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!

idiot of the week award

I know it’s difficult to believe, but from time to time I am prone to feeling rather stupid.  Until, that is, I read something like this news story – and realise that stupidity is really all quite relative.

What am I going on about? Well, the other day three guys broke into allegedly broke into a house in Markham, a bedroom community just north of Toronto. They drove their Hummer up to the house and went right in during broad daylight.  This is the street where the alleged burglary took place:

In other words, the Hummer looked way out of place in the street.  Not exactly the most inconspicuous getaway vehicle in the world.  I mean, why not just put up a neon sign as well while you’re at it?

Anyway, some nosy neighbour apparently called the cops – who arrived at the scene just in time to see the three accused walk out of the house, stolen property allegedly in hand.  They got out of their unmarked police cruiser and told the guys to halt.  

So, what did these rocket scientists do? 

Run out to the Hummer, jump into it and try to drive over the cop car, that’s what.  And they managed to drive partway up the windshield before reversing into another cop car that had just arrived.

So now, instead of just being charged with “theft under whatever”, they’ve now been charged with “mischief endangering life”, “fleeing the scene of a crime”, and (my personal favourite) “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle”.  And I’m sure the Crown will come up with some more of the hundreds of criminal charges which fall under the loose category of “disobeying the cops”. 

Not to mention, no doubt, being read the Riot Act.  And yes, the Riot Act is alive and well up here in Canada:

In Canada, the Riot Act has been incorporated in a modified form into ss. 32-33 and 64-69 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The proclamation is worded as follows:

Her Majesty the Queen charges and commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or their lawful business, on pain of being guilty of an offence for which, on conviction, they may be sentenced to an imprisonment for life. God Save the Queen!

Unlike the original Riot Act, the Criminal Code requires the assembled people to disperse within half-an-hour, and substitutes punishment by death with life imprisonment.

Hmm. Well, it could have been worse for them then, I guess.

But these guys certainly weren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack, now, were they?

Unlike this one:

Isn’t that cool?  It’s in the Royal Scottish Museum in Scotland.  I guess JJ is right when he keeps telling me the Scottish should be known for more than haggis and fried Mars Bars!

Well, back to the mysterious Project Blue which is shaping up quite nicely, thank you. 

Happy Sunday!