Sunday, December 23, 2007


(Above): The front-line of Brenda's Boyfriends, with Jeff Nuttall on cornet, playing live in 1980. (Photo by George Perkin)

(Below): A 1990 photo of Jeff in his beloved Volvo ('Celia') with one his hand-made friends ('Auntie') in the passenger seat. Photo taken in Nelson, Lancashire By Claire McNamee.
Purchase 'Jeff Nuttall's Wake on Paper' and 'Jeff Nuttall's Wake on CD'

My 1985 audio interview with Jeff Nuttall is now available for download at the Audio Generalist. Please check it out. The full back story to the interview can be found at this previous post: Jeff Nuttall: Bomb Culture and Beyond

By way of introduction to Mr Nuttall (what a great name for a prankster and animateur), here is the obituary written for The Guardian (12 Jan 2004) by Michael Horovitz and used with his permission. Hear MH on the Audio Generalist

'Jeff Nuttall, who has died aged 70 was a catalyst, perpetrator and champion of rebellion and experiment in the arts and society. Bomb Culture, his 1968 chronicle of the emergence of internationalist counter-culture in Britain, remains a primary source and manifesto for the post-Hiroshima generation.

The vision of Jeff's youth was grounded in "a faith that, given liberation, the human spirit would predominate. I imagined some kind of stone age village. People would build their own houses imaginatively and live there sophisticatedly and in a literate way and they would live with their hands and their minds and they would not be dictated to by anybody selling them anything. People would have the opportunity of coming into their true self, which was generous and creative and permissive".

He was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, but most of his childhood and teens were spent in Orcop near Herefordshire's Welsh border. His father was the village headmaster but the most formative years of Jeff's education were at Hereford and Bath art schools (1949-53). In 1954 he married Jane Louch, the painter who had taught him at Hereford, with whom he reared a daughter and three sons. They stayed more or less together for the next two decades.

From the late 1970s to 1984 Jeff drove around Britain, Australia and Portugal with Amanda Porter, as svelte as he was chubby, with whom he had another two boys. The rest of his life was shared with Jill Richards, a diminutive Welsh actor as hard-drinking and sharp-witted as himself.

From 1956-68 Jeff was a secondary school art master, and for the following 16 years he worked at art colleges, in Bradford, Leeds, and then as Liverpool polytechnic's head of fine art. But while bringing a transformative zest to those jobs, he was also getting on with his mission.

From 1964-67 he edited and circulated My Own Mag, a bran tub of anarchic texts and images, with William Burroughs lavishly featured in most issues. In 1966 International Times, the first London-based "underground" newspaper, was set up. Jeff contributed articles and cartoons to IT and other underground publications which emerged in its wake.

Central to the burgeoning oral verse, jazz poetry, happenings and performance art movements, he also played effervescent jazz piano and scalding cornet in the Red Allen-Roy Eldridge idioms, and sang infectiously genial vocals. The humours of Fats Waller were recreated in Jeff's persona, yet he struck some on a brief encounter as a show-off. For many more he was an outstandingly original artist also possessed of a gift for helping others appreciate their own potential.

Other precursors whose legacies he extended were the dadaists, surrealists and beats, Dylan Thomas, John Bratby and kitchen sink painting, McGill postcards, bebop and northern music hall. In 1967 he co-founded the People Show, an improvising theatre troupe with which Jeff travelled, wrote and acted for five years.

From the mid-1980s he took cameo roles in films and television. Throughout his days he made and exhibited hundreds of lyrical-threatful-polemical artworks.

He was the Guardian's incisive poetry critic (1979-81) and during the last 40 years he published some 40 books. There were poetry, plays, fiction, memoirs, essays, and verbal portraits of kindred spirits like Blackpool's star mid-20th century comedian Frank Randle (King Twist, 1978) and the free jazz virtuoso Lol Coxhill (The Bald Soprano, 1989). Jeff's Selected Poems has just appeared (Salt Publications).

In 1990 Jeff summarised his artistic approach: "I make a line out of a rhythmic figure. The previous figure suggests the subsequent one. The rhythmic figures owe much to Charlie Parker's saxophone phrasing." Thus a characteristic Nuttall poem opens:

So brightly blisters the great regurgitating ribbon of the Thames .
Sculls skim through like springtime swallows.
Keels kiss tidal scum, lancing the stolen sun-boils
or bops to a stop, as in
The bee on wheels has laments on a stick
Wags weepy banners with gypsy ribbons ...
The tiny wheeled bee has the sky on a stick
Idly waves as she buzzes through the afternoon
Kicking the tears around like bean tins.

Two defining moments for Jeff - and for the future he considered crucial for human survival - were the beginnings of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late 1950s, with its anti-H-bomb marches and the first grand scale cosmopolitan poet-meet that filled the Albert Hall in June 1965. Jeff felt confirmed in that "all our separate audiences came to one place at the same time, a frisson for us all to savour as there had been at the first Aldermaston, and the underground was suddenly there on the surface, in open ground with a following of thousands".

Nuttall and John Latham had planned a happening for that gig which encaked them both top-to-toe in blue paint, but this blocked their pores, and Latham passed out. A hot bath was needed fast but the only bath in the building was in Sir Malcolm Sargent's dressing-room. The dazed duo tumbled gratefully in, to be discovered, reviving, by a caretaker, who assumed that unimaginable beatnik outrages were being enacted beneath his eyes.

In Jonathon Green's Days In The Life: Voices From The English Underground (1988), Jeff recalled "a shift between 1966 and 1967 from poetry and art and jazz and anti-nuclear politics to just sex and drugs, the arrival of capitalism. The market saw that these revolutionaries could be put in a safe pen and given their consumer goods. What we misjudged was the power and complexity of the media, which dismantled the whole thing. It bought it up. And this happened in 67, just as it seemed that we'd won".

Nuttall lived to see that spirit rekindled 35 years later, with wise children again marching, speaking, and acting out their hearts and minds against the philistines, profiteers, and warmongers who go on ruling the west.

He died on a Sunday, leaving the Hen and Chicks pub in Abergavenny, where his trad band's lunchtime gig had been the highspot of his week for 10 years. At his soul's incarnation in Elysium it will surely come to pass, as Jeff once dreamed, that "Spifflicate water-buffalo drunk on rainbow fish will snore beside the oval father where he basks". For the rest of us, as long as "global politics" fester in lies and pea-brained Hollywooden mega-violence, it is bollocks to them, and long live Jeff Nuttall.'

· Jeffrey Nuttall, polymath, born July 8 1933; died January 4 2004


(Left): The excellent cover for the 1970 Paladin edition (UK) of 'Bomb Culture', credited to 'Head Office'. Any clues as to who they were ?

The most well-known of Jeff Nuttall's works (and with good reason), 'Bomb Culture' is a fascinating and vivid insight into
the mindset and mores of the alternative/underground scenes of the 50s and 60s told by a man who was in the thicket of it. But it is much more than that.

Here is the back cover pull quote from Peter Fryer, writing in New Society: 'Fragments of autobiography? Anarchist manifesto? Slice of contemporary cultural history? Manual for young guerillas in the generation war? The Underground's epitaph by one who was in at its birth? Jeff Nuttall's book is all these and more...his book is a letter from a man who deaperately wants to share his terrible healing vision in the hope that we may profitably pool our madness and our sanities. He is a man I should like as a friend.'

Even more interesting is this extract from Dennis Potter's review in The Times: 'BOMB CULTURE is an abcess that lances itself. An extreme book, unreasonable but not irrational. Abrasive, contemoptuous, attitudinising, ignorant and yet brilliant...a book which you must read, as soon as possible.'

Here is a short but key extract from the book that goes to the heart of the book's theme:

‘What way we made in 1945 and in the following years depended largely on our age, for right at that point, at the point of the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the generations became divided in a very crucial way.

‘The people who had passed puberty at the time of the bomb found that they were incapable of conceiving of life without a future. Their patterns of habit had formed, the steady job, the pension, the mortgage, the insurance policy, personal savings, support and respect for the protection of the law, all the paraphernalia of constructive, secure family life. They had learned their game and it was the only game they knew. To acknowledge the truth of their predicament would be to abandon the whole pattern of their lives. They would therefore have to pretend, much as they had pretended about ecstasy not being there, and they proceeded to pretend as cheerfully as ever. In any case, to look the danger in the eye might wreck the chances of that ultimate total security their deepest selves had contrived, death by H-bomb.

‘The people who had not yet reached puberty at the time of the bomb were incapable of conceiving of life with a future. They might not have had any direct preoccupation with the bomb. This depended largely on their sophistication. But they never knew a sense of future.

‘The hipster was there. Charlie Parker's records began to be distributed. The hipster became increasingly present in popular music and young people moved in his direction. They pretended too, but they did not enter the pretence at all cheerfully. In fact they entered the pretence reluctantly, in pain and confusion, in hostility which they increasingly showed. Dad was a liar. He lied about the war and he lied about sex. He lied about the bomb and he lied about the future. He lived his life on an elaborate system of pretence that had been going on for hun­dreds of years. The so-called 'generation gap' started then and has been increasing ever since.’

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is a snapshot of The Generalist's global audience, courtesy of Stat Counter, a wonderful service for all bloggers. Stories being accessed in this view of my blog's global traffic (16th December 2007) include stories on the Bering Bridge, on Arthur Brown, Tony Tyler, Mike Horowitz, Truman Capote, Al Gore, Johnny Depp, Joy Division etc etc

In case people wonder why anyone would spend 2 1/2 years writing hundreds of thousands of words - for free - the answer is in this image. After decades of working for mainstream newspapers and magazines, my blog gives me complete freedom to write about what I think is important, in a way of my own choosing. Equally important is the oppotunity to reach out to a genuinely global audience, of all cultures, backgrounds and thoughts.

Imagine if there was some global system whereby, when you wrote a book, you could log on to the internet and get a map of everyone who had taken your book to bed that night and was reading it. This blog gives me a feeling of real connection with an incredibly diverse global world.

I have written stuff every month since June 2005 - except for three months surrounding my mum's death - and the possibilities keep opening up before me.

Thanks to you all - past and present readers. Output is variable but consistently so. The plan is to keep this baby going until I run out of road. Hope you will join me for the ride.

Check out the Audio Generalist here

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Some of the first fruits of the extensive
archaeological dig into the HQ INFO archive,
currently undergoing an extensive cataloguing operation
From Top Left:

1. Band sticker for Chilli Willi and The Red Hot Pepper's
first album - 'Kings of the Robot Rhythm' -
released on Revelation Records in 1972.

2. Membership card for Radio Geronimo

3. Business card for Joint Enterprises, who sold
smoking paraphernalia of all kinds and imported
very cool US skins from the States

4. Sticker produced as part of the protest
movement connected with the 1971 Oz Obscenity Trial
at the Old Bailey - the longest obscenity trial in British legal history.

5. A dollar-bill sized handout advertising a
Spring Offensive to End the Vietnam War,
which was staged on Wednesday April 15th 1970.
Organised by the Vietnam Peace Parade Committee,
17 E 17th Street, New York


(Left to right) Nick Saunders and Nicholas Albery
(Photo by Mark Edwards/Still Pictures)

Back in August 2006 I published three posts (below) about Nicholas Albery, Nick Saunders the BIT Travel guide to India and Australia and the Arts Lab movement.
Previous postings from THE GENERALIST Archives (August 2006)

  • ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: BIT Travel Guide
  • ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Arts Labs
  • ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Nicholas Albery
  • ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Nicholas Saunders

  • Regular readers will be interested in the following valuable feedback - one message which arrived almost a year ago, the second which came today.
    I am Josefine Speyer, the widow of Nicholas Albery and have just discovered your website, six and a half years after Nicholas' death. It gave me great pleasure to read about Nicholas and his doings in such detail. You must have known him or interviewed him? I wonder.

    I have just been at a Christmas gathering yesterday organised by the Saturday Walkers Club which is going strong 10 years after Nicholas first published his 'Time Out Book of Country Walks.' There are now about 200 people who are doing various country walks every week. They have built up a tribe of walkers, many of them used to walk with Nicholas. They have published the 'Time Out Book of Country Walks 2'. Apart from getting exercise and keeping fit, the groups are a wonderful opportinity for networking and wideing ones social circle. They also organise theatre outings and other events, and several couples who first met on the walks are now happily married.

    When Nicholas first came up with the idea of a self oganising walking group, I could not believe this kind of thing would work, but it did! And wonderfully so.

    The Nicholas Albery Foundation is now The Natural Death Centre, which also runs the annual Poetry Challenge in October every year.

    Nicholas died before his time. Had he been alive today he would be deeply involved in getting projects off the ground that create sustainable community, helping create discussion and ideas to stop the destruction of the environment, the issue of terrorism and thinking about a future that would allow for 'nature to be at ease'.

    As he had written on a piece of paper, which he kept stuck on his bedroom mirror:
    "My purpose in life is to use my imagination, humour and perseverance, through my writing, my projects and my helping people fulfil their potential, so as to help create a world in which people are warm, tolerant and kind to each other, nature is at ease and magic is alive."

    Dear John
    Just before he died in a car accident, I telephoned Nicholas Albery, who was then the leading light in the Natural Death Centre, and we were delighted to discover, during the ensuing conversation, that we had (unknowingly) collaborated to produce the first overland guide to India.
    In 1970. I walked into the BIT offices in Notting Hill (founded by Lennon, as a kind of wild Underground advice centre) with a piece of paper. On it was written the details of how to get from Istanbul to Delhi overland using public transport (buses and trains) for £9.70.  This information had been given to me in Athens, at the then well-known YHA Hostel no.2, by an American deserter – a sergeant, I recall - from the Vietnam war.  Anyway, Albery was then attempting to compile the first overland to India guide for hippies, and was delighted to receive this information, which was duly incorporated into the guide (and the route worked, I discovered afterwards, though I never used it myself).  The guide itself began life as a few mimeographed sheets stapled together, but soon swelled from the ensuing feedback from the freaks who used it.  According to Nick, he then gave/sold it to Richard Branson (who then ran a seedy organic restaurant in Westbourne Park Road) who in turn gave/sold it on to Tony Wheeler, and the rest is history, save for the fact that Wheeler made a mint and we didn’t !
    Terry Phelps   

    Sunday, December 02, 2007



    The word of mouth starts here.

    Last Friday night at the Duke of York's in Brighton - a night of torrential rain and strange encounters - The Generalist was fortunate enough to attend a special screening - as part of Brighton's excellent Cinecity film festival - of 'Joy Division', a new documentary.

    Due for release in the UK next March, 'Joy Division' is a remarkable portrait of the key band behind the explosive and remarkable Manchester scene that transformed a decaying industrial city into a world-renowned centre of new style and culture.

    Shot and directed by Grant Gee and scripted and researched by Jon Savage, 'Joy Division' is a work of great beauty and artistry, a powerful and emotional experience that will leave no viewer untouched.

    I have no doubt that it will come to be seen as the definitive telling of the story of one of the truly great bands of the 20th century and of the city from whose streets they emerged.

    What this curiously unsettling film makes you feel is that you’re been given some very deep insights into something huge, important and glorious, a feeling enhanced by the eyewitness accounts of those who witnessed the birth of Joy Division. They describe the impact it had on them in almost spiritual terms, in a way strangely reminiscent of the accounts of the scientists who witnessed the early nuclear tests.

    The surviving band members recount that the strange chemistry that ran between them was so strong that the music just flowed out easily and that it was only after the songs were written that it became difficult.

    The figure and fate of Ian Curtis is central to the film’s power. We witness his transformation from mild-mannered married man to otherworldly shamanic priest, dogged by epilepsy, racked by emotional confusion. He commands our attention, even in his absence.

    Joy Division’s music is not comfortable listening. It is mysterious and profound. Like Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring, time has only deepened its force. It seems to be eternally contemporary but also eternally challenging and disturbing on levels that other music just cannot reach.

    The film plunges into their strange world, into a story which we know has a dark ending, with great force and artistry. Its scrupulous, innovative and stylish collage of sound and vision always adds dramatic and powerful forward motion to the story. Everything fits so beautifully, seems so exactly right at every moment, that you are just carried along, as if by a deep ocean current, towards events that you suddenly realise you’re not entirely comfortable about.

    Joy Division were young lads in the early 20s, lads who admit they never saw a tree until they were 12 and who rode pigs round the street for amusement, beer boys with no prospects and a lot of onboard anger. This fuelled their twice-weekly rehearsals - held in artic conditions inside wrecked warehouses – where they forged a sound of resistance powerful enough to challenge the prevailing atmosphere of the city, governed at the time by a near-fascist Bible-reading police chief, in a Britain ruled by the grim forces of Dame Thatcher and all her minions.

    There is some very dark territory here but - in another curious paradox - the film is both inspiring and life-affirming. It awakens your senses and your intellect in equal measure. It is a window into a world in which magic can happen, a strange parallel universe where one small gang of street kids can create a music that now stands alongside the greatest of its time and beyond.

    Friday, November 23, 2007


    Four important interviews have been added to the Audio Generalist in the last couple of months
    for your listening pleasure.

    First the two interviews I conducted in 1984 and 1986 with the famous foreign correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski, who I have written about extensively here.

    Second, the interview I conducted with Al Gore in 1992 on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit.
    Read more abour Gore here

    Thirdly, a brand new interview with the poet Michael Horovitz about his major new work 'A New Waste Land.' See previous posting here.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    NORMAN MAILER NO MORE (1923-2007)

    [Left: Norman Mailer outside the Roundhouse in London. Photo copyright ©Phil Franks. All rights Reserved. Used with permission. From the archives of the underground newspaper Frendz.)

    A large tree has fallen in the forest. The seemingly indestructible force that was Norman Mailer has left the planet for adventures in other dimensions. Mailer has been part of my life since reading 'The Naked and the Dead' in my teens (reread a chunk of it recently and it still works). Remember seeing him being patronised by Michael Parkinson on British tv many years later and getting really angry. Mailer to me was an astounding writer and journalist whether it was the crackling reportage of 'Armies of the Night', 'Miami and the Siege of Chicago' and 'The Fight' or the epic retellings in fictional form of the life and death of Gary Gilmore ('An Executioner's Song') and life inside the CIA ('Harlot's Ghost')

    [This is a giant slab of a book of which I read 566 pages - roughly halfway through. Its great but I ran out time. The hardback I bought is signed. For some reason I can't really convince myself that the signature is real - see below. Maybe someone out there can confirm.]

    Left: A further interesting digression on 'Harlot's Ghost', found in The Generalist Archive.]

    Mailer wrote a great book on the moon missions ('Of a Fire on the Moon'), an entertaining and wacky emotional essay on Marilyn Monroe ('Monroe') and a great overheated crime novel 'Tough Guys Don't Dance', which he also directed the film of. His final novel was 'The Castle in the Forest' (2007), an account of the youth of Adolf Hitler, narrated by a devil.

    My single favourite piece of writing of his, which I have read time and again and which is a touchstone to me, is a short essay in 'Advertisments for Myself', first published in the UK in 1961.

    Written in 1957, entitled 'The White Negro' and subtitled 'Superficial reflections on the hipster', it is a key text for getting an understanding of the feel and mood of those times. Its words ring
    out about the psychic effect of the discovery of the concentration camps and the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This short extract will give you a strong taste:

    A man knew that when he dissented, he gave a note upon his life which could be called in any year of overt crisis. No wonder then that these have been the years of conformity and depression. A stench of fear has come out of every pore of American life, and we suffer from a collective failure of nerve. The only courage, with rare exceptions, that we have been witness to, has been the isolated courage of isolated people.

    It is on this bleak scene that a phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist - the hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with instant death by atomic war, relatively quick death by the State as /'univers concentrationnaire, or with a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled (at what damage to the mind and the heart and the liver and the nerves no research foundation for cancer will discover in a hurry), if the fate of twentieth-century man is to live with death from adolescence to premature senescence, why then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self. In short, whether the life is criminal or not, the decision to encourage the psychopath in oneself, to explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness, and one exists in the present, in that enormous present which is without past or future, memory or planned intention, the life where a man must go until he is beat, where he must gamble with his energies through all those small or large crises of courage and unforeseen situations which beset his day, where he must be with it or doomed not to swing....'

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007


    Hot on the heeels of the Nobel Peace Prize, the call is on for Gore to run for President in 2008. Naturally he has categorically denied that he will. Nowhere is this call stronger than at where you can buy a signed copy of this poster by Nashville artist J. William Myers

    Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' was the subject of a recent court case in the UK, which tried to prevent the film's distribution to secondary schools throughout England and Wales, on the grounds that the film was politically biased and contained a number of significant errors of fact.

    The full legal account of the case can be found here

    The best overview of the case and the significant points it raised is Convenient Untruths on the Real Climate site. [Posted 15th October 2007]

    It begins: 'Last week, a UK High Court judge rejected a call to restrict the showing of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (AIT) in British schools. The judge, Justice Burton found that "Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate" (which accords with our original assessment). There has been a lot of comment and controversy over this decision because of the judges commentary on 9 alleged "errors" (note the quotation marks!) in the movie's description of the science. The judge referred to these as 'errors' in quotations precisely to emphasize that, while these were points that could be contested, it was not clear that they were actually errors (see Deltoid for more on that).'

    Who brought the case against the film?

    Revealed: The Man Behind Court Attack on Gore Film
    [Observer Oct 14th 2007]
    Stewart Dimmock, who brought the case against 'An Inconvenient Truth' admitted he had recieved support from the Scottish-based New Party of which he is a member. The party has been funded to the tune of £1m by Robert Durward, a 'quarry magnate' who has also established a controversial lobbying group, The Scientific Alliance with political consultant Mark Adams of the public relations firm, Foresight Communications to promote biotechnology, genetically modified food, and climate change skepticism. [Wikipedia]

    Three articles from 2003 in The Scotsman about the New Party and Durward:

    New Party's paymaster: I'm no fascist : THE man bankrolling the launch of a new political party branded as fascist by the Scottish Tories yesterday broke his silence to reassure potential supporters: "I'm not a dictator - I just sound off a bit about things that annoy me."

    Doubts grow over validity of new party: THE future of what was proclaimed to be Britain's newest political party appeared to be in serious doubt last night, with its plans to contest the Scottish parliamentary elections in May in disarray.

    The rich recluse masterminding Britain's new party: WEALTHY, opinionated and with an axe to grind, the man bankrolling the launch of what is billed as Britain's newest political party is hardly the sort of person to keep his views to himself.

    Similar efforts and groups are common in North America. The film and Al Gore have been the subject of sustained lobbying and disinformation campaigns by people who wish to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming. This extract from an article on a Canadian website and its accompanying sensitive graphic, is a prime example of the genre, in which the writer proceeds to riddle himself with errors.

    Gore Nobel prize a travesty after court finds his film error-riddled

    Canada Free Press website on October 17th 2007

    'The dust is settling and much cynicism about the Nobel Peace awards has appeared throughout the media. A majority are not very complimentary, particularly about Al Gore who won the prize along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In taking this action, the Nobel committee have set at least two new precedents.

    'Al Gore’s Prize is probably the first in history where the recipient’s work was found seriously deficient and misleading in a courtroom a week before the award. [Ed: Emphasis added: This is patently untrue]

    'Some media articles made reference to this coincidence, but missed the more important point. It’s likely the committee had already made their decision when the court decision was made, but the deficiencies and problems were already well documented.

    'This suggests either very poor research by the committee, lack of knowledge of climate science, or a purely political purpose to the award. Ironically, this underlines the problems of climate science. Most people don’t understand the science. It is so politicized that the proper scientific method of disproving the hypothesis is thwarted. Gore’s levels of appeal to emotionalism and fear have successfully overcome the facts. The Nobel committee has endorsed this approach.'

    The author is Dr. Tim Ball who is Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project.
    His bio reads: 'Dr. Ball is a renowned environmental consultant and former professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg. Dr. Ball’s extensive science background in climatology, especially the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition, make him the ideal head of NRSP as we move into our first campaign, Understanding Climate Change.'

    Copy on the NRSP website reads in part: 'Impractical and exorbitantly expensive policies directed towards ‘global climate control’, unrealistic emission standards and so-called ‘green energy’, promoted by ideologically-driven ‘environmentalists’, are being widely accepted and vigorously promoted by mass media and politicians at all levels of government. Rational debate on these issues is virtually non-existent and alternative points of view are not given a proper hearing. Many Canadians have never heard ‘the other side’ of issues such as climate change and alternative energy and they have been conditioned to believe the other side is always suspect.'

    Meanwhile, the success of 'An Inconvenient Truth' has turned Gore into a media player of substance whose major connections are itemised below.

    Al Gore has become a major presence in the Bay Area

    San Francisco Chronicle (13th Oct 2007)

    'From the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton Hotel room where he was persuaded to make his slide show into the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" to the Palo Alto environmental think tank [Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP)], that will receive his Nobel Prize cash award, part-time San Francisco resident Al Gore has become a major presence in the Bay Area.

    'And that's not even mentioning Current TV, the Emmy Award-winning TV network he co-founded that's across the street from AT&T Park; his senior advisory role at Google; or the seat on the board of directors he has held at Apple Corp. since 2003. Or the stock options from both tech companies that have made him wealthy.'

    Gore is Chairman of the Board of the ACP and 'has contributed some $5 million in residuals and profits from 'An Inconvenient Truth' to the organisation. He says he will contribute his Nobel share - $750,000 - to them also.

    2006 posting on News Hounds
    whose slogan is 'We Watch Fox So You Don't Have To':

    John Gibson had Susan Estrich on Big Story today (19th May 2006):
    'Gibson brought up Gore's "huge fortune" from his early investment in Google, speculating that he could write a check to pay for the campaign and woudn't need to raise funds. He prodded Estrich for some estimates of Gore's wealth and she at first said "10's of millions" and then speculated that it could be 100 million adding that he has some strong ties in Silicon Valley.'

    Read our extensive Previous Postings

    I Bought Al Gore Lunch
    click on this then scroll down again to this point
    - article string will be attached below

    Al Gore 2: An Inconvenient Truth
    direct link

    Monday, October 15, 2007


    Scientific American has always been one of my favourite magazines so was delighted to discover in the Generalist Archives - currently undergoing a major overhaul, of which more anon - an interesting correspondence with Gerard Piel, the former publisher and chairman of the magazine, who

    sadly died on September 5th 2004, at the age of 89. A true ambassador of science, he traveled widely and was much loved and honoured for his pioneering role in the development of popular science journalism and for his global citizenship.

    Read the magazine's own obituary on this important and gracious man.

    I say gracious because in 1975, when I was 25 years old and he was 60, I wrote to him regarding our book 'An Index of Possibilities' to ask him whether he could possibly write something for us on the history of the magazine. To my astonishment (bear in mind he did not know me from Adam) he sent me a long three page letter on 29th May 1975, published here for the first time:The reference to the 'boys in the back room' was a suggestion that we might have ideas to contribute to the mag. A number were submitted (at present cannot find copies of the letters I wrote to him - the other half of the conversation). Again Gerard Piel was kind enough to respond as follows:


    What Gerard Piel Knows

    Obituary: American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Obituary: Global Policy Forum

    There is a fairly substantial entry for Scientific American in Wikipedia but just a poor eight-line stub on Gerard Piel. Hopefully someone out there will take this on.

    Wikipedia says: The partners - publisher Gerard Piel, editor Dennis Flanagan, and general manager Donald H. Miller, Jr. - created ...the Scientific American magazine of the second half of the twentieth century. Miller retired in 1979, Flanagan and Piel in 1984, when Gerard Piel's son Jonathan became president and editor. In 1986 it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, who have owned it since. Donald Miller died in December, 1998. Gerard Piel in September 2004 and Dennis Flanagan in January 2005.


    X-ray portrait of a healthy young woman wearing a necklace. The 'density slicing' is not electronic in this case. The colours were produced by a new kind of photographic paper. A normal x-ray was printed on a special emulsion, using several exposures of different lengths, and gradually building up the various colours according to the shades of grey in the original negative. [Credit: Agfa Gevaert]

    Gerard Piel was back in touch on the 26 January 1978 in connection with our newly-published book 'Worlds Within Worlds'.

    He wrote: 'You put together a fantastic collection of pictures. It will make a great swipe file for generations of editors yet to come. Will the book have a publisher over here? We cannot tantalise our readers with reviews of books they cannot lay hands on. Especially this one.'

    In fact the book was published by Secker & Warburg in London in 1977 and by Holt Rinehart Winston in the States (with a different cover) the following year.

    The book was reviewed in the December 1978 Scientific American by the eminent Philip Morrison in his annual Christmas round up of science books for younger readers, alongside a book of Victorian science illustrations called 'Album of Science: The Nineteenth Century.'

    I think I can rightly claim 'Worlds Within Worlds' was my original idea, inspired as I remember it, by an advert that appeared in an issue of Sci Am, which showed an early brain scan image. I thought a collection of scientific imagery would make a good book - and so it turned out. The book was produced by four of us - myself, John Chesterman, John Trux and Michael Marten and was designed by Richard Adams.

    I believe this book was the first popular survey of the whole range of scientific imagery - heat, x-ray, satellite, hi-speed. micro - to be published. Certainly most of the scientists we contacted were surprised that anyone outside of their field would be interested in their work. What we saw was the beauty and artistry behind many of these images. In the early 1970s the popularisation of science was still in its infancy and such images were not widely seen at the time.

    Our book was won an honourable mention at the Eighth Annual Children's Science Book Award presented by the New York Academy of Sciences at a ceremony on April 17th 1979 which we were unable to attend. Philip Morrison was one of the judges.

    The book was serialised over six pages in the Sunday Times magazine. New Scientist described it as 'a large, colourful, eyecatching picture book and could be appreciated as a work of art alone on the strength of its pictures. It is supplemented however with a delightful and carefully thought out text which lifts it well out of the coffee-table league. The Observer called it 'one of the most enlightening pieces of pop science publishing in a long time.' Nature reviewed it under the title 'A Talent to Amuse' and concluded: 'An intelligent choice of pictures and words makes this a volume that will fascinate and inspire.'

    British Book News (March 1978) said: 'This is a book in which the beauty of the normally unseen world is fascinatingly revealed. Until comparatively recently that world was unseen because our eyes are sensitive only to a very narrow range of wavelengths. However, recent developments in the use of radiations other than visible light for the recording of the world about (and inside) us have vastly extended our knowledge of this world. Within the last ten years, techniques have been perfected which have made visible things about which we could previously only theorise...This is truly a book which demonstrates that science need not be dull but is an excitging 'journey into the unknown' as the book's sub-title so rightly claims.'

    One of the legacies of the book was the Science Photo Library, created in the mid-1970s by Michael Marten, which has grown to become one of the premier photo agencies of its kind in the world

    Right: Coloured magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain from the side, combined with a coloured neck and skull X-ray.

    Friday, September 21, 2007


    This is what I learnt today from the
    September 2007 issue of
    Scientific American.


    Worldwide, more than 1.3 billion people are overweight, whereas only about 800 million are underweight.

    The arrival of unhealthy Western diets and sedentary Western lifestyles in developing nations has had a dramatic effect, in just one generation,on the diet and health of millions. This is paving the way for a public health catastrophe, leading to an upsurge in diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.

    For most developing nations, obesity has now emerged as a more serious health threat than hunger. Just as in the US, it is predominantly a problem of the poor.

    Many governments and industries are contributing to the problem by flooding developing countries with cheap sweeteners, oils and meat while doing nothing to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

    Sweetened beverages - Coca-Cola, Pepsi and the like - are one of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic in the Third World.

    The spread of supermarkets in the developing world has greatly increased the availability of sweetened beverages and processed foods.

    The surge in consumption of animal-source foods means that, by 2020, developing countries are expected to produce nearly two-thirds of the world's meat and half its milk.

    No country in modern times has succeeded in reducing the number of its citizens who are overweight or obese. In fact, the obesity epidemic is accelerating.

    'Unless strong preventive policies are undertaken, the medical costs of illnesses caused by obesity could bring down the economies of China, India and many other developing countries.


    More than 800 million people live every day with hunger - "food insecurity" - as a constant companion. Yet the world produces enough food to meet the energy and protein needs of every living person.

    It is poverty that renders millions unable to buy or grow adequate food. Although not all poor people are hungry, almost all hungry people are poor. 75% of them live in the rural areas of developing countries. The highest percentage are in Africa; the largest absolute number in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Drought is the leading cause of hunger worldwide.

    Armed conflicts are precipitating an increasing number of food crises, accounting for 35% of food emergencies.

    Hunger and malnutrition affects two groups of people disproportionately - pre-school children, and women and girls.

    18% all hungry people are children younger than five.

    More than 60% of the world's hungry are female. Every day 300 women die during childbirth because of iron deficiency.

    According to FAO statistics, there were an annual average of 854 million undernourished people in our world in the years 2001-2003. Of these, 820 million were in developing countries, 2.5 million in transition countries (eg former members of the Soviet Union) and nine million in industrial countries.

    Recent statistics show that in developing countries, 27% of children younger than five are underweight and 31% are stunted.

    At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders from virtually every country agreed to reduce the number of hungry people by half in the period from 1990-2015. Five years later, they took stock of their progress. China had made strides but over half the countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, had more hungry people. On a global level, the total number of hungry had not changed significantly. Promises were renewed but very little new action has been taken since.


    According to the UN more than 6.5 billion people in habit our planet today. They estimate that by 2050, the population will be between 7.3-10.7 billion people. They anticipate that, sometime after 2200, the world population will stabilise at 10 billion inhabitants.


    (Left): Young coal miner in Linfen, China. The State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) of China has branded Linfen as having the worst air quality in the country. Photo: Andreas Haberman

    On September 12, 2007 , the U.S.-based Blacksmith Institute, an independent environmental group, in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, issued their Top Ten list of the world's most severely polluted places which are located in seven countries and affect a total of more than 12 million people. Major pollution causes are mining, the pollution legacy left by the Cold War era and unregulated industrial production. Time magazine has done a good pictorial summary of the Top Ten List here

    'The 9/11 Cover-Up: Thousands of New Yorkers were endangered by WTC debris—and government malfeasance', is the title of an article by Michael Mason, in a special issue of Discover magazine on the health effects of 9/11 on the people of the city. Issue also includes interview with Philip Landrigan, the doctor leading the research on this. Extract as follows:

    Q: Your department is monitoring the health effects from the collapse of the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, two million tons of dust containing cement, asbestos, glass, lead, and carcinogens rained down on lower Manhattan. Yet less than a week later, the EPA said it was safe to go there and breathe the air. Now we know that erroneous assessment may have put thousands of people at risk for serious chronic health problems, and even death.

    A: [EPA Director] Christine Todd Whitman's statement that the air in Manhattan was safe to breathe was stupid and ill-considered because she was making a very strong assertion with almost no data. I wondered how she could say this—it's like a doctor telling a patient that the patient is healthy before he's done any tests.'

    The disaster site created by Hurricane Katrina covered an area the size of Great Britain. At least 1,836 people were killed and some 1.5m have been displaced - the largest population migration in the US since the dust bowl of the 1930s. Now severe mental health problems in the region have developed among the nearly 70,000 families still living in temporary housing. 'The slow recovery, researchers and clinicians are finding, has bred levels of mental distress unseen in the aftermath of other disasters.'
    Source: Emily Harrison - 'Suffering a Slow Recovery' [Scientific American. Sept 2007]

    'Beyond the security checkpoint at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, a small group gathered in November for a conference on the innocuous topic of “managing solar radiation.” The real subject was much bigger: how to save the planet from the effects of global warming. There was little talk among the two dozen scientists and other specialists about carbon taxes, alternative energy sources, or the other usual remedies. Many of the scientists were impatient with such schemes. Some were simply contemptuous of calls for international cooperation and the policies and lifestyle changes needed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions; others had concluded that the world’s politicians and bureaucrats are not up to the job of agreeing on such reforms or that global warming will come more rapidly, and with more catastrophic consequences, than many models predict. Now, they believe, it is time to consider radical measures: a technological quick fix for global ­warming.' Source: 'The Climate Engineers' by James R. Fleming [The Wilson Quarterly. Spring 2007]

    On 26 April 1986, one of the four reactors at the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine exploded. A concrete sarcophagus was hastily built over the wreckage, but it is starting to crumble and has been leaking radioactivity. President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine has signed a $505 million deal with the French construction firm Novarka to encase the whole Chernobyl plant in a massive steel vault to halt these leaks. The arched structure, called the New Safe Confinement (NSC), will be 150 metres long and 105 metres tall - big enough to allow the existing sarcophagus and the wrecked reactor to be dismantled and permanently entombed.
    Source: 'Chernobyl to be encased in steel' (New Scientist. 20 September 2007)
    See also: Panoramas From The Chernobyl Zone

    This year's Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, which ran from August 27th to Sept 3rd had a Green Man theme. The Organisers stated aim was to try and offset the carbon footprint of the festival, todecrease solid waste by 70% and to switch to local biofuels for the burning (it requires 20,000 gallons). They also built a 30-kilowatt solar array to provide power for the event. As to whether they succeeded in their aims we will have to wait and see until they publish their annual AfterBurn Report.

    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    A NEW WASTE LAND: Mike Horowitz

    Wed 20th: The Generalist
    attended Fine Art auction at the East West Gallery in Blenheim Crescent, Ladbroke Grove, London for the Benefit of 'A New Waste Land: Timeship Earth at Nillennium' - a major poetic work by Michael Horowitz, a ten-year labour. The funds are to rescue the hardback edition which is currently stuck at the printers. A small but enthusiastic gathering were able to bid for works by Hockney, Peter Blake, Martin Sharp and others. Mike read stirringly from his book and made everyone feel at home. Lord Gowrie handled the aunctioneering with the aplomb appropriate for a former Director of Sotheby's. Hopefully a fine total was made.

    The book's advance information release describes the work as follows:

    'In his most political work to date, Michael Horovitz adapts and extends the structure, music and apocalyptic collage of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land of 1922, to take a hard look at the state of the nation and the planet at the turn of the millennium, and after. Among the soulless forces of darkness deconstructed in the poem itself, and in the abundant notes and illustrations, are Tony Blair’s degradation of the Labour Party; the mega-materialisms of Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch; the macho duplicities of Bull Clinton and Gorge Dubbya Bash; Hypeing Up, Dumbing Down and the “EnterPrize Culture”; the hubristic vacuities of the Greenwich Dome saga; and the suicidal commercial triumphalism promoted by the arms, nuclear, advertising and war industries.

    Where 'The Waste Land' of 1922 echoed phrases and lines from the past cherished by T S Eliot, Michael Horovitz mixes more substantial quotations into his update. Virgil, Christ, Blake, Burns, Wordsworth, Byron, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Kipling, W H Davies, D H Lawrence, Pound, Bunting, Primo Levi, Paul Celan, Allen Ginsberg, Kazuko Shiraishi, Adrian Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Jeni Couzyn, Frances Horovitz, Grace Nichols, John Lennon, Mahmood Jamal, Stacy Makishi, and Eliot himself are among the angels whose insights fuel the text’s lyric fire.

