Thursday, August 21, 2008

Exit from the Bimbo Bin

It was around the time of the PM resignation/cabinet reshuffle in February that the first signs of doom started to dog the Fourth Administration. The magic duo of Kikwete and Lowassa was broken up, what was the world coming to? Then Jay Kay quietly appointed a new team of ministers and business went on as usual, more or less, in time for President Bush to come by and say Howdy Y'all. Jaws of Defeat: zero, Victory Snatched: One.

Never one to give up, much of the press along with the perpetual opposition went on foretelling Kikwete's demise Any Time Now. It would be precipitated by Buzwagi, by the Muafaka mess, by the Muungano debate, by the death of Ballali, by the lack of action on EPA, by the silence on Richmond, by by by...I fell into step and was convinced that the end was nigh when Jay Kay gave his end of the month address in July, spending more time explaining his absence than commenting on the burning issues of the day.

Silly me. I forgot a couple of things: that our incumbent has been in the system since he was yea high and thus knows what's up better than we give him credit for. I also forgot that his pleasant demeanour is only the thin layer that sweetens his driving ambition to rule this country (as benevolently as he can manage). This is the guy who introduced the idea of effectiveness to our indolent executive through the use of reward (Ngurudoto workshops) and punishment (surprise visits culminating in instant job terminations).

Today, he pulled a new rabbit out of his hat: the mid-term parliamentary address. Another Fourth Administration innovation, and far less detrimental to the President than the live press conference of early days. It took him a few hours, and aside from the excessive gratitude (really, must he thank everyone and their grandma during state addresses?), turned out to be quite an impressive effort. Not to mention his exquisite timing yet again: he quelled an imminient strike, EPA speculation and the Zanzibar debate in one fell swoop.

In light of this, it seems churlish to claim any longer that Tanzanians made a mistake choosing Kikwete. He's the compromize guy, Mr. Don't Shake The Boat, Mr. Cross The River One Stone At a Time, Mr. Make it Work, and he does what he does very well. We Paradisans claim that we want immediate and explosive change, we think that we can get away forever with immature expectations of our government (that it can control the price of petrol, that every youth will be employed today). In truth most of us are far too comfortable to put up with anything that would disrupt our peaceful lives... although we insisted on the Zanzibar debate as though we don't know this could lead to blood on the streets. Wabongo bwana.

So sure: Jay Kay could have dramatically fired some people over EPA and Richmond as he did with the late Ballali. He could have sacrificed more public servants on the altar of public opinion, due process be damned. He could have gone head to head with his detractors and entered a shouting match. He could have done any number of reactive, shallow, expedient things. Instead he snapped on his pink soft-power tie, polished his smile and spent the day presenting his government's official progress report. Jaws of Defeat: zero, Victory Snatched: Two.

I will not be joining the Party (ptuh! ptuh! ptuh!), nor will I be less cynical about The Establishment. I will, however, give Handsome Boy his respect by taking him out of the Bimbo Bin. I think he has finally, finally earned it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Making Stock, Taking Stock

The chicken carcass had been sitting in the fridge for three days so it seemed like the right day to make stock. Not to mention the crushing exhaustion that has been dogging me for months now demanded a little R&R if I had any hope of making the Weekly Deadline From Hell, and the packet of Tanga Fresh buttermilk in the fridge was posing a direct challenge to me: Palak Paneer. Tying it all together neatly was the borrowed copy of The Black Swan that I had started reading late last night to combat insomnia.

The Stock: One chicken carcass left over after feeding a hungry Midwest American dude last Wednesday+ One quartered red onion+ one quartered carrot+ teespoon dry sage. Boil until reduced, top with cold water, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, strain of final goodness into container for refrigeration. It turned out better than my last stock, must say, and had less icky chicken fat to strain out (what do they feed those animals?!). The meat from the carcass made a nice chicken salad brunch.

The Cheese: One packet of Tanga Fresh Mtindi+half teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to the boil, simmer for about ten minutes whtout stirring so the curds don't get too skinny. Strain to separate curds and whey, sit on your tuffet and eat. But if you want to make paneer, save curds in little tupperware container and refrigerate. Google what to do with whey, or just drink it with a pure water chaser like I did.

The Book*: Suh-weet. As your truly is undergoing a sort of personal renaissance, it has been interesting to see what grabs me in the stuff i have been reading and re-reading. This pop-philosophy book is a good one, but I will not deny that I am enjoying it for probably all of the wrong reasons: i like the author's mischief, i find the independence of thinking inspiring, the new information exhilarating if obscure, the language delicious. But I am nowhere near intellectually rigorous enough to truly understand what he is saying, especially when we get into the empirical stuff (i am unapologetically intuitive). I get it, but not in any directly applicable way. I will need to read this one a few times, maybe get one of the economists in my life to break it down for me.

What I am really reading the book for is in fact the snippets of autobiography that the author has included in the book for context. This self-professed Levantine's recollections of his childhood and the development of a sense of self, identity and agency were definitely not of the garden-variety- and I loved them.

*The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. What's on your bedside table?

A Bevy of Beautiful Brides

I was at St. Joe's yesterday attending the wedding of a friend's sister (lovely ceremony if a little stiff) and generally having a nice socially-constructive networking moment. Made cooing noises at the aunties, sucked up to the old folks, tickled my friends' dimples, et cetera, as one does. As we left the Society Wedding Du Weekend, about four other couples whose (simultaneous) vows had been held up by our semi-enthusiastic hymn-singing had to rush by to get into the church on time. I sorely regret not having had a camera to catch it- there is nothing quite like nearly getting trampled by a bride (or four) and her wedding party. Therein lies a potential, if non-traditional measure of Tanzanian social stratification: the ability to afford a personal morning wedding at the Cathedral. Well, for the Catholics anyways.

La Dee and I (mostly I) had to medicate the effects of so much socially-appropriate behavior with a drink at the Movenpick gardens. There we also got to observe peacocks- the animal and human varieties- display their tails in the tranquil evening sun.

Monday, August 11, 2008


That's what my niece had to say about the olympics opening ceremony. Out of the mouth of babes :) Well, she had to entertain herself somehow. The sound of all those adults' jaws dropping, ins shock-awe-exclamation must have gotten tired after the first hour.

But do I say! Considering that most of us had unrealistically high expectations of the bangle cames opening ceremony that we wanted the Chinese to exceed anyways, they did good. Giant firework footsteps from Tianamen Square anyone? Human paintbrushes? Not to mention the torchbearer's wirework sprint around the rim of the Bird's Nest- personal favorite.

My guilty pleasures were provided by the PLA*: I am incredibly receptive to demonstrations of military precision and might. The balletic movement of that soldier who tossed up the Chinese flag, the clockwork goosesteping, the shinier-than-shiny boots... During our Independence Day parades it is all our soldiers can do not to bayonet each other in the back as they march in faux-unison past the Presidential pavilion.

La Dee still thinks that the arrow torch lighting technique used in Sydney (or was it Athens) was the Way Coolest Olympic Torch Lighting Gimmick Ever and I partly concur- but only that part of me that is disappointed Running Man didn't summersault-tripple-backflip into the Lucky Eight cloud torch to light it. That's the finale I would have gone for if anyone had asked me. As far as memorable bangle game ceremonies go, this one has wiped clean all memories of preceding events apart from the wonderful Athens show. So, London 2012? No pressure. Heh.

*It has always seemed right to me that the PLA be called the Red Army for the visual poetry and color symbolism, dontcha think, but Wikipedia disabused me of that notion. Russia got there first.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Is the language that Wazee wa Ngwasuma sing in, as I found out over the weekend. No one works as hard as a Soukouss band. These people perform four or five nights a week, plus events. Their shows last four hours, usually more. It is live instrumentation, none of that playback crap. When they dance, even the crowd cannot keep up with them. Best of all is the costuming: they do what they do whilst wearing full make-up, leather suits and wigs, just like James Brown. Mad respect. For your enjoyment: the Ngwasumamobile.

A Bad Case of Afro-pessimism

Is it the accumulated effect of fruitless gestures that makes Afro-pessimists so deeply bitter? What makes a non-African care deeply enough to hate the continent with such virulence? This one has visited a couple of times, perhaps giving him the misguided belief that he 'knows' Africa and has become an authority. Africa is not for beginner philanthropists, nor the weak of mind, nor the faint of spirit. She is not for those who seek easy answers and instant gratification. Her problems cannot be 'fixed' with a donation campaign and bourgeois guilt. Loving this continent, believing in her present, investing in her future, remembering her past is not a job for just anyone. It is a job for the biggest of hearts, the strongest of wills, for those whose humanity does not sour from disappointment. Part-time do-gooders need not apply.

Exporting HIV? Mr. Myers, spare us your poisonous concerns. We do better without your ilk. If, however, you are ever tempted to play your part in returning the massive wealth (material and human) that the West has been pillaging from this continent since slavery, and which provided the foundation for your blood-soaked 'prosperous' consumer society, be sure to write a column about it.

Africa is giving nothing to anyone -- apart from AIDS
By Kevin Myers

Thursday July 10 2008
No. It will not do. Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us, yet again. It is nearly 25 years since Ethiopia 's (and Bob Geldof's) famous Feed The World campaign, and in that time Ethiopia 's population has grown from 33.5 million to 78 million today.
So why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country? Where is the logic? There is none. To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn't count.
One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of . . .
Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia ; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.
There is, no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system; but I do not know what it is. There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a column like this.
It will win no friends, and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of, well, the self-righteous, letter-writing wrathful, a species which never fails to contaminate almost every debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority. It will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like John O'Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire enormously. So be it.
But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Famine, with this or that lazy analogy. There is no comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30pc. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules, Ethiopia 's has more than doubled.
Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness. Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent, Kalashnikov-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts.
Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive indigents, with tens of millions of people who only survive because of help from the outside world.
This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense. Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the next president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against infection. Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre , Uganda, Congo , Sudan, Somalia , Eritrea etcetera.
Broad brush-strokes, to be sure. But broad brush-strokes are often the way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters. Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 20th century have endured worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part of Africa.
They are now -- one way or another -- virtually all giving aid to or investing in Africa, whereas Africa , with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.
Meanwhile, Africa 's peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million: The equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.
So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?
How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity. But that is not good enough.
For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa . It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed.
It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.
If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what?I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that's an idea.

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