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Kilkenny and Galway are now worlds apart

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It’s always amazing how one weekend of games can change so much. This day last week, I had Kilkenny and Galway down as being two pretty similar teams. I’d say most people were the same. Probably Galway a bit further up the pecking order but not by much.

Similar make-up, similar talent level throughout the squad, similar potential. Both Leinster finalists last year and the majority of people would have been expecting a repeat of that final match-up this time around. But now, after last weekend, they exist on two completely different planets. And I have been in both.

One team is stuck now with their heads full of questions with no obvious answers. They are full of what-ifs, uncertainty and doubts. That state of mind will form the basis of the starting point of everything they do this week. They are on the back foot immediately, as if they’re staring at a Leaving Cert paper where they can do five of seven questions – the other two they won’t even attempt. Those will be for later when they have their confidence back.

For the other team, this is a week where every player has grown an inch taller. They will be filled with confidence, they will be glowing. They will be going around with a bounce in their step and that bounce will only get higher as the week goes on and the bodies recover after such a titanic battle.

So why did Galway fall flat on their face and Kilkenny get over the line? Going into the weekend, we all thought Galway would beat Dublin. We knew Kilkenny v Wexford was always going to be a tight one – maybe not extra-time tight but we knew there wouldn’t be much in it.

Let’s start with them. Kilkenny had a lovely mix of something new and fresh, blended with the old values of a Brain Cody Kilkenny team. Firstly, the new. I have never seen a Kilkenny team conceding the puck-out to an opposition and retreating beyond the opposition’s 45. For the first 20 minutes of the game, Mark Fanning kept flicking out the ball to Kevin Foley, the Wexford sweeper, while the Kilkenny forward line all fell back.

Big tactic

Dropping that deep from the opposition has never been a Kilkenny thing. The closest to it at times would have been to retreat maybe about 30 yards from goal and to let someone in the opposition full-back line receive the puck-out before pouncing on him but this was a different level. This was basically giving the ball to Foley and leaving it up to him what to do with it.

It happened at two different stages in the game. It was their big tactic for the first quarter of the game but it didn’t work. Foley’s distribution was good and Wexford pieced together possession pretty well. They ran the ball into good areas and they were able to free up their shooters, especially Lee Chin and Rory O’Connor. At the first water break, Wexford led 0-8 to 0-6.

Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody reacts during their match against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody reacts during their match against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

But by then, Cody was already making moves to put a halt to it. About two minutes before the water break, you could see him summoning Adrian Mullen over towards him on the sideline. The message was clear – Mullen went back out on to the pitch making pushing hand gestures to the rest of the forward line. Push up, lads.

And if they didn’t get the message then, they definitely had it by the time the water break was over. For Fanning’s first puck-out after it, Kilkenny were back to their more familiar setup and Wexford hit their first long puck-out of the day.

Just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea. I liked seeing them try something new, even if it didn’t come off. They were forced to do it again in extra-time during Eoin Murphy’s sin-binning when they were down to 14 men and this time it actually worked pretty well.

Partly this was down to the fact that Wexford were visibly tiring. But also, Kilkenny didn’t just retreat this time, they packed the middle channel as well. Combine that with Wexford’s exhaustion and it shut down all the running alleys that had existed before. It meant that Chin and O’Connor weren’t getting the same quality of ball and the Wexford moves were breaking down a lot earlier. Kilkenny had learned on their feet and showed their versatility.

The other small thing we saw from Cody that he usually doesn’t really bother with was a dummy team. I’ve seen it happen before, maybe for an All-Ireland semi-final replay six days after a drawn game, where the team has to go to the printers early in the week and nobody expects either team to line out as named anyway because everything is done in such a rush. But for the first game of the year? I doubt if Kilkenny have ever named a team and then made three changes to it by throw-in time.

Even the late announcement of the team was very unKilkenny. My phone beeped at 9.31pm on Friday night with a text from the Kilkenny Supporters’ Club, naming the team for a game that was happening less than 24 hours later. Again, it’s not like them – the team was given to the players at training on Thursday night.

Small little changes like that might not amount to very much. Dummy teams are hardly anything new in the game, neither is waiting until late the night before a game to release it to the public. But if Cody is deciding after all this time not to show his hand before he has to, I think that’s an interesting development.

