Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Musings: Angst, Angst Everywhere; SUV Assault Vehicles; Literary Firsts; Fun Summer Events

I’m back! I was in Scotland and Ireland for the first half of July, attending a friend’s wedding in Edinburgh, and then trying to avoid rain for a week in the west of Ireland. I’d hoped to blog from the road, but was too busy with work projects. And I arrived back to lots of freelance work and hot weather before taking off for my annual car camping weekend at Molly Stark S.P. in Vermont so no posts last week either!

In Ireland, I spent a lot of time listening to the radio as I drove the narrow, twisty roads (and tried to remember to stay on the left), and was struck by the amount of angst. (Every radio station seemed to offer the same format: long sections of talk with the occasional song and no consistent musical genre.) There had been a series of stabbings and overdose deaths at a concert in the Phoenix Park in Dublin that weekend and it seemed to bring out a whole wave of worry that went well beyond the immediate issue of a bunch of yahoos getting drunk and high and losing their minds. Coupled with repeated commercials from Ulster Bank (one of the big Irish banks) about a technical screw-up of Titanic proportions, ongoing disputes about the bailout of Irish banks from the EU, and negative reports on economic activity in the country, it was a sobering reminder that the U.S. isn’t alone: most western countries are grappling with serious issues and many are in much worse shape than the U.S.

It’s funny because, to an outsider, Ireland still appears to be a fairly prosperous place. I saw fewer people on the street than here, the public infrastructure is in good shape (certainly better than the U.S.), and the stores seemed crowded. The only real sign of economic distress were the number of partially built and seemingly abandoned houses, plus a lot of “for sale” and “for let” signs.

Listening to WBUR recently and heard the following sentence in a report on a drive-by shooting: “Police are on the lookout for a gray SUV with Rhode Island plates that was seen opening fire on the crowd.” I know that SUVs are bad, but I didn’t realize they were randomly killing people now…

I attended an excellent literary event last Monday night at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge (a great venue for such events, by the way). Literary Firsts is a four-times-per-year series that features four readers in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and confessional. All the readers were excellent, particularly Adam Stumacher reading from his recently completed (and hopefully soon-to-be-published as I can’t wait to read the whole thing) novel, A Liar's Opus, which features one of the most compelling characters I’ve heard in quite awhile, and Krysten Hall’s poetry. I also had to admire the honesty and openness of Wendy Stetson, the confessional reader. It’s hard enough to get up in front of a crowd to read, but to give voice to such personal stuff is amazing.

Lots of fun upcoming summer events that we’re considering:
  • Lowell Folk Festival – I’ve only attend this once before, back in the late-1990s, but a friend asked about it and we’re thinking of going as it looks like an eclectic and interesting line-up.
  • Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s free summer concerts at the Hatch Shell – We’ve gone twice to this orchestra’s collaboration with Boston Lyric Opera and we’re heading there again on Wed., Aug. 8 for a program of Puccini, Wagner, Mozart and Bernstein. Great, relaxing atmosphere!
  • Tango by Moonlight – This looks very cool! (Check out some of the pictures online.) The next date we can do it is Thurs., Aug. 30. Let’s hope for good weather!

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