30 September 2009

Ending caste discrimination

The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth basis. It also abolished the practice of "untouchability". Unfortunately, the caste system still exists. Discrimination based on the caste system also still exists.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has now drawn attention to India's caste system, much to the embarrassment of the Indian government. From Times of India
UN set to treat caste as human rights violation

NEW DELHI: If the recent genome study denying the Aryan-Dravidian divide has established the antiquity of caste segregations in marriage, the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva looks set to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. This, despite India's opposition and following Nepal's breaking ranks on the culturally sensitive issue.

Nepal has emerged as the first country from South Asia -- the region where untouchability has been traditionally practiced -- to declare support for the draft principles and guidelines published by UNHRC four months ago for ``effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent'' -- the UN terminology for caste inequities.

In a side-event to the session on September 16, Nepalese minister Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam said his county welcomed the idea mooted by the UNHRC document to involve ``regional and international mechanism, the UN and its organs'' to complement national efforts to combat caste discrimination. This is radically different from India's stated aversion to the internationalization of the caste problem.

Much to India's embarrassment, Nepal's statement evoked an immediate endorsement from the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, a South African Tamil. Besides calling Nepal's support ``a significant step by a country grappling with this entrenched problem itself'', Pillay's office said it would ``like to encourage other states to follow this commendable example''.

The reference to India was unmistakable especially since Pillay had pressed the issue during her visit to New Delhi in March. Pillay not only asked India to address ``its own challenges nationally, but show leadership in combating caste-based discrimination globally''. The granddaughter of an indentured labourer taken to South Africa from a village near Madurai, Pillay recalled that in 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had compared untouchability to apartheid.

Adding to India's discomfiture, Sweden, in its capacity as the president of the Europeon Union, said, ``caste-based discrimination and other forms of discrimination based on work and descent is an important priority for EU''. If this issue continues to gather momentum, UNHRC may in a future session adopt the draft principles and guidelines and, to impart greater legal force, send them for adoption to the UN General Assembly.

The draft principles specifically cited caste as one of the grounds on which more than 200 million people in the world suffer discrimination. ``This type of discrimination is typically associated with the notion of purity and pollution and practices of untouchability, and is deeply rooted in societies and cultures where this discrimination is practiced,'' it said.

Though India succeeded in its efforts to keep caste out of the resolution adopted by the 2001 Durban conference on racism, the issue has since re-emerged in a different guise, without getting drawn into the debate over where caste and race are analogous.
See also - (UK) Daily Telegraph

UN webcast on 16 June 2009

Of course it is a human rights issue.

29 September 2009

G-20 now bigger than G-8

The Leaders' Statement at the Pittsburgh Summit of G-20 of 25 September 2009 stated that
Today, we designated the G-20 as the premier forum for our international economic cooperation. We have asked our representatives to report back at the next meeting with recommendations on how to maximize the effectiveness of our cooperation.
G-8 will now focus more on security.

How long before G-20 becomes G-25?

28 September 2009

Vegemite v2 - iSnack 2.0

I wrote about the launch of the new Vegemite product in June, and Kraft's quest for a new name.

On Saturday, the name was announced. iSnack 2.0.

Lots of 'happy little Vegemites'* in Australia are not happy. Surely no right-minded person would describe that they are having iSnack 2.0 on toast.

According to ABC - Kraft iSuck 2.0

*happy little Vegemites

27 September 2009

How would you spend over one sextillion dollars?

Dalton Chiscolm sued Bank of America for a lot of money, complaining about poor service.

Chiscolm asked for 1,784 billion, trillion dollars. A billion is 1 followed by nine zeroes. A trillion is 1 followed by 12 zeroes. Multiplied, that would be 1 followed by 21 zeroes - a sextillion.


or one point seven eight four sextillion dollars.

More money than that bank would realistically own or indeed every other bank on the planet combined.

What on earth did Mr Chiscolm expect he could buy with all that money?

See Reuters.

