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Saturday, March 15, 2003



At a time when people are considering their international loyalties it is worth remembering the things that the Old and the New World have in common at grass roots level; the ability to laugh together and enjoy and not take life or ourselves too seriously now and again. These traditions have shared roots wherever you live.Punch and Judy puppet shows have ancient origins; most cultures have in their history a comic Lord of Misrule.

Traditionally, in Medieval Europe, raucous Christmas celebrations often included this temporary investiture of this anarchical fun figure. We get peasants drawing lots and the winner given a paper crown and thus licensed to behave how he pleased for that day to mock those who lorded it over them very probably. That is possibly the origin, too, of a tradition still observed in France, the gallette de roi (King's cake or tart )where a flat sweet cake with a gold band around it and a trinket or small coin baked within the mix, is divided between family members and eaten. The person who finds the trinket in their slice gets to take the gold band from around the gallette and it is then used to invest them as 'king' for the day.

In Britain, Mr Punch, the beak-nosed protagonist in these traditional beach puppet shows, so popular in Victorian times, is in that anarchical mould and has his roots in sixteenth century Italian comedy, from whence our pantomime theatre also originated. I guess all situation comedies, here and elsewhere, have their roots in what was once one of the few innocent leisure distractions for the common man.

The shows I remember on the beach had Mr. Punch with a ridiculous high-pitched, guttural voice, courtesy of a device lodged in the one-man-show puppeteer's mouth. The device is called a swizzle and the instructions for making one are a closely guarded secret. Judy is Punch's long-suffering puppet wife and he would regularly crack her over the head with his 'slap stick', (hence slapstick comedy) chanting his catch phrase,"Thats the way to do it!" During the show a huge wooden jawed crocodile would appear, and a huge string of prop sausages.

There were strong elements of the traditional pantomime in the show, requiring interactive responses from the audience. Not just the kids shout back! Mr Punch would encourage the responses to be repeated louder and louder to enhance participation and amusement. When warned of the Crocodile. (What crocodile?) "Behind you", would yell the kids. "Oh no it isn't", shouts Mr. Punch, "Oh yes it is!" the audience dutifully shouts in reply.

The antagonist is the authority figure, the Policeman or Constable, who is rather pompous and self-assured but fails miserably to get Mr. Punch to abide by the conventional rules much to the pleasure of the audience. And inevitably Mr Punch gives him a crack or two with his slapstick. For more details and a full transcript of the traditional dialogues from one of the shows, click on this picture link.

This is a wonderful and comprehensive web site packed with fascinating information, extensive references and links. For another source of background information and further links try this Guardian newspaper article link by clicking this word, GUARDIAN
For a website maintained by Punch and Judy man, Des Turner, click on his picture here.

johncoxon 9:51 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

This is the location of my happy summer days but also gratuitous traditional childhood violence that our parents invited us to watch when I was very young.
Click on the image to find out what is one of the last remaining examples of this genre from Victorian England.

johncoxon 6:27 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
It is a tad ironique, that, in the present climate, relations have turned, regrettably, sour between the States and France and politicians have, ridiculously, renamed French fries and toast on their congressional menus. Le MacDo's (MacDonalds), America's splendid contribution to French cuisine currently upholds its original name in France as far as I know!

On the River Seine , in Paris, at the end of an artificial island, just down river from the Eiffel Tower, is the scaled down original version of the Statue de la Liberté. The Foundling Father's turned to the French to help them model their government system and the Constitution itself owes much to French ideas. French writer, Fénelon coined the motto that both countries now embrace, as a sacred text, namely Liberté - égalité - fraternité and neither is much in evidence in the glares across L'Atlantique the two nations are currently exchanging over the issue of Iraq.

The Statue was, it should be remembered, un cadeau, a gift of solidarity from the French people to America, to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. The agreement was that the French would be responsible for the statue and its assembly in the States, while America was to provide the pedestal.

Because it was such a massive structure, the French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, called upon the engineer Gustav Eiffel (of towering fame) to design the trully massif skeletal frame and supportive pylon on which the vast copper pieces were to be hung.

The statue was ten years en retard in being dedicated, partly due to a certain lack of enthousiasme publique in funding of the project, on both sides of the water. Now if matters between the two countries do get even worse, over what is simply a difference of intepretation of the word liberté, it would be technically possible, were the French to demand it back, for it to be dismantled, and packed back into the vast number of crates it originally took to transport the parts to America.

I am not sure if Liberty can see Elis Island, but from what I recall, language differences caused problems, back when European immigrants were vetted there and were given what I believe was the Stanford-Binet'intelligence' test, guaranteed, because it was a predominantly verbal reasoning test, culturally, linguistically and scientifically biased, to register any non-English speaking European immigrant with an inaccurately low Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) and, perhaps may have contributed to the unhelpful myths, about Europeans, favoured by some racists!

Ironic that the original test was developed in 1906 by two Frenchmen, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon and later translated and modified by a Stanford professor, hence the modified name. (Our ability to measure intelligence accurately is questionable; in Britain the Wisc-R { Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised} and its variants are seen by Educational psychologists as a more scientific measure of academic ability.)

At present being a francophile is a risky business in some parts of town. Currently, I have a criminal record for a drink-driving offence, love the French and theirs' is my second language. The Internet is the only way I'll ever be able to get into America, relatively safely,in my lifetime, the way things are.

Now certainly the statue is classique, the gift was a wonderful geste, and a great tour de force of French engineering. But monumental statues only model reality and in this case reflect an ideal, cherished by both nations, which they strive toward but can never fully achieve. Certainly many ethnic minorities in both the States and France will attest to a lack of real égalité and fraternité, and for many, liberté too, may be relative to which side of the tracks you come from. And there's the rub. Relativité. Liberty's optimistic light still burns in both continents, even though those previous friends seem to have fallen out, over taking sides. Each is at liberty to make decisions and should not, I believe , be vilified for exercising indépendance. In the Family of Man, there are bound to be bust-ups, but France and the USA have more in common than the same statues. Vive la différence, mais le respectez. If that doesn't translate, fraternité is unachievable.

johncoxon 12:49 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Friday, March 14, 2003

Click on this clip to see what the original was.

Click on this image to see a screen capture of an e mail I sent to the Guardian newspaper's letters page. It is a personal comment on the current sourness of the entent cordial between the France and the U.S.A. which was at its strongest when both nations had achieved their independence from tyrannies and were in their infancy.

johncoxon 7:30 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Funny thing is, that when a songwriter pens a song that has universal appeal, even though the inspiration may have been from an individual experience and actually about somebody they personally knew, the fact that they actually published it implies a wish to share a common understanding of human frailties or experience that we all have in common. If not songs just wouldn't be of any interest to us!

There is a common phenomenon of'identification', not only with the song, but the person who wrote it, an affinity that can never be real because we cannot really know the real person behind the celebrity although we might like to think we do. Artists get incredible volumes of fan mail as a result of this. It is largely unwanted attention , because that is the way they make a living and people need it to be more than that and also read into things sung or said that aren't actually there.

Neither can we have any real idea what inspired the song or what it meant to the person who wrote it. They just may have been playing with words, based on experiences of relationships or something else. Not only that, it is always possible to hear a lyric and have it have personal significance for you. It may remind you of someone you know or knew or be associated with a particular time or event in your life, and that can add to its importance to you.

Eric Clapton had to endure the agony of loosing his child to an horrific accident and probably found it cathartic writing the beautiful 'Tears in Heaven' and singing it in public, again and again. The point is, that even though, it is about personal loss and grief, it has a universal appeal, because it strikes a chord in the heart of anyone who has ever lost somebody through death or disappointment . Similarly, I am sure, that his anthem to his then wife, 'Beautiful Tonight' was much appreciated then by her, but ironic also because that marriage ended in disaster but quite a few women I know would have loved to have had a song like that written about them.

Elvis sang a song called 'I've lost you', covered by Matthew's Southern Comfort, and appeals to anyone who has been in that situation. Willy Nelson had that beautifully poignant lyric ' Always on my mind' that Elvis covered, not to my mind quite so well. 'Cheatin' Heart', a country classic, I sing with feeling. Wonderful Bonnie Rait came up with an astonishing song called 'I can't make you love me', with fabulous musical jazz chords to accompany her words. I can't listen to it without recalling the agony of wanting my marriage to work but knowing it was at an end. And then there was Carly.

Now it is rumoured that Carly had a relationship with a hollow American guy who was really 'pretty', artificially tanned and so pumped up with self-belief and a sense of his own importance. He disappointed I guess. Had looks but no brain or heart and, it appears he may have let this girl down badly because he looked a whole lot better than he actually was. It doesn't matter who it was or if she was actually writing about him . He wouldn't understand irony if he fell over it because he is, to my eye, totally shallow and encircled in his own publicity. Carly seems a decent human but I don't know her. She wrote an amazing song,'You're so vain (you probably think this song is about you') Trouble is, Warren, it wasn't about you, it was about men like you and every woman knows about men like that and it was a worldwide hit because Carly had that ring of thruth that threatens people like you.

That is something people like Warren very probably can't deal with and don't have to take a hard look at because they have conned by cycophants around them prepared to perpetuate the myth. Such lives are a sham. Anything private that is published isn't about anyone in particular and it is total vanity on the part of a person who sees what is written as being only about them. Having a song written about you is flattering, but failing to understand it is about the bigger issues is an indictment of everything you may stand for if it was , or you think it was about you.

If someone insulted me for what I published, or song or an article, and chose to take offence, that is their problem not mine. I wouldn't care, because I would have tried at least, to be honest woth ,yself and that way nothing can hurt or upset me. They can only guess who I am and what I actually meant. They would never know or ever want to believe that I actually thought I understood them too. Whatever they said wouldn't hurt me or upset me a bit. I don't take insults personally because they never can be from someone remote from me.Nothing they could say to me could shake my self-belief as I couldn't theirs.
The real point is what are you trying to achieve? Explain yourself, or make a positive contribution to the world or be lonely and self fulfiling and destructive. Their misunderstanding would sadden me though, but their bile isn't aimed at me, I know, but maybe an aspect of themselves they haven't resolved. Somebody may have hurt them once and they strive in every way to get their own back, symbolically, on the perpetrator, maybe a bully Dad, who knows. I wish them well, not harm. Carly, you did a great job with that song. Warren is, very probably, one of many male arseholes and they deserve what they get and the sad thing is they just don't understand because they hear what they want. Recently I talked of 'Balls' and bias, a part of the game, a general thing ,but some one took offence, even though i wa greatful that they shared thought that made me think creaively about what bias was. In England we have a phrase' if the cap fits wear it' . A truly free mind could object but not , justifiably take offence at what is simply a personal opinion different but no better or worse than their own. My words, like my songs are never about anyone and it would be vanity for a person to think they were. Warren, by the way,or the persona he seems to be, wants that song to be about him, whether it is or is not; egos that big crave attention whether it is good or bad.Carly's song is about guys like him and we laugh along with her.

johncoxon 12:36 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I was born in Plymouth, Devon, where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from, to what is now part of the East coast of the United States. I have had, it seems, almost since day one, the ability to remember images in my mind from very early childhood. I was three and standing on Plymouth Hoe with my parents, watching a spectacular fireworks display to celebrate Elizabeth 11's coronation and naval vessels in Plymouth Sound, were all lit up like Christmas trees.

Now, on Plymouth Hoe is the swaggering bronze statue of one Sir Francis Drake, who used to run rings around the Spanish Navy. Sir Francis was, basically a state-registered pirate, but he has passed into folklore, as a great British sea-farer and naval tactician. It is alleged, when told of an imminent invasion by Spanish vessels, off the coast of Devon, he insisted on calmly finishing his game of Bowls before routing them once again. Bowls is a very popular sport these days and has three variants; Indoor Carpet bowls, ( which is now televised ) Lawn and Crown Green Bowls, the latter very popular in my area. Lawn bowls is played on a flat-turfed surface and Crown Green Bowls is played on a convex, turfed curved

Originally, the balls for playing the game were made from a beautiful hard wood, from the West Indies, Lignum Vitae. In 1970 composite balls were first produced and quickly became the popular choice. If you want the original wooden bowls you have to order them specially. Borrowing the name of that British naval legend, 'Drake's Pride' is the Rolls Royce of bowling balls with a long tradition in manufacturing them.
But my real point in writing this is the addition, to those orbs bowled on various greens, of a lead weight insert, that causes the bowls to curve, when launched, either left or right, that is the known as 'bias'. The aim of this game is to launch your bowls in the direction of the target, a smaller ball,known as the 'jack', You win the 'end' by rolling your bowls nearer to the Jack than your opponent. To do this requires skill and tactical awareness. You can drive you opponents ball away by striking it with your shot, or using the bias, deliver the ball with precision, curving to the left or the right of your opponent's bowls , if they block the direct path to the Jack.

