27 March 2012

Spring Garden flowers

A Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) and a Snakeshead Fritillary (Fritillaria melaegris. Taken in my garden yesterday.

I am not in the best of places at the moment. Blogging will be rather more sporadic for a while.

23 March 2012

Time for a break

After 5114 posts, over 1.25m visitors and 49,000 comments I think  break is in order.

Back soon In the meantime here's

A couple of drawings given to me by my dear friend Elahe Heidari

22 March 2012

Up the Workers

Tansads were never big and are long gone, sadly. However, I would strongly suggest  seeking out their live album Drag Down the Moon if you can find it

The World Turned Upside Down

Dick Gaughan performing Leon Rosselon's song about the Diggers

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it will be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Spring up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters
Or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The orders came to cut them down

20 March 2012

It being Norooz....

Take It Easy Hospital appeared in the film No one Knows about Persian cats and have since ben granted asylum in the UK

Artists at Versailles, 2008

It was meeting these artists, plus another artist plus a poet back in 2008 that sort of spurred me to improve my photography skills

Kimono boy

© Shaun P Downey 2012

Kimono fan boy

© Shaun P Downey 2012

17 March 2012

Blue boy goes grey

© Shaun P Downey 2012

Two views of an artist

© Shaun P Downey 2012

N is an artist I met in Paris back in 2008. She is an extraordinarily talented artist, charming, intelligent and beautiful

Masqued Dancer II, III and IV

All photos © Shaun P Downey 2012

© Shaun P Downey 2012

16 March 2012

First sighting of Beelzebob

Just seen Bobby, aka Satan Cat, aka Beelzebob for the first time this year. I daresay he will be in our garden smetime soon giving our cats hell and not running off when approached by humans. (yes its an old pic. Didn't have my camera to hand)


© Shaun P Downey 2012

Dancing in the Cemetery

© Shaun P Downey 2012

15 March 2012

Assads to the people of Syria: Fuck You I've got my Fondue Set

Dead Man Walking?

The Guardian has a series of reports today on emails hacked from the private inbox of the Assads. While Assad has ordered the murder of thousands of his own people, he and his British wife Asma live a gilded life.

On 5 February 2012, the day after Assad's artillery had pounded Homs, killing several hundred civilians and blowing up a makeshift hospital,Assad, using the pseudonym Sam,  sent his wife the lyrics of a country and western song by the US singer Blake Shelton, and the audio file downloaded from iTunes.
: "I've been a walking heartache / I've made a mess of me / The person that I've been lately / Ain't who I wanna be."

The emails appear to show how tens of thousands of dollars were spent in internet shopping sprees on handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques. Tens of thousands more were lavished on gold and gem-encrusted jewellery, chandeliers, expensive curtains and paintings to be shipped to the Middle East. While the country was rocked by Assad's crackdown on dissent, his inner circle was concerned about the possibility of getting hold of a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, or a new chocolate fondue set.

On 19 July 2011, Asma al-Assad could be found placing orders with her cousin Amal for jewellery made by a small Paris workshop. She requested four necklaces: "1 turquoise with yellow gold diamonds and a small pave on side" as well as a cornaline, "full black onyx" and "amethyst with white gold diamonds" of similar design. Amal replied that she would "launch" the order in mid-August with a view to getting it done "by mid-September". On 23 July 2011 Asma said she didn't mind the delay and added self-deprecatingly: "I am absolutely clueless when it comes to fine jewellery!" She signed off as "aaa" with: "Kisses to you both, and don't worry, we are well!"

  Dead Woman Walking?

Others items that caught the fancy of Syria's first lady included a vase priced £2,650. On 17 June 2011 she sent details to the family's London-based fixer Soulieman Marouf, and added: "Pls can abdulla see if this available at Harrods to order – they have a sale at the moment." Marouf replied with good news: "He bought it. Got 15% discount. Delivery 10 weeks." He added: "Today you should be receiving an Armani light … If you need anything else please let me know."

The emails suggest a woman preoccupied with shopping – but also with an eye for a bargain. She was eager to claw back VAT on luxury items shipped to Damascus, it emerges, and complained when a consignment of table lamps went missing in China. Emails sent from her personal account also concern the fate of a bespoke table, after it arrived with two "right" panels instead of a right and a left one. More than 50 emails to and from the UK deal with shopping.

Some of Asma al-Assad's prospective purchases arouse polite comment from her friends. On 3 February 2012, she was browsing the internet for luxury shoes, according to an email titled "Christian Louboutin shoes coming shortly".

She wrote to friends sharing details of new shoes on offer, including a pair of crystal-encrusted 16cm high heels costing £3,795. She asked: "Does anything catch your eye – these pieces are not made for general public." One friend replied dryly: "I don't think they're going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately."

Most jarring were the occasions when the world was hearing news of the worst incidents of violence and bloodshed and the Assad family could be found shopping or joking online, often using pseudonyms. An adviser to the Assad inner circle, Lamis Omar, appeared to acknowledge that the first couple risked seeming too detached and sent Assad a link to an article in the US magazine Businessweek that described the president's "life in a cocoon".
Emails from the Syrian first lady's account are typically signed off with "AAA" – corresponding to Asma al-Assad – or "Alia Kayali", which is the name of the company secretary whose identity activists believe Asma hid behind. In email correspondence with shops in Paris and London, the signoff "Alia" predominates.

In July, "Alia" is found placing an order for about £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers to be shipped from a Paris designer through a state company in Dubai. In early November, as protests continued, a London art dealer received a message asking about the availability and price of works costing between £5,000 and £35,000 each. In late January "Alia" unpacked a pair of bedside tables shipped from a Chelsea cabinet maker, only to discover a mistake. She complained they had "different finishes and they have different colour draws!?".

In Britain, suppliers said they were unaware that the woman behind the email account was in fact Syria's first lady. Tony Carpenter, who runs a bespoke furniture firm in Billingshurst, West Sussex, sold "Alia" a designer Baxter Gilbert table in November. The table cost £6,257. "I had no idea," Carpenter said. "She gave me a London address. The furniture went to Dubai. I assumed the job was in Dubai."

Carpenter added: "She was a very charming lady to deal with. I spoke to her once or twice, though it was mostly by email. She paid the bill very promptly." The table was oval-shaped and marble-topped, he added.

Sometimes he searched the internet for video clips that impressed him, on one occasion sending her a clip from America's Got Talent of "the best illusion of all time" – a man appearing to saw another man in half and then putting him back together again, to the delight of the judges David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan. Link to this video
Assad's emails reveal his inner fears and suspicions. On 16 October, as the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called for international action to avoid "full-blown civil war" in Syria, Assad circulated from his iPad an article to a list of undisclosed recipients an article alleging that the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was responsible for "recruiting Arab 'death squads' from al-Qaida-affiliated units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Chechnya to fight against Syrian military and police".
He sent another rabid article to his wife on 23 July that described Rupert Murdoch as a Jew and an Israeli citizen and "pretty much" Satan.

Ans so on and so forth.... Clearly they are either in denial about the situation in their nation or they simply don't give a shit, If they have put their heads into a noose then I will shed few tears even if I oppose the death penalty, THe only shame is that, as a British citizen, Asma has the absolute right of return to the UK.


© Shaun P Downey 2012

Tim at leisure

© Shun P Downey 2012

Masqued dancer

© Shaun P Downey 2012

14 March 2012

A Patriotic Simlacrum

The Mail reports that a young mother has discovered a simularum that is quite appropriate given that it is the Queen's diamond jubilee year. 

Laura Robertson, 18, spotted a watermark in the shape of the queen's head while drying her dirty dishes.  'I turned to do the drying-up and noticed a mark on the bottom of one of the glasses. As I went to re-wash it, I noticed that it was a familiar shape. I almost dropped the glass when I suddenly saw the Queen's face in it.

With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June, Laura intends to put the piece of royal memorabilia on display at her home in King's Lynn, Norfolk. 

'People have offered me money for it but there's no way I am going to sell it.'
Well there you ave it. It's been a while since I posted a simulacrum. THis one seems to be quite appropriate!

New Hawkwind album next month

Hawkwind will be releasing a new album"Onwards" on 30 April.


Southern Cross


 I dont expect the album to be a classic of the sort the band produced in the 70s but I am sure it will be worth a purchase. Their last two albums, Blood of the Earth (2010) and Take Me to Your Leader (2005) certainly had their good points even if neither will appear in my personal top ten album list.

The voice artist, the Gong Show, the Dating Game and the Serial Killer

I've posted this video of Cheryl Bradshaw before and a very fine talent she has! What I didn't realise was that she also appeared on the Dating Game in 1978 (the UK version was called Blind Date and a pile of shite it was too... but I digress).

All very corny but Bachelor number 2, who won, is otherwise known as Rodney James Alcala. Despite being a convicted rapist by then Alcala was presented as   "a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed".

What was not known at the time was that he was also a multiple muderer.

Alcala committed his first known crime in 1968: A motorist in Los Angeles witnessed him luring an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro into his Hollywood apartment and called police. The girl was found in the apartment raped and beaten with a steel bar, but Alcala escaped. He fled to the east coast and enrolled in the NYU film school under an assumed name.

In June 1971, he raped and strangled TWA flight attendant Cornelia Michel Crilley, a 23-year-old whose murder would remain unsolved until 2011.

Later that summer, two children at an New Hampshire arts camp where Alcala now worked saw his FBI wanted poster at the post office and notified camp directors. He was arrested and extradited back to California. By then, however, Tali Shapiro's parents had relocated her family to Mexico, and refused to allow her to testify at Alcala's trial.Without the primary witness, prosecutors were forced to permit Alcala to plead guilty to a lesser charge of assault. He was paroled  in 1974, but less than two months after his release , he was arrested after assaulting a 13-year-old girl known in court records as "Julie J.", who had accepted what she thought would be a ride to school. Once again, he was paroled after serving two years of an "indeterminate sentence."

In 1977, after his second release from prison, his parole officer permitted him to travel to New York. During his stay there he is believed to have been responsible for the murder of Ellen Jane Hover.

On 20 June 1979 12 year old Robin Samsoe, disappeared somewhere between Huntingdon beach and her ballet class . Her decomposing body was found 12 days later in the LA foothills and subsequently found her earrings in a Seattle locker rented by Alcala. In 1980 Alcala was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Samsoe's murder, but his conviction was overturned  because jurors had been improperly informed of his prior sex crimes. In 1986, after a second trial virtually identical to the first except for omission of the prior criminal record testimony, he was convicted once again, and again sentenced to death. However, am Appeals panel panel overthrew the second conviction, in part because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala's contention that the park ranger who found Samsoe's body had been "hypnotized by police investigators."

While preparing their third prosecution in 2003, Orange County investigators learned that Alcala's DNA  matched Ssemen left at the rape-murder scenes of two women in Los Angeles. Another pair of earrings found in Alcala's storage locker matched the DNA of one of the two victims. Additional evidence, including another cold-case DNA match in 2004, led to Alcala's indictment for the murders of four additional women: Jill Barcomb, 18, a New York runaway found "rolled up like a ball" in a Los Angeles ravine in 1977, and originally thought to have been a victim of the Hillside Strangler; Georgia Wixted, 27, bludgeoned in her apartment in 1977; Charlotte Lamb, 31, raped and strangled in the laundry room of her apartment complex in 1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21, killed  1979.

It wasn't until February 2010 that Alcala stood trial on the five joined charges.
After less than two days' deliberation the jury convicted Alcala on all five counts of first-degree murder. A surprise witness during the penalty phase of the trial was Tali Shapiro, Alcala's first known victim. In March 2010, he was sentenced to death for a third time.

Cheryl Bradshaw refused to go on a date with Alcala after the Dating Game appearance. I have no idea what happened to her but I hope she lived (and hopefully still lives) a full and happy life.