What do you do when a problem arises in your country that appalls you? One solution is to be funny. Wicked satire is a fine way to highlight idiocy. This is what Irish comedian Tara Flynn decided to do when her husband endured racist insults in her hometown of Kinsale. She used her talents, and a creative team, to highlight the problem.
Ms. Flynn created this humourous sketch about a ‘Racist B&B’ in Ireland.
“It’s all the rage! We spotted a gap in the market. We were always a bit racist ourselves, so from there it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to make the B&B as racist as possible. But in a warm, welcoming kind of way.”
I particularly like these lines, because most Irish live and thrive on being considered a hospitable people. Of course, mostly we are, but this piece pokes fun at ‘benign racism’ that is often deeply embedded in the psyche. Being ‘nice’ about racism doesn’t make it any more palatable for the person on the receiving end of it.
I’m delighted that my friend Diarmuid O’Brien was involved in directing and editing this sketch. Diarmuid has a keen eye and ear for humour, and I expect one day he’ll be writing his own comedy series.
One of the most-used appliances in our kitchen is our rice cooker. We got our first one about ten years ago and never looked back. You just add rice and water and let it do the job. When your rice is cooked (always properly), it will also keep it warm for you. It means you don’t have to think about it when you’re cooking the rest of your meal.
The last time I was in the market for a rice cooker I began looking at the Japanese rice cookers. When Martin and I were in Japan on holiday we practically drooled over the machines they produced. This is a nation of smart, tech-savvy people, who eat rice every day, so it’s no surprise that their rice cookers are top-notch.
But then we were given a rice cooker as a freebie, and while it wasn’t very complicated it did the job, so we settled for it. This past week that device started to fail, so this time I decided we were going to splurge and get a Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker. They are expensive, but since we use this appliance so much – 3/4 times a week – the investment is worth it.
We went to British company Yum Asia because of their reputation for great service. Yesterday, my package arrived from UPS – I ordered the rice cooker on Monday, so that’s a fast turnaround. We went for a 5-cup rice cooker which is the right size for our household.
Since this is just an appliance it seemed a bit daft to be excited, but when I unwrapped it I was dying to get a proper look at it.
It comes with a rice spatula and a measuring cup, and a surprise package of tea leaves… There’s a little plastic holder for the spatula that slots onto either the right or the left hand side of the machine, so the implement is always handy.
The manual is in English and Japanese, and easy to follow. There are a lot of options depending on the kind of rice you’re cooking, plus it steams vegetables (it comes with a steaming tray), and apparently you can use it to bake a cake!
The body of the machine is quite long, but I like that it’s neat and contained, with a useful carrying handle. The brushed steel exterior pretty much goes with any kitchen.
I decided to make a Thai curry last night, so I made Thai Jasmine rice, which is a sticky variety. The manual is quite insistent that you wash and rinse your rice properly, so I was more thorough than usual in this part of the process. It takes longer to cook rice than my previous machine, but as long as you set it up first thing as you are prepping your meal it should be ready when everything is done. It does have a ‘quick rice’ setting, which should deliver nicely cooked rice in about 35 minutes (although I’m not sure I’d try it with brown rice).
I was very happy with the resulting cooked rice. There was no crust on the bottom, and nothing stuck to the pan at all. It’s recommended that you stir the rice immediately after cooking if you are going to leave it inside the cooker for its ‘keep warm’ facility.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it handles one of my favourite rices: Basmati brown rice. Plus, I think I’ll actually use the vegetable steaming option on this rice cooker.
Lots of people in Ireland don’t seem to have heard of a rice cooker, and the range of models here is pretty poor. For anyone who makes rice regularly it’s an appliance well worth getting. I’d certainly recommend Donna and Neil at Yum Asia for anyone looking to invest in a Japanese rice cooker.
The one thing you can be guaranteed of in Ireland is that rain will always return. After a streak of stunning weather precipitation has swaggered across the land to reclaim its sovereignty.
But rain has its beauties.
I took that shot yesterday evening of water beads on a clover that was just beginning to flower. I love how the water forms tiny, perfect spheres that balance on the clover’s stubble. And how about that syrupy blob that’s ready to detach, which reflects the scene around it. Water is beautiful – when it isn’t a deluge or a flood, which is just terrifying.
For the moment in Ireland it’s at manageable levels. The vegetation is lush with it.
It can be very easy to wish that your situation is different: that you had more sun, or less rain, or that you lived in a different place, but sometimes you’ve got to accept where you are and shift perspective to see the benefits.
I returned a little bedraggled from my damp walk with the dog to discover this chap hard at work in my garden – the giant raindrops didn’t deter him. What a gorgeous fuzzy ruff he is wearing, and I love the flowers, like pretty cornucopias, waiting for his gluttony.
The best thing about getting wet while outside is coming home, drying off, slipping on comfortable clothes, and having a hot cup of tea.
Watching the rain from inside the house is a blessing.
It takes a lot of work to bring any creative project into existence, but when you write comics it’s a particularly collaborative experience that requires dedication, co-operation, and passion. It’s a delight to see the script I wrote brought to life in such a meaningful way by Stephen Downey’s art, and then it’s further joy to hold the finished product in my hands.
As much as I do this from my own need to create, part of the drive also is to entertain other people. When you discover that readers enjoy the story that you spent so much time crafting it feels like a wonderful, odds-defying bonus.
It’s been a challenge, as well as great fun, to write the first volume of Jennifer Wilde. I already have plans for the second volume, which I’ve begun to research. I’m so pleased that Atomic Diner supremo, Robert Curley, continues to trust me to write this character.
When I was travelling up to Derry last week I stopped at Enniscrone in Sligo during a spate of spectacular weather. I ended up squeezing in an extra day there because it was too good to leave.
I made this little video of how wonderful it was that morning on the beach using the camera on my mobile phone. I love the sound the waves make as they crash onto the beach. The wind is a bit loud at times, but my rough and ready video is a reminder of a radiant day.
It’s especially nice to watch now that the weather has turned a bit grey and wet. I can dream and hope of sunny skies again, and watch this video to remind me that it does happen in Ireland, sometimes.
I had a wonderful time at 2D Northern Ireland Comic Book Festival in Derry last weekend. As usual there was fantastic hospitality by the gang from Derry’s Verbal Arts Centre who organised the festival. All of them, including the volunteers, and the admins who most of us never see, did a wonderful job.
I arrived in in the city on Friday afternoon, and while my drive up had been easy, the final navigation through the narrow, steep streets was a stressful ten minutes. After lunch, and time to rest, I headed out to dinner where I began meeting many of the other guests of the convention – some of whom I knew, but many were new to me. There was a big guest list this year, so I kept meeting people throughout the weekend.
Then we strolled along the River Foyle, and on to Sandinos where the first panel of the evening was starting. It was about the Irish comic book industry, and this year the festival staff were rigorous in ensuring that everyone kept the noise levels down so the panellists could be heard – which was very helpful.
Ciaran Marcantonio, Robert Curley, Hilbo Lawler, Darrin 0'Toole, Stephen Mooney, and Kevin Logue on the first panel at 2D Comic Book Festival
Once the panels ended most of us stayed in Sandinos until the wee hours of the night, despite the loud music. I was a bit tired and bleary the next morning, but I pulled myself together and arrived in the Millennium Forum before 10am.
The new venue was great – with lots of light and space, and the dealers were spread over two floors. Last year we were stuffed to capacity in the Verbal Arts Centre, so the guests and dealers were pleased to have plenty of room this year. Everyone was busy setting up tables, and Rob Curley and I got a nice spot by the stairs, beside Tony Lee and Dan Berry.
Issue 3 of Jennifer Wilde was out just in time for the convention, so we were pleased to have it available for fans. (You can buy it online here.)
My friend Malcolm Hutchinson brought along his copy of Twisted Fairy Tales for me to sign, which was a lovely treat. Lynda Rucker snapped this photo of me holding it with Jennifer Wilde issue 3.
The venue quickly got busy, with a large numbers of visitors: men, women, girls, and boys all swept past our tables. The fact that the festival is free to enter means it’s a very welcoming and encouraging environment for newcomers as well as firm fans of the medium. Lots of children wore costumes, and there was a variety of cosplayers, some of whom were very impressive.
When you’re behind a desk selling comics you don’t get a lot of opportunities to see other people or go to panels. Rob and I were able to give each other a few breaks from duty, but most of our day zipped by as we hawked the Atomic Diner titles.
After we closed shop for the day and refuelled, we trooped down to Sandinos again. That evening I took it a bit easier, and managed to escape at a somewhat reasonable hour after a long chat with Maeve Clancy (in my opinion the coolest woman in the Irish comic book scene). The evenings were just as important as the days’ events as that was when many guests did a lot of our socialising.
The following morning everyone was interested to see how the festival would continue since it was the first time we had a two-day Comics Fair. The Derry Marathon was going on the same day, so there were lots of extraordinarily fit people huffing up the steep Derry hills as we slooped down them to our venue.
While the day started off quiet, by the time noon rolled around a continuous crowd of people streamed through the doors so we were busy all the way up until the end of the day.
Although festival director, Dave Campbell, was accosted by a trio of fictional guards as the event wound down. “Great job!” they roared, “But get us the same venue and two days next year also!”
A lot of people had to leave at that point, so a smaller group of fans and guests wandered around Derry that evening trying to find a pub with enough room for all of us. We finally found a deserted pub, and the startled barman suddenly had to accommodate a large influx of thirsty people.
I kept meeting people for the first time that night. Even during breakfast the next day I was still introducing myself to people – and there were some I never met. I don’t want to list everyone I met as it often smacks of name-dropping, but thank you everyone who took the time to chat to me – I loved all the conversations.
I left Derry tired but happy, and already looking forward to next year. I consider 2D Comic Book Festival the ‘Thought Bubble of Ireland’, because it’s developed into a festival that showcases a wide spectrum of comic book work, and clearly supports and encourages the new talent that is bubbling up in the Irish comic book scene. Everyone who is working in comics in Ireland was at 2D this year – and if they didn’t attend they had a good reason that prevented them from going.
Roll on 2D 2014!
(There are some more photos of the event on my Flickr set.)
Later today I’m starting my journey to Derry, including an overnight stop, for the annual 2D Comic Book Festival. It’s a long way to Derry from Galway, so I’m taking it in stages. The first year I went I did it by bus – never again! With traffic it ended up being over a six hour trip. There were people on the bus going to the festival who travelled nearly three hours to get to Galway, so that was a marathon trip for them. And if you’re travelling from Cork or Kerry..!
It’s a testament to the festival’s reputation that comic book creators and fans are willing to travel so long to attend.
The festival actually kicks off today, with workshops aimed at young people happening for the next two days. Friday evening everyone goes to Sandinos for the panels/chat, and this year the Comic Book Fair will be in the Millennium Forum, along with the Heroes & Legends show.
There’s an incredibly array of guests attending this year, and from what I hear practically the entire Irish comic book community will be resident in Derry for the weekend.
It should be a fantastic couple of days in the North.
When I was in Dublin this week I was fortunate to stay with Lynda Rucker, and her housemates Liz and Charlotte. Liz has a fabulous dog called Coco who is a sweetheart. As I’ve mentioned before my dog Minnie is not one for PDAs, but Coco is a total extrovert with her affection. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of her with my mobile phone.
Minnie gave me a glad welcome when I arrived home, and a proper sniffing. I wonder if she was thinking ‘The cheek of her! Spending time with another mutt.’
I snuck into a few shops in Dublin, and spotted this incredible Lady Gaga-esque pair of shoes.
I’m already tall but I would be a giant in these. I was thinking how heavy they would be to wear, and how awkward it would be to walk in them. Imagine sitting down, crossing your legs, and… impaling your shin with the back of the boot.
Still, those shoes have attitude in abundance. My respect to those who can wear them – or afford them!
As nice as it is to visit the city it’s also wonderful to return to the woods. I think the aristocracy had the right idea – one should have a town house and a country estate. One day!
In the meantime, here’s a glorious temporary shelter that’s cropping up all over the place – only good during sunshine, alas.
We had an attentive audience, and a good question and answer session afterwards. Dublin writer Catie Murphy brought along ginger snap cookies (recipe here), which were a big hit will all the attendees. Lynda and I were touched by Catie’s generosity and thoughtfulness.
Galwegian artist Róisín Curé travelled a long distance for the meeting, and also did the honours of documenting the event through a cartoon. She laboured away for most of the evening, and her results are beautiful.
Lynda and I were blown away by the quality of our guests’ presentations and the knowledge they shared. It was better than either of us could have hoped. It’s a long haul up the stairs to the Odessa Club rooftop bar, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Afterwards people chatted in the room, and then in the bar. It was lovely to meet new people who are passionate about the vast potential of comic books.
The next meeting is probably going to be in September, and we’ll announce more news about that in the coming weeks.
It’s the perfect event for anyone who loves comics or enjoys hearing creative professionals discuss their craft. All welcome!
Laydeez do Comics is an international network of meetings celebrating the diverse expressions of the comic book medium. Started in 2009 in London, it now has groups across the UK, America, and now Ireland.
It should be a fun and informative meeting tonight, so I hope many of you can make it along.