Cultural Dispatches #2 – 22/12/15

As Cultural Dispatches #2 goes live culture as we know it has been hijacked by a franchise that landed months ago in the sacred Skellig Michael, to uproar, and has now colonised our cinemas for the foreseeable future.

Undoubtedly one of the last great empires of pop culture, its powers, known as “The Force”, remain strong over the populace who are seemingly oblivious to reading, watching or caring about much else at present.

Surely there are some of us, like Ian Maleney in The Irish Times last Thursday, who are walking around in this Cormac McCarthy-esque no-man’s-land looking for other things to do and watch and read while this monopolisation of the culture subsumes all forms. Cultural Dispatches has you covered for recommendations that are not related to the Star Wars invasion.


What to watch?

George Saunders on Storytelling – The Atlantic

George Saunders is the modern master of the short story. His fantastical worlds – delivered to us in collections CivilWarLandPastoralia and most recently Tenth of December – are detailed portrayals of 21st century America brought to life on the page in vivid technicolour.

Like Enda Walsh plays, Saunders’s stories manage to create an immersive atmosphere which challenge and entertain the reader thoroughly in a form that has zero room for wastage.

Read about him in more detail in this New York Times interview and hear what he has to say about the craft of storytelling, which he compares to a black box that the reader is dropped into in this video:

George Saunders: On Story from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

Druid’s Garry Hynes in the Spotlight – RTÉ TV

This year the #WakingTheFeminists movement highlighted how difficult it was, and remains, for female theatre makers, writers and practitioners to ply their trade in a male-biased theatre world.

In 2015 Druid, a company run by two women, Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, celebrated its 40th year in existence with a monumental production of four Shakespearian plays crammed into six hours of theatre which toured to critical acclaim.

Druid’s longevity is incredible in light of the clear biases abound on our national stages. Speaking for them both at #WakingTheFeminists Mullen said, “If we had tried to get into the arts by the traditional route, neither of us would work in theatre today.”

Last Tuesday RTÉ turned its focus on Druid and Gary Hynes with a behind the scenes documentary showing her directorial skills before embellishing on that with a previous The Works Presents interview with John Kelly.

Watch both programmes at the links highlighted and get an insight into why Garry Hynes, the first women to win a Tony award in 1998, has managed such a sustained and successful career in the arts.


What to go to?

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now – Exhibition: IMMA, Kilmainham €8

Visiting Kilmainham is always a pleasure, the grounds, the buildings, the setting. All that is so enjoyable that the exhibitions rarely manage to live up to their surrounds, What We Call Love does.

Anytime an exhibition has a Picasso I’ve got my money’s worth. In the first room on the right as you come through the double glass doors of the East Wing of IMMA is a Picasso. It’s a small, striking piece. Heading into the next room you’re greeted with a Salvador Dalí, so distinctive even the uninitiated, which I am, don’t need to read the blurb to know.

As a whole the exhibition explores how love has changed through the 20th century. Visual art, sociology and neuroscience are enlisted and you’ll find audio, video and installation art addressing themes of sex and gender and how we express our love.

More info on opening times and the exhibit here, it runs until February 7th.



What to listen to and read?

Frank Sinatra’s 100th – This American Life Tribute


Frank Sinatra would have been 100 on December 12th this year and to mark the occasion This American Life dug out their tribute episode from 1997, the year before he died, and gave it a polish. Listen here:


The first segment is an extract from Gay Talese’s seminal profile of Sinatra from 1965 called ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold‘, read by the writer himself. Talese created a portrait of the singer by interviewing all those around him. Sinatra had a cold and wouldn’t meet him. The piece became one of the most famous profiles in magazine journalism, read it in full here.

Usually shows plucked from the archives are fillers, a sure sign of the holiday season, but it’s different when your vaults are that of This American Life, which are full of audio gold.

Eagles of Death Metal – Play It Forward Campaign

On Friday November 13th Paris was hit by a series of devastating terrorist attacks. The worst was at the Bataclan Theatre where Eagles of Death Metal were playing to hundreds of fans. 89 people were killed at the gig. The band had played the Olympia theatre in Dublin only the previous Tuesday.

To raise money for the victims EODM have set-up the Play It Forward Campaign. The band have called for artists to cover their song ‘I Love You All the Time’ – which poignantly was set to be the next song on the set list in Paris when the massacre started – and donate the proceeds to charities to support the victims.


Artists including Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine (feat Maccabees), Savages and Imagine Dragons have already covered the song, you can listen to the covers and donate via the website.

Here is a Rolling Stone piece where the band talk about the campaign and U2’s role in getting them back on stage after their horrific ordeal. Less than a month after the attacks U2 gave the stage to Eagles of Death Metal to end their show. They performed ‘I Love You All the Time’:



The Irish Times Women’s Podcast – Newcomer of the Year

The IT Women’s Podcast won the best new Irish podcast of 2015 as selected by iTunes.

Presented by Kathy Sheridan this episode features Anne Enright, Maeve Higgins, Tara Flynn, Louise O’Neil and more reading funny festive fair to get you in the mood for Christmas.


Robert Glasper interview – New Yorker Radio Hour

Grammy winning Pianist and R’n’b producer Robert Glasper is interviewed by New Yorker editor Dave Remnick on The New Yorker Radio Hour, listen here:



In the interview he castigates jazz for its obsession with the past, labelling it a museum, while saying the vigour and forward-facing nature of hip-hop keeps it at the vanguard of music.


Self-taught, Glasper has collaborated with everyone, including Kendrick Lamar. For an introduction to his music listen to his albums Black Radio and In My Element.

This segment was taken from The New Yorker Radio Hour which is nine episodes in and worth adding to your list of weekly podcasts to download.

Nialler9’s Top 10 albums of 2015

End of year lists are often cobbled together copy & paste jobs that serve little purpose outside of click-bait. Blogger Nialler9’s site is different.

From the obvious Jamie XX and Kendrick Lamar to the more obscure Unknown Mortal Experiment or the homegrown Jape, this list throws up some good listening from the year we’re just exiting.


To finish is Skellig Michael in all its now corrupted glory:



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