Friday, April 2, 2010

Seed Of Hope

After years of unsuccessful IVF treatment, my partner and I were resigned to a life devoid of the pitter patter of tiny feet that we so craved. Our converted nineteenth century cottage felt so empty, and no amount of agas or bespoke furniture could fill it up. At an age where the ticking of time was beating louder and louder, my wife insisted we see a doctor to discuss our final options. The idea of traditional surrogacy had been bandied about and dismissed out of hand by Laura on previous occasions, but broken down by constant disappointment she confessed she may have to re-evaluate.
Our Doctor, a kindly Serb, suggested a gestational carrier, but warned us (as if we needed reminding) that time was not on our side and it was paramount to instigate an agreement with a surrogate. That autumn we racked our brains, making desperate pleas to friends and family metronomically. Cash was offered often, and refused politely. Laura cried herself to sleep every night while I stayed in the study chain smoking, reading Shakespearian tragedies. Fate though, cruel and unusual mistress that she is, provided a fillip when a young lady from Bilbao moved in next door. One night over dinner (Croquettes of suckling pig, fried quail egg and foie gras served with pancetta and a red pepper mostardo) she talked about her financial troubles and I, with our search for a surrogacy never far from my mind, made her an offer she could not refuse. The payoff, plus the exorbitant cost of this and previous procedures had stretched us beyond financial breaking point and this represented our one last throw of the dice. Late autumn saw the embryo implanted and then we waited in hope. Alas, at work one evening I received a call from a frantic Laura, informing me the embryo had not taken. Without the financial means to try again, the bleak, leafless trees seemed to mock me as I drove home. I pushed open the door and there she was, barely moving by the fire, tears streaming down her face. I approached, touched her hair and whispered "I guess we should never have put all our eggs in one Basque."

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Pompous Sketch Series, #1

I remember it like it was yesterday, lying in the August sun with Ekaterina, our two little girls frolicking in the lake. The cacophony of their voices was like a distant echo of angels. I turned to my wife, a lens flare, a warm squint. The sun lit up her skin, behind her the pollen waltzed in the grass with the butterflies. The small white towel covering our basket of food was still warm to the touch; vatrushkas, syrniki, blini. The wine I had made my chest warm and my head fuzzy and I concentrated on Ekaterina, trying to make her open her eyes and smile at me. 'Open them'. Then the sun disappeared. I shiver and see my breath hang thick in the dim morning light. Yes, I am in Petropavlovsk mine. I simply forgot. 'Vernutʹsya k rabote, zek' someone shouts at me: prisoner number 3288, sentence: eight years.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Catholic Church, Please Shut Up

What a ridiculous little country we live in, full of hypocrisy and arcane piety. 'Limerick pubs to open on Good Friday' say the headlines; a judge has ruled that because there's a rugby match on in Limerick that Friday the pubs can open, for five whole hours. This has caused all sorts of hysteria within the Church's more conservative sheep (well, a group of sheep is a 'flock'), presumably from Limerick to Knock.
What's wrong with pubs opening I hear you ask? Well, Good Friday (which this year falls on 2 April) is the day when Jesus Christ was crucified. If you're a Christian of some sort chances are you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of the creator of the universe, or 'God' for short. Out of respect Christians might want to avoid fun or intoxication or meat that day. (Killing fish is okay though.) 'Good' Friday, they say, should be a day for mourning, for introspection, prayer and most certainly not for cheering on a local rugby team or, shock horror, elevating activity within the gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter (ie getting drunk).'Brother' Shawn O'Connor (above) in his dour asceticism warned that those who attend the game had no right to call themselves Catholics. Accompanying this were dire, apocalyptic-sounding warnings straight out of the Old Testament: 'You are serving mammon over God!' [Exclamation marks added for effect]. I have no idea what mammon is, but it sounds sufficiently weird enough to scare some people away from drinking that day. Fair enough though, at least we know where he stands.
The problem is, people will watch the match and continue to call themselves Catholics, and they can do that too. I don't care. The real reason for pointing out all these sides of the argument is simply to highlight their pettiness. I know that as a nation we have never appreciated this fact, but this country is called The Republic of Ireland. The Republic. Those who wish to observe a day without alcohol and rugby to remember a man who died (and yet didn't die) for our 'sins' are entitled to do so by whatever means they deem appropriate. Just as I, as an atheist, feel I am entitled to drink alcohol in a pub that day if I wish it. (I can't, I live in Dublin.) In Ireland one often hears the platitude 'It's only one day. We can go for one day without a drink.' Bullshit, that's not the point. What if I've gone three weeks without a drink and I just happen to fancy one that Friday? What about the tourists who will arrive in Dublin or Cork or Galway that day for the weekend and find out they can't drink a glass of wine with their evening meal or have that first-ever pint of Guinness? 'Yes, we know you're only here for two days but sorry, some philosopher was killed two thousand years ago and we want you all to solemnly think about it. Yes, even if you're a lapsed Zoroastrian.'
The Catholic Church is disgraced, and has been for a long, long time. It has no business telling me when I can and cannot have a drink, and shame on the Gardaí in Limerick for entertaining the Church's supernatural fascism. (Gardaí objected to the application with the city’s State solicitor.) I suppose I'm glad that the judge made the right decision, but it was obviously because of local business interests and not because he's some trailblazing secularist.
What will I be doing that Friday? No idea just yet. Thursday however, is a different story: I'll be down in the off-licence. And that, unlike that whole tale about Jesus Christ surviving his own death, is a certainty.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: Tough Love (Katona, 2007)

