Archive | April, 2014

Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” at Dublin’s Historic Gate Theater- Dalton Cox

18 Apr

Less than a kilometer from Ireland’s national theater, the Abbey Theater, the landmark Gate Theater building has stood adjacent to Parnell Square for over two decades, and housed a theater company since 1928. In contrast to the Abbey, the Gate Theater traditionally has featured a worldlier repertoire of Irish and non-Irish plays, while the company included at times such iconic actors as Orson Welles, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson.

Currently at the Gate, theatergoers may witness the company’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” featuring renowned Belfast-born actor Marty Rea. Perhaps Wilde’s most well known play, after “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “An Ideal Husband” instills its melodramatic plot, set around political scandal and blackmail, with a sizable dose of Wilde’s characteristic tongue-in-cheek comedy.

The play revolves around the lives of London’s superficial upper crust at the turn of the century- a society that Wilde hyperbolizes as superficially moral. In the play, a Government minister, Robert Chiltern, is blackmailed at a dinner party by a woman who has evidence of an act of political corruption that Chiltern committed early in his career.

Chiltern is adored by his wife who considers him a paragon of honesty and virtue, and her idolatry proves to be psychologically devastating for the couple.

When his wife at last discovers her husband’s imperfection, Chiltern comments: 

“It is when we are wounded by our own hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us- else what else is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive.” 

It is interesting to note that when writing “An Ideal Husband,” Wilde himself was being blackmailed as a result of his homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Douglas had left a love letter from Wilde in a suit that he loaned to Alfred Wood. Wood in turn attempted, though rather unsuccessfully, to blackmail Wilde. This seemingly melodramatic plot device of found letters and blackmail, moves the plot of “An Ideal Husband,” and most likely echoed back to Wilde’s own brush with extortion.

Though Wilde’s works take place almost entirely in Britain, the Gate plays homage to the Irish-born author in its highly stylized version of one of his most iconic plays- a play that asks audiences to reconsider preconceived notions of morality, humanity and mercy.

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Mummies in the Mire- Dalton Cox

18 Apr

Visiting the National Museum of Ireland’s Archeological Exhibition is not quite a visit to Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Though of historical significance, these items played little role in the world history books that we all grew up memorizing. The average twenty-year-old can only boggle at ancient Cypriot Tupperware for so long without running off for Starbucks, however one exhibit manages to be memorable: the primordial people, born 2,000 years before Christ, preserved and posing for camera-ready visitors. 

These “bog mummies” are found in the “Kingship and Sacrifice” exhibition of the museum. Found preserved by the pressure of the dense, acidic Irish peat, both “Clonycavan Man” and “Old Croghan Man” were discovered in 2003. Keeper of antiquities, Eamonn Kelly has worked on the preservation of both and theorizes that the men may have been kings, married to the Earth and sacrificed in times of famine or plague.

According to National Geographic, Clonycavan Man dates back to sometime between 392 and 201 B.C. He was discovered in Clonycavan, Ballivor, County Meath. It was revealed that at the time of his burial, he was using a hair product made with pine tree resin, native to Spain and southwest France; this imported “hair gel” reaffirms his high status. Kelly and his team have found that the body suffered blows to the chest and head before disembowelment.

Similarly “Old Croghan Man” was found near Croghan Hill, north of Daingean, County Offaly. According to a report by Archeology Magazine, he was approximately six and half feet tall, which was exceptionally tall for a man of the time. His diet also included meat, which was an expensive luxury, suggesting he also of noble status. Furthermore, he had finely manicured nails, which would be uncommon of men exposed to regular physical labor.

Trip to Western Ireland

16 Apr

One the weekend of March 7th, we took a wonderful trip up to western Ireland. We all got up early in the morning on Friday and got on the bus to make our way up to Galway. We didn’t arrive in Galway until late that night. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and evening in Galway. Early the next morning, we got up early and it was time to take a boat ride to the largest of the Aran Islands, Ennismore. The boat ride was definitely memorable. I don’t think I have ever been on a rockery boat ride in my life. I have been on many boats in my life and I have never been sea sick in my life but even I wasn’t feeling a bit peaky on the ride over. I just listened to my music and cleared my mind.

