Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Layer 330 . . . Goldblum, Joy, Transformation, Cameron, Grace and France

Thinking about 3-dimensional people, I noticed at the weekend that Lewis Hamilton strums a mean guitar - as a TV programme showed him bashing out the chords to Wonderwall with a roomful of people singing along.

Jeff Goldblum plays jazz piano, according to an article in the Guardian. He also has his own band, called The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. I think a passion for music and singing is at least a sign that someone might be 3-dimensional.

Goldblum does yoga and meditation.

In his mid-teens, in the late 60s, Goldblum attended summer sessions at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. There he had an introduction to acting that wasn't about "careerist ambition", but something deeper, more important - and apparently more hippyish. Yoga was part of the training, and in acting, Goldblum decided, there was the potential for a "spiritual, humanistic, soulful, magical, mystical journey. Not, hey, love me, love me, I need to be loved. It was about something else."


Never mind acting - what if life itself was about "something deeper", and had the potential for a "spiritual, humanistic, soulful, magical, mystical journey"? At least that's what Zen assumes.

Many people assume that spiritual explorations and quests for greater meaning in life are much easier to do if you're extremely wealthy, as many actors are. But is that really true? Aren't many actors, and wealthy people generally, trapped in strange, unreal worlds by their own egos and by their paranoid fears for their privacy and security? Isn't this what Jesus referred to when he spoke about rich men, camels and eyes of needles?

The article goes on,

"Any objective assessment would be that my life has been wildly abundant, lucky beyond words, and shame on me if I don't easily come to that view every day."

As a child, he says, "even as I felt moments of awkwardness or outsiderness, I also had moments when I felt the seeds of what I feel now – a happy part of something large. I felt that early on, as I walked by myself in the woods near our house. I remember overflowing with joy." Goldblum may just be far weirder than anyone guessed: a genuinely satisified, happy person. As rare, in his way, as a unicorn.

Where Oxzen grew up there was a large bluebell wood right next to our housing estate, with several points of access. Memories of walking in the woods, with shafts of sunlight filtering through to the pathways and the bluebells, feeling alive and free, remain strong.

According to Wikipedia,

In September 2006, it was announced that Goldblum was one of the founding members of a new theater company in New York called The Fire Dept. According to press materials, "The Fire Dept is made up of established and emerging writers, directors, actors and designers who have come together to create and produce work that cannot be replicated inside a television box or on a movie screen...The work of The Fire Dept combines the rigor and structure of great narrative storytelling with the vitality of formal experimentation to immerse audiences in a total experience that leaves them awake, alive and transformed."

"Experiences that leave people awake, alive and transformed . . ." Maybe those experiences could start in schools. Or do we just want kids to stay focused on maximising attainment?

Maybe we all have a duty to ourselves to make sure we keep on having those experiences throughout life, and not just leave it to the likes of Goldblum to hand them to us on a plate, in a theatre.

The qualities that Goldblum looks for in people are clearly those he finds in his co-star in the Old Vic's The Prisoner of Second Avenue:

Mercedes Ruehl, "a genius, brilliant, master actor, not only spectacularly talented and gifted with grace, humour, intelligence, sensitivity, multi-coloured emotional, um, a garden of rich inner life, dynamic, fun to be with . . ." He pauses thoughtfully. "Hmm, you know, it's hard to describe her. BUT! She is an enthusiast."


Talking about people who are gifted with grace and charm, Martin Kettle, not my favourite journalist, wrote this piece about David Cameron:

A man of grace. Cameron has been good for Britain

Like Tony Blair before him, Cameron deploys his courtesy and charm for political purposes.

If you are tempted to think this sort of courtesy across the political divide is mere bourgeois triviality, remember how effective this maturity of style has also been in larger contexts. In the last two months, nothing has become the prime minister more than his Commons statement of regret for the Bloody Sunday killings. The speech was a model, and when Cameron said, "On behalf of our country I am deeply sorry", the applause outside Derry Guildhall almost seemed to wash away 40 years of hurt.

A certain grace has marked Cameron's outings on the international stage, too. He has handled European meetings with a deftness and in a tone which have surprised those who feared an immediate lurch to the right.

Cameron has not just taken to the realities of coalition better than any other Tory. He has also done it infinitely less condescendingly than Brown or any Labour leader would have done. He recognises that he is delivering a deal, not a sell-out. Yet in doing so, he has pulled the Tory party further towards both the centre ground and an acceptance of coalition politics – and pushed Labour off both – than many would have believed possible. His seizure of the opportunities of 6 May to put liberal conservatism at the heart of this government's project has been audacious. Its long-term impact on the Conservative party is not yet clear. Its short-term impact is immense and, in Tory terms, almost wholly desirable. The old right (like the old left) can only gawp and grumble.

The imperatives of coalition have helped cement Cameron's authority in ways that not even he can have foreseen. Like Blair, Cameron came to power outside parliament rather than within it, by climbing the outside of the building, as Bill Rodgers said of Blair. Before the election he was criticised within his own party for ruling through a handpicked oligarchy, again like Blair. The election has changed all that. Coalition requires Cameron to consult, make deals, and actively manage both his party and his government. Necessity has demanded the return of proper cabinet government. The seductions of cliquism and presidentialism to which Blair succumbed are off limits because of the hung parliament. A good thing, too, and Cameron has adapted with an admirably sure touch.

These are still very early days. The coalition has to get through difficult votes on AV and negotiate the most difficult spending round in a generation. The economy may tank. Yet in these first weeks even opponents should concede that Cameron has played a blinder. He is showing himself as potentially the best all-round prime minister of the modern era. Labour's hopefuls should learn from him. No doubt about it, Cameron wins this season's political golden boot.

I agree with all of this, and most of what Kettle wrote in the rest of his piece. If only Blair and Brown had shown a similar style - a similar intelligence, grace and lightness of touch - in all their dealings, then we may not now be dealing with Cameron and co's determination to inflict more neo-conservative economics and more of the Shock Doctrine (privatisations, cutbacks in public services, reductions in benefits to the neediest people) on this country.

I particularly agree about the speech apologising for Bloody Sunday killings being a superb piece of statesmanship. What's more, the words sounded genuine coming from him, which they wouldn't if the psychopathic Blair or the devious Brown had said them.

The nation ought to feel grateful it finally has a leader of the Conservative party who might be considered something of a statesman, and a liberal Tory, at least in his style, if not his economics. Shame he's such a conservative, and his ideological prejudices as well as his ignorance about economics are going to fuck up the country and send us all into even greater recession and depression.



Watching the Tour de France today with its long, lingering helicopter shots of stunningly beautiful scenery in the Isere region of the Rhone Alps, just north of Gap, I suddenly realised without a shadow of doubt that France is easily the most beautiful country in Europe, and possibly the world.

To begin with, Paris is an incredible city. Then there is the amazingly varied topography, from the beaches of Britanny and Normandy, through the wondrous Loire region, down to the stunning landscapes and mountains of the Auvergne and the Massif Central, to the delights of Provence and the Mediterranean. That's to say nothing of the Isle de France, Alsace/Lorraine, the basin of Aquitaine, Burgundy, the Dordogne, the Savoie, Languedoc, the Rhone, and the Somme. And then there are the Alps and the Pyrenees . . .

For sheer physical beauty and variety, nothing touches France. Whatever one might think about the people, the cuisine, the climate, the culture and the architecture - and I happen to think very highly of them - the country is sheer physical and geographical perfection. And if you want deserts as well - Algeria and North Africa are just a short flight or Mediterranean ferry away.

Germany is too boring. Italy is too . . . narrow. Spain is too parched, too big, and too full of empty plains. Benelux is too small and lacking in variety. Ditto Portugal and the countries of eastern Europe. Austria and Switzerland are too full of huge mountains, and very little else. Scandinavia is too bleak, too empty and too bloody cold. Britain is pretty in parts, but limited and lacking the variety of landscapes that France has. To say nothing of the climate.

Today is Bastille Day. Vive La France! Allez tout le monde!

Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!


Footnote on the Isere department -

The president of its General Council is a socialist, and the majority of seats on the Council are socialists, backed up by a collection of leftists, communists and greens. Right wing parties hold less than a third of the seats.

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