the litany of the wiseguy

WARNING/ATTENTION/ACHTUNG/EKTIMISI: The post you are about to read contains references to drugs, addiction and other generalised bad behaviour. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

I have a deep dark confession to make. One of the reasons I find it difficult to knit of late is that I have become readdicted to one of the darkest forms of music ever: the rembetika (Greek blues – and believe me, the Greeks are experts at being blue. It’s a national condition for us – even here in the diaspora – it’s inborn and we can’t really do anything about it. Combine that with extreme fatalism and I’m surprised the Greek race has actually managed to last this long without indulging in mass cultural suicide. But I digress…)

I blame the Eurocup, actually. This passion for evil music reignited in me when I attended at the Danforth to watch the game where the $#*(@$&(@#* Greeks got themselves put out of the Cup. As it happened, the place we were watching the game was right next door to Greek City Video. I had promised myself I wouldn’t go there (Mom – stop laughing NOW!!!)… but on the first smoke break (I guess I could also blame the ubiquitous “smoke outside” by-laws or, for that matter, the tobacco companies which keep me addicted to the demon weed…) wandered in and spent … oh, slightly more than the average PayDay haul’s worth of yarn.

Amongst the booty – one of my favourite ever movies:

Yes, yes, I know – you’ve never heard of it. And, for that matter, I don’t really know why it is one of my favourite movies. It is very, very depressing – about a Greek rembetiko (blues) singer who basically gets treated like a whore, becomes drug addicted then dies, over the course of 30 years. Every Greek movie ever made, by the way, is either “I want to slit my wrists now I’ve watched this” morbid or along the lines of a really bad “Carry On” comedy – if “Carry On” had featured horny priests. But anyway…

Another terrific score was this new CD by George Dalaras, the hottest Greek singer going:

The title of the CD is “Songs about Drugs” in English… and features primarily Rembetiko music again. It was recorded at a concert in Greece in 2007 which was held someplace that looks like this:

This is Dalaras himself… I’m only posting this photo for my mother, as she thinks he’s cute! (And here’s a video for you as well, Mom! And another one.  And if you want more, just search “tragoudia me ousies” on YouTube…Don’t say I never gave you anything!!)

So, why am I going on about this “Rembetiko” stuff, you might well ask?? Well, it’s bad boy music from the 1920s in Greece. SERIOUSLY bad boy music. Rappers had nothing on these guys and the few women that they allowed into the circle). People got arrested for playing and listening to this music. If you’re really, really bored, there is a great explanatory newspaper story from the Guardian here.

(At around the same time in Greece, by the way, the fashion for these “manges” or “spivs” (or, for want of a better word in US/Canadian English, wiseguys) was to wear very pointy shoes with toes extending four inches out from the real toes on their feet. The cops went around at the time with machetes and would just chop off the toes of the shoes. If they happened to hit the real toes in the process, too bad.)

But why were the rembetiko musicians and the characters they attracted treated so badly? A sampling of the song titles from the Dalaras CD should give you a clue:

– Alcohol and Nicotine
– The Castaway Cigarette
– Rumba of the Drug Dealer
– Clink Clink Go The Glasses
– Hashish
– I’m an Addict
– Heroin and Hash
– In the Basement
– The Tobacconist
– Five Spivs
– Bring Drugs So I Can Get High
– Ouzo and Hashish
– I’m a Flirt
– Why I Smoke Cocaine
– I’m a Cocaine Addict

Well, now finally I understand why this guy always looks so damned happy:

…while his wife and daughter slave away at home:

But seriously, what is not to like about this music?!? Perhaps I was just deprived as a child. The Greece painted through this music is certainly not the Greece I was raised to think ever existed, let me tell you. I mean, the one little rebellion I tried in high school – wearing head to toe black – resulted in my father’s telling me “Black is for Funerals” and grounding me for a year or so.

Plus, my (very lovely and extremely youthful looking) mother used to refer to this stuff as “migraine music”. To an extent, she had a point… especially when I hauled home the authentic 1920s recorded versions which featured singers coughing their heads off on tape (there’s a lot of tar in that hash, you know!!), whiny Greek bagpipes and violins which sounded like two cats in the backyard – um, well, you know.

However, they sure seemed to have a lot of fun!!!

So, now I’ve decided I’m going to quit my day job – finally – and resuscitate the Greek blues in Canada. First, all I need to do is learn how to play this:

Now, I don’t want to tell you just how long I’ve had this in my possession… it’s a bit embarrassing. But, I will learn.

Also, the renewed interest in the Greek Blues, plus another addiction to the fabulous music of Cape Breton, has led me to dust off the old keyboard and start practicing again:

So, doubtless I will very, very soon catch the eye of some impresario who likes cocaine music, and will be appearing very soon at a major concert venue near you.

Stay tuned… and in the meantime, a happy Thursday!

Wherein the glory that was Hellas?!

Well, they lost. Again. And after I went and bought t-shirts and ballcaps!!

Just count me in as one of the ones making a left turn. Sigh. I did have to laugh at the tag line in the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of the Greece/Russia match on Saturday:

“Lightning does not strike twice, not even when the bolts are thrown from Olympus.”

Oh, well then. OK. I think the Brits are just showing their sour grapes off since they didn’t even manage to get a team into the Eurocup, anyway. So THERE.

I also loved the Greek team manager’s attitude. Check it out:

A miracle happened in 2004 but these kind of things occur once every 30 years, reflected Otto Rehhagel, the manager of Greece, who in Portugal oversaw a footballing earthquake. “I knew we would not be able to waltz through the group, we are not that good. But other teams will be going home, too – maybe both Italy and France,” he said.

Easy to say after the fact, no? But he had a smarter answer for the tougher questions…

“I know the games and I’m not going to play them with you. I know the question before you ask it,” he added. “I’ve said this before, Greece is a country where democracy was born so you can say what you want. Germany is also democracy which is why I’m free to say whatever I want.”

Germany?!? Hold on just a minute…

“I think the Acropolis has been around for several thousand years, and we won’t be around for that long – that keeps it in perspective,” the German said.

He’s GERMAN?!?!? Should have figured that out with a name like Otto, mind you. Was there some kind of fix, do you think?

(In case you’re wondering what in the name of Zeus the above cartoon means, I don’t know. But it came up inexplicably when I googled “big greek losers”.)

Anyway, at least I won’t miss any more time off work sleep watching thinking about the soccer matches.

Instead, I can spend more quality time drooling over my latest British TV-inspired crush:

I know, I know – I need to get a life. Or at least get back to knitting (and no, I haven’t forgotten that this is a knitting blog). I have a very odd combo of finishitis and startitis at the same time… I’ve put aside my three WIPs, but can’t decide what to start next. Any suggestions for 800m or so of lovely blueberry mist sea silk?

Wishing you all a wonderful week…

a snapshot of Brouhaha history

Cleaning can be fun! I came across these old photos in the storage locker… maybe fun only for me, really, now that I think of it. However, I do love the old European photographs.

(I don’t really have any progress on Icarus to show you, which is why you get to see old family pics instead. Managed a big four rows on the second chart last evening… after more tinking. This seems to be my “How to Knit Backwards” project. I suspect I’m getting a bit bored with it, which is usually when I start to make stupid mistakes. Oh well. Hopefully I’ll manage to make some project over the weekend…).

This is an old photo of my father’s family. Very old. My father is the little boy sitting on the guy’s knee on the right, as befitted his vaunted status of Only Son In The Greek Family:

And here is the engagement photo of his parents. It is one of my favourite photos, and I have a copy hanging in my office. I’m named after one of them.

Now, have you ever noticed in old photos that the people never, ever smile? They always seem to look as though they’ve just come from a funeral. I mean, they were getting engaged!!! Was it such a bad idea?

Maybe it’s just a 20th vs 21st century thing. I mean, the only time I’ve looked like this in a photo was when I had last to get my picture taken for my passport:

Enough said.

Then again, maybe the grandparents were just posing for some joint passport photo or other! And yes, such a thing does exist, although in early Canada days apparently the guy got to stand alone. Check this out:

A separate space for “wife” (and by association, kids)? How interesting. We’ve certainly come a long way although you’ve got to love the hat my great grandmother is wearing, don’t you? (The little girl is my mother’s mother. She is still living and is in her 90s.)

Then again, this photo was taken a very long time ago. Here’s the proof:

God Save the Queen! And this is the piece of paper which made my great grandfather a British subject:

(or was it a Canadian citizen?!? I’m so confused…)

And now for another deadpan “happy occasion” photo…

This is a wedding photo taken at my mother’s parents’ wedding. The guy standing behind the bride is my grandfather, in case you were wondering.

This is him having a good time with the boys well before the wedding (he’s the guy with the goofy straw hat):

Finally some people are smiling!!! And here is a photo of the one of the restaurants he owned in Kingston, where I grew up. This one was called the Superior.

I kind of miss those grandiose old names that they used to give restaurants. “Denny’s”, “Kelsey’s” “The Keg” just don’t cut it, somehow. If I’m ever fool enough to actually own my own restaurant, I’m going to name it the Fabulous. You heard it here first…

And finally some cute kiddie photos (I know you’ve all been waiting for those!). First, here is proof that the Brouhaha predilection for goofy hats has been passed down through the centuries:

My father and his sister. And until I saw this photo, I never knew they had Shriners in Greece!

(This is one of the first photos that came up when I googled “Shriner photos”. Seriously. I don’t get it… can anyone explain this to me?)

And here is a collage of photos of my mother that I made some time back.

I bet you didn’t realise that I was related to Shirley Temple! This is where I get all my yarn money from – royalties.

And finally, yours truly, back in the day before I developed an arbitrary hatred of pigeons…

Well, time to get off to work now. It’s meant to be 23C today and I would like nothing better than to stay home and knit on the balcony hit a patio sit at my desk and slog through a memo, really.

Happy weekend!