Angola Minefields – Look Innocent, But Will Bite You!

While we were working in Angola a few years ago, we had friends who worked with the Halo Trust clearing landmines all over Angola.  At that time (2006) there were estimated to be about 17 million of the horrible things lurking in the ground.

We were invited to visit them at their upcountry headquarters in a small town called Huambo, which had suffered very badly during the civil war, so was full of shot up buildings, burnt out tanks in back yards and all the remains of a vicious war, which after a bit of time in Angola, we were becoming all too familiar with sadly.

No gnomes but tanks
No gnomes but tanks

They decided to first take us to a large minefield that they were busy clearing on the edge of a small village nearby, so off we went to see our first minefield in the flesh as it were.  When we got there we were taken to the edge of the village, where the local school had its playground and the guy in charge pointed to the grass field beside the kid’s playground and told us matter of factly that that was the minefield.   Simply a large area of grass beside the beaten earth of the playground…  No form of separation, walls, fences, ditches.. nothing, simply an innocent looking grassy area.

This was when we understood that actually a minefield is simply a chunk of land which happens to have landmines buried in it….  In no way special or dangerous looking.   As a friend from the Halo Trust put it, a landmine is the Beast that doesn’t bark – but sure as hell can and does bite!

The thing that got me at that moment was the realisation that the kids at the school played football and ran around as kids do, right on the edge of a minefield, with no form of barrier to prevent them running into the minefield.

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Steve Cutts – A Most Extraordinary Cartoonist

I have just come across the work of Steve Cutts, a very strange but committed cartoonist and animated film maker, whose work shows a very strong involvement with the less attractive sides of our society.

As you will see from the several examples of his work I shall bung up here for you to look at, he is deeply concerned with environmental issues, social problems and the general difficulties of life.

He puts it this way:  I like to make animations about life and society in general, so there tends to be a message in most of them. The general insanity of mankind is an almost endless pot of inspiration!”

I would say that having looked at a large amount of his work, that this is, if anything, an understatement.  His work is totally involved in the problems of the world in one way or another, in a very dry and succinct manner as well.   One is in no doubt as to the message he wishes to impart unto us when looking at any of his drawings or animations.

Anyhow, to whet your appetite, here are a few of his cartoons, and a couple of typical videos.



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The Illusionist – Tati Rides Again

I have just seen a full length animated film of a story by Jacques Tati (of M. Hulot fame) called The Illusionist, and I have to tell you it is superb!


This curious film, which was made by Sylvain Chomet, who also made that very odd animated film The Triplets of Belleville is based on a script that Tati wrote many years earlier, and was a sort of long apology to his estranged illegitimate daughter apparently.

The story line is about an illusionist whose career in the music halls of Paris is slowly but surely going downhill, as a result of which he finds himself performing on a remote Scottish island (watch the film to find the logic in this!), where he is sort of adopted by a young woman who is a cleaner in the hotel he lives in.. and the rest of the film is really about his efforts to look after her, provide for her and generally act as a father to her – no suggestion of a sexual relationship.

In January 2010, The Manchester Guardian published the article “Jacques Tati’s lost film reveals family’s pain” stating,

“In 2000, the screenplay was handed over to Chomet by Tati’s daughter,Sophie Tatischeff two years before her death. Now, however, the family of Tati’s illegitimate and estranged eldest child, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel, who lives in the north-east of England, are calling for the French director to give her credit as the true inspiration for the film. The script of L’illusionniste, they say, was Tati’s response to the shame of having abandoned his first child [Schiel] and it remains the only public recognition of her existence.

All of this is profound and no doubt intriguing stuff for film history buffs, but for the rest of us, this film can – and should – be seen for what it also is, which is a highly entertaining, very odd and eccentric animated film made for adults, that is not scary, bloody, full of monsters or in any way nasty, simply a film with likeable and understandable characters.   And the most wonderful animation.  None of your cheap and badly made TV animations here, but animation of the highest order.  It is a real pleasure simply to watch the work of world class animators.

The animators have exactly caught the way Jacques Tati moved – his awkward leaning forward way of walking, and his well known hands high on his hips and leaning forward as he talks to people…   All his mannerisms have been beautifully reproduced here…. instantly recognisable character.

You can see what I mean about both the story line and the quality of the animation in this trailer for the film.

So, if you admire the work of Jacques Tati, or simply enjoy well made adult animated films, then this is certainly a film you should see, if you can find it online or in the video stores.

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I have recently become aware of the work of Paweł Kuczyński, a young and very talented Polish painter.   He specialises in a very disturbing and clear headed type of satirical painting to make his points – which are chiefly anti-war, anti- capitalism and anti just about anything that contributes to making life less pleasant.

As you will see from the very small selection of his huge body of work that I have posted below, his work has a sort of clean cut, almost photographic quality, and there is really no room for misunderstanding his message in each of his paintings.

However, obeying the first rule of art that was given to me when I started to study sculpture at St. Martins School of Art many years ago, when we were told that to discuss art was the purvue of those who couldnt make it… so we were told to keep our mouths shut and simply get on with making art, and also not to insult the work of Paweł  by analysing it, as his meanings are absolutely clear, I shall simply post a number of his works to whet your appetite.

If his work appeals t you, then you can find a huge amount of it online (Google images) or on his Facebook page (

So here goes……………………………….

Lets start with a video that shows a lot of his work.

11-Drawing-On-World-Issues-By-Pawel-Kuczynski finger liberty tnt baby totating statue trench plough confesional atm smog sun pkuczy facebook confesional 900_Pawel-Kuczynski_playstation


So, there you go…..

Not the stuff to contemplate when you wish to be at peace with the world I would suggest.

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If you have any thoughts on the wrk of this guy, do share them with us here.

Nature Is Truly The Boss – Love This!

Whenever I find myself in a huge storm, or any other violent event that Good Old Mother Nature throws at me, I always find the fact of being reminded of who is really in charge on our planet extremely salutary – and I love it!

We humans are so amazingly arrogant and believe that somehow we will last forever, and that this small planet on the outer edge of one of billions of huge galaxies is actually the centre of the Universe – Hmmmm… How long did those huge and probably very stupid dinosaurs last?

Anyhow, this gentle video sort of demonstrates my point, enjoy it!

Death Penalty – Primitive, Barbaric, Pointless

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have just executed a total of 11 people in the last week.  In the case of Saudi Arabia it took the form of hacking the heads of 2 unfortunate women who had been found guilty of murder, and in the case of Indonesia, it was a case of firing squads in the middle of the night in the jungle.

It would seem that there is little doubt about the guilt of the individuals who were killed in this way, but the point worth exploring perhaps is did these executions achieve anything beyond a form of revenge?

The simple answer to that is no.

Not only has every study of the effectiveness of the death penalty as a form of deterrence shown that it has simply no bearing on the crimes committed or in any way deters people from committing crimes that carry that penalty.   The simple fact that Indonesia has executed 19 people in the last couple of months all of whom were found guilty of drug running in a country that is infamous for executing drug dealers might suggest to any thinking person that perhaps the death penalty was not really effective?

In fact the death penalty is generally a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a particular set of crimes, all based on retribution rather than deterrence or sensible punishment.  If it is intended as punishment, well a corpse is remarkably unaffected by any sort of punishment – punishment should be a means of teaching a lesson – so long prison sentences would seem sensible and appropriate.

It can (and is) argued that the death penalty will deter others from committing the crime when they see it being applied for the crimes they have in mind – however, all evidence shows clearly that this is simply not the case..

And the idea of murder, no matter who carries it out, is anathema in all civilised countries, and in the case of countries that claim to be based on Christian values (such as the USA), it should actually be impossible for them to apply the death penalty, since their own God has forbidden them to kill.

The Dutch have it right:

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