Almost blue: confessions of a jazz junkie

Well just about, in fact “..within a hair’s breadth of death”. Chet Bakers’s public admission in Today magazine of 1963 was a no-holes-barred confession that would seem to reflect a complete disregard for his life and personal reputation.


Chet Baker by William Claxton


From being the fastest rising jazzman in the business, I have become the world’s best known junkie. Police, medical authorities, the customs men of a dozen countries, the F.B.I. and the British Home Office..all keep a close eye on me..I have pumped enough dope into me to kill a quarter of a million normal people..I am nauseated and appalled by my drug madness. I loath myself for my addiction. It is sheer lunacy.. etc.

But strangely, after going public in this way, he just seemed to gain notoriety. Infamy could best describe him not withstanding film star looks – vividly described by the photographer Claxton.

How good was the so called ‘James Dean of jazz’ ? Certainly good enough for Charlie Parker to seek him out for his quintet in May, 1952 & to quote him: “You better look out there’s a little white cat on the coast who’s gonna eat you up” (Or was it really the dope connection?)

But it wasn’t just his looks, as Parker’s Whitlock (subbing band member) confides: “I remember him (Parker) being absolutely dazzled by his ear”. A similar account in regards to his bravura playing from Art Blakey at the Bryant with Thelonious Monk: “I didn’t know this motherf@#0* could play like this”.

West coast cool, the sound of Gerry Mulligan’s Quartet, Pacific Jazz label and community of musicians are an inherent part of  Baker’s formative career; his was the sound of Southern California, the sun & the beach. But somehow the persona and the music seem remote as ever.

And he is capable of heart breaking lyricism:



Maybe his real fame lay in the combination of these attributes: his boyish looks, the bored, cool exterior – as much the effect of addiction – along with the androgynous singing voice.

It is not surprising he continues to be the subject of movies and productions: the Jeckel and Hyde persona, the erratic behaviour, the raw talent, his seemingly effortless performances and see-sawing personal life and fortune including film appearances. And a noteworthy laissez-faire remark on meeting Mussolini’s musician son, Romano: “Gee, It’s a drag about your old man” (!)

Finally, a recent comment on Almost Blue YouTube feed befitting his legacy:

‘We should send Chet discography into space just to let the whole universe know that we are capable of something beautiful after all’  Francesco


Born to Be Blue starring Ethan Hawke (2016)


Alien Messages

messages from space

The media is littered with eye witness accounts of extraterrestrial encounters and while some seem genuine enough a vast number are discredited.

Of the plethora of sightings two distinctly different recorded accounts are worth mentioning here. Both are especially revealing.

Alphanumerical sequence

On August 15, 1977, an alphanumerical sequence 6EQUJ5 was recorded at the Big Ear radio observatory at the Ohio Sate University. The sequence, emanating from the constellation Sagittarius is regarded as the most persuasive evidence of extraterrestrial communication. A volunteer researcher named Jerry Ehman working at the observatory at the time, circled the sequence with a red pen and wrote ‘Wow’ in the margin. Observatory director John Krauss confirmed the finding and was astonished at the discovery. Lasting approximately 72 seconds the radio signal is known as the ‘Wow Signal’.

Jillian Kass-Ross branded in the night


In 1987 Jillian Kass-Ross woke from sleep at 2 am to a terrifying blinding orange light. The heat and light were extreme and overwhelming & she was unable to open her eyes. A few moments later she fell asleep.

The next day the Australian model saw three vertical pin pricks on her forehead and by the evening her face had swollen dramatically. Later medical examination revealed no known cause. A week later the swelling subsided leaving three triangular brandings on her forehead. Some days later while on holiday in Egypt she would be greeted by locals praying to her on seeing these unusual skin brandings. A former RAAF officer Colin Norris, then President of S.A. UFO research organisation confirmed that her case was one of a spate of skin brandings at the time. He and his associates had photographed at least a dozen cases with identical skin markings in Victoria and South Australia.

Of the numerous documented encounters, these two vastly different cases share the same peculiarity; the message while undecipherable nevertheless seems persuasively real.

So what do we send them? Macabre eating images and rather cliche ‘Star Trek’ style depictions of people tacked onto spacecraft seemingly as an afterthought.

Yes, this is for real:

Courtesy of the NAIC – Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF

Compare Leonardo’s proportions almost 500 years earlier:

The depiction of a human couple was included as part of a plaque attached to the antenna of the 1972 Pioneer 10 & 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft. Included on the plaque are symbols for our Solar System, silhouette of spacecraft, hydrogen element and our Sun’s relative position to the centre of the Galaxy and 14 pulsars.

