Saturday, December 19, 2015

We have a general problem which we need to address. Plastics are polluting our world and need to be replaced, preferably as soon as possible. The scale of plastic pollution is awesome in its magnitude and ubiquity. That means its everywhere. 

This post focuses on polystyrene.

Polystyrene is an ubiquitous chemical substance which comes in two forms: non-foamed and foamed. Polystyrene is hard and brittle and its best known everyday uses are for CD and DVD cases and disposable cutlery. The foamed form is used for insulation, food trays and packaging material. 

Do not burn Styrofoam or polystyrene. It is made using benzene, a known human carcinogen. Benzene is released into the air if the polystyrene is burned.
Polystyrene makes up a significant part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a slowly rotating collection of plastic in the centre of the North Pacific Ocean Gyre. There are 3.3 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer in the garbage patch. Over 8 billion kilograms of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, much of it polystyrene. These plastics don’t biodegrade, but rather break into increasingly smaller pieces, which can cause harm or death to sea birds, fish, turtles and other marine life.
Using as little polystyrene as possible, and recycling what you do acquire in a responsible manner, is one of the best things you can do for the health of our marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Polystyrene is flammable and contains a multitude of harmful chemicals, making it one of the most challenging items to recycle or reuse.

and styrofoam, a brand name trademarked by Dow Chemical.

Polystyrene is the chemical name for Styrofoam, a brand name trademarked by the Dow chemical company. Polystyrene comes in two forms: foamed and non foamed. The foamed form is used as packing material for electronics, or as meat trays or insulation. In its non-foamed state, polystyrene is used to make disposable cutlery, CD and DVD cases and other hard plastic casings. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


'New York Talk Exchange' was a data visualisation project shown at MOMA in New York in 2008. It illustrates the global exchange of information in real time by visualizing volumes of long distance telephone and IP (Internet Protocol) data from AT&T, that flow between New York and cities around the world. 

It shows how the city of New York connects to other cities, which cities NY has the strongest ties with and how those relationships shift with time. It also shows how the rest of the world reaches into the neighborhoods of New York.

See: video & visuals:


"Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, we shall, in an emotional sense, acquire an additional dimension....Once let the sheer isolation of the Earth became plain to every [hu]man, whatever his nationality or creed, and a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose".
- Fred Hoyle. (1948)

The Overview Institute was established to spread the message of what they call the Overview Effect. This is their video and their words are quoted below. Just take 19 mins and 10 seconds out of your day to experience a profound change in consciousness. We see the fragile nature of our world, the inter-connectedness of all things. We have to start acting as a species.

     A Critical Time

'We live at a critical moment in human history.  The challenges of climate change, food, water and energy shortages as well as the increasing disparity between the developed and developing nations are testing our will to unite, while differences in religions, cultures, and politics continue to keep us apart.  The creation of a "global village" through satellite TV and the Internet is still struggling to connect the world into one community.   At this critical moment, our greatest need is for a global vision of planetary unity and purpose for humanity as a whole.'

The Overview Effect

'For more than four decades, astronauts from many cultures and backgrounds have been telling us that, from the perspective of Earth orbit and the Moon, they have gained such a vision.  There is even a common term for this experience:  "The Overview Effect", a phrase coined in the book of the same name by space philosopher and writer Frank White. 

'It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.  

'From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us become less important and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative.  Even more so, many of them tell us that from the Overview perspective, all of this seems imminently achievable, if only more people could have the experience!'

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Do you want to know something about what it was like to have access to the behind-the-scenes world of the making of 'The Empire Strikes Back' ?

 In the 1970s, I and my colleagues produced the best selling poster magazine 'Star Wars Monthly' and I went to Hollywood and met George Lucas & visited Industrial Light & Magic. See me on the set of the Bog Planet with R2D2 and read more here:

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Documentary on Pamuk’s museum to have Turkish debut at !f İstanbul

Nobel Prize Winning novelist Orhan Pamuk in front of the wall of cigarette butts featured in the new documentary 'Innocence of Memories' by Grant Gee.

It's Sunday lunchtime or thereabouts and I have just been to Brighton to see the latest film by Grant Gee called 'Innocence of Memories', which was being shown at the Duke of York's prior to a two-week run at the BFI in London at the end of January. It was a rerun, having been shown a week or so before but with a print that had no subtitles. The original audience was invited back for an 11:00 screening this morning but as it turned out there were only a dozen there - a real privilege. No reflection on the quality of the film I hasten to add at this point.

Grant and I have known each other since the early 1990s or thereabouts and worked on a short film together when William Gibson was in London promoting his novel 'Virtual Light'. I did the interview and Grant shot it. Its never seen the light of day but watch this space. From the same office in London they were handling Wim Wenders video for U2 and all of the above parties were hanging out together in Berlin.

Grant has shot many great short films, but is perhaps best known for his work with Radiohead: '7 Television Commercials' and the world tour film 'Meeting People Is Easy' [1998] and the stunning 'Joy Division' documentary, written by Jon Savage [2007]. After seeing this, I sat down and did a long interview with him which you can listen to on the Audio Generalist

He was also the cameraman on the documentary 'Scott Walker 30 Century Man' [2007] which must have required both courage and tact.  It is one of the strangest music docs you'll ever see - I mean recording the sound of a slab of meat being beaten in a proper recording studio and then sampling it! Difficult to get that out of one's mind.

Most recently he has won great plaudits for his beautiful, absorbing black and white reinterpretation of W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn'. Called 'Patience (After Sebald)' (2012) it traces W.G.'s journey through Suffolk in imaginative style. In most of his films, Grant works with Jerry Chater as Editor (who also deserves a big nod of appreciation).

Which brings us to 'Innocence of Memories' of which there is quite a lot to say as it is stunning, deep and many-layered.

It is certainly about Istanbul and the novelist Orhan Pamuk. Its about an intense love affair which is metaphorically encoded in a museum of objects, an affair played out in the novel that inspired its creation and funded by Pamuk's Nobel Prize for Literature money. Pamuk is Turkey's great living author [who, Grant tells me, lives only ten large apartments down the River Bosphorous from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey's greatest living director, profiled a week or so ago on this blog. The two men have met only once]. They both have large desks and a big panoramic view of the river.

So there are voices in a narration written by Pamuk -  a man and a woman, who talk to us. The entire film is shot a night on the streets of modern-day Istanbul. Its a gliding camera that roams the street, picking up the rag pickers, taxi drivers and boatmen, following the dogs quietly (of which there are many), sliding through empty streets in a cab with one of Turkey's great actresses who has made 200 films and meeting Ara Guler, the Cartier-Bresson of Istanbul, who has spent his life documenting the city in thousands of memorable images. 

And all roads lead back to the Museum and the magic objects which document the couples' journey in space-time because that's another level and meaning of the film. As is, of course memory. In fact this film seems to encompass everything and draw it all together in the one  intense real-life building of great spookiness. There's an entire wall of cigarette ends in the Museum, every one of which, in the story, she had smoked and he had stolen from ashtrays and preserved, There is a rim of lipstick on each.

Pamuk himself appears on tv screens doing an interview (presumably a real one?) with a tv presenter asking questions. He can talk at great length and does, providing another level to the film,  about his life, how he came to write the book, how he had bodyguards and feared of being assassinated. As we roam the streets with the dogs, the TVs are everywhere, in apartment windows, restaurants, taxi booths.

Then we're in Gezi Park in Taksim Square, amongst the trees, which hold the memories of when it was  a favoured spot for lovers, once also the site of an old cinema that would show romantic films. There are also other resonances here. Short digression:

This one green space in the centre of Istanbul was threatened by government plans to concrete much of it over. As a result, in 2013, the Park was occupied first by a few hundred demonstrators who were violently evicted by police. This triggered a two week occupation of the Square by a massive protest movement. According to Wikipedia, 3.5 million of Turkey's 80 million people are estimated to have taken an active part in almost 5,000 demonstrations across Turkey connected with the original Gezi Park protest. 11 people were killed, more than 8,000 were injured and 3,000 were arrested.
Then the camera goes back and back and we see the whole city, an ocean of lights. On other occasions, the darkness is filled with whirling white birds.

'Innocence of Memories' is an important film and a beautiful and imaginative one, that stands, like the city itself, on the edge of east and west, the past and the future. Its multiple resonances touch brain and heart. It throws a big rock into our own individual memory pool and leaves one full of ripples and challenging thoughts.


Orhan Pamuk: “We are very attached to our buildings, squares, monuments, trees, parks because they trigger our memories. Only through objects we remember things, we experience them. Not just cigarette butts, salt shakers, or ashtrays in our daily lives, but trees, parks, buildings. They also make us remember. A city, if you live in it for 63 years like me, turns into a sort of index for everything pointing to our memories. But once these monuments and trees begin to be destroyed we feel first of all not a political but a very personal energy and anger to preserve them, like an animal. Like a dog who watches out for his womb. Because we want to preserve them. It’s something very instinctual. In Ghezi Park that kind of thing gained political dimensions, Erdogan mismanaged it, and a little green park become connected to a more secular anger with Erdogan. But anger against Erdogan is not only [about] the destruction of Istanbul. In fact that’s a minor thing.
 And what impression did the all the destruction and construction in Istanbul make on you, Mr. Gee?
Grant Gee: "I read somewhere the other day that by 2050 seventy-five percent of the world’s population will live in cities of greater than ten million, which I think is think is just extraordinary That’s going to be the main unit in which the world’s population will exit, so these megacities will just start communicating with each other. When you are in Istanbul you can just feel this seismic thing; the ground is shaking. It’s almost like you turn around and the characters on the street are changing. It’s very exciting and also very scary. The excitement of creation and the scariness of destruction. The two things are simultaneous. That’s why it’s so interesting to be there."
Footnote: Grant has written to correct the off-the- top-of-his-head statistics. Its correct that by 2050, it is predicted that 75% of the world's population will be living in cities; but 10% of the world's population will live in megacities, each  housing over 10 million people.

Official site of the Museum of Innocence:

Friday, December 11, 2015


Feral catRight from the off, don't get me wrong: I like cats and birds

This post was triggered by a small item a few days ago in The International New York Times  about feral cats in Australia which, according to the latest genetic evidence, are the descendants of cats brought over by European settlers in the 19th century. 

There are now an estimated 20 million feral cats which prey on more than 100 of the country's native species and have, its claimed, helped drive at least 27 species to extinction. Government plans to cull two million cats met with an international outcry.

Brigitte Bardot called it "inhumane and ridiculous". Morrissey wrote: “We all know that the idiots rule the earth, but this is taking idiocy just too far. The cats, who keep the rodent population under control, will be killed in a ferocious manner, using Compound 10/80, which is a gut-wrenching poison of the most unimaginable and lengthy horror.

“The people of Australia would never agree to this – but of course they will not be consulted, because the Australian government as ruled by Tony Abbott is essentially a committee of sheep-farmers who have zero concerns about animal welfare or animal respect. The cats are, in fact, 2m smaller versions of Cecil the lion [the famous Zimbabwe lion killed by an American dentist.]

A spokeswoman for Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that feral cats were the biggest threat to more than 120 endangered species in Australia. “With around 20m feral cats in Australia and with each feral cat estimated to kill at least five native animals a day, they pose an enormous threat to our native species. The government has invested $4.1m in developing humane, target-specific feral cat bait called Curiosity. The toxin in Curiosity works in a way that is similar to the cat falling into a deep sleep and not waking up.”

Image result for cats and birds

This reminded me of a piece by Richard Conniff from the NYT (22nd March 2014), entitled 'The evil of the outdoor cat'. Strong words indeed. He refers to 'the trend that is beginning to make outdoor cats as socially unacceptable as smoking cigarettes in the office or leaving dog droppings on the sidewalk.' He quotes population figures of 84 million domestic and 30-80 million feral cats in the US.

This figure comes from a three-year US Fish and Wildlife Service funded survey, published in the journal Nature Communications (January 2013) aimed at estimating the number of birds killed by predators, chemicals and collisions with wind generators and windows. 

About a third of the 800 species of birds in the USA are endangered, threatened or in significant decline, according to the American Bird Conservancy. 

The survey estimates that cats kill 1.4 billion to as many as 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year and, incidentally, also 20.7 billion mammals — mainly mice, shrews, rabbits and voles. The survey uses the term "unowned" cats to refer to farm cats and strays and feral cats, which often live in  colonies.There are an estimated 300 outdoor cat colonies in Washington, D.C. alone.


So what about the situation in the UK. According to 2015 figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) there are 7.4m domestic cats in 17% of households in Britain. The feral cat population of Britain, in a 2009 study by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2009, was estimated at 813,000.

To balance these figures out and to get a clearer picture of this emotional topic  let's turn to a reliable and up-to-date source The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB):

'The most recent figures are from the Mammal Society, which estimates that the UK's cats catch up to 275 million prey items a year, of which 55 million are birds. They estimate the  most frequently caught birds are probably (in order) house sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings.
 'Despite the large numbers of birds killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide. This may be surprising, but many millions of birds die naturally every year, mainly through starvation, disease, or other forms of predation. There is evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly birds. 
'It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, We also know that of the millions of baby birds hatched each year, most will die before they reach breeding age. This is also quite natural, and each pair needs only to rear two young that survive to breeding age to replace themselves and maintain the population.
'It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations. If their predation was additional to these other causes of mortality, this might have a serious impact on bird populations.
'Those bird species that have undergone the most serious population declines in the UK (such as skylarks, tree sparrows and corn buntings) rarely encounter cats, so cats cannot be causing their declines. Research shows that these declines are usually caused by habitat change or loss, particularly on farmland.
'Populations of species that are most abundant in gardens tend to be increasing, despite the presence of cats...Gardens may provide a breeding habitat for at least 20% of the UK populations of house sparrows, starlings, greenfinches, blackbirds and song thrushes, four of which are declining across the UK.
'For this reason it would be prudent to try to reduce cat predation, as, although it is not causing the declines, some of these species are already under pressure. Cat predation can be a problem where housing is next to scarce habitats such as heathland.' 
The US survey quoted above estimated that wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually. See my extensive previous post on this subject:
Image result for cats and birds

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


Just before the opening of the Paris Climate Change summit, the British government announced it was cutting support for wind and solar power. This abrupt change of policy has caused the collapse of many solar companies and has had a negative effect on green energy investment. It also puts an end to a home energy efficiency scheme.

Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist of the UN's environment programmes was highly critical. She told the BBC: "What I'm seeing worldwide is a move very much towards investment in renewable energy. To counterbalance that, you see the withdrawal of subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuels. What's disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going - we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced. It's a very serious signal - a very perverse signal that we do not want to create."

Other countries have also reduced their support for wind and solar - including, surprisingly, Denmark, a country of 5.8 million people, which was able to generate 40% of its energy from  wind turbines last year.  The budget cuts follow elections in June when the centre-left government was replaced by a rightist minority coalition. The cuts include less funding for the highly successful seeding programme for green technology projects. The Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program started in 2007 and distributed money to 88 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects - one in every four considered. Budget cuts mean this support will now only be available for one in eight projects.


Let's return to Ms McGlade's words: "we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced." Like you probably, I was unaware that the use of fossil fuels is widely subsidised. Hereby hangs a tale.

Without at present going into the history of how all this came about, we begin this story with an 2008 agreements at a summit meeting between the world's largest economies - the Group of 20. They agreed to start phasing out these subsidies and, according the International Energy Agency (IEA), they have made some progress. In 2014, the estimated worldwide fossil fuel subsidies were $490 billion, down from $610 billion, as a result of the agreement.

Last month the IEA identified the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as one of the single most effective steps to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.. These subsidies, IEA's executive director Fatih Birol, are "Public Enemy No 1 in terms of sustainable development."

One the first day of the climate conference a quorum of countries, businesses and organisations called for 'aggressive action' to phase out these subsidies. "The huge sums involved globally," said Christiania Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, "could be better spent on schools, health care, renewable energies and building resilient societies.'

The simplest form of these subsidies is government spending to keep fuel prices low for their citizens. These direct subsidies are found mainly in the developing world and in oil-producing nations. In the US its different. They subsidise fossil fuel companies through various means including tax breaks and backing for exploration and production.

According to John Schwartz's piece in the New York Times the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have found 800 different ways in which rich industrial nations use taxpayers money to support the fossil fuel industries. 

Oil Change International describe themselves as 'a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy.' They claim that governments are 'allowing fossil fuel producers to undermine national climate change commitment, while paying them for the privilege. The founder and executive director Stephen Kretzmann: "We have to stop using government funds to support the industry that is causing the problem.'

 The International Monetary Fund estimate the real cost as actually being $5.3 trillion - a figure that includes the costs of the effect these forms of energy use have on people's health, the environment and climate change. By contrast, the pledge given by advanced industrial nations to fight climate change is $100 billion a year by 2020.

There is another effect of using government subsidies to keep fuel prices low - it makes alternative energy sources less affordable. An 2014 IEA report on world energy stated: 'Fossil fuel subsidies rig the game against renewables and act as a drag on the transition to a more sustainable energy system.' 

In November this year a report by Oil Change and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) found that the G20 nations as a whole are responsible for an annual $452bn (£297bn) in subsidies.

According to Damian Carrington in The Guardian: 'The UK is alone among G7 nations in dramatically increasing its fossil fuel subsidies despite have already pledged to phase them out. We have paid out £5.9bn to energy companies in Britain, a further £3.7bn to subsidise production in other countries including Russian, Saudi Arabia and China.

One of the authors of the report Shelagh Whitley said: "The UK has been cutting back support for solar power and energy efficiency, arguing that the burden was too high. Our figures reveal that in spit of supposed budget constraints, the government is giving ever increasing handouts to oil and gas majors."

Sources: 'On Tether to Fossil Fuels, Nations Speak With Money' by John Schwartz (New York Times/5th December 2015)

'UK becomes only G7 country to increase fossil fuel subsidies' by Damian Carrington (The Guardian /12th November 2015)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


“On the streets of #Miami, an artist has been showcasing the increasingly delicate dance of climate change, water and everyday life. As scientists and politicians in Paris wrestle with the complexities of battling climate change, Lars Jan is inviting people to view it in a way that he said makes people “feel climate change in their guts, rather than just understand it.’’ He brought the installation, “Holoscenes,” to Miami this week.

Image result for holoscenes

A woman stands in a 3,500-gallon Plexiglas tank as it slowly fills with water. Or not so slowly — 12 tons of water are pumped into the tank over the course of a minute. She is holding a basket of persimmons, until it floats out of her hands, spilling the fruits to bob and twirl in the water. She tries to gather them back up, her skirts floating around her. Behind her, palm trees are silhouetted against the sky, and a crowd gathers.

Jan, an artist and director, created Holoscenes as a response to pictures of flooding in Pakistan four years ago:

“So this image popped into my head of a man turning pages of a newspaper in a totally mundane room as it slowly filled with water,” Jan recalls. “He would take a big breath and hold it, but he doesn’t react to the flood with any sense of crisis. He comes up for air and goes back to reading his newspaper. I wanted to show people adapting to this crisis on an everyday basis.”

The artists in the tank aren’t told when the waters will rise or recede — a pretty direct translation of the very real uncertainty of climate change — but they carry on with their tasks just the same: coiling a hose, playing a guitar, getting dressed. The lack of reaction speaks to a human resilience in the face of catastrophic change, Jan says. It also seems like a pretty apt dramatization of our ability to ignore disaster even as it unfolds around us.

LARS JAN is a director, designer, writer and media artist, and founding artistic director of Early Morning Opera, a multidisciplinary art lab based in Los Angeles specializing in live performance. 

The son of first generation émigrés from Afghanistan and Poland, Jan is committed to international artistic exchange.  In summer 2005, as artist-in-residence at Kabul University, he taught and developed public art projects throughout Afghanistan.  In 2003-04, he lived in Kyoto, where he trained and performed as a head puppeteer under Abe Hidehiko, designated an "Intangible Cultural Treasure" by the Japanese government.  He also traveled on two recording expeditions through rural Ukraine with virtuoso vocalist Marjana Sadowska, resulting in their performance collaboration, Without Ground.
Image result for holoscenes Lars Jan

A Saudi woman in an abaya, buying flowers in a mall


Monday, December 07, 2015


The Story of Film - An Odyssey (poster).jpg
Have always been hooked on films, a passion which stems from childhood viewing in the Worthing picture palaces of yesteryear: 'Davy Crockett', 'The Pirates of Blood River', 'Bambi'. Our town had four grand cinemas - The Rivoli (which caught fire), The Odeon, The Plaza and The Dome - the latter miraculously survives and is one of the oldest working cinemas in Britain (1911). Saw 'Psycho' and 'Spartacus' there with my mum,  and later 'Easy Rider' (the freaks of Worthing took over the whole place). Later in life, read up on the history of film and, in the 70s, established the film section of the NME, spent many a happy hour in small screening rooms in Soho. Later worked on licensed magazines on'Star Wars' and, at the age of 29, went to Hollywood and met George Lucas. [see Previous Post

All of which is preamble to a review of this remarkable documentary 'The Story of Film' directed and narrated by the Northern Irish film critic Mark Cousins, which contains 15 one-hour chapters - a total length of 900 minutes. - available in a box set of 5 DVDs. First broadcast on More4 in September 2011, this is essential viewing for cineastes, film students, geeks and aficianados,

What makes it good? Firstly Cousins has literally traveled through space and time, beginning with Edison and Lumiere and bringing us right through to our era of digital cinema. He films in America, Europe, Asia, Russia, Latin America and takes us to
the actual studios and rooms where some of the greatest films ever made were conceived and produced. Of course many of the well-known names are there - D.W. Griffith, Kubrick, Jean-Luc Goddard - and there are some great original interviews with the likes of Lars von Trier, Bertolucci, Robert Towne and Jane Campion.

But then there are so many others that I was previously unaware of or ignorant of their work - the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodore Dreyer  and the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu are two good examples. In all cases, Cousins selects intense and interesting excerpts that provide stunning vignettes, whetting one's appetite for a whole ocean of films as yet unseen.
 Cousins is also at pains to talk about technology and about cinema techniques, explaining how the medium has evolved. He has add energy to the films by interspersing all this with camera-eye view rides in cars, trains, buses in different cities around the world. It all repays repeated viewing.

Image result for side by side keanu reevesAnother cracking and important documentary is the great 'Side By Side' (2008), co-produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves. It takes us through every stage of the filmmaking process and contrasts the way it would be shot and produced on film and then using digital technology. At each stage, Keanu interviews key directors, cinematographers and technicians who give their for and against views about this transformation in the way movies are made. Of course George Lucas, James Cameron and the Wachowski brother & sister are all gung ho for the new kit and caboodle. Others lament the passing of film including Scorsese who has done so much to lobby for major pictures of the past to be remastered. One of the biggest problems is archiving. There have already been a large number formats and players and every time the technology evolves, films have to be transferred to the new medium. There is a great concern about how long they will last. Celluloid films from 100 years ago can still be viewed. Many speakers here are pessimistic about digital as a storage medium.


Curved street in winter, Istanbul, 2004. [From his exhibition Turkey Cinemascope]

One person who doesn't appear in 'The Story of Film' is currently my favourite director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, one of the world's great filmmakers.

I began with his famous film 'Once Upon A Time in Anatolia' (2011) that won the Palm D'Or at Cannes and am currently working my way through the rest of his ouevre: his later film 'Winter Sleep' (2014) and two other prize winners 'Three Monkeys' (2008) [Best Director at Canne], Climates (2006) [Firesci prize, Cannes] and 'Distant' (2003) [Grand Prix and Best actor at Cannes] which was when he first came to international prominence.  In all it received 47 awards (23 of them international) making it the most award-winning film in the history of Turkish cinema.

'Distant' (Uzak in Turkish] was the third film of a 'provincial trilogy', preceded by Clouds of May (2000) and The Small Town (1998). His very first short film Cocoon (1995) was an 'official selection' at Cannes. In his on-line bio it says: 'In all of these [early] films, Ceylan enlisted his close friends, relatives and family as actors and took on just about every technical role himself: the cinematography, sound design, production, editing, writing and direction...:' 

'Climates' lead roles are shared by Nuri Bilge and his wife Ebru Ceylan. At the end of 2003, in the course of location scouting for that film, Nuri Bilge returned to photography for the first time since military service. From this point on, he began devoting his time to both cinema and photography.

What is it about these films that makes them so great. Ceylan has a wonderful eye and in all his films you are able to contemplate and enjoy the beauty of the landscapes (always central, even dominant, like an extra character) and faces (eyes in particular). He goes in close and holds. The pace of the films allows time for contemplation. The characters speak but much of what they communicate in the shots, that are held  for a long time, where you can see that the person is thinking things through, conveyed only by subtle changes of expression. The stories are as deep as a Russian novel, have complex twists and turns and they ensnare you and your feelings.

Children riding bicycles, Midyat, 2004 [From his exhibition Turkey Cinemascope]

Needless to say, Ceylan is a crack photographer. There are two lovely videos of openings of his photoshow in Istanbul and Berlin. They are panoramas, blown up to some considerable size, the images heightened and enhanced by magic processes. Enjoy.

Ceylan's Official website:

Sunday, December 06, 2015


As of July 2015, 30 countries worldwide are operating 438 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 67 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries. They produce approximately 11% of the world's electricity.  All these plants produce highly radioactive waste and, at present, there are no facilities that can permanently and safely store it. 

nuclear waste

This weekend Greenpeace were in action in Australia, to draw attention to a shipment of 25 tonnes nuclear waste from France on board an unsafe "dustbin ship" the BBC Shanghai. which they claim has been banned by the US government from carrying any kind of government cargo at all. 

Over the last twenty years, Australia has sent eight shipments of waste to France, the UK and the US for reprocessing to remove uranium and plutonium.  The waste sent to the UK will return in the second half of this decade and the shipments sent to the US will remain there.The  stabilised waste from France is being  housed at the Lucas Heights reactor in southern Sydney until a nuclear waste dump site is selected and built. 

Malcolm Turnbull's government has set a deadline of December 2016 to choose a location to dispose of the country's low and intermediate-level waste. The shortlist includes sites near Sally’s Flat in New South Wales; Hale in the Northern Territory; Cortlinye, Pinkawillinie and Barndioota in South Australia; and Oman Ama in Queensland. A 30-year saga to try and establish such a site at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory failed after a lengthy legal battle. This time the government is consulting more closely with the communities and offering a sweetener for the landowner - up to four times of the value of the property - and the community - access to a $10m fund for local infrastructure or other projects. The preferred site will be named after the federal election next year and is due to be operating by 2020. 

Currently Australia has the equivalent of two Olympic swimming pools of low-level waste - mainly contaminated laboratory items and material used in medical treatments - which is being stored at 100 sites including hospitals and universities.

Intermediate waste is stored at Lucas Heights which houses Australia's only nuclear reactor.
Its HIFAR reactor was opened in 1958 which was replaced eight years ago by an OPAL reactor that uses low enriched uranium. Run by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) it conducts research in many different areas of nuclear science and technology

Thirty per cent of its business is the  production of nuclear medicine doses that are used to diagnose and treat many types of cancers, heart disease, neurological disorders and other conditions. It currently produces 10,000 doses a day for 250 hospitals in Australia but construction is underway on a new plant in order to ramp up production to 13 million doses which would meet a quarter of world demand. Nuclear medicines are responsible for 80% of the waste at the plant. Federal funds of $22.3m have been allocated to refit two waste storage facilities over the next four years.

The reactor site on the edge of Australia's largest city has been the focus of  safety concerns by anti-nuclear protesters for decades. In 2001, Greenpeace campaigners climbed the razor wire and scaled the old reactor.


Ina concurrent development, the South Australian Government established the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission on 19th March 2015 to undertake an independent and comprehensive investigation into the possible expansion of activities that form part of the nuclear fuel cycle. Commenting on this initiative the day after he named Dr Alan Finkel, a vocal advocate of nuclear power, as Australia's next chief scientist, Malcolm Turnbull was sceptical about the possibility of creating a domestic nuclear power industry.

“I was just talking about this with the cook in the cafe downstairs, when I was having some coffee and breakfast with Steve Marshall [the SA Liberal leader],” he told Adelaide radio station FiveAA. “As Brett, the chef, was saying, and I think a lot of South Australians feel like this and it’s a perfectly reasonable view: we’ve got the uranium [and] we mine it; why don’t we process it, turn it into the fuel rods, lease them to people overseas; when they’re done, bring them back – and we’ve got very stable geology in remote locations and a stable political environment – and store them? That is a business that you could well imagine here.”

ONKALO in landscape
Finland looks like becoming the first nation in the world to successfully launch a deep underground repository  on Olkiluoto, an island off the country's west coast which already has a nuclear reactor on it.  The Onkalo facility, which will cost 3 billion euros, is designed to hold up to 6,500 tonnes of uranium stored in copper canisters, packed in clay and lodged in a network of tunnels cut into the granite bedrock. The plan is to start storing the waste in 2023 and to seal the facility in 2120. Finland's case has shown that getting approval for a nuclear waste storage site requires not only a safe site but also a supportive local community willing to work with the developers to shape the project. 

According to a recent article in Nature by Elizabeth Gibley: 'Sweden has already used a similar engagement process, and its government is currently considering a licence to build a facility using the same technology. Last month the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority gave its formal backing to building a repository at the chosen site, in Forsmark, and a final decision is expected around 2017.'

Forsmark is already home to a nuclear power plant and a disposal site for intermediate-level radioactive waste. According to World Nuclear News 'The repository will have capacity to store 12,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel in 6000 copper-cast iron canisters, which would be surrounded by bentonite clay to absorb any future leakage. At a depth of 500 metres depth in 1.9 billion year-old granite it will feature around 60 kilometres of disposal tunnels.'

In 2017 the French nuclear waste agency Andra hopes to apply for get a licence for a 35 billion euro facility at a deep-storage site in Bure, in northeast France, where there is already a test facility. The aim is to bury highly radioactive waste 500m underground in thick layers of argillite rock. The plan faces resistance from local residents and environmental groups.

In a report released in July this year, Andra estimates that the amount of nuclear waste that will need to be stored in France will triple once all its nuclear stations have been decommissioned. The French utility EDF runs 58 nuclear reactors with an average lifespan of 50 years. A new reactor is under construction at Flamanville. They supply some 80% of France's electricity.

Total nuclear waste volumes at the end of 2013 were 1.4 million cu m. Andra estimates that this will rise to 2.5 million in 2030 and will eventually reach 4.3 million. The main bulk of this waste will be slightly radioactive building rubble, Andra's current low-level waste facility in Morvilliers, in the Aube region, is likely to be full  between 2020 and 2025. 

Highly radioactive, long-life waste represent just 0.2 percent of the volume but 98 percent of the radioactivity. This  volume is likely to rise from 3,200 cubic meters at the end of 2013 to about 10,000 cubic meters when all France's nuclear plants reach the end of their life. 

German nuclear activist
Foto: Holger Hollemann dpa/lni +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

In August 2015, the German cabinet yesterday adopted a draft national radioactive waste disposal program. For the final disposal of radioactive waste, the program proposes two locations: the former iron ore mine Konrad in Salzgitter for low- and intermediate-level waste and another as yet undetermined site for high-level waste [which] will need to accommodate all radioactive waste produced by 2022, when Germany's last nuclear power reactor is set to shut under the government's nuclear phase-out policy. In addition, the ministry has made a forecast of all the radioactive waste that will be generated in the country by 2080.

According to the ministry, there will be some 10,500 tonnes of used fuel from the operation of nuclear power plants, which could be stored in about 1100 containers. A further 300 containers of high- and intermediate-level waste are also expected from the reprocessing of used fuel, as well as 500 containers of used fuel from research and demonstration reactors.
In addition, some 600,000 cubic meters of low- and intermediate-level waste will need to be disposed of. This includes such waste from the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants as well as from industry, medicine and research.

Under plans announced in 2010, some 200,000 cubic metres of mostly low-level waste are being removed from Germany's Asse radioactive waste disposal facility, a salt dome which has proven unstable. This waste, together with some 100,000 cubic meters of waste from uranium enrichment operations at Urenco's plant at Gronau, will also require disposal..
[Source: World Nuclear News]
Several smaller European countries have banded together to form a European Repository Development Organisation to work on the concept of a shared facility: Austria, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, and  Slovenia

A new US Department of Energy (DOE) initiative on radioactive waste disposal in March 2015 announced three decisions:  that military nuclear wastes should be disposed of separately from power plant used fuel;  that  'a consent-based approach' would be adopted to find a location for military waste disposal; that it will create an interim storage facility for the power plant materials in the meantime.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 later saw Yucca Mountain in Nevada selected as the country's one-and-only disposal site for highly radioactive material. The project received $10 billion of industry funding and progressed to the point of having an approved design but the Obama administration put the project on ice in 2009. The US trade body the Nuclear Energy Institute claims that Yucca Mountain remains the legislated disposal site for used nuclear fuel. "That program is the law of the land and should be completed" says Marv Fertel, NEI's head.

Not everyone agrees. Yucca Mt.’s geology repeatedly failed to meet legal requirements, so the specs were repeatedly weakened. The Obama Administration killed the project because it could not be defended on scientific grounds. The selection of Yucca Mountain by the US Congress in 1987 was, from the outset, a political rather than a scientific choice.  Nevada is the third-most seismically active US state. 


According to a 2013 inventory report from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the body responsible for the clean-up of the UK's nuclear legacy, the UK has to manage 4.5 million cubic metres (4.9m tonnes) of radioactive nuclear waste - enough to fill Wembley Stadium four times over.

This figure is the total volume of radioactive waste that exists today or is forecast to be generated over the next century from existing facilities. Around 4.3 million cubic metres (96%) of this waste has already been produced.

The other 4% (around 160,000 cubic metres) of radioactive waste has yet to be produced.
This includes waste forecast from planned operations of existing nuclear power facilities, from ongoing defence programmes and from the continued use of radioactive material for medical and industrial purposes. 

In the long term, high-level radioactive waste (HLW) will need to be stored in a geological underground repository, but this isn't estimated to be ready until 2040. The process has already seen many delays, meaning the actual date could be much later..
Source: power-technology