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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

A New You Resolution from Cleo

My daughter Cleo posted two messages this week that I thought were very good. One was a kind of New Year resolution, or maybe it should be called a New You resolution because it’s about Cleo’s new feeling of the joy of being, and the potential of what life can become. It’s a mission statement for herself, a prayer for the love that she has for herself and for the world.

The second is a Christmas message, much more poetic and touching than the Queen’s. You could say this the Goddess’ Christmas message. It is touching and beautiful. It is based on a Christian view, but if goes beyond that as it overflows with love for life, and enters you with the truth of her feeling.

 

December 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Is Labour in Danger of Becoming the New Nasty Party? An Open Letter To Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Jeremy

I was pleased that you came out with such a strong statement on sexual abuse and harassment. It was long overdue. But there is another form of harassment – in fact there are three kinds of harassment – that you have not stood up forcefully against. Allowed to continue, this abuse and harassment will turn your party into a nasty party, and you will not get elected as PM.

But before I list them, let me say that I would like to see you become the next PM. I admire the vision enshrined in your manifesto, which is so attractive, clear and understandable. A government that sets out to achieve even a few of those aspirations would be welcome, since change in our society is sorely needed. I watched your annual conference and found it full of positive spirit and energy. This is because you have given people hope after so many years of fear and anxiety.

But there are problems in your party that you need to deal with now. There is a level of vitriol and abuse emanating from the left wing of the Party which if it is allowed to go unchecked will become a hindrance to your aims, and will create the image of a nasty party which will stop you getting elected.

I base my opinion on a number of incidents from the past year. One is the problems is Anti-Semitism, which has not been dealt with adequately. The second is abuse directed at some of your own women MPs by other Labour members and the third is abuse directed at Tory candidates by Labour supporters. Each one of these shows a clear pattern of unpleasant and uncalled for harassment, which is harmful to your cause, and will repel a great number of voters.

The Anti-Semitism problem was poorly addressed by the Chakrabarti report although at conference the party did adopt a new standard to judge Anti-Semitism. This was a positive move, but the missing ingredient was your failure during your speech to take a strong personal stand against Anti-Semitism, and this showed a lack of leadership. To see real leadership in action, look at the response of the US Air Force Academy leader after five black cadets had “Nigger Go Home” scrawled on their doors.

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/30/554698359/air-force-academy-leader-addresses-racist-writing

He told the perpetrators of these hate crimes to go home if they were not able to accept diversity. Not suspension or a dressing down – just get out. Simple and effective. Instead, the Labour conference once more had a messy fringe event in which Jews again felt unwelcome, where some people called for Jews to be expelled from the party, and another speaker declared that Holocaust denial was a legitimate area of debate. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if at a Labour event people called for Muslims to be expelled from the party or that denial of slavery was deemed a suitable subject for debate?

Anti-Semitism in the Labour party is not like neo-Nazi right wing race hatred. It is political Anti-Semitism, which emanates from the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The righteous anger that many of your members feel about Israel  can easily morph into an anti-Jewish stance. This is a danger to society as a whole, since anti-semitism is like the canary in the coal mine, it is a precursor to a darker, larger and more pervasive set of hatreds. The only solution to anti-semitism is to fight it decisively and stop it in its tracks.

The second area where there is a toxic atmosphere is the relationship between the wings of your party. In 2016 a number of Labour women MPs wrote you complaining about the abuse levelled at women MPs. Their letter said: “Rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows are disgusting and totally unacceptable in any situation.This is acknowledged by all factions yet the simple words of condemnation offered in response are inadequate. We expect swift and tangible action against those who commit such acts. “

Harassment of Labour MPs, whether female or male, by fellow Labour members is dangerous and divisive. If you want a unified party, you must stop attacks like this.

The third area of concern is electioneering. At the recent general election, a Tory councillor running to be an MP suffered the following abuse from Labour supporters:
She was spat on many times and was abused verbally on the street, called a nazi, scum, and a whore. Her posters were defaced with similar epithets and her campaign headquarters vandalised. Lies about her voting record were published in Labour election literature and had to be withdrawn after breaking electoral law. Canvassers were threatened to the extent that police had to be called out. A canvasser’s car was spray fainted with vile abuse. Momentum members congregated outside the candidates’ home to intimidate her and her family. Voters were afraid to put posters in their windows for fear of retaliation.

These three kinds of harassment in your party are your Achilles Heel. They will cause you to go lame just at the time when you will need all your strength to continue the struggle. You have given people a new sense of hope, and now you must give them a feeling of protection, and by protection I mean security, an essential requirement of a successful state. You need to convince voters that you will fight terrorism, will reduce levels of crime, and create a society that does not live in fear. If your supporters engage in divisive acts of harassment which make people feel a mixture of fear and wariness, you will not succeed. The voters will not trust you; they will be scared.

In the short term this kind of intimidation may win seats, but its success will inevitably lead to an escalation of these kinds of tactics which will become self-defeating. Don’t allow shock troops to flourish. If you allow your party to become the new nasty party you will not be able to unite the country in the way you desire. There are people who will be attracted to this kind of nasty politics, but are they the people you want to attract?

Your aim is to support the many, not the few. But in order to get power, and to have the chance to really support the many, you have to convince them to support you. As long as you do not crack down on all forms of harassment, and show true strong leadership, you will not convince enough of the many to vote for you, even if they are attracted to your ideas.

Kind Regards

Mark Forstater

November 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

My Swim Gym Can Heal your Spine – Part 1

Nine months ago I joined a gym. I didn’t join to use its machines, but mainly to swim, use the sauna and steam room. However the gym also offered yoga classes, so I have returned to a yoga practice that I abandoned about 10 years ago. The results of this regime have been good. I am certainly stronger and more flexible than when I started. Small bodily complaints, like my left thumb feeling painful (from arthritis ?) and an intermittent twinge in my left knee have both mostly gone away. My body shape has also improved, and a friend of my daughter said I looked younger this year than last. I have more energy and my gait (walking) has improved. My heart feels stronger too. All extremely positive.

This must be down to my regime. Looking into my swimming practice I wanted to understand why swimming is so good for me. Firstly I don’t just swim, but also do various exercises in the water,  many derived from yoga. Because my body is supported by the density of the water I am able to move in more weight-free ways than on the yoga floor. I’ll describe these in detail in another post, but today I want to discuss something different.

I knew vaguely that in evolutionary history we emerged from water to become land-based animals. Doing some Googling I discovered that the creatures that emerged were called Tetrapods (4 legged) and these eventually led to all land-based animals. But I also knew that somehow we derived from fish. But what exactly does that mean? What do we have in common with fish? After all. they live in water and we live in air. We die in water and they die in air, so what is it that we share with fish? The answer is that we share our bony structure with them. The fish gave us a skull, a vertebra (spine or back-bone) and ribs. We are all vertebrates.

The fish’s spine is covered with connective tissue, and their muscles are held in place (to the bones) by this tissue. This enables the fish (not all types, but most) to move its body (or dorsal (rear) fin) in a wavy side to side motion, which is how it swims. Now here is the interesting point. The connective tissue which covers the spine of the fish has evolved and moved in humans to the gel-like substance which is found only in the discs which separate our bony vertebrae. When these discs dry out, they cause problems, such as bulging or being compressed. This is what we refer to as slipped discs. Now I can’t tell you how to keep your discs wet, although I suspect that if you eat well, sleep enough and do some regular exercise (like swimming or yoga) you might be able to keep them in a healthy state.

Here’s where my regime comes in. We are two legged animals, and the weight of our upper body is supported by these discs, piled vertically one on top of the other . When we were four legged, the weight was distributed more evenly on our front and back limbs, and the spine didn’t have to work so hard.  Now when we swim, we take on the posture of fish, and our spine is once more held horizontally and not vertically, which gives the spine great relief. And since our weight is supported in the dense water and we float, the spine and discs are free to move as we swim. In the water it is easy to move our upper body and pelvis from side to side and we can also swim down into the water and up again (I see this as dolphin-like), bending the spine and giving it a great deal of exercise. I believe my swimming, which emphasizes these movements, is one of the keys to my current good health.

One other benefit of being in the water which is more spiritual than physical, is the fact that in embryo, we are surrounded by water not air, and I believe when we swim and submerge in water our subconscious mind (which is body-based) remembers that floating sensation in the womb, which must have been a pleasant one.  What is there not to like ?

 

July 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

Where is Labour’s Brexit Team?

I watched the Leaders’ Question Time programme the other night. I thought Mrs May looked a bit rattled, and uncomfortably stiff and grimaced. Corbyn seemed fairly relaxed and looked like he enjoyed getting into it as time went on. Several of the exchanges made an impression on me. The most important was when Mrs. May remarked that the Brexit negotiations were due to start 11 days after the election. That is a short period of time. If I was a wavering Corbyn supporter or one who was thinking about backing him but was on the cusp, this FACT would get me a little worried. It takes time for a new party to move into power. So my questions would be: With these talks about to start so soon, how will they handle it ? Are they ready for this? Who is doing the negotiations? How prepared is he? How able is he?

So If these are real issues, then I think Labour needs to bring out Keil Starmer fast, since he is the person who can answer those questions, and give people the vision of a different Brexit than the one the Tories have been proposing.   Starmer would also show that Corbyn has a team and is backed by people of substance and character. His abilities would be convincing.

The second issue that resonated last night was Corbyn’s Trident problem. When he told a questioner, “I don’t want the deaths of millions on my hands,” and then added “and neither do you,” it struck home. No one wants to be responsible for mass murder, and Corbyn had explained that he wanted to use all the diplomatic ways to get North Korea away from their aggressive stance. But he didn’t give enough specifics –  such as working with China – or give it a sense of urgency that these talks could take place immediately. So faced with the madness of North Korea, people are not convinced about Jeremy’s ability to deliver this non-nuclear world.

 

June 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Step by Step – From My Journal

A 2003 journal entry.

Mark Forstater's Blog

April 7 2003 – 49th anniversary of my father’s death. Cleo (my daughter, then aged 12) was in Hampstead Heath climbing trees. Looking up at a large tree, nervously examining the possible foot and hand holds, she said, “I can see how to get up to the first branch, but what do I do from there?” I said to her that when she got up to the first branch she would know where to go.

The world would look different from there- new perspectives, a new way of looking at the situation, so what seems a problem standing on the ground disappears when we are sitting on the first branch.

So it is with many things. The problems which seem so massive when we begin disappear once we start, because the problems are made from a particular perspective, which alters once we change position. This is a universal truth.

To…

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November 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

James Baldwin Quotes

James Baldwin has been almost forgotten by the mainstream media but he was a brilliant and troubled American writer. Being black and gay, the son of a poor preacher, Baldwin had more than enough tsuris in his time. He wrote about the pain that he lived through with a fierce and truthful style.

During this Brexit upheaval, which is showing us examples of racism and hatred, and demonstrating the result of alienation and deprivation, I think some of his quotes are timely:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

The most dangerous man is the one who has nothing to lose.

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.  

I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.

Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they’re better than other human beings.

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time. 

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

 

 

 

July 2, 2016 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

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