The Fiona MacCarthy

The Fiona MacCarthy

What pleases and annoys

Instinctive, impulsive, and logical but always passionate and reflective of what I feel here and now.

Individual blogs are in most recent, first sequence and are also grouped in various "categories" which are just to the right & down a bit should you prefer to search that way. Please feel free to add a comment.

Blog restarted June 2018


Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Mon, January 14, 2019 12:51:57
Double bill Movie Sunday found me enjoying 2 excellent movies.
Colette has excellent performances from Keira Knightley in the role of an innocent French country girl blossoming into one of France's greatest female writers as the 19th century ends and the 20th begins. Her skills and talents are encouraged and in turn exploited by her husband played by Dominic West. His sexual antics inside and outside marriage also encourage Colette to explore her own romantic passions along the gender spectrum which blossom as much as her writing career does.
The transformation in Colette is beautiful to observe, the acting top class and the overall movie an 8/10 in my ranking.

Stan & Ollie as played by Steve Coogan and John Reilly was equally enjoyable. Focusing on the latter part of their career when they had reunited in the early 50's and travelled to UK/ Ireland when many thought they had retired. Like Colette, their earlier career had seen them financially exploited and it was sad to see their UK tour start to near empty houses. But with Laurel's clever writing and their combined perfect delivery of scenes and words they were a joy to observe. Their wives a good double act off stage in their banter. My ranking 8/10.

The week before I was enchanted and captivated by "The Favourite" with superb action from a trio of the finest actresses. The script razor shop and blunt, costumes and sets superb and beautiful photography. My favourite this year at 10/10.

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November 17th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 18, 2018 08:52:24

The MacBeth production by National Theatre at Theatre royal was visually impressive in terms of stage set and disappointing to me at least in terms of characters and their various soliloquys where I had hoped to get a better understanding of their descent through increasing cruelty and madness. Witches confusing but do a lot of running and pole climbing (again a play to the visual senses rather than talking. Second half (acts 4,5) better than first half which also suffered from lack of pace other than for a party (visually good). The beheadings are suitably gory if that is your thing and the so called "post-apocalyptic" setting just a 2-worded expression to use charity store modern clothing ignoring any attempt as to how we got there in time but not dialogue. My eyes were pleased but ears and mind disappointed.

Despite that, it was a great night out with excellent company in Newcastle with several late night establishments in and around Grey St.

Allards on the Quay opened on Friday and I enjoyed lunch yesterday in this impressive looking eating-drinking venue. My selected tapas of white anchovies in chilli and a seared scallops with black pudding and mush peas a delight to the palate and exceeded the ordinariness of the ingredients. A lot of money spent on renovating a spacious venue (2 floors and a cant wait for summer back yard area) with chandelier, stacked shrunken skulls, comfy luxurious seating and a price premium to the rest of Fish Quay which complements the whole area and the already distinctive quality of other establishments. A pub and eating crawl along its length is much more challenging than before.

Next weekend am off to don't forget the birds at live theatre

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From November 10th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 11, 2018 07:45:04
A delight to the ears and imagination provided by "Under Milk Wood" at Northern stage last night. A Dylan Thomas play originally for radio this time staged with audience wrapped around, featuring 2 narrators to share the dreams and actions of many welsh villagers all within a day from their pre-dawn dreams.
A clever use of video and a variety of sound effects interacting with the narrators as we enjoyed a feast of language sounds for thoughts and actions from the most innermost feelings. Funny and provocative, considerate and caring, people loving.
Next week: am off to a National theatre version of MacBeth at Theatre Royal.

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From Nov 4th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 04, 2018 13:25:32

Point incredibly well made (to me that is; as wiser heads know better) about the importance of Mental Health to us all by "Clear White Light" at Live Theatre (last night), as it weaved a tale of a single frightening first night-shift for a psychiatric nurse on a ward in an ageing neglected hospital (gothic / nhs angle) interspersed frequently with the music of Lindisfarne and based on a poem by Edgar Poe who might feel neglected by the business of everything else that was part of the show. No harm in that (poe angle, that is) me thinks as it was very well acted and played with clever staging and great relevant music. The "point well made" is that a mental health issue can occur in any one of us, at any time probably triggered by some event outside our control. More understanding and concern required as would happen with a physical injury. A personal co-incidence that my next work contract starting Monday is with Mental Health Concern and show ticket bought well before the work contract appeared.

Next week via "Northern Stage" I am off (non-literally) to the Welsh village of Llareggub for a play "Under Milk wood" that was originally written as a radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and later made into a film starring Richard Burton with Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole. Is described as a contemporary, technological twist on a classic text and the village name as above has been spelt backwards to protect the simple. But you saw through that ruse?.

On the reading scene (mine) "R.U.R." by the Czech writer Karel Capek some 95 years ago is intriguingly relevant to the current day in terms of how we interact with robots, those with AI (artificial intelligence) rather than the more simplistic. For Karel, it must have been some amazing science fiction details but his analysis of the ethical issues arising from more intelligent robots was very prescient. (Imagine your best friend spending a weekend with a sex-robot or Don't!!). Also part of the same book was "the Insect play" where Karel writes with his brother Josef who was himself to die in Belsen later. It is beautifully imaginative story about the interaction of various caterpillars butterflies etc with a tramp. Timeless tale of quality.

Nine great Greek lives by Plutarch (nearly 2000 years ago) is generally long on battles treachery spontaneity of actions with inherent non mentioned "luck" as otherwise some of the nine might not have become so well known. The story of Alexander of Macedon who in his short 33 year life conquered Persia from Turkey across to North West India is delivered with a more human touch than the other 8 in terms of eg his adopting of local customs and how this created opposition from his conservative followers before returning us to the battles and plundering.

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From Oct 28th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 04, 2018 13:24:49

Sex murder violence, glorious singing and fab music. Night at home? Of course not. "Tosca" by Puccini at Theatre Royal was a delight in timelessness of what appeals to the emotions and senses. Singing voices of the various leads was out of this world and proof to humble me that its not just London that can be tops.

Earlier in week also enjoyed "Merry Widow" also by Opera North with great and funny singing-script. That's my Opera for 2018 as Opera North only return in March.

Reading enjoyed this week has been "Irish revolution: 1912-23: Waterford" and gutted (not quite literally) to see that neither my catholic nor protestant ancestors feature. This confirms my atheistic journey as an alternative to their religious anonymity. The book itself was a great analysis of family political and most interestingly for me the struggles of the working people for a decent wage.
"Property" by Valerie Martin was an intriguing portrayal of s slave owning self justification of their property owning rights. Inside the skin of the slave owners (told from the views of the wife of the owner) and repulsed by the attitudes reflected. Cannot reconcile bible handlers-cradlers-huggers with mistreating humans. A worse version of Irish labourers in the other book.

Next week's play is "Clear white light" at what is my favourite Tyneside theatre "Live theatre". Gothic tale in austerity setting with music.

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From Oct 21st

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 04, 2018 13:22:32

Good night out at "3 Musketeers" by Northern Ballet at Theatre Royal. Some beautiful and excellent dancing, fast paced action and romance story, stunningly beautiful costumes and great sets. Orchestra was great too and truly complemented the choreography.
Next week's plan is Puccini's Tosca.

Recent reading has been a biography on the first female cabinet minister of a European (excluding russia) country: Constance Markievicz of Ireland who played a big part in the Easter uprising and in subsequent events. A wonderful colourful dynamic rebel personally and politically.
Also enjoyed was "Ramayana" by Daljit Nagra. a delightful warm story from ancient India and "Secret Scriptures" by Sebastian Barry which is a magical woven tale from ireland over several generations of past lives being remembered: rare for me to find a book that refuses to be put down.

