Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.

Friday, October 20, 2006

the cult of lewis taylor

the cult of lewis taylor
Originally uploaded by wacky doodler.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

etnobofin has moved!

etnobofin has moved to a new site:

The amazing adventure continues at !

Please update your links. Thanks to everyone who has visited and contributed to the etnobofin Blogger site over the past 17 months, and I hope you will enjoy the new site.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scènes Européenes: Letter to America Part 2

Continued from Part 1...

Apart from the children, who were generally great fun, the main reason I headed to Basel was for the Herbstmäss- the autumn market which is one of the traditions of Basel. E-D is friends with the President of the Basel Church History society, (or something like that), and so he was able to get us into the opening ceremony of the Herbstmäss-,which takes place at the top of the belltower of the Martinkirche (St Martin’s Church) in the old town.

The bells of the Martinkirche are rung at midday on the first day of the Herbstmäss and at the end of the market at the end of the week. A local Basel citizen is chosen to be the bell-ringer, and as payment for his duty, he gets a pair of black gloves. BUT. But. He receives one after ringing the opening bells, and then the second one to complete the pair when he rings the bells at the end of the market. He also gets to wear a little horn-shaped trumpet around his neck for the duration of the market.

So there we were, climbing the rickety mediaeval staircase of the Martinkirche, and at the top we joined a group of guests crowded into the bell-ringer’s room at the top of the tower. (The bell-ringer used to live up here, and had the best view in the city. It’s still the best view in Basel and nobody is allowed up there normally.)

At five minutes to twelve, the bellringer was presented with one black glove. He then went over to the window and leant out, waving his glove and blowing his little trumpet to show the crowd below that he had received the first half of his salary. Then at 12:00 exactly (and remember that this IS Switzerland, so you can be sure that it was exactly the right time), the bellringer begins to ring his bells, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, everyone in the tower looks out the window and waves at the people in the street below and looking at the view- it was a perfect day, and we could see the three mountain ranges that surround the valley of Basel and the Rhine: the Black Forest to the North-East in Germany, the Jura to the South in Switzerland and the Vosges to the North-West in Alsace.

This was the 531st time that the bells of the Martinkirche have been rung to mark the beginning of the Herbstmäss- which means that the first time it was done was in 1469- before Columbus arrived in America, before Basel was part of Switzerland, and even before Michael Jackson recorded Thriller. That, believe me, is a very long time ago.

The Herbstmäss involves lots of fairground rides in the little squares around the Old Town, and the town was full of neatly-dressed Swiss families (3-year olds in Fubu and Armani being pushed around in Audi baby buggies, that sort of thing) all earnestly munching on candyfloss (Zückerwatte/ barbe de papa) and making their way between the various attractions. There are sausage and chocolate stands everywhere, and the main market, where you can buy all sorts of things at Swiss prices. One stall just sold Advent Calendars, and they even had these really small ones, perfect for putting in envelopes (one of them is in this letter, if I remember to put it in).

Apart from exploring the Herbstmäss, I helped E-D buy materials to build a new garden fence. A Swiss DIY shop is something to be experienced, I tell you. Everything is just so NEAT and TIDY. The power drills look so shiny that you could perform brain surgery with them, the timber is neatly stacked out and there are special hydraulic-suspension trolleys on which to to carry your timber to the checkout with. At which point you must part with an amount of money which you could use as a deposit on a house in New Zealand.

However, I shouldn’t be too harsh on Switzerland- I really enjoyed the change from the dogpoo and baguettes and Peugeots that you find in my town. AND the drivers in Switzerland are polite and STOP for pedestrians. Everything works, there are no strikes (Switzerland has 1% unemplyment, and those are just the cuckoos for whom a clock has not yet been built), and the place is CLEAN. H dropped a piece of chocolate on the pavement, K picked it up straight away and H ate it without question. In France, a piece of chocolate that was dropped would probably fall into something else that is brown.

Not that I hate France at all, it’s just such an unreliable country, with funny public holidays that interrupt your travel plans and fonctionnaires who move as fast as glaciers and train companies where the drivers are constantly on strike to demand compensation for nocturnal frog attacks (or something like that). But it’s all good, really. Challenging sometimes, frustrating to the point that you want to stab administrators with a baguette, but really good. My town is so completely French and Alsatian at the same time, and even when I’m completely fed up with the place, the boulangeries suddenly sparkle in the morning sun or I find some beret-wearing old Alsatian men playing pétanque by the river or a poodle relieving itself on a postman’s bicycle and I realise how lucky I am to be here. I’m beginning to understand how the French have managed to con the whole world into thinking thay they are the absolute best at making wine, cooking and living with complete joie de vivre.

I’ve just about run out of things to say for the moment, so until I hear from you, keep safe and have fun whatever you’re doing!

Grosses Bises comme toujours

Isaac Hayes – Never Gonna Give You Up
From Black Moses: Stax SCD24 8509-2 [Buy]

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Scènes Européenes: Letter to America Part 1

mercredi, le 1 novembre 2000

Dear J

«Curiouser and curiouser» said Alice as she went further down the rabbit hole. I was leaving the apartment for a few days (staying in Mulhouse and Basel, from which I have just returned), and I found a letter from NZ in my letterbox: a letter from the family, some newspaper articles and YOUR CARD were enclosed. Thus you can probably imagine the circuitous route your letter took to get to me: in a plane for over 12 hours to get to NZ from America, only to be sent onwards for another 24 hours in a plane from Auckland to Europe (at least it had some clippings from The New Zealand Herald to talk to during the journey). Then it went through the slippery and unreliable hands of «La Poste» before arriving in a far-flung corner of Alsace for me to read with delight. AND I have your new address. I also notice that it was an Anne Geddes card (was this deliberate or not?). And also thankyou for the photo, which I can add to my special people display I have constructed on top of my bookcase/ laundry cupboard/ resource storage unit. (It’s a very large series of cupboards and drawers in my dining room and there seems to be all sorts of things in it.)

You say in your card, and I quote «aujourd’hui alors la France est dans ma tête». France on the brain, is it? Consider yourself lucky: how do you think I feel? (Given that I’m actually HERE right now).

I am imagining that you will have received the letter that I sent care of your parents by now. If you haven’t, then ask whether something from France has arrived for you in C.P. scribbled by a confused kiwi. It explains sort of how I ended up here and a little bit about what I have been up to. The first month has raced by SO fast. I’m still getting used to the idea of teaching kids and still have a couple of things to do to complete all my arrival duties (apparently I have a Social Security number now, but the school hasn’t told me what it is.) No major problems and everyone continues to be very friendly and I have eaten far too much choucroute and raclette. I haven’t been able to weigh myself, but I am convinced that I have put on weight (if you can imagine that...).

I have spent a few days «on holiday» in Basel because it’s les vacances de Toussaint this week.... it was really good to get out of T. for a little while: it’s a small place and there is not a terrible lot to do here when you have holidays. I spent Friday night in Mulhouse with the host family of my NZ friend S, whom I visited in 1999 after my stay in Grenoble... That night I went out with J (S's host sister, who has spent a year in NZ) and her boyfriend and some of their friends to a concert in central Mulhouse: the main band was Strasbourgeois, a group called «Weeper’s Circus»- a mix of medieaval, celtic styles, Brel/Brassens-influenced chanson and little «coups de théâtre» which were very funny. Lyrics went way over my head but it was lots of fun anyway.

Also great to go out with some people roughly my own age (rather than 30something French profs, who are very cool too, but not the same) and learn some slang- however even then they were very much an undergrad (first and second year) student bunch, and it’s amazing what a year outside the undergrad environment plus a JOB can do to your attitude. They would talk about what their friends are up to, I would talk about the pupils in my English classes. It wasn’t the language that made me feel slightly out of place, rather the age difference between them and me (they’re 20 and I’m 22. Or am I just old before my time?)

On Saturday morning I took the train to Basel to spend some time with Mum's old boss, E-D and his wife A. My visit coincided with the visit of their daughter K and her two daughters, H and Kl (5 and 3 respectively), the ones who live in Lille. The linguistic combinations were quite frightening sometimes. The dinner table is a mixture of German and English (mostly English when I am there). BUT K and H and Kl speak French with one another (although 5 year-old H a can understand German and speak it a little). E-D and A cannot speak French, so they speak German with the grandchildren, and the grandchildren reply in French (which either I or K translated into English when appropriate). I spoke English with E-D and A, (of course) and a mixture of French and English with K and French with the children. One night I read them a story in German, which H and Kl did not understand, but we talked about the pictures in French.

Conversation between H, future employee of the Spanish Inquisition, and Myself. (to understand this conversation, you must understand that H’s family have a holiday house in a tiny village in Burgundy called Lagette):

H: As-tu des enfants?
M: Non, je n’en ai pas.
H: Pourquoi?
M: Parce que je suis pas marié
H: Tu habites donc avec ta maman?
M: Non, j’habite tout seul dans un apartement
H: T’aimes habiter tout seul?
M: Pas vraiment, mais ça va pour l’instant.
H: Tu habites à Lille?
M: Non, j’habite en Alsace. Mais moi, je viens de la Nouvelle-Zélande.
H: La, la, la Nou... la Noubelle-Zéladaire, c’est près de Lille?
M: Non, c’est l’autre bout du monde de Lille. Ecoute, si tu creusais un trou dans ton jardin chez toi et tu continuais à creuser pour des jours et des jours, on arrivera en Nouvelle-Zélande. Donc c’est très très très loin de Lille.
H: Quand nous avons les vacances à Lagette, nous roulons pendant CINQ HEURES dans la bagnole de Papa. La Noubi Zilée, c’est près de Lagette?
M: (tout à fait lessivé par la logique circulaire de l’Inspecteur H) Oui, la Nouvelle-Zélande est près de Lagette. Mais maintenant c’est l’heure de dodo, quoi?

To be continued

Weepers Circus – Le Pas de Renard – En Suivant le Renard
From L'Ombre et la Demoiselle [Buy]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Scènes Européenes: Bullet Holes

Travel is back on the mind again. I've recently found a file of writing (letters to friends, odd essays and emails) from the time I was living in France five years ago, and thought it would be interesting to post some of them here. For each piece, I'll choose a piece of music that either reflects the theme of the writing, or relates to a particular time or place of significance during my time travelling.

The author of these passages was a little younger than he is now, and you can detect a few wishful stereotypes in some of the descriptions of Europe and its inhabitants! But I hope that his wide-eyed enthusiasm for foreign places is still apparent. If this project seems self-indulgent and uninteresting, I apologise in advance. Please come back again when I'm finished.

Bullet Holes
February 2001

There are bullet holes in the church down the road from my apartment. While the damage seems innocuous to the casual glance, my curiosity moved me to ask a friend who is a native of this small Alsatian town, and, Beh ouais, the inch-wide craters were indeed caused during fighting in late 1944.

Before I arrived here, Alsace for me was synonymous with War. In school history lessons back in New Zealand, Alsace and Lorraine were names to be conjugated alongside such terms as Versailles, Lebensraum and reparations. Somewhere I had also picked up a few ideas about Riesling, half-timbered houses and choucroute. But I still expected evidence of occupation, resistance and collaboration to be writ large across the Alsatian landscape, a clear message for posterity.

Alsace is a region whose history has been shaped in the fulcrum of fires from outside. Squeezed between the Rhine and the undulating bulk of the Vosges, Alsace is conveniently stretched like a ragged band-aid over the centre of Western Europe- a strip 80 kilometres wide between the rival ambitions of Germany and France.

Following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, this French territory was ceded to Germany. The protracted massacre of the First World War resulted in the return of French sovereignty, before Alsace was reoccupied by Hitler, and integrated into the Third Reich. Alsace has often been no more than a geopolitical symbol strident political ideologies of Paris and Berlin.

The evidence of war is certainly there, but when I set out in search of Alsace’s past, it did not reveal itself easily.

Understandably, Alsatians seem to want to put their violent heritage behind them. For instance, there is no institution devoted to displaying relics of wartime Alsace. In other parts of France, perhaps in regions less directly involved in the fighting, there are thoughful and generally honest war museums (inevitably dubbed Musées de la Résistance), of which those in Grenoble and Besançon are both worth visits.

The evidence of violence, suppression and deportation is instead spread thinly across the province. There are war memorials which, while ubiquitous, make only a modest claim for your attention. In bookshops and libraries I have flicked through diaries, memoires and history books which recount the experience of war from the point of ordinary Alsatians. Near Saverne, the remains of Le Struthof concentration camp are reminders of the only Nazi death camp built on French soil. Dirty plaques on railway stations remind the commuters rushing through the rain of the embarkation points for uncounted thousands who never returned.

It is perhaps the people themselves, both young and old, who best emblemise the passage of Alsace from battlefield to industrial powerhouse at the crossing point of a united Europe.

Elsassich, the collection of Germanic dialects still spoken in the region by many people over thirty is part of a culture which has survived three wars and the hostile linguistic policies of both French and German governments. Under German administrations, Elsassisch was replaced by standard Hochdeutsch in schools. Even after the "liberation" of 1945, the Gaullist ideology which demanded a unified and undivisable République Francaise, discouraged local dialects and patois in favour of French, leading to the decline of Elsassisch as the language of daily transaction.

But Alsatians are nothing if not silently stubborn. One of my Alsatian colleagues, born in the early 1960’s, didn’t learn French until he started school. His language at home, his language of birth is Elsassisch.

But does the story of war and invasion survive among the young in Alsace today? Talking to the teenagers in the school where I work, it seems that the war is as remote for them as it was for me at school in New Zealand, where we learned about the Holocaust in between lunchtime and Physics. Like young people everywhere, these kids are too worried about their approaching Bac exams and their new boyfriends to dwell long on the experience of their grandparents.

Today, Alsace’s fortunes have changed. In 1999, the new European Parliament was opened in Strasbourg. The very existence frontalière which once absorbed so much rage, pain and loss, is today the primary economic asset of the Alsatians. Alsace has one of the lowest unemployment rates in France. Large numbers of Alsatians work across the border in Germany and Switzerland. The Peugot factory in Mulhouse churns out the new 206 for a global clientèle. The brutality of war has been well and truly conquered by the banality of the free market.

But nobody has bothered to cover up the bulletholes. On the hill above my town there is another reminder of the past. The Monument de la Résistance, a large Cross of Lorraine, illuminated at night, stands vigil over the well-kept houses and tidy gardens below. From its position on the flanks of the Vosges, it faces eastward to Germany, which is just 40 kilometres distant across the plain to the Rhine, with the wooded expanse of the Black Forest beyond. While the echos of guns have faded underneath the chorus of a new European harmony, I get the impression that, deep down the ghosts remain. While Alsatian kids drink beer and make out in its shadow, the Cross of Lorraine on the hill says «never again». But Europe is a funny place. You never know what might happen next.

Beaux Arts Trio - Schumann Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor Op.63 (3rd Movement)
From Schumann: Complete Piano Trios: Philips 456 323 [Buy]

Monday, January 30, 2006

It's a Summer Feeling

A long hot weekend... two gigs in one day, starting at Browns Bay beach, then a dash across town for a twlight gig to 4,000 people at the Zoo. This is what being a musician in Auckland is all about...

Browns Bay (more people swimming than dancing...)

At the Zoo

Katchafire at the Zoo

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In My Father's Den

I have finally seen In My Father's Den, and it was a shame that I waited until the DVD release, rather than seeing it in the cinema. I think it is a completely stunning film, and does full justice to the novel by Maurice Gee.

The intrigue of the film reveals itself in a slow and measured way. What starts as a story about the return of a (prodigal?) son to his hometown after years overseas prompted by his father's death, becomes a rumination on the pain of confronting our past. The mystery deepens when a key character disappears, and it is only at the end of the film that we find out just how close together all the protagonists are bound.

For New Zealanders, it is easy to view this as an archtypal kiwi film. There are certainly aspects of this work that will resonate strongly with a native audience: the need to escape our islands, the sense of landscape, the particular characters in the community, and the accents of the actors. For kiwis of a certain age, there is even a "Dougal Stevenson" moment.

Director Brad McGann (currently battling cancer again) has done a great job capturing the landscape of inland Otago, and reflecting the culture of a small town in New Zealand's South Island. But this is a film that anyone, anywhere will enjoy. Beautiful to look at, and genuinely moving.

I know there are many non-NZ readers of this blog. If your experience of NZ cinema begins and ends with Peter Jackson, this film is well worth seeking out.

Crowded House - She Goes On
From Woodface: Capitol 793559 [Buy]