I, DANIEL BLAKE directed by Ken Loach (UK, 2016)
In part 12 of his illuminating Channel 4 documentary series on The Story Of Film, Mark Cousins focused on notable directors from around the world like John Sayles in the US and Krzysztof Kieslowski in Poland who were prepared to stand up for worthy, though unfashionable, political causes.
The connecting theme was what Cousins frequently referred to as ‘speaking truth to power’, a phrase that originated with the Quaker movement in the 1950s and was later adopted in the United States as a rallying call to those opposing the dark forces of Fascism and totalitarianism.
For half a century, Ken Loach has followed this principle by being a voice for the dispossessed and downtrodden in society. He opposes the political establishment that serves the masters yet ignores the slaves. He stands against systems which sustain the healthy and the wealthy but provide little nourishment to the poor and needy. Continue reading
ACADEMY STREET by Mary Costello (Canongate Books, 2014)
Mary Costello’s bold and compassionate debut novel initially gives the impression it will be an uplifting life story of female empowerment.
It begins in the 1940s and is set in Western Ireland. In this time and place we meet Tess, aged 8, immediately after the sudden death of her beloved mother.
The bewilderment and uncertainty this loss produces is brilliantly evoked as is the child’s difficult relationship with her harsh and uncommunicative father.
Surely things can only get better and with Angela’s Ashes in mind you envisage emigration from Ireland to America to be the harbinger of hope and good fortune. Continue reading
Verdena live at Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena – 8th September 2016
If I had been hipper to the local music scene when I arrived in Italy over 20 years ago I would have been able to follow Verdena from their inception as Nirvana wannabes to the distinctive individuals I witnessed at this stunning open air concert.
My belated appreciation of this excellent band from Bergamo is a good motive for shaking the complacent attitude that goes with smug slogan T-shirt slogans like : ‘I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands’.
I have my daughter to thank for ‘discovering’ this cool band existing right now playing songs from current releases not running through a familiar back catalogue from way back when. Continue reading
EMINENT HIPSTERS by Donald Fagen (Vintage Books, 2014)
This book is a good antidote to clichéd rock memoirs suggesting life on the road is one extended party. Here there’s no sex, some prescription drugs and a bit of AOR.
The second part takes the form of a 2012 tour diary based on concerts across America performed with Michael ‘Doobie Brother’ McDonald and Boz Scaggs as The Dukes of September Rhythm Review.
It was written mostly to relieve the monotony of playing a series of gigs in mostly sub-par venues to aging punters and staying in soulless hotels.
Fagen coins the term Acute Tour Disorder (ATD) to describe the state of anxiety, paranoia, depression and physical discomfort he experiences. You have to wonder why he keeps going and he asks himself this same question at regular intervals. Continue reading