Monday, March 31, 2003

A great new blog

Go read this blog. I love it!

Popular Culture & Peace

Instapundit has linked to a great post on Quare.

The entry discusses the concept of "World Peace through shared popular culture" a tagline of a US distributor of Japanese cartoons. I really like this idea - it fits well with the old axiom that 'no two nations with McDonalds restaurants have ever gone to war'.

This reminds me of why I believe that they EU will not succeed as a cohesive political unit for a long time to come - beyond the blindingly clear fact that France and Germany seem to believe that the EU was created purely to give them control over the continent without having to fire a shot. I believe a real problem for the EU is a lack of a common European popular culture.

I took some classes at the London School of Economics in the mid 90s. I really enjoyed my class on the development of the European Union. As the only American in the class I often disagreed with my fellow students (who were all European). One discussion in particular springs to mind - I was trying to explain that in the US we have a society rife with members who move from coast to coast depending on the financial opportunities. I believe that what best enables that is the commonalities of our culture in all 50 states. I argued that until there was a common literature and popular culture crossing borders in the EU it does not matter that there are common passports or a common currency. If moving from Copenhagen to Lyons feels more like moving between countries than between states the economic advantages of moving will be muted by the cultural disadvantages.

The example I often used was the fact that virtually every person raised in the US read 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' as a student and at the same time most every person (for better or worse) knows the words to theme song of TVs 'Brady Bunch'. These shared experiences bind us as a nation and also provide us with a common vocabulary of experiences.

As far as I can tell the Eurovision song contest is not enough to bind together the disparate peoples of Europe. The best common popular culture that they share is imported from the US. For example - not long ago in London I was struck by the McDonalds ads in the Underground. Each one had a picture of a McDonalds food with the phrase "A taste of home" in one of many languages. That is what US culture has become - 'home' for people in many countries around the world. Crossing borders the shared experiences of many peoples include eating McDonalds and watching Friends.

I believe that this shared popular culture can only help us to understand each other in the future - I will go along with the idealistic goals of "World Peace through shared popular culture".

The Essayist

Bill Whittle has posted a new essay on his site - "History".

Please take a moment and read the whole thing. Bill has a first class mind and is a very talented writer.

All of the essays he has posted on his site are worthy of your time. In the last couple of hours I re-read several of the essays and am not ashamed to admit that tears are still running down my cheeks. Bill writes about the America I want to live in - a nation of men changing the world for the better.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

The Still Image

This war is entering all of our homes through our televisions. The moving images that we see are not only emotionally moving but physically 'moving pictures'.

What suprises me is the fact that I find myself drawn to and most moved by the still images that I see.

These still image gives the mind and heart time to take in the details. From the fact that a young US soldier is handing out M&Ms to the weariness and commitment in the eyes of a Marine during battle.

Perhaps my distrust of all the video footage of this war is a result of having seen one to many movies. The footage has a certain sense of unreality - almost as though it is another movie. Things happen so fast and we are only watching through one small lens in a video camera - it is hard to get a sense of scale or of what is actually happening. Yet at the same time the video seems to claim that it is telling the whole story - like in a movie.

Still images do not try to tell the whole story. They are giving you only the briefest of glimpses in to what happened and how. Yet because they freeze time we have the ability to reflect on and investigate what these images have captured.

I feel somehow connected to the person behind the still camera. Perhaps it is because I love photography so much and perhaps it is because I have developed and printed my own pictures. For whatever reason I think that virtually every person feels that connection. We have all at some time in our life put a camera up to our eyes and captured a moment in time.

Decades from now there will be images that we will all indelibly connect to this war. I know that for me they will be still images - even if this is a video war.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Oprah clearly does not get it

So today when hundreds of thousands of brave military men and women are risking their lives in a vicious war… Oprah does a show on – media covering the war!

I just do not understand what Oprah’s producers were thinking. I understand that the embedded reporters are in danger but they are not in nearly the danger of the actual fighting men and women.

As a part of the show Oprah is interviewing the wife of one of the journalists. I am sorry but I just don’t feel for the woman all that much. She gets to see her husband on TV every day and be assured that he is safe. She and her husband speak on the phone fairly regularly. These are luxuries that the average military spouse could only dream of.

Why not do shows on the sacrifice of the spouses of the deployed military? Perhaps with suggestions of how their friends and neighbors can help them out. I know that many people are looking for ways to help the military – and often the best way is to help the loved ones they left behind.

Oprah presented this show on top of the fact that she has had 2 shows this year with Michael Moore spewing his lies and misrepresentations. If she keeps this up she might not stay Americas favorite living room guest – I know she is less and less welcome in my home.

Sorry about that

Sorry to not post in the last couple of days.

I have posted on The Command Post (why aren't you there now?) when I have posted anything at all.

Trying to live on Baghdad time here in the midwest finally caught up with me and I finally just about collapsed.

I have no idea how the Marines fighting can possibly keep going - just watching them and I am exhausted. God Bless them and keep them safe.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I was not angry…

The New York Times reports “Some of the Army mechanics captured on Sunday after they took a wrong turn in the Iraqi town of Nasiriya were apparently executed by their captors, probably in front of townspeople, American officials charged tonight.”

I cannot describe my fury at this news so I will fall back upon the words of Shakespeare.

During the battle of Agincourt in the play Henry V the luggage boys are murdered by the French. An act which is described thusly "'tis expressly against the law of arms: 'tis as arrant a piece of knavery, mark you now, as can be offer't" A description that holds for the actions described in the NYT article.

What best describes my response to the news is the words of King Henry upon his discovery of the act

I was not angry since I came to France
Until this instant. Take a trumpet, herald;
Ride thou unto the horsemen on yon hill:
If they will fight with us, bid them come down,
Or void the field; they do offend our sight:
If they'll do neither, we will come to them,
And make them skirr away, as swift as stones
Enforced from the old Assyrian slings:
Besides, we'll cut the throats of those we have,
And not a man of them that we shall take
Shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.
--Henry V act 5 scene 7

If the story of the public execution of POWs is proven may the treacherous Iraqis who killed helpless POWs receive the swift justice they so richly deserve.

Flipper is on our side

Fox news reports that the US Navy has brought specially trained dolphins to help de-mine the waters surrounding Iraq.

This proves two things conclusively…

Firstly, that our 'coalition of the willing' is now so large it crosses the boundary between species.

Secondly, the dolphins joining our coalition is definitive proof that dolphins are smarter than the French.

Friendly Advice

For the best round up of updated reports on the war check out the Command Post.

I am a contributor there and that will likely diminish my posts here. The Command Post is news links and updates. I will continue to write an essay or two daily here on Geographica but the bulk of my links to news of the day will be at the Command Post.

Have I mentioned that you should all be reading the Command Post? You should. Often.

Turning night into day

The result of the live news coverage of the war is that I cannot sleep. Not because I am worried about what is happening in the war, I am confident in our forces, but rather because I am starting to live on Iraq time.

I find the coverage very compelling and personally much prefer the coverage during the Iraqi day – when things are actually happening. What is shown during the Iraqi night is distant bombings in Baghdad as talking heads try to make sense of things. That is just not as appealing to me.

Particularly amazing to me about the coverage overnight here in the US is when members of the armed services are interviewed in the field live. Without fail these young men are polite, smart and determined. They are my heroes.

Even though the media spun themselves into a tizzy in the last couple of days that we are somehow lost the war what I see is different. The men who we see working with the embedded journalists don’t appear to be able to lose anything. I have the utmost faith in them and wish that I could adequately convey how very proud of them I am.

It is almost as though I feel that even though I cannot personally thank all of the soldiers I must watch them. I can’t explain it – somehow I feel as though by watching them I am somehow supporting these brave men and women. That is why I have ended up turning my US nights into Iraqi days.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Is that unbiased?

ABCnews is presenting a special report this evening on Iraq.

To be completely unbiased and only present the facts ABC started with the words of the young son of a Serviceman.

So very unfair to show this boy who looked to be 8 or 9 as he said "I am angry at my dad for leaving us". Of course - he is to young to understand that his father is doing a great thing on his sons behalf.

Note to news media - don't use innocent children to further your cause.

I wish that I could write like that

I could not gather my thoughts for an adequate response to the Oscars.

Lucky for me - Rachel Lucas has posted the definative essay on the subject of last nights Oscars.

Go read it all!

How weird was that?

Saddam just finished his speech – it leaves me with some questions – How weird was it that…

He did not mention the fact that the Iraqis had any POWs?

He did not clearly state that he was not injured?

He did not mention the bombing of palaces?

He did not mention the fact that he survived the first nights bombing?

He did not mention how close the coalition is to Baghdad?

He did not mention the losses on the Coalition side?

He did not mention the grenade attack at the commanders in Kuwait?

Motion sickness

I am watching Saddam speak in his ‘historic’ (more like historical) speech. I wonder if this really works to convince the Iraqis? So far all that this speech has inspired in me is motion sickness. The edits are very annoying. While the translation is obviously not synched accurately it seems that the edits are a transparent attempt to cobble together a speech that applies to the situation today from something that he likely recorded a week ago.

I understand that something is lost in the translation. However, I can watch Hitler’s speeches without knowing a word of German and still see that he was a compelling speaker.

Saddam is just babbling away – there appears to be no fire or emotion – particularly considering the fact that his nation is under attack and he is supposed to be rallying his troops to fight.

We can only hope that the Iraqis can see through this falsified tape.
Sorry about that

I took the weekend off from my blog. I just couldn’t stand to write anything as I was simultaneously watching news and reading everything I could find.

Sunday I knew that if I wrote anything it would be over the edge.

I am radiant with anger at both the waste of skin that attacked his leaders in their tents. Hanging him is a waste of rope. I hope that he gets a court martial that results in al lifetime of hard labor and the hatred of his fellow prisoners.

Incandescent with rage is how I felt when I first heard about the videos of the US POWs. We must retrieve them quickly and safely and find the war criminals that created the video of the prisoners. Following our control of Iraq it is time for some good old-fashioned war crimes tribunals. No need for an ICC – we can use the “Judgment at Nuremberg” template.

Friday, March 21, 2003

At least I taped it

I missed watching the fabled “Shock and Awe” because I had to go to my Friday afternoon class. The class is entitled ‘Narrative Image’ and this afternoon we discussed the difference between images that are documenting and those that are documentary.

What I found to be striking was the fact that the professor did not bring up what I feel are the most stunning images to come to us in since 9/11 - those that are being taken by the embedded reporters in Iraq.

Finally, I brought the topic up – commenting that I found these pictures to be intensely narrative in quality. I believe that these images are blurring the line between documenting what is happening while at the same time creating a massive documentary of the war that we are watching at this very moment. The professor looked at me blankly and then changed the topic.

I don’t know what to make of that. I know that he and I are from opposite sides of the political spectrum but it seems ridiculous for him to ignore the images that the world is watching.

I have a feeling that many liberal professors are doing their best to ignore a lot of images that we are starting to receive… Images of US soldiers handing out chocolate to young Iraqi boys, the images of Iraqis embracing their liberators and the images of Iraqis dancing in the streets in thanks for their deliverance from the evil that is Saddam Hussein.

I will not be ignoring these images, nor will I ever forget them. I hope you won't either.

Art of War

A very cool site - a collection of leaflets dropped on Iraq.

I found this at The Command Post.
Hats off to the bloggers there - they are creating a great document of the war from the perspective of the homefront on a minute by minute basis.

No suprise

Salam Pax has updated his blog.

Salam is watching Iraqi news and one quote says it all "This leaves two channels: Iraq TV and Shabab (youth) TV. They are still full of patriotic songs and useless “news”, they love the French here."

This blog is ostensibly written from Baghdad. I read it witha large grain of salt - however, it does seem very real. True or not, it is always good reading - check it out.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

What do they think this will accomplish?

Protestors have now shut down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

What is this supposed to accomplish? So far all it has accomplished is that two anti-war friends of mine called me from the ensuing traffic jam to tell me that they now agree with me.
I can't keep up

I am not going to try to keep up with the constantly changing stories.

My time has been spent at The Command Post. I would suggest that you watch the updates there too. New posts are being added constantly.

One particularly great post linked to this great collection of maps of Iraq. They cover just about every variety of information you could ask for. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Some French are fighting…(on the wrong side)

Driving home yesterday I listened to NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’. I nearly drove into a tree when the following statement was made

Journalists were taken outside Baghdad to see a group of Muslim fighters from FRANCE, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya.

This was followed with a quote from a young man who claims that they plan to blow themselves up following the ‘Palestinian method’.

Perhaps this has been covered elsewhere but this is the first I have heard of it.

You can hear it for yourself at Baghdad Rejects Bush Demand the key quote is at 2:40.

Beware – bad maps are coming

We will all be exposed to a lot of maps in the coming days - some good, some bad.

In a time of crisis media outlets rush to produce maps to illustrate what is happening in the war. Some news outlets will have huge maps on the floor of a studio somewhere that commentators will walk around on top of like giants. I even noticed the other night that ABC news had some sort of computer-generated map that enables the camera to ‘fly’ over Iraq

As I see it there are three ways that a good map can go bad –

To much information. A great temptation when making a map is to put every bit of available information on the same image. The resulting information overload makes it glean any relevant information from the map.

News producers should determine what the commentator is discussing and find a
map that fits the topic. When a map includes cities, town, waterways, roadways, ethnic concentrations, allied forces, Iraqi forces etc. all on one image it is virtually impossible to sift out the appropriate information.

The wrong information. There are many things that can be shown on a map. The key is for the correct information to be expressed on a map at the right time.

I recently saw on the local news a map that showed the waterways of Iraq but no roads. This would be fine if the topic at hand was invading Iraq by rowboat. However, at that moment the commentator was discussing the potential plan for the allied forces to gain control of the main highway that runs north to Baghdad. As far as the viewers could tell no such highway exists. Hopefully, in the coming weeks news producers will make the effort to select the appropriate map for the point that is being made.

Forgetting the purpose of the map. This happens when the mapmakers are so very proud of the technology they have created that they forget to use it in service of the goal of a map – to rapidly communicate information.

The worst example of this that I have seen was on ABC. On Monday evening Peter Jennings demonstrated a ‘new map’ that gives the impression that a camera is ‘flying’ over Iraq. It is very cool technology and perhaps they will be able to use it effectively in the future. Unfortunately the first time out it was a disaster. The camera zoomed in on the wrong sections and was inevitably about 20 seconds behind whatever Peter Jennings was referring to. One can hope that Peter and his team takes a few minutes to practice using the map before it comes into heavy rotation.

When I see a bad map on TV it is time to change the channel. Hopefully news producers will take the time to use the right map at the right time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I think I am in love....

Tony Blair just may usurp Rummy in my affections.

I just read the full text of Tony Blair's speech to the house of Commons in support of war.

This was stirring - phonomonal - I actually teared up. Read it all and you will be a better person for it.
Stop using that word!

What word you ask?


For the love of God - our ‘coalition of the willing’ now has 30 members.

Only in the UK

I just came across this story on the BBC.

What is striking about this to me is the fact that in the UK law abiding citizens have virtually no right to own a gun.

With that in mind – how is it possible that there could be a drive by shooting?

Perhaps criminals have guns in violation of the UK laws?

The mind boggles at the possibility that criminals would break the law.


The weapons inspectors have left Iraq.

I am somewhat surprised that Saddam Hussein actually let them go.

It almost worries me that he has not taken any hostages yet - it seems that he has forgotten his lines in this old play.

Did you not see it coming?

According to this article the French presidency has released a statement in reply to President Bushes speech. There are no surprises.

Firstly the French have claimed that the issuing of an ultimatum is a “Unilateral decision”. Only because the obstructionist French made darn sure that the Security Council imploded.

A second statement was that the ultimatum was “Contrary to the will of the UN Security Council”. Only because the obstructionist French used the Security Council to promote the French goals alone. The French presidential administration has succeeded in confusing the difference between the ‘will of the Security council’ with the ‘will of the French’.

I cannot imagine why France imagines that anyone in the world cares what they say about this anymore. In their single-handed destruction of the UN they have officially made themselves irrelevant in world affairs.

Here’s an idea

Why not resolve all international disagreements this way.

Perhaps this should be a new plank in the ‘anti-war’ platform. Thus far no peacenik that I have debated with on Iraq has ever given an alternative to war. At this point I am desperate for any suggestion – no matter how ridiculous.

Right back at ya

I received a copy of 'A Grateful Briton' as a forwarded e-mail. I loved it so much that I found this link to share.

My favorite section
I, James Black, a man who simply wants his children to live in a future where all good and constructive things are possible, a future where we can discover, invent, enjoy, without fear of fanatics or madmen or the weapons and pain they may wreak, pledge my assistance to the United States in its fight against evil.
This is not brainwashed verse, but based on the honorable history and proven friendship the United States has with Europe.

I know nothing about James Black, but I am glad of his support and that of his nation. Reading an article like this makes up for a lot and reminds me of why I love the UK so much.

Read it all as they say.

Now I am convinced


What exactly were these ‘protestors’ trying to accomplish? Did they think wanton destruction will make me agree with them?

As far as I am concerned these idiots have accomplished the exact opposite of their goal. If going to war will stop them from being destructive idiots then all the more reason to fight.

This is another classic case of people destroying a thing of beauty that they could never create. This story is not unlike when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas.

Memo to ‘Peace Activists’ - Destruction is never a good way to make your point.

Thanks to Tim Blair (My hero) for the link.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Tick, Tock; Tick, Tock

Kofi Annan has announced that he has ordered the withdrawal of all UN staff. Evidently the UN invulnerability cloak had been sent out for cleaning.

I suggested on Michele’s site that this was the first step in the move to war. There is a great thread on her site where everyone is putting in their 2 cents on what they believe will happen.

Take a minute to read what others have predicted and put in what you think will be happening. Everyone’s suggestions are really interesting.

I am exhausted with anticipation and nerves. The weather is lovely here (finally) and I plan on dealing with my nervous tension about the world by going for a long bike ride.

It is doubtful that I will get another opportunity for a long bike ride. I am fairly certain that we will all spend the next couple of days in full news obsession mode.

Please remember our troops and their families here at home in your thoughts and prayers – it looks like they will need all the prayers they can get.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Time for the undo

President Chirac of France has announced on 60 minutes that he would be willing to accept a 30 day deadline for Saddam to disarm.

Clearly Chirac’s advisors have told him that 30 days is about how long it will take the Iraqis to remove the "Made in France" stickers from their weapons and spare parts.

I think that Chirac has taken far to long to come around to this point. I believe in Steven den Beste’s argument that the only explanation for the French delays to this point is a terrible collusion between the French and Iraq.

Past Made Present

I just spent a happy couple of hours at an awesome site that I found throughThe Ulitmate Insult. The site is filled with the kind of photographs that I wish I could take. They are moody black and white images that bridge the gap between then and now. Check out abandoned places.
Discomforting news

The BBC reports that the general best known for gassing the Kurds has been put in charge of the southern region of Iraq. His job is to stop any southern invasion into Iraq.

Putting this “General” in the same area that the bulk of allied forces are massed is tantamount to a threat. This man is a mass murderer who only knows how to fight using the dirty pool of poison gas attacks.

One can only hope that he is killed in the first barrage of missiles. A death that ‘Chemical Ali’ has cheated for far to long.

A Special Place in Hell

There have been increasing reports of “Peace activists” protesting outside of US military bases. I find this striking as in the beginning of the action against the possible war virtually every activist said that they were opposed to the war but supported the troops. Their actions have proven otherwise.

Andrew Sullivan linked to an article in Salon that was particularly disturbing. Here is the most striking section:

”Lumsdaine, the Military Globalization Project coordinator, is a 48-year-old who has been arrested at Vandenberg twice. He describes the base as "the electronic nerve center of the global-surveillance-targeting, weapons-guidance, and military-command satellites that will largely direct the war." The base is 99,000 square acres, with a perimeter running through rugged, wooded terrain. "If people are committed and determined and in halfway decent physical shape, it is possible to get in, because it's enormous and much of the land is still fairly wild," he says.

Within the base, Lumsdaine says, are "major off-limits security zones," that, when breached, "set off a series of responses in their own security procedures which require disruption and partial shut down of regular activities," which means the base can't operate at full capacity.

Other kinds of interference are also expected. "There's the possibility of people blockading roads and bridges inside Vandenberg and chaining themselves to gates," Lumsdaine says. "There are ways in which people can put small objects, aluminum foil or Mylar balloons in front of equipment to nonviolently get in the way of electronic telecommunications systems where they transmit attack orders or targeting data to Tommy Franks and his assault forces. We are not organizing people to disable equipment, but that potential exists. I can certainly say I as an individual do not oppose the disabling of equipment which is being used to conduct mass killing on the other side of the world."

