Three Walls in Search of a Ball

Ball and Hockey Playing Prohibited
Ball and Hockey Playing Prohibited

In re: the 20 photo slide show linked to below, I’ve often wondered about the signs restricting handball playing. In all my life, I’ve never witnessed anyone ever playing handball against a wall, but there are so many posted notices. I guess it was part of the anti-Irish sentiment of that time, and the signs simply remain. Or else, munchkins only come out early in the morning when I’m still asleep…

A century ago, handball was one of the most beloved sports in Ireland, its typical three-walled alley, or court, a fixture in villages and at crossroads. But these were “more than just places where people came to play handball,” says the photographer Kenneth O Halloran, who visited nearly a hundred abandoned courts in Ireland and Northern Ireland last year. “People came to socialize, to dance.”

After the game moved indoors around the 1950s, many courts that were not demolished became places for parking or storage. There is little nostalgia among the Irish for handball alleys, O Halloran says. “I don’t think people would value them the way they value a traditional cottage, old crosses or ancient ruins,” he says. “A lot of people see them as eyesores.” J

(click here to continue reading Three Walls in Search of a Ball –

Drink it before the ice melts

Drink it before the ice melts
Drink it before the ice melts, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

My favorite drinking game.

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Pistil
Flash: Off


If I’m motivated, can drink three drinks with the same ice cubes (i.e., before they melt). Personally, love good whiskey-with-an-E best when the ice has melted maybe 10%. Enough cold water to blend, but not too much to dilute it.

Anyway, I think it’s time for me to pour today’s cocktail, as I’m too tired to work on anything important today.

25 Blasphemous Quotations


There’s a bit of a dust-up in my mother country:

An atheist group in the Irish Republic1 has defied a new blasphemy law by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations on its website.

Atheist Ireland says it will fight any action taken against it in court. The quotations include the words of writers such as Mark Twain and Salman Rushdie, but also Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad and Pope Benedict XVI.

The new law makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a fine of up to 25,000 euros (£22,000; $35,000). The government says it is needed because the republic’s 1937 constitution only gives Christians legal protection of their beliefs.

The new law was passed in July 2009 but came into force on 1 January.

[Click to continue reading BBC News – Irish atheists challenge blasphemy law]

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy

What kind of nonsense is this? Are there not more pressing items on the agenda than governments sticking finger in their ears to block out words they don’t want to hear? Anyway, the BBC, staid journalistic organization that it is, did not provide any samples of these quotations, so I had to find the site on my own.

Just a few excerpts, because I laughed at most, but you should read them yourself.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

Amanda Donohoe spitting on the cross

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

[Click to continue reading 25 Blasphemous Quotations «]

Religion and its zealots, hissing with hysteria, are so damned ridiculous.

  1. Is this the common term? Thought that was a defunct nation, a nation that existed from 1919 – 1922. Maybe the British press reverses the order of the words of the Republic of Ireland for some stylistic reason? []

Liam Clancy, RIP

“Liam Clancy” (Liam Clancy)

Such a clear, strong voice. If you’ve listened to The Pogues, Sinead O’Connor, or even U2, you’ve heard his influence.

Liam Clancy, an Irish troubadour and the last surviving member of the singing Clancy Brothers, who found fame in the United States and helped spread the popularity of Irish folk music around the world, died on Thursday in Cork, Ireland. He was 74.

His death was announced by his family and reported on the Web site He had been treated for pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease

Liam Clancy lived in Greenwich Village, where he befriended another young folk singer, Bob Dylan. They dated a pair of sisters, Mr. Clancy told interviewers. Recalling that time in an interview on Irish television two years ago, Mr. Clancy said that he, a Roman Catholic from rural Ireland, and Mr. Dylan, a Jew from a small Minnesota town, shared an important quality.

“People who were trying to escape repressed backgrounds, like mine and Bob Dylan’s, were congregating in Greenwich Village,” he said. “It was a place you could be yourself, where you could get away from the directives of the people who went before you, people who you loved but who you knew had blinkers on.”

Mr. Dylan told an interviewer in 1984: “I never heard a singer as good as Liam ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life. Still is, probably.”

[Click to continue reading Liam Clancy, Last of Singing Brothers, Dies at 74 – Obituary (Obit) –]

“The Makem & Clancy Concert” (Tommy Makem w, Liam Clancy)

There’s a documentary called The Yellow Bittern – The Life and Times of Liam Clancy, but it does not look to be available in the US, at least yet.

Special Edition Double DVD Box Set

Featuring exclusive footage, interviews and additional performances from the man Bob Dylan called “the best ballad singer I ever heard in my whole life. Still is, probably”

Free delivery within Ireland. Orders will be delivered to Irish addresses from October 30th and to UK addresses from Nov 9th.

This is a Region 2 DVD and may not be viewable outside Europe.
Please be advised that we can only ship to addresses in Ireland and the UK. We can not process orders outside of these territories.

Feature Run Time: 110’
Extras: Film Trailer | Interviews | Additional Performances including “Those Were The Days” from the White Horse Tavern, New York and “Brennan On The Moor” | Liam at home with friends

[Click to continue reading The Yellow Bittern – The Life And Times Of Liam Clancy]

I wonder if Mr. Clancy’s death will speed the release of this film in the Americas? Sounds quite intriguing.


Here’s a YouTube clip from it:

In the interview he talks about The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken and their huge success worldwide, where they outsold the Beatles and played for JFK. The new documentary released in cinemas in 2009 is directed by Alan Gilsenan.

Another Time perhaps

Another Time perhaps

Another Time perhaps, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

A Bushmills bottle filled solely with sunlight

As I’ve blathered before, despite having a large percentage of my DNA derived from Irish ancestry, and despite having a mighty thirst for alcoholic beverages, I think St. Patrick’s day is a stupid holiday. Amateur night indeed.

Godz I love the Pogues

Broke down and replaced my original five classic Pogues albums1 with the reissues put out by Rhino, circa 2004. Whoa, what a difference. The bonus tracks are nice, pleasant additions to the oeuvre, but the sound quality of the songs I know so well is the real notable difference. The original discs sound was quite muddy, the Rhino reissues are much, much brighter, and individual instruments are discernible. Whoo hoo! Thanks, Rhino.

“Red Roses for Me” (The Pogues)

“Rum Sodomy & the Lash” (The Pogues)

“If I Should Fall from Grace with God” (The Pogues)

“Peace and Love” (The Pogues)

“Hell’s Ditch” (The Pogues)

Awesome. The Pogues have been in my personal musical pantheon since I picked up a vinyl copy of If I Should Fall From Grace From God, and referred to it as, “If I Should Fall From God With Grace” in public, building that title into a poem, lost to the ages. Blame the inebriants. I turned out to have picked up on a wavelength that paralleled my own predilections: literate, punky folk with an Irish bent. This is not trad Irish, this is not Radio Clash, this is The Pogues. How can you go wrong with a band who originally titled themselves Pogue Mahone which translates from Gaelic to “Kiss my arse”…

In retrospect, If I Should Fall was The Pogues last great album, but there are good songs on both the releases that followed (Peace and Love and Hell’s Ditch). I wore the grooves out, playing these albums again and again, slurping beer, whiskey and wine.

Of their other great album, Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, I’m copping Mark Deming’s review because I’m feeling suddenly reticent:

“I saw my task… was to capture them in their delapidated glory before some more professional producer f—ked them up,” Elvis Costello wrote of his role behind the controls for the Pogues’ second album, Rum Sodomy & the Lash. One spin of the album proves that Costello accomplished his mission; this album captures all the sweat, fire, and angry joy that was lost in the thin, disembodied recording of the band’s debut, and the Pogues sound stronger and tighter without losing a bit of their edge in the process. Rum Sodomy & the Lash also found Shane MacGowan growing steadily as a songwriter; while the debut had its moments, the blazing and bitter roar of the opening track, “The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn,” made it clear MacGowan had fused the intelligent anger of punk and the sly storytelling of Irish folk as no one had before, and the rent boys’ serenade of “The Old Main Drag” and the dazzling, drunken character sketch of “A Pair of Brown Eyes” proved there were plenty of directions where he could take his gifts. And like any good folk group, the Pogues also had a great ear for other people’s songs. Bassist Cait O’Riordan’s haunting performance of “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” is simply superb (it must have especially impressed Costello, who would later marry her), and while Shane MacGowan may not have written “Dirty Old Town” or “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” his wrought, emotionally compelling vocals made them his from then on. Rum Sodomy & the Lash falls just a bit short of being the Pogues best album, but was the first one to prove that they were a great band, and not just a great idea for a band.

Too bad I never saw them perform live in their glory, the one time I had tickets (at the late, lamented Liberty Lunch in Austin), I got too drunk on Bushmills, and slept past the festivities.

The liner notes of the reissues contain poems and essays by friends of the band like Steve Earle and Tom Waits, and description of how Alex Cox, recent auteur of Repo Man, volunteered to make a music video of “A Pair of Brown Eyes“, seen here sans audio track due to “copyright complaint” or some such bullshit. A shame, as this is an excellent little film.

Can you tell I’ve tippled?
Continue reading “Godz I love the Pogues”

  1. triggered by a realization that the only version of a Pogues song played in the police wake in The Wire Season Three – Body of an American – in my music library was not an high quality MP3, but rather a Napster-era download. Talk about crappy sound… []

Could I survive on nothing but potatoes and milk?

Could one live, like so many of my ancestors allegedly did, on a diet consisting of mostly potatoes? Cecil Adams says, well, nearly.

No Dumping Potatoes

The good news: A spuds and milk diet definitely has possibilities — the Irish, to cite the best-known example, got by mainly on potatoes until the infamous blight of 1845 wiped out their main course. The bad news: (1) Considering the quantities you’re going to have to eat, you’d better really like potatoes. (2) If you’re literally going to eat nothing but potatoes and milk, you risk — brace yourself — serious molybdenum deficiency.

Years ago I tackled the question of whether you could live by bread alone. (See The Straight Dope: Can man live by bread alone?) Answer: Yeah, for about six months, but then you’d die of scurvy. Things won’t be anywhere near that bad on milk and potatoes. Before the Great Famine, the traditional Irish peasant meal consisted mainly of potatoes, milk, oats, beans, barley, and bread. Potatoes were the mainstay. As the years grew leaner, dairy products largely disappeared from the Irish diet, since poverty forced many farmers to sell their milk to pay rent. By the time the famine hit, the peasants were eating pretty much just potatoes, supplemented with some salt fish and oatmeal. I’ve seen it said that a third of the population lived on potatoes and nothing else, although that seems doubtful, as we’ll see. Edward Wakefield, an English land agent and amateur social scientist who traveled Ireland from 1809 to 1811, calculated each Irish peasant family member consumed 5.5 pounds of potatoes per day. An 1846 source claims a working man needed at least 8 pounds of potatoes a day to survive if nothing else were available; a typical family of six would need 26 pounds.

How did the Irish do on this diet? We can’t be certain — nobody was conducting nutrition studies in those days. But there’s reason to believe they were healthier than you might guess. In the century before the famine, Ireland had the highest birthrate in western Europe. Some credit potatoes, saying the availability of easy-to-grow, easy-to-cook spuds made it practical to raise large families. Telling evidence on this score, one historian writes, “is that the Irish in general and Irish women in particular were widely described as healthy and good-looking.” I don’t know about you, Josh, but any diet that gets results like that is good enough for me.

[Click to continue reading The Straight Dope: Could I survive on nothing but potatoes and milk?]

I knew I loved potatoes…

and if one supplemented one’s diet with the occasional bowl of oatmeal, and even some salad, you’d be well enough to down pints of Guinness Stout.