Archive for the ‘anxiety’ Category

The skinny on Skinny-dipping

Rupert Brooke in Granchester (with soft collar)

Rupert Brooke in Granchester (with soft collar)

On Thursday evening I joined Channel 4 colleagues at The Courthouse Hotel [formerly the Marylebone Magistrates Court, was glad to see cells have been imaginatively retained] opposite Carnaby Street (a resonant area for me as just round the corner from my very first workplace, Solus in Marshall Street, Soho, whose attic contained hidden gems like footage of Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight and James Baldwin in Paris) to view as it was broadcast a programme I had (deliberately) only seen as raw footage – Alone in the Wild. Since the beginning of July we have been publishing online the rushes of the show as they came out of the wilderness of the Yukon, where cameraman/film-maker Ed Wardle was living and recording his experiences himself, completely alone in the wild. My part of the cross-platform commission also involved publishing daily out-going only short messages from the wild via Twitter, which were subsequently used to punctuate the three films in the series. [Next one is this Thursday at 9pm on C4]

One scene in Episode 1 saw Ed delighting in a skinny-dip in the lake where he had made camp, frolicking like a child, immersing himself with joy in the place he shared with a stately moose and grayling destined for his frying pan.

I’ve been equally struck recently by accounts of poet Rupert Brooke’s skinny-dipping activities in Granchester, a place made magical for me after a lone moonlit cycle-ride to there in the middle of one Romantic night. In particular, accounts of ‘The Midnight Swim’ when this proto-hippy young poet shared the waters of Byron’s Pool with the unstable, radical woman of letters Virginia Stephens, later Woolf, who finished her life alone in the underwater wild of a Sussex river.

It was 1911. They were both single. Rupert was 24, Virginia was 29. It was the year Poems 1911 was published (clue in the title), Brooke’s one and only volume of poems to appear during his actual lifetime. (Woolf’s first novel appeared four years later.)

Christopher Hassall describes the incident in his biography of Brooke (Rupert Brooke: a Biography 1964):

“It was the end of August. Virginia Stephen arrived at the Old Vicarage and occupied Ka’s bed on the other side of the house. The garden room was strewn with scraps of Strindberg, pages of Bland Vassen and fragments of verse. Probably the guest had brought with her an early chapter of The Voyage Out to revise while Brooke was reading or writing stretched out on the grass. One warm night there was a clear sky and a moon and they walked out to the shadowy waters of Byron’s Pool. “Let’s go swimming, quite naked,” Brooke said, and they did.”

Brooke mentions in his well known poem The Old Vicarage, Granchester this pool where his poetic forebear Byron swam when no-one was about:

Still in the dawn waters cool
His ghostly Lordship swims his pool

The painter Augustus John, who lived nearby with a caravan load of hot women and brown children, was also a naked frequenter of the pool, as was the philosopher Wittgenstein.

The Midnight Swim is also fictionalised and extrapolated upon in Jill Dawson’s recent novel The Great Lover which I read on holiday this August (exactly 98 years after the skinny-dip in question), kindly given to me by Aysha Rafaele (a fellow C4 Commissioning Editor from Documentaries) who spotted it in the Richard & Judy Book Club pile.

So any action between the two of them, both swingers-both-ways? Rupert, I get the impression, was more inclined to the hetero. Virginia must be well documented but I’m not sure exactly how her bi was balanced. Lytton Strachey had proposed to her two years earlier but they both realised, in the cool light of day the next morning, it wouldn’t work out. I don’t think any one knows or ever said quite what occurred, which leaves it as a lovely little mystery…

The Midnight Swim wasn’t their first watery encounter. In April 1899 (Rupert was 11, Virginia was 17) the Brookes went to St. Ives on holiday, where Leslie Stephen was also vacationing with his family. The two of them played together by the sea.

Yeats called Brooke “the handsomest young man in England”. By the year of The Midnight Swim, Brooke was secretly engaged or attached in some fashion to Noel Olivier, a fascinating character in her own right (Rupert was 24, Noel was 19) here’s her Wikipedia entry.

I had a go recently at drafting a Wikipedia entry for her sister Brynhild who seemed a promising character, the most beautiful of the Olivier sisters, but there’s very little to go on. This is what I have so far:

”’Brynhild Olivier”’ (1886 – 13th January 1935) was a member of [[Rupert Brooke]]‘s circle before the First World War and associated with the [[Bloomsbury Group]]. She was the fourth daughter of [[Sydney Haldane Olivier]], 1st Baron Olivier, and Margaret Cox; she was sister of Margery, Daphne and [[Noel Olivier|Noel]].

She married art historian [[A. E. Popham]] (Arthur Ewart Hugh Popham, known as Hugh) in 1912 (becoming Brynhild Popham). Hugh Popham was a friend of Rupert Brooke. They were divorced in 1924. She married [[F. R. N. Sherrard]] in 1924 (becoming Brynhild Sherrard).

She was the mother of [[Anne Olivier Popham]], who became the wife of art historian and writer [[Quentin Bell]]. She was also the mother of the poet, translator and theologian [[Philip Sherrard|Philip Owen Arnould Sherrard]] (born 23 September 1922, Oxford).

Brynhild was the first of the four Olivier sisters the poet Rupert Brooke met. Although she was reputedly the most beautiful, it was her sister Noel Olivier for whom Brooke fell.

She was first cousin of the actor [[Laurence Olivier]].

If there’s anyone out there in internetland who knows anything more about Brynhild (Bryn) Olivier, please do let me know via comments or however so I can get enough substance in the article to make it acceptable for Wikipedia – i.e. more information on what she achieved in her adult life.

Rupert and Noel met in 1908 when he was 20 and she a 15-year-old schoolgirl at the then fashionable, progressive Bedales in Petersfield. Noel’s father was Lord Sydney Olivier (uncle of dear, dear Larry), a prominent Fabian and high-ranking civil servant, serving in his time as Governor of Jamaica and Secretary of State for India.

Bedales was something of a centre for getting your kit off. Various members of Brooke’s circle had been there, the first co-ed public school, which encouraged a passion for the open air and healthy outdoor games. Nude swimming and sunbathing (segregated) made it on to the curriculum (hoorah!). The Sun Bathing Society’s Annual Summer Conference was held there in 1931 and naturists used the Bedales grounds out of term in the wake of their starting to organise in Britain during the previous decade.

Noel went on to have a long and interesting career as a doctor, politically active in a way reflecting her Fabian roots. Rupert had a short one as an early crash-and-burn teen hero, paving the way for everyone from James Dean to (fellow Cantabrian) Nick Drake to River (appropriately enough) Phoenix. He didn’t quite make 28. He cast himself as a Neo-Pagan (becoming a central figure of an eponymous group of writers and artists) and Virginia confirmed this: “He was consciously and definitely pagan.” They were the original Teddy Boys, the reckless youth of the Edwardian era, rebelling against the constraints of stiff-collared Victorian ways.

Embodying the Neo-Pagan ideals of youth, comradeship and the Simple Life, Brooke revelled in going barefoot and skinny-dipping: “Two miles from Cambridge up the river I wander about barefoot and almost naked. I live on honey, eggs and milk.” (letter to Noel Olivier, summer 1909). A bit of Romantic exaggeration of course, but Rupert certainly enjoyed casting off a few layers.

