Wednesday, March 31, 2021
From the vault, from Sunday, January 24, 2010
Music: Lyrics as Poetry / Tom Waits
There is many a time that I have commented that the lyrics of Bob Dylan or Billy Joel should be taught in schools as poetry. No doubt many would agree. This however raises an issue of whether song lyrics can be, or should be, considered to be poetry.
There are those who argue that lyrics are lyrics and poetry is poetry eg “Music lyrics are not poetry” at
This raises the issue of what is poetry? Two quotations immediately come to mind. The first is that a poem is like a hippopotamus: hard to describe but you know one when you see one. The other is a quote from one of my favourite books, 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' (Through the Looking Glass).
Poetry is hard to define. It can be rhyming or with free verse, with pentameter or without. It can be epic or a haiku. If poems can be set to music (eg Slim Dusty doing Banjo Patterson’s works), why cannot songs without the music be poems?
Rather than embarking on a definition, I propose to stick with the above quotations and simply set out my views:
1. Not all lyrics can be considered to be poetry.
2. There are lyrics that make good poetry.
3. Some lyrics make better poetry than straight out poems.
Having commented as above, consider a work by Tom Waits. Born 1949, Waits is both a performer and songwriter. Accompanied by his own piano playing, he doesn’t so much sing as growl. His voice has been described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car."
Tom Waits’ performance of his poignant and haunting song A Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12qBoy2rhVw
The lyrics are as follows and need no further comment:
Hey Charley I'm pregnant and living on 9th street
Right above a dirty bookstore off Euclid avenue
And I stopped taking dope and I quit drinking whiskey
And my old man plays the trombone and works out at the track.
And he says that he loves me even though it’s not his baby
And he says that he'll raise him up like he would his own son
And he gave me a ring that was worn by his mother
And he takes me out dancin’ every Saturday night.
And hey Charley I think about you every time I pass a fillin' station
On account of all the grease you used to wear in your hair
And I still have that record of Little Anthony & the Imperials
But someone stole my record player, how do you like that?
Hey Charley I almost went crazy after Mario got busted
So I went back to Omaha to live with my folks
But everyone I used to know was either dead or in prison
So I came back to Minneapolis, this time I think I'm gonna stay.
Hey Charley I think I'm happy for the first time since my accident
And I wish I had all the money that we used to spend on dope.
I'd buy me a used car lot and I wouldn't sell any of ‘em
I'd just drive a different car every day dependin’ on how I feel.
Hey Charley, for chrissakes do you want to know the truth of it?
I don't have a husband, he don't play the trombone
And I need to borrow money to pay this lawyer
And Charley, hey I'll be eligible for parole come Valentine’s Day.
Tomorrow being Good Friday, Funny Friday is moved forward to today.
Is that alright with you, buddy? . . .
Warning: risque content ahead.
Alright guys, the Suez Canal jokes are getting a bit old now.
That ship has sailed.
My wife told me she’ll slam my head on the keyboard if I don't get off the computer.
I’m not too worried, I think she’s jokinlkjhfakljn m,.nbziyoao78yv87dfaoyuofaytdf
A man approached a very beautiful woman in the large supermarket and said “You know, I’ve lost my wife here in the supermarket. Can you talk to me for a couple of minutes?”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because every time I talk to a beautiful woman my wife appears out of nowhere.”
A gorgeous blonde woman steps out of a taxi, banging her head quite hard against the door frame.
As she stands holding her hand to her scalp, a gentleman, who'd seen it happen, approaches and asks, "Excuse me Miss, is your head okay?!"
The blonde replies, "Well, I haven't had any recent complaints."
One day, during a lesson on proper grammar, the teacher asked for a show of hands for who could use the word "beautiful" in the same sentence twice.
First, she called on little Suzie, who responded with, "My father bought my mother a beautiful dress and she looked beautiful in it."
"Very good, Suzie," replied the teacher.
She then called on little Michael.
"My mommy planned a beautiful banquet and it turned out beautifully, he said.
Then, the teacher called on little Johnny.
"Last night, at the dinner table, my sister told my father that she was pregnant, and he said, 'Beautiful, fucking beautiful!'"
An Irishman goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church.
There's a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap.
On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates.
Then the priest comes in.
"Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be."
The priest replies: "Get out. You're on my side."
FROM THE VAULT:
More a visual one but worth including, from the 2009 road movie Charlie and Boots, Paul Hogan as Charlie talking to his son, nicknamed Boots:
To see the clip, click on:
As told by Paul Hogan in the movie . . .
So one day God was sitting around in Heaven on his Lay-Z-Boy recliner. Well, he can if he wants to - he's God.
And he saw his son come in and he said, "Jesus, lad, over here." He said, "I've been looking down at Earth and it's a terrible mess. I'm gonna have to send you down there to straighten them out."
And Jesus said, "My pleasure, Dad."
"There's a bit of a drawback, though, " he said. "I'm gonna have to send you as a human being. You'll be mortal and I'm afraid you're gonna have to die for their sins."
Jesus says, "Ohhh, you know, OK, your wish is my command.”
He said, "Look, son, the best thing I can do, though, is I can give you a choice in how you're gonna die. You can either be crucified or you can be stung to death by killer bees”
And that's the reason that all over the world today, Christians make the sign of the cross (makes the sign of the cross). and not...
(gesticulates with both arms and hands as though wildly trying to wave away bees).
Old man Cohen is getting along in years. He decides to retire and let his 3 sons run the company, which manufactures a wide variety of nails. The sons think that they can increase market-share with some judicious billboard advertising.
A week later the old man is taking his usual Sunday drive in the country when he sees a huge billboard ad with a picture of Christ on the Cross. The caption reads "Nails for Every Purpose. Use Cohen’s Nails."
The old man immediately meets with his 3 sons to voice his concern. He tells them that the backlash could be horrendous and that he wants to see no further ads showing Christ crucified. The sons agree to do so.
A week later the old man is again taking his usual Sunday drive when he sees a billboard with a picture of the same cross, empty. The caption reads “If they had used Cohen’s Nails, He would still be there.”
In the same vein . . .
LIMERICK OF THE WEEK:
Also from the vault, but appropriate for Easter:
There was a young lady named Alice
Who peed in a Catholic chalice.
'Twas the common belief
It was done for relief,
And not out of Protestant malice.
What do you do with a drunken sailor?
What do you do with a drunken sailor?
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
Early in the morning?
Don't let him drive that cargo freighter.
Don't let him steer that cargo freighter.
Don't let him near that cargo freighter,
Early in the morning.
A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband....
Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen. 'Careful,' he said, 'CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my gosh! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my gosh! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful. CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!' The wife stared at him. 'What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?' The husband calmly replied, 'I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving!’
For her birthday I bought my wife new beads for her abacus.
It's the little things that count.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
I sit at my desk and ponder of the days that were long ago,
But a thousand eyes shall read today a Bytes of Cobb and Co.
Today’s Poetry Spot features a poem by Henry Lawson about the journeys of the stagecoaches introduced into colonial Australia by American Freeman Cobb. Think of American stage coach journeys without Indians, and with kangaroos instead of buffalo. Bandits were common to both countries, as shown in the Tom Roberts’ painting “Bailed Up” . . .
Cobb & Co was the name used by many successful sometimes quite independent Australian coaching businesses. The first was established in 1853 by American Freeman Cobb and his partners. The name Cobb & Co grew to great prominence in the late 19th century, when it was carried by many stagecoaches carrying passengers and mail to various Australian goldfields, and later to many regional and remote areas of the Australian outback. The same name was used in New Zealand and Freeman Cobb used it in South Africa.Although the Queensland branch of the company made an effort to transition to automobiles in the early twentieth century, high overhead costs and the growth of alternative transport options for mail, including rail and air, saw the final demise of Cobb & Co. The last Australian Cobb & Co stagecoach ran in Queensland in August 1924.Cobb & Co has become an established part of Australian folklore commemorated in art, literature and on screen. Today the name is used by a number of Australian bus operators.
Cobb & Co coach at Winton, Queensland c 1890.
Cobb & Co Coach, Kallangur, Queensland, unknown date
Nahh, I'm messing with you, that's a promo shot for the 1939 John Wayne cowie, the one that made him a star, Stagecoach.
Andy Devine, holding reins; George Bancroft, holding shotgun; Donald Meek, in window; Clair Trevor, in doorway;
John Carradine, on cane; Chris-Pin Martin, in vest; Louise Platt, in black coat; John "The Ringo Kid" Wayne on right.
Cobb & Co. coach and horses outside Harcourt, Warburton, Victoria
An enlargement of part of the pic above. Looks a bit like the John Wayne pic, wouldn't ya say, pilgrim?
One final thing, before travelling to the poem.
In 1959-1960 US actor Peter Graves starred in a locally made production called “Whiplash”. It was an excellent series in which Graves portrayed Cobb establishing his stage line in New South Wales. See the opening of each episode by clicking on:
Whiplash, Whiplash, Whiplash, Whiplash
In 1851 the Great Australian gold rush
The only law a gun, the only shelter wildbush
The Mulga woods and deserts, the stage thunders by
From Sydney to Camden and on to Gundagai
For those who prefer to hear the poem and watch it depicted, click on the following link:
Well worth the click.
The Lights Of Cobb And Co
by Henry Lawson
FIRE LIGHTED, on the table a meal for sleepy men,
A lantern in the stable, a jingle now and then;
The mail coach looming darkly by light of moon and star,
The growl of sleepy voices—a candle in the bar.
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom—the shout of ‘All aboard!’
‘Tchk-tchk! Git-up!’ ‘Hold fast, there!’ and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.
Old coaching towns already ‘decaying for their sins,’
Uncounted ‘Half -Way Houses,’ and scores of ‘Ten Mile Inns;’
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a ‘Digger’s Rest;’
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe;
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.
The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone,
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky—each other’s hopes we share—
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trot of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go—
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.
We take a bright girl actress through western dust and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To wake the hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache—
(Ah! when she thinks of those days her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in chorus through roaring camps they go—
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.
Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidings sweep,
A flash on shrouded waggons, on water ghastly white;
Weird bush and scattered remnants of rushes in the night
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
‘Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!’
But on the bank to westward a broad, triumphant glow—
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co.!
Swift scramble up the siding where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit—then breakneck down the pinch
Past haunted half-way houses—where convicts made the bricks—
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six—
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go;
New camps are stretching ’cross the plains the routes of Cobb and Co.
Throw down the reins, old driver—there’s no one left to shout;
The ruined inn’s survivor must take the horses out.
A poor old coach hereafter!—we’re lost to all such things—
No bursts of songs or laughter shall shake your leathern springs
When creeping in unnoticed by railway sidings drear,
Or left in yards for lumber, decaying with the year—
Oh, who’ll think how in those days when distant fields were broad
You raced across the Lachlan side with twenty-five on board.
Not all the ships that sail away since Roaring Days are done—
Not all the boats that steam from port, nor all the trains that run,
Shall take such hopes and loyal hearts—for men shall never know
Such days as when the Royal Mail was run by Cobb and Co.
The ‘greyhounds’ race across the sea, the ‘special’ cleaves the haze,
But these seem dull and slow to me compared with Roaring Days!
The eyes that watched are dim with age, and souls are weak and slow,
The hearts are dust or hardened now that broke for Cobb and Co.
Not horses but horsepower is today the modern go,
But the name still travels those same routes, the roads of Cobb and Co.
Monday, March 29, 2021
In a discussion with a colleague last week about the work of Vincent Van Gogh, attention was directed to Van Gogh’s works Starry Night Over Rhone River and The Café Terrace, prints of both works hanging on the wall behind me in my office, where our discussion took place.
That in turn touched off further discussion as to Van Gogh’s depictions of the real locations and as to how artists portray real life locations.
It occurred to me that it would be interesting to have a look at such comparisons.
Following is the beginning of a regular series on art works and their real life locations and subjects, in some cases the exact scenes and, in others, the nearby locales.
Albert Namatjira (1902 – 1959) was an Aboriginal artist from the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia. As a pioneer of contemporary Indigenous Australian art, he was the most famous Indigenous Australian of his generation. Namatjira's richly detailed, Western art-influenced watercolours of the outback, notably the MacDonnell Ranges, departed significantly from the abstract designs and symbols of traditional Aboriginal art.
In 1957 Namatjira was the first Aboriginal person to be granted restricted Australian citizenship, giving him the right to vote and have limited land rights. As a citizen Namtjira could now also buy alcohol. In keeping with Aboriginal custom, Albert’s friends expected him to share any alcohol he bought. But in doing this he broke white man’s laws. In 1958, police charged him with supplying alcohol to Aboriginal people. He denied the charge, but the court didn’t believe him. After two months in prison, he emerged a free, but broken man. He had lost his will to paint, and to live. Albert Namatjira died in 1959 aged 57.
By the way:
In 1956 William Dargie's portrait of Albert Namatjira became the first of an Aboriginal person to win the Archibald Prize:
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Readers will be aware that a ship is stuck in the Suez Canal.
Whilst global trade is losing billions and great numbers of ships and tankers are stuck in a marine traffic queue, efforts are made by earthmoving equipment miniscule in comparison to free the giant, fully loaded Ever Given.
The official story is that the tanker became wedged sideways in the Canal as a result of obscured visibility during a sandstorm and that the tracking of the movements form a giant male appendage is only coincidental.
The line is Evergreen, the ship is Ever Given.
Photograph taken by a crew member of the ship which was following
The route taken by the Ever Given
Which is all by way of an introduction to facts and trivia about the Suez Canal, from the History channel and website at:
9 Fascinating Facts About the Suez Canal
The human-built canal that links the Eastern and Western worlds
By Evan Andrews
1. Its origins date back to ancient Egypt.
The modern Suez Canal is only the most recent of several manmade waterways that once snaked their way across Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh Senusret III may have built an early canal connecting the Red Sea and the Nile River around 1850 B.C., and according to ancient sources, the Pharaoh Necho II and the Persian conqueror Darius both began and then abandoned work on a similar project. The canal was supposedly finished in the 3rd century B.C. during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, and many historical figures including Cleopatra may have traveled on it. Rather than the direct link offered by the modern Suez Canal, this ancient “Canal of the Pharaohs” would have wound its way the through the desert to the Nile River, which was then used to access the Mediterranean.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte considered building it.
After conquering Egypt in 1798, the French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte sent a team of surveyors to investigate the feasibility of cutting the Isthmus of Suez and building a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. But following four separate excursions to the region, his scouts incorrectly concluded that the Red Sea was at least 30 feet higher than the Mediterranean. Any attempt to create a canal, they warned, could result in catastrophic flooding across the Nile Delta. The surveyors’ faulty calculations were enough to scare Napoleon away from the project, and plans for a canal stalled until 1847, when a team of researchers finally confirmed that there was no serious difference in altitude between the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
3. The British government was strongly opposed to its construction.
Planning for the Suez Canal officially began in 1854, when a French former diplomat named Ferdinand de Lesseps negotiated an agreement with the Egyptian viceroy to form the Suez Canal Company. Since Lesseps’ proposed canal had the support of the French Emperor Napoleon III, many British statesmen considered its construction a political scheme designed to undermine their dominance of global shipping.
Ferdindand de Lesseps
The British ambassador to France argued that supporting the canal would be a “suicidal act,” and when Lesseps tried to sell shares in the canal company, British papers labelled the project “a flagrant robbery gotten up to despoil the simple people.”
Lesseps went on to engage in a public war of words with British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and even challenged railway engineer Robert Stephenson to a duel after he condemned the project in Parliament. The British Empire continued to criticize the canal during its construction, but it later bought a 44 percent stake in the waterway after the cash-strapped Egyptian government auctioned off its shares in 1875.
4. It was built using a combination of forced peasant labor and state-of-the-art machinery.
Building the Suez Canal required massive labor, and the Egyptian government initially supplied most by forcing the poor to work for nominal pay and under threat of violence. Beginning in late-1861, tens of thousands of peasants used picks and shovels to dig the early portions of the canal by hand. Progress was painfully slow, and the project hit a snag after Egyptian ruler Ismail Pasha abruptly banned the use of forced labor in 1863.
Faced with a critical shortage of workers, Lesseps and the Suez Canal Company changed their strategy and began using several hundred custom-made steam- and coal-powered shovels and dredgers to dig the canal. The new technology gave the project the boost it needed, and the company went on to make rapid progress during the last two years of construction. Of the 75 million cubic meters of sand eventually moved during the construction of the main canal, some three-fourths of it was handled by heavy machinery.
5. The Statue of Liberty was originally intended for the canal.
As the Suez Canal neared completion in 1869, French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi tried to convince Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Egyptian government to let him build a sculpture called “Egypt Bringing Light to Asia” at its Mediterranean entrance. Inspired by the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, Bartholdi envisioned a 90-foot-tall statue of a woman clothed in Egyptian peasant robes and holding a massive torch, which would also serve as a lighthouse to guide ships into the canal. The project never materialized, but Bartholdi continued shopping the idea for his statue, and in 1886 he finally unveiled a completed version in New York Harbor. Officially called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the monument has since become better known as the Statue of Liberty.
The opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869
6. Its creator later tried—and failed—to build the Panama Canal.
Having silenced his critics by completing the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps later turned his attention toward cutting a canal across the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Work began in 1881, but despite Lesseps’ prediction that the new canal would be “easier to make, easier to complete, and easier to keep up” than the Suez, the project eventually descended into chaos. Thousands died during construction in the sweltering, disease-ridden jungle, and the team burned through nearly $260 million without ever completing the project.
The company finally went belly up in 1889, triggering a massive scandal that saw Lesseps and several others—including Eiffel Tower designer Gustave Eiffel, who had been hired to design canal locks—convicted of fraud and conspiracy. It would take another 25 years before the Panama Canal was finally completed in a decade-long, American-led construction project.
7. The canal played a crucial role in a Cold War-era crisis.
In 1956, the Suez Canal was at the center of a brief war between Egypt and the combined forces of Britain, France and Israel. The conflict had its origins in Britain’s military occupation of the canal zone, which had continued even after Egypt gained independence in 1922. Many Egyptians resented the lingering colonial influence, and tensions finally boiled over in July 1956, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, supposedly to help fund a dam across the Nile River.
In what became known as the Suez Crisis, a combined British, Israeli and French force launched an attack on Egypt in October 1956. The Europeans succeeded in advancing close to the canal, but later withdrew from Egypt in disgrace following condemnation from the United States and the threat of nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigned in the wake of the scandal, and the Suez Canal was left under Egyptian control.
Sunken ships during the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis
By the way, the closure of the Suez Canal in 1956 caused my family's emigration from Holland to Australia to be via the Cape of Good Hope on the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt:
From 1950 to 1963, the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt was a frequent sight in Australian waters. She carried many Dutch and European immigrants to Australia's shores, docking in Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Many passengers were heading to Australia to escape the aftermath of World War II, others headed to Australia with a sense of adventure - hoping to begin a new way of life.
8. A fleet of ships was once stranded in the canal for more than eight years.
During June 1967’s Six Day War between Egypt and Israel, the Suez Canal was shut down by the Egyptian government and blocked on either side by mines and scuttled ships. At the time of the closure, 15 international shipping vessels were moored at the canal’s midpoint at the Great Bitter Lake. They would remain stranded in the waterway for eight years, eventually earning the nickname the “Yellow Fleet” for the desert sands that caked their decks.
Most of the crewmembers were rotated on and off the stranded vessels on 3-month assignments, but the rest passed the time by forming their own floating community and hosting sporting and social events. As the years passed, the fleet even developed its own stamps and internal system of trade. The 15 marooned ships were finally allowed to leave the canal in 1975. By then, only two of the vessels were still seaworthy enough to make the voyage under their own power.
9. In 2015, the canal got a huge overhaul.
For years the canal was hampered by its narrow width and shallow depth, which were insufficient to accommodate two-way traffic from modern tanker ships. In August 2014, Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority announced an ambitious plan to deepen the canal and create a new 22-mile lane branching off the main channel. The expansion opened in 2015, providing ships with a 22-mile channel parallel to the newly deepened main waterway.
The improvements, however, were not enough to prevent a 1,300-foot container ship from becoming wedged—and stuck—in the canal as it travelled from China in March 2021. The ship blocked more than 100 ships at each end of the vital shipping artery, causing major disruptions to global commerce.