Deirfiúrí Are Doing It For Themselves…

March 28, 2010

God I’m such an awful, awful blogger…this has been in the works for ages so it’s a bit convoluted, but sure here it is…

Remember B*Witched awww

I started the last post with the intention of writing something about Irish female singers. Some overviews, predictions and personal analysis summed up in a tasty blog snack, but it evolved into a broader beast, and ended up giving Amy Winehouse credit for all the astounding aerial audio we have in the charts at present.  I possibly went overboard but that’s the nature of writing, tangents stem out like undercurrents, which become rivers of their own, until you realise you’re writing something completely different to what you started with.  I don’t think I even mentioned one Celtic dame in that post.

So here I’m trying for a second time, now that I’ve covered some of the international songbyrds of the day, I can freely rabbit on about some home-grown talent with room for comparison.

Irish woman actually had significant success internationally for years, with our very own Enya wowing crowds across the globe since her solo outing in 1987. Her popularity continued well into the naughties when, after the 911 attacks her “soothing” and safe-as-a-bandaged-life-ring tunes became a shelter from harsh reality for many Americans.  She’s also massive in Japan, which as everyone knows, is a true testament to talent, sure they even love Celtic Women (the band not the race, not that they don’t love the race, I’m sure they love the race as well). You could almost be proud of her if her music was not so cotton wool and delicate.

So in the right corner, we had Enya humming vowel sounds, while in the left corner we had Dolorous O’Riordan hollering consonants. I’ll admit I do quite like Zombie, but ugh, that voice originated from beyond the grave. She still releases the odd bit of solo material today, but it doesn’t sell well, review well or listen well. So it’s almost as if she does not exist. Almost.

Mary Coughlan has had considerable coverage in this blog so I won’t blather on about how her potential global success was never to be, partly due to bad management, partly due to her alcoholism. Maybe it has still yet to peak? Her 1985 debut Tired and Emotional is 25 years old this year and is to be re-released followed by a string of performances across the country. Perhaps 2010 will be her year to shine…though it’s doubtful.

Then in the early nineties we were introduced to naughty Sinead O’Connor and “Butter wouldn’t melt” the Corrs. Polar sides of the same Irish coin, Sinead’s biggest problem (musically I mean, she had countless personal problems) was that she was an excellent singer, but only a mediocre songwriter. Nothing Compared To You will always be her song, and deservedly so. It’s Fantastic. The Prince version is almost unlistenable now.   But the ego in her strived for credibility and her self-penned songs never really packed a punch. I suspect Sinead O’Connor fans were really fans of Sinead. I don’t think they ever truly were fans of her music.

The Corrs on the other hand, well they were much more packagable. Three Beautiful sisters, one slightly loony brother (on a side note, you should check out Jim Corr’s Website if your in need of a laugh sometime www.jimcorr.com) their songs were disgustingly radio friendly, and their faces ridiculously television friendly. I’m not a fan, they bore me but I won’t deny they appealed to a significant niche, Bill Clinton’s favourite band apparently. I’m already bored just writing about them, Next.

Remember Samantha Mumba?

She had a lot going for her, hailed the Irish Britney Spears. Clocked up a few number ones, and not just in Ireland. I actually quite like what she did with David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. Or at least what her producer did. Allegedly she didn’t even know who Bowie was at the time…..

Yeah well Ms Mumba seemingly spat in the golden chalice she was handed, did absolutely nothing with her success and now is a mere mortal once again. Every two or three years she pops up claiming to have a new album in the works but…I’ll believe it when I see it. Silly girl.

And soooo we fast-forward to more recent times, and the current tides in Irish feminine album launches.

In my last post I covered how high the standard of international female artists have been recently and Ireland has not been left behind. Although it has been a while since a cailín really took the world by storm, there is more then one just waiting to pounce at any given opportunity.

Imelda May certainly is the gal with the most potential. Easily winning best female in 2009’s Irish Meteor awards, she has snowballed into a huge star the last twelve months even performing at the Grammys. She certainly looks the part, a vampish sex kitten in pencil skirt and ice-cream scoop quiff, she’s straight out of an Eddie Rockets poster. Claiming responsibility for a semi rockabilly renaissance, I’d be called a lazy writer if I called her Ireland’s answer to Amy Winehouse. But I’d also be pointing out a fair deal, she’s not exactly one hundred miles away and she certainly fit the fashion and niche of her arrival. Still, her voice is impeccable and her gig at last years Electric Picnic and follow up Christmas show in the O2 prove she is no flavour of the month. Love Tattoo was no Back To Black, but it still held up on its own and I’m curious to see if she’ll still be here in a decade.

If Imelda May is Ireland’s answer to the “Amy Winehouse” inspired artists of 2008, than perhaps Julie Feeney is our answer to the “Kate Bush” inspired artists of 2009. Her latest album pages is a strange affair, consisting of poems she fabricated locked away Emily Dickinson style, which were then in turn “married” to orchestrated pieces of music she wrote/conducted/produced all on her owny own. Even before you hear one note from the album you have to admire the sheer effort. And how is the music?

Well it’s not bad… It’s nowhere near as epic as the sum of its parts however, and reeks of admiration rather than pure musical lust. Single Impossibly Beautiful is a perfect example of the album. Pure, wholesome, and certainly containing that aural aura that Bush encapsulated so well in song, but too often, the songs don’t grab you as they should, and leave you with no desire to return to the record.

Still, Stay and Life’s Nudge are fantastic songs, and should be required listening for all.

Julie Feeney and her papercut armpits

Feeney recently lost out to Wallis Bird in the Meteor awards, and I was surprised, not really knowing much of Birds stuff. I’ve since had a gaw, and am still a bit on the fence. She seems spunky which I like, maybe a little bit Tegan and Sara?

What do you think??

Roisin Murphy=Irish Goldfrapp?

And of course Roisín Murphy, possibly Ireland’s only female “star” of the moment, who has a new record out soon I hear. Should be interesting. Personally I don’t really get her. I won her last album Overpowered in a competition and expected to fall in love with her but it never happened. Oh how I wanted to embrace such a fresh and original Irish act, with her silly hats and heavy synchs, but I’ve resigned myself to just not seeing what others do. I wish her all the best though, seems like a nice lass.

