Welcome to the written world of RDN. I am a complicated conservative, and a bit hippy and arty round the edges. I am currently working on poems, a memoir and a one-man show. Over all that is an increasing interest in the idea of spirituality. More »

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Edith Stein: A first look & some leads

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On books on 1 March 2018. No comments.

This is a premature account of my attempts to discover and understand Edith Stein. It includes (listed below) what I hope are fruitful leads (those I intend to follow-up myself).

It is impertinent of me to write this without (at the very least) having bought and read the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s short intellectual biography of the saint and philosopher, not least because his journey to and within Catholicism parallels Stein’s. What’s more, I have only glanced at her most obviously pertinent philosophical book, The Problem of Empathy, and know even less of her spiritual and theological writing.

However, writing these preparatory words cleared my head, and they may be useful to other newcomers to this martyr, hero and thinker – and the culture of her world. More »

Valencia: Top Five

Posted by RDN under Mind & body on 1 March 2018. No comments.

A recent, wet, windy winter day in the city of Valencia confirmed and more the wonderful experience we had one September day a few years back.

Here are my Top Five attractions, in the order I would prioritise for a fleeting visitor who wanted the very special nature of the city.

#1 The Patriarca. This former seminary is the lowest-key glory one could imagine. The museum part comprises an art gallery of a very rare informality but with works of quality by geniuses (and a reliquary of St Thomas More). The chapel is similarly low-key and ennobled by lovely tapestries. A separate matter is the main church, which has different opening hours, and some lovely services and musical events, including a session of Gregorian chant. This main church is an astonishing visual glory.

# 2 The National Ceramics Museum. Until one is there, one cannot imagine a more extraordinary exterior. Within, there is a lovely series of rooms – I think original – from when the house was an aristocrat’s home. Throughout the maze of other gallery-rooms on other floors, there is a breathtaking array of pottery and some painting. The place is run on lines which are sort of municipal in their absence of flashiness.

#3 Bancaja Foundation. The day we went there were three visiting exhibits, of which only one struck us as seriously distinguished. It was a show of garden paintings by Sorrolla and they were very fine indeed. He is a sort of Spanish Singer Sargent with a side-order of the Skagen School. If the show concurrent with your visit is to your taste, this free, rather grand, gallery might suit very well indeed.

#4 Valencia Cathedral. This is such an obvious place to visit that you may need a reason to do so. Here it is: the building is in that beautiful creamy Caen stone one associates with Chichester Cathedral. Throughout, the place puts is best, well-lit foot forward. Unexpectedly, the attached museum is modern, peppy and moving.

#5 St Nicholas’s church is moving in spades. The fresco work is knock-out. But we found especially compelling the various chapels and art works which came alive in the matter-of-fact but bang-on commentary in our headsets.

You may like to bear in mind that the Metro system does not penetrate the old city where most of the above are. On the other hand, from the Cathedral to the North station where (above ground) there is a very good station bar, and the Xativa Metro, is a gentle 15 minute walk, if you are led by Google’s kindly light.

Disclaimer: I do not say these are the best attractions as though I know many others. I found these by Googling and then testing them, whilst ignoring others, for a one-day spin.

“Darkest Hour” is quite bad

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On movies / Politics & campaigns on 26 January 2018. No comments.

The latest Darkest Hour movie is enjoyable and has high production values. It is, as lots of people say, rather a good flipside to the blockbuster Dunkirk. But whilst Dunkirk had merely a few absurdities amongst its conceits, Darkest Hour is, I declare, positively unethical in important parts of its story-telling.

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Six brilliant TV proposals

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On TV & Radio on 29 December 2017. No comments.

I have made one rather feeble and unuccessful attempt to “sell” these ideas for TV shows. I would like to present, write, mentor or research any of them. But I don’t really mind. It would be nice to see them on-air, whoever and however it happens.

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The Empathy Delusion

Posted by RDN under Mind & body on 27 December 2017. No comments.

This piece argues that we do not have much empathy, and that even if we had more it would still be a very imperfect engine of moral or ethical behaviour.

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RDN on BBC Scotland on ads’ gender stereotyping

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / Politics & campaigns / RDN's media outings on 14 December 2017. No comments.

I had a lively outing on BBC Radio Scotland’s morning phone-in on the ASA/CAP’s crackdown on gender stereotyping. Without much thinking about the Quangos’ specific motives and proposals (I will maybe devote time to that exercise) I said quite boldly that whatever stereotypes advertisers promoted, I had never seen any that were more harmful than the culture-crimping, the dreary campaignitis – and, yes the PC Gone Mad element – of the Bossy Liberals who want to censor them.

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Jews and design in post-war Britain

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On art on 14 December 2017. No comments.

The Jewish Museum in Camden Town, London, has put on a revelatory exhibit: Designs on Britain. It’s about the works of Jewish émigré designers who escaped Hitler’s Reich to settle here. Their images and inventions contributed to the upbeat, the witty, the bright – and also sometimes the edgy –  in the day-to-day experience of British people. By the way, the show does not feature the most famous Jewish designer of the period: Abram Games was born in the UK (and has had his own one-man show at the Museum).

Hardly anyone, I think, realised or realise just how many Jewish people produced the designs which populated our lives back then. Because I can find no one-stop online bringing-together of this story, here’s my rather casuual and amateur attempt…

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Poem: Catching the light

Posted by RDN under RDN's poems on 22 October 2017. No comments.

Here, four moments from the 1980s and the 2010s provide the vignettes which I hope convey how an auto-didact skips and slithers, in a hungry sort of way, amongst the wit and wisdom of his betters.

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Jack Reacher: Mythic hero who travels by bus

Posted by RDN under Mind & body / On books / On movies on 17 September 2017. No comments.

This has been been the sunny season when I lay on a lounger and read something like three-quarters of the 20-some Jack Reacher thrillers produced by the Englishman in New York, Lee Child. I think Reacher is a rare – possibly unique – type in the detective thriller, though it is quite common in Marvel comics and movies. In written form it is a story from over 3,000 years ago. It deploys the epic manner in telling stories about a mythic, and partly divine, figure.

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Grenfell Tower and the professions

Posted by RDN under Economic affairs / Mind & body / Politics & campaigns on 14 September 2017. No comments.

I hope that the official inquiry (and any other) into the Grenfell Tower disaster will discuss the role of professionals and professions in the failure to look after the safety of the residents. I rather doubt that vicious or heartless conspiracy will be discovered. But cock-up probably won’t quite do as an explanation either. In man-made accidents and disasters it is often professionals and professions that turn out to have lacked canny, energetic or brave diligence. The 2008 banking crisis displayed all of the symptoms. Well beyond Grenfell, I think there are several professional dilemmas which need to be stated clearly, and wrestled with. I attempt this below the fold. (1000 words, plus)

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