30 June 2012

Stachys lanata

Lubyankashenko and his Mini-Me

Scum to the left of me, bastard to the right. Here I am....

A couple of days ago the Independent revealed the man who will succeed Alexander Lukashenko  as president of Belarus - None other than his seven year old son Kolya.

Apparently Kolyaalready has plenty of experience of the trappings of high office, having overseen military parades, sat in on Cabinet meetings, and met several world leaders when he accompanies his father, the current president Alexander Lukashenko, on trips abroad.
Lubynkashenko has two adult sons, but is estranged from his wife, who it is believed now lives on a cattle farm in rural Belarus. Nikolai, or Kolya for short, was born much later, and the identity of his mother has never been made public.

The child first appeared in public around four years ago, and now sits in on almost all state occasions. He can be spotted strutting around at major military events holding a golden pistol, with generals of the army obliged to salute the infant, and is also now a fixture on his father's infrequent foreign trips.

Lubyankashenko made the announcement about Kolya's potential succession during a trip to Venezuela this week, where the pair were given a lavish welcome by President Hugo Chavez. "You're correct in pointing out that my kid is here alongside us," said Mr Lukashenko. "This shows that we have seriously and lastingly established the foundation for our cooperation, and that in 20 to 25 years there will be someone to take over the reins of this co-operation."

Lubyankashenko has been president of Belarus since 1994.It looks like he has no plans to vacate office any time soon. Perhaps the people of Belarus will force that departure on im sooner rather than later.

So Farewell Minitel

France went online in the 1980s - long before we did in Britain. However it was not the internet that brought services into the French homes it was a system known as Minitel . While it was a wolrd beater in the 1980s it was a technological dead end. Today sees Minitel close for good.

In the 1970s France lagged behind other western nations in terms of telecommunications, with the nation's homes underserved by telephones. The state communications company came up with a system combining the telephone and information technology and, in 1982, rolled out the Minitel, delivering the sets free to homes – the first widely available screen-keyboard combination in any country.

First it was used as an electronic yellow pages. Other services quickly followed, paid very easily through charges per-minute on the family phone bill, with service providers receiving a cut. Soon the French were using it to check exam results, apply to university, book trains and chat online, years before theinternet.

At its height in the mid-1990s, the French owned about 9m Minitel devices, with 25m users connecting to more than 23,000 services. One popular service was "Minitel Rose", the world's first electronic adult chatrooms, where people using pseudonyms patiently exchanged steamy messages that took what would now seem an eternity to appear on screen.

France tried to market Minitel abroad but failed to get big international takers, and it was eventually overtaken in the late 1990s by the world wide web.
Minitel's official closure comes whe it still has about 800,000 users. Farewell parties and newspaper memorials are reminiscing about the time when, thanks to the Minitel, the French public could electronically check the weather, book a holiday, monitor their bank accounts and view share prices or horoscopes more than a decade before any other country.
Valérie Schafer, co-author of the book Minitel: France's Digital Childhood, said: "At the start in the 80s, there was a real sense of pride in Minitel as a success story of our national industry – with the one problem that we never exported it; it remained very French. Then at the end of the 1990s and in 2000s the discourse changed and Minitel was talked about as quite square, outdated, behind.
"But now it's the end of Minitel, we're discovering that the French have an attachment to it, as part of our industrial history. Despite all the negative talk of the past, it's now being seen as a success in terms of the national economy. Despite everything, there's a nostalgia for an era when French developed new ideas, took risks on ideas that didn't just look to the US or outside models: a time when we wanted to invent our own voice."

So farewell.

29 June 2012

Old Boy

Fox and Cubs

Pilosella Aurntiaca, known comonly as Fox and Cubs. This is a garden escape plant that has become a weed in the UK and the US. Quite an attractive weed Though!

Death of a hero

On Monday Jerusalem Post  reported the death of Gad Beck in Berlin. Beck is believed to be the last last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. He died last Sunday in a Berlin senior citizens' home six days before his 89th birthday.

Beck’s father was an Austrian Jew and his mother converted to Judaism. Defined under the Nazi racial lawas as mischling he and his father were detained at Rosenstrasse in 1943. Thanks to the heroic protests of  non-Jewish wives of the prisoners Beck and the others were released.

Following his release, he joined Chug Chaluzi, an underground Zionist resistance youth group, and played a key role in securing the survival of Jews in Berlin. According to the entry about him at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, he noted that “as a homosexual, I was able to turn to my trusted non-Jewish, homosexual acquaintances to help supply food and hiding places.”

Shortly before the end of the war in 1945, a Jewish spy working for the Gestapo betrayed Beck and some of his fellow resistance fighters. He was held captive at a Jewish transit camp in Berlin.

Perhaps his most heroic act was his attempt  to rescue his boyfriend. Beck donned a Hitler Youth uniform and entered a deportation center to free his Jewish lover Manfred Lewin, who had declined to separate himself from his family. Lein was subsequently murdered along with his family in Auschwitz.

After the war, he  continued his Zionist work helping Jewish survivors emigrate to Palestine. He remained in Israel between 1947 and 1979.  He returned to Berlin where he became a pioneering gay activist and educator Speaking about his life as a gay Jew, Beck invoked a line frequently cited about homosexuality: “God doesn’t punish for a life of love.”

Beck is survived by his partner of 35 years, Julius Laufer.

Rest in Peace

28 June 2012

Rockit with plenty of automata

Don't think much of the music but the Automata are great!

A new word in my personal lexicon

Regular readers will know that I have been spending a fair bit of time attending to my last surviving uncle (He lives with my mum and dad) who was taken ill and rushed to hospital two weeks ago. He spent a week in hospital and was discharged last Thursday.  I did not get the opportunity opportunity to speak to any of the doctors treating him in Hospital and Denis himself did not really understand what the doctors told him. It was only the following day that I discovered his diagnosis; he had forgotten to bring the medicines prescribed to him while at hospital and a copy of the discharge letter sent to his GP was included with them. Having a good (if rather old) grounding in mammalian physiology I knew I was better placed to understand the letter than my uncle or my parents.

The diagnosis was not so bad - obstructive jaundice. That was relieved during his stay by insertion of a stent into his bile duct. The second diagnosis was a rather more serious and which added the new word to my lexicon.

I had never heard of Cholangiocarcinoma before although it was not too hard to work out what it was what with carcinoma meaning cancer and cholangio referring to the bile ducts,  It was not hard to ind useful information about the cancer on the internet. AMMF a charity devoted to this particular form of cancer was particularly helpful.

The problem with Cholangiocarcinoma is that it is uncommon and a bugger to diagnose. The symptoms are similar to several other conditions. As a result it is often not identified until the cancer is in a later stage. The only reliable treatment is surgery and only if the cancer presented early. The doctors treating Denis in hospital have decided that surgery is not an option so he will receive either chemo- or radiotherapy. This indicates that any treatment will be aimed at giving better life quality than curing the cancer.

Persons with Cholangiocarcinoma where surgery is not an option have a life expectancy of six months to a year. Our main priority will be to ensure he is as comfortable as possible during this time

I have been extremely fortunate still to have my parents (dad is 86 and mum is 84 next month) Denis will be 83 next month. They have outlived the vast majority of their friends. All of them are pleasantly surprised that they have lived so long. I am blessed to still have two parents in my 50th year.

Raymond Mawby MP - Tory and Spy

 Raymod Mawby - Tory MP and Czech spy (Photo from BBC News)
The Independent  reports that a former Tory MP and junior minister spied for the Czech security service in the 1960s.

Raymond Mawby, who served as MP for Totnes from 1955 until he was deselected in 1983 and who died in 1990, was in its pay for a decade, Apparently Mawby was a gambler and began accepting "loans" while playing roulette and other games. He later went on to accept payments, usually for £100 a time, for information and was given the codename Laval.

Mawby supplied spies with a floorplan of the prime minister's Commons office, lists of parliamentary committees, information about colleagues and a supposedly confidential parliamentary investigation into a Conservative peer, He also promised to carry out tasks such as asking questions in Parliament according to the "needs" of the Czech security service according to documents written by a Czech handler in 1962 show.

When Mawby became  a junior minister in 1963 his handler feared the promotion could end their arrangement as it meant a salary increase of £2,000 a year, but the MP continued the arrangement.
As well as supplying information about the layout of the PM's parliamentary office, he provided details about its security arrangements. The relationship ended in November 1971.

So while Mawby was not a traitor (a traitor in law is someone convicted of treason and he would not have been so convicted) He did damage to his country by undertaking espionage for an enemy state. Even if his information was not particularly high level he would have been convicted under the Officia SecretsAct and would have expected a sentence of up to 14 years.

All of this is academic of course as he died over 20 years ago. I wonder how many other skeletons there are waiting to be let out of the closet.

27 June 2012

Sam II

© Shaun P Downey 2012

Le Fumeur

© SHaun P Downey 2012

The case of the Cathedral licker

IOnce again I can thank the Fortean Times Breaking News section for this strange story.

According to the   York Press Lawrence Edmonds is on a quest to lick every cathedral in the country . In a pub bet the 26-year-old from York was challenged by his friend Adam to complete the task in two years, or otherwise run naked round York Minster.

If he succeeds in licking every Anglican cathedral in the UK, his friend must do the streak instead.
Edmonds started his quest at Norwich Cathedral, but says Lichfield Cathedral in the Midlands tasted best, with the reddened sandstone beautifully warm on the tongue, while Wakefield tasted revolting.
The English Heritage worker said a visit to York Minster had completed his task in England, but he still had another 20 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to visit.

I wonder what conversation brought aout the bet. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that pub session!

25 June 2012


Just checking if aoutposting works

Hungarian Fascists and the Judenfrei tests.

 (Jobbik The Fourth Rate Master Race)

Jobbik (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom - Movement for a Better Hungary) describe themselves as a patriotic christian party; everyone else describes them as a disgusting  fascist rabble.It is an overtly racist, anti Semitic anti Roma and most definitely homophobic. The only small mercy is that they are unlikely to take power although that won't stop them form doing a hell of a lot of damage.

A Shower of shit: Magyar "Supermen"

Perhaps it should come as no surprise whatsoever that one of their MPs decided to be "Aryaner than thou" and got a genetic test to show that he did not have any Roma or Jewish traits. I now that this is not breaing news - it broke nearly 2 weeks ago. I am sorry I missed it.

It seems that the unnamed Jobbik MP's test results results were published by a Hungarian far-right website in May. The report from medical diagnostic company Nagy Gen showed that the MP had no genetic trace of Jewish or Roma ancestors.

 Der Fuckwit Fuhrer: Gabor Vona leader of Jobbie sorry Jobbik

Unsurprisingly the company, which faces a criminal investigation for violating  the country's law on eenetics,   Joerg Schmidtke, president of the European Society of Human Genetics, criticizedthe company: "This is a gross distortion of the values of genetic testing.... In addition, the test proves nothing; it is impossible to deduce someone's origins from testing so few places of the genome."
To rub salt into Nagy Gen's utterly deserved woundsT is the fact that three-time Olympic water polo champion Tibor Benedek, a member of a prominent Jewish family, held a minority financial stake in the Nagy Gen. It is no surprise that  but he pulled out immediately after the report was published.

How can I comment on this story without resort to expletives? Err.... Sorry, can't do it. The best I can do is to say that they are a bunch of verminous shitstains


© Shaun P Downey 2012

In the bunker

© Shaun P Downey 2012

Face Hand additional

© Shaun P Downey 2012

23 June 2012

Face, hand

© Shaun P Downey 2012


© Shaun P Downey 2012


© Shaun P Downey 2012

Taken in a WWII pillbox in Hornchurch Country Park perhaps 90 minutes ago.  Ach it's been a shite week with another shite week to come... A quick photo session with Tim who had come over with my sister and his brother Sam to see my parents and my uncle.


© Shaun P Downey 2012

22 June 2012


Fuckwittery on Gun Control and the Holocaust

I vaguely remember the name Joe the Plumber from the 2008 Presidential election campaign. I thought the mans fifteen minutes were long gone but it seems not. Samuel Wurzelbacher as his real name is running for congress in Illinois.

THe above ad states that the Ottoman Empire and Nazi Germany introduced gun control. As a result millions of Armenians Jews Roma Slavs et al were subject to genocide.... Oh an he loves America.

Hm so if only the Jewish comunities in places occupied by the Nazis had the benefit of the 2nd Amendment of the US constitution  then the Holocaust would never have happened..... Sorry but that displays a level of idiocy that went into the recent Heartland Institute billboard ad (and caused said institute to lose a shitload of sponsors)

A rare outing for an old warrior

Robyn goes outdoors for the first time in ages. Sadly he's getting doddery and a bit senile. I don't think we will have him around for much longer but 18 s not too bad an age

21 June 2012

Last UK death sentence quashed

William Holden (NTBCW the American actor of the same name) is one of those curiosities I thought of looking into but never got around to.

While Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans have gone down in history as the last persons to be executed in the UK - on 13 August 1964 - they were by no means the last persons in the UK to be handed a death sentence. That dubious honour goes to Liam (William) Holden who was sentenced to death in Northern Ireland in 1973 for the murder of a soldier. His death sentence was commuted and the death penalty was finally abolished in July of the same year.

The  Holden case was  one of many stories which I always wanted to look into but never got around to. However, his case made the news today.

Today's Independent trports that Holden's original sentece has been quashed. Holden was just 19 when he confessed to the murder of Paratrooper Frank Bell (who was just 18 when he was killed).
 He was sentenced to death but the sentence was was commuted to life in prison by then Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw and he served 17 years behind bars before being released on licence in 1989

Mr Holden says he confessed under duress after being held by members of the Parachute Regiment for nearly six hours who subjected him to water torture, hooded him and had a gun put to his head.
 He claimed that he was pinned to the floor by six men, a thick towel was held over his face and soldiers started pouring water on it. “What the soldiers did to me...water torture, hooding, putting the gun to my head, no one will ever get a real feeling of what it is like, it is like a slow drowning sensation.”
The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to the court of appeal in Ireland in 2009 because of concerns about the reliability of his confession. Detailed reasons for the referral were included in an annex to the report which was not given to Mr Holden or his defence team. No paratrooper has been publicly named as being involved.
Holden said that he was grateful that the decision was a quashing of a conviction rather than a posthumous pardon. “I am delighted after 40 years that the conviction has been quashed, I am just sorry the parents are not alive to witness it,” 
Torture someone and you will not get the right answers, just the ones you want to hear. Torturers do not care whether the person at the receiving end of their actions tend not to care whether they have the right person, just a person who gives the correct answer. It is quite right and proper that Holden's sentence has been quashed.

Interlude: Robot Monster

19 June 2012

Normal Service wil resume shortly

Will be back blogging properly soon.

In the meantime here are a few stories which I would have otherwise posted

Why my local MP Andrew Rosindell has shit for brains

A   Kurd found guilty in Turkey of illegal political activities... Nothing  new there but part of the evidence was that he was in possession of half a lemon... Jesus!

Aung San Suu Kyi to meet the Hairy Cornflake

17 June 2012

Facing reality

My father is now 86 my mother is 84 next month and my last surviving uncle is 83 a few days later. On Thursday night my uncle was taken into hospital with sever abdominal pains. A scan has revealed gallstones which should be treated with little difficulty. He has further tests on Tuesday which should lead to  proper diagnosis

I am prety fortunate to be in a situation where both my parents are still alive but they look ever more frail. Dad has just given up driving and has taken his car off the road which means that it is down to me to take them shopig etc something I consider a tiny return for all they have given me over the years.

It does sadden me to see how my dad has diminished. He is not senile or anything like that but he seems to be a shadow of his former self. Such is life, such s aging. ...

Bomber Comand Memorial NOT being snubbed by the BBC

It is good to see that the Bomber Command memorial will finally be unveiled in Green Park on  28 June.  If you read  The Daily Mail you would imagine that a cabal of trotskyists is snubbing the ceremony totally.

The bone of contention seems to be that the BBC (as it just did with Aung Sann Suu Kyi's Nobel speech ) will be broadcasting the ceremony live on its news channel. A full tribute will be broadcast on BBC2 at5pm

The Mail craps on how the news channel is little used and that BBC 1 will be showing Cash in the Attic repeats; BBC2 will show coverage of Wimbledon at the time. Needess to say that there is much frothing at the mouth by the author of the article and commentators.

As regular readers know I have a particular interest in the activities of Bomber Command during WWII - my father being a former Pathfinder -  so I will tune in to BBC news (channel 601 on Virgin) to watch the coverage.

Although the rollout of Digital tv is not complete (Tyne Tees and Ulster have yet to switch over but those with cable or satellite are fine) everyone else can  simply tune into channel 80 and watch it in the comfort of their homes.  Some people should be reminded that we don't have just five terrestrial channels now.

15 June 2012

Hawkwind in cracking form

Featuring l-r Tim Blake Mr Dibs, Dead Fred Reeves (keyboards) Richard Chadwick (drums) Dave Brock and Niall Hone

Assault and Battery, Golden Void and Where Are They Now?


Still feral at heart

We got Bebe nine years ago from an animal shelter. She was a feral cat and had just had her first litter. It took a lot of time and patience on our part  and she became a docile, if slightly timid,  pet. Sometimes the feral cat seems to lie just beneath the surface

14 June 2012

Hell in the Dell: Jackson v Mendoza

Great sporting events in Havering are a little thin on the ground - Romford once made the quarter finals of the FA cup back in 1881 and two women's world best times for the 1500m were set at Hornchurch stadium in the 1950s. The only boxing match of note in the area took place in Hornchurh in 1795 when Daniel Mendoza fought Gentleman John Jackson for the Championship of England. This fight took place in the days when pugilists had such fine names as Tom Cribb, Jem Belcher and the Game Chicken (Henry Pearce)

Daniel Mendoza (5 July 1764 - 3 September1836) was a true pioneer of the "sweet science" . In an age when other boxers generally stood still and merely swapped punches. Mendoza' had a  "scientific style" which inluded much defensive movement. He developed an entirely new style of boxing, incorporating defensive strategies, including , moving around, ducking, blocking, and, to avoid punches. As a result he was able to overcome much heavier opponents. This was essential as  he stood only 5'7" and weighed only 160 pounds,  In 1789 he opened his own boxing academy and published the book The Art of Boxing  which every subsequent boxer learned from.

Mendoza won the Championship of England in 1792. The previous champion, Benjamin Brain had retired the previous year. He beat contestant Bill Warr over 23  rounds in a fight in Croydon. Warr fought Mendoza again in 1794 but lasted just 15 minutes.

Gentleman John Jackson   (28 September 1769 – 7 October 1845) came up to the scratch against  Mendoza on 15 April 1795 in the Dell, near St Andrew's church in Hornchurch . Viewed by  3,000 spectators, the fight was expected to go Mendoza's way, However Jackson,with a five year age advantage, as well as being four inches taller and 42lb heavier bested Mendoza over 10 rounds. Mendoza's long hair was the main source of his defeat. Apparently Jackson grabbed hold of his hair and pummeled him mercilessly.

After the fight Mendoza had many careers but eventually died in poverty in 1836. Jackson set up a boxing salon which was popular with the gentry - Lord Byron received instruction in boxing there. He is aparently mentioned in a number of Georgette Heyer novels.

Teofilio Stevenson RIP

Teofilo Stevenson, one of the greatest ever amateur boxers, has died in Cuba at the age of 60.

Born in Cuba in 1952 of Caribbean immigrant parents, Stevenson first boxing  success came in 1971 when he won a bronze medal in the Heavyweight division at the Pan American Games in Cali in Colombia.Greater success came at the Munich Olympics where at the age of just 20, he won the first of three olympic gold medals - he retained his title at the Montreal and Moscow games,

In addition to olympic success, he won the world amateur championship three times (1974, 1978 and 1986) and two Pan American games  golds (in 1975 and 1979).

 Stevenson, along with fellow Cuban heavyweight Felix Savon and Hungarian Middleweight Laszlo Papp, as the only Olympic boxers to win three consecutive gold medals. Stevenson may have won a fourth had Cub not boycotted the Los Angeles games in 1984.

Perhaps the greatest pity was that he never turned professional. It is said that he was offered a large sum to fight Ali. Had Stevenson done without preparation Ali would have wiped the floor with Stevenson. However if Stevenson had gained experience in the pro ring (amateur and pro boxing are different beasts)  then this may well have been one the greatest fights ever. Alas we will never know.


Poppy Central

13 June 2012

WWII deserters to get pardon from Irish Government

Despite Eire's neutrality about 60,000 men and women from Eire fought in the British armed forces.People like my father who joined the RAF in 1941 with a doctored birth certificate that showed him to be 18 rather than 15 suffered no consequences. But the four and a half thousand men who deserted the Irish army to join the struggle against Naziism faced a vindictive punishment.
In August 1945, the government summarily dismissed soldiers who had absented themselves during the war and disqualified them for seven years from holding employment or office remunerated from the state's central fund. This move created considerable hardship for many of those who in the scheme of things did the right thing.

Yesterday Irish justice minister Alan Shatter told the Irish parliament that the government apologises for the way the deserters were treated  after the second world war. Mr Shatter said that the government would introduce legislation "to grant a pardon and amnesty to those who absented themselves from the defence forces without leave or permission to fight on the allied side".

During the second world war, the Irish defence forces had approximately 42,000 serving personnel. Over the course of the war, it was estimated that more than 7,000 members deserted. Of these, about 2,500 personnel returned to their units or were apprehended and were tried by military tribunal.
More than 4,500 deserters were the subject of dismissal under the Emergency Powers Order. Individuals were not given a chance to explain their absence.

After the war, Eamon de Valera's government published a blacklist of all those who deserted. Anyone who was mentioned in the blacklist book was banned from getting a job in the Irish public services.

Tuesday's pardon is a great relief for the families of those who died, removing the stigma that they have carried for nearly 70 years. It is believed that around 100 of the deserters are still alive.

Once could dismiss this as a meaningless gesture given tht the vast majority of the deserters are now dead but in my view this is something that should have been done a long time ago. On the other hand better late than never.

Cephalaria spiral

Cephalaria starts to get its petals

12 June 2012

The BBC reports that a brain training technique which helps people control activity in a specific part of the brain could help treat depression. 

Cardiff University researchers used MRI scanners to show eight people how their brains reacted to positive imagery. After four sessions of the therapy the participants had seen significant improvements in their depression.

Another eight who were asked to think positively but did not see brain images as they did so showed no change.  The researchers said they believed the MRI scans allowed participants to work out, through trial and error, which sort of positive emotional imagery was most effective.

