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February 18, 2004: Fáilte go Baile Átha Clíath! [Repost]

We’re here. The concert is tonight. In just a few hours. It’s getting dark already. Holy feckin’ crap.

It had been 11 years since I’d been to Dublin, and even when I was there before I’d only spent a couple of days there total. I’d forgotten what a big city it is, and hadn’t taken into consideration how much bigger it had gotten since I was there last. We spent a lot of time farting around in Kilbeggan, and when leaving I foolishly said to Wesly, “The timing is perfect. It’s about 4 now, so we should be hitting Dublin between 5 and 5:30.”

Yep, perfect. Just in time to hit rush-hour Dublin traffic. And to put us in a traffic jam the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen even in Los Angeles.

It was unbelievable. Un-feckin’-believable. It slowed to the consistency of chilled molasses when we were approaching the city from the N4, but once we hit Dublin city limits, it just stopped. Complete feckin’ gridlock. What might have made it worse is that we found ourselves on a road I didn’t think we should have been on, and I didn’t quite know how we ended up there. Somewhere in Chapelizod I missed a sign, and when I had been hoping to be on the Chapelizod Road just south of Phoenix Park, I ended up on a series of roads (St. Laurence, Sarsfield, Con Colbert, St. John’s West) that were just jammed. I might have taken a picture for you, just to document how bad it was, but I was too busy shrieking “FUCK!” (no, Mrs. Doyle, not feck, the actual F-word), pounding on the steering wheel and perspiring. It was so bad, and we were so far behind the schedule I’d hoped we’d be on, that for a while there I thought it might actually be possible that, after all this expense and travelling, I’d miss the show (at least the beginning).

My expert reading of the Dublin city map left a lot to be desired, too — it’d been over a decade since I’d been there, I hadn’t spent that much time in the city to begin with, and I’d forgotten how the streets tended to be one-way when you didn’t expect, and how hard-to-read the street signage was. Once we got past the traffic and into Dublin 1, I ended up taking a half-dozen wrong turns on the way to the apartments. We ended up stopping at a petrol station at a frighteningly busy intersection way the hell up Drumcondra Road to ask for directions. Apparently the gentleman inside seemed to think Wes was quite mad, but he headed us back in the right direction, which was, of course, back the other way … and it was impossible to go that way from where we were. “Can’t get there from here, though!”

Somehow, we made it … 42 North Great Georges Street, the Mount Eccles Court Hostel and Apartments, checked into apartment #2, looked around (okay, it was nice; not quite as nice as the impression the photo gave, but perfectly nice enough), double-checked the showtime (8:30 instead of 8 … thank CHRIST!), threw our stuff inside, left immediately, got back into the car, and drove to the venue. It didn’t take long to get there at all … but parking the car was another matter. Did I mention that it’s a relative nightmare to have a car in Dublin? If you’re thinking about it, don’t. It’ll cost you more to park it than to hire it, the disc parking system can be diabolical (buy a parking disc-permit from a machine on the street for between €1.60 and €2 per hour, with a three-hour limit, there are evil clampers everywhere who’ll clamp your car if you’re so much as a minute overtime, there are only 9 multistorey carparks in all of Dublin, and only four of them are open 24 hours. Jesus.

Finally, after more wrong turns and U-turns there was the beautiful sight of the multistorey car park on Usher’s Quay, a mere 10 minute walk from the venue … and there we were, a whole 40 minutes early. There was a nice lady outside who handed me our tickets. The bar had just opened. We were there. Good Christ, do I need a pint.

Liam O’Flynn / Liam Óg Ó Floinn (1945-2018)

I’m absolutely gutted.

The great uilleann piper and founding member of Planxty Liam O’Flynn has died.

 

The first time I heard Liam O’Flynn play, I burst into tears within ten seconds.

I was 18, and caught a snippet of something wonderful on WWOZ‘s Irish/Scottish music show “Music in the Glen” (I must confess I don’t remember who was doing it in 1980). I heard the back announce it was a band whose name sounded like “Planks Tea” and had never heard of them. Very soon after I went to my favorite record store, the late lamented Leisure Landing on Magazine Street, and dug through their Irish music section. “Oh, it’s spelled Planxty!” I said as I came across their latest album, “After the Break.” Bought it and brought it home.

I can still remember putting on my gigantic Koss headphones, placing the needle into the groove, and listening to the first song, “The Good Ship Kangaroo.” That’s a wonderful singer, I thought, called Christy Moore. (Who sang at our wedding, in fact. Well, a recording of him did. Try as I might, I was unable to get the greatest living Irish musician to do a wedding in Pasadena on a Thursday during rush hour.) The interplay of strings — mandola and … Irish bouzouki?! What the hell?! — between Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine. I’d never heard anything like it. Gooseflesh broke out. And then, after the second chorus, Liam burst in with the uilleann pipes.

