The Stop the War march today was truly amazing. It was only the third march I’ve ever been on (the first being immediately after September 11th when we were all terrified the US would lash out in retaliation, and the second last autumn, also against the impending war). My wife and I got to the Embankment at about 2pm and shuffled along with the good-humoured and highly cosmopolitan crowd, a great swathe of ages, backgrounds and political persuasions. There was a fantastic sense of humour present on the placards people were holding, such as a picture of Bush with his head split open in Monty Python fashion and an arrow pointing in saying EMPTY WAR-HEAD, a wooden placard stick with BUSH IS A PLANK written on it, and a picture of Blair’s face with his eyes replaced with Bush’s and the slogan BLUSH. This image was a very shrewd revamping of the old Tory “demon eyes” campaign, where Blair’s eyes were replaced with the Devil’s during the 1997 general election. We all thought that was very tacky scare-mongering at the time, but who’s the tacky scare-mongerer now, eh?
I attach a few photos, including some from Hyde Park. We got there too late for the speeches, partly because we stopped into a café in St Martin’s to thaw out after the 90-minute trudge from Embankment to Trafalgar Square. By the time we got to the rallying point it was nearly dark and there were all these little groups of people huddling around tiny bonfires they’d made from placards and leaflets to ward off the bitter cold. Overall it was a very positive day. I carried a “Not in my name” placard all the way home and two complete strangers stopped me to chat for a moment about the march, both of them supportive and one of them saying he was from an army family but still disagreed with taking military action on this occasion. Surely I was dreaming – strangers? Talking to each other?? In England??? It’ll be highly ironic if this (potential) war ends up bringing people together more effectively than politicians ever could.
The artist who sent himself up, from today’s Times, reports on an unemployed actor who posted himself to the Tate Britain in a wooden box. Dan Shelton said the idea came from the technique used by inventors who seal plans in a postmarked envelope to prove when they came up with a concept. Shelton and The Times should be aware that this technique is also used by certain writers as a cheap alternative to copyright registration: you send yourself a copy of what you’ve written and leave it unopened somewhere safe before sending it to a publisher or whoever, so that if someone else steals it and makes millions out of it you can prove the idea was in fact yours all along and sue them. Of course it’s all a bit vain because it presupposes that your idea is so brilliant that someone would want to rip you off, which nine times out of ten isn’t the case. Anyway, I hope Shelton made sure he was signed for, so that in the unlikely event that someone else claims to be him, he can sue them.
The Times reports today (“Close shaves beat death by whisker“) that “men who do not shave every day are 30 per cent more likely to die of heart disease and nearly 70 per cent more likely to have a stroke”, according to a study by the University of Bristol. Apparently this is to do with the fact that men who don’t shave regularly tend to lead more dissolute lives in general. The article ends with the mysterious observation that “men with beards were excluded from the survey”. Are the University of Bristol going to conduct a separate study of bearded men’s propensity to heart disease and strokes, or should it be understood that all men with beards are either guaranteed never to suffer from these ailments or are all about to pop their clogs? I think we (or they) should be told.
I was shocked by an item on ITV’s News at Ten last night reporting on an address by Tony Blair to a group of hand-picked card-carrying Labour supporters on UK politics. Iraq went deliberately unmentioned in his speech, but Iain Wilson, a student who had “infiltrated himself into the audience” with a borrowed membership card, started to harangue Blair about the Iraq issue – only to be physically manhandled out of the room. At the end of the address the supporters gave Blair a standing ovation. Congratulations to Wilson for having the guts to do it, and shame on those yes-men who swallowed Blair’s propaganda.
The Independent ran a story about this on its front page today, with a photo inside of Wilson being “removed” by Tony’s henchmen. Robert Fisk also refers to the incident with approval today in his excellent piece “The wartime deceptions“.
The Guardian ran a story in its Media section today headlined “Furore as Vogue ad hits the ‘G’ spot” about a new Gucci advert which it says shows a woman “being pushed against a wall by a male model”. It goes on to report that the image has caused offence, which given the paper’s description would not appear surprising. I bought the magazine (the first time I’ve ever done so) to have a look for myself and have to say I totally disagree with this interpretation of the image: the male model isn’t forcing himself on the woman at all; he’s kneeling down at the woman’s crotch, gazing at more in awe than desire, as if he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing – and not just because she’s had her pubic hair shaved into the shape of a Gucci “G”. It reminded me of a Leonard Cohen song called Light as the Breeze, in which the narrator kneels “at the delta, at the alpha and the omega … like one who believes”. Apart from anything else, she’s the one who’s pulling her knickers down and inviting him to gaze in wonder at her “G spot”. Ironic, incidentally, that I would never have known about the ad if I hadn’t read about it in The Guardian.
A bizarre story in today’s Times reports that SSL International, the Durex condom maker, saw its shares jump after it won a court case brought after a Chinese rival called Wuhan Jissbon Hygiene Products copied SSL’s website and passed off the firm’s sales and performance claims as their own. Jissbon, which even more strangely means “James Bond” and who sport a picture of the Justice statue from the roof of the Old Bailey on the front page of their website, were found out when they made the classic blunder of including SSL’s own name on the plagiarised site. Well, if you’re going to get caught, you may as well get caught with your pants down, eh?
As part of my job at a London press cuttings agency (he said hurriedly) I have to read through editions of financial magazines, including Professional Pensions. The references to “war” and “potential war” are increasing daily and are not very reassuring. In a story headlined “Schemes urged to invest in equities and catch upturns”, from the edition dated 9th January, Threadneedle Investments’ head of investment communications Helen Mackin says, “An outbreak of peace or a quick, clean victory for a US-led but UN-backed force would be the best outcome [for the markets]. Either could swiftly erase the ‘war premium’ in the oil price … with positive knock-on effects for the US economy.” Shurely shome mishtake… she can’t be both for and against war, can she?
However, this is nothing compared with Mark Dampier of Hargreaves Lansdown’s sentiment in a piece headlined “Between Iraq and a hard place” from Money Marketing of 9th January: “A short war could be good for Isa business.” What on earth is wrong with these people?