Moved to a new address

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m very excited to be moving to a new blog address at

If you have a second, head over there and subscribe to the feed (using the “RSS” link in the masthead). I’ll hold up my end of the bargain with a steady stream of miscellanea I hope you’ll find interesting.

Cheers, C.


I am a NERD!! – The Best Camera…Nerd Night Slideshow

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hey, here’s a presentation I gave on photography at Phnom Penh’s nascent Nerd Night scene. Really it’s more a presentation on forgetting about equipment and actually *gasp* focusing on images. Ignore the horrific number of ‘likes’ and ‘ums’ I threw in there (I though an MA was supposed to me sound smrter). The whole thing was an improvisation on a theme, so it rates pretty low on the eloquence scale. With that enticing pitch…

The Best Camera…Nerd Night! with Chris Rompré from Christopher Rompré on Vimeo.

Nerd Night is done in a Pecha Kutcha format – 20 seconds, 20 slides, image-based slides (no reading!). It’s a fresh, non-intimidating approach to sharing ideas that is practically boring-proof. Thanks to Yi Wei and Mike Hahn for getting this together.

Tolstoy’s Grandson Meets a seven year old Dalai Lama

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Too ridiculous to make up, Tolstoy’s grandson missions over the Himalayas to find an alternative to the Burma Road with a letter from the US president, along the way meets with a seven year old Dalai Lama.

…and the whole thing was filmed! Amazing.

Uncovered Gem: Tolstoy’s Grandson Meets the Dalai Lama.


What tea has to do with critical moments in political history and iconic Russian literature.

In 1942, at the peak of WWII, Japan threw the Allies a formidable curveball — it blocked off the Burma Road, the essential artery supplying China with munitions from India to fight the occupying Japanese forces. Desperate for an alternative, the Allies diverted planes to the Himalayas, but the dangerous terrain and inclement weather caused too many pilots to crash into the mountains. A new land route between China and India had to be found, and two OSS men took it upon themselves to find it: Captain Brooke Dolan, an American explorer, and Major Ilia Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s grandson. To do so, they’d have to cross Tibet and seek the permission of a 7-year-old boy: The Dalai Lama.

Undeterred, the pair proceeded with their mission and came carrying a letter from President Roosevelt. At 9:20 in the morning of December 20, 1942, they were granted audience with His Holiness, establishing for the first time in history direct contact between a U.S. Presidnet and the Dalai Lama and thus bridging two cultures that had never met. Five months later, the two crossed the Tibetan platau and arrived in Northern China, completing the journey of over a thousand miles.

Dolan filmed the entire expedition and rare reels are now held in the motion picture library of The National Archive, who have kindly digitized and uploaded the footage for the world to see — just one instance of the importance of the digital humanities and the open web.

Tibetans are inherently sociable and on the slightest provocation pause their labors to visit over a cup of tea. Native drivers congregate at the ferry crossing. Tea is the chief drink of the country, made of barley, salt and butter. It gives them resistance to hunger and cold. They drink anywhere from 30 to 50 cups a day.’

The film offers a glimpse of a fascinating culture whose unique geopolitical position remains, as it was in 1942, a point of much political tension that has festered into grave human rights violations over the past half-century. For a well-rounded approach to one of modern history’s most critical justice issues, we highly recommend this pairing: The ambitious and scholarly Freeing Tibet: 50 Years of Struggle, Resilience, and Hope by former Reagan strategist Roberts and political journalist Elizabeth Roberts, and the tenderly meditative The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama.

via The National Archives

(Via Brain Pickings.)

Read Foreign Policy blog at your own risk

January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment


The normally well considered Foreign Policy blog published a rather shoddy bit of journalism today under the title, Collaborate with WikiLeaks at your own risk. In the article, Joshua Keating tries to make the case that the WikiLeaks project is no longer able to protect its sources. He cites the arrest and detention of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier thought to be the source of the Afghan and Iraq war logs as well as the WikiLeaks cables, and of Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer by Swiss authorities after handing over two CDs of client data to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Yet, Manning’s arrest was the result of being turned in late last May by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Wikileaks, other than their publishing of the materials as Manning surely wished when he sent them to Wikileaks. Notably, his arrest occurred before the release of the Afghan and Iraq war logs, or the US embassy diplomatic cables.

Citing Elmer’s arrest as a example is even more bizarre, as Elmer held a press conference with Assange to show the handoff of bank account numbers. Moreover, his profile was already highly public, as only hours before his arrest Elmer was convicted of breaking Swiss banking laws. Keating acknowledges this, but then closes the article by questioning drawing non-existent parallels and attacking Wikileaks credibility:

But the fact that the sources behind WikiLeaks’ biggest revelations are winding up in jail — contradicting the site’s original stated purpose — doesn’t bode very well for its ability to continue attracting whistleblowers.

Why would the blog of a respected publication allow such flimsy reporting to get posted? Why would Keating put his name to this? It’s only the latest in a series of malicious articles attacking Wikileaks credibility without real grounding. Are these reporters jealous of all the scoops they didn’t get to first? Are they mad that instead of doing real investigative journalism, they’re sitting a desk writing “personal opinion” pieces that only reference other journalists work? There are certainly plenty of substantive areas on which to criticize Wikileaks, let raise the bar here and write pieces that back up their arguments with substantive facts.

Nick Mahon’s “Godfather at Career Day”

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

A brilliant stop motion animation by Wakefield’s own Nick Mahon. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of his work in the future.


Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration: “

A must-read interview with Coppola. I love that despite the near sacred regard for films such as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, for him it’s still so much about the act of filmmaking. He seems totally willing to make a bad movie, in the quest to do something new and exciting.

On money and art too, he takes a surprising perspective:

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?


Doesn’t mean you can’t help somebody.

January 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Just finished a day of shooting in Siem Reap province. Interviewed this amazing 14 year-old girl, Plaot. She was born with birth defects that stunted her growth and make it very hard for her to walk, but she is so full of moxy! Despite chronic pain in her legs and severely curtailed mobility, she almost single-handedly takes care of her household while her older sister and brother-in-law labour in rice fields (parents are out of the picture). Not only that, but she’s really bright and brims with self-confidence, even around strange barangs with mics and camera lenses pointed in every direction.  When I got her in front of the camera, she was a natural, giving me great emotive lines like she memorized them from my own imaginary script. It also helps that she’s got a ridiculously disarming smile that instantly sets you at ease.

Normally, children born with problems like hers don’t even get the chance to go to school at all – they’re kept at home for domestic work, little is expected of them. On top of that, noone in Plaot’s family can read or write, her sister dropped out in grade two and has been labouring in the rice field ever since. Despite Plaot’s condition, her sister put her in school, committed to seeing her get some kind of education. Then last year, she was selected for a take-home ration from the World Food Program (a 15kg food bonus to help keep poor kids in school for a long as possible). Now she’s a major bread-winner in her household, account for 1/2 the food the family eats each month.

I was sad to leave Plaot – the village she’s from, Kouk Trach, is a brutalizingly rough two hour ride from Siem Reap town. I don’t think she gets to leave very often. Her sister (who acts as her mother) says she’s going to try and keep her in school until grade 12, but has no idea how to raise the money. She’ll be covered by public funding for a few more grades, but I’m starting to hatch some plans to help her out down the road. Lots to think about, but it’s all technical challenges. Just have to figure out how much it’s cost and make a plan….

It may be naive but screw it.They say you can’t save everybody, and they’re right, but it doesn’t mean you can’t help anybody. I can’t accept that’s its naive to try and make a difference in one person’s life, even if it’s only a drop the bucket.

More to come on this later…

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