JUNE 17, 2003

One Candle


" Ideas have power ­ as long as they are not frozen in doctrine. But ideas need legs. The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources and the protection of our air, water, and land, women's rights and civil rights, free trade unions, Social Security and a civil service based on merit ­ all these were launched as citizen's movements and won the endorsement of the political class only after long struggles and in the face of bitter opposition and sneering attacks. It's just a fact: Democracy doesn't work without citizen activism and participation, starting at the community. Trickle down politics doesn't work much better than trickle down economics. It's also a fact that civilization happens because we don't leave things to other people. What's right and good doesn't come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it ­ as if the cause depends on you, because it does. Allow yourself that conceit - to believe that the flame of democracy will never go out as long as there's one candle in your hand. "
Bill Moyers 'Take Back America' Speech


Dear Beloved Class of Juvenile Delinquents,

I attended a christening over the weekend at an Italian Catholic church, which was fascinating as half the service was in Italian. The one thing that affected me deeply, besides my granddaughter getting dunked, was something from the sermon that Father Gerry Medici said; about how the fundamental objective of the church's mission is to bring Hope to people when nothing but Despair abounds. (With all the other crap on the church's agenda, it's easy to miss this.) It was a great speech, free of cynicism, and reminded me a little of Martin Luther King Jr. It's been too many decades since I've been to church and I was amazed that I still remembered all the prayers. Even thought I grew up in an Italian-American family and all the priests at our local church in Painesville, Ohio, were hardcore Italians, the service was never given in Italian, only English and Latin. When I told my mother about this and she replied, 'They only speak American in our church.'

(The following is NOT a joke.)
My friend Lin told me about a conversation she overheard recently between two little kids. One was from a family visiting from the States.
" How come you speak American over here?" the kid from the US said.
"We speak Australian here, not American," said the other.
"No - you speak American."
Just then the Australian boy's mother came over and said:
" Actually, what we all speak is English which came originally from the country of England."
To which the kid from the US replied stubbornly,
" No we don't! We speak American and we spoke it first and the people in England learned it from us." (Sounds like a future Republican hopeful.)

My brother Frank, who is on my newsletter list, suggested to me last week that if I would spend less time 'beating up our Leader' and more time writing music, he'd be happier.
I replied: "Until the Bushman is out of our face, we have to stay on his arse like salt on bacalla."

A couple days later, he sent me the following Dubya joke:

"There's a teacher in a small Texas town. She asks her class how many of them are Bush fans. Not really knowing what a Bush fan is, but wanting to be liked by the teacher, all the kids raise their hands except one boy, Johnny. The teacher asks Johnny why he has decided to be different. Johnny says, "I'm not a bush fan."

The teacher says, "Why aren't you a bush fan?"

Johnny says, "I'm an Al Gore fan"

The teacher asks why he's an Al Gore fan. The boy says, "Well, my mom's an Al Gore fan and my dad's an Al Gore fan, so I'm an Al Gore fan!" The teacher is kind of angry, because this is Texas, so she says, "What if you're mom was a moron and you're dad was an idiot, what would that make you?"

Johnny says, "That would make me a Bush fan."

All RIGHT! Soooooo . . . to keep things thematic, I'm including my favourite Bacalla recipe below. I collect them and I have about 150 at the present time. I'm of the belief that even if an asteroid the size of Calabria, wiped out all life on earth, including insects, the Bacalla would survive. It would drag itself out of that ash covered lake and find some radioactive salt to crawl in. My great grandfather also shared this belief but he didn't express it as such, most probably cause he was out in back of the shed, with the other old men in the neighbourhood, playing 'Morra.' (the ancient and all but vanished Italian hand-game - sort of like' Rock, Scissors, Paper', but with more screaming.) Bacalla is an acquired taste but once acquired can haunt you. There's an article about Ray Bradbury's writing book. Also, a free desktop Theremin you can download and play. It works! On the political front, I've enclosed a link to one of the finest speeches that I've read lately, by Bill Moyers. A veritable mini-history lesson on social change. I've also finally figured out how, at the age of 56, to tie the Windsor Knot . Instructions included for other slow learners. And closing with one of my favourite Cavafy poems.


Bill Moyers' "Presidential" Address
by John Nichols

Democratic presidential candidates were handed a dream audience of 1,000 "ready-for-action" labor, civil rights, peace and economic justice campaigners at the Take Back America conference organized in Washington last week by the Campaign for America's Future. And the 2004 contenders grabbed for it, delivering some of the better speeches of a campaign that remains rhetorically -- and directionally -- challenged. But it was a non-candidate who won the hearts and minds of the crowd with a "Cross of Gold" speech for the 21st century. . .
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Dennis Kucinich, who earned nine standing ovations for his antiwar and anti-corporate free trade rhetoric, probably did more to advance his candidacy than any of the other contenders. But he never got to the place that Bill Moyers reached with a speech that legal scholar Jamie Raskin described as "one of the most amazing and spellbinding" addresses he had ever heard.

For the TEXT of this great speech:
(Thanks to Maireid Sullivan for forwarding this article.)

Do Lawyers Waste Paper?
Yes, Ipso Facto
Does the legal profession need its own sawmills? California's 116,000 lawyers do. Each uses an average of one ton of paper per year, which adds up to 2 million trees. Paper accounts for about 35% of the state's 40 million tons of annual solid waste.
John L. Eliot, National Geographic
(Ed note: Looks like we better get to work on more Lawyer jokes.)

The Windsor Knot
For anyone who's ever wanted to learn to tie the Windsor Knot, here's a site that shows you how in easy to follow diagrams. It seems the knot originated in England, with the impeccably (if often idiosyncratically) dressed Duke of Windsor. After the First World War, when men from overseas had the money and the desire to travel abroad, they saw the duke's nattier disciples wearing the Windsor knot and returned home slightly dandified.
To wear a Windsor knot is to wear a statement, and it's not a quiet one. First, because the Windsor takes more tie to tie, you might need to use slightly longer ties than you usually wear. Second, the Windsor should be worn only with a spread collar.
How To Do It



Book Recommendation

Not available in Australia as far as I know. I ordered mine from (below). One of the best books I have read about the art and craft of writing. Every chapter inspires you to create and, even more important, to LIVE!. Even better than Stephen King's ON WRITING, which is also excellent, but Bradbury, of course, was one of King's major influences. Bradbury wrote some classics in sci-fi, like 'The Illustrated Man', (his little known short story 'The Illustrated Woman' is worth checking out, too) and 'The Martian Chronicles'. Not many people are aware that he also wrote the screenplay for the movie, 'Moby Dick', starring Gregory Peck, directed by John Huston. After the soon to be released movie remake of his novel, 'Fahrenheit 451,' there will be more well deserved attention focused back on this visionary. Excerpt:

" My father and I were really not great friends, until very late. His language, his thought from day-to-day, was not remarkable, but whenever I said, "Dad, tell me about Tombstone when you were seventeen," or "the wheatfields, Minnesota, when you were twenty," Dad would begin to speak about running away from home when he was sixteen, heading West in the early part of this century, before the last boundaries were fixed - when there were no highways, only horse paths and train tracks and the Gold Rush was on in Nevada.
Not in the first minute, or the second, or the third minute, no, did the thing happen to Dad's voice, did the right cadence come, or the right words. But after he had talked five or six minutes and got his pipe going, quite suddenly the old passion was back, the old days, the old tunes, the weather, the look of the sun, the sound of the voices, the boxcars travelling late at night, the jails, the tracks narrowing down to golden dust behind, as the West opened up before - all, all of it, and the cadence there, the moment, the many moments of truth, and therefore, poetry.
The Muse was suddenly there for Dad.
The Truth lay easy in his mind.
The Subconscious lay saying its say, untouched, and flowing off his tongue.

As we must learn to do in our writing.

As we can learn from every man and woman or child around us when, touched and moved, they tell of something they loved or hated this day, yesterday, or some other day long past. At a given moment, the fuse, after sputtering wetly, flares and the fireworks begin.
Oh, it's limping crude hard work for many, with language in their way. But I have heard farmers tell about their very first wheat crop on their first farm after moving from another state, and if it wasn't Robert Frost talking, it was his cousin, five times removed. I have heard locomotive engineers talk about America in the tones of Thomas Wolfe who rode our country with his style, as they ride it in their steel. I have head mothers tell of the long night with their firstborn when they were afraid that they and the baby might die. And I have heard my grandmother speak of her first ball when she was seventeen. And they were all, when their souls grew warm, poets.:"
Amazon .com

Movie Recommendations

Phone Booth
Colin Farrell in a well constructed and brilliantly acted emotional thriller. (The first film in a long time that grabbed me and held me so totally that I forgot to put my glasses on until it was over!) If anyone saw 'Tigerland', you know this guy can act .

(for hire on dvd)
A 'God-made-me-do-it' serial killer story with a double Sixth Sense kind of ending twist. A few critics are calling it one of the best films of the year but it slipped through the big screen net for some reason.


Remember the Theremin ? That strange instrument that you heard in 'Good Vibrations' and movies like 'The Day The Earth Stood Still?' Well, here's a link where you can download a free playable desktop theremin for either PC or Mac:
(thanks to John Jacobs for the theremin link.)

I learned this recipe from Tony Chiodo, who in turn learned it from his mother. It is one of my all time favourites. The fennel and Ligurian olives give it its uniqueness. If you use the salted cod fillets, you must soak them for a day or two. If you use the hard-like-a board whole fish (the best), then I suggest soaking it for a week. At the end of the soaking period, remove the skin, and cut into manageable pieces. Note: the amount of time you soak the fish is personal - if you want a stronger flavour and a little tougher texture, don't soak it as long. It is a matter of feel and taste. The longer you soak, the less salt in the fish.

Side of salt cod (fillets), soaked for one or two days, changing the water a couple times each day.
1/2 cup flour
2 red onions (cut in wedges)
3 cloves garlic (halved)
3 tomatoes (wedges)
1/2 fennel bulb (finely sliced)
1/4 cup Ligurian olives
100 ml white wine
a few strands of saffron, a little turmeric (or, as a last resort, a few drops of yellow food colour)
1/2 cup olive oil
chiffonaded parsley (chopped finely)

Method: Soak fish 48 hours. Rinse and pat dry. Preheat oven to 200 C. Coat fish with flour. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry fish for a minute, or so, on each side. Set aside. Add remaining ingredients to the pan and sauté a few minutes. Place onions, garlic, tomatoes, fennel, olives and wine mixture in baking dish. Top with the fish, sprinkle with olive oil and parsley. Cover and bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve on polenta with fresh ciabatta bread on the side to mop up the juices.

If you start craving this dish in your dreams, you are an official honorary Italian.

chao bacallapalooza
chef joe

For Them To Come

One candle is enough. It's dim light
is more appropriate , it will will be kindlier
when Shadows come, the Shadows of Love.

One candle is enough. Tonight the room
must not have too much light. Immersed entirely in revery
and in suggestion, and in the low light ­
Thus deep in revery I will dream a vision so
that Shadows may come, the Shadows of love .

C.P Cavafy