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Friday May 30th, 2008

The Tunnel at the End of Light

‘Nothing of importance happened today.’
From the diary of George III, July 4th, 1776

Hi folks,
Anybody out there like GRAPPA? I’m using a little in the tart recipe down below but since I bought the bottle, I’ve been drinking it straight, like a single-malt, and I’m right into it!  I’m presently working my way through a bottle of Bartolo Nardini’s Aquavita Riserva. Nardini is a family-owned concern based in the medieval town of Bassano del Grappa.  Grappa is said to have originated here, whence comes the true origin of the name (literally "grape stalk"), rather than the vulgar Latin graspa.  Most grappa is made by distilling grape residue (the skins, stems and seeds) after pressing.  In Italy, grappa is primarily served as a "digestivo" or after-dinner drink; to aid in the digestion of heavy meals, but added to espresso coffee, it becomes a caffè corretto meaning corrected coffee (Ouch! Very nice!), or "ammazza caffè" (literally, "coffee-killer": the espresso is drunk first, followed by a few ounces of grappa served in its own glass.) Most grappa is clear, indicating that it is an un-aged distillate. Someone one told me if you want to avoid hangovers, stick with the clearer fuels - vodka, gin, white wine, sake and grappa!
I don’t know how many of you have been lately ‘Calling Ralph and Huey on the White Telephone,’ but ever wonder what actually causes the infernal hang-over? Here’s what Mr Wiki has to say:
“Hangovers are multi-causal. Ethanol has a dehydrating effect by causing increased urine production (such substances are known as diuretics, which causes headaches, dry mouth, and lethargy. Dehydration causes the brain to shrink away from the skull slightly. (Ed. Note: Tell me about it!) This can be mitigated by drinking water or an oral electrolyte  solution after consumption of alcohol. Alcohol's effect on the stomach lining can account for nausea. Because of the increased NADH production during metabolism of ethanol by the enzymes  alcohol dehydrogenase  and aldehyde dehydrogenase , excess NADH can build up and slow down gluconeogenesisin the liver , thus causing hypoglycemia  . . . . The amount of congeners in the drink may also have an effect. Red wines have more congeners than white wines, and some people note less of a hangover with white wine.  (more)


I got an unexpected review of my latest album, ‘Wind Cries Mary,’ the other day. This part really touched me:

“ (Dolce) rewards those looking for Irish folk with a marvelous rendition of "Rocks of Bawn." He is not afraid to experiment with the traditional canon, and on this track it works wonders, giving the old classic a new sheen and opening it up to potential new generations.” Nickie Rossiter, Rambles.net

This particular review was especially rewarding because first, it came unsolicited out of the blue, and second, I have been having a hard time listening to my own recording of 'Rocks of Bawn' lately, primarily because when the album first was released, I got several comments from folks I respect who’ve raised some objections to my interpretation. It’s been hard for me to just surrender to the song without thinking about these comments. I know I shouldn't be affected by personal criticism so much but sometimes I just fucking am (being human and all).  (See Songwriting Workshop No. 4: Genius, Masterpiece, Criticism and 'THE ROCKS OF BAWN' - http://members.iinet.net.au/~dwomen/files/nlSept1407.html#anchor1183426.)
US Gold Star Mother for Peace and anti-war activist, Nadia McCaffrey, whose son was killed in Iraq, wrote and told me she was fond of my version – that it reminded her of her son.  And now, Mr Rossiter, who is based in southeast Ireland, and has reviewed Christy Moore, Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem and the master, Joe Heaney, has also commended it. So, thanks to these two fine folks, I am now enjoying singing the song again with my original intention.


Subject: If I Had a Hammer. . .
Eltham Palace began to evolve during the 15th century when Edward IV commissioned the Great Hall, which survives today as a testament to the craftsmanship of the period. It boasts the third largest HAMMER beam roof in the country and hosted many royal occasions, including Christmas festivities for Henry VIII who grew up at Eltham Palace. Caroline A

hi joe
loved the llama/hammer story.  translated it back into pig latin for my friend, the beloved chinese comedian wan long yuk. laugh...i thought he'd die!!!! hammered on the road... Joan B

G'day Joe,
 Further to hammers. Just before my Dad died he gave me a hammer. He said that same hammer had been in our family for over three hundred years. In that time it had only had five handles and three heads. Bang Bang, Chess

somewhere in my boxes of crap I have a button that reads "If I had a hammer, there'd be no more folk singers." John C

(Note: John, Here’s a little button for you to bring back some memories.)

Dear Mr. Dolce,
Re: Another astrophysics question
Thanks again for your prior help in solving The Mystery of the Latitude and/or Longditude of Sesame Street and The Mystery of Earth's Yellow Sun.  Now you've well and truly established yourself as a reliable authority on astrophysics, if you have another moment to spare, any theories on this new conundrum would be hugely appreciated:
Scientists are unable to account for 90% of the universe's mass.  (Granted, there are theories of "dark matter", but this strikes me as lazy scientific exposition.)
Do you know where it is?
Thanks once more for your time, and keep up the general excellence. Alastair Craig

(Note:  Dear Professor Craig, thanks once again, to you and your staff at chickenshite.com, for asking me to take time out of my busy lecture schedule to throw a few crumbs of knowledge your way. I was happy to contribute to The Mystery of the Latitude and/or Longditude of Sesame Street, even though you lost my only photo:
Then, you asked for an opinion on The Mystery of Earth's Yellow Sun, which I cleared up for you, with scattered showers and temperatures ranging in the mid 30,000s.
Now, once again here you are, requesting more free information? Do you people think I’m made out of knowledge? Do you think that I spent my father’s hard earned money to go to college to get stupid? Questions concerns the missing mass of the universe, orbits of planets and the amount of area swept in any given time, and such. It all gives me a headache sometimes. I have a question for you:  "Am I my brother's Kepler?" (Big Bang Boom!)

I’m starting to feel like Archimedes when he got up out of the bath and noticed how much water had spilled out of the tub, and commented,  "I've got to get out of displace!" (Big Bang Boom!)

All joking aside, I am always willing to contribute to the Sewage Tank of Common Misunderstanding. Let me see if I can explain in layman’s terms (so the lowest common denominator of our readers can understand the meta-science) of what happened to the missing 90% of the Universe’s Mass.

While the concept of Dark Matter addresses the subject, it neglects to stamp the envelope. I would like to suggest we look at the idea of the BROWN DWARF.

Now, we know what a Black Hole is. A black hole is a tunnel at the end of light. (Big Bang Boom!)

The visible universe is a sphere with a diameter of about 28 billion parsecs (about 92 billion light-years) or about 3×10 to the 80 cubic meters. (Try to get your tv remote clicking heads around that, kids!)  The Universe is a big place... perhaps the biggest. (Big Bang Boom!)

Remember, anything that doesn't matter has no mass. (Big Bang Boom! We’ve got a million of them, folks.)

A balloon-borne telescope, Boomerang, launched from Ross Island, Antarctica, mapped out 400 square degrees or one per cent of the sky. The data was used to make an accurate determination of the density of the universe: 100 trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion tonnes (one metric tonne = one thousand kilograms). Much smaller then imagined, you might say. Well, entropy isn't what it used to be. (Big Bang Boom!)

So what happened to the rest of the friggin’ Universe? Equations like the following mean very little to the layman who most likely is also only using 10% of his thinking capability anyway:

 (See? I’ll bet you couldn’t make heads of tails out of that.) There is great resistance to this kind of higher mathematical visualization.

But, as they say:  Resistance begins at OHM. (Big Bang Boom!)

I’d like to try explain the concept of the sucking nature of the Brown Dwarf in simple everyday terms and herein refer to it as the Brown Eyed Dwarf, for this exercise, making reference, of course to the world’s favourite brown eyed dwarf, George W. Bush, and the missing billions of tax payer dollars that are unaccounted for in Iraq.
What happened to the Iraqi reconstruction money entrusted to the American Coalition? In just fourteen months, it burned its way through nearly $20 billion. But no-one can account for where it all went. Iraq’s infrastructure is worse than ever before.
Our favourite little brown eyed dwarf has sucked all these billions up with his handy little Suck Inc. vacuum cleaner and hidden it away under the floorboards of the bank accounts of his fundamentalist cronies who inhabit a parallel universe to the one we live in.
The simple answer to the question – aside from greed and corruption -  is this: inefficiency and bad management.
The solution: for Mr Bush, in a perfect world, we could step in our Dr Who telephone both, zip over to that alternate universe, tear up the floorboards of these corrupt corporations and retrieve those missing billions. In any case, come elections, the brown eyed dwarf will soon be out of office and on the lecture circuit, with yours truly, and out of harm’s way.
For the question of the Universe and the Big Picture Brown Dwarf, (ie The Gas Bag formerly known as The Heavenly Father,) there is only one answer:
Impeach God!

Brown Eyed Dwarf
(as recorded by Van Allen and the Radiator Belt Big Band)
Hey where did the Mass go,
Days when the Bang came
Down in the Cosmos,
Hypothesizing a new game,
Sucking and a skimming cash, hey
Cheating and a lying
In the Gaseous Chaos with
Our Black Holes a thumpin' and you
My Brown Eyed Dwarf,
You my Brown Eyed Dwarf.

Dr Joe ‘Josephus’ Dolce, PhDvd, Theoretical Sci-Fi & Musicology

Big Russ’s Junkmail and Telephone Telemarketer Tips

Three Little Words

(1) The three little words:   'Hold On, Please...'
Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off  instead of  hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt.  Then when you eventually hear the Telstra's 'beep-beep-beep' tone, you  know  it's time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task. These three little words will help eliminate telephone soliciting.
(2) Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other  end?  This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and  records the time of day when a person answers the phone. This technique is used to determine the best time of day for a  'real'  sales  person to call back and get someone at home. What you can do after answering, if you notice there is no one  there, is  to  immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as  quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialled the call and it  kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer!!!
(3): When you get those 'pre-approved' letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope. Most of these come with postage-prepaid return envelopes, right? It costs  them more than the regular 50 cents postage 'IF' and when they receive  them  back. It costs them nothing if you throw them away! In that case, why  not get  rid  of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool  little, postage- prepaid return envelopes. Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send a  pizza  coupon to Westpac. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their blank  application back!  If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn't on anything  you send them. You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to  keep them  guessing! It still costs them $1.00  The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own  junk back in the mail, but folks, we need to OVERWHELM them. Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and  best of  all  they're paying for it... Twice!  Let's help keep Australia Post busy since   they are saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, and that's why they need to increase  postage costs again. You get the idea!  If enough people follow these tips, it will work ---- maybe   you'll get  very  little junk mail anymore.
(Thanks to Russell Hannah)
(Note: Folks, one of the most creative replies to an irksome telemarketer is this brilliant live recording: The Murder Scene! Listen to the telemarketer try to squirm out of the conversation:

Another good idea I’ve heard this week: if you are into sampling sounds, sample some of the great one liners from SLINGBLADE - some of Karl Childers ‘french fried potaters’ raves – and organize them on the keys of your keyboard. Then you can call people and use the various bits to conduct a ‘conversation’ with the person. Here’s an example of someone confessing, as Karl, to a priest:


Inspiration from Movies about Composers’ Lives

“Fugue you and the feather you wrote in on.”
Josephus the Utterer

There is an wise old adage (from a wise old ad agent) that you can help keep yourself motivated and your dreams alive by reading inspiring biographies of people that you admire. Reading about how others met and overcame (or were overcome by) challenges can help give you some perspective and insight into your own.

For songwriters and composers, I would add, (in addition to listening and learning from the music, of course): watch movies about composers' lives. Even though the filmmakers get it wrong half of the time, the other half makes it worth it. You also have the music of the composers themselves comprising most of the soundtrack and that gives the films an enduring quality that enable them to be viewed over and over.

Here are a list of some great music-centered films that I’ve previously recommended:

9. TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE (a.k.a.  All The Mornings of the World)
11. ELGAR (doco by KEN RUSSEL)

There is a short synopsis of each of the above films in my Apr 8, 2004, newsletter:

Here are some others that I have watched and purchased recently:

17. TCHAIKOVSKY, dir. Igor Talankin, 1969
      (Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.)
18. ANNA PAVLOVA, dir. Michael Powell, 1983,
   (director of the ballet masterpiece, The Red Shoes.)
19. THE DOUBLE LIFE OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, dir. Peter Webber, 1997.
  (Schubert's final days, dying of syphilis and reflecting on his life.)
20. IMPROMPTU, dir. James Lapine, 1991
         (With Judy Davis as George Sand and Hugh Grant as Chopin.)
21. CHOPIN, DESIRE FOR LOVE, dir. Jerzy Antczak, 2002.
       (With Piotr Adamczyk as Chopin and Danuta Stenka as George Sand.)
22. PUCCINI, dir. Carmine Gallone,1953.
23. COPYING BEETHOVEN, dir. Agnieszka Holland, 2006.
        (With Ed Harris as Ludwig.)
24. LEADBELLY, dir. Gordon Parks, 1976.
25. LOMAX: SONGHUNTER, dir. Rogier Kapper, 2004.

And these are also good:

        (A series of films on Cajun, Appalachian, Jazz Parades, Blues, and Songs of the Noble Old.)
28. PAOLO CONTE, 'Nel Cuore di Amsterdam' Dir. by Egber Van Hess
         Live Recorded at The Royal Theatre Carre
29. GLENN GOULD, 'Hereafter'. dir. Bruno Monsaingeon.
30. NIRVANA: 'Unplugged in New York.' MTV.



I have quite a collection of Italian cooking shows, of some great Italian chefs like Georgio Locatelli, Mario Bregoli (the wizard of Umbrian cuisine), even local Australian, Stefano di Peri, and, of course, Antonio Carluccio. I just found out that Jamie Oliver used to work for Carluccio at his Neal Street Restaurant in London!  Jamie Oliver's 'Italian Adventure' dvd, about his trip to Italy is one of the best food films I have ever seen. He goes there in a VW bus alone, practically incognito. No one gives a rat's ass for his ideas, the nonnas' tell him frankly that his recipes stink - that the spices are all wrong - and he gets his butt whooped in a small village outdoor pasta rolling competition by a gaggle of grannies! Even a six year old girl can make better and faster ravioli than he can! One family demands that he kill his own lamb before cooking it and Jamie is practically in tears trying to cut its throat. The young kids of the family simply watch calmly, having learned all their life that there are some animals for food and others for pets.  Finally, frustrated and desperate, he becomes slowly enlightened to the fact that the way to the hearts and minds of the local people is to LEARN to accurately prepare the local recipes. Which he does magnificently  - and all of a sudden everyone loves his ass. Simple, eh? A great film on some of the reasons for the single-minded and protectiveness of regional cuisine in Italy and why Italians are the way they are. This film will HELP you get along with your Italian friends!

“You can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink,
   But you can put a lot of salt in its oats.”
Josephus the Utterer

Here are two recipes I have made recently: one by the Master and one by the Apprentice.

Risotto di Zucca
(Pumpkin Risotto, served in a whole pumpkin)

I learned this one from Carluccio. This is a brilliant presentation! You can wash out the whole pumpkin the next day or so and use it for soup or bake it with a roast.

2 tble olive oil
90g butter
1 sprig rosemary, or parsley, finely chopped.
1 garlic clove, whole
1 small pumpkin
300 g carnaroli rice
small onion, finely diced
1 litre (2 pints) chicken stock, as needed, (or pumpkin stock with chicken stock cube) kept simmering
50 g parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
white wine or champagne

Prepare the whole pumpkin serving bowl. Carefully cut the top section out to make a lid, and deseed. Hollow out enough of the flesh if necessary to accomodate the amount of risotto being served. (Reserve the seeds to roast later, to eat with salt.) You do not have to remove too much pumpkin. Take care not to puncture the skin. Cook the pumpkin in the chicken stock, or make a vegetable stock, adding an optional chicken stock cube. Strain the stock and remove the pumpkin. Keep the stock on simmer. Mash the pumpkin bits and set aside.

In pan, heat butter or olive oil and fry onion until soft, add rice and stir-fry for a few minutes. (I add some white wine/champagne here and cook for an additional two minutes.) Add a little hot stock. Keep stirring at regular intervals. As the stock is absorbed, add more stock, a ladle at a time and stir in. When the rice has achieved almost an al dente consistency, add the pumpkin. Continue to cook until rice is the way you like it. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and the parmesan cheese. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Warm the inside of the pumpkin bowl with hot water. Fill with the risotto and sprinkle the chopped parsley or rosemary over the top. Place the lid back on (if desired) and serve with a dish of pesto on the side.

