Archive for August, 2011

Conan the Barbarian: Review

August 26, 2011

Much more by accident than design, I ended up going to see Conan the Barbarian. Given how rubbish the trailer had looked, I had decided not to, but there you go. The new Conan is Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in the amazing Game of Thrones TV show. There’s no doubt that he’s a big guy, and was perfect as an uncivilised warrior chief in Game of Thrones. However, let’s face it: when it comes to muscles, he looks puny beside Arnie’s Conan. So right from the off, I thought they had made a mistake with the choice. Conan is supposed to be a thief as well as a skilled warrior. I thought they’d have been better going for someone who looked strong and swift but wasn’t particularly pumped up. Because if you go for someone who’s pumped up, you’re never going to match Arnie. And they didn’t, and so I spent a lot of the film thinking that this new guy could never knock a horse or a camel unconscious with a single punch. Plus the movie was already bound to suffer from the lack of James Earl Jones.

The story itself has undergone significant alteration, not always for the better. Conan’s father is around much more (which is good because it’s Ron Pearlman). There are no giant snakes (bad). The main baddie is now given a different and personal motivation for the pursuit of power, as well as an evil witch daughter. No need. To be fair, the start and middle of the film were better than I had expected from the trailer, but the end was dire, and dragged on for too long and was deeply unsatisfactory. This is also a misogynistic film with a great deal of unnecessary female toplessness. And the music was nowhere near as good as the original. Generally speaking, this was an inferior product. Even taking away the comparisons with the original, the disappointing ending meant it sucked. Not even worth going to see on a crazy Tuesday at the Movie House.


Transformers 3

August 11, 2011

Transformers was great. Transformers two basically rubbish. How was Transformers 3?

Plotline: Involved the idea that the US went to the moon because of Transformer technology spotted there. Sillier than Transformers, but much better than the annoying Transformers 2.

New Robots: Nothing spectacular really.

New Megan Fox: A much worse actress (seriously; this is possible) and possibly with an even weirder looking face.

Optimus Prime: Much less of a wuss than before – more like a robotic Arnie in Commando.

Ending: Derivative, but, again, miles better than Transformers 2.

Verdict: Don’t bother making Transformers 4, unless you can use Shia going to seem fun again like Pirates 4 did.

Letters from Long Kesh: 40th Anniversary of Internment

August 9, 2011

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial. Even by the standards of the late 1960s and early 1970s (batoning civil rights marches, August 1969, the Falls curfew, Bloody Sunday to name but a few), internment was immensely reactionary and incredibly stupid. The introduction of internment against not just Republicans and Provisionals but a wide range of civil rights activists and perceived opponents of the regime resulted in a swift escalation of violence, deepened divisions, and proved just how politically and morally bankrupt the Unionist regime was. The fact that the British Army took the opportunity to test sensory deprivation on a dozen prisoners (as well as more run of the mill forms of torture being applied on a more widespread basis) just made matters worse. For anyone interested in the details of internment and the torture experiments, I’d recommend reading online the now-deceased ex-internee and anarchist John McGuffin’s books Internment (1973) and Guinea Pigs (1974, 1981).

As we know, internment provoked widespread opposition. Just how widespread was shown by the fact that from January to July 1972, the Irish Times carried a regular column from inside Long Kesh (the Letters from Long Kesh), written by Des O’Hagan, a member of the NICRA Executive and leading member of the Republican Clubs in Belfast. 22 Letters appeared. This outraged some of its more traditional constituency, including one member of the board of O’Hagan’s employer before he was lifted, Stranmillis College, who wrote to the Irish Times to say that he was a life-long reader, but now would stop buying the paper due to the publication of the Letters from Long Kesh. Douglas Gageby, however, kept publishing them regardless. On the other hand, another correspondent believed that the humanity, eye for detail, and sense of humour in the Letters betrayed signs of genius, and stated that

I would think that a collection of some kind of O’Hagan’s prison journals would be one good thing that could be salvaged from Internment.

And (better late than never) the Letters from Long Kesh are being republished for the 40th anniversary of internment. From the press release:

The Letters are a unique and invaluable contemporary account of life among the internees. They recount the reaction of the internees to some of the major events during the most bloody and tragic year of the Troubles, including Bloody Sunday (which occurred during an anti-internment march), the escalating bombing campaign, and the suspension of Stormont.

They also reveal the daily rhythm of life as an internee – the cold, the banter among the men, the battles with the authorities for better facilities, the close friendships, the political debates, the sense of helplessness as events spiralled outside the prison walls, the efforts
to ensure the availability of drink for St Patrick’s Day, the struggle against depression, the arguments over who made the tea – all told with compassion and an engaging sense of humour.

The Letters (which have an introduction and annotations) cost a fiver, and more information can be got by writing to

I am including one of the Letters below, from February 19th 1972.


The celebration of the first six months of internment (one sincerely hopes that this is not going to be a spectacular bi-annual event competing with Easter parades, the Twelfth and other illegal promenades) has prompted me to review the improvements in the amenities of Long Kesh; possibly also readers are interested in the ethos of the camp as I understand it, and this, I can categorically state, has not altered in any way.

Let me say at the outset that I now feel, as one of the reluctant pioneers of what I am afraid must be regarded as not an entirely successful project, a certain attachment – or rather a faint quickening of Behan’s “curious quickening” – for my present home.

On that account my judgments may tend to lack objectivity, but I hope that these proffered comments are not construed as simply malicious or vindictive. In a sense then, this is in the nature of a half-term report which could be of some use to future architects of similar schemes (though I would be the first to recommend that any tentative plans be scrapped and a less contentious form of public diversion be substituted). There is probably some demand for another Stormont, a minor royal residence or a new employment exchange.

It is in the nature of things where one day is remarkably like another that small changes should assume major dimensions. For example the decision by someone up there that boots should be provided for the internees is a welcome index that our dialogues with the camp bureaucrats actually do at times go beyond the barbed wire boundaries. Complaints, demands, requests are normally met by an intransigent negative, regularly described in the phrase “for security reasons.” But the boots are more important in another, far more serious, sense because of the gigantic international plot revealed by Dr. Paisley some years ago, when he divined in the Civil Rights Association a conspiracy born from the Machiavellian marriage of Moscow and Rome. Dr. Paisley was as usual correct, as I discovered last week.


New Edition of the Union Post

August 5, 2011

The latest edition of ICTU’s Union Post is out, and includes extensive reporting on the recent ICTU conference, as well as reports on various strikes and agitations across the island and further afield (including the recent open letter from Jack O’Connor, Eamon Devoy and Jimmy Kelly opposing the extradition of Seán Garland). The reports on the conference include the differing positions taken by different prominent trade unionists on social partnership and debates on government policy north and south. Interesting and important reading for leftists.

Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

August 4, 2011

Nice to have a hobby.