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Thursday May 1, 2008

Bullshit Bingo

"They say God only helps those who help themselves,
But God help those who only help themselves."
Josephus the Utterer


It's a short one this week, as it's a short week for this one!
(Is that a chiasmus or a miasmas?)

Orpheo, Don't Look Back, one of the songlyrics from my Leadbelly Ballad Novel, is currently a Grand Finalist in a US Poetry Competition,. It has been included in a hardcover poetry anthology, 'Forever Spoken,' published by The International Library of Poetry.

I'm performing at the Majestic Theatre in Queensland tonight and my flight leaves in a few hours. Then onto the Wintermoon Festival for the weekend. I'm freezing my cojones off here in Melbourne so a few days in the Deep North will do me good.

Speaking of El Cajones, Paddock Prunes, or as they are known in the US, Prairie Oysters, the newsletter title this week is taken from one of the activities at the 14th Annual Rock Creek Lodge Testicle Festival, in Montana. Bullshit Bingo is a competition to see who can correctly predict where a cow will let loose. More on testicle festivals later on. (Apologies to my non-carnivorous readers - there is no counterpart for vegetarians.)

Bullshit Bingo is the kind of a game show idea that would do well in Australia and I would be willing to offer my services as Master of Ceremonies for it. We could run the show in a time slot to compete with Australian Idol or Big Brother and pinch their entire demographic. Attention major networks! Have your Service call my Service.



Hi Joe,
I have been reading your e-mails for quite sometime. I am enjoying them and I want to let you know that, even though I don't respond to them. Have a good one, Cynthia

(Note: Thanks, Cynthia. Your short but much appreciated email has inspired my next Songwriter Workshop No. 17 further down, 'The llusion of Recognition.'

Hi Joe,
Subject: Oldest Irish Football
Thanks for the consistently amusing news (and olds). Gaelic or Irish football had its origins in inter-village competition early in the middle ages. The story I heard goes that in 1308 two villages which were about 7 miles apart, having nothing better to do, and in high spirits after the Easter revelry, decided it would be fun to find a handy rock and have a competition to see which village could place the rock inside the others' church. The rock was about the size and shape of a modern Gaelic football and weighed some twenty pounds. The entire population - mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents joined in this competition which lasted a week. By the end of this week several players had been injured, some accounts numbering seven dead among the more than 400 players. It is not recorded which side won, but it was recorded that John McCrocan was charged with 'accidentally' stabbing a player named William Bernard during this match at Newcastle in County Down. Things went from bad to worse, so that by 1695 the parliament passed the 'Sunday Observance Act' which imposed a fine of one shilling for anyone found playing football. At the time that was about a month's rent on a good house. Despite this law, play continued, with the earliest officially recorded football match in Ireland between Louth and Meath being at Slane, in 1712. Viva Trivia Go Obama Go! Harry Williamson
Springstudio Website

Hi Joe,
I have question to ask Dolce readers if you would allow it:
If you suddenly found yourself out of work, several years of respected experience behind you,a mega load of strong applications sent out, a pittance of interviews behind you, strangely no related work or jobs posted or advertised in your field in almost 2 months - is it the economy?-
AND discovered to your amazement that your employment insurance payments coming your way (for the first time in your life) will continue for another 5 MONTHS, what would YOU choose to do?
In the world of acting and theatre, when something isn't working, you try the opposite.
For the first time yesterday I thought: Maybe EI [employment insurance] is a kind of lottery in disguise. If so, I feel that fate and choice, that duo of happy drunks - is knocking loudly (obnoxiously) at my door. L.
ps. Fantastic newsletter. Loved the description of the footy game.

(Note: L, let those alcoholic bastards in! Before I could earn a consistent living playing music - and often at intervals when a wheel would fall off - I applied for many times, and lived off of, what I refer to now as, 'The People's Grant' - ie. the Dole or Unemployment Benefits, [which, in the US, used to include that heartwarming handout known as Food Stamps. But I never figured out how to make them last a whole month. I could eat a whole book of them at one sitting and still be hungry. Boom boom!] I encourage anyone disillusioned with their current job description, or recently retrenched by some Superior with a IQ of 7 on the Moronometer, to try the Government Trough.
But the key is this: while you are in 'People's Grant Mode', you can't just sit on your aspiration and snort potpourri - you have to be passionately reconfiguring your life during this time so that it goes more along the way you want it to go - teaching yourself to make a living from the very thing you love doing while the SCBA (State Communal Bank Account) is feeding you. In a short time, if you work HARD at it, you will begin making some real money at what you LOVE doing - and paying your fair share of taxes back into the kitty - which will then allow other artists coming up to do the same thing, if they need it. As the surrealists say, 'What goes a' Square, comes a' Square'. Vive La People's Grant!)

