Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The time I drew an Aliens comic

Well, not a whole comic, just one page. The publisher had a notion to do a story where each page was drawn by a different artist. What larks, I thought, a chance to have some fun! Not as much fun as I thought though, and following their patient requests I had to relent and re-draw the above panel with no cannon, no baseball bat, no mummification, and no acrobatic attack formation. Oh well.

Due credit to the editors, they did print the original version in a ‘making of’ section at the back of the issue.

Aliens TM & © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Strike a light

A colour sketch for part of the current project. I’m working from this acrylic painting as I draw colour separations in ink.

The future

Bad as things are, let’s keep some perspective and listen to someone who takes a long view. A view so long it covers several hundred light years in distance. Here’s William Borucki, principal investigator for the Kepler Mission and a space scientist at the NASA-Ames Research Center, talking to Ira Flatow on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, from December 23rd. Asked whether he’s worried about the prospect of future missions in light of economic difficulties and budget cutbacks, Mr Borucki responded:
I believe that in Europe and the United States, we'll look seriously at our problems, and we will solve them and that we will get back to a much more productive, happy time in the future.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Blimp and the City

From The Complete Colonel Blimp, a collection of David Low’s cartoons edited by Mark Bryant and published by Bellew Publishing 1991. More of Low’s Blimp in this earlier post.

See also Francis Sedgemore on David Cameron’s recent EU performance, From Chamberlain to Churchill to Blimp. My apologies to Francis for being so slow in finding the appropriate illustration.

While we’re on that fortnight-old subject, I found the following worthwhile reading: Joe Lynam, business correspondent for BBC News, asking Is the City worse off after David Cameron’s EU veto? Chris Dillow asking Why defend the City? And Peter Ryley’s summing up:
Cameron has upset everybody by vetoing a treaty imposing the wrong remedy on the basis of a wrong diagnosis even though he agrees with the diagnosis and is busy applying the same wrong remedy to the British economy.

Cartoon copyright © Low Estate/Solo Syndication.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Somebody Else’s Christmas

John Dog - Somebody Else’s Christmas

Written and arranged by Raymond Butler and performed by John Dog.
© All rights reserved.

Hear more at

Public domain images from, specifically here and here.

Friday, 23 December 2011

‘Troops Out - Stop the War in Iraq’

News coverage of yesterday’s bombings in Baghdad, some links via Iraqi Mojo.

Los Angeles Times: Baghdad bombings leave at least 60 dead, nearly 200 injured
A string of explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 60 people and injuring nearly 200 just days after the last U.S. troops left the country, police and health officials said.

The attacks came in the midst of a political standoff between the country’s main Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions, heightening fears of a return to the sectarian bloodletting that devastated the country a few years ago.

Authorities said more than a dozen bombs exploded in different parts of Baghdad in a seemingly coordinated assault during the morning rush hour. Most of the targeted neighborhoods were predominantly Shiite, but some Sunni areas were also hit.

In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber detonated an ambulance packed with explosives in front of a government anti-corruption office in the Karada neighborhood, shattering windows and setting cars ablaze. A police officer at the scene said at least 16 people were killed and 45 injured.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Mahanagar by Satyajit Ray, as a YouTube playlist here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


A screen print by Bo.

At Swim Two Birds

A screen print by Peggy.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tyrant dies in his bed shock

Rope and bullet saved for successor?

Mick Hartley has more: The Dear Departed Leader and You can hear the sound of wailing outside. Also: Death on a train? (I’m sticking with my headline for now.)

Below, Christopher Hitchens on North Korea and Orwell, Czechoslovakia and Kafka.

Added, Hitchens writing for Slate, February 2010: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs, Kim Jong-il's regime is even weirder and more despicable than you thought.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Vaclav Havel, 1989 and 2003

From the BBC World Service archive, episode 2 of the 2009 series John Simpson Returns to 1989 focuses on Czechlosovakia’s Velvet Revolution, interviewing a number of participants, the first being Vaclav Havel.

John Simpson’s TV obituary of Havel includes a little joke. “In terms of intellect, he was way ahead of most other political leaders,” says Simpson, over a shot of Havel being presented with a medal by President GW Bush.

Unlike most (all?) of the obituaries of Christopher Hitchens this week, Simpson’s obituary of Havel doesn’t mention Iraq. Nor does the BBC News website’s written obituary mention Iraq, nor their news story on his death.

The Guardian’s editorial marking Vaclav Havel’s death doesn’t mention Iraq, nor does Julian Borger’s news story on Havel’s death for the same paper. Nor does a more personal memoir by Timothy Garton Ash.

The New York Times report by Dan Bilefsky and Jane Perlez does include this penultimate paragraph:
He never stopped preaching that the fight for political freedom needed to outlive the end of the Cold War. He praised the United States’ invasion of Iraq for deposing an evil dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps this is all appropriate. Vaclav Havel’s great contribution was his part in the Velvet Revolution, an event that continues to inspire attempts at non-violent revolution worldwide. His support for action against Saddam Hussein came at the end of his political career, and can be seen as a footnote.

It’s a striking footnote all the same. A man who was justly praised for his part in a non-violent revolution, went on to support the violent overthrow of a dictator by means of an invasion that was the most criticised, the most reviled, military action in recent decades. Why did he do this? Why support war? Why not wait and hope for a peaceful revolution in Iraq?

The implication must be that, despite the success of Czechlosovakia’s Velvet Revolution, he believed there were circumstances where non-violence was unlikely to succeed. The mixed outcomes of this year’s Arab revolutions would seem to support such a view.

Here, from a 2003 article by David Remnick for The New Yorker, is Vaclav Havel’s own explanation:
A year after Havel came to power, there was a crisis in Iraq, and now, as he was leaving office, he was involved in another. Earlier in the month, he had spent hours with his aides at his country villa, discussing the problem, and that day, in the Wall Street Journal, there was a letter signed by Havel, along with seven other European leaders, which essentially agreed with the Bush Administration's position. I asked him why.

“I think it’s not by chance that the idea of confronting evil may have found more support in those countries that have had a recent experience with totalitarian systems compared with other European countries that haven’t had the same sort of recent experience,” he said. “The Czech experience with Munich, with appeasement, with yielding to evil, with demanding more and more evidence that Hitler was truly evil—that may be one reason that we look at things differently than some others. But that doesn’t mean automatically that a green light is to be given to preventive strikes. I always believed that every case has to be judged individually. The Euro-American world cannot simply declare preëmptive war on all the regimes that it doesn’t like.”

Havel coughed and took a sip of wine. I asked him why he thought a policy of containment could not work in Iraq more or less indefinitely.

He put his glass down and said, “Civilization has changed. Today, any crazy, practically any crazy person can blow up half of New York. That was hardly possible fifteen or twenty years ago. That’s not the only reason. On the whole, the world has changed. There once was a bipolar world, a balance of two great powers, who made agreements on weapons reductions, so that they were capable of destroying the world seven times instead of ten. Now we live in a multi-polar world. . . . Of course, the question is: When is the best time for action? Should it have happened a long time ago? That is a political issue, a diplomatic issue, a sociological issue. But, generally, it’s a matter of the functioning of the world’s immune system, whether the world can deal with such a case of extreme evil before it is too late.”

The tragedy is that there was justice in John Simpson’s joke at the expense of Bush. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was led by people without the intellect of Havel, and particularly without the moral intelligence of Havel.

Here is the full text of the January 2003 letter on Iraq by eight European leaders including Vaclav Havel. Here is the response at the time by then French President Chirac. He was also in the news this week.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Wealth creation and renumeration

Watching the documentary Inside Job (see previous post) put me in mind of the Lucky Luke comic album Jesse James, drawn by Morris and written by Goscinny, also writer of the original Asterix stories. In Goscinny’s version, Jesse James is inspired by reading about Robin Hood, but this inspiration creates a problem in dealing with the proceeds of his crimes. In the excerpt below, his brother Fank James has the solution. (Click to enlarge.)

The above scans are from the Brockhampton Press edition, translated by Frederick W Nolan. Cinebook are currently publishing good value paperbacks of most of the Lucky Luke stories. I recommend them for all ages.

Lucky Luke excerpts copyright © 1968 Dargaud S.A. English-language text copyright © 1972 Brockhampton Press Ltd.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Charles Ferguson on corruption in academic economics

Below, two clips from Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award winning documentary on the 2008 Crash, and following them, an interview with him that includes a focus on the issue of corruption in academic economics.

Christopher Hitchens completes his life

Some links, first to blogs, then to periodicals and news organisations:

Tigerloaf: Christopher Hitchens is Dead

Shiraz Socialist: Hitchens is dead, and Now That’s What I Call Hitchens! and Irreplaceable

Harry’s Place: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011, and Another reason why God is not great, on Jerusalem and religious obstacles to peace, and A few thoughts on Christopher Hitchens, in praise of his post September 11th arguments, and cross posted from the Huffington Post, Sohrab Ahmari: Influence and conviction: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

The Stark Tenet: Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

Fat Man on a Keyboard: One hell of a writer

The Poor Mouth: Christopher Hitchens RIP

Simply Jews: Christopher Hitchens RIP

Though Cowards Flinch: Christopher Hitchens: the life of a contrarian

Francis Sedgemore: So long Dude! Also: Of slippery slopes and greasy poles

Obliged to Offend: So long, Hitch

Normblog: Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011, also A brother’s tribute and Tributes in the Times

David Aaronovitch’s tribute in the Times is included in Mick Hartley’s post: Hitch is dead

Bob from Brockley recommends two posts, by Rosie Bell: Decline and fall, and by Noga: Chistopher Hitchens and his Vocabular Cornucopia

Max Dunbar: Why writing matters (and related to Max’s piece, a post from October at Why Evolution Is True: Mason Crumpacker and the Hitchens reading list)

Gauche: Obituaries - 27: Christopher Hitchens

At The Duck of Minerva, a Realist on a revolutionary, Patrick Porter: Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

Terry Glavin: The Lights Are On The Dunes, Comrade.

George Szires: Christopher Hitchens 13 April 1949 - 15 December 2011

More by Bob from Brockley: He was a friend of mine, and On reading obituaries of Christopher Hitchens

The Sad Red Earth: Christopher Hitchens, Glenn Greenwald, and the War of Ideas, in response to Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths, by Glenn Greenwald at


The Daily Mash: Hitchens cancer not intelligently designed

Salman Rushdie for Vanity Fair, February 2012 issue: Christopher Hitchens

A response to Salman Rushdie’s article by Mick Hartley, Hitchens, In Memoriam, echoed by Norman Geras, Rushdie right and wrong about Hitchens

Juli Weiner, Vanity Fair: In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011, also a slideshow of photos from his life

Christopher Buckley on The New Yorker’s News Desk blog: Postscript: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

George Packer, also on The New Yorker’s News Desk blog: Hitchens and Iraq

William Grimes at The New York Times: Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, With Wit

BBC News: Christopher Hitchens dies after battle with cancer. Related on BBC News: Christopher Hitchens talks to Jeremy Paxman, and Blair v Hitchens debate: Is religion a force for good?

Last updated 8 January 2012.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Moon on a Stick

Time for a John Dog song - The Moon on a Stick.

Written and arranged by Raymond Butler and performed by John Dog. © All rights reserved.

Download available from

Galway Super-8 by Caroline D'Souza. NASA Apollo 9 and Apollo 11 images from

Friday, 2 December 2011

Zero point zero five

Inking with a Uni Pin Fine Line 0.05 pen.