This one is an acrylic pour (no title) I did this at home after watching some demos on YouTube. I'm quite happy with how it turned out and plan to try a few more. Hope you like it.
Another one from the art class, just a practice copy, oil on canvas.
I missed out on several art classes this last year as it clashed with my typing class so I've been playing catch up and trying a few copies just to get back into it. This is my version of the wonderful Vincent Van Gogh's Wheat field with crows. It has taken me a while to get the technique right but I'm going to tackle The Starry Night next, just for myself as it's my favourite painting.
I’ve been having a bit of a movie fest this last week or so, catching up with the Oscar winners in between painting, gardening and job-hunting. I’ve watched I, Tonya, The Shape of Water and Ladybird and if I had to give marks out of ten for them, it would be 8.5 for I,Tonya, 7.5 for Ladybird and 6 for The Shape of Water.
For me, I, Tonya was the best of them. Very funny and also remarkable in that even if only ¾ of it is true, it’s amazing that Tonya Harding ever amounted to anything with what can only be described as a poisonous old hag for a mother, not to mention Dumb, who she married, and Dumber, his friend. We’re all aware of some of this story but I would highly recommend seeing it to fill in some of the blanks. I won’t say anything about it other than I hope Tonya gets a happy ending.
Ladybird was enjoyable if a bit of a cliché; teenager doesn’t get along with peers, school and mother but it all comes right in the end. While watching it, I did wonder if it was sponsored by the Catholic Church, it was very pro-church in a sentimental sort of way, but worth a look anyway if you had nothing else to do.
The Shape of Water, nothing very original in this and again a bit of a cliché. The story line has been done before, most notably in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Only instead of an alien we have an extra from Stingray! Usual story, strange creature with healing powers (ET), held by nasty government official and helped to escape by girl (Starman) who in this instance, can’t speak. I’m not really sure what Guillermo was aiming for but I think this was over-rated, to be honest, and really not worthy of Best Picture Oscar. Maybe it was a homage to those old B-movie monster flicks from back in the day, or a statement on judging those who are different or on the Cold War, which the West seems to be doing their best to start again. Who knows? It even had a spy from Russia who after helping in the escape is killed by his paymasters. A bit of a coincidence or a nice little piece of propaganda - considering current events? I wonder who financed the movie?
I’ve watched Century of the Self and I’m very cynical now, I don’t know who poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, but I don’t believe anything the government tells me about it. The anti-Putin rhetoric has been doing the rounds for some time now and since the chances of a war with North Korea are disappearing, the military-industrial complex need a villain and a war to make some money, so back we go to Putin. And, of course, another chance for the right-wing media, and the Blairites, to have a go at Jeremy, too.
It just all seems too convenient, I mean, why would Putin do this now when he’s in the middle of an election he’s going to win anyway? He is popular in Russia which is a source of continuing irritation to the West and a thorn in their side as he’s keeping them out of the oil and gas fields in Crimea.
But however it all turns out surely the most embarrassing moment in the whole media-driven hysteria had to be Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s remarks that ‘Russia should just shut -up and go away’. Like some naff teacher’s pet, trying to take on the school bully, this was cringe-inducing! I’m sure Vladimir is quaking in his boots at the thought of gimpy old Gavin, NOT!
Finally got the painting to upload, just saved it as a smaller file. This is my latest although the colours look a bit paler looking at it here. Anyway, back to art class tomorrow, and another 'masterpiece'.
For many years I had digestive problems, went for many tests and had camera's inserted in various orifices but everything came back negative and still the problems remained. The mystery about this is that I had one of the healthiest diets you could have, lots of fruit and veg and good protein but still nothing was working as it should.
Then a while back, I came across an article in Pyschologies magazine, it was about a condition called fructose malabsorption which means that fructose cannot be absorbed correctly and remains in the gastro-intestinal tract causing all sorts of problems similar to lactose intolerance, IBS and coeliac disease. So, I cut back on the fruit and lo and behold, everything started working normally. There are a lot of people I know with IBS and these other digestive problems, so I thought I would share this as I had been treated and tested for all these things and no-one ever mentioned fructose malabsorption, and it's really easy to test for. So, if you've been experiencing any digestive problems and still every test comes back negative then this might be your problem.
Apparently, if you have this, red wine is one of the worst things you could drink. Red wine doesn't go down well with me and affects me quite badly but gin, which is one of the best things to drink if you have this, goes down very well, and I've never had a bad night on gin on those rare occasions when I indulge.
Wheat also contains fructans which can cause bloating and wind and which is why people who have this condition, think they have coeliac disease because of the difference it makes to their system when they cut out wheat.
Back to the vacated heart! I have struggled with this one but think I might be on the right track now, so here it is, finished, almost finished, I think! Although, I'm not entirely happy with 'tremble' but I will probably come back to it in the future. But in the meantime...
The Vacated Heart
A lonely wind meandered
through the hollow chambers
of the now vacated heart.
Fleshy forms, that once pulsed
with heat and passion,
have petrified into stony silence
and a love lies broken,
on the unforgiving shore of life.
Moon-dark shadows tremble
like lonely waves
ebbing and crashing
through the darkness
to the returning light -
the concrete bleakness
and loosens Medusa's hold.
I've been having a bit of a creative spurt recently, knitting, painting, writing a bit of poetry, so the blog has been a bit neglected. Anyway, I found this poem which I had started many months ago and then lost. It was started on a scrap of paper one wet afternoon at work but then I couldn't find it and thought I had thrown it away accidentally but I was having a rummage through another notebook the other night, looking for a photograph I wanted to paint and found it and finished it. Well, finished for now, because I've found poetry is sort of evolutionary, I keep going back and changing phrases and words, so this is the version for now which may change in the future. The thing is, I carry notebooks with me all the time but sometimes, actually often times, I just grab a piece of paper and jot notes down or memorable phrases as the muse strikes, for future use, my kitchen table is full of them and there are pieces stuffed everywhere in handbags, books, pockets etc: well, here it is -
Wet Day (working title, liable to change)
The dreary rain,
dribbled down the dull, grey stone
as the woman in the dull, grey shirt
stared out the window and dreamed
of warmer places and kinder faces -
far away from the dull, grey streets and
in apathy and quiet despair.
The steady drip, drip,
of the broken guttering
on the ledge of the window,
on the edge of life,
beat a soggy rhythm
against the drabs of water
that fell on the dull, grey roof
between the invading moss
the reckless shrubbery
that dangled precariously on the edge.
The adventurous offspring of some windblown seed
who dreamt of bigger things and better places.
The woman in the dull, grey shirt
put on her bright red coat,
So, here we go with another round of 1690 vs 1916.
The local St Paddy's Day committee got a chunk of money from the council for this year's parade and because we're all now being 'inclusive' and 'non-sectarian', they banned the Irish tricolour from the official parade. So, the usual's are all screaming from the rooftops about their Christian and cultural heritage and another round of political 'whataboutery' has raged along the lines of 'If we can't have the tricolour, will they ban the Union Jack from the 12th July?'
It doesn't matter that this is a completely different issue. St Paddy's Day is supposed to be about celebrating the guy who brought Christianity to Ireland (because that's really something to celebrate since we all know how that turned out!) and whose symbol is the shamrock, not a tricolour, a shamrock.
Whereas the Twelfth is a coat-trailing exercise to celebrate King Billy getting one over on the Fenians (although they weren't called Fenians back then, but never let historical accuracy get in the way of a good opportunity to stick it to the other side) and the Union Jack is absolutely crucial to it (not that the Union Jack existed back then either).
So, everybody got very offended and jumped on the high-horse of righteous indignation and vented their spleen on Facebook and other social media platforms and so the Shinners, those self-appointed custodians of all things Irish, found themselves in the firing line, because their members are all on the organising committee of the aforementioned parade.
Ye, cud ne mick it up! (Wee bit of Ulster Scots there, just expressing a bit of the old cultural heritage! Not officially mine, but what's a bit of cultural appropriation between 'oul' compatriots, after all, I've been to Scotland several times for Hogmanay!)
So, now the Shinners have been getting it in the neck from their supporters and have been running back and forth to the council to clarify the position and while no tricolours were damaged in the writing of this blog. Sorry! Seem to have got my statements mixed up there - while no tricolours will officially appear in the parade, members of the public will be allowed to bring their own and wave it as is their wont or their 'right under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to freely express their culture heritage as citizens of the North of Ireland as recognised by the governments of London and Dublin'.
So, there you have it! Those good Christian citizens who identify as Irish can bring their piece of coloured material and wave it all day long and who cares if it offends those other good Christians who identify as British with their piece of different coloured material. The important thing is to know that the other side were thwarted in their chance to stick one to your side and that old sectarian bigotry is alive and not just well, but thriving!
Now, Strabane is an area of economic and social deprivation and recently the main Catholic Church in the town began fund-raising for repairs. The Church was built in 1895, it's gothic in style and they needed the money to repair the stained glass windows and stonework. The amount they asked for was £100,000, a formidable amount for a not very wealthy parish. But lo and behold, the good Christian folk dug deep and raised the money in record time.
Now, I'm not easily offended, pieces of coloured material, cultural identity, couldn't care less, but this offended me. The wealthiest institution and the biggest landowner on the planet (now, the Rothschild's could be worth more but no one can really tie them down to a figure, besides they're a family, not an institution) came to ask the people of Strabane for the money to fix one of their buildings. The same institution that is still covering up paedophile activity and who committed some of the most horrific abuses against the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, come looking for a hand-out from the people of Strabane. Funnily enough, no one was offended by this at all, anywhere!
Anyway, I don't normally do St Paddy's Day, I'm not much of a drinker, to me it's just an excuse for a piss up, as if they really needed another one. By the way, did you know that 88 people die in Ireland every month from alcohol related illness? Strangely enough, no one ever seems to get offended or upset about this either! Times I wonder, is it me, is it?
We're doing a CICM Spectacular Failure at work for February (this is the boxing themed one, I devised, wrote and presented) and one of the fun events is to write a love poem for Valentine's Day, so I put pen to paper and wrote a haiku and a sonnet.
Sitting alone, night
falls, and warm embraces melt
the hardening heart.
What can I say or tell you about love
When Shakespeare does it much better than me
Run off a line about the stars above,
Or tell a tale of how I, became we.
Create a metaphor, on winter’s cold,
How love sprang forth and melted the snow.
How I gave him my heart to have and hold
Playing Juliet to his Romeo.
There are no words that can really describe
How true love feels and that moment of bliss
The magical spark, that it can revive
You, when in their arms, and that first soft kiss.
So as you go forth, remember the stakes
And try not to be, another’s heart-break.
So, that was my busy afternoon at work!
Talking about work, a friend of mine phoned me today to ask if I would help him with a job application this evening. He's a bit of a handy man but hasn't had much work recently and saw a job for a street-sweeper advertised for the local council and thought he would apply. I went in and looked at the form. It's not a form, it's a 36 page booklet! For a street cleaning job! This is not a joke, it really was 36 pages long, this is totally insane!! WTF is that about??
I spent a weekend recently filling in a 17 page application for a secretarial job, or an 'executive assistant' as it is called now. It is the last application form I am ever going to fill in, from now on if they don't take a CV, I'm not even going to apply. I had also applied for another job as a Head Receptionist in a hotel where I have worked on and off for 10 years. I didn't get it. The criteria listed experience of reception work, hotel work and supervising staff, all of which I had. But the job was given to someone who has never supervised staff, never worked in a hotel or done reception work!
I was having a conversation with a work colleague recently, (he's in with the same agency as me) when I realised that the salary I am on now is exactly the same as it was in a job I was doing 10 years ago, for basically the same work. This realisation along with all the recent joys of job-hunting have pissed me off big time. So, I've been making a few decisions about work for the future. So, along with the CV, I have decided I am not doing agency work again either, no-one is making money off my talents again except me. I am also not going to give anyone the benefit of my abilities or experience unless they pay a decent salary. I would rather do minimum wage and I will!
Another receptionist/admin job I applied for sent me this lovely email:
Thank you for your interest in the Receptionist/Admin Assistant position at ...... We have reviewed your application. Unfortunately, you are not the right fit for the position at this time.
So, this is what I emailed back to them:
This year for xmas, I got rid of all the plastic and tinsel and made a garland for the fireplace with holly, ivy and various other plants and flowers.
In the picture, you can see my tree on the right as you look at it. I was trying to post it on the page but couldn't work it out so you can see it on the attachment. (Help! Anyone?) I was looking for a real tree that I could grow on but you don't seem to be able to get them around here as I asked several people who always get a real tree. Then Lidl got these small conifers in just before xmas. I hope it won't grow too quickly and I get a few years out of it before I have to plant it out. There is a broad strip of green in the square behind my house so I'll plant it up there when it gets too big for indoors.
I was so pleased with how good it looked that this was the first time in years, my decorations were still up after New Year as I usually take them down on New Year's Eve. I'll be doing the same next year and I'm never putting plastic up again.
I enjoyed making this so much, I've added it to my list of hobbies.
I sent this letter to the local paper which was printed just after Christmas. I’ve edited it again for the blog. I’ve pulled together all my reasons for voting Leave so apologies in advance to those points I’ve already mentioned before and this will probably be my last word on the subject…
As a Brexiteer, I made my decision to vote Leave, on the basis of careful consideration of what I believe to be, legitimate concerns about the political direction of the EU. As well as the lack of democratic accountability within the European Commission, I believe the EU is working in the interests of the corporate elite and not the people of Europe, consider also, if you will, the following;
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP
This trade agreement was drawn up between the EU and the US and was, in effect, handing over the democratic institutions of the countries of Europe to global corporations. Part of the TTIP agreement was ISDS, which stands for Investor State Dispute Settlement. This would have allowed corporations to sue governments in secret courts, if they brought in legislation that affected their business profits. The Philip Morris conglomerate did this in Uruguay and Australia, over anti-smoking legislation. Ironically, we have Donald Trump to thank for getting rid of it.
The introduction and subsequent collapse of the Euro has wrecked the economies of Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and has allowed the corporate elite through the EU, the IMF and the World Bank to come in and asset strip the public sector and privatise public utilities. The people of Ireland will know this through the attempted imposition of water charges that they fought so successfully against last year. The people of Greece too, know this as their public utilities have been sold off and they have been saddled with debt, in the form of loans from the IMF and World Bank, which their grandchildren will be paying for.
When did the EU change from a ‘common market’ to a United States of Europe with its own army? Why does the EU need an army and more importantly, who will control it? Why are they continuing to expand eastwards and why did they try and provoke a conflict with Russia over Ukraine, 2 years ago? If the governments of Europe are really interested in peace then why do they not support Russian membership of NATO? In whose interest is it to continue to paint Russia as an enemy of the West?
The EU and the Bilderburg Group
The Bilderburg Group are an elite group of 120 -150 bankers and corporate CEO’s who hold secret meetings every year to decide political policy in the EU and the US. They were formed after the Second World War and were instrumental in setting up the EU. These are the people who control the government which is why for the last 37 years; policy has remained the same, regardless of who was Prime Minister.
Costs and waste
The EU moves every month from Brussels to Strasbourg and back again at a cost of millions. It costs £250,000 just to move the files. It also has its own shopping centre and pays for private schools for the children of their staff. This is only a small sample of how it wastes resources but if you research online you will find plenty more.
There is no free movement of goods and services. All the talk about hard borders and customs is propaganda dressed up in media hype and fear-mongering. Anyone who trades within the EU will know that customs papers still have, and always had to be filled out and anyone who imports or exports within the EU will know about Intrastat reports where every item has to be coded, accounted for and submitted to the tax authorities every month. The customs have never gone away, the only thing that happened is the actual barriers on the road were taken down and if you still believe in free movement, ask anyone from Ireland if they can buy a car anywhere in Europe and bring it back without having to pay import duty.
The people of Ireland seem to have forgotten that they rejected the Lisbon Treaty but were bullied into another referendum with the threat that they will continue until the powers that be get the result they wanted. Sinn Fein at the time, were also opposed, a fact that seems to have been forgotten lately.
China is one of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world at present. China does not have a trade agreement with the EU, yet most of what we buy seems to be made in China.
The narrative created and promoted by the media that anyone who voted Leave is an ignorant racist and shouldn't be allowed to breed, let alone vote, is to distract from genuine concerns in relation to the lives of the working-classes and while I believe we in Ireland, North and South, have benefitted from immigration, I do recognize the reality of life in working-class areas of Britain where immigrants have been placed disproportionally in working-class, as opposed to middle-class, areas.
On top of this demographic reality, jobs that used to be done by the working-classes have been allowed by successive governments and the EU to walk offshore. The work that used to be done in factories here and in Britain are now in China, South Korea, India and a number of other 2nd and 3rd world, exploitable economies. The jobs that are left are insecure with no guarantee of hours or permanency, union rights or protection.
The last 37 years have also seen the decimation of Britain’s coal, steel and car manufacturing industry and a fisheries policy that has led to the seas around Britain and Ireland being fished dry.
So, when working-class people in Britain complain about immigration and job losses, this is the reality of what has happened in working-class areas over many years. This isn't necessarily racist although it suits many in the national press to twist this into a narrative that appears racist and an idea for others to exploit. That's not to say, there aren't some people who are racist. Of course, there are, that's reality. However, to be anti-EU is not necessarily to be anti-Europe or anti-European.
John Pilger, in his article ‘Why the British said no to Europe’ called the Brexit vote, ‘an act of raw democracy’ where millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied and intimidated by business leaders, bankers, media commentators and political ‘representatives’. I would encourage everyone to read it.
Tony Benn in his book, Letters to my Grandchildren, states that the ‘first basic right in a democracy must be the right of people to elect those who make their laws and the right to remove them’ and rejected the ‘European Empire’ and the unelected and unaccountable, bureaucratic elite who run it.
In the midst of all the negative rhetoric and fear-mongering that took place prior to the vote, we were bombarded with propaganda, threats, and all manner of doomsday scenarios were trotted out by economists. These were the same economists who said that business in Britain would be destroyed by not joining the Euro, and yet completely failed to warn us of the great economic crash that came in 2008. A further blow to the working classes, who have disproportionally paid for the recklessness of the bankers who caused it, through the Conservative’s ‘austerity’ policies.
The DUP and Sinn Fein are, as usual, on opposite sides of this debate but are both political cowards. Sinn Fein fought against tugging the forelock to Britain but go down on their knees to the EU with a begging bowl. The DUP are like scared children, afraid to let go of Britannia’s apron strings and running away from fighting their corner in a united Ireland that makes practical and economic sense.
Have neither of them the imagination to envisage an economic union first and foremost within the UK? Instead of worrying about a divorce bill from the EU, it would suit Britain and Ireland better to redraw the terms and conditions of the UK with 4 independent nations - Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales - united and working together for the benefit of all the people here and not just the elite.
One other point I didn’t mention but may have mentioned elsewhere on the blog was that this was the first time in many, many years that I had the chance to stick one to the governing elite and in spite of all the rhetoric and arguments since, if I had to vote again tomorrow, I’d still vote Leave.
The late great David Bowie would have been 71 today had he lived. I still haven't bought the last album, I haven't the heart to, because it's the last...and there isn't going to be a next one. I know it makes no sense but it does to me so I'm holding out. I was remarking on this to one of the girls at work today, and it's not just that he's gone but it's how boring the world feels now without him, and not just Bowie but Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, all incredibly talented and original and more importantly, interesting!
What do we have now? Ed Sheeran?? He's ok, he won't exactly set the world on fire, will he and that 'Galway Girl'??? Gawd, I hated that!!! Thank gawd for the Gallagher brothers, at least they're not boring...
The telly was so bad over Christmas with repeats of repeats of stuff that has been on for weeks already, so I succumbed and signed up to Netflix for the free one month trial. This is the 3rd time I've had the one month trial but the first time I ever used it.
I binged on Stranger Things, series 1 and 2, on recommendation from my son's girlfriend, and this was worth the monthly fee alone when I get around to paying for it. Another recommendation was The Sinner which was enjoyable enough but the ending was a bit of a, not sure if it was a surprise or a let down, either way, it didn't end how I expected and with a few tweaks could have been better, more of the religiously demented mother would have been good and made the explanation more believable. Anyway, it was worth a watch.
Then last night, I thought I would browse the classic movies and found a gem I had been looking at in HMV before Christmas and had put on my list to buy next time in Belfast, Cinema Paradiso (1988).
I had a vague recollection of watching this back in the day and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed watching it again. It's the story of a young boy who loves movies and the film tracks the friendship between him and Alfredo, the projectionist, in the said Cinema Paradiso over the years. It had some very beautiful moments and was a joy to watch and made me realise how over- stylised everything has become now in films. I had the same thought when I watched Close Encounters again recently too. Both films had good story lines and believable characters even though they are from very different genres but they were character driven not special effects driven, even though Close Encounters featured a lot of special effects. A lesson for modern filmmakers maybe...
Cinema Paradiso is an Italian film and I remember back in the 80's, Channel 4 used to show foreign language films on a Thursday night and it was here that I watched one of the best films I've ever seen. It was a Dutch film and the title, which I don't remember in Dutch but it translated in English as In For Treatment. It was the story of a man who was diagnosed with cancer and it was about his life and treatment and it was the most moving film and I remember how I cried watching it. The way it was done was so subtle and real, no over-emoting or contrived pathos, just the story of an ordinary man facing his own mortality. I would love to see it again and I did try to find it online a few years ago but never managed to. If anyone could ever get me a copy of this film or even let me know where I could get it, you would be a friend for life.
I went to see the new Star Wars film last Thursday. About 10 minutes into the film I realised something about myself that I’ve suspected for some time now. I was watching a battle, no real spoiler alert here as you know there will be battles in Star Wars but a ship was exploding and falling over and as I was watching it I was thinking, ‘that’s not right because if that happened in space the pieces would just float away’. Then I saw they were close to a planet and thought ‘unless, of course, it is within the gravitational field of that planet’. Nerd alert! The reason I had begun to suspect this was when I was watching The Big Bang Theory one night, and Sheldon was invited in for coffee and refused saying ‘it was too late for coffee, if you drink coffee at this time of night you’ll not be able to sleep’. I had actually done this with a male friend of mine one night, although in my defence, I think he did just mean coffee.
Anyway, back to the movie – now I am a huge Star Wars fan so I’m a bit biased in its favour anyway but I wasn’t wholly impressed to be honest. Marks out of 10 – 6 at best.
Now, the reputation for Star Wars was built on the first 3 films, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The first 2 are, in my opinion, still the best out of the entire series. Return of the Jedi was good too, and I’ll never forget the chase through the forests of Endor as seen on the big screen for the first time, but the Ewoks? I had my doubts then and looking back this is the moment for me when things started to go wrong in the Star Wars universe. Cute characters are not really my thing, R2 works because he is an integral part of the story but when they appear contrived which to my mind the Ewoks were, then, they don’t, at least not for me. Apparently, it was supposed to be Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk, a planet of Wookies but the budget wouldn’t run to so many large costumes so they cut them in half and made Ewoks. I think he should have shelled out for the Wookies, some things are bigger than a budget. But, in fairness, the story was strong so they didn’t dominate the overall picture and I could live with it.
But as bad as the Ewoks were, there was worse to come and the prequels brought to screen one of the most obnoxious characters ever committed to celluloid or rather cgi, Jar Jar Binks. I think Lucas should have been certified for this, what was he thinking, I mean, really? What was he thinking?? Thankfully, the backlash from fans led to his demise and apart from a very brief appearance in Attack of the Clones, he disappeared from the Star Wars universe never to appear again. (I hope) Note to potential film-makers and directors everywhere. Cute characters that can be flogged by the bucket load are no substitute for strong storylines, fully developed characters and realistic, even if it is science fiction, events.
Now that I have had a few days to digest it, there are several weaknesses in the film. Firstly, Kylo Ren, he just doesn’t work, the casting for this part was just wrong, no harm to Adam Driver. He didn’t do it for me in The Force Awakens and he hasn’t improved any since then. Maybe he should have kept the mask on and we could have been left to speculate for years as to who was under the mask, like the Stig, but the weakness of his character is epitomised by the fact that he always looks as if he is about to burst into tears. Another thing too, is his age. He is too young to be the son of Han and Leia, I mean they looked like pensioners and this guy is only in his twenties. Maybe he was a menopause baby, all that hormone fluctuation in Leia could go some way to explaining the gurning. Who knows?
Secondly, Leia. There is a scene in this movie, and turn away now as there is a spoiler coming, that was almost laughable. Leia is on the bridge of a ship in the middle of a battle and the bridge is hit and she is sucked out into space. My initial reaction was, well, thank God for that ( I don’t think she should have been in the new films apart from maybe a brief cameo in The Force Awakens) but then, a miracle, she wakens/comes back to life and flies, like Superman, back into the ship. Considering that Carrie Fisher has now passed away, well it was a chance missed, and the director certainly shot himself in the foot with that one, didn’t he?
Thirdly, the character of Luke Skywalker. Another spoiler coming up. Luke Skywalker as last seen, was a fully-trained, wise, calm, and in control, Jedi Knight. Ok, his nephew turning bad might have upset him but not where he’s huffing around like a disgruntled teenager, especially after everything he went through with his father. I could have understood if he was disillusioned and depressed but again, over-emoting doesn’t compensate for real drama or good writing. Then, they did something that made no sense at all, they killed Luke off at the end of the film. Why??? When they had just brought Leia back to life, why would they do such a thing? It just didn’t make any sense at all. And another thing, it took a long time for Luke to train to become a Jedi, yet Rey managed it in about five minutes, playing around with a light sabre.
Fourth, comedy moments. Good comedy does not have to be contrived or forced, it just has to be well written with good timing. Sticking in a comedic moment to compensate for the holes in the storyline doesn’t do the Star Wars universe justice and is an insult to the fans. This sin was first committed by Lucas himself when he went back and re-jigged the original films and added ‘cute characters’ and ‘comedy moments’, for which he should have been taken out and flogged or made to watch all Jar-Jar’s scenes on a loop for a month, which would have been a bigger punishment.
However, overall, these are small problems compared to the biggest flaw of all, the actual storyline.
Any Star Wars fan could have written a better storyline, both to the prequels and the sequels. I have to exclude Rogue One, this one worked apart from a few dodgy CGI moments with Leia and Peter Cushing but because the overall story was convincing, they could be forgiven.
In continuing the saga, we should have picked up 40 or so years in the future. Han and Leia are old, and Leia and Luke are like old Yodas, helping to train new recruits and passing on the wisdom of the Force. This was another thing about Return of the Jedi that pissed me off. Leia was the one who was leading the rebellion back when Han was still skulking around the universe and Luke was shooting Womp Rats on Tatooine but by the time we got to Return of the Jedi, she had been sidelined.
