I have a confession to make. Up until yesterday I was a DJ without a decent sound system at home and without a set of decks, and a writer without a printer. But now part of that problem has been solved because a bunch of my amazing friends got together and bought me some bluetooth speakers for my birthday.

Last night I tested the speakers fairly comprehensively and listened to a lot of stuff, including albums I’ve neglected for a long time mostly because my shitty laptop speakers were completely busted and distorted the bass horribly. In the process I came across this tune by Cagedbaby, a favourite of mine for a long time.

I first heard Cagedbaby ten years ago when I was living in London and working on a music conference called Encompass. I caned the album in the office in the months leading up to the event and then saw the band play live in a small venue in Shoreditch during the festival in April 2005. The gig was electric, the band were so powerful live. This tune in particular reminds me of that time in my life, living in London, immersed in music, looking forward to the summer and having a lot of fun.

 
 

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favourite books as a child and now it’s also the name of a gorgeous furniture store in Dublin. The shop is the brainchild of Zoe Carney, a fashion and design professional from Dublin, and its first incarnation was a pop-up shop on Baggot Street for a few months last year. Spurred on by its success, Zoe has created a warehouse space in Harold’s Cross and an online shop, showcasing the collection of furniture and decoration for sale, and items available for prop hire.

There are stunning pieces sourced from France, Hungary and Sweden, and Zoe has reconditioned some of the antiques, putting her own distinctive signature on the collection. The shades of blue and green and the aged patina give the pieces lots of character. Zoe also offers a reupholstery service so if you fall in love with a fauteuil but don’t like the colour, you can have it changed to suit.

The Velveteen Rabbit is located at Home Studios in Harold’s Cross and open by appointment from Wednesday to Saturday. Click on the pics to be taken to the items on The Velveteen Rabbit site.

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1930s White Patine Louis XVI Fauteuil

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Green Transylvanian Table

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Vintage Siphon Bottles

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Vintage Dutch Trestle Table

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19th Century Hungarian Printer’s Drawers

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Antique Hungarian Sideboard

On 5th June Muse release their seventh studio album Drones and ‘Dead Inside’ is the first single taken from the album. I was very excited to hear it as Muse are one of my favourite rock bands; I adore Matt Bellamy’s operatic vocals and Queen-influenced harmonies.

‘Dead Inside’ sounds more stripped back than previous albums, less orchestral and not so electronic. It sounds more like three guys returning to their rock and roll roots having experimented for a long time. ‘Psycho’ is the B side, which is based on a guitar riff that the band have been working on for years. I actually prefer ‘Psycho’ to the single so I’ve linked to it below. Enjoy!

Pic by Lili Forberg

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of DJing at the Dundrum Town Centre Spring/Summer 2015 fashion shows. I’ve been working with the team there for five seasons and it’s always a lot of fun. Plus Colm Corrigan’s impeccable styling generally makes me want to spend my fee there and then!

I love researching tunes for shows, trying to find the perfect songs for the brief and the perfect tempo for the models. Dundrum shows happen on the mall and the audience ranges from two to eighty-two, so the music was fun with a summery vibe.

I usually end up with a shortlist of twenty songs and have to narrow it down to six. This tune was one of the ones that didn’t make it as it gets a bit heavy towards the end but I really like this RAC remix. It’s got an 80s electro feel, plus the ‘beautiful girl’ lyric would have really worked with models stomping the runway!

The rereading continues. I have recently raced through A Confederacy of Dunces (one of the funniest books ever written), Lolita (a masterclass in style), and Disturbing the Peace (a harrowing account of a man descending into alcoholism and madness).

After all that I took Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates out of the bookshelves, one of the books on the Ten Favourite Books list. Blonde was first published in 2000 and I first read it in 2002. The book was a bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Oates herself thinks that this is one of the two books that she will be remembered for; a serious statement given that she has published over forty novels, as well as plays, short stories, poetry and non-fiction. (Anyone else feel like an underachiever?)

Blonde is a fictionalised account of the life of Marilyn Monroe and it’s a whopper of a novel; the edition I have comes in at almost 1,000 pages. Even the most superficial fan of Monroe knows the history of her life and these familiar events are explored in the book. Oates writes about Marilyn’s chaotic childhood, her film experiences, failed romantic relationships and miscarriages, and above all her desire to break out of her one-note bombshell persona.

Given that this is a fictional memoir, Oates writes from Marilyn’s perspective and this is where the book becomes exceptional. Through Oates’ eyes Marilyn becomes a real person, not just a fluffy sexy two-dimensional film star. Blonde creates a completely authentic reality for Monroe and also shines a light on little known relationships such as the ménage à trois between Monroe, Charles Chaplin Junior and Eddy Robinson Junior. One of the last chapters, ‘Special Delivery, 3 August 1962′, is a powerful imagining of Monroe’s death that sent shivers up my spine the first time I read it.