Dear Joe
Subject: Re: Aussie Rules Baseball
This is the best ever. And the Irish joke is amazing. I take it your new album is based on Huddie Ledbetter songs???? . . . I once got thrown out of the Festive Bowl in Adelaide a very long time ago for singing "Take This Hammer". It was when I got to "and the captain called me a dirty black bastard". I'm not sure if it was the swearword that upset them or whether they thought it was racist?? Bit like the furore brought about by Eric Bogle's "I hate wogs" only a smaller storm in a much smaller teacup. Robyn

hi joe,
when my son was about 12, he had a buddy who'd moved here from oz. he and his whole family were into aussie rules football, so my son got into it too--there are matches on tv here. even at that time i loved the idea, and thought there should be aussie rules everything. not just sports--everything.
aussie rules ballet
aussie rules hospital
aussie rules wedding
my band has attended many, many music awards shows. if one is seated in the front few rows, these things are pretty much a four hour exercise in trying to remember not to pick your nose. i would always enjoy fantasizing about "aussie rules music awards show". everyone would boo awards and performances that they didn't like or agree with. gangs of angry losing nominees would arise from the audience and beat the crap out of the winners. fruit would be thrown.
To quote my good friend frank barth, "The possibilities are mindless..."
.... and which reminds me of a quote of my own:
"Fruit flies when you're having fun."
chiasmatically--there's always that classic, "Better a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
and of course, from the '60's, "No turn left unstoned..." joan besen,
The Prairie Oyster Band Website

(Note: Thanks Joan. By the way, many Australians may not know this but a Prairie Oyster is a drink for day-after hangovers [recipe below] but it originally referred to a serving of battered bulls' testicles. See the article down further on America's Legendary Testicle Festivals. I think my mate, Big Russ, might go for something like this for the next Illawarra Folk Festival. Hmmm . . . there's another big dog race on at Bulli in 2009 . . . . . . )

G'day Joe
Is Susan Goldfarb the First Female President of the US that Michael Moore talks about when he says 2016 is the year? Regards, Big Russ

"The year is 2016 and the United States has elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb. She calls up her mother a few weeks after election day and says,
'So, Mom, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration?'
'I don't think so. It's a ten hour drive, your father isn't as young as he used to be, and my arthritis is acting up again.'
'Don't worry about it Mom, I'll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home. And a limousine will pick you up at your door.'
'I don't know. Everybody will be so fancy-schmantzy, what on earth would I wear?'
'Oh Mom,' replies Susan, 'I'll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York .'
'Honey,' Mom complains, 'you know I can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat.'
The President-to-be responds, 'Don't worry Mom, the entire affair is going
to be handled by the best caterer in New York , kosher all the way. Mom, I really want you to come.'
So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 20, 2017, Susan Goldfarb is being sworn in as President of the United States. In the front row sits the new President's mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next to her.
'You see that woman over there with her hand on the Torah, becoming President of the United States ?'
The senator whispers back, 'Yes I do.'
Mom says proudly, 'Her brother is a doctor!'"
(thanks to Russell 'the Padrone of Cajones' Hannah)


Life in the Australian Army - Part 1...

Text of a letter from a kid from Eromanga to Mum and Dad. (For Those of you not in the know, Eromanga is a small-town, west of Quilpie in the far south west of Queensland.)

Dear Mum & Dad,

I am well. Hope youse are too. Tell me big brothers Doug and Phil that the Army is better than workin' on the farm - tell them to get in bloody quick smart before the jobs are all gone! I wuz a bit slow in settling down at first, because ya don't hafta get outta bed until 6am. But I like sleeping in now, cuz all ya gotta do before brekky is make ya bed and shine ya boots and clean ya uniform. No bloody cows to milk, no calves to feed, no feed to stack - nothin'!! Ya haz gotta shower though, but its not so bad, coz there's lotsa hot water and even a light to see what ya doing!

