Tuesday, May 18, 2021

In which my daughter discovers Irish folk music

My four-year-old daughter has kept a steady war of attrition going to extend her bedtime ritual as much as possible, likely to ensure that no siblings muscle in on her time. One facet of the ritual is that she has me sing her a few songs at lights out, but in recent months, a twist was added: she'll request a "mystery song" - one that she's never heard before, and if she likes it, she bestows it the honour of having it go on her Google Music playlist (the playlist of non-kiddy songs so we have something bearable to listen to on long drives).

It only took a few weeks to exhaust the memory bank of pop-punk classics I'd happily sing to a Canadian 4 year old, so I resorted to looking up lyrics on my phone. Sensing that this fool's errand was proving too easy thanks to the smartphone, she began to introduce complexity by requesting songs about certain topics, or even that feature specific words.

And then it happened. "Sing me a mystery song. That's from Ireland".

Easy peasy, right? There's four decades of U2 pablum that would easily tick the boxes. I could hum out Where the Streets Have No Name, or I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for, or One. I could hit the mark while edifying my daughter on pop classics she would surely encounter down the line.

But that's not what I thought of. For some reason my brain decided that the right answer would be "Danny Dyer" by the Rubberbandits; an often filthy song that amounts to a series of contrived, bizarre claims delivered in a piss-take cockney accent.

Looks child-friendly enough!

These are some of the things Danny Dyer claims to have done in Danny Dyer by The Rubberbandits:

  • Doing speed with aboriginies
  • Eating the country of Greece while riding a saddled shark
  • Urinating in a kettle
There's a shortened version of it online that was used in their TV Show that should bring you up to speed in less than 2.5 minutes: go have a look.

Father-of-the-year material that I am, I swapped out the lyrics on the fly with child-friendly stuff, and a few minutes later, bedtime ritual was over, and I was free to spend my evening not updating my blog for the 1,630th straight day. 

The next day, I'm happily filling up my coffee cup in the kitchen, when my wife corners me and through gritted teeth asks me "why is our child singing "Danny Dyer, Danny Dyer, get 'im in a headlock?"

Our initial hopes that she would forget about it are completely dashed after a week of repeated asks. The Google Assistant refuses to play it for her, and she's never encountered this Content Filter issue before. Why can't she hear the song? We tell her there's no recording of it that survived on the internet because "it's from almost ten years ago and it's from Ireland, so nobody has a copy."

Undeterred, she asks me to ask my Irish friends. She asks me to track down the original artists (after asking if they're still alive). And more pressingly, she asks to sing the song to her night after night.

With more time to think about the lyrics I try to clean it up more, but I'm rebuked; "no Dad, that's not the right words". My toddler is castigating me for getting the censored words wrong, so I tell her that nobody has a trace of the real words, that it's been lost to time. The mystery around the song only grows and grows, it's now a part of her Irish heritage, it's even more important now that she hears it.

So I relent, and I tell her I'll try and find a copy. And I do what any loving father would in that situation: I use software trained by machine learning to split out the song into component stems; rewrite the lyrics, and inserted my own recorded vocals.

The results are... well, a bit of an abomination, as you can hear for yourself: 

Abomination or not - she loved it, and it has been bestowed with the great honour of being #1 on her regular playlist, so I'm guaranteed to hear my awful iPad-recorded vocals multiple times a week until my kid tires of the concept of music itself. How long could that take?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"The Walking D**k of Limerick"

I got a new job about 10 months ago. Shortly after joining, my new boss mentioned that he tried Googling my name, and was unable to wade through all the boxers, bakers and bishops that share my common-as-muck name.

Probably a good thing too, since had he dug deeper, he could have found the dire warning I just stumbled across on “Ripoff Report”, filed to "Questionable Activities", hoping to reach "Potential Employers, Business Owners, Jobseekers, Scam, Extortion, Internet".

The full text reads:
Anyone notice the guy in the images below? If you're a potential employer or business owner with the unfortunate occurrence of interacting with this person - BEWARE. This person has a dedicated blog designed to "expose" anything that may disrupt his fragile emotional state.

If you're a potential employer and are found interviewing this person: he is NOT interested in working for you. However, HE IS interesting in ruining your reputation and your livelihood for his own personal gain. This guy actually runs a blog designed to trash legitimate businesses. The goal? For financial gain. He IS willing to remove the information for a cost (i.e., extortion).
If you're a small business owner and are providing services or products for this individual: He is NOT interested in paying for it. He IS interested in running your company and products down on his blog in a malicious attempt to gain free services.
..... He even boasts that he "never pays for his meal at a restaurant." He's actually known as the Walking d**k of Limerick as his scam is well known locally.

