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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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I was looking for something to watch at the weekend and was trawling through Netflix (making the most of it, in case the broadband has to go!) and came across this movie, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  The premise looked interesting and starred Keira Knightley and Steve Carell, the basic story was that a huge asteroid was on course to hit earth and wipe out humanity and everything else so, I thought, I'll give it a go!  Well, with The Donald threatening WW3, we could be facing a nuke off any day now and figured I might get a few hints and tips on how to handle it, just in case!

The characters in this are 2 Hollywood stereotypes/archetypes.  Carell is the boring, middle-aged insurance salesman (Gee! How original!) the earth is going to end in 3 weeks and he's still going to work!  Keira is, of course, the other old Hollywood staple of what has come to be called 'Manic, pixie, dream-girl'; flakey, irresponsible, drifting along and eccentric.  

I won't bore you with any of the details but I will say, there is only so much belief you can suspend when it comes to Hollywood but in a million years, and I'll say it again, in a million years!!! - I would never have put Keira Knightly (33 is her real age but I think she was supposed to be 28 in the movie) as the romantic interest of Steve Carrell (aged 55).  This was wrong on so many levels that when she kissed him, my stomach turned and I nearly threw up.  The story line was supposed to be about him looking for his true love and her trying to get back home to her family before the big one hit because that was what the blurb said but somewhere along the line this changed and we were supposed to believe Keira was really his true love!  Completely unbelievable! I could believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy before I could believe this!  I am, however, grateful for one thing, at least we were spared the sex scene, believe me, the thought of it was enough!  Euuuggghhhh!

So, if the Donald kicks off with the nukes, seek a friend for the end of the world by all means, have the party, try the heroin, find the one who got away, sleep with them if you get the chance but remember that even if the world isn't going to go down in flames, that life is short and will bring its own pain, so spare yourself a little bit of suffering and give this movie a miss!



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Universal Credit 2

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 9 May 2018, 14:05

I was supposed to be getting some money from Universal Credit today and I have received the princely sum of £29.  I stopped working on 30th March or rather the job ended, and because I received a week’s salary and a few days holiday pay the following week, I am only entitled to a grand total of £59 for this month, paid in 2 instalments of £29 today and £30 in a fortnight's time.  I have been living off that last salary payment for the last month, it doesn't even matter that I had to pay a week’s rent out of it or that I had other bills to cover as well, it was received in my claim time so it counts.  Strangely enough, if I had put in my UC claim the day after, it wouldn't have counted and I would have received more.  So, I have £59 to live on for the next month and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all you Tory voters for helping to screw over not only me but the rest of the working classes, especially if you are working-class or from a working class background, you deserve special attention, you bunch of deluded snobs!

I was looking at a post on Facebook earlier today from Jo Brand on the crisis in the NHS.  The NHS is being asset-stripped by the Tories and their friends and has been for many years going right back to the New Labour Tories and the bank crash of 2008 or rather the 'engineered financial crisis' (a blog for another day).  This 'crisis' has been used as the excuse to dismantle the public sector and drive the poor and working-class into penury, low-waged unstable work and 3rd rate services.  Someone on the post asked why the people of Britain were allowing this to happen and I replied - because the smug middle-classes turned their noses up to the working classes while they strived to join the upper classes. Because that is what happened.  

The middle-classes turned their faces away when the pits were closed down and the miners thrown out of work.  They didn't bother to look either when the factories were closed and more working-class jobs disappeared offshore.  Britain was changing, we were told, from an industrial economy to a service economy, ‘it was the way of the world, there was ‘nothing you could do’ and the middle-classes bought it and stayed silent because it was only working-class jobs which were changing and that was of no interest to them. 

When council housing was sold off, many of those former working-class bought cheap and then sold out to private landlords as they social-climbed their way to smug middle-classdom, convinced of their new superiority.  No-one bothered to consider the long term view or how working-class communities would be affected, just grabbed the money and ran.  Now, most of that housing stock is in the hands of private landlords who charge exorbitant rents for what are oftentimes, badly maintained properties.  Those houses are easily identified in working-class areas; they're usually the most neglected and run-down.  This is not just an English problem, here in NI where they railed for so long against the terrible actions and legacy of English landlords and how they treated the Irish (there are few around here who couldn't tell you the story of the Glenveigh evictions) they have shown that the smug middle-class Irish are every bit as avaricious and socially ambitious as their English counterparts.  The rent on the council house I live in which is a standard 3 bed, is up to 80% more expensive under private landlords who are all local.  Can't blame the 'foreigners' for that one!

Our middle-class business people are also every bit as bad as the Victorian English mill owners or rich Saudi's in how they treat their staff.  Several locally-owned businesses will sack you if you try to join a union or start one in their factory.  They won't tell you that, of course, they'll make it about something else and when you start work you can be on probation for up to a year so they can just get rid of you without having to give any explanation.  They don't profit share or pay very well either, minimum wages as much as possible.  At least, people now get a minimum wage, one of our local companies used to pay £1 an hour before the minimum wage was introduced and have threatened to get rid of all their older workers if the living wage is made compulsory.

Class division is just one of the reasons why 'they' get away with it because the elites with the help of a complicit media and the socially deluded, keep us divided against each other whether it's by race, skin-colour, religion, ethnic back-ground, national identity or any other item they can find; to keep us distracted and afraid.  Then, while we're being distracted with stories of migrants getting money and jobs and houses, or scare stories around religious fanatics or other cultures, they can just keep on screwing us over because there is just so much to distract us with; celebrities, royal weddings, terrorists, celebrities, Putin, royalty, war, celebrities, Harry & Meaghan, more celebrities...

Meanwhile, down here in the working classes, the vacuum created by governments who have abdicated their political and social responsibility, combined with the complicit apathy and actions of the middle-classes, has been filled with greedy landlords, unstable employment, not to mention the drugs and gangs, the result of which is killing off the young and not just on the streets of London. 

But now the middle-classes are starting to realise they have been screwed over too and the chances of their children being able to buy a home or having a well-paid steady job have disappeared into the ether. Today's proposal to give all 25 year old's £10,000 to help them on to the property ladder (but is really to stop them getting angry about how shit their prospects are and possibly start a revolution) is another sticking plaster on a cancerous tumour.  If they were lucky enough to have even gone to university that would hardly cover their student loans!  Realistically, a Tory government is never going to hand £10,000 to working-class children.

I just bet Janet is middle-class (See Universal Credit 1).  As for Alex and his Universal Credit, maybe Alex needs the broadband to look for work because most jobs are online these days and if his local library has been closed because of 'austerity' he can't access those jobs.  Maybe the fuel is petrol or diesel for his car so he can travel to interviews, not everywhere is accessible by public transport or maybe he just needs transport because he has young children.

I am debating keeping my broadband, it's £50 a month, I can just about manage it this month but if I'm not back in work before the end of May, it'll have to go.  I was lucky, I thought I would be on UC for a while and friends had warned me I could be without money for 6 weeks so I had set some money by just in case.  Good job I did, or I would be up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.

But as long as there are people with the same attitude as the Janet's of this world nothing will change.  Those who look down their noses at the working-classes and people on benefits are just luckier, not better, luckier.  Not everyone is born into loving, caring homes, not everyone is lucky or smart enough for University, not everyone has the advantage of good physical and mental health.  It doesn't mean that because they didn't have those things that they should be treated as something less or that their lives should exist on the bare essentials and nothing else.  Life is precarious, we all hang together by threads, and no-one knows what the next minute, hour or week may bring.  It can be different and it can be better for everyone but there has to be a will to make it happen. But as long as we allow ourselves to be divided by religion, culture, money or social status then nothing will change.  But history has shown us that certain conditions drive change, when those on the bottom reach the end of their tether and start a revolution or the middle-classes experience a shift in social consciousness, then change does happen, let's hope we don't have much longer to wait for it.

 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Aideen Devine, Friday, 11 May 2018, 11:10)
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Potting and plotting!

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Another day, another interview or 2, and another 'we regret to inform you'.  Not that I really mind, I'm in no hurry back to the daily drudge and I'm enjoying my time out especially now that I have achieved, or rather acquired, something that I have wanted for some time now, an allotment!  I got it on Monday and had a great day out in the sunshine, I met so many people I know and hadn't seen for years but unfortunately, the weather has turned again and now it's back to the wind and rain. 

I was surprised how fit I was, it's a bit overgrown so I got stuck in clearing beds on Monday, I was there for a several hours and thought I would be wrecked on Tuesday but I was fine, a few aches in some muscles but that was it.  I was back over today as the persistent rain has given way to more showers but the ground is still too wet to do much and it gives rain for tomorrow again so that's another write-off.  But I'm crocheting a blanket at the moment and doing an oil painting, both presents for friends so that'll keep me occupied on wet days, in between job-hunting and interviews, of course!

Had the dog out for a walk up around the river on Sunday, it's amazing how everything has bloomed within the space of a week and fishing season is open again.  There are a few pools of water is some of the fields and they are full of tadpoles so the rain is needed as some of them were quite shallow and could dry out before they are fully grown.  I'm going to take a jam jar up this week and collect some.  I have a water trough in my back yard and might put a few in there, thought it would be interesting to show the grand-daughter how frogs grow, takes me right back to childhood too!

I am sharing the allotment with my nephew, I was visiting him and he was telling me he has started growing his own veg and showed me his trays of seedlings so as the conversation developed I suggested we get an allotment as it was something I always wanted but thought it would be too much to take on myself.  We initially agreed to take on a half plot but we're going to go for a full plot now as we want to get some chickens too and the half plot would be too small. 

We're going to follow the Charles Dowding organic, no-dig, method but we have to dig first to clear the ground of weeds and no chemicals are allowed anyway in the plots.  I got his book a few years ago and have been making my own compost with a view to improving the soil in my own garden which isn't great.  Once you get the garden planted, you just keep adding compost and nutrients to the soil and weeding regularly, and that's it, not too much hard work involved.  There's a lot of talk and interest now around the link between gardening and mental health and one of our other allotments has just signed up Paul Brady to help raise awareness around how gardening can help with things like depression.

Election day tomorrow too, another round of 1690 vs 1916!  This one could be interesting, it's a fairly safe Sinn Fein seat but people are fed up with the lack of government in Stormont so they might not get the result they're expecting, and why should they, when they're getting paid for a job they're not doing?  Not that the line-up of candidates is inspiring, no new ideas, same old parties and the same old claptrap and a serious lack of vision all round.  It's quite depressing because several of the candidates are in their twenties but still churning out the same old rhetoric their predecessors did and all the old self-righteous grandstanding, it's hard to listen to - I'm between a rock and a hard place!  There are several countries around the world which include the option None of the Above on their ballot papers and there is an online petition to have it included as a viable option on ballot papers in the UK too, just follow the link below if you're interested in adding your name to it.  I just did!

https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/3603?via=inclusion-of-an-official-none-of-the-above-option-for-all-uk-elections-2,

Ah well, sun's out again, back to some potting and plotting!

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Art training & aid

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 23 Apr 2018, 09:17

I had a lovely weekend in Gormanston, Co Meath at an artist's training day.  It was through Children in Crossfire and we are hoping to have a 2 day residential later in the year, to do more work and maybe get some projects started.  I met some great people and it was like the UN, we had people from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Moldova and Zambia to name but a few.  

There were some great conversations about activism through art, and aid programmes, and the seeds of some ideas have certainly fallen on fertile ground.  I had fallen out of the acting loop for a few years but I'm inspired now to get back to some serious writing and acting and maybe get a play written.  I've the bones of several but need to start getting some flesh on them!  

Many of the other artists told stories about things they had been involved in and are going to send on some links for opportunities to work abroad and possible funding.  I'm seriously re-thinking my future at the moment, I've several job interviews this week but honestly, I really don't want to go back to working in an office although I'm probably going to have to for a while or at least until I decide what to do or get the opportunity to try something else!

One of the things that came up in a conversation is how Western 'aid' can end up causing more problems than it solves.  One of the women told me how the Mexican fishing industry was destroyed by Greenpeace.  When the Mexican fishermen caught tuna, sometimes dolphins got caught up in their nets so Greenpeace came out with a campaign against the nets they used and the fishing and canning industry that existed along Mexico's coast was effectively destroyed, allowing US companies a free run to takeover.  

One of the guys from Africa also questioned African aid and why despite money being received for many years, nothing had changed and the basic problems remained.  We were also given a booklet outlining the UN's sustainable development goals or SDG's which they launched in 2015.  There are 17 of them covering work, inequality, poverty and the environment and while it's important to have a target to aim for, they are based on the West's idea of how people should live and are industrial and capitalist in outlook. Not everyone wants to live like that, I live under this system and I don't like it or want to live that way and where does that leave tribal societies like the Masai?  Now, I'm all for a fair day's pay, for a fair days work but how does trying to create sustainable development and clean energy, work alongside economic growth or the idea of 'sustainable industrialisation'?  

They certainly have some admirable ideas, wanting to end poverty and hunger, and providing quality education for all.  But, as I was reading through them, I thought, these things are all achievable and could be done tomorrow but the same problem prevents it happening, banking and corporate greed with the elite creaming everything for themselves.  So, until the corporations are brought under control, and war for profit is ended, then these problems will persist and will never be resolved. 

Government, the world over, really needs to grow a pair and start taking on the military/industrial/corporate complex and the mega-rich.  Money should either be re-distributed or gotten rid of altogether, corporations should be abolished or at least, limited in their size and a very tight hold kept on their activities.  Because without some real action from government, the poverty, inequality and war will continue and all the aid programmes will do, no matter how well-intentioned, is like sticking a plaster on a cancer patient.

 


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Where's the weather?

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The warm and sunny weather, I thought we were getting today, hasn't arrived here yet.  So, all my gardening plans are on hold; it's still quite cold and windy out and doing its best to rain at the moment and I'm sitting here watching some daytime TV.  I can only conclude that daytime telly has been designed by the government for two purposes: to either drive you out to look for work or, if you can't get work, is that watching it will slowly rot your brain whereby you lose the will to live and are driven to suicide, thus reducing the unemployment statistics, making it a win-win for them!

My seedlings have taken a hammering from the weather and I'm going to have to invest in a greenhouse next year.  I was visiting a friend yesterday and even with a greenhouse, nothing much is happening for her, it's not just heat we need but sunshine as well.  I had the dog out for a couple of walks around the river last week and I could see in the space of 2 days how everything was starting to spring into life, trees and shrubs budding with hints of green and yellow ochre.  

Along the old railway line, a tree has come down from the weight of ivy on it and there are several others which will probably go the same way.  I like ivy and have a few planted but my sister doesn't like them, for this reason.  At Christmas, I made a garland with holly and ivy and maybe that is what we should all do because everything is covered with it.  If we all went back to using real ivy in our decorations, it might help save a few trees and it would certainly be a healthier option than plastic or tinsel.


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Good form, bad form!

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Another day, another load of job applications, why can we not just have one application form for all?  A standard form with qualifications, work experience and personal details? The Health Service here has a website where you just fill in your details and it is stored so it can be sent with every application instead of having to fill out the same form over and over again.  I suggested this to one of our local colleges, as I have filled out the same 12 page application form many times, and been rejected many times too, because there is nothing as depressing as spending hours filling in these bloody forms (one I filled in had 17 pages) and what do you get back in return, a 2 line email saying thanks but no thanks!

I do have a few interviews lined up next week so hopefully something might turn up soon.

I had a few nights out last week, I went to see the renowned flamenco guitarist, Eduardo Nieblo in the Balor Theatre, a great night was had by all!  He is touring at the moment and is in Chichester in June and Colchester in July, definitely worth checking out.  I had to fill in a(nother) form for a draw to win a signed copy of one of his CD's and I got an email yesterday to say I had won!  That's my second win this week, I had Bless the Wings each way in the National on Saturday too.  I only went for it because I had turned over the telly on Friday night and caught the end of the last episode of The Handmaid's Tale on RTE, where Aunt Lydia was telling the girls to take off their wings before the stoning of Janine.  They say things come in 3's, must do the lotto too!

I was in the Balor again the night after Eduardo for a Tedx Talk on the subject of Borders.  Not just geographical borders but the physical, emotional and psychological borders we may have.  There was a great variety of speakers, covering subjects from Where do Humpback whales in Ireland come from by Simon Berrow, to Achieving Goals without Gender Roles by Katie McGloin, but the best on the night for me was comedian Paddy Cullivan who wants to do a Donald Trump in Donegal and build a wall!  I'm not sure if it's up on the Ted site yet but keep a eye out for it, it's definitely worth a look.

Ah well, back to the application forms!  

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Weapons, War and Money

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Just sitting watching the news (if it could be called news) on the topic of chemical weapons and Syria, one question comes to mind.  If you bomb a facility which makes and 'stores' chemical weapons as claimed by the West, then surely you will be releasing more toxic chemicals into the surrounding area?

There is so much propaganda and lies, you wouldn't know who or what to believe.  I still go back to Radio 4, (about 3/4 years ago, I think) when an army general announced we would be going to war with Russia within 3 years.  John Humphreys was taken aback, to say the least and basically said, 'you must be insane', or words to that effect.  The general then went on to explain that they had these new nuclear weapons which they wanted to try out.  If that is where we are headed then, I take comfort in the fact that 2 other empires perished on the Russian frontier, France under Napoleon and the Third Reich under Hitler.  So, go for it, they sooner it happens, the sooner it will all be over, and then we might finally get some peace!  Come to think about it, Germany is being very quiet on this, I haven't heard a word from Merkel?

Talking about peace, why can we not just have peace?  Why is Russia our enemy?  Who decided that?  The mentality of those in charge really needs to be looked at.  In the US, they are all paranoid, living with a mind-set that is 60 years out of date and what is all the secrecy about?  Why do we not just share our knowledge and try to find ways to improve the lot of everybody?  Why can't the US and the UK just mind their own business?  If the people of Syria want rid of Assad, then it's up to them to sort that out.  If the West is so concerned with the well being of down-trodden others, will they be bombing Saudi Arabia now over their treatment of the people of Yemen?  Of course, they won't, the hypocrisy is sickening!   Why can't the US and the UK just stay in their own country and take care of their own people! 

But at the end of the day, the buck stops with us too and we have to carry some of the blame for sitting back and shutting our minds to it all, for letting others do our thinking and for not questioning more.  Going out to vote and voting for people who basically don't give a crap about any of us, which is worse here because all they do is vote for their tribe regardless of how competent these people are. 

The media is complicit too, we don't have journalists any more, with the exception of Jon Pilger, all we have are reporters, who merely report what they have been told to say.  Thank God for the internet, at least there, you can find out more and are able to access other opinions.

I watched another good documentary online recently, All Wars are Bankers Wars, (because you'll never get this on Sky or the BBC) worth a look if you have 45 mins to spare.  But when all is said and done, I know the answer to all those questions, and as Tom Cruise says in Vanilla Sky, "What is the answer to 99out of 100 questions? Money."


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Working like rabbits

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I have now joined the ranks of the gainfully unemployed and since I've been job hunting since October with no luck, I reckon I'm going to be here for a while, not that I mind today with the blue sky and sunshine!  Actually, not that I'll mind any day, rain or shine, the less tax the government get off me, the better.  Why should I worry when billionaires get away tax free and get their houses re-decorated at our expense.  So, I'm going to enjoy my break for as long as it lasts and make the most of my free time, between writing, gardening, painting, knitting and dog-walking, I'll easily fill the days, and job-hunting too, of course!

Took the young 'un to see Peter Rabbit over Easter, it seemed to be getting favourable reviews (among the now ex-work colleagues) so thought I would check it out.  Well, this was one rabbit I'd happily take a shotgun to and bake in a pie!  Beatrix Potter must be spinning in her grave!  I quite like rabbits, usually, and have several movies starring rabbits, Watership Down, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and even Harvey, and I don't even mind a smart-mouthed rabbit, Bugs Bunny pulls it off every time but a smart mouth and Beatrix Potter? Doesn't work for me and certainly didn't work here. 

The slapstick was enjoyed by some of the children but I found the whole thing disturbing, wiring door handles to give electric shocks, in a child's film??  Wait til little Johnny tries that one at home!  Voiced by James Corden, I understand now why he is the target of some vitriol but I don't suppose I can blame him, he didn't write the script but he did take part, so actually, I will blame him along with whoever else participated in bringing this tripe to the big screen!

Anyway, I've been laid up with a bit of a dose for a couple of days, actually since that movie now that I think about it.  Maybe it's shock...but thankfully I've been up and about a bit today and got some work done in the garden this morning.  And my favourite Bowie tune has just come on the radio...Drive in Saturday...compensation from the universe for enduring Peter fecking Rabbit!  I made the mistake of having popcorn too. I don't normally eat anything at the cinema, maybe a cup of tea or coffee but thought I would have popcorn for a change...and I have paid for it since, it is working its way through my digestive system like concrete, actually concrete might have been easier to digest.  I've been on a diet of porridge and peppermint tea since, and now that I've had to sign up for Universal Credit that will probably be my diet for the foreseeable future or at least until I get back into the rat race!

The gods must be in my favour today, another favourite tune of mine has come on, I Can See Clearly Now...the pain of that crap movie has gone!  I wish...

But getting back to the subject of work, my brother retires this year, he's getting away early and several others I know have also gotten early retirement.  Of course, they all work/worked in the public sector.  I've always worked in the private sector which means I'm going to be working for many more years to come, well, it will do once I get another job, but the thing is, my taxes pay for the wages of the public sector and they all get to retire after 25-30 years service but I'm going to have to keep going until I'm 68, which will probably be 70 if the Tories get in again!  So, why do I have be the Duracell bunny and keep going longer?  Why can I not retire when I have racked up 30/35 years of work or a least cut back to a 4 day/30hour week?   A friend recently remarked that we should have paid into a pension scheme sooner then we could retire now.  Which is a lovely idea, until I pointed out that we never earned enough to pay into a pension, I barely earned enough to cover the bills!

The problem with work now, is that I'm just too old, ok I'm only in my 50's but I'm probably fitter and healthier than ever, at least I will be once I get rid of this dose and get the concrete digested, but that is the reality I have to face.  I've been looking for a job for 5 months and in that time I've had 3 interviews which came to nothing, although I've been told I'm next on the list for 2 of them.  So, in the meantime, I may enjoy being a lady of leisure and get on with my writing, painting gardening etc. I have to say, one of the highlights of this week was the joy of turning off the alarm not knowing when it may be needed again.  With a bit of luck, never!

'Kill the wabbit! kill the wabbit!' 

Ah, there you are Elmer, I've been looking for you, I have a little job you might be interested in...involves a rabbit...no, not Bugs but I think you'll enjoy it all the same, is that shotgun loaded?  Good...there's this rabbit called Peter...irritating little shit...

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Art 3

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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.


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New blog post

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Another one from the art class, just a practice copy, oil on canvas.

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Art

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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.



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Movies spies and money?

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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


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Art - Swinging bridge - Sion Mills

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Swinging bridge

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'.

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Fructose

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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. 

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More poetry

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Thursday, 29 Mar 2018, 18:56

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 will lies broken,

washed up,

on the unforgiving shore of life.

Moon-dark shadows haunt

the silent caverns

cast like lonely waves

that ebb and crash

over rocks.

Relentlessly counting

through the darkness -

to the returning light

that cracks

the concrete bleakness

and loosens Medusa's hold.

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The art of the creative

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Thursday, 29 Mar 2018, 18:58

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 

with kinder faces -

far away from the dull, grey streets

and rain-washed lives,

drowning,

in apathy and quiet despair.

The steady drip, drip,

d

r

I

p,

of the broken guttering

on the ledge of the window,

at the edge of life,

beat a soggy rhythm

against the drabs of water

that fell on the dull, grey roof

and formed

a puddle,

between the invading moss

and

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

stood up;

put on her bright red coat,

and left.

 

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1690 vs 1916 round 2

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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? 

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Valentine poems & work

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 7 Feb 2018, 20:06

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.

Haiku

Sitting alone, night

falls, and warm embraces melt 

the hardening heart.

Sonnet

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:

Well, what a surprise, 'not the right fit for the position at this time'.  Is there ever a time I would be 'the right fit' considering this is now at least the 6th time I have applied to ..... for a position, clerical, accounts, administration, reception but never quite 'the right fit', and not once even an interview.
I mean what could someone with a degree, years of experience in admin, accounts and all office practices ever have to offer ......,  Not quite the 'right fit'.  What does the 'right fit' mean?  Not smart enough, or too smart, over qualified or under qualified, too experienced or not experienced enough or is it just that I don't have a 'relative' to smoosh with the right people and pull the right strings, because it seems that it's not what you know but who you know...isn't it ever???
Well, I guess I'll pass ........ over in future, no point in applying, not the 'right fit', not today, definitely wasn't yesterday and most certainly will not be tomorrow.
When my father passed away this summer, I rang in to work and was told if I wanted to take time off, then I could take it unpaid or out of my holidays. 
I came across 2 other stories about work this week too, so it's not just me being put through the wringer.  The first was about how Amazon workers in the US now have to wear a wristband to track their activity, sorry, to 'help them find the right packages quicker', or so says the company.  But more tragic is the story of Don Lane, fined for taking time off for a doctors appointment, and because of this missed his ensuing appointments and died.  He worked for DPD who deliver for Amazon, among others.  
Capitalism, it's all heart, isn't it!   Oh, the joys of work!
Workers of the world it is time to unite, change is coming and that revolution just might begin here...watch this space!

 


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Xmas decorations

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 15 Jan 2018, 19:53

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.


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Brexit again and finally

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 15 Jan 2018, 19:28

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 Euro 

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.

EU Army  

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.

 Free Movement

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. 

 Trade Deal

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. 

 Immigration

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.

 

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David Bowie

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018, 18:11

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...

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Netflix

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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.

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Star Wars - The Last Jedi

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Monday, 18 Dec 2017, 22:15

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.

 


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Simon Reed, Saturday, 23 Dec 2017, 12:56)
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Barbie Girls

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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...


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Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters

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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.

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