“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth”

By way of a footnote to yesterday’s quote about creativity and art and play and magic, my page-a-day calendar today told me:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

It claims that this is a ‘Persian proverb’.

Hmmm, that’s what you say if you don’t really know, isn’t it? So I googled. Of course there is dispute, with some muddle-headed folk attributing it the Koran and Mohammed, and others to Elbert Green Hubbard (June 19, 1856 – May 7, 1915)  an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher (Wikiepeed).

The choice of hyacinth is a  clue, it’s a plant that operates as a madelaine* for me, my mum always had them on the window sill in the early 60s. Obviously not native to the UK, so let’s investigate… hmm, native to Turkey, Israel and the North-East corner of Iran. And not America. Hah – major clue..

More googlage:

“If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
– Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

(APB: Very Omar Khayyám )

“If I had but two loaves of bread
I would sell one of them
& buy White Hyacinths to feed my soul.”
– Elbert Hubbard
(1856-1915)

(APB: I prefer the simplicity of my calendar’s version.)

Found here on this lovely blog:

http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=5251068

Do follow the link to a lovely story of two people who love each other and a kindly florist. In my experience, most florists are lovely. I suppose you have to be: births, deaths, marriages. Must be tough haggling down the wholesale market, though.

So I think that is definitive.  Lazy writers half-remembering ‘Muslihuddin’ as ‘Mohammed’ and a DWM**, USA variety, riffing on it.

So:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

I like that very much.

Reminds me of an observation, which in a similar lazy way I’m going to attribute to Eno, because I’m half-remembering him talking about Sarajevo during the Serb bombing and watching a smartly dressed woman in her mid-thirties in high heels, picking her way along the rubble-strewn remnants of pavement on her way to the shops, as shots rang above her head*****.

Life without beauty? We’d rather die.

Eno was in what was then Yugoslavia to record sessions with U2 and Pavarotti (I know, weird), which produced, inter alia, the sublime ‘Miss Sarajevo‘. Spotify it, music fans: yes it contains opera, yes it is brilliant.

Pause as I go find the track. Easy, the CD was where I thought it was. Great opening to the chorus from the Bonio***, who isn’t afraid to reference and steal from the greats: “Here she comes”. The vibe of the song is very much the Velvets on the first album – think “I’ll be your mirror“, or ”Sunday morning”. There is a Velvets’ song, nagging at the back of my brain which has the specific phrase ‘here she comes’ but… no,  can’t catch it. And ‘G-l-o-r-i-ay’ by Van Morrison. Lots of fine songs about fine women walking down streets, oddly enough, eh? The other reference point, leaving the worst until last, is of course the bathetic “Doo Wah Diddy” by Manfred Mann and the Manfreds, possibly the most simultaneously egotistical and unimaginative of the 60s ‘person and the nouns’ style of group naming: “Here’s she comes, just a-walking down the street, singing doo wah diddy dum diddy do.…” And might I add: ‘zig a zig ah’, which I’m told is the Serbian for ‘couldn’t be bothered to think of a better lyric’.  (Hey, hey we’re the Manfreds, people say we’ve got a crap name…)

OK, let’s find out more about the song, the politics and the history.

Some time later.

I’ve always loved the lyrics, and I’m pleased to discover, thanks to Wikipedia, that Bonio*** says the song is his favourite. I think it might be his best, praise be to Eno. Great tune, killer arrangement, and superb, clever, twisty lyrics.  Love the way he plays with ‘beauty queen’ and turning to Mecca****, for example. It’s probably too much to claim his words are Joycean, but they are sharp, profound, surreal and allusive, loving and dark. It is worth reading the whole lyric, find it here:

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Miss-Sarajevo-lyrics-U2/F599D4161F63665F48256896002E7E49

It’s also worth reading the wikipedia entry about the song, from which I pulled this quote:

“… the dark humour of the besieged Sarajevans, […] surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism…”

Characteristics obviously reflected in Bono‘s lyric. Well done, dubliner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Sarajevo

So …

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.” 

That’s nothing if not surreal.

Why not tulips or daffodils? Good question. They don’t grow in Persia, and they don’t usually come in a pot- so they don’t persist, unlike the hyacinth. You can save a bulb after it has flowered, letting the leaves soak up the sun’s energy, and at the end of the summer you can store it, for a new bloom next spring. A hyacinth is a sweetly-scented investment for a poor person who has a small glut of bread and is desirous of both beauty and a bargain. And Yugoslavia is not that far from Persia, on opposite edges of our Middle East.

Indeed:

“Surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism.”

s-hiya synth 1

~

I persist here;

in Cameron’s blighted

and pleasant

land.

