Thursday, September 20, 2018

If Ever You Go to Lubbock

On holiday in Austin to enjoy the music scene there, I take a detour to Lubbock to visit the Buddy Holly Center and his grave. Lubbock is deep in the heart of West Texas so it’s a flight rather than a drive from Austin. The cotton has just been harvested in the endless flat landscape that surrounds the town so we fly over a patchwork quilt of bare brown and green fields, many curiously circular. Lubbock is an agricultural city with a thriving Texas Tech campus. It’s very spread out and gives an impression of emptiness - there seems to be almost no street life. In the Depot area we walked around a series of  empty streets (including Buddy Holly Avenue) and encountered nobody except a postal delivery woman and a crazy lady collecting rubbish. An occasional car passed on the long wide streets. It’s as if a smart bomb had been detonated killing all the inhabitants but leaving the buildings intact.

The Buddy Holly Center is a neat one story building that once functioned as a railway depot. It’s very well organized and the creators have managed well to depict a life that didn’t last long enough to leave much tangible evidence, apart from the music. The most poignant exhibit is no doubt his trademark black-framed glasses that survived that stupid plane crash – where an inexperienced pilot flew them into the ground during a snow storm. There’s also his motor-bike bought after the first serious money arrived with the success of That’ll Be the Day. Other poignant exhibits included some early drawings and a couple of clay figurines he made for Echo McGuire, a high-school girl-friend. There are plenty of guitars also and numerous photographs. Well worth a visit. We took an Uber out to Lubbock cemetery to visit the grave. The graves are afforded as much space as the houses in this spread-out city. His grave is marked by a small rectangular metal plate with his name spelt correctly. He was born Holley but an early Decca contract got it wrong and so he stuck with Holly as his stage name. His father and mother are buried alongside. Both lived into their 80s – suggesting that longevity would have been part of his heritage.

On our walk that morning we passed an interesting looking Spanish bistro – La Diosa Cellars. Sick of the barbecues, burgers and fried chicken on offer elsewhere we made a reservation. It turned out to be a little gem. It was very creatively decorated declared with lots of decent art (lots of Frieda Kahlo portraits) and vintage furniture. The menu embraced a huge variety of Tapas (wild-mushroom risotto, l’escargot etc.) and best of all it bottled its own wines – so we got our first reasonably-priced bottle since we came to Texas (€19 for an earthy Rioja). I thought there was only one reason to go to Lubbock – now I know there are two.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Not Cool Chill

I’m off to the USA this week and knowing the financial consequences of needing medical treatment while I’m there I decided to take out some travel insurance. So I head to the Chill Insurance web site where there seems to be some reasonable deals. I start filling out my personal details and get an error message for using an apostrophe in my surname (O’Sullivan). It can only be entered without this character. Considering it’s operating in Ireland you’d imagine they’d make allowances for the very high number of apostrophied people living here. Bad form chaps I think and move on. Then I get to the payment section where I’m asked to enter my name as it appears on my credit card. My name on my credit card includes an apostrophe so naturally I include it. This too is rejected but works fine when I omit the apostrophe. Thus entering my name NOT as it appears my credit card. Chill are guilty of mortal sins against Usability and Localisation and someone should give its IT manger a good kick up the arse. Thus spake Zarathustra.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Rancid Ruminations - August 2018

The Presidential Election

What a waste. It’s clear the incumbent will get back in but we’ll have to endure months of guff in the meantime. A blessing for the media who will no doubt attempt to generate spurious drama from the foregone conclusion. I’ll certainly vote for Higgins again. It’s nice to have a literate, poetry-loving man representing us. He may be slightly effete and occasionally lapse into preciousness but he’s basically sound. Much will be made by his opponents of his praise for Castro on the latter’s death, but that’s a positive for me. Those who consider Castro a despot should bear in mind the almost universal sorrow in Cuba when he died. Batista’s followers and descendants may have rejoiced in Miami but genuine Cubans mourned. Some people value independence.

Pope Bashing

Now God knows I’m not a practicing Catholic and have no time for the whole “vast moth-eaten musical brocade of religion” (incidentally that phrase is from Philip Larkin’s Aubade – perhaps the most terrifying poem in the English language). However, the attacks on Pope Francis by the right-on brigade in the media seemed to miss the point. Of course the Church has behaved appallingly and protected criminals and perverts from the consequences of their actions. And of course it should be hounded for this. But an equally  important issue is how and why successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments handed over responsibility for health, education and unmarried mothers to an organization staffed by reluctant celibates with a belief in a glorious afterlife for those who suffer in this life. It was never going to end well. From Cosgrave and De Valera onwards the political establishment have been complicit in this and only now are we slowly beginning to disentangle ourselves.

The Summer’s Gone.

Is there anything more depressing than those back to school ads – that usually start in early August. They send an atavistic shudder through me. And yesterday to cement that dread I hear an ASTI apparatchik on the radio banging on about parity in pay for teachers. This is the union that not too long ago sold new hires down the Swanee so they could hang on to their own entitlements. No mention of parity back then. Once in a lifetime it would be nice to see teachers threatening a strike about something other than pay or an initiative that threatens their light work-load and comfortable routines.