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Thursday, 08 January 2009
A Critical Time


Even though the parties to the conflict seem to be starting to talk about the possibility of a truce, now is an extremely critical time. In the previous conflicts (e.g. Lebanon 2006) most bombings and killings took place in the final days before the ceasefire was agreed. In addition things are now so bad in Gaza that the UN suspended its aid operation, and the ICRC has highlighted that Israel is not meeting its obligations to civilians.

I therefore urge you to make a donation to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians) who are providing much-needed humanitarian support to the civilians who are caught up in this ghastly conflict.  For photos of what is going on, you can see Amir Farshad Ebrahimi’s photostream and Zoriah’s photostream (both are posting photos from Gaza onto the photo site Flickr).  Please also see my Pledge.

(The photo above is from: cactusbones (also Flickr).

Posted by bigblue on 08/01/2009 at 11:04 PM
Filed under: EuropeAsia PacMiddle East • (0) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Monday, 14 April 2008
A Photographic Review


1. Mind the Gap, 2. The Night Sky, 3. Pen-y-beacon, 4. Moss on the roof, 5. Jumeira Mosque, 6. Ossuaire de Douaumont, 7. Four sisters: May, 8. Elland Road, 9. minus 20, 10. Ratcliffe-upon-Soar power station, 11. Sunset in Stockholm

These are all some of the more “noteworthy” photographs on my now (almost defunct) Flickr account.

Posted by bigblue on 14/04/2008 at 07:47 AM
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Wednesday, 05 January 2005
Tsunami in Banda Aceh


Banda Aceh Northern Shore, 23 June 2004

Banda Aceh Northern Shore, 28 December 2004

The photos above were taken from the set of before-and-after images of the recent Asian Tsunami at Digital Globe.

The Guardian Special Report on the Tsunami has a useful sidebar of links.

Yesterday I received an email (dated 30 December 2004) with interesting information and links about the situation in Banda Aceh in Indonesia, and a call for assistance with actions and donations. I am enclosing it in its entirety although some of the figures are a bit dated. I have also cleaned up some of the links.

Aceh Emergency - Urgent Appeal
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

The people of Aceh are suffering the gravest catastrophe in their history in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, which struck on 26 December 2004.

The devastation and humanitarian crisis are unprecedented. The official death toll is currently 52,000. The final figure could be as high as 100,000. Tens of thousands are homeless and facing the prospect of killer diseases.

The disaster has been compounded by chaotic mismanagement by the Indonesian authorities and the legacy of decades of violent conflict. A war has been raging in the territory since the 1970s between the Indonesian military and the separatist Free Aceh Movement, GAM.

The Indonesian government’s response to the crisis has been slow, lacked coherence and demonstrated a reluctance, for political reasons associated with the conflict, to involve the international community. Currently just two helicopters have been deployed to assist with the immense relief and rehabilitation operation.

The government has severely restricted access to Aceh by international humanitarian organisations since the imposition of martial law in May 2003. Even now it is sending out mixed messages about the lifting of restrictions. Desperately-needed aid is being held up in Medan, North Sumatra.

Intimidation and violence against local NGOs by the security forces have incapacitated civil society and severely curtailed their ability to respond to the crisis.

It is essential that local and foreign organisations are allowed to operate freely in Aceh for an unlimited length of time. The role of the military must be restricted to humanitarian and reconstruction tasks. There must be no return to the oppressive military conditions which have caused so much suffering to the Acehnese and exacerbated the current crisis.

Rigorous steps must also be taken to ensure that corruption, which is an acknowledged problem in Aceh, is not allowed to dissipate the aid effort.

The needs of the Acehnese are now acute. Please do all you can to help them cope with this terrible tragedy.

TAPOL works with a number of grassroots humanitarian and human rights organisations in Aceh and is launching this appeal so that funds can be used by them to optimum effect where it is most needed by local people.

