Monthly Archives: June 2012

Lovely Little Yokes: Prototype Tat

There is nothing I can write to build up or soften the blow of actually seeing these images.

I used to work in the souvenir business, I designed a fair amount of the shite you will find in Carroll’s of Dublin. We couldn’t keep up with the demand for Oirish tat.

The below abominations were designed by the great Terry Willers. He would churn out pencil sketches by the dozen on any given theme. These are prototypes for a series of exclusive figurines for the gift shop in Sea World Florida.

These are so creepy and wrong but the best part is they are completely unique, apart from maybe another copy in China these are the only ever produced. And I have them (along with a few other proto-gems)

(by Bob Byrne)

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Lovely Little Yokes: Not Quite a New Pope

In Donegal a friend runs a shop that’s thirty foot by fifteen foot of tacky wonderment. He sells everything from 15kb digital games to Elvis Presley clocks with legs swinging from a gyrating clockwork pelvis. On a visit to him a few years ago I found an object of absolute wonderment: a statue of the Pope, with something utterly, obviously wrong.

It had George Bush Jnr’s face.

I pointed this out to him and he shrugged. The devout are willing to turn a blind eye to such facial malapropisms it seems. Much of his stock comes from China, possibly from one of those intensive artisan towns where artistic wonders of mass reproduction are whipped out in mere hours. My theory is a Google image search went brilliantly awry resulting in a run of ecclesiastical George Bushs. There’s a photo hiding on the hard-drive somewhere that I’ll post when and if I can find it.
I wish I’d bought the damned bloody brilliant thing.

(by Allan Cavanagh)

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Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx

Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx was adapted from a Gabriel Walsh screenplay and directed by Waris Hussein in 1970. The vast majority of the scenes were filmed in Dublin. It remains one of the most unusual films of the decade, sharing a kindred spirit with the likes of Harold and Maude, Electra Glide In Blue and Brewster McCloud. The anti-hero is Gene Wilder’s Quackser Fortune; a man who makes his living in a most unusual way – by collecting waste and then selling it on.

“Horse manure. Fresh dung!”

Quackser’s family do not share his enthusiasm for crap. His parents (Seamus Forde and May Ollis) want him to take a position in the local foundry while the Minister for Transport has condemned Dublin’s delivery horses as “relics of a dead past” and is anxious for them to be pensioned off. But Quackser soldiers on and happily pushes his wheelbarrow through our city centre (shot with a dingy eye by Gil Taylor). His initial female interest is Betsy Bourke (played by Eileen Colgan of Glenroe and Fair City fame). There’s a bizarre scene that shows the two of them discussing jam, marmalade and tea before stripping off at her kitchen table.

But true love strikes in the form of Zazel Pierce, a flakey exchange student from Connecticut who is
studying at Trinity College. Margot Kidder excels in this role – only her second film performance. She is full of tourist-guide information about the city that she quickly imparts to the Quackser. There’s a fairly instant chemistry between them that culminates in a memorable scene in the local pub where Zazel gives up her shoes to leather-expert Maguire (David Kelly).

Just like Godot, Quackser’s Bronx-based cousin never materialises. There is something intangible about his existence – spoken in reverent tones by the family but far removed from their drudge-filled lives in Ireland. Quackser and Zazel’s romance is also difficult to sustain – an underlying edge being present throughout despite their obvious passion for each other. This sense of doom bears fruit at the Trinity College Boat Club ball where Zazel’s boorish friends humilate the gauche Quackser. A hasty trip to a nearby hotel re-affirms their ultimate incompatability. It seems that Zazel has found herself.

The final quarter of the film centres on Quackser’s reaction to the ending of this brief affair. He liberates the horses from Spencer Dock (now condemned to death as the engine has taken over) and decides to emigrate to New York. But first there’s a pretty grotesque and hallucinatory pub scene. And then the denouement about his Bronx cousin that neatly determines his future career. The non-conformist has learned from experience and found his proper niche.

Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Park works on a number of different levels – as an offbeat romantic comedy and as a quirky portrait of a man that defiantly ploughs his own furrow. The cinematography captures some wonderful images of late 1960s Dublin. The complete film can be watched on YouTube with the first part here.  I’ll leave you with the official trailer.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Scribble Your Name Across My Heart (a love story)

There was a boy, once. I was six and so was he. We were in First Class together, back in the days when First Class meant making your Holy Communion. With that massive ecclesiastical millstone around our necks, he’d be sent off to the Boys’ Academy of Learning and I’d be left behind in the Convent School for Premature Harlots. I suppose that was heavy on my mind. I did not want to be separated from him. He was a dashing little fellow.

