Thursday, May 31, 2007

"100 Greats in 100 Days" #054, Ed Bradley and The Neville Brothers: Tell It Like It Is

Ed Bradley (1941-2006) was a class act: a correspondent, an author, and an advocate for people of color for his entire life. He “afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted.” He never sold out and he never backed down, but he was smart and tough enough to fight his battles and find his friends, on ground of his own choosing.

He also had brass balls. He was a public school teacher in Philadelphia, he walked into riots in Philly and Paris with nothing but a microphone and his iron will, and he reported from Vietnam and Cambodia. He caught shrapnel in Southeast Asia and he integrated the pontifical narcissistic Old White Men's club of Sixty Minutes, where he was always treated as the junior correspondent even though he had more guts and more integrity than the entire rest of the program’s staff. Reduced to taking the last slim pickings on that ode to mentally-geriatric Beltway punditry, which has embalmed the features and egos of Mike Wallace; the “Get off my lawn, you damned kids!” crazy-old-man querulosity of Andy Rooney; the fallen virtue of the great Morley Safer, who served his time in ‘Nam and then accepted the long assisted-living-community twilight of Sunday evening; and trotted out as the token “person of color,” Bradley always walked the walk. He never talked down, he never played the race card (hear that, Clarence Thomas?), and he conducted himself with all the panache, savoir-faire, and clothing sense of the great Duke Ellington, who said “Self-discipline, as a virtue or an acquired asset, can be invaluable to anyone.”

He won 19 Emmys, and even though he was ghettoized every time Wallace/et al were scared to talk to Al Sharpton or Bob Dylan or Muhammad Ali, even though he was always treated as the junior partner, he carried it with grace and style. And he didn’t take any crap from Martians, to quote Michael Herr. Chris Rock put it best, in speaking about Ed’s interview with a Michael Jackson long-gone into delusion and psychosis: “Ed Bradley looked at Michael Jackson like ‘N*****, is you CRAZY?!?

He was also, for his entire career, a voice for Ellington’s “Great Black Music,” hosting the Jazz at Lincoln Center program, and appearing at many festivals and on TV specials. And one night he sat in with Art, Aaron, Charles, and Cyril Neville at Tipitina’s, who knew another Brother when they saw one.

Big Easy loopiness meets Tinsel Town lunacy, in this one: we’ve sat through the goofiness of Dennis Quaid still channeling his Jerry Lee Lewis persona, of Herbie Hancock once more forcing his way into a television musical situation where, despite his genius in jazz, his lack of the funk was painfully evident. The Dixie Cups have sassed their way one more time through Iko Iko and John Haitt—not someone you necessarily think of as the funkiest dude on the planet—has, with Aaron, taken Yellow Moon for a spin. Gregg Allman has never sounded better on Midnight Rider than he does with the Brothers behind him.

There’s the best backup band the Brothers (profiled in “100 Greats” #29) ever had, with Brian Stoltz on guitar, Tony Hall on bass, and the great Willie Green, spiritual heir to Zigaboo Modeliste, on drums. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has laid down the groove the way bands have been laying it down for the second-liners for over a hundred years, Bonnie Raitt has demonstrated once again that there’s no “sell-by” date for Sexy, Buckwheat Zydeco has proven, with My Ya-Ya, that dumb is no impediment in New Orleans, and even Jimmy Buffett has rekindled his Afro-Caribbean roots (Jimmy can step out when he’s not playing for yuppies; who knew?).

And out lopes Big Ed, dressed in a purple shirt and a pair of deep-pleated pants, the diamond stud winking in his ear, to cakewalk, inevitably, through Sixty Minute Man, with a beautiful Crescent City nod-and-a-wink, and who gives a shit whether he sings in tune, the man just personified class, you know?

This essay is for Ed, who never backed down from who he was but never settled either. He was a good friend to The Music and to his people.

He was a gallant gentleman.