On the pitch, it looks like TJ Reid will spend more time inside than outside, keeping him closer to goal. Maybe there is a changing of the guard also. Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly are no longer there. Cillian Buckley, Joey Holden, Conor Fogarty, Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan are not starting. Has Brian moved to a younger team, favouring the links of Richie Leahy, Tommy Walsh, Alan Murphy and Darragh Corcoran? It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Saying that, there is still plenty of the old Kilkenny on show too. It was never summed up better than by Cody after the match when he said, “The turning point was the sheer refusal of our players to lie down or to stop and to never say the game was gone and to keep fighting and fighting and fighting.” That is the given with Brian and Kilkenny.

You can guarantee that will be there for the next day, as much as you can guarantee Brian will be wearing a black and amber face mask. He is his own man, but he doesn’t flinch one bit in demanding that effort, drive and fire every day you go out.

He does not give you the choice between working really hard and going through the motions. That is not up for debate or question. Of course, Brian always emphasises the importance of the bench and panel, and this was evident on Sunday. He doesn’t hang around either, as we saw with changes at half-time.

All in all, Kilkenny got 1-9 from his subs, which was a huge impact. Walter Walsh was the key man off the bench, not just with 1-1 scored but also his work rate, positioning and turnovers at key times.

As always – although it is never really spoken about – Kilkenny were a well-conditioned team and had the better fitness levels and freshness. A lot of key Wexford guys flagged in extra time and some had to come off, like Chin due to cramp.

All in all, it’s not the same old Kilkenny. The changes might only be small but they’re built on an old template that has worked in the past. I think it sets them up in a really good place.

As for Galway, they were lacklustre and unfocused. They took Dublin for granted and they did not play with the required level of work rate, application and attitude. For that they got burnt alive by a hungrier Dublin team who sized them up and cut them down.

Errors

This had a stench of Galway of old from them; pre-2017 Galway. I hope it is just a blip, because there is no doubt they have the panel and players to win this year’s All-Ireland. But serious questions need to be asked within that group.

It is not acceptable to pick and choose when you prepare properly for a game. I have no problem with mistakes or errors but I have no time for lack of effort. Galway went through the motions – how did they think that was going to get it done?

When Conor Whelan got the goal in the 43rd minute and reduced the margin to a point, the Galway we all thought we knew should have found a way to see out that game. That’s what good teams do: recognise they are below par but still sense with a push of one or two big players, this can be turned around. All it would have taken was a couple of leaders to show the way and others would follow.

But other than Whelan, nobody else came forward. That is a sure sign that complacency had eaten them from the inside out at this stage. Too many players assumed that they would figure it out, or that the game would come to them. There’s a fine line between not panicking and not showing enough urgency to turn things around and when you are complacent, you fall the wrong side of that line.

I have seen this before from Galway. They have it in their locker. But they also have men of substance who need to stand up this week. Daithí Burke, Joe Canning, Gearóid McInerney, Whelan, the Mannions – they’re men of principle and I expect them to get things going this week.

Some harsh words. Eye-to-eye stuff. Players-only meetings, whatever it takes. The job is to get to the bottom of why they were so casual last weekend. They haven’t much time to turn the ship but the good news is that their problem isn’t tactical. Maybe the odd positional or personnel change here and there but really it’s an attitude change they need and you can turn that around in the space of one session.

I expect a reaction from Galway. They have too much about them to go out like this.

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Margot Robbie’s self-confessed ambition has made her the highest paid actress of the year | Culture

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Self-doubt is Margot Robbie’s greatest motivator, and competes with ambition in the Australian actress’s psyche. She couldn’t believe her own eyes when she first saw herself on a giant ad for the Pan Am TV series in New York’s Times Square. “I still have the photo,” she told EL PAÍS a few years ago, somewhat wistful for the days when she was still a nobody. The script of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), the Martin Scorsese film that put her on the map, touted her as “the most beautiful blonde in the world,” but she didn’t believe the hype. “I remember saying to a friend, ‘I haven’t worked in six weeks.’ I’m sure there’s nothing out there for me,” laughed Robbie. But Hollywood didn’t share her skepticism. In July, Variety magazine ranked Robbie as the highest paid actress of the year when her US$12.5 million salary for the upcoming Barbie movie was announced.

Margot Robbie may be this year’s highest paid actress, but 17 men made even more money, led by Tom Cruise who was paid US$100 million for Top Gun: Maverick. Her Barbie love interest, Ryan Gosling, was paid the same as Robbie, even though she has the titular role, more evidence that pay parity in Hollywood is far from being a reality. Robbie ranked ahead of Millie Bobby Brown (US$10 million for the Enola Holmes sequel); Emily Blunt (US$4 million for Oppenheimer); Jamie Lee Curtis (US$3.5 million for Halloween Ends); and Anya Taylor-Joy (US$1.8 million for Furiosa).

Robbie’s misgivings about her career aren’t shared by other industry giants. Martin Scorsese compared her to Carole Lombard for her comedic genius, Joan Crawford for her toughness, and Ida Lupino for her emotional range. He described Robbie as having a surprising audacity, and recalls how she clinched her role in The Wolf of Wall Street by stunning everyone with a tremendous, improvised slap of Leonardo DiCaprio during her audition.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling during the filming of director Greta Gerwig's Barbie in California, June 2022.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling during the filming of director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie in California, June 2022.MEGA (GC Images)

Robbie showed the same boldness when she lobbied director Quentin Tarantino for another role opposite DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (2019). She sent the director a letter telling him how much she admired his films, especially her all-time favorite, True Romance (1993). The letter probably wasn’t necessary, as Tarantino already had the I, Tonya star in mind to play Sharon Tate in his new movie, describing her to EL PAÍS as an actress with a visual dynamism and personal qualities that you don’t see every day.

Robbie has wanted to work in movies ever since her start in Neighbours, the long-running Australian TV series that is coming to an end after 9,000 episodes and 37 years on the air. “Of course I’m ambitious. My career motivates me. I came to the United States with a plan, and I’m always looking ahead,” she told us. Even as a child growing up in Queensland (northeastern Australia), Margot Elise Robbie displayed her business smarts and drama queen chops when she decided to sell all her brother’s old toys from the sidewalk in front of the family home.

She jokes about her childhood, but part of that little girl always comes out in the wide variety of characters she plays. She has had all kinds of roles in little-known films like Suite Française and Z for Zachariah, and also in box-office hits like Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey. She won Oscar nominations for playing driven women in I, Tonya (2018) and Bombshell (2020). “Yes, many of the women I’ve played share my ambition – this is a tough industry. But I’m full of doubt like anyone else. You never know how things will turn out,” she said.

 Margot Robbie and her husband, Tom Ackerley, at Vanity Fair magazine’s Oscars party, March 2018.
Margot Robbie and her husband, Tom Ackerley, at Vanity Fair magazine’s Oscars party, March 2018. Jon Kopaloff (WireImage)

Seeking more control over her films, Robbie founded production company LuckyChap Entertainment in 2014 with her husband, British filmmaker Tom Ackerley, and some friends. She hopes to use LuckyChap as a vehicle for herself and other actresses, as she did with Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan, a black comedy thriller film that won writer/director Emerald Fennell an Oscar for best original screenplay. “Margot is an extraordinary person,” said Fennell. “That’s why she’s doing so well as a producer who is determined to try different things and give women a voice.”

Robbie met British assistant director Tom Ackerley on the set of Suite Française in 2013. They began a romantic relationship the next year and moved in together right after attending their first Golden Globes gala for The Wolf of Wall Street. Married since 2016, the couple and co-workers in LuckyChap have a bright future ahead, judging by all the work that is piling up for Robbie. In addition to Barbie, she will appear in Amsterdam, directed by David O. Russell; as silent film star Clara Bow in Babylon, directed by Damien Chazelle; and has a role in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. As if that wasn’t enough to keep Robbie busy, a remake of Ocean’s Eleven awaits her; she will play opposite Matthew Schoenaerts in the post WWII drama, Ruin; produce a remake of Tank Girl; and play a female Jack Sparrow in another installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. Surely Margot Robbie doesn’t have any more doubts about her career.

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Salem’s last witch regains her honor | Culture

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As statues of slave owners and slave traders continue to fall in the United States, the embers of the bonfires that burned women accused of committing spells and witchcraft are also being extinguished. In the umpteenth revision of history to try to exonerate the victims, the most recent episode concerns the last official Salem witch, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., from the massive 1692 and 1693 trials in the English colony of Massachusetts. Thanks to the initiative of a middle school teacher and her students in Andover, located in the same county as Salem, her spirit can now roam free. The enthusiastic students began the vindication process in 2020 and persuaded Massachusetts state senator Diana DiZoglio (D), who took up the cause and pushed for Johnson’s pardon, which was announced last week.

