Bob Dylan in Sydney – 3 September 2014


In his last two concert tours I ventured to back in 2007 and 2011 Dylan, although writing some of his best songs in his 60 year career, was performing imperfectly on stage. His rasping voice was often inaudible and he refused to carry the song’s tune. But his fans forgave him. He was after all a man in his late 60s who should quite rightly be sunning himself in a rocking chair on his veranda. His playlist too unfortunately included songs which most fans hadn’t heard of or deconstructed to such an extent that they weren’t recognisable. But still his followers, and I, forgave him.

But this Dylan concert is different. You can mostly hear the words he spurts into the microphone and he’s even carrying the tune. But what is fundamentally different is his playlist. Three quarters of the songs are from his last 5 albums, with at least 6 of them from his latest 2012 album, Tempest. There was no deconstruction here. His gravelly voice suits the songs. And they soar. The highlights for me are Soon After Midnight, Scarlet Town and Long and Wasted Years.

Some say that at 73, this might be the last time you’ll see this troubadour in concert. But that’s no reason to see him. This is a man reinvented, with hard-hitting, edgy songs, a man with not much to lose, even when he’s not too far from knocking on Heaven’s door.

Now and Then

Yes, it’s me again … it’s been awhile. I’ve tried to answer your comments . There have been so many and I apologise if I missed yours. I’ll occasionally visit this blog perhaps with an odd post now and then.

What is dead can rise again! :)

Hello (Again!)

Thanks everyone for all your comments since I stopped posting.

Apologies that I cannot respond to your comments … because time waits for no man etc etc

But I really appreciate you good folk visiting this blog of mine.

Now, it’s time to  plug my new book which will be out soon!


7 Stories. 7 Days.

 Read each tale on its set day …

And you shall see a ghost.

Tempted?  Slightly scared? 

For it may just be true.

The human mind works in disturbing ways.

These 7 dark stories are born from such a place. They include:

A smartphone App that’s just far too helpful. A shrine no one should visit.  A world on the edge of destruction. A wear-tiger than seduces a maid. A woman who doesn’t age.

The End

This is my last post. It’s my 300th one.

(Can’t you hear that bugler in the distance?)

All good things, as they say, must come to an end. Everything falls away.

That expensive new car you bought will get rusty. That breathtaking romance will be routine. The renovated designer home will eventually crumble. Even this once super-fast MacBook barely crawls.

You see, nothing lasts. Everything perishes. All is transitory.

Including life itself.

You will, if you’re lucky, grow old and die.

There was a famous philosopher who kept a skull on his desk to remind him of this.

Any resemblance?

Thank you reading my blog, whether you’re a new or old reader. I do appreciate the many comments. I’ve tried to reply to all of them. Forgive me if I haven’t.

So why have I decided to stop posting?

I’ve long thought that my three hundredth post would be a good place to end.

With every ending there’s a new beginning though. It allows for a new start. I’m not sure where, when or how. But the closing of one book will lead to the opening of another. Of course there’s uncertainty, with any new beginning.

Yet I feel a sense of freedom as I write this. Not that this blog was a shackle. But there was a need to regularly post and reply to comments.

I’ve met many fellow bloggers, in person and in cyberspace. Some have stopped blogging, others have left this earth, many carry on. It has indeed been good. It’s been great to know you.

So the feeling now for me is this: as if you’ve held something precious for so long and you just … let it go!

This letting go releases you, sets you free.

So now I walk away down the beach, towards the embracing sunset … but you’ll never know where I’ll turn up next! :)

Hot Chicks!

A friend and I were at a café. Across the road was a billboard plastered with the gorgeous face of a, obviously heavily Photoshopped, young woman.

The words “Hot Chick!” leapt at us, followed by the usual advertising of some otherwise boring product.

“The thing is,” said my friend, “people just don’t think that hot chicks will grow old.”

“I’m sure they do,” I said. “Everyone grows old. We know that!”

“Yeah, but not when you’re staring at a billboard, mesmerised by this young model. Wishing they could get into bed with her.”

I laughed. “You’re right. We don’t think such women age. We don’t realise how impermanent, how unreal beauty is.”

I won’t grow old

“It’s only skin deep, Halim. If we just imagined, say forty, fifty years ahead, we’ll see our hot chick become so aged. Perhaps our desires will just fall away!”

“Hmmm …” I mused. “So hot chicks will become elderly women.”

“Hot chicks, Halim, will become elderly women with joint problems, stomach pains, blabber infections and falling hair.”

“So hot chicks will become geriatrics?”

“Yeah, hot chicks will become geria-chicks!

Yesterday I came across this quote:

“Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men and prompt them into action. The yogi prefers the good to the pleasant. Others, driven by their desires, prefer the pleasant to the good and miss the very purpose of life.”

(B.K.S Iyengar)

 That reminded me of our cafe conversation.

The good versus the pleasant.

The model was indeed very pleasant. But if our minds constantly focus on the pleasant we very often miss the good.

We are offered, through corporate propaganda, a multitude of pleasant things which are possible in our lives – good food, spa treatments, fashionable clothes, gorgeous partner, fabulous vehicle and all the things made to entertain us. We can have some of them if we have the money. If we spend. And the corporations thus profit.

But how often are we offered the good?

It seems that we have to seek the good out for ourselves. It’s a more difficult path.

It’s possible that our model on the billboard may realise how unreal, illusory and impermanent life really is and, therefore, to seek out the good.

If she did, I’m sure all us men will follow! :)

Girls Pressured to be Raunchy, Dumb and Looks-Obsessed

“Celebrity culture and social networking sites risk spawning a generation of dumb and shallow girls, a leading headmistress warns.”

Those first lines in an article in The Times from last year.

Our headmistress warns that young women are under extreme pressure to shun intellectual interests and conform to images of women that lack depth, are raunchy and are obsessed with their looks.

As a father of a sixteen-year-old girl, I find this entirely disturbing.

The evidence is plain to see. You’ll only have to watch music videos, teenage magazines, adverts, movies and TV to see the highly negative influence on our children. The role models today are stereotypes: hunky men, sexy women. Most of them are celebrities. It doesn’t matter if they’re brain dead as long as they’re drop dead gorgeous!

Such images can change our children’s values

Such misgivings are echoed in Lisa Bloom’s book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. The author fears that women are in danger of spiraling into a nation of dumbed down, tabloid media obsessed, reality TV addicts.

It all comes to desire. Women, it seems, need to be wanted. And they believe that it is this skin-deep thing called “looks” that will create a desire for them.

Yet in the book Women and Desire by Polly Young-Eisendrath, the author retells the tale of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnall (the full story is available here).

In the tale, we discover, is that what a woman truly wants is “sovereignty over herself.” To be able to make her own decisions, to be able to exercise her own free will.

Making your own decisions, is a mental activity.

No looks involved.

This means that the better educated you are (whether achieved in or out of school or university), the more you contemplate, the greater the introspection, will likely lead to you making better decisions.

Thus that sovereignty is exercised well.

But as Polly Young-Eisendrath says “ … personal sovereignty is different from assertiveness, individuality, independence, and getting your own way … [it] means feeling free to choose and to intend your actions. It requires practice and knowledge to make decisions in a way that is responsible, fulfilling, and satisfying.”

That is the key. The correct decisions will lead to a fulfilling and satisfying life. I think, for all of us, men and women, that is what we ultimately want.

Is Today’s Music Meaningless and Boring?

My 15-year-old daughter is not going to like me for this. She even refused to read the article in the newspaper.

But frankly, today’s music, whether rock, pop, metal, hip-hop or electronic is “samey, boring and, well, just too loud”.

I’m not just saying this because I was brought up on late 70s and 80s music which embraced so many genres including rock, art rock, heavy metal, pop, disco, soul, reggae, rap, new wave, punk and electronica, but it’s because science tells us so.

Columbia University used computer analysis to study almost 500,000 songs from 1955 to 2010 and concluded that songs have become “simplified and converged stylistically”. Chords and melodies have simplified over the years. At the same time, the recording volume has increased.

This means that, unfortunately, that music today is loud and tend to sound the same.

So it wasn’t my old fogey ideas and nostalgia for things from my teenage years that’s passing judgment on contemporary tunes.

But I will add that songs from thirty-plus years ago have more depth, meaning and just feel more genuine. No computer today can analyse that but I’m willing to bet that it’s pretty much so.

Some of you old fogeys may say that today’s music is all about money and nothing else. I’m inclined to agree but I pray that there are exceptions.

As I watched Paul McCartney at the opening of the London Olympics, my thought turned to John Lennon and I wondered, if he were alive, if he would be up there performing instead.

Nice way to spend the day (March 1969)

But Lennon was a political activist. Can a pop star from today promote world peace by spending a whole week in bed with his wife and inviting the press join them?

Will he or she be able to do what Bob Geldof and Midge Ure did and organise a star-studded UK and US concert to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine?

Can any of today’s pop stars continue what Bono does, networking with both political and business leaders to support humanitarian relief?

I hope so. But I don’t hold my breath …