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The problem with comic book films.

My favorite comic book has always been 2000AD. I like American comics but overall I have always preferred this British Sci-Fi anthology. In a word 2000AD is anarchic. Anarchy permeates its world view. It has been a home to some classic stories: Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, Slaine, Halo Jones, Zenith etc etc. It’s most famous character is Judge Dredd and he epitomizes the outlook of the weekly. Dredd isn’t a superhero, in fact he is the complete opposite but I’ll get into that anon. In this day and age we live in the Marvel cinematic universe: they produce sleek and slick films by the bucketload. I enjoy them for what they are and what they are are high-concept films.  These are films that have one broad concept that can be easily distilled into a sentence thus eschewing nuanced character development and the layered, the ambiguous and the  difficult. The high concept film works. Dredd should work within this framework for he is a lawman in a post apocalyptic America that has the power of judge, jury and executioner. With that in mind the money should flow and the films find a ready made audience for comics equal big bucks but it hasn’t worked out that way. Here is my take on why. 

Judge Dredd first came to the screen in the 1995 eponymous film starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular character. It was a mess but remember this was the 1990s and comic book films weren’t ubiquitous and streamlined like the Marvel megaliths today. As discussed Dredd should be an easy sell for he is a lawman in a post apocalyptic America that has the power of judge, jury and executioner. However, his problem is a stark one namely Dredd is a fascist not a hero. He is a clone that comes from a long dead Chief Judge called Fargo. America has been destroyed in a nuclear war and those that remain live in mega cities that are controlled by the judges.  In Dredd’s world America is no longer a democracy in and since Hollywood produces films with an American-centric view that’s a massive problem. Particularly when trying to sell a film to an American audience.  Basically, then the villain in Megacity One is the public. The judges have big bad’s such as the Sov Bloc and the inter-dimensional Judge Death but by and large the public is the enemy. The film is aware that selling an anti-democratic fascist American anti-hero that loves busting heads is a problem. Their solution: go to a story that sees Dredd start as a fascist but ends up as a democrat. It failed because it wasn’t true to the character and it was a flop. 

Most of us fans thought that was the end of that but in 2012 ‘Dredd’ was released. This was a darker film and more in keeping with the comic. The premise was simple: a day in the life. It looked like a high-concept film but again Dredd isn’t a hero so violence abounded and it flopped. It is a pity as the world of Dredd has so many possibilities but hey why produce that when we can have three different Spider-Men in as many years? I don’t know where comic book movies are going anymore. I don’t know why I’m paying to go and see them. I do know that Marvel are a monopoly and their fanbase picks apart any other franchise that doesn’t adhere to it formula (hey it’s all connected! We have the bit at the end that shows this explicitly! Aren’t we clever!) Dissent is not allowed. Star Wars is following the same trend. It is a franchise I love but a large part of the  fanbase cannot tolerate a story that doesn’t chime with its world view. Sci-Fi is in a bad state. The high-concept rules and the adherents are not happy with feminist voices, left-leaning voices or indeed anything that supposedly deviates from canon. Dark days indeed. 

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Curragh Camp (Clarke Warrant Officers Homes)

 

Blood red brick walls slowly crumbling
like megaliths of a long dead empire.
We, the children of a poets dream,
make them our own.
Sun-faded kitchens, smoke washed wallpaper
and worn down carpets that seem to whisper
‘We are.’ No more.No less.

 

Women watch the work of this world unfold
like the sheets that flutter on the backyard line.
Granite steps and sills are scrubbed
to signify ‘this home is ours’.
Tank tracks rumble on down the road
as they pass they roar
‘We are’. No more. No less.

Soon the winter rain will wash the dust
away and autumn shall weaken and fade.
The dead shall speak in strange and secret
tongues our homes will no longer bear the young
then who will write of the life that we made
if nothing now is to remain?
‘We are.’ No more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dimming

Long the road
hard the head
you and I
share this bed
take the blame
hide these feelings.

Hardest truth
is your eyes
the rain that falls
whispered lies
little heart
beats no feeling.

Never said
never tried
what is shame?
Our little lives?
Try again
keep believing

The Hunt

There are no tears left to cry,
no new memories to create
symbols give way to signs
and every burden has been weighed.
You can no longer give me oxygen
the darkness I sprang from is now light
all the love and hate you gave me
has found a place to rest its eyes.
The pedestal built has been dismantled
your name, once taken is now returned
the sun has set into darkness
daylights candle has been burned.
I must away to the hunt now
the ritual states it clear
into the unknown I must venture
there is nothing left to fear.

Shadow and Light

And so the summer shimmers in front of me
the 37th year and still I search.
What lies beyond the day?
The shadow and the light,
the delicate brush strokes of the watchmaker?
Maybe the happy accident of science?
They say the hands are the first thing to age
mine are turning, from young manhood to maturity
and still…
and still….I have found no rest.
The thumping, whirring cacophony that is my brain
speeds up, faster and faster,
day by day, and inwards to the blanket of night.
It thrums. It never stops.
What hands turned these thoughts?
This soul?

The soul I hid, not because of cynicism
but rather because others might laugh at my hope.
A hope that burns with expectation
that around every corner is a possibility
and in everyone we meet, we confront the other
but maybe…just maybe in the right conditions we find love.
That is the hope that never dies
I name it now…yet I do not have it…
but I hope and hope again.
I am asking God for an answer…
I am asking…
I am asking…
I am…
…asking.

Live (or where I swear and philosophise at the end of another year)

imageThroughout my blog posts I have mentioned many facets of playing music from the bands I was in, the jams that I love and the recordings I have made. However, I have never mentioned the lifeblood of music: playing live! Now there is a reason for this namely I have played the guts of 300 plus gigs and that makes it hard to pick which ones to write about! After much thought I have decided to concentrate on three important gigs that have meant a lot to me and in doing so might give my readers an insight to the joys of harnessing all that energy and putting it into (at times) a cohesive performance.

Where to start? Well at the beginning is always good. Twenty years ago I had just turned seventeen and I was itching to play live as I had been practicing for nigh on three years. The band was Mythical New Underground, the sound was wibbly-wobbly reggae punk with a twinge of thrash metal. Where to play? A dank corner of a filthy pub? Somewhere in Dublin supporting the cognoscenti of the punk underground or maybe my debs in the Hazel Hotel Monasterevin? Of course the logical choice was the latter. Jesus I remember the anxiety most of all, just waiting to get up and finally play. Our guitar player, Carl, was hammered, our drummer, Mark, ended up with half an electronic kit and I couldn’t hear myself or our singer, Pog and we banged and bashed our way through a set that no one really knew. Our classmates danced though and that was great. I walked off full of the buzz of having lost my gig virginity, grinning from ear to ear and headed for the bar. I was met by a woman who said ‘Ye were shit’ but I just thought ‘Fuck you, I ain’t like everybody else I have just played a gig!’ Pure bliss (followed by pints and puke oh the glamour and no cash may I add).

Fast forward a few years, possibly 1999 or 2000, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, The Railway Bar. I can’t remember what the occasion was but I was singing that night ( I went through a brief phase as a singer…not to be repeated) but this should have been a gig consigned to the dark recesses of my memory and it would have been bar one incident. We finished the gig, we had belted through a folkish set and the reception was warm but one man turned to me and said, with a voice full of spite ‘Why didn’t you play something we knew?’ I should have said ‘Because I am not a fucking Jukebox’ but I didn’t. Now for those that have never been on stage here is the thing: it takes guts, it takes balls but it also takes energy and there are times you get off that stage and you are spent. That night I was and his words stuck. I returned home, knackered, penniless (no pay again) and deflated. The words played again and again and I thought ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself out there?’ I walked for about an hour and I was so down I thought about never playing live again but ultimately I came to the realisation that I was addicted to playing live and it wasn’t going to happen.

Dublin, 2014. Czech Inn, Temple Bar. No cash- free pint, She Speaks is the band. It has been a year since I have played a gig (I am excluding playing at school masses and grads) I need this. Energy flowing, adrenaline rushing. New band and an original set. Playing is a type of madness, half of the band are mad nervous and the other half are jumping out of their skin and ready to have the ego stroked. Then the first note comes and the four of us are surfing the moment. The shakes recede, the nerves dissipate and we all begin to let go. The flow takes over and for a little while the four become one. We bounce off each other. Rebecca, our singer does that little shuffle she does with her hands, Skip beats the drums, Wayne lets go on a guitar and my neck moves like a bobble headed toy that you find in a car. We start to smile, we start to let go and in that moment nothing can touch you. There is no sadness, no worry, no stress there is just the moment. When you first play gigs that moment can be scary-you don’t know what it is- but after a while you gain experience and you know what that moment is: Joy. Happy Christmas all and may you find that ever elusive joy that you seek.

37.

 

image

Age is more than a number. The body eventually changes. With that comes the realisation that some of the dreams you once had must be consigned to history. Dreams are the hope of better things to come and the failure to live up to them is the cold reality of the passage of time. We make narratives of our life, we socialize members of society into the belief that life will pan out a certain way. Boy will meet girl, fall in love, have a family and all will be well in the world. God is in his heaven. However, there comes a point in one’s life were expectation must be tempered by sobering thoughts.I am now in my late thirties, I am single and the dream of happy families recedes as the days pass. It is now likely that I will never be a husband, it is now likely that I will never be a father and by extension a grandfather. In many ways there is a profound sadness in writing that as it is an acknowledgement that, in many ways, love has passed me by but there are millions like me. Have we failed? It is possible that we have. We (and by we I really mean I) won’t get to pass on my experience, my wisdom and my love. Depressing isn’t it? Yes, but that is what being an adult is all about, dealing with the dreams that pass us by and in the end I am reminded of the words of Joseph Conrad “No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.”

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