Monday, October 31, 2011

Hail Halloween

Ok, I admit it. As far as Halloween is concerned, I've always been in the "Bah, Humbug" department.

I know, I know. Wrong season. But you know what I mean. All this orange and black and forced zombieism leaves me cold.

 Maybe it's because in the depths of rural Ireland where I was brought up, we never seemed to do much celebrating of Halloween. Or maybe because Christmas is so hot on Halloween's heels that it feels like overkill. Or maybe I'm just a straight descendant of Ebenezer. Whatever.

Either way, the existence of younger, more enthusiastic people in my life has ensured that Halloween is celebrated in my house, with or without me.

Our front door has entered into the spirit of the occasion.
Our front windows are not exactly welcoming.

Best of all, a sheep's skull, retrieved from a Connemara mountain during the summer by my thirteen year old, which I had denounced as at the time as a 'health hazard' but had to concede the battle as far as bringing it home was concerned,

has been resurected for the occasion,

is now pride of place at the front door,

all re-invented with new psychedelic eyeballs.

The sight of it in the front porch made even Scrooge's descendant smile.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A President in a time of recession

This is it. The day has finally arrived.

The first presidential debate sees the ‘Magnificent Seven’ lay their cards on the table

After the deluge of debate, digging up  the dirt, defending the indefensible, blowing of own trumpets, hogging of airwaves, newspapers and screens, the time of reckoning has come.

All other news has overshadowed by an endless stream of incriminating snippets from  shady pasts. At least four of the candidates must surely wish they didn't bother, so rampant have the skeletons from the cupboard been.

So, despite thinking that in a time of recession, maybe we should have done a hachet job on the position altogether,

I still did my civic duty at 9am this morning.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can Creative Writing be Taught?

The prospect of a debate that might answer this frequently pondered (by me)question was attractive. Given that the speakers in the

 gorgeous surroundings of
Royal Irish Academy, Dublin 

on Friday 7th October, consisted entirely of Creative Writing teachers, the weighting in the debate leaned understandeably towards a "Yes."
Some of the points that emerged:
  • Brilliant writers don't necessarily make brilliant teachers.
  • When a teacher is grading a student's writing during a degree course, should the grade be based on the "saleability" of the writing or its "literary" value?
  • Creative writing teachers frequently encounter students who write for therapeutic reasons such as the reliving of a traumatic childhood or dealing with a life threatening illness. Writing, for these students, is a 'process not product.'

Before close of business Dr Carlo Gebler (Queen's University, Belfast)

threw open the floor for lively discussion with four suggestions:
  1. Do we as writers and teachers tell our students how "truly hideous" this business of writing actually is when it comes to making a living?
  2. To what degree are we to be "bossy boots" to our students i.e. ordering them to "improve" their writing to the way we tell them to?
  3. What degree of "pastoral" care to we give to students who are depressed and are using the classes as therapy?
  4. How do you assess quality?  It is only the teacher's opinion, after all.
Even after (me) posing my frequently pondered question to the floor as to whether the teachers felt talent or imagination can be taught, the answer to the theme of the day didn't really manifest itself. Perhaps there is no definitive answer...

 The  writing as therapy bit did give food for thought, though.  As a diehard "journaler"

I'm a firm believer in getting it all off the chest, onto the non-judgemental blank page. Such comfort that brings, especially reading back and wondering in hindsight what all the worry was about in the first place. 
Check this link - seems the whole writing as therapy thing has been going on for ages.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Open Mic Nite The Liffey Arms Newbridge

It's that time again - to step up to the microphone and voice those creations for an appreciative audience.

Hosted by my writing group, Clane Writers, in The Liffey Arms, Newbridge, the Open Mic saw seventeen readers take to the podium last night to give us a miscellany of poetry, short story, memoir, reflections and a couple of songs thrown in for good measure.

John Martin kicked off proceedings by assuring us his story wasn't autobiographical, and without the assistance of the mic, gave us Upstaged  a comic tale about a car crash, helpful bystanders and a BMW, narrated by a very perplexed car thief (who was not John, of course)
Liam Power  told us he was "descended from a squirrel" and "fessed up" to being a hoarder, in a piece on the hilarious consequences of not being able to declutter.
Debbie Thomas read Blue, a short story that weaved colours around us like a soft veil. "Green kissed red into apples" and "Red was busy painting the town."

John Carroll read us a thought provoking poem entitled Be Concerned.

Eileen Keane  read her provocative short story on haunting post-affair guilt, narrated by a remorseful husband,  Boy on a Window Ledge

Martin Malone gave us The Date from his award nominated short story collection The Mango War - a hilarious portrait of the obstacle course that is blind dating. 

Paul McCormack, singer songwriter, and owner of no less than 2,000 of his own song compositions, gave us a break from the spoken word with two of his originals. The X-factor Blues reminded us of our obsession with THAT programme and also told us, accompanied by bluesy harmonica, that "Simon and Louis wouldn't know talent if it broke down their door." Banjo on me back  was an "eventful" tour around Germany in the seventies and eighties.
Una Ni Cheallaigh read Dream Child, Waiting Room and Joshua Tree from her recently published and very favourably reviewed poetry collection, Salamander Crossing.
Sylvia Hickey read us a travel piece from Perth.
Mervyn Ennis opened a personal reflection by declaring himself a "Luddite" before launching in a computer jargon charged, extremely humourous description of how being I.T. literate could really help your life. His hilarious image of "cutting and pasting"   appropriate clothing onto his teenage daughter stands out.
Sheila Briody read The Ghost, an evocative, image filled account of a visit to the misty Scottish Highlands.
Mari Gallagher (yours truly) read a piece of memoir My first visit to the Dentist. 
Peter Butler gave us some poetry.

Brian Carroll read Gravity in the Glen a descriptive outline of an army mortar competition and a General's incendiary response to lapses in catering standards. "They left quieter than they arrived," summed up the goings on. 

Paddy O Beirne gave us some poetry where "scraggy haired boys, tired and hungry" and "big bellied men in wellingtons" roamed the streets on fair day.
Rita Crampton, super M.C., read her short story, Farewell Angelina,   a haunting tale of teenhood memories and longing. 

And in between the breaks, we chatted and exchanged writerly gossip.
On the way home, the swans on the Liffey were having their own get together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Erotic Capital

Averse as I am to ponificating on the merits or otherwise of a book I haven't even read, I will make an exception in the case of: "Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital" by Senior research fellow at London School of Economics, Catherine Hakim.

As per Hakim, erotic capital can be described as a "combination of beauty, sex appeal, skills of self-presentation and social skills" and should be exploited by women in the workplace at all times in order to earn
15% more than their dowdier, less-attentive-to-their-appearance workmates.

Since the book was released in the last few months, I've gorged on the delicious, divisive on-line debate generated by "Honey Money."- lurker that I am. 

And while I swirl somewhere between:
(a) being horrified that the shallow premise of 'good looking is best' is being touted as a viable concept that should be taught to young girls -whah? (Hakim cites a well known "fashion model" who has exploited every cosmetic enhancement possible to make millions as being a fine example of good use of erotic capital)
(b) being horrified that such an obvious and well-worn concept (i.e. better looking people are more successful than ugly ones) is the subject of a widely reviewed book. How on earth did Hakim generate sixty thousand words on the subject? 

I accept with cheerful resignation that in my workplace, exploiting erotic capital is something of which I can only dream.