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Something New: U-R-Hamlet by Rory Geraghty

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Generally people who end up double jobbing tend to be significantly better at one job than the other, or indeed bad at both as they are spread too thin.

However, in this year’s Absolute Fringe Festival, Conor Madden has very much proved to be the exception to this rule. He treads the boards across two very different stages in his roles in U-R-Hamlet and Elevator.  In both he is exceptional and memorable. However, it is in his solo piece, in the former, where he really shines.

U-R Hamlet

U-R Hamlet

U-R-Hamlet is set in the chilled environment of Bewleys’ Theatre, the audience are invited to observe Madden backstage as he prepares himself to play Hamlet, a role that he has done so many times before. Ironically, this is Madden’s warm up show before he heads to play Edward in Elevator later in the evening.

Casually we watch as Madden warms his vocals, eats an apple and stretches.  Throughout there are reminders on the speaker telling Madden how long he has left before he must go on stage.

From the moment the show opens the lines between the audience and the actor are blurred. Madden introduces himself as if he were not in character and then crosses the stage and joins the audience momentarily.

It is not until three quarters of the way through that we are reminded that we’re watching a script. This is not him in real life. These lines have been pre written and rehearsed yet if it was not for his reminder, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was just him conversing with the audience.

Linking the play to Hamlet there is a veiled theme of death running throughout. Madden mentions it more than once, reminding us of the death in Hamlet and of the fact that we too are all destined to die. At times this seems misplaced but when you scratch beneath the surface you realise this is a play about doing what you love. Madden clearly loves acting and given that you only live once, there is perhaps a hidden message that you should pursue your passion.

The beauty of this play is in its non-conventional attitude to theatre. In fact this is not actually a play, it’s a piece of performance art. It is representative of the experiences of anyone who has worn the shoes of the stage. That dread as you hear the audience arrive and wonder will tonight go ok. Please let tonight go ok. You witness first hand the tension in the lead up to a performance particularly the 5-minute call nerves.  That “oh f*ck” moment where your tummy turns to knots.

The show is not meaty in its writing but the strong acting by Madden makes up for that. In fact I would have happily sat for another hour watching him talk about an experience that I, and many others have shared.

What is most interesting is in his opening remarks to the audience Madden lists a series of Wikipedia definitions relative to the play and its title. When he comes to his own name he stops and says “and there is no Wikipedia definition for Conor Madden”. Given his raw talent to capture and hold an audience I cannot imagine it being too long before this has changed. This is a play worth seeing for his performance alone and overall it earns 3.5 stars out of five.

Something New: Romantic Ladies, a Celebration of Songs by Women Composers

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On Thursday the 13th of September it was the wonderful Clara Wieck Schumann’s birthday and what better way to celebrate her life and work than attending a brilliantly timed concert in the National Concert Hall filled with the work of romantic-era women composers?

It is also Emer’s birthday soon (coincidence?) so as a present I booked tickets. The event was in the John Field Room and I was delighted to see a good crowd in attendance for a weekday lunchtime concert. It was still disappointing that it was not at a time where people who work Monday-Friday could come and hear the music.

The concert was put together in conjunction with the “Women of Note” series which is currently being broadcast on RTE Lyric FM. Elizabeth Pink, the contralto, was today’s singer and she was accompanied by Anthony Byrne on the piano. The day after this concert they were due to perform another song recital in the Royal Irish Academy of Music at the 2nd Women and Music in Ireland Conference.

The recital focused on women who composed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It opened with two songs by the Northern Irish composer Dr. Annie Patterson (1868-1934). Annie was all kinds of awesome as not only did she found Feis Ceoil but she become the first women from the British Isles to receive a Doctorate in Music. The two songs that were played were The Skylark and At Parting. The Skylark had a strong Irish lilt and a shimmering piano accompaniment which mimicked birdsong, whereas At Parting which is about “a love that is hopeless” was sad and urgent.

Next in the spotlight was the one of the blog’s favourites, Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896). As mentioned above it was her birthday the day before the concert and this was not mentioned was a bit surprising. They did describe her as a brilliant composer, who was married to Robert Schumann and had lots of children. Poor Clara is doomed to forever be mentioned in the family context, unlike her husband. An example of this bias can be seen their Google doodles, check out Clara’s, then see Robert’s. Her top ten facts were a bit crap as well, she was born, played some music, married Robert, had babies, he went off to an asylum and she died. If you want to see a better description of her life and achievements check out Emer’s piece which is much more informative.

Clara Wieck Schumann
Clara Wieck Schumann

But I digress back to the music! Elizabeth and Anthony performed four works by Clara, all of which were packed with emotional intensity. Ich stand in dunklen Träumen is a song about loss and Sie liebten sich beide is about a love kept secret until it was too late. Both songs ebbed with pain and sadness. After this they performed Liebst du um SchönheltThis is another love song with beautiful ending lines. In this song she asks that if you love her, do so for her alone. To finish her section Warum willst du and’re Fragen was played which again is a very intense piece about love, trust and questioning. I have a real soft spot for sung German and these songs were fine examples. I was jealous to hear that Clara visited Ireland on one of her tours, wouldn’t it be great to have a time machine?

Pauline Viardot
Pauline Viardot

After Clara, two of Pauline Viardot’s (1821-1896) flowery works were performed. Pauline was a Parisian singer and composer of Spanish decent. Born into a musical family she was surrounded by talent and support and she definitely made the most of it. Although she never intended to become a composer, her works were of such quality that they cannot be ignored or discounted. First we were treated to Les Deux Roses a lively, fun tune about a timid lover and flowers of love with an intoxicating scent. The next song was Fleur Desséhée a song which perfectly captured the essence of French sytle heart break, like something out of an old black and white/silent movie. I wanted to jump onto a place and escape to Paris so thanks for that Pauline!

From France we returned to Germany to hear the songs of the talented Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847). Fanny, like Clara, has the (mis?) fortune of being related to some very famous men such as her brother and composer, Felix Mendelssohn. Poor Fanny had to not only do battle with negative societal attitudes towards women and music but also those of her father, who is said to have tolerated rather than supported her musical talent. Felix even warned her against publishing works in her own name as it would distract from her more “important” duties.

Fanny Mendelssohn
Fanny Mendelssohn

Despite this Fanny composed some great pieces and four of these were performed at the concert. Most of these were parlour pieces, beautiful and finely tuned. Das Heimweh is a song about homesickness and this song could easily be included in a musical today, its melody was so fresh and strong. I could even follow the lyrics despite not speaking German. Sehnsucht was a softer, haunting piece about longing which used wonderful imagery of a far away dance to portray the emotions. When composing Verlust Fanny used some truly elegant chords and combined then with a rich melody to weave an image of loss.

The highlight of the set however, was ItalienThis is a happier tune which describes the beauty of Italy and has a great anecdote about once of its performances. Queen Victoria was a big fan of the Mendelssohns and invited them to her palace for a gig. The Queen was quite partial to some singing so she performed this song in front of her guests in her parlour. When finished, she turned to Felix to compliment his wonderful composition and he had to inform her that it was in fact Fanny who crafted the piece. Fanny was also in the room at the time but I am sure Felix would have owned up regardless.

The next composer featured was Mary Plumstead (1905-1980) who spent most of her life in Devon and Cornwall. Despite living to 1980 Mary never really came to prominence in her life time and is still little known. This is despite many of her songs becoming central pieces in many choirs repertoires. Mary’s songs were religiously inclined and both songs that were performed as part of his concert mentioned a God. On Jacob’s Pillow had a wonderful selection of lyrics as well as an almost Disney like ending and Close Thine Eyes was a soothing, lullabyesque composition. I was very relaxed after these two songs.

Cécile Chaminade
Cécile Chaminade

Not to be outdone by the Germans another Paris native had two songs featured this afternoon. Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) was a composer of salon songs and piano pieces and was, unlike Mary Plumstead, published frequently. She was awarded the Légion d’Honneur which was a first for a female composer. It was not all easy going for Cécile though as her father disapproved of her career and she become more obscure as the 20th century winded on.

Of all the songs performed in this recital I think that Cécile’s had the most gorgeous lyrics.  Bleus featured magic, bewitching eyes, lakes and the sky all accompanied by a chilling, spooky piano. Songs like this make me wish that I listened more to my French class in school. Si j’étais Jardiner des cieux is a love song that is gentle and winding, much like the French tunes that I have come to know and love. We will ignore the bit about culling stars as I am sure she did not mean to murder them.

Alicia Adelaide Needham
Alicia Adelaide Needham

The concert ended with two songs from an Irish woman, Alicia Adélaide Needham (1872-1942).  An ex-student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, she was a household name until the early 1920’s due to her sheer amount of talent. Her name then faded into obscurity and I am delighted to see some efforts are being made to preserve what we know about her and to spread her music. The songs we heard today would not have an unfamiliar sound to anyone who is familiar with Irish ballads. Glenara is a song about what goes on in a particularly beautiful place, I am also very impressed that she managed to rhyme “Glanara” with “arrow”. Husheen was performed next and like the name implies it was a soft, flowing tune which faded out to finish. Great stuff.

This was a great recital and I am very glad that I took the time off to attend. I learned a lot more about these women and their works and am delighted that this showcase was held in a venue as great as the National Concert Hall. Yes it was not in the main hall, but it is a start, and the more these works are played hopefully they will become more popular and in demand. The programmes that were provided were excellent as they contained the translated lyrics for the German and French songs. I would have liked the original language to be included beside it so I could compare but it is a small complaint for what was a great concert.

You can see that some of the songs above do not have links and some women do not have pictures. This is because I could not find any. If you know of where I can find them I would be happy to include them so please let me know.

Something New: The Queen of Versailles

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The weather is Dublin has been very strange of late. Winging from heat to rain it is making life in Dublin very difficult to dress for. So  when I needed to kill some time I decided to do the best thing one can do in that weather; go to the cinema. Luckily for me the The Queen of Versailles was showing the in the Lighthouse cinema.

The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles follows the fortunes of the Siegal family who live in Florida. David Siegal is the boss of Westgate Resorts, a successful time share company and he is currently married to his third wife Jackie, a beauty queen and lady of leisure. They were billionaires and to reflect this they decided to build a giant home based on Versailles. 90,000 square foot of tacky, it has room for thirty bathrooms, a baseball pitch, ice skating rink, health spa and many, many other things. This was until the credit crunch and financial crisis hit and their riches begin to evaporate.

The sheer wealth on display in this movie was astounding. Their current house was   a huge decadent property with pillars, marble tubs and a huge kitchen. Despite this the house was bursting at the seams with stuff, children and dogs. They threw lavish parties, spent a fortune on clothes and hob-nobbed with rich and powerful politicians and celebrities. David even makes the scary assertion that he was responsible for getting George W Bush elected, although he would not say now as it was “probably not legal.”

After the crash it was shocking how the family adjusted their priorities. In one particular striking scene, Jackie is shopping for Christmas and rather than carefully gathering gifts within her budget she packed three trollies full of toys, without checking the prices. The nannies then unloaded the cars and in a fantastic shot we see them carrying a new bike past a garage full of unused bikes. There is also the incident of the discovery of a dead lizard. When Jackie tries to question the children about how the lizard dies, one sulked that the staff would not bring her to the pet shop and another was surprised that they had a lizard at all. These are just two examples of the ridiculous wealth and privilege that they were accustomed to and how despite them having come from poverty themselves,  they took it totally for granted.