Anyway, we were on our school tour and on the way back, the teacher allowed us to stop at a playground so we could stretch our legs and flake each other over the few available swings. We were each given an ice-pop as a treat. They were cheap, frozen splashes of chemicals that tasted fucking amazing but have probably since been outlawed. They were called Scribblers. They looked like pencils and so were better than the more economical Sparkles.

Behold the Scribbler, bottom row.

I loved Scribblers. Of course, I loved all of the HB ice-pops: Sparkles and Fat Frogs and Super Splits and Tangle Twisters and the Brunches I gorged on once a year when my uncle came back from the UK, laden down with disposable income and misty-eyed generosity. I loved the Loop The Loops, with their chocolate top, and the Maxi Twists, with their miserable sliver of sorbet tucked into the bone-white ice-cream, and the Calippos that came in a cardboard tube that went soggy and made your fingers sticky and your mother cross. But especially I loved Scribblers. Maybe my tongue knew I was going to be a writer before the rest of me figured it out.

The little boy that I had drawn designs on was on his own, going up and down one of the taller slides at the far end of the playground. It was as good a chance as any to ingratiate myself. We were in the same class, but we weren’t special friends, which must have stung something shocking because I’m nothing if not a stereotypical Leo. Even when I was six I expected everyone to be in love with me. I had long blonde hair and hazel eyes and I looked like I’d been gently rolled out of a Timotei ad for being too scruffy. I was the perfect best friend for a six-year-old boy.

He was going up and down on the slide and I wanted to join him.

But there was the Scribbler in my hand. I’d been savouring it. I never bit an ice-pop, whether I could help it or not (and I never have since, either. Sensitive teeth). Teacher had told us that we were to finish our pops before using the playground equipment, and I was no rebel. Nor was I used to choosing any treat over a Scribbler. But this was love.

I put the Scribbler very carefully on the grass, well out of the way of racing, kicking feet, and rushed to join the little fella on the tall slide.

He was inching himself down the chute, chubby little fingers clutching its sides. The steel had been smoothed to optimum launch speed by years of little arses speeding down onto the gravel and grass below, and I guess he wasn’t the most daring young man. Not so I. I climbed the slide behind him, sat at the top and slid down with the grace and speed of some sort of space-age angel, blonde tangle sailing out majestically behind me, head thrown back like the photogenic little astronaut I was. I hit him squarely in his reticent, blocky back with my patent Clarks’ best.

He went flying off the end of the slide and landed on his backside on the gravel. He got up and turned around and his lip was quivering like a maggot on a fishing line.

“I’m telling Teacher on you!” he said. “You’re bold. You hurt me. I’m telling.”

And off he went as fast as his plump six-year-old legs could carry him.

Well, I was heartbroken. You might as well have buried my She-Ra doll or unravelled my Read Along tape of A Little Princess or told me that The Phantom Menace would one day exist. It was a feeling so desperate and so deep and strong that I still remember it  and wince, twenty-four years later. Not only had I made the object of my affection cry, but now I was going to be in trouble with Teacher and I was never in trouble with Teacher. And what a fucking wimp. Not that I knew the word fucking back then, but it formed in bile in the back of my throat as a concept and I’ve not been able to dislodge it since. Miserable little… fucker. And hot tears blurred my vision and my nose went out in sympathy with it and it was the worst day of my little life.

The worst, worst day. Because when I went back over for my precious Scribbler, some other little fucker had nicked it.

I have never forgiven that little bastard. I hope he dies roaring.

(by Lisa McInerney)

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Think Safety

This road safety film is known as Gold Star and was produced by the National Road Safety Association in 1980. By then all public information films were shot in colour which was gradually becoming the preferred choice of television set in Ireland. Although we had to wait until the autumn of the following year before ours arrived.

The opening shot features the trendy school bag of the era with the twin snap-locks. A Mustang exercise book is casually tossed in. It contains an English essay.

The theme of horseplay continues with more high jinks on the roadside as they wait for the Bus Scoile. The colour film stock proudly showcases its glorious yellow and white livery. One child veers dangerously into the path of an oncoming vehicle. This causes a stressed motorist to mutter “stupid child” while the sympathetic narrator (Mike Murphy) sticks up for the ten-year-olds. On this occasion the bus driver is calmer than his 1970s colleague and delivers a quick warning to his charges before they board the vehicle.

