poetry, Prose, Reviews

fences

Inspired by the 2016 film Fences (click here)
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spin the ball with me…hold that leather skull in your hand it’s just baseball

it could be rocket science ingredients leaping from tube to tube with the fear of fire and the desire to turn into something cold and remembered

in baseball folks are running from plate to plate sometimes you miss the ball like it’s a force you can’t see…an idea you can’t free…a divorce in your head maybe

an old man is out building a fence…he buys sturdy wood…he wears a smile and a stare that crawls into your bones

he churns up the naked loam with an old spade…his hands cling to the wooden neck the same way a jaded man fondles a bottle of something strong enough to wash emotions away

“one day I’ll finish this damn thing” he tells himself…earth, sweat and spray rinse dense memories he cannot leave behind unless he presses his lips to the gentle kiss of a gin bottle

old, polished, strong to the taste just like a boy he remembers and the man he forgets

 

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews

Eating Dirt – Charlotte Gill (book review)

Eating DirtEating Dirt by Charlotte Gill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s rare that I finish a book of non-fiction. This is a gritty and visceral read. The prose is sharp, vivid and riddled with shards of experiences.

At times I could feel myself crammed in rusty pick up, hurtling along the dirty road with other soil-plastered planters. Reading this can be frightening, and sometimes funny as hell. It’s written from the heart of someone who isn’t afraid to take you to being in the middle of nowhere.

I learned a great deal about planters, forests, creatures, foibles, and speckles of ecology that intersperse Gill’s memories.

View all my reviews

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews

Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox (review)

How it all began

You’re a young, adventurous, quirky, bouncy and free-spirited girl in your twenties. You develop a fascination with Italy, save up as much money as you can – and after a while – decide to go work/live/study there. You arrive in Italy and after some confusion with the new language find a great group of like minded students to share a house with. It feels like paradise…in fact at the time it really is. You work at night and study during the day. You meet a shy and intelligent computer science student. You fall helplessly in love for a week. The morning after a night at your boyfriend’s place you go back to your room to fetch a few things. One or two things might’ve been out of place, but you rationalize it away.

The worry starts to gnaw at you. You convince your boyfriend that checking the flat for a second time is a good idea. After returning with your boyfriend and a few others, you discover the flat mate you once loved is murdered (brutally, you later find out). This is when your whole experience of Italy changes… The police never trust you. You are interrogated for days in Italian. When the police can’t get the answers they need they slap you and shout louder. Your brain is tangled in your own words, and you give a confession that made sense to you (at the time) in your frazzled state. You’re denied access to a lawyer. You are stripped naked in front of a room of people to be poked, prodded, measured and checked. Once the ‘experts’ are satisfied, you are thrown in a van, driven to a prison, and locked up as you await your trial.

Italy is never the same for you again.

Amanda Knox arrives at her trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2009
The book itself

Above is a brief summary of Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox. It is a memoir, and the first time she makes a public stand and tells her side of the story. I found it an accessible and really speedy read. It’s difficult to put down – and more importantly – extremely honest. The book deals briefly with Amanda’s arrival in Italy and the friends she met. That’s all over after 160 odd pages. The remainder of the book deals with her time in prison, and of course the trials in which she was first convicted, and then later acquitted for the murder of Meredith Kercher (along with other charges).

An online friend mentioned this person to me, and before reading the book I actually paid little attention to the media. Why? Well there was so much out there, and it felt overwhelming. So part of me said, “Let me listen to what she has to say.” I went and dug up interviews on YouTube of Amanda Knox. I listened to the way she came across and it felt sincere. I did subsequently glance over a few news articles on the internet, but avoided the tabloids like the plague.

When you listen to someone else’s side of the story, you learn something.
What I took away with me is that Amanda loves people. I felt touched reading her stories of the people she meant in prison, the songs she sung, and the meaning she put back into others. In my opinion, the media was so wrapped up in the final verdict and the courtroom drama it forgot about the people. There was little said about the prison in the media, whatever was said was tough to find.

Perhaps this is also a comment on public opinion. Why do we care about the end result so much? Why is it a big deal if a student smokes a joint, and has sex with one or two people? We leap onto our soapboxes and bring down the judgement without examining ourselves first. Everyone goes through a period of invincibility and throwing caution to the wind. Sometimes that’s the only way we learn.

Why I care?

Perhaps the only time we truly become human, is once we’ve learnt what empathy means. I could identify with this book because I put myself directly in Amanda Knox’s shoes. I am a similar age to her, and also Cancerian. The way I heard her talk about family and the weight it carried, I must’ve given her a few invisible high fives. She put her heart right out there and showed the events according to her, and I thought there was tremendous strength in that.

You can read online about the ordeal she went through, but she essentially lost 3 years of her life in prison for a crime she did not commit. Many people may have wanted to let the past be the past, not Amanda. I’m reminded of a DIO song titled Stand up and shout. That’s exactly what Knox eventually did. When something doesn’t sit well with you, there is no alternative. You have to have your final say. Being a writer as well, I more than identify with this notion. She had the sheer courage to stare at her old wounds and slowly describe and clarify each one.

Perhaps writing this novel brought her a sense of catharsis and closure. It would have done so for me.

waiting to be heard
Why read it?

Most of the time, it didn’t feel like I was reading anything. I was listening. Listening to the stories of people sculpted by Knox’s pen, and hearing the fears she overcame made all the difference. While reading it I couldn’t shake off the feeling that all this really happened. After being smeared and bad-mouthed by a variety of media, its refreshing to see someone speak with very little judgement in her voice.

To call an attractive girl a slut is a simple and ‘easy’ opinion. Rather take the longer road, listen for a while because maybe…she really does have a point.

 

PhilosopherPoet

 

 

Additional Reading

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Reviews

Is content important? (Steve Jobs interview)

This evening I was watching Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. Essentially it’s the longest piece of interview material that the public has really seen. I sat down, and watched it, and certain things began to trigger in my brain. (Remember this interview was done in 1995). Services that have been ingrained in us such as Facebook, Blogging, iPods, MacBook Pros, Wi-Fi, Smartphones, Cloud computing, weren’t even on the radar. To give you an idea – if you aren’t much of a technophile – this was around the time that the internet started becoming a well-known concept and tool to the public. Before I digress too much let me turn the focus back to Jobs.

Steve Jobs The Lost Interview (2012). This show was recorded in 1995, or there about.

Steve Jobs The Lost Interview (2012). This show was recorded in 1995, or there about.

“People get very confused [and assume] the process is the content.”

What Jobs was talking about here, was eventually he had recruited a few hundred people (in the early days of Apple) people lost sight of what great content (or a great product) was. One example Steve gave indicated that Xerox went under because of this. What happened? Well, they had a monopoly in the copier market. In his words “So you make a better copier or a better computer, so what?” The people that can make the company more successful were in two spheres…Sales and Marketing. Therefore, the Sales and Marketing people end up running the companies. This means the product people get pushed away from the decision-making forums, and in time the company forgets what it is to make great products.

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In a similar way this illustrates the difference between content and process. If you’re stuck in the same company for five years, as an example, you’ve become part of the process. Some of that is good – it gets things done – it helps the business continue making its money. However, when one gets absorbed by the process, you can easily lose sight of the content. “Am I producing good quality work? Does this work I’m producing mean something to me?” If you’re stuck in the process then questions like that may not even be apparent to you. Maybe it’s just a case of “Oh well, it’s a job it pays the bills. I’m not ecstatic about dragging my ass to work, but at least it’s something.” That’s a very bad rationalization for me.

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The details matter. Of course they do! If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be in the career we are in the first place. What I think Jobs was getting at is if you care about the content, you care a great deal more about yourself…and ultimately where you are going.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment or two! 🙂

Links:

 

PhilosopherPoet

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If There Be a Chance

Here’s a great poem from an interesting poet I stumbled across on WritersCafe . I was so moved I thought I had to share it with the outside world. Sarah also has a collection titled “The Other Side of Up”

by Sarah W.

by Sarah S. Williams

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Reviews, Technology

iExplorer – An iTunes Alternative

I’ve been with Apple a while now, and there is one piece I software I continually hear people complain about…iTunes. One of the major gripes I’m heard is that it tells you “My way or the highway”. It doesn’t allow the honest bloke on the street to recover music from an iPod (whose computer has died). Another thing, what if you just needed a couple of PDFs or pictures from one App and you didn’t want to use the clumsy iTunes root? Well this software is the answer to that problem.

Another cool thing? Backing up your notes. Sometimes you want an offline copy of your notes from the Notes App on the iPad. This app will go and save all your notes as RTF (Rich Text Format) files. Once you have those you can always upload them, or back them up wherever you wish.

It gets into the nooks and crannies. Every now and again you will download an eReader, note taker, download manager, organiser, photo organiser…in other words something that will collect bits and pieces for you. If you were to use iTunes for the first time, it doesn’t give you a simple way of retrieving that info. Here, this app displays everything in a tree-structure and Shazam you can crawl into each and every app and extract your crucial information.

 

Here's an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Here’s an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Behold the Tree Structure! Here's an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

Behold the Tree Structure! Here’s an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Killing the Krauts (Band of Brothers Review)

Ever watched a movie and felt gobsmacked afterwards? So bad that once you managed to slowly pull your jaw off the ground, you leaped into the air…and ran to tell your friends the art they were missing. Well, recently that same scenario happened when a friend of mine told me about Band of Brothers.

The friend who gave me the recommendation is nothing short of an Alpha Male. He dreams about the military, owns a few weapons, and has a few battle scars to back it all up. Hence, my reluctance. Apart from that I sat down on a weekend with him, and the two of (along with his fiancé) and among the gallons of coffee we quaffed away, we watched a couple of episodes back to back.

So before I create any doubt in your mind whether it’s worth watching, I’ve included a review from The Guardian aswell as a few screen shots I found lying around the internet. (Oh, and if you’re tired of doing anymore reading, scroll to the bottom to watch the youtube trailer.)

😛

PhilosopherPoet

We’re in this together

Article by: Rupert Smith

It’s just six months since the principal photography finished on Steven Spielberg’s 10-part second world war TV epic Band Of Brothers, and already controversy is brewing. Whipped into a lather by the Daily Mail, a handful of war veterans condemned the series as “an absolute disgrace and an insult to the millions of brave Britons who helped win the war” – without the benefit of having actually seen any of it, of course.

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Band Of Brothers treads familiar territory. A group of soldiers from the US airborne division are dropped behind enemy lines in 1944, take part in the D-Day victories and then fight their way through Europe to capture Hitler’s mountain eyrie at Berchtesgarden. Along the way they witness the battle of Arnhem, the battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of the death camps. What’s incensed the Mail is the lack of reference to the British war effort, and the implication that the Americans won the war in Europe. What seems to have passed them by is the fact that the story is, for the most part, true.

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Band Of Brothers is based on a book by the prolific American historian Stephen E Ambrose, who compiled the story from extensive interviews with veterans of the “Easy Company”, the Airborne’s 506th Regiment. Ambrose isn’t some hack writer in the pay of the US government: he’s a respected academic, the author of over 30 books including standard works on presidents Nixon and Eisenhower. He’s written big, wide-reaching tomes on second world war history. In Band Of Brothers, he narrowed the focus to tell the story through the eyes of one particular group of men.

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Naturally, this kind of people-based history makes good movies, and it so happens that Ambrose, an American writing for a home market, chose to write about American soldiers. For that he cannot be criticised, nor can Steven Spielberg and his fellow executive producer Tom Hanks for their choice of source material.

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What rattles the critics is the fact that the BBC have paid a huge sum to acquire the UK broadcast rights to Band Of Brothers (the Mail quoted £15m, which the BBC says is “wildly exaggerated”), in effect using British licence-payers’ money to tell them that the Yanks won the war. They hark back to 1945, when the Errol Flynn vehicle Objective Burma caused riots in Leicester Square for overlooking the British contribution, and was only re-released here seven years later (and even then with a meek apology tacked on to the opening credits). They presumably expected British broadcasters to shun Band Of Brothers, turning their backs on 10 hours of the most expensive telly ever made, or at least to let it languish on a satellite station where such things are more or less a given.

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But that was never going to happen. Ever since Band Of Brothers got the green light at Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG production company, British interest has been high. The prime minister met personally with Spielberg and Hanks to ensure that Band Of Brothers was filmed in Britain. Chris Smith, the culture secretary, described it as “a vital production” for the British film industry, and promised it his full support. As well as providing work for British actors and technicians, Band Of Brothers confirmed Britain’s status as Hollywood’s location of choice. Last year, US studios spent £750m in the UK – money that keeps the British film industry alive. With such high-level interest (Tony Blair even got his son Euan a work-experience gig on the set), Band Of Brothers was never going straight-to-cable. If the BBC hadn’t snapped it up, there would have been some awkward questions at Television Centre.

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The BBC is remaining tight-lipped about the criticism. Band Of Brothers won’t be shown here until the autumn, by which time the world premiere (at Normandy’s Utah Beach, on D-Day, 6 June) and the full US transmission on HBO should have generated enough enthusiasm to ensure that the carping voices are drowned out in a wave of positive publicity. For the moment, all they’ll say is, “this is event television at its best and will capture the drama, excitement and reality of this remarkable true story”. No surprises there, then.

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Band Of Brothers looks like the kind of TV project that comes along once in a generation. The Spielberg/ Hanks connection alone marks it out as landmark television, but the casting and production values should ensure that it lives up to expectations. With a $120m budget, DreamWorks could afford to shoot big crowds on accurate locations, and to spend months in the studio at Hatfield. In comparison, the only domestic war drama of recent years, BBC1’s All The King’s Men (starring David Jason), is a home movie. To retell the tale of Gallipoli, the BBC shot on cheap locations in southern Spain, used close-ups for the big battle scenes to maximise the effect of a small number of extras, and avoided anything remotely wide-angle. The results were impressive, and a cut above those dramas that recreate Tobruk on a quiet afternoon at Camber Sands – but still looked like telly-on-a-shoestring compared to the then recently released Saving Private Ryan.

It was that film more than any other that set new standards for war films, and which set the seal on the American pre-eminence in the field. Subsequent releases have done nothing to redress the balance; the much-criticised U-571 surprised British audiences by suggesting that the American navy captured the German Enigma ma chine that led to the successful cracking of the code at Bletchley Park. The forthcoming Pearl Harbor, starring Ben Affleck, will show the war once again from an American angle.

But it would, wouldn’t it? American films are still principally for American audiences, and they tell American stories. It would take a brave (and probably independent) film-maker to say that the Brits were the real heroes of the war. It wouldn’t go down well in the cineplexes. Spielberg is interested in telling stories that matter to him – Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Band Of Brothers. Perhaps his growing links with Britain (he was knighted in the New Year’s Honours list) will incline him more towards British material, but it’s unlikely that a company as vast as DreamWorks would invest in a project of little interest to the US market. Hollywood has its uses for British characters – who else would blow up Bruce Willis or attempt world domination? – but they’re very rarely heroes. That’s an American job.

Ironically, it’s a British actor who landed the plum role of platoon leader Richard Winters. Before being spotted by Spielberg, Damian Lewis was best known for lead roles in the BBC’s Warriors and Hearts And Bones; now he’s set to become a major American star. Many of his co-stars are British; conversely, Tom Hanks puts in a brief appearance as “British officer”. Band Of Brothers may not be doing much for the popular perception of Britain’s contribution to the second world war, but it’s doing a hell of a lot for our film industry.

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And therein lies the strange little Catch-22 at the heart of the Band Of Brothers debate. Without films such as this, or Saving Private Ryan, or Harry Potter, or The Mummy Returns, British film studios would close down, actors and directors would move to Europe or Hollywood, and we’d be stuck with underfunded TV as our only source of home-grown entertainment. As long as we keep taking Hollywood’s dollar, we have the chance to make our own films as well as theirs, to tell stories from a uniquely British perspective. This we continue to do, and with great success – witness Billy Elliott, The Fully Monty, East Is East and co- productions such as Bridget Jones’s Diary. What we don’t do – what producers choose not to do – is make war movies. All The King’s Men was an isolated phenomenon, and there have been no notable British feature films in recent years that have touched on the subject. What we make, and what sells well overseas, are quirky comedies about little people with big dreams. We don’t do epic. We don’t do war, unless it’s Evelyn Waugh.


Perhaps the inevitable success of Band Of Brothers will goad British film-makers into action. The ballyhoo surrounding next month’s D-Day screening shows that there’s support in very high places for this kind of effort. It’s just a shame that, after all his involvement in getting Band Of Brothers off the ground, Tony Blair won’t be able to attend the 6 June show. He’s got a little show of his own to attend to the next day.

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