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From Oct 14th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 04, 2018 13:21:31
Laughed quite a bit, smiled a lot but "Vulcan 7" was not "hilarious": that is (for me) when tears of laughter roll. Starring Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer very well supported by Lois Chimimba (thats the cast) waiting for filming to start on set of a movie (hint in name) on edge of an Icelandic volcano. Their "movie parts" are small and they reflect with competitive sometimes dark humour on their respective careers which have not been stellar in comparison with their youthful dreams. Great acting and delivery however the script could have been sharper, more content rich and less in swearing most of which did not add to the performance (some did). Next Saturday for me is "3 Musketeers" at same venue by Northern Ballet.

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From Sept 23rd

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 04, 2018 13:20:40

Four movies and a Play
"American Animals" features a bird and some bird pictures and is wonderful movie on how not to rob some very valuable books about birds and animals. Its based very much on factual idiots (american in this case) delivered in a much better movie than any synopsis might convey of this robber crime genre but might be worth waiting for on the telly some day. The ending allows an opportunity for the actual crooks to open up alternative and insightful views of the roles of the 4 protaginists played by younger men in this most inept intermittently comic actual robbery. 3 stars from 5.

"Lucky" features a wonderful animal called Roosevelt whose liberation antics (he was lucky) are very much an analogy for the challenges in life facing an ageing human star of this movie who is surprisingly called Lucky as has not been for quite some time. Human kindness helps transform the quality of his life. I see many traits of Lucky common to those who might read this. Script, Music, and Camera work are excellent. No other Roosevelts appear. 4.5 stars from 5. PS smokers will enjoy this movie.

"The Rider" is a wonderful movie featuring several horses who are much better looking than the human stars, the main one of whom has to come to term with impact of an accident on his ambitions working with horses. He adapts and all ends..... will not spoil. The script is realistic, camera work excellent, music good. 4 stars from 5.

"Cold wars" is for the linguists (4 european languages at least) or those who okay with subtitles ie can read. Shot in black and white it is very well done looking at love between a Polish couple post WW2. It does not get into the minds of the lovers which is in my opinion a weakness. 3 stars from 5.

The Play this week was "War of the Worlds" at Northern Stage coming soon to a NE regional theatre including Exchange at NS. An excellent cast of 4 with a minimalistic stage deliver a clever north east adaptation of the original WotW. you dont know the story? eeekkksss. 4 stars from 5.

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Great exhibition of the North

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, August 26, 2018 08:28:23
Took two days out this week to enjoy the Design and Art trails of this "Very Good" (my italics) exhibition. Plan to look at the Innovation trail next week.

Its not necessary to follow individual trails and instead to just go to specific venues.

The "App" provides a bit more guidance than the guide book but overall I did not find the information good enough for someone who might by unfamiliar with Newcastle. After 16 years here, the event still offers plenty in revisiting old venues with new exhibits and several new venues too.

The Arts Trail

Starting from Gateshead end and crossing the river back into Newcastle

New Bridge project. (close to metro)
Small in scale, the offer of tea (donation offered but not accepted) was a bonus. The venue is to encourage artists and I hope the centre grows to have a greater diversity of artists. Exhibits of which not many focused on the impact of industrial life and technology upon the lives of people.

workplace Gallery
This venue closed when we visited ie not working although as sign outside

Needle Point or what is really St Marys church
Ignore directions on the App and enter via the car park entrance.
I would normally ignore embroidery but the panels here on display (only till 6th and not the 9th Sepyember) from different parts of the north were really excellent. Why no books for sale on embroidery although books on nearly everything else.

Sage Gateshead
We walked through not stopping for the various Portraits (for adults) and the activities for younger folk.

I do not expect this centre to please me on every level but thee is always somethings to enjoy entertain and inform:

Disappointed that the 10 concrete items, each representing light emitting devices linked with the North, outside have a strict notice about not climbing on them. They look more like fallen chess pieces and are ideal for sitting on.

Level 4 is the most interesting and a diverse eclectic mix of exhibits.

