Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others is a foreign fillum. What I like about foreign fillums is I usually don’t recognise the actors from other fillums, so, in a way, that makes their characters more believable.
The Lives of Others is a Krautmovie. The 'Da' from run-lola-run is in it but every one else is new to me. I liked it, but I don’t think it’s a masterpiece. Almost, but not quite. What I have to say about it is full of spoilers, and I’d hate to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of it so if you haven’t seen it, and you’re wondering what else this post is about, then skip from here until you pass the picture of otters.

It’s a great idea, it describes a past historical situation with sensitivity and accuracy, it’s well-paced and directed and very nicely acted; so what’s your problem Darren?

Two things: the first is that, for the purpose of the plot, the cold observing Stasi (DDR Gestapo) must see his own loveless miserable existence in contrast to the life of the ‘artists’.
Their way of living, their way of loving, their way of ‘seeing’ must open his mind somewhat as he becomes exposed to it by keeping them under constant surveillance.

His life, and point of view, is cruel and uncompromising, but also tempered by a true belief in the validity of what he does; but something about the artists, energises parts of his soul and awakens his long-suppressed compassion.

Cool. I’d buy that for a dollar;- except the artists, as portrayed in the film, really aren’t all that inspiring. (The playwright plays one lovely piano piece, but apart from that, there’s nothing but a few rows and some shagging;- which really a Stasi surveillance man, of his experience, must be well used to by now).

Neither the actress nor the playwright ever demonstrate any artistic ability, sensitivity or insight, so it’s hard to see why they rock his world so much.

The other thing could be just me, and the way I’m used to following things and perhaps I haven’t seen enough European Cinema and perhaps things like this are just an acquired taste, but: The whole film is pretty much from the Stasi guy’s point of view; we are either with him or we are witnessing incidents he’s privy to: then there is a climax at the conclusion of the case, then we move on some years and we find out where he is when the Berlin wall comes down, and then we move on more years and this time we spend ages with the playwright and his search through old documents; in this section we only see our guy from a distance in the street.

So one cannot but think at that point: “Oh,- the film’s not about him anymore… when did that happen?” and then we move on yet more years and the last bit of the film is about him, and from his point of view again.

Like Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, the film plays with the audience’s role as voyeur, but only so long as the film is from the Stasi guys point of view; the switch of perspective, so near the end, ruined the tone for me a little. Well, ruined the tone for me a lot. As I said, it aint a masterpiece, but it almost is and that’s what made the slight slight flaws so bothersome.

The director's other film is less well-known.

An aspect of ‘The Lives of Others’ struck me quite forcibly:
The Stasi can decide whether an artist or a writer or an actress ever work again; they even have tried and trusted techniques to stifle creativity forever, (which work depending on the artists personality type). The most benign is probably simple black-listing. A playwright whose plays are never performed becomes, of necessity: Nothing and Nobody.

Now, it’s New Years Eve which, as me own life continues, becomes more and more like another birthday to get depressed about. Emotional investments have resulted in zero returns; you'd think a man would throw himself into his work but, in truth, I haven’t written anything that has been performed in a full twelve months, (‘Spinal Krapp’ was written in 2009). Now, I haven’t received a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ from the fringe festival in Limerick but as the festival takes place in the end of January I think I’d be right in taking not hearing anything at all as a ‘No’.

It’s hard not to feel that that’s kind of ‘it’.

The Stasi were right, writing things that are never performed is more effective than torture for stifling a dramatist. Not half as painful, I'm sure, but more effective.

New year; New career? This is why I hate New years eve: it's supposed to be a party; but it feels like a precipice.

Oh well, I've managed 39 of them ,I'm sure I can drag myself through another

See you on the other side, and thank you very much for your time in 2010.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Angel Delight

When I was a kid, I was very fond of Mr Spock and Sherlock Holmes and any unemotional champions of logical deductive reasoning.
How silly the muscle-bound roarers and screamers of other stories seemed in comparison to these fantastic characters. Of course then, y’get a bit older and then you realise that there’s something silly about these guys too, when you think about it.

A pair of right Weirdoes them two.

As a matter of fact, the pointy eared bowl-headed alien with the painted on eyebrows is probably the less ridiculous of the two.
Sherlock Holmes’s deductions claim to come from a simple logical progression of deductive reasoning, but of course the level of accuracy he extrapolates from the smallest of ‘clues’ is neither realistic nor logical (makes for a great character and some cracking stories though).

Although Holmes’s ability to reason seemed to provide him with supernatural powers, he didn’t have any, all his amazing insights are always explained, (usually to a particularly impressed Watson) by a method of deduction.

So, how could Arthur Conan Doyle write stories with a champion of logic as their protagonist and also believe in fairies? Hard to fathom, but then again Tom Cruise reckons we’re all aliens.

I’m old enough to remember a Late Late Show where banshees and little people were discussed with zealous earnestness by the audience. Come to think of it, wasn’t a discussion, people simply recited their leprechaun anecdotes in a tone that left the listener in no doubt that if they were to question one word these statements, then they would be making an enemy for life.

Nowadays, in the yankee culture that we’re so keen to emulate, there’s a lot of folk who believe in ‘angels’ and there’s been telly programmes about them and they pop up here and they pop up there and aren’t they great? There is even a shop in Limerick in Thomas Street called ‘Angel Times’ where, I presume you can buy them,- like a slave auction: maybe that, or they sell some load of meaningless tat with wings on.

The fact that people believe in fairies or leprecauns or scientology is something that might depress you in this day and age. If that is the case, I feel your pain; but I hates them Angel-heads worst of all.

Yesterday on the bus on the way home, I got to thinking why that what might be, and this is what I came up with:

How fundamentally cynical must you be if you regard altruistic behavior, by transients without hope of recompense, as clear evidence of the supernatural?

You'd have to think mortal humans incapable of good wouldn't you?

That's what I reckon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kenny Rogers Kiera Knightly

The night before Christmas Eve, and here I am, at home; by a lovely real warm coal fire. I need a tam-o’-shanter and a smoking jacket and an impossibly large leather-bound volume to complete the effect, but even if I had these things, I’d be far to comfy and cosy to ever be arsed going to the trouble of getting up to fetch them now just for 'effect completion'.

In the stead of my large leather-bound volume, I have this small plastic-bound laptop, and in the stead of a good Dickensian novel I thought I’d pop a video into the drive. Which I did, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to mind you, it’s been lying around the house for a month and came in with a batch of other stuff (a friend was video-purging).
Until tonight I haven’t been able to bring myself to look at it; this was for two reasons:

1#,- because it has a pretentious sounding title, and

2#,- because it bears the supernaturally insipid face of Kiera Knightly on the cover; staring into the distance with her dead eyes.

My expectations were not high, and so I was only pleased and delighted to discover that this fillum was actually excellent. I was moved. Now I should say that I have absolutely no difficulty at all being moved by fillim: one time my phone rang and the conversation went as follows;

Hello Darren?

MYSELF: (Sobbing)

Are you okay?- You sound ‘in bits’…

I’m okay, it’s just that she died… and now the House.

Who died?

It’s THEIR house! They fixed it up together!

What? Who died?

She died and they never took their trip, and she never had a baby…

Oh for fecks sake!- what film are you watchin’ now?

This thing called ‘UP’ ; it’s only on ten minutes, animated thing;
I thought it’d be a laugh, but I don’t think I can watch anymore…

There’s something wrong with you- d’you know that?

And now the bastards want to take his house!

Okay, so, I’ll tell you what I’ll ring later…

It’s HIS House: the bastards!

You’re a fool. You need help.



Any way, where was I? Oh yes, I was moved, but then again I often am ( ‘cause I’m a big eejit really). So how else will I describe it? Okay.


Poetry is a word that’s passed around like a cheap harlot from discipline to discipline*: “His music is ‘poetry’”, “her painting is ‘poetry’”, “That time I rode yer wan in the back field…’twas pure ‘poetry’ I’m tellin’ yeh!”.

Poor oul’ ‘poetry’ gets shoe-horned in there time and time again so:- it’s worth stating that, when I use the word ‘poetry’ to describe this film,I use the actual word.

Not that the film is a poem, it couldn’t be. (Unless it consisted of carefully chosen words in a line whose rhythm and sounds have been extremely cleverly constructed to create a specific effect).
But the way that scenes and particularly, sounds blend together and fold back upon each other is extremely satisfying, and does remind me of poetry in the way that the way a poem is constructed, and each word ‘meets’ another, is far more important than any narrative.
This film has a narrative, (it’s based on a novel), but a lot of it has been constructed poetically and musically.
A lot of the soundtrack consists of music made from pertinent sounds, the clack of a typewriter, and the thumping of a stick on a car bonnet, a rifleshot. They are sound effects that occur in the action and then become music.

I couldn’t watch too many films made like this, I’m sure that the technique would lose its charm. But I thought that this was great. Completely unexpected.

Oh yeah: It's called 'Atonement'.

So it goes straight to the top of the ‘films with Kiera Knightly in ‘em’ chart, she didn’t ruin it but she wasn’t the main character as the cover suggested so maybe that was why.

Do you think that Tom Waits? Do you think maybe perhaps Jeremy Irons?
Have you ever wondered whether if perhaps Kenny Rogers Kiera,
- Knightly?

Best answer wins a prize. I won’t judge the winner meself,

I’ll let Wilson Pickett.

We're not worthy

I’m a big fan of ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley and ‘1984’ by George Orwell and I’m forever grateful to both authors for giving me a smart answer for anyone who claims, with a lofty, air that ‘they don’t read Science Fiction’.

You see, Brave New World and 1984 (and Clockwork Orange for that matter) are considered ‘literature’, and by literature I mean everybody in the English speaking world who has read these wonderful books considers you an idiot if you’ve had the opportunity to read them and have never done so,( and they’re right).

So, if you’re a science fiction fan and you ever hear anyone intimate that they are somehow ‘above’ the genre; these are the titles that will bring them down with a crash.
I can see why people don’t think of them really as Sci-Fi, (the robots and aliens that we expect from the genre are absent,) but they are science fiction. All utopias/dystopias are science fiction; from a Clockwork Orange to a Handmaids Tale.

What I love about these two in particular though, is that they come from a time when the old way was gone and technology was changing everything, fundamentally,- and nobody knew what ;’the new way’ would or should be: it’s almost like they stood in the first quarter of the 20th Century and shone their brilliant intellects into the future; like guiding lights.

Orwell shone down the path of state control. He lit up the fascist/communist ‘State is all’ model. The state destroys all other relationships. Huxley shone in the other direction; ‘individual is all’, community is subversive, work-and-buy and-consume-and-die and enjoy absolutely everybody and everything; and ,with enough drugs and amusements, and every citizen pre-disposed to their position in society since birth, more meaningful relationships than the relationship that the individual has with the state; will simply never occur .

Seeing as Hitler lost the war, and the fascism practised by the Russian State under the name of communism* also came a cropper, the vision of Brave New World is probably the more resonant to us today, seeing as how the world, or at least the developed world, turned out.

Either way, these were the influential authors with the big ideas of what the world might turn into, and we’ve all heard of them, but: there is another book.

Not as far-reaching as the other two but chillingly prescient as things turned out and that is ‘Swastika Night’. I’ll presume that you are unaware of it, because nobody I ever meet is aware of it. It’s a book written in 1937 about a dystopian future where the Nazis have decided to go to war with all of Europe. It’s set about a hundred years later and there are no Jews.
There is no memory in fact, that there ever was any Jews. The oppressed groups are women and Christians. And sexuality among high-born Germans has evolved into a kind of boy-worship. This boy-worship is the publicly acceptable face of love, as women are regarded as an almost sub-human section of society who live separately and whom one visit only out of duty to the reich,( to help manufacture warriors for the next generation).

That somebody would write such a book in1937, before concentration camps were even built, never mind discovered, is amazing. I spent a bit of money one time to get an early copy of it (printed 1940), to hold it in my hands and read it and say to myself ‘fuck! Somebody could see, somebody knew…Here’s the book!’

If you have never heard of this book then you’re probably thinking to yourself; hang on a minute… Who’s been hiding this important gem, this document, this staggeringly accurate Dystopia?

If I tell you the author is Murray Constantine then you might think;
’Murray Constantine? How come I’ve never heard of him?’

Then, if I tell you that ‘Murray Constantine’ was a pseudonym and the true author was a woman called Kathy Burdekin, well then you will cry HA HA! There’s a reason why this book was suppressed while Orwell’s and Huxley’s were celebrated- it’s because a woman wrote it! And the 20th century just dumped all over the women and ignored their contribution!

An understandable reaction and certainly it was an opinion like this that prompted the feminist press to reprint Swastika Night in 1985.

Why didn’t it rock the world?

Was it because Orwell and Huxley had already gotten ‘in there’ and we had no room in our collective consciousness for another informative vision of possible society from the 1930’s?

Or was it because Katy Burdekin (for indeed that was her name)’s vision of the future was simultaneously accurate and inaccurate,( seeing as the Nazis did try to conquer all of Europe and eradicate the Jews; they just didn’t win) and simply ‘dated’ quicker than the others with the end of the war?


Ahem; the reason this book doesn’t occupy the position of respect that the other two occupy, is because… it’s crap.

It’s a crap story. An episode of the famous five is more descriptive, has a better plot, more insight, more story and more character development than Swastika Night.

It was reprinted in 1940 by ‘the left book club’ not because of public demand but because it was considered ‘worthy’. It was reprinted by the Feminist press for the same reason. It’s a good idea for a book; but it just was never a good book.

So I’m not sure that worthy good intentions have any place in Art. Was there ever a crapper cartoon than ‘Captain Planet’?

Katy, wherever you are, fair play to you, I have your book; but you shouldn’t complain that history overlooked you. A good idea does not a good book make.
But I do respect that you wrote this at a time when Hitler was on the rise and if things had’ve gone his way you’d have been the first English writer on the train to the ovens.

It just wasn’t very good.

Shame that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'I doubt it' says Croker

'I doubt it' says Croker' is a handy non-committed-but-negative expression, kind of akin to saying: "maybe... but I wouldn't hold me breath".

I love it. I've never heard it outside of Limerick. I haven't heard it often inside of Limerick, come to think of it, but when I do it's always a pleasure.
The origin* of the phrase is that it was the 'famous last words' of a local libertine landlord before he shuffled off his mortal coil.

I'll explain this bit of Limerick lore,(as I heard it,) with, appropriately enough, a Limerick:

A priest went to Croker, and spoke,
at the side of his deathbed; I quote:
"you are going with grace,
to a far better place."
"Oh, I doubt it" said Croker, and croaked.

* Oh yes, it's possibly apocryphal, but who gives a damn about that?

Archive mentioning the Crokers of Limerick 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black and White and said all over

“The Rubberbandits are offensive, not because they swear and reference drugs, and not because they reinforce a jaundiced and incorrect view of Limerick; the Rubberbandits are offensive because they are Modern Irish Society’s equivalent of ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’.”

This is the point of view*(* I haven’t quoted directly but I believe that that’s the gist), put forward by a contributor to the comments section of the blog I did about Liveline, and I have to admit: It has me thinkin’.

And the ‘gist of the gist’ is, that the Bandits embody, in their act, a marginalised minority of Irish culture that the rest of us fear and at the same time look down upon, ie: ‘The Scumbags’, ‘The underclass’, ‘The knacks’.

The gist of the Minstrel comparison is; that laughing at caricatures, of this oppressed and feared element, is ultimately satisfying to the rest of us.
It mitigates our fear of them; while at the same time making us feel good about our own relative position in society.
The fact, that it’s popular and entertaining, doesn’t justify it.
If anything, the fact that it’s widely popular, suggests that we have huge problems as a society confronting our own prejudices.

I find this an interesting point of view, so I thought I’d have a closer look at it.

The way I see it, the Minstrel/Entertaining-Scumbag (hereafter known as ‘Happy-Knack’) analogy, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny on two points:

(as ‘Bock the Robber’ pointed out) ‘Knacks’ are not really an identifiable minority in the way that black people are. The notion of ‘black people’ as a set of human beings is difficult anyway because as soon as you wish to treat people in terms of these sets you’re going to have problems about who you leave in and who you leave out, but there are those close enough to the ‘type’ to fit everybody’s general idea. So we can agree that Samuel Jackson yes, Ali G, not really.
In contrast the ‘Knack/Scumbag’ term is a relative one, just like the term ‘Snob/Posh’ and when we use either generalisation most of us are usually accurately speaking of how we perceive ourselves in relation to who we’re talking about rather than any agreed general group in our society.

Secondly, the Black and White minstrel of the stage and screen were of necessity watered down and inoffensive. Their only fuction was to entertain, neither the original minstrels or their white-skinned-blacked-up successors ever challenged the idea that they were anything other than delightful child-like performers. The confrontational vulgarity of the Rubberbandits does fit the perceived stereotype of whatever a ‘Knack’ is, but bringing that to the stage and defending it on aesthetic grounds has more in common with Punk or the Dadaist movement than The Black and White Minstrel Show.

So, for me, there’s no way the Rubberbandits are Black and White minstrels but that’s not to say that I don’t see the point of the comparison. Perhaps if they were puppets like Dustin and Podge and Rodge, I’d find them easier to get my head around, perhaps if like Ross O’Carroll Kelly they represented a caricature of the most comfortable in this country rather than the most dangerous\vulnerable they’d be easier for me personally to find amusing. When I was a kid, a slagging match was only good if the participants were both doin’ the slagging and were on some sort of equal footing, otherwise it was just bullying, and bullying’s not funny.

But I don't think that's what's going on here.These lads are well able to stick up for themselves, as well as write a catchy tune.

What the Bandits are at isn’t really all that new; it’s new for this country though.
And while it remains to be seen if they can maintain any cultural presence beyond a novelty single, their intellectual and articulate defence of their art, while maintaining their ‘Knack’ personas, clears them of the charge of ‘minstrelcy’, and so far, been the most subversive thing about them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Johnny B Notgoodenough.

I went out on the town last night; to the 'new' Flannerys.
Flannerys of old was the birthplace of Impact Theatre, factfans.

There's been a fair amount of changes since then but most recently the whole bar has expanded to include the area of the building next door that always had broken washing machines outside it...
What a smoking section it is! By far and away the best in town: dry, secluded, large, with it's own bar (so you don't have to be going in and out for your beer) and best of all WARM.
And although there is tellies there, and my default setting is 'agin' tellies in pubs ; I was glad of them there last night because I was able to watch the Late Late show debut of the 'Rubberbandits' in Limerick with a bunch of Limerick heads.
The bandits themselves were grand,- it wasn't the show-stopping performance that Blindboys' contribution to 'Liveline' was the other day, but it was great to see and feel the pride in the room. There was a deafening and spontaneous cheer at the mention of 'Donkey Fords'.
All too soon the spot was over and Johnny Logan had just began to sing his big christmas number when the sound went off.

There was a deafening and spontaneous cheer for that as well.

I love Limerick.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome to bandit country

"Rubberbandits. Let's reinforce the stereotype, why don't we? Why let others fuck us when we can do it to ourselves?

Nice going lads."

This was a facebook comment from a couple of days ago that generated no less than 105 comments. Some of support, but most of which boiled down to; "For crissake, can you not take a joke?" Yesterday on Joe Duffy's liveline this exact topic was discussed within earshot of the nation in what must have been one of the most bizarre radio programmes that I've ever heard in my life.

The beginning of the programme felt like an ambush, the ex-miniature of d'fence had voiced support of this song, and his support was being interpreted as a shameless bit of electioneering. 'Angry caller' was there to tell us what a disgrace it was that a politician could support the glamourisation of drug abuse. There was two audio sections that they had clearly lined up before the programme; one was the offending line: 'A bag of Yolks' and the other was from the Rubberbandits slagging Willie O'Dea (the third member of the band is known as Willie O'D.J.).

Now it maybe just me, but it honestly felt like a set-up. Here we have a member of an extremely unpopular political party supporting something that refers to drugs and contains swearing: Lets get'm lads!

Unfortunately, for the ambush, the miniature pointed out that he had been mercilessly lampooned by the lads himself before they got a chance to play the audio clip, and even quoted the best line; "I swear on my 'tache,- it's very good hash!"

Also unfortunate, in terms of the ambush, the 'Angry Caller' became less and less articulate, actually referring at one point to the 'usage of druggage'. Then Joe's attack was somewhat rescued by an incensed woman who worked with families devastated by narcotics and didn't find anything amusing about the damage they cause.

Finally they had Willie on the ropes; his comeback "You're obviously from another political party" back-fired horrendously when it became clear that lady caller was a Fianna Fail stalwart who had actually been a Feena Foyle mayor of Dublin.

Cue embarrassing pause.
You'd imagine nobody was getting up from that but Willie was rescued by a bandit.

'Blindboy' of the Rubberbandits was the next caller, to Duffy's chagrin, he stayed 'in character' and maintained his comedy accent. A stroke of genius, it took only a minute before it was clear that the 'Joke-voice' was the most articulate and intelligent one on the air.

Willie came out of it as the champion of humour and good sense and the Rubberbandits increased their likelihood for a Christmas number one by a few thousand sales; Duffy came out of it looking exactly like what he is:

Does Limerick really need some 'comedy-knacks' reinforcing the stereotype set up by Primetime et al? Personally, I think it helps. Because articulate, intelligent and funny are not what people associate with Limerick, and they should do.

Truth be told, the rubberbandits have never really floated my boat, but this single is catchy, and hilariously bad taste. I really hope it is number one for Christmas;if that happens it will not only be good for this town; it might just remind us all why we live in this country in the first place.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wired to the box.

A mighty Avon, if ever there was one, was Avon Barksdale; the kingpin of Baltimore’s narcotics distribution in ‘The Wire’.
In the continuing saga of ‘pop-cultural catch-up’ via boxed sets for the culturally impaired; my most recent consumption was has been a FIVE season long eye-bleeding marathon of ‘The Wire’;- and oh it was glorious, my droogs.

Avon Barksdale was played by Wood Harris and Wood Harris is in Johannesburg at the moment, playing a part in the new Judge Dredd film; I hope it all goes well for him. That’s not what I’m talking about today though. Today I’m just talking about ‘The Wire’. Or, as Jon Kenny and Pat Shortt might have called it: ‘D’Wire’.

As I’m sure everybody else in the world knows by now, ‘D’Wire is only brilliant altogether and represents a giant step in evolution as far as televisual dramatics are concerned. It’s enormous, it’s ambitious, it’s all-encompassing and it’s just so gosh-darned well written that it takes your breath away. Or it took my breath away anyway.

Well look, a five season boxed set isn’t actually something I could survive without breathing but don’t be like that when y’know perfectly well what I mean.

Underpinning the complexity of the large ensemble cast and their multiple back-stories, (as well as a clear and analytical approach to the interconnectedness of the schools/policing/media/drug trafficking and politics that make the sordid life of Baltimore), is a very simple premise: everybody is at work.

The cops solving murders are not trying to find justice for the victims or their families; they are trying to have a good work record, for themselves and their careers.
The gallows humour and general indifference is barbaric and shocking in the TV cop genre, but it doesn’t make us recoil from them as characters, because very soon we see that this is simply how it is for people who do a job, and we find other things to like about them.

The drug dealers, from the high echelon Kingpins such as the mighty Avon and his successors, to the children who distribute for them on the corners; no-one is ever simply evil and nor are they victims either: they are at work. They have individual ambition and drive and different levels of tolerance for the nastier side of the game, but this their job, and the law is a simple irritation, that makes it harder for them to do their job.

The politicians, ranging from the ‘Fianna Fail Ferengi’ shameless con-man to the starry eyed idealist who can get nothing done without double-dealing in some sense, (because that is what the business of politics is), are in the business of remaining elected; that, is the focus of their job.

The most idealistic and dedicated teacher in the world can have little impact in an underfunded school where they turn the heating up as a control measure, but still he goes in everyday, to do his job.

And it all fits so beautifully. I have me gripes of course. There’s a flaw or two here and there where some aspect is over-emphasised or dramatised so that the mask of realism slips, but these instances are only jarring because they are so rare, and it’s possible that the program wouldn’t work as well without them, after all, how much realism do you want out of the telly at the end of the day?
A case in point is the colourful and almost superhuman character Omar and his singular way of supporting himself. It doesn’t seem like a viable long-term occupation, certainly for as long as he survives on it in the one town of Baltimore.
But we need it because it places him in a unique position of moral authority outside of the game but part of it. Omar’s the Clint Eastwood noble bad-ass maverick, and the series would lose a lot without him.

One thing, I felt it let itself down on, was the ‘ground-breaking’ sex scenes: inter-racial/same sex/couple in a corridore.t.c.; they felt to me like self-conscious 'television events’ and almost always interrupted the pace of the story; but maybe that’s just me being repressed or whatever. There was one ride in a carpark that was okay because that was just a character caught in the headlights and it didn’t go on for five minutes with music and everything.

Anyway that’s my tuppence worth, about a series that’s long over.

If for any reason, you’ve missed it, or missed part of it, or saw a couple of episodes and didn’t get into it, I’d say check it out. It’s brilliant. I think it has to be the best long running series I’ve ever seen ever ever ever.

And I mean that now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Time gentleman please

My days are numbered; I’m gone ould. Getting ould is less of a deal for a person who has testicles.

This is because, unlike ovaries, the testicles keep on working. Meaning that I am descended from God-knows-how-many millions of testicle bearers, at least one of whom may have retained some level of attractiveness; making it possible for them to impregnate my female andecedent despite their old age (Old age being, in the majority of human history something beyond 40). And thereby creating an ancestor who lead to myself, and thereby passing on some 'old guy, but nonetheless hot' genes that I'm planning on keeping me in the 'possible gene sharing pool' for the next three years or so.

That's the theory anyway.

In common with many testicle-bearers, I regard old age not as a degeneration; but as a slow and gradual but improving process like as what happened to Clint Eastwood.

And so aging, or as I like to think of it, the process of turning into Clint Eastwood, doesn’t really bother me; but every now and then even a fantasist such as myself has an experience which prompts then to think to themselves: ‘Oh shite, I’m gettin' old, and not in a good way’.

There have been many ‘Oh Shite I’m gettin’ ould and not in a good way’ moments- the latest of which, has been th’interweb.
I like th’ interweb. I can write in Hypertextmarkup language and if you can’t; I pity you. But the web is not simply code and 1’s and 0’s (well actually, it is: but not in a way that matters) the web is where we are. There was a time when everybody in Ireland watched ‘The Late Late Show’ at exactly the same time and it defined us as a nation.

Long gone pal, long gone.

I like to translate me thoughts into words. I find the very act of doing so sharpens me ideas and makes me question concepts in a way I wouldn’t get from just speaking them. The ‘veb’ has been good to me on this score. Whatever nonsense is going through me mind, I can just type it up and throw it out there, and care not a jot about sales or style or relevance or meaning or space in the periodical, or word-count or:"have I used the word 'me' instead of 'my' too often?". It will either be read, or it won’t.

Anyone who has been on the planet long enough knows that it’s no big deal to feel ‘Oh shit, I don’t get this’ or ‘I’m kind of invisible here’ or, worst of all; ‘I’d better leave because the very presence of somebody my age in the room is freaking everybody out’. I get this, I know this, and through it all I have considered th’ interweb my friend; but frankly- the day of blogs is over.

The day of existing only as a literary style and as set of opinions is gone. The day of just writing shite is out the window.

Yes, it has it’s own special qualities; but so did betamax.

The future is tellyweb, and with tellyweb, we don’t even have to bother reading. Instead of words alone we are now going to have people and faces and sound effects and clever but simple editing techniques. I can’t join in with this nonsense, because I’m old. Plain and simple. There’s no hiding your oldness from the camera, there’s no crawling back the validity of your point of view when the immediate emotional response to your message is: “ who the fuck is this old fucker?”.

As an illustration, I shall draw your attention to ‘The nostalgia chick’ in herself a spin-off from the, often hilarious and often annoying ‘nostalgia critic'.

The premise of this 'web-show' is that the critic/chick re-watches movies and cartoon specials of their childhood and basically attack them in a way they weren't articulate enough to do when they were children. Yes it's self opinionated and nerdy and probably not as cool as it thinks it is, but let me say this much:

This is the interweb, so with a click of a button you can see naked ladies with naked gentlemen or other naked ladies or dogs or “granny fucks a tranny while ten midgets watch” but this, for me, is the sexiest thing I have ever seen come down the electric information tubes. It’s a very intelligent, attractive, articulate and very, very young woman, talking about a terribly dull film (Labyrinth).


I cannot compete.

I’m gonna have to give this interweb shite up.

Pretty soon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Here comes the judge...

And so they're makin' another Judge Dredd fillum.

In South Africa of all places; and, there's a few pictures out; and, the script has been released; and, grown men of a certain age are all over th'interweb trying to decide amongst themselves: will it be any good?- or to put it another way, 'will they do the Judge Justice'?. 

 Movie creators can never really fully satisfy the expectations of Comic fans.
This is because the act of reading comics requires that each individual reader becomes the 'director' of their own movie; 'inside their head'.

When an audience is: either reading the plain text of a novel;
or following images and angles in comics to discern pacing, sound, and rhythm of the action;
or when they are being forced to estimate the size and weight of an approaching monster only by sound and the ripples of a glass of water,- it's always at these times, when people are forced to use their own imagination to fill in the gaps, that great stories become vivid and involving. Comic readers have all already experienced the characters and environment through a more engaging process than simple passive veiwing.

So, in a sense, a true aficionado of a comic script can never be happy with any filmed adaptation: the directors vision will always differ from the vision that the comic reader has been forced ,( by the absence of sound and movement,) to invent for themselves, &
each comic reader has been through a 'personal' storyboarding and visualisation process. So, the sense of satisfaction that they gain,( from any film that has been made from the same material,) will depend entirely on how well the end product fits with whatever they have already envisioned in their heads. These visions will differ from head to head.
I don't know, but I definitely suspect that even when the director themselves see the final product, that end product will always contain some (and perhaps even many) deviations from their own original vision: so,- how on earth are they supposed to provide the comic readers with any satisfaction?

They can't. And it's not their job anyway. Their job is to take whatever key elements (that existed in the original that made it special and resonant) and make it work for a cinema audience who will be mostly unfamiliar with it.

It could be argued, that when we see the successes of 'Road to Perdition', 'Sin City', or '300' that all a director has to do, to please both film audience and comic fan, is to follow the comics as story boards and follow them faithfully.

This is not an option for the 'Judge Dredd adaptor' because Dredd existed as a six-page weekly, not a graphic novel. Dredd has never really been one self-contained story and the style of writing him varied as almost as much as much as the artwork from week to week, and from year to year. It continued over such a long period of time that there is no single Judge Dredd or Mega City One: part of it's appeal was that it was evolving constantly.
And, unlike American equivalents, the writers were able to dispense with popular characters(in a 'hurt locker' stylee) and each artist was allowed to exhibit their own style.

Creatively, Dredd was the ultimate paradox. The Dredd story champions a fascist, but what made it stand out was that, among English language comics of the 80's, it was completely anarchic and non-conformist in it's execution.( Especially in comparison to American stories that conversely depicted 'champions of freedom' in an extremely conformist conveyor-belt style; Experts can tell Luke Kirby from A.N. other marvel artist, but the system in use was designed to hide that original hand as much as possible).

The original Dredd was ridiculously childish. Bit by bit, an adult sense of satire crept in, and then he was a joke, and then he was a beast, and then he was a beast to admire, and then he was a beast to pity and now he is a beast who commands respect because, to the reader, he is an old man who has been through so much and has never compromised (Despite being set in the future, Judge Dredd ages yearly with his audience). 

So the attitude and understanding of a stalwart Dredd-comic-reader is absolutely impossible to impart to an unfamiliar audience.

So now we have another Dredd film coming down the line. It looks cheap as chips, and the plot is just blood and snot but, in many ways, I think it's the ideal Dredd film for it's time. Because , after all, the comics actually were a bit pathetic and ridiculous to begin with, and only over time matured and made more sense, (as the the readers matured and got more sense).

The 1995 film was a pathetic cliche ridden pile of nonsense that got everything wrong but still would've been entertaining for a ten-year old: if we remember that that same ten year old is 25 today, we realise that maybe now they are just about ready for the the Dredd that Dredd turned into; a brutal gory fucked up Nazi; that unlike Dirty Harry or Batman isn't 'doing what he must do' because the system has failed: he's doing it because violent crime has theoretically met a critical point where battlefield ethics are the only practical ones.

From the photos here you can tell, that so far, it looks probably even cheaper than chips,(more Soylent-feckin-Green than Bladerunner) but let's remember that the last one looked great: and style is mere skin, and substance is flesh. Any reader of Dredd who expects their internal visions to be finally realised by this new film will be disappointed. But I reckon that there's every opportunity for a good 90 minutes entertainment here.

Any speculation is only so much faff anyway, whether you like the script or not: They're filming now and Judgement day is coming...

Also there's rumours of a Judge Anderson nude scene.
How bad?

All photos courtesy of 'animal' a spy on the set in Capetown, or 'kiwiurban'. Anderson by Bolland, and hilarious wanderly wagon mock up all me own work courtesy of microsoft paint.

John Wagner interveiw: LA times

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rolling out the barrels

Don't ever get the working-class hero talking about his ancestry.

I'm tellin' you just don't do it.

I should point out that 'the working class hero' is a nick-name I have for a very dear friend of mine and I'm not actually talking about an archetype*.He has many many positive attributes and you'd be a long time walkin' before you'd ever meet a more affable and erudite companion

but don't:

 just don't,

get him talkin' about his ancestry.


I mean it, and don't be one of these fools that thinks to themselves:

'I wonder what all the fuss is about with the working class hero and his ancestry? I'm sure it can't be that bad...Who does this interweb moron think he is!- tellin' me what to do anyway?.. d'you know what? I think the next time I meet the working class hero I will ask him about his ancestry and find out what all the fuss is about for meself!'

Please just don't do it because if you do it will be an act of gross folly and even though I warned you about it you will secretly blame me for the whole thing and never be entirely sure I didn't trick you into the whole debacle with a clever use of reverse psychology.

See?- You didn't think of that didja?

Just don't bring it up. And if the working class hero brings it up himself then just run away and tell him the next time you meet him that you're sorry about that but you accidentally set yourself on fire.

There are many reasons for this caution. Reason number one is that the working class hero knows a lot about History. History is an interesting topic of course and it's often a delight to spend a convivial evening in the company of one, such as the hero himself, who knows enough about it to bring it alive and tell you all the interesting bits, but, I'm telling you: Get that man onto the topic of his own lineage and his power to entertain and inform warps into a strange kind of conversational torture instrument. The detail and enthusiasm with which he can regurgitate the minutae of all the begats and begottens between himself and some chap who pops up on the bayeux tapestry is mind numbing in every sense. In fact,it's all over the body-numbing truth be told.

If he ever finds out that he was adopted he won't be happy.

I tell you this, because I realised today that it's not just himself. The same evil infection is in me for I've been looking through the records of Old Dublin Town and I have to say that every tiny fact about my own family is completely and absolutely absorbing and fascinating. So genealogy is like kids: you're own is great, it's just other peoples you cant stand. My point is; I get that I'm on sufferance with this topic and I'll keep it brief.


My great grandfather John Maher was the Cooper who made the barrels that form the back of the bar in the Long Hall in Capel St. The Long Hall in Capel St. is actually a listed building now and even if it weren't it should be, because the Long Hall is the bar that Phil Lynott sits in for the video to 'This Old Town'.

I told you it was fascinating.

*Incidentally Karl Jung invented the word 'archetype' wasn't he clever? -I only found out yesterday: it's amazing what you can learn from the telly.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Embiggen' is okay, but 'Cromulent' should only ever be used interfrastically...

'Embiggen' is a real word: 100% FACT!

'Embiggen' and 'Cromulent' were invented as 'fauxcabulary' by the authors of the Simpsons for the Episode: 'Lisa the iconoclast'.
However, unbeknownst to the scriptwriters, 'embiggen' was, it seems actually in usage as far back as 1884!

How do we know? Because it's mentioned in a letter published in volume 10 of 'Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc'.

"...But fresh slang coming up destroys old slang, and it is this we must look to, and not to grammarians, to rid the dictionaries of jargon that "neweth everyday"? Are there not, however, barbarous verbs in all languages? ἀλλ' ἐμεγάλυνεν αυτοὺς ὁ λαός, but the people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly. After all, use is nearly everything..." C.A. Wardof Haverstock Hill(p135).

I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed researching this, th'oul interweb's great.

I am a sad character indeed. Incidentally on the first page, (p9 of the scan) of this excellent publication, there is an advertisement for a 'portmanteau'!

(The suitcase, that is, not the word that's made up of blending two words; like' brunch' for example)


Aint life wonderful?

Here if you don't believe me.