Archive for the ‘coincidences’ Category

4 things Kubrick predicted in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

2001 a space odyssey kubrick movie

I have been reading a slim volume on documentary-making this week and in it it had a resonant quotation from John Grierson’s wife, Margaret. The book, by the magnificently surnamed Patricia Aufderheide, got me thinking a lot about the film/video camera as a machine.

Intermission: Coincidence No. 669

3 minutes ago I had a text from director Mike Christie (director of the brilliant Jump London) asking whether I was still in Bath as he is going to be there this evening with Brett Anderson of Suede for a book event. I explained I was not in Bath, it’s just that Instagram seems to think my house is located at “Roman Bath” so I now use it as a codename for Home.

2 minutes ago I was double-checking Margaret Grierson’s name and Wikipedia pointed out that, although she was born near Stirling (where I am going later this month for Focus on Scotland to talk about the future of Documentary)  she died in Bath.

…actually, my bad, it was that other “father of documentary” Robert Flaherty’s wife Frances who said it:

“Our problem is how to live with our machines. … we have made for ourselves an environment that is difficult for the spirit to come to terms with.”

She was reflecting on Nanook of the North, Flaherty’s first film, and how the Inuit people, like the Polynesians, had a better balance with their environment and technology.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) famously opens with a sequence of ‘the Dawn of Man’ taking us up to the point where our furry ancestors discovered tools and then morphed them into weapons. Always a fine line between tool/weapon. Even when technology was a bone it was problematic for our kind. The bone is thrown into the air after the first simian Cain & Abel type murder and cuts to a space station turning in the black void.

2001_space station kubrick movie

A third father of documentary was Dziga Vertov. Coincidentally his name (pseudonym) means “spinning top”, like Kubrick’s space wheel waltzing through the darkness. Vertov’s masterpiece was Man with a Movie Camera (1929) which fetishises the movie camera as a machine eye, telling the objective truth. I first came across the film when I was studying Avant Garde literature, painting and film at university. On the other side of the room where I am writing I am charging up my not-often-used iPad ready for a story structure course I am attending at Ealing Studios (which date from 1902) this weekend – 21st Century Screenwriter with Linda Aronson. On the back of my first&only iPad is a quote from Vertov:

I a machine am showing you a world the likes of which only I can see.

The full quotation (in a different translation) is:

I am an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations.

Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you.

How unbelievably resonant that is of 2001!  the machine – show you a world – freed from human immobility – in constant movement [that whirling space station] – manoeuvring – freed from the boundaries of time and space – all points of the universe – the creation of a fresh perception of the world – the world unknown to you.

Vertov founded one of the first Documentary groups, Kino-Glas – Cine-Eye. This famous still comes from Man with a Movie Camera:

Man with a Movie Camera eye 1929 movie dziga vertov

And this is computer HAL 9000’s eye in 2001:

hal 9000 eye 2001 space odyssey movie kubrick

HAL becomes increasingly threatening but when he dies our empathy turns on a sixpence and we feel sorry for him in seconds…

I’m afraid.
My mind is going.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
My mind is going.
There is no question about it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I’m a …fraid.

So the mechanical eye, the movie camera, is it a tool or a weapon? Does it empathise or is it cold as steel?

This is one of the greatest scenes in Cinema:

 

Now those 4 things I promised. I went to watch 2001 two nights ago at the Prince Charles off Leicester Square in 70mm with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (the cinema shows it every so often so well worth taking the opportunity). The projection suddenly stopped just as the glass falls off the table and smashes, near the end. They got it back up&running for the enigmatic ending.

1. The iPad

So this 1968 movie shows two iPads on the table when Dr Dave and Dr Frank are being interviewed for TV from Earth. iPads came out in 2010, nine years after when the movie is set.

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

2. Skype

Dr Heywood Floyd makes a video call to his daughter for her birthday.

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

3. TV Screen in the back of aircraft seat

When Dr Floyd is travelling up to the space station at the beginning of the space section he falls asleep in front of a movie in the shuttle:

2001 space odyssey video screen aircarft shuttle

And here’s what’s great about the internet.

Question: Which movie is shown during Heywood Floyd’s travel in the Pan Am starship? (posed by a certain Brian Hellekin [it would be a Brian] on movies.stackexchange.com )

Answer: (by Rob Manual who, weirdly I know from my Channel 4 days):

The footage was made specially for 2001. According to Creating Special Effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Douglas Trumbull

The movie being shown on the TV set in front of the sleeping passenger was a little more complicated. Kubrick wanted shots of a futuristic car, and close-ups of a love scene taking place inside. A crew was dispatched to Detroit to shoot a sleek car of the future which was provided by, I believe, the Ford Motor Company. The exteriors were shot in 35mm, but the interiors were shot without seats or passengers, as four-by-five Ektachrome transparencies. Using these as background plates for a normal rear-projection set-up, on actor and actress were seated in dummy seats and Kubrick directed the love scene. Shot on 35mm, this was cut together with the previous exterior shots, and projected onto the TV screen using a first-surface mirror.

There’s a colour photo of the actors and the car at http://www.iamag.co/features/2001-a-space-odyssey-100-behind-the-scenes-photos/

future car 2001 space odyssey

End of answer. Gotta love the Web.

4. AI

AI in the form of HAL 9000 is the big one. Back in ’68 Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke captured many of the key issues that are obsessing us today about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – “how to live with our machines”, how ‘the spirit comes to terms with such machines’.

dave hal 9000 2001 space odyssey

Dave killing HAL

It was not until Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013 (which of course owes massively to 2001) that anyone got near Kubrick’s movie creatively and visually. What struck me most about watching 2001 again after so many years (I was about Enfant Terrible No.1’s age when I last saw it) is how resolutely cinematic it is. It wouldn’t play well on a TV screen. In the back of an aircraft seat. On a phone. Pure cinema of the highest order.

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Coincidence No. 288

To mark the 13th anniversary this week of Simple Pleasures Part 4 here is a top-class coincidence.

Last night I go with director Victoria Mapplebeck to a screening of shorts at Samsung KX in King’s Cross organised by Time Out and Shorts on Tap. The fifth of six films is The Night the Wind Blew, a very good mid-form drama written and directed by David Alamouti. It features two young Anglo-Turkish brothers played by non-professional actors, actual brothers.

I vaguely recognise David’s distinctive name. And his face rings faint bells. I look him up in my phone – his number is there, we met at Sheffield DocFest in 2014 when I sat on a panel he was producing. We chat after and walk back to the tube together.

This morning I go to do a talk on media careers at a London secondary school in Leytonstone (Hitchcock’s manor). I am talking to one of the students and as we finish I turn to my right and there is a young Anglo-Turkish teen who seems oddly familiar. “Were you in a short film?” “Err, yes – how do you know?!” “I saw it last night!” He plays the bullying older brother (his name is Mujahid Guven). About 15 hours separate seeing the short and meeting the young star of it.

the night the wind blue short drama film

 

 

Coincidences quote

Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.

 

I’ve seen this quotation attributed to both Albert Einstein and Doris Lessing (the former seems to have the consensus). It links to my vague sense of being a Pantheist.

The last two weeks there’s been a Colombia thing going on in my life. It is not a country I have much personal connection with nor any experience of.

columbia wharf london river thames

columbia wharf horn stairs 1937

1937

As I was travelling along the Thames yesterday morning on the way to Ravensbourne university/media school to do some work on their MDes course, a postgrad masters programme which is kind of an MBA through the lens of Design, I passed Columbia Wharf, some way east out of the centre of town, on the south bank. This reminded me of, among several other manifestations over the last few days:

  • a documentary I am working on set on Tierra Bomba, a small island off of Cartagena
  • another documentary I have in the cutting room about Colombian BMXers
  • meeting a charming producer (in Waterloo a few days ago) from San Andrés, a small English-speaking island which belongs to Colombia but is much nearer Nicaragua – it was the stronghold of Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan, who was a thorn in the side of the Spanish and regularly ransacked Cartagena
  • several more minor sightings of Colombia and Colombian in shops and other places
Captain Henry Morgan

