Coincidence No. 489 – Malcolm X

I am travelling to Helsinki to do some work with broadcaster YLE and University of Helsinki about Public Service Media and young people. It is a 3-hour flight so the night before I download three programmes on Netflix on my phone. It is the first time I have done this for months. One is a British movie, ‘Northern Soul’. Another is an episode from Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary series. The other is the first episode of the Netflix Original ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’. I just picked the first 3 things I fancied watching. I watch the movie on the way out and the Malcolm X doc on the return journey – today, 21st February.

Malcolm X

The documentary starts. Within seconds it becomes clear that he was killed on 21st February 1965. I had no idea. Today is the 55th anniversary of his assassination.

who killed Malcolm X Netflix documentary

Coincidence No. 488 – Bletchley Park

bletchley park the mansion codebreakers

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

I go to meet my cousin from Melbourne, Australia at my old home tube in Tufnell Park. We have never met before. She has come to London to work as a mathematician at the Alan Turing Institute in King’s Cross. Mention of Turing’s name prompts me to ask whether she has visited Bletchley Park yet? She has. I explain how it was very little known about until Peter Bate, David Darlow & John Smithson made the TV series Station X for my alma mater Channel 4 in 1998. We talk about how the men and women of Bletchley Park did not talk about it for five decades until the interviewees for the programmes got permission from the MoD. We talk about Sue Black who saved Bletchley and who I got to know originally during my time at C4.

I get on the bus to come home. I open my novel, Old Filthy by Jane Gardam, which we are reading for my book group. (I’ve just looked it up because I suspected as much… Jane Gardam is the mother of Tim Gardam, now Principle of St Anne’s College, Oxford, in 2003 Director of Television at Channel 4 when I joined.) This was on the page I was up to and started reading on the top front tourist seat on the 263:

But they had me later in the War at Bletchley Park and there we met again. [NB Bletchley had not been mentioned in the novel before or had any role in the story] Bletchley Park was full of innocent, nice girls (not me) who had a very particular aptitude (crosswords) for solving cyphers and things, as you will be hearing in a year or two when ALL IS TOLD (the fifty year revelation).

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Mansion, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Hut 1, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Hut 1, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Lake, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

The Lake, Bletchley Park (Dec 2019)

Greek Myths and their Symbolism

I’ve been doing a course the last few weeks at City Lit round the corner from Red Bull Media House HQ in Covent Garden. It’s about ‘Greek Myths and their Symbolism’ and I’ve been really enjoying the story patterns and archetypes that have been emerging from the lectures themselves plus my spin-off thoughts as I listened. Here’s one for example…

People Locked In Towers

Daedalus and Icarus were locked in a tower by King Minos

Daedalus and Icarus were locked in a tower by King Minos

The first myth we looked at was that of Daedalus, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. The co-star of my favourite book, Ulysses by James Joyce, was named after Daedalus.

J. W. Waterhouse - I Am Half-Sick of Shadows Said The Lady of Shalott (1915) painting

J. W. Waterhouse – I Am Half-Sick of Shadows Said The Lady of Shalott (1915) who was locked in a tower by Morgana Le Fay

Based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1832 Arthurian poem The Lady of Shalott. The enchantress Morgana Le Fay was jealous of the Lady’s beauty and locked her in the tower with the curse not to be able to look out of the window or she would die. Compare Pandora who could not look inside the box and Psyche who could not look at her secret lover (Eros), invisible in the dark.

The Attic that inspired Jane Eyre's 'madwoman in the attic' Bertha

Mrs Rochester, Bertha Mason, was locked in the attic by her husband

This is the attic that inspired Jane Eyre’s ‘mad woman in the attic’ scenario. It’s in the stately home of Norton Conyers in North Yorkshire, which Charlotte Brontë visited in 1839. Brontë’s character, the mentally ill Bertha Mason, is locked in the attic for ten years by her husband Edward Rochester.

rapunzel Illustration for Household stories Brothers Grimm Jacob and Wilhelm Illustrated by Walter Crane 1920

Illustration for Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm drawn by Walter Crane (London: Macmillan, 1920)

Rapunzel was locked in a tower to keep away randy princes – in the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, first published in 1812 in Children’s and Household Tales. Their version is an adaptation of a story by Friedrich Schulz.

Here’s another pattern spotted…

People Falling Out of the Sky

Icarus flew too near the sun and melted the wax of his wings :: Jacob Peter Gowy's The Flight of Icarus (1635–37)

Icarus flew too near the sun and melted the wax of his wings :: Jacob Peter Gowy’s The Flight of Icarus (1635–37)

.

Phaethon couldn't control the horses of the sun god, his father Helios :: The Fall of Phaethon by Sebastiano Ricci [b. 1659, Belluno - d. 1734, Venice] (1703-04) [Oil on canvas - Museo Civico, Belluno]

Phaethon couldn’t control the horses of the sun god, his father Helios :: The Fall of Phaethon by Sebastiano Ricci [b. 1659, Belluno – d. 1734, Venice] (1703-04) [Oil on canvas – Museo Civico, Belluno]

Like Icarus, Phaethon is an archetypical stroppy teenager. In Jane Austen’s England a Phaeton was a sporty sort of horse-drawn carriage. Trying to drive Helios’ powerful sun-horses before he was ready is a bit like nicking dad’s sports car – see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Gustave Dore Paradise_Lost John Milton satan falling

Satan was cast out of the sky by God :: Gustave Doré’s illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost

 

Free Falling The Amazing Spider-Man #8 Artist: Humberto Ramos (Aug 2019)

Free Falling The Amazing Spider-Man #8 Artist: Humberto Ramos (Aug 2019)

Spider-man regularly falls from the sky mid battle. Falling from the sky is often connected to humans overreaching, striving for the divine or angelic side of our nature.

 

Coincidence No. 776 – Snowdrops

This one I’m writing in the porte-cochère of Beech Hill House, Derry.

I am out for a morning jog and I stop to take this picture of early snowdrops.

As I crouch down I hear in my earbuds this from Kermode & Mayo’s film podcast: “Dear Timely Snowdrop and Early Daffodil” – the coincidence of “snowdrop” and clicking the shutter is exact. They go on to talk about “coincidences (or are they?)”

Note 1: I got married at Beech Hill

Note 2: I was at school with Mark Kermode and Jason Isaacs

Note 3: Hallo, Jason Isaacs

Note 4: Beech Hill was Base One Europe, the first US base on the continent for WW2 – tinkety-tonk and down with the Nazis

High Definition: what’s the point of Cinema?

One of the best definitions of Cinema:

A machine that generates Empathy

Roger Ebert, film critic

dziga Vertov man with a movie camera

Machine with great significance (Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera)

Woody guthrie this machine kills fascists guitar

Machine with great power (Woody Guthrie)

Here’s the full context of the quote: “We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

The Casting Game No. 59

robert downey jnr actor

Robert Downey Jnr

AS

sam-mendes director

Sam Mendes

…at least Mendes looked a lot like Iron Man at the Q&A after the screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square last week.

screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square 9 january 2020

screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square 9 january 2020

9th January 2020

Best of luck to Roger Deakins (one of my 4 first bosses, at Solus), Pippa Harris (whose Wikipedia entry I got rolling after she helped me with the research on this old blog post ) and Nina Gold (who I went to a ball with at uni back when she was called Gould – given the competition this year, getting a look-in on the acting/casting front is rather a long shot) in the Oscar nominations this morning.

Update: 2pm 13/1/20

1917 has been nominated at this year’s Oscars for Best Picture (Pippa and her business partner Sam Mendes); Best Cinematography (Roger – could he pull off a back-to-back Oscar victory? I reckon there’s a very good chance); 8 other nominations including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Original Score, Hair & Make-up, and VFX. We’ll see the outcomes on 9th February.

Best Music of 2019

Just taking a moment to record for posterity/reference the highlights of 2019’s music from a London point of view in the form of the playlist of Robert Elms’ annual New Year’s Eve episode of his Radio London show before it drops off BBC Sounds (Audio on Demand app) in a couple of weeks. (The bolding is my recommendations.)

celeste singer

Celeste

The recorded music and live sessions from his show played by Robert Elms on 31/12/19.

  1. Bob James Trio
 – Ain’t Misbehavin’
  2. Hiss Golden Messenger – 
I Need A Teacher
  3. 
Jack Savoretti
 – Catapult (Radio London Session, 15 Jan 2019)
  4. Monkey House
 – 10,000 Hours [shades of Steely Dan – in a pleasing way]
  5. Danny Toeman – 
She’s Got Something About Her (Radio London Session, 8 Aug 2019)








 [shades of 70s soul – in a groovy way]
  6. Emily King – 
Look At Me Now
  7. 
HAIM
 – Summer Girl
  8. Celeste
 – Lately (Radio London Session, 4 Apr 2019)
  9. Nick Lowe
 – Love Starvation [can still teach the young’uns a thing or two]
  10. Natty Rebel
 – Copper And Lead [fresh roots reggae]
  11. 
Jo Harman – 
Cloudy (Radio London Session, 1 Mar 2019)
  12. Michael Kiwanuka
 – You Ain’t The Problem [contender for LP of the year]
  13. Ralph McTell
 – West 4th Street & Jones (Radio London Session, 27 Nov 2019) [lovely reflection on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – a cover I own the original contact sheet from by photographer Don Hunstein]
  14. Paul Weller
 – You Do Something To Me (Live At Royal Festival Hall, 2018) [just a great song]
  15. Kat Eaton – 
Barricade
  16. Monks Road Social
 – If It Was All Down To Me
  17. Bruce Springsteen
 – There Goes My Miracle [his singing is impeccable on this]
  18. Kelly Finnigan
 – I Called You Back Baby [shades of Aretha – in a funky way]
  19. 
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – 
Texas Sun
  20. The Divine Comedy – 
Norma And Norman (Radio London Session, 7 Jun 2019)








 [quirkiness at its best]
  21. Teskey Brothers
 – Pain And Misery (Radio London Session, 11 Feb 2019)








 [shades of Otis – in a surprising way]
  22. The James L’Estraunge Orchestra – 
Closer [shades of Aztec Camera – a lone Scot in his bedroom making an astonishingly big sound, playing everything himself]
  23. Durand Jones & the Indications
 – Morning In America [shades of Gil-Scott Heron – in a respectful way]
  24. Greentea Peng
 – Risin’ (Radio London Session, 24 Oct 2019)
  25. 
Gabriella Cilmi
 – Ruins
  26. 
Lissie
 – Dreams
  27. The Delines
 – Eddie & Polly (Radio London Session, 4 Nov 2019)
  28. Roseanne Reid
 – Amy [offspring on a Proclaimer]
  29. The Brand New Heavies & N’Dea Davenport
 – These Walls
  30. Maisie Peters – 
Favourite Ex (Radio London Session, 2 Aug 2019)
  31. 
Leif Vollebekk
 – The Way That You Feel
  32. Richard Hawley
 – My Little Treasures
  33. 
Judi Jackson
 – Better In The Fall (Radio London Session, 20 Mar 2019)
  34. Geraint Watkins
 – Heaven Only Knows
  35. Ady Suleiman
 – Strange Roses (Radio London Session, 7 Mar 2019)
  36. Jamie Cullum
 – Drink (Radio London Session, 10 Jun 2019)
  37. Yola
 – Faraway Look

    The original programme [3 hours] is here  but will disappear at the end of January 2020.

Greentea Peng


Greentea Peng
 – more proof that young music is alive & kicking in London

Quotation: Working at Art

emile zola quotation

It ain’t easy…

Or is it for some people?

10,000 hours…

Or the right gene combo?

The Casting Game No. 58 – Messiah Complex

michelle monaghan eva messiah actress netflix

Michelle Monaghan (Eva in Netflix’s Messiah)

AS

michael jackson singer

Michael Jackson (singer of Earth Song)

michael jackson singer earth song the brits 1996

Earth Song at The Brits Awards 1996 where Jarvis Cocker of Pulp accused him of “pretending to be Jesus”

A Good and Purple Heart

This is an extract from a really uplifting and heart-felt blog post by a 52-year old mature student at Yale, ex-military, James Hatch.

In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a group of people who will very likely respectfully disagree with them. I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for agreement from those who “follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for one’s words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.

The full text is here

It’s a brilliant springboard to make 2020 a year of bridge-building, connecting, withholding judgement, seeing what’s good about people and ideas.

building-bridge-lorenzo-quinn

Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Building Bridges’ at the 58th Venice Biennale at the entrance of the Arsenale in the Castello district – May 2019

 

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