Friday, May 30, 2008

from the "timeless" dept. (part 2)

D300 meets the 10.5mm fisheye:

from the "another sad day for journalism" dept.

Another sad day for journalism (and I'm not talking about Faux News):

Photojournalist covering land dispute murdered, motive uncertain

SOURCE: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York

New York, May 29, 2008 - CPJ is deeply troubled by the death of
award-winning photojournalist Trent Keegan, whose body was found on Wednesday in a ditch in Nairobi, Kenya.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told Agence France-Presse that Keegan was found with head injuries in a drainage trench along a central highway. Police have opened an inquest, he said.

"This is a devastating loss for those who knew Trent Keegan, a photographer
who worked to document people in need of a voice around the world,"
CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. "The Kenyan police must act decisively to bring whoever killed Keegan to justice. Time is of the essence here, as it is in all murder investigations."

CPJ is investigating whether Keegan's death was linked to his work.

According to a police report, Keegan's body was identified by his Irish driver's license and a business card promoting his Web site. His wallet also contained 3,848 shillings (US$62).

Keegan was working on an investigative report about a land dispute in northern Tanzania between Maasai cattle herders and the Massachusetts-based Thomson Safaris Company, according to e-mail between the photographer and one of his colleagues. A spokesman for Thomson Safaris said the company had no knowledge of such a report.

Keegan had been in Africa for a month, his Irish colleagues told CPJ. They said Keegan had returned to Nairobi this week from a trip to Tanzania. According to Keegan's colleagues, he was last seen having dinner with a friend on Tuesday evening.

He was the winner of several awards from the Irish Professional Photographers Association and worked around the world in places such as Darfur, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the slums of Mombassa, Kenya.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Thursday, May 29, 2008

from the "words of others" dept.

"If you're not annoying someone, you're not really alive."
- Margaret Atwood

from the "timeless" dept.

I've been playing around with the D300 to see what it can do.

Like... cool timelapses:


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

from the "words of others" dept.

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
~ Ben Franklin

from the "bright ideas" dept.

A couple of interesting light-related items to tell you about today.

The first one is aimed at videographers. Ever been in a situation where you needed a softbox but didn't have one on hand?

Afri-Gadget has details on a do-it-yourself softbox. The parts are easily available and cheap. The box is actually made of cardboard, so I'd keep a close eye on it in case it overheats. But it's a great idea... especially for those of you working in the developing world.

More info and a link to the inventor's blog are here.

The other cool D-I-Y project was featured in a recent video post on liveleak. It shows a Brazilian inventor who turns used water bottles into self-powered lights.


He fills the bottles with water, adds some bleach and voila: light. I'm intrigued enough to give this one a try. It certainly seems like a solution to the rotating power cuts in many developing nations.

Here's the video:


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

from the "just desserts" dept.

Oooh... this is going to be a good read!

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan sets the record straight (or tells us what we knew all along) in a new book about President Dumbass and his henchmen.

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence.

Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs, $27.95):

McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.

• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.

• He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”

• The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them — and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.

• McClellan asserts that the aides — Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff — “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
Hot-diggity-dog... just in time for poolside reading as the Democrats self-destruct yet again.


from the "dis unity" dept.

JHR country director and Ghanaian journalist Ato Kwamena Dadzie hits the African unity nail on the head in a recent Daily Dispatch column.

So much for African Unity, eh?

In a few days, all of us on this wretched continent will be celebrating African Union Day. May 26th will be a public holiday in almost every country - except in Morocco, which is not a member of the AU. It’s a commemoration that is supposed to remind us to focus on the need to unite as one big nation. After all, they say, we are one people – torn apart by colonialism and slavery.

I am looking forward to May 26th. Who doesn’t like a public holiday? But I’m so not looking forward to what that day represents – one big United Republic of Africa. I am very sure it will not happen in my lifetime. Just about a year ago, when African leaders gathered in Accra they chose to turn a blind eye to all the major challenges confronting the continent at the time. Darfur was on fire, Mugabe was delighting himself by plunging his country deeper into economic and political chaos and Somalia was (and still is) every brute’s paradise.

If our leaders had been wise and perceptive, they would have seen the global food crisis and the escalating fuel prices coming. They would have deliberated on how to deal with the impending crisis. Now the crises are here and look at them scrambling around like frightened rats.

In July last year, all they wanted to talk about was ‘African Unity.’ Our leaders look at the European Union and they think they can easily replicate it here in Africa. They even want to go further and create one big African nation. It took the Europeans 50 years to build their union. Mind you, it’s not a big federation yet. But, our leaders – always with warped ambitions – think they can achieve what the Europeans have not been able to achieve in five decades.

Those few days of the AU summit (which, by the way, was very badly organised) made the rest of the world wonder whether there were more ostriches than human being in Africa. Why ignore today’s problems and spend the whole time thinking about how to force a dream to come true? The world laughed at us. Between July 2007 and now, a lot has happened on this continent that demonstrates clearly that we are a bunch of jokers who like to dream silly dreams and talk and talk and talk about everything and nothing.

Take the recent attacks on African migrants in South Africa as an example. For more than a week, South African gangs have been attacking their fellow “brothers and sisters” from other African countries, accusing them of literally taking over their country. According to the rampaging mobs, the other Africans have left them jobless and spouseless whiles contributing to the increasing crime wave in their country.

It’s a strange case of xenophobia which doesn’t really surprise me because Ghanaians can be very xenophobic too – especially to people from other African countries. For example, there are a lot of people in this country who talk about Liberians as if they are aliens from another planet. Just cast your mind back to the recent incidents at the refugee camp at Buduburam. Even government ministers were spewing xenophobia all over the place. The Interior Minister was throwing tantrums because the Liberians had dared to say that Ghana is not good enough for them. Ghana is not good enough for even Ghanaians so what’s so strange about refugees saying that they do not like to stay here any longer? For daring to complain, our own government, which prides itself in pushing the African unity agenda, is feverishly preparing to send back more than 20,000 Liberians to “their country”, according to Nana Obiri Boahen, a ‘hanger-on’ minister at the Interior Ministry.

After all the talk of African Unity one would have thought that Africa is for all of us and that Liberians are supposed to feel at home in Ghana, my compatriots should feel at home in South Africa and Ethiopians should settle in quite nicely in Eritrea. Thanks to xenophobic attitudes like what we saw with the Liberian incident and what we are saying in South Africa, Africans cannot help but feel like strangers in their own land.

Where there is no xenophobia, you see major strife that makes the whole idea of African Unity appear like an attempt to build a mansion without a foundation. For example, Chad and Sudan are threatening to go to war. Sudan’s president, Omar Al Bashir, accuses his counterpart from Chad Iddris Derby of sponsoring and arming a group of rebels who almost took over Khartoum a couple of weeks ago. Last year, when some rebels came so close to his palace in N’Djamena, Mr. Derby blamed it on Mr. Al Bashir. Can anyone realistically expect these two ‘warlords’ to bury their differences for the sake of a united Africa? They should but they won’t. Ethiopia and Eritrea are still sworn enemies. Add all the civil wars to these and you will see that we surely have a long way to go.

Even in the sphere of economic co-operation, which should form the basis for future political integration, our continent is not doing as well as it should. Nigeria will not allow textile from other African countries. They will not even allow us Ghanaians to sell our tomato puree in their country. And we in Ghana do not want Nigerians to engage in buying-and-selling in our country –unless they can pay a fee of 30,000 dollars. The Lebanese can afford to pay. But for our average brother from Naija, this is more than his working capital.

A few months ago, police men went about closing down the shops of Nigerians who had not paid up. It was yet another eloquent demonstration that we like to talk more than act.

Just a few months after African leaders had discussed their grandiose African Unity plan Stanbic Bank of South Africa put in a takeover bid for our Agricultural Development Bank. The very same people who were arguing for African Unity turned around to say that “Ghanaian banks like ADB should remain in Ghanaian hands.”

To make it even worse, the political sphere in most African countries is a chaotic mess. It’s true that some of us have taken the democratic path. But dictators are large and in charge in several other countries. Mugabe has no intention of ending his madness anytime soon in Zimbabwe. If he hadn’t been acting so silly for a man of his age, Zimbabweans would have had no reason to go to South Africa to add to the number of illegal immigrants there. No African leader is willing to call mad Mugabe to mellow. The problems he has caused in that country will take a long time to heal.

Almost every African country has major problems that will take decades to be resolved. For most of them, there isn’t even a resolution of any sort in sight. Somalia is one of them. So is DR Congo. And Chad. And Djibouti. And the Comoros. And Sudan.

This means that if the unity they talk about is to be achieved anytime soon, the chaos in Somalia, the genocide in Sudan, the xenophobia in South Africa and the corruption in Nigeria will all be problems for that one United Republic of Africa to deal with. And come to think of it, is there anyone amongst our current crop of leaders who can serve as the first president of the United Republic – thinking more about the welfare of the people and less about himself? Kufuor buys jets when his hospitals are collapsing, Mbeki can’t see a crisis where there is one, Kibaki won’t concede defeat, Odinga comes in and appoints all his cousins as ministers (and gives each of them a fleet of official cars) and Mugabe, well, doesn’t seem to have his head screwed on properly.

If what the AU has achieved in over 50 years of existence and what it is noted for is anything to go by, then we are better off being a disunited Africa – each nation for itself and its citizens. This is how it will be long after I’m even dead and gone.

A United Republic of Africa will not happen anytime soon. But if our leaders push it to boost their egos, I’m sure it will turn out to be one hell of a chaotic, banana republic. I definitely do not want to be a part of it!

Tip o' the hat: Alison Lang

Monday, May 26, 2008

from the "hair decade" dept.

In 1987 I was barely old enough to read, but I still remember the TV from those days. And luckily, some ancient flotsam has risen to the surface of the internets.

Shall we hop in the 'ol Wayback Machine, Sherman?

And have no fear, the Chernobyl story is coming...


from the "things are tough all over" dept.

My former-JHR colleague Ato Kwamena Dadzie recently wrote about the rising cost of fuel and food and its impact on Ghana. It puts things in perspective when you start complaining about $1.30 a litre gas. And it addresses how government acts during a crisis in an election year. Same story, different setting.

How about being a rat?

There is no escaping the hard times brought on by the sudden hikes in food and fuel prices. Even if you don’t have a car and you don’t spend money to move around from one end of town to another (say you are unemployed and you have little choice than to stay home all the time), you will realise that you now pay 30p for a ball of kenkey which is quite smaller than the one you used to buy for 10p.

Sometimes, you get the kenkey and you realise that it’s been recycled for about five days. Gone are the days when kenkey sellers discarded products more than two days old. Auntie Akweley knows that she owes you no explanation and you dare not ask her what’s going on. She might be as pissed off and frustrated as you are because she’s also very shocked that all her profits are being eroded by the hikes in the cost of her raw materials. The money she used to buy three sacks of corn with can now get her just two bags. So don’t dare ask her why her kenkey keeps shrinking in size and why she sells ‘expired balls’.

For answers, just turn to the newspapers. Even ‘P&P’ is reporting on the difficulties many around the world are facing as a result of a global food shortage and the recent dramatic and record-breaking hikes in crude oil prices. It’s crazy and it’s annoying and it’s frustrating. And for those in power, it’s very worrisome. In these hard times and with an election looming, if the ruling class wants to remain in power they do not want to be seen to be unconcerned as people fight over lorry fares and the size of kenkey.

That’s why President Kufuor decided to personally announce his mitigation plan, which he hopes will help us weather these economic storms and possibly, if we are convinced that he cares enough, return his party to power. “I am appealing to you all to rally behind government to ensure that our society goes through these difficult times with minimal stress,” he said in a pre-recorded but very badly edited television address to the nation.

In that address, the President announced measures including the removal of import duties on some staples such as rice, wheat and yellow corn. Government also intends to remove some taxes and levies on petroleum products such as diesel, premixed fuel and kerosene.

It all sounds like a good plan.

But I’m not sure if these measures will mitigate my suffering in anyway. What I know for sure is that in this country prices don’t go down. They only go up. Therefore the President’s order to “dealers (in rice, vegetable oil etc.) and transporters to reduce prices and fares to benefit consumers and passengers” will fall on deaf ears. Drivers have said it before and I won’t be surprised if they say it again that they do not fix their fares solely on the basis of increasing fuel prices. They buy spare parts too.

I believe there should be some very good economic reason why the President chose to remove taxes and levies on kerosene and gas oil but decided to retain the taxes on premium petrol. Unfortunately, transport fares are fixed for all ‘trotros’ and buses without any regard for whether they are fuelled by diesel or petrol. So bringing the price of diesel down and maintaining that of petrol will yield very little or nothing. If the diesel car drivers bring down their rates, those who use petrol vehicles will not do the same. And where does that leave us? Square one.

The decision to remove import levies on rice, yellow corn and vegetable oil also makes sense. But only on the surface. And the President knows it. That’s why he warned that it would be a criminal offence to attempt to re-export any of the products whose import duties have been removed. Our customs agents will have a lot of work to do because a lot of people are going to try to do exactly what the President does not want them to do. I have no doubt that most of them will get away with it – with the help of those who are supposed to stop them.

I won’t be surprised if sometime in the next few months, the President comes back to tell us that he has changed his mind because his mitigation measure is only helping some individuals to line their pockets instead of helping the poor deal with a very difficult economic situation.

Another area of concern to me is that some traders are going to keep their prices at current levels and insist that they cannot sell old stock at reduced prices. And there is nothing government can do about it. Remember, prices in Ghana hardly ever go down. Forward ever, backward never – upward ever downward never.

All told, what is a government to do in the current circumstances? Well, I think the government should have done nothing. These price hikes started in 2007. If it had gotten as bad as it is now in 2006 or in a year in which we were not going to vote, the government would have done nothing. They would have told us that it is economic reality and we need to “bite the bullet” and “tighten our belts”.

The President has used these expressions several times before – when the going got so tough and he knew we had very little choice. But this is a different year. He’s going out of power but he would like to see his party retain power. And so he comes up with this raft of measures which are only useful because they are politically expedient for the ruling class. “We are a caring government,” I’ve heard several ministers say in praise of the measure the President announced last week. If only they could be as caring when they are not asking for our votes. I am very sure that immediately after the elections we will be slapped again with the levies and taxes.

So here is a thought: how about giving us some cash? Yes, if they are so caring they should give us money to spend. Each Ghanaian should be given about GHC300 – whether or not petroleum levies and import duties are removed. George Bush did a similar thing recently and Mr. Kufuor can do the same. Can you imagine how many balls of kenkey and bags of rice GHC300 can buy?

If they also care so much, they should start making long term plans instead of adopting knee jerk measures. If they had any long term plans, we wouldn’t now be thinking of stockpiling food with help from “development partners.” We would have had silos all around the country and stockpiling food would have been a national habit. Even the rats and ants stockpile food and we don’t? What is wrong with us?

Considering that we don’t have any silos in the country right now, I wonder where the new food stockpiles will be kept. Hotel ‘Waawaa’ or where?

Now, doesn’t that make you want to be a rat?

Author: Ato Kwamena Dadzie
Source: Daily Dispatch: THE OUTSIDER

Sunday, May 25, 2008

from the "eagle eye" dept.

If you're patiently waiting for the photos and stories from the trip... please continue! I'm just beginning to sort through everything and it's going to take some time. That, and I'm lazy.

In the meantime, I've noticed that GoogleEarth has added high resolution images of Takoradi, Ghana. You can also see Tad'i in GoogleMaps.

Here's an aerial shot of my home for most of last year. It's the white-ish building in the centre of the photo:

View Larger Map

Cool, no?


Thursday, May 22, 2008

from the "back in the saddle" dept.

Vancouver, BC
Thursday, 8:25 am

After a long, long flight from Copenhagen via Seattle, I'm finally home in Vancouver.

It's early morning in Deep Cove. It's quiet. And there's not a European to be seen.

Another big adventure is now history, but another is sure to follow. I'm hoping to ramble around BC and the prairies for a few days next week. I think I need to readjust before heading back to a summer of promotion and marketing work at the state broadcaster.

I also have a list of things to do between now and June 2. In the efforts of adding some filler to this post (I'm exhausted), I present a of-the-top-of-my-head-list-of-things-to-do:

1. Organize about 2000 photos from 10 counties into some sort of order.
2. Post more photos online.
3. Write up tales from the trip. Nothing like having a month of notes to decode!
4. Write the Chernobyl story.
5. Cut the radio version of the Chernobyl story.
6. Pay bills.
7. See people.
8. Get some serious exercise.
9. Pitch the commissioning editor for the next Lonely Planet West Africa guide book.
10. Find a place to live for after July 15.

Yeesh. Real life.

But not today: today I do nothing more than drink coffee and hang out in Deep Cove.

And marvel at how the weather is exactly the same as it was when I left.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

from the "in transit" dept.

Seattle, WA
6:16 pm

Greetings from a nondescript bar in SeaTac. Little to report other than I've now been up for nearly 24 hours. And my flight to Vancouver isn't for another few hours. Ugh.

My spider sense is tingling: I have a feeling my luggage is going to get sent to Tukwilla instead of Vancouver. Do I care? Not really...

More from home in a few hours...


from the "it ain't over 'til it's over" dept.

The adventure is winding down...I depart Copenhagen this afternoon at 1550 on SAS SK 937 (UA 9395). Arrival in Seattle is 10 hours later, at 1650 local time.

And then the fun begins: waiting for my Air Crapada Dash-8 flight to Vancouver at 2005. Three hours in SeaTac. Yarf.

I won't drag my weary ass into Vancouver until 2054 local time, after having been awake since 2230 Tuesday (Vancouver time). Why did I think this was a good idea? Wouldn't a couple of days in Seattle (and some baseball games) have been a better idea?

Regardless, I'll wake up Thursday morning in Deep Cove... and then the work begins: sorting photos, writing stories, cutting a radio item about Chernobyl.

And maybe a roadtrip across the Prairies...


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More images up!

Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

I've posted some more images from the big trip. Click the little slide show to the right. Or the image in this post. More on Crapbook.

I'm off to Sweden for lunch. Denmark for bed. And Canada via the USA tomorrow.

It's fun being a citizen of the world...


Sunday, May 18, 2008


Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

I'm leaving the Netherlands today and heading north to Germany and Denmark. Final destination: Copenhagen.

It's been great hanging out in Steenwijk with Harry and his family. In the past few days I've visited some great places and learned a lot about this part of the world.

But it's time to head home, albeit slowly.

I'll have a full day in CPH to post photos and begin writing stories. Your patience will be rewarded!


from the "beneluxury" dept.

Steenwijk, Netherlands
9:17 a.m.

Sunday morning in Steenwijk and there is little on the agenda. Nothing at all this morning but this afternoon Harry and I are visiting some abandoned buildings in the area.

I'm hoping to start uploading the thousands of photos soon.

My plans to visit the former-V2 rocket production plant at Nordhausen have been shelved. It's not that I don't have the time -- the problem is that they are closed Mondays. And that's the only day I can go.

More to come...


Friday, May 16, 2008

from the "hold your horses" dept.

[h/t to JG @ dot dot dot]

from the "goin' Dutch" dept.

Steenwijk, Netherlands
Friday, 9:11 p.m.

I've had a great visit so far with my border-pal Harry ten Veen and his family since arriving in Steenwijk yesterday.

I'm sleeping in an unbelievably pink room (his daughter Emma's) and enjoying fabulous Dutch hospitality.

Today we toured around Steenwijk, visiting 5000 year old burial grounds, an old American base (that may have been a missile instillation), and the 31km-long Afsluitdijk dike.

On Saturday we're off to Baarle-Hertog / Baarle-Nassau, a borderfreak's dream!

Pictures and more to come, but likely not until next week. There's just no time!!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

from the "on the road" dept.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Thursday. 8:15 am.

I'm off on the next leg of my European roadtrip... today I'll drive through Germany to the small town of Steenwijk, the Netherlands. My border pal Harry and his family live there.

On Saturday we're touring around the Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau enclaves in the south of the Netherlands. That's the bizarre town where it's hard to determine if you're in Belgium or the Netherlands.

Then I drive back to Copenhagen early next week and fly home on Wednesday.

More to come...


Mother Motherland

Mother Motherland
Originally uploaded by borderfilms (Doug).

I've posted more pictures from the big former-Soviet Republic roadtrip on Flickr. Just click the small slideshow to the right.

from the "work flow" dept.

How to use your Mac:

[h/t CW]


from the "chilling in Denmark" dept.

I'm into my second full day of relaxing in Copenhagen, but not for long. In about an hour I plan to hit the road for an afternoon roadtrip around the northern Danish coast.

On Thursday I'm heading south to Germany and the Netherlands. Back in Copenhagen early next week and Vancouver shortly thereafter.

I'm managed to get some more pictures up, but the words will have to wait. It's a pretty big process to whittle down 10 days on the road into something that's not 20,000 words long.

Plus my brain hurts!

I plan to bring the laptop on my Western European roadtrip... so at least I'll be in regular contact, WiFi gods willing.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

from the "picture this" dept.

Pripyat, Ukraine (Chernobyl)

The words from the first part of the latest adventure will have to wait. I'm packing for my next road trip - to Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. And I simply don't have the time.

I'm also in the middle of backing up my images, but will post a few on Flickr and Facebook.

Keep checking back regularly...


Monday, May 12, 2008

from the "back from the former-USSR" dept.

I'm back in suburban Copenhagen after a week in the wild east. I've not had internet access, save my mobile phone... making it impossible to post from the road.

But there are lots of stories to come.

First, a beer. Aaaah....


Friday, May 09, 2008

Still alive in Ukraine

Hi... I'm on the road in southern Ukraine... And alive! There has been little access to the internet... And I can't call back to Canada. Hopefully this text to blog post works. Much more on Facebook... Cheers!

Friday, May 02, 2008

from the "back in the ex-USSR dept.

Greetings from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

It's been a crazy trip so far and the fun has just begun.

On Friday we were in three capitals in one day -- flying from Copenhagen to Bucharest to Chisinau.

We spent a few hours wandering around the Romanian capital checking out the sights (of the revolution) and testing various beers.

Late in the day we flew to Chisinau, arriving around 10pm. Our totally Soviet hotel (with Soviet service) is outstanding. If you like bureaucracy and concrete.

It is early Saturday morning and we're heading off to explore the capital of this little known country. Then we drive to Odessa, Ukraine via the break-away Moldovan republic of Transnistria.

Longer stories to come, along with photos. However, I left my laptop in Copenhagen, so it may take a while.

That's it for now!


Thursday, May 01, 2008

from the "on the road again" dept.

We're just moments away from leaving Jesper and Nicolette's place in Hedehusene -- next stop Copenhagen International Airport. Then Bucharest, Romania. Then Chisinau, Moldova.

The adventure has begun.

I'm still waffling about bringing the Macbook. It'd be nice to have a place to dump my photos to and to connect to the world with. But... carrying all this crap around is a bit of a drag.

So... 16 minutes to make a decision.

The thing is, I already have my camera gear, et al. So it's not like I'm not already encumbered.

How is it that I can make a decision to move to Africa in a second flat, yet it takes days to decide whether to bring my computer to Ukraine.

Anyway... I will post as I am able. Hopefully tonight from the capital of Moldova!

And with that, a little Canned Heat: