One of Oscar’s

oscar wilde

 A couple of interesting quotations I came across this morning (first day back at work so in need of plenty of displacement activity):

“Simple pleasures are always the last refuge of the complex.” – Oscar Wilde

“Pleasure is the object, duty and goal of all rational creatures.” – Voltaire 

“The inward pleasure of imparting pleasure – that is the choicest of all.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Wilde and Voltaire sit on the Shelf of Honour at home, Hawthorne I haven’t read – the man has a point, very Christian too (if you’re into that kind of thing). Difficult to gauge dear, dear Oscar’s without the context – do the Complex need to be more attuned to the Simple Pleasures and come to them earlier? And as for Voltaire, was he being straight in the context? Shi-it, quotations are of limited value after all…

Begin It

An interesting quote from Goethe which crossed my path today with regard to innovation:

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, a chance to draw back… There is one elementary truth – the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and many splendid plans. This is, that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one, that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it, begin it now.”

Di Killer Queen

princess diana

Just finished watching Stephen Frears’ film ‘The Queen’ – well made and moving. Reminds me of two times my path crossed royalty.

When I saw Princess Diana at the premiere of ‘Hear My Song’, Adie Dunbar‘s movie, at the Odeon Marble Arch. Old Josef Locke got up on stage and sang Danny Boy to her.

The other occasion was when I met Prince Phillip at a Barnardo’s conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster (The Wife’s Conference Centre for him i guess). Somehow I knew, even when he was right over the other side of the room, that he was going to come over to me. His yellow teeth would have been stinky on anyone less rich. He asked me what I was doing there, I explained I made films for Barnardo’s. “Do they pay you properly then?” he asked with his famous tact.

The Queen I’ve only ever seen when I walked onto Fleet Street one day only to see the whole royal family drive by on their way back from Saint Paul’s from some kind of memorial service.

I remembered, watching the movie, being in Nevers in France when Charles married Diana and not being bothered to watch the wedding, which surprised my French hosts. I had vague republican tendencies even at that tender age.

The night Diana died I had been at a party at Maggie O’Kane‘s in Tufnell Park. I heard the sad news at around 5 in the morning on the radio in my bed at 19 Carleton Road – where, the following week in the living room I watched the funeral procession leaving London through Hendon and my childhood manor. When I went back to Maggie’s house the next day to pick up something, her husband John Mullen, also a Guardian journo, already had a conspiracy theory. That’s journos for you.

It must have been that Sunday we were in town, lunching at an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden, when I read one of the Sunday papers, the Mail i think – inside was the usual critical stuff about Diana (less topical, more feature-type pieces), in direct contrast to the breaking news on the front which was already canonising her. That’s journos for you.

As Blair says in the film, she made a lot of people happy. And she did a lot of good. So I suppose it’s good to have those strange days captured in this film. Those strange days when my Irish Republican sister-in-law went down to the sea of flowers at Buckingham Palace.

Enterprise the Eden Way

eden

Went to Oli Barrett’s launch of Make Your Mark with a Tenner where Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden project, passed on some experience and wisdom to the students of Stockwell Park High School in Sarf Lunden.Firstly he emphasised the importance of being kind, generous and open in business. Also, trusting in your instinct.Then he expounded on his Tinkerbell Theory – get enough people believing in your vision and it will happen.The former Motorhead producer then laid out the 9 rules that he devised to underpin his business:1 Say hello to a good number of people when you arrive at work every morning 2 Each year read 2 books outside your normal sphere of interest (and review them for your colleagues)

3 ditto with a Concert

4 ditto with a Movie

5 ditto with a Play

6 Get up once a year to make a short speech on ‘Why you like working for me’

7 Make a meal for 40 people at work who help you most to make the most of your day – Tim highlighted how you have different kinds of conversation when you eat together (makes me think of the French word ‘copain’ – it means ‘mate’ or ‘pal’ but literally it is someone you ‘break bread’ with

8 Do one act of anonymous kindness for a stranger each year – a way of sharing your good luck so you’re worthy of it

9 Play the samba drums as a group – Tim drew attention to how all children like to sing and dance, but look what happens to many of us on that front when we grow up

Which points to what these 9 rules are all about, getting/staying in touch with our spirit…

And this is how I try to do that: each day I leave the house saying “I will enjoy my day…”

Black Book

Black Book

Went to a screening of ‘Zwartboek’ (Black Book) attended by the director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Totall Recall, Basic Instinct). It is his first film made in Holland for two decades, since he took up residence in LA.

So it is an engaging blend of European film and American movie. It combines the strong narrative drive of the former, complete with car chases and tense thriller moments, with the complex characterisation of the latter and precise sense of historical moment.

Verhoeven has that easy Dutch charm and (to my ears) irresistable accent (I think of my old friend Mirjam saying “lecker”) and speaks interestingly about gradually losing the passion in his projects, hence this return to Europe for a passion project, seemingly some 20 years in the gestation. He has applied the storytelling backbone and action forms of Hollywood to a complex political and historical subject with many shades of grey.

The lead actress, Carice van Houten, a theatre performer well known in the Netherlands, is very charismatic and accomplished. Verhoeven said he knew she had the lead role, Ellis, which demands being on screen for most scenes of a long movie, within 20 minutes of the casting session, the kind of casting he could never have done with a Hollywood name (they deem any such thing an insupportable insult). He carried on casting for a couple of days but knew he had his woman.

The emotional core of the film is subtly contained in the bedroom scenes, indeed in the bed, of Ellis, the undercover Jewish resistance member, and Muntze, the Nazi commander. A strange love develops between them which is entirely convincing. It is here that the emotional experience is focused – more than the slaughter of betrayed Jews and even the unwarranted humiliation of an innocent ‘collaborator’.

It would be good to see more European fiilms with the high entertainment values of this thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking work.

Death of a President

Death of a President (More4)

 

Went to a screening a few days before its premiere on More4 of ‘Death of a President’, the new FilmFour/More4 production which has caused so much fuss in the good ol’ US of A. Peter Dale, head of More 4, attended along with the commissioner, Liza Marshall.

It’s an original and imaginative way to explore current affairs and the political landscape in the US and beyond. Set just into the future, President Bush gets assasinated on 17th October 2006, it charts the build up a la JFK with a pretty sympathetic portrait of George W highlighting his affability and charm. Then in the wake of a grassy knoll-type shooting outside a hotel in Chicago, it shows the US domestic fall-out of the assasination, drama-doc style with excellent performances by US theatrical actors as forensic scientists, suspects, presidential aids, etc.

It has the genuine emotion in it essential to engaging drama – you don’t feel good watching Bush’s wife going in to the hospital or seeing him on the operating table, and you believe the welling eyes of his speech-writer. Less believable is the botched FBI investigation where a prime suspect is overlooked in the hysterical pressure of having to tie-up the case quickly. The interweaving of news footage, security footage, familiar TV documentary forms and recreations of all of the above is masterful, from the team who brought The Day Britain Stopped to BBC TV.

The film highlights the dangers of the Patriot Act route and the seething resentment growing around Iraq. What’s best about it is that it represents a bold new way of exploring politics, history and current affairs using imagination, speculation and entertainment. I said to Peter at the end that we should be proud that the questions have been asked from this side of the water by a daring, creative Public Service broadcaster. It would never come out of the good ol’ US of A.

Dance like a Monkey

johnny cash 2

Just watched the New York Dolls performing live on Jonathan Ross’s show – David Johansen has become an Elder Statesman of punk, got that white shoe cool about him. They were a huge influence via Malcolm McLaren but I came straight into the English mainstream of punk with The Buzzcocks and The Clash, only circling back to NYC through Patti Smith and a brush with Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

Now I’m sitting here watching a documentary about Mose Allison with Van, Georgie Fame, Pete Townsend and Elvis Costello. Never saw the roots of My Generation in the blues til Pete demonstrated the Mose influence.

And earlier I was watching Walk the Line with U and, after the delight of Folsom Prison Blues, revelled in the conjunction of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and that whole Memphis holy rock’n’roll vibe.

There’s a physics thing about music I really love, the transmission of energy from generation to generation, place to place, Groove’s Law, a biology thing, the evolution of the beat, dance like a monkey, soar like an angel.

 

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When I was just a baby

My Mama told me: “Son,

Always be a good boy,

Don’t ever play with guns.”

But I shot a man in Reno

Just to watch him die.

When I hear that whistle blowin’

I hang my head and cry.

Warmth


I really love this picture in todays’ Sun from this week’s Ryder Cup in Ireland – it’s not that often in celebrity life that you see genuine emotion and warmth. Darren Clarke and Tiger Woods are golf circuit friends and this is the moment Clarke wins the Ryder Cup – below is the moment they first meet following the death from breast cancer of Clarke’s wife, Heather.

Clarke and Woods 2

I made a 4-minute documentary recently on Channel 4’s FourDocs exploring the notion of human warmth, community and connection called Spark.

Stealing a Nation

Diego Garcia

Went to a screening last night of John Pilger’s Stealing a Nation (2004) as part of the John Pilger Festival at The Barbican – a treat for U who’s a big admirer of Pilger’s work.

The film was typical Pilger – a well constructed exposition of the plight of the Chagos Islanders and an illustration of how the powerful treat the ordinary man. In the 60s the British turfed the population off the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Island group (south of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean) – a population dating back three or four generations to the 18th century – in order to enable the USA to build a strategic military base there. The islanders were dumped in the main town of Mauritius where they found it practically impossible to fit in and in effect a population of 2,000 pined, declined and gave in to what they call Sadness. For over two decades they have been fighting to expose the British callousness and cover-up and despite conclusive victories in the courts they are still being kept in sad exile.

After the screening we heard from Olivier Bancoult, who is leading the islanders’ struggle for justice, driven by his indefatigable mother and her generation of women, well represented in Stealing a Nation; the British lawyer featured in the film who is championing the case and the barrister, Maya Lester, a friend of my best friend; and the producer Chris Martin (not of Coldplay fame). Had a chat with Chris after the discussion about the impact of the decline of ITV on documentary making and the opportunities of interactive networked media to build up the audience and impact of this kind of campaigning film.

The need to be in touch with your native soil is critical for Happiness and you could really feel the pain of seperation in the film. The saddest thing is you can see how the British government can string this out for a few more years and watch the native Chagosians die off, putting significantly more distance between the islanders and their motherland.

 You can find out about this appalling story at the UK Chagos Support Association website.

Touched by Fire

Van Gogh self-portrait

Stephen Fry’s programme the other evening on BBC2 on bipolarity/manic depression (The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive) was astoundingly honest and brave – both on his part and pretty much all of the contributors.

There were some jolting moments – the revelation the mild mannered egg-head had been in prison, the notion of taking coke to calm down, his reaction to hearing he was way up there on the bipolar scale of the Cardiff research doctor – and there were moments of lightness – the picture of the art deco bar with the barmen in white jackets which he saw as a delicious nut house.

What was the heart of the programme was the question of whether the various suffers featured would erase the condition from their life if they could. All but one opted to keep it in their lives – as the ex-Royal Navy commander said – the suffering is worth it “when you’ve walked with angels”.

I’ve always been impressed by how people manage to live with such suffering and depression. I remember as a child listening to my old colleague Phillip Hodson in the dark on his LBC radio phone-in. Phillip would quickly establish what the Real Problem was (as opposed to what they started talking about) and it was humbling to hear how a woman managed to live day-to-day with extreme agrophobia or whatever the huge boulder the wretched caller was rolling up the hill day after day after day…

It’s truly a wonder so few of us take an early bow. But on the other hand, we have the miracle of birth and parenthood, the power of Love, and the Simple Pleasures of life to balance that out. Not to mention Jeeves & Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

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