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BLACKBEARD’S GHOST directed by Robert Stevenson  (USA, 1968)


What was your favourite movie when you were 10?

At that age, my tastes were strongly dictated by Disney so mine would have been a toss-up between Jungle Book and Blackbeard’s Ghost. The latter would probably have narrowly won by a hair of the dread pirate’s ragged whiskers.

Watching it again now, I can guess that one of main appeals was the way it pitched underdog outsiders against crooks and jocks.

It is based very loosely on real life 18th century pirate Edward Teach and a novel by Ben Stahl.

Blackbeard’s spirit has been wandering in limbo following a curse put on him by his aggrieved wife Aldetha as she was being burnt at the stake as a witch. View full article »

BIRD CLOUD – A MEMOIR OF PLACE by Annie Proulx (Scribner, 2011)


Annie-ProulxPlace is a major part of Annie Proulx’s writing and life. Everything begins with the landscape.

However, as a  feature in The Guardian notes, she is scornful of the adage that you should write what you know. She has said: “All it produces is tiresome middle-class novels of people who I think are writing about things they know, but you wish to God they didn’t”.

Proulx is a late learner and was a thrice divorced 53 year-old woman when she wrote her first collection of short stories (Heart Songs). Five years later came her Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Shipping News. The film version of her short story Brokeback Mountain introduced her to an even wider audience.

My collection of Annie Proulx's books.

My collection of Annie Proulx’s books.

I am a big fan of her fiction and have made a point of buying any book of hers I see but this one turned out to be a big disappointment.

It is the account of an ambitious but ultimately misguided building project. The profits from her belated literary success was ploughed into what he hoped would be her dream home built on wild prairie land near a dramatic cliff in 640 acres of Wyoming, the least populous of the United States. View full article »

felice“Vietato non toccare” is on a notice publicising a small exhibition of the work of sculptor, Felice Tagliaferri at the Malatestiana Library in Cesena, Italy.

‘It is forbidden NOT to touch’ is an unusual sign to attach to art works. Normally security personnel are close at hand to prevent any curious hands from exploring objects. Tagliaferri’s pieces are different because even he has never seen them.

He has been blind since the age of 14 and so for all his work, mainly in marble, he depends entirely on his hands to know what they look like.

He is present to enthusiastically explain his work to visitors. “Do you want to see the work the way I see it?” he asks. Yes, I reply. Should I close my eyes?, I wonder, but he says this isn’t necessary. It’s enough that you get the tactile experience. View full article »


tv education View full article »

HOW MUSIC WORKS by David Byrne (McSweeneys, 2012)

how-music-works-david-byrne“What is we’re talking about here?” David Byrne asks rhetorically on page 220 (out of 358) in a section headed ‘What is music?’

It is as though he is oblivious to the fact that this is what many would expect the whole of this book to be about.

To those expecting to find  straightforward answers to either of these two questions, all I can say is :  you don’t know David Byrne.

It is not that he is deliberately obtuse or willfully obscure, but he has never been an artist who puts much stock in simplifying complex ideas. The subtext is that the creative process itself is a mystery and it doesn’t do to be over analytical about it. View full article »


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