Today is Tom Waits’ fake appreciation day

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Tough time in the early years for birdman

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Iranian Devo Cover band announces new tour dates

WWII Japanese soldier stuck in lift since 1943, still thinks the war is still on

New York. angry samurai

A recent health and safety audit of the Transcorp building in New York has discovered the reason for the company’s record of workplace-related deaths – 85 year old Yushi Kamamoto.  Kamamoto, a WWII Japanese war veteran still believes the great war is ongoing ever since he was stuck in a service elevator  back in the 1940’s. Incredibly for the last five decades he has survived on scraps from the buildings kitchens and fuelled by his hatred of the ‘western devil’.

Service lift

Kamamoto's home for the past 50 years

He existed undiscovered until the late 70’s by emerging from the lift each night slowly picking off those that worked late or came in early to beat the rush.

This all changed in at the cusp of the 80’s when he was discovered passed out in a corridor on the fourth floor after inhaling photocopier toner. Since then his skills in the deadly sword skills have become an acceptable but hidden aspect of the corporation. For more on this we interviewed the company’s Human Resource Director, Mr Blake Reeves, who joined the company in 1985.

” At first it was a mystery to us, all these people turning up dead in cupboards or falling from the roof without limbs” said Reeves, “We simply had no idea”.

“But when we saw the little chap passed out outside the stationary department with his blood-stained katana beside him, we started putting the pieces together”.

When asked about the terrible loss of lives at this elderly warrior’s hands, Reeves had this to say, “Oh yes it was a catastrophe of course but you have to understand that at that time in the 1980’s we had been rocked by a recession and losing a couple of people here and there was actually welcomed by the board”.

Mr Reeves went on to explain how the presence of Mr Kamamoto eventually became an asset to the company.

“When the Industrial Workplace Relations act came into play in the 90’s with the return of the unions,  it became so damn hard to fire anyone. You simply couldn’t do it. We were used to simply shuffling the troublesome upstarts around to other departments. But then at a board meeting, Johnson mentioned that we should use that little Japanese chap. He had killed at least 30 people so far so we thought, why not put him to good use? And so we did”.

office_plants

Kamamoto would offer hide in the plants before striking

And so they did. Kamamoto was given his first real job, with the albeit questionable job title as “cleaner”. From then on he would emerge from the defunct service lift with deadly intent, effortlessly dispatching anyone who was not performing in line with the company’s goals. Within a week, the company’s outstanding non-performers met their demise.

This from Roland Keynes in Accounts Payable, “He was normally so quiet when he lurked around the building, often taking cover behind the office plants before a deadly strike. But then there was this one time when one of the slackers knew he was coming and managed to evade him. Little Kama tore the office up trying to reach him but had no luck. But it didn’t last long. He later cornered the man at lunchtime gutting him from behind as the man boasted of his escape. Bloody gory it was but was certainly the topic of conversation for the next couple of weeks.”

This continued unabated until early last month. Unfortunately, one of the new Admin assistants sat him with at lunch and accidentally told him that the war ended over 50 years ago. This was taken badly by the now wizened old man who felt great shame for his killer rampage over the last 5 decades.

A couple of days passed and the following invitation was sent through the internal mail to the staff. Gladys Brookstone, one of the PAs for upper management described the event.

harikari

Kamamoto was proud of the invite

“It was lovely in its own special way but short. We all gathered in the lunchroom and Kamamoto was already there rocking forward on his knees chanting something in his own language with these strange smelling sticks. One of the young men mistook it for a song and started clapping”.

Blake Reeves again with his comments on the event. “I was turning back from the table with a sausage roll, he stood up and started dressing in some kind of ceremonial dress. He then said something in his broken English nodding to the bosses and then it happened. He then lunged his sword into his stomach as he stifled screams of extreme pain before finally expiring on the floor. It was quite extreme. We all then kind of clapped awkwardly as his last death calls came out”.

Travelogue: Lisbon

January 2009: Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon-chill-out-tour1

Lisbon is a city I visit quite often for business and  each time I discover more and more of its treasures. A lot of these I found armed with one of a traveller’s greatest tools: serendipity. A spare weekend spent walking its streets reveals a satisfying blend of both its rich history and vibrant present.

I’m lucky to have some friends who live there who are always keen to show me the new pockets of the city they’ve uncovered. So I wanted to highlight some of the cooler places in this funky western european city just in case you decide to visit.

1. nood bar:

This is a definite visit for lovers of Asian food. It was one of the first places I stumbled across in Lisbon and pay homage every time I’m in Lisbon. It’s a darkened nonoododle bar minutes away from the Baixa Chiado metro stop. Some call it a rip off of the Waga Mama chain, but it has a cool design ethic, super friendly staff not to mention fantastic food. Heartily recommend the gyozas (duck, chicken or vegetable) for starters and a Chili Chicken Ramen to follow. All ingredients are fresh and they actually make their own stock which gaves the ramen in particular a strong taste.

2. El Terraco:

Lisbon has stellar weather pretty much most of the year and after time spent ambling around the city you need somewhere to relax and unwind.  For one of the best views of the city and the river Targus, head up the hill towards the Castle and saunter onto El Terraco.

lose a couple of hours

lose a couple of hours

It’s basically the top of an abandoned building which has been shoddily converted into a hang out for people wearing loose-fitting hemp pants, dreadlocks, and the ocassional tourist (like me) who plunks themselves down on one of the worn old couches and big cushions.

The fare is minimal; you can order a couple of different beers, a mix of herbal teas and pretty much just toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. But you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the chance to unwind and glance over the city at your leisure. You can while away hours there thumbing through your book above the traffic in the city below.

El Terraco above the city

El Terraco above the city

3. Onda Jazz:

cool little Lisbon jazz club

cool little Lisbon jazz club

OK this is a recent addition but a real find. Just one metro stop east of the city on the blue line, Onda (Portugese for wave) Jazz spotlights both local and international acts. Their resident act, Terrakota (myspace.com/terrakota) play on Tuesdays and often have guest artists playing with them. They are billed to start at 10:30  but you can wait anything from half an hour to two. But they’re definitely worth the wait so take a beer and wait while Lisbon’s young and old Jazz fans shuffle in and get settled. Beers are dead cheap and you’re given a little tag with a number which as acts as the beer tab you pay when you leave out the back.

Terrakotta playing at Onda Jazz Club

Terrakotta playing at Onda Jazz Club

4. Conserveira de Lisboa:

handwrapped canned fish!

Sure another food based place but what the hey, when you walk around a lot you get hungry. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s basically a quaint little canned fish store. No more than 10 square metres or so in size, it’s walls are lined with little tins of canned cod, tuna, squid, sardines – pretty much any thing you can fish out of the water.

Deck the walls with cans of tuna....

Deck the walls with cans of tuna....

The cool thing about this little shop are the two little ladies in the back corners who sit all day wrapping every single tin with their colourful wrappers.  Yeah…doesn’t sound so appealing I guess but this place is extremely popular for both locals and tourists alike.

You can find it just beyond the tourist bus drop off point at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 34, 1100-071 Lisboa.

5.  Street/stencil Art.

This is one of my most favourite things about Lisbon: it’s stencil art. In the earlier 20th century, Lisbon flourished as a city with its lot of grand buildings. Since the world wars a lot of this grandeur has been left to ruin and modern urbanlife has taken over and with it a vibrant street art scene. Most international cities have stencil art, but Lisbon has a real flair for this medium and you can see a colourful range of the banal, poetic, political, rude and bluntly funny art on the walls everywhere.

yabba yabba

yabba yabba

Hello there

Hello there

A couple of years back I once spent a whole weekend scouring the city snapping all the stencil art I saw and came away with over two hundred decent pieces.

There is also evidence of internationally known stencil artists making their mark here with pieces by DOLK and others. This is a lovely one, obliquely blending the old (the tilework) with the new (mimicking the past)

old & new

old & new

6. The trams.

Lisbon is a city of hills with the centre of the city surrounded by the suburbs above. For this reason, a number yellow trams  spread outward and upward from various locations around the city centre. It’s worth riding at least one, particularly the one which takes you up to the castle.

The pickpocket tram

The pickpocket tram

It’s well known in the guidebooks as a haven for pickpockets so amuse yourself picking out the miscreant/s that want to take your wallet.

On one trip, a friend and I offered seats to some elderly ladies who then in return signalled us when known pickpockets made a beeline for us. My friend, an American colonel, blatantly turned to a wouldbe thief and remarked that he hadn’t broken an arm for some time…Lots of fun

long winding streets

long winding streets

6. Green Pepper. Having lived in Norway for a number of years now there is a definite lack of vegetarian food on offer. Basically a vego meal in Norway is a normal dish then you take off the meat. So imagine my delight when two doors down from my hotel was the Green Pepper. I am going out on a limb here and say that this is definitely one of the best vegetarian restaurants I’ve ever been too in the world. Big deal.

The Green Pepper is a sharp, professionally run vegetarian restaurant located near the Praca de Espanha metro stop. Opening for both lunch and dinner, they take vegetarian food to the next level.  A family business, they use fresh ingredients every day and the variety is incredible. Faced with about 16 cold and typically three hot dishes there is more than enough to choose from for the vegetarian eater. The most memorable dish was the seitan (chicken substitute) fillets with a coffee bean sauce! Absolutely incredible. The staff are young, friendly and professional and most are ardent surfers.

