MAY 1, 2003

Music Polls, Marsala, and the Main Course: the Middle East

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." - Hunter S. Thompson

Why not start off with a bit of humour, just to show that life isn't just about bitchin' at Bush (or President Shrub, as my friend Judy Small likes to say.)

Some of you may have heard about a recent BBC2 poll that mentioned one of my songs (if not, you didn't miss much) and you might be interested in my comment? I have to turn to Latin for the appropriate words:

" stultissimum est in luctu capillum sibi evellere quasi calvitio maeror levetur." ( It is stupid to tear out one's hair when grieving as though sorrow were eased by baldness.)

Of course, I am thrilled when any of my little ankle-biters brings home a ribbon, even if they don't always win something worth writing home about. As my late grandmother used to say, 'Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly . . . . until you can learn to do it well.' - Over the past thirty years in the music industry I have collected quite a few snippets of nice and not-so-nice opinions of my work and I have put the most colourful ones on the Press and Review page, on my website. If you're feeling at a loose end, you might want to entertain yourself by reading through them some day:

" De gustibus mon est disputandum" (There is no point arguing about taste.)

I have a great little book in my toilet that I read when I am contemplating the 'why' of these kind of things. It's called ' Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections', edited by Henderson and Bernard, published by Pushcart. Here's are some examples:

(Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.)
" Here all the faults of 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, are magnified a thousandfold, and the only consolation we have in reflecting on it is that it will never be generally read." James Lorimer, North British Review, 1847.

(On Hemingway)
" It is of course a commonplace that Hemingway lacks the supreme confidence that he is a full-sized man."
Max Eastman, New Republic, 1933.

(Lady Chatterly's Lover, by DH Lawrence)
" DH Lawrence has a diseased mind. He is obsessed by sex . . . we have no doubt that he will be ostracised by all except the most degenerate coteries in the literary world." John Bull, 1928.

Finally, 'Lest we forget . . . the Mother of All British Polls: The Transportation Act- that should give you some idea of the facility that certain mental midgets have for the Big Picture. I was included in another poll in the UK in 2000, in which The Worst Album of all time was picked to be - Wait for it: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles. Riiiiiiiiiight! Tell that to Brian Wilson. (On second thought, better write it down for him.)
" Video barbam et pallium; philosophum nondum video " - ( I see the cloak and beard, but no philosopher.)

Or as Ned Kelly, if he was Roman, might have commented: " Hoc aevi quodcumquest!" (such is life!)

Now, how about a nice Uncle Joe recipe? One of my life goals is to remember all my grandmother's lost Sicilian culinary masterpieces - I'm getting there. I now have an index of 125 Baccalla recipes, for instance. Trust me, you DON'T want to be around our house when I'm working my way through those.

The following dish is probably the simplest Italian dish I can think of, other than spaghetti with olive oil and garlic -and of course, parmesan cheese. Many of you may already know this or variations of it - but if you have never made VEAL MARSALA yourself, then here it is. (For my vegetarian close friends, I assure you that at those times that I do eat meat, I insist on only strictly vegetarians.)

VEAL MARSALA - 6 ingredients

Thin pounded veal slices
flour, for dredging
Marsala wine
good olive oil
fresh parsley
lemon wedge

That's it. The method is even simpler. Ready?

Dredge veal slices in flour. Shake.
Heat the olive oil until smoking.
Brown veal on both sides, until cooked through.
Add as much Marsala as you want to the pan (between half cup to a cup or more) and reduce until slightly thickened.
Serve with lemon wedge.
Sprinkle parsley on top
Anyone who messes that up gets deleted from the mailing list.

Also, just to keep things in perspective- about 4 star chefs and expensive restaurants and that sort of thing,- this little bit of graffiti written above the toilet in a Paris restaurant:

" C'est ici que tombent en ruines,
Les grands chefs-d'oeuvre de la cuisine."
(thanks to Helen Garner, in her book 'The Feel of Steel' for that snippet.)

Now on to the Main Course.

(An insightful letter to the editor in THE AGE newspaper last week: )

Islam seeks justice rather than liberty
" It was astonishing to find your Good Friday editorial asserting the ideal of liberation to be as foundational for Islam as it is for Judaism and Christianity.
In reality, the essence of Islam is not liberty, but submission. In Biblical thought, divine rescue from tyranny ('salvation') leads to liberation. In Koranic thought, by way of contrast, divine guidance leads to success. These are utterly different understandings of humanity's encounter with the divine.
As renown Orientalist and Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis has pointed out, freedom is not used in Muslim traditional as a political metaphor. The converse of tyranny in Islam is not freedom, but justice."
Mark Durle, Balwyn North, VIC.

Countering a Wave of Hate

By Tim Robbins
April 17, 2003

(Transcript of the speech given by actor Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2003.)

" I had originally been asked here to talk about the war and our current political situation but I have instead chosen to hijack this opportunity and talk about baseball and show business. Just kidding. Sort of.

I can't tell you how moved I have been at the overwhelming support I have received from newspapers throughout the country these past few days. I hold no illusions that all of these journalists agree with me on my views against the war. While the journalist's outrage at the cancellation of our appearance in Cooperstown is not about my views; it is about my right to express these views. I am extremely grateful that there are those of you out there still with a fierce belief in constitutionally guaranteed rights. We need you the press, now more than ever. This is a crucial moment for all of us. " (more)


Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan Marian mystic, who was killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz, and later made a Saint by the Catholic Church, believed that it was essential to study deeply the philosophy of those you oppose - and absorb everything that was valuable about that philosophy into your own thinking, separating the wheat from the chaff, as quickly as possible. In this way, you would be able to more effectively resist those elements that you knew were misleading, incorrect and wrong. (For more on Kolbe, this Essay)

In the spirit of that point of view, I include the following site:

" New American Century is a site of arch-conservative American power which has signatories from Rumsfeld and Cheney to Bush's little brother Jeb and more. Its members include Washington Post writers, etc. and their published allegiance to such an imperialist group is a real gobsmack. " (thanks to Rupert Guenther for this Link)

Lethal Legacy: Bioweapons for Sale

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Daan Goosen's calling card to the FBI was a vial of bacteria he had freeze-dried and hidden inside a toothpaste tube for secret passage to the United States.
From among hundreds of flasks in his Pretoria lab, the South African scientist picked a man-made strain that was sure to impress: a microbial Frankenstein that fused the genes of a common intestinal bug with DNA from the pathogen that causes the deadly illness gas gangrene: (more)

Great article by JOHN PILGER:

20 April, 2003 The Independent, UK

The unthinkable is becoming normal. Do not forget the horror.
John Pilger

The saving of one little boy must not be a cover for the crime of this war.

Last Sunday, seated in the audience at the Bafta television awards ceremony,
I was struck by the silence. Here were many of the most influential members
of the liberal elite, the writers, producers, dramatists, journalists and
managers of our main source of information, television; and not one broke
the silence. It was as though we were disconnected from the world outside: a
world of rampant, rapacious power and great crimes committed in our name by
our government and its foreign master. Iraq is the "test case", says the
Bush regime, which every day sails closer to Mussolini's definition of
fascism: the merger of a militarist state with corporate power. Iraq is a
test case for western liberals, too. As the suffering mounts in that
stricken country, with Red Cross doctors describing "incredible'' levels of
civilian casualties, the choice of the next conquest, Syria or Iran, is
"debated'' on the BBC, as if it were a World Cup venue.

The unthinkable is being normalised. The American essayist Edward Herman
wrote: "There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the
unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of
individuals ... others working on improving technology (a better crematory
gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that
penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the
experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the
general public.''

Herman wrote that following the 1991 Gulf War, whose nocturnal images of
American bulldozers burying thousands of teenage Iraqi conscripts, many of
them alive and trying to surrender, were never shown. Thus, the slaughter
was normalised. A study released just before Christmas 1991 by the Medical
Educational Trust revealed that more 200,000 Iraqi men, women and children
were killed or died as a direct result of the American-led attack. This was
barely reported, and the homicidal nature of the "war'' never entered public
consciousness in this country, let alone America.

The Pentagon's deliberate destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure,
such as power sources and water and sewage plants, together with the
imposition of an embargo as barbaric as a medieval siege, produced a degree
of suffering never fully comprehended in the West. Documented evidence was
available, volumes of it; by the late 1990s, more than 6,000 infants were
dying every month, and the two senior United Nations officials responsible
for humanitarian relief in Iraq, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck,
resigned, protesting the embargo's hidden agenda. Halliday called it

As of last July, the United States, backed by the Blair government, was
wilfully blocking humanitarian supplies worth $5.4bn, everything from
vaccines and plasma bags to simple painkillers, all of which Iraq had paid
for and the Security Council had approved.

Last month's attack by the two greatest military powers on a demoralised,
sick and largely defenceless population was the logical extension of this
barbarism. This is now called a "victory", and the flags are coming out.
Last week, the submarine HMS Turbulent returned to Plymouth, flying the
Jolly Roger, the pirates' emblem. How appropriate. This nuclear-powered
machine fired some 30 American Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraq. Each
missile cost £700,000: a total of £21m. That alone would provide desperate
Basra with food, water and medicines.

Imagine: what did Commander Andrew McKendrick's 30 missiles hit? How many
people did they kill or maim in a population nearly half of which are
children? Maybe, Commander, you targeted a palace with gold taps in the
bathroom, or a "command and control facility", as the Americans and Geoffrey
Hoon like to lie. Or perhaps each of your missiles had a sensory device that
could distinguish George Bush's "evil-doers'' from toddlers. What is certain
is that your targets did not include the Ministry of Oil.

When the invasion began, the British public was called upon to "support''
troops sent illegally and undemocratically to kill people with whom we had
no quarrel. "The ultimate test of our professionalism'' is how Commander
McKendrick describes an unprovoked attack on a nation with no submarines, no
navy and no air force, and now with no clean water and no electricity and,
in many hospitals, no anesthetic with which to amputate small limbs shredded
by shrapnel. I have seen elsewhere how this is done, with a gag in the
patient's mouth.

One child, Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the boy who lost his parents and his arms in a
missile attack, has been flown to a modern hospital in Kuwait. Publicity has
saved him. Tony Blair says he will "do everything he can'' to help him. This
must be the ultimate insult to the memory of all the children of Iraq who
have died violently in Blair's war, and as a result of the embargo that
Blair enthusiastically endorsed. The saving of Ali substitutes a media
spectacle of charity for our right to knowledge of the extent of the crime
committed against the young in our name. Let us now see the pictures of the
"truckload of dozens of dismembered women and children'' that the Red Cross
doctors saw.

As Ali was flown to Kuwait, the Americans were preventing Save The Children
from sending a plane with medical supplies into northern Iraq, where 40,000
are desperate. According to the UN, half the population of Iraq has only
enough food to last a few weeks. The head of the World Food Programme says
that 40 million people around the world are now seriously at risk because of
the distraction of the humanitarian disaster in Iraq.

And this is "liberation"? No, it is bloody conquest, witnessed by America's
mass theft of Iraq's resources and natural wealth. Ask the crowds in the
streets, for whom the fear and hatred of Saddam Hussein have been
transferred, virtually overnight, to Bush and Blair and perhaps to "us''.

Such is the magnitude of Blair's folly and crime that the contrivance of his
vindication is urgent. As if speaking for the vindicators, Andrew Marr, the
BBC's political editor, reported: "[Blair] said they would be able to take
Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be
celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively

What constitutes a bloodbath to the BBC's man in Downing Street? Did the
murder of the 3,000 people in New York's Twin Towers qualify? If his answer
is yes, then the thousands killed in Iraq during the past month is a
bloodbath. one report says that more than 3,000 Iraqis were killed within 24
hours or less. Or are the vindicators saying that the lives of one set of
human beings have less value than those recognisable to us? Devaluation of
human life has always been essential to the pursuit of imperial power, from
the Congo to Vietnam, from Chechnya to Iraq.

If, as Milan Kundera wrote, "the struggle of people against power is the
struggle of memory against forgetting", then we must not forget. We must not
forget Blair's lies about weapons of mass destruction which, as Hans Blix
now says, were based on "fabricated evidence". We must not forget his
callous attempts to deny that an American missile killed 62 people in a
Baghdad market. And we must not forget the reason for the bloodbath. Last
September, in announcing its National Security Strategy, Bush served notice
that America intended to dominate the world by force. Iraq was indeed the
"test case". The rest was a charade.

We must not forget that a British defence secretary has announced, for the
first time, that his government is prepared to launch an attack with nuclear
weapons. He echoes Bush, of course. An ascendant mafia now rules the United
States, and the Prime Minister is in thrall to it. Together, they empty
noble words ' liberation, freedom and democracy ' of their true meaning. The
unspoken truth is that behind the bloody conquest of Iraq is the conquest of
us all: of our minds, our humanity and our self-respect at the very least.
If we say and do nothing, victory over us is assured.
(thanks to Maireid Sullivan and her great archive for this article: Maireid Archive)