These people think that it is acceptable to shut down the “electric nerve center” of the US military. No consideration is given for the added danger that this action will put the men and women of the military in.

Why is it that protestors seem to think that if their actions are ‘non-violent’ they are acceptable? The protestors do not understand is that their non-violent actions could lead to the very violent deaths of allied forces.

There is some good news on this topic, Sgt. Stryker linked to this storyVandenberg AFB authorizes ‘deadly force’ against trespassing protestors. The best part of this article is the quote from Maj. Stacee Bako “This is not fun and games anymore, We're living in post 9/11. We don't know what's going to happen with the war effort in Iraq. These folks have got to realize their actions. ... They're illegal intruders.'' One can only hope that these ‘illegal intruders’ is met by John Strykers’s friend while he is carrying a breaker bar.

What really gets me about protests at military bases is that the men and women who live and work on these bases have NO control over our national policy. They are doing their jobs – protecting the protestor’s freedom of speech.

The worst possible situation is that these protestors are closing down access to these bases. Imagine this – Your husband has been deployed to a very dangerous part of the world. You have no idea when he will be coming home let alone when you will be hearing from him again. Suddenly you have been thrust into the life of single mother and then you have to explain to your four year old that he can’t go home for a nap because protestors have shut off access to your base.

It is unacceptable that these ‘peace protestors’ will make a difficult situation more difficult for the men and women in uniform and their families. There are members of the peace movement who are acting out of deeply held beliefs. It is vitally important that they repudiate the actions of the extremists who are acting more as saboteurs than as men of conscience. If these saboteurs do succeed - they will have purchased what my high school theology teacher (Sr. Bud) called a 'special place in hell'.

What happened to the claims that while those in the peace movement opposed the war they would ‘support the troops’? I am hoping that claim was not a lie – but I worry that it was.

BBC – Informative and Insulting

I cannot decide what infuriates me most about this article on the BBC website.

The quote that put me over the edge is “Americans will talk of praying as if it were the most normal, rational thing to do.” Perhaps because if you believe in God then IT IS. As the article points out - 86% of Americans believe in heaven ergo - praying is a fairly normal activity to participate in here in the US. Also – if you are a person of faith it is a rational action within your worldview.

The BBC seems to make every effort to be condescending to Americans and any person of faith in this article. I understand that if you do not believe in God then living in a nation of believers may seem strange - but that is no defence for insulting believers.

Regardless of my beliefs I do know that mocking others for their beliefs is WRONG. Did Justin Webb’s parents neglect to teach him this basic lesson?
Meat is for more than just dinner

As a farewell to “Eat an animal for PETA day” I suggest that you check out this website.

This is one of those sites that I look at whenever I need to laugh. I hope that it makes you laugh too.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Oblivious Alert

Via Steven I found this article.

Long story short – reporters are shocked that they are not given every piece of militarily sensitive information they want.

Did they think that once they were ‘embedded’ with the troops our military would lose the healthy sense secrecy that they need to complete their mission?
Do these reporters believe that whining in an article is going to do anything but lower respect for the media?

Memo to members of the media – We don’t want to know everything. Far greater than our thirst for knowledge is our desire to have our brave men and women in uniform return home safely.

People Eating Tasty Animals

Mery Yourish has created a new reason to ‘beware the Ides of March’ (at least for some).

It is “Eat an Animal for PETA day”. She is a genius!

Following my meat free Friday (to cleanse my pallet) I plan on eating as many tasty animals as possible. I hope that you do the same.

Check out A Small Victory for great photoshopped posters in support of the cause and a running tally of meats consumed by Michele. Thanks to here I found out about this great American holiday.

"Start with the French"

In university I took a course called ‘International Order’. This was a basic international relations class. The class size was fairly large for the school I went to – about 30 students.

We were there for a variety of reasons. I was a poli-sci major with deep interests in international politics and loved the subject. However, many took the class just to fulfill a liberal arts requirement of some sort.

My friend Bundi was just such an unmotivated student. She would sit behind me in class and we would pass notes or comment on the class in general. I was bored by the rudimentary nature of the class and she was bored because she had no interest in it.

What amused us both was the presence of a French transfer student in the class. This girl must have been doing some version of a ‘Jr. year abroad’. Unfortunately I may have ruined her experience.

The French girl would always sit in the front of the class and share with us the reasons that America was to blame for every problem in the world. Virtually every time 'Frenchie' would open her mouth Bundi would lean over to me a say “Start with the French”.

I would then start a counter argument blaming all the worlds problems on the French. It was fun – for me France bashing is not a new hobby; rather it is a re-discovered pastime.

In honor of my friend Bundi I have entitled the French section of my blogroll ‘Start with the French’. She has no idea how prescient her little saying was.

Help out a fellow fan of Maps!

Sean-Paul of The Agonist likes maps (and has posted a bunch of them). That makes him an OK guy in my book.

Unfortunately he lost a grant he needed to complete the Silk Road project. In order to complete this long planned for trip he is asking blogdom to help him out by donating to his project.

