The 25 Best Websites for Music Lovers

Because I’ve recently started learning the guitar, I am all over anything to do with music.

The Darwin Murders

A short time ago, I was invited by a friend to write a short piece for an upcoming anthology, published online, called The Darwin Murders. Participants were asked to write a 250 word piece in which they could kill of a character of their choosing, provided the poor unfortunate didn’t/doesn’t exist in real life. (No killing Hitler or Stalin, okay?)

I choose the bane of modern-day small screen viewing, the horror that is the television licence inspector. The editors liked my story so much that I was one of two authors who had their pieces put aside for special mention.

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If you want to find out how and why I murdered a television licence inspector, pop over to Amazon and see for yourself. And don’t stop at me, either. Other writers in the anthology harbour secret desires to bump off their nemeses. At the end of the day, we each have our dark sides.

Don’t forget to look behind you – you could be next.

 

100 Little Things Worth Being Happy About

Required reading, my friends, required reading.

Successify!

This article is from Chiara Fucarino. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to address those with clinical depression or other mental illnesses.

happinessThere are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a person living in the slums of a third world country could be happy and content. I have spent plenty of time amongst both groups to have seen it first hand. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do…

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Erin Go Bragh: Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Yay! It’s St. Patrick’s Weekend again. (It used to be just the one day, until the marketers, the Irish Tourism Board, and the drinks companies got their hands on it. Now it’s a five-day festival.) So it’s time to celebrate Ireland and the Irish. But please do it right, okay?

John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952)  has a lot to answer for; and the less said about Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) the better. Hollywood has always had a slightly different view on Ireland than the rest of us. I suppose marketing what the country is really like is difficult, and not as profitable for the movie studios. But this is a country that has given the world Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Brenda Fricker, Ruth Negga, and the Cusack family among others.

Wrong on so many levels

Wrong on so many levels

We have gifted the world the collective genius of Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle and Maeve Binchy. To the music world, no better luminaries than Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and, um, Westlife have graced concert stages and turntables.

(We do, however, offer our humblest apologies for James Joyce and Bono. Although I suppose it’s part payback for EL James and Justin Bieber. Ain’t nobody got time for these!)

Our sports stars regularly attend major events, such as the Olympic Games and soccer tournaments, and while we may sometimes over-achieve (except for Katie Taylor, who is made of pure awesomeness), we’re normally good value for money.

Van the Man

Van the Man

Yes, we do have our celebrated alcohol afficionados: George Best, Brendan Behan, Shane MacGowan to name but three. But overall, our contribution to the world of arts and entertainment should more than surpass whatever stereotype and cliched viewpoint there is of us. And while I agree that my country is awash with alcohol and drugs, and that far too many of our youth are following in the footsteps of their elders – thereby running headfirst into a health crisis – I sense a small level of change in our society. It is my hope that in, say, ten or twenty years time, we will have outgrown our addiction to alcohol and perhaps embraced our cultural heritage rather than our history of oppression.

While it’s always important to remember our past, it’s more important to learn from it so we don’t fall into the same traps our ancestors did. We’re better than that. Ireland is better than that. The world deserves and needs what we can offer.

 

A Portrait of The Artist as an ex-Catholic…among other things.

Pope Francis 1, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina

Pope Francis 1, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina

So we have a new pope. Well, it’s about bleedin’ time, if you ask me. There should be no such thing as a job for life – not in this day and age, anyway. Either you’re up for the task, or you’re not. There’s no in between. Joey Ratz did the right thing in my books. “I’m too old for this shit,” he said. “Let someone younger handle the pressure for a change.” Fair play to you, Joey; you went up in my estimation when you made your historic pronouncement. Oh sure, conspiracy theorists alike will say you were pushed out because you were a liability, a criminal, a sexist misogynist dinosaur: a relic of the Cold War…sorry, that was Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond…I digress. Again.

Diego Maradona: not a pope, but a football player

Diego Maradona: not a pope, but a football player

So who do we get after Joey? Jorge. An Argentine who is now more popular on Google than Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona. He’s the new spiritual leader of the much-maligned Catholic Church, an institution that’s had about as much bad press as Justin Bieber’s recent concert tour in the UK. He is the new guard, but he’s been getting some good reviews for taking the name of Francis. If I could have taken a new name every time I  changed my job, I’d need a passport the size of the Gutenberg Bible.

But hold on. I’m a Catholic, right? At least I am by right of birth. But does being a Catholic mean much to me? Not at the moment, it pains me to say. I am one of the many lapsed Catholics that only see the inside of a church for weddings, funerals, christenings, when on holiday with my friend Dennis, and when on the run from the police. But there was a time when it was all so different. I looked to the altar for solace, for life’s meaning, for truth. Now I look and think What the fuck?

So why the change of attitude? Did the church come down hard on me for reasons I won’t go into? No. In fact, when I was in my teens, I found a sense of community within a church group. The fact that we used it as an excuse to get shitfaced once a week doesn’t come into it.

The good old days, before the shit hit the fan.

The good old days, before the shit hit the fan.

Okay, it does. But you get what I’m saying. The church had and maybe still does have its uses. I have some close family members and friends whose faith inspires me, though not to the extent that I want to believe in the God that they profess. Do I believe in God? It depends on what day it is, and how I’m feeling. But to me, most times, it doesn’t matter whether I do or not. I don’t think we’ll ever know. Though science professes that such an omnipotent being cannot exist, people of faith say that it’s not possible for God not to exist. I’m somewhere in the middle: he either exists or he doesn’t. It’s a comfortable fence I sit on; I have plenty of company. But your beliefs are your own business. I will respect them, and I will defend your right to them.

Now where was I? So we have a new pope. Good. Whatever your feelings on the matter, give the new guy a chance. If indeed he manages some reform in his papacy, then fair play to the man. If, however, he’s unable or – worse – disinclined to bring the Catholic Church kicking and screaming into the 21st century, then it is incumbent on ourselves to vote with our feet: to get out of their churches and stay out. Institutions like these, if they can’t or won’t reform, deserve neither our time nor our faith, whatever that faith may be.

Good luck, Francis. You might need it. I’d pray for you…if I believed it would work.

Reading Challenge 2013

classics2013As anyone who knows me will tell you, I love reading. There are few genres, few authors that I wouldn’t at least consider (except the current craze for soft-core “Mommy Porn”), and my personal bookshelves are testament to this. But I haven’t for a very long time read what is considered a “classic” in the, um, classical sense. So when this challenge popped up in my email this evening, I was handed an ideal opportunity to do something about this.

The blog, Sarah Reads Too Much, offers readers a challenge. Nothing too dangerous, nothing too fancy, but a challenge nonetheless. Participants have a full calendar year to read a minimum of six classic novels, with an option of a further five. There is a prize on offer for those who go most if not all the way. Click on the link for more details.

I haven’t decided yet what books I will read, but these are the categories on offer:

The Required Categories:
  1. A 19th Century Classic
  2. A 20th Century Classic
  3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic
  4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience – This can be an African-American author, or a book relating to slavery, civil rights, or African-American culture.
  5. A Classic Adventure
  6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal – This can feature animal characters or animals in the title (real or imagined)
Optional Categories:
   A.  Re-read a Classic
   B.  A Russian Classic
   C.  A Classic Non-Fiction title
   D.  A Classic Children’s/Young Adult title
   E.  Classic Short Stories – collection must include at least 3 short stories by the same author
The only comment I will make at this juncture is that I’m a little bit scared of reading anything Russian. Does anyone know of a short Russian novel?
Who else is in with me?

WOOL, by Hugh Howey

I found out about WOOL from a Facebook friend, who recommended it highly. And boy am I glad she did! Post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature doesn’t come much better than Hugh Howey’s five novel series(with more to follow, as well as the prequels FIRST/SECOND SHIFT).

From WOOL’s ominous beginning – a recently widowed sheriff volunteers for “cleaning” – to its revealing conclusion, the author fills each page with characters that grow from accepting the status quo to questioning everything they’ve been led to believe about how and why they live the way they do. Even the ‘villain’ of the piece is motivated by what he thinks is right – and a part of me understood why he acted the way he did.

Mr. Howey’s writing is superb; his descriptions of life underground are both real and affecting, and his action scenes gripped me with their authenticity and pace. In WOOL, mankind’s future is as bleak as Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, but the hope Hugh Howey offers at the end makes following Juliette’s journey a sign that maybe, just maybe, we can make amends for our mistakes.

Read WOOL. Please.

David Foster Wallace: The Infinite Jester.

I have just finished reading Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, D.T. Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, an author I’ve heard about but never read. I doubt I’m the only one in the latter category. He’s mentioned in the same breath as Dave Eggars, Thomas Pyncheon, Jonathon Franzen and Dom DeLillo. Of these authors, I’ve only read DeLillo’s Point Omega – and that’s only because it’s a short novel. I still didn’t get it – if there was anything in there to “get” that is.

Wallace achieved fame after the publication of his second novel, Infinite Jest. There is a copy of this 1,079 page monster beside me right now, looking at me, daring me to open it up and read it. It’s a scary proposition. All the more so because the author himself felt he couldn’t top it. No matter how hard he worked (and he came up with some great excuses when he couldn’t quite find the inspiration), Wallace’s anxieties and ongoing struggle with depression and addiction – as well as a succession of failed relationships – ripped his undoubted talents as a fiction writer to shreds. His non-fiction, particularly his journalism, kept him alive – but only to a point.

Wallace committed suicide at the age of 46. He left behind his wife of four years, and an unfinished manuscript for what would eventually become The Pale King, a novel about boredom and the I.R.S.

So why would I be interested in a writer I’ve never read, especially one I’d probably never read? * Because he (and I’m sorry if this sounds clichéd) suffered for his art. When he faced long bouts of writer’s block, he wrote to DeLillo and Franzen to complain about his lot. Nowadays we writers moan about our lack of creativity on Facebook or Twitter. Both actions are cries for help, but Wallace had a bit more class about him. He was also a deep thinker; there wasn’t a subject he didn’t want to know about. He studied philosophy, mathematics, tax accounting (for The Pale King), and was a clever, funny, but insightful critic on modern-day consumerism and mass entertainment. Infinite Jest is Wallace’s commentary on a society brought up to worship television, a society that has become addicted to addictions, become increasingly disconnected, and mourning for a loss of community. Wallace gives us no answers because that would be the easy way out. We have to find these for ourselves.

And this is why I am drawn to this man. He echoes my thoughts right now. The world he wrote about in 1996 is still very much the world of 2012. We’re still searching for answers, looking for meaning in an ultimately meaningless society. Will we find them? Wallace didn’t stay around long enough to find out.

* (I will clarify my above statement. I have read Wallace: it was an article he wrote about Roger Federer – Wallace played tennis to a high level when he was younger – and it’s an exquisite piece of writing.)

Our latest Choose Or Die chapter is up, written by Matthew C. Plourde.

life, life and everything in between

What does this all mean? What shall I do?

HINT #1: your Monday just went from blah to much better!

HINT #2: go read the latest chapter of the Ecopocalypse adventure by Matt and vote on the next move:

http://chooseordie.blogspot.fi/2012/09/ecopocalypse-ch5-home-sweet-lab.html

-LFJ 😉

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