Friday, 25 February 2011

What We Leave in Our Wake

People who know me would not think it strange for me to say that I am (at best) somewhat bemused by life.  The shape and values of the tide of life often seem in permanent ebb and most of our culture is like driftwood, smoothed and blunted by saltwater and sand.

What We Leave In Our Wake (trailer 21st) from Harvest Films on Vimeo.

It is invigorating to see an Irish film taking up Joyce's great challenge to ' forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.' Pat Collins has made an important  film whose contribution to the Irish may be greater than anything arising out of tomorrows 'most important election in our lifetime'. It has certainly stirred thoughts in my mind and I will be taking advantage of it's presence on the RTE Player to watch it again before it disappears. (It's there until Monday 14th March)

He shows us an Ireland of garage forecourts and stone walls, of nondescript urban landscapes whose inanity is a challenge to identity. The land gives back remnants of our past like a Connemara navvy spitting his bloody teeth on a Kilburn sidewalk, his very language already stolen from his mouth.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Still Wearing Blue Shirts?

General Eoin O'Duffy

Leo Varadkar

Separated at birth but still grooving at the same party?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Go Ahead Punk, make my day....

Book no. 12 in my quest to read and review 100 Books in 2011

The Sex Pistols shot like a comet presaging doom through the medieval dives of 1976/77. Led by the fiery red heads of John Lydon and Malcolm McLaren they were always destined to crash and burn but their parabola described a future without the truisms of the establishment or even the late sixties anti-establishment.

A few tame words to a partly pickled and provocative chat show host made the Pistols Public Enemy No. 1 and the release of God Save the Queen in the week of H.R.H.'s jubilee made them targets for violence wherever they went.

The Speckled People

This memoir of the childhood of the son of an Irish father and German mother is an impressionist masterpiece. Hamilton's book has a dark core but the stories and descriptions are intensively burnished so that the book is suffused by the light, smells and sounds of childhood. The past is often starkly immediate in these pages. In a similar but less experimental way than Joyce's Portrait of an Artist we are immersed in a child's understanding and this understanding grows as the book progresses.

"When you're small you know nothing."

Sunday, 13 February 2011

What do I stand for? Election, of course.

The state of Irish politics was expressed perfectly when the most successful electoral politician of the modern era stated that his biggest regret was that he didn't get to build a vanity sports stadium in a city already oversupplied with them.

He didn't regret turning the venue for the Community games into a low level prison camp for people whose only crime was wanting to be Irish. He didn't regret that the huge new terminus at Dublin Airport was becoming the launching pad for another generation of Irish emigrants whose children will be slagged off as plastic paddies in some future Ireland of the welcomes. Unless of course they happen to be President of the good ol' US of A. It's not just the politicians who admire power for powers sake.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

and here it is again, as it was, and always shall be - WIRE

I went to my first gig in a while last Saturday night and saw Wire for the first time approximately 32 years since first hearing them on John Peel. I was chaperoned by my teenage daughter.

Wire, in case you don't know are one of the greatest bands to emerge from the punk era, from the sound of a crowd ignoring them on the Live at the Roxy album through their first three essential albums Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 and on the sound of REM copying them on Document and Elastica basing a career on them to such an extent that they had to pay them royalties. They have reformed and broken up a few times but have always produced interesting and often exceptional work. They are currently touring to support their new, and very strong album Red Barked Tree.

The venue was downstairs in the Academy in Middle Abbey Street, just across the road from where I had one of my first jobs (in the then Curzon Cinema). Ghosts seemed very present. The venue reminded me of venues I had been in or played in. Briefly I felt overcome by a sense of the past. Sometimes I feel the truth in the idea that there is something looking out through our eyes, something not altogether familiar to us. I  felt like I was suddenly looking out through my twenty year old eyes and got a real physical sense of why it was that I wanted to be in a band. I almost felt that way again.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A World Turned Upside Down

Upside Down, a Primer for The Looking-Glass World, by Eduardo Galeano

In a engine, when one gear goes forward, another is pushed back. Galeano opens the bonnet onto the engine of human 'progress'. In it we see those who drive forward with reckless abandon, those pushed back and those who are ground between the gears or fed to the fuel tank.

This is a wise and wonderful work full of the most quotable quotes. Shaped like a school primer and written from a  Latin American center of gravity 'Upside Down' takes us on a funfair ride through consumer culture, asking as he goes if anyone is really served by it.

It is a crime to deny the Holocaust but not to deny the consequences of our own lifestyles and the political hegemony of the powerful.  Despite holding up a mirror to the world and showing us an unflattering picture of what we are this book is full of laughs of recognition, freewheeling language and ideas and myriads of quotable quotes and anecdotes. It is also full of rage.