Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yule Regret It

A great weariness enfolds me as I contemplate the looming Christmas debacle. Already the lunches and parties are in full swing and I mostly feel ill during the day. Saying no is often not an option as these are annual gigs that friends or colleagues expect you to attend and your absence would be a snub to someone. One must endure it or go abroad and hide.

Beneath all this desire of oblivion runs...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Adolf McDowell

So at last we see McDowell and the PDs for what they really are. And despite all his guff, democracy is not one of their interests. Neither himself nor Mary Harney seem to realise the enormity of what they have done. This is indeed the arrogance of office.

It buggers belief that a Minister of Justice can not only use the privilege of the Dail to comdemn someone of a crime for which he has never been charged, but also compound this by leaking Garda documents from a criminal investigation to a newspaper to further this campaign of vilification. And this is the same minister who last year brought in measure (5 years in jail) to stop Gardai leaking to the press.

And surely we must note that the CPI (McDowell’s victim’s organisation) was taking an interest in the obscenely expensive acquisition by McDowell’s department of land in North Dublin for the building of a prison.

He should of course resign but in this Celtic Tigerland ruled by builders and barristers, this is unlikely to happen.

It remains for the media to continue to shine a light on this murky business but of course the Independent Group are hopelessly compromised so the usual suspects will have to carry the load – Fintan O’Toole, Vincent Browne, and liberals like David Norris. Fair dos to Dunphy on Newstalk for devoting nearly an hour to the story this morning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ruminations on the Moronic Inferno

Back in the Moronic Inferno after a gap of 18 months. The most noticeable change is in the attitude of the media towards Bush. Before it was hard to find a newspaper or TV station with a critical word to say about him - you had to rely on the New York Review of Books or left-wing journals. Now even august right-wing organs like US Today and the main new channels (except of course Fox) are bashing him constantly.

Boston can be heaven with coffee at eleven and a stroll down Newbury Street. This beautiful tree-lined street has more art galleries per square metre than any place on earth I suspect. I called into a number of them and was not overwhelmed by the quality of the art - but liked the opulence and the fine lighting. It was mostly bland, abstract and decorative - it lacked the expressiveness I relish in art. Barbara Krakow's gallery was an exception to this - in addition to a number of Scully's she had some interesting edgy contemporary work.

Went to "Capote" on my last evening. A master-piece of acting, photography, score, and period recreation. But a creepy masterpiece - especially in Philip Seymour Hoffman's vitruouso performance as the poison dwarf.

The madmen they allow on US TV. One of the morning news channels, NBC I think, featured two garish frauds espousing their latest tome about the end of days - the saved will be air-lifted to Heaven and the rest of us sinners will be consumed by fire and pestilence. It's started already, they maintain, citing Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami, 9/11 etc. In Europe these old fraudsters would be laughed out of court but here on prime-time US TV they are interviewed reverently by the tanned, buffed, bland Kens and Barbies that populate the major channels.

And why are the portions so bloody big. If you order and eat a starter I guarantee you will not eat your main course. Such mindless excess.

And Boston traffic is just as bad as Dublin's.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dromoland Castle Encounters

I spent the weekend at Dromoland Castle attending my nephew's wedding. Notwithstanding the fact that it will be forever tainted with the slime of George Bush (a brief resident last year), it is the best Irish hotel I have stayed in. The grounds are extensive and varied, the food is first class (especially the breakfasts), the decor is the usual castle chic (nooks and open fires, narrow corridors, bewildering signs inviting you to get lost), the rooms are well appointed, the facilities are first rate (swimming-pool, golf, tennis, terrorise the pheasants etc.) but, while all of these things matter, what most impressed me was the sustained excellence of the service from the moment we approached the hotel. It managed to be both friendly and efficient - without a hint of that unctuousness that you often find in five-star hotels. The staff were allowed to let their personalities show and even engage in some mild badinage.

The wedding was all very well. I was however deeply alarmed to find myself sitting next to this genteel old lady who turned out to be BK - a fondly remembered object of my adolescent lust. More than forty years ago she was a Junoesque figure around Collins Tennis Club. She was an excellent player with a particularly strong forehand. She was however disadvantaged by being the possessor of a prodigously large bosom which rendered her less mobile than was ideal. Also, she favoured extremely short dresses. This gave her adolescent admirers (lined behind the court) frequent glimpses of her generous rump, barely covered by her struggling knickers. Forty years on there were few hints of these wonders. Egypt and Greece goodbye and goodbye Rome.

The breakfast room on Sunday morning contained a few interesting faces. The disgraced Judge Curtin was there bold as brass. He was with an oppressed-looking middle-aged woman. They exchanged not a word as he ate like a man devoted to his appetites. Also there, in splendid isolation, was Tom McGurk - RTE jack of all trades. I assume he had been covering the Munster/Castres match in Limerick. Were RTE paying we ask?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Decline of Christopher Hitchins

Christopher Hitchens was once my favourite political commentator. Something happened him during Clinton's reign. Whatever it was turned him from an acerbic, astute and witty writer into a irrational ranting bore. His recent comparison of himself to Gore Vidal is a measure of how deluded he has become.

His hatred of Clinton seemed personal and visceral. Maybe he got snubbed at some Washington party. The Hitch's hubris is Caligulean. In attacking Clinton he found himself with some unusual allies for an old Trot. Now with Clinton gone he remains stuck with the world view of his new buddies. Against all evidence he still supports Bush and the War on Iraq. And of course his recent rant about Pinter getting the Nobel Prize is more of the same.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Zeno and the Dog Fuck

A perfect Radio 4 moment this morning (on Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time" programme): In the course of a discussion of the philosophy of the Cynics one of the protagonists alluded to the "Dog Marriage" of Crates and Hipparchia. He was corrected by a fellow guest who declared, in a perfect Oxbridge accent, that "it was more a dog fuck than a dog marriage". Priceless.

He then went on to describe how Zeno came upon the couple screwing in the street and removed his cloak to cover their nakedness. This moment, he said, represented the move from Cynicism to Stoicism. As I drove slowly through Dublin's daily traffic debacle, the debate progressed. It was a virtuouso display of erudition, insight, and serious intelligence. What a credit to the Brits Radio 4 is. Our national broadcaster offers the Ryans (Gerry and Tubridy) at the same time. The one providing tabloid radio for shop girls; the other having an identity crisis on air: "What am I doing here?".

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Storm at Sea - Banville and the Booker

The victory of John Banville in the annual Booker debacle has been greeted with less than universal acclaim. Certain sections of the London literary media have been less than fulsome in their praise - some even suggesting that it's a disaster for the Booker. This is of course nonsense - Roddy Doyle winning it was a disaster for the Booker; Banville is the most deserving victor since the last time Coetzee won it. It's a victory for art over ephemeral writing (Zadie Smith et al).

The reasons for the lack of enthusiasm are probably twofold. Julian Barnes was the warm favourite and is well got with the London literary mafia. He seems like a very nice man and I'll bow to none in my admiration for "Flaubert's Parrot". He would have been a very popular winner. Another darling of literary London, Ian McEwan was recently critically roasted by Banville in the NYRB for his 9/11 novel "Saturday". Must try harder was the master's verdict. The chairman of the Booker panel John Sutherland came to McEwan's defence in the letters page of the NYRB and he too felt the full blast of Banville's blow torch. Imagine then the piquancy of the situation where Sutherland was put in the position of giving the casting vote. His magnaminity in giving Banville the nod does him great credit.

Monday, October 10, 2005

John McGahern's Son

I finished reading John McGahern's "Memoirs" recently - and a fine read it was. It's fundementally the story of his love affair with his mother - and his corresponding hate affair with his father. One affair as intense as the other. Its also a wonderful evocation of childhood in rural Ireland in the forties.

There was however no mention in these memoirs of the son he fathered himself and who he continues to ignore in real life. I met someone recently whose mother is the sister of the woman who had a son by McGahern about 30 years ago. McGahern refused to acknowledge the child as his and made no contribution to his upbringing. All this happened in London. Years later the son came to Ireland to meet McGahern but once again he refused to get involved. The son was very hurt by this rejection.

