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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pin8

On rare occasions, it's possible to find yourself in the right place at the right time. Like the day we arrived in Santiago and General Pinochet died. We first noticed folk gathering around the TV in the bar we were in, who kindly informed us of the former dictator's death, and that crowds were gathering in Plaza Italia. We couldn't miss an experience like this, so off we trotted up the road.

There's definitely something going on here...



How do we get past the riot police and join the fun?
Why, just pose for a picture then squeeze past.

It was what's known in Spanish as a "fiesta"


The "PIN8" on the banner means "Pin-ocho", a pun on the name of lying puppet of folklore

Everyone was in a really good mood...

...even though The Disappeared on this banner failed to have the man responsible for their murder brought to justice.

And of course, Socialists were out in force

It ain't a fiesta without a sound system pumping out some bangin' latin tunes

We thought this guy might have been tortured by the regime because of the scars all over his body, but on closer investigation they appeared self-inflicted - they all follow the direction of a blade held in the right hand. One way of emerging from crack induced paranoia is to self harm, not that I'm saying this lively chap was ever a crackhead.


And here's the man himself, surveying the crowds celebrating his demise (just out of shot on the right). Notice there's only two coppers guarding the monument from any potential desecrators. Remarkably well behaved, the Chileans.

Shortly after this my friends got so uncontrollably drunk they disappeared. Ironic, really. They all turned up eventually, only one of them bloodstained after being chased by riot police (they didn't catch him; he just fell over when running away). It was a great start to three weeks of craziness...
Any comments? 2

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Boom


Terrorists struck the UK last week, firebombing several stores in Belfast, including JJB Sports in Ann Street. As these were the kind of terrorists that the government prefer to ignore (not like the scary front page-grabbing Muslim type), the organisation that committed the bombing wasn't even afforded the dignity of being named, instead being labeled under the catch-all of "dissident republicans". In the past, a statement would have been issued by the terrorists justifying their actions. No explanation has been forthcoming as yet, and I doubt there will; perhaps starving these chaps of the oxygen of publicity is some kind of government/media conspiratorial tactic, or perhaps everyone is bored of this shite by now.

In other news, a near naked
Uncle Andy and Da were spotted stealing a mannequin from a posh shop on Wellington Place.

Bloody criminals everywhere...
Any comments? 2

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sleb

Sure isn't it himself?

Minor media scrum + Belfast = Tribal Leader; in this case Big Aul Ian P is doing the pontificating.
Any comments? 0

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Singles

An old friend from Rathcoole MSNed me last week, suggesting we go to Bar Seven's Singles Night on Thursday night. Now I've never had the pleasure of visiting the Odyssey, and a night out with "a 21 - something crowd skilled at being as effortlessly cool as the surroundings"1 seemed a more attractive option than crying and wanking in front of ITV1 all night. Again. Who knows, I may even meet my future life partner. Maybe it was the excitement of this prospect that brought on the nausea as I entered the pavilion.

Deborah, manager for the evening explained the rules: men are assigned either a Tom Cruise or a Simon Cowell sticker, women are labelled either Sharon Osbourne, Zoe Lucker, Sharon Stone or Victoria Beckham, and everyone is given a little pad of post-it notes. You are instructed to wander around and note the table number of those who possess an agreeable countenance, compose a message for your potential beau and stick it to the wall of love, whereupon the MC (Citybeat's Robin Elliot) will read it out later in the evening. For example, "Simon Cowell of Table 21 thinks that to look upon Zoe Lucker on Table 36 is to receive a glimpse of heaven", or "Victoria Beckham, Table 36 would gladly suck the farts out of the arse of Tom Cruise, Table 21". Of course, it is perfectly reasonable to expect the moderate drinkers of Belfast to remained seated at the same table throughout the course of the evening.

Time wore on and the odds were not looking good: by 11pm there were 63 men present and 23 women. By fortunate coincidence, my friend received a text from a cuttie he had been courting over the Internet, who was in Budda. As this bar is also within the complex, he suggested we meet her and her friends. In the interest of an objective review I insisted we stay until the first party game was over, which MC Rob was in the process of organising. Five women were invited to the dancefloor and instructed to bring a man they had never met before. The grand prize of a bottle of "champagne" was awarded to the first couple to snog for 10 seconds (tongues mandatory). We were out the door before the stomach churning spectacle was over.

