Friday, December 29, 2006


Just watching 'The Holiday' with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz - so far so run of the mill. Watching Kate getting blown about in the Santa Anna winds made me think of Great Winds in the Movies:
1) The Sarf Lunden trees rustling in Antonioni's Blow Up (never thought about it before but blowing [up] is as important in the park as the darkroom)
2) The crazy Himilayan wind in Powell + Pressburger's Black Narcissus which drives Kathleen Byron over the edge

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Birthday Bonanza - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

N's incredibly self-assured and sociable behaviour at Danny's birthday dinner at a strange restaurant in an equestrian centre in Mill Hill East, with regal horses lurking in the shadows

Trampolining with D's friends for his 7th birthday at the Somers Town Community Sports Centre, session lead - by happy coincidence - by Stephen Wagland, son of our old downstairs neighbours at 19 Carleton Road, Reg and Pat Wagland, nephew of good old Eddie - D said "it's my best birthday ever"

Sorting out my records - whilst listening to treasures from the collection including Atmosphere (Joy Division) and Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Happiness Experiment entries

NR in a rather unfortunate cycle of diabetes and alzheimers - every time she took a Quality Street chocolate she was convinced it was her first - still, she was happy, so what the heck

20 year old port - a fabulous present from U

Chatting with Mo about East End stuff - like Monkeys and Ponys (£500 and £25 respectively) - and jazz

A jog in Camden and Islington cemetry - peaceful and a good reminder why to stay fit

Two cracking goals by Jermaine Defoe - a solid 2-1 victory over Villa watched from some decent seats low in the East Stand of White Hart Lane with D

Reading The Woman in White on a cold winter's night in bed

Drawing title sequence images for Casino Royale with the enfants terribles

Watching the Marx Bros (Horsefeathers) with them schticking themselves

Chatting to Seth and Deirdre, over from Rostrevor for a few days - including about my idea for a dyslexia centre at the library

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Breaking up - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Getting my haircut with Chris - first afternoon of the holidays chat

Unpacking my records and music after moving back into the house - enjoyed listening to Kate Bush's take on Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing as well as one of our Christmas albums, Go Tell It on the Mountain by Blind Boys of Alabama (with guest appearances by the likes of Michael Franti and Chrissie Hynde)

D's delighted reaction at the Christmas outfit I bought him during my wander, after finishing work for the holidays, around Covent Garden including a moment at Seven Dials that felt like being in a musical

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shooting Peeps - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Making a birthday invitation for D - each year a new design approach and a surprise for him

Chatting with the ever enthusiastic Jess Search of Shooting People over a cuppa

Hearing about the on-going success of Chris Waitt whose talent I've been championing for three years now - he's a gifted performer, writer and director of comedy as demostrated in his Ninja Love film for Channel 4's IDEASFACTORY (soon to become 4Talent) as well as his wicked Fur TV pilot - at last the breaks he deserves are coming...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cranking Up to Christmas - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Watching D as an angel in his nativity play - he was so delighted to have us both in his audience, beaming

Chatting to U at dinner

Listening to Michael Franti on the way to the Channel 4 Christmas party at Camden Lock - the songs from Yell Fire he performed last week at Shepherds Shite Bush Shite Empire

Chatting to D on the phone - one of our first really substantial phone chats (during which he [age 6] used the word "laminate")

Moderating the Street Style site - a couple of gems in there among the club blah

Chatting to Rob Bevan and his Mrs (Philippa Watson) at Illumina's Christmas do - on the 10th anniversary of our MindGym collaboration

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Suburban Saturday - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Saturday afternoon snooze with Any Questions in the dim distance

Walking and talking with PJE QC - plus a tour round his done-up house near Parliament Hill

Watching N get his purple belt with an outstanding kata

All the Rage

Seems like Simple Pleasures are all the rage at the moment - I keep coming across a tag message doing the rounds asking people to list ten of life's simple pleasures and then tag ten friends. I like parlour games as much as the next Victorian but there's something about too easy formats that seems to diminish what they formularise...

Here's how it tends to appear (this from a 19 year old Virgoan from Vermont):

Name 10 of life's simple pleasures that you love most, then tag 10 people. Try to be original and creative and don't use things someone else has used.

And here's how she concludes:

and...i tag... people... i guess... lets see...
and... whoever else wants to... i really dont care

Royal Family

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 Joseph 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). 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.

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 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, 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, 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.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tranquility - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Stroking the snoring Tommy Boy (our cat)

Lunch chat with the like-minded Peter Grimsdale, formerly of Channel 4 and Yahoo, and soon to be thriller novelist over a wonderful glass of 30 year old sherry - what was i doing in 1976? Playing space invaders down the street from Foyles.

Watching Stephen Frears' 'The Queen' in our revamped, oak-floored front room - that lovely Friday night tranquility. Where was i when Princess Diana died? In my bed at 19 Carleton Road, in the wake of the party at Maggie O'Kane's place.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bounci Franti

Bouncy is the word that characterises Michael Franti. Grooved to the Spearhead vibe last night.

A performance as good as the venue was shit - the Empire Shepherd's Bush, the Evil Empire, strong candidate for the worst live music venue in London.

If they could organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery, they'd charge a fortune for it since a small bottle of water costs £1.99. But they can't even organise a cloakroom - it quickly ran out of space for people's bags and stuff. The bouncer was some kind of Oddjob evil mute mother. You can't find out when the performance begins because they never answer a phone or an email and haven't the brains to publish the information on their cack website. So a venue not fit to have the great man's sneakers on its stage.

Last saw him at the Festival Hall, a model of fine design and materials, and before that at the Jazz Caff, an amazingly intimate venue with none of the shabbiness of the Evil Empire.

So search engines I invite you to find this: Empire Shepherd's Bush Cack Empire Shepherd's Bush Cack Empire Shepherd's Bush Cack Empire Shepherd's Bush Cack

Glad I got that off my chest...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cranking up to Christmas - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Jogging in St Pancras and Islington Cemetry - the overgrown parts in the woods at the far end

Visiting Church Farm museum, Greyhound Hill, Hendon with N

Delirious radio listening

Finishing Robert Harris' Fatherland.

A long lunch at Roast in Borough Market with Charlotte Black, Steve Moore, etc.

Reading in bed with D and N

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quel Coincidence - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

My first view of FilmFour (now I'm reunited with my Freeview box) - auspiciously Powell & Pressburger's A Matter of Life + Death

Weird coincidence of bumping into Madeline Holt (BBC Newsnight Arts correspondent) after JRT mentioned her name this morning after years

Walking past the spagnum bog by Kenwood and into the late autumn woods...

Laughing with N + D over the designs on my sweatshirt - box fish with red scarves and darting tongues


D (age 6) asked me who made up all the words, God? I understand what 'the' means but why that word? So basically the (dyslexic) kid's tapped into the heart of linguistics all by himself...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Coming home - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Our local Italian caff (the green one)

My digital radio in its wooden box - Friday radio: Desert Island Discs, Question Time, etc.

Moving home - the delights of Lellow House

Happiness Experiments in the news #2

Further to the posting 'Happiness Experiments in the news' below here are a couple of lovely messages I received this week:

Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, ACC
Goal-Setting & Performance Coach
The focus of the article in 'Happiness Experiments in the news' posting

"Love your blog! Yes, this happiness exercise is getting around if you know the research, so I’m thrilled it’s catching on all over the world!

Good luck with your continuing entries – very inspiring!

And this one from Carol Craig, inspirer of this blog/the Happiness Experiment:

"I had a read and found your blog very useful. We'll put a link to it from
somewhere on our site. Have you had a look at our Positive Psychology
Resources? Tons of material. Navigation is not great at the moment
and is about to be improved greatly. You can access it from the
Centre's home page Glad you found my comments useful.
Best wishes

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cookin' - recent Happiness Experiment entries

Lunch al fresco at Amici, low autumn sun - invented a new sandwich: salami milano, artichoke, cucumber

Good moblog thread on the deathstar church - banter with strangers

URM8 sesh in adland (JWT) with Axel Caldecott and Chris Turner (plus phone convo with Sarah McVittie of 82ASK) - charidee endeavours

The new Glass Bridge in our new improved house - built by Liam Burke, a very decent fella

Reading and responding to an interesting blog on things-you-really-need-to-learn

Watching Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall with D delighting in the cooking and hard work, beaming - that boy's gonna do something fantastic

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blast - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Developing Hotshots with Renegade - brainstorming and creative connecting

Hooking up with my bro after a few weeks

A blast of Sinead O'Connor from Throw Down Your Arms - on the iPod coming home

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rules of the Movies

Evil butlers have no tongues [by N e.g. Stormbreaker, Goldfinger]

Superheroes with high strength are fat [by N e.g. Fantastic Four, The Incredibles]

Dustin Hoffman will always run given half a chance (e.g. The Graduate, Marathon Man, Kramer vs Kramer)

Happiness Experiments in the news

This article was spotted in Yahoo News by my pal David Bausola. It makes reference to the same Happiness Experiment introduced to me (on the radio) by Carol Craig and which forms the basis of this blog:

Researchers seek routes to happier life By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer
Sun Nov 26, 6:23 PM ET

NEW YORK - As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness.

"I thought it was too simple to be effective," said Miller, 44, of Bethesda. Md. "I went to Harvard. I'm used to things being complicated."

Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master's degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

"The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier," she said.

Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. It's part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism about whether that's even possible.

There's no shortage of advice in how to become a happier person, as a visit to any bookstore will demonstrate. In fact, Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues have collected more than 100 specific recommendations, ranging from those of the Buddha through the self-improvement industry of the 1990s.

The problem is, most of the books on store shelves aren't backed up by rigorous research, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, who's conducting such studies now. (She's also writing her own book).

In fact, she says, there has been very little research in how people become happier.

Why? The big reason, she said, is that many researchers have considered that quest to be futile.

For decades, a widely accepted view has been that people are stuck with a basic setting on their happiness thermostat. It says the effects of good or bad life events like marriage, a raise, divorce, or disability will simply fade with time.

We adapt to them just like we stop noticing a bad odor from behind the living room couch after a while, this theory says. So this adaptation would seem to doom any deliberate attempt to raise a person's basic happiness setting.

As two researchers put it in 1996, "It may be that trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller."

But recent long-term studies have revealed that the happiness thermostat is more malleable than the popular theory maintained, at least in its extreme form. "Set-point is not destiny," says psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois.

One new study showing change in happiness levels followed thousands of Germans for 17 years. It found that about a quarter changed significantly over that time in their basic level of satisfaction with life. (That's a popular happiness measure; some studies sample how one feels through the day instead.) Nearly a tenth of the German participants changed by three points or more on a 10-point scale.

Other studies show an effect of specific life events, though of course the results are averages and can't predict what will happen to particular individuals. Results show long-lasting shadows associated with events like serious disability, divorce, widowhood, and getting laid off.

The boost from getting married, on the other hand, seems to dissipate after about two years, says psychologist Richard E. Lucas of Michigan State University.

What about the joys of having children? Parents recall those years with fondness, but studies show childrearing takes a toll on marital satisfaction, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert notes in his recent book, "Stumbling on Happiness." Parents gain in satisfaction as their kids leave home, he said.

"Despite what we read in the popular press," he writes, "the only known symptom of 'empty nest syndrome' is increased smiling."

Gilbert says people are awful at predicting what will make them happy. Yet, Lucas says, "most people are happy most of the time." That is, in a group of people who have reasonably good health and income, most will probably rate a 7.5 or so on a happiness scale of zero to 10, he says.

Still, many people want to be happier. What can they do? That's where research by Lyubomirsky, Seligman and others comes in.

The think-of-three-good-things exercise that Miller, the motivational speaker, found so simplistic at first is among those being tested by Seligman's group at the University of Pennsylvania.

People keep doing it on their own because it's immediately rewarding, said Seligman colleague Acacia Parks. It makes people focus more on good things that happen, which might otherwise be forgotten because of daily disappointments, she said.

Miller said the exercise made her notice more good things in her day, and that now she routinely lists 10 or 20 of them rather than just three.

A second approach that has shown promise in Seligman's group has people discover their personal strengths through a specialized questionnaire and choose the five most prominent ones. Then, every day for a week, they are to apply one or more of their strengths in a new way.

Strengths include things like the ability to find humor or summon enthusiasm, appreciation of beauty, curiosity and love of learning. The idea of the exercise is that using one's major "signature" strengths may be a good way to get engaged in satisfying activities.

These two exercises were among five tested on more than 500 people who'd visited a Web site called "Authentic Happiness." Seligman and colleagues reported last year that the two exercises increased happiness and reduced depressive symptoms for the six months that researchers tracked the participants. The effect was greater for people who kept doing the exercises frequently. A followup study has recently begun.

Another approach under study now is having people work on savoring the pleasing things in their lives like a warm shower or a good breakfast, Parks said. Yet another promising approach is having people write down what they want to be remembered for, to help them bring their daily activities in line with what's really important to them, she said.

Lyubomirsky, meanwhile, is testing some other simple strategies. "This is not rocket science," she said.

For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to regularly practice random acts of kindness, things like holding a door open for a stranger or doing a roommate's dishes, for 10 weeks. The idea was to improve a person's self-image and promote good interactions with other people.

Participants who performed a variety of acts, rather than repeating the same ones, showed an increase in happiness even a month after the experiment was concluded. Those who kept on doing the acts on their own did better than those who didn't.

Other approaches she has found some preliminary promise for include thinking about the happiest day in your life over and over again, without analyzing it, and writing about how you'll be 10 years from now, assuming everything goes just right.

Some strategies appear to work better for some people than others, so it's important to get the right fit, she said.

But it'll take more work to see just how long the happiness boost from all these interventions actually lasts, with studies tracking people for many months or years, Lyubomirsky said.

Any long-term effect will probably depend on people continuing to work at it, just as folks who move to southern California can lose their appreciation of the ocean and weather unless they pursue activities that highlight those natural benefits, she said.

In fact, Diener says, happiness probably is really about work and striving.

"Happiness is the process, not the place," he said via e-mail. "So many of us think that when we get everything just right, and obtain certain goals and circumstances, everything will be in place and we will be happy.... But once we get everything in place, we still need new goals and activities. The Princess could not just stop when she got the Prince."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Licence to thrill - Recent Happiness Experiment entries

Feeling the new bit of the house taking shape - site visit with Tom Knott
Twilight in The Stables, Camden Lock - a quiet moment alone
Banksy's maid at Chalk Farm - graffiti palimpsest
The anticipation waiting for the new Bond - ten minutes to go (writing this in The Rex) - the naughtiness of a Friday afternoon film
Picking up some French rapping

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Name that choon - recent Happiness Experiment entries

Walking the boyz to skool

Listening to Dylan covers (including Ballad of a Thin Man)

Prompting a fantastic story with a photo on Moblog of Crossbones Graveyard

Lunch with Angela Pope after a long, long time

Starting Wilkie Collins' Woman in White

Sharing my iPod with D - what a smile! (after a good evening sesh on the home including The End and the Buzzcocks Why Can't I Touch It?)

Because something is happening here

But you don't know what it is

Do you, Mister Jones?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give me the Beatbox - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Walking on a rainy autumn night through Green Park and down the Mall (to do a talk at Internet People with Alex Tew of Million Dollar Homepage and others)

Alex doing his human beatbox and chatting with him about beatboxing, Schlomo, Dubafex, looping pedals, etc.

Working out the guest list for the Big Art Project gathering with Mike Smith and Tracey Li of Carbon

Monday, November 20, 2006

Familiar - this weekend's Happiness Experiment entries

Watching Momix perform Lunar Sea at the Peacock Theatre in LSEland

Drinking sherry in the Savoy

Reading Fatherland - Robert Harris with a black coffee at hand

Wandering about the backstreets around Borough market with D especially the Red Cross Gardens and Brood Cafe tucked in beside Southwark Cathedral (where the Kosovan cook explained why he found Jewish areas good to live in [peace and love])

The DB5 in Goldfinger which delighted the enfants terribles

Radio 4 on Sunday mornings - especially Desert Island Discs

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Freedom of the City - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Watching Christy Moore on Jools Holland's show - timeless, an elder statesman of Musicland

Having a good look at William Frith's Railway Station and Royal Academy Exhibition (with Oscar) paintings at the Guildhall Art Gallery - over there to apply for my Freedom of the City of London at the Chamberlain's Court

Learning more about Wikipedia and coding while fixing up the article I initiated on User-Generated Content

Thursday, November 16, 2006

West of Eden - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Hearing Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden project, explain the principles underlying his very modern business

Having a new mediary/public service media chat with Anthony Lilley of Magic Lantern in the penumbra of Horseferry Road caff

Lunch artchat with Liz O'Sullivan of Creative and Cultural Services, formerly behind London Underground's enjoyable Platform for Art scheme

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

85.3 - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Hampstead Heath in the early morning, passing my birthplace at Whitestone Pond

Getting The Mission/iGenius/Afford project up&running - a different story of Africa

Working on The Tower with Eleven Films, Patrick Uden + Kate Vogel

Street life - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

A wander around Southwark/Borough market - found a new Banksy?

Lunchchat with Peter Welles-Thorpe

Working on (Russell Commission) volunteering projects with Kerynne including Street Style

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ghostly pram - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Golders Hill Park in autumn mode - hopefully the spirit of Dora G wheels a ghostly pram around it

Helping N with his scriptwriting homework - homely tranquility

Feeling the spirit of Jim (Morrison) and Jimi (Hendrix) in the done-up Roundhouse

Reading Converging Culture by Henry Jenkins - not a big one for factual books but fun from time to time

Tidying up Street Style

Talking big picture tv/new media with Andy Taylor

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Street Life - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

N winning the karate competiton this morning - his outstanding kata style, deliberate and powerful

The bagpipers who struck up a stirring tune as they passed us on the route of the Lord Mayor's Show

Finding four Banksy graffitis in the backstreets around Smithfield

Friday, November 10, 2006

Walking on the Moon - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Walking the children to school

D in his O'Neill beanie

Hooking up with the hard-core of the drawing class in The Regency to celebrate Nick's impending nuptials

Receiving a big compliment from my peers via JW and JW

Gym sesh on Friday evening - chatting to a ju-jitsu guy

Wandering from meeting to meeting around EC2 - from Disorder/Street Style at Rich Mix to John Grounds at NSPCC to Elena Caton at a cheap and very cheerful Vietnamese

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Lunchchat with Marko of

Meeting with Richard Golland of Imperial War Museum, an old school gent

Getting in to - lost touch with the habit of music-while-you-work

Going back to Cambridge - an autumn afternoon by the Cam at King's

Reading in Girton library - starting Roger Scruton's Gentle Regrets (bought at Heffers in Trinity St.)

The train journey up to Cambridge - sitting opposite a young budding actress

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Numbers Game

Been up in Sheffield at the Documentary Festival. Saw David Benchetrit's 'Dear Father, quiet, we're shooting' about conscientious objectors in Israel. Includes a very powerful interview with a former helicopter pilot hero whose arguments against serving in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories are all the more powerful for his characterisation of himself as a fighting man and war as part of nature. My abiding feeling from the film was of the mutual fear fuelling the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Q&A was appropriately tense with a legitimate although slightly tetchy question from a young Palestinian film-maker provoking a bit of a clash. The Palestinian wanted the people who shot some of the footage in Nablus and elsewhere in the occupied areas to be credited to them: Benchetrit evidently bought the footage in good faith from various agencies and channels like TF1. But some kind of misunderstanding kicked in. Says it all.

The chat in the bar afterwards was altogether better humoured with young Israelis and ex-pat Palestinians speaking civily and with genuine engagement. I felt David got a very hard time from an Irishman in the audience who accused him of being arrogant - I tried to counter-balance an ungenerous public assault by reassuring David and applauding the bravery of the film. David's leg was severely damaged in the making of the film - the young Palestinian film-maker showed me the bullet wound behind his ear. It was like that scene from Jaws when Quint and the marine-biologist compare scars.

Also bumped in to Daisy Asquith, maker of My New Home, whose online dimension we discussed. She was with Maxyne Franklin of the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation.

The next morning caught by chance 'Dreaming by Numbers' by Anna Bucchetti, which portays Napolitan Italy through a lotto office and all those passing through it, focusing on a strange numerology derived from Kabbalism. Using a core location and the people associated with it as the hub of a documentary narrative often works well because of its basic simplicity. The black and white photography brought a real sense of the city's historic roots and resonance. The number thing was fascinating, centred on a book called The Grimace. Different numbers correspond to different objects or concepts - all of which is applied to the interpretation of dreams.

I've always loved the magic of numbers - it appeals to the pantheist in me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Documentaries - Latest Happiness Experiment entry

Watching a FourDoc called Ringing the Changes centred on a series of phone calls and the phoner, delightfully simple

Seeing D in his halloween costume

Helping URM8 charity get its shit together

Lunch with Doug Miller talking about creativity, happiness/anxiety (the subject of his new book) and, of course, music [Note to self: buy Lambchop]

Researching the world of online documentaries in preparation for the Sheffield Documentary Festival

Working on the train

Reading Robert Harris' Fatherland, a pacey historical thriller (after getting bogged down in James Meek's People's Act of Love)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I do like to be beside the seaside - latest Happiness Experiment entry

Seeing Tommy Boy (our cool cat) again after so long

Seeing the sea again - from up by Brighton race course

Hunting in Asda to the tunes of 24 Hour Party People (esp Happy Mondays)

N + D forming a SWAT squad to keep me out of record and book shops (Brighton) - fabulous fraternal sense of humour

Watching 'From Russia with Love: with D snuggled up in bed

Walking along the multicoloured beach huts in Hove

Thursday, October 26, 2006

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.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Portraits - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Tarting up my My Space and connecting to a few select folk like Rockabilly Camilla

Listening to Adie Dunbar and the Jonahs' Two Brothers, especially When Will I Love You (And the child inside keeps on yearning, yearning, yearning)

Haircut afternoons with a son or two - picnic on steps of Grand Lodge, Covent Garden; buying comics and stuff in Forbidden Planet; coffee for me, crisps for them; a plectrum for D (in Denmark Street), a book for me (from Fopp, although the loving look was in the window of Foyles); performers around Covent Garden, wandering around Soho; autumn sunlight down Shaftesbury Avenue...

Laughing at the table with N+D

David Hockney's portraits, esp the one of his mum and dad

JRT's QC do at the National Portrait Gallery - catching up with blasts from the past - memories of Saturday morning routines: Space Invaders, Foyles, Forbidden Planet, NPG

Being suited and booted

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion

Reading, writing and wandering in Highgate Woods

A long Sunday lunch (with Seth, Annie and Family)

Playing vinyl

Celebrating with my second oldest friend - Paul Epstein QC - in the Seaman's Hall, Somerset House

Looking cool in my John Pearse jacket

Handing out certificates to the deserving young winners of the Lost Generation schools competition from Chadwell Heath school, Romford - a far cry from the Romford skins who introduced me to the delights of AC/DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) on board the SS Uganda (Mungo Park dorm) en route to the Baltic

Visiting Aardman Animation with N in Bristol, the crafted models on display in glass cases

Having tea with Phillip Hodson at Louis' in Hampstead

Walking home in the evening with N from Hampstead via my birthplace at Whitestone Pond

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's music for?

In today's Observer music mag Jarvis Cocker of Pulp poses the question: What is music for? Before I read his answer, here's mine:
Community and connection
Getting in touch with Nature
Energising ouselves
Communicating a vision of the world
Linking to the past
Passing on the human musical spark (which circles the world)
Capturing a feeling
Capturing an idea
Binding two people through dancing
Raising us to our higher nature
Smashing the mundane
Bringing tranquility

Jarvis adds:
His list is of what music can be for. Mine is what it is for.

So it looks like we basically agree on:

Two Brothers - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Hanging out with N post-karate - the great reports from his sensei, book-browsing, etc.

Hooking up with Adie Dunbar after his performance in Exiles and hearing hiw new LP Two Brothers in the car home

Playing boomerang with D in Cherry Tree Woods


Went to see James Joyce's one and only play 'Exiles' last night at the National Theatre (Cottosloe). Although I was not in the mood for theatre and feeling quite resistant at the outset, it proved to be very engaging. It's also very illuminating if you're interested in 'Ulysses'. Now, I'm a 'Ulysses' lover rather than a Joyce fan, it's my favourite book in the world. The themes of betrayal in marriage, freedom in love, writer's complex relationships with their lovers, even Ireland's future in Europe, are all common to both works. And the closing lines from the mouth of the key female protagonist reflecting on the blooming of love in youth link the two works.

The role of Robert Hand, the journalist counter-part to the literary writer, was played really well by our old friend Adie Dunbar. We hooked up with him after the performance in the green room. Crossed an actor from Theatre de Complicite going in. Had a chat with Peter MacDonald who played Richard Rowan and a brief brush with Dervla Kirwan (of Ballykissangel) who was Bertha, the Molly Bloom-related character.

Adie was shagged from two performances in the day so drove him home, listening to his first LP 'Two Brothers' - he's also a fine singer, having performed, for example, with Brian Kennedy, and memorably at Sherry and John Keegan's wedding (Wild Mountain Thyme). The soft, swirling celtic country vibe provided a fine soundtrack to nocturnal London on a lively Saturday.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Yummy - recent Happiness Experiment entries

Lunch with Kate Vogel, Mistress of 3 Minute Wonders

A top-deck bus ride from Lords to Finchley Central in the sunshine

Reading Tintin with D - Red Rackham's Treasure

Spending the sunny autumn afternoon with D - walking back from school, hanging out in the park, eating a Thai out back at Nahling, walking home via Cherry Tree Woods

Having lunch with my sister-in-law Jenny in Kentish Town after visiting her at October Films

A productive visit to Wall to Wall - working with Alex Graham and Collette Flight on Empire's Children and Lucy Ferguson on Not Forgotten - Shot at Dawn - rounded the day off watching Lucy's Who Do You Think You Are featuring the yummy Nigella Lawson


Was at Wall to Wall Productions in Kentish Town earlier today to meet Lucy Carter (producer of Who Do You Think You Are?), Colleen Flight (producer of the forthcoming Empire's Children) and Alex Graham (MD/Exec Producer).

Just watched Who Do You Think You Are featuring Nigella Lawson (Lucy gave me the DVD), a thoroughly entertaining programme with a core of real emotion. I found myself with tears in my eyes during a sequence about the liberation of Belsen. Nigella's grand-father had signed up within about two weeks of the invasion of Poland as a catering manager in the army due to his background running the Lyons tea shop empire. It looks like he may well have been at Belsen, the first camp liberated by the British, to advise of bringing in food to the starving survivors.

Back on the light side, I've never really watched Nigella on tv before (not really one for cookery shows) - she's got a very attractive screen personality, detached yet warm and intellectually engaged, and very much typifies the kind of woman that pumps my nads and which said nads are genetically programmed to respond to. Lucky for Charles Saachi I've a beautiful wife of my own.

Her trip to Amsterdam reminds me of my family's own connection with the city. My grandfather Ian's family came to England from Amsterdam (likewise it was the last stop before England for Nigella) and I'm delighted and proud to have that fabulous city as part of my history.

Friday, October 13, 2006


D (age 6) asked me today:

How did God get born, cos nobody was there?

He was the first one, but who was the second?

N grappled with much the same thoughts when he was 4, plus issues of evil and original sin: Why did God make learning disabilities? And mosquitoes?

It's amazing how early they pull out the key theological and existential questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Black as yer boots - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Hearing 'Baby Please Don't Go' over breakfast in Them's hometown, Belfast

Phone chat with Paul Epstein QC about broken arms

Watching David Lachapelle's 'Clowns in the Hood' especially the krumping scenes - part of a special Black History Month Channel 4 archive screening curated by Inge Blackman of black music on tv

Belfast shennanigans - latest Happiness Experiment entries

Breakfast chat with James Estill

Lunch chat with Axel Chaldecott, fellow URM8 trustee

Kalooki Nights

Watching MC Kat of Cookstown,
Northern Ireland live at an IDEASFACTORY Northern Ireland showcasing event at the Black Box, Belfast

Meeting Kev Largey, designer/graffitist at the Black Box and having having a chat over Guinness at the Spaniard

Having a wander along the Lagan (taking pix for the Big Art Mob)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Exotic East - this weekend's Happiness Experiment entries

Visiting my grandfather Nat's old JimCo factory on Commercial Street, E1 - now Allsaints fashion house - bought a London Calling belt by way of souvenir

Collecting my art deco mechanical digital watch from Frosts of Clerkenwell, now relocated to Blackstock Road, Highbury

Hanging out in Buddabags - the boyz bouncing on the squishy seats, U chatting to the Dubliner co-owner and me picking up JoJo the illuminated pink ape (to go with the pink velvet Jesus)

A serene canal trip with D and Danny from Stoke Bruerne in the low autumn sun

Hanging out with D and Danny by the lock watching the world drift by - including a canal pirate complete with jolly roger, grog (four X) and dangling crucifix earring

Listening to music with D on the drive home including Max Romeo, The Cranberries, The Clash, Cornershop - D compiled the most sophisticated Desert Island Discs ever for a 6 year old earlier in the day

Desert Island Discs Revisited

Can't wait a week...

1* Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me
4 Satie - Gymnopedie
5 Bruce Springsteen - Into the Fire
6 Siouxsie + the Banshees - Icon
7 Sinead O'Connor - On Raglan Road
8 Frank Sinatra - One for my Baby

Desert Island Discs

Who can you resist the game? The best radio format ever. And something you can revisit as you go through life as a yardstick of your tastes and pleasures.

Just listening to actress Jane Horrocks (as featured in Jim Cartwright's wonderful Road at the Royal Court) being interviewed by new presenter Kirsty Young (so good to see the back of unsympathetic Sue Lawley) with a good eclectic choice including Joy Division's Transmission and Bjork's I Miss You.

1* Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me (?)
4 Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up
5 The Clash - White Man in Hammersmith Palais
6 Bill Evans - Love theme from Spartacus
7 Bjork - Hyperballad
8 The Doors - The End
Book: Ulysses - James Joyce
Luxury: Mouth organ (with teach-yourself disc and book)

But what about Frank Sinatra? and Satie's Gymnopedie? I'll just have to do it all over again next week...

And here's young D's first stab at it (age 6):
1 Madness - Embarrassment
2 Bruce Spingsteen - Atlantic City
3 The Cranberries - Ode to my Family
4 Cornershop - Brimful of asha
5 Max Romeo - I Chase the Devil
6 Trumpton - Windy Miller song
7 The Jam - Batman theme
8 AC/DC - It's a long way to the top
Book: Claris Bean/My Uncle is a Hunkle
Luxury: My house

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Death of a President

Went to a screening a couple of days ago 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.

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 Stood Still (?) 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.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It was 20 years ago today - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Standing at the end of the pier by the OXO tower with fabulous dusk views along the Thames

Being taken on a surprise outting by U for our 20th anniversary (of our first meeting at Jonathan Rutherford Best's birthday party in Portobello) - first a cocktail on the 8th floor of the OXO (where U gave me my ring in the top O in 1982) then dinner in the Tate overlooking the river

Lunch with Sarah McVittie of 82ASK

Touching - Latest Happiness Experiment entries

Huge hugs from the enfants terribles on arriving home by chance at the same time as them in the dark of the drawing in evenings

A (treadmill) jog in the afternoon

Getting Germ 2 up+running

Receiving the Bernard touch

Lunchtime caff chat with Oli Barrett linking things up

Reading Kalooki Nights

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Raw Cuts

This evening did a speech at the Electric Cinema, Portobello, at the launch of Raw Cuts, a series of short films on the theme of Vulnerability, a collaboration between Channel 4's IDEASFACTORY and the NSPCC.

Followed the advice of my friend who worked on Gordon Brown's speech last week at the Labour Party conference in Manchester - used personal stories to get across my points. In this case I recalled my encounter with the Hardest Man in the World at the exit of Camden Town tube on the way to see The Clash at the Electric Ballroom - I used it to reflect on the combination of fear and exhiliration one feels as a 15 year old.

Had a chat with Nick Holt, star of About a Boy and The Weather Man, as well as lead in the forthcoming, brilliant Skins - an E4 drama series set among the young hip folk of Bristol. Made a bit of a faux pas, guessing he was playing the hapless Sid whereas he was actually the ubercool Tony. Nick is a generous supporter of NSPCC.

Hooked up with my old friend John Grounds, Director of Communications for NSPCC and fellow lover of reggae 45s. When he came off the stage after his speech another fella seemlessly took to it to speak about the dangers of drugs, his long history of smack and coke abuse, and hid time inside. Only thing was no-one knew who he was. It took a while for the general realisation to kick in that he was not in fact on the programme for the screenings. Still, nothing like a bit of spontaneity and openess to spice things up.

Meeting some of the parents of the Raw Cuts winners on my way out, they were really delighted by the opportunity and outcomes, it really makes all the work around IDEASFACTORY worthwhile. As the Big Man said, freedom is to be found in service.

Electric moments - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

The low autumn sun on the early morning station platform at East Finchley

Lunch at the Canteen, Arnold Circus E2 with Paul Bennun, Somethin' Else - set in the courtyard of an old school in Old Nichol aka the Jago, once the site of Dickensian slums

Doing a speech at the Electric Cinema, Portobello, at the launch of Raw Cuts, a series of short films on the theme of Vulnerability, a collaboration between Channel 4's IDEASFACTORY and the NSPCC, led by my old friend John Grounds (who also spoke) - mentioned the Hardest Man in the World encountered outside Camden Town tube on the way to see The Clash at the Electric Ballroom

Les Sanglots Longues des Violins - Happiness Experiment entries

Seeing the round window in place - our renewed home emerging

Hearing about N holding his own against black belts

A quiet moment in Cyprus Avenue - memories of Pop with the next generation waiting patiently in the car

A late afternoon autumn walk through Highgate and around Waterlow Park - looking for conkers, that perfect burnished brown

Seeing Tommy Boy again after weeks - a very special cat with a mysterious past

Watching Walking the Line - esp the scene when Johnny Cash plays Folson Prison Blues to Sam Phillips in the Sun studios - then singing along in the car (I shot a man in Reno)

Taking N + D to experience Fritz Lang's Metropolis accompanied by a full cinema orchestra (Babelsburg Film Orcestra of Brandenburg, the last such orchestra in Western Europe) - envisaging from 1926 a future including video phones (just got my first one exactly 80 years later) and city fly-overs, all within an elegant Art Deco framework

An early evening supper with N + D in Highgate village

Running an extra 3 minutes at 11 mph - extra energy through exercise

Monday, October 02, 2006


I really love this (second) 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 - the top picture is the moment they first meet following the death from breast cancer of Clarke’s wife, Heather.

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

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dance like a Monkey

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.


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.

Walk the walk - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Johnny Cash's first song in Walk the Line

Coming up with the idea of making FourDocs out of Travels with My Camera (More 4)

Helping shape a Black History Month event about digital technology in film-making with Inge Blackman

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Newbiginings - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Dinner with John Newbigin after trustees meeting of the 24 Hour Museum in the British Museum - wonderful spectacle of the central glass-ceilinged hall at dusk

Connecting John Newbigin to Katherine Sand via the early 90s Labour party - lovely people from two quite different parts of my life

Loading Modern Times and other music from the Holmes Hub onto my iPod and shuffling my way home to it

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Left field - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Discussing Kalooki Nights with Howard Jacobson at Joseph's bookshop/cafe in Temple Fortune (what a great name for a place, almost up there with Gospel Oak) with Jon and Manu and his colleague Ronit

Coming up with the idea for the Street Style moblog for a volunteering project with Disorder magazine - posted a dummy entry and worked through the approach with Alfie Dennen of Moblog

Being called "the most left-field producer I know" by David Bausola on his departure for Imagination in NYC

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Catholic taste - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Visiting Finchley Catholic High School for N - alighting at Woodside Park tube in autumn afternoon sunlight

Having a drink with our neighbours (Kate and James, Vicky and Roy)

Listening to A Love Supreme whilst reading Kalooki Nights on the tube



Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs (Channel 4 reception)

Ian Hislop of Have I Got News for You and Not Forgotten
(Channel 4 reception)

Jon Ronson
(Channel 4 reception)


Nick Broomfield
(Channel 4)

Burning Man - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Seeing Judyth on her new year visit - looking at her photos of Burning Man

My sight returning to normal

Watching the Ryder Cup golf while jogging with ease

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quick on the Draw - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Watching Quentin Blake draw - and emulating his style

Doing chalk pavement drawings with D and N and U

N winning a prize in a draw a bike of the future competition at the Big Draw at Somerset House/King's College London

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Family fortune - two days' Happiness Experiment entry

Family gathering at Ma's (Rosh)

Lunch with Gia Milinovich - blog chat

Listening to John Coltrane

Walk along Regent's Canal from King's Cross to Camden Town with U N & D and my camera

Watching the Ryder Cup golf in Ireland

Listening to Question Time with Boris Johnson and snoozing to Any Answers

Friday, September 22, 2006

Islands - Yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Seeing my 4Radio in Second Life idea come to life

Screening of John Pilger's Stealing a Nation (2004) with U at the Barby

The fight back of the Chagos Islanders

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

Chicken soup lunch with U outside Harry Morgan's, St. John's Wood

Losing 1 kg last week

Working up an idea for The Farm with Cassian Harrison and Giulia of Lion Interactive out back on the terrace

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Watching Stephen Fry's bravely honest programme on manic depression with U

Reading Kalooki Nights

Chatting to James at lunchtime on the terrace at 124 Horseferry Road

Touched by Fire

Stephen Fry's programme this evening on BBC2 on bipolarity/manic depression (The Secret History 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.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Paradise Lost

Archbishop Rowan Williams was reflecting in today's media on the curtailing of childhood and the transformation of children into mini-adults. He mentioned as causes the pressure of school testing and the commercial assault from the purveyors of junk food and junk material possessions. He spoke of the increase of depression and mental illness among our children.

What he didn't talk about was the constant dread of global warming and the anxiety around terrorism. The media he was using to surmonise even today terrorised my children with suicide bombing (the 6 year old) and sex crimes (the 9 year old). That might have something to do with a widespread sense of depression and fear.

It reminds me of the Woody Allen film (Take the Money and Run, I think) when the kid discovers the universe is constantly expanding towards eventual anihilation and decides there's no point doing his homework. Except there's nothing funny about today's situation.

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Walking D to skool on his bike - finding a new back street route near Cherry Tree Woods

Walking around Fitzrovia in the autumn sunshine - for Creative Archive Licence Group meeting

Chatting to N on his bed - that tranquil end of the day moment

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today's Happiness Experiment entry - that last one was an imposter (yesterday's)

Taking D to his first football match - Spurs vs Fulham at White Hart Lane

A sunny walk through Highgate Woods and Queen's Wood - with a short stop for Harold Jacobson (Kalooki Nights)

Playing 3 and in with N and D - feeling lighter on my feet

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Giving U the tormaline ring

Seeing the house extension after 3 weeks - now an enclosed structure with wonderful views

Setting up photos with N and D - such as Harmony in My Head

Friday, September 15, 2006

PSP supply crisis

D, munching on his pitta and hummus, was wondering (and asked U) how do the elves make PSPs? (He's thinking a:head to Christmas.)

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

Buying U a ring from Mark Nuell in his studio at Pennybank Chambers, Clerkenwell

Wandering around Clerkenwell after meeting at The Guardian

Getting a preview demo of Turning the Pages software from Microsoft/British Library including Leonardo manuscripts and the Golden Haggadah (which threw the MS fella because it read right to left)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Spark

Creativity is in my view an essential ingredient of Happiness so it is a common theme in this blog - be it music or art, film-making or interactive media, it is rich in Simple Pleasures.

I have just been to a talk by Matthew Bannister, formerly of Radio 1 and golden age GLR, on Creativity at the Rich Mix centre in Bethnal Green Road courtesy of Jez Nelson and Somethin' Else.

A lot of the focus was on experimenting, taking risks and making mistakes - all critical to innovation and covered in The Blue Movie and The Green Movie which I made in 1994 and 1996 repectively. Matthew spoke a lot about Chris Morris and his uncompromising risk taking, using clips from Blue Jam. He also quoted a resonant piece from ee cummings about how difficult it is to be individual in a world constantly pushing us to be like everyone else. It makes me think of that Mordillo comic strip: "We're all different!" "I'm not?!"

I think I've taken a few creative risks in my time - most appropiately with MindGym. My current commission, the mobile blogging bit of the Big Art Project, is fairly against the grain, I've had to fight hard for it so far - can't wait to get motoring on it with Alfie Dennan and co.

OK, so here's my Big Theory on Creativity, inspired by Andre Breton and the Surrealist Manifesto - one of the few useful things to come out of a Modern Languages degree. Creative energy comes from bringing disparate things together and trying to get a spark (etincelle) to jump (jaillir) between these two poles, things that don't ordinarily belong together. Bread rolls and feet in Chaplin's The Gold Rush. Narcissus and an egg in Dali's painting. A mouldy spillage and fighting bacteria in the case of Alexander Flemming. Hollywood movies and implementing ideas in that lost gem The Green Movie - a connection inspired by Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty.

It's all about making the Spark fly.

The value of the image depends upon the beauty of the spark obtained; it is, consequently, a function of the difference of potential between the two conductors. Manifesto of Surrealism , Andre Breton 1924

The Unofficial Happiness Experiment

The Happiness Experiment (below) was intended to be one month only. However, looking back at the results it actually serves as a good and positive diary so I've carried on recording 3 things that make me happy each day.

So here's the batch from after the official end of the experiment:

Hearing Matt and Trey talk about creating Southpark - inpiration to write
Watching the rhetorical performance of Al Gore at the Edinburgh TV Festival - a thoughtful, knowledgable address
Edinburgh in the sunshine - yellow stone and green under blue skies

Ice Cold in Alex - Sylvia Simms - desert boots
Somerset House fountains and courtyard
Betjeman - Summoned by Bells

N's flowing locks
Howard Jacobson - Superman as immigrant

The Beatles - Sergeant Pepper
Chatting on the terrace (behind C4) in the sun (Harry Cymbler, also half-German)
Commenting on films (from Ideasfactory West Midlands and Northern Ireland)

Marie Antoinette - meeting Sophia Coppola
An evening out with Jonathan Rutherfurd Best - 20 years since we met in Penang, Hotel Suisse
Dinner at Sheekeys - Bill Nighy and Rufus Sewell in the house
1/9 ?

Seeing a Spitfire fly - part of celebrations of its 70th anniversary
Watching N + D play with toy spitfires (resonant of the scene from the Battle of Britain with Ian McShane)
Watching the sleek profile of a Canberra in flight - like something out of Captain Scarlet

Walking to the Brazil-Argentina match - the approach to a match is often the most exciting bit
Admiration of N's Brazentina flag - his whole non-tribal sensibility
Watching Jake cruise on his terms around his 2nd birthday party

Walking through Highgate Woods in the sunshine
N + D playing toy soldiers
The direction, writing and acting of Saving Private Ryan

Getting the all-clear on my suspect mole
Walking and talking - Moray at lunchtime
The Regency caff - incl 1970s Spurs photos

Who Do You Think You Are?
Setting up Black History Month film event - with Inge, Paul Murphy, Mark Boothe etc.
Building up a visually-led presentation - for Ideasfactory Highlands and Islands

Lunching by Loch Ness with Sue and Akeva at Dores Inn
Sailing down Loch Ness in the afternoon - the churning green water of the wake, the black water of its depths
Doing my presentation on 'Making the Web Work for You' (creatives) in Inverness with David Bausola and Gill Mills (DJ/podcaster)

Dawn in Inverness
An evening siesta [or "fiesta" as D called it] in Kent - low sunlight filtered through the curtains and the trickle of the fountain outside (Eastwell Manor, Boughton Lees, nr Ashford)
Doing some interesting, pioneering work around Second Life

Swimming with D - a whole indoor 20m pool to ourselves
Swimming outdoors with Danny - diving along the bright yellow mosaic crest
Reading Andrew Motion's article about writing about his mother and the nature of biography (Spots of Time)

Chris Cawte teaching D guitar - D strumming like a natural
Having a swimming pool to myself - with Italianate decoration
Catching up with my old friend Chris - and his sons (and their music)

A Spitfire hand-made birthday card from N + D
A surprise outing from Una to hear Patti Smith (at the Queen Elizabeth Hall) including chance encounters with Jude Kelley (CEO South Bank Centre), Alison Cole (Director QEH) and Kate, a lovely woman from Brighton.
Picnic in Green Park with James and Jonathan.

Chatting with work colleagues - Lisa Pruden, James and Kerynne Metherell
D telling me about his lesson about babies
Effortless jogging - when your mind is elsewhere

Listening to Matthew Bannister on creativity
Being in a stone's throw of JimCo in Commercial Road (my grandfather's old factory)
Watching the Creative Archive User Generated Content at the Creative Archive Licence Group, esp the dyslexia film

Contributing to the 14-19 Creative Media Diploma for Interactive Media at the Skillset Interactive Media Forum
Chatting with N at bedtime
Explaining the achievements of Breaking the News to the DfES evaluator

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Some More Simple Pleasures from Berkeley, California

Here are Simple Pleasures gathered by a bloke in Berkeley. I've picked out a few choice ones:
  • Soft pajamas. (Need I say more?)
  • Laughing so hard with your best friend that you end up crying
  • When someone brushes your hair, even when it doesn't need to be brushed
  • Being kissed in the rain
  • The smell of freshly cut grass, and the air right after it rains
  • Watching him sleep
  • Clean bed sheets
  • Her voice
  • Music
  • A smile from a stranger

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Patti Cake

Had one of my best birthdays ever yesterday - not bad for 9/11.

Began by sending the following reflection on 9/11 to Radio 5 Breakfast:

"I was celebrating birth on that day of death. It was my 38th birthday.

My friends at work had taken me out for lunch. We returned to our office to be confronted with the difficult to comprehend scenes of burning buildings and colliding planes. When the first tower collapsed a terrible reality started to kick in.

I remember particularly the presents I was given that innocent lunchtime before we returned to those tv pictures. Peter Ackroyd's book 'London' about a city I love. And Bob Dylan's album that had just come out that day 'Love and Theft' which represnted the opposite of death and terrorism - music, man's art and creativity."

Shortly after N + D presented me with a hand-drawn Spitfire birthday card.

And out into the Indian summer weather, close to 30 degrees.

Picnic lunch with James and Jonathan in Green Park, chatting in the dappled shade.

Then after work The Surprise. I met U at the NFT as instructed, after a pleasant evening stroll along the south bank. She brought me up to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. In the newly redesigned foyer I bumped into Jane Quinn who is working on the Jude Kelly, artistic director of the South Bank Centre. I still didn't know what I was seeing. That was revealed by Tracy Josephs of FilmFour who told me to get into the Patti Smith vibe.

Patti Smith came on to a stage decorated with sofas upon which sat guitars illuminated by an old-style living room light. Dressed in her habitual black with white shirt she was joined by pianist/bassist Tony Something, Italian cellist Gionvanni S and guitarist Jason Cross. She performed a selection of songs to celebrate the life of Robert Mapplethorpe. It was his dirty sexy portrayl of her hairy armpited figure on Easter which first drew my teenage attention to her. The first half of the set included a trial run of a new singalong about Guantanamo Bay (!) Without Chains - she says she knows nothing about politics, just about humanity - and a lullaby she wrote with Fred Sonic Smith for their son Jackson which got U crying as Fred had directed at the recording session at which Mapplethorpe was present. The stories between songs were engaging and she projected her usual charisma with her fabulous NYC accent. The whole thing was recorded. Part 2 was a ebbing and flowing performance of a poem The Coral Sea with Kevin Shields on geetar. A special performance for a special day.

30 years after CBGBs Patti Smith still has compelling stuff to say and an inspirational presence rare these itunes days.

Music Lesson

The last day of my 42nd year. On my way home from the hebraically named Boughton Aluph in Kent I stopped by an old crossroads sign and spotted the name Faversham. It reminded me of my old friend Chris Cawte [an excellent guitarist and musician, he did the music for all my films from 93 onwards and is Jimmy Page in Let's Zep among other achievements] and I made up my mind to pull by his place in another Kent Boughton - Boughton Under Blean aka The Street. So the word on the Street was good to see you again - Chris met my boys for the first time and I met his - Tom and Adam. They are both in a band called Fortystore - the former a tall Dylanesque character (writer, vocalist and guitar), the latter a gentle son of his mother. I listened to their demo disk on the way home and was particularly struck by the track Home , very assured vocals with an imaginative arrangement. We sat out back of their 400 year house and chewed the fat on a perfect Indian summer afternoon. D got a first fabulous guitar lesson from Chris and he strummed away happily (electric and acoustic) - I hope with all my heart he takes it up as I feel deep down he has a real gift. What Chris said was bang on - what's important is a curiosity and genuine interest in the instrument, from that flows the technique and competence. Please God one day he plays In My Time of Dying like the one and only Chris Gutter Brother.

A Period of Transition

Ok, bit of a rethink - ignore the last post. I'm starting this phase of my blog without a PC at hand (i'll have to cut&paste later) but I'm really in the mood after reading Andrew Motion's article about writing a biography of his mother in today's [9/9/06] Guardian.

So a quick review of my blogging to date...

In the beginning there was Simple Pleasures . This was my first attempt - inspired by the Ian Dury song 'Reasons to be Cheerful part 3' and a sermon I heard. It aims to spotlight some of the Simple Pleasures that I feel makes life worth living.

Here's the introduction which explains:

"This blog is inspired by a sermon I heard a couple of years ago which quoted a 'will' left by a father for his children which was not his 'money will' but his 'wisdom will' (I can't remember the exact terminology that was used but you get the idea) - it was his attempt to pass on some of the more useful things he'd learnt in his lifetime about what really matters and about the way people are. I've come to the conclusion over my forty-one years so far on the planet that Happiness is to be found primarily in the Simple Pleasures of life so I've decided to put some of those pleasures here for Noah and Dylan to read when they're a bit older and anyone else who cares to. And one day soon Noah and Dylan can start adding their own..."

I'm not entirely convinced by the Blogigo technology hence me arriving here.

Then came Simple Pleasures part 2 - my mobile photo blog which I really do enjoy. The pictures capture aspects of my day-to-day life well and the text does much the same as Simple Pleasures (but linked to images).

And on to here - Simple Pleasures part 3 - which contains my Happiness Experiment. Here's the intro which explains it:

"Today I'm starting an experiment prompted by an idea I heard on the radio this morning. The suggestion (from Carol Craig, sister of Una's friend Marion) is to go to sleep at night thinking of three things that made you happy during the day. I'm going to start off doing it for a month..."

Now the experiment is officially over it's time to start a new direction. (That said, I found the experiment so positive that I'm going to continue doing it among my activity here.)

So the direction now is to use Simple Pleasures part 3 for regular, short posts on a range of topics related to my work, interests and daily life, as well as as a hub for my other web presences including all the Simple Pleasures plus Flickr and my not entirely finished Be Do Be site.

So (as my first ever book said) Here We Go...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dispatches from the Front Line of Happiness

'Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?' - I've picked up this volume (by Alan McArthur and Steve Lowe, subtitled 'The Encyclopedia of Modern Life') a few times in airports and shops and found myself agreeing with much in it, but just didn't quite get over the hump of wanting a copy lying around my house. What I think I'll do now is head off to the interface of the Happiness Experiment and Is Everything Shit and send back some dispatches from the front line of happiness, looking at once at what brings happiness and what does its damndest to erode it. Tally-ho!

Happiness Experiment - the conclusion

So that's a good month of recording 3 things that made me happy each day. What have I learnt?

In tune with the title of this blog (and the Ian Dury song that inspired it - see Simple Pleasures [part 1], most of what makes us happy is simple and easily attainable. From a sunset to a good book to your family and home, it mostly doesn't depend on money.

There is the odd day when it's hard to come up with three but that rarely lasts beyond a couple of days and coming up with none never happened.

It's illuminating to look at the recurrent themes - there aren't really that many in total - from play to physical pleasure, from food to family life - all well within our reach.

The day-to-day challenge is keeping that perspective.

So where to from here? That's for the next post...

End of the Happiness Experiment

Good hotel rooms - Great Victoria, Bradford
The kick of public speaking - b.tween conference
Reading the newspaper once in a while

What this means:
1. luxury
2. self-fulfilment
3. having time on your hands

Starting a new novel - The Good Life by Jay McInerney
Arriving in a new country - Granada on a warm evening
Seeing old friends - Eileen and Matthew and the kids

What this means:
1. reading/literature
2. travel/exploring
3. friends

Squeezing oranges fresh off the tree in Eileen and Matthew's garden
Feeling horny in the afternoon - siesta time
Swimming in the evening in an illuminated pool

What this means:
1. drink/food, fruit/nature
2. physical pleasure and rest
3. physical pleasure, water

Reading in bed when it's sunny outside
Outdoor drinks in the evening
Watching cats

What this means:
1. reading
2. nature/light
3. nature/animals

Good hotel rooms e.g. With balcony/terrace
Evening swim in the sea
Reading on the beach

What this means:
1. luxury
2. water/nature/sea
3. reading/sea

Secluded beach
Pendulous breasts
Eating fish on a terrace by the sea

What this means:
1. sea/nature, physical pleasure
2. sex
3. sea, food

Getting brown
Walking en famille
Feeling exercised

What this means:
1. physical pleasure
2. family life
3. physical pleasure, health

Birdsong in the morning
Scoring a strike
Walking through Bloomsbury

What this means:
1. nature
2. play
3. urban life - architecture/art meets nature meets people

Sharing Julie and Jonathan's wedding day
A quiet colourful corner of Notting Hill
Looking good

What this means:
1. friends
2. urban life
3. self-fulfilment

Water with fruit juice
Looking at the photos from teenage trip to Israel
Time with Stu and Jon

What this means:
1. drink
2. friends, travel
3. friends

Playing boules with the boyz in the backgarden
Making barbeques
Reading DBPierre's new book

What this means:
1. play, family life
2. food, family life, nature
3. reading/literature

Being invited to be a trustee of 24 Hour Museum
Hanging in Green Park
Evening in Saint James's Square before BAFTA TV committee

What this means:
1. self/professional fulfilment
2. nature
3. nature/light

Learning about User Generated Tagging
A presentation about Flickr and stuff
Working in the sunshine in Embankment Gardens

What this means:
1. learning
2. photography, creative technology
3. nature

Working at the BBC on Creative Archive
Getting home in good time for the kids - dinner out al fresco at the thai
Hooking up with people like Anna Maria in Italy on Flickr

What this means:
1. professional fulfilment
2. family life, nature
3. friends, human connection


Getting a new job title and description I wanted
Chocolate malt milkshake (at Ed's)
Birdwatching on the King's Road

What this means:
1. self-fulfilment
2. food
3. sex

England scoring
Aaron Lennon playing superbly
Discussing the match with N

What this means:
1. sport
2. sport
3. family life

Desert Island Discs
Crappy thriller movies
Friday evenings

What this means:
1. play, music
2. film
3. rest

Our home
30s lidos (Crouch End)

What this means:
1. home, family life
2. physical pleasure/water, architecture

Our new garden shed
The allotments
Memories of playing Action Man (the tank)

What this means:
1. home
2. nature
3. play

The bijoux New Ambassadors Theatre

What this means:
1. architecture/art
2. friends

Joe Cole's goal
Posh outdoor lunch with Iram Q, Green Park
A bunch of new music for my iPod

What this means:
1. sport
2. food, nature, human connection
3. music

Doing Aussie accent for the kids while reading a picture book, Wombat Stew, for the both of them
Buying the best of Commando comics (echoes of Wittering) from Hatchards
Walking through Saint James's in the sun

What this means:
1. family life, reading
2. art/reading
3. urban life


Introducing N to Commando comics

What this means:
1. teaching, sharing

Reading Skins script
IPod shuffling on the tube home

What this means:
1. film
2. music, pleasant surprises

Surveying progress of extension at sunset

What this means:
1. home, nature
2. photography, creative technology

Bed time read with Dylan - Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
Watching James May(?)'s tv show about classic toys with D and laughing together
Tommy scratching the glass back door to get in at night

What this means:
1. family life, reading
2. play
3. animals

Lunch on roof terrace of soho house with the Carbon mikes
Getting my teeth into Big Art Project
Evening fizzy tea session after work

What this means:
1. human connection, nature
2. art, professional fulfilment
3. human connection


18/8/06 last day
My old orange iBook (coming out of retirement)
Watching N setting up toy soldiers - those old Airfix 1/30something figures (recently augmented with an eBay purchase)
Post-gym satisfaction

What this means:
1. creative technology, colour
2. family life, play
3. physical pleasure

The conclusions drawn from all of this follow in next post...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Catch up

Friday 24th
1. Green and Black's Dark Chocolate bar
2. Being able to have my first drink of the year outside
3. Mangosteen in Canton Street off Carnaby Street - an excellent Pad Thai

Saturday 25th
1. I had lunch with my friends from University. The food was superb. King Prawns with chilli and shallots. And of course the wine was very fine too.
2. Having a conversation about books. It is a long time since I have had a serious conversation about books but with 5 English graduates around one table it's not surprising. for your information we were reading the following:
Foucaults Pendulum by Umberto Eco; Coalescent by Stephen Baxter; Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and waiting eagerly for the next David Mitchell.
3. A soft bed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

SIMPLE PLEASURES part 3: sunset boulevard

Looking down on the Thames from OXO tower
Drinking a mojito at sunset
Opening Panini world cup stickers with the enfants terribles

Listening to the Archers in bed and snoozing
Seeing my nephews
Finding my old books on creative thinking

Drawing at sunset with music (esp White Stripes)
Caff lunch at the Majestic (?)
The coloured bits of the Home Office buiilding

Reading about Gandhi with N
Talking about logos with Richard Norley
Listening to Flamenco Sketches

Buying a new LP and listening to it for the first time (The Raconteurs)
Rice pudding
Buying world cup stickers for N

An outdoor beer in Lambs Conduit Street
Traces of Dickens around London - Dombey St

Meeting Daisy Asquith and coming up with some ideas
Chatting with John Pearse about Joe Boyd
Visiting OneWord radio and talking about the best medium

Saturday morning caff breakfast in Crouch End
Saturday haircut in town routine with N
Walking down to the Phoenix for a movie (thrilller)

Wearing my John Pearse jacket
Seeing my step-sister Julia and her family over from Italy
Meeting Carol Jay, a 70 year old with spark

Hooking up with JJ Taylor and Dan Shaffer after 24 years
Sitting in the middle of Sloane Square in the drizzle
Puling off a good picture-led speech at Queen Elizabeth Conference Hall, Westminster.

Strolling through Fitzrovia
Yorkshire pudding
Reading about Big Brother in The Current Bun and related chat (with James)

Looking at the countryside out the train window
An old English country church
Being recognised by David Puttnam

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Much fine gold

With the weather so rubbish at the moment it's hard to find things to cheer me up. However here is my list from yesterday..
1. Intellectual Challenge - I went to a conference about Web 2.0 for NGOs yesterday at the RSA and it was great to spend a day out of the office just thinking and discussing with other people instead of chasing emails and missing meetings. Time spent just expanding my brain is like gold dust.
2. My necklace from Tunisia - I wore it yesterday. I had it made to my direction in the Medina in Tunis when I was there about a fortnight ago and every time I wear it it reminds me of the guys in the shop and the whole afternoon I spent there just going through the jewellery and silver, like your grandma's old costume jewellery collection.
3. A memory of my grandpa -He always asked for "much fine gold" for his birthday or Christmas. He was a miserable old bugger.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

SIMPLE PLEASURES part 3 - Music in the air

The array of colours of blossom in our streets
A bagpiper at EF tube
Reading comic books on my bed (not much change there then)

What this indicates:
1 Nature and her cycles 2 Live music and street surprises 3 Escape to the imaginary worlds through litereature/art

Snoozing in the garden
Wearing well-made (John Pearse) clothes
Shooting hoops with the enfants terribles

What this indicates:
1 Nature and rest 2 Craft 3 Playing with children

Life drawing in the evening
Working on Sky Orchestra with Mike S
Watching animations and talking to the makers

What this indicates:
1 art and creativity 2 creative collaboration 3 film and interacting with creatives

Sitting and walking by the Thames
Thinking about ideas and creative thinking
Exploring unfamiliar parts of London

What this indicates:
1 involves rivers and moving water 2 creativity 3 London and urban environments

Reading outdoors
Chatting over a picnic in the park (with Benedict Phillips)
John Martyn performing live

What this indicates:
1 reading combined with fresh air 2 artist combined with fresh air 3 MUSIC

Listening to live version of Atlantic City
Chatting to the fella from Disorder outdoors over lunch
The anticipation of watching All in the Game by Tony Grounds

What this indicates:
1 Music 2 art chat 3 cultural event

Starting a new book (Rat Pack Confidential)
Listening to Kind of Blue (the best record of all time)
Judging school students' work for the Lost Generation competition

What this indicates:
1 reading 2 music for peace 3 promise in children