This summer I had the Simple Pleasure of bathing in Lough Hyne, just outside of Baltimore (the one in West Cork as opposed to The Wire one). It is pretty much unique as a salt-water lake, quite the place to go if you want to hang with a goby, shanny, blenny, three-spined stickleback or clingfish. Its salty water reminded me of another top bathing experience – the Blue Hole, East of Port Antonio, Jamaica (aka the Blue Lagoon since Brooke Shields skinny-dipped there in 1980, directed by Randal Kleiser, who I had a ridiculous phonecall with when I was working at Solus – for some unaccountable reason I turned momentarily into The Player, luckily old Randy couldn’t see the tenderfoot at the other end of the transatlantic line). The Blue Hole is a mixed salt and fresh water lagoon, fed by cold underground springs. When you swim you have the unique experience of one stroke warm, next stroke cool, warm, cool, warm, cool, warm, cool. Divers and scientists say it has a depth of about 180 feet. Local islanders say it is bottomless and a monsterous creature lives down below. The mixture of intense physical pleasure and underlying anxiety of the sheer extent and unknowableness of Nature is an experience common to skinny-dippers the world wide.

The-Blue-Lagoon

Astoria La Vista baby

Music with minerals

Music with minerals

This week marked the sad demise of the Astoria in London’s Tottenham Court Road to make way for an expanded TCR station for the forthcoming Crossrail. It started life as one of four Astoria cinemas in London and became in latter years a music and dance venue. Like many others I have fond memories of it. Stand-out ones include seeing Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros there about a year before Joe died. I was surprised by how much of The Clash’s sound was centred on Joe’s voice, how reminiscent it was of the old days at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town – the main difference being that, twenty odd years down the line, after sustained pogoing I was starting to feel sick and my legs were getting numb. Seeing Atlanta’s Arrested Development there was also a kick – following chat and doobers round the corner in Mateo’s crapped up old Brixton Jag, the gig seemed simultaneously 3 minutes and 3 days long.

Coming in to town the other day I bumped into Feargal Sharkey of Derry’s finest The Undertones on the tube platform (I knew he lived in the hood but I’d never seen him around). I introduced myself and we chatted on the train about music digital and live, including the new emphasis on live gigs as an opportunity to make some serious dough. I guess it’s the grime and edge of the Astoria that will be most missed with the advent of super-corporate venues like the O2 (a venue named after a phone network, that says a lot in itself – where’s the magic and colour of names like The Music Machine, The Palais, The Electric Ballroom, The Marquee?). I think the O2 is very well done and there’s a place for it and such venues but the dirt and a bit of background fear added spice to my teenage live music experiences, and I’d hate to see that vanish. As a fairly sheltered 14 year old suburban Londoner meeting the Hardest Man in the World on the way to that Clash gig at the Electric Ballroom was all part of the rich mix of the experience. He was standing at the exit of Camden Town tube in army fatigue trousers, filling those huge khaki pockets with coins extorted from less hard passers-by (i.e. everybody).  He had the standard skinhead cut but was so hard that on his feet were not the de rigueur DMs but plimsoles – that’s how hard he was, he could pull off soft footwear and still terrify all-comers. Music needs a bit of that sort of edge and dirt for its minerals – if the diet is all too processed and clean the taste gets bland and it does nothing to strengthen your body or soul.

More Evidence of Body

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies

As the dust settles in the wake of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies (broadcast in October) and we start cranking up for the next series in March 2009 it’s been a good moment to take stock and assess what kind of impact we had, this time with teens in particular.

In a previous post, Evidence of Body, I pointed out a special characteristic of this cross-platform initiative – unusually you can see, after very little time, evidence of immediate, positive changes of behaviour. That was with reference to the week long series of Embarrassing Bodies in April/May, but the recent 4-part series focused on teenagers yielded much the same kind of clear evidence of real public value.

A quick and pretty unscientific trawl through the comments on the website – this time there were 11,000 submitted over the 6 days around transmission! – reveal actual changes of behaviour; the building of confidence around illnesses perceived as ‘embarrassing’; the prompting of increased openness in discussing such matters; reassurance; clarification; and the encouragement of peer-to-peer support.

Here’s a brief selection to give a feel for the sorts of impact evident across the site:

Changes of behaviour

From Ellie [in Vulva Gallery]
thanks teenage bodies thanks to you i’ve had the confidence to go and have a std test

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From kathryn [in Am I Normal? video]

GREAT show. It encouraged me to go get something checked out =) & I’m sure it encouraged a lot of other teenagers to get stuff thats bothering them checked out!

Thanks so much

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Building confidence

[in Vaginal Prolapse]

This site and video is soooo useful and informative!!! I feel more confident to see my GP and look him/her in the eye and state my problem.

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[in Am I Normal? – Vagina]

I was worried about how i looked “down there” but this video made me realise everybody is different and that it’s completely normal to worry.

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From Alice [in Breast Gallery]

I always thought, since my breasts our a coned shape and not fully shaped yet or may stay like this that it isn’t normal…but in fact it is!
Gosh it is amazing to see all the different variety :)
TV models or whatever can go stuff themselves, they fooled me into believing that mine weren’t a good shape!
I feel more confident now, even if they are small :)

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From Isabella [in Enlarged Labia]

This is obviously alot more common then what people think, so lets not feel embarrassed!! Because like alot of you, I am pretty relieved that i’m not the only one! lol. and it’s never affected my sex life

:) Hope everyone feels alot more confident, by reading everyones stories. Thanks Channel 4

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Saving lives

From Sinead [in How to Check your Testicles]

After watching your show, my husband decided to check himself one night whilst having a shower. To his shock he found a lump. He went straight to his doctor and within a week he had surgery for testicular cancer, needs to have a few more scans, but thanks to the show he managed to find it in time.

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Encouraging openness

From Sarah

I think this programme and website is the best thing for young and older people. Theres not alot of publicity about embarrassing problems espesh about problems or worries down below.

Yes theres GUM clinics and doctors you can talk to but just knowing that doesnt make you feel comfortable talking about it. Maybe no one will feel confortable talking about it, i know that i didnt but i think the more publicity about it, the more people will talk about it.

I never had any sex education at school, only to tell you about the different STI’s out there and i dont think schools really do enough.

This programme is amazing. Well done everybody :D

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Prompting preventive health activity

From shannon [in Am I Normal?: After Sex]

these videos hav helped me check my self down below and now me and my friends have been comfitable talking to each other about our pubity problems!!!

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Reassuring

From Beth [in Anal Fissure]

Oh My!!! This Is Exactly What I Have Been Looking For!!!
I Was Worried Because I Was Told I May Have Colon Cancer :(
Thanks Ever So Much Guys! x”

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From Katie [in Gonorrhoea]

Hi! This program was a great help to lots of teens and raised alot of awareness. i am 16 and have only had one sexual partner, … i am worried that i may have caught something but i am too shy to go to the doctors about it. i have read the above comments and am pleased i am not alone :S

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[in Ingrowing Pubic Hair]

I find this so embarrassing… but i’m glad to know i’m not the only one.

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Clarifying what is ‘normal’

From James [in Penis Gallery]

i think this page is great.
its good to know all the sizes out there and know i am normal
thank you so much

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Peer to peer advice

From Chris [in Hyperhidrosis]

i sweat a lot under my arms, for no apparent reason. im not always even warm. i have driclor and have never properly used it because it stung. so now ive read these comments i think i’ll definately give it a go! thank you :)

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From Tom [in Dandruff]

Im 17 and I have dandruff and i use head and shoulders and it never seems to work. and its really embarrasing and annoying especially when im with the girlfriend
:( thanks to everyone for the tips i shall try them out

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[in Enlarged Labia]

I have it too… Lol, This is well embarassing. I’m only 14 so I haven’t had any sexual experience but it does make me worry a little bit what a future boyfriend might think…however, some of these comments are quite empowering…thank you all, I feel a little better now!

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From Matt [in Testicular Cancer]

BLOKES, GO TO THE DOCTOR, IT TAKES LIKE NO TIME AT ALL, I HAVE BEEN ABOUT MY GENITALS LOOOADS OF TIMES AND IM ONLY 19.

NOW IM WORRY FREE =]

i posted this for some support :D”

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[in Enlarged Labia]

i am so glad i’ve actually found this website, because it has really helped me reading all these comments about other people that have this problem. i haven’t actually told anyone, and i’ve never been in a proper sexual relationship because i am so embarrassed about what they would think. … i’ve tried to mention it to my friends when we watched the program, but they all found it weird and strange – so i didn’t dare say that i had it too. i have no confidence but it has helped me reading all your comments! thank you :)

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Helping diagnosis

From Mellissa [in Tinnitus]

omg! hooray to your program for quite alot of years i have learnt to live with tinnitus not knowing what it was until now docters just say there’s nothing wrong and my ear is clean. i had explained i had a pulsing in my ear and i’ve been ignored watched your show and came on to your site only to find out what i have been suffering with im glad to say it’s not caused by loud music in teenage life i did bang my head really badly and i’m sure thats when it started i feel relieved but disgusted that my docter shrugged it off. … thank you so much i’m going to have it looked at anyway just to be sure. x

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Engaging content

[in Consultation: Breast Reduction]

A very very brave lady. that video is very interesting in fact i think all your videos are very interesting. good on ya girl

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From James [in Penis Gallery]

Great site. You just don’t see this sort of thing anywhere else and it’s really important

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Raising awareness

From Becca [in Problem Piercings]

Personnaly I think that teenagers in todays society need to be more aware of all aspects of problems in and out of the body. More needs to be done to ensure that this is happening. This programme is really helping me and my teenage friends. Thank you and please continue helping other people.

Update 17.12.08: You may like to comment on the above – or address some further questions about how preventive healthcare is most engagingly presented – over on The TV Show website at Channel 4.

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 20 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D's suggestion - House of Windsor]

13 Erno Goldfinger – typifies the brutalist school of architecture [not sure this is exactly the right culprit but the notion, of Practical Psychologist, is spot on]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21

22

23

24

25

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words...] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words...] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

Bubbling under: [date added]

Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I'm not sure about this one, keep wavering]

Paranoia Twitter-style – part 2

Twitter Paranoia

Twitter Paranoia

First a Russian idiot and now the blank generation… No followers, no updates, just me in his/her/its sights. Why me?

I tried calling the Paranoia Helpline but they asked me to ‘please hold while your call is traced’.

Eventually I calmed down a bit about the whole thing, and then got this funny feeling I was being Googled…

What is it worth?

Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills

Holding Hands: Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills & Neil Young

We parked up by Goldhawk Road tube (always echoes of Jimmy the Mod for me) and walked back past the Pie, Mash, Liquor and Eel shop to my most unloved venue in London, the Empire in Shepherd’s Bush. Stephen Still’s blast from the past included his underground classic ‘51.5076 0.134352′ and concluded with ‘For What It’s Worth’ which resonated in a particular way after another week of global economic disintegration. What is it worth?

There’s something happening here
[the day before yesterday rounds off a 20% FTSE fall]

What it is ain’t exactly clear
[although I think we’ve all got a good sense of broadly what territory we’re in – how we got there is a bit more confounding]

There’s a man with a gun over there
[currently a cold-hearted woman, life-long member of the NRA: “our leaders, our national leaders, are sending soldiers out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”]

Telling me I got to beware
[are they really going to elect a man who keeps calling the electorate “my friends” in a manner devoid of warmth or friendship?]

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
[there’s a real opportunity here, with the merry-go-round ground to a halt, to get off the ride that goes nowhere]

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep
[anxiety is seeping out of every opening crack]

It starts when you’re always afraid

[yet fear is what holds us back individually and collectively]

You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

What’s that sound? It’s mud falling on a coffin lid. It’s ancient song shot through with deepest pain. It’s the sound of a single man burying 20,000 bodies one by one. On Tuesday Rev. Leslie Hardman MBE died. He featured as a key character  in a docudrama, The Relief of Belsen, commissioned by Channel 4 which was shown almost a year ago to the day (15.X.07).  He was one of the first Allied soldiers (an army chaplain) in to the Bergen-Belsen death camp in North-West Germany when it was liberated in May 1945. Auschwitz had been liberated by the Russians a couple of months of months earlier but it was Belsen that gave us in Britain our first terrifying view of what was going down. This was Richard Dimbleby’s report from the camp…

“Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which … The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days.

This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.”

Leslie Hardman was a man who knew what’s worth what. He insisted on burying each of the 20,000 corpses that confronted him as an individual with an individual ceremony (no question of mass burial). He restored in death the dignity they had been denied in life.

In a tribute to him on Radio 4 this morning, a resonant phrase from Kierkegaard (via psychiatrist Viktor Frankl) was cited to capture the man he was : The door to happiness opens outwards. 

Leslie Hardman dealt with the chaos he experienced in the front-line by dedicating himself to the well-being of others.

As Jonathan Sacks (the Chief Rabbi of the UK) put it on the same radio programme: He Chose Life. Now I always thought  – and this was reinforced by the Glasgow office of Channel 4 which has the words engraved on the glass of the entrance – that “Choose Life” comes from FilmFour’s Trainspotting. But apparently it comes from Moses in the Old Testament: ” I place before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. … Choose life that you and your descendants shall live”

  (which echoes what his predecessor and my namesake was told:  “You may choose for yourself, for it is given to you.”)

Now Jim (the God, not the Mod), much though I respect him, summarised his approach as being to “get his kicks before the whole shithouse goes up”. As things fall apart, I’d say the rock-striking prophet is a better bet than the pose-striking rock god: Choose Life. Choose sustainable living. Choose actually creating something instead of gambling nothing. Choose holding hands not holding hostages. Choose what’s going up. Choose what’s of real worth.

One world, one nightmare

[written and published elsewhere shortly after the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony; published here the day before the closing ceremony including an 8-minute hand-over slot to London 2012]

Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - face and voice

Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - face and voice

I dreamt I saw thousands of people moving in unison in circles. I dreamt they were so numerous that the incredible spectacle looked as ultimately unconvincing as CGI. I dreamt I saw children singing songs so simple (so not made up by children) they were bland and charmless – We plant trees, we sow seeds, the land turns green. The air turns brown. We wear masks. I dreamt I saw teenage girls swaying for hour after hour as country after country filed past, filming the filmers on their made in China handycams. Getting tired? Keep swaying happily girls or it’s the labour camp for you. Meanwhile back in the labour camp, some months earlier: OK, lads, here’s the choice – break rocks or learn this little dance. I dreamt I saw some other lads goose-stepping in black boots. Tanks filing past, missile launchers, fly-bys. One world, one dream. One tank, one student. Meanwhile, some miles away: 150 tanks roll into Georgia. Georgian army 11,320 – Russian army 395,000. Georgian population 4.63m – Russian population 140.7m (though due to halve by 2050). Georgian annual military expenditure $380m – Russian military expenditure $59,100m. How much did this spectacle cost? How much does China spend on education per year? I dreamt I saw no flag from Tibet. I dreamt I saw unison not unity. I dreamt I saw bird cages in a bird’s nest. People moving in small circles. I dreamt of the Mordillo cartoon I cut out as a kid. “We’re all different!” shout out the identical looking mass of people. “I’m not!” shouts out one of them. One party, one line. I dreamt I saw something which sub-consciously summarised what others fear.

In 2012 to follow these people making a spectacle of themselves, partying to the tune of the Party, London must be itself, tune in to its idiosyncratic, eccentric, spirited creativity (one thing that cannot be manufactured); its rich mix of cultures and peoples; its unique, particular, genuine handmade in Britain talent; its individual dreams which thread the tapestry of its Jerusalem spirit.

Post-script 23.08.08:

As it turned out, some of it was CGI (the footprints across the city sequence as shown on TV across the globe). The ‘lovely children’s singing’ turned out to be voiced by the little girl with crooked teeth whilst the pretty little girl provided the acceptable face. And those various ethnic groups represented by children dressed up in various ethnic costumes turned out to be not very ethnically mixed at all. So after two weeks of great sport, it still looks like a bit of authenticity, eccentricity, diversity and deep-down creativity should go a long way.

Post-script 26.8.08:

Went to Trafalgar Square on Sunday to watch the Olympics hand-over communally. Within the 8 minute British 2012 intro perhaps the most interesting moment was when David Beckham kicked the football into the serried ranks of the Chinese performers (seemingly not where it was planned to go – how very England FC of him). For just a moment the fine-tuned order was disrupted as a lone individual nabbed the ball and showed a brief glimpse of genuine delight.

Evidence of Body

embarrassing bodies

embarrassing bodies

It’s unusual to be able to see the direct impact, in terms of actual changes of behaviour, produced by a public service interactive project but in the case of Embarrassing Bodies this has been possible. A quick trawl through the comments on the site yields such evidence (there were over 3,500 pre-moderated comments in the first four days of going fully live). The core of the project is a set of Self-check videos. What’s so innovative about that? Primarily their openness, clarity and unflinching nature – very Channel 4 and it just wasn’t out there before in the ocean of web video. They show you what you need to see to be able to do what you need to do. The most telling comments for me are the ones where people realise they’d been checking themselves wrongly before seeing the video.

Another salient component is the creation of a rolling temporary community. I never set out to build a community per se. I was also keen not to reinvent the wheel of support provision in this area. So the dynamic is that people arrive in a just-in-time, task-oriented way – looking for the condition they are worried about (through any of the three search mechanisms). They then tend to hang out in the community just long enough to find which is the best support group or other help to plug into. In this way Embarrassing Bodies online becomes the glue to pull together a wealth of existing support and enable the best to emerge through detailed personal recommendation, rather than treading on the toes of niche communities and specialised support.

One other aspect worth highlighting is the use of the private space of the mobile phone (away from browser histories and prying parental eyes etc.) to enable people to make use of the material where, when and how they want – 12,000 mobile downloads occurred in those first 4 days. My hunch, for reasons including privacy and access, is that mobiles should play a major role in public service interactive media – from my observation, people in our circles get too obsessed with PC-/web-based delivery.

So here’s what 15 minutes trawling the comments reveals:

“this has helped me to make my mind up and go for help thank you

Really helpfull and i now check at least once a week …. Thank-you x

watched various videos and found them very very useful. wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about some of these subjects with my doctor. they have taken the mystery out of the examination and treatment. thank you.

i suffer from this too, and its not something you like going to the doctors about. This site has been SO HELPFUL, as i now know its not only me!!

thank god 4 this website i am so grateful. it has started 2 get me down. (…) I had tests done then chicken out on the results. seein this has made me book an appointment with my doctor. its such a relief knownin im not the only person sufferin, thankyou!!!

i found all 3 self checking very useful. we all know we should do it but not nessesary how and are too embarressed to ask our own GP. i check my breasts yet i’ve been doing it wrong the video was an ideal way to show me the basics.

Hi, i just watched this video and checked my balls and i actually found a small hard lump on my left testicle, im only 16 is there any chance it could be cancerous (sorry if the spelling is wrong)?!

Thanks so much this has been so informative. My auntie died last year from Vulval cancer, not knowing that she was suffering from it. Now I know what symptoms to look for and how to self check I will do so regularly.
[Vulva Self-check]

Although now middle aged I was never sure when you were supposed to check your breasts. Thanks to your program I now know when and how. Many thanks and keep up the good work.

My boyfriend refuses to check his balls so thanks for the guide on how to as now i can do it for him.

WOW, i never knew how to do this check, i’m so grateful for this video its helped me immensely. thankyou
[Breast Self-check]

Interestingly, my friend watched “Embarassing Illnesses” last week, and they did something on checking moles, so he checked his out and noticed one had changed colour, so he went to get it checked and it does in fact need to be removed. So these programmes do something towards awareness!

i had it but i went to the doctors and now am recovered thanks !!”

This throws up the interesting question of how does public service networked media measure success and impact? Here we have evidence of positive behavioural change. For me the Comments stats are very telling. Then you’ve got video views. Return visits. UGC uploads. Session lengths. Buzz radiating across the Web. All manner of metrics. I’d argue that for most projects you can pick out a specific measure which captures the essence of the project, and which measure that is will vary from project to project.

Fear and Sex

Daily Mail

An oldie but goldie that came to mind when first reflecting on this subject on SP4:

Q: What comes between Fear and Sex?

A: Funf

One for the cunning linguists.

So the subject is Fear. From day-to-day personal development to the realm of global politics it’s a big driver – and very destructive.

I thought it would be interesting to try this experiment – take a newspaper at random (in this case the copy of the Daily Mail for Wed 21 May I was given getting on the plane to Glasgow that afternoon) and analyse it in terms of how big a role Fear plays in its headlines. I reckoned Fear’s main rival would be Sex.
I worked my way through the first 25 pages [the news pages] recording every headline without exception (they all fitted into either the Fear or Sex category). From page 26 to the Sports pages at the end I kept just a selection (though still the majority). Here’s the results:

Fear

Fathers not required (gender roles, redundancy)
IVF vote sidelines fathers
The girl crushed to death by a tree in freak bus crash (random death)
Pupils aged five get a spell in the sin bin (youth delinquency)
The prickly prince (decline of monarchy/social order)
Spend-it-all parents give their children a bad heir day (where money meets death) Party leaders at war on abortion (death before you’re even born)
10p tax debacle could still cost families £150 a year
With no friend, I really am a Solitary Man says Diamond (loneliness)
Let us strike say police (social disorder, crime)
Our editors have total freedom says Mail chief (lies, misinformation)
15 beers, 20 vicious punches… and 6 months in jail for England footballer
Soaring oil prices push diesel near £6 a gallon
The power bills stitch-up
Police car that killed girl of 16 ‘didn’t have blue lights or siren on’ (random death meets social disorder)
The micro-particles that could pose the same risk as asbestos
1M more Britons in just 3 years (immigration, foreigners)
We moved to escape the FEAR of crime
Beware scentists who insist they know best (science)
Sorry Fergie, I can’t stomach you or your porky pies (social disorder)
Where did all the real men go?
Why this horror makes me FEAR for the future of South Africa
Care home chief is jailed over death of Alzheimer’s patient (disease meets social disorder, distrust)
Suicide note in star’s pocket
Why do clever women fall for second-rate men?
Bosses ‘picked on’ registrar opposed to gay marriages
Tax payers will fund Sky ‘propaganda’ show
Labour’s pledge on farm cash in tatters
Milk float mobsters

Sex

Vicar’s war on ‘wicked’ Playboy (moral decline)
Gwyneth’s hitting the heights again
The real battle for Moscow (Wags)

Beyond p25

Bad parents are the villains of the age says Cameron
Crooked dentist put a dog on his list of patients
Heroic undercover soldier Robert Nairac was savagely tortured by the IRA
Exchange trip girl was killed jogging with iPod
Long-term care: a national disgrace
Insurers pocketing your pension
Don’t fall for this card trick
Fuming over BT cold call (anger)
Our care system? chaotic
So furious he’s lost for words
Will new stem cell research create monsters?
We work hard, but Britain doesn’t repay us
Yell cries out as £3.8bn debts pile on the pressure
House price crash could jeopardise Rock’s recovery
ICAP takes a dive
The mining prop begins to creak
Oil-rich Russian economy ready to takes off (money meets foreigners)
Shaw future in doubt
Make sure greed does not wreck 20Plenty
Horne is braced for long lay-off
It’s over for Faldo as he gives Open a miss (aging, mortality)
Essien won’t risk penalty pain
Why is it we can’t love Rooney?
Usmanov’s knives out for Gunners
Moscow’s hell, Michel
Guns, concrete and football’s new power base

What surprised me most was how little competition from Sex there was. Scary!

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