And my head exploded. And as Andy himself sang years later, recounting the story of the first time he heard the Clare piper Willie Clancy, the tears welled in my eyes. I’d never heard anything so beautiful.

I wore that album out, then bought a second one and wore that one out. The LP copy I now have is the third one, and the CD I bought afterward I’ve managed not to wear out.

From those four musicians, the other bands they played in, or with, or produced, and all the othe rmusicians that they led to, and their bands and solo records, all branched out into not just a tree but a forest of Irish music that led to a wall of records, all from the seed of that one song.

I’ve been privileged to see Liam perform in person several times — the first at McCabe’s when he and Dónal performed as a duet, right after I got back from my first trip to Ireland. I got a front row seat, and made the both of them laugh and give me a strange look when they announced that they were about to play one of my very favorite tunes, and I kind of yelped. Everyone cracked up, and I sheepishly murmured, “It’s my favorite tune.” “Well,” Dónal said, “we’ll play it grand for ya!”

Then there was the Planxty reunion in 2004, the single greatest musical experience of my life. More on that later.

I’m still having a hard time dealing with this — his music meant so much to me. All the lads in Planxty are getting up there too — Andy turns 76 this year, Christy 73, Dónal 71. They all seem perennially youthful to me though, and their music to this moment surges with energy and life and vivaciousness. I’ll miss Liam terribly but fortunately he’s left a lot of great music behind. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Here’s a great remembrance by Leagues O’Toole, whose Planxty documentary in the early oughts led directly to the reformation of Planxty for their first reunion show in 23 years in Lisdoonvarna, and then their legendary 10-night stand in 2004.

I’ll be doing a few reposts from my old, pre-Wordpress hand-coded weblog back in 2004 when Wesly and I went to Dublin to see Planxty, the show I’d waited more than half my life to see. (I have no idea if anyone’s still out there and will even notice this old, dead weblog, but here it is anyway.)

 

Frakkin’ A! Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome is here!

I have been waiting for this for a very long time. Ten webisodes starting today, 2-hour movie (and, I hope, official series pilot to then be picked up) in February 2013. Read more here. Now watch it. I’m going to wait until I get home so I can see it on the largest screen possible.

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

So say we all!

 

Four more years.

Rachel Maddow:

We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe versus Wade. There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this court.

We’re not going to repeal health reform. Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.

We are not going to give a 20 percent tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kids’ health insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut.

We’re not make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on.

We are not going to redefine rape.

We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married.

We are not going to double Guantanamo.

We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or housing at the federal level.

We are not going to spend $2 trillion on the military that the military does not want. We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents.

We are not vetoing the DREAM Act. We are not self-deporting. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt.

We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January. We are not going to have, as a president, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help and there was no apology, not ever.

We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton. We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq war. We are not going to do it.

We had the choice to do that if we wanted to do that, as a country. And we said no, last night, loudly.

Emphasis mine.

The Reagan Era is over. The myth that this is a “center-right” country is dead. This is a center-left country. The growing majority in this country believe more in the social contract than in I-got-mine-buddy-get-yours selfishness and non-altruistic individualism. This country believes more in the liberal fashion of letting people live their lives for who they are, they way they want to, rather than the conservative fashion of “we’re going to make you live your lives the way we want you to live your lives.” It’s concern for your fellow humans and citizens over concern for nothing other than your wallet, and I don’t believe there’s any turning back.

If you happened to have FOX “News” turned on, you saw a spectacle for the ages, and some truly great television. It seemed as if not a single conservative saw this coming. Why? “They were operating at a self-imposed information disadvantage.” Conor Friersdorf:

It is easy to close oneself off inside a conservative echo chamber. And right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. If you’re a rank-and-file conservative, you’re probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn’t accurately inform you about Election 2012. Some pundits engaged in wishful thinking; others feigned confidence in hopes that it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy; still others decided it was smart to keep telling right-leaning audiences what they wanted to hear. [...]

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election.

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a “Grand Jihad” against America. Seriously?

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who’d lose worse than George McGovern.

How many months were wasted on them?

How many hours of Glenn Beck conspiracy theories did Fox News broadcast to its viewers? How many hours of transparently mindless Sean Hannity content is still broadcast daily? Why don’t Americans trust Republicans on foreign policy as they once did? In part because conservatism hasn’t grappled with the foreign-policy failures of George W. Bush. A conspiracy of silence surrounds the subject. Romney could neither run on the man’s record nor repudiate it. The most damaging Romney gaffe of the campaign, where he talked about how the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes are a lost cause for Republicans? Either he was unaware that many of those people are Republican voters, or was pandering to GOP donors who are misinformed. Either way, bad information within the conservative movement was to blame.

