Return of the Mac: CD Review

The world rejoiced earlier this year when legendary rock group Fleetwood Mac announced a 2013 world tour. Jayne McCormack takes a trip down nostalgia lane to explain why ‘Rumours’ is still one of the best albums of all time.

Fleetwood Mac's 35th anniversary edition of 'Rumours'
Fleetwood Mac’s 35th anniversary edition of ‘Rumours’

Music lovers everywhere are ecstatic that the band responsible for classics including ‘Little Lies’, ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Tusk’ is hitting the road once more to please millions of Fleetwood fans worldwide.

This year marks the re-release of their greatest album ‘Rumours’ (1978), which has been repackaged for a 35-year anniversary edition (a year too late, strangely) with an additional two discs of previously unreleased material so that hardcore fans can truly appreciate the band’s brilliance.

‘Rumours’ is timeless – it’s an aural delight and one album that every music enthusiast should own. It has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, and was infamously recorded while tensions within the band were reaching boiling point.

Drummer Mick Fleetwood even called Rumours “the most important album we ever made.” It flows so beautifully that each track that compliments another. From the opening rustic guitar in ‘Second Hand News’, to the hopeful, upbeat tune of ‘Don’t Stop’ and the wonderfully romantic ‘Songbird’, there has simply never been another album like this.

‘Dreams’, sung by the sultry Stevie Nicks and surprisingly enough, Fleetwood Mac’s only Number 1, is her attack upon guitarist Lindsay Buckingham after their poisonous relationship and subsequent break-up, to which Buckingham responds with ‘Go Your Own Way’. The two songs are not only fantastically well written but the emotional baggage that accompanies the tracks is so raw that you can actually feel their tumultuous history being captured throughout the album.

Add to the track list ‘The Chain’, probably one of their best-known hits and also the famous Formula One theme tune, and two lesser-known tracks ‘I Don’t Want to Know’ and ‘Silver Springs’, which show off the band’s ability to harmonise that has never been replicated as well by any other band. It’s simply a perfect album from start to finish.

Disc Two includes previously unreleased live tracks, recorded at various shows during the band’s 1977 ‘Rumours’ tour, while the final disc includes ‘More from the Recording Sessions’ – songs that didn’t make it into the 2004 double-disc re-mastered edition. Notable tracks include the unrecognisably slow demo version of ‘The Chain’ and the early recording of ‘Oh, Daddy.’

This repackaged edition of ‘Rumours’ is a must-have for any true Fleetwood fan. It gives listeners a magnificent insight into Fleetwood Mac during the creation of an album that continues to amaze generation after generation, and sits on a musical pedestal that few bands can emulate.

For more info and tour dates visit Fleetwood Mac’s website here.

Concerns amidst council shake-up

The re-organisation of local government will mean that there will be just 11 instead of 26 councils and 120 fewer council seats in Northern Ireland. The first elections with the new format will take place next year.

The planning Bill is at Committee stage but it is hoped that it will be given Royal Assent by September and possibly implemented by April 2014.

There will also be judicial training and a number of pilot schemes in operation to ensure the transformation goes as smoothly as possible. However, councillors have expressed a number of concerns that their powers may be limited.

Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor Cole said: “ We want to influence policy rather than just rubber stamping. I don’t think it is more democratic or it empowers people, I think we are rubber stamping someone else’s decision”

Ms Helena O’Toole, Divisional Planning Manager for Capacity Building and Training addressed the chamber amidst concerns about the major shake-up.

Ms. O’Toole was quick to address the issues and concerns identified by the Mayor, “ You the councilors can make this plan, as long as it is within the regional parameters. You will set out a plan of the vision you see in your councils. It will reflect the locals’ aspirations and your desire.”

Councillor McLaughlin was concerned that, with the new planning policy, there would be little or no accountability for the councillors.

Councillor Alexander described the planning as a “minefield” and insisted, “ the simplification of policies is critical”.

Ms. O’Toole recognized that the process could be long and tedious but that movement behind the scenes would ensure that Councillors do not become bogged down in a web of new policy. She said “We acknowledge that this is an issue and I can assure you a lot of work is being done and many are working on this. It all boils down to documents being processed but we are working on it.”

Ms. O’Toole also pointed out that Planners will be employed in an advisory role, stating, “ You will be employing a planner to advise, they will be university qualified and will have relevant training. They will advise on legislation and attempt to identify a mechanism for training and the procedures you will want to follow.”

Film review: Olympus has fallen

I was excited by the trailer of the movie, Olympus Has Fallen and even more so when I discovered that it was directed by Antoine Fuqua who also directed Training Day. I was further buoyed when I received a text from a friend that read “Olympus Has Fallen is the best movie you will see for years”.

Now, I am not entirely sure what movies my friend believes I have watched in recent years but his claim is a ludicrous one. Undoubtedly, Olympus Has Fallen is a good action show with a solid performance from Gerard Butler but beyond that and the stereotypes there really isn’t that much substance.

Butler plays the role of Mike Banning, the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) bodyguard and close friend. However, it all turns sour when Banning must make a split second decision to save the President’s life which results in the President’s wife plungeing to her death. Banning is a troubled soul but when North Korean terrorists attack the White House, he seizes the opportunity to regain favour.

There is a hint of realism to the plot given that the nuclear threat from North Korea seems to be a legitimate one these days. However, we are asked to suspend our disbelief for a few moments as “Kang” the villain and his forces hatch an elaborate plan to take down the White House and hold the president of the United States hostage. President Obama must surely be re-evaluating security measures in the event of such an attack, as the response time for military aid is poor to say the very least!

Banning single-handedly throws down the gauntlet to the North Koreans and exacts a reign of terror on any man in his path. Guns, knives and martial arts, Banning has the lot and gives a master class on how to save America from nuclear destruction. Fuqua attempts to depict Banning as a cross between John McLane of Die Hard and the battle hardened Jack Bauer of 24. To his credit, Banning cuts that figure pretty well except for the satirical jibes which seem to force the laughs a little too much.

One of the film’s saving graces is the role of Morgan Freeman. When all seems lost in the Pentagon crisis room, Freeman steps up to the plate as acting President. He delivers the much needed soothing voice of reason that allows Banning to carry out his task. Olympus Has Fallen is a fairly enjoyable action movie; it will never be regarded as classic but it certainly is worth a watch. It delivers on thrills, drama and a pretty impressive cast so if that’s what you fancy, then take a visit to the cinema. Check out the trailer.

Thatcher’s ghost will continue to haunt Britain’s EU relations

150346380-1Europe may have been the issue that led to Baroness Thatcher’s political downfall in 1990, but 23 years later, in the wake of her recent death, it appears that she might just yet win in her fight against an United States of Europe.

When news broke of her death, David Cameron was on a European tour to assure leaders that the UK would stay within a reformed EU when it comes referendum time.  

The audacity of Britain negotiating its membership and, worse, subjecting it to a popular referendum, irks EU leaders. They realize British independence and European integration are simply not compatible.  Either power ultimately resides in the peoples of Europe through their national parliaments or in the ministers and bankers.

A more centralised Europe might be more efficient in governance than the current mess but it certainly will not advance the cause of democracy. Even if the commissioners are popularly elected, the EU is too large and diverse to have a common public sphere where ideas can be debated and decisions made between the European peoples.

Unlike the pro-EU reading of history, which blames European wars on nationalism, Thatcher laid the blame on attempts to unite the continent and correctly saw the EU as another artificial empire.

In its pursuit for more control, the modern nation-state is naturally inclined to curb human freedom at every chance it gets, but national governments are still accountable to the public to an extent that the EU could never be.

“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed on a European level,” Thatcher said in her 1988 Bruges speech.

Two years later, in her final speech as Prime Minister, she recognised that “a single currency is … a Federal Europe by the back door.”

While the European Central Bank would be “accountable to no one, least of all to national parliaments.  Because the point of that kind of European Central Bank is no democracy; taking powers away from every single parliament and being able to have a single currency and a monetary policy and an interest rate, which takes all political power away from us.”

Thatcher defined the UK’s relationship first with the European Economic Community, then secured the British rebate and when the EEC was superseded by the EU, she drew the battle lines in the public opinion that has defined the debate of EU membership ever since.

It’s little wonder that when the time comes for the UK to decide on the EU, the British people’s response might very well echo Thatcher’s last speech as Prime Minister of “No. No. No.”

Escorts speak out on Lord Morrow’s bill

Sex sells but if NI peer Lord Morrow has his way, it will be illegal to buy in Northern Ireland.

As part of his bill to stop human trafficking and forced labour, the DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone seeks to criminalise the purchasing of sex – voluntary or not – by making the client the offender. Similar legislation is being considered in the Republic and Scotland as well.

Equating prostitution with slavery and lobbying for its abolition has been the latest cause to be taken up by the politicians and the media alike.

Currently in the UK and the Republic, the selling and purchasing of sex between individuals is legal while kerb-walking, public solicitation, pimping and brothel keeping remain illegal. Many anti-trafficking activists and politicians insist there is no such thing as voluntary prostitution and claim to speak on behalf of those “sexually exploited victims” in calling for the end of their profession.o

These women (and men) who would be most affected by the passing of Morrows’s bill have yet to have their voices heard in the Northern Irish media – until now. As the following shows, they clearly can speak for themselves and also have ideas of their own on how to combat real forced labour.

“I am not trafficked. This is my life choice,” said Davina, an English escort who works in Belfast and Derry and has put her daughter through university as a result. “I’m doing it for the income and because it was something I thought I could do well and the hours would fit in with my life.”

She finds the vilifying and victimising of escorts amusing as those who attack her in the press are often her clients.

“I see a lot of different people. I see the police, barristers and politicians”, she said. “Some of the people who are involved in the legislation and the activist groups come to see girls like us. They’re our clients. It’s widespread.

“It seems to me in a way that women have seized upon it (opposing prostitution) and that the men have to sort of agree with them and be seen doing something about it, because lots of men are coming to see me anyway, who are involved in the movement to criminalise the purchasing of sex.”

As for Morrow’s bill, she believes even the threat of a criminal record will not deter those who already pay a lot less to be with a possibly trafficked victim and will instead just reduce the trade for escorts.  She can still see a bright side to the criminalisation of the purchasing of sex as it could force the work environment to become safer for escorts.

“We wouldn’t be seeing strangers. I think men would refer us through a referral system so that we only see clients that we know or would have been recommended by other girls,” Davina said.

Laura Lee, as she is known, is an online blogger and active sex workers advocate. Originally from the Republic and currently living in Scotland, her work as an independent escort routinely brings her to Belfast.  At the moment, clients can discretely seek out escorts online or through magazine advertisements found in newspaper shops. However if Lord Morrow’s bill becomes law, Laura believes the already secretive industry would be forced underground and worse, would make it harder to reach trafficked and forced victims.

“In the vast majority of cases where there are trafficked victims, the only people who actually see those women are the clients.  So surely to push those clients further away will create further distrust between police and clients; [and] will completely go against the grain of what they are trying to achieve.”

Laura instead recommends police should open and maintain friendly communications with both escorts and clients so that suspected cases of trafficking and forced prostitution can be reported.

As for proposed anti-trafficking legislation in Ireland and Scotland, she said, “It’s got nothing to do with trafficking. This is a moral issue and what it really comes down to is the abolition of prostitution – pure and simple. They don’t want us to work. They don’t want adults to enjoy paid, consensual sex. That’s what is at the heart of it.

“I have met a lot of ladies that work on the ‘touring circuit,’ as we call it. It is a very far cry from the picture they try to paint. Look, nobody denies trafficking does take place, but it is to a low extent.  The vast majority of the sex workers are perfectly normal women who are just paying their bills.

“I really don’t think the media’s portrayal of the stereotypical pimped out, beaten up, drug-addicted, coerced woman is doing anybody any favours.” Laura said.

“The reality is that we know from studies, actually only between five and 20 percent of all sex work takes place on the street.”

“I have worked in everything from five star apartments to what would be reasonably described as a chicken coop,” Laura said. “In 17 years of sex work, I only felt in fear of my life once and that was when I worked for a bank and got caught up in an armed raid.”

Another vocal escort is Rachel, a Romanian who mainly works in the South.

As she lives with another woman for safety, the police could charge her with brothel keeping. The only way to avoid the charge and fine along with having her laptop, money and phone confiscated would be to declare herself “trafficked,” she said.

She said it would be absurd to enforce the criminalisation of prostitution as police wouldn’t have enough resources. If they did, not only would it take complete invasion of an escort’s privacy to determine she sells sex, but it would not stop the real criminals – the traffickers. She also said escorts and clients should be able to report to police suspected cases of trafficking without fear of ill treatment or arrest.

As for escorting, she said, “It should not be the state’s concern to tell me who I can sleep with and if I can charge or not. It is no one’s business what I do with my body, with my life and my choice of work.”

“The escorts will still be here. We will not disappear,” Rachel said. “If our work has to be quiet, we will be quiet, but I still have my regulars and I will make money from them. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to still be here.”

N Ireland debates EU exit but unites to lobby Irish Presidency on CAP reform

EUUN0001As the UK eyes the EU exit door, Northern Ireland is looking to the Irish Presidency of the European Council as an opportunity to lobby on behalf of farmers in upcoming Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) negotiations.

At a Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Committee report meeting Monday, Members of the Assembly (MLAs) debated EU membership while voicing support of having a strong, unified front in CAP reform.

Stephen Moutray, DUP – Upper Bann, expressed his party’s support for an UK exit but was more concerned about the “single biggest issue facing us from Europe.”

“Europe cannot be discussed without immediately thinking of the rural dwellers and particularly rural families who very much depend on their Single Farm Payments especially at this very difficult time when banks are not lending as they once did.”

Moutray said the Dept of Regional Development, having consulted with farmers and become familiarised with CAP, “are at a strong position to fight the corner of our farming community.”

CAP accounts for half of the EU annual budget. Its average annual subsidy per farm is roughly €12,200 (£10,374) – providing almost half of farmers’ income in the EU. Based on hectares of land, small traditional farmers feel discriminated as 80 per cent of subsidies go to a quarter of farmers – those with the largest holdings.

Proposed reforms would subsidise acreage farmed instead of production totals and limit the amount a farm can receive at €300,000. A third of these “direct payments” would be dependent on meeting environmentally-friendly criteria such as permanently leaving pastures unploughed.

Many small farmers believe these regulations will put their families out of business, stressed Joe Byrne, SDLP – West Tyrone.

“The current negotiations on CAP reform are crucial for Northern Ireland agriculture in particular and indeed, the Northern Ireland regional economy,” said Byrne whose party has been pro-Europe for decades.

“We are lucky at this stage that Ireland has started the six months hosting of the Presidency and hopefully the negotiations can go in favour of our interests.”

Byrne said the Single Farm Payment subsidy is crucial for farmers and many are dependent on it – especially those in higher elevations and less productive land. 

“This CAP support needs to be tailored and tweaked in the interests of the Northern Ireland farming community as a whole across the region.”

“Agriculture contributes £378 million directly into our local economy – worth double the UK GDP average for the region. Nearly 47,000 people are employed directly in agriculture,” said Byrne.

“The agri-food sector is central to this economy. It is the biggest contributor to our local economy. The agri-food industry overall totals £4 billion.”

Northern Ireland Rail speeding towards a bright future.

Courtesy of Translink and NIR
Coleraine Bus and Rail Station, courtesy of Translink and NIR

Just as the train line between Londonderry and Coleraine is set to re-open on the 24th March, one week ahead of schedule, Mr Mal McGreevy updated Coleraine Borough Council on Translink’s recent achievements.

The Derry-Coleraine track has been closed for major engineering works since July 2012. Since then Mr McGreevy reported that services between Coleraine and Belfast have increased by 70% with a service running every hour since January 6th when the new timetables were introduced.

He said there has been, “tremendous growth in terms of people who are using the transport” with a 10-15% increase in the amount of people using the rail services. Mr McGreevy said he was “Grateful for the custom”.

On Translink’s website, Catherine Mason, Translink Group Chief Executive issued a statement saying, “We are delighted to be reopening this line in time for the Easter holiday period and hope many people will take the opportunity to travel on this very scenic part of our network.”

Mayor Samuel Cole, who described the train journey along the Derry line as “beautiful”, thanked and congratulated Translink on their achievements and welcomed the re-opening of the Derry-Coleraine line.

Councillor David McClarty said the service had been “totally resurrected… [I am] looking forward to the reopening of the line and everyone should be supporting Translink.”

The current cost of maintaining the service is £25-30 million per year. Mr McGreevy told the council there is the potential to expand the Belfast to Coleraine service. He said one way of doing this would be to possibly increase the amount of cars from the current 3-4 up to 6, which would be capable of carrying more people. The current 3 car trains have the capability to hold 216 passengers. Mr McGreevy rounded off his update by urging the council to encourage people to invest in Translink.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – DVD Review

 

Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman): a freshman in high school with problems, but not the kind of problems usually found in your typical high school drama. It is only when Charlie meets his best friends Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) that his problems finally seem to dissipate.

Unlike other book-to-film adaptations, “Perks” was written, directed and produced by the author, Stephen Chbosky, making it very true to the book. The screenplay is emotive and really brings the characters to life (with the aid of the actors). There are also well placed moments of humour amidst various difficult storylines and character backgrounds.

Chbosky made many attempts to adapt the book into a film but something was stopping him every time. However, only eleven years later he came across the perfect cast and filming began in the summer of 2011. It was then that Steve, as he is informally known, felt the timing was right. This is how the great cast was formed.

Logan gives a believable and genuine performance as Charlie. As do the other members of the cast with their respective characters. Ezra portrays Patrick in a way every fan of the book would be proud of: exuberant, quirky and very funny. Emma plays Sam in a way that you don’t see her as that girl from “Harry Potter”.

The soundtrack is stereotypically of a generation who have just left the ‘80s behind them and are embarking upon the fresher scene of grunge with tracks from Sonic Youth and Galaxie 500 making an appearance; and although they’re not a ‘90s band, we cannot forget about Charlie’s favourite, The Smiths

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is very different from other American teenage dramas because of the characters and their stories. They are written in such a way that you believe they could be real. Their backgrounds are believable and moving, and although there is a simmering love story between Sam and Charlie, it is never over-powering, which is refreshing.

This was a great cinema and home experience. After being a fan of the book and waiting not-so-patiently for the film, I can say it was worth the wait. It is easily my favourite film of all time.

Bates Motel; Review

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Imaginative interpretation inspired by ‘Psycho’

Bates Motel is an imaginative interpretation of the teenage life of Norman Bates and can therefore be regarded as a prequel to the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho.

At the end of Psycho we are only given a glimpse into the destructive relationship that Norman Bates had with his mother. This series definitely satisfies any curiosity one might have of just what that relationship might have looked like.

Cast

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Freddie Highmore gives an authentic performance as a young Norman and soon to be killer. A seemingly normal teenage boy who moves, with his mother, into the iconic house on the hill which overlooks the newly purchased family motel.

Norma Louise Bates is played by Vera Farmiga. If it wasn’t for the fact that we know the fate of Norman, we would be forgiven for thinking that Norma is a sincere mother who wants the best for her son, but there are moments when this volatile relationship shows sinister signs that something quite disturbing is being cultivated.

“Disturbing and uncomfortable”

The on screen chemistry between Freddie and Vera is, at times, electric – and because of the story line, coupled with the fact that we know Norman’s fate – it is also entertainingly disturbing and uncomfortable.

Particularly when a local girl, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), shows an interest in the new guy in town.

The tension conjured up on the porch of the creepy house is chillingly reminiscent of the scene directed by Hitchcock when Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) asks ‘mother’ if Marian Crane (Janet Leigh) can have supper.

Desperate to start a new life for her and Norman, it is obvious from the start that Norma has no intention of letting go of Norman.

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The show is set in the modern age

Norman Bates is a ‘regular’ teenage student equipped with the essentials, including an Iphone.

But it is obvious from the outset that something is a miss given the mysterious absence of detail surrounding his fathers death, the lack of clarity on the fractured relationship between Norma and her other son, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), and an ‘incident’ with the previous owner of the motel.

The show is littered with subtle nuances and inferences to the older Norman Bates that we are familiar with and leaves the viewer in constant and gripping suspense.

Created by Anthony Cipriano and directed by Tucker Gates, this series promises to offer intriguing insight to one of Total Film’s top 100 movie characters of all time.

Translink to increase services to Londonderry

Translink has announced it is to increase rail services on the Londonderry line by 70%.

Mal McGreevy, Translink’s General Manager, made the announcement at the Coleraine Borough Council meeting on Tuesday evening, 19 February.

Services will be increased from 11 to 19 on weekdays, with an additional three services at weekends.

It is hoped the new services will help to attract visitors from across Northern Ireland to Londonderry as it enjoys UK City of Culture status.  For the first time a train from Belfast will arrive in Londonderry before 08:30, improving transport links and potentially boosting visitor numbers in the area.

Mr McGreevy said an increase in passenger numbers, believed to be between 10-15% up on last year was the reason for the decision.

He added, “We no longer have lesser used lines in the province.”

The move coincides with the news that the line between Coleraine and Londonderry is to reopen on the 24th March, after essential maintenance work had been carried out.

Ulster Unionist Councillor David Harding said that people in the area “have missed the line badly.”  He said the increase in services will be an “added attraction to our town.”

Independent Unionist Councillor David McClarty, congratulated Translink on its decision, saying, “I think everybody should be supporting Translink and what they are trying to accomplish.”

Deputy Mayor Maura Hickey said, “The new timetable really does help us economically.”

However in his address to the council Mr McGreevy said that £600 million would be required over the next 25 years just to maintain the current railway networks.  Averaging between £25million and £30million per year.

Mr McGreevy added that Translink were always on the lookout for “opportunities to expand” in Northern Ireland, hinting that “in not many years time” carriages on Londonderry line trains could increase from three to six.

 

For timetable information regarding the Londonderry line, see link below.

http://www.translink.co.uk/Services/NI-Railways/Routes–Timetables/All-Timetables/Northern-Ireland-Railways-Service-3-Inbound/

More information on Coleraine Borough Council can be found here.

http://www.colerainebc.gov.uk/