Saturday, May 30, 2009

Madeleine Peryoux; "Dance Me To The End of Love"

Crazy about this!

Antique stall

When you cross the tram lines in the centre of Krakow, you are in fact crossing the dried out river that in medieval times seperated the town of Krakow from the town of Kazimierz.

And as you walk through Kazimierz,the Jewish quarter, you'll stumble across a square with open air antique stalls.

I'll try to describe one.

Behind the stall sits a middle aged, fairly heavy man in a rather raggy shirt and brown cap. I can't actually tell whether it's leather or not. He is unshaven, and, in the manner of antique dealers everywhere on every level, seemingly disinterested but in fact intensely aware of you as you browse his stall.

On the stall I spy:

1) An enameled Mezuah with embossed Menorah.

2) A miniature bust of Stalin in bronze or brass (it's hard to tell the difference with age).

3) Numerous crucifixes of varying size and age.

4) WWII Eagle badge complete with swastika.

5) Old stained, pewter items from an incomplete Havdalah set.

6) Porcelain statuette of Our Lady.

7) Dusty 78s with Polish labels i can't read. Jazz? Klezmer? Marches?

8) Lots of odd, worn cutlery in many different styles.

9) Enamel and glass badges with hammers and sickles.

8) A Challah knife.

9) German Army Helmet with flaking paint.

10) Miniature portraits of Empror Franz Joseph, Empress Elizabeth, Joszef Pilsudski, and Pope John Paul II.

11) Pewter statuette of Polish Hussar with wings on back.

12) An old box full of assorted yellowing "French postcards".

Seems to a fair summary of a rich history right there.

You can easily imagine a people shaped by the battles between these contrasts. Poland has always been on the cutting egde of history. And coming from a fairly peaceful corner of the world, you might, thinking about it, even feel humbled before this oddly diverse collection of bric-a-brac.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dia de los muertos or New Life eats Death


The woman stood in front of the wounded man. In her hands she grasped the newly-fired stengun. Her eyes were like slits, her teeth bared. She was undressed, bruised, dirty, and approached him slowly crouching like an animal.

The man in the camo smock lay awkwardly propping himself up at an angle against some fallen, moss-covered branches. He was breathing difficultly. His smock had a large, dark stain on it. Blood.

They faced each other in silence.

Then she spoke.

"Who are you?"

The man didn't answer. He looked away, giving the impression that he'd rather she simply shot him. She considered it for a moment; but was curious for answers.

She asked again.

He snapped a ferocious answer.

"Same as you, more or less."

She looked puzzled.

"Flotsam!", he added.

She let the answer sink.

"Why?", she asked.

"I don't know. Something to do with our brains. We're too intelligent but not enough at the same time. It's a sort of joke."

She didn't understand.

He coughed violently. Blood. Then he drew a deep, rattling, sigh.

"Blast...I'm full of lead."


"We can't comprehend it quite...only pretend we do. That's why we're here now. We don't belong. Obviously. Even you must have understood that by now."

"No, I don't unserstand that. How did we get here?", she asked, worriedly.

He sneered.

"Who knows?"

He spat and cursed.

His voice was annoyed and weary.

"Silly...silly buggering, I suppose. Nostalgia for the never was. Pipe-dreams for worlds that don't exist. Like rewriting history for a confederate victory or something.."


The woman sat down, cross-legged, stengun still pointing at the man. She still didn't understand.

"No", the man said, "why should you? The confederacy was a short-lived political fiasco in olden days. But even as it disappeared dreamers pined for what may have been if it had survived; thus a new direction, and alternate world, a new bubble in the froth."

"You mean we cancel contingency by creating realities?"

"Yes. But it's because we're stuck in an arrow of time."

The woman let it sink.

"But...but, then how did we get here?", she asked, quietly.

The man sighed deeply again.

"Haven't you been listening? I said we were an intelligent species, and therefore can't really accept irreversability. You were here to reverse irreversability. I was here to stop you. Why doesn't matter."

