Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Firing the Imagination

I got delayed coming home. Nasty CSS and javascript conspired to keep me chained to my desk. I beat them though. While fighting I heard Stephen mention how Ballymun knew how to keep Halloween if anyone could. As I stood at my bus stop I saw what he meant. An unceasing stream of fireworks of every hue and pattern was blazing into the Ballymun sky. Even from my distance it was impressive. Goodness knows what the bonfires were like, but it looked like a hell of a party. Stephen was right.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Candyman Can!

So the law was changed just for Woods! Great when you (yes, YOU, Cowen, you bulbous bag of bullying 'bon homie') can change a country's laws to help out a buddy! And then of course, there's everyones' favourite, Bertie, with his €38,000 pay hike. The under-the-floorboards stash must be running low. So what's that now? €310,000! Let's hope he has a bank account set up now though, in case of any future misunderstandings.

(And what of that under-the-mountain phantom army, the Greens? Have they deserted Middle Earth again?????????)

You know, Bertie's troubles might all be because of the ghost, I mean THE ghost (C.J.H., don't say it too loud, or three times in succession!). Perhaps he's been possessed! It would explain the recent bouts of memory loss, the wild gurning at the Tribunal, the sudden changes of personality from honest friend of the people to... well, okay scrap that last part. But it could be possession, if not of a Griffith Avenue property, then Bertie's soul (making the grand presumption that he has one...nah, scrap that too). Imagine his head spinning round while answering questions in the Dail! Actually that's not so unusual, come to think of it. His policies do too.

We need an exorcism! We need to call out the foul infestation! Leave our leader!!!!

C.J.H., C.J.H., C.J.H.!

No, nothing. Maybe if I stand in front of a mirror and say it five times: C.J.H., C.J.H., C.J.H., C.J.H., C.J.H....


Cowen Boosts Ex-Minister's Pensions by up to €500,000!

I was going to rant, but why bother! This, my fine Fianna Fail friends, is what YOU voted for (and YOU know who YOU are). I suppose it's all just to cover inflation anyway (by the time Cowen's through we'll all need an extra half million).
Yes, this Halloween time, there is certainly a ghost in the air, a phantom stalking Europe. We thought the old bastard was dead and gone, but no; Haughey lives!


From the makers of 'Adam and Paul' comes another portrait of Ireland's small folk. 'Garage' swaps the junkies for garage attendants, but was that such a good idea?
Eschewing the drug-polluted towers of Ballymun for a rural petrol station, 'Garage', is a simple tale. Josie, a middle-aged garage attendant living a lonely existence in a small town, strikes up a friendship with his teenage assistant. Taking a little too much for granted, Josie, oversteps the mark. Throw in a VHS tape, some after work cans, and a horse that likes apples, and you know there's trouble on the way.
Pat Shortt as Josie, seems to be playing one of his Killinascuddy characters straight, but it is wholly appropriate. Josie, is an outsider, from his home/job in the garage on the fringes of town, to his inability to deal with, or even recognise, the scorn shown him by the town. Working for an old school friend, it is obvious that he is exploited, ridiculed and generally disregarded.
Josie's major flaw is his inability to communicate. This may be largely because he has nothing to say. There is some attempt made to create an inner life for the character, but this is no romanticised Forrest Gump. Simple is as simple does, and Josie is a simple character in every respect. It is probably because of this that it is so hard to really empathise with the character. We know he wants female companionship, but it's difficult to understand why. It is probably truer to say that company is what he most truly seems to want, but the desire is left as nebulous as that. We can pity him, but we can get no further. As he says himself, 'my head is empty'.
Apart from Shortt's successful performance, there is little here to hold the attention. Small Ireland looks ugly, the people even more so. The frequent longeurs and emphasis on character (even if that character is lacking) show the film to be aspiring to the European Art Film canon. However, despite echoes of 'Umberto D' and other Italian Neo-realist classics, it doesn't come up to the bar. This is a far cry from the pretentious shite Ireland was producing in the late 80s/early 90s, but it's no great step forward neither.
One memorable element sadly underused, is Stephen Rennick's Pärt-esque score. With so many pauses in the 'action', surely more could have been done with it.
A movie of silences and meaningful tableaux, 'Garage' is not a bad film, but it's stretching things to claim it as the masterpiece some critics have. While I love European Art Cinema more than most, I believe Ireland needs to develop its Film Industry (ie. make some money) before it can afford to indulge itself. 'Garage' is probably too much of an indulgence.


