Party Planning

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My daughter Esha is 21 in July.  Today she is online shopping for the tat to fancy up the barn for her party.  It will be the last party we have in this house so it is poignant but also great fun.  As I type this we are listening to her “Arrival” playlist, the music that will be playing as the guests assemble in dribs and drabs and before the serious party playlist kicks in.

Playlist 2 is entitled “now we’re drunk” and is for when everyone has a drink in their hand before the band kick in.

Headlining for the party we have booked the legendary 5Day.  If you have not heard of them here is your opportunity.

5 Day Album on Spotify

5 Day on Soundcloud

Then there will be further playlists, but the party will probably move down to the firepit.  We are going for a music festival vibe.  Tents in the garden.  Craft beer and cider.  Beer pong.

Don’t even think about coming, the tickets are all sold.  The security have a clipboard and a list.  We will be releasing the attack chickens.

 

 

 

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Margarita Pizza

Margureite

Prepare yourself for nonsense:  Marguerite Piazza, the American Soprano, was born on this day in 1920.

The Pizza Margherita is a Neapolitan classic of Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil, the colours of the Italian flag.  There is a story that the famous Pizza was invented in honour of Margherita of Savoy, Queen of Italy, to celebrate Italian Unification, in 1889.

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This is considered now to be a false history, like many tales of the invention of famous dishes.  There is a competing theory that the Pizza Margherita is named for the pretty flower pattern in which the Mozzarella slices were presented on the pizza, representing a daisy flower, the Italian for which is margherita.

The Spanish for daisy is margarita, which is also the name of a famous tequila drink from Mexico, a country with the same tricolour flag as Italy.

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But the origin of the drink actually comes from the Latin word margarita which means pearl, as in the maxim “margaritas ante porcos” meaning pearls before swine.  The margarita drink is named after the latin for pearl, as it is a pearly colour, and that may also explain why it is served with a ring of salt on the rim of the glass.

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As to the American soprano, her real name was Marguerite Clair Lucille Luft.  She took her mothers maiden name, Piazza, as her stage name.  A Piazza is a square, not a pie.  So her stage name translates as Daisy Square.

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I passed on a piece ‘a pizza in the piazza in Pisa in the past.  But not with Margherita.

Now, I ordered ages ago.  Where are my pizza and my margarita?  And do not get them mixed up again.

pizza

Sail along silvery moon

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100 years ago on this day Billy Vaughan was born.  One of the biggest selling band leaders of the 1950’s with hits such as La Paloma, Blue Hawaii and this piece of schmaltz.

Sail along Silvery Moon

Vaughan developed a very distinctive and recognisable front sound by pairing saxophones for the lead melody.

He was able to follow his hit successes in the 50’s with world tours in the ’60’s and ’70’s.  The music has not stood the test of time and sounds kitch, hokey and very basic today.  He holds the very dubious honour of being the “Most successful orchestra leader of the rock era”.  A man out of step and out of time.  King of the squares.

Harun al-Rashid

Sinbad

Born on St Patricks Day, some 300 years after St. Patrick lived, Haroun al-Rashid is considered by many to be the greatest Caliph of the Islamic world.  He presided over the Abassid Caliphate in its golden age when it was the centre of learing, enlightenment, literature, arts and science.

He corresponded with rulers as far away as France, presenting Charlemagne with a clock that was so ingenious the Franks believed it to be possessed, so many and complex were the chimes it sounded.  A good an generous friend he also proved a stern and powerful enemy.  He brought the Byzantine empire to heel and his name was feared throughout his own empire.

His name may translate as the “orthodox” or the “right guided” and for Sunni Muslims he represented a powerful bastion of the islamic faith.  So powerful indeed that the Christian world suffered the crisis of iconoclasm at this period.  Seeing the success of the armies of Islam orthodox christians questioned if religious icons, images and statues were in fact idols.  Heads were smashed from church altars, icons were thrown onto fires and emperors were dethroned based on their belief.

Legend has it that al-Rashid would don a beggars cloak and walk the streets of Baghdad or Raqqa and eavesdrop on the conversations of the ordinary folk to better understand how they perceived him and his rule.

In the West we know of this great Sultan because of a book.  “A thousand and one nights”, or the “Arabian Nights” is a collection of tales from the Asian world, originating in Arabia, India, China and Persia.  They include characters known by every Western child, The seven voyages of Sinbad the sailor, Aladdin and his magic lamp, Ali-Baba and the forty thieves, magic flying carpets and many many more fantastic and magical tales.