This project sounds very cool. He will be traveling from Istanbul overland to Beijing. This will give him source material for a book and his master’s thesis.

I am personally very jealous of him. I planned a complete overland trip through the same region. Unfortunately, as a woman who travels alone some regions of the world are simply off-limits to me – the region he will be traveling through included.

I would love to be able to read Sean-Paul’s blog as he makes this dream trip. Hopefully enough of us in blogdom can help him out. I believe that this is a worthy cause – check it out.

Discovered via Oxblog

Friday, March 14, 2003

I feel the love!

Tim Blair rocks - he linked to me again. Evidently he was a fan of my 'cheap decorating tip’ (wallpaper with maps from National Geographic).

I love the world of blogdom – who would imagine that a journalist from Australia would link to my little blog? I feel so global! Why didn’t I start blogging before?

I got a bit more linkage love from Quidnunc – my first blog e-mailer. I appreciate his round-up of my blog so far. One quibble – I won the argument with my Brother using the power of my wallpaper (maps). I may be crazy but I am not arguing with wallpaper (yet).

Thanks again for the links!

I love Words

I just finished listening to this weeks installment of This American Life on NPR.

Tonight’s episode was about words – their power to move us, and how they sometimes fail us. It sounds like the perfect thing for blog readers and writers to listen to.

After all – most blogs are the result of someone putting their words into cyberspace hoping somebody will read them and be moved. Moved to respond through e-mail or links.

I love this show and have listened to it since it was “Our Radio Playhouse” locally in Chicago. Without fail the shows are interesting, funny, sad, thought provoking and insightful. They post shows for free on their site a week after they are first played. You should give it a listen.

What is with the French?

This afternoon I attended the second class I am auditing this semester. The title is “The Narrative Image”. This class is the third photography course that I have audited.

This week we watched some selections from the 'French New Wave’. I understand that this movement was pivotal in the development of international cinema. Unfortunately I was in no mood to spend 4 hours watching anything French. The films clips were very cool but the documentary put me over the edge.

We watched “Stolen Portraits” a documentary about François Truffaut. He was a writer/director/actor who evidently influenced many in the cinema world. I understand it is an important movement but I was in no mood to deal with the French. I am particularly proud of myself for not leaving the room when Gérard Depardieu quoted an early writing by the Truffaunt.

The quote that drove me crazy was “The war and the idiots who fought in it left me cold”. Consider this for a moment.

Truffant was born in 1932 and raised in Paris. In the entire documentary this statement was the only reference to WWII. I would have imagined that the occupation of your city by Nazis and its liberation would have been a formative experience. Evidently I was wrong.

I find this to be an interesting insight to the mind of a Parisian intellectual. Having lived through the occupation and the liberation of Paris they now are ‘left cold’. No wonder they do not see the conflict today through the lens of the horrors of WWII as I do. They don’t even see WWII through the lens of its horrors!

I never was a fan of Country Music.

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Not an area known for ‘country’ influences (except for those terrible duck themed kitchens of the 80s). I thought that I would NEVER like Country – it wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t me.

Then 9/11 happened. It changed us all in so many ways. The smallest way it changed me was that I became a fan of country music. I just could not listen to the alternative/pop/rock music as I had before. Country music spoke to me.

Country songs are unabashedly patriotic – you would never hear an alternative star singing something like Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue”. The first time I heard that song I cried – and every time since then I have turned the radio up and sang out loud. I needed a media outlet that was saying what I was feeling - I found that on the local country station.

When listening to all this great new (to me) music I fell in love with the music of the Dixie Chicks. I really enjoyed all of their songs and actually bought all 3 CDs (perhaps the only 3 CDs I have bought in the last 2 years). The song “Traveling Soldier” on the most recent album Home is sweet and patriotic and wonderful - I can’t get enough of it.

That is why I can not understand what the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks was thinking when she said that she was ‘ashamed’ of President Bush and the fact that he was from Texas! I can understand that she was in London and as Bill Hobbs (in a great post) states she was ‘giving the audience what they want’. Regardless, there are still limits.

On the Chicks website there is more detail about how they feel about the President and the possible war. I am glad that they posted this clarification of their position. With this information in mind I will not be purchasing the next CD they release and will not go to the concert this summer as I had planned.

This won’t matter to them. Just as it does not matter to most people who consume entertainment. I just view any purchase I make as a choice – I choose to only consume media made by those who don’t attack our president.

Over at The Greatest Jeneration there is information about actions being taken by others. Evidently these comments will be costing the Chicks some airplay. For those of you who claim that they have the right to free speech – I agree. However, actions have consequences - part of being a grown-up is understanding that. The consequence of her choosing to make that statement is the loss of some fans - ar at least the loss of this fan.

Michelle (one of my blogging heroes) at A Small Victory has written a great piece about how we should not demand apologies from celebrities whith whom we disagree.

“The thing is, they have a right to do this, just as I have a right to make fun of them right here. What I don't have the right to do is demand an apology for them speaking their minds.
No matter how I feel about their politics, their views on war, their feelings for the president or the country, they own that right to have those views and they can spend all the time they want talking about them without having to say they are sorry.
Don't forget what makes this country great. We have the freedom to say whatever the hell we want, when we want and where we want - for the most part.”

I agree with her wholeheartedly. Read the whole thing - it is up to the usual level of greatness.

I think that it is foolish to ask for an apology when you know that any apology given will be false. Anything we hear from the Dixie Chicks now will be made at the point of an economic sword. Not unlike when I tell my nephew that If he does not apologize to his sister he will be denied desert. He says the right words – but they have no meaning.

Anyway – I am not going to apologize for what I say. Why should I ask that of anyone else?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Two cool interactive maps at

"Strike Force" gives an overview of the region. Included is the role of the country hosting forces, an estimate at how many forces are there and a key issue to help you understand what makes that location special. Just roll-over the pulsating red circles for the info.

"How the War Might be Waged" is just what the name implies. Chock full of information including key targets in Iraq as well as potential routes for invasion. Again - roll over the numbers for an estimate of what the US will do and possible Iraqi responses.

If one allied serviceman dies unnecessarily.

Via The Greatest Jeneration“U.S. Military Concerned Saddam Hussein May Launch First Attack”

Would Saddam have had time to plan his evil plans if we had not spent the last weeks dickering with the French? NO.

French weaseling has not resulted in a ‘kinder gentler Saddam Hussein’. Quite the opposite - SH is like any animal trapped in a corner. He has two choices – cower or fight.

For the last couple of weeks it looked like he might take the cower option – the best choice when facing our military might. Unfortunately it now looks like he has gotten tired of that and is moving on to fight. This, in the light of our military superiority is a foolish choice to be sure. This route may end up with a greater number of Allied casualties all of which I will blame on the obstructionist French.

Our men and women are massed at the Kuwaiti border – a tempting target for a madman. We need to move them out soon - preferably to the north. The only way home is through Baghdad.

Rachel Lucas (one of my blogging heroes) writes:

My hobby is photography, and ever since I learned to use a darkroom, I've been unable to look at old black and white photos with any detachment, because it finally sank in to me that a real person, just like me, held a camera in front of his face and released the shutter, capturing an image that was actually happening at that moment. Then he pulled out the film, stuck it in chemicals, and produced the photo I'm looking at. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but it's the best way I can explain it. I think a lot of people gaze at old photographs and don't think about the reality of them, that there were smells and sounds and movement all around that moment.

I can identify with how developing her own photo’s has changed her view of historical images. Since I began to print my own photos I now understand what it takes to make them. The fact that someone in the past took the time to not just stand behind the camera and snap the picture but also develop the film and print the image adds some weight – this picture comes to us through time as a result of real effort.

Now that I take most of my pictures in Black and White it is easier for me to see how our world is in many ways very much like the world we see in old pictures. How easy it is for me to take a picture of a friend that gives the impression that she is living in the world of the home front in WWII. It is vitally important that we ensure that the more horrific images of that era are not replicated. In particular those that Rachel is looking at in her studies of the Holocaust.

Unfortunately I think that there are those who refuse to look at the pictures, or claim that they could never happen again. I fear that following our liberation of Iraq we will find a new collection of these images that show man’s inhumanity.

Will the French again claim that they knew nothing? That giving the death machine of Saddam Hussein these extra weeks to kill it’s enemies was not intentional? I personally believe that the UN dance of today is just a modern day version of the round up of Parisian Jews to the Velodrome d'Hiver. It gives me no comfort that France and Germany support Saddam Hussein - they have a very bad track record.

I just read this article in the NY Post by Palph Peters. He makes me wish I could write. He made my point so much better than I did:

Those Euro-trash tourists were right to mourn what had been done. But why on earth didn't they care about the present sufferings of their fellow human beings?

The sorry truth is that Europeans love to cry over corpses, but won't lift a finger to prevent the killing in the first place. They shake their heads over the Holocaust, though their parents were happy enough to pack the local Jews off to Auschwitz.

Read it all as they say.

Some Midwest Guy linked to me (thanks!) and commented that he always looked forward to map inserts from National Geographic.

I do too (no surprise) but for a different reason than most.

(Cheap decorating tip to follow)

I live in a house from the 1920s that had some rather bad "do it yourself" work done to it in the post war era. Walls that were put up in that era are made of some strange product that is something between cardboard and particleboard. Unfortunately I did not discover that fact until after I had stripped 3 layers of wallpaper from the second floor hallway. I had planned to paint the walls but their texture and general crappyness meant that I was forced to paper the walls.

I did not want to use traditional wallpaper so… I papered the walls with National Geographic maps! They had multiplied in a drawer for too long – it was time for them to shine.

The hallway looks very cool if I do say so myself. It is nice to be able to look at the walls and learn at any given moment.

My friends and family all laughed at the hallway when they first saw it – my brother proclaimed that I was finally over the edge. However, on more than one occasion we have trooped up the stair in the middle of a debate to prove our points with the maps.

Maps are beautiful pieces of functional art – don't hide them away in a book or roll them up and put them away - enjoy them!

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The Bush 43 administration and Hong Kong Cinema

(What could the connection be you ask?)

This semester I am auditing two classes at my alma mater. Tonight I was at my ‘fun’ class – “Hong Kong Cinema”.

The class is fun and a nice break from reading and thinking about news of the day. I have audited a few other classes with this professor and I really enjoy her teaching style. A bonus to this particular class is that I am viewing films that I would not normally watch without a reason to sit down and discuss it.

