Take It As Red

"Blogging is, by its very nature, erratic and irregular, feverish effort punctuated by random silence, a conundrum wrapped in a contradiction wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an unclosed em tag. " - The Poor Man

Wednesday, November 2


“Sickness comes on horseback and departs on foot.”

I woke up coughing, achy and full of snot and I don't feel at all well. Bird flu, what bird flu?

And the first blog post I read this morning was re Lewis Libby's writing about the sexual torture of a small child by a bear. What a vivid imagination that man has! And what a way to start the day...

This is a year old, but 'tis apparently the season for bestiality and respiratory illnesses, and it seems appropriate.

I suppose that means the flu alert level is high...

(The post title is an old Dutch proverb, and thanks to Risng Hegemon commenter Max Power for the pic))


Tuesday, November 1


Ceph Blogging No.19

There seems to have been an explosion in ceph-related needlecraft:


This is the Surly Squid hat from Deviant Goods. I'd be surly too, knitted in that vile colour.

How many knitted squid hats is that now? I may have to start a separate squidknitting blog.



Random Tuesday Lifeform Blogging

This is the trouble with blogging, you start and you can't stop. This is posted despite the fact I loathe spiders and arachnids of all stripes, just because it's beautiful. I'm not sure I like the look on that big spider's face though. Dammit, it's staring at me.


Picture Credit, The Robot Vegetable at Middle-fork



Occasional Ceph Blogging (sorta) No. 18

It's been brought to my attention that I haven't yet blogged the FSM, so for the truly devout and pious amongst you, here's a devotional image of His Pastaness in his true noodly incarnation.

"For a growing band of devoted followers, the FSM – as His Noodliness is informally known – is the Supreme Being, Creator of the Universe and of all living things. Rather than a fatherly figure seated on a golden throne, the Monster looks like a heap of pasta and meatballs topped with eyeballs on stalks. The tenets of the Church include the usual standard notions of Heaven and Hell, of course, the reward system that has worked so well in other religions to keep the faithful appropriately in line. Immortality, as well as sin and redemption, fanaticism and self-sacrifice, are also in place so that the new church will be acceptable to those raised on Islamic or Christian agendas.

There may now be millions of converts to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the discovery of 25-year-old Bobby Henderson, a currently unemployed physics graduate from the state of Oregon. According to Bobby, the FSM revealed himself in a dream, though not in a burning bush or out in a desert, as we might have expected. It is suspected that indigestion might have played a role in this epiphany, but that possibility is still only under investigation."

For those without eyes to see the Holy Truth, here is the more usual representation of Him passing his ineffable knowledge to the tentacly-challenged ones:

Worship our alien overlords, may their wonders never cease: and to aid you in your devotions, there's this:




Occasional Ceph Blogging Nos 15, 16 & 17

Awwww, a cat in a squid hat!

An origami squid, created by Peter Engel.

Design available in his book 'Origami from Angelfish to Zen', Dover Publications, New York. 1994 edition. (Previously published as Folding the Universe. Vantage Books, New York. (c) 1987-1989.)

And I so need this on DVD. Why are we stuck with Nickelodeon and the like in NL, and no Adult Swim?

Squidbillies, the Georgia hillbilly squid....

Aqua Teen Hunger Force looks like fun too.




I haven't blogged since June, for a number of reasons - a] that we were offline for 6 weeks during the house move, b] that my son spent the summer at home, c] That I was just too damned depressed . (Oh, and we have new kittens, which is enough to distract anyone. Awwww).

In the meantime I have been guest-blogging at Martin Wisse's blog, Progressive Gold.

I am feeling a little better now, the house is gradually settling into some semblance of order, and no 2 son is back at uni, so I fully intend to get this show back on the metaphorical road. It will be kidney blogging, as there are new developments on dialysyis/surgery front.

So home to the UK for the boy's graduation on the 10th, back on the 14th, normal service will then resume.

I have lots of ceph posts saved up.


Friday, June 24


Occasional Ceph Blogging No. 14

Some fellow ceph enthusiast probably spotted this already, but I'm blogging it anyway. It's so lovely I want one.

A crocheted yellow squid made only of household materials, courtesy of artist Mary Carlson and reported in Gay City News

Personal Statements in Just One Color

Elizabeth Harris allows nine artists the freedom to have their own say


With the season coming to a close and the European art fairs under way, most of the galleries have already mounted summer group shows, which provide an opportunity for curators to, well… curate and galleries to put together collections of work by their artists.
Most startling here is Mary Carlson’s “Yellow Squid.” It is a giant squid crocheted in Naples yellow yarn and nearly twelve feet long. I had seen this piece before and seeing again was like seeing an old friend. It brings to mind early feminist art in that it uses the most household of materials. Even at that, it is a formidable task to have made it. The idea is just wacky enough to go beyond the obvious and is an exemplar of the way Carlson works. She is liable to do almost anything.

All of the work in the show is self contained and provocative in a personal, contemplative way, expressive of an individual vision. It is a welcome break from the style of the moment exhibitions in most of the galleries.



You Haven't Done Nuthin'

I haven't done nuthin either, it's too damn hot to do anything at all today. I'm also feeling weirdly hormonal, so I'm listening to music, something I don't normally I do as I'm addicted to the joys and wonders of the mighty and splendiferous Radio 4. So I'm sitting here cleaning the computer screen and listening to Fulfillingness' First Finale, and crying my eyes out because every single song has a place and time and person attached, and those times'll never come again.

Before I become too maudlin - I was listening to Blair's speech at the EU meeting yesterday. He really is desperate to leave something positive behind him, to take away the sour taste of the Iraq war. isn't he? SaveAafrica, save Europe, save the poor, save the environement, save the world. Blair the Saviour. Won't happen, sorry. Blair was, is now and will always go down in history at Bush's poodle. Talk, talk, talk and no action at the G8 will do nothing. Bush will give nothing either - he'd rather let the world die than give up one iota of piotential profit. Blair gave his all for for Bush and for what? Nothing.

Anyhow, that's what prompted me to listen to the album again: times are coming full circle, another century and America is as split politically as it has ever been. Wonder recorded it at the time when the disaster of Vietnam had bitterly divided America. The outstanding track of a whole album-full is a song that seems just as prescient today as when it referred to Nixon and LBJ.

This one's for you, Bush & Blair.

You Haven't Done Nuthin
We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nuthin

It's not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else
And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nuthin

We would not care to wake up to the nightmare
That's becoming real life
But when misled who knows a person's mind
Can turn as cold as ice
Why do you keep on making us hear your song
Telling us how you are changing right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nuthin


Wednesday, June 22


A Life Wasted

How could I not blog this?

My son Stephen is currently in the very prison mentioned in this article - he is in exactly the same situation as Andrew O'Connor. On holiday from his independent school, the school that I had bargained, sold and mortgaged my sould to get him into (because education is the most important thing for young Black men) Steve was arrested, aged 12, when the 'friends' he was with from his previous primary school 'taxed' 2 other boys during the school holidays. Stephen was there, but was not involved. However it was my son who was arrested and jailed in Exeter prison, an adult jail. The white boys walked away. Our solicitor had advised that if Steve owned up to being with the boys, and apologised to them, their parents and the court, that he would be acquitted., so he did. He was convicted of robbery. No-one else was even charged.

Steve is now 23. He was introduced to drugs in Portland Young Offenders Institution, the place, along with Exeter Prison, that he's spent most of his adolescence. Of the past ten years I'd estimate he's spent 8 in custody of one kind or another, though he has actually committed only 3 petty offences. The sentences have been for breach of licence, breach of probation or of community service, all sentences imposed for previous breaches. It;s like Kafka. His whole time in custody he was becoming more and more involved with drugs: first cannabis, then speed, then heroin, then whetever he could get his hands on, and mostly all at once. We had to move house twice because drug dealers would come round and try to brace me for money they said he owed.

And it wasn't for lack of family support. I tried and tried to get help for us and for him, but neither our doctor, nor social services, nor probation were in the slightest bit interested. He was in the system now, just another young Black man to be categorised and warehoused. Because, as any fule kno, all young Black men are innate criminals, or if not then they must be mentally ill.

Stephen is in custody again now, I'm not sure why. He was released in May from yet another spell in Exeter, again for something he had not done. As one does, he went to the pub, but unfortunately it was with someone he had known at Portland. At closing time, the boy (I hesitate to call him a man) mugged another customer and stole his mobile phone. Steve, having been known to Plymouth police, being Black, and in the vicinity, was of course arrested as well, though there were witnesses to say he had nothing to do with it. The Plymouth court remanded him in custody until May when it went to a full hearing; of course he was acquitted. At this, Exeter prison just released him into the street: he had nowhere to go (the sheltered housing we and his social workerhad previously arranged had evicted him, due to his arrest, and there is no duty to house released remand prisoners) no money (his benefits were stopped, and because he was only on remand, there was no discharge grant) and no medication.

Medication because Steve is now classified as paranoid schizophrenic. The drugs he was introduced to and the treatment he recived from other inmates and screws when in custody have fried his brain and he is now very disturbed. How could a talented young man, described at school as academically gifted, a scholarship boy, South West under-13 100 metres champion, picked for Bristol schools under-13 rugby team - someone with a committed, educated and very vocal parent - how could this happen?

I don't know where we go from here. Stephen is 23, he's an adult now. No-one is authorised to speak to me or give any information regarding his welfare, because he's over 18. I donb't know what to do to help him: my hands are tied. All I'm able to do is grieve, as the son I love more than life uitself spirals down into - what? What will happen? It's like a death but not a death. A death of hope, perhaps. They stole my son, they ruined his life and I don't know if we can ever get it back. Steve'll be released again in July. Back to square one. And he's not alone, there are thousands like him.

Read this. I guarantee by the end you'll want to scream in rage and frustration at the way a whole generation of young men has just been written off as so much inconvenient rubbish, because they didn't fit New Labour political and fiscal priorities, and how they are now being blamed themselves for the government's own failures. They're not rubbish, or scum, or feral children or any other of the pejorative tabloid descriptions - they're real people, they have mothers and brothers and are loved and wanted, and we want them to have a future. The way we are treating our young men, and especially our young Black men, is the real criminality here.

I look at pictures of my son at 11, his face so full of promise, his eyes bright, his future ahead of him. I read about Andrew O'Connor, who didn't even have the advantages my son had. If there is no hope for my son Steve, what is there for the Andrew O'Connors of this world?

Think of Andrew O'Connor. When Michael Howard tells you that prison works, when the prime minister celebrates his tough line on crime, when you hear once again that this country jails more of its men and women than Burma or China, think of Andrew O'Connor - petty thief, pain in the neck, prolific offender, habitual prisoner, dead.

There is nothing so unusual about his being dead. People who work with offenders will tell you that, as things stand, there really are only three ways that most repeat offenders finally stop breaking the law: they grow out of it; they kill somebody and get locked up for life; or they die. Some of those who die commit suicide, some of them accidentally overdose, most of them just die from general neglect.

As offenders go, there never was anything very unusual about Andrew O'Connor. Any social worker or police officer or prison officer reading this story could stop now and, with their eyes shut, they could predict just about all of his background: his family were poor, he grew up on crap estates, he never knew his father, he was knocked about by his stepfather, he was a nightmare at school and a pest on the streets, he was put into care, he was sexually abused. By the time he was 10, he was being arrested. By the time he was 15, he was doing custody. By the time he was 30, he was dead. Nothing unusual. There are thousands of Andrew O'Connors shuffling through the dark tunnels of our criminal justice system.

Now, watch how the judges and the politicians play their hand. And look back, in particular, at what happened after the prime minister, in the autumn of 2001, decided to make good on his pledge to be tough on the causes of crime by personally commissioning the Social Exclusion Unit in the Cabinet Office to find out what he had to do to stop the endless reoffending of people like Andrew O'Connor.

The SEU set off on a mighty investigation, using five civil servants to work full time for nine months, trawling through statistics and research, visiting prisons, interviewing experts, talking to officials in government departments, all in search of an answer.

And they found it. In July 2002, they published their report, Reducing reoffending by ex-prisoners - 218 pages of analysis, packed with facts and figures, supported by more than 400 footnotes. Its conclusions were clear.

Essentially, they boiled down to three big themes. First: "Prison sentences are not succeeding in turning the majority of offenders away from crime."

Second: "A prison sentence can - and frequently does - make things worse."

Finally: the real key to reducing offending was to attack its causes (just as the prime minister had been saying). Homelessness, unemployment, drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems, physical health problems, educational problems - these were the seeds from which crime grew, seeds which were fertilised by the impact of imprisonment.

In many ways, there was nothing new about these conclusions. Any frontline worker in the criminal justice system would have recognised them. The importance of the SEU report was that these conclusions were backed by irresistible evidence, supported by seven different government departments which had been consulted, and delivered direct to the most powerful figure in government, who duly welcomed them as "a significant contribution to our understanding of what works in combating crime". This was a chance finally for the criminal justice system to start to make a difference.

It could make a difference to the communities who suffered from the crimes of prolific offenders: the SEU found that released prisoners were streaming unchanged out of custody and committing something like 1m offences a year and that these offenders alone were costing at least £11bn a year. (That did not count the value of what they were stealing or damaging; £11bn was simply the cost to taxpayers of pushing them through this ineffective process of punishment.)

And it could make a difference to the offenders themselves. By the time the SEU report was published in July 2002, Andrew O'Connor, then 29, had been convicted in the courts of Devon, where he lived, on 24 different occasions. Never once had any of those court hearings done anything conceivably likely to stop him offending because none of them did anything to tackle the causes of his crime. They treated him as though he really were the Daily Mail's caricature of an offender, breaking the law because he was "a bad person", simply in need of stiff punishment to deter him.

Andrew O'Connor was not this caricature: he was a young man whose life had collapsed under him like rotten floorboards.

He grew up without his father. His stepfather thrashed him with a belt, so the boy used to run away and sleep in the woods for days at a time. His mother reluctantly agreed to put him into care for a while, never knowing that her much-loved nine-year-old boy would be slippered, caned, bullied and used as a sex object by an older boy and one or two members of staff.

Then he started going out with other kids, nicking stuff from shops, setting fire to an empty building, stealing cars, taking pills, screwing houses, smoking dope.

By the time he was 12 he was the walking, talking, non-stop offending embodiment of what the SEU report was describing. Prisoners are 13 times as likely as anybody else to have been in care. They are also 13 times as likely to be jobless, 10 times as likely to have played truant at school, six times as likely to be very young parents. Eighty per cent of them cannot write with the skills of an 11-year-old. More than 60% of them have drug problems. More than 70% of them suffer at least two mental disorders.

Andrew O'Connor had all this. The courts, however, carried on hurting him, as though they had some moral right to pile torment on a 10-year-old, as though they really thought that by doing this, they were protecting the community from his offences.

He was convicted of stealing cars in Plymouth. So they endorsed his licence. That made no difference at all. He didn't have a licence: he was only 12 at the time. He carried on stealing cars. So the courts endorsed his non-existent licence again when he was 13 and once again when he was 14 and yet again when he was 15. On the last two occasions they also disqualified him from driving, never minding the fact that he was still too young to qualify to drive in the first place, never wondering why this small boy was earning a living by stealing expensive cars for adults in Plymouth and taking his pay in cannabis and amphetamine.

From the age of 10, he came up in court for burgling. The bench imposed a care order on him. But he was already in care. That was part of the problem. They fined him too, even though they knew very well that his only source of income to pay the fines was more burgling.

When he was 14, they started locking him up. That year they sentenced him to three bouts of custody, amounting to 10 out of the ensuing 13 months, even though it was plain that he was coming straight out of custody each time to carry on with his offending. When he was 18 they gave him three years' probation, never minding the fact that they had already given him two years' probation, not once but twice in the previous 10 months. He went ahead and carried on offending.

After the courts failed, the prisons failed too. By the time the SEU report was published, Andrew O'Connor had been released from custody 11 times and he had never received any effective help for any of the problems that made him an offender. Over and over again he would come out homeless and jobless, bingeing on drugs and alcohol, haunted by personality disorders created by his abusive childhood, unregistered with a GP, still unskilled, still unable to read or write like an adult.

Each time he stumbled straight back into crime: thefts, burglaries, assaults. On one release he was given £10,000 in compensation for the sex abuse he had suffered in care. He blew the lot in weeks, on drugs and generosity to strangers. Sometimes it took him only a day to get back into trouble; never more than a few months. Blair's government already knew quite a lot about this and had started to talk more about rehabilitation. Andrew O'Connor had heard the talk and he had believed it.

On his last big release before the SEU report, in March 2000, he wrote to his legal adviser, Nicki Rensten of the Prisoners' Advice Service: "I've got a good personal officer. He's set up meetings for my release and is in touch with my probation officer. He's guaranteed me I won't just be dumped on the streets like last time.

