Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Everyone called him Jimmy.

This post is triggered by a recent first-time viewing (belated) of 'Life' (2015), a biopic of a very short episode in the very short life of James Dean, who memorably died in a car crash on September 30th 1955 at the age of 24, four weeks before the release of 'Rebel Without A Cause'. He never fully completed his work on Giant - overdubs on some of his dialogue was completed by Nick Adams - which spent a year in post-production before it was released in 1956.

'Life' is is set in New York and Indiana and centres on the relationship between a would-be Magnum photographer Dennis Stock and the very young James Dean, who has just completed 'East of Eden', directed by Elia Kazan and is going through the process of being groomed for stardom and prepared for the red carpet treatment at the New York Premiere. Stock is fighting wars on several fronts: his personal relationship, his struggle to convince Magnum that Dean is something special, and Dean himself who is diffident, beat, not willing to follow the rules, cool as hell.,

Let's get this straight, I generally really dislike biopics (generally not as strong as docs) and period costume pieces and films about the '40s and '50s which, these days always means a kind of brownish golden light and people with good teeth when dental practices were still pretty barbaric. So hard to get beyond the dress-up, so hard to make it feel really real.

WOW! 'Life' is the real deal and I can't stop thinking about it. Dane DeHaan is so brilliant as Dean - a truly great performance, beautifully pitched, never a false move or gesture. The warmth, the style, the vulnerability, the humanness is all there in spades. Which is not to diminish Robert Pattison's performance as Dennis Stock, an expert foil, an intensely serious, troubled and determined character, full of compressed passion, searching for that image that will get him on the cover of Life magazine.

There is tiny window of opportunity which Dean grabs and pulls Stock along with him: just in time to catch the night train to Indiana, to his aunt and uncle's farm, where he lived until he was eighteen. When his mum died(aged 29), he was 9, He was sent there on the train with his mother's coffin. His dad was drafted and never turned up for the funeral.The night they arrive and the following days are the last quiet moments for Dean.It's touchingly handled in the film without being either cheesy or saccharine.

Remember here, our director is Anton Corbijn: legendary music photographer for the NME originally I believe, stunning avatar of those U2 desert portfolio pics and now the veteran of a string of movies. 'Closer' was difficult for me as I'd just seen the Grant Gee/Jon Savage Joy Division doc which blew me away; his espionage thriller allowed us, for the last time as it turned out, to focus on the performance of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

'Life', for me, wins the crown (to date); his career obviously in still in progress). Because Corbjin is a photographer himself, the whole handling of the photography aspect of the film is right on the button. Framing and editing lyrical. And back to Dane DeHaan and Dean. So brilliant. he must I guess have watched lots of news footage and test reels and so on and absorbed Dean's gay spirit (oft denied or camouflaged) lightly, softly. I felt for this first time, this was the real Dean. Like him, I always have a set of bongos to hand.



Clips from 1965 copies of Film & Filming, the 10th Anniversary of his death

Dean idolised Brando who had preceded him at the Actor's Studio. They only met once (below) on the set of East of Eden. According to one account, Dean was so in awe of his idol that this encounter was almost embarrassing.

'The image that Dean created on screen has survived more strongly than that of any other actor up to that time and both East of Eden and Giant have been continually re-issued in practically every country since they first appeared. Rebel Without A Cause was withdrawn from circulation some while ago, which, from the point of view of understanding Dean's appeal to youngsters in the mid 'fifties, is the key film.'

'Rebel Without a Cause was written by Stewart Stern, based on records from juvenile courts, in an attempt to find out just where the blame lay for the alarming increase in the number of arrests of minors. To the teenagers satisfaction, it was placed on the parents. 
'The opening sequence had Dean being arrested for drunkenness, having found him curled up in a street with a toy mon-key. He greets the sight of his irate mother and weak-willed, but concerned, father with a dazed 'Happy Easter, Happy Easter'. The parents start bickering at each other, which builds until Jim screams 'You're tearing me apart! You say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again'.  

Juvenile officer to the rescue, and he takes Jim into his office for a quiet chat; though this doesn't start until Jim has had a futile swing at the law in protest for being talked at as though he is a 'delinquent'. 

 'It's like a zoo', he explains. 'He always wants to be my pal, you know, but how can I give him anything? I mean I love him, and all that type of stuff, an' I don't want to hurt him, but I don't know what to do, except maybe die. Now, if he had the guts to knock mum cold, then maybe she'd be happy, and she'd stop picking on him. Be-cause they make mush out of him, you know ... just ... mush: I'll tell you one thing, I don't ever want to be like him' ... 'How can a guy grow up in a circus like that?' ... 'Boy, if ... if I had one day when ... when I didn't have to be all confused and different, and feel ashamed, you know, and felt that I belonged some place ...' 

'So it has established that the 'rebel' does have a cause, that he really would like to fit into a happy family, that the parents are one step away from the divorce court, and that the law is sympathetic but powerless.  

'The whole social attitude has changed a lot since 1955. Teenage independence is accepted: most do not have to depend on grants from their family, they can go straight into a job and earn almost as much as their father. Responsibility for their actions is considered to be their own.  

'Psychology has become as tired as its theories. Psychologists still busy themselves with deciding why there were teddy-boys, beatniks and mods and rockers; why there is group hysteria for pop groups. But no one really seems to care, apart from seaside shop owners, because teenagers are spending their own money and it is their own responsibility what they do with their lives.  

 'There is no contemporary feeling in youth that can be expressed in one individual characterisation; no one seems to concern themselves so intently with their own relationship with other people. The real social problems of today are either impersonal or out of the control of the individual: nuclear menace, warfare in border states, space research, science and racial equality—they cannot provide the hero figure that would involve an audience to a point where they could feel they could do anything about it. 

'The subjects have become clinical and unemotional, the immediacy of their importance has been lost in argument and counter-argument, a series of half measures and bungling. The teenage identity is also obscure, they feel independent enough to handle their own problems without looking for an epitome of them. But this is not to say that they have fixed ideas on what they want to achieve in life, quite the reverse. It is more a playing for time, an acute awareness that they are young and that they 'have plenty of time' before they worry about the future. '

Source: 'Dean - Ten Years After' by Robin Bean. [Film and Filming October 1965]

'In James Dean, today's youth discovers itself. Less for the reasons usually advanced : violence, sadism, hysteria, pessimism, cruelty, and filth, than for others infinitely more simple and commonplace : modesty of feeling, continual fantasy life, moral purity without relation to every-day morality but all the more rigorous, eternal adolescent love of tests and trials, intoxication, pride, and regret at feeling oneself "outside" society, refusal and desire to become integrated and, finally, acceptance—or ref usal—of the world as it is'

Francois Truffaut in Arts (26.9.56) 


'Had another actor played the part, Jett's story might have borne different implications: in Dean's hands, though, it became a passionate expression of the search for identity which he above all other actors could convey.'

Douglas McVay [Films and Filming. May 1965]

25th Anniversary of Dean's death. 1980

'Every September 30, with the predictability of Capristrano swallows, the fans of James Dean descend on rural Fairmount, Ind. (pop 3500). This year is the 25th anniversary and last week the only tribute ever formally organised ib the occasion drew 1,000 admirers including actor Martin Sheen. He dedicated a bronze star at the site of Dean's birthplace in nearby Marion and a $1000 bronze plaque that he bought for the wall of Dean's high school auditorium. "Jim Dean and Elvis were the spokesman for an entire generation", says Sheene, 40'.

2005 was the 50th anniversary of Dean's death

*  Release of DVD doc 'James Dean: Forever Young' narrated by Martin Sheen.
"I was profoundly affected by his performance in East of Eden" says Sheen, who saw the flm when he was still at high school in Ohio in 1955." All three of his films had a profound affect on my life and on my work and on my generation. He transcended cinema acting. It was no longer acting it was behaving and it was deeply, deeply personal. I think it led those of his who went into the profession that if it's not personal then you shouldn't waste your time doing it.
* Germaine Greer's essay 'Mad About the Boy' was published on the 14th May 2005. The subtitle read: 'James Dean was the embodiment of young male vulnerability, heroism and torment. Who would have guessed he was gay? Fifty years after his death, it's all too obvious, argues Germaine Greer.'
'In the 1950s homosexuality was so far off the suburban radar that Jimmy Dean could give us all the visual clues, and we would see nothing. He could flirt outrageously with the camera, and get away with it. There was no gay establishment; young men growing up "different" had no easy way of identifying what it was that troubled them or why it was that they couldn't fit in with teen culture of dating and necking and boasting.'
* In 2005, Paul Alexander's book 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean', revealed for the first time that Dean had had a secret affair with the actress Geraldine Page. They had both received training at the Actor's Studio as did Montgomery Clift and Brando. The affair was, Alexander claims, Dean's only authentic relationship with a woman; other heterosexual activity was the invention of studio publicists. 'Before and after Page, Dean's major relationships were with men.

* Other accounts disagree. George Perry's book 'James Dean' (also published in 2005) which contains a lot of family memorabilia claims he had 'an impressive number of girlfriends including Ursula Andress and Pier Angeli. Dean had taken up photography himself, using a Rolliflex and took hours photographing Angeli.

* 'James Dean: 50 years ago' by Dennis Stock is all the pictures he took when they went to Indiana. In a piece in The Times magazine by Joe Hyams (16th april 2005) it seems some details of the real story differ from the film.

Stock and Dean first met at a Sunday soiree at director Nicholas Ray's bungalow in the garden of he Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. They discovered they both knew the eminent Life photographer Gjon Mili. He had directed Dean's screen test for Kazan for 'East of Eden'. Dean mentioned he'd just worked with Kazan and invited him to a sneak preview at a Santa Monica theatre. Stunned by what he saw, he arranged to meet Dean for breakfast the next dy. Dean started waxing lyrica about his childhoos in Indiana and Stock sad he wanted to do a visual biography of those times, the origin of the actor. Jimmy said he was flying to New York to tidy up some loose ends and was then planning to send a few days at the farm. He invited Stock. 

Feb 1955 they flew together to New York. They hung out and Stock started taking pictures, including the iconic shot in the rain with the long coat and the cigarette in Times Square. They then flew from New York to Indianapolis and then tok a bus to Fairmount

I'm presuming Joe Hyman interviewed Dennis Stock: he quotes him saying at the end: 'Dennis is still pained by the loss of his friend'
" We were both saddened by the end of the week in Fairmont. I think we both knew that Jimmy would never come back home again and that life would never be the same for him there. The trip was really a nostalgic farewell to his origins, his ay of saying goodbye to the past. I don't mean to imply that he felt he was going to die, but I believe that he felt that he was truly on the way to a different life.'


When James Dean’s Porsche Spyder crashed 50 years ago, killing the actor just before the premiere ofRebel Without a Cause, his legend was sealed. But the director who gave Dean that immortal role, Nicholas Ray, has been virtually forgotten. Examining Ray’s genius, his loves (including Natalie Wood and, perhaps, Sal Mineo), and the addictions that ruined him, the author recaptures the dramas behind Rebel Without a Cause, as well as the bond shattered by Dean’s death.

Fabulous article by Sam Kashner in Vanity Fair  [March 2005]. I got to know something about Ray through Wim Wender's film 'The American Friend' and the subsequent doc he did about Ray's last months on earth. This article opens many interesting ideas and avenues for further investigation. One of my favourite bits is this:

'Elvis Presley was obsessed with the movie, and he worshipped James Dean. “I was sitting in the cafeteria at MGM one day,” Ray recalled, “and Elvis Presley came over. He knew I was a friend of Jimmy’s and had directed Rebel, so he got down on his knees before me and began to recite whole passages of dialogue from the script. Elvis must have seen Rebel a dozen times by then and remembered every one of Jimmy’s lines.” Martin Sheen—who played the Dean look-alike inspired by spree killer Charlie Starkweather in Terrence Malick’s 1973 Badlands—once wrote, “There were only two people in the fifties: Elvis Presley who changed the music, and James Dean who changed our lives.”

Daily Mirror. 14th Feb 1976
On the night of February 12, 1976, actor Sal Mineo returned home following a rehearsal for the play P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. After parking his car in the carport below his West Hollywood apartment, the 37-year-old actor was stabbed in the heart by a mugger who quickly fled the scene. Police pursued all kinds of leads but assumed the crime to be the result of some sort of “homosexual motivation.” 

Three years later, pizza deliveryman Lionel Ray Williams was convicted of the murder, in addition to a number of local robberies. Williams, who claimed he had no idea who the actor was at the time of the stabbing, had bragged about the murder and his wife later confirmed that on the night Mineo died, Williams had come home with blood on his shirt. He was paroled in the early 1990s.

Mineo made his initial mark in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, as Plato, a bullied teen, understandably lovestruck at the first sight of James Dean’s character. The role would earn him an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actor and establish him as a major heartthrob to teenagers of the era. The next year he appeared in a small role in another Dean film, Giant. He launched a briefly successful recording career, headlined several motion pictures that played up his status as a rebel icon, and would garner another Oscar nod for 1960’s epic Exodus.  


A huge global effort by governments and corporations worldwide is going into the development of battery technologies, principally due to the accelerating demand for electric cars and an increasing need for energy storage systems both at the grid and household levels.

As the electricity network develops from one generated largely by fossil fuels into one with increasing levels of Renewable Energy, our supply will start to be affected by the unpredictable and intermittent behaviour of the sun and the wind. Also demand for electricity peaks in the morning and evening but solar energy peaks in the middle of the day. It is widely recognised that large-scale penetration of renewable energy can only be realised with the addition of electrical energy storage.


There is a lot of confusion and hype in the trade and mainstream media about "game-changing" battery technologies as companies and countries compete to capture a share of the action and investment in what promises to be major markets of the future.
So let's start with an article in Scientific American by Robert Fares [February 18, 2016] which highlights an excellent paper by Venkat Viswanathan and and his students at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. They were seeking to find a way to quantify the different kinds of battery chemistry and show where they were on the 'Hype Cycle'.

particular battery chemistry to determine its position...As you will see [above]: 'it ranges from the initial “innovation trigger” and “peak of inflated expectations” to the eventual “plateau of productivity,” where lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries sit today.'

The other different classes of battery technologies on the chart are: Magnesium-ion (Mg-ion), sodium-ion (Na-ion), lithium-sulfur (Li-S). These all work in a similar fashion to Li-ion batteries but they are smaller, lighter and cost less.

As you cane see, the Li-is batteries are considered the most promising of these, having survived the “peak of inflated expectations” They are considerably cheaper because of the low cost of sulfur but there are still problems to solve.

The lithium-air (Li-air) batteries, which are further ahead, on the "slope of enlightenment", writes Fares, have 'enormous potential to beat out Li-ion because it uses a fundamentally different technique to store energy. The battery cell uses metallic lithium in its negative side and reacts with atmospheric oxygen on its positive side. Because one of the reactants in the battery is air, in theory you need half as much battery materials to store the same amount of energy, and the weight of the battery can be reduced by half.

This is especially appealing for electric vehicles, which would benefit greatly from smaller battery packs. However, Li-air batteries still have a long way to go before they can achieve the cost and lifetime of conventional Li-ion batteries....Li-ion is still the winning technology when it comes to portable electronics, electric vehicle, and grid applications.

Read the full academic paper: Oleg Sapunkov et al., 2015.



