Who’s That Girl?- UCC Express, November 2009

I am in no way extraordinary. I have done nothing exemplary, and I have done nothing worthy of infamy. I am a 19 year old university student in Ireland’s second largest city, I live with my parents in a nice house in the city and study law, I like books, films and history. I am, therefore, entirely normal. I am in a majority of totally ordinary people on this island; we’re underrepresented and casually forgotten. We elected (mistakenly and to our detriment) a government that insists upon gambling our chances away, It’s bad enough that Fianna Fail have been embroiled in controversy for the past twenty years or so, bad enough that they have led us poorly and have thrown money around with panache. What’s worse is that now they cannot fix the mess they’ve made.

I am one of 349,000 other students. We do not have a voice in government. Nobody asks us what we think. In a regular time, we mostly elect to ignore that. Foolish, but sadly true. In hard times, we are the ones who face the future unawares, not able to fight against bad decisions that threaten to engulf us. I watched the furore over Barack Obama’s school speech in the news every day and it makes me so angry to think that while people accused him of poisoning children’s minds (by telling them to work hard and be whatever they want to be), our leaders are setting up an agency that will force me and my children and my children’s children, to “contribute” (ie, to pay the debts this country’s elite has incurred through corruption and bad deals, shady business and lies).

I have some of the most amazing questions for our politicians. Why is it that my Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, is paid more than Baraek Obama, President of the United States? Why do they refuse to apologise for destroying the nation, when they are the ones who have been in power, almost exclusively, for the past 15 years? Why don’t they listen to calls. for them to step aside and let somebody else, anybody else, have a go at fixing the country?

It’s a poor democracy that allows a government with no support to stay in power as a result of a few Independents holding the sway of power in parliament. Here’s the true fact: The Irish people do not want Fianna Fail in power. It’s shown in their ridiculously low support ratings- a recent Red C opinion poll shows that only 24% of people would give Fianna Fail their first preference vote in a general election- whereas 33% would vote Fine Gael, the largest opposition party, and 19% would vote Labour. It’s frankly a disgrace that with support at an all time low, Fianna Fail will not step aside to allow someone else a chance to salvage what is left of Ireland. But Fianna Fail won’t do that. I’d like to say that it’s an honour thing; perhaps they feel that they got us into this mess (they did), and so they ought to get us out (they ought- but can’t). But that is clearly not what they feel. They refuse to admit liability for the fact that my country is falling to pieces.

The latest idea for economic recovery is NAMA (National Asset Management Agency)- a state run bank that will buy the toxic assets of our regular banks. The taxpayer will foot the bill for those bad debts, and be forced, in the future, to payoff a bloated national debt. A debt we never made. How is it that most families manage to sort their finances without aid, yet our national bank managers and executives have made a royal mess of their affairs?

Opportunities here are slim and nil. With a state moratorium imposed on the public service, we can have no new civil service jobs. Teacher numbers are falling, though more are desperately needed. Third level students who graduated last year, are doggedly sending out CVs, doggedly forcing themselves out of bed every morning in the hopes of a job offer they know they won’t receive. Eventually, resignedly, they sign on the dole and queue for hours. That is not quite how I had envisioned my future. College placement schemes have fallen off the radar, to be replaced by research projects worth nothing on a cv.

I might only be a college student. It doesn’t mean I’m stupid and it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I do. I vote at election time, I take an interest. I care about what happens. But I can’t blame people who don’t. Watching the news is depressing and trying to figure out what might happen next is even worse. Our entire political system is a shambles, utterly degraded, tired, lost. If NAMA fails, whispers say, the next step is the IMF.

As soon as I hear that, my head bloats with worries. Shortly after Jamaica entered into a borrowing deal with the IMF, the Jamaican dollar was worth more than the US dollar and going strong. By the time Jamaica ended the deal, their Currency was floating at less than 2 cents worth of the US Currency. Needless to say, on the back of a story like that, I’m almost more doubtful of the IMF than I am of Fianna Fail.

For a long time, we thought the government ran the country- hut we were wrong. Money, the economy, runs the country. And though we might have once innocently thought that the government ran the economy, that too is a lie at closer inspection. In Ireland, the money has the power and the leaders are enthralled by it, determined to make it and use it and not think about losing it. Money is the master, the government a dog on a leash, desperately seeking more and more and more, without considering the consequences.

The fact that no young person could buy a house until they won the lotto has led to an upsurge of people living with their parents – parents who made something out of the boom years we had in the late nineties and early noughties. They had to fend for their children, and now are faced with defending them for the foreseeable future. The property boom is over, but now the young people, like me, cannot get jobs to raise money for a house. So an entire generation is living with its parents. Parents who looked forward to an early retirement, parents who must now cling to the jobs they had tentatively considered giving up a few years ago.

TIME magazine have referred to our current situation as “The Hangover”- no other word rings so true with a college student. We as a nation have lost our identity, utterly lost in a web of lies, tribunals of inquiry, more lies, and then lies about lies (for good measure)- and that was just Bertie Ahern answering questions about his finances.

It is easy for the government to take a three month recess in government. They can fly their private Jet (paid for by the taxpayer) to visit state dignitaries and lie about the state of the nation. They can take holidays in the free time they have been given, while the rest of us cry sometimes just because it’s too damn hard to keep going. It’s tiring, trying not to lose control when your entire future is being flung down a drain of incessant stupidity. They can offer pretty reassurances that everything will be alright if we follow their lead. They can tell us that they know what they’re doing, that they understand the issues; that they will bring us from the darkness into the light.

What they fail to mention is that for the past 12 years, we have followed their lead. Never has it led to a brave new world. They have led us into a quagmire and they don’t know how to get out of it. Fianna Fail in essence means “Warriors of Ireland”. The point to be made here is that when a battle is lost, warriors retreat. They can return to fight again another day. But right now, I think I speak for many in saying that the mere discussion of them makes me feel a little ill with trepidation. Honourless, outdated and futile, Ireland’s leaders have failed spectacularly. In ten years, we made it all. And now we have lost it with shocking speed. We deluded ourselves into believing that the Celtic Tiger would live forever. We were wrong.

The average tiger survives between ten to fifteen years in the wild. It seems fitting, doesn’t it, that our beloved Tiger kicked the bucket in just the right amount of time? We tried voting both locally and internationally. We tried walking the streets and protesting. The elderly did it. The youth of the nation did it. Children in buggies did it with their parents. Teachers did it. And the silence of government buildings ought to have convinced us, once and for all, that our government elects to ignore us speaking to them. We gave them their power. What a pity that we cannot so easily take it away

Ghosts of Columbine- Motley Magazine, November 2009

It’s a scary thing that every year, somewhere in the world, students die in their own schools or colleges, set upon by members of their own classes. There is a disconcerting lack of knowledge about it, which is amazing considering there are more than 17000 students roaming this particular
campus – potential lives lost because we don’t fully appreciate the danger.

On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold set bombs to blow their school- and hundreds of students- to pieces, hoping to shoot the straggling survivors as they stumbled from the wreckage. Though the bombs didn’t work, the sawn off shotguns and rifles did. Harris and Klebold murdered 13 people- 12 students and a teacher- before taking their own lives in the library of their school. In the midst of it all Patti Nielson called 911 and asked for help. Help didn’t come on time; Patti left the phone on the floor for 27 minutes while she hid. The call recorded the deaths of three students, with dozens of injuries and yells both of pain and glee- also heard in abundance. Eric and Dylan were just 18 and 17- vounger than you and I, most likely. The result is that Columbine is now a word we use, not to define an area, but to define a massacre.

This is not the only example of a disgusting trend for violence that gets worse year on year. In 2007, again the horror was replayed. Seung- Hui Cho murdered 32 people in Virginia Tech. It was a devastating number – the most killed by a single gunman in peacetime. Cho was 23 years old. The legacy he left behind included a manifesto of rage and terrifying spite. He walked into the engineering building, chained the doors shut, and set about his pre planned destruction. Professor Liviu Librescu held a classroom door closed, alIowing all but one of his students time to escape through a window. Librescu survived the Holocaust, but bullets put an end to him on this day.

Cho fired and fired and fired – and eventually he fired into his own head and ended his spree. Anyone with an interest in this area can tell you that there is simply no way to validly identify someone as a school shooter. There are no FBI profile for one. Their reasons are different and unique to each individual. Dylan Klebold wrote obsessively about love. in his diary; Eric Harris detailed his plans to kill all of humanity. Cho Seung Hui was mentally unwell and had deteriorated severely by the day of his death. My point here is that it could be anyone, at any time- for any reason. People like to think that these things only happen in America; that’s a myth. – Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed 8 people and wounded 12, at Jokela High School in Finland, in November 2007. When his principal pleaded with him to stop, he shot her seven times. When the nurse tried to help injured students, the 18 year old killed her too. He tried to set fire to the school, but failed. Auvinen shot himself in the boy’s bathroom and died. He was academically strong in history, liked philosophy, and was an occasional mark for bullies.

That’s a big myth about the school shooter- that they are all bullied souls seeking release. It’s one of those assumptions that’s just plain wrong. Eric Harris was popular and well liked. Dylan Klebold, while quiet, was never bullied. Cho Seung Hui was ill, and that’s it.

Not even a year after the Jokela shooting, Finland saw another. Matti Saari, a student at Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences, calmly walked into a business studies exam and individually approached students before firing on them. He shot one person twenty times. He set fire to the room, and left. His reason was very simple -Saari said it himself; he hated the world. A former classmate said that he was “happy, social guy, he wasn’t lonely. He had friends”. He killed one of those friends, the only male student he targeted. –

The sad thing about all of this is that even with no tolerance. policies and new laws enacted, school shootings are still happening. In fact, their numbers have increased if anything. Leaving aside terrorism, war, religion and gang efforts, there have been II shootings so far in 2009. There were 7 in 2008 and 9 in 2007. It had been said, in the aftermath of Columbine, that 1999 would be the worst year ever; in that year there were 5. Bear in mind that the figures I counted don’t include personal grievances or fights – and they don’t include knife crime and stabbings, which are becoming frighteningly more common in the last two years. And not all of the ones I counted were in the United States. There were incidents in Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Greece and Azerbaijan.

No state, no school, can be classified as immune. When Michael Moore asked Marilyn Manson what he would say to the Columbine shooters, he replied, “I would have listened”. He had a very valid point. It is very easy to read about these events and to shudder at them. It’s easy to cast the killers off as maniacs. It is simple to change gun control laws. It’s pretty easy to forget. It is not so easy to Google the names of two teenage boys from Colorado, and to see a police image of them sprawled on a library floor, heads blown to bits – literally. In the pursuit of this article, I read some nasty things, saw some horrific pictures, and listened, disgusted, to recordings that beat any horror film. Patti Nielson didn’t know what that day in April 1999 was going to be like for her. At one point, she broke down, and whispered down the phone to the 911 dispatcher. What she said is pretty much the only thing that can be said about all of this. “Oh God, I’m really frightened.”

Interview with Shirley Somers of the Kino Steering Committee

Note: This interview was conducted as part of the campaign to prevent the closure of The Kino. The Kino fundraising efforts were successful in their own right, but the cinema remained closed. In 2013, young people in Cork led by Daire Calnan have sought to reclaim the space. Mick Hannigan has, as of April 2013, launched efforts to introduce an Indie Film Festival in Cork following his departure from the Cork Film Festival.

 

AT: I suppose the first question I have, probably that everyone has, since it came out in the media that the Kino was going to close, is how it came to this?
SS: Well, basically, the situation is that the debts the Kino has are being pursued by their creditors in the High Court. And the thing is that that’s a really unfortunate situation, because the debts didn’t come from day-to-day running but from when the Kino applied for an Arts Council Grant to expand the facilities. While the grant was given to them, they weren’t able to secure the additional funding, so they couldn’t complete the project. But putting in the application takes a lot of financial hardship for a smaller independent cinema like that -we’re talking about debts upwards of €50,000 -architects to draw up plans, legal fees and all of that. It is unfortunate that what’s dragging them down now is an attempt to improve the facilities.

 

AT: What possessed people to try to save it? In every interview he gave, Mick Hannigan seemed to be resolved to the fact that the buck would now pass to someone else to keep independent cinema going in Cork. He wasn’t happy about it, but to me it didn’t seem that he was going to fight his comer at the time. So who was it that made the decision to start the facebook page and the Save the Kino Campaign?
SS: Well, the facebook page was started by William Galinsky and he basically contacted Mick and let him know, “I’m gonna start this facebook group, is that okay with you?” and I don’t think anyone anticipated it going from strength to strength like that. It started on Tuesday evening, and by the time we had the public meeting, we were  at 4,500 members. I’m not directly associated with the Kino or anything -I saw it on facebook and got involved and through that I’ve ended up on the steering committee. Basically I think people didn’t realise the level of support that was there. It wasn’t even that there were just members clicking to add on the face book page- it was people with a true interest. You know, ‘When my child was in the neonatal unit at the Erinville, I was in the Kino.” People dropped by to say they’d met their girlfriend in the Kino.

 

AT: It has a lot of history, it’s been there for 13 years.
SS: Yeah! I think it’s just really got a place in people’s hearts and there are a lot of people that are willing to do what they can to help that. And you asked where the initiative came from -I think that people weren’t aware that there would be that level of support and dedication. Initially we were planning a public meeting in the Kino, which was moved to the Opera House because of the response. We had Minister Micheal Martin there, Deirde Clune, Ciaran Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, like loads of our local TDs.

 

AT: And have they agreed to do anything for you?
SS: AT the moment they have submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister for Arts and I know Deirdre Clune hasn’t got a great response from Martin Cullen. But she sent a press release yesterday about that. I don’t think that’s necessarily our last port of call. But they are involved, they’re making representations to the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board and the Cultural Cinema Consortium, which is the funding body.

 

AT: It would appear that nobody wants the cinema to close. I know there are a couple of comments on the Facebook page saying “Well hell, you can’t run something by donations.” But that comes from someone who maybe hasn’t read into this whole thing. There’s a very serious effort going on -it’s not just a case of a group of people coming together to raise money to keep the Kino staggering along for as long as it can.
SS: That’s absolutely true. Basically there’s been such a surge of goodwill and support, and people are willing to help the Kino overcome this obstacle. There has been no secret made of the fact that this is just the immediate clearing of the debt. That needs to be done so as to take the next step. This is just a case of realising that something we’ve taken for granted and that has always been part of this city, is in need of a bit more support and because of that the Steering Committee was established. Trustees have been selected and we want to keep it all transparent so people will know everything about the fundraising. People want us to get over the immediate hurdle; it’s not a question of continuing exactly as we did before. There’s a new business plan being drafted and more importantly, it’s in the public consciousness a lot more now.

 

AT: Basically, people know now that the Kino s having trouble.
SS: Exactly, and people need to be aware of that. I find it really heartening in the current climate, when everyone is really hard up, to have people coming out to give money to try to support the Kino, is amazing. I think as well there’s an element of moral support. Not everyone can donate al the money.

 

AT: But with so many people behind it, propping it up, that’s bound to help to. It’s not Just about the money, is it?
SS: No, it’s not. The message that I’d really like to get out there is that if you want to help, even the price of a cinema ticket is a big help. And we’re always looking for volunteers- extra time would be a huge help. If people even have an hour or two between lectures that would be fantastic. If you’re involved in a college society and you’re running a fundraiser or a quiz, we would ask you to consider donating to the Kino.

 

AT: Which is a good idea, given that there are Arts students here doing Film Studies and there are MA students of Film, who would obviously have a huge need for the Kino. When Chris was with Cork Campus Radio last week, he made the point that, as well as all the people who are out there on the streets, regardless you still need to have people coming to the cinema. So maybe at the same time this works as a type of publicity all on its own?
SS: Absolutely. You’re looking at a chance to get more exposure in the meantime. When you’re being crippled by debts, it can be hard to make something run administratively and financially anyway. Being able to focus on the day to day will be a lot more productive. If we can overcome this immediate obstacle, and get more interest, it will hopefully be a wake-up call for people.

 

AT: So what’s next? What is the immediate next step for you guys?
SS: Well, trustees have been appointed, documents have been drawn up, the account has been opened, the website is up and running. Fliers are being printed and handed out, T-shirts are being picked up, media are being contacted and the fundraising teams are being organised to get going as soon as possible.

 

AT: The thing to consider is that, while someone else could try to take up the mantle of independent film in the city, that might be an impossible thing given the time we’re in.
SS: Well, given any times, it’s not a profitable game, running an independent cinema. The thing is that in he long run developments are the best things for independent cinema; there’s a project in Galway at the moment, the way they’re working and the money they’re getting from various funding avenues as well as from citizens is the way to try to make independent film viable- it’s a valuable asset. We have had- importantly- a solicitor and a law firn to help us out, who offered to step in to advise us.We have accountants doing the same thing. People have just shown out in their thousands to help out in any way they can. Anything is useful. If you have contacts, or an ability to help in some way- any way- let us know. There are so many things that can help to get a campaign like this off the ground- design abilities, web design skills, anything at all. I think the campaign is a true community effort. There are people from all walks of life brought together by this one building. I think that in itself is a great representation of what the Kino is about. I think there’s something very special about that small community atmosphere; there’s something almost homely about it in a city of anonymity.

 

My Friend Bob

When I was a little girl, my father subjected me to hours and hours of torture every day; he made me listen to Bob Dvlan. Whenever he was home from work, Mr. Dylan would be screaming from the speakers. These days of course, my father has modernised. Now Dylan screams from YouTube, getting on a bit but nonetheless trundling onward.

You have to love the online revolution -videos of Bob Dylan rasping his way through a song are hardly in high demand but they are out there, mostly for free. The days of taping things from the radio are laughable now, aren’t they? Honestly, the average eight year old does not appreciate Bob Dylan. Or, for that matter, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen and on one too many occasions, Neil Young.

My father also loves the Beatles and so we were also subjected to them. My brother responded as the average person would; he listened to grunge to drown his sorrows. Yet Dylan and the Boss now count among my favourite artists and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Despite my years of protestations, I go with my father to see Bob Dylan every time he travels to Ireland. There have been times when I cannot decipher a word and there are times when he has blown me away. But the one thing I can say with certainty is that he has grown on me hugely over the years; for the last decade in my house, we have taken to calling him “Bob”.

This might tell you why I have trouble with modern music. Usually I’m that fool in the club who doesn’t know the words to “Umbrella” and can’t quite bring herself to sing loudly to “Poker Face! (again, it’s about not knowing the words, as opposed to a general lack of enthusiasm). I always manage to look the prize idiot and, to that end, I’m the one who shimmies a little and talks more often than dances. Trust me, you’ll know me when you see me. Generally you’ll think I’m a bit of a pleb.

Anyway, to get back on track, Christmas is (sadly for the bank account) coming too quickly. If anybody wants to send me gifts, they’re acceptable at the usual address with my name on them. This also applies to the post-Christmas rush; we all get gifts we don’t like. You can give them to me, or if you don’t like me, consider giving them to charitable causes around the city.

After reading this issue, you might think more about that annoying “Parental Advisory” sticker on all your CDs. There are boredom beating websites and some thoughts for good Christmas presents in our iGadget column! There are the usual reviews, and that amazing calendar of events that I’ve come to rely on for planning my fortnight. What I’ll do without it during the upcoming holidays is anyone’s guess. Meh. If you need me, I’ll be with Bob on Youtube.

The Tudors

The premise is simple enough- take a hot guy, turn him into Henry VIII and have him marry six different women. Along the way, have him betray the Pope, make himself Head of the Church of England- and display a fancy for beheadings. For anyone who’s seen it, the Tudors is an iconic and stylised piece of history committed to television- with added hotness. In spades.

Season Two begins where Season One left off. Henry is seeking an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, and makes himself head of the Church of England. These events lead to the rest of the season being full of general moaning, regret assassination

attempts, death and callousness. I never quite know who to like of the entire cast of characters- in Season Two it was Padraic Delaney (who played Teddy in the Wind that Shakes the Barley) playing George Boleyn, brother of the infamous Anne. He stole the show for me, notably in the last few episodes when accusations and convictions were thrown at him from all sides. There are some seriously moving moments in his final scenes.

Each of the other characters is detestable. Henry VIII is one of those people who should have been stabbed with his own crown- Anne Boleyn never provides him with a male heir. And so she becomes a disposable fancy, relegated to second place in favour of the Lady Jane Seymour. Both Rhys Myers and Natalie Dormer, playing Queen Anne, do wonderful work in their roles. Each tricks and maligns the other, manipulating people left right and centre to get what they want. The anger, passion and cruelty shown in their relationship is worthy of mention. Every single second is perfectly brought across. Though they both could have done with a good slap, the extraordinary selfishness of their relationship is excellently shown.

I thought that I would miss Sam Neill, aka Cardinal Wolsey, this season, but a very worthy Peter O Toole playing Pope more than makes up for the loss of a great character. O Toole, as usual, has that scary misanthropic tone that assures you of his shrewdness and political capability. His Pope Paul III is not a guy to mess with and his is the standout performance.

Without doubt, the big change in tone is evident. Things are reasonably darker this season. Anne Boleyn’s sufferings as she miscarries more than once are difficult to watch and Henry’s distracted manner is cruel in the circumstances. His clipped tones make me hate him even more- and his being in cahoots with Thomas Cromwell makes him vindictive and mean in the extreme.

I can’t complain about the Season. The final episodes arc fantastic- beheadings, tears, regret, screaming, selfishness- and a triumphant Henry VIII by the end, arc brought across with gusto. Every costume, every actor, every extra. Every single thing is perfectly planned and laid out. It all looks brilliant- just don’t depend on it for historical accuracy!

Gone Baby Gone

So we all know pretty much everything about Ben Affleck. He was the other half of “Bennifer” and an all out pretty boy. He’s best known for his performances in Pearl Harbour and Armageddon, and even though he’s won an Oscar, Ben Affleck was never taken seriously. Until, that is. He became a director.

Gone Baby Gone was haunted by jibes on its release. People questioned if it was really a good idea to release a film about a missing 4 year old blonde girl named Amanda, just a few months after the awkward disappearance of Madeleine McCann. But the film most definitely shows us more than your average crime thriller and indeed, more than the average missing child case.

The film in general is very well put together, unfolding gracefully and elegantly across a bleak but realistic landscape of Dorchester, Boston. You get the impression straight away that this is not the safest, nor the wealthiest, place to grow up. Inferences of tension, dysfunction and a harsh drug culture add a lot of depth and each character is well created on screen.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Casey Affleck- fresh from his impressive run as Robert Ford in the recent “Assassination of Jesse James”- again here shows his quality. His character, Kenzie, is capably shown to us as a man of principle, rather than economics. He purely hopes to help and has some experience in finding missing persons. His associate, Angie, shows the more emotional side of the team and Michelle Monaghan does an impressive job with her internally conflicted role.

As usual, Morgan Freeman tackles a role with a lot of baggage without a shadow of doubt. He puts in a powerful performance as a cop plagued by the past and trying desperately to forge a future. The film would already show grit and nerve, but it’s the final twist that really sticks the knife in. It’s a gut wrenching moment of realisation that forces all the characters in the film to re-evaluate positions and ideals of trust- can we ever know who’s loyal and who’s not?

And even if we did, are we sure that we could deal with the consequence of knowing the true story when a moral dilemma can ensue, making each of us perennially involved in something we were never supposed to have a part in? Kenzie is the perfect example of a circumstantial victim- he is by the end tied so tightly to the missing Amanda that he cannot bring himself to let go.

Gone Baby Gone shows gumption in ways other films have failed. The overall quality is evident and the action well executed. Though it’s a crime thriller, it also acts as a commentary on our society- questioning what’s really right and wrong and how we can be so sure. It’s not perfect- it lags in some places and rushes in others- but the minor flaws add to its ability to engage.