[13 Mar 08 ETA: and, in the wake of his death, his New Orleans friends who loved him sent him home in the grand old way: with a Second Line parade from the Treme Brass Band:]

Soli Deo Gratias...

It is claimed that, following the fashion of many other Baroque composers, J.S. Bach used to write, at the top of each page of blank manuscript paper, "Soli Deo Gratias"--"God only the glory." It was a reminder by this devout Lutheran to himself that, no matter the beauty and power of the music that followed, it was a gift of his God, moving through him.

I don't believe in Bach's God. But when I hear this story from Dharmonia, about a CD which we recorded about 10 years ago, and which was dedicated to medieval music of St Francis of Assisi (the most mystical and Sufi of all Catholic saints), I cannot account for its impact except in terms of Grace:

I sometimes have days when I wonder what the hell good I'm doing in this world.

Then there are days like today --thought you'd all want to hear this:

My mom has a friend named Marsha whose elderly mother-in-law has been dying. They brought a copy of the St Francis CD to the hospital, and she has been loving it and telling them how peaceful it made her feel through this process.

Well, she passed away today. Just before, she was quite agitated, and her family asked the nurses if they would take off whatever music was on and put the St Francis CD on. They did, and she instantly became peaceful - her body relaxed.

She told her family she "could hear the angels singing" and passed away peacefully shortly thereafter.
I have nothing to say. Or, at least, not in words.

Day 6, "Ireland" seminar trip

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. Posting one-a-day in the aftermath.]

Rossaveal, on the south coast of Connemara between Glinsk in the west and Spiddal in the east, is one of a series of small Gaeltachtai (Irish-speaking villages) dotted along the seashore. Spiddal was the home base of the legendary Irish band De Danann, who were formed in sessions at a pub there; it also has an excellent crafts co-op featuring work by artists from all over the West. Rossaveal is notable primarily as the departure point for the ferry to Aran.

[Later: Beautiful, exciting, but rather choppy crossing to Kilronan on Inishmore. A much brighter day than some we’ve known, when the waves were just as bad but the sheeting rain was driven horizontally into our faces, but you could tell there had been storms outside Galway Bay: the long, deep Atlantic rollers had been driven far inland, all the way around the northeast coast of the island and southward, and as we crossed them east-to-west we could definitely feel them.

Kilronan Hostel is an old hotel, probably from the 1930s/40s when the plays of John Millington Synge and the film Man of Aran had made Inishmore something of an exotic tourists’ location, that faces out to Kilronan Harbor, and beyond that to Inishmaan, Inisheer, and finally to the coast of Clare. Previously we had stayed at another hostel inland, and it is very nice this year to be staying in the town, a few steps away from the Supermac (McDonald’s/Dairy Queen-style fast feed), the Spar (supermarket and “off-license”), and the Aran Sweater Mill, whose stock our people immediately raided upon arrival. Our people are housed in two dormitory-style rooms in a separate house beside the hotel, with the kitchen and dining area immediately below—very handy that!

The Aran Islands Inishmore (Inis mor: “The Big Island”; Inis maan; ; and Inis sheer ) occupy a very large role in Irish folkloric mythology. Original Gaeltachtai, they have been occupied since Stone-Age times. These Neolithic settlers began the very elaborate system of stonework and walls which cover the island, and of planting crops in gardens built from a mixture of sand and seaweed gleaned on the shore. Aran was a very important inspiration on the great Irish playwright John Millington Synge, who wrote both ethnographies and plays based upon island life. His descriptions in The Aran Islands (ethnography) and Playboy of the Western World (drama) provoked enormous conflict in c1900 Dublin, but are a much truer and more evocative picture of pre-colonial Irish seagoing life. They were also the principle inspiration for Robert Flaherty’s heavily-romanticized but nevertheless evocative “documentary” film Man of Aran.

[Later: very nice walk up to Dun Eochla (“The Hill of Eochla/Olaf”—possibly a Nordic saint), a derelict lighthouse and Bronze Age stone for located at about the highest point of Inishmore. It’s a very dramatic landscape, with thin turf over limestone—the limestone that continues all the way across the floor of south Galway Bay and then rears up into the massive limestone heap of the Burren, which we crossed on our first day, and which terminates with the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. On Monday, we had stood at the Cliffs, and I had pointed north and west to Inisheer, Inishmaan, and Inishmore, saying “come Saturday we’ll be out there looking back”—and so we were.

On Aran and in contrast to heavily-scheduled “bus days,” the trip is always and exclusively “free days”—that is, there are no specific group events, in order to provide everyone a chance to decompress and get off on their own. However, Angela and I will usually plan one or two specific activities each day, in which any may participate if they wish. So on Saturday around 4pm (“Aran”-time, that is—so perhaps about 4:30), we set off up the Kilmurvee road west from town heading for Dun Eochla.

Later today, we plan another such activity, heading west across the island toward Dun Aengus.

Dun Aengus is one of the largest and most dramatic Bronze Age fortresses in Ireland’s West. Built upon a high eminence on the southwest coast of Inishmore, the fortress rises in successive concentric rings of stone cheavaux de fries (long and sharp spikes of stone stuck into the ground and intended to impede attackers) to a remarkably well-preserved concentric dry-stone wall—or it would be a concentric circle, except that the walls terminate with the precipitous cliff-edge. It’s thus an eminently defensible place, from the top of which, on a clear day, one can see southeast to the Cliffs of Moher in Clare, east into Galway Bay, northeast to Connemara’s Twelve Pins and, most dramatically, directly west into the setting sun..

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 5, "Ireland" seminar trip

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. Posting one-a-day in the aftermath.]

Connemara, western County Galway, is in some ways the wildest, starkest, most deserted, and most beautiful landscape in Ireland. With famously fierce weather and poor soil, Connemara was also the heart of the Gaelic West, least desirable and most distant from the Anglicizing influence of the “Pales” of Belfast and Dublin. In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell very famously banished the Gaelic chieftains “To Hell or To Connacht,” with the clear implication that the latter might be a second-best choice. But in its landscape (especially the range of mountains called the “Twelve Pins”) and seascape (especially the coastal vistas and villages of Clifden, Carna, and Glinsk), it is very magical and wonderful place. The Killary, a long very narrow harbor that reaches from the sea deep into Connemara, is the only true fjord in Ireland, and, like the Burren mentioned above, supports unique microclimates, flora, and fauna.

[Later: after farewells (to both friendly Yeats Village staff and resident dogs) and a last clean-and-shine of the students’ individual self-catered houses, a very pleasant drive out via Castlebar through southwest Mayo and Roscommon. We detoured through harbor town Westport, a beautiful Georgian-era resort town which is still very popular seaside real estate with Ireland’s yuppie elite, and out along the south coast of Clew Bay

Connemara is also a very sad place, because it was hit very hard by the famines of the 19th century. Many people died, and many people left. The result was a heavily depopulated landscape (now being taken over with Dubliners and Mittel-Europers building vacation homes) in which the sad memories are very strong. The “Famine Road” that runs south from Westport to Leenaune is one such: in 184?, a group of starving peasants trekked north on the road to ? to ask their landlord for assistance. Following the principles of 18th-century laissez-faire economics, he declined—and on the return trip many of the petitioners died.

[Later: lashing rain made it more attractive for some to stay in the Sleepzone-Connemara hostel (about 4 miles out of Leenaune), a 19th-century hunting lodge turned into a modern appointed youth hostel with magnificent views, down a road lined with 20-foot-high “rosey-dendrons” as the locals call them. Later, a very pleasant evening in the hostel’s pub, where at the invitation of managers Ronan and Frida, the students played, sang, and danced for the assembled company. As Ronan said when we were having a nightcap (“one for the ditch”): “it’s like the Rose of Tralee [a talent competition in Kerry]: they all have their own party piece."

In a little while, off on the Sleepzone shuttle to Rossaveal for the ferry to Aran.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 4, "Ireland" seminar trip

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. Posting one-a-day in the aftermath.]

Yeats country. Though William Butler Yeats was born to a middle-class Anglo-Protestant family of clerics and artists in Dublin, his heart was in his ancestral home of Sligo, where his mother’s Pollexfen people came from. His patroness Augusta Lady Gregory maintained a home at Coole Park (site of “The Wild Swans at Coole“) in Galway, but Yeats himself chose to settle his family at Thoor Ballylee, a Norman-era tower he purchased and restored. Sligo was very important to Yeats, however: years after his death in France, he was re-interred at Drumcliffe Church, his grandfather’s seat. He lies in the Drumcliffe churchyard, near the church doors whose bronze handles have been rendered as Coole’s wild swans, with his wife Georgie beside him, in the shadow “Under Ben Bulben.” As the poem opens, Under bare Ben Bulben's head / In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.

[Later: very nice visit to Drumcliffe, where Ben Bulben was rather socked-in by cloud but the churchyard, carved stone cross, and 8th-century round tower (for safety from Viking raiders) were as we remembered—and again this year, our luck held: we had the churchyard to ourselves for our visit to the Master’s grave, and only as we were departing did the huge tour-busses of tourists arrive.]

Later, it’s off east of Sligo town into northwest Limerick, to visit various sites important in the Yeats canon (including Lough Gill, where lies the “Isle of Innisfree”), and also Parke Castle, a beautifully-preserved “Big House” built in the early 17th century at the east end of the Loch, chose name means “Bright Waters.” And they are—looking west on a clear day in the afternoon, one can watch as the sun sets over the loch, turning the gray, green choppy water a bright gold. The castle was built in 1607 as part of the “Plantation”, when English and Scottish Presbyterians were “planted” in Gaeltachta as a way of assuring Protestant Ascendancy. The castle is beautifully preserved (including a unique period “sauna”, and an escape tunnel that leads to the loch’s shores just outside the walls) with excellent exhibits and very knowledgeable tour guides. Typically, there is a lot of Monty-Pythonesque “was that a European or an African swallow?” humor at this point.

[Nice quiet day at Parke’s Castle, where the weather held for us and we got a nice tour and photos of the Castle and Lough.]

Listen to Yeats reciting The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Day 03, "Ireland" seminar trip

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. Posting one-a-day in the aftermath.]

Another day of intense archaeological antiquity. We travel northwest out of Sligo along the coast of Mayo, a beautifully, very underpopulated landscape, through the wool-and-pottery town of Ballina, to the northernmost coast. Our specific destination is a very large archaeological site called the Ceide Fields (see also here). It is a legacy of the Neolithic period in Ireland when the island was still covered with a temperate rain forest, not unlike that of Northern California (redwood trees, etc). Primitive farmers who had migrated into Ireland used slash-and-burn techniques (cut the tree’s trunk to kill it, then burn off the detritus) to clear the land. In turn, this gradually developed a thick layer of decaying vegetable matter, which in turn decomposed and became the bog which now covers the Fields. It was a huge stone-walled settlement which argues for a high degree of social organization, and which predates the Pyramids and Stonehenge. There is an excellent interpretative center there, with dioramas, paintings, and a huge (and beautiful) trunk of “bog pine”—a pine tree buried and petrified in the bog.

[Later: a bit of a glitch in the original travel plans, but one that (as often happens in Ireland) led to an unexpectedly-better result. Noel, our driver for the past two days, rang via mobile in the morning to say that he’d been called in with an appointment for (minor elective) surgery, and so we’d be having a different driver for the balance of the days. We were sorry to bid farewell to Noel, who’d handled our 55-seater like a master, but very happy to meet Marty, with his 30-seater “midi” coach, who was wonderfully responsive and happily put in a very long day for us. One other bit of info we had to incorporate: scientists at Sligo Institute of Technology had confirmed that the cryptosporidium outbreak that had hit the Galway and Clare water systems was expected to appear in Sligo as well. So, it was bottled water for drinking and tooth-brushing, and no ice in the drinks. A small price to pay, we thought, for avoiding the discomfort of stomach problems.]

After a tour and lunch at Ceide Fields, we will proceed back north and east along the Mayo coast to Downpatrick Head, a very dramatic piece of natural topography. Located on the very edge of the coast, in a region mostly given over to sheep pasturage (sheep are very resilient and can handle more severe rainy and cold weather than cows, with less attention), it’s one of the coldest and wettest places we’ve been in Ireland.

[Later: Wonderful visit to Ceide Fields, though the weather socked us in pretty swiftly so that only a few shots of the coastline could be taken. That didn’t stop the students from shooting tons of bytes worth of photos inside the museum, and from the top of the (award-winning) pyramidal observation tower. We had a good short tour of the fields themselves, and were struck once again by the obvious sophistication and social organization the Fields suggest: cooperation, security, and sensitivity to the land were obviously familiar topics. A few brief photos off the observation platform (railed, and with a straight-vertical dropoff down the sea-cliffs that made for some gratifyingly-hair-raising photos), and then up to Downpatrick Head.]

Downpatrick Head was nearly as wet but nowhere near as cold as in previous years, but the students found it just as gratifyingly intense.]

The fields, which are shot through with crevices and “blowholes” under which the ocean surges, slope uphill to the Head, which drops off precipitously in cliffs not unlike those at Moher (though much more deserted). Dun Briste (“The Battered Hill”) is a tall column of rock with a few tufts of grass atop it, which rears up out of the ocean about 150 yards offshore of the cliff (photo). It is thought that Dun Briste was originally attached to the mainland, and that it is a core of older, harder volcanic rock, the connecting topography of which was gradually worn away. Of course the Irish have a better story for that: they claim that a group of Druids were approached by St Patrick and urged to convert. They refused, and “God punished them” by marooning them on this distant tower.

This is also the region where the last defeated remnants of the French who had invaded under General Humbert to assist in the 1798 Rebellion took refuge in the blowhole called Poll na Seantoine, but were trapped and drowned by the incoming tide.

[Later: then back down from Downpatrick, onto the bus to towel and dry off, then back through Ballina for a brief tea- and bathroom-break, and into Sligo. Marty was a champion and volunteered to stop outside the “Tesco” (good-quality 24-hour grocery store), as the students had decided they would cook-in at the very-nicely-appointed kitchens in their digs. Back to the bus (now very cold and wet, but with bagsful of cheap groceries to turn into a very cheap dinner for all) and to Yeats Village, where we all parted, to dry off, cook, and hang out together.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 02, "Ireland" seminar trip (expanded)

[These are the daily posts located at Google Maps. I'll post one-a-day in the aftermath.]