7. Kaffehaus. Rua Anchieta 3, 1200 – 023 Lisboa. Step into this cafehouse and you step out of Portugal and into Austria. It’s tucked away down an alleyway up near the Baixa Chiado metro (not far from the Nood bar) and offers a quiet respite from the main drag. The guidebooks mention their selection of German and Austrian magazines but I come for the quiet and the great Austrian hot chocolate. Basically they bring you a tall glass of hot milk with a selection of different chocolates. For example, vanilla and cinnamon, hazelnut chocolate, nougat and others. You choose the one you fancy and drop it into the milk for a couple of minutes while you try and pretend to read the papers. Then stir it around to have a very satisfying cup of choc.

OK, this was a taster of what Lisbon has to offer. I’m back quite often so I’ll post more in future on the what other spoils can be found in the winding streets of this beautiful city.

Death metal songwriters slaughter their last sacrificial goat

This week,  fans of Death metal the world over celebrate 20 years of the hardest, darkest, most satanic music ever written. They celebrate the songwriting duo who have given the genre such classics as “Let it bleed”, “Satan claims the earth” and the seminal “Hellbound”.

With over two decades of hits behind them they’ve finally decided to call it a day and hang up their horns. In this exclusive interview we talk to the masters, Ethel and Norman Bates.

Ethel and Norman Bates, Death metal songwriters

Ethel and Norman Bates, Death metal songwriters

Metal Magazine: Ethel, Norman we’re very excited to be interviewing you today, the undisputed masters of metal. How did you start in the business?

Ethel Bates: Well I was always into Jazz, ever since the early days but when I first heard Morbid Angel’s “Bleed for the devil”  in the 80’s I thought, now that’s different..Norman Bates: It certainly was. I remember the lyrics as if it was yesterday… (uses darker croakier voice) “Fill the air with the smell of death / Grace us with your magic / Fill the night with the stench of evil / I summon forth the beast“. (Both laugh and smile fondly at each other)

MM: So what was it that drew you to songwriting?

EB: Definitely the raw power. There’s nothing like writing a reference to the dark lord that rhymes. Take for example the first song we wrote together, Raise the bloodlines of the Dark One. I still remember the line: With blood-stained eyes I tear out your heart/ Behold Satan with his dark art.” NB (laughs): Aah yes, lovely line there. I agree with Ethel, you certainly get a buzz particularly when a song has incited mindless violence, called upon the demon realm and defiled the virgins (both giggle).

MM: You’ve certainly worked with the greats of the genre: Satyricon, Angel Curse, Darkwoods, & Mercenary. All have deep respect for your talents. Gorgoth, from Death eaters, in particular has said, ” Ethel and Norman are the fucken darkest motherfuckers on this earth!”. What do you think about these compliments?

Gorgoth - fan of the Bates

Gorgoth - fan of the Bates

NB: Gorgoth? Isn’t he the one who does stuff with bats? (Ethel nods). It’s lovely to hear that of course, but the biggest pleasure we get is watching from backstage and looking down on a writhing, sweaty black mass of fans thrashing to a song you’ve written. To see all that angst and pain finally released on everyone around them. Lovely. EB: Sometimes it gets me going so much that I would throw myself into the moshpit and get caught up in it all. Of course since the hip replacement and the walking frame that’s a little harder ..(both laugh)

MM: So what’s the secret of your success?

NB: When you’ve worked so closely together as we have for so many years you really need to get on. EB: That’s right. NB:We start each morning at 5, after my first bowel movement with a nice cup of tea in the kitchen. Over the tea we talk about some themes we’d like to write about. You know, things like, open graves, daemonic wolf packs, blood on the streets, anarchy and so on.. EB: just to get the juices flowing..NB: That’s right, to get us in the mood. While Ethel goes and puts her teeth in I make my way to the study and get the blankets ready for our comfortable chairs where we then sit and write for the rest of the day until we’re finished..EB (laughing): or if one of us needs to empty our bladders!! Actually, I find painful constipation inspires me. Some of my best songs were written on the toilet you know.

MM: Ethel, Norman, on that note, I want to thank you for your time today and for your extensive contribution to the genre of death metal music. Hail Satan!

EB & NB(both making devil signs with their hands): Hail Satan!

Look at my doodle…

That’s right, my doodle. Let me explain, it’s a work thing. I’m in the kinda work where I sometimes have to sit for hours watching dull, listless powerpoint slides specifically designed to sap the lifeforce from you. So as an antidote I doodle. Yep, doodle. Scribble meaningless little drawings as the monotone presenter blabbers on. It actually works. An hour passes and my little blank piece of white paper is suddenly a map of … something. Something inside of my head definitely. And I’ve no idea what they mean but I kinda like them (compared ot the alternative).

So this is what I’m gonna do. I’ll every so often I post a doodle. Here’s the first: