Gotta get theroux this book review

Gotta Get Theroux This – Louis Theroux – Book review

I have recently enjoyed reading Louis Theroux’s autobiography. The book was a kind gift from my friend Susan and it is a wonderful autobiography. I have always enjoyed reading autobiographies. Consequently, it is probably the genre from which I have read most. I hope you enjoy reading my Gotta Get Theroux This book review.

Who is Louis Theroux?

Most people know who he is! However, for those who do not know, Louis is a journalist and documentary film maker. He initially had a cult following. I think that saying he has a cult following does him a disservice. He is a stalwart of the BBC and has a very wide appeal. As such his status from cult to mainstream appeal transitioned quickly.

The documentaries he has made, seeking out weird, wonderful and often rather nasty subjects has created an unrivalled body of work. As a result his work will stand the test of time as an important body of anthropological study.

I am a big fan of Jack Kerouac and I wonder if Louis has read any of his books. The following Kerouac quote from On the Road could easily have been the criteria for the selection of subjects / guests featured in Louis’ documentaries;

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Gotta Get Theroux This Book review
Gotta Get Theroux This – Louis Theroux

Documentary maker and journalist

Louis’ journey into journalism and documentary film making is interesting. He did not set out with a burning desire to enter that world. Louis worked on a free alternative newspaper in Silicon Valley after graduating from university. Entry into the world of documentary making came through a one-off segment on the TV Nation show. This started a journey which continues today and has seen Louis win prestigious industry awards for his documentaries and work.

The journalistic and documentary film making profession comes with pressures. There is the need to keep creating interesting content and coming up with original ideas. Louis is open about his self doubt through his career and his feelings of being an imposter! An added layer of pressure which Louis acutely felt was from his father. Paul Theroux is a famous American Travel writer and novelist. The pressure stemmed from living in the shadow of an already established and successful parent. 

Louis adopts an interesting approach to his documentaries. He is very involved in coming up with the ideas and topics. The research team then go to work and undertake recce trips and arrange subjects. Louis has limited involvement in this side of production. His approach is to be fresh to the subjects so that the first meeting as filmed is the real deal. This is an approach that he picked up and developed from his time working with Michael Moore on TV Nation.

The subjects and topics covered by Louis are vast. Follow the link at the end of this review to check them out. 

Common humanity

Louis’ approach to documentary making and his interactions with people is always to try and see the rounded person. He never takes the approach of having preconceived ideas about people. In essence he approaches his subject with what, in Buddhism, is called beginners mind. It is this openness and blank page approach that clearly endears Louis to most of his subjects. Interestingly though, Louis does not give them an easy ride. He is ready to challenge his subjects with ease and ask those awkward questions at pertinent times.

Even with some of his most repugnant subjects he is able to show, even if only a glimpse, another side to people. Sometimes that may be a kind softer side or it can be a glimpse into the twisted justification for a particular view point or stance. Louis has an ability to draw out these deeper and more complex aspects to his subjects. Consequently his subjects develop as complex individuals rather than one dimensional. 

Louis reflects in the book on the complexity of human character. In his documentaries he shows that people are not 100% good or 100% bad. Louis reflects that is it not even a scale but something much more complex that creates individuals. 

Jimmy Savile

Louis addresses the issue of Jimmy Savile in this book. After his death, Savile was discovered to have been one of the most prolific sex offenders and abusers ever known.

Louis approached the initial documentary with the idea of finding out about Savile. The colourful, eccentric, quirky and downright odd ageing retired DJ and celebrity. The When Louis Met Jimmy documentary did reveal a slightly darker side to Savile but no hint of what subsequently came to light. As a result, Louis went through a period of self reflection, questioning how he was not able to unmask Savile.

Interestingly, Louis reflects that he at times liked Savile despite finding him quite annoying. They intermittently stayed in contact.

Louis revisited Savile in a subsequent documentary to both professionally and personally address the discovery of his crimes. In his book, Louis reflects that the qualities of Savile that made him likeable and charismatic were the qualities he used to hide his evil side. Qualities he used to evade discovery and capture during his lifetime. Louis reflects that we ignore these aspects of his character at our peril. We need to understand how Savile evaded capture. Retrospectively portraying him as a one dimensional character with a sole intent of pure evil could lead to us failing to understand the complexities of character that allowed him to go undetected. As such we risk failing to identify future such offenders.

It is clear that involvement with Savile had a profound effect on Louis. Sleepless nights, self reflection and self doubt ensued.

Scientology

It would be remiss not to mention Louis’ ‘My Scientology Movie’ in my Gotta Get Theroux this book review. Making this movie proved an interesting challenge for Louis. He was tailed by Private Investigators and there was clearly a feeling of threat.

The movie also marked a breakthrough into documentary film making. The film became very popular and received awards.

Concluding chapter

Gotta Get Theroux This finishes with a reflection on the human condition and just how weird it is to experience life! There is a strangely moving part where Louis revisits an old neighbourhood where he lived in Brooklyn. The passage of time having rendered the place unfamiliar and unrecognisable. In contrast, Louis is transported back to familiarity when he smells the unique aroma of the New York Subway.

Gotta Get Theroux This book review

I would highly recommend this book. It provides interesting background and insights into the documentaries that Louis made. As a result you get a window into how Louis felt towards his subjects and the ongoing relationship that a journalist has with their subjects. Sometimes that relationship will be enjoyable and friendly and other times it can be quite the opposite. The weight and pressure that difficult subjects heap upon the journalists involved is not to be underestimated.

I am left with the feeling that the Louis we see on screen is the Louis that you would meet should you bump into him in the street. An endearing, quintessentially British in character, nice guy. Keep up the great work Louis!

Links

If you enjoyed our Gotta Get Theroux this book review you can purchase a copy below. As a member of Amazon associates, we will earn a commission if you purchase the following items on Amazon from the links below;

Louis has started a BBC Podcast to help people during the Coronavirus lockdown, the first episode will be available very soon. You can access it through this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p089sjcd

Here is a link to all the documentaries that Louis Theroux has made, many of which are discussed in Gotta Get Theroux This: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Louis_Theroux_documentaries

You can check out our previous book reviews here: https://pauls93.sg-host.com/category/book-review/

Gentle Years Yoga Class online

Gentle Years Yoga Class Online

Welcome to Yogasmiths gentle years yoga class OnLine!

We are pleased to be taking our Gentle Years Yoga Class online.

Our Gentle Years Yoga Class Online is a chair based yoga suitable for anyone who wishes to or needs to take their yoga practice a little more gently. This can include people with age related health conditions or health conditions that require a yoga practice that is modified.

We have been teaching Gentle Years Yoga since January 2018. We were some of the earliest teachers to be trained in Gentle Years Yoga through the British Wheel of Yoga. Our classes have proved very popular and lots of friends have been made.

Gentle Years Yoga Class online

Gentle Years Yoga class – chair based yoga

Gentle Years Yoga is an authentic traditional Hatha yoga practice that has been modified to be chair based.  A 75 minute class will include breathing exercises, pulse raising activities, concentration activities, co-ordination activities, resistance work, yoga postures and a relaxation. It is suitable for all and can be adapted for all.

Class is followed by optional chat on Zoom for people to chat to one another.

Gentle Years Yoga Class

Having a chat and cuppa after our Gentle Years Yoga Class, we can do this online after our Gentle Years Yoga Class Online

HOW TO ATTEND / JOIN

You can purchase access to our Gentle Years Yoga online class at our shop, the link is here: Shop

Upon purchase a window will open with the meeting ID and password, please make a note of these.  You will also receive an email with the Zoom meeting ID and password for you to use to access this on-line class. Please make a note of this meeting ID and password. The email will also contain a link that you can click on that takes you directly to the class.

Here is a link to Zoom https://zoom.us/

We are British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance trained teachers, fully insured through the British Wheel of Yoga.

You get two friendly teachers for the price of one which ensures safe practice and plenty of attention and modifications are offered  to ensure the classes are inclusive for all abilities.

Cost: £6.

Student Health Questionnaire

Please see our website https://pauls93.sg-host.com/student-resources/  where you can download a health questionnaire. This must be completed and returned prior to attendance at the class. Please email completed questionnaires to enquiries@yogasmiths.org

The webpage also has information and advice about attending a yoga class for the first time. There are also biog’s for both teachers on the website.

You will need a chair to sit on to attend this class.

In our face to face classes we use balls, bean bags and resistance bands. You may wish to have a cushion to hand and a couple of tins (metal food tins in place of bean bags), also a dressing gown cord or a belt (in place of a resistance band). Do not worry if you do not have any of these items as they are not essential for attendance.

We look forward to guiding you through your yoga practice.

Paul & Steve Yogasmiths

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – Book Review

Summary

I review Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, his sixth published book and a commercial failure. An historically important account of the Spanish Civil War and featuring the seeds of some themes which were developed on in 1984. 

The Spanish Civil War

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans. The Republicans were made up of left leaning groups such as socialists, communists and anarchists. They were at war against the Nationalists, a more conservative right leaning group which was ultimately led by Franco.

The above description of the war sounds rather straightforward. However, the reality of the war was much more complex. Amongst the many varied groups fighting on the side of the Republicans were many differences of political opinions. As a result there was a large amount of fighting between them. The only thing that they seemingly could all agree on was their opposition to Franco and the Nationalists.

Reader feel free to skip!

Orwell acknowledges in the book that the political background to the war is a rather dry topic. Consequently he invites the reader to feel free to skip a couple of the chapters where he explains this. I must admit that with all the various acronyms, it is rather difficult to follow. The couple of chapters dedicated to this clearly convey the confusion that must have existed. People fighting on the same side ultimately began fighting against each other. The group that Orwell joined to fight with was the POUM. The POUM were actually outlawed as the war progressed. POUM soldiers returning from the front were arrested or even worse shot. They were shot for being a member of a political group that was now illegal.

Trench Warfare

Orwell is very readable and brings alive what could have been a very dry subject. Trench warfare is described in vivid detail. As you read the book you feel that you experience the trenches of the Spanish Civil War.

Interestingly there is a complete lack of action in the trenches. Soldiers were ill equipped with a lack of guns and bombs. Equipment that was provided to soldiers was often dangerous and very old. Next to no training was provided to the soldiers. As a result a very hopeless picture is painted.

The trenches were too far apart for any real fighting to take place. Soldiers were wounded mostly be stray bullets or a lucky shot landing. Orwell himself was shot in the trenches. His description of this is very powerful and he also discusses the mental effects that this had on him.

Rumble on La Rambla

La Rambla is the lovely main street that runs through the city of Barcelona. It is a wide avenue with beautiful old buildings, flowers sellers and newsagents. Upon arriving in Barcelona, Orwell finds a city owned and run by the people. A city where tipping is outlawed and everyone is a comrade.

Orwell describes how La Rambla is transformed into a battle ground. As a result of the fighting amongst the republican groups, street fighting broke out. Orwell details his experience of this and also the many differences in the reported versions.

La Rambla – Barcelona – the scene of street fighting in Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

A very understanding Mrs Blair

As you read this book, Orwell happens to mention that his wife is with him! He occasionally mentions that she is in a hotel in Barcelona whilst he is at the front fighting the forces of Franco! Mrs Blair’s account of the whole experience would have been very interesting too. As the book draws to a close, we see Mr and Mrs Blair trying to escape Spain. Orwell is wanted by the police for having been a member of a now outlawed political party. It is quite clear how lucky they were to escape and that Orwell lived to write his future masterpieces.

The Truth is what we say it is – origins of 1984

In Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, the writer states from the outset that he is describing his personal experiences of the Spanish Civil War. He makes this clear because his account differs to some of the widely accepted accounts or facts of the war.

Orwell discusses how every event that took place was subject to propaganda and spin. We often hear the phrase that the victor of a war writes the history. In this situation we become aware of how printed propaganda just serves to confuse historians. Just because something is written down does not make it true. The irony of this is not lost on Orwell as he is writing his own version of events. His version of events that will be flavoured with his own political opinion and leanings.

Let us remember that we are also talking about propaganda amongst the forces fighting Franco. During the street fighting in Barcelona amongst the Republican forces there were many differing accounts of events. For each event that took place there was at least the Government’s official version, the anarchist version and the Communist version.

Orwell reflects on the in-fighting and war in general;

Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

As the war progressed, Orwell states that it became evident that some form of dictatorship would result. He reflects on the political leaders who he saw as having power to say that 2 + 2 = 5 and for it to be held as true. These themes of propaganda and control of truth are explored and developed in 1984.

La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is a beautiful city and has wonderful architecture. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s cathedral, is a huge tourist draw. The cathedral is completely unique and is unlike any other in the world. The way it is constructed allows for a beautiful and magical dance of colours inside from its stained glassed windows. Orwell describes it as “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.” Sorry Eric but I must disagree with you there!

Described as hideous in Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
La Sagrada Familia interior – roof detail

In Summary

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is an interesting book from a number of perspectives. It is a first hand experience of trench warfare in the Spanish Civil war and also of the Barcelona street fighting.

The book also explores themes that Orwell developed later in 1984. Themes of totalitarianism and government controlled rewriting of history.

I knew very little about the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. As a result this is what attracted me to the book. Following the yogic concept of self-study, svadhyaya, I set out to learn!

Find out more about George Orwell here: https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/about/about-george-orwell/

Eric Arthur Blair aka George Orwell

Check out our other book reviews here: https://yogasmiths.org/category/book-review/

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma course certificates

Our British Wheel of Yoga Diploma Course Certificates arrived earlier this year. We finished the training last year but the certificates take a little while to be issued. But they are certainly worth waiting for!

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates
Paul & Steve modelling their Diploma certificates!

The British Wheel of Yoga Diploma in teaching yoga is a Level 4 diploma. Learning hours on the course are a minimum of 500 hours. It comprises eight units as follows;

  1. Applied Anatomy and Physiology and the Teaching of Asana
  2. Yoga Breathing Practices and Relaxation
  3. Planning for Teaching and the Responsibilities of a Yoga Teacher
  4. Planning and Delivering a Yoga Course
  5. Teaching Asana: Observation, Adjustment and Protection of Vulnerable Areas of the Body
  6. Hatha Yoga and Pranayama
  7. The Teaching and Philosophy of Meditation
  8. Progression in Yoga

As a result of the above units you get a fantastic grounding in all things yoga. The British Wheel of Yoga qualifications actually prepare you to teach yoga.

OFQUAL regulated

OFQUAL regulated qualification

In the corner of our British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates is the OFQUAL logo. OFQUAL is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation and regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. (Here is their website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofqual ) This means that the British Wheel of Yoga course must meet certain regulatory framework requirements. It also means that every course has a verifier who check the standard of the training and the written work.

The world of Yoga teacher training is unregulated and as such the quality of trainings vary massively. This varies from short courses below 200 hours and even some correspondence courses. The industry standard is 200 hours which is often crammed into a month long period via a trip to an exotic location. As a former learning and development professional I know that cramming intense learning into such a short period of time is not good practice. Can you really learn a profession in one month? With the British Wheel of Yoga you are getting an OFQUAL regulated 500 hour training course. This really is a reassuring mark of quality.

When searching out Yoga Teacher training courses, you are preparing to make a significant financial investment in your training. As a result make sure you do some due diligence to avoid being disappointed. The British Wheel of Yoga offer an unrivalled quality of teacher training as one would expect of the Governing Body for Yoga in the UK. You can check out their website here: https://www.bwy.org.uk/

We wrote a previous blog about our journey on the British Wheel of Yoga Diploma which you can find here: https://pauls93.sg-host.com/2019/09/23/the-british-wheel-of-yoga-diploma-journey/

British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates
Paul and Steve with their British Wheel of Yoga Diploma certificates

International Women’s Day 2020 – Eileen Ash 108 year old yogi!

International Women’s Day 2020 (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.

You can find out more about International Women’s Day at the day’s website here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Meet 108 year old Eileen Ash!

On this day I wanted to share with you details of a very inspirational lady. I recently became aware of Eileen Ash aged 108. She attends a regular weekly yoga class near her home in Norwich.

International Women's Day 2020 Eileen Ash Norwich Yoga
Eileen Ash at her weekly Yoga class, picture from the Eastern Daily Press website, taken by Simon Finlay

I have read features about her at age 104 and 105 detailing her driving her little yellow mini to yoga each week. ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-37775585 )

She has had a very interesting life, having been a former English Test cricketer between the years of 1937 and 1949. In fact she is believed to be the oldest living international cricketer.

Eileen also worked in the civil service. She worked for MI6 during the war hunting spies. Eileen continued to wrk for them for 11 years.

A short video celebrating Eileen’s 105th birthday from the Norfolk Now youtube channel

Here is a feature from when she turned 107. She says here that “liking people” and “breathing” are the keys to a long life! https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-norfolk-46103434/eileen-ash-the-secret-to-living-to-107-is-liking-people

As I write this, Eileen is 108 years old and continues to attend her weekly yoga class. She attributes her longevity to 2 glasses of red wine a day, yoga and living in Norwich! On International Women’s Day 2020 cheers Eileen!

Read our blog on 101 year old Yoga Teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch here: https://yogasmiths.org/2020/02/28/worlds-oldest-yoga-teacher-passes-away-at-101/

We teach 2 regular weekly chair based Gentle Years Yoga© Classes at Hoylake Parade Community Centre on a Friday morning. Check out our classes page for more information: http://www.yogasmiths.org/classes