Category Archives: TCB

Taking care of business

Number Ones, January 6th

The Good: ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ by The Beatles

This album is the very successful soundtrack to the very unsuccessful made-for TV movie shown on the BBC, during Christmas holidays in 1967. The Fab Four still managed to push the boundaries, by releasing two separate EPs in the UK (unheard of at that time) for the six new songs in the film. In the States, an album was released with the six new songs on Side A, and a collection of non-album singles on Side B. Both versions went to Number 1 in the charts.

The Bad: ‘Blue Hawaii’ by Elvis Presley

This album was the soundtrack to the first of three films that Elvis made in Hawaii, which contained all the elements that made his films so popular – beautiful locations, gorgeous girls, mediocre songs and terrible plots. In the words of (Elvis’ character) Chad Gates, “I like my job, it’s fun, it’s interesting and I meet a lot of nice people”.

The Ugly: ‘YMCA’ by The Village People

Incredibly, ‘YMCA’ is one of less than 30 songs to be released as a single, and sell more than 10 million copies world-wide. Unfortunately, the song survives to this day by being played at hundreds of sporting events across the States during breaks in the action.

2010 Crackin’ Countdown

A long time ago in a magical little island across the Atlantic Sea, six or seven lads sat around a table in the local pub supping on pints of Guinness and discussing the highlights of the previous 12 months.  After much banter and debate, one of them suggested that each person create a list of their favourite albums, songs, films and books of the year.  Thus, the Crackin’ Countdown was born and the tradition still lives on today.  So, I now give you my round-up of the best bits from 2010…


Barking  // Underworld
One of my favourite bands returns to form with an album that features all the relevant ‘heads’ across the entire spectrum of Dance music, resulting in an eclectic collection of pimped-out tunes that keep them in pace with the best electronic music out there.

Before Today // Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
The lo-fi-ness in the recordings give the disc enormous amounts of charm and his broad influences like 10CC, David Bowie, The Cure, Hall & Oates, Human League, Husker Du, John Lennon and Roxy Music make the kooky, lo-fi, odd-ball, all-over-the-shop sounds work perfectly.

Come Around Sundown // Kings Of Leon
I’ve been a fan since Day 1 and I like that they are still trying to be different.  Singing words that you can finally understand, they have even begun to display some of their roots and influences.

Contra // Vampire Weekend
These guys are the coolest band of Paul Simon-loving geeks that  you will ever hear and every song they sing makes me think of summer time.

Crazy For You // Best Coast
This band is great.  You only have to do the math to realize that.  The Go-Go’s + buzzy, fuzzy, scuzzy guitars = Best Coast.

Plastic Beach // Gorillaz
Mr. Albarn with the help of more musicians than you can shake a stick at deliver an eclectic, no-two-tracks-are-alike album that may require a couple of plays to understand but never ceases to amaze and satisfy.

The Drums // The Drums
New York Post-Punk?  Yes.  Reminiscent of the early Cure?  Definitely!  One of the boppy-est, catchy-est, hooky-est bands you will ever hear?  Absolutely!

The Noyelle Beat // Standard Fare
This Sheffield power trio recorded their debut album in only six days and have enough indie aesthetic, with equal parts of energy and melancholy, that I’m sure John Peel is listening and smiling from the great studio beyond…

This Is Happening // LCD Soundsystem
Mr. James and companies third, and apparently last, installment in the rebirth of Punk-Funk, No-Wave, Electro-Dance music that sounds like it was recorded in 1981.

Tourist History // Two Door Cinema Club
The undeniably Pop-sounding Northern Irish trio blast through the speakers with a wide variety of sounds and styles that have one thing in common – every song is short, sharp and sweet.  Outstanding.

*The one that got away (so far)…

Allo Darlin’ // Allo Darlin’
I have been unable to track this album down yet but you can be sure that it will be added to my collection ASAP.

2010 was a year of old favourites and ‘classics’ with the standout book being ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac, which I read during our little road trip across the southern part of the States in January.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
Lord Of The Flies – William Golding
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Once A Runner – John L. Parker
The Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger
The Old Man And The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Strange Case Of Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

There is only one DVD added to my list this year – a collection of my favourite TV show paying homage to (taking the piss out of) my favourite films.  Hopefully, I began a new tradition by watching all three episodes on Christmas Day.
Laugh It Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Star Wars Trilogy

Alice In Wonderland
Get Him To The Greek
Iron Man 2
Shutter Island
The Kids Are Alright
The Social Network
The Wolfman

I’ll start by saying that I really miss the following things:
Anything cooked/prepared in Hotel Olive
Most of the food from Marks & Spencer
Irish sausages
Going out to eat on a regular basis
However, I’ve managed to somewhat compensate those losses with the following:
Anything cooked/prepared by Zoe
Some of the food from Food Pantry
Kirin Ichiban
Staying in to eat on a regular basis, since a) staying in is supposedly the new going out  and b) we don’t really have a choice

2010 has been a difficult year to say the least.  Zoe and I are away from our families and friends, Hawaii has not turned out to be anything even remotely close to paradise, and we have struggled more financially than ever before.  But there has also been a lot of good things and here are some of them:
Driving across the States with Zoe on the way to our new life in Hawaii
Getting married in the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas
Watching our first sunset in Waikiki
Turning 40
Running a sub-20 minute 5K
Helping Zoe obtain her American residency in record time
Finding out that Zoe was offered her first FT job in America
Getting an iPad for Christmas


Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Remembering Michael Jackson

One year ago, I posted this after Michael Jackson passed away unexpectedly:

I would like to share with you some of my memories of Michael Jackson as I was growing up.

I remember seeing footage of Michael from the early 1970s performing with his brothers as the Jackson 5. His style and ability were years beyond his age. The only other person that I had ever seen dance like him was James Brown and Michael was one quarter of his age when he was doing it.

I remember hearing ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and ‘Rock With You’ on the radio all of the time after the release of ‘Off The Wall’ in 1979. It was Michael’s first real taste of super stardom and an indicator of things to come.

I remember hearing the first single from ‘Thriller’, ‘The Girl Is Mine’ with Paul McCartney, released about a month before the album. It was very different from the songs I knew on ‘Off The Wall’. Critics and the media hated it. The song made everyone wonder what the album was going to be like and whether it could live up to the success of its predecessor. It did. Little did anyone know at the time what was about to be unleashed on the world in the form of the next single; ‘Billie Jean’.

I remember seeing Michael perform on a Motown TV special in March of 1983. It changed absolutely everything in the world of music. He sang ‘Billie Jean’ and danced in a way that no one had ever seen before. He performed the ‘moonwalk’ for the first time, appearing to glide, not across the stage but above the stage. My family and I watched in total astonishment. After that, the song ‘Billie Jean’ was on the radio constantly. Every single person I knew bought a copy of ‘Thriller’. My brother and I both had a copy on cassette and we played them continuously for over one year. My father bought it. My aunts and uncles bought it. My friends all bought it. Even people who thought they were too cool for Michael Jackson, had a copy of it somewhere in their collection. 1983 was THE year of Michael Jackson.

I remember cycling to my grandparent’s house during the summer of 1983 to watch MTV. I had developed a real passion for New Wave music and couldn’t get enough of all the music videos. Despite a strictly white (and predominantly English) play list during the first two years, MTV did an about-face and aired ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Beat It’ numerous times a day throughout the spring and summer of that year. The songs opened the door for other black artists and MTV broadened its musical horizons.

I remember seeing the video for ‘Thriller’ for the first time on MTV at the end of 1983. The fourteen minute video had a world premiere like no other before it. The video was played at the top of the hour, every single hour, for the last few weeks of the year. It was like nothing neither I or anyone else had ever seen before. At the time, it was the most expensive video ever made (costing about $500,000.00) and contained nearly ten minutes of the best dancing in the world. And, of course, it had lots of zombies.

I remember Michael Jackson being EVERYWHERE in 1984. He sang on Paul McCartney’s song ‘Say Say Say’. He was a guest on the song ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ by Rockwell. He released the album ‘Victory’ with his brothers and embarked on a tour across the States, playing a lot of the songs from Thriller as well as the classic Jackson’s songs. He won eight Grammys for ‘Thriller’. He co-wrote and sang on the single ‘We Are The World’ for famine relief in Africa. He made TV commercials for Pepsi.  He was the biggest star in the entire world.

For four or five years as I began to discover the world of music, I listened to everything I could find (or hear) – from my father’s Soul records to Classic Rock stations on the radio to Pop music and New Wave on MTV. Nothing was disregarded. Everything deserved at least one listen. And Michael Jackson was at the forefront of all these genres and my musical tastes. During the time in my life I fell in love with music, he was the undisputed King of Pop.

This is how I will remember Michael Jackson.

RIP Michael.

Cleansed From The Inside

The great runner, George Sheehan, once said, “Sweat cleanses from the inside. It comes from places a shower will never reach.” If that is true, then after yesterday morning, I must have the cleanest insides in all of Hawaii.

I lined up for the Hibiscus Half Marathon yesterday morning, in Kapiolani Park at 5:25 in the morning, not really knowing what to expect. My training has been off for the last few weeks, I have not been sleeping well and I have struggled with the heat, when running for longer periods than about 1 hour 45 minutes.

With the early dawn light appearing from behind the clouds, the race director gave the instructions, the National Anthem was played and then, amidst a good bit of tension, the starting horn was blown. I began running and was immediately into my stride. I was feeling good and the first mile was completed in 6:45, well below my calculated pace for a sub-90 minute result. Everything was going well and I was in my comfort zone.

Then, the course quickly veered left and we began climbing up Diamond Head. My heart rate responded accordingly and started to creep up. I felt fine though because I have done this climb in training dozens of times and know the road very well. But, I found after three miles that I had lost nearly a minute on my goal pace and I had really started sweating. A lot. Buckets and buckets of sweat poured out of me. This continued until Mile 6, when I calculated that I was already almost three minutes off my pace, and I was beginning to really struggle.

I took water at every station and drank the full cup, but I was losing so much fluid that it wasn’t nearly enough. By the ninth mile, I had settled in to a better rhythm and maintained my three-minute deficit. I started thinking that I would continue with a steady pace, until the 11th mile and then run hard to try to take back some of the time I had lost. This sort of bartering helps pass the time and keeps your mind off the dull ache that engulfs your body and grows more tangible with every passing mile.

I continued, running in the shade wherever I could and drinking as much as I could at each aid station. Inevitably, the road shifted up again, as we approached the other side of Diamond Head and another climb. I picked up the pace and began to pull back a small group of runners that had been just ahead of me for most of the race. My pulse monitor displayed the effort – 181 beats per minute. The Mile 11 marker came into sight. I checked my watch and there was still only about three minutes that I needed to make up. I slowed slightly to take some more water and Gatorade at the approaching aid station. It was then that I felt my left thigh seize up. The cramp was so bad that I had to stop. I regrouped, drank the fluids, stretched slowly and began running again.

My legs were cooperating but they were now very sore and I knew that I was not going to be able to push the pace during the last few miles, as I had hoped. The road started to tilt upwards and I sensed the race and my goal time slipping away from me. My legs really started to hurt. I ran easy up the hill and back down the other side. At the bottom, I checked my watch again and saw that I had now conceded over six minutes on my goal pace time.

The end was near though and I had to push on. With a bit of luck and a slight burst of speed, I could still try to come in under 95 minutes, That would be a very good time for a very difficult course on a very hot day. I completed Mile 12 and was concentrating on nothing else but crossing the finish line. I found that, in doing so, my pace had picked up somewhat and I was running hard again. My legs, however, objected to this increase in speed. Several meters past the Mile 12 marker I began cramping again and, once more, had to stop. This time it was more difficult to relax the cramps. I stretched for a minute or two and started running again very, very slowly. I was inside the last mile but there was no strength left in my legs. It felt like I was moving and yet it seemed that I was staying in the same place. I could see the finish line and yet it seemed that I was not drawing any closer to it. The sweat just kept pouring out of me, cleansing the inside.

In the end, I crossed the line in 1:39:20. A good time, but far short of the goal that I had set for myself. I finished 53rd overall (out of 815 finishers) and eighth in the Male 40-44 age group (out of 41 finishers), which are both very respectable. It’s a result that I wish was better but I can accept it. I have learned from the race and am one step closer in the constant process of understanding what I can and can not do. Adjustments will be made and I shall be back to fight another day.

How I Almost Met The Modfather

Paul Weller turns 52 today. I almost met him once…

When I moved to Dublin in September 1997, I only had a couple of hundred dollars to my name.  During my first few months there, I struggled to find a job and maintain a bank balance that was greater than my age.  But, eventually I got a job and (slowly) started saving money.  Which, is important.  But what was more important was that I could eventually start buying CDs again.  Which, brings me to the story about how I almost met the ‘Modfather’.

It was a Saturday morning in Dublin in the autumn of 1998 and I was on my weekly excursion into town to look for some new CDs.  The trip began in the Virgin Megastore on the Quays, when I walked in and headed straight for the ‘Sales’ rack.  At this time, I didn’t have nearly enough money to buy everything that I really wanted to, so I had to be very discerning with my choices and subsequent purchases.  As I was perusing, I came across the Jam’s album ‘The Gift’.  It was their last album and one of the few that I did not yet own.  It was also only five quid.  Following several minutes of careful consideration, I decided not to buy it.  After all there was new(er) music to buy and I had just recently picked up ‘All Mod Cons’.  I told myself that it was a ‘definite’ for next time.

I made my purchases, left Virgin and walked across O’Connell Bridge, towards my next stop.  While I was standing at the corner, waiting to cross O’Connell Street, I looked over my shoulder and who was standing right next to me?  Paul Weller!  I couldn’t believe it.  Paul-fucking-Weller! If I had only known about this chance encounter 15 minutes and five pounds ago, I would have certainly bought ‘The Gift’.  I immediately thought, ‘Bollocks! What should I do?’  He was just standing there and no one was really paying any attention to him.  But then I remembered, this is Paul Weller and he does have a reputation for being really narky.  I pondered.  Should I say something?  Should I ask him for his autograph?  Should I share my story with him?  Would he find it amusing or tell me to fuck off?

