“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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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.

“The Grass Is Closed”

“The Grass Is Closed”: What I Have Learned About Power from the Police, Chancellor Birgeneau, and Occupy Cal « zunguzungu.

Snip from a terrific long-read by Aaron Bady, aka zunguzungu, on his experience at the OWS-inspired “Occupy Cal” protests at UC Berkeley, after campus police violently attacked peaceful fellow student demonstrators (see video above).

found on  Boing Boing.

http://boingboing.net/2011/11/12/the-grass-is-closed-an-occupy.html

”At about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, a police officer told me and about eight other students that, and I quote, “the grass is closed.” We were going to sit under a tree and discuss things, and two police officers were watching us vigilantly to make sure we didn’t suddenly do something violent like try to put up tents. As we moved towards the tree, the first police officer stepped up and informed us that we could not walk from the broad concrete steps of Sproul Hall, where about a hundred people were sitting and talking, and sit on the grassy area just to the north of it. “The grass is closed,” she said.

“If you meditate on these words until they become a mantra, you will learn some profound things about how police authority works. What could it possibly mean to declare that “the grass is closed”? Who could have the authority to say so?“

”…/  At the far end of that grassy area, in fact, several people were actually sitting on the grass. But those people were sitting there eating lunch. Because we were part of the group which was sitting on the steps of Sproul Hall, clearly, the grass had been declared off limits to us.“

”To make things more interesting, it immediately transpired that the other police officer had, in fact, already given them permission to sit on the grass. And in an instant, the arbitrariness of the rule was made evident and undeniable.”

Mind-boggling.

If you tolerate this, your playwork will be next (let’s celebrate Auntie Bullying Week)

Are No-Bullying Zones Constitutional?

By WENDY KAMINER

”…/ It started on college and university campuses, where repressive speech codes have been teaching generations of students that they have no right to offend anyone who can claim membership in a growing list of presumptively disadvantaged groups. Now, this mindlessly censorious movement to force people to be nice to each other is encroaching on off-campus life: The Council of the District of Columbia is considering banning the “harassment, intimidation, or bullying” of students in public libraries and parks, as well as schools.“

Original article here, after annoying ad:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/are-no-bullying-zones-constitutional/247867/
Dont bother, she says, ” trying to figure out what this vague and verbose definition of bullying includes. Focus instead what it might exclude — not much. Virtually no speech or behavior that a student might consider insulting and that a petty bureaucrat might find offensive and disruptive is beyond the reach of this ban.“

”In addition to policing the everyday speech of anyone who frequents a public park or library, the bill creates a system of informants within specific agencies. Students, volunteers, or agency employees are required to report alleged bullying incidents to the “appropriate official” named in that agency’s mandatory anti-bullying policy. And the policy must allow for anonymous reporting. Forgive me for stating what should be obvious: this is not a prescription for fostering mutual tolerance and trust in an open and free society. “

…/ ”Art Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU’s D.C. affiliate, voiced concerns about the definition of bullying: “What does it mean by harming a student … Does that mean hurting a student’s feelings? If a student comes in and says I feel very harmed by the fact that so and so said I was a crappy athlete … that’s not bullying.“

She asks: ”Why not simply promulgate and enforce rules against harassment? Why devise new legal concepts and definitions of bullying? Because the Court’s definition of harassment was reasonably narrow and does not allow for expansive speech policing, which is a goal of anti-bullying advocates.” /…/ “The new civil rights/anti-bullying advocates have apparently forgotten, if ever they remembered, that freedom of speech, including the freedom to offend, has been essential to their own liberation movements. Women once deeply offended social mores merely by speaking in public. African-Americans surely offended segregationists by demanding equality. And if gay rights activists lacked the right to offend the “family values” crowd, gay pride parades would have been enjoined long ago. “

What’s going on is this, I reckon – if you can police speech you can prevent discussion of anything. Like this: we have a discussion. Any discussion worthy of the name will involve disagreement. You claim I dissed you, I didn’t, I say, I merely disagreed with your view, Voltaire-stylee. you claim bullying, and the discussion is shut down. All discussions can be shut down, and tents are deadly offensive weapons outside St Pauls.

And note this – we don’t even have the protection of a constitution and bill of rights, like what the Yanks* have.

But we do have Sean the Sheep, for real:

http://www.bbclic.com/shaun/pink-activities1.html
NOTE:

*Yanks? That’s offensive, coming from a limey. Substituting ‘being offended’ for ‘campaigning for equal rights’ – how’s that working in terms of the Equality agenda, going forward, at this point in time?

Occupy London is a nursery for the mind

Excellent piece. The more the right diss it, the more I’m growing to like them. Rubbish title though.

 
Occupy London is a nursery for the mind | Madeleine Bunting http://gu.com/p/3324f

 

It’s not cute, it’s not play, it’s just some kid coerced into an adult agenda that means nothing to her.

boingboing.net/2011/10/10/sasha-7-painting-occupy-wall-street-sign-homes-for-the-homeless.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29