Oddly enough, despite the apparent availability of free love in Bar Seven, an incredible crowd of people were queueing up to get into Bambu Beach Club. No surprise really; it's been described as "Sodom and Gomorrah" by someone whose opinion I trust. And evidently the good folk of Belfast are keen for a bit of bacchanalian debauchery, even on a school night. Our sojourn into Budda was cut short by my mate making a hasty exit. He had spotted his web mistress and unfortunately her body mass index was above his tolerance threshold. He had been deceived by the phenomenon known as "Internet Disease" where old, faded, blurred or otherwise non-descript photographs of oneself, taken with bad lighting and at awkward angles are used to make you appear more attractive to people online. Exposing ourselves to the diverse scruples of the occupants back at Bar Seven now seemed like a reasonable option.

We caught MC Rob reading some messages of love, most were unspecific and along the lines of "hot gal wants a hot guy with a hot car and loads of money", an indictment of the unachievable aspirations of so many people today. What would a guy like that be doing in Bar Seven anyway? Not competing in the Full Monty game that's for sure. Poor skinny Damian had no chance of winning, not with his extra large Primark pants; the guy with the muscles was bound to win, and garnered squeals of delight after performing some press ups and exposing his ass. Proof if needs be we are definitely descended from monkeys.

What exactly are the expectations of the punters here? Wandering among the uniforms of Diesel, Replay and stripey millionaire shirts, I gathered a few opinions: Alison (civil servant) reckoned there was about a 1% chance of her finding a fella here, but it would be nice if she did. Allen (construction) was only here because he couldn't get into the Beach Club. He didn't hold out much chance of finding love, as the women were better looking and younger in the Beach Club. Sarah-Jo and Kate (both retail) came after receiving flyers; Kate reckoned her chances of pulling were very slim, Sarah-Jo said hers were very high, but she had a boyfriend so she couldn't. Poor Sarah-Jo was obscenely groped by Anthony (Liverpudlian, civil servant) during the Dirty Dancing competition, but didn't really mind that much. Anthony didn't make much sense, but recited an impressive garage rap for me, but sadly it didn't segue effortlessly with the Abba track that was playing at the time. Anthony also proudly showed me a picture of his girlfriend, who he was moving in with next month. Lovely.

So after having my notes checked for defamatory comments by the efficacious Deborah, it was time to leave. The inevitable consequence of siting a complex full of bars in a remote location is a hideous melee of drunks fighting for taxis at closing time. The crowd was massive, the roaring mob punctuated by breaking glass and stern warnings issued by PSNI in their unfriendly uniforms. A walk home was the only realistic option, and after following well trodden tracks through shrubbery and along a footpathless section of carriageway, the nausea finally lifted. I was home and ready for another little cry at the state of the society we live in. And a wank.
Any comments? 5

Progress

YouTube is great. Do a search for "Belfast" and you'll get loads of joyriding videos and this progressive thinking tolerant chap.

Any comments? 1

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Parade Ref No. 25991

The No. 9 Whiterock Parade in Belfast today blah blah etc.

Some Orangemen want to walk along a bit of road some nationalists don't want them to.
Compromise was imposed by the Parades Commission by allowing one orange lodge to march along the road. Neither party were happy.


It was a disgrace: not only were the children dropping rubbish in the street, GROWN MEN were discarding empty tins upon the pavement. There's a £50 fine for littering in Belfast, and not one of the policemen present bothered to lift a finger.

Otherwise, it was a very well behaved protest, due in no small part to some very active middle aged men who told people to behave, and surprisingly, they obeyed. Of course, I wouldn't like to speculate on what organisation these men belong to. The only excitement was provided by two sunburnt old soaks who shambled up to the front of the crowd to feebly shout "Get te fuck ye murderin' bastards!", whereupon a portly grey-haired gent in jeans and a fleece retorted "Oi! Go home. Now". And the sunburnt old soaks sheepishly slinked back to their 3 litre bottles of cider. And apart from the descriptions of obscene violence that some observers wished upon members of a community they share a lot in common with, this was a most agreeable protest.

Just so you know, here's a map of the route of the parade. The stripey bit is the contentious bit (well, it was the bit of road the single lodge walked before meeting up with the rest of the parade)
Any comments? 2

Monday, June 05, 2006

Seasonal

Summer is always an exciting time in Belfast, and (apart from rioting, which is a summer sport- a bit like cricket) nothing marks the arrival of summer more than the appearance of bunting on the lamppost. But how does it get there? Is there some kind of Loyalist Santa that sprays Union Jacks from his sac?

Um... no.

At great personal risk, I can exclusively reveal that a burly tattooed man standing upon a pallet on top of an extended fork lift truck dresses the street. A burly tattooed man ably assisted by three other burly tattooed men, and their burly children.



Now, the health and safety executive would have something to say about the method employed by these gents, but realistically, who would want to tell them to stop what they're doing?

Aside from the casual disregard in which these chaps hold their own safety, there appears to have been a progressive development which adds a veneer of modernity: the hanging banners now attract corporate sponsorship. For example, when admiring a fine vista of King William crossing the Boyne on his white charger, one can plan to break fast at the Peppercorn Cafe; or one can look upon a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, brought to you by the patriotic Longfellow Arms Public House. I'm sure she'll be pleased.
Any comments? 2

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Uncooked


There are several good reasons to refrain from calling professional wrestling "fake": pro wrestlers regularly suffer from the same type of severe injuries endured by competitors of other contact sports; it's unlikely you would be able to pull off the stunts that these behemoths routinely perform 52 weeks of the year; and if one of them heard you call it "fake" they would pound you through floor. So, in future, if anyone suggests it's "fake" in your presence, push your tongue behind your bottom lip at them. And if there are children present, immediately inform the transgressor they are wrong. But sadly, there is no longer any need to add credence to your opinion by going to see the WWE when they are in town.

See, in this country, most people's exposure to professional wrestling is maybe a two minute segment when they're flicking through their channels on a Saturday morning. And most rational people over the age of 10 will tell you it's shit, then flick back to Saturday Kitchen/Dick and Dom. But there was a period in the late 90s when wrestling wasn't shit: the WWF had hired some decent scriptwriters and introduced edgier, reality-based storylines; the simple morality play wrestling had become was turned on its head by Stone Cold Steve Austin, who piledrived the traditional Heel (bad guy) versus Babyface (good guy) dynamic. Your friends would give you stick for enjoying wrestling, but after watching some 'Attitute' era footage they'd realise it was no longer the childish pantomime it once was. Perhaps they might even think it wasn't that bad after all. This success pumped up a grand ambition for the World Wrestling Federation chairman Vince McMahon, and over the following years his rival promoters were either bought out or went bankrupt (apart from the one opponent the WWF couldn't pin: the World Wildlife Fund had inconveniently trademarked the acronym WWF). By 2002 the rechristened WWE had no competitors, and the market forces within a monopoly ensured the predictable outcome: a phenomenal drop in quality, ratings and sales.

This was none more evident when WWE RAW rumbled into The Odyssey Arena on 24th April. Naming the event after the show broadcast on Monday nights duped punters into believing the same production values would be in effect, but alas, there were no TV cameras, no TitanTron, and no pyrotechnics. Then there was the lack of "promos", where the wrestler lays out the stakes for the upcoming bout and defines his persona, giving the audience reasons to love or hate him. The storylines that added a touch of soap opera to proceedings were once incorporated into these promos, but for now 'Sports Entertainment' seems to have lost some of what made it entertaining in the first place. What transpired was a production line of beefcakes swaggering out to the ring, performing their tamest and least injury prone moves for 15 minutes before limping backstage triumphant/vanquished. Worse still was the insulting roster of non-entities and old codgers dragged up to distract us hicks; case in point: Ric Flair. Surely wrestling is no way for a 57 year old to be earning a living. At least the predominantly male audience had the pleasure of witnessing a celebration of 700 years of published feminism in the form of a 6-way WWE Diva elimination bout, when cosmetically altered, spandex-clad women battered each other for oh, at least 10 minutes (a little under-represented in a 2 1/2 hour show, perhaps?)

Which brings us to the fans... as mentioned, most were male and of those a fair proportion were dads accompanying wee boys (but with the cheapest tickets priced at £20 it made a costly night out for any family). The rest were, I'm sad to say, geeky young men. The kind of geek that could tell you all about Iran's nuclear program but get a boner the instant a woman enters the room; the kind whose constant leering forced the MC to cover her backside with her cue cards every time she entered or left the ring. The aggressive sexuality of the fans stands at odds with the elephant in the ring most devotees choose to ignore: ever since naked Spartans rolled around in the dirt in ancient times, wrestling has possessed a homoerotic aspect, and feats of strength and homoeroticism have always had a timeless quality (cf Stallone, Schwarzenegger). The macho image wrestlers portray react with predictable violence to intimations of homosexuality, but the WWE is a business that relies on it's ability to sell interest in large sweaty men rolling around on a mat. It would not be unfair to say that some of the men who pay this kind of money to see what is essentially a live action Tom of Finland comic book may have some issues.

So there you have it: the WWE was once good and is now shit. If you must watch wrestling go and see Ulster Championship Wrestling: it won't look like two ants fighting on a postage stamp, and you can have drink with the wrestlers afterwards. And if you're after more extreme feats of strength and aggression, check out some Fedor Emelianenko videos (Google him)- the hardest bastard in the world fakes nothing.
Any comments? 5