Pursued by a Bear »

  • Catching Updike

    January 30, 2009 @ 11:43 am | by Fiona McCann

    The death of John Updike this week has been a sore reminder of the deficit in my book bank. Embarrassing as it is for me to admit this, I have never read John Updike. Not one single book in all my book-reading days. How’s that for a professed bookworm? In my defence, I do have a John Updike book on my shelf, where it has remained for many years now, sulking in neglect, unthumbed under dust. I guess now’s the time to make amends, but before I do so, I might as well seek the advice of those who have gone before. So Updike readers and fans, I call on you to tell me, if I’m going to start this catch-up on Updike, where should I begin?

  • When Buffaloes Collide

    @ 10:36 am | by Fiona McCann

    Laurence Mackin was at the Sugar Club to see Buffalo Collision.  Read the review here.

  • Fight Like Apes New Vid

    January 29, 2009 @ 11:56 am | by Fiona McCann

    Directed by Eoin Kidney. It’s like Aha’s Take On Me in colour. Kind of. OK, not so much. See for yourselves.

    YouTube Preview Image
  • Guest post: Buffalo Collision

    January 28, 2009 @ 12:17 pm | by Fiona McCann

    There are lots of jazz goodies on the horizon. Tonight sees Buffalo Collision stampede through the Sugar Club and I for one will be there with jazz-bells on. I have not heard a single thing they’ve done, but I’ve read a few reviews around the place and it sounds very experimental and very good indeed. Two of the members are Bad Plus-ers as a day job, Ethan Iverson on piano and Dave King on drums, and are also two of the most dynamic and grooving players you could hope to see live, so even if things do get a touch free, I have no doubt that King and Iverson will ground the whole thing with their oh so rock and roll chops. The final pieces in the puzzle are New York legends Tim Berne on saxophone and Hank Roberts on cello, which sounds like a very tasty musical proposition indeed. I have somewhat raved about this gig so if it’s not any good there will be a lot of people giving me disgruntled looks from across the room. However, I’m confident it will be nothing but brilliant so gruntled looks only please. Tickets are still available at €20, and Note Productions are doing a four tickets for the price of five deal when you buy through tickets.ie with the promo code note091. The band will also be playing at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork on Thursday, with tickets €18/16. It’s time to see out this miserable January in style, folks.

    Next month sees the Douze Points festival (February 11th-14th) bringing the best emerging jazz talent to Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. On the bill are Audiofeeling, Hyperactive Kid, Albatrosh, Curios, Zapp String Quartet, Emile Parisien, Paavo and plenty of others. Well be blogging more about this soonish, but for the moment check out www.12points.ie after you’ve bought your Buffalo tickets. And feel free to let us know what you thought of the gig.  – Laurence Mackin.

  • It all came good (or bad) in the end

    @ 10:59 am | by Fiona McCann

    Dubliner Sebastian Barry has won the Costa Book of the Year award for his novel The Secret Scripture, despite the fact that among the judges “almost nobody liked the ending.” It’s a powerful book, beautifully written and, I think, important in allowing voices from Irish history that have been drowned out or silenced over the years to have their say and tell their stories BUT (no surprises here), the ending is a strangely neat wrap of a story compelling for its lack of same. If that makes any sense. It does seem a strange decision on the part of the judges to reveal how close their vote was (Adam Foulds’ The Broken Word was a near contender), and to discuss their quibbles with their chosen book, one that takes away from Barry’s long-awaited day. Regardless, it’s a happy ending for Barry – but what about the book? Anyone think the judges (Matthew Parris, Alexander Armstrong, Michael Buerk, Andrea Catherwood, Victoria Hislop, Lisa Jewell, Roger McGough, Pauline McLynn and Rosamund Pike) got it wrong about the ending, or indeed about the winner?

  • Guest post: Tea with Graham Rawle

    January 27, 2009 @ 10:45 am | by Fiona McCann


    The lovely people at Monster Truck Gallery Studios are taking part in the Barry’s Tea With series, and they’ve invited illustrator and collage artist Graham Rawle over to Dublin for a cuppa at the Royal Hibernian Academy, 15 Ely Place on Thursday at 6.30 p.m. Potter along to the gallery and you’ll have the chance to discuss all things artistic and perhaps not so artistic over a quare strong brew. This is a brilliant idea: you have Rawle, an inventive and clearly unhinged artist (in the best possible sense), the elegant setting of the RHA, and a cup of tea in hand to make sure you don’t get any ideas above your (tea) station. And it’s free.


  • Frost, Nixon and Ron Howard

    January 26, 2009 @ 10:45 am | by Fiona McCann

    Saw this Oscar contender last night, and apart from a fine performance from Langella as a disgraced president (though not necessarily a ringer for Nixon), Frost/Nixon is a serious disappointment. It’s a Ron Howard of a rewrite, all build-up to the all important climax (aided by a fabricated phone call that turns the tables in the clunkiest of manners), where, you know, good triumphs evil and lo! Frost gleans the all important admission of wrongdoing from a former president and the Day. Is. Saved. Phew, didn’t see that one coming. Which shouldn’t matter in a pic like this where you already know the outcome, except it’s played to us in such a way that we’re apparently supposed to be on the edges of our seats. The thing is, the premise of this film is a fascinating one, and interview technique is something in which I have a particular professional interest, yet Frost/Nixon simplifies even that, all encased in a clumsy faux-documentary style that adds nothing but confusion to the whole endeavour. And yes, you get the sense of the humanity of a man who has been historically demonised (though whether you even agree with that notion is a whole nother story), and some interesting glimpses of how the whole process comes together, but it’s not enough to carry what seems at times a facile version of events. As a film about a historical, political figure, Milk far outranks Frost/Nixon. As for Rebecca Hall’s Caroline Cushing – hard to say why she was written in at all, other than as blatant eye candy. Shudder. Skip it, go see Milk instead. (Speaking of which, check out this bizarre, oddly focussed review by Philip French and let’s see if you see what I see). For a very different take on Frost/Nixon, by the way, by our own film critic Michael Dwyer, click here.

  • Grouching the Oscars

    January 22, 2009 @ 10:24 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Warning: May contain spoilers. And yes, I know, we’ve been through it all back to front by now, but here’s my tuppence worth (if it’s even worth that. Bah, who cares, none of you are paying anyway). Slumdog Millionaire? A good night out, if you don’t mind footage of children being mutilated in your feelgood flicks, but really, best film of the year? Though I am glad to see it get the nod for score – say what you like about M.I.A.’s Paper Planes but that stuff is catchy and hey, I loved the big dance sequence at the end.  Mark my words, with this whole tanking economy business, musicals are going to be HUGE again. It’s an uplift thing. Brace yizzerselves. Milk impressed me, but more for the story – hard to go wrong with such a subject, really. And yes, Sean Penn plays a gay man convincingly, but why is everyone acting as if this is the world’s greatest accomplishment? As for that Benjamin Button business, I have no intention of going near it, frankly. Anyone like to tell me why I should? And seriously, Angelina Jolie in Changeling? I’m not saying she’s bad, but frankly, I couldn’t get past the fact that she was never, ever seen without her eye shadow. Such weighty issues distracted from the frothy subject matter of missing children and women being incarcerated.  Heath Ledger scared the pants off me in The Dark Knight, but it’s impossible to know how much of my knowledge of his subsequent death infused my experience of that film. I would suspect a lot, and along with the rest of the world, predict he’ll win the Supporting Actor gong. Finally, I did enjoy Wall-E, the first part in particular, where he trundles adorably around cleaning up rubbish on a burnished earth. Didn’t quite warm to the stuff in the spaceship so much, in terms of the aesthetic, though the concept was amusing. What else about the Oscars? Not seen Doubt yet, have been avoiding The Reader (I’ve read the book, I know the story) and don’t want to go near Revolutionary Road until I’ve read the book and know that story too. And hurray to Martin McDonagh for In Bruges. But seriously, it just all feels interminably dull and uninspiring. Does anyone really believe these awards mean anything other than a box office boost?

  • Thank you so much! (Gather)

    January 20, 2009 @ 5:54 pm | by Fiona McCann

    I have been nominated for an award – two in fact! – in the Irish Blog Awards, and though this may just mean that my mother has repeatedly entered my name in any category she could find (and I wouldn’t put it past her, eager techno-mam that she is) I’m grateful all the same. For a full list of the competition (and wouldn’t you know it, I’m up against some of my favourite blogs) click here. Genuine thanks to whoever nominated Pursued by a Bear. And in case I don’t get another chance: Thank you so much! I love you! I love you ! Is this really happening? Gather. Wheeee!blogawards.gif

  • Are we not of interest to each other?

    @ 12:27 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Elizabeth Alexander, poet and professor of African-American studies at Yale, has been chosen to compose and deliver a poem at Obama’s inauguration today. On her website, Alexander pays tribute to Obama’s “respect for the power of language.” Because, as she tells it, “poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation. Language distilled and artfully arranged shifts our experience of the words – and the worldviews – we live in.”

    So much for poetry making nothing happen. After all, as Alexander herself articulated in her creed Ars Poetica #100: I Believe:

    “Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
    is the human voice, and are we not of interest to each other?”

    A question worth pondering on a day when the promise of the election of a new president thousands of miles away is palpable even in a grey-rimmed office on Tara street.

  • Writers for Peace

    January 19, 2009 @ 10:43 am | by Fiona McCann

    Poetry Ireland in association with Trócaire and Amnesty International has organised a reading in response to the situation in Gaza. The writers, which include Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, Hugo Hamilton, Eiléan Ni Chuilleanáin and Susan McKay, will read for 5-7 minutes each in St Anne’s Church on Dawson Street, Dublin. The event kicks off at 6.30 p.m. More information here.

  • Hart-less (SWIDT?)

    January 18, 2009 @ 8:52 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Tony Hart has died, TV presenter, artist and creator of Morph. Though I was particularly talentless at art, and never managed to reproduce anything he created, I remember Take Hart (see what they did there?) and Hart Beat, and was always impressed with Tony Hart’s artistic endeavours, which I thought far superior to what was being produced by Mary FitzGerald over on Anything Goes. Mind you, watching it now, I’m sure most of it was going over my head. Metamorphosing? 

  • Writers and hacks

    January 16, 2009 @ 3:47 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Trinity’s school of English has a series of evening lectures on the go on the subject of Literature and Journalism. With two weeks down in the nine-week series, the remaining lectures include Myles Dungan on ‘Blood Lit: Journalism, Art and War’, Dr Philip Coleman on ‘Joan Didion and the New Journalism’ and next week’s lecture on ‘Journeys through New Grub Street: George Gissing and H.G. Wells.’ And all for only six euro a pop – more information here.

  • The mystery of the Writers’ Centre cuts

    January 15, 2009 @ 10:43 am | by Fiona McCann

    A piece I wrote for today’s paper about the withdrawal of funding for the Irish Writers’ Centre: an Arts Council report cites value for money and quality of service, while the centre is mystified about the cut. Pheonix also has a piece today, mentioning “the low profile” of the centre and the fact that the funding cut has elicited “little public criticism”. Is this true? Do people care what happens to the Irish Writers’ Centre?  

  • Let the truth be told

    January 14, 2009 @ 12:07 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Irish singer Laura Izibor getting a bit of press across the water, fair play, and this on top of a track on Grey’s Anatomy. Here she is singing her forthcoming Shine – bualadh bos mrs.

    YouTube Preview Image
  • Bring back Soupy Norman

    January 13, 2009 @ 3:46 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Say what you like about Nightlive (and I know you will), but it ain’t a patch on Soupy Norman, which was probably the funniest thing I ever saw on RTE. At least the funniest intentionally humorous thing, which I recognise,  is not quite the same thing.  See for yourselves:

    YouTube Preview Image
  • Fillum awards

    January 12, 2009 @ 10:53 am | by Fiona McCann

    First up this morning, Castleknock lady-killer Colin Farrell has won a Golden Globe for his turn in Martin McDonagh’s delightful In Bruges. So here’s the thing: I genuinely liked the film, enjoyed the script, and found Brendan Gleeson’s performance typically engaging, but let’s face it, he acted Mr Farrell off the screen. Still, Farrell’s quip on winning –  ”They must have done the counting in Florida” – went some way towards making up for it. Other winners and losers (it’s not often you get to call Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie a loser, so one naturally jumps at the chance) to be found here.

    And while I’m on the subject of fillums, the IFTA nominees came out on Friday, with 32A, A Film With Me In It (containing a convincing recreation of the kind of bedsits familiar to those who went to college in the eighties and nineties, and which will no doubt be making a savage comeback now that we’re recessed again), The Escapist, Hunger and Kisses vying for best film. So who’s your money on, punters?

  • Obama art

    January 9, 2009 @ 1:13 pm | by Fiona McCann

    That US President elect is already making his artistic mark – or rather his image, which after all is what it’s mostly about, is being pinned down and snapped up by artists and their collectors. For starters, the now famous red, white and blue image by street-artist Shepard Fairey that appeared on election posters everywhere has been bought by the US National Portrait Gallery. Turns out he’s also going to appear on the cover of a special edition of the Spider-Man comic, in which Spidey, when he gets the nod from Obama, gets to tell the villain as he lands a mighty punch: “The president-elect here just appointed me Secretary of Shuttin’ You Up!”

