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Archive for February, 2009

marian1

First Marian Finucane gets moved to the weekend on RTE Radio, where her listenership has continued to soar. On Newstalk, Orla Barry and Brenda Power are ousted to make way for Tom Dunne. Today FM have no female presenters in their daytime Monday-Friday schedule (Anne Marie Kelly is done by 7am, Alison Curtis isn’t on until 10pm). And the new 4FM, which launches today has one, yes ONE female presenter, listed out of 21 programme hosts.

Incidentally, there was a comment on On The Record the other day from a chap called Ciaran saying he simply doesn’t like women on the radio. Lauren Murphy and Sweet Oblivion commented, asking him about his viewpoint.

So why aren’t there more women presenting shows during the day on radio?

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“It’s not like in films, is it?” said Annie the ghost, in the most recent episode of Being Human, the blackly comic BBC drama that is, by a long, long way, the best thing I’ve seen on telly this year. She’s right. Being Human, like Buffy before it, brilliantly subverts horror and fantasy film conventions while also being a totally effective horror fantasy. being-human-bbc3-werewolf-vampire-ghostIt’s funny, it’s scary, it’s sexy, it’s intelligent, it’s heartbreaking, and at times it’s genuinely unsettling. Oh yeah, and it’s about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who share a house in Bristol. And I absolutely and utterly love it.

The basic premise of Being Human is simple: Mitchell, an Irish vampire who’s been that way since the first world war and is trying to stay off the blood, and George, a reluctant werewolf, are determined to lead normal “human” lives working in a hospital. They’ve moved into a house in Bristol only to find an unexpected roommate: a ghost called Annie, who used to live there with her fiancé Owen, now the boys’ landlord. Most of the time, the boys are the only ones who can see her – although as she gets more confident, she becomes more visible to everyone. And she particularly wants to make contact with Owen, who now has a new girlfriend and seems to have moved on completely. George, meanwhile, is convinced that his wolfish secret means he can never have a girlfriend, and Mitchell is trying to deal with the reappearance of his old colleague Lauren, whom he turned into a very enthusiastic vampire.

I’ve always loved supernatural stories, although even when I was a kid the only fantasy stuff I liked was of the magic realist variety. I loved Diana Wynne Jones and E. Nesbit; I never liked “straight”, pseudo-epic fantasy like Tolkien. Magic is only magic in contrast. I liked stories in which magic things happened in our world, or to people from our world, or, at a pinch, in a world very similar to our own but with magic as a normal part of life. I have absolutely no tolerance of fantasy in which everyone wears faux-medieval garb and speaks in portentous archaic language. I like stuff in which the supernatural stands out in contrast to the ordinariness around it, where the events are fantastic but the people seem real. That’s one of the reasons why I loved Buffy, and why I love Being Human. The characters have jobs (apart from Annie, who spends much of the time – in the early episodes, at least – making cups of tea she can’t drink). They try to have relationships with ordinary people. They don’t spend their time, like the vampires in True Blood, poncing about in stupid clothes and/or brooding. They watch telly (Mitchell insists on watching Casablanca because, as he gleefully explains, “I’m only in it!“) and smoke fags. And, in Mitchell’s case, they try to avoid fellow vampire Herrick.

Comparing Herrick to the usual cheesy gothy vampire villains shows just how good Being Human is. He’s not a smouldering sexy vampire king. He’s a cheerful, podgy middle-aged police officer. Like the Mayor in Buffy, he’s a brilliant villain because he’s so incredibly banal. And, like the Mayor, he’s in a position of power that allows him to cover up all the strange, supernatural things (like, in his case, vampire murders) that are going on in town. But Being Human doesn’t ignore the whole sexy vampire thing. In fact, it deals with it brilliantly, especially the ickier scenes between Mitchell and Lauren (memo to Alan Ball, who should be given a copy of the Being Human DVD the day it comes out – this is how you do slightly disturbing bloody vampire sex scenes).

And, like all the best horror, there’s genuine sadness in Being Human, a sense of loss and of isolation that balances the (excellent) jokes and the gore. This is mostly because not only are the characters fantastic, but so are the actors. George is perfectly played by Russell Tovey, an enormously appealing actor who I would watch in just about anything – he’s goofy and sweet and very funny. Lenora Crichlow is perfect as insecure Annie – she nails the character’s vulnerability and she’s brilliant at the comic bits too, especially when Annie is trying to be scary (she looks to films for tips, but can’t quite manage to put on a suitably scary voice). And I should probably be careful about what I say about Aidan Turner, who plays Mitchell, seeing as he’s from Dublin and will probably turn out to be related to one of our readers. Suffice to say he’s perfect for the role – charismatic, foxy and – which prevents him ever falling into brooding hunky vamp cliché- genuinely funny.

It’s hard to talk about Being Human properly without packing this post full of spoilers, but the twists of the plot – especially in the most recent episode, which was absolutely superb – mean that it would be a crime to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched yet. I’d love to write more about the evolution of Annie’s troubled character, about Herrick’s schemes, about the delightful George’s quest for love. I would actually like to just recap the glorious episode in which Annie makes friends with another ghost called Gilbert, who died in 1985 and who introduces her to the wonderful concept of “Gilbert Fun” (it involves proper ’80s indie dancing and having earnest discussions about Nietzsche to the sounds of Fun Boy Three). But I can’t do it without revealing too much, so just watch it. It’s not hard to find each episode (suffice to say that I don’t have BBC3, but I’ve managed to watch it all every week). And after the brilliantly infuriating cliffhanger ending of last week’s episode, I can’t wait until the series finalé on Sunday. If only I could be sure there’d be another series…

ETA: It’s just been announced that there will indeed be a second series (thanks for the heads up, Colm)! Huzzah!

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Lost by Lost

lostI have stuck with Lost through five loooonnng, teeth-gritting series and have very nearly excommunicated myself from the Lost faith several times. So far, Season Five has really been living up to expectations, but it must be said, it is even more head-frying than usual. You have to watch it with someone else in the room so that if you miss a key plot element, reference to past shows/characters or visual metaphor (and there’s no bloody shortage of them on the programme, let’s face it), you’ve got someone to poke in the ribs for an instant explanation, and vice versa.

10 questions I have about Lost so far:

1) After six episodes this seasons, what year are they in?

2) What happened to Ben? (He was all bloodied and wearing a sling on the plane)

3) Who’s the Asian dude who commiserated with Jack at the airport about Locke and was also on the plane?

4) Why is Sayid in cuffs and being escorted by a cop?

5) What did Kate do with Aaron?

6) Why is Jack’s granddad being introduced after, um, a gazillion episodes?

7) How did the Dharma Initiative even find out there was a time-travelling island?

8. Why the hell is Frank Lapidis flying the plan?

9) Why did Hurley have a guitar case with him?

10) Why is Jin wearing a Dharma jumpsuit?

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Women, eh? Is there anything we can’t blame them for? And can we do so while being witless, smug, and wildly inaccurate so we can pretend it’s satirical if anyone gets annoyed? Good thing women don’t read this newspaper – what? They do?

Or rather, they did.

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trimble1Our post on Sunday about Gail Trimble being judged on her looks and criticised for being clever has chalked up huge traffic. Most of this is due to google searches, and the terms people used that brought them to this site. The results offer a pithier snapshot of opinion on Trimble and once again focus on the negative and on her appearance.

The list:

“gail trimble sexy”

“gail trimble bitch” (a lot of this)

“gail trimble naked”

“gail trimble smug bitch”

“I hate gail trimble”

“gail trimble nuts”

gail trimble very sexy with a gorgeous smile”

“fuck Trimble” (this could be someone who doesn’t like the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, but I’m guessing not, given the timing)

gail trimble annoying”

“gail trimble crappy”


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oooo1

My thoughts on this year’s Oscars, as distilled into Twitter-sized chunks for your reading pleasure:

Like Kate Winslet, I too practised my acceptance speech in the mirror, except I was holding a Toilet Duck. I fear this is where I may have gone wrong in life.

Beyonce, you look like something that fell out of a jaysis box of Dairy Milk. Great arse though as always.

Lest I be derided on here by some twatty alpha male type for being too bitchy against the sisterhood, I’m gonna go equal opportunities on this. Sean Penn, you looked like a right knob too.

The gowns are ridiculously underwhelming this year. Points off Angelina for missing a great opportunity to go batshit, sartorially speaking.

Do not seem to be alone in my appreciation of Dustin Lance Black. Very sad Mike

Leigh did not win, but was more than happy to ogle at the very cute Black.  KILLER speech.

Michael Shannon got absolutely fucking robbed. That is all.

The amount of mutual arse-licking and backslapping going on during the ceremony always turns my stomach. You’d think I’d change the channel to spare my digestive health, but no.

Surprised that Departures won best foreign feature , as I reckoned Waltz With Bashir would walk it. But anything as long as the Baader-Meinhoff poxy-arsed Complex didn’t win.

Benjamin Button is wholly deserving of visual effects award…after all, they’ve made Brad look like a ride again.

Slumdog, Slumdog, Slumdog.  Delighted film did so well, even if the audience were at risk of falling into a hyperglycaemic coma after its first 20 mins.

Hugh Jackman. Christ on a bike. Blummin’ Pat Kenny could have done a better job.

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gailtrimbleOne of my guilty pleasures is that I love quizzes. From Trivial Pursuit to table quizzes, I seem to have huge spongey brain that holds on to useless info like old bathwater. As a kid, our whole family loved them and would huddle around Blockbusters, The Krypton Factor (now back on TV, all made over and not as endearingly crappy thanks to advances in technology), Countdown, Mastermind and anything else that fired general knowledge questions at us. I still love them, but don’t get as much time to tune in and can’t keep up with some of the newer style-over-substance ones. But one I always make time for is University Challenge and the current series has been riveting for one reason – Gail Trimble. Her team Corpus Christi College, Oxford are set to take on the University of Manchester in tomorrow night’s final on BBC2 at 8pm. It occured to me I might be alone in being wowed by her unflinching intellect, but an article in today’s Observer proves otherwise, dubbing her “the cleverest contestant ever”. As a team member of Corpus Christi College, Oxford she has scored more points than her three (one female, two male) team mates put together – that’s 825 of the team’s total of 1,235 points.

Included in the Observer piece are various quotes from blogs, where Trimble has become a huge discussion topic. What struck me most from the majority of the quotes, is that her looks rather than her intelligence are being focused on. Of the seven quotes included, one is negative, the rest positive. And of the positive notices, three of them describe her as “sexy”, as well as “attractive in a blue-stocking sort of way”, a “stunning looker” with a “gorgeous smile”. She has also picked up the nickname “Tasty Trimble”.

Once again we have an extraordinarily bright and academically excellent woman being reduced to her physicality. Many of the sniping internet comments refer to her as being smug, superior or condescending. I’ve seen her on three UC shows and have hugely impressed by how smart she is. Why are people threatened by others who are cleverer than them? But this case is certainly about ability as much as it is about gender and Trimble herself says in the article:

“I don’t feel I would have been treated the same way were I a man.”

It’s true. Patriarchy dictates that all the intelligence (and the centres of power that come with that intelligence) should reside in the heads of men. Women shouldn’t dare try to match – or gasp, exceed – their intellectual levels. Smart women are dangerous, too clever for their own good and are asking to be challenged, negated and put down. Gail Trimble shouldn’t be have to apologise for being clever. And in this day and age, she shouldn’t have the projected insecurites of some less intelligent men foisted upon her.

On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but think of this Young Ones scene.

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God, is there anything worse than a preachy celebrity putting the world to rights? Well, yeah, actually, and I’m pretty sure 13 year old Chadian kids being permanently disabled by being shot in the legs is one of them.

Our saviour!

Our saviour!

But I wouldn’t know about one particular Chadian child if George Clooney hadn’t met him recently. This piece in the New York Times briefly shows how effective the visits of celebs to war zones can be – as the writer points out, the only reason he’s writing this column (and we’re reading it) is because it’s partly about a visit to a refugee camp with Mr C.

Now, I do find it very irritating when some celebs get preachy. I find it insane that Angelina Jolie is invited to become a member of the hugely influential think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations with the likes of Alan Greenspan, Condoleezza Rice and well-known warmongerer Henry Kissinger, apparently purely on the basis that she’s hot, has travelled a bit, her six children were all born outside of America and she once won an Oscar for overacting in a crap film. And I find it particularly annoying that Bono lectures governments about how much aid they should be giving to the developing world when he (a very, very rich man, lest we forget, who we can assume wasn’t exactly panicking about paying his bills) went to elaborate lengths to avoid paying his taxes when the artists’ tax exemptions were changed. Where exactly does he think aid money comes from? The magic money rainbow? God?

But at the same time, isn’t it better when celebs try to use their powers for good (as they see fit – I’m not sure how “good” the Council of Foreign Relations can be with the likes of Greenspan and Kissinger on board)? Isn’t it better than just sitting back and smugly counting their money like an idiot? Surely if any of us became fabulously wealthy and famous, we’d at least try and do something for the causes we believe in? At least they care about something, in their often idiotic way, and in most cases the worst thing they do is annoy us. Some, like George Clooney, of them don’t even do that, most of the time (I’ll make an exception for that smug Oscar acceptance speech in which he praised his fellow stars for being so liberal). Ultimately, I think it’s always better for people to be politically engaged and informed rather than apathetic – whether they’re celebs or not. Although if it turns out in a few years that Angelina Jolie’s suggestions for US foreign policy are responsible for plunging the world into chaos, I reserve the right to change my mind…

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blogawards1Being the modest souls that we are, it didn’t occur to us to mention that we made the shortlist for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards. They take place tonight in Cork, and sadly none of us will be there, mainly because we didn’t think we’d make the shortlist. We’d like to say a big thank you to all those lovely judges who voted for us, and to our fellow nominees, the brilliant Blather.net, the ever up-to-date Dublin Blog, A Tangled Web and the excellent The Blog Pound (who must be favourites for the gong).

We’d like to wish all the nominees in every category tonight the very best of luck, particularly to some of our favourites, including Medbh, Annie, Fustar, Fatmammycat, Rick (who’s also the host), Beaut.ie, Red Mum, On the Record, Suzy, Ginger Pixel, Lottie and Fiona.

Thanks also to Grandmaster Mulley who organises this whole shebang.

And if all that isn’t enough to swell our heads, Shane Hegarty has mentioned us in today’s Irish Times as one of ’20 of Ireland’s most essential blogs’. Huzzah!

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node3So apparently NASA want you to name Node 3, a new part that is due to be added to the International Space Station. All sounds terribly easy, particularly as they give you several options and the chance to submit your own. You can choose from the rather dull ‘Earthrise’ (sounds like a space age alarm clock), ‘Venture’ (too internet business-y), ‘Serenity’ (must be some Joss Wheedon fans in there) or Legacy (meh, boring). Or there’s the opportunity to use your own imagination… which coud be very interesting if you read up on what Node 3 will consist of. The showers and bathroom will be housed there and it will also contain:

“A Water Recovery System (WRS) and Urine Processor Assembly (UPA), which take waste water from the station’s shower and toilets and purify it, separating any contaminants and making it safe for the crew to drink.”

What’s that now? A place to purify pee? That will then be treated and drank again? Holy kidney purification Batman!

Not only does that sound altogether icky, I’m only hoping that some bright sparks will draw on this information as inspiration for Node 3′s new name. No doubt the powers that be will go for something named after a letter from the Greek alphabet or something from mythology, but I’ve already helpfully thought of some names. Here’s my shortlist.

1) Captain’s Bog
2) Dionypiss (you know, like the Greek God)
3) Instead of pinching Joss Wheedon’s ‘Serenity’ title – call it ‘Weed-on’ after the man himself.

Any more suggestions? Indulge me, it’s Friday and I’m feeling juvenile and scatalogical.

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