Archive for April, 2012

Walled gardens and private groups within

April 30, 2012

It has recently been raised, should academics and students use facebook as a work tool in which to discuss projects and assignments, maybe do so within a private group.

Yes, it is possible to set up a group on facebook, it can be a private group, invite only, invisible to everyone else.

But, and it is a big but. Would you wish to be connected to the people in the real world, have access to all your personal information, why then in the virtual world?

Facebook is a walled garden. Yes, you can have access to the delights within, but to gain access there is a price to pay, you gain entry by selling your digital soul at the gate.

I never cease to be amazed at the amount of personal information people put on facebook – their partner, their school, their town, their e-mail address, their place of work – more than sufficient for ID theft, more than sufficient to gain access to their bank account.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Facebook is not a social networking site, it is a site for the collection of personal data. When something appears to be free, it is you who is the product on sale.

I was first alerted to the security issue and cavalier attitude to personal privacy some years ago when I started getting requests for my birthday. I asked the persons. I learnt they had not sent the request, it was a facebook app.

Similarly request to send flowers, to do quizzes, play games.

Why does no one query why to play a game requires access to personal data?

Once access is gained, onto the next victim.

Access includes access to your list of friends.

I recently did a search for an article on spotify and how it rips people off. I landed on spotify, but somewhat unusual I was in a request to join. But the scary part was to save me filling out the form, one click and the required information would be transferred from facebook. That filled out included e-mail, and information that I had deleted from facebook. It also showed me the people I am connected to on facebook who use spotify.

I have absolutely no wish to us spotify. Spotify is the facebook model, it collects personal data.

I am baffled why anyone uses spotify when bandcamp is far far superior.

On Earth Day, Imogen Heap streamed live an event from the Roundhouse. You can still watch the event, but you have to go through a facebook app. No way!

A facebook app has access to all your personal information, including your profile picture and who you are connected to. Remember that lewd profile picture that you now feel embarrassed by that you thought only your friends could see? Every facebook app you ever gave consent to, also has a copy.

Who is behind the facebook app, what do they do with this information?

The Dewarists make their music available but you have to go through facebook to get it. Why? Why not put it on bandcamp?

So where do we go from here. We wish to enter the walled garden, but we do not like the entry fee.

By all means enter but do the following:

  • remove all personal data
  • do not fill out the profile information, school, university, workplace etc
  • never use facebook apps and delete those you are connected to
  • sign in to sites with ID and password, not one click facebook however tempting

If you have information on facebook that you wish people to see, then create tunnels through the wall. Provide links to give direct access. Do not force them to join facebook.

Who needs NSA, GCHQ when facebook so effectively does their job for them?

Top Story in Privacy Daily (Tuesday 1 May 2012).

Wettest drought

April 30, 2012
cowslips

cowslips

cowslips

cowslips

It sounds something of an oxymoron to say we are in the wettest drought, but that is what we are in. Ever since an official drought was declared all it has done is rain, rivers are swollen, towns are flooded.

For the last three weeks it has rained. For the last week monsoon weather.

There have been days during the last week when it has started to rain late at night, early hours of the morning, it is then continuous heavy rain most of the day. It was like it one day last week, it was like it Sunday.

On the days when it rains it is cold, the temperature drops to 7 C. Then we get sunny days, sunny days with cloud.

That is how it was Tuesday of last week. I took the train down to Liphook, where I had pub lunch with Canon Andrew White, his wife and three of his colleagues. The train passed through wooded countryside, a green haze as I looked into the woods, the trees were coming into leaf, little patches of primrose, a fox basking in the sun.

On my way back, I could have stopped off in Guildford, but I was tired. When I got home, I enjoyed the sun in my garden.

And yet the day before was cold and wet, only 7 C.

Friday was a lovely sunny day, I went to Guildford for the day.

The River Wey was high, muddy and flowing very fast. Riverside properties were flooded at ground level.

Saturday was cold and wet, only 7 C.

Sunday very heavy rain from late Saturday night until it finally eased off mid-afternoon. It was not though cold.

The wettest drought. April 2012 the wettest April since records began in 1910, and April is not yet over.

Today, Monday, a lovely warm sunny day, 18 C.

I have made the most of it. I have been working in the garden. The lawns mowed, the grass has not been cut for a week.

The compost heap rebuilt. The blackbirds and robins had all but demolished it in their search for compost worms.

An area cleared of weeds, the ground forked. This has been cleared for sweetcorn. Some of the weeds have been piled on top of the compost heap. Maybe this will deter the blackbirds and robins.

I really need to build a new compost heap, but until I clear the old one, nowhere to build it.

My peas are a coupé of inches high, broad beans about an inch high.

The bluebells in the woodland area at the bottom of the garden are beginning to come into flower. The patch by the house have been in flower for a couple of weeks.

The grass clearing in the woodland area is carpeted with cowslips in flower.

Kya Khayaal Hai

April 30, 2012
Zeb of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Zeb of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Haniya of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

Haniya of Zeb and Haniya at the Capitol in Mumbai

The beautiful and haunting Kya Khayaal Hai is a collaboration between Pakistani folk duo Zeb & Haniya and two veterans of Bollywood — composer Shantanu Moitra and lyricist Swanand Kirkire.

Kya Khayaal Hai is performed in the Capitol Theatre, the oldest theatre in Mumbai.

The Dewarists is an exploration of the different musical genres in India, the boundaries between, crossing those boundaries and creating a fusion.

A free download of Kya Khayaal Hai is available from The Dewarists on facebook, click like, enter e-mail address and you will receive a link to download an mp3 file.

If would be great if The Dewarists uploaded all the music to an album on bandcamp, where the music would then be available for download as high quality lossless FLAC. [see mp3 v FLAC]

The Dewarists

April 29, 2012
local musicians provide backing on Minds Without Fear

local musicians provide backing on Minds Without Fear

Imogen Heap and Vishal Dadlani on the streets of Samode

Imogen Heap and Vishal Dadlani on the streets of Samode

I started to do well when I understood it’s not about being the best person in the world. It was about being me — Monica Dogra

The Dewarists is an exploration of the different musical genres in India, the boundaries between, crossing those boundaries and creating a fusion.

The Dewarists is a movement that recognizes and celebrates those who have changed the rules of the game. We identify and promote those individuals who have followed their hearts and shifted the paradigm through their original approach. The Dewarists encourages individuals to do what they believe in, because some things are just worth doing.

Imogen Heap collaborated with an Indian songwriter. She is noted for making music because she loves music, not to suit a market, a global record company. The result of their collaboration was Minds Without Fear, heapsong4, the fourth track on her album Heapsongs.

Imogen Heap headed The Dewarists Stage at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune, 18-20 November 2011.

What comes across very strongly with The Dewarists is the lack of genre, the love of music. A love of music that is spread through sharing.

Vishal Dadlani who collaborates with Imogen Heap to create Minds Without Fear admits to downloading pirate music off the net. Pakistani singer-songwriter folk music duo Zeb & Haniya who collaborate with Bollywood composers to create Kya Khayaal Hai say they learnt from cassettes passed around, they had no idea what the performers looked like as they never saw album covers, when they recorded something and put it on the net, it got passed around the Pakistani community in the US, then leaked back into Pakistan.

Writers write to be read, musicians perform to be heard. We can only hear music, acquire a love of music in all its genres, if we share.

Pakistani folk due Zeb & Haniya have no concept of genre. They simply play the music they like.

Genre is synonymous with market, like piracy, a straitjacket imposed by the major record labels.

For each programme in the series, you can download the song from facebook. Simply click like, give your e-mail address and you will receive a link via e-mail to download an mp3 file. It is not a facebook app, as I originally thought, bad news if it was. But it begs the question: Why not have all the songs on bandcamp, free to listen, free to download, and as high quality FLAC, not just low quality mp3 files? [see mp3 v FLAC]

India gets The Dewarists, UK the X-Factor and similar rubbish. The Dewarists explores music, we see how musicians work together. X-factor wanna be famous celebs, zilch talent, dumbing down of music, reality TV at its worst.

The Dewarists – season 1

Neil Young – Like A Hurricane

April 29, 2012

Where the Mind Is Without Fear

April 28, 2012

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

— Rabindranath Tagore

Imogen Heap drew her inspiration from Where the Mind Is Without Fear when writing Minds Without Fear, heapsong4, the fourth track on the album Heapsongs.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Indian poet, philosopher, and Nobel laureate, was born in Calcutta, into a wealthy family. He began to write poetry as a child; his first book appeared when he was 17 years old. After a brief stay in England (1878) to study law, he returned to India, where he rapidly became the most important and popular author of the colonial era, writing poetry, short stories, novels, and plays. He composed several hundred popular songs and in 1929 also began painting.

Minds Without Fear (Heapsong4)

April 28, 2012
Vishal Dadlani and Imogen Heap recording Minds Without Fear

Vishal Dadlani and Imogen Heap recording Minds Without Fear

Imogen Heap on the streets of Samode

Imogen Heap on the streets of Samode

Have pity on those afraid to take risks, because they will perhaps never experience disappointment or delusion or suffer as those do with a dream to follow. — Paulo Coelho

When you dream, you can enjoy the luxury of being yourself. Make it a reality. — Paulo Coelho

Minds Without Fear, heapsong4, the fourth track on the album Heapsongs by Imogen Heap.

The tracks of Heapsongs are crowd sourced, each is a community, collaborative venture. Each track has its own micro-site on the net.

Like Santiago in The Alchemist who took risks, followed his dreams, The Dewarists decided to follow their dreams, take risks, breakout of the mainstream, inspiring musicians collaborating to create original music while travelling to locations across India.

We all have to learn to be like Santiago, read the signs, listen to our heart, take risks, follow our dreams.

Imogen Heap collaborated with the duo Vishal-Shekhar to create Minds Without Fear, drawing her inspiration from the Tagore poem, ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear‘. Filming took place at the 475-year-old Samode Palace on the outskirts of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

Minds Without Fear was available for free download. The bad news is that this was via a facebook app, not good news if you have no wish for a facebook app to have access to all your personal information.

Imogen Heap has a reserved space on bandcamp, but currently nothing there. Let us hope Heapsongs is uploaded when complete. In the meantime, please record the improvisation for Earth Hour 2012 and upload to bandcamp.

Were Heapsongs on bandcamp, the tracks could be added one by one. It would be possible to enable Minds Without Fear to be available for free download for a limited period, thus no excuse for forcing people to use a facebook app with its gross violation of personal privacy.

Imogen Heap headed The Dewarists Stage at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune, 18-20 November 2011.

The Dewarists is an exploration between the different musical genres in India, crossover of boundaries, collaboration between. The music can be downloaded for free via their facebook page.

Top Story in The Poetry Gazette (Sunday 29 April 2012).

Note: I mistakenly assumed from the link, download through a facebook app, if so, this would have been bad, but I am pleased to be able to report not so. You go through to a facebook web page, click like, provide an e-mail address and you will receive a link to download an mp3 file. It would though have been easier to have the track on bandacmp, click to download, provide e-mail, and receive a link.

M&S shwopping scam

April 28, 2012
shwopping not the future of fashion

shwopping not the future of fashion

M&S shwopping scam

M&S shwopping scam

Thursday, to much fanfare, M&S launched shwopping.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash

M&S were concerned at the billion items of clothing that go to landfill every year. They wished to do something about it, bring your unwanted clothes to M&S and M&S will recycle the clothes.

A dumb video featuring Joanna Lumley emptying her wardrobe and taking her unwanted clothes to M&S to be recycled.

The CEO of M&S was asked could people bring their unwanted clothes to M&S and not buy anything. The fraction of a second hesitation, before he answered yes, said it all.

The day after the launch. I checked out shwopping.

A big poster in the window of M&S, very much in your face as you walked into and around the store, even the staff wore badges encouraging you to shwop. You could not miss that shwopping was the next big thing, the future of fashion, as M&S claim.

The store was not, as I expected to find, awash with unwanted clothes.

I asked a very helpful lady, had they been inundated with unwanted clothes all day.

No, she replied, she did not think any clothes had come in.

She pointed to a small box where people were to dump their unwanted clothes.

Could we please have a look inside, I asked.

We looked and found a couple of carrier bags of what we assumed to be clothes.

Is, this it, I asked.

Looks like it, she replied.

She then explained how the scam, oops sorry, scheme worked.

People were to go through their wardrobe, find all what they did not wear and bring it into M&S so it could be worn by someone else.

So far, so good, but not quite the stopping unwanted clothes going to landfill as the clothes were not going anywhere, the clothes were sitting in a wardrobe.

She then went on to explain that whilst in M&S you could buy new clothes, and that there was an incentive to do so as you could enter a prize draw and win £100 of M&S vouchers.

The helpful lady then handed me a leaflet, a step by step guide to shwopping:

Come in store for those new season’s ‘must have’ and bring an old item of clothing with you.

And there you have it, this is not a green initiative, this is about shopping, buying those ‘must have’ fashion items, consumerism writ large.

The very name says it all shwopping not shwapping. The emphasis is on shopping not swapping.

Deborah Orr could not have put it better in an article in The Guardian:

One is tempted to suggest M&S would achieve its aims better if it discouraged feckless clothes-buying, by specialising in more expensive investment items, made in Britain, like it used to. Or refrained from selling so much of its food in plastic packaging.

But all retailers want consumers to keep consuming. If they can market the idea that it’s green to do so, they will. And “Shwopping”? It’s an ugly word for a mildly dubious enterprise. I don’t suppose there’s much harm in it. But I can’t help feeling it’s not good enough for such enthusiastic endorsement from Lumley.

Some apologists say it closes the loop. No it does not, as you are going out and buying new clothes.

Shwapping, closing the loop, would be to buy from charity shops, donate to charity shops.

M&S are to be complimented on a very slick marketing campaign, ease the conscience, whilst carry on shopping.

This is a bit like airlines who offer to plant a few trees to offset the carbon of the flight. Only it does not.

The carbon of the flight is emitted over a period of a few hours. The tree absorbs the carbon over seventy years for a fast growing tree, a few centuries for a slow growing oak. And this ignores who looks after the trees, who safeguards the trees.

Fast fashion is a very dirty industry. Growing of and processing cotton (unless organic) is highly polluting. Irrigating cotton leaves the land coated in salt, the hazardous chemical sprays pollute the land and water supplies, processing of cotton, the bleaching and dying, more hazardous chemicals. Then the cotton goes into the sweatshops to be turned into the clothes we wear.

Anything that closes the loop, that uses natural materials, is to be welcome. But that is not what M&S is doing.

Slow fashion: Clothes that are well designed, clothes that look stylish, clothes that we value, that we launder and repair, clothes that can easily be recycled.

Fast fashion: Cheap clothes (though at a cost to people and planet), clothes we throw away, that cannot be easily recycled and end up in landfill.

Slow fashion will come from a small designer, we can ask where the clothes come from, how they were made, the materials used.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were buying British.

Thursday evening In Business on BBC Radio 4 looked at what was left of the textile industry in Lancashire. One of the mills had M&S pull the plug and they collapsed overnight.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were the No 1 High Street retailer on the environment, way ahead of other High Street retailers.

Really, thought I, is that why you import King Edward potatoes from Israel?

What of Lush, thought I.

Next visit was to Lush. I told them of shwopping and the claim from M&S No 1 on the environment.

To say they were incredulous would be an understatement.

Why do you not shout about your environmental credentials I asked.

We do not need to all the staff chorused, all you have to do is look around our shop and you can see with your own eyes.

They were right.

We then had a long discussion on environmental matters and I signed their petition calling for a ban on animal testing of products.

How many products in M&S are tested on animals?

It is not what M&S say they are doing, but what they are doing that matters.

I picked up from M&S a prawn and avocado sandwich. It was inside a paper bag with a plastic window. The paper bag was lined with plastic. Virtually impossible to recycle. When I opened up my bag, I Found my sandwich to be inside a plastic tray!

The only positive thing about the M&S cynical greenwash exercise, is that it has highlighted the amount of clothes that go to landfill. But you do not solve this by emptying your wardrobe and restocking it from M&S.

