Category Archives: Reviews

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop

Charlie Byrne's Bookshop

I had heard about Charlie Byrne’s for a long time but just never bothered to look for it. Until today.

I decided to go and check it out because my newly discovered book club is reading Atonement and I didn’t want to buy a new copy. I was hoping I would find a second hand one at Charlie Byrne’s.

I found a little more than I bargained for. It is a beautiful place. It is a difficult place to describe. There are times and places in which Galway seems like a throwback to the nineteenth century. Charlie Byrne’s epitomises that side of the city. It is really very quaint. A book lover’s paradise. A place that I am sure is going to drain me of the little money I have.

When you walk in, you are stunned by the old school decor and the books that are literally falling off shelves. Ireland as a whole feels cramped for space, but this little bookshop takes it to another level. There are rows and rows, tables, stacks on the floor, stacks on shelves, and even books that almost appear as though they are suspended from the ceiling.

It is very definitely what a book shop should be. Don’t get me wrong, I like the well ordered, neat, sterile, more commercial places. I spend a lot of time in Easons and Dubrays. They are great, but they don’t have the magic of an independent, small time outfit.

I can see why it is such a popular place. If you are ever in Galway city, you need to check out Charlie Byrne’s. The only issue I have with them is that the section on African books (history, literature, biographies and current affairs) is dismal and extremely disappointing. That is a real shame considering Galway’s growing African community. Hopefully they will improve in that department.

Other than that, it’s a fantastic place. And no, I’m not being paid to endorse them – but that might not be such a bad idea…

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Home of the Brave

Friday is date night for Becky (my wife) and I. Tonight we decided to get a pizza and watch a movie at home. Since she made me watch The Bucket List, I got to choose the movie this time around. I like films that make you both think and feel something. Home of the Brave succeeded in doing both.

Towards the end, it takes on a propaganda feel that I resented. Other than that, I thought it was a fantastic movie. It tells the Iraq war story from a perspective we don’t normally hear. It looks at the ordinary people who are there fighting and the battle they have integrating back into society. My father is a war veteran so I could relate in part to some of the struggles the film highlights.

Having said that, I dislike the way Hollywood seems incapable of seeing the world from a perspective other than that of America. If you’re going to make a film about how ordinary people’s lives are moved by this war, surely it should be from the perspective of the Iraqis. That’s the story I want to hear.

Still, were this movie a photograph, it would be a high resolution close up. A very real, raw picture that gets behind the guards that people normally put up. That’s its beauty – you get so close to the characters that you feel you could touch them.

I still resent that war. I would be tempted to wear a shirt written Buck Fush (watch the movie). But after watching it, I really hope that America treats its veterans better than the treatment you see in this movie. To that end, the makers definitely get their point across.

I’m in awe at the power of film to communicate.

The Dream Deferred

The Dream Deferred by Mark Gevisser 

I’ve found lately that my opinion of people changes drastically when I find out a little more about them. It happened with Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and now, Thabo Mbeki.

 

Mark Gevisser’s The Dream Deferred is a fantastic book. It’s a pretty in depth look into Thabo Mbeki’s soul. More than just following the life of South Africa’s president, Gevisser tries to see and understand who he is as a person. Although I’ve only read a small part of the book, I am engrossed.

 

There is something about being a black man. It is as though at birth your identity is stolen and you have one of two choices, spend your life seeking it, or claim another. There is such an assault on us by the media and public perception. There’s an incredible pressure to conform to an identity created by mass media. So much so, that trying to figure out and then just being who you are will at the very least get you marked out as a non-conformist at best.

 

In reading Mandela and Obama’s autobiographies, I was stuck by the recurring theme of the search for identity. Mark Gevisser’s perception of the same struggle in Mbeki really has really impressed me. I am a little jealous of him. I would have loved to have spent that much time researching, distilling and then putting one of my fathers’ lives onto paper. It might have helped me on my pilgrimage. Maybe one day.

 

Already, I have a new found respect, as well as compassion and maybe even a little affection for President Mbeki.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I must warn you, this post is totally random and is in no way important, but you may still find it interesting.  Now that the disclaimer is out of the way…

When I was a child, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the man and The Terminator was the best thing since sliced bread. That’s just how it was and maybe that’s why I’m excited about the new series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I love Jamie, but I just disagree with her. Why wouldn’t you want to watch the story of what happened between the two Terminator movies? I’ll be the first to admit that Terminator 3 was rubbish, but that’s different. Arnie was past his action figure sell by date. The whole thing felt forced and didn’t work. This new series though…I think it has loads of potential. 

As long as they keep it as a simple man against the machines story, I think The Sarah Connor Chronicles will rock. It will only fall apart if they try to make it clever because let’s face it, that’s not what the Terminator was about.

The Bucket List

Since my last post was about money, I thought I’d bring a little balance to my blog.

I took my wife out a few nights ago. We ended up at a cinema and we decided to take a chance on The Bucket List. It turned out to be much better than I expected. In fact, it was pretty good.

It’s one of those stories about finding out what’s ultimately important in life. Granted, Hollywood churns out lots of these every year, but this movie stands out a little. I’m not sure what exactly it was, but it managed to tell a familiar tale without being overly predictable or cheesy. 

Go and watch it on a Sunday afternoon. It will put a smile on your face, warm your heart and just maybe, re-evaluate stuff.

goodCRIMETHINK

I came across this blog by accident a couple of weeks ago. I like to randomly surf for blogs just to see what’s out there. If I really like something, I might subscribe to it. Although I’ve never done this before, I felt I should write a post on Baratunde Thurston’s goodCRIMETHINK.

I really, really admire this guy! I’m impressed by how he seems to have made a go at his different passions and managed to harmonise them all. He’s a comedian, a good one at that, a political activist and a writer. He has written three books and contributes to a few blogs. His writing and humour are so good, I’m sure his books are well worth reading. So much so, I’m getting one – I’ll do a review here once I’ve read it.

Baratunde reminds me of my cousin Fari. He was a little older than me and he was good at everything I aspired to. Fari was definitely the cool big brother you wanted to be like. In the same way, Baratunde’s has inspired me. I’m never going to be a comedian, but now that I’ve seen what he is doing, I’ve got fresh impetus for my thing. He’s got me thinking about what I want my brand of activism to look like and has reminded me that it is possible to do something big without losing the essence of who I am. All I need to do is figure out what that is.

I highly recommend this site. Even if politics isn’t your thing, or if you strongly disagree with his views, you’ll probably still enjoy finding out what he has to say.