Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Story of Newspapers

the story of newspapers ladybird book
This month’s song from John Dog is Leave my Bones Alone. JD is forced by circumstance to read more newspapers than are healthy for any hound, and he makes his disgust clear. For an encore of fury at the pressgang, scroll down to The Right to Know.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Talking about Israel makes you stupid 2

At Abu Muqawama, Atone, Crazy People, on the insanity that breaks out in the comments whenever Israel comes up.

Added: a comment from Fnord on another AM thread:
Btw, from the training book about PTSD wich I’m reaing up on due to work, I came across a “list of modes of incorrect thinking” that manifests in patients. It applies well to the internet as well, I think, and especially the Is/Pal discussion:

1) All or nothing thinking.
2) Overgeneralization
3) Mental filtering. (Means getting hung up one one detail, loss of perspective)
4) Rash conclusion-process
5) Magnification
6) Emotional reasoning (I feel/believe)
7) Should/Could explanations and declarations.

My earlier post on this theme.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

One more time

As the children are going to sleep, they talk about being born. Bo tries to remember something of when his little sister Peggy was born.

They both ask how big their cousin was when she was born prematurely. Bo asks whether the incubator had water in it, like a womb. Peggy can’t remember seeing her cousin in the incubator. She says her cousin believes that when you die, you’re born again. “If that’s true, then maybe I’ll see her as a baby again.”

“Maybe I’ll have this day again. Maybe I’ll have that moment when I scream again. Maybe I’ll have that moment when there was no candy floss at the fair again. Maybe I’ll have this moment cuddling up with you again.”

Sympathy for the Devil

I see The Independent is still alive and dying. My total contribution to the title consists of two drawings. The first was commissioned shortly after I moved to London in July 1993, and concerned the hardships of lawyers. Over a year later, in November 1994, they had another job for me, a drawing on the hardships of estate agents.

I still hope to get a third call, perhaps for a drawing on the hardships of newspaper editors.

realtor estate agent

(Update 28 Sept. Oops - fixed that last link.)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

From Helmand to Whitehall

Via The Helmand Blog, the story of the unusually early departure of Major-General Andrew Mackay as reported in The Telegraph:
Major-General Andrew Mackay, a general who led the Afghanistan campaign has resigned over his disillusion in the direction of the Government’s strategy.

Major Gen Mackay, 52, who was the architect of the military’s new counter insurgency doctrine, is said to have told colleagues of his anger at the lack of resources being put into the battle.

He is also said to be “disillusioned” over the failure of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development in fulfilling their obligations in Afghanistan.

The resignation will come as a significant blow to the Government and the Army as Major Gen Mackay, who led a brigade in Helmand, was seen as a leading proponent for readjusting Britain’s counter-insurgency plan that has foundered during three years of fighting in Helmand.
The rest here.

The UK Ministry of Defence insists his departure is ‘a personal matter’, see the BBC News account.

That BBC page includes an audio clip worth listening to, of BBC Radio 4’s World at One’s interview with Major Nick Haston yesterday, He was Maj Gen Mackay's deputy chief of staff, and resigned from the British Army earlier this year in protest at policy and equipment shortages.

The Helmand Blog is run by Major Paul Smyth from the UK Forces Media Ops team. He has previously posted a number of stories by Michael Yon, the renowned independent American journalist who’s spent longer time with British troops in Helmand than most other reporters. Understandably Major Smyth wants to make clear that he’s not the officer referred to in Michael Yon’s scathing account of British Media Ops in Helmand.

After detailing the obstruction of efforts by both himself and other journalists to cover the war in Helmand, Michael Yon makes this core point:
There is the maxim that a customer can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant’s kitchen by the restroom. After much experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have discovered another: Soldiers always treat correspondents they way they treat the local people. When soldiers treat correspondents badly, they treat local people even worse and are creating enemies. Those troops who brag about how they mistreat or detest correspondents are abusing and resentful of the local population, and they cannot win this sort of war. The people will kill them and the media will bash them and they will blame the people and the media. When a soldier alienates sympathetic correspondents, he has no real chance against mortal enemies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and they will defeat him. Yet there is subtlety: for “the people,” in the case of Media Ops, is you.

Michael Yon doesn’t limit his criticisms to operations in Helmand. He also uses very unparliamentary language about the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth. The piece is titled Bullshit Bob.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Fritz Behrendt

Caption: You never know who's next to you in a German tram, but then you never know in The Netherlands either.

The Dutch Resistance Museum, Amsterdam, is currently showing work by the cartoonist Fritz Behrendt. The show runs until November 15th. There’s a short review at Globespotters. You can see photos of some of the Fritz Behrendt displays along with some of the museum’s permanent exhibition in this Flickr set.

Born in Berlin in 1925, Fritz Behrendt’s family moved to The Netherlands in 1937. From 1943 to the end of the war he attended the Amsterdam Arts and Crafts College.

During a lesson he watched as three British planes were shot down by the Germans. The RAF pilots were shot dead while hanging from their falling parachutes. “That was the moment when I told my art teacher that we could no longer keep on drawing flowers. That was the moment when I decided I would not become a painter or a photographer, but rather use my drawing skills in the fight against injustice.” He was imprisoned by the SS in 1945 for participating in the Dutch Resistance.

In 1947 he went to Yugoslavia as a commandant in the Gerrit Jan van der Veen youth brigade to work on the Samac to Sarajevo Youth Railway. In 1948 he studied at the Art Academy in Zagreb, and in the holidays worked as project leader and interpreter in the International Youth Brigade constructing the Zagreb to Belgrade motorway.

At the urging of Erich Honecker, leader of the Freie Deutsche Jugend, Behrendt went to East Berlin in 1949 and worked there in the FDJ Central Council as an expert on visual promotion, designing orders of merit and citations. Following the Tito-Stalin split, Honecker had Behrendt arrested as a supporter of Yugoslavia. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement for six months, one of the first prisoners of the newly formed Stasi secret police. He was released in 1950 following pressure from the Dutch government.

He went on to work for several major Dutch papers, as well as The New York Times, Time, Punch, Der Spiegel, and the New York Herald Tribune. He died on December 5th last year.

This Vrij Nederland article (in Dutch) includes a choice sample of his postwar cartoons, anti-Stalinist, pro-Israel, UN-critical, including the above drawing on the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the one below of hip Western leftists making an embarrassing discovery.

Drawings copyright © the estate of Fritz Behrendt.

You might also be interested in my earlier post on Danish cartoonists during the occupation.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


In a notebook from last May:

  At the kitchen table, my daughter sits on my lap, playing with a plastic figure of a lady with a magic wand. In her pretend American voice, she speaks for the toy, “I’ve had a short life, and now I’m going to die.” Then she wraps the figure in shiny paper.
  Another voice: “Now sleep for a hundred years.”
  “Until I’m ten?”
  “Oh, a lot longer.”

Two times two

Two from Bob, Lessons of the Lucozade Plot, and the sequel, Terror and British Islam.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Iran, Israel, Palestine

(image from Raye Man Kojast)

The Guardian News Blog is covering today’s Green Movement protests during Quds Day in Iran.
The Guardian's former Iran correspondent Robert Tait is monitoring events from Istanbul. He writes:

Ahmadinejad was giving a live interview on IRIB's Channel Two from the scene of Quds Day. As he spoke, viewers could clealy the chants of "Ahmadi, Ahmadi, resign, resign" - this all over live TV.

Apparently Ahmadinejad was aware of the chants and their effect on the interview. He is said to have become flustered and quickly wrapped up the interview.
Much more, including snippets of Ahmadinejad’s speech today blaming the formation of Israel on the British (huh?) and again denying the Holocaust.

From Raye Man Kojast, Moussavi’s recommended slogan for Quds Day demonstrations:
Put down your gun
For I am weary from seeing this bloodshed
Whether in Lebanon or Gaza
Whether in Quds or Iran
Lots more today from Raye Man Kojast.

From Pedestrian, chants heard today in Iran:
argh bar Roosiyeh
- Death to Russia

Roosiyeh Haya Kon, Keshvaremoon ro raha kon
- Russia, leave our country alone!

Na Ghazeh, na Lobnan, janam fadayeh Iran
- My life belongs to neither Gaza nor Lebanon - but Iran

Che Ghazeh, che Iran, margh bar zaleman
- Whether in Gaza or in Iran, death to tyrants
More. Also from Pedestrian, Today, and What We Are After, while her friend Naj has a laugh at the official version, and shows the early editions of tomorrow’s front pages.

From Tehran Bureau, Co-opting Quds Day, and Quds Day Updates.

My Dear People of Iran,

For the past thirty years, the Iranian regime has used the cause of the Palestinian people as a way to distract from its own oppressive rule. I thank the people of Iran for showing their support over the years with the people of Palestine, especially because on this day of Qods, the people of Iran suffer under the kind of unelected oppression that is comparable in some ways to that suffered by Palestinians.

As a Palestinian, life-long fighter for the freedom and independence of Palestine and a leader of the first Palestinian intifada, I strongly condemn the Iranian regime’s violations of human rights and repeated use of violence against the nonviolent Iranian protesters, activists and prisoners. I stand in complete solidarity with and support for the Iranian people and am confident that with their resilience, they will achieve a free and democratic Iran to raise their children in and have a good life.

In unity,
Mubarak Awad

Azarmehr also links to videos of today’s events, here, here, here, and here.

The Times has a report today on the degree of violence unleashed by the regime in response to the post-election protests:
The Times has been given access to 500 pages of documents - a small fraction of the total - that include handwritten testimony by victims, medical reports and interviews.

They suggest that security forces have engaged in systematic killing and torture to try to break the opposition.

[...] The documents suggest that at least 200 demonstrators were killed in Tehran, with 56 others still unaccounted for, and that 173 were killed in other cities. These are several times higher than the official figures. Just over half of the 200 were killed on the streets. They were beaten around the head or shot in the head or chest as part of an apparent shoot-to-kill policy - there are no reports of demonstrators being shot in the legs.

Update: for morning after coverage in english language mainstream press, see the SWJ Roundup for 19 September, with 68 matches for the word ‘Iran’.


Some interesting background on the ongoing issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, and the question of whether Israel might attempt military action to impede it:

Joshua Pollack at Arms Control Wonk puts together a brief history of military missions to prevent nuclear weapons development, beginning with World War II actions in Telemark, Norway, and including Iranian and Israeli air attacks on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in 1980 and 1981, and Iraqi attacks on partially complete Iranian nuclear power plants at Bushehr in 1984, ’85, ’86 and ’87.

A commenter on that post gives a link to a detailed story from Air Enthusiast (issue 110, March/April 2004) which maintains there was a high degree of co-operation between Iran and Israel in their attacks on Osirak.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Big shoes

Drawn for The Guardian’s education section, 1993.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Captain of industry

 . . . and the crew too. Well, a few. Can’t see the engine room from here. Drawn in the mid ’90s for a business magazine.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Flower for the kitty

A newspaper drawing from the mid ’90s. I can’t remember what it was illustrating.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

On Afghanistan, and some other countries

From BBC Radio 4, Simpson in Afghanistan, available to listen for the next four days. Reporting and comment from correspondent John Simpson, highly recommended.

A short post from The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright, Underestimating Al Qaeda. Mr Wright is the author of much valuable in-depth reporting in this area.

Basics from The Canada-Afghanistan Blog, Afghanistan is not Iran, and from Terry Glavin, Afghanistan is not Vietnam.

Speaking of Vietnam, not a good place to be a blogger, see herehere and here.

Shirin Neshat

This year’s winner of the Silver Lion for best director at the Venice Film Festival is Iranian exile Shirin Neshat for her film version of Women Without Men, adapted from the novel by Shahrnush Parsipur, also an Iranian woman in exile.

In an interview with, Shirin Neshat talks of how the film relates to the novel, and of how it developed out of her work for gallery exhibition. There‘s a description of the earlier gallery version of the film here.

 In a TV interview from June, she talks about exile, art, inescapable politics, and the film.

Below a trailer for the film, and a short interview with Shirin Neshat on this summer’s post-election protests.

Recommended blogs on Iran:
Raye Man Kojast?
Revolutionary Road
Rise of the Iranian People
Tehran Bureau
Uskowi on Iran

Saturday, 12 September 2009


The brother feeding himself, from around 1971.

Friday, 11 September 2009

On the Staten Island Ferry

Drawing by Lucinda Rogers: Samuel Scott on the Staten Island Ferry, 1994.

This was published in issue 170 of Ambit magazine, in 2002, along with drawings done after the September 11th attacks of workers on the Ground Zero site.

Copyright © Lucinda Rogers.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Afghanistan: the worst-case scenario

Abu Muqawama on election fraud and counter-insurgency, parts one and two. An excerpt:
I think I have been pretty honest about the difficulties of the war in Afghanistan while at the same time making an argument for why we should continue and even intensify our efforts there. And I would like to think that - for a blogger on counterinsurgency strategy and operations - I have been pretty honest about the difficulty and limits of prosecuting counterinsurgency campaigns as a third party: to a large degree, your success is dependent upon what the host nation government does and fails to do.
The rest here.

Brian Platt of the Canada-Afghanistan blog rounds up this week’s political punditry on the question of in or out, while finding his own confidence in the outcome ‘somewhat inexplicable’.

Part of the explanation for such confidence may be that, as expained in an analysis piece in The New York Times, there is no good clear option in Afghanistan other than this long haul at ground level. Here’s an excerpt from the article, Crux of Afghan Debate: Will More Troops Curb Terror?
“The notion that you can conduct a purely counterterrorist kind of campaign and do it from a distance simply does not accord with reality,” Mr. Gates told reporters last Thursday. “The reality is that even if you want to focus on counterterrorism, you cannot do that successfully without local law enforcement, without internal security, without intelligence.”

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, concurred, saying the argument that terrorism can be prevented essentially by remote control was “immensely seductive” — and completely wrong.

“We tried to contain the terrorism problem in Afghanistan from a distance before 9/11,” he said. “Look how well that worked.”

Meanwhile in the UK, Michael Portillo indulges in baby-talk on Afghanistan. Norm decimates his argument. Not a difficult job for him I’m sure, as Portillo indulges in rhetorical moves which have become all too familiar in recent years. One of them is the old chestnut about ‘imposing democracy,’ which I tackled earlier here. Another is the well-worn, to the point of threadbare, notion that to argue for military intervention in case A means one must also support military intervention in cases B, C, and D, because of some common factor between A, B, C and D. Norm deals with this neatly enough:
No, an ambition of political reform in Afghanistan does not in itself mean that 'we should invade China, North Korea, Burma and others'. There's no principle, whether in international politics or in life more generally, requiring that you must not undertake one good project unless you're willing to undertake every good project of the same kind. If there were, the world would be a worse place than it is; you couldn't do anything good, because it would obligate you to do more good than you could. As it is, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan furnished a casus belli by playing host to al-Qaida; winning the war that this led to involves a project of political reform. That the war could also be lost does not falsify this last proposition.
There is another objection to be raised as well. Finding a common factor between cases A, B, C and D does not mean they are identical. For example, China and North Korea possess nuclear weapons, the Taliban do not. Concluding that a particular strategy is possible and appropriate in case A does not pre-judge cases B, C and D unless they are identical, and there are no identical cases, as any grown-up experienced politician knows. So has Michael Portillo entered his second childhood, or is it that he regards his audience as infantile?

And then there’s Portillo’s trivialising of the fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan as trying ‘to make Afghanistan a democracy full of professional women in slinky jeans,’ well, what more would a feminist expect to hear from an old tory?

In contrast, one would hope that anti-war arguments from the left would at least show some solidarity on women’s rights. Um, how does the phrase ‘fluffy issues’ strike your ear?

See also Terry Glavin on women’s rights in Afghanistan and Sudan, and more on women in trousers from Flesh is Grass.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Diverse drift-days

Diverse drift-days (Diverse drivedage)
Dan Turèll

These drift-days, daughter. They are like small lakes to swim in with still-standing water - white lagoons of page after page that we leaf through forward into the day. It’s a rhythm I haven’t known since I was a child.

We draw a little, we practice a couple of letters, we go to the zoo. We contemplate every single animal at length. It is as if you want to imprint them for yourself now, as though you perhaps in some place or other know, that they won’t be there much longer.

Nothing happens, only an ever closer contact as between those who have just fallen in love, or like when a true friendship is underway. We understand each other better and better.

You will soon be five and you will soon forget. Just like all that I have myself forgotten - faded pictures of Father, Mother and child in the Commons Park, 1st May 1954 - that’s how it will be for you. But I say thank you, little treasure, thanks in time, thanks for the slow drifting rhythm, I had otherwise completely forgotten.

Copyright © the estate of Dan Turèll.

This translation is my own. The original is included in an excellent film about Dan Turèll, Så kort og mærkeligt livet er (So short and strange life is), 2008, directed by Anders Østergaard. A clip can be seen here. No subtitles I’m afraid.

I will resist the temptation to illustrate this post, so that you may draw on your own personal album instead.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Oliver Messel

oliver messel queen of spades
George Szirtes has posted an account in three parts (one, two, three,) of his visit to Whitehaven, where the Rosehill Theatre are celebrating their 50th anniversary with an exhibition of the work of theatre and film designer Oliver Messel.

The above designs by Oliver Messel were for the 1949 film of Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, reproduced in The Penguin Film Review no. 9 from the same year. Click for an enlargement. There are more Queen of Spades designs in this V&A Oliver Messel article.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The most fun anyone has had with a banana since Krapp’s Last Tape

Bud Benderbe, back I’m told from a very successful cruise ship gig sailing around the Dutch Antilles, is now available to hear on MySpace, with his “easy to listen to versions of really hard to listen to songs,” starting with his renditions of the Velvet Underground numbers I’ll Be Your Mirror, What Goes On, and I’m Set Free.

His first album, The Velvet Underground & Bud, will be released on cd and vinyl by Excelsior Recordings and presented at the Utrecht Mega Record and CD Fair in November.

Earlier Benderbe wonder and mystery here.

Image from the catalogue of Luxury Liner Row, specialists in ocean liner collectibles and memorabilia from travel’s golden age.


A song below, a dance above. S has new drawings for September at StairCaseNotes.

Drawing copyright © Susanna Jacobs.

Cartoon wars continue

On the latest Dutch cartoon prosecution, this time a Holocaust denial drawing, Freeborn John gives equal treatment, which is not to say the cartoons are equal in intent. He writes:
The cartoon above is plainly a Holocaust denial. This is as intellectually negligible and contemptible as the belief that the earth is flat. But neither viewpoint should be illegal. So I publish it not because I agree with it or like it, neither is the case.
The Utrecht prosecutor's office said the cartoon case is complicated. “There is no doubt that the Danish cartoons can be offensive,” a spokesperson said. “But according to us, the Holocaust cartoon crosses the line.” Because that line between offensive and discriminatory is so thin, the prosecutor thinks it is up to a judge to decide.
Earlier cartoon wars here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Anti-Semitism on Shop Street

Eamonn McDonagh has an unpleasant story from Galway about members of an organisation called Irish Friends of Palestine Against Lisbon, the sanity of which one might reliably assess purely on the basis of the name. Looking closer, they of course see Zionists in control all over Europe, and are not just anti-Israel but also anti-Palestinian Authority. Which leaves who? Thankfully, judging by the photos on their site they don’t seem to be able to muster more than six people at a time, counting the one holding the camera. 

ModernityBlog has more, with video and some further observations.

The above postcard comes from the collection at Old Galway Pics.