Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures 2006

One thing that is happening in Ireland these days is that people from other cultures are coming to live in it. Sometimes this leads to people moaning that said other culture people are taking our jobs, women, men, or cheap accommodation, or are providing disturbingly efficient and friendly service in many shops and restaurants. The Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council is attempting to combat such thoughts by pointing out to people all the exciting stuff that comes from interacting with other cultures – funny food and, especially, funny music. So for the last number of years they have organised this Festival of World Cultures and brought in loads of world musicy type acts to play at it. I usually go along to at least some of it.

This year on the Saturday evening I went to see some fellows called The Marzoug Band from Biskra. Biskra is somewhere in Algeria… north-east, they say, but looking at a map reveals it is a good bit in from the coast. The music of these Marzoug fellows was mainly percussion based (drums of various types, and castanets), but their killer instrument is a bagpipe that looked like it was once a piglet. For one track they also boasted something that may have been an oud.

This was one of those indoor gigs you pay money to go to, with the concert taking place in the Pavilion Theatre. I was downstairs, in the unseated area, but while people were waiting for the band to come on we took to sitting cross-legged on the floor, giving things an endearingly ethnic vibe. As is the way of these things, Marzoug's crazy drumming and squealing piping soon brought people to their feet. The castanet lads did a bit of dancing as well, lending things an impressively real deal air by being a bit folkishly rubbish at it.

For their encores, Marzoug invaded the audience, playing their stuff among us. Whitey got down.

On Sunday afternoon, I had hoped to see Prison Love, but where they were playing was stuffed; this is always a problem with the free indoor gigs. So instead I drifted around a bit and caught some Tibetan dance troupe playing in the Harbour Plaza. They preformed a number of dances from their unfortunate country, and one from neighbouring Bhutan. They also sang while they danced, with the women doing that high-pitched semi-distorted sound the ladies of the east are known for. One would have to say that the blokes were maybe not as impressive as singers, but perhaps again this shows their true folkish lack of professionalism. One of the best routines was for a song called Uncle Lotus, which they sang with great gusto. It turns out, of course, that Uncle Lotus is one of the many code-words people in Tibet use for the current Dalai Lama. You do have to wonder about the Chinese occupation authorities in Tibet, watching people jump around happily singing about how much they wuv their Uncle Lotus. "Do you reckon we should check out this Uncle Lotus guy?" "Ah leave it. Let them sing about their relatives as much as they like, so long as no one brings that Dalai Lama fucker into it".

After that Mark and I wandered up to the main open air stage where Trans-Global Underground were due to be playing in a soundclash with Trio Bulgarka. You may have heard of these groups – Trans-Global Underground were a group I used to go on about a lot more than ten years ago when I was very taken with their first album, featuring as it does such tracks as 'Templehead', 'Shimmer', 'Slowfinger', 'This Is The Army Of Forgotten Souls', and so on. I somewhat lost touch with them after that, though I did see them play in Dublin the day after wor sister's wedding some years back, when the passing of time had rather shrunk both their line-up and their popularity. The Trio Bulgarka, meanwhile, are a Bulgarian vocal group perhaps best known for singing on Kate Bush albums and ads for cider.

In Dun Laoghaire, TGU came on first. One odd thing about TGU now is that basically none of the people whose names I remember from their record sleeves are in the band any more – no Alex Kasiek, Count Dubullah, Neil Sparkes, or Natacha Atlas, though of course some of these have gone on to solo fame and fortune. Instead the line up features some guy on drums, some guy on keyboards, a woman on sitar (and occasional bass), a bloke who runs around with a mobile drum, and a rapper. They do not wear masks.
The sound is broadly similar to what I would think of as "classic" TGU… music pulling elements from Africa, Arabia, and the Indian Sub-continent (and maybe the West Indies). Describing it in such bald terms does not really do it justice, though – this is perfect festival music, kind of hypnotic in its rhythms, dancey yet not so dancey you will cause yourself an injury. Deadly stuff.

And then the curiously dressed Trio Bugarka joined us. They are three ladies of indeterminate size and age who sing harmony stuff with each other in an usual vocal style that seems to be partly based around holding notes for a very long time. They sang a couple of songs on their own before TGU joined in… the combined tunes were like TGU songs over which the Trio sang. Now, you might think this kind of thing is a really weird mismatch of different musical styles, and maybe more than none of Trio Bulgarka were wondering if they were prostituting the sacred music of their ancient nation. From TGU's point of view, though, it was all grand – they are used to running all kinds of different musics together and seeing what happens. They are also used to having vocalists from particular musical traditions join them, with Natacha Atlas singing over much of their first couple of records. So yeah, it all worked. Actually, it was really good indeed, one of the best things I have ever seen at the Festival of World Cultures.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Film: Cave of the Yellow Dog

This is another of those films set in Mongolia. Wolves have attacked the flock of these nomadic herders. Their little daughter comes home from school, and she finds a little puppy dog hiding in a cave. She wants to keep him (obv.), naming him Zolchor, which means Spot in foreign; her father, however, fears that the dog will attract back the wolves, and demands that the dog be sent away. Somehow they never quite get round to this.

That's about it for plot stuff. The main thing of the film is the lush cinematography and the anthropological depiction of these people's lives. That aspect of it is interesting.. there is very much a sense that their lives are in transition, with modernity extending its tentacles into their lives. At one point, the father is talking to some old lads who mention how loads of their neighbours have sold up and moved to the town. Yet everything seems to unproblematic - you do not really get a sense that people are lying awake at night in terror of being absorbed into the cash nexus.

A particular favourite moment is when teeny daughter is left on her own to mind teeny tiny brother, who then goes on the rampage. Teeny daughter has all her work cut out stopping him from laying waste the family shrine, complete with picture of the Dalai Lama and statue of Buddha. The baby puts the latter of these in his month, leading his sister to say "Stop that! You can't eat God!"

The sense of animist culture that surrounds these people was interesting as well. When they break camp for the winter, they thank the earth for looking after them through the summer.

Anyway, the film has a happy ending when the little dog proves his worth and is then allowed to come and live with them forever.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Film: Miami Vice

In this, yer man Michael Mann remakes his old TV series. It is grand in and of itself, though ultimately a bit ponderous. And it’s all a bit Women In Refrigerator (this being a comics criticism term used to discuss the baroque sufferings of women characters in comics; more details). The women closest to the two main characters experience seem to have terrible things happen to them solely because the plot then gives their menfolk an excuse to be very annoyed with their enemies, whose perniciousness is now revealed.

I think some may have criticised the film on the basis of the thin drawing of the women characters. This particular line of argument is not really a runner, as none of the characters have any depth to them, and Gong Li is far more interesting than anyone else in the film.

Still, there are plenty of nice shots of guys with mullets driving around in speedboats or flying airplanes and stuff.

free music

I like music, but I like it best when it's free, so I am especially interested in these concerts taking place in the Oxfam on Parliament street (word). They might be hoping that the punters will buy something or make donations to those people in the Third World you hear about, but they won't get any money out of me! I didn't get to be Mr Bling Bling by making donations.

I note that one of my homies from the Carwash Mansions vicinity is playing in the Jazz ensemble on the 21st. Deadly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I went to that exhibition of Outsider Art in the IMMA. Outsider Art is an umbrella concept for people making art who come from outside the art establishment, with such people often lacking any art training or sense of art history. Definitional issues abound, but the typical Outsider Artist seems to be either mentally ill or extremely eccentric. Anyway, the exhibition is great fun, with the work of these Outsider Johnnies having a wonderfully mad for it sensibility. Here is a picture by Henry Darger, some of whose striking work features in the exhibition (though not this one):

In other developments, yesterday I went to that concert I have been hyping. I have also been watching lots of Star Trek. Neither of these are very outsidery experiences.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

City of God

Here's another picture from my trip last year to TEH MIDDLE OF TEH EAST:

Through the window on the right is one of the sites where Jesus was crucified.

