Thursday, December 07, 2006


The new issue of The Green Triangle is out, featuring an interview with yours truly.

I am honoured. My thanks and appreciation to my excellent interviewer, C. Derick Varn.

ETA: If the above link is not working try this one

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Terrorist Leprechauns? No, that's not offensive at all.

Over tea today DemiOrator and I were discussing the Máire Nic an Bhaird case. If you haven't heard about it, this young woman in Belfast was hassled on the street and assaulted by a cop, who bellowed at her to stop speaking "that leprechaun language" and speak "The Queens English in her country." The cop then arrested her, merely for speaking Irish, her native language.

Press coverage of the case has at times been sensationalistic, even to the extent of missing the point that this woman did nothing violent or inappropriate, and that the arresting officer showed ethnic and cultural hatred. Message board posts and other fora have shown all sorts of bigotry arising from unsuspected (and predictable) corners, with some people basically accusing those of us with an involvement in Gaelic languages to be somehow connected with "terrorism". (Hey... this sounds familiar.)

DemiOrator has some more links about the case here: Forbidden Irish.
The case is also covered in the current issue of CARN (The Magazine of the Celtic League).

P.S. - CARN is currently struggling financially, so if you've ever considered joining the league and/or subscribing, this would be a good time to do so. A subscription is included with membership.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The CR FAQ, of course

In case you haven't seen it in the 900 other places it's been discussed in the past few days, our CR FAQ project is now published on the web. We are busily preparing the manuscript for the book version, which will be available through the website. Much thanks to all who helped us with this, whether through your contributions, feedback, or kind words when we needed encouragement. Come and check it out.

More on Bobby Sands and the Blanketmen

I did a followup post the next day on LJ:
and a more personal coda here:

The Stardance Project

As a former dancer and choreographer, now sidelined by injuries and identifying a great deal with the protagonists in these books, this is a cause I heartily support. The excerpt below was originally posted on Jeanne and Spider's website:


I'd like your help in making a thirty-year dream of dance in zero gravity come true.

If you've read THE STARDANCE TRILOGY that Spider and I wrote, or the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella that began them, then the concept of free fall dance is one you've already encountered. The idea even attracted the attention of NASA--and I nearly got to be the first to actually dance in space.

I've been dancing and teaching dance all my life. I was founder and artistic director of Nova Dance Theatre, a professional contemporary dance company, in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1980-87, and choreographed over 30 original works for performance. When NASA became aware of "Stardance," and my dance background that led to it, I was shortlisted for a seat on the Space Shuttle, as part of NASA's Civilian In Space Program. I was to be the first zero gravity dancer.

But, the program was cancelled when the first civilian chosen for the program was killed in the Challenger Tragedy. Now, twenty years later, I'm being given a second chance to choreograph dance in space…

on film.

Update: News on this project can now be found at

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"IRA Propagandist" - Moi?

On May 5 it will be twenty-five years since the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. This prompted me to pull out some old writings and papers, and take a stumble down memory lane (or the cobblestones of Beacon Hill, to be more precise).

Twenty-Five years ago I was a teenager living in Boston. It was my first year away from home, and I was working as the editor of an underground newspaper. I was also the main writer, photographer, typist, and production staff, but that's how these oh-so-glamorous jobs went. Our office was in the cramped, damp basement of a stately old building that happened to be within a block or two of the British Embassy. And, of course, this being the spring and summer of 1981, there were protests happening.

Though I grew up in a largely Irish/Scottish family in the Midwest, I don't recall much discussion of the struggles in the North when I was a small child. People in my family were more concerned about Viet Nam, actually, as no one in the family was being drafted to go fight in Ireland. There was some mention of The Troubles, of course, but no deep analysis in my earshot, and no horrible fights like in some families. Unlike my mother's generation, or some of my friends, I wasn't forbidden from wearing orange, hit for saying the wrong thing, nor had I (yet) been stopped in the street and quizzed about my religious affiliations.

But Boston was different. There was Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) grafitti in the subways, and packs of surly Irish youths wandering the streets of our Dorchester neighborhood. Many people were fresh off the boat, and support for both Sinn Féin and the IRA was strong. Though New York has a higher total number of Irish, Boston has a higher percentage of the population, and this is especially apparent in the South Boston neighborhoods where we lived. And, of course, there were the protests.

I became friends with a guy who was very active in Irish politics, and attended some Sinn Féin actions with him. He wrote some articles for the newspaper I edited - coverage of the hunger strikes, the blanketmen, and basic history of the conflict for an American audience that was largely ignorant of the struggle. Reading them now, they seem so basic, so neutral. True, they are mainly from the perspective of Irish children and youths, describing the terror of having their neighborhoods attacked by British soldiers, and vivid descriptions of what the men and women in the prisons and internment camps were facing, but the overwhelming plea throughout is for peace and justice. After publishing these stories I was accused by some liberals of spreading "IRA Propaganda."

I have to admit I am just as puzzled by this accusation now as I was then. I think, like bringing up Israeli military actions at the Seder table, it's just one of those issues that provokes fights whenever it arises. Maybe not so much now, but certainly then.

I think most of what I did during that time was pretty benign, and what most leftists, let alone Irish-American leftists, were doing to support a variety of struggles worldwide. In looking back on those days, I find my thoughts turning more to the changes in our communities here than the changes in the North of Ireland. Well, this is where I live now. Since moving back to the country, I feel very out of touch with the Irish political scene. I keep up with things online, but it's really not the same as working with people in person. I have my opinions on the peace process, and the changes in the movement and organizations, but it seems less urgent now to state them publicly. Perhaps this is what it means to have twenty-five years distance on anything, really. And what it means to be a forty-something instead of a passionate teenager, ready to take on the world, with every moment a life or death battle.


Your Friendly Neighborhood Propagandist
(apparently semi-retired)
(but willing to be brought out of retirement for a good scuffle)