Taking a break.....back next weekend 1st/2nd July.
Banner-wielding animal rights protesters swarmed into a restaurant serving cat meat in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and forced it to shut, Xinhua news agency said today.
The 40 or so, mainly female demonstrators – holding banners reading "cats and dogs are friends of human beings" – entered the Fangji Cat Meatball restaurant and demanded the owner free any live cats on the premises, Xinhua said.
There were none in the building as the owner had already moved them out, it said. But some burst into tears upon finding a skinned cat in a fridge.
"I cannot go on with my business and I will not sell cat meat any more," the restaurant owner was quoted as saying, though he defended his trade by saying eating cat in Guangdong province was a tradition.
The organiser of the protest, identified only as Isobel, the founder of a cat protection website, said the restaurant had been chosen because it killed cats in the street and it was "very bad for the students from nearby schools".
A local beauty queen, Miss Shenzhen 2005, also took part, calling on people to "stop eating cats and dogs and become civilised", Xinhua said.
Michael Gove in the Times:
I’m not quite sure when I started becoming middle-aged. It could have been the moment when I started to take an interest in garden furniture prices, or perhaps the occasion when I found myself reading about Center Parcs holidays and thinking how attractive the whole concept sounded.
But I know, to the precise second, when my entry into middle-agedom became complete, the moment when I passed from carefree thirtysomething into apprentice Victor Meldrew. It was Friday night, I was driving on the motorway back from Swindon and I suddenly realised how right John Major had been all along.
My male menopausal moment occurred as the joys of careering along the open road in the dead of night were suddenly brought to a shuddering halt by the presence of a row of cones fencing off two of the motorway’s lanes.
If cones on the road, with no sign of any workmen, causes such a "male menopausal moment", then he must have been leading a fairly sheltered life, or been very lucky with his choice of roads. For me, that moment, or something similar, happened when I found myself agreeing with a Tory MP - Michael Gove, in the second part of today's article - about cuddly left-wing Ken:
Ignorance, it seems, is a defence in the eyes of the law. Well, it is if you’re Ken Livingstone. The Mayor of London has been cleared of anti-Semitism after having told the businessmen David and Simon Reuben to “go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs” because, according to the council officer who investigated his remarks, he could not have known that the Reuben brothers were Jewish.
Absolutely. How can the man responsible for the busy task of running multicultural London be expected to know that a name like Reuben might suggest a particular faith or ethnicity? These PC zealots will be expecting poor Ken to know the difference between a mosque and a temple next. The mayor was just unlucky in his choice of words — as he has been before.
It was, obviously, just a coincidence that Ken suggested to two Jewish brothers that they be sent to a country run by a Holocaust denier. Just as it was pure bad luck that Ken found himself comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. It must also have been a simple slip of the tongue when Ken argued that global capitalism killed more people than Hitler. He could not possibly have been aware how often global capitalism, like rootless cosmopolitanism, has been deployed as a metaphor for conspiratorial Jewish influence. And nor could Ken have been expected to know, when he invited the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to City Hall, that the Sheikh supported suicide attacks on Israel.
Surely only radicals carried away with crazy notions like institutional racism or unwitting prejudice could possibly detect anything worrying in these stray words and acts? And surely the Ken Livingstone we have grown to know and love would never have any time for that sort of nonsense now, would he?
It's time to say it, loud and clear: The newborn Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is on its death bed. Without determined action to save it, the war in Darfur will continue - a steady drip of death, more or less according to the season and the mood of the Sudanese government, while hundreds of thousands of Darfurians become permanent residents of displaced camps where the Janjaweed roam.
The two signatories of the DPA are those in whom Darfurians have least trust - Sudan's government and the faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) controlled by Minni Minawi. Sudan's leaders are serial war criminals; Minawi is a brutal dictator - increasingly rejected even by his own Zaghawa tribe. Neither has changed its spots since signing up for peace.
The BBC, meanwhile, report on increased Janjaweed attacks in Chad:
As Sudan's feared Janjaweed militia step up their cross-border attacks into Chad, there is worrying new evidence that some Chadians have joined forces with the Janjaweed to attack their own countrymen.
Victims of attacks say that some Chadians are acting as "guides" to the Janjaweed, directing them to certain villages and suggesting which cattle to steal.
Many victims also say that some Chadians are taking part in the actual killings. [...]
Some people believe they are now being attacked by the Janjaweed as revenge for having helped their Sudanese neighbours in the past.
As is often the case in such conflicts, the humanitarian price is high.
Many of the displaced, who are camping on the outskirts of Sudanese refugee camps for security, have little access to food, clean water or shelter.
The displaced Chadians tell very similar stories to their Sudanese refugee neighbours.
"There is no security," said Aze Hamat, 23, who lost her father and two brothers in an attack.
"They take our cattle, kill men, even rape women," she said.
"If they find a pretty woman they will take her across the border, where she is raped. Sometimes the women are dumped back in the bush afterwards. Sometimes they are never seen again."
No doubt it's easy to criticise from a country where China isn't a huge and looming presence, but still, this is disappointing from South Korea:
Last week, 22 of 28 Nobel Peace Prize winners gathered in South Korea for the 2006 Gwangju (Kwangju) Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. Winners from Kenya, Russia, Guatemala, Iran, East Timor, and the United Kingdom have accepted invitations, as have representatives from Nobel-winning organizations, such as Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, and the American Friends Service Committee. The Dalai Lama, however, couldn’t attend. Not because he wasn't invited, or because he had other plans: like those other laureates, the Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 award, had also accepted an invitation from the Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library to a summit about peace on the Korean Peninsula and in all of East Asia. But the South Korean government has refused to grant him a visa, letting politics trump its own peace initiatives. As a Foreign Ministry official told Human Rights Watch, "Considering various factors, for now, we decided the Dalai Lama's visit to South Korea is not desirable.’’ The government of South Korea, sensitive to the wishes of China, has consistently refused the Dalai Lama entry to its territory. In 2000, for example, a committee of private citizens representing 73 religious and civic organizations invited the Dalai Lama to visit in November. The South Korean government was in no way involved. After the Chinese embassy in Seoul made known its displeasure, a representative of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade met with group members and asked that they postpone the suggested visit until 2001. That visit never took place; nor did one proposed by the student council of Seoul National University that same year. The Dalai Lama had planned to deliver a speech at the university on peace and non-violence. But, said a Foreign Ministry official, "His visit would not be beneficial to the country's national interest.’’ For many, the Dalai Lama is not only a desired visitor but an emblem of their desire for peace. How ironic, then, that he was prevented from contributing last week to a gathering dedicated in part to "reaffirm democracy and human rights as universal values of human kind and the foundation of peace around the world.’’
The waving of the Israeli flag by a Ghanaian player at the World Cup has caused a stir. Many people, especially Arabs, have been deeply offended. There have been complaints, and an apology has been issued:
The Ghanaian Football Association has apologised after defender John Pantsil waved an Israeli flag to celebrate the World Cup win over the Czech Republic.
Spokesman Randy Abbey said the Ghanaian FA was not taking sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Pantsil plays in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv wanted to thank Israeli fans who travelled to support him, Abbey said
"He's unaware of international politics. We apologise to anybody who was offended," said Abbey.
"We promise that it will never happen again.
"He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naive... we don't need to punish him."
In a rebel camp along the barren, windswept border between Sudan and Chad, dozens of trucks packed with dreadlocked fighters manning heavy machine guns are lined up.
Piled up behind them are ammunition boxes, covered in Chinese symbols -- it's impossible to know exactly where the bullets in the boxes came from but they offer a glimpse of the complex and circuitous routes of the global arms trade.
United Nations investigators have found most of the small arms fuelling the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur are Chinese, despite an arms ban on a region where tens of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million squat in squalid camps.
"China has been, and continues to be, a major supplier of light weapons to the government of Sudan and many of the neighbouring states," said Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, one of four U.N. experts on an panel which recommended 17 players in the Darfur conflict be sanctioned for obstructing peace.
And from the BBC:
Aid worker Matthew Langol has twice been airlifted out of southern Sudan, where he was delivering medicines to villages ravaged by cholera, after rebels ambushed aid convoys travelling behind him, blocking his way out.
"It's very dangerous work," he admits.
"No-one likes making the journey. But the disease comes in waves here, and no medicine would mean higher fatalities and a chain reaction of transmissions."
The attacks are staged by the feared Lord's Resistance Army, which has moved to Sudan from northern Uganda.
At least five aid workers travelling along this road have been ambushed and killed by the rebels since October 2005, with others suffering serious injuries.
Southern Sudan - one of the poorest parts of the world after a 21-year civil war that ended 18 months ago - has suffered over 500 cholera deaths since January.
Another 13,800 people have been affected by the disease in the region.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the epidemic could spread to Sudan's neighbours, and on Wednesday the agency confirmed reports it has spread to Darfur, where 2.5m refugees live in squalid conditions and close proximity. [...]
Dr Claire-Lise Chaignat of the WHO's Global Task Force on Cholera Control in Geneva says Khartoum is so wary of the effects cholera could have on exports that it has renamed the disease altogether.
"Officially Sudan does not speak about cholera, they speak about Acute Watery Diarrhoea. But it's cholera," she says.
"It has a stigma, and it's generating a lot of panic. Some countries place sanctions on the import of foods and other products from countries that declare cholera, and while the Sudanese government isn't pretending cholera doesn't exist, there's an understanding not to refer to it as such."
This, in the NYT, strikes me as strange:
The German flag, long weighted by the country's postwar reluctance about open displays of national pride, is flying again, an expression of exuberance as Germany plays host to the World Cup.
"When you see so many German flags flying from windows, that's a development that was long overdue, while not forgetting what happened in this country before," said Christoph Metzelder, a defender on the German team.
Indeed, the chief indicator of the national mood is that almost overnight, once the World Cup began and all those people from other countries arrived with flags and T-shirts in their national colors, it became almost mandatory, certainly desirable, to respond in kind.
You could almost substitute England for Germany here, apart from the references to a troubled past. In fact it would apply better to England, where the usual squirming at the ghastly chavs displaying the flag, and how they're all horrible working-class racists, is at last being countered with the dawning realisation that there are thousands of non-white English happily - and proudly - flying the old St George's Cross.
I don't recall the Germans having a problem with showing their flag in earlier World Cups, or in any other international sporting context for that matter. It has no Nazi connotations, after all. I realise that Germany's trying to use the World Cup to change people's perceptions of them - and good luck to them - but this story looks a bit forced to me.
We are so excited now!
The party has started.
I told you we are the history makers, and now we are making history.
The way we are feeling now we're sure we'll thrash the USA, we are going to make them look like schoolboys.
Everyone is jumping around, dancing and singing.
People have come out of their houses, and are driving around in their cars honking the horns. Everywhere you look you can see people waving the Ghana flag.
There is so much noise and excitement, you cannot believe!
I've never been so happy in all my life. And I think a lot of people feel the same.
We are going to party right through the night. I think the churches are going to be half-full tomorrow because people won't be able to get up.
I have to go now and join the dancing, and the party!
What can you say? Go Ghana! Go Razak Pimpong!
And what was that all about, with one of the Ghanaians pulling out the Israeli flag whenever they scored?
In contrast to the publicity that greets the Turner Prize every year, the annual BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery gets little attention, but in terms of artistic quality it's far and away the better show. In place of the arid cliches of conceptual art you get paintings of the highest quality: a reminder that our art schools do sometimes manage to produce competent artists who aren't concerned with subverting our expectations, challenging our preconceptions, or generally putting up two fingers to our whole elitist culture (hoping that someone seriously rich like Charles Saatchi will get interested in them while they subsist on Arts Council grants in the meantime), but instead earn their bread and butter by producing skilled works of art. I've checked it out for the past few years, and always come out with a smile on my face. This year is as good as ever, with works varying from photographic realism to the stylised, with even a nod at mixed media - a phrase which normally brings a chill to the heart, but here works well (a video-ed head above a painted picture of a body). It's a small exhibition, so you can go round a couple of times or more, and it's free. The subjects are all unknowns: we've come a long way from the origins of portraiture as testimonials to the famous, and can concentrate on looking in detail at intimate portrayals of people we've never seen before, wonder at our almost infinite ability to read emotion and character into the human face, and marvel at the skills displayed by the portraitists.
When, in 1917, Marcel Duchamp handed down his great commandment that, henceforth, anything can be art, he unwittingly kicked off a new religion. He supplied generations of talentless students (and professors) with a charlatan’s charter. The brainless fanatics of this simple creed are now teaching in every art school in the country. Indeed, we’ve been suffering this intolerant and prescriptive orthodoxy for decades because, under the auspices of the new faith’s high priests at the Tate and the Arts Council, this religion, state-funded needless to say, runs all aspects of contemporary art on our behalf. It has been the process by which the originality of the avant-garde has become authoritarian, institutionalised and dead dull. Every year this religion bores the pants off us with its annual synod, the Turner Prize.
Like all religions, in order to be a supportive, active member of the congregation you must suspend all reason and demonstrate blind faith. Don’t ask too many questions because the college doesn’t like troublemakers. Just do as you’re told, forget all your preconceptions and everything you’ve ever learnt and follow me down the road to the Arts Council cashier.
I wouldn't argue with any of that, but somehow this is all self-defeating: it's been said before, and it's just grist to the mill of that same art world that he's attacking. Without the annual controversy, who could really care less about the Turner?
Mark Lawson, one of the BBC's cultural heavyweights, takes a predictable view, seeing it as a battle of progressives against reactionaries:
At the time of the opening of Tate Modern - London's temple to contemporary art - a story swept the press. A visitor had reportedly dropped his wallet in a gallery. Realising this, he went back into the room to find a crowd gathered admiringly round the leather rectangle. When he stooped to retrieve his possession, an attendant rebuked him for touching an exhibit. Whether or not it happened, this anecdote fast became the sardonic gospel of the enemies of modern art, filed alongside similar legends of gallery cleaners accidentally chucking out what they assumed to be rubbish on the building floor but were in fact the famous Turner-shortlisted works Garbage or Sweet Paper.
To conservatives all these stories hold the same moral: that once anything can be accepted as creativity it becomes impossible to distinguish between a work of art and lost property or litter.
This week the anti-modernists were offered another sheaf of newspaper cuttings to keep safe in their wallets. David Hensel, a sculptor from Sussex, submitted to the Royal Academy summer exhibition a piece that consisted of a large bronze laughing head mounted on a plinth of slate and kept in place by a support shaped like a bone.
Pleased to have the piece accepted as item 1201 in the catalogue - One Day Closer to Paradise (edition of 9, £3,640 each) - Hensel was dismayed on visiting the show to find that his effort had been decapitated; he was represented in the exhibition by what looked like a dog's toy on a paving stone. It turned out that the head had become separated from the support during unpacking.
For the artistic reactionaries the Hensel event tops even the wallet story as proof that modernists would believe that a fart was art if a man in a bow tie told them it was. The sculptor David Mach, a selector for the summer show, was even on record praising the "minimalist" qualities of the bone-on-slab display. And as the faces of traditionalists aped the roaring mouth of Hensel's missing head they were given even more cause to cackle when it turned out that the bronze bonce had not simply been left behind in a storeroom but had gone before the selectors as a separate art-work and been rejected.
Yet another bone thrown to the anti-modernist dogs is the fact that the plinth with the bit on top is now expected to sell for far more than the original price of the whole combination. For the provisional wing of the watercolourists association this will prove that modern Britart combines artistic indiscrimination with financial idiocy.
I wonder, though, whether the RA's embarrassment is quite the humiliation of modern art that it appears. The argument that the selection panel has been stupid - and fooled into elevating a mistake into art - rests largely on the fact that they were not seeing what the artist intended. But an artist's interpretation of his or her own work has only limited validity; it's outsiders who decide how it goes down. You can write a play and call it a comedy, but if theatregoers don't laugh there's no arguing with them.
As one of the commenters to this points out, defenders of postmodern art like Lawson are unable to take this to its logical conclusion: if art is whatever we say it is, then we don't need galleries, curators, or even artists: we can just do it ourselves. Now that Tracey Emin's opened my eyes, I can see that my bedroom's a work of art just as hers was, though admittedly without the tampons. The street outside is a work of art - or at least it is potentially, for those of us with vision. Once the artists and art critics have deconstructed art, they've deconstructed themselves out of a job.
After Duchamp (it always goes back to Duchamp), artists have been struggling with this dilemma: how to justify their art and their special place in the world of culture - nevermind their large bank balances - in the face of the redefinition of art as whatever you want it to be. It seems to me that the main way this has been accomplished over the last few decades has been by promoting the cult of the artist: that is, by presenting the artist as some sort of cultural shaman with special gifts, whose work has significance not for its intrinsic merits, but simply because of its connection to the artist. The artists transfer their magical potency to their works of art, which acquire their value, in a quasi-religious way, from who made them.
It's also worth noting the language that people like Mark Lawson use to defend their position. Those who criticise postmodern art are conservatives, anti-modernists, reactionaries railing against the forces of progress. Somehow (in the Sixties? or back to Dada again?) politics has crept into the equation, and art has been co-opted into the battle against the forces of reaction. So a tired piece of conceptual art has to be defended because of its presumed progressive and liberatory potential, and the defenders can pat themselves on the back as being up-to-date, modern, and on the right side of history.
That anti-modernist label also implies that the blinkered mindset which laughed at Picasso or sneered at Van Gogh is the same one now criticising Tracey's unmade bed or this latest plinth masterpiece: as though it's still the same battle between progressives and the forces of reaction, between the thrusting young rebels and the classically-trained academicians, between cutting-edge street art and Women's Institute water-colour exhibitions. That's why I think we should refer to postmodern as opposed to modern art, to distinguish the vital and powerful art movements of the end of the 19th and much of the 20th Centuries from the vapid and sterile art world we're now lumbered with. This is not a story of steady progress - a sort of Whig history of art - where each new generation revolts against the old order and surpasses them, only to set up their own orthodoxy etc. etc.. It's a story of how a large part of the current art world has disappeared up its own arse in recent times: a large part, but, as the artists now showing at the National Portrait Gallery demonstrate, thankfully not all.