Saturday, May 15, 2010

T.T.F.N.

I sign a new contract next week. I’ll be full-time again and probably incapable of much beyond grunting and farting when I arrive home to the bosom of my family in the evening. I told Mrs Dilo that I’ll try to get home earlier than I did before so we can enjoy the summer sun together in the garden; I therefore need to leave for work earlier; I therefore need to do less blogging. And it feels like a natural place for a pause right now. I’ve still got masses of stuff in my head that I need to get out – heck, I’ve got many posts already written – but it’s time for a break. Thanks to everybody who’s made blogging such a rewarding experience for me, especially those who comment so regularly and reliably. But I’m sure I’ll miss it - and you - and I’ll be back before long. I leave you with the new team:

Now, I always was an optimist and so I’m feeling quite chipper about this new Con-Lib-Dem-Dave-Nick alliance. I've been hearing how it’s unfolded mainly from the trashy, dirty mouths of CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney and Becky Anderson. Two of a kind, if you ask me: both 44 years of age and with at least one divorce apiece behind them at a guess, with a slatternly grasp of the English language – “They have literally been tearing each other apart”, “Looking to the future, going forward”..... – and probably never happier than with a Malibu and black in one hand and a Lambert & Butler in the other - in other words, not merely TV journalists but gals I’d expect a 60/40 chance of going home with if I met one of them at a nightclub called Roxy’s. But I digress. I was also very pleased to observe that on hearing the news my (totally unjustified) inverse snobbery didn’t kick in regarding our new Beloved Leader’s background. And so - though I can’t top Gaw’s Sam and Dave in No. 10 - to prove the point here’s another Old Etonian we took to our hearts, the late Mr. Humph Lyttleton. Ta ta for now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just Wait 'Till I Get Through With It!

NB: I've written this post before the result of the election has become clear, with the intention to post it ‘as is’ whatever that result might be.

I totally (and shamefully) failed to register to vote this time – when I’d made up my mind who to vote for I realised I’d missed the deadline! But on Wednesday, on the eve of the election, I made amends for my lack of political engagement – I finally saw (yes, for the first time) the Marx Brothers’ film Duck Soup. (A lot of the gags are reruns of gags I already knew from BBC radio’s excellent re-creation of the Marx Bros’ Sheekman and Perrin scripted radio series Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, but that didn’t matter - you can’t keep a good gag down - and then there's also some great physical comedy, and was there ever a more perfect foil than the stately Margaret Dumont?). It was the ideal moment to see this film: “If you think this country's bad off now, just wait till I get through with it!” – about 5:48 minutes into this clip Groucho explains his plan for running the kingdom of Freedonia:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gadjo’s Turner Prize #1

A brief glimpse at The “News” on the BBC yesterday informed me that it’s that time of year again. I love Modern “Art”, me... it makes me righteously indignant as no amount of tax rises or human rights atrocities ever could. I’ll get onto the business of singing “Whispering Grass” in a Bratislavan public lavatory as a masterpiece to rival Rembrandt later, but there’s another reason for me to bring up the subject now: we have several blank spaces on our walls chez Dilo. I’ve tried to get my pictures and their frames over from UK but it was too difficult for the big ones. So I want to buy some masterpieces over the Internet that I can hang up, and here are the criteria for choosing them:

The Right Colour: Our walls are lime green, and any picture should match this tastefully.

Easy on the Eye: We don’t exactly have that Brian Sewell coming round for dinner too often, so no art in the house should be too challenging for our guests: poetic or classical scenes, countryside and animals, etc would probably be OK.

No Pornography: I did bring over some smaller pictures, including Edvard Munch’s lovely Yellow Madonna - that’s the mother of Jesus, not the Madonna - but Mrs Dilo’s convinced it’s Pornography! She’s even insisted I keep it my study, with a small curtain that can be drawn across it. I’ll have to be careful.

This narrows it down, and to narrow it down even further I’ve decided (for this first selection): No Rubbish. Here are some I’ve found that may fulfil the criteria:

#1 The Farmer's Daughter (by John Everett Millais): Mrs Dilo and I liked the recent Millais exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery - very Christmassy. This is like that sweet little Connemara Girl, but this one’s made a bit more of an effort. She’s a ginger, so is never going to be appreciated as anything except “Art”; but, oh, what if she starts feeling tired carrying all that milk about and has a lie down in the grass and... oh, I mustn’t think about that – maybe the wife will see what I’m thinking.

#2 The Washerwomen (by Camille Pissarro): Mr Pissaro’s pictures have plenty of green in them, like he got a job lot of it and didn’t want to waste it - I’m the same. Like me he also loves to watch women at work - but, hang on, what if they splashed each other and their blouses became really quite wet and....? Ah.

#3 The Lady of Shalott (By John Waterhouse): You really can’t beat the Pre-Raphaelites for sheer good taste - and gingerness. And there’s some nice greens here and.... but, oh heck, imagine if she thought nobody was watching and decided to take off her clothes and have a skinny dip??

#4 Deux Poires (by Édouard Manet): Paintings of actual limes – which would be perfect for our wall, obviously – were rarely done by your old masters, but other fruit can be a similar colour. Here.... oh, no, that’s just one pair, Édouard – we know what you’re trying to suggest.... typical bloody Frenchie!

#5 Diana and Callisto (by Titian): Blimey! This is more difficult that I thought it would be. A nice classical scene, outdoors, and I think there's even a farmyard animal in there somewhere, but..... And here’s loads more where this came from!! I had no better luck with dryads or nymphs either.... I’m going to have to give this up.

#6 The Alan Carr “Tennis Girl” Poster: Ah, now, maybe this is the one: tennis is classy, there’s some green in the background, and it’s a classic scene - the original Athena poster showing a girl on a tennis court scratching her arse (remember?) was indeed a classic, selling 2 million copies – but luckily here there’s not a woman in sight. I can’t see anybody objecting to this.


Ok, now the “prize”: choose the one you think is best for us and you could win Gadjo’s Turner Prize! Yes, Lana/Tina/Anthea/Alan Turner (subject to availability) will visit your home, dance for you, and let you paint her/his sensual, writhing, naked body with a set of Rowney Artist's Watercolour paints in the art movement style of your choosing - Fauvism, Dadaism, Vorticism... it’s entirely up to you. In the next episode – when the painting you’ve chosen is up on the wall and accepted as part of the furniture - I’ll offer you a selection to chose from that’s a little more modern and daring. To end, and especially for zmkc, here’s the immortal Peter and Dud on the subject:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

History Today #2

My previous efforts to solve The Transylvanian Problem set a ball of historical reassessment rolling - in my own head, anyway - and I fully intend to further pursue my investigations. However, there’s just a chance, though it may be a long shot, that we don’t have to rake up the past and thereby get on everybody’s tits. Maybe we can convince both sides that it simply doesn’t matter!* The only way to do this is trivialisation, and there’s nothing more trivial than a TV game-show, surely; so I hereby summon game-show king Mr Bruce Forsythe:

Brucie: Nice to see you; to see you...

Assembled Masses of Romanians and Hungarians (in unison): Nice!!

Brucie: Welcome to the Transylvanian Generation Game, where we try to stop generations upon generations of Romanians and Hungarians continuing to hate and/or distrust each other. Now, here we have Nicolae Ceauşescu who works as a dictator and who instigated a programme of systematically oppressing Hungarian culture and sometimes beating people up simply for speaking Hungarian. And he’s accompanied by his lovely wife – come over here my love, over here – Elena Ceauşescu, a semi-literate peasant woman who nevertheless required that she be revered as a major international scientist - didn’t she do well!

Assembled Masses of Romanians and Hungarians (in unison, and with %100 irony): Hurray!!

Brucie: And their opponents today are Miklós Horthy who works as Regent of Hungary - but he’s only got his hands on (emphasising the word and giving a meaningful look to the camera) the rump of Hungary these days.

AMoRaH (in unison, not understanding if that was a joke but suspecting it probably was): Ha ha ha!!

Brucie: And with him today is his lovely great-great-aunt twice-removed, Countess Erzsébet Báthory**. And it says here that – give us a twirl, my love, give us a twirl - you work as possibly the world’s most prolific female serial killer.

AMoRaH (in unison, despite themselves): Hurray!!

Brucie: The first game today is an easy one to get you started and it’s called “What to do with The Jews”. Miklós, when you came to power in 1920 you introduced laws severely restricting education opportunities for Jews and presided over a two-year period known as The White Terror when thousands of Jews and Socialists were massacred and sadistically tortured – do you think you can win this game?

Horthy Miklós: An iron broom alone could sweep the country clean.

Brucie: Nicolae, you sold Jews to Israel for a good price and invoked the fascist rhetoric of earlier Romanian leaders whenever you saw advantage in it – how do you rate your chances?

Nicolae Ceauşescu: We’ve made good money this way, but... (grinning) ...maybe I steal his broom later if I need it!

AMoRaH (slapping each other on the back and falling about in hysterics): Hurray!! Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Brucie: The next game is called “Who Should Run Transylvania”. Nicolae?

Nicolae Ceauşescu: (shrugging his shoulders) You know, there are more, errr, “business” opportunities for me in Bucharest, and every time I come to Transylvania everybody is so stuck-up I think I must have fall asleep in train and arrive in Austria!

AMoRaH (in unison, practically wetting themselves): Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Brucie: Miklós, how about you?

Horthy Miklós (pausing.... it’s a tense moment): You know, Transylvanian peasants both Romanian and Hungarian rose up against our rule, the Germans we installed there eventually betrayed us, and we even had to fight our brother Magyars the Székely on occasions. Hmph..... I don’t want it either!

A voice from the audience (actually Zsa Zsa Gabor, for it is she): Hey, Brucie, why don’t YOU be King of Transylvania? Would you need a queen??

Brucie (giving a look to the camera): Dthuthvugthrvth***

Another voice from the audience (Ilie Năstase, this time): And bring your former-Miss-World ex-wives with you – I find work for them!

AMoRaH (in unison... several vigorous, miscegenationist relationships having already started up on the back row seats): Ha ha ha ha ha!! Hurray!!

Brucie: Good game good game! (looking at camera) It looks like I’M the contestant for the conveyor belt round, then. After I’ve seen all the wonderful things on it, all I have to do is remember what they were. I get to keep every one I remember and lose the others. Ready? Ready.

The Lovely Anthea: On the conveyor belt today we have Transylvania, human rights, historical objectivity, political accountability, harmonious multiculturalism, cuddly toy.......



* Though it does, of course. Communist-era thinking is still in evidence and should be undone. I’m hoping that (ethnic Hungarian) László Tőkés, catalyst of the 1989 revolution and now well-placed as an independent member of the European Parliament, will lobby successfully in this vein.

** This is not really fair: she’s not exactly relevant to the discussion here, having carried out her activities in today’s Slovakia, between the years 1585 and 1610, and being a psychopathic freak that any society might throw up; but for some she epitomises, surely unfairly albeit colourfully, the dissociation from ordinary humanity claimed to be in evidence in the attitudes of the Hungarian aristocracy. And I needed a female.

*** That noise Brucie makes when he’s dithering.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Classical Music is for Ponces #2

WARNING: The following is of interest to classical music fans only, and maybe not even them.

Unfortunately I couldn’t sing in the amateur concert this month as my throat was wrecked by ‘flu and then by singing the high frigging As in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – what bastard gives tenors so many high As?? At least Beethoven had the excuse that he was deaf and couldn't hear the result. And it’s a bit strident, isn’t it? At least in Romania one doesn’t have to stand up. There may be another chance of a concert in the summer; I’ll have added more Schubert to my repertoire by then and right now, what with the garden bursting into life, I’m in a springtime mood!... though of course this won’t be very topical then, will it. First up it's Frühlingsglaube (“Faith In Spring”): an unusually “swoopy” rendition, but I like it, by Norwegian valkyriist Kirsten Flagstad and my homey Gerald Moore; and at the risk of sounding Fotherington-Thomas here* is the text. This year’s will it/won’t it ever get warm has certainly tested our faith in spring to the max, hasn't it. Next we have Im Fruhling ("In Spring") with two of the absolute all-time masters: Messrs. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Sviatoslav Richter:



* The gentle winds are awakened,
They murmur and waft day and night,
They create in every corner.
Oh fresh scent, oh new sound!
Now, poor dear heart, fear not!
Now everything, everything must change.
The world becomes more beautiful with each day,
One does not know what may yet happen,
The blooming doesn't want to end.
The farthest, deepest valley blooms:
Now, poor dear, forget the pain!
Now everything, everything must change.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Times They Are a-Changin’ #1

This town has come a long way since 1989, and even further since the country sneaked under the European Union entrance requirements limbo bar while the other member states’ representatives were away having piña coladas, games of hunt-the-soap and vigorous discussions about Uganda in Peter Mandelson’s Jacuzzi. There are many signs of these changes. One of the first was a Goth bar and Transylvania’s only Japanese restaurant; we also now have aromatherapy clinics, one of my wife’s doctor colleagues has made this place a breast enhancement Mecca, and an Australian woman set up a fetish clothing shop (most of the stock of which has apparently been nicked by Gypsies... hmmm, I wanna see that). Then, this weekend, I saw a sign for the Destiny Nails Salon. Yes?

#1: Back in the day this could only have been an emporium selling coffin nails (think about it).

#2: The salon is situated not far from where many people were shot dead in the (not particularly “velvet”) 1989 revolution, thereby fulfilling an Historic destiny. I’d like to think this is the one.

#3: When the smoke had cleared many received “heroes’ medals”, though, in good Romanian fashion, generally not those who'd been out on the street risking their lives. Destiny... Shmestiny.

#4: “Destiny” must surely be the name of a girl band – isn’t it? - and yet Cluj’s girl band is of course The Cheeky Girls, neither of whom is called “Destiny”, thankfully.

#5: “Destiny” is a fragrance from Calvin Klein - isn’t it?? – and the (Calvinist) Hungarian Reformed Church is just up the street. Ooh, tenuous.

#6 This mighty metropolis has several names depending on who you are: Napoca (Romans), Cluj (Romanians), Kolozsvár (Hungarians), Klausenburg (Germans) and קלויזנבורג (Jews). Now it’s surely the turn of our Armenians and they have "chosen Destiny" and the best of luck to them.

#7: But no, I guess we’ve been EastEndered the same as everywhere else. And I shouldn’t be so sniffy. Maybe folk do need their nails painted to look like the full set of Thunderbirds vehicles - though, ladies, if it’s of any interest, I’ve never heard any bloke say “Phwoar, look at her, get a load of those fingernails!”. “Destiny” is a difficult philosophical concept and therefore counts as (voice of the much missed Waynetta Slob) “exotic”. May its portals never close.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gadjo Dilo's Pecadillos #6

As my mother used to say at this time of year: Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonders where the birdies is! Our neighbour, the retired cobbler, a delightful eccentric and spender of all his wife’s housekeeping money on books giving him the Latin name for every single denizen of the animal kingdom, will know precisely. Springtime is also of course when a chap’s thoughts turn to meditation upon the opposite number, so it’s time for another appreciation of womankind. Strange as it may sound this predilection of mine is utterly genuine, though I think it's quite a harmless one, but then I would wouldn't I.

HEADSCARVES

I had this postcard on my wall for several years when I lived in Denmark. I was deciding, gradually, that the {expletive deleted} bint with whom I was in love perhaps wasn’t going to be my life partner after all and that I should seek a different type. I imagined this postcard lady as a peasant, perhaps East European, but she didn't have to be, she could have been South American, or have been any woman brought up under the tyranny of a totalitarian regime, perhaps Natasha or Joely Richardson*, and had met it with clear-eyed stoicism, sweat, great cheekbones and an ever-present scarlet headscarf.

Former British PM Jim Callaghan said (rightly) that Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner was "the sexiest thing on television", but it was largely co-star Hilda Ogden who took on the headscarf-wearing duties. Clearly it was felt Elsie was already attractive enough for your average British man but that Hilda needed a little boost. Hair curlers were also added and the rest is history, with men all over the country rushing home from pubs in order to catch a glimpse of her before hurriedly bundling the wife up the stairs. Despite their best efforts the producers could never generate the same enthusuasm for Ena Sharples' hairnet.

Isadora Duncan was famously killed by a headscarf: it caught in the wheels of the car in which she was riding and strangled her. Vanessa Redgrave (again) played her in the film and what great job she did. As far as I'm concerned this function of headscarves only adds to their femme fatale allure.

Pentecostal women in Romania wear headscarves which look very pretty and set off nicely the glory of their hair - perhaps negating the point of wearing them, but that's beside the point - especially if you're like Homer Simpson and nurture an attraction you barely understand towards ladies such as pious neighbour Maude Flanders.

Everybody loves Mrs Dilo's aunt Florica :-)


* Joke. I greatly admire Vanessa Redgrave, who has provided a couple of my most transcendent moments in the theatre.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Loco Parentis #1

WARNING: There now follows reference – agane and agane and agane – to a classic of (British) English literature. If you are not familiar with it then may I suggest that you go away and read it.

Well, even with your help I’m still not in possession of a “career”. And so, as I intimated in the previous post, I may have to resort finally to Plan Z and start teaching. I’ve got precisely one student, my neighbour the cobbler, but he’s as keen as mustard. First, however, we need to establish an educational establishment, and set out some rules, which make no mistake will be very very strict. My first decision is that I will teach Molesworth English - spellcheckers will be set to English (Molesworth), accordingly - this being an altogether better spelling system than standard English and much easier for a foreigner to learn. I do, however, want your advice on several other matters, the first being this:

THE NAME OF THE SKOOL

St. Custard’s
As any fule kno this is the name of Molesworth’s skool and would be a very apropriate wun for ours seeing as how all classes will be held in the kichin.

Porridge Court
Continuing the kitchen theem. This was also the name of St. Custard’s rival skool to wich they lost many matchs of indiferently contested and mud-encrusted sport. I envisidge mud being a big feechure of skool life here as both of us have a habit of dragging it in from the garden and ekspecting our wives to cleer it up.

St. Cake’s
Fiktional skool from Private Eye magazine with Mr R.J. Kipling as headbeak. The only subjekt tort will be the pome If... chiz!.

St. Delia’s
Delia is patron saint both of custard and of cake and our neighbour hav shown a marked interest in subjekts of cake biskits jam chokolat et cetera every time he hav visited our kichin.

St. God’s
Our neighbour is however a Unitarian - a denomination that was started in this town akshualy if you are interested in hist.

The Fotherington-Thomas Academy for Young Gentlefolk
Being uterly wet and a weed who skip along crying Hullo clouds hullo sky! and blubbing like a gurl when seeing a lickle robin shall all be compulsory wich is another chiz.

St. Grabber’s
Former head boy of St. Custard’s and captane of everything (espeshialy foopball) and winer of the mrs joyful prize for rafia work. Grabber will by now hav inherited all his parents munny and we can name the skool after him for the ushual amount!

St. Elvis’s
Molesworth’s skool hav Wandsworth the skool dog a creechure so uterly sordid he make me shudder. Our cat Elvis will hav to take on his roll stoping the mice pinching the Radio Malt and runing erands to the bookmakers.

St. Mrs Dilo’s
Coo-ur gosh wot a titel but Mrs Dilo hav been apointed matron and hav to do most of the work:


Pleeze vote for the wun you feel most suggest akademic ekselense, caracter bilding and plane comon sens!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Look to the Future Now, It’s Only Just Begun #2

The word most applicable to my current job situation is "limbo": the company I've been working for has just been sold to a larger American outfit, the champagne's flowing, and there's the prospect of greater things - but will there be a job for me?? As a result of your enthusiasm yet lack of unanimity or wisdom concerning my previous post of this subject, I’m still not sure what my career is, and therefore feel constrained to offer a couple more possibilities for your consideration:

Cobbler

My next-door neighbour is a retired shoe-mender, and he's becoming quite an important feature in my life. After I planted 72 tulips in his flower bed – not so magnanimous as it sounds.... they’re going to be a joy for me to look at too, my own garden is full, and he did a lovely job re-soling my shoes – he wanted to adopt me as his son and teach me his skills. (He also may become my first student in my new English language school, so, respect.) Now, many of the best people have had dads who where cobblers: anguished homosexual fantasist Hans Christian Andersen; cynical 13th century snuffer-out of English parliamentarianism Pope Urban IV (mmm, thanks, Wikipedia); and Joseph Bloody Stalin. Errr, I’m not sure it beat much sense into any of them. Whaddya think?

Peasant

Ok, now we’re talking, and over here that should be easy-peasy, you’d think - and I love the soil, me. But ah you haven’t accounted for the social pressure I’m under. Here’s a story. I was once grovelling around in a pile of dirt in the garden - potting up some bizzy lizzies or some such nonsense - and my mother-in-law was watching me. I could see a thought travel across her face, and it was this: “I dragged my family up from the village into the town, for which permission we had to bribe and then lie to the Secret Police; my husband then actually wrote a letter to Comrade Ceauşescu describing our plight of 9 people living in one room, and after getting a reply we were given a flat to ourselves; then, 20 years later, I managed to buy a flat for my daughter in a new block by borrowing to the max from every single person I knew, ultimately a sound investment as money was worth much less after the inflation crisis following the 1989 revolution; now my only daughter marries this guy who wants to be peasant.... full-circle, wheel-of-life, bloody idiot, bad karma, why did I bother.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Fools

On this bright and hopeful April 1st morn I’ve just thought of some great ways to fool myself so as I can stagger on through another week or so:

I do currently have a career, it just hasn’t got a name yet.

I have mastered the Romanian language, and being informed, as I was recently, that it’s sometimes necessary to use the dative and accusative cases together should not disabuse me of this opinion.

I am a witty and fascinating personality, and if only the cat seems to recognise this then that will suffice.

My country - from which I am so painfully estranged - is still run by noble paragons of the Bulldog Breed – people like Churchill, Gladstone, Cromwell, Alf Garnett.... – and to be born an Englishman is still to have drawn first prize in the lottery of life.

I will leave something to posterity after I’m gone, maybe not in the shape of offspring or revolutionary ideas that have changed the world, but Battersea Dogs Home at least can expect a little something from my estate.

Happy Passover/Easter/Vernal Equinox everybody!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gadjo’s Video Jukebox #9: The Road to Rebetiko #1

Yes, the ethnic music orgy continues for one more round :-) But it’s a welcome break from our Manele journey, and is by popular request from Nikos and Pat. Rebetiko is sometimes described as “the Greek Blues”. I love this music - as indeed I love most things Greek - and pride myself on being something of an expert as I’ve quite a large collection (having lived near reputedly Europe’s largest rebetico music shop, in Haringey, North London) and have read a book on it – Gail Holst’s excellent Road to Rembetika. Due to the Rebetico milieu's low-life reputation some reactionary Greek governments banned the music. This rather compounded the as miserable as sin aspect of it. But the sound of the bouzouki sends me, particularly a good taksim* – the extemporising before hitting the tune proper – but skip it if it’s not your glass of tea:



Here’s a short clip – and here’s a longer one, should you find you like them - of the two biggest names of old-time rebetico: Vasilis Tsitsanis** and Sotiria Bellou. He’s hardly an exciting performer to watch and she doesn’t have a perfect voice, but that’s not the point. They’re totally “inside” the music, and you’re requested to be so also: just wag your head, knowingly, philosophically, in sympathy with the ongoing Greek Tragedy of being shafted by Turks, your own governments, the Earl of Elgin and, now, overly complacent EU central bankers. Sotitria has the additional glamour of being a drunk, a gambler, a lesbian, and of having once served time for throwing acid in her husband’s face; but she's a legend, and somebody who helped many of her fellow musicians:



* I’m pretty sure this word is from Turkish. In fact, early Rebetico, having been in quite large part performed by the Smyrna Greeks who were forced to leave Turkey in 1923, can sound surprisingly "oriental".

** A Greek musician told me that Tsitsanis is mainstream and that Markos Vamvakaris is The Man. I’ve got some of the latter’s music but frankly his voice is so lousy that to “get it” I guess you have to understand the words, which I don’t.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gadjo’s Manele Journey #2

WARNING: This post contains yet more Popular Culture, (and other people’s Popular Culture at that). Normal, boring, service will be resumed as soon as possible.

There are still many other splendid genres of music to look at - from Turkey, former Yugoslavia and most certainly from The Gypsy Side of Town - before we reach the musical apotheosis that is proper Manele. We’ll have to wait a bit longer before we can gaze upon the fine young men with their gelled hair and expansive grins, their short-skirted girlfriends and their regulation all-white Mercedeses. But first here is a small glimpse of what’s to come: Babi Minune, a name which means “Amazing Baby”. He may still be just a lickle baby but he’s already got the voice, and the attitude – I'm not sure I'd want to be one of his teachers... I wouldn’t even want to be the woman who comes in once a week to teach them raffia work... and if I was his headmaster I suspect a strong letter to the parents might be in order. But whoever’s handling him has at least some appreciation, sometimes, as here, of the traditional instruments of Romanian gypsy music, instead of just employing the usual cheapo synthesiser. Students of Latin, a language dangerously close to Romanian (...and we don’t want any Oxbridge classicists coming over here and taking our jobs and sweet-talking our women, so naff off), will be able to decipher that he’s singing about The World Economic Crisis, which I think is laudable of him. In the second verse he clearly mentions Lehman Brothers and the risks inherent in sub-prime loaning, and in the third verse he has some really quite caustic things to say about Milton Friedman.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gadjo’s Manele Journey #1

I want to take you on a journey. (I want to go on it myself, see, and taking you with me seems as good an excuse as any...) The current, popular, Romanian gypsy music is known as “Manele”, and is nearly always heartily derided by anybody with whom you might conceivably want to spend any length of time, as in e.g. “Ach, the beach was covered in beer cans and used condoms and there was manele playing all the time!!” But I maintain that despite everything it's not entirely without merit, and that it takes its inspiration from some pretty worthwhile sources. By looking at these other genres of music I shall lead us at last to the Xanadu that is Manele, and hopefully play some music of interest to you on the way.

Here’s the first: Algerian raï music. With his fine, young voice, Cheb Mami was called The Prince of Raï. Unfortunately he’s gone considerably to bad, is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence in France and has worked with Sting. But his early tracks, like Lella rani ensaaf el mektoub, live on. But if Mami was the prince, Khalid (formally Cheb Khalid*) is certainly the King: a raï superstar - and exile, due to the music’s discussion of things that are not entirely endorsed by Islam. Here he is, as always looking very cheerful and slightly like one of The Scousers after a long and very satisfactory holiday in Benidorm**:



* I believe “Cheb” simply means “young man”

** I mean no insult to Benidorm or to Scousers, or to Khalid, or indeed to anybody with naturally curly hair and dark skin... quite the opposite.... for heaven’s sake this is just a blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let’s Dance #2

I’m pleased to report that the discussion triggered in the previous post continues, but for most of you I feel it’s time for something more light-hearted. Mrs Dilo and I are going off to the hills today for the first weekend binge organised by our Romanian folk-dance group, and we're very much looking forward to it. So...

Carmen Amaya is still for me the best flamenco dancer who ever lived, though of course I haven't seen them all. Just look at the arms and the way she works the skirt with her legs though, interestingly, she’s as famous in trousers dancing like a bloke, a style she made her own. She was becoming a star by the end of the 1930s and, as gypsy tradition demands, had to employ members of her extended family as much as possible: she eventually had an entourage of cousins and uncles at all times performing nominal tasks.... she never became rich! She was also ill; and, they say, it was only the dancing that kept her from dying - when she stopped, she died. Here she is just two years before her death. Now, I know that not everybody here likes dance, but, don’t worry, there’s also a fair amount of sitting down in this; there now; but I’d like to think you’ll also want to wait and see her standing up, if only so you’ll know never to cross such a woman:

Monday, March 15, 2010

History Today #1

WARNING: This post contains History – yeah, like you had to learn at school. If you think it’s long, tiresome and irrelevant to you personally, you’d be right. You may of course simply scroll to the bottom and watch the video, but if you persist with this attitude you will remain in darkness forever.

Over the last months Mr Gaw has been putting me right on the subject of History. I’d never bothered much with it before: I knew that William the Conkerer invaded in 1666 and would have o’er-run us with his Mongrel Hoards had it not been for Sir Charlie Drake, The Queen Mum and a couple of late goals from Pickles the Dog. All logical, joined up, cause-and-effect thinking... but that was about it. I even shunned the subject at O-Level, preferring instead to take a long, hard squint at the pointillistic miasma of phenomena that likes to call itself “Science”. But now I live in a land where history is important and must once again put on my thinking cap...

Transylvania was once a Roman colony, but for nearly a millenium, up until 1920, was generally part of Hungary, and contained a heady mix of Magyars (Hungarian speakers), Germans, Jews, Gypsies, Armenians and (generally making up the majority for as long as there’ve been records) Romanians. Hungarians came to Transylvania at the very end of the 9th century, that much is known; Romanians came here, hmm, well, it depends who you ask. Eh? So, is history, like, relative?? Is it possible that, as Nigel Molesworth (right) always maintained, everything that skoolboys are taught is wrong?? There are two main theories regarding the origins of the Romanian people. One stuck to, particularly by Romanian communists during those times, like shit to a blanket; the other clung to intransigently by Hungarian Nationalists like pit-bulls to a Gypsy. The debate is absolutely fundamental to the very heated question of who should be in charge here, and has often descended to Newman and Baddiel levels (see below). The deciding issue is who was here first, whether "Romanians" (tradionally thought to be left over from the Roman colony) were still here when the Hungarians arrived; but unfortunately the period under scrutiny – approx. 275AD to 899AD - is “dark” here even by Dark Ages standards. I shall now try to describe the two opposing theories - plus the “compromise” theory - briefly yet adequately. I shall fail. I shall then present my own, more credible, versions of events. You, the blogging public, may then vote for the one you wish to become the official version to the exclusion of all others! :-)

#1: The “Daco-Romanian Continuity” Theory (Romanians)

Romanians are descendants of the Dacians, present when the Romans arrived, who then learnt Latin, and stayed here. There’s archaeological evidence that communities did survive after the Romans departed, and tiny indications that Latin may have still been used here (perhaps as a lingua franca) and that the Dacians were Christianised and therefore Latinised (some current church Romanian supposedly comes directly from a Roman source). Early Hungarian stories also follow this line! Transylvania is Romanian!!

#2: The “Immigrationist” Theory (Hungarians)

Romanians are descendents of Latin-speaking pastoralists migrating from Southern Europe, probably ancient Illyria – some Romanian words can be traced to similarities in Albanian – and arriving here after the Hungarians. The Dacians were supposedly killed or removed en masse when the Romans left – reports at the time support this - and after then archaeology appears to give no indication that communities here spoke any version of Latin. Early Hungarian stories are about as credible as Jeffrey Archer! Transylvania is Hungarian!!

#3: The “Admigration” Theory (Appeasementists, Intellectuals and Homosexuals)

Two groups of Latinophones coalesced: one in southern Europe (say, Illyria) and one in what’s now Romania. Migrants from the former joined up with latter, greatly increasing their numbers and forming “the Romanian people”. No contradictions, everybody goes home happy.... you’d think.

#4:The “Dracula” Theory (Right-Thinking People)

The un-dead and therefore timeless Mr Dracula was based on Vlad Ţepeş (Romanian), his most famous screen incarnation was Béla Lugosi (Hungarian), and Bram Stoker (who never set foot here) had him down as a Székely. He therefore unites all the major ethnic groups... nice... and if you disagree he’ll shove a stake up you.

#5: The “Zsa-Zsa Gabor” Theory (Wrong-Thinking People)

With all her marriages and chat-show appearances, Ms Gabor is supreme commander of the shock-troops of Magyarisation, the natural successor of Árpád and Attila the Hun (not a Hungarian, but that doesn’t stop every 2nd Hungarian boy being named Attila...) It was clearly her ancestors who raped the honest, noble Romanians peacefully minding their own business in the Carpathian Basin!!

#6: The “Blake’s 7” Theory (Left-Thinking People)

As detailed in episode 13 of the second series (1979), but which was never shown for fear of destabilising the Warsaw Pact and precipitating a Third Word War. Blake, Avon et al. travel through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and arrive in Dacia just as Emperor Aurelian withdraws his colonists and transports Dacians to lives of slavery elsewhere; they cop off with some of the local skirt and hole up in the hills; it is their offspring who are the true progenitors of all Romanians. Hurrah!


Conclusion: Frankly, having looking at the arguments, there’s virtually no evidence for theory #1, though the paprika-botherers can’t really prove theirs either. (Archaeological evidence here is feeble... and there’s no trace of Blake’s ship The Liberator; linguistic “proof” however is much more interesting, involving Aromanians, Istro-Romanians, Proto-Romanians and the Balkan sprachbund, and will be the subject of a future post – ha, suffer!) So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the Romanians are largely arrivistes, bolstered maybe by returnees, and only just possibly joining up with a few Romanised groups who managed to survive here during that period. I’ve now got to break it to my (Romanian) wife....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gadjo’s Night at the Opera #2

WARNING: The following contains misogyny, vulgarity, decapitation, nastiness and, ultimately, more Country and Western music than it does actual Opera.

To continue the classical music theme, I’m very glad that my singing teacher enjoys Lieder as much as I do, but he also likes opera. I respect his opinion, but I do feel it’s high time that we at Gadjo Dilo addressed the task of extracting the Michael from The World’s Best-Loved Arias:

La Donna è Mobile (from Verdi's Rigoletto): Women are like furniture*: you’re excited when you get your hands on a new piece, but after a while you’re content to leave it in the kitchen and forget about it.

Nessun Dorma (from Puccini's The Best of The Three Tenors): The monster of the Loch, it sleeps; see if you can wake it up, Luciano.

Recondita Armonia (from Puccini’s Tosca): I’m going to try to repair this mouth organ, I want to have go at Freight Train.

Habanera (from Bizet’s Carmen): (Oi!) Have a Banana.

Che Gelida Manina (from Puccini’s La Bohème): Your tiny hand is frozen. If medical science improves by the time we get to the final act of this then we’ll take it out of the freezer and try to sow it back on again. In future I’ll be more careful not to sing in Italian and shave at the same time. Sorry about that.

Votre toast (from Bizet’s Carmen): Here’s your toast.

Tutto e Deserto (from Verdi’s Il trovatore): ...and there’s fruit salad for afters.

Glitter and Be Gay (from Bernstein’s Candide): I’m not usually a vindictive person, but I’d like to restage this – more a happening, really - using this Otis Lee Crenshaw song** with Gary Glitter in the submissive rôle.


Sorry to end on such unpleasantness, but there you go. Speaking of Otis, I think I’m going to take matters in my own hands and write a whole Otis Lee Crenshaw opera; heck, it practically writes itself:



* “Mobile” means “furniture” in Romanian. I’m pleased to report there's actually an astonishingly vulgar Romanian version of this song, which goes (when translated) like this: Women are changeable, as the crows shit, sometimes is hard, another is more soft.

** If you have trouble with accessing this video, try this (ignore the visuals, I've no idea what they're all about).

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Life in Song Titles...

Don’t worry, there’s some totally hilarious posts coming soon, but I’m in a reflective mood right now. Scarlet Blue kindly tagged me to do this. One has to choose an “artist”, and then answer questions about one’s interesting life using only the titles of his/her songs. I thought back to my formative years and wondered which of the great performers might help me – The Jam had perhaps the best lyrics, The Clash had more power, and The Sex Pistols somehow typified the zeitgeist. But no, I’ve simply chosen the best songwriter who ever lived (no, I don’t mean Max Splodge of Splodgenessabounds):

1. Choose a band/artist: Franz Schubert
2. Answer ONLY using titles of their songs.
3. Are you male or female: Was Ist Silvia? (Who Is “Sylvia”??)
4. What do you do for a living?: Der Lieirmann (Hurdy-Gurdy Man)
5. Describe yourself: Ganymed (Ganymede)
6. How do some people feel about you: Des Mädchens Klage (The Maiden’s Complaint)
7. How do you feel about yourself: Der Musensohn (The Son of the Muses)
8. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend: Die Forelle (The Trout)
9. Describe current boyfriend/girlfriend: Lachen Und Weiner.(Laughter and Tears)
10. Describe where you want to be: Am Meer (By the Sea)
11. Describe how you live: Täuschung (Illusion)
12. Describe how you love: Der Wanderer (The Wanderer)
13. What would you have if you had just one wish: ‘Av a Maria
14. Share a few words of Wisdom: Liebe Schwärmt auf allen Wegen (Love Wanders on Every Road)
15. Now say goodbye: Gute Nacht (Goodnight)

Ah yes, Viennese wunderkind and all-round gent Mr Franz Schubert. (A man whose visage, with its rather cherubic looks and unruly hair, always reminds me of Harris off of Porridge). So it’s Gute Nacht from me and it’s Gute Nacht from him. And, fittingly, this is the song that I'm (probably) going to sing in a small amateur concert soon:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Queen Elisabeth III

I feel I don’t bang my own gong too much on this blog, and I feel in need of boosting myself a bit, so I'm going to tell you how proud I was of this. It was my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday last weekend; we arranged a party for her, and I made her a crown. Her name’s Elisabeta. It was actually simpler than it looks, assuming it looks complicated, requiring a couple of plastic hair bands, some of Mrs Dilo’s jewellery, and cotton thread and wire. She was so happy that, to my surprise, she chose to wear it all day!! Oh, and here’s a tulip that we “brought on” quickly to be able to present to her in flower on the day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Armchair Critics #2

Mrs Dilo and I were really looking forward to these Olympics in Vancouver and to once again see the world’s top athletes sweating and straining to the very limit of their endurance whilst clad in skimpy vests and skin-tight lycra. But then we remembered that it’s the winter Olympics, and it’s not like that. Everybody’s in a nylon jump-suit like they were on their way to an ABBA convention and goggles so you can’t see if they’re really concentrating or just going through the motions before the après ski. Now, I take full responsibility for my views here: anybody who skis is surely enthralled by every single twist and turn and I bow to their greater knowledge, and indeed fully understand that they may regard my preferred sport, cricket, as about as interesting as a wet Sunday afternoon in Merthyr Tydfil. However, we were a bit peeved and disappointed:

I’m a bit peeved and disappointed.

So am I. And now that that bloke died in a practice session we can’t even hope for people crashing to give us entertainment.

I know. But now it’s a change from the skiing, it’s that jumping thing.

Oh no. Where they slide down a ramp and then fly off the end like one of those tree frogs off of Animal Planet and then land either a bit shorter or a bit longer than the previous bloke but nobody knows why?

Yes. What is there to say about it. Hmm, this one shouldn’t have chosen the red suit.

Indeed. He’s got a Nordic complexion, should have chosen the blue, and preferably in a lighter shade.

Ooh, I think this is the biathlon: they have to ski and then stop and see how many baked beans they can eat.

Baked beans? Are you sure?

It's something like that. Oh no, it's shooting. What's the point of that?

It must be relevant if you live in the arctic tundra of northern Lapland.

But who does?

Exactly.

Bobsleigh’s next. Did you ever see the film Cool Runnings?

About the Jamaican bobsleigh team? I did, and I thought it major missed opportunity. I mean, those lads could have totally taken the mickey out of the event for once and for all instead of trying to win it – they could have had Bob Marley blaring out of the in-bob stereo system and been laughing and smoking ganja all the way down!

That’s an appalling racial stereotype, I’m surprised at you.

Sorry. But you see now to what depths these ridiculous sports send me.

Err, ahem, I think there is speed skating now.

Wah! Oh my G...... Who let the gimps out?! I can’t believe I’m watching this. I’m going to my room to read some Kierkegaard - suddenly I no longer know if there’s any point to existence.

OK. Good luck with that

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hindi Cinema Interlude #2

(Can one have consecutive interludes? Isn’t that a bit oxymoronic??) While we have the expert services of Mr Ghanshyam Nair with us, here’s Anglo-Indian “vamp” Helen dancing with Indian sailors in a Calcutta dive. (Calcutta is the one Indian city in which I’ve spent any amount of time, and I have good memories of the cricket-crazy kids and the amazing driving skills of the adults!) I think I’m right in saying that being Anglo-Indian was enough in itself to suggest loose morals, but if you can also move about like this then you’ll probably need a large retinue of bodyguards wherever you go. She’s voiced here by playback singer Geeta Dutt and the film is the 1958 Howrah Bridge. It’s Mrs Dilo’s favourite song.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bollywood Interlude #1

I’ve been noticing for a while that some bloggers can post a video clip with a single line caption and get more comments in the space of a few hours than I can in a week. (How do they do that? Hypnotism? Nepotism? Or have they simply made a pact with The Devil?) I don’t think I can be so terse, as you lot are after all my only source of conversation about the arts, etc, and my only way of getting things off my chest :-) I will try to post some short posts, however.

Mrs Dilo and I like Bollywood, classic Bollywood, that is: she because it was allowed by Ceauşescu during the communist years (many Romanians are fans), and me because it reminds me of parties with my Indian friends in the UK (yep, really dancing like in the video below!) First Bollywood interlude is a homage to “playback” singer Mohammed Rafi; his voice may not be as perfect as that of Kishore Kumar, who became his main rival, but it has a warmth and urgency that I like. Here's Nain Milakar Chain Churana from the 1967 film Aamne Samne, arranged by the legendary R. D. Burman, outrageously big band and featuring (it sez here) a Chuck Berry guitar shuffle. I do hope you enjoy it. Rock on!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

St.Valentine’s Day Massacre

In which Gadjo trashes the tradition of February 14th and, most crucially, that strange comic strip featuring two naked pre-pubescents with no genitals (right). (I almost missed Valentine's Day this year – hence the belatedness of this post - but just remembered in time to pop to the graveyard to get a bunch of flowers. Here is what happens if you forget, curtesy of Gaws’ blog.) To do this he will use the famous phrase from the film Love Story and then pervert it, repeatedly. Levenshtein edit distance* (“LED”) will be employed to gauge the extent of this perversion.

Love Is.... never having to say you’re sorry. The paradigm. LED = 0.

Love Is.... never having to save your lolly. No worries about having to get your hard-earned dosh to a bank when she’s spending it all on shoes and scratch-cards – right, guys? LED = 9.

Love Is.... never having to pay for your folly. You may feel your marriage was folly but you’re still better in it than paying alimony – right, guys?? LED = 11.

Love Is.... never having to change your story. If you can use the same excuse time after time it proves your marriage is a solid one. LED = 11.

Love Is.... never having to wash your trollies. Leave them scattered around the bedroom floor if you must but washing them yourself will infringe a sacred marriage taboo. LED = 13.

Love Is.... never having too gay a hobby. Dancing, Ice Skating and Writing Poetry may all be said to be ‘gay’ but - and it’s a very big ‘but’ - not only will they put you in contact with lots of women but they’ll also make you a chick magnet. The wife’s not going to like that, and will insist you take up rugby, chess, or stamp-collecting instead. LED = 13.

Love Is.... never leaving to get your jollies. Make your sex life and your marriage life overlap, that’d be my advice. LED = 15.

Love is.... forever having to bathe in her glory. Perhaps the biggest perversion of all. She’s better than you are and everybody thinks she’s great. Learn to live with it. LED = 17.


* This metric calculates the minimum number of edits (insertions, deletions, or substitutions) needed to transform one “string” (in this case a series of letters) into the other; e.g. smite
--> kitten has an edit distance of 4: 1 substitution of ‘k’ for ‘s’, 1 deletion of ‘m’, and 2 insertions of ‘t’ and ‘n’. The algorithm for calculating (the very impressive, nuclear physics-sounding) Levenshtein edit distance has great significance in my life: having learnt it in my previous job I used it during the trial period of my current one; the boss maybe had heard of it but maybe didn’t know it was fairly simple to implement or that I didn’t know much about other algorithms – I passed the trial period and got a contract.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gadjo’s Skooldaze

My job may end soon and I have to think about what to do next. I’m actually taking this opportunity to review my entire life, starting from the start. Some of it went swimmingly well but I do usually prefer not to look back on my school days - they weren't so horrific, just so filled with naffness and embarrassment. In fact, so naff and embarrassing were they I’m inclined to imagine this end-of-year conversation in the staffroom:

Right, next up it’s Dilo and what’s to be made of him. Mr Bacon, what’s he like at sport?

Sport?? He doesn’t know the #!@%*& meaning of the #!@%*& word!! He can’t play anything proper, the only thing he can #!@%*& do is #!@%*& badminton and even then he swoops about like Isadora #!@%*& Duncan! Just give me an hour with him and a couple of Shōrinji-#!@%*&-ryū swords in the coal shed, Headmaster, and I’ll....

No, Mr Bacon, thank you, remember what happened last time. How is he in the metalwork room, Mr Sparks - did he ever fix the differential on your Cortina?

Did he bollocks.

Ok. Mr Shirk, you’re his form master, has he got any form?

None we can use. He lifted us a few Fruit Salads last term, but we reckon he just forgot to pay when he left the shop.

Pity. Oh dear, well, what about hobbies? Mr Sprot, is he still in your chess club?

Who?

Dilo. Weedy chap. Bad haircut. Stammer.

That doesn’t narrow it down much.

Well, if you haven’t noticed him then he’s probably not the next Boris Becker. Mr Brasso, didn’t he play trumpet in the school band?

Ay, he did. Bloody rubbish he was. Couldn’t get the high notes, or the low notes. We moved him to 2nd euphonium but ‘e were rubbish there an’ all. Tuba’s reserved for special punishments, as y’know, and triangle’s been stolen, so we kicked him out.

Oh, I see. Err, Mr Vaseline, has he been to any of your “art” classes? (God I’ll be glad when this man retires, only another couple of years now, and hopefully by then sodomy* will've been taken off the school curriculum.)

Duckie, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of him, not that’s it’s any loss I mean it’s not as if he’s particularly attractive is it!

If you say so. Well, seems to me another basket case, let’s move on...

Errr, Headmaster, just an idea, I know it’s a long shot but might we try him on, errrr, exams?

{A heavy silence descends. A silence you could cut with a knife, along a straight line between two points you’ve triangulated with a skool compass and drawn with a 2B pencil and a rather chipped plastic set-square.}

"Exams", Mr Chips?? This school never went in much for "exams". Strikes me you’re been sniffing the Chem. Dept.’s acetone again, eh?!

Well, I just thought we could try it. I’m sure if we wrote to one of those Examination Board thingies they’d send us some forms and whatnot.

Oh, alright, just don’t make a habit of it.


And lo, so it came to pass that young Dilo found he could focus his otherwise aimless mind for the few hours it took to take some academic qualifications. Though really none of this now matters a jot as he’s ended up earning a pauper’s wage in the European Union’s most despised and dishevelled country, so it let that be a lesson to you.

* It has come to my attention that Romanians may now be reading this nonsense, and I wish to encourage them not to jump to conclusions. This is all just A Laugh, for heaven’s sake, none of this actually happened like I’m telling it, especially not this bit. Thank you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Let's Dance #1

WARNING: This is a foretaste of several posts that will discuss dancing and will be of no interest whatsoever to anybody at all except, errr, me.

Last week Mrs Dilo and I and a friend went to see a performance of Irish dancing at our Romanian opera house. The tickets were expensive, and I think there was never much chance it would better the Russian dance troupe that came last year, but it was still a good evening: costumes, pacey music, professional dancing and even a couple of songs I knew the words to and could sing along to – smashing, almost like being back in North London. And I was glad to see the audience here giving a standing ovation at the end. I respect anybody who can organise a bunch of musicians and hoofers and bring a folk art to wider audience. (Romanian dance has as yet no Michael Flatley, a Moses to lead it out of the wilderness of village weddings and anodyne TV shows and into the major concert halls of the world). Just a couple of disappointments for me: firstly, no pints of Guinness, either in the foyer or on the stage, and judging by the covers of LPs by The Dubliners, the Furie Brothers etc I'd always thought that these were a requisite, and I really fancied one; secondly, the woman sitting behind me who was introduced as one of my wife’s colleagues said “Oh, you’re English, not Irish – a lot of Irish died under English rule, didn’t they?” (disappointment in this case with some aspects of British foreign policy, of course).

But one question that I had when I entered the theatre was still unsolved when I left. Here it is, together with some possible answers; perhaps you can help me judge which is the correct one:

Q: If God meant us to do Irish dancing, why did He* give us arms?

A1: God didn’t give us arms: we were created without them expressly with Irish dancing in mind, but evolved them later on our own initiative so as to better cope with this fallen world.

A2: God did give us arms but special arms that become immobile when performing Irish dancing – the boys' trousers in this show were rather tightly cut and the girls' skirts were really very short, and it would have been a sin to put us in the way of such temptation whilst dancing.

A3: There is no God, and no such thing as Irish dancing – it’s simply sensible flamenco.

Of course, I lie, you can use your arms. Sadly I can’t find any clips of glorious, cult, feminist Irish dancing troupe The Hairy Marys with their show No Snakes Please, We're Irish.... ah, North London..... but here’s the act we saw and it does feature at least one arm movement.


* I know. But I'm in the mood to be brief.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Welcome to Muppetsville

You may be wondering what I'm currently doing for a job after I announced last year that the boss no longer needed me. Well, he found some more things for me to do, so I'm still there, for a while, though on greatly reduced hours. One of these things included a gloriously boring task copying and pasting data about neighbourhoods of American towns from Wikipedia. Of course I had to stop my mind wandering away from the job at hand, but I still absorbed a lot of extra info about the demographics of the USA, proving to me, as if it weren't already apparent, what a wonderfully diverse and historically interesting country it is; and of course my mind did wander, and I found myself compiling my own made-up data about my very own made-up American town:

-----------------------------------

Muppetsville is a city in The United States of America, the third largest in New Berkshire, and the county seat of Muppet County.

The first inhabitants of the area were the Native American Sue tribe, who broke away from the Sioux nation after the Great Schism that followed the controversial 1674 Spelling Reform Act. Later, Dutch hunters arrived looking for beaver, but agents of the Hudson Bay Company, who were gaining control of the region, told them to stop it and go back home to their wives.

The origins of the town's name are disputed: it may be derived from the Sue word "Muȟpót", meaning "There's nothing here for you, Cheese-Breath!"; from the Dutch "Mupjet", meaning "Yeah, I see what you mean!"; or perhaps from Lord Muppet, a popular music-hall entertainer of the time who was mistakenly given the land rights to the place by the British House of Lords.

As of the census of 2005, the racial makeup of the city was 65.26% White, 29.29% African American, 3.84% Asian, 1.35% Native American, 0.23% Pacific Islander, and 0.02% from The Planet Aaamazzara (concentrated largely in Muppetsville "Pleasant Pastures" Maximum Security Home for the Highly Suggestable).

As at 2005 there were 65,648 households, 26.8% with children, 10.8% with a female householder and no husband present, 46.7% were “non-families”, 37.4% were highly disfunctional, and 28.3% have probably been on Jerry Springer*. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.14. You do the math.

85% of the population speak English as their first language, 11% Spanish, 3% Chinese, 0.5% Sue, 0.3% Hindi, and 0.2% Klingon. Klingon speakers are not uncommon in this region of America, but the high incidence of those speaking it as their first language is a result of the first ever "Trekkies" convention, held in Muppetsville in 1972.

The city has had its share of sporting success: the Muppetsville Muskies have been NAIVE** champions for 37 out of the last 39 years, putting the town well and truly on the global sporting map.

Famous Muppetsvillians include Dude, where's my baseball cap? actor Jerry Brad, serial killer Cletus "Muesli Man" Muncie, and WWF wrestler The Lump.

The city is represented in the Senate by Muff Watney and in the House of Representatives by Tagg Bigley, scions of the famous Watney-Bigley urinal deodorizer block manufacturing empire.

Today, the town's chief exports are corn, pith, and homespun philosophy, perhaps the most famous example being "If it looks like a Muppet and it smells like a Muppet, it's a Muppet".

* Stick to the facts! (Wikipedia moderater: drivelmeister)
** North American Ice Volleyball Event


AN APPEAL FROM WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER JIMMY WALES: Please don't copy and paste this crap into any data repository that might be taken seriously. It's written by insomiacs, drones and dodos. Frankly I wish I'd never started it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pizza ‘Ere

In communist times Cluj was famous for its pizzeria – yes, just the one – and students who studied here then, of which there were many, felt very privileged to have been through its portals. There are more opportunities now, and though the quality of Romanian pizza rarely rises above “average”, they do make a nice change from the usual, with all the usual suspects such as Margherita, Quattro Stagioni, Hawaiian, etc. But I noticed one here recently called “Bismarck” - is that normal?? And it featured slices of hard-boiled egg. Was The Iron Chancellor known to be fond of pizza? Did the battleship named after him sink because it took on too many hard-boiled eggs at Gotenhafen?? There were other, similarly strangely named ones; I think the menu went something like this:

Bismarck: Hard-boiled eggs (obviously), sausage, sauerkraut, iron.

Tirpitz : The one that never sees a pizza the action! With Operation Sauce.

Graf Spee: A “pocket” pizza, conforming to weight restrictions demanded by the Treaty of Versailles - it packs a punch but will meet its destiny on The Plate.

Hindenburg : A calzone-style pizza, the dough turned over to enclose the tasty, piping-hot hydrogen and then coated with a layer of special, (highly inflammable) anti-glare paint.

Charlemagne: Holy romano pizza. Tomato, mozzarella, oregano, Papal authority.

“Mad” King Ludwig of Bavaria: Prosciutto, anchovies, Coco Pops, baked beans, banana, Marmite.

“Mad” King Otto of Bavaria: Pineapple, sardines, Smarties (but not the blue ones ‘cos they’re bad for you), gravy, Monster Munch.

Kaiser Wilhelm II: Pickled artichoke, pickled gherkins, Pickelhaube.

Adolf Hitler: Vegetarian.

Willy Brandt: (Deep-)Pan-European.

Helmut Kohl: Cabbage.

Gerhard Schröder: Quattro donnicciole


And if you can think what toppings an Angela Merkel pizza or even a Konrad Adenauer pizza would have on it, then you’re a better man than I am!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

They Made Me Do It!

There’s a meme going round – e.g. Scarlet, Kevin – which asks one "to share three classic movie moments that have, in some shape or form, made me buy things/do things/think things that perhaps I shouldn't have." This is going to sound horribly pretentious, but my parents didn’t like ITV, so I think I never caught the buying-things-I’ve-seen-on-the-screen bug – we had Scrabble instead of KerPlunk.... I know, deprived – so I’ve chosen scenes that influenced or encouraged my thinking, whether for good or for bad I shall not judge.

Here’s the final scene from The Third Man, a film I’ve gone on about before. I think it was the last moments of this, the love-fascination, the fatalism - the monotony, even – the music of course, and Mittel Europa shot in black-and-white that started a particular romantic journey for me. And it may have started me smoking Balkan Sobranie (I’ve stopped now).



Here’s Karl Marx and Irene Handl (might communism have been an altogether more personable experience if only they’d stayed together??), and Morgan demonstrating that being a nutter and beating one’s chest like a gorilla are perfectly acceptible actions in the face of a complicated world. It was all the justification I needed at the time.



I did end up complicating my life a little, but I’ve tried to keep a sense of humour. Here’s Heaven from Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 film A Matter Of Life and Death. Amusingly, it’s black-and-white - compared to Earth which is full, garish Technicolor - and the set design apparantly is based on a Midlands bus station, but it’s a human, egalitarian, all-inclusive, Clement Atlee-ish sort of heaven, and, though I know we’re not supposed to take it seriously, I rather like it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Classical Music is for Ponces #1

WARNING: This post is a foretaste and warning of several to come that will deal with classical music and will be of no interest whatsoever to anybody at all except Gyppo, and maybe not even him.

I'm required to write a post with this title after having unfairly maligned the good folk of the Heavy Metal Community and then poured scorn upon our Jazz Brethren. Now, I listen to a fair amount of classical music when I get the chance, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not for ponces, as I shall now demonstrate:

I'm a big fan of Bartok, and living in Transylvania - the great Hungarian, composer, ethnomusicolgist and piano student botherer was born nearby and did much folk music collecting here - means I can hear a lot of his stuff either on Romania's excellent TV Cultural channel or at this town's Hungarian Opera House. The other day his 6th String Quartet came on the TV, and Mrs Dilo was with me. She doesn't enjoy this stuff too much but always knows when to keep her council. Rather than let her flip over to MGM Movies I decided to sit it out. For me it's a splendid piece, the last he wrote in Hungary before fleeing to America from the encroaching Nazis, whom he despised, and it seems to me a return to the folk music elements present in his 1st string quartet but which were then increasing abstracted in later ones. Now, to try to justify my choice of viewing I said this to Mrs D:

"Heh, listen, you can hear the noises and rhythms of the Transylvanian countryside here!"
{pause}
"Is that a chicken? It sounds quite agitated."
"No, it's a 'Bartók pizzicato', where the string is pulled so high that it slaps back onto the finger board. Errr, maybe it represents a turkey."
"We didn't have turkeys until recently. It's a duck."
"Can't be a duck, duck's coming later in the 4th movement (gulp)."
"And that is Uncle Tavi's dog, the one with no teeth?"
"Well, that was a leitmotif depicting an architypal Transylvanian dog, of which Uncle Tavi's dog is indeed an example. I thought the viola player did it rather well."
"She missed a lot of notes in the last section."
"No, that was supposed to sound jangly; in fact, ha ha, sometimes it's amusingly referred to as the Ode to the Dacia 1300!! (double gulp) It was quite ahead of it's time."
"As was the Dacia 1300 Lux Super with its twin wing mirrors and heated rear windscreen when it first appeared in 1970?"
"Exactly! Oh, I'm so glad you're enjoying this as much as I am."

I was winging it - how much longer could I last? Luckily it's a fairly short piece. But the fact I could say such nonsense without ever having farmed a piece of land in Transylvania clearly marks me out. Ponce.