For most writers such behaviour would be engender little comment. However McGahern has made a literary career out of his mistreatment by his own father - so we are probably entitled to expect a little more sensitivity in this area.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fred Wolf

Had dinner last night at Fish in Monkstown with fabled Hollywood animator Fred Wolf. Fred lives in Ireland for about 3 months every year - the balance is spent in Laurel Canyon near LA. He's the man behind "The Flintstones", "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles", the Frosties tiger etc.

While I was meeting him on art business, he currently has a show in the OSB Gallery, he is usually more than keen to talk about his encounters with Franz Zappa, Ringo Starr and various other luminaries. He told of being on his way to London to meet the Beatles to discuss the "Yellow Submarine" project when he met a woman on the plane and went off with her for a few weeks and lost the project as a result. He was only mildly regretful about this.

He was particularly friendly with singer Harry Nillsson and told a funny story about his first record. While Fred was living in Malibu, Nillsson sent Fred a copy of it and he and his wife Maya played it non-stop for weeks. They left it out in the sun one day and the record became warped and the sound distorted. Maya conceived the notion of putting it in the over to heat it up and then press it back into shape. This was spectacularly unsuccessful, the record warped even more. In a fit of pique Fred went out on the balcony and heaved it into the ocean below. A couple of days later Nillsson came to visit. Being unsure of the location of Fred's house (you know Malibu - all the backs look the same) he made his way around the front, to the ocean side, and walked along the beach looking for some familiar sign. As he walked by the edge of the ocean he came upon Fred's discarded copy of his record. Picking it up he resumed his search and eventually found Fred's house. When Fred answered the door he presented him with the record saying "I think this is yours". Fred, who is a gentlemanly type, was mortified. Their relationship must have recovered as they went on to make "The Point" together.

Monday, October 03, 2005

IT Has Gone to Hell

The Irish Times has been in steady decline for years. Most of the stuff worth reading has already been published in the Guardian - and that includes sport. If it weren't for Fintan O'Toole and the occasional gem from Eddie Holt (OK, I'll add John Banville and Eileen Battersby's book reviews), I'd give up on it entirely.

Last Saturday's was a fair indicator of how standards have dropped. The whole first page of the magazine section is devoted to Roisin Ingle describing in detail a night spent baby-sitting. I have yet to read anything she's written that hasn't been trite and tedious. This set new lows. Does anyone vet this stuff? I wouldn't let it out the door if my 14-year old came up with it. When I pick up a paper I want to entertained or educated - this did neither.

So I throw aside the magazine in disgust and pick up the Review section. Turning to the book reviews what do I find but Rosin Ingle's collected columns being reviewed my Marian Keyes. In addition to her columns she'd added some stuff about being a fat twat who fucked around a lot. Now to be fair, Marian Keyes is a lightweight, she's no John Banville. She purveys harmless chick-lit to women whose brains (for whatever reason) have turned to semolina. So perhaps it's not surprising that she gives Roisin an easy ride instead of excoriating her for boring Ireland.

I turn to the facing page and lo and behold there's Marian Keyes latest novel being glad-handled by some other hack. It's all too much for me. I toss it aside and pick up the Racing Post.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Art Moves

The Dublin art buying public reconvenes in mid-September and from then until Christmas the bulk of the serious buying takes place. Whytes and de Veres have their auctions and galleries like the Taylor and the Kerlin put their prime artists on show.

Early indications are that Donald Teskey and John Kingerlee are currently the hottest properties. Teskey is the real deal and I'll buy him when I can. Kingerlee on the other hand is being jacked up artifically by some cute hoor from the North who bulk bought his work a little while back. A modest piece (17" x 20") went for €60,000 at Whytes auction on the 20th September. Beware of buying him. Shinnors is still hot but his growth rate has slowed. Le Brocquy I feel has peaked and so it seems has Dan O'Neill. A large Le Brocquy piece failed to sell at the de Vere auction in September, stalling some €13K below its guide price of €100K. It could be of course that it didn't sell because the accompanying guff mentioned that Anne Madden (Le Brocquy's pit bull minder) was the subject.

There are a number of very interesting shows in town. The Charlie Tyrrell show in the Taylor is the most impressive and he is still very modestly priced. His works have the numinous quality of Rothko's and I feel he's very underpriced at present. Over at the Green on Red Gallery Eilis O'Connell's perfectly wrought works in bronze and resin seem more craft than art to me - but that's dangerous territory to pontificate in so I'll move swiftly on.

Mary Lohan is showing the Vangard in Cork. Much as I love Mary and her work I feel she is stuck in a creative rut. And this business of cutting her canvasses into triptych polyptychs etc. will just have to stop. Forget the aesthetics - they're a nightmare to hang.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Scottish Adventure

A first ever visit to Scotland last weekend for a friend's wedding. The wedding was on in Kelso but rather then do the sensible thing and fly to Edinburgh, I decided to get a ferry from Larne to Stranraer and drive across the bottom of Scotland. That way I could get a taste of the country before I fell into the maelstrom of the wedding.

This was an adventure that I would only recommend to those who are not in a hurry. I knew when I saw the sign telling me to beware of peacocks outside Moffat that this was no main artery. The road was single lane most of the way and progress was slow. When I did pick up speed near Selkirk I hit a very plump pheasant and did serious damage to my front bumper. The pheasant didn't fare much better.

So I limped into St. Boswell's (near Kelso) in the early evening and set up camp in the very elegant Dryburgh Abbey - near the site of an old Cistercian Abbey destroyed during the Reformation. Walter Scott is buried there as is that old fraud Sir Douglas Haig - buried under a grave stone identical to those that mark the graves of the British dead around Ypres. His sense of fellow feeling with his troops came a bit late one felt.

And so to the wedding. How poignant these events are. The bustle, the optimism, the ridiculous outfits. Everyone acting. Some quietly seething. It's a woman's trip I suppose. The wrangle for a ring over. Most will never look as well again - and probably don't care.

We were handsomely catered for and well entertained. Good quality champagne on tap and substantial canapes before the main meal. The speeches were a mixed blessing. The father of the bride showed a lack of warmth bordering on the abusive; the best man lacked wit, the sine qua non of being a best man I feel, the groom and bridesmaid rescued the day by at least showing some feeling for the bride on her special day.

And then the dancing; followed by the Elvis impersonator; and then of course the flirting; and bless my soul the fight (a non-event that); and so to bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fianna Failure

The Soldiers of Destiny have ruled this country for most of the past 30 years and a fine bloody mess they've made of it. A party that started out representing the under-priviliged against the might of the merchants and large farmers is now in thrall to the building trade and large corporate interests. Their recent craven submission to the pub lobby over cafe bars is par for the course. Haughey's populist posturings don't bear scrutiny and Bertie for all his plain oul' Dub act is a bird of similar plumage.

Let's see what we've got from these guys:

1. A collapsing health system where only the rich get any kind of service.
2. An under-funded education system where 1st, 2nd and 3rd levels are all in crisis.
3. An irredeemably corrupt and inefficient Gardai.
4. A growing violent under class.
5. Living costs escalating out of control through massive indirect taxation and unbridled profiteering.
6. Filthy cities.
7. Unmanageable traffic. The building industry build where it likes and the implications for traffic and other infrastructural matters are neglected.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hungarian Goulash

OK, OK, so it's been a while. I've been away in the South of France and in Budapest. Firstly for an idyllic forthnight in the bosom of my family tasting the fruits of the Provence; and secondly for a hectic boy's weekend being chased around Budapest by hookers.

I wasn't too impressed with Budapest. OK, it was pleasant to enjoy a meal on the banks of the Danube with the Castle looming over us. The food was very ordinary but the setting was superb. And the constant stream of hookers passing up and down made a passable cabaret. Another enjoyable experience was a visit to the baths - the one near the zoo. Here on a Sunday morning it seemed that all of Budapest was out for a soak. There were hot baths, warm baths, steam rooms, plunge pools and even conventional swimming pools - a vast expanse of bathing options housed in a huge tiled palace. Here there was no cruising or cult of the body beautiful - all shapes and ages paraded around in an unabashed fashion. I felt right at home.