Alevo's "GridBank" units are shipping containers filled with lithium ferrophosphate and graphite batteries for energy storage. Each unit has 1MWh of storage 

'Batteries are the Swiss Army knives of the energy world...they have multiple applications and you often need to ‘stack’ more than one value proposition in order to make the economics work.

'Cairn Energy Research Advisors (Cairn ERA) pays attention to the different ways storage might be applied, both today and in the future. The company tracks over 25 different applications, and for each of these has developed a separate business model. Managing Director Sam Jaffe says "If you were to own a battery, how would you make money operating that battery? Most of these models are not profitable today."

Batteries are much more complex than alternative energy systems. For a start you can 'absorb or release energy over specific time-frames in varying quantities. Jaffe observes that there are many things one can do with batteries and the use-cases vary from utility to utility, region to region, and country to country, and “nothing is simple about this industry".

Jaffe says that the use of chemical batteries for energy storage is 'still not quite ready for prime time widespread applications on the power grid' and that the thing that is holding it back is that batteries are still either too expensive, too weak in terms of capabilities or too fragile. 'They don’t last long enough to keep earning revenue long enough to pay off the loan.'

The good news is the emergence of lithium ion production at scale has helped solve the environmental issues previously related to lead acid batteries and costs have fallen to enable some initial grid applications.

A battery's lifetime is limited by the number of 'charge cycles' it can handle. In electric cars, the battery is only charging and discharging a few times in the week. The average vehicle sits idle for 93% of the time. So a battery that runs 300 cycles is affordable. Stationary storage applications for the grid require a much higher level of durability for heavy-duty cycle applications

'Costs continue to fall, and technologies advance, but no black swans on the immediate horizon: The good news is that analysts, including Jaffe, forecast a continued and consistent future price decline for installed storage...He’s confident that the power industry will figure out how to scale quickly and get storage costs down, just as the solar and wind industries have. Small and consistent steps lead to impressive gains over time... "You don’t notice it one year to the next," says Jaffe "but over five years they are extremely ten years there will be new chemistries that we will start to see commercialised."

Can flow batteries and other competing technologies ... grow to be giants? Jaffe thinks not, in large part because lithium ion enjoys economies of scale that will be hard for flow batteries to reach, at least in the near future.

"I think it’s safe to say we live in a lithium ion world and will continue to do so in the next ten years. However, there’s going to be a very large market for flow batteries...which will probably be able to occupy the niche that requires durability and a very large number of cycles – tens of thousands of cycles, compared with the five or six thousand lithium ion is currently good for. They will also fit into applications where many hours of storage are required. Vanadium flow batteries can last 10,000 cycles, but the price point is still out of reach. As the price comes down, that will definitely be one possibility.”

'In today’s market, storage plays in a few relatively constrained niches. These early beachheads include...firming up solar output in places like Germany, Australia, and Hawaii, supporting wind in Texas, and providing grid support in a (still) limited number of applications (the total deployed is less than a thousand megawatts worldwide). However, as costs fall, storage is will expand quickly into other areas.

'But Jaffe believes there is one area in the next decade where energy storage will be the killer app, and that is as a grid-scale dance partner to optimise gas-fired generation.

"The concept is you have a large combined cycle natural gas plant and a large battery next to it and you use batteries as buffer between grid demand and power plant capability. The concept is to use the batteries to meet fluctuating demand and buffer the combined cycle gas plant. That lets the generator run more efficiently at optimal heat rates most of the time, not ramping up or down."

Source: 'One Expert's View On The Near-Term Future Of Energy Storage' by Peter Kelly-Detwiler. (Forbes/June 6, 2016)

Recycled EV Batteries as a Storage System 

'With increasing EV sales, some companies have looked at what to do with EV batteries once they have reached the end of their lives. Due to the metals in Li-ion batteries they cannot just be disposed of in landfill sites as they are hazardous and cause pollution. One option is to try and recycle the batteries by extracting the metals, such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and iron. However, it is currently not economical to do this as the cost to recycle lithium exceeds the cost of mining new lithium. 

'Perhaps the most feasible idea for utilising old EV Li-ion batteries is to bundle them together and use them as electricity storage. Nissan is currently working with a company called Green Charge Networks to sell mass market energy storage systems using old Nissan Leaf batteries. General Motors (GM US) is also pursuing a similar plan using Chevrolet Volt batteries. It is likely more and more car manufacturers will adopt this strategy in the next few years as the first generation of EV batteries become obsolete for use in transportation applications.'

Source: VSA Capital Battery Supply Chain Report [7th Jan 2016]

Nissan has made a big environmental push, turning to renewable energy at its Sunderland plant and investigating ways to repurpose used EV batteries. Here Leaf batteries are supplying power to a data centre in France. According to Nissan, between 1.5 and 2 percent of the world's electricity is consumed by data centers. That's a percentage that rises every year, too. Unfortunately, it's not easy to run a stable data center on renewable energy, because they're incredibly sensitive to outages. [Source: ] 


'Flow batteries store energy in an electrolyte held in two external tanks. These liquids are pumped through the battery, where each comes into contact with an electrode. Imergy and CCE use Vanadium redox technology, whilst Primus and RFX favour a zinc-bromide formula in their batteries.

'It is widely believed that flow batteries are the most effective for industrial scale storage. Firstly, they have an extensive storage life and require little maintenance, which makes their levelised cost of energy cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. Secondly, they can be easily scaled up in the amount of energy needed stored, simply by increasing the size of the electrolyte tank.
'However, due to the fact that lithium-ion batteries are much further ahead than flow batteries in terms of development and commercialisation, it might mean that companies looking for commercial storage in the near future could use Li-batteries which when stacked together can store energy on a large scale.'
Source: VSA Capital Battery Supply Chain Report [7th Jan 2016]

A new flow battery that uses lithium ion technology is able to hold more energy in a given volume than those already on the market.

'Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn’t shining and the winds are calm. That’s something conventional flow batteries can’t do. Now, researchers report that they’ve created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy.

Flow batteries aren’t much different from the rechargeables we’re all used to, aside from their massive size....But in flow batteries, the charges are stored in liquid electrolytes that sit in external tanks... Because those tanks have no size limit, the storage capacity of a flow battery can be scaled up as needed. That makes them ideal for storing large amounts of power for the grid.

Today, the most advanced flow batteries are known as vanadium redox batteries (VRBs), which store charges in electrolytes that contain vanadium ions dissolved in a water-based solution...

Lithium ion batteries have a far higher energy density than VRBs. But it’s been difficult to incorporate their technology into flow batteries.... To address this problem, researchers led by Qing Wang, a materials scientist at the National University of Singapore, came up with a bit of a hybrid solution.

'It’s “very innovative” work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications.

[If they can improve the speed], the new lithium flow batteries could give a much-needed jolt to renewable power storage.'

By Robert F. Service [Science/Nov. 27, 2015]



Roadmap Breaks New Ground on Renewable Energy Storage 

[International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA)/9 Jun 2015]

To avoid the worst effects of climate change and accelerate sustainable energy transformation and economic growth, IRENA’s REmap 2030 report finds the share of renewables in the electricity sector must double to 45 per cent by 2030. To do so, an estimated 150 GW of battery storage and 325 GW of pumped-storage hydroelectricity will be needed, making storage a vital element in the expansion of renewable energy.

The five priority areas identified include electricity storage to support renewables in islands and remote areas, consumer-located storage for self-consumption in countries with high shares of rooftop solar PV systems, generator and grid-located storage for countries with grid infrastructure constraints and system analysis tools for countries preparing to transition their power sector towards renewables. Download the full report as pdf here;



Image result for the EV revolution

Global EV sales have  increased by at least 50% year-on-year (YoY) for the last three years. In the first 11 months of 2015 there were global sales of 446,821. EV sales make up less than 0.1% of global vehicle sales. Even if there is  significant growth in key markets in the next few years they will still fail to make an impact on the global vehicle market However it's clear that in the longer term there is an immense market opportunity.

One of the main factors that is slowing take-up is the high cost/ of batteries which make up approximately 25% of the overall cost. There is a decline in the cost of Lithium-Ion batteries but to make EVs competitive with regular fuel cars, cost will have to drop to US$230 per kWh; to achieve mainstream market penetration costs will have to fall to US$150 per kWh

China and US are the top two largest EV markets making for 50% of all EVs sold in 2015

China is one of the largest car markets in the world and has more than 150m cars on the road.
There is a pressing need to reduce emission in Chinese cities  and the government provides financial incentives to encourage EV use. The market has seen +155%YoY growth. China is invesiting US$16bn in building a national network of charging docks which are compatible for all EVs except Tesla cars. In 2013 it had roughly only 400 charging stations  at a time when the USA had 20,000).

US: car market boomed as a whole in 2015, shifting 17.4m units but sales of EVs stuttered. Low petrol prices removed incentives. Many people were holding off purchasing current EVs as they waited for the next more technologically advanced models. The most popular EVs are the Tesla Model 5, Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Vol in that order. The last two, launched second-generation versions in 2016. A new Tesla EV costing  $35, 000 and aimed at mass market is to be launched in 2017.
Norway is the third largest market for EV sales  and the third largest seller, despite only having a population of five million. One in five new cars now sold in the country is an EV. Norway will likely be the first country to fully embrace mass adoption of EVs. An inherently environmentally conscious country with the highest fuel taxation in the world, the government  has  incentivised EV use. EVs can drive in bus lanes and can be parked for free. There is also no purchase or VAT tax providing £5,000 a year savings for each driver.

European sales of 151,45l  in the first 11 months of 2015 was an+ 80% YoY increase. The most growth was in the UK (25,096/+102%YoY) and France  (23,682/+70%YoY).

Infrastructure investment in UK has seen a growth in  charging points -from a few hundred in 2011 to more than 9,000 (Sept 2015). The UK government were planning to invest £43m in  EV development but whether that has survived the turmoil of Brexit..?

France provides generous government subsidies and sales were helped by the realease of a Renault EV. The most popular EVs in Europe are the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Leaf. All countries in the EU have signed up to an infrastructure  target of one charging point for every 10 EVs on road by 2020 - all built to common standards so trans-European travel is possible.

EVs used to be a niche manufacturing industry. Now models are being released by every major car manufacturer. Three models account for 40% of global EV sale in 2014: the Nissan Leaf (61,000 globally), the Mitsubishi Outlander (31,000) and the Tesla 5 (31,000) . [Will find more recent figures]

Battery Supply Chain Report produced by VSA capital [7th Jan 2016]

See: Electric car use by country [Wikipedia]

Breakthrough battery tech could make electric cars more efficient

By BEN WOODS/25 July 2016/Wired
'Researchers have proposed a new lithium-oxygen battery technology that could make long-distance electric cars (and smartphones that don't need recharging every day) a reality. 
Lithium-air or lithium-oxygen batteries hold the potential for between 5-15 times the efficiency of existing lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, but have seen a number of technological challenges hindering progress - primarily that nearly a third of the energy is still being wasted as heat, and they don't tend to last very long. 
Ju Li, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Battelle Energy Alliance and MIT, led the study, along with Zhi Zhu and five other researchers from MIT, Argonne National Laboratory and Peking University. 
The new approach, outlined in the journal Nature, results in a 'nanolithia cathode' battery, which is more versatile and side-steps a few of the key issues with Lithium-oxygen batteries, such as needing other systems to keep away carbon dioxide and water.'

New facility could almost double the world's production of lithium ion batteries and reduce Tesla's battery costs by more than a third by 2018

Madeleine Cuff. 27 July 2016

Tesla yesterday opened the doors to its Gigafactory, the $5bn lithium ion battery factory in Nevada, US, that will support a massive increase in the company's production of electric cars. The site is only 14 per cent completed, but once fully operational the factory is expected to almost double the world's production of lithium ion batteries, and at 10 million square feet will be one of the largest buildings in the world.

Tesla founder Elon Musk said the Gigafactory will start production of batteries by the end of this year, and gradually ramp up manufacturing as more of the site is completed until it is delivering 35 gigawatt hours of batteries by 2018 - enough to support about 1.5 million cars a year.

The Gigafactory's size - and production capabilities - will be around three times larger than the original plans for the site. When work began on the factory in 2014, it was thought the site would produce enough batteries for around 500,000 Tesla cars by 2020.

The batteries will be used in the production of Tesla's latest EV, the Model 3, which attracted more than 325,000 pre-orders in a matter of weeks. The car is Tesla's first mass market vehicle, with an initial price tag of $35,000.

The factory will also support the expansion of Tesla's Powerwall business, which provides stationary battery storage to homes and businesses. Musk told reporters "The growth in stationary storage is really under-appreciated," he said. "That is a super-exponential growth rate."


Source: The Earth Project

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles work by taking hydrogen and reacting it with oxygen to produce electricity with water as a waste product. Its an idea that's attracting vast R&D from a few car manufacturers. Toyota Mirai and Hyundai iX35 are two leading commercial models. The main attraction of fuel cells is that they give a considerably longer range than standard EVs. The Miraj has a range of 312 miles; the/Tesla Model 5 range if half that.

At present, EV's and their charging point infrastructure are significantly more developed. In the
UK for instance, there are 9,300 EV charging points ad only 4 hydrogen filling stations.
EVs  are cheaper and have similar bodies to conventional cars. Fuel cell vehicles are considerably heavier and larger to accommodate the fuel cell.

There is probably a place for both on the market as long as price of fuel cell falls.

Source: VSA Capital Battery Supply Chain Report [7th Jan 2016]



by Cara McGoogan [Telegraph/12th Sept 2016]

Apple's plans to create an electric car with self-driving abilities were called into doubt after the company cut dozens of members of staff from its secret vehicle division.

Code-named project Titan, Apple has plowed resources into a mysterious department looking at electric vehicles and self-driving car technology for at least two years to no avail, the New York Times reports.

Despite numerous high profile hires and Tim Cook's suggestion that the car industry should expect "massive change", Apple has closed sections of the project and laid off staff in a move that could signal it is abandoning plans to create its own car.

The news follows the appointment of Apple veteran Bob Mansfield as head of the project in July. Mansfield has decided to double down on efforts to created self-driving technology rather than making an electric vehicle itself, according to the Financial TimeS.



This very engaging and beautifully produced book begins with the story of a reunion through Friends Reunited, the precursor of Facebook, of two friends who had last met in primary school - the author of this book Shirley Darlington and Doug Jenkinson, who was intent on tracking down Swiss artist Eugène Burnand (1850-1921) to whom he thought he was distantly related. 

They both joined in a quest, Shirley offering to help with French translations, that has led to this book and  the uncovering of the story of this unique Swiss artist. Much documentation and lost paintings were discovered and the main results are now housed in a museum at Moudon in Switzerland and can also be seen on an extensive website put together and maintained by Doug.

 Burnand's bucolic paintings of the rural life, animals and landscapes of the Alps are beautiful but the most extraordinary aspect of his life and career is a set of 104 pastel portraits of "Military Types" of World War 1.

He began them in 1917, taking advantage of a diplomatic mission to Paris. He was also able to go to Montpelier and Marseilles where many soldiers were recuperating from their time at the Front. Portraits of generals and army elite are in  the minority. Most are "les poilui" , ground troops drawn from many European countries and far-flung colonies, many of whom worked as trench diggers or porters.