Despite this spoiled lifestyle laden with health the family were under a heavy burden. Not just in terms of their own family and lifestyle but in the knowledge that their mistakes have affected the lives of thousands. In one scene David describes with tears in his eyes how he had to let go 5,000 employees in one day.  The stress of having to save the company to help maintain the supports of their employees created tension in their household and I could not imagine living with that burden.

But through this adversity the Siegal’s generosity became apparent. Jackie sent an old family friend money to try and stop her home going into foreclosure. She also set up a thrift shop for the local community, with much of the stock coming from her own home and the business. The Siegal’s also helped a friend to set up a driving business after his property business crashed, letting him borrow their cars to drive for clients. In addition to their seven children they also took in Jackie’s niece who was being neglected at home, it was heartbreaking to hear her describe her bedroom as the “dirt room” as she slept on a floor. These generous and warm acts were a really nice counterpoint to the gaudiness and waste of their spending.

One of the biggest surprises of the movie was Jackie herself. From the trailer you would be forgiven for thinking she was a vapid, trophy wife but this was not the case at all. On graduation from High School, she went to work at IBM, her small town’s local employer. She decided to train as an engineer rather than a secretary so she would not have to answer to anyone and would have a good career. She did this at a time when women engineers were even less common than they are today. This is a strange start for a woman who later would become a third wife to a billionaire who she admits took her some time to fall in love with. Jackie seemed a bit clueless about the families finance. She knew they were in trouble but her efforts to intervene were rebuffed with annoyance by David. She said it best herself when she stated that she “was not stupid” but was not being given the information. I can only assume that the seduction of a life of leisure outweighed her desire to be an independent woman.

The impact of family was another strong theme in the documentary. The banks said that they would forgive all of David Seigal’s debts if he just gave up one building. He refused to as he had dedicated it to his parents who loved Las Vegas. To him this was fulfilling a dream that his Dad held, to become a big deal in Vegas. Despite all of his advisers telling him to sell he refused to. He was then backed up by his son from a previous marriage who knew it was the wrong choice but supported him anyway!

This staunch dedication to family did not seem to stretch to his own children however. I was astounded to hear that he had no money set aside for any of his seven children, his niece or any of his children from his previous marriage. We hear that he left his first wife in poverty to raise his first three children. He also seemed to neglect his family emotionally as he became more withdrawn and angry through the move. For a man who would bankrupt a business to hold onto a building that he was emotionally attached to due to his parents it was dazzling to see him disregard his own family.

But the main thing that I will take from this documentary is the sadness of the Filipino Nanny. She has been separated from her own children for over a decade and they do not even call her Mum. She cries as she thinks about them and I couldn’t help but shed a few myself. Her biggest wish is to build a house of her own and that is why she moved to America. She talks about her father and how all he wanted was a concrete house but he died before he could make that dream a reality. Her interviews were heartbreaking and I wish her all the happiness for the future.

The Queen of Versailles is a great portrait of the American dream gone wild and how it can crash and fail. The movie is full of hilarious moments, where the family seem outlandish and carefree as they live the high life. This is balanced by the disaster than unfolds after the crash and the stories of personal loss. You can’t help but admire the people in the documentary who are trying to put their lives together after lifetimes of hard work that were erased. If you are interested in the personal stories of people affected by the credit crunch The Queen of Versailles is well worth a watch.

Currently showing the the Lighthouse cinema and is directed by Lauren Greenfield.

Must See Web Weekly – Destroying Writer’s Block

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If you like to write, you know better than any one how annoying writer’s block can be. Often you would like to write, but can’t think of where to even begin. A lot of the time it is best to wait it out and return to your work once you have a clear head and a fresh perspective. Sometimes, though, you do not want to wait. The urge to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard is too strong. So what do you do?

Thanks to the magic of the internet you may have a solution. Now, you can Google image search dolphins swimming at sunset, or pictures of celebrities visiting Africa in order to feel inspired again. If that works for you. Some people may want a more explicit form of writing motivation, and they can have it thanks to Seventh Sanctum.

Seventh Sanctum is one of the many “generators” that reside on the web. Most generators online deal solely with names which is great, after all, who has time to think about naming minor characters when you have to figure out how an entire plot will work. Writers are often guilty of focusing on the parts they find easy or enjoy exploring such as relationships between characters, or the filler part of the narrative rather than the end or the beginning. So thankfully, Seventh Sanctum has a collection of generators to help you with the aspects of your writing that you find difficult to come up with ideas for. There is an extensive list of name generators ranging from fantasy character names right down to ship names. The site also caters to plot, boasting a what-if-inator.
– Selection of generators on offer on the site.

I won’t bore you by going through each and every generator that Seventh Sanctum has, because it is quite the list. Go explore the site, perhaps your first novel or award winning short story is a few randomly generated clicks away.

THISISPOPBABY’s Elevator by Rory Geraghty

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There is no doubt that 2012 has been a great year for theatre group THISISPOPBABY. The group, which is part of Project Catalyst, an initiative of Project Arts Centre, has carved a unique space for itself in Irish Theatre Circles over the last five years since its conception.

Elavator

Elevator

Back in April, they launched their sensational play Alice in Funderland which beautifully captured the best bits of The Rocky Horror Show, fairytales and Dublin and then combined them into one of the most unique pieces of theatre to hit the Irish stage in a very long time. Two years in the making the play was absolutely flawless in both its writing and delivery.

Their most recent production, Elevator, is airing as part of the Absolute Fringe Festival from the 16th-22nd of September, is a much darker and more sombre affair. Set in a large house, in a forest, the outside world is painted as bleak and cold. Inside, six indulged twenty somethings party while they wait for their host, Johann. In the background, they are being watched over and almost pitied by the maid who knows something that she just cannot disclose.

The clue is in the title, Elevator, as the audience are swung up and down, almost hypnotically, through the highs and lows that are experienced by the characters drug abuse. At one stage everyone is hyper, the next they collapse onto the couch. With each line of cocaine sniffed everyone becomes more and more paranoid. “Where is Johann?, Where is our host?”

Music punctuates the chilling character of the play, underpinning the eerie undertone of the black and white colour scheme on stage. Flash lighting and the use of animal head masks induce the audience into a state of surrealism similar to that experienced by the characters, who line after line, sniff after sniff, redefine their surrounding reality.

Behind it all this is really a play about destruction. Self-destruction to be exact. The six principal characters are devoid of care or compassion, even for themselves. They manipulate themselves with cocaine to make the world spin faster. As multiple sex acts ensue between all of the characters even the lines of sexual orientation become blurred. Everyone kisses each other and some go much further. These are people who have never grown up, brought together because they shared one thing: wealthy parents.

There is no linear narrative to this play. Instead various stories and encounters are pieced together as if it’s a game for the audience to work out. What you are being offered is a panoramic view of life at a high-class party. Steadily the play gets darker and darker building up to that moment where everything is going to end.

Although it lulls in the middle, there is certainly moments that draw you in. Bursts of humour pierce the plays dark sole and release some tension in a similar way that the sexual encounters on the stage give each character a momentary release from their self-inflicted pain. It is not clear whether or not the characters take drugs to make their world better or their drug abuse is what makes their world so sad.

The key to this play is very much in the writing because it is so much more than a script. It is a piece of visual art which verifies Philip McMahon as one of Dublin’s most consistent playwrights. McMahon has a gift at transcending the lines between humour and pain so beautifully and I have no doubt that in ten years’ time, his work will be studied in detail by Irish Drama experts worldwide.

Elevator

Elevator

In the end Elevator earns itself 4/5 stars. Flawless choreography and strong acting, particularly from Conor Madden who plays Edward, compliment the striking dialogues and chilling atmosphere that leave the audience walking away with both confusion and a lust for more. Although it’s no Alice, I desperately want to see it again to watch twice for details that were missed on my first viewing.

Something New: Brave

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Warning: There be some spoilers ahead.

Last week I finally made it to the cinema to see Brave, the new Pixar produced movie. Distributed by Disney, I convinced Patrick to come and see it with me on a very raining, Irish summer’s day.  So what can be said about Brave?

Brave

Brave

Beautiful Animation
This is a beautifully crafted movie. The landscapes in this movie are stunning and there were genuinely times where I had to blink and refocus as they looked so realistic. The water flowed effortlessly and the lush, green woodlands gave the story a rural, Celtic feel. The contrast of the natural wood-scape with the glowing wisps was magical and haunting.

Patrick and I chose to see the movie in 2D as I have read complaints that the night scenes can be a little warped by 3D. I do not know if this is accurate but be aware that quite a lot of the scenes do take place at night or in a castle that can be quite dark so choose your medium carefully.

The characters themselves were really well designed. Many of them physically took on representations of their character traits but never looked too ridiculous. The most impressive animation was Merida’s hair, by far. It was large, red, corkscrew curls that would have taken so much work to animate properly. If flowed, bounced and moved like natural hair. She is the main character so I have to applaud Pixar for going out on a limb and making it work.

No real “bad guy”
What was quite interesting about Brave was that there was no real “bad guy”. Too often movies give us the same tired cliché of the good, wonderful hero and dark, evil bad guy. Despite this, it did not mean that the movie was conflict free. The story line with Merdia and her mother Elinor, was wonderfully written and demonstrated the potential conflicts between a mother and daughter, their duties and their dreams and wishes. Even though I leaned towards Merdia’s point of view, it was easy to see both sides even if they were being stubborn and cranky.

But what about Mor’du those of you who have seen Brave may be asking? To be I don’t think the purpose of his inclusion was to provide a bad guy . The focus of the story was on Merdia and Elinor rather than Mor’du and the King. Aside from that he was not really a baddy was he? Yes he tried to take his brother’s kingdoms, and ate King Fergus’ leg but in his defence he was young and stupid, and later, a bear. We learn that he was unable to undo the witches curse and was then trapped in animal form. I think the real sign of how he was not truly evil occurred after he was killed. We saw his spirit which smiles as if he was finally free of his torment and he could now be at peace.

Good portrayal of a female relationship
So often when the main characters in fiction are female, their main relationships in life tend to be male. Think about how many princesses and heroines are raised by their fathers with absent or dead mothers. The main source of conflict is then often with wicked stepmothers or  jealous women who want to destroy them, keep them locked up or control them. Hardly the best representation of all the wonderful, real, female relationships that exist and which could inspire.

But this thankfully is changing and the old story stereotypes are being challenged and tossed aside. In stories such as the Hunger Games, Lilo and Stich and now Brave, we see very strong female relationships that are while not perfect, are realistic and important to the lives of the characters. They are not just side notes or a ribbon that is tied  at the end to complete the plot.

Sure Merdia and Elinor’s relationship was fraught and full of challenges. But they worked through that and together they came out the other side with a better understanding of who they are and what their relationship means. Yes it was a pity that the whole bear incident had to happen, but this is Pixar after all and the story would not be as good without a bit of fantasy and imagination.

Comedy

Brave is proper laugh-out-loud hilarious. Merdia’s three younger brothers, Hamish, Hubert and Harris provided some wonderful rascally, high jinx. Whether it was stealing cake, playing tricks on their father or retrieving a key from an ample bosom they were very entertaining even with no dialogue.

The clans who arrive to compete in the Highland Games were also fantastically funny. They fought, drank, ate, and dragged up old rivalries and feuds all for our entertainment. The fight scene in the dining hall was comical as was the creative method that they employed to get down from the roof  of the castle when stranded. The wood-carving witch also deserves an honourable mention, at least for her creative answering machine.

Edge of your seat
There were also times of great tension in the plot which acted as a nice counter balance to the comedy and teenage angst. For example even though we, the audience, knew that Merdia was an expert archer, it was still nerve-wracking when she was fighting for the right to choose her own (marriage) destiny. I had to try very hard not to cheer for her out loud and not to boo the clan’s sons during the tournament.

The main tension that was almost unbearable (excuse the pun) involved Elinor when she was in bear form.  Between the fights, the hunts, the sunsets and broken relationships, poor Elinor got a raw deal. Although I felt that nothing bad would happen as this is a kid’s movie, I remember Up so will never fully trust Pixar to not make me cry.

Not too cheesy
So when I first heard that Brave was to be set in Scotland, I did cringe a bit inside. I  just hoped that they wouldn’t pull a typical Hollywood stunt of having terrible American voice actors and awful clichés such as tartan wearing Scottish terriers playing the bag pipes with a bottle of Irn Bru mixed with whiskey and a deep fried Mars Bar on some shortbread. But fear not, Brave was ok! They had real Scottish actors and everything. The Scottish themes were well worked into the plot so them seemed a natural part of the story rather than a “hey look we are in SCOTLAND” tactic.

Conclusion
I very much enjoyed Brave and thought it was a great story with fantastic characters. Historically women do not get a great treatment in the entertainment industry and I felt that Pixar did a good job in creating strong, realistic, women characters. They were complex and entertaining and Pixar avoided the pitfalls that can occur with tokenism.

No, there was no big Pixar tragedy, or twist but I was happy with this as it means that Pixar are not getting predictable. Was Brave as emotionally punching as Up or Wall-E? No it wasn’t, but it still entertained and included some great moments of conflict and tension.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, for children and grown-ups alike.

Must See Web Weekly – Musical drinks with Analogue Sticks

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Whether you’re sipping champagne at a wedding reception, enjoying sangria on the coast of Spain, or even drinking cans out in a field with your closest friends (I’m sure many are guilty of this one), it is impossible to argue that certain types of alcohol have not become synonymous with not only certain social settings, but also certain cultures and much more. There are indeed many factors that go into your choice of tipple other than your personal preference. Many times, it is all about the mood and setting.  So, picture this, you’re getting ready to go out clubbing and one of your friends puts on the latest Marina & the Diamonds album, for example. You, like many, are not immune to some of the infectious beats of her newest creations, you’re suddenly really excited for later. You decide that you would like a drink…but what will you have? Do not fret, because the internet yet again, has a solution.

Drinkify is a website that picks alcoholic beverages for you based on what music you are listening to. Marina and the Diamonds gives a result of vodka and red bull which is quite appropriate for the scenario described above. The site catalogues artists new and old from Lady Gaga (6 oz. vodka garnished with an olive), to Peggy Lee, (1 bottle of red wine) to Franz Schubert (1 oz. Ecstasy liqueur, 1 oz. Coco López and 8 oz. Tabasco sauce). For those of you blaring Adele and bawling your eyes out over a recent break up, get your friends over and try “The Adele” cocktail listed on the site. With vodka, coconut milk and honey, heartbreak never seemed so tasty.

The “Shirley Templar” – Just the thing after a day of running around rooftops

Luckily for you all this week, I have another corner of the internet for you to explore. Since this week’s “Web Weekly” concerns itself with alcohol, it would be a crime to leave out one of my favourite beverage blogs. The Drunken Moogle is a Tumblr blog dedicated to showcasing, in their own words, “geek culture and booze”. The blog boasts cocktails from over sixty video games, however, that is not all. The Drunken Moogle also has showcased cocktails inspired by tv, film and comics, such as Dexter, Batman and Cowboy Bebop. That is still not all the blog has to offer, they have a large list of video game bars that exist around the world (though there are none listed in Ireland, boo) and a section specifically for drinking games, including one for A Game of Thrones. If you’ve ever wanted to knock back Ryncol like Commander Shepard on the Citadel, then The Drunken Moogle is a place for you.

As always, have fun but don’t forget to drink responsibly.

Something New: Dubai, The Stepford City by Patrick H

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The Stepford Wives. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve certainly seen the film. A story about an eerily perfect suburb in America, with eerily perfect people populating it. The lawns are impeccably trimmed, the cars spotlessly clean and the church always full on Sunday, complete with proper-people in proper-clothes.

Dubai buildings

Dubai buildings

Its eeriness lies in its near perfect, particular vision of utopia. Of course, everything comes crashing down when the mechanisms of that haven are laid bare and destroyed.

Dubai is perfect. The zebra crossings are inset with marble. The street lights are a silky stainless steel with a shiny, Arabic pattern down some sides, sculpted into a contemporary, perfect shape. The streets are wide and immaculately clean. Granite blocks form several walls.

Zebra Crossings

Zebra Crossings

The futuristic train stations would fit perfectly in a Star Trek utopia, along with the architecture. Huge, glass towers are packed tightly together, monuments of the wealthy companies residing within.

New Roads

New Roads

Then there’s the cars. In  Dubai, it isn’t possible to buy a car over 10 years old. Cars over 20 years old are banned. Taxis older than 5 years are also banned. And, along with all that, there’s seemingly no crime, it is all kept very well hidden.

The heat is, obviously, searing. On my visit, a quick stop from a holiday in India, the temperature reached 43°C. As a result, the streets are pretty much empty. Much like the roads.

Don’t get me wrong; on my short stay, I absolutely loved Dubai. It was fascinating and beautiful. Built in the middle of the desert, all the plants – trees, bushes, grass – have to be watered. The last rain they had was last year – the only rain they’d had the whole year. Sand has to be continually brushed away.

The city is only around 40 years old, with most of the buildings having been built in the last decade. The shopping malls are incredible, with every major and highstreet brand we’re used to such as Prada, Gucci and Armani. The UK’s staples of River Island and Top Man and America’s behemoth Banana Republic and Gap are even here. You can still eat in TGI Fridays, McDonalds and KFC.

It‘s a very familiar and comfortable place to be. It’s a familiar western style  haven in the middle of an Arabian desert.

Skyscraper

Skyscraper

If you go, you’ll love it. What you won’t be able to get away from, however, is a stale, plastic feeling. An odd feeling that something’s just not quite there. It’s like being in a computer game. The graphics are great, but it’s still just not real. For some reason, the city feels soulless. There’s no meat on the bones.

Maybe that’s the nature of the beast. The heat means you can’t have the outdoor café culture we’re used to. Maybe it’s because it’s been built so fast, full of block building and planning with no organic development making vast swathes of the city feel like a brand new development. It could be the entire artificial island with row upon row upon row of exactly the same apartment building, as far as the eye can see. A dream from the movie Inception.

There are things you can do, certainly. Museums, skiing on snow (an artificial snow slope), ice skating and, talking to the people, they seem happy and would never want to move back to their home countries such from America to Sri Lanka . The standard of life is apparently high. Away from any politics, however, I just can’t get away from the sense that there’s no meat on the bones. It’s all just a little too perfect.

Must See Web Weekly – Toronto Batman

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If you’re still craving some Dark Knight goodness after what was an epic conclusion to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, then this week we have your fix. “Batman’s Night Out” has gained a massive following ever since  it was uploaded, and has lead onto some other Batman videos featuring Spider-Man and Chad Vader. It is hard to believe that there are still many Bat-fans who have missed out on this little gem.

Taking place in the mean streets of Toronto, yes you read that correctly, Batman takes time out to pose for some photos, urges passers by to swear to him, and battles his old foe, beef jerky packets.

If you want to delve further into the life of Toronto Batman, he can also be found on FacebookTwitter and Tumblr. Of course much credit also goes to film-maker Sean Ward whose pages can also be found here.