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Friday May 25th, 2007

Banana Peel on a Rose Bush

The celebrity faces the choice between starving and being eaten.


Dear folks,

I always think twice before I decide to criticise another artist's work. I usually have to sleep on it for a few days and re-write a few times so I can keep my comments focused. And, as Rilke said, the best criticism comes from a genuine love for the artist, as was inherent, believe it or not, in my Dylan comments a few months ago. (Don't scoff - I did a Bob Dylan tribute concert last night. Of course, I didn't sing his recent rubbish. There were about twenty other artists singing and no one sung anything recent.) I sang 'My Back Pages' and 'If You See Her Say Hello' - and one verse in 'Like A Rolling Stone'. (The verse about the 'jugglers and the clowns doing their tricks for youuuuuuuuu!) I was sorely tempted to sing 'Like a Skipping Stone' to see if anyone noticed but I thought better of it. This week, I am aiming my love axe at 'Ecce Cor Meum' by Paul McCartney, and next week, 'Songs from the Labyrinth' by Sting.

There is an interesting article below where Nobel Peace Prize Winner and ex-US President Jimmy Carter dumps a serious bucket load on George W Bush, and also Tony Blair, for their crimes in Iraq. By implication, naturally, Carter is also including Johnny 'Rebel' Howard, even though our boy isn't significant enough for him to mention. John is an embarrassment to all Australians and the sooner he's put back on the shelf with the other South Park characters the better. I certainly hope his time is finally nigh. We don't really have much of a choice for someone to replace him but we need to at least give some another idiot a fair go.

Favourite Letters of the Week

Dear Joe,
Thank you for the interesting and insightful letter. Regarding chestnuts, we will be roasting them aplenty at Sophia Mundi Steiner School, tomorrow, Sat 19th May. cheers! Marion

Hi Joe
Re: Your Newsletter
I'm beginning to get the gist of this, it's a missive on life experiences if I'm not wrong and this subject of this one was interesting.
 Anger is a very serious matter. It stems from fear which I say is the only emotion other than love. The many things we call 'emotions' are subsets of love or fear. A line from the second paragraph prompted this response.... "Repressed Anger. One of the requirements of civilization." What a Paradox! How can anything be civilised if it is angry? It can't. Anything with anger (fear) is simply not civilised. Whether it's me, my family, my street, my town, my country or my world, if anger is proportionately present, repressed or expressed, civility is absent.
 All the terrible stuff we have around us goes straight back to this, but if it were removed, we would be free to live life in the highest of states - love. They can't co-exist, one is the antithesis of the other. I hear a lot of stuff about neutralising or suppressing anger and dealing with rage, but the notion of doing the same with love doesn't occur to us because it needn't! The good news is that there can be no fear in the state of love, it's like when I switch on a light in a dark room, where does the darkness go? nowhere, it is merely the absence of light. The important thing is that the opposite doesn't apply, I can't switch darkness on, but I can switch the light off! Unfortunately the world is like a disco where lights go on and off all the time. The whole world switches from fear to love all the time and it doesn't know one from the other.
 By the way Joe, I'm not a roaring evangelistic God-junky or anything. Have a nice weekend. Walt
Chicken Joke . . .
A chicken and an egg are lying in bed. The chicken, is sitting up against the headboard smoking a cigarette with a satisfied smile on its face. The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over and says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question."

HI Joe,
RE: The Wind Cries Mary
I have to tell you that you have usurped the Oxo Cubans (even the Tim Tam Slam) and that "Joe's Album" is Matilda's album of choice in the car at the moment.  Try explaining some of the lyrics to a 6 year old!  She loves the cigarette song!!! I must try the chestnuts with seafood next year!  Love, Gwen

Dear Joe,
I have just finished watching a video of the play 'Pundulumura' which you performed with Gnarayarrahe at La Mama theatre in 1991. Now that I have composed myself enough I have to write and tell you it was one of the best performances / plays / pieces of writing I have seen. I go out with Ray Mooney [the director] and he speaks fondly about you and Gnarayarrahe. For me, the play epitomised what writing and performance should be - informing the audience but in such a clever non-judgmental, non-condescending way. Unfortunately I can't seem to even put into words the way it really made me feel - at least not without sounding like a complete tosser! I'll just leave it at "It was special" - easily one of the best plays ever written and performed. Warm regards, AB Bishop

(Note: AB, you put it into words just fine! Thank you sincerely for the compliment. 'Pundulumura' is still near and dear to my heart. That was sixteen years ago! It was my first experience working in an intimate and very intense way with an indigenous Australian artist and fulfilled a dream I had since I arrived in this country in 1979. The way I met Gnarayarrahe was memorable. I had seen another play he was in called 'Black Rabbit' also directed by director and writer, Ray Mooney, whom I had met before. 'Black Rabbit' was a serious work about the massacre of early aboriginals by whites, and afterwards, Ray invited me backstage to meet Gnarayarrahe. Naturally, I was a bit shy, very respectful and feeling slightly guilty after what I had just seen. I saw Gnarayarrahe at the end of the hallway, in full body paint and traditional costume, holding a spear. He was flanked by two other aboriginal men. As soon as I got within ten feet of him, he suddenly broke into a rousing version of 'Shaddap You Face' shaking the spear and jumping all over the place! I nearly had a heart attack. I knew at the moment, somehow, we would be working together. It took about a year after that for it to happen. One of ongoing fruits of 'Pundulumura' was the aboriginal Indjibungi translation of my song which I still perform, a cappela, in traditional language, at every solo show.)

Howdy Joe,
Re: Istanbul Musik
Here one month now. days are warming up - the efes bira (beer) is tasting better every day as are the chick peas and lentils i cook. my ney lessons are proceeding. i had to go back to basics - very humbling but i am very grateful for the instruction - and to find a great ney player who speaks english and will share his knowledge. one player looked at me and said 'we must all do this , begin again and again'. Been seeing concerts: something on every day : ahmet ozhan last night, my favourite classical singer,also ney, mevlevi, fasil concerts etc etc . finding my way to the suburbs on the buses etc, saw great concert with natalia manns partner, izim the percussionist and nedim incredible violinist who i jammed with in the cafe inspiring rhythmically and melodically ..... i played for lebanese wedding party who got married here yesterday because they didnt want to be married by imam priest and that is not allowed in lebanon it went off - people from every country there - a bit like melbourne ...... watched some of eurovision- we all hated the turkish song. went to trt government radio and met mey player and saw him record in studio with 10 other musos, they record live to tape!! elections here in two months so tensions buildingmy mate Ismail - we play ney together - is from bosnia - escaped 6 years ago when the muslims were getting massacred. even with his little english the stories are horrific. another guy i speak to (in broken turkish) was a cartoonist for newspaper called 'radical' until it as closed down 3 months ago about the time the armenian journalist was killed here - all so political and the guy from beirut who has so much sorrow about its demise - he was playing fairouz the singer and crying despite all this we play music and dance that is the healing power stay well love, Phil C.

(Note: Phil Carroll played ney, mey, zurna and accordion on my latest album 'The Wind Cries Mary.')

Dear Joe
Its Kitto (In Sweden) I Hope you're fine.. You always sound it !!!! Especially as you tackle these daily human issues with such loyal fervor. I always enjoy reading your mails and for some crazy reason just when there is something to strong to deal with, your mail turns up with those left lane answers...and spot on remedies!. I read them and wind up laughing at myself and others at the absurdity of our realities we create, then thank god there is someone as honest and kind as yourself who wakes up and looks in the mirror each day and reminds us to do the same!
Thanks for passing the reins of life on, or showing us when they are on our person... Kitto
ps ive enclosed [a lyric] which was handed to me years ago one Brunswick day when I was in Australia, by a jolly man..who was happily roaming to an alcoholics anonymous meeting . You never know where the angels are floating!!
myspace site






- Anonymous


Hans Blix Wins Sydney Peace Prize

SYDNEY, Australia - Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, chairman of the UN Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, has been awarded the 2007 Sydney Peace Prize.

The Sydney Peace Foundation, which announced the award on Monday morning, said Dr Blix was the unanimous choice of the prize jury.

The citation reads: "Hans Blix, for principled and courageous opposition to proponents of war in Iraq, for lifelong advocacy of humanitarian law and non-violence and for leadership of disarmament programs to rid the world of weapons of terror".

Dr Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, declared in 2004 that the war in Iraq was illegal. (article)


Carter Criticizes Bush and Blair on War in Iraq

Washington - Former President Jimmy Carter criticized George W. Bush's presidency in interviews released Saturday as "the worst in history" in international relations and faulted Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain for his loyal relationship with Mr. Bush.
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Mr. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in a telephone interview with The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from the Carter Center in Atlanta.
"The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me," Mr. Carter told the newspaper.
In an interview on BBC radio, he criticized Mr. Blair for his close relations with the president, particularly concerning the Iraq war.
"Abominable," he said when asked how he would characterize Mr. Blair's relationship with Mr. Bush. "Loyal, blind, apparently subservient."
Mr. Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his charitable work, was an outspoken opponent of the invasion of Iraq before it was begun in 2003. (article)




Discrimination Against Girls 'Still Deeply Entrenched'
by Terri Judd / Harriet Griffey

Almost 100 million girls "disappear" each year, killed in the womb or as babies, a study has revealed. The report, "Because I am a Girl", exposes the gender discrimination which remains deeply entrenched and widely tolerated across the world, including the fact that female foeticide is on the increase in countries where a male child remains more valued.
The report highlights the fact that two million girls a year still suffer genital mutilation, half a million die during pregnancy - the leading killer among 15 to 19-year-olds - every 12 months and an estimated 7.3 million are living with HIV/Aids compared with 4.5 million young men. Almost a million girls fall victim to child traffickers each year compared with a quarter that number of boys. Of the 1.5 billion people living on less than 50p a day, 70 per cent are female, with 96 million young women aged 15 to 24 unable to read or write - almost double the number for males. While many of the most shocking figures in the Plan International report relate to developing nations, sexual discrimination is still prevalent in the north.
In the UK, two women a week are killed by current or former partners. (article)





Ecce Cor Meum

I'd like to make a few comments on 'Ecce Cor Meum' by Sir Paul McCartney. Next week, I will give you my thoughts on Sir Sting's album, 'Songs from the Labyrinth.' (Oops, sorry, Sting's not a knight . . . . yet.) I am currently in the middle of transposing my own baroque influenced 14 movement choral work 'Ecstasy of Narcissus,' composed in 1997, into a condensed shape for guitar and tenor, so I can perform it solo. 'Ecce Cor Meum' is in a musical neighbourhood that I understand and perhaps I can say something intelligent about it. This album has been highly lauded, with McCartney's winning Best Classical Album in the UK. I was hesitant about buying it because his last classical work, 'Liverpool Oratorio,' which I also have, wasn't very good at all. But curiosity got the better of me.
Musically, at least, the first movement, 'Spiritus' is a quantum leap from the 'Liverpool Oratorio.' There is great promise in this movement. McCartney has summoned the spiritus of JS Bach and George Martin in the choral arrangements and counter-point. After the first movement, on a purely musical level, I was really ready to like this record. The second movement, 'Gratia' cancelled out that hope. Simply put, it reminded me of the music for a Walt Disney cartoon. What happened to the great themes of the first movement? The 'Lament' - falling between Movement Two and Three was pleasant enough, obviously influenced by Mozart, but nothing really innovative. And by the third movement, 'Musica', I gave up listening any more. This composition is so all over the place with no coherence and substance that it is irritating.
Which brings me to the real longterm weakness of McCartney's writing, consistent with his first attempt, the 'Liverpool Oratorio' - poor librettos. What is wrong with the lyrics to this work is precisely what is wrong with the music: no REAL personal depth. No unique vision. Just stringing things together. It declares all over the liner notes that the spirit of Linda McCartney, his deceased first wife, is the inspiration for this writing, but I don't really see that in the actual work. They might as well say it was inspired by Princess Diana. Elsewhere, it says that the writing was interrupted by Linda's death, and he only just returned to finish it. More accurately, it is being promoted around her memory. Another in a long list of works to celebrate his first wife. In 2000, McCartney collaborated with John Tavener on A Garland for Linda, a classical music album dedicated to her memory, and in November of 2002, a memorial garden was opened near Scotland's Mull of Kintyre, with the dedication of a bronze statue of Linda, by sculptor Jane Robbins, commissioned and donated by McCartney. I find all this public and ongoing eulogy to Linda, insensitive and inappropriate, in lieu of his current wife and new love-of-his-life (well, ex-wife and ex-love-of-his-life, now), Lady Heather Mills McCartney. What about her creative spirit? She's still alive and kicking. (I know, poor choice of words.) I have never seen such public vitriol directed at someone since Yoko Ono. A true Knight would be taking the lead here by defending and protecting his Lady Heather, not by continuing to feed the Sympathy-for-Lady-Linda Brigade. It would have been a much more gracious and courageous move to dedicate 'Ecce Cor Meum' to Lady Heather, as a symbol of good will for the future. Sir Paul, stop invoking the dead and start praising the living.
The overall intention of 'Ecce Cor Meum' (Behold My Heart) is Peace and Love. Hello? Noble thoughts. The first thing I thought (I'm embarrassed to admit) was, 'well, there hasn't been a lot of peace and love in his break-up with Heather Mills so why doesn't he practice what he preaches?' Believe it or not, that comment is not far off the mark. McCartney has always been timid to write the truth about how he feels - about who he really is. So he masks his emotion behind large and generic safety-net imagery like, 'Love,' 'Spirit', 'Peace', 'Music', etc. Leaning on words like these - which have an infinite number of meanings for an infinite number of monkeys - is less than useless. In this world of fragmented thinking, artists HAVE to personalize their imagery WITHIN THE WORK (not the liner notes) for it to have any impact or depth. To ring true. Vague and non-specific grandiose overworked cliches like 'God', 'Love' 'Spirit' just drag down any reasonable musical idea with cardboard wings. Here's an example:

" In the night a daffodil is battered by the father of all storms.
Daybreak sees it stand alone amongst a field of lifeless forms.
Rays of light illuminate where sweet relief presents a shining yellow face."

Shining yellow face? Have a nice day.

But the couplet that really crawled up my nose is this one:

"Music is the servant of the Queen and King
Who are happy if we smile but are delighted if we sing."

Spoken like a true Knight of the Square Table.

McCartney's lyric writing turns a deaf ear to every poet who has sweated, starved and struggled to further the craft of language. Doesn't this man know how to read? At least, if he was a truly listening artist, he would start with what other great composers have done before him: work with strong poems, work with other strong lyric writers, accomplished poets. But no, he wants to write his own words. Fine. But he has not put the work in to rise to the creative levels that is required of a profound wordsmith. Therefore, he doesn't deserve the rewards.

Which brings me to another point: how can someone worth a billion dollars create music that doesn't reek of wealth, privilege and aristocracy? The answer: they can't anymore. Dust off the guillotine.



This is the most racist and offensive artist I have had the displeasure to encounter. The almost funny thing is that he sounds like like Chris Rock or Richard Pryor sending up a bigoted country singer! But Johnny Rebel is the real deal.

Johnny Rebel is the pseudonym of Cajun/country musician Clifford Joseph "Pee Wee" Trahan (born 1938). Trahan has used this pseudonym most notably on racist recordings issued in the 1960s on J. D. "Jay" Miller's Reb Rebel label of Crowley, Louisiana. His songs frequently use the racial epithet nigger and often voice sympathy for Jim Crow-era segregation and the Ku Klux Klan. Nearly all his songs serve as platforms for denigrating African Americans and the civil rights movement. (wiki)

Apparently, Johnny's trying to make a comeback having released an album in 2003. Some of his catchy song titles are:

Damn, I Wish I Was a Nigger
If I Could Be A Nigger For A Day
In Coontown
Move Them Niggers North
Nigger Hatin Me
Nigger, Nigger
Niggers Suck!
No Niggers In Our Schools
Quit Your Bitchin' Nigger!
Send 'Em All Back To Africa
Ship Those Niggers Back
Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)
Stay Away From Dixie


Here's an .mp3 sample

Looking for something to wear at your next Johnny Rebel necktie party?


Gardening Tip for Johnny Reb:

If your roses are covered with Aphids, drape banana peels over the branches, It's amazing, but in a day or less, they are GONE! I've tried it, and I couldn't believe it, no more aphids, as long as I save my banana peels for the rose bushes! Unzip a BANANA today!
(Thanks to Jim 'sugar banana' Testa)





Baby squid tentacles in tomato sauce is a dish my grandmother used to serve every Sunday. She'd make a big pot, too, as there were always about twenty people over for Sunday lunch. Here are two recipes using the whole squigglers. (You can reserve the ink sac, too, for black pasta, if you are game, but it is one messy job!)

You can buy the tentacles and the rings separately from the fish shop if you like but here is how to do it from scratch.

Prepare the squid in advance:
It's best to find the smallest whole squid you can. You want the small tentacles for the sauce so you don't have to cook them very long.

To clean the body, pull the insides out, including the plastic-like backbone membrane, and the fins and discard. (This is a messy job so prepare your mind.) In the tentacle section, in front of the eyes, there is a little beak. Cut here, remove the beak and as much of the filmy skin from the tentacles. Discard the eyes and head. Wash the tentacles thoroughly and set aside. Go back to the tube sections and remove the thin layer of filmy skin until the squid body is clear and white in colour. You might have to reach inside the tube to get it all. Wash thoroughly and set aside.

Calamari Fritte with Chilli on a Rocket Salad

calamari rings
salt and pepper
chili flakes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
rocket leaves
lemon wedges

Take the tube sections of the squid and slice into rings. Toss in some flour with salt and pepper and fry in a generous amount olive oil until golden brown. (Don't crowd in the pan or it will lower the heat of the oil.) Drain on paper towels, toss with some chili flakes, salt and pepper, and mound the hot rings over a salad of fresh rocket leaves, tossed in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with a wedge of lemon on the side. This makes a good appetiser for the following main:

Grandma's Squid Tentacles In Fresh Tomato Sauce with Spaghettini

8 -10 squid tentacles
10 fresh tomatoes
olive oil
garlic, minced
half teas oregano, crumbled
three tbles fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
red chili flakes
2 tbles butter
grated parmesean cheese

Bring a pot of water to the boil and scald about ten tomatoes to loosen the skins.
Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, cut in half and remove as many of the seeds and white membrane as you can (pretend you are cleaning green capsicums - you just want the tomato flesh.) Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat some olive oil and add the garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, oregano, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, some chili flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for about an hour, checking to make sure the liquid in the pan doesn't evaporate too much. If the level gets low, add a little water. Check the seasoning. Add a little more olive oil if you like. We aren't making a lot of sauce - just enough to toss the pasta in.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta. The pasta should have plenty of room to move. (Lots of water-to-pasta ratio keep the pasta al dente and cooking cleanly. Otherwise you get gluggy pasta. Glug is not good.)

About the same time that the pasta water starts boiling, also add the squid tentacles to the red sauce pan and stir until they start to colour. Reduce heat to low and cover. Add the pasta to the boiling water in the pasta pot. (You want to time both of these steps so they are ready together.) You don't have to cook the squid tentacles very long. The smaller they are, the less time to cook. Just a few minutes. Think steaming fish or clams. When the pasta is al dente (check a strand often) - drain. Return pasta to the pot and add a couple tbles of butter and toss. Add the pasta to the pan of squid tomato sauce and stir thoroughly.

Serve the spaghettini with some sauce spooned over and two or three squid tenacles mixed in, add some parmesan cheese, more chili flakes if you like, and finish with the parsley.

You can also add clams, fillets of fish and other seafood to the squid tentacles to make a full-blown marinara if you are in fishy mood. I like the simplicity of the squid tentacles threaded in there amongst the strands of spaghetti.



It Is I Who Must Begin
It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try --
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
ostentatious gestures,
but all the more persistently
-- to live in harmony
with the "voice of Being," as I
understand it within myself
-- as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
nor the most important one
to have set out
upon that road.
Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.
~ Vaclav Havel ~
 (Teaching With Fire)



Blonde Handywoman 

A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a "Handywoman" and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighbourhood. She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.
"Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," he said. "How much will you charge me?" The blonde quickly responded, "How about $50?" The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.
The man's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?"
He responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it?"
The wife replied, "You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we've been getting by e-mail lately."
A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money.
"You've finished already?" the husband asked.
"Yes," the blonde replied, "and I had paint leftover, so I gave it two coats."
 Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50, and handed it to her.
"And by the way," the blonde added, "it's not a Porch, it's a Lexus.
(thanks, again, to the Banana Peel King, Jim Testa)