Friday, January 26, 2007


Michael Carmichael at believes that "it is all too clear that the Bush presidency is swiftly moving toward a tragic denouement of Shakespearean proportions."
Two of America's savants have uttered pronouncements about the final days of the presidency of George Walker Bush. In his magisterial statement succinctly titled, "Bush's Thousand Days," Arthur Schlesinger, Jr pointed out that we have just crossed a significant date, for now less than one thousand days remain of the beleaguered Bush presidency. Schlesinger raises grave issues facing the deeply unpopular president. In his analysis of "The Passion of George W Bush," Sidney Blumenthal dubbed this darkening period the "endgame." Taken together, these two essays present a disturbing image of a presidency in the throes of decline and desperation. These two essays urge us to consider the likelihood of a political collapse that could lead to disastrous consequences for America and Britain.
More here

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Idiocracy UK ~ Celebrity Big Brother

Mind-rot masquerading as entertainment has been endemic within our recalcitrantly idiotic popular "culture" for some time. UK tv's witless procession of neanderthal nonentities, fame junkies and wearisome wannabes, paraded for our postmodern delectation and delight, has been varnished with so many layers of irony and self-justifying claptrap that we're asked to celebrate "reality" tv both for its alleged authenticity and, simultaneously, for its ironic inauthenticity. The ironic joke behind Celebrity Big Brother is that the so-called "real" celebrities are humiliated and subordinated to a new generation of "fake" celebrities manufactured by reality tv. Of course, the pre-scripted punchline of last year's CBB was that it was won by the only non-celebrity contestant, Chantelle.

Presumably we were supposed to enjoy the spectacle of reality tv's vile progeny the Goodies (even their surname sounds like it was engineered in Big Brother's Ironic Laboratory) accusing authentic Bollywood star Shilpa of being a "fake." The "authentic" culture clash between the imbecilic bastions of British idiocy the Goodies (and their like/simple-minded coven of cronies) and the Big Brother household's comparatively gracious Indian and American guests was a cynical set-up, and the inevitable pay-off was always going to involve inarticulate Jade, Jackiey or Danielle (so vacant and unpleasant that she might as well be a Goody) claiming that the fluent foreigners couldn't speak "proper" English. Dignified Shilpa's discomfort upon being asked to join in with the retarded Brit Pack's sordid sex chat was clearly factored in to the script by Endemol executives as a mere appetiser to the inevitable "spin the bottle/show us your g-string" antics that would surely follow. The Crass corrupting the Class was their intention, but Shilpa was just too self-assured to succumb and, thankfully, the indications are that the British public are on her side.

Endemol, and Channel 4, hoped this would play out like a bad 70s sitcom. Big Brother's first task involved forcing the celebrity housemates to play the roles of domestic servants to the awful Goodies and this was clearly a plotline designed to maximise the sitcomedic potential of cultural dissonance/class divides. As it happens, due to quirk of good/bad fortune, Shilpa was spared the indignity of waiting on the Goodies, but BB's intent was there. Ch4/Endemol's disengenuous claims that the mongrel sitcom, that they so assiduously and artificially produced, "Are You Being Racially Abused?", is an authentic reflection of wider British society is both a cynical attempt to boost ratings and an egregious evasion of responsibility.

Memo to Channel 4, Endemol et al: this is the crass "culture" that you helped to create. This celebration of idiocy, shallowness, greed and incomprehension ~ this culture of despair ~ that's your glorious legacy that is, so don't blame us. This is the "culture" that you, and your sycophants in the mass media, bribed, brain-washed and blackmailed us to buy into. Those of us with the temerity to condemn mind-rot tv like CBB were dismissed as "pseudo-intellectual" or "out of touch." Don't start whining when the "stars" of your artificial and idiotic entertainment vehicles are perceived to be authentic ambassadors of Britain. Big Brother is certainly a microcosm of a macro-malaise, but society isn't to blame: Endemol and Channel 4 are.

Perhaps we should just put India's incomprehension at the imbecilic, inhospitable antics of the moronic Brits down to their inability to appreciate irony? If the Indians possessed a scintilla of sophistication they would surely have deconstructed all this puerility as postmodern japery? Cultural differences, you see. We promote idiocy, promiscuity, drunkeness, rudeness and anti-social behaviour with an ironic insincerity that simultaneously celebrates and condemns it. Now we've been treated to the spectacle of the mass media devouring the surgically-altered poster girl of Idiocracy tv as "salt-of-the-earth" Jade Goody is suddenly rebranded "bigoted Baddie." Dr. Frankenstein is in denial, absolving himself of all responsibility for the monster that he created.

