Damn near every region in the world has a well of traditional music that they're able to draw cultural water from. Some musical traditions are better known than others. Most folks have likely heard Tuvan throat singing, but aren't able to put a name to it. I can't count the number of subway stations, markets and streets that I've walked through where buskers were filling the air with Sanjuanito. Where such tunes are played and songs are sung, a snippet of cultural history is passed along. Sadly, in a world that all too often favors the new over what has brought joy in the past, the music that once defined a people, even when played often and well, can easily pass into irrelevance. While it's important to maintain the sound of traditional music as a part of our shared cultural history, it's just as vital to find new ways to interpret the melodies of the past in a way that lends it an immediacy to modern listeners. Martin Hayes, one of the finest fiddlers to have come out of Ireland in the past 100 years, seems to understand this.
I've talked about Hayes' work here in the past: his moody style of playing is just as much the result of his upbringing in County Clare at the feet of his father, famed fiddler P.J. Hayes, as it is his own genius. In 2015, Hayes's band, The Gloaming, won the Meteor Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year, beating the tar out acts like U2, Hozier and Damien Rice in the process. Read the rest
I have a hard time remembering my younger years, but I want to believe that I had days like the one that Stefan Murphy (AKA The Mighty Stef and, from time to time, Count Vaseline) describes in Dry Cider. If you dig this song as much as I do, help a fella out by giving it a buy over at Bandcamp. Read the rest
Airbnb has a hidden camera problem: Airbnb hosts keep getting caught using hidden webcams to spy on people staying in their unlicensed hotel-rooms, and while the company proclaims a zero tolerance policy for the practice, the reality is that the company tacitly tolerates Airbnb hosts who engage in this creepy, voyeuristic behavior. Read the rest
The 2019 Hugo Award nominees have been announced; the Hugos will be presented this summer at the 2019 World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland. Read the rest
Heartbreak, written and performed by poet and playwright Emmet Kirwan, is a spoken word masterpiece. Full of passion, rage and love, heartbreak tells the story of a young Irish woman, raised in an oppressive patriarchy and poverty, who scrambles to survive before finally coming to thrive. Read the rest
Hundreds of yellow vest protesters marched in Dublin yesterday; like the French gilets jaunes who inspired them, the Irish yellow vests marched for a wide variety of causes, with no unified set of demands: the 2008 banker bailout (arguably the worst in the world since the Irish government has explicitly warned the banks it wouldn't guarantee their reckless loans, but still paid them off when the bubble burst); the continuing and ghastly revelations of scandals in the Church (including the forced-labor camps that unwed mothers were condemned to, and the scandal that the of storage tanks contained secret mass graves filled with the remains of infants); the spiraling costs of housing in Ireland; and the heel-dragging by the Irish government on legalizing marijuana. Read the rest
Mark Zuckerberg has told the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Argentina, Australia and Ireland that he is "not available" for a planned hearing on political disinformation and Facebook. Read the rest
Game of Thrones fans will have a chance to walk through Winterfell.
HBO has announced plans to convert several of their filming sets located in Northern Ireland into tourist attractions, as the show ends its historic run in 2019. Read the rest
Sometimes, the most delightful musical discoveries happen completely by accident: a song you hear at a party or catch the tail end of on the radio without the DJ bothering to tell you what it's called can wind up being one of the tunes that's always lurking on the cusp of your mind. This was the case for me with Salsa Celtica.
I was listening to Eliza Carthy sing The Grey Cockerel, and happened to glance at my phone's display while the music was playing. Salsa Celtica was credited as Carthy's collaborator on the track. Digging their sound, I googled the name. Boom: they'd a ton of albums to their credit. The title of one of their records, El Agua De La Vida, made me laugh. The translation: The water of life. In Gaeilge (Irish,) the translation of this is uisce beatha (uisge beatha in Gaelic.) It means 'whiskey.' It's one of the phrases that many tourists returning Ireland or Scotland is likely to have picked up during their time on holiday.
This, it seemed to me, was a band that could teach a master class in taking the piss.
Salsa Celtica has been spinning out dancable Celtic-infused Cuban music since the 1990s. I've yet to fall out of love with any of their albums. Read the rest
Ireland's no-exceptions-made abortion ban was one of the cruelest and most inhumane in the world, and after years of struggle, the country has finally held a referendum to amend its constitution and strike down the abortion ban in Article 8; the official count isn't out, but the Irish Times has called it for the reformers, in a "landslide," with a projected 68%-32% margin. Read the rest
Ireland has a goat problem.
A growing gang of wild goats is having its way with the towns of Ennis and Clare's gardens, parking lots and roads. Greenery is being devoured. Cars are being forced to slow or stop, with all too much frequency, for fear that drivers could end up having to pick goat meat out of their vehicle's grills with a pointy stick. According to Clare's Mayor, Tom McNamara, “the disturbance that these goats are causing in the locality is totally unacceptable." The Mayor continued by pleading that the goats “are getting up on top of cars and going around businesses at night time." The goats, which have been tagging local homes and historical landmarks as they expand their territory, have drawn the attention of the local law enforcement's gang task force.
OK, that last sentence was bullshit, but it'd be awesome if it were true.
In all seriousness, having a whack of uncontrollable wild animals traipsing around the town is a public safety concern. Sooner or later someone's going to get hurt in a goat attack (no seriously: goats can be ASSHOLES), or wind up hitting one – or five – with their car. Right now, there's talk of erecting signs warning motorists of goat hazards in town and on nearby highways (goats be roaming), and some pretty stern mumbling about what can be done to control the exploding goat population. According to RTĒ, no one's in favor of a cull, no matter how delicious goat might be. Read the rest
Where is Facebook located? Well, if you're the taxman, Facebook's global HQ is a tiny shed somewhere in Ireland, where Facebook can escape virtually all taxation; but on the other hand, if you're the EU, Facebook is headquartered in America, where the General Data Protection Regulation doesn't apply. Read the rest
Time for a bit of folklore.
Benandonner was a giant from Scotland. He was something of a tool and constantly threatened to lay a beating on Ireland.
Fionn mac Cumhaill was a giant too. He resided in Ireland. Fionn wasn't down with Benandonner's wanting to put a hurt on his homeplace. In fact, Fionn was so bent out of shape about it that he decided to rip up chunks of County Atrim and throw them into the sea in order to build a causeway to Scotland. The causeway would make it possible for Fionn to travel and beat Benandonner's ass.
With the Giant's Causeway built, Fionn stomped off to Scotland to get down with his island's adversary. He didn't stay long though: Upon reaching Scottish soil, Fionn discovered that Benandonner was frigging huge – like, giant, even for a giant. Afraid of having his ass handed to him, Fionn hightailed it back to Ireland. When the larger giant heard that Fionn had come to Scotland to fight him, but turned coward at the last moment, he set out for Ireland across the causeway to lay a curb stomping on poor Fionn.
Seeing that her husband was in trouble, again, Fionn's wife, Oonagh, bundled her husband up in swaddling clothes, disguising him as a baby. Benandonner came upon Oonagh and saw the enormous baby. He freaked out: if Fionn's child is that big, even as a toddler, Fionn himself must be HUGE. Benandonner crossed the causeway once more, back to Scotland and safety. Read the rest