"They're working to set up a package for me with the best support I can have ... Between him and another officer, they have phoned the council housing and DSS on my behalf. He says he'll get probation to pull some strings to get me in my own council flat on release with help with clothing, furniture etc, and help to set myself up working ... I want to live in this lovely place in Devon called Teignmouth ... I think I'll give prison a rest in future. I think this is going to be a good year."

It never happened. Andrew O'Connor was pushed out of the gate of Long Lartin prison one morning with no address to go to, no job to go to, no GP to look after him and only £46.75 of discharge grant to last him the several weeks it would take him to sign on.

None of the help he had been promised materialised. The housing office in Teignmouth said it did not have to house him, because he was not vulnerable enough to qualify. Without an address, he had even less chance of finding a job. The DSS gave him no help with clothing or any of the other basics which he lacked after a four-year prison sentence; his discharge grant soon ran out and, when he eventually received his benefit, he found the minimal weekly payment had been cut even further to make him repay a crisis loan he had taken out six years earlier. His former GP refused to take him back even when he broke his foot.

He ended up sleeping in a friend's car where he was arrested and sent back to jail for failing to tell probation where he was living, even though they themselves had allowed him to be released without an address to go to.
By now, of course, Andrew O'Connor was dead. While the government had been sitting on the evidence of the failure of prisons, the numbers being jailed had carried on climbing and Andrew O'Connor had been behind bars again.

During the two years when government departments were busy blocking most of the SEU's findings, he had managed three months at liberty, ended up with a crack habit and a bed in the Salvation Army hostel in Devonport, Plymouth.

One night he walked into a snooker club and asked for a drink. They told him he would have to pay £10 for membership. He told them he would pay £5 this week and £5 next. The bar staff told him to get lost. He told them to give him a drink or he would take everybody in the bar hostage. He was unarmed, but the club called the police and he ended up doing 16 months for affray. When he came out of that sentence, he lasted one day before being sent back for breaching his licence: they said he had stumbled drunk into a probation hostel; he said he was having an epileptic fit.

He spent four more months in prison in Exeter. He did a course in enhanced thinking. When they asked him for his objectives, he wrote "No objectives - you won't get anywhere." He told them: "I never had a proper childhood so am unsure a lot of the time how I should respond or even if what I am thinking or feeling is appropriate for the situation." He passed the course.

He filled in a form at the prison: "Paramount, I need structured care plan to make sure of good recovery. I would like to achieve outside counselling for the root causes of my problems, so the right support and right environment, ie around my family, with intense counselling, this would be the best plan for me."

He had a big reconciliation with his mother, who said he could come home to live with her. He wrote to a friend: "My mum is taking three months off work to love and support me, take me to meetings and appointments, help me fill out forms, take me places and reintegrate me into society generally."

As usual, it never happened. There was a meeting in the prison to discuss his release. His probation officer failed to turn up. The prison workers agreed that he should go to his mother's with help from a local agency to deal with his drug habit. But the probation officer then over-ruled this and said he had to go to a hostel miles away from her, in Cornwall. The hostel housed sex offenders and, recalling his past abuse, O'Connor refused to go there and, in protest, then refused to work with the local drug agency.

His mother spent the three weeks before his release phoning the police and probation and the prison, warning them that Andrew would not go to the hostel and had to come to her. Most of her calls went unreturned.

On Thursday October 23 2003, he walked out of prison. On Wednesday October 29 at 7.30 in the morning, at the Peppermint Park caravan site in Dawlish, south Devon, he was found dead. The pathologist said he had had an epileptic fit in the night.

If he had been at home, if he had had a GP, if he had had a life, maybe it would have been different. As it was, he was living a half-life.

He was fully clothed. His mother said he must have slept that way so he could run away if the police came to get him. She wrote afterwards: "Andrew was a victim before he was born and continued to be a victim. He wanted to come home. In the last 20 years, he never had his own bed. It breaks my heart and fills me with so much pain to know one of my children that I loved, suffered so much for the biggest part of his life, because of my mistakes, to let him go into care, and the mistakes of a system that was supposed to care for him. Why was it so hard to get any real help? Is it easier to just lock someone up to keep them off the streets?"



Friday, June 17


Occasional Ceph Blogging No. 13

The Silurian reef diorama at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Idling around the internet this afternoon as one does, I found the Virtual Silurian Reef. You can use the cursor to 'swim' round the reef, with explanations of the animals available at hotspots. It's the artwork I particularly like, just look at these gorgeous pictures of squid precursors.

The site is a project of the Milwaukee public museum and is just the sort of multimedia educational project a museum should be doing, in my opinion. I'd've been thrilled to have found this as a child. It's nice to know not all American museum boards are infected with the Intelligent Design loonies.



Today We Joined The Petty Bourgeoisie

Today I feel an odd mixture of guilt and happiness: happiness because yay, we exchanged contracts and got the keys to our new Amsterdam flat this morning, but guilty, because now this means we're property owners, and as any good socialist knows, all property is theft - particularly so when what you've bought is formerly social housing (it should still be social housing, but the Dutch housing corporations have been privatised and are now divesting themselves of huge numbers of properties to raise capital; not to mention putting up rents). The part of Amsterdam we are moving to is just north of the Ij river, a couple of minutes from the 5 minute ferry to Centraal Station, in a neighborhood called the Vogelbuurt (the bird neighbourhood) as the streets are, guess what? Named after birds.

The Vogelbuurt in 1983

I've decided just to enjoy the happy, the liberal guilt can wait till 3am one morning when I can't sleep. Also i need to take my mind off medical matters for a while; the hospital just rang, and the current kidney infection isn't responding to the antibiotic that turned me into a walking chemical factory this past 10 days. Now they want to try another, which in practical terms means yet another flavour of horribly upset stomach. The new one is amoxycillin - when the clever stuff doesn't work, they revert to the old faithfuls. Amoxycillin is what you get as a child with a throat infection. To me, that says this kidney infection is streptoccal. Lovely. So you can see why I want to concentrate on the happy...

Lookit the pretty amoxycillin

We now have an awful lot to do. Although the new flat has been renovated it's all very bog standard; walls papered with chip and painted white, wood work done in that disgusting Dutch institutional cream colour. The floor is concrete and we plan to install a hardwood floor if we can ever make our bloody minds up about what wood and what colour. The kitchen while new, is exceedingly basic and also has a weird tiny worktop, made of pressed aluminium, that I've noticed in several flats here. Because they're textured metal they're impractical for food preparation and difficult to clean. What a dumb idea.
It's all going to be a fair amount of work, but we should have sufficient time and person power. The good thing about the flat is that in the tiny garden there is a huge, brick-built shed with light and power outlets. So we're converting it into a study/spare bedroom as it's ideally sized, is just a step across the garden to the kitchen, and means we get some privacy as well when we have visitors.

Hmm, I note I've used the word tiny twice in describing the flat. Amsterdam flats are tiny on the whole. What you pay for here is space and location: a 1 bedroom flat in the south of the city, depending on location, can be listed from 200,000 euro and house prices genrally are very high. Not as silly as SE England, but still way beyond the reach of anyone not having two well-paid white collar family incomes. This is not a place to live spaciously, unless you're an expat on a generous housing allowance.

Still, we managed it, and I can't wait to survey my new domain now. I've loaded the bike panniers with all the necesssaries to camp out while we redecorate and rebuild: (loo-paper, tea milk, sugar, mugs, cleaning stuff and so on), let me at it. And how often do you get to go shopping for oooh-shiny things without any guilt over being extravagant? Tomorrow we're going to spend a lot of money on flooring, and no-one is going to moan about it.

On second thoughts I think I'll wait till Martin comes home before I go over. It seems only right that we should make our visit as the owners together. Besides, I'm tired and I need tea.

But first those bloody antibiotics.


Thursday, June 16


Occasional Ceph Blogging No. 12-ish

I'm not sure whether to cheer in appreciation of a nice little claymation creature or march on the studio for misrepresenting the poor maligned squid...

Dancing Diablo Animates 'Monsters of the Deep' Campaign For The Franklin Institute
June 10

For The Franklin Institute’s (Philadelphia, PA) new Monsters of the Deep exhibition, ad agency Red Tettemer (Philadelphia, PA) commissioned the devilishly talented folks at the DUMBO-based Dancing Diablo Studio (DDS), which designed and produced a pair of vibrantly colored claymation :15s. The spots, Squid and Whale, began airing in the Philadelphia area on June 3, 2005.


These spots aim to show kids that monsters do not live in their closets or under their beds but reside under the sea and can be enjoyed and explored at the Franklin Institute’s Monsters of the Deep exhibition.

Squid opens in a claymation bedroom with one long purple tentacle, then another and another, emerging from under a mattress, undulating around a sleeping child, and resolving to a super which reads “Real monsters live under water. Not your bed.”

One could accuse the filmamkers of being anti-natural sciences, in describing squid as 'monsters' whn they're patently nothing of the sort. They're marine invertebrates who are mercilessly hunted and which pose little if any threat to humanity. We are destroying their habitat as surely as we are the rain forests, but with much less fuss being made. It's ok to kill 'ugly' things, they're just freaks and monsters. Cutesy cartoons like this are hardly going to encourage children to take a rational, observational attitude towards the natural world.

But on the other hand, if something gets a child interested in squid, no matter how scientifically reprehensibly presented it is, surely that's a good thing?



The Joy of Kidneys

As people who know me will already know, I have been ill for some time with chronic and now end-stage kidney failure, resulting from complications after a bout with cancer some years ago.

We ( Martin and I) knew this was likely before and when I came here to Amsterdam, so this is not shock news - commiserations are not necesssary. In light of the fact that I'll be starting renal dialysis soon, ( at the Vrij Universiteit Academic Medical Centre , which I'm glad to say is one of the best teaching hospitals in Europe, so I'm in good hands so far) and that we have just just bought a new flat in Amsterdam and will be moving house very shortly, posting is likely to be sporadic for a while. My younger son is here for the summer too from uni, so I'll be spending as much time with him as I can.

I 'm debating whether or not to blog the whole kidney-failure /hospital dialysis experience, particularly as I'm in a foreign country and not at home in the UK, but I'm concerned it may bore people. My illness may be an endless fascination to me but not others. There's also the hardware issue: if I decide to blog it I'm hoping to get a laptop, either second-hand or borrowed, so I can blog whilst at the hospital. All donations welcome - moving house costs lots :)

I'm hardly the first person to go through this... but, on the other hand, if mine is a new perspective and gives info about the experience that someone else who's facing it can't get anywhere else, then maybe it's a good idea? What would help me deal with it all and make a decision to blog it publicly is some feedback from anyone reading : tell me what you think.

Kidney blogging or not?


Saturday, June 11


Still Laughing Hollowly

Twenty-seven countries are eligible for debt relief under the HIPC
(highly-indebted poor countries initiative). The 18 that have reached completion
point, and will therefore qualify for immediate debt relief, are shown in bold:
Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar,
Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome,
Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia

I've just been listening to the detail of the deal the G8 has made to 'write off third world debt' - in effect a mere drop in the ocean, though I have no doubt Blair will spin it as an amazing triumph that will put him in the history books. He will be, but not for that. But did we really expect anything better from a voluntary arrangement with a country like the US? A country that observes none of its international obligations, moral, legal or financial? And the hypocrites of the EU, knowing the amount of subsidy they vote themselves, for agriculture particularly, could feed the third world by itself.

It's all very well Geldof acclaiming it as 'a great victory'. He's almost as deluded as Blair himself. We have also yet to see what strings are attached, and there will certainly be strings. The small amount of money that has been allocated to debt relief is also being deducted from the total development funds available from the IMF and World Bank. This pl;an falls so far short in so many ways they needn't have bothered. Nice of Sir Bob to pat them on the back though.

The BBC has an excellent fact-packed overview of the 'plan' and the response by aid agencies and other NGO's, here.

I also found this story, which illustrates the effects of laissez-faire economics and an entrenched class system better than anything I could say. This so-called plan is unlikely to have any effect on these people at all, in a country where the lack of a social support system and adequate work means that child slavery is necessary to retain a government sinecure:

India's five-year-old policeman
By Alok Prakash Putul
BBC News, Chhattisgarh

Police officer Saurabh - 'hides behind his mother'

At a time when most children prepare to go to school, Saurabh Nagvanshi is off to the office.

Saurabh works at a police station in Raipur, the capital of India's central state of Chhattisgarh. He is five years old. He is part of an Indian system that allows a family member to take the post of a government employee who dies while in service.

There is no age limit and many families have no alternative but to send young children to work to make ends meet. Saurabh has to feed a family of five and so his mother, Ishwari Devi Nagvanshi, holds his hand and takes him the 110km (68 miles) from Bilaspur, where they live, to Raipur. In this surrogate police job, a child must work one day and go to school the next.
At work, the children are asked to do filing and bring tea and water for senior officials. The children are paid 2,500 rupees ($57) a month. At an age when children are learning how to write, Saurabh now knows how to sign his name when he receives his monthly salary. He is quiet. If you try to talk to him he will either run away or hide behind his mother.
Railway Police superintendent in Raipur, Pawan Dev, says the employment of the children in the police must be seen from a social perspective. The money is a great relief to the families, he says. In addition, the workload is light. But Subhash Mishra, a member of the state's Human Rights Commission, says it is wrong to make children work like this. He says, instead, the families should be given an equal amount of money to pay for the child's upbringing and education.



Saint Bob - Knave, Or Fool?

Corporate circus to take front row for best Live 8 views
By Adam Sherwin, The Times

WHEN the Wembley turnstiles swung open for Live Aid, 72,000 fans dashed for the plum stage-front positions. But at Live 8, a band of gold ticket holders will have the best view as corporate hospitality invades the world’s biggest charity event.

VIP tickets for the Hyde Park Africa awareness concert are already being sold for up to £400 through official corporate hospitality packages.

The Gold Circle tickets guarantee access to food, drink and entry to an exclusive reserved area in front of the stage, offering a close-up view.

More than two million people have entered the text message lottery to win tickets for the July 2 event starring Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, U2 and Madonna.

But barriers will divide the 133,000 ticket winners chosen by computer next Monday from the Gold Circle reserved for 15,000 special guests standing directly in front of the stage.The Gold Circle tickets were yesterday advertised as part of an accommodation package including two nights at the Royal Lancaster or Marriot Maida Vale London hotels.

Guests of the concert sponsors, such as O2, operators of the text lottery and AOL, in charge of the internet concert relay, will also be among the Gold Circle guests. Money raised from corporate packages will fund the staging of the London concert and the simultaneous shows for Africa held across the world.

Clear Channel, the company staging the Hyde Park concert, has offered the packages to block hospitality companies profiting from the event through corporate deals involving touted tickets. It is taking no profit from the deals.

On last night's Radio 4 News Quiz (listen here) someone made the joke that the only Black faces to be seen at Live 8 will be the setup and takedown crews. Later on that evening Saint Bob, dressed in holy white, in what was one of the most hagiographic interviews I've ever seen ( funny as Jonafon Woss is, he's no Paxo) hurried to add that Jay Z, Alicia Keys and IIRC, Snoop Dogg were also appearing in his hideously pallid concert lineup. Woohoo, a few more multimillionaires on stage! Yeah,really inclusive, Bob.

What's enraging me about this whole Geldof publicity stunt for out-of-the-public-eye-currently white musicians is that there were already huge protests planned for the G8 by Globalise Resistance and other anticapitalist and left groups. It was to have been the Genoa of the North - remember Galloway calling for a mass mobilisation to Edinburgh on Question Time?

No wonder Blair is so in favour of Live 8. It deflects public attention away from the politics and onto the pretty singers and poor ikkle photogenic starving brown babies - a classic Roveian bait & switch operation. Mad conspiracy theorists might think that with Geldof's recent knighthood and his closeness to members of the current British government, that the timing is, shall we say, a little convenient for Mr Blair. I, of course, would be utterly horrified should someone suggest such a thing might have happened.

Everyone will dance a bit and have a little self-indulgent weep whilst watching the videos of war and carnage, and give a little money (and we know it's the poorest that give most, not rich people like rock stars or politicians), and then go home with nice phone-camera pics and forget all about pushing for real political change. And the corporate rich fuckers, those cunts responsible for the current condition of Africa and many other nations, the ones who don't actually give to charity much, they can sit smug in their VIP areas thinking what wonderful people they are.

Either Saint Bob is Saint Stupid Fuckwit, for not having noticed he's played right into the hands of Blair and the G8, or he's Saint Devious Bastard for colluding with big money.

But then Bob is big money isn't he? From 2001:

With last week's sale of deckchair.com, Bob Geldof earned himself half a million and a 3-year contract at 100,000 pounds a year to stay involved. Two years ago, when he sold his production company, Planet 24, to Carlton, he bagged a cool five million. He has been transmogrified from Bob of Boomtown Rats, to Sir Bob of Bandaid, to Bob the Businessman.

Draw your own conclusions.

Deckchair.com is just one of Saint Bob's businesses and it would not be exaggerating to call him a plutocrat. Recently he suggested that we all give all our excess personal wealth to charity.

Haha. Ahaha. Listen to the hollow laughing.



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