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As Bob Dylan turns 80, let us celebrate his life, music, and invigorating artistic integrity that has defined his career and inspired the minds of multiple generations.

By Mollie Campbell

Yesterday, on May 24th, Bob Dylan turned 80 years old, and I thought it only fitting to publish an article celebrating his life, music, artistry and the relentless presence he has sown into the fabric of popular culture over the last 60 years.  He is one of my favourite musicians, and has influenced me more profoundly than any other artist both within writing and music. This article is a definitive guide to his roots, albums, influence in society, and long-lasting legacy.

Early life and Influences

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941, Bob Dylan spent his childhood in Hibbing, Minnesota. An early love of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, along with an intense boredom in his sleepy hometown, ignited the traveller within him. And his journey on the road is one that still appears as a never-ending stream of consciousness, awakening a more heightened perception of the human experience in the listeners of his music, a journey that is still yet to end. Dylan never runs out of things to say, or places to take us to, which is why he is like no other artist in history.

Woody Guthrie, one of Dylan’s biggest influences.

In terms of early musical influences, Dylan, like many of his peers, loved Rock ‘N’ Roll, covering songs by Elvis Presley and Little Richard. But it was always folk music that stopped him in his tracks, etching itself deep within his soul, binding him to his lifelong destiny of writing real and truthful music. After Kerouac, the influence that finally prompted his own travels was Woody Guthrie. A name change to ‘Bob Dylan’ (after poet Dylan Thomas), an acoustic guitar, a hunger for the truth and a desire to find Woody Guthrie sent him on his way out of Minnesota.  Fascinated by Guthrie’s hypnotic sound, and his ability to speak candidly and radically about the brutal realities of life, Dylan started covering his songs e.g. ‘They Laid Jesus Christ in His Grave’. He then read Guthrie’s book ‘Bound for Glory’ which impacted him profoundly, he identified with this work more than he had ‘On the Road’, and set out on his quest to learn everything he possibly could about him, which ignited a desire to go and find him in person on the east coast.

When he discovered Woody Guthrie’s whereabouts, he travelled by bus to meet him where he resided, in Greystone Park Psychiatric hospital. He played numerous songs for him, and his young naivety of finding him in a psychiatric hospital left a big impression on him. Aside from Woody Guthrie, upon arriving in New York City, he was immediately swept away in the artsy, bohemian lifestyle and ethos of Greenwich Village, with its folk-playing coffee shops, jazz bars and poetry readings/gatherings. Being in New York City gave him many more stages to perform on than the few back home, and widened his musical collaboration repertoire. This is truly the environment in which Dylan learned the art of acting, miming, theatre etc. and really started to have a deeper awareness of how these things could be used as tools to enhance and refine his artistry. He often adopted the tones and nuances of his influences, thus, layer by layer, the Bob Dylan we know today, was created.  

Columbia Records and Early Albums

After grabbing the attention of John Hammond, he was signed to Columbia records and his debut album ‘Bob Dylan’ was released in 1962. It mostly featured reimagining’s of traditional folk songs. It was a commercial flop, but it provided a creative foundation of which he could build upon, a space to fill with his folk influences, which needed to be expressed in order for his own folk soul to truly find its own path, which is what this album did for him, it paved a trail that led him straight to one of the most powerful and influential albums of all time ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. Whilst it did feature a few covers, it also contained famous compositions that have since stood the test of time: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Masters of War’, ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice its Alright’.  The transition from ‘Freewheelin’ to ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ (released in ’64), reflects upon the transformation America was undertaking at the time, these two albums represent a before and after in terms of President Kennedy’s assassination, a shared societal grief for the hope of the country, and how it had been changed forever by a single event. Dylan sung about the truth behind it, resulting in an unintentional portrait of the ways in which the scope of society was changing.

Going Electric

In 1965, Dylan went through the first of many ‘transformations’ or ‘manifestations’ of his song writing truth. The album ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ marked a change from a more traditional protest song stance, into more of a contemporary and insightful means of expression. This is also marks the first album in which electric instruments were used more heavily, and  included songs such as ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

Despite him still playing folk-rock, Dylan’s venturing away from his traditional folk roots deeply rocked the folk community, resulting in negative backlash during his concerts. But Dylan, as always, never felt the need to be apologetic for his own craft, truth, sound and expressionism, he never let himself be pigeonholed into a category he no longer had use for, whether it was controversial or not. This led to the recording of one of my favourite Dylan album’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. Released in 1965, the album is much more blues/blue-rock centric – and includes a more poetry-formulaic core to it. Its famous opener ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was voted No.1 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of ‘500 greatest songs of all time’.

Dylan’s subsequent years included albums such as ‘Blonde on Blonde’, ‘John Wesley Harding’ and ‘Nashville Skyline’, a folk-country inspired album, featuring a re-release of ‘Girl from the North Country’ (a duet with Johnny Cash).  The years following really consisted of a more abstract exploration in terms of song writing and creativity, he released a handful of commercially unsuccessful albums. Despite this, upon listening to them now, whilst it isn’t hard to understand why many people found them to be significantly different to his other albums, they are creative observations nonetheless, and provide us with interesting listening material.

Blood on the Tracks

After a few years of substantial disparity between Dylan’s creative process and public acclaim, he released ‘Blood on the Tracks’. Despite initially garnering mixed reviews, the album is regarded as one of Dylan’s greatest, and one of the most honest and raw albums of all time. The record is significant in representing the cultural importance of his artistry, superseding his 60’s label, and proving his musicianship to be a cultural necessity.  This album is a reflection of his own life and how personally, times were certainly changing, and Dylan cemented his ability to change with it. Dylan’s next high-charting album was ‘Desire’, featuring the song ‘Hurricane’, an eight minute musical epic about the imprisonment of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter. He sings of racism within the police force and courts, he met with Carter, performed the song in Trent State Prison, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to fight for his release. Finally, 10 years later, Carter was freed. ‘Hurricane’ certainly played a crucial role in public support for Carter, and demonstrated his perpetual rage and protest against social, cultural and racial injustice.

Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, 1975-1976.

Late 70’s/80’s

Dylan went through a Christian period with the albums ‘Slow Train Coming’, ‘Saved’ and ‘Shot of Love’, which wasn’t met with much enthusiasm from fans and critics. The following decade saw the continuous release of Dylan albums; many were commercial hits but received lukewarm receptions from critics. Despite the contrast between his 80’s albums and his solid earlier releases, if anything the 80’s just solidified Dylan’s significance within popular culture, he was given the freedom to create whatever he liked, without being pushed out of the realm of noteworthy music. 1988 saw the beginning of his ‘Never ending Tour’, which is still going to this day, and a successful world tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  This partnership developed into a musical collaboration between Dylan, Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, known as the ‘Traveling Wilburys’. The band revitalised their careers and provided light-hearted musical enjoyment that served as a welcomed intermission between the stale-mates most of the members were feeling within their careers.  Their first album was very successful, and despite the passing of Roy Orbison in December 1988, they recorded a second album two years later. Dylan closed the decade with his album ‘Oh Mercy’; it marked a returning commercial success that he hadn’t managed to reach in his preceding albums.

The Traveling Wilburys (Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Roy Orbison).

Later Career

Whilst Dylan worked continuously through the 90’s, it was ‘Time Out of Mind’ released in 1997, which brought about another wave of commercial success for him, with many calling it his ‘comeback’ album. The album is a mix of folk, blues and rock, and its lively roots seem to encompass the spirit of an earlier incarnation of Dylan.  The 2000’s saw Dylan venture further afield and dip into more sophisticated sounds of blues, rockabilly, jazz and ballads, he also co-wrote and starred in the film ‘Masked and Anonymous’.  He then released an autobiography entitled ‘The Bob Dylan Chronicles’, Dylan speaks of his roots, his early musical career in New York City, his influences and explains his quest to find and write about life’s inner truths within his music. He says:

“You want to write songs that are bigger than life. You want to say something about strange things that have happened to you, strange things you have seen.”

Later Career and Legacy

Even though Dylan never lost his rightful widespread recognition, the 2000’s, somewhat surprisingly, turned out to be a complete revitalisation period for him, releasing several albums that achieved considerable commercial success. In 2006, Dylan released ‘Modern Times’, his first US Number 1 album since ‘Desire’, in 2009 ‘Together Through Life’ topped the charts as did 2012’s ‘Tempest’ which also marks a significant return to pure folk/folk-rock. The 2010’s were mostly a time in which Dylan continued to tour extensively, and remarkably, he was the first musician to be awarded with a Nobel prize in Literature (2016). But at the very moment that things were starting to turn quiet for him, he did what he does best, shocked the world with an unexpected single release of ‘Murder Most Foul’ in March 2020. A song writing epic, Murder Most Foul acts as an encyclopaedia for cultural phenomenon, expressionism, social change and decline over the last 60 years. It is primarily about President Kennedy, and then goes on to highlight the steep decline of freedom and innocence over the years that followed, whilst acknowledging the events and artists who helped shine a light of hope within that time, mentioning several people and significant events: The Beatles, Woodstock, President Johnson, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks etc.

He followed this with the album ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ released in June 2020. The album is heavily reminiscent of his extraordinary earlier albums, covering a variety of genres: Americana, Folk, Blues, and Rhythm & Blues. The album is spectacular in its nostalgic spirit, whilst still managing to capture an honest reflection and portrayal of modern life and issues, asserting his capability of shifting into different era’s with the same current, honest and necessarily brutal depictions of wrongdoings and injustices in society. The album insinuates an awareness of his role in society, and the somewhat prophetic nature of Dylan’s song writing over the years, and it harnesses the musical magic that Dylan has provided us with for the past 6 decades, propelling his legacy to its own exceptional heights, something that will be preserved and cherished for many years to come.

To me, Dylan’s life is comparable to a movie epic, the ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ of music, and if The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is an introduction to the character of Bob Dylan, then it is safe to say that Rough and Rowdy Ways is a prophetic conclusion to every one of his albums and incarnations that followed. Bob Dylan harnessed the enchanted soul of the blues, channelled the mysticism and veracious heart of folk and absorbed himself into the poetry of life, manifesting it into something spellbinding, and impossible to replicate. We are lucky to be living in a world in which Bob Dylan still makes music. Bob Dylan revolutionised the act of song writing into storytelling, and did it in a way no one had done before, he unleashed the storyteller in all of us.  

But most importantly, he told society what was wrong with it; he made society hold itself accountable for the manmade issues it causes. But he also tells us not to worry when things become broken, he tells us to embrace our differences, not fight over them. To me, he reminds me that our individual perspectives are what the fabric of life is made of, tangled vines of unique personalities, jumbled up into one big mess. It is hard to find the beauty within a mess, but once we have identified the structure of life, we can finally begin to love it for everything it is, flaws included. It is only when we can identify the broken fragments of life that we can start to unpack and rearrange them in different ways, the endless outcomes, is life itself.

Dylan at Jack Keuroac’s grave during the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour; 1975

Whilst I do think Bob Dylan is a genius, sometimes we elevate the importance of musicians into inhuman heights, expecting some sort of enlightening message, but ultimately he is just a human being with stories he needed to tell. Stories that held the capacity to awaken souls, and encourage morality, individuality and human spirit, evoking the songwriter in all of us, his own enchanting stories of life…and aren’t we lucky he decided to tell them.