Torta di Lampone
(Raspberry Tart)

I learned this from Jamie. It is not necessary to bake this tart, once you have blind-baked the pastry case.

Pasta Frollo:
1-2-3 sweet shortcrust pastry. Named thus so as to make it easy to remember: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter - 3 parts flour. Eggs are optional. This pastry freezes well and is so tasty that you can freeze the left over bits and just roll them at a moment's notice into shortbread biscuits to quickly bake for ten minutes and have with tea or coffee.)

1 egg (optional)
100 g sugar
200 g unsalted butter
300 g plain flour

Cream butter and sugar lightly. Add the egg and continue creaming until absorbed. Carefully fold in flour, mixing only until just combined. The dough will still be a little sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Knead the chilled dough lightly first to soften, then roll out evenly in all directions with a small amount of dusting powder.
Blind Bake: Line a 3.5 cm deep, 24 cm fluted tart tin, with a removable bottom, with the pastry, pressing gently into base and sides. Cut excess pastry around edge with rolling pin, cover with plastic wrap and chill the tart case for one hour. Preheat oven to 180C. Press a layer of aluminium foil into the tart case and fill with beans to keep the edges stable in the oven. Bake for 10 -15 minutes. Remove from oven when outer edge of crust is golden brown. Remove beans and check bottom. If bottom is still moist, return to oven (without beans) for five minutes until base is ready.

1 vanilla pod (or 1 teas vanilla essence)
500g marscapone
100ml single cream
3 tble sugar
3 tble grappa
310g raspberries
2 tble raspberry jam
handful of tiny mint leaves

You can make this in a large 28cm loose-bottomed tart tin but I prefer to make a bunch of small individual tarts.
Make and pre-bake the pastry cases as per above.
To make filling, split vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds with a small knife (or use the vanilla essence). Put the marsapone, cream, vanilla seeds or essence, sugar and grappa in a large bowl and beat well.
Once the pastry cases have cooled a little, add the sweetened cream to the cases. Make it level and then cover each one with raspberries or blackberries or a combination. Either push them in or just let them rest on the top. In a small pan, melt the raspberry jam with three tablespoons of water until it resembles a light syrup. With a small pastry brush, lightly dab the fruit with the jam. Either serve immediately or put in the fridge until ready.
Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with the baby mint leaves scattered on top.
TIP: If you want to keep left over tarts for a couple of days, put them in an airtight container in the fridge. Before serving, warm up some more raspberry jam syrup and spread a little over each tart with a teaspoon and dust with icing sugar.

Searching for the Dharma

You've traveled up ten thousand steps in search of the Dharma.
So many long days in the archives, copying, copying.

The gravity of the Tang and the profundity of the Sung
make heavy baggage.

Here! I've picked you a bunch of wildflowers.
Their meaning is the same
but they're much easier to carry.

~ Xu Yun ~ 
(Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of the Chinese Zen Master,
Trans. Charles Luck, ed. by Richard Hunn)



“May the left ear of your critics drop off and fall into their right pockets.”
Josephus the Utterer

Ear Infection

An 86-year-old man walked into a crowded waiting room and approached the desk....
The receptionist said, 'Yes sir, what are you seeing the doctor for today?'
'There's something wrong with my dick,' he replied.
The receptionist became  irritated and said,
'You shouldn't come into a crowded waiting room and say things like that.'
'Why not? You asked me what was wrong and I told you,' he said.
The receptionist replied , 'You've caused some embarrassment in this room full of
people. You should have said there is something wrong with your ear or something
and discussed the problem further with the doctor in private.'
The man replied, 'You shouldn't ask people questions in a room full of strangers
if the answer could embarrass anyone.'

The man walked out, waited several minutes, and then re-entered.
The receptionist smiled smugly and asked, 'Yes?'
'There's something wrong with my ear,' he stated.
The receptionist nodded approvingly and smiled, knowing he had taken her advice.
'And what is wrong with your ear, sir?'
'I can't piss out of it,' he replied.
The waiting room erupted in laughter.

Moral of the Story: Mess with seniors and you're going to lose!
(thanks to Bill Lempke)