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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Panama Attorneys advise investors forming joint venture for energy projects in West Africa

Panama Attorneys advise investors forming joint venture for energy projects in West Africa
Attorneys Lombardi Aguilar Group advised a group of West African investors entering a joint venture to develop hydrokinetic water projects

Panama City, Panama – Attorneys Lombardi Aguilar Group (www.laglex.com) served as Panama counsel for MRS Holdings Ltd. (www.mrsgroupng.com) in their joint venture to develop hydrokinetic water projects.

Nigeria-based MRS Holdings Ltd., entered through their Panamanian subsidiary into a joint venture with renewable energy company Hydro Alternative Energy, Inc. (HAE) to develop hydrokinetic energy projects in West Africa. The arrangement follows the previously announced binding letter of intent between HAE and MRS to secure and develop such hydrokinetic water power projects in the West Africa region.

HAE and MRS formed Natural Energy Solutions (NES), a Panamanian corporation, which plans to enter into power purchase agreements for developing hydrokinetic water power projects in West Africa. NES will be headed by select senior management from both the HAE and MRS organizations.

NES plans to advance the terms and conditions of a MoU from mid-October between a prior MRS subsidiary, since assigned to NES, and the Cameroon’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. The MoU entails feasibility studies to be undertaken for the development and operation of facilities for the production of tidal electric power, and for the Cameroon government to facilitate access to and grant certain exclusivity rights with respect to the project sites that will be selected as part of the feasibility studies and construction of electricity generation facilities to be undertaken.

MRS is headed by its President and major stockholder, Sayyu Dantata, an established businessman and entrepreneur who, in 2008, steered MRS' acquisition of the Chevron operation in West Africa. Mr. Dantata stated, "We are likewise very pleased to formalize our partnership with HAE, and are fully committed to making our relationship a success and providing West African countries with low cost, clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy for their electricity needs."

Lead attorney for MRS' Panama counsel was partner
Dr. Jorge Lombardi, a graduate of Universidad Santa Maria la Antigua (LLB) and University of Paris (3eme cycle, DED). The team included associate Carlos Abrego and counsel Rodolfo Espino. Abrego and Espino are graduates of University of Panama (LLB) and have taken courses at National University of Singapore (LL.M.) and Tamkang University, Taiwan (Political Systems), respectively.

About Lombardi Aguilar Group
Lombardi Aguilar Group is a partnership of consultants created as an alternative for clients worldwide who seek fast, innovative and effective solutions to their legal problems. The firm currently provides services to individual and corporate clients in Panama as well in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Its partners maintain a commitment with professional ethics and social responsibility by participating in the board of directors of groups such as the Panama Bar Association, the Alliance Francaise, the German and the American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAM) of Panama, and the Association of Chinese-Panamanian Professionals (APROCHIPA).

The firm centers its law practice in private client services and asset protection (Private Interest Foundations, Trusts), business structures (Offshore Corporations), tax planning, real estate and e-commerce. It also advices in areas of Law such as Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Maritime, Tax, Environmental and Immigration Law as well as related litigation.

For more information, contact +507 340-6444, e-mail info (at) laglex.com, or see: Lombardi Aguilar Group http://www.laglawyers.com/

Keywords: Panama, West Africa, Energy, Hydrokinetic http://prlog.org/11541669
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time out to respond to commenters

  1. The Sewing Lawyer loves getting comments so keep them coming!  
  2. In particular thanks to those of you who expressed an opinion as to whether she ought to be seen in public in a tunic and tights.  Even when you thought not.  (I did ask!)  I'm going with the majority and wearing them.
  3. Commenting on my husband's prowess as a thrift shopper, Jilly Be wondered if he has a brother who's single and her age.  Sorry...
  4. There was a question about the black pumps I was wearing to model my two dresses.  This made me laugh (and may have prompted my later observation that if you keep stuff long enough, it rolls back into style).  Those shoes were purchased in 1979 or so.  Maybe I should start wearing them for real again?
  5. Thimbles - leather ones with a metal tip?  I can't find any to match the mental image your description prompted in my mind.  I bought some like these once - they really didn't work (I have really small fingers).  There's a pattern on the Threads website for very snazzy ones. Clover seems to make two different ones (here and here).  I would worry about them being loose.  
  6. Last but not least, a comment this week on an old post asked about what fusible interfacings I recommend.  I'm really a bad person to ask because I stash interfacing, I buy almost all of it in Montreal or Toronto in stores where labels are non-existent or unreliable, and I have a habit of picking up new kinds whenever I see them.  I usually have no idea what the brand name of the interfacing I just used might be. That said, I can recommend Pam Erny's interfacing which is high quality and dependable, if you don't have access to my kind of sources.  Get her sample pack.  Even if you have a stock of great interfacing, you can't just assume one kind will work for all applications.  Test scraps (7-10cm or 3-4" square, or thereabouts) on your fashion fabric.  Try more than one kind.  See what they do to the hand and drape of your fabric.  Is it too crisp or stiff, or too limp?  

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) Directed by Robert Mulligan

Nick :
Whilst summer gets to be of the schizo variety here in Finland, ultra hot some days, rain and autumnal the rest, workloads in our household seemed to have had a detrimental effect on My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer. We're watching as many films as usual, but the time to write about what we watch is lacking. It probably means in the future there won't always be the standard eight posts a month we try to reach.

Harper Lee's book To Kill A Mockingbird is one I read approaching my teen years, it passed on some valuable lessons on tolerance and understanding as well as appreciation of an innocent perspective. I still value Lee's book, and the movie adaptation has the same feeling, yet with the added bonus of Gregory Peck's dignified turn as Atticus Finch. You get the feeling Peck's pretty much playing himself here, that easy liberal wisdom that seems to have characterized him as a human being as well as, lets not forget, Hollywood superstar.

It's interesting that To Kill A Mocking Bird was produced by Alan Pakula and has Robert Duvall's first screen performance. To Kill  A Mockingbird also gives us further clues with its camera work and general feeling as to the new American Cinema that was to explode by the end of the 1960's. It never feels sentimental, the children's perspective that the movie views events from are handled with grit and humor. The racial issues discussed in To Kill A Mockingbird convey power, if not a somewhat depressing perspective on the outcome of such racist attitudes. Watching after many years, I still felt moved at times and enjoyed the film's overall innocence. One of the better book adaptations I've seen.

This should be an ode to Gregory Peck. He is so noble and simply good without any arrogance what so ever. Before we watched To Kill A Mockingbird, we watched a documentary on Peck. I had seen it before, but it was just as touching second time around. He tends to his orchids, he always has time for his daughter, and he adores and adores his wife. And all this sugary love and caring seems more than sincere.

To Kill A Mockingbird is an amazing film. It creates the world and perspective of children with rare accuracy, without any patronizing or looking down. And from their perspective the movie looks at many serious social and cultural issues of the last century. I cannot believe I have never seen this film before. It seems so essential, so important for its content. I am also embarrassed to admit that I have not read Harper Lee's book (on which the film is based) even though English used to be my major with America literature as my focus.

Atticus Finch is such an admirable single father and a lawyer. He is just so up-right in a way that doesn't seem boring, but daring. There's the thing: people in their thick-framed glasses fulfilling their duties are not necessarily boring or nerdy – they are dangerous because they can change the world. No wonder Gregory admired and loved Atticus the most.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More patterns from my past

Let's get something right out in the open - the Sewing Lawyer is not above shopping in thrift stores or accepting into her life items that were picked up at the curb.  It's astonishing what people will give or throw away.

As has been mentioned in these virtual pages before, the Sewing Lawyer's parents seem to have tossed out many of her cherished sewing patterns from when she was a teenager.  This happened so long ago that it ought to have been forgotten (those teenage years were in an era now known as "vintage"), and in reality of course I'm just having a bit of fun with the idea of wistfully yearning towards those semi-ancient styles.  However, truthfully I would welcome many of those patterns back into my over-stuffed pattern drawers, for old times' sake.

So imagine The Sewing Lawyer's delight when her husband (who thrift-shops so effectively he is practically a pro at it) found a pattern-stuffed basket sitting beside the curb one day (a few years back). The first funny thing about this story is that he was originally attracted to the lidded woven basket, because he recognized it as the twin of a basket in  the sewing room at home.  The second is that the patterns it contained were, in many cases, equally the twins or close relatives of many in The Sewing Lawyer's own past, and they were her size!  Cue up the theme from The Twilight Zone...

Here are a few examples.

Vogue 9301 dates from the mid-1970s, and I made the knee length culottes when I was in first or second year at the University of Toronto.  That was either 1974 or 1975.  They were scratchy wool, a herringbone, if memory serves, and supremely comfortable except for their itchiness.   These days I'd choose to line such a fabric, but then I was all about getting it done, and outward appearances.  I did not own a cable sweater with a cowl neck big enough to wear as a hood, but did coordinate them with turtleneck sweaters and high boots, as I recall.

I should make them again, I've often thought (BTW my copy is size 10).

Then there is this wrap skirt.  I rarely purchased "See & Sew" patterns but I adored the photo on the front of this one. I made the skirt from a light bottom-weight warm beige poly-cotton and I took it with me on my solo trip to Europe in the summer of 1978.  It was perfect - went with anything, did not wrinkle, was modest enough to wear in churches and dressy enough for anywhere a backpacking student-hostel staying girl was likely to go, and drip dried in a matter of minutes, it seemed.  The back wrap is generous enough that wearing it in the wind was no problem, and the ties are definitely not skimpy.  What a great skirt (sigh).

I should make this one again too.  The pattern from the basket is still in its factory folds.

The third example is a simple dress gathered via elastic at the waist, which also hails from the mid-1970s.  I made Vogue 9467 from a black and cream narrow-striped lightweight polyester fabric.  I remember thinking it ought to look more elegant.  I think my disappointment was a product of poor fabric selection and I do not think I have ever purchased such a difficult, staticky and generally flyaway fabric again.  I didn't wear it a lot but I've always had the nagging feeling that it could be a fantastically wearable dress made from something more suitable.

Maybe I have such a thing in my stash.

Or maybe I ought to get back to my grey summer suit...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ras al Khaimah opens its RAK Offshore center

Located in the United Arab Emirates, one of the fastest growing economies of the world, the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has quickly developed into a booming international center. Renowned for its lack of taxes and its minimal bureaucratic red tape, Ras Al Khaimah has attracted thousands of businesses, large and small, to relocate and take advantage of its economic opportunities. Now, RAK Offshore has made it possible for nonresident corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals worldwide to enjoy all the incentives that were previously available only to resident entities.

Headquartered in the up-and-coming Ras Al Khaimah City, the RAK Investment Authority, a government entity, allows a wide variety of financial activity and provides the perfect conditions to consider an offshore corporation through its regularity body, RAK Offshore.
At RAK Offshore, our raison d’être is to help your business succeed. From the very outset, RAK Offshore was conceived to allow its clients an easy, cost-effective means to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit, by starting and operating an offshore business.
RAK Offshore offers businesses and individuals alike an expansive range of services, structures and investment policies that are dedicated to nonresidents. RAK Offshore also benefits from one of the most comprehensive lists of non-double taxation treaties in the world, including treaties with China, India, Italy, France and Germany.

Nonresident Business and Individuals
International Business Companies RAK Offshore presents an ideal location for international business operations and asset protection schemes. If you are looking for an free zone in the Middle East where you can register your LLC or GmBH with little cost or hassle, RAK Offshore is your answer.
Maritime Activities RAK Offshore offers open registry of yachts, private boats, and, in the near future, vessels.

With its proximity to the major economies of the Middle East and its strategic location between the economic hemispheres of the East and the West, RAK lies in the perfect geographic location for a new business. In addition to its ready access to a flexible, multicultural, multilingual and highly skilled workforce, RAK Offshore becomes the ideal choice for outsourcing businesses looking for accounting, auditing and other back-office operations.
Offshore Non-Financial Businesses You can register International Business Companies bearing the status of Ltd., GmBH, Ltda or SA at RAK Offshore.
Trusts There are a variety of trusts you may consider, including the following: General Trusts, Discretionary Trusts, Vesting Trusts, Educational Trusts, Employee Trusts, Spendthrift Trusts, Asset Protection Trusts & Grantor Trusts.
Charitable Trusts & Foundation As the owner of an operating business, you can continue to maintain control over your company by setting up a Corporate Special Trust.

Offshore Banking
RAK Offshore takes special care to give small and medium enterprises the ability to move their business offshore through the creation and application of dedicated instruments. A few resulting benefits realized for your business are the following:
Asset Protection & Planning
Confidentiality of execution
Tax planning
International Visibility
No Exchange Control
Access to a Superb Communication and Banking Infrastructure
Choice of outsourcing
Creative and genuine portfolio of dedicated services
Property ownership of nonresidents in UAE free zones
Compliant with the best international standards for anti-money laundering.

If you need to form your RAK company or trust, contact us through our website, by email, Bitwine or Skype

My status

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Using your RAK company

Registrar of Companies

The Registrar of Companies functions as the production unit of RAK offshore and is responsible for establishing business relationships, incorporating offshore companies through licensed registered agents, and ensuring all rules and regulations are strictly adhered to. The Registrar of Companies will handle all matters related to the aforementioned, including:

  • Process applications for incorporation of new companies and deliver certificate of incorporation with registration number
  • Perform due diligence on the individuals (directors, members, etc.) who are part of the incorporated company.
  • Verify the names of companies at incorporation
  • Collect various fees and fines
  • Deliver certificates, duplicates, or other documents as per the law
  • Maintain the physical registry
  • Update the Register of Companies as needed

Information AT-A-GLANCE


Business Companies


  1. Minimum

  2. Residencyrequirements

  1. 1 shareholder

  2. No requirements

Share Capital

  1. Minimum authorized

  2. Minimum issued

  3. Bearershares

  4. Redeemable shares

  1. Nomínimum requirement

  2. 1 share

  3. No

  4. Yes

Beneficialownership disclosure

Not required to disclose to the UAE government, but must be disclosed to a registered agent


  1. MinimumNumber

  2. Residency requirements

  3. Corporate Directors

  1. 1 director

  2. No requirements

  3. Yes


presence requirements

  1. Directors

  2. Company officers

  3. Meetings

  4. Annual

    general meeting

  5. Audit requirements

  1. Not required

  2. Not required

  3. Not required

  4. Not required

  5. Not required (unless requested by the RAK Financial Services Authority for suspicion of criminal activity)




of migration


but not public accounts



transfer duty/tax



mention on the name


Sociéte Anonyme, GmbH, Ltda…

If you need to start your RAK company contact us through our website, by email, Bitwine or Skype


My status

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rights in schools: getting out of pupils’ hair

For Halsbury's Law Exchange, published here

When the magazine Punch was still extant, and still funny (not the same thing in its case), it used to have a column for amusing newspaper headlines or bylines, of the sort that were later found in endless round-robin emails. My personal favourite was an apparently genuine advertisement offering “a free set of bass guitar strings with every trumpet purchased”.

Another I remember told of a schoolboy who had been “suspended by his head because of his long hair”. Nowadays the unfortunate schoolboy would have a legal remedy against the school, whichever way one interprets the headline (double pun acknowledged). If he was caught with his hair somewhere, doubtless someone would fashion a personal injury action against the school for negligently failing to remove the hazard. If on the other hand he was excluded from the school for a time because of the length of his hair, then he might have an action along the lines of the recent decision in SG v St Gregory’s Catholic Science College [2011] All ER (D) 113 (Jun).

The case concerned a pupil, SG, who wore his hair in a style known as "cornrows". Although not explicitly contrary to the school's written policy, it had been made clear at the start of the year (at a meeting at which SG and his parents were not present) that the style would be banned.

SG brought judicial review proceedings to challenge the ban, contending, inter alia, that the policy constituted indirect discrimination on the ground of his race, pursuant to s 19 of the Race Relations Act 1976 and s 85 of the Equality Act 2010.

The question thrown up by the case essentially concerns the scope of the freedom of a school to set a uniform policy. One might have thought the limits should be very broad, but not so broad as to include discriminatory aspects: a child should not be forced to act contrary to his or her own culture. General rules may well inadvertently have that effect: a ruling requiring no hats might clash with some religions, for a start.

Even if the UK were to adopt the French concept of laïcité and ban all religious symbols in schools, the issue would still arise in cases such as SG’s, where the ground of objection was one of race or culture rather than religion.

It certainly was not the intent of the policy in SG’s case to discriminate against anyone; hence the action was for indirect discrimination. This required SG to show that the school had a policy which applied equally to all but which placed one group at a particular disadvantage, and that the policy could not be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Collins J held that:

It is only if there is a genuine cultural and family practice of not cutting males’ hair and wearing cornrows that an exception could be made. It would be made clear that the grounds for such an exception would have to be established and that conformity must occur unless to conform was regarded as impossible. There is no reason why hairstyles which might be indicative of gang culture should be permitted.”

As a starting point, no-one would suggest that a school should discriminate, knowingly or otherwise, against a particular culture. But there remains room for disquiet. It is almost inevitable that some symbols of importance to some pupils will be excluded by any uniform policy. Collins J said that only "genuine" cultural symbols or practices could form a ground of challenge. But how is the school to judge what is genuine? What of kilts and tartans, both of which can be said to be an important symbol of Scottish culture now, but neither of which have anything like the ancestry television and films would have us believe?

It seems to me that requiring schools to adjudicate on the genuineness of a particular cultural symbol is akin to the decision in Nicholson v Grainger to elevate non-religious belief systems to the status of religions for employment purposes. For an employer to try and determine the status of a belief system is an unwieldy and unnecessary exercise, it will be the same for schools. Adam Wagner writes that

schools will be frantically reexamining their hair and clothing policies for potential discrimination and students dreaming of their day winning against their teachers in court

Which may or may not be the best use of the ever-stretched school resources.

Many pupils (and adults for that matter) change their cultural, religious and other identity as they go along. Is each new identity to be assessed according to its age, how deeply held it is by the particular pupil and some other criterion or criteria?

Moreover, some practices - cultural or whatever - are contrary to principles of liberty, equality and other values, and will end up being banned, causing accusations of inconsistency concerning what is permitted. This was in fact something the school had in mind in SG’s case since it associated cornrows with the gang culture it was trying hard to eradicate (comments below other articles on the case indicate that that was a controversial association to say the least). Collins J dismissed the idea of a would-be skinhead using the decision as a precedent, but not all traditions of shaving heads belong to far-right lunatics, so we might expect problems of consistency at least.

Perhaps the simplest solution would be for schools all to loosen their policies to the point where almost nothing is prohibited – but immediately some pupils will start wearing and displaying things others find offensive, leading to more governors’ meetings and litigation anyway.

Perhaps instead, then, schools should be given freedom to determine policies and adjudicate exceptions themselves, within a very broad framework indeed, and anyone who disagrees with a particular policy can either (i) choose a new school, or (ii) perhaps consider that it is not always a matter for regret that pupils have restrictions that adults do not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tell me true...

Does this look OK?

It's a shirt I made years ago, using a Burda WOF pattern from June, 1996. I was enjoying looking through the magazine as the shift in fashion means the styles are not looking too outlandish.  If you keep something long enough, it becomes fashionable again.  

Anyhow, the shirt has deep side seam slits and I've always really liked it but at the tunic length it seems hard to wear it with lots of things.  So I made a pair of leggings.

Having worn tunics and leggings first time around, I'm wary of going out in public in these.

It's a comfortable and cool outfit, however.

From a sewing point of view, you can readily see the mistake I made when cutting - I very narrowly escaped the BULLS EYE effect.  I don't like it when there is an obvious doubling of a noticeable print element on either side of the CF, always off centre for some reason.  If I was doing this again, I'd probably cut the fronts single layer to avoid this.  The back worked out better.

The text probably says something inane...

Monday, June 20, 2011

North By Northwest (1959) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The title North By Northwest makes me think of the Austin festival South by Southwest every time. There is really no comparison between the film and the festival. The festival is all about bumping into your biggest musical hero at breakfast, playing your own show in tiny clubs or make-shift venues, watching way too many amazing bands play in a few days, too many parties, too many margaritas and never enough Austin food or good old sleep. North By Northwest is a classic piece of über-stylish cinema with well-fitting gray suits, figure-hugging dresses, cocktail hours, rich villains and Hitchcock's realization that romance is more important than telling a believable story about crooks.

I've seen North By Northwest before and come away a little disappointed. Perhaps I felt it was all surface and nothing underneath. This time around I had no such concerns, but could enjoy the suspense and the developing love story fully. Most of all the film is lovable for its perfected aesthetics. This is one of those films that makes smoking look way too classic, and drinking too – especially on trains.

Cary Grant is great in his role as the baffled but very clever advertising man, who becomes the target of the villains and a means to an end to the FBI. Sometimes Grant can just walk through a film looking good, but here his character is developed more and it makes the actor more interesting too. Eva Marie Saint is the usual (or should I say compulsory?) Hitchcock blond, but her open need to bed Thornhill (Grant) immediately and then later her Scandinavian-like stern love for him are nicely dished out by her. I'll watch it again sometime.

The pain of being blamed for something, or some action being attributed to myself, an action which one is completely innocent of, is trying. This applies to things you might say.  Only this week, a quote of mine, passed on by someone to someone else, the someone else then claiming to be the receiver of said quote, passed the quote on to someone else (2), who passed on the quote to someone else (3). By the time someone else 3 passed the quote back to me, context and meaning had completely altered. So, I had to then spend time correcting the misquote and relieving myself of any unjust cause of discontent my misquote may have caused. You see how easily things get twisted?

However much annoyance this may have caused me, it's nothing compared to the level of blame attributed to Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant)  in North By Northwest. First, he's mistaken for someone else which leads him to being kidnapped, then he is force-fed copious amounts of alcohol and then almost murdered. Then he's wanted for a very public murder of which he's innocent, so he has to go on the run. Next Thornhill falls in love with the very forward Eve Kendall (Eve Marie Saint) who turns out to be the squeeze for the very dodgy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) who was the guy who got Thornhill into this mess to start with. Confused? Just imagine how Roger feels, even though he is the most impeccably dressed advertising executive in the history of the movies.

So North By Northwest, on this 20th or so viewing for me, just keeps getting better. Here Hitchcock presents us the essence of his style of film making. Hitchcock's imagination has never been so well visualized on the screen, the numerous iconic set peaces including the Mount Rushmore finale and the crop duster plane pursuing Grant. Still, Hitchcock finds enough space here to include weird shot after weird shot, without disrupting the flow. The black humor (Earnest Lehman supplies Hitchcock with one of his best scripts) is always on the money, the dialogue sharp. A great Bernhard Hermann score keeps the action moving. At the center of all this is Grant, the perfect leading man who knows how to wear a suit. North By Northwest sets the standard for all action/suspense thrillers to follow, it's still king. This is pure cinema entertainment, if you've somehow missed this, do yourself a favor.

In lieu of actual sewing results ...

The Sewing Lawyer will write instead about sewing process.

I have learned over the years to take my time in the preparation of my projects.  Before actually starting to sew Vogue 8718 and its coordinating skirt, I had to:

  • Choose the fabric, including all the inner layers (lining, underlining, and interfacing).  I eventually decided to underling with white silk organza, even though I have some grey in stash, because the grey is a little too stiff and substantial for the tropical weight wool.  
  • Prep the fabric.  This included steam shrinking/pressing the wool with my super-duper gravity feed iron, while checking and marking with safety pins all the little flaws.  I also had to iron the Bemberg lining and the silk organza, which had been sitting in a bin folded up for quite some time.  
  • Cut all layers.  In this process I had to pay attention to the many jacket pieces which had to be cut x 4 (the peplum and front edge pieces are self-lined), which needed to be cut x 2 in the wool and x 2 in lining, and which had to be cut as well from interfacing.  I decided to underline all the body pieces that were not being interfaced with my chosen fusible, and to cut the sleeve underlining on the bias to avoid stiffness in the draped/pleated sleeves.  Other decisions (like whether to use the organza selvedge to stay the front edges or a fusible tape, and whether to use the slightly stiffer grey organza to underline the peplum as well) will be made as I go.  
  • Go and buy grey thread.  I also bought a spool of matching topstitching thread because I think I want to topstitch at least some seams and/or edges, although I haven't quite decided 
Right now, I am at the stage of having pinned the organza underlining to the wool.  True confession time:  I am not going to hand-baste the organza to the wool along the seam line (!!) - I am going to machine-baste.  So far I am still of the view that life is too short for hand-basting and thread-tracing and the like.  I've had entirely acceptable results before without having resorted to these somewhat laborious techniques and I'm not convinced that the effort is worth the possibly-more-beautiful results.  Feel free to try to convince me otherwise...

Despite my unwillingness to go to the trouble of thread-tracing, I have (as you may be able to tell from some previous projects) come around to the view that an aversion to hand-sewing is not consistent with my objective of producing well-sewn and properly-finished clothing.  I took an on-line class from Susan Khalje last year through PatternReview.  It was just in time for to give me what I needed to know for making my not-necessarily-black-not-necessarily-a-dress cocktail outfit for last year's PR Weekend in Montreal.  

Two things of which I am now completely convinced re hand-sewing:  
  • Waxing the thread makes it a far more enjoyable process.  Say goodbye to knots and tangles.  Waxed thread pulls smoothly through the fabric and is less likely to break or tie itself in knots while you are trying to work with it.  
  • Using better quality needles will also make hand-sewing a better experience.  
And there is one thing I am not completely convinced of yet, but am working on:
  • Using a thimble may make one a better hand-sewer.

Here's how to wax thread.  Cut some lengths of your chosen colour, about 40-50cm (15"-18") long.  Hold them firmly at one end, and pull them through a block of beeswax.  You can see I'm holding the thread against the wax block, and pulling down slightly as I pull the threads through.  Repeat a few times, to ensure that there is a more or less even amount of wax on all the threads for their entire length.

Then put the thread between two sheets of paper towel.  Go over the paper towel with a dry iron.  You'll see the shape of the threads on the outer sheet as the wax melts into the thread and onto the paper towel.  

Simple.  The result is a slightly stiff, strengthened and smooth length of thread.  It's easier to thread your needles with waxed thread, and generally easier to use.  

I splurged on some Japanese hand-sewing needles which I purchased from Susan Khalje.  They are pretty expensive if you measure by the pound but I figure one package will last years if not my lifetime. These needles are very fine but strong, with a tiny hole (good for hand-eye coordination) and they feel very luxurious somehow.  

The whole thimble thing still feels very awkward but I am going to persevere until I get the hang of it and it seems natural.  I was doing some hand-sewing recently without a thimble and managed to practically shred my fingers because the fine ends of the Japanese needles are quite pointy!  I do not think I could tolerate the standard closed-end thimble but in my sizeable thimble stash there was one little tailor's thimble with an open end which I like a lot better.  

Googling "tailor's thimble" reveals that they are available for sale in different sizes, and how to use one.  Based on the pictures on the English Cut, I clearly need to work on my technique.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Religion and the law once more: the circumcision debate

Published in Halsbury's Law Exchange here

In San Francisco an attempt is presently being made to ban the practice of male circumcision. The movement has sparked a debate in this country, with Neil Howard and Rebecca Steinfeld arguing that it should be banned and Adam Wagner countering that a ban would amount to a disproportionate interference with freedom of religion.

In my view the key lies in the correct analysis of the issue.

Howard and Steinfeld make the point that female genital mutilation is banned and therefore, as an act of equality, male circumcision should be as well. The point is not so straightforward, because male and female genitalia, to state the extremely obvious, are not the same thing. Some more analysis is required.

Wagner approaches the question on the basis of the religious rights of the parents, which in legal terms are governed by art 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As set out in R (on the application of Bashir) v Independent Adjudicator and others [2011] NLJ 812, the application of art 9 involves three questions:

(i) whether the claimant’s rights under art 9 are engaged;

(ii) if so, whether there has been an interference with those rights;

(iii) if so, whether the interference is one that is both prescribed by law or necessary in the interests of public order, health or morals, and proportionate to the end pursued.

There is little doubt that a ban on circumcision would produce an affirmative answer to the first two questions. Assuming that the ban derived from an Act of Parliament it would obviously be prescribed by law. The question would then be whether it was necessary in the interest of public health or morals, and proportionate to that end.

Wagner argues that the answer is no: he does not accept that the medical evidence conclusively establishes that a ban is justified on health grounds. That being so, there would also be scope for disagreement as to whether the ban was proportionate, because circumcision is a firmly established tradition in several religions and a large number of adherents to those religions could be expected to react strongly to a ban.

Thus, on art 9 grounds, it is certainly arguable that parents should have the right to carry out the procedure.

In response I would argue that the art 9 analysis is inappropriate. This is because the religious rights of the parents are one thing, but of overriding importance are the rights of the child. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes clear that the best interests of the children should be the overriding principle whenever children’s lives intersect with the law, and in my view that principle is indisputable.

The blunt fact is that circumcision not done on compelling medical grounds constitutes an assault. The onus is therefore on those wishing to carry out the procedure to show that it is nevertheless somehow in the child’s interest.

It is not possible to justify assaulting a child on the ground that the parents’ religion requires it – any more than the state should permit parents to withdraw female children from school on the ground that their culture or religion objects to girls becoming educated.

Imagine a strange cult that required children to be branded a la cattle farming with a red hot poker, or some other bizarre practice. No art 9 grounds would permit this. That circumcision might be seen as less extreme (or not) does not change the principle. Here is where the gender equality argument becomes relevant: the only difference between male and female circumcision is that the latter is banned because the harm is greater, but that is not a sufficient distinction – there is no “acceptable level of harm”.

One red herring needs to be dealt with. Smacking a child (controversial enough in itself) is an assault. But the argument in favour of doing so is that it is in the child’s interest to learn discipline. No comparable argument for circumcision exists other than medical grounds. It is not enough to say that it does not harm the child, it has to have a tangible positive benefit. If it does, then circumcision is indeed justifiable and I would abandon any objection.

The fact that male circumcision is a deeply held tradition that has lasted for thousands of years is relevant but not compelling. Slavery, sexism, blood sports and any number of other now banned and thoroughly discredited practices, cultures and beliefs could have been (and often were) defended on the same grounds.

Ultimately, practicing religion should be subject to the same standards as non-religious activities. There would be no acceptable justification for assaulting a child on secular grounds; religious practices should be held to the same standard.

One final point. See here for a superb judicial response to sexism in religion in the present context.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Magnolia (1999) Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

It comes in waves. Building relentlessly. I try to resist, but the waves just keep building.
Will it drag me under? I don't know. But the level of heavy content that never lets up is in danger of suffocating my senses. Not only that, but it still keeps coming at you, like a Great White Shark, it never stops. As a matter of fact, it goes on forever. Actually, I could still be watching Magnolia as I'm writing this. I had completely forgotten how intense and depressing Magnolia is. It's a struggle for sure. But does the weight of the subject matter hide a shallow heart?

I remember at the time that Magnolia was compared to a Robert Altman -style of cinema. Multi-layered stories interchange and characters that are closely related by coincidence or the proximity of The Valley. Magnolia however is far too stiff and calculated in its execution to remind me of Altman. It's also missing Altman's light touch. Magnolia is also missing the humor that made Boogie Nights so endearing. One can be bowled over by the sheer ambition of Anderson's film. The script is well considered, the cinematography excellent, music overwhelming and finally, brilliant acting performances. You can take your pick here who stands out. Tom Cruise steals the film for me and has never approached this level since. William H Macy, Philip Baker Hall and Melora Walters are all stand-outs for me. One scene where the principle characters sing along to Aimee Mann's Wise Up is cinema gold, the emotional quality this brings is never matched by the rest of the film. But still, what a moment.

But watching Magnolia again reminds me of how weird the late 1990's feel right now in 2011. There is disconnect. This seemed so cutting-edge and important at the time. Now Anderson's film seems ponderous and at times pretentious. Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a good film. But right now it feels like an act of self-indulgence on Anderson's part. I feel he's improved so much from Magnolia with Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. Magnolia could just be part of his growing pains. I'd like to think of Anderson's bleak look at life's travails as being his springboard to greatness.

I remember seeing Magnolia for the first time in 1999 or 2000. It was a religious experience for me, I was converted – to Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, Julianne Moore, PT Anderson, the likelihood of frogs falling from the sky and the bleak bleak vision of life as a battle between co-incidence and reason. Watching the film this time around, I find Magnolia unbelievably heavy, dark and continuously depressed. I wonder if it was just me who felt comfortable in such disturbing levels of depression in the 1990s, or was it common culture that the most valued pieces of art were always the heaviest? (Maybe it was, as other very popular 90s movies in addition to Magnolia were Blue by Kieslowski and Eyes Wide Shut by Kubrick – sad and dark).

