Thursday, 29 September 2016

Naked POTUS, number 5: James Monroe

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

In plain view, it's James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth President of the United States. Let's find out about him:


Born 28th April 1758, Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died 4th July 1831, New York City, New York

Presidential Term 4th March 1817 - 3rd March 1825

James Monroe was the third President of the United States to die on Independence Day, although not on Independence Day. The latter is a science-fiction action blockbuster film starring Will Smith. He was also the first American President to die outside his home State. Careless.

Monroe is primarily remembered for establishing the Monroe Doctrine, which still informs US foreign policy up to the present day. It stated that the American continents must no longer be considered as subjects for colonisation by foreign powers and that the United States had an important role in policing and defending this.

Monroe was a staunch anti-federalist and fought to enforce the right for individual States to pursue their own laws. Which is all very well until you get your cock out.

His Presidency was marked by a period of such stability and absence of partisanship that he stood unopposed at the 1820 Presidential Election, winning all but one Electoral College vote. Which was his wife's. 

Monroe was a former US Ambassador to France and was recalled to the United States by Thomas Jefferson to help negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. As a result of this vast territorial expansion, the Union duly expanded by five States during Monroe's Presidency: Mississippi (1817), Illinois and Alabama (both 1818), Maine (1820) and Missouri (1821). By the end of his term, the USA had 24 States.

Other notable events of the Monroe Presidency included the First Seminole War of 1817-18, where US troops quashed an uprising by Seminole Indians, who were invading Georgia from Spanish-held Florida. He also signed the Missouri Compromise, a document trying to balance the demands of slave States and non-slave States, which helped delay the outbreak of Civil War for several decades.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 4: James Madison

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

With his bits flapping, it's James Madison (1751-1836), the fourth President of the United States. Facts are as follows:


Born 16th March 1751, Port Conway, Virginia
Died 28th June 1836, Orange, Virginia

Presidential Term 4th March 1809 - 3rd March 1817

James Madison is remembered as the Father of the US Constitution. While he was not responsible for writing the entire document, he was a central figure in its production. Madison was also a significant author of the Bill of Rights (1791).

The most notable event of the Madison Presidency was the war of 1812, With England seemingly completely unwilling to stop attacking American ships, the United States declared war. They initially suffered heavy losses, ceding the city of Detroit without a shot having been fired and seeing several key buildings in Washington D.C., including the White House, burn down. However, they quickly consolidated their position thanks to their naval strength and the British were defeated at the Battle of Lake Erie. The war petered out as a stalemate by 1814 and Britain gave Detroit back in the end. Which was civil of them.

Two States joined the Union during the Madison Presidency: Louisiana (1812) and Indiana (1816). These were the eighteenth and nineteenth admissions.

James Madison remains the shortest of the 43 Presidents of the United States, standing at 1.63 metres (or 5 feet 4 inches), a full five centimetres (two inches) shorter than the next shortest President, Martin Van Buren. Maybe his mother was a smoker, who knows?

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 3: Thomas Jefferson

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Here in the nip is Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). He's that famous American scholar who WAS President, as opposed to Benjamin Franklin, the famous American scholar who wasn't. Facts:


Born 13th April 1743, Shadwell, Virginia
Died 4th July 1826, Charlottesville, Virginia

Presidential Term 4th March 1801 - 3rd March 1809

Thomas Jefferson was the last President of the United States to have been a signatory to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was also responsible for drafting the document. All together now: "...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,...". The clever old goose.

Thomas Jefferson's election saw the first time that the party represented by the President changed; from Federalist to Democratic-Republican. He called this "the revolution of 1800". Which was doing it a bit brown.

Thomas Jefferson's Presidency saw a number of significant events. He oversaw the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, where the US bought large tracts of land west of the Mississippi river from France. It cost sixteen pounds. The following year, the expedition of Lewis and Clark began. Commissioned by Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase, it sought to discover what else lay beyond the horizon in the continental US, in order that it might be bought or taken by force. Spoiler: it eventually all was.

In 1807, the slave trade was abolished. This would almost certainly prevent any further slavery-related intrigue occurring in 19th Century America.

During Jefferson's Presidency, a seventeenth State joined the Union: Ohio, on 1st March 1803.

Thomas Jefferson was the first American President to not have a First Lady: he was a widower throughout entire Presidential term, his wife Martha having died in 1782.

Jefferson and his erstwhile political rival (later close friend and correspondent) John Adams - the second President of the United States - both died on 4th July 1826, separated by a matter of hours. That day was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, for which both men were present.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 2: John Adams

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked"  - BOB DYLAN, an American himself.

Here is John Adams (1735-1826). He's got nothing on, which is his right. He has earned this right, by being the President of the United States.  Here are the facts:


Born 30th October 1735, Braintree, Massachusetts
Died 4th July 1826, Quincy, Massachusetts

Presidential Term 4th March 1797 - 3rd March 1801

John Adams was the first President of the United States to have been one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was also the first American President to only serve one term of office.

His Vice-President was Thomas Jefferson, who would replace him as President. Ungrateful. Adams and Jefferson were bitter rivals throughout their political careers but became close friends and regular correspondents in later life.

During his term of office, the capital of the United States was formalised in Washington, D.C. Before this, Congress had met in various major cities on the east coast of the USA including Philadelphia, New York City and Annapolis, Maryland.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 1: George Washington

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked", as Bob Dylan quite correctly pointed out. For instance, they might be one of those people who don't feel comfortable doing a poo with any clothes on.

Standing before you as pink and perfect as the day he was born is George Washington (1732-1799). Even the really stupid amongst you, people who voted for Brexit or think Donald Trump is a force for good for instance, will almost certainly know that George Washington was the first President of the United States, having handed the British a whupping the likes of which they would never forget.

Ironically enough, most British people have forgotten about it, but we still remember you, George. Here's a George Washington fact file so that you can at least leave this situation a little wiser.


Born 22nd February 1732, Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Died 14th December 1799, Mount Vernon, Virginia

Presidential Term 30th April 1789 - 3rd March 1797

George Washington remains the only US President to have been elected unanimously. His refusal to stand for a third term of office is the reason that American Presidents would serve a maximum of eight years. This limit has since been enshrined in the US Constitution by the 22nd Amendment in 1947.

During his Presidency, three States joined the Union: Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792) and Tennessee (1796). It also saw the ratification of the US Bill of Rights in 1791.

In spite of his central role to the American Revolutionary War and the United States' independence from the United Kingdom, George Washington was not one of the 56 signatories on the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

At 1.88 metres in height, George Washington is the fourth tallest American President. He is one of four American Presidents to be depicted on the side of Mount Rushmore.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit art

Prints, t-shirts, tote bags and notebooks are all available via Redbubble. I will also be doing a STRICTLY LIMITED run of FIFTY hand signed prints. If you are interested, details can all be found on my Facebook page:

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved

I want to talk a bit about Martin Luther King, a great man.

I got to thinking about Martin Luther King today because a British MP was shot and killed in Yorkshire. The motives behind this are unclear at present. Some say that the perpetrator said "Britain First", the name of a far-right group in the UK. Perhaps he said "Britain first", a remark aimed at his victim's support of the campaign that seeks to keep the United Kingdom from voting to leave the European Union. Perhaps he said neither. Perhaps nothing. It doesn't matter, does it? Whatever he said, thought or did, his action was the snap of a society that has been stretched and stretched and hectored and frightened and alarmed to the point that it couldn't take the tension any more. Stretched and warped and terrified by the self same politicians and media that will now duly dole out their platitudes of shock and sorrow.

I spent the early afternoon doing the live blog for Twohundredpercent, the critically-acclaimed football website. I was covering England's match with Wales. It should have been a good day. Unfortunately, it was not.

When I checked to see Twitter's verdict at half time, instead I found out about this shooting. Shortly after the final whistle, the MP's death was announced. Her name was Jo Cox. She was 41 years old, 42 in a couple of weeks. She was only 6 years older than me and had two young children. She stood up for lots of causes that I, personally, find very admirable. But that doesn't matter, either, does it? What her political beliefs were aren't the issue here, the reason this is so numbing and horrible.

At moments like these nowadays, I find myself compelled to keep checking Twitter. Twitter - social media generally - has been such a force for good in my life that, when I am feeling lost or hurt, I guess I look to it so it can work its magic. But there was nothing there today. Just my own feelings reflected back at me. A scream in an echo chamber.

I saw all sorts of things being said. People who had never previously expressed any faith wondering if this year had been portentous of some sort of Biblical reckoning. People wanting to leave. People not wanting to come back. The journalist Abi Wilkinson asked "Does anyone have any thoughts about what we're supposed to do?". It's a good question.

Luckily, her erstwhile colleague Martin Belam had an answer. He posted a thread of tweets talking about expressing his thoughts and feelings and finished it with a picture of Ron Mael, from Sparks. It was a bit cryptic, but I assumed that it was an act of defiance. Why not defiance? I immediately went to YouTube and put on This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both Of Us. It summed up my feeling towards the growing cloud of extremism and extremist views in the UK. This may have been exactly what Martin Belam had in mind, too, for all I know.

Music is one of life's great consolations. When the world outside is raging in tempest, I use it as a coping strategy. Shut out the noise with something I can control. Try to find some calm, some sense of perspective.

Recently, I've been listening to Star Time, a 1991 four-CD compilation of James Brown's most essential work. Out of reflex, I think, I started there. I'm glad I did, because it immediately got me thinking about the Civil Rights struggle in the United States.

I am decidedly pro-EU. Next Thursday I will be voting to Remain and hope that as many of my fellow UK citizens as possible will do the same, But as big an unknown as a Leave victory is, as nauseated as worrying about it has made me feel lately, even Brexit isn't as bad as what black people had to endure up to the middle of the 20th Century in America (and beyond, and elsewhere). Being a member of what is now increasingly angrily decried and dismissed as "the left" is not nearly as niche or as vulnerable a position as it perhaps feels this evening. What it needs - what we need - is leaders.

Which is how I got to thinking about Martin Luther King. Few of us could ever aspire to match King for his measure, calm and constructiveness in the face of the most impossible, virulent and hate-filled odds. But we can aspire to at least try, in our own small way, to remember his example and to act on it.

Above all, leaders are brave people. It takes courage to stand up and speak your mind, to stand up for what you think is right. It is tempting to curl up in a ball and wish it will all go away. Brexit, terrorism, mass shootings in America, hooliganism in European football and now a political assassination on the British mainland. The world seems like it is out of control.

I choose to believe it is not. I choose instead to believe that the media is out of control. There is now infinite space on websites, timelines and airwaves to saturate the world with every single event that is happening. It is quite overwhelming, which is the problem to the greater extent. But it is a reality of life these days. To disengage from it would not be the brave thing to do. Not what a leader would do.

Jo Cox MP was a leader. Let's stand with her. Let's make every Jo Cox who falls doing good for humanity spawn ten more Jo Coxes. Not in a militant sense, but a regenerative one. A quiet determination to see everyone doing a little better, to see a wrong and try to make it right. To be brave. To stand up. To be counted in the best way anybody can: by example and by compassion; with humility and with humour; with humanity. Without ever losing sight of the world we would have our fellow live in.

This post is dedicated to Jo Cox MP (1974-2016). Here is a link to Oxfam's Syria appeal donation page, one of the many good causes she supported during her life.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016

Muhammad Ali left us today, in as far as he ever can.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was just a boxer. A boxer in the same way, perhaps, that PelĂ© was just a footballer, but just a boxer all the same. Muhammad Ali, however, was a politician, a poet, a wit, a diplomat, a contrarian, a storyteller, a peace campaigner, a husband, a father, a religious advocate, a motivational speaker, a pillar of the civil rights movement, a television personality, a social theorist, a comedian, a villain, a hero, a martyr.

He was also twice the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Having been stripped of the title for his social and political ideals in the turbulence of 1960s America, he regained it - aged 32 - against George Foreman in Zaire with such a breathtakingly audacious combination of brawn and brains that it walked the unseen line that divides life and death. Just under a year later, he retained the belt fighting Joe Frazier in the Philippines. Flirting with that line again,  The Thrilla In Manila was a contest of such punishing circumstances that everyone involved was pushed to the outer limits of the known human capacity for endurance: physical, emotional, spiritual.

