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Friday February 8, 2008


" . . she plunged into a sea of platitudes,
and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer,
made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious."
W. Somerset Maugham

Dear folks,

I apologise for the erratic nature of the newsletter this past month - and in advance for the coming month of March. Most of my January was spent on the road in NSW and in the bush, and I am leaving at the end of this month to be artist-in-residence at the Brave New Works Festival 15 in Denmark, Western Australia. Part of this work will involve mentoring a three week singer-songwriter intensive for local community writers, cumulating in a final bonfire concert, as well as conducting guitar, mandolin and blues harp workshops, and working with a local choir for a DIFFICULT WOMEN big show on the closing night! I will also be at the Nannup Festival, with Ben Lee, Bernard Carney and Eric Bogel in the beginning of the month and stomping grapes at the Harvey Harvest Festival somewhere in the middle. Naturally, I've bitten off more than I can chew, as usual, but at least I still have my own teeth, and some of that grape juice will no doubt assuage the pain.

Poet Dorothy Porter's first verse novel, Akhenaten has been reissued by Picador Books. (Akhenaten was married to Nefertiti, and creator of the first monotheistic religion: to Aten via the Sun Disc) This was Porter's first foray into this inspiring writing form - which is a modern poetic evolution of the narrative verse epic, eg. Coleridge's The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, not to mention the narrative poems of Homer, Dante and Milton - and it is my favourite of her books. I interviewed Dorothy this week and she gave me a copy of the recent edition which contained this heart-warming and unexpected introduction:

" . . .things have changed very little since Akhenaten's volcanic reign. The cruel, cataclysmic nature of politics is one. After this last tumultuous week in Australian politics when one of the most conservative and impregnable governments in the country's history has simply imploded, I am reminded of Akhenaten's blind hubris . . ."

I'd like to think that our little liquid obsidian newsletter had something to do with that implosion over the past five years, like water drip drip dripping on John Howard's Easter Island stone head! 'Bada bing!' - as another well-known Italian pharaoh once said.



Hi Joe,
I agree....put Barack and Hilary together .......what a dynamic duo they would be! Maybe somebody should suggest it to them.....as in Kev and Jules..... Sara

Dyslexics of the world untie!! best, Candy

Hi Joe
I love the last item - I'll be reading the rest on the train tonight on the way home.
Regards and best wishes for 2008. Rehana


Hi Joe,
Shaddup Your Face just got sung on the Vicar of Dibley at a meeting. The reaction was that if Frank sang that song he would be swung around by the testicles until his screams were heard in Reykjavik. But you probably know this. Talk Soon, Robyn

Further Adventures in the Shaddap You Face Trade


Here's a little uTube video someone made using the music to 'Shaddap' under a great scene from the movie The Shankshaw Redemption! This reminds me of a true story that Margio Sanjiva, of the THE BLACK NONNAS, told me once, of how when he first came over from Sicily, he was thrown in jail for stealing a sheep! 'Shaddap You Face' was played every morning over the jail intercom to wake the prisoners! uTube
(thanks to Frank Dolce)


Pizzeria owner bans city officials from restaurant

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) - The owner of a new Italian eatery in Edmond says a handful of city officials aren't welcome at his restaurant. Owner Danny Falcone has erected a sign at Falcone's Pizzeria and Deli saying Edmond Planning Commissioners Suzy Thrash and Ingrid Young and attorney Lydia Lee should stay off his property and take their business elsewhere. Falcone takes issue with the women for their complaints against him putting up tri-colored awnings at his business, representing the colors of the Italian flag.
The Edmond Planning Commission in October voted against Falcone's plan for red, white and green awnings, followed by a no vote from the city council in November.
"These colors are my heritage," Falcone said. "Unlike some restaurants, I have an authentic Italian restaurant being run by an Italian. So I don't know if they're prejudiced or ignorant or what, but they aren't welcome here."
For her part, Lee, president of the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance, said she enjoys Italian food but has never been to Falcone's restaurant.
"Now I'll probably never go there," she said.
She said she spoke against the proposal because Falcone wanted to have brightly colored awnings that advertised food items and would clash with other burgundy-colored awnings in the area.
Falcone said its natural for businesses to have their own color schemes.
"That's what businesses do," he said. "I don't see them telling McDonald's, 'You can come here but don't bring your golden arches,' or KFC, don't put up the colonel's face."' Instead of his trademark awnings, the colors of the Italian flag wrap the bottom of his windows in Edmond. Falcone, 49, is from the Bronx, New York, and came to Oklahoma 15 years ago.


AA Gill Getting His Teeth into a (West London) Austrian Restaurant
(This is from his latest column in The Sunday Times (of London)

'...I have friends in Notting Hill. What a damning sentence. I have friends in Notting Hill who think I have it in for their local restaurants. I don't, but their restaurants have it in for them.

There is the belief that locals will eat pretty much anything if it is served by a fit Ukrainian, and pay virtually anything if she smiles. Westbourne Grove is the street of gastro shame, but there is, on it, one place I have completely missed.

The Tiroler Hut has been lurking in a basement here since the 1960s. You descend a steep flight of stairs into a grotto of winsome, woody and woolly German tat. (I'm happy to give Austrians the benefit of the Anschluss.) Why is it the Krauts imagine that what a cellar is missing is a dining room? They always plaster the walls with pictures of what you might see if there were windows, in this case snow-girt crags and wooden huts of the sort that house Mr Wet and Miss Dry. It's tiny and it's cramped, and it defies not just kitsch and taste, but Kraut kitsch and taste, and possibly taste and safety.

There are waitresses in dirndls, men in lederhosen and trestles crammed with chubby secretaries, cheeks glowing with the fourth or fifth flush of youth. And there is a box in which sits a young man in a hat, playing an emphysemic organ-style instrument. He plays and he sings, if playing doesn't imply playfulness and singing can include listening to a Viennese security guard training a wilful alsatian. His repertoire is mainly The Sound of Music, with occasional other show tunes and, bizarrely, once or twice, Colonel Bogey.

There is a Mein Host, for whom bonhomie is a wrestling grip. He conducts communal singing as if it were the safety instructions on a doomed Heinkel. He can also play The Lonely Goatherd on cowbells, with the help of two semi-drunken women from the audience. That, on its own, is worth the price of admission, which is nothing. At about this point, I ought to mention the food. It is authentically 1960s London-Austrian: lumps and bits in clag and quag, crusted pools and emetic spills, all khaki. I tasted a steak, a schnitzel, a bait of herring, all inedible, unless you were as drunk as everyone else in the room, or on the death watch at an old people's home. But food is not really the point here. The cost is minute, but still not within vomiting distance of value. People come here to drink and test the limits of their dignity.

I was taken by the bag lady Anya Hindmarch, an arbiter of soignée sophistication and élan. She says this is her favourite restaurant. She also brought Jeremy King, father of a 1,000-year reich of restaurants, including the Wolseley. I've known him a long time, and I've never seen him laugh until the tears roll down his cheeks. Come to think of it, I've never seen him laugh at all, just give the occasional Pinteresque grin. I'm not really making the full 'Allo 'Allo!, Carry On nature of the underground hut live for you. It's as close as most of us will get to a Christmas party in Colditz. At the third time of bellowing Tomorrow Belongs to Me, I felt something snap, and I now have a cultural hernia. Without irony, the Tiroler Hut is crass, loud, repetitive, drunken, uncomfortable, embarrassing, cringingly stereotypical and tasteless on so many, many levels. Go now ­ take all your friends. It is possibly the worst venue ever for a first date."
(thanks to David "Dai" Woosnam)

(Note: Can I have a Bada bing one time!)



There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a lifesaver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things you can do with it:

First: Emergency
The emergency number world-wide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out of coverage area of your mobile network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialled even if the keypad is locked.

Second: Locked your keys in the car?
Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone. If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their mobile phone from your cell phone. Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other 'remote' for your car, you can unlock the doors.

Third: Hidden Battery Power
Imagine your mobile battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370#. Your mobile will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your mobile next time.

Fourth: How to disable a stolen mobile phone
To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: *#06#. A 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. If your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everyone does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.
(thanks to Terry Dwyer)


Perspective has long been the domain of the painter and photographer - but it is also a handy and valuable tool for the songwriter. Although tool is the wrong word here. I prefer to see it as insight.
Jung once suggested that you analyze your dreams in this way: write down the dream in the morning as you first remember it. Then go back and write down what every person, animal or even object in the dream might be saying about what's going on. If you dream about a man in a black hat sitting naked at a blue table eating a pork chop, what would the hat be saying if it could speak? What would the pork chop say? You will find that all the people and objects in your dream have interesting comments. Each of these voices is a different perspective on the drama.

I like writing songs from unusual perspectives.

Here's a recent example, titled 'Orpheo, Don't Look Back,' based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. To briefly refresh your memory: Orpheus and Eurydice were in love. Eurydice died. Orpheus wanted her back so he decended into Hades to negotiate for her return. A deal was struck that she would be allowed to follow Orpheus back to the world of the Living on the condition that Orpheus did not turn around and look at her until they reached the top. But just as they reached the surface, he turned around to make sure she was still behind him and Eurydice was pulled back into the depths of Hades and Orpheus lost her forever. A chilling and painful tale that I first encountered when I was in a high school play at sixteen and have never forgotten.
All versions of this myth have always been told either from Orpheus's point of view, or from the observer's point of view, standing outside of the drama. Never from Eurydice's point of view. How did SHE feel about all this? My song explores the drama from her perspective, and how trust, faith and keeping one's word affects love.

'Orpheo, Don't Look Back

Please keep your word to me, Orpheo,
Keep your promise and your pact,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

I need to know you trust me, Orpheo,
And that I can trust you back,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

Hold me fast and faithfully, Orpheo,
Love's such a narrow track,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

Imagine love forever, Orpheo,
A love that would never lack,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

When souls are filled with darkness, Orpheo,
And light is just a crack,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

When voices are dry as dust, Orpheo,
And throats with thirst are so wracked,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.

When every fibre in your body, Orpheo,
Says there's nothing there but Black,
I'm right behind you, Orpheo,
Orpheo, don't look back.'

What are some other examples of perspective that could be explored?

How about MOBY DICK? From the White Whale's point of view? How did Moby Dick feel about being chased by this one-legged religious fuckwit? Did the big fish see tossing Ahab around there as some kind of a kind of game, like a cat playing with a mouse?

Or what about the NARCISSUS myth? From Echo's point of view. Although she was cursed to repeat the last words that anyone said to her, what was Echo actually thinking about in her tongue-tiedness? Couldn't she have written something down? Or used her hands to express herself? (She obviously wasn't Italian.)

In the song, 'Lower Jesus,' I wrote from his mother's perspective. How a real mother might have felt seeing her real son nailed to a cross. (How would you feel if you woke up one morning and saw your own child nailed to a telephone pole outside the front window?) What would be your first thought? HELP ME! GET HIM DOWN FROM THERE! Horrible. As Bill Hicks once said, his mother would most likely have never wanted to see another cross again as long as she lived - much less wear a little one around her neck.

Some other overlooked muted perspectives worth exploring: Dylan's women in songs like, 'Just Like a Woman,' and 'Dont Think Twice, It's Alright.'
In the former, ' . . you make love just like a woman, but you break just like a little girl.' I don't know about you, but the women I hang around with wouldnt be sitting there taking that crap like a 'victim in a movie show' as Kath Tait puts it so eloquently. They'd be going upside my head with the bada bing! motor-mouthed Two-by-Four of Angry Discourse, so to speak.
And the latter lyric, '. . . I gave you my body, but you wanted my soul. . . ' Sounds like something a Catholic Inquisitor might have said. My women friends would have said, 'Keep your body, you fucking idiot, and here's the two dollars back for your tin can soul.' Someone should write answer back songs for all the women Dylan has verbally used and abused in his lyric writing over the years.

What about FRANKENSTEIN? Did the monster have an opinion on those new body parts? (He obviously wasn't a woman.) Did the hands match the feet, like gloves and shoes? Did they itch? And how did he view those bolts in his neck? Did he find them cool as, like a piercing, or did he keep his collar up to hide them, like a turkey gobbler?

ROMEO AND JULIET. What would the two mothers of the dead children have said to each other at the wake?

I know some of these examples are plain silly, but they clearly show that there is perspective in every drama, even the most well-known tales, that hasn't been explored fully.

Now apply perspective shift to your own memories, and lyric writing, and you'll find a chorus of voices to help you with your songs.



For the past three months, I've been following an interesting eating strategy that is giving good results. For breakfast and dinner, we only have a cup of tea and a slice of toast, with whatever: butter, vegemite, jam, cheese etc - the main meal is at lunch, which usually is a small can of tuna, or a piece of fresh grilled tuna, on a bed of grated carrot, avocado etc. salad. Morning and evening toast and tea always stays the same and small - but lunch is flexible. If I feel like a eye fillet, I have it. Or curry. Or pasta. But for lunch. Alcohol break is usually an hour before evening tea and toast. Beer or wine or spirits. When we are on the road, it's more flexible. I eat and drink what I want. But whenever convenient and possible, I go back to the basic routine. First of every month, I jump on the scale and also take a waist measurement. I've gone from 86k to 80k and from a 41 waist to 38 in three months. The strange things about this is that it still feels like overeating! It doesn't feel like a diet or doing without anything in any way. If I want something, I have it. Midday. Not at night. It's just a basic pattern change. Proof? The scale doesn't lie. This unusual system works. I think the reason is that there are five hours of activity after lunch which helps metabolise the food that you eat much better - whereas after a main meal at night, it's usually followed by sedentary activity such as watching films or reading. It also feels like something one could stick to forever. Plenty of flexibility and freedom with a very natural and unforced disciple. So if anyone is struggling with finding a way to reconcile love of food and cooking, with staying trim, this might work for you, too.


1 small can of tuna, and its oil (regular, lemon and pepper, thai chili, etc)
1-2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 half avocado, chopped into large pieces
1 stick of celery, diced
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 tble olive oil
1 tble thai sweet chili sauce
squeeze of fresh lemon

Mix all ingredients together.
Serves two.

As an option, vary with a piece of fresh tuna, marinated for a half hour in light soy sauce, grated ginger, chopped garlic, some olive oil and a squeeze of orange juice, and then grilled. Serve the tuna steak on top of the carrot salad.

Simple but incredibly satisfying.




Two Poems About Books


Rumi the poet was a scholar also.
But Shams, his friend, was an angel.
By which I don't mean anything patient or sweet.
When I read how he took Rumi's books and threw them
into the duck pond,
I shouted for joy. Time to live now,
Shams meant.
I see him, turning away
casually toward the road, Rumi following, the books
floating and sinking among the screeching ducks,

oh, beautiful book-eating pond!

~ Mary Oliver ~
(What Do We Know?)



In The Book

A hand appears.
It writes on the wall.
Just a hand moving in the air,
and writing on the wall.

A voice comes and says the words,
"You have been weighed,
you have been judged,
and have failed."

The hand disappears, the voice
fades away into silence.
And a spirit stirs and fills
and room, all space, all things.

All this in The Book
asks, "What have you done wrong?"
But The Spirit says,
"Come to me, who need comfort."

And the hand, the wall, the voice
are gone, but The Spirit is everywhere.
The story ends inside the book,
but outside, wherever you are --

It goes on.

~ William Stafford ~
(The Way It Is)






Mr and Mrs O'brien were blessed with two identical twin boys, Patrick and Michael.
When the priest was about to baptize them, he said to the father of the children:
'Which one is Patrick and which one is Michael?'
Mr O'brien said, 'Well, fadder, if you put your finger in Pat's mouth and he bites you, that's Mick!'
(thanks to richard mccullough)