Saturday, April 29, 2006



I wonder how many people have been following the Doonesbury cartoon of late. Unlike almost any other media today, and certainly unlike any other comic, Doonesbury is able to cover topics that defy the typical one panel, or four panel, treatment. From the early days, though the art is far more refined, Trudeau has always been able to strike that balance between relevant, self-contained strips, and a larger story arc, mostly sucked right from the headlines.

The current story line is no different. What strikes me more than his ability to hold a story arc, however, is the sensitivity with which the subject is always dealt. Sure, he has his detractors, people who would point to his skewering of Republican presidents from Nixon through the current Bush and say he can't be trusted to to report facts, who would point to his coverage of Vietnam and Gulf War I and II and say he can't be trusted to say important things. Generally, these are the same people he is skewering, and the same people sending soldiers to those places.

But the facts are in the strips, really. In a simple 4-panel strip, over the past few months, Trudeau has written the story of many soldiers, I think ... soldiers faced with decisions where there were no correct answers in the grand scheme of things, only answers where the degree of wrong was slightly less. It may not literally involve giving the order to gun your vehicle through a crowd to escape death, but soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are faced with similar choices every day, and theres no doubt, for me anyway, that some have faced that exact choice.

Trudeau may not tell the stories that people in power want told. Its not really surprising that the people who make policy don't like the sort of stories Trudeau tells. I'm no tsure thats important ... whats more important is whether its the stories from Vietnam in the 60's and 70's, the stories from Gulf I in the 90's, or the ones from Iraq today, there are probably a lot of soldiers out there who can identify with BD. I've never been there, so I can't say for sure ofc ... but from the outside looking in, it strikes me that while the power brokers may not identify well with Trudeau, I expect soldiers do just fine with BD.

The Praha Cross

The Praha Cross
Originally uploaded by Elron6900.
This is another photo from my trip to Prague in '05. This cross is embedded in the sidewalk outside the National Museum, at the top of Wenceslas Square. There was no plaque anywhere around I could see indicating an artist, and while there always seemed to be flowers there, after 7 days I never actually saw anyone leave any flowers. I snapped this shot from above, standing on the steps of the National Museum using a tripod and long exposure, after dark.

I left Prgaue unsure whether this was intended as public art, religious fervour, or some combination of the two. But regardless, i find myself drawn back to the picture time and time again.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Other Day

I dug this poem out of my files from the past. I'm pretty sure I haven't posted it before, but if I have, well, I was thinking about it again, so its worth reposting, LOL. Its a bit surreal ... I know that Samual Beckett was in my mind a bit when I wrote it. I also know the Joan Osborne song "One of Us" was an inspiration ... I remember the line "just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home" really sticking in my mind, and I remember wondering where else we might see God. Its also structured something like a song, though I'm not sure I have a tune in mind for it. I think that's where this scene really came from ... but don't ask me what it means. Your guess is as good as mine ... feel free to guess in the Comments, if you like *G*

The Other Day
by Lyle Bateman

the other day I saw god
sitting in the cafe
sunlight glinted through rain-speckled glass
as I listened to my brain hum (chorus)

he stared at me
over the wall street journal
his stale half donut
and coffee mist

a black suit
billowed off his shoulders
flowing down his arms
pooling at his feet


rat's-nest brown hair
over scored-leather forehead
his bloodshot eyes
gorged into a smile

he folded the paper
crisp corners under his arm
one last donut nibble
and two swigs of coffee


with a $2.00 tip
a smile and a nod
long strides crossed the checker-squares
out the swinging doors

all he said was
the coffee's good
but i wish they'd bake the donuts
fresh every day


Copyright 1996 Lyle W. Bateman - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 27, 2006

In Terror War, Not All Names Are Equal

In Terror War, Not All Names Are Equal
William Fisher

This was a fascinating piece, I thought, highlighting the different treatment received by charity groups vs commercial groups when accused of doing business with terrorist regimes. The real question, to me anyway, this article raises is why does Halliburton get to continue operating while under investigation for business with Iran, a state sponsor of terror, but charities who are accused of the same thing have their funds seized, and operations shut down.