But the team acknowledge that further research, involving a larger number of people, is needed to ascertain how effective the therapy is, particularly in the long term. Prof David Linden, who led the study which was published in the PLoS One journal, said it had the potential to become part of the "treatment package" for depression.

About a fifth of people will develop depression at some point in their lives and a third of those will not respond to standard treatments. Prof Linden added: "One of the interesting aspects of this technique is that it gives patients the experience of controlling aspects of their own brain activity.
"Many of them were very interested in this new way of engaging with their brains."

A vit of a limited study and I'm not sure how many would benefit if an MRI scanner was required for everyone! But as the researcher says it is early days and more studies will be required to determine its true efficacyStill as someone who  suffered from depression for much of his adult life, any effective treatment that doesn't mean taking drugs is going to be welcome

Proof that Americans are big headed

National Geographic carries a small news item that proves what a lot of non Americans have suspected for a ling time... that Americans are big headed.

Apparently new measurements of hundreds of skulls of white Americans born between 1825 and 1985 suggest that their typical height has grown by eight millimeters. Thistranslates to roughly a tennis ball's worth of new brain room.

"I can't guess the implications of this jump in cranial size, but other research shows a bigger cranium doesn't necessarily mean more intellect," said University of Tennessee biological anthropologist Richard Jantz who presented the findings with colleagues at an American Association for Physical Anthropology meeting in April.

Make of this what you will....

A bit of David Low

David Low on the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939

11 June 2012

Raindrops on California Poppy II

Raindrops on California Poppy

© Shaun P Downey 2012

£8 to see invisible art... I think not!

Tomorrow sees the opening of a "ground breaking" exhibition at teh Hauward Gallery called: Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1952-2012. The blurb from the Gallery site describes the exhibition thus:

Invisible Art brings together works from the past half century that explore ideas related to the invisible and the hidden. The exhibition includes work by some of the most important artists of our time as well as younger artists who have expanded on their legacy.

From the amusing to the philosophical, there are works you can observe and others you can take part in, such as Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth. From Yves Klein's utopian plans for an 'architecture of air' to Robert Barry's Energy Field (AM 130 KHz) from 1968 - which encourages a heightened awareness of the physical context of the gallery- this exhibition span diverse aesthetic practices and concerns. 

Many of the works in Invisible seek to direct our attention towards the unwritten rules and conventions that shape our understanding of art. Other works invoke invisibility to underscore the limits of our perceptual capacities or to emphasize the role of our imagination in responding to works of art.  Some use invisibility as a metaphor that relates to the suppression of information or the political disappearance and marginalization of social groups. 

Sorry but this sounds like the Emperor's New clothes to me. I think I will save my money and go to see the Munch exhibition at the Tate  which opens in just over two week's time

10 June 2012


The Statue of Field Marshall William Slim on Whitehall, probably the most underrated British commander of WWII

09 June 2012

Coming Soon - Bear's Britches

Coming soon -Fuchsia Magellanica

Penguin perversions finally revealed after a century of suppression

George Murray Levick was a scientist in Scott's final Antarctic expedition. Not for him was there a  vainglorious attempt on the South Pole. His interests were in the local fauna... and what he witnessed among the Adelie Penguin population was so truly shocking that he removed some observations from his paper Natural History of the Adélie Penguin
Although the sight of a young male Adélie penguin attempting to have sex with a dead female unnerved Levick, he discovered far worse. Over the  Antarctic summer of 1911-12 while observing a colony of Adélies at Cape Adare (and thus becoming the very first  scientist to this day to have studied an entire breeding cycle), he witnessed males having sex with other males and also with dead females, including several that had died the previous year. He also saw them sexually coerce females and chicks and occasionally kill them.

Adelie Penguins photograped by Levick

Levick blamed this "astonishing depravity" on "hooligan males" and wrote down his observations in Greek so that plebs would not be able to understand them He omitted these observations from his main paper but did use the material as the basis for a separate short paper, Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin, which was privately circulated among a only handful of experts.

Scientists had to wait another 50 years before the remarkable sexual antics of the Adélie were revealed. By this time his pamphlet and its detailed records of Adélie shenanigans had been lost to science .

However a copy of Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin has been unearthed, thanks to Nicholas Russell, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum, who discovered a copy among records of the work of Scott's expeditions and has had it published in the journal Polar Record.

Levick's lost masterpiece certainly has its eye-watering moments with its descriptions of male Adélies who gather in "little hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity". Injured females are mounted by members of these "gangs", others have their chicks "misused before the very eyes of its parents". Some chicks are crushed and injured, others are killed.

It is startling stuff, though Russell told the Observer that recent studies have helped understand the behaviour of these "hooligan" penguins. "Adélies gather at their colonies in October to start to breed. They have only a few weeks to do that and young adults simply have no experience of how to behave. Many respond to inappropriate cues. Hence the seeming depravity of their behaviour. For example, a dead penguin, lying with its eyes half-open, is very similar in appearance to a compliant female. The result is the so-called necrophilia that Levick witnessed and which so disgusted him."

In addition, the penguin is the most humanlike of all birds in its appearance and its behaviour is most often interpreted in anthropomorphic terms, added Russell. For this reason, Adélie behaviour, when it was observed for the first time in detail, seemed especially shocking. "Levick was also a gentleman, travelling with a group of men in very difficult circumstances, witnessing behaviour he neither expected nor understood," said Russell. "It is not surprising that he was shocked by his findings."
The discovery ofLevick's paper is important because its helps shed new knowledge on a species that has been called the bellwether of climate change. "The Adélie needs pack ice from which to dive to get fish. When that ice disappears, numbers may crash – and we will have a clear warning that things are getting bad," said Russell.

Levick's experiences with the Adélie penguins were not the only root of his suffering in the Antarctic. In February 1912, he and five other members of Scott's team were waiting to be picked up by the expedition ship, Terra Nova, but found that pack ice had blocked its route. The men had to spend an entire Antarctic winter huddled in an ice cave with no provisions and only an occasional seal or penguin to eat. "They ate blubber, cooked with blubber, had blubber lamps," recalled one expedition member. "Their clothes and gear were soaked with blubber, and the soot blackened them, their sleeping bags, cookers, walls and roof, choked their throats and inflamed their eyes."

Remarkably, the men all survived and Levick returned to England in 1913 – in time to sign up for the first world war. He served in the Grand Fleet and at Gallipoli, and after the war founded the British Schools Exploring Society in 1932, of which he was president until his death in June 1956. An obituary described him as "a truly great English gentleman".

• Levick's notebook is on display at the Natural History Museum until 2 September as part of the Scott's Last Expedition exhibition

Ah well it looks like penguins are going to Hell too!


'Twas in the year of 1888, and on July the 14th day,
That an alarming accident occurred in the River Tay.
Which resulted in the sinking of the Tay Ferries' Steamer "Dundee,"
Which was a most painful and sickening sight to see.

The Steamer was engaged by the Independent Order of Rechabites,
And all were resolved to see some rural sights;
And the place they selected was the village of Newburgh;
While each heart was happy and free from sorrow.

And the weather was sunny, and really very fine,
And 900 souls had agreed to while away the time;
And they left the Craig Pier at half-past two o'clock,
Never thinking they would meet with an accidental shock.

And after passing underneath the Bridge of Tay,
Then they took the Channel on the south side without dismay;
And Captain Methven stood on the Steamer's bridge, I do declare,
And for the passengers he seemed to have very great care.

And all went well on board for some time,
And the silvery Tay shone beautiful in the sunshine;
And the passengers' hearts felt light and gay,
While they gazed on the bonnie banks of the silvery Tay.

To do justice to the passengers, they were a goodly band,
For their behaviour, 'tis said, was truly grand;
But to the eastward of Newburgh, the Steamer was too close inshore,
And on passing a boatman, he warningly to them did roar,-

Warning them not to come inshore so near,
But his warning voice the helmsman didn't hear;
Neither the Captain or passengers his warning dreads,
Until the Steamer struck a number of boulders, known as The Heads.

And close to the point where the Pow falls into the Tay,
Which the people that escaped drowning will remember for many a day,
Because many of the passengers were thrown off their balance;
But, most fortunately, they were all saved merely by chance.

And owing to the suddenness of the shock, many women fainted away,
Which filled the rest of the passengers' hearts with dismay;
But they soon regained their composure when close to the land,
Especially when they saw that succour was near at hand.

The engines were kept going at full speed,
And God helped His people in time of need;
And in a short time Newburgh was reached,
While many women wept bitterly, and loudly screeched.

Because by this time the forehold was nearly filled with water,
Which caused the passengers' teeth with fear to chatter;
Because the Steamer was settling down forward,
While to land the passengers safe Captain Methven struggled hard.

But before one-half of them had got ashore,
The women and children were in a state of uproar,
Because the forepart of the Steamer was submerged in the Tay,
Which filled the passengers' hearts with dismay.

But, thanks be to God! all the passengers were sent to Dundee
By the Steamers Renown, Forfarshire, Protector, and the Lass o' Gowrie,
Which certainly was a most beautiful sight to see,
When they landed 900 passengers safe on the pier at Dundee.

Then, good people, away to the mountains, glens, and lakes,
And drink of milk and pure water, and eat oaten cakes;
And sit down on the margin of a little burn in the sunshine,
And enjoy yourselves heartily during the holiday time.

As ever McGonagall Online is your only man when it comes to poetry!

08 June 2012

Bugger Off I'm Having My Tea!

Silly News: Mugabe made tourism ambassador... or perhaps not

Even though he is banned from traveling to the USA and to EU states. the United Nations, in its wisdom, has designated Robert Mugabe a "leader for tourism" and chosen the Victoria Falls, shared with Zambia, as the venue for a holiday industry conference next year.

The honour was apparently made when UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) head, Taleb Rifai, arrived at the Falls for a ceremony to name Zimbabwe and Zambia co-hosts of the 2013 conference. Also on hand were Mr Mugabe and President Michael Sata of Zambia. The UNWTO denied reports the leaders were being made official UN "tourism ambassadors", saying that an open letter merely invited them to champion tourism. Nonetheless, Mr Mugabe embraced the accolade.

The  South African newspaper  Mail and Guardian followed up this story. It seems that the UNWTO did not betow the title of Ambassador on Mugabe:

Sandra Carvao, the organisation’s co-ordinator of communication, said: “Correct would be to say the UNWTO presented both presidents  with an open letter which calls for them to support tourism as a means to foster sustainable development in their countries to the benefit of their people. The UNWTO does not have an ambassador’s programme and the receiving of the UNWTO or the World Travel and Tourism Council open letter implies no legal commitment or title attribution to the country or the head of state or government in question.”

Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe's tourism minister tasked with leading the turnaround of tourism in the country, declared the veteran leader a “tourist attraction” and a “national treasure” that tourists would flock to see at the organisation’s meeting.

Or perhaps not. Still it hasn't stopped Mugabe;s minions from proclaiming him to be an ambassador. Ah well

Good News: A double hand transplant in Mexico

The  Independent that a Mexican man whose arms were severely burned in an electrical
accident has become the first patient in Latin America to receive a double arm transplant.

Gabriel Granados, a 52-year-old father of two whose arms were amputated just below the elbow  received the arms of a 34-year-old shooting victim.

Mr Granados said the transplant was "terrific" and that he had begun to feel his new hands.
"This is wonderful that after being without hands for some time, all of a sudden I see new hands," said Mr Granados, an agent in the financial unit of Mexico City's prosecutors' office.
The surgery was in early May, but Mr Granados was discharged from the hospital last night. Doctors said he has recovered well.

Mr Granados' arms were amputated in January 2011 after they were badly burned when he received an electrical shock while giving instructions to a group of construction workers building a fence.

"This is a very special day for Mexico from a scientific point of view," said Dr Fernando Gabilondo, director of Mexico City's National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran, where the surgery took place.

Yes I know that hand transplants even double ones are not new. Successful transplants have been taking plance since the turn of the millennium. Still I fancied posting some good news.

07 June 2012

Nick Clegg - more incompetent as an author than a politician

Reformed arsonist  Clegg  has revealed that he wrote  a "shockingly bad" draft of a novel in his early twenties (to be fair, so did I) .

According to the Independent Clegg said his attempt was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The Autumn Of The Patriarch, Acknowledging that his work wouldn't be bothering the Booker Prize jury any time soon, he promised that the 120-page effort "will never see the light of day".

He  added: "I find writing very therapeutic. I would love to emulate the style of one of my favourite writers, J M Coetzee, although I don't think I ever could. But I love that very simple, sparse style – not a single surplus word. It's almost barren; so beautiful."   He also listed Crime And Punishment by Dostoevsky, Lampedusa's The Leopard and Roy Jenkins's biography of William Gladstone among his seven favourite books

Hmm So Clegg has ound something his is worse at than politics. Perhaps if he does try writing that noel he could try a few of these as titles:

Love in the Time of Cameron
Chronicle of a Political Death Foretold
No one Writes to the Deputy Leader
Of Clegg and Other Demons

Or  if he tries to emulate John Maxwell Coetzee

Waiting for the Austerians
The life and Times of Nicholas C
Diary of Some Bad Years, 2010-2014?
The Lives of Liberals


Hawkwind Farenheit 451

06 June 2012

Ray Bradbury RIP

Ray Bradbury, one of the greats of science fiction has died aged 91. His books Farenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles are two of the best of the genre

His grandson, Danny Karapetian, said: "If I had to make any statement, it would be how much I love and miss him, and I look forward to hearing everyone's memories about him... His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know."
Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, moving with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager. His first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival, was published in 1947. His best known books were published in the early 1950s. He has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.In addition to novels, Bradbury wrote screenplays and scripts for TV shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone (The Wonderful I Sing the Body Electric).


In case you missed the Transit of Venus...

Two pics courtesy of NASA