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Eckhart Tolle at the Festival Hall, London September 7th, 2015

Eckhardt tolle SMInside a packed Festival Hall, we are a waiting for Eckhart Tolle to talk about consciousness. Meanwhile, I wonder what is happening when people gather not to escape into some great live music or theatre, but to learn how to create a better life. It is clear that some of us are here as spiritual seekers, some of us were dragged along by a friend, some will get his message, and some will leave before the talk ends. 

Eckhardt Tolle’s books The Power of Now and A New Earth are publishing phenomenons, selling millions of copies worldwide. His inclusive message that, “We are all part of consciousness," obviously has an appeal. His own philosophical crisis was brought on by 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes, who said, “I think, therefore I am,” which was a signal for Tolle to broaden his search to embrace Eastern ideas, after which he expanded Descartes concept with the addendum, “I think, therefore I am consciousness.”

Read more: The Power of Now

 

 

by Steven M Druker, Clear River Press, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

June 2015

Altered-Genes FRONT-COVERIn this revealing book American lawyer Steven Druker uncovers the skullduggery committed since the mid-1970’s by high ranking scientists and organisations on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the US Government’s apathy, with its weak legislation of genetic engineering, that prompted Druker, a public safety lawyer and founder of the Alliance of Biointegrity, to initiate a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture in 1998. By forcing the handover of copies of its internal files he made public the blatant collusion with the GM companies in violating its own food safety regulations.

Jane Goodall, the primatologist, writes in her glowing forward that this is the most important book in 50 years for longterm planetary sustainability. She lent her unreserved support at its launch in London in April, timely since, under pressure from the US, the UK and Europe are considering waiving long standing restrictions on GMOs.

Druker dismantles the assumptions that GM is safe and will fulfil its promise of solving the world’s food problems through the manipulation of genes, a process that is imprecise and impossible to recall. He delves into the abuse of science by those intent on reducing the whole of the organism to parts that can be controlled by an elite few. And he explains that engineering a new gene is only possible by first splicing it with a strain of E coli bacteria and a piece of lab constructed, recombinant DNA - two strands of DNA joined together - one being made of a cloning vector such as a tumour or virus.

It was our most august scientific institution, the Royal Society, which targeted Arpad Pusztai when he worked at the Rowett Institute, whose design won out over 30 others as a protocol to test genetically engineered potatoes. Their attempts to crush his findings of significant physiological problems in rats have set off alarm bells that have not stopped ringing. Druker states that since ‘no two GM insertion events are the same’, Pusztai’s potato experiment cannot be repeated because his results were destroyed by the British Government, indicating how much they threatened their agenda to promote GM technology.

Read more: Altered Genes and Twisted Truths: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted...

27th November 2013

the last photographAlthough The Last Photograph is not connected in any way with Simon Astaire’s previous three novels, the theme of alcohol, which was central to the third, Mr Coles, undergoes a further examination here.

This time the alcoholic is Tom Hammond, who in two tragic twists of fate takes up the bottle to deal with the pain of losing his wife and son. But his lonely and isolated world begins to shift when a bag containing the last photograph taken with his son the night before his death is stolen.

This novel walks us through a snapshot of time in our own increasingly out of control world. It deals, in part, with the tragedy in the late 1980’s when the PAN AM 103 flight to New York was blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland with no survivors. There is an air of finality, a disquieting quality of the terrible inevitability of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Intriguingly, Astaire does not try to analyse why horrific events like Lockerbie have happened. Instead, he tries to explore the emotional impact on one victim’s family whose faith is stretched to the absolute limits.  This story is about finding hope where there is none. And, about the acceptance of powerlessness over alcohol, and the inevitable unmanageability of its baffling and cunning control.

Read more: The Last Photograph

The Novels of Simon Astaire: Private Privilege, And You Are…?, Mr Coles

Review by Sam Burcher

simon astaire photo, by Sam Burcher

Simon Astaire’s loosely woven trilogy of novels is an attempt to free himself from his past and become a respected writer. No longer content to manage the lives of other people, he has come a long way from being the best friend of Sting, the squire of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Ulrika Jonsson, and the personal manager of Princess Michael of Kent.

By his own admission, Astaire began writing because his therapist suggested it after they hit upon the fact that he had been so emotionally unavailable in his relationships. This is something that he relates directly to the experience of being sent away from home at a very young age to Harrow School.

The first two books, Private Privilege, And You Are…?, are his rites of passage, whilst Mr Coles is an extension of that exploration and written with extraordinary darkness.

Private Privilege

In Private Privilege, Astaire’s alma mater is thinly veiled as Montgomery House, and it is through this medium that I found myself vicariously returning to a world of Sunday exeats, black tails and boaters, and bumpy rides on the Metropolitan line to Harrow-on-the-Hill, on London’s outermost margins, for Speech Day.

Reading this book has helped me to understand what happened to my brother Julien during his time at Harrow, which was concurrent with the story told here.  Astaire’s peripatetic take has undoubtedly demystified some of my private perceptions of public school education.

Read more: Three Novels by Simon Astaire

The Novels of Simon Astaire: Private Privilege, And You Are…?, Mr Coles
(Each book published by Quartet Books)

Reviewed by Sam Burcher

Simon Astaire’s loosely woven trilogy of novels is an attempt to free himself from his past and become a respected writer. No longer content to manage the lives of other people, he has come a long way from being the best friend of Sting, the squire of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Ulrika Jonsson, and the personal manager of Princess Michael of Kent.

By his own admission, Astaire began writing because his therapist suggested it after they hit upon the fact that he had been so emotionally unavailable in his relationships. This is something that he relates directly to the experience of being sent away from home at a very young age to Harrow School.

The first two books, Private Privilege, And You Are…?, are his rites of passage, whilst Mr Coles is an extension of that exploration and written with extraordinary darkness.

In Private Privilege, Astaire’s alma mater is thinly veiled as Montgomery House, and it is through this medium that I found myself vicariously returning to a world of Sunday exeats, black tails and boaters, and bumpy rides on the Metropolitan line to Harrow-on-the-Hill, on London’s outermost margins, for Speech Day.

Reading this book has helped me to understand what happened to my brother Julien during his time at Harrow, which was concurrent with the story told here.  Astaire’s peripatetic take has undoubtedly demystified some of my private perceptions of public school education.

The books central character Samuel Alexander, note the initials match the author’s, is sent away from home at 13 to begin a life at Montgomery House. From day one he is greeted with an oppressive regime of fagging, toshing, and bullying by older boys as the norm. Calculated acts of rebellion such as graffiti, theft, truancy, and drug taking intensify to arson and even suicide, all of which are hushed up by the school.

In empowering Sam in whichever ways he can against this dysfunctional backdrop, Astaire is giving a respectful nod to Lindsay Anderson’s powerful film, If, which is about a schoolboy lead revolution in a public school. From this forms surreal images of the shape shifting and shamanic psyche of a schoolboy torn from his roots and situated in a conditional culture where loneliness and abandonment reign and, fortunately, Matron is the only succor.

The task of raising public consciousness about the sticky subject of adolescent boys from an insider’s view of an ‘establishment’ institution is a tricky one. But the author manages it by using a literary camera obscura that allows him to entertain, whilst asking questions that go beyond mere survival.

Astaire’s second novel, And You Are…?, follows seamlessly and swiftly on the heels of Private Privilege. Sam, the central character, has graduated with dishonour from his emotionally deprived public school, and is ready and willing to face the challenges of young adulthood.

A former agent to stars, Astaire draws deeply on his own experience of Hollywood to entertain us.  He cleverly plays with time to measure just the right amount of reverie for the grand days of a Hollywood past to balance the book’s present.  Indeed, this mix of fact and fiction acts as a powerful stimulus to the reader’s imagination.

Read more: The Novels of Simon Astaire

15th August 2011

sam-edwards-photo2Writer, poet and film producer Sam Edwards, co-founded the independent film production company Ragged Crow in 2008 with director and writer husband Ed Edwards.

Their short films; Solstice, Dogboy, Bad Obsession, and Insomnia have all been well received and their debut feature film, Stealing Elvis, was chosen to open this year’s London Independent Film Festival.

Their latest short, Wardance was nominated for The Newcomer Award at Soho’s Rushes Festival in July, and screened at London’s ICA.

Sodium is Sam’s collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll poetry about madness and bad behaviour, and is her first volume of poems.  She has also recently completed her first novel, Narcosis.

Sam’s favourite poets are Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, and she loves their ‘call and response’ poems, Lady Lazarus and Lovesong. Charles Bukowski’s Invasion  is another favourite. She is inspired by the way that these poets have changed the nature of language to write poetry in ways that it had never been written before.

“By using language in a new way, they described the world differently. When art and poetry really speaks to us, it provides a conduit directly to the soul; we see something that we identify with, and it comforts us because it lets us know that we are not alone,” she explained.

Read more: Sam Edwards is Sodium

Published by Quartet Books ISBN 978-0-7043-7215-3

mr coles coverSimon Astaire’s third book is tighter and more textural than his two previous novels. However, Mr Coles shares similarities with Private Privilege and And You Are? in that once you start reading it, it is un-put-downable, and darkly entertaining.

Mr Coles is an original novel exploring the nature of child abuse from inside the confines of a boys prep school. We are drawn into the covert practice of teachers using the children in their care for their own gratification.

The titular character is a drunken soak, sexually obsessed with several of his pre-pubescent pupils, one boy in particular, and starts the rotten process of grooming them. The poison pedagogy handed down by Mr Coles to his victims seeps into the school like a creeping sickness.

This intriguing story illustrates that the perpetrators of sexual abuse are often victims too. Mr Coles is sexually harassed by the Headmasters wife in ways that are repugnant to him.  Yet, he feels powerless over her repeated advances, just as his students are powerless over him.
 
Astaire takes you on a multi-layered journey of the mind, body and soul. We learn through his first person narrative the ways of an alcoholic as we share in Mr Coles's queasy daily rituals and denials, which are infused with blood, sweat, tears, spit, piss and vomit.  He is a seething mass of obsessions; irascible, rude, and driven by a naked ambition to be the Headmaster of all the boys he surveys. His sordid reality is only somewhat constrained by the routine of the academic day.

Read more: Mr Coles by Simon Astaire