Captain Henry Morgan

colombian skull

Update 5/8/19:

model boat columbia

  • a model boat beside me at breakfast this morning in my hotel in St Ives, Cornwall is called Columbia
  • I turned on the TV in this hotel room the night before last and ‘Long Lost Families’ was on (one of my favourites) – the first story was about a UK woman being reunited with her birth parents in Colombia
  • the Tour de France finished a couple of days ago – the winner, the first non-UK one for a few years, was a young Colombian, Egan Bernal
  • I was at a play a few days ago, ‘Sweat’ by Lynn Nottage – it has a line where a man, Oscar, is assumed to be a Puertorican and he retorts: “Well, I’m a Colombian and I don’t know” (the question was do you know a fellow Puertorican who could burn my house down)

See also: 4 Pantheist Quotations including two more from Einstein

Coincidence No. 678 – Carpe Diem

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bath phone

Seize the fucking day

Monday: I am sitting watching UK dramas and International dramas as a judge for the Edinburgh TV Festival Awards in those two categories – I am taking a short break to write this. I am currently watching ‘Patrick Melrose’. Benedict Cumberbatch has just said the line: “Well it’s time to seize the fucking day.”

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bafta award

(At the TV BAFTAs last month, when they were taking a big group photo of all the winners, I was standing directly behind Benedict Cumberbatch. He had just won Best Actor for Patrick Melrose. He was hugging his colleagues with tears in his eyes, clearly very emotional about this first BAFTA win for him.)

adam gee 5 bafta awards

The morning after the TV BAFTAs – no sleep had: Carpe Noctem

Sunday: I catch the tail-end of ‘Something Understood’ on Radio 4. Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is exploring immortality and the desirability of life eternal. She concludes with the line: “Momento Mori – remember you are mortal – can help me focus on the limitations of mortality and also the idea it is our greatest gift. But to that phrase I would add: Carpe Diem – seize the day – for who knows when we shall cease to be and what lies on the other side of mortality.”

Saturday: My Other Half and I are walking down the High Street. She is telling me about some deaths in the family of her best friend. I say: “You can only come to one conclusion: Seize the Day.” just as I say this two boys walk past in the opposite direction. One is wearing a red T-shirt with the words, in black: Seize The Day.

carpe that fucking diem tshirt

 

Coincidence No. 677 – 12th June

I am sitting in the kitchen reading an article about Anne Frank by Bart Van Es (author of the excellent The Cut Out Girl, the protagonist of which was married to one of Anne’s school friends).

anne-frank- c.1940

c.1940

On the radio was Robert Elms on BBC Radio London discussing the Chelsea Drugstore in the 60s.

1980 robert elms

1980

In walked my wife to talk about the moths eating her jumpers.

Anne, Robert & Una are all born on 12th June.

 

Coincidences No.s 723-729

No. 723 The Music Machine

Music Machine camden town london 19/04/78 Advertisement siouxsie and the banshees

19/04/78

I am walking through Mornington Crescent with my brother and we pass Koko under scaffolding. We discuss what it was called before being Koko. He says Camden Palais. I reckon he is getting mixed up with the Hammersmith Palais and it was the Camden Palace. In my head I am trying to remember what it was called when I saw Siouxsie & The Banshees for the first magnificent time there. I can’t. It was the Electric Ballroom at the other end of the street (where I first saw The Clash). What the hell was this one? Can’t recall…

It was The Music Machine.

The next day I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party. I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen, Neil’s dad from The InBetweeners. Heather explains her production company is based behind Koko and makes a reference to Camden Palais. Palais or Palace? I ask. Whatever.

No. 724 The Slits

the SLITS punk band

I meet my friend Des Shaw from Zinc Media for lunch in Kentish Town. We talk a lot of music as usual and I mention my recent conclusion that The Slits were one of the most significant bands of our times. I have sent Des a podcast early that morning featuring Neneh Cherry in which she discusses living with Ari Up back in the heady punk days. Viv Albertine also gets mentioned.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with Victoria Mapplebeck and Debbie Manners, my colleagues on Missed Call which is our nominated film. Victoria mentions that her animators live next door to Viv Albertine of The Slits in a row of houses in Hackney that they somehow managed to acquire cheaply after a fight with the local council.

No. 725 Bros

matt luke goss bros

Matt & Luke Goss then & now

I meet my friend Des Shaw for lunch in Kentish Town. He mentions he has been approached to make a documentary about Bros in the wake of the BBC4 one: After the Screaming Stops.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with a woman called Heather from the indie production company that made After the Screaming Stops. We discuss the ethics around the documentary (which Des and I have debated earlier in the day). She explains the advice the company gave the protagonists about how to play things after the broadcast.

No. 726 Rory 

rory sutherland alchemy book

I am out in the garden, stretched out on a picnic rug in the Easter sunshine, reading Rory Sutherland’s new book, Alchemy, about not over-relying on the rational in creativity and innovation.

An email pings in as I open the book. It is from Rory about the Red Bull example which opens the tome. See Alchemy post.

No. 727 Fulwell

alex macqueen inbetweeners neils dad

I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party where I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen. She is a Senior Executive from the indie TV production company called Fulwell 73. (Her and Alex were at the National Youth Theatre together.)

The next day I meet producer Matt Diegan in Camden Town (within a stone’s throw of the Electric Ballroom). He mentions that he has taken his football documentary project to Fulwell to make. He was the first person to ever mention the name Fulwell to me a few months back.

No. 728 Handmade

email about handmade films documentary bt amc

Before meeting Matt I meet the producer Kim Leggatt (in the same place at the same table from which you can almost see the Electric Ballroom). Kim tells me about the feature doc she has just made about Handmade Films and George Harrison for AMC which is carried in the UK on BT TV.

That evening an email comes in from BT TV offering advanced access to an “exclusive HandMade films documentary”.

accidental studio email about handmade films documentary bt amc

No. 729 Anni

I meet a distant cousin of mine, Josh, at a closer cousin’s house round the corner from me. He is an American film-maker over from Berlin where he now lives. We talk about the fact that our only surviving relatives in Germany live in Hamburg, the eldest of which is Anni, not sure exactly how old but must be really getting on some.

The next morning Facebook pings up a notification – it is Anni’s birthday, her 95th.

Aerial view of the bomb shattered ruins of Hamburg 1945

Hamburg 1945

Coincidences No.s 285-290

No. 285 Geno (16/4/19)

I am sitting outside Bar Italia in Soho talking to actress/producer Sophie Shad and her business partner Dalton Deverell. We are talking about their drama-documentary film Oh Geno! which is now available on Real Stories and which I wrote about in this post in November.

At the exact moment the topic comes up a Twitter notification arrives on my phone:

Liked by Geno Washington

twitter notification geno washington oh geno

 

No. 286 Riding House (17/4/19)

I am emailing Lauren Laverne about a project we discussed a couple of years ago and I remind her of the meeting at the Riding House Cafe on Riding House Street, close to BBC Broadcasting House.

I am at my book group and the friend next to me is talking about his recently deceased dad’s history – he was in the GB Basketball team at the 1948 Olympics and he had a furniture business based in Riding House Street.

1948 olympics GB basketball team lionel price

1948 GB Olympic basketball team

 

No. 287 Airplane (18/4/19)

I am reading Rory Sutherland’s book (see No. 284 above) and he uses an example of where you don’t want creativity or irrationality:

I don’t want a conceptual artist in charge of air traffic control, for instance.

A couple of minutes later I get a LinkedIn notification on my phone flagging up a post by consultant and author Mark Brown with whom I made a few films on creative thinking including The Blue Movie. His post uses much the same illustration of where you don’t want creative empowerment (an example featured in The Green Movie from 1994):

When you or I are about to land at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle or John F Kennedy, which of these values do we like the pilot to fly by? ‘Get it right first time’ please. And certainly please don’t experiment with a bit of ‘Continuous Improvement’ or ‘Innovation’ thank you.

the green movie cover design video

The Green Movie (1994)

 

No. 288 Corpus (11/4/19)

I get on a tube at East Finchley and the woman sitting next to me is reading a paperback entitled Corpus by Rory Clements. I reckon it’s a relatively obscure book, a Robert Harris read-a-like, from a couple of years ago.

I pull out of my bag a second-hand hardback of Corpus which I am currently reading for some easy diversion. We strike up a conversation about the book, Rory Clements and Robert Harris.

Corpus by Rory Clements book cover

 

No. 289 Amy (11/4/19)

I go to the last day of a photography exhibition in a church in Hampstead of rock/music photos by Danny Clifford (one time official photographer of Bob Dylan) – Rock Stars Don’t Smile. I chat to Danny for a bit and end up buying this photo:

amy-winehouse-by-danny-clifford

Amy Winehouse backstage at the 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards held at the Hammersmith Palais, London in 2004. Photo: Danny Clifford / FilmMagic.com

I really liked it because of the naturalness of the look, just the hint of tattoo, no mention of Blake in sight (unlike Danny’s big hair Amy on stage shots) and the colour of the dress matches her grave (which is a few yards from my dad’s so it’s a train of thought back to my old man). I’m a bit worried about breaking the news of the purchase to my Mrs as we don’t have much wall space left.

As I pluck up the courage to mention the photo purchase in our kitchen the next day Back to Black comes on the radio.

I’ve had radio coincidences like this before. Two days ago I met up with my old friend Ash Baron-Cohen at Bar Italia (straight after the Sophie & Dalton meeting in No. 285 above). I got my first cat, Woof, thanks to Ash who was about to chuck it in a river in a sack with rocks in. I offered to take her off his hands. To get her home a mutual friend offered me a lift in his car. As we got in and switched on the engine Love Cats by The Cure came on the radio.

 

No. 290 Dinner (12/4/19)

I go round to dinner to my cousin in Hampstead Garden Suburb. My Mrs has told me about the invitation earlier that week and said there was us and another family invited who my cousin and his wife didn’t know well. My other half has a ticket for a dance performance and my sons are out and about so there is only me going. I do a talk at the National Film Theatre for the BFI & Radio Times TV Festival then make a bee-line for the dinner.

tv in the digital age careers talk bfi and radio times television festival 2019

As it turns out I arrive on time, the first guest there, then a few minutes later I hear others arrive. As I wander towards the hallway a face appears framed in the doorway – “Hallo Adam!” It is the wife of an old interactive TV colleague from way back when. And then his face enters the frame. The other not well known family turns out to be someone I’ve been working with for the best part of two decades (and still do via the AHRC and Royal Holloway) and his wife who I’ve also known a long time and two of their children.

 

 

 

Coincidences No.s 277-284

No. 277 Re-righting

weebles wobble but they don't fall down

6/4/19 (Norway)

I am listening to an episode of the BBC podcast ‘Only Artists’ featuring the film composer Debbie Wiseman and the TV director Peter Kosminsky. Peter (who I knew a little at Channel 4 but I think I cheesed off because I disagreed with a cultural boycott he put his name behind) talks about how he guided Mark Rylance to play Thomas Cromwell in ‘Wolf Hall’ – “low centre of gravity” – and mentions those toys that bounce back up.

Six days ago (London)

I am watching a TED talk on YouTube featuring a consultant who lives in my neighbourhood and is currently close to death. A few months ago he did this talk, knowing that he had a terminal cancer diagnosis. He and his speaking partner – it is a two-hander, both psychologists – present 8 tips for being resilient. In one he links the tip to the toys with weighted bottoms that re-right themselves always. He reminds us of the name (Weebles) and the strapline from the TV ads (which I still remember without prompting) “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. He champions the idea that we should recognise the wobbling as a part of our condition and allow ourselves to experience it without shame or guilt. I haven’t thought about Weebles for years and only knew them from the telly.

 

No. 278 Dried Cod

dried cod

4/4/19 (Trondheim)

Straight after a workshop on Short Form Video I am doing at the ISAK cultural centre in Trondheim, Norway for the MidtNorsk Filmsenter (a regional film fund) I walk down to the nearby fish market, the start of a guided tour of the city by my host, Line. She points out, for some reason, on the fish stall the dried cod.

1/4/19 (Trondheim- Oslo)

I get a message from my Norwegian friend, Hanna (who works at NRK, the public service broadcaster of Norway), which suggests what we might do on Sunday afternoon when I will be staying with her in Oslo, where she lives. “me and two friends Bente and Jan are having our first ‘spring meeting’ Sunday afternoon, planting a few seeds, drinking some wine, and me: making a nice bacalao (one of my specialities, with Norwegian dried cod).” I have never come across dried cod before.

 

No. 279 M&S

open city documentary festival poster

30/1/19

An email comes in reminding me about an MA Graduate Screening I am due to attend at Bertha Dochouse/Curzon Bloomsbury, London from the Open City Docs team at UCL. It includes a timetable item: 10.30 – Screening starts, introduced by Open City Docs Director Michael Stewart.

 

The next email that comes in is from (a different) Michael Stewart, an old friend of mine from Toronto, wishing me a belated Happy New Year. We exchange emails very sporadically.

 

No. 280 Golders Green

golders green clock tower

13/3/19

I drop my wife at our nieces’ place in Trellick Tower and drive home via Golders Green to post some VAT documents into my accountant’s closed offices around 11pm. As I walk away from the offices I notice various notifications on my phone and decide just to return one call – the one from my younger son. I normally might not have bothered calling back immediately but he’s been on a trip to Prague with his girlfriend so my instinct was to respond despite the late hour.

 

My younger son picks up my call. He says he is in Golders Green, just off a coach from Luton Airport and has ordered an Uber home. I ask him exactly where he is right now. I let him know that if I had a handy stone I could hit him from where I am currently standing. He cancels the Uber and I drive them home.

 

No. 281 Joy Division

unknown pleasures LP record vinyl cover

24/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am having breakfast in Copenhagen with Mike Christie, director, who I became friends with while at Channel 4 (he directed ‘Jump London’, one of my two favourite things made at C4 during my 13 years there), and Bernard Sumner, guitarist of Joy Division and singer of New Order – as one does. Bernard is in town, like Mike, for a screening of ‘Decades: New Order’, Mike’s excellent film for Sky Arts about a brilliant show the band created for the Manchester International Festival and a subsequent short European tour. Suede’s Brett Anderson, star of another of Mike’s films playing at the CPH:DOX film festival, comes by to bid farewell and we shake hands. Not your average breakfast. I say to Bernard that the last time I saw him in the flesh was at the Lyceum, London when Joy Division were supporting Buzzcocks. “You’re a big fan then” he responds with dry Mancunian style. “He really is a big fan” my son pipes up “he’s always wearing his Unknown Pleasures T-shirt”. This shifts the conversation onto that design and I confirm “You found that image didn’t you?” He explains how he found it in a library book about astronomy and after a while tells me about a related coincidence. I didn’t fully grasp the science but the gist was that by chance the frequency illustrated in that famous graph (reversed out of black by Peter Saville, originally black on a white background in the book) is the same as a 45 rpm vinyl single. This is something Bernard found out a good while after the release of ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

 

No. 282 Time

nick drake singer

20/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am putting the finishing touches to my PowerPoint presentation for Documentary Campus Masterschool I am due to deliver the next day in Copenhagen. It doesn’t have that many words, being composed mainly of pictures as is my wont, but I am adding the word “Time” to a list.

 

As I type the word “Time” Nick Drake sings “Time”. I am listening to Spotify, returning to Nick Drake because I have been reminded of him by Jamaican writer Marlon James on his Desert Island Discs earlier today. The song is ‘Time Has Told Me’.

Time has told me

You’re a rare, rare find

A troubled cure

For a troubled mind

 

No. 283 Polar Bears

polar-bear

21/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I wake up early and listen to the radio. On Radio 4 is ‘IPM’ in which a mother describes her teenage son and then how she lost him suddenly. The story of his death comes out of the blue, shockingly. He is on an adventurous camping trip with a group of friends somewhere frozen, I forget exactly where, Greenland or similar, and he gets attacked in the early morning by a polar bear while sleeping in his tent, mauled, killed.

 

Later in the day I am listening to a feature documentary pitch at Documentary Campus Masterschool in a community/youth centre in a Copenhagen backstreet. The pitch mentions being eaten by polar bears.

 

No. 284 Presqu’ile

Peninsula-Papagayo-wide-aerial-shot

6/4/19 (Oslo)

I am walking through Oslo city centre with my friend Hanna Førland and we are discussing the geography of the city’s coastline. We are talking about a peninsula but neither of us can think of the word however I can recall the French word for the geographic feature, “presqu’île”. We met 36 years ago studying French in Savoy/Savoie, South-East France.

7/4/19

Hanna and I meet up with a third friend from Chambéry, Marit Kolberg (also of NRK). We have brunch at Marit’s house in the suburbs just west of Oslo and we are discussing Cuba and a peninsula Marit visited there recently. She can’t think of the word in Norwegian or English but uses “presqu’île” in lieu.

Coincidences No.s 250, 251 & 252

No. 250 – Puritans

pilgrim fathers boarding the mayflower painting by bernard gribble

The Pilgrim Fathers boarding the Mayflower – painting by Bernard Gribble

I travel to Plymouth and decide to see where the Mayflower departed from for the New World in 1620. I take a photo of the so-called Mayflower Steps (the water’s edge was actually some way back an elderly local gentleman explains to me back in the 17th Century). I decide to Insta the photo which mainly captures the fact that the Steps are being rebuilt for the 400th anniversary next year. For some reason the train of thought in my mind at the time is stepping off this quay onto that ship ultimately gave the world Trump. Also in the back of my mind is Ronan Bennett’s novel Havoc in its Third Year which probably coloured my views on Puritans. So I ended up writing this caption, including #fuckthepuritans:

screenshot 2019-01-27 09.16.13 plymouth hoe waterfront

The next day I am reading How to Think by Alan Jacobs. In the section on Consensus & Emotion he references a 1994 essay entitled Puritans and Prigs by Marilynne Robinson. In it she “challenges the contemptuous attitudes many people have towards Puritans”.

No. 251 – Scaramanga

Just along from the Mayflower Steps, past the building (Island House) where the Pilgrim Fathers are supposed to have taken their last meal on English soil,  I enter a good second-hand bookshop, The Book Cupboard. I eventually buy two paperbacks for a very reasonable £3 each, including a 1967 copy of The Man with the Golden Gun (largely for its cover which includes a BOAC luggage ticket for Scaramanga, the villain of the piece).

james_bond_13_the_man_with_the_golden_gun ian fleming book cover design

The next day I go to a meeting of the Advisory Board of Sheffield DocFest documentary festival. It is held in a place called Second Home, communal offices in the East End (by coincidence in the same narrow road where my grandfather had a clothes factory back in the 60s and 70s). At the appointed time I walk through to the meeting room. The way the building has been fitted out the spaces are divided by curving clear plastic walls which has the effect of a hall of mirrors. I remark on the confusing effect as I enter the meeting room and my colleague from DocFest immediately references Scaramanga and the movie of The Man with the Golden Gun and Christopher Lee (who I once crossed paths with on the streets of London).

the man with the golden gun roger moore christopher lee movie

No. 252 – Jack Shepherd

I go to the monthly meeting of the University of London Finnegan’s Wake Research Seminar. We cover about 6 to 8 lines per session as the method is close reading. The first of this month’s 6 lines includes a reference to the notorious 18th Century criminal Jack Sheppard.

Our bourse and politico-ecomedy are in safe with good Jock Shepherd, our lives are on sure in sorting with Jonathans, wild and great.

On the tube home I pick up the Evening Standard. The first line of the newspaper’s front page is: “Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd today launched a bid to resist extradition from Georgia”

Joyce deliberately misspells Sheppard’s surname to give it another connotation, shepherd, be that of sheep or men. This brings it in line with the surname of this 21st Century criminal currently on the lam(b).

finnegans wake james joyce 1st edition

1st edition

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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