Category: politics


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. Continue reading

A CUP OF SAKE BENEATH THE CHERRY TREES by Kenkō (Translated by Meredith McKinney)
kenko1

Yoshida Kenkō at work – just to prove that he didn’t just sit around all day doing nothing!

Kenkō was a Japanese Buddhist monk who was probably born in 1283 and probably died in 1352 (nobody knows for sure).

This pocket-sized book is one of eighty 80p  ‘Little Black Classics’ and is a much reduced version of his Essays In Idleness.

Despite its 14th century provenance it has a remarkably contemporary application. It illustrates that the vanity of human wishes change little from century to century or from country to country. Continue reading

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, 2013)

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding” – Upton Sinclair.

Alternative titles to this brave and important book could have been ‘Everything Must Change’, ‘Everything is Fucked’ or even more despairingly, The End Is Nigh.

Whatever way you look at the situation that Naomi Klein presents, it is clear that humanity is well and truly up shit creek climate-wise.

It would nice to report that this book also provides us with some metaphorical paddles but, sadly, this is not the case.

Klein presents the scale of the problem but in terms of solutions ultimately offers only a faith in the essential resilience of the human spirit. Continue reading

PRIDE directed by Matthew Warchus (UK, 2014)

pride-poster Although I was living in London in the 1980s, the time this movie was set, I confess to ignorance about the unlikely coalition between a small mining community in Wales and the left-leaning activists of the Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners (LGSM) operating from the Gay’s The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury.

I take comfort in the fact that Bill Nighy, one of the excellent ensemble cast of this movie, admits he didn’t know about this either until he was sent the script.

Perhaps this is not so strange given that the tabloids were only interested in shock-horror put-downs of “homos and “perverts” while the broadsheets seemed to have all but ignored the story. Continue reading

INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher Nolan (USA, 2014)

Looking to the stars for hope.

Should we stay or should we go?

Brion Gysin , the English-born painter and poet who introduced William S Burroughs to cut-ups believed that leaving the planet was the only thing that gave any purpose to life on earth; “we are here to go”, he said.

This perverse notion is one that Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan transform into the interstellar overdrive of their extraordinary cinematic vision – a space odyssey of epic proportions.

Reasons to go are indeed pressing since Earth is rapidly becoming uninhabitable with crops literally turning into dust. We are not privy to the precise reason for this state of affairs but Professor Brand (Michael Caine) alludes to humankind’s selfish tendencies as being a primary cause. This is also something Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, has rightly identified as a key factor in climate change.

If, as seems probable, the future of humankind is due to the largely man-made catastrophe of global warming, it begs the question as to how we are going to prevent fucking up another planet too. The mysterious Eureka solution that saves the world suggests that a last-minute reprieve is possible; a central message that is as delusional as it is dangerous. Continue reading

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