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Posts Tagged ‘Modern Life’

What do you mean, discovering Dublin?  You’ve lived in Dublin for half your adult life.  Your children were born there.  Your mortgage provider lets you live in a house there in exchange for a monthly fee.  Your Present Husband lives there, coincidentally in the same house.  You work there.  (Or should that be that you “work” there?)  You can rant like a native about the traffic or the clampers.  But, yes, I do mean that I discovered Dublin last night in the form of the Samsung Night Run.  It was my first ever 10k race, after a fairly inauspicious start to running and a long hiatus in which no running of any kind occurred unless in pursuit of a fleeing child.  But it was also an opportunity to look at my adopted home city in a whole new light.  Which is to say, darkness. 

The Samsung Night Run takes place on 10k of closed off streets in Dublin city centre at night.  It was a lovely event with a buoyant and positive atmosphere.  The fact that I spent most of it heaving and panting will not deter me from taking part next year.  Nor will the realisation that I kept perfect pace with a runner who had a limp.  Nor will the sight of crash barriers being put away as I was running past, because the end of the race was minutes behind me.  Like I said, I am undeterred. I am hooked on Dublin at night. 

Dublin has a kind of unkempt charm I’ve always loved and the route showed it off at its best.  There are so many famous and celebrated buildings, like the GPO and the Custom House, which looked sensational.  And of course new additions like the Convention Centre and the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which was a particular highlight. The Grand Canal Theatre looked extraordinary, which I am sure will delight NAMA no end

 

But there are other charms as well, less renowned but no less deserving of a bit of nocturnal awe.  People make much, quite rightly, of the Custom House, but what about the gems right before it on Eden Quay?  The Seamans Institute is an architectural jewel, built in the 19th century but made new after it was destroyed in 1916. 

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Also, the name always gives me a juvenile giggle.  Because, in a previous life, I worked for Siemens. 

Another underappreciated treasure is the Pearse Street Library, a Carnegie Library built in 1909.   

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And St. Andrews Resource Centre, built originally as two primary schools in 1895 and still serving the local community today.

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However, as enjoyable as this was, it wasn’t just a tour of Dublin by night.  It was also a race, one in which I threatened exactly no-one.  I had a lot of life lessons running my first 10k.  I learned yet again that I am one of life’s tortoises, not one of the hares.  So what if lots of people ran past me like impalas?  I’m not sore today and maybe they are.   Well, it would gratify me enormously if they were. I learned once again that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Those strutting young things at the starting line who look like Usain Bolt’s Irish cousins are frequently left well behind in the field once you get going.  Meanwhile, the ones who look like they might need zimmerframes turn out to be seasoned pros.  And I also learned that it doesn’t matter how slow you are running and how decrepit you look, someone giving you a cheer is always appreciated. 

 

So thanks to the organisers, the marshals and the members of An Garda Siochana for a lovely night out.  Thanks to the local residents and passersby who came out to cheer.  A particular shout out to the people in the apartment on Sheriff Street for blasting out “Eye of the Tiger,” which did make me feel momentarily full of energy.  But, mostly of all, thanks to Dublin for making me appreciate its unkempt, charming darkness. 

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Film classifications should be expanded.  In addition to, say, “Suitable for audiences aged 15 and over” or “Contains strong language and nudity,” there should be other warnings.  Films could be preceded by notices such as “Less Enjoyable than a Root Canal” (my suggestion for The Ice Storm) or “Insidious mind-rotting consumerism dressed up as female liberation” (Pretty Woman) or “Watch with the sound turned down” (Titanic).  Other suggestions of mine would be “Have you seen Tootsie and Kramer v Kramer?  Then you’ve seen this already” (Mrs Doubtfire) or “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” (any James Bond film).

Of course you can see how the movie studios might not appreciate this level of helpfulness.

And many films should have a warning that says “You are ruining a cinema classic by watching this first.”  The absence of this warning is the reason I watched Apocalypse Now and Citizen Kane in the wrong order.   Ditto The Truman Show and Citizen KaneNow I find I’ve watched Rear Window and any number of films the wrong way around.  If only I had a time machine.  I would return to my younger self as I was about to enter a cinema to see Manhattan Murder Mystery and scream Don’t do it! Eighteen years from now you won’t appreciate fully the remarkable cinematic achievement of Rear Window.”   It wouldn’t be solely altruism, though.  I’d also use the opportunity to tell my younger self to buy shares in Apple.

So, as you’ve doubtless spotted, I’ve yet again addressed a gap in my cultural life, this time by watching Alfred Hitchcock.  Rear Window is another example of a very prescient film.  It foretold our modern atomised urban landscape where many people don’t know another soul.  It laid bare the modern dilemma of the dual career couple trying to reconcile their conflicting lives.  And yet, in other ways, Rear Window is so out of touch with modern life that it becomes a window, if you’ll forgive the pun, on a quaint and distant past.  A guy plays piano all night and nobody complains?  I don’t think so.  With the standard of sound-proofing in some modern apartments, he’d annoy his neighbours just by rustling his sheet music.  A crime is committed and the police are there in seconds?  Eh, no.  In Rear Window 2012, Lisa would have been murdered twelve times over in Thorwald’s apartment while the police were still stuck in traffic.  A photographer and a policeman are best buddies?   That would be part of the Levenson Enquiry today.   A dog is murdered and everyone goes quietly about their business?  No, today there would be a mawkish shrine with flowers and balloons.  Probably a book of condolences and a Facebook tribute page.   A married couple sleeping outdoors?  They’d have their own Youtube channel.  And then lying on a balcony would become an internet meme like planking or owling.  Ditto “Miss Torso” – she would be a viral sensation.  Don’t even get me started on what would happen if a single, childless guy sat at his window all day looking out at his neighbours through an array of cameras.  Sex. Offenders. Register.   And, my personal favourite, an insurance company paying for a nurse to come to your home every day?  Purr-lease!  The only insurance staff to visit your home these days are wearing suits and stern expressions and telling you that your water tank bursting was an act of God and isn’t covered by your policy.  In a modern re-telling, Stella, the home-care nurse, would have to be replaced by a pizza delivery guy with poor interpersonal boundaries.

Nonetheless, Rear Window is a very pleasant way to spend an evening.  My only addition would be a film classification  warning that said “May contain scenes inconceivable and preposterous to anyone under fifty.”

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I’m starting to weep for my college education.  Really, what was it for?  Yes, I seem to have spent a lot of time listening to drunks singing the collected works of Leonard Cohen while playing out-of-tune guitars.  I recall a lot of tiny flats lit by old candles wedged into Chianti bottles.  And I met my Present Husband.  All life-changing experiences.  But other than that, what did I accomplish?  It may well have been a cultureless wasteland.  As I have already mentioned, I never saw Citizen Kane, I never saw an Alfred Hitchcock film, and now I have to reveal that I never drank tequila.    Oh, for shame.  Lets hope nobody tells the taxpayers of Ireland how I misspent their money.

I remedied the tequila part last night.  I’ll admit to being not entirely sure what the fuss was about.   I had what is termed “tequila cruda,” which for the uninitiated – or those who similarly wasted four years in college – consists of a lick of  salt from your wrist, followed by a shot of tequila followed by biting on a lime.  It’s possible I missed the point of the exercise because my first impression was of imbibing furniture polish with condiments.  I was reassured that the first one was bound to be dreadful but I’d acquire a taste for it.  So I tried again.  This tequila business does require a lot of coordination and, as I’ve recently demonstrated, that’s not me.  So I thought a second attempt with more deft execution of the three phases would do the trick.  No success.  Then I decided to consider the science.  I tried more salt.  No joy.  I tried less salt.  No success.  I tried more lime.  The same.  I tried less lime.  Again, no improvement, but I did grasp the role of the lime in inhibiting the resemblance of the tequila to drain unblocker.  As my various attempts unfolded, I was starting to be less bothered by my lack of dexterity in the execution.   So I suppose they did produce a bit of personal growth.   I tried again with different permutations in the quantities but the attraction of tequila did not reveal itself to me.  On the plus side, by the time I’d realised that this tequila lark was not worth getting excited about, I was starting to think my Present Husband was hilarious, wonderful and an all-round great catch.  I suppose that did reassure me that my time in college was not entirely a wasted enterprise.

So, in conclusion, I think we can agree that tequila is not for me.  It was a novel experiment.  However, the contents of my detergent cupboard would have been cheaper and more effective.  But I know it’s nice to be nice, so I’d like to accentuate the positive of the experience.  First, I’ve remedied another little omission in my cultural life.   Second, I’ve suffered for some time with low blood pressure, which I’m fairly sure the massive salt intake has now fixed.  Take that, bloated fat cats of the pharmaceutical industry!  And, finally, as a result of all the limes, I think we can agree that I have warded off the perils of scurvy.  It’s possible I have no tooth enamel left, but a long journey on an 18th century pirate ship is now an option for me.  And that’s also something I’ve never done.

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A Postscript

Two things.  First, my next port of call in making up for lost time, culturally speaking, will be to watch an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Yes, it’s true.  I’ve never seen any of his work. I am very conscious that I’m exposing my vulnerabilities here and am likely to be taken for a knuckle-dragging oik, so be nice.  I blame my early childhood.  I remember my mother watching The Birds while ill in bed and very heavily medicated.  She seems to have suffered some sort of mind-altering trauma as a result.  That, plus I’m a snivelling wussy.  So if anyone would like to suggest a good starting point for a Hitchcock neophyte, fire away.

Second, my Present Husband has pointed out that I have in fact been to Ballyporeen.  I don’t remember it at all and apparently we were only there because we got lost after my poor directions.  Nonetheless, very disloyal of him to point it out.  Fear not, I’ll cook up some fiendish twist to upend him.  Hence my real need for a Hitchcock film.

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I’m not a fan of New Year Resolutions.  There is something arbitrary about the whole process.  And the fact that I am not a size 10 should tell you how effective they are.  Nevertheless, I thought I would start the New Year by resolving to expand my horizons just a little. I’ve decided to explore some experiences that have passed me by.  I speak not of solvency or sanity, since seeking those really would be futile.  Instead, I’m going to concern myself with a few milestones that I seem to have skipped along the way.

 
Let’s not get carried away.  There are lots of experiences I haven’t had that I’m in no rush to embrace.  I’ve never broken a bone.  I haven’t had my tonsils or appendix removed.  In fact, all my original parts are still intact, except of course my marbles.  But, like tonsils and appendixes (appendices??), a person can live a long and happy life without them.  No, that sort of things doesn’t make me an oddity.  Nor does never having been to Minsk or Slough or Ballyporeen.   Or never having been arrested or divorced (although, I’d be prepared to give either a punt if I thought they would bring me a little free time).

 
But missing out on some experiences does seem to mark one out as a sort of socio-cultural deviant.  And so I thought I would begin my project today with one such experience, which was to watch Citizen Kane.  No, seriously, I’d never seen it.  I don’t know how you accumulate decades of adulthood, incorporating four years of college life with some incredibly pretentious bores, without having see this cinematic classic.  But I hadn’t.  Until today.

 
I wish I’d watched it years ago.  It’s a remarkably achievement.  Everything about it is just right – cast, dialogue, lighting, sets, editing.  And so prescient.  It predicted so much of what is insidious and wrong in modern society – venal bankers, gutter journalists, megalomaniac media barons, rampant consumerism, the great heights the mediocre can reach with the media behind them and the erosion of all manner of personal liberties.  Is it possible to see the megalomaniac Kane, manipulating public opinion for his own ends, and not think of Simon Cowell?  Is it possible to look at Xanadu, that empty shrine to the worst excesses of an amoral businessman, and not be reminded of countless zombie estates in Longford?  Is it possible to see Susan Alexander, a mediocre singer with a media machine behind her, and not think of Jedward?  But for all their faults, the characters are possessed of occasional wisdom.  Kane was right about news becoming a twenty-four hour business.  He was also right about the relationship between politicians and journalists and about the pointlessness of jigsaws.  Susan Alexander was right about the compulsive need for love in those who are fundamentally unlovable and also about the awfulness of picnics.

 
Not only do I wish I’d watched it years ago, but that I’d done so before I’d seen any number of later films.   The Godfather, The Truman Show, loads of Simpsons episodes, Pinky and the Brain,  Apocalypse Now and Blazing Saddles, to name but a few.  Yes, you heard me.  I now know where Hedley Lamarr comes from.  (Ooops, that’s Heddy!)  This process I’ve embarked upon strikes me as something like filling in the blanks in my cultural worldview.  Or, if I may extend the Citizen Kane metaphor, completing a jigsaw.  Except, like Kane himself, I think they’re pointless.

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