Monday, May 31, 2010

beyond the beyonds

I started this blog originally as just somewhere else to post my reaction to ‘Beyond the Roundabout’. Back then, (all those posts ago,) I was full of vim and vinegar- I tell thee! I posted it on Vimeo,, and the last few lines of it on Youtube and waited for a reaction. I didn’t get much, and then I more or less forgot about it.

Recently, I noticed that the creator of ‘Beyond the Roundabout’: Mr Larkin himself, had replied (that is, he had replied properly, there was a petulant little thing on the youtube ‘trailer’ that he was smart enough to take down) and his reply, and my original review, are to be found on this blog at the very first post (just by the entrance on your left you cant miss it.) under the title ’Beyond the Roundabout’. After today’s post, I promise never to speak of it again, and this is why.

Uri Geller was a fraud. Or, more accurately, he was a man who for more than thirty years claimed ‘paranormal abilities’ and has now reclassified himself as a ‘mentalist’ and entertainer.
An ex-conjuror called James Randi spent years of his life exposing Geller’s ‘miracles’ for the parlour tricks they were and even wrote a book on the subject of Geller’s fraudulence without having any real impact on the Israeli charlatan’s career.

The moral of the story being 'dont harp on about it too much -you're in danger of giving it more attention than it deserves', so let's proceed with caution.

The forty-five minutes that I spent watching ‘Beyond the roundabout?’ was quite enough time to spend on it, and perhaps I should have just walked away and put the whole thing down to unpleasant experience; but I didn’t.
I was aware even as I criticised it that I was probably paying the piece more attention to it than it deserved but I did have a reaction to it that required some form of expression. I tried very hard to be fair, I tried very hard to be objective, but of course my response was be driven not only by aesthetic considerations but by personal ones as well. So let’s get personal.

Personally speaking; I like Art, I like good film-making and I like children.

And I’d just like to readdress what I saw as the projects failings under these three headings.

Firstly then, Art.

Art defies definition and so is open to abuse as a ‘Get-out-of-jail-free’ card for lazy or incompetent work. There is no way to change this because really whatever your medium, the power of a creative work comes not from the amount of energy and commitment that the maker puts into it but from the response it creates in an audience.

That response will depend not so much on the technical competence or even the intention of the artist so much as: when and how an audience come into contact with the work, whether it reverberates in some way with the culture it’s produced in, other contemporary works, Art history, the zeitgeist of the time, and more usually; a combination of all of these things.

In other words, Michelangelo can jump up and down in the artists’ afterlife shouting at Andy Warhol and saying “That Cistine chapel took me years! - Those silk-screens of yours only took an afternoon” all he likes, that doesn’t mean that Warhol didn’t make Art.

Because of the ‘Get-out-of-jail-free’ aspect, it is unsurprising that Mr Larkin defends his piece by telling us that it’s ‘Art’ and claiming that any criticism of it is just the type of critical controversy that great Art historically excites. This is disingenuous, (in the sense of what the word sounds like: that it’s hardly ingenious, and also in the sense of what the word means: that it’s not true) because to be truly controversial, a piece of work should attract not only damning criticism but also an equally passionate amount of praise.
I’m still waiting for the passionate praise.

So then next: good film-making.
Mr Larkin’s original reaction to a single critical comment, added to the film’s trailer on Youtube, (the comments, and ability to comment were subsequently removed) was to ask who did this ‘darnmarr’ think he was and inquire where examples of darnmarr’s editing could be seen; which I thought was a strange way for an artist to defend himself .
I felt like I had been to the tailor to complain that one leg of my pants was shorter than the other only to be told ‘Oh Yeah? - When’s the last time you used a sewing machine then?’
I believe his more recent reply, if I may continue the tailor analogy, comes down to saying; ‘Oh they’re supposed to be like that, high fashion is always controversial’ which makes a lot more sense and is worth replying to, so that’s the one I will address.

Sewing is a good analogy for editing, it takes a lot of work and concentration and skill and you notice it most when it’s done badly. By choosing the style of still-shot photography, and by choosing to make each shot as a ‘neutral’ shot, without a single pan, tilt, track or zoom during the whole 45 minutes; a lot of the difficult work is cut out.
So lets say, in sewing terms, Mr Larkin made something that was less a fitted suit so much as a toga. By having a soundtrack that was largely independent of the imagery, it became a toga with frayed edges. By having poor quality sound on the few pieces where sound and image were required to be in synch, it became a frayed toga with a hole in the back of it; which I suppose is fine if that’s the look you’re going for, but it doesn’t take much of a tailor to create it. In defence of this technique he tells us that he has used this technique before and gotten away with it. I can only reply that two arseless raggy togas does not a tailor make, and certainly one toga of this type shouldn’t take eight months of sewing to create. Fashion, like Art, is impossible to predict and,( for all I know,) one day raggy bumless Togas may indeed be the height of sartorial elegance, but you cant call it good tailoring; this is what I meant by Larkin’s limitations as an editor.

And finally, ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?’.
Kids from bad areas eh? Aren’t they gas? With their sailor’s vocabularies and their low self-esteem and expectations? This is the bit that angered me most about the whole thing. I worked in Glenagross park in Moyross here in Limerick for four years. For the past seven years I’ve taken kids from Weston to Ballycotton with Ann Curley’s project.
I like kids. The kids from Regeneration areas have a lot to be getting on with and one of their biggest problems is how they slip into the roles of not ‘how they are’ but how they are perceived. If the world responds to you as a stereotype it’s sometimes just easier to live up to it. By getting children to ‘scobe it up’ for the camera, I felt Mr Larkin was accelerating this process in a cynical and completely irresponsible way. It seemed obvious to me he had done so simply to give his film ‘an edge’ and was the work of someone who had observed children distantly and didn’t like them; it wasn’t the work of someone who had ‘engaged’.

Happily, already the ‘film’ is a distant memory and, as I will not be watching it a second time; this is the last thing I’m going to say on the subject.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Disney Movie: 'The Lion King'
is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet
100% FACT!

You wouldn't think it, but there it is.
In the scholarly and scholastic world of scholars, there is a scholar, by the name of Volger, who has gone to great pains to expose this blatant act of plagiarism by the dizzy-knee scriptwriters.
( Mind you plagiarism wasn't so much of an issue back in the day.It's worth noting, for example, that most of Shakespeare's plays were adaptations of established stories 'Jazzed up a bit' by the bard to make 'em new and interesting, Hamlet included.)

Volger makes a fairly good case up until the bit where shaky comparisons are drawn between Pumbaa and Timon and Rosencrantz and Guildernstern.

But there are definite similarities.

Also 100% FACT

Shakespeare had a son called 'Hamnet' who died when he was 11. Coincidence? We think the public should be informed.

For reasons I wont go into, I've been having a long and hard stare at Hamlet of late,
and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame the interweb seems nought but a stale promentary.
What a peice of work is a blog?
How noble in reason?
How infinite in faculty? how like an angel in apprehension e.t.c.

Tolstoy had it up to 'here'(imagine where 'here' is, and imagine it high). Up to 'here' he had it with Shakespeare. He published a strongly-worded pamphlet along the lines of:

People only like this shite because it's old-fashioned,
inaccessable, esoteric and silly, and it serves a social function like some big private joke between intellectuals designed to keep the uninitiated out.

Basically, what occured to Tolstoy was the same thing that has been occuring to Leaving Cert students since time immemorial: 'I know it's only me, but I'm starting to think this Shakespeare dude was over-rated'.

He says that Shakespeare has been a life-long source of "an irresistible repulsion and tedium" and proceeds to attack King Lear with plenty of vim and vinegar. Attractive as his notions are, to anyone doing Shakespeare for their leaving, they are wrong.

How wrong is best explained by directing you to George Orwell's response, and if you look up nothing else, look up that because Georgie really knew how to string a sentence together.

Unlike meself.

Of late.

Wherefore I know not.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A god-damn Ethos.

For a theatre festival application, meself and The Cheeky Chappie were asked to explain the theatre companies 'ethos':

This is what I came up with :


”Nihilists? Fuck me! – Well say what you like about the tenets of national socialism, at least it’s a goddamn ethos!”

‘Walter’, The Big Lebowski, Coen bros 1997.

We’re not Nihilists, we have an ethos, we just haven’t had to say what it is before now. The simplest way of expressing what we’re at, is by saying; ‘We want to stage the sort of plays that we would like to go and see’. Of course, such a glib answer begs the question; ‘What sort of plays do you want to see then?’ To answer that truthfully, we’d have to address some of the weaknesses that we have observed in many (but by no means all)of the theatrical productions we’ve seen staged in Limerick and elsewhere: in other words, to tell you the way that we don’t want to go.

Because they are free- the plays of Synge, and his predecessors, make economic sense to many a burgeoning company. Not only do they save on the copyright, but they get to place the name of a respected and established writer on their poster and also they can relax in the knowledge that the engineering of the play has been tried and trusted and can be relied upon to work.
We feel that these plays, while they will always retain some of their universality, do inevitably date. They become less of a theatrical experience, but instead, an historical re-enactment of what the theatrical experience used to be. Put simply, they take us to where we come from, and that’s valid, but they don’t say anything about where we are, which is what we want to do. We want to do new stuff.

Conversely, in the competitive environment of emerging theatre groups, each strives to establish it’s own identity and style, and in doing so, may run the risk of being innovative to the point of incomprehensibility. Some artists feel it is their duty to challenge their audience’s expectations and provide something which might be described as ‘food for thought’ with entertainment as a lesser, perhaps even non-existent consideration; and fair play to them, but that’s not what we want to do either. We want to do stuff that people ‘get’.

When we say that we want to do ‘new stuff’ that people ‘get’, it might be presumed we are aiming for a form of realism. Realism usually means the recreation of contemporary dialogue and environment on the stage. Realism usually means telling the story of ‘now’ through recognisable characters and situations, and telling those stories in an accessible way by presenting scenes and situations as they might happen in ‘Real Life’. This is a valid approach also, but it’s not ours. We believe that contemporary theatre should be contemporary, not only in terms of the characters and their stories, costume, environment etc. –but that they should also be contemporary in terms of staging. We believe that the manner of their staging and execution should reflect the developments of the past 100 years in both theatre and performance.

In terms of audience members, if we are to imagine an audience comprised of a jaded theatre buff, who has seen it all and whose craving for something new, and some actor’s brother-in-law who thinks theatre is ‘a bit up itself’ and would rather be at home watching television; we want to entertain them both, and give them both something to think about. We believe good theatre can do that. That’s the sort of play we want to stage and that’s the sort of play we want to see.

They didn't want us in their theatre festival.

A rival to plays proper

Okay then here it is:
On this week in the Belltable, were two plays* together and I
didn't see either of them.

I'm not all that sure of my reasons for this, one of the reasons could be that the last thing I saw there was a 'film' that I wasn't overly gone on, or perhaps the reason could be that the theatre group hosting the plays had a mini-manifesto of sorts in the Belltable programme, declaring their allegiance to new (hooray) women's (hey, wait a minute) writing, and professing a desire to stage plays in the Irish language(¿que?). Maybe it was that reading the manifesto I became conscious of having one penis and about two words of Irish and this was the reason I felt that perhaps, theirs was not the production for me.

My loss apparently, for The Cheeky Chappie
did attend and told me afterwards that I'd missed two
cracking monologues.
As I said, my loss and that's what I get for being so easily turned-off by any incitement to sexual tribalism.

What I did see, this weekend was R.B.Sheridan's
'The Rivals'
in the Loft Venue. It wasn't a play,
it was a reading, and you could pay-what-you-liked.
It started at eight and I was very lucky to get a seat,
for it was a full house and a full stage. The balmy evening
and the sheer amount of bodies in the room made for a close
atmosphere and the play's length didn't help ( you got your
money's worth in them days: 75 minutes before an interval!).
Happily, the availability of a half-time beverage, the quality
of acting, the genius of the language and well staged
set-pieces kept us all awake and entertained. As Darwin
pointed out: "It was a bit like watching 'Black-adder'"
-which it was, only ten-times cleverer and not as well rehearsed.

It left me wanting more, which you may think is unlikely reaction
to a three-hour marathon of watching people read out loud,
but it did. It wasn't that I wished to see the four hour
version. I just couldn't help sighing to myself that I couldn't
go and see the play. The proper play. All learnt off and everything.
Which is always the way I feel about readings.

Unfortunately we seem to live in a world where a play
with 15 odd actors can only be performed by musical
societies, youth theatres and transition year students.
There just aint enough bums on them there seats to off-set
the cost.
I suppose I have no right to bemoan this state of
affairs when my own arse was absent from the Belltable all
week (but in fairness they did put me off with their blatantly
sexist manifesto). The truly tragic thing though, is that the
notion of what a play is seems to be becoming eroded

and this shall be today's topic.

A true monologue, be it vaginal or otherwise, is no easy feat
to carry off. A single actor, with a rubbery face, might be
able to 'steal the show' in an ensemble piece like 'The Rivals',
but leave the same actor standing up there on their own for the
best part of an hour and just see where their gurning gets them.

No, monologues aint for the faint-hearted. The situation above,
of the poor out-of-their-league 'funnyface' illustrates something
we all already know and that is that it is one thing
to draw attention, and quite another to hold it.

The actor who performs a monologue and performs it well receives
admiration, as they should. It takes hell of a lot of hard work
and it's a cold and lonely place up there. But my problem with
monologues is that while they are impressive theatrical feats,
they are not plays. They do not contain dialogue,
there are no comings and goings and the scenes are all the
same basic template: a single character narrates a story
without interruption. At the end of the story we are in no
doubt as to the actors range and abilities on a solo flight
but it's just not the same craic as seeing different heads
coming and going and coping with each other; also, we don't
get to see if our actor has the ability to listen and adapt
in real-time to their fellow performers, or find out if they
always deliver the same piece the same way, like a human

The monologue seems to be a convention that has
developed in the past forty years almost to the level of
an art-form in its' own right, and I include in this art
form, tag-team monologues like 'Howie the Rookie'
'The Galway Girl' 'Eden'
and 'The Pride
of Parnell Street'
each of them magnificent in
their own way but they're not plays. Or rather, they're
a very different experience from the 'several people coming,
going and talking to each other' plays that form the bulk of
the history of drama.
Simply because they are more difficult for the individual actors
doesn't make them better for the audience. Simply because they
have so little interaction and require reduced personnel doesn't
make them worse.
I just believe that they should be categorised differently
because they are different.
Quite basically if we think about things from the point of view
of staging a monologue, or even a tag-team monologue, the extra
demands on a single actor are greatly off-set by the simplified
logistics: a reduced need for simultaneous rehearsal time, a reduced
need for blocking and movement, and a reduced need for payment of
personnel, lighting e.t.c. The traditional play cannot compete in
terms of risk/profit and so we see less of it and it's not fair.
Until we have a rule about this, such as a stipulation that the
word monologue, or tag-team monologue must be included in all
advertising and promotional literature in capital letters, people
are going to get to advertise their two-hander monologues as
plays as if both types of performance
take an identical amount of trouble, money and effort to produce,
and are an identical experience for the audience.
That's not quite right is it?

The 'thing-like-as-what-I-wrote' is a monologue, and I don't
have the words ++MONOLOGUE ONLY ++NOT 'REAL' PLAY++
on the poster (for obvious reasons). But I just wonder if I had to,
if everybody had to, would it do anything to halt the demise of the
'in-and-out' /'to-ing and fro-ing' play?

Probably not.

Anyway, it's not a monologue, it's a 'stand-up tragedy'.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thesbian rights

So much time and so little to do. Strike that. Reverse it.
Things to talk about. Many there are and all should be given words now before they fade from the brain, for there was much to speak of in the Tom Collins Monday night sesh and after-ramblings with Darwin ( big project comin’ down the line, may involve the hauling up of clewgarnets- watch this space).There is much much to talk of in Community garden workshop as attended by myself and a great number of more experienced growy growers, there is the more recent adventures of the-thing-like-as-what-I-wrote, already a drama and a half. I have many things to tell you of Limerick and a life lived therein but the task is impossible.

Let me say simply this, from now on until late June, I shall be rising on the hour of five. Not a rhythm ideal for a glittering social butterfly such as myself. (You don’t get to get spoiled with impossible piles of the ferrero roche at the Ambassadors’ receptions by keeping hours like that I tell thee.

Still it must be done, for we are squaring up our mainsail and setting our compass on a direct course to the critical acclaim, popular indifference and sense of gratifaction that results from a ‘Successful Theatrical Project'. Yes maties, come-storm-or-squall, we’re a-getting’ there.

Now. I don’t have much time so you can expect this post to be interminably long and full of pointless tangents.

For example, in the above picture, you may notice two muppets, but I wonder if you also notice that one of the engineers is wearing a set of rather fetching 'disco-boppers' made of shrunken human heads?


I’m all set to stop this blogging nonsense. Perhaps today.
Please, no weeping.
It’s been challenging but also lonely and exhausting and it is without false modesty, (or indeed fear of being corrected) that I say it seems to have produced nothing of particular literary merit.

Has helped get some of my own thoughts straight about a couple of things,- so there’s that.

But anyway, The Topic.
And I should say that this is not a domestic gripe, and I’m not working at the moment with someone who would do this, and I hope I never do.

The Topic is:

‘My Character wouldn’t say that’

No Actor has ever said anything as horrendous and egotistical as this to me and I'm very happy about it.
Sorry now lads but this crap isn’t on.

It’s very simple, if you want to have control over what your characters do, then you write a play.

It is of course valid to suggest that a behaviour or action is inconsistent with what we have seen and know of that character up until that point. But who says that that's a problem?

Someone writing, or writing and directing, can get a bit close to their own work sometimes, and sometimes the fresh pair of eyes belonging to the actor notice something really obvious that the writer/director doesn't. In practice I have not seen this happen much or often.

What is more likely is that, it takes the actor a really long time and maybe even a few performances to get what's going on. Nervous by nature, they worry about how they will appear, and if the work is new work, then they fret about it ten times more than usual.

‘It doesn’t make any sense!’ they cry, waving their rolled-up scripts like a batons.

It is at this point that the director must tilt their head just enough to see over the top of a set of wire-framed reading glasses, fix the flibbery-gibbet actores with their iciest maternalistic/paternalistic stare and say:

‘You? My dear misguided thesbians, who on earth said that it should ever make sense to You?’

First of all, that real people are ‘consistent’ in their behaviour would be a difficult point to prove.
All we have to do is think of old school friends and maybe what happened to them afterwards:
‘What? The nobel-prize? Him? Why the man used to dine regularly and happily on his own mucus when I knew him’
; to realise that even after a lifetime, even a shared lifetime, we cannot say of anybody ‘Oh yes she would definitely do this, in this situation’. Well we can say it, but that don't make it so.
We make predictions about people based on what we know of them so far. If those predictions are unsuccessful, it can be mildly irritating. We could call those people ‘inconsistent’, but the truth is, simply, that we ‘didn’t know them as well as we thought’, after all.
The picture that we had of them in our head changes to account for the behaviour.

The shared observation ,of people behaving differently to our shared expectations, is a great and useful experience for an audience, and often a dramatic one.

You're character says what your character says. The audience find it acceptable or not.

That's kind of it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two anties who are better known
as a pair of pros.

Jasus I'm gonna have to call a halt to all this nonsense soon, I'm like a spent Salmon. Droning on interminably about subjects that don't interest anyone is really taking it's toll. I figured last post was a bit heavy so now for some light relief,

today's topic: Abortion.

I hate the abortion debate. I hate both sides. I hate their tactics and I hate their sloppy reasoning. So, I thought, ‘Why not a bit of sloppy reasoning of my own?’

Hell of a topic Man, where are y’goin with this one?

Right. It’s a divisive subject involving two extreme points of view. I think both points of view have suffered in clarity as a result of the efforts of their respective advocates.

Not that I’m objective. I’m not immune to the opinions and attitudes that surrounded me as a child when I was most receptive, I’m not. My opinions are very strongly coloured. My family have had an enormous impact on my attitude, not only because of their opinions, but also because of how our family came to be. That’s my personal history and it’s important to state it. I’m not going to talk about right and wrong, wrong and right are terms that aren’t helpful on this one. Everybody thinks that they’re right; I’m just looking for ‘what alcoholics frequently refer to as: A moment of clarity’.

People will say that a blog is the wrong place to do it. Why risk alienating all those legion of readers you don’t have? (Morning Dave, morning Miriam). Because, after all, let’s face it, this is something that people feel strongly about; people get very emotive on the subject and accuse those who don’t agree with their viewpoint as either ‘child murderers’ or ‘religiously fanatic subjugators of women’. Well Dave and Miriam, I’ll risk it. I’ll risk it in order to say:’ people!- this polarity isn’t helpful. It’s inevitable perhaps but not helpful’.

The whole thing has become muddled by the strength of emotion on either side and you can see how muddled it is, by this stage, with a simple examination of the evolution of the names of either camp:

The issue was originally ‘Abortion’ and people were either pro or anti, but Pro-abortion doesn’t exactly sound nice, so that side met up, had a chat, and decided on a bit of re-labelling, the artists formerly known as Pro-Abortion would now only be answering to ‘Pro-Choice’ .
Which is fine, and only fair I suppose, when you had such an ugly name for your point of view to begin with; but the problem was that it really bothered the Anti-abortion group because the connotation had now become that they’re weren’t Anti-abortion any more, they’re Anti-choice which sounds just as bad as Pro Abortion did, (even though it stands for the opposing point of view).

The Anti-choice people waved their fists, at the artists formerly known as Pro Abortion, with rage and indignation ‘Well we wont be Anti-Choice for long!’ they cried, and spat on the ground, True to their word, the Ex-Anti abortionist and Ex Anti-choice group all met in the beer garden next Wednesday afternoon all wearing their new T-Shirts for all to see and, let there be no doubt about it , they had had the last word alright; from now on their group would be known as ‘Pro-life’ . ‘Nyaaaa!’ they sneered at their enemies, sticking out their chests and pointing at their new name, ‘What does that make you!’

Perhaps not entirely factual, but something like that happened and it put me off both arguments, and made it hard to think about.

Tonights debate:
The abortion/life/choice issue
Pro vs Pro.

I don’t like the whole idea of renaming things. The whole idea of renaming things is bogus, (that’s no way to manipulate my thinkin’). So for the rest of this article, I will be talking about this issue from my own point of view and using the terms ‘anti-choice’ and ‘anti-life’ to describe either camp. Out of spite.

Right. What it comes down to is that you place a stick on the ground somewhere in between sex and birth and say ‘This is where a human begins’.

It’s only fair to judge the more religious folk by the bible, so I will say, ‘Judge a tree by the fruit it bears’ when I’m dealing with this lot, and lets be honest, the tactics of some of the anti-choice brigade are without empathy or decency and are particularly offensive. A heterosexual couple I know lived in Australia. They lived in a nice place, but it was next to a clinic, as a result they became targets for the sort abuse directed at a heterosexual couple approaching an abortion clinic, every single time they approached their home. That pretty much made up their minds on the issue. You can say that religion makes people feel empowered to be emotionally manipulative or downright rude, under the auspices that they are ‘saving a life’ I suppose. But I have always felt that ugly behaviour belies ugly attitudes, and is not much of an indicator that people are led by reason or compassion. It certainly doesn’t seem very ‘Christian’.

The anti-lifers, on the other hand make much of their opponents ‘hidden agenda’.
‘The continued suppression of women, and the maintanance of a patriarchal society’ we are told, is the only real reason that the anti-choice element are out there with their horrific photographs and their offensive behaviour. Really? The only real reason? Hmmmnnn…

I think people who behave abominably outside abortion clinics aren’t excused by the strength of their convictions, and I think that those who claim that those same placard-wavers are behaving that way simply because they want to oppress women, are avoiding the issue.

What is clear about this, and it should be said, is that everybody thinks that they’re doing the right thing. They are either helping end centuries of oppression, or saving childrens lives. They may have been led to this point by either religon, (which often masquerades as reason) or feminist theory (which is certainly a religon of sorts to many individuals) but this is where they are now and they are both convinced that they are doing the right thing. Okay, so what’s the real difference?

The anti-lifers, in general all agree that there should be a cut-off point after which abortions can no longer ethically be carried out. So, for anti-lifers, there is a theoretical, or actual, moment, which occurs between conception and birth, when whatever is growing inside the lady becomes a sacrosanct human life that we are talking about here, people. In this concept, they are in complete agreement with their anti-choice opponents.

But the anti-choice people on the other hand, are a bit more sneaky and schemy. Like the anti-lifers, they agree that there is a point whereby whatever is growing inside the lady is a sacrosanct human life that we are talking about here people, BUT ,they place that point earlier; they place it the point of a single fertilised egg.
‘Nothing sneaky and schemy about that, how straightforward could you get?’ I hear you cry, and that’s true, but it doesn’t explain the emphasis on the more advanced stage of development in their posters and literature. Shouldn’t we be seeing single eggs instead of the large headed but nonetheless human-shaped ‘lickle babies’ of the logos and pamplets? We don’t see single eggs you see, because single eggs aren’t much use for manipulating peoples emotions, also, if you look at a single egg you might be prompted to say to yourself ; ‘Without the advent of science and microscopes to show me the meaning of this,- would I have any concept of it at all? Mustn’t trillions of trillions of these things have died throughout human history without causing anybody any more trauma than a single cycle of menstruation?’ And then maybe ask yourself ‘ Well if that’s the case,- what’s all the fuss about?’. That’s the risk when you only show people single eggs.

Then again, the anti-life people have their sneakiness too. They link the argument to gender. They negate the standpoint of the many millions of women, who, for whatever reason, are anti-choice, (and pretty much dismisses too the men while they’re at it). Women all over the world differ in their viewpoints in this, and while there is no doubt that the fact and practicalities of pregnancy are a far greater issue for individual women than for individual men, that does not make the issue, of where life begins, a ‘women’s issue’.

For ethical purposes, and this is an ethical not a women’s issue, there is really only one question:

Human life, what is it? And what makes it human?

Pat answers from Feminists or Theologists won’t do; any line we draw, from the moment of conception until the moment of birth, (or even death) will be in some sense arbritary; growth rates are different, but the best approximation of where we can honestly place it, will be found by ignoring Religious and Feminist dogma and investigating this question first, as exhaustively and dispassionately as possible.
The answer might be two years, the answer might be two cells; I don’t know, but I do know that the arguments of anti-choicers and anti-lifers aren’t helping to find it one bit.

Read this and then count to ten seconds before you lose the rag:

Women have yet to attain true parity with men, even in countries were terminations are legally available, therefore I believe that the period of legal termination should be raised even higher; to two years of age. I believe that this is logical, after all, we do not consider chimpanzees human, and yet in terms of, understanding, sensitivity, intelligence, self-knowledge or the ability to feel pain; they are perfectly comparable to a human being at the same stage of development. If we are to operate from the maxim that “the ‘potential’ to make a human, does not a human make”, then we must look for other criteria, (after all, a single fertilised egg has ‘potential’ and people have lost innumerable amounts of them over the years without so much as a twinge). Let us have a more realistic approach to what humanity really is. Let us take into account how much time and development it takes for an organism to change from a soft pink gurgling animal into something provable to be a sentient being with a level of cognisance that can only ever attained by members our own species. I’d say about two years.

Right about now anyone who has read down all this way will say I have gone too far and that clearly I’m trying to make anti-lifers look ridiculous but I’m serious about this. I’m serious about it as a concept anyway.

In the film ‘The Mission’ the colonialists who are systematically exploiting South America come into conflict with Jesuits who have converted, (and now wish to protect), some of the indigenous people. In court, the colonials argue that the Indians are soul-less savages, and as evidence of this, refer to the fact they have been known to kill their own children.

The Jesuit replies that this is indeed the case, as it has become a rule among the Indians that parents may have no more children than they can carry to safety quickly, in case there is a sudden attack in their area by slavers.

You wouldn’t expect to find the Jesuits approving of abortion up into the seventeenth trimester, but there you go.

Now look, it’s only a film but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t illustrate a real point. Watching that film, I didn’t feel that I had any right to judge these, probably not entirely fictional people, as child killers.
It was horrible to think that anyone would ever placed be in a situation where they had to make a choice like that, but I do think, that in the desperateness of their situation; I do think it was their choice to make. Nobody would feel the pain of it more than they themselves did. I think it’s interesting that the Jesuits were the ones to point out the practicalities of it. There was at least an element of choice, and in this situation, the Jesuits felt that the parents were entitled to make it.

Now you can say that it was only a ‘fillum’ and in the real world, or more accurately the first world, no-one has to worry about slavers. You can point out that the people having terminations aren’t the most vulnerable in our society, (the poorest of the poor seem to have no problem at all in having children they cant afford). You can say that the people having terminations are people who want to have terminations. But if I, just in theory, understand how a Jesuit can, out of compassion, accept the validity of the movie Indians choice, can I negate the validity of anyone else? I don’t know if I can.

As already stated, in their clear advocacy for parents choice, the Jesuits are clearly in the camp of the anti-lifers. And they have a point, it’s just a pity that nobody in the anti-life camp has the courage to ever argue it. Perhaps they feel, like the anti-choice people do about pictures of eggs, that it is not as important to illustrate their position as it is to put a positive ‘spin’ on it.

What anti-choicers are really saying is ‘This is a baby’.’ It took science(not religon) and microscopes(not revelation) to find out about it, but we know about it now, and this is a baby. From the time it’s born all the way back through a nine-month gestation to conception, it’s a baby’.

What the anti-lifers are really saying is ‘Oh no it isn’t, it’s not a baby, it’s a biological event perhaps; but you wouldn’t even understand it properly if it wasn’t for science! You’re only against it’s termination as excuse to oppress women!’

Then the anti-choicers say: ‘You come here and say that!’
Then the anti lifers say: ‘Don’t you wave that placard at me in a threatening manner!’

And before you know it, my two anties are there, rolling around the floor and scratching each others eyes out like the old pros that they are.

Just an opinion mind you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

‘Vorsprung durch technik,’
as we say on Qxytl6

Some things I just can’t explain. It’s a lonely feeling to have a deep-seated belief which is so ‘out there’ that people wont listen to your reasoning for it. ‘But, but, but…’you stammer as they shake their heads and smile indulgently, eyebrows arched as if to say; ‘Oh you and your opinions!’.

Less lonely, but also a bit frustrating, is the experience of having one of your long-cherished so-called ‘whacky’ opinions suddenly gain ground and the reaction then becomes a; ‘Oh, your one of these guys are you?’.
’No! I’m coming from a whole different angle to those guys’.
‘Yeah right. I know those guys. Not interested.’

I’m not one of these guys. This is they way I think and have thought, in a kind of lonely way for a very, very, very long time. I am not telling you what to think, I am telling you how I think. This is a notion that I should and would have abandoned ages ago for purely practical reasons, but I cant. The truth is, that ever since this opinion came into my head, I have encountered no evidence in my experience that contradicts it.

I should also let you know that this post isn’t about pollution, global warming, biodiversity, bees, carbon footprints, or any of those real and serious issues that people use nowadays to behave pious and 'holier-than-thou' because they can't use the church for it anymore: I’m talking about one thing and one thing only and I want your full attention.

It is this. Cars are wrong and a really bad idea.

They are inefficient, impractical, dangerous and lower the quality of life of those who use them and those who must share the world with those who use them.

Impractical? But my car comes in very handy! –and it can’t be inefficient, I get seventy miles to the gallon.

The inefficiency and impracticality, of motor transport as a system, becomes apparent if you imagine what would happen if aliens landed, and they just decided to liberate us all from our immediate geographic region, by giving every family in the world a car to move around in. Everyone. Chinese, South American, African, every last family; not person, family.

‘Gosh! Thank you aliens! –look mum we got a car!’

What would happen in this Autopia?
The air would turn black, the weather systems would fall apart and the petrol and diesel we have left on this planet wouldn’t last a week. In the blinking of a (smog blinded) eye, we would have a world littered with billions of abandoned cars, and no petrochemical energy left to get them as far as the wrecking yard.

But what if the aliens gave us ‘magic’ cars that made no pollution and ran on water?

‘Gosh! Thank you aliens! –look mum we got a car!’
‘Now Jimmy, you know how me and your father feel about the environment.’
‘But it’s magic! It’s totally clean and runs on water!’

Well there are only two problems with that. The first one is, that at the moment , we simply don’t have the road and car park room on the planet. That many cars just wouldn’t fit. You could argue that perhaps using ‘magic’ pollution-less water driven alien machines we could have roads everywhere and plenty of them. I don’t know exactly if this would be a prettier world but you could in theory build an operable system to accommodate all this traffic.
And if you did, what problem could I there possibly be?- apart from aesthetics?

Well I’ll answer that question with a question:
If I told you that I had invented…’something’. If I didn’t say what it was, except that it was ‘something’; an invention that would change the world in ways you couldn’t even imagine. What if I said that it made no pollution, and ran on water (alien machine scenario) and all that you had to do, to keep my great invention maintained, was drop some people into a meat-grinder to keep it going; randomly chosen, say two to three hundred a year to work my machine in Ireland. What if I told you, that as well as the people to be ground up, that I would need to cripple, burn, blind and disfigure an equal amount of people who were to be left alive afterwards? Maybe little Jimmy could be one of them.

Would you be amenable to that do you think? Or would you call me a monster and say you’re not interested?

Trains crash, aeroplanes crash, and so do cars. But the cars crash a disproportionate amount. This is because there are far more individual cars and individual car operators and they have to share far more limited space with each other. The huge magnitude of operators and machines involved means a correspondingly enormous margin for human and mechanical failure. Put simply, the motor transport system is particularly expensive in terms of human life, we are aware of this situation, but continue to look at it not as a system failure, but as a regularly occurring series of ‘accidents’.

Lets go back to little Jimmy, who you’ll be glad to hear, is alive and well and healing up nicely.

‘Gosh! Thank you aliens! –look Mum we got a car!’
‘Now Jimmy, you know me and your father feel about the environment.’
‘But it’s magic! It’s totally clean and runs on water!’
‘Sorry son it’s out of the question. It’s too dangerous!’
‘Not this car Mum! The aliens made it with special magic so it cant ever crash!’

Okay now there will be a minor digression but bear with me, and I’ll be back into the main rant soon because believe it or not, I even have a problem with that scenario.

There is a myth nowadays, that car-dealerships have no reason to discourage, that you can ‘buy’ road safety. There is a widely held belief that you can ‘buy’ road safety in the form of features, which will protect you in an accident. The unfortunate problem with ‘safety’ features is that they make drivers feel ‘safer’ and they up their speed and the aggressiveness of their driving style accordingly. They are a bit safer than those they might collide with, so there is a bit of ‘I’m alright jack’ going on here, but even people with anti-lock steering and airbags, die. As one road safety official( I forget who, but it stuck in my head) put it: ‘The greatest safety feature I can think of would be the addition of a sharp metal spike, sticking out from the steering wheel and pressing against the motorists heart’. True, it wouldn’t be an easy sell on the showroom floor, and the manufacturer would find great difficulty avoiding subsequent lawsuits, but you can’t deny that would encourage careful driving.

So where we? Oh yes! We don’t have to worry about any of that because the clever aliens made our magic car crash proof. So what’s the problem? We’ve no energy or pollution problems; we’re all safe; we have the millions of roads and car-parks that we needed. What’s the beef now? car-hater? Whassamatter? Don’t you like the look of roads?

Okay we’re coming to the end and this is the hardest bit to explain so please, remain indulgent.

It doesn’t do what it says on the tin, and Colonel Brandon is the better man.

Cars are associated with liberation, but the car-based system of life that we have; sleeping (and eating and watching tv) one place and working in another place, means that most of us spend our days, not in a higher state of freedom, but instead actually trapped. Trapped inside a moving box,- but trapped any way. We might feel freer, we are covering so much ground after all, but what happens if we recognise an old friend travelling in the opposite direction? Can we stop for a chat? No. Not unless we live in a very low density area and we have a cavelier approach to road safety, we cant.

All this space we are covering, is it real to us? can we see it? can we smell it? Or is it just some 3d television rolling by? Why do I have back pains? Why do I have heamorroids? Why do I drive 20 miles, and pay an annual subscription, so I can ride a bicycle( that doesn’t move) for a couple of hours, before getting in my car to go home again? How come these streets aren’t safe for my children to walk in the morning? Aren’t there any other children, any other people? Oh no that’s right they’re all there but not there: in their four wheeled cells enjoying their freedom, drifting along disconnected and blinded by their own speeds. Everyone of them in mortal danger, but because they are isolated they feel safe. They are traffic. Whatever horrors they might witness they cannot stop and help. They are obliged to keep moving.

When you suggest how the world and our quality of life might be improved by vehicle absence; you get a lot of ‘But how would I…?’ responses. The answer to all of them is you wouldn’t; your life would be different. You might have to live where you work, and maybe that’s not a nice area; but don’t forget that all the doctors teachers guards solicitors who work but don’t live there would be coming with you.
And you’d all be walking around the same world as each other; Who knows? You might even form a community where before was just a ghettoe.
You might have a vehicle dependant profession, but in my world your career wouldn’t have been an option. I’ll make an exception for the emergency services. But that’s it.
Our love affair with motor transport is like in Sense and Sensibility when Marriane falls in love with the cad Willoughby; who is dashing and exciting and reads all the same poems as her, and she goes all out for him before discovering that in spite of his glamour, the mans’ a useless, spineless and self-serving cad. Cars are a Willoughby, they are seductive with their promise of liberation but it's a false one: now it’s time to get real, see sense and realise that we’d be a lot happier and far better cared for by the Colonel Brandon of bicycles, trains and trams.

Maybe the impending environmental crisis is like her fever, and if we ever survive it we will wake up, smile quietly to ourselves, and finally realise that our Colonel Brandon isn’t so old-fashioned after all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A working class hero
is not something to be.

Dinner tonight in the house of the Working-Class Heroes.
On the way, there was a-hootin' and a-hollerin' from a window; I looked up, and was delighted to discover it was Magnum the younger, (recently moved into the area and already lowering the tone). I stopped for a chat'n'a cuppa, and was paid many compliments, the greatest of which was the compliment of rational opposition ( poor deluded youth thinks after-show discussions are valid; see 'Hidin in the jacks' ).
But you can only exclusively feed your head for so long, and I was already late when hunger tore me away and I was soon off on my velocipide, happily and hungrily pedalling myself closer to the delicious repast.

I was not to be dissappointed. Curry. From the Saturday market, and mucho deliscioso. Afterwards, like the wild young things we are, we sat around and watched television.

Plenty of chat too, and as 'the heroes' have the interweb on tap in their house, it was not only a lively debate but one of the participants was an all-knowing oracle. Yes! The time was when you could pass off any old bull, with just a modicum of eloquence and an authoritative air about you,- not anymore. On the other hand, it's always there to back you up on the 'unbelievable but true'; tonight we checked out and the last scene in 'Teen Wolf' (unbelievable? Yes, but it's true, you can see it).

The Working-Class Heroes, it should be said, aren't really all that working class; they definitely are heroic and no doubt about that; but working class? As far as I'm concerned, anybody who had it even slightly better than me as a kid, isn't really working class, as I rarely miss an opportunity to remind everyone.

Doesn't work with people who were even slightly worse off though. No, they'd tell you I was 'livin' in luxury and didn't know meself' and the whole situation descends into a Monty Python sketch very quickly. So; I have found it prudent in my life to surround myself only with those who have had the slightly-better-off childhoods, that way, I can complain at length about my own in true Pythonesque fashion. Nobody's one-upping my street credibility oh no.

Unfortunately, on account of something 'like as what I wrote'; my days of complaining about my childhood are numbered. I'm gonna have to come clean. It was good while it lasted, and I have enjoyed the sympathy folks, but it's time to 'out' myself and 'out' myself as a complete phoney. Here goes:

Okay, I come from a 'bad' area, which means I have a great address for working-class credibility. It's probably enough to tell you that it's only a stone's throw (and there were plenty) away from where Damian Dempsey grew up, but his lot were all livin' in the nice big posh houses like the snobby 'Donna-meat Conts' they were! That's the address, but lets face it, estate agents are liars: your quality of life is not dictated by other people's prejudiced perception of the street you live on. Your quality of life, is mostly what you make it, or if you are a child, what your parents make it; and behind our front door was a palace. If the truth be told, in terms of what children really need: food, clothes, attention, discipline and values. I was actually spoilt rotten, and I was the youngest! (well at least until I was seven). Other kids knew it: in the same place a lot of them were growing up 'wild like weeds' , but not us. Our folks, and especially our Ma, had control of us and expected us to control ourselves. We had what kids require: strict-ish parents, regular chores, regular bed-times,(with bed-time stories) and cool Christmas presents no matter what the family budget. I always thought we were posh. We were posh. We just weren't snobs. Posh-without-notions I call it.

I say all of this because reading reviews of something like as-what-I- wrote, I got the impression, that the people writing the reviews got the impression,- that my growing up stuff was genuinely, indescribably bleak or hard or tough and I can see how the thing 'like-as-what-I-wrote' portrays that, but it really wasn't. It wasn't perfect, but show me a family that have attained familial perfection and complete harmony and I show you a bunch of phonies who howl at each other like monkeys when there's nobody watching them.

Glad I got this confession out. Not really a confession though because I know that none of my millions of readers (Morning Dave), will bother reading this far.

They'll all be checking out 'cats who look like hitler' and the last scene in Teen Wolf.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The truth about Kangaroos and Dogs.

I don’t have no use for an alarm clock.
D’people who buys ‘em; I laughs at ‘em.

I don’t need an alarm clock because every morning I am gently woken by my insignificant other. She likes me to prepare breakfast for her before going out into the world and doing all those important things she has to do. Fair enough, I rarely have any important appointments at that time of the morning anyway. Usually she just wakes me by making a racket outside the bedroom (we often sleep separately); but if that doesn’t work then she resorts to such increasingly vicious tactics that I’ve learned long ago that it’s easier, to give in and get up, in the long run. I don’t really mind, her habits help give my life structure, and until I’m reunited with my significant other, my insignificant other is pleasant company, but it’s a two-way thing and nobody likes to be taken advantage of, so you can imagine my rage as, half conscious, and listening to her scoff happily away at her morning meal; my bleary eye wandered towards the clock….’Hey shouldn’t that hour hand be a bit more horizontal by now?’

No! Voi Ei! Vittu! Pikku Paskaa Pussi! (My insignificant other only understands Finnish) I had been had by the little wagon, the manipulative schemy little so and so had gotten one over on me, and not for the first time. So…she fancied an early breakfast did she? I’ll say this once. A man’s sleep is sacrosanct. I’d rather not be woken at all, but if you are to wake me, do not wake me one hour earlier than agreed just for your own convenience!

Outsmarted as usual by the feline Machievelli, I found myself wide awake and, with nothing to do except contemplate catricide, I decided to go for a walk and get some cow-juice. And, as I strolled along in that special morning air, I began to calm down and forgive little cat. Perhaps it wasn’t her fault, after all she doesn’t wear a watch. Maybe, in a previous life she had been an ardent Gerry Ryan fan, and after his demise yesterday was so stricken with grief that she just needed comfort food. It’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility, I mean someone must have liked him. And it was with this more benevolent attitude, and wandering happily in search of the old moloko, that I noticed three different things:

Firstly, most of the places I normally go to get milk aren’t actually open at ten-past seven in the morning.

Secondly, that there’s a whole tribe of people living among us that I hadn’t realised were there. There are actually people, women mostly, who run around in the mornings! Not because they’re late for where they’re going to (because how can you be late for anything at ten past seven?) - but just running around, to get sweaty! In the morning! First thing! They don’t all dress identically, but what is uniform about them is their steely looks of determination. Every single one is like a hard-boiled cop on an important case; they all have eyes that’ve ‘seen to much’ and scowling mouths that seem to say; “This time I’m gonna nail that son-of-a-bitch”. I wont be roaming around early on a Saturday morning anytime soon I can tell you. I feel quite uncomfortable among pony-tailed base-ball cap wearing Clint Eastwoods, they’re a rough-lookin’ bunch.

Thirdly; and sorry to ramble on, but this will take a bit of explaining; somewhere between Scott’s Bar and Sutton’s coal depot, nestled in among the cherry blossoms, and on the right if you are going to the Dock Road from Punches Cross, there is a small and very red bin. On the small red bin there is a symbol: a red circle with a red diagonal line through it that most of us will recognise as the symbol that prohibits something. ‘What does it prohibit?’ I hear you ask and therein lieth the problem because the thing that it prohibits appears to be a kangaroo with elephantitus of the cranium. It appears to be, a freakishly large headed-marsupial, taking a dump. ‘Not everyone can draw dogs.’
You reply, and poor draughtsmanship could be all that’s at the bottom of this, but let me ask you a question: Why, next to a bin for dog toilet, would there be a picture combining the ‘Do not do this’ icon, with a picture of a dog going for a dump? The sign can’t possibly mean ‘Dogs must not have a dump’; the dogs have to go for a dump, otherwise there would be nothing to put in the dog-doo bin. So what on earth can this sign mean? The mystery is cleared up instantly when we read the legend emblazoned above the imagery, it says: DOG WASTE ONLY.

So there you have it. Clearly this sign is intended to warn off those owners of antipodean herbivores (that have unfortunately stricken with some extreme form of hydro-encephalus) from letting their animals go to the toilet in the area. That is the only logical conclusion. And, if their big- headed Joey does lay a cable; they must take it home, for ‘DOG WASTE ONLY’ can leave the reader in no doubt that this is place where kangaroo stools are unwelcome.
I think this is manifestly unfair. Kangaroos are vegetarians and so their faeces is far more benign than that of the, almost completely carnivorous, dog. I can think of no reason why, when it comes to turds, that the canine and marsupial should not co-exist in perfect harmony. Down with this ‘pinch-a-loaf’ apartheid ! Let the poor kangaroo poo! For gods sake, does it not already have enough to deal with?

Have you no seen the size of the poor wee animals’ heed?

I'll leave you with a bit of poetry/songwriting by Ian Dury that was in my head all the way back from the scene:

Single bachelor with little dog,
Tom Green of Tamland Green,
said; 'Whose a clever boy then?' girl,
'Yes you know whom I mean’.
For the dog had laid a cable in the sandpit of the playground of the park,
Where they had been.

And with a bit of tissue,
He wiped its’ bum-hole clean.

Ah yes, nothing like a bit of poetry at the end to give your post that a touch of class.