Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gadjo’s New Year Video Jukebox

Mrs Dilo and I just got back home and now we’re off again*. And so – and also because we’re saying goodbye to one year and hello to another – here’s “Here I come, here I go”, by Serbo-Slovenian ljepotica-magnet Magnifico. It’s also the official anthem of all moustachioed, ersatz-Ray-Banned, aftershave-drenched East European manhood. But you can’t be an East European man just by following these style guidelines... no, you’ve got to do the dance as well!!



* to Sibiu, if you want to know, spiritual home of Romania’s ethnic German community, modern-day homeopathy and Romania’s silliest hat wearers - which is saying something :-) Happy new year to one and all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gadjo's Christmas Jukebox

Mrs Dilo and I are off tomorrow morning to my muvver country and will not have access to the Internet thang. I was commenting recently on Can Bass's blog how I liked the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue lads' interpretation of Silent Night, to the tune of Tequila. I realised then that this festive season* tends to divide people into two camps. So, first up The Dickies with their endearingly faithful version of the carol. And then, for those of you not gathering around the manger, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra with their alternative Christmas message - "We Need 5 Days Of Tequila" - which may be exactly what others of you are thinking. As Dave Allen used to say, may your God go with you!





* That's Hannakah and Winter Solstice too!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #5

Yes, we’re back in the USSR (that’s the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic)! After the last post’s rather rough offerings, I'm trying here to repair the damage done to both this country's and my own reputations. First up, highly accomplished headline act Vopli Vidoplasova with a video that seems to be an affectionate tribute to Bollywood cinema:



Now music by the superfast folk-ska act Haydamaky - featuring Jim Carrey on drums, it would seem! - and Ukrainians enjoying themselves at a festival:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #4

Gadjo’s Pickin’ Kiev Tonight*!! Yes, as promised. When I danced with the Balalaika Dance Group in London I found that Ukrainians have the butchest Soviet-bloc dances, and music to match. Then I happened upon The Ukrainians, a band from Leeds with some Uke ancestry and the willingness to have a laugh. They’ve done great versions of songs by The Smiths and The Sex Pistols - here, especially for Barry Teeth, is their version of Anarchy In The UK(raine) - and here's something more with the spirit of the Cossacks:



Then I discovered other great genuine Ukrainian bands. Bands fast and unintelligible enough to form the background music to many years studying at my computer terminal. First up it’s Perkalaba. On the map it looks like I could easily visit them from here in their Hutsul hideaway, but flying around the world would actually take less time. They named themselves after their local psychiatric hospital and act as dodgy as possible, as you would too if people had called your homeland "Little Russia" for 654 years!

* There’s a pun there somewhere; find it and you could win a weekend for one in Dnipropetrovsk.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dark Night of the Soul #2: My Birthday

I just had a birthday. Some people want a bike for their birthday, others a party dress or a My Little Pony. But my one wish, pure and simple, was to get through one day without being engaged in conversation about Romanian food. More a mission, really. And if you think this should be easy then you’ve never lived where I live. These are the diversionary tactics I tried:

(1) Talking about everybody’s 2nd favourite topic of conversation: members of their family.

(2) Wearing my full highland dress: a kind of “shock and awe” tactic.

(3) Pretending I was French, so I'd be expected to neither understand nor care - or, alternatively, so they’d talk about another nation’s cuisine... or food in general... or food as a metaphor for something else... anything, really.

(4) Getting drunk. (This, as usual, happened later after everybody else had left).

We'd invited many people to our house, good people, honest people, people I care about. But despite this I knew from the moment I woke up that I would fail. But this put no halter on my blind ambition, and I hereby bask in the glory of Heroic British Failuredom:

(1) “Hands off cocks on socks we’re charging the Russian guns! Yes, lovely boy, it’s called “The Valley Of Death”, you want me to draw you a map does you? Oh, I see you is crying: is it because I am standing on your hair?!” (etc)

(2) “Hey you, Oatsie Boy, pop outside there’s a good chap I think one of the sledge-marmosets has run orf. Don’t bother looking for your boots, I ate them last night with a rather nice Chianti that I bought with me.”

(3) “I, George Mallory, am going up Everest, but I'm not taking any oxygen with me ‘cos that’s for poofs, innit. Oh, and if see me fall over come up and turn me round so it looks like was coming down.”

(4) Across the Andes by Frog.

Heck, I was so bomb-happy at the end of the day that I took everybody out for dinner at a Romanian restaurant.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #3

It’s Moscow Night here at Gadjo’s Jukebox! There seem to be quite a few bands from Russia with interesting style and fine musicianship who one can only hope are getting more international exposure now. Markscheider Kunst are actually from St. Petersburg, but you wouldn’t guess it what with their German name and their repertoire of afro/Brazilian/ska. It’s a mystery to me but I love it. And this track’s even got a funky animation to go with it:



And here's music by art-rockers Auktyon. I don’t understand the words but I reckon it’s a version of the play that William Shakespeare and Daniil Kharms would have written together:

Friday, November 28, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#4) The World's Top Stammerers

Disclaimer: Gadjo Dilo in no way supports bullying, which is shite, and anyway he now has several years of martial arts training under his belt so come over here - yeah you, <name deleted> - and try your luck if you disagree :-)

As promised, and with great pride, I hereby present the cream of the world’s stammerers. Rather than categorise them by profession I’ve used a simple tripartite taxonomy based on psychological profiling which I call “Playground Kicking Classification”. This simple metric also has everyday application: when you come across a stammerer, enact this scenario in your imagination and you’ll quickly understand what sort of stammerer it is and how it should be treated. (I myself largely managed to avoid this nonsense in the school playground by floating around like some ethereal golden-haired sprite too beautiful to be touched by human hand – I still don’t understand how I got away with it.) Some of the following may actually be ex-stammerers, but this only goes to show how effective a good kicking can be.

FREAKS
Kickable, regardless of what they might have “achieved”:

Rowan Atkinson: If kicked will do the funny face. Now probably a multi-millionaire though.
Yukio Mishima: Gay Japanese poet and fascistic ritual suicidalist - asking for it.
Marc Almond: We suspect he made his stammer up to justify his vaunted victimhood status.
Lewis Carroll: Simply a freak. Avoid.
Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad (Indian communist leader): Looks more like a Swot (see below) but you’d always make him say his name in full and then throw his duffel bag over the fence.

COOL PEOPLE
Can stammerers be cool?? Surprisingly, yes, though it may not be obvious at first. By constantly compensating for their deficiency they can become extraordinary gifted at something else. If you’re smart you’ll think before you kick:

Winston Churchill: The ultimate over-compensating stammerer. Respect.
Tiger Woods: All black sportsmen are cool, even if they play golf (though this pushes it a bit, admittedly).
Marilyn Monroe: Sex kitten. Enough said.
James Earl Jones: Super-cool - turned his stammer into the world’s most mellifluous voice.
Joe Biden: An asthmatic, a dunce and a stammerer when young, but you'll soon be mighty glad that you didn’t nick his dinner money.

SWOTS
The “halfway-house” where kicking’s concerned. Many stammerers spend a lot of time in libraries and other places where they try to avoid embarrassing themselves. Surprisingly, it can be worth giving these types the time of day: by pretending to be their friends you can get to copy their homework. Kick, but only as an incentive:

Bruce Willis: “Cool Person”, surely? No. Swot. Becoming a famous actor with a stammer and no talent, he must be a grafter.
Ed Balls: Maths homework... possibly. But which came first, the stammer or the cruel nicknames?
Isaac Newton: He also wore a girl’s wig so even looks like a freak, but his homework’s still worth borrowing.
Charles Darwin: A useful science bod on your homework team, though you'd have to do the monkey dance every time you met him.
Aristotle: Unusual double Cockney rhyming slang for “arse” (via “bottle and glass”), but he’s one of the swots that other swots most often copy from, so knowing him can save you a trip or two to the library.

This list of high-achieving stammerers seems endless, though actually it ends here. T-t-ta-ta for now!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #2

The Romanians got their chance in the previous video jukebox, so now it’s time give the Hungarians a go. (The Hungarians already had a go, they’ll tell me, and Fărâmiţă Lambru was %100 gyppo and nothing to do with us; why don’t you put on something by that nice Julio Iglesias, now he’s a Romanian) The Hungarians of course used to run this town, and although Ceauşescu ensured that their community is now reduced to an embittered rump their well-dressed presence here still leavens the dough a little. They may seem cold and to have one pint of blood less in ‘em than the rest of humanity (other than of course their distant cousins the Finns... and I mean distant - have you ever tried having a conversation with one of those people??), and a silly language, but they are at least modern people. They understand irony, and for that and for their comparatively spicy cuisine I thank them. Here’s the fine Hungarian/gypsy ensemble Besh O Drom with both a tribute to and pastiche of communist-era Top Of The Pops.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #1

A video jukebox is a fantastic idea, allowing one to inflict one’s music on others and yet requiring so very little effort! I begged and pleaded with Scarlet Blue to let me do this, and eventually she relented and even explained how to do it. I’m in the mood (i.e. still knackered) for doing this regularly, but I have to warn you that there'll be much music from Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe, you will see gypsies, and it will feature the ţambal as much as possible. Out of respect to Scarlet I’m going to start with something for the laydees – ladies, that is, who like their gypsies to use as much Brilliantine as is humanly possible. Here’s Fărâmiţă Lambru singing about a wedding ring. Even if you don’t like the music, take a look at the man’s microphone technique.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

TV Transylvania #1

I'm still exhausted, so here are some suggestions for television programmes that they could show over here, if somebody had an ounce of imagination, that might perk me up a bit.

DONKEYS DO THE DARNDEST THINGS

Everybody – everybody here, at least - agrees that there’s nothing funnier than a kitten on a skateboard, a dog chasing its own tail or a hamster trying to escape from a pan of frying chips. (Why they use canned laughter on these programmes I do not know – it’s always drowned out by hysterical real laughter in every household I’ve been in.) But the potential entertainment value of the donkey has not been explored to its full potential. There are many of these lovely animals here but they’re made to perform manual tasks like pulling carts of hay. I’m convinced they have a more artistic temperament and are just dieing to get on the stage, maybe simply to waggle their ears in time to The Birdy Song or to do a Graham Norton impersonation. Or they could be asked questions: stamp a hoof so many times for the number of sides on a pentagon, wonders of the ancient world, horsemen of the apocalypse, etc. It’s TV Gold.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Until the presenter got pregnant the most popular programme in Romania was Surpriză, Surpriză!. Yes, the same one we used to have in UK with the lovely Cilla Black. It used to go on for about 7 hours every Saturday evening, and in a country where people get by with so very few dreams it made most of those dreams come true. But more realistic – and more modern, considering the “reality television” phenomenon - would be a programme with absolutely no surprises at all. Bloke wakes up, goes and milks the cows, bids his neighbour good-day, calls him a twat under his breath, goes home for breakfast, grunts at his wife, feeds the chickens, has a dump, goes home for lunch, grunts at his wife again, feeds the pig, talks to the dog, digs the vegetable plot, goes home for dinner, grunts at his wife, shuts himself in the bog for 20 minutes with his memories of Laura Lavric, goes to sleep. Every day.

LOTHARIO WATCH

Back in the Good Old Days there was only one channel, only 4 hours of broadcasting per day, and half of those were dedicated to the doings of Comrade Ceauşescu and his Charming Wife Elena. Some people actually miss those times: they were starving but at least everybody else was too, and they were ruled by a megalomaniac arse but at least he was their megalomaniac arse. I’d like to bring back a bit of that for the sake of nostalgia. The only Romanian man alive with comparable standing to “The Genius of the Carpathians” is Ilie Năstase. Ilie played good tennis but is now mainly known for being 6th on Maxim magazine’s list of lotharios, having slept with 2500 women despite looking like my friend Steve*. I think many people would like to spend 2 hours an evening watching and learning his technique.

* Steve is sadly no longer with us, but he was also astonishingly successful in this arena of human endeavour.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Most Embarrassing Record

I've been tagged (kinda) by Scarlet Blue who asks for a most embarrassing record ever owned. I'm gonna name two, as I have been a very embarrassing person over the years. I still haven't got speakers fixed up, so I do hope these clips show the two songs in their full glory.

1: Too Young by Donny Osmond. When I was about 9 years old a friend and I saved up our pocket money to buy this. And we owned it jointly, the idea being that I'd have it one week and he'd have it the next, etc. He rapidly realised that everything about this situation was incredibly uncool and I become ipso facto the sole owner. I'd like to say that I then destroyed it using a home-made bomb comprising weedkiller, Thunderbird and indoor fireworks, but in truth it probably got taken to an Oxfam shop by my mum 20 years later.

2: You Think You're A Man by Divine. I bought this when planning to make a small, humorous film about my Open University colleagues and I wanted to sample this track. (I never made the film - lacking time, money, and knowledge of how to make a film). When I rented out my bedroom to a young Indian couple I left (for some unknown reason) this CD (baaad choice) on top of the stereo. 2 years later, when they left, I found that it was still there, covered in a thick layer of dust - they couldn't even bring themselves to touch the thing!

I'd really like to tag everybody that I've embarrassed over the years. Kind of like My Name Is Earl.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Moldavian Joke #2

We’ve been discussing so many fascinating things in our corner of the blog-sphere recently: elections, gingerness, insanity, Esperanto, rugby, randomness, stammering, girls girls girls, language of all kinds - even Mrs Pouncer’s pussy has been touched upon. I’m very stimulated to write more on these themes, but frankly I’m exhausted. So I reckon it’s time to relax with another Moldavian joke. The same disclaimer applies as for the previous one – so don’t come and burn my village, ok? Mersi.

This Moldavian guy goes to live in another village* and wants to fit in with the locals. But when he looks over the fences into his neighbours’ gardens he sees them having sex with their cows. “Hmmm”, he thinks to himself, “I really do want to fit in here so I’d better try”. So he’s on the job and starts shouting so that his neighbours will hear and look at what he’s doing. They indeed look over his fence but then start laughing at him uncontrollably. “What are you laughing at?” he protests, “this is what you all do!” “Yes”, they reply, “but your cow is not very pretty!”

* This would never happen in reality, but let’s say for the sake of argument that his excrement haulage business has gone to the wall owing to an epidemic of bovine constipation in his village and he has to find alternative work elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

6 Random Things About Myself

I got tagged by both Gyppo Byard and Kevin Musgrove, for which I feel very honoured. At first it worried me in the same way that chain letters worry me, but it seems that it's just harmless fun. I’ve got to “reveal six random things about myself”. In what sense of the word “random” they are random if they’ve been chosen by me, I am unsure, but here goes:

1: I painted my toenails scarlet

(Or: I painted my toenails, Scarlet... if you’re reading this). This follows on from one of Gyppo’s random facts. I did it at a party, for a laugh, but it was just a few days before I was due to travel to India for a friend’s wedding. The friend was at the party and said “Please, in the name of Lord Krishna, remove that nail varnish; many people will see your feet at my wedding and they will think that in England I associate with eunuchs”.

2: I got a Blue Peter badge

The circumstances surrounding its acquisition are too painful to recall, but I was in my mid-30s at the time and by then had come to sufficient understanding that the camera doesn’t love me, and vice versa. But I couldn't get out of it.

3: My dad used to write articles for Mayfair

A discussion at Gorilla Bananas’ place reminded me of this. They were about steam trains, racing cars, weapons and stuff like that, in the days when “men’s magazines” were supposed to of general interest to men. He had a stack of them in his study, though I suspect that I was the only one that dog-eared them. (I still don’t know if he ever knew that I knew about them!)

4: I’ve had Electroconvulsive Therapy

I feel a bit awkward saying this, not because I'm embarrassed (though I probably should be) but because it might come across as some bizarre attempt at one-up-man-ship after MC Ward and Mrs Pouncer's courageous revelations about their lives. But if I can get a laugh out of it - and the cure is surely more gag-worthy than the malady - then that's justification enough for me. Actually it was one the things instrumental in turning my life around. (Don’t try it at home though, kids.)

5: The Most Famous People I’ve seen are:

Denis Norden (in a shop); Alexei Sayle (walking down a street); Ben Elton (in a bar); Queen Mum (she visited a summer camp place where I was); Derek Taylor, the Beatles publicity manager (I knew his son); snooker player Steve Davis (standing next to him at a urinal - I wanted to look over and see if all the wealth, fame and adulation of the nation's filing clerks had made his penis permenantly engorged, but I didn't have the nerve). Sad to say I exchanged precisely zero words with each of them.

6: 1984

I was a nervous and suggestible teenager and was convinced that the world would end in 1984. This wasn’t just because of Orwell’s novel but also because when on a skool trip to the London Planetarium an incautious boffin said something about all the planets getting in line at a moment during that year. I became convinced that nuclear warfare would somehow also be a feature of this year and therefore planned which university to attend based on being directly under a bomb (dieing quickly rather than of protracted radiation sickness). This took me to Sheffield, which, as it had no industry left to speak of by the time I got there, would actually have been a really stupid target, unless the Ruskies disliked Arthur Scargill as much as Thatcher did.

Ooerr, that was a bit scary. I believe that I’m required to reiterate the tag rules, so here they are: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write 6 random things about yourself. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted. The 6 people I nominate are Can Bass 1, Daphne Wayne-Bough, The Dotterel, Ellis Nadler, Barry Teeth and Andy from Csíkszereda Musings.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Farewell, Youssoufaki

Phew, I moved house and somehow managed not lose my job, my missus, my marbles, or - most importantly of course - my connection with you, gentle reader; I do hope you're still out there somewhere. We had to give up our lovely RDS broadband though. RDS is an extension of CERN's Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss Alps: modern, high-tech, and pretty darned fast. We could have gone for RomTelecom, which like The Dacia Car, another national institution, actually does kinda work, in its own way, but the power for it is generated in Moldavia by a donkey walking round and round in a circle with a carrot dangling in front of its nose; and even a Moldavian donkey will stop in its tracks occasionally and ask itself the question "why?" So we got UPC - bundled with cable TV channels like Discovery, Chav Shopping++ Gold, Red Hot Rijswijk, etc - which is responsible for peasants knowing more about the Serengeti National Park, bling and Dutch Housewives than they know about the next village, agricultural machinery and actual housework. But it's a bit slow.

Speaking of donkeys, it seems that my best male friend here in Romania is no longer with us. I don't know his name - being a beast of burden he probably never had one - so I'll call him Youssoufaki after the much beloved donkey in Kazantzakis' book The Greek Passion - named, but ironically, please note, after a Turkish Agha's catamite - whom his master believed understood everything he felt and said. My Youssoufaki used to pull carts of hay, bring shepherds down from the hill or simply stand around looking sexy. He was at his best though when rolling around scratching his back in a puddle of dust and waving his legs in the air. Like a proper townie twat I used to run up and stroke his neck and talk to him. But, "he's no longer with us", they told me when I visited his village recently. I thought this a little ambiguous, but to spare my feelings they wouldn't elaborate. So I fear I'll never know whether he's gone to some other, meaner master, to Dreamy Meadows Donkey Sanctuary Retirement Home and Devon Fudge Shop (pictured above), or to the dog food factory. Sorry to be so maudlin. Farewell old son.

Monday, October 6, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#3): Cunning Linguists

In previous posts I’ve covered how stammering made a me a dancer and a fan of popular music. In later ones I’ll tell you how it gave me an access-all-areas pass to the spirit world and the abilities to talk with animals and to pass undetected through the realms of the mad. A list of high-achieving stammerers is also planned, as is a generous offer to share a little of our coveted victimhood status with you. But now as promised, and laying all false modesty aside, I’m going to explain how stammering made me a linguist. Casual observers may think this strange: “Why’s he want to study languages? It’s not like he’s gonna be able to speak them!” Yeah, right. Well, I’ll discuss another time the perfectly possible business of grappling with a foreign tongue; but first I’m going to explain the stammerer’s special relationship with the structural concepts that underlie human language. (This might be considered appropriate recompense for the tax-payers money spent training me as a computational linguist, though, as I shall explain, I didn’t really need any training, so it was a waste of your money, but thanks anyway). Like stammering, linguistics - in any sense that is worthy of the name - is a long run rather than a 100 metre dash. Of course as a stammerer you’ll start at the back of the linguistic pack, less able to talk to the nice barmaid than the barfly who’s already got the previous 3 up the duff, but it ain’t over till it’s over. If you hang in there you’ll see there are advantages; oh yes; advantages that like a fine port wine you can only appreciate over time; advantages that are specifically and paradoxically linguistic in origin. I relate them here to provide, I hope, a little encouragement for any young stammerer who’s yet to espy the prize.

The stammerer’s journey on the Road to Wellville is, like that of the constipation sufferer, an inner journey. But while the much-awaited petite mort of expelling something meaningful can be just as exulting, here the similarity ceases; for while the former has no choice over which shit to spit the latter has the golden treasury of all possible sounds available from the human vocal organs! Yes, you learn to make word substitutions - English is particularly rich with such alternatives. Get stuck on your haitches? you say “pensione” instead of “hhhhhhotel”; trouble with voiced alveolar plosives? it’s “hound” instead of “d-d-dog”; “seafood” instead of “fffffish”, “old lady” instead of “mmmmummy dearest”; (but of course it’s “g-g-get it on” not “make love” if you think the the sympathy factor kicks in). You see, you’ve already learned to use twice as many words and phrases as your average non-afluent! And there’s more. Some words can’t so easily be ignored, like names* and pronouns. But here’s where it gets really clever: it’s easier if you don’t have difficult sounds at the start of a sentence. You therefore learn to switch the grammar around before you speak. You’ll learn not to say “Yyyyyou are getting on my tits!!” but, “The one who’s getting on my tits is yyou!! or even better “There’s one who’s getting on my tits, ‘tis thee!! See, it’s the perfect training for a poet, and after a while these linguistic gymnastics come as naturally as breathing (more so, in a stammerer’s case). Bingo, you’re the next Percy B-B-F*****g Shelley - and then the crumpet’s for free. (Ding dong!) And finally, I’ve only now realised that I’ve got into the habit of using the variant “stammering” rather than the more widely used “stuttering” simply because it’s easier to say. B-cheerio!!!


* This is obviously how epithets started back in the days of oral tradition: Homer can’t say his Zs so Zeus is “He who Releases Rain”. Kennings too: an Icelandic scald can’t say his Ss so it’s a “wound-hoe” not a “sword”. And you can make up entirely new names - Lewis Carroll was a stammerer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grin to Win (or End in The Bin)

Living in a country where a direct £40 bribe will get me more healthcare and planning permission than any election candidate can ever offer, I’m not normally that interested in politics. But I’m disturbed by this US election thing: what’s with all the grinning straight at the camera?? Everybody’s saying what a nutter Sarah Palin is now they’ve heard her views on creationism and the environment, but couldn’t they’ve discovered that earlier just by looking at her publicity photos?? Everything about the picture above says “I’m going to believe what I believe and use up the world’s oil and make polar bears apologise and I don’t have to give you a reason why”. It’s not really having a grin I object to, it’s the new angle of attack and the lack of psychological restraint that disturbs me. (Even former president Carter the Unstoppable Grinning Machine, circa 1977, seemed to keep a more respectful distance and one ear hidden out of modesty.) Below is a painting by certified Norwegian nutter (and genius) Edvard Munch.

I once heard a psychiatrist explain that in art therapy sessions any patient who draws a self-portrait absolutely head-on is a nutter. I’m pretty sure the chap in the painting is Eddie himself as he paints like this many times. You’d be very well advised to visit the museum dedicated to him in Oslo, but (despite his talents) not to elect him as your vice-president. Here in Romania I'm continually enchanted by wedding photographs from the 1950s and 60s in homes that I visit. Always shot in glorious black-and-white and at a ¾ perspective with the couple looking into the middle distance to the side of the camera. It doesn’t matter how much they’ve come to resemble Albert Steptoe and his sister Dolly, they always look like film stars in the wedding photo. Even Comrade Ceauşescu knew to avert his eyes a little so’s not to scare us. Now, this is deeply unfair, and let us not forget what America has done for us over the last century by way of cartoons and jazz music, but here’s the alternative to Sarah Palin, perhaps just 1 degree better, Joe Biden:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Les Dawson: A Prophet Unhonoured

Recent scribblings on this blog and others have touched upon Les Dawson - though not in a “bad” way - and made me realise how much I miss the man. If you don’t know, Les was a very fat comedian from the North of England. Lugubrious (a word which may almost mean “very fat and from the North”) was a common description of him. When they could get him sober enough he stood on a stage and told jokes. (Though he also wrote novels, apparently, and was a fine connoisseur of language). He wasn’t considered exactly a modern comedian but I had a secret regard for him, based mainly on the fact that the worse his jokes were – and oh they could be bad – the funnier he was. I thought: anyone who can make me laugh by standing still on a stage telling crap jokes must be a genius. I think it was something to do with the pauses. But, and here’s the important issue now, I paid scant attention to the content of his humour, the staple of which was The Mother-In-Law Joke. Examples:

I wouldn’t say my mother-in-law was fat, but when she got run over the driver said although he had enough time to drive around her he didn't know if he had enough petrol.
I took my mother-in-law to Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors, and one of the attendants said, “Keep her moving sir, we're stock-taking”.
My mother-in-law said “When you die I’m going to dance on your grave!”. “Good”, I said, “I’m being buried at sea!”


Is it coming back to you?? It’s relevant as I’ve had a bit of friction with my own mother-in-law, a fine woman with whom I usually get along famously. It’s all my fault. After all, she survived and kept a family clothed and fed through 30 years of Nicolae “The Genius of the Carpathians” Ceauşescu & co. And I’m just a ponce. I may technically be in the right - “blah..blah..blah” - but in all other respects... I’m still (comparatively) a ponce. I pledged not to wash my dirty laundry in public, but maybe I’d have been better prepared if I’d listened to Les. When I peered at him on the TV screen back in the 70s from under my Brian Connolly fringe his wisdom was wasted on me. In fact, I was the teenager that mothers of girlfriends warm to: nervous, vulnerable, but, crucially, giving off the slight suggestion that in another life I’d have found them as attractive as their spotty, specky daughters. The naivety of youth - I must have thought I could handle women. My mother-in-law and I have more than made up now, and our bond is all the stronger. As it turns out, Les was as inaccurate about my mother-in-law as he was, apparently, about his own. But in his stumbling way he felt burdened with a truth that he knew must be told - may his name be honoured!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Transsexual Transylvania

(Another Warning: Readers of the resolutely meat-and-two-veg, “a man should look like a man” opinion may be disturbed by what I'm about to say, and they are advised instead to look at pictures of Steve Reeves.)

This, of course, is a quote from Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show and not an accurate description of the place where I live, as I shall explain later with the help of two advertisements that have recently come to my attention. Now, I have a theory that countries, regions, ethnic groups, etc can be quickly and irrefutably characterised using very simple metrics. (One such is how they recreate Elvis in their own image - more on that another time.) But here I want to look at how easily a culture can be characterised by its transsexuality. (Yes, it’s a rather sensitive subject; and I hope that you’ll bear with me, and appreciate that the “want” here is a thirst more for sociological enquiry than for sensationalism.) Britain of course has always had the likes of Cissie & Ada, France the more soave La Cages aux Folles, Spain its fatalistic Almodóvar queens, Germany its hard-edged Weimar cabaret, America its street-smart RuPauls, New Zealanders elected “sensible-shoes” Georgina Beyer to their parliament and lovable Mr Entertainment Danny La Rue is Irish. You see, it’s all you need to know about a culture. (Even Bulgaria, for heaven's sake, has Azis, a frightening transvestite gypsy singer, and they’ve named an asteroid after him... who’da thought!)

Now, whether this all makes you feel a bit ill or in the mood for rummaging in your sister’s wardrobe is entirely up to you. I've no pressing need for it myself - though some people remarked that I did look surprisingly comfortable wearing a kilt for the first time at my wedding. But I tend to think, hey, women can wear trousers, and it costs nothing to give a little succour to citizens who feel a bit “Glen or Glenda”. And as a liberal ponce I’d say, “when was the last time, yeah, that a tranny created major problems for ordinary people??” (1924-1972, J. Edgar Hoover, allegedly). But returning to my original idea, I must now take issue with Mr O’Brien. Just like Bram Bloody Stoker before him, he’s never been here, has he! It’s just not like that here. However, if we ignore this gross misrepresentation it is still possible that my thesis holds true. Transylvania has just now made its first tentative step; so, please be brave, take a look at the pictures below, and try not to judge us too unkindly:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gadjo’s Night at the Concert Hall

(It doesn’t sound so glamorous, does it. Never mind.) As I stated previously, although I enjoy some operas I’m more familiar with other forms of classical music. So to fill the list of 12 that Gyppo Byard has instigated, I’m broadening the perspective, though moving only one step away and considering anything with voices and large-scale instrumentation. For want of a better system, I’m listing these in terms of increasing religiosity (though bear in mind that I understand very little of what’s being sung) so if any of you start feeling your blood rising and your hand instinctively reaching for your Dawkins then you know it’s time to switch to another blog :-)

CARMINA BURANA (Carl Orff, 1937) Yeah, the Old Spice advert!! Set to secular Medieval text about Wine, Women, and Song. I’ve danced to this many times as it was the favourite piece of our movement choir choreographer on the summer school I attended regularly.

DAS LIED VON DER ERDE (Gustav Mahler, 1909) (The Song of the Earth) This is a superbly effecting piece, and as close to Wagnerian as I can comfortably get. Apparently it’s ancient Chinese poetry rendered into German, but it really doesn’t sound as bad as all that.

CURLEW RIVER (Benjamin Britten, 1964) Almost an opera, though Britten never classed it as such, this is fascinatingly “different” piece in many ways. It’s based on a Japanese noh play, and allowed Peter Pears to “drag up” as The Madwoman in honourable onnagata tradition.

GLAGOLITIC MASS (Leoš Janáček, 1926) We pedants know that this is really a secular mass and that “Glagolitic” refers to the alphabet of the Old Church Slavonic text rather the language itself. Great organ solo, edgy and compelling choral arrangements: together with Messiaen’s (vocal-less and therefore inelligible) Turangalîla Symphony, my favourite piece of classical music.

MISA CRIOLLA / NAVIDAD NUESTRA (Ariel Ramírez, both 1964) These are two pieces by an Argentine composer based on traditional rhythms of his homeland. They're also “dancing pieces” for me, and the memories still linger.

PASSION AND RESSURRECTION (Jonathan Harvey) “Hurray” for new music!! Harvey has composed a lot for percussion and electronic tape machines, but this is more accessible and has some lovely passages. He was a pupil of Messiaen’s, and it shows.

THE ETERNAL GOSPEL (Leoš Janáček) Janáček composed many and various pieces for choirs, like this one; I just wish I lived in the Czech republic, as I’m sure that I’d never tire of hearing or singing them.

MISSA BREVIS / PSALMUS HUNGARICUS (Zoltán Kodály) Many people seem to consider Kodály at bit 2nd division but I really like his music, and have fallen asleep – in a good way – to these pieces many times.

LITURGY OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (Kyrylo Stetsenko, 1918) I don’t know much about Eastern Orthodox music, except that the old bloke downstairs can ring our local church’s bell on a Sunday morning even when he was lying on a pavement stone-cold drunk the night before. And I don’t select this Ukrainian piece to impress Mrs Boyo - who’ll hate it anyway – but because it’s genuinely a favourite listening experience on a Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gadjo’s Night At The Opera

Following Gyppo Byard’s initiative and further posts by him and No Good Boyo I hereby present my favourite operas. Now, I’m not a massive opera fan: in the realm of classical music I tend to prefer oratorios, lieder and chamber music - or simply banging my head against a wall and shouting “why, why, why!!” in counterpoint - but I do have my favourites. Opera has the reputation of being a most bourgeois and respectable of art forms, so here we go: one by a bloke with a girl’s name, another by a bloke who fancied underage boys, one with a libretto by a gay brother, and one about somebody who shags his mum.

Bluebeard’s Castle (Béla Bartók, 1911)

You must ignore me when I say silly and rude things about Hungarians, for the truth is that I love their music. Bartok does it for me, and I reckon he was a genius. We saw Bluebeard’s Castle in the Hungarian Opera house here – £2 for front row seats, beat that you Covent-Garden-going suckaaas!! – and I was in ecstasy. It only lasts an hour, has only 2 characters, and is rather short on romance. My wife speaks “hospital Hungarian” and could understand a bit, and we’ve had great fun since intoning the “give me the keys” schtick every time we arrive at our front door. Bartok also collected lots of great folk music in the area where I now live and even learned to speak Romanian - so, respect.

Peter Grimes (Benjamin Britten, 1945)

I’m glad that Boyo didn’t pick this one as his Britten opera as it’s my flyaway favourite. Most of Benny’s stories seem to be about little-boys-lost who need protection, but I suppose you’ve got to write about what you know. It has the astringency that I crave and yet gallons of “real music” at the same time. It’s also got the salty tang of the sea, especially in evidence in the interludes. Peter Pears is pretty camp in this clip but it’s a good television version of the opera. I saw it in another wonderful staging by the ENO at London’s Colosseum.

Street Scene (Kurt Weill, 1947)

I greatly enjoy the music of Weill and Hans Eisler (with lyrics often by Bertolt Brecht, of course). I know much of it in recordings by singers such as Dagmar Krause, Ute Lemper, Robyn Archer, etc, but this is the only one of their operatic works – apart from a very poor production of The Threepenny Opera - that I’ve seen on the stage. As Street Scene is from Weill's American period it's perhaps atypical, but it's a very pleasing and unassuming piece, not posing or puffed up like many operas that turn me against the genre, but telling stories with poignancy and some excellent jazz-influenced classical music.

Œdipe (George Enescu, 1931)

You’ll think that I chose this because it’s by a Romanian. Welllll... that fact that I’ve heard it is because it’s by a Romanian, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not any good. On the contrary, it’s excellent. Enescu was a real all-rounder: brilliant musician, renowned teacher (of Yehudi Menuhin, famously) and an interesting composer with a very varied range. Œdipe has been described variously as “a forgotten masterpiece”, “the finest musical interpretation of the Oedipus myth” and “of course is good, is by a Romanian!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dark Night of the Soul #1

What I’m about to say may disturb readers of a sensitive disposition, and they are advised instead to look at pictures of fluffy kittens until normal service is resumed.

I can feel it creeping over me again: like a cancer, but without the sympathy. Maybe some of you know the feeling (do you?): why am I here; why have I moved away from my friends, my family, my culture, people who listen to me, the food that I like, {your own personal choice here}, and proper comedy. There seem to be three well-trodden paths which can be taken from this juncture:

(1) Shout at the person you’ve given everything up for (not fair as it’s not really their fault)
(2) Go back home (possible, but you know that “home” is just as crap in its own special way)
(3) Get drunk (yes, the one continuing advantage about being abroad is that the beer is cheaper)

However, I’ve just thought of an entirely new solution (4): destroy things!!!! I was in my mid-teens when punk started in the UK – for which I’ve always been assiduously grateful - but I’m afraid I failed to take full advantage of the possibilities thereof. However, as they say, “it’s never too late”. I have fantasies about smashing up the kitchen, the chairs, the telly - anything that’s immediately to hand, frankly - but so far I’ve only succeeded in punching wooden fences and lampposts. Of course, this isn’t the “me” that people want to see, but, well, as they also tell me, “you shouldn’t bottle your feelings up!!” Now, I’m of the type for whom scenario (3) actually prevents rather than precipitates scenario (4), so I’ve got a large plastic keg of beer at my elbow right now so I can finish writing this before I send the computer south - if you don’t hear from me again you know the beer ran out :-) Cheerio!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Somechance Film Festival

After the fun many of us had recently presenting our favourite 12 films, I’m starting a festival of films that one would like to be made. Based on Robert Redford’s Sundance festival, this'll be a chance to see offbeat stories that might never get shown in your local multiplex. I hate inaugurating things – simply because they so often fail – but if others would to present their own film wish-lists then please do.

Das Boot: The Musical

It’s getting tense inside U-96 at 280 meters deep with the hull starting to crack, but what better moral booster could there be than a song and dance number! The guys fix the leaks whilst belting out the catchy “Ach mein Gott, das Boot ist bald kaput!”, leaping around and banging their spanners rhythmically on the pipework. Not much romance here for the ladies, you might think, but there’s time for a love duet between Chief Mechanic “I Hate Fresh Air” Johann and the sub’s beautiful Germaniawerft M6V 40 diesel engine.

Gandhi 2

The Mahātmā's back and this time it’s personal!! But unfortunately he’s been reborn as a slug because the Brahmins administrating the reincarnation process are pissed that he tried to subvert the Indian caste system. The new-look Gandhi gets straight back on the campaign trail, organising fellow slugs, snails, and other gastropod mollusks to hustle for a new world order. However, they become seriously “unstuck” when they try to recreate the famous Salt March.

My Right Foot

The Eric Bristow Story. A boy born with 6 toes on his right foot finds solace in the game of darts and overcomes ridicule and adversity when he finds that his “disability” actually gives him extra balance on the ockey. The film follows his rags-to-riches story, the four world titles, the decade of being world no. 1, and culminating in the seemingly de rigueur allegations of domestic assault. Like My Left Foot - the story of the handicapped Irish poet Christy Brown – but in this film the poetry’s all in Eric’s throwing.

Hedd Wyn and the Angry Inch

(I haven’t really done the “storyboard” for this yet, to be honest, as I’ve never seen the musical about transexuality set in an Berlin drag club, nor been able to find many poems in English by the Merionethshire bard killed in the WW1 trenches. But if somebody with less respect than I would like to take up the challenge, please be my guest).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The 3rd International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

Just when you thought it was safe to scrape the popcorn off your crotch and go home to watch Celebrity Chlamydia Swap on the Jade Goody++ Gold channel, here’s your third festival of art and education! I was sorely tempted to include a double bill of Eisenstein films (Battleship Potemkin and October: Ten Days That Shook the World) on one of the nights, but I thought that might be too much communism (and montage) for some people. Watch and Learn!

Land and Freedom (1995)

British director Ken Loach makes socialist films, as you’ll know. Many are interesting, but the “realism” can be dispiriting and the politics not to everyone’s taste. Land and Freedom, however, concerns the Spanish Civil War, which people generally seem to find quite romantically idealistic. Ken’s onto a winner then. It tells the story of the POUM, a Spanish communist organisation that tried (in vain) to fight Franco’s Falangists. It’s all very moving – and I know Spaniards whom it’s reduced to tears - and seems more real than any other war film I’ve seen. But perhaps the best scene in my opinion is the longest and the slowest, where the International Brigaders discuss with Spanish peasants how to partition their land “come the glorious day” – it’s nothing more than that, a long and difficult but life-changing discussion.

Persona (1966)

Of the Ingmar Bergman films I’ve seen this is my favourite. It concerns an actress (Liv Ullmann) who's had some trauma and does not speak any more. In most cultures she'd simply be given a slap and kept in a backroom where she couldn’t be an embarrassment to her family; but in Sweden she gets an indefinite all-expenses-paid seaside holiday and her own personal nurse. The nurse (Bibi Andersson) is a chirpy, “normal” young woman, whereas the actress is menacing simply by her silence. The two are alone, and their personas begin to meld together as the nurse tries to maintain the barriers of her own sanity. It’s brilliantly handled, with “arty” cinematic techniques to point up the psychological conflicts. (There could’ve been a companion film to this one where Liv Ullmann is simply given a slap, but I don’t think it was ever made.)

Underground (1995)

I need a “music movie”, and my choice is East European gypsy. You wouldn’t necessarily want to employ one, but when they play it can be exhilarating. Tony Gatlif’s films - e.g. Latcho Drom and of course Gadjo Dilo - showcase this music, but Underground’s director Emir Kusturica is the other big name in the genre. He made the riotous Black Cat, White Cat which has a better plot, albeit a challenging one for non-gypsies. Apparently, Underground symbolically depicts and satirises the history of Yugoslavia since the 2nd World War, but, frankly, it just looks like chaos. A lot of the action takes place in a cellar - complete with brass band and an army tank – in which the inhabitants are unaware of the changes in the outside world. The soundtrack brought arranger (he claims he’s a “composer”, but he’s not, he’s a lyin’ thievin’ gadjo) Goran Bregović to the world's attention. What matters to me is that the film has terrific energy and the music is great, pumping, gypsy brass.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

I choose this film for a variety of reasons. It features perhaps my favourite straight Hollywood actor, Rod Steiger, and also the beautiful Sir Sidney Poitier, who’s probably the reason why it’s one of Mrs Dilo’s favourite films. You must know the story: Deep South USA, era of the civil rights movement; it's all very steamy, racist, and vengeful, but luckily we know that Our Sid is going to win through in the end. They call me Mister Tibbs!!! It’s also a bit like Bergman's Persona, in that the two blokes get to share a few “special moments” together. There are some great touches in the film, like using a quirky pop song for a whole scene long before Tarantino milked the idea; and the soundtrack also features my favourite musical instrument, the ţambal (a.k.a. "tsymbaly", "cimbalom", etc)

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And so, my turn to choose 4 people to carry on the tradition of presenting their 12 favourite films. I nominate Kevin Musgrove (whom I'm suspecting has a lot to tell us on this subject), my two new friends The Dotterel and Daphne Wayne-Bough, and my homey Andy from Csíkszereda Musings.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The 2nd International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

Hot on the heels of the first festival - life’s one long festival in the Dilo household. I wasn’t going to do this, but after a recent comment from Mrs Boyo I reckoned that maybe I had an ally, and so here it is, a Lars von Trier All-Nighter! I’m not sure if this breaks the one-an-evening dictum, but Lars and the lads frequently broke their own Dogme 95 rules so I’m in good company. Von Trier is a fascinating director not only because of his films’ artistic quality but also because they're all so very different from each other. Also, he pisses a lot of people off.

Breaking The Waves (1996)

This film centres on a innocent and rather suggestible Scottish girl who marries a hardy oil-rig worker. He gets injured and incapacitated; she has lots of bad sex with other men in order to give him vicarious satisfaction, and is rejected by her narrowly religious local community; she dies, which then (in what might be considered an act of redemption from the Catholic convert von Trier) brings him back to health. It’s brilliant, harrowing, and in addition to the lauded Emily Watson features the late and much lamented (by me and Morrissey, at least) Katrin Cartlidge. It’s often the little touches von Trier adds that I appreciate the most: the film has interludes featuring beautiful shots of Scottish landscape and the music of the period in which the film is set – 1970s, David Bowie etc – nothing to do with the story but perhaps reminding us what comparatively inconsequential lives the rest of us were leading at the time.

The Idiots (1998)

Hmmm, actors pretending to be mentally retarded, finding their “inner idiot”, and actually going into Copenhagen bars and having their interactions with the drinkers surreptitiously filmed. Mental incapacity as a release and freedom from “civilised” “normal” life – very R. D. Laing, very Summer-Of-Love, very Danish. At one point (and I can’t quite remember why) the film turns into an orgy, with people having actual sex - not really pornography, sorry chaps. I dunno whether it’s “film as therapy”, but Von Trier famously hated his atheistic, hippy mother and has more neuroses than Woody Allen. I personally “get” the whole catharsis idea, but The Idiots tends to, errr, “polarise opinion”: some people consider it disturbing, stupid, boring or just plain wrong. However, I suspect it is quite unlike any other film.

Europa (1991)

“A superb film but an empty one”, “Great techniques, shame about the plot” and “Eh, what was all that about?” are some of the responses that I seem to remember to this film. But, it doesn’t matter, because it’s a most brilliant piece of cinematography. There are more great stylistic ideas here than you can shake a hand-held camera at, but unfortunately I’m not an expert and so don’t know what they’re called or how original they are. For instance, there’s the monotony of the endless footage of train tracks, the filming of actors performing in real-time with actors captured on film, and other stuff. Also, although it gets lost at times, the plot seems to be saying something: “Europe is dying”, “Europe is dead”, “Europeans are all fascists”, “Europe is rubbish”, or simply “help!”; I’m not entirely sure, but, like I say, I don’t think it really matters.

Riget (1994)

I’ve eschewed the better known Dancer in the Dark as although it’s an interesting film - and I love Björk - I feel it’s fatally flawed by a storyline that's been described as “a bad joke”. Riget was a Danish TV mini-series, but I saw all the episodes in one night in a cinema, so it counts as a film. It concerns life in Copenhagen’s big state hospital - yeah, if David Lynch was the chief administrator. If the writers of Channel 4’s The Green Wing weren’t inspired by this I’d be very surprised. It has von Trier touches like having the ancillary staff played by people with Down’s Syndrome. Many of the jokes are culturally specific: the cast is an ensemble of Danish comic talent, though the star turn is the endlessly pompous Swedish doctor (Ernst-Hugo Järegård). The Danes in the cinema with me were paralytic with laughter, and I’d lived there long enough to be in pretty much the same condition as they were.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The 1st International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

I’m relishing this opportunity to show you genuine art and thereby encourage you to be better people! I warn you now that I may get a little preachy, and that the phrases “cult classic”, “alien invasion” and “lesbian vampire” won't occur too many times as these are concepts of which I have as yet a poor understanding. The National Anthem will be played at the end of each evening’s viewing and you will be expected to stand for it. Thank you.

1st Night: The Third Man (1949)

A crashingly obvious choice. Best British film ever made? Well, it’s the best British film I’ve ever seen (which is not quite the same thing, I suppose). Expressionist lighting and movement techniques; innovative use of shadows in the murky Vienna streets; letting Orson Welles add his own cuckoo clock improvisations; the tour round the ward of dying children, where we only see the visitors’ faces and not the children; the sewers (more films should be set in sewers); Wilfred Hyde-White being, errr, Wilfred Hyde-White. But best of all is the long closing shot where Joseph Cotton waits for Alida Valli at the cemetery gates after her gangster lover (Welles) has been buried; he can offer her freedom, love and safety, but without a glance she just carries on walking straight past him.... and the zither plays on.

2nd Night: Modern Times (1936)

Buster Keaton was better than Chaplin, everybody tells me. Chaplin was a sentimentalist onscreen and a tyrant off it. My father hated Chaplin with a passion. I love the man. Keaton worked superbly with props, but Chaplin returned to the problems of human life and emotional experience again and again. Call me an old softie, but I think that’s interesting, and even better if you can laugh about it, which I did, many many times. As well as showcasing Chaplin’s honed comedy technique, Modern Times is also a depiction of the human cost of industrialisation (the mental breakdown scene is just glorious), which seems something worth saying but, like the message in his later film The Great Dictator, not many other films had the nerve to say it.

3rd Night: Tenue de Soirée (1986)

Oh dear, another film that “has everything”, according to me. A riotous French comedy featuring a classic French subject, the ménage à trois. Except here the trois are a mousy bald man, a sometime prostitute, and a gay ex-con. The first loves the second who loves the third who loves the first. Violence, crime, sex and transvestism ensue. The film also has philosophical French qualities: when the trio try to rob a big house, the wealthy couple who own it walk in on them but are so bored by their bourgeois life that the burglary seems a welcome tonic. Gérard Depardieu, Michel Blanc, et al. are in fine form and the physical comedy is superb.

4th Night: The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949)

This dank little backwater of a film concerns a Welsh village that gets flooded to make a reservoir - providing water for Perfidious Albion of course. I choose it for two reasons: firstly, it struck a chord with me – must have been all those childhood holidays I spent in a mountaineering hut on the north ridge of Tryfan; secondly, it’s by way of appreciation to No Good Boyo who put me up to this task, for it is surely the Welshest film ever made. It’s as dark and wet and gloomy as you could possibly want. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, it’s all filmed in a studio, as presumably the real Wales was not dark, wet or gloomy enough. It’s stars a very young Richard Burton and other folk with top Welsh accents. No clips of it on YouTube, maybe it never existed, maybe it was just a dream.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moldavian Joke #1

Are there any Moldavians in this evening? No? Alright!! This Moldavian goes to visit another village* and wants to buy a pig. He asks the first man he comes across how much his pig costs. The villager holds out all the fingers of his hands, so he counts out 10 golden beans from his pocket. The villager then slaps him around the face and goes off cursing. Perplexed, our man then asks the next villager he comes across, is again shown two splayed hands, and is once again hit around the face when he proffers 10 golden beans. This happens the requisite 3 times until he meets a man who accepts his payment gratefully and hands over a pig. Our hero inquires as to why the other villagers were so angry. “My friend”, says his trading partner, “nobody in this village has 10 fingers; I myself was born with 8. Good luck with the pig.”

* In reality this would never happen. But for the purposes of this joke we're going to imagine that he’s noticed the signs of inbreeding in his pigs, and so is looking to sire his gilts from other bloodstock; he’s thinking of trying to use a goat, but failing that another pig would probably do.

For All Our Moldavian Friends: A Disclaimer

There now follows a party political broadcast by the Regional Prejudice Popular Front. Gadjo Dilo takes no responsibility for their opinions – and Mrs Dilo says that people from other parts of the country are actually not too bad sometimes - but under EU regulations they have the necessary demographical mandate to air their views publicly.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#2): Stammering Songs

I was off work sick yesterday, but rather than feel sorry for myself I had a lot of fun creating this. Well I‘m sure everyone’s got their own favourites, but here’s my list of the Top-Ten Stammering Songs:

10: P-p-pick up a Penguin... Penguin chocolate biscuit advert. More a jingle than an song, and I always thought the old bloke Rex-Harrisoning the vocals sounded a bit dodgy; but it’s An Eternal Truth that you can make anything more lovable if you add penguins. Even stammering - so, thanks.

9: Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbara Ann... Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys. Not a convincing stammer on account of its musicality, but all stammerers are surfers at heart – out there riding the waves they can enjoy the admiration of onlookers but run no danger of being engaged by them in conversation.

8: Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa... David Watts by The Kinks. This falls down for the same reasons as Barbara Ann, and also because the “F” is not the first consonant of the succeeding word. Interesting. But the boy in the story - who longs to be like the eponymous playground hero - would stammer in reality, and this oblique reference is appreciated.

7: Blah blah....{pause}....blah blah... King George VI by King George V and Queen Mary. More a newsreel than a song, but George VI stammered for his country. Unfortunately, they gave him therapy and rewrote his speeches avoiding the difficult sounds. But listen to his long pauses: stammerers know what's going on there; and, like great comedy, great stammering is as much about the pauses.

6: S-s-s-single bed... S-S-S-Single Bed by Fox. With the stammer actually in the song title – fantastic!! Plus, stammering women are sexy, and this song proves it.

5: C-c-could I stay just one more night... One More Night by Yellow Dog. A one-hit-wonder by a band that apparently included many members from Fox (see above). So maybe somebody there does have a genuine speech impediment. I’d like to think so.

4: ugh ugh ugh ugh... Lucky Number by Lene Lovich. Not stammering as we understand it, but Lovich clearly exhibits the vocal gymnastics of a woman who has overcome a speech impediment in the past, and this great song proves to what artistic heights that can lead.

3: B-B-B-Baby, you ain't seen n-n-n-nothin’ yet... You Ain't Seen Nothin’ Yet by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Yep, Smashy & Nicey’s favourite. Why? There’s the simple reason right there: top stammering on more than one consonant.

2: ...{all of it}... Stutter Rap by Morris Minor & Majors. In all seriousness, this “novelty single” points out many of the genuine issues facing stammerers. For this it was awarded the 1988 Golden Gargoyle by the British S-S-S-Stammerers Association (BSSSSA).

1: Why don’t you all just f-f-f-fade away... My Generation by The Who. The one that finally made heroes of us all. Roger Daltrey didn’t have to put the stammer on, but he just knew it was right. And they're all there: plosives, fricatives, approximants, you name it. Number One for every reason.

Monday, July 28, 2008

G-G-G-G-G-Granville! (#1)


As I nonchalantly remarked in my last post, I used to have a most appalling stammer, and I wondered if by relating my stammering story to you I might finally purge myself of these demons. Arkwright in Open All Hours had a stammer, didn’t he. Repeating the first consonant - about 6 times, in perfect drama-school iambs - of a few words carefully chosen for their comic potential. My, how we laughed! But those in the stammering community laughed longest and loudest, a hollow laugh, knowing as we did that this was no representation of the daily tonsil-twisting, gargoyling horror of our lives. Poor old Arkwright, eh? But, as Mrs Boyo has so considerately pointed out, there is a cure! In fact there are many cures!! All you have to do is subject yourself to the one that your local clinic is currently experimenting with.

Somebody once told me that Pacific Islanders take a homeopathic approach, and stammerers’ brains are made into a palliative which is fed to other stammerers. Somebody else told me that in Africa they make you stand on your head so that your visual world accords with your topsy-turvy verbal one, thus bringing inner harmony. In the light of such advanced science we should not belittle Mrs Boyo’s own remedy, or indeed the esteemed Lada 1500 car battery. The ancient Romans, it is believed, threw the stammerer into a pit full of poisonous snakes, the shock of which ensured that the person never spoke again, let alone stammered. I had this done on the NHS. It was the 1970s, and a return to natural remedies was being embraced by all sectors of an increasingly under-funded and drunken medical profession. Only, being the NHS, they couldn’t afford the snakes. It was basically just a council refuse skip with a few earthworms with stripes painted on their backs. It was rubbish. I wasn’t scared at all. I ate a few of them with some Jacob’s Cream Crackers that my mum had given me in my packed lunch and then went to sleep in the corner.

Now, I’m going to tell you in a future post - and out of especial respect to Mrs No Good Boyo - how stammering made a linguist amātor of me. But now I’m going to tell you how it made me a MAN. Due to my total inability to express myself verbally, I seized at the one way in which I could give vent to the emotions that were clamouring within my eager breast. Dancing! Yes, I hear a few of the sniggers starting up again. Dancing? Do what?….like that Wayne Sleep?…. Quentin Crisp? - he’s definitely thought about it! Dancing. Well, let me put it to you, which lady wouldn’t like to have a Gene Kelly or a Fred Astaire take her in their arms? Yes, not to beat about the bush, there’s always skirt around when you’re a dancer. And so, many classes with Mrs Twigginbottom-Booth and broken hearts later, I’d forged triumph from the dross of despair. Still not convinced? Well, where’d a lady rather be at a party: sitting in a puddle of beer with the fatties in the Motorhead t-shirts talking about vomit, or being glided expertly around the fag-butt-strewn floor by the quiet one with the intriguing sexuality? Go on, ask them!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iggy Pop: Romanian Caesar


When I was younger I went to several concerts to see the man they dubbed The American Caesar. I loved this guy, his raw energy thrilled me beyond belief and, I know it's corny, but I felt he was speaking just to me. Once I even turned up at Brixton Academy from work in my suit and with a briefcase – one of precious few memories that I recall with any degree of pride. The point is, brothers, I’m now washed up a long way from home and from anything that affirms my own individual identity. Rather pathetically, I’ve decided that to survive in this alien culture I must prove that Iggy exists for me here just as he existed for me then. So..... oh, good grief..... here’s why he’s Romanian:

Pop is a very common surname here: we have a neighbour called Mr Pop. Romanian boys are named after Caesars: Iulius, Claudiu, Traian (Trajan), Tiberiu.... and you can even be called Cezar, as my nephew is. (You can also be christened Romulus or Remus - yeah, even the most Slavic-looking parents imagine that they’re direct descendants of Rhea Silvia and the god Mars, but that’s another story.)

The only other “American” man to look genuinely fantastic with his top off (and I’m speaking objectively, as a heterosexual) was Hollywood Tarzan and 5-gold-medal Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. He came from near Timişoara - which is now part of Romania, thanks very much - though he tried to forget this.

The lank hair is a strong indication. Indeed, many women from Moldova might wish to ask him which shampoo he uses. The wild eyes and sunken cheeks bespeak a life-time of either recreational drugs use or herding sheep around in crap weather. He could have done either, really, it’s hard to tell.

So there you go, pretty conclusive I think you'll agree. I feel much better now, thanks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Morning Has Broken Me


A strange thing’s happened to me, chaps: I’m so desperate for reminders that comedy, irony, make-believe, etc still exist in the world that I awake bolt upright in bed at 6am and rush to my computer to read your blog posts. But prior to this I was slug no. 1. When I lived in Denmark somebody told me that humanity divides into A-People and B-People: the former like the morning, and get up early with Mr Dickie Blackbird so they can enjoy even more of it; the latter are normal people who don’t wish to be alive, let alone awake, at any time before 10:00am. The Danish person then explained that A-People run the world: simply by getting up early they can seize the levers of power before their snoozy cousins have even seized their genitals. They can therefore dictate that in order to go to work, earn money, buy things, get wives and produce offspring (yeah? you see the chain reaction here?) you have to get up at 6:00am, which of course they already do. I think this is called “positive feedback” in Control Engineering terminology, or "a self-reinforcing and unbreakable tyranny".

Though morning itself is not the problem. Even hard B-People accept – and why wouldn’t they, they’re not unreasonable - that mornings have a right to exist. Reminds me of comedian Phill Jupitus’s session on BBC TV programme Room 101. He’s arachnophobic. But, very reasonably, I think you’ll agree, he accepts that spiders have a right to exist, the same as any other species. What he can’t stand is people that annoy him with spiders, concealing them in matchboxes etc and then letting them out in his face knowing that he hates them. And it’s the same with mornings because, left alone, mornings will simply go away and not bother us. The problem is the people who say “Oh, what a lovely morning!”, “Rise and shine!” and, yeah, worst of all “Come on, you’re missing the best part of the day!!” Tra la la. These people rule not by merit but by lucky biometabolic coincidence. Now it seems I’m one of them and I suppose this should feel like a triumph; but it doesn’t, because being awake in the morning is supposed to feel crap.