Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

London

Lookalikies…

International Man of Mystery...

International Man of Mystery...

CEO of G4S

CEO of G4S

Tossed the toilet and jumped the shark…

The heir to the Dutch throne was in the small eastern village of Rhenen on Queen’s Day, April 30, where he entered – and won – a traditional village game of toilet-bowl tossing.

Throne, geddit?

Well, I guess we have Morris dancing which is vastly more embarrassing.

But speaking at a function [not a bodily one we hope] in Rotterdam on Wednesday, the prince admitted he felt ashamed when hurling the orange-coloured ceramic potty given the lack of proper sanitary conditions in the developing world.

“Here in the Netherlands there are towns that take part in the throwing of toilet-bowls for a laugh,” he said.

“I participated with a smile, but not without shame in thinking about the some 2.6 billion people around the world that do not have this most basic infrastructure to fulfil a daily need with dignity.”

And therein lies the rub. It isn’t basic infrastructure in the sense of simple infrastructure. Here is a bit from Wikipedia on one of my Victorian heroes… You know those folks who built the modern world like George Stephenson and Nikola Tesla.

At the time, the Thames was little more than an open sewer, devoid of any fish or other wildlife, and an obvious health hazard to Londoners. Bazalgette’s solution (similar to a proposal made by painter John Martin 25 years earlier) was to construct 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of street sewers, to intercept the raw sewage which up until then flowed freely through the streets and thoroughfares of London. The outflows were diverted downstream where they were dumped, untreated, into the Thames. Extensive sewage treatment facilities were built only decades later.

The scheme involved major pumping stations at Deptford (1864) and at Crossness (1865) on the Erith marshes, both on the south side of the Thames, and at Abbey Mills (in the River Lea valley, 1868) and on the Chelsea Embankment (close to Grosvenor Bridge; 1875), north of the river.

The system was opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865, although the whole project was not actually completed for another ten years.

Bazalgette’s foresight may be seen in the diameter of the sewers. When planning the network he took the densest population, gave every person the most generous allowance of sewage production and came up with a diameter of pipe needed. He then said ‘Well, we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen’ and doubled the diameter to be used. His foresight allowed for the unforeseen increase in population density with the introduction of the tower block; with the original, smaller pipe diameter the sewer would have overflowed in the 1960s [that would have brought meant the stinking '60s rather than the swinging ones - George Harrison would have been in his wellies rather than barefoot on that album cover crossing Abbey Road], rather than coping until the present day as it has.

The unintended consequence of the new sewer system was to eliminate cholera not only in places that no longer stank, but wherever water supplies ceased to be contaminated by sewage. The basic premise of this expensive project, that miasma spread cholera infection, was wrong; however, instead of this causing the project to fail, the new sewers succeeded in virtually eliminating the disease by removing the contamination.

[the good old "right for the wrong reason"].

Bazalgette’s capacity for hard work was remarkable; every connection to the sewerage system by the various Vestry Councils had to be checked and Bazalgette did this himself and the records contain thousands of linen tracings with handwritten comments in Indian ink on them “Approved JWB” “I do not like 6″ used here and 9″ should be used. JWB” and so on. It is perhaps not surprising that his health suffered as a result. The records are held by Thames Water in large blue binders gold-blocked reading “Metropolitan Board of Works” and then dated, usually two per year.

So, it isn’t simple. The richest and greatest city the World has ever seen only managed it by 1875 and then only via much kicking and screaming and even then the effective treatment of sewage took much longer to achieve. And it only started when the stink reached parliament. A jaundiced chap like me might suggest these days that is were the Dame Judiths come from. These are massive civil works and it is naive beyond belief that a toilet alone constitutes sanitation. When my parents worked in Zambia before I was born Kenneth Kaunda, one of the less murderous despots of that benighted continent (and he was up against some stiff opposition with the likes of Idi Amin – my parents had Indian friends and smuggled gold out of Uganda – the border guards were easy to bribe if you had Marlboros and Scotch and some USD anyway after a couple of swigs of The Quickening they wouldn’t give a toss if you had 10kgs of cocaine a murdered hooker and a Picasso in the boot of the car).

And herein lies the fundamental point about the developing world. It is poor because it is poor. It is poor because the infrastructure Dutch crown-princes take for granted is neither obvious nor simple. It is fundamental but that is not the same thing as simple. It’s just an engineering problem. “Just”? Tell that one to the shade of Kelly Johnson because you’d leave with your teeth in a paper bag. It’s like the old saw from the ’80s about the planet producing enough food to feed everyone – you “just” need to distribute it – yeah now if I could master that TESCO would be scared. It just isn’t that simple. You need distribution and that means roads and service stations and motor dealerships and that means electricity and reasonably uncorrupt courts and building storm drains and sewers and railways and airports and getting investment done without having to pay grand an hour hookers. Modernity cannot be achieved one system at a time because all systems interlink. How do you run a railway if the phone network is pants? How do you install or maintain a phone network if the roads are dreadful? How do you persuade the skilled people to stay in such countries and not take-up that offer from Japan if the lifestyle is medieval and you have to shit in a bucket and chuck it out the window?

