Posted on July 15, 2009 by rosiegold
Rick Stroud is Over The Moon
Posted on behalf of Rick Stroud by Rosie Goldsmith
It is now a week and a bit since my encounter with Buzz Aldrin and I have landed back on planet real life. I emerge from the airlock and the first thing I encounter is my Moon event at London Literature Festival, Escape Routes. The festival is drawing to a giddy close. So many good things have exploded into Southbank Centre in the last fortnight. I pause to celebrate the events I made it to and mourn the ones I missed. I think back to a frantic few days when we tried to get the National Theatre of Brent to premiere the National Film Theatre of Brent from a Volkswagen camper van on the concourse outside the Royal Festival Hall. It nearly worked but fell at the last fence because the NTOB’s commitments to the BBC clashed with the LLF dates. Pity because a centre-piece of their event would have been to run a comedy documentary we made together about the Apollo 11 moon landing. We planned to present Buzz himself with a boxed gala edition of the film. Shame, but there it is.
At my London Literature event I gave my talk, slides and film and descriptions of all the strange lunar things I have discovered since I set out to write my book, ‘The Book of the Moon’. The discovery, for instance, that ancient moon gods still have power as demonstrated by Salman Rushdie’s struggle with the moon god Hubal. Hubal is thought to be the precursor of the Islamic god Allah, (whose name means ‘The God’). Hubal was the most powerful of the 360 gods worshipped at Mecca in pre – Islamic times. Hubal had three daughters and the devil tricked the prophet Mohammad into writing in the Koran that they should be worshipped. And so the prophet was hoodwinked into writing a blasphemy. The verses he wrote are known as ‘the satanic verses’. Hubal and his daughters have given Rushdie grief ever since he used those verses as a device in his book of the same name. You can call it coincidence or superstition, but you can’t help wondering a bit about the unseen forces that are all around us.
Those unseen forces were at work as I packed up my computer at the end of the event. I thought about how my own life has been changed since I began to describe my lunar fixation. The research has bought me into contact with a whole new world of people and places unconnected to the film world that I have spent my life in. And yet in the queue outside, (beautiful people wanting to buy the book) there were three friends from that same film world who between them have been present at every stage in my film career. They had come separately to hear what I had to say about the moon. I couldn’t help but wonder if in some way the moon’s power hadn’t drawn them to Southbank Centre to turn the end of my event into a small personal celebration at landfall in a small private odyssey.
The evening wound up with another lunar coincidence. In the Green Room I ran into my friend Kamila Shamsie, a lovely woman and a lovely writer, (her book ‘Burnt Shadows’ is one of my top reads of the year and deserves to win a major prize). I had researched the giant observatory at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur while accompanying my wife and Kamila to the Jaipur Literary Festival. On a beautiful Indian evening we had stared at the huge sculptural shapes of the observatory, my book unwritten and me not knowing that the writing of it would lead me to several literary festivals and at almost all of them there would be the gracious figure of Kamila strutting her own brilliant stuff. From the Green Room I remembered that evening in Jaipur and thought what treats the moon has brought me. Through the window there was that self same moon, waning gibbous. I gave it a nod and murmured a quiet prayer of thanks.
Filed under: London Literature Festival 2009 | Tagged: Buzz Aldrin, Kamila Shamsie, Rick Stroud | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 15, 2009 by suzifeay
Rick Stroud with his silvery-moonlight hair and air of a rumpled professor took us on a voyage of discovery on Tuesday night. He’s written The Book of the Moon about his obsession with the dead lump of rock that kickstarted astrology – oldest of all the world’s intellectual endeavours – and has filled humankind with mystery and wonder since the dawn of time.
The moon was formed when a Mars-sized object hit the earth. Stroud, a film-maker, conceptualised the vast timescale as a film where one minute equals 50m years. The story of the moon would be a 90-minute movie ‘rather like a French film, with most of the action in the first half hour’.
I wouldn’t normally sit still for a talk where the speaker says things like ‘Now – a word about crater formation’ but this was absolutely gripping. Stroud leapt from topic to topic, from the megaliths of Carnac in Brittany, to lycanthropy, to why mosques have crescent moons atop their domes, to the Lascaux cave paintings with their dots to represent lunar phases. He demonstrated the moon landings with a toy space rocket, paid tribute to the doomed astronauts of Apollo 1 and played footage of the landing itself. Although there was a crisis at the moment of landing, on the tape the astronauts sound, as he said, as calm as though they were ordering hamburgers.
In response to a question about the hoary old conspiracy theory, he became quite heated, as befits a man who’s recently spent quality time with the great Buzz Aldrin. Another myth busted – the apparent synchronicity between the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. The theory goes that we’re mostly water, the moon rules the tides, so… However, the sea’s an ‘open water system’ that goes slopping about, whereas we’re a ‘closed water system’. The same goes for the notion that hospital A&E departments fill up at the full moon. It’s all how you look at the stats, apparently.
But he isn’t a total materialist, and expressed a good deal of reverence for the ancient gods of the moon. Tangle with them at your peril! he cautioned. Just as he was talking about the special quality of moonlight, all the lights in the room spontaneously dimmed… The session ended with a sombre warning about plans by the Chinese to mine on the moon. The gods may not look kindly on such attempts.
Filed under: London Literature Festival 2009 | Tagged: Buzz Aldrin, moon, Rick Stroud | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 13, 2009 by rosiegold
Buzz Aldrin, Rick Stroud and Rachel Holmes
Buzz Aldrin with Rachel Holmes
A highlight of London Literature Festival for all of us was the visit of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The event was introduced by Southbank Centre’s head of Literature and Spoken Word, Rachel Holmes, and co-chaired by authors and film-makers Rick Stroud and Andrew Smith (Rick Stroud is appearing again tomorrow, Tuesday 14th, at London Literature Festival).
Before the event we asked you, the public, to write down your questions to put to Buzz on stage. He wasn’t able to answer them all unfortunately but to thank you we have reprinted a few of the questions below.
(And thank you too to Rachel Lovibond for selecting them!)
A SELECTION OF QUESTIONS FOR BUZZ ALDRIN FROM THE AUDIENCE, July 4th 2009
NAME: Isaac (age 6)
QUESTION: What is it like to step into another world?
NAME: George and Max Ramsey (age 10)
QUESTION: Whilst waiting on the launch pad for take off, did you feel a sense of panic?
NAME: Alfred (age 8)
QUESTION: Would you like to come round my house for dinner?
NAME: Ethan (age 10)
QUESTION: Why did you want to go into space?
NAME: Sam (age 10)
QUESTION: What does it feel like to walk on the moon?
NAME: Tom (age 10)
QUESTION: Is Buzz your real name?
QUESTION: Do you still own your Omega Speedmaster given to you for your flight?
QUESTION: If the only trip available had been one-way, would you still have wanted to go?
Filed under: London Literature Festival 2009 | Tagged: Buzz Aldrin, Rachel Holmes, Rick Stroud | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 4, 2009 by paulblezard
Day three at LLF and the anniversary of the birth of a nation to boot. How fitting that this evening the festival hosts one of the supreme all-American heroes, Buzz Aldrin.
After a Friday that saw the day job as Literary Editor of The Lady magazine segue into a sweltering train journey to Oxford to host the launch of Oxfams’s Oxfest – and the publication of Ox-Tales, a four volume collection of stories by 38 great writers that feature here on the 14th July – I finally returned to the South Bank mid-evening to catch the end of Jake Arnott’s superb event discussing his latest novel “The Devil’s Paintbrush.” A hugely talented man is Mr Arnott, not only as a writer and storyteller but also in giving voice to his own work. I managed to catch a few minutes with him after the event and will transcribe and post the conversation we had later this morning.
But to the work of chairing. I was saying in a previous post about the importance of ‘open’ questions. It’s more of a guideline than a rule as any good conversation has to be flexible to make room for the digressions and culs-de-sac that make such interactions so fascinating. Having read the books and done the research, the trick, for me at least, is to slightly forget it all.
There’s a temptation to script a list of questions that you’d like to ask, to have a safety net that will take you through your allotted time. There is of course nothing wrong with this, but it can lead to an overly formulaic, stilted event where the ‘life’ part of the live performance aspect is sacrificed and squashed in order to get to the last question you’d originally thought of. If there’s an element of investigative journalism inherent in the event then of course that must take precedence but if there isn’t it can be interesting to author and audience alike to go with the conversation and see where it leads. It often leads to the author making new observations about their work or indeed life in general.
How does that work? Simple, you ask your first question and in the answer to it will be the seed of the next question. It can feel a little like a high wire act without a harness, but when it works it’s really worth the risk. Now I just have to apply all this to the event with Alexander Masters and Clare Mulley at 1 o’clock. I hope to see you there.
Happy birthday America, have a lovely day and enjoy today’s fantastic events.
Filed under: London Literature Festival 2009 | Tagged: Alexander Masters, Buzz Aldrin, Clare Mulley, Jake Arnott, Paul Blezard, The Lady | Leave a Comment »