Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just trashy TV or genocide denial?

So there's apparently a new reality show on the History Channel where contestants reenact the infamous journey where Henry Morton Stanley goes to rescue Livingstone. This is what the website says:

Twenty miles off the coast of eastern Africa, four modern-day explorers are sailing toward the unknown, the deep interior of Tanzania. They’ll travel 970 miles through African terrain that is as stunning as it is fraught with danger. Using only a compass and basic maps, they will attempt to recapture the spirit of one of the world’s most remarkable adventures—journalist Henry Morton Stanley’s perilous 1871 journey to find Dr. David Livingstone. Their historic exploration has been captured by one of the premiere storytellers of our time, Mark Burnett, for the eight-part television event, EXPEDITION AFRICA

This is not a competition or a game. It's a real-life adventure. These four explorers--navigator Pasquale Scaturro, wildlife expert Dr. Mireya Mayor, survivalist Benedict Allen and journalist Kevin Sites--will trek across a vast, unforgiving landscape of dense swamps, rugged mountains and barren deserts. They will face severe dehydration, deadly diseases, wild animals and more than 29 kinds of venomous snakes, only to learn that the greatest danger may actually be one another.

What struck me was just how much of a bubble I live in. I get that it's fun to pretend to be in rugged life-and-death situations hence the popularity of orienteering as a sport. I also realise that you need an exotic back-story to make a show interesting but, and this is my main problem: isn't about time we all just retired that sad and discredited safari/explorer aesthetic.

For one thing, Tanzania isn't all that dangerous or remote. Take this map from the website for instance:

It is entirely possible to take a train from Dar to Kigoma, which is then only a short ride from Ujiji. If you don't like trains, air-conditioned coaches go all over the country for under twenty bucks.

Also, my knowledge of the original expedition, much of it from the masterpiece of Victorian era history King Leopold's Ghost, is of a creeping massacre, starting from the coast and slowly moving inland, burning the villages in its way and viciously killing thousands including most of the porters. Stanley, some years later, would become the celebrity architect and engineer of Leopold's Congo Free State, a giant slave empire which left an estimated ten million people dead between 1885 and 1908 or half the entire population of the region.

Let me suggest an idea for season two: EXPEDITION EUROPE where we follow four intrepid adventurers dressed up in Nazi regalia as they reenact the invasion of Poland while learning about the local flora and fauna from exotically dressed locals.

Season three: Mao's Long March?

You get the idea.

Township Funk

I woke up this morning humming the riff from this kwaito track. Funny cuz I haven't listened to it in months.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Best of Lusaka Video

A lot of people are faulting me for not posting any photos that give a sense of what Lusaka is like. This video on purports to show the best of Lusaka. I'm linking to it instead because I think it shows everything that's mundane and mediocre in Lusaka. Not to fault the filmmaker at all--it's well done--it just misses the point a bit. Highlight: wounded buffalo metaphor at the Lusaka museum.

Dumb Headlines #2: The perilous Lujo Virus

Scientists identify new lethal virus in Africa

ATLANTA -- Scientists have identified a lethal new virus in Africa that causes bleeding like the dreaded Ebola virus. The so-called "Lujo" virus infected five people in Zambia and South Africa last fall. Four of them died, but a fifth survived, perhaps helped by a medicine recommended by the scientists.

Okay, so it's not thaaat bad. Like, it's basically factual but the tone is a bit off-putting. For once I'm glad for Western news media's habit of conflating all of Africa and not going for the more precise headline: Scientists identify new lethal virus in Lusaka. Similarly I find the new name for this virus, the Lujo, or the Lusaka-Johannesburg, virus quite hilarious. I want to say "Hey Johannesburg has nothing to do with this virus except for having good medical facilities for rich people." Either way I'm glad they came up with a name that has a creepy Stephen King quality to it.

I remember it mostly being a non-issue in Lusaka when this happened. A lot of people were really pissed because American super-pastor/success-guru T.D. Jakes cancelled his trip but for most it didn't register at all.

