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Friday January 20th, 2006

FrankenChrist, Unravelation and The Rupture

' . . And he bringeth forth the wind from his storehouses . .'
Jeremiah 10:13


Dear Folks,

I was relaxing in the bath, reading my Bible, as one does after a hard day of plowing, and it struck me the vast difference between the Old Testament, with its stoning to death, plagues of locusts left and right, blowflies up the wazoo, and general mayhem - compared to the New Testament - pretty much a four story edifice of Jesus's life, with some correspondence tacked on. And then there's that jerry-rigged Jerry Bruckheimer ending bit where the ca-ca really hits the fan: Revelation. More like Unravelation. Now Unravelation sounds like it belongs back in the Old Testament to me. Way back in there. Written by some paranoid cave dwelling patriarchal prophet whose wives probably all left him causing him to bang his head on the cave wall until all those insane images starting flowing, Unravelation IS the Bible - chapter and verse - for the Religious Right. Forget about Jesus, except in name only. Does any thinking person, in their right mind, really believe that the man who spoke the Sermon on the Mount is the same one who inspired Unravelation? Give me a Holy Break! I've said many times that there are as many religions as people and that folks write their own Bibles based on whatever it is they want to extract from it, and choose to quote, to defend their actions. One can find justification for any deed, moral or immoral, in Bible quotes - from witch burning, to giving to the poor, from living a life free of material possessions, to becoming mega-rich, from hanging Black people, to sacrificing one's life for one's neighbor, from non-violence, to ultra-violence, from bombing Iraq, to overthrowing the government - to anything you want. In fact, the more vague the Bible quote, the more ways it can be interpreted. I think the Religious Right itself probably evolved from watching too much American television. Too much Judge Judy and the Shopping Channel. It's like they took their shopping trolley, with plenty of Judge Judy's dont-piss-on-my-leg-and-tell-me-its-raining attitude, and strolled through the Supermarket Boneyard and Body Farm of the Dead Prophets and Apostles writings, taking something from this shelf, something from that rack, an arm from this sarcophagus, a knee from that burial mound - until they had all the necessary parts to make their very own personal FrankenChrist. Zapped to life with a big jolt of Enthusiam (from the Greek word, Entheos = god in us) and you're ready to go. Let's go start a splinter church. Hot damn! Hosanna, can you see?

People often ask me, Joe, why do you write this damn newsletter? Lad, why do you feel it necessary to speak out against our fairly elected leaders? Why aren't you supportive of our government? Do you hate religion? What do you REALLY believe in?

I can only respond that I answer to a Greater Calling - because of that one fateful day when a mighty veil was lifted from mine eyes and I SAW the truth:


Yea! as I walked out that morning, Children of Inequity, I was smote about the head and backside by a gopherwood-like Vision measuring fifty cubits by thirty cubits of Wheels within Wheels. I fell to the ground unconscious. When finally the Holy Tweety Birds had ceased Tweeting and my sight had cleared, I beheld a great Irony Angel, with a flowing Beard of Razorwire, a burst Pomegranet for a nose, 15 horns arrayed the length of his Twisted Spine, belching odours of Jasmine and Wormwood, five grey dappled and moulting Wings, twenty seven Bow Legs, four score and twenty Flat Feet, a Tail in the shape of a fifty-five foot Circumcised John Henry, and Smoke and Hellfire surrounding, scratching at a great simmering Boil on his face with a Hand comprising Seven Claws of dull Brass and engraved Copperplate.
As I cowered there amongst my fragile tomato plants, fearing for my mortal coil, the Angel of Irony transformed into a friendlier form, less threatening to my male eyes: a stunning seven foot Lingerie Model with six Breasts, two hundred Vaginas, a Hairy Back, and Lips like an inflated Naval Dinghy.
'What do you want of me?' I whimpered, hoping for a shag . . . or a quick death.
"Ohhh . . why don't you come up and see me sometime, you little earthworm . . . . Ohhh . . . is that a peace sign in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?' whispereth the Apparition. "I have come to give you the Vision and Promise Keeping for the future. No longer need ye be feared of the False Prophets Bush, Blair and . . . the Little Fellow with the Glasses. I bring news of the impending RUPTURE!'
At that moment, there was a tremendous Trumpet Blast, (or it might have been an Angel Fart.) In any case, I passed out. When I came to, the disembodied Voice continued explaining, as well as it could through those big fat frying chicken-eating Lips, that soon THE RUPTURE, as foretold in Unravelation, would come to pass, whereas the False Prophets would be given massive Hernias that would cause their Prostates to explode, and be lifted by their thinning hair out into space and deposited on one of Pluto's moons, leaving behind only their false teeth and nine irons.
Then the Angel of Agony was gone. . . .
Thinking I had been dreaming, delerious, I quickly consulted my stolen Gideon Bible and sure enough, therein found the prophecy, staring me in the face the whole time:
" Seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands, one like a Son of Man clothed with a long robe and with a GOLDEN GIRDLE . . ." Rev 1: 12 -13
The hernias were foretold in Mark:
" No one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and so are the skins..' Mark 2:22

The Angel of Ebony and Ivory also promised a Great Reward for me, after THE RUPTURE, if I stood up and DEFIED the unrighteous warmongering laws of those false prophets, Bush, Blair and . . . the Little Fellow with the Glasses. A Reward greater than imagination itself - if I could stand fast:

" Circumsicion indeed is of value if you obey these laws; but BREAK these laws, and your Circumsicion becomes Uncircumcised.' Romans 2: 25 (Note: Look it up if ye doubt me, ye of so little faith!)

Yea! Truly a miracle was prophesised into mine eye!
Amen and Awomen.


Favourite Reader Comments of the Week

(Non-Australian readers might want to skip this entire section as it has to do with Australian politics.)

This week's letters will focus exclusively on the debate engendered from last week's article on the song, 'Tonight Our Fires,' by Paul and Dan Kelly, in four sections:

1. Introduction
2. Artists and Organiser's Comments
3. My Personal Comments
4. Summation

1. Introduction

Kelly Pens a Song for the Games

" MUSIC great Paul Kelly has written a song for the Commonwealth Games, which organisers hope will become the event's popular anthem. . . . " (full article)

This is the headline, story (and lyrics) in the January 8th edition of the Sunday Herald-Sun that precipitated my enquiry in last weeks newsletter (Jan. 13) questioning the wisdom of a song with the themes of battle, war and glory being used for the charity, Sing For Water, and as an anthem for the Commonwealth Games. I put out a request to fellow songwriters and activists for comments. I have reproduced them in full below, as well as a explanatory note from the primary writer of the song, Paul Kelly, and letters from the producer of Sing For Water, Catherine Reiser, and Kavisha Mazzella, the musical director of the choirs.
I have also spoken to Paul Stewart, from the Herald Sun, about his article, emailed Dan Kelly, Paul's cousin and the second co-writer of the song, (and was told he was recording and didn't have time to comment) and have put some hard questions to Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden, via Brent Hooley, from the Premier's Media Unit, about his alleged statements. I received a reply, if you can call it that, which I have also included below.

I want to thank all the artists and writers who took the time to write me and give their views, a courageous move, knowing that I would publish them with their names attached. This is a small country and we all have to live and work here together. I commend people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, even at some possible personal sacrifice. None of us, normally, make a habit of criticizing our fellow artists - publically. (Usually, it is merely a personal matter of artistic differences.)
However, in this instance, as this particular work has entered the public arena and even strayed into the area of politics, I think it only fair to treat this the same as we would treat any politician's statements. I trust Paul and Dan Kelly will accept the feedback from their peers and fellow artists in the spirit that it is intended. We are all on the same side in our desires for a peaceful world with justice, and an environment in balance.

2. Artists and Organisers Comments

Here is the link to the lyrics to 'Tonight Our Fires,', which were reproduced, with kind permission, in last week's newsletter, and can be accessed, for reference, via my website Newsletter Archive page:

Tonight Our Fires (written by Paul and Dan Kelly) LYRICS

And here are the comments I received from fellow artists. (I have included my own notes where I felt relevant.)

I will open with songwriter Paul Kelly's own reply:

To Joe,
Tonight Our Fires was commissioned by Sing For Water to help raise money for a water project in east timor. the brief was to write a song suitable to be performed with a choir and with a theme relating either to east timor or water. i chose to write from the point of view of soldiers on the eve of battle facing a far greater opposing force. although the song is not about a specific event or occasion, in my mind it has great relevance to the East Timorese resistance against Indonesia or to any other struggle in defence of traditional lands. it's an elegaic, quiet song - not at all an attempt at a popular anthem for a sporting event. Paul Kelly

Hi Joe,
Yes I can understand this being a song for FRETILIN about ten years ago. It is extremely militiaristic ... beating drums, gruel, we'll give her our death, our fate will lead us on, gods and stars, smoke before the wind (it is quite cliché ridden I have to say) I must admit the Commonwealth games seem a bit silly to me, and Im a sports fan. It still reeks of being the Empire Games. The only good thing about it is that it gives the Pacific Island nations a chance to compete in good numbers because they generally can't afford to send too many athletes to the Olympics or they don't make the qualifying times. But what this song of civil war has to do with the Commonwealth games is beyond my understanding. I know Paul has a history of relevant involvement in good causes and is held in high esteem across the board, but Im sure there are songs of his more appropriate for this.
Maybe they should have commissioned the Mojo ad team who wrote the classic
lyric, "id have to say your scones are, absolutely bonzer!" to come up with a green and gold jingoistic 'come on aussie come on' song. Cheers, David Bridie,
composer, ARIA award winner, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Not Drowning, Waving website

(Notes: Fretlin - The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Portuguese: Frente Revolucionária de Timor-Leste Independente or FRETILIN) was a resistance movement which fought for the independence of East Timor, first from Portugal and then from Indonesia, between 1974 and 1998. It was originally the Timorese Social Democratic Association (ASDT). After East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia, FRETILIN became one of several parties competing for power in a multi-party system.
In the first elections, held in 2001, the year before independence, Fretilin polled 57.4% of the vote and took 55 seats in the 88-seat Assembly. While this gave the party a working majority, it fell short of the two-thirds majority it had hoped for in order to dictate the drafting of a national constitution. Nine other parties and one independent candidate shared the remaining votes.
Fretlin holds consultative status with the Socialist International (SI), an international organisation for social democratic and democratic socialist parties.
The Socialist International has its roots in the Second International, which was formed in 1889. Split by the outbreak of World War I, it was re-formed in 1923 (as the Labour and Socialist International), and reconstituted again (in its present form) after World War II (during which many socialist parties had been suppressed in Nazi-occupied Europe). Among the Second International's most famous actions were its (1889) declaration of 1st May as International Labour Day and its (1910) declaration of 8th March as International Women's Day.
Official Website

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
For more information on East Timor History

The song seems to glorify those who agree to go to war. It sure doesn't seem to have anything to do with either water or sport. Unless killing is a sport. Chris Sitka,
writer, critic, coordinator Friends of Kapululangu Women's Centre

I . . . have some additional problems with the lyrics which I perceive to be a bowing down and acceptance of whatever fate dishes out; there's a level where it's not just bush fires - it could be racial intolerance and so on. Margaret Walters,
singer and folk activist

(Note: I hadn't thought of the song as possibly referring to bush fires and firefighters - but it can. This is the problem with these kind of generic lyrics - they can be appropriated by groups for whom they are not intended. Even terrorists. JD)

Hi Joe,
Whilst I seldom play critic . . with these lyrics, even if they were relevant, why would ethical sincerity guarantee artistic quality? Confusion between polemic and poetic expression is what irritates me most about Aussie folk-rock, with very few exceptions. Sure, Paul Kelly has a solid reputation and from what I've heard, it's well deserved. Yet these lyrics are awful. (Nick Cave and Brendan Perry are far ahead in their mastery of language. Is that why they had to forge their careers overseas?) Consider the melodrama of this line: "How rich our thin gruel tastes tonight". I've known many refugees, asylum seekers and other survivors of war, repression or poverty. None ever described their ordeals in such sentimental terms.
The personification - "Morning will come with its beating drum" - doesn't feel convincing. Shakespeare convinced me that dawn was a lark (even if Romeo and Juliet wanted it to be a nightingale, to prolong their illicit snuggle). John Donne convinced me that the sun was a "busy fool". Others have evoked dawn as a sensual goddess, Eos, riding her golden chariot. But how effective are metaphors seemingly born of convenient rhyme? This one is just plain clunky. And why do so many Australian contemporary songwriters rely so heavily on trite cluster phrases? "Live or die", "here and there", "They watch us from afar", "smoke before the wind": all are cliches. If you asked Oscar Wilde for his contribution, he'd probably say: "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral song. Lyrics are well written or badly written." yours truly, Louisa John-Krol,
musician, singer-songwriter website

Yo Joe!
 Great to hear from you!  It seems to be a well written song glorifying war and the soldiers who die for it.  Doesn't seem to have much to do about either safe water or sport as far as I can tell.  Love, Kristina Olsen,
singer-songwriter, guitarist website

OK.... I'm not really all that keen on doing a critique on a fellow artist's work if I don't have anything positive to say. However I find Paul's and Dan's lyrics inappropriate as a Commonwealth Games song (and they certainly have nothing to do with water or peace). The theme that runs through the song is that of the impending battle and the metaphor
is therefore to my mind a little heavy handed given that it evokes images of blood and carnage in these days of unjust wars and terrorism. To call it jingoistic by definition is probably a bit strong, I'm sure P&D didn't intend it that way, but is does carry a hint of that sentiment in this application given the competetive/combative nature of sport and that was my first impression when I read it. The lyrics are well crafted and do create a strong image ..... just inappropriate for what they were supposedly custom written for. Probably work well in a war documentary or a movie. Joe Creighton,
singer-songwriter, bass player for the John Farnham Band 13 years. website

. . . about the Kellys' song..
 I had not gotten around to reading all of your Friday 13th newsletter so I went through the link you provided and went straight to the song. ie I had no idea of its context/background before reading the lyrics. On reading it, I thought it was a song about Iraq, told from the Iraqi side ­ not bad I thought. I was astounded to read that it is supposed to be about the water project and will be used at the Games ­ what is this "tomorrow I give you my death" stuff? Or is this just a big Joe Dolce hoax . .? Judy Small,
singer-songwriter, lawyer website

Hi there Joe,
I am the musical director of Sing For Water and my job has been to gather music for the show on the 18th, chorally arrange it and direct the rehearsals and conduct the 500 voice choir on the day. The 500 people are drawn from all over Melbourne and come from communities as diverse as Castlemaine, Dandenong Sudanese to Melbourne Italian to "aussie " neighbourhood house choirs and Chinese too. The Choirs are of various experiences and we wanted to make it possible for choirs with less experience to have a really amazing life changing experience. Above are the songs chosen and to my knowledge Paul Kelly's contribution is a response to Timor. I think the song fits with what we're doing because it acknowledges the role that the soldier played in the history of Timor and Australia. Whether we like it or not ... There has been a bond between Timor and Australia through the soldiers. From the history of W.W. 2 when the Timorese Creados helped the Aussies against the Japanese to recent events. the song is quite different from the rest of our material and has a soft mourning hymnlike and solemn feeling. Sad and poignant... The soldier seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. While it is the song of the soldier it is not a war mongering song and to me seems to end on the note that war is useless as " we're here then gone again". The concert will help to raise funds for 2 of the poorest villages outside Dili for Water and Sanitation programmes .The song was not written for the "Games" it was commissioned for our project alone and the money Paul received was donated back to the Water project. The newspaper article was misleading and taken out of context. The author of the article [Paul Stewart] has since written another article making amends and giving the correct information. I hope you can come to the concert. it will be great to see you there... thanks Joe. Love, Kavisha Mazzella,
Musical Director of Sing For Water singer-wongwriter, ARIA award winner website


As discussed today, the [Paul Stewart] article was largely inaccuarate in terms of its omission to mention that Paul Kelly was asked to write a song specifically for Sing For Water, a mass choir of 600 voices and as a fundraising tool for East Timor. We were pretty upset about the way his involvement was misrepresented with no mention made of East Timor and the fundraising undertaken by 600 singers, representing 30 multicultural choirs from across Melbourne and Victoria.
In answer to some of your questions over the phone and below - Paul Kelly agreed to write a song for Sing For Water having received background information on the history of Sing For Water and its aims for the Brisbane and Melbourne Sing For Water concerts who both share the commission. After a meeting to discuss the brief and all aspects of the project, Paul agreed to come on board with no hesitation in order to help raise funds for clean water and sanitation and sanitation education in East Timor. As Australia's favourite singer,songwriter and poet, the brief was to write something which responded to Timor or to water. he chose the former. The song was written for 600 voices with Paul to also sing with the choir. Kavisha Mazella, Musical Director of Sing For Water and I are both thrilled with the song Paul has written, which has been arranged in four parts. The experience for the choir of working both with Paul and Kavisha and with the material has been tremendous. At the live concert, there will be a whole new experience, which for most of the amateur participants will be unforgetable.
Sing For Water is a community project, which provides an opportunity for amateur choirs and singers to work with professional artists within the context of a free large-scale outdoor festival, which for this concert is part of Festival, Melbourne 2006 (Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival). Inexperienced choirs work alongside the experienced ones, friendship and professional network opportunities are set up and exchanges are there for future collaboration. These partnerships raise aspirations and provide new learning opportunities & experiences that have the potential to make a huge difference to the participants as well as to the people without clean water.
As a separate concert and project, Children's Sing For Water involves ten Melbourne schools coming together following ten intensive weeks of workshops as part of the City of Melbourne's Children's Week project, delivered by the Community Cultural Development Dept. Working alongside professional musical artists, Kutcha Edwards, Valanga Khoza, writer, Angela Costi, singers and choir leaders, Vicki King, & Andrea Watson, filmmaker Rhian Hinkly, plus three amazing accompanying musicians, 500 children have composed two new songs, they've learnt new songs, undertaken drumming, rapping and animation workshops, all connected to the theme of water - their schools have received education packs and information written and designed by WaterAid, Australia about children in the world's poorest countries, including East Timor and what life might be like without clean water. The children have no obligation to raise money, however the workshop process includes raising awareness of water issues and as the next generation they will be best informed to help this cause.
A bit of background as to how and why Sing For Water came about.....For three years I was Associate Director of the Mayor's Thames Festival on London's South Bank and a week prior to taking on this role I happened to do a singing workshop with an extraordinary woman called Helen Chadwick who was founder of the London Georgian Choir, arranged songs for actors working with established theatre companies such as Theatre de Complicite with whom I had worked for twelve years, The National Theatre, The RSC and much more. The singing workshop I attended was held two months after Sept 11th and at the beginning of the workshop Helen announced that she wanted the proceeds of the workshop to go towards a charity called WaterAid which provides clean water and sanitation projects in the third world. As one of 30 participants we all agreed and our meagre contributions towards the workshop went to WaterAid, a UK based charity which spends low on admin and marketing and high on the projects themselves.
Following a great workshop, I suggested to Helen that we meet up and discuss the possibilities of doing something on a larger-scale as part of the Thames Festival and as recently appointed Associate Director, asked to programme and produce new work, I felt that a project connected to water such as this would be a good match for a festival on the River Thames. We came up with the idea of creating a mass choir concert, which would bring large numbers of people together in the learning of beautiful and poetic songs from around the world, some connected by the theme of water and that all participants would collect their own sponsorship for a water project of our collective choice. In the second year, I organised a Children's Sing For Water concert with a different musical director and so far since 2002 there have been four concerts raising approximately $300,000 for clean water and sanitation in Southern india, Bukino faso and Ghana. Helen Chadwick will appear as a guest artist at Sing For Water in Melbourne as part of the cultural festival and will be running singing workshops in town while she is here info@singforwateraustralia.com
In Feb 2004, I attended APAM (Australian Performing Arts Market) in Adelaide as an international delegate and I met with producers, festival directors, funders and spoke about Sing For Water. These meetings resulted in lots of interest from many corners, including Jonathan Parsons, Director of Riverfest Brisbane coming to London with the Chair of his board funded by The British Council to see how we brought together the final stages of the mass choir presentation. I worked as Associate Producer of Sing For Water at Riverfest, Brisbane and the Sing For Water, Australia Premiere took place in Sept 05 as the closing festival's free concert in the botanical gardens to an audience of approximately 5,000 people. The $15,000 raised by the choirs from Queensland is going towards funding a clean water and sanitation project in P&G managed by WaterAid, Australia. The concert included 500 singers and guest artists, Kate Cebrano, Troy and Trevalen, with The Briscoe Sister's singing Paul Kelly's song. The festival hopes to repeat Sing for Water again this year.
In June 2004, having relocated here from London I met with Arts Projects Australia who have responsibility for programming The Cultural Festival and they invited Sing For Water to be part of the programme. The City of Melbourne's Community Cultural Development Department came on board as co-producers and together we have been producing these concerts for the enjoyment of the widest possible public as part of an accessible, free, family friendly event in Central Melbourne. Sing For Water in Melbourne is part of Festival Melbourne 2006, in Alexandra Gardens on Saturday 18th March 2006. Children Sing For Water is at 2pm and adult Sing For Water is at 3.30pm. Best wishes, Catherine Reiser,
Producer singforwateraustralia.com

3. My Personal Comments

The first question I always ask about a song lyric is: what is the idea the songwriter is trying to get across? The Thematic Idea can usually be summed up in a couple of lines.

In a nutshell, this song is about mateship. With one eye fixed firmly on glory.

But what a defeatist thing to tell men before a struggle, such as ' The gods they care not for us, They watch us from afar.' Which religion is being referred to anyway? Which voyeur uncaring pagan gods are we evoking? And why this poorly photocopied Greek/Roman mythological imagery here instead of the artist's own personal spirituality? Unless the writer is attempting to put himself in the shoes of these soldiers. (If so, I think he would better served reading Vietnam vet Ron Kovic's account down below.)

I read somewhere where Paul Kelly wrote that he is not a confessional songwriter. I don't think that's quite true. I think Paul's best lyrics are exactly that: confessional. Letting the listener in something extremely personal. Letting YOURSELF in on something extremely personal. But perhaps, politically, Paul feels more comfortable confessing for someone else. Bob Dylan has also been quoted as saying that he doesn't write confessional songs either. Like its some kind of dirty word. In my opinion, confessional songs - songs about your own personal life - are the SALVATION of the songwriter. If you have a writer's block - write something honest. Dig deep. Confessional writing is also at the backbone of the great women diary writers such as Sonya Tolstoi, Cosima Wagner, and the thousands of other brave souls, who have left invaluable records of what REALLY went on around them while their menfolk were busy writing fiction and appropriating myth.
One of the greatest exponents of non-violent struggle to me, Barbara Deming, believed that you could not effectively help anyone else in THEIR cause until you had dealt with your OWN personal oppression. She was a member of a group that went to Hanoi during the Vietnam war and was jailed many times. She understood the vital link between non-violence, peace and the oppression of women that had eluded her mentors, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. She believed that it was often those whom we loved that oppressed us most and that it was necessary to re-invent non-violent struggle every day. She wrote:

" Some of us are perhaps tempted to continue to deal with (anger) always by analogy; and I guess one of the main recommendations I would make ... is that we all resist that temptation. I am not suggesting that we abandon the struggle that we have been taking part in. I am suggesting that if we take upon ourselves the further struggle of confronting our own particular personal oppression, we will find ourselves better able to wage these struggles too - because in more conscious solidarity. Confronting our oppression, I mean, in the company of others - for what seems deeply personal is in truth deeply political ... I would very much include, among those who have personal anger to confront, the men among you. For if women are oppressed by men and can't fully be themselves, men, in succumbing to all the pressures put upon them from such an early age to dominate, lose the chance to be freely themselves too - to follow all kinds of contrary impulses. And I cannot believe that there is not in men a deep buried anger about this. I suggest that if we are willing to confront our own most seemingly personal angers in their raw state and take upon ourselves the task of translating this raw anger into the disciplined anger of the search for change, we will find ourselves in a position to speak much more persuasively to comrades about the need to root out from all anger the spirit of murder.'
We Can Not Live Without Our Lives,
Barbara Deming

When I mentioned to another well-known songwriter friend of mine that I hadn't heard anything publically from Paul Kelly over the years regarding his position on the Iraqi War, she told me that she thought Paul did not really write political songs.

I remember fondly a dinner party of mine, some years ago, that Paul came to at our house - one of my monthly 'songwriter's nights,' where he brought along two guests, the then unknown aboriginal singer-songwriters, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter. My friends, tribal elder, Gnarnyarrhe Waitairie and his then-wife, Ponjidfllu, also came, and with Lin Van Hek, Emma Sanguinetti and members of our singing group, The Asylum Choir, it was an eclectic mix and a night of vibrant song swapping. When six-foot Gnaryarrahe sat down at the table and saw Paul wedged firmly between Pondjiflu and Ruby Hunter, he cheekily commented,' Well, Paul, I guess you finally got your coloured girls.' Funny! I made a Green Chilie Pesto with Spaghettini, which, when I ran into Ruby again, five years later, was the first thing she mentioned! Paul Kelly was also the very first major Australian artist to volunteer his performances for the two Secret Policeman's Balls that I organized for Amnesty International in the 90s. I have good memories of working with him and I have found him a generous person with his support of worthwhile causes - probably more so than any other major artist in this country.

But I have been a little disappointed at him and the dozen or so major artistic spokespeople in this country for not taking a strong public stand against the Iraq War from Day One. With their voices and their influences, I think it has been irresponsible. I have held my tongue up to now because, well, it sounds bitchy to criticize other artists and, as my friend said, Paul Kelly doesn't really write political songs.

But 'Tonight Our Fires,' is not neutral. It has a MILITARY subtext. It is more appropriate as a war anthem.

What does this lyric have to do with the Commonwealth Games? Why is this idea even being considered by the Games Minister for a possible theme song?

The imagery, to me, suggests an Australian 'Gallipoli-like' or American 'Alamo-like' last stand against superior numbers. Huddling together for warmth, eating the classic 'thin gruel' (with obviously no vegemite) the night before the great conflagelation.

I thought the Commmonwealth Games were about competing against peers? What superior numbers are we talking about here? Is it two against one in gymnastics now? (Do you think Muhammed Ali considered his opponents having superior force to his own? No way, Jose! What kind of attitude is that to go into a competition? Or a fight? I always thought it was more like: 'Failure is Unthinkable.')

And where does DEATH come into it? Which Commonwealth Sport exactly involves death again? Have we added Bullfighting? Fencing? Don't they still use those rubber tips on the ends of the foils? Maybe its the javelin throw. You know it's quite possible that one of them crazy Canadians - high on steroids - could lose it. Take out an eye. Or worse. A singer-songwriter.

Don't get me wrong - this lyric isn't bad as a FIRST DRAFT - but I would jettison about 60% of the cliches, military allusions and borrowed spirituality (maybe that's actually about 80% come to think of it) and rewrite the song based on the central idea of comradeship. Or make it more historical - really make it about FRETILIN - and some kind of specific connection to the water crisis in East Timor - two or three more strong verses would probably do it.

These are the following questions I asked in an email to Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden:

Dear Mr Justin Madden,
Re: Tonight Our Fires

I am examining the appropriateness of this song, for Sing For Water, and also comments allegedly made by you in the Herald Sun last week that the song is being performed as part of the Games (in addition to the 'Sing for Water' concert) and is under consideration for the unofficial anthem of the Commonwealth Games.
1. The song obviously has military themes. Why would something like this be considered for events which are intended to promote harmony and peaceful cooperation - and finding solutions - between countries?
2. What do the song themes of 'death', 'battle unto death,' and 'military glory', have to do with sport? Or water, for that matter?
3. The line 'Tomorrow . . . we'll give her our death.' What 'death' is exactly being given - as far as the Commonwealth Games are concerned? One writer has expressed the sentiment: 'unless killing is a sport,' which is the danger zone that one enters into when sport is confused with war.
4. The line in the song - ' the gods they care not for us . .' - which religious belief system is this referring to - where god (or gods) have no interest or caring for their believers? I can't think of any.
5. What does the theme of ' embattled forces against superior odds,' have to do with sports - which is the competition between peers and equals, not superior forces?

Finally, doesn't it seem to you on closer reading, that the song is defeatist in nature - focusing foremost on being 'remembered' and achieving 'glory' - and absolutely the wrong mental attitude to approach WINNING in competitive activity?

I appreciate your comments,

Best regards,
Joe Dolce
Writer, Publisher, Composer

Here is his official reply:

" Joe,
The Commonwealth Games Festival will be the biggest cultural event Melbourne has ever hosted. In the Festival's Sing For Water concert (Alexandra Gardens 18 March)  international community choirs and school choirs from around Melbourne will come together to perform a massive concert to raise funds for clean water projects in East Timor. I'm delighted Paul Kelly - famed Australian singer, poet and songwriter - has penned a song for the concert. Sing For Water will unquestionably be an amazing event, and it's wonderful that the proceeds will go to water projects in East Timor. I hope thousands of visitors in Melbourne for the Games attend the concert, embrace Paul Kelly's song and raise funds for clean water in East Timor. "
Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden

Now I don't know about you, folks, but did I miss something? Did Mr Madden not answer a single one of the questions put to him? If this were an exam paper and you were judging it, what kind of grade would you give this student? Is the back of the class far enough? I was going to leave it at that but an hour ago I received a further phone call from Brent Hooley, from the Premier's Media Unit, and it became clear to me that, although the Minister has not come out and said so in his letter to me, the song will not be any kind of official or unofficial theme song for the Commonwealth Games either now or in the future. The only link seems to be that the Sing For Water concert is part of the Commonwealth Games festivities. Sounds like everybody involved got a little full of themselves about being on everyone else's dance card and got carried away with the euphoria of the whole thing and didn't stop to think: is this song appropriate for what we are trying to do?

4. Summation

Well, it is apparent now that from Paul Kelly's own words, the point of view of the organisers of Sing For Water - and the statements from the Games Minister - that 'Tonight Our Fires,' will not be any kind of anthem for the Commonwealth Games.

Paul Stewart, the Herald Sun journalist who wrote the misleading article, and a subsequent follow up clarification article to his credit, is a strong supporter of the East Timor cause and was involved with a previous East Timor compilation album that Paul Kelly put together. He has got a good heart. I have done interviews with him and have found him to be a passionate lover of music and a wonderful person to be interviewed by. (But he can be a bit flaky at times.)
In an email to me today, he said that the main bias of the story toward the Commonwealth Games was two-fold: firstly, because the event is going to be huge in Melbourne, and staged in less than 50 days, and that the story would reach the 1.7 million readers of the Herald Sun, and secondly, that the Herald Sun always goes hard on the sporting angle. He was also afraid that my efforts in 'bagging' the song, as he put it, might undermine the worthwhile cause of Sing For Water in helping with the vital need for water in East Timor. Fair enough concern. (I thought deeply about this very issue, Paul, believe me, before I decided to take this on. But I have also learned that CONTROVERSY is the best way of insuring longevity so hopefully I'm doing everyone a favour.)

It seems obvious to me that everyone's critical faculties in determining the appropriateness of this song was impaired by external factors. Having the great Paul Kelly part of the projects. Being part of the great Commonwealth Games. Great Smoke and Mirrors. Let's call it 'Pomp and Circumstance'. (Composer Edward Elgar wrote that beautiful work, naively, for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and it was later hijacked by the British government and used as the primary anthem for British troops in WWI. Elgar was so angry he refused to ever write another national anthem, even when requested to compose a Peace theme at the end of the war. He didn't trust 'em and he never totally shook off his popular label as a 'war composer'.)

As far as the Sing For Water project goes, choral director Kavisha Mazzella sent me copies of the lyrics of all the other songs on the program. They all look fine to me. 'Tonight Our Fires,' is not my ideal choice, in its present form, but it probably is ok, in context - with the condition that the song is prefaced by a good introduction that links its relevance to FRETILIN, the struggle for East Timorese independence, and the resulting crisis that has led to the water shortage there. In that specific context, the song makes more sense. But I can't see the song being useful to any other Sing for Water projects, as the imagery really belongs to East Timorese history.

My final word on this is that Sing For Water is such an IMPORTANT idea and cause that all this debate and creative analysis about appropriateness of song material is largely irrelevant in light of the larger PURPOSE behind it all. In this regard, I agree with Paul Stewart. I have had my own consciousness raised during this last week and I now totally support Sing For Water and Paul Kelly's involvement in Sing For Water. And I believe we all should. This is on-the-ground activism at its best, helping people that are in need and deserve it.

Amen and Awomen.


The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq
by Ron Kovic


Thirty-eight years ago, on Jan. 20, 1968, I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside.
As I now contemplate another January 20th I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded in the war in Iraq. They have been coming home now for almost three years, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across the country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, over 16,000 of them, a whole new generation of severely maimed is returning from Iraq, young men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx veterans hospital in 1968. . . .
. . . . As this the 38th anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, in many ways I feel my injury in that war has been a blessing in disguise. I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe that I have suffered for a reason and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. We who have witnessed the obscenity of war and experienced its horror and terrible consequences have an obligation to rise above our pain and suffering and turn the tragedy of our lives into a triumph. I have come to believe that there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.
We must break this cycle of violence and begin to move in a different direction; war is not the answer, violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.

I am the living death
The memorial day on wheels
I am your yankee doodle dandy
Your John Wayne come home
Your Fourth of July firecracke
Exploding in the grave

Full Article

DIG DIRECTOR: RON KOVIC served two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In combat on Jan. 20, 1968, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He became one of the best-known peace activists among the veterans of the war. His story was the basis of Oliver's Stone's movie, 'Born On The Fourth of July.' Contact: rkovic@truthdig.com


 Iraq, the Mother of All Budget Busters
 By David Isenberg

"If Bush had come to the American people with a request to spend several hundred billion dollars and several thousand American lives in order to bring democracy to Iraq, he would have been laughed out of court." - noted political scientist Francis Fukuyama

It turns out the eventual cost of the war in Iraq will not be several hundred billion, but according to a new study at least a thousand billion dollars - US$1 trillion, in other words. This figure dwarfs any previous estimate by orders of magnitude . .. . article


Cronkite: Time for US to Leave Iraq
By David Bauder

Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he'd say the same thing today about Iraq.
"It's my belief that we should get out now," Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters. article


Women's Anti-War Petition Circles the Globe
by Haider Rizvi

 NEW YORK - Eminent female writers, artists, lawmakers and social activists in the United States are reaching out to women leaders across the world in an attempt to forge a global alliance against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
A U.S.-based women's group has launched a global campaign to gather 100,000 signatures by March 8, International Women's Day, when they will be delivered to the White House and U.S. embassies around the world.
"We are unleashing a global chorus of women's voices shouting, 'Enough!" said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a California-based rights advocacy group that has spearheaded the global women's campaign, called "Women Say No to War". article


10 Things Martin Luther King Would have Done about Iraq
by Juan Cole

Every year we honor Martin, and we hear again his stirring speech, "I have a Dream." But in many ways, that speech is among the least challenging of his charges to us, however hard and unfulfilled it remains. He dreamed other dreams, of the end of exploitative materialism and relentless militarism, of an America devoted to social justice and creative non-violence, which our mainstream media do not dare repeat over and over again.

We do not have Martin among us to guide us with his wisdom. But it is not hard to extrapolate from his Beyond Vietnam address of 1967 to what he would think about the Iraq morass.

He would say we have to treat with the Sunni Arabs and the Shiite Sadrists. We have to treat with the enemy. Not only for their sakes, for the sake of ruined cities like Fallujah and Tal Afar, and those to come-- but for our own sakes. The Ten Things

We Could Each be Dr. King

Real story of Dr. King could inspire action; instead, we hear feel-good whitewash.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would be 77 on Sunday. He has been dead for 38 years. As his living memory fades, replaced by a feel-good "I have a dream" whitewash that ignores much of what he stood for and fought against, it's more important than ever to recapture the true history of Dr. King -- because much of what he fought against is resurfacing or still with us today.

King, the man, was, along with Mohandas Gandhi, one of the two most internationally revered symbols of nonviolence in the 20th century. He spent his too-brief adult life defying authority and convention, citing a higher moral authority, and gave hope and inspiration for the liberation of people of color on six continents. MLK Day, the holiday, has devolved into the Mississippi Burning of third Mondays. What started out as gratitude, that they made a movie about it, gradually becomes revulsion at how new generations of Euro-Americans mislearn the story.

King is not a legend because he believed in diversity trainings and civic ceremonies, or because he had a nice dream. He is remembered because he took serious risks and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power. King is also remembered because, among a number of brave and committed civil rights leaders and activists, he had a flair for self-promotion, a style that also appealed to white liberals, and the extraordinary social strength of the black Southern churches behind him. And because he died before he had a chance to be widely believed a relic or buffoon. article

US Constitution in Grave Danger
By Al Gore

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens - Democrats and Republicans alike - to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
 In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.
So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.
 It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.
On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped - one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.
The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide. article


There Is No Tomorrow
By Bill Moyers

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress.
For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The offspring of ideology and theology are not always bad but they are always blind. And that is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the "rapture index."
. . . .    So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? As Glenn Scherer reports in the online environmental journal Grist, millions of Christian fundamentalists believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but hastened as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
We're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half of the members of Congress are backed by the religious right. . . (full article)


Global Warming to Speed Up as Carbon Levels Show Sharp Rise
by Geoffrey Lean

Global warming is set to accelerate alarmingly because of a sharp jump in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Preliminary figures, exclusively obtained by The Independent on Sunday, show that levels of the gas - the main cause of climate change - have risen abruptly in the past four years. Scientists fear that warming is entering a new phase, and may accelerate further.

But a summit of the most polluting countries, convened by the Bush administration, last week refused to set targets for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. Set up in competition to the Kyoto Protocol, the summit, held in Sydney and attended by Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, instead pledged to develop cleaner technologies - which some experts believe will not arrive in time.

The climb in carbon dioxide content showed up in readings from the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken at the summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The measurements have been taken regularly since 1958 in the 11,400ft peak's pristine conditions, 2,000 miles from the nearest landmass and protected by unusual climatic conditions from the pollution of Hawaii, two miles below.

Through most of the past half-century, levels of the gas rose by an average of 1.3 parts per million a year; in the late 1990s, this figure rose to 1.6 ppm, and again to 2ppm in 2002 and 2003. But unpublished figures for the first 10 months of this year show a rise of 2.2ppm.

Scientists believe this may be the first evidence that climate change is starting to produce itself, as rising temperatures so alter natural systems that the Earth itself releases more gas, driving the thermometer ever higher. article



Time Gous By Con Loli
Las Terremoto de Alcorcon
Spanish drag queens mangling Madonna. Funny video. (Tip: Use Netscape) video


Sarlo's Guru Rating Service

Welcome to Sarlo's Guru Rating Service, a compilation of mostly non-mainstream religious leaders whose mission/job description is basically to help us lift ourselves out of the multiple ruts of misery we find ourselves in as we live our lives. Their methods, quality and authenticity vary tremendously, as do the degree to which they encourage worship of their exalted selves and even their conceptions of our misery. What they have in common (mostly) is a kind of free-standingness, at least a semi-independence from traditional established (organised) religious structures and hierarchies, although of course there is nothing to stop them from setting up their own structures and hierarchies.
Their willingness to "take us on" as cases or disciples cannot exactly be described as taking responsibility for us and our spiritual progress, but something like that. Beyond this admittedly inadequate phrase, it is difficult to say in our limited language what their end of the master-disciple deal is. Let them speak for themselves in their websites.
To find any particular guru figure, click on the appropriate letter page link , or hit the search engine. Alphabetical listings are according to the name they are most familiarly known by, could be first, last or middle name; gurus with multiple aliases may require a few tries. Search may be best for them, if you can spell at least one of their names. If this is your first visit, you may want to read the introductory material. site

(thanks to Stephen Ross)


Two Ancient Italian Recipes

Zampa Burrata
(Buttered Cow's Foot)

This is an old, old strictly Florentine recipe one rarely encounters now, and is drawn from Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene, the first successful cookbook aimed at the Middle Class.

Since Florentines tend to butcher young animals, they have adopted the custom of eating what is left with the skins that go to the tanner in other regions. I mean the legs, from the knee down, which are shaved so they become a beautiful white and are sold, either whole or in pieces.

Take a good sized piece of foot, boil it, bone it, chop it up, and set it in a pot over the fire with unsalted butter, salt, and pepper. Simmer it until the meat is soft, adding broth as necessary to keep it from drying out, and season it with a little bit of meat sauce and grated Parmigiano upon removing it from the fire. In the absence of meat sauce, tomato sauce can be substituted.
(thanks to Kyle Phillips)


Cinghiale All'Etrusca
(wild boar loin)

The wild boar was the favorite meat in the Etruscan cuisine. Most of the territory was covered by woods where the boars were numerous and the Etruscans hunted them with the help of ferocious dogs - probably Assyrian mastiffs. To soften the taste of wild, leave the boar meat covered in 1/2 of water and 1/2 of red wine with salt for one night.

boar loin
red chili pepper

Rinse the meat in water and vinegar, cut it in little pieces. Chop up the vegetables. Put everything in a pan with olive oil and cook slowly (about 40 minutes) adding red wine when needed. Add tomatoes, mustard, salt to taste and a drop of vinegar and cook 20 minutes more.




I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

~ Jane Kenyon ~