Tonight we watched “Drunken Master” the first in the Drunken Master series with Jackie Chan. I am in no way a fan of Kung Fu but this was enjoyable. However, no matter how escapist the film - serious thoughts prey upon my mind.

For those of you who have not seen the film this is sure to include spoilers. For those of you who have seen the film bear with me…

In watching the film I started to make mental connections between the Jackie Chan character and President G.W. Bush.

A brief synopsis of the film – Jackie Chan is a young man whose father is a Kung Fu master (Bush 41). The master has an early run-in with an evil assassin (Saddam Hussein) and beats him soundly. Jackie Chan (Bush 43) is a young man with little discipline who wants to be a kung fu master like his father. However he needs to get over his conceit and buckle down to learn from a great master. The father sends Jackie Chan to the master who taught him (The part of the teacher represents Ronald Reagan and the members of his administration now in the Bush 43 administration). This master is tough and Jackie runs away. Unfortunately he has a run-in with the evil assassin on his own – Jackie soundly beaten by the assassin in the fight (Bush 43 being outmaneuvered by SH at the UN). Jackie realizes the importance of discipline and returns to his teacher for some hard lessons. The key lesson is ‘Drunken kung fu’ a style where you appear to be drunk and therefore lull your opponent into thinking that you are unable to fight (the affable fool persona cultivated by Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush 43). After his year of training Jackie returns home to find his father fighting that same evil assassin again. Jackie uses the training he received from his master to defeat and KILL the evil assassin.

The key is the “Drunken fighting” technique. Lull everyone into thinking you are not a threat – then pounce. I think that President Bush does not mind the fact that everyone keeps harping on the fact that they don’t think he is smart. That means that they are not spending time actually fighting the substantive goals he is working towards.

Clearly I have too much time on my hands or read way too much on current events. I actually think that this reading of the film makes sense.

I read this a few days ago but remembered today that it is something I should link to in my new blog!

The Pentagon's New Map

This is a great example of how maps can visually convey reams of information. I have to admit that the first thing I did was skip down to the maps.

After viewing the map the rest of the article was just filler information. At least to me - I always start with the map.

This afternoon I was checking out all my favorite blogs (on the left). I was happy to see that Tim Blair had posted a bunch of stuff so I could spend a happy few minutes reading it all.

Then I see it… Mapchic!… GEOGRAPHICA! And a link – oh happy day!

I have figured out this blog thing. Links are the addiction – evidently it was Tim’s turn to give the newby the first taste free. Now I want more!

Thanks for the link Tim – you made my day. I would never have imagined that anyone would have found my little blog already.

I almost wish you waited a bit... I clearly need to find my voice. I wish I had posted more than just whining about how hard this is and the death of my VCR.
At least I have posted the PSA about cartographers being big liars - that is some sort of start at paying the bloggers of the world back - warning them of lies.

Additional thanks to James of Quidnunc. He sent me my very first e-mail as a blogger. I added him to my blog links in thanks. You should check it out – a blog with a Latin name -what's not to love?
So my VCR is slowly dieing.

This frustrates me because I had one VCR that lasted for 5 years. That died after a happy long life and I bought a new one about a year ago.

VCRs now cost about what a walkman costs but I guess I expected that it would last longer than a walkman. No such luck.

Now I face a dilemma – buy a new VCR or just cave and get some type of Tivo product. I only use the VCR to tape my favorite TV shows and have it stacked with a DVD player for my movie viewing pleasure. Everyone tells me that I will love the convenience of the tivo product but they kind of creep me out.
I have a degree in marketing and the biggest result of my market research classes was that I have become paranoid about releasing my market research info. That is all tivo does – it records every show you watch and then tells that to some magic box somewhere.

I know – this is 2003, I should give up on keeping secret my addiction to Law & Order.
That said – I think I am going to get one more VCR, when the next one dies I will jump into the 21st century… maybe.

Monday, March 10, 2003

I think I will start off with a fun fact about maps... I love maps - hence my name.

The problem with street maps is that they are always wrong.
I am not kidding. Without exception an error is placed in every street map printed in the US.

These mistakes are called "Copywrite Traps". Making a map requires a great deal of research and to ensure that somebody else does not just copy their map (and all that tedious research) a cartogropher inserts an intentional error. If another publisher has done research then of course would not have that error.

However if a cartogropher finds another published map with that mistake... The thief is caught in the trap!

That is why maps of my local area showed that my street led to a bridge over a river... a bridge that never existed.

I think the reason I first liked maps was the fact that occasionally in my neighborhood a car would pull over and the driver would ask - "where is the bridge?" I would respond that there was no bridge and inevitably the response I would recieve is "But it's on the map,"

I kind of admire the power of cartographers to lie to you and make you pay for it.
I need to apologize to the systems departments at virtually every job I have ever had.
This is really hard!
I think that I have successfully inserted links to my favourite blogs. This is great - I no longer have to remember all those URLs!
This is quite a bit harder than I expected. Clearly I suck at all things technical.

I now have much more respect for all bloggers.
I am going to jump in here... wish me luck.

The reason that I am now finally starting a blog of my own is that I realized that I got so very much out of reading all the blogs out there that it was time for me to give back. Not that the blogging world needs me to - but I am anyway!