Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fuss & Bother

There has been a lot of fuss and bother over photographer Jill Greenberg's series of children's portraits entitled 'End Times' recently. The photos of very young children in distress (caused by her taking away their lollipops) have made her the target of a number of unpalatable and aggressive comments.

She is taking babies, toddlers under three years old, stripping them of their clothes and then provoking them to various states of emotional distress, anger, rage etc. -- so that she can then take photos of them this way to "illustrate her personal beliefs." If you'd like to see how worked up she can get these kids you can click through here. Be warned that it is graphic. Although the children are not sexualized, I consider what she is doing child pornography of the worst kind.
- Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection

I believe that the moral dimension of "End Times" cannot be ignored, and that an artist need not profit from societal objections to their work if those objections are sound and widely shared. I further believe that Jill Greenberg's work should not be viewed through the art-historical lens of edgy, contemporary art, but is instead a cultural hiccup that should be shelved with divisive cultural artifacts like black minstrelry, art involving the physical abuse of animals, and other works that reflect a sensibility so alien that it is better approached not as art, but as the fractured product of a diseased mind or a necrotic culture. - Jeremiah McNichols
Some commentators have labelled her a torturer, others have hinted that she is a child abuser and perhaps worse. Usually when people exhibit these levels of hostility, they are being driven by an emotional rather than a rational impulse. Such people usually develop a self sustaining and gratifying positive feedback loop fuelled by their own tirade of anger and abuse and blow things out of all sense of proportion. I think that this case is a perfect example of that behaviour.

Having seen the photographs myself I think that they are quite interesting. Portraits of children usually portray them as 'little angels' or 'cheeky devils' and usually don't elicit much of an emotional response in the viewer other than 'ooh; isn't that cute'.

These are very different from the normal candy floss, saccharin examples of children's photographs that are usually displayed. They show other equally valid and very common emotions that children display.

The fact that the photographer had to set up the conditions under which the children would show this emotion is perhaps the only point in the whole process that could be considered to be objectionable, but as the parents of the children did not object and the cause of the distress was such a slight everyday occurrence.

I don't think that after a few minutes thought any balanced individual or parent would make a serious objection to the technique used. It is very common for young children to get upset numerous times a day for all sorts of seemingly silly reasons.

Yesterday I saw a child in a complete tantrum, screaming and crying over the fact that it was time for him to go home from the playground! I didn't see any other parents hurling abuse at the parent of the child, it was simply a child's emotional response to not getting what he wanted. If any emotional response was present in the other parents it was one of empathy for the parent of the unbelievably loud, tantrum throwing child.

It just isn't possible to apply an adult emotional context to the levels of 'distress' displayed in the photographs. Firstly because they have been digitally manipulated to make them appear more distressing, and secondly because in the context of a child's emotional landscape the level of distress required to trigger the response displayed is actually very low.

The fact of the matter is that the kids that Jill Greenberg photographed (including one of her own) will have forgotten all about it (and probably did so within five minutes of the photographs being taken, and being given back their candy) and are getting on with the business of being kids, should be enough of a hint to any reasonable adult that there is no real issue to debate.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Bad Plus

I have to thank Mark for introducing me to The Bad Plus in a roundabout kind of way. He was playing 'Exit Music: Songs With Radio Heads', which is a good album, when one of the songs really caught my attention.

The song in question was a rendition of 'Karma Police' by The Bad Plus. It blew my mind and in the past few days I have been listening to more of their stuff wherever I can find it.

Thb Bad Plus website led me to their MySpace page where I listed to what was there.

I am particularly fond of "And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation", which has 'Rush' overtones and 'Crowded House' undertones. I would suggest this a starting point for a foray into the music of the Bad Plus. To follow it I'd suggest grabbing their rendition of 'Karma Police' by both ears as firmly as you can, hanging on to the bassline and trying not to fall off.

If you don't like those two tracks listen again! Your barbarian ears are probably clogged with the detritus of modern pop music and simply need a good clean. To that end I'd recommend a good dose of 'Songs for the Deaf' at max volume, ears suitably cleaned you can then return to the Bad Plus.

And for a finale to the foray, 'Anthem for the Earnest' to return you to what passes for normality.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Yet more Happy Feet

I'm a big child at heart :)


Friday, August 11, 2006

People in the United States are much less likely to accept Darwin's idea that humans evolved from apes than adults in other Western nations, a number of surveys show. - James Owen
Why am I not surprised! This National Geographic article has the full details.

I particularly like this bit ..

The only country included in the study where adults were more likely than Americans to reject evolution was Turkey. - James Owen
.. apparently there are no American adults. Could it be because many of them act like spoilt children? More likely the editor of the article speaks American as his first language, but it made me think.

Thursday, August 10, 2006



Well they are at it again! Bloody terrorists.

Heathrow Airport is closed. No flights are departing and inbound flights are being redirected. How long for? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If you read my Transformers entry you'll have guessed that I was born before 1980. If you liked the Transformers animations then it is quite likely that you'd like to review (in you own time) the exquisitely named http://www.thebestlegaladvice.com/ and help yourself to a reminder of what the 80's were really like.

If you were unfortunate unlucky lucky enough to have missed the eighties then you've got to have at least a peek and see what you missed avoided escaped. Then you'll be able to provide a suitable retort anyone who starts a monologue with "Life was wonderful back in the 80's..."

P.S. I am not responsible for any flashbacks or other ill effects that may occur when visiting thebestlegaladvice.com

The Colour of Money... in Jamaica

Jamaican money comes in an assortment of bright colours, this is the $500 note. The currency has quite a low valuation compared to sterling so the notes are quite large. The highest I saw was a JA$1000 note. Avoid the coins as they have pretty much no purchasing power and will just weigh you down.


Jamaican bank notes were first issued in 1837 to coincide with the opening of the first colonial bank in Jamaica. This was quite some time after the Bank of England began issuing notes in 1694 (with predefined notes appearing in 1745). The bank issued notes payable in British pounds, Spanish dollars and local Jamaican currency! This was due to the chequered nature of the country's past, being as it was a Spanish (1494-1655) and then English (1655-1962) colony.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Set Fire to the Third Bar

I find the map and draw a straight line
Over rivers, farms, and state lines
The distance from here to where you'd be
It's only finger-lengths that I see
I touch the place where I'd find your face
My finger in creases of distant dark places

I hang my coat up in the first bar
There is no peace that I've found so far
The laughter penetrates my silence
As drunken men find flaws in science

Their words mostly noises
Ghosts with just voices
Your words in my memory
Are like music to me

I'm miles from where you are,
I lay down on the cold ground
I, I pray that something picks me up
And sets me down in your warm arms

After I have travelled so far
We'd set the fire to the third bar
We'd share each other like an island
Until exhausted, close our eyelids
And dreaming, pick up from
The last place we left off
Your soft skin is weeping
A joy you can't keep in

I'm miles from where you are,
I lay down on the cold ground
And I, I pray that something picks me up
and sets me down in your warm arms

And miles from where you are,
I lay down on the cold ground
and I, I pray that something picks me up
and sets me down in your warm arms - Snow Patrol

I've been listening to the Snow Patrol album Eyes Open a LOT recently. There are a few songs on it that are extraordinarily good, but none of the songs could be considered to be bad. The album is addictive in the way that Rob Dougan's 'Furious Angels' is. The more you listen to it, the more you want to listen to it. I know that eventually I'll get tired of it, but for now I could put it on repeat 24 hours a day!

The lyrics above for Set Fire to the Third Bar gives you a taste of the content but not the craft. The vocals match the emotive content of the lyrics perfactly and the music sets a vivid backdrop upon which playful prose frolics. Each song is very well crafted and the album has a comforting feeling, sort of like being set adrift on the high seas, it gently lifts and lowers you like the swell of the ocean. It really is excellent.

Set Fire to the Third Bar features vocals by Martha Wainwright sister of the rather Rufus Wainwright. Martha is a talent in her own right and I've also been listening to a few of her tracks, Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole is, well, different.

Anyway I digress, if you can get your hands on Eyes Open do yourself a favour and listen to it end to end without interruptions. If you are too tight to buy the album on my recommendadtion you can find some low quality samples at Amazon here.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kingston Dawn

Some photos I took prior to my morning walks in Kingston. Rising before dawn most mornings I had the opportunity to see some fantastic transitions between night and day. I took the oportunity to take these photos on the day that I was leaving.

Before sunrise

Just before dawn

Dawn from the Kingston hills

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mona Resevoir - Jamaica

Some photos I took of the sunrise at the water resevoir near the university campus at Mona in Kingston, Jamaica. I went for a three mile walk around the resevoir each morning just after sunrise and thought I'd share the view that I was lucky enough to experience every morning.

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

Sunrise over the Kingston hills

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If I was a dictator I'd be...

"Wait, I'm not a dictator!" you cry! Well lets look at the check list: Unelected? Check! Use wars and xenophobia to boost popularity? Check! Total control of the media so they never say a bad word against you? Check! Kill scores of innocent people to get what you want? Check! Do anything to get your hands on oil? Check! Inhumane treatment of prisoners? Check! Face it, you're a dictator, and no amount of gloss will hide that fact… or the fact you're a borderline retard who looks like a monkey! - www.poisonedminds.com

... apparently!

I was kinda hoping to be a Fidel myself, but you don't always get what you wish for. What tin-pot dictator are you? Take the "What Dictator am I?" test yourself and find out.