Archive for December, 2008


I spotted this sign in a bodega near my house in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, yesterday. I think the picture is an appropriate marker as I cease blogging for a few weeks. I am off to South Africa tomorrow to see my relatives for a few weeks and soak up South Africanisms. No blogging till well after the New Year. This was a good year for this modest blog: 85,451 views by yesterday since January 9. Thanks for visiting. To 2009.

Remember, Africa is a Country.


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I read a lot of bad books this year. But for the good ones, the best book of 2008 is undoubtedly Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. As one reviewer described it: ‘It reads like an oral history delivered by a stoop-dwelling bard — one who is creative with language, clear in reference and rarely speak.” Then there’s Barack Obama’s memoir he wrote while in law school, Dreams of My Father. That’s because he can write.  I also enjoyed Zoe Wicomb’s Playing in the Light (a story about what happens to South Africans who played white under Apartheid), J M Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year.  Then there was Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma, about a child soldier in Liberia and Sierra Leone (first published in French in 2000, and translated into English in 2005), journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ ode to his childhood in Baltimore, his unconventional father and hip hop in The Beautiful Life: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood.

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Caroline Kennedy is “running” for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton (joining Barack Obama’s Cabinet next year). Kennedy is unofficially campaigning for the seat while not campaigning. You work that out. Just another wealthy person gets to talk about “change” while getting lots of sympathetic coverage from journalists who come from the same class. And let’s not talk how this drooling over the Kennedys is”affirmative action for the priveleged.”

More than that is the cynical racial brokerage politics at the heart of it. Earlier this week Kennedy had lunch with an Italian politician at an Italitan restaurant in Williamsburg. Yesterday she had a photo-op with Al Sharpton at the famed soul food restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem. So now she has the “blessing” of the “black vote.”  Seriously.  In the clip above, watch a New York Times reporter going on about what Kennedy and Sharpton ate:” … Two kinds of chicken, baked and grilled, salad, string beans, collard greens, some salad. I am told lemonade and water were drunk.”  Oh, I forgot, some Kenyan athletes earning change in track meets in the region are the real crooks.

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Best album: a tie between Vampire Weekend’s preppie world music on their self-titled album, The Reverend Al Green’s return (accompanied by a hosts of guest stars) on Lay it Down and Nas’s Untitled album.

South African Terror MC, who mainly rhymes in Afrikaans, made Street Life (download for free), and hipster rappers 88 Keys brought out The Death of Adam. DC rapper Wale’s Seinfeld inspired Mixtape About Nothing. Two retro albums: Zimbabweans Green Arrows’ 4 Track Recording Session and Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe’s La Voz. My top ten albums are rounded out by Imani Coppola’s The Black and White Album (my 3 year old loves the song, “Raindrops From The Sun (Hey,Hey,Hey”) and Santogold’s self-titled album.

I hate lists. And I am probably going to get some hate mail. But you don’t have to like everything I like. Make your own list.

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Critic Charles Tonderai Mudede in The Stranger:

The movie is about the death of the black male. Now let’s go back in history. Locked in the ghetto and in his specific social station, the black male had a clear identity. He knew who he was. He was who he was because he was black. He knew that much, and that much was more than enough to know. The meaning of his body was the product of direct social pressures and developments. It was the body of stolen labor, the body repressed by the police and feared for its sexual volatility. We can think of Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas—his rage, his American hunger, his limited world. Or how about the invisible man in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: He was “the blackness of blackness.” This certainty of the self, however, began to dissolve in the ’90s, as the black male’s social and spatial mobility increased. Because the pressures that once shaped him were easing, his black identity became unstable. In Seven Pounds, we see the result of this instability: The black male body dies and is dispersed. Will Smith is no more.

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New York financier Bernie Madoff stole $50 billion from investors, in a Ponzi scheme while the Feds either played footsie with him or looked the other way, the city has housing, health care and schooling crises, and the Village Voice (freely available in your neighborhood pizza house; btw when last was it relevant?) runs a cover “expose” on Ethiopian and Kenyan athletes brought to New York City and other American cities, at the request of track clubs, “looking to score a few extra points and get the modest purses handed out to winners.” The Africans get a small cut. Oh, and they’re writing this to protect the “weekend warrior” runners. Serious.

If you still care.

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A South African man accused of trying to smuggle hundreds of rare chameleons, snakes, lizards and frogs out of Madagascar inside his jacket and luggage was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to a year in jail. Jo van Niekerk, 29, a zoology student from Pretoria, was arrested in November at Antananarivo Airport with 388 animals, among them several species found only on Madagascar, including a fanged snake and a nocturnal leaf-tailed gecko. Around 100 lizards and frogs were pulled from the lining of his jacket, including a dead lizard, officials said.

No connection to the children’s movie

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