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Just watched Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" now that it's for rent online. He gets the look of a 70s spaghetti western spot-on, and the opening credits are pitch-perfect for the mood - I saw a few of these in the cinema back in the 70s so I can tell :-)

Incredibly violent, going up to Itchy and Scratchy levels of mayhem. Also, I see the problem about this being the "Great White Saviour" trope all over again. Plus, there is usually some kind of redemption arc going on in a Tarantino film (hush, no, I'm serious) but the only thing approaching that is for the character of Dr. King Schultz, which - in a film supposed to be about a black protagonist - is problematic again. We know by the timeline that the Civil War is two years down the line, so what Django's part in that or how it will affect him is going to be interesting. I realise that the theme of this film is purely about revenge so yeah.

Anyway! Things at random: Don Johnson's suit. It is gorgeous. I coveted that suit. Leonardo DiCaprio - I can't tell you if he was good, bad or indifferent. I can never judge his performance in any film because he looks the spitting image of my youngest brother (save for eye colour and being fairer in skin and hair tones usually) and you would not believe how distracting it is trying to watch an actor when in every scene where he appears, your brain is telling you "That's *name of baby brother*!"

Kind of hoping for a Director's Cut or Extended Edition because there are definitely a lot more stories in this film than we got to see, e.g. the woman tracker on the Candyland estate with the bandana and the prostitute(?) with the crutch in the first town Django and Schultz rode into and what is the story behind Brünnhilde having a rosary beads wrapped around her wrist when she is being flogged? Particularly as the man doing the flogging has pages of the Bible pinned all over him, carries a Bible, and seems to rev himself up for flogging slaves by reciting verses from it? A Protestant-Catholic dichotomy, or Tarantino just wholesale copying and recreating scenes down to the least detail from the aforementioned spaghetti westerns without caring about what may appear to be the meaning?

Would I recommend it? With caveats - you would want to be in the mood to watch it, don't expect a great movie (it's good, but it's not great), but if you want to see a spaghetti western remade with the bloodshed ramped up to eleven, then this is the film for you!
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For once, I am not going to be complaining or moaning or giving out. No, I am going to be all sweetness and light and happy-happy joy-joy, for last night I watched "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey".

Yeah, yeah: I'll be late to my own funeral. Only now got around to it? Didn't catch it in the cinema? Nope, rented it cheapo on iTunes and watched it on my modest PC screen.

And today, underthewillows is a contented specimen of Salix cinerea, for I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected I would.

Like most people, I had (still have) no idea how Peter Jackson is going to stretch out the story over three movies. Clocking in at just a whisker over two and three-quarter hours long, I assumed there would be a hell of a lot of padding in the first movie.

Well, although I had to pause it now and again to nip out to the loo, I really didn't notice it dragging. Yes, there is more stuff put in to introduce and flesh out characters and give us background, but it works. I thought I'd be bored with Bilbo's introductory flashback telling us about the dwarven kingdom of Erebor and the city of Dale (I know all this stuff already!) but no, I wasn't.

Yes, Radagast is a bit loopy. But Jackson also shows that Aiwendil the bird-tamer, the simple, is not merely an eccentric old codger snacking on too many mushrooms and that underestimating him is a bad idea (one that Saruman will come to regret, both in the near and far future).

The dwarves are marvellous. That is all.

Okay, you want more? Look, everyone is going to have their favourite dwarf or dwarves out of the group, but we get a great bunch of lads (although you see why Bilbo has a point about not being too happy to have a crowd of strangers turning up to eat him out of house and home).

Fili and Kili are cute, but come on, we're too mature to perv over baby dwarves. Even if they are cute as buttons. It's cradle-snatching. Ahem. If any of us are perving, not saying we are, not saying there's anything wrong with it. Drat it, I know I will be blubbering like a fountain at the aftermath of the Battle of the Five Armies. Yeah, break my heart even worse than Tolkien did, why don't you, Jackson?

fili and kili

Look at those sweet little mischievous faces, how can you do what you're going to do to them, Messrs. Tolkien and Jackson?

Thorin is gorgeous (and he knows it). There is one point where Jackson over-does the "Thorin brooding sexily" part, but that's not the actor's fault. There's not really much you can do when directed "Stand there in the moonlight, gazing out over the valley below with the wind tousling your flowing locks, as you smoulder darkly while remembering the griefs of your kindred and we all swoon over you" apart from standing there smouldering darkly while we all swoon over you.


Can you not see that my manpain dwarfpain is as deep as the abyss of Khazad-dûm?

There's an air of genuine brotherly affection between Dwalin and Balin, as exhibited in their embrace on the battlefield (in a flashback recounted by Balin as Thorin does the abovementioned sexy brooding).

