Monday, April 30, 2012

You Can't Give It Away

Buzz Bissinger wrote Friday Night Lights and introduced the world to the madness that is American football as played in Texas.

The book was a sensation.

Rather than turn his back on the people he met and the young men who were looking to a sport to launch them into a money-making career, the author kept in touch. He was particularly intrigued by one of the players who suffered an injury, which ended the dream.

Boobie Miles was so set on playing football that he lacked a Plan B. Mr. Bissinger wrote another piece about Mr. Miles after the goal was gone, and went with a new publishing strategy to get the story out to the public.

Using Byliner, the writer presented a work that was too short for a book but too long for a magazine article. He priced After Friday Night Lights at $2.99, and shared his royalties with Mr. Miles.

All went well until Apple and Starbucks put the e-book into a promotion, in which coupons could be turned in for a free copy.

Amazon's all-seeing computers discovered the promo, interpreted it as a price cut by a competitor, and promptly set their price to $0.00.

Except, of course, that Apple was paying Mr. Bissinger his royalty. Amazon was not. They declared the book free, so the author got nothing.

Byliner pulled the book from Amazon, which is too big to be bothered with fixing the glitch and not particularly interested in carrying an e-book that a competitor is giving away and therefore gaining market share.

Amazon is too big and it is constantly failing authors and publishers, but that's the problem. It's grown too massive, and the anti-monopoly issue won't come into play until it has driven its competition into the ground.

At which point, it will be too late for the consumer.

That's the problem that the big publishers have with Amazon, and the reason they're fighting back against the U.S. Justice Department's attempt to label them as the guilty party for setting prices and stifling competition.

The Feds may have forgotten that there are laws against predatory pricing as well, and if Amazon can unilaterally punish an author for allowing one of their works to be given away by someone other than Amazon, the future of book selling doesn't look bright.

Mr. Bissinger has a new book coming out soon, and he's parsing his words carefully. He doesn't dare anger Amazon, the world's largest book seller.

And that's something the Justice Department should be examining.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Prize Winner Will Not Step Forward

At this year's Listowel Writers' Week literary conference in County Cork, there will be something for all, from lectures to awards, all of it centered on word play.

The list of workshops promises something for every writer, from the short story to the song and everything in between.

Song writing with Mickey MacConnell? Brilliant. Aifric Campbell's instructions on getting that novel started? An experience not to be missed.

It wouldn't be a proper literary event without prizes, of course. 

Sadly, one winner will not be able to attend.

He's serving time for murdering his wife, and then there's the issue of his gift that the prison service doesn't care for.

Eamonn Lillis beat his wife to death, but he's made good use of his time since then. Behind bars, he found his inner muse and penned an award-winning short story in the "jailed" category.

Not only will Mr. Lillis be unable to accept his award in person, but he can't even accept it until he's served out his sentence.

The lovely Cross pen, suitably engraved, would make an equally lovely shiv and so the prison service has told him he'll be declining until such time as he is out of prison.

Until then, his inner muse will have to respond to a keyboard, under supervision.

Maybe Mr. Lillis will come out a changed man who will write a modern version of The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

But does he have Oscar Wilde's wit?

Friday, April 27, 2012

How To Win Friends And Influence Catholics

In an ongoing effort to win back the hearts and minds of disgruntled Catholics, the Dogma Police have silenced yet another priest who dared to suggest that maybe the Church needs to change a few little rules to stop the decline.

Father Brian D'Arcy has written much about the celibacy issue, which the Vatican has declared is a non-starter in the race to resuscitate the Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, once headed by Cardinal Ratzinger (now we're calling him His Holiness the Pope), came down hard on the priest who sees himself as a journalist as well as a cleric.

He's been told to shut it. Or else.

So pay no mind to Pope Benedict XVI's speech in Cuba, where he called for freedom of speech. He was speaking to the Cubans only, not his priests.

There'll be no freedom of expression there. We'll have none of that.

It's rather quaint, isn't it? There is a mindset at the Holy See that believes the Church would be what it once was, before all this sex abuse scandal, if only we could turn back the clock and return to the glory days.

How to get there?

Make the priests toe the line, like they used to. Pretend none of the bad business that resulted from Vatican actions to cover up the problem of pedophile priests ever happened.

How's it working out?

Do you hear that resounding chorus of cheers from the pews?


That's because it isn't there. The pews are growing more empty by the week.

Sending in the Dogma Police to stifle speech, to not allow priests to question policies that any psychiatrist could tell you are at the root of many of the pedophile problems, isn't going to work on an audience that has reaped the benefit of one aspect of Catholicism.

They're great for the education. Wherever they've gone, the Catholic Church has set up schools to educate people and all that education is paying off.

Educated people are asking questions and doing a bit of thinking on their own. It's not the Middle Ages anymore and parishioners don't need a priest to tell them what's in the Bible when they can read it themselves.

That's where the Dogma Police come in. So don't think too hard.

Just pray, pay and obey.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eleven Million iPad Owners Can't Be Wrong

I have been reading more often on an iPhone because it's there.

Too busy to get to the library to borrow a hard copy of a book, I turn to the convenience of the free books available at the Apple book store. It's not a medium I particularly enjoy, but it's a choice between the small screen or nothing.

So Apple has sold over eleven million iPads recently.

That's eleven million reading devices that people have added to their lives.

Granted, they won't limit themselves to reading. The iPad does much more than deliver a book on a larger screen than the Kindle, but there is an app and there's that whole instant gratification thing.

In England, a recent survey counted up a third of the population with an e-reading device in their possession.

That means that people are still reading. The format is changing. The ability to get what you want, when you want it, no matter what time that might be, is almost addictive. As more people become accustomed to the ease of access to a library of books, the number of e-readers will keep going up.

With that in mind, I'll be spending the next few days formatting LACE CURTAIN IRISH so that those eleven million iPad owners can read a touching story of family connections, betrayal and redemption.

If that many people are buying tablets like the iPad, Newcastlewest Books would be mad to miss an opportunity to get our product in front of all those sets of eyeballs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Celebrating A Century Of Deceit

It's been one hundred years since England debated the option of granting Home Rule to Ireland.

By legal decree, the Emerald Isle could have been given back its Parliament and allowed to regulate itself, not unlike the former colony of Canada had been doing for some time.

One hundred years ago, the prejudice against Catholics was freely aired, with Edward Carson the vocal spokesman for the "Rome Rule" crowd.

The Irish Times is running a series of articles that look back on those days, one hundred years behind us. The newspaper plans to present a look back as part of the run-up to Ireland's centennial celebration of the rebellion that arose because the law failed to give the people what they wanted.

You can find another treatment of that same era within the pages of A TERRIBLE BEAUTY, an intriguing novel that explores the era preceding the Easter Rising of 1916.

Mr. Carson makes an appearance in all his anti-Catholic glory.

He's the main reason why Ireland was divided. He's largely the root cause of The Troubles and the continued discrimination against Catholics in the Protestant north. In part, he had a great deal to do with the ethnic cleansing that followed Partition, with Protestants fleeing to the north and Catholics relocating to the south.

To think that the British wanted to hang to on Belfast because of the ship-building and the port. Harland and Wolff doesn't make ships anymore. And the port of Belfast isn't critical to England's survival any more.

But the Partition endures.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Isn't It Romantic

Romance is the leading genre these days.

Geared towards women, the happy endings sell more books. Publishers like Harlequin or Sourcebooks will accept submissions without agents, cranking out the stuff that doesn't require too much depth or well-crafted prose.

They just crank up the presses and produce pulp fiction that follows a formula so that the readers know what they're getting and there's no surprises.

Add to that the trend towards e-reading and there's money to be made. TruLOVEstories is there, as brought to you by Broadthink.

The branding company bought up all sorts of miscellaneous bits left over from the Dorchester Publishing implosion. Taking the content of Dorchester's "True Love" and "True Romance" magazines, the portal at will offer readers the chance to purchase something old, something new.

The sweet deals don't stop there.

Broadlit, the literary arm, will publish new, full-length novels as well, and they may be looking for new authors to produce the many words of whispered sweet nothings. With plans to produce a new book every month, along with the collected reprints, that's a lot of writing.

The website has some free content along with some social interacting to draw in an audience.

Being a branding company, they will also put their romantic stamp on things like greeting cards and miscellaneous merchandise.

Who says publishing is dead?

It just needs a little tweaking every now and then.

So forget about writing the next great blockbuster novel. The real profit is to be had in English lords and Regency ladies with misunderstandings that lead to passionate scenes that may or may not end in hot sex, depending on the formula you're following.

And don't forget, the average romance author doesn't get much in return, so you'll want to get those formulae down and produce in quantity, rather than quality.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Irish Story

The bachelor farmer is almost an iconic figure in Ireland's past, an image of isolation in a country exporting its people at an alarming rate.

They are still out there, the bachelor farmers.

They are still creating tragedies out of their lives.

Cecil Tomkins was just convicted of murdering his brother in a dispute over where their mother was to buried.

Neither brother ever married. They stayed on the farm, in County Wicklow, Spent their entire lives working the land, never dated, never met the right girl. They had mammy, after all, to take care of them. It was nearly impossible to meet a girl forty years ago, when Ireland was so poor and the girls left for jobs elsewhere and didn't want to live on an old farm.

Mrs. Tomkins left instructions on where she wanted to lie for all time. That spot was not next to her husband.

That gives you an idea of what sort of marriage she had. Maybe that was another reason why her sons didn't tie the knot.

So Cecil's brother put mammy in the ground next to da, where she didn't want to be, and it sparked a row that ended with Cecil shooting his brother dead.

Two years on, the trial is concluded and Cecil has been sentenced to life in prison.

He's already in prison, in a way.

The convicted murderer is suffering from Parkinson's disease, so he's imprisoned in a body that is failing him in every way. Hand in hand with Parkinson's is dementia, which may have played a role in the murder. Not enough to support an insanity defense, however.

Cecil Tomkins, gravely ill, mentally crumbling, is going to jail, where he will have to be put into a hospital wing. He belongs in a nursing home, but there is a shortage of beds and if one more body can be moved elsewhere, it's a bonus.

Does it make sense, to jail a man suffering with dementia?

Friday, April 20, 2012

No Pulitzer, No Sales

When you don't have a savvy librarian or an indie bookshop owner to give you advice, you aren't likely to buy a book that you would have if you'd but known.

In short, that's what is being mourned by those upset over the lack of a Pulitzer prize in fiction this year.

Statistics have shown that winning the prize boosts sales. Not that any of the winners have become blockbusters, but publishers did see a definite increase.

Publishers don't have the budget for book promotion, especially not for those gems of literary fiction that don't exactly fly off the shelves. The market is small, made up largely of English teachers, college professors, and those who are glued to NPR.

Reaching beyond that limited group requires money to pay for advertising, but if the return on the dollar isn't large enough, the bean counters say no.

Winning a Pulitzer is grand for the author, but for the publisher?

It's free publicity, free buzz generation.

Without spending a dime more, the book sells. More profit, less cost.


This year, the Pulitzer committee didn't find a winner on their list of entrants so there will not be that free boost to sales. The potential winners will not sell more copies, and potential readers will miss out on a decent book.

Because there was no one to tell them about it.

Not just some advert promoting a book. The personal recommendation, or even a review that isn't put together by a marketing department, is lacking.

The issue is not just about one book, but about future books.

Without respectable sales, the publisher is less likely to accept something that fits a particular niche, and that means the selection shrinks down to that which brings in the most cash.

There's a reason why book sales are declining, as the book producers chase a limited market when they would do better by casting a wider net. The problem with that approach, the way it was done long ago, is that there is an element of risk that isn't acceptable in these modern times when hedge funds and large corporations are looking only at the bottom line.

No Pulitzer? Less demand. Less demand? Less supply.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Black '47 Without Potatoes

When a person is evicted from a home worth 2 million euro, it's a bit disingenuous for them to claim that it's just like Black '47 all over again.

The gardai and the bailiffs showed up at the home of Brendan and Asta Kelly yesterday. The couple had fallen behind on mortgage payments and were told they had to leave the premises two years ago. Banks don't move quickly, apparently, but Anglo Irish Bank did make good on their promise.

Mr. and Mrs. Kelly were forcibly removed from the premises.

Mr. and Mrs. Kelly made a lot of money in Germany, where they sold Irish textiles.

They then sold their businesses and moved back to Ireland, purchasing a home in an exclusive new estate. They invested their money in Irish banks and property and thought they could comfortably live on the interest income.

The banks have collapsed under the weight of the bloated property market that imploded. Like so many others, the Kellys lost out.

Unlike the poor peasants who were evicted by the cruel landlords, the Kellys have other properties that they could occupy, and they could have made arrangement to occupy said properties over the course of the past two years.

Instead, they dug in their heels and blamed the banks for their misery.

In fact, the Kellys were free to invest in whatever they pleased. They picked the wrong investment.

Then they picked the wrong analogy for their very public eviction.

As much as they and their neighbor who videotaped the eviction would like to believe there is universal sympathy for the Kellys, there is not.

The couple are not completely skint. They have options, which most other evicted families in Ireland do not.

For now, the Kellys are squatting in their former driveway. They say they will not leave under any circumstances, but sooner or later one of their tenants in Ringsend will leave and a home will open up.

Which is more than can be said for those who were evicted after they lost their jobs, and really had no place to go.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nothing Worthy Of A Prize

What's this, cry the literati, no Pulitzer this year in fiction?

Did it never occur to them that there wasn't any fiction published in 2011 that was worthy of any sort of prize?

Author Ann Patchett sees the point, but she doesn't believe it.

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Ms. Patchett lists several books that she feels are prize-worthy. I am a a voracious reader, but I never even heard of half the things she mentions. As for the rest, I picked them up, read the flap copy, and put them back as not right for my list.

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams is filled with perfectly crafted sentences, she says. But if you look over the reviews of people who read for enjoyment, the sentences don't matter.

Writers who have studied how to write are hung up on the words. Readers want a story. They want to be entertained.

The sentences can be pure poetry, but if there's no plot, no connection to the characters, the readers don't much care. What good is a hard-carved bookcase, even one that is a masterpiece of carpentry, if there is only one shelf?

Publishers are looking to turn profits, and they want blockbuster novels that follow the right formula. They want manuscripts that are ready to go so they don't have to pay for editors to smooth rough edges. That gives an edge to a writer who can create the product that matches the specifications.

What it doesn't give the reader is a story worth hearing, even if the words fall softly on the ear.

Ms. Patchett believes that literature suffers because it lacks the scandal factor that gets everyone's attention. It's all about The Hunger Games, so beloved of the common folk, rather than The Pale King.

It isn't scandal that's needed. It's stories told well, even stories that are literary.

Charles Dickens took the Victorians to task for the way the lower classes were treated and the poor ignored. He did it within the context of good stories with people the reader could warm to. He didn't beat his readers over the head with his point, as if they were too dumb to get it.

Would Dickens have been Pulitzer worthy? Or would he have been considered more of a Hunger Games kind of writer, appealing to the masses but not making the cut for sentences that were less than perfectly crafted?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Vatican Gets Serious On Stifling Speech

You might think that the clerical sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is fading, but just because you haven't read a news story in the past month doesn't mean it's all gone away.

Echoes of the scandal are still rattling the windows of the Vatican.

The solution?

Stop anyone from saying anything negative about the Church's hierarchy.

Or else the hammer will fall.

Father Sean Fagan ran afoul of an Irish bishop back in 2003 when he re-printed a piece he had first published in 1997. Something was said to someone at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Father Fagan was told that his theology was wrong.

And wouldn't you know, it was Cardinal Ratzinger himself who issued the decree as the head of that very office. He's the Pope now.

Father Fagan's book, Does Morality Change?, did not toe the party line and therefore, he had to stop espousing his theory.

The man's a theologian who thinks deep thoughts. He couldn't help himself. He kept thinking. And since he's a priest, he kept preaching.

The Holy See slapped Father Fagan down but he went public with the punishment, which launched a new firestorm of controversy over the way the Vatican does things. Given that they like the old ways, and the old ways gave us secrecy, abuse and scandal, the average Catholic isn't keen on a return to the past.

So, Father Fagan has been punished again, but if a word of his penance is leaked to the media, the Vatican has vowed to defrock him.

It's the ultimate punishment for any clergyman.

And one that they rarely took when presented with a pedophile.

Is it any wonder that Catholics feel no love for their Pope when he's stubbornly refusing to open up his eyes to reality?

Anyone who keeps trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube after it's been squeezed isn't going to win anyone's heart or mind.

But then again, the Catholic Church is squeezing out members with ham-handed tactics like this one, and no one in the Vatican seems to notice that it isn't working.

When You're Tech Support & You Need Tech Support

I'd rather be working on my next novel, but here I am doing battle against a new computer that I thought would make my life easier.

It never does, does it?

I need tech support to explain to me why the computer wants to use an old, outdated program to install new software.

The problem is, I am tech support around here.

Instead of writing or even working at the part of my job that brings in the money, I'll be installing and uninstalling and going back to the old computer to try to get into the network to move things around and can you tell I really don't know what I'm doing?

I hate computers some days.

That's probably why I do my first drafts with a fountain pen and a stack of paper.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Still Unforgiven

According to historians, King George III was outraged over the loss of the American colonies.

You'd think after all these years that the animosity would have worn off, but apparently, the sting is still fresh and George Washington is still unforgiven.

British historians took a poll and George Washington won. He is now considered to be the greatest enemy commander that England ever faced.

Yes, bigger than Erwin Rommel.

Bigger than Napoleon Bonaparte.

The first President of the United States just barely edged out Michael Collins, which makes me think that the British historians who voted in the poll are smarting over losses of land that reduced the size of the British Empire.

After all, neither Rommel or Bonaparte were residents of British colonies that rose up against the Crown and took their leave from London's control.

Looking at both military leaders, you could say that they battled against tough odds but came out on top, with the end result that English military might was made to look feeble. With little to work with, both Washington and Collins ran rings around a force that was supposed to be far superior.

The poll was conducted to coincide with the opening of the National Army Museum in London, a repository of the army's history and the role it has played in shaping the nation. Admission is free, which should make it a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Certainly, any country would be a different place if not for its armed forces either conquering or protecting, and the museum aims to present that aspect of an army's purpose.

However, with the results of the poll to consider, it might be said that the museum is also fostering awareness of the dangers of hubris and a reliance on superior numbers when superior tactics can upend the most well-crafted battle plan.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Roma Locuta Est

Rome has spoken.

And the centurions don't like what they've heard.

If you've been fortunate enough to travel through Rome, you've seen the annoying centurion characters who harass one and all. They bombard you with an offer to take a picture together, and if you're fool enough to go along, they'll demand money after the picture's snapped.

The fact is, this so-called occupation has been around for quite some time, and the Italian government has done nothing about it. That army of uniformed men of the Guardia di Finanza never bothered them, perhaps in the belief that the red-caped ones were real centurions and were therefore both fearless and dangerous.

Italy is so broke there's a fear the nation will go bankrupt, and someone finally noticed that there's an untapped source of tax revenue, right out in front of the Coliseum.So it's now pay up or get out, follow some rules or go home.

The centurions have begun to protest, and the police have been called in to evict the law-breakers.

What the centurions claim is a right to work is being attacked by the government that not only wants the taxes due, but wants to place restrictions on the centurions. There should be only authentic uniform replicas, and no more running shoes in place of sandals or sweatpants under the toga in winter. If you want to play a centurion, you have to be serious about it.

The Populus Romani have taken the centurions' side, but it's largely because they're sick of the endless regulations on their lives and this is one they that they can voice their displeasure with the government.

All across Europe, the financial party has come to an end. The money's gone, but the people still demand bread and circuses. What's a government to do except find more money to keep the bread and circuses coming?

Roma locuta est. Causa finita est.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'll See Your 250 And Make It Free

The estate of the late, great James Joyce has held publishing rights close to their hearts, to the extent that Joycean scholars had a time of it, trying to do their research.

One such scholar, Danis Rose, put together a collection of Joyceiana and plans to sell all the the tune of 800 euro for the set.

He says he holds the copyright in the EU. Well, he's the first one to publish the manuscripts there, so in his interpretation of EU law, that makes him the copyright holder. As Mr. Joyce passed on seventy years ago, plus a year, that makes the manuscripts public domain.

In which case, the National Library of Ireland might end up owing the gentleman some money.

The National Library has been working on an online project for some time, and is ready to go live. They will put several of Mr. Joyce's previously unpublished manuscripts, which are part of the library's holdings, online.

For free.

No stranger to controversy is Mr. Rose (or should we be calling him Denis O'Hanlon?). He has run afoul of the Joyce estate and the Joyce Foundation in Zurich in the past for some of his publications that infringed on copyrights that they held.

He's not at all delighted by the news that what he anticipated would be a profit-maker will become worthless once the library's content is live.

He went to the trouble of getting his opus published in the U.S., where copyright law regarding material in the public domain is more clear than that of the EU. But isn't Mr. Rose saying he holds the copyright in the EU? Published in the States?

So confusing.

The fact is, the library owns the original unpublished manuscripts, and as a public body, it will make items in its collection available to the public. These days, that availability includes Internet access, which makes things much more accessible to everyone with a computer.

No need to fly off to Dublin to peruse the valuable items.

And no need to pay Mr. Rose (O'Hanlon) a large sum for the same access.

The Irish government is examining all the laws, just in case, but it's believed the library is within its rights. The Department of Enterprise, Jobs, and Innovation is taking a good, hard look at the issue, and it's likely that the law will be tweaked to rid it of any "ambiguities" that Mr. Rose might try to massage.

Don't expect the other Joyce scholars to jump to Mr. Rose's defense. He's irritated too many of them to find any sympathy.

And if a poor scholar can look at the manuscripts on a computer screen, they sure won't be supporting Mr. Rose's attempts to corner the market.

Which way might things fall?

We all know that once something is loaded, it's out there forever.

No matter who thinks they own the copyright.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dueling Words

When Amanda Knox sold the publication rights to her memoir, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the auction, with publishers worried about how the public might perceive the book. Would it sell, or would it result in an unpleasant backlash that would prevent said publisher from turning a profit?

She's back at home doing rewrites and edits and such, but HarperCollins might have to push the budding writer to submit a completed manuscript a bit earlier than anticipated.

The father of murder victim Meredith Kercher, who doesn't believe that Ms. Knox is innocent, is set to put out his own version of events. The book is due for release on April 26, well before Ms. Knox's memoir hits the shelves.

It's a case of dueling words, but will the first to speak win the battle, or will the rebuttal prove so strong that Mr. Kercher will be left looking like an embittered father?

The British sided with the prosecution, in large part because the murder victim was a British student in Perugia. Americans tended to believe Ms. Knox, especially when the case became less a murder investigation and more an example of prosecutorial misconduct and incompetence run wild.

Mr. Kercher says his book, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is a celebration of his daughter's life, but if he fails to provide something sensational within the pages, the public won't buy it.

Profit will come from a detailed, first person account of the family's experiences with the Italian legal system, which failed them as much as it failed Amanda Knox. The book's blurb states that Mr. Kercher writes of his ongoing quest for justice, which will provide a very interesting counterpoint to Ms. Knox's experiences with that same lack of justice.

A man is currently in prison, serving time for the murder of Meredith Kercher. The Italians made such an incredible mess of the murder investigation and subsequent trial that Mr. Kercher can be seen as a Don Quixote, dreaming an impossible dream of uncovering the truth.

And that is the outcome of the battle over words, over whose version is the more accurate. No one can ever know.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Seen And Not Heard

Things used to be so easy.

Once upon a time, only men became CEOs of big corporations and everyone just sailed along. The big corporation sponsored the Augusta National and the big corporation's head honcho was given a membership and no one had to kick up much of a fuss about women members because everything fell nicely into place.

Tradition! All about tradition! Women were never part of that tradition, until someone at IBM got cute.

Who didn't get the memo about women executives and the Augusta Golf Club?

Virginia Rometty was present at the tournament when Bubba Watson won the sartorially challenged green jacket.

She was not, however, extended membership like every other CEO of every other tournament sponsor. Because she's not of the male persuasion.

The woman who is capable of running IBM (my stock's doing very nicely thank you very much) as much as had a door slammed in her face by all those charming gentlemen who run the club and think of themselves as refined and polite to the fairer sex.

They're not.

But no amount of criticism from the real world is going to change their minds. Their heels are dug in. They will not let women soil the sacred ground of their club, and if they have to be rude in the process, that's how things go sometimes.

Boycott IBM? Why? Boycott Augusta National? Only if you're a member.

What might get the attention of the closed minds? How about if all the other CEOs declined the invitation, refusing membership unless Ms. Rometty (their equal and in some cases their better) is extended the same courtesy.

Of course, IBM could pull out, but Ms. Rometty didn't get where she is by thinking with her heart instead of her business brain.

The dinosaurs died out, grown too large for the changing environment in which they lived.

Eventually, August will change its policy. But it won't happen right now

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Dying Of The Light

Only 54 years old, but Thomas Kinkade's art seemed to have come from the brush of a much older man.

I always pictured the "Painter of Light" as someone closer in age to those who liked his work. He was a grandfather, in my mind, a very ancient artist with a vision that was beloved by grandmothers everywhere.

The highly successful painter has passed away at the age of 54.

He created a body of work that was easy on the eye and the mind. There was no deep thinking needed to understand his creations. What you saw was what you were meant to see.

When hundreds of people invested in a collection of Thomas Kinkade Signature galleries and then went bankrupt, it came as a surprise because anyone who painted light, a dedicated Christian, could not possibly have acted in bad faith. Just when a settlement was due, the company behind the galleries declared bankruptcy. Who could have seen that coming from someone who appeared to be so sincere, so honest, and so talented?

That's the problem with paint and canvas. What you see is what the artist created, which doesn't mean that it's absolutely real.

It's what the viewer wants it to be.

And sometimes it's rather dark behind all that light.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hermes Opens The Box Of Lucky Charms

They're magically delicious!

Those marshmallow shapes as manufactured by General Mills have proven to be a real inspiration for Hermes, maker of ultra-luxe paraphernalia.

The storied handbag maker decided to manufacture a satchel that would pay homage to Ireland, by using something suitably Irish as an emblem.

What did they pick?

St. Patrick's more storied shamrock that was used to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the heathens who trotted across the auld sod?

No, indeed.

Too religious in nature, perhaps. Instead, Hermes went to the box of Lucky Charms and found a four-leaf clover.

That says Ireland, doesn't it?

There's only one of these items to be had, and it's going to be auctioned at Christie's. So if you have a spare 27,000 euro burning a hole in your pocket, you could lay claim to an example of someone not doing their homework. Or knowing how to do a simple Google search.

Hermes is calling that bit of alligator skin hanging off the strap a "lucky charm", so we shouldn't be so hard on them for using the wrong emblem of Ireland. They've gone with the romanticized, Madison-Avenue-ized version of what represents Ireland, and they've called it by its proper name.

They couldn't have carved a dead Celtic tiger out of some equally deceased alligator to craft an authentic representation of the Emerald Isle?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

To Remember The Unprotected

For centuries, epileptics were looked on as creatures to be shut away.

They were thought to be possessed by demons at one time, their seizures a sign of the devil's torment. Such people were too dangerous to  mingle with the population at large. During the height of the witch hunts, women with seizure disorders were burned at the stake.

Eliza Davis was an epileptic who might have been abandoned by her mother at a foundling home in Dublin. Coming from such a grim background, her only hope in life was to land a job as a servant.

At the age of 17, she was hired by a farmer. Being an unprotected female with no rights, she was either seduced or raped by her employer, who refused to marry her because he didn't have to. A Catholic man was not obliged to make an honest woman of a Protestant in the Ireland of the 1840's.

Fired from her job, with an infant to care for, Eliza was turned away from the workhouse. They didn't want an epileptic mingling with the rest of the destitute.

At some point, Eliza's child drowned and she was charged with murder. Whether she killed the child in desperation or it was an accident, history does not say. What we do know is that the woman was sentenced to hang, appealed her sentence, and was transported to Tasmania, England's favorite dumping ground for the undesired and unprotected who had no means to protest the injustice.

As it turned out, Eliza Davis made a new life for herself once she was put in a place where she had a better chance than Dublin. She married twice, produced nine children, and made her mark as a midwife.

Gail Mulhern will watch a play tonight in Wicklow Gaol, where her great-great-grandmother awaited transportation. The former jail is now a museum that would like to tell the stories of the thousands of women who were shipped off to the dry arse of the earth.

Looking for a writing prompt? In need of the bones of a story of hardship and redemption and ultimate triumph? Write about Eliza Davis. All that you need to flesh out the tale can be found in historical records and a touch of imagination.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lace Curtain Irish --- The E-Book

Grab one and go.

LACE CURTAIN IRISH is now available as an e-book for your reading pleasure.

Download a copy to your Kindle device (or your smartphone with the Kindle app). Have a Nook? There's an EPUB version of LACE CURTAIN IRISH for you over at

The weekend is coming and you're looking for an escape from Easter bunnies and too much ham, or you've eaten your fill of matzah and you'd like to have a good book to keep you company. LACE CURTAIN IRISH, delivered electronically and immediately, is what you're looking for.

Leave the family you're with and join the Hanlon clan, a family in turmoil, caught between the way of life left behind in Ireland and the modern American world that the children seek to occupy. Finding their place, Julia and Daniel Hanlon will discover that melting into a boom town like Chicago is a slow and arduous journey in which many are left behind.

Set in the decades between the World's Columbian Exposition and the Century of Progress, LACE CURTAIN IRISH will keep you turning the pages until you come to the end.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Mistrusting The Government Since 1922

The Irish fought a civil war, although it didn't get the press coverage of that family spat in America back in the 1860's.

The Irish fought in that one as well, but there wasn't much for doing in Ireland at the time and it was a tremendous job opportunity for a man willing to emigrate.

At any rate, the Irish did battle over a decision to split the island nation into an independent, Catholic section and a smaller Protestant enclave that would remain a colony of England (there'd be no United Kingdom if not for that little bit of Ireland). Not everyone liked the treaty.

Especially not my ancestors.

The war in the 1920's was fought largely in the west of Ireland, a rural area populated by people who did not follow the government's rules because they hated the government. It was the Brits at first, and everyone connived and cheated to avoid onerous taxes and laws designed to wipe out Catholicism. Then it was the pro-Treaty crowd with De Valera at its head, crowing about how much he hated the Treaty once he got wind of the public's discontent with a policy he helped promote.

So in places like Donegal and Limerick, the whole conniving and cheating way of life became incorporated into the DNA. It should come as no surprise to hear that the areas of Ireland that are the most lax in paying the new homeowner's tax are residents of those areas.

The property tax has come about because the nation is skint and money must be raised. The good people of western Ireland see the bankruptcy as the result of the politicians in Dublin, and they aren't going to turn over their hard-earned money to a group of wastrels.

So they refused to pay.

There are threats to fine the offenders, but if your re-election depends on forcing the majority of your constituents to pay a tax or risk a fine, how likely are you to push the issue? There aren't many jobs in Ireland. Everyone wants to keep theirs.

The boycott is an Irish invention with roots in the Land Wars of the 1870's. The worst of that fighting? In the west of Ireland.

Nothing much has changed in the last century.

Maybe the esteemed members of the Dail should turn to history and see how the British handled boycotts back in the day....although the British aren't ruling in Dublin anymore. That's not the end result Fine Gael is looking for.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Re-Launching The Titanic, But Will It Float

One hundred years ago, the Titanic sank and shortly thereafter, so did the British Empire. More first class passengers than steerage passengers survived, but their privileged way of life went down as well.

There are countless stories from the famous sinking, of heroism and cowardice both.

All those stories are being re-told, and none is being spoken more loudly than that of the city of Belfast.

A new tourist center has opened on the site of the old Harland and Wolff shipyard where the doomed liner was designed and built. With all the buzz surrounding the Titanic's anniversary, it's hoped that people will come to the north of Ireland, a section of the island that has long been plagued by religious intolerance and outright bigotry.

And then there were The Troubles, of course, and no one with any sense would go to visit a city under siege.

They trotted out 105-year-old Cyril Quigley, who watched the launching of the Titanic as a very young child. He was the guest of honor when a Protestant and a Catholic jointly opened Titanic Belfast.

A joint public-private partnership, the museum was built to bring in tourists and the money that falls off them as they pass through. The Titanic has long loomed large, generating a blockbuster movie, traveling exhibits of artifacts, and a lasting interest in the ship, its passengers, and that fateful night.

Will the interest last?

England has long subsidized Northern Ireland, which hasn't been a ship-building powerhouse for a long, long time. The problem is, England is short on cash and money has to come from somewhere else besides London. Hence, an investment in a museum dedicated to a posh ocean liner that fell victim to hubris and human error.

Considering a trip? Don't forget, Dublin is only ninety miles away and once you've eyeballed the scale model of the wreck, you can be in the tasting room at Jameson's distillery in no time.