Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Peerless Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo's penalty against England has to be one of the finest examples of chutzpah in the history of sport - or any other field of endeavour for that matter.  At the business end of a major tournament, with millions watching, he eschews pace or placement to chip the ball into the middle of the goal - right at the spot just vacated by the diving goalkeeper.  I'm not a soccer enthusiast but that for me was the moment to cherish from the overblown hype of this European championship.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Ostracisation of Michelle de Bruin

The advent of the London Olympics has highlighted again the shoddy treatment of Michelle de Bruin by the Irish media and the Irish sporting establishment. The campaign of vilification and the subsequent ostracisation was led by camogie-loving Tom Humpheries, late of the Irish Times. Some may question his right to occupy any elevated moral ground.  Humpheries was joined by Paul Kimmage whose indignant righteousness on all matters drug-related preclude taking anything he says very seriously - perhaps he is bitter about his mediocre, but drug-free, cycling career.

Here's what I think.  For a lengthy period -  maybe up to eight years ago - the majority of Olympic athletes were chemically enhanced in one way or another.  In some cases it may have been blood doping rather than chemicals.  In that famous Olympic final that Ben Jonson won, and subsequently lost, it was later established that the majority of the field had taken drugs of some kind. Recent Olympics have seen remarkable improvement in at least one British female athlete without any subsequent innuendo - apart from the odd whisper on sporting blogs. In the swimming arena the changing shape of female swimmers in the last thirty years suggested something more than hard graft.  As my mother used to say, they were all at it.  Closer to home our sainted cyclists Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche have both been exposed to more than suspicions about drug use, without the attendant boycotting suffered by de Bruin.

I was delighted to see a prominent figure like Eamonn Coghlan sticking up for her in a recent article in the Irish Times:


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Where There's Hope There's Life

I trekked along to the Forbidden Fruit festival at IMMA yesterday - mainly drawn by the promise of seeing Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star. The portents were promising. It was a glorious sunny day and the concert site was showing no signs of distress after two days of inclement weather and hard partying. I noticed rubbish collectors in constant motion. The arena was colourfully bedecked with giant flowers and the perimeter lined with food outlets offering sushi, gourmet burgers and all kinds of other goodies. The crowd were mainly in their late 20s I'd say and there was almost no evidence of drunkenness - even late in the day.

We were early so we found a seat looking down on the main stage and settled back to enjoy the sun and the music. I had only heard of a few of the acts but was immediately impressed by Andrew Bird and his band - in fact we left our strategic perch to stand just under the stage. He sang, played guitar, violin, a glockenspiel and even whistled a bit. it's hard to categorise the music but it certainly rocked and he ended with a very impressive version of Townes Van Zandt's If I Needed You.

An amusing side show,  as we watched Bird, was an ever-expanding team of lesbians nearby. It started with a group of four, all in black, all short and sallow with some very ornate piercings (right ears mainly), elaborate head shavings, and bracelets. Two of them were strikingly beautiful. They looked like they had come from New Mexico or somewhere sunny, arty, and exotic. There was a fair amount of physical contact between them - beyond friendly. As time moved in they kept being joined by other small groups, including what looked like a couple of local apprentice lesbians - these lacked the style of the original group. They included one with an unfortunate resemblance to Elton John and a tall, pallid, cropped, very weird looking androgynous creature  - who radiated psychic unease.

Impressed by Mister Bird we stayed to the end and then moved on to the comedy tent. A mixed bag. The MC was plain unfunny - three very drunk, and very young,  girls tried to disrupt things but were crudely and rather cruelly put down. The highlight was a guy called Jarlath Regan - personable and intelligent stuff.

Then on to the smaller tent for the Mazzy Star gig. We got there early and bagged a spot just under the stage. The band as always are  relentlessly cool - incorporating a pedal steel guitar into their hypnotic grunge. As usual the back of the stage is used as a screen for a series of striking and surreal images. Time has not yet transfixed the flourish set on Hope Sandoval. She's still strikingly beautiful and retains that ethereal slightly other worldly presence. She rarely smiles and seems extremely self-conscious - hands on hips, hands behind her back, hands playing with the mike, hands occupied with a tambourine or the maracas. But such beautiful hands - long elegant fingers. And she rarely faces the audience - preferring a side on profile. The expression is one of slight alarm combined with an exasperation at her situation. She's famously shy.  For a flavour of her performance check out:  http://tinyurl.com/d6vadv6  Try the Blue Flowers video especially.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Annual RHA Circle Jerk

Oh dear, it's that time of the year again. I keep going and I keep getting pissed off by the whole sorry saga. The problem is that it's the only game in town so you have to check it out in the hope that you'll find the odd jewel amongst the shite.

We're told by the bland and inoffensive Aidan Dunne that it's a "great show" and that invitations to members have "been cut back".  This is palpably not so. Thomas Ryan RHA and Brett McEntagart RHA have seven pieces each on display and a whole host of the members have four or five (Potter, Pye, O'Dea, Stein, Roche etc.). So there's the usual predominance of tired academic stuff augmented by the usual group of senior artists, often with NCAD connections. There are of course some new names but it's easier for the proverbial camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for original talent to get in.

The incestuous self-regarding side of the show may never again reach the peak of a few years ago when there were numerous portraits of members by fellow members including two of the faintly ludicrous George Potter. However we still get Amelia Stein showing a photograph of her fellow member (and partner) Mick O'Dea while he returns the favour in a painting.

There are of course occasional moments of relief from the tedium : Teskey's Gearagh paintings (see image), a large moody Martin Gale and the usual classy work from Eilis O'Connell.