In a Word. . . Earth

Indeed it was an American politician who began Earth Day. For here/Am I sitting in a tin can/ Far above the world/Planet Earth is blue/And there’s nothing I can do.. Also used for the (material) world (as opposed to the heavens or the underworld). .” But there is! Earth from Old English eorþe , ground, soil, dry land. “Ground control to Major Tom, Ground Control to Major Tom… In 1995 then US president Bill Clinton awarded the late (died in 2005) Senator Nelson the presidential medal of freedom (highest honour given to US civilians) for his role as Earth Day 2017 founder. First celebrated in 1970, it was founded by Democrat senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of growing problems of air, water and soil pollution. Of Earth we are and to Earth we shall return. Over to you. Others sign petitions calling on governments for stronger measures to stop global warming and to reverse ongoing environmental destruction. With climate change denial now a dominant outlook in the White House, it is more pertinent than ever that we mark Earth Day. To date there are no moves by the Trump presidency to undo that decision. It’s good to be reminded of that. inaword@irishtimes.com We realised what a beautiful blue planet this is. One of Senator Nelson’s better-known quotes was that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around”. David Bowie wrote those Space Oddity lyrics in 1969, the same year we saw our first earth rise thanks to the men of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The first Earth Day celebrations took place in 2,000 colleges and universities and approximately 10,000 primary and secondary schools across the US, as well in hundreds of communities there. It’s a day when people do something beautiful for Earth: plant a tree, pick up rubbish, encourage recycling. It’s a day to be kind to Mother Earth in the sure and certain knowledge that without her we would be as nothing. Today we celebrate that planet, for it is Earth Day 2017, which is marked in over 193 countries on April 22nd every year. Raising awareness By 1990 Earth Day involved 200 million people in 141 countries raising environmental awareness at an international level.

Versailles review: Being judged by history while being handled by glossy TV producers

History may be ambivalent towards Louis XIV. With the kidnapped dauphin speedily recovered and the culprit in chains, Louis makes a trip to the theatre, where the audience is assured: “We are all of us making history.” Many characters in Versailles make such proclamations, as though they’ve been frantically reading ahead. Made by Canal+ and written by Spooks screenwriters Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft, Versailles (BBC Two, Friday, 9.30pm) is the most expensive French TV show ever, and – with a general indifference towards historical accuracy and an unpatriotic commitment to the English language – is certainly the most hungry for international regard. So, as Fabien, its resident detective, investigates another poisoning, and Louis builds bridges between his wife and wily mistress (the luminescent Anna Brewster), there are also dire prophecies. But this Versailles, its makers know full well, is no artefact for eternity, and that may be Louis’s torment: that his legacy would eventually be funnelled into something diverting and forgettable. “Terrible things happen to kings.” If Louis had been blessed with similar foresight, he may have worried less about how history would remember him than how glossy television drama would portray him. Before the opening credits begin to roll, a frazzled king looks back at his humongous palace with grave uncertainty. This lavish drama’s idea of Versailles is as a gilded trap, beginning as an “all back to mine” invitation to the nobility of Paris from the boyish schemer Louis (George Blagden), which ensnared them in a paranoid police state. There is a touch of the moustachioed villain to Blagden’s performance, smirking under every subterfuge, wide-eyed with every trauma, and developing a taste for the sadistic. “You have built paradise, but a scourge is coming,” warns a Tarot reader. “An artefact for all eternity.” Who is this programme trying to convince? As its second series begins, Louis is threatened from within and without, with conspiracies swirling around the palace, while William of Orange continues his sabre rattling. What is a king to do? Not a lot, by the looks of it. Now Versailles even seems to have absorbed its own PR department, which makes sense, because the palace’s gravitational pull has drawn in everything else. “Versailles is a wondrous creation, sire,” he is assured. The series offers something similar, a racier regal drama, where bodies contort in erotic decadence, or wriggle under stabbings, poisonings and beheadings. There are …

Centenary of Battle of Messines Ridge to be marked by UK-Irish ceremony

The event will take place at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines in Flanders, Belgium, on June 7th, the first day of the week-long battle, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan announced. More details are on: http://www.dfa.ie/commemorations/messines The capture of the Messines salient in the summer of 1917, in part due to the detonation of a series of devastating underground mines below the German lines on the first day of the battle, marked a significant victory for the Allies. Both had fought at the Somme in 1916, but at different stages of the battle. “Those from the island of Ireland were brought together by diverse motivations but they shared a common purpose as soldiers and, caught up in the grim realities of war, no doubt a common desire: to survive and return home,” Mr Flanagan remarked. Messines was the first occasion during the first World War when soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division saw action together. The centenary of the Battle of Messines Ridge, where unionist and nationalist soldiers from Ireland fought side by side in the trenches, is to be marked by a joint UK-Irish ceremony. He said a public ballot would be held in Ireland to allocate tickets.

Hammy Joe Duffy would make a panto dame blush

He did not set out to kill John, he says, but accepts his culpability, both for bringing a knife with him that night and for drinking to the point that he doesn’t remember stabbing his victim.  It would be nice to view Kelly’s tale as one of redemption. Quips about “telegram polls” and references to the GPO on Sackville Street make it clear enough that it’s a retro-themed special for RTÉ’s Cruinnú na Cásca cultural festival. Realising the enormity of what he had done, he says, he served his time uncomplainingly, took education courses, and on his release moved north to work, where he married and had a family. “I’d say he did,” he says, guffawing. But above all it’s Joe Duffy’s demeanour that alerts listeners that this is a different Liveline, one that imagines what the show might have sounded like in 1917. When the “soldier” recounts how his widow lost her pension after marrying his brother, Duffy shoots back, “I didn’t know Leo Varadkar was around then.” He couldn’t play to the gallery more if there was a drum roll and crashing cymbal. Moment of the Week: Bowman’s ode to a nightingale Bowman: Sunday: 8.30am (RTÉ Radio 1) is always enjoyable, with John Bowman’s weekly compendium of clips from the archives providing audio portraits of public figures and retelling old stories in new ways. Kelly may be trying to exorcise his demons, but for the Fox family it is an unwelcome reminder of a dreadful past. But even by his standards Sunday’s edition delves far into the past, as Bowman explores Thomas Edison’s invention the phonograph. When one “caller” – an actor playing a war widow from Carlow – recounts a (true) tale about a con man who offered her money after “he came into my house to have a look at my valuables”, Duffy responds gleefully. Now he talks to Richard Kelly, the man who killed John. On the face of things it worked. “But you do understand it’s incidental to the Fox family,” says Duffy. Normal service is resumed on Wednesday, when Duffy devotes the programme to an interview with a convicted killer. “When I am no longer even a memory, just a name,” she says, amid much crackling, “I hope my voice brings to history the great work of my life.” It brings a shiver down the spine. It was conceived as an act of public …

Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: Sister Irene O’Connor – ‘Fire of God’s Love’

It’s a sad fact of media operations that the music we hear on the radio in particular is so narrowly focused on classic hits or the vacuous pop of the day. We are so bombarded with music from certain directions which all sounds pretty much the same that it is more surprising than ever when something truly unique turns up and reminds us that making music is an urge that pays no attention to barriers of any sort. Blessings within a blessing. All that repetition just dulls the senses and diminishes our taste for better things. In the case of Sister Irene O Connor’s haunting songs of faith and devotion it’s bonus time. So when something truly original and brilliant turns up it feels like a blessing. Sunken Treasures on Spotify The eerie and downright strange sound of the recordings add mystery and magic to the mix. Reunited They went their separate ways without any plans to meet in the future but fate intervened and the two were reunited at Sydney’s Point Piper convent in 1976. Music as uncommonly charming as this more often than not tends to have an unusual backstory where the pendulum swung just the right way at exactly the right time. I love both what they did and the way they went about it. In Sister Irene’s case, it was a chance meeting with Sister Marimil Lobregat in South East Asia in the 1960s. The calmness it exudes is a balm for weary travellers and troubled souls. Sister Irene had been recording her songs in Singapore throughout the previous decade with limited means and no great degree of success. God was not their only love. Together they built a makeshift studio and on a series of Sunday afternoons cocooned themselves from the world at large and went about their extraordinary journeys into sound. The subject matter is secondary to the soulful sound of her uplifting voice. The two were on their way to different missions and only spent a short time together but it was enough to establish a strong bond over a shared devotion to music. In Sister Marimil she found the perfect partner to make real the musical dreams and aspirations that were still very much alive in her. She had upskilled in the intervening decade and was as fond of messing around with the controls of the echo chamber as perusing her prayer …

What’s behind those Ed Sheeran Croke Park rumours?

Speculation is mounting that music’s man of the moment Ed Sheeran will play three concerts in Dublin’s Croke Park in 2018. Concert promoter MCD, which staged Sheeran’s most recent gigs in Ireland, has declined to comment. The rumours spread quickly this morning as a betting company announced it was suspending bets on Sheeran playing at the GAA headquarters next year. A bet of €200 is rather large for this type of novelty betting.” Saoirse Ronan to star in Ed Sheeran ‘Galway Girl’ video Ed Sheeran at 3Arena: This is pop without the chewing gum snaps and rehab receipts Ed Sheeran settles €19m copyright infringement lawsuit The company cited a suspicious bet on Thursday of €200, which backed the singer-songwriter to play three shows at Croke Park next year at odds of 9/2. However, Liam Glynn, a BoyleSports spokesman, was happy to speculate: “It now looks likely that Ed has already been booked for Croke Park in 2018 and after laying a bet of €200 in one of our Dublin City Centre shops on Thursday our traders have had no choice but to suspend the betting … “Me playing the 3Arena isn’t going to be a shit gig by any stretch of the imagination, it’s going to be very good. Following the debacle over a desired five Croke Park shows for Garth Brooks in 2014, the venue is now restricted to staging only three music shows a year. A more reliable source for the rumours might be Sheeran himself. It includes the song Galway Girl, which is set in Ireland. Photograph: Cyril Byrne With his colossal record sales and massive following, Sheeran would have no difficulty selling out three shows at Croke Park. Speaking in February of this year he predicted that last week’s 3 Arena shows were a form of warm-up for a return to Croke Park. Just last week Sheeran sold out two shows at Dublin’s 3Arena with some tickets fetching ten times their face value such was the demand to see him. He attracted rave reviews for a previous show in the venue in July of 2015, when he played in front of an 80,000 crowd. With grandparents from Gorey, Co Wexford, Sheeran had an affinity with this country and spends a lot of his down time in the country. What is less arguable is that the people getting the most publicity out of the Ed Sheeran for …

Gemma Arterton: ‘I wasn’t posh enough for some jobs’

We shall say as little as necessary about the St Trinian’s revival. Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of-Solace (2008) Meanwhile, Arterton was consolidating a formidable reputation on stage. “If it hadn’t worked I’d have found something else to do. People are making an effort. I love to be able to go out and just do a play. It’s not a job for anybody who wants to plan.” Their Finest is released on April 24th. I don’t want to do her a disservice and she’s never been properly depicted,” she says. Or can we? But I am about to play Vita Sackville-West, who is the poshest person there ever was. There are great initiatives out there. The problem for me has been the lack of female screenwriters. I think maybe it is a bit of a myth. It even smelt right.” Yes, I half expected John Mills to pop up in the studio’s water tank. From East London, not that you’d know it. But Arterton dug in. But it has been very slow until recently A lot has changed since those times. She is set to play Vita Sackville-West, writer, garden designer and romantic partner of Virginia Woolf, in a film produced by the Irish company Blinder Films. Figures suggest that the industry, over the past 70 years, has progressed painfully slowly towards gender equality. Many are the actors who fail to capitalise on that supposed big break. I love to take on something really difficult and work at it. “Eileen Atkins wrote the screenplay and she’s not posh either, let me tell you. That’s the life.” Film career While still at drama school, she got a role in a Stephen Poliakoff film for the BBC. Other relationships have sparked and then fizzled. A lot has not. Not that she sees it that way. I can only speak from my personal experience. To most Irish ears, Gemma Arterton, a distinguished graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, stops few glottals and drops few h’s. A marriage to Stefano Catelli ended in 2010 after five years. This is where they shot The Cruel Sea, I imagine. “Oh, I don’t know. “The technicians loved getting all the old equipment out and shooting in the old style. Things fall apart. I know that. I was very touched because she has played Woolf many times and it’s part of her life.” The …

Andrew Scott on the rugby-school comedy ‘Handsome Devil’

Handsome Devil: Blackrock boy meets Blackrock boy – the movie Blackrock boy meets Blackrock boy: Being ‘gay and into sport’ at an elite Dublin rugby school The Stag review: not your average Irish Hangover Small roles in Saving Private Ryan and Nora, and an award-winning turn as Edmund in Karel Reisz’s 1998 production of Long Day’s Journey into Night at The Gate followed. Particularly given the journey we’ve come on in that short space of time. It creates a barrier that will become difficult to break down.” The Bard and the Almeida beckons. Scott, in common with Luke Evans and Zachary Quinto, is one of an alarmingly short list of actors who are, to use what ought to be an archaic term, “out”. My sister is a sports coach. Then there won’t be any conversation.” Handsome Devil is on general release from April 21st I’m really buzzed that this play that was written 400 years ago allows for people to talk about compassion and mental health issues.”  Andrew Scott as Hamlet in Robert Icke’s modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s longest play. It separates us. “I’m confident in Irish film. More than any other play I’ve ever done. With a nod to Dead Poet’s Society, a riled Scott bellows at his charges: You spend your whole life being somebody else,” he roars. “Who’s going to be you?” Teachers should be passionate. “It’s extraordinary. And then I have my chocolate regime. “Yes. Much has been written about the Dublin actor’s turn as Hamlet at London’s Almeida Theatre, almost all of it gushing. “But, as in the film, at school, there was always this rubbish that if you were interested in one thing, you weren’t allowed to be interested in two things or three things. That. It’s reductive and boring and insidious in its effects. That year it did change. Under the tutelage of an inspirational English teacher – played with plenty of vim and vigour by Scott – these guarded youngsters slowly learn to be true to themselves. There are amazing Irish actors and crews. I’m happy that ‘conversational’ keeps coming up in the ones I have read. I’m an actor pursuing interesting work. Not bad for a kid who got into acting as a way to boost his confidence. They have to be interested in the students but not too interested. We’re a shining example for the rest of the world at a …