The God of small things

There’s a moment in the brief exchange between John Cusack and the front-row woman when he backtracks on something she says preventing the interviewer from moving on. Responding to her question on who he would like to see play him in a film, the interviewer deflects from a fairly non-commital answer to ask if she herself is an actor. An eruption of her own laughter ensues. “Ah no, sure I’m just a mummy”. Nervous audience titter. Moving on…

“But you’re not though, are you?”, Cusack cuts in. “You’re not just a Mom”.

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(Not actual size)

She obligingly offers a quick run-through of the cliched litany of more superficial roles being a mother embodies.  Truth bending wizardry, poker-face maintenance, ‘parenting’ guru seeking missile manufacturing, baby-led led gagging reflex suffering, and so on. Nothing new in the rain-checking nor the predictable head-pat towards our ordinary heroes routine.

“Right. I think people spend too much time talking about what they’re not rather than what they are”, Cusack matter-of-factly tails off with a statement so banal on one hand, yet assembled in a way that’s not usually put. A sneaky shoulder-shrug prising open our pat take on things to see how they fall down. One that feels consistent with his knack for convincing off-kilter but on-the-nose pop philosophy of any of the outliers he has played.

And there it is. The moment I manage to steady the giddiness accelerating over days leading up to this evening from sliding into woozy dissonance from seeing him feet in front. Batting chat back and forth with an ordinariness shot through with an easy going passion for what matters. And what matters for many are the low-watt lights along our life’s arc that re-affirm the status of seemingly small things without blinding us with the certainty of big dreams.

In a world of heady obsession with status in the work place, our place along the firmament of social media, embarking on the Next Big Goal, the ephemeral nature of ‘success’, ordinariness is losing its necessary allure. In fact, I’m so ordinary,  all that’s missing in this navel led paragraph is a momentary pause to break through the fourth wall.

Oh there you are.

This John Cusack fella *points towards stage*, he thinks he is just an actor-activist guy. Nothing special. Sure, his is a life less ordinary; he knows it, we know it. He knows that we know that he knows it. But it hasn’t eroded his capacity to inhabit the regular guy with all the attendant dissections of his interior world and occasional flirtations with stretches to the perimeters of it. Relying as they do on the instruments of self-indulgence, wonky optimism, flawed curiosity, and mentoring from music.

*Turns back to the stage*

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Sinn Fein photobombs the professional photo (courtesty of twitter)

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My amatuer photo bombs spectacularly

He is not just the man I might’ve climbed over Dylan Moran to get to. Nor just an actor with enduring appeal. I recognise his characters now as those flickering gangway lights running along my own fanciful flights to cop-on and back over the years. Where lack of certainty is still direction, and being a fugitive from maturity is all part of the cycle. And it matters more what Bruce thinks than your line-manager.  Uplifted, I’m happy to break off from the queue lining up to meet him. To contentedly smile out the door and sing my way back to my frequently out-of-tune but thoroughly satisfying unsatisfactory life.

*credits roll*

(Press play)

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“Some of your domains are expiring soon”

Even WordPress managed to get in on my birthday celebrations this week. Kudos to their payment department for reminding me my reign over critical spheres of influence is under threat.

Only this week, mealy-mouthed management shuffled into our office to trigger the act of bad articles in league with Brexit. The bogeyman made real. The pair of us will be lucky to be issued a three-month contract come the end of March. A monthly one thereafter if the mud sufficiently clears on the windscreen of uncertainty. If we get the wipers fixed. If anyone knows where to do that. If anyone knows if they still make them.

Difficult to know how to respond when you’re broke and casually demanded one of them to fire you the other week following a failed attempt at whistle-blowing. It was more of a protest yawn. Self-defeat by osmosis. It’s a thing. Probably. Difficult for them to know what to follow up the news with when their emotional peak consists of a burp after lunch. So they did that compassionate thing management do in a time in crisis and casually uncrossed their legs. And that was that.

