Mind & body.

I am interested in the idea and practice of spirituality: but it may all be nonsense, and I may be venially corporeal. This category is a bit of a catch-all for posts on subjects ranging from the intellectual (I should be so lucky), to the spiritual (likewise) via the psychological and the creative.

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“Le Havre” (2011): ****

Watch out: this film is brilliant but you may pass on it on the basis that it is "charming", "deeply humane", "a glorious hymn to the struggles of the working man" and so on, as it is routinely blurbed by admirers. Le Havre is rather better than its fans and possibly even its creators wanted. Read more...

Published

13 February 2013

Murray’s “Coming Apart”: A fix for US inequality?

This book bears a superficial resemblance to the rest of the angst literature on Anglosphere inequality, but it is much better than The New Few or The Spirit Level. Its use of evidence about the separations between top and bottom in US society seems fairer and brighter. Yet more to the point, though flawed where it most matters (in its proposed solutions), Charles Murray's cultural and social arguments seem far more interesting than most. Read more...

Published

09 February 2013

Straw’s “Last Man Standing”: the fond politician

Jack Straw's autobiography, Last Man Standing, has been well-recieved, and justly so. At the risk of being patronising or condescending, it's worth saying that it is a touching book. I fancied myself admiring its author. I had to remind myself that it might be - perhaps had to be, was perhaps inevitably - a touch self-serving. Here's a little unpicking of all that.... Read more...

Published

07 February 2013

Monty Don, in peasant blue, on grand French gardens

Monty Don is an extraordinary figure, and never more so than in his new series on French gardens. At home, and normally, his approach on Gardeners' World is a work of art. It draws one in. His persona is the antithesis of the TV celebrity. There is no concession to the plebian or the demotic. He is quite Bloomsbury, or Sitwell. He is of the 1950s - somehow, in his world, we are only just out of rationing. Electricity has been invented, but is kept indoors - it has not reached the garden, quite.  His is the manner of an eccentric aristocrat, or gnarled bohemian. But there is the affectation of peasant authenticity, and quite possibly a dread of the common, the flashy, the arriviste and the nouveau. That produced a fine muddle in France. Read more...

Published

06 February 2013

Update on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, and happiness

In 2009, I reviewed the then-new book, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in the Social Affairs Unit website. I thought the highly-influential and much-quoted work very flawed on just about every level. Until very recently, I hadn't noticed that intelligent, informed voices had continued to attack the book's handling of the inquality data. So I thought I'd now provide some sources which may prove useful.... Read more...

Published

29 January 2013

Update on “Contented Dementia”

[I wrote this update in 2013 and have revisited for a very light tickle in April, 2017.] Rather gallingly, my sceptical review of Oliver James's 2009 book, Contented Dementia, produces far more comment than most of my posts do. I more or less stick by it, though I wish I had found a way of noting my criticisms in a way which didn't seem such a red rag to fans of the care methods it promotes. Looking at the brouhaha now, there are some interesting things to note.... Read more...

Published

29 January 2013

Hemingways: Haslemere does modern hospitality

The modern hospitality industry is fascinating. Naturally, it is plagued by the post-modern: Tesco's sort of went under cover to launch their Harris + Hoole chain of designedly uncorporate coffee shops, and they are probably quite nice. But they are unlikely to thrill the way Hemingways of Haslemere does. Read more...

Published

10 January 2013

RDN on Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”

RDN ploughs through this celebrated personal and intellectual exploration – and exoneration - of the moral psychology of the right and the righteous, and finds it surprisingly light on moral or any other kind of useful thinking. Read more...

Published

19 December 2012

“Rev” could not have imagined Justin Welby

Eton, Trinity (Cambridge), Elf, Alpha (Holy Trinity, Brompton), Newsnight (“The trouble with austerity is, what’s a slight chill in Chelsea is a pretty good ice age up here.”), Imagine (played on the bells of Liverpool Cathedral) and on to Lambeth. It’s a heavenly progression, and a testimony to the insight of the BBC’s Rev.… Read more...

Published

10 November 2012
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