Seán O'Sullivan is nothing more than a small time crook/scam artist posting misleading information to disrupt the commerce of legitimate enterprises while maliciously seeking financial compensation for his criminal behavior.

Avoid this person at all costs.

The above is obviously untrue - this blog has been used to run down spurious products, but certainly not in an attempt to gain “free services”, nor have I ever attempted to seek financial compensation for adding or removing content.

But you probably would do well to avoid me at all costs all the same.

At the risk of digging in deeper and upsetting more people... this RipoffReport site seems to heavily push you towards their "contest this filing" feature, which seems like a business model page taken from a revenge porn site.

My gut reaction when I saw this was that I had upset someone with my postings about dodgy products. Seeing that the filing came from Antrim in February 2011 made me wonder if it was prompted by one of the following:

After reading through more of the post, I realized that most of the content could have been scraped from my Blogger profile and put into a pre-made script, but Googling generic snippets of the above revealed no new hits.

I should admit that it brings me some sense of satisfaction that someone tried to hurt me in this small way, and it took me over five years to notice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where has Sully been?

It's been a phenomenal few months, and Toronto has been exceedingly kind to me, providing me opportunities to enjoy great friends, a great job, and a good life in general.

That's not what Sully's blog was ever about, so I won't go into it until everything starts to fall to pieces and there's something of interest in there to you sadistic die-hards.

Updates have dried up here while I endeavour to somehow make money writing about videogames, and today I actually have something to show for this dearth of updates.

My first published piece on IGN.com - one of the websites that impressed upon me that I wanted to write about videogames in the first place.

The Evolution of Xbox Live Arcade

This has been a bucket-list item for years, so I'm hugely excited to see it finally happen (within about 3 months of trying, too!)

To follow the rest of my videogame writing updates, keep an eye on Sully.ie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections on a transatlantic move #1 - Making Friends

I moved to Toronto at the end of September, which has been a great experience so far, but since it's been almost two months since I posted about the motivations behind the move, I thought it'd be appropriate to follow up with some more introspection on how things are going.

Making Friends
It's incredibly easy to make friends when you're a foreign guy in a new city, especially if you have no friends. My friend-making skills are rusty - I've tended to ride the coattails of my childhood friends or girlfriends for the past few years, but now that I'm away from all friends and family, I need a support-network, and my efforts reflect that.

Some friends of mine were playing a few gigs in Toronto, which meant I had people to tag along to bars with for a few evenings. I'd walk up to people, introduce myself, and make chit-chat for a while. This approach can't fail, especially since many of the conversations with Canadians start with "You're from Ireland? That's so cool!" I've been the foreign guy in a few different cultures before - you never run out of things to talk about, because people are generally interested in hearing about the curiosities of their culture that they take for granted. Armed with a few humorous ice-breaking anecdotes of my first-impressions of Toronto, I got into plenty of fun conversations with people that led to valuable advice on finding places to live, work, or just things to experience.

One facet of psychology that's always stuck with me is that if you want people to like you, have them do you a favour - it seems counter-intuitive, but even if someone is telling you a load of information you already know, or offering to take you to a place you've already been, just go along with it.

From my first couple of nights out, I had a stock of phone numbers, twitter-handles and e-mail addresses to follow up on, and I realized that my friendship 'problem' was now a matter of quality control (granted, most of the consideration that went into deciding who to get in touch with was who is most likely to drug and rape me).

I was concerned that since I'm in a relationship, it'd cripple my appeal somewhat, and cut off certain 'shortcuts' that have worked in the past (to paraphrase a dear friend; I can't fuck my way into a social circle), but I've met some great people that I'm excited to call my friends - I'll delve into the 'reinvention' clichés in another post.

Being a teetotaller does not help one in making friends. Minds boggle at the thought of alcohol abstinence. Everybody wants or expects a quick, narrative explanation, and since I don't have one, they assume that I'm hiding something dark. Alcoholic? Religious-nut? Dryballs? My strategy is to hold off admitting to it as long as possible (depending on the circumstance, naturally), but I could tell that I was disappointing a lot of would-be friends by declining drinks, or passing shots off onto my coconspirators. The cooler people would say "that's awesome that you don't drink - want to go outside and get high?" I'm offered weed in Toronto about as often as I'm offered tea in Ireland, and I feel about as bad for not being interested in this social icebreaker.

I find that I've been hesitant - almost hostile - about engaging with the Irish community in Toronto, as if not having an entirely Canadian support-network constitutes a failure to emigrate 'properly', but every fellow expat has been awfully decent, with many going out of their way to offer some sagely wisdom to spare me weeks of figuring stuff out for myself. I'm pretty sure that as the weeks crawl by, and the need to get more stable work grows, I'll be pulled into the orbit of the Irish community proper. Which will be a good thing. One can never have enough people to not drink with.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Keith Barry and the Massive Os

Keith Barry is an Irish magician. That's about 90% of what I know about him. I caught his Irish TV show a few years ago, and it seemed that he was just aping Derren Brown's tricks and style, but without the charm. I didn't pay too much attention to him.

When he was hosting Ireland's version of Deal or No Deal, I had assumed that he had given up on the magicianing lark, but it seems that his star has continued to rise - his hypnotism shows have drawn major crowds and broken records in Ireland, and he even made a 4-part series for Discovery.

He's clearly doing something right, and I've great respect for magicians, but when I tuned in to his appearance on Limerick's Live 95FM to promote his tour, he just sounded like a perverted 13-year old boy, giddily bragging about how ladies were having "massive Os" on stage. In case you missed it, he said it again and again, each time more unnerving, an ill-fitting phrase-of-choice for a man in his thirties. Yes Keith, your potency is such that ladies can orgasm from your very suggestion, but please don't sound like such a potential-sex offender next time you're trying to lure in the bawdy blue-collar crowd.

I couldn't find a copy of the recording, but in the first interview I found on YouTube, he asserts that the camerawoman is 'waxed, not shaven' within the first minute. Classy, classy guy!

Anyhow, what really prompted this ad was catching a few minutes of 'Deception with Keith Barry' on Discovery. I noticed that the producers put as much effort into designing the title card as Keith does into creating his act. Keith sees what other magicians are doing that looks cool, and then claims it as his own.

So the producers are making his title screen - they take a picture of him standing in front of something with his arms crossed, slap some text over it, then click through the fonts until something looks decent, like 12-year old girls formatting a book report.

"'Cracked' looks cool. Good enough for you? Let's pillowfight!"

It bothers me when this is done, so to punish Keith Barry and the lack of effort, I made a graphic of the show that I wish I caught five minutes of:

Still not painting a proper picture? Okay - everyone knows and is sick of Comic Sans, right? This is how much effort they put in:

Alright, that's all for today. File this under 'General begrudgery of successful Irish people'.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfect Storm

A few weeks back, my Twitter account was successfully phished.

Since I have an image of myself as a person who does not enter passwords willy-nilly on spurious websites, cognitive-dissonance reduction has kicked in to assure me that I couldn't have not entered my password on that fateful day. I was at the mercy of the perfect storm.

Let me introduce all the moving parts in this sequence.

About a month ago, I moved to Toronto. Since I figured I'd need to stay connected to the internet, I sniffed out the cheapest smart-phone & plan possible to get me started. My friends were playing a music festival in town, so I let them crash with me for a few days. Since the place was small, sharing beds was inevitable. Since one of my guests is a total shutterbug, there were plenty of photographs taken at inappropriate times, and threats of ruined political-careers flying about.

A few nights into their trip, we were all dispersed within a single pub, mingling with the locals. My friends and I had been using Twitter to stay in touch while we were apart, so when I got a direct message alerting me to a 'funny picture' of me making its way online, I didn't suspect its veracity. I had seen some of the incriminating photos on his phone, so I clicked on the link to see what the damage was.

The phone I've been using is a piece of junk. It's an Acatel 980S, and it's plagued with a grotesque lack of memory, so it regularly flushes the browser-cache to keep things moving. It's not unusual to be logged out of a website I was just using, so when I clicked on the link from within my TweetDeck app and was presented with the Twitter login page, it didn't set off any alarm bells. I wasn't thinking too much about what I was doing, other than pretending to still be interested in the Canuck droning on about how cool Ireland was when he visited as a nipper.

I wasn't on the real Twitter site, and I didn't realize until I had entered my username and password (probably incorrectly, since the tiny screen makes the onscreen keyboard worthless) and hit submit. The error page wasn't quite right. Something was wrong. I went looking for my friend in the pub and asked him if he has sent me a picture. He had no idea what I was talking about. I had just done something incredibly stupid.

Serves me right for being such a rude prick.

From there on, it was actually quite tricky to change my password - I couldn't find the option on the Twitter mobile site, and the regular Twitter site kept redirecting me to the mobile version. Eventually I had to Google 'Twitter password change' to be brought to the page I wanted.

Lesson learned: pay more attention to links you click on. Fundamental of internet-security proven: having different passwords for different services is essential, and in this case I was quite relieved to think that the password I volunteered to the phishers wouldn't get them in anywhere other than my fairly unimportant Twitter profile.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robocop 2 - Déjà Vu Revue

It's been years since I've seen Robocop 2. The only details I remembered from my childhood is a fight in an arcade, a terrible CG face, and that the main villain is a kid.

So, how did it hold up? Read on!