Later that evening, I was forced to do the responsible thing and interrupt our wee one screaming protestations at her Da over a minor miscarriage of justice. Actually, sorry love, but that is in fact my role. After renewing our consistent parenting pact, he was forced to agree. Being usurped by a five-year old. The indiginity of it. What next – a robot with unpredictable mood swings and an irrational hatred of Stephen Fry?

Praise be for the kind buys of Merch. Birthday presents for the coping woman round town previously reliant on air-drumming at traffic lights.

handcream

*sniffs* Yep. That could work on creamcrackers 

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 Stalking Open at 06:30

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Stalking glasses (see above)

Dress: Model’s own

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Essential sturdy coffee coaster

 

 

Fabruary

“Found them. On my way” (Text to a friend while running to catch a train after losing my car keys)

“Hey” (Via muffled hug with same friend)

Two octogenarians taking in a piece of music dear to them both. The wave of emotion lapping behind their eyes, the crease of their lips threatening to blow it over the wall of their self-control (Meetings With Ivor)

“I can’t beat it” (Manchester By The Sea)

“He loved her that much, he almost told her” (Eddi Reader live – as good a raconteur as an octave-climing enthusiast)

“Please wait while your transaction is being processed” (An ATM)

” @itchybollix follows you” (Twitter)

“Red faces all round as there is a mix-up at the Oscars” (RTE News)

“I am currently out of the office with limited access to my emails” (Boss’s Auto-Reply)

“We are pleased to invite you to attend for interview…” (By post)

“She’s feeling better. They think it was just a virus. Worry over” (By text)

“Problem solved! Payment has been processed” (Email from Netflix)

“While you are away, my heart comes undone. Slowly unravels in a ball of yarn..” (Bjork at 1am as the ground is swept under my wheels)

“27th February” (Calendar)

“01:11” (Alarm clock)

“10:15” (ditto)

“Happy Birthday to you” (She to Him in top tonsil)

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Two men and a CD player

Northern exposure

Part of the ritual of a trip to the flicks is a gawk at departing viewers as the lights come up and the credits roll.  It used to be an unconscious reflex, curiosity to see who else the film appealed to without processing it too finely. But this evening, the descent of young lads two by two-steps at a time is impossible to ignore. They’re of the generation that wasn’t born during The Conflict. Yet here they are, quietly absorbing a documentary on Hunger Striker, Bobby Sands. Like Sands needs any introduction….

The film’s appeal is proof positive that his place in the enduring mystique of Republicanism is safe. Where he continues to be romanticised in a way those from the armed movement’s ‘legitimate targets’ are not.

The newly released documentary 66 Days is compelling viewing chronicling the turbulent period of Sands’s physical demise and corresponding rise of his political determination. It does so while unpicking the competing perspectives of those who considered him a freedom fighter with unflinching conviction against others who categorised him and his comrades as terrorists. All the while transcending firm conclusions by illuminating the contradictions and hypocrisies of violence directed towards others alongside feats of self-sacrifice (something the IRA were not generally known for). Contractions that propel a handful of individuals into the universally recognised iconography of the oppressed. An enigmatic few with an ability to attract derision and admiration, often simultaneously.

For all its success at even-handedness, and impressive line-up of talking heads, it is a struggle to ignore the film’s lack of female voices. According to director, Brendan J Byrne, the women he ‘wanted’ (Sands’s sisters, Bernadette McAliskey) declined to participate. When pressed for a comment on Twitter, Byrne responded:

“..I know but it was mainly a war fought by men… Inserting a female voice for the sake of it felt tokenistic to me”

To this viewer, the inclusion of women wouldn’t have been any more tokenistic than having Fintan O’Toole as the main analyst could be seen as a tactical effort to give the film broader respectability. Instead there is an entire male cast of historians, commentators, former politicians, and political analysts.

More critically, Byrne appears to ignore the finer aspects of his own film. For there are women everywhere throughout it, if silenced by the sound of men talking. So we do not hear the bin-lids they bang, nor their cries of grief at funerals, nor the stomp of their feet as they march in mandatory black berets and matching shades, nor their tearing down of corrugated iron surrounding the H-Blocks that contributed significantly to the eventual end of the Hunger Strikes seven months and 10 dead men after they started. Backroom strategists remain out of view.

As Bernadette McAliskey remarked only last week during a discussion on women in history: “history is what it says it is”.

An examination of war doesn’t require the insertion of female voices into the story. They have always been in the middle of it. Feeling the impact of it more keenly than most.

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Bobby Sands’s Mother & Sister at his funeral

5 reasons to see Sing Street

  1. For nailing the back-combed ’80s aesthetic. This is the film Spielberg might’ve made had he grown up in Ireland where the clergy were our alien life form
  2. For the nostalgia, particularly drowning out bickering parents with The Next Best Thing on the turntable, pausing momentarily to speculate on the fate of their marriage with similarly nonchalant siblings. But not for that long
  3. For a few seconds of The Blades’ Down Market
  4. For championing teenage misfits in all their hormonally simmering, earnest, clumsy world-conquering crusade. Especially Jack Reynor’s jaded 21 year-old teenager who has seen it all
  5. For making the clear case for why prom night always beats the most extravagant and wild debs. Always.

Remembering… Mary Raftery

“The Church thinks in centuries, do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?”

Stanley Tucci’s pithy lawyer puts it up to Mark Ruffalo’s investigative reporter early on in Spotlight, the deft dramatisation of The Boston Globe’s incendiary exposure of the systemic cover-up of widespread child abuse by the clerical elite. For decades. Sound familiar?

Hollywood thinks in blockbusters, but did it have the resources to take it on? Whatever about the availability of budgets, its success is due in no small part to an experienced cast willing to resist any scenery-chewing righteousness. The ever reliable Ruffalo captures the tenacity and flightiness of a truth vigilante on the verge of something big; but it takes Michael Keaton’s restrained editor to reign him in, having at one time been too eager to get over the finish-line himself. There’s big. But there’s bigger.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”

Sound familiar? The axis of blind eyes and indifference kept on turning. Tucci can be trusted to deliver another unequivocal truth.

The audience of the Dublin cinema I’m in knows where the conclusion is headed. As does the rest of the Western world familiar with the story of Vatican corruption. Despite the multitude of spoiler alerts revealed over recent years, a reminder can still leave them sitting silent until the last of the credits roll. After the written updates on what happened next disappear; and the flashing lists of destinations revealed as locations where clerical child abuse investigations have taken place.

Ferns, Ireland. Gortahork, Ireland. And the rest. Counties are an irrelevancy.

RTÉ deals in small investigative departments, but did it have the resources to take it on? It had Mary Raftery.

“Mary was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking “States of Fear” documentaries. They revealed the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders. It led to taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the state.

Her work also led to the setting up of the Ryan Commission, which reported in May 2009, and to the setting up of a confidential committee which heard the stories of victims of institutional abuse.

Speaking about her findings to the BBC in 2009, Mary Raftery said: “There was widespread sexual abuse, particularly in the boys’ institutions.

“Extremely vicious and sadistic physical abuse, way off the scale, and horrific emotional abuse, designed to break the children.

“We had people talk to us about hearing screams… the screams of children in the night coming from these buildings and really not knowing what to do.

“They didn’t know to whom they could complain because the power in the town was the religious order running the institution.”

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people”  Source: The BBC

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Mary Raftery

Spotlight is a reminder of the power of Mary Raftery’s investigative journalism, and her fearless tenacity that served the village truth in the face of wilful blindness. In an era in which RTÉ doesn’t appear to be over-endowed with such resources, her contribution, and premature death, still has the power to pin the viewer to the seat for just a few seconds more.