It might be worth noting that OXFAM and similar charities may simply not be acceptable to true Muslim donators, and the reason for it is simple. OXFAM, or Save the Children, operate in the western world of Judeo-Christian values. As I've pointed out in posts before, one of the fundamental tenets of Islam is that usury is morally wrong ... charging interest, collecting interest, offering interest are all scripturally forbidden for a true Muslim. OXFAM and Save the Children, operating in the western, Christian world, almost certainly make use of interest bearing accounts to store donated funds, where as true Muslim charities like the Benevolence International Foundation would not. For Muslims to contribute to a charity which will use their funds in a morally unacceptable way is not a reasonable expectation. Contributing to OXFAM may very well be breaking a very sacred tenet of Islamic faith, by giving your money to someone who would then submit it to usury ... its unreasonable for us to expect Muslims to contribute through Christian, or Christian-based charities, especially when they can't guarantee upholding Muslim values.

I know some people may be thinking this is a small issue, and perhaps it is. There are lots of folks in the world who think the Catholic stand on birth control is small issue, and that a charity that does good work but also hands out condoms, for instance, would be an acceptable place for a Catholic to donate their funds. The Pope would vehemently disagree, saying that any charity which also hands out condoms is anti-Catholic, and Catholics should be very careful about contributing to any cause that makes such a mockery of a strongly-held belief. The Islamic prohibition on usury is just as strong as the Catholic issues with condoms, if not more so. Asking a Muslim to contribute to OXFAM is akin to expecting a Catholic to be happy with a charity that hands out condoms ... it is only our ethnocentric views that make us see it differently.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stonehenge at Sunset

Stonehenge at Sunset 01
Originally uploaded by Elron6900.
One of the unexpected side benefits of the job I currently have is the location of our 'branch offices.' Suffice to say, the UK branch of what I do is situated about 10 miles north of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. When I traveled to that site in 2003, I stayed in the village of Amesbury, about 5 miles south of Stonehenge. As a result, my daily commute from my hotel to the office involved driving within 100 meters of Stonehenge every morning.

I must admit, the 'coolness' of this was totally lost on the locals, lol. I think the guys I worked with thought I was a bit odd being so excited about my commute, but I suppose that's true no matter where you go ... what is a remarkable vacation photo to a stranger, is just some rocks in a field for people who drive past it every day of their lives.

Regardless, I made a point of getting off a bit early one day. It wasn't an equinox, or a solstice, so the placement of the setting sun isn't quite inline with the stones it should be, but I wanted to get a shot of Stonehenge in 'action' so to speak, doing that which it was designed to do, tell the time. I took a few different shots from roughly this angle as the sun set (and even one taken after the sun was down completely on my Flickr page too) and I think this ended up being the best one.

Hope everyone enjoys it ... for the record, its Nov 26th, 2003.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Photos of Coffins ...

In my last post (The Half-Staff issue ...), there was a line in the quote from my friend that alluded to "GW banning coffin photographs." This, of course, referred to the American policy of keeping the media away from planes which carry the remains of soldiers back to the country. Especially sensitive are images of the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers. In a similar move, Canada has done much the same thing.

There is the typical complaint from media about the ban being heavy handed by the government, and it is ... there's no real denying that, and Harper doesn't even try, lol. What I find more interesting is that few people are asking why there are bodies flying back to Canada in the first place?

This isn't a criticism of the policy of Afghanistan, its another lecture on protocol. If you travel the countries of Western Europe ... Belgium, Holland, France ... every so often you stumble across a cemetery of Canadian (or some other nationality's) war dead. There are simple white crosses usually, meticulously tended usually ... one such cemetary in Belgium likely contains the remains of Lietenant Colonel John McCrae MD, the Canadian medic who wrote In Flanders Fields, before being killed in action a few days later, only miles from the poppy covered graveyard he wrote about.

The US has a long tradition of bringing every soldier home, even the dead ones, and there is honour in that. But Canada has a long history of burying fallen soldiers essentially where they fall, and there is just as much honour in that. I'm not sure when Canada made the change ... when we decided that we should bring home the bodies of our fallen soldiers. I certainly don't want to criticize returning the remains of sons and daughters to their families. But at the end of the day, I can't help but mourn a former tradition. In today's military, Lt Col John McCrae has no field of tiny white crosses to ponder, poppies waving in the wind, in those few stolen seconds before he races off to a death too early. I can't help but mourn that as a loss.

The Half-Staff issue ...

Recently, a controversy has erupted in Canada over a perceived change in tradition, a change which now dictates that the flag on the Peace Tower, above the Parliament Buildings, fly at half-staff whenever a Canadian soldier is killed in combat. When Canadian PM Stephen Harper clarified this issue last week, he started a wave of criticism from many quarters (not least from partisan opponents in Commons, of course). While Harper has done many things to generate criticism, this is actually one of his better decisions, IMO.

I've been having a bit of an argument with a friend on this issue ... I responded that I felt in a time of war, flying the flag at half-staff could become a continual thing. Having the main building for Canada's government continually in an official state of mourning sent the wrong message to Canada and the world, I argued. She replied with some very strong arguments, which I quote below.

-but thats the point isnt it??? Flying the flag half mast means that
someone who is over ~somewhere~ protecting our supposed freedom has
died.....dont we owe them a half mast flag at the very least??
If its never raised....well...personally i think thats important..and
telling. Worrying about it never being raised is kinda like sticking
your head in the sand about the reality of the situation isnt it?
No offense...but who cares in that case if sensibilities are being
offended? The reality is...someone lost a son (or daughter).
How different is it than GW banning coffin photographs?
if we are at war
then so be it. The whole country should be at war and recognize
it...not "pop" into it every now and then when the mood strikes during
quick blip news coverage. If we are at war then the entire grim
reality should be in our faces 24/7 and acknowledge the sacrifices
that these people are making for us. Hell...the flag ~should~ be at
half mast during hte entire war and not raised until its over imo.
I have to admit, I tend to agree with her. This IS something we should take seriously, and we should be acknowledging the sacrifices made by all soldiers, especially those who end up paying the supreme price. But its important to look at this issue in a historic perspective, and not get caught up in the emotions of today. Licia Corbella had an excellent editorial in the Calgary Sun today, Feds should fly flag high through conflict , that helped bring some perspective to the issue, for me anyway.

In it, she discussed the history of lowering the flag on the Peace Tower. Prior to the 1990's, the protocol was that the flag was never lowered for overseas deaths, but was lowered to half-staff once a year to honour all of Canada's war dead, from today and yesterday, and those who might sacrifice tomorrow as well. Through WW I, WW II, Korea, through peace keeping duties in the Golan and in Cyprus, Canada honoured its fallen soldiers by lowering the flag on the Peace Tower once a year, at 11:11, on the 11th day of the 11 month.

In 2002, when four soldiers died by friendly-fire in Afghanistan, Jean Chretien broke with THAT tradition to lower the flag. Harper is being criticized for trying to bring Canada back to a tradition that has extended for most of Canada's military history.

There is one more bit of trivia, or perspective, that Ms. Corbella gives, one that I hadn't realized before. It really does put the flag issue into perspective, for me anyway. If Canada must honour its fallen soldiers by lowering the flag on the Peace Tower, the price for that is steep. To be fair, all of Canada's fallen soldiers would have to be mourned that way ... one of the points of the Rememberance Day lowering is that all soldiers, from WWI to Afghanistan, from Private to General, are honoured equally.

If Canada had this tradition from its beginning, when we went into WWI, we would have started lowering the flag with our first casualty. Canada has lost some 103000 soldiers, just in the two 'Great Wars' alone. At one day per soldier, PM Robert Borden would have lowered the flag to half staff in 1914, and it would have remained at half staff for the next 282 years ... or well past today.

The fair way to honour the Canadian soldiers that fall overseas is by observing the Rememberance Day ceremony. On the at 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month, it makes good sense to lower the flag on the Peace Tower, and silently thank all those who have given their lives, and who will give their lives. That is the appropriate time to do it for all soldiers. It honours them all equally, without political purpose, and it does so at a historically significant time. In this case, I think PM Harper is restoring some dignity and tradition to the process of honouring our war dead.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A History of Violence? With apologies to recent Hollywood fare ...

[corp-focus] Overthrow
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

The premise of this article is at the same time fascinating and not 'news' at all. I've talked about the history of Iran before, and the quote at the end of this bit is telling on this ...

President Bush says he's trying to bring democracy to Iran.
In fact, Iranians had democracy once. And we crushed it.
Thats the plain truth of the matter, and the revolution of 1979, and the current aftermath of that revolution, is a direct result of the Mossadegh overthrow. There are decades between them, but the bead of causality it straight and true, apparent for all to see.

What I find most compelling about Kinzer though is that he seems to take on the 'domino' arguments head on. Dominoes only fall when they are properly arranged, and Kinzer points out that Mossadegh was virulently anti-communist, and Allende was kept at arms length. As for the spread of Islamic fanaticism, through the overthrow of Mossadegh, through the support of the Mujeheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980's, to the continual propping up of the House of Saud and the 'status quo' in the Middle East, the US has fuelled that rise as much as they have opposed it.

Fascinating interview

The Cutting Room:
George's interview with
Col. Bogdanos (uncut)
24/04/06 runs 17:52
VideoWatch Video

Coming Soon, from
CBC Worldwide:
Robbing the Cradle of Civilization

This was a fascinating bit on one of the people who has been looking for the stolen antiquities from the early days in Iraq. This fellow, Col. Bogdanos, has spent a fair bit of time looking for the stolen stuff, and what I found interesting about this interview was how frank he was about the operation.

I do wonder, though, if we'd look differently at the war and coverage if we still used ancient names. It comes home in a story like this ... they can SAY Baghdad all they like, but the reality is that its Babylon that was shelled, invaded, looted, and now occupied. Perhaps using the modern name Baghdad makes it seem easier, or different, but Babylon is one of the most ancient cities in not just our history, but in all of history. There are Indian sites, and Asian sites, but Babylon represents a true birthplace of the modern urban culture. I just think, sometimes, we forget where we are. Seeing a report like this, about artifacts from the 8th century BC being stolen, it drives home that we really are pissing in the original sandbox here. It doesn't get too much more original than Babylon folks.

Cross and Crescent

A Church and the Crescent Moon
Originally uploaded by Elron6900.
This is a shot I took a few years back herein Medicine Hat. It was shortly after I moved to the city, and I was living in a horrible little place with no AC. It wasn't even a one bedroom apartment ... just a bachelor suite ... but it did have a balconey. Even though it was 35C that summer, it was more pleasant on the balconey than in the apartment.

About the only redeeming thing about the place was the view. Across the street was the main Cathedral for Medicine Hat, and while that wasn't always welcome early Sunday morning with bells, it gave many chances for pictures. This is the best one, IMO, especially in today's political climate. I like the justaposition of the Crescent Moon and Cross imagery.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The curvey building in Prague

This is one of the pics I took in Prague. I was browsing through Flickr today, and I saw someone else had a similar pic, of the same building in Prague, and it made me wonder just how many versions of this picture there are out there in the world?

There's no doubt its a distinctive building, and around the world, in nearly every city, there are other similar buildings or views or vistas that are 'must-take' photos. I doubt many visitors to Prague walk past this building without snapping a picture and it would be curious to see all the different perspectives on it. Anyway, the picture I've linked to above showed up in an 'interesting' browse in Flickr ... so I figured if his was interesting to 'the team at Flickr Labs' mine might be interesting to folks here :).i