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.