Home, Curriculum Vitae, Press & Reviews, Testimonials, Recordings, Newsletter Archive, Recipes, Gallery

 

Friday September 7th, 2007

Cowpie

"I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it." Gertrude Stein

 

Hi Folks,

"Bush and Howard sitting in a tree,
B-U-L-S-H-I-T."

They make a good-looking couple though, don't they? A cowboy and his trusty cowpie.

Excuse if the length of the newsletter is a bit short this week. (Is it? I can't tell anymore.) I'm struggling to type this week. Here's why . . . .

When I was an electric lead guitarist back in the late 60s in the band 'The Headstone Circus' - aka 'Sugarcreek' (see more about them below) - I used to practice guitar so much that my fingertips would bleed. I remember taping bandages around the tips so I could keep playing. Eventually, I developed calluses which I still have to this day.

Over the past two months, I have been teaching myself a fourteen movement work I originally wrote on keyboard for SATB choir, string orchestra and harpsichord, called 'Ecstasy of Narcissus,' from Ovid. I just finished re-scoring it for guitar and voice and learning it by heart. Guess what? I have such severe shoulder-to-fingertip RSI from intensive finger-picking of the 30 minute piece (not to mention typing this blinking newsletter) that I am writing to you at this very minute with an ice-pack on my aching shoulder. Micro-trauma, the osteopath calls it. These things take a LONG time to heal. But you know what? Although it is painful to buggery, I am actually proud of it because, like the bleeding fingertips when I was a young un', it shows me that I am still willing to push the limits to improve. I know it sounds drastic but sometimes we need these little signposts to remind us we aren't taking the easy way out. Turning into the musical equivalent of couch potatoes. A Chord potato.

FAVOURITE LETTERS OF THE WEEK

Hi Joe,
Thanks for the songwriting workshops. Biblical imagery in song
is a fascinating phenomenon. Why does it make a shallow song seem so deep ?
At the moment I've been listening to Patti Smith's version of Bobby the
D's "Changing of the guards", which works for me as a sort of stream of
consciousness, atmospheric thing. Loads of biblical imagery. Powerful !
Means nothing much in the long run ! But supplies the brain with some
powerful images to a back drop of . . . . ..err . . . . catchy music ??
. . . . Some other songs leave no room for listener participation.
The bible itself having been interpreted in so many ways, combined with the
history that it encapsulates; and then the mystery of the whole meaning of life,
"bla bla black sheep". It's all so interesting ! "The How Nowness" of the cosmsos.
Open to lots of different interpretations.
Makes one think one's having a meaningful experience.
Songs seem to work on many different levels. Depth is only one flavour.
I prefer strawberry sometimes. right oh ! Kath Tait

Joe,
re use of biblical imagery
...don't you think the fact that such a huge proportion of modern english vernacular comes directly from the wycliffe/tyndall/king james translations of the bible is a primary reason why anyone who writes (or even says) anything in english is going to end up referring to the bible (along with shakespeare and cervantes)?  even people who are not  writers and are not conscious of the source of various common expressions and metaphors they are using do this.  and anyone who is going to delve deeply into writing will inevitably end up exploring this rich source more fully... i enjoyed this newsletter. cheers, dove 

 

Bush Plans War on Iran
by Marjorie Cohn

The Sunday Times of London is reporting that the Pentagon has plans for three days of massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran. Last week, Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, told a meeting of The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal, that the military did not intend to carry out "pinprick strikes" against Iranian nuclear facilities. He said, "They're about taking out the entire Iranian military."

Bush has already set the wheels in motion. With Rovian timing, Alberto Gonzales' resignation was sandwiched between two Bush screeds - one aimed at ensuring Congress scares up $50 billion more for the occupation of Iraq, the other designed to scare us into supporting war on Iran. As Gonzales rides off into the sunset, the significant questions are who will take his place and how that choice will facilitate Bush's occupation of Iraq and attack on Iran.

One name that's been floated for Bush's third attorney general is Joe Lieberman, the "independent" senator from Connecticut. Lieberman, who advocates the use of military force against Iran, was the only person Bush quoted in his August 28 speech to the American Legion. Bush called Iran "the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism" and pledged to "confront Tehran's murderous activities." article

 

MISS TEEN USA SOUTH CAROLINA

'Why A Fifth of Americans Can't Locate the USA on a World Map'
One of the next generation of the Southern beautiful ubermenchen carrying on the proud tradition of the blonde:
video
(thanks to Stefan Abeysekera)

 

The Bush Zone (with Apologies to Rod Serling)
By John Cory

There is a fifth realm beyond known reality. It is a realm as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground of haze and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies at the pit of man's fears. This is the realm of the unimaginable. It is an area we call "The Bush Zone."

Meet Mr. and Mrs. America, faithful believers in the one true nation. They arise each morning and stand before the mirror reciting their daily mantra: "It's a grand old flag! Leader of the free world! We're no. 1!" Their iconic reflection smiles back, a warm and homemade apple pie image of the best of everything, the best medical care, the most powerful military, and the best political system of any country in the world. The mirror never lies.

But this morning, Mr. And Mrs. America, discover a warped mirror that casts a disturbing and twisted funhouse reflection of their former selves. Daily slogans are powerless against this distorted likeness, and all that they once held sacred now ripples across the glass in a deformed and misshapen wave of elongated ugliness. Mr. And Mrs. America just stepped through the looking glass and into the Bush Zone.

Submitted for your consideration: citizens of the wealthiest country in the world seek salvation via the free-market system. They organize bake sales and eBay auctions to raise money for medical therapy not covered by their profit-driven corporate HMOs, only to discover that some of that money is also needed to purchase body armor the Pentagon failed to provide to their sons and daughters in Iraq. article

 

THE ICTHYS (Christian Fish Symbol)


We see this little bacalla everywhere, especially on car bumper stickers. Where does it come from? The Greek letters 'chi' X and 'rh' P form the first two letters of the name 'Christ'. Crossed, these letters form a FISH which is related to the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

ARF ARF!!

 

FAVOURITE GRATUITOUS MENTION OF THE WEEK


Stripy Speakers

"
These über-chic mini speakers are perfect for desktop use and music on the move, and they also make rather attractive robot ears when stuck on the side of your head. But that's beside the point. What isn't beside the point is the fact that, considering their size, Stripy Speakers sound truly impressive. Packing a 9 watt punch (4.5 watts RMS per channel) and made from polished aluminium, these gleaming little cylinders produce big audio dynamite that's sure to impress, even when blasting out Joe 'Shaddap You Face' Dolce at top whack. (Well okay, maybe they can't save that)." site

(Note: I wish I was this guy's proctologist. I know where I locate one of those speakers.)

 

COMIC RELIEF

Harpo Marx Steals a Handkerchief
video
(thanks to Frank Dolce)

 

MUSIC

SUGARCREEK (aka The Headstone Circus)

 

The only album I ever recorded with this psychedelic blues-acid rock band of the early 70s was called 'Please Tell a Friend'.

Nobody did.

It disappeared into obscurity, occasionally to turn up on eBay with a $200 price tag! My brother Frank alerted me to the fact that you can now download this entire album for free from the internet. It's a 65 MB file. There are a half dozen excellent songs, particularly a slow blues sung by Jonathan Edwards, called 'Miss You', with me closely following his phrasing with some tasty guitar licks. Also, the acoustic, 'Lady Linda' also sung by Jon, a forerunner to his later solo material. The first songs I ever wrote are on this album, 'A Million Years' and 'Old House'. But the most creative experiments are 'Memory Tree' (sung by Malcolm McKinney) and 'Nightflash' (sung soulfully, by his brother, Todd McKinney) - two journeys into the realms of harmony-singing fused with acid-rock jamming. Our drummer, John Beatty, was a part-time John Coltrane/Charlie Parker freak and played like it.
site
download

 

Political & Business Cowpie Models Explained- 2007 update

SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and
then throws the milk away...

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk
of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow
has dropped dead.

ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed
company, using letters of credit opened by your
brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity
swap with an associated general offer so that you get
all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an
intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned
by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to
all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual
report says the company owns eight cows, with an
option on one more.
You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United
States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet
provided with the release. The public then buys your
bull.

THE ANDERSEN MODEL
You have two cows.
You shred them.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the
roads, because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an
ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called
'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat
once a month, and milk themselves.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of
vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment, and high
bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real
situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you
and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least now you are part
of a Democracy....

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.

AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to
celebrate.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
(thanks to Andrew Bicknell)
-------------------------------------------

To which I might add my own humble offerings:

THE GERTRUDE STEIN MODEL
A cow is a cow is a cow.
You have a wife
The wife has a Cow.
The wife has several Cows.
(Those of you who know, know - and those of you who don't, look it up.)

THE GEORGE W BUSH MODEL
You have a big hat.
You have no cows.

THE MCDONALD'S CORPORATION
10,000,000 cows.
Your average cow weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,200 pounds.
Once it's been butchered, about 700 to 800 edible pounds remain.
Roughly (very roughly) that one cow is good for some 100 pounds of burger meat.
McDonald's sells five and a half billion burgers a year, averaging out to about one billion pounds of hamburger per annum. At 100 pounds per cow, that's approx 10 million cows per year.
(thanks to CECIL ADAMS)

THE MELBOURNE BURNLEY AND DOMAIN TUNNEL MODEL
12 headless cows.
Drivers of oversized trucks are routinely ignoring height restrictions and smashing up their loads and the tunnels, CityLink has said. More than a cow a year has lost its head from rearing up in uncovered loads every year since CityLink opened in 2000. Some staff estimated a cow parted with its head as often as every month in the tunnels. Special runs are even organised for the cows' heads to be picked up by CityLink instant response vehicles.

THE COUPLES ON WHEELS MODEL
Couples on Wheels (COWS) are tandem bicycle enthusiasts based in Wisconsin.

THE GLOBAL WARMING MODEL
Zero Emission Cows.
Scientists and farmers around the world are debating a very serious subject at the moment. Cow farts. Yes, really, they're talking about farting cows. They're talking about cow burps as well. One of the gases found in farts and burps is called 'methane'.

THE ADVERTISING MODEL
1 Purple Cow = 1 herd of Brown Cows.
("Cows, after you've seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow -- the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows -- is that it would be remarkable." I In Praise of the Purple Cow

THE ARNOLD MODEL
Half as much again cow.
Schwarzenegger Super Cows: Belgian Blues, famous for their "double muscling" due to a gene that suppresses the production of Myostatin.

 

SONGWRITING WORKSHOP 3

'Don't Dream - It's Not Over': How Neil Finn's pop song might have been improved with a lyric rewrite.

The Not Too Distant Past. Crowds waving candles. The farewell concert for Crowded House at the Opera House. Everyone crying.

Cut to the Present. But wait! It's NOT over! The band's getting back together again. Dry your eyes. Blow out the candles.

I've always loved the melody to this Neil Finn song but thought the lyrics were way underbaked. It always has reminded me of John Lennon. But a headless version. John would have never let such a great tune stand with lyrics like these. Why? First, have a look at the lyrics:

" There is freedom within
There is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a papercup
There's a battle ahead,
Many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road
while you're travelling with me

Hey now, hey now
Don't Dream It's Over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know that they won't win."
(full lyric)

Neil Finn allegedly said in an interview that he writes in an expressionist style, just following emotional intuition. Nonsense. Finn's words are just simply a set of average lyrics that indicate he's not that interested in the art of writing. And I still can't figure out if he means, 'Don't dream it's over,' or 'Don't Dream. It's Over.' I assume that even though it's punctuated like the former, he means the latter. Either way, it's still not that good. As far as following the emotional flow when writing, well, I talked about that a little in last week's workshop. Ezra Pound DID once say that only emotion endures. But Ezra had his head up his keister, too. (Not his fault - who'd name a kid Ezra?) Hitler was much closer to the mark when he said, 'I use emotion for the masses and reserve reason for the few.' Emotion does NOT endure without Creative Structure and Idea. Ezra Pound, being, by default, such a cerebral writer, probably meant, ' If a work doesn't possess emotion, it will not endure.' I agree with that. But emotion junkies are pretty much what is wrong with pop culture today. Everyone wants to feel something - even if it's nothing.

So back to the Finn song. One way to approach rewriting this lyric, evoking the spirit of John Lennon even further, is to make it an anti-war song. I am only going to give you a first draft rewrite that I made up in bed this morning. No revisions - as I don't plan to be singing it. But it will show the latent potential in this song that was abandoned too soon. Here's the way I would approach it. If anyone wants to further this idea with additional lyrics, feel free. It's just an exercise.

Stolen Children
(No War)

When they took them away
from their father and mother
and they brainwashed the kids with a coat of Jesus' blood.
And they dragged them away
to some strange distant land
where the line stays blurred between the good and bad.

No war, no war
Let's scream war's over
no war no war
Now bring these kids home
no more no more
no more stolen children
for your war machine.

There is freedom within
There is freedom without
Try to catch a little peace in a paper peace sign,
There's a battle again,
but the battlefield's lost
cause we'll never see the end of the fighting
In a politician's mind.

No war, no war
Let's scream war's over
no war no war
Now bring these kids home
no more no more
no more stolen children
for your war machine.

Now they're walking again
to the beat of a drum
and they're counting the steps
till they come back home again.
But only shadows ahead,
He was only a teen,
when a sniper's shot
Put an end to a mother's dream.

No war, no war
Let's scream war's over
no war no war
Now bring these kids home
no more no more
no more stolen children
for your war machine.

Well, it's only a rough stab at it but you get the idea. But the thing is: with Bush's new warmongering about Iran, maybe we NEED a few more drafts of this.

 

FRIEDA HUGHES - SYLVIA PLATH'S DAUGHTER

I have had a long relationship with the poetry of Sylvia Plath (and to a lesser degree, her husband Ted Hughes) since the early 70s when I first performed the poem 'Daddy' with poet Matthew Von Baeyer, in the US and Canada. Matthew read and I improvised on guitar. I still have a radio show recording we made of several of Sylvia's poems as well as works by Elizabeth Bishop, Yeats, Dylan Thomas, ee cummings and many others. In the 90s, I wrote an entire 'poetry cantata' based on a dozen poems of both Plath and Hughes, in dialogue format, called 'The Black Telephone,' which was scheduled for performance in the Castlemaine State Festival - until I got a personally hand-typed letter from Ted Hughes himself declining me his permission to do this. (Yet, another work in what I call the 'B-Minor Mass' Collection' - works that I have written, and had permission denied to me by publishers, to be performed when these pencil-necked copyrights expire - probably long after I am dead. There are six in the box now.)

My partner Lin and I began performing Plath's poem, 'Daddy' in our show 'Difficult Women'. At first, it was a similar structure to the way I did it with Matthew: Lin would read and I would improvise blues harp. But Lin's reading of this great poem over the years took on such power and depth that I decided to stop playing behind it and just let her go for it solo. I have never heard it read better. Unfortunately, we have yet to record this, but someday . . . .

" . . . The highlight for me was Van Hek's performance of Sylvia Plath's work. She narrated Plath's poetry as well as I have heard it. Her control of the difficult rhythm of the poem was truly exceptional. As she speaks the poem you can feel, almost see, Plath disintegrating. . . . Yet, of course, Van Hek is totally with it, and completely focused; alive to every nuance of every word." Alan Scott, Christchurch Press

Those familiar with Sylvia Plath's life know she had two children, Frieda and Nicholas. Frieda is an established painter in the UK and has now even published three books of her own poetry. She has always been a fierce defender of her father (which is understandable, as he raised her after her mother's suicide), but now that he is dead, she is starting to share a mystical affinity with her mother, even sounding greatly like her when she reads. Here's a rare radio interview with Frieda, where she reads, for the first time, her mother's poem, 'Morning Song' , from Ariel. There is also a short recording of Sylvia herself reading the last verse of 'Daddy'. Even though the mother reads with an American accent and the daughter, with a British, it is an uncanny similarity: audio

Recipes

White Chocolate Coffee Tart

1-2-3 Shortcrust Pastry (blindbaked)
300 g plain flour
200 g chilled unsalted butter
100 g castor sugar
1 egg

Filling
300 g white chocolate, finely chopped
100 ml double cream
125 g unsalted butter, chopped
4 eggs
100 g castor sugar
1 tble golden syrup

2 dozen white chocolate covered coffee beans, for garnish

Use a cheese grater to grate the cold butter into a large bowl. 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 cooked. Remove beans and check bottom. If bottom is still moist, return to oven (without beans) for five minutes until base is ready.

For the filling, combine chocolate, cream and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir continuously until butter and chocolate are melted and mixture is well combined. Remove bowl from heat and set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar and golden syrup until pale and creamy, then fold into chocolate mixture. Pour filling into tart shell ( TIP: Place a pizza pan, or any flat surfaced pan, in the oven about 10 minutes before you are ready to put the tart in. Place the tart tin on top of this and it will keep any overflow during the baking from messing up your oven. This is the way I fill the tart case with the filling: I place the half filled tart case in the oven on the pizza pan, then ladle the filling into the tart case slowly until it just reaches the top. This step saves you the trouble of having to then move the full tart case from the bench into the oven which invariably causes some spillage which is unpleasant. My way of doing it avoids that problem.) and bake at 150C for 35-40 minutes or until just set. Cool tart to room temperature.

To serve: Cut each of the white chocolate covered coffee beans down the centre. Place half of them, cut side up, geometrically around the top of the tart. Crush the remainer roughly and sprinkle freely on top. Dust very lightly with icing sugar. Serve with coffee.

Variation 1: White Chocolate Tart Brulee

For a variation, omit the white chocolate covered coffee beans and simply brulee the top. To do this you will need a little kitchen sized blowtorch. (You can get these at kitchen supply shops.) Sprinkle about 2 mm of castor sugar over the surface of the tart once it has cooled. Set the blowtorch on a wideflame setting and carefully pass it across the sugar until the sugar starts to bubble and goes golden brown. Allow to cool before sprinking half the surface with icing sugar. (This is a nice decorative effect.) The brulee will also work well with the basic lemon and chocolate tart recipes. (See recipe index.)

Variation 2: Fallen Angel Dolce

Omit the crust. Butter some ramekin or souffle dishes. Fill with the chocolate mixture. Bake at 150C for 35-40 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. The filling should have puffed up like a souflee in the oven but after it starts to cool, it will sink and make a well in the centre. (Aw...... but this is good! Hence the 'fallen angel' etc . . . . . .)
To serve: Run a knife around the inside of the dish and try to extra the chocolate in one piece. Don't worry if it doesn't come out perfectly. Imperfections look nice. Place it on an individual serving plate, grate some white chocolate over the top and lightly dust with icing sugar.

 

Stillborn

These poems do not live: it's a sad diagnosis.
They grew their toes and fingers well enough,
Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.
If they missed out on walking about like people
It wasn't for any lack of mother-love.
O I cannot explain what happened to them!
They are proper in shape and number and every part.
They sit so nicely in the pickling fluid!
They smile and smile and smile at me.
And still the lungs won't fill and the heart won't start.
They are not pigs, they are not even fish,
Though they have a piggy and a fishy air --
It would be better if they were alive,
and that's what they were.
But they are dead,
and their mother near dead with distraction,
And they stupidly stare
and do not speak of her.

(poem: Sylvia Plath - Music: Joe Dolce
from 'The Black Telephone' Poetry Cantata.)