Once we arrived, we got into cars and took a quick tour of the island. Including the cemetery of the seven churches. After the tour, we got out of the cars and started to make our way up to the cliff. Once again Ireland’s beautiful scenery never fails to amaze me. It was just incredible looking out over the cliff onto the long open ocean. After some pictures were taken we headed back down and then it was time to get some lunch. After we headed to a shop that sold typical Irish knit sweaters and other hand knit products. They all looked so comfortable. I was very tempted to buy one. When we got back to Galway we went back to the hotel and got some rest before dinner and another enjoyable evening in Galway.

Sunday, we got up early again and we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. This was the part of the tour I had been looking forward to the most. The Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Ireland and one of the most famous cliffs in the world. They have been featured in several movies including the sixth harry potter movie. When we first walked up to the cliffs it was very foggy and had begun to rain which made it hard to see the cliffs. I was very disappointed considering how much I was looking forward to this. Fortunately, as we continued down the cliffs it cleared up so we were able to get some good views of the cliffs. The cliffs have been my favourite part of Ireland so far.

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

16 Apr

St Patrick’s Day weekend was a blast.  Just like in the states, a whole bunch of booze for all.  I had a great time walking around temple bar area at night and seeing the whole city lit up green.  It was a really fun experience.  The best place to be for St. Patrick’s Day is Dublin and I was here, drinking Guinness without a care in the world.  St. Stephen’s green was cool with all the music and street performing doings all sorts of acts and tricks.  I really got a good feel for St. Patricks days and am glad I came to study here in the sprain so I could experience it.  I thought the parade was pretty awful though, maybe I’m just not a parade guy though.  Seen one seen em all.  There just wasn’t anything that unique about it that blew me away, it was just like any other parade I have ever been too.  Too many people and you can’t see a thing.  Overall, the weekend was a success and it was nice to miss school because it!

A Day in Dublin with my Parents

16 Apr

What a fantastic day this was, going to the Guinness Storehouse with my mom and dad that I haven’t seen in nearly four months.  My parents came to Ireland once before nearly thirty years ago after winning a $2000 scratch ticket, but now that I’m here, it was a whole new experience for them.  The storehouse was a neat experience in itself by showing the arduous procedures that went into making each individual barrel by hand and getting the chance too taste and smell a Guinness and the ingredients that go into it.  I also like the overall design of the storehouse, with it being modern, clean, and well organized.  I decided to march my parents up to the top a quick as possible, wanting to get my Guinness, and to see Dublin for that famous tower or Sky Bar which is clearly visible from my apartment window.  I have had a lot of free time here in Ireland, but I wanted to save this experience for them seeing is that they were only here for four days. 

            Later on that day, me and my parents went to the Dublin Zoo.  The Dublin Zoo opened its doors on September 1, 1830 and was founded as a private society by anatomists and physicists and supported by wealthy subscribers.  In 1840, the zoo had 46 mammals and 72 birds donated by London Zoo, the radical decision was to throw its gates open to the public for a penny on Sundays. This gesture, remarkable for that time, established the affectionate relationship that still exists between Dubliners and the ‘ah-Zoo’ in the Phoenix Park.  Now, utterly transformed, Dublin Zoo’s 28 hectares is attracting almost 1 million visitors a year. A good healthy walk into Phoenix Park, and on the right, you’ll find the Dublin Zoo which is full of all kinds of birds, tigers and loins, hippos, seals, and many other assortments of animals from all across the world.  I found the Zoo very amusing and cool, also, I kept having the humorous image in my head of a short Irish fellow trying to sneak away from a jungle with a gorilla to put it into the zoo.  I also wanted to tell the gorillas that they were so, so far away from home. The day also happened to be quite chilly, I could tell much of the animals, none being from Ireland, did not look pleased to be there.   

            The time that I spent in Dublin with my parents is a time that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. 

 

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References

Dublinzoo.ie. 2014. About Us – Dublin Zoo is Ireland’s most popular visitor attraction, and welcomed almost one million visitors last year.. [online] Available at: http://www.dublinzoo.ie/59/About-Us.aspx [Accessed: 16 Apr 2014].

STOREHOUSE, G. 2014. GUINNESS STOREHOUSE® | Dublin Tours | Things to do in Dublin, Ireland. [online] Available at: http://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/GenealogySearchResults.aspx [Accessed: 16 Apr 2014].

The Cliffs of Moher

16 Apr

The cliffs of Moher really were a stunning sight to sea.  Located in county Clare and just south from the Village Doolin and the Burren, lies the cliffs which are approximately 700 feet from the water and stretch south for nearly five miles to Hags head.  According to the museum, The Cliffs of Moher were originally the site of a gigantic river delta and were formed nearly 320 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.  Unlike the Aran Islands, the color of the stone was different, in fact a brown color.  Also, due to the fact that we could actually walk on these cliffs, as opposed to the Aran Islands, we could see layers of sediment showing the millions upon millions of years that it took for time to naturally erode the cliffs into shape.  

When facing the ocean at the cliffs you can plainly see O’Brien’s Tower on the right side. Built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien a descendant of Brian Boru, Kings of Thomond, as an observation point for the hundreds of tourists who even then, visited the Cliffs. The tower stands as a beacon for Cliffs of Moher, though I was a bit disappointed with how clean and restored it looked seeing how it was built in the 1830’s and restored, relatively, not too long ago.  Though I would come to realize that this site is one of the world’s first tourist attractions, Cornelius believed that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and bring people out of poverty. He also built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs.  I found this interesting because, at least as an economic primary, it is commonly taught that a robust tourism economy helps pump additional money into an economy and thus increasing wages, demand for goods, and of course profits. 

My parents told me that they went and saw the cliffs nearly thirty years ago and have never forgotten it.  I too will never forget it, it is probably the one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on the planet, and I am glad that I saw it with my own eyes. 

 

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References

Hughes, N. 2014. O’Briens Tower Cliffs of Moher. [online] Available at: http://www.cliffs-moher.com/tower.php [Accessed: 16 Apr 2014].

The Aran Islands

16 Apr

Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor when we embarked to the Aran Islands, though the experience was still worthwhile.  The Aran Islands, is one of the few places where the Irish language, or Gaeilge, is spoken at all.

Seeing the cliff was a fantastic experience, I have never seen anything like it.  The stone cliff was a dark grey color and the sea as blue as the sky, and where the water met the stones, was a line of marble white foam.  It was great, and the wind which was previously debilitating, made the experience feel epic.  Next to the cliff, or directly behind you when looking at it, was an ancient fort called Dún Dúchathair. Dún in Irish means fort, and the islands are famous for their stone forts. They are thought to date from the late Bronze Age (1100BC) through to the Iron Age (300BC-500AD). These stone structures can be found all along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal in the north to Kerry in the south. Over the past decade a number of these forts including Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór have been excavated as part of ‘The Western Stone Forts Project’. What the function of these forts is unclear, though some suggest as well as being habitation sites they may also have been used for ritual purposes.  I am astounded that people came to the Aran Islands so long ago and that people were living there during the rise of the Roman Empire.

After the cliffs, Donal Casey our tour guide, took us to an ancient grave yard.  This grave yard was very fascinating, the bodies under the graves were literally a foot under the ground do to the fact that the Aran Islands terrain is primarily all rock.  Donal took us up to one of the oldest graves and told us that a Roman soldier is most likely buried here.  I was amazed by this possibility, seeing is that the outreach of the Roman Empire actually stretched to this great distance.  After the grave yard, we went back to town for lunch and to attempt to hear some native Irish speakers.

I only heard the language spoken in one instance, a mother yelling at her son for going too far ahead on his skate board.  It was a rather interesting experience, seeing this instance play out in front of me, it was then that I realized Gaeilge is just like any other language, no matter how uncommon it is.  Before I came to the Aran Islands, I was under the impression that the people living there were secluded and strange people, by being cut off from the English speaking world.  Not only was I wrong, but I am also partly ashamed with my assumptions.  We would later find out that there are news stations that broadcast in Gaeilge, and whole TV shows and movies that are made in Gaeilge.

The Aran Islands was an utterly fantastic trip and one I would certainly do again later in life, but the next time will in better weather.

 

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References

Aranislands.ie. 2014. Cliffs of Aran – Aran Islands Galway Ireland. [online] Available at: http://www.aranislands.ie/inis-mor/features/nature/Cliffs-of-Aran [Accessed: 16 Apr 2014].