I’m off to the shops

now –

I’m lucky:

I have bread;

and I must buy

a hyacinth.

~

~

~

~

FOOTNOTARY (PUBLIC):

*Google it, and the word Proust, dear younger readers.

**Dead White Male.

***Yes, of course I know his name is really Bono. Well actually it isn’t, it says ‘Paul David Hewson’ on his birth certificate (thanks, Maggie at the Dublin registrar’s office).

****Mecca: in the 60s we knew Mecca as merely the name on the front of bingo halls and ballrooms. The Mecca organisation puts on Miss World. C’mon, smile.

*****’Shots rang above our heads’. Firstly this is a true story, and there really were snipers on the roof tops. She really was in mortal danger. Fuck you, Death, I’m going shopping. Sometimes Death backs off out of respect, and she persists. Secondly, well spotted, yes, I’m making partial quotage from ‘Heroes’ on the second of Bowie’s trio of Berlin albums – not produced by Eno, as media tart and poet Simon Armitage, in a radio show about Oblique Strategies last week had it, but by the criminally-sidelined Tony Visconti, who produced the majority of Bowie’s oeuvre, sleevenote fans. Such a great line, those shots ringing overhead from other  totalitarian and different circumstances.

________________________________

AUTHOR’S NOTE TO VISITORS: a tedious note from a writer who craves courtesy and receives it from the vast majority of his lovely followers: please note that I have changed my copyright and now require you to seek my permission to republish my work. Drop me a line, I will usually say yes: arthur.battram.plexityATgmail.com

(You’ll have to copy that email and replace the AT with @ . If I didn’t do the AT thing, my email would be harvested by spammers. Sorry for the inconvenience).

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Penny Wilson’s thoughts on Social Behaviour and its Anti

Has there been a rise in ASB, or has there been a rise in people complaining about children playing, which is then dealt with under the label ‘ASB’?

As Penny Wilson says:

“Do we see a group of children chalking on the pavement as a traditional and harmless play activity?
– or-
Do we see it as ‘Encouraging older children to feel that graffiti is permissible?’

”Sitting in a housing office I hear an officer describing a young man in shockingly negative ways. Looking out of the window during this monologue, I see the same young man helping an elder along the street with her heavy shopping.“

Some wisdom from the Wilson: go read it.

click here – Catch ‘em doing Something Right!

AN INSPECTOR CALLS

The title of this fine play is more than slightly ironic, given that our hordes of contemporary inspectors do the exact opposite of this inspector. Priestley’s ghostly protagonist takes a holistic, systemic, ‘joined-up’ view of a series of outcomes and makes the players accountable for their actions; today’s inspectors tick the boxes, focusing on only the minutiae of their disconnected tasks and are entirely unconcerned with what happens as a consequence.

Priestley warned elsewhere of the danger if the Nazis won the Second World War (a war soon to be rebranded by the Eurocrats, we were told this week, as the ‘European Civil War’ – an insult to our ANZAC allies if it is anything more than Daily Mail piffle). He said that the danger was not the obvious one of the Nazi jackboot, but the insidious danger of armies of petty-minded sneaks and spies and pen-pushing bureaucrats who would seize the opportunity of their employment to meddle, criticise and carp…

Step up the other kind of inspector: OFSTED, health&safety, adoption agencies, planning inspectors, and their ilk.  Unlike these offense-seeking ferrets, Priestley’s inspector ‘never takes offense’…

Currently gently rumbling in my ear as I redesign my blog – you catch it on Radio 4’s ‘Listen Again’ until this Friday – May 1st 2012

From Wikipedia: An Inspector Calls is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, first performed in 1945 in the Soviet Union and 1946 in the UK. The play is a three-act drama, which takes place on a single night in 1912, focusing on the prosperous middle-class Birling family,[4] who live in a comfortable home in Brumley, “an industrial city in the north Midlands”. The family is visited by a man calling himself Inspector Goole, who questions the family about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton). The family are interrogated and revealed to have been responsible for the young woman’s exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death.

The play has been hailed as a scathing critique of the hypocrisies of Victorian/Edwardian English society and as an expression of Priestley’s Socialist political principles. Unfortunately, the play is now studied in many secondary schools as one of the set texts for English Literature GCSE effectively killing an opportunity for it to inspire our youth.

Talking 'bout a revolution – changing the word… (nope, not world, just some words that must die)

Some bloke on the Interweb writes:

“Here’s my check list of degraded words and terms that should be loaded into the tumbrils and carted off to the guillotine.

First up: sustainable. It’s been at least a decade since this earnest word was drained of all energy, having become the prime unit of exchange in the argot of purposeful uplift. As the final indication of its degraded status, I found it in President Obama’s “signing statement” which accompanied the whisper of his pen when on New Year’s Eve – a very quiet day when news editors were all asleep – he signed into law the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2012 which handed $662bn to the Pentagon and for good measure ratified by legal statute the exposure of US citizens to arbitrary arrest without subsequent benefit of counsel, and to possible torture and imprisonment sine die, abolishing habeas corpus.

As he set his name to this repugnant legislation, the president issued a “signing statement” in which I came upon the following passage: “Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists…”

So much for sustainable. Into the tumbrils with it.“

 
 

I slung in ‘concerning’ and offensive’ and respec.
Good game – all join in.

 

BAN FECKLESS PARENTS AND FECKFUL KIDS!

This, dear reader, yes all 8 of you, may be worth a listen, especially as both  Adrian Voce and Bob Hughes are on  it:

 “Feral Kids and Feckless Parents”

the first in a series on Broken Childhood featuring an expert-led discussion on the contemporary issues, such as knife-crime and gun-crime and crime-crime and other feckless issues facing parents in our contemporary society

RADIO 4 today, Wednesday, at 8pm.

Do have a listen then we can discuss it online. Such fun!

I speak like this because the increasingly London-centric posh media types at the Beeb, seem to think everyone lives like this, cue vicious parody:

just after you have had a simple family supper of jugged hare in an aubergine and Marsala jus, and just before the ‘man of the house’ has to ‘pop’ upstairs to read Jemima and Jasper their organically-grown, fairly-traded recycled children’s story by Kate Winslet, entitled “ The day that Satsuma forgot about global warming”, you can huddle round the Pure DAB set and listen to (or record for later – such fun) this lovely programme:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0184s39

————–

From the actual BBC:

“Programme 1: Feral Kids and Feckless Parents

”The August riots in parts of England showed youngsters out of control on the streets, and put huge focus onto parenting skills.

“MPs and council leaders warned parents that they should know where their children were at night and keep them indoors and out of trouble.

”But parents themselves were saying they were unable to discipline their kids, either because they feared repercussions by the authorities, or because their children were simply physically too strong.

“In the first of the new series of “Bringing Up Britain”, Mariella Frostrup is joined by a panel of experts to discuss parental discipline right across British society.”

{uncontrollable interjection: RIGHT across? As in all classes? Somehow I doubt it}

”How easy is it for us to control our children, especially after they stop being biddable toddlers and begin to assert their own personalities?

“Have we given children too many rights and ignored those of parents?

”Can you really stop a large teenage child going out, and what restraining measures can you legally use?

“And, if your child is going off the rails, how do you break the cycle and get them back into good habits?”

—————-

Back to the totally made-up vicious parody:

Joining a woman in early middle-age who has a sexy voice because she is foreign, are 4 people who are already known to BBC researchers (who these days are all unpaid interns called Rebecca or Piers), because their names are already in the producer’s filofax (remember them). Joining poshtotty to explore these issues will be:

• Adrian Voce, OBE, freelance policy consultant and ex-Director of PlayEngland,

• Bob Hughes of PlayEducation, the UK’s leading thinker on children’s play and playwork

• some bloke who used to be a teacher who went to school with George Osborne

• the wife of George Osborne (is he married? I thought he was gay, must check) who has set up a charity for badgers distressed by quad bikes

•an ethnic minority person who was booked by mistake but the BBC has an equalities policy so they aren’t being told because it might upset them and they might call us racist

• Professor Martina Rousseau-Clarkson, the  founding director of the Luton University Centre  for the Study of the Causes of Research into the Parenting Strategies deployed in early adolescence by Developmentally Challenged Agricultural Workers in South America and Children

• Peter Rabid, the foreign policy editor of the Economist and best-selling author of ‘Shoot The Bloody Lotl!’

Only joking all of those people are made-up. The two that are real people are the ones least likely to be actually, and disappointingly, on the programme. Follow the link to find out who the real panel is. Gosh, with luminaries like that, we’re assured of a jolly debate. I’m going to be glued to my set: if you miss it, and if I hear anything sensible or interesting or hopeful, and if I write it down, you might see it on here, later.

A NICE CUP OF TEA AND A SATDOWN (was Mary Portas thinks we need high street management)

Mary Portas thinks we need high-street management teams to reverse the decline of the high street.

Yes folks, Mary Portas thinks we need more managers.

That’s right, folks, Mary Portas thinks managers make things better.

Aaaw, bless.

…tbc…

oh…hold on…

She’s not saying that. the headline is crass. blame the media, for, she’s not saying that. the headline is crass. oversimplifying. its what they do. bears say mass in the woods, popes use improvised woodland latrines, and the media sensationalise, simplify and distort. duh.

now

you really shouldn’t let me listen to the ‘Today’ programme

(its on Radio 4 in the morning, pre-9 am, folks, if you are instead listening to banging chewns on Radio Noise FM)

why not? why shouldn’t arthur be allowed to listen to ‘Today’?

because he rants off like this.
so

Mary Portas is on the radio. I am shouting at the radio, because she is right, and WRONG!

2 points:

1. not that kind of manager!

memo to self – write a piece on kids of managers, good non-managerialist managers versus bad managerialist managers. need to do this soon, before I get attacked by managers.\\

2. she thinks the goal should be footfall.

It’s not about bring back shops or less supermarkets its about do anything to get more feet on the street. and its not about organic markets its about barnsley market

I agree.

3. ANDNOTBUT

AND

she then goes on to say ‘so we have to relax planning laws’.

AARGH. ‘FREE UP SOME OF RED TAPE.’

why aargh?

because its the old mistake, good understanding, rubbish solution.

Mary Portas, has, I reckon, got a good understanding of what went wrong, and has been convinced to support a certain solution (relax planning law).

Who thinks letting developers do what they like is a good idea? no one, apart from developers, their partners and the politicians who are their paid-for friend (who thinks spending more on youth clubs? no one except, youth, unemployed youth workers, and the national yoof bureau). That won’t happen , because youth clubs HAVE NO INFLUENCE. Who thinks we should spend more on under 5s? on adventure playgrounds? you get the drift)

so

Oldest game in the book: analyse a complex problem, do a good job, then allow vested interests to pick one solution.

newsflash: if a problem is complex, rather than complicated or simple or wicked, THERE IS NO ONE SOLUTION.

(I wrote a book about this – ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’.that book sort of scratched the surface. since then, 15 years ago, some smarter management consultant than me have deveoped some useful tools. ASK ME )

so

if you only implement one solution to a complex problem, then it won’t work and you are wrong.

simples,

that’s what we got from Labour with Surestart and family tax credit. That’s what Alan Milburn MP ex-Labour minister of something, thinks (also on radio just now). Alan thinks we need to spend more on under-5s services. Great analysis, Alan, wrong answer because it’s a single solution to a complex problem. These won’t go away. the world is ever more complex.

So are we all doomed? nope, probably. What is to be done?

Well, how about ‘SOCIAL ARGUMENT TECHNOLOGY’.

What is that? it is a way of working together to work on complex problems. it is a methodology by which 70 people could meet for 4 hours (Watford BGOP workshop 1999) and everybody could be heard and the complex problem better understood. When they next meet they could come up with some small actions to take. and so on. No big single wrong answer, many small answers, some of which will work, some of which won’t.

The process has a simple acronym, MLTQ: ‘many little things quickly’ (technically MLTQfb, fb = fed back, abbreviated to be reminiscent of TQM).

Who needs ‘SOCIAL ARGUMENT TECHNOLOGY’?

Everybody, but specifically small movements with no money who want to make a difference, like the UK Play lobby.

I will write more about SAT (Social Argument Technology), but for now I will merely point out, that some wise person, probably your mum, said there are few problems that can’t be made better with a nice cup of tea and a sit down (and biscuits). Heck, there’s even a website for that, because there is now a WEBSITE FOR EVERYTHING:

http://www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com/

I’m saying that complex problems can only be made better with a nice cup of tea and a SAT down. and biscuits.

what is a ‘SATdown’?

it is a special meeting, in which we sit down together and use Social Argument Technology to have an arguement, nicely, listening to each other, not focussing on anyone problem or anyone solution, and stuff like that.

more on SAT later.

ASK ME.

———————————————————————————–

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/11/mary-portas-high-street-management-teams

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Can the Occupiers return stronger?

Thrown out of their camps, can the Occupiers return stronger? | ‘Occupy’ movement News | The Week UK.

 

Cockburn writes:

“Then the police started swinging, brutally beating people’s chests, arms, knees, and backs. They were swinging to hurt. With the crowd behind and the police in front there was no way for people to leave even if they wanted to. A few people tried to escape in the narrow gap between the students and police. They were savagely beaten. Throughout what can only be described as a terrifying physical attack that has left many with serious injuries, the students stayed entirely non-violent.”

In an email to the campus, Chancellor Birgenou, who often likes to reminisce about his Freedom Rider days, defended the administration’s response by saying that it was necessary to remove the encampment for “practical” considerations of “hygiene, safety, space and conflict issues”. He remarked: “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.”

So peaceful non-violent civil disobedience is not non-violent civil disobedience. Thanks for the update, Big Brother.