Monday, July 21, 2008

Oe Captain, Bligh Captain

The train ride from Dublin to Belfast was pleasant and pretty. Just outside of Dublin, we passed a very small island called Bull Island where I am told Captain Bligh used to live. I guess he has a thing for tiny islands.

There were quite a few cranes and other signs of a construction boom in Dublin and Belfast. This is all the more impressive given that much of the world is in a housing bust. But, the end of the Troubles 10 years ago was a huge boon and it is nice to see capitalism plant its flag in the latest land of opportunity. It also highlights an underappreciated reason why the US went into Iraq – had that country become a stable, thriving, secular, pro-western democracy, and thus catalyzed surrounding countries to become the same, there would also be a demand for American products, American (no-bid) construction projects, American media, etc just like the Marshall Plan. What an addictive fantasy for the greedy powers that be. Here is a similarly feasible plan: miracle all the sand into salt! Maybe they would buy more of your beer. If you can only find some way to get around the Muslim prohibition of alcohol, you could still “win” the “war.” Build some trailer parks and satellite dishes and the populace will meekly follow. It already worked on the greatest country on earth, why not there?

“Sheep are just like people, really. Give ‘em a few good, square meals – every day – and they’ll just stand there, quietly, till ya eat ‘em.”

-- Multibillionaire Rod McCain (Kevin Kline), “Fierce Creatures”

Last week, I met a professor who was from India but lives in Ireland. There’s an exercise in inflection following. But in general, the Irish lilt remains musical, charming, and seductively cadential. For the first time, I am experiencing significant autonominal confusion. There are Brendans everywhere. I am only now getting used to ignoring them, just as it took me a week or so to work out the passenger side of vehicles being on the left. In another auto-nominal error, I saw a sign that said “car boot sale” and asked if this was a lot that sold repossessed cars. You know, cars that were booted and towed away.


So they actually sell car boots there? Why? So you can boot your own car? Is car theft that bad?


What do they actually sell at these things?

Whatever people want to sell, whatever they can fit in their boot.

This was a rather simple and stupid case of mistranslation, as car boots here refer to trunks. The equivalent of booting is clamping. Yeah, yeah. The British and Americans are a people separated by a trite metaphor. To further run Wilde, there is only one thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is being misquoted.

They seem less obsessed with Guinness than in Dublin. Without exception, every place that sells Guinness also sells two American beers. I guess I should stop counting Bud as American, since they sold out to the Belgians. American pride vs. American greed: always bet on black.

My hosts keep telling the tale of my passport misadventure on the way here. The consensus remains that it occurred because of my nationality. Racism flowers in small minds like weeds in shit. I would say it is fun to get beat down by the man, but it isn’t, and I would certainly not allege camaraderie with the many people who have far greater claims to the title of oppressee. But thanks to that mess, Dublin risks becoming a second Rome for me – a major European capital I long wanted to visit that is instead only the hub of a travel nightmare, less than 18 hours in a city with most of them spent either sleeping or in transition to an airport. I have a day trip to Dublin at 6 AM, in 4 hours (insomnia is endemic to mad scientists), but this is only to meet with professors at Trinity College Dublin and then turn around and return here to Bel, fast. OK, that last one underscores the hazards of nocturnal blogging. Back to bed, perchance to sleep.

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