Paraudolia Part 2 [Mechanical Blasphemy]

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.58.37 p.m.

A companion to Paraudiolia 1 (a piece composed as part of Bluebottle Collective’s ‘Hibernation Radio’ project), Paraudiolia Part 2 deals with degeneration in a cosmic context – the personal and collective dementia experienced as we flail beyond our capacities. This is a series of works employing musique concrete, anonymised interview and reflexive writing, to reflect on disillusion.

This is an episode of the new Dead Medium new podcast. This will be a best of show, including drama, interviews, sound art, comedy and gonzo ‘journalism’. We’re on itunes now, or you can subscribe to our RSS feed here.

Download: Paraudolia Part 2 [Mechanical Blasphemy]

A Creature of Myth


Where do we turn for love in the modern age? A variety of apps promise instant sex, momentary intimacy, group vouched safety. In this odd little story, one Irish man talks about his disenchantingly modern experience with a creature of myth.

This is the first episode in Dead Medium Productions new podcast. This will be a best of show, including drama, interviews, comedy and gonzo ‘journalism’. We’re on itunes now, or you can subscribe to our RSS feed here.

Download: ‘A Creature of Myth’

Cheap video equipment for sketches and short films


Over the past few months I’ve been working on ideas for sketches and short movies. Radio is great and all, but the audience for radio comedy is limited and for radio drama, practically non-existent. With that in mind, I’ve been developing some scripts and shooting a couple of test shorts – one of which has made it out into the wild. I’m lucky enough to have some extremely talented friends who’ve amassed cameras, lights and sound equipment and aren’t afraid to use them. That said, I always feel nervous using other folks equipment – if it breaks I’ll have to replace it, and feel awful, and I still won’t have my own camera. Plus, you always learn more when using (and having to pick) your own equipment.

After a few months of ferocious poverty, I’ll soon have a trickle of cash coming in from my latest drama series for Newstalk (more to follow on that, mucho excited). Now’s the time to pick up some very basic video recording equipment. Ideally I’m looking for an easy to use setup that has non-awful picture quality, steady shots, usable battery life, and decently long recording time. Since we’ll be recording sketches, it needs to work in ‘low light’ (in other words, inside a normal house, without additional lighting). And since I work in ‘the arts’ I can’t spent too much on the whole dealio. After buying a bunch of crap over the years I’ve figured out two things 1) you really need to try before you buy, or failing that ask people who regularly use the same stuff 2) the ‘best’ equipment is the equipment you can best use, not what can theoretically do the most in perfect conditions in the hands of an expert. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat around on film sets while the DOP fussed with a camera and the light died – complex camera setups make simple things very much harder and longer to make.

I already have a decent sound recorder (the Zoom H6) and mic (Rode NTG2) , which I use for radio work. I also own a cheap DSLR I picked up in the states a couple of years ago – the Canon Rebel T4i (known in Europe as the 650D). Right now I only have the ‘kit lens’ it comes with, which sucks for video, especially in low light. The Canon has a whole bunch of limitations. It doesn’t like to record for more than about ten minutes at a go. The battery dies after maybe 30 minutes of video. It’s slow to focus, even with a good lens. And it’s relatively complicated to use. So here are the options I considered.



1) GoPro Hero 4 Black
+ cheap steady rig available
+ lots of shooting possibilities due to tiny size / simplicity
+ tiny and easily set up
+ up to 2 or 3 hours battery life
+ numerous accessories (e.g.: batteries, mounts, mic inputs, super long 12 hour batteries)
– really expensive, distortion needs to be corrected in software
– video is washed out


2) Better video equipment for the Canon – a better film lens, better memory card, longer lasting batteries, and a cheap ‘steadicam’
+ by far the best video quality
+ cheap batteries and lenses available
+ cheap steady rigs available
– much more complicated use
– slow to focus
– limited shot length before overheating / hitting the camera’s file size limit
– good lenses are expensive


3) A point and shoot camera or camcorder
+ reasonable image quality
+ relatively inexpensive
+ really easy to use
+ reasonable sound in the camera
– point and shoots have very low battery life
– difficult to steady
– looks like video
– difficult to import video for editing


4) A cheap android phone with a good camera
+ cheapish
+ also a phone
– limited memory (32 gig max)
– shooting a lot could wear out the phone
– battery life
– cameras aren’t good until you hit a pretty pricey phone
– phones break, crash, and get grumpy when wet.