Talking of balls, the internet is a great vehicle for sharing ideas and opinions , but it is also home to people with extreme political views desperate to validate them with a wider audience and talk balls. I had a semi-anonymous visitor leave a comment on my open blog. ( he did give his name but not his location and i had no idea who he ws or how he found my site initialy) At first this person seemed to be simply disagreeing with a view I expressed about the BBC and sought to split hairs with me in a subsequent comment. When I web-searched his name after a second, signed comment, this time giving his first name as well, I found that he had a Blog site and used the same host as me. I realised that I was talking to a self-professed Texan bigot, who, (having seen the content and links on his site), I now know, was masquerading as an intellectual, on-line, and he was lecturing me about bias with regard to my personal view of the BBC. I don't believe he had any awareness of his own 'bias'. There are, it transpires, a whole lot of people with nothing better to do than to scan the media for confirmation that the BBC is 'biased', in particular, it seemed to me, some of these individuals are particularly sensitive to any apparent criticism , whatsoever, of the sacred US of A and G. W yuh's foreign policy, if indeed he has one of his own. This cannot be healthy.
Now, it is my view, that it is rare for BBC journalists to be blatantly biased. I maintain that bias is completely obvious and self-defeating, and moreover, when it does, on rare occasions, manifest itself, it has a certain value. It is all about that old spectrum. If someone lodges a complaint about a view point that is too 'lefty liberal' for their liking, they automatically register themselves as veering towards the right wing. Bias isn't absolute but criticism of it defines a person intellectually and politically.

Now there is no way that a person with an indefensible extreme view is going to be convinced otherwise and they are, for their own sense of self worth, locked into self-defeating logic and circular arguments. You have, above all, to ask about their motives and what, at the end of the day, is their real purpose in such disputes. A journalist, working for the BBC or any other organ of communication of world events has to report and inform. His or her particular politics or bias should not, and mostly do not, come into play. But to the prejudiced observer, not liking the view presented , say of his countrymen, his country's policies, will find it easier to see the reporter ( or the organisation that employs him or her) as biased rather than revise their own partisan opinion. To be objective;that is the purpose, aim or target of good journalism. Some people just need to hold onto their prejudices as they haven't the wit to revise them in the light of the evidence. They generally talk balls but cannot see it. Essentially bigotry requires a closed mind, and what is so sinister about my unwelcome guest is that he justified the lack of a 'comment' facilty over at his sacred 'BiasedBBC' website favourite , as a device for preventing the intrusion from outsiders with closed minds, who might pollute the site.He was talking balls.
Talking of which, in the game of bowls, the object is to get as near to the target Jack as possible and bias is a tool to achieve that aim. I think it is a good analogy.I guess the Jack could represent the truth, not yours or mine but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In the end we are expressing an opinion, and whatever bias we have when we launch a shot at the Jack, some get near or hit it, some go way past the mark. We have to go on what we are told in the news but we take into account what we knew before, and also what we are told by a variety of commentators and form our own opinions by assimilating everything we have learned. The bias of the polite, though deluded gentleman who commented on my on-line is completely obvious, but not to himself. I should, according to his jottings and web links, welcome the bombing of France, presumably because they vetoed G.W's self-fulfilling push to crush Iraq and the mistaken belief that this has anything to do with that terrible anti-human hit on the twin towers. I should endorse the Brit's right to be armed with personal weapons to defend themselves, like American gangsters with their constitutional right to bear arms. I should endorse Israeli closet terrorism against Palestinians. Oh migh! I am biased, truly I am.
I have no political allegience whatsover and nationalism isn't one of my beliefs. We have more in common than the boundaries suggest. Freedom may still breathe in an original, still-thinking mind, as would a concern for all fellow mortals but being slave to patriotic blindness or self fulfilling intellectual mind-games is ultimately destructive and compltetly selfish. But, all said and done, it is 'the sound and the fury, signifying nothing'. I was just talking balls and sharing my bias.

johncoxon 3:04 AM - [Link] - Comments ()

john/Male/51-55. Lives in United Kingdom/Engalnd/Salford, speaks English and French. Eye color is brown. I am what my mother calls unique. I am also creative. My interests are photgraphy/local history.
This is my blogchalk:
United Kingdom, Engalnd, Salford, English, French, john, Male, 51-55, photgraphy, local history.