Category Archives: Uncategorized

John Doyle: “Across The Western Ocean”

John Doyle, formerly of the group Solas, is without doubt the king of Irish acoustic guitar. Originally an instrumentalist only, he’s evolved into a wonderful singer.

Doyle has a great ear for songs. “Across The Western Ocean” is about those who left Ireland for America from 1846 to 1850 as a result of the terrible potato famine. Over 1.5 million of them came over on “packet ships,” the smaller vessels that plied the ocean before the massive clipper ships arrived around 1860 (interesting page on packet ships here). The packets took six weeks to reach America from Europe and almost one in every five immigrants who shipped on died of disease or shipwreck.

This song speaks of the fears of the Irish immigrants of the era. Like many old Irish songs, it shares a melody with another tune, in this case a sea shanty called “Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her.”

Check Out My Brand New Book of Irish Quotations

I have just published my second book, an unusual collection of Irish quotes from over many centuries. Called “Every Goose Thinks His Wife Is A Duck” (from an old proverb), it presents some of the most interesting things said about Ireland – and about life – by writers, politicians, golfers, rogues, philosophers, journalists and ordinary Irish people.

unusual Irish quotes and quotationsIt took me two years to put the book together, and I believe I came up with a pretty unusual little volume that’s great to browse when you want a little Irish intellectual entertainment. Here’s a bit of my introduction:

“How is it that Ireland, a small fleck in the Atlantic with fewer people in it than Belgium, has created a voice that all the world seems to hear? Lacking armies, it has dispatched legions of high-octane conversationalists who have managed to conquer a part of the global imagination. Whether it’s Blarney, gab, craic or some less tasteful contribution, the Irish always seem to reserve their highest honors for those who can turn the clever phrase.”

The book is available at, as a softcover print book or as a Kindle book. If you would like to learn a little more, click here to see a page on my other website with some additional explanation

print version
Kindle edition (less expensive)

Thanks for your interest. Please check out the book and then come back and leave a comment here to let me know what you think of it!


It Hurts So Bad: Ireland’s Real Estate Bust

Here’s a very in-depth video from the Wall Street Journal network about the depth of Ireland’s economic problems. 30,000 people left the country last year to pursue jobs abroad, and there seems to be little hope that the trend will change soon. A sobering portrait of Eire in 2010:
See Ireland Video

Alex Chilton RIP. Listen to “September Gurls”

Alex Chilton, first of The Box Tops and later of Big Star passes away at just 59 years of age. My favorite thing he did will always be September Gurls, an absolutely gorgeous, sad kind of pop song. Here’s Big Star:

And here’s a live clip of the song being done by The Bangles, who really did a pretty good job on it:

And here’s the quirky lyric:
September gurls do so much
I was your butch and you were touched
I loved you well never mind
I’ve been crying all the time
December boys got it bad.

September gurls I don’t know why
how can I deny what’s inside
even thought I keep away
maybe we’ll love all our days.
When I get to bed
late at night
that’s the time
she makes things right
ooh when she makes luv to me

Colbert amuses and confuses the Irish & Canadians all at once

Did you happen to catch Colbert’s broadcast from Vancouver the other night? He spent some time at Irish House, where he did a reading of James Joyces’ “Ulysses” that was so deadpan it seemed to actually get people upset. In fact, a fight actually broke out in the audience that appeared to be real. Colbert’s visit to Vancouver has been edgy in an interesting way.

The Canadians seem to love him to the point of being willing to put up with just about anything he says about them. So he’s really going for it. His repeated questions to Ujjal Dosanjh, an Indian-born Canadian politician, about which caste he was born into seemed to go just to the point where the guy was getting seriously pissed off.

Canadians seem to get Colbert’s inside joke – that most of the political commentators on Fox are basically entertainers. I’m not sure alot of Americans really get it, and I know the commentators on Fox don’t get it.

Fun quote from Quentin Crisp

New York writer Quentin Crisp confronts an Irish concept of atheism:
“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”

Peggy Fleming is cool

Stepping away from things Irish for a moment, I caught this very good interview with Peggy Fleming at the Vancouver Olympics. Kudos to the young interviewer for doing a nice job. Peggy Fleming is 62 years old. I don’t know and I don’t care if she’s had some work done on her face – she looks great and projects an amazing energy, and proves again how sexy a great voice can be:

Click to see video

Silliest Super Bowl Headlines

Bear with me, dear reader, as I post one of my occasional non-Ireland notes.

Personally, I enjoyed the big game this year. But I really love the way people seem to feel an odd pressure to say something different and interesting about it. Among my favorite headlines floating around this morning are:

“Man Cries for First Time in 14 Years” – AOL

“‘Massive Risk’ Pays Off in Super Bowl” – AOL’s description of the cataclysmic apocalypse that might have occurred, had The Saints failed to recover their onside kick at the start of the second half. Meanwhile, am I the only one that noticed the players on the edge of the pile punching and even kicking each other during the ensuing scrum?

“Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, happily together at the Super Bowl” – How can we help but feel relief hearing this from USA Today?

As everyone knows, one of the worst sins on earth is for a rock star to actually grow up. “The Who Rock Super Bowl XLIV With Explosive Medley of Big Hits” was the friendly headline from Rolling Stone. More typical, however, was this comment by a Chicago-Sun Times writer who plans to die before he gets old: “Out there in the field, fossils barely resemble the Who.”

The financial meaning of the game was explored in an ABC News articles called “Why Saints Super Bowl Victory Seen as Boost for Stocks”

“Super Bowl parties bring people together” was the cheerful, if somewhat obvious headline on the Kansas State Collegian

The blogisphere, being populated as it is by geeks and self-promoting marketers, was universally more obsessed with advertising than with the game – particularly with spots run by Google and Dave Letterman. It was almost impossible today to find a blogger who seemed very interested in who won or lost.

Finally, the UK’s Daily Mail summed up the real meaning of the event in typical British tabloid style: “Super Bowl sweetheart Kim Kardashian plants a huge kiss on boyfriend Reggie Bush after his team’s victory”

Movie made by chimps will air on BBC

Apropos of nothing, I happen to be reading a very funny book called “Me Cheetah,” which is a spoof biography of Tarzan’s famous Hollywood sidekick. I chuckled when I came across this piece on HuffPost about a movie made entirely by chimpanzees being shown on the BBC. I’ll bet it’s improvement over most of the junk on TV: Read about the chimps’ movie

While you’re at it, enjoy this funny little bit about the real Cheetah, who is actually now living in Palm Springs, celebrating his 75th birthday. Guess what – he’s 75 years old! Cheetah’s birthday cake

Great new song by my son’s band A Million Years

They did this live on the radio in New York last night. Really good new song. The boys have a full-length album coming out later in the spring: