Monday, May 29, 2017


General election September 1927
to cartoon in NLI collection.
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Sporting analogies have long been used to describe various aspects of life outside the realm of sport itself. They are a godsend to the cartoonist and allow what might otherwise be wise but dull observations to be made in a dramatic and impactful way.

Certainly Gordon Brewster made great use of them and there are nearly forty "sporty" cartoons in the almost five hundred of his cartoons in the National Library collection.

And Gordon was no armchair sports cartoonist. His daughter, Dolores, told me at one stage that
He was no mean athlete. He swam in the island race (Ireland’s eye) and also played water polo. I have the gold medal he won with the Clonliffe Harriers. 

Boxing is probably one of the best sports analogies for depicting conflict whether between individuals or between the individual and hostile forces ranged against him.

This one shows President Hoover, using public works to combat pessimism engendered by a Stock Exchange wobble (or as Brewster puts it "jazz finance on Wall St.") in 1927. However, they didn't know what was coming then and the subsequent crash in 1929 had long lasting devastating consequences.

By the end of 1930 it was clear that Uncle Sam was on the floor.
Caption: "A characteristic of the slump of 1930 in America is that all parts of the country, and all classes are suffering, and not merely sections, which has been the case in some previous depressions".

The area of labour relations was one where Brewster's view had mellowed over the decades from the confrontational to the conciliatory. Clearly he is making an exception here, in 1928, in the case of the moderate militants in the shadow of the bitter 1926 General Strike.
Caption: The General Council of Trade Unions Congress held a special meeting in London to consider the position. The moderates drew first blood. They defeated by 15 votes to 6 a motion by Mr. Hicks to terminate the peace in industry discussions with the Mond group of employers".

By June 1930 some action was called for to clean up boxing itself.
Caption: Owing to the alarming number of decisions on fouls in boxing championships, our artist suggests half-suits of armour for future contests.

Already by 1928 football referees were having serious problems on the field of play and imaginative innovation, however impractical, was also the order of the day.
Caption: "During last weekend there were on three different football grounds and at games played under two different codes, Gaelic and association, disgraceful scenes the referee in each case being violently assaulted because his decision did not satisfy the supporters of one or the other of the teams".

This one from late 1929 suggests that matters had not much improved in the intervening year and a half.

Perhaps the absence of a street ref in 1926, and earlier, might have contributed to the problems on the senior field of play.

I can't look at this cartoon without thinking of Johnny Giles, who, if I remember, started into football in precisely this way on Dublin's northside.

And then there was rugby and the big one in those days was winning the triple crown. The teams playing were England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and any team beating the other three won the triple crown.

There are three Triple Crown cartoons in the collection.This one is 1926 and at this point (7 March) we had beaten England, but had been beaten by Scotland and were to go on to lose to Wales. So we were already out of the running.

This one is 1930 and at that point (1 March) we had beaten England, but had been beaten by Scotland and were to go on to lose to Wales. So we were already out of the running.

This one is 1931 and at that point (7 March) we had already beaten Scotland and were to go on to beat Wales. But we had already been beaten by England and were not in the running at this stage.

Just looking at the cartoons alone you would think all we had to do in those three years (1926, 1930 and 1931) was to beat Wales and we were home and dry. But in all three cases we were already a goner.

So knowing the score when the cartoons appeared what do they tell us? In each case there was the Welsh match still to play, and perhaps that is the only concern of the cartoons. We went on to beat Wales in 1931 and lost to them in the other two years.

As it turned out there was no winner of the Triple Crown in any of the three years. Ireland had not won since 1899 and was not to win again until 1948.

That's enough guff for the rugby afficionados. This one is rugby in the service of politics.
Catption: So strong was the opposition in the Dáil to the Civil Service Regulations (Amendment) Bill that the Government could only obtain a majority of five for the second reading in a division list of 67.

The underlying issue was an interesting one. The Government had discovered that the existing primary legislation - Section 4.2 effectively prohibited recruitment to the Civil Service on a gender basis. The only discrimination allowed was based on age, health, character and whether the appropriate examination fee had been paid.

But the Government didn't want male clerk typists and it didn't want female customs officers. So the word "sex" had to be added to the primary legislation to allow the regulations to discriminate on this basis.

I am including a sprinkling of other sports which figure in Brewster's cartoons below:

Butterfly hunting (August 1929).

I have another example included in my post on Brewster and the Flu.

Bullfighting (July 1931).
Caption: "Not a single Communist has won a seat in the new Spanish Parliament".

Mountaineering (April 1927)
Caption: "In regard to the abolition of redundant departments the Free State Government might take a lesson from the British Government"

Grouse Shooting (January 1930)
Caption: "The various Governments put their names to pacts of peace, but seem to hesitate about honouring their signatures. While the prospects of complete agreement on all points at the London Disarmament Conference are not very rosy, one need not be in a hurry to predict absolute failure".

The remaining sporty cartoons cover a raft of areas, such as: wrestling, fishing, balooning, cricket, greyhound racing, sailing, kite-flying, tennis, ten pin bowling, punting, sailing, and flying.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Where is it ? No. 51

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Answers in a comment below please.

To see all the quiz items click on the "Where?" tag below.

To see all the unsolved quiz items click on the "unsolved" tag below.

Friday, May 26, 2017


36 Fenian Street
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I saw a notice somewhere about a session entitled "Untranslatable". Now that's a red rag to a bull and I signed up straight away, entered it in my diary and printed out the ticket. And then put it out of my mind.

When it came up on my calendar, I couldn't remember any of the details, if I'd ever read them. But I knew it was something I had at some stage thought I should go to.

Well, I turned up and it was not long before I came to the conclusion that either I was just out of my depth here or maybe I had stepped into a wormhole and come out the other end on the margins of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland".

But I'm getting ahead of myself. A very nice lady welcomed us and ran through the housekeeping routine. If the place went up in smoke, the first option was out the front door. If that didn't prove possible we head towards the roof and enter the adjacent building through a secret passage. There was no suggestion that I should at any stage jump out the open window behind me.

James Hadley

Our MC was James Hadley who is currently working on the question of indirect translation. Anyone who has attended EU meetings will know what this means: the translator is translating from another translator rather than from the original speaker/writer. James's function today was to introduce us to the three speakers, one of whom had yet to arrive.

Olivier Salon kicked off, bringing us through some of his extremely challenging poems and the game of cat and mouse he was playing with one of his translators, Chris Clarke.

Olivier's poetry belongs to the Oulipo genre. I should have said that the subtitle of the session was "Constraints in Literary Translation".

Now I thought I knew what this might mean: syntax that didn't directly translate from one language to another or varying ranges of ambiguity between languages. I had come across this in my own translation work. But no. Nothing that simple. This stuff was like translating rubix's cube in motion.

Olivier, who writes in French was purposely setting traps and obstacles for his translator, Chris Clarke. Real bespoke stuff. And this was all within the standard mind-blowing constraints of the Oulipo movement. Check it out in the link above.

Jürgen Ritte

My head was beginning to vibrate by the time we came to the second speaker,
Jürgen Ritte. He took us through some translators' dilemmas. Whether to prioritise content or form in translating. He went through some computer generated stuff which involved breaking down the original into its constituent letters and mucking about with them.

He invoked Marcel Proust, which I gather is a bit like having a go at James Joyce's Ulysses, and, although it looked very interesting, I ended up little the wiser.

Ian Monk

Finally, Ian Monk, took us through some of his encounters with his publishers who seemed to be very clued up in this area.

I really came away thinking that there is a whole alternative universe out there about which I know nothing but on which I should gen up a bit in case St. Peter turns out to be a fully paid up member of Oulipo.

The room was packed, as it had been for the earlier morning sessions.

The whole thing, which is a two day event on "Talking Translation" was organised by Literature Ireland (Trinity Centre for Literary Translation), along with the German and French embassies, the Goethe Institute, and the Franco-German Fund.

I wouldn't like what I said above to be taken in any way as a criticism of the organisers. When I got home I read the programme in detail in the course of preparing this post. This is the description of the session from that programme.
This session will discuss the concept of "untranslatability" and constraints in literary translation - and, in particular, the translation of constrained writing. What happens in translation when the original text has been "restricted" through the use of constrained writing techniques? And what do you do when the original has been written to be purposely untranslatable? These questions and broader issues of language potentialities will be explored by a panel of translation and constrained writing experts, with a special focus on Oulipo, the experimental French literary movement.
It is quite clear then that the organisers gave us exactly what it said on the tin. Had I read all that in advance I would probably not have gone and would have ended up the poorer. Incidentally I also got a chance to look at the premises, the refurbished protected structure, Georgian house, which is 36 Fenian Street.

One thing that did strike me in retrospect was that the few interventions I made from the floor were off the wall in this particular context. People appear to have been very polite in the event, however.

Anyway, just in case all the above has blown your mind, I'll leave you with something simpler.

This is one of the pieces from the long lost d'Antin Manuscript. It should be read aloud by a real French person in the presence of a gaggle of monoglot anglophones. The last one to smile is a dunce.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


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Various establishment entities are lining up their ducks for the big day. The Jersey Child Abuse Inquiry is due to report on 3 July 2017. It is expected that the report will attract a lot of attention from the UK and international press and these will be sniffing around for stories.

The BBC are "cleaning up their act" by taking offline various of their exposés and reports on what had been going on in Jersey since the Liberation (from Nazi occupation) after WWII.

The Inquiry itself has put vast amounts of witness testimony online. This was redacted before posting in order to protect both the (alleged) guilty as well as the innocent. Some of the redaction was so incompetent that the texts would have been better left alone. But to cap it all, the Inquiry has been quietly carrying out further redactions which have only compounded the incompetence.

In one case, for example, the sacked Chief of Police's evidence was redacted to protect the identity of a Jersey notable who was alleged to have raped a number of adult women. I pointed out in a blog post that the person in question (given the number 737 by the Inquiry) was easily identifiable to anyone with half a knowledge of the Jersey scene, but I did not name him.

The Inquiry quietly returned to the posted text and added further redactions which actually only identified the man definitively.

When I discovered this recently I updated my earlier blog post and wondered what to do next.

My substantive comment to the JEP
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I eventually decided to draw attention to this in a comment to Jersey's only newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post (JEP aka The Rag). I did this in preference to commenting on a Jersey blog which would only leave the blogger open to retribution by the Jersey authorities.

The next thing was to find an appropriate news item under which to plonk the comment. The most recent such item appeared to be the Bailiff's Liberation Day speech. In his speech the Bailiff was trying to sanitise the term "The Jersey Way", a shorthand moniker for the many interrelated layers of corruption on the island.

Now, readers of this blog will be familiar with my earlier encounter with The Rag's editor where a comment of mine, made in good faith, was parked in moderation and then deleted. ( here and here ) So I did not hold out great hopes of getting this comment through.

The comment referred to the Bailiff's speech, to people tidying up their online material in anticipation of renewed scrutiny on 3 July, and it gave a link to my blog update.

My second comment identifying myself
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When I realised I had posted it under my Irlpol account, I added another comment under my subsequent Pól Ó Duibhir account to say the earlier comment was mine. I had opened the latter account in the course of my earlier arguments with the editor and as a challenge to an anonymous and malicious troll to do likewise.

Well, the Irlpol ID was clearly on "moderator watch" and went straight into moderation to be carefully scrutinised before publication. The Pól Ó Duibhir ID went straight through.

Meanwhile, while I was waiting for my comment to exit moderation I decided to reply to a tweet by Stuart Syvret, former Health Minister and whistleblower, who had been ruthlessly and vindictively screwed by the Jersey régime.

Stuart was complaining that Commissioner Clyde-Smyth, who was obliged in justice to reveal certain information to him, was not just refusing to reveal it but was also refusing to engage in correspondence with him.

Now, in their second round of redactions, the Inquiry had attempted to conceal the fact that the Commissioner had earlier been acting for person 737 and I decided to reply as above and put a bit of pressure on the JEP to hurry up and do their moderation bit.

And just for good measure, I thought I'd again draw attention to the fact that person 737 had originally been scheduled to be interviewed under caution as a suspect, but, since the sacking of the Police Chief, we had heard no more of this.

Meanwhile the JEP had posted an item deploring how signage was ruining some beauty spots on the island. The piece, entitled Five Jersey Eyesores included signage overlooking the picturesque port of Gorey with its magnificent Mont Orgueil Castle.

It struck me that the picture had been taken from a position just outside Haut de la Garenne the infamous child abuse home. So I did a tweet suggesting an additional sign. I got no reaction to this so far.

Original of Gorey/HDLG photo
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Just in case you want to see the full picture, I have included it separately above.

Then I got back to reminding the JEP directly about my comment languishing in moderation.

And a little more gentle pressure via Twitter.

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Original tweet

And then, I got the biggest surprise of my life. The JEP actually published my comment. I couldn't believe it. I was convinced it would be too hot for them to handle. But here they were becoming complicit, in a sort of a way, in revealing the Inquiry's revealing of the identity of the Jersey notable.

On the assumption that they knew what they were doing, and that their left and right hands were fully coordinated, I have to take my hat off to them on this one.

Check if the Irlpol comment is still there

Monday, May 22, 2017


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I remember Bob Quinn from the time himself and Jack Dowling and Lelia Doolan fell out with RTÉ, or vice versa. They published a book called Sit Down and be Counted in 1969 which tore strips off the national broadcaster.

Jack, Lelia and Bob

Among other things it criticised RTÉ for selling its, and the nation's, soul to greedy parasitic multinationals by becoming dependent on advertising revenue from this source. Not that there weren't greedy national advertisers also.

At another level is was arguing for a broadcaster that would reflect and preserve the soul of the nation, that would take risks, and would both respond to regional and local needs and empower local communities.

Bob went west to Connemara and spent much time studying the origins of the "celts" and their cultural heritage. He continued to produce work for RTÉ from the outside because he was good at what he did. Then in the late 1990s he was asked to go on the RTÉ Authority and Maverick is the story of how this worked out, or didn't, as it happened.

RTÉ's original logo, saved from the props room

It is a fascinating read, and his almost lone struggles to reclaim and preserve the national broadcaster's soul tell us a lot about that organisation. Like Betty Purcell's book it is spiced with comments on some of the big names of broadasting, and I was heartened to find, just as I did with Betty's book, that I was in complete agreement with most of his evaluations. But more of that later.

I feel an affinity with Bob since I (recently) found out he had been raised in Orwell Gardens where I spent a bit of my own youth.

In the course of checking him out on the internet I came across Maverick and his comment that, despite Sit Down and be Counted he had continued to have work shown on RTÉ but since Maverick this had completely dried up.

So I got a copy of Maverick through my local library and have just finished reading it. Incidentally, I have just now received a copy of Sit Down and be Counted from the same source and am very much looking forward to reading it.

The Hasbro Dinosaur

When Bob took up his position on the Authority, he hoped to make a difference. He was advised not to spread himself too thinly and to pick an area and pursue that. He opted to concentrate on advertising directed at children, particularly during children's programmes. This was a worthy cause and it was situated at the margins of the bigger problem: the subjection of RTÉ content to the interests of the commercial sector. To cut a long story short, he did not have any success. RTÉ was too honest; it was bought; and it stayed bought.

Now this was partly RTÉ's own fault but, in a spirit of slight mitigation, we shouldn't forget that it was operating under a political system which included some relevant gombeen politicians who were likewise bought (to put it politely) on a permanent basis.

I'm not going to deal here with the many revelations about the actual status and policies of RTÉ, about its effective subservience to (international) business, or about the irrelevance of the Authority itself in the policymaking and running of the station. Ye can all just go and read the book.

I'm just going to look at a few of the other things that struck me, mainly Bob's take on some of the personalities he encountered along the way. Most of these really resonated with me and, in at least one case, reminded me of my own frustrating dealings with the station (TV).

Gay Byrne

So maybe I should start there. I have told elsewhere of my dealings with Gay Byrne's Late Late Show and the late Dr. Peter Bander. In essence, how I was frozen out of a programme, by Gay Byrne, having been given tickets on the basis that I would take an active part in the discussion.

Bob makes an interesting point, on the pervasiveness of filtering the airwaves, when reporting on the new Director General, Bob Collins, taking calls on Joe Duffy's Liveline.
Collins' was a carefully controlled interview, meaning that all the looney callers were filtered out so that the interview could be constructive. This is normal practice on "public access" programmes.
I know how some of them must have felt.

If you checked out my link above you will have realised that, had this looney been allowed to intervene, I would have been pitting myself against two serious establishment professions: the Roman Catholic Church and the Psychologists.

Speaking of the latter breed and analogous professions, Bob has a go at them in relation to their endorsement or facilitation of advertising directed at children.
Such developments could not happen without the cosmetic imprimatur of tame academic specialists in child psychology and psychiatry. The complicity on the part of these professionals in the enormous advertising and marketing onslaught on children has reached epidemic proportions in the US and must constitute the largest single psychological project ever undertaken.
On the broader question of advertising and commercialisation, Bob has a go at
RTÉ's pathetic adoption of a crude money spinner, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", and the disinterment of an ageing ex-star to present the programme. This makes a lot of money for Tyrone Productions, Gay Byrnn, RTÉ, the National Lottery and, above all, Eircom.

Eoghan Harris
In September of that year [1987] an RTÉ training and refresher course for reporters and resaarchers was conducted by a staff TV programme editor with aspirations to be a media guru. He pontificated to them that "television is not about thought. Television is about emotion."
Bob draws particular attention to the guru's
effort to try to convince journalists that their professional mantra - "Comment is free; facts are sacred" - was not only obsolete but ignorant. The lecturer urged the abandonment of any aspiration to objectivity or professionalism in reportage and essentially the taking of one side in a propaganda battle over the northern war.

... The aspiring media guru was Eoghan Harris whose influence on RTÉ up to then should never be underestimated and who appears never to have forgiven the organisation for not carrying out his varying instructions to the letter.

Betty Purcell

Betty was Bob's most consistent supporter on the Authority though they did not always agree on everything. I have mentioned Betty's own book earlier and I am glad to see them both acting in concert. They were the only broadcasters on the Authority at the time and are both people I admire.

Ray Burke

Bob describes the fate of the national broadcaster, and broadcasting in general, falling into "the lily-white hands of Fianna Fáil's Ray Burke, who since 1974 had been secretly distinguishing himself in private enterprise, especially that which required land rezoning in north and south Dublin."

He goes on to describe, in some detail, how Burke spanceled the national broadcaster to the benefit of commercial interests.

George Morrison

George Morrison is one of my heroes from way back. His patient dedication over decades in choreographing the making of Mise Éire is a truly inspiring story and the product is a real jewel in the crown. I had the pleasure of meeting George a few years ago when Midas Productions made a film about the making of Mise Éire. A real gentleman and I treasure the meeting. I have written about it on Blackwatertown's blog.

Bob has a great story about George. Bob was up in court for "illegally" showing a film in his house in Connemara. In the event, the only legal grounds for charging him was an old statute about nitrate films. Nitrate was the, highly combustible, base for old film stock, no longer in use in modern times. The case was dismissed, much to the annoyance of George Morrison who had brought along some old nitrate stock which he intended igniting in court and stinking the place out of it.

Pat Kenny

Bob, while praising much of RTÉ's public affairs broadcasting, sees the broadcaster undermining its capacity in this area by the blatantly commercial approach it adopts in its overall profile. This only strengthens the hands of rival commercial broadcasters with their greedy eyes on a slice of RTÉ's public funding.
These interests are inadvertently aided and abetted by the RTÉ "stars" such as Pat Kenny, who proudly proclaim that the public does not pay their fees, that they are paid from the commercial income they attract. With such spades do myopic "stars" dig their own public broadcasting graves.
Bob quotes Ellen Kelleher from McConnell's advertising agency as saying "the Mammy is the engine that drives most fast moving consumer goods markets". And the TV personality with the most "mammy" appeal? Pat Kenny, she said.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, the mammies can have him.

Mary O'Rourke

Speaking of mammies.

In contemplating the cultural mid-Atlantic limbo into which commercial forces have landed us, in particular through the targeting of women shoppers, Bob wonders:
When will the empowerment of women result in a rage at the exploitation of their hitherto harmless pleasure in shopping? Never, if one can judge by the effusion of another powerful female, our enterprising Minister Mary O'Rourke, who uses the word "deregulation" as if it were "abracadabra", a magic panacea for all our ills. If she were a gardener, she would know that a deregulated garden, left to itself, will encourage only weeds to flourish.

Many years ago the singer Bono got his secretary to ask me to meet him after my Atlantean films showed the connection between Ireland and North Africa. My children heard me mentioning the name and went into hysterics. This was odd because I had hardly heard of the performer and was certainly not familiar with his work. I went out and bought a cassette but could make neither head nor tail of the lyrics. All I could hear was a disco beat. It transpired that Bono thought my theories might explain his own extraordinary vocal talents and had even passed the word on to Bob Dylan - with whose music at least I was familiar. That is the gist of what I learned during a long monologue from the young man in the Great Southern Hotel in Galway. His young wife was very nice. I learned that her name was Ali, and she later did good work with the Chernobyl children, as did her husband. I have still not taken to his music, but at least my children got his autograph.

I think I'll leave it there. I've gone on long enough. Read the book, it's a revelation and still relevant some sixteen years after its publication.

Friday, May 19, 2017


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I have already blogged on the exhibition currently in the Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse St. If you're reading this and likely to be in Dublin it would be well worth your while to drop in. I gather the exhibition is about to be extended until the end of June (except for the week of 6-13 June).

But last night some of us had a special treat. Jean Marc Godès had come over from France to talk about his work.

Anne Marie Kelly

He was introduced to an expectant audience by Anne Marie Kelly who is responsible for the exhibition and for bringing us Jean Marc live.

Jean Marc Godès

And live he was. It was a most animated and unusual performance. Anne Marie had told us we were welcome to ask questions during the talk and Jean Marc added to this by himself posing questions directly to the audience. So the session turned into a conversation about his work rather than a one way presentation.

I was glad to get in early and ask why he went to all the trouble of staging these elaborate and tricky tableaux for his photographs? Why did he not simply Photoshop his concepts into existence?

He was at pains to explain that his work has two elements, the real and the unreal. The magic moment is when these two universes collide and this is what is captured in the photographs.

For this to be truly effective the reality element has to have been real. You have to be able to believe that what you are seeing actually happened. Only then can you truly marvel at the wonder of it. Only then can it really penetrate your imagination and truly bring you to a place where the two worlds meet.

He also made the point that he sees the photos as a freeze frame of motion and invites the onlookers to imagine what happened just before the photo and what might happen next. This can be the stuff of deep meditation.

So, OK Photoshop is out.

At a later stage I asked him why he had note staged any of his photos in the city. They were all indoors, or in the countryside, or at the beach, and so on.

His answer was short and to the point.

J'aime pas le béton.

Not for him the concrete jungle. He is really a bit of a romantic.

Rosena Horan (interpreting) & Jean Marc

I should say that the session was in French but with interpretation. I don't know how it happened but as it turned out all present appeared to understand some French at least and interpretation was almost redundant. But Rosena handled the trickier bits very well.

So, let' have a look at some of the work which was included in the presentation, remembering all the while that we are talking about books and the written word.

A poem of Jacques Prévert written on human parchment. Prévert would have loved it. Jean Marc is a big fan and I mentioned to him that, coincidentally, there is an exhibition of Prévert's collages currently running down the road in the Alliance Française.

Jean Marc teased his audience challenging us to guess how he constructed his tableaux.

For example, how was the swing suspended? This one brought forth a crane on a nearby boat and even two helicopters. In fact it was from a bridge.

This, if I understood him correctly, was taken in the boy's parents' kitchen.

These books floating down the river evoke the Mississippi paddle boats. But how are they suspnded in the water? Well we got planks and fishing line and God knows what, but the ingenuity of this one evaded everybody. No one came within an ass's roar of it.

The shot was taken the other way up. This whole thing is a reflection. A beautiful piece of work.

This one reminded me of a French tongue twister which I won't bore you with. The scene turned out to have been a very elaborate construction.The book has a plank under it. The rat, though live, is sort of attached to it (for safety!). The cat was in a cage up to a moment before and is just getting over the shock of seeing the rat. The cat is also still restrained though I don't think cats like water anyway.

This turned out not to be a branch but a trunk and there is a forklift truck involved.

This featured in the exhibition but not in the talk. But I like it. A bellyful of books.

Finally, just to recall that Jean Marc is no stranger to Ireland. He exhibited in the Cork library system in 2013.

You can check out his website and/or leaf through his 2017 catalogue.