Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Perils Of Renting DVDs...

"I hate subtitled films! I want to watch
The Fast and the Furious, not Sergei
Sludganovsky's Dreariness: A Life in Mud!"
My better half recently went into a video shop in County Wexford to rent Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, or Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (if you want to use its German title). (Am I showing my age by saying "video shop"?) When she brought it up to the counter, the clerk said: "You know that's a foreign film?". What was the correct response?
A) "Thank you, I know that." (optional: "Even if I didn't know about the film, which won the Palmes d'Or at Cannes, I did actually read the DVD box. And, if you wish to be pedantic, practically all your stock comprises of foreign films, seeing as the US is not part of Ireland. What you mean is that it's a foreign language film, and therefore subtitled, something which may throw members of the Plain People of Ireland into paroxysms of rage after they get home and discover that, in addition to having to do a little light reading while watching their film, it may expose them to dangerously high levels of Art, entirely undiluted by thick levels of populist, pandering entertainment (something that no God-fearing Irish citizen wants))."

B) "Jaysus, I'd better put it back then, coz reading is for pansies, which is why I brought it all the way to the counter in the first place, being too lazy (or unable) to read the DVD box. Besides, European films don't have nearly enough car chases, flatulence-based humour, big guns, superheroes, happy endings, or vapid, unconvincing romances. Now where's that copy of Iron Man 8?"

C) "Oh Christ no! Nooooooooooo!" (This is screamed at the top of your lungs. You then hurl the DVD across the shop, punch the clerk in the face, and run from the shop yelling "I need a priest! I touched it!", fearing that if you don't have your hand blessed, it may wither off from contact with such a gross evil. After this, you organise an angry mob with pitchforks and torches, carrying signs declaring "Being Irish, we only want English films!" and "No subtitled films except Godfather II and Avatar!")
Okay, I know that I've (not unusually) gone a bit over the top here, but this attitude really annoys me. The clerk in the shop has obviously been informed by management to warn people if it's a subtitled film, which says a lot about Irish attitudes to cinema (as does the pathetically inadequate stock in every DVD shop). Why do so many Irish people have such an aversion to films with writing along the bottom of the screen? To be honest, I don't really care...
But hark! let us abandon the world of the local DVD shop and head to the cinema! What do we find? Well the SGC in Enniscorthy is showing Toy Story 3 (unnecessary sequel), Shrek: Forever After (unnecessary sequel), Twilight Saga: Eclipse (unnecessary sequel, primarily for teenagers, I believe (the whole Twilight phenomenon has, thankfully, passed me by)), Predators (unnecessary sequel), The Karate Kid (unnecessary remake of a silly 1980s film), and The A-Team (unnecessary remake of a silly 1980s TV show). So is the Wexford Omniplex, the Arklow multiplex, and the Gorey multiplex. Those three are also showing The Rebound (which sounds vacuous) and Inception (the only thing that looks bearable). In addition, Gorey and Arklow are showing The Tooth Fairy (Gorey and Arklow), and Get Him To The Greek (Arklow), which look unbearable, as well as His & Hers (Gorey), which is at least Irish, but such is my antipathy towards Ireland at the moment that I'd rather shave my face with an angle-grinder than sit through a film about this country. Looks like the cinema ain't an option this weekend, unless I'm struck by lightning and lose two-thirds of my brain (or a freak time-travel accident regresses me to the age of 14). Thank God I picked up a copy of Woman in the Dunes in the Oxfam shop for a euro!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wexford Sights (XV)

After reading this, I had to go out into nature and stare up at the sky, thinking of the joy I'll feel when, hopefully, at some point in the next five years, I'll be sitting on a plane with a one-way ticket to anywhere other than here. It wasn't all rage-filled musing, though; as I looked up to the sky I was thinking that behind the glorious blue expanse above me, somewhere out in the immensity of the Universe, is this. I was also amused by the stand-off between a frisky young cow and our not-as-brave-as-he-thinks-he-is hound; although cows have gifted us with the pejorative phrase 'bovine', they can be pretty fearsome when they run at you! But back to the original link: why in the name of all that's tiny and ferret-like would anyone pay tuppence to hear Bertie Ahern speak? William Burroughs's phrase 'the talking asshole' from Naked Lunch is a very succinct description of him ("Did I ever tell you about the nation that taught its asshole to talk? It would blather on about 'de economy' and 'de peace process' day and night..."). To be honest, I'd rather listen to this:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Haven't Felt This Way Since "Funky Town"! (XII)

A change from stained glass this time! Above are pictures of what I believe is a ringed plover, taken on the beach in Ballinoulart. It was difficult to get any photos of them at all; partly because of the way they dart about unpredictably, but also because of a certain hairy creature who thinks it's the best fun in the world to chase them up and down the beach (the bottom photo was initially a nicely composed shot of a bird, but then...). Anyway, on to the music.
It's hard to imagine a performer whose music means more to me than Miles Davis; certainly, his music from 1945 to 1975 is full of moments that are so profoundly beautiful and powerful that they leave a clumsy writer such as myself speechless. To put it simply: an album such as In A Silent Way makes life worth living when few other things do, and there's not a whole lot of music that you can say that about. The following is a pretty fierce and vital set from 1970's Isle of Wight Festival (the music starts at about the 3.55 mark if you want to skip the introduction). Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wexford Sights: Stained Glass (IV)

Today's images come from the charming and well-preserved Catholic church in Crossabeg, a few miles north of Wexford town. These images (of St Cillian and St Aidan) are just to the left of the altar and, although quite traditional, are unusual for their very strong Celtic motifs: the use of The Book of Kells-style spirals is not often seen in stained glass (at least, not in Wexford and by me!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wexford Sights: Stained Glass (III)

I know, I know: more stained glass! These come from the Catholic church in Kilmuckridge, a small village on the R742 about twenty miles south of Gorey. The top picture here is the interesting one, as it's an image of St John the Evangelist as rendered by noted glass artist Michael Healy, best known for the superb glass at Loughrea Cathedral (a brief biography of Healy can be found here). His Evangelist is quite the fin-de-siecle aesthete! The other two windows are by artists unknown (to me); the "St George Slaying the Dragon" is finely coloured.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wexford Sights: Stained Glass (II)

Today's images come from the Catholic church in Monamolin, a tiny village just off the R741 before Ballyedmond. The church itself is decidedly uninteresting, except for one feature: the two windows above, both of these images (of St Aidan and St Brigid) are products of J. Clarke & Sons Studios in Dublin (as can be seen from the signature, unusual in stained glass, in the bottom left-hand corner). Joshua Clarke was the father of one Harry, Ireland's best-known stained-glass artist, and it's possible that the young lad may have contributed to these windows (although they are entirely traditional, if of very fine quality). Note the Celtic patterns in the border; see here for further information on the Celtic influence in stained glass at the time (as well as an amusing and depressing description of what stained glass artists had to put up with from patrons)). Pictured below is the more modern window behind the balcony facing the altar. In reality, it's a fine example of how the luminous quality of the coloured glass can make what's a rather ordinary composition quite impressive (scale also helps, of course!).
(Once again, if you're not a stained-glass person, here's a link that's quite interesting. Click on the 'zoom out' buttons on the bottom: it certainly gives a sense of perspective!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wexford Sights: Stained Glass (I)

Stained glass remains a sadly underrated and under-utilised medium in art, primarily because of its high cost to produce, its association with decorative and ecclesiastical settings, and the very low quality, aesthetically speaking, of most stained glass work. Location also presents a problem: anyone wishing to see a lot of Harry Clarke's work, for example, must travel to destinations all over the country and beyond, and holding a retrospective would involve removing (often enormous) windows from functioning churches (which also means seeing them out of context). I love stained glass; the sheer beauty of the colour as the sunlight pours through a fine window is a magnificent experience. Anyway, seeing as I have an awful lot of photos of stained glass windows from all over County Wexford (only those in the remote north and west parts have escaped me so far), I'd like to share some of them with my faithful readers. None of them (aside from one or two of the Harry Clarkes) come even close to great art, but they are interesting (to me at least), and that's good enough for me.
The above image is from the Askamore Catholic parish church, a remote place in north-west Wexford. This window dates from the 1930s, and is fairly typical of the period, but I have no idea who executed it, as there's no signature (possibly Earley & Co?). It shows the clear influence of Harry Clarke in the texture of the drapery, and the shape and seemingly arbitrary multi-coloured panes around the central figure have the unfortunate tendency of making it look like a jukebox. It is behind the balcony that faces the altar; obviously at some point the balcony was raised, partially blocking the window, and pews have been placed across it, as can be seen from the top photo. It's a shame, because not a bad little window, but that's not the worst example of this; in Tagoat church, a large three-light window has had an pipe organ placed in front of it, blocking a large section of the composition. (I'm also intrigued by the sentence fragment: "My Jesus Mercy"?) The rest of the windows are more modern, and much less interesting (colourless stained glass is about as interesting as white sliced bread, to be honest).
The images below come from the Catholic church in Craanford, about ten miles or so from Askamore. These windows are the only stained glass in the church, and are behind the altar.The colours are superb, especially when the light hits them right, but there is little in the way of inspiration or excitement; they are simply decorative illustrations in glass made by businessmen to fill a niche in the market. I've included them because they are typical examples of the kind of glass favoured by late Victorian churches and turned out by commercial companies such as Mayers of Munich. In the church-building boom of the Victorian era, stained-glass manufacture was very lucrative!

And if you find this all too boring, here's something a wee bit funky: