Monday, August 31, 2009

Go-Go Gaeilge with Girls Aloud

An Spailpín Fánach knows that if there's one thing that the Irish love to do more than sing, it's learn their beloved native language. As such, as a special back-to-school treat, here are Girls Aloud singing the Tommy James and the Shondells classic I Think We're Alone Now, made so famous by Tiffany a generation later, with subtitles added as Gaeilge (thumbs up to Noel Walsh of Northern Sound radio for the subtitling technology).

Pedants will note that the subtitles are not literal translations. Well, duh! If they were literal, how could you sing them? These match - reasonably - to the scansion of the original, thus allowing full expression of the heady combination of poptastic tunes and patriot-astic príomhtheanga. Leanaigí ar aghaidh, a chailíní, leanaigí ar aghaidh....

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

There are moments in Inglourious Basterds when you can’t believe what a great movie this is. There are other times when you despair of Quentin Tarantino, and think it’s more than spelling that’s giving him trouble lately. It’s that sort of movie.

The Director’s Cut is one of the ruinations of modern cinema. The very idea is wrong – what makes a movie good isn’t what you put back in, but what you leave out. It’s precious in the extreme to think otherwise. Movies’ natural lengths are ninety minutes to two hours. Once you go beyond that, you’re stretching the form.

Tarantino clearly had lots of ideas for Inglourious Basterds and, instead of picking and choosing and treating the audience to 90 to 100 minutes of schlock cinematic bliss, Tarantino shoved them all in to a 153 minute magnum opus. Think the Beatles’ White Album on celluloid and you’re there.

The movie’s original premise was about a US guerrilla force in Nazi-Occupied France during World War II. But the really interesting thing in the movie is the subplot, about a Jewish girl whose family has been wiped out by the Nazis and finds that Heaven has sent her a golden opportunity for vengeance.

Tarantino could have made a super, super movie if he’d realised that he’d fallen for Shosanna Dreyfuss and dumped Aldo Raine. Brad Pitt has very little to do in the movie, really, and seems to amuse himself by impersonating George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? A little judicial editing and working on the script could have changed the focus to Shosanna, where it belongs, and then run the Basterds idea through that.

Tarantino could have sold the change of emphasis to Pitt by pointing out that you don’t need time on screen to be the star, and proved it by showing him Silence of the Lambs. Instead, everything goes into the pot and we take the rough with the smooth.

Some of the set pieces in the movie are fantastic. Two especially; the opening, where we meet the villain, Colonel Landa, and another about half-win in, set in a bar, that helps establish the dénouement. Tarantino has found a German actor, August Diehl, who is the spitting image of Christopher Walken thirty years ago. How perfect is that?

There’s so much to enjoy, in many ways. There are some lovely, really clever scenes between Shosanna and a German soldier who later turns out to be vital to the plot. Christoph Waltz's Colonel Landa is a super, super villain. The scene where Mike Myers’ General briefs Michael Fassbender’s Archie Hicox is up there with Christopher Walken’s watch scene in Pulp Fiction. One of Tarantino’s great gifts is his use of music, and he doesn’t disappoint here, not sparing the Ennio Moricone for a moment.

But the overall effect is watered down by a plot that isn’t tight and by a liberty taken with history that isn’t worth it. The film doesn’t end so much as peter out. Therefore, the overall effect of the movie is disappointing, even though there have been great moments. Not the artistic washout that we feared, but not as good as we hoped either.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Irish Exemptions - Who's Fooling Whom?

There is a story in this morning’s Irish Independent that An Spailpín Fánach just can’t get his head around.

A scholar in Cork is being denied entry to UCC because the NUI demands Irish, and this young lady’s exemption was not on the records. And this is terrible because of the Herculean effort she made on the final day of the exam, sitting three three-hour exams, in Religious Education, Italian and Japanese.

Let’s wind back a second. Once the CAO sort out the problem, she’s in. It’s a non-story. But what is interesting are the remarkable circumstances of her Irish exemption.

This scholar can’t study Irish. She has an exemption from studying Irish because she’s dyslexic and from the North originally. But she can manage to study Italian and Japanese.

They don’t speak Italian or Japanese very much among the dreary steeples of the Occupied Territories. And if dyslexia makes Irish difficult, can you image what it does to Japanese, which isn’t rendered in Roman letters but in its own kana script? So how come she can’t – as distinct from won’t - study Irish but can study Italian and Japanese? I don’t get it.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. And shame on the Indo for printing this rubbish in the first place.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Poblacht Bhanana

Bhuail An Spailpín Fánach le fear i rith na seachtaine agus tuiscint an airgid leis. Bhí cúrsaí an lae á phlé againne beirt, agus an gcuirfeadh scéal Liam Carroll an tairne deireanach sa dtír.

Dúirt mo chara liom go bhfuil an tír faoi bhrú ar dhá thaobh, mar rath faoi ghluaiseacht phionsúir más maith leat. Tá cíosanna ag éirí agus an rialtas ag iarraidh a gcuid seirbhíse a choinneal ar an bhfód, ach níl ach na seirbhísí sibhialta ag obair, beag nó mór. Mar sin, tá cíosanna á íoc ag na stát seirbhísí chun a bpá féin a íoc.

Cá bhfuil an íomhá a thaispeánann an tubaiste níos soilire?

Níl dream sa domhain mór a gcreideann seafóid fúthu féin mar a chreideann na Gaeil. Le deich bliain, d'insímis lena gcéile go bhfuil athrú mór tagtha ar an tír. Nach dtitfeadh cúrsaí ar ais mar a bhíodh. Go bhfuil ré an Entrepreneur linn ina ngabhann gach duine cad is tuillte do nó di, amach ó cé atá ina ghaol leis nó léi.

Ach nuair a shéideadh an fheadóg agus a scaipeadh an bhladair, bhíomar mar a bhímis go deo. Ag déanamh beartacha faoi rún chun an pingin corraithe a dhéanamh, ag cóiméad súil orainn féin agus an diabhal leis an duine eile, ag glacadh pingin bog an rialtais agus gan ach an rud is lú a dhéanamh ar a son. Ag tógáil polaiteoirí atá chomh dúr leis an gcasúr ach atá ina chónaí sa gceantar agus ab fhéidir an pinsean seanaoise a fháil ar stócach sé bhliana déag.

Insítear sa mBíobla nach bhfuil faic tada nua faoin ngrian agus nach n-athríonn an liopard a spotaí, agus is fíor go leor é. Níl ceacht na stáire foghlamtha ag na Gaeil, agus déanfar na botúin céanna, go lá deireadh an tsaoil, go dtí go bhfoghlaimeofar.

Bhí cara chara an Spailpín i Londain, Shasana, le déanaí. Chonaic sé an méid gluaisteán Gaelach céanna ar sráideanna Cricklewood Broadway mar a feictear i sráideanna bailte na hÉireann. Tuigeann na daoine sin an scéal. Tá deireadh leis an tír seo, agus is cóir le gach mac mháthair a éalú a dhéanamh más fhéidir leis ar chur ar bith.

Feictear anois go raibh Liam Carroll i gcroílár fiach tógála na tíre seo. Tugadh gach seans do agus anois, agus eisean tite ar deireadh, seans maith go dtitfeadh gach rud isteach sa poll céanna. Caillfear an tionscal tógála ar dtús, agus ansin na tionscail a bhí ag brath ar na tógálaí - daoine déanamh an rolla bricfeasta ag breathnú ar fhear an rolla bhricfeasta. Isteach leis na bainc freisin - tar éis deich bliain ag tabhairt airgead do gach pleidhce a théadh isteach an doras chucu, ní dtabharfaidís iasacht anois do Bhanríon Shasana féin chun ceadúnas madra a íoc.

Tá sé mar snáth éigin i ngeansaí - nuair a tosaítear ag tarraingt air, tabharfar air go dtí go bhfuil an geansaí imithe, agus níl agat ach giobal. Is í Éirinn an giobal sin sa lá atá inniu ann, agus ní bheidh fágtha sa tír ansin seachas iadsan gan éalú. Léigiún an Chúlgharda. Guígí orthusan anocht, a chairde; níl seans eile acu ach paidir.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Meath 2-15
Mayo 1-15

Mayo sleepwalked their way into the whirring blades of a Royal combine harvester today in Croke Park. As Jack O’Connor has remarked, the last thing that a team who are warm favourites in a game can do is give the opposition a chance to find their feet. Mayo didn’t do that against Roscommon, but they did against Meath today, and paid the price.

Mayo started better than Meath but they did not make that superiority count. Then, as the game wore on, belief grew in Meath while it withered proportionally in Mayo, as Mayo’s leaders failed to lead.

After a poor start, Meath led by a point at half-time and Mayo were in deep trouble. The substitution of Conor Mortimer for Tom Parsons exposed just how limited Mayo’s tactical options were, and every substitute that Mayo brought on underlined it more and more, as the hole got deeper and deeper. By the last ten minutes, Mayo were playing with their heads down, while Meath were cracking the glory points into the Canal End, smiling sheepishly to the crowd as another one whizzed over the bar.

