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Friday February 22nd, 2008

Short Candles and Obsolete Fuses

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life." Eric Hoffer

Dear folks,

Isn't Anger a Bitch? Anger = 1 bicce, bicge, 3-4 bicche, 4 bycche, biche, 5 bych(e, (begch), 5-6 bytch(e, 9 Sc. bich, 6- bitch. - as in 'the bytche bringeth forth blynde whelpes' or 'as chast as a sawt bytch', as in 'the Mischievous bitchfox Helena, as if ye had been littered of bitch-wolves, not born of women, or the whelp of a bitch-catamount.' Something outstandingly unpleasant. Or the incarnate sailor, stroking the gangway of the Iron Duke: ` a perfect bitch in a cross-sea.' Or it be a schrewed byche, or the landlord is a vast comical bitch. (Amen!) Or like 'is your lazy bitch of a brother gone yet?' Or like the primitive form of lamp used in Alaska and Canada:`Where's your bitch?' said Dillon... `Haven't you got a condensed milk can with some bacon grease in it, and a rag wick?' Or more like 1) bitch-puppy, -whelp; (sense 2) bitch-baby, -clout, -daughter, -hunter, -son; bitch-daughter (obs.), the nightmare; bitch-fou a. (Sc.), as drunk and sick as a bitch, `beastly' drunk; bitch-goddess, Come fforthe, thou hore, and stynkynge byche-clowte, Bych-doghter, epialta, noxa. Or a symptom of the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess success. (Here here!) Or from the Miner's Dictionary:. s.v. Boring, For drawing up the Rods, we have, to hold them, an Iron Instrument called a Bitch, and, for unscrewing them, two more we call Dogs. But more so: to behave bitchily; to be spiteful, malicious, or unfair (to); to deceive (in sexual matters). Also const. up. Cf. botch v.1 Hence 'bitched(-up) ppl. a., spoilt, bungled. colloq. 1823 Jon Bee Slang 10: To bitch a business, to spoil it, by aukwardness, fear, or want of strength. Or 'What the hell have you got to bitch about when I'm putting the money in your pocket?'

Or my personal favourite: "If you let me set off the explosion, I'll quit my bitching." (Boom boom!)

Like that.

And if you don't send this to at least 8 people ----- who cares?!

 

LETTER FROM READERS

Joe,
Subject: Re: Don't Think Once, It's Alright
All right is two words. charlie

(Note: thankscharliemusthavehadmyheadupmyarse.)

Hey Joe,
Great website always puts a smile on my face and.... today I was going out to the tip and I thought mmm... Don't Think Twice.. a good Bob song and grabbed the CD which I have been listening to all day. I have been wondering what made me think of it and FMD, tonight I sit down to look at the email and here is Don't Think Once which I must have glanced at this morning without opening it. Old age creeps up. Good on you, Michael from Pomona - ex Fawkner boy

 

The War Against Women
A Dispatch from the West African Front
by Ann Jones

"And here's a little-known reality: When any conflict of this sort officially ends, violence against women continues and often actually grows worse. Not surprisingly, murderous aggression cannot be turned off overnight. When men stop attacking one another, women continue to be convenient targets. Here in West Africa, as in so many other places where rape was used as a weapon of war, it has become a habit carried seamlessly into the "post-conflict" era. Where normal structures of law enforcement and justice have been disabled by war, male soldiers and civilians alike can prey upon women and children with impunity. And they do. . ."article

 

Understanding The Obama Surge
by Sean Gonsalves

I like Hillary. And I don't quite understand the visceral hatred she evokes in some people. But I also don't get why the Clinton camp likes to talk about "experience" and her "record."

She's only been a senator for seven years. What record? I called up my peeps in the Big Apple to ask if I've missed something. Did Hillary invent the Internet? Cure cancer? Rein in corporate power? What record?

Bottom line: other than Kucinich, any Democrat whose been in the House or Senate while Bush has been in office shouldn't be talking about their record.

But, if you want to compare Clinton and Obama's record, a good place to start is Congressional Quarterly.

"Judging by their Senate records, voters could pick either one of them and get more or less the same package. Clinton and Obama may(talk) about their differencesbut the reality is that their Senate careers have been more similar than their campaigns would ever admit," CQ reports.

"Their voting records are nearly indistinguishable. Although both have good working relationships with Republicans, Congressional Quarterly's annual vote studies show that Clinton and Obama both had strongly partisan voting records last year. In fact, both of them joined their fellow Democrats in mostly party-line roll calls more often than their own majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. In the past year, Clinton voted with her party on 98 percent of the questions that pitted a majority of Democrats against a majority of Republicans, while Obama's score was 97 percent. Reid sided with his party on only 95 percent of those votes."

CQ notes that both have had some successes but those are the exceptions to the rule. "Obama can claim credit for being a central player, along with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, in the enactment of last year's lobbying and ethics law; Clinton's intervention at key points helped pave the way for the creation in 1997 of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP."

Pocketbook issues may be the Number One voter-concern, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is the defining moral/political issue of our time, which CQ barely mentions.

"There is one major disagreement that isn't reflected in their Senate records: Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, while Obama spoke out against it. Obama has won strong support from anti-war Democrats because of that difference, but because he wasn't in the Senate at the time, he wasn't able to cast an official vote against the war."

Missing from the CQ analysis is the fact that Clinton, unlike Edwards, has never come out and said: "you know, I was absolutely dead wrong about Iraq." Instead, she politiks the issue by doing the whole we-were-given-bad-info show, which is simply not credible given that people like me were writing about the lack of WMD in Iraq as early as 2000, based on explicit information provided me by former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter and other on-the-ground experts.

The idea that I had better intelligence on Iraq than Clinton is absurd and so is the I-was-misled line. No, the reality is, she didn't do her homework.

And, to top it off, she voted for Lieberman-Kyl amendment, declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, which many see as the needed justification to green-light an attack on Iran and evidence that Clinton is stuck in her distorted pre-Iraq invasion judgement. article

 

FAVOURITE PORN SPAM SUBJECT HEADING OF THE WEEK
From
: Edgar Pham Subject: As if exposing your cooch to the entire internet population wasn't enough, Britney...

 

JOHN MILTON 400TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS 1608-2008

" Every day we use words and phrases that Milton contributed to the stock of the English language. Like other great writers of his period, he used his knowledge of Latin and other languages to suggest words that might have entered English more organically. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 600 words which Milton was the first to use (at least as far as we know). Some are typical of the poet who so frequently stretched the language beyond its ordinary limits, and did not enter ordinary usage ­ like infuriate as an adjective or to concise and to epistle as verbs. 135 begin with the prefix un-, which tells you something about Milton's love of oppositions and, well, unrelenting nature. Many are adjectives derived from verbs, some of which ­ like chastening and civilising ­ have stuck. Some belong with his subject matter, like adamantean, arch-fiend, pandemonium, and Satanic; or divorceable and unconjugal; or liturgical; or pedagogism; or prelatise, prelatish, prelatry, and prelatically (from the hated prelates or bishops). Some of his words didn't quite make it, like unexpensive (inexpensive was preferred) or unreducible. Some sound very odd now, and it seems unsurprising that they were not picked up ­ like intervolve or opiniastrous. But all his coinages would have sounded that striking once.

Without Milton, the love-lorn among us would not act besottedly; they would neither feel ecstatic nor find things endearing, or even sensuous. But nor would there be a danger of a downward slide into debauchery or depravity, or some lesser sins, like extravagance, or having a flutter.

Without Milton there would be no cooking, nor snatching of a hurried lunch. Meals (and other things) would not be well-balanced, or well-spiced, and cupboards would not be well-stocked. But at least we would not know how to economise and could never be half-starved, or even eat unhealthily.

Without Milton, we would not padlock gates, or untack horses, or unfurl banners; there would be no acclaim, but neither would the ungenerous and dismissive among us criticise, which would be as well, since others would not know how to disregard.

Without Milton, our experiences would be less exciting. We would not be awe-struck or jubilant; we would not find things enjoyable or exhilarating or stunning or terrific. But then neither would there be any literalism or literalists, and certainly no complacency.

Without Milton, there would be no attacks, airborne or otherwise; and no exploding artillery. Our far-sighted (or perhaps irresponsible and unprincipled) leaders would not be led by vested interests to take undesirable actions, for which they ­ when they mean to argue persuasively ­ can offer only unconvincing reasons. They would not be unaccountable. But after others had done their best to hamstring them, leading to chastening experiences full of unintended consequences, they would not find themselves with the unenviable task of speaking defensively. There would be no embellishing of the truth; and they would not find themselves beleaguered and then embittered. . ." site
(thanks to Dai Woosnam)

(Note: Philologist Max Muller writes that a well educated person in England seldom uses more than about 3000 - 4000 words in actual conversation. The Hebrew Testament says all it has to say with 5642 words. Milton's works are built up with 8000. Are you ready?
Shakespeare employed about 15,000 -17,500 words! He used 7200 words - more than the King James Version of the Bible - once and never again! He was also the first to use about 3200 new words. - from 'The Mysterious William Shakespeare,' by Charlton Ogburn.)

Songwriting Workshop 16
Poetry-to-Song

I began setting poetry to music and creating songs from poetry when I was nineteen and it enabled me to try on the hats or personae, so to speak, of more mature writers, long before I had grown into one myself.

One of the earliest poems I set to music, 'Return', by CP Cavafy, is still in my repertoire after forty years! I cannot begin to stress how important this has been to my development as a songwriter. There are only eight lines of text: one verse. But that's enough. I repeat the last line which becomes kind of an erotic mantra:

Return often and take me,
Beloved sensation, return and take me
When the memory of the body awakens
And desire again runs through the blood
When the lips and the skin remember
And the hands feel as if they touch again

Return often and take me at night
When the lips and the skin remember . . .

When the lips and the skin remember . . .
When the lips and the skin remember . . .
When the lips and the skin remember . . .
When the lips and the skin remember . . .

This above poem is free verse - no rhymes. Rhymes aren't necessary in songs if you don't want them.

Many songwriters set other writer's lyrics to their original music (eg. Elton John (music) and Bernie Taupin (lyrics). Just about every classical composer, other than Wagner, worked primarily with words written by others, including Schubert, Bach and Beethoven. Wagner was the first major composer to have the vision of the composer-librettist as being one integrated artist but most contemporary composers, even in Australia, have ignored his lesson. Personally, I think that is a mistake and it is where the future of serious classical music lay. Not to mention every other kind of music.

Many popular and folk singer-songwriters make a practice of singing other established writer's songs, and traditional songs - songs that already have legs and have proven their staying power over the years. Once again, this practice not only keeps good songs alive and kicking in the best folk tradition, but allows you to take on the personae of the writer when you sing the song. Sing a Dylan song and you can feel like Dylan. Sing a Leonard Cohen song and you can imagine you're Leonard Cohen. Sing 'Shaddap You Face,' and you can pretend your . . . . . well, . . . Chico Marx! (Anyway, I do, when I sing it.)

All this kind of musical grafting is beneficial and good for your writing . . . but in reasonable doses! I say reasonable because the long-term objective is always to find your own voice as a WRITER, not just an interpreter.

Here's a piece of sadly-ignored but brilliant advice, on the opening pages of the Two Part Inventions:

" True guide for lovers of the keyboard in which is shown a clear way not only of learning a neat execution of two parts, but also, progressing further, of handling three moving parts correctly and pleasantly, teaching at the same time not only to invent good themes but also to develop them well . . ." JS Bach

Please consider the last line again.

Now, how many performers and conductors of Bach's music have followed this clear advice to music students? How many ' . . . invent good themes but also . . . develop them well . . ."? Hardly anyone. Yet these very same over-educated Cuma Sum Loudly music critics are usually the most outspoken and opinionated about what constitutes serious music TODAY - stone-blind to the present and can only see what has survived from the well documented past. Self-ordained Ph Ds (Parrots Holding Dung) completely unable to perceive the living real thing in front of their own eyes - and therefore any opinions they may have on living and alive music, and living composers and alive songwriters, must be soundly ignored and dismissed. Even Wagner got extremely angry at these musically educated but brainwashed brown-nosers when he wrote: 'If a person cannot DO what you can do, they have NO authority to criticise it." Yet every day, in countless newspaper reviews, music academies, Hall of Fame and Award Ceremonials, and American and Australian Idol Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey Slingfests, 'Polly-Want-a-Cracker' Idjuts are proclaiming what is Good and what is Bad about MUSIC! - when in fact, they can't do jackshit themselves.

Ignore them ALL and keep working!

"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They're there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can't do it themselves." Brendan Behan

But, ahem! - I digress . . . .

The Difference Between Setting a Poem to Music - and Creating a Song from a Poem

Now, any composer or songwriter worth their salt can set a poem to MUSIC. That merely requires mathematics - aligning the syllables with the notes on the page. A monkey could do this. Many have.

My idea is different. I am seeking to create memorable songs from poetry. Songs that folks can sing. And harmonize with. Songs that will bring poetry to people who never read it - through hearing the song. And I'm talking about REAL songs, too, not just art pieces that will get you good marks in Music303. I am sick-to-death of anal-tonal, bizarre chrom-asthmatic and cereal-written Shoenbarf poems set to music that drag beautiful poetry and writing down. In almost every case, if the poem is a good one, it is stronger WITHOUT that kind of Third-Eye-Elevator Wankarama fartola . Silence is better. I used to back up my partner Lin when she read 'Daddy' by Sylvia Plath - with improvisational blues harp playing. That worked fine for years. But gradually, I came to see that she read the poem better without the accompaniment. So I stopped. Music can lessen the impact of a great poem - if it is not done with imagination, focus and most importantly: love. You have to love the poem so much that you would be prepared to let it alone if you cannot do it justice with your music. Percy Grainger, Australia's most gifted and controversial composer, once said: 'Anyone can create an oratorio. But to write one of the world's songs, that's something." So that's where we're headed.

One of the most exciting benefits of creating songs from poetry is that hardly anyone does it, so you have the rare advantage of being able to enter into the enormously rich literary world of poets, writers and thinkers, including Sappho, Ovid, and Homer, stretching back into antiquity, for good ideas.

For some, the easiest poems to set to music are poems that are written as though they are already lyrics. Langston Hughes, the Black American poet from the Harlem 1920s, wrote many poems that read as blues lyrics. Here an example that I will be using in my Denmark songwriter's intensive:

Morning After

I was so sick last night I
Didn't hardly know my mind.
So sick last night I
Didn't hardly know my mind.
I drunk some bad licker that
Almost made me blind.

Had a dream last night I
Thought I was in hell.
I dreamt last night I
Thought I was in hell.
Woke up and looked around me -
Babe, your mouth was open like a well.

I said, Baby! Baby!
Please don't snore so loud.
Baby! Please !
Please don't snore so loud.
You jest a little bit o' woman but you
Sound like a great big crowd.

This is a stand-alone poem, and can be read successfully unaccompanied. But it is also structured like a standard blues lyric that can be sung easily to a 1-4-5 blues chord progression at any tempo, fast or slow. It would also work well a cappella as just a blues shout. But you can also set this in a completely different way. There is a lot of humour in this lyric and the music can reflect that. For instance, you could play it on the ukulele. Or kazoo. Or spoons. Or with a woodwind section. Or score it for twenty tubas. Or a Salvation Army brass band. Each musical idea - and arrangement - will give a different atmosphere to the lyric and brings out different aspects.

Sometimes it is necessary to look deep into the poem to see where the song is. It might require extracting a couple of lines to use as a chorus. Or to repeat one verse as a chorus:

'Hill of Death' by Louisa Lawson

No downward path to death we go
Through no dark shades or valleys low,
But up and on o'er rises bright
Toward the dawn of the endless light.

For not in lowlands can we see
The path that was and that to be,
But on the height, just where the soul
Takes deeper breaths to reach the goal.

There we can see the winding way
That we have journeyed all our day,
Then turn and view with spirits still
Our future home beyond the hill.

I use the first verse of the poem as the chorus, which I start with, with three part harmony, then the second verse of the poem as the first verse of the song, sung solo, repeat the chorus again in harmony, and then the last verse solo, and repeat the chorus a third time. The music is old-timey like a Wesleyan hymn, and the song sounds as though it might have been written in the 1800s. (Well, the lyrics were, so why not?) - recorded on 'Wind Cries Mary,' by Joe Dolce 2007.

All my albums have a least one poem-to-song on it:

The Shaddap You Face Album - 1981
Two versions of 'Return' by Cavafy - one with guitar and voice, and one with band arrangement

Steal Away Home - 1988
Each of the ten songs is a setting of poem-lyrics written by playwright Phil Motherwell from three separate plays we worked on together

Memoirs of a Mouth Organ - 1997
A setting of a poem by Sylvia Plath, 'Stillborn,' and one by beat poet, Ted Joans, ' Miles Davis Delight.'

Freelovedays - 2004
A setting of a poem by Sappho, 'Fragment 64, ' and 'Jack of Diamonds, ' another poem-lyric written by Phil Motherwell.

Wind Cries Mary - 2007
The setting of the poem by Henry Lawson's mother, Louisa, 'Hill of Death,' won Best Folk Gospel Song in the Australian Gospel Song Awards. 'Cocaine Lil', originated as a public domain poem, and 'Dragon Lady,' is a setting of a lyric from a play, once again written by Phil Motherwell. I also recorded a song written by Bruce Watson, 'September 11th,' which is itself a setting of a poem, by poet Keith McKenry.

My SATB choral work, 'Perfume Flower,' in both Chinese and English translation, that will be performed later this year, is a twelve minute setting of a verse by Ch'iu Chin, a women poet who was beheaded in 1900 by the Manchu government for her poems protesting against subjugation of women and foot-binding.

These above illustrations are not just tootin' my trumpet and blowing smoke up your chocolate beehive, folks, although Louis Armstrong is alleged to have once said, 'who's supposed to blow your own trumpet, if not you? ' I want to impress on you the commitment I have to this way of writing and the importance of poem-to-song in my own forty year writing career. Creating songs out of poems has been invaluable to my own growth as a lyricist. If you want to move forward as a songwriter and you feel you are facing some kind of brick wall that impedes your progress, or that you can't find anything worthwhile to write about, or you are having trouble finding a way to express some important things you are feeling - try this approach for awhile: set some poems you love to music. There is no end to inspiration once you begin to think laterally and look in uncommon places.

 

DICTIONARY OF OBSOLETE SKILLS

"Robert Scoble had an interesting post on his blog a few days ago on obsolete technical skills - 'things we used to know that no longer are very useful to us.' Scoble's initial list included dialing a rotary phone, using carbon paper to make copies, and changing the gas mixture on your car's carburetor. The list has now been expanded into a 'Wikipedia' with a much larger list of these obsolete skills that includes resolving IRQ conflicts on a mother board, assembly language programming, and stacking a quarter on an arcade game to indicate you 're next. We're invited to contribute more."

eg. Real Handwriting
The practice of writing on hands for relaying messages went Obsolete in the Industrial Age.
The practice of writing text on one hand of a message bearer - the message bearer would travel great distances with a clenched fist, only to open his hand upon arriving at the house of the addressee. site
(Thanks to Marcus Whitaker)

 

RECIPE

The only time I will pass on a freely available recipe (such as the one below from last week's Age) is if I have personally tried it and have had exceptional results. This one passes the test! Also, the short crust pastry is one I already knew how to make so this idea was immediately understandable to me and the clafoutis resembles an apple tart that I learned to make in Loretta Sartori's baking workshop last year, except McConnell replaces the butter with milk and cream, uses more sugar, almond meal and eggs which creates a somewhat moister base.

 

Clafoutis
recipe by Andrew McConnell, Executive Chef, Circa
from The Age Good Weekend Magazine

300 g cherries
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
80g sugar
3 eggs
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
pinch salt
200g ground almonds
1 tsp flour
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp kirsch or Grand Marnier or Cointreau
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp sugar

Halve and pit cherries. Place milk, cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla seeds and salt into blender and, using the whisk attachment, mix for one minute. Add the ground almonds and flour, followed by the melted butter. liqueur and lemon zest, and blend for one more minute. Leave the batter to rest for half an hour before using.

Pour batter into a buttered shallow ceramic baking dish or par-baked 28cm shortcrust pastry tart shell. (see: 1-2-3 Shortcrust Pastry).

Strategically place the pitted cherries about 1 cm apart into the clafoutis. Bake at 180C. After 15 minutes, the clafoutis should begin to set. Sprinkle the top of the tart with the sugar and return to the over for 10-15 minutes or until properly set. The clafoutis is ready when it's firm to the touch and light brown. To test, pierce the centre of the clafoutis with a small knife; it should come out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving as soon as possible with cream or ice-cream.

 

 

Supplication

The sea took a sailor to its deep -
His mother, unsuspecting, goes to light

a tall candle before the Virgin Mary
for his speedy return and for fine weather -

and always she cocks her ear to windward.
But while she prays and implores,

the Icon listens, solemn and sad, knowing well
that the son she expects will no longer return.

~ CP CAVAFY ~
(translated by Rae Dalven
from the song-cycle, 'When the Lips and the Skin Remember,' by Joe Dolce 1993.)


 

 

 

THE FINAL HURRAH

The Jesus Pancake

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
"If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'

Kevin turned to his younger brother and said,
" Ryan , you be Jesus !"
(thanks to Marcus Whitaker)