    The book also projects a kaleidoscope of telling photographs; images from artists including Bosch, Michelangelo, Brueghel, El Greco, van Gogh, Picasso and Hockney; cartoons by Steve Bell, Peter Brookes, Nicholas Garland, Michael Heath, Andrzej Krauze, Chris Riddell, Gerald Scarfe, Posy Simmonds, Trog, and their peers, at the top of their form.'

    The Generalist will be digesting the book and reporting back.

    A New Waste Land: Timeship Earth at Nillennium'
    is published by New Departures.
    Price: £15 (paperback) ISBN 0-902689-18-5 978-0-902689-18-3 (pb)
    Publication: October 2007

    'ON THE ROAD' IS 50: The Scroll

    Left: The British edition of 'On The Road: The Original Scroll' by Jack Kerouac. Edited by Howard Cunnell. [Penguin Classics. £25.00]

    Fifty years ago this month (on Sept 5th, in fact) saw the first publication of 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac, an event that has been widely celebrated in the US and around the world. The Generalist, like millions of others, was first infected with the Beat spirit through reading this marvelous book.

    ''On The Road: The Original Scroll', which I purchased yesterday at The Travel Bookshop in Ladbroke Grove, is an event in itself. Began reading it in a bar as the light faded into the early autumnal evening, continued on the late-night train home (fell asleep and almost missed my station by a whisker) and read some more late into the night, began again this morning over coffee and croissant and have now reached San Francisco. The book has me under its spell once more.

    Some explanation is required here.

    Part of the huge myth surrounding 'On The Road' is do with the actual process of writing of it. Legend has it that it was written while Jack was high on benzedrine and that he wrote it all in three weeks in April 1951 on a long roll of Teletype paper, with no punctuation, while listening to bop on the radio.

    In fact the story is a great deal more complicated than that, as we discover in this new edition of the book thanks to an excellent long introductory essay by Howard Cunnell (a Visiting Lecturer In Creative Writing and American and English literature in the University of Kingston), the man who also had the responsibility of preparing the 'scroll' for publication. [The book has three other introductory essays by various authors, each of which add something to the party]

    To begin: Kerouac had written at least three proto-novels of 'On The Road' of varying lengths - big chunks of long-form fiction - and had myriad notebooks and travel journals and letters in which he can be seen to be developing the work.

    During the writing jag when he produced the scroll he later told Cassady: 'I wrote that book on COFFEE, remember said rule. Benny, tea, anything I KNOW none as good as coffee for real mental power kicks.'

    He was writing in a large, pleasant apartment in Chelsea, New York. He did the writing on long, thin sheets of drawing paper but its not known whether he stuck them together first and then typed, or vice versa (typed then stuck). Whichever way, Kerouac shaped and cut the paper into different lengths to fit into the typewriter. 'A long roll of paper,' writes Cunnell, 'like the remembered road that he could write fast on and not stop. So that the paper joined together became an endless page.' The scroll is, for the most part, conventionally punctuated.

    Cunnell says something really exciting and inciteful about Kerouac's scroll typing: 'Kerouac's clattering typewriter is folded in with Jackson Pollock's furious brushstrokes and Charlie Parker's escalating and spiraling alto saxophone choruses in a trinity representing the breakthrough of a new postwar counterculture seemingly built on sweat, immediacy and instinct, rather than apprenticeship, craft and daring practice.'

    Kerouac's first book 'The Town and the City' had been published on March 2nd 1950. After writing the scroll in April 1951, Kerouac undertook extensive revisions of it and in Oct0ber that year, also wrote his third novel 'Visions of Cody'. Cunnell says intriguingly that 'the scroll is the wildflower from which the magic garden of 'Visions of Cody' grows'.

    It would be a further six years before 'On The Road' was finally published in what can now be seen as a bowdlerised version, in which Kerouac changed people's real-life names to pseudonyms and also either took out or altered virtually all the sex scenes and sex talk within the book.

    So now finally we have the original version, as typed by the 29-year old Jack Kerouac, lightly edited in ways that are explained but basically intact. It reads like a dream. The actors now have their masks off and the whole book has a rougher and darker feel.

    This new edition is a beautiful piece of book making - cover, binding, choice of paper and type, all excellent.

    (Right: The cover of the very first edition of 'On The Road', published by Viking in 1957. This comes from a site that shows a marvelous selection of Jack Kerouac book covers from around the world. Also links to covers of works by Burroughs, Cassady et al.)

    The beat goes on: Tracing Kerouac's tracks 50 years later: A restless spirit and 'holy' pie endure by Charles M. Sennott [Boston Globe July 15, 2007]. He writes: 'With Jack Kerouac in the rearview mirror, I set out for a road trip. The idea was to retrace the first leg of the coast-to-coast odyssey chronicled in Kerouac's classic 1957 novel, "On the Road." A map drawn by the writer in a notebook unearthed from the Kerouac archives in his hometown of Lowell served as my compass. It showed a crudely sketched shape of the United States and a ragged line that traced the journey due west by Sal Paradise, the novel's narrator and Kerouac's alter ego.' See his animated slideshow of his journey with photographer Dominic Chavez.

    'The Scroll of Jack Kerouac' by James Elmont describes how in 2001 he went to see this beat artefact for himself at Christie's in New York, who sold it that year to Jim Isay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team, for $2.43m. Isay told the Associated Press: "My goal all along was to have it and share it with all those who want to see it, whether it's in this country or other countries," After the scroll was intially displayed in a museum in Indianapolis, it set out in January 2004 on a journey of its own - a 13-stop, four year national tour of museums and libraries. It is currently on exhibit in Kerouac's hometown of Lowell at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, Lowell National Historical Park until October 14, 2007.


    Was 'On The Road' the first 'non-fiction novel' - years before 'In Cold Blood' was claimed to be? See 'Truman Capote: Truth and Lies'

    See interviews with 'Allen Ginsberg' and 'William Burroughs'