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RENEGADE : THE LIVES AND TALES OF MARK E.SMITH by Mark E. Smith with Austin Colling (Penguin Books, 2008)
markesmith_renegade

I can visualise ghost writer Austin Collings lining up the pints of beer and whisky chasers in a Manchester pub then setting up a recording device in front of Mark E.Smith.

I doubt that any overly active conversational skills would have been required since one gets the distinct impression that his subject operates best in monologue/ranting mode.

In more or less chronological order, Smith catalogues his life and times as chief hirer and firer of The Fall “for people who are sick of being dicked around”. View full article »

THE MIDDLE CLASS ARE REVOLTING

MILLENNIUM PEOPLE by J.G. Ballard (Flamingo, 2003)

“Learn the rules and you can get away with anything”

I visualize J.G. Ballard writing his dystopian fiction from his safe European home in the Surrey stockbroker belt of Shepperton. Although his views bordered on the misanthropic, his life was outwardly respectable and I reckon he was a big softy at heart.

However, the late author hated anything that struck him as pretentious and/or fake; which accounts for his venom towards cheap entertainment and much of what passes for modern culture. View full article »

Short Skin – I dolori del giovane Edo’ directed by Duccio Chiarini (Italy 2014) 

Edoardo, or Edo (Matteo Creatini), is a serious, sensitive and intelligent 17-year-old virgin whose hormones are at odds with his physical development.

He would like very much to have sex but is frustrated in his fumbling attempts to do the deed primarily because he suffers from phimosis, or tight foreskin.

This is a delicate subject for me as I also have this condition although fortunately not to the degree that it causes serious discomfort or pain. It did however make me wonder if I would have had a better sex life if this condition could have been corrected in my teens.

Unlike women, who visit gynecologists as routine means of maintaining physical well-being, men would only visit doctors or urologists if they had problems and even then might put off a visit as long as possible. I can never remember any doctor checking my privates and I have never volunteered to be probed in this area. View full article »

BOB DYLAN AT LUCCA SUMMER FESTIVAL, ITALY – 1st JULY 2015

Same man - different mask. Bob Dylan - then and now.

Same man – different mask. Bob Dylan – then and now.

Why does Bob Dylan still play live and why do people still pay good money to see him?

The second question is easier to answer than the first. It is something of a cliché to refer to an artist as a living legend but Dylan surely merits this label. It’s therefore only natural that many will flock to pay homage (and cash!) to a man whose vast body of work is second to none.

When he exploded onto the folk music scene in the 1960s, an adoring public would sit in rapt silence to hear the words of this poet come visionary. On his Song For Bob Dylan, David Bowie got it about right when he sang: “you sat behind a million pair of eyes and told them how they saw”.

Robert Zimmerman’s ‘protest’ songs articulated the mood of a nation and helped fuel movements opposed to the Vietnam War, institutionalised racism and the dearth of moral /political values that causes like these symbolized. Yet, Dylan has always diligently avoided aligning himself to political or religious movements, stubbornly following his own path. “Don’t follow leaders” he advised in Subterranean Homesick Blues and he has never set himself up as a spokesman for any generation. Think for yourself has always been his message. View full article »

THE CHILDREN ACT by Ian McEwan (Vintage Books, 2014)

With this novella’s strong focus on the burden of mortality and the melancholy reflections on ‘what-ifs’ from the past, it seems to me that, not for the first time, Ian McEwan takes a lot of inspiration from James Joyce’s Dubliners and ‘from The Dead’ in particular.

The delicate line that divides life and death centres on the fictional case of a 17-year-old boy, Adam Henry, who will almost certainly die unless he receives a blood transfusion. Since he has not quite reached the age of consent, the decision over his treatment rests with his parents who are both Jehovah’s Witnesses.

McEwan is an Atheist but he is interested in the nature of belief so is not about to score cheap points criticising the rigid application of religious principles. The opposition to transfusions is therefore presented as a serious moral dilemma rather than merely the result of blinkered thinking.

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