On Wednesday I was invited onto the BBC World Service programme ‘BBC World Have Your Say’ to discuss Raif Badawi’s PEN Pinter Prize and the issues experienced by bloggers in Saudi Arabia. Also on the show were Evelyne Abitbol, Chief Execuitve of the Free Raif Badawi Foundation and Saudi Arabian journalists Essam Al Ghalib, Eman Al Nafjan of Saudi Woman, and Abeer Mishkas.
You can hear our segment via the player below or on SoundCloud. The entire programme can be heard on the BBC website or BBC iPlayer. Continue reading Debating Saudi ‘Red Lines’ on the BBC
A while ago I posted on The Darker Side of Selfies, and the way in which the mainstream media illustrate the news of tragic young deaths with images from the victims’ social media accounts.
Whether it is a car accident, a drug overdose, a gang murder, or a bullying related suicide, the photo editors turn to the victim’s Facebook page or Twitter stream to harvest images. … Used in this new, unintended context, these images strike a discordant note. The carefree narcissism inherent in any selfie jars with the fact of the artist/subject’s untimely death.
The death of Terrie Lynch and Alexandra Binns this week is a good example. Continue reading Photography Imbued with Sadness
I’m delighted to have a story featured in the anthology We Need to Talk, launched yesterday. The publisher is Jurassic London—here’s the blurb from their website:
All of us, at some point, are involved in difficult conversations. Whether that’s tough talks with clients or bosses, or break-ups, or coming out, or telling someone you love them, or giving advice to that friend who just doesn’t want to hear it. Some conversations are even more difficult, as sufferers of any potentially serious illness will know.
But one thing’s for sure, these conversations are fascinating. So much so that we’ve teamed up with Kindred and The Eve Appeal, to launch a writing competition on the theme of difficult conversations.
My story is called ‘Frozen Out’, an awkward conversation between a husband and wife. Its inclusion in the anthology is all the sweeter because the other eighteen stories are uniformly excellent. Continue reading We Need To Talk launched for The Eve Appeal
Bloody hell. A serving general has threatened mutiny if a Corbyn-led Labour government attempts to scrap Trident or otherwise downgrade our military capabilities. The Independent reports that the general said that the military would attempt to stop such policies being enacted, “by fair means or foul”. Continue reading Ok, so this right here is why we need strong human rights laws
This blog is ten years old this month. I’ve written previously about the impetus for starting to write, and my reasons for persisting with it.
A key factor was the Iraq War of 2003. The arguments about the decision to invade, the human rights abuses that followed and the obtuse behaviour of our leaders were a staple of the ‘blogosphere’ at that time, and I got stuck in.
Allow me to indulge in a little old-style blogging, i.e. web-logging, by quoting at length from Anthony Barnett’s recent essay on Jeremy Corbyn, where he summarises the meaning of the Iraq War: Continue reading On Iraq, we were right and they were wrong
Picasa is Google’s free photo management application. It appears to be an experimental project rather than a flagship product, but its extremely useful and versatile. In particular, it allows management of photos without making a copy of each photograph inside the application. This was the feature that prompted me to move my photo management into Picasa from Apple’s iPhoto (now discontinued) and why I have not moved on to its new ‘Photos’ offering.
Like those other programmes, Picasa has a powerful facial recognition feature. Set it loose on your photos and it will recognise faces within them. The software if powerful enough to identify blurred, grainy faces as well as in-focus portraits. If you give a face a name, it will identify other similar faces and suggest that they are the same person. I began tagging all my photographs like this. Continue reading How can I force Picasa to rescan faces?
Free speech includes the right to not say – or sing – something that you do not believe. Jeremy Corbyn exercised that right during the Battle of Britain memorial service earlier this week, when he stood in silence during the national anthem.
Patriotism and monarchism are not mutually exclusive. Patriotism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive either. Declining to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ does not make one a traitor or unpatriotic. Instead, it signals that you think our country would be better if it didn’t have God (an Established Church) and it didn’t have a Queen (the monarchy). These are entirely reasonable beliefs. Continue reading Free speech and the national anthem
in the end, I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election. I was just too worried about the issue of electability, and therefore the need to show economic competence to the wider electorate. I did not think that potential was something Corbyn adequately conveyed during the campaign. If Labour lose the 2020 election I think the Conservative programme will become too entrenched with deeply unpleasant and inequitable consequences for our society.
So instead, I chose Yvette Cooper. Friends and family have derided her for being boring and equally un-Prime Ministerial, but I disagreed. Her speech on immigration late in the campaign was passionate, and when I saw her speak in person (a couple of years ago) I was mightily impressed. I think she could have found a way to restore Labour’s economic credibility. I think she was – and is – electable.
I won’t deny that I was also keen to see a woman elected Labour leader, although I don’t think identity politics should trump policy.
None of that came to pass, however, and Corbyn was the overwhelming preference of party members and supporters. And yesterday a friend sends me this message:
Btw – am seriously thinking about joining the Labour Party now that Khan is mayoral candidate and Corbyn is at the helm. Are you not excited?
Yes, I am. Continue reading Corbyn
On social media, a friend shares the above exchange, on the subject of sexual assault and the clothes women wear. The responses to the guy who compares women’s bodies to a bank vault are as good a refutation of this line of thinking as any you will see. (h/t Noodlemaz, and here’s a link to the conversation on Tumblr if you want to reblog it.)
There was more debate in the comments to this image. One person (again, a man) said that refraining from dressing in a provocative manner was just being “realistic” about human nature. He seemed not to have considered the idea that, as thinking beings, a man who forces himself on a woman is not succumbing to human nature, just accepting without question the worst messages of our sexist culture.
This is a blinkered outlook. There is nothing to say that our society cannot be changed and made better. Whenever anyone resorts to the idea that something is “human nature” we must remind them that this observation is unlikely to be correct… And even if it were, that should be the start of the conversation, not the end of it. Continue reading You’re not going out dressed like that!
I am fascinated with the Waterlogue app, which converts any image into a watercolour. Most apps and PhotoShop filters that purport to recreate a particular artistic style seem to do a poor job of it – mangling the image but without reproducing the essence of the art form.
Such ‘artistic’ filters are usually used to convey a sense of beauty. The examples from the Waterlogue community all have an extremely traditional subject matter: landscapes, portraits and still life, framed rather conventionally.
I put six of recent history’s most famous yet shocking images through the tool. The results are below. They are instantly recognisable, and although the paint removes detail from the images, I find them just as sad as the photographic versions.
Continue reading Shocking photographs reproduced in watercolour