Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

New Year’s honours

medalI notice that I will have to wait at least another year to be awarded a gong for me to turn it down. The list of people who have turned down a gong, in history, is not very long. The Wikipedia page on this is as comprehensive as they come (, but my admiration goes in particular to: Alan Bennett (a persistent offender), Michael Foot, David Bowie, Stephen Hawking, L.S. Lowry (declined more honours than anyone else!), J.G. Ballard and Jon Snow (who later did a Channel 4 exposé of the honour system to make sure that he was never offered another one). I trust also there a lot of more admirable anonymous ordinary people who have turned down honours.

This year, it seems, one gets an award for having got a gold medal in the Olympics. Whilst winning an Olympic gold medal is quite an achievement, whether it warrants further recognition is questionable. In the case of Sir Bradley Wiggins who also won the Tour de France – clean of drugs – the receipt even then of yet another award seems excessive. And surely, Sir Bradley, a knighthood is secondary to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award (can anyone tell me how such a non-award became so ‘important’ and ‘newsworthy’?)

Readers of this blog will know that I have a problem with the awards system in the first place. This year it is even more even further undermined because of Sir Jimmy Savile and now not Sir Fred Goodwin, he of Royal Jimmy_Savile_PICT6249aBank of Scotland notoriety.

It is time to end this nonsense.

Photo of Jimmy Savile source: JMB, Wikipedia


CircusCroneI spent a good part of my youth picketing circuses against the use and abuse of animals. Heady days. To a very large extent we won the argument. The circus is no place for animals. Big cats, elephants, horses, etc., should not be in captivity and transported around the country or Europe. Very few circuses now touring the UK bring non-domestic animals.MuenchenCircus

However, as I wander around Munich over the festive period, I see the circuses are in town. Circus Crone’s poster is iconic (above left). The two clowns holding a crown with images of wild animals charging and roaring through.

Also in town are three other circuses, not all with animals. Circus Baldoni-Kaiser (right) bring their Christmas circus to the city, here showing horses but no big cats or elephants.

ChineseStateBy way of competition, the City hosts the Chinese State Circus with captive dragons for added fire risk.

Finally, Sleeping Beauty as circus is performed by The Circus of Imagination, albeit in a theatre. I suspect the beast is a human in disguise? SleepingBCircus

Spoilt for choice nonetheless!

For anyone interested in reading further about why animals should not be in circuses, Animal Aid in the UK has published a useful factsheet on the topic:

Marlboro’s new approach; Gauloises genius

DBM_oldThe ‘Don’t be a Maybe’ Marlboro campaign has taken a new direction presumably in response to the criticism it received with respect to glamorising the product (for and by young people). First they launch the bearded man (see post 1 December 2012) and now – in parallel – we have the defiant very old woman. She clearly has done something that makes her not a ‘Maybe’, though we have no idea what that was or might have been. Her defiant pose – fist raised – suggests even now she is not to be messed with. It is actually a great photograph, but I suspect not too many smokers of Marlboro get to her age.Gauloises_2012

By contrast, the Gauloises brand continues to lunch out on Paris. A couple of packets of cigarettes wander around Paris having a good time. Genius.

Hunting with hounds – get used to being prosecuted

Boxing day brings the fox hunters out in their pantomime clothes and claims of victimhood. It is true it took an awful lot of parliamentary time to get this long-overdue piece of legislation in place. There is a solid majority in the parliament and country in favour of it. It is right. Simple. Get used to it. It does not outlaw the fancy dress and dog walking.

Boxing_Day_Hunt_in_CowbridgeThe tactics of the landed class to overturn it, however, are evident. Just before Christmas that most traditional and conservative of animal protection bodies, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, came under intense criticism for having committed £300,000 to convict two hunters from the Prime Minister’s local hunt, the Heythrop Hunt. Scadalaously, the loudest voice was the judge at the case. Will the Law Society or whoever regulates these people step in? I doubt it.

Going to law, however, was a no-brainer. An organisation committed to animal protection and the prevention of cruelty (it is in the name) with evidence of intended cruelty against animals legislated against in law, should see those responsible in the dock. And convicted. The State was not bold enough to do it.

Picture source: Michael Gwyther-Jones, Wikipedia

Christmas 2012

StPancrasI did not do very well collecting pictures of really awful Christmas decorations this year. So, of the four that I did briefly upload, I nominate the Christmas tree at St. Pancras Station in London as the least impressive. I wrote: “St. Pancras Station in London has gone for an unimaginative concept – cashing in again on the Olympics with this tree adorned with medals and a slogan about what a wonderful summer of sport it was. Even if it was a good idea to squeeze any more out of the Olympics, it looks a bit rubbish.”

Flughafen_Muenchen1The best is Munich Airport: “Munich Airport generally puts on a good show. Usually – and this year is no exception – the displays are secular. The displays are always above the escalators to and from the S-Bahn. This gives the opportunity to give the sense of movement. Left is this year’s, featuring lots of polar bears, fishing seals and a sleeping man, complete with snoring.

Merry Christmas to all readers – normal business resumes…Flughafen_Muenchen2


Maybe in Australia

So, it is now not possible in Australia to brand cigarettes. From today, cigarettes can only be sold in packs that are olive Plain cigarette packaging in Australiagreen in colour and depict images of the consequences of smoking; for example, blindness (see right). The industry has, of course, objected to this – even at one point claiming that it was an infringement of trading law. Essentially the argument goes that states cannot restrict firms from using their brands. The role of the state is to maintain fairness in trading, not restrict it.

In going to law, the tobacco industry lost the case. In response the industry then claimed that the new rules would draw in counterfeiters, particularly from Asia. This is a nice but flawed relativist argument. By definition, counterfeited products are potentially more dangerous – brand owners, even cigarette brand owners – do not try to poison consumers in any acute sense (over time, they knowingly do so). But there is no safe level of cigarette consumption. And the explicit aim of the Australian government is to stop people from smoking. One has to assume that the Australian government does have a contingency for the counterfeiters.

Good on the Australian government.

MaybeNov12By way of contrast, cigarette advertising – brand promotion – goes on in every German high street. Today I shot the latest in the ongoing Marlboro ‘Don’t be a Maybe’ campaign (left). The campaign requires some insider knowledge fully to understand. The notion of being a ‘maybe’ is not clear from any one poster, but I have seen the associated video in shops; chilling in their association with glamour and success. Indeed, the campaign has been criticised and deemed to be in breach of the law. Cigarette companies cannot target young people in advertising. Frankly, most of the brands glamorise smoking for young people (see elsewhere in this blog copious examples, particularly Pall Mall). I think it needs to be turned around. ‘Don’t be a maybe cancer sufferer’?L&M_winter2012

L&M have a new poster for the run up to Christmas (right). There is no glamorisation of smoking as the brand pursues its additive free nature. Different and a standard, if my translation is correct.