Monthly Archives: February 2012

Broken Old Shit

Please don’t let the title fool you, it is a term of endearment!

While traveling around Ireland, one of the things you will see an abundance of is broken old shit.  And almost all of it is very, very cool.  From the biggest cities, to the smallest of back road towns, they all have their own heritage sites that are protected as part of the history of Ireland.  They can be as complex as a castle, or as simple as a wall that has managed to stand for centuries, long after people could no longer inhabit them.

The Irish Countryside is painted with some very cool broken old shit.

As you drive around Ireland, it would almost be impossible to take pictures and document all of the broken old shit, because each one you see is more interesting than the last, and to stop at each one would add hours or days onto a trip.  But luckily, almost anywhere you do stop will have its very own broken old shit to see.

This is the Broken Old Shit that was just outside our B&B in Doolin.

At least for me, the best broken old shit we saw, was also some of the oldest.  Scattered in the mountains of the Dingle Peninsula are a number of ringforts, or Beehive Huts, that are built only of stone and have survived since the very early days of Christianity.  The site we visited was called Cathair na gConchuireach, and it was estimated to have been built somewhere around 1200 AD.  The forts were built by a method known as corbelling, were interlocking layers of flat stones are placed a circle, with each layer moving a little closer to the center, so that the end result looked like a stone igloo or a beehive.

Maureen stands outside one of the Beehive Huts at Cathair na gConchuireach.

As we walked among the ruins, I couldn’t help but think of the life these early people led.  The pamphlet we were given told us that this site was thought to be a single family farm, with living quarters, storage, and a place for worship.  Although their lives may seem almost barbaric by our modern standard, their simple way of life came with quite a view.

Looking down at the mouth of Dingle Bay from Cathair na gConchuireach beehive huts.

Our time with the beehive huts was cut short, because our trip needed to continue.  But we would soon find ourselves face to face with the king of all broken old shit.  Next stop, The Rock of Cashel.

It’s Fundamental

One of the most wonderful things about being married to a librarian is that reading has really become a priority in our house.  This is not to say that we were not readers before, but we have since become even more of a reading family.  Maureen and Alex are definitely the biggest readers in the house.  Myself, I can be a little hit and miss.  I am not a fast reader.  I need more time to digest the words, and it can sometimes take me a month to read a book, but if it is something I am really enjoying, I can read much faster.  I recently forced myself to read The Lord of the Flies and it seemed to take me forever.  But on the other hand I read all three of the Stieg Larsson books in less than a month. For me it is all a matter of the book keeping my attention over all of the other distractions that exist in the world.

Maureen and I both enjoyed the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Now, I am not going to get on some high horse and preach about turning off the TV and spending more time in quiet reading.  To be completely honest, as I write this now, the tv is also on and The Real Housewives of Orange County are my background music.  It is all a matter of balance.

One of the Green Lantern Comics I read over and over.

For me, the importance is the effect my own reading has on  my children.  My father was always a reader, and early on I really didn’t take too well to reading.  Then something happened that changed everything.  The house my father grew up in was being torn down to make room for an expansion on the school next door.  My grandmother was moving, and there were still things that needed to be moved out the home.  As we were helping with the move, we found a stack of old 12 cent DC comic books.  Superman, Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern, just to name a few.  The whole stack was handed over to me, and it gave me the base I needed to become a reader.  Although I always suspected that my dad thought these comic books were somehow a lesser form of reading, he was also smart enough to know that any reading I did was important at that age.

Today, it is important to me that my kids see me read.  Every morning I read the newspaper, and because we are a Sun-Times family, there are times that my son impatiently paces behind me waiting for me to flip the paper over to the back page, and to the sports section.  My daughter wants me to pull out the center pages were the comics are so she can read those while I finish the news.  Maureen will do the crossword puzzle, a habit I have never picked up, and at some point we will all talk about the different things we have read.  And isn’t that one of the best things about reading?  Talking with others about what you have read.

Now that my kids are older, we all read and discuss various books we have all finished.  As a family, we are all eagerly awaiting the release of the movie The Hunger Games based on the novel by Suzanne Collins.  The simple act of each of us reading the same book has grown into an entire weekend event.  We have already planned a dinner before the movie, a reward to Alex and Molly for both getting good grades this year.  They picked out the restaurant, and we all get to have a special weekend.

Our whole family is looking forward to The Hunger Games movie. In theaters March 23, 2012.

All of this thanks to a book.

Like those old ads on TV used to tell us, reading is fundamental.  It is a building block to our children’s future, and a great way to stay a part of their day-to-day lives.  Hopefully, in 20 years, Alex and Molly will be doing the same thing with their kids.

Sean and Fiona

At a point when most people would toss in the towel and head for the hills, Maureen and I decided to continue our night in Dingle after being kicked out of Dick Mack’s.  It was not for lack of being served that we decided to continue our night, but more accurately was because of being over served that we made the decision to follow one of our new friends Sean onto an afterhours bar called An Droicead Beag, or The Small Bridge in gaelic.

It can easily be said that An Droicead Beag is the most colorful pub in all of Dingle, but this would not be some sort of metaphor.  The outside walls are painted bright yellow, so that even late at night, it is not a difficult place to spot.  A sign by the door announced nightly live music, although this night it was not traditional Irish music, but a single fellow with his guitar.  The inside of the pub was more in line with what we would see in a standard Irish Pub back home, but it was still not as Americanized as some.  We quickly ordered our pints, and found a place to set a spell, then we would meet the first person on our trip who took an honest disliking to us.

An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge). The most colorful pub in all of Dingle.

Her name was Fiona, and to honest, she probably had no good reason to like us.  Because Fiona liked Sean, and Sean didn’t feel like liking Fiona that night so he let her know that by introducing her to us as his cousin, giving a Irish angle to the term “kissing cousins.”  And thus would begin our entry into a bizarre love triangle – with Fiona trying to get on Sean, Sean trying to extricate himself, and the two of us just wanting more pints and somehow caught in the middle – likely Sean was using us as an excuse – he couldn’t leave with her because  he “had to entertain his American friends.”  Or maybe not, we didn’t really care.  But since we were there, and caught in the middle, why not enjoy the soap opera?

As the pints continued to flow, and the singing and the dancing continued on into the night, somewhere along the way we lost track of Sean and Fiona.  It is possible that Sean succeeded in slipping out the back door.  It is also quite possible that Fiona was triumphant in her persuite.  The ultimate outcome really doesn’t matter.  Somehow I doubt that this honeymooning couple from Chicago made as much of an impression on Sean and Fiona as they made on us.  They are forever now a part of our lives, eventhough we will most likely never see them again.

Sean and Fiona. Kissing cousins at An Droicead Beag?

Ain’t love grand?

Super Bored

Maybe it was just me, but was anyone else bored with the Super Bowl?

Oh, I’m not talking about the game.  It was nice to have a close game that actually came down to the last play to watch, although I guess it would have been better if I had some sort of stake in the game.  I don’t gamble or play football squares, and I will be honest and say that Maureen paid for the strip cards we played.  And since Green Bay was knocked out by the Giants a few weeks back, I didn’t even have a good villain to root against.

No, the game was good, it was the commercials that were boring.

The Super Bowl is supposed to be the, well, The Super Bowl of the advertising world.  Was that really the best they could come up with?  You spend all that money to show us a little kid running around looking for a bathroom?  And can we be honest here for a minute?  Does anybody really know exactly what does?  Oh, I mean  Have we finally had enough of Danica Patrick stumbling through her lines?

When the best commercial of the night was an M&M getting naked, maybe all those big brains that spend all that money should think twice before they buck up the cash.  Even the Matthew Broderick thing fizzled.  It was fun and nostalgic and all, but Honda did way better with the early release on YouTube.  It was for Honda, right?  See, I’m not even sure what car he was hawking.  All I know is that I won’t be buying one.  Like it would have cost any more to fly him out to Chicago to do it right.

And as long as I am bitching about things not game related, can we talk about Madonna and the pom poms?  Was I the only one who had bad flashbacks to Toni Basil while watching that?  Madge, you looked like a fool out there.  You’re in your fifties.  Leave the cheerleading fantasy for the bedroom.  And what a big surprise when she announced her world tour the next day.

I get the general idea that during the Super Bowl there is an audience unlike anywhere else in advertising, but if you are going to spend that type of dough to get your product out there, shouldn’t you spend a little extra making sure it is money well spent?  All you advertisers better take note.  If you don’t step it up and start doing a little better, we might just have to start watching the game again.