Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Funky Ashkenazi

Here's a song by Marty Feldman called No Nuts. You can hear it in RealAudio format here.

No Nuts

There are no nuts in donuts
And no men in snowmen
And no zoo in Kalamazoo
There is no king in Woking
And no zing in dozing
But there's hate in my hatred for you

There's no ooze in Methuselah
And what is even unusualer
There isn't even a small boy
In a tallboy

There is no e in snowy
And no z in posy
And no k in boquet as well
And there was no m in poem
Till I learned to spell

There is no sir in grocer
And no bow in oboe
And no knee in macaroni
But the analogy still holds true
There are no nuts in donuts
And so nuts to you

Personally, I would say without reservation that this is the funkiest song I've heard all year.

As you probably know by now, I would love to have been born a Funky Ashkenazi. For the chance to be a Space Jew like Serge Gainsbourg, Georges Perec or Marty Feldman I would give my olive grove, my vineyard, and twelve tubs of my best goat's butter.

Space Jews (people like Kafka, Freud, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Alan Ginsberg, Georges Perec, Serge Gainsbourg and Marty Feldman) changed me and changed the world.

Ashkenazi: of or relating to the jews of Germany and Eastern Europe.

Diaspora: a dispersion or spreading, as of people originally belonging to one nation or having a common culture.

The word Ashkenazi contains the word Nazi.

The word Diaspora contains the word spore.

Funky usually means sexy and racially other.

There Is No E

The Nazis killed six million Ashkenazis, including both of Georges Perec's parents. His mother was picked up off the streets of Paris and sent to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.

Ashkenazi is a bigger word than Nazi. Anybody can be a Nazi, but not everybody can be an Ashkenazi. It's a birthright. It has its downside, though. You're a bit spacey, a bit excluded.

A lipogram is a text in which certain letters are banned. PRML SCRM, for instance, is a lipogram of Primal Scream.

Lipograms are just wordplay, but of course they have a political message too. The exclusion of certain letters can stand for the exclusion of people or races from society.

In 1969 Georges Perec published the world's longest lipogram, a 300 page novel called La Disparition. It banished the letter E, which is the most essential vowel in English as in French. Gilbert Adair's English translation is called A Void, but the French title is more pointed, because in French 'disparition' also means death.

Perec died in 1982. So did Marty Feldman. Like Gainsbourg, Perec was killed by cigarettes. The word cigarette contains two Es. The word death only has one.

There's No Love In 'I Love You'

Funky Ashkenazis are sexy, and they use sex as a way to overcome their outsiderdom. Gainsbourg's big hit was 'Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus)', the most -- and least -- sexy record ever made. I love you -- me neither.

Gainsbourg met Jane Birkin (who isn't Jewish) in 1968 while filming Slogan, a film in which he plays an advertising man. A few weeks ago I switched on my TV and caught the second half of a Marty Feldman movie from about 1970. I don't know what it was called, but in it Feldman played an advertising man too. What really stunned me was how funkily Feldman was dressed in this film. In every shot he is seen in a different matching fat collar and tie combo, decked in jewellery, flared up, afro-haired. A total gouster. Hipper than Dylan and Ginsberg in the 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' video. Hipper than Abbie Hoffman.

Above the bed where Feldman's character makes love to an unAshkenazi girl there's a sampler saying 'The wages of sin is death (but the hours aren't so bad)'.

There's No Accounting For Taste

Georges Perec and Marty Feldman looked very similar. They both had Ashkenazi afros. Like Gainsbourg, their noses were large and hooked and their eyes were very big (Feldman's were bigger).

Sorting through my papers, preparing for my imminent move to New York's Lower East Side (the most Funky Ashkenazi area of the most Funky Ashkenazi city on earth), I found some old press clippings. An article about Serge Gainsbourg from a 1970s British tabloid. 'How did a man this ugly get a girl this beautiful?' it demanded, going on to detail Gainsbourg's three day beard, his huge ears and hooked nose. Maybe they just didn't understand: the Funky Ashkenazi is hot, he's mad for it.

He has a high sex drive. He has a woody, whether his name is Woody or not. He masturbates a lot, and sometimes his word games resemble masturbation too. Leonard Cohen's The Favourite Game and Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint tell us something about this.

What racists don't seem to understand is that when you label someone impure or brand him a defiler of national purity, you instantly make him sexy to all the hippest, most liberal and liberated chicks. Being declared a defiler makes you mad keen to defile as much as you physically can. The mutual attraction of the pure for the impure is called exogamy and the human race depends on it. Otherwise we'd all be inbred, with six fingers and two heads.

There's No Hip In Hypocrisy

Gainsbourg and Perec were both sent, as children, to the unoccupied zone when the Nazis invaded Paris. Gainsbourg (then Lucien Ginsburg) was forced to wear a yellow star. Later he said that it was pure chance he survived the war. If he'd been in another town, he would have been arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

Perec spent the war in a town near Grenoble. There were no nazis in the french provinces at the time, but now there are. Some towns have National Front mayors. One recently banned a hip hop dancing class saying 'Hip hop dancing is contrary to the values of the French republic'.

