Monday, January 25, 2010

Sudden Thought

It's not Where, not even What, but Who - or rather with Whom - that really matters

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Art school - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

The street on which Chongqing Institute of Fine Art sits - bustling with life

My name in Chinese lights - posters for speech today at the art institute

Being interviewed by Chinese press including a women's mag (What brand clothes do you wear?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

China syndrome - Today's Happiness Experiment entry

A variety of goodbye hugs from my family.

Reading 'A Week in December' in a Club Class cubbyhole.

The prospect of an exotic travel adventure.

Canal Plus - yesterday's Happiness Experiment entry

A long walk en famille along the Regent's Canal from Gainsborough Studios (explained the concept of a McGuffin to N) to Limehouse basin (visions of Our Mutual Friend).

First jog after the snow in first sunshine for days.

Lollypop lady graffiti under the bridge.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On the pursuit of happiness

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.


Monday, January 11, 2010

On Religion

Religion is giving with no strings attached

An old Kabbalist quoted by Rabbi Lionel Blue

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Creative Accounting #105


Sam Rockwell = Tom Cruise + Warren Beatty + Eddie Marsden

Moon = 2001 + Space Oddity + Man Who Fell to Earth + Space 1999

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sept 2006

Sep 11, 2006 at 07:40 o\clock
Peace and Tolerance revisited
by: arkangel Keywords: 11, bob, dylan, peter, ackroyd, london, love, and, theft, birthday

Mood: reflective
Listening to: bob dylan

-----Original Message-----

From: ArkAngel

Sent: 11 September 2006 07:35

To: ''

Subject: Memories of 9/11

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.



[at this point I moved to here (for personal) and Simple Pleasures part 4 (for professional)]

Feb 2006

Feb 5, 2006
Peace and Tolerance

Going to have a little paddle in the darker side of our world today as a way of addressing the simple pleasures of Peace, Tolerance and Freedom.

This whole row over the cartoons of Muhammad published the other day in Denmark - here's exploring a few points...

Objecting Muslims cite the ban on the graven image in their religion. The cartoonists weren't Muslims so that doesn't really apply. As it happens both Judaism and Christianity have similar restrictions on the graven image enshrined in the (from memory) second Commandment but these religions over the years have somehow been able to distinguish between an idol and Picasso's Guernica.

You only need go to Leighton House in London to see how Muslims have an admirable history of flouting this ban to the benefit of Art. The beautiful Islamic tiles collected by Frederic, Lord Leighton include images of birds - however, you can trace in the glaze cuts across the birds' throats which apparently get one round the graven image restriction. Jewish artists have taken a similar approach, for example, at Bet Alpha synagogue where mosaic images of the animals and figures of the signs of the zodiac adorn the floor - but that's okay apparently because we walk on them.

Now how about the offence caused by the images. A cartoonist dared to make an association between Muhammad and bombs - can't think where he got that from? I guess this is about thinness of skin. Islam seems to have a very thin skin. It's terribly easily offended. Perhaps a sign of lack of confidence. Most other religions seem to be able to take it on the chin, a bit of satire or even, heaven forfend, criticism.

Why on earth aren't the Christians up in arms about this portrayal of God?

Or thinking more in terms of prophets, why aren't they kicking up a stink about this portrayal of Jesus

or this one

[image missing]

or even this one?

And why aren't those serene Buddhists going bonkers over this cartoon of Buddha?

Meanwhile the Jews seem to be taking it on the chin day after day as Palestinian, Arabic and Muslim newspapers publish anti-semitic cartoons worthy of Der Sturmer and the Nazis.

So in an ideal world we'd all spend a bit more time thinking about what God, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha actually care about. Do they care if mere mortals draw funny (or not so funny) pictures of them? Do they want us to threaten (or carry out) "beheading" and "massacring" as suggested by the placards we've seen on the streets of my beloved London this week? Or do they want us to love one another and treat others as we'd want to be treated ourselves? Perhaps it's time to stop looking ridiculous waving our swords and scimitars in the air and start behaving like loving human beings...

Dec 2005

Dec 11, 2005
Has anyone seen my old friend John?

Been storing this one up since Thursday (8 Dec) - it was 25 years ago that day that we lost John Lennon. I was in Tijuana where I saw his picture beside headlines I couldn't fully translate but I knew he was gone.

So I kicked off Thursday with Oh Yoko which this picture reminds me of - thank God he found Love.
In the middle of a cloud
In the middle of a cloud I call your name
Oh Yoko, oh Yoko, my love will turn you on

How wonderful to be able to write a song like that for your lover - so simple (which is after all the theme of this blog).
Love is reaching, reaching love

Next up was Across the Universe which is one of the very best of The Beatles' songs - one I believe John was particularly proud of (caught a bit of an archive interview on Radio 4 the other day by a Rolling Stone journo in the 70s.)

And as I headed off to work what better than A Day in the Life from the magical Sgt Pepper...

On the tube listened to his greatest solo hits and the two aspects of his songs which really stood out were the searing honesty (e.g. Mother) and the brilliant simplicity, such as Love quoted above and below.

Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
We can be
...which links directly in spirit to my website Be Do Be

So with shades of Sinatra, echoes of Lennon, I'll just have to skip Miles and content myself with Marvin to round things off - John L is far more deserving than John F of these beautifully sung words:

Has anybody here
Seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people,
but it seems the good die young,
I just looked around
And he was gone...

Oct 2005

Oct 1, 2005
Chain, chain, chain

This evening i feel like linking up a chain of simple pleasures starting from a few minutes ago. It's been a while since I've been here so where better to start than...

Hallo. Hallo. Hallo. Hallo. Hallo. Hallo. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Public Image Limited's eponymous first single. It was on the radio just before. How fabulous to break the mould with the Sex Pistols and then break it again as soon as you leave.

Dub reggae - The echoey Hallo of PIL reminds me of the transcendental ethereal vibe of Dub.

45s - Seven perfect inches of black vinyl. Dub makes me think of buying records in Jamaica. Wrong and missing labels. Relying on the recommendations of the record shop keeper.

Rooms with unglazed windows/fresh air flowing in i.e. with a hole in a wall - the lounge in Noel Coward's house east of Ocho Rios - a widescreen window open to the elements looking out along the coast

True friends - I was in Ochi for my friend Nigel's wedding - he sent a text the day of the London bombings this summer which reminded me how true a friend he is

I think I'll wrap up tonight on London, the city of my birth, the greatest on Earth (in my eyes) - earlier today I walked along a beautiful brookside walk within the bounds of London - from the corner of Dollis Brook in the dappled shade of a horse chestnut tree where the enfants terribles launched polished conkers into the stream - i so love the sound of running water - it turns into the River Brent which eventually flows into the Thames, a wonderful chain of water which links into a wonderful chain of seas which binds us all together.

Comments for this entry:

1. drifting wrote at Oct 2, 2005 at 06:59 o\clock:

What a lovely idea - your chain of simple pleasures.

London is my favourite city - love it. Was last there the day before the bombing.

May 2005

May 14, 2005
Bucking the trend on Friday the 13th

So as Friday the 13th draws to a close what Simple Pleasures have helped offset it today?

Comic books - this morning I was reading a newish one I bought in Dublin on Monday entitled 'Shining Knight' from DC Comics. I've really got back into these (as Noah observed in the car taking him to skool this morning) thanks to coming across Vertigo Comics recently in a shop at Camden Market. And I came across Vertigo thanks to comic book writer Alan Moore and his fabulous The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Then there's the delight of story-telling which I've been engaging with thanks to a new website I've been working on called 'Every Object Tells a Story' to which I contributed a couple of stories today about seaweed in Lough Swilly in County Donegal and ancient stones (a dolmen) in the Mountains of Morne in Northern Ireland.

As I was reading to the children this evening I spotted our cat (Tommy Boy) sitting on next door's shed staring out at the neighbouring allotments, his wild orange fur radiating against the greenery - a fabulous sight.

March 2005

Mar 12, 2005
Things Noah and Dylan like

This is Noah and Dylan's first entry in Simple Pleasures. It's Saturday morning, Tom and Jerry has just finished, the Enfants Terribles were lying together on the couch under the blue blanket, but now it's time to get active and seize this day...

Noah likes drawing, Charlie Chaplin, seeing his cousins Finlay and Jake, Lego and taking photos.

Dylan likes playgrounds, eating Indian food, his Daddy and his friends and going round to play.

They've gone next door to play now so i'll take the opportunity to springboard off their pleasures.

Cartoons: The Hair Bear Bunch (Ooh ooh Mr Beazley and my kinda afro), Bugs Bunny; meeting Chuck Jones in Cambridge and asking him why Bugs dresses up in women's clothing so often; Hong Kong Phooey (Is it Henry the mild mannered janitor? Could be.)...

Lying down, relaxing: in the back garden of Lellow House in the summer, just listening; on our bed on Saturday afternoons; on grassy banks where it's quiet, perhaps the sound of a river flowing past.

Drawing: getting lost in my drawing, Egon Schiele, good quality pencils, black oil pastel, Aubrey Beardsley, the fine black line of the Rotring pen, Henry Moore's chalk sculptural drawings, emptying the wooden shavings from the pencil sharpener.

Charlie Chaplin: Dylan is named after Charlie (Dylan Charlie Wilf). My favourite film is Modern Times. His humanity; his defiance of Adolf; his dedication to creativity, day after day in the cutting room; his balletic movement; the dancing rolls in The Gold Rush; the monkey on the tightrope in The Circus; City Lights... and I think I'll call it a day there. A leisurely breakfast (weekends and holidays only) beckons. Next time I think I'll pick up at the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco...

Mar 12, 2005
The Food of Love and Happiness

You can't reflect on the sources of Happiness too long before you get to Music. I'll always remember a quotation I heard at school by Walter Pater (whoever he was, a pal of Oscar Wilde if I remember right - and while we're on the subject of Oscar it's a good time to chuck The Importance of Being Earnest and The Ballad of Reading Gaol into the Simple Pleasures pot, and while on the subject of those let's toss in woodcuts, as my copy of Reading Gaol is illustrated with woodcuts by Frans Masereel, and the films of Albert Lewin including The Picture of Dorian Gray and Pandora and the Flying Dutchman which brings us neatly to James Mason's voice and Ava Gardner's beauty ...and the beauty of Women and the voice of her ex-hubby Frank Sinarta and ...well we're back to music - but look how infectious this Pleasure thing is, and now back to Walter, reigning in this sentence in a way John Milton would be proud of - oh yes, Sing heavenly muse, let's not forget Paradise Lost, in particular that red Cambridge edition we had at school in Mr Fitch's class, which had a major impact on me because it first made me aware of the narrowness and artificiality of school subjects and the connections between things [very internety really]) ah yes dear old Walter who said: "All Art aspires to the condition of music" which I read as meaning that every other art form would love to achieve the directness of Music's impact on the heart, I mean look at this jumble of words... It could all be said in a phrase of music from say Miles Davis' transcendent Flamenco Sketches.

Mar 4, 2005
Pure White Pleasure

Light flurries of snow.

Snow flakes floating into your face.

Coming in from the cold.


Going out into the cold bright day.

The sign above our front door going out: "Dun Na nGall Donegal 1" - I mile. Or (less than) 1 day away.


Fanad Head. Port Salon beach. The sea arch just north of there.

That day I watched the sea weed swirling around my feet (by the arch), browns and greens and eddies of water in a PERFECT MOMENT. Noah and Dylan were playing by the water's edge with Una nearby.

Simple Pleasures - the archive

I'm just moving the original posts on Simple Pleasures (the forerunner of this blog) from the dodgy old German software where it currently resides to a cut&pasted archive here (so links may not work)...

The Simple Pleasures of Life
Feb 14, 2005

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...

The smell of cut grass
Feb 14, 2005

Always loved it. Very English I suppose. The cricket pitch (and I'm not even particularly interested in cricket) - and that's another one: the sound of ball on bat, a summer rhythm, all the time in the world. The circular lawn in my ma's house. Dozing in the sun. Mowing the lawn in my own home, a bit of physical work to make the stretching out on the blanket with a good book and a cool drink all the more pleasurable. Meanwhile, back in Asterix in Britain a Briton with a red handle-bar moustache waters his perfect lawn, flicks a blade and pronounces it "a decent bit of turf" (or at least it will be in another hundred years) - and then the hurtling chariot drives across it, carrying Asterix, Obelix and Asterix's cousin Anticlimax. Then there's Cambridge and college lawns, the shaded grass around Girton's chapel-like library, Granchester, Rupert Brooke, bees and honey, tea in an orchard. Which brings me to another SP: cycling one night, after midnight, out to Granchester by the silver light of the moon, almost day-bright. A journey I'll never forget, simply me, my trusty red bike, the night air and the silver...

Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
Feb 24, 2005

I first tasted it in a coffee shop north of Leicester Square and west of Chinatown. Thought it was in a league of its own, unlike anything I'd ever tasted. To be honest, I've never been able to reproduce the impact. Bought a sack-cloth bag of it in Jamaica on my one and only trip there so far. But it didn't match up. Bought another tin of it last Christmas at the atmospheric Martyn's coffee shop in Muswell Hill, North London (home of The Kinks - let's chuck Waterloo Sunset in the pot, both as a song and an experience, while we're on the subject) - Martyn's with its aroma of roasting coffee beans, its wooden floorboards, fancy goods, unchanged Edwardian interior - but again it didn't live up to that first experience. So I go on searching for the next magical cup. Meanwhile... back in Jamaica, simple pleasures included buying 45s from the record shop where the shopkeeper played you what was hot on discs with no or wrong labels; the view from Noel Coward's living room window, a window with no glass, widescreen; an outdoor dance on the night of my friend Nigel's wedding, featuring the roots reggae of Sizzla; the first humming bird I'd ever seen, outside Nigel's folks' place in Ocho Rios; Wray & Nephew's white rum, pretty much the only spirit I like and haven't written off through a binge that ended in tears (which reminds me I love that line in The Life Aquatic where Bill Murray's Steve Zissou invites anyone who cares to do so to join him "on an overnight drunk"); and swimming in the sea with baby Noah, about 9 months old.

Reasons to be Cheerful
Feb 24, 2005

The other root of this idea (beside the sermon mentioned in the first entry) was Ian Dury's wonderful song Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3, a long list of simple pleasures from which the one that stands out in my memory is yellow socks.

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

18-wheeler Scammels, Domenecker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly, and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it - yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 - no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, [for me it's the juice of an apple] the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret [I'll take a dessert wine] - anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain't spotty,
Sitting on the potty - curing smallpox

Health service glasses [preferably John Lennon-style little round glasses] Gigolos and brasses
round or skinny bottoms [here, here]

Take your mum to paris
lighting up the chalice
wee willy harris

Bantu Stephen Biko, listening to Rico [on The Specials very special Ghost Town]
Harpo, Groucho, Chico [especially the cabin scene in Night at the Opera]

Cheddar cheese and pickle [served up by my mum in front of the radiogram listening to my Winnie the Pooh record in2A Selvage Lane, my childhood home], the Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen [title sequence of Bananas had me under the chair before the film even started, just the interaction of the animation and music, punctuated with bullet holes], Dali [an inspiration since childhood, the finest of painting, from Christ's shoulders to a pomegranate], Dimitri and Pasquale
balabalabala and Volare [certainly Deano and of course Frank, who as a child I thought was half of a double act, Franks & Artra]

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
Saying hokey-dokey, singalonga Smokey
Coming out of chokey

John Coltrane's soprano [above all on A Love Supreme and Miles' Kind of Blue, both of which I want played at my funeral], Adi Celentano Bonar Colleano

Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Today's Happiness Experiment entry

An outing to Ronnie's for John Grounds birthday - songs of Nina Simone sung by Gill Manly

Sitting on the bench at Saracens with the Enfants Terribles and Syd from Clock

Walking through Soho on Saturday night

1st Happiness Experiment entry of 2010

Walking in the countryside near Essendon, Hertfordshire en famille

Jogging in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery (surviving a slip on black ice with panache)

Making pancakes for the Enfants Terribles

Friday, January 01, 2010

Best of 2009

[Work in progress - moved to here on Simple Pleasures part 4]

1. Inglourious Basterds - because it reignited my excitement with cinema

2. The Hangover - because it afforded me a fine evening of laughter with the Enfants Terribles
3. A Serious Man - for the uncompromising ending and beautiful cinematography by my former boss Roger Deakins
4. An Education - for a supercharismatic central performance
5. Nowhere Boy - for fine performances all round

1. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) - couldn't take my eyes off him

2. Christian McKay (Me & Orson Welles) - a close second, not an easy persona to capture
3. Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy)
4. Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock'n'Roll)
5. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)
6. Adam Sandler (Funny People) - got papped with him leaving BAFTA
7. John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)

1. Carey Mulligan (An Education) - old school screen charisma

2. Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy) - did a great, feisty Q&A at The Phoenix, East Finchley
3. Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)

Supporting Actor:
1. Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) - captured the humour whilst retaining the character's intrigue

2. Alfred Molina (An Education) - also a close second, helped pull off the ending with a pivotal moving scene
3. Ed Helms (The Hangover)
4. Thomas Sangster (Nowhere Boy) - huge charisma
5. Peter Capaldi (In the Loop)
6. Fred Melamed (A Serious Man)

Supporting Actress:

1. Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)

2. Claire Danes (Me & Orson Welles)
3. Rosamund Pike (An Education)

1. Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) - gets it on the strength of the opening scene alone

2. The Coen Brothers (A Serious Man)
3. Todd Phillips (The Hangover)
4. Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)
5. Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)

1. The Hangover

2. A Serious Man
3. Up in the Air

Gavin & Stacey

Sea Sew - Lisa Hannigan

The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

1. Glass - Bat for Lashes

2. Say Hey - Michael Franti & Spearhead

1. Hothouse Flowers - Community Hall, Baltimore, West Cork

Bat for Lashes - The Roundhouse
Christy Moore - Festival Hall
Lisa Hannigan - Festival Hall

Blur - Hyde Park (The Enfants Terribles' first gig)
Michael Franti & Spearhead - Empire Shepherd's Bush
David Gray - The Roundhouse

The Great Lover - Jill Dawson

Art exhibition:
Anish Kapoor - Royal Academy

August: Osage County (NT)
Prick Up Your Ears (The Comedy)

Sports event:
1. Ireland winning the 6 Nations

2. Spurs 9-1 victory over Wigan


Saddest loss:

John Martyn

Last Happiness Experiment entry for 2009

Drawing with N & D at midnight

Fraternal support in adversity with Ja

A bit of old age surreality with N. Rita