Screw the smug cartel who promote our vacuous celebrity culture: panderers, pimps and profiteers the lot of them. Vultures picking on the carcass of our, formerly vibrant, popular culture. May they choke on the bones.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wichita Vortex Sutra ~ The Last Antiwar Poem

From The Believer

Fifty years ago this month, City Lights Books debuted Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems — a collection of ranting, ecstatic verses that challenged the conservatism of Eisenhower-era America. Within a year of its publication, “Howl” had become the focus of an obscenity trial that ultimately redefined the limits of free expression in America. Considered by many to be a triumphant literary precursor to sixties counterculture and youth rebellion, Howl went on to sell over more than a million copies and influence a generation of poets.

This month, City Lights is commemorating Howl’s fiftieth anniversary with the publication of Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression, a Bill Morgan–edited anthology that collects correspondence, commentaries, and photographs documenting the publication and defense of Howl. Another anthology commemorating “Howl,” Jason Shinder’s The Poem That Changed America, debuted earlier this year, and fiftieth-anniversary celebration galas are slated (or have already happened) in places like San Francisco, Montreal, and London.

Amid the festivities, however, it’s easy to forget how dated “Howl” can sound in 2006. Fifty years removed from the social constraints that made it seem scandalous in 1956, Ginsberg’s poem has become a victim of its own success — a quaint reminder that profane, stream-of-consciousness verse is no longer shocking or significant. Written as a Whitmanesque ode to id in an era of repression, “Howl” now brings to mind reality-TV programming — a drug-addled, homoerotic variation of “Jackass,” wherein Ginsberg gleefully recounts how he and his Ivy League buddies slummed it with the impoverished and the insane, “burned cigarette holes in their arms,” “walked all night with their shoes full of blood,” “jumped in the filthy Passaic,” “threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers,” and “threw up groaning into the bloody toilet.”

No doubt “Howl” will continue to be recognized as an essential twentieth-century poem, but if we aspire this year to recognize the anniversary of a Ginsberg poem that still seems relevant and challenging, we should fast-forward ten years to 1966, when the iconic Beat poet penned “Wichita Vortex Sutra” — an antiwar lament that carries an observational honesty not present in the MTV din of “Howl.”

More here

Friday, January 12, 2007



Mike Judge could have gone the easy route. His last movie, Office Space, became a smash hit on DVD because the frat boy douchebags he mercilessly mocked became its biggest fans. But rather than make another feel-good comedy, he's made the extremely bizarre Idiocracy, which you might call a feel-bad comedy about the silent killer of American civilization, namely our collective stupidity. A feel-bad comedy that has grossed just over $400,000 to date, barely enough to cover the cost of spray-tanning the stars of Laguna Beach. Given that the release was limited to six cities—and that there was literally no promotion—the poor showing makes perfect sense. The tragedy is that Idiocracy is easily the most potent political film of the year, and the most stirring defense of traditional values since Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.

More here

Chasing Dash Snow

From New York Magazine

The artist Dash Snow rammed a screwdriver into his buzzer the other day. He has no phone. He doesn’t use e-mail. So now, if you want to speak to him, you have to go by his apartment on Bowery and yell up. Lorax-like, he won’t come to the window to let you see that he sees you: He has a periscope he puts up so he can check you out first.

Partly, it comes from his graffiti days, this elusiveness, the recent adolescence the 25-year-old Snow spent tagging the city and dodging the police. “He’s pretty paranoid about lots of things in general, and some of it was dished out to him, but others he’s created himself,” says Snow’s friend, the 27-year-old artist Dan Colen, who—like so many of their friends—has made significant artistic contributions to the ever-expanding mythology of Dash Snow. Colen and Snow went to London together this fall for the Saatchi show in which they both had work. (Saatchi had bought one of Colen’s sculptures for $500,000.) Saatchi got them a fancy hotel room on Piccadilly. They had to flee it in the middle of the night with their suitcases before it was discovered that they’d created one of their Hamster’s Nests, which they’ve done quite a few times before. To make a Hamster’s Nest, Snow and Colen shred up 30 to 50 phone books, yank around all the blankets and drapes, turn on the taps, take off their clothes, and do drugs—mushrooms, coke, ecstasy—until they feel like hamsters.

If you want to find Snow, you have to find Colen, or Snow’s other best friend, the 29-year-old photographer Ryan McGinley, who four years ago became the youngest person ever to have a solo show at the Whitney. That show, “The Kids Are Alright,” depicted a downtown neverland where people are thrilled and naked, leaping in front of graffiti on the street, sacked out in heaps of flannel shirts—everything very debauched and drug-addled and decadent, like Nan Goldin hit with a happy wand. Part of what made McGinley so famous (like Goldin before him) was that he offered not just an artist’s vision of a free and rebellious alternative life but also the promise that he was actually living it, through photos that looked spontaneous, stolen, of an intimate cast of characters, a family of friends, and in McGinley’s case, of Snow in particular. In some ways, Snow has been his muse.

“I guess I get obsessed with people, and I really became fascinated by Dash,” says McGinley, who shares a Chinatown loft a few blocks away from Snow’s apartment with Dan Colen, whom McGinley has known since they were teenage skateboarders in New Jersey. The apartment used to be a brothel; for a long time, Chinese men would come to the door and be disappointed when McGinley or Colen answered it. McGinley shows me his photos of Snow over the years, dozens and dozens of them. Snow with cornrows, with a shaved head, with a black eye. There is one photo called Dash Bombing that was in the Whitney show: a shadowy shot of Snow out on a ledge, tagging a building in the night sky, Manhattan spread out below him. It’s an image of anarchic freedom, one that seems anachronistic and almost magical in this city of hermetically sealed glass-cocoon condo towers. It’s as if Snow were an animal—prevalent in the seventies, now thought to be extinct—that was spotted high over the city.

“I actually don’t like graffiti,” McGinley says. “I was just interested in the person that would write their name thousands and thousands and thousands of times. These kids that would go up on a rooftop, 40 stories up, and go out on a ledge to write their name—it’s just, like, the insanity of it all!” McGinley smiles his clean smile. “It’s funny to me that Dash has become like a rock star, but he’s so paranoid. That comes from graffiti culture—like, you want everybody to know who you are and you’re going to write your name all over the city, but you can’t let anyone know who you really are. It’s, like, this idea of being notorious.”

And because notoriety is crucial to something much larger than graffiti culture, Dash Snow is becoming a kind of sensation. Young people poured out onto Joey Ramone Place waiting to get into his last show at Rivington Arms gallery. He had a piece in the Whitney Biennial—a picture of a dog licking his lips in a pile of trash and several other Polaroids. You may not be able to find him, but you can hear his name, that zooming syllable—Dash!—punctuating conversations in Chelsea galleries and Lower East Side coke parties and Miami art fairs and the offices of underground newspapers in Copenhagen and Berlin, like a kind of supercool international Morse code. Because the art world loves infamy. Downtown New York City loves infamy—needs it, in fact, to exist.

Ariel Levy

More here

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Swingin' Sounds for Hipsters vol.4

I've just put together my 4th iTunes imix, Swingin' Sounds for Hipsters Vol.4.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Graeme Jamieson ~ Here in Naples

Six Degrees

Here, in Naples…

I sit and sip a-something or other which is hot, very hot, and small; Cornet-like. My table, it is tinned, faded. It once was navy, rounded. But its lip, it is silvered now, and the understain spreads like a hard core sore. I wouldn't complain though, sitting as I am within the soothing hum of the city which sits crouched, cramped even, beneath the geo-psychic stalker that is Vesuvius.

Outside of the States, where better to come and observe the American Dream – the ‘worker’s sleep’ of which Berlusconi has his classes believe – than to the tumbledown streets of the Camorra?

Where better, indeed.

Across the street, there’s graffiti that reads “See Naples & Die”. Like many things in this supposedly contrary place, the phenomenology has an underside.

They say that Naples is the most beautiful city in the world and, when you have seen it, you may die happy. But there is also a small town nearby called ‘Mori’, the Italian word for ‘die’, where thousands once perished with cholera and typhoid.

Here, as the air fades to sepia, and the clock hands itself over to late, I hear the whizz of life and the clunk of the underworld; the suspicious Fifth Estate. There's banter about that bites, while all-around is filled with sore-eyed sights, and the magical, mysterious mime of a warm wind chiming “Who Cares?”

Not me. This street-cafe spills with segreti dei panettieri, as I ponder the Bourbon Monarchy and what path to beat to my trouser-fit tomorrow with Antonio Ambrosi. Yeah, I'll be here for four days tops, to splash some paint on a page, in a way that’ll look Latin and enraged.

Five Degrees

It does not do to upset the locals. Let me give you a for instance: early this morning, I went to collect my suit from the dry cleaner in Quartieri Spagnoli. The lady who runs the dry cleaner is the sister of the landlady at my hotel. She looks identical, and I mean, they could be the same woman. Thing is, we established quite the different relationship from the off.