Anyway, back to the story that should have been written, at this point in the Star Wars universe everyone has enjoyed many decades of peace and harmony. Then, either Luke’s GRAND-child or Leia and Han’s GRAND-child becomes seduced by the Dark Side as it starts to rise again. This is where the story should have begun but in the rush to get something on screen and dazzle us with CGI and play on our emotions with ‘cute characters’ and forced ‘comedy’, the sense of the story line was demoted behind the potential to flog us more tat which will for the most part end up in landfill, eventually.
On the plus side, I do like the new characters of Finn and Rey and it seems obvious that Rey is headed for a fling with Kylo Ren at some future point, a love tug between him and Finn, maybe, will she go for the good guy or the snivelling wimp? Finn, again a good character but wasted here.
So, that’s Star Wars Episode 8, if you’re a fan like me, you’ll probably still go and see it, but prepare to be disappointed. So, I feel there is nothing else I can do but call on that other great Jedi knight…General Kenobi...I watched you many years ago in A New Hope and I regret that I am unable to convey my request in person but if you’re listening, The Force is in a weak and perilous state and the only thing that can save us now is a good writer/director... This is our most desperate hour, if you know someone, use the Force and send them to Disney asap, help us Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.
An Instagram post depicting 2 Barbies in matching t-shirts was released last week in support of gay marriage. The t-shirts have the slogan 'Love Wins' on them. This move by Mattel shows how they have tried to diversify the Barbie range and has nothing to do with a saturated market, and the need to flog more dolls but follows on from the 'Sheroe's range which celebrates 'female heroes who break boundaries'. This range includes, what has been dubbed 'Hijabi Barbie', to honour Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American fencer who competed in last year's Olympics and is basically a Barbie with a headscarf.
In 2016, Mattel also released a new range of Barbies with different hair, body and face types to 'promote a healthy body and enable girls to find a doll that speaks to them'. Expanding the Barbie range from the old stereotypical white, western, master-race Barbie we all know and, well, I wouldn't exactly say, love (dolls were never my thing) has to be welcomed, I suppose...well, at least they're trying...
But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced there's a lot of potential to broaden the range even more and truly represent the social and political diversity of the female experience in today's globalized world. So, here's a few suggestions of mine, just in case there are females out there who feel there isn't a Barbie that speaks to them and reflects their experience...
Sweat-shop Barbie - she has an extra large bladder so she doesn't need toilet breaks and 2 Duracell batteries so she can work longer. She also has a family but they aren't included as they live miles away and are being cared for by an elderly relative.
Trafficked Barbie - comes dressed as a dancer and has a contract that binds her to a pimp in financial slavery for 20 years. He also has her money and passport, and an endless supply of drugs.
Thai Bride Barbie - comes with a man old enough to be her father/grandfather. Not available to buy in store, only available to order online.
Saudi Barbie - comes dressed all in black. She doesn't have any accessories as everything she owns belongs to her husband but she does come with a male guardian in case she wants to go out.
Illegal immigrant Barbie - comes with a guaranteed low-waged cleaning/child minding job for a wealthy family and no legal rights.
Narcissistic personality disorder Barbie - comes with a mirror, an I-Phone and a selfie stick so she can sit all day taking photos and posting them to her online 'modelling' site.
C-List Celebrity Barbie - comes with a sex tape she 'accidentally' posted online, a plastic surgery makeover kit, and a guaranteed future appearance on 'I'm a nonentity, get me outta here!'
Sexually-assaulted Celebrity Barbie - comes with designer clothing. Sexually-assaulted Celebrity Barbie has been brought out to replace old Casting-Couch Barbie, whose clothes all fell off when you put a film contract in her purse. Sexually-assaulted Celebrity Barbie comes with a guaranteed week of front page headlines, a middle page spread in the Daily Tabloid tracking her assailant's career implosion in the 'trial by media' and a special guest appearance on Loose Women, with the option of a police interview and a court case.
Sexually-assaulted (not a celebrity) Barbie - comes dressed for a night out. She too has the option of a police interview but no court case. She does however, have a tabloid article blaming rape victims for wearing provocative clothing and the option of an appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show to confront her attacker. Sorry, 'alleged' attacker...
Domestic Violence Barbie - I thought this old anachronism was consigned to the bin of the 1970's but unfortunately figures still put her right up there in the top 10 of crimes committed. Comes with special make-up (to cover up those bruises) and a door to walk into. She used to come with the phone number of the local women's refuge but it has been closed due to austerity cuts so instead she has the option of a pair of runners in case she needs to make a quick getaway.
Multi-gender Barbie - comes with non-gender specific clothing, retractable hair and a set of detachable breasts so you get to choose the gender - male, female, neither or both.
I was thinking about an FGM'ed Barbie but after checking it out, I think Barbie has already been FGM'ed! I wonder if this a deliberate move by Mattel or were they just ahead of the game on this one.
So, there you have it, a Barbie that reflects the broad experience of females in today's modern world. Available soon...
I was in Belfast on Saturday night for the Robert Plant concert. I have seen Robert Plant many times now but I think Saturday's performance was the best ever. We got into the queue early and got right up to the front, just slightly off to the right but still with a full view, of the stage. The time flew in, 2 hours of new tracks, recent tracks and of course, Led Zeppelin tracks, including one of my favourite's, That's The Way. A heart-stopping performance from this amazingly talented man and the equally talented Sensational Space Shifters (try saying that sober, never mind after a few). I would recommend you go and see them but the tour is sold out so if you don't have a ticket now then you have no chance of getting one, I'm afraid. But you can check out the new album, Carry Fire, a relaxing mellow bluesy listen, treat yourself for xmas!
Also on the bill, was the support act, Seth Lakeman, who I didn't know, but have become an instant fan. Another brilliant musician, he also played with the band, a great fiddle/violin player among many instruments he could put his hand too. He too has a new album out, Ballads of the Broken Few. I haven't heard the album yet but going by the content of the show, it would definitely be worth the money.
So, a great night out all around, good music, good company and we also had a great meal beforehand. I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate in but it is right next to the Travelodge in the city centre near the Ulster Hall, so if in Belfast and in need of sustenance, check it out. Excellent food and reasonably priced.
But, unfortunately, there was a downside to the night and one of the reasons why I have given up on the big gigs, the 'concert poseur'. You know the one, the, 'just bought the recent album, and everybody else is going so you have to go, and take none stop selfies and pictures and film and post everything to Facebook so everyone can see what a dynamic and interesting life you live' and annoy the shit out of everyone around you.
Now, I have been to many concerts and dealt with some extremely annoying incidences, from the stampede of 'queens' at the Cher concert who almost trampled over the rest of the audience in their haste to get to the stage, to the constant selfie-takers/Facebookers at Bryan Adams (where I got to watch most of the concert through their phones) but never had to actually speak up or complain because, well, it's a concert, and people get a bit excited but they usually calm down once the 'star' is on stage and the show started.
Not this time (by the way, these were 3 males, not females) and the shouting of inanities, yee-hawing and self-congratulatory braying continued unabated to the point where I couldn't actually hear Robert Plant singing. So, for the first time in my life, after almost being deafened in one ear by the roaring, patience ran out and I turned around and said 'Would you ever shut the fuck up! I paid good money to come here to listen to Robert Plant, not you!' So, for the most part it calmed down, at least to a level that was bearable and I was able to enjoy the rest of the show.
We were going to the pub after the show, to meet up with friends and on stepping out on to the streets of Belfast were greeted with, what can only be described as, Dante's version of Christmas. Party night was on and the sight of hundreds of drunken 'party-goers' in xmas jumpers confirmed to me why I never was, or will be, a party person, especially a xmas party person. Basically, because I've seen too many of them and too often, they're really not that much 'fun' with everyone trying too hard to 'have fun' or show the world how much 'fun' they are.
The xmas party crowd usually consists of one person, usually the one with the biggest ego/mouth, at the centre of it all, being the most 'fun' with a few of her/his minions desperately hanging on them, keeping them happy and hoping to share their limelight. Then, you have the other faction who usually hate the self-same 'centre of attraction', but since it's Xmas and it's supposed to be 'good will to all men', they swallow it back until about 2.30 in the morning when everyone has drunk way too much and the taxi hasn't turned up.
So, we had a few drinks and headed for our beds and left the party-goers to it but all I can say to the bar/door/PSNI/taxi staff is, you have my deepest and sincerest sympathy and whatever they are paying you, it isn't enough.
Just back from a great night out at our local theatre to see Colin Stafford-Johnson, the wildlife cameraman who recently graced our screens with Wild Ireland.
2 hours of stories and extracts from the many wildlife series he has filmed. You know something is good when the time flies by. Mr Johnson was a very entertaining and personable host and came out both during the interval, and after the show, to talk to people and have photos taken. The Alley was packed too, which is testament to his work especially when you can pull a crowd like that on a wet Monday night.
He told an interesting story in relation to pine marten's here in Ireland. It has been shown that their re-introduction has had a positive effect on the red squirrel population. Apparently, pine martens attack and kill grey squirrels but because red squirrels and pine martens have a long relationship and evolved alongside each other, the red squirrel has developed survival tactics which the greys don't have.
He also spoke out against manicured lawns, gardens and pesticides which is great for gardeners like me. Early this year in spring, I didn't cut my dandelions because I noticed the bees were collecting pollen from them and as there weren't a lot of other flowers in bloom yet, I just left them until they went to seed. He says we shouldn't cut our dandelions or nettles, as butterflies especially, love nettles and they are vital to their reproductive cycle. I don't have any nettles because the soil in my garden isn't very good, but I'm working on it. Funny, that was one of the first things I noticed when I started gardening, wherever there are nettles, there is good soil.
Anyway, he has been touring the country with this show and there are only 2 dates left, Sligo tomorrow night and Waterford on Wednesday. If you're around any of those places get a ticket and go, it will be money well spent. If you missed this, you missed a real treat. Highly recommended.
My father passed away in July and there is a wee dog at home which needs walked and because my mother is 81, I volunteered, and started walking her. I don't really mind as it'll get me out over the winter and stop me hibernating too much, as if that were even a possibility at the moment.
I was out on Thursday night, down to Letterkenny to watch my friend and fellow drama group member, Chris Duddy, in Hairspray. Chris played Tracey's Turnblad's mother, the role played by John Travolta in the recent re-make. A great turn from Chris as usual and they sold out all 5 nights at An Grianan.
Then I'm out Monday and Tuesday night this week, so far. But I'm hoping for a quiet weekend next week, as I have the God of Rock himself, the following week. Mot is up next week too so the car goes in on Wednesday for a once over. Then there are, at this point, 3 Christmas parties to come as well. Whew!
As part of my routine with the dog, I try and take her up around the river in Sion at least once on the weekend and as I was at my cousin's wedding yesterday, I took her up this morning. It was great because we had the place to ourselves, all the good Christians were at mass or church but being outdoors in nature, is church for me, especially when no one else is around.
One of the joys of it, is getting the wellies on, because we have to cross fields and there is muck and water everywhere. The first day, I was trying to find a way around but then I caught on what I was doing and thought,' I've wellies on, I can just plough on'. The simple pleasure of being able to tramp through 4 inches of mud and up to 6 inches in water, is a joy I had forgotten and took me right back to childhood. There's such a great sense of freedom in it and I find now, I hope for rain on a Friday so that there will be plenty of muck and water about on the weekend.
Women miss out on so much fun as they get older. Last year, my back yard needed cleaning up, the walls were mossy and I wanted to paint them. So, as I'm on my own, I hired a power-washer and set to work. It was great, hosing everything down, I loved every minute of it! I enjoyed it so much, I even went out and bought a hose for myself so I can stay on top of it and I've roped my grand-daughter in too, she hoses while I brush and loves it!
When we were young, we used to wash my father's car, it was something I always enjoyed. Since I got my hose, I've started washing my own car too. The simple pleasure of messing about with water and mud, there's nothing better...
Today, I enjoyed afternoon tea in the Silver Birches Hotel in Omagh. It was our prize for having the winning presentation at work. If anyone is interested in our storming performance, you can check it out on twitter @BSO_ssar. You have to download Periscope first as it's a closed site, or something like that, I'm not too sure of the technicalities. By the way, I'm now available for presentations and after dinner speaking, if anyone is interested in offering me some work!!
Speaking of work, I was job hunting again this week as my contract is up at the end of December and I saw there was a (public sector) job going in my local area. Now this is not a government ministerial position, it's just a basic office admin job so I thought I'd download the application form and give it a go. The application form is 18 pages long, and along with having to fill that in, you may also have to undertake a test as part of the selection process and they outline a list of 22 duties and responsibilities that you may be required to do.
Looking at the application form, I feel that I should be entitled to be given, at the very least, a diploma in administration just for managing to fill it in. One of the first criteria for the job is 5 GCSE's or equivalent, and there is a space for you to outline your qualifications and you are advised that 375 words are available for this. Now, how much can you say about having 5 GCSE's, other than what they are and what grade and maybe the year they were achieved. I suppose you could go into more detail, maybe talk about how nervous you were when you did them, what the weather was like, did the results match your expectations, things like that maybe??
Then, you have another 375 words to outline your typing or word-processing qualification, another of the criteria. Again, how much can you say about learning to type and passing a test in it? I got on ok with the keyboard but the Q gave me a lot of trouble, D was much easier but on the whole, I would have to say T was my favourite.
But then you get to the biggie. You must have 2 years admin experience and you have 350 words for that and it asks you to outline your experience for 5 employers. That's 5 x 350!
Then you have another 250 words each, to outline your experience in 6 other areas:
Dealing with members of the public and responding to enquiries from a range of stakeholders -One day a man stopped me and asked for directions and I was able to draw him a map on the back of the envelope. He was very grateful and said I was a 'great help' and a group of people who were standing at a nearby bus stop agreed and asked me where I was from and who I was, one woman knew my mother and said I looked just like her.
Maintenance of administrative and information systems - I put the files in the filing cabinet in alphabetical order and made sure they stayed that way so if anyone came in looking for some information, I was able to go and get it.
Arranging meetings, preparing agendas and taking minutes - I told my friend I would meet her outside the cinema, and told her which film we would watch and what we were going to eat while watching it; popcorn and Maltesers with a large coke. During the film I checked my watch against the time on my phone to make sure they were both on the same time but then my phone fell in my coke...
Data input and retrieval - I typed a list of important stuff on to my computer, I saved it and went in and found it again later on.
Experience receiving cheques and monies in respect of payments - One time on my birthday, I got a cheque for £25 from my aunt Mary because I told her I didn't want any presents as I wanted the money to put towards buying a new phone.
Use of Microsoft Office applications - I often type things using Word, I can put numbers on a spreadsheet and add them up using the button at the top. I used to use outlook to send an email to my friend but now we use snapchat and Instagram instead. We sometimes still use Facebook but I get fed up with all the angry people and don't use it as much anymore. One time I did a database at school. We had a list of people and their addresses. it wasn't real people it was just made up and we pretended they were all in this club or something. Powerpoint is fun but I don't really use it much..is there anything else, I don't know...
Then just to round it all off, they have another section: Desirable Criteria Experience and you have 400 words to 'outline your experience in the maintenance and development of specialised computer software systems including preparing and generating reports from relevant data'. Pullllease nooooooo!!!
When you count up the word quota, it comes to 3650 words. Is it me, I mean, is it? 3650 words and you still have to list all your past employers, all your qualifications and all your personal details, so you're easily talking about over 4000 words for an application form for an admin job.
I had another job interview recently. Well, actually it wasn't an interview for an actual job, it was an interview to go on a list for a job that may come up at some point in the next year. Then if it doesn't, you have to apply again and go through the interview process again to go on a list for a job that might come up but if it doesn't you have to apply again and go for an interview, to go on a list...yes, I know! I know!
When will the insanity end??? It's a fecking admin job, not president of the fecking world!!
I think, I'm going to go back to waiting tables, my first job, back in the day, Vacarro's café, much simpler and less stressful. Maybe a bit of painting on the side...
And it's not as if these jobs are paying big wages, they're a bit better than minimum but not enough to justify an 18 page application form, or a merry go round of applying and interviewing. I almost forgot! Before you got the interview, you had to do an online literacy and numeracy test too and the online application form listing all your experience, your employers, your qualifications, yadda, yadda, ya!
I've a headache now, just thinking about it. Roll on retirement...
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