The Autumn Leaves

As a three-year-old, I can remember sitting on the floor in the living room near my dad’s old Montreal-made Willis upright piano, while he played one of his very favourites, Autumn Leaves.

Here is Eric Clapton doing a sweet, sweet version. The photos were taken this morning before I raked the back yard to give our overseeded lawn a little more sunlight. The maple, shown here, will produce more. I’ll mulch them later.

Penny Lane

Always looking for fun, upbeat songs for my hospital volunteer work. The Beatles’ Penny Lane qualifies as upbeat, if a little quirky and tricky in parts. The lead sheets below will play along with this YouTube video if you put a capo on fret 2. Hope they help.

I had fun putting this together. The typed in chords will fit well with David Mason’s weird Bb piccolo trumpet bridge. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto (who knew?) was McCartney’s inspiration for adding the tiny trumpet, which, for me, just consolidates the Beatles’ (and producer, George Martin’s) outstanding, if occasionally “sloppy,” pure inventive genius!

Have a blast! Let me know if this helped you…

Kraków, Ancient Capital – May 7

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How to Kill a Dragon Named Smok:

The old story is told that Kraków was founded in 350 A.D. by a bloke named Krakus. He had a beautiful daughter, handy if you want dangerous work done. Let’s call her Jo. Worried by Smok, who lived in a cave under Wawel Hill (see model above), Krakus offered Jo’s hand in marriage to any man who could snuff Smok. Many tried, but when they cut off Smok’s head, he grew two more instantly. It was a bloody, dragon-head-filled while before one chappie whom I’ll call Pawel figured out that cutting off one or more heads just made things worse. He poisoned a goat and left it in front of Smok’s cave. Poison worked. Pawel won the damsel, Jo’s dowry and a lifetime supply of Grey Goose.

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We had a lazy morning, since we had opted not to opt for the optional tour of the Salt Mines.There were many stairs down even after the elevator. Going down a ton of stairs is hard for Anita. We still had 9 days left in our trip; not a time to risk your mobility! I opted to stay at the Sheraton with her, tying up some loose ends… where to eat lunch, what museum(s) to see after lunch, and how we might fit in a walk to the 14th C. Kazimierz neighbourhood… until our Salt o’ the Deep Earth group got back. The Salt Mine, and its beautiful acoustic space and sculpture, is a World Heritage Site. Kinda wish I’d gone…

Wawel Hill:

Anyway, when the salts, old and young, returned and had been hosed down with Perrier and rubbed up with aloe cream, we walked up Wawel Hill. Our local expert took us through its cathedral. Most of the royal bodies are kept there, so it is still the most important cathedral in Poland. Continue reading “Kraków, Ancient Capital – May 7”

If Europe Really Cared…

Acropolis from the Plaka Hotel, October 24, 2011
Acropolis from the Plaka Hotel, October 24, 2011 … Hey, is THIS for sale???

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Europe has never been asked what happened to what they gave Greece. They simply didn’t control it. Why not? Because Germany and France have done good business.

Petros Markaris

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Petros Markaris is a very popular Athens-based, Greek author and playwright who has created a series of novels based on an Athens police detective called Costas Haritos. Markaris was born in 1937 in Istanbul to an Armenian  father and Greek mother. The family moved to Athens when Markaris was 17. He went to university in Vienna and can write in German, Greek and Turkish. He has lived in Athens for four decades. He is a candid lover of Greece and an astute observer of its politics.

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Continue reading “If Europe Really Cared…”

The Greeks Get It

Pynx Hill, behind the Agora's middle stoa - where Athenians voted 260 to 220 against Socrates
Pynx Hill, behind the Agora’s middle stoa – where Athenians voted 280 to 220 against Socrates in 399 BC

Greeks learn once more the lesson

That Socrates taught

Until his soul was silenced.

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Socrates never wrote anything down, but Plato, his best-known student, attributed the following quote to Socrates when he spoke at his trial on the Pynx Hill, just north of the Agora:
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An unexamined life is not worth living.
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Socrates preferred to drink hemlock rather than face a sentence of exile or enforced silence enforced by the powerful, ignorant and  selfish in an Athens recently humiliated by Sparta.
The vast majority of  21st century humans have absorbed nothing of ethical importance in the 24 centuries since Socrates.
Simon and Garfunkel had it figured out as early as 1966: The Sound of Silence:
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We are praying to a Neon god.
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Smug, we ridicule the Greeks, quoting from neoliberal scripture, while not getting what’s really going on. Being already victimized makes them wiser than us.  So are Palestinians, Southern Sudanese, the Nile fellahin who have been displaced over the past several years from their farmland by the rush to build hotels for the smug, etc. etc. fere ad infinitum.

Vienna – May 15

Detail from the Pestsaüle showing a kneeling Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I
Detail from the Pestsaüle showing a kneeling Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I

Our tour returned to its starting place, Vienna, on May 15, 2015 after 12 days on an Insight Vacations bus visiting major cities and key sites in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. If you count our drive-through of Slovakia while heading north from Budapest to Kraków we visited six countries.

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May 15 was our last night with the tour – and our last Vienna night in a 5-star hotel! We were happy to see our local expert from May 4, Peter, on the 15th. Peter took us to the Hofburg Palace and then inside Stephansdom, Vienna’s great 13th C. cathedral. We walked around the old parts of town, including the Jewish section and had a peek inside the simple, Romanesque St. Rupert’s Church, c. 800 A.D., with the oldest bells and stained glass windows in Vienna. Peter also showed us two things related to the plague that hit Vienna in the 7th C:

  1. The Pestsaüle (Plague Column), featuring Leopold I with his huge Habsburg-inbred jaw, and
  2. A restaurant called Der Liebe Augustin, after the famous 7th C. piper minstrel named Marx Augustin who brightened up those scary plagued times and wrote O Du Lieber Augustin, a simple, forgettable ditty that somehow is remembered still today – well… until my day anyway. The restaurant has an upward staring, yet somehow iconic, Augustin, complete with pipes, in a cellar below a barred trap door as you enter the place. He is sprinkled with hundreds of bright, copper coins.

Later, Kari Anne and Alex took us to a lovely farewell banquet in the Palais Auersperg that was followed by a beautiful concert in the same palace put on by the Vienna Residence Orchestra. From the first chord I realized we were in for a treat. They played, sang and danced favourites by Mozart and Johann Strauss II, with the de rigueur performance of the Radetsky March by Johann Strauss I.

Concert Tickets :))
Concert Tickets :))

A beautiful end to a fabulous bus tour of Central Europe. We spent four more fascinating self-planned days in Vienna. More later on those…

Some photos from may 15:

Laudato Si – A “Third Testament”

Laudato Si is a great title for Pope Francis’ brave, direct encyclical on our collective human responsibility for polluting and endangering our home here on earth. Francis of Assisi was the first European environmentalist. He wrote his Canticle to the Sun back in 1223 in Italian, and this 2015 encyclical by our modern Francis, eight centuries later, is named Laudato Si after the 5th line in the Canticle. “Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature” translates as:

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures

All “creatures” on this earth give simple, pure praise by their very existence and diversity. Canticle of the Sun is, in a way, a “Third Testament”, more evolved than the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament, in Genesis 1: 26, clearly expresses God’s wish that we be masters of all the other creatures. It is easily seen as flawed and human-centric when viewed in today’s precarious setting by all but the most closed minds. Here I offer an original song about interconnectedness. It is called Sapphire, after the iconic photo from space that helped us realize how beautiful and precious is Planet Earth. The New Testament tells Christians that God the Father sacrificed his son, Jesus, to redeem humanity from our sins.

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Brother Sun and Sister Moon… What I call the “Third Testament” was perceived back in 1223 by the revolutionary genius and sensitivity of Francis of Assisi and by indigenous peoples many millennia ago. In Canticle of the Sun Francis personifies even the inanimate to show the intimacy of every thing in our universe. Here, Francis celebrates not the triumphant division of creation into masters and chattels, but the oneness and interdependence of all living and non-living things on earth. What the “Third Testament” tells us, if we are truly listening, is that we must now struggle  in extreme haste to see creation as one. We must see our “enemies,” in love and vulnerability, as partners in our urgent struggle.

We humans must, in fact, redeem ourselves.

Lili Marlen 1915-2015

Photo Credit - Corey Padgett
Photo Credit – Corley Padgett

This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015,  is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.

The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942.  Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.

The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.

I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…

I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.

Be

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In Hindi, the words Vasudhaiva Kutumbam mean “Earth Family,” the democracy of all life.

(Quoted from Vandana Shiva’s Restoring the Earth in David Suzuki’s 1997 book, The Sacred Balance.) I thought of using Earth Family as a title for the poem, but reduced it to “Be.” For more on Vandana Shiva see the end of this post.

How to live? How to be?

I wrote lines one and three of the above haiku on a plane, after making notes on Suzuki’s book. The sky just before sunset on October 18th was spectacular looking West in the late afternoon from the Caribbean Airlines plane bringing us back from a family funeral.

By flying return to Trinidad, about 4055 km (2535 miles) one way, the two of us together “caused” about  5 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. 2.5 tonnes each. That’s enough CO2 to grow about 23, 500 tonnes of potatoes – if that helps you understand the impact that modern travel has on global warming and highlight the difficult ethical choices which, if not faced right now, will produce  much global suffering in the not too distant future. It will take some fortunate gardener working for a long while to turn that amount of gas into potatoes. These CO2 numbers are based on information from www.deliveringdata.com.

Something about turning 70 today makes me reflect more intensely on big issues.Thinking about the world I’m leaving for my grandchildren – not that I’m planning to resign anytime soon…

As promised, I have done more thinking about Décroissance. It is definitely going to be a while as I grow in awareness and commitment. But here goes:

Continue reading “Be”