Thanks for reading:)

Learning to live with the shadow of grief.

By Mollie Campbell

Grief is life’s biggest hardship, the new terrain we find ourselves in is so foreign and distant, yet here we stand, forced to create a new life there. In this alternate world, you no longer see your loved one in front of you, a brutal reminder that our time here is short. Unable to find your identity whilst the waves of sorrow wash around you, trying with everything inside of you to feel your loved one standing next to you, or hugging you whilst you sleep.

Grief is like a shadow, at first it appears to you as an embodiment of your desolation, your anguish, a clear mirror reflection of your pain. It will follow your every move, as shadows do, but with intense personification of the grief for the life you once knew. It remains when the light is no longer shining, in the middle of the night, when the boundary between dream and nightmare becomes distorted. Or during that first light of day, when your eyelids part with an immense heaviness, another awakening into your new reality. It stays with you whilst you talk to friends in coffee shops, stands within the eye line of a stranger’s nod, watches and waits for a moment of relief, ready to pounce, in spite of your numbness and denial.  

But time goes by, and whilst the shadow remains in constant sight, the edges will numb, grief will no longer set out to vanquish your happy spirals of light. The contour will continue to evoke your pain, for the life you could have lived, the feeble nature of our existence, our own mortality. The dark shadow will always endure, but the intense reminders shall start to shift, to morph, to change. You will start to feel light once more, you will see the vibrant colours painted in each day, you will hear laughter again, you will find joy in things as you did before, within the calming stillness of a tranquil morning, the suspended glide of a bird in flight, or in the sun as it continues to rise and fall with each eternal breath it takes.  

Poem: Grief in a shadow

By Mollie Campbell

Grief is walking behind me

Tied to the laces of my shoes

Tapping on my shoulder

Lurking in corners of shadow blue.

Grief is silent

Yet it deafens me greatly

Whirling around my body

Making my vision distorted and hazy.

But it shall start to melt

Filter out my pain

Though it never fades away

It no longer has the power to hold the reins.

As I finally remember not what is gone

Instead, I see the beauty of existence

And all the joy we ever felt

Waiting in the distance.

You are swirling within the orange clouds of a brand new dawn

Your laugh is floating through my deafened ears

Your warmth sits within these gaps of stillness

As your tender hands wipe away my tears.

Copyright Mollie Campbell

The Wilds – Season 1 Review

By Mollie Campbell

Show: The Wilds

Network: Amazon Prime Video

Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller

Cast: Helena Howard, Reign Edwards, Elena James, Sophia Ali, Rachel Griffiths, Mia Healey, Sarah Pidgeon, Shannon Berry, Jenna Clause

Rating: 9/10

Contains mild spoilers

The Wilds, released in December 2020, is an Amazon Original Drama focusing on a group of teenage girls who end up stranded on a deserted island after their plane goes down. The trailer for The Wilds evokes memories of Lost, Castaway or maybe a mild Hunger Games, but as we delve into the show we discover it is much more aligned with Lost or an extreme Stanford Prison Experiment hybrid. Currently we seem to be living in a sci-fi/drama/thriller saturated entertainment industry, with only a handful of shows actually being made well, so the idea of another attempt in this genre was off-putting, but the more I watched, the more I realised it is far more layered than the trailer gives it credit for, and it is one of the most interesting shows I have watched in a while.

The first episode introduces us to nine girls, 4 pairs come from their own separate towns across the US, with varying degrees of friendship, and one girl, Jeanette is on her own. In the opening scenes, their plane crashes on a deserted island, there’s not really an initial in-depth introduction to these characters, the first time we really get pick them apart is when they realise they are stuck on a random island in an unknown location. Slowly we see that each character is very different, covering a broad scope of traits and roles within society, but there is a twist in the way they are presented to us.

Each character is portrayed with the intention as being perceived in the same way they would be if viewed upon within society, but each of these stereotypes slowly starts decaying throughout each episode, delving into much more serious issues and secrets we wouldn’t initially have expected these characters to be carrying around with them e.g. mental health issues, drug abuse, self-image, homophobia, sexual abuse etc.… this teaches the audience a very valuable lesson in not judging a book by its cover, which is reinforced throughout. This is the most important aspect of the show because it portrays just how multi-layered humans are, how much more empathy is needed within society, and reflects major issues within society that we need to have more open dialogues about, and The Wilds doesn’t shy away from facing up to the task of talking about these topics.

In terms of the plot, the story is thrilling despite its fairly slow pace, and it’s not always easy to predict (which is the opposite of other series in this genre). And just when you think you’ve pinned a genre to it, it morphs into something else, it is polished in terms of its setup, and they get the crescendo of suspense throughout each episode just right, not too steady, but not so fast-moving that it feels rushed. The show essentially turns into a horror plot, as soon as the characters realise that they may not survive. But the true horror is that, for some of them, the idea of being abandoned on a deserted island, is freeing. Their lives or images within society had become so difficult to live up to that the notion of being on a deserted island was more comforting than returning to their normal lives. As the episodes continue, they start to find more meaningful interactions with each other on the island than they managed to at home, which poses a lot of questions about society and teenagers in 2021, the idea that societal pressure, mostly ignited by social media, is putting a strain on teenagers mental health like we have never seen before. This is something the show covers very well, providing the space to discuss these issues whilst being able to relate to original and realistic characters.

The Wilds is a surprisingly necessary, impactful and emotionally-complex journey that gracefully bobs along waves as deep as the waters that surround them. It presents us with a modern portrayal of rich and layered characters, it is a paragon in the way it handles serious topics with such integrity, and it is utterly indispensable in terms of the messages and ideals it is depicting, all whilst keeping us on the edge of our seats until the final credits. I can’t wait for season 2!

Thanks for reading.

11.22.63 by Stephen King – Book Review

By Mollie Campbell

Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History

Rating: 10/10

Contains Mild Spoilers

I haven’t published many book reviews recently, so I thought I’d get back to it by reviewing one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors, 11.22.63 by Stephen King.

Released in November 2011, 11.22.63 is a science fiction story about Maine high school teacher Jake Epping. During one of his trips to the local diner, owner Al introduces Jake to the marvellous and mind-bending world of time travel, by means of a chance force field/portal in the pantry of his diner. He soon finds himself transported to Lisbon Falls, Maine in the year 1958. And what awaits him there has the power the change the course of multiple lives, even the president of the United States. Following his first visit, Al recruits Jake to do what he has attempted and failed to do himself… prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The book flies by so quickly it is hard to believe it is over 700 pages long, from the minute Jake first steps foot in 1958, to the minute he returns we too are transported to a world described to us as utter bliss. We get to see through rose tinted glasses and travel to a time in which small town America was in the midst of a utopia, prices were lower, the roads smoother, soda sweeter, lawns greener and the sun shone brighter, America in its splendour. But its very fabric was about to be rocked, and as Jake nears that dreadful day in Dallas, November ’63, we too feel an intense desire for the power of time-travel, knowing what earth’s fortuitous influence had in store. We start to cling to the idea of what Jake has the capability of doing, so much so that we ourselves momentarily forget the ending, living partly in that other timeline in which Kennedy lived.

An image from the Hulu adaptation

Jake begins his mission with a name change, George Amberson. And as he delves further into the past, year by year, only the core remnants of his future self remains, and the deeper he travels, the more he envelopes himself into history. We start to see Jake as the obscured shadow that follows George around, fading with each footstep. As he sets up a new life in the past, he visits places and meets people he doesn’t want to leave behind whilst continuing his mission to save JFK. Everything ties together, the past and the future bound as one until one has to be sacrificed, encapsulating us until the very last page.

The most wonderful aspect of this book is how rich it is in its illustrations of the past, the way King recounts the 50s/60s with such detail and conviction makes you wonder if he is using his own time machine. The description of specific cars, the taste of the apple pies and milkshakes, the specifics of the clothing, the music etc… Is like nothing I’ve read in any other book, the sheer amount of research carried out deserves an award in itself. But what makes it so special is the way it was written almost as a horror in disguise. Now obviously Stephen King predominantly writes horror fiction, so when you pick up one of his books you know you’re in for something scary. The thing about his books is the reality of these horrors, they are a creation of our very innermost fears, and fictitious or not, they feel real to us. King takes that authentic element in his horrors, and elevates the stories into something far less phony and much more realistic, or conceivable, the characters aren’t real but the fear is. Yet, at the end of the day we know that Pennywise isn’t about to appear around the corner, or that Annie Wilks or Jack Torrance aren’t hiding underneath our beds. With 11.22.63 whilst it is officially a science fiction story, the horror itself is the title. That day, in which America’s innocence was banished into another realm, never to be seen again…that was the horror. And it was real. That element alone is what makes this one of King’s most chilling tales.

As a fan of JFK and Stephen King, this book was perfect for me. Everything about it is spot on, its descriptions, its characters and the way it portrays life and all its ensuing tragedies. It is gripping, emotional, historical, witty and thrilling, I think this is one of the greatest books Stephen King has ever written, blasting us into another world so radically, yet so steadily, it feels as if we driving along to the sunny 50’s landscape of a small American town, right alongside Jake Epping.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. The series adaptation of 11.22.63 is also thoroughly enjoyable and is available on Hulu (US) and Amazon Prime Video (UK).

How Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ shaped a generation, and the power of its everlasting essence. 

By Mollie Campbell

When reading ‘On the Road’, one of my favourite books, it would be incredibly difficult to not feel inspired by it. The way Kerouac narrates his travels, the pure detail of his descriptions, the way he paints a scenic picture so well it is as if we are in his mind, experiencing his own memories. And the way he used brush strokes of words to perfectly build upon foundations of how we view the world, resulting in this marvellous canvas, an eruption of colour on each page. The way he used the nature of his surroundings, transporting us directly into the hazy mornings of San Francisco, or the boiling hot nights under the stars in Mexico City. When I first read the way he describes the beautiful open road, a highway to your own freedom and internal consciousness, a ticket to your very own soul and the opportunity to revel in its richness, spurred on by this immense hunger to explore the world around you, I immediately felt the urge to completely drop everything and start planning my future travels as soon as possible. It resonated with me instantly, just as it did a whole generation in the 50’s and 60’s.  

‘On the Road’ released in 1957, was the beginning of the ‘Beat Generation’, a literary movement including works by other authors such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs etc. focusing on American culture in the post-war era. The beat poets were instrumental in liberating publishing and writing about issues related to nonconformity, igniting a hunger to do more and think more about life and the world around you. The ‘Beatniks’ manifested into ‘hippies’ and the counterculture of the 1960’s, a movement that changed the fabric of society like we had never seen before, a spirit that has remained within popular culture’s ideals of freedom, equality and justice ever since. Simultaneously, it inspired many of the musicians who were up and coming during this time, artists who went on to become the most famous musicians in history e.g. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jim Morrison etc.

The book is responsible for kick-starting a completely different kind of generation, one that had never manifested before, one in which history didn’t determine how people lived… liberating young people instead of forcing them to conform. All of these ideas are passionately woven by every word, resulting in wondrous, rich, dazzling backdrops in so many different geographical lenses and landscapes. Here are some examples of my favourite passages in the book:

‘But why think about that when all the golden land’s ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?’.

‘The country was wild and brawling and free, with abundance and any kind of freedom for everyone’.

‘What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge word vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies’.

‘The cabby drove us up the infinitely dark Alameda Boulevard along which I had walked many and many a lost night the previous months of the summer, singing and moaning and eating the stars and dropping the juices of my heart drop by drop on the hot tar’.

The current younger generation sometimes seem to recognise ‘On the Road’ as culturally significant; it is regarded as a classic, but never seems to appear prominently on ‘vintage’ reading lists in popular culture. Whilst newer generations are aware of the magnitude of the work, it is rarely read (outside of a mandatory curriculum), understood and cherished in modern day. This is puzzling to me, because if you strip away the time frame and the components of a different generation and landscape, you’re left with the most classic and stereotypical tale of all, a rite of passage that will never grow stale… a young person itching to get out of the town they have always known, longing to discover what lies upon the horizon they have been forced to look at in the same place for their whole life. The spark we have as young people finding our place in a world we haven’t yet discovered. It is timeless, inevitable and only natural to want to get away from where we have grown up; many people have a longing to leave their city behind. But there is a flip side to that coin too, just as Sal discovers, the dreams we create and glorify in our heads of the places we want to visit, don’t always turn out the way we envision them, and you usually find yourself needing to return somewhere.

That is the beauty of this book; it’s a brightly burning candle representing the pure ecstasy of travelling and discovering the world and its boundless elements in all walks of life. But it also represents the dimming of that candle as we grow up and start planting roots in the places we have discovered, the message being (in my opinion): that intense burning flame is bound to start dimming, that is only natural, but never let that flame burn out completely, keep the fire lit. Despite mild imperfections in terms of attitudes towards women and certain language we wouldn’t accept today, it’s gritty and fiery essence is still burning throughout the core of the book, seeping into the souls of young adventurers today, just as it did back then.

Thank you for reading and please subscribe. How do you feel about On the Road? Whether you read it a long time ago, or only recently picked it up, I would love to know your thoughts.

‘By Night’s End’ – Movie Review.

By Mollie Campbell

Movie: By Night’s End

Genre: Crime/Thriller

Director: Walker Whited

Cast: Michelle Rose, Kurt Yue

Rating: 6.5/10

By Night’s End is a classic crime thriller, a haunted couple being blackmailed and threatened by criminals looking for something of value in their house. But as the movie goes on, we realise how deep these seemingly one dimensional characters are, the emotional relatability they possess, and just how far a journey they are headed on, outside of the frightening situation they find themselves in.

The movie opens with a seemingly normal couple, despite money and employment issues they are mostly happy. Straight away, things aren’t right…there is this strange orange background light that reoccurs at many times within the movie, which is synonymous with war, dust, bombs, dystopia and gives a naturally apocalyptic feeling, which really hooks the audience onto this perception of dread throughout. The music immediately sets the vibe of the film within the opening scenes with its 90’s style thriller tones initiating this perpetual notion of uneasiness. When things start to take a natural turn in the wrong direction, the characters start to act in ways that shock each other, I was very impressed by Heather’s (Michelle Rose) reactions to her husband’s (Kurt Yue) actions and how taken aback she is by the whole situation.

As the movie goes on we see different sides of the characters and their relationship, and we begin to realise that this is more than just a bad break-in gone wrong, much more emotional baggage is shed on this wild night of intensity. Again we see the re-appearance of the orange light that seems to be following Heather around, especially at times in which the character is scared or doing something particularly reckless, which seems to be a common pattern as she is pulled further into this twisted nightmare. As the ordeal continues, both characters start to make surreal choices, each of them shocking and affecting the other, and showing the audience how humans can react in situations of sheer terror and desperation. As the plot heats up, we are given more of an insight into their relationship…instead of bringing out the truth in the bad guys and escaping, everything that unfolds only acts as a catalyst in bringing out the hidden dark truths in each other. This time the orange represents the heat from the tense and truthful conversations they start having with one another…heating up their own emotions as opposed to sparking up a plan to get out of there.

A touching moment stuck with me and for the first time I truly felt the two main characters connect in a way they hadn’t before, it is tender and full of sentiment, bringing them closer together at a time in which their very world could be right on the cusp of shattering. This all unfolds in a nice little juxtaposition that acts as a useful stimulus in terms of capturing the viewer’s emotions and prompting them to believe in the characters sentiment and intentions.

There are many other little nuances that really add to the tone of the film, a small box of children’s toys that Heather manages to extract peace from in such a tumultuous time is an example of how the movie’s undertones have managed to make an impact. The only negative I have is that sometimes these undertones turn into overtones that take a bit too much attention away from the external threat. But it certainly doesn’t get subdued completely…if anything it makes the viewer even more anxious for the wellbeing of the characters due to what these sub-plots reveal. It does manage to highlight other issues without becoming totally disconnected, which is always a danger when switching to topics that delve deeper than the context of the originally perceived storyline.

The two main stars do the story justice with their truthful representations of two people battling inner demons; we watch them finally work as a team to partly rid themselves of these demons, save the day and their relationship. The camera work is great, the music complimentary of a unique thriller and the sub-plots add extra layers of substance. All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and would definitely recommend you giving it a watch.

DarkCoast will release ‘By Night’s End’ on October 6th onto various digital platforms (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, GooglePlay, Vudu and AT&T).

Thanks for reading!

A review of ‘The Social Dilemma’, expressing just how important it is to highlight the dangers of Social Media and why we all need to be having a conversation about it.

