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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Parris’ “Conservative Futurism” developed a little….

Matthew Parris is spot-on in his "Futurist Conservatism" piece ("Dig deep, sow seeds and watch Britain grow: The UK needs HS3 as well as HS2. We need two new cities and more technical colleges. We need long-term vision.", The Times, 9 November 2013) Libertarians will roll their eyes, as will Luddite Conservatives: the idea of optimistic, forward-planning conservativism is an oxymoron. So be it. Conservatives like planting trees in their broad acres, why not new towns in yours or mine too? Read more...

Published

10 November 2013

“Le Weekend”: a ho-hum *** movie

I wanted to love Le Weekend. It had been discussed as not being a feel-good rom-com or Gerry-romp (even one as good as The Exotic Marigold Hotel, let alone as bad as Quartet), and wasn't. It seemed likely to not make its middle-aged actresses shriek (as in Mama Mia and It's Complicated), and it didn't. But it was dangerously adolescent anyway.... Read more...

Published

31 October 2013

English adventure novelists as literature

I am a fan of a certain sort of popular fiction: the English adventure story of the 1940s and 1950s. I take this type to include Nevile Shute, Hammond Innes, Nicholas Monserrat, Geoffrey Household and - a recent discovery for me - Nigel Balchin. All these writers seem to me far more richly satisfying than is commonly supposed. It is the last-mentioned who prompted the best bit of literary criticism attaching to this genre, by that master of popular culture, Clive James. Read more...

Published

25 October 2013

“Blue Jasmine” & others on the verge of breakdown

Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is a stronger film than most reviewers seem to allow. Indeed, it bears comparison with Girl Most Likely, of which more in a moment. Blue Jasmine has been criticised as being too Woody and not Woody enough. I'd say it is nicely not Woody-self-obsessed, or Woody-neurotic, or Woody-Jewish: it doesn't channel Woody. But it is a convincing and frightening account of a woman's decline, and might have been made by plenty of good directors, or written by plenty of good novelists. It is a particularly American theme, I think. Read more...

Published

25 October 2013

“Hannah Arendt”: a fine movie

This is tricky. I have spent  no  more than half an hour, ever, reading Hannah Arendt and none at all reading about the contemporary reaction to her "banality of evil" pieces in the New Yorker. Nothing daunted, I will risk riffing on the similarities between Hannah Arendt and Ayn Rand, partly because they were contemporaries; partly because both are the subject of bio-pics; but mostly because they seem to touch on the same verities. Read more...

Published

23 October 2013

Crossing France: fly-drive or ferry-drive?

Should a Brit access a holiday on the French Riviera by ferry-drive or fly-drive? One has to decide whether to turn the time and expense of making the driving option into a tourism experience versus making a driving dash for it versus the dubious pleasure of flying and – quite separately to be computed – the pleasure of car rental. Follows, my attempt to chart some of the options, after a recent trip south. Sorry – it’s a combination of fact and anecdote… Read more...

Published

16 October 2013

BBC Radio 2 and being human

I have been wondering what I would say if asked to contribute to the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show mini-series on what it is to be human. I suppose I would begin by assuming that one is trying to see the difference between humans and animals. One angle, then, would be to say that we are moral: a large can of worms, that. But what else? Read more...

Published

16 October 2013

RDN and the FT: on BP

On 11 May 2010, the FT printed a letter of mine (reprinted below) on the 20 April 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico spill. Arguably, it was far too early for intelligent opinion to have formed. But - contrariwise - I precisely wanted to suggest that it was too early to come to judgement: that historically oil spills had seldom turned out as journalism had predicted in the excitement immediately following the event. But was I right? Read more...

Published

12 October 2013

RDN and the FT: Schama and the Mail

Mine is hardly a timely intervention (as we call contributions to debate now), but I thought I'd post here a letter offered by me to the FT for publication but not used by them. It follows a piece by Simon Schama in the FT (5/6 October 2013) strongly deprecating the Daily Mail's accusation that Ralph Miliband wasn't a patriot. By the way, though in all sorts of ways I am a cosmopolitan liberal, I am strongly in support of the sort of line taken by the Mail's Paul Dacre in his Guardian piece on how his paper stands for the suburbanite mind. I agree that this mindset is the backbone of Britain, and I share many of its prejudices. Read more...

Published

12 October 2013

Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Tomorrow”, at the V&A

I was oddly touched by Tomorrow.  Its conceit was believable in both character and staging, and precisely because they are preposterous. Its central figure Norman Swann, was posited as probably queer and possibly a non-practising pederast; as glamorous, sad, modernist and - yes - socialist. Read more...

Published

10 October 2013
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