  • Joe the War Reporter

    @ 1:00 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Remember that irritant that was Joe the Plumber? And how it turned out that he didn’t have a license to plumb, as it were? Well, turns out this man can turn a hand to anything! Joe the Versatile is now set to zip off to the Middle East to report on the situation there for a conservative website called pjtv.com – no need for a War Reportin’ license there either, it turns out. “I get to go over there and let their ‘Average Joes’ share their story, what they think, how they feel, especially with world opinion — maybe get a real story out there,” Joe the Obnoxious, whose real name is Wurzelbacher, told an American television station. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so cynical about the prospect of a self-styled ‘Average Joe’ heading off to the Gaza strip to find the real story that every other journalist has been keeping from us. After all, being a Christian, he reckons he’s “pretty well protected by God” he told the television station WNWO. He did acknowledge, however, this didn’t mean God would necessarily “stop a mortar” for him. No need for a reality check there at all, then, clearly.

  • That was Nightlive

    January 8, 2009 @ 12:02 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Monday night, chez nous . . .

    Me: We have to watch this John Ryan thing.

    He (being from New York and newly relocated to Dublin): Wha’?

    Me: New spoof news show thing on the telly, with John Ryan.

    He: Like a Daily Show thing?

    Me (afraid this might be setting the bar a bit high for RTE): Er, sort of, I suppose.

    He: So who’s this John Ryan then? The Irish Jon Stewart?

    Me (now sure the bar is entirely out-of-reach): Er, not exactly. He’s like this chiselled-jawed blonde lad who had fingers in all sorts of Irish publishing pies until they all got eaten (pies, not fingers) and he went off to America and started publishing dog magazines for Americans who go in for that sort of stuff.  

    He (being an American): Dog magazines?

    Me (conscious of the fact that one should know one’s audience): Yes. Ahem. Never heard of New York Dog? Interesting. Anyway, he also did loads of other things that all went west with him and now he’s back with this show. So we have to watch it.

    We watch it. We see that John Ryan calls himself Jonny Hansom. I laugh and cringe in quick succession. It’s not the Daily Show. But the girl who plays Lorraine Keane – woops, I meane the entertainment correspondent – is hysterical. Yizzer thoughts?

  • Thou shalt not steal

    January 7, 2009 @ 10:16 am | by Fiona McCann

    Hilarious story in the New York Times about a well-known writer who stole someone’s story and tried to pass it off as his own – not just as his own story, in fact, but as one that stemmed from his own experience! Read this and enjoy Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch’s ridiculous defence of his plagiarism – he is “mystified and taken aback” and “chagrined and astonished” that such a thing could happen and blames his memory for playing tricks on him. Luckily, the woman he stole from, Ms Candy Chand (yes, that is her name), had copyrighted the story in 2003, first published ten years before Walsch “misremembered” this particular miracle. But Walsch won’t admit any deliberate wrong-doing – time for another conversation with the man upstairs, perhaps?

  • Costa del Barry

    January 6, 2009 @ 12:07 pm | by Fiona McCann

    See what I did there? The point being that Dubliner Sebastian Barry has won the 2008 Costa (formerly Whitbread) Novel Award for (the book I am currently reading, so no spoilers please) The Secret Scripture. Which is great news altogether, and may help make up for what happened with that other unmentionable prize for which he was overlooked this year. Must be particularly aggravating, mind, to have every mention of yesterday’s win coloured with the one-he-didn’t. And for those despairing about the onward march of time without ever disgorging the book they know is in them, a 91-year-old woman by the name of Diana Athill won the prize in the biography category, for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End. More of the other winners and such here.  

  • Updates

    January 5, 2009 @ 11:10 am | by Fiona McCann

    Read (past tense): Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. Rarely has a book so sucessfully altered the pace of my reading, and even the pace of my life. This is a beautiful, out-of-time story told with a grace and quiet that gave me a pause I don’t often get these days, but suddenly realise is vital. Have a copy of Housekeeping raring to go now once I finish Barry (see below).

    Saw: Milk, Gus Van Sant’s excellent biopic of an inspiring activist and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US, Harvey Milk. Go see it (but please don’t come back and coo about Sean Penn’s performance, though he is excellent. But more of this anon.)

    Saw: The Old Curiosity Shop at the Gate. Don’t bother.

    Reading: The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry.

Search Pursued by a Bear