brain teaser questions interview

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Probably in terms of writing and linguisticawareness there were a combination, firstly of W’s, P.G. Woodhouse, Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh, theBritish novelist. That’s a male Evelyn by the way. And I would add to that Arthur Chonan Doyle,the author of Sherlock Holmes. When I was between the ages of about sevenand twelve I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and I would read and reread and re, re, rereadall those, so the rhythms and tones of the English language as exemplified by that kindof grand perfect Victorian manner and then Dickens, but it was really Oscar Wilde whoawoke language in my head in a way like nobody else and I think also discovering the kindof man Oscar Wilde was, was an enormous influence as well. The fact that you could be such a toweringintellect, such a lord of language and be charming and graceful, kind, good natured,but also unhappy and unlucky was a great discovery for an adolescent because one of the trapsof adolescence is the sort of paranoid resentment that somehow you’re never going to matchup and that everybody else’s life is going to be better and finer and fuller. That everyone else attended some secret lessonin which how to live was taught and you had a dental appointment that day or you weresomehow not invited and the point of great writers like Wilde is that they make thatinvitation to you. They welcome it. Perhaps the greatest definition I think ofcharacter and quality is people who when they’re truly great rather than making you feel thattall they make you feel that tall, that they’re greatness as it were improves you. They used to say of Oscar Wilde that whenyou got done from a dinner table you felt funnier and wittier and cleverer. Now a lot of Brilliant people make you feelless funny, less clever, less witty because they’re so clever, witty and funny, buthe had the opposite effect. A bit like what Shakespeare said about Falstaff,not just a wit, but a cause of wit in others. Philosophy is an odd thing. When we use the word in everyday speech youknow you sometimes hear it hilariously. They say, “Oh, it’s never good to be late.” “That’s my philosophy.” You think that’s a generous descriptionof that rather dull precept to call it a philosophy, but it’s odd how philosophers generallyspeaking, at least the ones I’ve read or the ones I you know value, don’t have inthat sense a philosophy. There is no particular Socratic or Dimechianor Kantian way to live your life. They don’t offer ethical codes and standardsby which to live your life. They don’t offer a philosophy to follow. They just simply raise an enormous numberof questions mostly, so in the sense that you put the question is there a philosopherthat’s important to me. Well I me I loved really the sort of the BertrandRussell grand sort of tour of philosophy, the history of philosophy from the pre Socraticsas they’re called, Zeno and so on through to Socrates and Plato and Aristotle. I never quite liked Aristotle. I think that’s partly… Although he was obviously a genius and brilliantand he invented logic, so what’s not to like. I think it was his influence on the medievalmind was probably rather pernicious and unfortunate and all those categories and things, but whenit opened up with I suppose Spinoza and them, but then Kant and the enlightenment era. Oh and actually Locke. I did like Locke. He was a fine philosopher, but they don’t… I mean what is so great about them is thatthey just… They’re quite scary when you think of theword philosopher and especially if it’s logic and symbolic logic and it gets ontoHegelian philosophies, incredibly difficult to read I find and you follow it for about… Well it’s like trying to grab a salmon. You know the harder you clutch at it the moreit springs, slips out of your hand and whoa, it’s gone and you chase it again and whatwas that and you feel very stupid, but the…

brain teaser questions interviewit’s gone and you chase it again and whatwas that and you feel very stupid, but the… I think the beauty of questioning and simplicitythat you get from Kant in particular I think is just amazing because it’s like they sayof simple mathematical laws that make fractals, the tiniest little elegant observation aboutor question about something just spins out these immensely complex things that make yourethink everything. So yes, I think philosophy is a really importantdimension, but I think in our age we tend to be rather sloppy about it. We either think Buddhism is philosophy, whichyou know or some sort of eastern thing about being nice and spiritual and that will do,which it’s fine. I mean you know obviously I believe in kindnessand niceness and lots of spiritual things, but the real intellectual rigor and questof logic is something that I’m afraid takes incredibly hard work and we live in an agein which hard work is if not actively deprecated or denigrated it is run away from or ignored. It’s sort of people frown at you and say,“Well, that’s a bit dull and stupid. Why can’t we just short circuit it and talkabout like spirit?” Well yeah, you can say spirit, but if youthink that’s philosophy and if you think that’s good enough. The most important philosophy I think is thateven if it isn’t true you must absolutely assume there is no afterlife. You cannot for one second I think, abbragatethe responsibility of believing that this is it because if you think you’re goingto have an eternity in which you can talk to Mozart and Chopin and Schopenhauer on acloud and learn stuff and you know really get to grips with knowledge and understandingand so you won’t bother now. I think it’s a terrible, a terrible mistake. It may be that there is an afterlife and I’lllook incredibly stupid, but at least I will have had a crammed pre afterlife, a crammedlife, so to me the most important thing is you know as Kipling put it, to fill every60 seconds with you know what is it? To fill every unforgiving minute with 60 secondsworth of distance run. You know absolutely, so that’s all I’msaying I suppose. Is that there is no point wasting time beinglazy, though of course indolence in a divine way, actually has its advantages. Oh, shut up Steve. Okay, next one. It’s interesting. Atheism comes into rather a bad press andI suppose I’d rather describe myself as a humanist, who human… I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe there is a God. If I were to believe in a god l would believein gods. I think monotheism is the really ghastly thing. That is the absolutely staggering to me misapprehension. I can perfectly see why anybody might imaginethat each thing, each thing that grows, each phenomenon that we… that accompanies uson our journey through life, the sky, the mountains, spirits of nature. I can imagine why man would wish to endowthem with an inner something, an inner animus that they would call the god of that thing. I can see that. It’s a beautiful and charming way of lookingat it and I can understand the Greek idea that there are these you know these principlesof lightening or of war or of wisdom and to embody them, to personify them into a Athenaor Aries or whichever god you want makes enormous sense, but to say that there is one only godwho made it all and who is… Yeah, that is just… What? Why? Who said? Where? Come on. And I love how when people watch I don’tknow, David Attenborough or Discovery Planet type thing you know where you see the absolutephenomenal majesty and complexity and bewildering