Level 3 "having you on" by Michael Dean is interesting use of rebar (steel bars twisted
to shape) adorned with used packaging and coins. The clue is in the name of the exhibit

Level 2 Suggest visit this first and see the viewing times as the movie is not shown hourly back to back which would be wiser.

Level 1 "our kisses are petals" is pleasant and intelligent use of fabric designed materials.

Food on the quayside
The container thingy on the quayside is a great setting for overpriced and tasty food but its quiet weekdays as most outlets closed coming alive Friday evening and weekends. Will return.

Live Theatre garden
Once you have jumped and selfied on the billy elliot stage, the main art exhibit is in the garden in the corner which might have been sponsored by mi5 due to lack of signage. As rain started to fall, we did not stay to explore.

Side gallery near quayside
Over 3 floors this is a lovely new venue for me with a collection of pictures from times old.

Baltic 39 (off Grey st on "high bridge st")
Deceptively small entrance but opens up on 4th floor to a large variety of displays that gets one talking and thinking. a real gem of a venue and my first time here - will check out in future.

That concluded our participation in the arts trail and only a few venues were not visited

The design trail was enjoyed !!! earlier in week and included

Hancock Museum. I love the diversity of whats on display here. Not really a great amount of "Design" as overlaps with everything else

Northumbrian university- needs more help on design as what i found was very poor. Too many buildings, too few signs.

Biscuit factory: great commercial displays for sale. Nothing practical in progress to observe

Toffee factory commercial-

Design Centre- entrance layout designed by morons. Gave up as was foot exhausted by now and dispirited by guidance.

The App as used request date of birth which is too much information to provide for its use and even entering year of birth involves scanning month by month back in time- may have been designed by a 15 year old orphan.
Misleading entrances as in St Marys / "Needle points". Information not really helpful. Only good point is that its better than the guide book.
Both lack a knowledge understanding and appreciation of what each venue offers.

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Spike and KKK

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, August 26, 2018 07:10:41
Very much enjoyed Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman

The movie is a very simplistic in its portrayal of Ron Stallworth's actual work as a police officer back in 1970 in police penetration of the Colorado branch of the KKK. It is well acted, scripted and a very well filmed. The message is simple the characters non-complex.

The KKK is portrayed as operationally stupid, the police as a mix of racists and good and the Black community as victims of discriminatory and vicious practises. Second class citizens in the "land of the free" and that in the 70's was very close to apartheid South Africa in the 80's for me where I lived. The proximity in time and similarity in attitudes and actions so close. The movie therefore also serves as a useful reminder of the history of the USA which has not treated its own people fairly (and the indigenous less so).

The movie comes topical in the strategy of the KKK to focus less on the hooded cross burners and more on the attitudes towards eg immigration and race where it seeks alignment with larger numbers of people who would not consider themselves aligned with the KKK. Insistence on not referring to the KKK by name was part of that. An end of movie video sequence of the 2017 Charlottesville attack together with the commentary from Trump about same, prods the realisation that racist values have trumped. A movie more for americans at home but not lost internationally.

Truth and Fiction
Artistic license abounds in this movie but the core is true. A black man (Ron S) did join the KKK, obtaining a membership card and doing the talk via phone including with the national leader. As in the movie, a white man represented him at actual meetings. the police team frustrated and disrupted activities by the kkk. More information in this link.

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Sunday 15th July

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Mon, July 16, 2018 07:41:39
Two Movies

Enchanted by "Mary Shelley" starring Elle Fanning and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour (one of Saudi Arabia's very few female directors). I loved the poetic and artistic brilliance of Shelley and Byron but not the way they treated their friends and lovers. I enjoyed the way Mary grows from a innocent teenage girl in love to a mature and confident woman. Douglas Booth as Shelley himeself is very good in the role despite their being so little in him persobally to warm you towards him. The script is very good and its filmed mainly in Dublin.
Five stars from me

Whitney is a dicumentary style movie with family support (cue the view presented) of the incredibly talented Whitney Houston. I found strong parallels with a similarly approached documentary on Amy Winehouse a few years ago. During the week there was some debate in the media about loneliness and the role if any for governemnt in support. She did have a close family around her but so many of them seemed to have been appointed to roles based on being family rather than on skills. Being so close to her workwise would surely have given them an opportunity when her drug taking became increasinly addictive but it all seems to be a roller coaster of joy for the entourage and sotragically sad for the artist who is is making it happen. The relationship with Robyn Crawford is touched on and not in any depth nor does Robyn feature. Hence this documentary may be biased in its views. It is however well done and the music is fab.
fours stars from 5 for me

One Book
"Ice" by Ana Kavan is an addictive fictional read set in world where advancing ice sheets trigger conflict and a bloke pursues a woman through a disintegrating world. It was one of the books that talked to me from the shelves
three stars from me.

I was pleased to read what Theresa May and her people have eventually produced. Disappointingly it has taken nearly 2 years to produce this robust proposal that both severs ties with EU and simultaneoulsy puts in place a plan for future trading. Doing so seems to confuse many critics who have yet to develop their proposals beyond tweets and short articles. Post- EU we will continue to trade and this proposal for negotiation provides a good basis for a future trade relationship whilst recognising independence.

I remain opposed to leaving the EU as it has delivered peace across Europe and if one does not like the music being played at a neighbours party its best to try and change it rather than leave just beacuse of the music. With the rise of nationalism across Europe I fear that a yet agin fragmented Europe will disinterate into squabbling conflicts.

Nail art for the fortnight ahead
Inspired by an online picture I liked the flame-like flickering floral colours

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Pairs? or 2 by 2

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Mon, July 09, 2018 08:20:56
Two Movies
Leave no Trace is one of those movies that is very USA on one level but very serious and touching in terms of the father daughter relationship and how it develops, and not in a soppy way.

Directed by Debra Granik it starts with a father & daughter living in a large wild national park, in a makeshift camp with tarpaulin and flint to ignite a fire. Their interaction with "civilisation" is limited to crossing a symbolic bridge. He suffers from some form of PTSD not explored much as the movie concentrates on their strong relationship throuh events.

Society intervenes and the two are incorporated into the "normal routines" of society before striking out on their own again. It was a delight to watch the development of the daughter into a young woman growing in personal confidence whilst Dad learnt to let go and adapt to his own truamas. Reminding me loosely of "If you love something, let it go. If it comes back: its yours, if not: it never was" Four stars from me (from 5).

The Happy Prince directed by and starring Rupert Everett is a powerful and bleakish movie with occasional sparkles of Wildean wit, looking at the life of Oscar Wilde after his jail sentence when he lived in France and Italy, before his tragic death, too young.

I enjoyed the story and the acting but think that the script could have been sharper with more of those gems that I expect from a tale of Wilde. These when they were delivered, helped liven the mood through the otherwise sad tale. Four stars from me.

Two Books
Jon McGregor's "Reservoir 13" has a creative narrative technique of relating the tale of the inhabitants of an English village following the death of a 13 year old girl, the daughter of a couple visiting one Christmas time. The tale is very well told over years with a sentence or 2 for each of the subplots each featuring a resident running in a random seqeunce continuously prompting a whodunnit thought before plunging into the next sub plot. Sometimes individual sub plots are explored in more depth as relationships between individuals evolve and dissolve. I especially enjoyed theinterlinking of nature, the changing seasons, the birds and animals as the season pass and as do the years. Three stars (from 5)

Progressing well with Nicola Barker's "The Cauliflower" which is magical tale of Hindu spiritualism crossed with eccentricity and a large hint of confident madness.

Two goals
Delighted to see Englands progression in the World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Sweden on Saturday after the earlier in week victory over Columbia in what was also a dragon slaying of penalty-demons from the past.

Disappointed that the last 4 are all from Europe and that the African teams were eliminated in the group stage. Two Central American and 3 Southern Amercan made it through the Group stages with 2 of the latter making it to the last 8. But 10 of the last 16 were from Europe of which 4 now remain.

My maverick delight was met in seeing Japan through the Group before being defeated by Belgium 3-2 in a gutsy determined play. Belgium are still in and due to play France this Tuesday. I anticipate an England France final: what could go wrong?

Have been surprised how much I have enjoyed watching the various games despite tennis as an easy alternative. The games of been good, the goals great, the expressions of players and supporters wonderful and the pathetic amatuer dramatics generally treated as they should be.

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Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sat, June 30, 2018 19:41:15
Having returned from an awesome holiday in China and having retarted the "next contract" search, both mentioned elsewhere on my website it was necessary to take some me time out this week for some entertainment

First movie seen showing locally in Newcastle was an excellent documentary on the tragically short but creatively hectic and wonderful life of Alexander McQueen called by his surname. I loved the way it traced his life from his first job in savile row as an apprenetice to a master tailor from Cork in Ireland before moving on very quickly to more creative and modern fashion focused gurus who seemed to delight in helping him to blossom for the talent he was. The documentary conveys the obsession with building his own own Brand of McQueen whilst leading the creative established of Givenchy et al.

The 2nd movie as part of my self styled double bill was "In the fade" starring Diane Kruger. She is excellent in her role as are the two opposing legal eagles in this murder who done it, courtroom, justice failed, international and German nazi, revenge movie. Some of other acting is averge mediocre and the script varies but Diane's performeance throughout is excellent.

Goldsmiths University established an annual prize in "2013 to celebrate the qualities of creative daring associated with the University and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form." Working there in 2016 I was encouraged by association and introduced to several writers including Mike McCormack, Rachel Cusk and Eimera McBride who were amongst the short list that year and whose books as submitted that year proved most enjoyable to me (also).
A bit late for the 2017 crop of contenders I have just completed "First love" by Gwendoline Riley which is a powerful tale, sharply told and very unpretty or sweet. Have a few other contenders for the 2017 prize for reading this week when not too busy looking for work. Relaxation and simulataneous sharpening of the mind rather important at this stage. I like the idea of a quality prompted suggestion that is a tad differenet to the mainstream.

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Family Cancer

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 26, 2017 06:25:36
Its 2 months now since my youngest sister was told she had a stage 4 brain tumour, non-operable, aggressive called gleoblastoma multiforme. I find even the name of this, one of 130 or so types of tumour chilling. She is not currently suffering ill effects of the daily chemo programme, now 3 weeks old combined with a weekday radiation programme. Another 3 treatment weeks and her body will be allowed to rest for 4 weeks. Mid January will see the chemo start again 3 weeks on one week off. The objective to stop growth and maybe shrink. It will be some time before we now how effective this treatment might be.

Im stunned by the suddeness, the terminal essence of this grim reaper collection dis-service. I seek and attain temporary short term solace in a way I know well. Am confident that my resilience will pull me through this early shock phase before settling in for the medium haul in the new year. I do hope that there is a long haul option of a longer life for a sister I love plenty.

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Seasonal Blues?: No

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 26, 2017 06:12:53
The joyful seasonal exuberance is not infecting me. I happily and confidently risk being called a spoilsport as the commercial festival is into full swing already with a week gone and 4 weeks to go before it even starts. It will then last a week at least. At least 6 weeks? is far too long.

For the 12 months to september the UK economy is the poorest performing of leading economies but like the pathetic drug addict we too are in search of our "fix" to make it all okay. Earnings lag inflation and have done so for some time. But if we all get excited then maybe it will be okay in the morning. No it will not.

Im saddened and disappointed by the con-commercial-fest beings extended to such a long period. Im not a kill-joy, but realistic about how we are allowing ourselves to be suckered into think free oblivion.

These words from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1

"If all the year were playing holidays,

To sport would be as tedious as to work,

But when they seldom come, they wished for come,"

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