ROPES 2014 book launch: 10 April 2014

In two days the MA in Literature & Publishing at NUI Galway will launch the ROPES 2014 literary journal, featuring writers and artists from around the world sharing their stories, poems, and artwork on the theme of ‘home’. Proceeds from the sale of ROPES 2014 will go to COPE Galway, a charity whose vision is an improved quality of life in a home of your own.

If you’re in or around Galway this week for the Cúirt International Literary Festival or for any other reason, come to the COPE charity shop on St. Augustine Street this Thursday 10 April, at 4pm. The launch will feature readings by contributing writers and poets including award-winning author Niamh Boyce, who will be launching the journal.

The cause is good, the wine is free, and the book is a beautiful thing of which we are very, very proud.


March Microreviews

January microreviews
February microreviews

February Books


La Roja by Jimmy Burns (2013): I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while, but I found it lacking in actual stories about La Roja, instead focusing on the rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao’s Basque-only policy, and other similar topics. Still interesting, and certainly related to the Spanish NT, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000): Anthony Bourdain’s television programmes are both my favourite food shows and my favourite travel shows, but I’d never read any of his books. Just like No Reservations, Kitchen Confidential is witty, irreverent, and made me want to jump on a plane, land somewhere exotic, and eat.

Everyday Revolutions by Marina Sitrin (2012): Latin American politics, grassroots movements, and copious references to Naomi Klein made me predisposed to enjoy this book. I found it somewhat verbose and sometimes meandering, but overall it’s an interesting look at contemporary activism in Argentina.

February Films


Her (2013): Despite being about a Siri-like AI, Her was meant to be very emotionally profound, but I felt like it was missing something. The cinematography was gorgeous and the acting, particularly from Joaquin Phoenix, was excellent, but I don’t find myself thinking about it’s deeper meaning, just enjoying the scenery.

Life of Pi (2012): Another gorgeous film, but this one has stuck with me much more than Her. Like a surreal version of Planet Earth, the film is sweeping and awe-inspiring in its cinematography, but at its base is a tight focus on the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker, and the way they relate to each other in order to survive.

February Television


Orange is the New Black, series 1 (2013): I don’t think I could be less interested in lead character Piper, but apart from her I love every single (female) person on this show, particularly hairdresser Sophia and pregnant inmate Daya. The show is funny and sad and I’m eagerly awaiting series 2.

House of Cards, series 2 (2014): Series 2 of House of Cards continues on with even more death, lies, and political intrigue. There were several times when I actually gasped out loud in shock, and Frank Underwood is the most fun character to love to hate since Walter White.

True Detective, series 1 (2014): Speaking of Breaking Bad, someone told me this show is “even better.” I can assure you that this isn’t true. However, the acting and intensity is near that level, and the final scene of episode 4 (if you’ve seen it you know exactly the one I’m talking about), is one of the most impressive technical works I’ve seen on television since… maybe The Wire.

February Music


Found Songs, Ólafur Arnalds (2009): If I lived in Iceland I would probably feel artistically inspired all the time, so I guess I’m not surprised there’s so much great Icelandic music in addition to Sigur Rós. Arnalds wrote Found Songs in seven days, one day for each song, and it’s a soft, peaceful album.

St. Vincent, St. Vincent (2014): St. Vincent is constantly reinventing herself and her sound, and this album sounds like David Bowie meets jazz meets aliens with gorgeous melodies and thoughtful lyrics. It’s weird and a little pretentious but it’s also a lot of fun.

Loco de Amor, Juanes & Shakira, Shakira (2014): See my reviews HERE.

Shakira, self-titled & Juanes, Loco de Amor (both 2014)

shak album

If I say I love Shakira, there may be one or two people who know me that might be surprised, but probably they already know too. (Certainly anyone who has ever gotten drunk with me is aware, given that for some reason one of my favourite topics of drunk conversation is how, while Shakira and her footballer boyfriend Gerard Piqué are a cute couple, she is a goddess and could still do so much better). Anyway, my adoration of her makes me predisposed to love anything she does, including her new, eponymous album. Still, even stepping away from my massive bias, I can say with certainty that Shakira is weird and wonderful and great.

Although there are a few of her songs that I adore in any language, I’ve always preferred Shakira’s Spanish music to her English songs, whether it is because the lyrics make more sense when not translated to fit the melody or just because I think her voice is meant for the language. I wish there were more Spanish songs on this album, but “Loca por Ti” is a gorgeous track that reminds me of Sale el Sol. And I definitely prefer the Spanish version of her first single, “Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte,” to the English.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy Shakira’s English music nearly as much. I immediately loved her second single, “Empire,” and so far it remains my favourite track on the album. It reminds me in a way of a James Bond theme in the way it starts slow and relies on Shakira’s vocals to soar. Surprisingly, a song I really enjoyed upon first listen was “Medicine,” the country track featuring Shakira’s The Voice co-judge Blake Shelton. Although I’m generally not a fan of country music or Shelton’s work in particular, Shakira’s famous vibrato is perfect for the genre and she harmonises well with Shelton; it’s not a great song, but it’s so earnest I find myself liking it anyway. Another track I love is “Chasing Shadows,” written by Sia, with the blend of beauty and quirkiness that is pretty much the epitome of all things Shak.

A few of the songs are cringe-worthy on the level of Taylor Swift’s most preteen-obsessive: mainly “23,” the track most obviously written about Piqué, and the bland but probably radio-friendly “Spotlight.” While Shakira has had some notably weird lyrics in the past (“lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains“), “Girl meets a boy / surrender to his charms / leaves her old boyfriend / and crumbles in his arms” aren’t interesting enough to be memorable, and the music sounds more like it could fit into Swift’s Red than Shakira’s oeuvre.

Others suffer from similarities to previous, superior works, like the duet with Rihanna, “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” which I can’t help but compare unfavourably to her “Beautiful Liar” duet with Beyonce. On the other hand, while “Dare (La La La)” is meant to be this World Cup’s “Waka Waka (Esto es Africa)” and it’s not as good as that (because let’s face it, there aren’t many songs better than “Waka Waka” and you’re lying to yourself if you don’t love it) I can still see myself listening to it on repeat while running, cleaning, doing homework… in pretty much all aspects of my life, as I do the earlier track.

Musically, the album has more interesting sounds than some of her recent work. As mentioned, there’s the country song, but on other tracks its a Caribbean vibe that reflects Shakira’s Barranquilla Colombian heritage, a power-rock sound on others, a few stripped-down ballads, and the usual bellydance-worthy pop music.


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Home is where… something.

This is the kind of post I always debate about posting on this blog, figuring maybe it’s better suited for my private journaling. God, Mateer, I think, don’t bother with this feely shit: just tell ‘em what you think of the new Juanes album. (Look, friends, I haven’t listened to it yet; maybe I’ll do the double on Colombian musician CD reviews when Shakira’s latest comes out tomorrow. Also I know most of you probably don’t care but I’m sorry, I’m never going to write another entry about the term “ovaries before brovaries,” no matter how many times people find my blog by googling it).

Anyway, I’ve just had a friend from Ithaca visiting for the weekend while she studies abroad in London, and now I’m in the process of finding someone to move in to the house when one of my housemates moves out to go teach English in China. Between those two things and the upcoming launch of the NUIG MA in Literature and Publishing’s literary journal ROPES (check out the Facebook page for the launch party and enjoy how seamlessly/shamelessly I just plugged it), I’ve been thinking a lot about home. Not home like Bucks County, Pennsylvania, or home like this house in the Claddagh, but home, generally.

For the first 18.5 years of my life, I lived in one house, one town, one state, one country. Over the next five years, up to now, I’ve lived in four more cities in three more countries than where I’d been before. With only two weeks of classes left in the MA, I’m starting to get that “What will you do after this?” question again. First of all, don’t ask; it freaks me out just as much now as it did before I knew I was going to Ithaca in my senior year of high school, and as much as it did before I knew I was coming to Galway in my senior year of college.

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Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it Comes

The weather in Galway has been gorgeous the last few days, a nice change from the rain and gloom of the previous week(s/months). The docks down by the Spanish Arch have been packed with people relaxing the sun and the Salthill prom has been as busy as can be for weekdays. Obviously I’ve been spending as much time as possible outside, enjoying the weather with everyone else. Here are a few photos I took when I was out:

And here’s a panorama shot I took with my phone yesterday: