Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Thursday, February 4, 2010

40 wild birds play a Gibson Les Paul guitar

This caught my eye. It's funny and oddly compelling.

The film is of an installation by a contemporary French artist called Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. It's very Marcel Duchamp, the French artist who started the conceptual art ball rolling nearly a hundred years ago.

John Cleese and Michael Palin in the sketch 'French Lecture on Sheep Aircraft' taken from Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1, Episode 2 - Sex and Violence (recorded 30 August 1969; aired 12 October 1969)Duchamp pioneered combining everyday materials, philosophical comment and humour, an idea that seeped into places like the 1960s pop group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (they wanted to call themselves the Bonzo Dog Dada band, but worried people wouldn't get it) and Monty Python.

But Duchamp's more radical idea was to introduce chance into the creation of art. In 1913-14 he made 3 Standard Stoppages, a work of art that was the result of the random actions of mechanised contraptions. At the time, he was largely dismissed as a crazy Frenchman, but he inspired an entire avant-garde movement in art as well as the music of John Cage and the choreography of Merce Cunningham. Duchamp was not short of self-confidence, but the idea of adding chance to the creative process was rather humble.

"That's so random" is a common refrain nowadays, referring to a supposedly non-logical thought or event. It was also the clarion cry of the Dadaists, the anti-art, anti-rational early-20th-Century art movement that argued that it was rational thought that led to World War I.

Duchamp was much loved by the Dada movement. I wonder what Dadaists would have made of the internet. It's interesting that, as far as I am aware, no contemporary artist has yet harnessed this extraordinary technology to make a significant artwork. Of course, maybe I'm wrong and am missing something great - do you know of any net-based art works that are worth a look?

Maybe you have made one (an artwork made specifically for the medium, as opposed to a film such as the one above, which uses the net only as a means of dissemination)?

If you, like me, can't find any net-based art of note, why do you think that is? Why, when there's been such a boom in contemporary art around the world, has no artist made the medium of the web his or her canvas? And if someone were to use the net as a medium, as opposed to making an image, or a video, or even an interactive Flash animation, what would the resulting art look, or sound, or feel like?

Duchamp and the Dadaists would have had hours of artistic amusement creating spoof websites, unintelligible Wiki entries and general questioning of the status quo.

Keith Richards, birds and Eric Clapton

Perhaps that is what Celeste Boursier-Mougenot should do next after the installation of his 40 Finches work opens at London's Barbican art gallery on 27 February. Like Duchamp, he seems to understand the creative potential of random acts and non-directed participation. He's already proved in this artwork that while Keith Richards and Eric Clapton might be masters of the Gibson Les Paul, even they cannot play it like 40 wild birds - not a chance.

The Nipple Gamepad T-Shirt

To open the secret entrance to the cave, try left-left-up-left-down-down-right-left then a-y-y-x-b-a and then hold the d-pad down while clicking y-y-b-b. Press start twice, and you will get in. [Flopculture]

Student sells virginity for $45k


A cash-strapped New Zealand student who auctioned off her virginity to help pay for university said she had accepted an offer of $NZ45,000 to sleep with a stranger.

The 19-year-old offered her virginity to the highest bidder in an online auction and said there had been more than 1,200 bids.

"I have accepted an offer in excess of $45,000, which is way beyond what I dreamed," the student said on her web page when the auction ended.

"Thank you to the more than 30,000 people who viewed my ad and to the more than 1,200 offers made."

Calling herself "unigirl", the young woman had described herself as attractive, fit and healthy and said she had never been in a sexual relationship.

She did not respond to media requests for an interview but the proprietor of the website, Ross MacKenzie, told the Waikato Times newspaper he had been authorised to confirm the transaction.

The advertisement drew wide reaction in New Zealand, which has some of the world's most liberal laws on prostitution.

A woman is legally entitled to seek payment for sex and Mr MacKenzie said there was no reason for his website not to accept the advertisement.

"Our approach is provided it's not illegal or offensive, we'll run the ad," he said.

Bruce Pilbrow of the organisation Parents Inc told the New Zealand Herald it was "horrifically sad" the woman had to sell herself to meet tuition costs, but sexologist Blair Bishop described it as "just a novel form of sex work".

Catherine Healy, of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, urged the teenager to contact her organisation for "practical information" on the realities of sex work.


Duo Pushes Rhode Island to Decriminalize Pot


[LEAP] Reuters

Officer Chad Vanderklok executes a search warrant for marijuana at a Kalamazoo, Mich., home in November.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A retired police officer and the proprietor of an organic eatery make an odd couple when it comes to trying to overturn marijuana laws in this tiny state, but Jack Cole and Josh Miller are giving it their best shot.

Mr. Cole, 71 years old, is a veteran of decades with the New Jersey State Police, almost all with the drug squad. Mr. Miller, 55, runs Local 121, a restaurant favored among "buy local" diners, and also serves in the state Senate, where he leads a special commission to study marijuana prohibitions. The panel began hearings in January to discuss an overhaul of the state's pot laws, starting with decriminalization of small amounts.

As legislators across the U.S. struggle to rescue state budgets hammered by the recession, decriminalization is one idea gaining traction. Advocates say states could cut costs of policing, prosecuting and incarcerating offenders, and even raise money by taxing users.

"Any respect for this issue lies right now in its impact on the budget," said Mr. Miller.

His committee will hear testimony Wednesday from Mr. Cole, the founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, a national lobby seeking an end to the drug war. LEAP's 10,000 members include many former police officers, corrections workers and federal agents of the Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Decriminalization faces resistance from district attorneys and police departments that have grown used to making arrests and building criminal cases in a longstanding war-on-drugs tradition, and often equate decriminalization with being "soft" on crime.

The first steps state legislatures take tend to be narrow: legalizing marijuana use for cancer or glaucoma patients, or allowing municipalities to impose fines on casual smokers.

In California, one of 14 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, legislators are weighing a bill to legalize most marijuana sales and create tax and licensing fees for the industry. The measure was approved by the state Assembly's Public Safety Committee last month, but probably won't advance further this session.

New Hampshire is considering a pair of House bills, one to legalize and tax pot sales, and another to decriminalize possession. A medical-marijuana bill passed last year but was vetoed by the governor.

Decriminalization measures have also been introduced in Vermont, Virginia and Washington, while medical-marijuana bills are being considered in Maryland, Delaware and Wisconsin, among other states.

Mr. Miller said that in Rhode Island, which allows medical-marijuana use, decriminalization was the next step. He noted that last month a bill was introduced in the House to make possession of an ounce or less a civil offense punishable by a fine of $100, rather than a criminal offense.

Rhode Island has run budget deficits of just over $200 million in each of the past two years, and is looking at a $400 million deficit in the next fiscal year on a budget of $7 billion. Savings from decriminalization wouldn't be great, Mr. Miller conceded—say, $2 million to $3 million a year by freeing prison beds occupied by pot offenders. Rhode Island spends about $33,000 a year per inmate.

Not everyone agrees with that math. Matthew Dawson, deputy chief of the criminal division of the state attorney general's office, testified before Mr. Miller's panel last month that the state would achieve "zero savings" from decriminalization. He said police and prosecutors employed criminal charges for possession to plea bargain with suspects, and that suspects might otherwise have to be prosecuted for more serious crimes, at greater cost to the state. Others say possession charges help police cajole witnesses into cooperating in criminal inquiries.

Mr. Miller said such arguments may persuade some of his colleagues, but others would look to the decision two years ago in neighboring Massachusetts to decriminalize pot, which raised hopes among some legislators that a similar measure could pass in Rhode Island. "It's not far-off California, but the big state next door," Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Cole traveled to Providence recently to help Mr. Miller craft a strategy. He often wears a badge that reads: "Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Ask Me Why."

In his standard speech, he describes the epiphany he experienced early in his career as an undercover narcotics investigator. "I learned firsthand of the family-destroying consequences of sending drug users [often mothers and fathers] to jail. I can't think of a better policy for creating the next generation of drug addicts than to remove parents from children," he said. "I also realized that when police arrested a robber or rapist they made the community safer for everyone but when I arrested a drug pusher, I simply created a job opening for someone in a long line of people willing to take his place."

Messrs. Cole and Miller agreed the former cop's presentation must appeal to law-and-order politicians. Mr. Cole said the way to win them over was to show that chasing pot smokers keeps police from fighting other crimes.

"Look at the clearance rates for these crimes," he said. In the 1960s, before federal antidrug funds flowed heavily to states, "91% of all murders in this country were solved. Today, it's 61%." He cited similar drops for arson (60% unsolved) robbery (75% unsolved) and rape (60% unsolved).

Mr. Cole said the national addiction rate has remained unchanged for a century at about 1.3% of the population. He concludes that if drugs are legalized, the addiction rate would stay the same, "but we'll be spending a lot less to manage it."

Write to Joel Millman at

Farmer loses High Court fight to save hidden castle

The Surrey castle that was hidden behind straw
Mr Fidler hoped to take advantage of a legal loophole

A farmer who built a castle hidden behind a stack of straw bales has lost a High Court bid to save it from being demolished.

Robert Fidler, of Salfords, Surrey, built the home - complete with turrets - without planning permission.

He kept it hidden until August 2006 but was ordered to tear it down by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in 2008.

Mr Fidler appealed on the basis that his house had stood for four years without anyone objecting to it.

After the hearing, Mr Fidler pledged to take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

He said: "This house will never be knocked down. This is a beautiful house that has been lovingly created. I will do whatever it takes to keep it."

Immunity rule

When Mr Fidler removed the bales he believed the structure would no longer be subject to planning enforcement because of a legal loophole.

But in March 2007 the borough council issued an enforcement notice, which was upheld by a Government planning inspector in May 2008.

The inspector ruled that the removal of the straw bales constituted part of the building works and the four-year immunity rule would not apply.

The High Court was asked to decide whether the removal of the straw bales and tarpaulin was, in the eyes of the law, part of the building operation.

Robert Fidler still claims the castle is not illegal despite the ruling

Deputy High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes said: "In my view, the inspector's findings of fact make it abundantly clear that the erection/removal of the straw bales was an integral - indeed an essential - fundamentally related part of the building operations that were intended to deceive the local planning authority and to achieve by deception lawful status for a dwelling built in breach of planning control."

The judge said Mr Fidler had used two grain silos to form two turrets at the corners of his house. There was also "a stain-glass lantern feature" over a central hall, or gallery.

The property includes a kitchen, living room, study, shower room and toilet and separate WC.

On the first floor, there are four bedrooms and another room still being fitted as a bathroom.

Appeal planned

On the south side of the house there is a gravelled forecourt, and to the north and north-western corner a new patio and conservatory.

The judge said: "Mr Fidler made it quite clear that the construction of his house was undertaken in a clandestine fashion, using a shield of straw bales around it and tarpaulins or plastic sheeting over the top in order to hide its presence during construction.

Mr Fidler's castle in Surrey
The castle has ramparts and a replica cannon

"He stated that he knew he had to deceive the council of its existence until a period of four years from substantial completion and occupation had occurred as they would not grant planning permission for its construction.

"I accept that the act of concealment does not in itself provide a legitimate basis for the council to succeed, as hiding something does not take away lawful rights that may accrue due to the passage of time."

He added: "From his own evidence and submissions it was always his intention to remove the bales once he thought that lawfulness had been secured."

After the hearing Mr Fidler's solicitor, Pritpal Singh Swarn, said an appeal was being considered.

He said: "Mr Fidler is obviously disappointed and will almost certainly want to appeal bearing in mind what he stands to lose, which is the house that he has built.

"The judge appears to have left open the big question - when is a building substantially complete?

"It is necessary for the courts to draw the line as to what constitutes a completed development."

Five Facts About Alice in Wonderland (Slight Spoilers)

Exclusive: Burton and his collaborators spill Wonderland's secrets to RT.

by Rosamund Witcher |
Alice in Wonderland

Over the past 20 years, director Tim Burton and his chiseled muse Johnny Depp have proved an extremely fruitful pairing. From the gothic beauty of Edward Scissorhands, through the campy farce of Sleepy Hollow to the eye-popping lunacy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they have given us some of the most memorable movies of recent years. Fans eagerly await their latest collaboration, Alice in Wonderland, in which Depp plays The Mad Hatter opposite newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice. RT goes behind the scenes on the film to discover that Tim Burton dislikes motion capture, Mia Wasikowska hates green screen and that making an animated cat is more difficult than you might think...

Alice in Wonderland

Fact #1: It Won't Be Like Any Other Adaptation You've Ever Seen

Because, frankly, Tim Burton wasn't impressed with them. "All the other versions of Alice I've seen were lacking a narrative dynamic," he tells RT. "They were just a series of absurdist tales with one weird character after another and not too much of a context. So you watch it thinking, 'Oh, that's weird,' and 'Yeah, that's strange,' without ever paying attention to the story plot points."

How is Burton's Alice going to avoid those pitfalls? "We tried to give all of the characters a bit more of a foundation and a more simple, grounded story to work off all the weird stuff," he explains. "I mean, they're obviously all mad. But we have tried to give each of them a particular madness and a bit more depth."

Alice in Wonderland

Fact #2: The Effects Were Trial and Error

Or, as Burton likes to call it: "an organic process." In fact, the effects crew actually filmed scenes using expensive Zemeckis-style motion capture technology, before discarding the whole lot. "We suited the Tweedles (Matt Lucas) and the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover, pictured) for motion capture," explains animation supervisor David Schaub. "The Knave is eight feet tall so we thought that motion capture would be the best method. But Crispin had to be on stilts for eye line purposes, so all of the captured images looked like a guy on stilts. It was clunky." Was it frustrating to have to throw away the footage? "It's Tim's choice," shrugs Schaub. "He knows what's out there and he makes choices based on the films he sees and the techniques used."

There must have been some heated debates with the effects team? "We discussed what we like and don't like about motion capture," admits Burton. "Personally, I think it looks weird."

Alice in Wonderland

Fact #3: You Won't Know What's Real and What Isn't

"We basically have three live-action characters," explains David Schaub. "They are Alice (Wasikowska), The Mad Hatter (Depp) and The White Queen (Anne Hathaway). The Tweedles and the Knave of Hearts are real heads blended onto animated bodies. That creates a special look that you won't have seen before. It's very cool. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter's character (The Red Queen) is an amalgamation of all kinds of different techniques, which we then distorted." One of the most difficult characters to create, though, was The Cheshire Cat. "That was hard because he actually floats," says Schaub. "So we had to think, if a cat could float, how would a cat float? Then he's got this huge grin the whole time, which causes problems because he's got to have emotions. But how do you make him anything other than happy when he's got this permanent smile? It was intense."

As for Wonderland itself, it's almost entirely CGI. "There is one significant prop where Alice steps into Wonderland and goes down some stairs," says Schaub. "That was an amazing piece of architecture. But everything else is a CG environment."

The end result may look incredible, but do spare a thought for poor Mia Wasikowska. "It was three months of green screen," she sighs. "So I had to try and keep the energy up and remember that there will be an animated character in front of me. But it's hard when you're acting opposite nothing but sticky tape and tennis balls."

Alice in Wonderland

Fact #4: The Mad Hatter is Truly a Burton/Depp Creation

"It's funny," laughs costume designer Colleen Atwood, who has worked with Tim Burton on seven films over the past 20 years, including Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish and Sweeney Todd. "Tim, Johnny and I had all made sketches of what we thought the Mad Hatter should look like. Then, when we sat down to discuss it, we realised they were all really similar!" One of the most interesting things about the Mad Hatter's costume is that it changes colour according to his mood. "It's like a mood ring," explains Atwood. "I made his suits in different colours, with layers of other colours, and then they enhanced it with CGI. It's going to look really fun."

Alice in Wonderland

Fact #5: Mia Wasikowska is the New Cate Blanchett

"She's just an amazing young woman," Atwood gushes to RT. "Her head is not up in the clouds and she's a really hard worker with a great sense of humour -- something you need on a film as crazy as this. She's definitely channeling Cate Blanchett in the sense that both actresses are extremely talented but very grounded. Plus they're both Australian."

Tim Burton agrees: "Mia has an old soul, but there are elements of her that feel very young and naïve," he explains. "She's perfect to play Alice at this stage of her life because she is at a crossroads, and the film's journey is her finding out who she is and what she wants. Although this is probably the weirdest, most abstract movie that she will ever be in. I mean, it's weird even for me."

With such effusive praise being ladled on her, is Wasikowska feeling the pressure? "A little bit," she laughs, nervously. "I'm excited to see the finished product but, of course, there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with it. Having said that, I have such faith in Tim and everybody on this film, so I'm not really worried."

Alice in Wonderland is released nationwide on Friday 5 March.

New Griswold's "Vacation" Movie? has managed to get its greedy little hands on this LEAKED FOOTAGE from a supposedly new "Vacation" film starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. Check it out before it gets yanked off of YouTube!

Aurora borealis: awesome pictures of the northern lights in Norway taken by Bjorn Jorgensen - Telegraph

A powerful outburst of auroras over the open sea at Eggum on the Lofoten islandsin Norway. Picture by Bjorn Jorgensen

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are seen when the solar wind stream hits Earth's magnetic field, sparking bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. These shots were taken by photographer Bjorn Jorgensen who lives in Tromso in northern Norway

A powerful outburst of auroras over the open sea at Eggum on the Lofoten islands in Norway

Picture: Bjorn Jorgensen / National News

CLICK HERE FOR THIS AWESOME GALLERY: Aurora borealis: northern lights in Norway taken by Bjorn Jorgensen - Telegraph

Vampire Squid Turns "Inside Out"

February 3, 2010—The vampire squid can turn itself "inside out" to avoid predators—as seen in a video just released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to emphasize the need to protect deep-sea species from the effects of human activities.

© 2010 National Geographic; source video prepared by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Unedited Transcript

This menacing looking squid is just one of many species “out of sight and out of mind” that could be threatened by human activities far away from the part of the ocean in which they live.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has released this video of the vampire squid to emphasize a report that raises a red flag about the earth’s oceans.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis is a type of living fossil, meaning that it has seen very little change since it first appeared, before dinosaurs, about 300 million years ago.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Dr. Bruce Robison, who authored the report published in Conservation Biology, narrates the institute’s video:

“Vampyroteuthis has very large eyes, because it lives about a half a mile deep in the ocean, where the light is very dim. We took these pictures from a deep diving robotic submarine. And you can see the reflection of our lights in that beautiful blue eye.”

The vampire squid has 8 long arms, and a long curly strand that serves as a sensory filament.

It has a unique ability to react when it is startled. It can curl its web and arms around the rest of its body—turning sort of ‘inside out.’ This change in appearance may help it avoid being attacked by predators.

These cephalopods --they’re technically not squids-- live in the deep ocean with millions of other species, some of which are little-known and on which little study has been done.

Robison says human activities threaten all of these.

“They are threatened by ocean warming, decreasing oxygen, pollution, overfishing, industrialization and dozens of other changes taking place in the deep. We have a responsibility to learn all we can about these amazing animals and to protect them from the greatest danger to life in the deep: the human species.”

Robison’s focus is on the oceans’ “deep pelagic zones” which extend down from about 330 feet below the surface to just above the deep seafloor—up to six miles below the surface.

While the sea floor has had significant study, he points out little exploration has been done on this water above the deep floor.

This zone is home to species eaten by fish that humans eat, such as tuna and salmon. Many whales, turtles and giant squid also rely on this zone for their food.

Even though all of this is out of sight, any upset in the balance here can ultimately have a devastating effect on what humans have come to expect from the oceans – a place that provides food for millions of people.

Dutch crack down on marijuana tourism

And what's more, Dutch youth aren't even interested in smoking weed.
By Paul Ames - GlobalPost

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — In the back street cannabis den, a French-speaking Arab youth with a pierced lower lip and a rhinestone encrusted baseball cap leans across the bar to order his fix of choice.

"Hot chocolate, please," he intones in heavily accentuated English.

"With whipped cream?" asks the fresh-faced young barrista in the 420 Cafe.

"Yes, please.”

A group of teenage English boys, their polite manners contrasting with the hair-raising heavy metal designs on their T-shirts, is also drinking the warm, frothy brew. Above them a large flat screen TV is showing a documentary about Antarctic bird life.

A penguin protects her chicks from a hungry gull as two Spanish girls debate whether to get high on "White Widow," “Blueberry” — brands from the marijuana menu — or to take a slice of the peanut butter and white chocolate weed-laced "space cake."

From inside this cozy, 100-year-old-bar-turned-hash-house it appears the Amsterdam drug scene has mellowed since the Dutch government began to "decriminalize" cannabis in the late 1970s.

"Some specimens of my tribe, and I think I can include myself, are considered to be respectable citizens," said Michael Veling, owner of the 420 Cafe.

“We even have a working relationship with the tax office,” added Veling, a spokesman for the Cannabis Retailers Association which represents many of the more than 700 “coffee shops” that openly serve the drug in the Netherlands.

After 30 years of high times, Amsterdam continues to attract waves of youthful tourists eager to smoke a reefer or two without having to look over their shoulder for the cops. However Dutch attitudes are changing. Successive conservative-led governments have tightened restrictions on cannabis sales, while local youngsters seem increasingly indifferent to the coffee shops’ charms.

A report from European Union’s drug monitoring center made headlines in November when it showed young Dutch people lagged well behind many of their European neighbors when it came to smoking weed.

According to the survey, 11.4 percent of Dutch people aged 15 to 24 had consumed cannabis over the previous year, down from 14.3 percent eight years earlier. The Netherlands was ranked 13th out of 23 nations — way behind countries such as Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic, which register more than double the Dutch rate.

In the 420 Cafe, the only locals in view were a group of 50-something friends of the owner nodding contentedly to the Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix tunes coming from the sound system.

“It’s not as exciting [for Dutch kids] as it is in other countries and we had education together with the tolerant attitude, so our kids know about drugs,” said Veling.

“Our customers are mainly from England and the United States, but because of the economic crisis the percentage of continental Europeans has risen,” he said. “Last summer we saw the first wave of Chinese middle class, that’s a very promising market.”

Veling is perhaps unique among coffee shop owners in that he is also an active member and one-time city councilor with the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal party of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, which has done much to clamp down on the Dutch dope trade in recent years.

Coffee shops have seen the maximum amount they can sell customers reduced from 30 grams to 5 grams. In 2007 a ban on cannabis outlets serving alcohol was enforced, meaning coffee shop owners had to choose between booze or pot — which explains why the strongest drinks at Cafe 420 are coffee, tea and chocolate. Moreover, advertising for cannabis is banned, so while souvenir shops selling T-shirts festooned with marijuana-leaf designs abound, coffee shops are not allowed to use the image.

Many city councils prohibit the opening of new coffee shops and are quick to shut down any that break the rules. A ban on smoking tobacco in all Dutch cafes and bars hit the coffee shops hard when it was introduced in July 2008, since cannabis cigarettes are often mixed with tobacco. Now the rule is widely ignored.

"There are all kinds of ridiculous regulations,” said Fredrick Polak, a veteran campaigner for more liberal drug laws. “It does not work, it is counterproductive … the state has no business interfering with individual grown-up citizens and what they want to put in their bodies."

Polak, a white-haired, 67-year-old psychiatrist who works at Amsterdam’s drug dependency unit, said Dutch authorities have caved into pressure from neighboring nations concerned that so many young people were buying cannabis in the Netherlands to take back home.

French, Belgian and German authorities have been particularly worried about a proliferation of outlets in border cities, so the Dutch government has sought to crack down on “drug tourism.”

The cities of Bergen op Zoom and Rosendaal near the Belgian border closed down six of their eight coffee shops last year after residents complained about rowdy behavior from an estimated 25,000 drug tourists passing through every week.

In the southeastern city of Maastricht, authorities have proposed making coffee shops members-only clubs, effectively banning foreign day-trippers. The country’s largest coffee shop, Checkpoint in the southern border town of Terneuzen, was closed down in 2008 at a time when it was reportedly serving 3,000 customers a day.

Polak complains that criminal elements continue to play a leading role in the cannabis trade due to an anomaly in the laws: While the retailing is tolerated, wholesale trade remains illegal, meaning coffee shop owners often have to get their supplies from criminal networks, which are also involved in illegal exports of the drug and violent turf wars.

“With our system, for people who want to smoke marijuana it’s very pleasant, but on the supply side here there is no control, it’s still completely illegal, so the wrong people make very much money," Polak said.