First morning in Ireland. There’s always a transition moment here, when everyone (we hope) has managed to stay up long enough, and sleep late enough, that their circadian rhythms are adjusted and the jet lag is past. Magnificent (as always) full breakfast in the Durkin’s breakfast room, wherein almost all of the boys, and a surprising number of the girls, had their experience of the “full Irish fry.” Also always a watershed moment here, when the girls, realizing that Ireland’s cold and wet climate, and the amount of trekking we’ll do through fields in the rain, combine to make Texas-style “big ol’ hair” more than a little impractical. Our girls rose to the challenge like champions, and then it was off to the sites! This area is full of “raths” (ancient mounds which were the sites of “ring-forts”), a term which also occurs in local place-names like Rathcrogan, Rathmore, and Rath Ra (“the hill of the voice”—most striking, as there are very curious acoustical phenomena on the top of this last). This area is especially important in the history of Pagan Ireland because Roscommon contains many sites integral to the history of Queen Maebh of Connacht, one of the principle characters in the Ulster Cycle legends, which tell the story of the Tain Bo Cuailgne (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”; text in translation available here), when the Queen’s soldiers raided east into Ulster, seeking to steal the legendary Brown Bull of Cooley. They were opposed by the mythic hero Cuchulain (the “Hound of Chulain”), whose adventures are the core of the Ulster Cycle. As Angela’s “Roswell” reference confirms, it is a very spooky landscape; the raths are usually located at high elevations. We will visit Rathcrogan, the site at which Queen Maebh was crowned and from which the Cattle Raid began (provided the present-day bull who lives in that particular field permits us). [Later: We were able to make our way up Rathcrogan: a large flock of sheep and their new lambs were in residence, and the bull was nowhere to be seen. On to Tulsk, where a recently-begun dig explores the area’s extremely rich Neolithic and Iron-Age cultures. Our visit to the Cruachan Ai archaeological site, where a rath is being painstakingly opened and diagramed, was enlivened by making friends with Michael and Lora, director and assistant-director of the Center. They shared with us some absolutely riveting geo-topographical discoveries about the arrangement of the raths and other sacred sites in relation to other places in Roscommon and beyond. Though it’s beyond our powers to know just yet what all these new insights mean, one thing is clear: the ancient peoples of Ireland, like ancient peoples everywhere, were just a sophisticated in their science and insightful in their art as are we moderns—and far more in tune with the landscape.

Boyle Abbey is a beautiful, well-preserved site in the market town which exemplifies the history of both the medieval Catholic church and the Renaissance religious conflicts in Ireland. Located on a bend in the river Boyle which flows from Lough Key to Lough Gill, the abbey’s grounds demonstrate both the financial power and the central social role that abbeys played in medieval life: as libraries, schools, farms, manufacturies, and employers. The grounds include the old chapel, various parts of which were built at various periods, the “buttery” (kitchen, complete with bake oven), the “commons” (where the monks ate, while one read aloud), and all the necessary components for a living-and-working community. Later, when Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church, broke with Rome, and confiscated monastic holdings, the Abbey fell into disrepair, after which it was eventually turned into a cavalry barracks during Oliver Cromwell’s mid-17th century conquest of Ireland. There are good descriptive plaques and a restored upstairs room in the guard tower, which includes a detailed diorama of the Abbey at its height.

North Roscommon/South Sligo is also the heart of a very rich tradition of fiddling and flute-player. Most of the legendary players of Irish music’s “Golden Age” (the 1920s-30s) who recorded in New York and played on its vaudeville stages came from the region, and the place-names “Kesh,” “Culfadda,” etc are name-checked in hundreds of tune titles. We will visit the Michael Coleman Heritage Center in Gorteen, where Coleman, who emigrated first to England and then to America, was born. It’s an excellent small museum (with the mandatory “fillum” video presentation) and a good gift shop, full of rare and top-notch recordings. [Later: magical visit to the Heritage Center, where we greeted old friends from previous years, raided the gift shop, and enjoyed the tea and biscuits laid on for us. Then it was upstairs in the (revamped and expanded) center for the obligatory short “fillum”, and an impromptu concert and visit with bodhran-player Junior Davey and accordionist P.J. Hernon, two legends in Irish music, and great characters both. Their music was so good that it mandated a return raid upon the gift shop, a series of autographs, and an impromptu lesson on the percussive bones.

Sligo town itself is fairly small (it was mostly a Victorian shipping town) but its musical and cultural legacy is very rich (see its arts weekly here): the pubs are jammed to the rafters with great music and dancing (especially Shoot the Crows, the pub owned by members of the trad supergroup Dervish, who have the distinction of coming in last in the execrable pop-song context called Eurovision), and it’s near where the poet William Butler Yeats made his summer home. Yeats Village is a new hostel to us, but comes very highly recommended by other hoteliers who we trust implicitly. [Later: no music on at the Crows, but great craic there nevertheless: our students met up with David, Michael, and CiarĂ¡n, three locals who had great stories about their own travels, and great curiosity about ours. They were hard-pressed to believe that we’d only been in-country about 24 hours, but most impressed with our students’ dance and Gaelic language abilities (though they scoffed at the students’ too-good pronunciation of the “Queen’s Irish.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day 02, "Ireland" seminar trip


Typing from a cyber-cafe in Sligo town (so forgive me for tranposed double quotes, ampersands, and any other wonky characters); will try to upload more detailed and descriptive itinerary/event info when I'm working from my own laptop. I think many of your students have called already, but herewith a truncated general note.

All very well here. Wonderful trip yesterday up through Clare via St Bridget's Well and the mighty Cliffs of Moher, for which the rain clouds even cleared, and during which several saw the ocean for the very first time--a good place to pick for this! Landed up at Durkin's Hotel in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, where we have friends and there is a mighty breakfast.

Today, after said mighty (and mighty fattening) breakfast, wended our way ESE to Bar na Si (Fairymount Hill), an ancient site on the highest point in Roscommon, and then to Rathcrogan (coronation seat of the Kings of Connacht, and the place from which the Tain Bo Cuailgne departed); then to Tulsk, where there is a good interpretative museum and we met staff who are doing fascinating things mapping the geometric/topographic patterning of Megalithic sites.

On to Gorteen in South Sligo, home of the Michael Coleman Heritage Centre, where we heard some absolutely stunning live music, laid on especially for us, by accordionist PJ Hernon and bodhran-player Junior Davey, and where the students both bought many CDs and gleaned autographs from PJ and Junior for several of them.

Finally on to Sligo town, where we are ensconced at Yeats Village hostels, in 2 side-by-side row houses, one housing the 6 girls (in very nice single rooms around a central kitchen) and another housing the 5 boys. Off on their own for dinner, before we all meet up at "Shoot the Crows" pub for some live music in about 40 minutes time.

Tomorrow we're out west and north along the coast of Mayo to the Megalithic site of Ceide Fields, back to the dramatic cliffs at Downpatrick Head, and finally to the Michael Davitt museum at Sraide, before returning to Sligo for the night.

Again, all are well and seemingly very happy--and especially happy now to have fetched up in such nice digs.

More whenever I can connect to Internet again.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Day 02, "Ireland" seminar trip


Now 8:45am at Shannon (2:45am Texas time). All are well. Connections went without a hitch and the flights in were relativeliy smooth. Angela and I are enjoying the (brand new!) free wireless at Shannon, as we await our driver Noel's arrival with our 30-seat "midi-"coach. Students are off changing money and using the local Internet terminals.

Itinerary for the day can be found at here, and includes St Bridget's Well, Cliffs of Moher, Black Rock Head, and Ballaghaderreen. The link also includes fairly extensive annotations describing the significance of the various sites.
We're off!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Day 01, "Ireland" seminar trip


Just a quick preliminary note: we leave in about 4 hours from DFW/Dallas to Chicago O'Hare, whence we'll depart this evening for Shannon airport in County Limerick. The O'Hare/Shannon flight (American 256Q, partnering with Aer Lingus; track it at will leave around 6:40pm, and arrive around 7:45am Ireland time. We "gain" five hours, which makes for a very short night on board! Most of the students will be excited and wakeful, which in turn makes for a sleepy Monday in Ireland. But we'll try to stay awake--the best way to adjust to jet lag is not to nap, but to stay awake past one's usual bedtime.

You can follow a map keyed to these trip notes by following this link at Google Maps, where I will day-by-day create an itinerary. This will include annotations, comments, links to other fun facts about locations, and so on. We invite you to follow-along as a "virtual traveler" as we explore Ireland's west.

all the best,


And...we're back!

Semester's over, sabbatical has begun (well, sort of: teaching in the Summer session, and leading a field trip right now, but it still feels like a break). Will resume "100 Greats" soon--if it kills me. But, in the meantime and for an update on current activities, look for the posts here (and at for a trip log on the 2007 edition of the "Music, Folklore, and Tradition in Irish Cultural History" seminar).

It's good to be back.