Favourite Reader Feed-back of the Week
In last week's newsletter, I wrote - 'Welcome to 2004, 20 years down the track from 1984: From George Orwell to George Bush in two decades.'
I got this great reply:
" And from Eric Blair to Tony Blair!! Regards, Mark "
(Note: Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950),
better known by the pen-name, George Orwell, was a British author
best known for his allegorical political novels, Animal Farm and
Nineteen Eighty-Four (the latter giving rise to the term Orwellian).
Incredible Piece of Social Commentary Comic Writing
Scenes From A Sad Airport
Welcome to America. Please give us the finger. Smile for the camera. Now get the hell out
By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist
Friday, January 9, 2004
Look at those eyes. Perturbed and bemused and just a little furious.
Look at those eyes as the baffled woman from east Texas stares down at the table as the security agent rifles through her luggage and pulls out the contents for all to see.
And out pops the skimpy latex thong and the anal beads and the Astroglide and the smallish travel dildo that isn't really a dildo at all but is really a "sexual-education device," because, as everyone knows, dildos are completely illegal in Texas. But not guns. Guns are mandatory.
Note how she notes the irony. Note how she considers suing for embarrassment and humiliation and for the sheer idiocy of it all. Note how the security agent mumbles something snide and derogatory.
Note how we, as a paranoid nation, are just
confused and sad and how our airports have become these comical
circus sideshows, invasive and racist and draconian and pornographic
all in the name of, what was it again? Protection? For our own
good? Is that it? (article)
Bach to the Future II
Thanks to some inspired feedback about JS Bach from Newt Wayland, I have once again gotten inspired about my favourite composer. I thought I'd read everything there was (I've even written my own novella/film treatment about Bach's life, called 'Bequeathed') - but now there is a wonderful new book out titled, 'Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician', by Christoph Wolff, which I have just begun, and there is quite a bit of refined material here that I haven't seen before, or at least seen presented this way. One particular forgotten quote immediately jumped out at me:
It reminded me of my favourite quote of Jesus, from the New Testament:
Greater works, shall we do! In one of the most profoundly overlooked passages in the New Testament, Jesus tells us that we are required to go beyond his own achievements, to be more than just followers! (Why didn't they teach me that in Sunday school?)
Bach is saying something similar. In fact, he makes one thing perfectly clear, in the preface to the Two and Three Part Inventions :
So listen up all, of you hoity-toity musicians, or over-educated so-called Bach experts out there who believe they know everything there is to know about 'serious' music: if you have overlooked Bach's little instructions about COMPOSING, I suggest you go back to the Inventions and start over. Otherwise, hold your peace, and criticism, in the presence of real composers, no matter where they are on the Great Ladder to Uniqueness.
Now that I've got that off my chest . . .
I really LUST to see a movie made of Bach's life and music, and that's why I wrote my book. All interested Producers out there, who liked 'Amadeus' and 'Immortal Beloved,' and want to make a music film about the greatest musical genius of them all - 'have your service, call my service'. You want drama? I got drama.
Here's an excerpt, if you're interested, from my little book-in-progress, 'Bequeathed':
" Of course, his eyesight had always been
bad. He had been extremely short-sighted, ever since he was a
child. He felt it was because of the over zealous way in which
he taught himself music, spending entire nights from dusk to dawn,
copying out scores, page after page, part after part. Night time
was quiet, he had no household obligations and no one to interrupt
him, so by lamplight, he worked, by the poor light until his hand
cramped from the writing. The strain he put on his vision even
during normal daylight hours, with his hours of meticulous score
writing, year after year, would have damaged the vision of anyone.
But Sebastian wasn't anyone. He was tireless and prolific, and
only could relax when consumed with work and as such, was always
But, tragically, over the last few years, his vision had steadily worsened, so much so, that now I could hardly read the manuscripts he gave me to copy and continually had to clarify
what note was what. He had trouble seeing the staves and there were many errors.
We had heard, from friends, about a peripatetic English doctor, Chevalier John Taylor, a specialist and oculist, of some renown, recently arrived in Leipzig. This physician styled
himself as a ophthalmiater, and had gained notoriety for his invention of an innovative type of cataract needle. Sebastian wanted to meet him and so we went to his office, and to be
truthful, I was not impressed with the man.
He had a terse and dry manner, and spoke in a lofty, unemotional way, his speech was peppered with Latin phrases and he spoke with absolute authority, bereft of sensitivity. He
reminded me more of a poor minister rather than an eminent physician. But Sebastian was quite taken with him. Of course, he was also in pain and had no where else to turn. And he wanted to go on serving God with his still active mental and physical powers. This doctor told Sebastian that the operation, called 'couching', was not complicated, nor expensive and he offered no guarantees, but he said that, in the majority of cases, there was great success. Sebastian, on faith, agreed to proceed and a date was arranged for the surgery.
Two weeks later, Sebastian went alone to Dr. Taylor's clinic. He was told to lie on his back and he was strapped to a leather bench. His head was placed in a restraint so that movement was impossible. Two assistants held his shoulders and knees while a third was responsible for insuring that his eyelids remained open. Chevalier Taylor, then, quickly and deftly, jabbed a thick and sharply pointed needle into Sebastian's eye, probing slightly until he found the lens. Then, he pushed downward quickly, into the vitreous jelly inside the eyeball. With only whisky to numb the pain, Sebastian screamed out in utter agony. It took every bit of strength of the three men to keep him from thrashing about and damaging his eye further.
Afterwards, his wounds were bathed in a mixture of Peruvian balsam and warm water, and a cataplasm of the same, mixed with pulp of cassia, was applied. The next morning, the eye was fomented with spirituous camphire and the bandage was replaced with a patch. He was told to eat lightly, with gentle evacuations.
Sebastian recovered his eyesight fully after this first session but a few days later, a second operation was required. The horror of this procedure was then repeated. This time, there
was no good result and Sebastian lost his sight completely. The learned doctor, of course, attributed it to Sebastian's advanced condition. '. . . The bottom was found to be defective, from a paralytic disorder,' he said, '. . .had he come earlier. . .' and so forth. His eyesight deteriorated quickly after that until finally, he woke up one morning in darkness.
From then on, I wrote for him. The drugs he was required to take in connection with the operation greatly affected his health and he was never the same after that. He spent hours just sitting in his darkened room, but he seemed to have a renewed energy for composing and revision, and so kept working. . ." (to be continued . . .)
Strange World and Getting Stranger
The Mint with the Message .... Pass the Word.
THE TESTAMINTS SAMPLER
Sampler contains eighteen ounces of assorted mints, sour fruit mints and fruit flavored candy. Each piece is individually wrapped in one of over one hundred and seventy verses from the Old and New Testaments. The perfect way to pass the WORD during the holidays and special occasions. (site)
(Note: I still prefer 'Fisherman's Friend' - boom boom!)
Philip K Dick
Speaking of Bach and music again, Philip K Dick, who wrote the original Sci-Fi stories for the movies, 'Bladerunner', 'Total Recall', and 'Minority Report', wrote this hard-to-find little short story about someone who invents a machine to turn musical scores into living creatures so that they will have a better chance of survival in the event of a war. Here's an excerpt:
The Preserving Machine
Philip K. Dick
" . . . Music is the most perishable of
things, fragile and delicate, easily destroyed. Dr. Labyrinth
worried about this, because he loved music, because he hated the
idea that someday there would be no more Brahms and Mozart, no
more gentle chamber music that he could dreamily associate with
powdered wigs and rosined bows, with long slender candles, melting
away in the gloom.
What a dry and unfortunate world it would be, without music! How dusty and unbearable.
This is how he came to think of the Preserving Machine. One evening as he sat in his living room in his deep chair, the gramophone on low, a vision came to him. He perceived in his mind a strange sight, the last score of a Schubert trio, the last copy, dog-eared, well-thumbed, lying on the floor of some gutted place, probably a museum.
A bomber moved overhead. Bombs fell, bursting the museum to fragments, bringing the walls down in a road of rubble and plaster. In the debris the last score disappeared, lost in the rubbish, to rot and mold.
And then, in Doctor Labyrinth's vision, he saw the score come burrowing out, like some buried mole. Quite like a mole, in fact, with claws and sharp teeth and a furious energy.
If music had that faculty, the ordinary, everyday instinct of survival which every worm and more has, how different it would be! If music could be transformed into living creatures, animals with claws and teeth, then music might survive. If only a Machine could be built, a Machine to process musical score into living forms. . . ."
(Later on, once exposed to the environment,
the animals all mutate in unpredictable ways, i.e. Bach's Preludes
come out as furry little ball-like creatures, and the Wagner animal
turns predator and kills the Schubert animal etc. When the evolved
creatures are returned to the Preserving Machine to extract the
scores back, all the music comes out bizarre and un-tuneful, kind
of like Schoenberg! (Imagine if he'd put one of Arnold's manuscripts
in the machine - it would probably would have come out like roofing
insulation with a sinus problem, or a scouring pad that whistled.)
A Slightly Different Look at Naturopathy
Demand for Herbal Remedies is Threatening Natural Habitats
LONDON (Reuters) - Worldwide demand for herbal remedies is threatening natural habitats and endangering up to a fifth of wild medicinal plant species which are being harvested to extinction, a leading science magazine said on Wednesday.
A study to be published later this year by the conservation organization WWF warns that between 4,000 and 10,000 plants may be at risk.
"It's an extremely serious problem," study author Alan Hamilton told New Scientist magazine.
According to the research, the market for herbal remedies has risen by 10 percent a year for the past decade in North America and Europe and is now thought to be worth at least 11 billion pounds ($20 billion).
The findings are based on an analysis of the number of species at risk on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of threatened plants. Two-thirds of the 50,000 medicinal plants being used are harvested from the wild. (article)
Global Warming by 2050
OSLO (Reuters) - Global warming could wipe out a quarter of all species of plants and animals on earth by 2050 in one of the biggest mass extinctions since the dinosaurs, according to an international study.
The United Nations said the report, highlighting threats to creatures ranging from Australian butterflies to Spanish eagles, showed a need for the world to back the Kyoto protocol, meant to brake rising temperatures linked to human pollution.
"A quarter of all species of plants and
land animals, or more than a million in all, could be driven to
extinction," said Chris Thomas, professor of Conservation
Biology at England's University of Leeds.
The West's Battle for Oil
Five months before September 11, the US advocated using force against Iraq ... to secure control of its oil.
It is a document that fundamentally questions the motives behind the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein and go to war with Iraq.
Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century describes how America is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history. It targets Saddam as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommends the use of 'military intervention' as a means to fix the US energy crisis.
The report is linked to a veritable who's who
of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs. It was commissioned
by James Baker, the former US Secretary of State under George
Bush Snr, and submitted to Vice-President Dick Cheney in April
2001 -- a full five months before September 11. Yet it advocates
a policy of using military force against an enemy such as Iraq
to secure US access to, and control of, Middle Eastern oil fields.
US Companies Moving More Jobs Overseas
By David Zielenziger
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. corporations are picking up the pace in shifting well-paid technology jobs to India, China and other low-cost centers, but they are keeping quiet for fear of a backlash, industry professionals said.
Morgan Stanley estimates the number of U.S. jobs outsourced to India will double to about 150,000 in the next three years. Analysts predict as many as 2 million U.S. white-collar jobs such as programmers, software engineers and applications designers will shift to low-cost centers by 2014. (article)
I'm not that big a fan of the Australian National Anthem, 'Advance Australia Fair', - mainly because it has weak lyrics and is set to a bloody military march. 'Advance Australia Fair,' is also such a clumsy image. It sounds like a bad Amway slogan.
I have nothing against a beautiful National Anthem, per say, in fact, I think' Waltzing Matilda' is a much better choice - great tune, everyone knows the chorus, great sentiment, nice 2/4 beat, kind of a skip-a-long. But I really hate 19th century-style military marches used as National themes - what kind of signal are we sending to youth on a subconscious level anyway?
You don't believe it?
Here's a little test you can do at home: sing 'Advance Australian Fair' in a kind of German broken-English gibberish, saluting yourself in the mirror, and see what it sounds like. Remind you of anyone?
'Advance Australia Fair' beat out 'Waltzing Matilda' by almost two-to-one in a plebiscite, a National Song Poll, in 1977, in order to select something (anything!) to replace 'God Save The Queen', and only became the National Anthem of Australia, in 1984, under the Hawke Government. For a fascinating history of the song, go to this page.
Anyway, I've been invited to sing 'Advance Australia Fair' at my Citizenship ceremony at the end of the month. The last thing I want to do is one of those boring 'Opening Day at the Game' karoke interpretations belted out over a backing track, so I've worked out a great live blues arrangement of it on my Steel-bodied Guitar. I think it puts a bit of life back in the old war-mule, but in a fun and exciting way. While I was practicing it, however, I accidentally came up with this other little bobby-dazzler (which I don't plan to sing at the ceremony, Mr Howard, by the way, so relax - but I do look forward to singing a cappella at my next show.) You can try this one at home as well!
New Hybrid National Anthem for the USA
(sung to the tune of 'Advance Australia Fair.')
Yeah! To GIRT or not to GIRT, (what was the question?) -
By the way, in case you hadn't noticed, 'America, The Beautiful' (written by Katharine Lee Bates, in 1893), and 'Advance Australia Fair' (written fifteen years earlier, in 1878, by Peter Dodds McCormick, who used the pen-name Amicus) share two almost identical lines of melody:
" And crown thy good, with Brotherhood, From Sea to Shining Sea.'
' In History's Page, from every Stage, Advance Australia Fair.'
'America, the Beautiful', by the by, has it's own share of awkward imagery:
"America, America, God Shed His Grace on Thee . . '
Holy Woof! Dubyaman.
(. . . .which segues beautifully into:)
Dog and Cat Diaries
EXCERPTS FROM A DOG'S DAILY DIARY:
8:00 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
9:30 a.m. Oh, boy! A car ride! My favorite!
9:40 a.m. Oh, boy! A walk! My favorite!
10:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Getting rubbed and petted! My favorite!
11:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
Noon - Oh, boy! The kids! My favorite!
1:00 p.m. Oh, boy! The yard! My favorite!
4:00 p.m. Oh, boy! To the park! My favorite!
5:00 p.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!
5:30 p.m. Oh, boy! Pretty Mums! My favorite!
6:00 p..m. Oh, boy! Playing ball! My favorite!
6:30 a.m. Oh, boy! Watching TV with my master! My favorite!
8:30 p.m Oh, boy! Sleeping in master's bed! My favorite!
EXCERPTS FROM A CAT'S DAILY DIARY:
Day 183 of My Captivity:
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.
Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favourite chair, must try this on their bed. Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in an attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts....They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm, not working according to plan.
There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary confinement throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. More importantly, I overheard that my confinement was due to my power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.
I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird, on the other hand, has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured.
But I can wait, it is only a matter of time.
(Thanks to Stephen Ross.)
BUSH IN 30 SECONDS
Here are the fifteen 30 second clips that have been short listed from over 1000 clips that were sent in to MoveOn.org They are powerful! 2004 is going to see a very interesting expansion of the grass roots movement in the US of A. With ads like these, the excitement of community involvement, excellent international and alternative journalism available to everyone through online sources, it will be a mass education for democracy! Clips Index)
(Thanks to Ben Kettlewell and Maireid Sullivan.)
(Ed. Note: Michael Moore is one of the
Favourite Porn Spam Subject Heading of the Week
From: Johnny Mathis! 1000 Men will get laid tonight!
(ed. note: Hmmm . . . that figure sounds
high to me.)
As promised, here is the Vietnamese soup recipe, Pho, that my partner Lin brought back from Hanoi last month. She took a couple of lessons over there from Didier Corlou, the extraordinary executive French chef at the Sofitel Metropole, in Hanoi, and brought me back a couple of brilliant Vietnamese cookbooks written by him (in French, naturally!). So now can improve my cooking and re-learn my cobwebbed high school French at the same time.
I made this recipe last night and when I nervously asked Lin how did I do, she gave me an enthusiastic 10 out of 10, so that's a compliment however you look at it. It's not hard to make but it requires a little organisation.
It also helps if you've eaten hundreds of bowls of the stuff as I have since 1979 when I first discovered the only Vietnamese restaurant in Melbourne, at the time, Vao Doi.
Vao Doi had opened down the street from the place I was renting in Richmond. I had only been in Melbourne about a year and had recently broken up with my wife. Walking down Victoria Street, one day, I looked in the darkened door of the recently opened shop front and saw a large room filled with little low childlike schoolhouse tables and chairs, with large thermos bottles (for tea) sitting in the centre of each table. The only thing on the menu was one dish, called Pho, for $2.00. I didn't know what the heck it was, but I love to try strange exotic foods so I thought, 'why not?' - and went in. I immediately fell in love with this stimutating and healthy combination of salad and soup in one bowl which was like nothing else I had ever tasted.
I continued to visit the restaurant about three times a week for the next couple of months, becoming friends with the cook, Hung, who told me he had been a doctor in South Vietnam but had to leave when Saigon was overthrown, helping many groups of boat people to escape until, weeks later, he finally felt he could leave himself. He wasn't able to practice medicine in Australia yet so he was working as a cook until he qualified. The restaurant, Vao Doi, which means new beginning, was set up by a Vietnamese Catholic priest named Father Bart to serve primarily as a meeting place and home away from home for the refugees in Melbourne.
Later, when the Boat People were landing off the coast of Darwin in force and there was much controversy and newspaper headlines about turning them away, angry and feeling powerless to do anything, I wrote a song called 'Boat People' and pressed about 500 copies, paying for it myself. No radio station was interested in playing it, so I took a couple of boxes of the single to Vao Doi and gave them as a gift to Hung to distribute them amongst his friends. I wanted the Vietnamese people in Melbourne to at least know that one Australian welcomed them here.
Hung liked the lyrics to the song a lot, and about a month later invited me to sing it for a Vietnamese Festival he was involved in. He also asked me over to his house, for a big homestyle Vietnamese meal. I asked him if I could bring anything and he said, pizza. So I brought the raw ingredients and made his family a homemade pizza in their little kitchen, for an appetiser. What a feast! I have never eaten with anyone in my life that could eat the quantities of those little red bird's eye chillis that Hung's family could. I could barely nibble the end of one but they ate them whole, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. After a fantastic meal, we sat around singing for two hours. Everyone in that family knew a capella Vietnamese folk songs, primarily with the heartaching themes of how they missed their wartorn country.
Sometime later, after the success of my single, 'Shaddap You Face', with all the travel and commitments internationally, I lost touch with Hung and Vao Doi. I decided to look him up. I found him in Springvale and was now a practising doctor and had become President of the Vietnamese community, in Melbourne! He invited me once again to sing 'Boat People' before a convention of Vietnamese and Australian diplomats including Barry Jones and Ken Glare. (The only thing he requested this time was that I also sing 'Shaddap'! Well, it's not that far removed from making pizza!) I asked a friend of Hung's to translate the lyrics of 'Boat People' into Vietnamese and I passed out copies to everyone in the auditorium.
I was so nervous and kept my eyes closed through the entire performance, as I was only singing about ten feet away from these hard-looking Vietnamese community leaders, all older men. I was hoping that I wouldn't offend anyone with my lyrics. I mean, a lot of these people had had family killed or left behind and many of them came over here on those rickety boats.
Well, that translation must have been a ripper because when I opened my eyes, the whole group of men was in tears. It was one of the most memorable musical performances I have ever had.
(The lyrics to Boat People, in English and Vietnamese.)
Now . . . . back to the Pho recipe, as Didier Corlou, gives it, with a few modifications, the way I like it.
(Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup with Fresh Herbs)
Pho rice noodles (banh pho) 1 kg
Beef Bone 1 kg
Beef rump or shoulder 400 gr, cut into three inch pieces
Beef fillet 150 gr, (finely sliced)
Shallots (hanh kho) 20 gr
Old ginger (gung gia) 30 gr
Star Anise (hoa hoi) 3 pieces
Cinnamon stick (que) 1 3-cm piece
Black Cardamon seeds (thai qua) 1-2 tbles
1 Lime or lemon (chanh)
Spring onions (hanh la) 100 gr
Fresh Herbs: Mint (rau thom), Coriander (rau mui), Saw Coriander (rau mui tau), Basil leaves.
1/2 red onion
Fish Sauce (nuoc mam)
Fresh red chilli
finely minced fresh ginger
3 litres of water
Salt and Pepper
small square of muslin cloth and string to tie
1- Make the broth in advance. (The day before is ok but refrigerate, in that case.)
2- Prepare the fresh herbs an hour or so before serving
3- Prepare the noodles and beef fillet right before serving.
Wash the bone and the meat. Drain the piece of beef fillet with kitchen absorbent paper. (Some cooks like to roast beef bones before making stock. I haven't tried it with this particular dish but there's no reason why it wouldn't work.) Slice thinly and grill the ginger and the shallots. Set aside. Lightly roast the cardamom seeds, the star anise and the cinnamon stick. Be careful of roasting the star anise as it burns quickly. You might want to remove the star anise and the cardamom seeds after about 30 seconds and let the cinnamon stick stay a little longer. Crush the roast spices roughly in a mortal and pestle, combine with the grilled ginger and shallots, place in the square of muslin and tie securely with the string.
Place 3 litres of cold water in a pot and put in the beef bone. Turn heat up high and when it boils, skim, and place the spice sachet and the pieces of beef rump (the raw beef fillet is saved until serving time). Season with a little fish sauce and salt, and simmer, covered, on low heat for about two and a half hours. Take the spices out when the stock has become fragrant, after about two hours. Take out the beef bone and discard. Take out the meat and drain well and set aside. Check the seasoning.
Now you can either let the stock cool and refrigerate until ready to serve, later, or the next day - or if you plan to serve it straight away, keep the stock simmering while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Slice the uncooked beef fillet very thinly, place in a small bowl and marinate in the finely minced ginger. Set aside until ready. Wash the fresh herbs and place side by side, with the bean shoots, on a large serving dish. Slice the spring onion (diagonally) and finely slice the red onion. Blanche the noodles in boiling water for about 5 minutes until al dente, and quickly refresh in cold water. Place some noodles in each bowl, with some spring onions, red onions, and some sliced cooked beef. Pour on the boiling stock. Place the uncooked ginger-marinated beef fillet slices in a ladle and poach it in the boiling stockpot for a few seconds and then add some to each bowl.
Serve immediately accompanied by cut lemons and limes, sliced red chillies, the fresh basil, mint and corianders, bean shoots, nuoc mam, chili sauce and black bean sauce as garnishes. Combine handfuls of the herbs and be