Moreover it’s like some of the demented anti HIV/AIDS campaigns. Let’s roll-out anti-retrovirals like smarties to Africa pro-bono (and also pro the ego of Bono). Won’t work. These are powerful drugs and they need doctors to prescribe them and check things and adjust specific doses of the cocktail and some drugs need refrigeration and that means electricity and trucks and roads for the getting them about and…

I guess what I am saying is you can’t just have toilets. Or cake. You have to have the full nine yards. There is a model and it is capitalism. It’s not an especially quick fix (though alleged quick fixes do more harm than good) but, I dunno, the Republic of Korea went in much less than a lifetime from medieval poverty to being a high-tech wonderland. This is because capitalism distributes resources efficiently and widely so unlike Mao and his war on sparrows which led to the Great Leap Backwards. It’s tough but it works.

Here endeth the lesson.

What could possibly go wrong with missiles in the East End?

From Wikipedia,

Construction of the Central Line’s eastern extension was started in the 1930s, and the tunnels were largely complete at the outbreak of the Second World War. While some stretches were used as underground factories, with the advent of the Blitz, Bethnal Green station was used as an air-raid shelter, unofficially at first, and then with official blessing.

By 1943, the numbers using the station as a shelter had dwindled, only rising when retaliatory bombing in response to Royal Air Force raids was expected. This was the case on 3 March 1943, as the British press had reported a heavy RAF raid on Berlin on the night of 1 March. The air-raid Civil Defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, causing an orderly flow of people down the short flight of steps into the underground booking office area. At 8:27, an anti-aircraft battery a few hundred yards away in Victoria Park launched a salvo of a new type of anti-aircraft rocket. The weapon was secret and the unexpected, unfamiliar sound of the explosion caused a panic and mass hysteria. As the crowd surged forward towards the shelter, a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell. 172 people died at the scene, with one more dying in hospital later; 62 of the dead were children.

Just sayin’ is all.

A classical education is clearly not required by the Met.*

While London looks increasingly like a city under martial law it is nice to see the Met still have time for pursuing nonsenses as well as going round looking like characters from some post-apocalyptic FPS game…

There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.

But the sensitive souls of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini’s photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.

Personally I quite like the picture and I think it’s a bit more “artistic” than “ravished”.

An officer took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed officers from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.

“Alerted”? I mean this morning a copper in Leeds on his way into work spotted and then alerted his colleagues and then apprehended a double murder suspect. That’s “alerted”. And why two coppers? I dunno though in the current climate of Olympic and Jubilee paranoia I guess it’s lucky they didn’t send a SWAT team.

Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s sons Tyrone and Jamie, said: “We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. The show, Metamorphosis, had been running for a month and was really well received.”

Now that is the nub of it is it not? Bestiality is illegal though to be fair I’ve always tended to see it as it’s own punishment. But is “condoning bestiality” or indeed condoning anything actually illegal. Or did the cops just take offence and make it up? Like when they made-up a death penalty for being a Brazilian electrician in South London?

The final day of the exhibition was on Saturday and the gallery was taking down the artworks when police arrived. Ms Mehta pointed out that for prim Victorians, the myth of how Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped young Leda and produced Helen of Troy, was an acceptable form of erotica. But the explanation that the picture was based on a legend that had inspired countless generations of artists failed to cut the mustard with the police, she said.

They didn’t know anything about the myth. They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down. They asked us whether we had had complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.

As I said I rather like it. What is this about, really? I suspect at some level the cops were acting due to the our old friend – the absurd and illiberal Violent and Extreme Pornography Act. To summarize. This act potentially makes almost any image deemed pornographic potentially illegal. Everything from an old copy of the Sun (with Sam Fox aged sixteen back when that was legal) to this rather famous example of Japanese art**. Yes, it is retroactive and yes it applies to paintings or drawings or CGI as well. It is not just victimless thought crime (though it is) but it’s a also a strict liability which means that if a court decides it is Frankie Vaughn or could be construed as such you’ll be taken up the Gary Glitter.

It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.

Because it wasn’t one. Or shouldn’t be. God knows. The law doesn’t.

*Or even a passing aquaintance with English law or Peel’s Principles of Policing. Or a Terry Pratchett Watch book.

**A peculiarity here is that this image would be regarded as very naughty by the Japanese due to the depiction of pubic hair. In comparison here it would appear now that a shaven woman is more likely to get you into trouble for making the image look child-like. Yes, an image seen to be of a child regardless of the model’s actual age can be illegal. Yes, the actual age of the model is no defence. And neither is the purpose for which the image exists. Here is a theoretical example. Let’s imagine my wife (33 – but still sometimes gets IDed for buying wine which like nude modelling is an 18+ thing) and I take some foxy piccies of her in the buff. I have potentially committed a child pornography offence even if it is entirely for private purposes. Of course if this photo-shoot ends with us having sex that is OK but filming or photographing it might be illegal if it was deemed by a court as a representation of a minor. The fact that this was an entirely consensual act between a married couple for their own fun with no intent to sell this is as kiddie-porn would not be a defense. This is strict liability recall.

And so the madness starts…

More astute readers may have noticed I have been away for a week. Some may even have cared [/sob].

Anyway, I have been Elsewhere. Specifically the Lake District. Upon the return journey this afternoon (which was thankfully clear) overhead info boards down the M6 and M61 was displaying “helpful advice” for those planning on journeying to see the Sports Day at Boris Johnson Academy (Formerly Ken’s Comprehensive). They advised planning the journey and to leave in good time etc. How thoughtful of the Highways (Robbery) Agency! Indeed I’m sure Londoners who read this have already well laid plans to make an exodus up North or over to the West Country or to Timbuktu or the Faroe Islands or Alpha Centauri via any means possible: trains, planes and automobiles, buses, jet-packs, mini-submarines, pogo-sticks, roller-blades, dog-sleds, gypsy caravans, hot-air balloons, Segways, shanks ponies… I suspect someone will half-inch a Hansom Cab from the London Transport Museum and in true Sherlockian fashion promise the driver a shiny sovereign if he makes Welwyn Garden City by nightfall… It’ll be like the Wacky Races on the M1 and probably more fun than the 10,000m (an event nobody apart from Brendan-frigging-Foster can get excited over).

For myself I shall be watching one event. The men’s 100m final. And that only to see if Usain Bolt manages to violate The Special Theory of Relativity. Well, at GBP 20,000,000 / 62m and considering it’ll all be over within 10s I reckon that my edification from the whole shooting match will work out as only cost about GBP 32/s which I think we can all agree is excellent value for money. Except of course that doesn’t include the opportunity cost of the BBC (what we all pay for) showing this drivel for fifteen hours a day straight for the duration – i.e. anything else they might show.

Bizarrely, we have had a singularly exciting Premiership footie season (that’s the English Premiership – I pity the Scottish football fan*) and there is still life in the season yet!. And no, that isn’t just because I’m a Magpie. Now that all costs us… Well, whatever you want to pay for it! And, anyway it’s cheaper. Ah, Nick but it’s so nastily commercial. I say it’s so wonderfully commercial. I have Sky TV but not Sky Sports. Both my choice. And perhaps more to the point if “amateur” sport is really amateur why is every second TV advert showing very conceivable product as the official whatever of London 2012? And Gideon “The Artless Dodger” Dodger picking all our pockets to pay for the “Greatest Show on EarthTM“? Shouldn’t they pay if they’re getting something out of it? I mean PT Barnum not only didn’t require subsidy but became a very rich man on that schtick.

I really am getting angrier as this gets closer. And I’m not even going to comment on the uneasiness I feel about connecting national pride to individual sporting achievements supported beyond handsomely by a state desperate for national prestige…

*From The Onion a while back- “Police are investigating whether a pound coin thrown onto the pitch during a game at Ibrox was an act of hooliganism or a potential take-over bid”.

Musical Journalism.

This is one for RAB.

It is an ever growing idée fixe of mine that The Telegraph is going rapidly downhill.

I don’t mean in editorial PoV but in terms of quality of writing.

This deranged piece is shocking. It is essentially a piece of alleged music journalism by someone who clearly has no idea. Apart from anything he seems to think the band Blur are some sort of new, “challenging”, contemporary beat combo (like those lovable Scouse mop-tops who are still going – apart from the two who are dead) and not a bunch of middle-aged blokes. Christ, Alex James’s major interest these days is making cheese. Blessed be them and all.

It sounds like Alec Douglas-Home ate a book by Derrida and then puked it onto a laptop.

And how many billions is this whole charade costing?

BoJo on Facebook…

For the record I’m on Facebook and essentially it seems to me a method by which people I didn’t get on with at school pretend they are my friends. Whatever! I appreciate how it works and indeed what it is for.

Boris Johnson doesn’t but wishes we had a similar “get-up and go” attitude to the internet. The article is extremely dull and full of BoJo-ish bumptiousnessness until..

I don’t pretend to grasp the economics of the web, which seems to me to be a colossal destroyer of value, reducing the price of text, music, images and voice telephony to virtually nil.

There is one word I object to there. Guess! It’s “value”. Is hearing your favourite song via an iPod via iTunes less valuable to you than if you’d bought it on disc at HMV? Is telephony worth less because it used to cost more?

OK. Here’s a personal tale on the conflation of price and value. My Great Aunt (and family – she was the draw being a qualified nurse) emigrated to the land of Oz in the ’60s. At the time the parting was such sweet sorrow. She honestly never thought she’d see my Gran (her sister) again. On roll times and she can afford to come back on holiday for a visit which she did. So I get (on a number of times) to meet my Great Aunty Pat from Melbourne. “Cost” and “Value” recall? My sister-in-law is currently in the country – we had a roast dinner in Derbyshire on Sunday – though she normally lives in Silesia. She came over because her Gran took a tumble and is currently in Stepping Hill Hospital (Yes, that one). She came over at the drop of a hat because you can these days. She keeps in touch with folks back here via Skype. Hell’s teeth, last autumn I and my wife (her sister) was over her end and but for the tender ministrations of our own version of the TSA it was like getting on a bus – to travel half a continent away.

The only thing that annoyed me was they have (in a small town in Silesia) better broadband and HDTV for a nominal sum compared to what we have to shell-out to Sky. Sky for perverse reasons (this also applies to Virgin) aren’t allowed to lay cable (or absolutely not) run it on overheads. Those BT ads make me wanna puke. They still have the local loop and are still a de facto monopoly.

Anyway. I’m typing this on a Lenovo S205 laptop/netbook (nobody seems able to make their mind up) and whilst it my have cost less in both real and actual terms as my first PC – the Elonex 386SX16 or yore – it brings more value to my life than that heffalumping thing did. And it was beige.

So Boris, please work this out. “Value” does not equal “Cost”.

Spot The Difference

Image H/T PetaPixel

The images have a similar theme: a red Routemaster bus against a greyscale Westminster Palace background.  Both shots of familiar London landmarks and fairly innocuous as such images go.  At least you would think so.

The image at the top is the intellectual property of Temple Island Collection (TIC), a company that produces souvenir gifts.  The lower image belongs to New English Teas (NET).

So far, so mundane.  So what?

If you scroll down to the bottom of TIC’s page you’ll see this:

TEMPLE ISLAND SCORE SECOND COPYRIGHT VICTORY OVER NEW ENGLISH TEAS

However, TIC fail to elaborate what their victories entail.

Take another look at those images.  Red Routemaster bus, greyscale Westminster Palace.  There the similarities end.  The compositions are different even if the subjects are the same.  We’ve all seen similar images and they are nothing new.  Here’s one selling promoting London and Hyde Park Towers hotel.  Here’s another one being sold as a poster.  Such images are all over the internet and have been popular with the souvenir/poster buying tourists and public for decades.  It’s a typical London scene that must have been photographed millions of times.  Yet NET has been denied the use of their image on product packaging by a British judge because of a perceived breach of copyright.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Red bus + greyscale Westminster Palace = copyrighted by TIC.  Kerrrrr-ching.

So you want to market goods promoting Britain using an image synonymous with all that is London and British. You shoot a photograph of a world renowned London Routemaster bus using Westminster Palace as a backdrop.  You then Photoshop the image in a popular and highly unoriginal way and use it to sell your merchandise.  Job done.  But wait, what’s this?  TIC own the intellectual rights to ALL similar images even if the composition is different and the concept of a coloured subject against a greyscale background predates Adobe Photoshop by a century or more?  How come you suddenly have no choice but to approach TIC for a licence to use your image commercially?  Has the UK gone completely nucking futz?

Sadly, the answer is yes.  Yes it has.

We have a controversial and deeply stupid copyright law ruling to blame for this latest insult against fairness and common sense.  For photographers nothing is safe from the lawyers and the legal system.  Not familiar landmarks.  Not tried and tested photographic manipulation.  Not even the fruits of your creative imagination.  Not unless you are a bastard and patent your output even though it’s not original by a long shot.

You can read about the whole sorry story here.

I got a question

Look, I don’t live in London any more, and here on Queensland’s sunny Gold Coast we don’t tend to be privy to all the little details of life in the Great Wen.

Now, answer me this:

If the routemasters are gone, the bendy’s ditto, and the new Borismasters are still to come into service then…….roll of drums……… What is London using for buses right at this minute?

I be confuzd.

%d bloggers like this: