there to do?

But still, it isn't an excuse to resort to violence. When will they learn that violence doesn't solve anything? Haven't they learned it hasn't worked for oh say...the past few hundred years?!?!

I'm kind of freaked out now. I actually have nervous knots in my stomach and I feel like I want to puke! I hope they nip this in the bud soon and catch those terrorists. I'm sure most of the good people in Belfast agree that what they did was a very stupid, stupid, stupid act. My fingers are crossed that everyone in the city stays safe.

UPDATE: The reason for their attack was in retaliation for the SAS being sent to NI to gather intelligence on Real IRA.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Same Product, Different Brand

Hmmm...One of the two definitely needs to revamp their marketing strategy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fenian Steak

From the kitchen, wafted a pleasant smell. I asked Craig what he's got on the cooker and he said, "Fenian Steak accompanied with grilled asparagus, roasted baby tomatoes, and parsley buttered red potatoes." Haha! I love how I've turned my Ulsterman into a bonafied food snob. To think, last year he couldn't even boil water! The only thing he could cook was potnoodles in the microwave. And now he wouldn't even dare dream of eating processed food, everything has to be made from fresh ingredients from scratch. We hardly even eat out any more because we would always find ourselves disappointed with almost every restaurant we go to and find it a waste dropping the extra cash for crap food. He has become very picky about how this doesn't taste right, something is missing from the dish. I think he has a more sensitive palate than I do. Observing him at restaurants makes me crack up. He sounds like a pretentious food critic, a regular Gordon Ramsay.

To top it all off, the Proddie is cooking Fenian Steak on a Friday?!?

Fenian steak is a term used amongst Irish Catholics referring to fish. Catholics are not allowed to eat red meat on Fridays during Lent as a form of Penance, the only meat they are allowed to eat on Fridays is fish.

*BTW Fenian is a derogatory name for a Roman Catholic but when used amongst Catholics it's a compliment (i.e. unrepentant fenian bastard). To call a Catholic a "taig" is also an insult. If you're not Catholic and you address them with either of these words, they will give you something to be repentant about. Just sayin' :)

Paul Rankin in the Shitter

Paul Rankin, Belfast's Michelin star celebrity chef, the man responsible for putting Northern Ireland on the culinary map, is facing hard times. He owes £1m on back taxes. I've only eaten at one of his cafe chains, Cafe Paul Rankin. He was forced to sell it off along with his other chain of brasseries.

What bad timing for him, to have all of your businesses fall to shit in a middle of an economic recession! I guess he's not alone, but owing £1M in back taxes? The fault lays with him and not knowing how to manage his business. That's a bummer. I kind of like the guy. I was first introduced to him when I saw him featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Ever since then, I've wanted to dine at his signature restaurant, Cayenne. Now there are threats of Cayenne folding too! I hope he can save it, Belfast needs him! He was the culinary pioneer who introduced fine dining to Northern Ireland and his restaurant Roscoff was the first ever Michelin star for Belfast! He always had an optimistic outlook for Belfast and Northern Ireland and proved that Belfast was rising from the rubble and becoming the hip, cultured, and cosmopolitan city it should be. My fingers are crossed for him.

Wouldn't it be hilarious if Cayenne ended up on Kitchen Nightmares? Imagine Gordon Ramsay up in Paul Rankin's face telling him that his food is dogshit. Knives would be flying. That would make for good television!

Celebrity chef Paul Rankin and his business partner wife Jeanne owe more than £1m to the taxman, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

The couple — who owned 13 eateries and employed 500 staff at the height of their success — are now fighting to save their final and signature restaurant Cayenne after running up massive debts.

The well-known pair — who have ploughed much of their fortune into reinventing Northern Ireland’s culinary scene over the past 20 years — saw their debts rise as they “prioritised” staff salaries and other costs to keep a number of former businesses running until buyers were found.

But the sales of those businesses were not as lucrative as expected and they now find themselves unable to meet the accumulated debts owed to both the Inland Revenue and other creditors.

As previously reported by the Belfast Telegraph, the Rankins are currently working with professional advisers to reach an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) with their creditors in relation to debts.

A spokeswoman for the couple said: “The debts in the business which have entered an IVA would expect to be in excess of £1m with the vast majority of this due to the taxman by way of VAT, PAYE and other taxes.”

“The situation was that staff salaries and other key money costs were prioritised to keep the businesses running smoothly until buyers were found.

“The sale of the businesses in the depressed market meant the knock down prices achieved were not adequate to meet the debt. The IVA is being funded by Paul Rankin personally and it is expected that creditors will receive 52p in the pound.”

The couple have been struggling against mounting debts since 2006. Last year the well-known TV chef — who received Northern Ireland’s first Michelin Star — was forced to sell off his Roscoff Brasserie and Rankin cafe chain in a bid to ease financial difficulties.

And in 2006 he sold three Rankin Cafes and his Rain City restaurant on Belfast's Malone Road.

At that time Mr Rankin — who frequently appears on the BBC TV programme Ready Steady Cook and has penned cook books — said he wanted to concentrate on Cayenne, his signature restaurant in Belfast. - from Belfast Telegraph

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blog Update: Recent Comments

I've put a recent comments feature on the sidebar for easy access. You can find it right under the Archives.

I'm noticing that you're clicking into posts to check your comment feedback which can be a P.I.T.A. Hope this makes it easier for everyone.

Ryanair: The Ongoing Farce

What's up with Ryanair? Looks like they're having a tough time. Imposter twitter accounts and toilet fees? What's next?....

Click to enlarge.

Senator Ted Kennedy Recieves Honorary Knighthood

Gerry Adams (left) with Senator Ted Kennedy.

It was announced yesterday that Queen Elizabeth II will award Ted Kennedy knighthood for his "services to strengthen British-American relationships and his involvment in the Northern Ireland peace process. Excuse me for my ignorance, but how has he contributed to the peace process by expressing sympathies for the IRA (they say allegedly but give me a break it was so obvious)and pissing off many Protestants when "he called for the immediate withdrawal of the Army, claiming that Protestants who could not accept a united Ireland should be given a decent opportunity to go back to Britain"? The only redeeming thing he's done was diss Gerry Adams when he visited the States "for St Patrick's Day in 2005 in protest at the IRA murder of Catholic Robert McCartney who was brutally beaten in a Belfast pub." Ted found this the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the world that, "No I don't support the IRA or Sinn Fein" when it is a well known fact that the Kennedy family has a long history of supporting IRA terrorism. Public 'assumption' believes that he backed the IRA with his financial support, but no evidence to prove this.

In my opinion, considering his stellar track record, he's not exactly a prime candidate to be honored anything or as far as Northern Ireland is concerned.

Lets look at Ted Kennedy's legacy:

1) Caught twice for cheating in college.

2) Led a lifetime of selfishness- adultery, alcoholism and hard drug use.

3) Committed felony manslaughter & then bullied the victim's family and the local authorities, escaping justice and 20 years in prison that anyone else would have been punished, never going to prison for his crime- abandoning a young lady to drown so he could sober up and try to claim he was not there...

4) Ted's senate legacy is raising the minimum wage for high school students.

5) Father, Joe, the Irish mafia racketeer betrayed the U.K. to the nazi movement, when he was UK diplomat, during WWII.

6) Lived off of his criminal father's blood-money, never earning a dime by hard work.

But, Ted Kennedy has always carried the socialist flag, SO, all his human failures, his lifetime of cheating, lying and abuse of power, his legacy of supporting socialism, his shameful arrogance as one of the biggest hypocrites of our political lifetime doesn't matter, BUT Teddy carries the socialist flag! Therefore, everything negative he has ever done is over-looked if he kneels at the altar of socialism and kiss Hollywood's brown ring! -Politics Forum, Yahoo

Has the Queen lost her mind?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My 5 Second Rant on Anti-American Sentiment

I am annoyed that whenever I get into a conversation with someone from another country about the United States, they always assume you're George W.'s personal errand boy and agree with every weird move the U.S. has ever made.

And the truth is, not everything you see on TV about the U.S. represents all it's people. There are a whole lot of people there with a whole lot of different opinions. To stereotype the whole country is just as bad as stereotyping any other group.

It's small minded, dismissive and annoying.

End of Rant. I feel much better now. Back to your regularly scheduled programming...

What Do Southies Think of Northies?

When I first visited the Republic of Ireland back in 2005, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. It was exactly the way you would imagine Ireland to be, green, lots of sheep, castles, fiddle-dee-dee music, and very friendly people. Really good craic! People so friendly that once you step in the pub, within 5 seconds locals would come up to you, buy you a pint, and automatically welcome you as an honorary member of their family.

Ever since I returned to the States, I 've had sporadic communication with my friend who I met on that Ireland trip. She is a Dubliner and damn proud of it. When I first got here, I called her and told her the news that I am in the UK. She asked where, and I said, "Belfast!". I could have sworn she fell to the floor in disbelief because I heard a very loud thump. "Belfast?!? Why on earth would anyone want to go there??!?". Of course, she was joking. Er...maybe not?

In a recent email exchange with her, I asked what people in the South think of people in the North. Her reply was:

We think of them just as much as Americans think of Canadians. We don't, really. Imagine that Ireland is one big house. The Northies are the rambunctious children whose room is always a mess. As long as they keep their door closed and don't spread their mess to other parts of the house, we don't care what they do. They also seem to think that our roads don't have speed limits!

In-ter-es-ting analogy! Although, it is untrue about the American vs. Canadian bit. We thought about Canada all the time for 8 years when the idiot was in office.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

56 Things I Love About Living in Belfast

Awhile back in my homesick stage, I wrote a post about missing San Francisco. The following is a list (in no particular order) about what I would miss about Belfast:

1) Living in Stranmillis away from the rowdy students, of course. I love the treelined streets, the close proximity to the University, the arm's length distance to Centra, cafes, and restaurants. And the feeling of being free to be yourself and just live your life, unlike some places in West Belfast. :/

2) Sitting outside of Sinnamon people watching, and devouring fluffy airy belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Yumm-o! As Rachel Ray would say.

3) Queen's University and the Library

4) Lagan Towpath on a clear Sunday morning, a double treat watching rowers cross underneath the King's Bridge.

5) Botanic Gardens - especially the rose garden on a sunny day. Chilling on the grass watching people do Tai Chi, play frisbee or football, rollerblading, etc.

6) Lagan Meadows - a place to soak in nature, bird watch, and hike the trails, a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

7) Lisburn Road peppered with it's chic and sophisticated shops, cafes, posh restaurants, Tesco, Marks and Sparks Simply Food, the best sandwiches at the Yellow Door, gelato, a healthfood store, and that home decor shop where I can't afford anything.

8) Crescent Arts Center which offers classes from traditional Irish music to Irish language lessons and dance.

9) My bodhran teacher, he rocks!

10) Kelly's Cellars and Madden's Bar - great places for sessions (traditional Irish music)

11) The Black Box - great venue to catch a concert very intimate and great sound. Auntie Annie's is another one.

12) The Grand Opera House - inside is gorgeous, and a great place to watch a play or a show (except for Magic of the Pants)

13) The Merchant Hotel- Victorian opulence at its finest, a place where you feel like you're stepping back in time. I still have yet to do the afternoon tea here.

14) Feile an Phobail - West Belfast's community festival with , music shows, workshops, lectures and a drive-in movie theater!

15) Snack Food - Cadbury's Mini Rolls, Tunnock's Tea Cakes (Holy Shit, I love you!), Galaxy, Flake, Smarties, Minstrels, Parma Violets, Sensations Vintage Cheddar & Red Onion Chutney, McCoy's Grilled Steak and Onion, Coronetto, Cornish Ice Cream, Rowntree Fruit Pastilles, Malteasers, Curly Wurly, Crunchie, Ripple, Aero, Kit Kat in Cappuccino, Kit Kat in Mint, Kit Kat Orange (the states don't have these flavors), fairy cakes, Cadbury fingers, Revels, Gateau, Strawberry Bio Yogurt.

16) Grade A Irish Beef - Need I say more?

17) Potatoes - They just taste better here

18) Irish Soda bread and creamy, potato, leek, and bacon soup

19) Craig's mom's Sunday Roast dinners and her Irish stew

20) Craig's mom :)

21) Barry's or Nambarrie Tea

22) Nando's

23) British commercials

24) Big Brother

25) Documentaries on BBC4

26) Botanic Avenue - hipster hotspot with funky cafes, restaurants, used book stores, vintage clothing shops, pseudo-intellects, bohemians, goths, alternatives, and emos.

27) Topshop and Next - Shoes, shoes, shoes galore!

28) Primark (UK's version of Target) and the British version of the Dollar Tree I forget the name but I always call it the cheapo store.


30) Comparison price grocery shopping with MySupermarket.com & Tesco online delivery service, and extra 10% discount - we saved a shitload on groceries because of this

31) Honey Chili Chicken and Mongolian Beef from the Red Panda

32) Tom Yum Kha at Thai Tanic

33) Chicken Pakora at Sahara (the only place that delivers until 4am!)

34) St. George's Market on Saturday - local produce, seafood, meats, fresh baked goods, burritos, german curry wurst, paella, super giant crepes, the only place where you can get a decent cup of coffee, fresh roasted coffee beans of all flavors for only £1!!!

35) The Northern Whig (a shopaholic's rest stop) for their soups and mixed drinks. They make a tasty White Russian here. Another one is the Apartment, make sure you go upstairs and sit beside the huge glass windows overlooking the view of city hall.

36) VIP at Storm Cinema

37) Motorcycle trips along the Antrim Coast - absolutely breathtaking!

38) Giant's Causeway on a clear day you can see Scotland

39) Belfast Aye

40) People work to live not live to work.

41) People can take the piss out of each other without taking everything so seriously.

42) People are down-to-earth and don't care about status or keeping up appearances. They really don't give a shite about what other people think!

43) People are warm, friendly, generous, and accommodating. Once you get to know them, they'd give you the shirt off their backs.

44) I like how you can go to posh places and not feel intimidated. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual unlike some places in San Francisco where everyone acts all snotty.

45) Lots of interesting characters around who are good craic!

46) They can tell a truly good joke and can engage in friendly banter. Let's not forget their colourful and creative use of the English language.

47) Their family values. More so than the states, this is saying a lot.

48) Ridiculously cheap air fares to other Euro countries.

49) Dublin and Galway (one of my top five fave cities) are a train ride away.

50)The kind and warm citizens of Fanore in the Burren. Yeah I know not in Belfast, not even in Norn Iron but who cares it's my list. They deserve recognition.

51) The stunning backdrop of the Mourne Mountains

52) The NHS...where private prescriptions are only $7.00 not $500!!

53) The Crown Saloon because it's pretty inside and a great place to grab a pint and snog with your SO in the snug.

54) Queen's Film Theater - a venue with a fine selection of independent and foreign film. You can also have a glass of wine with your popcorn.

55) Strolling through the cobblestone lined streets of the Cathedral Quarter, historic and cultural heart of Belfast. The streets are lined with trendy cafes, nightclubs, pubs, and fascinating architecture. Oh and St. Anne's Cathedral is here.

56) And last but not least...

Lady! Possibly the coolest dog known to mankind

Monday, March 2, 2009

Norn Iron News From Across the Pond

A short film written, directed, and produced by Queen's University graduate, Conor Clements. This is the first film from Northern Ireland to be premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

James has learnt to be withdrawn and secretive in a family with long buried secrets. Lonely and confused, he is drawn to one of his schoolteachers, Mr Sutherland, focusing on him as the one person who might understand his inner turmoil. When an older man approaches him in a public toilet, James panics and calls his mother, but refuses to tell her what happened. Late that night, James listens to his parents arguing about him. His fathers offhanded dismissal of his mothers concern results in a vicious row. When a devastated James turns to Mr. Sutherland for help, the teachers response leads James to take an irrevocable step.

The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival held in the US and takes place annually in Utah. Sundance is the premiere showcase for American and international independent filmmakers. It is about time talented filmmakers from Northern Ireland are finally being recognized on the other side of the pond and it's refreshing to see subject matter other than political/religious strife that has typecasted Northern Ireland for so long. Time for something new!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Two Filums From Belfast

A scene from Divorcing Jack showing Belfast's colourful dialect.(Wear headphones NSFW)

Divorcing Jack is an excellent film that for once has shown the lighter side of Belfast coupled with its ever-present dark side, although the portrayal of the paramilitaries and security forces in Belfast was not totally realistic. However this did not take away from the film, as it is more about the situation the star 'Dan Starky' has gotten himself into more than the political situation in Northern Ireland. The cast was excellent especially David Thewlis and Laura Fraser who both had great performances, also they got the accent perfectly. Have a look at it, its well worth it, very funny. -www.imdb.com

50 Dead Men Walking (Released October 2008)

Based on Martin McGartland's shocking real life story, Martin is a young lad from West Belfast in the late 1980s who is recruited by the British Police to spy on the IRA. He works his way up the ranks as a volunteer for the IRA whilst feeding information to his British handler and saving lives in the process; until one day he is exposed, captured and tortured to within an inch of his life. He escaped dramatically by throwing himself from a tower block window and is still in hiding today. -www.imdb.com