Monty Python’s Dark Side

On Friday I’m going to the BFI Southbank to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I produced in 1974. I had to buy my own tickets because the BFI never bothered to inform me of the screening. I assume the reason they have left me in the cold is that the Pythons asked them not to invite me. This is quite a long story, but the short version is that after Spamalot came out, the Pythons decided that the royalties they had been paying me for 30 years was wrong and they slashed my royalties by 50%. I tried to negotiate and mediate my way out of this white collar theft but they were adamant that I had been cheating them for 30 years. After 7 years of haggling and getting nowhere I had no alternative but to take them to court, and I won the case, but at a terrible cost to my health and finances. The trial cost the Pythons £ 1.3m and they put on their 02 reunion to recoup that loss. Ever since then, they have done their best to erase me from their history. If you want to read more about the dark side of Python read my book The 7th Python which tells the sorry tale (www.the7thpython.com). The worst part of the experience for me was the fact that neither Terry Gilliam, a fellow film student when we shared a flat in NYC or National Treasure Michael Palin were willing to say to Eric Idle – let’s not do this. Why do I single out Eric? He revealed his hatred of me at the trial and called me ungrateful for trying to defend myself. Eric once put on a one man show called The Greedy Bastard Tour – this really says it all. In the book I include parts of Eric and Michael’s cross examination which is revealing of another side to them. I’m going to the screening because I’d like to view the film on a big screen again and to see Neil Innes, who is a friend. What bothers me the most is how petty this is of the Pythons, and how the BFI, our guardians of film culture, went along with this insult. After the trial I received this anonymous poem:

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

September 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

Every Day is April Fools Day Now

April Fools Day began in France in the middle of the 16th century when they changed from the Julian calendar – New Year’s Day April 1 – to the Gregorian calendar – New Year’s day January 1. Those who were ignorant of the change continued to celebrate New Year on April 1 and were laughed at and called fools .

But now we are all April Fools because Covid has changed everything but we are being urged to go back to ‘normal’, to life as it used to be without accepting that things are now so different that we can’t go back. People are being asked to adapt to a ‘new normal’ without really knowing what that is. To our governments the new normal looks just like the old normal because they can’t face the magnitude of the required changes.

One thing that Covid has laid bare is that our environment is so trashed that viruses can now leap from stressed animals to people. Covid is a wake-up call. The Earth is in revolt against us for having created a climate crisis which has thrown Gaia ( the Earth) out of balance. Hence wildfires, flooding , tornadoes, excess rain, excess drought, melting ice caps, rising sea levels. A real life disaster.

To avoid more pandemics and to heal the Earth are not only the same fight but also the most important fight of today. Are we really engaging in this struggle or are we, like April Fools, trying to live by the old rules when they no longer make sense.

To move forward we need leaders who understand that we need radical changes to how we live and work and who can give us a plan to make those changes. But we also need individuals who are willing to make serious life changes. Habit is a powerful inertia, holding us back from making lifestyle changes .

If we can’t find those leaders , if we fail to make these changes then we face a growing instability that will cost millions of lives and untold suffering . Gaia, the Earth, will eventually recover but we will pay a huge incalculable price if we are unable to adapt in time . End of sermon.

January 27, 2022 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

The Virus That Ate Christmas

youtube.com/watch

This is Dreambird’s Christmas film – loathed by anti-vaccers

December 18, 2021 at 9:35 pm Leave a comment

Give a Man a Fish

Maimonides wrote,

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day,

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is a truth about  education and opportunity. Teaching is education, and without education you have no skills to find food for yourself. But opportunity, the freedom to use the skills you have acquired, may not be there. Unless jobs are available (not McJobs) then why bother getting an education. This is the situation in many parts of the country, and its that kind of deprivation that led many people to vote Brexit.

Will the government try to fix this? It’s doubtful they will really try, because to really try means to change utterly the way society operates at present.

How does society operate at present ? Ask our fishermen and women . Their rotting fish will tell you . And in 50 years there may not be any fish to catch . We are destroying wildlife in an unprecedented way and that destruction breeds conditions for more viruses to emerge.

Gaia, the earth, does not need us . It will recover its health if we are gone, like removing a cancer from the body. But we don’t have to go, we don’t have to disappear ( like the Neanderthals) if we decide to change . Because it does seem that the choice is self-destruct or survive. But to survive we have to change . And now, after a pandemic which has already changed many settled customs, is the right time to make these changes , to follow through on creating a kind of life that will sustain the planet and all the creatures on it , including us.

As Auden prophetically wrote “We must love one another, or die.”

August 30, 2021 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

Advice for another lockdown

July 28, 2021 at 9:17 am Leave a comment

The Virus That Ate Christmas

I’m very pleased to announce our Christmas music video. The Virus that Ate Christmas is the story of Cyrus the Virus (dancer and choreographer Brendon Hansford in a great mask and costume ) versus Santa (played by Richard Evans-Thomas) for the soul of Christmas, The music for the video is Silent Night composed by Ben Fingerhut and sung by Steph Callard. The director is my partner in Dreambird Studios Nathan Neuman.

We managed to shoot the video in the middle of December after we finished the main shoot of #valentinesday, our forthcoming feature film. We had to rush the post to get it out before Christmas which we just about managed.

I’m very happy with the final result, which I hope will bring some laughs (and perhaps a tear or two) to people who are living through the saddest Christmas in living memory. It’s almost a public service video in that Santa is clearly not an anti-vaxxer. See what you think.

December 26, 2020 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

History Explains Why The UK Was Not Prepared for Covid-19

Mark Forstater's Blog

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit/ Covid-19 is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him…

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April 29, 2020 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary Pt 6 (from my journals 2007)

Mark Forstater's Blog

February 11, 2007

I read an article by Melanie McFadyean about her grandfather, Herbert Guttman from Berlin, whose father started the Dresdner Bank. Guttman went from an 80 room villa in Berlin to homelessness in London in 1939, but his attitude was “Money lost, nothing lost. Sense of humour lost, everything lost“. This is the right attitude to have in your current situation, where you are starting to worry about how you can fund everything. But this will all work out. Have faith.

February 24

I hope my energy improves soon. It’s now almost two weeks since I got ill and I hate the feeling of low energy, low enthusiasm and tiredness. It’s no good for work or life.

February 25

When you get ill, you realise how dying will feel, and you sense how old you are. What if you never recovered from this tiredness? Illness leads…

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April 5, 2020 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

After The Plague

Here’s the little I know about The Black Death in the 14th Century – it changed everything. After it had killed 30-50% of the population of Europe, the Peasants decided that life could not resume as it was before. So they revolted. Later, the Renaissance blossomed in a surge of creativity. I’m sure historians can elucidate on my ignorance.

It’s very likely that we will have the same experience: Deaths, revolution and creativity. After the Virus has died out, the Establishment will try to reinstate social and economic life as it was before. It may be broken, but it’s all they know. But we, the peasants, will want to see a drastic change. Life will have to be different.

Given that we were already under serious threat from climate disruption, and our environment was being degraded at an alarming rate, this change would have been forced on us in the very near future. But the virus is a really smart virus. It came along just in time to force us to stop, and take account of where we are going and how we live.

The loss of species, the degradation of animals and their environment is the background to this virus being able to jump from bats to pangolins and into humans. If we don’t want to replay this Viral lockdown scenario in another few years, it’s time now to think about the future.

Remember that Pharaoh had to contend with 7 plagues. We have so far had 5: HIV, Ebola, Sars, Mers and Covid-19. Do we really want to have to endure another 2? There are 5000 viruses available in the world. The odds are against us not having another outbreak. Look at Bill Gates’ Ted Talk warning in 2015. He predicted all this, as did others. We were not ready for it but can we ever really be ready for an invisible and smart killer ?

If I was Keir Starmer I would put together a virtual group of eminent experts and scientists who could begin to track for him the social, psychological, economic, technical and scientific changes that are already happening to us and which will continue to evolve through this plague year. When it all ends that should give him the information he needs to craft a new policy for Labour, one that chimes with the peasants. It will have to be green, it will have to reduce inequality, and it will have to bring more joy and satisfaction into our lives.

WH Auden’s line “We must love one another or die” was prescient. He later renounced it, but history has proven him a prophet. If we don’t care for each other and create a society that has compassion and concern for all of us, then we are likely to perish from the earth. And Gaia will just breathe a sigh of relief and say Good Riddance.

March 31, 2020 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

History Explains Why The UK Was Not Prepared for Covid-19

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit/ Covid-19 is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him if could create it on an industrial scale. He did it in a matter of weeks and factories were quickly set up. Because of this Britain managed to fight the war but only won because the Americans finally joined in.

In WW2 we had a different fiasco. Then the government tried to appease Hitler by making deals with him and did not prepare for war. Hitler had been re-arming for six years and was ready to fight. He had even bought airplanes from the British. How could they have thought they could appease this dictator, who was gobbling up Europe one country at a time? That so-called ‘warmonger’ Churchill was right all along that we would have to confront Hitler at some time and the sooner the better. In the end Britain won the war again but only because America joined.

2016 will go down in history as the year of Brexit, when a prosperous country, without an obvious enemy, decided to voluntarily make itself poorer, weaker and less stable. In that year we decided to cut ourselves loose from our largest trading partners and instead seek to be saved once again by America. But this America is not the same as the one who selflessly aided us in 1914 and 1939. This America won’t care what happens to us if we decide to cut our own throats. In fact, there will be people there (and in the rest of the world) who will find British decline quite an amusing spectacle.

Both Wars showed a woeful lack of planning and insight into the nature of the crisis. Both wars could have easily been lost. Plucky Britain was lucky Britain. But maybe it’s not three times lucky. Our history tells us that we are not very good at planning and management in a crisis. Covid -19 shows how this is a pattern of behaviour and not an anomaly. Can we please elect a government next which is at least competent. ?

August 12, 2019 at 9:07 am 1 comment

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