Peter's Blog

Just commenting on things that interest me

Conan O’Brien

Conan O’Brien is a VERY funny man.

You can see him on his YouTube channel, and you can listen to his “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” podcast.

One of the things I enjoy most about his podcasts is how often he mentions that he is Irish. I think it’s in pretty much every episode!

And just to prove how Irish he is, you can watch an absolutely hilarious visit he made to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.

His reaction to being told that there are “six steps to pouring a glass on Guinness” is worth the price of admission on its own!

Rob Brydon Interviews

In my last post I mentioned how I am enjoying some of the things which people are doing on YouTube to keep us entertained during COVID.

One of the most enjoyable of these is the series of interviews which Rob Brydon has been doing.

He has completed “Series 1” which included interviews with people like Stephen Merchant, Mattnew Rhys, Will Ferrell and more. He also talked to fellow starts of Gavin and Stacy like Ruth Jones and Alison Steadman.

Rob is a very funny man and these interviews are full of warmth and humour. Here is a link to his YouTube channel.

Series 2 has just kicked off with Matt Lucas.

Scott Adkins – The Art of Action

I have been an admirer of Scott Adkins for some time now. He’s a great martial artist, and has made some great movies (63 at present according to IMDB) – many of which are available to see on Netflix!

He had made movies with Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Michael Jai White and many others. He was even in an X-Men movie and appeared on UK TV in Holby City and Eastenders!

He is currently doing a series of interviews on YouTube with other martial arts stars. He releases about one a week. I don’t know if he is doing this because of COVID, but it certainly gives us something to look forward to every week.

He has interviewed many greats of the past, including Cynthia Rothrock, Benny Urquidez, Richard Norton, Jeff Speakman, Steven Seagal, Phillip Rhee, Loren Avedon, Dolph Lundgren and more (I should add that some of these are still making movies).

He has interviewed many current stars such as Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Mark Dacascos, and more.

He has interviewed many great action directors such as Gareth Evans and Chad Stahelski.

He has interviewed people I did not really know anything about such as Kane Kosugi, Marko Zaror, Daniel Bernhardt, JJ Perry, Andy Cheng, Vidyut Jammwal, Sam Hargrave and more. These are people I need to learn more about!

The interviews themselves are great, mainly I think because Scott is so enthusiastic and so modest. He clearly likes most or all of them and shows them great respect. He manages to get the best out of all of them.

Here is a link to his YouTube channel.

I cannot wait to see whom he interviews next. I think his 608K subscribers are (like me) hoping for people like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chuck Norris and Keanu Reeves!

Here is his most recent (21st) interview:

 

Shibumi and Satori

I have just finished re-reading Shibumi (my favourite book) for the umpteenth time.  Still a great pleasure.

And now I have started to re-read Don Winslow’s book about Nicholai Hel called Satori.

This is my first time re-reading this since it came out in 2011.

I was very excited to read it at the time. A new story about Nicholai Hel (and some familiar characters from the original book). And an endorsement from Rodney Whitaker’s daughter Alexandra on the Trevanian website.

At the time I didn’t enjoy it to be honest. I didn’t recognise Winslow’s Hel to be the same person as Whitaker’s. I note that Whitaker had two conditions for the idea of another author writing about Hel:

The character of Nicholai Hel — the aji of Nicholai Hel — must be respected, and the book must be of a quality that would not disappoint his readers

Anyway, I’m not that far into the book but I spotted a glaring error on the second page!

Winslow says that Hel killed his father-figure Kishikawa with “a single finger-thrust to the trachea”. Anyone who read Shibumi know that he killed him with a pencil (naked/kill is not about killing with no weapon, it’s about being able to use anything as a weapon).

How could anyone make such a mistake about a well known detail, and then hope to re-create the character of Hel?!

Anyway, I am reading the book and (in spite of what I have said above) trying to do so with an open mind.

By the way, while I’m writing about Trevanian once again, I should mention the sad update that:

  • There is nothing on the IMDB website to indicate that any work is going on in relation to creating new movies based on either Satori or Incident at Twenty-Mile
  • There is nothing on Alexandra Whitaker’s website to indicate that there is any progress in relation to Street of the Four Winds

Things I love about John Wick

In 2014 a movie came out which changed the face of action movies. It was “John Wick” starring Keanu Reeves.

The movie was  directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch and written by Derek Kolstad.

I had seen a trailer in advance so I was looking forward to the movie coming out. The premise (an assassin goes looking for revenge when some bad guys kill his dog and steal his car) seemed so very, very promising!

And the movie did not disappoint. It had some of the best action sequences (unarmed combat, guns and weapons) I had ever seen.

Here are some of the things I love about the John Wick movies:

Action

The action and fight scenes are top notch.

Chad and David are martial artists and stuntmen who formed a company together called 89Eleven in 1997. The company website says this:

Action design is an art form all its own. At 87eleven, our team has what it takes to create innovative stunts for studio films

So when they got the chance to direct the first John Wick movie, they made the movie of their dreams. And the action and  fight scenes raised the bar!

IMDB says that John Wick kills 77 people in the movie. In an interview, Chad said that the real number is higher!

The movie features “gun fu”. Although Chad is a master of many martial arts, he said that John Wick uses a combination of ” Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tactical 3-gun, and standing Judo”.

World

The movie creates a whole world of assassins.  They have their own code and rules. Their own way of getting contracts. Their own currency. And their own chain of hotels (the Continentals) where they can feel safe (no “business” can be conducted on the hotel grounds).

This world adds a lot of depth to the stories.

Shibumi

The book Shibumi by Trevanian is my favourite book.  It makes an appearance in the first movie in two ways:

  • Nicholai Hel (the main character in Shibumi) is an assassin and a master of “naked/kill” (the art of killing people with everyday objects). Nicholai’s life takes a sharp turn when he is forced to kill someone with a pencil. We are old in the movie that John Wich has killed three men with a pencil.
  • A security guard is seen reading the book at one point

Sequels

It is very hard to make sequels which are as good as the original. John Wick is an exception. The first movie scored 7.4 on IMDB. The two sequels each score 7.5! In Rotten Tomatoes the scores are 87%, 89% and 90%.

Quite an achievement.

And “Chapter 4” is due out in 2022. I can’t wait!

Interviews

As well as making great movies, the guys are great to listen to when they are discussing the movies.

Here is a video of Chad and David discussing the move while watching the “Honest Trailer”

The Fry Model Railway

Dublin engineer and draughtsman Cyril Fry built a superb collection of more than 300 model trains over a 40 year period from the 1920s. Cyril passed away on 1972 and the collection was subsequently acquired from his widow by Dublin Tourism.

The collection reappeared in 1988 in Malahide Castle. A team lead by retired CIÉ craftsman Thomas (Tom) Tighe had spent 8 years constructing a fabulous O gauge display to complement Cyril Fry’s models which were displayed in static exhibits for their own protection and preservation. The model railway had stations from all over Ireland, including Malahide station. So people (like me) going to see the Fry Model Railway were able to see and admire both of these things in Malahide Castle. The model railway was dismantled in 2010 and  put into storage.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I was excited to hear that a local farmer, Micheál Gaffney (sometime referred to as Patrick Michael Gaffney) who passed away in 2012, had left €1.5M in his will to Fingal County Council for the renovation of Casino House provided it was used to house the Fry Model Railway. The House was built around 1750 by the Talbot family. What a fantastic idea that was – to reserve the model railway and the cottage and to keep them available for visitors to Malahide.

So the new exhibition (called the Model Railway Museum) finally opened in January of this year, I did not manage to get in to see if before it was closed for COVID, but I did get in to see it with my whole family last weekend. Here is where the bad news begins.

The lady who welcomed us realised that we had seen the railway in its old location. So she started to set our expectations by saying that:

  • Casino did not have enough space to show the old model railway
  • The model railway did not cope well with being dismantled and stored

So the bad news is:

  • There is nothing left to see of Tom Tighe’s work
  • The new working model is very very poor. It uses a very small number of smaller trains (OO gauge) and they have only made models of four different locations. The models themselves are very poor. The model of Malahide is confusing, for example, with parts that look current, parts that look older, and parts that do not represent the actual geography.
  • The restoration of Casino is disappointing. While it looks very well from the outside, they have retained no vestiges that might speak to the previous character of the interior.  The interior is plain and boring.

I think small kids who like trains would still enjoy the model. But for the rest of us I would have preferred to have parts of Tom Tighe’s model, even if there were no moving trains.

So if you’re thinking of visiting because you have small kids then you may enjoy it. But everyone else can save their money.

Apparently Fingal County Council invested a further €2.8 million into the project on top of Mr Gaffney’s contribution. How badly wasted that money was!

To be honest, I can’t help thinking that Mr Gaffney is rolling over in his grave to see what Fingal did with his money.

If you have an interest in the Fry Model Railway, then I suggest that you should instead watch this segment from RTE’s Late Late show (originally shown on 31 March 1989) where Gay Byrne interviews Tom Tighe and shows some footage of the model railway in Malahide Castle.

 

John Hume

Ireland lost one of its greatest this week, with the passing of John Hume on Monday, and his funeral on Wednesday.

I always held John in the highest regard. And I was not the only one. He was voted “Ireland’s Greatest” in a public poll run by RTE in 2010.

Many tributes were paid to John (and his wife, Pat) over the last week. During the funeral itself, messages were read out from Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Bono. Many have said that without John’s vision, courage and perseverance that Northern Ireland would not have achieved peace in the way that it did. People have talked over the last few days of the number of lives which John has saved.  He has been called Ireland’s Martin Luther King.

He was awarded many richly deserved honours during his life, including:

  • Nobel Prize for Peace, 1998
  • Martin Luther King Peace Award, 1999
  • International Gandhi Peace Prize, 2001

We were on holiday in Moville for a week, leaving for home on the day he died.  On the Saturday we went into Derry city and went on the Bogside History Tour, guided by  Paul Doherty whose father was killed by British soldiers during Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The tour was excellent, and we all learned a lot over the course of those two hours. Obviously John Hume was mentioned a number of times, including the fact that he had advised against the march on Bloody Sunday because he was afraid of what the soldiers were going to do.

There are so many great stories of what this “shy schoolteacher” (as his wife Pat described him) did and achieved in his life.  There is a story here, for example, of how John called around to the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday and gave money to held with funeral expenses.

I am sorry that we were not still in Moville on the evening of his removal to the church. If we had been we could have stood on the roadside to pay our respects to him and his family. But we were home and we had to content ourselves with lighting a candle in the window instead.

Truly were lost Ireland’s Greatest this week.

There are so many photos that I could finish this with, including photos of John with the great and the good. But I think the most fitting is this photo of John and his wife Pat on the day of voting for the Good Friday agreement. Ar dheist Dé go raibh a anam.

Things I hate about How I Met Your Mother

OK. So the title of this post is misleading.

There is nothing I hate about HIMYM! I love that show. I just finished watching all 9 seasons.

If you asked most people what they hate about HIMYM, they would say the ending. On IMDB the series has a rating of 8.3 but the final episode has a rating of 5.5, which is by far the lowest rating of the whole series.

I don’t hate the ending really, but if I was forced to criticise something about the show I would have to say:

  • The last episode seemed a bit rushed. I think the could have taken a lot longer with this. Alyson Hannigan has said that there was a lot of great material for the finale and she was shocked at how much was cut
  • I wish Barney could have had a happier outcome. But I guess the writers did their best with what they had

Since the premise of the story is that Ted is telling his kids how he met their mother, it is reasonable to assume that she might not be alive at that stage.

Having dealt with the bad, let me list my favourite things:

Barney

Barney is a fabulous character. I had watched a few episodes because my son was watching the show, and I think that Barney was (more than anything else) the thing that made me want to watch the show. He was so cool. He was (and there’s no way to avoid saying this) “legen … wait for it … dary!”

 Time Travel

The device of having Ted telling the story to his kids gave the series a fabulous potential (which the writer exploited to the fullest) of time travel.

One example is that he was able to tell them that various girlfriends were NOT their mother. But he was also able to tell stories of near-misses with the mother, stuff about the umbrella, etc. It was great.

Another were the Rashomon elements in the story telling. In “Ted Mosby: Architect”, for example, Robin and Lily are hearing stories from various people of Ted seeming to act out of character.

Another was shown in “The Burning Beekeeper” where the same story is told again and again with different people filling in blanks from their perspectives.

Another was in the episode called “Dowisetrepla” where Marshall and Lily were shown saying this before Ted would say “is what he/she should have said” before showing what they actually said.

And then there was “We’re Not from Here” where Marshall and Lily write letters to each other to be opened upon the person’s death. But we jump far into the future to see one of them being opened.

And to further emphasise the time travel theme:

  • In “The Time Travelers” Ted and Barney get advice from their future selves!
  • Finally, in “The Window”, Marshall sends a letter to his future self and then future Marshall makes an appearance in the bar to arrange wings for his former self.

All in all, the time travel was one of the cleverest, funniest and most novel things on the show.

Very, very funny

The main thing to like about the show was that the writing was so clever and the show was so funny.

I don’t think there was an episode where I didn’t laugh out loud at some stage.

One of the funniest jokes, I think, was in “The Magician’s Code”. Lily was in hospital and in labour with Ted and Robin in the room when the following exchange happened:

Robin: That was not cool Ted.
Lily: Contraction!
Robin: That wasn’t cool Ted?

Genius!

In conclusion, HIMYM is a great series. I may even watch it again!

Reunited Apart

I guess some people realised that it might be possible to get big stars to do things using ZOOM during COVID which might have been difficult or impossible to get done during normal times.

And in so doing, to raise money for charity.

One such person was Josh Gad. He created a series of videos where he reunited the cast and crew of great movies such as The Goonies, Back to the Future, Splash, Lord of the Rings, Ghostbusters and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Josh is a great host and his enthusiasm makes the shows a joy. I know most of the participants are actors but they seem to get genuine pleasure out of being reunited.

Here is my favourite of them:

Music and COVID and The Late Late Show

The Late Late Show did a great job during the early months of COVID. They educated and had a great focus on the front-line workers.

They also had lots of great musical guests and collected a huge amount of money for various charities.

Much credit to Ryan Tubridy and his team, and to Miriam O’Callaghan who stepped in when Ryan was hit with the virus.

Here are links to some of the great musical performances:

Hozier – The Parting Glass

Glen Hansard & Colm Mac Con Iomaire – Falling Slowly

Dermot Kennedy – All My Friends

Picture This – Troublemaker

Mary Black, Mary Coughlan, Frances Black & Sharon Shannon – A Woman’s Heart

Sinéad O’Connor – Thank You For Hearing Me

But the one that really blew my away was the appearance by Gavin James. I love his song “Always” and I didn’t realise that he was Irish!! He’s a superstar!

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