Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spine chilling and beautiful aria - "Lascia ch'io Pianga"

I watched the 2009 released movie "The Antichrist" recently. It was uncomfortable viewing in many ways, yet interesting and very captivating artistically. In fact the opening 5 minute scene was the most compelling and well produced piece of artistic cinematic experience I've ever witnessed in terms of overall visual and aural impact. It needed to be viewed many times to sink in and absorb all elements which made it so great. Huge credit to the writer and director Lars von Trier for this masterpiece of slow motion.

In particular the music running through this opening scene made my hair stand up. I just had to research it more. Turns out it's an aria called "Lascia ch'io Pianga" which was composed by Handel for his opera Rinaldo - performed in Italian. This first aired in 1711 which makes this music a baroque piece and is much older than I expected, it just feels more modern. The instrument running through it is beautiful - I'm assuming its a harpsichord which would be typical of that period. But it was the female singer's voice which really made the aria magical. Again some research reveals her to be a Danish mezzo-soprano called Tuva Semmingsen. Never heard of her? Neither had I. But I also since then listened to well known classical singers like Katherine Jenkins and Hayley Westenra sing this "Lascia ch'io Pianga" piece and to me they just did not offer the same chilling and powerful impact. The original aria - from what I can tell in translation - is a sad lament of a captive for freedom and Tuva Semmingsen interprets this sentiment so well in her performance. The clarity and sharpness of her voice is wonderful - it suits a horror movie! I'm no expert in classical singing - but maybe it's also partly a feature of the mezzo-soprano range, her voice seems fuller and more dramatic for this piece.

This sadness conveyed so well is compatible with the Antichrist movie's strong opening theme - a couple in sexual ecstasy just at the point where their toddler child meets his death (unknown to them but all seen by the viewer in slow motion) and with an understandable large element of guilt and pain thereafter for the couple.

You can watch and listen to the movie prologue on YouTube here...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Britain learns new tricks with young dogs!

So Britain now has 43 year old David Cameron as the youngest prime minister for nearly 200 years (Robert Jenkinson was just a year younger when he became prime minister in 1812). You have to go back to William Pitt the younger in 1783 to find the unusual record age of 24 for a prime minister of Britain. And Cameron's deputy PM Nick Clegg of the Liberals is also a mere 43 years old. Fresh faced Eton-type English boys!

A numbers of things amused me about the election when compared to Irish elections over the last few decades.

* The British are so unused to hung parliaments and the concept of coalition. It was funny to see the visible effrontery of some Conservative MPs (notably William Hague) when the Liberals decided to also hold talks with Labour - having initially talked only to the Conservatives!! How dare they do that!! We in Ireland are so used to inter-party horse-trading after elections that such practise wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

* The lack of proportional representation (PR) in Britain brought the results out very quickly - with none of the multiple count results excitement we are used to. It's interesting that our little nation has a much more sophisticated way of giving voters a choice and that the mighty Britain still uses a simple first-past-the-post system. Indeed-it looks like the new boy-leaders are going to look at electoral reform and maybe PR for the future.

* I now feel really old at 55 - youngsters aged in their 40s are Government leaders the UK, USA and Ireland!! Well in truth our Brian Cowen just turned 50 this year but he became prime minister at 48.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leo Varadkar shoots Garrett Fitzgerald

I was amused by Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar's outburst in the Dail chamber in recent days.

Varadkar said to Brian Cowen that he was no Jack Lynch, no John Bruton, but that he was more like Garrett Fitzgerald having tripled the national debt. He also went on to say that Brian Cowen should enjoy writing boring articles in the Irish Times in a few years time. Another apparent reference to Garrett Fitzgerald.

Of course it was a clear witty parody of the famous "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" quotation from the USA vice presidential candidates televised debate from 1988 which really put the inexperienced Dan Quayle in his place!!

However I do think Varadkar as an FG spokesman shot himself in the foot by choosing wrong leaders to both praise and criticise. I actually was stunned that he chose former FG Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald to criticise and my initial impression was that he looked like he made a clumsy error in mixing up parties.

On deeper analysis of course there is probably an anger by the young bucks in FG at Garrett's apparent respect or tolerance of the Government's NAMA scheme coupled by an element of ageism in dismissing the 84 year old Garrett Fitzgerald.

I think it was a tactless, clumsy and ill thought out choice of words by a Fine Gael candidate who otherwise looks like a TD with a good future.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

George Lee and Negativity

I've written here about George Lee as an RTE commentator during the Celtic Tiger times (2006). He was totally negative of the Irish Economy and it's dependence on property boom etc. You could argue that he was proved right in the end although I would question if he had analysed the right reasons for the collapse. But anyhow - fair dues - he got what he wished for so-to-speak and I've no doubt his constant down-talking helped the Irish people to get more nervous and spend less and less... I think he helped talk us deeper into recession.

My impression is that George is a good commentator and observer and is very articulate. He appeals to many in Ireland because so many of us love totally knocking the government and policies. Although I lean towards Fianna Fail in my political outlook I find it hard to be specifically too critical of Fine Gael in the George resignation saga. I continue to get a distinct impression of George Lee as a knocker who is poor on driving ideas and policy. I've lost count of the number of times in the last year where I've heard George spit fire about the government and yet when challenged he offered nothing as an alternative direction. When questions such as "What would you do instead?" came up the interviewer would get vague stuff like.."Well, I'll tell you what I wouldn't do" or "We need to work out a plan". To this day I've still no idea what George WOULD DO except continue to moan and lament the way many Irish people do.

Lastnight on RTE's Frontline program, Dr. Leo Varadker TD the Fine Gael Enterprise spokesman only reinforced my own opinion on George Lee as a Moany Mary rather than a doer. If we are to believe Dr. Varadker it seems that as soon as George came in to the Dail he was given the position of chairman of the FG economic policy committee. Apparently George didn't ever call one meeting of this committee and wasn't involved in having other people on that committee. He also did not write down any policy drafts as part of this role we are told.

George was given a golden boy endorsement by the electorate. Okay, he is entitled to resign and leave politics. But what I do object to is his attitude that it was somehow Fine Gael and the party political system which failed him. He would have more respect from me if he just put his hands up and admitted that he simply is not the type of person who can drive or lead policy. It's not a sin to try and fail.

I don't pretend to know George Lee very deeply except what I learn of him through the media. But he does remind me of a certain percentage of the scores of sales and technical people I've hired and fired in my business career over the last 30 years. I've had some people who are better talkers than achievers and blame others for anything that fails around them. Then I've had real winners who put their heads down and get their goals done in spite of challenges by working with people and getting around problems. George reminds me of the former more than the latter.

I'm not saying Fine Gael don't have some internal issues to resolve and I'm sure most parties could do things better internally. But in my opinion the problem with George Lee's resignation is at least 80% to do with George and his incompatible skills for the job.