What did I do for the early 2000s then? I read Vogue and I watched Sex And The City on TV and allowed the series to heal me with its light and reckless consumerist philosophy on life. I went from 'life is suffering' to 'which self-tanning lotion dries fastest and is the least orange'. I never had an It-Bag, but I was very glued to knowing which bag was It right then. But now Carrie has also become more of a past-curiosity and an uncomfortable reminder of how selfish and unethical the early-2000s ideal woman was.

Magnolia is still a touching film. It has a couple of moments of cinematic beauty, where music, acting, plot and emotion all join together forming something unforgettable. In 2011 I don't relate to its perspective on life as tragedy, instead I watch it as a sympathetic outsider and feel a little worried for PT Anderson's well-being. I'm so glad it's not 1999 anymore.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The need for diversity on the Supreme Court

Shortened version published on Halsbury's Law Exchange here


The question of appointments to the Supreme Court continues to generate controversy across the legal blogsophere, and now the House of Lords Constitutional Committee has decided to launch an inquiry into judicial appointments generally.

In a previous post, I have argued that a final vetting stage of candidates for the Supreme Court should be carried out by a cross-party Parliamentary committee, as a way of a more open process with some democratic imprimatur and an affirmation of the status of Parliament as supreme in our constitutional arrangements. It should, however, be no more than a final vetting.

I have also argued that the court should continue as a general appeal court, rather than refashioning itself as some sort of constitutional court or local version of Strasbourg. I would add that I do not see how the court has the power to do so. There is nothing in the Court’s founding statute (the Constitutional Reform Act 2005) limiting the right of appeal and any suggestion that the court should only hear certain cases would amount to an unlawful fetter on its discretion.

Of course, the court could do so de facto simply by refusing permission to appeal for anything other than public law cases, but to exclude valid appeals simply because of their subject matter would deprive litigants of access to justice. The Court of Appeal deservedly has an outstanding international reputation, but the sheer volume of cases it hears means that inevitably there will be some cases where further review by the Supreme Court will be justified.

The issue on which I have not yet commented concerns the controversial question of diversity on the bench.

Three caveats

It is often said that the judiciary is unrepresentative of society, and its legitimacy suffers as a result, hence the composition should be changed whatever the appointments process.

I would agree with that proposition, with three caveats. The first is that, despite the large number of public law cases heard nowadays, it is not the role of the judiciary to "represent" the community, or a particular constituency thereof. The role of the court is to resolve disputes before it according to the law.

Of course the judges are involved in making law, but they do so subject to Parliament, which remains supreme in our constitutional arrangements.

They are also involved in evaluating questions of policy, but in doing so they are not in the position of a political party attempting to implement a manifesto. Rather, their role is limited to assessing the particular policy against the legal parameters of Wednesbury review and the European Convention, taking account of domestic case law and that of Strasbourg.

Secondly, however representative the bench becomes, it is inevitable that each individual judge will spend most of his or her time hearing cases the facts of which are largely outwith his or her personal experience. Even if it were otherwise, it would lead to accusations of bias if judges were always assigned to particular cases because they happened to share the background of one of the parties. There would be no point in multiple judges hearing appeals if they were always expected to defer to the one who was the expert on the particular subject matter or who was thought to have particular awareness of the litigants’ social group however defined.

Thirdly, resolving cases always involves a great deal of technical legal knowledge. This necessarily narrows the field for judicial selection to suitably qualified and experienced lawyers.

In other words, judges are not equivalent to politicians and therefore should not be appointed on the same basis.

The case for diversity

Those caveats aside, the justification for a more representative bench may be stated fairly simply. British society is far more diverse culturally than historically, and old notions about deference and class distinctions have long been discredited. If the judiciary remains as homogenous as it has been in the past - that is, dominated by elderly white middle-and-upper class, public school and Oxbridge males – it will have the appearance of a self-serving elite, however radical the actual decisions judges make. It will suffer the objection that the members are "out of touch"; and wider issues about social mobility will be (as indeed they presently are) engaged.

An homogenous bench will also suggest bias or discrimination in the selection process. Even if the judges are appointed purely on merit – defined as the best legal ability – if the pool of experienced lawyers from which they are drawn is itself unrepresentative, then the question arises of barriers to entry to (and promotion within) the profession, and prior to that university selection and the education system generally. (Needless to say those are much wider questions than simply the appointment process to the Supreme Court or the bench as a whole, and I won’t attempt any exposition here.)

Statistically it would be implausible to say the least for all the best lawyers to be from one small demographic, so it may be seen as advancing – not retarding – the search for the best judges to look to a more diverse pool.

Moreover, on appellate courts the virtue of having more than one judge may be partially vitiated if all are drawn from identical backgrounds. Alexander Horne’s important recent study expands upon this point (at Pt 5.2). In corporate newspeak this is known as the danger of "groupthink". (See Rackley, E. What a difference difference makes: gendered harms and judicial diversity, International Journal of the Legal Profession, Volume 15, Issue 1 & 2 March 2008, and generally Horne Pts 5.3 and 5.4).

This extends beyond the demographics of the bench, to include their professional experience. Lord Pannick QC said of a well-known public law case (YL v Birmingham City Council [2007] UKHL 2):

With three Chancery judges (Lord Scott, Lord Mance and Lord Neuberger) outvoting Lord Bingham and Baroness Hale, the House of Lords decided on the meaning and application of s.6(3)(b) of the Human Rights 1998 ([2009] Judical Review 109)

Mr Horne responds: “This somewhat sneering reference to the former Chancery judges reflected the view of many in the human rights community that they should have deferred to the views of their public law orientated brethren.”

(I would interpolate that Lord Pannick, with the greatest respect, hasn't done his homework on that particular case: Lord Mance was a judge of the Commercial Court, as was Lord Bingham.) True one might expect a judge whose practice concerned exclusively commercial cases might take a different view of public law cases than, say, a former tax lawyer, or human rights lawyer, or indeed family lawyer, but then again two of the leading human rights judges of recent years have been Lords Hoffmann and Bingham, formerly of the Chancery Division and Commercial Court respectively. This shows again that judges do not necessarily conform to expectations or stereotypes once appointed, and it reinforces the futility of trying to elicit judges’ political views before appointing them.

In other words, one should have a diverse bench, and expect a diversity of views accordingly, but predicting how that diversity will play out in practice is not really possible.


The need for a more representative judiciary is manifest. I would caution, however, that it still needs to be confined to meritorious candidates, meaning those with the appropriate skills (including black letter law, which is a technical expertise) and experience. “Political” appointees would be a disaster for the reputation of the judiciary: it would set back the cause of equality no end if someone was appointed and thought simply to be a beneficiary of tokenism. Commercial confidence in the judiciary would drop and overseas litigants and businesspeople would look elsewhere.

It follows that the lack of diversity cannot be remedied overnight. In the case of the Supreme Court, however, as I have argued elsewhere, a wider pool might be appropriate given that the judges do not need expertise in fact finding (and hence cross-examination) or procedural law, both of which are central parts of the lower courts' role. A precedent has already been set with Jonathan Sumption QC who, whilst not of any recognisable minority himself, was appointed straight from the bar (albeit not without some controversy, it has to be said). Senior lawyers from academia, business, the civil service and elsewhere might also be considered.

Cutting in tandem

Yes indeed, that grey Vogue 8718 jacket is cut out, along with a matching basic princess seam slightly-pegged pencil skirt which is another one of The Sewing Lawyer's TNT patterns created with Patternmaster Boutique.  It has already been the foundation of so many skirts (like the high-waisted black pencil skirt and its non-identical twin, but there are others from pre-blogging days).  It's such a workhorse of a pattern.

So many decisions need to be made when cutting.  One problem was that my fabric had flaws - little irregularities in the otherwise smooth slightly varied grey surface - which I had to cut around.  I located them all with safety pins so it is easy to tell where they are.  The pins make little bumps in the otherwise very smooth surface on my cutting table.

There are about a million little pieces in Vogue 8718, plus two over-sized ones.  Just have a look at this cutting diagram ...

On the bright side, this makes it really easy to avoid having the flaws show up anywhere important.

Many of the jacket pieces are cut x4, including the pieces at the front edge, and all the peplum pieces.  I'll hide a few of the little flaws in the peplum lining.  It'll be our little secret.

I made a muslin of size 10, which fit me almost perfectly.  I cut almost all of the muslin pieces out of the taken-apart muslin for a dress: Simplicity 2648 (the sleeveless view).  This illustrates that (apart from the sleeves) Vogue 8718 indeed takes very little fabric!

Speaking of the sleeves, have a look at the pattern for the back sleeve.  The corresponding lining piece is on top for comparison. The texture of the sleeve is created by tacking the two layers together at marked spots.

Another decision is which interfacing to use.  The Sewing Lawyer has a big fusible stash, picked up a few metres here and there at different stores when she finds a new type to try.  This is good and bad.  Good because of the variety; bad because she never knows exactly what type of interfacing she used when people ask.  "It's that slightly-lofty tiny-square interfacing that's good for lightweight fabric" or "It's that fuzzy non-woven with a shiny stripe in the length" doesn't convey as much useful information as, say, "It's Pam Erny's Pro-Weft in black".  (BTW I have ordered from Pam - very high quality and good prices.)

I generally audition interfacing by fusing medium sized pieces to scraps to get a sense of how the hand and drape of the fashion fabric will be affected.  I often use more than one type in a jacket.  In this jacket, I think I'll interface the shoulder area of the sleeves along with the fronts and the collar as Vogue instructs.

I've decided on the lining - a silvery-putty coloured Bemberg from stash.  However, still to determine is whether I will underline the jacket with silk organza.  I think it could help keep the sleeves from even thinking about collapsing.

So I cut out both patterns - Vogue 8718 and Simplicity 2648 - today.  The dress is one of the "Perfect Fit" patterns from Simplicity.  It boasts different cup sizes as well as "slim", "average" and "curvy" fit.  I am one of the lucky souls who wears a B cup so not having to do a FBA is my normal (don't hate me).  However, I was curious about the difference between the slim, average and curvy fit, because one of my standard alterations is to grade out two sizes (usually) at the hip.  It turns out that "curvy" is all about one's derrière, since only the back skirt pieces vary.  (If you also have a curvy lower front, there are princess seams to modify.)  The curvy back gives a finished hip measurement which is bigger than the average fit which in turn is bigger than the slim fit.  The pattern envelope says there is a .5" difference between the different pieces for the same size.  Also, the curvy back has 2 darts instead of one.  I cut the curvy back which is not bad once I lengthened the darts.

I haven't figured out yet if the fabric for my dress will look any good with the grey jacket-to-be.  It's a cotton & lycra from Fabricland, purchased a few years ago.   What do you think?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


What words ended that last post?  Something about Vogue 8718?  Oh yeah...  Well I lied changed my mind.  Only for a minute, you understand.  It was just a detour.  I'm still heading there.  Um.  Very soon.  Like maybe later today.

In the meantime, I am not sure exactly why, I started auditioning blouse fabrics with the extremely lightweight wool I have earmarked for Vogue 8718.  It's grey.

A grey summer suit?

Yes, it's grey.

But it's from stash.

I am NOT shopping for yet more fabric.

For this.  (I made an exception for the buy-one-get-two-free Bemberg lining sale at Fabricland today ... and the black and light khaki coloured pantweight fabric for capris and/or summer-weight jeans on the same sale.)

And it's extremely lightweight.

And I don't want to use linen because I'm worried about those crazy sleeves wrinkling and not being able to do a darned thing about it.

It will be good in the warm parts of spring and fall too.

It's a good neutral.

It will go with lots of things.

So there.  I'm making a grey summer suit!


In the meantime, I was auditioning blouse fabric and I came across this little piece of rayon crepe that I picked up for next to nothing a few years back at the Fabric Flea Market.  The print has a definite Japanese influence and the repeat is huge.  I loved the print with the grey suiting.  But I only had a little bit - not even the full width and less than 1 metre.  Hmmmm what could I get out of this tiny scrap?

Enter this pattern from the November, 2007 edition of Burda World of Fashion.

So simple.

Takes SO little fabric.

I was lucky too, because I could cut so as to spread the entire crazy motif pleasingly across the front.  The back is a little less pleasing.  Or maybe just more ordinary looking.

As you can see from the line drawing, the shaping is provided by tucks that release at top and bottom in the front.  The back has 2 vertical darts that release at the bottom in a similar way.  It's not exactly a ruffle.  It should function as a subtle echo of the not-exactly-ruffled peplum of the Vogue 8718 jacket.

If you should have this edition of WOF and think of making this, I warn you that the neckline is extremely wide/deep.  I added approximately 2.5cm on all neckline edges and it isn't exactly closed-in even now.

Also, that back zipper is necessary if you are not using a knit for this top.

Off I go to contemplate Vogue 8718.  Really.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Injunctions: almost time for a dry martini

Published in Halsbury's Law Exchange here

Fred Goodwin has been back in court (Goodwin v NGN Ltd [2011] All ER (D) 45 (Jun)). The injunction concerning a relationship he had with a former colleague has been varied to permit disclosure of the job description of the lady in question, but not disclosure of her name.

Mr Justice Tugenhadt had this to say about the publicity which the case has received in the past three months:

"On many occasions since 1 March people have commented publicly on the case, criticising the injunction in the pages of newspapers and elsewhere. Much of this reporting contained many factual errors about the case, as I have noted above. Judges read newspapers, but judges cannot vary court orders on the basis of what the public are told by the media. If persons affected by a court order want it to be varied, they must make an application to the court. As appears from the events of 19 May, they can do this quickly and informally, if it is urgent.

English law develops in two ways. First, it is made by Parliament. The Prevention from Harassment Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1997 are two privacy statutes referred to in this judgment. Second it is developed by case law, as judges apply the statute to particular cases. At the second stage it is essential that the parties to litigation put their evidence and submissions before the court. It is by weighing up arguments and counter arguments that judges are best able to interpret the law. The circumstances of injunctions applied for out of hours on the telephone are not favourable to a considered development of the law. That is one reason why judges order cases to come back before the court for full consideration on the evidence. That happened on 4 March. But there was no argument then because NGN chose not to argue its case. And other media organisation notified of the injunction chose not to argue the case in court. To the extent that media defendants choose not to submit evidence and argument to the courts, judges will find it difficult to develop the law of privacy to meet the needs of society."

I think that constitutes at least a short stint on the legal naughty step for a few of the media organisations involved.

No doubt the case will be read with interest by all who attended the excellent privacy conference held by Weber Shandwick at Gray’s Inn on 8 June. During the discussion the point was again raised that privacy law may well end up being a castle built on sand, given that the internet may simply render injunctions unenforceable.

I have made this point before and it seems from comments on the UKHR blog that some people see it as a triumphant act of civil disobedience. While I agree that the privacy laws take too little account of freedom of expression – indeed significantly too little – I am not so sure that there are not other options available to those who wish to have them changed which do not involve breaking the law. Also, if it becomes the norm for injunctions to be obliterated by the determined twitterati then it will not be long before real harm is done to a deserving claimant rather than an indulgent miscreant footballer or z-list celebrity; if so the civil disobeyers might remember the old adage about being careful what you wish for.

Having said that, of course, it only takes a few to breach every injunction to render them all futile. If so there is no point in judges, politicians or anyone else arguing about the rule of law; they will have to throw the towel in, rather as American legislators felt compelled to do when ending prohibition.

Legend has it that FDR just happened to have the ingredients for a martini to hand when he signed the 21st amendment, having enjoyed a beer shortly after the Cullen-Harrison Act came into force. I wonder what equivalent might be available to a judge who feels compelled in the future to run up the white flag on judicially-developed privacy laws.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm Not There (2007) Director Todd Haynes

As Bob Dylan's recent 70th birthday has shown us, Dylan's cultural worth is as high as any living artist's. It's hard to fathom the reason why this is. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Dylan nut. I've read various books, seen all the documentaries. I crucially own most of the records and have seen him live a few times. Could Dylan represent our last view of the genuine Outlaw? As affluent society becomes blander, does Dylan represent our last real comment on the way things are/were? This hero status, cultural value and sense of political belonging are just some of the themes that Haynes tries to tackle in his picture of Dylan's many lives in I'm Not There.

Various actors play Dylan at various stages of his life, under various pseudonyms (mainly of Dylan's own name or Dylan song characters). Most people just offer direct impersonations (Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw), while the other Dylans offer a more dramatic and speculative retelling of chapters of Dylan's life (Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin and Richard Gere). As a side note, Bale and Ledger add a surreal sense of viewing a rock'n'roll Batman movie, so fresh is the memory of their The Dark Knight. Unlike his previous, confused Glam Rock film Velvet Goldmine, Haynes doesn't use a Citizen Kane type investigative frame for his picture, which does benefit I'm Not There. What he does use to reveal his view of Dylan is found material. Whether it's from the two D.A. Pennebaker documentaries on Dylan, Don't Look Back and Eat The Document or Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home, I'm Not There basically has the actors re-creating scenes from these documentaries with some added Dylan lyric as dialogue. And this is my main problem with the film. The real events of I'm Not There are so well documented and viewed, I've no need actually to see Blanchett as the Electric Dylan, however well Haynes recreates Dylan's mid-1960's period.

The other major flaw for me is that so much documentation of Dylan is hearsay, which Haynes buys into. We really don't know for sure if Dylan had a motorcycle accident which forced his mid-1960's retreat or even if he had a poisonous affair with Edie Sedgwick. We only know any intimacies of Dylan's marriage breakdown with Sara Lownds through his Blood On The Tracks album. And that's the real fascination with Dylan. After all the books, movies, records and documentation on his life, we're no closer to knowing who he really is or what informs the man's art. It's that mystery that keeps us interested and wanting to know more. And this is where I'm Not There, for all its faults as a bio-pic, works – it  features the man's music. Cover versions or Dylan's originals, the secret to who Dylan is, lies in his music. I'm Not There creates a potent visual setting for the songs, and makes you want to go back to the records. I enjoyed this movie still, being such a Dylan follower. A more apt title for Haynes' picture might have been : I'm Not Here, Maybe, Positively, Who Knows, You Work It Out.

I'm Not There is a great idea. I prefer the thoughts it provokes to the film it becomes. It takes the Bob Dylan imagery and mythology and jumbles everything up to question cohesive identity or linear narrative. I'm Not There might be a theory, or an attempt to apply a theory over a piece of art. There is something so cerebral about the film, it is as if the thinking is there to hide the fan-boyish basis for making the movie.

It's impossible not to be a Bob Dylan fan. Not appreciating Bob Dylan comes across as ignorance these days. Hating Bob is a futile attack on the cultural history of the 20th century. Bob won't go anywhere as a result. So, choosing a perspective is a preferable alternative: which period is your favorite? Which look, which album, which girlfriend rumor, which religion, which style of singing? Like I'm Not There points out, Bob can represent almost any cause or identity – it's all in the interpretation.

Despite my love for the deconstruction of a coherent self, my favorite storyline in I'm Not There is the most conventional relationship tale: Charlotte Gainsbourg and Heath Ledger as a sort of version of Bob with Sara. There the film becomes more than a parody of previously seen scenes of interviews, or other iconic images. There you can forget for a while about Bob and just enjoy the acting, the great sets and style, and feel something. In the end, the best introduction to Bob Dylan this movie offers, are the scenes where his original music is performed by himself.