At the heart of the tale is the evil sultan, thought to be modeled on Al-Rashid.  Each night he takes a bride from his harem and after taking his pleasure has her killed.  The interlocutor of the 1001 nights is Sheherazade, the wife who beguiles him with storytelling instead of pleasures of the flesh.  Instead of killing her he spares her for one more night, for one more story.  And so the tales unravel over the course of many years until he of course falls madly in love with her.

From this book we have a wealth of art, music, dance and not a few pantomimes.  It was the inspiration for hundreds of childrens authors from E. Nesbit to J.K. Rowling.  Poetry of Yeats, Longfellow, Tennyson and Archibald Macleish stories of O. Henry, James Joyce and Charles Dickens.  Al-Rashid is a thread that runs trough every weave in the fabric of literature.

The man behind the music.

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Samuel Morse portrait of Lorenzo Da Ponte

Who wrote the operas Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte and Don Giovanni?  Ask that question 100 times and 100 times you will get the answer “Mozart”.  We could as easily say “Lorenzo Da Ponte”.  Born on this day in 1749 Da Ponte wrote the libretti for 28 operas by 11 different composers, including Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Born as Emanuele Conegliano he was a Venetian Jew.  When his father converted to marry a Catholic Emanuele was given the name of the converting bishop, Lorenzo da Ponte.

After converting Da Ponte studied in the semenary, was ordained as a priest and became a teacher.  But he was a bad priest who had children with a mistress and was ejected from Venice for running a brothel.

He found his way to the Italian Theatre in Vienna and bore an letter of introduction to Salieri.  He secured a job translating libretti and secured a patron.  He went on to write the libretti for the greatest operas of his day.

He lost his sponsor in 1790 upon the death of Emperor Joseph II.  Bearing a recommendation letter from Joseph to his sister, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, he headed for Paris.  His timing could not have been worse.  The French Revolution broke out and Da Ponte changed his travel plans taking a diversion to London.  Struggling for a time, forced to work in menial jobs, he evenually secured a job in Kings Theatre.  But unable to clear debts he fled England for America.

In the USA he worked as a grocer, a teacher of Italian and of Italian literature.  He attempted to bring Opera to New York, but was let down by his lack of business skills.  However, the work he began led to the foundation of the New York Metropolitain Opera and the New York Academy of Music.

Da Ponte is buried somewhere in New York.  There is a memorial plaque in Calvary Cemetery Queens, but that is not his grave.

Impi! O nans’impi iyeza

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Stanley Baker, the Welsh Actor responsible for the greatest British war movie ever made was born on this day in 1928.  Zulu was filmed in 1964.  It is Baker’s best remembered role and made a movie star of a young lad called Michael Caine.

Bravery is not the ability to face danger without fear.  True bravery is finding yourself in a hopeless situation, facing certain death, feeling awful cowardice and yet standing up to danger.

There is a moment in the film when the Zulu sing the song of the warriors.  The rag-tag unit of British soldiers listen to the Zulu, their power, their majesty and know that all is lost.  Then Baker asks the lads to sing “Men of Harlech”.

 

 

Happy Birthday George Harrison

George Harrison

While Lennon and McCartney churned out an enormous volume of songs George Harrison wrote less in number but no lesser in quality.  His are some of my favourite Beatles songs;  Old Brown Shoe, Something, While my guitar gently weeps and Here comes the sun.  This one below reads more like a poem than a song lyric, and it is worth listening to to get a flavour for Harrison the Sitar player.  George was the youngest Beatle and was born on this day in 1943.

George was only 15 when he joined the Beatles and was only 16 when they went to Hamburg to play their first residency.  The trip was cut short because Harrison was deported because he was too young to play the clubs on the Reeperbahn.

Within you, without you;  George Harrison.

We were talking, about the space between us all
and the people, who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late when they pass away.

We were talking, about the love we all could share
when we find it, to try our best to hold it there, with our love
with our love we could save the world, if they only knew.

Try to realize it’s all within yourself, no-one else can make you change
and to see you’re really only very small
and life flows on within you and without you.

We were talking, about the love that’s gone so cold
and the people who gain the world and lose their soul.
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?

When you’ve seen beyond yourself
then you may find peace of mind is waiting there
and the time will come when you see we’re all one
and life flows on within you and without you.