At brekky ya get cereal, fruit and eggs but there's no kangaroo steaks or possum stew like wot Mum makes. You don't get fed again until noon and by that time all the city boys are buggered because we've been on a 'route march' - geez its only just like walking to the windmill in the back paddock!!

This one will kill me brothers Doug and Phil with laughter I keep getting medals for shootin' - dunno why. The bullseye is as big as a bloody possum's bum and it don't move and it's not firing back at ya like the Johnsons did when our big scrubber bull got into their prize cows before the Ekka last year! All ya gotta do is make yourself comfortable and hit the target - it's a piece of piss!! You don't even load your own cartridges, they comes in little boxes, and ya don't have to steady yourself against the rollbar of the roo shooting truck when you reload!

Sometimes ya gotta wrestle with the city boys and I gotta be real careful coz they break easy - it's not like fighting with Doug and Phil and Jack and Boori and Steve and Muzza all at once like we do at home after the muster.
Turns out I'm not a bad boxer either and it looks like I'm the best the platoon's got, and I've only been beaten by this one bloke from the Engineers - he's 6 foot 5 and 15 stone and three pick handles across the shoulders and as ya know I'm only 5 foot 7 and eight stone wringin' wet, but I fought him till the other blokes carried me off to the boozer.

I can't complain about the Army - tell the boys to get in quick before word gets around how bloody good it is.

Your loving daughter,
(thanks to Linda ­ Inka Marka)


DVD Recommendation

A small masterpiece written and directed by Sarah Polley (only 26 years old!) starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. Probably the finest role Christie has ever played. I thought she was past it but wait till you see her handle the nuances of this character. She goes much further than Judi Dench in 'Iris.' Synopsis:
Fiona and Grant are an Ontario couple who have been married for over 40 years. Now, in the oncoming twilight of their years, they are forced to face the fact that Fiona's "forgetfulness" actually is Alzheimer's. They agree she must go into a nursing home. For the first time in the five decades that their relationship has spanned, they are forced to undergo a long-new patient's stay, to enable them to adjust to their surroundings.) When Grant visits Fiona after the orientation period, he is devastated to find out that not only has she seemingly forgotten him, but she has transferred her all of her focus and affection to an almost helpless wheelchair bound man in the facility.'

The Illusion of Recognition

"Popular doesn't mean good,
In fact, the opposite is often true,
Sometimes the most beautiful dreamers,
Are only ever seen by the very few."

Joe Dolce, In the Garden With Monet

In today's popular culture, it is pretty much taken for granted that a successful and significant songwriter, or artist of any kind, is acknowledged by mass audience recognition, award, ovation and encore. And buckets of money.

But, in fact, this is a commercial MIRAGE that the growing and maturing artist should be wary of. Sometimes the most moving work, with the most profound, permanent, long-term and life-changing effects on people and culture, can only be responded to with utter silence.

History has shown, time and again, that sometimes, there just ain't much recognition for authentic genius, and much of the time there just ain't no money. Remember what Oscar Wilde remarked, 'The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.'

Vincent Van Gogh sold only 1 painting in his lifetime, for 400 francs, just 4 months before his death. People say, 'Oh, but that was way back then. That couldn't happen now. If I had been around, I would have recognized Van Gogh's genius straight off.'

Would you have?

Probably not. Because 'sometimes the most beautiful dreamers are only seen by the very few.'

Of course, it is ideal to be able to earn a living from your art. Essential - if you want to raise a family. But it is not necessary to become filthy rich. Well-scrubbed and financially comfortable ain't bad. (Keep the irritatingly rich component for your internal artistic vision, which is irritating enough, anyway, to most people.)

But, don't misunderestimate me, (as a soon-to-be-retrenched US President once said.) Filthy poor isn't necessary, either.

Absorb ALL you can from the tragic beauty of artists like Van Gogh - but DON'T make them role models. Same with the other extreme. Say, Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney. Gifted beyond belief, in their youth. Both have massive personal wealth and recognition today - but both are also spent forces. Their current work is irrelevant and will be forgotten quickly, if it hasn't already. And they aren't even really that old yet.

Apprentice yourself to a great artist who has learned to balance staggering personal genius - with common sense. It can be done. Johan Sebastian Bach is a good one to study while you're looking. Bach maintained his awesome musical vision, as well as bringing up a huge family, having a longterm stable and creative relationship, inspiring his children to become amazing composers themselves, serving his community like nobody's business - and regularly bringing home the bacon. The depth of his work actually improved as he got older, not the reverse, and he went out at a ripe old age, at the PEAK of his powers. Fifty white-hot years of creating music.

So why can't we do it like that?

The problem we have here today is: Media-Driven Pop Culture.

Pop music, for instance, is really the only musical artform that is owned by YOUTH. By it's nature, as you get older, it degenerates. In every other kind of serious music - folk, blues, jazz, classical, flamenco, you-name-it - the OLD FOLKS are the ones who are the Masters, not the kids. (In flamenco, the eldest and most seasoned singers are the ones who best grasp 'duende' - the scraping of iron wings against the ground, as Garcia Lorca calls it. You have to LIVE some serious life to get this quality.)

But in Pop Music, the older you get, the more you just become a caricature of your younger self (Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger, and Sir Madonna come to mind.)

'I hope I die before I get old.' That was good advice from The Who. It's a shame that more of My Generation didn't take it. Including The Who, themselves.

But I mean 'die', in the sense, of metamorphosis, of course. Evolving into something else.

So how does a passionate, angry, rebellious young artist today best prepare for metamorphosis and immortality?

Protect your Vision! Put some deep Roots down! Reach farther into the future and deeper into the past. Stretch in both directions: one hand reaching forward and one hand reaching back. Stretchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . . until that cocoon splits.

And then: watch out for the electric lights and candle flames, and just do the best you can, and leave the rest to a power greater than yourself.


Here's a study in loud applause - and even louder silence.

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I walked into a loge in the Teatro Melisso, the lovely Renaissance salle where the poetry readings and the chamber concerts were held every day of the Spoleto Festival, and suddenly saw Ezra Pound for the first time, still as a mandarin statue in a box in a balcony at the back of the theatre, one tier up from the stalls. It was a shock, seeing only a striking old man in a curious pose, thin and long haired, aquiline at 80, head tilted strangely to one side, lost in permanent abstraction . . . . After three younger poets on stage, he was scheduled to read from his box, and there he sat with an old friend (who held his papers) waiting. He regarded the knuckles of his hands, moving them a very little, expressionless. Only once, when everyone else in the full theatre applauded someone on stage, did he rouse himself to clap, without looking up, as if stimulated by sound in a void . . . After almost an hour, his turn came. Or after a life . . .
Everyone in the hall rose, turned and looked back and up at Pound in his booth, applauding. The applause was prolonged and Pound tried to rise from his armchair. A microphone was partly in the way. He grasped the arms of the chair with his boney hands and tried to rise. He could not and he tried again and could not. His old friend did not try to help him. Finally she put a poem in his hand, and after at least a minute his voice came out. First the jaw moved and then the voice came out inaudible. A young Italian pulled the mike up very close to his face and held it there and the voice came over, frail but stubborn, higher than I had expected, a thin, soft monotone. The hall had gone silent at a stroke. The voice knocked me down, so soft, so thin, so frail, so stubborn still. I put my head on my arms on the velvet sill of the box. I was surprised to see a single tear drop on my knee. The thin indomitable voice went on. I went blind from the box, through the back door of it, into the empty corridor of the theatre where they still sat turned to him, went down and out, into the sunlight, weeping . . .

Up above the town
by the ancient aqueduct
the chestnut trees
were still in bloom
Mute birds
flew in the valley
far below
The sun shone
on the chestnut trees
and the leaves
turned in the sun
and turned and turned and turned
And would continue turning
His voice
went on
and on
through the leaves . . .
(thanks to Lin Van Hek)



by Chuck Woodbury, editor of Out West.

CLINTON, Mont -- I stopped earlier to check out the Testicle Festival. It officially started today but there was practically nothing going on. "All the good stuff starts on Saturday," a young woman serving testicles told me. Today is Thursday.
The motto of the annual September event is: "I had a ball at the Testicle Festival."
It was pretty festive, all right, with lots of booths and tables set up outside. My gut feeling is that a heap o' beer is going down here in the next few days. Of course, a lot of testicles will be consumed, too. Last year's crowd of 10,000 devoured two tons of the protein-rich bull meat.
The festival is held each year at the Rock Creek Lodge, which is 20 miles east of Missoula along I-90. There's a free year-round campground, but I didn't stay because I thought it might get a little noisy.

I did partake of some testicles, however -- the $5 sampler plate. I didn't finish because I figured I was swallowing too much fat for my low-fat diet, but I did eat enough to report that they tasted pretty swell -- like chicken. Of course, everything tastes like chicken.

"You wouldn't think twice about these if you didn't know what they were," the guy at the table next to me mumbled to his wife, who ate her plateful with no comment.

Among the festival's activities are a wet tee-shirt contest featuring ladies, and a hairy chest contest featuring guys. There is also Bullshit Bingo, with a grand prize of $100 for the lucky person who correctly predicts where a cow will let loose.

This was the 14th Annual Testicle Festival, which gets more famous every year. I think festival promoter Rod Lincoln, the owner of the Rock Creek Lodge, is probably making a wad off this event. The lodge's gift shop has a hundred different Testicle Festival souvenirs, including at least a dozen styles of shirts.

Lincoln uses only USDA approved bull testicles, also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. "I skin them when they're just thawing because the membrane peels like an orange," he once told a reporter. He then marinates them in beer, breads them four times, and deep fries them. The end result looks like a big, flat cookie or breaded tenderloin. Actually, they're billed as "Montana Tendergroin." article



(drink for hangovers)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Tomato Juice
1 whole Egg Yolk
2 dashes Vinegar
1 dash Pepper
Pour in order in a wine glass taking good care of not breaking the yolk.


(the authentic deal)

1. Mountain Oysters, also known as Prairie Oysters, are that part of the male animal which is removed in his youth that he may thereby be more tractable and less, uh, masculine. They are considered to be quite a delicacy. Some butcher shops sell bull testicles. These are good but the best source is from young animals. The preparation of mountain oysters is quite simple:

mountain oysters

Season the flour with the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, and cayenne. If the mountain oysters are large, cut them into bite sized chunks. Dust the mountain oysters in the flour and sauté in a pan of hot oil or deep fry. They should be tender on the inside and crisp on the outside.
Serve with horseradish sauce or cocktail sauce
(Collected by Bert Christensen, Toronto, Ontario)

2. Rocky Mountain Oysters
(Prairie Oysters)

1 pound Calf Testicles
1 Egg, beaten
1-1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Cornmeal
Vegetable oil
Garlic Salt

Combine egg, flour, cornmeal, and garlic salt/pepper/paprika to taste
Slice each testicle into 1/4" thick slices.
Put about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pot heat on high.
Coat each testicle slice in the batter, and drop into hot oil. Deep fry for 3-5 minutes.
Drain on paper towel.
Serve testicle slices warm with ketchup, hot sauce, and/or mayonnaise. Leftovers can be put in soup (or the kids' schoolboxes) for lunch the next day.




Life in the Australian Army - Part 2...

A new Army Captain was assigned to an outfit in a remote post in the Iraqi desert. During his first inspection of the outfit, he noticed a camel hitched up behind the mess tent. He asks the Sergeant why the camel is kept there.
The nervous sergeant said,
'Well sir, as you know, there are 250 men here on the post and no women. And sir, sometimes the men have 'urges'. That's why we have Molly the Camel.'
The Captain says,
'I can't say that I condone this, but I understand about 'urges', so the camel can stay.'
About a month later, the Captain starts having his own 'urges'. Crazy with passion, he asks the Sergeant to bring the camel to his tent. Putting a ladder behind the camel, the Captain stands on the ladder, pulls his pants down and has wild, insane sex with the camel. When he's done, he asks the Sergeant,
'Is that how the men do it?'
To which the Sergeant replied,
'No, not really, sir. They usually just ride the camel into town where the girls are.'
(thanks to Andrew Bicknell)