This is Balin. We all know he dies sixty years later in Moria, since we've already seen his tomb in "The Lord of the Rings". Nevertheless, you can get your hankies out now, because the thought of his ultimate fate will break your heart once you get to know him as more than a name on a tombstone.


Oh, Balin. Wasn't one doomed quest enough in a lifetime? No, that's just a speck of dust in my eye, ignore me, I'm fine.

This is James Nesbitt as Bofur. He's Irish (Northern Ireland) and I'm Irish, so I'm supposed to be immune to the twinkly-eyed charm. Nope. Damn him, the charming charmer that charmed my socks off.


Dylan Moran was talking about you at 0.43 of this clip, Nesbitt. Yeah, you know exactly what I mean, Mr. Twinkly-Eyed Charmer.

Heck, I also loved Bifur, even though he gets just one line in Khuzdul and a gesture in iglishmêk. All the dwarves are great and I can't wait to see more of them in the next two films.

So yes, there were some silly bits, but I liked this a lot more than I anticipated. I even did not throw a strop over Azog, and I was all primed to do so, since Azog is dead, dead, deadily-dead and if they needed a vengeance-quest Orc, there's Bolg (son of the deceased) handily kicking around.

But no, it was fine with me once I saw it onscreen. What wizardry is this, O Jackson?

Speaking of wizards...I'm glad they kept this exchange from the book (in the movie it's slightly different in time and place):

"Where did you go to, if I may ask? said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along. To look ahead, said he. And what brought you back in the nick of time? Looking behind, said he."

Sassy wizard is the best wizard.

I still don't know how he's going to fill another two movies. The next instalment will, of course, bring Thorin & Co. to Mirkwood, and the meeting between Thorin and Thranduil is going to be a doozy, given the background Peter Jackson has built up for these two. And the third one will have to be the Battle of the Five Armies, but I'm not really sure how or what they will fill in with, if the next two are both going to be as long as this one.

But I'm a lot more confident now that it'll work. The additions he made worked, on the whole; the changes weren't dreadful, and although I'm sorry - for example - that we missed the "Fifteen birds in five fir trees" song of the goblins and wargs, I quite see that it just wouldn't have fitted the mood or the tone of the encounter as Jackson has developed it.

Speaking of singing, I am extremely impressed by the dwarven cast singing - it seems like they all really did sing "Far over the Misty Mountains cold" - and I admire their ability to hold a tune.

So unless he does something in the next two instalments (the way he went astray with some of the characters and plot in LOTR), I'll definitely be very hopeful for the trilogy.

A recommendation from underthewillows that ends on a happy note! Can it be possible?

Okay, I have to nitpick: in the introductory scene, I sort of wish they had mentioned Thorin's brother Frerin and sister Dis as well. After all, dwarves have few children and a two-to-one male to female ratio (I think), so a dwarf having three children and one of them female??? It must have seemed like a seal of approval from Mahal himself!

Yes, that's all I can find to complain about: a piece of obscure trivia. What is this strange sensation of not being grumpy called, again?
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Reading the weekly local paper, I note that a native of the town has won Irish web design awards in national competitions.

Two of them are as follows:

(1) "Most joyous to look at and splendid to use" from the Dot ie Net Visionary Awards run by the Irish Internet Association

(2) "The Most Beautiful Website in Ireland" from the Irish Web Awards

And what is this amazing site? What cool new-fangled product or service does it advertise? In 21st century, modern, hip, post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, what do the not-so-plain people of the Technorati and the design mavens find worthy of accolade?


We may be living in the future now, but we still like the good, old-fashioned hape o' spuds for the dinner. :-)
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A link to de nevvie's short story which he wrote for Hallowe'en (he's fifteen, so that excuses the florid prose. Actually, being a blood relation of mine explains the florid prose, never mind what age he is).

Yes, this is the kind of winsome little tale my family is inclined to tell.

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Answer songs aren't just confined to rock and roll (or blues, RnB and hip-hop); there were (are?) answer poems as well -

To a Fat Lady Seen From the Train
– Frances Cornwell (1886-1960); originally published in 1915

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?


The Fat White Woman Speaks
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936); originally published in 1933

Why do you rush through the field in trains,
Guessing so much and so much?
Why do you flash through the flowery meads,
Fat-head poet that nobody reads;
And why do you know such a frightful lot
About people in gloves as such?
And how the devil can you be sure,
Guessing so much and so much,
How do you know but what someone who loves
Always to see me in nice white gloves
At the end of the field you are rushing by,
Is waiting for his Old Dutch?

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For the origin of that line by Belloc I used in the screed below:

"Heretics All" by Hilaire Belloc.

Heretics all, whoever you may be,
In Tarbes or Nimes, or over the sea,
You never shall have good words from me.
Caritas non conturbat me.

But Catholic men that live upon wine
Are deep in the water, and frank, and fine;
Wherever I travel I find it so,
Benedicamus Domino.

On childing women that are forelorn,
And men that sweat in nothing but scorn:
That is on all that ever were born,
Miserere Domine.

To my poor self on my deathbed,
And all my dear companions dead,
Because of the love that I bore them,
Dona Eis Requiem.

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And lastly, something a bit less "gloomily brooding over the pint of stout in a shebeen while the rain lashes down and is that persistent cough perhaps the first signs of TB?". For all you cat-owners and cat-lovers:

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Something a little less depressing, though -  it is to be hoped -  still germane to the thread I seem to be developing (which, God between us and all harm, looks like it's turning into "Come Out, Ye Black and Tans" and other Greatest Hits of the Wolfe Tones' Discography, though that is not the intent).

Michael Hartnett (1941-1999), a poet who decided in 1975 to write only in Irish from then on and did so for ten years until returning to English-language work in 1985.

from "A Farewell to English"
 for Brendan Kennelly

Her eyes were coins of porter and her West
Limerick voice talked velvet in the house:
her hair was black as the glossy fireplace
wearing with grace her Sunday-night-dance best.
She cut the froth from glasses with knife
and hammered golden whiskies on the bar
and her mountainy body tripped the gentle
mechanism of verse: the minute interlock
of word and word began, the rhythm formed.
I sunk my hands into tradition
sifting the centuries for words. This quiet
excitement was not new: emotion challenged me
to make it sayable. This cliché came
at first, like matchsticks snapping from the world
of work: mánla, séimh, dubhfholtach, álainn, caoin:
they came like grey slabs of slate breaking from
an ancient quarry, mánla, séimh, dubhfholtach,
álainn, caoin, slowly vaulting down the dark
unused escarpments, mánla, séimh, dubhfholtach,
álainn, caoin,
crashing on the cogs, splinters
like axeheads damaging the wheels, clogging
the intricate machine, mánla, séimh,
dubhfholtach, álainn, caoin
. Then Pegasus
pulled up, the girth broke and I was flung back
on the gravel of Anglo-Saxon.
What was I doing with these foreign words?
I, the polisher of the complex clause,
wizard of grasses and warlock of birds,
midnight-oiled in the metric laws?

Editor's Note: dubhfholtach = blacktressed   álainn = beautiful mánla, séimh, caoin = words whose meaning approximates to the English adjectives graceful, gentle

My dictionary renders "mánla" as "gentle, pleasant"; "séimh" as "pleasant, gracious"; "caoin" as "gentle".  There's another word he could have used, "caoimh", which again translates out something as "gentle, kind"; "caoimhiúil" means "kind, tactful, prudent" and as Caoimhe (for the feminine name)/Caoimhín (for the masculine, Anglicé as Kevin) it has something of the savour of "gentle, kind, pleasant, comely".

My own sense of "mánla" involves the sense of "even-handedness" as "steady hands" and so "gentle (in touching)" and "séímh", too, has an echo or shadow or undercurrent of "steadiness, evenness, level" so these adjectives have a tactile and sensuous resonance, not just as a description of an emotional or psychic attitude.  This is not, I hasten to add, any kind of 'official' definition, just a nuance that I experience from the words.

Very poor approximation of phonetic pronunciation guide:

Mánla - mawn-law
Séimh - shave
Dubhfholtach - doo-ull-tock
Álainn - awe-ling (or awe-linn, for those parts where the local pronunciation doesn't slap a 'ng' sound onto the terminal 'nn')
Caoin - queen

And dammit, Mick, but yerself has the perfect encapsulation of what I was raiméising on about in the previous posts and comments on same; lave it to the poets, boys, they're the lads for the expression!

Death of an Irishwoman
Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
at night were neither dogs nor cats
but púcas and darkfaced men,
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.
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Here, have a pome.* Here, have a link to the poet reading her pome and talking about her pome-writin'.

Quarantine by Eavan Boland
In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking - they were both walking - north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

*The misspelling is deliberate. What use is poetry, after all? Can you eat it, wear it, make money out of it? It's still taught in English classes in our schools, but I can see the day when the useless stuff is stripped out and only Business English (or Computer English with American spellings - I am already hearing native Irish people thirty years old and over saying the American "zee" instead of the British "zed" for the letter Z) is hammered into the heads of the students (they'll probably be called 'customers' or 'service recipients' instead of "students", the same way nowadays that when you're signing on for the dole you're called a "customer" - as though you have an actual choice and input into the rules and regulations about accessing the services).

I remember back in the 80s the demand for "practical" subjects. The kids are not learning enough foreign languages, was the cry. Teach them German (because they'll need it when they go abroad for work). Then it turned to teach them Japanese (for the multinationals coming in to the West of Ireland) and latterly Chinese (the new giant economic power), instead of useless things like the Irish language (which, after fourteen years in school, no-one can speak) or art or music or any of that extra-curricular nonsense. The recent cry going up is that we're not good enough in maths and science, and we need more (for the technology multinationals).  More maths skills!  More girls doing higher maths!  All good aims, but rather in the sense of "churn out more worker bees!" than "expose our children to all the arts and sciences!"

Somewhere online I saw a comment about how it's no longer "education" but "training", and I'm starting to agree: fill the empty vessels with what will supply the needs of business because they need to be trained for whatever jobs our governments manage to scavage. Teach from the textbook, teach to the test, to get the best grades to get the most points to get the in-demand university courses to get the degree to get you the good job. I felt the need to put up a poem, and I wanted a modern Irish poem, and I didn't want to quote Heaney, so random Googling gave me this. I don't know - or rather, I didn't know - why I decided on this one.

Except the subject matter of the poem resonated with the post on here about memory and the past and the thread that gets cut by the running out of life. There's a small coastal village about fifteen miles to the east of where I live, and when my father used to drive through it, he would always tell me the anecdote about the time of the Famine. There were copper mines here, and during the 19th century (from about 1827-1877) the mines here were the major employers. During the Famine, you took what work you could get, and people from all over the south of Ireland came here looking for work.

A woman and her children, at the height of the Famine, walked all the way from Kerry (let's call it about eighty miles) to Bunmahon, to meet up again with her husband who had gone there for work. They would have been starving and desperate. The man wasn't there - whether he had died, moved on, who knows? They had no choice but to go back home, walk all that way again with nothing.

They probably didn't make it. They were probably amongst those who died by the side of the road. It's one of those stories all too familiar from the time, that was handed down as folk memory and (for a while, at least) part of our official history officially taught in our official schools (though not all of them; there's another local anecdote which I never learned in school but again from my father, about the parish priest of a mountain parish in this county allowing the people - evicted for non-payment of rent and having no choice but the workhouse - if they could get in, which wasn't guaranteed or the roadside - to squat in the graveyard attached to the church, so that when (not if, please note, but when and this is not an error) they died, at least they wouldn't have far to go to be buried.

Except those kinds of anecdotes are not being taught anymore, either as official textbook or by the teachers in class. It's a combination of forgetting the past, teaching the lists of dates and approved regurgitation of the text for the exam and 'let's stop blaming the English for everything' and 'forget our peasant background of misfortune and misery, we're shiny modern New Europeans now' (though the gloss has rather come off that last with the demise of the Celtic Tiger).  When those who remember these stories are gone, what becomes of the stories themselves?

Our history is being reduced to (a) the thing you learn in school to pass the exam and forget as soon as the exam is finished because it has no relevance to what we do nowadays (never mind examining critically what has formed us, and the reaction - the opposite swing of the pendulum, as extreme in its own way as the swing to the earlier side - from 'blame the Brits' to 'revisionist historians rule') and (b) fodder for the tourism industry.  The small coastal village and its mining history I mentioned above?  Has been re-purposed as "The Copper Coast**" and is a European Geopark.  No anecdotes about starving women and children during the Famine, as far as I can make out from their website.

I realised, after a bit of thinking about it, why this poem recommended itself to me (and the whole ensuing rant you've just waded through, if you've made it this far): there's a hotel in town, which has always catered to the tourist trade (in the summertime, insomuch as we get a summer, the tour coaches are lined up outside it on the street) and which is neither as fancy or as modern as other hotels in the town and surrounds, but has done a bit of re-decorating and up-market(ish) styling.

Now there are advertising signs on the walls facing the main road in and out; advertising a "Real Irish carvery".  Well, so what? says you, sure the Sunday lunch trade and pub carvery is keeping many's the business afloat and didn't you have a dacent dinner yourself in such a hotel carvery one time when you were out with your mother shopping? 

Indeed I did, and that's not the point.  The point is the image used on the sign - the stereotypical cartoon leprechaun.   You can do an online image search and find the kind of thing yourself, so I'll spare us both the embarrassment and misery of describing the wretched thing.  The point is, that's what is considered attractive to the tourist trade (so much for the more sophisticated campaigns latterly!  Though the thickness of our national veneer of modern sophistication has always been measurable in ångströms).

That's what they're boiling our history down to; leprechauns and geoparks.  Convenient historical amnesia and Paddywhackery resurgent.  This poem is an antidote to that.

**Feel free to Google, I won't mind.  Oh noes, you may get an idea where in the world I come from?  I'll just have to borrow a shotgun and load it so I can keep you kids off my lawn  :-)
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