brain teaser questions interviewtype thing you know where you see the absolutephenomenal majesty and complexity and bewildering beauty of nature and you stare at it and then…and somebody next to you goes, “And how can you say there is no God?” “Look at that.” And then five minutes later you’re lookingat the lifecycle of a parasitic worm whose job is to bury itself in the eyeball of alittle lamb and eat the eyeball from inside while the lamb dies in horrible agony andthen you turn to them and say, “Yeah, where is your God now?” You know I mean you got… You can’t just say there is a God becausewell, the world I beautiful. You have to account for bone cancer in children. You have to account for the fact that almostall animals in the wild live under stress with not enough to eat and will die violentand bloody deaths. There is not any way that you can just choosethe nice bits and say that means there is a God and ignore the true fact of what natureis. The wonder of nature must be taken in itstotality and it is a wonderful thing. It is absolutely marvelous and the idea thatan atheist or a humanist if you want to put it that way, doesn’t marvel and wonder atreality, at the way things are, is nonsensical. The point is we wonder all the way. We don’t just stop and say that which Icannot understand I will call God, which is what mankind has done historically. That’s to say God was absolutely everythinga thousand or two thousand years ago because we understood almost nothing about the naturalworld, so it could all be God and then as we understood more God receded and recededand receded, so suddenly now he is barely anywhere. He is just in those things we don’t understand,which are important, but I think it just is such an insult to humanity and the Greeksgot it right. The Greeks understood perfectly that if therewere divine beings they are capricious, unkind, malicious mostly, temperamental, envious andmostly deeply unpleasant because that you can say well yes, all right, if there is goingto be god or gods then you have to admit that they’re very at the very least capricious. They’re certainly not consistent. They’re certainly not all loving. I mean really it’s just not good enough. You know if we empower ourselves with responsibilityover our actions, responsibility over our destinies and responsibility for directingand maintaining and creating our own ethical and moral frameworks, which is the most importantthing really isn’t it because perhaps the greatest insult to humanism is this idea thatmankind needs a god in order to have a moral framework. There is a very clear way of demonstratinglogically how absurd that is because the warrant for that logical framework, for that moralframework that comes from God is always tested against man’s own morals and it’s a complicatedargument, but I mean that’s you know it’s the standard one which is pretty unanswerable,but the idea that we don’t know right from wrong, but we have to take it from words putdown in a book two, three, four, five, six thousand years ago and dictated to ratherhotheaded neurotic desert tribes is just insulting. It’s just no, I mean you know if there werea God he would want us to be better spirited than to take his word for everything. Wouldn’t he? If he gave us free will would he really wantus to say, “No, I have to abide by everything that’s written in this book, all the lawsof circumcision and of eating and of… and what to do with menstruating women?” I mean, “I’m going to obey those writtendown there. “ “I won’t think for myself becausethat’s not required of me.” Come on. It’s just not good enough and you know Ihave no quarrel with individuals who wish… who are devout and who have faith. I don’t want to mock them. I really don’t, but damned if I’m goingto be told by them what to do with my body or damned if I’m going to have the extraordinarybattles won by enlightenment over the past

brain teaser questions interview or damned if I’m going to have the extraordinarybattles won by enlightenment over the past

brain teaser questions interviewor damned if I’m going to have the extraordinarybattles won by enlightenment over the past 400 years, to have those battles abdicatedby a new dark ages. It’s you know. The battle lines must be drawn. Music in its time, but I mean that’s a functionof history you know. The fact is that composers always write forthe power because… or power and money and it so happened that in the period when polyphonyall the way through to the classical and early romantic era all the power and the money waswith the church, so some great masses and some great choir music and some great oratorieswere written from obviously the Baroque age being the sort of pinnacle of that, but allthe way through to Mozart’s final works and his requiem and Beethoven’s Missa solemnisand Mendelssohn and so on. There have been some marvelous religious worksand in paintings similarly, but that’s because these were princes. They were princes of the church. They were prince arch bishops who employedMozart. These were not spiritual beings who inculcatedthese composers with a sense of the divine that makes the music divine. The glory of Verde’s requiem or Mozart’srequiem or Bach’s pieces is that they are fantastic, incredibly human and like all greathuman’s thing they reach for the infinite. They reach for beauty. A religious person would call that the divine. You could call it the humanist. You could call it anything else, but certainlyis that. Religion has been good for that and good forarchitecture because it is required that enormous… It required enormous buildings for the shepherdingof people in, in order to do the services and they spend a lot of money on it and sothey are rather glorious buildings. You’ve got to hand them that. Do they make the trains run on time? No, they didn’t do that. That’s about it really. And there are some kind individual people. I mean very kind people who give to the poorand look after the sick and so on, but it’s not necessary and sufficient as a justificationfor religion because there are plenty of people who are not religious who are also kind tothe sick and good to the poor and care about people’s wellbeing. Yes, very much so. I mean Trevor Huddleston and Arch Bishop Tutufrom South Africa are two good examples who were both genuine men of their church or letme see. Huddleston is dead, but Tutu is still aliveand who both fought a terrible injustice and used all the authority of their position amongsttheir believers and but very bravely spoke out and sometimes against the wishes of thechurch hierarchies. Some liberation rheologist who are from youknow some of them mad communists, some of them just decent liberals who fought againstthe hideous doctrines of the Roman Catholic church for example and there are individualvoices who are raised in conscious against the bureaucracy and the dogma and the doctrineof the churches and you know certainly of course individuals in you know Bonheofferfor example in Germany, the Lutheran minister who spoke out against Hitler. There are… Of course there have been good and fine religiouspeople and the Dolly Llama seems rather charming. I don’t know. It’s terrible. I don’t want to come over as some terribleanti ecclesiastical figure, but. I came from what on the surface would havelooked like a very typical English family in as much as I say a typical one that anAmerican might regard as typical. It was a country house with gardeners andnice staff and it looked rather grand and I was sent away at the age of seven to a prepschool, which in England is from seven to thirteen is prep school, sent away to boardingschool two hundred miles from home and that sort of again was very traditional English. What you might call an upper class, uppermiddle class sort of education and where I

brain teaser questions interviewWhat you might call an upper class, uppermiddle class sort of education and where I received a very classical education. My parents were marvelously educated people. They’re both university educated, both brilliantscholars in Irwin, my father a physicist, my mother historian, but not absolutely typicalof the class because my mother’s family’s Jewish. She is European Jewish and she was… She was born in Britain, but her sister wasborn in the family area, which is now Slovakia, but which was Hungary and indeed for a shorttime, Czechoslovakia and so there was that sort of mixture, that rather exotic mixture,the mother’s family of people who talked about food, which was a very an un-Englishthing to do back in the sixties when I was growing up into. We had that kind of exotic accent and allthose things, but they weren’t Judaic. They weren’t religiously Jewish. They were just proud to be Jewish Jews andthere were plenty of them in Israel. Those who had survived the Holocaust werein Israel or most in America and so in that sense it was a… It was an idyllic childhood looking at thehouse and looking at how lucky we were it looks fantastic, but of course the childhoodis what goes on inside your head, nothing to do with what goes on outside, so it wasthe usually sticky mess of adolescent Sturm und Drang. Always closest to my mother because my motheris an extraordinarily warm and unbelievably friendly and loveable person. People are genuinely astounded by her, herpositivity. She is just the most smiling person peoplewill have met. And so that you know obviously gave you knowclosest warmth. My father was rather remote. I thought of him… I wrote about this in my autobiography thatI thought of him as Sherlock Holmes. He was similarly a deeply rational man andunbelievably brilliant you know because of his physics and his mathematics and also music. As a young boy he was a choral student atSt. Paul’s Cathedral and played piano beautifully and his musical understanding was very fineand but very sort of great intellectual rigor. He seemed to us as children, to my brotherand my sister and myself as quite cold and quite forbidding, quite frightening. He worked incredibly hard. He worked at home. The stable block of the family house, whichwas a very large stable block indeed was he converted to his laboratory is where he workedand so he… You know we never had the pleasure of himbeing out of the house. I mean he was inside the house in his studyworking you know working and we never quite knew where he was and if we made a noise wefelt sort of thunder rumbling, so he was quite a scary man and now of course on very easyfine terms, but it was a difficult, difficult thing. What makes a good family? Well, I suppose obviously love. Love lubricated often I think by humor. I think a family that can laugh at each otherand tease themselves and who are able to be jolly with each other I think is the key. Humor is you know like a dog’s tongue ordog’s nose rather, which should be cold and faintly wet and a vet will tell you that’sa sign of a healthy dog. I think our equivalent of a cold wet noseis humor. Families where there is not much laughterI think are signs of some sort of dysfunctionality or sickness. Maybe if there is too much laughter it’sdysfunctional too. Who knows? Families are so different. I’ve never met anyone who says they comefrom… they thought they lived in a normal family. As children everyone thinks their family isweird and they’re upset by the weirdness of their own family. It is a peculiar thing we’re asked to do,but I think GK Chesterton put it that it is an onerous responsibility that having beendropped by the stork down a random chimney and unwrapped we are invited to get on witha set of strangers who peer down at us. You know because although yes, we share theDNA. You know they are physically of our fleshand we are their flesh. Nonetheless they… We didn’t choose them. They are a set of strangers. There is this man here and we should callhim Daddy and there is this woman here. We should call her Mummy. This girl here I should call my sister andthis boy here I should call my brother and we are somehow bonded for life. I remember making an absolute… Well, I wouldn’t say fool of myself. I was expelled from a meeting of Latter DaySaints when I first went to Salt Lake City. I just literally as a tourist I was wanderingaround and this person in a grey shift came up to me and said, “Would you like to seearound?” And I said, “That’s very kind.” And then she started gathering others andthen I realized she was a Mormon who was doing a tour and presumably there was a little bitof a recruitment going on because they are very proselytizing sect as you know, the Mormons. Anyway, she gave us a good tour and we sawthis tabernacle here and this here and so on and then at one point she said, “I justwant to tell you a little about the church of the Latter Day Saints.” And we all politely stood and then she saidhow in the afterlife all families will be reunited. You’ll be with your families forever, soI put my hand up and said, “What happens if you’ve been good?” And she said, “Could you leave please?” Because everyone started laughing, but I meanwhat a ridiculous idea. How is that supposed to be attractive thatyou’re going to be stuck with every aunt and every cousin and every…? Good gracious, every you know alcoholic orslightly deviant uncle. I mean Jesus, it’s just the most awful destinyimaginable and they think that’s a USP. That’s a… Yeah, that’s what our church promises. Good Lord. Well of course, what it does. You don’t have to be that smart to spotis what it does is that church focuses entirely on women the d’un certain âge as the Frenchsay, woman of a certain age and who have lost their children because they’ve grown upand have lost their parents because they’ve died and they’re lonely and they’ve stillgot that family queen bee mother nesting instinct and they’re the ones the Latter Day Saintshone in on and say, “You follow us and we promise you that you’ll be your family allaround you again in heaven.” And they think that’s a cool thing. Everyone else would go yuck. Anyway. I say and I think it’s true that for themost, the first moment with Oscar was language. I was youngish, eleven-ish, twelve-ish, tooyoung really to be… well, to be entirely sure of my sexuality or what that sexualitymeant. I think I’ve always been aware of my sexuality,but I never quite knew what it meant, but what I… So that side of him I would come on to, butfirst it was language and I remember there is a line of Algernon’s in The Importanceof Being Earnest and I was watching the film The Importance of Being Earnest and Algernonsays to Cecily, “Would you be in any way offended if I said that you seem to me tobe in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection?” And I leaned forward and I… There were no videos and instant pauses andon TiVo in those days and I replayed it in my brain. “Would you be offended if I said that youseem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection?” And I thought how unbelievably beautiful,the swing, the balance the rhythm. How clever to make a sentence that’s allfull of Latinate words ending in ation, to make that sing and poetical because mostlyin the English language the words that are lyrical and beautiful are not words like thepersonification. They’re rather technical clunky words, butjust simply by colliding them together it’s funny and beautiful and breathtaking and Ihad never… I’d know that you could use language tosay, “Can I be excused?” “I need to go to the men’s room.” I knew that you could to say, “I want somemore.” I knew that language had that function, butthe idea that it could be used to dance, that it could be used to delight, that it couldbe used to enthrall quite so magnificently was new to me, so I read. We had right in the country the library wouldcome and visit us. It was what is called a mobile library. It’s like a big van and it would come aboutyou know a half a mile from the house and walk down a country lane to where it usedto stop and get in and that’s where I get all my books and so I said, “Do you haveany Oscar Wilde?” And they said, “Yes.” I said, “I want a play called The Importanceof Being Earnest.” And they said, “Yes, I think we’ve heardof that one.” And then it gets to me and I’m saying it’sthere in front of me and I read it and I kind of learned the whole play off by heart. I mean I can still to this day, “Did youhear what I was playing on the piano just now?” “I didn’t think it polite to listen sir.” And so on and that’s how the play begins. “I’m sorry for that for your sake.” “I don’t play the piano well.” “Anyone can play the piano well, but I playwith wonderful expression.” And so on. Anyway, I just became obsessed and then Isaw a biography by a man called Montgomery Hyde of Wilde, so I read the biography andthis is where it all changed because not only was this man as I said before, a lord of language,it’s a phrase of his own actually, but he was if you’d like a kind of secular messiah,a Bohemian prince of the most fantastic power and beauty and grace and gravity and he collectedfriends and he looked at the world and he showed you the true colors of things as noone had and on top of that he shared what I knew instinctively was my sexual preferenceof my own kind and not only that, but it caused of course him the most appalling suffering. He was despised and rejected of man in themost terrible way and then when I read “De Profundis”, the letter he wrote to LordAlfred from Reading Jail I think it was perhaps one of the most extraordinary moments of mylife. Now of course like a lot of people in my generationthat meant I grew up with a sense of doom being allied to sexuality, that there wereno… Literature and biography offered no examplesof happy endings for homosexual people. Gay wasn’t used then. So I had an immense and obvious sense of thefact that my life would be doomed, would be fatal and would probably end in prison orin shame and something horrible, but the knowledge that I would be joining Oscar Wilde and thenafter that of course through bibliographies you find out other people you know Andre Geedor whoever, Michael Angelo. I would be joining a kind of Olympia of fabulousmen and women who were better than others. They had a special inside. They vibrated at art and beauty with a sortof greater frequency and gave off a more wonderful harmonic than most people did and so I wasproud to be an elect even if it was a doomed elect. That was my sentimental and adolescent I supposeresponse to my sexuality. I can’t imagine how different it would havebeen if I had been born twenty years later into a world of the internet and much moreopen things. I’m sure it would have been a lot less doomladen, but I suspect I would have read a lot less literature and I would have been a lotless interested in the intellect and the life of the mind. I would have been much more interested injust getting my rocks off I suppose because it would have been easier to do so I guess. I would have been…felt less guilty for solong. There are compensations though for the erain which I grew up and that is as I say, the fellowship of literature. Yes. I never thought of course when I grew up lovingWilde and collecting his books and even trying to collect early editions that I would oneday play him onscreen. It was simply unthinkable, but it did cometo pass. I became aware as I entered my thirties thatit was just being shall we say, I was disposed to the adipose. I was getting a little plump, that I couldif I grew my hair look a little like him and although that is a completely irrelevant basison which to be qualified to play someone is it… It just sets the thing on your mind and theEnglish player Bennett once stopped me in Jo Allen’s in London just as he was passingthe table and he said, “I was looking at you from across the room and it suddenly occurredto me you look terribly like Oscar.” “You know, you should play him one day.” And I thought… and I looked in the mirror. I went to the gent’s and I looked in themirror and I thought gosh and I really didn’t think much more of it. Occasionally people would use that tediouslypredictable phrase born to be wild and then suddenly I was approached by Julian Mitchellthe writer and Brian Gilbert the director and Marc Samuelson the producer who had thisproject and saying would I play Oscar Wilde and it was overwhelming and what was evenmore overwhelming was they had as a consultant this wonderful charming man called MerlinHolland who was Oscar’s grandson who was younger than Wilde was when Wilde died andthat connects us to is and it just so happens that Wilde’s younger son Vivian Hollandmarried very, very late and had a very late child and hence Wilde’s grandson lived youknow a hundred years after Wilde was Wilde’s age, which is rare. So anyway, that seemed so exciting and noviceand I prepared it. I read as much as I could of course, but nothingcan prepare you for the… I don’t know. Everyday getting up and worrying about whetheror not you’re going to let him down, whether… I mean the one thing I was absolutely determinedwas that Wilde was not just a sort of epigram factory, just a machine for spouting witticismsin a camp brittle pea cocky manner going oh, how to, to utterly utter. Everyone who described him described the mellowgravity of his voice, the seriousness of which he looked into your eyes, which is what madehim so funny because he you know everything he said was said as if it was absolutely true,so when it was a dazzling paradox or a mother’s aphoristic turn of phrase, literal turn ofphrase, you know where the thing is inverted you know like, “Work is the curse of thedrinking classes.” He didn’t say it in inverted commas as ifhe knew it were a joke. He said it as if he had just seen it as thetruth and that made it funnier, but it was also part of his whole manner is that therewas a direct simplicity about him, not an arch campiness, which is… So even if I was hopeless I hoped the onething I could set straight about Wilde was that, so that was a heck of a feeling. Another side to him is of course that naturallypeople think of him as a gay martyr and a gay icon and a gay symbol for the age, butthat he was a marvelous father until he wasn’t, until of course he created such a scandalor it was embroiled that the scandal obviously was disastrous for his family and that betrayalwas not a piece of good father, good piece of good fatherhood, but while he was a fatherhe was a kindly father, a loving father and he created one of the greatest gifts to childrenthat there ever was, which is his fairy stories, which I don’t think are well known enough. I think they rank absolutely with the Grimmfairy stories and the Hans Christian Anderson fairy stories. They’re marvelous tales. They have all his qualities and somethingextra, greatness of heart and the beauty and the charm and then amazing, I think the wordis proleptic, a sort of prophetic vision almost of what suffering and pain and sacrifice hewould go through, although they were written at the height of his happiness and his richesand his popularity. There is a sort of doom in the way the storiesplay out, which is quite staggeringly as I say proleptic. I suppose I mean yes, Wilde teaches us much,even from a 120 years in the past seems as true as ever it was. He wrote marvelously in his essay “The Soulof Man under Socialism” about the press. In medieval times they had the rack. Now we have the press. He… I think he predicted really quite brilliantlythe enormous growth of the press, the impertinence of the press, how wrong it was that the emphasison the press was on the individual lives of private people rather than on sharing truthand beauty and innovation and I’m afraid I don’t really enjoy the press at all. I like to know what is going on in the world,but that’s a very small part of what the press delivers, so I haven’t read a newspaperfor fifteen years I think, twelve years certainly and certainly not a British one. I just don’t and I find I get on with an…without them incredibly well. It is actually not just that it makes me lessunhappy. It actually makes me actively happier. It’s as if some huge weight is rolled offme not to read the opinions of others and I can quite understand why others wouldn’twant to read the opinions of me and they don’t have to and that’s the beauty of it is let’snot… But there is a sort of I think a more… Wilde understood, but there is a sort of furiousanger in certain class of journalists that they’re not being heard even though theyhave access to everyone of their readers the fact that someone else isn’t listening orisn’t paying attention drives them slightly potty and they actually want to bellow theirmalice into the ear of the person to whom it is directed and if they felt that personwasn’t getting it, it would really annoy them because they want to hurt. They actually want to hurt people and that’sunfortunate. I just don’t want to be a part of it andthe thing was I was a part of it. I’m really not speaking as some giant noblespirit who is easily wounded and must be sympathized with. I was a journalist or at least a columnist,which is not… which is what my objection is in news galleries. I was a columnist for several years for TheDaily Telegraph in England which is the most successful or at least sells the most copiesat least of the serious newspapers and I could see how easy it was to become this poisonedfigure because the… You know there is nothing easier than writingand article against something, which is so simple. It writes itself. You just got to be angry about something andjust got to puff and wheeze with indignation and fury and resentment and bile and maliceand the thing writes itself and if you write anything that’s for something it looks sentimentaland cutesy and you know so much… and so much harder to write, so much harder to writewell. So all the successful columnists are… certainlyin the British press are vicious and they’re good at being vicious and admirable and ifyou share their politics mostly their viciousness is something you can applaud. If you don’t then you just call them beastsand animals and revolting. It just gets so annoying. It’s such a pity and that’s one of thereasons I love the online world is that although that exists in abundance you can choose absolutelywhich part of the online world you want to live in. You can make your own kingdom in that sense,so things like Twitter or whatever I’m sure there are all kinds of Twitter you know clustersof people who have politics that I would find horrific and really just views that I wouldpreposterous and impertinent, but I just don’t have to follow them and I can block them andI will never know they exist and that’s glorious. And similarly as long as you don’t loweryour eyes when reading a blog, as long as you don’t go down to the comment sectionwhere the trolls lurk, where the viciousness is because that’s… I mean there really is just suppurating, boilingseas of acid where if you just so much as dip a toe you’ve lost your limbs you know,just vileness abounding. Again, there is this resentment, “I willbe heard and not only will I be heard I will offend.” “I will tear.” “I will lacerate.” “I will wound.” “I want the sensibilities of anyone whodisagrees with me to be bruised beyond mending.” That kind of attitude is very strong on thenet and for all that we can be advocates for the glory and the democracy that exists onlinewe must be aware too that that dark side of humanity that just needs to be heard and can’tbear people like me for example who have access to greater numbers of followers on Twitteror whose website gets more hits and the more they see that, the more the web becomes areflection of their view of the meanness and wrongness of society where somebody will getit all and others get none and then the more bitterness there is and I think it’s difficultbecause I don’t certainly want there to be aristocracy on the net. I don’t want there to be that. I think that whole beauty of it at its bestis that there is genuine equality and genuine reciprocity between you know a Twitterer andhis or her followers or between a blogger and their readers and that it’s not… You know it’s not an audience going to onesite that is permanent and stable and is like the equivalent of the old models of the broadcaster,but that it’s much more fluid and the broadcaster becomes the broadcasted too, you know theTV station becomes the audience and as long as people believe that and behave as if thatis true then there is real hope in the way information is going. Who was my first love? Well I shan’t give you his name becausethat’s unkind and he is married and has children and I wouldn’t want to embarrasshis children, but I’ve given him various names in novels and in books. Like a lot of first loves, certainly firstloves for sensitive people such as I was then I guess I have what I have is called the primarywriter’s arrogance of assuming that my experiences are common to everyone else’s experiences,sometimes it is true, mostly one hopes it’s true and therefore that’s what one likesin a writer. You think oh, I feel that too. Just occasionally you might express a feelingand everyone goes, “What?” Then it’s very embarrassing, but I’m assumingthat most people their first love when they’re teenaged that unbelievable hole that opensup inside them of longing and yearning, of pain, of joy, that huge great bundle of toxicemotions and allied to beauty and opening out into nature and to glory and suddenlyconnecting you with every love poet and every love song ever written that that explosionin my head and heart will never be matched. You can never hope to recapture the firstfine careless rapture as the poet put it, but it stays with you like a good acid trip. You know you get a little flashback everynow and again. It will never leave you and it teaches youto look at things differently and to feel things differently. It educates your soul if you like and allfirst love is unrequited ultimately because it’s so huge. It’s such an act of giving and it requiresso much back that it can never be given back and in that you wouldn’t necessarily wantto give them back. It’s just like a… It is like an atom bomb. It is like… It’s all the energy of who you are and whoyou want to be and what you love and what you hope to be explodes and it is impossiblefor a single human being to offer that back to you in a mutual way. It would be like matter meeting antimatter. It’s sort of almost important that whatyou do is worship and yearn and long, but so that was to me of course the single mostimportant thing in my life and occasionally I get dreams and I’m back there again andI’m still as trembly as every I was and I get… because I’ve written about it Iget emails and Twitters, whatever from people in you know in adolescence who are going throughthe same thing and say, “Oh, I read your book and it was the same for me and it isthe same for me and he’ll never look at me, she’ll never look at me.” “What can I do?” “I’ll make a fool of myself.” “Should I write them a poem?” And, “What if they reject me?” And, “oh my God.” And I read that and … You know these vastsagas, these romantic sagas that are played out in every school, in every village andevery town and every country in the world. It’s going on. It’s all this massive emotional energy justspreading outwards and some of it is… and totally unhappily, so the only thing thatsaddens me is that the, I suppose the default community attitude of kids is to suppressit and to smother it and to pretend it isn’t there and to be ashamed of it, not becauseit’s transgressive or because it’s gay necessarily. It’s just as, just as, just as problematicalif it’s straight. It’s nothing to do with that, but becausethe school yard attitude is that you don’t talk about these things. There is no… You know you feel all this emotion, but thelanguage for it is forbidden really. You just don’t do it, unless I think girlsare probably better at it and maybe the online community helps with it. Chat rooms and things you can express yourself,but generally speaking boys of fifteen, sixteen are much more interested in sport or evenif they’re not more interested in sport and their soul is yearning they’re not goingto say it and if only they could it would be good. I suppose ask whether you’re looking tobe loved or to love or whether you really do because I think you know the risk of usingthe parallel of the slightly vulgar or carnal parallel of the gay community as it is amusinglycalled. Why don’t straight people have a community? Why don’t you say so what’s the view inthe straight community of dot, dot, dot? Anyway, you know there is this thing of topsand bottoms, which I find completely ridiculous and nonsensical. But anyway, the idea of passive and activeis an obvious thing we can sort of grasp the point of and I think that emotionally moreimportant there is an equivalent of that. There are… It may be there are some fifty-fifty peoplein the world who want to give love and receive love in equal measure, but most of the problemI see amongst friends and I’ve experienced amongst myself is when people haven’t accommodatedthe inequality that they want, they haven’t understood that their partner wants to givemore love and receive less or they haven’t understood that their partner wants to receivemore, but sort of give less. You know what I mean? And as long as they fit in what they you knowthen it’s wonderful, but I think people talk about one love, but there is the needto love and the need to be loved are not the same thing and I suppose that’s… and it’sworking that out is part of growing up. What makes love last? I wish I knew. It can get ill and it gets better again. I suppose I mean you know awful things thatcliché is that you got to work at it and communication, laughter. Laughter is deeply important. Realizing that flaws are to be loved ratherthan to be ignored or denied, that once you admire and if you love someone enough youactually love their flaws I suppose and you hope they love your flaws, but I couldn’tclaim that I have a secret as to what makes it last. Hope is another thing that makes it last. Yes. I was first diagnosed actually not to my knowledgeas being possibly bipolar when I was about fifteen. I didn’t know this until much later whenI made a documentary about my life as a manic depressive or someone with bipolar disorder,whatever you choose to call it, an uppy-downy, mood-swingy kind of guy. In fact, technically I believe the correctdiagnosis for my condition is psychothymic, which is like also known as bipolar lightin America, which is rather nice and makes it sound like a variety of cola, but bipolardisorder is a mood disorder rather than a personality disorder such as that might meanto anybody, but I think we all kind of get what that is. To me mood is the equivalent of weather. Weather is real. That’s the important thing to remember aboutweather. It is absolutely real. When it rains it rains. It is wet. You get wet. There is no question about it. It’s also true about weather that you can’tcontrol it. You can’t say if I wish hard enough it won’train and it’s equally true that if the weather is bad one day it will get better and whatI had to learn was to treat my moods like the weather. On the one hand denying that they were thereand saying I can’t… I’m not really depressed. Why should I be depressed? I’ve got enough money. I’ve got a job. People like me. There is no to be depressed. That’s at stupid as saying there is no reasonto have asthma or there is no reason to have the measles. You know you’ve got it. It’s there. It’s not about reason. You don’t get depressed because bad thingshappen to you. That’s getting pissed off and annoyed. That’s reasonable. Someone hits you in the face you go ow, youknow that’s… but depression is something that happens like weather to you inside youand it’s not about… It could be triggered by something unfortunate,but it isn’t… You know it’s not enough to talk yourselfout of it by saying but I shouldn’t be depressed because I’ve got people who are nice tome, which is frustrating for people outside. They go, “Don’t be depressed.” “Everyone loves you.” “You’re really happy.” “You’ve got a good life.” I know. That is what is so depressing. I can’t help it. So but once you… It’s not a solution, but anyway, it’svery important at least to get that stage of it out of the way is to recognize it asa mood disorder as something that is akin to weather, but the nature of manic depressionor bipolar disorder is it is bipolar. It is two poles. It’s not just depression. The point is that there is this other sideto it. You have a depressed mood. You have an elevated mood that is mania, whichis the manic side of manic depression and these are hypomanic or hyper manic statesin which you can be grandiose. You can be absurdly extreme in your optimismand your creativity and your energy. You can go for ages without sleep. You can be sexually promiscuous. You can be a shopping addict, but people havedifferent ways in which they’re elevated moods are expressed and they talk nineteento the dozen. They can’t stop thinking, their mind races. They think they can solve the problems ofthe world. They think they have a unique insight. It can be a very blissful and exciting andextraordinary state of mind to be in and then comes the crash. The problems of it are manifested in tens. One is that people, most people outside familyand friends are more annoyed, are more uncomfortable at the manic phase than the depressed phase. The depressed person you can deal with becauseall they want to do is just sit there and they want to be in dark in the bedroom sleepingand not doing any work and just hating themselves and as long as they’re not you know reallyconsidering suicide, as long as the pain isn’t that bad then you can manage them whereasa person in an elevated state is unmanageably annoying. They won’t stop talking. They won’t stop shaking their knees up anddown and getting excited and talking about things and changing things and re-tidyingrooms and oh, like that. So you know it can be a very frustrating forpeople around you. At its worst it can be very dangerous. Obviously suicide is the down side of depression. I had several suicide attempts in my life,but also really and this always sounds like a feeble excuse, but it is true. The most natural way you would attempt tocope with something inside you that is affecting your moods and your energy levels is to intervenewith chemicals to help and because medical science hasn’t come up with pharmaceuticalsthat do particularly well you tend to reach for the chemicals that are outside the Pharmacounter, i.e. narcotics and alcohol because they can guarantee your mood more or less. They like, like the condition itself willstore up a big crash or big reverse, but you just keep at it and you keep getting drunk,keep getting wired and you’ll stave off the inevitable disaster of being alone withyour moods. So for a long time I was I suppose dependentis the word on cocaine powder and naturally when you take a lot of cocaine powder youtend to take a lot of alcohol with it as well, so for many years really I never went outwithout at least four or five grams of cocaine powder on my person and I would ingest itintranasally as was the fashion through the use of some sort of straw or rolled up currencynote and managed to get by on it. I never did that when I was working. I didn’t do it onstage or on while filmingor anything. It was a way of ending… As soon as you… Because work provided its own high, but assoon as I finished work that was it. I was out. I was in clubs and things. I can’t believe it now. I don’t know how I managed to do it. It’s just extraordinary, but I did and anyway,then I had a bit of a disaster in the mid nineties. I was in a play and it just all went wrongand horrible and I ran for the hills as it were. Well actually I ran for Belgium which arenot hills at all. I ran for the low countries and through Belgiumwent to Germany and I was… and so declared missing by the British for awhile and thenI was found and it was all very ghastly, but it sort of made me confront the whole businessof this diagnosis and I saw doctors and things and they confirmed the diagnosis and thena few years later when I was back on a more even keel and more used to dealing with thingsand a little bit more clear about myself I made a program about… called Manic Depressionand Me or The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive was the proper title. And in which I… It was two one hour films in which I wentaround America and England actually and talking to people with the problem, talking to doctors,talking my own history and my own condition and it was really interesting because it wasconsidered something of a success this program and something of a breakthrough and becauseaside from all the problems I’ve spoken about one of the major problems is not theperson who suffers with the disease. It’s with the rest of the world and mentalhealth disorder and its stigma. People just are terrible at coping with it,other people. They don’t like anyone mentioning it ifpossible. I had the great pleasure of dinner last nighthere in New York with Dick Caveat, the talk show host of the sixties and seventies, abrilliant talk show host. Look him up on YouTube if you don’t knowhis… the show he… I mean he is absolutely wonderful, but hiscareer was pretty much stalled in many ways by his fight with depression and he has writtenabout it superbly and he talked about it and we were chatting about it last night and itis that problem of you know say to someone I’ve got a broken leg or I’ve got diabetes,particularly if you say diabetes and asthma say, which are both chronic conditions thatwon’t go away. People go, “Oh, do you take insulin or doyou take that little wheezer thing for your asthma?” You go, “Yes.” If you say I’ve got a mental health conditionthey go, “Oh, do you?” “That’s nice.” And they want to be somewhere else. They don’t want to be anywhere near youand I can understand that. Of course I can understand it, but you knowthat it’s like six degrees of separation I think. You know that you know all six of Kevin Baconor whichever. I don’t think that you’re ever more thanthree or four steps away from someone close to you who has a mental health problem andI think the more we accept that it is us, it is part of being human then the betterwe are because then we can start concentrating on the things that matter in terms of copingwith it. It’s a really… It’s a really tricky business that of diagnosingchildren. On the one hand it is very good if the diagnosisis sound and you believe in it to spot the early signs of what could be a very difficultgrowing up for a child, on the other hand, to give Ritalin or powerful antipsychoticdrugs to a child as young as four or five. I spoke to a professor of psychiatry at StanfordUniversity. He is one of the leading people in his fieldwho is quite prepared to diagnose very young children as being bipolar, not just ADHD andthings that we’re used to in children and his point is that non intervention is nota neutral act. Not giving someone drugs when you’ve diagnosedit is in itself allowing the brain as he would put it to toxify itself, that whatever ishappening as the brain is forming if it is forming in a bad way, bad pathways, bad neuralsignals are being sent and they’re creating bad pathways as it were or you know bad demandsfor you know because let’s face it. We don’t really understand that balancebetween hormone… if you like or hormone and neurotransmitter, but that’s his argumentis that nonintervention allows the brain to build itself badly, but it’s a heck of athing to give a child as young as… Well as young as ten or even as young as fourteenfrankly some of these powerful drugs when the brain is still growing. I find it tricky and certainly in Europe it’sconsidered outrageous, but it happens a lot in America, but then you have more mad people. No, I mean sorry. You have a bigger population and better scientists. Yes, I’m always asked what was your favoritecity, what was your favorite state. City, well I love New York. I just adore it. I do like Chicago, but I think if I couldchoose any city to live in I’d probably choose San Francisco not just because thebeauty of San Francisco itself. It’s a great town, but because of its nearnessto northern California generally and there is so much in northern California right upthrough to the Sequoia National Park up to Oregon the Oregon state line and down belowin also Big Sur area and the vineyards and you know that part of America is just simplyunbelievable, so I would probably say the favorite city is San Francisco and maybe northernCalifornia if called it a separate state, but So. Cal. as they call southern California hasits charm to, but I loved Kentucky actually. I loved South Carolina, the lowlands of SouthCarolina, Buford. Montana takes a heck of a lot of beating justfor sheer physical beauty. The lower of New England is wonderful, NewHampshire, Maine. Maine people are so great. Maine is the lovely… Down east as well, which is the absolute… Ironically up east is what it really is, butit’s called down east and marvelous people, marvelous, marvelous. I mean it’s just a hell of a country. It really… You’ve got yourself quite a nation here. The worst career advice I’ve ever gottenwell, is to something because it paid more money. I mean it’s… I know it sounds obvious and cheesy, but it’sjust if you got two jobs and one pays a lot more than the other and they seem the samemaybe you go for the one with the more money, but even then I just think toss a coin becauseif you go for it for the more money somehow you always end up paying more in terms ofease and peace of mind. Of course one does things just for money andeveryone knows that when you do a commercial you’re not doing it because it’s a statementof personal belief, but it’s a fun film. You try and choose a commercial, TV commercialthat’s good. It’s made by a good nice people and it’sa product that you’re perfectly happy to be associated with, so but obviously you dothose in order to earn time to do other things, but no, I don’t think I’ve ever been givendisastrous advice. We’ve mentioned some of my heroes. Oscar Wilde is certainly one. I like people who are as unlike me as possible,which is not an expression of self disgust or self hatred, but it’s just that you knowyou obviously particularly admire things that you recognize yourself as not having, so orneryartists, people who speak their mind and don’t care who knows it because I fear that oneof my greatest faults is my desire to please all the time and my dislike of offending people. I think it’s a good thing in many ways. I’m absolute attacking my own instinct forpoliteness, but I think I admire artists who just speak out or who are strong, so it’svery hard. You know if I name them I’ll go home thinkingwhy didn’t I name this person or that person and obviously the usual suspects of the youknow. Your Mandela’s and your whatnots, how canyou not admire them? But also and this will sound sentimental,people who live quiet ordinary lives of unremembered kindness, people like my brother. I’m not saying he is ordinary. He is remarkable, but you know he is a reminderto me of the you know the… just the virtues of being a good person. What keeps me up at night? My minds races with guilt at things I haven’tdone, things I’ve got to do. Things are always worse in the steady watchesof the night aren’t they? The things you think oh my God, I’ve gotto do that, I’ve got to do that. Will I have time to do this? I better set my alarm for an hour earlierto do this. And also if I’ve… I don’t know. You know and laziness. I still feel that I’m being watched youknow by my grandfather or somebody who is shaking his head at me and going you knowyou let yourself down there. Who would I go to dinner with? Well obviously Oscar Wilde. I mean I know it’s just he seems to be thetheme of our conversation, but he would be a good one. I’d like to go to… And I’ll tell you who else. I’d like to go… I’d like to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald. I mean I love his lectures. I think he writes amazing letters and someonewho is just about the best writer his age I think, just sentence after sentence weresimply perfectly made and I just want to know how he did it. That’s terrible. I just want… I mean there are other writers who you knowyou could regard as just as great, but something about him just so technically perfect andyet so I don’t know what it is. Whenever I read a sentence of his I thinkit’s so simple. There it is. It’s in front of me and all the words areeasy and yet just wow and you know from his letters that he did work very, very hard atit, but I just want to know where it came from.