Sunday, August 31, 2014

This week I finally got my hands on a record I've been after for years. It's the incidental music from a film of Roger Vadim call "Sait-on jamais ...". I give the original title because nobody seems to agree on its English name. I've seen it under the name "When the Devil Drives" and "One never Knows". The title on the album was "No Sun in Venice", which is maybe what it was called in the USA.
The music is by the Modern Jazz Quartet, and I love it. Now at last I've got it, along with three other MJQ albums on one CD - bargain.
The film itself has always fascinated me. I've referred to it before as a portent of the Nouvelle Vague. I have seen a review of the film by J-L Godard, vaguely positive is all one can say of that. It is for me a cult film whose only adherent is my sorry self, though I think I remember somebody I met in the army who knew it and approved.
Here's some bella musica, from John Lewis's score -

In addition to the MJQ's music, we were treated to a Gerald McBoing boing cartoon, a song by Juliette Greco, and snatches of a favourite song of mine, Bécaud's "Alors Raconte". Then there was my favourite screen villain, Robert Hossein, doing his nasty thing. To ask for more would be greedy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Today, being under the weather and unable to go anywhere, I watched a film I've borrowed - Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen Brothers film about a sixties folk singer.
Now I was a haunter of folk clubs in the sixties, so this was something of a nostalgia trip for me. I knew pretty much all the songs, though sometimes with slightly different lyrics, and I sang along with as much gusto as my weakening vocal chords would allow.
The main character, Llewyn Davis is supposed to be based on Dave Van Ronk, an influential figure in Greenwich Village, New York, USA, in the early sixties. If D.V.R. was anything like Llewyn D. then he was an objectionable twat. I hope that's not the case. D.V.R. was a Wobbly, an IWW, for some part of his existence, and passed through a selection of the 57 varieties of Marxist groupuscules in his time.
One of the characters in the film, Roland Turner, is played by John Goodman, a Coen regular. His parts seem to get weirder and weirder in the Coen stories and Brother Turner is a doozy. I have to say I was left wondering about the fate of Roland and his chauffeur/nurse, Johnny Five, whom Davis deserted in fraught circumstances on the road from New York to Chicago. But then he tends to desert everybody after sponging off them for a while.
After watching the film my interest in its place and time was awakened. I went online to try and obtain a copy of the late Suze Rotolo's memoir, but it seems to be available only in download form or in expensive second-hand. Sod that!
I have some D.V.R. stuff and must admit that there are better interpreters of the material, but he was a father figure and tutor(?) to more famous people, so he has his place in history. Apparently he too published a memoir. I'll see if it's available and in my price range.

Addendum, 22.8.14: something I noticed in the film credits and forgot to mention. At the very end where they do the "No animals were hurt ..."etc, there was a little seal bearing the words, "Kosher for Passover" - a Coen joke?
Mention of animals reminds me of a funny quote involving a poor cat Llewyn D. was looking after for someone, "Where's his Scrotum Llewyn? Where's his scrotum?"

Monday, August 18, 2014

I've been hankering after a poetry season and thought one was due. However, it turns out that it's only six months since the last one. I'll just have to give myself a booster shot, i.e., a single poem. I turn to the old master Sorley MacLean.


In these evil days
when the old wound of Ulster is a disease
suppurating in the heart of Europe
and in the heart of every Gael
who knows that he is a Gael,
I have done nothing but see
in the National Museum of Ireland
the rusty red spot of blood,
rather dirty, on the shirt
that was once on the hero
who is dearest to me of all
who stood against bullet or bayonet,
or tanks or cavalry,
or the bursting of frightful bombs:
the shirt that was on Connolly
in the General Post Office of Ireland
while he was preparing the sacrifice
that put himself upon a chair
that is holier than the Lia Fail
that is on the Hill of Tara in Ireland.

The great hero is still
sitting on the chair
fighting the battle in the Post Office
and cleaning streets in Edinburgh.


Anns na laithean dona seo
is seann leòn Uladh 'na ghaoid
lionnrachaidh 'n cridhe na h-Eòrpa
agus an cridhe gach Gàidheil
dh'an aithne gur h-e th'ann an Gàidheal,
chad'rinn mise ach gum facas
ann an Ard Mhusaeum na h-Eireann
spot mheirgeach ruadh na fala
's I caran salach air an léinidh
a bha aon uair air a' churaidh
as docha leamsa dhuibh uile
a sheas ri peileir no ri béigneid
no ri tancan no ri eachraidh
no ri spreaghadh nam bom éitigh;
an léine bh'air O Conghaile
ann an Ard Phost-Oifis Eirinn
's e'g ullachadh na h-Iobairt
a chuir suas e fhéin air séithir
an naoimhe na'n Lia Fàil
th'air Cnoc na Teamhrach an Eirinn.

Tha an curaidh mór fhathast
'na shuidhe air an tséithir
ag cur a' chatha 'sa Phost-Oifis
's ag glanadh shràidean an Dun-Eideann.

(1971, English translation by the author)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday.
The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August."

In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings. Like the congressmen, they will also go to Ramallah, for a meeting with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Among the countries represented on the trip are Albania, Barbados, Belize, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Macedonia, St. Lucia and Uganda.
Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.
(Jerusalem Post, August 13th 2014)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"One must remember that, just between the beginning of 2012 and the end of 2013, pro-Israel lobby groups donated over $8 million dollars to Congressional and presidential candidates. Over the last couple of decades, these lobbies have donated tens of millions of dollars to candidates. And there are few more self-serving bodies in the world than the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. So what if babies, sleeping in their cribs, are savagely ripped apart by weapons that violate international law? Criticizing such murders might reduce the size of the check from some Israeli lobby or other. No, the risk there is far too great.
"So, while barely murmuring a whisper in opposition to Israeli genocide of the Palestinians, the U.S. finances it. While indicating some displeasure with Israel’s decision to bomb a U.N. school housing thousands of Palestinian refugees, the U.S. actually sends more weapons to Israel, so it can continue ‘mowing the Gaza lawn’."
(Robert Fantina)

Monday, August 11, 2014

La República de los Desperados

Many years ago I read a book called "Gentlemen Convicts" by one François Poli. It was translated from the French ("Gentlemen Bagnards") by one Naomi Walford. The original was published in 1959, the English translation in 1960.
The story told was of the adventures of some escapees from the penal colonies of French Guiana. The main characters survived many ordeals and became, under assumed identities, successful businessmen in the Caribbean.
One of the men, Elizondo, spent some time in a place known as the Desperadoes' Republic. When I read the account I wasn't sure whether the Republic was a real place or a product of the author's imagination. I still don't to be honest.
however, a few years later I read an article in a magazine about the republic. It didn't appear to be based on Poli's book. A couple of names occurred in both accounts; the town of Camaia, the American Marcus, or Markus. One additional detail from the magazine article; the authorities in Colombia, or Venezuela, or both, had had enough of the Republic. bombed it from the air, and ended its existence.
Once I got access to the internet I went in search of more information on the Desperadoes' Republic. To my astonishment I found none. Not in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. Could the whole thing have been a tall story?
I have decided to post this so that some account exists on the internet. First, as a starting point for anyone undertaking a search, as I did. Second, to draw out any information that is held by others but not yet published. The following is quoted direct from Poli's book (novel?).

It is called the Republica de los Desperados because it is peopled exclusively by ex-convicts, murderers, thieves and gangsters whom no country in the world will receive within its borders. It lies on the borders of Colombia an Venezuela, between the Rio Negro and the Orinoco. The story began in about 1930.
The first outlaws to settle in this territory, which is half the size of France and is covered with virgin forest, had only one aim; to escape the police who were on their trail. There were all sorts among them: Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian bandits, escaped convicts from both American prisons and from Saint-Laurent-du-maroni. For some the only law recognised was was that of the knife and the Colt. Then a leader was appointed; he collected "ministers" about him and drew up a code of laws which the outlaws agreed to respect. And they did respect it. there was honour among thieves. The penalty for the first offence was expulsion from the Republic; for the second, a bullet. They had law courts, police and an executioner. But they had to live, and as panning for gold did not bring in enough, the desperadoes organised periodic raids beyond their borders with the object of attacking shepherds and robbing them of their flocks. Complaints reached Caracas and Bogota and the existence of the Republic was revealed. The police sent in punitive expeditions, which failed. Robbery continued. New arrivals crossed the frontier every week, the greater number coming from American prisons and the French penal settlement in Guiana; but there were also women from the casitas of Rio, Buenos Aires and Caracas. How did they get through the forest? No one knows. They arrived in a state of exhaustion,lured by gold and diamonds and by these men, who had the reputation for being open-handed. Saloons on the western model were opened, and a whole town grew out of the jungle; it was called Camaia. Hostilities at an end, a deputation of outlaws went to Bogota and concluded a strange treaty with the Colombian government. The desperadoes would refrain from stealing livestock on condition that no police ever entered their territory, and that they might be allowed to live in peace.


[Here Elizondo is speaking]
"The man who is president today is called Markus: an escaped prisoner from America. The mayor of Camaia, the second man in the state, is an Italian; the chief of police is a Corsican. Nearly all the traders are from Central Europe; the builders from Italy. Many of the sheep-men are American ex-convicts. Altogether there are between fifteen and thirty thousand men in the Republica de los Desperados, but there are no statistics to give the exact figures of the population. ... It seems that in Camaia they're getting worried, and that Venezuela and Colombia have had enough of the Republica."

Friday, August 08, 2014

Plenty of Palestinian children left alive, Mr. Obama. Send more bombs and bullets to Sergeant R. and his comrades. US taxpayers are not complaining.

An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday.

Friday, August 01, 2014

"It has been exposed as war propaganda by too many sources to count, including UN reports, investigations by Human Rights Watch, & international journalists. In fact, UN reports document that it’s Israel that uses Palestinian children as human shields & accuses Israel of torturing & abusing Palestinian children in the Israeli gulag, including with solitary confinement & threats of sexual assault. These are not Hamas accusations. They come from UNICEF & the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in reports issued just last year."
(Mary Scully on the Israel's big lie)