Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ireland, Conclusion: The Belfast and the Belfurious

When Irish eyes are smiling, Irish mouths are speaking and, more often than not, incomprehensible. Yes, consonants in Irish English function mostly the same as in American/real English. (One notable exception: "th" is pronounced as a hard "t." Accordingly, if you need a drink at half past ten, you're considered tirsty at ten-tirty.) Irish vowels, however, are inconsistent, nondeterministic, and designed to drive Henry Higgins mad. They vary among regions and speakers. Additionally, one speaker may pronounce the same vowel in completely different ways depending on whether he's talking to a customer, his buddy from the Publick House, or four hapless tourists, three of whom did not cause their car to lose a hubcap.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ireland, Week 2: Gaolbait

It's impossible to get lost in Ireland. First, the country is on a small island, so if you drive in the same direction long enough you will either find what you're looking for or fall into the ocean. Second, the Irish won't allow you to get lost. Ever. As we referred to our map of Cork (a cartoon version of the city where the key sights were dwarfed by advertisements for Mexican food), an Irishman stopped, unprompted, to help us find what we were looking for. Egad, culture shock. In New York, people don't stop unless it's to relieve you of money via either weapon or sales pitch ("Do you have a minute for [Your Cause Here]?"). In Killarney, on the other hand, a driver pulled over unbidden, gave us detailed directions to the Muckross House, and sped away. Thirty seconds later, she leapt from her car and sprinted back through a torrential downpour (did I mention it rains in Ireland?) to clarify her directions even further. We had no choice but to find our destination.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ireland, Week 1: Sodden and Begorrah

The Lucky Charms commercials lie.

In those thirty-second spots, Lucky the Leprechaun proclaims the wonders of his cereal while dancing across Irish fields of green beneath Irish skies of blue. Lucky Charms are indeed wondrous (they cause childhood obesity which, in my book, ranks near childhood smallpox), and fields in Ireland are indeed green. The Irish sky, however, is never blue for any prolonged period of time. In fact, its general state could be described as typhoon. The few moments of sun (in our two-week trip, it rained on all but one of the days) lull you into a false sense of security so that when you're the greatest possible distance from umbrellas or shelter, Ireland might hurricane upon you. (The Irish themselves have a sixth sense about when it's going to rain; they'll vanish right before it pours and appear immediately thereafter, umbrellaless, coatless, yet somehow dry.) The non-Irish, on the other hand, will find themselves forever sodden.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why I Hate Telemundo

On Sunday afternoons, the New York Sports Club at 94th St. is invariably packed. Those who attempt to use cardio equipment must wait in line and stare awkwardly at the wall while, aboard rows of treadmills, voluminous individuals undulate in simple harmonic motion, oblivious to both their hygiene and the thirty-minute time limit. If you’re exceptionally lucky, there will be a treadmill available, maybe even a Star Trac Pro. That was the case today. My exceptional luckiness, however, was purely illusive.

The Star Trac Pro is no ordinary treadmill, oh no. In addition to the standard features (a tread that mills), it boasts a fan to keep you cool, an emergency stop button to keep you alive, and a personal television, complete with remote. The screen is on the small side, but, since it’s so close to your face, the effect is IMAX. Normally, I keep the television off so that world news doesn’t distract me from the musicals playing on my iPod. (Today was “Call Me Madam” and its sequel “Call Me Mister.” Heterosexuals: you don’t know romance until you hear Ethel Merman croon/shout a love ballad to a man fifteen years her junior.) Upon mounting the treadmill, however, I noticed that the remote control was broken. This wouldn’t have been a problem but for the fact that the television was (a) on and (b) tuned to Telemundo.