Chief Niwot's curse

Living in Boulder county, Colorado, I've often heard humorous references to "Chief Niwot's curse" by fellow transplants, and a few not-so-humorous references by native Coloradans. I've heard a lot of vague formulations of the curse, and got curious about it. It seems vague formulations are what you find on the Web as well. Apocrypha get no respect.

The neatest reference I find is in the Boulder Weekly's "A-to-Z Guide to Boulder: How to talk like a native"

Niwot's Curse—When white men first came to Boulder in 1858, they were looking for gold. What they found instead were Southern Arapaho warriors under Chief Niwot who wanted them to leave. When they refused, Chief Niwot supposedly uttered this curse: "People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of its beauty."

That page also has a very brief summary of Chief Niwot's story, which is very interesting, and worth pursuing in primary sources. Overall the page is a reasonable guide to "Boulder weird", which is tolerable to my taste in medium quantities (I love hanging out in Boulder proper, but I'm glad I live one US 36 exit and one big hill south. Not so glad, I admit, about living among the little boxes made of ticky-tacky).

For me, Boulder valley was just part of the magic in the curse. It was in 1995 when I took a road trip with friends from Fort Collins to San Francisco, driving through Boulder as tourists and then on through Golden (striking in a somewhat more industrial way) and onto I-70 through the jaw-dropping rockies. While in Fort Collins, we also trekked up famous Highway 14 to the continental divide. I've been all over the U.S. and I must say three of the four most gorgeous passes I've ever seen are in Colorado. Yosemite is the one out of four, and I think Independence pass edges it out.

I don't know whether it was specifically Boulder valley and the Flatirons that did for me--it was more likely Fort Collins and environs--but Niwot's curse took a hold, and I found myself determined to move to Colorado to settle, succeeding in 1998 when we moved to Fort Collins.

Calabar, Cairo (Egypt), Birmingham (England), New York, Cleveland, Gainesville, Enugu, Owerri, Yola, Port Harcourt, East Brunswick, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Chicago, Dallas, Peoria, Fort Collins, and now Superior/Boulder. I'd never lived anywhere in my life a full three years before settling here in Superior (I'll have lived six years here in May). Lori does love Colorado, but I think she loves even more that my moving itch seems to have subsided. To most of those under its hold, the famous curse has the devious trick of looking like the most extravagant sort of blessing.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Business-grade broadband in Superior, Colorado

Looking into upgrading my home broadband to business grade, I've casted about for options. Comcast is my current provider for digital cable plus cable broadband, and I've been happy with them, so I called to ask what they could do for me.

Their quote for (Comcast Workplace Standard) was $110 per month for 6.6Mb down and 768Kb down and 5 static IPs, with a promo waiving installation fee and taking $20 per month off for the first 12 months (requires a 24 month commitment).

Sounded good, and seems it must be. I went hunting around sites such as DSLBroker to find business broadband options for Superior, Colorado, where I live. I found nothing but plans on the order of $200/mo for 1.1Mb symmetric; overall I didn't find anything that even came close to the value Comcast was offering. Does anyone know whether I'm just missing something? Do you have experience with business-grade broadband at home?

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Good bleeding blustery morning, Colorado

I'm always quick to big up Colorado, but boy if there is a downside, it's the wicked wind storms we get in early spring and late fall. This morning's Aeolian exertions blew apart almost one whole side of our fence (and you don't build dainty little white picket numbers in this state: you go for barracks quality). It also dragged our gas grill (complete with heavy tank) six feet across our upper level deck and crashing down the stairs to the ground below. We're also less a worrisome number of roof panels. No fun, especially the week before we have to leave the country. Elsewhere in the neighborhood there were light poles knocked down, sheds upended and debris everywhere. Not a safe time to be out of doors.

Oh well. Can't have it all.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Rafting the crazy Clear Creek

This weekend's adventure was white water rafting Clear Creek, between Idaho Springs, CO and Golden. I drive by that creek all the time on I-70 and Route 6 on the way to and from snowboarding, and I've never thought of it as a big deal, but we've had an great year for snow and rain and this is high season, so it turns out that there are class 3 through class 5 rapids to ride. I've been rafting before, but class 3 tops, so I figured it should be a blast, especially since I'm rather scared of water.

I got in a group with 12 of my friends, and we went for a full day trip Saturday. In the morning, we started off on the class 3s, and had a couple of incidents in class 4 areas. Melisse fell out of the boat entirely at one point and Noah and Philippe had to haul her out of the water. And then we wrapped our raft around a high rock, and had to do some very frantic "high-side" maneouvers to avoid flipping the entire rig. I lost my paddle a couple of times, usually catching it on a rock in a middle of a stroke, but once I ditched it when Dawn lunged to prevent me from pitching off the boat as it lurched to port, and then I had to lunge to hold her in when the boat lurched back to starboard.

It was wild fun, though. Our guide Sean started by making us yell "Yee- haw" after we survived each class 4 section (he's from West Virginia but he's rafted a lot on the Zambezi). We, being the group we are, decided that wasn't multi-culti enough and added a French "Hourah" and an Igbo "Chineke" (literally "GOD ALMIGHTY!") Zelda said "I think 'Chineke' is the most satisfying yell", and indeed, we all practiced it a good deal.

So what, after lunch, do we do after all that? Up it to class 4/5, of course. Melisse, Maggie and Noah had had enough and bailed, but the rest of us tackled the bottom, harder part of the course. Amazingly, though we went through ridiculously huge drops, spins and slides with names like "tornado turn", "guide ejector", "double knife", etc., we didn't eject anyone or flip the raft. A bloody good thing because looking at that churning mess, it would have been a pretty dire situation if someone ended up in the water. The guide company had a spotter/rescue dude with a mean hand at his kayak, but even he would have had difficulty getting to someone through all that.

I had a serious case of omni-pain (a term, all too familiar to first- time snowboarders) all that night and the next day from all the hard paddling and lurching about, but man was that a rush. I'll have to give it a go again, soon. Especially if we see epic white water like that again.

Big up to our guide Sean who kept us undrowned, and to High side adventures, the guide company.

More pictures on Flickr

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Colorado Rapids home opener, and Mr. Eddie Johnson

Lo! the cat with ball of string
Winking and jinking
Winking and jinking
Winking and jinking
Like Eddie Johnson

In other words, that boy bad! Naw, that boy bad! Running past CONCACAF defenders like they're wearing cement moon boots. Can't wait to see him at the World Cup in Germany next year.

We Ogbujis, proud Colorado Rapids season's ticket holders, went to see the home opener against F.C. Dallas Saturday night. I'll be honest, though. Eddie was the expected highlight. All the images have captions (titles, technically): just hold your mouse over them.

EJ takes a throw in (uuuuh, why, coach?)

Osi showing the folks how to do the Corner Kick Stampede <em>proper

Hmm. Eddie threw up some nice moves, Joe Cannon (should-be MVP and should be national team starter) made some spectacular saves, Carlos Ruiz did his usual flopping flounder impression, but it all ended up 0-0.

So what was cool was that Rapids staffers were going around spotting kids and giving out passes to a post game autograph session with Mr. Johnson himself. It's never hard to miss loudmouth Osi, so we copped some for the family. After the game we went to the tunnel for the event...

Osi gives RapidMan a poundUche sporting Rapids pride while waiting to greet the star opponentOsi and Jide making concrete angels, or something

And we got our brief, but cool bonus. Osi knows Eddie Johnson from watching his father cheer him on through the television set, but upon meeting the man and getting his autograph, his only words were...

EJ scribbles for Osi

Osi balefully inspects EJ's script, while Jide looks on

"Hey, I can't read those letters." Eddie Johnson replied: "So what, dude, you want me to print my name for you or something?". We laughed. We jetted. Fun night, all around.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Peter, Coloradan classicist

I first met Peter Saint-André as a neighbor. He worked for Webb Corp, which had an office right next to Fourthought (in the same building). They hired us in 2001 to explore RDF technology in their applications (e-commerce template Web sites and directories). I got to know a lot of their developers, and was especially impressed by the quality of folks Webb had gathered: from Tom Bender to Mike Brown (whom we eventually hired at Fourthought) to Peter.

