Archive for June, 2014|Monthly archive page

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).



Lucky Strike out Marlboros Marlboro

DSCF0504Since Marlboro’s controversial Maybe campaign (various examples on this blog), Marlboro has been pursuing a “without additives” approach. Dull if nothing else. Meanwhile Marlboro’s traditional territory, men in farming landscape with cigarettes, seems to have been reoccupied by Lucky Strike. Lucky Strike is still perfecting its strike-through approach (left). So we go from the main point of everything being right (Hauptsache-recht), to everything being real (echt), including the lung cancer. DSCF0505

To save on budget, as I imagine these fantastically clever strike-through slogans must cost a fortune to compose, they are using them twice (right).

DSCF0502Poor old Marlboro. But wait a minute, there is now a fight back (left). It is the Marlboro Frau wearing the lumberjack shirt, in a vehicle in the countryside with added no additives. Take me to the tobacconist.

After the elections…

Pall_Mall_Juni_2014…back come the cigarette advertisement posters. Currently we find Pall Mall with its summer love theme. Young people enjoy life (see also post 19 April 2014), this time with a camper van that does not quite seem to be a VW. If I read it correctly, the van has broken down, but it does not matter because there are three women and two blokes with beards and/or cigarettes. Who needs travel?


Cooking kohlrabi

2014-05-31 19.56.13I’ve never cooked kohlrabi before. Probably because it looks too much like a turnip. I have never liked turnips.

So, to find one in the refrigerator required some action. I diced it and sautéed it in olive oil in a wok along with a few mushrooms, cooked black lentils and cashew nuts (left). I seasoned the mixture with black pepper and fresh parsley. I then wrapped the mixtureKohlrabi in rice paper (right) and fried until crunchy. Not entirely successful. Rice paper needs to be dampened to use but, if it is too wet, it will not fry very well. In fact, not at all.

I think my rolling needs to be better, but as for the taste, not bad.


Halal meat

HalalRecent revelations that most UK supermarkets are selling unlabelled halal meat is not really a surprise. Supermarkets respond to demand – the halal market in the UK is huge (estimated to be something in the order of £1bn). Not to be in that market, with so much money at stake, would breach of most supermarkets’ responsibilities. That is, to make money for shareholders.

From what I understand, halal slaughter – which usually involves no pre-stunning of animals – is allowed in the UK under religious exemption. As an atheist, I have a problem with that. But the arguments made by some that too much attention is given to slaughter and not enough to the quality of life, has some merit. But as an atheist vegetarian, I’m inclined to reject that, too. Too much meat is eaten. It is unsustainable in terms of ‘production’, and not so good for the human population generally consuming too many saturated fats.

With respect to the argument about too much attention is given to the moment of slaughter, I have this to say. So often I hear that halal slaughterers are skilled and make their incision with precision such that the animals lose consciousness almost instantly and hence do not suffer. Now it is quite some time since I have had intimate experience of animal slaughter, what is clear is that animals remain commodities. Slaughter is an industrial process. Slaughter is not a craft profession. It is a volume business.

Finally, where animals are stunned, they are unconscious when they are strung up and bled. Correct me if I am wrong, but where animals are not stunned, they will be hung upside down prior to throat cutting. That seems unnecessarily cruel and offensive.