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...