Articles, Reviews

words for my father

Father Ballam hooking a big one.

My father is a warrior on many levels. He has risen up through the blizzard of a divorce. He soldiered through his own dyslexia and the currents of a busy family to conquer his Masters in Philosophy. (I better have another drink here this is starting to sound like a damn eulogy…and the bugger is still alive!) Allow me to reel this story in, the way one would clasp the steel nub of a coffee grinder’s arm. I can sum up my father in three words…

Fishing. Philosophy. Ideas.
These are the forces that drive him. They propel him onto the cold mud of a riverbank or into the furnace of concepts jostling in an academic paper. I know when he starts his 5 o’clock mornings ( a ritual the family has grown accustomed to), he first rustles around the kitchen like a wise old badger. To make his coffee he doesn’t turn on the kettle. Instead, he puts a pot of water on the stove and waits for it to boil.

Having a pint with the old man.

I remember being an angst-fuelled 23 year old telling him, “But that takes so much longer!”
He looked at me, a warm smile filling his eyes.
“You do not live with a woman and small children.”
His sensitivity, back then, baffled my own immature mantras. His modest income meant the houses he occupied where no mansions. In a nutshell, he would rarely give up his morning routine and at the same time…restrain himself so the family got enough sleep. Allow me to get back to the badger and his early morning.

My father in his element…or The Element perhaps?

Coffee in hand, he trundles to his favourite chair in the lounge. (If you read as much as this intellectual mammoth, you earn the right. Or perhaps, the chair finds you?) He sits down with a big red book of Rumi (a Sufi poet). It’s the perfect blend for him, mysticism and metaphor.

A gentleman always tells the truth. He allowed me to reel this fatty in so I could experience “the rush”. I compromised and said I’d take the photo as his hands were still full of fish!

Over the years poetry and books kept the two of us together. Much like a weekend for him, alone, pours cool consciousness back into his bones. He may not believe in a god, although he will make an effort to crawl back into nature to get in touch with something close to a Divine. Whether it’s internal or buried in the ripples of a rise…well, that remains to be seen.

Having another pint!

I love you Dad. Happy Birthday!

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews

The PowerBook – Jeanette Winterson (review)

The PowerbookThe Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A modern day collage of memories, love, philosophy, history and the grit that lies underneath all of us.

That’s my attempt to sum up the novel in a single sentence. What’s it about? Well, the chapters are laid out with headings you will see on a Apple computer (e.g, SEARCH, NEW DOCUMENT, EMPTY TRASH). Even the title is “The PowerBook”, which has the same layout as a MacBook does (i.e. an Apple Mac laptop for the layman). The story line flickers between an entity online called Ali (or Alix) who writes stories for other people for a living, and a love triangle in Paris. A guy who falls in love with two different women on separate occasions.

I read this in spurts over 3 days. Most of the chapters are around 3-5 pages. If you’re prepared for a postmodern story line that hops back and forth leaving some questions unanswered, this may be for you. Perhaps I was too caught up in the swirling metaphors and visceral imagery which, in turn, propelled me to keep reading.

The PowerBook may not answer all your questions on love, and the inner cogs of lovers. However, it’s a beautiful and moving read. I reckon you should give it a go.

If you’re in-love with someone else while you’re reading it…even better!

 

PhilosopherPoet

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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

 

 

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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.

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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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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.

jobs_color_01

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.

Jobs_02

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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