26 September 2009

not just about the bookcase

I've written previously about bookcases, particularly design. Writing for BBC News, Siobhan Toman suggests that the real beauty of the bookcase lies in the contents.
[I]t is designed to be fit for purpose - supporting and displaying books. It's not about the finesse of the furniture - it's a means to an end. A bookcase is like a picture frame - the real design is about what you put on it.
Peter Sandico's bookcases
'The first thing I see when I wake up' - Peter Sandico's bookcases

But why are we so keen to show off our books - necessitating all these shelves and swelling the already bursting coffers of Swedish furnishers? Books aren't essential - you don't need them to sit on or eat off (unless you are a student). If you want to read, or check a reference, there are libraries.

And all those bonnet busters by the likes of Jane Austen and George Elliot - they can be called up at the touch of a mouse thanks to the numerous websites which reproduce out-of-copyright books. It's not the same as curling up with a paperback - but how often do you really re-read the old classics?

When Penguin issued its first paperbacks in the 1930s, they were designed as an impulse purchase - for the same price of a packet of cigarettes. And no one keeps them after they are spent.

Books were immensely prestigious. Not only did they show how very learned you were but they were also very expensive
Leslie Geddes-Brown
Interior design writer

Surely books should be temporary, disposable items?

And yet, more than 500 years after the invention of the printing press, the importance and value of keeping books is showing no sign of waning. The internet was supposed to spell the end of the printed word - instead one of its earliest success stories was an online book shop, Amazon.

It's hard to escape the theory that there is an exhibitionist side to our bookcase obsession - it's about showing off how much you have read, or plan to read, or pretend to have read. You are subtly suggesting that you are the sort of person who keeps Finnegans Wake handy, for example, just in case you ever fancy dipping in for a quick, albeit incomprehensible, catch-up.

Problem with alphabetical is forgetting the author or title
Organise by subject, like gardening, cooking, novels
Tall books at the bottom
Paperbacks nearer top
Books you never read out of reach
Source: Leslie Geddes-Brown

Ever since manuscripts were first bound, books have had a hallowed air.

"Books were immensely prestigious," says Ms Geddes-Brown. "Not only did they show how very learned you were - you could read - but they were also very expensive. At one throw, you proved your intellectual and monetary value."

Peter Sandico is a firm believer in books as an extension of the self. A book blogger, who is collecting photos of readers' shelves in his "bookcase project", he says the magic of book display is the ease with which they can be manipulated to present a certain front.

"The books we choose to display in our bookcases say a lot as to how we want others to see us," says Mr Sandico. "People who want to appear to have serious or academic reading tastes display their classics, while keeping popular novels at the back of the bookcases."

Billy bookcases
The minimalist approach - bookcase, but no books

If you are more relaxed about the presentation of your shelves, they can give an insight into an owner's character, he says.

"Books somehow reflect an aspect of our personality that people don't easily see. I have a friend who has a reputation for being an ice queen, but when I went to her place, I noticed all these cheesy romantic novels in her bookcases."

There's also a magpie aspect to our bookcase love. Books, like anything that can be bought in quantity, appeal to our collecting, acquisitive, instinct. Classic novels are always being re-issued with new cover designs and in different boxed sets. Historical reference sets can be beautiful, leather bound and often extremely expensive.

Faking it

They are meant to be looked at and admired, says Mr Sandico.

"Being a bibliophile myself, I like to take a peek at what other bibliophiles have in their shelves. It's the same thing as any collection - if you're into shoes, you'd get giddy looking at other people's shoe collection. With a book collection, there's always something surprising to see. You never know what's tucked in the shelves."

Atelier Abigail Ahern's Bookcase wallpaper
Is bookcase wallpaper better than the real thing?

When bookshelves aren't giving away our deepest secrets or providing browsing or boasting opportunities, they can be decor essentials in their own right, says Ms Geddes-Brown. In fact, bookcases occasionally have nothing at all to do with reading.

"People definitely buy books to fill up bookcases; sometimes they cover up the bindings to get an overall, supposedly elegant, effect. And interior designers sometimes order books by the metre to fill up a library, if there is one in the house."

But don't despair if you don't have your own interior designer styling your shelves. If you long for the library look but don't have the necessary number of novels, there are companies who make fake books to fill the gaps (in your shelves if not your knowledge).

There are even ranges of "bookcase" wallpaper, which recreate the well-stocked effect for a fraction of the effort. Although, as Ms Geddes-Brown points out, "the repetition of the same books does give the game away".

For many of us, of course, the problem can be more about being book-rich, shelf-poor.

When this occurs and the charity shop rejects a box of your well-thumbed tomes, it might be comforting to know that you can get a "height extender" for the ubiquitous Billy.

I recently resorted to it - but then I keep two copies of Finnegans Wake, just in case visitors miss the first one.

I need a couple of new bookcases. Two solid ones are stacked to overflowing. I hide them too now, as visitors used to ask to borrow my books all the time and it would be years before they were returned and sometimes in poorer condition.

25 September 2009

evangelising ignorance

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was first published on 24 November 1859. To celebrate the 150th anniversary, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort's evangelism ministry The Way of the Master will be giving away 50 000 copies of a 'special edition' of the book to top universities in the United States.

Here is his YouTube video.

Here are two YouTube videos from people who think Kirk Cameron is an idot.

24 September 2009

On the edge of Earth

Uploaded by student Justin Lee to CNN iReport on 14 September 2009
Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the doors for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors.

Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh have always dreamed of seeing the earth from space, but until recently, they believed that they had neither the budget nor the technical expertise to get a camera into the stratosphere.

Early September, in a moment of creative inspiration, the pair devised an innovative low-cost, low-effort method for space photography. The device they created cost less than $150, and they were able to build it without any significant modifications to out-of-the-box electronics.

The secret behind their success was figuring out which consumer-ready components to pick-and-match to solve the problems space photographers face. Their device had to: rise to an altitude high enough to capture space photographs, withstand extreme temperatures of the stratosphere, and be trackable/recoverable.

The students knew that helium-filled weather balloons were capable of reaching altitudes of 20+ miles, high enough to photograph the curvature of the earth. Weather balloons were also relatively inexpensive; a 300g latex balloon can be ordered online for $20 and can be filled with helium at a party store for $30. If they could keep their camera device light, then a 300g balloon would have enough lift to carry their device into the upper stratosphere.

Temperatures in the stratosphere can get as low as -55°C, and at that temperature, batteries stop working and electronics fail. To get around this problem without resorting to the use of expensive temperature-resistant hardware or heating devices, the pair used a styrofoam cooler and handwarmers pressed tightly against operating electronics to help keep their equipment functioning throughout the camera’s flight.

Locating and retrieving a camera after a near-space launch is a difficult task. Typically, weather balloons are tracked using GPS radio modems which are heavy, cost in the thousands of dollars, and often require complex hardware configurations. In lieu of purchasing a radio modem for their space-bound camera, Lee and Yeh opted to use a $50 GPS-equipped cell phone. The cell phone was secured to the camera and constantly reported its GPS location via text message.

Lee and Yeh launched their balloon from the town of Sturbridge, MA on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009. Their balloon-camera-cell phone device reached an altitude of 18 miles before returning to earth. At that height, both the curvature of the planet as well as the blackness of space were photographed by the camera. Pictures taken show cloud formations speckling the blue earth below, and the edges of our atmosphere glow a brighter blue, reflecting the sun’s radiance.

“We looked at these photographs and thought wow, these are beautiful—this is artwork,” remarks Lee. “This inspired us to sit down and really think deep about the relationships between science and art.”

After their launch, the duo have founded a website, http://1337arts.com dedicated to promoting the beauty of scientific art and bridging the science and art communities. This could be something big,” remarks Lee. “Imagine if the art kids and the science kids in high school got together to do something like [a space launch].”

Yeh stressed the groundbreaking nature of their work. “The fact that we were able to accomplish space photography on such a low budget and with minimal electronic modifications proves that it’s really possible for anyone—anyone at all—to do. Imagine how many students might be inspired if their high school science teacher took the time to give his students an out-of-this-world experience.”

At a time when budget cuts are forcing NASA to get cut back on spending, and at a time when high school science teachers struggling to capture the interests of students, low-budget space launches could be just what we all need.
Also footage


23 September 2009

Sydney dust storm

We had the dust storm yesterday in Canberra and it passed to Sydney today and made the news big time. It barely rated a mention in Canberra yesterday.

ABC published some great photos. This one was exceptional given the contrasting colour and balance. Compliments to the photographer.

(photo: ABC Ryan Lahiff)

It works as orange and blue are opposites in the colour wheel, to put it simply.

22 September 2009


Dow Jones, owned by News Corporation, has announced that its publication Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) will cease in December. From press release

HONG KONG (Sept. 21, 2009) — This fall, Dow Jones & Company will focus on its core publications to better serve readers and advertisers in key markets, both in print and online, to catapult the company's growth in the burgeoning Asian marketplace.

As a result, the Far Eastern Economic Review will cease publication in December so opinion and commentary resources from Asia can be expanded across all Dow Jones properties. Unfortunately, despite several attempts at invigorating the brand, the REVIEW's continued losses in advertising revenue and readers are now unsustainable.

Dow Jones has expanded local content from Asia in The Wall Street Journal print and online editions with an expanded news hole, redesigned WSJ.com, expansion of chinese.WSJ.com, new mobile content delivery via BlackBerry and iPhone devices, and the launch of a Japanese-language Web site coming this fall.

These investments into Dow Jones Asia have translated into an increased print circulation of 6.3% year-over-year for the Jan.-June period, led by a substantial increase in subscriptions, with particularly significant growth in Hong Kong, India, Malaysia and Taiwan. Average daily circulation also increased to 85,822 copies from 80,706 year-over-year.

By increasing resources into growth areas at Dow Jones, we'll better serve a diverse group of readers and advertisers across Asia," said Christine Brendle, publisher of The Wall Street Journal Asia and managing director, Asia, Dow Jones Consumer Media Group.

"The decision to cease publication of the REVIEW is a difficult one made after a careful study of the magazine's prospects in a challenging business climate," said Todd Larsen, chief operating officer at Dow Jones Consumer Media Group. "It has a rich history of pioneering journalism and helped to set the standard for the press in Asia in the post-World War II era when local publications often lacked the freedom to report honestly. Dow Jones is proud to have been associated with the REVIEW and its invaluable contributions to the understanding of the Asia region.

Hugo Restall, the REVIEW's editor since Oct. 2004, will remain a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board, which he joined in Feb. 2004. Mr. Restall served as editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia from 1999 to 2003.

Current REVIEW subscribers will be offered a one-year subscription to asia.wsj.com, the regionally dedicated edition of the leading provider of business and financial news and analysis on the Web.

The Far Eastern Economic Review was launched in 1946.

What a pity. I used to read it for work in two different jobs. We never called it REVIEW, but "Far Eastern'. It was a great publication. Nury Vitachi used to write a brilliant column called Travellers' Tales.

21 September 2009

peace after 60 years

The Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach has been feuding for 60 years since brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler disagreed about something and went their separate ways. Today, the town came together and ended their feud. From BBC News
Adidas and Puma end 60-year feud
Adi (left) and Rudolf Dassler
The two brothers never resolved their feud

The German sportswear companies Puma and Adidas are to end a feud started 60 years ago by their founding brothers.

Adi and Rudolf Dassler started making sports shoes together in their mother's wash-room in the 1920s.

They fell out during World War II, probably over political differences, and founded firms on either side of a river in southern Germany.

On Monday 21 September, employees of both companies will shake hands and then play a football match.

It is a big deal in the cobblestoned Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, where two of the world's largest sportswear companies are based.

First joint activities

When the brothers set up their separate companies in 1948 the town was also split, with residents loyal to one or other of the only major employers.

In a joint release, the two companies said they were making up to support the Peace One Day organisation, which has its annual non-violence day on Monday.

They say that the events will be the first joint activities held by the two companies since the brothers left their shared firm in 1948.

Neither group is now controlled by the descendants of its founding families, although Rudolf's grandson Frank Dassler raised some eyebrows in the town by working for both Puma and Adidas.

Since 2007, Puma has been majority-owned by PPR, the French luxury goods maker that also owns Gucci.

Adidas Group is much more widely-owned, with no individual shareholder having more than 5%.

See also Die Welt (Deutsch), Sydney Morning Herald (more info) and media releases from
- Peace One Day
- Puma
- Adidas

Not only are those two companies competitive against each other, their employees were too. Perhaps that may have been why both are so successful.

20 September 2009

headline of the month

Four months since we last had one. Better late than never.

From Perth's Sunday Times (online as PerthNow)
WTF? PM Kevin Rudd goes f*%@ing ballistic, again
What the?

19 September 2009

shiver me timbers

Shiver me timbers, today was Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Of course, real pirates today operating in the South China Sea and off the coast of Somalia are no laughing matter.

18 September 2009

Amy Walker can talk like you but not true blue enough

Amy Walker is a performer, originally from Seattle, who is skillful in adopting quite a large number of accents. Or tries to anyway.

The comments to this YouTube video are an interesting read, particular those from native speakers. Actually her Australian accent is close but sounds fake.

Still, a major improvement on Meryl Streep's effort in A Cry in the Dark (Evil Angels).

See MSNBC interview with Amy Walker

17 September 2009

How far can an apple fall?

There is a proverb that is often cited - the apple does not fall far from the tree, to mean children resemble their parents.

According to Wolfgang Mieder from the Department of German and Russian at the University of Vermont, the proverb is of German origin. Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm.

It is also a common Hebrew proverb. .התפוח לא נופל רחוק מהעץ

Well, the apple (any random one on an apple tree), is not going to fall any further than the height of the tree, assuming that the tree is not situated on a slope.

The apple tree, Malus domestica reaches a height of between three to 12 metres (10 to 39 feet) so the most an apple will fall, assuming the tree is growing on flat ground, is 12 metres.

So basically the literal meaning of the phrase is true most of the time. Duh!

How this has anything to with children being similar to their parents is quite perplexing. Some children are nothing like their parents.

15 September 2009

Obama the socialist?

Protestors descended on Washington DC on Saturday 12 September 2009 in fear and lack of understanding.

There seemed to be concern about government spending on health care. Strange, these same people didn't complain about the government bailing out the financial sector.

Perhaps they should complain about their taxes being spent on schools too, and on public transport.

Barack Obama was elected to do a job. Critics should deal with it. After all, many others had to deal with that imbecile of a president who occupied the office previously. He spent even more money on a war half a world away.

- Wall Street Journal
- New York Times

14 September 2009


Pears grown by Gao Xianzhang of Hexia in northern China.

If meant to resemble the Buddha, then it is highly disrespectful. After all, no one would dare make a cake in the shape of Jesus to eat.

Or if a baby, why would anybody eat food in the shape unless they have cannibalistic tendencies?

Sheesh. Whatever its shape, it will still taste like a pear.

13 September 2009

12 September 2009

to be a lonely bee

Do any bees living in a hive get claustrophobic?

Can a fish in a school drop out?

11 September 2009

football - semi-final 2

Western Bulldogs 4.2 6.6 11.8 16.11 (107)
Brisbane Lions 0.6 3.7 5.7 8.8 (56)

Western Bulldogs:
Hahn 4, Eagleton 3, Minson 2, Higgins 2, Ward 2, Cooney, Griffen, Gilbee
Brisbane Lions: Brown 3, Bradshaw 3, McGrath, Redden

Western Bulldogs:
Eagleton, Boyd, Cooney, Morris, Hargrave, Akermanis, Picken
Brisbane Lions: Brown, Power, Brennan, Clark, Black

Western Bulldogs:
Griffen (calf)

Umpires: Stevic, Meredith, Ryan

Official crowd: 47,030 at the MCG

Not only was the game on delayed telecast (not live but 45 minutes after actual start time), it was also a terrible game to watch and I only caught parts of it.

The season is now over for my team. Still, it has been a great improvement from last year.

Shermo (photo from Courier Mail)

Bam Bam (photo from Courier Mail)

Jared (photo by Courier Mail)

Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

Also known as the Butterfly Nebula or Bug Nebula, this photo was recently released by NASA and was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

source (including larger high resolution images)

10 September 2009

book - finished reading

The Danihers: The story of football's favourite family as told to Adam McNicol (Allen & Unwin 2009)

From publisher's notes

On 1 September 1990, four brothers made Australian Rules history by playing together for the one team, the Essendon Football Club, something that is unlikely to ever happen again.

Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris Daniher grew up in a tiny Riverina town where they played footy on Saturdays and Rugby League after mass on Sundays. They reached the elite level in an era when tobacco sponsorship and a few beers with the opposition after a game were the norm. It was a time when Jim Daniher could throw a teenage son into a trade deal and Kevin Sheedy and Edna Daniher could conspire to make a dream come true. But it wasn't all plain sailing: injuries cut short a promising career, trading between clubs was largely unregulated, the Swans were shunted off to Sydney and coaching changed dramatically.

This is an action-packed story of the period when the national Aussie Rules competition emerged and football became big business, and an unassuming bunch of blokes from the bush endeared themselves to footy fans and became part of football folklore.

About Terry Daniher Neale Daniher Anthony Daniher Chris Daniher
After a combined 752 VFL/AFL games, the Danihers continue to be involved in football. Since his playing and coaching days finished, Terry has excelled as a country football ambassador for the AFL. At the start of 2009, Neale took up the position of football operations manager for the West Coast Eagles, having coached the Melbourne Football Club for ten years. Anthony's professional life is the management of Daniher Property Services, and he keeps a keen eye on his son, Darcy, who was drafted to the Bombers in 2007 under the father-son rule. Following in his father's footsteps, Chris is farming and keeping Ungarie Football Club alive.
I don't usually read biographies about sports people (the last one was James Hird's autobiography), but this one was an excellent read. Aside from the four brothers being absolute legends of the game, Adam McNicol's descriptions of Essendon Football Club a generation ago are amazing. Once upon a time after games, players would light up cigarettes in the change rooms or have a beer with the other team. They were different times then.

09 September 2009

Monet's garden at Giverny

I like this painting by Claude Monet of the Japanese Footbridge (1899) and hung at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

I also like this photo taken by Tran Huu Dung, managing editor of Arts & Letters Daily.


9.09 am on 09.09.09

08 September 2009

switching left... on the road

At 6.00am yesterday, the drivers of Samoa switched from driving on the right side of the road to the left side. This was mandated by the government to bring Samoa in line with Australia and New Zealand, where it is cheaper to import appropriate sided vehicles (steering wheel and driver on the right) compared to those from Europe and the United States.

Also, while the population of Samoa is nearly 185 000, some 170 000 expatriates live in Australia and New Zealand.

Here is some raw vision from Associated Press (associated article)

The last time countries made the switch was Iceland and Sweden in the 1960s, and Nigeria, Ghana and Yemen in the 1970s.

(except Samoa is now left/yellow - from BBC News magazine)

There is an interesting article in Wikipedia that explains the origin of why particular countries drive on their sides. Fascinating!

07 September 2009

Beyond reasonable doubt

David Grann wrote a brilliant article 'Trial by Fire' in The New Yorker about Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for the murder of his daughters through arson.

See also Chicago Tribune (of 9 December 2004).

There is a suggestion that the original evidence may have been incorrect. The state of Texas may well have killed an innocent man.

Surely an argument against capital punishment.

06 September 2009

another Banksy destroyed

The Guardian has reported that a (yet another) Banksy work has been just about been destroyed.
Banksy artwork painted over in Hackney

Caricature of royal family that graced building in east London for eight years is removed by council

Adam Gabbatt
Thursday 3 September 2009 18.54 BST

Before and after pictures of a Banksy artwork in Stoke Newington, London

Before and after pictures of a Banksy artwork in Stoke Newington, London. Photograph: Hackney Citizen

Council officials have painted over a Banksy graffito sketch from which a reworked version was derived as the cover artwork for the 2003 single Crazy Beat by the band Blur.

The artwork – a cartoon of the royal family waving from a balcony – had been left untouched on the side of a block of flats in Stoke Newington, east London, for eight years before Hackney council intervened last week.

Officials removed the sketch by Banksy – whose works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds – as his largest exhibition to date, in Bristol, prepared to close. The exhibition has attracted over 300,000 visitors since 13 June, raising £45,000 in museum donations, and is estimated to have been worth £10m to the local economy.

Banksy vs Bristol Museum featured more than 100 works of art. The notoriously secretive artist was reported to have been secretly adding new installations to the exhibition by night.

A Stoke Newington blogger known only as Kris broke the news of the artwork's removal.

She reported that council workers said they had told their employers about the importance of the artwork. "We knew it was a Banksy, love. It's a Stoke Newington landmark; we know that. We told them, but they wouldn't listen," wrote Kris.

The owner of the building, Sophie Attrill, told the Hackney Gazette that she was devastated when she saw the wall being painted.

"I looked out the window and saw what they were doing, so I ran downstairs and I told them to stop," said Attrill. Hackney council said it tried to contact Attrill before ordering the artwork to be painted over, but notices asking her to remove or cover up the piece had not reached her address due to the Land Registry having the incorrect contact details.

Alan Laing, the Hackney council cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said the council removed all graffiti regardless of artistic value.

"Hackney council does not make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean. We made four attempts to contact the owner of the property to inform her of our intention to remove the graffiti," said Laing.

"We are now speaking with her about how to resolve the issue."

It's not the first time Banksy has had his street art removed by authorities. In October last year Westminster city council removed a mural from Newman Street in central London after the deputy council leader, Robert Davis, said keeping it would be "condoning" graffiti.

In 2007 a piece showing a monkey preparing to blow up a bunch of bananas at Waterloo station in London was painted over by staff.

See also BBC News. No wonder the building owner (and by definition, owner of the artwork) was upset. The Banksy work was reportedly valued at £200,000.

Perhaps these local councils need to keep up with the times.

05 September 2009

football - elimination final 2

Brisbane Lions 4.4 8.7 10.10 16.15 (111)
Carlton 5.4 8.6 14.10 15.14 (104)

Brisbane Lions
: Bradshaw 5, Brown 4, Sherman 2, Johnstone 2, Rich, Redden, Hooper
Carlton: Fevola 3, Cloke 2, Stevens 2, Betts, Carrazzo, Garlett, Houlihan, Judd, Kreuzer, Murphy, Russell

Brisbane Lions
: Black, Bradshaw, Brown, Clark, Sherman, Power
Carlton: Judd, Fevola, Murphy, Kreuzer, Fevola, Stevens, Carrazzo

Brisbane Lions
: Josh Drummond (quad) and Joel Macdonald (TBA) replaced in selected side by Rhan Hooper and James Hawksley
Carlton: Joseph (ankle)

Umpires: McLaren, Wenn, Jeffery
Official crowd: 32,702 at the Gabba.

Woohoo! I thought my team was gone in the final quarter with 30 points down, but it was an awesome comeback. From Jon Ralph writing for the Herald Sun

Two minutes into the final term of last night's elimination final against Carlton, Brisbane was done and dusted.

Thirty points down and seemingly shut out through the heroics of Chris Judd and Brendan Fevola, Daniel Bradshaw kicked what seemed a consolation goal.

Then Brisbane kicked another. And another. And another.

One extraordinary quarter later, Brisbane had ripped the heart out of Carlton with a comeback of astonishing, audacious proportions.

The Lions would kick six unanswered goals - with two each from Jon Brown and Bradshaw - to steal a game the Blues had every right to feel was safely theirs.

By the time the siren sounded, the Lions had triumphed by seven points in one of the more extraordinary quarters in recent finals football.
Next Friday, my team plays Western Bulldogs.

after the win (photo by Darren England for Courier Mail)

Bam Bam (photo by Darren England for Courier Mail)

Blacky (photo by Mervyn Lowe for Geoff Slattery Media via ABC)

04 September 2009

Lizzie Miller is perfect the way she is

A photograph of model Lizzie Miller (by Walter Chin) featured on page 194 of the September issue of Glamour magazine has the fashion world talking.

"rocks fashion world" according to MSNBC Today
"shocked by this photo" according to Atlanta Journal Constitution
"shook the world" according to UK Daily Mail
"caused a storm" according to UK The Guardian

Here, she appears on MSNBC Today

Lizzie Miller isn't "plus size". Rather, those stick thin skeletal models are "minus size". She should be benchmarked as normal.

More importantly, why is the magazine spelt glamour and not glamor? Surely by convention, American spellings of similar -our words should be humour, labour, etc

02 September 2009

unbelievable cruelty

From Mercy For Animals

Thrown, dropped, mutilated, and ground-up alive. This is the shocking reality faced by hundreds of thousands of chicks each day at the world's largest egg-laying breed hatchery – Hy-Line International in Spencer, Iowa.

New hidden camera footage obtained at this facility during a Mercy For Animals undercover investigation gives a disturbing glimpse into the cruel and industrialized reality of modern hatcheries.

The warm, comforting, and protective wings of these newly hatched chicks' mothers have been replaced with massive machines, quickly moving conveyor belts, harsh handling, and distressing noise. These young animals are sorted, discarded, and handled like mere cogs in a machine.

For the nearly 150,000 male chicks who hatch every 24 hours at this Hy-Line facility, their lives begin and end the same day. Grabbed by their fragile wings by workers known as "sexers," who separate males from females, these young animals are callously thrown into chutes and hauled away to their deaths. They are destined to die on day one because they cannot produce eggs and do not grow large or fast enough to be raised profitably for meat. Their lives are cut short when they are dropped into a grinding machine – tossed around by a spinning auger before being torn to pieces by a high-pressure macerator.

Over 30 million male chicks meet their fate this way each year at this facility.

For the surviving females, this is the beginning of a life of cruelty and confinement at the hands of the egg industry. Before even leaving the hatchery they will be snapped by their heads into a spinning debeaker – a portion of their sensitive beaks removed by a laser. Workers toss and rummage through them before they are placed 100 per crowded box and shipped across the country.

The callous disregard for animal welfare at this facility is not isolated. In fact, the conditions documented during this investigation are completely standard and acceptable within the commercial egg industry. Referred to by Hy-Line corporate leaders as mere "genetic products," these chicks are treated just as they are viewed – as inanimate objects, rather than the sentient creatures they are.

Egg producers have gone to great lengths to hide their cruel practices from consumers. Grocery aisles from coast-to-coast are stocked with egg cartons featuring idyllic images of free-roaming hens and crowing roosters. These deceptive marketing gimmicks conceal the cruel and violent nature of industrial hatcheries and egg factory farms.

Consumers have a right to know the truth behind egg production.

Citing the troubling findings of this investigation, Mercy For Animals is calling on the nation's 50 largest grocery chains to require that all eggs sold in their stores bear a label reading, "Warning: Male chicks are ground-up alive by the egg industry."

Reported by Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle

If living sentient beings are going to be treated as commodities, the least that humans can do is to treat them humanely.

If it is really necessary to destroy "unproductive" male chicks, then their "disposal" should be supervised by humane societies.

01 September 2009

brought to you by the Swiss, Turkish and Armenian governments

When the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey all issue the same media release, it has to be historical and important.
Berne, Yerevan, Ankara, 31 August 2009

The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey have agreed to start their internal political consultations on the two protocols – the “Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations” and the “Protocol on the development of bilateral relations” – which have been initiated in the course of their efforts under Swiss mediation.

The two Protocols provide for a framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations within a reasonable timeframe. The political consultations will be completed within six weeks, following which the two Protocols will be signed and submitted to the respective Parliaments for the ratification on each side. Both sides will make their best efforts for the timely progression of the ratification in line with their constitutional and legal procedures.

The normalization of bilateral relations will contribute to the regional peace and stability. The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey are committed are pursuing their joint efforts with the assistance of Switzerland.
Considering the animosity between the two countries, and their respective diaspora around the world in relation to historical events of 1915-17, this is a momentous development.

There is hope for Cyprus after all.