Category: language

LIKE A ROLLING STONE – BOB DYLAN AT THE CROSSROADS by Greil Marcus (Faber & Faber, 2006)

Greil Marcus is a man of many words. His verbosity is not to everyone’s taste. Many readers have, with just cause, accused him of being deliberately obtuse and willfully pretentious.

At the same time, his scholarly writings on music and cultural history are well worth the effort since they are frequently illuminating and consistently insightful.

Bob Dylan, the man and his music, is a subject he comes back to time and time again; taking fresh aims at a moving target he knows will never be fully defined.

It is the very elusiveness of Dylan that makes him so intriguing.

In this book, Marcus tells the story of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, charting the song’s origins and impact. He rightly identifies this as being more than just another rock song but, rather, a unique work of art more akin to an event. It may not have changed the world but it certainly set a new benchmark for what could be achieved in popular music. Continue reading

HAMLET directed by Laurence Olivier (1948)
HAMLET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1990)


How about this as a summary of Shakespeare’s most famous play turned movie?:

“This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”.

If that seems too reductive, how about this:

“A guy comes home from school to discover that his father’s dead. To top it all off his mother is horsing around with his uncle. Add to that, the ghost of the old man comes back to tell him that it was his uncle who knocked him off so he could run off with the Queen. The guy goes off his nut”.

The first is Laurence Olivier’s voiceover before the main action begins.

The second is from an interview with Mel Gibson included in the extras on the DVD of Zefferelli’s film.

Frankly, neither really cuts the mustard but both are obviously aiming to pitch the story in an accessible fashion. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

emersonquoteI haven’t read the book that contains this quote but they are wise words and is something I need to practice more:

“Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It’s being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.”

From ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff’ by Richard Carlson (1997)

Related : Frock Files blog on the same topic (this is also where I nicked the image from!)


(Translated by Ralph Manheim, Minerva paperback, 1991)

One of Zadie Smith’s more sobering rules for budding writers was that they should be resigned to “the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied”.

This bleak, but no doubt realistic, viewpoint is one I suspect Austrian playwright and novelist Peter Handke would also subscribe to.

In ‘The Afternoon Of A Writer’ he presents the scribe’s life as one dogged by self doubt, guilt and constant feelings of inadequacy.

The brief tale follows a nameless man who having spent some time writing “a few lines that had clarified a state of affairs to his satisfaction” goes out for a random stroll around a nameless European city before returning home where he feeds his nameless cat and goes to bed. His life is no bed of roses! Continue reading


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