Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)

filmstarsdontdieinliverpool
1h 45min | Biography, Drama, Romance | 16 November 2017 (UK)
Actors: Jamie Bell, Annette Bening, Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Graham
Directors: Paul McGuigan
Writers: Matt Greenhalgh, Peter Turner (based on the memoir by)
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Colin Vaines

This touching and sensitive film is based on the real life memoir of Peter Turner. It covers the years 1979-1981 starting with Turner meeting Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). Although not well remembered Gloria was a big star in the 1940’s and 50’s. You may know her as Violet in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, or recall that she was an Oscar winner for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952), and had standout roles in OKLAHOMA! (1955), THE BIG HEAT (1953), and IN A LONELY PLACE (1950). By 1979 those glory days are gone. Gloria is in England starring on stage in The Glass Menagerie.

She meets Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), a bisexual young actor who falls in love with her despite the significant age difference. He was 28 and she was twice that age. The affair is passionate and tender. Even when the affair has ended Peter still cares about Gloria. It is to him and his family in Liverpool that she turns to for care as her health deteriorates. It’s a sad story but also speaks to a loyal and lasting love.

Annette Bening and Jamie Bell are outstanding. There are also some fine supporting roles including Julie Walters as Peters’s mum and Vanessa Redgrave as Glorias.

The movie’s set production (recreating the late 70s/early 80s) is evocative of the time and place. Right down to the political posters in the background at the Working Men’s club. There is also a lot of great music in the film, including a specially composed piece by Elvis Costello.

An understated gem.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment

What Listening to 10,000 Love Songs Has Taught Me About Love

lovesongs
Venue332
Laughing Horse @ Moriarty’s – Performing Space
18:00
Aug 11-12
50 minutes

This show is a delight. At the core is a great idea: to look at what Love is and how it affects us through love songs. It’s a simple set. When you go in, there is a desk with papers on it, some plastic ducks, a record player and a stack of records (not vinyl!). Then the writer/performer tells you a story about his personal experiences of love in a reflective, humourous and poignant way. His story is complemented by records from Frankie, Blondie, The Beatles, Soft Cell, Ian Drury and others. This works on several levels because whilst experiences are personal there is a commonality too and hearing a story based on truth makes us feel connected. It’s a show that gets under your skin and makes you think about your own life: your first kiss, losing loved ones, break-ups. The whole gamut of Love. I found parts of this show moving.

It saddened me to hear of a racist incident directed at the writer/performer during a love affair. But it made me laugh to hear John Cooper Clarke and his (I Married A) Monster From Outer Space. At one point, I cried a little as I heard about the death of his Father and the song sung by his Mother in commemoration – Moon River. Heart wrenching.

It’s a coincidence (or providential) that this show jumped out at me. A good friend has just written a self-help book using lyrics as a starting point: Lyrics to Live By. I have, therefore, been thinking a lot about lyrics and how they bring back memories of certain points in our life and provide us with tools to understand it all! There are songs that are just too painful for me to hear. I try to avoid them. Others uplift me and take me to happy memories. They have a great power. This show helped me to understand another part of the puzzle. It’s great that this show is part of the Free Festival and that the writer/performer is doing it for love not money!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#EdFringe2018  #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

5 Star Images - Clipart library

 

Leave a Comment

Review: F**k the government

If profanity bothers you then this is one you should avoid. Apart from that key title line, however, the lyrics are rational and persuasive. This rap from XL sums up a lot of disillusionment many of us feel towards the ‘elite’, the ‘powers that be’ or the ‘establishment’. It isn’t just negative though as it gives a message of hope and unity. Here at Counter Culture we like that. Too many fall into the trap of division and the divide and rule strategy of the establishment. This song reminds us that we are all in the same boat and it’s sinking! XL is a rapper we will be following with interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfdNmLPkrtU&feature=youtu.be

Leave a Comment

Free Will – Sam Harris (Free Press)

freewillbysamharrisThere’s a thought that strikes me in Sam Harris’ book Free Will that there is a kind of ‘fudge’ at the core of his argument. It’s as if he wants his ‘fudge cake’ and to get to eat it! Okay I’m going to demonstrate this, I trust, in this review – but this ‘fudge’ is my main problem with this otherwise very thought-provoking (and short) book.

Harris argues that we haven’t free will. Now, before going on, here’s a summary of where I am on this issue of ‘free will’. In the book he refers to an experiment I was aware of which seems to show the brain making decisions up to a full SEVEN seconds before the conscious mind appears to ‘decide’. That has had me thinking for some time and probably drew me to this book in the first place. I’ve also been looking at consciousness and am half-way through (probably not clever to admit that) Julian Jaynes book: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – It’s a fascinating work and has provoked much thought (thus far) on the nature of consciousness.

We certainly do much in our life that is ‘unconscious’. Imagine when we drive a car – most of our actions (once they are learnt) become ‘automatic’ and unconscious. If you were to consciously think about everything you were doing you would most likely crash. We learn one thing, then another – these two learnt actions then become ONE and then we can add another skill and these two can then become ONE etc. When playing the drums, for instance, the four limbs learn their parts in stages. And when playing a new rhythm everything can fall apart when you consciously think about what you are doing. Naturally in learning to drive a car or attempting a new drum rhythm, the amount of conscious effort begins at a greater level and then, gradually, becomes automatic. In certain conditions our conscious mind can be called on (by what/whom?) to ‘take the reins’. I have often gone out in my car and followed – say – a route to a workplace only to consciously realise that I’m not actually going to this place. My conscious mind takes over, manoeuvres the car and puts me back on track. And once I know where I’m going I can continue in an – at the very least – semi-conscious way.

There  is also the idea – I have read – whereby the brain takes in all the information from the various senses and collates them and then our consciousness presents this stimuli to us as if it were all happening ‘at the same time’ – as the speed of sound is slower than the speed of light etc. Because the brain has had to collect all the data then our conscious perception lags behind the ‘real present’. But what is doing this preparation and selection? How is it being done and where is the interface with our consciousness?

Harris introduces his thoughts on free will with a harrowing example of a brutal (and sexual) attack and murder of a family; only the patriarch surviving. This certainly concentrates the mind! (There is in fact a running motif  regarding crime and how we should deal with criminals.) Following on from this example he writes about popular conceptions of free will that:

Each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past. And that: we are the conscious source of our thoughts and actions in the present.

He argues that free will is an illusion and that we do not have the freedom we think we have. That whatever we do is a state of mind we cannot (and could not) change – that it is the sum of many inherent factors. That thoughts and impulses APPEAR in our consciousness and do not originate in it. There is some compelling argument too – can we DECIDE our next mental state? How much control do we have over our thoughts? Do we create thoughts or are they presented to us? Try and think of your next thought!

Harris writes: ‘There is no question that (most if not all) mental events are the product of physical events.’ And were this NOT to be the case then: ‘The unconscious operations of a soul would grant you no more freedom than the unconscious physiology of your brain does.’ Reflecting on this then, perhaps to have total free will, we need to say we control ‘everything’ – every thought. And, I suppose, to be totally aware of that! And if we have no free will where is this seeming will (idea of free will) coming from – where does our consciousness come from? Some argue that as our brains, our neurophysilogical processes, are deciding things at SOME level, then we have free will – it’s just not what we think of as our conscious ‘real self’. In response Harris writes: ‘As we have begun to see, however, this feeling of freedom comes from our moment-to-moment ignorance of the prior causes of our thoughts and actions.’

Now later Harris writes, ‘Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic – in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom.’ Here’s where the fudge comes in, I think. ‘A creative change of inputs to the system – learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention – may radically transform one’s life.’ But can we do that other than in a mechanical pre-determined way? ‘Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings can allow us to steer a more intelligent course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered).’

Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings?

Recently I went for a walk with my son to a water-mill, now converted to a restaurant. Near-by there’s a weir and where part of the river has been channelled to the former-mill’s water wheels. It was a beautiful afternoon – butterflies flitting between plants settled and floating on the water’s surface; two châteaus close by keep silent watch. We were leaning on a small bridge when I noticed a large ant moving across the wood of the side of this bridge. I pointed to it and said, ‘Stop!’.  Now my conscious mind presented that ant to me, I pointed to it, and said ‘Stop!’ – which I think it didn’t! My son was watching me and we laughed about this. Now, evidently, this innocuous act seemed a conscious decision of my free will. Had it NOT been – then there are a number of things to discuss. Firstly: my son thought he was consciously reacting in the present and with free will (as did I). I deliberately pointed at the ant – that was operating in its own way in this world. I pointed to the ant at one particular point. For me to have decided that beforehand I would have needed to know that the ant would appear and that it would follow a certain path and arrive at a certain point that I could POINT at! Was that moment the sum of all three of our experiences of life? My son’s, to have unconsciously ‘decided’ all previous  moments to arrive at that point; mine the same AND the ant to have appeared and moved across the wood? At this point we could UNRAVEL every moment of our lives (including the ant’s) to track back down every event that brought us to where we were THEN. One pre-determined action following another!

Well, I guess that’s possible – a fait accompli if you will. We all WERE there and I certainly pointed and cried, ‘Stop!’. So in this ‘play out’ of unconscious direction EVERY consciousness is (must be!) part of the great PLAY we find ourselves in. Because if I am not aware I’m going to do something and I interact with someone else (who is also not aware) then we are part of some vast, intricate, script that unfolds, amnd is still unfolding, from the very beginning of time. We are here because of the actions of others.

Yet I could only point to the ant if the ant had been there – that was empirically so. I think Harris would say that no other person could have been in the place and with that mental state that I was in and that I would have been unable to be anywhere else or in any other state. Also – what is tricking our conscious minds to make us think we are doing things of our own volition? Where is the bridge between unintentional decision and apparent consciousness of that decision? When does ‘consciousness’ take over from the deeper decision?

Now the motif I described earlier that runs through this book is the idea of crime, punishment and guilt (or otherwise). We certainly look at crimes differently given our perception of the intentions of the criminals. And if someone has a brain tumour – say – we don’t regard their criminal actions in the same way as someone we believe acts with ‘free will’. And Harris continually argues that we cannot have had any other mental state but that which we had at the time and therefore we need to look at ‘guilt’ differently. He writes that criminals might have: ‘Some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad environments, and bad ideas…’ Looking at this though – how can we introduce a moral definition (‘bad’) to these actions if what he says is true? There cannot be any ‘bad’ – only ‘what is’. Later he argues the idea that human behaviour can be modified by punishment and incentive…I am slightly confused. More cake? Or maybe it’s me!

In the chapter headed ‘Politics’ we get the ‘liberal’ idea that one must be ‘lucky to be able to work.‘ So it’s luck. I’ll get back to that idea. He writes, ‘Laziness, like diligence, is a neurological condition…’ Luck again? ‘But this does not mean we must be taken in by the illusion of free will. We need only acknowledge that efforts matter and that people can change.’ Well he says they can’t change any past actions…and how are they to change? ‘We do not change ourselves…but we continuously influence, and are influenced by, the world around us and the world within us.’

Okay – so ‘we’ are influenced by our internal world – but how can we escape that influence or use it through volition. I THINK he is arguing for a kind of change through osmosis. Such that, as we are a product of things we have no control over (including our supposed free will) then our past, set actions, history, biological influences can only be added to. He writes: ‘Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.’ Maybe that could be highlighted or achieved say, for example, by forcing folk to have a good iodine intake, especially those living far away from the sea. The intake would have a subtle influence on their well-being and maybe influence their unconscious actions? An outside force would have an impact on their internal world. But someone would have to decide to do that! And that – one presumes – is also decided for them.

It is the concept of ‘free will’ that gave rise to sin – he argues. And, in this, perhaps he is correct – for Adam and Eve were seemingly given ‘free will’ (and not at the same time!).  Their actions have affected all of us – if we believe so. But God would have known the outcome. If he gave them free will knowing they would act the way they did, and take the fruit from the tree – how free were they?

What if you are controlled by others? Your actions and thought directed by others? Would that be a form of double ‘non-free will’?

Are we Beings experiencing this world from the point of view of our consciousness – with no control…as if we are on a roller-coaster that could take us anywhere it desires? Hold on…sit back…tighten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. Are we puppets of a Greater Being? Are we a strand of conscious experience that snakes back to a greater, composite experience? In fact – even without free will – are we living a spiritual life? Are we simply the observers of our life?

I’ll leave you with two quotes from the book, one in the body of the text and the other in the notes.

Harris: ‘The illusion of free will is itself and illusion.’

And in the notes, Schopenhaur’s: ‘Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills.’

And finally – we may/may not have free will, we may/may not be fully conscious – but the life we lead APPEARS as if we have free will and that is the ONLY way we can lead it. Be thankful for whatever life you have – it’s a one and only experience.

Thanks.

Reviewed by Tim Bragg

Tim Bragg is the author of the recently published Lyrics to Live By: Keys to Self-Help, Notes for a Better Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted

johnlewis

Simon Jay gives a compelling performance in this one man show

Venue 93
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom – The Basement
12:00
Aug 4-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-26
1 hour

Simon Jay gives a versatile performance in this fascinating one-man show. Based on a true story, the play is about an American teacher called John Lewis whose twitter account is confused with that of the well known co-operative Department Store. A strange tale and no wonder that the Standard picked it as one of the ten quirkiest shows of the Fringe!

It’s a story that is funny but raises serious questions about identity, corporate branding and social media. Jay portrays different roles apart from John Lewis including customers and staff at the HQ of the store. Jay oozes energy and humour. I liked his miming of shaving and his dancing (Jay is quite a physical performer!).

I should make special mention to the enjoyable and diverse music soundtrack which accompanies the show and underlines themes in the script. Best of all the show is part of the free festival so go along, enjoy and put money (what you can afford) in the bucket at the end!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#IntoTheUnknown #EdFringe2018 #EdFringe

5 Star Images - Clipart library

Leave a Comment

Trumpageddon

Venue 14
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar
16:00
Aug 3-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-27
1 hour
trumpageddon

Simon Jay gives an energetic performance as Trump

Simon Jay attempts to parody the US President. His difficulty is, partly, that Trump is so out there that he is difficult to satirise. It’s easy to fall into presenting a caricature and that’s what happens here. We are all familiar with Trump’s boasting and inconsistency and even the crudity expressed here toward female members of the audience and regarding members of own family and political figures doesn’t shock.

Jay describes himself as a “queer performer and life long socialist” and no one can fault his passion or commitment. He gives an energetic performance and stays in role on and off stage. Jay got a lot right in Trump’s speech patterns, mannerisms and standard responses. “Beautiful” as Trump might say!
There were funny moments (I liked the version of Mein Herr from Cabaret, My Hair, for instance). Simon/Trump was also entertaining when dealing with individual members of the audience. . I also liked that the show tried to keep up with events. When I went references were made to the release of Tommy Robinson.
However the show is not well scripted. The “soul catching” routine goes nowhere. A section with the ghosts of the Founding Fathers is an interesting concept but lacks punch. The side to Trump that is a calculating politician playing to his audience isn’t explored. It simply presents trump as a buffoon and a dirty old man. It’s maybe an uncomfortable truth to confront that Trump is a populist giving answers (often bad) to real problems. He is tapping into discontent with the American economy, “liberal elites”, immigration and crime. If you don’t address that then you are simply value signaling to people who think the same as you do.
It’s a shame as Trumpageeddon has the potential to be a great show. To be so the writer would need to check his prejudices at the door and seek to understand what the appeal of Trump is to many Americans. Presentation of that would give this show an edge which is lacking.
Reviewed by Pat Harrington
#Trumpageddon #edfringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

Comments (2)

Lyrics to Live By Keys to self-help – notes for a better life

IT’S often said that the best ideas are the simplest. And this is certainly the case with the idea behind Lyrics to Live By. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying that the idea behind the book is so simple it’s absolutely brilliant.

So what’s the idea, what makes it so simple and why is it literally a stroke of pure genius?

The idea’s so simple because it relates to something that we probably do every time we hear a song – and that’s to sing along to it and wonder what some of the lyrics actually mean.

This basic query about the meaning of the lyrics can also generate many other questions. For instance, how did the song come about, how long did it take to write, what is the writing process and what’s the idea behind the song? Why use the particular set of lyrics that appear? How personal is the song – and does it contain any hidden or subliminal messages?

With this in mind, the publisher of Lyrics to Live By has asked Tim Bragg to interpret the lyrics of a dozen songs. Ten songs were provided by the publisher whilst Tim chose Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away and one of his own compositions, Some Answers.

LyricstoLiveByAdamazonuk

For those who don’t know, Tim Bragg is a multi-instrumentalist and a writer of songs, novels and short stories. Indeed, he has several albums and books to his name. He also has a deep interest in English and green politics and is the founder of English Green – https://www.facebook.com/groups/167522623276444/?ref=br_rs – which describes itself as ‘a group interested in ecology and its relationship with all aspects of human activity. How we co-exist with the flora and fauna and how we conduct ourselves in an ecologically healthy manner and how we achieve a spiritual and material well-being are of particular interest’.

Tim is also a really deep thinker – he describes himself as “the eternal outsider” and has been described as “a provocative intellectual renegade”. He is also interested in issues relating to free speech and English culture, previously describing Stratford-upon-Avon as his “spiritual home”.

In his Foreword, Bragg sets the scene by highlighting the importance of music:

‘But we are drawn to particular songs and musicians who seem to speak to us. They really do help guide us through life and come to our aid when most needed. At our lowest, a song can be played over and over, and this repetition seems to heal. When we are blue a blues song seems to do the trick. And the very personal nature of a song makes it effective for our own personal situation – bad/good or otherwise. I am thankful to the musicians who wrote songs that helped me through difficult times: the end of a love affair … for instance’.

I’m sure we’ve all wondered, why certain lyrics have the ability to strike a chord deep inside us. Indeed, every reader could probably suggest the lyrics of several songs which have really touched them – almost in a spiritual way. To me, it simply illustrates the beauty and power of song. However, has it always been like this – and will it be like this forever?

The lyrics Tim comments on are really varied – they include those from Hey Jude, Stairway to Heaven, Wicked Game and Big Yellow Taxi. The musical genres covered are also fairly broad. Writers include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

I’m not going to give you any details of what he makes of any of the lyrics (and I know that this is extremely strange for a review!) as I want to encourage readers of Lyrics to Live by to really think for themselves. That’s because we live in a world where all sorts of information is readily accessible and Wikipedia is king. Such easy access to information is very much a double-edged sword. On the positive side it enables folks to learn about more-or-less anything under the sun. On the negative side, I fear that many folks are – or have – lost the ability to question information and think for themselves.

Earlier I mentioned that Tim is a very deep thinker, and this is certainly borne out in how he interprets the lyrics. I must admit that I’d often sing along to a song and spend a few minutes contemplating what the lyrics mean. But to actually sit down and to probably spend hours really analysing the lyrics is probably an art form in itself!

This is the first time I’ve read an examination of lyrics to such a high level. Indeed, Tim noted that the process was ‘almost as if meditating’. I really do think that most people will be in awe of (or even shocked at) the depth of thinking employed here. Whether you agree with Tim is open to debate. However, it would really be interesting to know what readers think of his in-depth interpretations.

Lyrics to Live by also poses many questions in itself. I’m not too sure if this was the original intention or simply a by-product of the subject matter?

For instance, I’d particularly like to know how and why the particular songs – and more importantly, the individual lyrics – were chosen by the publisher? I also wondered if there was any sort of thread linking the artists? I presume they must mean something to the publisher, but what? Are they in some way personal, or do they contain any hidden or subliminal messages? Indeed, does Tim’s interpretation of the lyrics match those of the publisher, or are they wildly different? Furthermore, I found it interesting that Tim looked at the lyrics of one of his own songs – I wonder if this was therapeutic in any way?

The Foreword mentions Tim’s admiration for Phil Lynott and Van Morrison, who ‘have certainly helped me through my life’s journey’. Yet neither of them feature in the book. This got me wondering what artists would any of us choose to analyse– and why?

A couple of other things also came to mind whilst reviewing the book:

Firstly, Tim Bragg is a multi-instrumentalist and is comfortable with different genres of music. With this in mind, I presume that a Heavy Metal singer would be more at home looking at the lyrics of a Heavy Metal song. The same would presumably go for a Folk musician with Folk lyrics. However, what would happen if you gave the Heavy Metal and Folk singer the lyrics to a Country and Western song? Would the change of genre completely throw them – or would they both apply the same thought process, successfully analyse the lyrics and manage to overcome the change in musical style?

Secondly, this review has thrown up many unique and interesting ideas and questions. They all lend themselves to a series of books looking at various lyrics and their meanings. I’d love to read the thoughts of other artists – and, in particular, independent artists – in the very near future. Here’s hoping that the first follow-up book is at the planning stage already.

Reviewed by John Field

Lyrics to Live By is available as a Paperback or E-book from all Amazon stores

Comments (1)

Older Posts »