Suggested Action

Make a donation, however small, by one of the methods below:

Ask your government, through your member of parliament (preferably by phone with a follow-up letter or email), to press the Indonesian government:

·    To lift all restrictions on access to Aceh by international humanitarian organisations, aid workers and journalists;

·    To seek as much assistance as is necessary from the international community and allow aid to be delivered directly by international organisations;

·    To limit the military’s role to humanitarian and reconstruction tasks and permanently halt all other military activities in the province.

Details of UK MPs or telephone the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000

Payment Methods

·    Send a cheque payable to “TAPOL - Aceh Appeal” to TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK.

·    Make a deposit in the following bank account: “Tapol - Aceh Appeal”; Account no. 5157529; The Co-operative Bank; Sort code 08-92-99

·    Make an online donation

For more information, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or phone + 44 208 771 2904 or + 44 794 756 7449.

Thank you.

30 December 2004

Paul Barber
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign,
25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ
Tel/Fax: 01420 80153
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Internet: TAPOL
Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia, 1973-2004

Posted by bigblue on 05/01/2005 at 11:20 AM
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Friday, 12 December 2003
la aisselle

teppanyaki chef

Flank sent me the picture (above) of the Teppanyaki chef in Sydney “sniffing his armpit”. He took it at the restaurant where he, Lyam and Aaron went on the night of Aaron’s birthday. He wrote:

Well the teppanyaki chef we had was a little restrained.  He did a sort of “Tom Cruise” number with the pepper grinder, throwing it over his shoulder and catching it behind his back.  He wrote English messages to us upside-down and back-to-front on the grill using the salt pourer (starting with the full stop and progressing to the beginning of the sentence). He was pretty flash on the grill, but other than that did not involve us much. Much like I have seen at other teppanyakis in the past.  However the chef at the next table was a little more “in the face” of his diners.  One move was to play golf with the raw eggs he was about to cook with.  He cracked the eggs a little so that the stood up on end. then used his spatula to hit them into a bowl held by a diner on the other side of the table.  This had pretty impressive results.  He did this with everyone, and later used the eggs to cook with.  He also chopped at food that was being cooked so that it flew into bowls being held up, and also chopped food directly into the mouths of two of the diners.  The most adventurous I’ve had in the past is having to catch already filled bowls of food being thrown at you.

Talking about armpits, did you know that the armpit effect distinguishes kin from strangers?  Or that being exposed to the smell of a sweaty male armpit can make a woman feel calmer? Or that the armpit smells of elderly women can lift your spirits? Uplifting armpits then.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Disneyland Paris.

Posted by bigblue on 12/12/2003 at 10:33 PM
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Wednesday, 26 November 2003
Break a leg!

Aussie whine

The above picture is doing the email rounds this week.  It looks like it might be an advertisement for a bottle-store.

I had hoped to take a picture of the solitary demonstrator (at the company across the road) with his La Cantine a Denise banner, but he wasn’t there at lunchtime today. Apparently he is Denise’s husband, and is protesting about how she lost her job. The story is a bit vague, but she used to work in the canteen and then she was transferred to another section (or visa versa). Anyway she was then made redundant. He wasn’t there, so I couldn’t ask him for more details. Ash says he hopes Denise got her job back.

Today I was thinking about bluemeanie, whose school play Caberet opened tonight. She seemed in a good space this morning, but I didn’t manage to speak to her this evening. I will hear tomorrow morning how the opening night went. 

This evening a group of 10 us went to a restaurant in Strasbourg with a colleague who is visiting from Beijing. It was one of the better restaurants we have been to, called La Pont aux Chats (Cat’s Bridge). The ambiance and decore are decidedly feline. The restaurant is in an old timbered building, and the atmosphere is Alsacian. The portions aren’t - they are small.

Posted by bigblue on 26/11/2003 at 12:35 AM
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Friday, 21 November 2003
La Couleur du Mesonge


This is a photo that flank sent me from the France-USA match on 31 Oct 2003.  Of course France won that match, which is not much commiseration for losing the wooden spoon award to the All Blacks today.  However, at the time of blogging, Michalak is still the highest scoring player of the Rugby World Cup.  If Wilkinson lives long enough to score 6 points on Saturday, he will overtake him. Am I the only one to suspect that Jonny is Naas’ illegitimate son? (As I recall there was one).

Tonight I went to see the film La Coleur du Mesonge in Strasbourg starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Gary Sinese. It was a good film, and it reminded me of situations in South Africa, including some from my friend Sean’s book, Lost Communities, Living Memories.

To continue the musical theme from yesterday, I found this interesting website. You enter the lyrics of a song, and it will sing it for you, using words “culled” from existing recordings by famous stars. I have been listening to alternative renditions of famous Beatles songs.  Let them sing it for you, here.

Posted by bigblue on 21/11/2003 at 12:27 AM
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Tuesday, 28 October 2003
Le Voyage de Chihiro

Spirited Away

davidm emailed yesterday, recommending the latest film by the aclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. I had read some rave reviews of this film, and look forward to seeing it. This is what he had to say:

Spirited Away is a full-length animated film about a Japanese child who wanders into a kind of feudal Japanese world, populated by witches, creatures and animals. This is a very poor description but in short it was enchanting, engrossing and I would recommend it highly to anyone. I was worried it would be too scary for Holly and told her a number of times before and during that if (for example the sight of the parents getting turned into pigs was too scary for her, we could leave for the comparative safety of the foyer. In the event she was fascinated and loved every minute of the story. The main character is a girl of about her age or perhaps seven or eight, who struggles against odds and manages to pull through, mainly by reciprocal acts of kindness to the creatures she meets. The strength is in the storyline and action which never stops.

The themes were interesting since it differed from the common good-guy / baddy idea so often found in children?s movies, each creature or person had more than one layer of personality and acted on their own. Holly says she wants the DVD for her birthday, but it is only going to be released here in February. I might just order it from Amazon in the states, since they are not bound by greedy European marketing schemes and have it for sale already.

Note: While Spirited Away may not be available in the UK, and Chihiros Reise ins Zauberland ist noch nicht ver?ntlicht in Deutschland, Le Voyage de Chihiro is indeed already available in France.  The languages available on the DVD version are Japanese and French, with optional subtitles in English. I am not so sure whether that makes the French marketers of the film less greedy than the others wink

Posted by bigblue on 28/10/2003 at 12:19 PM
Filed under: Asia PacJapan • (2) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share
Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Samedi, il devient passionnant

Telstra Stadium

flank took this picture of the Telstra Stadium in Sydney (then known as “Stadium Australia”) on 29 June 2002, the night that Australia narrowly beat France.  This stadium is venue for a number of the RWC matches this month and next.

kirsten sent me a mail which suggested that what I need for this RWC is a bit of focus and suggesting that:

Saturday is going to be awesome, get yourself down to a pub to watch.  It is the most important pool game of the world cup.  Have a getaway planned though if things don’t go our way!!  I know what you mean about the easier games but they do provide some lovely running rugby when handling errors don’t get in the way.  The games against Samoa will be good and the other pools have some interesting games as well.  I am looking forward to watching Australia v Ireland the weekend after next (it is just after the SA v Samoa game).

That “getaway-strategy” sounds a bit ominous.  I had referred to the opening pool matches as the “mickey mouse” stage of the RWC, but kirsten has a point. The important action starts this Saturday, although I think the Ireland-Australia match will be a bit once sided - and only really exciting if you are there!  Today of course Fiji beat the USA 19-18, and that game was probably exciting, even if it was pretty irrelevant to the tournament as a whole.

The England vs South Africa match that kirsten mentioned kicks off at 20:00 local time, which is 13:00 UK time. Of course, as the match is being played in Perth, SA will have the home crowd advantage.

(kirsten and steve leave for Australia tomorrow).  Bon voyage!

Posted by bigblue on 15/10/2003 at 11:55 PM
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