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Friday December 8th, 2006

A Load of Mule Manure

"Corn is always corn even though some people mistake it for grass."
Van Gogh


Dear folks,

The newsletter will be on a break next week while I am recording my new album, as there won't be time, with ten hour work days, to put together anything coherent for you. But I promise to invest the magic into the recording! It also means that the next newsletter you get will be the Gala Christmas Issue, on Dec 22nd. Keep those cards and letters coming!

I've been thinking about Evolution lately.

I've decided that Darwinism is actually another form of religion that will one day be up there on the dusty shelf alongside the Greek and Roman Pantheon, Christianity, and Islam. (One day, of course in the DISTANT future - not in my lifetime, of course, which may not be that long either, if some of my more fanatical muslim brothers read my theories. Fatwa-city for Giuseppi.)

Evolution as Religion. Why? Because it requires blind faith. Because evolution, like religion, is so full of holes you could drain pasta in it.

For instance, Mankind (exsqueeze me, Womenkind, I'm talking 'historically' here for a minute) - Mankind is supposed to be at the top of the Evolutionary Ladder.

Does anyone ever think about what this actually means?

If evolution is a ladder, is it up against something or lying flat? If it's up against something, what is it up against? If it's lying flat, which way is REALLY the top? How do we know it was put the right way up? And if it WAS once lying flat, and is NOW up against something, how did whomever or whatever know which end went up and which end stayed on the ground (whatever and wherever the 'Ground' is.) In other words, is the top marked 'Top'? This Way Up? (Most ladders can go either way, unless it's a painter's ladder, in which case: what exactly needs painting?) And why would we need an evolutionary ladder anyway? Ladders are for getting up somewhere high - to fix something. Is something broken or leaking? (Besides the theory?)

And that's only the beginning. If Man is at the top of the Evolutionary Ladder, does that mean: OF ALL LIVING THINGS? Or just our species line. In other words, is Man at the top of the evolutionary chain . . . of the Insect World? (See what I mean by holes. Pass the pasta.)

I suppose one could argue that life originated in the sea and then came out upon the land. Ok, so does that mean that the slow class stayed in the sea, and the smart ones came out? Or did the smart ones stay in the sea and the stupid ones come out? And what about the other idea that Man came down from the trees? If Man was already crawling on the ground (having come out of the sea), why did he go up into the trees in the first place? Was it smarter to go up in the trees? And if so, then why did he come down? On the other hand, if it was smarter to be on the ground, then wouldn't it have been a stupid move to go up the trees, just to have to come back down again? (See what I meant by maybe the smart ones stayed in the sea?)

Anyway, I've been thinking these kind of thoughts lately so I thought I'd share them with you. However, I wouldn't lose any sleep over any of this.

This week's 'Sounds Like Music to Me' quotes are supplied by my brother Frank. (A good collection too!)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 1
John Lennon was once asked in an interview 'Is Ringo the best drummer in the world?' John Lennon replied 'Ringo isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles'


Hey Joe,
RE: Excellence and/or Greatness
Your rave about excellence and greatness made me think of Bob Dylan... That maybe he sometimes sacrificed excellence for greatness in the presentation of his music... Eddie C.

(Note: Dylan is a very interesting example. In fact, you were right - about the early Dylan. But now, it appears to be reversed.)

Dear Joe,
I agree with your view that "Excellence" sometimes has to be sacrificed for "Greatness".
Ancient Greek, Chinese and other philosophers have argued that imperfection is divine, whereas the criteria for "excellence" in any generation often amounts to little more than restrictive red-tape. Genius, for example in the works of Blake or Kafka, transcends, flies beyond, or crashes through, such limitations. :-) Louisa J-K

RE: Bach and Beethoven
[You wrote] . . ." Beethoven once said, 'Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth.' . . . One of the primary differences between Beethoven and Bach. Bach was an extraordinarily integrated person as well as composer."

Aside from the primary difference that Bach wrote music which Beethoven emulated, not the other way around. And Bach's music conveys a timeless essence which Beethoven's strives for, and sometimes reaches. . . . but not as often or as consistently as does Bach's. IMHO WaylandN

Hey Joe,
Re: Lightbulb Jokes
How bout a new one?:
"How many (insert intended victim's name)'s does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Who needs a lightbulb, anyway? Let's leave the lightbulb and sit in the dark for a while, baby..." Gina R.

