Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Date: August 2015

Weeknotes #726-729

The predominant experience over the last few weeks? Tiredness. I’ve been sick, mostly minor ills in the big scheme of things, but for the better part of a month. First the threat of a cold that turned into a horrid chesty cough that took a week (and two bottles of Benylin) to shift, then a few days later a proper headcold that blindsided me for a whole weekend, and left everything smelling and tasting of slate mucus for even longer. Even as I write this a week later I’m still groggy from congestion, the kind that sloshes around inside your head and makes your ears sting when you bend over. Ugh.


Rain is sizzling bacon, cars are lions roaring: the art of sound in movies

The Guardian profiles Oscar-winning sound designer Skip Lievsay: "His expertise, fittingly, is what can’t be seen – sound, yes, but also everything else that sound is to the human mind: the way we orient ourselves in relation to spaces, to time, to each other; the way we communicate when language fails; the way our ears know, precognitively, when the dark room has someone lurking in it or when a stranger will be kind. He orchestrates the levels of human perception that most people either fail to examine or lack the ability to notice at all. His job is to make you feel things without ever knowing he was there." #link

The Agency

"From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities." This story is crazy, and it's got '1970s-style conspiracy thriller' written all over it. #link

Filtered for radioactive cats

"Question. If you bury radioactive waste and need to warn people to stay away from the land for 10,000 years, how do you do it -- basically how do you construct a message that lasts longer than humans have been living in cities?" And more thought-food gems like that. #link

Kill your enthusiasm: SummerSlam reviewed

When all you really recall is the crappy ending, it doesn’t matter how good the preceding match was. And SummerSlam‘s main event was indeed a very good match, if not a great one. We were teased the big Undertaker comeback, the Dead Man getting his revenge on the dastardly Brock Lesnar for ending his WrestleMania streak 18 months ago. But Brock was having none of it, not even letting Taker remove his hat and trenchcoat before launching his assault. The rest of the match was a pure fight, playing to Brock’s strengths as a ring bully while hiding Taker’s weaknesses as a performer well past his prime, and making them both look like they belonged in the main event of the second-biggest show of the year. Also, there was this:

Brock and Taker laugh it up at SummerSlam 2015


My Letterboxd reviews of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall

I’m not really a James Bond fan (though I’ve seen A View to a Kill more times that I can remember) so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I never got round to seeing the Daniel Craig era Bonds. Till now, that is. Here’s my take on Casino Royale:

The first Bond of the Daniel Craig era is supposed to be ‘the gritty one’ but apart from a short sharp shock in the intro, and That Torture Scene near the end, it’s largely cheesy as fuck. Less cheesy than the silly Brosnan flicks, sure, but hardly the rebooted, ‘serious’ James Bond it’s purported to be. Still, it’s pretty entertaining, though it doesn’t half go on; two-and-a-half hours is far too long for a film of this ilk.


The latest episode of Fractured, a video series on Irish underground music by my friend John Mulvaney (of The Nostalgic Attic), focuses on the bleak pastoral blackened noise project From the Bogs of Aughiska, who I've seen live a couple of times now, an intense experience to say the least. (And I'm surprised to learn the man behind the mask doesn't like to play live, which is a shame as that presentation of his music, with accompanying video projections, really brings out its power.) #video

The vast, unplayable history of video games

There's a very important point here about the ownership of cultural artefacts, and how the digital era has defined that ownership squarely in favour of the corporate producer (leading to legal absurdities like software licences becoming a template for every kind of non-physical media). It's not just about games; if films are no longer being preserved on reels of celluloid, and only exist on the hard drives of some movie studio's IT department, how can we trust they'll still be around in decades to come? #link

My Letterboxd review of Fantastic Four

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

Seriously, screw the internet pile-on – there’s really a lot to like about the Fantastic Four reboot. Josh Trank’s film (from a screenplay by him, Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg) adds a more ‘rational’ twist, in terms of internal logic, to the FF’s inherently silly origin story, eschewing the already dated campiness of the noughties films (so that it’s more tonally consistent with its sibling X-Men franchise) and borrowing liberally from Cronenberg’s The Fly in its fable of ambition gone awry.


The World Needs Female Rock Critics

On women's alienation from rock. Or rather, the rock musical/critical canon, because there's plenty of room for women in more underground, niche genres. Still, there can always be more. (And the same could be said for every relative minority, ie anyone not a white male.) #link

My Letterboxd reviews of Full Tilt Boogie, Nightmare Factory, and They Live

Another documentary double bill. First up, Sarah Kelly’s fly-on-the-wall/in-the-ointment making-of doc Full Tilt Boogie:

One of those ‘things didn’t turn out the way they expected’ documentaries, whereby a pretty simple behind-the-scenes hangout with the cast and crew (mostly crew) of Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn gets complicated by union troubles, bad weather, shitty food, and even the odd fire.


My Letterboxd reviews of Beyond Clueless and Death Wish 3

Another random Netflix afternoon, starting with Beyond Clueless:

I have to admit I was disappointed to learn the Charlie Lyne responsible for this visual essay – or dissertation, really – exploring the tropes of the high school/teen movie since the mid 1990s is actually male. Blame the gender ambiguity of the name, or the choice of presentation (narration provided by Fairuza Balk), or my own expectation that we were finally getting to hear what a woman has to say about film in a film. I guess that’s still a picture that needs to be made. It doesn’t diminish the work here, however, though it’s better appreciated as a personal reading of the material at hand rather than a prescriptive definition of the genre, if it’s even a genre.


My Letterboxd review of It Follows

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

Others have referenced John Carpenter, in both mood and score, in this striking, creeping, brooding psychological (and vaguely psychosexual) horror, where young people’s actions are turned against them by forces unknowable, but not in the slasher-type way you might expect from that description. Personally, though, what stood out for me were the manifold allusions to the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, not in its main plot or elevator pitch but those unsettling incidental touches that make Wes Craven’s film so memorable. Fear and terror are one thing; the constant nagging anxiety that there’s something that wants to get you, and you don’t know how to stop it, that’s very different, and it’s a palpable feeling that David Robert Mitchell’s film evokes quite powerfully here.

My Letterboxd review of Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

Richard Stanley, some of his cast and many of his crew lament the disintegration of what could have been the Hardware and Dust Devil director’s Peter-Jackson-level Hollywood calling card. Alas, it happened the way it happened: Stanley disappeared into relative obscurity while his fellow Southern Hemisphere horror auteur got to do The Frighteners, survived a few years of boardroom politicking to make the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the rest is history. But something tells me Stanley wouldn’t have had it any other way.

My Letterboxd reviews of the Kaiju Movie Marathon

Last month Shout! Factory TV hosted a 24-hour Kaiju Movie Marathon, which was as good an opportunity as any to fill a few spots on my Godzilla dance card, starting with the grandaddy of ’em all:

Quite the curio, this: the original Godzilla, repackaged for American audiences with the addition of Raymond ‘Ironside’ Burr as a reporter recounting the destruction for newspaper readers back home.

The conceit is a smart one for the presumably tiny budget they had to work with: rather than dub the Japanese cast or add subtitled, they just have Burr do a voiceover. (There’s even a scene where he leans into one of his native hosts to confess his Japanese is a bit rusty and he needs a translation. I like that.)


My Letterboxd reviews of Limitless and The Sacrament

Here’s a couple of ‘Netflix roulette’ viewings, starting with Limitless

I still don’t know what people see in Bradley Cooper. His charisma void undermines what’s already a fairly uninspired action thriller, one with Dick-ish pretensions but too capitalist to go all the way. That director Neil Burger would go on to helm the first instalment of the Divergent franchise is apropos, in hindsight.


Oxbow on Bandcamp

At long last, the legendary Bay Area bruisers' discography (or most of it, anyway) for streaming and download. #link

My Letterboxd reviews of Life Itself and Showrunners

A double dose of documentaries here, starting with the Roger Ebert story:

It is what it is: a respectful but honest portrait (partly a self-portrait, I should add) of a rightly legendary film critic. If I expected more from the documentary itself, I’m sure I’ll get it from the book it’s vaguely adapted from, as then I’ll really be able to get inside Roger Ebert’s head and understand what made him who he was. And who he is, because his words haven’t died.


My Letterboxd review of The Town that Dreaded Sundown

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

This meta-sequel to the ’70s schlocky shocker of the same name could have gone down the Scream route into po-mo self-parody. It benefits from playing things straight, though it telegraphs what direction to look for the killer far too early for its own good, and comes with a final twist that makes pretty much zero sense other than to swerve on the audience for the sake of it. Still, there’s some neat use of sound design to heighten the gruesomeness of its only mildly graphic kill scenes. And it’s low on jump scares, which is always a plus. Low budget horror done decently.

The eeriness of the English countryside

Is there an Irish equivalent? Certainly we have our own folklore and cultural history, but stories of mischievous faeries and the like don't really compare to the dread inspired by the ghosts of England's heritage. The closest local connection I can make is the music (and presentation) of From the Bogs of Aughiska but I'm probably missing the blindingly obvious. #link

How I Gave Up Alternating Current

Wherein the software engineer and Soylent creator displays breathtaking privilege and ignorance of the world at large from behind his shield of environmental concern, and all ultimately in the service of promoting his new product. Even putting aside that cynicism, his approach is that of a corporate downsizing consultant, only concerned with increasing the efficiencies of life, without regard for the invisible hands -- exploited workers in China, farm-to-fork agrifood infrastructure, etc etc -- that move the world he must believe he makes revolve through force of his own will. #link

The band responsible for one of my favourite SST albums have returned with two newly recorded songs after their recent live reunion and reissue campaign. I'm pretty sure these are their first studio recordings in more than 20 years. And yep, sounds like BL'AST! alright. #video

Weeknotes #715-725

Towards the end of May, we received notice that the rent on our apartment was going up by 25% from July onwards. And that was that: we were finally priced out of Dublin. The city where I was born and grew up, and where we can’t justify spending to live anymore. That’s Ireland in 2015.

Anyway, cue a somewhat frantic, stressful search for a new home — which we found three weeks later, 80km to the north, in Dundalk. That’s where you’ll find us today, paying less rent for a house with a garden, in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood that’s still a short walk from the town centre. And paying less for faster broadband, too.


Thinking out loud about grief

My grandfather told a story of an old farmer whose wife of 60 years died. “Ah well,” he said, “had a good innings.” A month later his bull died and he was broken up. “Losing his wife,” my grandfather, a doctor, said, “was too big. This was small enough for him to get his tears around.”

This quote, from a short essay on grief on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, leapt out from my stew of thoughts and memories last night, upon news of the death of Rowdy Roddy Piper.

I didn’t know him, never met him, but to me and millions like me, the Hot Rod was an indelible part of my childhood, and my wrestling fandom. He was arguably the best talker in the business, not to mention one of the greatest heels ever, and maybe the first (well before Steve Austin at any rate) to transition from ‘most hated man alive’ to perennial fan-favourite without losing the attitude, the edge that made him so magnetic.