Blonde could have been a voyeuristic tabloid disaster in another writer’s hands but Oates’ extraordinary talent transforms it into an empathetic exploration of an eternally fascinating woman. Marilyn will be an inspiration for the ages; a woman who was ahead of her time, a tragic figure who craved long lasting love and never seemed to find it, and a talented actress who was just finding her way when she died. Blonde is perhaps one of the best works inspired by her and it’s a phenomenal book on its own terms too.

Here’s a famous interview with the woman herself recorded a month before her death. Monroe is honest on the subjects of sex, fame, and her experiences of the Hollywood system, and I find it interesting that her real life voice is more assured and adult and animated than the breathy child-woman voice we hear in her movies.

As regular readers of the Multiverse know, Alex Gibney is one of my favourite documentary makers and his latest film Going Clear, broadcast last weekend in the US on HBO, has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. The film is based on Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief published in January 2013. Given the fact that 1.7 million people tuned in to watch it last weekend (HBO’s biggest documentary premiere in almost a decade) it would appear that interest in Scientology is huge and for many viewers, including me, this is the first time they have been made aware of the abuse, violence, brainwashing and fraud that the church has been involved in.

Gibney interviews eight former Scientologists, some of whom were high ranking members, and many of their experiences are horrifying. They recount how they got into the church, the methods of mind control, brainwashing and isolation that the church utilises, and their reasons for leaving. The ‘auditing’ process is explained in detail, whereby the church learns each member’s weak spots, secrets and vulnerabilities, and uses this information to keep members in line. 

Gibney also uses footage of Scientology events (some of which look like the Nazi propaganda rallies) and archival footage of two of Scientology’s most prominent members, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who are used as recruitment tools and as the public face of the religion. Through recruitment of celebrities and crucially the 1993 designation of Scientology as a recognised religion by the IRS and therefore tax exempt, the church is an incredibly rich organisation having amassed billions of dollars in assets and property.

Many of the ex-members speak of misconduct and abuse by church leaders, especially David Miscavige. It is alleged that Miscavige encourages harassment of journalists and ex-members of the church, has humiliated, intimidated, imprisoned and in some cases physically beaten members, and knowingly exploits vulnerable people. Particularly disturbing are the accounts of ‘The Hole’, a facility where dozens of members are imprisoned and subjected to reindoctrination. What this seems to mean is extreme physical and mental abuse, and hours of interrogation with the aim of getting the members to ‘confess’, i.e. relate criticisms of the religion or of David Miscavige, or confess homosexual tendencies and sexual fantasies. It sounds a bit like a POW camp.

Unlike some previous criticisms of Scientology, this documentary has real weight and therefore the power to affect change. Alex Gibney is an Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker, someone who is highly respected, someone who has built his reputation on thorough research, not some fly-by-night with a video camera and a grudge. In addition the film was produced by HBO who employed over 150 lawyers to review it before broadcast. Although the church, Tom Cruise, John Travolta and others declined to be interviewed and have denied the claims in the documentary through their lawyers, an injunction was not taken out before broadcast leading us to believe that the film is factually correct, truthful and therefore must be taken seriously.

Hopefully Going Clear will be the catalyst for authorities and the media to investigate Scientology further, the start of which should be the IRS reconsidering the tax free status of the church.

 

Back in February HBO aired a six-part documentary series on Robert Durst, the wealthy scion of the Durst family arrested in March on suspicion of murder. It might seem like the timing of the broadcast and Durst’s arrest was coincidental, but his arrest was in fact partly due to the documentary makers uncovering new evidence and turning it over to police.

Durst is the eldest son of the Durst family who own the Durst Organization, a real estate company in New York City whose holdings include One World Trade Center and the Condé Nast Building on Times Square. He first came to police attention when his wife Kathleen disappeared in 1982. The couple had been fighting in the months before her disappearance, with Kathleen complaining to her friends of increased violence from her husband, even telling them that if anything should happen to her they should investigate Robert. When Kathleen disappeared, her friends suspected Durst of murder but without a body there was little law enforcement could do.

Durst was then arrested in 2001 on charges of murder when his neighbour’s dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in Texas. The body parts were in trash bags which also contained evidence linking the body to Durst. Durst claimed self-defence, and given that he had unlimited wealth to hire the best lawyers, he managed to get off. His most recent arrest is on charges of murdering his best friend, Susan Berman, a woman who may have had information about his wife’s disappearance and who was found shot dead, execution style, in her Californian home in 2000.

There’s a bit too much smoke for it not to be fire, or so it looks at this stage. Certainly Durst does little to help himself in the documentary. He is an odd man, given to facial tics and bizarre statements, and seems obtuse and at times deliberately provocative. He has in the past been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, but it would seem that some from of sociopathy is at work too, given the emotionless and unsettling way he speaks during the interviews. Even his own brother finds him dangerous and unpredictable and in the past hired a bodyguard to protect himself.