It has taken 329 years for Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s name to be cleared definitively. She was the last of the Salem witches to be exonerated. While Johnson was spared a death by hanging, she was stigmatized until she died at 77, an uncommonly long life for the time. Historians say that Johnson showed signs of mental instability and was single and childless, all of which were signs of witchcraft during that period. She pled guilty before the court of inquisitors. Almost 30 members of her extended family were also implicated, as if witchcraft were contagious, hereditary, or both. Johnson, her mother, several aunts and her grandfather, a church pastor, were tried as well. According to historian Emerson Baker, the author of a book about the Salem witch trials, her grandfather described Johnson to the judges as a “simplish person at best.” Most likely, the judges would have equated “simplish” with different during that superstitious and pre-scientific period.

The fact that Johnson didn’t have any descendants deprived her of anyone to vindicate her good name, as relatives of the other defendants did. The first attempt to do so happened at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Then, in the 1950s, Massachusetts passed a law exonerating those found guilty, but it failed to gather all the names. A 2001 attempt at justice excluded Johnson because, after her conviction in 1693, she was formally presumed to be dead (executed).

The social hysteria against everything that deviated from the norm, against the minimal exercise of free will, was implacable against women, as Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (the playwright adapted it for the big screen in 1996) and recent variations remind us. The theme lends itself very well to artistic creation, but in real life it amounted to opprobrium for those who suffered it and represented a cause for scorn among puritans.

Illustration of the 1692 trial of two Salem witches. The Granger Collection.
Illustration of the 1692 trial of two Salem witches. The Granger Collection.The Granger Collection / cordon press

Salem was more than a witch trial. According to historians, it was a collective exorcism fueled by a puritanical inquisition based on paranoia and xenophobia, a gratuitous auto de fe that unleashed people’s worst instincts: fear and the human tendency to blame others for one’s own misfortunes. At least 172 people were indicted in the 1692 trial. About 35% confessed their guilt and were spared the gallows; according to sources, around twenty insisted on claiming their innocence and did not escape that fate. The rest of the detainees were acquitted or sentenced to prison. The Salem witch trials represented a collective bogeyman through which one can foresee the later threat of the Ku Klux Klan. It is hard not to wonder what bonfires would have burned today on the pyre of social media and extreme polarization.

The great Salem witch hunt can be re-read through the prism of gender. As the adage goes, se non è vero è ben trovato (Even if it is not true, it is well conceived). Witches, like those in Salem and the woman in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter (made into a film in the 1950s), were demonized for going off the rails. The dominant society’s puritanical stance against any kind of heterodoxy or freestyling, against rebels with or without a cause, led people to be targeted for dressing exotically by puritanical standards or for daring to drink at a tavern, a sacrilege for the morals of the day. It’s not difficult to draw a straight line from the bonnet of a witch on the gallows to the handmaid’s white bonnet in Margaret Atwood’s novel: all were women who were demonized, objectified, and scapegoated for deeper ills.

Beyond gender, other historians emphasize the socioeconomic dimension of the Salem witch trials, which combined a deep-seated inequality with racism, the United States’ original sin since well before the Declaration of Independence. The trials targeted colonial society’s most vulnerable during a period of economic instability that unleashed fierce rivalry among Salem families. According to historian Edward Bever, society was permeated by interpersonal conflict, much of it stemming from competition over resources. People did whatever they could to survive, from physical aggression to threats, curses, and insults. One of the first women accused, Sarah Osborne, was a poor widow who dared to claim her husband’s land for herself, defying the customary laws of nature, which granted the inheritance to sons. The accusation of witchcraft ended Osborne’s claim. Tituba, an indigenous slave, was accused of being a witch because her racial origins differed from the norm. Sarah Good was also poor, but she defended herself against the humiliations of her neighbors, which led her to the gallows; her daughter, Dorothy Dorcas Good, was Salem’s youngest victim: she was arrested at only four years old and spent eight months in prison.

Since then, history has not changed the fact that vulnerable women pay the price for circumstances beyond their control. That the Puritans of the time considered women—the evil heirs of Eve —prone to temptations such as the desire for material possessions or sexual gratification was only an added factor. Poor, homeless, and childless, these women in the shadow of society’s dominant morality were fodder for the gallows. But Elizabeth Johnson Jr. didn’t just manage to save her life; 329 years later she recovered her honor as well.

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Meridian Brothers: A fake salsa band ignites the rebirth of an old New York record label | Culture

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A new album will land on the salsa dance floor by the end of this week; one that fuses rhythms from the 1970s with the technological dystopias of the future. Behind it is Ansonia Records, a label that, after its creation in 1949 among Latino immigrants from New York, would produce several merengue, jibara, bomba, guaracha, mambo, and boogaloo albums, before stopping altogether in 1990. This Friday, after more than 30 years, Ansonia Records will return with a salsa album.

Hermano del futuro, vengo buscando iluminación; brother from the future, I come looking for enlightenment. So says one of the songs from the new album, called Metamorfosis, by the old salsa group Renacimiento. But there is a catch: Renacimiento does not exist. It never did. It is a fake group, and this is a fake cover, explains musician Eblis Álvarez, founder of the Colombian group Meridian Brothers, who had already experimented with various genres, from cumbia to vallenato. A group that practices “tropical cannibalism,” says Álvarez. This year, Meridian Brothers decided to launch a group of salseros straight out of fiction: Renacimiento.

Colombian group Meridian Brothers.
Colombian group Meridian Brothers.Perla Hernández Galicia (Cortesía)

“Renacimiento [rebirth] is the typical name that musicians would give a salsa group in the 1970s,” Álvarez tells EL PAÍS. “For example, in the Nueva Trova movement there was talk of a political rebirth, but at the same time they combined this with a spiritual factor: when one listens to groups like La Columna de Fuego [from Bogota] or Los Jaivas [from Chile], there was a common pattern: everyone was waiting for a rebirth of the soul, and of society.”

Although on stage Renacimiento is made up of five artists — María Valencia, Alejandro Forero, César Quevedo and Mauricio Ramírez, besides Álvarez — when the album was recorded it was the founder who played all the instruments, besides doing the voice of the salsero that accompanies the songs. The album has nine tracks, some similar to the older, slower salsa, and others to the faster, contemporary style. Between the piano, the timbales and the percussion, we find verses with the concerns of the 21st century: love that “communicates by algorithm,” or the threats of atomic bombs that “take us to the cemetery.” Metamorfosis, the single that has already been released, begins with a man who wakes up turned into a robot and longs for a time “when nightclubs really had an atmosphere, not like now, full of cameras, full of drones.”

“I wanted it to sound like salsa from the 1970s,” says Álvarez. “There is no originality, or the originality of this lies in being able to replicate the music as best as possible, but in terms of the material there is nothing original, as it is made with the collective unconscious of Latin America, of Colombia, of Latinos. This is an extrapolation from the 1970s to today, and it speaks of transhumanism, like the matter of highest concern that everything, absolutely everything, is now packed inside the damn cell phone.”

The rebirth includes both the album and the label, as this is the first recording in more than 30 years to be released by Ansonia Records, a company created in 1949 and later forgotten, despite having been one of the first labels founded by a Latin migrant in the United States. Puerto Rican Rafael Pérez, its founder, brought Dominican, Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians from Latin Harlem or the South Bronx, who had not found a home among American record companies, to several studios. He produced his records before the time of the powerful Fania, which made New York salsa famous.

To Liza Richardson, an American radio host who was also a music supervisor on series like Narcos or the movie Y tu mamá también, Ansonia Records is a gem. In the early 1990s, she found an Ansonia album in the station’s archives and, fascinated by the label’s production, became close to the heirs of Pérez. In 2020, she bought the record label with the intention of reactivating it. She, with the help of a small team, has begun to digitize more than 5,000 Ansonia-produced songs; an eighth of them can already be found on streaming platforms like Spotify.

Colombian group Meridian Brothers during a live show in Bogota.
Colombian group Meridian Brothers during a live show in Bogota.Perla Hernández Galicia (Cortesía)

Souraya Al-Alaoui, manager of Ansonia Records, explains that most of the artists chosen by the label were focused on the Latin American diaspora. That was their base; they valued the traditional sounds from islands like Cuba or Puerto Rico, and were not looking to become westernized.

“Johnny Pacheco, founder of La Fania, started with Ansonia Records, and Ansonia was an inspiration for what would later become La Fania,” says Al-Alaoui. “Ansonia was also a pioneer as a label owned by a Latino, an independent label with a founding message: ‘this is from us and for us.’ That’s why it was an inspiration for what came after.”

Over the years, La Fania grew and the seed of Ansonia Records faded away. The label never managed to promote its musicians in concerts like La Fania did, and after the arrival of the digital world, they did not set up a website or try to upload their music to any streaming platforms. Thus, it became a label that was only known by a small group of music lovers, like Liza Richardson and Eblis Álvarez.

“Now, we are hoping to release a new record every year, and we are thrilled to start with this one by Meridian Brothers,” says Richardson. “This is an album that looks to the past but tries to move towards the future, and that is exactly what we are trying to do: look to the past to, at some point, be able to grow again, to thrive.”

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