There was no Plan B for Mayo today. When Tom Parsons was failing to win aerial ball in the first twenty minutes Mayo did not send it in low, or run with it. They just hoped that things would go right.

You can’t hope. Hope is no good. You have to make things happen if you want to win. Winning is about knowing, not hoping.

Liam O’Malley coming on for Donal Vaughan, who was suffering in the corner, is another example of hoping, rather than knowing. If Liam O’Malley wasn’t good enough to start ahead of Donal Vaughan in the first place, why bring him on?

The only reason to do so is because you’re hoping for the best, and you can’t do that. If O’Malley isn’t good enough and Vaughan is suffering, you have to look further down the bench, and not second guess yourself about O’Malley. James Nallen was the obvious replacement for Vaughan, because of his vast experience. Why wasn’t he brought on? How much worse can it have gotten? And if Nallen isn’t good enough, why is he on the panel? It doesn’t add up.

The talk in the media about a “new” Mayo, working for each other and coming back from adversity as they have not done before, is just soft chat. Mayo did not get to four All-Ireland finals in the past thirteen years without working for each other or coming back from adversity.

The notion of Mayo teams not working for each other was a sideways crack at a notion that Mayo had players in the past who played for themselves and not the team. That theory is not supported by the facts. Those teams got to All-Ireland finals. They can't have been that bad. But when outsiders say Mayo overachieved, Mayo tug their forelocks, instead of saying the All-Ireland final is exactly where Mayo deserved to be in those years. And just how good being in the All-Ireland final is is underlined by every year Mayo are not.

The point is that the 2004 and 2006 teams, and 1996 and 1997 teams, were better than they have been given credit for. Losing those All-Irelands hurt, but what bliss to have got that far. Two games further than this year or last year, three further than 2007, four further than 2006.

Your correspondent suggested in this space that anything after the Connacht title this year would be jam, and there is now no more jam this year for Mayo. The Nestor Cup is all Mayo 2009 are worth, as conclusively proved by events today at Croke Park. This does not mean the Mayo team didn’t try their best – of course they did. They're just not good enough.

It’s hard to see how James Nallen and David Heaney will have the stomach for any more of this and if that’s the case then that’s two more Mayo giants who will finish their careers without celtic crosses. How sad. How bitterly, bitterly sad.

There was an opinion abroad that this semi-final didn’t matter, that whoever won it was a lamb to a Kerry slaughter anyway. But An Spailpín isn’t so sure. This win will stand to Meath, and they could derive a lot from it. Because this has happened before, one week less than seventeen years ago.

On August 16th, 1992, another red-above-the-green Mayo team played another team in yellow in Croke Park. Donegal had never won in Croke Park before that, and were like lambs in headlights at the start of that All-Ireland semi-final. But as the game wore on Donegal’s confidence grew as Mayo’s wilted, just as we saw again today.

That Mayo team was shot through with men who had played in an All-Ireland final too – Peter Ford, Seán Maher, TJ Kilgallon, Liam McHale, Anthony Finnerty – and beating them gave Donegal the belief that they could make something happen in the final against Dublin. Meath were just as tentative against Mayo in the first half today as Donegal were sixteen years and fifty-one weeks ago, but Meath will be bulling for a crack at Kerry tonight after their win. Chest-thumping, bring-them-on-until-we-have-a-crack-at-them bulling.

This is Mayo’s gift – a win over Mayo can be the making of a team. Even when the colours don’t match as exactly as they did today.

Dinny Allen has spoken about how losing the 1989 final would have broken Cork, but they were able to beat Mayo and then go on win again in 1990. Seán Óg de Paor and Kevin Walsh have both gone on the record as saying that the win over Mayo in Castlebar in 1998 was the making of Galway. And that's a very bitter reality for the heather county. What a terrible pity that Mayo can’t deal with their immense psychological issues by playing that one team against whom a victory can make a team that can win All-Irelands. Themselves.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Death of a Bookstore

Borders Bookstore in Blanchardstown is shutting its doors this weekend, another victim to the recession and another indicator of just how quickly the country is sinking. An Spailpín will be out there this weekend, with wheelbarrow and credit card, looking for bargains with all the other vultures, but it will be a sad affair.

Though never a favorite, Borders was a lovely store to visit, as its parent stores in England and the US are. There was a coffee shop upstairs where ladies could sip tea and discuss Jodi Picoult, and there was a huge, really huge, selection of books.

If it had a fault, Borders always had a little too much of the taste of Britain about it. Like a lot of stores in the shopping centres in Dublin, you can get a sense of disorientation in there, not being sure if you’re in Dublin or Doncaster. A stronger Irish tinge to the place would have made a difference, and a few less examples of the Jeremy Clarkson / Chris McNab school of letters.

It’s unlikely that touch of Irish would have saved it though. It saves so very little else in the country as we slip further beneath the waves. Ultimately, there just weren’t enough people buying enough books for Borders to continue.

Maybe if had had been in the main Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, rather than one of the retail parks. Maybe if traffic weren’t so nightmarish on the M50 that people would be more inclined to stop and browse, rather than set the teeth grimly and keep crawling for home. Maybe if the worse recession since the thirties hadn’t descended from the clear blue skies...

No matter. Borders is gone now, and it’ll a long time before its masters back in head office sign off on another Irish adventure. In the meantime, the site is empty, waiting for whoever will take it over. The bottom has fallen out of the lap-dancing market, if you’ll pardon the pun – maybe Borders will become a tattoo parlour? After all, they already have the KFC out there.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

By Royal Command: A Football Lesson in Meath

Mayo’s quarter-final encounter with Meath this weekend brings back all sorts of bittersweet memories of times gone by. But An Spailpín’s abiding insight into Meath football when the Royals were at their pomp wasn’t in 1996 but one year after, when Mayo’s current run of misery against Kerry began.

Four of us were travelling home to Galway on that grey evening after the All-Ireland Final of 1997 – three broken-hearted Mayomen, and one half-Kerryman who, as Maurice Fitzgerald’s greatest fan, then and now, was in a state of bliss that would last well into the winter.

By eight o’clock, it was becoming obvious that there was no way we were going to be back in time to see the Sunday Game and, as noted in this space before, you have to see the Sunday Game on All-Ireland Sunday night to make the experience complete.

1997 was before the current era of road-building and your correspondent was taking the common shortcut at that time, through Summerhill and Ballivor to emerge somewhere between Kinnegad and Mullingar. As we reached nine o’clock and counting, it became obvious that we would have to stop and catch the highlights on Royal ground.

We got a warm welcome in whatever bar it was we were in, and appeased the local gods by buying tickets for the local club lotto. We watched in teary misery as Maurice Fitzgerald popped up over again and again on the Sunday Game, much to the amusement of the locals.

“Maurice Fitzgerald wouldn’t have scored that against us,” they liked to remark after every point Mossie stroked over. Nobody cracked their knuckles, but we knew full well what they meant. Martin O’Connell had taken his famous stand on Brian Dooher only thirteen months before, and it tended to stay in the memory.

But what intrigues An Spailpín now, on the eve of this weekend’s renewed hostilities, is that four years on from that night in Ballivor Padraic Joyce did to Meath exactly what Maurice Fitzgerald had done to Mayo. Joyce beat them on his own. Ten points he scored that day, and Meath have never recovered. No Leinster titles since, no All-Ireland glory. Classy looking forwards but a bit on the beefy side. No John McDermott in midfield, and no backs as flat-out dangerous as were those bad, bad men of the ‘eighties – Harnan, Foley, Lyons.

The big question in Mayo concerns who’ll replace full-forward Barry Moran, whom Kevin McStay said on the Sunday Game would definitely not start due to injury. The temptation must be to play Aiden O’Shea at full-forward and start Conor Mortimer in the corner, but that changes the shape of the team and limits the type of ball that can be sent in. Starting Tom Parsons is a daring option and would be An Spailpín Fánach’s second choice. Hard to believe a use can’t be found for a player of such class.

An Spailpín’s first choice would be Ciarán McDonald in the inside line, of course. Mike McCarthy’s recent performances for Kerry would suggest that maybe being two years away from the county scene doesn’t really dull the edge all that much, and An Spailpín Fánach just cannot believe that McDonald has nothing left to contribute. But we shall see, of course.

Finally, either county would be foolish indeed to believe Colm O’Rourke’s proposition on TV at the end of the Dublin v Kerry game that neither Meath nor Mayo could beat Kerry. Colm didn't think Kerry would beat Dublin either, and we all saw how that worked out. Both Mayo and Meath should embrace the chance of taking on Kerry at the end of the month.

It’s a question of if you want to live your life on your feet or on your knees. It’s not about being able to take the heat – it’s about wanting the heat, so that you can finally see who you really are. Whichever team has the most players who licked their lips in anticipation at the prospect of facing Kerry will win on Sunday. Simple as that.

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