Muhammad Ali

In the end, Muhammad Ali was a leader. Never before or since has a sporting figure so supervened their station and entered the wider public consciousness with such vitality or luminous brilliance. Ali is a hero to more than just those who follow boxing or saw him fight. Some, I'm sure, don't even know he was a fighter. After a time, it became incidental anyway. Muhammad Ali went beyond labels, beyond time and place.

Muhammad Ali gave people hopes and dreams; his foibles, mistakes and indiscretions serving only to make us feel better about those of our own. To come across Ali's story is to be moved, thrilled, excited. It is energising in a way that speaks to the human spirit at a most fundamental level.

His story will be discussed for as long as human beings are. The words "The Greatest" will never be far away, drawn magnetically towards one another. It was Clay - the boxer - who first immodestly bestowed himself with the moniker. In later years, Ali would admit he had done so without even realising yet that he was. Nevertheless, it was prescient in the extreme: Ali's life continued along a path of transcendence as if, at times, guided by an unseen hand.

Those of us today, living on in his wake, are blessed and cursed. Cursed because we are too close to properly appreciate Muhammad Ali with anything like the true perspective that his life, his achievements, his personality, his essence, will ultimately demand. It may take tens, or hundreds, of years for that to be possible. But we are blessed, too: no-one else in human history will be able to boast that they had shared a planet with him, had the opportunity to see their lives directly impacted or influenced by his in real time.

Muhammad Ali was bigger than boxing, bigger than sport. His was the ineffable spark of humanity. This was as good as it gets. He is the greatest.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Sport by Numbers: Number 15

Today's notable sporting integer is 15. Fifteen is the first number, counting from one, which is not immediately associated with handfuls of notable sporting heroes. Why should this be? I have absolutely no idea, as it seems to me to be a perfectly serviceable number . Anyone wearing it would no doubt look very handsome and make their grandmother enormously proud.

It is the number that is always worn by the full back in rugby union however, so there is no shortage of competition for our purposes: even if they haven't strictly chosen it for themselves. I like to think that if they could have, they would.

As such, I have picked one of the most notable rugby full backs ever to play the game, a legend of the sport in the British Isles: former Scotland captain and six-time British and Irish Lion, Gavin Hastings. Hastings also played 61 tests for Scotland and, with a combined 733 points, he is the all-time British rugby union top scorer.

Gavin Hastings

Friday, 29 April 2016

Sport by Numbers: Number 3

Today's sporting number comes from the hotly contested series from one to fifteen. These are the numbers that cover the action for all but the most lunatic of sporting occasions and, as a result, have come to be associated with all kinds of different personalities and disciplines. Number 3 is the number that AC Milan retired in honour of their stalwart defender Paolo Maldini; it is also the number carried by the legendary Dale Earnhardt throughout his career in stock car racing.

However, it would have been remiss of me to not award my number 3 to the Sultan of Swat. The 20th Century saw the invention of many things that we now accept as facts of life without really thinking about them and one of these was international sporting superstars. George Herman "Babe" Ruth was one of the first and, over a century on from his Major League Baseball debut, he remains one of the biggest. If he hadn't been born, someone would have had to invent him.

George Herman "Babe" Ruth 1895-1948

Friday, 22 April 2016

Sport by Numbers: Number 33

Today begins a new series of pictures combining sport and the iconic numbers associated with some of its greatest practitioners. I'll be trying to add a new one every Friday morning, but you know what I'm like. Flaky.

Keen-eyed viewers will also notice that I am not doing them in any kind of order, least of all numerical order. This is a deliberate strategem on my part to make the project seem like more fun and less like a self-imposed prison. Where, of course, the gaoler is me and the terms are fairly lenient. Flaky, you see.

Anyway, the first entrant is probably best known to British people as the co-pilot in the 1980 disaster comedy film Airplane! but the majority of Americans recognise him instead as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Virtually every other rival he has for that title is also on my list awaiting being drawn by the way, so don't panic too much.

He is also an excellent reminder that US sporting greats can appear in motion pictures and not subsequently murder their wife.

Number 33: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


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