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'.
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 will lies broken,
on the unforgiving shore of life.
Moon-dark shadows haunt
the silent caverns
cast like lonely waves
that ebb and crash
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
with kinder faces -
far away from the dull, grey streets
and rain-washed lives,
in apathy and quiet despair.
The steady drip, drip,
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
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 it has to 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...
Trawling through Facebook the other night, I came across a posting about a new Barbie, never a fan personally, but apparently Mattel are bringing out 'Hijab Barbie' to honour Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American fencer who competed in last year’s Olympics.
It's a Barbie doll with a headscarf but I couldn't stop thinking how Mattel could really diversify the Barbie range to bring Barbie into the modern era so she reflects the reality of women's lives in different culture's around the world today, and I've come up with a few ideas of my own. So, here's a few suggestions...
Narcissistic Barbie - comes with her own I-phone, a selfie-stick, a seat and a mirror. So, she can sit all day checking her appearance, taking photos of herself and posting them on Facebook.
Saudi Barbie - comes with an all-black abaya. She has no accessories as everything she owns belongs to her husband.
Sweat-shop Barbie - comes with an extra large bladder so she doesn't need many toilet breaks and 2 Duracell batteries so she can keep working longer. She has a family but they don't come with her as they live miles away and are being cared for by elderly grandparents.
Trafficked Barbie - she looks like a dancer and comes with a contract that binds her to a pimp in financial slavery for 20 years. He also keeps her money and passport but does provide plenty of drugs.
Sexually-assaulted Celebrity Barbie - comes with designer clothing and has been brought out to replace the old casting-couch Barbie, who's clothes all fell off when you put a film contract in her purse. Sexually-assaulted celebrity Barbie comes with a guaranteed court case, a front page headline, a middle-page spread in the Daily tabloid and a special guest appearance on Dr Phil. Other accessories include a police interview and a copy of a Daily tabloid tracking her assailant's career implosion in the trial by media.
Sexually-assaulted (not a celebrity) Barbie - comes with torn clothing and a police interview. She also has a tabloid blaming her for wearing 'provocative' clothing with the option of an appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show to confront her attacker.
Domestic Violence Barbie - comes with her own special make-up (to cover up those bruises) and a door which she pretends she walked into. She used to come with the phone number for the local women's shelter but it's been closed now because of austerity cuts so she has a pair of runners in case she needs to make a quick getaway.
I was tempted to suggest FGM Barbie but I think Barbie has already been FGM'ed.
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...
I just finished watching a great show on BBC4 about Russian art from the revolutionary period. It featured many of the artists that were part of the exhibition, I went to see back in April, in the Royal Academy.
It was very good, both the exhibition and the show. Sadly, many of them suffered and died, or were forced into exile during Stalin's reign of terror. However, their art is now being re-discovered and it proves something that I've come to believe. No matter how many wars, warmongers and dictators that strut their way through history or how much destruction they cause; in time, it is the work of the artists and artisans that survives and outlives them all.
Warmongers leave little of value and sadly, we still don't seem to have learned from all the lessons of history, that there are no winners in war.
I recently submitted a painting to a local art exhibition. I usually work with a lot of colour but for a change, I tried something more stripped back. The painting is called 'After the Fall', and is of a tree silhouetted against a pale background. (If I ever get a smart phone, I'll post a picture of it) Someone in my art class suggested adding some fallen leaves but I decided not to, as I wanted the focus to be on the tree alone.
The painting works on 2 levels. It can be taken literally; a tree after the leaves have fallen off in autumn, but when I painted it, I was thinking about the Genesis story of the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' that stood in the Garden of Eden. So, my painting is a representation of this.
The Genesis story has been taken as a literal truth by the Christian church and used for centuries to malign women and justify our treatment as second class humans. In case anyone doesn't know, it was us temptresses and evil-doers who got the poor men kicked out of paradise because poor dumb Adam couldn't say no (of course) when Eve tempted him with the fruit. An insult to both men and women.
However, this interpretation has always bothered me, not least for the reasons already stated but when you look at it from a metaphorical point of view, you come to see that this story is about consciousness and that 'religion' has misinterpreted it.
When Adam and Eve eat the 'fruit', they become conscious of themselves and the world, as they now possess the knowledge of good and evil too. They no longer need anyone to tell them how to act or think; with consciousness, they can now think and decide for themselves how they are going to act. They have grown up and are no longer children who have to be told what to do. They have become adults.
This story is telling us about our evolution as human beings and how we grow up (in theory) and learn to think and act for ourselves by using our knowledge, our conscience and applying it to our actions and beliefs. Once we have become conscious, we cannot 'unsee' reality and go back to the pre-conscious state represented by Eden which is why we are barred from ‘paradise’ forever.
So, how do we become conscious?
In order to grow up or become conscious, we have to challenge the things we believe in or believe about ourselves. For example, do you believe in God and why, or why not?
So, the tree in my painting is a representation of this. It is asking the question, who am I when stripped of the delusions of ego, religion, nationality, culture and materialism. Do my actions match the beliefs I have about myself as a human being or am I deluding or lying to myself.
Didn't make it to OMD, it was just too long a day and all I wanted was to get home. I did make it to HMV and picked up a couple of DVD'S which I look forward to watching at the weekend. I was on my way back when I had a text message from work saying they needed the banner for today. We're doing a presentation on Friday and because I do art, I got the job of making the banner. So, I made it at my art class last night, and they were all very happy with it.
Talking about art, I was at the opening of a local exhibition tonight, No Jury, No Prize. Apparently, this began in London a few years back but it was in the Alley tonight so I went down for an hour as I submitted a painting for it. Unexpectedly, my cousin Paul also had a piece of sculpture in the show and was with a friend of his who was also exhibiting a painting. There was a broad mix of styles from both amateurs and professionals. I'm technically a professional, because I have sold paintings but really I'm an amateur. I'll consider myself professional when I can earn a living doing it which will probably be never!
I'm sitting here and I saw this show advertised for BBC 4 called, Retreat: Meditations from a monastery (supposed to be writing my assignment and the stress is kicking in!) . Before it started, they showed a little film of a sunset by the sea with the water ebbing and flowing, and very restful it was too. If only we could have these instead of bloody ads all the time. Anyway, it's about a group of monks in a monastery and how they live, making their own clothes and growing their food.
There certainly is a great appeal in the simplicity of the communal aesthetic lifestyle. I remember a few years ago, there were several programmes on about the Amish community and I have to say, I found their lifestyle very appealing. I loved all the craftwork and cooking and baking and gardening, because I do all that too. I just don't get to do enough of it as the rat race demands my services and unfortunately, I don't have the means to escape, yet! Well, I can always dream...
The only downside was the religion, and I've often wondered how you could have that way of living; in a community and everyone working together to help each other out but without all the dogma and rules of religion. If I ever get enough money to buy a large piece of land, I'm definitely going to try that one out, build my own community - Free the wage enslaved!
I believe in time, we will have to seriously look at alternative lifestyles and eventually move towards a world without money. The whole capitalist thing just isn't working and isn't sustainable in the long term so we're going to have to try something else. If you think about it, imagine if you could have access to everything you needed and didn't have to work to earn money to buy it. All the stress of life disappears. The fear of 'not having' is what scares everyone, me included!
There are a few movements around who are advocating this idea which I found online but most are in the early stages of development. One of the most organised is called the Ubuntu Movement, and they have set up the first 'town without money' in South America. You're only obliged to contribute 3 hours of work to the community and the rest of the time is your own, sounds good to me! That's as much as I know about it as I haven't had the time, (the ongoing dilemma!) to check it out in more detail at the moment. A blog for another day...
Oh well, back to the assignment!
As disappointing as the Simon Reeve in Russia show has been, credit where credit is due, BBC4 have delivered the goods in The Vietnam War which has been running on Monday nights. This excellent series has fully lived up to all my expectations and is a must for any student of politics.
As part of DD306, we're studying the Cold War, of which this is one of the direct consequences. A sorry and dirty mess, death and destruction on a devastating scale but have we learned anything? Unfortunately, it seems that we haven't or ever will. With tensions ramping up again between the US and North Korea, and Trump's latest statement on Iran, it seems they're gearing up for a war on two more fronts, with the strong possibility of the nuclear arsenal being rolled out. The insanity continues.
Meanwhile, I'm off to Belfast in the morning for our first tutorial and then I'm back in Belfast on Tuesday for a job interview. OMD are playing on Tuesday night in Mandela Hall at Queens and I'm sorely tempted to hang around for the show but my first assignment is due next Monday and then I'm at the opening of an art exhibition on Wednesday and my art class on Tuesday of next week too, so I'm not sure if I can spare the time! Decisions! Decisions!
I just finished watching the Simon Reeve in Russia, series. I was really looking forward to it but I feel disappointed and let down by the overall tone of it. The constant anti-Putin rhetoric, spoiled it for me and the thing about it is, the issues that Simon focussed on, are mirrored here exactly: health cuts, corruption, elites controlling and taking all for themselves and having special privileges, ordinary people having no voice. The only difference in here and Russia, is they actually have a strong leader and ours are all weak, ineffectual and useless. Politicians here would die for Putin's satisfaction ratings, up in the 80%'s.
On tonight's show, he featured a girl who lives in one of the old style apartments and is being forced to leave because they're knocking them down, and has to go and live in a brand new apartment block. There are working class people in this country wishing that was a problem they had! Simon has a short memory, does he not remember the issues around Stratford when the Olympic Stadium was being built or the social cleansing that has happened in London under the guise of 'austerity'. And just on that, the economy crashed in 2008, that's nearly 10 years ago, and we're still being hammered with austerity! What have they been doing all this time, twiddling their thumbs???
Anyway, Russia is a huge country and one that I hope to visit some day. I even starting learning a bit of Russian last year. I had a real flair for it too and was picking it up very easily. By the way, the Russian word for the number one is pronounced adeen, So, I'm nearly number one in Russia!
I'm studying the Cold War too, as part of DD306 at the moment so it's all very relevant especially since it all seems to be going strong again! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
Got a start on the course so I'm now trying to catch up on the 'news', if it could be called 'news' these days. There's a lot going on politically and so I'm sitting here tonight watching Panorama. I'm old enough to remember when Panorama was a serious programme with real journalists, sadly, that time has long passed and all we get now is propaganda and not even very good propaganda at that. Tonight's show is a rather pathetic piece of anti-North Korean propaganda filled with dead-eyed commentators trotting out the same old clap-trap.
Now, I'm not labouring under the illusion that North Korea is some sort of utopian state but the opening of the show talked about North Korea threatening nuclear war. As I recall, it's the US threatening NK. We are just being pumped with the same old propaganda we had before the Iraqi invasion.
I actually watched a piece online a few weeks ago where a South Korean village was protesting against the US deployment of the Thaad Missile System and there are numerous videos online showing South Korean protests against the US but did any of them appear on Panorama? No, of course, they didn't. Gone are the days of fair and balanced reporting.
At least with the internet, we can now seek out the news for ourselves. Meanwhile, far away from dictatorships, over here in the 'free and democratic' west, Catalans are being beat out of polling booths for daring to try and exercise their right to have political control over their land and lives. And over in the land of the 'bully' and home of the 'deluded', another mass shooting. And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, up pops the Tory Party Conference!!
Book arrived last week. Just one book so I'm assuming most of the learning will be online. Only one course book to buy, too. Really looking forward to getting started but the module site doesn't open for a couple of days yet.
I had a couple of night's out last week. Went to a play at the local theatre, a couple of friends from the Letterkenny drama group were in it. It was very funny but they don't have any more dates for this year as they were late booking. It'll be hitting the rest of the theatre's in the north west next year, it's called The Coarse Acting Show. It's a comedy about the worst drama group ever, and it is hilarious, it's the most I've laughed since the last party political broadcast I watched! If you're in the area next year, keep an eye out for it, definitely worth a look.
Then, I had a work's night out on Friday, in Omagh; danced a bit, drank a bit and generally had a lot of fun. I'm trying to get most of my outings in now before study begins. Last year for honours, so everything else is being side-lined.
Off to the cinema tomorrow night to see It. Early reviews are on the favourable side so looking forward to that. Other outings ahead: PMJ are back again in March, coming to the Ulster Hall next year. In case, you don't know who PMJ are, they are Scott Bradlee's, Post Modern Jukebox, they do jazz versions of modern pop songs, check them out on YouTube, you won't be disappointed. My favourite's are Stacey's Mom & Creep. I saw them last year in the Waterfront and the year before in Mandela Hall. So, this will make it 3 in a row. I even got dressed up for it last year and bought myself a 'wiggle dress', there were quite a few of us in the audience dressed for the occasion. They're touring all over so if you get a chance, go! It's a great, night out!
I went to see The Dark Tower last week, the film based on the Stephen King books. I think this was a one off and it wasn’t a bad effort. Although, I thought, Idris Elba was too young and fresh-looking for the role of The Gunslinger. In the books Roland is ancient and has been around forever. Also, it was all a bit too quick for my liking but I won’t complain too much about having to look at Matthew McConaghey, for an hour and a half, or Idris Elba for that matter!
The Dark Tower is a whole epic of 7 books originally (apparently 2 more have been added which I haven’t read) and were all very enjoyable, except for the ending. If you haven’t read the series, then you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about now, but I’ll try not to give too much away in case they’re on your ‘to read’ list. The problem I had with the ending, was the very same thing Stephen King referred to in Misery (great book, mediocre film), when Annie Wilkes pulls Paul Sheldon up for cheating with the story like they used to do in the old Saturday shows, when you were sure the hero had died going over the cliff in the locked, burning car, or some such, but by the next week he has somehow managed a miraculous escape.
The Dark Tower had one of those endings. Roland had moved back in time and was leaving with the horn of Eld after the battle of Jericho Hill but that didn’t make sense to me. I’m doing an Annie Wilkes now! He would have had to go back and re-fight the battle in order to win it and in my mind he would also have to go back to when he entered Hambry and save Susan Delgado.
I’ve read quite a few Stephen Kings, they are my pleasure in between the heavy stuff. Misery is my favourite book, and my favourite film adaptation is Stand By Me. The re-make of It, is out this week and if the trailers are anything to go by, then it’s something to look forward to. I know a lot of people were disappointed by the ending in the movie first time around so I’m not sure how that’s going to be rectified but what works in fiction doesn’t necessarily work on screen. Anyway, I won’t spoil it by giving away any details. However, I will say that the endings of several of Stephen’s more recent novels were disappointing, Under the Dome was one and Joyland another, Revival too, was a bit of a let-down but my biggest disappointment this year, was not a book but a film, the final Planet of the Apes movie, War for Planet of the Apes.
Firstly, it wasn’t a ‘War’, it was a battle and not much of a battle either and from looking at the trailers beforehand; I was expecting WW3 with nukes. Mind you, the way Donald and the Young ‘Un are squaring up, we could be headed for the real thing any day now! I’m convinced Lil Kim, could make a case for an Ulster Scots grant with his name!
The big let-down, apart from the ‘war’, was all the emoting that was going on. It was like an episode of Dr Phil! Caesar was giving it all the dramatics of rage and burning anger, like an obstreperous teenager. While Maurice, the big orangutan, was giving out so much deep and meaningful advice, I half expected him to be given his own talk show.
Then, there were parts of the story that didn’t make sense either. How did the soldiers manage to capture the other apes when Caesar was following them, and the other apes had been left behind?? Go figure?? The real pity is, the cgi was the best I’ve seen but like so many ‘epics’, too much thought given to the ‘show’ and not enough to the story. Yes, James Cameron, I’m talking about your Avatar (great visuals, lazy, old, clichéd story) You think you would have learnt from the hash Lucas made with Star Wars!
Anyway, if the books and movies have been disappointing, at least music brings its own rewards and the God of Rock, himself, the one and only Mr Robert Plant, returns to the Ulster Hall in December! And I will be there!
The new Star Wars is out then too, lets hope that's 2 bright spots on the December horizon to look forward to. May the force be with you or rock on! Whatever, is your wont!
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