In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood’s convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama’s America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there’s no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it’s often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.

This is a come-to-Jesus moment, conservatives. Can we please just blow up Bullshit Mountain? If you have feasible, workable ideas for the future of this country, we want to hear them. But the voters have demonstrated that this country is tired of all the bullshit, hysteria, negativity and outright lies. Back to Rachel:

Ohio really did go to President Obama last night. And he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately president of the United States, again.

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to oversample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math.

And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing.

And Benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal by us. And nobody is taking away anyone`s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually.

And Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. And the moon landing was real. And FEMA is not building concentration camps. And U.N. election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in this country are not the same thing as communism. [...]

Last night the Republicans got shellacked, and they had no idea it was coming. And we saw them in real time, in real humiliating time, not believe it, even as it was happening to them.

And unless they are going to is secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again. And that will be a painful process for them, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right, and center. You guys, we’re counting on you. Wake up.

There are real problems in the world. There are real, knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.

If the Republican Party and the conservative movement and conservative media are forced to do that by the humiliation they were dealt last night, we will all be better off as a nation.

Amen.

We’re also tired of the obstructionism (and we’re keenly aware of the fact that the ONLY reason the Republicans held on to the House was the Republican-skewed gerrymandering that happened during the redistricting of 2012). It’s time to start cooperating and working together instead of being the Party of No. Conservatives, if you refuse it truly is the death of your party. From now on, the words “tea party” should only refer to a gathering of people who consume a hot brewed beverage.

Is Obama a perfect leader? By no means. He’s achieved amazing things (despite the Republicans’ destructive goal of attempting to block everything he wanted to do), achieved actual health care reform for the first time (as flawed as it is) but kept and even escalated some egregious elements of the Bush administration. There are four more years to correct that path now.

And what did the American people achieve last night?

There are now more women serving in Congress than any time in history.

We have the first openly gay senator, and the first Asian-American female senator (who’s also Buddhist; as someone amusingly put it, “There go your religious rights, conservatives!” … not).

Marriage equality passed by initiative in three states and a fourth refused to constitutionally ban it. That barn door can never be closed now.

It’s time for America to move forward. Live long and prosper.

 

A darker flower

You may remember the Golden Dahlia. If you do, I both commend and thank you. Commend, because your memory may be tenacious as the proverbial better mousetrap. Thank, because that’s a drink I’m still quite proud of, and one that I think is simple in all the good, even the best ways. What has this got to do with anything? Read on.

I like Kraken. Hell, I have a certain fondness for Captain Morgan’s, as long as it’s in a Cable Car (which I first tasted and enjoyed, believe it or not, at the beautiful Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas). But yeah, I like Kraken, I think it’s a fine product, and I’ve wanted for the longest time to do something interesting with it. But what, O what would that be?

That was indeed the question. You could arguably call me lazy, but I was quite happy to fall back on a formula I had previously established as successful, at least as a start. On various evenings, I tried two or perhaps three slightly different variations on the Golden Dahlia theme (rum + amaro modifier) with Kraken as the base spirit and various amari as modifier. Despite my mental conjurations and resultant high expectations, none were successful. (I can be a harsh and demanding but realistic judge of my own efforts.) I found myself feeling frustrated and thwarted. Deep down, I knew this should work. Why did it not?

Weeks went by.

I mean, seriously. I’m not joking. Weeks went by. I pondered, but did not know what to do. And then…the magic happened. As it has done before, but still. I said something along the lines of, “I’m happy with this as far as it goes, but I want it to be, you know, punchier somehow.” And yet I didn’t know quite what to do to punch it up. Fortunately, Chuck had a thought: “I know what will give it some oomph.” The moving finger writes, and having writ, etc.

And so: Kraken, because I like it. (I have a superawesome long-sleeve promo t-shirt! Which, yes, I do wear!) Ramazzotti, because I do so love a good amaro, especially as a rum modifier. Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum, for the oomph. Luxardo Fernet, because it reminds me of NYC (where I first tasted it, at Babbo), and for its clean yet complex flavor that for me is like unto Fernet Branca, but with clear black pepper rather than menthol. Orange bitters, for their brightness.

Considering her dark hue and kinship with her lighter, golden sibling, and meaning and intending no disrespect of poor Elizabeth Short, I have called this concoction:

Black Dahlia
created by Wesly Moore and Chuck Taggart

2 oz. Kraken Black Spiced Rum
3/4 oz. Ramazzotti
1/4 Lemon Hart 151
Barspoon Luxardo Fernet
3-4 dashes orange bitters (your preference; I like Miracle Mile, Regan’s No. 6, and Angostura)

Stir over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist, if you feel extravagant; it is quite fine without.

Dark. Bitter. Mysterious.

You may enjoy it.

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