Archive for the ‘Life/Depression/Happyness’ Category

Human Bonds

james bond Pan book covers

So I’m on the underground yesterday, reading the new hardback I’d bought the day before. Then this burn-out walks on and I have that feeling – I know he’s going to sit next to me. He’s very tall, lanky, drug thin. His fingernails are dirty. The driver has to warn passengers to stay clear of the closing doors. The burn-out calls them “fucking idiots” in the expected loud cockney voice. I shift rightwards in my seat, hope he isn’t going to smell too bad (which he doesn’t as far as my hopeless sense of smell can tell), carry on reading.

“Is that the new Bond novel?” he asks me gently, having glanced down at the page I was on. The book only came out the day before. The open page had few clues as to what it was.

“Yes, it is.”

“Do you think the film they’re making of it will be good?”

“I think it’s based on a different story.”

“So is that written by Fleming?”

What do I take from the unexpected exchange? You can’t judge the book by the cover I guess is the obvious one we (certainly I) can’t be reminded of often enough. You can tell the price (but not the value). What I most took away was the Simple Pleasure that I had enjoyed the conversation and contact and there was real warmth in those human bonds.

The new Bond book is entitled ‘Devil May Care’ and has been written by Sebastian Faulks (of ‘Birdsong’ fame) in the style of Fleming. I’ve only ever read a couple of Bond books, but remember really enjoying ‘Casino Royale’ (the first Bond novel) for the surprising brutality of the man I had only encountered through the movies. The publication of a new Bond book felt like a bit of an event (I was one when Fleming died) so I bought a copy of this in advance on-line through Hatchards website and picked it up on the day of publication on the way to a meeting at BAFTA with Rob Bevan of XPT- we were working on the forthcoming website for 4IP, the new Channel 4-led fund for public service interactive media, announced at Next on 4 back in March and coming on-stream over the summer. Hatchards in Piccadilly – a book shop dating back to 1797 as it says on its rich green bags the colour of Bond’s customised Bentley with its Arnott supercharger – is one of London’s great treasures. It makes me feel guilty every time I buy from Amazon and I try to make amends by pulling by whenever I’m at the Academy at 195 Piccadilly and picking up a signed volume.

After having a satisfying creative session with Rob, my old collaborator from MindGym, I hooked up with Ivo Gormley of ThinkPublic to talk about his forthcoming documentary about the internet and democracy. We walked back Channel4wards through St James’s and St James’s’ Park where I had the pleasure of demoing Big Art Mob in its mobile incarnation [WAP site] to him in a small alley where we found a superb bas relief of Anthony and Cleopatra, which looks like it may once have adorned a theatre in the area but is now built into a wall opposite an old public house, and on a remixed sculpture which seems to have once lost its head in the park. Ivo’s dad, Antony, who he closely resembles, is one of the most popular artists on Big Art Mob, third only to Henry Moore and Banksy. I wonder what the ‘burn-out’ thinks about public art? what his favourites around the city are? Something to talk about next time…

Bond is back

Advertisements

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!

Fear of Climate

Pink Floyd

What comes between fear and sex?
Funf
Geddit? Vier Funf Sechs. More of a verbal than a written gag i guess and one that probably appeals to the Modern Linguist in me (French and German with subsidiary Norwegian – but that’s another story). I’ve been thinking quite a lot on and off about Fear over the last few years and have a sense it’s a massively important subject.

Nick Baylis of the Well-being Institute at Cambridge spoke about it the day before yesterday at the Channel 4 Education spring conference entitled In the Wild, exploring informal learning from the starting point of the current state of well-being of children in the UK.

The conference got off to a cracking start with Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays, who writes and presents on making work more fun. Smoothly and entertainingly he presented a couple of graphs indicating that beyond a certain relatively modest point money doesn’t make you any happier (apparently the modest point being about the average wealth in Portugal) and showing the comparative duration of happiness prompted by different life events (marriage, etc.).

Then things really took off with a fabulously disheveled, natural, impassioned semi-rant from Nick Baylis. He spoke with great conviction about the way just keeping your head above water is the default state for most of us these days; how the pursuit of happiness (as per the constitution of the good ol’ US of A) is a misleading goal – it’s a question of living life well; how emotions are neither intrinsically positive or negative – it’s how we ride them that counts, pain and anger being rocket fuel for creative expression, by way of simple example; how loneliness (stemming from rampant individualism) and exhaustion underly so much of our being; and how at the core of all this is Fear.

One of the principal antidotes to this fear and isolation he identified as “Beautiful Partnerships”.

His study of Positive Psychology focuses on lives that go well and he encourages us to get better at living life.

“Beautiful Partnerships”. The distance between people within which they can touch, embrace, kiss – really connect. A phrase and space that were the inspiration and focus of the day for me.

A few hours later I found myself only slightly further away – about 12 to 15 feet – from John Paul Jones of Led Zep, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Captain Sensible of The Damned and the great producer of Nick Drake et al, Joe Boyd. A few inches to my right was my best friend from school (from the days when you had a few less than 864 ‘friends’). [The photo above was taken on a phone with no zoom – we’re talking close.]

Before I get sucked into psychedelia let me swing by a man who loathed rock’n’roll – Frank Sinatra. He had this to say on fear: “Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing, self-defeating, sickening thing in the world – to an individual or to a nation.” Ol’ Blue Eyes had some real insight (Pete Hamill’s Why Sinatra Matters is a recommended read).

Back on Planet Syd, Madcap’s Last Laugh was a tribute to Syd Barrett who died last year. Joe Boyd (whose Whitebicycles is also recommended reading) helped pull the gig together with added enthusiasm from Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders fame.

The connection, beside the circle of 12 feet and the Cambridge base of both Syd and Nick, is several references during the course of the evening to Syd as “fearless”. He was the experimenter and catalyser of creativity. Roger Waters appeared solo and said without the inspiration of Syd’s fearlessness he would probably have ended up as a property developer.

Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright also pitched up to sing Syd’s Arnold Layne. I remember being introduced to the Relics LP by same said friend on my right in our school daze.

Damon Albarn provided one of the highlights of an evening that still has me high after three days with a rendition of Words from Syd’s Opal record. At the end of the song he handed me the lyrics he had been using – which was nice! The Enfants Terribles were well impressed the next morning – they love Blur.

Among the gals, Chrissie Hynde was her usual charming, laid-back self; Vashti Bunyan had a delightful delicateness as she re-emerges into music (I only came across her a year or so ago at an IDEASFACTORY Northern Ireland workshop on music & film, thanks to Kieran Evans); Kate St John (who I first came across thanks to Van) provided spot-on oboe accompaniment on Words and one or two other songs; Martha Wainwright and her mom (Kate McGarrigle) did a fine See Emily Play, all the more impressive as the former had been on the raz since her gig the night before and the latter only learnt it a couple of hours before coming on stage.

John Paul Jones played mandolin (cue flashbacks to Led Zep 4) – I’m now in awe thanks to having had my eyes opened to the sophistication of Led Zeppelin by Chris Cawte, the Jimmy Page of the impassioned Letz Zep tribute band and the composer of the music on all my films and productions from 1993 on – I never fully realised how talented he is as a musician until I first saw him as Jimmy.

Captain Sensible clearly found Syd a huge inspiration and paid tribute with gusto and joy. Since my sid is more Sid (Vicious) than Syd (Barrett) his contribution was a thrill.

During the In The Wild conference I chaired a session including Pat Kane of Hue & Cry, who in talking about play and its importance in learning invoked the spirit of Punk. At its heart Punk had a wild fearlessness which has provided me and Pat and the Captain with inspiration and Simple Pleasure for 30 years (1977 was the Big Year for me thanks to The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and The Clash). Next time I hear See Emily Play I’m going to think Syd and Sid – a beautiful partnership free of fear.

It sets your heart on fire

How you listen to music

“I can never hear lyrics. I’ve got a real dyslexia with lyrics.”
Paul Abbott, scriptwriter of Channel 4’s ‘Shameless‘ on Desert Island Discs

It was interesting to hear this throw-away remark (I missed it when I listened to the first broadcast last weekend), interesting because I have a similar relationship to song lyrics. Strange for a lover of Dylan and similar but I really struggle to engage with lyrics in a whole or analytical way. They’re more like part of an audio collage to me. Glints of light, a diamond spinning in the dark.

A good rounded choice from Mr Shameless punctuating a raw, honest, insightful and illuminating interview:

1.Good Vibrations
Performer The Beach Boys
Composer B Wilson-M Love

2.Ode to Billie Joe
Performer Bobbie Gentry
Composer Gentry

3.Sweet Soul Music
Performer Arthur Conley
Composer Conley/Cooke/Redong

4.Imagine
Performer John Lennon
Composer John Lennon

5.Children of the Revolution
Performer T Rex
Composer Marc Bolan

6.Town Called Malice
Performer The Jam
Composer Paul Weller

7.Video Lullaby
His son Tom Abbott with his band Kid4077

8.The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Performer Roberta Flack
Composer Ewan MacColl

Record: Town Called Malice
Book: Complete works of Arthur Miller
Luxury: Writing pad and pencils

Particularly like his One Record – it’s an explosive song, brilliantly exploited in ‘Billy Elliott’ – a kicking the wall song. Yes, really kicking. He zooms in on it as an expression of creative anger, constructive shouting, exactly as his writing is.

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.

%d bloggers like this: