New Release: The Woman & The Rabbit

PUBLISHED US 14 FEBRUARY 2014
PUBLISHED UK & IRELAND 6 MAY 2014
PAPERBACK & E-BOOK EDITIONS

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New Release: An Argument for Sin

PUBLISHED 14 AUGUST 2013

HARDBACK, PAPERBACK AND E-BOOK EDITIONS

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Listen to Michael read poems from the book on RTE Arena

(Opens on Arena page, scroll down to An Argument for Sin)

Excerpt: An Argument for Sin

AN ARUMENT FOR SIN, “AN EXCURSION” IN 110 NEW POEMS, WAS PUBLISHED ON 14 AUGUST 2013.

READ POEM FROM THE COLLECTION

Cineaste Summer 2013 Issue

MICHAEL CONTRIBUTES TO THE SYMPOSIUM ON

THE ART & CRAFT OF FILM BIOGRAPHY


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Reissue: Sean Connery: The Biography

PUBLISHED 31 OCTOBER 2012

TO CELEBRATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SEAN CONNERY’S “DR NO”
VIRGIN/RANDOM HOUSE HAS RELEASED A NEW KINDLE EDITION

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New in Paperback: Robert Redford: The Biography

PUBLISHED 15 May 2012

VINTAGE BOOKS RELEASE THE PAPERBACK EDITION

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 Read the reviews of Robert Redford: The Biography on the Books tab.

 

Blog: The View from Here

IN PRAISE OF THE INDEPENDENT THINKER

 

In 1911 Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, faced down a panel of academics and philosophers to argue against the prevailing scientific racism. White westerners, he argued, were on the wrong track when they imagined inherent advantages in select races. While western Europeans, the founders of modern America, were building mud huts, he reminded his opponents, the Mayans were inventing astronomy. The simple clarity of this argument which defines Boas’ genius as the supreme citizen scientist laid the ground for civil rights legislation and still resonates. “Astronomy” is the key word. As a division of the natural sciences it has consistently been downgraded, occupying a place in conventional classrooms somewhere below biology, chemistry and the Earth Sciences. And yet it is manifestly of towering importance. Its remit goes way beyond the study of celestial objects for the purpose of making calendars and navigation tools. In its modern form, morphed into astrophysics, its job is to assess our origins, how the universe began, how the earth itself formed. Indeed, how and why we exist. Our relationship to it, accordingly, might well stand as a benchmark of cultural orientation.

A special place should be accorded to those like Boas who consecrate its importance. Sir Patrick Moore, the broadcaster and polpulariser of amateur astronomy who died in December 2012, ranks with the greats and I’ve been digging into two books about him that deserve a look. One is his quirky autobiography, published in 2003, the other is a new, equally quirky and extraordinarily comprehensive “fan’s biography” written by astronomer Martin Mobberley, one of Moore’s proteges. I’ll hesitate here to state my personal interest: Moore was legendary for his correspondence with children and his encouragement to all who expressed any interest in astro science. I, like Mobberley, was one such. In the middle Sixties Moore, a self-taught scientist who turned down a Cambridge scholarship, took residence in Ireland to build the Armagh Planetarium. As a child of the Space Age I wrote to him with the kind of request only a kid could conjure. I wanted a piece of a star. Moore immediately responded, apologising for the fact that he couldn’t comply but sending a thumb-sized portion of the Christmas Eve 1965 Barwell meteorite he’d recently acquired. It might help, he wrote, to broaden my interest in the heavens. That generosity changed my outlook: it certainly broadened my reading (geology, early civilisation, etc) and so set me on a literary course. To others he was equally, endlessly helpful. People as diverse as Brian May, the Queen guitarist, comedian Jon Culshaw and the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees acknowledge his personal engagement and encouragement, and the widening audience of his groundbreaking BBC television series, The Sky at Night, benefitted hugely from his commitment: he still holds the record as the longest serving sole presenter of any television series worldwide.

Moore’s specialness has been defined as his eccentricity. He famously never wrote or prepared a script, he spoke at unnatural speed, he never ate vegetables, he never possessed a comb. The PC police fasten on his xenophobic conservatism, though they bog down in the paradoxes of his frantic activism against bloodsports and his unbigoted charity work. In fact, something like an authentic enigma prevails, and this is what makes parallel reading of autobiography and independent biography so compelling. As a diarist, Moore ranks as one of the great evaders – he dismisses his childhood in two pages and skirts over Lorna, the great love of his life whose death in the Blitz ensured he never married – but the meticulous detailing by Mobberley of his home habits and professional choices counterbalances to give us a full, credible psychology. For Mobberley, Moore, his friend, was a fantasist. There is no corroborative evidence, the biographer states, to Moore’s claim that he played piano accompaniment to Albert Einstein’s violin party piece in the Thirties. More germane, there is no scientific support for Moore’s lifelong belief in transient lunar phenomena (TLP), the anomalous, occasional lights recorded for centuries on the lunar surface. In Mobberley’s opinion, Moore’s Boys’ Own enthusiasms warped his character. There is value in that deduction but not, I think, insight. Moore’s own voice admits undeniable eccentricity but it’s less self-serving than intellectually giddy and it attests to the kind of obsessive peculiarities that led other great scientist-visionaries like Percival Lowell and Nikola Tesla beyond their pet Martian canals and Death Rays to profound cultural contributions.

Simply, Moore’s life was about free-thinking and he was borne up by a wit, compassion and scope of sources to match Joyce’s. In the late Sixties he made a moving documentary called One Pair of Eyes, which you can check out on YouTube. Here he spoke with Flat Earth proponents, Venusian speakers and Fortean folk of every persuasion. He ridiculed none; rather he concluded by reminding us that six hundred years ago the Pole Copernicus, a free-thinker par excellence, liberated science from superstition when he introduced heliocentrism, the unheard-of concept that the earth revolved around the sun.

Flexibility of thought and energy of imagination, said Moore, were the keys to human progress. This was the code he lived by, the air he affected, the game he invited us to join which, it seems to me, gets poorly served by the tag “eccentric.”

Like Buzz Aldrin (still brilliantly campaigning for space funds on Twitter), Moore remained passionate about every aspect of astronomy and especially about government investment in space research. He disputed much of the Obama administration’s current NASA plan but, like Aldrin, agreed that manned exploration of Mars is essential, that the consolidation of civilisation requires colony planning far beyond our warming world.

I doubt if there are conservative reactionaries in the Great Beyond but if there are I see the hefty, bewinged figure of Moore, like Boas in front of the academics, regaling them to get their arses moving and shake up man to laugh a little and – urgently – think outside the box.

 

Eighty Not Out by Sir Patrick Moore (Contender Books, London, 2003)

It Came from Outer Space Wearing an RAF Blazer by Martin Mobberley (Springer, London, 2013)

Scrapbook: Travels

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MFC-PODIUM

With Pete BestMFC-PALM_SPRINGS

We’ve had a hiatus on BOBCOM, the interactive IT/TV resource for new music artists created by Mike, but he is still front and centre in consolidating the platform in support of new indie artists and the emerging media convergence opportunities. An announcement about BOBCOM will be made shortly. While promoting BOBCOM internationally, Mike toured the USA coast-to-coast to introduce Robert Redford: The Biography. Above is a scrapbook of activities. Main picture: The AFI theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, June 2011. Second row: Mike discusses the making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the American Film Institute Theater. Bottom row: 1) Mike at the Casbah Club, West Derby, Liverpool, with Pete Best;  2) Book signings at the Palm Springs Film Society.