The portraits are executed in pencil and pastel, are almost life-size, with Burnand sitting "knee to knee" with this subjects, who were paid for the sitting, which often took place in his own home. Many were completed after the war when he and his family returned to Paris where there were still many military personnel. He managed to complete 102 portraits by the time he died in February 1921. The last painting, of a nurse.signed, was on his easel when he died.

Eugène Burnand: In Search of the Swiss Artist (1850-1921) [Uniform. 2016]


(Top left)  African Rifleman Martinez, from Prudon, department of Oran (now Algeria)  (Top right) Chasseur Alpin (Fernand Ruan, Cévenol)

(Centre left) Somali Ahmed Abokob (from Djibouti) (Centre right) Sikh NCO Sunder Sing Haldice

(Bottom left) Tonkinese Rifleman Lai Van Chau (from Saigon) (Bottom right) Fijian (from the British army Fijian Labour Corps.



In total there were 47 countries involved in the First World War and THE GENERALIST must admit to having given little thought to the colonial troops involved in the conflict. These numbers are staggering.

A good starting point is the British Library's World War One coverage and an essay entitled 'Experiences of colonial troops' by Dr Santanu Das  who edited 'Race, Empire and First World War Writing (Cambridge, 2011). 

'In 1914, the whole of Africa, except Ethiopia and Liberia, was under European rule and Great Britain and France controlled the two largest colonial empires. They would draw on them extensively during the war for both human and material resources. 

'Among the various colonies of the British empire, India contributed the largest number of men, with approximately 1.5 million recruited during the war up to December 1919. 

'The dominions (self-governing nations within the British Commonwealth) – including Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland – contributed a further 1.3 million men. New Zealand’s mobilisation of more than 100,000 men may seem relatively small compared to India’s, but in proportionate terms New Zealand made one of the largest contributions to the British empire, with five percent of its men aged 15-49 killed. Indian and New Zealand troops fought together in Gallipoli, where out of a total of 3000 Indian combatants, some 1624 were killed, a loss rate of more than 50 per cent. 

'In addition to the 90,000 troupes indigènes already under arms when the war started, France recruited between 1914 and 1918 nearly 500,000 colonial troops, including 166,000 West Africans, 46,000 Madagascans, 50,000 Indochinese, 140,000 Algerians, 47,000 Tunisians and 24,300 Moroccans. Most of these French colonial troops served in Europe. However, the majority of the Africans served as labourers or carriers in Africa. 

'In total, as Hew Strachan has noted, over 2 million Africans were involved in the conflict as soldiers or labourers; 10 percent of them died, and among the labourers serving in Africa, the death rates may have been as high as 20 percent. 

'Additionally, nearly 140,000 Chinese contract labourers were hired by the British and French governments [to clear WWI battlefields] forming a substantial part of the immigrant labour force working in France during the war. 

'With the entry of the United States into the war, nearly 400,000 African-American troops were inducted into the US forces, of whom 200,000 served in Europe.' 

Three other valuable books on the same topic.

David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and film-maker who made a two-part BBC-TV series broadcast in 2014 and entitled 'The World's War'. A prime source.

'Black Poppies' (2014)  and 'The Motherland Calls' by Stephen Bourne:  

In 1914 there were at least 10,000 black Britons, many of African and West Indian heritage, fiercely loyal to their Mother Country. Despite being discouraged from serving in the British Army during the First World War, men managed to join all branches of the armed forces and black communities made a vital contribution, both on the front and at home. By 1918 it is estimated that the black population had trebled to 30,000, and after the war many black soldiers who had fought for Britain decided to make it their home. Poignantly, it concludes by examining the anti-black race riots of 1919 in cities like Cardiff and Liverpool, where black men and their families came under attack from returning white soldiers who resented their presence, in spite of what they had done for Britain during the war. With first-hand accounts and original photographs, Black Poppies is the essential guide to the military and civilian wartime experiences of black men and women, from the trenches to the music halls. Black Poppies is the first book of its kind to focus on the black British experience during the Great War; this new offering from Stephen Bourne is fascinating and eye-opening.

'The Motherland Calls'  is Stephen Bourne’s second book to unearth a hidden history of black Britain and the Second World War. This book highlights some of thousands of black British, Caribbean and West African servicemen and women who supported the British war effort from 1939-45. Black volunteers from across the British Empire enthusiastically joined the armed forces and played their part in fighting Nazi Germany and its allies. 'The Motherland Calls' complements Stephen's previous book 'Mother Country' which told the story of the contribution made by black Britons on the Home Front.Drawing on the author's expert knowledge of the subject, and many years of original research, 'The Motherland Calls' reveals the brave men and women who volunteered to fight the forces of Nazism. These include RAF personnel: Ulric Cross (Trinidad), Cy Grant (Guyana), Billy Strachan & Sam King (Jamaica), Peter Thomas (Nigeria) and Johnny Smythe (Sierra Leone). Army personnel who are highlighted in the book include ‘Joe’ Moody, Lilian Bader & Ramsay Bader (Britain), Connie Mark, who served in the ATS in Jamaica, and Isaac Fadoyebo (Nigeria). Navy personnel include Sid Graham (Britain) and Allan Wilmot (Jamaica).'

Friday, September 09, 2016


Photo credit: Eva Vermandel

“Shirley is a time traveller, a conduit for essential human aches, 
one of the greatest artists who ever lived, and yet utterly humble” 
- Stewart Lee

It is a great pleasure to be amongst the first journalists to be given the announcement that a new record by Shirley Collins is to be released on Domino Records on November 4th - her first album for 38 years. It was recorded in Shirley's cottage and I live just a few doors down but was completely unaware it was happening.

I first met Shirley in January 1969 when I was 18, long-haired and running, with other friends and freaks, the Worthing Workshop, what used to be called an Arts Lab. We did gigs, concerts, poetry readings, protests and sold underground newspapers in the street and smoked dope in the parks. For one reason or another we decided also to start a folk club (a venture that didn't last as it turned out) in one of the local pubs near the station. Somehow we got to book Shirley Collins. Not sure at all how that happened.

Anyway on the night, I was running the show and also playing. I remember the timing because it was some time  after 'Wee Tam and the Big Huge', the amazing double album by the Incredible String Band which had been released a couple of months before and I had learnt one of the most complicated songs on the album 'Ducks On A Pond' as a kind of party piece I played that night

I had the privilege of going to meet Shirley at the station and guide her to the venue. I was completely gobsmacked as Shirley was (and is) beautiful and magical. I wish I could say I remember more of the evening. Obviously Shirley sang and I may have led her back to the station but my strongest memory
is that first sight on the station platform. I was young.

Many years later, I met up with Shirley in Lewes in 2004 around the occasion of the release of her wonderful book 'America: Over The Water' about her trip to the Southern states when she was 19, as assistant the folk song hunter Alan Lomax. As id discovered, she'd been living down the road from me for some time and I hadn't even noticed. Full details and links in a Previous Post (3rd July 2005)


The press release, which calls 'Lodestar', with some justice, 'the unlikeliest release of the century so far' provides an informative summary of the album itself and Shirley's life and times to date.
'Lodestar' is a collection of English, American and Cajun songs dating from the 16th Century to the1950s, recorded at Shirley’s home in Lewes by Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown of Cyclobe and produced and musically directed by Ian Kearey.
The first track to be shared from Lodestar is ‘Cruel Lincoln’. Shirley explains the history of the song: “This is an ancient ballad, found only rarely in England. The theory is that Cruel Lincoln was a masonwho was not paid for the work he did for ‘the Lord of the Manor’ and so extracted a terrible revenge”.It also features bird song recorded at the back of Shirley’s cottage.

Born in Hastings in 1935, Shirley was fascinated by folk songs as she was growing up, songs she heard on the radio or sung by her grandparents in Anderson shelters. She left home for London to immerse herself in the burgeoning folk scene; at a party held by Ewan MacColl she met Alan Lomax, and in 1959 she joined him in the USA on the renowned field trip ‘Southern Journey’, recording American folk songs and blues, a formative journey for her personally and professionally. 
On her return to England, Shirley cemented her role at the forefront of the Folk Revival, recording over a dozen albums including the influential Folk Roots, New Routes with avant-garde guitarist Davy Graham, and No Roses, from which The Albion Country Band was formed. 
However, in the 1980s, Shirley lost her singing voice – later diagnosed as a form of dysphonia - and withdrew from performing live. It was only in 2014, after coaxing from David Tibet (Current 93), that Shirley sang in public for the first time since 1982. 
Though Shirley Collins (MBE) has been absent from the music scene for many years, her impact has not diminished, the likes of Graham Coxon, Jonny Greenwood, Stewart Lee and Angel Olsen laud her and a documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins is currently in progress. Additionally, she was given the ‘Good Tradition’ award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2008, elected President of the English Folk Dance & Song Society in the same year and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Sussex University this year. Shirley is currently working on her second book. 
Now Shirley Collins has sung once more (with a mischievous delight in defeating expectation), the accepted canon of her great recordings will have to be comprehensively recalibrated, yet again.

Lodestar will be available on limited edition deluxe vinyl with a 24 page 12” booklet featuring song notes by Shirley Collins and sleeve notes by Stewart Lee and a signed print (signed print is available exclusively via Dom Mart), limited edition deluxe CD with 28 page booklet and standard vinyl. For more details visit Dom Mart.

I have had the privilege of reading Stewart Lee's extensive sleeve notes. He is enchanted and besotted by Shirley and writes lyrically and perceptively explaining the depths and magic that he perceives in her and her singing.  Here's a taste:
'I first met Shirley in 2003, in the Hove flat where she lived alone, just as the reissue efforts of fans like David Tibet, the shape-shifting polymath of the English experimental underground, and Fledg’ling Records’ folk archivist David Suff, began to nudge knowledge of her work beyond the realm of record-collector adepts. Blissfully disconnected from the on-line information ocean, Shirley herself had been utterly unaware of how interest in her had been growing since she had finally forsworn singing in 1982.  
“All I did was perform the songs in a straightforward way,” she explained. “It’s the only way I can sing them, because when people start dramatising or enacting a song, I just become embarrassed. I think the best way is to draw people in, not to stand there and declaim it.”
To me, her egoless recordings resist stylistic flourishes, remove the obstacle of the performer’s personality, and directly channel the listener to the words and music, reconnecting traditional tunes with the strange worlds they emerged from. I put it to her that she didn’t inhabit a song so much as surrender to it. ' 

Photo credit: Eva Vermandel