You solve it by adopting slow fashion. Slow fashion is the fashion of the future simply because it is the only fashion that is sustainable.

Will M&S be advising to buy quality clothes, to not buy so many clothes, to look after our clothes, to recycle our unwanted clothes to extend their useful life?

I somehow think not.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash
Lush Cosmetics – Our Environmental Policy
‘Shwopping’? An ugly word for a dubious enterprise
Do we recycle enough of our clothes?
Disposable clothes
M&S launches ‘shwopping’ scheme
Joanna Lumley joins M&S to launch shwopping
Joanna Lumley launches Marks & Spencer’s Shwopping campaign

Neglected Space (Heapsong3)

April 27, 2012

Beautiful spoken word set within a background of music.

Neglected Space (Heapsong3), the third track on the album Heapsongs by Imogen Heap.

The tracks of Heapsongs are crowd sourced, each is a community, collaborative venture. Each track has its own micro-site on the net. Each track has a story to tell.

England used to be a country of walled gardens.

A vegetable plot, a herb garden, an orchard, a greenhouse. All traditional, heritage varieties.

Not far from the Roundhouse, a Georgian garden, sadly neglected.

Imogen used this local garden for inspiration, raised awareness, funding.

2 minutes walk from my house there is a Georgian walled garden in need of a lot of help. In it’s heyday it was a kitchen garden at the peak of gardening technology. The size of a football pitch, with walls 4 metres high, inside growing amongst other things were pineapples in greenhouses. It’s had quite a history but sadly over the last 30 years it’s fallen into disrepair and mostly been neglected.

With the help of Clear Village and our ‘Garden Angels’ (volunteers) we plan to help to bring the garden back to life with the local community, putting spade to soil, as I wander about the garden putting pen to paper.

The piece I want to write is from the voice of the Walled Garden itself. A spoken word piece or perhaps a kind of collective voice for neglected spaces and abandoned man made structures. Being in the garden, I hear it almost sigh in relief with the news of this fresh enthusiasm. As if it’s been calling out to anyone who might catch it from dust, to fall in love with it again. As those of you involved breathe a new life into the garden, community and beyond, it becomes clearer to me what it’s been missing all these years and between spurts of getting my hands dirty, I’ll be penning these thoughts.

There’ll be the odd camera about, filming the making of Heapsong3 and the garden’s progress. I may occasionally bring in an instrument into the garden and see who steps up to the challenge of making a noise, or perhaps come up and record the sound of whatever it is you’re working on.

The volunteers working in the garden and Imogen wrote blogs as the work progressed.

Lifeline – Imogen Heap – Vitamin String Quartet

April 26, 2012

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Imogen Heap

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Imogen Heap


Vitamin String Quartet perform a wonderful improvisation of Lifeline, heapsong1 on the album Heapsongs by Imogen Heap.

Writers write to be read, musicians play to be heard, and hope to make sufficient money not to be starving in a garret, but I do wonder with some musicians, some writers too.

To find Vitamin String Quartet Performs Imogen Heap on the Vitamin String Quartet website I had to trawl through pages and pages of albums. I think I was on my eighth or ninth page. Then when you get there, all you find is a few seconds lofi sample.

To hear their excellent improvisation of Lifeline, you have to rely on some kind soul doing their work for them and uploading to youtube.

On spotify they get doubly ripped off. It is the facebook model, used to collect personal data, a cut goes to the major record labels. iTtunes rips off too.

Sharing of data between facebook and third parties

Vitamin String Quartet are on their own independent record label, Vitamin Records, why therefore are they letting the major labels take a cut?

On the other hand on bandcamp, what people pay goes straight to them, you can listen to the entire album, sharing is made easy.

Were it not for a kind mention by Imogen Heap, I would not even know of their existence.

What the rest of their album is like, good or bad, I do not know as all they make available is few second samples of lofi.

I am somewhat baffled and rather concerned that a comment made on a web page on the site of Imogen Heap appears not on that page as one would expect but on facebook! Does this imply that accessing a facebook app, but not accepting, steals personal data as though one has been foolish enough to accept?