Monday, June 1, 2009

Layer 164 The Bunyip, The Zodiac, In-Sight, Edna Everage and the Blues.

Blimey. No sooner had I (belatedly) posted the previous blog (6.47pm) than Channel 4 News (7.00pm) announced that General Motors has gone into receivership. This is pretty unbelievable. According to the beliefs of the Chicago Boys and their followers the company, which was presumably a basket case and very badly run, ought to be allowed to disappear. However, it looks as though the government is going to bail it out with massive amounts of public money, around $30 billion, which looks suspiciously like socialism or at least social democracy. I wonder what the bright sparks who were driving economic policy these many years have to say about that. A 60% government stake in the company means that it's basically now a nationalised concern. Quite right too. Why only 60%?



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A friend mentioned today that cuckoos are becoming scarcer in this country. We wondered why that might be. I suggested that other birds might be developing bigger brains, to the point where they go, "Holy shit! How did THAT egg get in here? Well it's not one of mine, and I'm damned if I'm going to sit on it!"

I've never been very sympathetic to the fact that a cuckoo can just dump an egg in another bird's nest. And then, as if that's not bad enough in itself - expecting another bird to incubate and then feed your offspring - for the cuckoo's offspring to then murder its nest mates by shoving them overboard; this is just outrageous.

So should we care if the cuckoo dies out as a species? Wouldn't that be a kind of natural justice? If every cuckoo chick kills 4 other chicks, isn't the extinction of cuckoos to be welcomed? Discuss.


There's a wonderful children's book in which the central character emerges one day from a billabong and asks, Where am I? What am I? (Berkeley's Creek. A Bunyip)

It's an open question as to when children (or adults) first ask themselves these questions.

Looking out from themselves - Where am I? I'm in a city? (What's that?) In a county? In a country? On a continent? On a planet? In a solar system? In a galaxy? In a universe? What do you mean - there's only one universe? As far as we're aware?

(OK - we can't actually see beyond our universe, but doesn't logic tell us there's no such thing as a singularity? There's always more than one of something? )

Looking within - What am I? Am I the same as others? Am I different? Am I similar? In what ways? Am I unique? Why? How come?


If we sit in meditation and try to look within - what do we find, and what might we discover? At what age do children (or adults) start to develop real in-sight? Is this the same or different to developing self-awareness or self-consciousness? And what roles should parents, teachers and schools play in such processes?


Last night I was talking to a friend of a friend about the role of teachers and classroom assistants in developing children's social, emotional and spiritual intelligences.

Isn't that what parents should be doing? Yes, I said, but won't those intelligences grow much faster if they're also being nurtured throughout each school day, by people who are experts at doing it?

And what happens to children whose parents are not good role models of kindness, patience, generosity, unselfishness, etc? Because there are plenty of them about. In all social groups and classes. For that matter, there are plenty of them working in our schools.

What happens to children who's parents teach them that greed is good, to always retaliate to insult or injury, and whenever possible to get your retaliation in first?

Which is more important in Primary schools - that children get to Level 4 or 5 in science & maths, or they get to Level 4 at least in being a decent human being who knows how to live harmoniously with other human beings and has real insight into themselves and are capable of recognizing their own (and other people's) strengths and weaknesses?

Should we care that thousands of children are left to stagger along at Levels 1 and 2 because no-one sees it as a priority to (or knows how to) give those children the support and knowledge they need?

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What am I?

The interesting thing about horoscopes and zodiacs is that they plant in our minds the notion that one twelfth of the planet's population is like us and eleven twelfths are not.

They also suggest that one quarter of the population is earthy (whatever that means), one quarter is fundamentally fiery, one quarter is airy & breezy, and the rest are watery.

At what age do children look in their parents' newspaper or magazine and say, "So if I'm a Leo, what does that mean?" Or, "If I'm a pair of scales, what's that supposed to mean? What is it that's 'in balance'? What's justice? What's equilibrium?" Or, "What's watery mean?"

At what age do children begin to recognise the various characteristics and attributes of human beings – to begin to ask themselves whether or not they do in fact think, feel and behave in certain ways, to recognise the ways in which they are similar to or different from their friends, and begin to form a complex sense of self?

To what degree are children able to calmly assess whether they recognise a match between themselves and their so-called archetype? If they're aware of the Buddhist zodiac, can they see in themselves elements of the monkey, the rat, the tiger, the dragon, etc? Can they compare their siblings and friends?

At what age can they start to understand that whilst people might be different in certain ways, we're also fundamentally the same, complementary - not better or worse as such - since there are more evolved and less evolved individuals of each type. Just different.

Knowing oneself and understanding others is essential for self-respect and for respecting others. To what extent do schools and teachers set out to develop such understanding and such metaphysical, spiritual and psychological knowledge? To what degree is in-sight considered important?

These are not rhetorical questions. These are real questions that demand real answers. Worth thinking about .


What is he like?

Talking of billabongs and Australia, Barry Humphries was on Desert Island Discs this week. What a genius he is. A real one-off. He was a gift to that programme with his ability to say insightful, original things about himself in a self-deprecating, honest and humorous way.

“My life is too exciting. I crave dullness.

I've had the grim reaper very close to me, which is very important when I'm feeling too full of myself.

I'm a bibliomanic. It represents my desire for ballast.

My kind of art is cheering people up.

People were absolutely delighted by my existence when I was a child. I must have radiated something.

My career has been some kind of primitive compulsion to find my own voice, to express myself in some way.

It's an inexplicable life. It's one I didn't choose. It must have chosen me.

My mother was impossible to please. She was unfulfilled and cynical.

I have about 5 grey hairs on my left nipple.

The more I struggle to become respectable, the more disreputable I become.

I felt I had to influence people's lives, as an artist should. I wanted to give them a different view of life.

Melbourne was so nice, spotlessly clean and proper. It pretended to be part of the home counties. There wasn't a single Australian tree in our suburb.

Joan Littlewood invited me to join her in Stratford East, her little theatre.

I look back on some of my life with fatuous self-satisfaction.

In the 1960s everyone seemed to be indulging in something or other.

I'd done all I could do with alcohol, except die.

Edna Everage - a rather shrill and dowdy woman. But frumps can sometimes triumph.

Dame Edna – the Marlene Dietrich of the Seventies.

Popularity is important when you're earning a living from the sale of tickets.

Suddenly about 15 years of my life have passed too quickly.”


It's been a while since Oxzen brought readers a news roundup, so here's a selection of earth-shattering events from the front page of the Daily Mirror last week.

"I saw Jade's face looking down from the heavens." Jade's mum speaks for first time. See pages 6 & 7.

"ITV bosses fear for Susan. Susan Boyle [who she?] could be pulled out of tomorrow's Britain's Got Talent final amid fears for her health."

"Mum kept in freezer for 20 years."

So there we have it. Key events of our times. Let the Guardianistas blather on about non-existent political revolutions - the Daily Mirror stays focused on the news that really matters! Who says newspapers are in decline and heading for extinction?


Blues Bargains and Festivals

Totnes market was thriving yesterday with more stalls than ever overflowing the market square and having to set up in Castle Hill.

I did well with second hand CDs - £2 each.

John Lee Hooker - Boom Boom, I'm Bad, Bottle Up & Go, etc.
Big Joe Turner - The Blues Singer 1938 - 1942
T-Bone Walker - Chicago Electric Blues
Rhythm & Blues - As Good As It Gets. 52 tracks including John Lee Hooker, Joe Turner, Jimmy Rogers, Snooks Eaglin, etc.
Roots of Rock 'N' Roll - Champion Jack Dupree, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Albert Ammons, etc.

That's 125 tracks at less than 10p per track. Who says there's no bargains any more? What's more there's not a dud track among them.

Amongst many brilliant tracks there's the original of 'Down The Road Apiece' (which stood out on the Rolling Stones' second album) played by Amos Milburn, who also performs a rocking track called "Chicken Shack Boogie" with amazing piano solos.

Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues Before Dawn" is a little instrumental gem that rocks like crazy.

James Cotton's "Kiddy Boy" is a big band rocking rendition from 1971 that contains outstanding solos on blues harp and guitar.

There's the original of 'That's All Right Mama' by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup - shamelessly stolen in every detail of arrangement and vocal mannerism by Elvis.

There are also the originals of Move It On Over and House of Blue Lights (subsequently covered brilliantly by George Thorogood & the Destroyers) by Hank Williams & the Drifting Cowboys and Ella Mae Morse with Freddie Slack and his Orchestra respectively.

I hadn't realised till I listened to the Hooker CD that John Lee was the writer of "I'm Bad Like Jesse James", which Eric Burden and the Animals covered so brilliantly on one of their first albums, back in the mid-60s.

We knew about T-Bone Walker's "dynamic showmanship, blistering guitar playing and powerful vocals", but who knew he was named Aaron Thibeaux Walker - hence T-Bone?


After discovering there's a blues festival happening in Ashburton this weekend I rushed down to the Town Hall after having dinner at Brother B's last night to catch Paul Lamb and the King Snakes - the headliners on Friday's bill.

This is a great little outfit, with Paul as ever the dynamic frontman blowing his lungs out for two hours on the harmonica, and his son Ryan playing some superb lead guitar. The band clearly enjoy working together and love the blues to the point of obsession, and beyond. The joint was rocking and a great time was had by all. Catch them wherever you can.

As it happens the current incarnation of The Animals are closing the festival on Sunday night, a show that's been sold out for days. Might try to blag my way in though.


Bloody hell – forget The Mirror - now Channel 4 are at it – reporting on their flagship news programme that a runner-up in a talent show has been rushed to hospital. They're saying that even the Prime Minister has been putting his oar in about it. What's going on? John Snow spending valuable time showing film of some 'street dancers' and an unattractive singer competing for victory in this rubbish for saddos.

Aaarghh! A 'smiling' Prime Minister chatting on a TV sofa about his concern for this person, saying he's spoken with Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell about the situation. This is fucking MAD. Brown the would-be populist making himself look even more ludicrous.

I've got no problem with crappy talent shows being extremely popular, providing they stay in their proper home on ITV3. But this stuff is NOT front page news fit for a national newspaper and doesn't belong on a serious news programme on Channel 4 either.

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