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Thoughts on Calvary

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John Michael McDonagh's latest venture, Calvary, stars Brendan Gleeson and a whole cast of compelling actors, includingChris O'DowdKelly ReillyAidan GillenDylan Moran and Isaach de Bankolé. It is probably fair to say that the younger McDonagh stepped out definitively as something more than Martin's brother and creative collaborator with this one.  

I challenge the reviews that refer to this as a black comedy.  It's not black, but rather demonic, humor.  Until a point, after which it is not funny anymore.  "Beautifully bleak?" Indeed. "Mordantly funny?" Yes.  But the New Yorker reviewer who called it silly either didn't see the film or really doesn't get Ireland, Catholicism or, well, death.




Full disclosure: I might have had a panic attack in the movie theater.  Not at the scene, but at the bar scene, the one that suggests that the whole thing is on a rapid downhill slide.  If you saw the movie, you know what I am talking about.  If you d…

Constructing Usable Pasts At Home

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Here is the quote of the week:

“In the end, we get older, we kill everyone who loves us through the worries we give them, through the troubled tenderness we inspire in them, and the fears we ceaselessly cause.” Walter Benjamin

"Troubled tenderness" is the most beautiful phrase I've read in a long time. It's been a tough week around here, with my mother hospitalized after a collapse that was the result of taking too much medication.

Her body didn't like that one bit, and heart, kidneys, lungs all had something to say.  The first twenty-four hours were rough. She is doing better now and with some luck and some hard work, she will be right as rain in a month or so.

We've come down to help my mom and dad when things have gone pear-shaped before.  My husband once remarked that my dad looked like Mario from the video game -- running into walls and bouncing off of things.  In the thick of the panic, he does get a little dazed. Don't we all?  (I often feel like fre…

The Art of Memory: The Fault in Our Stars

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I finally read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.  I am really glad I did.  

I was captivated by the ways the characters experienced their interior lives together, the way they took lonely separateness and made something new.  They co-created narratives about what was happening around them that were sparkly, beautiful, larger -- much larger -- than what they might have conjured on their own.



Selfies in Crossfire

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Not a lot in the news to inspire and hearten me at the moment. You?

As far as I am concerned, it has been one of the most painful news cycles in recent memory and the fractiousness of social media made me dial back my own presence in the virtual spaces that have become my stomping grounds.  I maintain that knowing what is happening in the world is a civic responsibility, but sometimes fulfilling that simple act is wearing.  Made more wearisome, of course, by my awareness that I enjoy a luxury not known or experienced by so many thousands of people living with, living through, living and dying amidst the throes of war, atrocity, earthquakes, epidemics.  The luxury of finding the news exhausting.

Amidst stories of ebola, of bodies falling out of the sky, of Gaza, Gaza, Gaza,  this photo of a grinning woman on the BBC news page caught my attention:




The photo seems to suggest, "Look at me.  I am smiling. So there."  Actually, that is pretty much what this selfie, like many other…

Listening to Somos Sur at the Green River Festival

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Had the pleasure of attending the Green River Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts this past weekend. Now in its 28th year, the festival combines the feeling of extended family holiday,  a day at the beach and a neighborhood block party --- if a lot of great musicians happen to live in your neighborhood.  It manages to be low key with high energy and to promote things like engaged community, renewable energy and progressive political causes without asphyxiating you with its self-righteousness.
There is usually a lot of acoustic/folk and Americana at the festival as well as some headliners who mix up the sound.  There are also always musicians you haven't heard of, but should. One of the most popular "new" acts this year was the Chilean musician, innovator, songwriter Ana Tijoux.

'Bye for Now, Derry

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I've arrived back in Salem, the month in Derry having flown by.  I've yet to unpack, literally or metaphorically.  But playing with photoshop and some of my final photographs has been a nice way to reconcile the two places, the here and the there.  
Good, as well, because it makes me more at ease with the writing process that awaits.  There is no objective telling of a story.  The author is always interested.  We play, rearrange, add and remove.  We accentuate tone, increase exposure to some bits, decrease it to others.  Storytellers -- and historians are ultimately storytellers -- are artists.  
Let the storytelling begin.





"Seeing Through New Eyes?" Grappling with Identity/Identities

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Is this a Derry granny?


Brought to you by British Telecom's "Portrait of a City,"an initiative designed to crowd-source community archives as part of the City of Culture events last year, this image of an older woman and sixteen children is one of eight photos that were enlarged last year, printed on heavy-duty tarp material and hung on the exterior wall of the Orchard Street entrance to the local shopping center, Foyleside.

It sits in the wall of the building just like a photo sits in a frame.

I took this photograph while going to catch a bus to visit my friend Bryonie, who is one of the most creative, effervescent and astute thinkers I know.

When it comes to thinking about Northern Ireland, I often get this Rumi quote in my head (I know, I know, the cliché of it all!!!!) "Out beyond right doing and wrong doing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there." I always think of Bryonie on that field.  Partly because she writes about landscapes and maybe because …