Webb also served as the incubator for Jabber, and I came to know Peter as "the Jabber guy". I'm not much of an instant messaging user, but even so, I could see that Peter was doing a formidable amount of good work in the Jabber community, and its off- spring in the standards space, XMPP. I recently had a brief e-mail exchange with Peter (I found out he keeps tabs on the Colorado blogging community), and he reminded me that he's a strict classicist. I'm a classicist as well (fairly strict), and I appreciate people who make the considerable effort to reach back to Greek and Latin culture. There's no better way to rear a versatile mind. As if to illustrate this fact, Peter pointed me to his verse. It's pretty good stuff, mostly pleasant translations of Sappho, Horace and others, with some light lyric.

I vowed not to go from better to worse
By writing any of their fine free verse!
I'll take my metrical lines underground
Before I make verse without sense or sound.

Peter Saint-André--from "Moving Violation"

Nice complement to my recent reading of Expansive Poetry ("Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism") (see recent Poetry topic entries). I'm not as much of a metrical absolutist as Peter, but I do strongly believe that a poet who cannot write well in form can not write well in free verse. If I had to make a choice in my own reading and writing, I'd give up free verse in an instant.

And it's very interesting to note that Peter is very classicist (and Renaissance) in his attitude towards copyright. Bravo.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Zap Zap Zap Mama

Wow. Last night Zap Mama ripped the lid off the Boulder Theater in support of Ancestry in Progress. As I said,, I'd been looking forward to the concert, but I had no idea what I was in for.

First thing that needs saying: I don't care what your musical predilection is. If you have the merest hint of eclecticism about you, and you love a good show, do not miss Zap Mama when they come your way. I can't think of a single other person for whom I'd give such a universal recommendation, but I'd be amazed if anyone was unmoved in a Zap Mama concert. They jaunt through Japan, India, both Americas, Europe, and, of course, West Africa in a pretty impressive sweep of musical style. But don't call it "world music", as some reductionist critics do. This is no patch-up of the alien mediocre. Zap Mama are sheer virtuosity by any standard.

I've heard a lot of people talk about Bobby McFerrin's vocal range and skill. Marie Daulne, Zap Mama band leader, is easily a match (Zap/McFerrin would be a killer collabo). Marie has no earthly right to be able to make some of the sounds that came out of her mouth. If you have/get the album, listen carefully. I think I can safely say that any sound that was not obviously made by drums, bass guitar, bass upright, electric guitar or keyboard (plain organ voice, mostly) or turntable cut it probably came from a voice, either Marie or one of the other singers. And Marie's voice: plaintive, assured, earthen, ethereal, reedy, robust, she affects it all.

And she is one of the most striking women you'll come across. Not just lissome and beautiful, but also cultured, artful, expressive, energetic and very playful (she closed the concert with some classic hip-hop moves, including the reverse worm). She bounced effortlessly around the stage while exercising that shape-shifting voice in a panoply of languages. At one point I was thinking to myself "this woman has more of The Goddess in her than anyone else I've encountered", and soon thereafter, a CU Boulder coed-looking chick turned to me and said "Oh my god. She's a goddess. I've like, never had a goddess so close I could almost touch her" (we were in the front row). I nodded. I can quite feel where she was coming from.

Boulder Theatre was packed, and as usual, the Boulder crowd ate it up like suya on Id el-Fitri. I barely had space to shake like Bandy Bandy. And speaking of "Bandy Bandy", that was the song that immediately followed the encore, and pretty much the entire crowd try fi wind up them waist. If you go to Zap Mama's Web site, the sinuous bass chord progression that greets you is from "Bandy Bandy", and it's as infectious as it comes. Closing with an extended version of Follow Me, Marie gave the whole band in turn a chance to amp up the crowd. They'd already taken us all over the musical map, from India ("namaste" as Marie modestly said, with proper soft voicing on the "t"); through Europe, playing songs such as "Ça Varie Varie"; through her native Zaïre (now "Congo" again), adding to several of the songs a strong Soukous flavor not present on the album, and acknowledging each explosion of the crowd with a very melodious "mmmmeeeeerci beaucoup"; Japan, playing "Alright" (and yes, she does both onnagata and aragoto in the extended, Kabuki-like intro); South America, playing songs such as "Vivre"; and New York City, with a few brief demos of old-school Hip-Hop. Zap Mama didn't spare any opportunity for crowd participation, and the crows was very willing. It wasn't just the standard call-and response--I nearly lost my keys when she had us shake them in the air as makeshift maracas during "Show me the Way".

The only sad note of the night was that Lori didn't come. She hasn't heard much Zap Mama, and I didn't realize how universal the concert would be in its appeal. The funny thig is that my good friend Tony had been inviting me to catch Zap Mama at his Aggie Theater for years, but I never got around to it. We shall not make such a mistake again. When we saw Erykah Badu last year in Denver, we were all riding the high for months, including the kids, who imitated our imitation of Eryka's overhead hand slide through her extended set of "Woo". Zap Mama is at least as powerful an experience, and we'll catch her together next time.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Tu crois que le monde est à toi,
Qu'il t'appartient;
C'est ta chose, tu en disposes,
Sans qu'il ne reste rien

--Les Nubians--Demain--Princesses Nubiennes

My generic pass at translation:

You believe the world is yours
That it belongs to you
It's your thing, it's at your disposal
Without which [without you?] there's nothing left

O-ou yes, Hélène et Célia Faussart, Les Nubians. Les soeurs chantant. Les soeurs sexy.

As I recall, I heard "Makeda" in a Boulder record store, and, besotted, ran to faire le connaissance of whomever had produced such gorgeous music. I saw Les Nubians at the Fox Theater in Boulder a couple of years ago. Comme d'habitude, the Boulder crowd was well up on their music, and the energy was amazing. Their encore was a sublime tribute to African music, followed by a crowd-participation version of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster". It strikes me how consistently wonderful my concert experiences in Boulder are. It may be a white bread town in all demographic reality, but in spirit, Boulder doesn't fake the funk. I'm looking forward to seeing Zap Mama at the Boulder Theatre tomorrow. Oui. Soi-même Zap Mama. Quelle chance pour moi.

C'est mardi, which means the day for La Table Francophone of Boulder. I've been going most Tuesday evenings for the last few months. I go to work on my spoken French, and to hang out with my friends, many of whom these days are francophones. Une soirée avec mes amis. Quelle chance pour moi.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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King Sunny Ade invades Boulder

E je ka jooooo! Ka anyi gbaa egwu! (That's "let's dance!" in Yoruba and Igbo, respectively).

Last night Lori and I went to see King Sunny Ade at The Boulder Theatre.

The concert started with a very lukewarm opening set by Obi Obadebe (whom my friend Ejovi AKA Joe thought was related to the great musician Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe). Always wonder when you see a West African band with three players. We don't do very much part-way, and our bands typically start with eight musicians. It was cool to hear highlife played in public in the U.S. outside my parent's circle, but somehow I'm doubtful about the Obadebe/Osadebe connection. Apparently Boulder is a bit of a hot spot for highlife musician visitors, mostly Ghanaian, and there is a big highlife concert coming up this Friday. I'll have to pay attention.

Anyway, Sunny Ade himself took the stage with a band of 12, and completely commanded it. I love watching the subtleties of great band leaders (Buckwheat Zydeco is a good example). Ade worked flawless timing and very clean playing out of his big group with deft looks, nods, and gestures. I've always marveled at how highlife, soukous and juju bands have such sharp and clear instrumentation, and I caught a glimpse of the process on stage.

Most importantly, the music was wonderful. Playful, energetic, thick, punctuated by the insistent talking drum (Ade probably makes better use of the talking drum than any other popular musician). Ade hopped around the stage like a man 30 years his junior. The audience followed his lead (as usual for Boulder there were a lot of hippies, old and new). They even crowded the stage to "spray" the musicians. Fun to see some of our traditions embraced by others. Ade occasionally gave a charge the revels by bringing out the heavy duty dancing girls. I found myself doing all the old high school / college dances from O wa mbe to Foot Patrol.

Lori jammed a good bit, for one almost 6 months pregnant (not that preganacy has ever done much to dampen her energy). She went to the sitting area for the occasional spell, but she had a lot of fun. We ran into my friend Joe and his girlfriend Carmella. Joe and I chatted about our own memories of Nigerian music in Nigeria, (we're 20 and 15 years removed, respectively, from the actual country). Carmella is from Galicia and before Ade came on we chatted about the parallels between Spain's politics of regional nationalism and Nigeria's. One point I made was that political differences in Nigeria tended to fail in two areas: food and music. To be sure, music like Ade's is pretty universal, especially live, as it should be, and last night's experience underscored that point.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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