Right to Bare Arms

Image result for bare arms

On this day, August 18th, 1920 Tennessee became the last of the 36 states required to ratify the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution, giving Women the Right to Vote.

The constitution was ratified in 1788 and it only took 132 years for Americans to give women a vote.  Of course a vote and equality are very different things.  The unratified equal rights amendment sought to have men and women treated equally under the law.  Initially proposed in 1923 it has never been ratified.  It almost got over the line in the 1970’s when a conservative womens group hamstrung the amendment to protect their alimony and avoid military service.  So to this day men and women in the USA are not equal.

Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1965 during the U.S. Civil War.  The Civil Rights Act in 1964, 100 years later, was passed to attempt to right some of the wrongs in US society such as the Jim Crow laws, segregation and discrimination.

School shootings are nothing new in the USA.  They have been happening since the 1840’s but a whole new type of school shooting incident kicked off in 1979.  Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats were in a US radio station when the news came in that 16 year old Brenda Spencer shot and killed the principal and janitor and wounded 8 children and a police officer in Cleveland Elementary San Diego.  A reporter managed to make contact with Brenda and asked her why she did it.  Her response was “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Bob Geldof and Johnnie Fingers wrote the song “I don’t like Mondays” and every teenager in Ireland and the UK became aware of the phenomenon of the school shooting.

There have been mass shootings since then in many countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France etc.  In EVERY SINGLE CASE the event led to a change in the laws.  Pardon me, not every single case.  The Cleveland Elementary shooting did not lead to a change in the US laws.

These days a school shooting where only 2 people die would not get 5 minutes air time in the USA.  There were 28 recorded school shooting events up to May 7th of 2019.

In terms of absolute records the Beslan school massacre where 334 died will hopefully never be bested.  But that was a terrorist attack rather than a school shooting.  Top of the death poll in the USA remains the Bath school disaster of 1927 when a Michigan school board treasurer firebombed his farm and the school in an act of revenge because he was not elected as township clerk.

In the modern era of nihilistic mass murder the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings lead the posse.

If you look at the list of School Massacres by Death Toll on wikipedia you could make the case that USA is only an “also ran” in the tables.  The key difference with the USA is the reaction against any change to the 2nd Amendment rights.  States can, do and have made changes to gun licencing laws in the USA.  Indeed many opponents of the gun lobby make the case that it is states that SHOULD make the changes.  There is a strong lobby in the USA for states rights and to limit the power of the federal government.

This should be nothing unusual to Europeans who are members of the European Union.  Nation states in the EU are very protective of their unique voices within the union.  Here in Irealand we become very worked up when voices in France and Germany suggest that our corporate taxes are too low.

It took 132 years for American women to get a vote.  It took 100 years from the Civil War for Black Americans to secure meaningful laws, and that has not yet translated into equality of opportunity.  Change is slow, painfully slow.  But change does come.  The USA will never give up the right to bear arms, but without doubt change will come about to limit who can bear arms, how many arms and what type of arms.  I expect that when people read this blog post in 100 years they will say “any day now”.

PS if you did read this my sincere apologies.  It is a very badly written rambling flow.

I don’t like Mondays.

Geldof.jpg

Bob Geldof, songwriter and lead singer of the Boomtown Rats is now most famous for his charity work in Africa and motivating the pop industry to do their part for the Ethiopian famine.  Born on this day in 1951.

In the week of the Las Vegas mass killing it is salutary to remember that the second major hit for the Boomtown Rats was also inspired by an American shooter.

Geldof wrote the song after reading a telex report at WRAS Campus Radio in Georgia State University.  Brenda Ann Spencer, a 16 year old, fired a gun at children in Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California in January 1979.  She killed two adults and injured a policeman and eight children. When reporters asked her why she did it Spencer said “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day”.

Bucket List #2

Brewing Bucket

So again, I have one of these.  My bucket list is a list of stories about buckets and their place in my life (in case you haven’t guessed yet).

So roll back to the year 1977.  I feel sure that was the year, but I am open to correction.  My oldest brother Jerry got married.  I wore a kind of safari style jacket that my mother made, and a pair of brown flares.  Flares were not just “in fashion” in 1977, they were all you could buy.  I hated flares, but there seemed to be no alternative.

The jacket was god-awful too.  I have my own self to blame for that I guess.  My mother asked what I would like to wear for the wedding.  I was very into things african, safaris, Daktari, Born Free and all that guff.  I had ambitions to become a game park ranger when I grew up.  So I asked for a Safari jacket.  I knew the moment that she bought the cloth for it that she was way off the mark.  But I didn’t have the heart to upset my mother by pointing out that she hadn’t a clue.  She wanted me to look neat and well dressed.  I wanted to look beat, worn, creased, just off a dusty landrover.

Looking back I see now that I was in the early stages of my love affair with punk.  I was rejecting the glamour and sparkle of the disco era.  I wanted to disrupt, to break out, to smash convention.  I was just that little bit too young.  This was the year punk erupted on the scene in Ireland.  The Boomtown Rats released “Looking After Number 1” and the music world changed completely.

So what has all this to do with large white plastic buckets?  Anyone who grew up in a large family has experienced the joy of what happens when someone gets married.  There were nine of us sharing four bedrooms.  The departure of Jerry opened up a bed, and for the first time in my life I did not have to share one with my younger brother.  My own bed.  And only two of us in the room.  I felt like Hitler expanding into Poland.

