Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIP)

DRIPThis piece of legislation, pushed through the UK Parliament in 3 days, is wrong in so many respects. Enacted to protect innocent people against terrorists and paedophiles (nice juxtaposition) and supported unconditionally by all three main parties in the Parliament, including the Labour Party, unforgivably.

In this country the police can now demand from suppliers of internet services and mobile phone network operators details of all of my transactions. The police will legally be able to access details of my searches, sites visited and my emails – and all those with whom I engage. They have access to the duration of my visits, conversations, times of those conversations and my location.

So often, one is confronted by the trite response from politicians that if one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to fear. One has everything to fear. I am no libertarian, but the state has no right to enter my private space, and that includes my email inbox. I know now that if I, or any others, seek to become a whistleblower against corrupt public or private organisations, including the police, they will be able to find us.

The Open Rights Group is challenging the legislation. They say: “The European Convention of Human Rights, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and our own Human Rights Act – all exist to defend are rights and are where we will be able to challenge DRIP.” They intend to challenge the legality of the legislation in the European Court of Justice. The UK remains a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights for the time being. The Conservative Government is currently composing legislation to undermine its authority over UK legislation – a move that is thought to precipitate the UK’s withdrawal. In Europe, the only non-members are Ukraine and Russia.

Even God…

I’ve decided, after considerable thought, to follow God. On Twitter. One of the reasons for this, is that there are times when the world is incomprehensible, and some explanation is needed from afar. God is as far afar as is inconceivable.

A few days ago, after one particularly incomprehensible event, he tweeted the following:

It made me feel marginally better after 300 people were blown out of the sky by a rocket over Ukraine and a plane load of people murdered in Gaza, with more literally promised this evening by the Israeli Government.

If God has lost control, essentially he is saying, if I read him correctly, that humanity has to do something about this. What do I hear? The BBC doing its lazy ‘balanced’ reporting and my Government sticking to the tired and wrong ‘right of self-defence’ argument. This is obscene.





Extraordinary moment

2014-07-12 12.54.57There I was, minding my own business, when a bird flew into the house. They quickly panic and the concept of the window does not compute in the small songbird world. Thus this tiny creature – a Great Tit – at the very least concussed itself enabling me to catch it with my hands without too much struggle.

Holding such a creature is amazing. I think it had resigned itself to some grim end, only to be surprised that it was being granted liberty. It took a while to recover sufficiently to fly off.

Marlboro ‘relaunch’; Lucky Strike in a tin

download_20140710_111039[1]These are heady times in cigarette advertising campaigns in Germany. I assume this has something to do with the World Cup with its healthy lifestyle promotion of beer, fast food and lethal nicotine dispensers. Clearly, Marlboro has been conceding ground to Lucky Strike on the ‘all American-ness front (see posts under this tag). So, the advertising agencies suggest a relaunch. And here it is, ‘Red’.

It is true that cigarette boxes have always been wonderfully designed, fit-for-purpose, artefacts. Beautifully engineered. I have always found smoking to be pretty repulsive, but the boxes have consistently fascinated me. Largely unchanged for decades. The clean design here is seductive. That I can see. The pinnacle, as I understand it, is when the actual brand does not need to be spelled out.download_20140703_193114[1]

As reported earlier, Lucky Strike has been promoting previous times before technology when people met and talked over a cigarette. I have reported elsewhere how Lucky Strike’s characters are now into books rather than social networks. Here is another one (right). Pure unadulterated manhood.

download_20140710_111048[1]But to add a certain confusion, here is the latest. “Luckies kann man nicht selber machen” [one cannot make Luckies by oneself]. When applying the strike-through magic, it becomes “Luckies selber machen” [make your own Luckies]. At first, it looked like a tin of tobacco soup. I realised that was stupid. Actually, it is Lucky Strike going into roll-ups. In a tin. Collectable and beautifully engineered, but let us see how a Lucky Strike roll-up goes down. Watch this space.


L&M – opposite of Lucky Strike?

DSCF0513L&M has waded into the advertising space that is Germany. And the approach is the opposite of Lucky Strike. Lucky Strike has been dispensing with technology in favour of books and unmediated human interaction (see post 29 June, 2014). L&M celebrates technology. Bloke on his mobile, big smile, lit cigarette. The strap line, “far away and very close”. Hence the technology. He’s probably checking that his health insurance covers extreme sports such as smoking.

Hop Farm Music Festival, 2014

Hop farm is close to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. The festival comes one week after Glastonbury, but its scale is modest in comparison. What a festival it was this year. Normally when I am at festivals, I stand there just a shade underwhelmed. That said, Kraftwerk 3D last year at Latitude (see post July 24, 2013) were extraordinary. And not underwhelming. Quite the contrary. Now, since last year’s Latitude Festival, either I have changed, or this festival was particularly good. Maybe a bit of both.