Let me be frank: Kerry Katona's Tough Love is unquestionably a jewel in the crown of modern British literature. While it has been argued that it lacks the 'polyglot literary intensity' (a charge levelled at her during an emotionally draining university debate with Gore Vidal) of her other work, accusations of narrative simplicity can only be met with mockery. Katona has created a world that is so rich in detail and emotional depth that it makes Finnegans Wake read like a tabloid editorial.
To begin: Katona's protagonist is the beautiful but enigmatic model Leanne Crompton. Crompton, living a life of haute couture fashion and high-class cuisine loses her job, spiralling into an abyss where her only option is to head 'north', back to her hometown. (Was the reference to this mysterious cardinal direction a nod to 'Eyeing The North Star', 1997's collection of African-Canadian literature that Katona had mentioned as an influence at a press conference in Vancouver? One wonders.) In any case, the world Katona creates is both a delicate and touching reminder of her working class roots, and also a call to arms: Katona is an unashamed Trotskyite, and her long friendship with Christopher Hitchens has been well-documented.
Not unlike Tracey Emin, Katona can still make astute observations on her inherited class; Crompton notes wryly to herself that 'The Knowledge and Knickers speech bubble that the papers insisted on printing above the new breed of page-three girls’ heads was always made up in two seconds flat by some hack in Canary Wharf – it had nothing to do with the models.' Katona's sharp intellect clearly hasn't been dulled by those evenings of champagne and beluga with Rushdie and Naipaul. Similarly, Katona's prose leaps to life with her delicate wordplay; the movement of a woman's breasts become 'ginormous plastic orbs bobbing around'. Sexual arousal in the man is described as 'a quick lump in [the] trousers'. Your reviewer has tried his hand at writing a novel or two and it can be depressing to read words like this, words that come so easily to Katona and dance like the rising sun on the savannah. But then, is that not genius?
Tough Love is a dense and complex work, and to divulge further plot details would be to do Katona and her readership a grave disservice, for rarely I have I come across a work of such organic plot divergence. It is not easy to read, that much will be obvious from the novel's dark foreword. At times this reader found it as challenging (emotionally and syntactically) as anything found in Proust's In Search Of Lost Time. Most people of power in today's literary world agree that this novel should see Katona rise into the 'premier league' of powerhouses in literature. In any language. This reviewer would have to agree.
Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that 'There are two kinds of geniuses. The characteristic of the one is roaring, but the lightning is meagre and rarely strikes; the other kind is characterized by reflection by which it constrains itself or restrains the roaring. But the lightning is all the more intense; with the speed and sureness of lightning it hits the selected particular points - and is fatal.' On the basis of her work so far, it would appear that Kerry Katona fits into both categories.

Hi LOL!!1!

Hi LOL!!1! wat do u need 2 no? i luv people who r strait talking and live life 2 da max!! i like going out and drinking lol n dncing. i luv my family n frinds, hate ppl who play gamez, what u c is whta u get...dont like jelouss people

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dogme 95 Manifesto

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the image or vice-versa.
  3. The camera must be handheld. Any movement or mobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable.
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action.
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

Furthermore I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste. I am no longer an artist. I swear to refrain from creating a 'work', as I regard the instant as more important than the whole. My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings. I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations.

Calvin And Hobbes