What Does Bob Dylan Mean Today?


Bob Dylan’s poetry has been enchanting generations for more than half a century now. His songs remain as relevant and powerful as they used to be for the counterculture youth of the 1960s.

To this day, those songs continue to inspire, constantly featuring in contemporary movies and TV series, as a way to contextualize and illuminate universal themes and feelings. A Shelter from the Storm, for example, was recently used in the soundtrack of Danny Boyle’s biopic Steve Jobs as an effective tool to highlight the turbulent relationship between the Apple co-founder and his daughter Lisa; the poignant Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, marked the end of season one of the iconic TV series Mad Men, when Don Draper, its unstable protagonist, hits rock bottom, arriving at his suburban home at the end of the day to find out that Betty, his wife, has finally left and taken their kids away.

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On October 13 Bob Dylan was awarded one of the most important literary prizes in the world: the Nobel. To celebrate the recognition of one of the greatest poets of the XX century, let’s listen to his landmark anti-war hymn, BLOWIN’ IN THE WING (see You Tube video clip below), and reflect on its relevance for today’s audiences. With your study group, family or friends, discuss the questions below. You can share some of your answers with us in the comments section.

How do the 1960s in general compare to the 2010s? Point out some similarities and differences.

 What does the song Blowin’ in the Wind originally refer to? What could it refer to now?

 How would you rephrase the verse “how many roads must a man walk down before we call him a man”?

 What do we turn our heads to and pretend not to see today?

 What does the metaphor to look up and really see the sky mean?

 Enjoy!

Jorge Sette

 

 

 

Janis: Little Girl Blue


The new documentary about the life of incendiary 1960s blues singer Janis Joplin, by director Amy Berg, has opened in São Paulo this week. Contrary to the classic biography on the singer – Buried Alive, written by Myra Friedman, and first published in 1973 – the documentary chooses to show a less torturous and painful facet of Janis, who comes off in the movie as an intelligent, charismatic and sensitive human being. An extremely talented woman, way ahead of her time, who looks to fame and acclaim to fit in and be loved, Janis’s short and intense life is celebrated, rather than mourned, in this mind-blowing film.

Janis_Joplin_performing

Born on January 19, 1943, into a conservative and suffocating family, who wanted her to become a teacher, Janis grew up an outcast, the target of frequent bullying at school in the backward Texan city of Port Arthur. Unconventional, outspoken and aggressive, Janis broke the mold of what was expected from women in those repressive years of the 1950s and early 60s.

San Francisco

When zitty-faced and overweight Janis found out she would never become one of the curvaceous and cute models who leapt from the covers and pages of the women’s magazines everyone read when she was a teenager, she left home and headed for San Francisco. The neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury welcomed Janis with open arms. She had found her soulmates. She felt totally at home and could finally blossom as a woman and artist.

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Janis Joplin belonged on the stage. She would rip herself open in front of an audience. Her performances – many of which feature in the documentary, but can also be found on YouTube– are raw and soul-wrenching. Audiences – both in the live presentations depicted in the film and the one watching it from the comfortable seat of a movie theater – look on enthralled and silent – experiencing a jolt of pleasure, pain and self-realization, through the music emanating from this force of nature.

When I sing, I feel like when you’re first in love. It’s more than sex. It’s that point two people can get to they call love, when you really touch someone for the first time, but it’s gigantic, multiplied by the whole audience. I feel chills, explains the singer.

The movie narrates Janis’s story from her childhood in Port Arthur to her untimely death due to an overdose of heroin at a hotel in Hollywod at age 27, covering in detail all the phases of her meteoric career. Janis struggled with drug abuse from the very first years in San Francisco; the problem only got worse as she became more popular.

Monterey

The addiction, however, did not stop Janis from exploding to notoriety during the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, when she debuted as a full-fledged blues singer, mesmerizing the audience with a legendary rendition of Ball and Chain (see video below).

From then on, many doors started to open and Janis never stopped climbing the steps of success and recognition, as one of the best blues singers of all time. Stardom, however, which she had sought for most part of her life, proved elusive and unsatisfactory, after all. On stage I make love to twenty five thousand people; and then I go home alone, complained the lonely diva. She could never shut out her personal ghosts, insecurities and anxieties, unless she was working.

Career

Although, Janis Joplin recorded only 4 albums in her 4-year career: Big Brother and the Holding Company (1967); Cheap Thrills (1968) ; I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969) Platinum and Pearl (1971, released posthumously), her fame is enduring and she continues to captivate new fans with songs such as Cry Baby, Summertime, Mercedes Benz, Maybe, and Me and Bobby McGee (her best selling single).

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Janis Joplin – Little Girl Blue, the documentary – will surely enlist a new wave of fans. After all, many young people can’t wait to find music which is not as innocuous and washed-out as most pop songs they download from the Internet today.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

What’s the job of art?


It’s hard to define art: be it music, literature, visual arts, drama, etc. I would prefer to say that life would be impossible for most people without it. Call it escapism, if you wish.  Life can be very dry and purposeless without the varnish of art. It can be very lonely. Even meaningless. As Tennessee Williams once said:

“What implements have we but words, images, colors, scratches upon the caves of our solitude?”

Art is any expression of human emotion and feeling. It’s the telling of a story. We are all artists one way or another. This does not mean our work will be recognized in our lifetime or sold for millions of dollars in galleries, but what counts is what it does for you. The officially recognized great works of art follow criteria that varies according to time and audience. Their market value rises and lowers  at different times. So, we, as simple viewers or artists, should not care about what is considered by the experts GREAT ART. Give yourself the right to make or evaluate art,  based on your own guidelines. More than that, every piece of art which can transport you to a world that makes you happier, or feel more intensely, or evoke cherished memories, or give you hope and peace should count as great. It can be your creation or someone else’s.

I never forget the moment I first saw painter Peter Paul Rubens’  Samson and Delilah (picture below), while roaming the halls of the National Gallery in London. I did not know that painting. It beckoned at me from a distance and made me walk, transfixed, in its direction, wide-eyed and excited. Sensual, colorful, showing  unusual uses of a number of light sources to illuminate the scene,  and telling a story: that is all I wanted from a painting. I may have spent the next 20 min standing in front of the huge painting staring at it, looking like an idiot, with a silly smile glued to my face. Then I went back there two more times in the course of a 10-day vacation in London to experience the power of that painting again – it’s a good thing the National Gallery has free admission!

Samson and Delilhah, 1609, by Peter Paul Rubens. National Gallery, London.

Samson and Delilhah, 1609, by Peter Paul Rubens. National Gallery, London.

I found a copy of the painting on the Internet and excitedly emailed it to some of my close friends telling them how I had felt looking at it. That’s another thing about great experiences, it’s hard to enjoy them alone, you need to share. This post is obviously part of this need.

As for literature, another great type of  humanity’s artistic achievement, how many times have I drowned my sorrows by reading a novel by Philip Roth (one of my favorite writers, as many of you readers of this blog already know): the misery and problems of his characters far outweigh mine and serve as solace by giving me a deeper understanding of human beings. Roth is brutal and I doubt he intends to offer any comfort to the reader through his stories – but he does, regardless of what his original aim might be.

Author Philip Roth

Author Philip Roth

At the end of 2014, having some free time, I had the idea of combining two of my greatest passions – the English language and visual arts –  in a project: the series of ebooks of the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART (for further info check out this post http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS ). I figured I could not be alone in enjoying studying a foreign language in the context of powerful images that would take me beyond the walls of the dreary language classroom and make me dream. I was right: after self-publishing eight ebooks and with a ninth coming out soon, I noticed that many other people all over the world shared my passions.

When I was a language/literature student in college, we had a very dry and uninteresting subject: Portuguese literature. I appreciate some may love it – art is individual and personal. But I must admit I loathed the company of Camoes and his  jingoism, despite the excellence of the teacher and her love for the subject. One day, however, she surprised us with a different approach to the teaching of the boring Portuguese literature of the Baroque era: she brought a projector to the classroom and contextualized  some of the visual art movements – which are inevitably reflected in the literature of the time – by showing works of famous artists. That was my first contact with Velázquez and his “borrachos”, partying with Bacchus. The teacher’s explanation of the painting and the artist was vibrant. The class was in awe. We were always in a hurry to leave the session and enjoy our cheap beer on Friday evenings (those were evening classes). That day, however, most people couldn’t care to leave when the class came to its official end, and let the teacher carry on for as long as she wanted. We had started to refine our taste: it was better to see Bacchus inebriate his minions than go out to Olinda and get drunk ourselves.

The Triumph of Bacchus, Velázquez, 1628, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The Triumph of Bacchus, Velázquez, 1628, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Au revoir,

Jorge Sette

5 features that make a movie or TV show great


In this day and age of superhero movies, I’m going to dare to give you guidelines on how to judge the quality of a movie. Great movies don’t make money, this is a fact. The reason commonly given is the populace is too dumb and unsophisticated to appreciate their merits. I don’t want to go into this discussion as it spills way beyond the scope of this humble post. However, the opposite is not true either: don’t think that just because a movie delivered a poor box office it deserves any praise. It may be simply because…well…it’s crap. Good movies usually:

1. Focus on character not on plot. Despite the well-known structure of storytelling dug out by mythologist Joseph Campbell and turned into a simplified manual for Hollywood scriptwriters, spelling out all the steps that need to be present in the hero’s journey for a story to resonate with the audience, writers and directors still need to highlight characters. The plot needs to be there, its phases followed in new and  creative ways, but strong characters are what we remember about the best films we see. We may not remember details of the story, but Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone in the Godfather, Robert De Niro’s Trevis Bickle in Taxi Driver or Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood in House of Cards  are unforgettable.

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone

Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone

2. Have complex characters. These great characters have the following common characteristics: they don’t comply to black and white codes of ethics, they tend to develop their own morality and follow it consistently; they show either superior intelligence, or charisma or beauty. Or all of them together. Understatement is their main weapon. They do not say everything: a lot needs to be inferred by their eyes, their turn of head, they way their mouths hang open for slightly longer than necessary. They are subtle and complex. We never get to understand their inner agenda to the full.

3. Have scenes played against the grain. Great movies catch the audience off guard, surprise them. They use, for example, as the commentary for a acene, a song  or piece of music that means its exact opposite or that does not belong to the historic period or place the story takes place. The use of LA CUMPARCITA in Woody Allen’s  Alice,  which takes place in contemporary Manhattan – the music plays as Mia Farrow’s and Joe Mantegna’s characters, after taking a magic potion that makes them invisible, pay the taxi driver and the doors of the car open for them to leave completely unseen; the voice over quips: “nothing shocks NYC cab drivers”  – enhances and adds to the humor and oddity of the situation.

Mia Farow as Woody Allen's Alice

Mia Farow as Woody Allen’s Alice

4. Let emotions emerge naturally. These movies do not manipulate their audience to make them weep. Sentimentality makes films that could otherwise be great syrupy and corny. Emotions must reflect real life and its poignancy to work as art. Think of the scene in Walter Salles’s Central Station in  which the character played by Fernanda Montenegro is shown, in a montage, writing a series of letters to relatives of people who are illiterate and therefore can’t write themselves. They are real people in this particular case  – but might as well be actors – from a small city in the northeast of Brazil, and the succession of short scenes showing these people dictating their messages breaks ones’ heart with their truth, simplicity and beauty.

Fernanda Montenegro in  Walter Salles's Central Station

Fernanda Montenegro in Walter Salles’s Central Station

5. Don’t show or say everything.  Life is not neat. Great movies reflect life yet show it through a more interesting angle. But not all must be solved in those two hours a movie lasts. Life is a flow and conflicts are rarely resolved in their entirety. There is no need to explain every character’s motives or reactions or  tie all the loose ends of the story by the conclusion of the movie or TV show. Let the audience wonder. Give them opportunity to use their imagination. Take the typical end of the iconic 2001 a Space Odyssey. If you haven’t read the book, and there’s no need to (it was written to go with the movie), the last 15 min of the movie are all up to you. What is going on? What does that trip to Saturn really mean metaphysically? What’s this guy shown in progressive stages of aging. Who’s this fetus in the intergalactic womb? The viewer will keep those images for a long time in their minds (in my case,  for decades!) and neve stop trying to figure them out.

2001 A Space Odissey

2001 A Space Odissey

Well, great movies are not supposed to follow recipes. So now throw all I said before out of the window and make your own rules.

Good luck

Jorge Sette.

Blog Linguagem: 1st Anniversary. Jan 2015: 100% Growth!


We broke all our records in Jan 2015 with a 100% growth.  Join us now: http://www.jorgesette.com

LINGUAGEM, MARKETING, SALES TRAINING, CULTURE, ART

100% GROWTH

100% GROWTH

 

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

Our main customers. Where do they come from?

 

 

Click on the link below to check out our latest stats in PDF format.

Blog LINGUAGEM- First Anniversary

 

Au revoir

 

Jorge Sette.

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

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Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray


Today I read in the paper that the killer of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, appealed to be released from prison for the third time now. It has been denied. Now he can try again in two years’ time. I don’t think he will be able to lead a normal like outside of prison. There is always the danger of his being lynched. Besides, it looks like Yoko Ono is against the measure too. She must be really afraid he will be coming after her. It makes sense. I can only imagine the amount of publicity he is going to get the minute the steps out of jail: book deals, reality shows, record contracts (Chapman sings Lennon) and what not.

I started off as a fierce Beatles fan in my childhood and early adolescence, but then, I came in contact with the Stones’ music through a close friend when we lived in England in the late eighties. We were language students in Bournemouth and borders in the same house. He introduced me to the Stones and I’m very grateful to this day. The roughness and wildness of the Stones’ music were a lot more reflective of my personality in those days. They are still my favorite rock band.

It’s not only the music that fascinates me, but the whole persona of their lead singer, Mick Jagger. I may have read three or four biographies about him (the one I would recommend is Philip Norman’s) and I can’t get enough of his personal and public story. Mick reversed many assumptions that most people have. He makes ugly sexy and even cute at times. He makes old cool. He makes rock and roll professional and businesslike. He will not have his disturbingly wrinkled face and drooping oversized lips be touched by plastic surgery in an age when even 30-year-olds are having their features altered to look like weird Kens and Barbies.

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray

Mick Jagger did not share the most common prejudices of his era. Legend says all he wished to be, back when he started, was Tina Turner. She opened for his shows a number to times in the sixties. Rumor has it he would imitate Tina’s moves for hours in front of a mirror. She was the coolest person in the world for him.  This is one of the funniest things I heard about Mick. There is also gossip that he’s bisexual, but whatever his preferences may be, the fact is he has always treated gays and blacks friendly.

However, it’s undeniable that Mick Jagger has a very dark side to his personality. His whole attitude towards life reminds us a little bit of Oscar Wilde: especially on the occasion when he was put in jail in the sixties for drug consumption at what looked more like an orgy than a party. It’s said prison really broke him for a while, just like it damaged Mr Wilde badly at the end of the XIX century. Even more precisely, he seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous characters,  Dorian Gray.

Unlike Gray, however, whose aging process and corrupt and criminal lifestyle were all reflected on a portrait of himself he kept hidden in an attic, while he himself remained young with features as angelical and fresh as when he was a teenager,  Mick Jagger’s  parched and wrinkled canvas of a face certainly bears all the marks of sins and experience of someone who’s been sailing against rough winds for the most part of his life. His 70-year-old body, however, just like Dorian Gray’s tight, flexible and muscular structure, does not seem do be different than a 25-year-old man’s, when you see him on stage. The Stones’ song Time is on My Side seems to say it all about the mythological figure.

Besides, very much in Dorian Gray’s fashion, he is famous for having destroyed and corrupted many lives who dared to get too close to the light and got burned by its brightness. Marianne Faithfull, for example, the troubled young singer of the 60s who dated Jagger, especially reminds me of a modern Sybil Vane, the first woman Dorian Gray destroyed on his path to utter corruption and crime. Some will say that Jagger sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the success of his career and eternal youth of his body. No wonder he continuously thanks the dark forces through the ultra popular ode Sympathy for the Devil.

Not only until the mid-nineties did I have a chance to actually attend a Stones concert. An unforgettable experience at the Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, under heavy rain, with some of my closest friends.  Also, in the summer of 2012, I visited a great exhibition in London at Somerset House, where they showed rare pictures of the Stones in poster-like sizes.  This was part of a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the band. I had a great time attending the exhibition, being in the heart of London, and looking at this rare collection of Stones pictures. The gift store was a rip-off, however, and the same T-shirt you could buy for 10 pounds in Camden Town would cost close to 50 at the museum. I was rational enough not to give in to the temptation.

Unlike Lennon, we are fortunate Mick Jagger is still among us. I know we will always have his music and his taped shows, but it’s good to know that this force of nature is very much alive and kicking. In the movie SHINE A LIGHT, Martin Scorsese manages to capture much of his energy and charisma. You feel like Mick is not performing for the camera at any moment, he is just doing his thing, being his difficult-self, while Scorsese and his crew are running around trying to capture his best on camera. Good thing the director managed to do so. Now we have this wonderful performance frozen in time on our bookshelf and can watch it whenever we need to infuse more energy and inspiration into our dull and unglamorous lives.