And since I was taking over Jerry’s bed I was not going to stop there.  Jerry had a beer and wine making operation up and running.  When he moved out I moved in.  I had a ready made inventory of demi-jons, a pressure barrel, wine and beer bottles, crown corks, barley, hops, malt, hydrometer, thermometer and …….you guessed it…..fermentation vessels.  I had a large jerry can for lager, and a big coloured plastic bin for fermentation.

I learned more about chemistry from brewing and wine making than I learned in school.  I learned about enzyme reactions, the importance of temperature control, the importance of controlling the environment, sterilization.  I was the 1970’s version of Walter White.  I kept my family in country wines and beers for many years.  I deviated into mead and it’s derivatives, and developed a taste for Metheglin.  I made cordials and in turn used them to create cocktails.  It was a marvelous education.

Over the years what with kids and career, my brewing activities declined.  Dust gathered on the kit.  Then, when we converted our garage in Clontarf into a den for the kids the brewing gear was just in the way.  I sold it off.

Last Christmas my Daughter pulled me for her Kris Kindle.  To my surprise she had picked up on my love of home brew from hints over the years.  She bought me a kit online.  So now once again I am brewing.  It was a fabulous present, because it unlocked all those memories of times past.  Good times, if somewhat crowded.

I almost pity my kids that they will never realize the joy of getting your very own bed.  Almost…..

 

 

 

 

It was 20 years ago today!

My son is studying music in school for his leaving cert. One of the musical scores on the syllabus is the Beatles Album: Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. How cool is that? Well, cool for me. But for him I guess you have to put it in perspective.

Sergeant Pepper was released in 1967, when I was 4 years old, so it formed part of the musical DNA of my upbringing. But my son is 17. For him this should be just a 46 year old album. It would be like me in 1979 having to study music written in 1933. Would I have rejoiced if my school told me I would be learning the musical score from “Flying down to Rio” starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire? Would that have got my hands clappin’ and my feet tappin’? Not exactly. I was listening to Blondie, The Boomtown Rats, Pink Floyd, Ian Dury, the Police, the Undertones and Thin Lizzy.

But here is the incredible thing. Yes! He is excited. He is interested. It is a mark of the enduring influence of the Beatles that those funky kids today dig that groove because those cool sounds are so gear. OK slang language has definitely seen a seismic shift, but the music lives on.

1966/67 was the heyday of the rivalry between the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his career. “Dazed and Confused” was released by Jake Holmes. Bob Dylan followed on his “Blonde on Blonde” album by releasing a greatest hits LP. Van Morrison went solo and released “Brown Eyed Girl”. The Doors broke onto the scene with their debut and then “Music from the Big Pink” by the Band came out in 1968.

In this context you can appreciate that Sgt Peppers hit the charts at the very pinnacle of the creative explosion of 60’s music experimentation. It was a great time to be alive. Of course, if you remember it, you weren’t there 

Within you and without you: by George Harrison

We were talking-about the space between us all
And the people-who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth-then it’s far too late-when they pass away.

We were talking-about the love we all could share-when we find it
To try our best to hold it there-with our love
With our love-we could save the world-if they only knew.

Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small,
And life flows ON within you and without you.

We were talking-about the love that’s gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul-
They don’t know-they can’t see-are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself-then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there-
And the time will come when you see
we’re all one, and life flows on within you and without you.Image

What did America ever do for us?

Cranberries?  We should celebrate cranberries?  I think not.  And what is a blueberry only a commercialised bilberry.  We had them already in Ireland.

Then there is Maize, the runt of the grain family.  Maize was responsible for widespread pellagra due to niacin defficiency.  How did native americans ever figure out that soaking the grain in lye released niacin?  So Italians rave about polenta, big deal. You won’t find it in Ireland.

I will say that fresh maize is pretty good, no barbeque is complete without sweet corn on the cob.  And then I guess there is popcorn, which goes perfectly with that other American invention, the cinema.

The potato, that came from America.  And here in Ireland it was responsible for the death of a million and the emigration of 2 million Irish as a result of the potato famine.  OK, Irish cuisine basically doesn’t exist without the humble spud.  Boil them, crush them, mash them, cream them, roast them, sauté, fried, deep fried, dauphin, au gratin, croquette, duchesse, baked, deep fried skins, stuffed, layered, potato cake, potato bread, garfield, rosti, I could go on.

Then America gave us the turkey, which basically means that Americans invented Christmas.  We don’t do thanksgiving, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without turkey, and cranberry sauce. OK, so there is a use for cranberries, once a year.

Tomatoes.  They come from America.  What would we have without them?  No ketchup, no puree, no passata, so there go half of all the pasta sauces.  And Pizza is not Pizza absent the tomato.  Provencale sauce, practically every other salad, burgers without tomato and ketchup?  Hot dogs?  OK, so we need tomatoes.

Then there is Chili, that came from america too.  Chili, not Chile, which is in America.  This insidious spice has effectively invaded every cuisine from Portugal to China.  Somehow it bypassed Ireland until the 1970’s, and there are still chili free areas in the deep rural areas of the country.

Chocolate, oh yeah, that’s American.  Chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, boxes of chocolate, chocolate pudding, hot chocolate, death by chocolate, mmmmmm.

So there are really some pretty cool things that we got from America.  Oh, and another is the handgun.  Invented in America by Elisha Collier in 1814 and developed by Samuel Colt in 1836 and onwards.  Today I read how a kid on a schoolbus in Florida produced a pistol and shot a 13 year old girl, Lourdes Guzman.  That is one thing from America that I don’t want in Ireland.  Handguns and kids don’t mix!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Don%27t_Like_Mondays

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2I84-A9duY