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Friday April 25th, 2008

Aussie Rules Baseball

"We usually say, 'What a difference a day makes.'
But when somebody makes a much-needed change,
we can also say, 'What a day a difference
Dr. Mardy Grothe,
American psychologist and writer


Hi folks,

I was baptised last weekend in the official People's Religion of Australia: Our Lady of the Sacred Pigskin. That's right. My good mate, Alan, took me to my very first Aussie Rules Football Match at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds. Alleluia! A fair dinkum 'Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life' spiritual dunking: Collingwood vs North Melbourne.

My first impression, as the MCG came into sight from the tram stop, was that of the Roman Coliseum. I could almost see the releasing of pigeons and the interpretation of Divine Augeries. Long snaking lines of fans silently approached the Sacred Bowl from all directions. I was reminded of the scene in The Time Machine (the original version with Rod Taylor, not the remake) when the timid Eloi people were sitting eating fruit and then the big Sirens go off and they all get up and walk as though hypnotized through those massive iron doors into the clutches of the Morlocks for dinner. This Night of the Living Footy Fan feeling was reinforced by the following encounter - I saw a young teenage boy decked out from head to toe in Collingwood gear: black and white shorts, striped scarf, a Jerry Lewis hat, the works.
I said, 'Which way to the main gate.'
He looked back at me puzzled and said: 'I don't know.'
Wha??? I thought. Do you just dress like this all the time?
Diplomatically, I said, 'Well then, where are YOU walking to?'
'I'm just following them,' he indicated, pointing to the couple who I assumed were his parental units as they were dressed up exactly like he was.
'You going to the footy?' the father enquired, not even looking back at me. I didn't have any identifying colours on so obviously he may have been concerned that I was an Infidel.
'Yep,' I said, confidently, and as sincerely as I could make a three-letter word.
'Follow us.'
I fell in behind them and, like the other Eloi, disappeared into the maw of the Great Edifice

Footy was apparently invented by the Vikings. However it didn't start being played by common folk until the Middle Ages. During that time the entire village joined in, including women and children, and it was called "Townball." To help make their footballs stronger, the English started covering them with animal skins like cowhide, deerskin and goat hide. But after those proved none too resilient, they decided to try Porky Pig. This worked great and is the origin of why the football today is still called "the pigskin" in some circles. (Mainly in the US.)

Well, to make a long Match short, North Melbourne won in a pretty damn even contest as far as I could tell. But it was a nail-biter. As I know fuck-all about either team, by default, I was always barracking for whatever team was the underdog at any given moment. Which kept shifting back and forth. I had originally planned to buy both sets of team colours: scarfs, shirts and caps, and cut them up and sew them back together half-and-half like a kind of Northwood Collingbourne Frankenfan. Just to stir everybody up, but my partner Lin dissuaded me from doing that.
'Remember what they say about Collingwood supporters,' she admonished. True. No sense being foolish. I still have some good years ahead of me.
But I did do a little homework about the teams so I wouldn't sound like a complete idjut when conversing with the Faithful.

The suburb of North Melbourne started off as a cattle yard in the 1800s. I think the next thing that was built there was something called the Benevolent Asylum. (Good name for a band.) The North Melbourne team is unofficially known as the "Shinboners", a title which dates back to its 19th century abattoir-worker origins. (This was obvious to me in the way some of those guys handled the ball.)

The Collingwood team, on the other hand, seemed to be a more educated mob. Their club motto is " Floreat pica" ("Flourish Magpies!", or "May the Magpies Prosper!"). Hey, somebody speaks Latin over there and that can't be a stupid thing. Friends told me that Collingwood is the team that all the other teams love to hate. There seems to be differing opinions as to why this is. Some say it's because they're roughheads and like to fight. Others say its because they're the richest club - the club with the most money. I was warned to stay out of the way of Collingwood fans after the match - especially if they lose. But I was sitting with mostly Collingwoodians and no one tried to part my hair with a tire iron even though North Melbourne beat them (but only by a whisker.) Still, no one around me joked around about the outcome much either. I guess I can understand that. I mean if footy teams are like religions than I guess it's like Jesus getting arm-wrestled down by the Buddha. Embarrassing for the Home Congregation.


The fundamental difference, as I see it, between Aussie Rules and US Gridiron (which I grew up with back in Ohio - the Horse Chesnut State) isn't the helmets, uniforms and padded pants and crotch protectors and all that superficial stuff. I think it's the concept of regularly 'kickin' the footy' rather than passing it, during play and what that means to the game dynamic. From science to chaos, I would define it.

Regular kicking during play isn't done in gridiron. See, in US gridiron, the game is pretty much 100% science - but played by big frying chicken-eating muthafuckers who could stop a locomotive. You do have extremely well-thought out plays, laser-like throwing of the football (passing), running and blocking - all of which are meticulously rehearsed and practiced. Lots of little X's and naughts on a white board in the locker room to pour over; memorizing plays such as the Bluegrass Miracle, the Flea Kicker, the Fumblerooski, the Hail Mary Pass, the Holy Buckeye, the Horse-Collar Tackle, the Immaculate Reception, the Plunge, the Pyramid Play, the Statue of Liberty, the Swinging Gate, the Try and the Zone Blitz. Ancient games are examined, and debated, on cuneiform tablets, papyrus, 16mm film and even instant video playback.
But the most interesting thing to me is then to watch how these hugely overpaid Cro-Magnon Knuckle-Draggers then fuck up all these prepared plans and the utter chaos, running about and smashing heads that can ensue. But when they do play the game properly and execute what they're supposed to do, then it can often be as boring as a ghost crapping in a fog. If you've never watched Girdiron, try to imagine two teams of padded and helmeted sumo wrestlers lined up against each other. The ball is hiked. They all slam into each other. Big grunts. Everything moves an inch one way or the other. Occasionally, someone breaks through and scores a touchdown. The crowd goes apeshit. My fondest memory of American gridiron from my youth is the American mustard on my American hot dog.

US football fans might think me a bit rough on the favourite American past time but remember, I was raised and went to school in a football town, in Ohio, similar to the one in the film, 'Friday Night Lights' and man, if you weren't somebody on the football team, you were nobody. Nerdsville. As Robert Kennedy once said, US Gridiron is the best training a young man can have to prepare for the Military. To this, I would also add: for Wall Street. But for anyone interested in the ARTS, such as Writing, Poetry, Music, Cooking or even Gardening, forget it. In a football town, these kind of people just do not exist in any meaningful way. I don't plan on ever forgetting how abusive this kind of sports-based education system was to the development of my personal genius. Basics of Gridiron

Anyway, back to the game. . .

Now, in Aussie Rules, you have your scientific aspect, of course - well executed hand-offs, strategic blocking and running - but then, after all this teamwork, instead of doing the logical and intelligent thing, like say a precision throw of the ball, (which can nail its target over thirty yards like a guided missile), you have the 'aussie kick' - ie. just kick the fuckin' footy and hope someone on your team catches it. Which half the time doesn't happen. Crazy. Chaos.

Actually, I like this particular element much better, now that I think about it, because it's precisely this wild card of chance in the midst of such organized play that keeps everything popping and interesting. And . . . well, . . . playful.

Myself, I've always preferred American Baseball (which I used to play regularly - I had a legendary baseball card collection when I was fifteen years old) to American Gridiron, because of the more unpredictable elements. When you slug that baseball, it can go ANYWHERE, at any speed! Man, getting hit by that hardball will knock you out!

Maybe some day, I'll develop Aussie Rules Baseball here in Australia. You hit the ball and then you run around the bases. That much would be the same. But you also get to carry your bat with you while you're running and beat whoever gets in your way to buggery on your way to home-plate. Aussie Rules, yeah!



Next Thursday, May 1st, I will be performing a solo concert at the Majestic Theatre, in Pomona, Queensland, and then appearing, on the weekend, at the Wintermoon Festival, up further, in Mackay, Queensland. Hope to see some of you there.

I'll also be doing an hour long interview with Trevor Jackson on his ABC radio program, Coastal Conversations, on Tuesday 29 April from 11am - midday. Playing live music in the studio, and featuring some of the new songs from my Leadbelly Ballad Novel.



Hi Joe,
Persian proverb:
'Only when it is really dark can we see the stars.'
Also - but not a proverb -
" the bigger the front, the bigger the back" cheers, L. Tannis

Hi Joe,
Subject: Wilde, a Master of Chiasmus
One of my subscribers sent me a copy of one of your recent newsletters. Wilde, as you may know, was a master of the literary device known as "chiasmus."
I do not believe, however, that Wilde was the author of the "Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends" line, even though the saying did originate in England during his lifetime.
On another note, are you the author of the 'If you can't get friends in high places, you can always get high in friends' places' line? It's the first time I've seen it, and consider it an inspired example of chiasmus (in fact, when I do a sequel to my Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You
book, which was originally published in 1999, I'd like to mention it with a correct attribution).
If you're a quotation lover, you might be interested in subscribing to my weekly newsletter ("Dr. Mardy's Quotes of the Week"). If you'd like to give it a whirl, let me know and I'll sign you up. My best, Mardy

(Note: Visit Dr. Mardy's great web sites and sign up for his newsletter:

Masters of Chiasmus

Types of Chiasmus (Phonetic)

...an obscure toronto based jobbing-band leader, Benny Lewis (now deceased, i think), once said,
"Good taste is the refuge of the witless."
No one was ever sure what he was talking about at any particular time, so the meaning of this is open to interpretation. good yontiff, joan besen

Dear Joe,
I keep meaning to write back and say how much I enjoy the Newsletter, but selfishly, until now that is, I usually just sit here grinning and marvelling. So anyway, here's a couple of my musings to throw into the pot:
"The world is full of amateur parents and professional children."
"The human male and female are so designed as to extract the maximum frustration from one another with the minimum effort."
Lots of love, Neil Innes
PS. A must read book for everyone on the planet: "Who Hates Whom"
by Bob Harris.
Three Rivers Press, New York . www.crowpublishing.com

Hi Joe,
Well, I neglected to read your newsletter last week, and look where it put me! My Dad's Wilde-ness went unuttered in this week's letter. Dad was not usually vocal about his philosophy, but sometimes when he was drinking, he waxed eloquent. Here's my favorite, and one that has proven true in my life:

"Two things rise to the top; cream, and scum. You'll do well to learn the difference." Coral (Slim) Lundstrum 1924-1996

I'll look forward to meeting you at Lamb's Retreat for Songwriters (Michigan ,USA) November 6-9th, 2008. Ann Rowland

Thanks Joe,
- for the classic quotes from Oscar Wilde. I'm gradually replacing the book I once had of his best from your blog. Here are some modest contributions of my own.
'As happy as a heathen in heaven'
'Couldn't organise a shit fight at Werribee.'
'I feel as lucky as a live turkey after Christmas'
'I am just like you - I have humility in proportion to talent.'
Cheers, Phil the Funmonger

(Note: For non-Australians, the Werribee Sewage Farm or, more formally, the Western Treatment Plant of Melbourne Water, is an 110 km sewage treatment farm adjacent to the town of Werribee, 30 km west of the city of Melbourne, on the coast of Port Phillip Bay. 110 km is a lot of ca-ca, folks! Many jokes have been made and, similar to the way California might have an orange juice kiosk in the shape of a giant Orange, or in Hawaii, a fruitstand in the shape of a giant Pineapple, travellers passing through Werribee look in vain for the oft talked about, but seldom seen, mythical Giant Turd. The plant was established in the 1890s and began treating sewage from Melbourne in 1897. Treated effluent is used to irrigate 85 km of pasture for grazing 15,000 cattle and 40,000 sheep. It currently treats 55% of Melbourne's sewage.)

Subject: Green Burial...
Another alternative to traditional burial is noted on the website "Green Burial."
Life was, at one time, a circle, where the body went back into the ground and fed the earth. Then undertakers discovered they could make money off the grief of people, and things have changed for the worse since then. With the advent of steel and plastic caskets that don't rust or break down, the circle has been broken. Green Burial uses a biodegradable container, such as bambooo shoots, or the like, and the body is planted next to a tree which can use the nutrients for growth. Gary Burt

'Personal freedom only works inside the context of freedom for all persons.' - Gary Burt

"We must be careful that the people who make $5,000 a year are not pitted against those who make $50,000 a year by those who make $500,000 a year.
(quoted in Sun magazine)


The Way to Peace Can Be Paved With Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Negotiation
by Olga Bonfiglio

