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.
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Let's check in with Michael, who has thoughts on the nuptials of the lizard prince. 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
I tried the popular Irish brand Odlum's Irish Brown Soda Bread mix to see if it was better or easier than my standby recipe. 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.
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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
I got my first Kíla album in the mid-1990s while I was going to university in Halifax, Canada. It was a big deal.
Lemme give you some background: my folks declared bankruptcy the week that I shipped off to school. The financial help I assumed would be there for me, wasn't. I watched, near penniless, as my fellows drank themselves into oblivion and got to know one another. I couldn't afford to participate. I couldn't afford the books from the extensive reading list I'd been given. The only thing that I had going for me was that I'd used my student loan to pay for a meal plan as part of my first semester's tuition. I quickly found the work I needed to get by, teaching music, doing audio/visual duty for the classes I was attending, rattling locks as a security guard and playing in a bar band to make ends meet. I was exhausted much of the time.
There wasn't a lot of room in my life for joy back then.
Around the middle of the school year, I received a letter from my mother. It explained that the she'd come by a coupon, good for $25 at HMV--a Canadian and British music store franchise. The thought of buying new music--new anything, really--at the time, didn't have a place in my head, given how hard it was to come by books or cover my day-to-day expenses. I've never listened to a lot of popular music. My tastes lean towards OG punk and Irish/Scots traditional music. Read the rest
Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O'Flynn.
A player of the Uilleann pipes, O'Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn't until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O'Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy's Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We'd all be poorer for it. Plantxy's music left me with the impression, as a kid, that the tunes I played on the instruments I grew up with were cool. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. O'Flynn at a musical festival I was covering for a magazine back in the 1990s. He was pleasant and seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance. The encounter left me feeling giddy for days afterwards.
One of my favorite songs by Planxty, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, has a tune lashed on to the end of it called Tabhair dom do laimh, which roughly translates as Give Me Your Hand. O'Flynn's rendition of the tune has been one of my happy places for decades. Read the rest
This is really sweet. A young Irish girl, Grace Lehane of Cork, played "Britches full of Stitches" on her concertina by the side of a green pasture full of cattle. Watch in this video that her dad Denis uploaded in 2017 as the animals come running over to hear the "moosic." The beaming smile on Grace's face is precious!
(The Kid Should See This) Read the rest
An Irish MP is blaming fairies after a mysterious dip in a road surface recurred after repairs.
Danny Healy-Rae claimed the issues with the N22 were caused by "numerous fairy forts in the area" in an interview with the Irish Times.
He said "there was something in these places you shouldn't touch" and that the road passed by a place that was full of fairy magic and folklore.
Here's one of the forts, for reference:
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Living treasure and outspoken atheist Stephen Fry has a classic bit from a two-year-old episode of RTE's "The Meaning of Life" in which he answers the question, "What would you say to God if you died and found yourself at the gates of heaven?" Read the rest
If you have breakfast while traveling in Ireland you are bound to come across brown soda bread. Soda bread is super easy to make and a fantastic comfort food. Read the rest
Ireland's abortion laws are among the most barbaric in the world -- among its many deficits, it forces women to carry unviable fetuses to term, making them labor to deliver babies who live short hours in extreme pain before dying before them. Read the rest
A leaked memo from Apple CEO Tim Cook to his staff explaining why he met with Donald Trump -- a guy who called Apple traitors for refusing to defeat their own security -- explains the rationale: "tax reform." Read the rest
Apple -- which is one of the multinational poster children for tax dodging, along with Google, Amazon, Ikea and others -- has billions of dollars "offshore" and in theory they can't bring that money into the USA without paying tax on it; but thanks to some fancy accounting, much of that money is sunk into US Treasury Bills (floated by the government Apple is starving through tax evasion), and the US taxpayers pay Apple, about $600M so far. Read the rest
Trump is a climate denier and he's packing his administration with climate deniers; as Peter Watts pointed out, Trump "seems to think that the laws of politics and of physics somehow carry equal weight, that he can negotiate with the heat capacity of the world’s oceans ('Okay, we’ll cut our bitumen production by 15%, but then you have to increase your joules/kelvin by at least 5…')." Read the rest