What was weird was that patient zero happened to be a white woman. At least I think she was. Nobody ever explicitly said so. The Lowdown, in it's typical insiderish fashion, published a confusing eulogy to one of their own. Then The Post had an article accusing the deceased of being an equestrian who often rode barefoot. Conclusion: that woman got what she deserved. Typical Post.

It was a far bigger deal in South Africa where the woman was airlifted and subsequently infected healthcare workers there. If I remember correctly, the whole region was put on alert for the mysterious Ebola-like virus from up-north. Or as some media referred to it, the "Zambia fever."

Here's the silver lining to all this:

The research is a startling example of how quickly scientists can now identify new viruses, Fauci said. Using genetic sequencing techniques, the virus was identified in a matter of a few days _ a process that used to take weeks or longer.

Along with Fauci's institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Google also helped fund the research.

Since when does Google fund medical research?

thanks to Texas in Africa for alerting me to this

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A really nice album cover

There's a soft feeling I get when I'm taking public transport in a foreign city where I listen to people's conversations, check out people checking out other people, and just become part of the crowd.

This album cover reminds me of taking the train into central Cape Town after visiting a friend in the suburbs. It was full of people just off work: construction workers joking in Xhosa with that distinctive low click that somehow cuts through the noise of Afrikaans speaking kids coming home after a day at the beach.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Birthday links/rants

One good thing about the Economist magazine is the non-ironic use of words like oligopoly, used here to describe Canada's relatively stable banking system.

If Botswana is anything like Zambia then alcoholism is a major social problem. If Botswana is anything like Zambia then their new 70 per cent liquor tax is going to cause a collective organ failure from Kachasu and other styles of battery-acid moonshine.

On the topic of prohibition, the words ethereal and visceral are officially banned for being lame.

May 19 is also the birthdays of Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X, Pol Pot and Kevin Garnett.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Best Zambian Music Video?

About three months ago while taking the TAZARA train to Dar es Salaam this video played on the TV in the lounge car and I was subsequently heart broken. Keep watching cuz it gets really good around the the 3:20 mark and then there's a giant pumpkin.

But hey, Zambian music isn't all Autotune love songs (well mostly). There's some great Youtube videos out there of a ZNBC show from the eighties showing performances of the classic Congolese influenced stuff. I'm trying to get a hold of a song that, I think, is an old-school house remix of the vocals from this song:

The song I'm thinking of was playing a lot in the Lusaka clubs for the last year but the DJ at Alpha bar had no idea what it was called. All I know is a a cab driver telling me that it was an old Tonga song. If anyone knows what it's called, or has an mp3, please please please email me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Russian president's LiveJournal and other links.

It's all in Russian but read it right here anyways. I wonder what his feelings are vis a vis his parents and the emo/goth scene?

Also, I'm sure just about everyone is familiar with Gigapixel photography but what if you could spy into every living room in Vancouver's Yaletown condo zoo? BTW you can zoom in.

And finally, sometimes the Onion is a little too right:

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bandwagon Jumped

I could watch Dambisa Moyo all day... no, really, there's over 40 different interview videos of her on Youtube by every possible network. I'm embedding Riz Khan's interview from Al Jazeera cuz, as a radical Salafist, it's my favourite. Well, mostly I just like his intro music. Plus this one has that Bottom Billion dude on it too.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

UN Gang Violence

One thing I've been missing while living in Zambia is the spectacle of Vancouver gang warfare. Seems like the nineties media obsession with "ethnic" gangs is over to be replaced by multicultural criminal organizations that actively celebrate and encourage diversity. The embodiment of this trend is the nefarious United Nations Gang, probably not what the architects of Canada's official multiculturalism ideology had in mind but, if you think about it, still a success. Try and spot the gangsters:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Aaron: Resurrection

To all five of you, I'm very sorry to have let this blog lapse. Hopefully the photos from my trip will more than make up for my two months of silence.