Archive for October, 2008

State Is Back! Back!! Baaack!!

Posted in Grave News, Music on October 2, 2008 by Johnnie

And it’s more beautiful than ever.  Read all about it or, in fact, read it over at State.ie.

Fatman Deserves a Ribbin’

Posted in TV on October 2, 2008 by Johnnie

Committed Batman fans have to admit that it’s a miracle the ‘franchise’ is still with us in 2008, considering what a comedy-caper crusader he was back in 1949.  No harm to Robert Lowery, the second actor to portray the character on TV, but his costume and physique are nothing short of risible. Myself, I’ve never been a big fan of this particular cartoon character, I always thought he was a little effete compared to Superman, who could at least write and fly.  The modern film versions of Batman may be dark spectaculars but now the lead character has been embellished with ‘issues’ – the usual, self-absorbed ‘woe-is-me’ moans and groans you’d expect from some wimpy singer-songwriter – which are entirely designed to make modern women doe-eyed, rather than over his straightforward heroics.  None of that fluff in Lowery’s day, where he and Robin (who’s never been anyone’s idea of a hero) would stuff themselves full of burgers and chips and leg it through public parks in lukewarm pursuit of baddies, who’d normally remain entirely stationary in their underground lair just so they could engineer a climactic face-off.  Biff, whap, kapow to that.

Book Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Posted in Books on October 1, 2008 by Johnnie

The Gargoyle is a stone-cold classic
From The Sunday Business Post, September 28, 2008
Readers in possession of a pitch-dark sense of humour will find much to adore about Andrew Davidson’s magnificently wicked debut novel of love, death and redemption, The Gargoyle.

From the first page, it wastes no time in arresting our attention and gaining our sympathies as the unnamed narrator describes, in graphic and gruesome detail, his terrible car crash and consequent injuries that have all but destroyed his once much-admired body.

Driving under the influence of cocaine along a dark road, he swerves to avoid a sudden ‘‘volley of burning arrows swarming out of the woods’’, resulting in his car plummeting down a mountainside.

Trapped inside the burning vehicle, he tells of how his ‘‘flesh began to singe as if I were a scrap of meat newly thrown onto the barbecue’’ and how he could ‘‘hear the bubbling of my skin as the flames kissed it.” He then candidly suggests how the reader might show empathy, by laying the side of their face on a hot cooker hob until they too can hear the ‘‘snap, crackle and pop’’ of their flesh.

The cynical self-confessed drug user, murderer, womaniser and porn star may not be the most sympathetic character ever created, but it’s impossible not to feel for someone who, when faced with such disfigurement and medical treatment involving maggots and the flesh of dead humans and pigs, feels forced to devise for himself quite the most horrific suicide ever described in print.

With all hope of redemption gone, and an evil serpent taunting him from within his spine, he concludes that ‘‘Heaven is an idea constructed by man to help him cope with the fact that life on Earth is both brutally short and, paradoxically, far too long.”

Thankfully, into his life walks the bewitching Marianne Engel, a mysterious sculptress of gargoyles with ‘‘riotously entangled hair’’, chameleonic eyes, and angel wings tattooed on her back.

She instantly recognises the narrator in spite of his condition – and all too convincingly explains how she and he were once lovers in medieval Germany. She captivates him with lively, horrifying stories and fables from her past, taking in Germany, Italy, England and Japan, complete with her skills in text translations and Icelandic folklore until, gradually, his cynicism evaporates and love takes hold.

So far, so preposterous, but Davidson weaves these disparate elements together with such enormous elan that his seductive prose removes the reader’s own cynicism and disbelief. Certainly, it’s a novel about the redemptive and undiminishable qualities of love, yet even when the protagonist utters the saccharine line, ‘‘being burned was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it brought you,” we are still willing him on to a beautiful conclusion.

Davidson employs device after device to continually surprise and haunt the reader throughout the novel: tales of doomed lovers, a tourist trail through Dante’s circles of hell, complete with an array of fascinating type fonts and recurring characters, and a peppering of secret messages with which to enthral and amuse the reader to the final page.

The characters of the hideous burn victim and the gorgeous Marianne, with whom we cannot help but fall in love, are a modern Quasimodo and Esmeralda, every bit as unforgettable. ‘‘Love is as strong as death, as hard as Hell’’, we are told; would that we could all explore such a mad, enticing and rewarding Inferno for ourselves. The Gargoyle is a rich and glorious first novel from an imaginative talent who is destined to be found on bestseller lists for many years to come.

Credit Crunching

Posted in Food & Drink, Grave News on October 1, 2008 by Johnnie

Baked bean manufacturers could end up being the real winners of this lovely economic downturn we’re all enjoying.  It seems that so-called ‘recession cuisine’ is booming in the UK and, as soon as former Celtic Tiger cubs get used to the idea of not being able to shell out €10 for a flavourless ‘deli’ sandwich at their local convenience store, Ireland will surely be following suit.  I’m surprised some of our take away chains haven’t been a little quicker to capitalise on everyone’s financial misfortune.  There could well be major ‘pizza’ wars “out in” Tallaght, where melted plastic cheese and reconstituted pig/cow slices on tomato puree-sodden slabs of thick, spongey toast is the staple diet;  but what of the sandwich outlets?   Where are their bargains going to come from?  I know – why not sell two slabs of sliced pan stuffed full of crisps and accompany that with a bite-sized Crunchie?  Call it the ‘Kredit Kruncher’, and mark it at €2 a pop (with optional student/staff discount) - cheap, cheerful and, most importantly, not even remotely good for you.

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