Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Patch: 1898-2009

He was the last surviving soldier of World War I, but on Saturday, at the age of 111, Harry Patch died, thus severing the last living link with the 1914-18 conflict. Oddly, the week before, the war’s other survivor, 113-year-old Henry Allingham, also passed away, meaning that this November, for the first time, there will be none of the ‘fighting Tommies’ present at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. The photo, by Don McCullin comes courtesy of this profile of Patch in The Observer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The least free places on Earth

Great feature from, which, from what I can gather is a “think tank“ – whatever a think tank actually is. Anyway, it’ll come as no surprise that North Korea tops the list. FP says:

All power is held by Kim Jong Il, who assumed power in 1994 upon the death of his father, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung. The regime maintains a network of prison camps in which thousands of political prisoners are subjected to brutal conditions. All facets of a person's life – including employment, education, place of residence, access to medical facilities, and access to stores – are determined by a semihereditary system of social discrimination that classifies citizens into 53 subgroups under broad security ratings (from “core” to “wavering” to “hostile”) based on their family‘s perceived loyalty to the regime.

But worse news for the middle class students who are always asking me to sign their petitions on Upper Street is the inclusion of Cuba. That’s right, funky, salsa-dancing, Bueno Vista Social Club-listening, George W. Bush-hating Cuba. Are they serious? Apparently so:

Fidel Castro may have stepped down last year after 49 years in power, but Cuba remains a one-party state, now under Fidel’s brother, Raúl. Freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s residence and place of employment are severely restricted, and attempting to leave the island without permission is a punishable offense. Owning a cellphone and accessing the internet from home were finally legalized in 2008, but the costs of both are far outside the reach of most Cubans.

Surely, there must be some mistake. Don’t FP realise that there are thousands of young British SWP-ers who own Palestinian keffiyehs and everything who would give their parents’ second home in the Dordogne just for a two-week working holiday on a collective farm in some faraway corner of this socialist paradise? Can they not see that “freedom” is a small price to pay for the chance to watch an 80-year-old fella in a white cap* sing a song about shagging a farm girl in 1933? Some people will never learn.

* Have you noticed that old people with brown skin are considered cool, whereas your average blue-rinse British OAP is someone who holds embarrassingly patriotic views and doesn’t own any Bob Marley records?

More here
Tip: Harry’s Place

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tilt-shift pictures of London… and an amazing video of Swiss railways

I’m a bit obsessed with tilt-shift photography at the moment, the technique that makes everything you take a picture of look like it’s a little toy model.

I’m not quite sure how one would go about making these images – though I note the latest issue of Smug Mac User Weekly tells you how in Google’s Picasa program – but the results make even the most earth-shattering moments look tiny and insignificant.

The pictures of London here come courtesy of Toby Allen and the Daily Telegraph. But it seems that the tilt-shift craze has now gone over to video…

gottardo nord from fb1 visuals on Vimeo.

The film is taken from this Vimeo link at, which says it‘s…

… an absolutely stunning tilt-shift video of various trains passing through the Swiss villages of Sisikon and Göschenen. This project was filmed by Andi Leemann and Jeri Peier using two EOS 5D Mark II cameras, a Canon 90mm TS-E f/2.8 and a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 combined with a 1.4x converter.

Brilliant stuff.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Bullrings of the world

Whether you think bullfighting is cruel or [adopts pretentious voice] a beguiling part of Hispanic cutlure (it’s probably both), the fact remains that the stadiums in which this ritual takes place are some of the most beautiful sporting arenas in the world. From this thread on Skyscraper City comes a selection of the world’s greatest plazas de toros.

Ciudad Real, Spain (the oldest in the world, dating from 1641)

Ronda, Spain

Murcia, Spain

Albufeira, Portugal

Madrid, Spain

Nimes, France

Barcelona, Spain

Almeria, Spain

Villaluenga del Rosario, Cádiz, Spain

Photo at top: Santa Eulalia, Portugal

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Andy Murray v Stanislas Wawrinka

Obviously having absolutely no connections with the blazers who run Wimbledon there was little chance I was going to get any press tickets for the tournament. But, in the spirit of Andy Warhol, I did the next big thing – and took some pictures of Andy Murray beating the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka on the telly instead. Weirdly, they work.