Category: politics

THE IRISHMAN directed by Martin Scorsese (USA, 2019)

Will there be mobster movies in heaven? If so, Martin Scorsese is sure to be the director. Of course, he’d insist on there being an afterlife ban on watching his work on mobile phones and would personally see to it that any films based on Marvel comics were cast into the fiery pits of hell. Netflix would be allowed through the pearly gates as a reward for stumping up the cash for his latest movie.

I find it ironic that Scorsese is now keen to dictate what and how we should be consuming movies in the 21st century.  He is quick to mount his moral high horse even though the charge of glamorizing unscrupulous criminals and cold-blooded killers is one he would be hard pressed to dismiss. I’m sure Mafia members are among his biggest fans.

‘The Irishman’ is a true crime caper in a similar vein to ‘Goodfellas’ (1990) .  Like that movie, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci have starring roles and the same narrative technique of a start to finish voiceover is deployed. This is a device I usually find irritating and this film is no exception. I believe a story should speak for itself in cinematic terms rather than relying on a constant running commentary. Continue reading

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Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

I still find myself wanting to read as much as possible as a way of making sense of the world and my own place within it.

I aim to increase the number of blog posts on what I’m reading. These will probably serve more as a reminder to myself rather than offering any particularly profound insights, but who knows. In any event, writing is the best way of organizing thoughts. Making these public gives an added incentive not to be flippant, sloppy, unkind or lazy.

The simple pleasure of making new discoveries and revisiting old favorites is an end in itself. The joys are an antidote to the cynical business-minded world in which, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, consumers are conditioned to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

To confirm this, I was happy to stumble upon something Ursula K Le Guin said in a speech at the National Book Awards in 2014 : “Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words”.

snpIn a conversation with Indian author Arundhatl Roy at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, it was refreshing to hear Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon presenting herself as a proud bookworm and promoting the general benefits of reading.

She said: “I have a theory that if more political leaders read more literature, the world wouldn’t be in quite the state it’s in right now”. I couldn’t agree more.

Trump is obviously the most extreme example of the catastrophic effects of un-learning. It is depressing to observe how his supporters continue to lap up his incoherent torrent of hate speech and pig ignorance rather than seeing it for what it is: a blatant abuse and misuse of power. Continue reading

THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead (Fleet books, 2019)

Screen shot 2019-08-12 at 20.39.32“Be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer; and one day we will win our freedom” . The defiant words of Martin Luther King speak to Elwood Curtis.

An album of speeches by the great man at Zion Hill was the only album he possessed; a Christmas gift from his Grandmother in 1962. MLK put ideas in the young coloured boy’s head and fired the determination to study and, if need be, to suffer to make something of himself. A natural curiosity and a thirst for knowledge meant Elwood excelled at school and great things seem to lie ahead. The chilling prologue to this novel gives fair warning that a harsher destiny lies ahead.

After being convicted for the ‘crime’ of being an unwitting passenger in a stolen car he is sent to the Nickel Academy for juvenile offenders.This is a work of fiction but the events of state sponsored child abuse he experiences and witnesses there are inspired by the true story of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. Continue reading

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