(Note: While we're sitting here in the dark, Gina, here's one for all of us:
" How many light bulb joke tellers does it take to change a light bulb?
100: One to change it & 99 to make stupid jokes about it.")

RE: Louis Prima,
You catcha me with my pants down once again. I viewed last night con mia moglie the dvd, "Louis Prima The Wildest!" It is benissimo!! I was fascinated throughout. The only minus point is it seemed sanatized somewhat as it lacks detail on his breakup with Keely, his drinking etc. Louis' wife Gia is trying to get John Travolta to play Louis in a Hollywood film of his life. . . Tuo cugino, Giuseppe D.

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 2
If life was fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead. - Johnny Carson


Massive Ice Shelf 'May Collapse without Warning'
The Ross Ice Shelf, a massive piece of ice the size of France, could break off without warning causing a dramatic rise in sea levels, warn New Zealand scientists working in Antarctica. . . In January, British Antarctic Survey researchers predicted that its collapse would make sea levels rise by at least 5m, with other estimates predicting a rise of up to 17m. (article)


Sounds Like Music to Me No. 3
I'd love to see Christ come back to crush the spirit of hate and make men put down their guns. I'd also like just one more hit single. -Tiny Tim


Gaia Scientist Lovelock Predicts Planetary Wipeout
by Jeremy Lovell

 LONDON - The earth has a fever that could boost temperatures by 8 degrees Celsius making large parts of the surface uninhabitable and threatening billions of peoples' lives, a controversial climate scientist said on Tuesday.

James Lovelock, who angered climate scientists with his Gaia theory of a living planet and then alienated environmentalists by backing nuclear power, said a traumatized earth might only be able to support less than a tenth of it's 6 billion people.

"We are not all doomed. An awful lot of people will die, but I don't see the species dying out," he told a news conference. "A hot earth couldn't support much over 500 million." (article)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 4
He stole my music but he gave me my name. (on Mick Jagger)- Muddy Waters


Search for Crops That Can Survive Global Warming
By David Adam
The Guardian UK

An unprecedented effort to protect the world's food supplies from the ravages of climate change will be launched today by an international consortium of scientists. The move marks a growing recognition that serious changes in weather patterns are inevitable over the coming decades, and that society must begin to adapt. (article)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 5
You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly. -Hank Williams


Elizabeth de la Vega: Bringing Bush to Court
By Tom Engelhardt

 "I'd like to draft an indictment of President Bush and his senior aides, and present the case for prewar intelligence fraud to a grand jury, just as if it were an actual case of mine, using the evidence we already have in the public record. That's the book I'd like to do."

With those three decades of publishing experience, I never doubted that this was an idea whose time should come - and now it has. De la Vega has drawn up that indictment - a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add - convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.

I. The Indictment: United States v. George W. Bush et al.
By Elizabeth de la Vega

Assistant United States Attorney: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. We're here today in the case of United States v. George W. Bush et al. In addition to President Bush, the defendants are Vice President Richard B. Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice - who's now the Secretary of State, of course - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It's a one-count proposed indictment: Conspiracy to Defraud the United States in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. I'll explain the law that applies to the case this afternoon, but I'm going to hand out the indictment now, so you'll have some context for that explanation. Take as long as you need to read it, and then feel free to take your lunch break, but please leave your copy of the indictment with the foreperson. We'll meet back at one o'clock. (Full Indictment

II. The Grand Jury Testimony: United States v. George W. Bush et al.

Testimony of FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell.
 Assistant U.S. Attorney: Good morning everyone. We're back here in the case of United States v. George W. Bush et al. Let's start by looking at Exhibit 1 in your packets. It's a chart that lists the main points we're going to cover in the grand jury.

Ex. 1 - Evolution of the Fraud
* Bush, Cheney, et al. were predisposed to invade Iraq even before they were elected.
* They secretly began to plan the invasion immediately after September 11. Bush requested an Iraq war plan in November 2001 and began escalating military activity.
* They enlisted biased political appointees to find evidence to justify a war beginning in October 2001.
* They began, without a reasonable basis, to imply that Iraq was linked to the September 11 attacks and posed an urgent threat in the fall of 2001.
* They began a massive fraud campaign in September 2002 to overcome weak public support for an invasion and manipulate Congress into passing an authorization allowing the President to use force against Iraq.
* They invaded Iraq in March 2003, knowing that their stated grounds for war were false, fraudulent, and without reasonable basis. (Grand Jury Testimony)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 6
Learning music by reading is like making love by mail. - Pavarotti

On Calling Bullshit
by Dan Froomkin

 Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy. (article)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 7
I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig. - Alfred Hitchcock


Message To West Point
by Bill Moyers

 This is an excerpt from the Sol Feinstone Lecture on The Meaning of Freedom delivered by Bill Moyers at the United States Military Academy on November 15, 2006.

Many of you will be heading for Iraq. I have never been a soldier myself, never been tested under fire, never faced hard choices between duty and feeling, or duty and conscience, under deadly circumstances. I will never know if I have the courage to be shot at, or to shoot back, or the discipline to do my duty knowing the people who dispatched me to kill-or be killed-had no idea of the moral abyss into which they were plunging me.

I have tried to learn about war from those who know it best: veterans, the real experts. But they have been such reluctant reporters of the experience. My father-in-law, Joe Davidson, was 37 years old with two young daughters when war came in 1941; he enlisted and served in the Pacific but I never succeeded in getting him to describe what it was like to be in harm's way. My uncle came home from the Pacific after his ship had been sunk, taking many friends down with it, and he would look away and change the subject when I asked him about it. One of my dearest friends, who died this year at 90, returned from combat in Europe as if he had taken a vow of silence about the dark and terrifying things that came home with him, uninvited. (speech)

Sounds Like Music to Me No. 8
Don't play what's there, play what's not there. - Miles Davis



(This isn't exactly a review but I couldn't think of where else to put it.)

Most people know that the original lyrics that Paul McCartney wrote for 'Yesterday' went like this:

"Scrambled Eggs,
Oh my baby,
How I love your legs..."

McCartney later rewrote the lyrics and the song became, 'Yesterday'.

Well, I got an email alerting me to the fact that someone out there misunderstood the words to my song 'Shaddap You Face,' and thought I was saying:

"Eggs and nuts are bad."

Instead of:

"Its-a not so bad.'

(Note: Actually, I kind of like it that way:

'Eggs and Nuts are Bad, hey
Worst I ever had,
Ah, Throw-up Your Face!"

(Or, maybe I should have tried a second draft, like Paul:)


"Yester-a day, hey,
All-a my trouble-a, hey,
Seem-a so far away, hey
Now I need-a place, hey,
Just-a to hide a way, hey
Oh, I believe-a,
In-a. . . . Yester-a day!"

(Hmmmm . . . Needs some work.)

Check out a collection of other Misunderstood Pop Song Lyrics: (site)


Sounds Like Music to Me No 9.
Theirs [The Beatles] is a happy, cocky, belligerently resourceless brand of harmonic primitivism... In the Liverpudlian repertoire, the indulgent amateurishness of the musical material, though closely rivalled by the indifference of the performing style, is actually surpassed only by the ineptitude of the studio production method. ('Strawberry Fields' suggests a chance encounter at a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band) - Glenn Gould

(Note: Glenn, Glenn, Love ya playing . . . but sometimes you're a mumbling idiot.)




Letter from Film Maker David Bradbury

Next May/June will see Australia host the largest military exercises we've ever had in peacetime. Talisman Sabre 07.

Twelve thousand Australian soldiers and nearly l4,000 US troops and sailors will take place in bombarding our shores and fragile landscape, storming our beaches, gunning down 'terrorists' in the newly built urban guerrilla warfare training centre, testing their latest laser guided missiles and 'smart' bombs in some of the most pristine wilderness I've ever seen on this planet - and in 30years of making films, I've seen a lot of this planet.
Idyllic Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton will cop it all - live aerial bombing, ship to shore naval firings, underwater depth charges exploded in areas where turtles and dugong breed, nuclear subs using high level sonar frequency which zaps the hearing of sea life and mammals, nuclear aircraft carriers inside the so-called Great Barrier Reef marine national park (!), land based artillery firings blasting the hell out of areas where the most amazing biodiversity in Australia is to be found.
(Shoalwater Bay covers 740,000 hectacres and is almost unique in our climatic landscape because it is a cross over point for tropical, sub tropical and temperate zones giving rise to an amazing variety of many species of flora and wildlife, birds, sea creatures etc).
Anyone who has seen Al Gore's film has to ask why are we allowing such madness to take place and wanton misuse of resources to further add to the huge level of CO2 put up into the atmosphere in exercises such as these at a time when we all should be combining forces in the War for Our Survival.
These live munitions actions at Shoalwater Bay will run simultaneously with US bombing runs by Stealth, B1 and B52 bombers (just one B52 bomber carries 30 tonnes of bombs -needs three semitrailers to load it up with its bomb load...) from Guam to drop their live payload from 5 kilometres high on Delamare bombing range near Katherine NT and live fire exercises involving many Abrams tanks rumbling across the landscape at Bradshaw tank range (surrounded by Bradshaw national park south of Darwin, target practising on country against the wishes of the senior Aboriginal elders, custodians of that country...). - (story)

(thanks to Karen Hanna)


Sounds Like Music to Me No. 10
Get up from that piano. You hurtin' its feelings. -Jelly Roll Morton



Here are some of the more interesting band names I have run into lately:

1. Jehovah's Waitresses
2. The Swolly Wolly Hula Bula Humble Bumble Band
3. Bill Murray's Prostate
4. Dick Delicious and the Tasty Testicles
5. Dumpy's Rusty Nuts
6. Enuff Znuff
7. The Far Out Son Of Lung
8. The Flopping Body Bags


Sounds Like Music to Me No. 11
I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch. - George Burns


Irish Vasectomy

After having their 11th child, an Irish couple decided that was enough, as they could not afford a larger bed.  So the husband went to his doctor and told him that he and his wife didn't want to have any more children. 

The doctor told him there was a procedure called a vasectomy that would fix the problem but it was expensive.  A less costly alternative was to go home, get a firework, light it, put it in a beer can, then hold the can up to his ear and count to 10.

The husband said to the doctor,
"B'Jayzus, I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I don't  see how putting a firework in a beer can next to my ear  is going to help me." 

"Trust me, it will do the job", said the doctor. 

So the man went home, lit a banger and put it in a beer can.  He held the can up to his ear and began to count: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5," at which point he paused, placed the beer can between his legs so he could continue counting on his other hand. 

(This procedure also works for many New Zealanders and politicians, in general.)
(thanks to Michael Leone)


Sounds Like Music to Me No. 12
Never hate a song that's sold a half million copies. - Irving Berlin



Spaghettini with Green Beans and Tomatoes


white wine
250 gms spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh, if you prefer)
1 red onion
1 anchovy
250 gms fresh tender green beans
red chili
1 Italian pork and fennel sausage, skin removed (omit for vegetarians)
olive oil
parmesean cheese, finely grated
salt & pepper

FInely chop the onion and cook until opaque in some olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and tomatoes and the white wine and bring to a boil until the alcohol evaporates -about a minute.. Add the green beans, some salt and pepper, stir thoroughly, cover and reduce to a low simmer. Slow cook for about an hour until beans are very tender. Set aside.

In a separate pan, heat some olive oil. Mash up one whole anchovy into the oil until it dissolves. Add the Italian sausage and break up into bits. Cook until browned. Add the garlic and chili and cook for a minute. Add some more white wine and bring to a boil for a minute. Add the beans and tomatoes, with salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat, cover and continue to simmer while you prepare the pasta.

In a pot of rapidly boiling water, cook some spaghetti until al dente. Drain (in a good firm Evolutionary Theory or Religion) and toss with butter.

Add the al dente spaghetti to the pan with the green beans and tomatoes and stir until heated throughout. Serve on heated plates with parmesean cheese.



Shoveling Snow With Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
~ Billy Collins ~  
(Picnic, Lightning)







What happens if you play blues music backwards?
Your wife returns to you, your dog comes back to life, and you get out of prison.