How much public & government consultation occurred for this, our message to the universe? Considering its significance NASA gave astronomers Carl Sagan, Dr. Frank Drae & Linda Salzman Sagan just 3 weeks to complete the task. The 1977 Voyager Spacecraft includes similar symbolic imagery on a Golden Record. In case it is intercepted by alien intelligence, NASA included the bizarre eating image (see link above).

The imagery on Pioneer Plaque has since been widely criticized including the use of ‘arrow’ symbolism (presumably derived from our hunter-gatherer origins), sexual bias in the depiction of the human couple with hand gesture and submissive posturing etc etc. All this leads to the inevitable question: Have we really considered the consequences of communicating with extraterrestrial intelligences? Perhaps they have? And now we’ve sent the messages we cannot undo them.

Since Voyager and Pioneer at least 2000 alien planets have been detected and these discoveries suggest habitable worlds are common throughout the Milky Way galaxy. It is reasonable to assume that intelligent life has had enough time to evolve in our universe of 13.8 billion years. Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California believes it a reasonable proposition to expect to find intelligent life over the next decade. This is the time needed to search for radio signals from a million stars or more – a number large enough to discover intelligent life.

Jillian Kass-Ross had a recurring dream of bright lights illuminating a building with minarets on her travels following her brandings. Weeks later & to her astonishment she saw the dream played out on the television news as missiles exploded over an identical building in Baghdad. When she discovered a 6 metre circle burnt in her hobby farm she wondered whether these events were somehow related.

..Is anyone out there? 


Terrestial refereces!_signal

John Pinkney 2009, Ultimate Book of Unsolved Mysteries. Five Mile Press

Taste for the Weird

‘A yogi levitates at the Conway Hall’, ‘Golfer is knocked out by his own back-swing’, ‘Tarantulas employed to guard jewellery’.. and the stories keep coming because there seems to be an unlimited appetite for the strangest, weirdest and sensational. 

And why not? ‘A cheating husband reveals lover’s details in sleep’ would be a nightmare right? ’A shop assistant loses $2,700 by misreading price tag’ is ideal for a resume. Who knows, ‘Portrait of a politician sculpted in poo’  may actually be an act of flattery and perhaps ‘A forger’s spelling error’ was a freudian slip (yeah, right).

Observe the seemingly limitless updates in the weird and bizarre categories on sites such as Daily Bhaskar & Daily Picks and Flicks And you weren’t tempted to read beyond the headlines?

Rude tube may satisfy a limited demographic but the benign and ridiculous seem to regularly appear at the end of prime-time, free-to-air news bulletins.

But as is often the case & on closer inspection the formula for this type of news may not be so obvious. Real macabre and horror (of the homicide variety) are avoided so that the serious is bypassed for the trivia and funny lending to the full spectrum of human emotions. The scary of the spook variety is supplanted with the slap-stick spook; its not so much ‘The ghosts at Huddon-le-Green’ but rather ‘Girl sees religious message in tomato’ or ‘Man lets honeybees form enormous beard on his chin’. Things can be funny peculiar and not just plain scary or as so many commentators say of our 24/7 news cycle, ‘exhaustive and unrelenting’.

What is surprising is the sheer number of weird and ridiculous stories so much so it may seem impossible to replenish and to satisfy an equally insatiable appetite for them. And they seem to match the text message- micro blogging society we have become. Explanation equals title equals news grab;Fresh air for sale’, ‘Russian politician attacked with cake and Bus stop stomper’.

But records show the scammers and swindlers have been making news for some time. It’s nothing new. All you need is the incitement and the opportunity and suddenly there’s no end to the associated crimes. Pennsylvania is home to one of the longest door-to-door scams since the 1930’s. A group of scammers some 5000 strong of the Williamson clan carry out dodgy house repairs. When the bad weather comes the house paint runs and the freshly laid asphalt repairs conveniently wash away. Of course during the period of the swindle the Williamson’s children are placed in public schools. And then its on to the next rip-off. Today’s headline could read something like ‘Repair racket swindle’.

Tokyo is home to a well practiced con since the 1960’s. Pedestrians conveniently bump into an unsuspecting car and while they’re writhing on the ground hostile crowds gather blaming the innocent driver. Perhaps ’Set-up pedestrian accident’ would be today’s sound grab.

So if you’re in the mood for the crazy and colourful there’s an endless supply. Weird News & But First are especially noteworthy for the real and seemingly nonsensical.

Levitating Yogi at the Conway Hall
Levitating Yogi at the Conway Hall

Weird sources:

James Morton and Hilary Bateson, Conned: Scams, Frauds and Swindles

Tim Healy, Strange But True

Geoff Tibballs, The Mammoth Book of Weird News

Dziemianowicz, Weinberg & Greenberg, 50 Ghost Stories