Tuesday 19 February 2013

Narrowback Dreams/God Bless Eileen Farragher

Since crossing the broad Atlantic I’ve been interested in the effects of dislocation on fellow emigrants and the cultural divide between Irish born parents and their “narrowback” children.

Well, I could have saved myself all those liver-depleting years of field research in pubs, clubs, and festivals because Mike Farragher has just published 50 Shades of Green, Part 2 of his revelatory series, This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks.

Now since Mike has often blamed Black 47 for his descent into the black hole of music journalism, it’s only fitting that I should help dispatch him to Hollywood fame, groupies and all the other frothy perks he’s missed while slaving away as music editor at the Irish Voice.

For, this intrepid ink slinger has hit upon a subject dear to the hearts of many – the relationship between the Irish Mammy and her ingrate of a son.

I once spoke to Angela McCourt on the same subject. Between long drags on her Woodbines she confided that, “Each of my sons has been a private Gethsemane to me.”

Mrs. Eileen Farragher, nee Cleary, of Ballylanders, Co. Limerick is far more discreet, but if Angela was the star among the ashes then Eileen continues to be the heroine of the Shamrocks series. She strides that chaotic stage with a mixture of fortitude, forbearance, and just a hint of refined martyrdom that places her somewhere between Maude Gonne and The Little Flower.

For all their hardships neither of these ladies had to put up with such a callow ne’er-do-well son. Young Mike complains about his mother’s disapproving eye when she notes that he has failed to comply with his Catholic duty of attending Sunday mass. As right she should – the young hooligan!

When faced with the same situation back in Wexford, all Kirwan males rose from their hungover beds at 11:30 of a Sunday morning and hastened down to last mass; that we may have celebrated that holy sacrifice in Simon Lambert’s public house is not the point. We knew how to humor our Irish mother.

Thus I see a great future for 50 Shades of Green. The millions of us who have been model sons can pick up this tome on days of stress and rejoice that we never caused our mothers a grey hair, unlike Mr. Farragher who must have driven his matron into debt and despair with the rinses and highlights she surely needed on a weekly basis.

In the course of this harrowing, if titillating, read I often wondered who might play Eileen Farragher in the movie version of Shamrocks. The actress would need to be both a tragedian and a deft humorist - a cross between Maureen O’Hara and Katherine Hepburn, perhaps?

And what of Mr. Farragher Sr.? Well, Galway men, like their Wexford counterparts, long ago discovered that when sharing a house with a powerful woman, you keep your head down, your hand out, and your opinions to yourself.

Still, you can sense the poor man’s innate Tuam sorrow as he watches his sad sack of a son enter manhood without even a smidgen of the hurling talent of the great Joe Salmon, while wasting away his time at pinball machines tunelessly humming Duran Duran songs.

You can almost hear Mike Sr. sigh, “If ‘twas a life in the music business he wanted, couldn’t he have at least joined The Saw Doctors?”

Despite these and other heartbreaks 50 Shades of Green is a book of ultimate triumph, for to everyone’s amazement, young Mike manages to stay out of Rykers, and ends up with a beautiful wife, two lovely daughters, and eventual redemption in the swamps of Jersey.

So, if you’re feeling depressed, ready to chuck it all in and join the Tea Party, there’s an easier way out. Buy this book and discover Mike’s secret of success. And while you’re at it, attend his upcoming rock & read tour.

I’ll be there with him at the Irish Rep on March 5th raking through his considerable pearls of wisdom – that is if his mother doesn’t brain me first with a belt of her Limerick handbag.

For more information http://www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

           So the Republicans blinked on the “fiscal cliff!” It didn’t take a brain surgeon to see that coming once big business let it be known that playing around with the country’s credit rating was biting the hand that feeds them.

Dickensian budget-slashers turned into fawning lambs overnight when subtly warned that they might need their coffers refilled for the 2014 mid-term elections.

            A little reminder from the Democratic National Committee that it already had a score or more of House Republicans in their electoral cross hairs and guess what? Unrepentant deficit warriors like South Carolina’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney (didn’t he used to play hurling for Kilkenny?) was tripping over himself to sound like a cuddlesome pragmatist.

            Money talks, as they say, and you know what the rest does. The Tea Party experiment is over. Though initially useful and somewhat rustically charming, it proved way too unaccommodating for our brave new interconnected commercial universe.

            Besides, big business belatedly realized that Barack Obama wasn’t Joe Stalin. Sure, he upped income tax rates a hair but he only raised the far more important capital and investment gains taxes to 20%. Now that’s change Wall Street can really believe in!

            Differentiating the forest from the trees has never been hard in this country – just watch where the money is. Right now it’s firmly in the hands of corporate America. Profits have never been higher despite the fact that we’re emerging from the severest financial downturn since the great Depression.

The good times are coming! Everything is pointing towards a solid economic recovery. Inflation is steady, interest rates infinitesimal, new energy fields sprouting nationwide, and holy of holies, productivity is stratospheric while labor costs are at their relative lowest since before World War II. Time for some real money making!

            As for you, Mr. & Ms. Wage and Salary earner, when was the last time you dared ask for a raise? The fear of God has been well and truly put into the whole labor force –are you really going to risk losing your job by being singled out as a profit spoiler, especially with the world and his mother breathing down your neck, resume in hand.

            Not to mention, that with so many lay-offs, you’ve been picking up slack all over the joint: staying late, going the extra mile; hey, your weekends are barely your own – and don’t you dare turn that cell phone off!

            This is the new America. Forget about collective bargaining, you’re on your own, amigo! What’s a union anyway, a bunch of Commies that messes up profits? Trickle-down rules! As long as the guys upstairs are doing well, their crumbs will slide off the table and be gobbled up by the steadily growing percentile of those barely getting by.

            The odd thing is we should already be in better times. Corporations are sitting on vast amounts of cash that could have been invested in expanding the work force and granting wage and salary increases to those who held on through eight bad Bush years and the four disastrous ones he left Obama to clean up.

            The real craziness is that, in the midst of all the corporate accumulation, stockholders have been iced too. Take Apple, the richest company in history with phenomenal profits and massive cash reserves, they’ve paid out a total of two dividends in seventeen years – and still offer employee entry pay of $11.81 per hour, all the while off-shoring jobs – and profits - as if Americans had the plague.

            These omnipotent corporate heads have even managed to subvert good old capitalism. Ever been to a company annual general meeting? No? Well, you’ll be relieved to know that stockholders can vote on practically anything - except the pay-packages of executives.

            But perhaps I’m being insensitive: after all, these plutocrats will need all their bonuses to re-finance their favorite Super-Pacs, what with the mid-term elections only 21 months away.

            So, dance to your daddy, you Republican politicians. Obstructionist Tea Party days are over. The age of ignorance and Sarah Palin are yesterday’s news. The boss is back! But then he never really went away, did he?