I contemplated what to do, until the light changed, and then I decided not to say anything to him.  I figured that he probably would not have been very impressed with my little tale.  Besides, since I didn’t buy the CD, I had nothing for him to sign anyway.  At least that is what I always tell myself, when I think about missing such an opportunity.

The Slightly Lesser Dark Side Of Darth Vader

So, Darth Vader is renowned the world over as being the supreme commander of the Death Star, who instills fear and terror into everyone that he meets.  But being so villanious has got to be hard work.  In between running the Death Star, oppressing the entire galaxy and relentlessly hunting down all the members of the Rebel Alliance, he must need some ‘down time’.  Just, exactly, how does the Lord Vader unwind, you may be asking yourself.  Well, I have the answer here, in never-before-seen photos of the Dark Lord, relaxing and getting in touch with his more humane side.

I present you with the slightly lesser Dark Side of Darth Vader:

Here is a picture of Vader, trying to make his way through heavy traffic on the way to a friend’s house, during a stop-over on Earth.

Here is Vader, shopping for provisions on the Death Star with some of his Stormtroopers.

Here is a picture of the Dark Lord, trying to change the bulb on his light sabre.

Here is Vader, having a smoke in between his heavy schedule of engagements.

And, finally, here is the Lord Vader, unwinding with a good book (and keeping tabs on a potential threat) after a long, hard day on the Death Star.

The Death Star Canteen

May The Force Be With You

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. The film was the fifth episode and the second installment in the Star Wars saga. Upon its intial release, the film received very mixed reviews from critics but, over the years, it has become many people’s favourite Star Wars film. It was also a pivotal film for creator, George Lucas.

‘Star Wars’ was released three years previously and became an unexpected success as well as a cultural phenomenon. Lucas wanted to use this success as a chance to become independent from the Hollywood film industry. He financed ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ by himself, bucking  Hollywood trends, and took full control of the Star Wars enterprise.

He brought in one of his former USC professors, Irvin Keshner, to direct and hired two leading screenplay writers to pen the story. This allowed Lucas to focus more on his company, Industrial Light And Magic (ILM), and the film’s special effects. The result was a technical achievement and an overwhelming triumph. The film cemented Lucas’ reputation and confirmed the Star Wars franchise as one of the most important cinematic and cultural achievements of the 20th century.

And so, thirty years later, the film lives on in its many released, restored, remastered, re-released and limited editions. However, for me, the original is still the best. The movie reminds me of my youth and of the wide-eyed wonderment that I gazed at the screen with, as the characters and scenes unfolded before me. It created an entirely different existence that I, and every other ten-year old I knew, could get lost in and be fascinated by. It is, simply, one of the best films of all time.

May the force be with you.

The Old Man And The Sea

I just finished reading ‘The Old Man And The Sea’ and I can’t help but wonder how appropriate the themes in the story are to my life right now with Wifey in Honolulu.

The old man, Santiago, is a fisherman, who is going through a serious rough patch.  He endures 84 days without a single bite, before he decides to venture out past the shallow waters in his boat on the 85th morning.

His pride and endurance are the two characteristics that Hemingway explores in great detail.  Man’s pride to succeed will often drive him to push himself and make decisions that may, at first, seem crazy.  ‘Living the dream’ is what everyone wishes to do but how many people have the actual courage to take their boat out past shallow waters?  Man’s endurance is also what is tested every single day in life.  How much struggling can a person overcome?  How many defeats can someone withstand?  How much disappointment can a person handle?  Struggles, defeats and disappointment are the challenges in life and the ways in which the world seems intent on, ultimately, destroying every single person who lives.

Santiago endures three days of pain and struggling with the fish before he finally defeats the worthy opponent.  However, within hours of his triumph, he begins to lose his reward as the predators in the sea emerge to destroy his trophy.  The old man does not concede though. He battles the sharks and gradually accepts the loss as a part of his journey.  Victories are fleeting and destruction is always unavoidable.  There are lessons to be learned along the way though and these can be taught to future generations.  The passing of wisdom from man to boy enables man to persist and bravely face defeat, knowing that winning or losing is not important.  Striving to do your best, enduring obstacles and learning from your mistakes are what matter in this life.

It was nearly 80 days before I was able to secure employment in Hawaii and, at times, finding a job seemed to be an impossible task.  Social, economic and cultural struggles continue to face Wifey and me each and every day.  But we are surviving.  And we are learning.  And every morning is a chance to wake up and become better than we were the day before.

Did we sail our boat out too far, by coming to Hawaii?  Are we chasing too big a fish?  Can we face all the predators and obstacles that lie before us?  Our pride and determination for a better life brought us here.  But only our endurance will give us the ability, over time, to find answers to all of these questions.

For now, we will just keep sailing.