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Reggie from the Blackrock Road prepares to jump from camera to stage

As a weanling housewife many years ago, I was told that I never need worry about entertaining Cork people: they only want to talk about themselves. The truth of this advice must be part of the success – which might be called roaring if it were not delivered sotto voce – of Patrick FitzPatrick’s alias as Reggie, a personality shortly to jump the ravine from camera to stage, sotto voce and all.

It might not be too great a leap: in one form or another, FitzPatrick has been performing for several years by now, merging his enlarged – and socially exaggerated – agony column Ask Audrey to a broadcast series on Red FM in which Reggie was a minor character among others in his scripts.

“I know people like Reggie,” FitzPatrick says now. “And I really know Cork city well and its various languages. I know that there’s a right and a wrong side of the Rochestown Road, but my characters are universal, the pretensions are the same everywhere.” After a slight pause, he adds that “the GAA plays a big part in the scripts, really.”

As we meet in the city’s Metropole Hotel, it seems too ironic to be plausible that this very template of the urban legend of the Cork woman rushing into the street crying that “my son the engineer is drowning!” should be in fact an engineer.

Writing gags for Brendan O’Connor’s Saturday night TV show was the hardest, and the best, thing I’ve ever done. That was how I learned to land a joke

It’s an irony that FitzPatrick enjoys; the mill of his comedy is always ready for grist. It’s no great surprise, then, that when his original radio commentaries in studio sessions were upended by Covid, he took his phone and his research to the South Mall, still Cork’s legal and business epicentre, bristling with brass plates. Where else for a man commenting from his exclusive fastness on the Blackrock Road who has little to say for Limerick, a city that allows plumbers to play rugby? Or who acknowledges that one of the passions of his otherwise apparently orderly life is a campaign to keep “the Norries” who live on the north side of the river (itself sometimes called the moat) from trespassing on the southern Marina? Or who will ponder the influence of Roy Keane on the Cork accent and equally query why the people of Passage West always want to announce where they come from: “Guilt, I suppose.”

It wasn’t always thus. An engineer, after all. So reared in Kinsale, educated first at Presentation Brothers’ College (Pres to the Cork cognoscenti), a graduate of UCC and then spending 14 years in Dublin, where the mantle of the Cork mafia fell on FitzPatrick’s shoulders through the encouragement of journalist and broadcaster Brendan O’Connor, who introduced him to the potential of journalism. And to a career in jokes.

“My characters are universal, the pretensions are the same everywhere.” Photograph: Miki Barlok
Patrick FitzPatrick as Reggie at the Everyman Theatre. Photograph: Miki Barlok

“He got me going, although it was a bit of the Celtic Tiger madness to make that change from IT. But writing gags for O’Connor’s Saturday night TV show was the hardest, and the best, thing I’ve ever done. That was how I learned to land a joke, and that has really paid off in terms of Reggie.”

Ah, Reggie. Reggie of the whispered aspersions from his multi-million-euro mansion in superb surburbia will be alive and well on the Everyman stage for three weeks in April. Everyman’s artistic director, Sophie Motley, agrees that it’s a long stint for a one-man show. And isn’t meeting your heroes always a risk? Could the transition from screen to stage deflate the impact of a character so successful on Twitter that it has, as they say, “gone viral”?

“No, I think through working with Pat Kiernan it has been condensed into something larger than life,” says Motley. “After all, he has been a performer for years. I think that people will want to come and see this person who had helped so many of us get through the past two years. There’s something intriguing and exciting about that. And it also shows how by being utterly local you can be national and even international at the same time. People all over the world tune in to Reggie – and now he’s being taken on to another sphere.”

Motley’s robust confidence is bolstered not only by the fact of very good early ticket sales but by the pairing of FitzPatrick and Corcadorca’s Kiernan, thus, she believes, surrounding Reggie with the experience, tools, techniques and magic of incredibly talented people. People such as Irene O’Mara, lecturer and voice coach at the MTU Cork School of Music, who must meet the challenge of tone and pace presented by an auditorium to a performer whose style is a confidential undertone.

As surnames are too common, Reggie doesn’t admit to one; neither can he find “any crack at all” in religion or politics. He’s too pious to talk about sex (although there was that Maureen in Kerry), but somehow it seems to be here, so allusively that it’s almost gone before you laugh, as with the woman who does “this amazing thing with her tongue – very open-minded”. Or with the reminder that trust is so important when you’re cheating on your wife.

Facebook is a bit Turner’s Cross for him and, to be honest, he’d rather lick the street of Cappoquin than allow a Norrie into the Royal Cork Yacht Club. For more social complexity, the northside includes Montenotte and Sunday’s Well but those old merchant elites cannot alleviate Reggie’s disdain.

Patrick FitzPatrick as Reggie at the Everyman Theatre. Photograph: Miki Barlok
‘My characters are universal, the pretensions are the same everywhere.’ Photograph: Miki Barlok

The narrative fluency of his obscenities has the casual ease of chat with the lads, although he assures me that he only uses the toned-down versions. “I try to avoid any actual nastiness. Anyway, the Norries always win out. It’s not a derogatory term really and basically they just don’t care what anyone says about them. They get the jobs.”

With friends who share his patois, he is secure in the nicknames and the double or quadruple titles, although Seán Mac Seán Mac O’Shea O’Shea surely arises from his parents’ decision to link him forever to a grandfather’s tradition of Patrick FitzPatrick? No, he says, “It’s a Kerry thing, I just repeated it.”

He is what he hears, but that disguises the more reflective personality who has found a Cork peculiarity to hone a viewpoint echoing in asides. a slanted sentence, a lifted eyebrow, a question. He wonders what the internet offers to posterity, there’s no telling how it will age, and the challenge for him is to make something more substantial.

He’s not straining for anyone’s attention either. The Reggie clips are only two minutes long, there’s no commitment – share it, move on. “And there are no consequences, really. A bit like Boris Johnson, that fake sincerity. The really strange thing is that essentially Reggie is talking to himself.”

‘It’s a very Cork context,’ he admits, ‘but then Cork people are everywhere’

The impression is often of some delicious gossip culled from a life lived close to Cork’s own self-satisfaction. “It’s a very Cork context,” he admits, “but then Cork people are everywhere.” And everywhere is flesh for his scalpel; that localities have their own hilarity was brought into blistering focus with the pandemic restrictions forbidding movement outside the county bounds.

“Kilmallock,” he muses. “Mentioning a place has a great resonance, especially for Irish people. And it’s true, in a way, I’m also aiming for the kind of thing that Dame Edna does, finding the right punchline. Some words sound funnier than others. Kanturk lands better, somehow.”

“It’s not just me coming out with a mike, there’s a flow to it,” says FitzPatrick of the one-man show. Photograph: Miki Barlok
‘It’s not just me coming out with a mike, there’s a flow to it,’ says FitzPatrick of the one-man show. Photograph: Miki Barlok

That hinterland of country towns is harvested for Ask Audrey in the Irish Examiner, for which FitzPatrick also writes parenting advice and television reviews. There have also been books but of these several staples of his career so far, Reggie has been the most profitable, “relatively speaking”. That career so far has led to getting on the stage. “I wanted to do it live, and the theatre’s PR Jean Kearney put me in touch with Everyman and Sophie and from there to Pat Kiernan, a director with a great pedigree.”

In rehearsal at Ballymaloe’s Grain Store, the performance is shaped to have purpose. There has been quite a lot of re-writing and sharpening: “It’s not just me coming out with a mike, there’s a flow to it. As for where it will lead, I don’t know, except that working with people who know what they’re doing is the way to go now. Wherever that may be.’ As always, the conversation ends in a question, reminding me of Reggie’s invitation to his friends to select a Kerry town they might like to see moved to Cork: “But you’d be wasting your time now offering Listowel.”

An Evening with Reggie opens at The Everyman Cork on April 2nd

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Copyright Dispute: DC Comics And ‘Fables’ Author Clash over Ownership, Author Aims for Public Domain

A detail from a 'Fables' cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.

This is a story full of fairy tales. In some ways, it even resembles one. And yet it also proves that, in the real world, things rarely end happily ever after. A few days ago, Bill Willingham, the father of the celebrated Fables comic book series, announced that he was sending his most cherished work to the public domain, that is, to everyone. That’s only fair, since that is also where he got the main characters of his stories, from Snow White to the Wolf, from Pinocchio to Prince Charming, who were then relocated to modern New York. In this tale, the hero has long-faced mistreatment at the hands of the villains, DC Comics, the owner of Vertigo, which publishes the work in the United States, and its executives.

“If I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, at least this is a way I can arrange that it also falls into many good hands,” Willingham wrote in an online post in which he decried the label’s repeated attempts to take over his creations and opposed them with this final extreme remedy. But the company responded that it considers itself to be the true owner of the series.

In a statement published by the specialized media IGN, the company threatened to take “necessary action” to defend its rights. Thus, the end of the dispute is uncertain. But it is unlikely that everyone will end up happily ever after.

In the meantime, in a new post, Willingham celebrated the massive support he received. In fact, for the moment, he has declined all interview requests — he did not respond to this newspaper’s request, nor did the publisher — arguing that he preferred to spend the next few days working on new artistic projects. Meanwhile, the dispute continues.

Fables is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of the last 20 years, and it has spawned spin-offs and a video game adaptation (The Wolf Among Us).

This situation also touches on a key issue, namely, the intellectual property rights of characters and works, especially in a sector where, for decades, dozens of cartoonists and screenwriters have accused comic book giants Marvel and DC of pressuring them to cede their ideas and accept commissioned contracts.

Willingham sums it up as a policy aimed to make creators sign “work for hire” agreements and crush them. All of this makes a gesture that was already intended to make a splash even more resonant.

A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC.

Indeed, the battle over intellectual property is as old as contemporary comics: the copyrights for Superman, Batman and The Fantastic Four all have unresolved disputes and complaints from Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger and Jack Kirby over the contemptuous treatment they suffered. And heavyweight Alan Moore has been lamenting for years that DC took away his ownership of famous works like Watchmen.

Along with prestige and principles, tens of millions of dollars are at stake, especially now that the film industry has become interested in comics.

“When you sign a contract with DC, your responsibilities to them are carved in stone, where their responsibilities to you are treated as “helpful suggestions that we’ll try to accommodate when we can, but we’re serious adults, doing serious business and we can’t always take the time to indulge the needs of these children who work for us” the Fables author wrote on his blog. Following the impact of his original message, Willingham posted two other texts. He maintains that he had thought about sending his work into the public domain when he passed away, but that “certain events” have changed his plans: among them, he lists the changes in management and attitude at the top of the publishing company; the multiple breaches of obligations such as consultations about covers, artists for new plots and adaptations; DC’s forgetfulness when it came to pay, which forced him to demand invoices of up to $30,000; the suspicious frequency with which the publisher attributed it to “slipping through the cracks” (to such an extent that the author insisted that they stop using that expression); and the time and chances he gave them to respect the pact, renegotiate it or even break it and consensually separate.

A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham's comprehensive collection of 'Fables.'
A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham’s comprehensive collection of ‘Fables’.

“Shortly after creating Fables, I entered into a publishing agreement with DC Comics. In that agreement, while I continued to own the property, DC would have exclusive rights to publish Fables comics, and then later that agreement was expanded to give DC exclusive rights to exploit the property in other ways, including movies and TV.

DC paid me a fair price for these rights (fair at the time), and as long as they behaved ethically and above-board, and conducted themselves as if this were a partnership, all was more or less well. But DC doesn’t seem to be capable of acting fairly and above-board.

In fact, they treated this agreement (as I suppose I should have known they would) as if they were the boss and I, their servant. In time that got worse, as they later reinterpreted our contracts to assume they owned Fables outright,” Willingham laments. Hence, he concluded that “you can’t reason with the unreasonable.”

Having ruled out a lawsuit as too expensive and time-consuming at 67 years of age, he found a more creative solution: if they prevented him from owning his works and benefiting from them as he was entitled to do, he would not let the publisher do so either. Or, at least, everyone could use the comics as they wished. But the label was quick to clarify in its statement to IGN: “The Fables comic books and graphic novels [are] published by DC, and are not in the public domain”.

For his part, Willingham promises to continue fighting for all the conditions of his still-in-force contract that he considers DC to have violated, as well as for the last installments of the series, the final script of which he delivered two years ago.

There will be additional chapters in this dispute, as well as in many other ones like it: in 2024, the historic first image of Mickey Mouse, the one that starred in the 1928 short Steamboat Willie, enters the public domain in the U.S. and other countries. Copyright in the U.S. lasts for 95 years, and math is an exact science.

Therefore, in a few years, King Kong, Superman and Popeye will meet the same fate. But The New York Times has wondered how the “notoriously litigious” Disney will react and how far it will go to fight in court. And who would dare to freely use all these works for fear of a million-dollar lawsuit? The same question surrounds DC and similar companies. Because in the real world, fairy tales are rare. Or they end up in court.

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Assessing The Potential of The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Against China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI)

(THE VOICE OF EU) – In a recent address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the newly unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a transformative force poised to shape global trade for centuries. While the IMEC undoubtedly presents a significant development, it’s vital to scrutinize its potential impact compared to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The IMEC was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Delhi. Designed to fortify transportation and communication networks between Europe and Asia via rail and shipping routes, the project not only holds regional promise but also reflects a strategic move by the US in its geopolitical interests, particularly concerning China.

However, the IMEC faces a formidable contender in the form of China’s BRI, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.

Despite facing some headwinds, including a slowdown in lending due to China’s economic deceleration and concerns raised by nations like Italy, Sri Lanka, and Zambia regarding debt sustainability, the BRI remains a monumental global undertaking.

With investments surpassing a staggering $1 trillion and over 150 partner countries, the BRI has transformed from a regional initiative to a near-global endeavor.

Comparatively, the IMEC may not immediately match the scale or ambition of the BRI. While the US, Japan, and the G7 nations have introduced similar initiatives like the Global Gateway and Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, none have achieved the expansive reach or influence of the BRI.

The emergence of these projects over the past five years, however, demonstrates the BRI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for global economic growth.

Viewing the IMEC solely through the lens of opposition to the BRI may not provide a comprehensive understanding of its potential.

Instead, the IMEC contributes to a broader trend of transactional partnerships, where countries engage with multiple collaborators simultaneously, underscoring the complex and interconnected nature of global trade relations.

Yet, realizing the IMEC’s aspirations demands meticulous planning and execution. A comprehensive action plan is expected within the next 60 days, outlining key governmental agencies responsible for investments, allocated capital, and implementation timelines.

Establishing a streamlined customs and trade infrastructure is equally critical to facilitate seamless transit, a challenge highlighted by the Trans-Eurasian railway’s 30-country passage through Kazakhstan.

Navigating geopolitical complexities between partner countries, particularly the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, poses another potential hurdle.

Ensuring these nations maintain a unified strategic vision amid differing priorities and interests requires careful diplomatic coordination.

Furthermore, the IMEC will compete directly with the Suez Canal, a well-established and cost-effective maritime route.

While the IMEC may enhance relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it could potentially strain ties with Egypt, prompting critical assessments of the project’s economic viability.

Beyond trade and economics, the IMEC ambitiously aims to incorporate diverse sectors, from electricity grids to cybersecurity.

This multi-dimensional approach aligns with discussions held in security forums like the Quad and, if realized, could significantly contribute to a safer, more sustainable global landscape.

As we contemplate the potential of the IMEC, it is with hope that the lofty ambitions outlined in New Delhi will culminate in a tangible and positive transformation for the world.

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Do water features like a pool, pond or fountains add value to a home?

He may be used to making a splash in politics. But now it seems that Boris Johnson will be able to do that closer to home, too.

This week, it was revealed that the former prime minister has been given permission to build a swimming pool in the garden of his £3.78 million Oxfordshire country home. 

A move which will doubtless provide a restful place to unwind, exercise and relax as he navigates post-political life.

Deep pockets: A country home with outdoor swimming pool

Deep pockets: A country home with outdoor swimming pool 

But even if you don’t have deep pockets for such deep-water projects, it’s still possible to create the tranquil benefits of waterside living. 

Whether it’s through installing a hot tub, pond, or even decorative fountains. 

But, as our experts point out, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before splashing out…

Frequent attention

Introducing any kind of water feature to your garden requires some upkeep.

During the spring and summer, you’ll need to top up your water feature regularly to replenish water loss caused by evaporation. 

And there’s also the task of removing branches and leaves as well as pruning bushes nearby.

‘It’s also a good idea to give your water feature a thorough clean and add a wildlife-friendly algaecide or UV steriliser after cleaning,’ says Will Haxby, home and garden sales director at Haddonstone, which specialises in stonework ‘as this will prevent algae growth build-up caused by the warm conditions.’ 

When the temperatures drop, drain off water before the winter to protect your feature from frost. 

You’ll also need to clean the pump to remove any limescale build-up.

Will it add value?

Installing features like fountains can add to the kerb appeal of your home, says Tabitha Cumming, a property expert at The Lease Extension Company, says: ‘This means that it will make a better first impression and potentially add value to your home.’

Amer Siddiq, founder and CEO at Landlord Vision, believes that water features such as fountains can have other benefits, too.

‘They can help mask unwanted noises from roads or neighbours. They can also attract birds and wildlife, adding a touch of nature to your surroundings.’

Andrew Landers, director at Property Rescue, a home-buying service, says: ‘The post-covid world has seen the importance of outside space massively increase, and any enhancements that make this space more enjoyable is going to have a positive impact on the value of a home.’

Hidden costs

Factor additional costs into your budget, too, since water features rarely boil down to a single, one-off payment.

‘For example if any of your water features have fish, these can incur additional costs from the food and care that they will require, and you will also need to be vigilant to keep them safe from predators,’ says Cumming. 

Some features can cause structural issues, too. 

‘Fountains may become damaged through wear and tear or have cracks caused by water freezing over,’ she adds.

Beware risks

In summer, having a water feature will make you a magnet for friends and family who want to pop around and cool down. 

All of which, says Anna Giles, an associate at law firm Wedlake Bell, could increase scope for accidents

‘Homeowners should bear in mind that they could be subject to a claim for compensation if someone injures themselves at their property, so reasonable care needs to be taken to ensure that visitors and/or occupiers of the property will be safe.’

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