What do you think of Mick Jagger and the Stones? Share your opinion with us as you rate this post.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

What it takes to be Michael Jackson


I’ve never been a huge fan of Michael Jackson’s music, although his gift as a performer and dancer has always impressed me. I grew up hearing his songs, like many of the readers, so he felt like a distance cousin, far away but still part of my life.

Despite the fact that THRILLER (1982), his second solo album after he left The Jackson 5, sold more than a 100 million copies, making it the best-selling album of all time, I was never really interested in mimicking the steps and choreography of the promo video clip, and was left sitting alone with my rum and coke at the parties of that era, while all my vampire friends took over the dance floor.

In the early 90s, before the advent of cable television in Brazil, when regular TV still had the power of unifying people, making most of us watch the same shows and discuss them at the water cooler the following day, I waited excitedly for the release of every new computerized video clip featuring a Michel Jackson hit, just like everyone else at the time. To say nothing of the fact that, in Brazil,  a lot of kids from the generation after mine were named by their parents MAICON, in honor of the King of Pop. They couldn’t get it right.

Obviously, I was shocked by his untimely death and saddened by all the allegations of child abuse he had to confront (hoping that the verdict of not guilty was fair and right after all). The Oscar-winning Danish movie THE HUNT presents us with a nightmarish scenario of what it must feel like to be accused of this sort of crime if you are innocent. Once the doubt is planted in people’s minds, it will not be uprooted.

This evening, however, I watched a documentary about Michael Jackson on Netflix, and it was fascinating to be reminded of how talented and mature he was at the age of 10, an old soul. Nevertheless, in a scene in the film, someone comments that whatever he missed in childhood due to his extreme professionalism, he made up in adulthood. Of course, he was referring to the toys he got as an adult, to Neverland, and to the obsession of physically transforming his body through plastic surgery, rather than only in his imagination, like most kids do.

But what really resonated with me was all the evidence that, besides being a naturally gifted person, he was a workaholic, and added much to his innate talent through a lot of studying and dedication. It was said that even after his voice changed in adolescence he could still carry on being a great singer, as he had learned what to do technically with his voice when rendering a song, from analyzing famous singers from the past. So, what does that teach us about how to become a Michael Jackson, or a John Lennon, or a Bill Gates? Or, in other words, an extremely successful person in our career.

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Michael Jackson

Work and drive

I’m a great believer that hard word and dedication are the most important levers for success in life – whichever standards you choose to measure success by. Malcolm Gladwell, in a book called OUTLIERS (which I strongly recommend) speaks of the magical number 10,000, as the minimum amount of hours necessary for someone to dedicate to a specific task if they are to excel in it. Not all of us had or will ever have the opportunity and drive to do this, let’s face it.

Of course, being endowed by nature with a special talent, such as a higher than average IQ, amazing kinesthetic intelligence, or the looks of Scarlett Johansonn, will already place you ahead of the pack. But you cannot dismiss the effort that all real celebrities – as opposed to the Paris Hilton type – must have put into building their careers. There are odds working for them, that is undeniable, but in general, this is accompanied  by unusual amounts of time and effort invested in accomplishing their endeavors.

A Mentor and team work

Also, in all interviews I read and documentaries I watch about people who have done amazing things, there is a strong element of team work and mentoring involved. You just can’t make it on your own. Talent needs coaching, support and help with the hard decisions to be made along the way. Surround yourself with friendly and supportive people, who maybe complement your skills, and get yourself a mentor. Today.

Persistence

I know a lot of talented people who do not advance further in their career for lack of resilience and toughness. They shy away and quit at the prospect of every obstacle (and there will be many) they face. If you ever have the chance to watch a couple of episodes of the popular series HOUSE OF CARDS, you will understand that it is impossible to get ahead without single-mindedness and a very thick skin.

Emotional intelligence

This is what hindered Michael Jackon’s success in terms of longevity and balance. His instability, due mainly to growing up under an overbearing and controlling father – whom he never called Dad, but Joseph, his Christian name. Besides, the pressures of living and working in an unbelievably competitive environment must have played a strong role in his unravelling. Also, he never developed sophisticated interpersonal skills, such as being able to read people beyond their words and superficial behavior – he is said to have been naively trusting of everyone.

Basically, I should say that, in a very simplified way, the characteristics listed above translate into success. In the sense that they get you where you want to be in the corporate world, in show business, academia or politics.

Let’s continue the discussion later. In the meantime, please let me know what your views are on this post.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.