When I travel, it’s always with an alias. You might assume that I do so to save me from any ‘dairy’, but, I get that wherever I go. So, whenever I adopt an assumed, it’s to upscale my room, or to clear a ‘Carla Rosa’ passed a line of grooms. Insofar as this kind of ‘Falconer trick’ can get one into a jam, I tend to use mine only when I’m faraway from home, on the lam, or in a clink zone. My name this week then, is ‘Giancarlo Gambino’.

Whatever, I’m just back from collecting my ‘tin flute’, and the woman there, Cosi’s sister, she was great. After only 16 hours, my Italian is still somewhat spotty, but when I made a joke about the small horse in her backyard and the open fish tank full of catfish, she seemed tickled.

Ten minutes later, I get back to the hotel, and I run the same line past the other sister, but she gives me the stern face, and the flick of the wrist.

Crushed, I take my pressed suit upstairs before returning for a late breakfast.

My guess is that this is a family place, as the brute of a waiter looks just like the chef, while I think they wear the same kind of ‘divot’ – because this morning, outside my window, they were both doing the 1st of May thing, on their knees in the dewy back green, and they were balder then – so it goes down like this.

In any case, I've polished-off my buffalo, which was delicious, when the waiter brings back a cheque. Without thinking, I've scribbled “Jamieson”. The guy 180's it, and goes white with fright. He says only “Gambino?” and I realise I’ve made a mistake.

“Dialo indietro,” I splutter, before proceeding to put a line through it, and signing my alias sincerely. Realising that he’s pretty shook up, I ask him if he speaks English: “Yes, some.”

“I saw a frog this morning, just along the road. You know, a frog. Tell me, where might that have come from?”

“Ah, ‘Aviation Blonde’?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“There is, how you say, il bordello. A brothel. You want?”

“Thank you, but no! Tell you what though, might I have another one of these?”

“Si, uno Caffe Coretto.”

At any rate, I’m back at that place I was in yesterday, the cafe, but I have to go see Signore Ambrosi now: my appointment’s at four, and no doubt there'll be more small talk on the floor.

Four Degrees

There was a young lady at reception, with a well-dressed chap busying himself beside her...


“Hello, my name is Gambino.”

“You have an appointment?”

He took over...

“Ah, Signore Gambino, welcome and good afternoon. I am Salvatore. You must sit, yes? There is something you would like to drink, perhaps? An aperitivi?”

“That’d be great, thank you. Do you have any iced tea?”

“Of course. We also have today the 'Baba' Cake, from Nunzo – the best bakers in Napoli!”

“Sounds terrific.”

“You have arrived all the way from England, no?”

“Actually, no. I have come from Edinburgo, La Scozia.”

He started using his hands, statedly.

“Signore Gambino, I will be with you in ten minutes. We will discuss your requirements, and I introduce you with my father, Antonio. He will measure, cut, sew, fit.”

“I understand.”

“My father, he has no English. You speak Italian, yes?”

“I know enough to talk myself into a fight. Maybe not enough to talk myself out of one, though!”

“Very good. Veronica-”

The sign in front of me read: “Napoli è un' officina dove si coltiva da sempre l' attitudine a trasformare le materie più semplici in somma raffinatezza”

Loosely, this means that Naples is a workshop, where the attitude is the starting point to cultivate and transform the simpler matters into refinement.

I had come here for two reasons. Firstly, to produce a self-portrait for a gallery who offered me double time for a self-expression of my ‘clock’. Stuck for inspiration, and long on separation, this seemed like the place to take stock. I’ve always felt an affinity with this part of Italy. I think it’s something to do with Pompeii, like a feeling for New Orleans, and the sensation of losing a place.

In a little over two days, I have found here a feeling of invisibility. There is a worker’s ethic, and a player’s aesthetic. It’s very male, if that makes any sense, but even now, years after any mass-orphaning war of note, there is a tangible absence of paternity. If it had a voice, it would be a children’s singing one, bastardised by centuries of infiltration, of internal conflict, and the dark arts of exploitation. I feel very aware of it, especially through, as I marked this morning, its pollution of petty crooks and prevalence of pickpockets.

Secondly, I came to Naples to have a garment made-to-measure. Some of the finest names in haberdashery jostle for position, and even just a jacket can set you back £25,000. I believe that some designers don’t even sell their wares here, electing only to have a window. It’s all about awareness.

If you’re looking for a suit, head to Marigliano, Marino, Merolla, Monetti. Should you want something a little extra-special in the shoulder, try Attolini, Panico, Rubinacci, Solito. If you need a custom-shirt made, choose between De L' Ero and Matuozzo. Perchance a necktie? Marinella, baby! If you fancy taking a closer look at the Duke of Windsor’s original cloth, get pally with the nephew of the owner at Kiton, where they’ll give you a tour of the factory, take you for lunch in the staff canteen, and you’ll eat some of the freshest foodstuff in the city, including vegetables grown onsite.

Me, I’m more into getting a pair of strides made – I’ll come back another time to sample the home-made marmalade – as I have enough suits, and quite frankly, I’m of-an-age now where I consider a well-designed handmade trouser an absolute necessity. Which means, for the true Neapolitan look, where the leg fits closely, there is nowhere better than Ambrosi. They make them for the best names in Italy. At least, that’s what they told me.

“Mr Gambino, I have your requirements here.”

“Shoot, Salvatore.”

“You want a spring weight, 450 grams, with a fish tail?”

“Quite so, like a herringbone.”

“This weight, with this cloth, will be delicate, very beautiful. Molto buon osservare!”

I said nothing.

“We look at colours after, yes? OK, I think my father is ready for you.”

Three Degrees

What goes on between a tailor and his client is confidential.

What I must say is that the experience was wonderfully peculiar. Sgr. Ambrosi is a noble and affable gentleman, one who circumnavigated my senses with an equitable chortle. I can tell you that he possesses both the hands of a cherub, and the skin of a Caravaggio. The whole experience was pore-opening, as it should be when spending private time with a master of their craft. I left feeling enriched, becalmed, and strangely secure in the knowledge that, in reality, I knew nothing about nothing.

There was something of the 'Mustachio Pete' about his way, but he wasn't so old-school as to not have his indices on the pulse.

To the strains of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, I was given a sweet tip, with regards to where to get an honest 'hat cut'.

When we were done, he also pressed an envelope into my hand, which I presumed held some kind of receipt to be presented when collecting my purchase.

During his free-dimensional dance, I’d mentioned that I fancied sampling a Neapolitan Negroni while I was visiting. With his seemingly customary urbanity, he told me to ask Veronica to make an appointment at Gianni Cirillo’s, the barber, who might have a better idea of where I should spend an evening.

Good as gold, Veronica called il barberia while I wrote a cheque. My appointment was set.

“Signore Gambino, would you like a taxi?”

“Oh, it’s okay,” I said.

Wednesday was sunny, and I had 15 minutes with my wits to find Via Crispi, "I'll make my own way."

The route from Nicotera to Crispi is something else. The symbolical sons and daughters of the South are seemingly all cutting up touches, as the street-signs shout: Gennaro Serra, Carolina, Sant’Orsola, Filangeri, Colonna. While these monikers may take one to another thyme and plaice, the reality was that my walking pace was quickened and corroded by the bustle of the hustle of hucksters and the all-consuming fumes of Fiat trucks.

Flustered, I reached for the envelope Sgr. Ambrosi had handed me, and from there on in, I was thrown.

“Dear Giancarlo,

My name is Michele. You do not know me, but I am the son of a very powerful man here in Naples. My father was a friend to your grandfather, Gilberto, and he was the Godfather of your father’s brother, Alessandro. I studied with them both, and we trained to be mechanics together.

Don Gaetano would like to meet you before returning to your homeland. On Friday, at 20:00, you will come to Trieste E Trento. It is a dark green door, on the South East corner. You will see two buttons on a panel to the right of this door. Push the one marked ‘Otsukare’.

Until tomorrow,

Michele Gaetano”

Strangely, the first thing that struck me was the quality of English.

Elsewhere, in fact, everywhere else, translated text came in a kind of convoluted ‘Inglish’. This was different. At any rate, my tongue found it’s way to my right incisor, and I started biting down on it, indeterminately.

Had I just been fitted-out or fitted-up?

Technically, my grandfather’s name was Gilbert, and my uncle is called Alex. But I am not really Giancarlo. There must have been some mistake.


I’m sure it does say something about my father being an “auto mechanic” on my birth certificate, but I’ve never thought any more of it. But a mechanic, according to the gang-slang anyway, is a hired killer. Or a card sharp. What if I’ve being living some ignorant lie? What did “powerful man” mean?

For a moment, I was fit to be tied. If it was too much to think about, I felt right away that I couldn’t just not turn up, even if I was getting ahead of myself, and this was a case of mistaken identity. Though the more my mind ebbed and flowed, swam back and forth, I lost my sense of self, and wondered why, for as long as I could remember, I'd chosen ‘Gambino’ as an assumed name.

By the time I arrived at Gianni Cirillo’s, I wasn’t even there. Cirillo was an immaculate guy, who was dressed in a grey waistcoat. He has a strong head of hair, and purls with a lisp. I didn’t take much in, but the moment he threw a cape over me, and tucked it under my chin, the conversation drifted to music. Cirillo composes his own, playing it deafeningly loud through an old gramophone. In all honesty, I had a hundred questions in my head, but none that I felt I could ask him.

Eventually, as he angled a mirror to impress me with his handiwork, I began to think of Naples’ secret twin; the passageways and chambers beneath, all allegedly connected by an underlayer of identical avenues, aqueducts and piazzas. What if I was in danger? I thought about that all the way back to my hotel, until I made it safely into my room, locked the door, and realised I hadn’t asked Sgr. Cirillo where I should go for that cocktail. I’d forgotten about the booze: things really were getting serious.

Two Degrees

Thursday was a day for redoubled reflection: I'd spent a restless, self-obsessed chessboard night vexing my neocortex over the Aristotelian principles of time, place and action. Riddled with disharmony, I was at least united in distraction, which is as good a denouement as any to go delving for my confection.

Resigned to a drunkard's fate, I spent the whole afternoon – and much of the early evening – in an O. Henry-state, managing to create a self-portrait that looked good enough for the Tate. Before it got too late, I took a cue from a guide of mine, and went looking for the answers in two ready bottles of wine.

‘La Cantinetta’, downstairs at the ‘Hotel San Francesco’, has an air of da capo aria in it. A former wine cellar in what was once an ancient monastery, it offered me a winged-prayer as I parked my derriere on a Philippe Stark chair, and got as drunk as a rogue monk caught on the verge of some unchastely affair.

One Degree

Signora Cosi wouldn't stop banging on my door. I have to say, I'm glad she didn't because I wouldn't have made the standing eight. Mercifully, she wasn’t having me miss breakfast for a second day.

In the afternoon I collected my pantaloni from Via Nicotera, but there was no sign of the old man. Veronica was very friendly though, and suddenly I felt better about deciding against an earlier flight plan.

At a deferential eight minutes to eight, I found myself standing in the doorway eyeing ‘Otsukare’. I was no longer angry, even though a security camera was staring at me. It was already too late: I was joining the party.

It isn't the done-thing to go about giving out information on private people.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to address the facts as they appear to stand.

Don Gaetano is a freeze-frowned, buttoned-down stand-up figure in shipping, who, back in 1962, gave my uncle his start. Apparently, in those days, my uncle would service the propeller shafts for half-a-dozen small vessels, and he and his younger brother would go on to move cargo along the Amalfi coast, from their base in Positano, on behalf of Gaetano. This was all-new to me, but they broke it gently.

I was told that Gilberto, my grandfather, and his Scottish sweetheart, Mary, first met Gaetano 63 years ago, before they were even married. The story goes that he was just starting-up his own firm, while my grandfather was an industrial engineer for a local munitions company. They both lived in a village where everybody knew everybody, 130 kilometres north from here.

In the early 1970s, around the time my grandparents emigrated to Canada, both my uncle and my father seemingly moved to Scotland. This was the first time, he said, that my bloodline had been back since.

Until today, I had grown up knowing that my grandparents lived near Niagara Falls, and that my grandfather worked for Garrett, a metal detector manufacturer: but I’d always presumed they’d moved there from Scotland. After coming back "home" when I was about eight years old, my darling grandmother passed away when I was 12, and my grandfather died four years ago.

Michele, the younger Gaetano, is a likeable guy. He said he'd actually been to my house once when I was younger. I don’t remember him though, but that’s probably understandable, given that he visited 24 years ago. He’s stayed in touch with my uncle, and maintains an interest in ‘Pavarotti’s’ and ‘Sorrento’, a pair of restaurants in Aberdeen run by an associate, Antonio La Torre. I suppose that’s ‘Etalian’ for Tony Tower. So it seems neither man has anything to do with the Camorra.

I had a fine two hours, and left with a number of gifts to take home. The pointed news though, is that Don Gaetano offered me a price to paint him. That, and the strangely subduing fact I am half-Italian. But I won’t be getting in too much of a lather. Not least until I've spoken with you, father.

Graeme Jamieson