Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prisoner 345

The Columbia Journalism Review has a good story that looks at the unique case of the only journalist known to be in custody at Guatanamo Bay. His name is Sami al-Haj and he used to work for Al Jazeera.

It's a balanced piece that asks some hard questions about what's going on in Cuba without taking sides. But it's a disturbing story and one that can't help be leave you wondering what's happening. And as with so many of these stories, it seems that the families are the ones who really end up struggling to cope.
On December 15, 2001, early in the morning on the last day of Ramadan, a reporter and a cameraman from Al Jazeera arrived at the Pakistani town of Charman on the Afghanistan border, on their way to cover the American military operation. The reporter, Abdelhaq Sadah, was replacing a colleague, but the cameraman, a Sudanese national named Sami al-Haj, had been on such an assignment before, and had crossed the border without incident. This time, however, an immigration official stopped him. He seemed angry. The official told Sadah that he could go, but "your friend is a wanted man and will stay here."

In Sadah’s recollection, the official produced a letter from Pakistani intelligence—written, curiously, in English. It said that al-Haj had Al Qaeda ties and should be apprehended. Al-Haj noticed that the passport number in the letter didn’t correspond to the one in his current passport, but instead to an old passport he had lost several years ago in Sudan and had reported missing. Despite his protests, the official insisted on detaining him overnight. The next morning, Sadah returned to the border post just in time to see a Pakistani military officer lead al-Haj to a car and drive him away.
He hasn't been seen since.

Here's the link.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday fun for July 20, 2007

Today's the day that we've all been waiting for. Well, actually, it's tomorrow at one minute past midnight...we finally find out what happens to Harry Potter.

Of course, some meddlings muggles have spoiled things by posting spoilers on the Internet and in some American newspapers, but the true believers won't be put off by that kind of nonsense.

Actually, I'm not really that excited about the release of the last book in this series, but I'm enjoying watching the way it's all playing out. My daughter Kelly (who is living with us this summer) is beside herself with anticipation.

"You know, I think I just might throw up," she told me this morning, listening to a local bookseller talking on the radio about the upcoming launch. Then it got worse, as she sat down to read a review about the book in the local paper, and learned that up to half a dozen characters get killed off in the final book. "I'm going to start crying right now!"

Tomorrow, it will all be past. Kelly's copy of the book will be arriving via a special Canada Post delivery first thing in the morning thanks to a deal that Chapters offered. Once she's finished, then I get to read it, which I'm looking forward to.

So in the spirit of enjoying the Potter mania sweeping around the world today, I present the latest installment of the Potter Puppet Pals in The Mysterious Ticking Noise. Just click on the video below to watch.

And if you like that one, there's a bunch more on YouTube. Just search under Potter Puppet Pals.

Wonderful use of storytelling in a video

Dan York at Disruptive Conversations points us to a great video, which won a gold medal at the Cannes Lions event.

Click here to see Dan's original post, or watch the video below.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Hairspray back story

hs.jpgHairspray, the movie based on the Broadway musical that was based on John Waters' cult film, opens this week and it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun to watch, if the trailer is anything to go by.

But as with so many films based on the sixties, there's an interesting back story that revolves around racial issues that the film doesn't talk about.

MediaChannel.org has an article called Hairspray's Revolting History that is worth reading if you're planning to see the show. Heck, even if you aren't, it's worth reading. But if you take a look at the trailer, I suspect you're going to want to see the show yourself.

Here's the intro to the article:
The Hollywood version of Hairspray opens this week as a big screen and big star version of John Waters original film celebrating 1960’s youth culture. Yet there is a “back story” that Hollywood ignores and News Dissector Danny Schechter remembers as recounted by Polar Levine.

Here's the link to the whole article..

Friday, July 13, 2007

Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense

I"ve been playing around with social media lately. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Pownce, LinkedIn, MyRagan and probably some others that I've forgotten about. I've also got a Flickr account, one at Picasa, this blog, my own (out-of-date) website and a bunch of accounts at sites that have either gone out of business or stopped being of any interest. Oh, and I've also got instant messaging accounts with IChat, Messenger and Google. And speaking of Google, I use a lot of their on-line apps, as well as Gmail. And I've got a Skype account too.

To tell the truth, I'm getting kind of confused about what I'm supposed to be doing with all this stuff. I've started playing around with applications that pull a lot of it together, like Adium, which groups all my IM clients into one beautiful interface. So far, I haven't found anything similar for all these social media sites, with the need to add friends (I don't really seem to have that many) to all of them and follow along with what everyone is doing.

Which of these new tools are you using? Have you found they're helping you be productive? Or do they just give us another excuse to avoid getting to some of the tasks that are filling up our to-do lists? Maybe we should start a group somewhere to talk about this...

One app that's had a lot of press recently is Twitter, which I've signed on to without really understanding what it does. But a couple of weeks ago, Wired Magazine had a story by Clive Thompson that did a good job of explaining some of the complexities. I missed it when it first ran, but a blog post by Neville Hobson pointed me to it. Ironically, Neville heard about it through a "Tweet" from one of his friends.

Here's the link. Let me know what you think.

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Friday fun for July 13,2007

It's been a hot, hot week here on Vancouver Island. We've enjoyed record-breaking temperatures most of the week, although things seem to be easing up a bit as we approach the weekend.

So perhaps it's the heat that's put me in a lazy mood. Or it could be that I'm just lazy, or that I'm procrastinating. Whatever the reason, I've found a couple of websites that are a nice diversion on a hot day, assuming that you're stuck in the office and don't have access to a back deck with a pool.

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Let your inner artist free

If you like to doodle, you'll have fun with Mr. Picassohead. You can choose from a variety of facial features, like eyes, lips, hair, etc. and play with them to create your own caricature. You can re-size items, colour them, discard and pick new ones, all with just a few mouse clicks. I like playing with eyebrows to completely change the expression.

Here's the link.

The seventies will never die

Picture3.gifI've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a sucker for the music from the seventies. It was my formative decade, after all. (Click on the photo of the Average White Band for more info.) So coming across this site was a nice surprise. It's got the background information on all the hit songs form each year of the decade. There's a lot of really interesting (if somewhat shallow) information here. And if you get interested, it's a good starting point for a more detailed research piece into whatever song or artist you're interested in.

Take a look and start poking around. If you're at all like me, you'll be clicking through to more sites and links for the next while and before you know it, the heat wave will be over!

Here's the link.


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Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday fun for July 6, 2007

It's now a week since the iPhone came out and if you're at all interested, I'm sure you've already read more than you need to about it - especially since it's not available to us here in Canada (did I mention that before!)

But this week, in a grudging acknowledgment that the iPhone is a big deal, I present a musical tribute, put together by NY Times technology writer David Pogue.

Here's the link.


UPDATE - Just came across a really cool illusion site, via Boing, Boing. Check it out here.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What Wikipedia is all about

I'm a big fan of Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia. But while I sort of understand how it works, this article from the New York Times (via MediaChannel.org) has a lot of background that I've never heard before.

You'll meet Jimmy Wales, the founder, as well as a lot of the folks who make it all work.

Here's an example:
Natalie Martin, a 23-year-old history major at Antioch College in Ohio, was granted admin status last winter after contributing to the site for about nine months. She thought at one point in her life that she wanted to be a journalist, she said, “but then I decided that my only real interest in newspapers is fixing all the comma mistakes.” Martin works at the circulation desk of a local library — a job that often leaves her attention less than fully engaged, in which case she logs onto Wikipedia and looks for errors. Her usual M.O. is to check the “recent changes” page, a running log of the most recent edits made anywhere on the site, no matter how large or small. It gives you some sense of the project’s scale to learn that the roughly 250 most recent changes to the English-language Wikipedia were made in the last 60 seconds.
If you want to know a lot more about Wikipedia and how it works, give it a read.

Here's the link.

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