||This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison,
Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the
winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were
AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.
|29||30||31|| || || || ||
In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever,
and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything
that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool
of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the
site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc.
November 6, 2013Tasties at the Dingle Food Festival
Here I am tasting the breakfast staple black pudding for the first time, and liking it. It is made with blood, and Ethne won't touch it, but I found it very hearty and meaty. Later I tasted it elsewhere and it was bland, tasting funny of nothing in particular. There is also white pudding, made not with blood but with chopped pork liver.
November 6, 2013A curious Dingle sheep
I think this fellow wanted to come with us!
November 6, 2013Connemara
About 120 miles north (it seemed further on the coastal roads), Connemara is a big change from Dingle, a completely different landscape and history.
November 6, 2013Renvyle
Renvyle is a resort/spa that was once the summer home of Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty, whose friends included Augustus John, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. John painted pictures of the place, which were destroyed when it burnt to the ground and had to be rebuilt.
There was a debate going on in an Irish newspaper which had recently printed an article about the standard of service in the catering industries, supposedly suffering since the economic collapse of the "Celtic Tiger". We did not find it so. The food and the service everywhere we went was superb. No doubt there is mediocre service in Ireland, but most of the restaurants and hotels are mom'n'pop operations and have to depend on good will to survive: there are no chains, no Bonefish Grill, no Red Lobster, no Olive Grove, no Applebee's; in other words, no institutionalisation of mediocrity. In two weeks in Ireland I saw only one McDonald's, and as we were leaving there was a Burger Chef in the Dublin Airport.
In Dingle our hosts were Brian Heaton and Helen Woods Heaten at Castlewood, an award-winning bed & breakfast; at Renvyle in Connemara the chef is Tim O'Sullivan, and he cannot do anything wrong; he has published a cookbook that is gorgeous to behold. One night he made lobster for us and we thought we'd died and gone to heaven. Our waiter was a 19 year old man who was leaving to apprentice in a hotel in Miami Beach for six months. All these people are serious about educating themselves in order to make a career in the hotel/restaurant business, so you don't get waited on by part-timers and out-of-work actors who wish they were somewhere else.
Of course there were things wrong: there always are in hotels. Perhaps a sign of austerity resulting from the recent economic collapse was that here and there a towel was a bit threadbare, but the more usual hotel problems have nothing to do with economics. In one place there was nowhere to read: the only reading lamp was wired into the wall so it could not be moved and you had to rearrange everything, with the chair and the lamp in the middle of the room. This was a two-room suite with no door on the bedroom and huge mirrors on an end wall, so that if you were up in the middle of the night reading the light was reflected onto the person who was trying to sleep!
The most comical thing was at another place, spanking new and very fancy-schmancy, with touch screens instead of wall switches to operate the lights and draw the curtains. Again, no doors to screen the bed from the lights in the next room, and anyway the touch screens didn't work. When were going to bed we had to call the manager; he couldn't make them work, so called a teenage member of staff, just the sort of kid who is supposed to know how this stuff works, and we finally got all the lights off except one reading lamp by the bed. There was one bedside button to push to shut that off, and it didn't work: when I got sleepy I had to unplug the lamp. The place had been sold a bill of goods with these silly touch screens, and the manager confessed shamefacedly that they were getting rid of them and going back to switches.
But Ireland was first to suffer from the recent Great Recession, and is recovering the fastest. It looks like a great place to invest.
November 6, 2013Kylmore Abbey
Kylmore Abbey in Connemara, not far from Renvyle, was built beginning in 1867 by MItchell Henry, an English industrialist, as a present for his wife. At a time when the area had been devastated by the Famine and then by a cholera epidemic, he provided years of work for a hundred local men, some of whom walked across a mountain and hour an a half each way. His wife was deeply loved by the local people, and when she died of dysentery on a trip to Egypt, he built a lovely chapel in her memory.
He eventually died broke, but was buried in the chapel next to his beloved. Meanwhile the place had changed hands and finally become a school operated by Benedictine nuns, whose own school in Belgium had been destroyed during WWI. Actress Angelica Huston is one of the girls who was educated there. The school closed in 2010, and the building is almost empty now except for an elderly nun who still looks after it.
Mitchell Henry was ahead of his time, building one of the biggest Victorian walled gardens in the world, as well as his own lime kiln, generating his own electricity and so on. There's a view of the garden below.
November 6, 2013The view across from Kylmore Abbey
Typical of some of the scenery in Connemara. "Kylmore" comes from the Irish for "wooded hill", if I'm not mistaken, so many of the mountains in Connemara being relatively bald.
November 6, 2013The walled garden at Kylmore Abbey
A view of the walled garden. There were as many as 20 big glasshouses, all of which had collapsed; the garden had almost completely reverted to nature, but is being beautifully restored, starting a dozen years ago, and is becoming quite a tourist attraction. The work is now in the hands of the lovely German-born horticulturalist Ana, who looks after three children while she also oversees this enormous project.
On the rest of our food trek across Ireland, the Stephouse Inn in Borris is a big old house with stairs all over the outside, now a very nice hotel and restaurant where the meal we had was more or less exemplary bar food, and I wish we had a bar like that in Allentown. (Borris is also where Ethne's Uncle Joe McDonnell first served as a young priest, many decades ago.)
Two of the places we stayed were magnificent country piles that had been monasteries, then schools, now restaurant/hotels. One stop was Castlemartyr, where the ruins of the house of Sir Walter Raleigh can be seen next door, and which used to be a religious school; the bar is where the chapel used to be, which I thought was suitable. The food and the service were first-rate, although the real bosses of the place are a pair of beautiful English spaniels, called Duke and Duchess.
At the Mount Juliet Hotel in Thomastown, Kilkenny, we had a suite of rooms, and there are swimming pools, a golf course, horseback riding, anything you want on a 1500-acre estate. And it was there that I had the single most astonishing taste of the whole trip. In two or three places it was the custom to serve a tiny sweet between courses, to clear the palate. At Mount Juliet we had a rugby-ball shaped piece of beetroot sherbet about two inches long on a bed of blackberry jam. Now, I have always kind of liked beets, though I would never think to order them in a restaurant; my grandma used to have them at Thanksgiving. In Europe they say "beetroot", and I used to get a kick out of Ethne's mother with her Irish accent saying "bee-troot". I would never have thought of making sherbet out of beets, but the taste of this raised the humble root to the pantheon of food for the gods: it was unbelievable, indescribable. And the blackberry jam! Have you ever been picking berries, eating quite a few as you go along, and come across a berry that was just the right size, just the right age, just the right juiciness to say "Oh, eat me, please?"
Mount Juliet has just been awarded a Michelin Star, and I am not surprised.
November 5, 2013Only in Ireland (Kilkenny, to be precise)
He used to be a leprechaun, but then he grew up.
October 2, 2013What is to be done?
Our founder and fearless leader on the Mahler-List, Jason Greshes, sent us links yesterday to two news items, about the New York City Opera closing down, and about the excellent conductor Osmo Vänskä throwing up his hands and resigning his post at the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis, no doubt with a heavy heart. There's no end in sight of the orchestra's ongoing labor strife and concerts are being cancelled, so there's no reason for Vänskä to hang around. The news provoked this comment from one of our list members, Steven Gendel:
The onetime incremental unbridling of wealth "interests" over the last 30-some years, always led by US policy, has now pushed so many functions fundamental to a thriving democracy--education, artistic freedom and excellence, and broadly available avenues of viable economic and personal success and satisfaction--into being stratospherically expensive. We've been leveraged out of business, and with all resources still being shoveled to the looters on top--the US economy is now 40% financial services--The New Guilded Age of extreme inequality is still being minted. The deeper effects down the road, most people do not really see at all...[An] assessment of the negatives of government-sponsored arts--and there are other, non-financial ones--is also poignant. Yet [...] Except in terms of shoveling all resources to the already super-powerful, does crushing teachers, educational institutions, viable/needed professions, laborers, social safety nets, and broad-based economic opportunities--all as "unaffordable"--hold any weight?...
Coincidentally, on an op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal today there is notice of a new book by economist Tyler Cowen called Average Is Over. William A. Galston in his Politics & Ideas column lists our obvious and ongoing problems: "growing economic inequality, falling male wages, declining labor force participation and the rising share of the national product flowing to capital rather than labor." In other words, everybody in the USA wants a big flat-screen TV, but the USA cannot or will not manufacture them; the financial services play with the nation's wealth and invest in nothing, while the middle class has stopped growing and is probably contracting. Cowen says that we are creating a society in which there will be a very prosperous upper class and a huge underclass, enjoying cheap food and cheap fun and getting by as best it can, and not really objecting very much, certainly not starting a revolution. Galston goes on:
Whether by accident or design, Mr. Cowen's book represents a fundamental challenge. To government-hating, market-worshiping conservatives, it poses a question: If this is the consequence of your creed, are you prepared to endorse it? To liberals and progressives: What are you going to do about it? And to all of us: is this a country you would want to live in?
On the rest of the op-ed pages and in the letters column, today's Journal and its readers continue to rail against the Affordable Care Act, but the savage irony this week now that the government is shut down because of the Tea Party's hatred of it is that something like Obamacare will be absolutely necessary. The new proletariat in their shanty-towns will have to have some kind of medical care, after all.
October 2, 2013And speaking of the shut-down...
When I went to live in England in the mid-1970s, all the left wanted to do, the unions and all, was shut down the country. What they got was Mrs Thatcher. It will be interesting to see what the Tea Party gets.
October 1, 2013That's telling him
CNN's Dana Bash was interviewing one of the tea party creeps the other night and he was yapping about the president not being willing to negotiate with John Boehner, and she said, "John Boehner's not available to negotiate with; he's busy negotiating with YOU." I fell off my chair laughing.
September 30, 2013Commonplace book
It is the glory and misery of the artist's lot to transmit a message of which he does not possess the translation.
--Artist and landlord André Lhote on his tenant, Chagall (quoted in the TLS)
September 30, 2013There they go again
I was offered a download of a new operating system on my cellphone, and I am told by certain persons to always accept such things, so I accepted it, and I hate it. It is pointlessly redesigned, airy-fairy ugly, and I couldn't figure out how to email a photo, and half the time it gets stuck when I am trying to navigate in it. I mentioned this to my boss at Barnes & Noble yesterday and he said "Is that an iPhone? Everybody's complaining about it." Why do they do this to us?
Apple are after me to download a new iTunes. Are they kidding? Last time I did that a big chunk of it was filled with album covers that don't exist. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of iTunes music on an external hard drive and I don't want it screwed up.
September 28, 2013Keep on keepin' on
A nice thing happened at Barnes & Noble the other day. A middle-aged woman came up to the cash desk to buy a stack of paperbacks; she was leading a very old lady who walked with a cane. "It's my mother's birthday today," she said, "and she chose these as her gift." They were romance novels. The top one had a picture of a hunky shirtless cowboy on the cover.
"She's 100 years old!" said the daughter.
"Happy birthday!" I said, "and keep reading! It'll keep you young!"
September 27, 2013An almost patient dog
Every morning first thing I grab the dog's bowl and go past the container of dry dog food down the basement to turn on my computer, so that I don't have to wait for it to load itself later on. Then I come back up to the dog food... And every morning Louie waits at the top of the stairs: "You're coming back up, aren't you? With my bowl?"