Peace activists are often accused of being naïve dreamers when it comes to dealing with conflict or dangerous enemies.
So what is the alternative? Usually it's to fight fire with fire (i.e., revenge and retaliation).
The very nature of peacemaking, however, is not to fight but rather to confront "the opponent" with intelligence, craftiness, humor and a thirst for justice. We have some splendid examples of this approach in Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, just to name a few. Skeptics recoil and sputter that such people were exceptions.
However, let's not forget that these "peace heroes" inspired ordinary people to follow them and choose to become part of a movement for change.
Skeptics also claim that the American "sheeple" cannot be moved because they are asleep, unaware, too numb and too busy to care about injustices. They also say it is impossible to fight against the awesome power of Corporate America, Big Government and other power brokers.
OK, then maybe that's a cue for peace activists' next challenge: How can we inspire others so deeply that they choose to form a movement for change from violence and war to peace; from hatred to love; from revenge and retaliation to forgiveness and reconciliation; from an obstinate refusal to communicate to negotiation?

Let's look at some recent examples of the impossible. In the Amish, South Africa and the Burundi Program. article


DVD Recommendation

Directed by Feroz Abbas Khan


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his wifem Kasturba Gandhi, had four sons: Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devadas. Manilal was the second son. One of Manilal's daughters, Ela (b.1940), was the recipient of the 2002 International Peace Award. site

But all of Gandhi's children, except Devadas, had very unfortunate lives after their father died. None so tragic as the subject of this film, his first born son, Harilal. Gandhi's kids pretty much resented their upbringing as disciples and were not even allowed the formal education which Mohandas himself had received and which would have possibly provided them with their own choice of livelihood.

The first-born, Harilal Gandhi (1888-1948) rebelled most strongly. He renounced all family ties in 1911 and embarked upon a tragic, lifelong path of self-destruction. He became a Muslim convert, an alcoholic, an embezzler; accounts of his arrests, public drunkenness, and destitution became commonplace.
"I was a slave of my passions when Harilal was conceived," said Mohandas.
Harilal appeared at his father's funeral in such derelict condition that few recognized him. When Harilal converted to Islam, he adopted the name "Abdullah Gandhi", but later again converted back to Hinduism. This decision did not bother his father, who believed that all religions were as one. Harilal died in a tuberculosis sanitarium two months after his father was assassinated.
(based on the book: Harilal Gandhi: A Life, by Chandulal Bhagubhai Dalal.)


Coltan, Gorillas and Cell Phones in the Congo
by Casey Bush and Joshua Seeds

The horror! The horror!" These are the famous last words uttered by Mr. Kurtz, a character in Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella, Heart of Darkness. Kurtz is an ivory dealer who set himself up as a jungle demigod hustling elephant tusks down the Congo River to a lucrative European market. That utterance, repeated by Marlon Brando as Col. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 movie, Apocalypse Now, says it all about the nightmare of the white man's burden: a dark dream that continues today. With nearly every use of a new cell phone or computer, American consumers depend on the natural element tantalum, which is extracted from coltan, a mineral often mined illegally in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC.

A tenfold spike in the price of coltan in 2000 brought attention to its lawless extraction in the Congo with headlines like, "Coltan, Gorillas and Cell Phones," and "Coltan Boom, Gorilla Bust." As in the past with elephants, mountain gorillas and millions of innocent civilians today are being trampled in the quest for mineral wealth deep in the heart of Africa.

Earth Island Journal argues that the 2000 spike in coltan prices was caused by the launch of the Sony PlayStation 2 and a new generation of mobile phones. The irony of that observation was not lost on British Labour MP Oona King when she expounded, "Kids in Congo are being sent down into mines to die so that kids in Europe and America can kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms." article


But What Is Good About Biofuels?
By Julio Godoy

BERLIN - Environmental experts have been warning that biofuels, far from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, actually have a negative environmental footprint.
A biofuels boom driven by rising world fuel prices and the growing worldwide demand for energy has contributed to creating conditions for the present food scarcity in many regions by crowding out production of grains such as maize and wheat. article


12 Answers to Questions No One Is Bothering to Ask about Iraq
by Tom Engelhardt

Here, in an attempt to unravel the situation in ever-unraveling Iraq are twelve answers to questions which should be asked far more often:

1. Yes, the war has morphed into the U.S. military's worst Iraq nightmare.
2. No, there was never an exit strategy from Iraq because the Bush administration never intended to leave - and still doesn't.
3. Yes, the United States is still occupying Iraq (just not particularly effectively.
4. Yes, the war was about oil.
5. No, our new embassy in Baghdad is not an 'embassy'.
6. No, the Iraqi government is not a government.
7. No, the surge is not over.
8. No, the Iraqi army will never 'stand up'.
9. No, the U.S. military does not stand between Iraq and fragmentation.
10. No, the U.S. military does not stand between Iraq and civil war.
11. No, al-Qaeda will not control Iraq if we leave (and neither will Iran).
12. Yes, some Americans were right about Iraq from the beginning (and not the pundits either.)
- See answers to these and full article.



" I don't get to vote for President this primary season. I live in Michigan. The party leaders (both here and in D.C.) couldn't get their act together, and thus our votes will not be counted. So, if you live in Pennsylvania, can you do me a favor? Will you please cast my vote -- and yours -- on Tuesday for Senator Barack Obama?

I haven't spoken publicly 'til now as to who I would vote for, primarily for two reasons:

1) Who cares?; and

2) I (and most people I know) don't give a rat's ass whose name is on the ballot in November, as long as there's a picture of JFK and FDR riding a donkey at the top of the ballot, and the word "Democratic" next to the candidate's name.

Seriously, I know so many people who don't care if the name under the Big "D" is Dancer, Prancer, Clinton or Blitzen. It can be Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Barry Obama or the Dalai Lama.

Well, that sounded good last year, but over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!
This sleazy attempt to smear Obama was brilliantly explained the following night by Stephen Colbert. He pointed out that if Obama is supported by Ted Kennedy, who is Catholic, and the Catholic Church is led by a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, that can mean only one thing: OBAMA LOVES HITLER!
Yes, Senator Clinton, that's how you sounded. Like you were nuts. Like you were a bigot stoking the fires of stupidity. How sad that I would ever have to write those words about you. You have devoted your life to good causes and good deeds. And now to throw it all away for an office you can't win unless you smear the black man so much that the super-delegates cry "Uncle (Tom)" and give it all to you.

But that can't happen. You cast your die when you voted to start this bloody war. When you did that you were like Moses who lost it for a moment and, because of that, was prohibited from entering the Promised Land.
How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come -- but it won't be you. We'll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).
There are those who say Obama isn't ready, or he's voted wrong on this or that. But that's looking at the trees and not the forest. What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement
than it is for Obama the candidate.
That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what's going on is bigger than him at this point, and that's a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so. President Obama is going to need a nation of millions to stand behind him.
I know some of you will say, 'Mike, what have the Democrats done to deserve our vote?' That's a damn good question. In November of '06, the country loudly sent a message that we wanted the war to end. Yet the Democrats have done nothing. So why should we be so eager to line up happily behind them?

I'll tell you why. Because I can't stand one more friggin' minute of this administration and the permanent, irreversible damage it has done to our people and to this world. I'm almost at the point where I don't care if the Democrats don't have a backbone or a kneebone or a thought in their dizzy little heads. Just as long as their name ain't "Bush" and the word "Republican" is not beside theirs on the ballot, then that's good enough for me.
I, like the majority of Americans, have been pummeled senseless for 8 long years. That's why I will join millions of citizens and stagger into the voting booth come November, like a boxer in the 12th round, all bloodied and bruised with one eye swollen shut, looking for the only thing that matters -- that big "D" on the ballot.
Don't get me wrong. I lost my rose-colored glasses a long time ago.
It's foolish to see the Democrats as anything but a nicer version of a party that exists to do the bidding of the corporate elite in this country. Any endorsement of a Democrat must be done with this acknowledgement and a hope that one day we will have a party that'll represent the people first, and laws that allow that party an equal voice.
Finally, I want to say a word about the basic decency I have seen in Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton continues to throw the Rev. Wright up in his face as part of her mission to keep stoking the fears of White America. Every time she does this I shout at the TV, "Say it, Obama! Say that when she and her husband were having marital difficulties regarding Monica Lewinsky, who did she and Bill bring to the White House for 'spiritual counseling?' THE REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT!"
But no, Obama won't throw that at her. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be decent. She's been through enough hurt. And so he remains silent and takes the mud she throws in his face.
That's why the crowds who come to see him are so large. That's why he'll take us down a more decent path. That's why I would vote for him if Michigan were allowed to have an election.
But the question I keep hearing is... 'can he win? Can he win in November?' In the distance we hear the siren of the death train called the Straight Talk Express. We know it's possible to hear the words "President McCain" on January 20th. We know there are still many Americans who will never vote for a black man. Hillary knows it, too. She's counting on it.
Pennsylvania, the state that gave birth to this great country, has a chance to set things right. It has not had a moment to shine like this since 1787 when our Constitution was written there. In that Constitution, they wrote that a black man or woman was only "three fifths" human. On Tuesday, the good people of Pennsylvania have a chance for redemption. "
Yours, Michael Moore
(thanks to Stefan Abeysekera)

(Note: I agree with Moore in principle here. Any Democrat is better than any Republican. I'll take Clinton over McCain but I would prefer a double ticket of Obama-Hillary, with a side order of Kucinich (as spiritual advisor.) Really, choosing between Democrats in this abusive political environment is like asking someone crawling out of the desert dying of thirst if they prefer bottled mineral water or a drink out of the horse trough. Asking WC Fields if he considers the glass half-full or half-empty. The answer in both cases is just simply: 'Just fill 'er up!' As the Great Bard of Shaking Lard once said:

"Sixty eight percent of Republicans don't believe in evolution. On the other hand, only five percent of monkeys believe in Republicans." Stephen Colbert.)



Two Irishmen walk into a pet shop in Dingle, they walk over to the bird section and Gerry says to Paddy,
'Dat's dem.'
The owner comes over and asks if he can help them.
'Yeah, we'll take four of dem dere little budgies in dat cage up dere,' says Gerry.
The owner puts the budgies in a cardboard box. Paddy and Gerry pay for the birds, leave the shop and get into Gerry's truck to drive to the top of the Connor Pass.
At the Connor Pass, Gerry looks down at the 1000 foot drop and says,
'Dis looks like a grand place.'
He takes two birds out of the box, puts one on each shoulder and jumps off the cliff. Paddy watches as the budgies fly off and Gerry falls all the way to the bottom, killing himself stone dead. Looking down at the remains of his best pal, Paddy shakes his head and says,
'Fook dat. Dis budgie jumping is too fook'n dangerous for me!'


Moment's later; Seamus arrives up at Connor Pass. He's been to the pet shop too and walks up to the edge of the cliff carrying another cardboard box in one hand and a shotgun in the other.
'Hi, Paddy, watch dis,' Seamus says.
He takes a parrot from the box and lets him fly free. He then throws himself over the edge of the cliff with the gun. Paddy watches as half way down, Seamus takes the gun and shoots the parrot. Seamus continues to plummet down and down until he hits the bottom and breaks every bone in his body. Paddy shakes his head and says,
'And I'm never trying dat parrotshooting either!'


Paddy is just getting over the shock of losing two friends when Sean appears. He's also been to the pet shop and is carrying a cardboard box out of which he pulls a chicken. Sean then takes the chicken by its legs and hurls himself off the cliff and disappears down and down until he hits a rock and breaks his spine. Once more Paddy shakes his head.
'Fook dat, lads. First dere was Gerry with his budgie jumping, den Seamus parrotshooting... And now Sean and his fook'n hengliding!'
(thanks to Alex Smith)



A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. - George Bernard Shaw
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. -
James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)
I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. -
Winston Churchill
I don't make jokes I just watch the government and report the facts. -
Will Rogers
Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! -
Pericles (430 BC)
The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. -
Mark Twain
(thanks to Dai Woosnam)




Once you get your mis-en-place in place, this dish cooks itself. Simple and brilliant.

Preparation time: overnight

Cooking time: 1 to 2 hours

1 x 1.5kg free-range chicken
50ml/2fl oz olive oil
1 heaped tsp arrowroot or cornflour salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Marinade:
1 x 750ml bottle red wine

1 barfridge-sized bottle good cognac
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into large sticks
1 small leek, chopped into 1cm thick slices
1 small onion, peeled, halved and cut into 3mm/1/8in slices
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 fresh sage leaf, tied together)

For the Garnish (optional):
100g/4oz smoked bacon, cut into long strips, blanched and refreshed
40 tiny onions or small shallots, cooked
150g/5oz button mushrooms

1. Cut the chicken into 12 pieces: 2 wings, the 2 breasts each cut in half; the 2 legs cut into drumsticks, thighs and lower part of the backbone (the latter holds delicious meat. The remainder of the chicken carcass can be used for a stock or soup).
2. Pour the wine into a pan, and boil for 2 minutes. Cool a little. Mix the marinade vegetables, garlic, bouquet garni and chicken pieces in a large bowl, then pour over the lukewarm wine. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate for 12 hours in the fridge.
3. Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 2. Drain the chicken pieces, vegetables and herbs in a colander over a bowl for about 30 minutes, then pat dry in a cloth. Separate the vegetables from the chicken pieces. Pick out the garlic cloves and the bouquet garni.
4. Sear the chicken pieces in a oil over strong heat in the cast-iron saucepan, colouring both sides, for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and keep warm.
5. In the same pan, sweat and lightly colour the vegetables (but not the garlic) in the chicken fat in the pan, for about 5 minutes. Spoon out and reserve the fat, then return the chicken to the pan with the vegetables. Add the cognac and flame until it burns out. Add the marinating wine, bouquet garni and garlic, and add a little water to cover, if necessary. Bring to the boil, skim and cover with a lid. Cook in the oven for 45-60 minutes. Check that the chicken is cooked.
6. Skim off and discard most of the fat. Dilute the arrowroot or cornflour with 2 tbsp/30ml/1fl oz of water and mix it into the chicken juices. Bring to the boil so that it binds the juices. Taste and correct the seasoning.
7. Re-heat the bacon strips and onions, pan-frying in a little reserved chicken fat to caramelize. Pan-fry the mushrooms, as well, in the chicken fat for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the bacon, onions and mushrooms with the chicken. Serve in the cast-iron dish.

Serves 4 (a fusion of recipes from Raymond Blanc and Julia Child.)



Eli Whitney,
With hammer and tin,
One night, invented
The Cotton Gin.
Inspired, he said,
By barnyard events,
When a Tomcat tried to pull
A chicken through a fence.

Now, a Cotton Gin's
Just a big old box,
With a wire screen
And some wire hooks.
In one end, a Cotton Boll,
Gets pulled and cleaned,
And out from t'other,
Comes a pair of your old Blue Jeans.

Now, some folks claim
Whitney stole that thing,
From his landlady, by the name of
Catherine Green.
She gave him the Idea,
With a hairbrush and a pin.
But women weren't allowed
To have patents way back then.

Historians believe
That the Cotton Gin
Was the Key to the whole
Damn Slave System.
Now, if we could change time,
And maybe just go back,
To rescue that chicken
From that old Tomcat,

And hide Mrs Green's brush
Under the floor,
We might have prevented
The Civil War.
And Abraham Lincoln
Wouldn't have been shot,
The Battle of Gettysburg,
Might not have been fought.

No Slavery,
Or Plantations,
No Ku Klux Klan,
Or Segregation,

And Old Eli Whitney,
With his hammer and tin,
Might of just had to settle
For inventing The Garbage Bin.

~ Joe Dolce ~
The Leadbelly Ballad Novel




Little Johnnie

Little Johnnie's neighbour had a baby.
Unfortunately, the baby was born without ears.
When mother and new baby came home from the hospital, Johnnie's family was invited over to see the baby.
Before they left their house, Little Johnnie's dad had a talk with him and explained that the baby had no ears.
His dad also told him that if he so much mentioned anything about the baby's missing ears or even said the word ears, he would get the smacking of his life when they came back home.
Little Johnnie told his dad he understood completely.
When Johnnie looked in the crib he said, "What a beautiful baby."
The mother said, "Why, thank you, Little Johnnie. "
Johnnie said, "He has beautiful little feet and beautiful little hands, a cute little nose and really beautiful eyes. Can he see?"
"Yes", the mother replied, "we are so thankful; the Doctor said he will have 20/20 vision."
"That's great", said Little Johnnie, "coz he'd be fucked if he needed glasses".
(thanks to Marcus Whitaker)