Saturday, April 28, 2007

Taboo Tunes

I got this book from the library thinking it might be a laugh, but it is the most unamusing book I have ever read. It has got the feel of a scientific article to it. You know, everything thoroughly researched, cross-referenced, with multiple citations.

I would not want this author for a friend. Since I think I would tire very quickly of his conversations, but then he is a passionate defender of free speech, and the book is all about the First amendment of the American constitution.

It is heavily biased towards the banning of songs in the USA and the rest of the world rarely features. Al Gore's wife, Tipper takes a bashing, as does the christian religious right wing.

The main things that gets a tune banned are as follows.

  • If it has a beat then it is jungle music
  • If it promotes drugs or drinking
  • If it has any sexual content
  • If it is satanic
  • If it contains references to death or suicide
  • If it promotes bad language.
  • If it encourages violence.
The one valid point he does make is the there seems to be a double standard. There exists a gulf between the pop culture and lets say the classical arts. The play Romeo and Juliet has underage sex, violent killings, and a double suicide, yet nobody has ever suggested that it should be banned. Many of the operas by Verdi or Puccini feature a suicide or two, and Wagner goes in big time for incestious sex and gratuitous killing, but because these are considered to be "high art" then they escape censorship or public scrutiny.

Can it really be true that only popular culture has an evil influence?
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Thursday, April 26, 2007


I am looking forward to the earth warming up and the growing season getting underway. The Spring has been long and dry, but in the last few days there has been a fair bit of rain which has coaxed the plants into springing from the earth, or the trees to bud. It is wonderful to see nature awaken after a long hard dark winter.
In England I loved roses, but here in Finland with the harsher climate, you have to select cultivars that survive the frost and snow of winter. I have planted "Northern Star" by our front door and it looks like it is as tough as old boots, and survives the winter well.
But some of the bush roses if they are not protected over the winter become blackened by the frost and die right back to a few centimetres from the ground. You can see the dead old sketetons of leaves that have been eaten away over the winter and the new red shoots of new growth. From a Swedish lady I learnt that the right time to prune rose bushes is when the brich trees have put out their smallest leaves, known here as "mouse ears".
The Virgina vines are also beginning to sprout. There are some plants that no matter how you mistreat them they will survive and flourish. This creeper is one such plant. It wants to take over the world. You can cut it back, tie it down, whack it, uproot it,but it still manages to leave a little piece of itself in the ground, and it will renew itself.

If a person was a combination of a Northern Star rose and a Virginnia creeper, they could become the ruler of the universe.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why don't you treat me right

Why don't you treat me right
Originally uploaded by Selma Sol€.
So the night was cold and three girls went out to shiver under the midnight moon.

The girl with the blue silk dress slit to the thigh soon had someones arms wraped around her to keep her warm.

The girl with lowcut dress did not have long to wait before her back was being stroked. Really it was to keep her warm.

The girl with the coat on over her evening dress just hung her head sadly to the side. She did not have any excuses, to be held.

The young man, a gentleman perhaps, stood at attention, one hand in his pocket, not knowing what to do with himself, while the neat white bowtie choked the words of love that were forming in his throat.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Who says bikers don't drink Pernod

Sixty Euros on the meter and heading out further into the sticks with three drunk bikers in the back seat. They are drinking a bottle of red wine each. The bearded one says a man is not a man unless he can take a punch straight on the nose and not even blink. I roar my approval at this eminent thought, and from the hilarity in the back seat, I think I have just saved myself from getting a broken nose.

We pull into a bikers bar for Pernod. Pernod how french and sophisticated I muse, for that I get my head trapped underneath someones hairy armpit and my bald head gets patted, then slapped, then knuckled. Better than a broken nose I think.I am offered a drink. I ask for coffee. I pretend to be hard and have it black with no sugar. It comes in a paper cup. Should I have expected more?

Pernod is exchanged for vodka. Outside the taxi meter is ticking. The bikers are in no hurry to move on. There is an argument between the bearded one and the bar-maid. I surmise they are man and wife. She wants him to stay. He wants to go to another bar and drink more Pernod. He gives me 60 euros to part cover the trip so far.

While the argument is raging his two mates drag me out to the taxi and we drive 20 kilometers down the road to another dive. On the way the bearded one phones his mate in the front seat demanding to know why we left him. He wants us to turn back and pick him up. His mate tells me to drive on. There is a screaming match. TURN BACK/DRIVE ON/TURN BACK/DRIVE ON, and so it goes until I arrive at the new Pernod pub.

The biker in the front seat pays for the whole trip, and tells me to now go back and pick up the bearded one. Sure I say but think how will I ever find the place again in this forest wilderness. He gives me an address and I key it into the navigator and drive back to the first bicker's bar.

The bearded ones wife sees me pull up and swings out the door to meet me. She asks for the 60 euros her husband gave me, cos he is going nowwhere. I sympathise with her, and size her up, and reckon she could not break my nose but her husband could. I insist on returning the money into her husbands hands. She does not like this idea, cos he will only spend it on more Pernod.

I give him the money and get a bearhug, a backslap, and a skull-knuckle in very short order. He offers me a Pernod. I decline. He gives me a big tip for my honesty, and I am out of there before somebody has a chance to pick a fight.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wagner and The Valkyrie

Listening notes:
(time line through the second opera of the Ring cycle)

9:40 Begins with the luftwaffe taking off on a bombing mission. Lost my place cos I was to busy making myself a pot of tea. I need some sort of sustainance to listen to over 3 hours of Wagner.

Robert DeNiro sheds a tear in his own private operabox at the sweetness of it. Young lovers gaze rapt into each others eyes. She is married, and he's her brother but the music is so lush you just know they are going to get their jollies off.

10:00 Completely lost. Wotans sword, bloodshed, tears, courage, seems to be the gist of want is going on, and nookie is spread thick of the toast of inscest.

10:10 Track 8 and I have found my place. Each track o the CD is marked with a number inside a small square and this is placed convieniently on the lyric sheet.

10:15 A sword is stuck in a tree trunk. A mountain ash, or to you and me a rowan tree, such a wicked pagan tree, and anyone who manages to pull it out is worth to be a hero. Hold on didn't king Aurthur have the rights on this story. He should get his lawyers on the case and sue the arse off Wagner. This is plain plagarism.

10:25 Second round of tea and toast.

10:35 Siegfried get his name and pulls the sword out of the tree. That is bad cos god himself should be the one who gives new names Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul. It is a case for the lawyers once again.

10:40 End of First CD

10:42 Helicopters start up their engines and it is American gunship over the jungles of Vietnam, and we are all loving the smell of napalm in the morning.

10:45 The Gods are pissed off. Wotan's wife Fricka is giving him a hard time, over the fact that he is doing damn all to stop his kids from having it off with each other. Spouts something about the sanctity of marriage.

10:47 Unholy I consider the vow that unites without love is Wotan's comeback to her.

10:48 Fricka comes back at him If you grant respectability to adultery then you will have no trouble accepting the incestious fruit of the liason between thes twins.

10:50 Wotan and Fricka have a real old ding dong, just like all married couples do. It becomes apparant that Wotan has screwed around and put a mere human in the club. She gave birth to twins who are now about to have it off with each other. Bad Wotan Even the Gods reap what the sow.

11:15 Heavy philosophy, twisty twisty explainations, justifications to soothe a guilty conscience.

11:30 Brunhilde another of Wotan's kids is given the order by Wotan to kill Siegmund, becasue Fricka's honour has been besmirched. If you ask me none of them has any honour at all. They are all selfserving despots who can justify any action they make as being right no matter how wrong it is. They definately have severe personality disorders these Gods.


12:30 3rd CD in the slot and it is slow slow slow slow, much talking between Brunhilde and Siegmund, heroes getting into Valhalla and all that. Knowing what Wotan and Fricka are like I don't think I would want to be a hero and join them in Valhalla. Boring save for the magic sword. Swords are always good especially if you can be a real hero and threaten to use it to kill your sister who you have made pregnant.

1:15 Wotan kills his son Siegmund. Fricka will be pleased. Wotan breaks the magic sword. I think J.R's lawyers should get on the case. I mean to say the next thing you know some elf or a dwarf will be mending it, and it will be used to kill a dragon or some such rubbish. Brunhilde grabs the pregnant girl Sieglinde and gallops off into the sunset. Wotan having killed his son likes to keep his hand in and kills Hunding as well. In opera terms the couple of killings are over in a couple of lines. No explainations, no arguments, no tempers raised, no pleading, Wotan just whacks them both.

1:20 Ride of the Valkyries, choppers giving it large, rocket launchers red-hot Hoyotoho Hoyotoho is the sound of to rotor blades spinning

1:30 Lots of hoyotohoing as the nine Valkyries swoop in formation over the vietcong. Black clouds on the horizon, delirium everywhere, Valkyries twittering like freaked fairies at the approch of Wotan the War-father the Battle-father, who is well pissed.

1:38 Wotan curses Brunhilde. Fathers can be so unkind to their daughters. If they are not busy killing their sons then they curse their daughters. The curse that the daughters seem to hate the most is to sit by the fire and spin. Knitting woolly sweaters or cooking up a stew for a wimpy husband is the worst punishment out, especially if all your life you have been flying a helicopter gunship. Wotan is a god who pushishes his offspring. If you are a daughter you get cursed, if you are a son forsaken then killed. Period.

2:15 Brunhilde avoids becoming a domestic and cuts a deal with Wotan who lays her out on a rock and puts her in a deep sleep and surrounds her with the fires of hell. This is what she wants, her reasoning being that, it would take a true hero to brave the fires of hell and awake her with a kiss. Hey Walt Disney's lawyers should get on Wagners case, for he has obviously stolen the Sleeping Beauty story from Walt.

2:30 Ends with magic fire music

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Baudelaire said of Wagner "I love Wagner, but then again, the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws."

Wagner is thought to be a fascist dwarf with big ideas. Big ideas like that short arse Napoleon who marched on Moscow. Big ideas like stumpy Adolf who marched on Moscow. Don't you just hate short people, you have to pick them up even to say hello.

But short people tend to over-compensate in other ways. Wagner for instance indulged in multicoloured crushed velvet suits that would have turned Jimi Hendrix green with embarrassment, but regardless of his stature he did big music that took ages to perform.

For example the four-opera cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (1876) takes over 14 hours to perform and if you want to hear a performence of it at Wagner's spirtual home at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus then you have to book 14 years in advance. God it is almost as difficult as getting a child into Eaton, and the end result is often in both cases, a long fruitless wait, with little to show for it in the end.

Wagner was always in debt. He was always running away from people he owed money to. It began in Riga in 1839 where he amassed such huge debtsand had to flee to escape his creditors. Oh and he did not have much luck with his missus either, she run off with a russian army officer. Perhaps this sorry start to married life led him to be infatuated by other women such as Cosima who was the illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt. Cosima who was 24 years younger than Wagner, gave birth to Wagner's illegitimate daughter, who was named Isolde. Now where did they come up with a name like that? Why old short pants himself and just written Tristan and Isolde based on and arthurian legend dealing with the love of a knight for a married woman. Art imitating life.

But the big project was the "Dwarf's ring" Trust a short arse to write an opera about dwarves.
  1. Das Rheingold 149 minutes
  2. Die Valkyrie 216 minutes
  3. Siegfried 233 minutes
  4. Twilight of the Gods 245 minutes
When he was not writing big music that would incorporate the meaning of life, the universe and everything by taking music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft and throwing them into a big washing machine, and putting them through a spin cycle of a million rpm.

Did he worry about mixing whites with colours? Yes of course he did, and that is why he turned his hand to writing such essays as "Das Judenthum in der Musik" (German, "Jewishness in Music", but normally translated Judaism in Music). Wagner, attacked Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was reissued in a greatly expanded version under Wagner’s name in 1869. It is regarded by many as an important landmark in the history of German anti-Semitism.

So I have gone to the library and got 3 of these big Wagner operas out. I failed to get Siegfried, or was it Siegmund or Sieglinde or SiegHeil, but I thought what the hell, it might be about inscest, so I will leave that for later. Instead for a substitute I got a MOJO compilation of Sgt Pepper by various artists and I listened to it at one sitting, sort of easing myself into a long listening session of Wagner.

If the Beatles Sgt Pepper was thick and hearty pea soup then the MOJO compilation was dishwater. I don't want to sup that again. I wonder if I will come to the same conclusion about Wagner.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

4' 33"

The theatre is packed. It is a bowtie and tails affair, with a mad sprinkling of cocktail dresses thrown in. A piano is rolled onto the stage. The audience wonders if it is a "prepared piano" A few loose scews and bolts drop onto the floor as the piano is pushed across the stage. The lid of the piano is not closed and poking out from under the lid is the front wheel of a ladies bicycle, and hanging ominously from the handle bars are two carrier bags full of shopping. Is this a mistake? The ladies fidget with their opera glasses and focus down their noses, as the piano comes to rest centre stage. What is going on?

A smartly dressed young man enters stage left wearing white tie and tails. His hair is black and slicked back with brylcreme. He sits down on the piano stool folds his fingers together and cracks his knuckles. He places his sheet music on the piano and starts the first movement of John Cages latest musical offering for piano entitled 4' 33" The audience waits in anticipation. Silence. The musician sits down at his piano, closes the keyboard, and sets a stopwatch for 30 seconds. He remains sitting and does not do anything. Birds were singing outside. A bee flew in through an open window. The audience shuffled their feet, coughed. Had the performace begun?

When that time was up he rose from his stool and made a respectful bow towards the audience. They were flumoxed... should they clap, but then they remembered it is bad form to applaud between movments. He sat down again and turned over a page on the sheet music and he set the clock again for 2 minutes and twenty-three seconds. Under the full scrutiny on an uncomprehending audience the beads of sweat began to form on his brow. A hank of hair from his forelock worked it's way loose from the brylcreme gel and hung down over his forhead. Ladies tut tutted and and gentlemen began to cough nervously. The air conditioning cut out and the imperceptable hum that had been vibrating through the air ceased.

At the end of 2:23 the pianist rose from his stool. It scrapped along the floor as he did so. He removed a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped the prespiration from his brow and dabbed the moisture from his upper lip. He turned the page once again... the pages were blank and did not have any notes on them. He set the clock for one minute and 40 seconds, and resumed his seat at the piano.

One woman turned to her husband and said that it was outrageous. She had spent all that money on a new dress, not to mention the jewelry. Her husband who would have prefered to be in the bar drinking brandy anyway, knocked on the floor two times with his cane, and that was all that was need to start the riot. First it was the feet that started to rumble like a train, and canes, walking sticks, and umbrellas with the occasion parasole began to supply a sharp staccatto backbeat. A man with a fine waxed moustache that would have made Elgar envious cried balderdash, and bushsy black beard shouted poppycock. The ladies were affronted by the word not knowing if a poppy had a cock or not. Then all mayhem ensued, there was donkeys braying, spittle flying from outraged purple lips. Some ladies had to have their corsets loosed for fear of apoplexy and neurological impairment

After one minute 40 seconds the pianist he left the stage. The first performance of "4:33" was over, and John Cage could not have been happier if he had been Eric Satie spouting abusive Dada poetry whilst jugging a litter of new born kittens.

For your listening pleasure here is a full orchestral presentation of John Cage 4:33

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Classic Rock & Doris

Rock & Doris
Originally uploaded by George Harris-Tweed.
Just watched a movie called Send me no flowers. It stared Rock Hudson who was gay and Doris Day who is a gay icon. Rock and Doris made three films together and in this movie Doris wears lovely little pastel shaded bows in her hair. She is the twitering dumb blonde of a wife from the american 60's. Rock and Doris kissed alot.

In the taxi today I asked a Russian if he knew the mighty handful, and to my surprise he said yes and when I challenged him he reeled off the names of Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. No they are not ice-hockey players, they are russian composers, but then again you knew that.

Apparently none of the mighty handful had any musical training yet they wanted to produce a music that was distinctly Russian, and they set about doing this by growing big black bushy beards and drinking vodka, and being critical of each other

A protege of theirs was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky his bread was neat and trimed and grey which of course marked him out as being gay, He went ahead and married a nutcase called Antonina Miliukova, and after a couple of weeks of marriage tried to top himself by drowning. He failed since the water was only waist deep. All he succeeded in doing was catching the cold. Things went from bad to worse so he left his wife. She never gave him a divorce, and years later at the end of her life Antonina was locked up in an insane asylum and died.

Nadezhda von Meck, was next on Pyotr's list. They exchanged 1200 letters and she financed him to the tune of 6,000 roubles a year. When she discovered what the small gray neatly trimed beard ment she never wrote him another letter and never gave him another penny. Three months after Tchaikovsky died she died of a choking fit.

Everyone has heard the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, we all get our education in classical music seconf hand through films. The 1812 featured in the film Gorky Park (1983). and in Dead Poets Society (1989), Robin Williams' character (John Keating) whistles the overture.

Tchaikovsky might haved ended his life by poisoning himself or dying of cholera. Nobody seems to know.

Pyotr and Antonina, Rock and Doris everything changes yet everything remains the same.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Joy and Sorrow

Car accident woman
Originally uploaded by D. Nile.
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Now its been twenty-five years or more
I've roamed this land from shore to shore
From Tyne to Tamar, Severn to Thames
From Moor to Vale, from Peak to Fen.
Played in cafes and pubs and bars
Ive stood in the street with my old guitar
But I'd be richer than all the rest
If I had a pound for each request
For Duelling Banjos, American Pie,
Its enough to make you cry
Rule Britannia, or Swing low,
Are they the only songs the English know?

Seed, bud, flower, fruit
They're never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoots - they need roots.

After the speeches when the cakes been cut
The discos over and the bar is shut
At christening, birthday, wedding or wake
What can we sing until the morning breaks?
When the Indian, Asians, Afro, Celts,
Its in their blood, and below the belt.
They're playing and dancing all night long
So what have they got right, that weve got wrong?

Seed, bud, flower, fruit
Never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoots -we need roots

Haul away boys let them go
Out in the wind and the rain and snow
Weve lost more than well ever know
Round the rocky shores of England

And a minister said his vision of hell
Is three folk singers in a pub near Wells.
Well Ive got a vision of urban sprawl
Its pubs where no one ever sings at all.
And everyone stares at a great big screen
Over-paid soccer stars, prancing teens,
Australian soap, American rap,
Estuary English, baseball caps,
And we learn to be ashamed before we walk
Of the way we look, and the way we talk.
Without our stories, or our songs,
How will we know where weve come from?
I've lost St George in the Union Jack
Its my flag too, and I want it back

Seed, bud, flower, fruit
Never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoots - we need roots

Haul away boys let them go
Out in the wind and the rain and snow
Weve lost more than well ever know
Round the rocky shores of England

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Johtaja Tiura

Johtaja Tiura
Originally uploaded by Sid Aurther.
Picked up "Johtaja Tiura" from a pub and drove him to another pub. We stopped off at a bank automatic to get some money. He is a painter. He gave me a tip and offered me coffee in the pub. I declined.

He then emptied his rucksack and gave me 0.5 kg of prime mince meat., 0.5 kg of stewing steak, four chicken breasts in honey marinade, 2 slabs of pork spare ribs, 1 HK sauseage ring, and pack of rye bread, a loaf of barley bread, and a huge iced danish pastry.

He shook my hand and crunched it until the bones cracked. I laughed and laughed. He gave me the thumbs up sign and went into the pub which was called the Scottish Arms.

Unexpected generosity always bowls me over, since it is so contrary to what we expect. So what if everything was past its sell-by date... surely it is the thought that counts.

Now here is a thing I read about how to put your shoes on properly according to Jewish custom. So often we here it is the letter of the law that killeth, it is the spirit that gives live. According to the Code of Jewish law (the Shulchan Aruch), You are supposed to put your right shoe on before the left shoe, and then you have to tie the left shoelace before the right shoelace. And when taking them off it's the opposite: untie the right then the left, take off the left then the right.

Why all the fuss you may ask?

In Kabbalah, the stronger side (the right for right-handed people, left for lefties) represents giving, and the weaker side symbolizes holding back and discipline. This is to teach us that our power of giving should be more dominant than our power of holding back. The ideal is to have a higher measure of kindness than discipline.

Right foot first: Generosity... Be generous today. Lace left foot next: Be disiplined

Imagine having to stop and think before putting on your shoes every day. Suddenly the most mundane routine becomes a meditation. Remember kindness and generosity is more powerful than strictness and discipline.

I never got a chance to look at "johtaja Tiura's" shoes. I suspect he might have been wearing slip-ons

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Erik: Continuation war infantryman

On passing over the bridge at Kivenlahti Eric said that we were entering foreign soil, and that up until the mid 50's the Russians occupied the Porkkalan peninsula. Just imagine battalions of Russian troops just 30km away from Helsinki.

He talked about "Porkkalan Blue" apparantly the Russians painted everything blue. He knew his history and told about the Hakkapeliitta whose war cry was hakkaa päälle (English: hack on or hit on; Swedish: hacka på), but most commonly translated as "Cut them down!". Even today you will hear this shouted at ice-hockey matches.

He said during the war the Russians used battle cries to encourage each other as they rushed forward, many of them drunk on vodka. Seems that going to war requires a lot of chanting, or being out of you skull with alcohol or berserk on poisonous mushrooms.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Music can name the unknameable and communicate the unknowable
~ Leonard Brenstein
In the end I think of music as saving grace for all humanity
~ Henry Miller

Music is well said to be the speach of angels, in fact nothing among the utterences of man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite
~ Thomas Carlyle

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything

A painter paints their pictures on a canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence
~ Leopold Stokowski

See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of nature being everywhere music
~ Thomas Carlyle

Music is the shorthand of emotion
~ Leo Tolstoy

Music was invented to confirm human lonliness
~ Lawrence Durrell

Without music life would be a mistake
~ Nietzche

Music expresses that which can not be said on which it is impossible to be silent
~Victor Hugo

The first time I heard Andrea Bocelli sing was with Sarah Brightman as a duet and the song was Time to say goodbye The song came from the radio, and I had no idea who the singers were, and since it was almost all in Italian I did not understand a word of it. I have always listened to the radio expecting a message from heaven. Some sound or words that would shake my foundations.

The music was so beautiful and the voices so majestic and soaring that I found tears welling up in my eyes. I had no idea what I was crying for. It was just uncontrolable. Was it deep communicating to deep? I remember as a child when the wind was high and blowing fiercely there would be a singing in the telephone wires. The wind which is just a movement of air drew a sound out of the wires, and so it was with me, some sonic resonance plucked a chord deep inside me that I did not know existed.

Perhaps it was about sadness and loss, or perhaps a deep yearning to be connected once again in a fresh way with all of my family. Music has always had a powerful effect on me, in that it stirs up my emotions. There is nothing much I can do about it. I have observed my children taking sidways glances at my face, and wondering if their father is going to start crying when listening to a particular piece of music.

Long ago I decided that if I ever got the opportunity to listen to Andrea Bocelli live, then I would do it. He just happened to be singing in Helsinki on my birthday on the 19th of November, so I went to see him. It was magical. He did three encores and received a standing ovation. The applause was thunderous and it was agumented by the noisey stamping of feet from 10,000 people. He finished the night off with a heartbreaking rendition of Time to say goodbye with Doriana Milazzo

So what was it like

It was like completing some code and getting a programme to work
It was like a thousand small birds fluttering inside your heart
It was like a dance on a sandy beach
It was like winning a penalty shootout
It was like having brown eyes in a blue eyed family
It was like snowboarding on powdery snow
It was like finding cloudberries in the forest
It was like knitting a pair of warm woolen socks
It was like eating new potatoes that you have grown yourself
It was like telling a story and making everybody laugh
It was like blushing when told you are loved
It ravished my soul.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The end of a perfect day

The end of a perfect day
Originally uploaded by HyperBob.
(Eric Bogle)

Have you stood by the ocean, on a diamond-hard morning
And felt the hor-izon stir deep in your soul
Watched the wake of a steamer as it cut through blue water
And been gripped by a fever you just can't control

Oh to throw off the shackles and fly with the seagulls
To where green waves tumble before a driving sea wind
Or to lie on the decking on a warm summer's evening
Watch the red sun fall burning, be-neath the earth's rim

cho: But to every sailor, comes time to drop anchor
Haul in the sails, and make the lines fast
You deep water dreamer, your journey is over
You're safe in the harbour at last
You're safe in the harbour at last

Some men are sailors, but most are just dreamers
Held fast by the anchors they forge in their minds
Who in ther hearts know they'll never sail over deep water
To search for a treasure they're afraid they won't find

So in sheltered harbours, they cling to their anchors
Bank down their boilers and shut down their steam
And wait for the sailors to re-turn with bright treasures
That will fan the dull embers and fire up their dreams

But to every sailor, comes time to drop anchor
Haul in the sails, and make the lines fast
You deep water dreamer, your journey is over
You're safe in the harbour at last
You're safe in the harbour at last

And some men are schemers who laugh at the dreamers
Take the gold from the sailors and turn it to dross
They're men in a prison, they're men without vision
Whose only horizon is profit and loss

So when storm clouds come sailing a-cross your blue ocean
Hold fast to your dreaming for all that your're worth
For as long as there's dreamers, there will always be sailors
Bringing back their bright treasures from the corners of earth

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cat cushions

"You know at airports they have these massage chairs?"

"Those big black things, as big as a leather porno sofa, and you just pop a coin in the slot, and you get a good going over, better than a security guard giving you a full body search at Munich airport"

"Yeah well in Hydra they have these famous cat cushions. They are fantastic. They are made to look like real cats, and you will find them on the chairs of most waterfront resturants"

"Are you sure they were cat cushions? They could have been real cats"

"Look don't you think a real cat would get up and run away if somebody was about to sit on them?"

"So was it comfy in a furry sort of way?

"Well when I sat on it I thought it was some sort of sophisticated whoopie cushion, except instead of the usual baked beans and pork sound of chronic flatulence, it made the sonic equivalent of a good bit of oak hardwood being pushed through a circular saw."

"But besides sounds was it comfy?"

"Well if it had some sort of control setting on it then it must have been set to maximum. It was vibrating like crazy"

"A cat cushion doing the Saint Vitus dance?"

"Precisely, but I reckon the batteries must have been low since it only worked for a short time then stopped."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Step right up and get your Ilo Ilo ice-cream

Step right up, step right up, step right up,Everyone's a winner, bargains galore That's right, you too can be the proud owner Of the quality goes in before the name goes on One-tenth of a dollar, one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales You need perfume? we got perfume, how 'bout an engagement ring? Something for the little lady, something for the little lady, Something for the little lady, hmm Three for a dollar We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you They come in all colors, one size fits all No muss, no fuss, no spills, you're tired of kitchen drudgery Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business Going out of business sale Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man Don't settle for less How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume Now you've heard it advertised, don't hesitate Don't be caught with your drawers down, Don't be caught with your drawers down You can step right up, step right up

That's right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices, Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school It gets rid of unwanted facial hair, it gets rid of embarrassing age spots, It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens And it finds that slipper that's been at large under the chaise lounge for several weeks And it plays a mean Rhythm Master, It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar And it's only a dollar, step right up, it's only a dollar, step right up 'Cause it forges your signature If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product For complete refund of price of purchase Step right up

Please allow thirty days for delivery, don't be fooled by cheap imitations You can live in it, live in it, laugh in it, love in it Swim in it, sleep in it, Live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets, that's right And it entertains visiting relatives, it turns a sandwich into a banquet Tired of being the life of the party? Change your shorts, change your life, change your life Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife, And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator See you later alligator And it steals your car It gets rid of your gambling debts, it quits smoking

