Friday, 27 November 2009

Mary Wollstonecraft

I’m too busy just now to read or write much, but am listening to the radio as I paint.

On BBC Radio 3 this week, there has been a short series of essays on Mary Wollstonecraft, the last to be broadcast tonight. You can catch up with the series online, but only for the next couple of days.

They’re all good so far, and the fourth in the series deals with her observations and reactions to the French Revolution, which perhaps makes this a sort of follow up to an earlier post below.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

London Lions

From Messrs Potts and William comes a survey of London’s lions in comic strip form. The Londonist is serialising it, starting here.

More from the pen of Aidan Potts at

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The BBC on Neda Agha Soltan

Aired in the US under the title A Death in Tehran, as part of the PBS Frontline series, the BBC film on Neda Agha Soltan was broadcast on BBC 2 yesterday and is available online for the next few days, until Tuesday Dec 1st.

I recommend it. (Via Azarmehr.)

Naj of Neo-Resistance places Neda’s death in a longer history of struggle. She writes: Iran’s female icon of resistance was born 193 years ago.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Howard Hawks’s advice to the lovelorn

This is a story from Hawks on Hawks, Joseph McBride’s book of his conversations with the man. Hawks talks of Lauren Bacall, and how before appearing in her first film, To Have and Have Not, she trained her voice for months to deepen it, under his direction.

As well as concerning himself with her training as an actress, Howard Hawks also gave advice on her love life:
We used to have a party out at the house on Saturday night. While she was waiting around, she came out, and when it was all over, she was standing there. I had to give her a ride home. And I said, ‘Can’t you get a ride yourself so that I can get tight and not have to drive you back? She said, ‘I don’t do too well with men.’ I said, ‘What do you do, are you nice to ’em?’ She said, ‘Nice as I can be.’ And I said, Maybe that’s wrong. Why don’t you try not being nice? Why don’t you try to insult them?’ So the next Saturday night she came over kind of like the cat who’s eaten the canary and said, ‘Well, I got a ride home.’ I said, ‘What happened?’ and she said, Oh, I insulted the man.’ ‘What’d you say to him?’ ‘I asked him where he got his tie. He said, “What do you want to know for?” And I said,“So I can tell people not to go there.” ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘who’s the man?’ She said, ‘Clark Gable.’

And now for your listening pleasure, here’s John Dog singing Lauren Bacall:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Zone 5300 Winter Sale

Rotterdam’s the place this weekend, for original illustration art, prints, t-shirts, signed books, and other bits, bobs and doodles. All at the Zone 5300 Winter Sale, 28 & 29 November, 11am to 6pm, Studio Hergebruik, Coolsingel 53, Rotterdam.

I’ll have a few things on offer there myself, including these paintings rendered for a set of baby books published by Sandvik of Norway.


Friday, 20 November 2009

Kitty Admiral again

More drawings for Bo.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Monday, 16 November 2009

The short of it

Copyright © Chris Riddell.

The above cartoon by Chris Riddell from Sunday’s issue of The Observer was picked out by Flesh is Grass. She writes, Abandoning Afghans doesn’t mean ‘peace’, and points to a post at Harry’s Place, Abandoning Afghans: Not in my name.

She also mentions watching for what I have to say.

The short of it: I agree. Some fighting is necessary. Failure is not an acceptable option. A more terrible war awaits if this one ends badly.

The last couple of Afghanistan posts here have been links to rather long videos of discussions on how to work towards political progress and reconciliation. I’ve been doing more listening than writing on this, partly because of work pressure, but also because the complexities are such that it seems more interesting to point to people with direct knowledge.

That said, it should still possible to form a view on basic principles despite not having personally grown a beard and walked the length of Afghanistan drinking tea with the tribes.

There is an old chestnut that never goes away about there being no military solution in a conflict like this, only a political one. And it’s half true.

The problem is with the other half, the half made up of an enemy which believes very much in a military solution, or a terror solution. Before anyone can negotiate with them, this enemy has to actually recognise that there is no military solution available to them, and to reach that point they will have to be fought. Fighting them isn’t the solution in itself, but it’s a necessary part of creating the conditions for a political solution, or as may be more likely, the multiple political solutions necessary in a conflict this complex.

There are many things that can go wrong, but the worst would be for leaders of the 42 countries contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan to lose heart. Some of those leaders are of course more vital than others. Many are facing a hostile press and a doubtful public. The response by UK and US leaders has been to emphasise the terrorist threat. But as Steve Coll of The New Yorker spells out, a repeat of past terrorism isn’t the half of what we may face if we fail.

Now more links:

First, here’s another long video, David Kilcullen and Andrew Wilder speaking at the United States Institute of Peace on Theory Meets Practice: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, from the beginning of August. There is particular detail on problems in the aid effort, problems in political structures, and of course corruption, corruption, and complexity. More recently David Kilcullen appeared on BBC World Service Radio’s The Forum. (Via AM.)

And finally The Canada-Afghanistan Blog on Malalai Joya, and Ghosts of Alexander on Biden Plan in inaction in Nuristan. Speaking of which, may I suggest the Biden Plan be renamed the Gaza Plan for Afghanistan? Y’know, abandon the ground and the population to the enemy and then try to contain them with air strikes and hit and run operations. No fence though, so no tunnels. And a much bigger territory. Oh boy.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Thursday, 12 November 2009

More on talking to the Taliban

Following on from an earlier post, here’s Michael Semple again, this time together with Gilles Dorronsoro and Joanna Nathan, Afghanistan specialists all, talking at the Center for American Progress on the topic of Reconciliation and Insurgency, Political Strategies in the Afghan War.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


pogo by walt kelly armistice day 1953
For the day that is in it.

See also The Poor Mouth on the casualties of the last day, the last few hours and minutes.

From the collection Phi Beta Pogo by Walt Kelly.
Copyright © The Walt Kelly Estate.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Beatles’ London

Next week, on Thursday 19th November at 7pm in the National Portrait Gallery, London, there will be a talk on London Beatles photos and the locations where they were taken. Details here.

It will be presented by Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn and Adam Smith, co-authors of the book The Beatles’ London. Mr Lewisohn and Mr Smith can bee seen above engaged in their meticulous researches.

There is more to be found on the many interests of Mr Schreuders in these posts.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Sadie at The Illustration Cupboard, London

ski plane
This year’s Winter Show at The Illustration Cupboard, London, will include a number of original paintings from my picture book.

The show runs from 19 November 2009 to 31 January 2010 at The Illustration Cupboard, 22 Bury St, St James’s, London SW1, with late night openings until 7.30pm every Thursday until Christmas.

There are some rather fabulous artists included in the show, for example Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne, Angela Barrett, Babette Cole, Lauren Child, Nick Park, Hergé, and also rare prints by Maurice Sendak to be had. For more details, visit the gallery website.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Today is 13 Aban

Coverage of today’s protests in Iran on The Guardian News Blog, Tehran Bureau, Raye Man Kojast, Azarmehr, Revolutionary Road, BBC News, and at Enduring America.

In The New York Times today, From Heroes to State Enemies.
Mohsen Mirdamadi had been applauded as a hero by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for helping to lead the takeover of the United States Embassy in Iran 30 years ago Wednesday.

Today, he is in prison, accused as an enemy of the state.

Mr. Mirdamadi’s crime was working as a leader of the reform movement, specifically as the general secretary of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist party.

But he is hardly alone among former hostage-takers who now find themselves under suspicion and siege by the authorities. As Iran marks the anniversary of an event that helped define its political identity, many former hostage-takers and their allies are committed to the political opposition, and therefore pose a credible threat to the leadership’s legitimacy, analysts said.

“The fact that so many of the students of ’79 eventually came to a reformist position in Iranian politics is not such a mystery when you remember that the reformist position in Iranian politics is not necessarily a pro-Western position,” said Michael Axworthy, a former British diplomat and Iran expert who lectures at the University of Exeter.
Read the rest.

See previous post for more background.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tomorrow is 13 Aban

At Tehran Bureau, Tara Mahtafar explains:
To the outside world, street protests in Iran appear to have died down since summer ended. Yet the opposition movement, driven underground, has strategically slated mass turnouts for calendar dates such as September’s Qods Day, which turned the government’s annual tradition of anti-Israel rallies on its head. By targeting dates of historic significance to the regime, opposition supporters aim to ‘subvert’ ideological symbols touted for 30 years by the Islamic Republic and thereby re-brand that date as an ideology-free ‘green’ day, the trademark color of the country's burgeoning pro-democracy movement.

Far from being “spontaneous” as some in the Western media described the last instance when, by many estimates, hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets, anti-government demonstrations are laboriously planned and promoted a month beforehand, originating online, as ever, and transmitted on the ground by word-of-mouth, leaflets, and other creative ways.

The next major rally date is November 4, known as 13 Aban on the Iranian calendar, which marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran.

At Rooz Online: Be Present on November 4, by Hamed Irani:
In his statement number 14, Mir-Hossein Mousavi invited people to turn November 4 into the greenest day of the year with their presence. Various reports also point to the issuance of a statement by Mehdi Karoubi inviting people to participate in the November 4 rallies.

November 4 is the anniversary of the U.S. embassy takeover in Tehran. The opposition seeks to turn the day into a day of protest against the regime. Meanwhile, police have declared that opposition protesters cannot take part in rallies “without a permit,” and the Basij organization has announced that it will send three million of its members to the streets to “foil the enemies’ conspiracy.”

Also interesting reading: Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s statement for 13 Aban (scroll down). For more on Montazeri and other clerical dissenters in Iran, see this earlier post. For more comment on the context of Montazeri’s statement, see Neo-Resistance.

Pedestrian has some details of leaflets and other preparations for protests here and here.

Raye Man Kojast has a number of videos of today’s buildup amongst students in preperation for 13 Aban, and Enduring America has more links than I can handle.

The regime has prepared for the protesters by creating their own ersatz version of the Green Movement: see Pedestrian here and here, and Azarmehr here.

Solidarity protests will be taking place outside Iran. Harry’s Place gives details for London, 6-9 pm Wed 4th Nov, outside the Iranian embassy, 16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7.

Historical background: at Tehran Bureau, The Hostage Crisis 30 Years On, by Muhammad Sahimi. And linked to in an earlier post, part one of the BBC’s Iran & the West also deals with the hostage crisis.

All Iran posts here.