Serge Gainsbourg's first hit was a song called La Javanaise. The lyric circles obsessively around the letter V, which Gainsbourg probably liked because it resembles a woman's sex.

J'avoue j'en ai ete bave par vous, mon amour
Avant d'avoir eu vent de vous, mon amour

There Is Popo In Hippopotamomus

Perec joined a group of writers who called themselves OuLiPo -- Ouvroir De Litterature Potentielle, or the Worshop For Potential Literature.

A good title for my next album would be 'Workshop For Potential Pop Music'. Ouvroir De Pop Potentielle renders 'OuPoPo'. Popo in French means shit. Serge Gainsbourg wrote a song about shit called 'L'Hippopodame', the Hippo(Shit)Woman. My 1991 album Hippopotamomus has the same relation to the album that song appears on, 1972's 'Vu De L'Exterieur', as the new Oasis album has to 'Sgt Pepper'.

The new Oasis video shows Liam on a magical mysery tour through the English coutryside. He's on a double decker bus. The plain houses and (strawberry) fields behind the bus go from time to time into psychedelic colours.

People think the 60s was just about the application of psychedelics to squaresville. But it's about a lot more than that. It's also about the moment the past met the future and they made... sometimes love, sometimes war.

In the Marty Feldman song you can hear strong echoes of George Formby's ukelele, but also acid and Monty Python.

Marty employed several future Pythons as writers on his 60s TV show 'Marty'.

In 1976 Marty Feldman was in a Mel Brooks movie called 'Silent Movie'. In one scene he plays Atari Pong on an ECG machine. Air play Pong in their video for 'Kelly Watch The Stars'. Air are to Serge Gainsbourg as Oasis are to the Beatles.

There's Hate In My Hatred For You

Nazis and the war were still a strong memory in the 60s. Marty worked with Mel Brooks, who made The Producers ('Springtime For Hitler And Germany...'). Gainsbourg made a concept album about the Nazis called 'Rock Around The Bunker' in 1976. One song is called 'Est Ce Est Ce Si Bon', which sounds like 'SS so good?'

My lipogram name for Oasis is SS. That's what you get when you take the vowels out. It's not Springtime for Oasis and Britpop. More like the depths of winter. They're standing on the shoulder of the wrong giant. (Paul McCartney made a very studied point at the Brat Awards to sit with Damon Albarn, as though brushing the parrots off his shoulder.)

In an essay on Oasis I wrote in 1996, I said:

'Just as I am a homosexual without having stuck my penis into a man, so I am also a jew despite the fact that I have a foreskin. Don't ask me why I am these things, I just am. I have suffered enough for the same reasons as jews and gays have suffered. I like to think of myself as an honorary member of their clubs. I have the illusion of being able to speak their secret languages, Palare and Yiddish.'

Marty Feldman co-wrote (with Barry Took) a book called 'Julian And Sandy's Bona Book'. Julian and Sandy were gay characters from the radio comedy Round The Horne. 'Bona' is a Palare word.

I don't know if Feldman spoke Yiddish, the diasporan Lingua Franca of Ashkenazis. I'm pretty sure he wasn't gay. But, like many Funky Ashkenazis, he was fascinated by language, as if it contained all of society, so that if you changed language, you could change society.

There's Alphabet In Aleph

In his book 'Especes D'Espaces' ('Species Of Spaces') Perec asks: 'Is the aleph, that place in Borges from which the whole world is visible simultaneously, anything other than an alphabet?'

Freud founded the science of psychoanalysis on word association and wrote books about jokes and spoonerisms, saying that such apparently trivial tropes of speech in fact contained deep truths about the way we think and live.

One of Freud's books is called 'The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life'.

Kafka's diaries contain many games with words, with the shapes of letters.

The anchorites of the Holy Land, the ones who buried the Dead Sea Scrolls, saw the Romans approaching their cities, burning everything. They withdrew to caves in the desert, knowing that as long as their sacred texts survived the fire, their culture would survive.

The BBC has erased the entire series of Marty Feldman's late 60s series 'Marty'. They needed the tapes. It just didn't seem that important at the time.

My favourite joke by Woody Allen goes: 'My brother thinks he's a chicken. We'd send him to a shrink for a cure, only we need the eggs.'

The word 'world' contains the word 'word'. If you mistrust language's ability to portray reality (perhaps you've seen words used too many times to stir up hate) you have two options: either become a writer (play with words, break their hard shells, make omelette. But remember, you need your insane brother to keep laying eggs). Or renounce and denounce words altogether and be silent.

In Mel Brooks' 'Silent Movie,' mime Marcel Marceau is the only person who has a speaking role.


Post-Scriptum: Just as I was finishing this essay two police officers knocked on my door. They wanted to know if I'd seen anything suspicious yesterday, and told me that a Star of David made of gaffer tape had been stuck to the window of the medical surgery across the road in a racial attack. My medical surgery, where my doctor is Jewish. Apparently anti-semitism is not dead, even in 21st Century London, and even on my street.

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