It's a friend, and it's a companion, And it's the only product you will ever need Follow these easy assembly instructions it never needs ironing Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff, Gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job, it is a job And it strips the phone company free take ten for five exchange, And it gives you denture breath And you know it's a friend, and it's a companion And it gets rid of your traveler's checks It's new, it's improved, it's old-fashioned Well it takes care of business, never needs winding, Never needs winding, never needs winding Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of psoriasis, Christ, you don't know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy, C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon' Cause it's effective, it's defective, it creates household odors, It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection It gives you an erection, it wins the election

Why put up with painful corns any longer? It's a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot, prizes, prizes, prizes, all work guaranteed How do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it, how do we do it We need your business, we're going out of business We'll give you the business Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale Receive our free brochure, free brochure Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions, batteries not included Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available,

Step right up, step right up, step right up You got it buddy: the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away Step right up, you can step right up, you can step right up C'mon step right up (Get away from me kid, you bother me...) Step right up, step right up, step right up, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon Step right up, you can step right up, c'mon and step right up, C'mon and step right up

Tom Waits "Step Right Up!"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You can keep your hat on

The problem is twofold, snoring and dampness. On a sailing boat the cabins are small and if chance has it you might land it a cabin with a mighty snorer. It is usually big men on their backs that can snore up a storm.

You just might get to sleep if the snoring is as regular as a cross-cut saw. If it has a rythme to it, you can imaging a clock ticking, or sheep jumping over a hurdle, and you just might be shepheded ito the sweet pastures of slumberland.

But if the snoring is vaugely reminicent of a misfiring motor bike which keeps having intermitant backfires then you are kept awake listening for the engine to run smoothly. It never does. At its worse the engine stalls and there is complete silence, and you wait and wait, wondering If it is going to kick into life again, and of course it does just when you are begining to doze off. I bought earplugs to help me get to sleep, but they kept falling out, and hence were of little use.

On the night after the storm we walked in the village of Poros, and I wore my wollen hat. We went into a resturant and I took off my wooly hat and I imediately felt cold. Someone said to me that 50% of the body heat is lost through the head, so I put the hat on and felt much warmer.

Now the beds in the cabin were damp after the storm and I had difficulty getting to sleep because of the cold and dampness, so I decided to put on my hat to see if I would feel any warmer, and it did seem to help, and in addition with the hat pulled well down over the ears, it stopped the ear-plugs from falling out.

So the wooly hat solved three problems for me. It kept me warn, It stopped my ear-plugs from falling out, and it added extra soundproofing so I was able to ignore the snoring and get some sleep.

Now here is a poem that mentions sleeping snoring and moorings

Being Boring

If you ask me 'What's new?',
I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.

Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work.
He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears of passion-I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last.I
f nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement,
steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life:
I aspireTo go on and on being boring.

— Wendy Cope If I Don't Know (Faber & Faber) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dogs are children too

Her coat was that green woolen Austrian type and she wore a felt hat with a peacock feather in it. She was short, Her hair was short, sort of like that designer woman in the "Incredibles". She was bossing a young man from the airport who was carrying a transport box with a dog in it.

"Put my baby on the back seat. He wont make a mess. He is a good baby. The animal hospital at Viiki and quick. What do you mean you don't know where it is? Look my baby has had an operation and he needs to be in intensive care. Don't you darling, don't cry mummy is with you"

I asked her for an address and she handed me a slip of paper and I entered it into the navigator. Viikintie 49, the road existed but the navigator could not find number 49, which usually means that the buildings are new.

"What do you mean number 49 does not exist. This is an emergency. The doctors are waiting for us, aren't they baby. Just drive to Viiki and we will find it there. This dog cost 8000 euros, didn't you baby, He's a stud, aren't you darling,"

Going down the Tuusalan road, the dog in its cage decides to vomit and void its bowels at the same time. I am gagging at the wheel. I open th back window.

"Close that window, do you want to give my baby pneumonia? Do you know where you are going? It seems to be taking a long time. What do you mean you don't know where you are going. You are a taxi driver, you're supposed to know. That navigator just told you to turn right but you are going straight on. Don't worry darling muumy is here"

I point out that you can't do a right turn from Tuusulantie to Koskelantie. I point out that Viikintie is ahead that seems to calm her but not her baby in the cage. Viikintie is long and I drive along it slow looking for the Animal hospital.

"Why are you driving so slow, my baby needs to be intensive care. Do you see any road numbers"

I explain that Viiki has now become a big Helsinki University site and perhaps we should drive onwards since the animal hospital might be there, and all the while I was thinking what if we can't find the place. What if the dog dies. What will this uberfrau do then. On the road to Hertoniemi I spot a sign for the Animal hospital and we finally arrive. She gets out of the car and orders me to carry her baby to the front door. The doors are closed and they won't open. It is 10:30 at night.

"What do you mean read the sign on the door. Where, where? Oh!!! the intercom. Open up... Open up, I've flown all the way from Oulu with my baby and he needs to be in intensive care, Why isn't there anybody here. The doctor in Oulu phoned and told them to expect us. This is just not right. I've spent thousands of euros on an operation. I have not slept a wink in the last 18 hours. My baby needs help now. Open up... open up"

The doors mysteriously slid open and we passed inside. I left her baby on a bench and left. I drove home with the windows rolled down.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sixties sailing

Excerpt from Dairy:

The rainbow boys beat us into the harbour at Hydra, and anchored safely behind the water break. Hydra harbour is small and messy and you have to drop anchor and reverse back to the moorings, which makes life complicated.

With too many boats attempting to do this at the same time the anchor chains were getting tangled in a mess. But that would be a problem for another day. We tied up alongside a red rusty tanker called CHRISTOS that was carrying sand for ballast.

We woke the next moring with the waves breaking over the back of the boat. The fenders which were seperating us from the tanker CHRISTOS were not doing their job, and were riding upwards, and threatening to pop out of place. Other boats were begining to come into the harbour to get shelter from the storm. There was a lot of shouting going on. Anchor chains were in a mess. People were in the water trying to free things up. It was chaotic so we decided to get away from it all, so we cast off an headed out to sea.

The waves were about 4-5 meters high and everybody got suited up in their waterproofs. The boat was brought around into the wind and the mailsail was hoisted and adjusted so it was a storm rigging. Only a quarter of the sail was used. The sea was very rough and the bow of the boat was diving into the troughs of the waves, and the spray broke over the decking and soaked everything. Life vests were put on and everybody was hanging on for dear life to some ropes from the rigging.

The boat was keeling over so water was coming over the scuppers and if you went down into the cabin below then the sea water was up past the windows. Everybody was getting drenched to the skin and the wind was so severe we had to shout to be heard above it. The skipper at the helm had to continually wash the salt water from his eyes because the spray was being thrown in his face evertime we hit a wave

We were heading for Poros and the sailing was like being on a roller coaster, with the exception that the ride went on for 5 hours instead of 5 minutes, and at every dive into the waves it seemed a bucket of water had been thrown in your face. Going through a narrow channel between two islands the waves were between eight and ten meters and the wind according to the GPS was gusting at 45 knots. In this photo I think Esa was saying something about the oncoming waves, and looking a bit worried.

It was about this time I was sick three times in quick succession. Eggs, bread, cheese, and yoghurt over the side and down wind. I did not dare to go below decks to get out of the weather since if you loose sight of the horizon then it brings back the feeling of sea-sickness. So I slumped down on the corner of the cockpit on a pile of ropes and let the sea water hit me for at least three hours. At least the water was warm.

When we arrived in Poros everyone was soaked to the skin. Right through to the underwear. It was good to change into something dry and clean, but the real problems begin when seven men strip off and hang their wet clothes up to dry in a confined space. Every peg or railing has wet clothes hanging from them and the floors are awash with water, and condensation is dripping from the cabin roof and the bed clothes are damp.

But it could have been worse. It might have been raining. Later we learned that 4 boats had been smashed to smithereens in the Hydra harbour, so even though it was a crazy sail from Hydra to Poros we were all glad we had gotten out of that harbour safely.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My mama said there would be days like this

The sky was supposed to be blue. The sun smiling down on us, but instead there was a miserable drizzle that set the boats packing. Nobody want to stand out in th rain selling pickled herring. So the weekend saw the end of the baltic herring market in the south harbour.

Everybody was shutting up shop, and they had cooked excessive amounts of muikku and salmon, so despite the rain people were still queuing up to buy muikku fried in butter and spiced with rye flour, black pepper and salt

Regardless of the horrible weather the car parks were jammed and brave souls were walking about with umberellas looking for a special deal. Herring in dill, herring with onions, herring in mustard sauce, herring with lime and corriander, herring with jamacian allspice, smoked herring, grilled herring, raw herring. If you had wanted herring and banana maninated in napoleone brandy then I think you could have found it.

I suppose it is all about the joys for the fresh sea air and the wonderful smell of freshly grilled fish that gives you an appetite. The fish market is the one time of the year when you can mingle with the crowds and eat al fresco, and no amount to stinking rain is going to change that fact.

The man selling miracle glue has a small green sign at the back of his tent saying "jesus is coming are you ready" The subtle message is that here is a righteous man who would not cheat you and that his miracle glue really is miracle glue. Perhaps the security gaurd was taking him to task over the claims he was making for his glue, or perhaps the salesman was laying down the gospel.

In bad weather almost everyboby wants to be in out of the rain, and any shelter will do.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The ascent of the spining fork onions to heaven

There is a a project on Flickr caled the Iron Photographer, something like the Iron Chef where you are given a few ingredients and asked to concoct some meal from it, but in this case the creation is a photograph.

This time it was

Something from your fridge. I had some onions
Something from your toolbox. Well if you like eating the drawer where the knifes and forks are kept is considered your tools. Right?
One predominant colour. I went for the yellow of the onions.

To rig the whole thing up required very fine white thread. I think that was the most dificult part of the setup. Getting the forks and onions to hang just right. Then it came to taking the photo. I took it from many different angles bout none of them looked right. In the end I went for a shot from below.

To actually take the photo I set the camera onto infinate burst mode and spun the forks around, and shot 50 or more photos, and I selected the most pleasing one for post-processing

So how do you NEARLY get rid of the white threads. I bumped the ev up to over +1 was the first thing to do so as to over-expose the photo, and then in Picasa I croped and straightened and rotated until I got the look that I wanted, namely forks with onions spiraling upwards.

Once the composition was taken care of the saturation and highlights were increased so the background turned white and almost all shadows disappeared. In doing this a lot of noise and grain is generated so I got rid of that with a programme called Neat Image.

In the end the white threads holding the mobile together have almost disappeared and the chrome of the forks is smooth and sparkely.

The things you do when your wife is out of the country.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Living on an island

She was born and lived on an island that was 24 kilometres from Helsinki. Her father was a fisherman, and in the morning he would take her to school by boat. In the winter the sea would freeze over. That would have been fine because she could have walked to the mainland, but the ferry boats to Sweden passed her island everyday and smashed the ice, so she always had to make a short rowing boat trip through the broken ice.

To get an education it was long boat trips in the summer, and either walking or skiing in the winter. There were no taxis waiting on standby to take her to school.

At seventeen she was a nurse in the winter war, and saw lots of young men no older than herself die. They were brought to a field hospital near a lake by sea-plane. She married a soldier she met during the war. When death is so close at hand you have to make the most of life.

After the war she became a translator, and translated subtitles for movies. She remembers doing very bad B-movies westerns staring an actor called Ronald Reagan, and was very surprised when someone with so little talent for acting became the president of the United States.

The yard of her house is filled with apple trees. It has been a good harvest this year. She makes apple sauce with the ones that have fallen to the ground, and collects the best to keep in a drawer in the house or give away to her friends.

She wears a small silver oak leaf on her jumper. It is some reminder of the war and her part in it. She does not wish she had had a taxi to take her to school. She had the best father in the world to do that for ten years of her life.

At night she longs to be back on that island.

Monday, September 11, 2006


This is a medal won by my grandfather in 1905. He jumped over 19 feet 10 inches in the long leap, and I was told he won 10 shillings as a prize. He left Wick Caithnesshire and went to Argentina to become a Goucho.

He came back to Scotland and at the age of 40 married a girl of 16. They had four children. I never saw my grandmother. She died before I was born. The only time I saw my grandfather he was on his death bed, and a shell of the man who had rode wide horses in Argentina, and who had a 14 inch bicep from shearing sheep

But although when he died he was a husk of a man. I still have his medal to prove that once he jumped over 19 feet. It now has two nicks on the lower edge, because I use it to unlock trollies at the supermarket when I need them.

I do not have any medals to give my own children, and for them many things will remain locked.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We're like fire throwers man

Hey dude like that is one firey stick you got there.
What you say we do some flame swirling in unison.
You know like Ugh them Berkley babes or something.
Like when they swim in the water an all.
Synchronised stuff with flames instead of water.
Wouldn't that be cool.
I mean like it would be kalidescopic.
Psychodelic even
Jees did I just say Psychodelic
I meant psychedelic
You can't half twirl that stick man.
What you say I toss my stick in the air
and at the same time you toss your stick in the air
Yeah that groovy
Now you toss your stick to me and I toss my stick to you
Hey man I can't see a thing
What the... you nearly had my eye out then.
Shit my hoodie is on fire
Man that's not cool
What you mean it's Hot?
I'll give you hot.
You sumabitch

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

And the band played on

Somebody drops down dead drunk in the street. People stop and stare. One person bends over him to see if he is OK. A woman with a shoping bag marches resolutely passed him. The man in the cowboy hat observes but continues to pick away on his violin and tap his toe in time. The models in the windows ingnore the whole scene. The man behind the camera he snaps and moves on.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A place to stay

Buildings that stay in one place have been around for centuries. Before that there were movable dwellings. A few sticks covered with skins. When the herd moved on the dwelling place moved with them. When the grass was no longer, the skins were rolled up and the sticks bound together, and new pastures were saught.

Mongolians lived in yurts, Indians in wigwams, Arabs in tents, and the Jews had a tabernacle to worship their God

This tent was pitched in Helsinki for the night of the arts. It did not have a door, and from a distance it sounded that druming was coming from inside it. The rythms were ancient, played by modern people, living in flats with treble glazing, and central heating.

Behind the National museum on the night of the arts they sang opera. For opera it would seem you need opera houses. Big solid buildings made of marble or granite. Halls designed to give the best acoustics. Plush velvet seats and lights that can be dimmed at the flick of a switch. Dressing rooms, heavy curtains and an orchestra pit to house the violin players and the man with the big trombone, not to mention space for kettle drums and tubas. The singers take the stage in all their finery and it is all about glamour and glitz.

As I stood on Mannerheimtie I was caught between the two sounds. The pagan acoustic druming in a mysteriously closed tent, and the amplified tenor doing a mighty John Mc'Cormack.

I will let you guess which one I was drawn to.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A fishy story

In the summer the well runs dry, but this year because of the really warm weather the well was empty earlier than expected. Still, being a few meters underground the well is the coolest place to store food, since the summerhouse does not have any fridge, due to the fact it does not have any electricity.

So a side of salmon was put into a bucket and lowered into the well to keep it cool. However the bucket tiped over and the salmon fell to the bottom of the well.

It was then that the intrepid Riina decided to go down the well to recover the fish. She had read all the Tarzan books ever written and this looked just the job for someone imbuded with Tarzan exploits. It was all a matter of doing a spiderman thing, feet against one wall of the well, and your back against the other and edging your way down to the bottom.

For some reason, as with many things in life, theory is one thing and practice is another. The narrowness of the well, and her adult size was a bad combination, that no amount of Tarzan novel reading, could have prepared Riina to accept failure. Some ideas just don't work.

But in the best Zane Gray tradition a pow-wow was held and various suggestions were put forth as to how to recover the fish from the well. Grab it chop-stick fashion with two long sticks. Catch it with a fish hook. In the end Olli, since he had a REAL spiderman suit decided it was his duty to save the fish from the murky depths of the well.

The final solution was to loop a rope around Olli's armpits, which had been suitably padded with cushions, and Harrison Ford style, lower the minature spiderman into the dark pit of the well, to recover the precious fish for dinner. Was hunger his real motivation, or did he have the heart of a hero? Those philosophical questions will perhaps forever remain unanswered.

Rinna and Raisa donned thick gloves to prevent rope burn and gradually lowered Olli down the well, while Noa and Jasper added vocal encouragement. Having secured the precious fish Olli was hauled out of the well to the mighty applause to the rejoicing crowd.

Having returned triumphant from his adventure down the well Olli proudly held the slab of smoked salmon aloft. He was like a champion standing on the olympic podium, cushions still tied under his armpits, and the smile of victory on his face, while and admiring audience gazed raptly at the fishy prize in his hand.

There would be fish for dinner after all.