The architecture of the city is a mixture of grand remnants of the glory days of the Hapsburgs interspersed with the worst excesses of Soviet brutalism. The streets are even dirtier than Dublin. Its taxi service is entirely run by gangsters it seems so you never get into a cab without agreeing a fare first. We made that mistake once and once only. The food is mediocre - they don't seem to know how to make bread and a vegetarian could well starve to death.

The public transport system while dirty seems regular and efficient. we got buses and trains as much as possible. Buy a ticket though - checks are very regular.

If you're going out to clubs, be careful. Most of the girls are professionals and the bouncers are animals. Also, the crowd gets rougher as the night progresses. I made my excuses and left early.

The main Gallery of Art is impressive. Two works by Lucas Cranach the Elder are worth the visit. They are both called "Unsuitable Marriage" and feature an old man and a young woman; and an old woman and a young man. Ahead of his time was old Lucas. There is also work by Goya, El Greco, Durer etc.

While any country that gave us Puskas, Durer and Za Za Gabor can't be all bad, I won't be going back. The abiding atmosphere was one of seediness and bad faith. Coming straight after the peaceful ease of a village in Provence, the contrast was dramatic.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Haughey's Legacy

The final episode of RTE's absorbing documentary of Haughey was the darkest of the four. His merciless shafting of his old hench-man Linehan was laid out in detail. His blatant lying about the phone taps was also revealed and we got chapter and verse on his extravagance. It was interesting the number of times we saw Bertie close to his embattled leader. He must have seen the gulf between Haughey's spending and his income. When questioned about his signature on the many Fianna Fail cheques that paid for Haughey's lifestyle, he maintained that it wasn't his business to monitor Haughey's spending. So why have joint signatories the you might ask? An alarming example of financial fecklessness and blithe insensitivity to accountability in high places.

However the most revealing interview was the one with Dermot Desmond - bucaneering capitalist extraordinaire. Looking like a cad from central casting (complete with ridiculous moustache) he asserted that he would be quite happy to give Charlie any money he wanted - even if that was a million. You have to ask why this should be so. It could of course be related to the millions he made out of the Eircom property deal in Ballsbridge, or the IFSC bonanza. What it encapsulated was the fact that Haughey, contrary to his populist shtick, was a friend of big business and cared not a jot for the plain people of Ireland. We see his legacy today in our health system, in our education system, and in the whole Thatcherite miasma that poisons the country.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Is Hector O'Heoghain (or whatever) the most annoying man in Ireland? His big problem is the yawning (and I do mean yawning) gulf between his impregnable self-satisfaction and the puerile antics he engages in. It's just not funny Hector. His apotheosis of the Paddy shtick is plain embarrassing, and a disgrace to the nation. Send him back to Carraroe.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Forgettable Damp Squib

An old friend got me a ticket for the U2 gig in Croke Park last Saturday so out of politeness, and I suppose curiosity, I agreed to go along. I'm more at home in intimate venues with the likes of Steve Earle or Richard Thompson and would have reservations about the excess and bombast of stadium rock; and the people you might meet there. I haven't really listened to U2 since the Joshua Tree days so I was mildly interested in seeing how they have aged.

Croke Park was an impressive sight, bounded by steeply-raked futuristic stands on 3 sides and with the immense stage in front of Hill Sixteen. My seat was about as far as it could be from the stage in the heights of the premier section. The band were mere specks in the distance but huge video screens flanking the stage brought us close up to them - but suggested a TV experience rather than a real encounter with the band. The sound was good enough but unfortunately those around me sang along to every anthem, which meant I heard little of the men themselves. It was more a fan-fest than a concert. And of course everyone was getting hammered. I was trapped next to a thuggish looking middle-aged guy who kept proferring me his plastic bottle of vodka and coke - and getting upset when I kept on refusing it. I began to entertain priggish thoughts and Yeats' phrase "the contagion of the throng" was on my mind.

The band seemed fresh and on song but I felt alienated from the whole thing. The recent album songs seemed very ordinary and the only flicker of fire came from the old standards: "Where the Streets Have no Name"; "Sunday Bloody Sunday"; and "Pride".

Maybe down close to the stage things were more intense. Maybe I am too old to enjoy stadium gigs. Maybe, dare I say it, U2 are a bit bland. Also, rock and roll should be about sex not politics - I hate being preached at.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Haughey - Hee-Haw

All praise to RTE for their riveting documentary of Charles Haughey. While it's far from hagiography, it does seem slightly in love with its protagonist. I always found Haughey a rather ridiculous self-important little man; combining pomposity with banality. The hilarious aping of the gentry; his studied aloofness; his Renaissance man posturings around art and music.

You can't deny he had the will to power. Much of this may stem from his deprived background where he had to fight hard for any advantage; a scholarship boy in secondary school and at university. History may judge that that having gained power, he didn't have much idea what to do with it. A lot of the initiatives he is associated are gimmicky and populist: free fares for the old and no taxes for the artists. His one considerable piece of legislation was a modernising of the laws of succession.

His most shamefeul actions were the cynical use of moral issues to win electoral favour. This was particularly true of his public attitude to abortion and contraception. His private behaviour suggested a much more liberal approach to morality. But of course the Irish press were far too craven to point this out. Private Eye was the only publication to out him and his strident bint Terry Keane.

The programme also showed how he split the party down the middle - all decency on the other side (Colley, O'Donoghue, Brennan, Faulkner, Lynch, Hillary etc.) - while he enjoyed the support of the chancers and backwoodsmen (Davern, Flynn, Gene Fitzgerald etc.). It was extraordinary how bitter O'Donoghue (particularly) and Brennan still are. Lynch of course made a huge mistake bringing him back to the cabinet; giving him a platform from which to undermine him. He mistakenly assumed that Colley was a shoo-in to succeed him.

And we had a surfeit of the oily PR goon O'Mara giving us the benefit of his attenuated world-view - where schoolboy victories are all that matter.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Clash of the Ash

Ah the sound of the summer - the clash of the ash. After the overhyped posturing of English and European soccer, the honest elemental nature of the Munster Hurling Championship is to be relished. Yesterday we had Clare and Tipperary doing battle. This is a rivalry not as tribal and vivid as Cork and Tipp, but rendered spicy by their recent cranky collisions.

Clare a team in decline perhaps, Tipp a team looking for an identity after their tame capitultion last year.

The early signs were good for Tipp - an elegant point from their master craftsman Eoin Kelly and a sense that they were quicker and hungrier. And then came connfirmation of this in the form of two quick goals. In both cases the new Tipp full-forward Webster was involved. This is a very impressive discovery - a big courageous raw-boned boy with skill and attitude. Apart from his side-step and dummy to score, his physical commitment was very evident in his goading of that old bull Brian Lohan.

After that Clare never got into it. Every time they came within a few points, Tipp pulled away again. Bring on Cork.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

McDowell Morris Dancing

Now here's a nice conundrum for Justice Minister McDowell. He has spent a great deal of time lambasting Gerry Adams about the criminal activities carried out by elements in his organisation. Pompous phrases like "no place in a democratic society" have rung out regularly.

Now the Morris Tribunal Report has presented with evidence that extensive criminal activities have clearly taken place in an organisation for which he is responsible. What's he going to do about it?

It's very clear that this isn't just about a few rogue gardai in Donegal. What this exposes is a fundementally corrupt and totally mismanaged organisation that clearly considers itself above the law. Its arrogance, dishonesty and rejection of accountability have led to a widespread distrust. Events such as Abbeylara, the Blue 'Flu, and the Dean Lyons debacle are just further confirmation of an institution that has gone bad on us.

I have found them totally uninterested in any complaints I have made to them. On one occasion I went into to my local station to report a serious assault and was told that they would call me back later to make a formal statement. I never heard from them again.

On another occasion, when in my teens, I was hauled into the garda station in Cobh and accused of obstructing traffic with a gang of my friends. When I protested my innocence and demanded a phone to contact my father, I was assaulted by a large red-haired garda who seemed to lose control completely and had to be restrained by his colleagues.

You get the feeling that a lot of them see it as a cosy club and the public are just a bloody nuisance - interfering with their sporting activities and the management of their property portfolios. The ethos is that of the rural uneducated Paddy: The pint, the craic, the football. There is a strong anti-intellectual bias. You need 5 passes in the Leaving Cert. to get in. I have a labrador who could do better.

Friday, May 27, 2005

RHA: Turn a Bland Eye

The annual RHA debacle is currently taking place at the RHA Gallery in Ely Place. The show consists of three tiers: work by a select group of invited artists (John Shinnors, Gwen O'Dowd, John Noel Smith etc.); work by 160 artists selected from around 3,000 works submitted; work by members of the academy.

Of the 460 pieces on show, the work by academy members makes up over half. There is no selection process for members so they can submit any old shite; and often do. Their work in general is bland, safe, figurative art. There is an alarming tendency (marked this year) for them to paint formal portraits of each other in their dodgy drag. Last year we were treated to 2 portraits of the ridiculous George Potter - looking for all the world like he'd stepped out of a G.K. Chesterton novel. This year there's a whole set of these ugly old men in robes. There are also far too many stilted still lifes and harmless landscapes. Why bother. There hasn't been a decent artist in the academy since Richard Kingston died - apart maybe from the anomaly that is Richard Gorman; an artist who, heaven forfend, deals in hard-edged abstraction. Well maybe I should add Martin Gale.

But back to the open submission selection process. Do these artists (each of whom contributes 10 Euros to the RHA coffers) get a fair hearing? It hardly seems possible given the scale of submissions and the circumscribed selection period. Well known names will always get in; and there is a suspicious preponderance of art college staff, while talented newcomers are often passed over. Maybe the problem is more randomness than any conspiracy; although there is a conspiracy of taste. I know artists who get in one year with serviceable pieces and are rejected the following year with superior pieces. You'd like to think this was down to the vagaries of the selection committee. However this committee only varies slightly from year to year and in terms of their art they are all fairly conventional.

One thing is clear from all this, there is room for a large-scale open submission show that will not be dominated by the academy. The Living Art show that thrived in the Seventies should be revived. All it needs is a corporate sponsor and a few energetic souls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Aren't you just sick at the moral outrage of the Manchester United fans following the recent takeover by Malcolm Glazer. Had they not noticed that they were a global business, a brand rather than a local football club? Where did they think the money came from that allowed them to hoover up the best players from around the world? Buying success on the field just like Chelsea and Arsenal. Do they not remember when they were too busy to play in the FA cup because they had to chase the marketing opportunity afforded by some spurious international tournament?

They who live by the dollar may now perish by it. The debt the club will incur so that Glazer can complete his purchase will affect their buying power for the few years, so success may not come so easily. And this is already a team in decline.

It also goes to show that you fuck with Magnier and McManus at your peril. This is the Rock (of Gibralter) that Fergie will perish on.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Everton Highburied

Everton's record defeat (7-0) by Arsenal was attributed by some to ongoing celebrations after they secured 4th place in the Premiership and a place in next season's Champion's League. Others mentioned that they were missing their new talisman Tim Cahill.

The real reason they lost by such a margin is not so obvious. This was an exhibition match for both sides - the result made no difference. Everton's game is based on work rate and heart, qualities not relevant in a match that doesn't matter. Arsenal on the other hand have silky skills to demonstrate in abundance. They revel in a non-combative milieu. And did so.

When the chips are down next season, Everton will revert to type.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Comic Copera

Summoned for jury service to the Central Criminal Court in the Four Courts yesterday. This is the court where most of the country's serious crimes are tried so along I went anticipating some kind of Henry Fonda role, bringing balance and reason to an imperfect system.

My fellow jurors were mostly middle-class, middle-aged men and women. For some reason I got the feeling that the Civil Service was well represented. There was a singular absence of fat cats and Foxrock fannies. Civic responsibility is, I suppose, for the little people.

Bang on the designated time the Clerk of the Court addressed us on the logistics of our duties and took a roll call. Then we were set free for an hour.

On our return all had changed. The court was full of bewigged barristers conferring in small animated bunches, and there were two benches full of handcuffed defendants and their Gardai escorts. Everyone was jammed into close promimity. It was all very relaxed. Even the handcuffed defendants seemed comfortable and complicit in their roles.

Mr. Justice Paul Carney was presiding and his female tipstaff called on us all to rise as he made his majestic progress to his podium. He is straight out of central casting - jowly, irascible, wig slightly askew.

The deal was to go through the list of cases and swear in a jury where the trial was to go ahead that week. One by one the prosecution and defence for the different cases agreed postponements. It was all done in a very clubby agreeable fashion - no arguments from anyone. The only time Carney demurred was when a case was put back to the 5th December he suggested that because it would be a long trial ("more than 3 weeks"), they should postpone until the new year.

In the end it transpired that no cases were to go ahead. So Justice Carney thanked us for our trouble and said we were off the hook for two years.

What an anti-climax. A small glimpse into an arcane world.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blair Bitch Project

The only interesting thing about the UK General Election taking place today is the extent to which the electorate give Blair a kicking for his policy on Iraq and his unctuous behaviour to the unspeakable little prick in the White House. I like Polly Toynbee's suggestion that Labour voters should turn up with clothes pegs holding their noses shut.

If the Brits had a more sophisticated electoral system we could hope for a Liberal Democrats / Labour coalition, but that won't happen.

The ideal result would be a close labour victory followed by Brown replacing Blair and Kenneth Clark replacing Howard.

As for Norn Ireland, a plague on all their houses. Bring in compulsory mixed-religion schools and hope the problem goes away after a few generations of inter-marriage.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Aunty Marian's Bloomers

Like any right-minded person I automatically change channels when the Marian Finucane Show comes on RTE Radio 1. Last Monday I was a bit lethargic and allowed myself to be ambushed again by her rancid mix of sanctimoniousness and banality.

Poor old Jim McDaid had just had his collar felt by our zealous Gardai for drunk driving. A there but for fortune situation for the average Irish male. Mind you he did compound the felony rather by attempting to drive up the Naas dual carriage-way in the wrong direction. That does get you noticed.

Anyway, how does the bould Marian treat this rather unhappy story? She parades McDaid's embittered ex-wife and allows her to launch into a tirade about what a sick little bastard he is - the veneer of concern not really concealing her relish at the opportunity to kick the man who wronged her while he is down.

She was preceded by what I thought initially was a comedy act, but in fact turned out to be the chairperson of a society called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Suffice to say that it could have been a sketch in the old Halls Pictorial Weekly without a word being removed. Again poor old McDaid got a good kicking.

The odour of sanctity from the whole thing fair put me off my breakfast.

Goodison Agonistes

Liverpool in the final of the Champion's League - the nightmare scenario has come to pass. As an Everton supporter this is hard to swallow. And yet having watched last night's match I have to say they deserved it. Their defence performed like the Spartans at the Pass of Thermopylae. Jamie Carragher was particularly heroic. Now I hope they have the decency to lose to Arsenal next Sunday and let Everton into the Champion's League next year.

I haven't seen much of Chelsea this season (life too short and too much football on TV) and was keen to check them out to see what all the fuss is about. They were disappointing . They showed a lack of imagination in attack - maybe they're tired after a long season. That striker they brought on (Kezman?) was truly atrocious. He lacked control, penetration, and physical presence. Duff seemed a big loss.

I reckon the Kop played a major role in stiffening Liverpool's resistance. They were in full cry from the outset. Bizzarely however they seemed to be singing the Fields of Athenry at regular intervals. Am I missing something? Steve Finnan's presence hardly justifies this? Is it now part of the Kop's repertoire like the equally dire "You'll Never Walk Alone".