Thursday 25 September 2014

Dylan wrote on political issues

Dylan wrote on political issues - but he fled from being tied to any one ideology or to men in suits and straight jackets.  He went straight to the heart of things, never skirting around the edges or pretending.  He looked at things from all the angles - he questioned and illuminated weakness, falseness, beauty and all the shades of grey,
He wrote songs that have had the most impact on issues such as those who peddling war - most remarkably in "Masters of War"
"Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul."

He wrote songs such as "You Gotta Serve Someone" which looks so cleverly and insightfully at what motivates us most.  
When I feel have questions and I feel confused over ignorance, I turn to Dylan's true, honest and questioning voice... His songs are A great reassurance in an often highly confusing world - and the knowing there are poetic voices of truth out there - even when the truth may not be what we might want to hear.
Quote Dylan, "There's no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there's only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I'm trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics. They has got nothing to do with it. I'm thinking about the general people and when they get hurt."
I read these notes he wrote for Broadside 1962 - and this is it for me too - about those who see wrong but walk on by. 
"Too many people are telling me where the answer is, but oh, I dont believe that. I still say its in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper , its got to come down some time, But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not many people get to see and know it.. and then it flies away again, I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those who turn their heads away when they see wrong and know its wrong.............."

It is all about spin when there is no vision or passions, that's what worries me the most...about centralizing power and in so doing restricting our basic human rights and freedoms, its very very scary. We have a system in place with no checks and balances to the power of the 'Crown' that resides with our prime minister.

Quote Dylan, "People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient and then repent... "

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ian Bell; Time Out of Mind at EIBF 2014

I have read Ian Bell on the Scottish Independence questions in the only press for YES, The Sunday Herald, and he writes well on why Scottish Independence is the most sensible way forward.   

Bell gave an informed and entertaining chat on the most famous songwriter for more than a generation, of our times and also timeless, with fellow Scottish journalist Alan Taylor at Edinburgh International Book festival 2014. He said Dylan was enigmatic, elusive and perhaps unexplainable and hard to unravel. When the character that he created became successful was Dylan content with what he had created? Dylan's time as the folk singer of protest songs was only brief and he shied away from any leadership role. He was an artist, not a leader. He thought art tends to flee when politics arrive and that is propaganda and not art. 

Dylan always had a need to reinvent himself. Bell said he was a brilliant editor of verses. He was both defiant and fearless, and he doesn't care what others may be doing.  He was also terrifically ambitious. 

Bell said Dylan's 1974 Blood on The Tracks was an extraordinary return to an even higher artistic form.

He said although Dylan's Chronicles was embedded with many quotations he wasn't allowed to quote directly from his autobiography. Dylan wrote about how he steals. The fact is all artist steal it just depends how we do it and what we do with it and with the worldwide web its just all become a much hotter thing to deal with. 

He spoke of Dylan's Bootleg series and that some are terrible recordings but we need them to understand Dylan. He said that Dylan was royally ripped of by his first manager Albert Grossman. 
Bell thought today's generation has it too easy with access to millions of artists. Back then you followed the artists, curating material. In a sea of music, authenticity becomes important to a minority.

Dylan was influenced by poetry, American history, Joan Baez, Robert Burns and the Scottish border ballads. He took bits and pieces from My Hearts in The Highlands. He then stepped away from any political commentary in his songs such as the Vietnam war.

Ian offered some favourite song lines. We all have them, any of us long time Dylan listeners - although he said he didn't particularly like to have favourite ones.  
 'Ain't it just like the night when your tryin' to be so quiet/  Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
 'I'm not There' was a favourite song he said, about those connections between what you understand and why you understand it.

He said that Dylan had a 'Burned cathedral of a voice which worked, especially for Dylan the live performer.' We know Dylan through his songs.

He felt there was something to be gained by knowing Dylan's life, times and art - and how the three work together.
Bob Dylan Glasgow 2011

Scottish Press; Dialogue on Media - EIBF August 2014.

The dead wood press is now selling a quarter what it once did and that most of the Scottish press is now under foreign ownership. 

This event was hosted by journalist Ruth Wishart, and with fellow journalists Iain MacWhirter (Herald) Stephan Khan (Observer London) and Niki Seth-Smith (Common weel).
They spoke of the vigorous diversity of the Referendum debates in particular online websites such as National Collective, Kiltr, Bella Caledonia etc.  

Iain MacWhirter (Herald)
He said that professional Journalism allows for long form research.
He talked of Online Journalism. Citizen journalism provides more and cheap instant views, when journalism becomes often opinion journalism. Media used to be the privileged elite but now everyone has a voice.  There is a difference between sharing information though, instant opinions and researched facts.

The Decline of Scottish press stood at a drop of 100,000 sales per year, that it maybe had 5 years left. .
Most of the Scottish press was now foreign owned and The Scotsman had been taken over and had become the Daily Mail of Scotland. He said the dead tree press (professional journalism) are the cultural curators. The business model doesn't work on the internet though and the trouble is that real journalism cant' be done for nothing. 

He spoke of the one-sided media right now in Scotland which is hostile to independence.  What is happening here would be illegal in Scandinavia as the constitution is to have diversity of press. 
We have only had the one newspaper here - The Sunday Herald - supporting independence in Scotland.  He said that the BBC is still dependent for news on the dead tree press. 

Stephan Khan (Observer London) spoke of the plurality of press
He said the new consumer was more sophisticated. The problem with new media is there was often no raw copy and no research online. 

The question now is what happens after the Referendum. 
There was good online media and entrepreneurship but which do too often relies on press stories. 

He said, 'Comment is free, facts are sacred.'
He spoke of the need for objectivity and the blurring of the line between comment and fact.  Journalist will also make academic papers readable for the general public.  
Niki Seth-Smith (Common weel)  stated that online there were also often multiple drafts and editorial time too to provide decent facts with rigorous fact checking.   

MacWhirter suggested public funding for say a National Enquirer paper that was for factual news gathering rather than opinions or speculations and to help to ensure diversity of expression was properly informed.
The BBC is struggling with devolution or what it is really about.  Scotland has national politics and no national press. I notice now that many of the respected in this debate are not going on the BBC news programs - understandably. 

They thought that the best bet for small democracies was an open democracy that also pays contributors. 
Twitter feeds are difficult at reflecting on news with no longer articles and they felt that Print still has a future. 

Sunday 21 September 2014

What Happened #indyref

#indyref  When it comes down to it we were not able to convince people they would be better off, both financially and economically, in an independent Scotland. We were told we are one of the wealthiest nations and many must have thought - well we are doing OK then aren't we the way we are. Even as all our oil money has been lost and we have expensive and unnecessary nuclear weapons.
The little old ladies and their pensions and sitting on their properties, decided months even years before to vote NO. They were also fearful - and during the campaign told they would loose the pound in their pockets (their pensions), while others were told they woud loose thier jobs. If you take the over 60s (who are doing fine thanks and probably think at the age of 85 why change anything and not think of the future for their grandchildren or children) out of the vote altogether, there would have been landslide for YES!! All the other age groups (apart from 18-22 at 48%) overwhelmingly voted for YES! 
The debate has been about decentralizing power.... as the debate unfolded it has more and more become about true democracy. Perhaps now a Scottish Yes Party or Scottish Democratic Party for me. It needs to be something forward looking for all the young people who want a voice to build this democracy. 
Questions. How are we governed? Can they debate all this in a couple of months? Devolution for England. And Party self interest...and the West Lothian questions..Set up a separate chamber etc. etc.

The Better Together sent out easy sound bites - safety, security, risks, etc. Perhaps the YES message was too complicated and most don't have the time or can't be bothered researching for themselves.

**The Way Forward
-My hope is through social media. Whatever government gets elected they will continue to ignore the voice of the people at their peril. 
-This vote is NOT about powers or the constitutions - it was about equal opportunities. Under Labour the divides between rich and poor have widened and I don't trust them.
- We require a Scottish Broadcasting channel. 
- Rebrand the SNP as the Scottish Democratic Party?
- Should there be a debate on why we need nuclear weapons?
- Do we live in a free democracy when we don't have a free press? 
Perhaps the north of England might join our campaign too - and show this is NOT about boundaries and borders - in fact its about breaking down these unwanted divisions.      

A country not in charge of it resources is not a happy place.  I heard the House of Lords (reformed?) took over control of Scotland's energy policies recently (nothing in the press?) and is now deciding where fracking will happen. Loch Lomond first? 
If this is all about economics and defence - and I look at say Denmark, Finland, Holland, Norway - most others small countries which can respond faster to economic shiftsand often with less resources than Scotland, are doing extremely well thank you. Ironically the day after the vote Prince William visited Malta, which became independent in 1964 with a population of half a million. 

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Independence Day!

Will we have fireworks! There is an expectant stillness in the air today as the Big Vote is on us....It has been  a very long road for some of us dreaming of a better way for Scotland and believing in it with heart and soul.... head too! Over the decades I have felt my vote and voice made no difference at all. For the first time in my life my vote can count and make a difference.

i don't want borders or boundaries or any of these other tired clichés I have heard of. I am voting YES for a new start for democracy where all the voices can be heard  - and not only a small elite who ignore the people. 
I have always thought first past the post system of voting was a ridiculous old fashioned system, the adversarial confrontations of right or wrong of the Westminster politics and their  short sighted policies....

I want to see a greener, more forward looking, more open-minded, inclusive policies. I hope the people of Scotland will seize this one chance to run their own affairs.
The people of Scotland never voted for the Union in 1707 - only a tiny number of rich nobles did (who were bribed with gold). The rich bankers are still wanting to bribe us with false promises - DON'T believe a word they say!

Its been very hard in the media with all the bias - ONLY one Scottish paper for independence and all the BBC bias, both obvious and more subtle. . 
There are many stories to be written and re-written now. But I hope we are on a journey to where we want to be as a country. I hope no matter what the vote Thursday, that we have all learned a great deal about ourselves and can move forward with more hope and faith in our shared future.

This debate has brought out a sense of community and shared dreams across our country. A strong sense of identity matters a great deal for a successful future.  The eyes of the world are now on us - lets not disappoint them by acting in fear....  but rather with confidence and hope in ourselves, our heritage and our beautiful country...

Thursday 11 September 2014

The Resurgence in the Scottish Arts

I am listening to Scottish singer songwriter Dougie MacLean who lives near Perth and is best known for his wonderful song 'Caledonia' which he sang at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony to great effect in July.  He wrote the song on a France beach when he was thinking of his homeland of Scotland. 

Since the 70s it has been truly wonderful the resurgence in the Scottish arts. Back then Scottish music was viewed as twee or backward looking but not anymore!  In fact a lot of the music coming out of Scotland is admired worldwide.  I used to travel across Edinburgh on the top deck of the bus via Princes street to my  secondary Grammar school (these don't exist anymore) in Leith and I wondered who these young people with their fancy blazers and posh English accents were.. shockingly a quarter of Edinburgh's children attend private schools!  We were made to feel second class then in Scotland. This is not the case in Ireland - my parents come from Ireland and we visited there each summer and it seemed to me that the Irish had more pride in who they are. 

Informed journalists are for YES.
Most Scottish musicians, authors and artists are for yes. Our respected historian Tom Devine is for yes. 
Scottish authors are also having a golden age with many respected writers - Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Liz Lochhead, Alan Bissett, Iain Macwhirter, Ian Bell, Ian McEwan, Alasdair Gray, William McIIvanney.
Admiral Fallow
My most respected musicians (who now feel proud to sing in their Scottish accents)  - Dick Gaughan, Dougie MacLean, Phil Cunningham, Karine Polwart, Donald Shaw, Aly Bain, Emeli Sande, Biffy Clyro, Rab Noakes, The Proclaimers, Gerry Rafferty, Julie Fowlis, Eddi Reader, Michael Marra,  Chrvches, Frightened Rabbit,  Lau, RM Hubbert, Admiral Fallow, 

I have been fortunate to photograph many outstanding Scottish artists, my Scottish portrait gallery here -
Emeli Sande

Karine Polwart
Does this matter, of course it does! 
It used to be we were told we were too wee, too incapable and too poor. At the same time we had this hidden history of a past Scottish golden age that we were not taught at school - great Scottish inventions, The Enlightenment, trade with Europe, The Declaration of Arbroath and influence on America's founding fathers and more. I did History higher in Edinburgh when I learned of the Tudors and 17th century European history!.  

I attend Edinburgh book festival, as well as Celtic Connections, each year and it seems that there is a flowering of Scottish talent and pride and identity does matter a great deal. 

Women and Image

Perhaps mums can boycott pink and fluffy!

Hollywood star Lauren Bacall died this week. She was a strong, assertive woman both on screen and off who knew her own mind and how to express herself without fear of backlash in a man's world. 
Back in the Hollywood glamour days there were other strong women - Vivien Leigh, Marlyn Monroe, Betty Gable and Olivia de Havilland.  They were central figures in their films. In the 80s we had more strong women with the actresses Sigourney Weaver, Nicole Kidman and others. These women appeared in control of their own image.

I am concerned with the dawn of the Internet age we have gone backwards again. We now have pop icons for the younger generation - such as Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus  who are exploited to expose their bodies for men's enjoyment. This must have a poor effect on young girls and make them think to gain attention it is all about body image and exposing themselves, rather than character or any substance.   

While too there are still some strong women female leads today such as Angelina Jolie, who is both attractive but also a women of substance. 
Today I have to wonder what has happened to women of character - such as keen writer Jo in the novel Little Women or Jane's Austen's Elizabeth and speaking up to posh Mr Darcy??  These women had other interests apart from finding a man and they were portrayed through women's eyes. It concerns me that few men read women writers and don't they wish to understand how half of the population thinks and feels?  I happily admit to having read many great male writers, why not, I want to understand men too.   

In recent years women's magazines have appalled me mostly. Cosmopolitan is not what it once was - back in the 70s and 80s it was a new platform for women but I haven't bought Cosmo for the past decade as it has become bland and predictable. In the 80s I bought Vanity Fair both for its interesting articles and photography or Vogue, also for the photos.  In the past few month is have bought Bazaar for its photography and text too, which is often written by respected authors.  

I also buy magazines on music and photography, which are in the men's section on the magazine racks.

I used to teach 7 and 8 year olds. I noticed if I asked them to draw a picture that the boys would draw all kinds of things - war planes, Roman soldiers, ships, battles, aircraft, monsters, space, volcanoes, cars - wheras the girls usual drew mostly houses and flowers. It concerned me that girls seemed to have much fewer interests. I brought up two sons and a daughter when I noticed in the toyshops the boys toys were fun - building blocks, lego, airplanes, cars, transformers, spaceships, more, more....

!  By comparison the girls aisles were pink and fluffy - with rows of dolls (my daughter wondered what on earth you were supposed to do with the dolls?) I bought her lego, play dough and pencils to draw with.  I admit she loved her teddy -  then again my boys loved their dog and blanket respectively!   

Perhaps mums can boycott pink and fluffy in favour of buying their daughters toys that are proactive so that girls can learn to be more active with toys such a building blocks, play dough, lego, crayons or sports equipment. As opposed to superficial brushing hair or changing outfits.
I believe girls need just as many interests as the boys, so they can be outward looking like men rather than inward looking. . I lived in America for ten years when my children were young and girls there play much more sport. Sport teaches us how to be team players, which are crucial skills for many careers.  

It concerns me that nothing much has changed and the Toy shop aisles are still for girls pink and fluffy and the boys aisles are full of road racers and transformers....   

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Edinburgh book festival EIBF Diary 2014

Day One: Edinburgh. The book shelves are stuffed with referendum books - What is Britishness? The Scottish and English Union and Disunion; The Road to Yes. So many questions? Yet also the fact we are asking them is a good thing in itself. I hope after the Referendum that both Scotland and the rUK we are still asking the important questions - challenging and still actively engaged. 

I always feel I have to come back down to earth after the whirlwind that is Edinburgh International Book festival 2014 (EIBF).  For two and a half weeks each August Charlotte Square becomes a haven for book lovers, philosophers, poets, economists, and very much more.  So many creative and artistically challenging people attend - both on the stage and in the audience.

I often think I'd like to photograph those attending also in their low key or laid back, academic or intellectually inclined creamy linen jackets and casual hats. This is a cultured crowd!

Some days there are themes - on one day several strong minded women - Kate Adie, Germaine Greer and Val McDermid. Other days political or economic figures. There is also a big children's section to the festival. The signing tent is lined with today's books and the cafe was full of home baked custard creams, shortbread and layered cakes and queues waiting for the authors signing. The oddest sight was when Huraki Murakami came as he didn't wish for any photos and he signed behind a red curtain.

The festival offers an informed blend of the old and new where the retro and the modern sit side by side here - imaginative fantasy with factual history, romantic poetry and detailed economy, the surreal novel, the researched biography alongside hard hitting political thought. The festival allows all voices a platform to be heard and to exchange ideas and aspirations and celebrates diversity of thought.
Irving Finkel
Martin Amos
In Edinburgh the windy weather can be often dramatic - one moment brilliant sunshine the next torrential downpour for an hour. It keeps us alert for sure! I watch the sun on the elegant Georgian new town with the dark skies beyond.

It is my last day now. The girl in front of me has a strange blue skull tatoo on her back. Anything goes. I am both sad and tired too. Sad that's another EIBF and Edinburgh festival over, as festivals are intense by their very nature and they need to come to and end.  It is also a time of reflection for me -  I have visited my usual haunts over the festival, and walked the ancient cobbled streets of my home town memories and I wonder how much the festival effects the authors that attend.

Jim Sillars
Bonnie Greer


Authors that caught my attention were mostly poets,  journalist or professors

Lesley Riddoch - Blossom
Tom Devine - The Scottish Nation
Linda Colley - Acts of Union and Disunion
Ian Bell - Time out of Mind (on Bob Dylan)
Kate Adie - Fighting on the Home Front
Paul Henderson Scott - Scotland: A Creative Past, An independent Future
Haruki Murakami - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
A Bird is not a Stone - Palestinian poets   

The fringe Edinburgh High Street


It's always part of the Edinburgh festival experience to walk from Fringe central near George square down the Bridges to the high street, just to savour the atmosphere and colour and sample some of the shows on offer for another year.

PHOTOS at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014

Game of Thrones George RR Martin arrives
Kate Adie
Bonnie Greer
Alan Massie
A few images from Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014.