Film: Rebecca

This is an old Alfred Hitchcock directed film that the IFI were showing in a season of films whose linking feature now escapes me. In the film, a comedically sappy bird marries this slightly creepy rich guy (played by Laurence Olivier), and move to Manderlay, his ancestral pile. There she is weirded out by comparisons with Rebecca, the rich guy’s late first wife.

One thing that really has to be said about this film is that Olivier is brilliant in it. I have seen him ham it up in so many Shakespeare adaptations that I had written him off as the most over-rated actor of all time, but he communicates an agreeably ambiguous edginess to the role here that has me re-evaluating him completely. Beyond that, the pacing of the film is a bit weird – it seems like too much happens before they get to Manderlay, and too much happens after we learn the truth about Rebecca. Yet it all is so gamely presented that I let the film pull me where it would.

Strange Things Of The World

On one of her albums, Pat Benatar covers Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Very Fierce Panda Mauls Man

After a long train journey during which he drank four glasses of beer, Mr Zhang Xinyan decided that climbing into the enclosure of a giant Panda in Beijing Zoo would be a brilliant idea. Gu Gu the Panda then bit him repeatedly.

"'No one ever said they would bite people. I just wanted to touch it.'

"Zoo spokeswoman Ye Mingxia said the panda was unharmed and they were not considering punishing Mr Zhang yet."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Film: A Scanner Darkly

I think maybe I have been thinking about Over The Edge too much, this being the self-described role-playing game of surreal danger. It is on this that I a blame my main problem with this film of Philip K. Dick’s novel – it’s just not that weird. Obviously, I have not read the book and cannot really claim to be an authority on Dick’s writings, but when I heard that the film was based on one of his books and was about drøgs, a plot instantly suggested itself to me.

This is what I expected – there would be these guys who were taking some funny drøgs. As a result of said drøgs, they would be getting a bit fucked up, and would be having hallucinations and stuff. They would be finding it hard to tell the difference between reality and their hallucinations, but the viewer would know that they were only imagining the really weird stuff, so no problem. But then, something would happen to suggest that OH NO the hallucinations were kind of real, and that the drøgs were not merely fucking them up but they were also tearing away the veil of apparent reality to reveal some mentalist true reality. Reality and so on would breakdown and everything would be incredibly scary and confusing.

What actually happens in A Scanner Darkly is that a load of stoners get fucked up on drøgs sit around having stoner conversations, and grass each other up to the peegs. Part of the roffles in all this comes from said stoners being played by a troupe of notorious Hollywood caners. While they do have wacky hallucinations and stuff, it is pretty much always clear what is real and what is not – any confusion the characters feel comes from their being fucked on drøgs and not from any problems with the fabric of reality itself. The moment when the main character (played by Keanu Reeves) most feels like reality is breaking apart around him is dealt with as an entirely subjective experience, so you can still cling to the “he’s fucked on drøgs” hypothesis.

That’s not to say that this is a bad film. The interpolated rotoscoping technique they use (essentially, shooting live action footage and then drawing over it) looks dead weird, and suits well the whole thing about people losing their grip on reality and stuff. The stoner conversations between the characters are very funny, especially any of the ones involving Robert Downey Jr. – his applying to join the cops is particularly amusing. Winona Ryder is amazingly hot once rendered into a cartoon person.

And the film does live in my mind after I saw it. But I would have to say one thing that annoyed me about it was something that sticks it very faithfully to the book. Right at the very end the film throws up some text from Phillip K. Dick, dedicating the film to all his drøg buddies who have since fallen on hard times as a result of their habit, whether it is through psychosis or physical damage of one sort or another. I mean, it’s grand that he gets to commemorate all his pals and stuff, but it turns the thing into some kind of tiresome anti-drøg diatribe. There is enough of that kind of thing already in mass culture.

Please god, let him stop!

The Guardian seems to have missed out the "Yet Another" from the start of their article about Christopher Tolkien's latest book.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Well Below The Valley

As you know, Donal Lunny and a number of other musicians, including Andy Irvine, are playing in Dublin's Olympia next monday for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (details). I had hoped to post a copy of the event's poster here, but it does not exist anywhere on the Internet. Instead, here is a picture of Lunny and Irvine during the Planxty years: And here they are now:I don't know why I feel so obliged to pimp out this event, it's not like I am actually a member of the organisation they are playing for. Still, I reckon persons of musical discernment would be well-advised to attend.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

October Fest Palestine

Although the one in Munich is more famous, true beer aficionados will soon be heading to the West Bank for Taybeh's annual October Fest.

If you are ever in that part of the world, make sure to check out the Taybeh. They serve it in the Jerusalem Hotel and the George's Hostel.

(some embarrassing typos corrected)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Me am computer smart

There's book smarts, and then there is real life smarts.

I work with computers, doing stuff that bears some relationship to system administration. So I know all about computers. I have been playing this e-mail based boardgame for the last while, and one thing that has been really grinding my nads about said game is the way all the rules are in several different documents, making it very hard to find the particular rule you are looking for. Worse, the font in the rules was very small, making them very hard to read onscreen. But because me am smart, after six months I realised I could copy and paste all the rules into one document, and increase the font size!

Also, ever since I got this laptop a year ago, I have been tortured by how dark the screen display is. This is particularly irritating when watching DVDs. Yesterday, after watching Miller's Crossing, I thought "Maybe I should look and see if there is some kind of setting which will make the screen brighter". And there is!

Ho ho, I must apply to join that MESNA.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Comics Round Up 9/9/2006

I seem to recall saying I would talk about each week’s bag of comics. Here is this week’s.

Battler Britton (#3 of 5) by Garth Ennis and Colin Wilson.

Ennis recreates the war comics of his childhood, drafting in old-school artist Colin Wilson to make sure the various pieces of Second World War hardware are drawn so well that a true connoisseur can tell you not merely than an aircraft is a Messerschmitt Bf 109, but that it is a model F, most likely manufactured in early 1942. The story involves a squadron of British bombers (led by the eponymous Britton) who find themselves paired with a squadron of inexperienced American fighters. International rivalry ensues, though by the current issue the well-worn paths of the buddy narrative are being trod. Who cares, this is not about the story, it’s about the planes.

Y: The Last Man (#49) by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and José Marzan Jr..

You know the score – a mysterious plague has wiped out all males in the world, apart from the main character and his pet monkey. At the moment he and his ragtag gang of associates are in China, and may finally be on the brink of discovering what caused the plague and how they can go about making sure future males do not die of it. This episode is maybe a bit interstitial, giving the impression that exciting things are about to happen in the next couple of issues.

Local (#6) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

You may recall my mentioning this previously. It follows this woman as she moves around the North American continent. Each episode is very self-contained, and goes big-time for local detail (although I cannot confirm the accuracy of said detail, as only one of the stories I have read was set somewhere I have been to, and even that is not a place I am particularly familiar with).

In this one, Megan finds herself in New York, and the story is about the travails of living with people. The narrative structure of the overall story creates an interesting contrast between the individual issue and Megan’s overall route through life. Read on its own, she comes across as a bit of a fruitloop in this episode, though when you compare it to the previous issue you realise that she seems to be pulling herself together.

I recommend this title highly. Mr Wood is perhaps best known these days for writing DMZ, a comic set in New York during a near-future Ameican civil war. The one episode I have read of that did not really impress, but now I am starting to wonder if I should give it a second chance.

The Exterminators (#9) by Simon Oliver, Tony Moore, and Andy Parks.

The previous issue went a bit relationship on my ass, but now we are back to what the strip does best – the disgustingness of bugs and other vermin. Some issues back the strip killed off the most repulsive of the human characters, but now he (or something like him) appears

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Trailer Trash

I went to see Snakes On A Plane the other day. It was very good, but watching the trailers beforehand made me a bit worried about what kind of person they reckoned would go and see it.

First up was some Tenacious D film, featuring that annoying cockfarmer Jack Black. I think this Is meant to be a comedy. There is nothing funny about this trailer; it probably features the least unfunny bits of the film.

Then there was this film in which some attractive young women do martial arts stuff and take people out with swords. It looks amazingly bad, but it might appeal to those who still dream about the women in Hai Karate ads.

The third film was Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I have Coppola’s number - she makes nice-looking but ultimately vacuous films. This film about the life and death of the France’s 18th century queen fits the model – nice art direction, lovely Kristin Dunst in the lead role, but it all looks like the usual French revolutionary nonsense, with fancy looking toffs having their world overturned by the revolting masses. The trailer suggests that Coppola’s big innovation is to go for anachronism by having modern (or modernish) tunes in the film’s soundtrack; the Gang of Four’s ‘I Found That Essence Rare’ storms through the trailer. I imagine this must make the film look like a sequence of music videos.

I was glad to see the trailer for Talladega Nights – The Legend of Ricky Bobby, the latest Will Ferrell vehicle. I might actually go to it, as it gives the impression that the film will actually be funny. Comparing the trailer with the Tenacious D film is instructive. In and of themselves, the Talladega Nights trailer’s jokes are not all that, but the trailer is still very chortlesome, I think because Will Ferrell and John Reilly are funny in and of themselves in a way that Jack Black is not.


"Y'all ready for this?"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Long and Lovely, Hilt's Cool and Bubbly

I think I read somewhere that the Paris Hilton song sounds like the Lilt ad. But I can't remember where I read it, so I might start passing this off as my own idea. Anyway, the songs does sound like the Lilt ad.

Pete Baran on Freaky Trigger talks about the recent jape by graffiti artist Banksy, whereby he replaced some of her CDs in shops with his own: Banksy Hitting Barn Door (Paris Hilton) With Banjo (Doctored CD). I agree with the proposition that Banksy is in this instance shooting fish in a barrel in a trite and puerile manner.

Wow, good job I am a slow typist. While writing this I've gone off and looked at the Banksy version of the art. Ho Ho Ho, I chortle.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Check out the line-up: Sonic Youth, Iggy & The Stooges, Fursaxa, Double Leopards, Gang of Four, Islaja, and much, much more - what's not to like?

What's your excuse for not going?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Flaxley Flier

Freddie, a Jack Russell dog, is causing astonishment by regularly jumping up on the back of his neighbour Daisy (a Shetland Pony), and then sitting there while she trots around the paddock.

"I guess it is a rather peculiar sight," reports his owner, Mrs Patricia Swinley.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

"a most magnificent donkey"

Bruno the Donkey, from Skegness in Lincolnshire, has been judged the UK's top donkey for 2006, beating off strong competition from Panda, a donkey from the Tamar Valley Donkey Park in Cornwall.

Well done Bruno!

Another upcoming concert: Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Iarla O Lionaird and others play for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Word. The concert takes place on Monday the 25th September in the Olympia. Tickets can apparently be purchased from the Olympia or Ticketmaster from next week.


Good news for lovers of extreme music - SUNN-O)))) are paying another trip to these islands, and playing more gigs in Ireland than in Britain.

The caped crusaders' profile is that bit higher than when they last played here, so I reckon some of these gigs could be a bit crowded. The audiences will be fun to watch, as ((((SUNN))))) manage to make music that appeals to both metallers and hipster aficionados of the outré and avant garde.

If you go, bring ear plugs.