Not many financial writers can break down the economy of a country in a way that gives you a razor-edged insight into the character and spirit of it’s people. Michael Lewis, author of the classic “Liar’s Poker” and the more recent “The Big Short” is that rare kind of master in the art of non-fiction.
Mr. Lewis’s article in this month’s Vanity Fair, When Irish Eyes Are Crying not only offers the most concise overview of where Ireland is today and how it got there, it seems to express the odd predicament that Ireland has been in for centuries. While it will certainly convince you that Ireland’s financial problems are far worse than you ever realized (its government debt is rated lower than Iraq’s at present) it provides an even more interesting panorama of the internal, external, cultural and personal forces that have come to define the country, in a way that’s eerily similar to the 1950’s.
A convincing case is made that Ireland is, right now, the financially sickest nation in the western world. It’s debt is almost immeasurable, and its crony politicians have made a succession of choices that have amplified the pain it’s citizens have felt and will continue to feel for it’s crazed real estate boom.
Just two bright spots that emerge from the story. First, that the country’s condition is so bad that a default on soverign debt is almost certain. That may offer an end, however Draconian, to the current mess. The second is that, for all their faults, the Irish remain as funny as ever. If you have an resistance to reading a financial article, I guarantee you that this one will provide several deep belly-laughs. Credit Mr. Lewis for also gaining an inside track on the true Irish character. His comments about how the talkative nature of the Irish tends to conceal a deepy reticent character are dead on.
At the very least, you may take some comfort in the fact that, when it comes to real estate, those Irish were even crazier than we Americans.
This clip isn’t new, but we thought it definately should be given another look. It’s a super low-budget video, which appears to be a local news clip, of the 1994 Castletown Donkey Derby. The announcer is an Irish comedian named David O’Doherty. But typical of Ireland, it seems like everyone in the town, including the donkeys, are all comedians.
Give this one a little time – when the race actually starts after the preliminary interviews, things get really silly. Beyond the fact that donkeys are clearly not natural racers, it develops that one of them has an overwhelming, and I mean overwhelming, interest in a fellow competitor.
Did you know that:
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the biggest non-military parade on the planet, with over 150,000 people actually marching.
New York used to have wide variety of smaller parades on St. Pat’s Day, but they were merged into a single grand event in 1850.
People in Ireland don’t wear green to celebrate the day. Amazingly, green is actually considered an unlucky color in Ireland.
The City of Chicago has been pouring dye into the Chicago River to turn it green every St. Patrick’s Day since 1962.
St. Patrick’s Day was, for many years, a much bigger holiday in America than in Ireland. The day was made a public holiday in Ireland in 1903, and the first parade on St. Pat’s Day in 1931, long after New York’s parade had become a massive annual event. The Irish government has now decided that the holiday is a great way to promote Irish culture, and has held a “St. Patrick’s Festival” in Dublin since 1995, which attracts over 400,000 participants.
The very first parade on this holiday was staged in Boston in 1737.
The world’s longest-running St. Patrick’s Day parade is actually in Montreal, Canada, where it has been put on every year since 1824.
There are now annual St. Patrick’s Day parades in Malaysia, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and even Moscow.
More on the history of St. Patrick and his day here
just for fun today…
“Man is incomplete until he marries. After that, he’s finished.”
“A lie travels farther than the truth.”
“If you want an audience, start a fight.”
“Neither make nor break a fashion.”
“It’s not a delay to stop and sharpen the scythe.”
“Put a beggar on a horse and he’ll ride it to hell.”
The inhabitants of Coney Island, off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland’s northwest, claim that the New York neighborhood famous for its amusement park was named for their little outpost. Coney Island, Ireland, which you can walk to from the mainland at low tide, has a population of six. Legend says that a Sligo sea captain gave its name to the Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1700’s. Others argue that the American Coney Island was once known as Konijnen Eiland, or “Rabbit Island” by Dutch settlers, and that the word “coney” is simply the English translation of “konijnen,” the dutch word for “rabbit.” For what it’s worth, the American Coney Island was once an actual island, but is now connected to the mainland of Brooklyn.
Having one of those police “boots” clamped onto your car wheel is a pretty severe punishment for parking illegally. But police in Dublin seem to be clamping themselves in the foot, in a manner of speaking. With over 60,000 vehicles being hit with a parking boot and an €80 fine every year, you would think the city government would be raking it in. Not so. It actually costs almost twice as much to put the blasted things on cars than the city gets back in fines. In fact, the city is now losing over €5 million a year on the program.
OK, after a rather long process, here is a new trailer for my book. Let me know what y’all think. It’s me on guitar in the background, as well as that dreadful fiddle playing. I try. There’s some funny stuff as ever about Ireland and Irish culture.