The key message here is that adults bear the lion’s share of responsibility for road safety. Mike solemnly informs us that when something special happens in a young lad’s day he won’t be able to think about anything else. The camera focuses on a gold star being placed on a copy book. These were a major feature of teaching techniques when I was in second and third class.

So it’s back to the besieged adult as he daydreams at traffic lights:

“They can often be guilty of the same sort of blindness. They don’t remember their own childhood”.

The excited and starred-up boy then crosses the road without paying any heed to the oncoming traffic.

PS – the opposite to a gold star was a red one. A cruel form of negative marking.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Mind Yourself!

The vast majority of Irish public information films seem to only now exist as memories. However there are a couple that have been preserved. Here is one – produced by the National Road Safety Association during the 1970s.

It starts with an alarm clock – both sound and vision. It’s a familiar morning scene; a schoolboy (David) having breakfast with his unseen Mammy. He grabs his bag from the hall and walks to the bus stop. In quick pursuit is his friend Paddy – a messer. A quick scuffle and Paddy is lying on the grass verge. Just then the Bus Scoile pulls up and the stern voiceover solemnly states:

“Horseplay on the side of the road is stupid”.

The bus driver is not a happy man. He grabs Paddy and gives him a piece of mind. The bus continues to the school, the children alight and wait to cross the road.

Now to try and guess a more exact date for the production. There are a couple of clues; the school bus registration plate dates from the first half of 1973, while the closing shot features a sample from the Safe Cross Code film (1975). Therefore, I am guessing: 1976.

A mention must also go to the classic drum action as the National Road Safety Association logo forms on screen. Breaks!

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Finbar’s Class

Finbar’s Class. I remember but snatches from it. A rebellious earring here, some cheeky backchat there, valid teenage angst wrapped up in a threadbare blanket of bad rapping and someone’s hideous ‘90s puffa jacket. It was mid ’90s young adult fare from RTÉ and about as edgy as the channel ever got, outside of rounding on Annie Murphy of a Friday night.

The premise, if I remember it correctly, was that Michael Sheridan was teaching a load of tarmac terrorists in an inner city Dublin school, when, possibly inspired by Whoppi Goldberg in Sister Act 2, he realised the only way to reach them was through glibly modernised music therapy. Cue lots of East 17-style posturing and Carol from Fair City wearing a tracksuit, or something. I don’t really remember.

However, I did come across this recently.

I’d like to say it brought memories flooding back, but alas, my brain is a one-way street and Finbar’s Class, while clearly brilliant in its own scuzzy way, was not very memorable. I remember loving it, but I don’t remember why. And yet, the scenes depicted above would be controversial now – cartoonish moneylenders! Heroin! Bras! – so it genuinely rots my receptors that Finbar’s Class has since sunk into some sort of RTE netherworld: consigned to the vaults, forgotten. That looks like Fair City on GHB, for Christ’s sake! Surely such a show would have been right up the street of me and my teenage devotion to Melvin Burgess books. So why is it that the only thing I remember is bad singing in moody postures and Michael Sheridan’s mildly disapproving smile?

Can any of you other ‘90s kids dredge this up for me?

(by Lisa McInerney)

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The Liberty Belles

The Liberty Belles were formed in 1969, out of the Francis Street Parish Club in Dublin. The area is known as The Liberties – hence the name of the girls’ singing group. Originally a dozen members, the numbers had swelled to 30 singers and a total membership of over 60 by the time that this album was released. Their mentor was local priest Father Foley who enlisted the support of Tom Gregory (guitar), Shay O’Donoghue (piano and organ) and Frank McCarthy. The LP was recorded in the Eamonn Andrews Studios in Dublin and released by Dolphin Records in 1971; Dolphin Discs being the name of a long-running record shop located in Talbot Street.

The album has been compared to The Langley Schools Music Project which is not too far off the mark. Given the era there is the inevitable Hair connection. Two tracks from the hit musical are featured – a serene Good Morning Starshine and a groovy Aquarius.

Hurry Home and Snowbird (made famous by Anne Murray) are plaintively performed with a maturity that belies the girls’ tender years – their ages ranged between 11 and 15.  A haunting version of Brahms Lullaby concludes a most entertaining first half.

There’s a spiritual vibe on side two with righteous versions of Oh Happy Day and Amazing Grace. After competent takes of the catchy Scarlet Ribbons and harmonious Yellow Bird, the LP finishes on an apt note – the togetherness anthem of positivity known as United We Stand.

However my favourite track on this charming LP is their version of the Cuban classic Guantanamera. I love hearing the spoken word section being delivered in a Dublin accent.

Full tracklist.

Side 1
01 Good Morning Starshine
02 Hurry Home
03 Snowbird
04 Guantanamera
05 I Made So Many Friends
06 The Lullaby

Side 2
07 Oh Happy Day
08 Scarlet Ribbons
09 Aquarius
10 Amazing Grace
11 Yellow Bird
12 United We Stand

(by nlgbbbblth)

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Just a fluke … and a septic mange mite. With a side of rhynchosporium to go

Harry Molloy takes on the Dune spice worms

There was really nothing to match the particular quirkiness of dinner time in an Irish household in the 80s. It was a time when spaghetti bolognese was the very pinnacle of cuisine-based daring and you were urged to eat every single thing on your plate lest the poor children in Africa psychically know food was going to waste via some Catholic church-based mind link (probably), and weep even more tears of suffering.

And then, of course, there were the ads on the radio for liver fluke. The wireless was constantly tuned to RTÉ Radio 1 at ear-bleed levels in McDermott HQ. This meant every main meal was a welter of fluke-based terror, and appetite would die instantly as a solemn, disembodied voice would lecture in the ad break – mid extended weather forecast – as to the dangers of rhynchosporium, bovine fasciolosis, septic mange mites and other horrible things involving the bowels, arses and intestines of sheep and cows.

Jesus, what to do to fix this dire prognosis! Apparently something along the lines of a dose of Triple A Golden Maverick, ably advertised on TV to a soundtrack of the theme tune to spaghetti western Il Pistolero Dell Ave Maria and starring Harry from Fair City, and all would be well again. Ok, so it’s actually a milk-replacement product for calves but hey – I had to get it in here somehow.

And why dinner time? Easy: the farmers were all in post-milking to listen to the weather news, and ever tuned to the art of market segmentation, the fine bucks at Peter Owens and their ilk block-booked all the ad space for dinner time to catch them at their tay. Well I mean, how better to get into their brains as they supped than by planting the idea of the exact right brand for their particular sporocyst, eh?

What, you thought it was just a fluke? Never.

(by Kirstie McDermott)

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The Green Army (With Guest Appearance by ‘Borat’)

Irish football fans like to think of themselves as the best in the world; it’s pretty much a self-awarded accolade but it’s also undoubtedly true that they are well regarded by those that have encountered them. The reputation was forged at a time when English football fans (or at least a sizeable minority of them) were still terrorising towns and cities across Europe, so it wasn’t too difficult to look good in comparison. But boozy good-naturedness is not the sole preserve of the Irish — the Danes had a similar reputation on their first World Cup in Mexico in 1986, and other Scandinavians and the Scots are largely known to be the same. You might even say that the majority of football fans anywhere in the world, behave just like that — whatever followers of snottier sports might say — but the bad eggs, of course, will always stand out. Regardless of whether the Irish are unique in their good behaviour, there is something remarkable about large groups of mostly young men drinking so much yet causing little or no trouble.

The video below, which I found on YouTube, sums up Ireland’s fans rather eloquently. It was filmed in Bari three years ago (on April Fools’ Day, no less) on the occasion of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier away to Italy. A sharply (or maybe tackily) dressed young man is apprehended by a group of fans, who delight in his supposed similarity to Borat. There’s an initial hint of menace in it, not intentional but the fellow might be forgiven for being worried by a group of foreigners taking such a keen interest in his appearance. After nervously declining an offer of being lifted on someone’s shoulders, he finally joins in with the fun, with another mustachioed local sharing the heat. You have to admire his perseverance and good humour as it was a situation that might so easily have been misinterpreted, given the probable language barrier. Having been in Bari myself on that trip, I can testify to the wonderful welcome the locals gave the Irish fans, despite dire warnings that local businesses were going to rip us off at every opportunity. The Irish fans’ banter in this video could have veered into mean-spiritedness but ultimately it’s generous and endearing. The very fact their poor ‘victim’ really looks nothing at all like Borat only makes it all the funnier.

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