The Jinx is a brilliant documentary series and well worth watching. In particular it reminded me of The Staircase which I reviewed on the blog a while ago, in that it’s in-depth and also illustrates how money can make the difference between an innocent or guilty verdict. It will be interesting to watch Durst’s current legal case as it unfolds in the coming months. Not only was he denied bail earlier this week but police are now looking at Durst in connection to three more women who have disappeared, two in 1997 and one in 1971.

A mate of mine posted this to my Facebook timeline a few weeks ago and to my shame I only got around to watching it today. It’s too funny, so well edited that I’m ordering the box set. (And kudos for lifting this theme tune for extra authenticity!)

Samuel Beckett is one of my favourite Irishmen, one of our four Nobel Prize winners for literature, a writer who combines tragedy with comedy in a uniquely Irish way. It seems appropriate to post this close to Paddy’s Day. I think he’d love it.

 

Before Christmas I had some feedback from an agent regarding my last book, which has resulted in my setting aside the new book I was working on and instead commencing a mega-redraft. Since January, I have been adhering to a fairly strict schedule: lots of writing (which hasn’t included much blogging – mea culpa), healthy food, early nights, and a book at bedtime. Given the fact that I read about a hundred pages in an hour, that has meant that I’ve read over fifteen books this year. I’m not going to review them all (I have a rule about reviewing books I don’t like) but here are three I loved.

All That Is by James Salter

Salter has been termed ‘the forgotten hero of American letters’ by the Guardian; certainly I had never heard of him or his considerable reputation before I picked up All That Is, published in 2013 and his first book for thirty-five years. It’s the life story of Philip Bowman: his experiences as a naval officer in World War Two, his career as a book editor in New York, and his various love affairs. Salter’s writing style is beautiful, spare and clean, masterfully describing supporting characters in one perfectly observed paragraph, his dialogue simple leaving the reader to infer the nuances. I am now a Salter convert and have also read his 1975 novel Light Years. Here’s a wee video of Mr. Salter discussing his life and work.

 

 

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

I love Coupland’s work and Worst. Person. Ever is thankfully a return to form for Coupland after the misstep of Player One. It’s narrated by Raymond Gunt, a loathsome misanthropic cameraman who is hired to work on a Survivor-style reality show on an obscure island in the Pacific. Gunt is a reprehensible person, with no manners, no consideration, no human feeling for anyone. Coupland has huge fun with this character, you can almost see him in his study rubbing his hands with glee as he comes up with new perversions and new depravity for Gunt. It’s a blackly funny character study with some of Coupland’s best writing.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This book was published in 2007 to huge acclaim, and went onto win the Pulitzer, but it wasn’t until three friends of mine recommended it to me separately over a three month period that I finally read it. It deserves all the love and plaudits it received. Set in New Jersey, the story of Oscar is intertwined with those of his sister and mother, and other members of their Dominican family. The narrator’s style is peppered with Spanish phrases and a uniquely descriptive voice, and poor Oscar is one of the most heart-warming characters I’ve read in recent times. I raced through this one in a night.

One of my favourite recent-ish rock discoveries has been Royal Blood. The band is comprised of two English guys, Mike Kerr (bass, vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums), both of whom are in their mid-twenties. Though they formed only two years ago, the band already have a fan in none other than Jimmy Page, they’ve had the fastest selling debut rock album in the UK in three years, and they’ve played support for The Pixies and Arctic Monkeys.

I love the album and the lead single ‘Figure It Out’ has been a big hit at gigs. The musical line-up sounds odd I know (what, no guitar?) but they have a huge sound, akin to Zeppelin crossed with The White Stripes. In this interview with MusicRadar, Kerr talks a bit about using a pedalboard and his favourite basses, which goes some way to explaining how a two-piece can have so much power.

Slane is happening on May 30th this year and as I’m sure you know Foo Fighters are headlining. Also on the bill are Hozier (YAAAY) and Kaiser Chiefs (WTF?). Don’t get me wrong, Kaiser Chiefs are a band with some good songs and they have a lot of fans here, but I’d MUCH rather see Royal Blood on this bill. And considering Royal Blood are already supporting Foos in the USA in July and August, I’m at a loss as to why this didn’t happen.

If you haven’t already heard them, get on it!

 

 

The Multiverse

is a blog from an Irish writer and DJ which takes in a wide range of subject matter as follows: Monday’s blogs are related to literature and writing; Tuesday is fashion, style and beauty; Wednesday is music; Thursday is TV and cinema; and Friday is a miscellany.

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Spent this morning at Bloom in the Phoenix Park, where I learned that I am only marginally taller than your average raspberry plant. Sensible advice in Stoneybatter. #itsasign Birthday dinner with my Mum in Trocadero tonight (my birthday was Monday, hers is Tuesday). Lovely evening. Birthday dinner with my Dad tonight in The Cliff Town House. Love the decor, especially this chandelier. #dublin #chandelier Me and my best mate celebrating my birthday. She's true legend! #bestmates #birthday #lucky Spent my birthday afternoon with two of my favourite people. Lots of candles on my cake!!

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