After chatting with a bunch of friends, including camera geeks and comedians who regularly shoot sketches and shorts, this is what I’ve decided to pick up.

What to buy

1 * Sony HDR-CX405 camcorder – 215.00
– This tiny camcorder seems to work unusually well in low light, gets a couple of hours video on one battery, it can transfer video via wifi, and has very good depth of focus and good onboard sound. Hopefully it’ll be perfect for simple sketches.

1 * Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens – 134.00
– This ‘nifty fifty’ lens has a really low f.stop, which the camera geeks assure me means it’s great for low light. It’s also got a quiet STM motor, for less jarring and noisy focusing. It’ll help me learn to shoot video better on the DSLR, and perhaps be good enough for making shorts – although issues with staying in focus, and more complex setup means we’ll probably not use it for sketches, at least at first.

2 * replacement T4i batteries – 20.00
– Cheap, if slightly dodgy batteries should greatly extend recording time on the Canon.

1 * 64GB Class 10 SD card – 35.00
– A cheap if slightly low spec memory card. Should be fast enough for video recording on both the Sony camcorder and the Canon camera.

1 * low cost steady cam rig – 100.00
– This ultra cheap steady cam thingamejig is a little bulkier and heavier than I’d like, but it should work with both the camera and camcorder, and let us do handheld shots without too much horrific shakiness.


Thanks to Sean Burke, Seb Dooris, Shane Conneely and Orla McNelis for all the advice.

‘By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it’

Democracy in action at one of the first Exchange meetings.

Democracy in action at one of the first Exchange meetings.

The Dublin Enquirer has a new article about Exchange Dublin today. Alas it takes the standard Irish journalistic route where ‘both sides’ (in this case DCC vs a couple of ex-Exchange volunteers) are presented as representing fixed positions that each have merit. Specifically an ‘assistant city manager’ is quoted as saying, “It became clear that they were not in a position to develop an appropriate governance structure which would allow for a return to the premises… This was made clear at meetings.”

Let that sink in for a second… Imagine the monumental arrogance of insisting that a private institution close because a public body dislikes its organisational structure. It’s like telling a business owner they have to close shop, because no one at the council likes their manager. What made Exchange unique was it’s organisational structure. This wasn’t ad hoc, lax or ineffectual – it was considered, highly developed, unreasonably effective and democratic to an unparalleled extent. Every meeting was open to anyone to not only attend, but to participate all decisions affecting the space. Every event, every publication, every decision was made through the consensus of those most interested in its outcome. Exchange was genuinely democratic – in stark contrast to Dublin City Council, which outside of it’s elected counsellors is a bureaucracy wildly hostile to community initiatives. In fact describing the council itself, representing a pitiful 42% of the electorate as democratic, stretches the word to the point of parody. While it makes sense that appointees of a state bureaucracy would dislike dealing with democratic decisions, would be naturally hostile to having to engage on an equal footing with a rotating cast of actual human beings, the certainty behind this clerk’s dismissal of an institution which had a positive impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people – before being crushed out of existence – is grimly amusing.

The idea that the city should dictate the management of a private institution is the issue. What made Exchange work so well was its democratic management, and what ultimately led to it’s disillusion were the moves forced on it by the council to adopt a more conventional, top down management style. This isn’t a business vs idealism thing. Exchange always paid its rent, and after the first few months, was entirely self funded through events and user contributions. The non-heirarchical organisational style is actually on the rise in progressive multinational businesses like Valve, Semco and Zappos. An unelected bureaucracy couldn’t be expected to have an informed opinion, either on the Exchange in particular, or the efficacy of running institutions democratically. Exchange didn’t need to change it’s management style – the city authorities needed to tolerate diversity. Imagine if rather than blaming problems like youth drug use on the few spaces that provided an alternative to delinquency, they’d encouraged and supported the project!

Ironically – Exchange really did have a number of structural issues. These were a direct result of the city’s insistence on specific points of contact with persons with specific responsibilities. What ultimately killed the space, as much as it’s direct shut down by the city, was the departure on mass of most long term volunteers about a year before it finally closed. A direct response to the concentration of control of the space into a couple of volunteers who served as de facto points of contact. Gradually Exchange drifted away from being democratically run – in exactly the way the city insisted it must, losing much of its good will and inclusiveness along the way. A process which seems to have occurred numerous times in the Dublin arts scene, as once democratic galleries were compelled to become professional bureaucracies.

On a more positive note, I’d like to talk a little about some of the things Exchange did achieve in it’s short life. I’m quoted briefly in the piece, but I thought it was worth posting the complete response I sent to the writer, Louisa McGrath.

“Exchange was a place that had a profound impact on my life. When I left college in 2008, Ireland seems a pretty hopeless place. The boom had served to make rent unpayable to a recent graduate. While there were some jobs available, they seemed to be exclusively in sales and marketing, advertising and clerical tasks – empty uncreative, bureaucratic busywork: What the anthropologist David Graeber calls ‘bullshit jobs’. It seemed that doing something meaningful in Ireland, connecting with people on anything other than a directly exploitative and insincere level was impossible. At the same time, emigration was prohibitively expensive, and as a mature student, I’d aged out of most of the ‘kick them into the sea’ alternatives for dealing with unemployment.

Then the recession hit, and things got better quickly. A group of young NCAD and Trinity Students announced they’d be holding a public meeting to open a community art space. I heard an old friend from college was involved and dropped by in the weeks before the meeting. I started clumsily helping out with renovations. Rather than squatting or occupying a space, the group – Roisin Byrne, Jonah King, Andreas Von Knobloch, Anna Wu and Dylan Haskins – had applied for, and miraculously received, a small grant from the young ensemble scheme. With the money they’d begun renting a space in Temple Bar, with the blessing and moderate oversight of The Project Arts Centre. That space would become ‘Exchange Dublin’, and over early months of experimenting with various models from ‘open space’ to project groups, it became the first ‘consensus run’ art space in the city. This meant that Exchange was entirely governed by the decisions of its users – anyone who went along to weekly meetings could decide what events, activities and renovations would take place.

Exchange served as a beacon of hope in the city. It’s impossible to describe exactly the feeling of the space. Institutions have their own timbre, like pieces of music. We all know what an office feels like, a restaurant, a pub, an art gallery. But the atmosphere was different from all of those. It was open, and non-commercial, relaxed and energising. It attracted tens of thousands of people – from locals to tourists, professional artists to the homeless. Visitors were not passive spectators, they made things, put on events, learnt how to dance, paint, tell stories. After a couple of years, as the recession brought down commercial rents still further, other similar galleries – none quite as open, but all sharing an ethos of community over profit, a belief in the necessity of a real ‘third space’, sprouted up. Some of these spaces were glorified gig venues, others commercial galleries with a community touch – what mattered was that they opened up possibilities in the city. The possibility of ordinary people engaging in the creative arts, the possibility of sitting down and talking without needing to be able to pay something. The possibility of a democratic use of space, in a city that lacks even basic street furniture.

Unfortunately, Exchange was always in conflict. Temple Bar Cultural Trust quickly decided that a space it could neither understand nor completely control was unwanted in Dublin’s largest supermarket. After the Cultural Trust imploded amidst allegations of mismanagement and outright theft, Dublin City Council became our landlords. DCC too, couldn’t quite come to grips with a collectively run space – and over time imposed increasingly strict conditions on Exchange’s continued existence, from documentation which had to be filled in every time furniture was moved (which happened dozens of times a day in a multiuse space), to mandatory volunteer training, to requiring the name of every visitor. A mountain of bureaucracy was piled on, and relations quickly deteriorated. The institutions of the city took a ‘ah here now’ attitude to a place which didn’t need them, but over which they unfortunately had power. This wasn’t an isolated incident, literally dozens of similar spaces have been shut down in the city in the last two years including Mabos, Subground 43, Space 54, Dublin City TV, Supafast, Bluebottle Collective, the Factory, Moxie Studios, the Joinery, and even Semora Spraoi, the longest running democratically run community space in the country. Some of these spaces were forced out by rent increases, others by reductions in public funding, others through over zealous policing. Ultimately, all the closures had the same effect – to make the city less creative, less hospitable, less culturally diverse, and even more rapacious.”

Exchange’s lifetime may have been brief, but it wasn’t without impact. For me, learning to run events, host gallery shows, perform comedy, teach creative writing, and simply be involved in a real creative community, changed my life completely. I wasn’t aware it was possible to live a life surrounded by people who spent their days exploring what it meant to be alive, rather than being fixated on trudging toward retirement in the certainty that nothing better or more interesting than office life is possible. Exchange gave me the confidence to pursue radio production, comedy, writing and film making. It made me understand a little more clearly that things our culture values, are all too often worthless status symbols and vapid entertainment. It made me realise that people are able to incredible things when all the barriers between them – be they money, degrees, or self importance, are for a moment dropped. I was better person in that space, and I keep a little of it with me. I know so many people who do what they do today – whether it be graphic design, fine art, standup, music or dance – because Exchange let them release their potential. Not in a ‘look at how much you can make’ kind of way, but in a ‘look how real life can feel’ way. Spaces come and go, and ruthlessly commercial cities like Dublin will always seek to extinguish any unprofitable distraction, but Exchange was and is proof that even a place as cold as Dublin, and be the warmest city in the world.

Meeting Jesus at the Movies – Culture File

war room

Every few years hollywood is shocked by an utterly predictable success. Some startling maverick producer actually markets a movie to an underserved audience. The flick makes major bank, and a mad scramble begins, as studios line up to cash in. Five years ago it was the grey dollar, as the critically acclaimed Kings Speech dragged in sexagenarians who’d drifted away from the action packed vacuity of the block buster era. Our screens are still filled with it’s predictable follow ups, from Cannes darling Amour to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Five years before that it was kids movies; as a series of franchises, from Harry Potter to Spy Kids proved that tweens had a powerful grip on mammy and daddy’s credit card. Now another, arguably more sinister trend has taken hold, as Hollywood seeks to cash in on a long ignored and even disdained audience. Mel Gibson might be persona non grata, but his 2004 spatterfest The Passion of the Christ nailed a market so lucrative even progressive, secular Hollywood could no longer ignore it. Ever since, the Jeebus movie has edged towards becoming a box office mainstay. Contemporary Christian movies religiously follow a variety of tropes. They exist in a post racial America of prosperous, hard striving, counter-culturally embattled Christian families, whose faith sets them at odds with a world literally in thrall to the devil. Their production tends towards the almost pornographically chintzy, and they’re most often staffed from a self contained stable of avowedly Christian actors.

Most of these movies – like the flurry of wide release Bollywood flicks current aimed at the Indian diaspora – appeal exclusively to their target audience. But breakout hits like this years ‘War Room’ prove that even ‘the lost’ (as evangelicals refer to their secular brethren) are no longer allergic to holy fluff. ‘War Room’ depicts a particularly pentecostal version of Christianity, in which the almighty can be compelled to intervene in ones career and marriage, but only if the lowly penitent rolls up her sleeves and really squeezes out an old prayer. This world view, with it’s sinister implication that misfortune is the deserved result of insufficient faith, ties into the evangelical belief that prayer is a weapon of mass demonic destruction. To a conservative America, still in the grip of a variety of wars on abstract concepts, from terrorism to the gay agenda, the idea holds a powerful appeal. To this view, the social ills of our time are not so much the result of economic inequality, or a history of prejudice, as the active intervention of Satan and his minions. The heavens fight a proxy war on earth, intervening in daily life for good or ill, much like the Gods of the Greek pantheon. With mortals as their emissaries, empowered to perform magic, good and evil battle in our daily lives.

The War Room’s setup exemplifies this narrative. An elderly magical black woman ‘Miss Clara’, played by Karen Abercrombie, helps repair the failing marriage of a wealthy couple, by her ‘war room’, essentially a closet full of prayer paraphernalia. Making her own Christ closet enables the young wife Elizabeth (played by Priscilla Shirer) to battle the demons threatening her marriage. Notable incidents in the film include a mugger fleeing, after a verbal slap down, ‘in the name of jesus’, and a alluring temptress defeated from afar by the power of prayer.

Producers, the Kendrick brothers, have created a slew of ‘educational materials’, to accompany the film. This merch includes a bible study kit, a branded teen prayer journal, the original War Room novel and a ‘battle plan for prayer’ which exhorts the reader to build a magic prayer room of their very own. This rather lucrative package, marketed directly to evangelical churches, along with suggestions to block book tickets, invites comparisons to George Lucas’s galactic scale entrepreneurship.

Fireproof, The highest grossing independent film of 2008, set the kindling to the current round of Christian flicks. The film – which in a deeply Freudian moment begins with a small child asking her mother if she can marry her father, is a romantic fantasy in which an inattentive fireman follows a forty step programme encouraging him to smash his porn riddled computer, and love his cheating wife unconditionally.

Despite their increasing ambition, relatively high budget Jeebus movies are not yet guaranteed success. The formula to reach a wider audience seems to require an Oprah style appeal to the power of positive thinking. ‘Yellow Day’, which opened to minute box office last month, features a glossy combination of animation and live action. The film imagines a kids camp where once a year on the mysterious ‘Yellow Day’ God ‘bestows incredible visions and miracles’ on the faithful, like a narcissistic santa claus. Perhaps the movies failure lies in it’s emphasise on the more feverish, fantastical aspects of evangelicalism.

Last years creepy ‘Heaven is for real’, recounted the story of a four year old boy who has a near death vision of heaven. This trip includes meeting Jesus riding a rainbow coloured stallion, and hanging out with his own miscarried sister. The film based on a purportedly non-fiction new york times best seller, as been labelled ‘heaven tourism’. Its 12 million dollar budget (huge in Christian cinema terms), grossed over 100, 000, 000 world wide. Heaven is for real doubtless owes part of its success to its promotion by media titan, Sony Pictures. Signalling increased investment in the segment by mainstream studios. But also to it’s marketing as a chilling M Night Shyamalan style mystery.

Whats concerning about the rise of such films is not their proselytisation of a belief system, but rather their sanctification of prosperity, their replacement of the vacuity of consumerism, with a kind of sinister conformity – predicated on a just world in which pain proceeds according to a plan. If there is a more malicious machine than the cynical dream factory of hollywood, it’s the the Christian Industrial complex. A hope franchise, with thousands of branches, that ensures capitalist conformity across the economically blighted flyover states. The evangelical block, wilfully courted by post Goldwater Republicans, upheld by Conservative Christian radio, televangelism, Christian publishers, Christian rock, and increasingly Jeebus movies, are selling a very particular kind of celluloid opium. One that appeals to the vulnerable, even as it forestalls any effort to challenge their circumstances.

Download: ‘Jeebus Movies’