Friday, May 26, 2006

Again With the Past

"Smile-man-smile. You're an to to to to live in your own way. Stay on the job. This is your America."

Feel free to live in your own way, unless of course you're a liberal intellectual, homosexual, African American, or Native American. Or if you're poor. Or if you're not Christian (preferably a Protestant but for the sake of solidarity we'll tolerate Catholics).

"Strong in the strength of the Lord, we who fight in the people's cause, will never stop until that cause is won."

And of course, we all know that the wrench and the gun are the true instuments of the Lord. Oh, and freedom and liberty.

"Don't waste a precious minute."

If you're ugly or lazy, bugger off back to where you came from.

Which was probably hanging about listening to Wagner with this guy.

"Dear God, keep them safe! Buy War Bonds and Stamps."

Don't apples represent original sin? Maybe it represents agriculture, and economic abundance? And doesn't your heart just bleed for the poor darlings? Forced to wear those hideous masks because evil in the world is threatening their freedom.

The posters came from the Smithsonian Institute. This was my way of pretending I was actually doing research. I use the same excuse when I should be working but end up eating pizza and watching the WW.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Little Bit of the Past

Thanks to Barrista I spent most of yesterday wandering around the US Library of Congress webiste looking at the Work Projects Administration Poster Collection 1936-1943. There are some incredibly beautiful examples of art work and graphic design.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

Monday, May 22, 2006

WARNING: Contains excessive sentimentality

This morning I had one of those moments where the world seems slightly more in focus, where colours are brighter and images sharper and my heart beat a litter bit faster. It was one of those moments when an idea is articulated so simply and beautifully that one feels inspired and full of hope that ideas really can change the world for the better.

Ok. So it was a cold, grey morning and I was reading about American nationalism. Should have been depressing, but then I’m the kind of person who takes a comprehensive history of the Middle East to bed with me. There’s nothing like a good hard cover to keep you warm at night.

Anyway, the point is I’ve always loved ideas. I love learning. About anything and everything. I also spent a good proportion of my teenage years hating school with a fiery passion. There were, however, one or two teachers who were amazingly inspired and inspiring people. Teachers whose love of ideas shone through the often restrictive curriculum. My literature teacher was one of those people. Most people I know have a similar figure in their past who inspired them with a love of learning and knowledge.

I just came across
this article in The Australian about the immense difficulties young women in Afghanistan face trying to go to school and have access to even the most basic education. While the situation is certainly much better now than it was under the Taliban, it is still horrendous.

“Although the Taliban were overthrown by a US-led coalition in 2001, the fundamentalists continue to close down secular education.

Most girls across the struggling nation are denied even basic education because their scared parents refuse to send them to school.

The insurgents have burned down up to 90 schools in the past six months, according to the parliament's education committee.

As many as 200 schools have closed. The insurgents have killed teachers and left threatening "night letters" on the doors of schools and teachers' homes.”

I know it’s a well worn cliché, but God it’s easy to forget how bloody lucky we are.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It's About Human Interest, Stupid

Today in the world:

At least five people have been killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, when Islamist gunmen attacked a warlord, breaking a three-day truce.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed a possible European offer of incentives to induce Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme.

In Istanbul a man stormed a court in Turkey's capital Wednesday, shooting five judges in apparent anger at its ruling enforcing a strict ban on the wearing of head scarves.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson last night ordered an unprecedented independent review of his department after the latest bungle involving Private Jake Kovco led to a secret military report being broadcast on radio.

And this is just a tiny, tiny glimpse at the world today. Quite a lot going on one would think. Lots of juicy stuff for the papers to inform their discerning readers about.

And of course, that most discerning of all 'newspapers', chose the most controversial, most topical, most relevant news story of all to adorn its front page. A story that has far reaching consequences for the lives of every Australian man, woman, and child. A story that cuts right to heart of our national interest.


p.s. Credit for this post must go to the incomparable Jellyfish

UPDATE: Rant here by Mr Lefty that makes a damn fine point.

Friday, May 05, 2006

What Goes On

Last night I was listening to ABC radio and the news came on. The reporter announced that at least six people had been killed outside a courthouse in Baghdad. The next news item was about rising interest rates.

It's odd that that particular security incident was reported in the news, implying that it was the major event of the day in Iraq, when in reality it was just one among many such incidents.

Today In Iraq, a comprehensive and increadibly sobering blog that reports on the daily situation in Iraq, illustrates just how misleading it is to single out one act of violence and ignore all the others. Apparently, between 30 and 50 bodies are brought to Baghdad's main morgue every day, most of them with gunshot wounds. This is one morgue, in one city.

That statistic alone should give some small indication of the herrendous situation, one that is not adequately being reported. This is not from lack of trying, however. A recent article in the New York Review of Books painted a fairly disturbing picture of the risks journalists faced if they dared to venture outside the American controlled security compund known as the Green Zone in the centre of Baghdad. Orville Schell makes a poignant comparison of the relative freedom the press enjoyed in 2003, to the extremely limited and restricted environment many journalists now work in:

"In the summer of 2003, you could walk out of the Al Hamra and get a cab or even drive to Falluja for dinner, chill out, or go to a CD shop," I was told by the Los Angeles Times's Borzou Daragahi, whose bureau is in the Al Hamra. "Now, the AP won't even let its people leave the city."
"It's amazing now to think back to November 2003 when the insurgency was starting to gain momentum, and all we had were a few sandbags in front of our house and a few guards," Ed Wong, who is on his seventh rotation at the New York Times Baghdad bureau, later recalls. "Back then, you might have met a few angry people, but you didn't fear for your life. Then, things started to change. At first, a few civilians became targets, but not journalists. Then, in the spring of 2004, we started changing our security protocols, using two-car convoys and guards. It felt very weird. For the first time I confronted that barrier between me and the people I was supposed to be reporting on...

It may well be that the besieged American press in Iraq will find that the main story is not about Americans fighting Iraqi insurgents, but Americans standing powerlessly aside in their armed compounds, Green Zone, and military bases, watching as Iraqis kill other Iraqis and the country disintegrates. It would be all too ironic if this were the result of the invasion of March 2003, which was promoted as a critical step in bringing peace to the Middle East."

Democracy, freedom, liberation. These words increasingly have little real meaning in the face of so much suffering.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Face of Georgia

In an effort to lift the struggling state's profile, the Georgian Government has reportedly asked J-Lo to help them celebrate the state's Independence Day by travelling to the capital Tbilisi and taking part in the celebrations.

Apparently though, despite being offered $A658,000, J-Lo has refused, demanding a higher fee and "unrealistic" conditions.

In a country that usually only has a few hours of electricity a day (and that's on a really good day) one can only imagine what those conditions were.