"But you failed", she said.

"Yes.", he answered, and expired beneath a Triassic tree.

A soldier's prayer

A soldier's prayer

could be many things.

A prayer for the lost

and a prayer for the living.

And perhaps a prayer

for forgiveness

and for deliverance

and for wisdom

and for the future of our kind.

Sketches for variation on the final scene from "Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar A. Poe

"And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock."

"But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock.."

"The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure."

"There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians.."

"..there was Beauty.."

"..there was wine."

"All these and security were within. Without was the Red Death."

"And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before."

"..whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock.."

"And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh! What a beauty!

Time for a typically subtle bit of humour from the late great Kenneth Williams:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Finding the authentic Pizza

The uncomprimising Anthony Mangieri; a man who takes pizza seriously.

Link to restaurant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Charlie Christian plays "Stompin' At The Savoy" live, 1941

This is a real treat!

The electric guitar has been around a bit. Charlie Christian, who played with Benny Goodman's orchestra, is considered to be the very first genuine electric guitarist.

He really had no one to copy!

Charlie Christian was born in Texas in 1916, and died of pneumonia in New York in 1942.

The Charlie Christian website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Boat Song of the Mullet Fishermen


One fine morn' out of Falmouth we sailed,
All short at the front and long in the neck,
When the weather it went from sunny to hail,
And we ups and we threw our nets o'er the side.

A fishin' for mullet we go,
all aboard an old wreck,
all short at the front,
and all long in the neck!

When we pulled our nets out of the sea,
They were a' boilin' with mullets so fat,
We thought "What a fine thing, 'tis to be free!",
And we all grew our hair all long in the neck..


This was silly, wasn't it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


If you can chop up chicken breast filets,
into sizeable chunks for a fork,
If you can wield the knife with equal ease,
and strip up some of that pork,
If you can boil up water,
and add a touch of turmeric spice,
And put the boil-in-bag rice bags in,
My son, that would be nice!

If you can put in a little bowl,
about half a jar of Mixed Pickle,
If you get those Nans out of their plastic,
and bake 'em though they're brickle,
If you can twist open a jar of Korma,
and pour it over the filets when they're done,
And set the table while your at it,
You'll have "done us a curry", my son.

"Badgers Beneath My Vest"; the liner notes

Through the WBS system, which consisted of two loudspeakers connected to the pick up of a radiogram, we were able to broadcast from the upstairs to the downstairs rooms. I still have some of the programmes: "The Revd. Percy will play three piano pieces, Buzzards at Dinner, Salute to Admiral Beattie, and Badgers beneath my vest".

Dylan Thomas in
Encounter (1954).

New ground cleared in the field of music. And that's Percy. Bon vivant, they say. Only an hour after landing in New York and he was hard to find, but the sessions went beautifully. New sounds and rhythms; that strange creeping, haunting, Spanish-influenced heavy keyboard work on "Badgers".

He smiles, does Percy, calls out for more free form from the session players.

"Make it crisp!"


They know what he means, one presumes, no, senses. Polytonalities fill the room and the recording of "Badgers" heats up like a Spanish caravan beneath the sun. A gradual rise and fall. No bopping hipster, just a cool piano like a soft edged blade through margarine. Like an icicle drip when you're trying to catch forty winks. Like an overstuffed washing machine on spin-dry shaking itself to bits in agony.

"Badgers" is new ground. Not the long, languid, stretching tones of "Buzzards", or the boiling stew of "Beattie". They had their time, but an artist of this size and temperament must move on into new worlds of free-form presentation!

And Percy leaps up, finally, and we ask for some assesment.

He shrugs.

"That's jus' the way it is."

I walk away from the studio and into the New York night. Cab brakes screech. I smoke a cigarette. And in my head it still rings...

"Badger, Badger, Badger..."

"Badgers" is on wax, and man, are we grateful!