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Friday February 20th, 2009

Impedimentum Memoriae

"Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue,
 that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice."
        Samuel Johnson


Hi folks,

“ . . . a hunka hunka burnin’  love. . . ’  
The fat lady is singing . . . but Elvis is in the building! It’s been a cool week in Melbourne which has enabled firefighters to work overtime in fairly pleasant conditions building containment lines to protect our water reservoirs (no one likes bushfire-flavoured water) and around the perimeters of the most dangerous blazes. The weather is predicted to be intense again next week so let’s hope we’ve seen the last of tragedy.  According to my real-time fire map, there are a massive 341 fire trucks at the Healesville, Kilmore - Murrundindi Sth fire! Melbourne Water fire fighters together with crews from the Tasmanian, South Australian, New South Wales, New Zealand and United States Fire Services are continuing to strengthen control lines.

I was part of an exciting gathering at the St Kilda Town Hall last Monday, a bushfire appeal and benefit for the Melbourne Pen Writer’s Group, sharing the stage with guitarist Slava Grigoryan and his brother, writer Arnold Zable, Simon Palomares (reading Garcia Lorca in the original Spanish!), Ernie Gruner, Anthea Sidiropoulos, Kutcha Edwards, Richard Piper, Iraqi playwright, Majid Shokor and Warren Wills.

Before I went on, someone said to me, ‘break a leg.’ No Italian would ever say that to another Italian. To paraphrase General George Patton, ‘ the object is not to break a leg, but to make the other poor bastard break-a his-a leg.’  The Italians traditionally say,  ‘In bocca al lupo!’ (Into the mouth of the Wolf!) And the Romans have their own peculiar good luck wish:  ‘En culo alla balena . .’  (Get yourself up in that Whale's Ass . . . .)  to which you are supposed to respond: ' . . . sperando che non scoreggi.' ( . . . and hope that it doesn't fart!)

Learning from the Things You Dislike
When Polish Marian mystic Catholic Saint, Maximillian Kolbe, was asked why he was so interested in studying and identifying the positive elements of the Nazi movement, when they were killing Catholic priests, said:  ‘Always study a movement that you are opposed to and absorb, as quickly as you can, the GOOD things about that movement into your own. That is the most effective way to understand, resist and overcome it, without bitterness.”  

Here’s a poem by African-American poet, Lewis Alexander, that I set to music thirty-three years ago.


I return the bitterness,
That you gave to me,
When I wanted loveliness
Tantalant and free.

I return the bitterness,
It is washed in tears.
Now it is a loveliness,
Garnished through the years.

I return it loveliness,
I have made it so,
For I wore the bitterness,
From it long ago.


Benefits and concerts for the survivors of the fires are happening here and there in Victoria so support them whenever you can. Here’s the next one I am involved with.



Eltham, Vic.
3:00 pm
Bookings and Information:  (03) 9439 7712
Tickets: $25 & Concessions $20

Those in the Victoria area, please help our concert by downloading our .pdf poster, printing up a few and passing them around (2.7 MB file):

Help to  Plant New Trees in the Affected Areas
In the past, you have demonstrated your enthusiasm for keeping our planet green by planting a tree through GlobalGiving. Thank you.
Today, forests in Australia – and the wildlife that inhabit them – are in urgent need of your help. Not are the recent bushfires in Australia take a human toll – killing over 181 people, injuring 500, and leaving 5,000 homeless – they have destroyed over 850 square miles of land, ecosystems and natural habitats.
Give today to plant new trees in the affected areas, renewing natural resources and providing homes for animals.  Your donation will help rebuild and rehabilitate key wildlife refuges and corridors destroyed in this horrific natural disaster.
(thanks to wyldflower)

Hey, even the Melbourne Hustler Club is having a Bushfire Appeal.  Good on ‘em. But I wonder if a portion of every lap dance goes to the fund?
“ Melbourne Hustler Club will be holding a fund raiser for the victims of the recent bush fires in Victoria
We will be having celebrity special guests, lingerie parades and an auction to help raise money for this worthy cause.
Don't forget $2 steak night this Tuesday!! Don’t forget that we have our Miss Nude Competition this Wednesday as well – so come on down!”


I would be sad if I didn't get your letter! You make me smile, think, and a small escape from this desk chair for a few moments. Safety and prayers for all in OZ.

Joe Dolce,
Please delete me from your email list. I find your attitude harmful and offensive. There are many people in both Israel & Palestine who want peace and who are doing something active to achieve it by banding together - and while both sides are active, it's interesting to note that all the initiatives I've seen have come from Israelis.
If you really want peace, rather than just bagging Israel have a look at or go to the blog of peace man & hope man - an Israeli and a Palestinian trying to bring some connection and sanity into this out of control madness. Peace will not come until Hamas stops it's onslaught.  Just because their rockets haven't killed as many Israelis doesn't exonerate them.  Their intention is to kill. I find your bias sad and offensive to all those who genuinely pray for peace. L.I.

This week, I took part in the Melbourne Pen Benefit and Bush Fire Appeal Concert where I sang one of my new songs, ‘Yesh Od Zman (Omm el Dunia)’, in Hebrew, with the Arabic section read aloud by Majid Shokor, an Iraqi playwright, who escaped from Iraq in 2002. In writing the song, I worked closely with Israeli translator, Ruth Blum, on the Hebrew language sections, and also Carol and Rose Hasna, from Lebanon, on the Arabic. Majid Shokor is currently in the process of making a film about the little-known music of the Iraqi Jews and the influence it had on him growing up in Iraq. The only ‘bagging’ of Israel discernable was a bag of fresh Glick boiled bagels I got down the road, which I shared with Henry Greener, the host of  The Shtick, on Channel 31, whose theme is ‘connecting the jewish community with passion, punch and chutzpah.’ My kind of guy.)

Hi Joe,
Leonard [Cohen] paid tribute to Paul [Kelly] in his final Australian concert....calling him an "Australian National Treasure" I think were his words...... Sara

Good on him, Sara! Australia has many official National Treasures including Phar Lap’s hide, Bradman’s bats, the Vice-Regal’s Rolls Royce, the Thompson car, the Endeavour journal, Cuc Lam’s suitcase and the CSIRAC computer. Paul’s in good company  - but, graciousness aside, he might prefer, however, if Len would just learn one of his songs.)

hiya joe,
re: paul kelly
--ain't that the way it goes so often in the arts?  for some reason, people from somewhere else are so frequently perceived to be more significant than an artist on her or his own home ground.   if there were a list of artists who had to leave home in order to get their art taken seriously, it would be a very long one!  that expression "the grass is always greener" don't come from nowhere, do it?   ahh--human nature...
re: heavenly creatures--what a good film that is, eh?  i kind of feel as if the prizes peter jackson won for "lord of the rings" films are really for "heavenly creatures".   fun though the "rings" films are, the use of fantastical film making to portray a world which is already fantastical is a lot less of a challenge that using that kind of filmmaking to portray the inner workings of a person's mind in the context of a true story, which is what jackson did so seamlessly and beautifully in "creatures".
Joan Besen

Hi Joe & guys...
My brain doesn't normally work too well on night shift...  and I've got 2 to go after tonight..    night shift's, not brains.....
I know some of you, but not all,  have read my poem Ash Wednesday many years ago, which raised a bit for the victims...  I've included a copy as well as the new one...  Ash Wednesday appeared in the Herald Sun, People Magazine and many others and was published by the Uniting Church as a poster in 83 (I was told at the time that it raised $20,000)...  'Australia All Over, John Laws and Derryn Hinch have read out my poems on air and other ABC shows like John Reid's Poets Corner published many ..
This time I wanted to write something that doesn't end, but that would have an impact and an effect... While the nerve endings are raw.... For the ones we don't know about...  I got onto most of my mates and volunteered as a medic but wasn't called till Friday, the day before I came back up here to work in Qld..  One of our buddy's (Bill Putt) lost a bit, but kept his valuable life....  And so far everyone else I know and love is/are safe.... I hope everyone you know and love is OK..
Big Hug to you all..
Stay safe and warm...  (well not too warm)
Bill Dettmer

(Note: Last week I included the song lyrics I wrote about the Black Christmas Fires, of 2001, so this week , to complete the Big Three, I’ve put both of Bill’s fine poems down at the bottom in the poetry section.)

Obama Should Be Aware of the Bush Family Tentacles Undermining His Plans
By Russ Baker

Bush may be gone, but his influence -- and the forces that put him in office -- aren't.

As George W. Bush leaves office and Barack Obama takes over, we are in danger of missing the opportunity for change our new president has promised -- unless we come to grips with what the great historian and Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin called our "hidden history," not just of the past eight years but of the past half-century and more.
President Obama will face a staggering array of challenges, most, if not all, of which stem from the policies of Bush. But efforts at reform will fall short if we fail to probe and confront the powerful forces that wanted this disastrous administration in the White House in the first place -- and that remain ready and able to maintain their influence behind the scenes today.
Like most people, I took the failings of George W. Bush at face value: an inattentive, poorly prepared man full of hubris, who committed colossal blunders as a result. Then I spent five years researching my new book, Family of Secrets and came to see that the origins go much deeper. This backstory is getting almost no attention in the talking-heads debate over the Bush legacy. Yet it will continue to play, affecting our country and our lives, long after Bush leaves office.
A more profound explanation for the rise of George W. Bush came as I studied the concerted effort  to convince the public that he was  independent of, and often in disagreement with, his father. The reason for this, it turned out, was that exactly the opposite was true. W. may have been bumptious where his father was discreet, but in fact the son hewed closely to a playbook that guided his father and even his grandfather.
Over much of the last century, the Bushes have been serving the aims of a very narrow segment from within America's wealthiest interests and families -- typically through involvement in the most anti-New Deal investment banking circles, in the creation of a civilian intelligence service after World War II, and in some of that service's most secretive and still-unacknowledged operations. (article)
(thanks to Stevanne)

How the Battle with Victoria's Bushfires was Fought and Lost

Cameron Stewart and Corrie Perkin
The Australian

BRUCE Esplin woke at 6am last Saturday with a gnawing feeling in his gut. Victoria's Emergency Services Commissioner knew the odds were not good for the 3582 firefighters and emergency workers who had been placed like toy soldiers across the breadth of his state.
"We were about to face weather beyond our experience, and I just had this feeling of dread," Esplin says.
Across town, Ewan Waller, the Government's chief fire officer, was also on edge. By 7.30am he was already sitting in the Integrated Emergency Co-ordination Centre in central Melbourne, otherwise known as the "war room", where he would spend the next 15 hours alongside chief Country Fire Authority officer Russell Rees. These two men would jointly manage the defence of Victoria against the worst weather forecast in memory.
Barely 60km to the north, thousands of families scattered across the hillside regions of Kinglake, St Andrews and Marysville were waking up to a lazy Saturday. Many of these were tree changers: city commuters who had embraced the lush forested hills for both lifestyle and financial reasons.
They were mostly young families with young kids, and with the temperature tipped to hit 44C with strong, hot wind gusts, it was cooler to stay in their hillside homes than travel.
In Marysville, 20-year-old Lucie O'Meara spent the morning making pancakes for her husband, Luke, and their seven-month-old daughter, Charlotte. She then sat down at her computer and wrote on her Facebook site: "I am so enjoying the view from my desk, Marysville is beautiful." (full article),25197,25051344-5018722,00.html

What I’m Reading This Week
The Oxford Book of English Verse
by Henry Kendall
12 Moons, by Mary Oliver
The Father, by Sharon Olds
Book of Longing, by Leonard Cohen
Collected Poems, by C.P. Cavafy

What I’m Watching This Week
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Leonard Cohen.
Documentary on the poetry years in late 60s Montreal before Cohen became a songwriter.
Burn After Reading, by the Coen Bros, with Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and George Clooney. Fantastic Pink Panther-like comedy-thriller.
Children of the Silk Road,  with Chow Yun-Fat, Radha Mitchell, and David Wenham. Based on the true story of how a young Englishman, George Hogg came to lead sixty orphaned boys on an extraordinary journey of almost a thousand perilous miles across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to safety on the edge of the Mongolian desert during the invasion of China by the Japanese.
I’ve Never Forgotten You. Documentary on the life of holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal.

Decoy molecules kill cancer cells: study
French specialists on Sunday unveiled a new weapon against cancer - a molecular "decoy" that mimicks DNA damage and prompts cancerous cells to kill themselves. The research, published in a US journal, Clinical Cancer Research, opens up fresh avenues for attacking tumours that are resistant to conventional therapy, they said.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy aim at inflicting sufficient damage to a cancer cell to unleash a process of programmed cell death, also called apoptosis.
But sometimes the onslaught does not cause enough damage to activate the apoptosis trigger, and surviving cancer cells are able to repair themselves.
A team led by Marie Dutreix of the Curie Institute in Paris, developed tiny fragments of DNA that mimic the two broken ends of the double-helix genetic code.
The trick prompts these holdout cells into believing they are far more damaged than they really are, and commit suicide. (article)

What was the #1 song  in the USA  . . .
- on  the day you were born?
 - the day you graduated from high school?
 - the day you were married?
 - the day your child was born?

On the day I screamed into existence, the Number One song in the States was  "Near You", by Francis Craig. When my partner, Lin, was reincarnated from the 13th Dali Lama, it was "You Always Hurt the One You Love," by The Mills Brothers. On our first date (June 23, 1980), they were playing,  "Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)" by Paul McCartney! We need a list like this in Australia!

Look up and listen to Billboard's #1 song on a specific date in history.
(thanks to Bill Lempke)


Dolce Irish Creme Syrup

Italians in Ireland
Dr Lucio Alberto Savoia, the Italian ambassador to Ireland, says Ireland's love affair with Italy can be explained by our shared artistic attitude and similar temperaments. The Irish are the Mediterranean people of the north, he says, and we, like the Italians, "use language to express the soul."


Francesca's Coffee & Marsala Semifreddo

2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 3/4 cups thickened cream, whipped
1 shot of espresso coffee
1/4 cup Monichino Marsala

1. Grease a 6cm-deep, 19cm x 9cm (base) loaf pan. Line with baking paper, allowing a 5cm overhang on both long ends.
 2. Place eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over low heat (see note). Whisk for 4 to 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Whisk for 4 to 5 minutes or until cool.
 3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Gently fold in cream, espresso coffee and Monichino Marsala. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Cover and freeze overnight or until firm.
 4. Stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate.
Note: Make sure bowl doesn't touch the water. Water must not boil, as too much heat can cause egg mixture to curdle.
Serve with: Strawberries marinated in Monichino Marsala.
(thanks to Francesca)


The tail end of the news I heard, before I went to bed,
Said 40 houses had been lost; and 17 were dead.
We'd listened in for hours, since we'd heard the first report
Of some who'd safely raced away, how sadly, some were caught.
From Anglesea to Gisborne, from Belgrave down to Lorne,
Came stories of heroic deeds and pictures, wildly drawn.
Through the night as many slept, so safe within their beds
So many more lay terrified, so many prayers were said.
Then smoke came over Melbourne bringing ash to settle down
Ash from many shattered dreams, the last remains of towns.
Some spent the night on beaches, others slept in schools.
Some cried, “this is the work of god", but no, the work of fools.
And still the fire raged across two parched, drought stricken states.
A family died together. A man died with his mates.
The morning came, no fanfare, no birds around to sing.
Warm, early rays of sunlight showed the hell that fire brings.
The "first editions" soon appeared with horror all the more.
The number of the dead had risen now to thirty-four.
On roads the volunteers collapsed, exhausted by the strain
Asleep where they had fallen, soon to rise and fight again.
But all throughout Australia, no-one really had to ask
With the cry of "she'll be right" the people got down to the task.
Then, as the days went past, the number dead, the houses lost
Would rise and rise again till no-one really knew the cost.
Though no-one would forget, the scars remain for all to see
From the sixteenth day of  February, Nineteen Eighty Three.

~ W. J. Dettmer 1983 ~

Phone message left at 14:50

 There’s fire on the hill, mum, fire on the grass, dad.
There’s fire near the shed and things are looking kinda bad.
The landline’s got no signal so I’m calling on the mobile.
The roaring from the fire makes it difficult to hear.
The smoke is in me eyes, mum, I’m following me plan, dad.
There’s fire all around and things are looking kinda bad.
Till now I’d no idea how fast I’d run the quarter mile.
The heat is getting worse and I could kill an ice cold beer
It’s really closing in,
You oughta hear the din
There’s fire in the trees, mum, I’m down here on me knees, dad.
There’s fire in the air and things are looking kinda bad.
The pumps have done their duty and the water’s running dry.
It’s blowin’ like a cyclone and me throat is fit to burst.
I love ya with me heart, mum, I’m wishing I was there, dad.
There’s fire near the dam and things are looking kinda bad.
It’s lucky that you didn’t pick today to come on by.
In all the preparations this was not what we rehearsed
We’ve fought it with our hands mum, fought with all our heart, dad.
And now we need to run, the car won’t start.
I know a hug is what you want
But just in case I can’t....

~ W. J. Dettmer 2009~



For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chilli Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of the parking lot at the city park. The notes are from an inexperienced Chilli taster named Frank, who was visiting from Canada. Frank: "Recently, I was honoured to be selected as a judge at a chilli cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chilli wouldn't be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted." Here are the scorecards from the event:
Chilli 1 - Mike's Maniac Mobster Monster Chilli
Judge 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavour. Very mild.
Judge 3 -- (Frank) Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could
remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy.
Chilli 2 - Arthur's Afterburner Chilli
Judge 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavour, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.
Chilli 3 - Fred's Famous Burn Down the Barn Chilli
Judge 1 -- Excellent firehouse chilli. Great kick. Needs more beans.
Judge 2 -- A beanless chilli, a bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting shit-faced from all of the beer.
Chilli 4 - Bubba's Black Magic
Judge 1 -- Black bean chilli with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chilli.
Judge 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 300-lb. bitch is starting to look HOT...just like this is nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chilli an aphrodisiac?
Chilli 5 - Linda's Legal Lip Remover
Judge 1 -- Meaty, strong chilli. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge 2 -- Chilli using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chilli had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I'm burning my lips
off. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to! stop screaming. Screw those rednecks.
Chilli 6 - Vera's Very Vegetarian Variety
Judge 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chilli. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.
Judge 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. I shit myself when I farted and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally. She must be kinkier than I thought. Can't feel my lips
anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone.
Chilli 7 - Susan's Screaming Sensation Chilli
Judge 1 -- A mediocre chilli with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chilli peppers at the last moment. I should take note that I am worried about Judge 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chilli which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava like shit to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing, it's too painful. Screw it; I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach!
Chilli 8 - Tommy's Toe-Nail Curling Chilli
Judge 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chilli. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge 2 -- This final entry is a good, balance chilli. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge 3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chilli pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chilli!
(thanks to James Lauritz)