Coincidences No.s 291, 292 & 293

adam gee lecture at nua norwich on creative thinking

No. 291 Crudo

I get off the tube at Bank on my way to Norwich today (to give a lecture on Creative Thinking at NUA) and hear my name called across the platform. It is an old colleague & friend of mine from Channel 4. We greet each other and he notices I’m holding a book in my hand, my reading material from the tube journey. He asks me what the book is. “Crudo, we’re reading it for my book group.” “She’s one of my best friends, Olivia Laing [the author].”

crudo olivia laing novel book cover

On top of those coincidences (the meeting and the book), I get on the train at Liverpool Street and look up Olivia Laing as I know nothing about her and the book is unusual and intriguing. It turns out she comes from the village of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.

A few minutes later I’m still arsing about on my phone. I have been approached to connect by a person on LinkedIn, a director called Jacques Salmon, whose name doesn’t ring a bell. I look at his profile. He went to school at Chalfont Community College in Chalfont St Peter.

No. 292 Stay Human

A bit later in the journey I am looking up one of the people featured in Michael Franti’s new documentary Stay Human, the UK premiere of which I saw last night at Bush Hall. It spotlighted the work of an amazing midwife-activist called Robin Lim.

As I text the link to my Other Half (who came to the film and accompanying gig last night and was particularly taken by Robin and her work) a notification appears on my phone – Michael Franti has just liked a photo I posted on Instagram after the event yesterday.

tweet liked by michael franti

michael franti at bush hall london 15 January 2019

No. 293 Jung

I spend the day in Norwich, Norfolk. The county has been on my mind since listening to my friend Tim Wright’s Curiously Specific podcast, the latest episode being about The Eagle Has Landed which is set in Norfolk (where Tim hails from). [see also No. 289]

I bought a DVD of the movie of The Eagle Has Landed to rewatch it after hearing the podcast on Sunday. It arrived in the post today so I start watching it this evening (I haven’t seen it since it came out in 1976). As I’m watching one of the early scenes Robert Duvall (playing Colonel Radl) talks about Jung (” a great thinker”) and his notion of ‘Synchronicity’, arguably the essence of these posts. An item of intelligence about Churchill visiting a stately home near the Norfolk coast would normally be of little interest but by coinciding with Hitler’s crazy notion of kidnapping Churchill it suddenly becomes full of meaning.

the eagle has landed film movie robert duvall colonel radel

The term ‘Synchronicity’ (Synchronizität) was coined by analytical psychologist Carl Jung to signify, as I understand it, the acausal connection of two or more physical, psychological or psychic phenomena. He introduced the notion in the 1920s but didn’t gave a full statement of it until 1951.

This concept came to him through a particular patient’s case that was at an impasse. One night she dreamt of a golden scarab. The next day, during this same patient’s psychotherapy session, an insect crashed into  the window of Jung’s office. Jung caught it and found to his astonishment  that it was a golden scarab,  very unusual in that climate.

So, the concept is all about coincidence – in this case, between the scarab dreamt by the patient and its appearance in reality in the psychotherapist’s office – a meaningful coincidence of physical and psychological phenomena that are acausally connected. Jung considered that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal connection and yet seem to be significantly related.

He defined Synchronicity variously throughout his career – as an “acausal connecting principle”, “meaningful coincidence” and “acausal parallelism.” In 1952 Jung published a paper “Synchronizität als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge” (Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle). Jung used the concept to argue for the existence of the paranormal.

In collecting coincidences in my life I have come across some that have no possible rational explanation. These are few. More numerous are ones that are not logical but come down to something being in the air. Plenty can be rationalised.

carl jung psychoanalyst

Forever Jung

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Lost Postcards No.2

old postcard berlin henry ainley

The second recently re-found old postcard from my small, random collection

old postcard berlin henry ainley

This one cost me a massive 20p (pencilled on the back). I think I bought it because it reminded me of Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde.

Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) by Frederick H. Evans (c.1894)

Aubrey Beardsley (1872 – 1898) by Frederick H. Evans (c.1894)

The postcard was “Manufactured in Berlin”. Oddly it specifies “For Inland use only” – as it’s written in English I assume it means in Britain not Germany.

The sitter is quite androgynous as you can see.

Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (1870–1945) is best known as Oscar Wilde’s lover, and is often blamed for his downfall.

Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas (1870–1945) is best known as Oscar Wilde’s lover, and is often blamed for his downfall.

The name ‘Henry Ainley’ is printed at the bottom.

It turns out Henry Hinchliffe Ainley died the same year as Bosie. His dates are 21st August 1879 – 31st October 1945. He was an English actor of stage and screen, specialising in Shakespeare.

He was born in Leeds and brought up in Morley by father Richard, a cloth finisher, and mother Ada. He moved to London to pursue his career in acting. He made his professional stage debut as a messenger in Macbeth with F.R. Benson’s company.  Later he joined Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s company. He first came to prominence in 1902 as Paolo in Paolo and Francesca.

He played Gloucester in Henry V at the Lyceum in London. Ainley returned to Leeds to appear at the Grand Theatre. Later roles included Oliver Cromwell, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and the lead in Macbeth. In 1912 he portrayed Malvolio and then Leontes under the direction of Harley Granville-Barker. He played Hamlet several times, including a 1930 production which was selected for a Royal Command Performance.

John Gielgud thought highly of Ainley and had a long-standing ambition to perform with him which he eventually fulfilled when he played Iago to Ainley’s Othello in a 1932 BBC Radio broadcast. Gielgud however described Ainley’s Prospero as “disastrous”, recalling it in 1996 (in The Sunday Times).

Ainley played Shakespeare on screen in Henry VIII (1911) and As You Like It (1936), the latter alongside his son Richard and Laurence Olivier.

Among the other roles Ainley played were: Robert Waring in The Shulamite (The Savoy Theatre, London, 1906.); Joseph Quinney in Quinneys (on stage in 1915 and on film in 1919); in A. A. Milne’s The Dover Road opposite Athene Seyler (1922); the Bishop of Chelsea in Bernard Shaw’s Getting Married (The Haymarket Theatre);  James Fraser in St. John Ervine’s The First Mrs. Fraser (1929 on stage, 1932 on film); and he starred in James Elroy Flecker’s Hassan (on stage and on radio). He was an early example of stage-screen crossover.

His films include:
She Stoops to Conquer (1914)
Sweet Lavender (1915)
Sowing the Wind (1916)
The Marriage of William Ashe (1916)
The Manxman (1917) – not to be confused with the second silent adaptation, directed by Hitchcock twelve years alter (1929)
Build Thy House (1920)
The Prince and the Beggarmaid (1921)
The Royal Oak (1923)
The First Mrs. Fraser (1932)

In 1921 Ainley became a member of the council of RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and was its president from 1931 to 1933.

Ainley led his own own theatre company. In 1932 he helped save the debt-laden Sadler’s Wells theatre. Ainley thought Sadler’s Wells regular Samuel Phelps the “greatest actor of all” and Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson “the greatest of Hamlets”.

Ainley was married three times – to Susanne Sheldon, Elaine Fearon and novelist Bettina Riddle (aka Baroness von Hutten zum Stolzenberg). He had several children, including actors Henry T. Ainley, Richard Ainley and Anthony Ainley, as well as non-thesps Sam and Timothy Ainley. Another off-spring was Henrietta Riddle, who was briefly engaged to journalist Alistair Cooke in 1932.

15 letters in the possession of Olivier’s widow, Joan Plowright, suggest that Ainley may have had a sexual relationship with Dear, Dear Larry in the late 30s. The letters suggest that Ainley was infatuated with Olivier.

Ainley died in London and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. I’ll go visit next time I’m over that way.

henry ainley as romeo in romeo and juliet

As Romeo in ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The photo in my postcard seems to have been taken by Lizzie Caswall-Smith.

henry ainley Photo by Lizzie Caswall-Smith

Lizzie Caswall-Smith (1870-1958) (possibly without hyphen) is pretty interesting in her own right. She was a British photographer who specialised in society and celebrity studio portraits. These were often used for postcards.

Caswall-Smith was associated with the women’s suffrage movement and photographed many suffragettes including Christabel Pankhurst, Flora Drummond and Millicent Fawcett. The other actors she photographed included Camille Clifford, Sydney Valentine, Billie Burke and Maude Fealy. She photographed Florence Nightingale in 1910 (which fetched £5,500 (Nov 2008)). On the back of that particular photograph she had jotted in pencil: “Florence Nightingale taken just before she died, House nr Park Lane (London). The only photograph I ever took out of studio – I shall never forget the experience.”

Caswall-Smith operated the Gainsborough Studio at 309 Oxford Street from 1907 until 1920 when she moved to 90 Great Russell Street. She stayed at that address until her retirement in 1930 (aged 60). She exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in 1902 and 1913. Her portraits of Peter Llewelyn Davies and J. M. Barrie are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

 

 

Lost Postcards No.1

I recently found a few old postcards I thought I had lost. Five to be precise. I think I may have bought them in Ireland, years ago. They are pretty interesting ones so I thought I’d share them here as and when I have time. Here’s the first…

on guard world war one postcard august 1914

on guard world war one postcard august 1914

on guard world war one postcard august 1914

The text reads:

Hope you are not a German if so beware of the dog he looks dangerous and his bite is worse than his bark
hope you are well
E.G.G.

The addressee is:
FW Giddings Esq.
Broom Hill Terrace
Wimbotsham
Downham

Downham is in South-East London near Lewisham – I’m not convinced that’s the right place.
Wimbotsham is in Norfolk – I reckon that’s where Giddings lived. Yes, it’s just north of Downham Market so that’s the spot.

The card was posted in King’s Lynn, only a dozen miles away. It was mailed at 9.30pm (wow, they had a lot of postal collections back in the day) on 22nd August 1914. The First World War had been declared less than a month before on 28th July 1914.

The card was printed in Great Britain (not surprisingly given the design!) and is marked ‘Valentine’s series’ which I think refers to J. Valentine & Co. in Dundee.

Coincidences No.s 288, 289 & 290

These three are mild coincidences but have their own charm.

No. 288 – Michael Franti (11/12:1:19)

Yesterday evening I put in a CD in the car (yes we still have a CD player) – it is an old mixtape, burned for a party. The first track is Everyone Deserves Music by Michael Franti. I haven’t listened to him for ages and it makes me think of the last time I saw him live at Islington Assembly Rooms (May 2014) with Enfant Terrible No. 2 who got to dance with the main man during the show, he picked him out of the crowd. I also recall a great gig at Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush at the height of summer one year which was totally sweaty and wild.

michael franti singer rapper

This evening I open Facebook on my phone and the first item in my feed is an ad for a film premiere and an acoustic gig with Michael Franti at Bush Hall in 3 days time. I buy tickets.

No. 289 Blakeney (11/12:1:19)

I see an Instagram post by my pal Tim Wright about the latest episode in his (and former Channel 4 colleague, author Lloyd Shepherd‘s) new podcast, Curiously Specific. The post mentions various towns/villages in Norfolk because the book being explored in this episode is Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed which is largely set in that area. One of the places written at the foot of the post is Blakeney. It is not a name I know although I must have read it years ago when I read the novel. I download the new episode as I like the book.

Curiously Specific podcast episode 7

Radio 4’s Today programme has a weekly Nature slot on Saturday morning. I catch this morning’s – they have a naturalist from the North-East coast talking about the recent resurgence of the seal population around the islands near Lindisfarne and a couple of other places – including Blakeney.

No. 290 Ipanema (11:1:19)

I am listening to Last Word, the obituary programme on BBC Radio 4. One of the people highlighted is the composer of The Girl from Ipanema, Norman Gimbel. He also wrote the words for Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flack). It makes me think of the time I listened to a lot of Astrud Gilberto and Bossa Nova when I was at uni – and how I must listen to her again soon.

astrud gilberto singer

Astrud Gilberto

I get back home shortly after and settle in front of the box, flicking channels until I get to The Blues Brothers which I haven’t seen in yonks. In the climactic scene, when chaos is going on around the municipal building where Jake & Elwood have barricaded themselves in, the noise of the soldiers and cops outside is contrasted with the muzak in the lift the brothers are taking to the tax office – it is The Girl from Ipanema playing.

blues brothers in elevator lift

 

I

The Casting Game No. 46 – Apple Pair

Paul O’Grady as Tim Cook (boss of Apple)

 

 

paul-o-grady presenter actor

Paul O’Grady

as

Tim Cook apple CEO boss

Tim Cook

Surf Girls Jamaica – out tomorrow

My latest commission for Real Stories is released tomorrow (6pm GMT).

 

Quote of the Day: Joan Baez

You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die or when. But you can decide how you’re going to live now.

Joan Baez – born 9th January

joan_baez_(1965) singer folk

1965

Art Vandals 2: La Pietà

Weapon: Geologist’s Hammer

Reason: Religion, religious delusion

La Pietà,by Michelangelo (1499) sculpture

La Pietà by Michelangelo (1499)

The exquisite Renaissance sculpture La Pietà by Michelangelo was attacked with a hammer in 1972 in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican where it resides. On 21st May a man with a professional interest in stone, geologist Laszlo Toth (then 33), hit the statue 15 times while exclaiming: “I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!” Toth was a Hungarian-born Australian who moved to Rome in June 1971, knowing no Italian. He  wanted to be recognised as Christ. He was born into a Roman Catholic family. He sent letters to Pope Paul VI and tried to meet him, without success.

He chipped the Virgin’s head, nose, left eyelid, neck, veil and left forearm. The forearm fell off and the fingers broke on the ground. Most of the fragments were saved and collected but a few were taken by tourists.

Toth was subdued by other tourists (the good kind), including American sculptor Bob Cassilly, who hit Toth several times as he dragged him away from the Pietà.

The sculpture was repaired and is now shielded by bulletproof glass.

Toth was not charged with a crime (due to his evident insanity) but was sent in January 1973 to a psychiatric institution in Italy for two years. On his release in February 1975 he was deported to Australia. He died in September 2012.

geologists hammer

Art Vandals 1: Ivan the Terrible & His Son Ivan

Weapon: Metal pole (2018) / Knife (1913)

Reason: Politics (2018) / Aesthetics (1913)

ivan the terrible & his son ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 - 1885) russian painting

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883-1885)

The full title is: Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581. It was painted by the Russian Realist painter Ilya Repin between 1883 and 1885. It shows grief-stricken Russian ruler (first Tsar of Russia) Ivan the Terrible cradling his fatally wounded son, Ivan Ivanovich. The father dealt the fatal blow to his son in a fit of rage. It is considered one of Russia’s most famous paintings. It resides in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

It has been vandalised twice – first in 1913 and again in May last year.

25 May 2018

Igor Podporin (37) attacked it with a metal pole, smashing the security glass around the painting. It was one of the security poles used to hold the rope to keep visitors at a distance. He told police he attacked it after drinking vodka. In court he added that he had done it because the painting was “a lie”. Some Russian nationalists believe Ivan the Terrible was not so terrible and his name has been blackened unfairly. (Russian leader depicted as murderous – who’d have thought?)

The canvas was torn in three places though luckily not near the faces and hands of the two characters. The artist had used a heavy canvas so the painting was able to withstand the attack relatively well. The damage was still “serious” and a special group of art experts have been charged with planning and executing the restoration, which is expected to take several years. They have Repin’s notes from the first attack which may help with restoration work.

16 January 1913

Abram Abramovich Balachov attacked the painting with a knife, making three parallel slashes above the faces of the two characters. The then director of the Tretyakov Gallery, Ilya Ostroukhov, resigned. The curator of the Gallery, the landscape painter Georgy Khruslov, was so upset about the attack that he threw himself under a train.

Repin returned to Moscow from Finland to restore the work. Repin thought the attack motivated by extreme dislike of his adopted artistic style which some considered very old-fashioned. He suspected the attack was “the result of that monstrous conspiracy against the classic and academic monuments of art which is daily gathering momentum”.

Balachov’s vandalism was applauded by Symbolist poet Maximilian Voloshin, who published an essay On the significance of the catastrophe that befell Repin’s painting and lectured on the subject, sponsored by Futurists at the Moscow Polytechnic Museum. Repin himself was in the audience and came up to the podium to respond.

At the time of the attack Balashov was removed from the scene shouting: “Enough blood! Down with blood!”

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 - 1885)

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 – 1885)

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 - 1885)

The three slashes of 1913

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 - 1885)

The pole marks of 2018

Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan by Ilya Repin (1883 - 1885)

 

Quote of the Day: Love them anyway

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

This text is known as The Paradoxical Commandments and was written in 1968 by American educator/writer Dr Kent M. Keith – you can read their story here

© Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

hedy_lamarr actress

They are featured being read by Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr in the excellent feature documentary about her life Bombshell (dir. Alexandra Dean) – well worth checking out (DVD, Amazon, Netflix). The film brings to light Lamarr’s role in the invention of channel-hopping communications technology which has been applied to GPS, Wifi and other technologies which underpin modern life. She was never paid a penny by the US military which exploited her patent.

Hedy had a good turn of phrase herself – given she died 17 years almost to the day before Trump was inaugurated how do you like these apples:

American men, as a group, seem to be interested in only two things, money and breasts. It seems a very narrow outlook.

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