Friday, February 25, 2005


So i'm leaving for London tomorrow, probably going to be spending a few days there, approximately until thursday. Which means all the updates i've been promising lately will have to wait another week. Hope to manage to wrote a couple of quick updates while i'm away. My absence over the last week can also be explained perfectly: sometimes life catches up with you, and you go out and have fun.
On tuesday i went with Fred and his parents to see Steve Reich and his ensemble perform in Monfalcone's theatre. Yes, another one of those london-paris-madrid-monfalcone-tokyo tours. The program comprised Drumming, Part One for 4 pairs of tuned bongos, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ and the celebrated Music for Eighteen Musicians.
Before the show, Paul and Joanna treated us to kebab at the stall close to monfalcone piazza. They were so kind, we even shared a second kebab with fred to try out the chicken & turkey variety.

Joanna: "Pity about the bread! In poland they use real arab bread."
Fred: "Yes, but they also use pork..."

Every time i go to a kebab stall, i feel tempted to ask for a mix of both offerings, lamb&veal and chicken&turkey. But i'm always afraid of somehow offending the storekeeper's sensibilites. After all, correct kebab stall behaviour was one of the few topics we never covered in Islamic Art course. Surprisingly.
I'm always afraid something like this happens: I ask for a mix, and the guy goes to the kitchens and says to his colleague:

Worker 1: "Do you know what that infidel pig out there asked me? He wants me to mix the kebab meats! What an offence to our millennial culture!"
Worker 2: "The All-Seeing One will deal with his evildoings when the day comes. In the meantime, fill his kebab with rat's meat."
Worker 1: "You mean more of it?"

After kebab, we set off to a bar where they serve Tetley's on the tap, but were saddened to find it closed. We ended up in a bar close to the theatre, where the only thing on tap was Paulaner, which wasn't too bad after all. Paul and Joanna picked up the tab again, bless their souls.

The concert was of course very, very, very, very good. Fantastic. Etcetera. It's hard to describe, really.
Drumming, for example. When i'd first heard the piece, i must admit getting put off after less than a couple of minutes and skipping to the next track. Seeing it performed live revealed its whole sense to me. Just the sheer concentration of four percussionists working on rhythm, tone and echo for over fifteen minutes is something that leaves you speechless. The best was yet to come.
Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ i had never heard before, and ended up being the piece i'd liked more from the entire show. Subtle interplay of vocals and organ, marimbas and vibraphone dictating nervous staccatos. One of the most beautiful things i've seen and heard in my life, and i've been through quite a few. The organ player in particular seemed to fill up with energy throughout the execution, energy that she would release coming down on the organ as if during respiration exercises at every chord change. The music so simple yet so obviously impossible to play without years of specific training.

Music for Eighteen Musicians lasted slightly over 50 minutes, as Fred told me on the way out. He had stopwatched it. A captivating piece that had me on my toes throughout, occasionally found myself tapping the tempo away with my fingers, luckily i wasn't the only one. Almost everyone in the theatre probably did it too at some point (and felt ashamed upon realizing they had been doing it). However, the mind does tend to wander every now and then, happened to me twice as a matter of fact. Still a beautiful piece, of course. I'm just a philistine after all.
At the end i counted the musicians: Eighteen all right, even though only in some moments of the piece they were actually all playing together. Anyway, they were rather well distributed: eight women, eight men and two clarinet players.

A fantastic night all in all, and what a better way to celebrate Fred's birthday! Of course we had had a private get-together with a few cose friends the previous night, which culminated with a snowfight and the ceremonial throwing of over twenty beer bottles into the recycling bin.

Yesterday was also good. In the afternoon, i was informed over icq that my former islamic art teacher, Prof. Curatola, who until last august supervised the provisional iraqi (occupying) government's artistic reconstruction program, was going to be having a conference in Udine later that day. I literally jumped onto the first bus and made my way to the hall where this would be going on. The conference turned out to be the presentation of a book by a colleague, Prof. Fales of the Ancient Oriental Art course, dealing with the entity of the infamous looting, sacking and pillaging that occurred shortly after baghdad's "liberation" two years ago. Two hours of anecdotes, pictures, stories, detailed quantities of works of art lost against ones still safely in their place (10-15000 lost pieces out of a 500000 -yes, that's half a million - collection). It would take too long to write about this topic now, although i'll keep all the information i gathered at this event strongly in my head and in my heart. When i get back from london, i'll have to get that book, and hopefully in spring prof. Curatola will be organizing a photographic exposition daling with his adventures in Iraq. As some of you already know, this is one of the people i most admire in the world, and having once recieved his compliments for an exam well done is still one of the high points of my life.

Seeing these great men, Steve Reich and Giovanni Curatola, talk and perform over the last couple of days really made me feel glad i'm living in such a time that allows us all to make their acquaintance. I'm proud to be a contemporary of these amazing people, and can only hope to someday do them justice by accomplishing things even just one tenth as beautiful and important.

Ok, that's it. Gotta go guzzle slovene beer with fred. Later, all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why you should never put a cuban in front of a microphone

I was a little bored on saturday afternoon, so i went and created my third blog.

I'm particularly proud to present - - El Blog De Fidel!

Mindless prank, sociopolitical irony or artistic reflection on the preponderance of the blog medium? You decide.
It's still missing a couple of finishing touches, by the way. A counter, an image or two, some links. The links i have in mind are to cuban institutional sites, anti-cia sites, human rights watch sites(i don't want to be considered pro-castro) and to my cat's blog. I'm also wondering whether i should display the current terror alert level.

It shocks me to see that Fidel hasn't given any speeches in 2005 yet, i hope he starts again soon, i wouldn't like people to think he's procrastinating updates of his blog.

The reason of this posts' title: Some months ago i stumbled into a conference on Latinamerican Literature in Udine, and one cuban author whose name escapes me in this moment(and probably did at the time too) began his intervention with a little joke...

"You people ought to know, you should never place a cuban in front of a microphone...
...he may not stop talking for forty years!"

So true...

Anyway, visit Fidel's Blog regularly. It's a way of life!

Oh, almost forgot: partial inspiration (although i'd already been toying with this admittedly useless idea for some months already) comes from Gnapppo's PoMoBlog, readymade cut&paste technique applied to the blog form. Which also makes for some hilarious comments from people who just don't get it. Hope that also happens in this new PoMoBlog endeavour of mine.

quick link

Baghdad Burning: a 25-year-old girl's blog from iraq. A stunning read.
Her christmas wishlist particularly chilled me:

Ok- what is the typical Iraqi Christmas wishlist (I won't list 'peace', 'security' and 'freedom' - Christmas miracles are exclusive to Charles Dickens), let's see:

1. 20 liters of gasoline
2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
3. Kerosene for the heaters
4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
5. Landmine detectors
6. Running water
7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you're also practical)

When Santa delivers please make sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet.(...)

Go read it. It's good for you.

Freedom of speech

I have a lot to say today, but the first thing should be this: today is Free Mojtaba and Arash Day, in honor of the two iranian bloggers currently incarcerated by the iranian government for their dissident writing. Lots of information about this at the Committee To Protect Bloggers', um, blog.

More frivolous topics later in the day.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Pitching in

I was reading The Comics Reporter the other day, which is not surprising considering it's one of my favourite websites. This post caught my eye. At the time, that little update at the bottom wasn't there, so most of you probably understand where all this is going. I did my civic duty and informed the blog's author, comics historian Tom Spurgeon, of how the facts were.
For the record: Carlo Tullio Altan, who died earlier this week, was one of italy's foremost authorities in cultural anthropology, and i've quite often had to check out his books while studying this discipline. He lived in Aquileia, not at all far from here, and is survived by a son who is a celebrated cartoonist, Francesco Tullio Altan, one of the best we've got. The anthropologist's death had a worryingly low media attention, only partly justified by the current state of affairs.
So anyway, i write the email to the author. Literally a split-second later, i get an answer.

> Thank you so much. Can I publish your full letter as
> well?
> Tom

No more than two minutes the post had been updated. That man sure has fast fingers. In fact, it took me longer just to answer his message with these simple words:

If you wish, although it would lower your usual
standards :-)


When i checked back some hours later, my full letter was nowhere to be seen. He's a very wise man, i told myself.
The following day i noticed my name on his homepage(it's under the Letters To CR sidebar), linking to this.

There goes his reputation, i said.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Three generations of Japanese Pop

Continuing the now-no-longer-short-lived-nor-decaying tradition of The Weekend Download, we present you with three rather different versions of one same song.

We start with the original.

Good, by The Plastics (192kps mp3, 4.22Mb), was recorded in 1980 and published on their second album, Origato Plastico, where it followed a brief introduction titled No Good(192kps mp3, 0.8Mb). It would later have been re-recorded for US release, but this is the version i prefer: raw, disjointed, abstract.
The Plastics were a brief-lived "electronic" pop band formed in tokyo, active between 1979 and 1981. Their peculiar sound came to the attention of David Byrne, who helped them be signed internationally to Chris Blackwell's Island Records. However, after only one international release (Welcome Back) and a short US tour the band broke up. Their influence would be and still is strongly felt in contemporary japanese pop music, and to this we must now turn.

When Pizzicato Five recorded their cover of Good (187kps mp3, 5.35Mb), released on the Romantique 96 Ou Un Essai Sur L'Amour Par Pizzicato Five , they were already a duo but were helped out in this recording by Hajime Tachibana, original guitarist of the Plastics, who produces a solo extremely similar to the same one he had played fifteen years earlier. This version is followed by a short Variation (187kps mp3, 0.47Mb) on the theme.

And finally, the now ubiquitous Polysics included their own version of the tune in their live show. Their rendition can be heard on their 2000 Live In Japan album or, of course, here.
The Polysics have recently performed at what was sadly to be the last of John Peel's radio shows, and are currently touring the US.

Pizzicato Five broke up in 2001, having accomplished what they had set out to do.

The Plastics enjoyed a ten-year-reunion tour in 1989 and an excellent tribute album was published in 1999.

Some former members have recently teamed up with ex-Pizzicato Five singer Maki Nomiya, dubbing themselves Plastics Sex. They have already performed live in Shibuya, their live set featuring old Plastics songs and some rather unexpected covers such as Velvet Underground's Waiting For My Man and The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog. An album is expected for early 2005.

More info on The Plastics here and here.


Good - The Lyrics.
(Sato - Tachibana)

How do you do?
How do you do?
How are you?
I'm fine!
What are you doing?
I am singing
What did you do today?
I did a soundcheck

Nice to meet you...
See you again...
Nice to meet you...
See you again...

Come again soon!
Yes, I'm sure
Say hello to mama
Yes I will
Oh what's the matter?
mmm, nothing
What's the problem?
It's okay,

I'm sorry...
See you later...
I'm sorry...
See you later...

Un, deux, trois, quatre...

meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow

Have a nice day
same to you
What time baby?
9 o'clock
Gonna have a good time?
I miss you
How do you think about it?
I don't know!

I'm happy...
How I love you...
I'm happy...
How I love you...

Puis-je fumer?
Oui, bien sûr
Bonjour, monsieur!
Comment allez-vous?
C'est combien?
Je ne comprends pas
Au revoir, monsieur
A bientôt!

Sil vous plait...
Merci beaucoup...
Sil vous plait...
Merci beaucoup...

Good, good, good, good,

1. None of the songs shared above have ever been released in these versions outside japan. The international release of the original was, as i said, a re-recorded version. The pizzicato five cover was published as a shorter edit on the Sound Of Music (Music is organized sound) compilation, and a remix is on the Combinaison Spatiale EP. The Polysics live album was never published internationally, at least to my knowledge.
2. "To this we must now turn" is copyright of Eric Hobsbawm, All Rights Reserved.
3. Yes, you should have imagined it was just a matter of time before i started posting P5 mp3s here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

100 funniest jokes

told here.
I particularly liked 38, 45 and 49. And i didn't get 98 and 99.

(Via Mark Evanier)

Monday, February 14, 2005

but also

All The President's Hair.
Go play.
And if you're me, fail miserably.


Yes, i know, i haven't been updating recently. And i have to continue my report of the Grandmothers concert. Problem is, i've been rather busy working on an exam which i probably won't even pass. The exam's date? Well, very appropriately today, which is also known as Singles Awareness Day. Nice acronym, huh?
So anyway, to make up for my absence, i'll post a little mp3 just to feel a little less guilty (and because i already had it uploaded for a week).
Last wednesday Pino and i went to see the great Daniele Luttazzi perform in Udine. His comedy act was stellar, as always. There were two encores (although Pino counted them otherwise, but that's a completely different story), the first a little sketch about Jesus, dinosaurs and, of course, creationism. The second was a tribute to Jerry Lewis, as Luttazzi flawlessly performed the Invisible Typewriter Sketch, exposing a hitherto unnoticed perfection in the physical comedy department.
When we met him after the show, Mr. Luttazzi told me that the author of the music for that sketch was a one Mr. Leroy Anderson, who specifically composed the Music For Typewriter And Orchestra for Jerry Lewis.

Here is that song. Enjoy.
(Did i mention that this tune is just begging for a konishi remix? Ok, you can hit me now.)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Brown Shoes Don't Make It

Bought new shoes yesterday.

If this was an ordinary blog, you'd be seeing a picture of the new shoes taken with an expensive digital camera. But i don't have a digital camera, so no pictures of shoes.
Instead, here are some pictures from last sunday's big event, the Grandmothers in Trieste.

The first two pictures are from the conference held in Ricreatorio San Giusto, in front of the castle. I reached the piazza early enough, but had some trouble finding the venue. To be precise, i found the Ricreatorio but it was locked and with no indication of ever wanting to open. After looking around for a while i leaned against a wall overlooking the town and noticed some familiar figures in the balcony beneath me: Don Preston and Roy Estrada.
I dashed around the building, finally found the entrance and entered the hall where the event would take place, which was already rather full of people. A loud, baritonal voice greeted me from behind with a resounding "Buonasera!" I answer shyly, then turn and realize that the voice's owner was none other than Napoleon Murphy Brock himself!

Napoleon, in the dark. Bespectacled, Ken Rosser.

I stood in amazement as he walked away, and eventually managed to regain enough self-control to find myself a place to sit. Don and Roy were already seated, as were Ken Rosser (their guitarist), an interpreter, PFM drummer Franz Di Cioccio and music critic Riccardo Bertoncelli. As the conference began, i took a couple of pictures from a specially chosen corner of the dimly lit room.

Roy Estrada, in the sky, and Don Preston, in the dark. Did i mention how bad the illumination was?

The conference was quite pleasant, and lasted about an hour. Napoleon hardly spoke, since he wanted to keep his voice for the show ("I sing about 90% of the songs"). Roy and Don were more talkative, retelling their first encounters with Frank Zappa at first, answering questions from the audience later. Even yours truly had a chance to have his say, asking Roy about his stint as Bass player in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. Just mentioning this to him made him explode in laughter, which was already an answer in itself. Don had a few words to add, and i think his precise quote deserves to be shared:

Don: "I just wanna say this: I never played with beefheart but I knew him, I met him a number of times. My experience with him was that he talked, you know, when you met him on the street, he sounded just like the lyrics! Yeah, his conversations were just like the way he wrote lyrics!"
(He pauses, as the interpreter translates into italian)
Don continues: "He would say something like...
Roy: "where'd you just get that??"
Interpreter: "..."

Hilarity ensues.
Another nice moment was when guitarist Ken Rosser, who had kept quiet throughout the procedures, was asked what it felt to play alongside former members of the Mothers of Invention. His answer was extremely appropriate: Playing the music of Frank Zappa with Napoleon or Don or Roy was to him very much like playing the music of Charlie Parker with Miles Davis or Max Roach. I liked that.

When the musicians left for the soundcheck, we stayed another hour listening to Franz DiCioccio and Riccardo Bertoncelli reminisce about their own particularly embarrassing encounters with the late Mr. Zappa. Nothing i hadn't already heard about, since they've both written about these events, but fun to listen to nonetheless.
I left before the ending, because i had to find empty tapes for the concert. I walked out, removed the conference poster (they wouldn't be needing it anymore anyway: it's lying on the sofa behind me as i type), and walked back down to Piazza Unità to find reasonable ways of transport towards whatever could've been open in Trieste on a sunday. Centro Commerciale Giulia seemed to be a good option. So i go to a tobacconists', buy a bus ticket, go to the bus stop, wait a couple of minutes and then tell myself:
"No, wait, i have a car."
So i walked back to where i'd parked it and made my way towards the shopping center.
As usual, driving through Trieste made me break the law a number of times, and of course my cellphone kept ringing throughout. How i hate Trieste traffic.

I'll continue with this story later, with the concert and the aftermath. Better-looking pictures also await you, although in some of them the effect is spoiled by my presence.

End of part one.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

sincerity strikes

Her: So how do i get around to making a site like yours?
Me: I don't recommend it to you, it's a very dumb pastime.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005