Mr. Pritchard

April 9, 2011

The Wayward Bus

“Mr. Pritchard was a businessman, the president of a medium-sized corporation. He was never alone. His business was conducted by groups of men who worked alike, thought alike, and even looked alike. His lunches were with men like himself who joined together in clubs to so that no foreign element or idea could enter. His religious life was again his lodge and his church, both of which were screened and protected. One night a week he played poker with men so exactly like himself that the game was fairly even, and from this fact his group was convinced that they were very fine poker players. Wherever he went he was not one man but a unit in a corporation, a unit in a club, in a lodge, in a church, in a political party. His thoughts and ideas were never subjected to criticism since he willingly associated only with people like himself. He read a newspaper written by and for his group. The books that came into his house were chosen by a committee which deleted material that might irritate him. He hated foreign countries and foreigners because it was difficult to find his counterpart in them. He did not want to stand out from his group. He would like to have risen to the top of it and be admired by it; but it would not occur to him to leave it. At occasional stags where naked girls danced on the tables and sat in great glasses of wine, Mr. Pritchard howled with laughter and drank the wine, but five hundred Mr. Pritchards were there with him.”

- John Steinbeck, ‘The Wayward Bus’

Poor listeners

April 5, 2011

Years ago, I remember watching the film ‘The Accidental Tourist‘ on TV. It was one of those films where nothing really happens, but I was still drawn in by the great characters, the slow atmosphere and the sweet dialogue.

A couple of years ago I read an article about the author Anne Tyler, whose book the film was based on. Some songwriters are described as ‘the songwriter’s songwriter’ (Ron Sexsmith, who I mentioned in a recent post, being one example). This article suggested that Anne Tyler was the ‘writer’s writer’, and that Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle had nominated her ‘the greatest living novelist writing in English’.

At that time it was bothering me that all of my favourite authors were male; John Steinbeck, Iain Rankin and Douglas Coupland being a few. So I bought the first book written by Anne Tyler, ‘If Morning Ever Comes’. I loved it and am now working my way through all of her books chronologically.

Just like the film I mentioned earlier, nothing huge and dramatic often happens in her books, but her writing is beautiful, her characters believable and her stories perfect for getting lost in.

“Tyler is an exquisite chronicler of the everyday. Home and homesickness are her central preoccupations; repression, guilt and estrangement her prevailing themes. Her characters are at once infuriating and endearing, conservative yet quietly eccentric. They are all unheroic survivors.”
The Observer

Here’s an extract from ‘A Slipping Down Life’, her third novel, that particularly resonated with me:

Anne Tyler - A Slipping Down Life

The congregation commented on the sermon during each pause. ‘”It’s true. It’s true.” “Amen.” “Ain’t it so?” Like poor listeners in an ordinary conversation, they seemed likely to jump up at any moment and interrupt to tell experiences of their own. Only none of them did. Instead, Evie began to worry that it would be her herself who interrupted. Pauses between paragraphs grew longer and quieter, swelling until they might burst forth with her own voice saying something terrible.

Ordinary ministers picked a single, narrow theme for each sermon; Brother Hope tried to cover the world in an hour. Faced with the leap from one topic to another, from the evils of pre-teen dating to the inevitability of death and from there to the unnaturalness of working mothers, he kept taking a breath and hesitating, as if he worried about the abyss he had to span; and every time it happened Evie drew in her breath too. She was not certain what would burst forth. She gripped the chair in front of her, and the man who sat in it turned to show her the expectant, circular eyes of a baby.

cal – am – a – teur (a definition)

January 8, 2010

Here’s something I’ve been asked a lot over the last ten years:

What does Calamateur mean and where did the word come from?

Well, the first part – Cal – is the name of a character from the book ‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck, one of my favourite authors.

There is a discussion in the book between two of it’s characters, which revolves around this passage in the bible:

“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”
Genesis 4: 3-7

Here’s the key discussion of that passage from ‘East of Eden’:

Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

“Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?”

“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.

I loved this idea when I read the book many years ago, and it still resonates with me now.

Cal is the character in ‘East of Eden’ who embodies this theme of us all having a choice in how we decide to live.


Amateur, the second part of the word, is the name of one of my all time favourite films.

Directed by Hal Hartley, it tells the story of an amnesiac, Thomas, who wakes up in an alleyway, unaware of who he is or how he got there, who is then taken under the wing of an ex-nun and writer of pornography who believes it is her mission from God to find out what happened to him.

Here is a quote from The Film Journal about the film:

Thomas’s amnesia (also symbolized by his white T-shirt, a blank surface that speaks of both absence and a new beginning) not only drives the film’s action and is a powerful metaphor for his “lost-ness;” it also points to his subconscious desire to start again from zero, to wipe out his former self.

You can read more about Amateur here.

So there you go: Cal – Amateur.

But why call myself that and not just use my own name?

Well, one of my favourite bands of all time is Sparklehorse, who is really just one man – Mark Linkous.

And then there’s The Divine Comedy, The Durutti Column, Bat for Lashes, Cat Power, Duke Special, Faultline, Iron & Wine, Minotaur Shock, Squarepusher, The Wisdom of Harry….etc, etc.

All acts who are essentially the work of one individual, as far as I’m aware….

So it wasn’t without precedent. People still find it odd I that use the name Calamateur though.

Worse still though is that no-one knows how to pronouce or spell it.

From the time John Peel introduced my first single on his radio show back in 2000, to the last gig I played (where I was introduced as “Calamatra!”) everyone has struggled with the word.

Which leads me to think, as I get ready to put out a new album, is it time to put ‘Calamateur’ to rest?

Should I come clean and use my own, actual name?

If any of you have any thoughts on this I would love to hear them…

Thanks for reading.


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