Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Black Angels' "Passover": Music Review

Along with Darker My Love's "2" and The Black Angels' follow-up, "Directions to See A Ghost," (see tomorrow's entry for the latter) this is a strong recent record in the droning, doomed, and dirge-soaked genre of neo-psychedelia. I was frankly expecting, based on the band's name and description, a far more derivative band, and I am relieved to find I was mostly wrong. If this band can stay focused and progress, they might make a brilliant record.

For a debut, this is one solid album. I'd hesitate for five stars only because I predict they will top this as they grow into their songwriting and realize a more complicated lyrical and musical vision. While certainly not only the Doors (of which I am not a fan!) but The Gun Club (both lyrical and vocal similarities to Jeffrey Lee Pierce) and Echo & the Bunnymen (not in the sound so much as the post-punk attitude and their sinister yet accessibly pop-oriented vibe) will echo here, they create an appealingly grim sound scape for these death-haunted, obsessively structured, somber songs.

Another contemporary "Black" band, "Black Mountain," may also come to mind in their shared quest to uncover an overlooked mother lode of late-60s psych, less flower power and frippery, more stripped-down and brutal. This is a harsher, gnawed, numbed entry into the psyche. It can be oddly erotic, but dredging up a lustful, aching, mournful passion. They remind me of a lovelorn person's sleepless nights.

The tribal drums here carry most songs along in the spirit of Mo Tucker from the Velvet Underground, while capturing the desert rawness of Roky Erickson's band 13th Floor Elevators. This newer band's also from Austin, and their appealingly dessicated quality in their relentlessly percussive, tormented folksy music makes a great soundtrack for a mental or real trip down a lost highway out West.

The album seems a loosely conceived saga of a soldier sent off to war and trying to come back home-- or not getting back entirely, in some profound sense of the soul. The last song's nakedly naive in its late-60s's folk slogan-protest march tone, but I think this expression of grief and frustration may be half-deliberate, half-accidental. The band's obviously intelligently incorporating sources from three and four decades back while they are conscious-- I think-- of not overdoing themselves as a soundalike homage. The inclusion of Iraq alongside Vietnam in the final track reminds us that long after the moratoriums and Kent State and Berkeley demonstrations ended, anti-war music remains for us still sadly relevant.

(Posted 1/29/08 to Amazon.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ag críochnú tainséiriní

Tá dhá fáth a chur ag críochnú tainséirini le deanaí liomsa féin. Cad is cuis leis? Ar dtús, tá crann ard amuigh ár fuinneoig anseo. An bhfuil fáth eile ann? Tá! Tá torthaí saor ann!

Ar ndóigh, tá torthaí blasta freisin ann. Is maith linn sobhlasta acusan. Ní maith linn seadógaí, ar scor ar bith. Tá crann sin is airde in aice leis an crann tainséirin ann. Tá torthaí buí leis blas searbh acusan ann.

Bainfidh mé le crann seo níos milis torthaí níos mo amárach. D'ith mé dhá dosean go furasta ar feadh an seachtaine seo caite. Thug mé torthaí liomsa ag áit oibre agam. Níl duine go leor ann go raibh ag iarraidh siad. Mheasaim go raibh sin go airithe agamsa.

Smaoínim faoi go raibh mé óg nuair ag bolaigh ciotras mise féin. Bhí mé i gcónaí ag imeall na h-ullord líomóide. D'imigh mé chuig an garrán. D'imir mé imeasc an coill go sona.

Ach, chaill crannaí seo anois. Agus, cailleann na torthaí sa bhaile inniu. Itheann ioraí ruadh tainséirini go minic fós. Is maith leo ag buaileadh amach na torthaí de craobhachaí síos sa talamh. Níor iarraidh muid a feiceáil seo.

Is ainm eile faoi ainmhí sin as Gaeilge. Is "madraí crainn" siadsan. Mar sin, bíonn breithíochígh atá ag dreap suas crannaí gach lá. Is docha go raibh ag ciap faoi gadaithe bradachaí le hachan daoine céillí gach uair!

Gathering Tangerines.

There's two reasons for picking tangerines lately by myself. What's the cause for this? To start, there's a tall tree outside our window here. Is there another reason? There is! There, fruits are free!

Of course, the fruits are tasty too there. We like the tastiness of them. We do not like grapefruits, however. That tree is higher there next to the tangerine tree. The yellow fruits have a bitter flavor themselves there.

I will pick from this sweeter tree more fruits tomorrow. I ate two dozen easily during the past week. I took fruits with me to my place of work. There were not many people there who wanted them. I judged that myself surprising.

I think about when I was young smelling citrus myself. I was living on the border of a lemon orchard. I went off to the grove. I played among the wood happily. But, trees there were lost now. And, the fruits are lost at home today.

Red squirrels eat tangerines often too. They like knocking the fruits off the branches down to the ground. We do not want to see this.

There's another name concerning that animal in Irish. They are "dogs of a tree." That is, they're beasts who climb up trees every day. It's probable that every person with sense may be annoyed by these thieving scoundrels every time!

Image/íomhá: Tá oráiste ann. Gabh mo leithscéal! It's an orange. Excuse me. Sunkist: Faoi lípeid i gcliathbosca/ About Crate Labels

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gwyn A. Williams' "When Was Wales?": Book Review

Arguing that Welsh identity's about to vanish, and that the one-fifth who speak Welsh out of the two-and-a-half million in the Principality (as of twenty-five years ago) hold the English-speakers in contempt as "di-Gymraeg" or "Welsh-less," Professor Williams ends his densely compiled, if relatively brief, Penguin paperback history dramatically. It's a leftist, populist, and straightforward response to romantics and traditionalists. Williams relates a series, from its formation, of rearguard if clever Welsh reactions largely to external, increasingly English, actions.

He criticizes those venerating the "hen wlad fy nhadau," the "old land of my fathers." Williams suspects any "Welsh Wales" set apart from the increasingly polyglot, multicultural, majority who leans in their suburbs and cities towards American even more than English culture. Concluding around the time of the miners' strike during Thatcher's term, the 1985 book circles back to its earlier contention: there never may have existed a separate polity. Wales, as soon as it was defined, had to place itself in relation to England.

As its own nation, "only one king in Welsh history is called good." (54) Medieval boasts of bards and kings gain Williams' cold scrutiny. Trapped by complicated "kindred" demands to share power and wealth among relatives, feudal Welsh rulers competed among each other and against the always encroaching Saxons-- their longest if not their only foes. No romanticization here: serfs and slaves remain silent, barely noticed among the chronicles, and Williams reminds us of their erasure.

The Welsh heartlands early on began to contract against the Saxons and their Welsh collaborators. The "gwerin" chose allegiance to their language, folk tradition, and soon the Welsh Bible. Their loyalty to Nonconformism and Dissent, and later the Liberal Party and then Labour, marked the separation of Cymry Cymraeg from the Marches, and the borderlands and coasts that the English began to populate and then industrialize. Those areas, especially in the south-east, turned into cities and factories, sharing only regional boundaries with the mountain people, and the north.

The re-definition of Great Britain, by the time of the union with England in 1536, strongarmed Wales as a "junior partner" in what Williams characterizes as a proto-mafia controlled by colonial capital and the imperial Crown. Wales never stood a chance against Westminster, but often weakened early on due to its own disloyal fifth column. The rivalries within medieval Welsh inheritance lured many nobles into offers they could not refuse with the Saxon mobs.

This intricate narrative moves slowly. While a mass market title, this could be used in the classroom effectively; John Davies' subsequent "Hanes Cymru"/ "A History of Wales" became a decade later Penguin's first Welsh-language title, and the standard reference in both tongues. Yet, Williams may provide a shorter, if no less rich, guide for readers wanting a history of Wales in half the pages. He also appends maps and a short reading lists for those needing direction; there are no footnotes outside of a few clarifications. Compact yet scholarly, its three hundred closely printed and carefully arranged pages demand steady attention-- if considerable familiarity with British history, Welsh culture, and English politics.

I was alerted to a minor slip when citing Williams. He may have erred in crediting John Dee for taking credit for the term "British Empire" in the 1580s. Dee along with Peckham and Hakluyt popularized this coinage in the later 1500s to propagandize for the Madoc legend revived by Humphrey Llwyd around 1559. This tale could justify British, via the Welsh, pre-Colombian settlement of the Americas, to strengthen Elizabethan anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic claims. This also co-opted Welsh intellectuals, explorers, and leaders into serving their new Queen.

Williams tells such episodes from a typical tale, of Welsh pride mingled with frequent subservience, with mixed detachment and energy. When he discusses highlights such as Glyn Dŵr's rebellion, the Rebecca Riots, the "China" red-light section of Merthyr, the 1926 strike, or the determination to revolt against the Means Tests of the Depression, the tone lightens and quickens. The six pages describing "Imperial Wales" and the Liberal ascendancy under Lloyd George splendidly sum up a the dazzling facets of a confident period for a newly diverse nation.

Williams tends to distance himself from Welsh Wales, even as he knows it well. His sympathies, if well explained, side with the much-maligned majority that for him represents 80% of contemporary Wales. They made the modern nation prosper:
"Industrial capitalism came hard and it was fought hard. People were trying to build community in the teeth of it. To those problems, no tradition offered any answer; they had to find their own. They had to walk naked." (191)

Yet, much as he defends their interests, he honestly must face the imminent inclusion of Wales within an Anglo-American hegemony. Under Thatcher, facing nuclear threats and pollution from the sky, Williams characterizes his people with natural sympathy and millennial despair. After fifteen hundred years, their chronicler of his kinfolk wonders if now they're "nothing but a naked people under an acid rain." (305)

(Review posted to Amazon US 1/26/09. I worked on it while watching the Miss America Pageant. Miss Indiana won.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Essentially Welsh Pop Music?

Here's my latest contribution to the AmeriCymru discussion forum about Welsh Rock Music, or its lack. Dave Martin posted lamenting how derivative Welsh bands sound. I earlier commented asking if there's any way ultimately to make a Celtic-language sung pop-rock music true to its cultural roots, if so many groups parrot the latest sounds from Anglo-American centers of production.

Dave Martin, I know what you mean, even sober as I am (now!). What Sarah Hill in her book [ "Blerwytirhwng:" See my review on Amazon and this blog] struggles with and to me does not articulate fully is how you take reggae, post-punk, folk rock, or psychedelia and infuse them with an undeniably Welsh essence. That exists (I'd suggest tentatively as an outsider looking in hearing the music but without intimate connection with Cymru I confess-- that's why I am here to listen and learn) in snatches here and there when I hear in what's sung in Cymraeg a whiff of a deeper link to the land and mythos and hiraeth. But, I too am trapped as a faraway fan, like those art schoolers who founded folk rock bands in Britain in the later 60s; I am trying to romanticize gwerin from my urban perch.

Ireland has, if I may compare, a solid trad scene, of course, but they have failed to produce any musicians able to jump from the trad to the pop or rock while sticking to a Celtic language. I have a new wave record in Irish that's dreck. I think it was the only one of its genre ever made.

Horslips in the 70s went back and forth between electric folk, trad, and hard-rock but they emulated in the end the slick West Coast El Lay studio sound and their success foundered as they tried to match Jethro Tull's arena anthems. Liam Ó Maonlaí on "Rian" (Hothouse Flowers), Iarla Ó Líonaird (on Peter Gabriel's label, tellingly), and Peadar Ó Riada on his two records in the mid-90s to my limited knowledge came closest to integrating a complex world-music inspired approach into their trad, blended with an indie-label rockish eclecticism. This seemed the most promising direction, but this also can dissolve seductively into meaningful moans above mushy synths and flutes stacked atop didgeridoos and tribal drums. (See: Peter Gabriel.)

Sorry to sound like the wannabee rock critic, but I concur with Dave's complaint here: there's a persistent difficulty in locating a tangible substance in music from Wales as truly different. You can't stick lyrics in another language atop the same old pop or folk or rock groove from Anglo-American conventions, and claim some triumph for Celtic reclamation of culture. This remains the problem with asserting there's some essential (that adjective again) difference in Welsh-language music that follows London or LA-based trends. Not sure if this will ever happen for anybody in the Celtic lands making music in the wake of the domination of the international pop conglomerate that shapes and segregates and reproduces our market-tested tunes.

Yet, one last comment. Hill notes how long the Welsh-pop evolution took; there was not a professional rock-pop band able to survive on their music alone until well into the 70s, and as long for a full LP! The whole pop music scene took much longer to evolve in Wales, whether folk and pop in the 60s, rock in the 70s, or punk and reggae in the 80s. The organic sound of The Band that Dave admires itself took patience, years of roadhouse gigs, and smart guys' exposure to lots of earlier, diverse, obscure music before it melded at Big Pink. So, perhaps the blend we're denying may take longer still to percolate into a "truly" Welsh medium of expression?

This poster by Ankst head honcho Emyr Glyn Williams I found at the Ankst homepage, Cardiff's epicenter for Welsh-language indie rock. John Cale'd love this! Andy needs no intro. His rival Saunders Lewis may be regarded by lefties as a Catholic Action Française Plaid Cymru Cymraeg Don Quixote, but the more I read of/about him, the more I admire his principles. More on him? See my post a year back about his Penyberth 1936 protest with D.J. Williams & Lewis Valentine. (If I ever get that pending ILL loan for Dafydd Jenkins' "A Nation on Trial," I'll be able to tell you more about Lewis, especially his leading role in the real-life courtroom case after Tân yn Llŷn.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Craobh Curtin, Conradh na Gaeilge.

Bím gnóthach liomsa inniu. Mar sin, ní scríobhfaidh go leor anois. Ach, léigh mé dhá nóta le Dónal ó Milwaukee. D'inis sé ormsa faoi suíomh ar an idírlion go raibh go cruinnithe leis féin.

Tá sé anseo: Craobh Curtin, Conradh na Gaeilge ó Milwaukee. Foghlaimeidh tú faoi focail na geimhreadh, imeachtaí Croibhe, nuacht, stair, agus naisc. Go críochaítear ar ais go dtí Blogtrotter, mar sin féin.

Cén fáth? Chuir Dónal nasc leis mo phost faoi Séamas Ó Broine. Chuala Dónal agus mé an fidléir cáiliúl, trocaire air, nuair ag fanta i Gleann Cholm Cille. Bhuail muid linn ag freastail ar chéile go Oideas Gael.

Is cuimhne liomsa i mo rhanga cailín níos óg Cáit ann. Bhí mac leinn ar an Ollscoil Wisconsin ina gcathair Milwaukee ann. Bhi gruaig mageanta uirthi. Téann foghlameoiri fásta go rialta go Milwaukee go dtí Dún na nGall.

Fillfaidh Dónal agus duine eile ann an samhraidh seo chugainn. Smaoiním faoi an Gleann go minic. Níl mé ábalta a fágáil mo chathair. Níl dóthain airgead agamsa anois! Ach, gheobhaidh mé amach faoi cuairt is gaire go Wisconsin go dtí an Gleann airsean féin go luath.

Curtin Branch, Gaelic League.

I'm busy myself today. Therefore, I will not write a lot now. But, I read two notes from Dan of Milwaukee. He told me about a site on the internet that he designed himself.

Here it is: Curtin Branch, Gaelic League of Milwaukee. You will learn about words for winter, Branch events, news, history, and links. One may go back to Blogtrotter, however.

Why? Dan put a link with my post about James Byrne. Dan and I heard the famous late (literally= "mercy on him") fiddler when we stayed at Glencolmcille. We met attending together at Oideas Gael.

"There comes to a memory of me" (=I remember") a younger girl Cáit in my class there. She had magenta hair on her. She was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the city of Milwaukee. Adult learners come regularly from Milwaukee to Donegal.

Dan and other people will return there this next summer. I think about the Glen often. I am unable to leave my city. There is not enough money for me now! But, I will find out about the next visit from Wisconsin to the Glen from himself soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lathophobic Aphasia: EFL Teacher's blog

This greater Birmingham-based EFL teacher reminds me of two other instructors. Mix erudite "Bo" over at "The Expvlsion of the Blatant Beast" and "The Cantos of Mutabilitie" echt-Oxbridge sites (see blog links at right hand bar) with beleaguered me in the polyglot provinces, educationally rusticated if simultaneously consigned a concrete campus in a bleak conurbation. That vocational blend concocts "Vilges Suola"-- his nom-de-plume's from the Sami vocalist Mari Boine's song translated as "white thief." He earns his keep in a classroom honing fine points of grammar; he grinds them into woefully, inevitably clueless greenhorns.

Any difference from me? He's in Britain, with a U.N. roster that I'm not sure comprises students there for the short term, or, as in my Californian case, here for the bachelor's degree. Matriculatory distinctions aside, I laughed out loud (a rare occasion, unless at unintentionally humorous news or my inherited schadenfreude) at his accounts of what it's like to be trapped in a climactically challenged room for hours on end, overeducated and likely underpaid, drilling callow youths with drudge lessons reminding me of Joyce's "is this an umbrella?" Berlitz tutoring in Trieste.

However, just as Joyce met Svevo and earned eventual redemption for his herculean labors, freed if not much richer from his Augean stable mucking, VS-- I was not far off when I thought his moniker was Finnish-- appears to enjoy himself and gets away enough to the Mediterranean. He's a Greek ex-pat (he fooled me-- see comments box for his kind clarification), furthermore, scattering about his blog that different alphabet (translated) alongside explicit art of "handsome males." I admit they are, but I eschewed opening his entries catalogued "homosex."

I did, however, plunge into VS's reflections on uses and abuses of language and teaching. His latest entry that popped up, on Babelfish's misuse, reminded me of Malcolm Bradbury's send-up "Why Come to Slaka?" Such manglings of globalized, agonized English in turn echo those in "Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry," a satirical travel guide I reviewed on Amazon US a while back.

I'll leave his entries under "language" and "teaching" for you to savor. They also have what I have never seen: a rating box for both/or "funny" and "interesting" after each blog post. I cast my vote for those classified under teaching or language; some earned both serious and humorous boxes checked.

Chortling aloud from his posts to my wife-- like me she's a former ESL teacher to adults in L.A.U.S.D.-- I distracted her from watching her Billy Wilder film on cable yesterday, "The Fortune Cookie." (I liked the prop, for personal reasons, of a poor box for "unwed mothers" in the hospital.) 1966, but I wasn't expecting Jack Lemmon to yammer "bitch" and "bastard" about his slovenly ex. You know she's a slut when she's filmed in a rumpled bed, hair post-coitally askew like the winningly lacquered Miss Indiana who won later last night our nation's beauty crown. She, the blonde in the film and not the brunette on stage, also smoked, while a man took a shower in the background, his bare bottom faintly discernable behind the frosted door of the open bathroom in her equally dishevelled flat.

VS links to language blogs such as David Crystal's. I wonder if "Bo" has ever met him-- meaning both the eminent linguist and the Greek British instructor of hapless learners-- at Cambridge? Certainly one wonderful feature of ferreting out bloggers like me: trivia. Next visit to Nick the Dentist, fluent first-generation scion from Ikarian parents, I may assert before novocaine: "I have a small dick" in hesitant koine, perhaps. But that'd be a lie. So I'm told, if not by "handsome males."

Illustration: No shots of handsome males. (Already dog-faced Walter Matthau was a year younger than I am now when he filmed this first comedic pairing with Lemmon! He had a heart attack during the making of it, and seems to drop out of the plot for long stretches. The reason I was surfing the Net while the film was on? I'm not a fan of Lemmon, but I kept my wife parlor company with my laptop.)

No stills of Judi West en deshabille appear extant. This is the only image I found of Miss West prominently displayed. Via an Italian blog; maybe you linguists can figure it out, in the absence of tutor Joyce & native Svevo? "Fortune Cookie" poster

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Spiked": Political Journalism

My friend Carrie from Ireland, with whom I have found much in common politically and intellectually over the years, has guided me often to books, people, and places that have proved rewarding. Both of us, coming up through long involvement in Irish republican issues, have chafed at the tightening straightjacket of leftist PC-speak and recoiled at the overcorrective lurch to the right wing's shrill hyperbole. I suppose there's a mixed metaphor in this unbalanced image!

It's hard as a dissenter by nature to find thoughtful discussions that can roam freely among many ideologues while remaining loyal to an allegiance which, as my recent switch on my voter's registration states, defines me as "decline to state." My wife deems me practically a fascist; my elders think me variously an egghead liberal or a sullen reactionary as they align themselves in reference to me. I always recall the advice, freshly minted with my Bachelor's, from a professor who had taught me four years earlier, first semester freshman year, my required (it being a Jesuit university) introductory course in philosophy.

He had us, eighteen years old barely, at a school whose president had summed us up as promising but "average Catholic high school grads," tackling Ayer, semiotics, and Habermas. Along with two textbooks surveying all of the Western intellectual tradition. This was, ahem, thirty years ago this autumn. Nowadays such "average" students would be subjected to gendered-this and socially constructed-that, but Dr. Blystone had studied in Mainz and took a more Continental approach from somewhere in the pre-PC era that we still managed to huddle in as dorm-sheltered undergrads.

Anyway, the kind doctor-- who I don't even think I'd seen since I took his course!-- asked me, gowned and mortarboarded, about my plans. When I responded "grad school in English lit," he advised: "Never be a slave to any theory." He encouraged me to learn from wherever I found wisdom, but not to be trapped by any demagogue or theoretical bent. Sometimes such simplest comments stick the longest, and this one did. Along with his comment early on in class that I looked "gaunt and aristocratic"!

Back to "Spiked," I suppose they take their name from the spiking of an article to be printed in the old newsroom. A lame lower-case spelling, and a dull logo, but those superficial markings can be easily penetrated to reveal a livelier core. It's the sort of community where, if we are truly Obama's peers (as I am born the summer he was), and we take the more fluid, less fixed identity of a cohort alleged to listen to a wider variety of views than our smug boomer and snide neo-con predecessors, perhaps this flexibility can signal an encouraging trend. I have avoided ranting post-election, preferring to comment, or snipe, now and then on "Liberal Rapture," which you can link to under my bloglinks.

Carrie referred me today to "Spiked." (Unlike "LR," this may be an exchange of wits even my progressively inclined wife might be able to endure-- if gingerly and sparingly. She did surprise me with a nod to scanning the "National Review" on-line along with "Politico" & the "Huffington Post.") It's a London-based online journalistic consortium. Established for five years, there's international contributors. I read an article by Wendy Kaminer, who previously had bored me with a essay in "Harper's" that dragged through theoretical muck. Kaminer, to her credit, weighed in with a sprightlier essay responding as an MOT to the Jesus-friendly sermon at the inauguration. Even though I had heard her tired Jewish joke already, I recommend "Rick Warren: A Pastor We Can't Believe In."

The libertarian-individualist oriented site takes on hot-button topics such as crime, abortion, obesity, Obama, US actions at home and abroad, crime, economics, policy, and the environment et alia multa. On their distrust of the EU, their championing of regional autonomy, and their sympathy towards populism, I sense congeniality. Far more free-market advocates than class-conscious, tree-hugging me, their positions contrast dramatically with mine on immigration, ecology, capitalism, and China, but that's the price to pay for admitting an open-minded exchange. At least I get riled up by some posts and soothed by others. Whereas my local paper tends only to rile me up. The problem remains that too few of us-- I suppose age plays its part in enlarging our blinders-- even consider other viewpoints on many controversies that we've made up our minds about, perhaps decades ago as undergrads! Reminds me of so many activists in Irish republicanism, come to think of it.

Getting over the left-right stalemate; overcoming the timidity of the media to question received notions incorporated from academia, government, and institutions; breaking out of dull bureaucratic standardization; shaking up political complacency. These to me seem admirable goals. I've quoted Desmond Fennell before, but his insistence about renouncing our loyalty, as citizens and as advocates, to the same old seating arrangements as the 1791 French Assembly remains my own rallying cry.

As that like-minded crowd admits under their masthead of sorts:
One consequence of spiked’s ‘question everything’ approach is that we often find ourselves going against the grain of a discussion or dissenting from a consensus. This is not because we are deliberately looking for ‘outrageous’ ideas. It simply reflects how narrow the accepted terrain of public discussion has become, at a time when ideas can be dismissed out-of-hand as being in bad taste or offensive. The dead weight of this new conformism means that society is in danger of losing its critical faculties.

Mick Hume, editor, sums up "spiked." Their valiant (if quixotic as ever for we erudite malcontents) manifesto:
What is spiked? It is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it.

Photo: Never saw or even heard of this show, as I don't watch political coverage! Not only on Fox.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ag íthe mír coirce.

Is maith liom mír coirce go leor. Measaim go raibh imeasc brícfeastaí is tofa air agamsa. D'íth mé an bia sin céann ar maidin seo.

Rinne Léna béile groí. Níor ith Leo cuid mhór airsean de réir cosúlachta. Is é is dóichí go ní itheann sé dhóthain cothú anois agus ansin.

Cén chaoi go raibh maith liomsa é? B'fheidir, gheobhainn babhla leis sútha talamh. Ach, nár fhaighe mé tortach toraidh talún úr ina samraidh anseo i gCalifoirnea ann.

Bíonn Léna go déanamh mír coirce leis rísíní nó sílíní fós. Ní maith liom oiread agus nuair go ndéana sí sé leis cainéal nó spóisra. Mar sin féin, ithim sé go sona!

Íosfaidh mé sé go minic ar feadh an seachtaine deireadh seo chugainn. Tá aimsir go casadh níos fuar faoi deireanach. Titeann fearthainn inniu. .

Is docha, titfidh barrchith. Níl bailc ann. Léigh mé ina nuachtan go raibh citheannaí beag.

"Tá bua na nuachta aige."-- Fuair an frasa seo i mo fhoclóir. Tá sé beirt cith agus mír coirce go cuí; tá beirt rudaí a chur i gcuimhne do geimreadh gearr amháin orainn ansiud.

Eating oatmeal.

I like oatmeal a lot. I think that it may be among my most chosen breakfasts. I ate that very dish this morning. {Can't use "favorite" adjectivally in a non-personal attribution in my Irish dictionary!}

Layne made a generous meal. Leo did not eat his share, likely. It's probable that he does not eat enough nutrition now and then.

How may I like it? Perhaps, I may get a bowl with strawberries. But, there may not be found an abundance of fresh fruit of a farm in summer here in California.

Layne (usually) may be making oatmeal with raisins or cherries too. I don't like it as much when she may make it with cinnamon or spice. All the same, I eat it happily!

I will eat it often during the next weekend. The weather is turning more cold lately. Rain falls today.

Probably, light rain will fall. There is not heavy rain. I read in the news that there may be few showers.

"It has the charm of novelty."-- I found this phrase in my dictionary. There's a fitting pair, rain and oatmeal; there's a pair of things that remind of only a short winter for us out here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Introversion: Withdrawal Symptoms.

My wife blogged today about me (among other mixed blessings). She claimed that this article would be tattooed on my chest: "Introverts of the World, Unite!" Jonathan Rauch's essay for the March 2003 issue of "The Atlantic Monthly" remains among its top-five most e-mailed articles. While too lengthy, I demurred to the missus, for such "Memento"-like dermatological commemoration on my pale torso, I have ingested, intellectually and emotionally, Rauch's contents years ago.

Rauch argues that introversion's an orientation, doomed to misunderstanding by yapping, yipping, touchy-feely, domineering extroverts who lord themselves over me and my oppressed, or at least belittled, minority. Remember, I came of adolescence in the '70s, when guitar-spurred group hugs invaded even the sacrifice of many a Mass. I dreaded such earnest communism from that post-Vatican II "agape feast." Unless the ritual "kiss of peace" happened to embrace a nearby congregant of the opposite sex, if under about 40 and above 12 or so, excluding relatives.

Needing time alone, sidling away from small talk, dreading dinner parties, preferring "down time," or meeting new people's not a disability. Maybe the new DSM will include it for insurance purposes, but I reject classification (at least for this trait) as a deviant. The shrinks've lobbied shyness into an official "Social Anxiety Disorder," logically abbreviated as SAD. Introversion's not, the author insists and I agree, a lifestyle-- or what my spouse pithily and frequently has translated to as: "me being an a--hole".

I concur with Rauch's contention that an hour being "on" for an introvert means two hours "off" any social contact. As a teacher, one who actually has always enjoyed (for a quarter-century next autumn) being in front of a captive crowd regaling them with trivia, my reveries, and the occasional lecture topic as assigned on the syllabus, this may confound those who know me as their professor. Yet, I have by profession daily enough of other people. I get my mingling done. I ride the train, take the bus, and/or endure traffic. I go home and think and mull and read and blog.

This cocooning combines with my reluctance for therapy. Freud lamented the Irish being alone among those unable to benefit from his couch and the "talking cure." This stubbornness leaves me content but doubtless my family and few friends bewildered. However, Rauch sums up a weariness we stoics feel when pummelled about by everyone else in public each day we sally forth to do our duty and make our living.

We aren't misanthropes; we aren't cranks. Rather, we tire easily from dealing with others in situations that leave us liable to unpredictable encounters. Rauch reminds us, in a piece that I am unsure would be filed under humor or psychology, that our need for withdrawal "isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay— in small doses."

Photo: Contrary to the marquee, I would not classify "timidity" as a near-synonym for "introversion." Timid folks would not, I aver, choose teaching as a career, or feel no more than the natural butterflies before standing at a podium. Furthermore, I doubted such a church existed. Who'd attend?

Returning to the site, I learned this display was concocted by the clever blogger at "Graham's Paddock" at His explanation directed me to: Church Sign Generator. That URL comes with this cryptic warning as its first sentence: If you've received an offensive sign from 'Beth Sholom Synagogue' or 'Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church' or some other church or synagogue, please read this." (=hyperlink embedded under last phrase)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Madoc: A Legendary Prince's Mythical Power.

This is my initial post to the Madoc discussion at the Welsh-American Internet Network. It's the story of a Welsh prince (Madoc or Madog) who claimed to guide in the 1170s a band of settlers who later became absorbed into the Mandan natives, argued variously but usually around the mid-South (or the far Dakotas) among its mound-builders. This proto-colonial tale became propagandized during Elizabeth's reign to bolster British expansion and Welsh cooperation.

Talk about coincidence. The morning-- speaking of mythologizing on Inauguration Day-- after I read about this by chance, I get an invite to join. I copy this diplomatic missive for wider audience attention (such as it is on this little blog!)

I'm a newbie to this network, so I will try to tread firmly but politely. I confess quite a few years of research, for academic and personal aims, of Irish investigations but a semi-dormant concurrent interest in Welsh cultural, nationalist, and linguistic connections to Ireland. Now, I am trying to learn more about the Cymric side. Please be tolerant!

My interests also include medieval British literature and medievalism, thus my curiosity in how Celtic tales get revamped by later storytellers. Madoc's been on the back burner although I've yet to read my copy of Gwyn A. Williams' study; I am halfway through his "When Was Wales," however.

By the way, I've reviewed a couple of titles that are germane. In passing, Emyr Humphreys' "The Taliesin Tradition" brings up Madoc in the American context as a rallying point for Welsh colonization. I posted about TTT on my own blog (see link to my review on my blog URL at my profile) only ten days or so back, and on Amazon US. Humphreys accepts the power of the legend but remains skeptical. If I may say so as a medievalist, a great-grandson of a man killed for his Land League activism for the Fenians-- found drowned in London over a century ago-- and as someone aware of how we moderns make sense or nonsense out of a presumed or real Celtic past, I'd caution romanticists about taking distant rumors and inflating them into what people centuries later want to wish. That's the appeal and the danger of Celtic revivals.

While I remain sympathetic to Ken Lonewolf's claims, I am also sure that he and anybody involved in serious searching of this vexed question about Madoc wants to follow truth and not conjecture. The Mandan-Welsh similarities rumored may be a treacherous foundation, for this tenuous and often coincidental tallying up of soundalikes reminds me of British Israelites who argued that Brit="covenant" and Ish="man" in Hebrew, so voila-- British had a Hebrew origin. Linguists to my recollection deny Mandan-Cymraeg cognates; seekers of alternate paths to wisdom denied by scholars may believe otherwise. As a Celt myself, whatever that revived term means thousands of years on, I acknowledge both a tug of my soul and the restraint of my mind.

Madoc has a tangled context. Iolo Morganwg's involvement in the publicizing of John Williams' account in 1791 should be noted. He did not always rely on facts, to say the least. Madoc was told to bolster Welsh emigration, it was promoted to counter Catholic colonists and Spanish threats, and it was popularized earlier by John Dee, who coined [see blog comments for correction by Rodger Cunningham and my reply] the term "British Empire," in his support of Welsh backing and co-option of that people and that polity within Elizabethan imperialism. Madoc was used to extend royal power.

I reviewed a few years ago the Irish poet Paul Muldoon's 1990 "Madoc" book-length sequence on Amazon US-- it's as formidable, erudite, and enigmatic as his other verse, I warn you, very loosely based on Robert Southey's 1805 epic. And, just last night, with no idea about this group yet, I was browsing Meic Stephens' "The New Companion to the Literature of Wales" (2nd ed. 1998). I found its entry on "Madoc." Here's the final three sentences, after it relates Madoc's 1858 debunking by Thomas Stephens. This entry seems to strike the right balance between skepticism and possibility; I admit I was surprised by its open-minded tone.

"It was probably a legend concocted in the sixteenth century to counter Spanish claims to the New World and to stress Elizabeth I's rights as heir to the Welsh princes. Yet, bearing in mind the strong Viking connections of the rulers of Gwynedd and the fact that Viking voyages across the Atlantic are accepted as germane, the Madoc story is not wholly incredible. There is no serious navigational argument against it and references in Welsh poetry, the account of William the Minstrel and early Spanish maps can be interpreted to give it credence." (s.v. 476)

P.S. Forgive me for a first post that may repeat earlier comments, but as I happened to find this only last night, I figured I'd leap into the friendly fray. Thanks for your comments in return, and I hope I can learn from this discussion. Hwyl pob ichi.

Illustration: Note Margaret Jones' cover for Y Lolfa's publication. Gwyn Thomas has authored earlier children's books with medieval storyteller/ compiler Kevin Crossley-Holland. "The First White Americans" proves a provocative subtitle. Image from "Bad Archeology: Leave Your Common Sense Behind." Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews offers to me a fair-minded evaluation of the evidence, or its lack, as he surveys recent claims to debunk it.

I'd be eager to see how Ken Lonewolf, chief of the "Shawnee-Welsh Madoc Native Americans," responds-- given his counter-claims of DNA linking him to the historical Owain Gruffydd, alleged as Prince Madoc's grandfather. The whole tale sparked by the earnest Elizabethans concocting a "capital" myth that'd resonate two centuries later for Romantic poets and post-colonial landgrabbers within a newly independent America doggedly seeking to oust Spain's Catholics from the Louisiana Territories-- with pioneers passing along hearsay about marvelous sightings of "white Indians" speaking attenuated Welsh among their fortified mounds.

Líonra Soisealta Breatnaigh-Meiricéanaigh

Cheangail mé an líonra soisealta Breatneach agus Meiricéanach faoi deireanach. Tá sé ar an idirlion anseo. Bhí mian agamsa a foghlaim faoi línte comhchumrachaí idir Breatnais agus Gaeilge.

Fuair mé amach faoi an ionad nuair go raibh ag cuardach le tuairiscí le bogearra (nó earraí boga) le "Rosetta Stone." D'iarr mé ag léamh léirmheasannaí le úsáideoirí Breatnaise. Bhuel, d'fhoglaim mé mír i dtaobh sé leis gasra fhoglaimeoiri ann.

Tá rud eile de suíomh seo ann. D'aimstrigh mé faisnéis mar gheall ar eolas a chur ar gníomharthaí cultúir Breatnaigh ina Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá. Ní raibh fhios agamsa féin ar chor ar bith fúthu. Anois, insíonn agaibh beagán faoi an áit sin.

Níl sé furasta a cuardaigh ann. Dhearc mé nascannaí go leor ar dtús. Ba mhaith liom amharc de dheas dom a fháil air. Tá blogannái ann; tá seomra cainte fós; tá nuacht freisin. Tá siadsan féin go bhfuil óstachaigh de "Eisteddfod ar chois an taobh clé"!. Tá stiúrthórí i gcónaí ina Stát Bhéabhar (=Oregon).

Tá líonra iontrálachaí líonmharaí a chur ina idirlíon a bhreacadh acu ann. Coinnigh scór siad an cuntas seo. Tá duine den lucht soisealta: 828; tá grianghrafaí: 3606; tá amhráin: 153; físeanaí: 198; comhráite: 227; imeachtaí: 248; agus altannaí bhlogannaí (leis alt nua agamsa) anois. Tá dream acusan féin bídeach go cuí ag caint faoi an finscéal Mhadoc! Scríobhfaidh mé faoi seo amarach as Béarla.

Welsh-American Social Network.

I joined a social network of Welsh and Americans recently. It's on the internet here. I had a need to learn about concurrent ties between Welsh and Irish (languages).

I found out about the location when I was looking for accounts of software by "Rosetta Stone." I wanted to read reviews by users of Welsh. Well, I learned a bit concerning it from a group of learners there.

There's another thing about this site. I discovered information regarding data out about Welsh cultural activity in the United States. Now, I tell you all a little about that site.

It's not easy to search there. I observed many links at the start. I'd like to get a closer view of it. There's blogs there; there's a chat room also; there's news too. They themselves are hosts of a "Left Coast Eisteddfod"! The directors are living in the Beaver State (=Oregon).

Their network has entered numerous entries put on the internet to post. Today, they tally ("=keep score") this count. There's 828 members; 3606 photos; 153 songs; 198 videos; 227 discussions; 248 events; and 330 blog posts (with a new one from me) there now. They even have a tiny group fittingly chatting about the legend of Madoc! I will write about this tomorrow in English.

Íomhá: "Do you have power to speak Welsh?"/ "An bhfuil cumhacht ag rá Gaeilge agaibh?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Re-make, re-model: my iPod's update needs a road test

Playing the old favorite début by Roxy Music, one of my top-twenty-ever discs, I tried to rally myself. Fearing collapse of my music library, I had shuffled through to the end of nearly 12,000 tracks stored on this aging home computer to get rid of my son's hip-hop and rap and comedy and junk that old fuddy-duddy greying psychedelic-punk-folk-prof dad wanted instead, my sixteen-year-old blew it. At the gain of jettisoning a couple thousand tracks, and a measly 5gb or so stuffed in the recycle bin, I lost all of my songs, at least as organized painstakingly. My iPod's empty, and iTunes would not even update my very old version! I confess bewilderment. As if a "real" library's volumes had been arranged, still intact on this tired drive, but alphabetically stacked overnight!

My digital native, the son born in this generation raised on keyboards and filesharing, erased, for a second time in the past six months, my entire iPod's contents. Luckily, I don't download music and nearly all I have is backed up with CDs, and this creaky hard drive still had the vast majority of my songs there. Although the storage drive we bought for all our computers unfortunately, despite our techie friends' assurances, cannot work with PCs, only my son's old Mac he got for $50!

So, what I thought would be a simple action of backing up the music on that device, or secondarily popping a few playlists in and out, failed. I took the task of a day and a half, sifting through the 12,000 tracks to find what's just over 5,000 for my smaller 30gb (that is, 27gb!) ancient ((c) 2005!) iPod, the thick kind not even the junior high kids from Watts have when they shuffle past me on the Blue Line. I have about 20gb filled, but iTunes refuses to play with my RTÉ radio play of "Ulysses" that I had transferred from its mp3 CDs, and I am also confused why it played the Uncle Tupelo show Chris kindly copied onto a CD but now will not upload it to iTunes at all.

I suppose Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, it seems, are to blame, to paraphrase another teacher, a century ago in Joyce's Dublin. Our gadgets keep us edgy. My wife's commented on the frustration her father and our son share in their obsession with electronics meant to bring us only pleasure, if at the profit of the media.

As for me, my patient spouse rather ingeniously remarked it made her happy that music made me so sad to lose, for this connected me with her own love of songs, for that's what first brought us together over twenty years ago, when I made her cassette mix-tapes of what she'd like on our first ride north, when we drove up 101 past Spreckels towards Salinas. I wonder what Bob sees as he navigates his silent, Spanish-speaking (one of three languages he's chosen for its readout in this truly continental car) Prius past Prunedale and Freedom, Moss Harbor and Aptos?

We did not know then that such a journey would become such a favorite. The eucalyptus near my house in the Inland Empire way back, and my boyhood love of Steinbeck return to enrich my memories, mingled with the music I hear as I now pass those welcome expanses of green and brown, the vast and repetitive and rawer rural scenes up North. For now, our loved ones new and old, but then never known there, live nearer there now. And, even if Leo's plugged in to his gadget, me to mine, Niall to his, and nearly deaf (worse than me as that hands-on Exploratorium display clocked me under 15k hz high and her far less, alas) Layne blasting her radio, we all love music and bond over the ancient yearnings packaged in modern plastic and shiny metal.

Caption: I cannot find a snapshot of the northbound road south of Spreckels except a Target sign-- mark of progress (sic). This from Amayu at Flickr will have to do: "Thick black smoke blanketed the Salinas Valley after an oil fire at the Moss Landing Power Plant."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

AmeriCymru: Welsh-American Social Network & Language Learners' Group

An American Welsh Social Network - Rhwydwaith Cymdeithasol i Gymry America. " and are an online social network for Welsh people and people of Welsh descent and a place online to find Wales and all things Welsh." Neither Welsh nor as far as I know of descent, I still liked this contingent, so I joined their friendly fray.

Since I needed to seek out those in the know, I thought this'd be a sensible place for my diasporic speculation about a language studied by me in isolation. Not needing to speak it really, I'm intrigued by seeing it. I asked my quixotic or misguided question about ties between Gaeilge & Cymraeg. Perhaps (despite "Bo's" erudite pair of rejoinders), I may find another deluded seeker scrabbling out a few pan-Celtic traces, however dim or palimpsestic fifteen hundred years hence.

I found AmeriCymru when tapping in a search for reviews of the pricy, enigmatic, but flashy and hypermarketed (for lack of alternatives for such as Tagalog and Farsi?) Rosetta Stone software for Irish and Welsh. You cannot even get it used; the company determines you purchase the license, not the product! Contradicting the right we have as buyers of a product to dispose of it as we wish! Seems discouraging. Not that I can afford it, but I am curious, yellow.

There's spirited, if combative and diffused, discussions by real RS Irish users at forums on Daltaí na Gaeilge, as opposed to ubiquitous blurbs, but I had trouble uncovering any for RS Welsh. Then, I substituted "Cymraeg," as even the yellow RS software box has that label. I figured I'd get more serious cross-over potential. And, up popped somebody's comments. That listing led me to wander around the rest of AmeriCymru. The learners gather at: Grŵp Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Group)

This AmeriCymru-hosted (its sequestered guests can be hard to track down on the main site) Grŵp links to: Learn Welsh Podcast. I referred to this on January 8th. Thanks to all on the Net, who as I ranted to my MBA-aspiring son today, eschew commercial gain as they enter the web to promote the joy of knowledge rather than the accumulation of profit by garishly "sponsored" blogs and busily hectoring, Flash-animated, ad-riddled URLs.

Euros Childs' "Cheer Gone": Music Review

Along with Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), this Welsh singer-songwriter's my favorite vocalist. As with Farrar, he conveys a wistful tone along with undertones of menace. Unlike Farrar's growling baritoned tension, Childs carries a sweetness in his somewhat more boyish tenor that captures innocence, as well as an unsettling insouciance that can turn charming a narrative plotting revenge against a spurning lover, sung in the first person. In fact, one of the prettiest songs of his former band, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, was titled "Murder Ballad."

Both Farrar and Childs have progressed far in fifteen or twenty years. They both were teenagers when they started with their gawky bands, and both were more anarchic, Americana-meets-punk and lysergia-meets-DIY respectively. They took traditional roots music and married it to indie rock's punkier or twangier styles. Both groups gracefully matured, with eloquent three- or four-minute songs about identity, love, and cultural flux, even if Uncle Tupelo stayed more identifiably lefty-populist than the increasingly summery, lush West Coast feel that imbued later GZM with a more accessible if to me less energizing escapist eclecticism.

Childs' first record post-GZM, "Chops," I admit I have not heard much. It's a respectable home-studio assortment of songs that a lead vocalist often makes after his bandmates have gone south. "Bore Da," all in Welsh, expresses more the national 'hiraeth' or untranslatable longing said to be within the native land and language. About half of its songs swirl and ebb into excellent pop music, experimental without losing the listener, grounded in traditional craft yet somehow refreshing what in many peers sounds like another indie rock homage to Brian Wilson.

"Miracle Inn," to me, went too far in this "Pet Sounds" direction. A song-suite reminding me of "Abbey Road" took up much of the record. Fine for fans of McCartney, and Childs holds his own with his predecessors, but the disparate nature of the record's division into small tunes vitiated some of its structure and pace. For his fourth, he went to record in Nashville with Mark Nevers, and it's no surprise to find a member of Lambchop among its session musicians. Produced quickly, many songs on the first or second take, it aspires to a less-labored level of craft.

The first four songs prove respectable, but remind me of, well, a trimmer Lambchop with a singer much easier on my ears. They follow the country lite-chamber pop approach beloved by many indie musicians integrating Nashville elements, but do not stand out. "Nineteen Fifties" reminds me of "Femme Fatale," and it moves about as sprightly.

The mood quickens, luckily, with track five and does not let up until the final track, a singalong that leaves the album's impression less powerful than it might have been, as the six songs that comprise for me the heart of "Cheer Gone" impress by their melancholy. They mix, as the best songs from later GZM and "Bore Da," folkish patterns blended with indie-pop. A familiar combination for many indie musicians who have come of age in the 80s and 90s and eased into softer, less confrontational or combative music.

So, why do these half-dozen songs stand out for me as among Childs' best ever? They take advantage of his supple delivery. They keep the emotions of wonder embedded in simpler traditional British-based folk. They add the bitterness, or the sadness, of balladry and breakup songs when necessary. They mix the optimism of youth with the knowledge of elders.

(All but the first two paragraphs posted to British & U.S. Amazon today.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Písciní ag cainteach as Breatnais?

Bhí muintir agam nuair ag tosaithe a foghlaim Gaeilge fadó. Dúirt Séamus Ó Dearáin againn go measaionn na foghar na Gaeilge is cosúil le dhá Sualannach ag rá as Eabhrais. Bhuel, d'eist mé le triu uair lena liom leis abairtí as Breatnais an seachtaine seo caite.

Bhí mé go raibh ag eiste Breatnais go nádúrtha ar an triu uair arú inné. Tosaíonn mé téip "Foghlaim Cainte Breatnaise ag tusa féin." Thug mé é ar an leabharlann.

Fuair mise féin ag cloisteáil Breatnais ar an dara uair i Toronto an samhraidh seo caite. Nígh mé mo lamha ina seomra folctha ina ollscoil ann. Chruinnigh ollunaí ar an comhdháil oideachas faoi leanntaí Breatnaigh. Bhí macalla Ceilteach ina shruth agus ina stad thart timpeall orm ann. Ní raibh mé ábalta aithint na agallamh sin ar feadh tamaill. Bhí ag tagtha gan fhíos orm.

Cad foghair cainte siadsan? Samhlaím go raibh dhá písciní ag cainteach as Breatnaise! Chuala mé focail beagán i dtosach nuair chuir cuairt go Abergwaun ina samhraidh na 1979. Bhí mé ocht mbliana d'aois deag faoi níos deireanach.

Bhuaigh mé i measc ocht mac leinn eile i gCalifoirnea iomaíocht. Scríobh mé aiste faoi Uasal Proinsias Bardal. Bhí ceathairceadbliain i ndiadh a ag dulta airsean féin go i dtír ansuid. D'imigh mé go Londain ar am gearr. D'fhan mé leis óstachaigh agam, an teaghlach Mhic Eoin i sraidbhaile Shír Eabhrac Theas níos fada.

D'fhág mé leis iníon Ráichéal go Bhreatain Bheag ar feadh leathanta deireadh. Chaith a athair a bheith i láthair ag cruinniu ann. Bhi ionad inar táirgeadh Learpholl air. Tháinig a chlann a bunaithe leis fréamhachaí Breatnaigh ann.

Chuaigh Ráichéal agus mé go dtí an port na Abergwaun. Rugamar orainn ag dul sall thar caladh go Calafort Ros Láir-- agus ar ais go díreach go tapaidh an oiche céann sin! Cheannaigh muid iasc agus scalleógaí prataí riamh ag fáighte an bád farantóireachta orainn.

Fhiafraigh dhá fír óg uirthi féin amháin: "Cá raibh cheannaigh sí iasc agus scalleógaí prataí?" Ach, d'iarr Ráichéal as Breatnais níos teagmhacasach. Cén fáth? Ceapaim mar sin dhearc sí fior-Breatnach orthu.

Ar ndóigh, ní raibh sí ábalta freagairt. Athdúirt beirt as Béarla ina dhiadh sin. Fhreagrair sí orthu. Mar sin féin, bhí iontach ormsa féin níos mo faoi an comhrá seo ar an straid. Bhí fhíos agamsa go tuigeann teangacha Ceilteach rionnt leathanta seo chugainn. Anois, tá an lá seo anseo agamsa féin.

Kittens Chatting in Welsh?

I had a teacher when beginning to learn Irish long ago. Jim Duran said to us that he thought the (linguistic) sounds of Irish are like two Swedes speaking Hebrew. Well, I listened for the third time in my life to sentences in Welsh this past week.

I was listening to Welsh naturally for the third time the day before yesterday. I started a tape "Teach Yourself Welsh Conversation." I brought it from the library.

I found myself hearing Welsh for the second time in Toronto last summer. I washed my hands in the bathroom at the university there. Professors gathered for an educational conference concerning Welsh Studies. An echo of Celtic in a flow and a halt all around me was there. I was not able to identify those conversations for a while. The knowledge was not coming to me.

What sounds of speech were they? I imagine that there's two kittens chatting in Welsh! I heard a few words first when I paid a visit to Abergwaun (Fishguard) in the summer of 1979. I was eighteen years old very recently.

I had won among eight other students in California a competition. I wrote an essay about Sir Francis Drake. It was the quadricentennial after he himself had gone to the land over there. I went off to London for a short time. I stayed longer with my hosts, the Johnson family in a village of South Yorkshire.

I left with daughter Rachel to Wales during a weekend. Her father had to attend a meeting there. His original family location was in Liverpool. His family came there beginning from Welsh roots.

Rachel and I went to the port of Abergwaun. We caught a ferry crossing over to Rosslare Harbor-- and straight back quickly that night! We bought fish and chips before we got the ferry boat.

Two young men asked only her: "Where did she buy the fish and chips?" But, they appealed in Welsh very casually. Why? I think that she looked true Welsh to them.

Of course, she could not respond. They next repeated the question in English. She answered them. Nevertheless, I was very much surprised about this conversation on the street. I knew myself that I would understand some share of Celtic languages in the future. Now, this day is here for myself.

Griangraf/Photo: Fishguard/ Abergwaun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Are You an Atheist?"

Asked this by a student straight out the other night in the middle of our class discussion, I hesitated. I never tell people aloud my religious affiliation, or blended or heretical or unclassifiable denomination thereof, unless responding to their direct inquiry. Even so, what should I confess? Cradle Catholic, Jewish convert, Celtic sympathizer, Buddhist observer, agnostic bystander? Perhaps an atheist in midnight moments of frank introspection or utter rationality. My identification depends on what day I had, or last evening's thoughts.

So, after pausing, I admitted simply: "I'm a skeptic." He half-smiled, and our lesson as scheduled went on. I tried, despite being in the middle of talking about globalization, technology, cultural change, and social values through the humble example of Frito-Lay's potato chip (I assure you it all makes sense if you're taking notes), to recollect what would have prompted his question. I gave the correct answer, one that accurately summed me up, but does this limit my soul or free me?

I must have been comparing the evangelism of the C.E.O.'s at Pepsico (owner of Frito-Lay; that division accounts-- for circa 2002 in our case study we were viewing-- over half the company's $3 billion annual sales) to that of Christian or Islamic missionaries, who, regardless of color or nation, had to sell a do-or-die pitch to natives. I had repeated what ABC Frontline's video itself does: translate into capitalist preaching that incentive for salvation. Pepsico anoints the elect from many lands; pilgrims enter Texas for the laying on of hands from the corporate episcopate; converts return to tell their neighbors their good news in many languages. Top-selling chip and soda Pepsico peddlers flock to Plano, Texas; they worship at the CEO's revival tent. In three dozen languages, these saved speak in tongues, "growing the gondola" and "upselling end-caps" in praise of free enterprise.

Perhaps my student, who happened to be very intelligent and appears week two (the first week he was there; he forgot to attend opening day!) to be the leader of the class, overlooked the video and scrutinized my borrowing of the video's analogy as my amplification. When you teach, you do find (I'll be twenty-five years this autumn at it), that you exaggerate to emphasize. I let loose my own beliefs or lack of them inadvertently, disguising or promoting them as among my many roles. I mimic widely as I get my charges to hear, clumsily interpreted, dramatically competing arguments. At least in their narrow technical and business-oriented majors, my students may not have encountered my type of one-man show, far as we are from any liberal arts campus.

This all leads, wonderfully, to what I had read that very morning before leaving to teach. "Richard Dawkins on-board with a pro-atheist message". January 12, 2008, Henry Chu talks to Dawkins for the Los Angeles Times. For once, I might add, they published better coverage than an earlier New York Times piece. And, the picture on the LAT website (which I must visit more often as we've reduced our subscription and carbon footprint only to toss half the paper immediately in the recycling and the other half scanned seconds or quick minutes after on four days a week), beats the Grey Lady's.

[But, get this: the expanded version of the interview's only on the Web! Had to make room for that photo? No wonder they're losing subscribers. Flanked by an comely comedienne, and perhaps Arnold Toynbee's sensibly scarved relation, we witness between them a predictably chuffed Dawkins, beaming out from Oxford. What a charmed life. If God's angry at His rival, the Unnameable's not letting off steam yet.]

Briefly, Dawkins leapt on the bandwagon of the British Humanist Association's campaign to drape on buses a sign: "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life." They'd be torched here in my less-secular native land. I was impressed when I saw those double-deckers; I nodded in agreement with that qualifier, noting how reasonable Dawkins must have become-- undoubtably after mulling over my spot-on blog entry or Amazon US review (one of nearly a thousand put up by then, mainly drivel by both believers and deniers, on "The God Delusion") about that bestseller last spring!

Then, my eye passed over Chu's interview to find that the ad agency had, after pressure by Christians, modified the statement to include against Dawkins' wishes "probably." I note their Australian heathen cousins urged non-believers towards good actions; the British encouraged (selfish?) fun! Without this qualifier, the slogan could present false advertising, for one could reasonably argue that one cannot prove that there is no God! Double negatives don't make a positive, or do they? (Actually, Dawkins' book goes nearly so far, but then steps an inch back; he claims proving a deity's like asking him to produce a dragon to quell naysayers.) I've always been fascinated by the brute force and suspicious slickness of ontological proofs. St. Anselm: "God is a being greater than which nothing can be conceived." Gaunilo as straw man: "The fool in his heart says there is no God."

The article has much more on Dawkins' view. I found it cogent and lively to match the best sections of "The God Delusion." As with my teaching style that demands a quicksilver if sinful relativity, I can find much that jibes perfectly with my own view-- that day or night, that is. Ask me the next class or the following morning and you may get a different answer. Or, perhaps not. I'm a skeptic, fundamentally.

I have reviewed Dawkins' "The God Delusion" along with Hitchens' "god is not Great" and Sam Harris' "The End of Faith," all on Amazon US, and earned my share of negative ratings as is inevitable whatever your stated position if it's beyond the anodyne blurb. On this blog last year, I entered lengthy and serious critiques of Dawkins and Hitchens. Then, encouraged by a wondering wife, I also posted much afterwards here on my discovery of intriguing books on Buddhism, a topic especially in the Tibetan variety that I found Hitchens unfair towards-- and Harris open about!

Dawkins' own guardedly more nuanced reaction to Christian cultural impacts and literary solace inspired me to reconsider my own long and serpentine path through the ways of desolation and the spirit. A lifelong intrigue with religion inspires me still. I would not have studied medieval literature otherwise, even as I grew away from my childhood's faith during my long matriculation. My reading over this past year found me following seekers, to Tibet, Israel, Ireland, India, and Texas!

However I've responded to that Big Question these past few years, my honest answers displease my parents. No choice I have made has softened those who still follow deeply traditional, temperamentally submissive, ancient patterns forged by church-state, family-tribe, peasant-master; dynamics rutted from centuries of such longing into shamed, fearful, inchoate, half-shadowed relationships. Do I condescend? Or merely understand? Part of me still longs to return to those dimly lit naves, if not the confessionals. Part of me knows the power of romance over logic, and sentiment over truth. The cost of education, I've learned, exacts often this price for one's soul.

My wife and sons struggle to define ourselves by lack of easy ethnic or communal definition. We all four grow and twist towards a distant sun, driven by inexplicable forces we cannot articulate. Perhaps an outside power watches our writhings with as much understanding as Dawkins the don has of what a pulsing plant forcing itself higher cannot know?

We stretch during our short daytime above dark soil. We twist as wonderfully variegated hybrids, never before seen by our boys' disparate ancestors in bog or shetl, cabin or slum. All I can say is that I-- and we-- keep reaching up and out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seán Mac Cionnaith's "Focal i bhFocas": Léirmheas Dátheangach

Is stórchiste dátheangach é. Is maith liom mar sin ábalta foghlaim crífhocal a bhainneann le fréamhacha focal agamsa. Cheannaigh mé an leabhar seo na blianta ó shin. Ach, dhearmaid mé chuige!

Inseoidh agat faoi an leagan amach an stórchiste anois. Tosaíonn sé leis an réamhrá fada. Is dara roinnt réamhrá eile do dhaoine óga. Leann léaráid leagan amach na leathanach dátheangach. Cruinníonn eagarthóir dhá liosta aibítreach croífhocal Gaeilge agus Béarla leis cialla gaolmhara dhátheangacha. Críochnaíonn sé leis treoirlínte ar úsaid na n-innéascanna Gaeilge-Béarla agus Béarla-Gaeilge agus frithchiallaigh chroífhocal ann.

Is leathanaigh chomhchiallachaí croí leabhair é. Osclóidh tú thar dhá céad leathanaigh leis focail go leor. Gheobhaidh tú focal bhunleibhéal oiriúnach leis glas, an focal mheánleibhéal leis gorm, agus focal uasleibhéal leis dubh.

Feicfidh tú croífhocal ansin. Leífidh tú sampla úsáide an phríomfhocail fós ann. Scríobhfaidh Uas Mac Cionnaith an fhoirm dheimhnitheach, an fhoirm diúltach, agus an fhoirm cheisteach na briothar. Tá fréamh na briathra leis aimsirí, ainm briathartha, agus aidiacht bhriarthartha briathair ann. Ár ndóigh, tabharfaidh séisean féin aistriúchan Béarla gach uair!

Líonann scríbhneoir an stórchiste seo aigesean leis ainmfocail agus aidiachtaí. Deir sé againn go bhfuil "ceithre chineál aicme eolais curtha ar fáil ar chroífhocail i gcorp an téacs, mar atá: i) comhchiallaigh croífhocal [. . .]; ii) bailiúchán focal a liostálann samplaí bunaithe ar bhunchiall an chroífhocail [. . .]; iii) liostaí nathanna cainte, cora cainte, abairtíní agus samplaí eile a bhaineann le téama an-ghinearálta croífhocail áirithe [. . .]; iv) eolas gramadaí ar chroífhocail agus comheolas eile." (xvii)

Measaim go mbeadh an leabhar dathúil seo níos fóirsteanach go minic agat. B'fhéidir, dúnfaidh tú "Focal i bhFocas" leis cúil nua-focail agatsa féin a tuigeadh. Is mian liomsa go mbeadh a déanta ina clúdach go crua. Ní bhfaighidh sé láidir maith go mbeidh ag caite gach lá nó ina seomra scoile i measc paistí!

Bheannófaí an leabhar seo le Coiscéim. Is foilsitheoir é leabhair Gaeilge ó Bhinn Éadair in aice leis Baile Átha Cliath. Tá deacair a léamh eolas sin acu, freisin. Is suíomh ar an ghreasan an-ghránna é.

Séan Mac Cionnaith's "Focal i bhFocas": ("A Word in Focus"): Bilingual Review.

It's a bilingual thesaurus [=a clever treasure of two tongues"]. It pleases me since I am able to learn core-words that gather information regarding roots of words. I bought this book years ago. But, I forgot about it!

I will tell you about the layout of the thesaurus now. It starts with an long preface. The second section is another introduction for young people. A bilingual layout diagram follows. The editor gathers two alphabetical lists of Irish and English core-words with associated meanings in two languages. It finishes with guidelines for the use of indexes Irish-English and English-Irish and antonyms of core words there.

The heart of the book's synonyms. You'll open over two hundred pages with many words. You'll find a basic suitable word in green, the middle level in blue, and an upper level in black.

You'll see a core-word there. You will read a sample of usage of the main verb there too. Mr. Mac Cionnaith will write the positive form, the negative form, and the question form of the main verb. There's a root of the verb with tenses, verbal noun, and verbal adjective of a verb. Of course, he himself will give an English translation every time!

The writer fills this thesaurus of his with nouns and adjectives. He says to us that there's "four kinds of information given on pages of the core words, namely: i) synonyms of core words; ii) a collection of words that list examples based on the basic meaning of lists of sayings, phrases, adages and other examples that relate to the very general theme of a particular core word; iv) grammatical information and other related information about a core word."

I reckon that this beautiful book may be often very fitting for you. Perhaps, you will close "Focal i bhFocas" with a hoard of new words for yourself to understand. For me I wish that it'd be made in a hardcover. It will not get strong enough to be carried every day or in the school-room among children!

One could buy this book from Coiscéim. It's a publisher of Irish-language books from Howth near Dublin. It's difficult to read their information, still. It's a very ugly site on the web.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Michael Hartnett & Celtic Refusal

In my last entry, I reviewed Emyr Humphreys' "The Taliesin Tradition"; it reminded me afterwards of lines by Michael Hartnett, who for a decade followed through on his promise to bid "Farewell to English." He wrote his own verse only in Irish, while translating Ó Bruadair, Ó Rathaille and Haicéad. Raised by his Kerry-born grandmother not far from where I once stayed at Ballingarry in rural Limerick, Hartnett resolved in 1975 to reclaim himself as Mícheál Ó hAirtnéide, in homage to her speech. She sprinkled Irish into her English such that the little boy had no idea in Camas, a townland south of the home of Ballygowan water, Newcastle West, that his nation's "first" language was anything less than alive, from her fluency.

Although he flunked out of UCD, and claimed to have fathered his three children not only by a "Jewish Englishwoman" (this to get a rise out of his listener) and another by a "black woman living in Russia" (his daughter confesses ignorance of any such half-sibling), this troubled poet, who died (1999) as so many prematurely due to drink, remains one of our most eloquent voices that continue, across the Celtic Sea, the tradition Humphries hears in his principality's poets.

This continuity with a more nature-rooted, localized, literate, and sensitively tuned culture may often be mocked in its New Age druidic dress-up costume. It's given the mask for a few who have committed violence in its cause. It's allowed hucksters to market shamrockery and Cool Cymru to deluded diasporas and incomers, not to mention tourists there and abroad. However, this turn towards a healing past within which those who might mutter about their identity that they're mutts, or only "white," or nothing much, may, as Humphreys and Hartnett insist, prove crucial to rescue us from our own complacency. We rush into cultural oblivion at the manipulation of a branded, corporate, and centrally controlled machinery. My own increasingly standardized, semi-cyberspatial, and mediated occupational status witnesses to Hartnett's reaction towards "total work" and Humphreys' specter of a row of humans as lightbulbs, plugged into a circuit, blinking or dimming on command.

Asked by a student yesterday, in our ubiquitous "blended" delivery mode-- half "on-site" in classroom, half "on-line"-- about my own views of technological progress, I cited Humphries' phrase, which I'd found only a night before. I tend towards caution, even as I rely on this medium to share what I'm thinking with you as well as them. My tasks and my research merge, on this vexed but convenient channel of communication and surveillance. My investigations into Celtic identity bring me unexpectedly face-to-face with my employment. A Welsh roots-radical (b. 1919) informs my course in "Technology, Culture & Society" that I teach once or twice per now- compressed, accelerated, efficiently commodified (meeting market demands) term.

Fewer caught up in our demanding pace probably do what Hartnett or Humphreys did last century: immerse themselves into "our" language legacy. Hartnett's plunge into Irish lasted awhile, but he surfaced back to English via haiku-- like his Limerick counterpart Gabriel Rosenstock, also skilled in Irish translations and inspirations from the East. Humphreys-- inspired by Saunders Lewis' part in the 1936 Penyberth protest (about which I will muse more soon, once I corner the elusive "A Nation on Trial" by Dafydd Jenkins)-- learned Welsh, so well that he not only wrote his own books but directed films or plays in Cymraeg. For those too far distant from any Gaeilge grandmother or a Cymric firebrand to spark us, our process of cultural recovery chugs slowly, one verbal paradigm, one vocabulary list, one phrase at a time snatched from so many obligations and distractions in this lightbulb circuit.

I lack much recall of much of what I read, especially poetry, too little of which I read. Still, Hartnett's phrases stuck. Looking for this quote, I found it still bookmarked--with a post-it also of the final words I cite below-- from twenty years ago when I found it in Seán Dunne's "Poets of Munster." The village where Hartnett was born (1941), Croom, was the center centuries ago of some of the best and last bards from what Daniel Corkery called "The Hidden Tradition" of the twilight of Irish poets, continuing a legacy very like that of Taliesin and revived by Humphreys and such as Saunders Lewis in a manner very much like what Hartnett seeks here:

"A Farewell to English" (1975; excerpt from start of part 6)

"Gaelic is the conscience of our leaders,
the memory of a mother-rape they will
not face, the heap of bloody rags they see
and scream at it in their boardrooms of mock oak.
They push us towards the world of total work,
our politicians with their seedy minds
and dubious labels, Communist or
Capitalist, none wanting freedom--
only power. All that reminds us
we are human and therefore not a herd
must be concealed or killed or slowly left
to die, or microfilmed to waste no space.
For Gaelic is our final sign that
we are human, therefore not a herd."

Photo: more info about Hartnett from his publisher: Gallery Press.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Emyr Humphreys' "The Taliesin Tradition": Book Review

My wife asked me if this was about Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, it is and isn't. Humphreys, a long-time (b. 1919) novelist and director, certainly brings the Welsh American experience provocatively if briefly into this chronological survey of "the secret of creative survival" inherited from the early medieval bard, that combines durability with flexibility, mythological resonance with iconoclastic resistance. It's a bracing study, one that does for long stretches wander into scenic if sometimes faraway byways, before in its last dozen pages it comes roaring back with impassioned, thoughtful, and moving reminders of why Welsh identity remains defiant.

I use the third edition, 2000. I recommend this for its afterword (1989) and postscript (2000): these short additions bring the context closer to Wales today, moving towards a small degree of autonomy after Thatcherite abuse and Labour arrogance. The continuity of Celtic tradition may be a slim line upon which to thread so many displays of Welsh literary defiance and definition, but Humphreys' prose energizes and for its short length it's a densely argued, erudite study.

He intrigues by comparing Iolo Morgannwg to John Dee, Unitarians to Marxists, chapel dissenters needing constant revival to Lloyd George's shape-shifting. He links the demythologizing of Madoc to the desperation of Welsh-language speakers within the context of Darwin and scientific revolution. He contrasts the appeal of Chartists in England to their demand that Welsh surrender their identity for entry into the middle-class worlds of education and assimilation.

He compares Matthew Arnold's Celticism to a concoction from Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll: "Take a victim or a patient and extract from him the vital juices that would cost him his life but which could be used to revive the spirit of an ailing giant with an elixir of life which Arnold labelled 'Celtic Magic'." (179) Such verve surfaces here and there in this narrative, and captures the flavor of Humphries' best prose. Transformation, for preservation or destruction, persists for the 1500 years of this tale.

The language itself earlier on, faced with Westminster's power and cultural doom, "was tucked into a corner of the Tudor baggage train, like a cooking pot, along with the crumbling effigies of Arthur, Merlin, Taliesin and Madoc. They could be cast aside when they had outlived their usefulness; the language was not so easily disposed of. A well-made cooking pot, if preserved for a sufficient length of time, could become a cauldron of rebirth." (46) Humphreys traces the fortunes of the cauldron, Cymraeg, the Welsh speakers who rallied against political and theological change with their own territorial and spiritual autonomy. The poets, and the preachers and politicians whose guises bards later assumed, sustained the battle against conformity, and the voices of dissent.

Dispossessed of land and relegated to marginality, some Welsh refuse to turn into caretakers of a theme park. Humphries in 1983 enters the disorientation felt by many in Wales. Lacking their own language, losing their way of life, they lose their history and tradition. "At the most simple level it is they alone who offer the clues and keys to the meaning and the magic of a landscape in which a man must live and work."
The Taliesin Tradition's generated and perpetuated "so large a body of myth," but for Humphreys this translates into "a living poetic tradition." (227) Not only consolation for the defeated, myth-making carries potency as a "weapon in the struggle for survival." (228) It offers a young person a way out of the labyrinth by "clutching more tightly to the thread which connects him to a an honourable past"; it revives dignity and prepares one to embrace, as with heroes of old, one's destiny.

Heady stuff, but Saunders Lewis, in his protests and eloquence (Humphreys wrote equally well of his mentor in an essay for "Presenting Saunders Lewis"; he learned Welsh after Lewis' fiery protest at Penyberth in 1936) models one solution against those superstructures which coddle us within the uncreative slumber of indifference. Instead of being roused only for profit or by manipulation, Welsh myth and history remind its people of sacrifice and demand survival. "They both exist primarily in order to convince a beleaguered remnant that they are a fragment of humanity scheduled, in spite of everything, for ultimate preservation." (229) The tradition offers "a whole range of alternative heroes who have not lost the gift of shape-shifting inside the confines of the tribal language." (230) Cut off from international acclaim, within marches and protests, artists and activists-- such as Lewis-- devote themselves to making the creative also confrontational.

By 1989, Humphreys' afterword warns of annihilation from nukes or assimilation by England. Emancipation politically must also take form spiritually. "For a naked people in the acid rain they offer a coat of many colours and a cleaner air," he says of protesters who suffered prison for their opposition to anglicisation. (236) It is difficult to imagine such an image, of ecology joining economics, language merging with the land, being made even in Ireland, for instance, at this time by a radical populist. Wales carries an advantage of a language preserved within a faith; although that faith may now be as vitiated as in much of the capitalist realm; the Crown's compromise that linked their reformer's bible to an ancient vernacular managed to meld Welsh cultural advocacy into a blend of belief and non-violence that distinguishes it from many other activist movements in the secular West.

Humphreys opens his account: "It is always the past rather than the present that offers the best hope for the future." (4) He concludes the 2000 edition with an prescient image. "Separate societies cease to exist and individuals take on the characteristics of tiny light bulbs respoding gratefully to an omnipotent planetary electric circuit." (237) Against technological imposition, who cares about Welsh concerns? Again, the answer comes via Lewis' example. "A tradition remains of enduring value when it preserves the ability of words to possess the power of meaning more than they say." (238) Humphreys and Lewis take seriously their legacy or Welsh verbal power. They employ language as a weapon as they deploy the spells of earlier bards.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Progress": Alan Gillis

They say that for years Belfast was backwards
and it's great now to see some progress.
So I guess we can look forward to taking boxes
from the earth. I guess that ambulances
will leave the dying back amidst the rubble
to be explosively healed. Given time,
one hundred thousand particles of glass
will create impossible patterns in the air
before coalescing into the clarity
of a window. Through which, a reassembled head
will look out and admire the shy young man
taking his bomb from the building and driving home.

from Somebody, Somewhere (Gallery Press, 2004)© Gallery Press, 2004

Note on author
from Stanza: Scotland's International Poetry Festival. Alan Gillis is a Lecturer in English at the University of Edinburgh. Publications include Somebody, Somewhere (Gallery Press, 2004), which won the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award for Best First Collection, and Irish Poetry of the 1930s (Oxford University Press, 2005). His second collection, Hawks and Doves (Gallery Press, 2007), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.

Personal note:
Around the start of 2002, I hosted a panel the first night of a conference of "New Irish Criticism" at Queen's University, Belfast. Although my own paper had been turned down, I wanted to attend. However, I had to take the train to Derry early the next day, and therefore on a brief stay (I had to teach and it was but a short weekend on jet lag), I could not remain at QUB long.

In 2005, I went to another conference, IASIL in Prague. At our final meal there in a splendid Art Deco hall, I ran into Alan Gillis. He welcomed me warmly; I complimented his presentation. He remembered in amazing detail my own research, my brief appearance at QUB way back, and my own academic connections (or woeful lack of). I knew he was a critic, as his book "Irish Poetry of the 1930s" had just been published. But, I forgot he was such a poet.

I am reviewing for print today Michael Parker's literary history "Northern Irish Literature: 1956-2006"; Parker ends his second volume gracefully with this very poem. The format as I reproduce it may not jibe; click Stanza hyperlink to see "real" line breaks. I liked it so much I quoted it all as my own essay's conclusion, and I copy it here for you(se). P.S. I like "The Ulster Way"  too.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ag Foghlaim leis podchraoltaí as Gaeilge (& Breatnaise bheag)

Fuair mé paimfléad ó Oideas Gael ar an post inniu. Ba mhaith liom ag filleadh ar ais Gleann Cholm Cille ansuid aríst ar feadh an seachtaine seo chugainn, ach níl airgead agamsa féin anois ag dul go Dún na nGall. Mar sin féin, is mian orm a tógáil líofacht agam.

Is iontach orm. An bhfaigheadh mé ábhar go saor ar an ghreasan a cloisteáil Gaeilge ar mo h-IPhod? Ní íarraionn mé a íoc chun chinn chuig cleachtannaí níos fusa. Iarraidh mir Breatnais go luath triu podchraoltaí as teangachaí Ceilteach freisin.

Deir Foras na Gaeilge:
An Líonra Sóisialta: Craoltar an clár laethúil seo ar 7 stáisiún raidio in Éirinn agus ar fud an domhain, mar phodchraoladh (podcast) ón suíomh AnLionra.Com. Is HOST [óstach!] Conn Ó Muineacháin é.

Sonraí Teagmhála: Seoladh: ar an raidio, ar an idirlíon, thart timpeall ort, i do phóca! An Líonra Sóisealta
P.S.: Labhairt sé as Gaeilge leis blas go hiontach aigesan féin ann!

Tá sé bun-focail agus frasai furasta níos mo anseo: "Noimead Aon Gaeilge". Tá deich cleachtaí ann. Má bhéifea foghlaimeoir níos liofa, go dté tú go agallaimh agus cainte as Gaeilge le Séamas Ó Nuachtain. Tá sé i gcónaí ina h-Inis Fada, Nua Eabhrac. Cumann Carad na Gaeilge.

D'inis tú ariamh faoi Gaeilge na Seachtaine. Is banóstach é Kay Uí Chinnéide. Tá tíosach go fial fosta. Is maith liom ag eisteacht le a scéaltaí faoi aicesan féin.

Go críochnúil, is maith liom is mo Gíota Beag le BBC-NI. Rug mé ormsa féin blás beagán ó Thuaidh triu ag cloisteáil leis Fearghal Mag Uiginn ariamh ag dul go Oideas Gael arú anuraidh. Molaim go cuireadh cuairt agatsa féin an suíomh seo ar an idirlíon go minic.

Ní raibh mé ábalta fáil podchraoltaí éagsúlaí a cabhar mac foghlama Breatnaise. Ceapaim go mbheifi{?} go cruthaigh chomh mac leinn níos fearr leis ábhar níos flúirseach ar fad i mball ó Bhreatain Bheag le hais Gaeilge in Éirinn! Níor fuair mé chuig ionad nua-fhoglameoir fásta ar an BBC-Wales leis podchraolta.

Mar shampla, tá "Catchphrase" (leagan 2000) leis "na Lloyds" go brea. Níl slí a casadh clár craobhailte as comhad na h-iPod ann. Tá podchraoltaí amháin go bhfuil ar an leibheal níos ard chun chinn ag foghlaim Breatnaise: Pigion. Go cinnte, measaim go mbeadh seo níos hoíriúnach orm: Foghlaim Breatnais Podcraolta.

An mbíonn spéis i teangacha in hachan duine go hionduil? Tá Gaelgoirí beagán anseo: Podchraoltaí as Gaeilge. Tá nascannaí Gaelach eile na hAlbanach agus Éire a leithead anseo: Foghlaim Gaeilge ar an Idirlíon. Feicfidh tú eolas faoi teangacha eile ar an idirlíon anseo: Podcasting for Foreign- Language Education.

Learning with podcasts in Irish (& a wee Welsh).

I got a pamphlet from Oideas Gael in the mail today. I would like to return to Glencolmcille over there again during the next summer, but there is not money for me now to be going to Donegal. All the same, there is a need for me to build my fluency.

I wonder. Would I find material free on the web to hear Irish on my iPod? I do not wish to pay regarding easier lessons. I would seek also a bit of Welsh soon through podcasts of Celtic languages.

Foras na Gaeilge says:
"The Social Network: This weekly program's broadcast on 7 radio stations in Ireland throughout the land, through podcast from the site Conn Ó Muineacháin's the host.

Communication Details: Sent: on the radio, on the internet, all around you, in your pocket!" "An Líonra Sóisealta"
P. S. He speaks Irish with a wonderful tone himself there!

There's more basic vocabulary and easy phrases here: href="">"One Minute Irish". Ten lessons are there. If you would be a more fluent learner, you may go to interviews and talk in Irish at the Philo-Celtic Society, by Séamas Ó Nuachtain. He is living on Long Island, New York.

I told you before about Irish of the Week. Kay Uí Chinnéide's the hostess. She's hospitable too! I like to listen to her stories about herself.

Ultimately, I like most "A Wee Bit" from BBC-NI. I myself caught a slight accent from the North through listening to Fearghal Mag Uiginn before going to Oideas Gael the year before last. I recommend that you pay a visit yourself to this site on the net often.

I was not able to find varied podcasts to help a learner of Welsh. I think, however, that one might be better served as a student with far more abundant material from Wales elsewhere as compared to Irish in Ireland. I did not find a location for a new adult learner on BBC-Wales with a podcast.

For instance, there's a fine "Catchphrase" (version 2000) with "The Lloyds." But, there's no way to turn that program broadcast into an iPod file. There are only podcasts that are at the level for a higher learning of Welsh: Pigion. Finally, I estimate this may be for me a more suitable start: Learn Welsh Podcast.

Is there usually an interest in languages in every person? Here's a few Irish people: Podcasts in Irish. There are other such Gaelic links from Scotland and Ireland here: Foghlaim Gaeilge ar an Idirlíon. You will see information about other languages on the Internet here: Podcasting for Foreign- Language Education

Griangraf/ Photo: Lynette Fay, banóstach Blais/ host(ess) of Blas: BBC Raidió Uladh/Radio Ulster.