2014-07-06 00.38.49I anticipated Brian Wilson (left) to be alone at his piano for an hour or so. Indeed he was, but not only did he have some friends (including Al Jardine) with him, but those friends were handpicked to recreate that 60s Beach Boys sound. It was pure sublime celebration. And an object lesson for younger musicians.

Brian Wilson was not quite my generation, but Squeeze – or at least Difford and Tilbrook – were (right). 2014-07-05 18.02.50The sense of rapprochement after years of estrangement between the two was palpable.

I did not expect to get too much from 10cc. But Graham Gouldman assembled a band capable of doing justice to a repertoire that owes much to the original band members not there.

2014-07-04 19.48.23Marc Almond was a crowd pleaser. Paul Heaton – my one time next door neighbour in Hull – has the best banter of any musician. Always has. With Jacqui Abbot, he served up some of pop’s most feel-good songs, many tinged with melancholy. If one digs deep enough.

The Lightening Seeds, ‘Pure and Simple’. So much for dangerous nostalgia.

Maximo Park – never heard any of their stuff previously, despite being around for 10 years. They were spellbinding (right). They2014-07-06 00.39.05 made a link for me to the Damned, without the Gothness. And serendipity always has a function at these events. Three of the most wonderful discoveries were made. First, Jukebox the Ghost – a three piece from New York (below left). The keyboardist, Ben Thornewill, has a bit bit of Billy Joel about him. Their set was intelligent.

Then Baba Jack, a four piece blues/rock outfit from somewhere in the midlands. The ‘powerhouse’ of the band, Trevor Steger, makes his own guitars out of wooden wine boxes (below right). They are square, but the noise he generates from them is delightful. And loud. The lead singer, Becky Tate, writes love songs. But not as we know them.

2014-07-06 20.05.07The standout performance, however, goes to the Daptone Soul Revue (an indie record label out of New York). I’ve never seen so many musicians not in an orchestra making so much music. And utterly enjoying it. Charles Bradley’s tortured vocals envelope anyone who cares to be so enveloped (and maybe this time I did). Sharon Jones, who gave the finale (the set was over 2 hours), was just sensational. One just wanted either to take her home or bottle her.DSCF0531

Headline Sunday night was Grace Jones. I would have really liked to enjoy her set, but the bass was too high. Shame really. Not needed.

2014-07-05 19.31.27

Cameron the (un)consummate politician

Cameron_officialWhat does David Cameron not get about politics, particularly the politics of Europe? The messy battle over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission against his agreement leaves the UK further isolated in the continent.

Politics – as I studied it at university – is about power, influence and networks. Cameron lacks all three in Europe. They are of his own making:

First, in 2009 he left the main conservative grouping in the European Parliament (the European Peoples Party, EPP) when he was elected Prime Minister in the UK, much to the chagrin of German Kanzlerin, Angela Merkel. It was inside the EPP where the mechanism for taking the decision away from heads of government in favour of the European Parliament was conceived. There is a causal link between being outside this grouping and influence in the appointment of the Commission President;

Second, when the Euro was in trouble, he walked away with a ‘not my problem’ approach (see my own reflections on the German media’s reporting of this here: It was here where the 2-tier Europe occurred with the UK in the second tier. Cameron even tried to prevent the Euro countries from using the EU infrastructure for meetings. That was ally-forming for sure;

Third, whilst he is well aware of his own domestic pressures, not least with his own backbenchers and UKIP, he seems not to understand that other European leaders have similar issues, Merkel included. For Merkel, the Juncker appointment was more of a stop Martin Schulz campaign, her ‘socialist’ nemesis. Schulz became the Parliament’s candidate until the EPP woke up and used its majority in the Parliament to elevate Juncker. Merkel’s hands were tied by her own MEPs. Hence marginalising Cameron.

We are where we are now. Cameron is not going to be able to renegotiate the terms of UK membership before the referendum in 2017, should he be re-elected in 2015 as UK Prime Minister. British membership is not that important to the other members. Being marginalised inside the Union is not that great, being outside and trying to negotiate access to European markets is likely to be difficult. I hope that we do not get anywhere near that referendum.

Lucky Strike underwhelming

DSCF0510The last batch of Lucky Strike advertisements were pushing the boundaries of their ‘strike-through’ campaign. The life cycle of each poster seems to be getting shorter. Only two weeks’ ago was I discussing ‘the main thing’ (14 June, 2014); on my return to Munich, there are two more Lucky Strike posters that, for me at least, lack any Wow! factor. The first, left, tries to be contemporary. The image is of a man reading a book (a first for a cigarette advertisement, perhaps?) instead of, as the strike-through would suggest, networking online with friends. I have to say, my own experience of reading a book in that position is not good. He’ll soon be back to the relative comfort of sitting at a table with his laptop. A position that also makes it easier to consume the product.

The second poster is bemusing to say the least. The poster has the slogan 364 Friends, with 36 being struck through,DSCF0512 as it were, leaving four friends. Nice. But I cannot work out what the 364 means. Maybe the character had 364 friends on Facebook, but since taking up book reading he has only four left. Alternatively, the other 360 friends have all died after consuming this product.

World Cup, 2014

Oliver_on_FifaReaders of this blog know that I am a football fan. The World Cup always provides an opportunity to plug the gap left by the closed domestic season; it also serves as an occasion to watch (and listen to descriptions on radio commentaries) the world’s best players do their magic. usually that does not include England, of course.

The World Cup in South Africa four years ago brought to the fore some of the less seemly elements of the competition. The concept belongs to FIFA, not to the host country. And like most intellectual property, the lion’s share of the value does not go to the manufacturer, but to the ‘owner’. Moreover, it is so prestigious that countries are willing to suffer penury in order to win the competition to host and then to build the often inappropriate (un)necessary infrastructure (e.g stadiums). Sovereignty is also compromised with changes in tax laws. Equally troubling are the FIFA courts with the ability rapidly to convict individuals for infringements related to the competition.

The defence of South Africa was its importance for a continent. The first time the competition had been held in Africa. I bought that. For Brazil…well, Brazil is football. For Russia (2018)? For Qatar (2022)? It is increasingly clear that this whole event is designed to look after the interests of a detached – and extremely wealthy – elite in Zurich rather than the sport of football globally.

As is often the case, critique is best left to satirists. John Oliver’s (picture above) is one of the best. It can be seen here .

My response this time is, as best I can, to ignore the competition. Even if that means forfeiting the final commentaries on the radio of the great Mike Ingham who is retiring from the BBC after the competition.

FIFA stinks and we should not patronise it.

Graduate Show, University of Brighton 2014

The graduate show always delights and infuriates in equal measure. Thematically, some portfolios are a shade generic, hackneyed, even. However, originality can be seen. As well as pure aesthetic beauty and delight.

20140609_164215First, then, the originality. The work of Samuel Woodman, No Ark, seems to fit the bill. 20140609_164122Here as part of a video loop, the animals as skeletons walk past us (left). And then us (right).



20140609_173052Hannah Mary Kynoch’s work has originality in terms of subject matter. She has a thing about bathrooms, in particular student bathrooms. She uses colour to capture the fetid nature of student bathrooms. Green seems appropriate. More salubrious bathrooms have a lilac shade (left).20140609_173456

There is something this year about lilac and purple. I am seduced that by looking at the haunting forest scenes by Emily Hillier (Dark Trees, right), that lilac adds a bit of melancholy. It reminds me of the poems of Robert Frost.

20140609_174700Wood features also in the work by William Wade (left). The wood this time is not forest, but rather wood found in urban settings, most particularly in parks in Brighton and Hove. At his stand at the exhibition are nice photographs of his very large works resting against their subjects saying ‘nice likeness’.

Next on my list was the striking portraiture by Charlie Schaffer. This is Dave. The creases in20140609_174056 the clothes are juxtaposed with equally creased arms. There is a lot of primary colour in his work. I felt that I could actually talk to Dave, though I am not sure what we would talk about.


20140609_172054There is one room that has the obligatory ‘explicit content’ note on the door. Often these rooms are a little disappointing. Often the work includes a lot of collage and does not, for those of us in mature years, have much to say. This year I found one portfolio that at least challenged my eyes. Emily Franklin presented a group of self-portraits, largely untitled (for example, left). These are large, colourful and ambiguous. Franklin’s explanatory panel is not too helpful in dealing with this.

Rosie Hancock’s work has a disconcerting familiarity with it. Elements of the20140609_170528 pictures have warmth, others menace. Put together, the pictures’ narratives need a bit of work by the viewer. The picture on the right has happy home feel about it; though the figure approaching is of indecipherable character?

20140609_173225Sacha Pratt’s figurative work bears a certain ordinariness that is easy to recognise and feel at home with. I grew up in an industrial town. I think I know this place.


With art there is always room for romance. The portfolio from Francesca Salisbury was spot on. Using colour, visual 20140609_174906trickery and size, I fell in love immediately.


20140609_173618Finally, I have a favourite postcard called “The idea of marriage never appealed”. The collage work of Mica McDonald is equally other worldly. And unlike most of the other pieces in the show, this is tiny (left).




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