By Mollie Campbell

For years, I have been chewing people’s ears off about how destructive technology and social media can be; I wrote an article about it a couple of years ago on my blog. I believe that whilst technology and social media obviously has its uses and tremendous benefits, the negative side of the technological coin is something we really need to accept as a real threat, a human race-altering threat. But when I talk about this stuff, people fob me off as some sort of conspiracy theorist. Even though there have been numerous scandals including the Facebook – Cambridge Analytical data scandal back in 2018, people don’t seem to take it seriously, because everyone is under the influence of social media. So when I watched The Social Dilemma and noticed that it was growing in popularity, I was compelled to write an article to hopefully keep the conversation going.

The Social Dilemma got its initial release at Sundance Film Festival and has now been added to Netflix, the film is a docudrama about Technology, Social Media and the people running things behind the other side of our screens. A group of former employees from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc… Explain how these companies manipulate ‘us’ or as they call it the ‘product’ by advertising, data collection and psychologically persuasive tactics so that we keep feeding their money machine. At the same time, there is an acted plot to back up the points that are being explained to us, a story that may help connect to people on more of an emotional and relatable level. One of the main voices in the film is former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris who has now devoted his time to firstly co-found the Center for Humane Technology and secondly in becoming a voice to warn the world of how dangerous their social media usage can be, enlightening people of this catastrophic danger before it’s too late, but my question is… is it already too late?

The movie helps peel back some of that mystical, exclusive curtain of Silicon Valley, of which society seems to view as the pearly gates. A lot of people have ambitions to go to Silicon Valley and when mentioned in conversation it is regarded as the Holy Grail, but it is a lot farther from holy than the average person perceives. Some of you may be thinking ‘how bad could it be’? ‘all they do is promote shows and stores I’m interested in’, whilst that is factually correct, have you ever asked yourselves the reason why? The pool goes a lot deeper than just marketing and advertising; in fact the pool is a vast ocean of money, greed and deceit. The people behind the screen that you stare at with such blind trust aren’t just putting out a few ads for each user to see, they are manipulating every move you make. The people who work at these companies are some of the cleverest in the world, and they are using their brain to control yours by inputting all of these strategies into computers in order for AI (Artificial Intelligence) to fulfil all of these strategies in real time, without supervision…if that doesn’t sound like a dystopian nightmare to you then we have no hope. It may sound harsh but once you realise that you are the puppet on the string, the easier it will be to start taking steps towards changing that.

This movie isn’t telling you that you have to get rid of all social media and technology forever, it is simply warning you of the undisputedly intentional manipulation tactics these companies are using on you behind closed doors, tactics that are so clever and deceitful you don’t even know how it is affecting your brain. We aren’t saying that it’s all bad, but at this point the negatives are slowly consuming all of the positives. We don’t need a revolution but if we all work together we can dismantle the technological system and rebuild it in a more humane way, with a system that benefits us instead of treating us like virtual horses at auction.  

Think of every new radical thing that has been invented in human history e.g. printing press, airplanes etc.… they have changed aspects of society. But that’s the thing, ‘aspects’ is the key word. Other than electricity, technology and social media is the first thing that has rapidly and abundantly seeped into every crevice of the structure of society, how it works and how we run it. We speak to friends online, we begin romantic relationships online, we can order anything we want online, we apply for jobs online, we read newspapers online, we watch movies online, the latest generation of kids have grown up in a society dominated by social media, think about it…they have grown up with a system that only really started to become of mainstream importance around 15 years ago.  

Their lives and our lives are being controlled by apps, a word that wasn’t popularised until 2008. And these apps may be ‘free’, but as we have seen with everything else within commercial markets, nothing is free and in this case, we aren’t paying a monthly subscription, we are paying for it with our lives. We are being sucked into a reality that isn’t real, an existence whose principal objective is to monitor and monetise every action we take, every post we like, every video we save… that’s what we’re subduing ourselves to when we spend an afternoon scrolling meaninglessly, they are ultimately starting to own our lives. I’m sure some people will disagree with that statement: isn’t Facebook great for staying in touch with distant family members, documenting memories with friends and so forth? Yes, but not when the very thing that created this possibility is not only documenting our lives for its own artificial storage, with an intent to use that very data against us, it has also consumed so much of our time that our connections with the real world are lessening, ironically, people are now so caught up in a social media site that their social interactions are actually diminishing, their happiness levels are dwindling, a subconscious anxiety is bubbling within their minds due to the very thing they are holding in their hands that they ‘can’t live without’.

Lastly, the most cataclysmic consequence of all is its power to use people’s minds and brainwash them into ways of political thinking that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought about if the seed wasn’t planted by intentional misleading advertisements from sites like Facebook. This brainwashing is causing a battle between the left and right in real time that is so fierce and bitter, it is scary. The left are being told things about the right and vice versa and because they are reading this information on an ‘authentic’ site they think it’s true, and they take this belief into the streets with them, bringing out the worst members of society and giving them a viable platform that even highly ranked officials agree with and endorse. This is heavily covered in the film, a final point that seals the deal in terms of the importance of The Social Dilemma being one of the most chilling, candid and crucial films to be released in recent years. It starts the conversation, a conversation that is needed more than anything.

If you are interested, here is the link to my previous article about the consequences of Technology and Social Media: https://mollie-writes.com/2019/01/16/is-technology-and-social-media-becoming-so-integral-to-peoples-lives-that-it-is-lessening-the-impact-of-our-passions-just-how-dangerous-is-it/

Thank you for reading, and if you want to find out more information on ways you can help keep this conversation going, here is the link to The Social Dilemma website: https://www.thesocialdilemma.com/

The lack of black authors included on English curriculum reading lists, how it is depriving us of a tool to educate children on black history and how it highlights the clear remnants of systematic racism.

By Mollie Campbell

As an avid reader and writer, I have always devoured literature of all kinds, of many genres, written by a wide racial spectrum of authors. But recently I realised that the only reason I am aware of half the black authors I read, is due to personal research and education in my own time, I never got taught this stuff in school, leading me to question our school’s on a much deeper level.

I have looked back on my time at school and compiled a list of all the works I remember studying, here is the list I came up with:

Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde

An Inspector Calls – J. B. Priestly

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

The poets I remember studying were:

W.H. Auden

William Blake

R.S. Thomas

Carol Ann Duffy

The one exception I could find was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and bearing in mind that I went on to study further by doing A-level English Literature as well, it is absurd that I never got taught any works by black authors, or even got prompted to immerse myself in a wide range of culturally significant authors, the majority of what I was taught was written by white men. Now don’t get me wrong, the works of Shakespeare are tremendously important, a lot of these books are obviously ground-breaking either emotionally, socially, historically, or politically, so why then, are we failing to include works that were also of huge assistance to political revolution and social change written by black authors?

There are many examples of how literature helped with the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s, one of the biggest being the works of James Baldwin. Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time’ released in 1963, was not only a leading literary work that contributed to the dismantling of an outdated public favouring of racial inequality and segregation, but also helped politically. His works were introduced to then attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and when he met with James Baldwin in person he was incredibly moved by his words and what he stood for. President Kennedy was already very conscious of civil rights and segregation and cared deeply about dismantling it, but there is no doubt that his brother’s meeting with Baldwin only added more fuel to the ever growing moral fire that finally needed to be addressed socially and politically. This is an example of the power of some of these texts by black authors. And something that can have that much of an impact in terms of a whole political operation and social movement, is surely worth teaching in our schools?  

Using works like these in our schools will help to dispel any inkling of racial bias and prejudice from a young age, especially in predominantly white or privileged areas. Using these texts not only educates and informs children, it also opens their world up to a whole new diverse realm of influence and voice in a true light, as opposed to mind-bending, sensationalised headlines in the news. These books are a direct insight of true black experiences, as opposed to a white person falsely recounting a black person’s experience, as if the story has to go through the medium of a white person first to be valid (which in itself is a much deeper issue that also seriously needs addressing).

Some of my favourite writers are black, yet I discovered them because I did extra reading and research, the curriculum is missing some ground-breaking historical works by black authors e.g. Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker and in more recent years, Malorie Blackman. And incorporating works that were actually used alongside music and public protests to create social change in the 60’s is never not going to be important, inspiring and informative, so why don’t we include more of them? This leads to bigger questions, what are the specific reasons for excluding these great black authors? It all stems back to a deep-rooted sense of racism that we still have in this country.

Amidst these black lives matter protests, I have seen many people on social media claim that racism is over and that the UK in particular is not a racist country anymore. How can you possibly say such a thing when 1. You are white and have never had to walk in the shoes of a black person, thus never living through the experiences they have to endure and 2. The evidence is everywhere, in particular, the school curriculum. If our educational board cannot find the courage to add more diverse works from all ethnic groups into our schools, how can they expect us to grow as a diverse and caring generation and country. If there are still white men at the top deciding to only include literature created by other white men centuries ago, how is that racially diverse?  How is that not systematic racism?

I’m sure people will say ‘give them a chance’. But have they not had the chance? When will they finally change it? The fact that in 2014 they decided to remove ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from the school curriculum is absolutely absurd. So now, not only is there a significant lack of works by black authors, there aren’t ANY books in the curriculum that educate and inform us on black history at all. If that isn’t alarming you to the fact that there clearly is still a racial inequality issue within this country, then you are well and truly asleep. I’m sure some people will try to claim that maybe the books I am talking about are outdated, in which case, are these works by old white men with horrific attitudes towards race not outdated?

In conclusion, I am recounting my educational experience in the South of England; some of you may well have studied more works by black authors, which is great. But having had a look at curriculum reading lists, Southern England isn’t the anomaly, the whole English curriculum needs re-examining. If we want to truly live in a country, in a world where everybody is equal, how can you overlook one of the most fundamental aspects of education…literature. It’s hard to believe that in 2020, this issue still needs addressing, but clearly it does.

Joker – Movie Review.

By Mollie Campbell

 

Director: Todd Phillips

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Rating: 9/10

 

Disturbing, moving, sad, violent, profound – all of these words could be used to describe Joker, the Taxi Driver of its generation.

Comic book fan or not, chances are you’ve either seen this film or heard a lot about it…it would be rather difficult to miss the hype and the multiple best picture/actor/director wins. If you are one of the latter, watch this film as soon as you can, whilst it is disturbing, the message is more relevant than any other film portrayal in recent years…a direct reflection of the manifestation of human traits deep within us, provoked and awoken by how people are treated.  The film is based solely on the life of Arthur Fleck, despite some very memorable portrayals of the joker in the past, from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger respectively; this is the first time a movie has made an entire 2 hour space for the one character himself, as opposed to him being a villain in Batman’s story. And the way Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Philips use this space to portray the deep, disturbing personality of one of history’s greatest villains, is true astonishing.

Instead of him just being ‘the joker’, we see the man behind the white paint and red lips, we are given an insight into the timeline of his mind-set and development into this psychotic villain we know so well, the dark yet eerily familiar road he travels on to become the joker, is the scariest part of all. That road isn’t too far from where we are as a society right now, the political system in most countries; the USA in particular, has never been in such turmoil. The battle between the left and right has seemingly overshadowed the utterly consequential battle of right and wrong, demagnetising a lot of people’s moral compasses. This battle between left and right has completely dominated any space we ever had for what truly matters, the party of the people, the idea of putting human kindness and decency before money, politics, power and greed. We, the people who need help, not a political system designed to help a small amount of people at the top, as opposed to the true crux of society. A political system that forces people to act out of character, creating a breeding ground for anarchy and political revolution, whilst Arthur Fleck and the city of Gotham is fictional, this film is accurately reflecting the society we are currently creating. And if we’re not careful, we too will be surrounded by this cloud of darkness that defines Gotham, and the wickedness that lives within its alleyways.

This film is a warning to society on how we treat people, we need to de-stigmatise the shame surrounding mental health, and how the government handles people who fall under this bracket. Mental health has become one of the leading issues we face in our society, and there simply aren’t enough resources and help for people suffering with mental health disorders. The government needs to step up, yes. But we also need to think about what we can do as a society to prevent people with mental health disorders from feeling so isolated, we need to realise how much our words affect and hurt people. In a time of technological rifeness, we have the ability to spread love and positivity, instead we spread hate and anger, which only adds fuel to the fire for some people suffering with mental health problems. This is Arthur Fleck, of course he has some deeply rooted issues, he is a psychopath, but this film makes you ask the question: would his monster have been unleashed if society hadn’t treated him so cruelly? Would he set out on a voyage of revenge if he had more access to proper resources? Or simply, if people would have been kind to him, would he have reacted to society in the way that he does?

In my opinion, Joker is a spiritual sequel to Taxi Driver, in an incredibly similar yet different set of circumstances. In Taxi Driver we see Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a very troubled young man with clear signs of mental health disorders. Whilst using unconventional and dark methods, he is ultimately a hero, a twisted one, but a hero nonetheless, or vigilante at least. Travis’ unstable mind could easily have developed into a full-on deranged psychopath like Arthur, he is on the cusp. What is scary about Joker is that Arthur is the Travis Bickle of our generation, yet this society seems even worse than Travis’, resulting in a much darker ending, very reflective on modern life. The scene in which Arthur is in his full on Joker gear, standing on a cop car surrounded by chanting looters and criminals is spine-tingling, a thrilling climax to the tale we are all afraid of. But if we ignore it for too long, we will find ourselves in this terrible, dystopian world, full of people we neglected, people with nothing to lose, and by that time, it will be too late to stop it.

Joker is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, Joaquin’s performance is outstanding, and Robert De Niro’s role is incredible, we would expect no less. The film almost seems like De Niro handing over the baton to Phoenix, one leading method actor of his generation to the next. Travis Bickle transforming into Arthur Fleck, only in this tale, there is a lot more at stake. Todd Phillips managed to deliver a poignant, moving, disturbing and impactful film, in which the character’s presence is bigger than the film itself; there is no doubt that this movie will one day be considered one of the greats, in my mind it already is.

Netflix’s ‘Outer Banks’ – Season 1 Review.

By Mollie Campbell

Show: Outer banks

Genre: Teen, Drama, Mystery

Cast: Chase Stokes, Madison Bailey, Jonathan Daviss, Rudy Pankow, Madelyn Cline

Rating: 5/10

Outer Banks is a coming-of-age, murder mystery show. The lovechild of Beverly Hills: 90210 and Dawson’s Creek. Or The Goonies meets a much less interesting version of Bloodline.

Set in the Outer Banks islands in North Carolina, the show begins with the introduction of the four main characters who are classed as the ‘poor’ people of the island or the ‘Pogues’, they are ‘John B’ the group’s ringleader whose father went missing at sea months before, ‘Kiara’ who used to be a kook (one of the rich kids), ‘JJ’, a seemingly laid-back guy who actually turns out to be a much more deeply layered character than expected, and ‘Pope’ a local smart kid. The upper class are known as the ‘Kooks’, consisting of ‘Sarah’, Kiara’s ex-friend, John B’s future love interest and the daughter of Ward, a wealthy businessman whose actions and secrets lead to a rabbit hole of mysteries.

The start seems quite solid, four kids fishing, surfing, drinking beers and laughing until the sun goes down, a classic CW style show. But as the episode progresses, things get quite strange, so much so that I actually still don’t really know what to make of the whole show. This is the start of many little interjections of storylines and subplots, there is an ongoing aim for the show, but it is so fragmented it is almost painful to watch. John B, upon searching for his father, somehow manages to find the location of a shipwreck from years before, a shipwreck that was searched for by many fisherman and townsfolk over the years but is somehow discovered in 2020 by a group of teenagers, this is the first of many unrealistic events, so get used to it! In doing this, they discover the coordinates to hidden treasure; gold that has been presumed to be lost for years. This really is the start of a very silly Scooby-doo style goose chase, as the pogues begin a journey into a completely unrealistic world.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t somewhat enjoy it, as I was very interested to see how it ended. But in order to enjoy it, I really had to switch off the common sense portion of my mind. By stopping myself from picking it apart; it made for some mindless entertainment. The acting isn’t appalling and the story has good intentions, but it is so far-fetched it could never be taken seriously. The only storyline worth watching is one that dares to dig deeper, the portrayal of JJ and how he deals with the physical and emotional stress of his father’s abuse towards him. It is acted very well and is incredibly impactful to watch, intertwined with the character’s personality traits and the reasons why he reacts to situations in the way that he does.

Lastly, despite some interesting sub-plots and the beautiful summer scenery, the writers couldn’t quite keep a grip on its originally intriguing plot long enough for it to be the great show it could have been. The scenes become less engaging as the show progresses and the interactions between the characters become so unrealistic that it grows stale just when it needs to be heating up, making it difficult for the show to really take flight. As a lover of all art forms, I really do hate to totally trash a creative effort, I’m sure not everyone feels the same way I do about this show, that is the beauty of art. But personally, I would give it a miss.