Roisín’s year to shine seemed to be 2008 as Overpowered did really well both here and abroad, however she wasn’t the number one Irish female that year. That accolade landed directly into the lap of Ms Cathy Davey, my personal favourite of today’s ladies and hopeful heir to future success. I confess I actually have yet to accumulate her first CD Something Ilk, but her follow up, 2007’s Tales Of Silversleeve has a special place right next to my CD player-where it is easy to find when I need it. What a CD. What utterly fantastic 40 minutes of pop. I’m not going to babble on about each song and how perfect they all are, because there are plenty of reviews of it out there, all good, and I’ve already covered why I love Cathy here, but needless to say Hotpress gave her the highest female position on the 250 best albums list last December. It was still only 19 (deserved higher me thinks) but that’s still an achievement if you believe my last blog post.

The exciting news is that Cathy has a new album coming out in May. I don’t know if there is a name for it yet, or even if the track list for it has been announced, but the lead single Little Red was put up on her myspace account recently and its fantastic.  She has a tour coming up, so maybe I’ll even get a wee interview with her for the blog.

So that’s my tally, my little summary of all the Irish females that I feel worthy of noting. I’ve left out loads of course, Gemma Hayes, Lisa Hannigan and Laura Izibor, to name but a few, but none of them really light up my world, or even make me want to want them to light up my world.

My predictions are that Imelda will deservedly carve a dent internationally, but I’d love to see Cathy do the same. Her upcoming album is being released independently, so whatever she does, at least she will be doing it in her own terms. In six months time the album will be well and truly out there and who knows, perhaps she’ll have taken the industry by storm, won a Grammy and preformed a duet with Lady Gaga at Perez Hilton’s next Birthday Party.

 

Sisters are Doing It For Themselves!

February 28, 2010

For a long time the music industry had ignored female singers and artists when it came to critical acclaim. Sure they were good for the odd pop tune and Deborah Harry’s face made a more aesthetic album cover than, lets say Elton John. But true artistic praise was rarely conveyed in their direction and they were viewed in far harsher light. Just look at Q magazine’s 100 greatest album poll they conducted last year. Out of the 100 albums, the only ladies to make an impact were Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love (who for some reason seems to be immune to the frivolous critique her gender inspires), Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, and Madonna’s Ray of Light.

Abba was completely ignored, as were Blondie, the Eurythmics, and any number of the soul divas Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone etc. Now you might say “Oh that’s just Q magazine’s utilitarian opinion” but no. This was a poll conducted on their website so it seems quite simply that female singers cannot compete in the long run with the likes of the Beatles, Oasis, Dylan, Prince, Michael Jackson…yada yada yada.

Why not? Is it because straight men as a whole don’t buy music made by women?  Straight women don’t seem to have the same issues in their CD collection…

A shift in trends is rapidly occurring however, as 2009 saw women for the first time in history outsell men in the music industry.  Lady Gaga lead the way, with Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Rhianna all hot on her heals.  For the past ten years American female pop was dominated by Britney, Christina, Beyonce and Madonna, with the occasional interlude by Gwen or Pink. Their territory was firmly set and there didn’t seem to be enough of an available audience for any newcomers.  So what happened in recent years to allow for such a surge in girl power in the charts??

I actually started this feature with an aim of covering female “artists” rather than “popstars” so let me back peddle slightly. Why is it, that in the last 2-3 years, we have had a massive increase in the popularity of the female songwriter? Not so much the spandex-clad crouch gyrating pussycat doll, more the weary voiced, piano-playing sparkle eyed Chanteuse.  For years these more artistic girls struggled to find an audience in the charts where as now we have Florence and the Machine and Bat for Lashes all enjoying mainstream success.  Look at Siobhan Donaghy for example. She released “Ghosts” in 2007 and despite getting glowing reviews, it only sold about 10 copies. Had she released this (as she called it) “left field pop record” two years later when the genre was très chic, no doubt it would have been far more successful. Why the sudden shift in trend?

I have a theory, and it may be completely wrong, but hear me out…

All these credible female artists; La Roux, Bat For Lashes, Marina…owe their success partly, if not fully to Amy Winehouse.  Amy made female musicians credible and popular again, and no longer the folly of teenage girls.

Let me go back to 2006 to the release of the epic “Back to Black”. The album was a slow grower but combined with Amy’s gritty reputation, it found at first a small devoted audience. Within 2 years however, Amy was a household name across the globe (although arguably for her lifestyle rather than for her music) Still, the strength of the album in its own right sent tsunami ripples across the industry where music buyers were fraught for a new taste yet not patient enough to wait for Back to Black’s sequel. The first ripple included Adele and Duffy. Although they both deserve credit in their own right, it would be completely naive to suggest they would have been half as successful if not for Amy’s influence on the “white British girl’s take on soul”. It’s also noticeable that the English “chav girl” also became in vogue and although Lily Allen’s debut “Alright, Still” wasn’t quite in Winehouse’s league in terms of influence, it too created a ripple effect in the form of Kate Nash.

Come 2009 people had grown tired of the second-hand soul, but still thirsted for more female artists of high quality. If female artists of 2008 had “white soul” injected in every review, then 2009 had “Kate Bush” instilled in theirs. You couldn’t pick up a music magazine without the “next Bush” being anointed. Bat for Lashes, Florence and her Machine, Marina and the Diamonds, hell I even read one Pixie Lot review that quoted The Kick Inside. The interesting thing about these new comers however, is that I truly believe they all would still be making music regardless of Amy’s success. I just don’t believe they would be making it as big. Before “Back to Black” it was rare for a female singer to make it big without playing by the popstar rules, but now it seems the industry is their Oyster, which can only be a good thing.

What happens in the next few years shall be intriguing. It is entirely possible that these ripples will fade and we will once again go back to worshiping the indie bands of yesteryear. I for one have always been a sucker for a gal who goes about her music in a less than traditional way, and have found the last year akin to wading in a lake of tailor made music.  Here’s hoping we don’t run out of lake.

This video blog by Amanda Palmer sort of sums up my thoughts on female musicians and their battles…or at least their battles pre Winehouse

The Misunderstood Quirks Of The Hyena

January 27, 2010

I mentioned in my last post how unfairly treated Hyenas have been in human culture, and how they’ve been characterised into the clowns of the Africa plains. Lions are given this whole “King of the Jungle” baloney (they don’t even live in the jungle), Cheetahs are seen with an air of graceful compassion and respect while Leopards remain the ultimate feline ambusher. I’m not saying these animals don’t deserve their cherished status in the animal kingdom, but why is it that Hyenas are considered ugly, stupid and barbaric?

Let me shed a little light on these deftly intelligent and social mammals so that the image of the bumbling idiot from the Lion King will not be your only Hyena reference.

First I should be more specific and state that this piece is highlighting the Spotted Hyena, or Laughing Hyena, which is the most well known and biggest of the Hyena family (there is also the Brown Hyena, the Striped Hyena and the Aardwolf).

Aardwolf

Brown Hyena

Found in the Savanna’s of Africa, they are a highly successful predator and scavenger that provide an essential role in the ecosystem. While other predators only consume the flesh of their prey, Hyenas are able to digest the entire animal, skin, bones and all. So they are kind of like the clean up guys of Africa…not leaving their leftovers just lying about the place…messing up the view.

And hear this, studies have shown that these little critters

Striped Hyena

Spotted Hyena

rival primates with their problem solving skills and general intelligence. Now I don’t exactly know what kind of problems these guys need to solve…but apparently they are pretty good at them, and once tamed can make excellent pets.

I reckon one of the reasons they get such a bad rap is that they sort of look like a dog…but one that’s been cross bred a bit too much and so the hind legs look to short for the front legs, and their heads look like the dogs in the Resident Evil films. Well Hyenas are not related to dogs at all, in fact they are closer to cats in evolutionary terms. One of my favourite books is “The Life Of Pi” by Yann Martel which tells the story of a boy who gets stranded on a boat with a Tiger, a Zebra, an Orangutan and a Hyena. The book is an empire of brilliant animal facts but amazingly it slips up numerous times with Hyena facts. First of all Martel refers to the Hyena more than once as a dog…which we now all know is incorrect. Another error he makes is that, he implies this male Hyena is more of a threat than if it were a female. Well actually Yann, female Hyenas are typically 12% larger and heavier than their male counterparts, and they tend to rule the roost with their large and social packs.

Other Hyena myths say that they only ever steal or scavenge their food…Not true. Hyenas are terrific hunters often bringing down medium sized prey like a Zebra or Wildebeast and sharing the kill with their pack. Yes they do steal and yes they do scavenge however it has been proven that lions steal from Hyenas just as much, if not more, than Hyenas steal from Lions.

Pay a little sympathy for Hyena mothers as well. So full of testosterone they are, that their female genitalia closely resembles a males. For a long time in fact, it was thought that Hyenas were hermaphrodites, not so…the female’s clitoris just looks like a penis. This can be somewhat of a problem when it comes to giving birth as Hyenas have the largest cubs relative to their mother’s weight in the animal kingdom. Combine this with an extremely narrow vagina…well you get the picture. So traumatic is birth that many result with the death of the mother and cubs. Once they are out there in the world however, they are extremely hardy fellows and impervious to many diseases.

So forget the cliché that Disney inflated on the world. These loyal and clever animals could run rings around Mufasa and Simba, their only crime lies in not being as pretty as their rivals and possessing a laugh that many people associate with human lunacy. We don’t have any Hyenas in Dublin Zoo, but if you do come across one sometime treat them with a little reverence. They deserve it.

The Misunderstood Quirks Of The Anteater

January 22, 2010

 

There are a couple of animals out there that I have a strong empathy for. Maybe I was one in another life, or maybe I just see a peculiar beauty in them that others don’t. The Hyena for example, is viewed by most with the same animosity by the public as vermin. And why? Because they aren’t as pretty as Leopards, or as noble looking as Wolves? Hyenas are highly intelligent, efficient hunters that rely on stealing and scavenging no more than lions or other savannah predators.

It will take another feature of mine to give the Hyena it’s due worth, today I’m focussing on a much more gentle predator…the Anteater.

Maybe it’s unfair to call the Anteater a predator, as that word conjures up thoughts of chasing or ambushing prey rather than simply licking them up with an extendable, neatly designed sticky tongue.

Before I go any further, I have to get a bit technical. An Anteater is not a specific animal; it’s a species of animal, like a cat or deer. There are many different types of Anteater, or at least, there are plenty of animals called Anteater though many of them are not necessarily related…but this is a light hearted piece of writing so lets not get bogged down with technicalities eh?

Giant Anteater

First we have the Giant Anteater, which is what I am going to focus on here. Found in the rainforest of Central and South America these critters live mainly solitary lives, bumbling from one termite mound to the next without a care in the world (except for the odd Jaguar that may fancy some larger than usual prey)

Aardvark

Next we have the Aardvark, which are also sometimes called Anteaters. These folks look somewhat like the offspring of a pig and a rabbit and are found on the plains of Africa. As it happens they are no relation of the Giant Anteater they just share plenty of the same features…so perhaps they shouldn’t be included here, still they are adorable in an ugly sort of way…

Numbat

Next we have the Numbat, a wee little Termite muncher from Down Under. The Numbat can consume up to 20,000 termites in one day and back in the good aul’times Numbats were widespread across Australia. However when Europeans introduced the Red Fox in the 19th century numbers declined dramatically and now Numbats are confined to a few little pockets here and there.

Echidna

Then we come to the Echidna, another Australian Anteater and again, only distantly related to our South American friend. Looking somewhat like a hedgehog (Sonic’s friend Knuckles was an Echidna), these are shy fellows and are one of the few mammals that lay eggs. They also have four headed penises…what is it with Australian animals?

Pangolin

The last Anteater on our list is the Pangolin, which look very similar to Armadillos (another favourite animal of mine). These nocturnal fellows are found in Africa and Asia and are known to curl up into a ball when they are threatened. A ball that can take more than three men to pull open no less….though why anyone would be that mean is beyond me.

However it is the Giant Anteater of the South American Rainforests that grab my attention and who I’d love as my Daemon (see the Golden Compass).

The fact that they live exclusively on a diet of Termites mean that they are quite difficult to keep in a zoo. Yet these gentle creatures are, like so many gorgeous animals, at risk of dying out due to loss of habitat and general human clumsiness.  According to the “Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species” they are only listed as “Vulnerable” which I don’t understand, as they go on to say that there are only 5,000 of them left in the wild, and less than 100 of them in captivity in the US. Surely such small numbers translate to the critically endangered category?

As far as I know Dublin Zoo has never been graced with one of these long faced brutes so despite my affections, my only contact with them has been through a television, computer or books. They apparently do make good pets (if you can feed them) and have a highly evolved problem solving skills…breaking down Termite mounds requires a certain amount of intelligence don’t you know. Their primary mode of defence is their innately strong and sharp front claws which one unfortunate zoo worker felt the wrath of in 2007 with the only recorded human death due to an Anteater. 19-year-old Melisa Casco was mauled by the usually docile animal while taking part in a conservation project in Argentina. Tragic as this incident was, the Anteater should not be condemned…think of how many people a year are killed by dogs, yet people do not tar every dog with the “killer” brush.

The Artist Salvador Dali and His pet Anteater in Paris

I’ll leave you with the audacious poem by Roald Dahl, from his book “Dirty Beasts” read by some dude called Alan…but remember it’s only fiction. It is highly unlikely the events in this poem would ever happen…

Sorry It has Been So Long

January 22, 2010

I have abandoned my blog recently like a disobedient child. This was due to a few reasons-a touch of writers block, a return to full time work and a preference for writing a bit of fiction that wouldn’t really suit the style of this blog.

However when I logged on the other day for the first time in months, I had four comments waiting to be moderated, and still an average of 500 views a day. I must be doing something right…so I will try to get back to the habit of updating on a more regular basis. If anyone would like me to cover anything in particular I’m more than open to suggestion.

Regards,

Paul

AKA aaaaahhhhshark

Top Ten Scariest Monsters Of All Time

October 30, 2009

Classic_Modern_Monsters_by_wallyjunior

A fun little blog post in the spirit of Halloween; I’ve composed a list of monsters that since childhood have possessed me with both a sense of gaudy fascination and absolute terror. I was always a bit too keen on creatures of the dark, I collected the entire first three series of Matchbox’s Monster In My Pocket toys (except Ganesha, which was taken off the market as it was deemed offensive to the Hindu community, now it’s a collectors item so if anyone has one lying around the house…It would be swell if you’d send it on, ta) and when I was about six, I found an old video tape with a Hammer version of Dracula. I watched the entire film without my mother noticing and was utterly traumatised for weeks to come, convincing myself that Christopher Lee was outside my window.  The entrants on my list are a mix of the traditional monster movie stars, with a few characters far less iconic, but equally as dramatic. The one thing they all have in common is that at some stage, each of them were believed in and feared by mankind. Indeed many people still believe there are Vampires and Banshees lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Read this list and learn how to recognise each one, perhaps it will save your life…

 

 

vampire10 Vampire

The Vampire should really be higher on my list, but with the recent overkill of Vampire themed films/media recently, they have (excuse the pun) lost some of their bite. No Twilight fans, Vampires do not sparkle in the sunlight, nor do they fall in love with psychics or slayers. Vampires are broody, solitary creatures that venture out through the night to drain the blood of some unfortunate (though often very sexy) virgin. They can transform into a creature of the night like a bat, a wolf or a rat and often have the power to hypnotise their victims. One of the reasons Vampires are so popular is the extreme sensuality they exude when they claim a victim. Targeting the erogenous zones-the neck, upper thigh and breast they expel both sexiness and vulgarity that is both endearing and terrifying. And unlike most monsters, Vampire come in both sexes. We have the tall brooding male Vampire, and the sultry exotic female Vamp. Utterly iconic.

 

 

9 Spring Heeled JackSpring_heeled_Jack_huge

 Spring Heeled Jack was an actual villain who traipsed around London from the early 1800s and terrorised the city for neigh on 100 years. Dressed in a cape with eyes that seemed to glow like fire, he derived his name from his spectacular ability to jump incredible heights to escape from police. His favourite targets were women walking home alone on the dark London streets. He would leap at them, fondle them, spew fire in their faces and leave just as soon as he had come. Many theories were put forward as to who he actually was. A rouge fire-eater, a trained Kangaroo in a suit and even an extra terrestrial with gravity defying powers were all thrown into the mix. The most likely theory is that he was just a highly gifted athlete with a twisted sense of humour and that his antics inspired many copycat Jacks. The same man terrorising citizens in 1830 could hardly be the same one leaping carriages in 1900 could it?  Despite his feared reputation on the streets of London, Jack was only responsible for one death, when a woman he spat fire at stumbled backwards into a muddy puddle and was drowned.  This didn’t seem to bother him though as he continued his reign of terror for another fifty years.

 

 

mummy8 Mummy

Preserved in bandages thousands of years ago, the Mummy has been sleeping for aeons and is now pissed of that some tea drinking English morons are disturbing his tomb and stealing his treasure. The old school look of the Mummy is about as iconic as a monster can be, but in all honesty what does he do to you? He doesn’t drink your blood or turn you to stone. I think he probably strangles you but he doesn’t look all that fast so I’m sure its possible to shake him off right? Well actually, the power behind the Mummy isn’t so much what he will physically do to you so much as what will happen to you if you disturb or disrespect him. There are countless stories of archaeologists who unearthed tombs who suddenly became withdrawn and frightened immediately after, then within a few days they simply…died. The day Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb his pet canary was swallowed by a cobra. Cobras, as the goddess Wadjet, were the protectors of the Pharaoh. Lord Carnarvon, the financier of Carter’s exploration died in Cairo only a few weeks after the Curse of Tutakhamun was announced publicly and ignored. The moment of his death all the lights in the city went out and back home in England his dog was reported to howl for hours. Coincidence? Perhaps, or maybe it was the work of an angry Mummy. 

 

 

7 Medusamedusa

Medusa, caught shagging in Athena’s temple (or raped in some stories) and as punishment for the insult, was transformed into a beast so ugly, one look at her would turn you to stone. Originally depicted as a beautiful priestess with flowing blonde locks, her vanity was taken away from her as her hair turned to live snakes, and her pale skin grew scales.

I’m not sure if Medusa is a sympathetic character who only wants the men who visit her to stay with her, therefore petrifies them, or if she is simply a demon who collects stone victims to decorate her garden. The idea that one cannot even look at her without dying is a terrifying concept, which in some ways makes her the most tragic monster of all time. Her death differs depending on the legend. Some tales say she caught sight of her own reflection of fell victim to her own power, whilst others say the hero Perseus decapitated her to win his mother’s freedom. Poor Medusa never really stood a chance…

 

 

 bogeyman6  Bogeyman

What makes the Bogeyman different from the other monsters on this list is that he is not a tangible foe. He doesn’t have a definite shape or method of killing; he is simply the evil man that lurks in wait for his chance to seize a child. A child is always the victim of choice for a bogeyman. In fact it is doubtful an adult can even see one. They make take any form they wish, usually utilising a form that is both familiar with the child, yet terrifying. Often they take the form of a clown, such as in Stephen King’s IT. Sometimes they take the form of an old lady or gentleman, but despite these innocent guises their face is always the same, that of a deformed man with razor teeth and black slit eyes. The bogeyman will eat the child but part of his diet is not just the consumption, but also the fear. A bogeyman will not be satisfied with simply killing a child unless they have drawn out the process so that the child has experienced the ultimate terror.

 

 

 5 Gremlingremlin

Much as I love the 1980s Gremlin movie, it is not a fair portrayal of what a Gremlin actually is. True they are small mischievous creatures that delight in mayhem, but they are far more cunning and magical than Billy Peltzer could ever have imagined. The Gremlin thrives on destroying machinery that people rely on, often cars and trains, but usually planes due to the catastrophic consequence of them failing. Often they will allow one member on board to witness their destruction causing them alone to be privy to the impending disaster. Many planes during World War 2 crashed without any reason and when the wrecks were recovered signs of interference within the engines and wings were found. Of the surviving crew, they mentioned that a member on board had grown hysterical, claiming there was a creature on board that was purposefully meddling with the mechanics, trying to cause a crash. These were naturally dismissed as false claims, however it happened dozens of times, with different pilots who had no way of knowing what had happened on the other planes. Coincidence? Or Gremlin?

 

 

witch4 Witch

Like the Vampire, the Witch has been so over used in Hollywood that they have been sexed up to resemble little of their original self.  A Witch is a woman that has sold her soul to the devil in exchange for black powers.  They have the ability to put ancient curses on their foes, which have an unending supply of consequences-be it transformation into a frog or a rat, or simply hair loss or impedance.

They can lure men to satisfy their lust, and children to satisfy their hunger. That’s right, Witches must consume a child about once a year to retain their immortality and keep their powers strong. Witches often have special bonds with certain animals, depending on where they originate. In America they are often found with the traditional black cat, in Europe they are found with crows and in Africa they are found with hyenas, which they ride as if they were a horse.

Unlike many other monsters on this list however, Witches do have their uses in society, though one must be very careful when dealing with one. In exchange for a high price (not necessarily money) a Witch may cast a spell for you, be it a love potion, or a curse for your enemy, however such deals are not advised as black magic often works on Karma. For instance if you cast a curse on your enemy, it may come back to you three times worse, and if you do make someone fall in love with you, be warned, the love may be so strong that they may turn to homicide if it is not reciprocated to an equal measure.

 

 

 3. Bansheebanshee

I think only the Irish know how terrifying a Banshee really is, and at that, perhaps only those in the West of Ireland who can truly testify.

A female ghost who was raped in life yet did not confess, thus deemed too unclean for heaven yet too pure for hell.  The role she was therefore given in the afterlife was to warn families of an impending death.

Her method of warning is to wail outside the house of the unfortunate soul. To hear the Banshee’s wail was to hear death itself and many an Irish old timer will tell you it’s sound is so loud and grotesque that it rips through your brain like an ice cube. One thing you must never, ever do however when you hear the Banshee’s scream, is investigate the sound. A glimpse at the banshee will instantly single you out the unfortunate soul at death’s door. None who have described the banshee have lived more than 24 hours later, though their description has been well documented. They claim the Banshee was a ghastly pale woman in white robes. She is usually seen sitting on the fence or wall of the garden combing her hair as she screams. One escape from the impending death sentence of the Banshee however, is the swift return of her comb. If after she has left the scene, there is a small comb made of bone on the ground, you must wait with it for a few hours and present it to her when she returns. If you do this then it is said she will look kindly on you, and pass the death sentence on to another member of your household.

 

 

exorcism_62 Dybbuk

A Dybbuk is the term given to a spirit or demon that possesses an unfortunate soul-think The Exorcist. Though most films that talk about exorcists claim to be dealing with the devil, this in fact is pretty rare among possessions and most Dybbuks are just evil spirits that want to cause mayhem to a human life. Whatever about a house or an object being haunted, there is nothing more terrifying than your actual body, the tool you use to interact with the world, being invaded by an evil entity. Although in the film The Exorcist, the victim was portrayed as being unaware of her condition in most cases of possession the unfortunate is deeply aware of their situation and are paralyzed as they feel their body moving uncontrollably, often causing them to do unspeakable things such as self harm, ingesting insects and attacking loved ones. The only method of cure from a Dybbuk is…wait for it, and exorcism from a trained priest but even this is not guarantied and if it fails, can anger the Dybbuk into killing their victim. 

 

 

1 The Grim Reaper

Grim_Reaper

Death himself, the big bad that will deliver you to your final resting place. Who else could be number one but the skinny one that quite simply, will kill you no matter what you do. With the other monsters on the list there are ways around the impending doom and some of them might even take a shine to you and spare your life. Not the Grim Reaper though, if you catch a glimpse of him your days are numbered and it’s time to say goodbye. The image of the skeleton in the robes with the scythe was created in the 15th century and is often associated with the Black Death or bubonic plague, when men in black robes would come to collect bodies and inspect people for infections. Often if you saw this pale figure in a black cloak approaching you, it pretty much meant your time was up, which is where many theorise the iconic image of death sprang from. It is unclear however if The Grim Reaper himself is responsible for his victim’s deaths, or if he is simply a messenger who is collecting you from the living world. In some cultures it is the former where there are stories of heroes bribing Death for another few years, or even tricking Death into taking another soul’s life instead of yours.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary-Interview with Mary Coughlan

October 26, 2009

grad 189

As anyone who has read Mary Coughlan’s new autobiography “Bloody Mary” will testify, no other woman has more right to sing the blues than she. A rollercoaster ride of child abuse, alcoholism and heartache, her thunderous lifestyle has often overshadowed the adroit musical career that put her in the public eye in the first place.

Her latest album The House Of Ill Repute has earned her the best reviews of her career and harvested a whole new generation of fans. Exploring the seedy world of prostitution, pimps and burlesque, she will be showcasing her vintage cabaret around the country until Christmas, when she will be taking the show to Italy.  I interrupted her during the Masterchef final to discuss Babylonian whores, breakfast in bed with Jools Holland and life post happy-ever-after.

 First of all Congratulations on Bloody Mary, by all accounts it’s doing very well.

Yes, It’s on its third reprint already.

You recorded The House Of Ill Repute after your marriage broke up, and you’ve claimed in the past you channelled your pain from the relationship into the record. You seem much more happy with life now though, does that mean your future material will loose it’s edge?

Well (laughs) I was only thinking about that yesterday in the car. There is a bit of trouble with one of my sisters regarding the book, and I’ve already starting planning my next album. I think I might call it Family Life. I seem to be on a never-ending journey of healing…or unfolding, of stuff that goes on in my life. I’ll never be stuck for something to sing about.

So who’s going to play you in the biopic film?

 

I don’t know, I doubt anyone could play me.

mary coughlan illYou’re already working on the next album then?

No I’m not working on it, I have a big list on my fridge of potential songs and I add to it everyday. I’m going to work with Kristina Lee Olsen again.  She wrote In Your Darkened Room on the last record, and she also wrote the music for Mary Mary, which I wrote the lyrics for. We’re working on some songs for the next album whenever it will be.  I’ll have to get some money first of course so it will probably be another year or so.

 Have you decided on any covers that we would know?

Well, I’m looking at my list now, and there’s a Neil Young song, a Blue Nile song, and a few Nick Drake songs.

So when you take those songs into the recording studio, do you already know how you’re going to put your mark on them or does it happen naturally?

Sometimes it’s very hard to know what to do, which is where Erik comes in (Erik Visser is Mary’s long time producer). However when you’re working with musicians and everyone comes in with their arrangements, it tends to just come together naturally. When we made the last CD we decided that the whole album was to be based around The House Of Ill Repute. That first song set the tone for the rest of the album. Each following song represented a different room in the house, and there are all these women in the rooms wondering, “how the fuck did I get here?”.

The Whore of Babylon is one of the more memorable tracks on the CD, was it written especially for you?

Johnny Mulhern and I have been collaborating for years. We wrote Runaway Teddy together, and when I told him about the Magdalene Laundries, he wrote a song about them for me.  I was reading a lot of books about God and Goddesses and when I came across the Whore Of Babylon I said to Johnny “I really feel like the fucking Whore Of Babylon, everyone just shits on me.” He then spent the best part of a year writing that song for me. When it came to Erik and I taking it to the studio it became our biggest challenge. It was an unfinished, mental song, but fantastic.

The title track for the album is a Cuckoo Savante song, how did that land in your lap?mary-coughlan

Well I still have suitcases filled with cassettes and CDs that people have sent me over the years. I have a real superstition about throwing them out so I’ve horded bags of them, and one night I was doing a gig in Galway when Jamie McEleney (lead singer of Cuckoo Savante) gave a CD to my partner John and asked him to pass it on to me. I listened to the CD the next day and called him straight away. To put that in perspective… I don’t think I’ve ever used one of the cassettes that were sent to me in the past. One of the songs on that CD was Red Apple, which I ended up recording with Cuckoo Savante. Another was The House Of Ill Repute, which of course we based the entire album around.

You have an extensive back catalogue to flick through at your gigs, do you stick to your recorded material or do you throw in a few covers that you haven’t got around to recording yet?

I tend to stick to the recorded stuff, and at the moment I throw in a few covers like The Killing Woman by Echo and The Bunnymen who I was really into back in the day. I missed a lot of the eighties, I had three children by the time I was 26 and I used to hear a lot of music on the radio but I never got to see bands or gigs so I enjoy catching up now. We’re also doing a version of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

You’ve dabbled in song writing in the past, is that something you’d like to explore more in the future?

 

Well, as the fella on that cookery show said, “I’d rather be ten minutes late with really good food then serve up shit food on time”. I’d rather sing a really good song in my own style than sing a crap song I wrote myself just to get the royalties. It’s quite strange actually, I always find songs, they just come to me. When I broke up with my husband Frank I rang Erik and told him I was in an awful state, I really have to go somewhere and do something. Within a month of my marriage breaking up the songs were coming to me already-into my car, into my kitchen, into my house. Already they’re finding me and I know the next album is here already.

Does that mean you’re going to sing a song about your sister?

 

(laughs) No, not about my sister, but there is a lot of stuff that still needs to be said. I thought that it was all out but you know, you turn one page and the next page is staring you in the face. But it’s a wonderful journey, it really is and I’m really enjoying all of it.

So what lies in the Future for Mary Coughlan?

Well I have a new manager Paul Loasby, and he manages Jools Holland and one of the guys for Pink Floyd so he might give me a bit of a push.  I’ve been on Jool’s show several times actually, and toured with him. I also sang in his band for a while which was outrageous fun. I was even serviced breakfast in bed by Jools Holland. He’s a sweet, sweet man, really wonderful. I haven’t promoted the current CD on his show yet but the record company has just given us some money to plug the CD on TV in January so hopefully all the work I’ve done this year will come rolling in the door next year.

Is it good to be Mary Coughlan these days?

It certainly is… at least I think it is anyway.

mary c

Mary plays the Button Factory November 15th and 22nd

Interview with David Turpin

September 30, 2009

Turpin Colour Portrait 1

There couldn’t be a more fitting month in the calendar than October, for the release of David Turpin’s Sophomore album Haunted! Buzzing with spectres and demons, yet also encompassing the warm fuzz that Halloween brings, it is a magical journey down the rabbit hole of the brother Alice never had. While his debut album The Sweet Used-To-Be earned him one of the most critically acclaimed Irish albums of 2008, it denied him the success and recognition he neatly deserved. Back again in full form with Haunted! I caught up with him over tea to discuss magical elks, lynching and The Wizard of Oz.

 

So when did you start recording Haunted!

In 2008.  I started recording soon after the first record was released, but there was a long gap between when I had finished recording the first that, and when it finally came out. I didn’t really consider what it was going to ultimately sound like, it was something to occupy my mind.

 

It has a more upbeat sound than The Sweet Used To Be, was that intentional?

I wanted to make a record with a bit of jollity in it.  There wasn’t very much that was jolly in the first record.  I wanted to make a record about death that was bursting with life.

 

So is death the main theme of the Album?

Well, it’s about ghosts and goblins and transubstantiation, which is why I called it Haunted! The exclamation point is important.  It’s hard to explain verbally how it’s supposed to be said.  It’s not an accusation – it’s more a gasp of surprise.

 

Your first single is The Bone-Dance yes?

Yes, it’s my big R&B song. I think bones are really cool. When I first started the record I was very conscious about doing it on my own and I wanted to write a song about undertaking things alone. The prevailing idea is that if one is alone, one lacks support – but one always has a skeleton to hold one’s body up. What more support can a person ask for?  The second single will be Dorothy Gale.

 

I take it that’s Oz’s Dorothy?

Yes.  I guess it’s supposed to be about Dorothy Gale looking at the yellow brick road stretching in front of her and saying, “okay, off I go”

 

Your lyrics tend to contain a lot of imagery, especially animal imagery. Is that something you deliberately achieve?

I like the idea of becoming an animal. My favourite song on the record is The Red Elk. It’s about a magical elk that comes alive somewhere….in a forest?  And maybe I make a pact with him to become an Elk myself – but then I realise that I’m not actually in a forest after all, I’m in a glass cage.  I don’t know for sure. Him being red as well, he could also be the Devil…

 

Are these images and stories the first things you come up with, when you sit down to write a song?

I think of places, and stories, and characters. If the imagery on the new album is striking, I think it’s because a lot of it is very violent.  It jangles in the brain. Cowards Bend The Knee is about being forced to kneel, Melmoth has the devil cutting out a tongue, and Puddinghead – even though it’s only a minute and a half long – has a lynching and a torture on the rack.

 

Yet it sounds so happy?

Yes, I don’t know what that song is all about really.  I don’t sing on it, Carla Amelia does the vocal.  The first person I actually asked to sing on it refused because of the lyrics.

 

So when you have your stories and imagery, what’s the next step in the writing process?

I trained in piano for a long time, so that’s how I think about music.  I think a lot of musicians of my generation write songs on guitar, and they work through cords.  I tend to see a song in terms of strings of notes.  Maybe that’s not unusual at all, I wouldn’t know.

 

Are you planning on touring with the album?

I’d like to.  I did lots of shows with the previous record, and lots of great supports, but I didn’t do an actual national tour.

 

Haunted! is out October 16th

Mushrooms, Bats and Badgers, Oh My!

September 10, 2009

Nature

Cast your memories back to those evanescent days of early primary schooling on a Friday afternoon. After two times tables and ‘Ann & Barry’ recitals, occasionally (if it was fine) your glorious teacher would don their bobble hat, assign you to a snotty partner and march you outside of the classroom into the wild and windy field across the way, or perhaps the green cess pit of a pond in the courtyard. Oh the pragmatic wonder such a trip envisaged as we learned that in fact squirrels don’t hibernate, frogs are endangered and one must never, ever, disturb a bird’s nest.

But then…secondary school collided down on our euphoric reality and apart from the odd biology lesson the outside world was no longer part of our curriculum. I want to drag you back to that glorious nature lesson that was once the highlight of our week. We’ve all seen lions and elephants in zoos, but, how many of you have actually seen a badger eh? And it doesn’t count if you saw them pasted on the side of a boulevard. How many of you have seen a bat outside a Christopher Nolan flick? I spoke to three of Dublin’s top nature experts and we present to you a lesson reminiscent of those forgotten days of blustery wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 badger1

 

Interview with Andrew Kelly, Member of Badger Watch Ireland

 

 

Can you tell me a little of your history with Badgers?

 Well I met my wife through the Irish Seal Sanctuary. We do a lot of voluntary work together which is how I got involved in Badger Watch Ireland. During Ireland’s boom, we would often keep tabs on sets- Badgers were the lowest in the pecking order and builders were known to dig up sets. Legally they are not allowed but of course if nobody knows the badgers are there then naturally it is easy to get away with.

 

 

 I know they are found in every county, but many people will never have actually seen a (live) one. How common are they?badger3

 

It depends on where you are. They are primarily found in earthy areas where they can dig for their main diet of earthworms. They are relatively common in Dublin actually, which is surprising to a lot of people. Just last week a man reported to us that he saw two in Killiney mating.

  

 

Mating? At this time of year?

 

When badgers reproduce, the fertilised egg lies dormant inside their mothers womb until the New Year when giving birth is far more suitable.

 

 

 Where are the best places in Dublin to go badger watching?

 

We tend not to give out specific sites, as badger bating is still a major problem unfortunately.

 

 

 Badger baiting still goes on? I thought it was an outdated practicebadger2

No, unfortunately there are still dregs of society that enjoy blood sports. Pitting badgers against dogs is a popular underground hobby to certain neanderthals.  For that reason we don’t advertise specific badger sets where people can go.  I can tell you however that Phoenix Park is a prime location for badgers where bating is unlikely.  If you are on the lookout for a set, then search for pockmarks in the ground. The best way to describe them would be to look for areas in the ground that look like they were scooped out with an ice-cream cone. Badgers leave these when searching for insects and earthworms.

 

 

 What about culling, does that still occur in Ireland?

 

Yes, in fact there are areas in Ireland that are almost redundant of badgers due to culling.

 

 

 Because of TB? I didn’t think that was still an issue.

 

It is still a problem yes, but a agricultural one, not a badger one. Levels of TB were brought under control once in Ireland under Charlie Haughey, who restricted the movement of cattle. To do that now would cause ructions, It’s far easier to cull the badgers. If we had better tests and restrictions on cattle it wouldn’t be a problem but unfortunately that doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

 

 

 

 mushroom1

 Interview with Bill O’Dea- of Mushroom Stuff and all-round fungi connoisseur

 

 

 

So what is mushroom stuff?

 

Well, we’re a small organisation that organises mushroom hunts around Ireland and abroad.

 

 

And how did you get involved in organising the mushroom hunts?mushroom2

 

We’ve been doing it for the last 11 years, I was brought up in Galway where we used to pick field mushrooms. I went to the states for a few years and friends would bring me these strange mushrooms to cook that I’d been brought up to believe were poisonous. I came back to Ireland then and did a course in Mushrooms in UCD.

 

 

 Is it dangerous to pick them without an expert?

 

Yes very dangerous, most types of mushrooms are poisonous. You should never eat one unless an expert has identified it.

 

 

 Would a guidebook suffice?

 

No, you’d need an expert because a guidebook can only tell you so much. One mushroom could be perfectly tasty with no side effects, while another one that is extremely similar could actually kill you. In fact more people die each year from mushroom poisoning than from skydiving or parachuting.

 

 

 mushroom3When is the best time of year to go mushroom picking?

 

From late August into November. We usually do a few hunting trips throughout these months and one trip abroad to Spain or France.

 

 

 Is there a big interest? How many people have you had on your abroad hunts?

 

Up to 50 or 60, though we’ve had bigger on occasions.

 

 

 And where are your Irish hunts based?

 

Usually around Wicklow, we do one in Avondale house each year in October.

 

 

 What makes those areas so suitable for mushrooms?mushroom4

 

Avondale house is brilliant because it’s got great mixed woodland, which leads to a great range of mushrooms. Ireland is actually a perfect country to go mushroom picking because our damp climate is a perfect breeding ground for mould and fungus.

 

 

 Any bad experiences on any of you hunts?

 

No, there have been a few deaths over the years in Ireland (though never with us) but they nearly always transpire to people looking for magic mushrooms rather then edible ones. Magic mushroom picking is highly dangerous for obvious reasons.

 

 

 bat

Interview with Phil O’Malley, Wildlife Expert ala St. Enda’s Park and Bat Watching Extraordinaire…

 

 

So how long have you been organising groups to go Bat watching?

 

Well I’ve been working in St Enda’s nature museum for 12 years and we’ve been organising  bat watching evenings every summer for about ten years now. It’s great because many people don’t see a lot of bats in Dublin, or at least they don’t notice them. There are roughly 1000 species in the world though we only have about 10 species in Ireland. Of the ten species we have 3 inhabiting St. Enda’s park. The Pipistrelle- which along with the vole is the smallest mammal in Ireland, and the Leisler, whose wingspan measures about three inches. The Leisler is our largest species but is far smaller then the fruit eating bat of Australia, whose wing span measures up to 1.5 metres.

 

 

bat2 I take it our native bats are harmless to humans?

 

Absolutely, in fact they are extremely beneficial to man. They eat roughly 3000 insects a night and their droppings are extremely fertile for soil. If you are lucky enough to have them in you attic then you will never have to worry about woodworm or Mosquitoes. At the moment we have 4 species of Mosquitoes that have unnaturally entered Ireland, and in the next coming years we will have more species that will be even more of a nuisance. Our bats however will make dinner out of them.

 

 

They are found in every continent in the world (bar Antarctica) and thrive in nearly all conditions, yet they are declining in numbers, why is this?

 

Habitat loss. There has been a decline of up to 15% of bat populations in Ireland in the last decade and it is primarily due to loss of habitat.

 

 

 And are they a protected species? 

Leisler's Bat

Leisler's Bat

Oh yes, but even still they are wrongly accused of being a pest. They also fall victim to owls, and other birds of prey. They are extremely hardy little animals though and can live up to 20 years, producing one offspring a year.

 

 

 I read somewhere that bats actually aren’t blind, and that’s simply an old wives tale. What other myths about bats are untrue?

 

Well not only are bats not blind, they can actually see quite well in the dark. Old wives tales say that bats might reside in a belfry as well, but this is another myth, belfries are far too drafty to home bats. The vampire bat has also given bats a bad name, which is unfortunate. vampire bats do exist in South America but they are tiny and really only target livestock.

 

 bat3

 So would you consider yourself batty about bats?

 

Absolutely, we at St. Enda’s try to educate people about these beautiful animals to rid them of their wrongful reputation. There have been over 100 medical discoveries that bats have lead to including a blood clotting method discovered from our Aussie fruit bat.

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the above check out

www.badgerwatch.ie

www.mushroomstuff.com

www.batconservationireland.org

badger cubs

 

and if you want to expand on it check out

http://www.irishsealsanctuary.ie/

http://www.noticenature.ie/

http://www.iwt.ie/

Theatre Review-Epilogue

September 9, 2009

hospital%20bed%20small

With so many plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and even Sophocles still hitting stages around the world, it can be difficult for a new writer without hundreds of years worth of audiences to find a stage. In a industry where “getting your foot in the door” is the most important step on the ladder of success, kudos to The New Theatre for giving new writers the opportunity in this (hopefully annual) new writers festival-Lots of “news”.

 

It was at this festival that I had the pleasure of screening Epilogue on its debut run.

Suitably titled, in Epilogue we meet Henry as he wakes up in a purgatory like room with a ubiquitous unnamed lawyer. We learn that Henry has died and he has a choice; to confront demons to further analyse his history, or to move on to the unknown, never looking back. Fortunately for us he presses on and meets, among others, a rival from his childhood that succeeded him financially, his first love whom he abandoned with ambition and his former younger self. In meeting these characters, Henry realises perhaps he didn’t live such a perfect life after all, and perhaps his ambition for success swallowed up his ambition for happiness. These familiar themes are played skilfully when balanced against the humour and eeriness of his malignant situation, yet they end up asking more questions then answering. Is the hard working businesswoman who never had children but enjoyed success the superlative? Or is it the mother who raised five kids but never had time for herself or her career? Is it possible to enjoy both success and family in life, and if not, which one should reign supreme?

Such weighty issues resemble Willy Russell’s penmanship and the word echoing after curtain down was profound. Backed by marvellous character submergence in the cast, and the correct dose of humour to balance out the bleak theme, Epilogue is certainly not the epilogue of Ms McCarthy’s playwright career.