Sunday, August 31, 2008
Footnote: When I lived in Dublin, the most amusing restaurant name was the "Fragrant River" Chinese restaurant located beside a particularly stinky part of the Royal Canal.
[Cross-posted to my travel blog]
Saturday, August 30, 2008
This weekend is the Electric Picnic festival in Stradbally, Laois is taking place, and the stand-out acts include Underworld (who I last saw play at a huge New Years Eve party in London's Alexandra Palace), New Young Pony Club (when will they play Boston?), and My Bloody Valentine (the Irish Sonic Youth).
Next week is the Cois Fharraige ("Beside the sea", in Irish) festival in Kilkee, County Clare. In two weeks time, there is the A Day in the Life festival in Wicklow, featuring Kraftwerk (their only appearance in Europe this year).
Ireland also has more than its fair share of large music festivals. Earlier this summer, there was the huge Oxegen festival at Punchestown Racecourse, and the Marquee Festival in Cork (Roger Waters, Morrissey).
I wish there were similar festivals around Boston. It would seem obvious to run large music festivals somewhere which is accessable from both New York and Boston, somewhere in Connecticut or Rhode Island, to draw a big crowd. Like Tanglewood except for rock and dance music. This seems to happen, to some extent, on the West Coast where there are the Coachella and Outside Lands festivals. Why not over here? If we just had a small percentage of the festival which Ireland has, I'd be happy.
Friday, August 29, 2008
[ You can get the full report from: http://www.cso.ie/releasespublications/documents/births_d_m/current/babynames.pdf ]
Let's compare the Irish list with the corresponding US list, produced by the Social Security Administration:
[from: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/ , where there is a useful name popularity search tool]
In terms of boys' names, the US list is headed by "Jacob", which only sits at number 94 in Ireland (though "Jake" is at number 28, just in front of "Joshua"). "Jack" heads the Irish list (and has done so for years) but is not even in the Top 10 of the US list. "Ethan" is Number 3 in the US, but only 46 in Ireland. But, there is some commonality. "Michael" and "Daniel" are in the Top 5 in both the US and Ireland. Both lists are dominated by a mixture of biblical and Anglo (English) names. The Irish boys' names list, though, does include Irish names which would be well-known in the US ("Conor", "Sean") and some which are not ("Cian", "Darragh").
Over on the girls' names side, "Sarah" is once again the most popular girls name in Ireland, but is not even in the Top 10 in the US. "Emily" tops the list in the US and comes in at Number 8 in Ireland (though "Emma" is Number 2). "Ava" is a name which is Top 10 in both countries (Number 4 in the US, Number 6 in Ireland).
"Madison" is at Number 5 in the US, though at times it seems like every single toddler girl in the US is named "Madison". Certainly, if you've ever looked at a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, all of the personalized furniture seems to be for a "Madison". I am pleased to see that "Madison" is not even in the Top 100 in Ireland.
The Irish list shows a preference for abbreviated girls names, e.g. "Abby" is listed in the Irish list at Number 29, ahead of "Abigail" (Number 8 in the US, only Number 45 in Ireland).
"Aoife" (Irish for "Eve") is the only Irish name in the very Anglo Top 10 of the Irish girls names, whereas the Irish boys Top 10 contains more Irish names. But looking down the girls list there is "Ciara", "Caoimhe" (pronounced "Kweeva"), and "Niamh" (pronounced "Neev"). Irish-Americans looking for the next big Irish girls name can see names like "Cara" (Irish for "friend") and "Sadhbh" (pronounced "Sive", a pretty name but one which condemns a girl to a lifetime spent spelling out her name letter-by-letter to confused listeners). There is an enclave of girls called "Saoirse" here in Boston ("Saoirse", pronounced "Seer-sha", is the Irish for "freedom").
Anyone expecting or planning a baby could do worse than print out the Irish baby names list and its US counterpart , grab a highlighter, and get busy choosing.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
From archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2000/11/05/story343184138.asp :
"The story of the Jealous Wall and the sadness and cruelty that surrounded the lives of the Rochfort family, is well known. The first Earl of Belvedere, Robert Rochfort, married the young and beautiful Mary Molesworth. After she bore several children he locked her up aged 20 in his old family home at Gaulstown, for suspected adultery.
She remained a prisoner for the better part of her life, and was only released on the death of her tyrannical husband. It is said that he erected the Jealous Wall to block out the view of his brother's nearby mansion, Tudenham, because he suspected him of fancying his wife too. It is one of several remarkable follies which may be seen in the parkland at Belvedere."
Here is a photograph of it:
If you're in Westmeath, or passing through on a drive between Dublin and Galway, it's worth making a detour to tour Belvedere House, shown in the photo below. There is also a good small museum there, with a craft shop, kids petting zoo, and a cafe.
[ Cross posted to my travel blog ]
[My photo of the Jealous Wall is featured on the excellent Wikihow guide to stop being jealous ]
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Although Ireland's population still has not reached its pre-famine level, at least its population is growing. Ireland is actually the only EU country with population growth and family sizes comparable to the US. The UK is not far behind. But, as the Irish Times article notes, many eastern european countries (such as Poland and Bulgaria) actually have shrinking populations. Part of the reason is inward migration within the EU, in fact often to Ireland and the UK, contributing to the population growth there.
Population growth has been a good thing for Ireland, certainly while the boom lasted there. More people means "more life about the place" as we say in Ireland. Now that the Irish economy is not so hot, the expectation is that many people who migrated to Ireland from other parts of the EU may return home. But, testament to the attractions of Ireland even after the boom has simmered down, many are choosing an Irish future rather than going home. This is good too. The more the merrier.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This appears to be a video taken in an unmarked Irish police (Garda) car in Clondalkin, Dublin. The police officer happens upon some people pushing a drunk guy home in a shopping cart (called a "trolley" in Ireland, and called a "carriage" in Boston).
At the risk of putting Irish stereotypes back 100 years, here is this amusing video:
The title, though, brings to mind the confusion which I felt when I first heard this phrase used in the US. I assumed that "Black Irish" meant a dark-skinned person from Ireland. But no, it doesn't really. It means (confusingly) a light-skinned Irish person with vaguely Spanish looks, like dark hair and dark eyes. Perhaps related to the addition of Spanish blood to the Irish gene pool after the Spanish Armada sank off the West Coast and the Spanish sailors swam ashore (some to be slaughtered on the spot, but others lived on in Ireland and intermixed with the locals).
Whatever the origin, "Black Irish" is a phrase used in the US that, like naming drinks "Irish Car Bombs", I would like to see just go away. Something about it makes me uneasy. It seems to imply that all Irish people are white, just different degrees of white. But, Ireland is fairly multi-ethnic now, so that makes no sense.
Footnote: If you're ever in Ireland looking for the Spanish Armada, there is this amusing road sign I photographed in Mayo ("they went that-away!")
Monday, August 25, 2008
- The ICA Boston (modern art) is free for families on the last Saturday of every month. The current Anish Kapoor exhibit, in particular, is ideal for kids (just don't let them touch any of it though!!!). For example, one piece is a bulge in the wall which you can only see from the side, and when you look at it head-on you only see a blank wall. My son loved this. If you bring them to see this exhibition, it may well stick in their head for years. As well as the last saturdays of each month (for families), the ICA Boston is free for all from 5 to 9 pm every Thursday for "Target Free Thursday Nights".
- The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and the Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge) are both free to Bank of America card-holders on the first weekend of every month. I only realized this recently, as Bank of America do not seem to publicize their "Museums on Us" program in Boston. The Harvard Museum of Natural History, in particular, is excellent for kids. It brought me back to childhood visits to the so-called "Dead Zoo" in Dublin (currently closed because a stairs collapsed). The Harvard Museum of Natural History is also free for Massachusetts residents on Sundays from 9am until noon, and on Wednesdays from 3pm to 5pm from September to May.
- I have family membership of the Children's Museum. So it is always "free" for me. But, there are "Target $1 Friday nights" every Friday from 5:00pm until 9:00 p.m. This museum is close to the ICA Boston and makes a good joint trip (along with a kid-friendly meal at the Barking Crab). Unfortunately for us cheapskates, their "Target Nights" are not on the same evening though...
Friday, August 22, 2008
In West Roxbury I've often seen kids in Cork and Dublin GAA shirts, the ubiquitous shamrock bumper stickers, and many Irish surnames on the businesses.
I always suspect that West Roxbury is like it is because of the rule that Boston city workers (like teachers and police) have to live in Boston, and if they want to live in a suburban setting, then West Roxbury is the closest you'll get to that while still living within Boston city limits. Also, it is mostly single-family owner-occupied homes, so that means it's not full of out-of-towner students, and maybe that also makes it difficult for immigrants to move there if they are renting initially (though, that doesn't seem to be a problem for Irish immigrants).
Walking down West Roxbury's main drag, Centre Street, we see a place where you can get an shamrock West Roxbury t-shirt:
Like in Ireland, the main supermarket is Roche's:
The "Irish Cottage" is beside the excellent Pazzo Books, run by two Irish-Americans (who blog). Pazzo Books has a great Irish section too, where I bought as good William Trevor book of short stories.
The West Roxbury Restaurant pub and restaurant also is festooned with shamrocks, causing native Irish people like me to instinctively cringe.
And I have not even mentioned the Irish Social Club or the Corrib Pub (a good place to watch rugby games). Or the many kids named Fionn and Sorcha.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
When someone becomes a Garda (police officer) in Ireland, they are moved around to a different part of the country, partly so that they do not show favoritism to their local friends and family. This means that the police in Dublin are mostly from "down the country", i.e. rednecks in the view of Dubliners. They are then portrayed as clueless country bumpkins.
In the US, the police carry guns, of course, and partly for that reason are given more respect.
Police in the US also are provided with extra "cultural sensitivity training", particularly recently to take Muslim sensitivities into account. Police in Ireland would generally just ride roughshod over "cultural differences", like Irish people in general do, often unwittingly causing offense but doing it with a grin which says "sure aren't we all the same really".
So, it was interesting to read this post about Irish police on Dublin Opinion. It was about someone whose job is to provide the artwork which hangs on Irish Garda Station (Police Station) walls:
He told me that in one station they rejected a picture because of it subject matter.
It was a still life of a food platter with a large side of ham.
Asked why, the Garda explained that they can’t have pictures of any pork-related food stuff on the wall.
At this point, I am thinking "Maybe Irish police are starting to be sensitive to Muslim sensitivities, and could not have a large painting of a side of ham on the wall".
But no, the reason was:
“The people coming in here would laugh their asses off!"
Footnote: So the Irish police pay to have someone put art on their walls. In the US, this would be seen as an example of "Pork" :-)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Ireland's Guinness has been owned by Diageo for years now, and by all accounts it's still the same drink. And, whatever about a US beer company being bought by Belgians, Diageo is British, which has special connotations for Irish people. And, they also own Baileys. Does this matter, really? I don't think so.
Monday, August 18, 2008
In the example below, I am listening to achingly hip bleepy experimental electronic music from Sonogram. Amongst the "similar artists" I see Pandora lists "Wee" Daniel O'Donnell, the wholesome country-and-Irish singer from Donegal who famously would serve cups of tea to the busloads of middle-aged women who visited his house. As you can see in this Flickr photo of Wee Daniel playing pool, it is debatable whether he would fall into the "hip" category.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
[ Crossposted to my Frequent Traveler Blog ]
Friday, August 15, 2008
But, amazingly, here is a Google Ad for IRA branded products, right on my blog:
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Trim, County Meath, was where Braveheart was filmed (yes, it was primarily filmed in Ireland not Scotland).
King John's Castle in Trim was spruced up for the film because normally it looks understandably weather-beaten and old.
And the "Edge of Darkness" is being filmed near Fallon Field in Roslindale. The movie may include Robert De Niro, according to reports.
The location where it is being filmed is, I believe, one of the streets near Fallon Field, in the background of this photo:
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
When I bought this book at the Brookline Booksmith, the girl at the counter said "this is a great book". I had bought it based on a short New Yorker review, and also, let's face it, because of its great title.
The 11 short stories are set in and around the fictional town of Vaughn, Maine. The characters go to Portland, take a train up north towards Quebec, talk about trips to Boston, all of which roots Vaughn into the real Maine. Indeed, the book opens with a map of Vaughn showing it on the (real) Kennebec river.
The book has a historic sweep, referencing actual history (the Plains of Abraham where the British General James Wolfe fought the French in the Battle of Quebec) as well as the history of the book characters and of Vaughn itself. One story starts "I belonged to a large family that had lived in the same town in Maine for over two hundred years". Reading the stories, many about traumatic events such as a drowning, you know that the protagonists will still be living together, in the same place in Maine, for the rest of their lives. You get the feeling that the place itself has a long memory.
The writing moves from matter-of-fact prose ("A hockey game started near shore, mostly fathers and sons and brothers in plaid jackets and blue caps, choosing sides according to size"), to Maine logging jargon ("Nothing in the river but sinkers and bark cake and raw waste from sixteen towns coating the bottom, methane bubbling up through the water and pulp and booms waiting for a freshet"), to beauty ("He turned around and looked up, as if at a mountain peak or a descending plane, but there was nothing above except a line of high white clouds pulling up over the valley like a cold sheet").
The stoic characters, restrained emotion, and historical sweep reminded me of Ireland. Indeed, the town of Vaughn, with its Quaker Meeting House and many churches, reminded me of northern Irish towns like Enniskillen. It is no coincidence that Maine has a Bangor and a Belfast, and is full of hard working people with long memories, who go a bit crazy at times.
Highly recommended. I pass on the recommendation from the Brookline Booksmith counter assistant.
[ The Boston Globe ran a great interview with Jason Brown by Anna Mundow last year. He talks about his New England family background (ships captains, carpenry, the Salem Witch Trials), the "New England Gothic" label, and working in the woods. Fascinating to read that while his stories often show the bad effects of Puritanism, he also understands the redemptive quality of hard work (logging in the Maine woods) which is a fundamental Puritan idea. ]
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Irish local radio, for those of you who have not listened to it, is similarly obsessed with "death notices" (i.e. mini obituaries). Outside of Dublin, you cannot turn the radio dial without hearing a list of people who have recently died.
Look at the following examples:
Midwest Radio (Limerick, Clare) features Death Notices at the Prime Time slots of 8am and 1pm:
Galway Bay FM gives equal prominence to Death Notices as it gives to News and Sport, right on its homepage:
Midlands Radio, serving my former home in Westmeath, features its "Obituary Notices" six times a day during the week and three times a day at weekends, and by contrast it only provides a farming update once a day (bear in mind that many of its listeners are farmers).
I wonder is this normal? Is this just an Irish thing?
[ Footnote: John Breslin's Cloudlands blog mentions rip.ie , an online portal of death notices for Ireland ]
Monday, August 11, 2008
If Tourism Ireland or Aer Lingus ever want to increase the number of male visitors to Ireland, they just have to reproduce this article on posters in London, Milan, and Boston.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
There was a time when reading the Irish Sunday papers in Boston meant waiting until Tuesday and then picking them up at Out of Town News in Harvard Square, or in the Borders near Downtown Crossing. Now, you can watch a video of them being reviewed for you, direct from Tipperary, then use the Web to follow up any interesting items.
In notice that the New York Times uses Google Adwords to present links to the best parts of their Sunday edition. Today, it highlighted me to a great article on Edward Hopper's paintings of Cape Cod. When I clicked on the adwords link, the New York Times pays Google some money. This means that the newspaper is paying for me to read it. On the plus side for the NYT, it is only a matter of time before I subscribe to their weekend edition plan [the one which is often advertised on US TV, with the "Call Now" people saying "I am not one of those 'call now'" people].
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I haven't read the study yet, but the fact that so many more recent novels written by Irish Americans are set in California (as opposed to Boston, let's say) may just reflect the fact that many more American novels are set in California than Boston.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
So, it is a little bit shocking to see a recipe for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes come across the wires today. A moderator here comments that "an Irish Car Bomb is an alcoholic shot. the cupcake, I'm sure, is named after that." Ah ok, so that makes it OK then....
Imagine if someone from Oklahoma moves to Ireland and discovers an alcoholic shot there called an "Oklahoma City Bomb" (perhaps using some whisky from Oklahoma, is there such a thing?). Or, how would someone from Tel Aviv feel about coming across a "suicide bomber" alcoholic shot. And, then if there were also matching cupcakes?
Now, I guess there is a risk of being too thin-skinned about this. Irish people can take a joke. Maybe this is another sign that we can move on from the past. But, something about it being a cupcake makes it grate....
Added to all of this, there is the annoying fact that the cupcakes look quite tasty! I may make a batch myself but give it another name :-).
Now, there is a statue of Jim Larkin, a trade union leader, erected in 1977. But none of Eamonn DeValera, for example. None of any leaders of Ireland since independence.
It makes me wonder about whether when the IRA were blowing up old British Empire statues in Dublin during the mid 20th century, was it expressing a general Irish resentment of reverence to statues in general, and therefore the last thing we'd want to do is to put up more statues of our own.
Dublin does have a lot of street art statues though. In a 21st Century Dublin scene below, we see some Eastern European musicians in front of the Molly Malone statue, with Number 1 Grafton Street (the Trinity College Provost's House) in the background.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
It reminded me that there used to be a site called Dublin Stories. Unfortunately dublinstories.org is now dead now. On the site there was a though-provoking story there about Dublin on 9/11. It's ambiguous whether it is about good customer service (helping the people queuing up for cans of Coke), rudeness, or [my own belief] about an underlying Irish shyness which can come off as rudeness sometimes.
Here is the story. I'm posting it up so that it's still somewhere on the Web. I have often thought about this story, since reading it first in 2002.
I went to my local shop for a late lunch, the usual - a bottle of coke and a large Mars bar. As I entered, a small group of people were standing over the fridges watching a small black and white TV screen. I paused to ask the nearest customer what the story was.
"There's a plane after flying into one of the twin towers in New York."
"Jaysus", I replied, "He must have been well pissed not to miss one of them."
"No, it was a 737", exclaims the man to my right.
"Yes, yes, yes", interrupts another customer, "Shush, for Christ sake".
There's a quiet pause amongst the five or six of us who are staring at the TV. The female Sky TV commentator is stating what appears to be obvious - "This is SKY TV and your viewing live, the Twin Towers in New York where there appears to have been a terrible accident. A plane has crashed through the side of one of towers of the World Trade Center here in central Manhattan, New York".
"Sorry folks, ye'll have to move on from there, your blocking up the isle, there's a big queue of people behind you, please folks", says the young assistant.
"Ohh for crying out loud", shouts a frustrated American ladies accent. Our little group, blocking the shop traffic somewhat, returns to the TV feeling slightly more confident in our blockade for a while.
"Your watching SKY TV live in New York, there appears to be another plane. Oh my".
"There's something going on here. This has got to be deliberate", interrupts a male voice over the pictures.
There's a small shuffle and pushing within the group of us watching, a man pushes his way through to face us and stand beside the TV. He places his hand over the button. "Sorry folks, you're blocking up the isles and people can't get to the fridges".
"You're watching SKY TV live, this is a replay of what has just happened a few moments ago in Manhattan, New York".
Concentrating as carefully and attentively as possible, trying hard to avoid the distraction of other customers arguing with the shop assistant, I watch amazed, with a surreal uncomfortable sense of curiosity, the second plane crash. The young assistant, standing firm, but with awkwardness in his voice, insists as he pushes the black button to turn off the TV set - "I'm sorry folks, sorry, sorry, customers cannot get at their Coca Cola".
Monday, August 4, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
This is something I've felt for a long time, but never seen it articulated in print or online. When I lived in Ireland, and when I've visited frequently, I've noticed that people will boast about paying over-the-odds for purchases. The corollary is that when I would mention that, for example, I got my fridge at a discount from (the excellent) New England Appliance because it had a hidden dent on the side, I could almost hear the "tut tut"s. In Boston, people will happily say that the designer jeans they are wearing came from Marshalls (pronounced "Maah-shalls", a discount store). In Dublin, I cannot imagine anyone saying that their pair of designer jeans was bought cheaply at TK Maxx (as TJ Maxx is called in Dublin).
Another interesting fact is that, like Karlin mentions in the post, I've found that Irish people in Ireland will complain about substandard service or goods, but do nothing about it. If someone does complain, they then look like a "whinger". This means that standards aren't likely to improve.