See yourself as the next Bob Dylan? Maybe you’ve got a songwriting partner and you want to become the next Lennon and McCartney? Or maybe you’re more of a Burt Bacharach/Hal David type? Or Holland-Dozier-Holland. Maybe even a Mark Knopfler?

Well it doesn’t really matter, because whether you’re into writing soulful ballads, funky hip-hop, heavy rock or  enigmatic songs that defy categorization, this is the course for you!

Tamara Tamara Barschak is a pianist, composer, piano teacher, film-maker and all round creative person whom I have known for many years and she is making her years of experience and training in the creative music arts available to those who want to learn the art (and science) of songwriting. If you have ever dreamed of writing that great song that lingers – barely half-formed – in your mind, now is your chance to learn from an accomplished expert who has a vast range of experience in all kinds of music: classical, jazz, bosanova, blues, pop and rock.

Tamara is qualified and experienced in teaching all aspects of musicianship and music theory. The course – carefully devised by Tamara herself and based on her years of experience as a songwriter and music teacher – includes lyric writing, lyrical genres, musical genres, melody, metre, tempo, traditional song structure and variations of structure… i.e. those rare, exceptional songs that break the rules and get away with it!

Tamara has taught music students of all levels, ages and abilities and as some one who has learned from her myself – and written songs with her – I can attest to the fact that her diversity of range and background in music and teaching makes her the ideal teacher  for the creative skill of songwriting.

“Creativity itself cannot be taught,” Tamara explained to me, when I first studied at her feet (figuratively speaking), “but if even the merest hint or spark of creativity is already there, it can be nurtured, fed, fueled and channeled by the teaching (and learning) of rules, principles and their inevitable exceptions.” And it is precisely in the teaching of these  rules and principles – and the art of identifying the exceptions to those rules and principles – that Tamara most impressively excels!

This short but unparalleled course, which costs just £80 and requires no previous songwriting experience, consists of five sessions (1:00 – 3:30 p.m.) over the course of five weeks, starting on the 1st of October.

handsonapianoThe sessions – which will include practical exercises – are as follows:-

1 October: The Art of Lyric Writing

8 October: Writing a melody part 1 (notes, patterns, intervals, chord progressions and key signatures)

15 October: Writing a melody part 2 (rhythm, rhythmic patterns, time signatures, tempo and metre)

22 October: Preparation for the Students’ Final Songs (with coaching and advice)

29 October: Recording Students’ Songs

The course, which includes practical exercises and hands-on practice, encourages artistic collaboration between the students, as many of the most famous songs were written by duos or larger groups.

In the final session, students will record their songs and get a recording to keep and take with them.

This is a unique opportunity to fully explore one’s own creativity, compose a song from scratch and record it forever!

George Galloway – the man who praised Saddam Hussein at a time when the Iraqi dictator was known to be murdering his fellow Iraqis – has always denied being either an antisemite or a racist and has on a number of occasions threatened to sue people for calling him either. Yet he has recently (and not so recently) shown his true colours by making statements that attack people not for what they have done or  even what they have said, but rather for what they born.

The first occasion was when he walked out of a debate with an Israeli, at Christ Church College, Oxford, claiming falsely that he had been “misled.” Galloway had already spoken in the debate, but when his eloquent opponent, Eylon Aslan-Levy, started his response with the words “We wanted peace, we got war. We mustn’t make the same mistake again,” the ill-mannered Galloway interrupted him by asking rudely “are you an Israeli?” Now of course, if Galloway had genuinely thought the question to be relevant, he could have asked it before, at the time when the debate was being arranged. He chose not to do so.

Whether he merely assumed that the person speaking for Israel would not be an Israeli or knew otherwise and chose to ignore it, I cannot say. But as soon as the opposing speaker used the word “we”, the rather excitable Galloway became agitated and interrupted to ask his obnoxious question -  a question that no right-thinking person would have thought relevant. The opposing speaker innocently and honestly replied: “I am. yes.” At this point, Galloway got up and said: “I don’t debate with Israelis. I’ve been misled.”

Now first of all, it was Galloway who misled the organizers of the debate, by not stating his terms and conditions up front. Secondly, Galloway then walked out, refusing to participate in the debate any further. And this was of course, rather conveniently, after he had made sure to have his own say before the ostentatious walk-out.

But what is interesting is that at no stage did Galloway ask his opponent if he was an Israeli by birth or by naturalization. That means that Galloway was equally unwilling to debate with Israelis whether they be born Israelis or became Israelis by choice. Now  of course, even if they became an Israeli by choice it would be silly to refuse to debate with them, because a debate – by definition – involves arguing one’s case against an opponent. And Galloway knew that he was there for a debate, so  he knew that he would be facing a man of differing opinion. The fact that he agreed to the debate at all, meant that he was ready to face off with a person who held a different view to his own. But the fact that he walked out when he knew that his opponent was Israeli, without so much as inquiring if that citizenship was acquired by birth or by choice, means that Galloway was showing prejudice against a fellow human being because of a fact of that other person’s birth. (It does not in fact matter whether Eylon Aslan-Levy was born an Israeli or became one. The fact that Galloway didn’t ask, is sufficient grounds to characterize Galloway as a racist).

But could this have been a one-off? Well not if Galloway’s most recent outburst is anything to go by. In a recent speech he said with customary arrogance and malice: “We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone. We don’t want any Israeli goods. We don’t want any Israeli services. ” Now if he had left it at that, – referring to “Israel” rather than “Israelis” and “goods” and “services” rather than people – he might just have got away with it. But Galloway – ever the bully – went on to say: “We don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the University or the college. We don’t even want any Israeli tourists.” By referring to people who possessed Israeli citizenship – again without specific reference to whether their citizenship was by birth or by  choice (as adults) – he was showing prejudice towards people because of what they were born. And this is classic racism.

And for these reasons it is clear that George Galloway is a racist.

Cold Turkey - Amazon cover
Cold Turkey is the story of two drug-addicted brothers, Lee and Mark, who kidnap a right-wing radio talk-show host and deliberately set about getting him addicted to heroin, after he has angered them by mouthing off about “junkies” and their lack of “moral fibre.” To some extent they are merely taking him up on his own hubristic posturing:

“You could kidnap me tomorrow,” he bragged, “shoot me up with smack till I’m hooked and I could kick the habit cold turkey!”

But when they take up his challenge, he fails to live up to his boast and his life spirals out of control. And yet their victory is a Pyrrhic one, as differences between the brothers come to the fore, forcing them to re-evaluate their own lives – culminating in Lee taking a most extraordinary decision.

I first had the idea of Cold Turkey while I was sharing a flat with a psychologically-dependent drug user in South London. Although he was an irritating chav, a thief and even, at times, a wife-beater (or at least girlfriend-beater), I also learned about his background and the events that turned him into what he became. I saw his dependency on the friend who got him into the drug scene – a sort of substitute older brother – and the vicious circle he had got himself into. I also saw his vulnerability, how that was exploited by others and the rage that sometimes flared up within him.

The characters in this story are by no means “based on” my former flatmate and his drug-using friends. They are, however, inspired by them. The real-life character was never viciously beaten by his father. But he was thrown out by both parents after their acrimonious divorce, because of his own behaviour and at one point ended up on the streets at the age of 12, when he was “taken in” (in both senses of the expression) by a young man who introduced him to drugs and took advantage of him sexually. (Ironically, they remain friends and drug-buddies to this day, except for moments when “Lee” goes into a rage – usually under the influence of alcohol rather than drugs.

I wrote this story to explore the minds of people trapped in a downward spiral of self-destructive behaviour. I have seen “Lee” off drugs as well as on. Unlike the brothers in this film, he does not “do needles” – although some of his friends do. In truth, he is not physically addicted to heroin or any other drug – or at least was not for most of the time I knew him. Like the character in the film, he has been to prison several times, for offences like stealing (to get drug money) and violence whether against shop-keepers or others with whom he has got into conflict, under the influence of alcohol. And like the character in the film, he has been off drugs, but has always relapsed and got back “on the gear” – usually as soon as he was out of prison. (NB he did not need methadone in prison – except on one occasion.)

The novel explores such questions as: to what extent are we in control of our own lives? Are we the captains of our souls or at the mercy of the winds of fate. Can one achieve anything alone or does one always need a friend? And are some friendships toxic?

Asking these questions in the context of the modern day problem of drug (and alcohol) addiction, we see the thin line that separates winners from losers and get a glimpse of the fragility of the lifestyles that some of us take for granted.

There is also a US Kindle edition, a US paperback edition and a UK paperback edition: Cold Turkey
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Stepping On Mars: An Evolving and Unauthorized Elon Musk Biography by Damien Darby. $6.99 from Smashwords.com
From fleeing apartheid, sleeping on floors and showering at the local YMCA, to becoming perhaps the most prolific man in the modern world; Elon Musk is an exemplary figure. Everyone should hear about his tale, and be exposed to the prolific changes he is bringing forth into the contemporary human condition. From SpaceX Rockets to Tesla electric automobiles, Elon will soon have us stepping on Mars.

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Those of you have read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (Penguin Modern Classics) will know exactly what I’m taking about in the headline – or at least you will after you read this book about entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Just to get you started, Elon Musk is the founder of Pay Pal and Tesla Motors. This is the man who will soon have us driving electric cars – despite the best efforts of the oil companies, the auto industry, the auto dealers and crooked politicians to stop him. The Tesla Moden S and Model X – and the Tesla Roadster – are the cars of the future. And it will take more than a few crooked politicians in Texas and elsewhere in the United States to stop him from selling these cars or the customers from buying them.

But he is more than just a one-trick pony – or even a two-trick pony. He is a visionary, like Steven Jobs or Ray Kurzweil – more far-sighted than the former and more successful than the latter. If you want to know more about him, this book will get you up to speed. You will be hearing a lot more of Elon Musk in the future.


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The actor Colin Firth has declined the leading role in David Kessler’s exciting new action rom-com Over in a Flash.

The role of emotionally-repressed aviation designer Conrad Finch had been specially written for Colin Firth and writer David Kessler has spent months in contact with Firth’s agent in an effort to secure the actor’s services. However the actor finally declined the role and informed Kessler of his decision through his agent.

“I am extremely disappointed,” Kessler was quoted as saying. “The role of Conrad was written for Firth and played to his strengths. The guitar-playing, the Amnesty International membership – even the carpentry skills. [Firth worked as a carpenter during a hiatus in his early acting career] There is no one who could play the role as well as he could.”

Firth’s agents declined to comment or give details of the actor’s decision. The female lead in the project (a military widow whose officer husband was killed in Helmand province) was offered to Alice Eve and the second male lead (a military test pilot) to Ewan Mcgregor. It is not clear if either will play these roles.

A pregnant Italian woman who suffered a panic attack when she forgot to take her medication for Bipolar Disorder was forcibly (actually unconsciously) subjected to a “compulsory caesarean section on the decision of the High Court under an ex-parte order obtained by social workers. (Ex-parte means that the other party didn’t get notice, wasn’t consulted and had no opportunity to challenge the decision.) This MIGHT be justified in itself if it was to address an immediate crisis. But the Essex authorities went on to refuse to return the child and have now put it up for adoption. This goes far beyond addressing the immediate crisis and raises questions about both the honesty and integrity of the Essex Social Services and the commitment of the British courts to law.

The claim made by the social services, was that she might suffer a relapse. A judge in Chelmsford Crown Court accepted this argument and ruled that the child should be put up for adoption in the UK. Now you would think that a judge would know the law. But this ignorant judge did not seem to realize that as the mother was normally resident in Italy, the matter of custody of the child falls within the jurisdiction of the Italian courts not the British ones.

The woman, who incidentally has two other children in Italy, has never been allowed to see the child, who is now 15 months old.

The question is why was this blatantly illegal action taken by the Essex Social Services and backed up by a judge who one presumes must have known better. Could it be that Essex is short of babies for adoption and is looking for short-cuts to find more? Even if it involves fabricating bogus pretexts and breaking the law? It reminds me of a book I wrote a few years back about a baby racket conspiracy between social services and a devious paediatrician: How I cleared my mother of a murder charge when I was eleven (The Ethan and Lexie adventures)

Remember Elle MacPherson, the foul, vile, spiteful, malicious bitch who bullied adviser Mary Ellen Field (falsely accusing her of talking to the press about her) and then sacked her, despite promising not to, if she attended an alcohol rehab course (hich Ms Field duly did, despite the fact that she was not an alcoholic)? There’s no reason why you should remember Elle MacPherson – she is not a paricularly memorable or talented woman, or even a particularly attractive one. But anyway the latest news – which for some reason has found its way into some newspapers – is that she has married billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, whom she had previously dated between 2009 and March 2012 and then broke up with.

I neither know nor care why he married her but I do hope he watches his back. The Macpherson bitch victimized Mary Ellen Field not because of anything Ms Field had done, but because of MacPherson’s suspicions triggered by the snooping done on her by the Rupert Murdoch press. But what made the McPherson bitch’s actions so vile was not just the way she behaved in the first instance, but the way she behaved after she found out.

Firstly she “forgave” Rupert Murdoch. That is she forgave him after he hired her – for a very large sum of money – to present Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model. But not content with jumping into “bed” with the man who had caused MacPherson’s wholly unfounded suspicions in the first place, the bitch MacPherson then refused to assist Ms Field in any way with her law suit against News Group Newspapers – despite the fact that Field had sued them, rather than McPherson herself, for the unfair dismissal. Indeed Ms Field continued to speak faourably of Elle MacPherson and bent over backwards to excuse and forgive Macpherson’s treacherous behaviour!

MacPherson’s non-cooperation initially manifested itself in her refusal to make her telephone records available to Field in order to confirm what the police had already discovered – that MacPherson’s phone had been hacked. But MacPherson then took her treachery to a new level by issuing a written statement to the court (upon which she could not, of course, be cross-examined) saying she did not sack her former adviser Mary-Ellen Field because she believed she was leaking stories to the press. Needless to say, the statement did not say why she DID sack her, because that would have required thinking on the part of MacPherson, an activity which MacPherson is probably unaccustomed to engaging in. Also, of course, even with the advice of her lawyers, MacPherson would have been hard-pressed to come up with any reason for sacking Mary Ellen Field, given that she had no legitimate reason for doing so. And just to recap, MacPherson didn’t just sack Field. Immediately after that Field was fired by Chiltern, the company that employed her.

The effect of MacPherson’s refusal to supply phone records and her dubious statement to the High Court was that it forced Mary Ellen Field to withdraw her case. As things stand now, it is a matter of uncontested fact that Elle McPherson’s phone was hacked, that MacPherson sacked Field, that Field claims that the reason for her dismissal was false accusations by MacPherson of allaged press leaks by Field, that Macpherson has belatedly denied that this was the reason for dismissing Field but failed to offer any other explanation. However, this was insufficint basis for Field’s suit against News Group Newspapers to succeed.

The question is why was Murdoch ready to pay a large sum of money to an untalented aging model like Macpherson in what does look awfully like an effort to secure her cooperation in damage-limitation exercise by thwarting a meritorious suit in which the sum of money involved would almost certainly have been much smaller? Could it be that what Murdoch was worried about was not the payment of money but the emergence of facts that the “newsman” Ruper Murdoch does not want to come out into the light of day? Is that the measure of Murdoch’s commitment to the dissemination of news?

So let’s see what this adds up to.

1) Rupert Murdoch’s henchmen hack Elle Macpherson’s phone.
2) Mary Ellen Field is bullied into alcohol rehab by Macpherson for no good reason, and then
3) sacked despite being promised that she would not be.
4) Macpherson jumps into “bed” with Murdoch, the guilty man and neither compensates nor apologizes to Mary Ellen Field, the innocent victim of Macpherson’s and Rupert’s machinations.
5) And then to top it all off, Macpherson sabotages Mary Ellen Field’s attempts to get compensation, even though Ms Field stayed loyal to Macpherson and didn’t go after her DESPITE MACPHERSON’S TREACHERY!
6) Elle Macpherson is making large sums of money off Rupert Murdoch while Mary Ellen Field is left with legal costs of £75,000 – and that’s if the Murdoch Mafia doesn’t go for enhanced costs.

Thinking about Rupert Murdoch and Elle Macpherson, I am reminded of a line from The Great Gatsby.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Who can play the lead? is a new series of books and screenplays in which the reader is invited to make suggestions as to who should play the leading roles.

Over in a Flash (Who can play the lead?), the first in this series, is a romantic comedy about an emotionally-repressed aviation engineer who steals an advanced fighter to jet to get back to his ex.

Readers are invited to make suggestions for who should play the roles ofConrad and Alison. Also welcome are suggestions as to who should direct the film.  Please write an Amazon review and put the suggestions in that review.

 

It is becoming an almost daily story: scum of the earth viciously assault innocent person, scum of the earth caught, scum of the earth brought before judge and found guilty, scum of the earth told they are very naughty boys (or girls) or have done a terrible thing and then sentenced to suspended sentences or community service and turned out onto the streets.

Time and time again it happens and time and time again we wonder if the judge speaks the English language.
“You did something very wicked and instead of punishing you I am going to spout a load of hot air and then let you go. This is how our criminal-friendly judges behave. And Judge Shani Barnes is no exception.

In this case the scum of the earth are: Kieran Hawker (18)  Robert Elsey (19), Aaron Henery (18), Dean Riley (19), Anthony Patton (27) and two seventeen-year-olds who cannot be named because the law protects criminals who are younger than 18. These namby-pamby little mama’s boys – who haven’t got a testicle or a brain cell between them – conducted a vicious assault on three innocent people without any legitimate reason. For the full story see here.

But scum doesn’t grow in a vacuum.  Where are the people who brought them up? The people who were supposed to teach them right from wrong?  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I would have to conclude that those who brought them up are scum too.

There is really only one cure for people like this – a taste of their own medicine!

 


I am pleased to announce the relaunching of this book:

When 10-year-old Ethan’s Blaine’s parents decide to have another baby, it’s the happiest day of their lives. But the sudden, unexplained death of the baby plunges their world into tragedy. And things get worse when Ethan’s mother is accused of murder by an over-zealous doctor. With the help of his new book-wise friend Lexie Thatcher (a judge’s daughter) Ethan does the only thing that any internet-savvy kid can do – he turns detective!

By using the Internet and hacking into various computer networks, Ethan discovers a web of lies and corruption involving a devious doctor and a crooked social worker. But it turns personal when he finds out that his parents may be involved in a baby-selling racket.

And with his mother’s case now being heard by the jury, the intrepid Ethan realizes that he cannot solve the case from the comfort of his room and the safety of his computer. He most go out into the world to find the answers – even if it means risking his life …