Sunday, December 23, 2012


Coffe   Shop Dampkring Amsterdam
Famous after being featured in the hit movie ‘Ocean’s 12’. Source: Flying Pig NL

New Dutch government scraps “weed pass”

Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide/ 20th Nov 2012
Dutch Justice minister Ivo Opstelten has announced that the controversial “weed pass” is to be scrapped with immediate effect. In a letter to parliament he also said it would be up to municipalities to determine and enforce the regulations governing coffee shops in their area. 
The controversial “weed pass” was introduced in the south of the Netherlands last May. Designed to stop "drug tourists" from Germany, Belgium and France crossing the Dutch border to buy cannabis, the new regulations meant coffee shops in the region became closed clubs only admitting Dutch residents who had to register for a special pass.

It was due to take effect in the rest of the Netherlands at the beginning of 2013 but the introduction of the pass saw an immediate increase in illegal street dealing and other problems in the southern province and the mayors of many Dutch cities and towns had been urging the government to reconsider. The new policy means people will not have to register to buy cannabis. Officially customers will still have to show ID to prove they are Dutch citizens, but the authorities in large cities such as Amsterdam are not expected to enforce this rule.

No need to cancel any more trips to Amsterdam The weed pass or residents only criteria will not apply or be enforced in Amsterdam after 1st January 2013 and is unlikely to be enforced in other large cities like Haarlem, Den Haag and Rotterdam etc, but only Dutch residents can enter coffee shops in areas like Maastricht where the residents criteria remains in place for now. Some areas in the south may keep the old rules if they want to but it does not make any sense for them to really as its an invite for street dealers to move in. Stupid weed pass idea has been a epic failure.

See: Maps on
See Previous Post: INSIDE DOPY BY DICK TRACY, which includes a item on a history of the Dutch coffee shops entitled ‘The Dutch Experience’ and 2005 news reports on previous attempts to regulate them.
In November, the voters in two US States – Colorado and Washington – voted to legalise marijuana for recreational use. An Observer story on this landmark event by Rory Carroll ran under a headline quote: ‘This is the beginning of the end for marijuana prohibition across the world.’

In a 2009 Inside Dope post entitled DRUG LAWS,DRUG WARS, we highlighted a great story from The Atlantic magazine on Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries which had been technically legal since 2000. The article said that the number of dispensaries in the state were expected to double to 60 by the end of 2009. According to the 2012 Observer story, there are currently 500. The success of this system emboldened voters to back amendment 64.

To understand the story behind the headlines, it’s useful to read this article by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken and Mark A.R. Kleiman: ‘Semi-legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington: what comes next?
The article explains what the Washington and Colorado laws say:
‘Lots of crucial details remain to be determined, but in outline:
In both states, adults may — according to state but not federal law — possess limited amounts of marijuana, effective immediately.
In both states, there are to be licensed (and taxed) growers and sellers, under rules to take effect later this year.
Sales to minors and possession by minors remain illegal.
Colorado, but not Washington, now allows anyone person over the age of 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants (no more than three of them in the flowering stage) in any “enclosed, locked space,” and to store the marijuana so produced at the growing location. That marijuana can be given away (up to an ounce at a time), but not sold.’
But everything these new state laws allow remains forbidden by federal law. 
‘…the federal government has ample legal authority to shut down the proposed systems of state-licensed production and sale. Once someone formally applies to Colorado or Washington for permission to commit what remains a federal felony, a federal court can enjoin that person from doing any such thing, and such orders are easily enforced. So the federal government could make it impossible to act as a licensed grower or seller in either state.

Further complexities follow. They conclude that:
‘Federal and state authorities share an interest in preventing the development of large interstate sales from Colorado and Washington, and the whole country might gain from learning about the experience of legalization in those two states: as long as the effects of those laws could be mostly contained within those states.
Things will get even more complex if other states decide to join the party.So buckle your seat belts; this could be a rather bumpy ride.’
Their book ‘Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know’ is published by Oxford University Press.
You can follow the progress of events on ColoradoDaily which carried the following news item this week: Grappling over legal marijuana begins in eastern Boulder County
This is a great story from Christian Science Monitor which looks in depth into the background of these decisions and the broader picture within the US as a whole: From 'no' to 'yes,' how Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana
‘Since no state had previously legalized marijuana possession, Washington must invent a production system from the ground up
Washington's new law decriminalizes possession of up to an ounce of pot for people over 21. But selling marijuana remains illegal for now. The initiative gave the state a year to come up with a system of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores, with the marijuana taxed 25 percent at each stage.
In Colorado, a 24-member task force began work on pot regulations this week. The state's Department of Revenue must adopt the regulations by July, with sales possible by year's end.’
In the UK in December this year David Cameron rejected the idea of setting up a royal commission to examine the UK’s drug policy on the grounds that the current approach is working. [see video/article here]
Fidel Cano Correa, editor of the Colombian daily El Espectador, responded to Cameron’s remarks by writing this lacerating riposte   In Colombia, David Cameron's stance on drugs looks cynical
He concludes:
‘Where is Great Britain in this debate? Will Cameron let his country be left to one side as major shifts in political and public opinion swirl around his nation? Did he even notice that two US states – Washington and Colorado – voted to legalise marijuana last month? He has a moral responsibility to engage the debate – since we pay the price of his citizens' appetite for drugs.
Precisely 10 years ago this month, a senior British politician said in a debate in the House of Commons: "I ask the Labour government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried and we all know that it does not work."
That politician was David Cameron.’
Carry Nation
Elvis and Nixon
Two illustrated extracts from a Drug War Timeline entitled The Altered States of America. Published in Mother Jones in 2009
Source: under the button, reporting the Psychedemia conference held at the University of Pennsylvania in Sept 2012
Have just discovered by chance an excellent piece by a former colleague on the revival of legal research into LSD and other pschedelics.
‘Can LSD cure depression? by Jerome Burne, published in The Telegraph [25th sept 2012] investigates the new research into the medical uses of psychedelics to heal depression and disorders like post-traumatic stress.
‘Here in Britain, much of the drive has come from Amanda Feilding, who set up the Beckley Foundation in Oxford to initiate and fund studies into the effects of psychoactive drugs and other ways of changing consciousness, such as meditation.
Feilding, who is the Countess of Wemyss and March, has long been a controversial figure with some odd ideas; in her twenties she trepanned herself, drilling a hole in her own skull to “increase blood flow”. But since then, she has crossed the boundary into scientific respectability and her dedication has earned her the respect of colleagues.
“None of the work in the UK would have occurred without the Beckley Foundation and particularly Amanda as a collaborator and funder of the programme,” says Professor David Nutt, now a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London but better known as the former chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who was fired for claiming that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than Ecstasy and cannabis.’
Jerome Burne points out that, in the 60s, more than 1,000 scientific papers were published ‘looking at ways that psychiatrists could help patients with hallucinogenic chemicals. But then the walls descended, as a new anti-drug culture took hold, particularly in the United States. In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of LSD and related chemicals. Since then, research in the field has been effectively frozen.’

Monday, December 17, 2012


Edwin Land demonstrates his invention to the press, February 21, 1947.

Edwin Land demonstrates his invention of ‘instant photography’ to the press, February 21, 1947; Steve Jobs shows off the new iPad during an Apple event in San Francisco, 2010.


THE GENERALIST loves making interesting connections and believes in meaningful coincidences. Having pencil-marked my way through ‘Inside Apple’ the 2012, a major journalistic investigation into this most secretive of companies by Fortune journalist Adam Lashinsky, I received a review copy of this brand new history of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos, an editor at New York magazine.

Needless to say, the first is dominated by Steve Jobs, whose dark ghost still haunts the corridors of the company he fashioned in his own complex image, the second by the extraordinary caring obsessive genius of Edwin Land. Steve Jobs has achieved guru status and public prominence but who did Steve Jobs idolise? None other than Edwin Land, his precursor and the man from whom he learnt his promotional wizardry.

The parallels are impossible to ignore, from the gnomic utterances, to the product launches, to the micro-managing and the total dedication to front-end R&D in the service of a technological vision no matter what the cost.

Land and Polaroid captured the imagination of previous generations with instant photography but were unable to engage with the digital industries that destroyed their business. Apple is in the early days of adjusting to Jobs’ death and many wonder whether its possible for the company to match the stellar achievements of their former presiding genius who made it the richest corporation in the world.

According to Lashinsky, Jobs visited Land in 1983 with the then Apple CEO John Scully, who recalled ‘the two bonded over their shared ability to envision changing products before the products had been built.’ 

Jobs later told Playboy: ‘Land was a troublemaker. He dropped out of Harvard and founded Polaroid. Not only was he one of the great inventors of our time but, more important, he saw the intersection of art and science and business and built an organisation to reflect that.’

When Jobs met Land, he had just been fired by Polaroid, a decision Jobs considered ‘one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever heard of.’ Land subsequently had little to do with the company, avoided any public profile and left instructions that all his personal papers be burnt after his death. Jobs left Apple in 1985 but returned in 1997 to transform it into a world-beater.

Bonanos also references the Playboy interview in which Jobs refers to Land as ‘a national treasure’ but says Land was ‘semi-coaxed into retirement’ rather than fired. He also say Jobs met Land three times when Apple was on the rise and that, by Sculley’s account: ‘the two inventors described to each other a singular experience. Each had imagined a perfect new product whole, already manufactured and sitting before him, and then spent years prodding executives, engineers, and factories to create it with as few compromises as possible.’

[Spookily I had just been reading a long review in the LRB by Jackson Lears of Ray Monk’s masterful new biography of Oppenheimer who was ‘brimming with feverish excitement’ when he realised it would be possible to create a nuclear chain reaction. The only BUT was that it would need to use U-235, a rare isotope present in less than 1 per cent of natural uranium. You could not produce the large amount needed to make a bomb, physicist Niels Bohr said, ‘unless you turn the US into one huge factory. Lears comments: ‘This it turned out, was what the government was prepared to do.’]

Bonanos nails the parallels with acute accuracy:

‘When it introduced instant photography in the late 1940s, Polaroid the corporation followed a path that has since become familiar in Silicon Valley…

The most obvious parallel is to Apple Computer, except that Apple's story, so far, has a much happier ending. Both companies specialized in relentless, obsessive refinement of their technologies. Both were estab­lished close to great research universities to attract talent (Polaroid was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it drew from Harvard and MIT; Apple has Stanford and Berkeley nearby). Both fetishized superior, elegant, covetable product design. And both companies exploded in size and wealth under an in-house visionary-godhead-inventor-genius…

Just as Apple stories almost all lead back to Jobs, Polaroid lore always seems to focus on Land. In his time, he was as public a figure as Jobs was…

At Polaroid's annual shareholders' meetings, Land often got up onstage, deploying every bit of his considerable magnetism, and put the company's next big thing through its paces, sometimes backed by a slide-show to fill in the details, other times with live music between segments.

A generation later, Jobs did the same thing, in a black turtleneck and jeans. Both men were college dropouts; both became as rich as anyone could ever be'; and both insisted that their inventions would change the fundamental nature of human interaction.’

Fuller review of both books in next post.





POLAROID1330 ‘INSTANT: The Story of Polaroid’ by Christopher Bonanos [Princeton Architectural Press] is a perfectly pitched and elegantly produced illustrated history of a remarkable man and the company he created around himself to realise his visionary ideas.

Bonananos respectfully references two previous works on the subject – ‘Insisting on the Impossible’ Victor McElheny’s 1998 definitive biography of Edwin Land and ‘Land’s Polaroid’, the 1987 personal memoir of former Polaroid exec Peter Wensberg – but his mission is to communicate this intriguing story in an accessible form to the general reader, to the camera enthusiast and – one would guess – to both the generation(s) for whom instant photography was a big thrill and their digital offspring, who never experienced it first-hand but are curious about this cool technology from yesteryear.

Polaroid cameras were the last great innovation of analog photography before the digital tsunami. The ingenuity involved in collapsing all the elements of a  chemical processing photolab into a film package that would develop an image instantly is astounding. For both professionals and amateurs alike, it offered instant gratification but also opened many interesting artistic possibilities.

Land recognised this from the off and the company assembled a marvellous collection of 20,000 pictures work produced by a stellar range of photographic artists. I had no idea that Land had hired Anselm Adams who enthusiastically used the evolving Polaroid systems to capture some of his favourite images. The elderly Walker Evans and Andre Kertesz both enjoyed fruitful final periods of activity when they were given Polaroids to work with. Andy Warhol of course made well-known use of the cameras’ potentials, using his photos as the basis for many of his classic silkscreen canvases. Robert Mapplethorpe explored its erotic potential while David Hockney created his beautiful Polaroid collages. One of the joys this book is to see the breadth, range and beauty of this work.

Alongside this are the beauty of the cameras themselves, particularly the remarkable SX-70, the size of a cigar case, which unfolded like a little tent. Land dictated in great detail the look and feel of the product. He ‘insisted that the panels of the camera body be covered in real leather. Its glass-fibre reinforced plastic frame was heavily chrome-plated giving it the appearance of brushed stainless steel while remaining warm to the touch. Never mind that the the cowhide added several dollars to the production costs, and that natural leather’s irregularities vastly increased the number of factory rejects.’

Land simply said ‘the camera deserves leather.’ All this cost a fortune – at least $600 million. Other insider rumours suggest that Polaroid spent a billion dollars on the camera and another bi8llion on the film.

Land filed his first patent when he was 19, for a polarising filter that he imagined could be used to cut glare from car headlights. That project didn’t get off the ground but polarising filters soon found a ready-market in the war effort for bomb sights and pilot’s goggles. These applications dominated the first twenty years of Land’s business life and enabled him to build a successful company. The photo business was very much a second act that the compnay was rebuilt around.

Land went on to file a total of 535 US Patents in many fields. Bonanos footnotes the fact that in virtually every biographical sketch of Land, that this total is second only to Thomas Edison. In fact, Edison filed 1093 patents but the second place belongs to electrical engineer Elihu Thomas with 700.

[Wikipedia’s List of Prolific Inventors says that Edison’s total was surpassed by a Japanese inventor in 2003. The world’s current champion inventor is now Australian Kia Silverbrook who holds 4,518 US patents and 9,740 internationally.]

Personal accounts of Land recall his obsessive drive and work rate, his piercing gaze, his genius for explaining complicated subjects clearly and infecting others with his enthusiasm. He hated to fire people and employed many women in top positions. Bonanos writes; ‘Land’s control over his company was nearly absolute, and he exercised it to a degree that was compelling and sometimes exhausting.’

Land’s personal vision led him into instant movies – Polavision – but his friend Akio Morita, the Sony genius told him he was too late. Land and Polaroid as a company were aware of the coming digital revolution but were still betting on hard copy and physical media.

‘What everyone had missed,’ writes Bonanos, ‘was that the digital revolution was changing the very nature of the photograph. From the very beginning, a photograph has been a physical thing: a glass or metal plate, a negative, a slide, a piece of paper. If you didn’t have that tangible object, you didn’t have a photo… No longer. Today. a photo is not a thing; its a stream of ones and zeroes.’

The end of the grand days of Polaroid was messy but the company still survives in a niche form with Lady Gaga signed up as a Creative Director. Alongside this, The Impossible Project have started producing new Polaroid film for the hundreds of thousands of existing Polaroid owners.

There is so much more in INSTANT that I can’t do full justice to. Suffice it to say, this beautiful and intriguing book will delight Polaroid aficionados and encourage a new generation to explore the mind and ideas of Edwin Land and maybe experiment with what’s left of his grand legacy.


[Left]: Giant Polaroid of Lady Gaga taken with the camera below.

The giant 20x24 Polaroid Camera operated by 20x24 Studio in NYC. One of only five in existence, these were built in the 1970s to demonstrate the quality of Polaroid PolarII colour film. Most are still in operation and in high demand from artists and photographers. The huge negative produces same size prints of awesome quality. Full details here:


PHOTOGRAPHIC FUTURES: The death of film in Japan and the new field of Computational Photography

PHOTOGRAPHIC FUTURES 2: The Impossible Project, Lomographs and the end of Kodachrome



‘Inside Apple’ by Fortune journalist Adam Lashinsky [John Murray] is a great piece of investigative research into the world’s largest company by market capitalisation (2011) – and the most secretive.

This is not a book about Steve Jobs rather about how the company he created actually works.

Information about all aspects of Apple’s operations is closely guarded. Lashinsky writes: ‘All companies have secrets…the difference is that, at Apple, everything is a secret.’

Job’s paranoia, he tells us ‘built a company that is as secretive as the CIA.’

‘Job’s brutality in dealing with subordinates legitimized a frighteningly hard, bullying and demanding culture at Apple. Under Jobs, a culture of fear and intimidation found roots throughout the organisation.’

A former senior hardware exec told Lashinsky: ‘We have cells like a terrorist organisation. Everything is on a need to know basis.’

Many employees are hired for dummy positions and only have their roles explained after they’ve joined. There are no open doors and many secret rooms with restrictive badge access.

Employees are ‘Scared Silent’. ‘Fear is palpable there’, says Lashinsky, ‘including among partners…no other company has that level of fear.’

Apple’s 35,000 ‘wicked smart’ employees operate under ‘grinding deadline pressure.’

‘Apple’s culture may be cooperative but it isn’t usually nice and it’s almost never relaxed,’ says Lashinsky. ‘You need to be a certain kind of egoless and fanatical person to thrive at Apple.’ which he describes variously as a ‘culture of excellence’ and, for many, a ‘true religion’.

Job waned to run a big company with the ethos of a start-up. He micromanaged all areas of the company, working with a 10-member Executive Team (ET) and fewer than 100 Vice-Presidents. He was disdainful of general management and organised the company along functional lines.

The ET meet every Monday. the emphasis is on speed and clarity  of decision-making. Any matters not settled at one meeting must be settled at the next.

Lashinsky summarises their approach: clear direction, individual accountability, sense of urgency, constant feedback, clarity of mission.

Once a year there is a Top 100 ultra-secret gathering, attended by senior Apple execs, board members (which include Al Gore) and the occasional outside guest.

Apple is an HQ-centric company which favours face-to-face meetings. The company does not have a video-conferencing or conference call culture –probably for security reasons.

Major projects were handled by small teams. All aspects of the project are subject to the same obsessive focus. For Jobs the packaging – how the customer opens the box – was important as is the user experience

One of the men Jobs spent most time with was Jonathan Ive, the legendary Apple designer who heads the Industrial Design Studio – an ultra-secret area. They love taking things to pieces to see how they are made.

Lashinsky informs us that ‘Saying no is a core tenet of Apple product development’ They keep their product lines lean - there are only four versions of the iMac for example – and they develop just three projects a year.

Little is said about Apple’s Chinese manufacturing base, a subject of some controversy – except that the company may have outsourced its production but they control every step of the manufacturing without actually having to own the factory.

The company has huge resources. When they decided to move away from disc drives they made a billion-dollar forward purchase of flash memory. ‘This masterstroke,’ says Lashinsky,’accomplished the trifecta of securing Apple’s supply, locking in the lower price, and hobbling the competition’s access to components.’

In a chapter called ‘Own Your Message’, Lashinsky says that Apple ‘manages its image in a conscious, forceful, yet seemingly casual manner that nevertheless leaves absolutely nothing to chance.’ Curate and Control are the watchwords. Apple PR consists of  simple, clear product messages which are endlessly repeated. ‘Revolutionize’ , said a former Apple marketeer ‘may be the most used word in Apple marketing.’

Apple’s Brand czar is Hiroki Asai who leads a team of more than 200 creatives who have been responsible for ‘all the packaging, retail store graphics, website, on-line store, direct marketing videos and event graphics’ for Apple globally over the last ten years.

Apple own 357 stores in 11 countries which generated an average of $43m in revenue apiece. The one in Times Square is open 24/7.

In 2001, desktop computers and notebooks made up the bulk of the revenue. In 2011, 70% of the revenue ($108 billion) came from iPods (7%), iPads (19%) and iPhones (44%)

Lashinsky ends his book with the speculations of Apple’s future under the new CEO Tim Cooke which suggests that the company may be kinder and gentler in the post-Jobs era.



Sunday, December 09, 2012


NAKED1328 What is the difference between nudity and nakedness? The first word derives from Norman French; the second from Anglo-Saxon German. In English we use both terms interchangeably whereas they could be said to have two distinct meanings as follows:

‘if you are nude you are unclothed and knowingly observed, while nakedness refers to the ‘innocent state of simply being uncovered. Nudity happens in art, nakedness happen in your bathroom. Nakedness represents the raw, nudity the ideal.’

So begins ‘A Brief History of Nakedness’ by Philip Carr-Gomm, an intriguing study of both forms of unclothedness from three main perspectives – Religion, Protest and Popular Culture.

Its author tells us that he first discovered the joys of nakedness when he was 49 at one of Britain’s oldest naturist resorts and that this was the book’s inspiration. As a result he set out on a voyage of discovery to find out why taking off one’s clothes arouses such passion. He wandered around Cap d’Agde – the ‘Naked City’ in the South of France, danced naked with a witch’s coven, made a pilgrimage to the Jain temples in India and experienced what its like to be a life model. His verdict: ‘strangely fascinating.’

This is not an academic work although its clear the book has been rigorously researched and comes complete with detailed references. Carr-Gomm wears his erudition lightly and expertly interweaves his own personal experiences with his extensive research in an entertaining and readable narrative that is enhanced by numerous well-chosen illustrations and photos confirming that public nudity is well and truly out of the closet.

Back in the day, nudity was confined in naturist resorts. For most people, it was a world glimpsed only in well-thumbed copies of ‘Health & Efficiency’ magazine. Little did we know then that ‘streaking’ – a favourite of the tabloids in the 60s and 70s – was just a precursor of what Carr-Gomm calls The End of Shame.

Thousands now readily volunteer to appear in Spencer Tunick’s mass nude photographs. There are few sports that are not played in the nude somewhere in the world on a regular basis. Nudity on stage and screen is now acceptable and rarely censored. Nude fund-raising calendars are ubiquitous.The Internet and social media provide endless new opportunities for exposing oneself and observing others.

Yet as Carr-Gomm points out we may have gained greater sexual freedom and developed a more liberal attitude towards nakedness but ‘if you take off your clothes in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be fined, deported or thrown into jail.’

 As individuals and societies, we remain conflicted in our attitudes towards being naked or nude. Nakedness can make us feel vulnerable or powerful depending upon the context.

Does it surprise you to learn that men have a greater urge than women to get naked and be seen naked? Carr-Gomm believes this may simply be a male ‘display instinct’ built into our make-up as social animals. Nakedness. he believes, also gives us an ‘awareness of ourselves as embodied creatures [which] lies at the heart of our sense of self’.


wiccan skyclad ritualsMost of the information in this book was new to me and, having sketched out the broad canvas of Carr-Gomm’s investigation, it is worth highlighting some of the people, events, ideas and curiosities that he has uncovered.

[Left: From the ‘Going Skyclad’ page of Wicca site The Pythorium]

The first section on religious attitudes towards nakedness begins with modern paganism, principally Wicca and Druidism. This is home territory for Carr-Gomm who is the Head of Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the West with 400,000 adherents in the US, 100,000 in the UK. This was ‘invented’ in modern times by Gerald Gardner, who master-minded this alternative religion.

Much of the history of witchcraft pre-Wicca is,it seems, the product of over-heated imaginations. There was no such thing as a witch religion and virtually no records of naked rituals. Certainly there were pre-Christian naked rites to do with fertility, encouraging rain and celebrating harvests.

The images of naked witch rites can be traced back to the 15thC when these fantastical fantasies provided ‘one of the few ways in which German artists of that age were permitted to depict the female nude.’

The connection between Wicca and Druidism as two dominant forms of modern paganism began in a naturist camp when Gardner met Ross Nichols, a leading figure in the revival of interest in Druidism. In both cases, being ‘skyclad’, in pagan jargon was the exception rather than the rule.

In India, there was an ancient tradition of naked asceticism out of which Jainism emerged, a religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Jainist monks would reject clothing to avoid killing organisms when washing them. These days there are an estimated five million adherents, mainly in India and less than 200 naked Jains.

By comparison there are thousands of naked Hindu sadhus although there numbers are also diminishing as Indian attitudes become Westernised. Many city councils in India now forbid public nudity.

Depictions of the naked Christ have always formed part of Christian iconography although in modern times certain of these have proved controversial including Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s 2007 art piece, entitled ‘My Sweet Lord’, which was made out of chocolate.


Spencer Tunick’s mass nude photo for Greenpeace highlighting their climate change campaign and the issue of the effect of global warming on glaciers (2007). Source: Greenpeace Switzerland

Nakedness as protest has a long history dating back at least to Lady Godiva, the memory of whom has been revived in Coventry by the legendary Pru Poretta.

Much of this section of the book confirms that naked protest is alive and well in many different forms and countries, except for the Middle East where it is non-existent.

We read or see accounts or images of naked women protesting Indian Army rape, breast-feeding protests in Prague and Andalucia, Tibetan students in Delhi, life models in Paris, peasant farmers in Mexico – all using nakedness to gain attention for their cause.

Nakedness is a common protest tactic for NGOs. One anti-war banner held by naked protestors reads ‘Breasts Not Bombs’. Animal rights group PETA regularly use nakedness in their campaign ads and stage the ‘Running of the Nudes’ in Pamplona to protest the more famous bull-running ceremony.

The TreeSprit campaign, raises awareness of trees using pictures of naked people entwined in branches. The world Naked Bike Ride protests ‘indecent exposure to cars and oil dependency’.

Public nudity is permitted in Barcelona but this is an exception. Carr-Gomm writes that: ‘In most of Europe, the naked body is not in itself considered indecent in law and yet appearing naked in public is subject to sanctions.’

In recent years in Britain, two naked protestors have regularly hit the mass media: Stephen Gough, the ‘Naked Rambler’ and Vincent Bethell who has staged naked protests in Piccadilly Circus and other prominent London tourist sites under the banner ‘Freedom to Be Yourself’.

The way UK legislation stands at the moment, arrests for public nudity can be made under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 but it it is difficult to prosecute as the police have to prove intent to offend. The Public Order Act 1968 is a legal alternative which covers disorderly, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.

Carr-Gomm concludes: ‘the campaign for freedom to be naked in public is perhaps the most doomed to failure.’



The Polish Women’s Party campaign poster (2007)

The book’s final section about nakedness in Popular Culture covers a wide field. It is interesting the number of politicians in different parts of the world who have used nude posters as par of their campaigning.

Streaking, it seems, started with nude runs on the campuses of US universities in the 1960s – a practice which actually has its roots in the 19th century. When there was a mass nude run at the University of Notre Dame in 1972, the news hits the mainstream. At its peak, in 1974, a similar event at the University of Georgia attracted 1,543 entrants.

In Britain who can forget the arrest of Michael O’Brien at Twickenham, memorably photographed with a policeman holding his helmet over O’Brien’s privates. This triggered a worldwide rash of nude streaking at sports events which O’Brien says he feels guilty about.

Carr-Gomm covers the theatrical shocks of ‘Hair’ and ‘Oh Calcutta’, the iconic and controversial nude album covers for John and Yoko and Blind Faith, stage exhibitionism by the usual rock star suspects (hello Iggy!) and, post 9-11, Janet Jackson’s nipple exposure, ‘The Full Monty’, the rise of the Naked Chef, nude calendars and the Puppetry of the Penis.


By way of conclusion, its interesting to ponder on the rise and fall of naturism. Such groups and clubs first emerged in France and Germany in 1903 but the first in Britain – ‘The Sunshine League’ – was established in 1924. These were part of a wider reform movement A post-war revival of interest came in the 1950s when naturism has its heyday. But with the 1960s came package holidays which exposed many to beach nudity. Nakedness and sexual permissiveness moved into the mainstream and the interest in naturism declined.

A valuable social document, Carr-Gomm’s thought-provoking book shines light on a neglected aspect of our human history. It encourages us to be more at peace with our naked selves.

‘A Brief History of Nakedness’ by Philip Carr-Gomm is published by Reaktion Books. A paperback version is out this month.


Inspired by Philip Carr-Gomm’s book, THE GENERALIST set out on to discover the naked news since the book’s publication.

Ukraine's Inna Shevchencko, right, and other activists members of the women's rights group Femen, chants slogans during a topless march in Paris, Tuesday, Sept, 18, 2012. Source: Kyiv Post

FEMEN logo.jpgFEMEN is a feminist Ukrainian protest group based in Kiev, founded in 2008. The organisation became internationally known for organizing topless protests against sex tourists, religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social, national and international topics.

In October 2012 the organization claimed it had about 40 topless activists in Ukraine, and another 100 who had joined their protests abroad. FEMEN activists have been regularly detained by the Ukrainian police in response to their protests. [Source: Wikipedia]

San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Refuse to ban public nudity in San Francisco


San Francisco Approves Public Nudity Ban

‘In a 6-5 vote on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a ban on public nudity on city streets, sidewalks, restaurants, public transit, and in other public spaces, reports CBS News. Certain festivals, including Gay Pride and the Folsom Street Fair, are exempt from the ban. [The Advocate/ 5th Dec 2012]


Discovered there is a Naked News tv show, based in Toronto – which bills itself as the program with nothing to hide and features naked news anchors.


Andrew Pointon sparked a police callout when he decided to go for a jog around McLaren Falls Park.

Photo: John Burren

Naked jogger's victory in court

Andrew Pointon sparked a police callout when he decided to go for a jog around McLaren Falls Park in New Zealand. He was charged and convicted for offensive behaviour, a verdict that was overturned on appeal. He celebrated with others by having  a mass skinny-dip. [Bay of Plenty Times/3rd Dec 2012]


Mr Big  by Ilse Haider. Installation outside the Leopold Museum in Vienna. 2012. The museum is staging an exhibition called ‘Nude Men from 1800 to the present day’. It’s open until mid-January.

Posters for the exhibition which featured a full-frontal photograph of three naked footballers, by the French artists Pierre et Gilles proved controversial. [See BBC NEWS]

naked man statue whitehalll

Source: Huffington Post

Ukrainian who climbed naked on Whitehall statue before biting it and breaking his teeth is jailed for 12 weeks

A protester who climbed onto a statue of the Duke of Cambridge in London's Whitehall while completely naked has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Dan Motrescu, 29, got onto the figure and broke off its sword and tried to bite its head off but broke his teeth as a result. He climbed onto the statue at midday on November 23 without any clothes on and stayed there for three hours despite the cold weather. Source Daily Mail/4th December 2012]



NAKED AND ACTIVE is an organisation dedicated active naturism. The main points of their manifesto are:

- to support and encourage naked activities everywhere

- to educate society that the naked human body is acceptable in all contexts

- to decriminalise the naked human body.


Source: Daily Record

Naked rambler released from jail after six years as police change stance

Steven Gough was released in July 2012 after 657-days in prison, most of it in solitary confinement. The cost of repeatedly prosecuting and imprisoning him has been estimated at £500,000. See: Daily Record

He was arrested three days later and, in September, was jailed for a further five months. See: The Telegraph/13 Sept 2012

See also: Naked Rambler: The UK's oddest legal stand-off by Steve Brockelhurst. Source: BBC News/5th Oct 2012


Cover photo

You can sign the on-line petition to persuade the Editor of The Sun to drop its Page Three girls. You can contact the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

See Also: Campaigners against the Sun's Page 3 step up pressure for advertising boycott The Guardian/3 Nov 2012) and ‘No More Page 3′ campaign launches war on topless girls in tabloid’ The Periscope Post/21 Sept 2012

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Outbreak map.

Map of confirmed infection sites/5 Dec 2012. Updated weekly on Forestry Commission ash dieback site

An excellent piece by Jeremy Harding in the London Review of Books. Access for free for short time only

Ash dieback disease hits 23 sites across Scotland

[Herald Scotland/29 Nov 2012]

Ash tree disease Chalara dieback is found at six sites in Wales

[BBC News/21 Nov 2012]

Ash tree disease crisis summit held at Holyrood

About 50 interested parties have met at Holyrood to discuss the best way of stemming the spread of Chalara ash dieback.          [BBC News/13 Nov 2012]

Ash dieback: No point in chopping trees down

Mature ash will be left to die slowly rather than chopping favourite specimens down, according to experts, as there is nothing that can be done to save the trees from the chalara disease. [The Telegraph/8 Nov 2012]

Ash dieback research hopes to save Denmark's trees – in pictures

Ash trees in Denmark and the rest of Europe are being severely hit by the rapidly spreading ash disease. The forestry student Martin Slot, from the University of Copenhagen, is testing hypotheses that might save the species. If successful, Slot's techniques will be used to maintain and expand the 3-5% of the remaining healthy trees. His working in co-operation with the Danish Nature Agency [The Guardian/7 Nov 2012]

Ash tree and associated wildlife Britain's population of 80 million ash trees provides shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife, mostly birds and insects. The species' loosely-branched structure means plenty of light reaches the woodland floor, allowing a variety of plants to grow beneath them. [BBC News/5 Nov 2012]

Ash die back disease could have been lurking in UK for years

It is thought the disease first emerged in 1992 in Poland and other eastern European countries when large numbers of trees began dying of a mysterious illness.

It gradually spread across the continent, reaching Denmark in around 2003, where it has killed 90 per cent of the country’s ash trees, and Holland in 2010. The fungus responsible for the disease was finally identified by scientists in 2006 as the Chalara fraxinea.

Scientists have recently found that the fungus is similar to a one that harmlessly lives on species of ash tree in Asia. It is thought that the fungus became pathogenic in the European ash trees, which had no resistance to it, after being introduced by trade.

[The Telegraph/28 Oct 2012]


Ash Dieback in UK


Source: All Voices

Tuesday, December 04, 2012



Many people think that Ai Weiwei is the most important artist in the world. When you have watched this powerful film you will agree.

It covers a turbulent period in the artist’s life beginning with the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when Wei Wei and helpers set out to document the names of all the young students who had died when all the ‘tofu’ achool architecture collapsed. Travelling to support another earthquake activist who is on trial, Weiwei is hit in the head  by police and almost dies as a result in Munich due to a brain haemorrhage during his ‘So Sorry’ show in Munich.

We see Weiwei at home with his flock of stray cats, we meet his wife, mum, brother and baby (from an extramarital affair) and follow him to the Tate Modern as they install his 100 million individually painted porcelain sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall.

The film shows us his history. His father Ai Qing was a noted poet who was imprisoned in a labour camp for 19 years and humiliated.  As a result, he tried to commit suicide several times. The young Ai saw it all.

The film is good on Weiwei’s twelve years in New York where was the ‘godfather’ of Chinese students in the city. He took thousands of black and white photos (which have been subsequently exhibited) including many at the punk/new wave hangout CBGBs which he attended nightly.

Interesting too is Weiwei’s work in the early 90s  when he published a series of underground books with different colour covers (black, white and grey) showcasing art, poetry and images banned by the authorities.

The film ends with Weiwei’s “disappearance” into police custody and his eventual release into virtual house arrest. Surveillance cameras are installed to monitor his movements and he is forbidden to talk to the media.

Ai Wei Wei believes ‘Blogs and the internet ar the great invention of our time’. His Twitter address is @:aiww ; at time of writing he has 181,522 followers and has posted 84,412 tweets.

AI Wei Wei is a huge character and a man of great courage yet he says: ‘I am so fearful but If you don’t act the dangers become stronger.’

Ai Weiwei describes himself as an ‘eternal optimist’ who is still exhilarated  and curious about life and believes in possibilities.

This film is a powerful inspiration. Don’t miss it. Spread the word.



Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Image by Flickr user DigiPub (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Image by Flickr user DigiPub (CC BY-ND 2.0).





Nov 23rd: Q&A: AI WEIWEI




AI WEIWEI ON TED [Dated 4 April 2011, this smuggled video is a powerful statement from the man himself, updating what has happened since the film was made]

Sunday, December 02, 2012



THE GENERALIST was so fired up by watching the documentary ‘Crosstown Hurricane’ and Peter Whitehead’s film ‘Charlie is My Darlin’ on the Stones brief Irish tour in 1964 released for the first time – part of the mass media hoopla surrounding the Stones 50th Anniversary gigs – that I have decided to raid my own Archives and bring you some strange delights.

1967 began with Keef and Mick’s bust at Redland, subsequent trial and brief imprisonment. Less remembered is the fact that Brian Jones was busted with Stash in May that year and came to court on 30th Oct. This is the earliest Stones clipping I can find dated June 28th, published in the London Evening News. Copy reads: ‘Rolling Stone Brian Jones in his fur-collared dressing gown goes out on to the balcony of his South Kensington flat after police had broken in. Earlier the police had a dramatic message that the guitarist had been taken ill and an ambulance was called. The message was hoax. Now Brian is looking for another flat because of similar annoyances recently.’

Brian was busted again on 29th May 1968 and came to court on the 26th of that year.

Copy of STONES2301

1969: June Brian Jones quits Stones’ is an undated, unattributed clipping. Bill Wyman dates the meeting described below as taking place on June 8th. Story by Douglas Marlborough.

‘BRIAN JONES, 26, lead guitarist with the Rolling Stones, has quit.

He said last night: ‘The music Mick Jagger and Keith Richard have been writing has progressed at a tangent as far as my own taste is.concerned.

'I have a desire to play my own brand of music rather than that of others, no matter how much I appreciate their musical concepts.'

Jones's decision came after a meeting between him and lead singer Jagger, 24, at Jones's home, Cotchford Farmhouse, at Hartfield, Sussex, former home of A. A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh there.

Jones, who recently bought the house for £3.1,000, said there had been the normal friendly meeting among the group and that they had agreed that an 'amicable termination of their music relationship, temporary or permanent, is the only answer.'


A few hours earlier Jones had denied a report that he had been sacked from the group or that he had quit.

He said: 'There is no row— everything is all right between us. It seems as though some­one is spreading a rumour around.'

But after meeting Jones, Jagger said: 'Brian wants to play music which is more his own rather than play ours. We have parted on the best of terms and I am sure we will continue to be the best of friends.'

Jones has been replaced by 5ft. 11 in. Mick Taylor, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, who for he past two years has been lead guitarist with the John Mayall rhythm and blues group.

British audiences are expected to see the new-look Stones, who’re the country's top pop draw after the Beatles, at a concert next month.


STONES4303(Left) Tie-in magazine accompanying release of ‘Stones In The Park’ documentary.

July 5th: Stones reorganise their pre-planned free Hyde Park concert in memory of Brian. Half a million people attend – including me




JULY 6th: The News of the World with their usual tact reported Brian Jones death the day after the concert. Article features this controversial photo of Brian captioned as follows: ‘Brian Jones in a mood of protest. He bought this S.S. uniform from a Munich costume dealer. Brian was a pacifist. The pose, jackbooted on a crumpled doll, was a symbolic gesture against war-time German atrocities.’

According to Brian Wyman, it was one of a set of pictures taken in 1966 in Munich in a photo session for  ‘A Degree of Murder’, a film directed by Walter Schlondorff and starring Anita Pallenberg which Brian wrote and produced the soundtrack for. Jones said of these pictures at the time: ‘These are going to be realistic pictures. The meaning is there is no sense in it.’

STONES20319 1969: ALTAMONT FESTIVAL. Photo: Bill Owens. This is one of a number of original Stones prints in the Archives.


(Left): 1973: Account from The Guardian [25th October 1973] of Keef and Anita’s court case. [Right] A curio item from 1975 about Stones being refused permission  to stage concert on Easter Island.



1976: UK and European Tour: April-June.         Top: Official programme for the tour. (Left) The Stones press office does its bit to raise publicity for the tour by announcing that Keef will marry Anita on-stage at Earl’s Court. Anita is carrying Marlon. [I My 1976] Tragically their 10-week old baby son Tara died on 18th June while the tour was still in progress. Anita and Keef never got married. [Right] Before the Internet the only way to get tickets was to apply by post. The promoter Harvey Goldsmith received 50 sacks of mail containing 100,000 letters according to this story [6h April 1976]



[Left} The NME reaction to US adverts for Stones new album [26th June 1976]. Caption reads: ‘They never get tired of all this S/M rubbish do they? [Right] Account of Keef’s court appearance on 6th Oct 1976 on further drug charges for possession of cocaine and LSD. He was fined £100 for being late to court due the fact that his suit came back from the laundry without trousers.