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Devil Rides Out...Again!

I told you Facebook was the new spawn of Satan! Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft!) has forked out $240 million for a 1.6% share of the networking business (see for more info on the infernal doings of the community website). And after Google I don't even have a soul to sell them! How will I pay? How's about a spiritual mortgage? Hell, the banks have been doing them here for years!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg, the director behind such infamously disturbing flicks as 'Scanners', 'Rabid', 'Dead Ringers' and 'Videodrome', has switched genres lately. I suppose the cross-over from horror to thriller probably started with the psychological thriller, 'Spider', but with the graphic novel adaptation, 'A History of Violence', the change was explicit. Now with 'Eastern Promises', a tale of the Russian Mafia in London, he continues his foray into crime and that most criminal of genres, the gangster movie.
Not that Cronenberg has toned down the disturbing imagery. In one notably humorous scene, Viggo Mortensen's Nikolai asks those around him to leave the room while he removes all identifying characteristics, eg. teeth and fingers, from a corpse. The audience are not given such an opportunity.
As the screenplay of Steven Knight, the writer behind Frears' 'Dirty Pretty Things', 'Eastern Promises' shares a similar preoccupation with the exploitation of immigrants, in this case the plight of the many very young women brought from the former USSR into prostitution. Mortensen's character is a driver for the Russian crimelord organising this exploitation (among other activities). When a 14 year-old Russian dies giving birth, a British nurse, Anna (Naomi Watts), tries to find the girl's kin and inadvertently gets sucked into this criminal world.
Although not by any means a horror film, Cronenberg never shys away from violence and many a throat is cut in gory detail. This is painful violence and to Cronenberg's credit the audience is never sure when it might erupt and never comfortable when it does. However, if you are expecting a Russian version of 'The Godfather', this is not it. Far from it. The story is a smaller one, the characters more petty. This is real crime, not operatic, just nasty.
It is also nothing we haven't seen before. Every element here can be isolated and shown to appear in another movie; the weak son in 'Road to Perdition'; the made man in 'Goodfellas'; the steamroom killing in 'Gorky Park'; the family parties of 'The Godfather'; etc.. The list goes on: 'Donnie Brasco', 'State of Grace',... It really does go on. However, it would be surprising if it didn't. This is a genre picture after all and necessarily shares its genes with it siblings. What distinguishes this story is its determination to stay outside the gangster family, outraged at the moral attrocities of its chosen subjects. Instead it posits more acceptable alternatives, 'ordinary people' as Sinead Cusack calls herself and her daughter. Of course, as Uncle Stepan retorts, Tatiana, the child-mother who died, was ordinary too.
There is a 'twist', but it's somewhat disappointing and does not win the heartwrenching pull from the audience that ultimately it is there to win. Something is missing in the end. Cronenberg makes all the right moves, but I fear the script is too underplayed to achieve what it wants. Perhaps the relationship between Mortensen and Watts is too slight, or the sacrifice not clear enough. Or more likely, perhaps the twist should not have been a twist at all, but revealed early and played straight throughout. (Naturally I am talking in ciphers here as I don't want to reveal too much: watch it and see for yourself).
This is no gangster masterpiece, and it is far from Cronenberg's best work. But it is an involving, subtly polemical piece that deserves viewing. Full of Eastern promise, it doesn't deliver all, but it just about delivers enough.

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I Thought, Therefore I Was Right

Many years ago when I studied philosophy in UCD, I made the argument that Descartes' 'Cogito ergo sum' ('I think, therefore I am') was not strictly true. Rather than prove that I exist, it only proved that (a) thought exists, as the commonly held notion of self encompassed a past and future that the Cogito could never substantiate. I even used this argument in an exam question and was disappointed with my result. If only I'd read Bertrand Russell's 'The Problems of Philosophy' then (something I am reading now). In only the second chapter, Russell brings up the same issue. So I wasn't alone in my whacked out notions after all. And given the religious bias of my examiners at the time, I doubt the false notion of plagiarism would have damaged my exam results; Russell wouldn't have been held in high esteem by any lecturer outside of my second year Anglo-American philosophy lecturer, Maria Baghramian. Nice one, Bertrand.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oh, Horror!

It was only as I waited at the bus stop today that I remembered that the Horrorthon, a weekend festival of horror movies every year at Halloween, should be due. Getting into Dublin City I discovered this to be true indeed, in fact it had been on since Thursday. And I had missed it! Normally I would have a festival ticket for the full weekend. Now, not only had I forgotten, but when I read the programme, interesting though it was, I didn't feel the obligatory urge to get any tickets. Instead I went to the barber (and no Sweeney Todd neither). Definitely I am getting old.

Dr Mabuse, the Gambler

Earlier watched 'Dr Mabuse, the Gambler'. I noticed some of the stills on the cover were not on the box, while some storylines seemed garbled. Looking up Empire, I found that the 86 minute copy I have should be 246 minutes long! And the soundtrack was woefully inappropriate for the most part, Brahms chamber music sloppily added, with what I took to be the original score only coming in infrequently.
With it master of disguise arch-villain, obsessive police inspector, infatuated mistress, and sadistic killings, 'Dr Mabuse' takes all the elements that defined 'Fantomas' and revitalises them for a post-war age. Given that it came nearly ten years after the French film, I suppose it is hardly surprising that the German movie is infinitely more sophisticated. Modern though 'Fantomas' was in direction and style, 'Dr Mabuse' is as thrilling in execution as any of the other masterpieces that defined the work of Fritz Lang. Using animation, superimpositions, surreal sets, off-kilter camera angles, strange lighting, Lang makes his film a feast for the eyes. There is a shot of Mabuse in a sewer near the end that immediately reminded me of Harry Lime in 'The Third Man'.
Rudolf Klein-Rogge, the mad scientist Rottwang in Lang's later 'Metropolis', plays Mabuse as an even more brutish villain than Fantomas, discarding his humanity in a frenzied pursuit of pure power and control. In contrast all the other characters breathe as living people. Chief Inspector von Wenck (or De Witt as he's named in the inferior copy I watched) in particular is a more complex nemesis for Mabuse than the French Juve, even finding time to fall for a jaded aristocrat, Countess Told, while infiltrating secret clubs where 'whatever gives pleasure is permissable'. ( 'Cards or cocaine?' he is asked in one establishment.) For all that the version I saw was mangled, I saw more psychological realism in this script concocted by Lang and his co-writer/wife Thea von Harbou, than their later collaboration for 'Metropolis'.
In one word - and like the villain - mesmerizing!

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Fantomas Revisited

For the long weekend I borrowed two films I have long wanted to see: Fritz Lang's 'Dr Mabuse, the Gambler' and its sequel, 'The Testament of Dr Mabuse'. The first is silent, the second isn't (though in German). Naturally, given that they deal with ubercriminal, Dr Mabuse, a master of disguise, there are a lot of similarities with their French precursor, Fantomas.
I suddenly realised that I never followed up my comments on Fantomas. I finished watching all of Louis Feuillade's silent series some time ago, but they did make an impression. In contrast to a lot of silent product of the time, Fantomas is slick entertainment. Hampered by some truly ropey storylines, and an extreme facial hair fetish on the part not only of the criminal, but his nemesis, Inspector Juve, it does work remarkably well 90 years later. I can understand the many remakes made throughout the 20th Century and the claim that it influenced everything from James Bond to 'The Usual Suspects'. It is the seminal work the critics claim.
There were several Fantomas serials. Each one is prefaced by shots of the lead in the various guises he will adopt, so surprise is not possible (not thata two-year old would be fooled by the shoddy beards and wigs Fantomas wears). Invariably using his accomplice/lover, Lady Beltram, he stages a wide range of audacious crimes, always pursued by plump Inspector Juve. Juve is not above a little extra hair himself and on occasion infiltrates the criminal's gang, ultimately to no avail. Fantomas always escapes for more mayhem.
Distinguishing the films is a style of direction that seems very modern. There are De Palma-style set pieces involving elevators and crashing trains. Sometimes, however, the ambition outstrips the resources as when Juve and his helper the reporter, Fandor, escape a 'raging' fire (a couple of small bonfires) in some barrels. Many of the storylines occur in the open air, giving an almost documentary feel to some of the city episodes.
What is really interesting though is the character of Fantomas himself, who is unrepentingly evil. I suppose he is capable of charm, but it is made clear that the fascination he elicits in his reluctant mistress, Lady Beltham, is based on his cruelty. Indeed it is his unrelenting sadism that really keeps the audience watching, although the not-as-dumb-as-he-looks Inspector Juve gives us someone to root for too.
Despite the attraction of the sadistic madman, and the panache of the productions, it is still very silly stuff, full of easy coincidences and a dependence on conveniently ubiquitous laundry baskets for hiding places. The bizarre methods of escape the eponymous anti-hero employs (from false arms to hidden pits) may allow for a sequel, but left this viewer groaning. Still it's almost worth it and if, like me, you have a fondness for cinema's milestones, the many escapades of Fantomas deserve at least a peek.

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I'm nearly finished the cult favourite book, 'Freakonomics', by Levitt and Dubner. It uses the tools of economics to explain certain curious phenomena of society, such as why crack dealers live with their mothers. I'll no doubt write more on it soon, but one of the extract articles in this expanded edition is an extract from their blog dealing with a trip to Google. One employee asked them what they would do given the data Google owns. I would take issue with that ownership, but then we did knowingly sell Google our souls when we took their email. What struck me even before reading the article is what Levitt and Dubner, or for that matter anyone, might do with the data amassed through Facebook. Think of all those 'applications' building up all that profile data. I'm sure Levitt and Dubner would gladly give some royalties to get that. And then there are all those hungry companies.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Midnight Caller

Today I was told by a customer over the phone - quite unsolicited, I hasten to add - that I had a radio voice, so much so in fact that a phonecall to me was like a phone-in for them. I thanked dear Shelley profusely and reflected on the many who said something similar of my face. Ain't it great to have the perfect radio combination! 2FM giz a job!

One Big Bang

Four big noises from the university retired yesterday. Rather than four individual fireworks, the university saw fit to send all four off with one big bang. It was hardly that, although the academic who took the opportunity of her parting speech to complain about her access to the library being revoked, won my heart. I have a soft spot for several of those leaving, but in truth it was all just another opportunity for a couple of free glasses of wine. The thirst on us, Stephen, Will and I headed over to The Slipper to continue our supping. Just made the last bus home in the end. Such fine resolutions (to go easy on a school night) dissolve in a glass of red.


Before 'Series Seven', I happened to switch on 'Pleasantville', and as usual I left it on until the end, a sure sign that it's a favourite flick. Despite a courtroom climax that doesn't support the weight of the movie that has preceded it, it is a wonderful, if optimistic, movie. With its masterful use of 'black and white' (with no black character in it), it operates on so many levels, even getting away with an obvious forbidden fruit scene. It is just short of a masterpiece, but an obvious labour of love for writer-director Gary Ross, and something I would be proud to have written. And in case you doubt me, let us recall J. T. Walsh's immortal words: ' We're safe now, thank God we're in a bowling alley, but if George doesn't get his dinner it could be any one of us next....'



After wanting to see it for such a long time, I finally got to see 'Series Seven: The Contenders' the other night. While not as funny or as sophisticated as I hoped, it wasn't bad at all. Great how they made easy target right-winger, Connie, so abhorrent and reigning champion, Dawn, so sympathetic, even with that classic 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' 'art' video. We all know them! Fun.

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Question and Answer

I was asked, 'What's Niall on?'
I answered, 'It's a synthetic material used to make clothes.'

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Back of the Bus Phonecalls

'They're both from Finglas. Ye won't leave me on my own!
'She's driving a 206. Her little sister is called Betty Kiley; her two little sisters are both crackers. She's coming in to see me. You're not going to leave me on me own now.'
Or so shouts the guy on the phone at the back of the bus. (I'm near the front).
'Listen', he repeats; 'I have a bird, she drives a 206. You get stuck into her sister. Her sister kinda has a fellah. You listening, she kinda has a fellah, but she has another car.
'I just got me hair cut so I have to go home and wash it. What? You're going to the flats. Your grandda and that. Well, I'll see you when you get in.
'And listen. Don't forget some hash!'

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing

I awoke in the middle of the night to a stange singing. This wasn't a drunken anthem, but an ethereal woman's voice, a wordless chant in the darkness. But who was it and where was it coming from? I moved the curtain to look outside, but there was no one. Besides it was too clear, yet low, to be coming through the window glass. From outside my room? Unlikely. It seemed to be coming from the very air itself.
It wasn't; it was my laptop. Earlier I had be listening to music when the laptop battery died. Rather than plug it in to shut it down, I closed the lid and packed it on the floor. Spontaneously, in the night, it had switched itself back on, apparently squeezing together enough juice for one more song. So much for mermaids.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Black Sheep

For many years now I have wanted to see a 70s movie called 'Night of the Lepus'. This is not a well-regarded film. In fact it is generally reviled. However, its tale of giant rabbits terrorising the American Southwest seems so silly as to be irresistable, even though the film is apparently played straight. 'Black Sheep' with its tale of genetically altered sheep going on the rampage in backlands New Zealand is just as gloriously silly, but this time played strictly for (gory) laughs. You know you're dealing with something special when a man tackles a giant human/sheep hybrid with a bottle of mint sauce.
Of course, animal rights activists set off the unnatural train of events in what has now become a staple of horror since '28 Days Later' at least. Seeking evidence of illegal genetic experiments, the 'do-gooders' accidentally unleash a monstrosity on the local sheep (and human) population, turning all it bites into crazed mutants with a taste for blood. With 40 million sheep in New Zealand, as against 4 million humans, and a hero with a sheep phobia, the stage is set for shotguns, gore and baad sheep jokes.
Outside of the sheep though, there is nothing original here. In many ways it plays as a remake of the Australian horror comedy, 'Undead', itself hardly original. It also owes more than a little to fellow Kiwi, Peter Jackson's revoltingly hilarious 'Braindead' (not to mention the classically sickening 'Bad Taste'). Still originality isn't the point. Movies like 'Black Sheep' work by playing on the genre, and there is a lot of fun to be derived from usually placid animals storming over a hill and devastating a garden party (reminded me a little of 'Alligator', or 'Piranha', or 'Jaws', or ...). The cast too, though hardly subtle, do what's required, with Peter Feeney, as the evil farmer with a sheep fetish, making a fair stab at being a Kiwi Bruce Campbell.
Personally it recalled two stories I wrote years ago. The movie's climactic methane joke brought back fond memories of a World War 1 Chipmunk story, while the athropomorphised sheep reminded me of an even earlier tale of a were-sheep. Ah, the good old days!
Still, 'Black Sheep' is a welcome addition to the murderous sheep canon, and well worth seeing if you have a strong stomach for revolting lamb.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Birds and the Bees

I just passed two pigeons close, close together on a pipe, one grooming the other. How does that happen?

Sadistic Memory

It's a sad fact of this human's condition that I rarely recall the successes in my life, only the regrets. I suppose it's a spur to do better, but it doesn't make for happy mornings. In true Proustian tradition, a smell, a person at a bus stop, a time of year will recall past indignities, errors of judgment or lost opportunities. Lost opportunities, that's a big one. Of course, were it not for the 'mistakes' of the past we would never have the treasures of the present, chief among those, friends.
I'm also conscious of something of a misrepresentation in the above; just recently I have been remembering some good things, especially of my recent travels. What I have seen! What I have seen. Just sitting at a Bangkok breakfast table waiting for an omelette, staring at the small pool. The spaceship in the car park in Coober Pedy. Or the smell in Rotorua, waiting for the bus to bring us to a hangi. Or puffing up the Great Wall with that poor Mongolian woman smiling ahead. The iced bay spread below me from that snowy hill in Antarctica. Even cleaning my boats when I got back on the boat. Great moments. The past.
Is it that we voyeuristically remember the wonders we have seen, but relive regretfully our actions? I don't think so. I cleaned the boots. That was my action. Obligatory, I'll grant you, but an act of mine all the same. It's my present that dictates how I remember the past. I'm just in a melanholy frame of mind...most of the time.
Still the memory, unbidden, seem to act in a peculiarly sadistic way. I'll just have to concentrate more on the future.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who Guards the Guards?

I watched an interesting report on Newsnight last night. Granted it was presented with its tongue firmly in its cheek (to mask the despair, one feels), it asked the qeustion why there is no law against British MPs lying. Visiting several MPs, including Jack Straw, it first gained their consensus that a.) they represent the sovereignty of the people, and b.) they had an obligation to be honest to the electorate and in the work they did for the electorate. So why isn't there a law against a politician lying in matters of Government business, they were asked. Because you can't have a law against lying, they replied; everybody lies. To which the interviewer cited the Merchant Act, the Trader's Act, the Trade Descriptions Act, etc. There are laws against lying. For instance, a company director can be chased through the courts for lying to his shareholders. Well, replied the politicians, once a politician lies their career is over. When pushed on this, they had to admit that the last politician whose career was over for lying, was currently back in office in a senior role. But, the politicians persisted, and again they were all as one on this issue, we don't need to bring a case of lying to the courts when we have a rigorous self-regulatory system. Exactly, countered the interviewer; how can a case of political lying be properly addressed when the defendant (eg. Gordon Brown) is their own prosecutor, judge and jury.
All joking aside, it seemed like a fair argument in favour of criminalising political deceit to me, and judging by our own experiences with 'deceitful', or is that just 'forgetful', ministers, could be just as applicable here.
It's not dissimilar from the university environment here. Though not a case of lying, I believe we had a case where a senior lecturer, angry at spam, mail-bombed a server (ie. he wrote a computer program to continually mail a website thus causing its server to crash). Inadvertently he brought down the ISP hosting the site (though the lecturer should really have known this would happen). I know someone in the ISP affected. To the best of my knowledge, he received not even a rap on the knuckles. Self-policing is a wonderful thing. Great for the police anyway.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Morning on the Bus

There's a guy reading 'Timescape' across the bus aisle from me now, and he isn't too far from the end. Behind, two girls are practising the trolley-dolly thing for when they're older. An old man with a hat and a box of garden stuff has just got on and wants to sing. Snatches of song erupt occasionally. Now 'Timescape' has been given up for a loud, annoying phonecall. The call just ended. Reading continues. Old man smacks his lips between humming. Is that guy with the baseball hat blind? He has a cane. Girls get off. Fat woman with skinny schoolchild gets on, and separately a sporty, fit girl. Yes, that guy's getting off at the National Council for the Blind. And so it continues as more get on and work gets inevitably closer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

After the Dream

I had a happy-ish dream last night. I was back in primary school, although judging by the age of those around me (schoolfriends), it was more like a repeat year for the leaving cert; we were all elder teenagers. The weather was so bad out, that we had closed heavy shutters over the large windows and so the playground, creating a classroom gloom. Mr Hodgins, my teacher from 5th and 6th class, was apparently our teacher in this scenario too, but for some reason he never turned up. We were unsupervised. Still we were fairly studious, or at least quiet. I for one was studying the class beauty, Rita Hayworth no less and at a school leaving age, who was sitting right in front and to the left of me. All was peaceful, nothing much was being done, and I actually felt calm and sure of myself, not feelings I have ever associated with school. Not unpleasant though any of this was, none of it was the happy bit though. No. Apparently the only one able to stand, I got up to go to the windows at the back of the class, meaning to look out at the oval sports field. I noticed something behind me though. My dead grandmother was resting in one of the bunkbeds in the corner. I went over. She was small and silent - she said nothing to me - but she had a healthy colour in her cheeks and she was smiling. I said something reassuring to her and she kept smiling. It was good to see her again, and happy, after all this time. And I woke up feeling I had.

A Sad Loss: Irish Actor, Tom Murphy, Dies

I only learnt today of the sad passing of Irish actor, Tom Murphy, on Saturday. In his mid-thirties, he had already featured in many Irish films ('Man About Dog', 'Intermission', etc.), and was a stalwart of the Irish stage. In 1998 he won a Tony for his performance on Broadway in 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane'. I was fortunate enough to see him onstage in 'Everyday', a play by the Corn Exchange Theatre Company, but for me he will always be immortal for his role as Paul in the brilliant, 'Adam and Paul'. Perhaps the best Irish movie ever made, he was alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. A real loss to Irish stage and screen.


The Irish Government, aka the Drinks Cabinet

It seems fairly appropriate that our Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea (where are the little people?), should make it into the news for wanting to start a fight. Somehow though, picking a brawl in a local bar is not usually what defence ministers are meant to do. (Gentlemen, please, you can't fight here. This is a war room!) Anyway considering the little git's behaviour, only one word springs to mind: gobshite! Actually several words spring to mind, the same words that spring to mind when Mr O'Dea's friend and colleague, Mr Bertie Ahern is mentioned: ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! GOBSHITE!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Day Watch

Despite the same preoccupations with destiny, responsibility and redemption as its predecessor, not to mention the same spectacular effects, 'Daywatch', the sequel to the Russian blockbuster, 'Nightwatch', just doesn't work.
The first film tried to beat Hollywood at its own game, using special effects more commonly seen in 'X-Men' or 'Independence Day', to tell a story that, though sometimes messy, nevertheless had a little more intellectual weight than its American counterparts. The new movie also provides a lot for the eyes. Unfortunately in the process it has forgotten about the brain. The storyline is a shambles. As before the forces of good and evil are locked in an uneasy truce, with the 'Dark Ones' trying to provoke a war believing that they have an edge. That edge is the boy, Yegor, a 'Great One', and the son of hero, Anton. A mysterious 'Chalk of Destiny' is added to this already heady brew.
Despite having numerous possibilities open through its cast of strangely talented characters, 'Daywatch' continually introduces more implausibilities whenever it feels like an effect coming on.
On the plus side, the characters are all generally likeable, even the villains. Zuvalon, the Lord of Darkness, is hardly Lucifer material with his thinning hair and naff line in pink shirts, but he's rarely less than charming. Particularly after the first film, you never doubt he's capable of winning, showing a lot more entrepreneurial zeal, than his more humdrum, 'Gas and Lighting' adversaries. Still Gesser, Lord of Light, though solid and stolid, seems like a nice boss.
Anton, the ostensible hero of both movies, is something of an enigma. When we first encounter him at the start of 'Nightwatch', he is a pathetic geek of a youngster trying petty magic to get back at the girlfriend who left him. It is ironic that such trivial motives end up threatening the fate of the planet, but then sin in one's personal or public life is catastrophic in these movies. When he awakens to his psychic gifts, however, he blossoms into the Nightwatch's best agent, though exactly how is a mystery. Certainly he doesn't seem to change much from the initial, weak-willed geek, continuing to bungle things, not least in his relationship with his son. Yet for all his flaws he still commands immense love, loyalty and forgiveness from his comrades. Perhaps it is because of his bungling that this is so, as for all his supposed powers, he is very much an everyman.
The ambiguity of character though becomes a mess in terms of plot, and 'Daywatch' is a big disappointment. Even fantasy must have its rules, but this film seems to make them up as it goes along. Ludicrous scenarios are thrown in without rationale, such as the extended body swap sequence, when all the audience really want is to get on with it. Such a shame.
No 'Nightwatch', this 'Daywatch' is sadly not worth a watch.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Viva Espana!

It is very tempting to talk of work, ie. university webwork, particularly when the day-to-day doings of university personnel make for some truly absurd comedy. It wouldn't be appropriate, however, so, much as I'd like to vent my spleen on all concerned, I will not. Instead let me just write that a large project that I am involved in, a website redesign, has not yet been launched a year and a half after it was begun and two weeks after it was ready to go live. The reasons are funny. Trust me, they are. Funny, as long as you don't have to work with them.

After much drinking, following much web spinning, Spidey here ain't too well. The traditional winter chest infection has set in. After last year's trip to sunnier climes for the winter (and I defintely include the South Pole in that), I'd almost forgotten the miserable ordeal that is Ireland in the winter. Still, the last day or so has been beautiful. It's just what lies ahead that bothers me.

Thankfully I have four days in Spain coming up. Every year some of my school friends and I have an unofficial reunion, usually abroad. Last year was Munich for the Oktoberfest. This year we go to Spain. Most of the others have some golf planned, but some olives, a frosted glass of beer and a sunny afternoon are what I am looking forward to. Viva Espana!

Rosalind's Party

James's wife, Rosalind, was celebrating her fortieth. Under the weather with a cold, I still wouldn't miss the celebration, so I made my way out to The Dropping Well in Milltown. There was a strong contingent from work there, including the boss. Lots of drink. (James, you madman, plying us, of all people, with free gargle!!!!) Great food; picture me, wild-eyed, scooping handfuls of black forest gateau into my mouth after they took away the forks. And great music from DJs Seb and Al. I even karaoked ('House of Fun'). A great night and a great couple (James and Rosalind, that is, not Seb and Al, though they're lovely too).

More Music

The thing that really bugs me about Mendelssohn's 5th is the final movement. He comes up with this really wonderful opening theme and then doesn't use it, utilising instead a whole load of Mendelssohn standards. I'm not saying those elements are bad, but he has a real meaty theme, a Brahmsian theme, and instead he falls back on the predictable. That's late Mendelssohn all over. Lazy, when he could be amazing. He always cheers me up, but he never inspires me with awe.