So like, why do people act the way they do? Is it because we are an advanced amazing species perhaps , or because we are acting on animal like instincts? You learn about body language, postural echoing, and Anyways, all of his books are awesome. It is just as the title suggests.

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Author of 70 books including the multimillion bestseller The Naked Ape, polymath, zoologist, research fellow at Oxford, television presenter, artist of over 3, surrealist paintings, he radiates a puckish sense of mischief, inquiry and fun that maybe can only come with a mind that never ceases to turn over, to ask questions and completely belies his 91 years of age.

He has written books that change the way we look at the world and ourselves — this is the man who invented body language or at least classified it. He has sat at the feet of literary giants.

He counts Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough as lifelong friends and tells unprintable tales of wild bohemian parties with artists, aristocracy, film and television stars. Morris quit his home in Oxford last year following the death of his beloved wife, Ramona. He passed on his love of horseracing to Jason, who is the director of racing for Horse Racing Ireland. He enjoys the quiet pace of life in the village, which reminds him of his childhood in Wiltshire, where he was an only child, but did not find this to be a disadvantage.

Every December sees him beginning a new book, finished by the spring, he then takes up painting again. His latest book is a perfect fusion of the work of a lifetime, in science and art. A cultural history of social customs and a survey of changing artistic styles, it brings the subject of body language in art to life vividly.

Why is the Greek Orthodox blessing a particular combination of fingers? This caused such a scandal it ruined all our trade with China, that single posture mean the whole trade with China was off and, on the way home to compensate for the loss, he bought a small island called Hong Kong and turned it into an English colony. Hong Kong only exists today because of that posture. Ramona did the research for many of his books, but refused to allow him to put her name on them.

We thought together. The worst thing of all was not being able to pick up the phone and ask her a question. That period was the darkest time of my life; my family saw me through it. They wanted quietly pleasant things, they had had enough of nightmares. His seminal work, The Naked Ape, has been a multimillion bestseller.

Morris stopped exhibiting, but kept on painting. Sometimes they are a complete failure, but they paint themselves, sometimes I come down the next morning and expect to find the painting had gone on with things after I had left.

Everything I write is first draft. I try not to show off with words but I do love to play with words. I could just sit and listen to Dylan all day, he was a wordsmith of an almost magical kind. There were so few people on Earth that the important thing was to breed.

Hunts were risky and dangerous and women were simply too valuable to be allowed to go on a hunt. If a few women got killed, the breeding rate plummeted. The males were specialists, they developed a singular quality which was risk-taking, females were better at everything except hunting — they were at the very centre of society, they organised it.

People misunderstood The Naked Ape. Men take risks. The great tragedy of history has been that urbanisation favoured men — the hunting ground is now making a kill in the city, not in the jungle.

Women were unfairly treated for four thousand years by urbanisation. I was totally behind the feminist movement. David Attenborough, in charge of BBC2 at the time, commissioned a discussion programme on science called Life. It just poured out, I did 80, words in four weeks.

Both active, engaged, still producing cutting-edge work, sharper and more brilliant than most of us in our wildest dreams could ever hope to be, how do they carry on?

We had this conversation just the other day, he rang up and was asking about something. He has spent his whole academic life working on an ethogram, an encyclopaedia of every human gesture, action, expression and posture.

When you start to study a new species, the first job is to make an ethogram, a list of all the actions that an animal does. It introduced the concept of body language which everybody talks about today, but I introduced the subject in the s and nobody had written an encyclopaedia of body language before. So I did the same thing with humans.

Manwatching was a popular version of this great encyclopaedia I never finished, but I am deep into it again since I came to Ireland. Their most conspicuous feature is their warmth. Kind and friendly, those are the qualities I have observed. They grew up in the same Wiltshire village. I hate it, they are not real people, only crude metaphors. Actually, this year the Koreans managed to crack the system and produced a brilliant film, this year they gave the award to someone who really deserved it.

Ultimately, even this may be swamped out and then we may well see the return of nothing short of a biblical pestilence.

This may sound melodramatic but consider the facts. This weakening makes people increasingly vulnerable to infection. The overcrowding makes it possible for infections to spread like wildfire. The infections grow until they become epidemics. The epidemics decimate the populations. Already, flu epidemics have killed more people than the whole of human warfare. What if a more virulent, lethal disease were to mutate and become as easy to catch as the common cold?

But what if a more virulent, lethal disease were to mutate and become as easy to catch as the common cold? Then we could see our great cities collapse and crumble. Of all the doomsday scenarios, this is the most likely. Whether they turn out to be breeding grounds for human inventiveness and creativity or for lethal diseases and epidemics remains to be seen.

Gigantic playgrounds or vast ghost towns — the choice is up to us. These are anxious people of a nervous disposition who see disaster everywhere and always have something to worry about. These are the people stripping the shelves.

These are the people we saw out and about, in the pubs, in town squares — these are the risk-takers. But these people are beginning to sober up now. The third type of people have a very set way of life — these are the people who brush their teeth at the same time every day and who, every so often, allow themselves to have fun and let their routine break down. They will have a hard time with the disruption to their routines.

They will find it extremely difficult. This is a crisis that favours the solitary people like writers and artists. His prescient words are comforting. I shall probably start on a book later this year, on birds in art. But in the meantime I have an exhibition opening in London in June, so I am working on that. I never stop. The worst word in the English language is retirement.

The depth of your ignorance is something you are constantly aware of — knowledge is a bottomless pit and you keep finding new things.


Desmond Morris



Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviour


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