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Welcome to the Internet

Bo Burnham’s Inside is still resonating deeply. His creative mind is at the peak of its powers. And it is such a brilliant snapshot of the digitally connected world we live in, as well as being a profoundly thoughtful exploration of the pandemic and our place in it. This song is a superb standalone slice of genius, and also a great calling card for Bo Burnham’s mighty mix of humour and musical mastery. I have to admit I pegged him completely wrong and assumed (incorrectly) that he was not for me. After seeing this I will watch anything he makes. If it wasn’t obvious already. I urge you to watch it . It is pure creativity and simultaneously it is a study of the creative process. So much more than meets the eye.

Inside by Bo Burnham is a masterpiece

I watched Inside by Bo Burnham on Netflix last night. It was like nothing I have ever seen and I was utterly blown away by it. It’s listed as a comedy special but that doesn’t come close to describing it. It’s a meditation on life during the pandemic, it’s about creativity and the creative process, it’s about mental health, it’s about the digital world we live in, and ultimately it is a really beautiful, clever film. It is time very well spent in the company of a unique mind. Give it a watch, I’m going to watch it again.

May the force be with you

Lockdown restrictions have eased slightly in Ireland, so we decided to make a family trek to the epic kingdom of Kerry. The days were mixed with scorching sunshine and chunky Irish clouds. The simple act of leaving home and heading elsewhere in this beautiful country of Ireland felt like being on another planet – and funnily enough that island off in the distance is Skellig where the recent Star Wars trilogy was filmed, so we kinda were.

To be truly creative, you need to give your brain a break and head for the open country. Never has that been more true than this year.

Marble Run

Creativity comes in so many forms, and this week introduced me to a beautiful new one in the shape of “Jelle’s Marble Runs“. As an avid viewer of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I was doubly pleased it made me aware of this totally compelling YouTube channel, dedicated to racing marbles on homemade tracks. Dry, silly commentary, coupled with absurd back stories & adoring marble fans, makes this a truly bonkers but brilliant slice of creativity. In the absence of actual sports, this might just be the only must-watch thing around. Not joking – it’s really fun, and a very welcome diversion.

Update: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is now an official sponsor of Jelle’s Marble Runs

OUR CUP WILL BE FULL AGAIN

A few weeks ago, my friend Gary Dunne, who curates an incredible artistic slate for the London Irish Centre asked me to contribute a poem to their online season. Gary and the staff of the LIC do incredible work for the Irish community in London and they have been very good to me down the years – they hosted the London premiere of Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About, and I have also showcased sketches with The Brownbread Players there too. It’s always a warm, giving audience that finds a connection through a shared tribe in a generous welcoming environment. So I was honoured to be asked, and frankly, I was happy to have a creative project to focus on in the rare moments I had to myself during this uncertain time.

The theme was HOPE which really spoke to me, and the image of a paper cup delicately dancing on a wave is one that has been with me for decades, but never found a proper home in a piece of writing. As soon as I sat down to write the poem I knew that this was where it had been drifting towards all along. It came together relatively quickly (thank goodness because time is a rare commodity these days) and it allowed me to marry it to a piece of music I wrote many moons ago that had also never found a creative home (unsurprisingly, the music was also written around the same time the image of the cup first washed into my brain). I also knew that the focus should be on the words but have a strong simple visual to guide it, so I went down to the sea by my home to film the waves but they just weren’t right. I resigned myself to using what I had and then serendipitously my friend Jim posted a short video that day on Facebook of the Irish Sea, that connects this island of Ireland to the UK, and I simply knew that it was the perfect accompaniment. Jim graciously allowed me to use it, and I lent my rudimentary video editing skills to piece it together. The end result feels ever so slightly imperfect but absolutely right, and I am immensely proud of it.

I hope it resonates with all of you, and I would be grateful if you shared it onwards with anyone in need of a message of hope right now.

The Sentence (a poem)

To mark¬†#WorldPoetryDay, I accepted¬†Colm Keegan‘ s challenge to read/recite a poem. Extra widescreen, and extra-hidden text off camera (my memory is not what it used to be), this is my most poem-y poem and feels strangely apt for the times we find ourselves in. This is called “the sentence”

Big Night – A tale of culinary creativity

Many moons ago, my dad and I watched a beautiful film called Big Night, which has this remarkable food dish called Timpano as it’s centrepiece. Essentially a massive multi-layered baked pasta drum. We were so taken with it, we tried to make it together one night back then with my friend Jakob, and it was moderately successful. But the experience of making it has stuck with me ever since.

So I had wanted to make it again for decades and this birthday felt like the perfect moment to bring beloved family and friends together to make it , and share in this experience. Myself, Jim, Doug and David spent hours laughing and cooking, as we created exquisite bubbling sauces and ragus, boiled eggs, grilled meats, rolled “polpette” meatballs, sliced salami, made and rolled out huge sheets of pasta dough. We made several feasts that would have fed a large percentage of Ireland. And then we layered all those myriad of feasts into not one, but three Timpanos — one veggie and two meaty.

Into the oven they went, and once baked, there was still an element of doubt that they would come out of the dish in one piece, and when slicing into it, if it retains it’s structural integrity, and comes out in a solid perfect layered slice. As you can see from the photos and videos below, they came out absolutely perfect – a moment of true joy.

Then it was time to taste. I can tell you, they were absolutely delicious. All of them. And on top of that the joy of sharing them with friends old and new over a glass of wine was the real treat.

We then chatted and sang songs till deep in the night. All seated around the gorgeous tables so artfully decorated with care by my brilliant wife, Jessica. She brings people together and draws the best out of them, and today was no different

Inevitably my mind drifted to those who could not be with us and the fire they carried into my life. I thought of my mother who was the same age as I am today when she passed away. She would have loved this , especially the meatball Timpano. I thought of my father who would have been in his element in the kitchen and spinning jazz records on the turntable. He would have loved this, especially the veggie Timpano.

It was a great day. A perfect day. Fun, family, friends. And fabulous food. Most of all, it was an experience I will treasure forever.

Today, I will definitely be eating lots of leftovers and as evening falls, we are going to stick on Big Night and watch it with the kids. They have to carry the fire now and I’m counting on them to make Timpano with me in a couple of years too.