Micah brought up cow-tipping coincidentally just about the time I'd meant to muse about the authenticity of the supposed practice. While in Wisconsin (near Twin Lakes) Thanksgiving with the in-laws, Lori's mother surprised me by saying she had never even heard of cow-tipping. It occurred to me that although people always mentioned the supposed practice (usually as a joke about relieving boredom) I had never met anyone who claimed to have done so. To be fair, my impression is that cow-tipping is expected to require at least five or six participants, so that would meet Micah's strength estimates, but I still share Micah's skepticism. Suburban legend? Or should I expect anyone to come forward with video?
This is a hunting season the prey is one more home
Of a dove trying to survive under the hawk’s regime
(page ripped) lets try something more optimistic:
each day I wake up and see like a 1000 cops
maybe they came to arrest a dealer…(he’s ever here, over here, oh no
they came to destroy his neighbor’s home)
what is happening here? A hate bubble surrounding the ghetto
why is it hard for him? And who’s going to answer him? Anywhere
I go, excuses are there to greet me
I broke the law? No no the law broke me
enough, enough (enough, enough) gentlemen (gentlemen)
I was born here, my grandparents were also born here, you will not sever me
From my roots (you will not sever me from my roots) understand, even if
I have faith in this “if you wish it is not a legend” regime
You still haven’t allowed me to build a porch to stand on and express it
—Tamer Nafar of DAM—"Born Here" translated lyrics
When explaining Hip-Hop to people my motto has always been: "Hip-Hop in its essence is regional", based, of course, on the word play at the heart of one of Hip-Hop's greatest songs, Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R.". I'm always blown away at how kids the world over take the basic art form, and make it so emphatically theirs. The quickest way to get clowned in many countries is to try to rap just like 50 Cent, or even just like Talib Kweli. Same goes for DJing and the other elements. It's already been the case in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, East Great Lakes, Los Angeles, the Bay area and more places within the U.S. Hip Hop was born in New York (with much courtesy from Jamaican immigrants), but anywhere it's picked up, it takes on an instant regional flavor. This is the strength of Hip-Hop.
I personally look out for the different Hip-Hop flavors of Paris, Lyon Zürich, Toronto, Dakar, Lagos, Havana, Tokyo, and many such places. It looks as if I'll have to add the West Bank to that listing.
Via Ethan Zuckerman I learned about a precious blossoming of Hip-Hop in Palestine. I've listened to a bunch of the linked tracks and watched a bunch of the videos. This shit is mad hot. The kids are articulate, angry and yet extraordinarily circumspect. Like many very sad observers of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I've found too little distinction made between Israeli, hard-line Zionist, Palestinian, terrorist, refugee, etc. These Palestinian rappers vent their frustration with the heavy-handed tactics of Israeli security forces without succumbing completely to the "annihilate Israel" logic of extremists. Sure there are parts of the Israeli side of the story that you're never going to get a fair hearing from in Palestinian rap, but no one could reasonably expect any more in such a polarized situation.
I personally believe that it's the "keep it real" ethic of Hip-Hop that makes it possible and even essential in such horrible conflicts for people to speak their mind without losing their minds. "Keep it real" is the same ethic that allows Hip-Hop to adapt so completely in wide-ranging locales. It can have negative consequences, from glorifying violence and sexism to causing smaller-scale conflict such as the Tupac/Biggie feud, but you rarely have to strain your ears before you find the culture quite willingly criticizing itself. And there is plenty of karma to balance out the negatives. Just last month (1) (2) there was a U.S. release of an amazing hip-hop collaboration between a Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese Christian former child soldier and Abdel Gadir Salim, a Sudanese Muslim bandleader. This is a conflict that has risen to levels of total war and genocide. I don't expect the release of Ceasefire will end the very deep-seated Sudanese strife, but it is just another example of how Hip-Hop brings people and cultures together even while it thrives on authentic cultural identity. Hip-Hop in its essence is Sudanese.
Sidebar. I went to watch Mos Def (purportedly), Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and Jean Grae at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Thursday. Mos Def was a no-show due to illness, but Talib Kweli is the one I wanted to see the most, anyway, and it would be my first time watching Pharoahe in concert. All the performers held it down solid, and as often happens when I go to such ensemble concerts, I had a pleasant surprise. K'naan, front man of The Dustyfoot Philospher, is a Toronto-based Somali rapper I'd never heard of. He did a superlative set rapping and singing while playing a traditional drum, with two other drummers working beside backup strings, organ, and a DJ. It was all-out boom-bap with unmistakable East African flavor. He moved the crowd to near hysteria (not bad for the act with leftover billing). He didn't get much into the simmering disputes between Somalia and Eritrea, but he definitely waxed eloquent about how real it is just to keep life and limb together in so much of his Motherland, and the many international and home-grown outrages that fuel the tragedies (keeping it real: he's as hard on Black warlords as he is on White colonists). Yeah. Hip-Hop in its essence is also Somalian.
As my peeps used to say in the early 90s: "Peace in the Middle East".
I play a lot of amateur soccer ("football", henceforth), as my poor right knee can attest. In the U.S., this inevitably means playing a lot with Spanish-speaking immigrants. As a result, my football Spanish has always been a lot better than my general-purpose Spanish (I do have to work on the latter).
One puzzle I've had for a while (at least a year) is why Mexicans call African players "kalucha". I've become quite used to being called that recently. Every call to me or other Africans on the field would use the term—"otra vez, kaLUcha!" or "chuta-la kaLUcha". I tried to puzzle it out in linguistic terms. Maybe it had something to do with "lucha"—"fight", "wrestling bout". Maybe it was a dig at the rather combative style of soccer African immigrants are used to. That didn't really sound right. When I asked a few of my Mexican friends, they said, they were not sure: they'd picked it up from their friends.
Last night I finally figured it out. Lori and I were watching a documentary that touched on the terrible tragedy of the 1993 Zambian football team plane crash. They happened to talk a bit about Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambian star who (with Charles Musonda) happened to miss the fatal plane ride because he played his professional football abroad and was to fly to Senegal separately. I'd known Kalucha had gone to Mexico, but I didn't know he played a time for the very popular Club América, nor did I know how hugely popular he'd become.
Mention Kalusha to any Mexican soccer fan and you could be certain they've met, heard of, or watched him on the screen. Having lived in Mexico for over five years , Kalusha has won hearts of most Mexicans and earned himself much respect.
In retrospect, this should have been obvious to me. As an example, I mentioned above the bit of Spanglish "chuta-la", in which "chuta" is a corruption of the English "shoot", because the "sh" sound does not occur naturally in Spanish and is generally corrupted to "ch". The same effect was changing "Kalusha" to "Kalucha". Most big-time soccer nations have a custom of local football nicknames taken from prominent stars. In Nigeria, we called each other "Keshi" or "Sia-Sia" depending on playing style or looks. Senegalese immigrants here in Colorado call each other "Diouf" and "Titi Camara". Mexicans call each other "Rafa" or "Borghetti" (wicked exciting player, that one). Clues were everywhere.
People call Bwayla "Kalu" for short. This is one of those names like "Obi" that are common throughout the African continent, with different meanings almost everywhere. In Igbo "Kalu" (with high tone and emphasis on the first syllable) is generally short for "Kamalu", meaning "thunder". It's a name I considered for Jide. Soccer is full of prodigious Kalus, including Nigerian Igbo Kalu Uche and Ivorian Bonaventure Kalou.
This past weekend I took the opportunity of vacation time and irregular sleeping schedule (due to our newest family member) to catch up on some Japanese horror flicks I've been meaning to watch. I only got as far as Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge. I thought they were brilliant, and will have to seek out more J-Horror. I have not watched the American versions of either, and I've found the inevitable comparisons I read on them to be a very interesting exemplar of cultural differences. Warning: Spoilers follow.
I've always had a love for mythologies, and Japan has a marvelous mythic tradition, so I've read plenty of Japanese mythology. Maybe that's why I don't have a problem with the disjointed nature of J-Horror. The unraveling threads, the lack of moral simplicity, the indirect methods for the scares are all quite palatable to me. It's not much unlike the West African mythic tradition, and in fact, it's a lot like the Greek mythic tradition. The Romans began the process of rationalizing the Greek myths, and since then Western tastes have been for clean story lines and moral certitude.
One preference that seems more specifically American than generally Western is for literal representation, even in horror. I've heard a lot of criticism from Americans of the look of the monsters in "Ju-on: The grudge" they're plied with white makeup and then blued up, and how is this supposed to be scary when we've seen the twisted monsters of "Evil Dead" and "Night of the Living Dead"? The interesting thing is that, though I love both of those movies, they have always represented comedy as much as horror to me.
Jack of diamonds! Jack of spades! Whhhhyyyyy dooooo yyyyoooouuu distuuuurb my sluuumber
That shit has me rolling, yo. Anyway, complaints about the less obviously grotesque J-Horror demons seems ludicrous to me. Do people really claim that they're more terrified of the fully revealed than of the unformed and unknown? Who cares if Toshio looks like an overgrown blue baby when he clearly establishes himself as the omen of his murderous parents (you know that the big spooks are coming, but you're not sure just how, and that distills a real dread). Who cares that Sadako is all black, wet hair when her slow, purposeful stagger and the one briefly exposed eye are so thoroughly menacing? I find that in my reaction to J-Horror, the chills come far more from the menace of the characters, than from the effects of the characters. I use the word "effects" not only to mean the special effects that bring the characters to life, but also the effects of their actions on people. Sadako stops people's hearts. She doesn't find creative ways to maul their bodies, as is the general formula in American horror. Much of the fright comes from the lack of clear moral to her vengeance. I've heard people ridicule "Ringu" because they have no idea why Sadako cursed a tape for the general public rather than seeking out the specific ones who wronged her, but that arbitrariness is exactly what is so horrible to me.
When the monsters do appear in J-Horror, it's not with flawless CGI that you're thrilled: it is the mannerisms. Sadako's walk. Kayako's bulging eyes. When Sadako crawls out of the TV, and when Kayako does that awful staircase descent, I found myself more thrilled than in any other horror moment I could remember. I don't carry horror movies into my dreams very often, but these ones left me pretty jumpy for a couple of days.
I do have to watch out for unfair generalization. There have been examples of successful American horror that prefers subtler methods (and is thus to me much scarier). But I think that it's quite typical of Hollywood horror to prefer the explicit and gory to the understated and symbolic.
BTW, seems to me Ringu draws on the famous Japanese ghost story of Okiku's well. There are several variations on the story, but in the one I have in mind, after Okiku was killed and thrown into the well by the Samurai, she climbed out of the well every night as a yūrei avenging spirit, tormenting the Samurai until he went mad, thus extracting her revenge. Of course Sadako is no yūrei, which I've never heard of to be poltergeists (to use the Western term). She was telekinetic in life and retained her action-at-a-distance capabilities to a terrifying degree in the afterlife. Tomoko, on the other hand, who inexplicably urges her cousin to watch the same tape that killed her, seems more of a usual yūrei: seen and heard, but not physically threatening.
One way or another, if you want a little different take on the horror genre, give J-Horror a try, and keep your mind open. For my part, I'll have to catch some more. I already have the much-praised A Tale of Two Sisters in the Netflix queue. If you know of other such flicks that I should make a beeline for (I might go for the Japanese Dark Water, next), drop me a line.
When I was in college in Milwaukee I sort of joined National Society of Black Engineers, NSBE, as in, I played for their intramural basketball team, attended a few meetings, and (independent matter) made friends with a number of the members. I don't think I even joined formally, but anyway my then roommate and current business partner Mike Olson challenged me on it. He put up the usual counterexample of the horrified response if he'd started up a white engineer's club. As I recall, I started with a half hearted defense, before admitting that I was uncomfortable with the idea. I'd started out being friends with NSBE members, and never made an explicit, personal, moral stand about the club.
I do think the general idea of exclusion on the basis of race is dangerous, regardless of what past injustices you think you're trying to redress. It's also confusing. I'm raising three mixed race children and where do they fit in with such boundaries. Lori and I generally respond indignantly whenever we're supposed to classify the kids as one race or another. Luckily the census has a mixed race category these days. When they grow up, they can choose to associate as they please, but right now, we have no intention of disrespect to any branch of their rich heritage.
But I'm not a fundamentalist on integration. I understand the occasional motivation for exclusionary clubs. Women's networking groups spring up because even now it's hard for women to find equitable general fora for business. No doubt some other disadvantaged groups such as Black Americans have the same problem, so whereas I think the idea behind NSBE can be dangerous, you won't catch me entirely condemning it. I think some of the most disturbing aspects of the case in the linked article are specific to that case.
For one thing, I read that this blacks-only golf club sees itself as a charity. This beggars common sense considering that they would happily accept "a young, black, successful third-generation, Oxford educated Brit". When you insult the intelligence of those whom you exclude rather than engaging with them to honestly discuss the practical need for exclusion, you're asking for trouble, and you can't expect sympathy.
In South Africa, I think this sort of exclusion is especially problematic because it tarnishes the extraordinary success of the fall of Apartheid. I know and respect a lot of white South Africans, and based on these associations and my following of current events in South Africa, I believe that a gratifying number of the white population in that country is horrified at their racist legacy. Sure, they might not have come to such reform if not for the forceful realities of the freedom movements (much more important than even the infamously leaky sanctions), but all that matters is that they did the right thing in the end, for whatever reasons, and are now largely committed to justice. In turn Mandela, Tutu, etc. showed the most unbelievable courage in fostering an atmosphere of reconciliation. I think the likes of the black golf club causes very dangerous and unnecessary rifts in this peace. Even if it doesn't cause bloody conflict, it will continue the flight of white South Africans out of the country, and I think this a tremendous loss.
Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty.
We forward in this generation
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have—
I've been hearing a lot about Ms. Dynamite's performance at Live8. Numerous attendees have rhapsodized over the power of her "Redemption Song" cover. Even commentators who had already blasted her for being the token black Live8 performer seemed to soften their tone when talking about her actual contribution. And BTW, yes, although I have plenty of beef with Live8, as I had to express to a friend lately, that does not mean that I've ever felt it necessary as a result to denigrate everyone who supported Live8. I'll leave the indiscriminate spray of spleen to others. Anyway did people really expect anything pedestrian from the wicked brilliant Ms. Dynamite? From the woman who can chat in rapid syncopated fire like a semi-automatic gun, and then sing as engagingly as a Savannah weaver bird? Once I heard that she covered Bob Marley's wonderful song, I knew I had to hear for myself.
The first time I heard Ms. Dynamite was when she set fire 'pon Sticky's UK Garage club anthem, "Booo!", which soon became an Ogbuji household anthem. Next I heard her shred the So Solid track "Envy (They don't know)" (which couldn't become an anthem at our house because Lori unfortunately hates The So Solid Crew). So we were mad ready when she dropped A Little Deeper ("It takes more" and "Dynamite" from the single had already taken their turn as household anthems). But never mind my family's endorsement, let's hear from Ali G:
Next up is MC Dynamite, who is me favorite Garage MC with his or her track called "Dynamite". That is a wicked name for the track and me swear this track is just like Dynamite, because it's going to explode like a massive bit of dynamite. And like this kind of record, dynamite can make a lot of mess and proper mash things up, just like Dynamite can. Oh yeah, this track can also blow up like dynamite. Sure this track ain't red, and don't come in boxes with the name "dynamite" on them, but this tune is also on fire, just like Dynamite, innit? This is also a banging tune, and dynamite goes "bang" when it come out of the box, doesn't it?
OK. Enough with the Sacha Cohen. I hunted down the Live8 performance, first finding an AOL/Netscape widget site that offered Live8 videos but refused to work with Firefox. I did eventually find a collection of Live8 mp3s, including this "Redemption Song" Live8 clip. I also got the concert version "Dy-na-mi-tee", another favorite, a really sweet old-school romp (old school beat, old school sentiment, etc.) through her airy brand of nostalgia. I must say it sounded a bit muddled and rushed at Live8, which I can understand from what I heard of the logistical difficulties of cramming so many acts together in such an unforgiving schedule. She did add bongos to the background, which I think is a nice touch. Sounds as if it would have made a nice studio remix, but she's on to her next project, I understand. Hells yeah. I'm all about a new Ms. Dynamite album (can't find any solid links yet, just the rumors of a new album).
One note of interest, some cat I don't think I've heard before performed a rap at the end of "Redemption Song". The lyrics are fairly insightful, with just a couple of WTF bits.
What's going on, nothing's changed, we're still exploiting the poor
Slavery never ends, yo it just changed wars
AIDS and free trade decimating the young
Famine everywhere but why never a shortage of guns?
Conflict, duel all over the globe instigated by our leaders
War in the Motherland but no African arms dealers
The West robbed the third world of every single cent
Now there's Third World debt. How does that make sense?
The last two lines do smack it all home, on the real, although I think we need to get past all that. Africans will get theirs back from the West, over time. Demographic power and all that. The more immediate concern is Africa's independent economic development.
But at least they got some Dynamite, and we got a reminder that Bob Marley's song is a superlative testament to the emotive and universal power of music.
And hey. Yay! I scrounged out a few minutes for a Quotīdiē. Chicken noodle soup for the overworked soul.
I think [events such as Live8] are effective at mustering attention and getting people thinking about things. What I find frustrating as someone who has written about Africa now for nearly 20 years is that the message becomes so simplified, and it's distorted in the process. I find horrible in G8, Africa Commission, the Live8 this sort of patronizing sense that "we can deliver recovery to Africa. It's in our hands. It's in our control. We the generous well-meaning West are going to deliver recovery to Africa." Things are never that simple. There's the whole issue of governance, leadership, corruption, the whole issue of countries that want to go to war. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, we have two countries for example that are still re-arming in preparation for a future war. Where does what we decide in the G8 affect that? This is not all in our remit. In my own guts, in my heart I believe that Africa's recovery will come from Africa. It will come from the young Africans I meet when I go there, who are educated, who are motivated, who know exactly what they want to do. They want to run their small businesses, they all have three mobile phones each and are extremely clear in their thinking. They don't want charity, they don't want help, they just want to be allowed to run their own businesses. I think those people are going to build their future, I don't think it's going to come from the West. I think there are things we have to do out of sheer human decency, and the trade issues come in here, but I don't think we can deliver salvation. We are not the cavalry.
I heard this story last week, but it's been a hectic couple of weeks, and I've only now had a chance to comment on it. The 35 minute segment is very interesting overall, focusing on Eritrea and the fascinating, sad story of that country's abuse by colonialism and Cold War neo-colonialism. Near the end (minute 26 or so) she had the above absolute gem to offer on the general issue of today's hype over aid to Africa.
Hostess Terry Gross's question was:
Do you think mega-concerts like Live8 and its predecessor LiveAid are useful in calling attention to the issues in Africa?
And as you can read, Michela completely nailed what I and some other colleagues have to say about these matters.
She follows up with another interesting statement:
I think that debt relief comes into this, but I'm not one of those people who think you just deliver unconditional debt relief. There are countries whose dictators, for example Mobutu, whom I've written a lot about, just racked up these unspeakable debts, and it was outrageous that people ever lent money to people like Mobutu, what were they thinking of? This man was so manifestly corrupt and everybody knew what he was spending his money on. There is the issue of odious debts, but I think we have to be a little realistic and critical. I worked for a magazine that was talking about debt relief in Angola, and I felt, if you have manifestly corrupt government in places such as Angola that are brimming in diamonds and oil, is it for us to write off their debt? This is a government that has repeatedly shown that it don't give a damn about the population are is quite happy to let poverty levels, AIDS levels, education health go through the floor. Is it really for us to save Angola? I think it's time to get a little more realistic and tough talking with some of these horrible regimes that still exist in Africa. One of my main criticisms of the African Commission is that it keeps talking about this new leadership that's emerging in Africa, and I'd like to know which leaders they're talking about? Which ones in particular, because I don't see those leaders.
I think this is interesting. I think that to some extent "odious" makes up most of the debt to African by the West, whether or not to corrupt governments. As such, I do think that there is an element of moral obligation in debt relief, but it's clear that it is a dangerous distraction from the real engine of development, the professionals Michela mentions.
And this is as good a time as any to mention that even though I sometimes lump my fellow native African professionals in diaspora with our colleagues based on the continent, this is a false parity. The latter group is so much more important in the grand scheme of African development, and I get the sense, which Michela also puts across nicely in her quote, that they will soon be impossible to ignore, much as their Indian and Chinese counterparts before them.
It seems I'll be having a go at Michela's books.
Someone forgot to re-read the US constitution this past July 4th.
Someone developed a lacuna where the words of another Founding Father should have been:
Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty.
Someone decided that because right wing reagent media is poisonous, intimidating and loud, it must be worthy of emulation.
Someone needs to be told in no uncertain terms that London was brave, sensible, dignified and and just in her acceptance of a cosmopolitan society before the bombings, brave, sensible, dignified and and just in her conduct during the bombings, and has shown very little dimming of that bravery, good sense, dignity and justice after the bombings. There are a lot of Americans who can learn lessons from this fact, if they can hold their ridicule long enough to engage their own brain cells.
London did not throw out all its Irish residents during the IRA bombing campaign. They survived that campaign, and emerged a stronger city. Never forget that.
P.S. Also worth a read: "Bugged by the Brits"
A typically effervescent performance on Def Poetry Jam (love that show) tipped me into checking out the tale of Joaquín Murrieta. Thus I came across "Joaquin Murrieta: Literary Fiction or Historical Fact?", by William Mero. From the conclusion:
The tradition in Latin cultures of the bandit as a social revolutionary is well known. Eric Hobsbawm in his classic, Bandits, discusses the social implications of the Joaquin Murrieta legend and how it fits into the traditional Hispanic view of rural banditry. In fact the Chicano movement of the 1970’s adopted Murrieta as a symbol of the fight against “Anglo” oppression. Sadly, because of protests from a few in the Mexican- American community, Harry Love’s burial site has been denied a proper historical marker while Tiburcio Vasquez, convicted leader of the infamous Tres Pinos massacre, in a nearby graveyard has his final resting place marked by an elaborate monument.
Joaquin Murrieta along with Jesse James and Billy the Kid is one of America’s most interesting examples of myth creation. In contrast to the original Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest fame, enough written material remains to enable scholars to trace the evolution of a short lived, violent outlaw into a defender of the oppressed and downtrodden. A scholarly investigation of this phenomenon probably tells us more about ourselves than it does about the real Joaquin Murrieta.
The Murrieta controversy does contain another lesson for us all. Historical truths are often elusive. The general public usually prefers a good story over verifiable facts from primary sources. Most popular histories are commonly viewed through the lens of current social and political prejudices. Perhaps that is another good reason why history should be studied and analyzed with as much care as any of the physical sciences.
But this is just wonderful. The slam poetry piece on Def Poetry Jam wove it all into a very tight and compelling piece (I'll have to hunt down the text for that performance some day). Sprinkled into the entire romantic arc were elements of Robin Hood, The Count of Monte Cristo, and even Spartacus. I expect that if this story is given another few centuries to percolate it will come to rival the hero tales of Jason and Theseus. Or is it the quoted article that exaggerates? Looking in other secondary sources, it seems everyone agrees that here has been some embellishment in the Murrieta legend, but Mero is the only one I've seen to claim such a complete divergence from historical fact.