Monday, October 17, 2011

So, Rush Limbaugh Supports the Lord's Resistance Army

In a spectacular example of supreme dicketry, Rush Limbaugh openly criticized Obama's decision to send 100 troops to Uganda as support for the continued hunt for Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. Rush believes that the LRA are Christians fighting Muslims in Sudan, fighting to end the oppression of Ugandans and of gross violations of human rights - the LRA's "objectives", which naturally should be taken at face value. At the end of the transcript someone apparently informed Rush that the LRA is accused of "really bad stuff", such as child kidnapping, torture and murder, but all Rush knows is that "we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys -- and they claim to be Christians."

FYI, the official name of North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, but that doesn't mean the country is democratic. Same goes for the Lord's Resistance Army, which has terrorized northern Uganda for over 20 years. Attacks there have diminished, but only because the LRA has moved to the CAR and eastern DRC, with massacres happening there despite the presence of the largest humanitarian force on the world (MONUC). I don't know yet how to feel about 100 US troops in Uganda to help the search for Kony - it hasn't worked before and is likely that Kony isn't in Uganda, where the majority view is he should be granted amnesty so the whole ordeal can be dealt with locally, without the ICC - but I do know how I feel about hateful ignorance.

Maybe try Google next time, Rush, before you shit out of your mouth again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ides of March - another Hollywood Masturbation Opus

Though I had seen no previews or read anything about the film, last night I watched The Ides of March based on the suggestion of a friend. I was told it was somehow about presidential elections or something and, after seeing it, the "or something" is the description which best fits. 

Time: Democratic Primaries in March (the ides of March, get it?)
Place: Ohio. 
Characters: 
George Clooney as Gov. Morris, the top contender for the ticket, a man with a vision he actually believes in and refuses to compromise on. "I said I wouldn't make compromises like that and I mean it!" 
 Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, Morris' press secretary, who despite being experienced with the campaign world ("I've been involved with more campaigns than people who are 40!") has swallowed Morris' Kool-Aid and isn't sure if Morris will win, but knows he has to win.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Paul Zara, campaign manager, a man who smokes a lot and makes seemingly deep proclamation about life and politics.
Paul Giamatti as the campaign manager for "the other guy", who also makes deep proclamations - must be part of the job.
Marisa Tomei as Ida Horowitz, a sassy, cynical reporter for the Times (I assume New York?) who will do anything in order to get the big scoop. You know she is a seasoned reporter because of her large, dark-framed glasses and messy hair. Not a clich├ęd character at all!
Oops! Almost forgot Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Molly, an intern working Morris' campaign, who, much like her Showgirls namesake, gets fucked, literally and figuratively.

Let us begin at the beginning, where thirty minutes into the movie I had to ask myself, "What is the plot of this damn thing?" Up to that point the movie revolved around snappy "in-the-know" one-liners about Washington politics (I was almost convinced that K Street is the only street in DC) and a campaign wish-list spouted by Clooney, um, Gov. Morris: abolish the death penalty; mandatory youth service, which then pays for college; pro-choice; elimination of the internal combustion engine in ten years (yes, this was actually said!); no reliance on foreign oil; and pulling ours heads out the (Saudi Arabian) sand. What reality does this movie exist in? I have no idea, but it is not K Street. Nevertheless, I felt the movie was going the of that other Hollywood masturbation great, Lions for Lambs, which was, of course, a lecture by Robert Redford. A thin plot eventually unfolds: Meyers sleeps with Molly, finds out she is pregnant from a one-night stand with the illustrious governor; she gets an abortion; she kills herself. In the meantime, Meyers meets with the enemy (Giamatti) and is subsequently fired by Zara for this betrayal. Meyers then has to maneuver himself back into the campaign. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

From Which the Slumbering Beast Awakens

Hi there. I know it's been a while since I've posted and even longer since I've posted anything substantial, but it has been a weird time for me, not to mention the 2-month nap I took to escape the summer heat. It is still a weird time - the past five years have been a weird time - but with the cooler weather that has rolled in with October, at least my nap is over. What does that mean for you?

Remember those genocide posts I wrote a year ago or so? More of those are coming. Unfortunately, there is a ever-growing supply of examples from which to choose.

Have you ever thought about the phrase "30 is the new 20"? I have been dwelling on it for the past several months and the more I think about it, the more I hate it. The topic might extend to several posts - exciting!

And the regular banalities of my life, because what is the point of writing a blog if one the topics can't be you?

For now, here are some bits from the news:

*France refuses to extradite Agathe Habyrarimana to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities seem unsurprised, as am I: Habyarimana's regime had close ties with France.

*However, the ICTR continues to churn out convictions, this time to two former civil service ministers.

*China is duplicitous when it comes to Africa; here are some details.

*The ICC has given prosecutors the go-ahead to investigate post-election violence in Cote D'Ivoire.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Hibernation

Okay, so I know just a few weeks ago I posted in anger about Austinites challenging me over the weather (however, I continue to stand behind what I wrote) but I must take a few moments of your time to write about the current heat wave here in Austin.

Not that it sucks, because this is a given, but because it has turned on my hibernation mode that once only peeked out during the coldest month of winter. Currently I only go outside to get to my car or to another air-conditioned building, much like my summer life in Kuwait. When I am not at work I am at home, where recently all I want to do is sleep. Right after I publish this post I am going to have a little lie-down despite the fact I left bed only three hours ago. I want to be productive, perhaps even active, but more than anything I want a damn nap. I think the temperature is supposed to dip down into the 90s later this week. Maybe then I'll wake up from my long summer's nap and brave the 100-meter walk to the mailbox. Until then, I will pull my covers over my eyes and pretend it's 30F outside - though, at this point, I'd accept 80.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

That's So Racist! Isn't It?

David Sedaris has a new article out in the Guardian; naturally, someone is offended.

In his article, Sedaris recounts a recent trip to China, a trip he admits he did not look forward to as China, and all its wonders, never held much appeal for him. This applies especially to the food, which even Americanized Chinese restaurants barely managed to raise above the level of disgust. Fair enough - it is only necessary to love, or love experimenting with, a cuisine if you are a chef and/or food writer. David Sedaris is neither, yet Jeff Yang over at originalspin takes particular offense at the article's criticisms. How dare Sedaris criticize authentic Chinese cuisine when American Southerners (Sedaris is from North Carolina) eat things like muskrat and chitlins (emphasis from original)? And sure, there may be a saying that "Chinese will eat anything with its back to the sky", but these are Chinese sayings. It is unnecessary and venomous for a Westerner to come over and point out the obvious.

Which makes me wonder if Jeff actually read Sedaris' article. Yes, he was grossed out by much of the food merely because it was different, but at the same time questioned why he reacted the way he did. For instance, when offered a soup made of rooster intestines it was not the intestines that put him off but rather the addition of the cock's comb. Why, he asked himself, am I comfortable eating "the thing that filters out toxins but not the thing that sits on top of the head, doing nothing?" Sedaris also notes his boyfriend, Hugh, and his visceral objection to eating seahorses in China because "they are friendly and never did anyone any harm," as opposed to the vicious and ornery lamb they regularly eat back home. From here Sedaris also delves lightly in to the meat choices of Americans (and the English, I suppose), noting the preference for grazing herbivores such as cattle and sheep, yet drawing the line at horse which is eaten in some parts of Europe and, apparently, is delicious.  I admit there is little depth given to these musings on the arbitrary nature of cuisine. However, I also recognize that I am reading an article for a paper and not an essay in a book.

Friday, August 12, 2011

To Austinites re: the weather

Shut the fuck up.

No, really: I am tired of you trying to one-up me on the badassness of the heat. If you ask me how I'm handling the heat and I respond, Well, it's hot, but I lived in Kuwait and LA before this so, you know, I'm used to it, I am not trying to undersell the reality that yes, it is hot here. I am merely letting you know that Austin, and Texas, has not defeated me with the summer heat - the job market has been much more successful in murdering my hopes and dreams.

You, dear Austinite, do not have to give me reasons why here is so much worse than there. For example, me: "I lived in Kuwait before Austin, so I got used to the heat." You: "Oh . . . yeah, well, there you don't have the humidity."

Ah, how little you know, because I have swum through the air in Kuwait and Dubai and, in order to be completely honest, have experienced humidity in Maryland that far exceeds anything Austin has thrown my way. One summer, years ago, my sister and I were at a minor league baseball game and, being it was baseball, we bought cotton candy - which then proceeded to melt merely because of contact with the air. The butter-thick, humid-ass air. A few years a college friend of mine bemoaned the loss of the tomatoes in her garden: they had rotted, you see, on the vine because the humidity was so thick. That's what I consider uncomfortably humid, but I don't bother to mention this to anyone here because, again just being honest, I don't care.

I don't care that it's hot or that it's humid or that life sucks so badly for five months out of the year, because I didn't pick Austin for the weather. Hell, I don't even know what I am doing here but it is certainly not because I was faced with the reality of leaving Kuwait and thought, I just can't get enough of this desert-y feeling! I don't like it, but I don't believe you particularly enjoy it, either, considering we deal with the heat exactly the same: stay indoors with the A/C running and do not venture outside until well-past dusk.

So unless baiting me with talk about the weather will miraculously make rain fall or a cold front move in, shut the fuck up. Or I will slap you in the face with a breakfast burrito. A delicious breakfast burrito, locally made and as hot as the Texas sun: lukewarm.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Are You Planning on Being Direct Today?

There is a problem running rampant at my job: half the employees are passive-aggressive. I don't know why, but I think that the store somehow attracts people who do not know how to effectively interact with others and, as such, do not know how to disagree or even manage others without sounding "bossy" or "demanding" - even if that is what they should be. So they try to be non-confrontational, which unfortunately results in them being douchebags. For example:

I have a to wear a green vest at work. Everyone has to wear a green vest at work (except stockers or managers/supervisors.) These vests, aside from being visually hideous and poor quality, are oppressively hot. I often work customer service and for the past week have not worn my vest (gasp!) I have it with me, just not on because I feel it's pretty obvious I am an employee since I am the one behind the counter. Regardless, I know not wearing the stupid vest is against the rules or dress code or what-the-fuck-ever and as soon as someone would say, "Wear your vest," I'd put it back on. This happened yesterday, but being as I work in the passive-aggressive zone, what my supervisor actually said was, "Are you planning on wearing your vest today?"

I had to pause and laugh because I never realized I had an option, which, of course, I don't. Why suggest one, then? What if I had said, "No" or, "Are you planning on speaking to me like an adult?" Really, though, the most important question I asked myself as I shrugged into my green shame was, "Why haven't I left this job yet?"

Friday, July 29, 2011

To Commenter HelloKitty

I hate reading the comment sections of blog posts, but sometimes you just get sucked in: you read one acerbic comment, then the response, then the response to the response, oftentimes including comments on grammar and how this reflects the poster's (lack of) education, until you are scrolling through five pages of comments trying to find where the argument began - and breathe as you realize the activity is stupid and not providing further enlightenment to the original post or your day.

When those sometimes occur, damn it, you almost feel like posting a comment yourself. STOP! Never join the comment threads! Rather, post your thoughts on your own blog, the appropriate place for personal rants. Here's mine:

To HelloKitty, a commenter on the The 14 most hilariously effective signs supporting gay marriage post over at HappyPlace:

Please stop complaining that gay men are mean and make rude and bitter jokes about women. You claim you don't why they behave this way, as you are a kind and sensitive person, but maybe it's the fact that you defend yourself by writing "It's hard because straight women love the male body, but gay men seem to almost abhor the female body." Perhaps these gay men don't want you fawning over them because they are not attracted to you. Because they are gay. If they found the female body attractive they would not be gay. But they are, so they don't. If you stop telling them they are hot, they may stop telling you vaginas stink. Just a suggestion.

If the rude/bitter jokes and comments continue, I understand you may feel uncomfortable so I have another suggestion: stop hanging out with those people. If you know the one gay man who does not make rude comments about women, because he slept with one once, then by all means make him your go-to gay. Otherwise, stop hanging out at gay bars in the hopes that a man will turn for you. They won't (see above.)

HelloKitty, please stop claiming you speak for the silent majority of women. The majority of women have enough sense not to ask gay men to respect and love the female body because they know gay men are gay. If you are confused by this, please refer to my first suggestion.

Finally, if gay men make snide comments that seem "bitter" please remember the content of the original blog post: gay marriage, or the fact that gays (and lesbians, but you don't seem to know any of them) cannot legally marry. That is a right not afforded them, thus making them lesser citizens in the eyes of the law. That might engender some bitterness. If gay men (all of them, apparently) flaunt their sexuality, it is likely a show of pride in who they are despite the fact that they are persecuted incessantly by so many people - and in the case of marriage, the government. Those who are homophobic or protest gay marriage for whatever reason want homosexuality to simply go away; flaunting your homosexuality is shouting, "No, it won't!"

PS - Just to be clear, if a gay man says women are gross it's probably because he thinks they are gross. Describing the beauty of a vagina will only confirm his belief.

Kthx!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bombing in Norway

Earlier today (Friday, July 22) a bomb went off in a government building in Oslo and two hours later, shooting at an annual youth event. So far, 17 people have died. I am not the one to give in-depth analysis, but Al Jazeera is regularly updating their Oslo blog. Check it out for new information.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We're Done Already?

I have recently begun volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, specifically the family selection aspect of the organization. Tonight I went to a meeting of the Family Selection Committee, my first, and was prepared to stay until 10pm if need be (the meeting started at 6), but really wanted to be out by 8. I was listening, absorbing, doing my best to understand how the committee works, when at 6:42pm one of the committee members announced the meeting was finished. What the f*ck?, I thought. Who the hell ends a meeting within the hour? Then I remembered the last meeting I was in was for Edirisa Smiles, where four hours was a short meeting. The point being that I love Austin Habitat for Humanity already.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Right Questions for Gov. Perry

I read this article in the Austin American Statesman today: "Questions need answering before Perry runs for real". How true, I thought to myself. Potential supporters need to ask how Perry will manage the Federal budget when he is unable to properly manage Texas. Or how can he claim to support better education efforts while firing hundreds of teachers and spending public funds on a Formula One track?

That is where my mind went, before reading the article: pertinent questions concerning policy. However, the point Mr. Ken Herman, the author, is making is this: is Perry ready to have his personal life come under complete public scrutiny? Almost immediately after George W. was inaugurated the papers became running articles on Laura Bush's choice of shoes and reported that peanut butter sandwiches were being served in the White House. Gasp! Governor Perry, this (apparently) is the only question you need to ask yourself: "Do you ever want to be able to fish alone again?"

Aren't these questions better discussed between Perry and his family, rather than the subject of a newspaper article? Mr. Herman, do you ever want to do any political reporting? Seems to me your answer is simple: No.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Historian's Dilemma

In my apartment I have a small cabinet filled with china dinner service for eight, including two serving platters, tea cups and saucers, and random little crescent-shaped bread plates, not to mention the standard plates, bowls and what-have-you. The china is safely packed away in zipper cloth containers, each piece of china separated by a thin strip of foam and, in the case of the bowls and plates, a small piece of cardboard, as well. Sitting on the floor next to the cabinet are two boxes which contain crystal glasses, also for eight, including large wine goblets, smaller goblets and dainty sherry glasses. As with the china, each glass is carefully packed away, wrapped in foam covers and separated from one another by cardboard partitions. They would also be in a cabinet but I do not have a piece of furniture that can safely hide the china and the crystal, so the crystal remains in boxes on the floor. Next to the crystal boxes, going in a line along the wall, is a hutch which, in addition to my cookbooks, mixing bowls and Dutch ovens, displays a large, somewhat tarnished silver tea service: tall tea pot, sugar bowl with lid and milk pitcher, all perfectly positioned on a silver tray. On top of the hutch is a silver cake stand, also slightly tarnished but, perhaps due to less filigree in the pattern, shining more brightly than the tea service below. If you open the hutch doors you will find a large, heavy, crystal punch bowl with eight glasses and a ladle, casually sitting next to some muffin tins.

These are all items that once belonged to my parents, items specifically given to me for various reasons including simple circumstance (both my sisters already had china and crystal, with no need for second sets), physical association (I would polish the tea set and cake stand for my mother, so out of three children I was the only one with known attachment to the pieces), and personal claim (I wanted the punch bowl because I was determined to use it, rather than leave it stored in a box as it had existed for the past thirty years.) There are other items in my apartment, as well, odds and ends that my sisters could not stand to give away when they packed up the house. In the same cabinet which houses the china I also have two decorative plates commemorating Western Maryland College, where my (our) great-grandmother attended (and graduated.) Did I attend Western Maryland? No. But because I graduated from college, unlike my sisters, and the great-grandmother in question is my namesake, it was determined that the plates would be best served in my hands. I think it was staring at those plates, trying to decide what to do with them, that started my dilemma.

I was not around when my sisters packed up the house. When my (our) parents died I ran away, first all over the country, then overseas where I stayed for almost two years. I was grateful for the work my sisters did and gladly accepted the choices they made. In truth, I wanted the china and the crystal and the tea set - I wanted any and every physical connection to my parents that I could have, things I could touch and smell and hold in my hands while remembering holidays spent 'round the dining room table, crystal glasses in use only because my sisters and I begged our mom to use them, or a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon, talking to my mom and dad as I polished the silver for them. Simple memories that do not require aides, yet at the time I needed those physical objects to stand as a shrine to my parents. That was then. Now, I am not so sure I want my dining room to be a memorial and my inheritance seems more of a hindrance. After all, when I become nostalgic about Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners it is not the plates I am remembering; in my memory, and in reality, the tea set was (is) just a useless dust-collector; despite an initial determination to put the punch bowl to good use, it still sits in the dark, untouched and unused. Sometimes I take one of the crystal glasses from its respective box and hold it, imagining how it would feel to fling it at the wall and watch it shatter into a thousand pieces. It is only a glass; my parents died years ago.

Preservation. Remembrance. I feel the weight of these words, of the historian's duty to maintain memory, each time I walk past my relics. How long must I carry these objects with me? Until I have a house of my own and will use the china and crystal at holidays dinners I host, serving coffee and cake form the silver sets? I am no longer sure that it the lot I want in life or that I care about serving Thanksgiving dinner on matching china - or on china, at all. It is a tradition that now means nothing to me, yet just the thought of allowing a tradition die fills me with more guilt than abandoning these things my sisters entrusted me with. Nevertheless, I must admit to myself that I am not a museum, I have no duty to be a museum, and holding on to their plates will not bring my parents back. Yet how can I claim to be a historian when I do not want to hold on to the past? And really, how would I explain myself to my sisters? Regret and guilt versus preservation and memory. I do not know which, in the end, will win out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Few Shots of Summer

Of what we do in Austin, such as paddleboarding on Lake Austin - albeit with no actual paddleboarding shots.

 


Monday, July 11, 2011

And This Is How I Spoil My Cat, Part II

An ever-full water cup on my nightstand is not enough for Umberto Garcia Juanita Lupita Gonzalez III, perhaps because the cup I have given him is small - a child's cup, really. The spoiled bastard prefers the large tumblers I use and so stares at me as I drink from mine, whether I am standing in the kitchen, sitting at the table or resting in bed (especially when I am resting in bed.) I feel his covetous stare as I lift my plastic tumbler to my lips, his pitiful cup disdainfully ignored. I try to temper his spoiled behavior: I tap on his cup, forcing his attention to the fresh water brimming at the rim; I pour a little of my water into his cup, to remind him we are drinking the exact same thing; I drain my tumbler so he will not be able to knock it over when he pushes his head in, looking for a drink. Unfortunately, only the latter tactic works, because inevitably Umberto sticks his head into my (now empty) cup desperately trying to lap up even one drop of water, knocking the the cup on it's side when he removes his head in vain. Only then will he turn to his own cup and drink his fill.

I have ruined my cat. True, I may not help matters much when he goes to get a drink from my water bottle and I pour some water into the cap for him to have a sip. Or when Umberto jumps up to the sink (kitchen or bathroom, makes no difference) either Seth or I will turn on the water for him to drink. Or giving him a damn water cup in the first place. At least he only eats cat food, otherwise he would probably demand roast lamb every day. And I am the idiot who would make it for him.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And This Is How I Spoil My Cat, Part I

Umberto was once a typical cat who drank from a water bowl/dish like other four-legged animals kept as pets. He never turned his nose up at a plastic dish, even if some food had dropped in or some other foreign object was floating along the surface; he drank his water and went on his way. When Umberto and I first arrived in the States in February, however, I didn't have a regular, plastic water dish for him so I used a small ceramic bowl form my sister's kitchen (we were in her house). This was the beginning: I (by this I mean, my sister) bought him a food dish which was actually a food/water dish combo, but Umberto refused to drink water from the "water side" of the dish; he preferred the ceramic bowl. Whatever makes him happy, I thought.

Then, after moving to Austin and moving in my sisters-in-law, Umberto did something I found irresistibly cute: he drank water from a cup. How could I not encourage it? All right, I did not quite encourage him but rather found him constantly sticking his head into a cup so I would just fill up a glass and give it to him. It followed that he completely gave up on the plastic water dish next to his food. Instead, he had a tumbler which I kept full of water right there on floor, next to his food. I tried to correct my mistake and, in our new apartment, only provided him water in his water dish. He drank from the dish for a day, until he discovered how easy it was to jump onto the kitchen counter or table or anywhere and stick his head in my or Seth's water glass. The damage was done and his water cup returned, only this time placed on my nightstand, free from having any stray bits of food unexpectedly dropping in. It seemed to make Umberto happy enough.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome to the World, South Sudan!


There is a new nation today: South Sudan, whose inhabitants voted in January to secede and become a separate nation, is officially independent today, June 9 2011. The flag has five colors: black representing the people and oil; red for the bloody cost of independence; green for the fertile land; blue for the Nile; and a golden star, symbolizing the (possible) wealth of the new nation. I met a Sudanese - South Sudanese - man today and he, understandably, is massively excited. Of course there are mountains of problems already facing the new government and the people of South Sudan, but we can turn to that tomorrow. For now, join with in celebrating the birth of a new nation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Action Pack's Justin Timberlake Sing-Along



I am a superstar! Last 15 seconds or so!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How About . . .

Today's writing prompt is, "What type of fish are you?" or something to that effect.

Really.

How the hell do you answer that? Maybe was poetic about my similarities to a majestic whale, king or queen of the oceans, slowly moving through my realm confident of my place in it? Or perhaps a playful dolphin - or do these count as fish? Many of us - maybe even me - are just one of countless little fishes following the leader in our homogeneous little school?

Poo, I say. Poo! I don't know enough about fish to compare myself to one, so how about a fish out of water? I often find myself floundering about, gasping for air, trying to figure what went wrong or simply what happened to put in whatever situation I find myself? How did I end up in this hallway? Why am I in boxer shorts? Why are they wet? Oh my god, I'm married?!

I consistently find that I've thrown myself into a situation where, just perhaps, I don't quite belong. Or I don't know how to belong. Or maybe should have read up on the whole thing first (Hi, grad school!) I am still working towards the day when I can stop holding my breath.                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dutch State Blamed for Deaths of Three Men at Srebenica

Reading through the headlines on Al Jazeera and noticed this: "Dutch Blamed for Srebenica Deaths." The Hague found the Dutch state guilty in the murders of, not the 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were murdered there in 1995, but three men whom Dutch peacekeepers "handed over" to Bosnian Serb forces. The report does not include why the men were handed over, but because the Dutch peacekeepers (Dutchbat) had witnessed "multiple incidents in which Bosnian Serbes mistreated or killed male refugees outside the [Srebenica] compound" prior to allowing the three men to leave the safe are, the Dutchbat is now held liable for their deaths.

This ruling fascinates me for reasons beyond Dutch responsibility and the Bosnian war: I wonder if this will open claims from families in Rwanda to make claims against France, Belgium or the United States? Or rather, make claims that now have legal precedence. After all, the original finding of the Hague court was that "the UN was responsible for the [Srebenica safe area] mandate, and therefore the state was not responsible." Now that the Dutch state can be held accountable for the deaths of three, who be next in line to be tried for their failure to protect?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Though my last post was on willful ignorance, specifically of international and national news, I simply have too much American spirit - in the form of patriotic Crown Royal and tequila, just as the Founding Fathers intended - to write about anything other than: Happy Fourth of July! Go watch 1776 and be merry!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On Willful Ignorance

For the past few months, as I have been preoccupied with (ongoing) job searches; housing searches; discovering Texas; learning how to be a married couple living alone, with no roommates! on the same continent! seeing each other for more than 3 hours a day!; my news intact has dropped, greatly. Not enough that I did not know about the protests and crackdowns in Uganda or the DSK case, but to the point where I knew no details and couldn't be bothered to look up any articles to educate myself. The local tv news was not mentioning anything of not, either, though is only to be expected. My own apathy caused me to realize how easily it is to be willfully, even unwittingly, ignorant of the world, the country or the other side of town. No wonder many Americans know nothing of the world around them - it is only too easy to avoid, to not even know about, international or national news. This is only my personal assumption, but I do not think Americans - those not in college - are encouraged to read a variety of news sources. To read the news, at all. Is this how it seems to you? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Where Would You Love to Go Swimming?

It's that time again - NaBloPoMo time! Though to be honest, every day of every month is NaBloPoMo time, but I am accepting the challenge once more with this blog - cooking and posting a new recipe every day for a month sent me into overload last November. No way am I doing that again. This month's prize is particularly appealing: one post, from one blog, will be chosen to be published on Blogher, thus available to that new audience base, and the lucky blogger will be paid for the submission. ($50, which is pretty good for the blogging world.) The theme for the month is "swim", so let's get to it.

I love swimming - pools, rivers, oceans, a large bathtub: I love the feel of being in the water. As I age my comfort level around the muck and mildew - the general "alive" state of natural waters - in a lake or pond edges toward disgust, but so far I have been able to overcome the gross-factor of it all by deep-breathing and helpfully closing my eyes before jumping in. Who knew I was such a priss? Seriously, though, fish have sex in that.

Life has been fortunate enough to offer me a variety of waters in which to swim, float and relax , including Lakes Bunyonyi and Kivu (in Uganda and Rwanda); the Nile River and Mediterranean Sea; the Pacific Ocean as it laps against the shores of Hawaii's Big Island; as well as waters which I have stepped into but would not submerge any part of my body above the knee because those waters were truly, chemically, dirty: Lake Victoria and the Persian Gulf automatically come to mind. But where would I love to go swimming? It may seem quaint, but I want to swim in the Patuxent River, outside of Upper Marlboro, Maryland - my hometown. When I was a freshman in high school and still a member of the environmental club, the Patuxent was where we would go to learn how to test the health of a waterway (levels of dissolved oxygen and nitrogen, turbidity and so on.) I loved the visit that river - I continued to after leaving the club and even after leaving high school - and watch it slowly make its way north, away from the Chesapeake. Though small, the Patuxent boasts a large wildlife presence, especially of birds, including osprey, Great Blue Heron, and a family of bald eagles.

I never went swimming in it. Sure, I stepped in up to my calves when canoeing, but that water is dirty, muddy-dirty, and I could never imagine submersing myself into that murk. During one club trip, a two-day excursion for some special occasion that I no longer remember, one girl jumped in the river and swam around for a bit. Upon seeing my shocked and disgusted face when she emerged she laughed and said, "Now I'm cleaner than everyone!" Seeing as how water clarity was about six inches or so (meaning that if you dropped a white plunger into the water, after six inches of depth you couldn't see it anymore), I just shook my head and thought, "You are so nasty right now."

Which means I have always been a priss; damn, I swear I used to be tougher. I would still love to go for a swim in the Patuxent - or at least let some water go above my knee. Standing mid-thigh is the same as swimming, right?
 


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Libya, Rwanda and Intervention

The joint forces intervention in Libya, and the subsequent comparisons to Rwanda, seem a good subject with which to reintroduce my international commentary. What follows is my opinion, with whatever weight that may hold.

And so NATO has intervened in Libya under the guise of R2P, which means the military force currently being used is to (nominally) protect civilians from violence, though it is difficult to separate intervention meant to assist civilians from intervention that inevitably assists the rebels. Military intervention based upon moral convictions strives to be impartial but it is (almost) impossible to be so; more on that later.

With the intervention comes comparisons to past atrocities that either benefited from military force (Bosnia) or suffered from the lack of foreign concern (Rwanda). While I do not agree with comparisons in general - as each situation is unique and comparisons always gloss over, or ignore, certain truths - I understand why they are made: to justify foreign military intervention through examples of success and failure. Concerning Bosnia, NATO acted independently of the UN and the military strikes which ensued quickly brought an end to the civil war and genocide against Bosnian Muslims. Concerning Rwanda, the world failed to take action and over 800,000 Rwandans (mainly Tutsis) were slaughtered; genocide could have been averted but was not. Therefore, we (the US, Britain, France, so on) must act to stop similar atrocities from occurring in Libya.

While I understand the reasons for comparisons, I do not agree with them, specifically comparisons to Rwanda, because Libya today is not Rwanda circa 1994. As I wrote above, each situation is unique. In 1994 Rwanda the UN was already in the country and had been for months, attempting to broker a peace agreement between the RPF and current Rwandan government, thus ending the civil war that had been going on since October 1990. No intervention occurred because the intervention force was already there - UN forces only needed to authority to use force (in case you are not familiar with the history, they never got it). Furthermore, the time when military force would have been most effective in Rwanda - the first week following the death of president Habyarimana - was the time when the situation was most confusing, with the RPF and Rwandan forces battling each other in the streets of Kigali and mass murders of civilians only beginning to spread in the countryside. After that week 100,000 were already dead and the UN forces on the ground only beginning to comprehend what was happening. Gaddafi has openly called for attacks on civilians - there is nothing confusing about it. By ordering attacks on his own people Gaddafi has defied UN statutes of the protection of civilians during war and, with his own words, justified foreign intervention.

Despite what seems as obvious justification, I can also understand the hesitancy over Libya: how much force is enough? How long will an intervention force stay in the country? Until Gaddafi is ousted? How can the intervention remain impartial to the civil war while protecting civilians, as rebels happen to be where civilians are? Will that make the force "pro-rebel", whether intentionally or not? And when does this military intervention stop being a force to protect civilians and becomes a foreign military action for regime change? These are valid questions that become increasingly pertinent with each passing day as Libyan rebels lose ground to Gaddafi's forces. If the rebels continue to falter will the joint forces simply leave the country to its fate? Will those forces remain the ensure the safety of civilians from the potential aftermath of Gaddafi's rage? Or will the joint forces fully step in to militarily assist the rebels win the war? (Unfortunately, it seems the last question is what is more likely to occur.) What are the limits to humanitarian intervention and what happens when they are reached?

Rather than making unnecessary and incorrect comparisons to the past our leaders - Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy - need to decide just what it is we are doing in Libya. Otherwise you do not need to look in the past to know what happens when intervention, liberation and war become one and the same, but rather slightly to the east.

And for the record: what is happening in Libya is not genocide. Crimes against humanity, yes, but civilian deaths as a casualty of civil war is not genocide. Gaddafi targeting civilians is not genocide. Unless we are saying that civil wars are genocidal in nature . . . but that is another post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Catching Up

The close-call heart attack I had this morning was quickly remedied: Blogger kindly restored my cooking blog after I wrote to them that I had no idea why it would have been removed (because I didn't, though I suspected it was somehow related to the hacking of my gmail account) and shortly thereafter Cooking The Globe was back online with additional site moderation. Yay!

In other news, I have been unfortunately slack in keeping up-to-date with the news, be it international, local or personal. I blame it on the stresses of moving and relocating (which is legitimate enough: last weekend was the first time in two months Seth and I didn't have to go anywhere. I felt guilty not doing anything.) I also have no idea how to comment on the plethora of shit going on in the world currently so I will do what so many Americans do and simply ignore it. Weee, now life is simple!

Oh, except I am still writhing in pity and self-doubt as I attempt to write cover letters for potential jobs. I have finally written two sentences describing that I am, indeed, awesome; now I just two paragraphs detailing that assertion (nay: fact.) My lack of faith in my abilities amazes not only me, but my husband as well. Woe is me, I know.

On a positive note I have been learning Austin streets through the age-old tactic of driving around and getting lost; my kitty is adorable and will stick his face in mine in the morning, meowing, until I pet him - yes, that is adorable rather than annoying; and my friend Kerry and I solidified our undying devotion to the movie Showgirls with tattoos. Our love is eternal.


Pretty good silhouette on our legs, eh?

And there it is. Damn, I currently miss Uganda (and Africa in general) something fierce right now, though unsurprisingly, not Kuwait. Hopefully Seth and I will be able to make enough money to be able to travel a bit (albeit not at frequently as before.) Of course, I also hope I will get a job in the (near) future that will pay me to travel around the globe. How can I cover it without visiting it? There, I just gave myself a third excuse. I should add that talent to my list of awesomeness in those cover letters.

HIRE ME!

Oh My God, I am Freaking Out

Because my cooking blog, cookingtheglobe.blogspot.com, seems to have been removed. WTF and what the hell? Was it hacked along with email account? Probably, but does that mean something inappropriate (i.e., pornagraphy) was posted? Why were no warnings sent to my email account associated with the blog? I seriously hope blogger will listen to my plea and restore it. Or should I just delete my email account and start over?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Anniversary!


I know it's been a while since I've posted anything and even longer since I've posted something worth reading, but before I go into posts about Showgirls (teaser!) I want to say "Happy Anniversary" to my wonderful, handsome husband Seth. Two years ago we married in a circuit court in Austin; one year ago we celebrated our anniversary with a wedding ceremony on the Nile (see above); and this year we celebrate our marriage where it began: in Austin. It's been fantastic so far, Seth, and I can't wait for more!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Uganda Elections and Some Other Things

Uganda's presidential elections were over a week ago (February 18) and I apologize for taking this long to express my opinion; I blame the tests and trials of moving. Museveni garnered over 68% of the vote, winning a fourth term and surprising no one. Despite claims of irregularity (voting materials arriving late at some locations, security personnel seen as intimidating at others) there was relatively little violence (less than one hundred people were arrested for fighting and bringing weapons to polling stations)the vote is widely held as valid and M7 will lead Ugandans through 2016 and undoubtedly bring Ugandan politics to a new level of corruption.

M7's practice of dirty politicking is not a secret:all Ugandans know that he pays off MPs in order to have Parliamentary votes swing in his favor; that he uses government funds for private purposes (such as this most recent election campaign); and, though he claims to work for and understand the poor rural masses, M7 actively retains money in the urban centers, making Uganda's poor poorer. But he stills gets votes because on one side you have people who align themselves with the M7 and the NRM, thus hoping to benefit from the spoils, and the other side you have those who become apathetic and no longer believe it is worth it to try and vote Museveni out of office. He will leave when he leaves, so why not just wait?

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for M7) there are other countries who currently demand our attention: Cote d'Ivoire, Libya, Bahrain, and now Oman (not to mention continued attention being paid to Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.) Additional thoughts on Ugandan corruption will have to wait.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Countdown to Uganda's Elections

Ugandans head to the polls on the 18th to elect the next president, though I use the word "next" loosely: Museveni will likely win and remain in power for another five years. However, Museveni's main opposition, Kiiza Besigye, has warned that he will "support a popular protest against an illegitimate decision of the election," noting that the police do not have the power to "prevent a protest like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt."

Strong words, but despite possible election rigging and harassment of opposition parties, I doubt Ugandans will rise up in revolution if Museveni remains in office, despite Besigye's claim of supporting "a popular protest against an illegitimate decision of the election." Uganda does not have the fear, uncertainty and harassment which led citizens to revolt in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt. Museveni may be a dictator, but he is seen as the lesser of many evils and following elections, the status quo will remain the same.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Cell Phones and Conflict Minerals

Last week I read a post in Texas in Africa (naming, shaming & measuring) concerning the Enough Project's monitoring and ranking of electronics companies making an effort to create a conflict-free mining sector in the Congo. When finished I silently cheered, not because of the rankings or the Enough Project's efforts, but rather because I agree with Texas in Africa that the effort is largely futile. I normally remain quiet on the issue because I have felt guilty about my opinion, as though it made me a bad Africanist or only quasi-liberal. In Uganda I was often with good-intentioned volunteers or know-it-all travelers and it was easier to say nothing rather than contradict their grandiose statements; cowardly, I know.

But the idea of conflict-free cell phones (and electronics in general) is dubious and largely a display of American arrogance. According to John Prendergast of the Enough Project, "[a]merican consumers have enormous leverage over the companies from which we purchase our electronics." Furthermore, Americans "we need to use our considerable market muscle to demand evidence from companies such as Apple, Nokia, Hewlett Packard, and Nintendo that their products do not contain conflict minerals." Inspiring demands, but I don't believe that Americans choosing conflict-free electronics will affect the crisis in the Congo, mainly for two reasons.

American consumers cannot make enough demand for electronics companies to offer only conflict-free products; American and Canadian and European consumers combined cannot make enough demand. What they can do, however, is demand that conflict-free products be offered to them. This does not stop the exploitation of minerals in the Congo; it does not stop women and girls from being raped. It allows the Western consumer to ease their conscience about the suffering of others by believing that at least their cell phone did not rape someone. A balm is not a cure. Just because Americans may buy conflict-free products does not mean those same products are offered in Asia, the Middle East or Africa itself and it certainly does not mean that fighting over control of eastern Congo will end; there is more to the conflict than minerals.

The fact that President Kabila (of the DRC) placed a ban on the export of minerals last September yet violence continues makes it clear that there is more to the conflict (in the Congo) than minerals.Tension (read: fighting) between autochthonous and foreign groups over territory; lack of state control leading to fighting for local control; invasions of foreign forces, though not exclusively the Rwandan and Ugandan armies: the Lord's Resistance Army remains in threat in the Congo, attacking villages, abducting children and killing indiscriminately. And those are only a few issues of a conflict so complex that the balance of powers changes if you look away for just a moment. I can understand the desire to boil down the issues to something as clear-cut as mineral (and human) exploitation, but the Congo defies such attempts at simplicity. Furthermore, as Laura at TiA points out, even if companies do comply with attempts to obtain conflict-free minerals, there is no definite way to ascertain whether or not those minerals actually are conflict-free.

"The electronics companies are powerful actors in their supply chains. If they show leadership, they can fundamentally change the way these minerals are bought and sold, ensuring that the minerals don’t contribute to armed conflict and the continuation of the worst violence against women and girls in the world." (Enough Project) Maybe, but probably not. Besides finding it incredibly disingenuous to make a direct connection between systematic rape in the Congo and electronics - and rather offensive to rape victims - the purpose of pushing for conflict-free minerals is to shame consumers rather than change the situation in Congo, with the result that consumers may buy new products while the situation in Congo remains the same. I understand the desire to for effective action, but wanting a plan to work does not ensure it will.


Not to seem negative for grassroots activism (though I do not consider the Enough Project grassroots, at least not anymore), I do applaud electronics for listening to consumer demands and attempting to obtain and offer conflict-free materials. Conscientious conglomerates can not be bad thing. I only want people to understand that being conscientious is not the ultimate solution to Congo's problems. To that end, I encourage everyone to read more about the Congo, the conflict and its myriad causes and complications, and the work being done on the ground to make the area safe for all inhabitants.

Texas in Africa
Congo Siasa
Heal Africa
HRW Congo
allAfrica.com


Africa's World War, Gerard Prunier
The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality, Thomas Turner
In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, Michela Wong
The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa, Rene Lemarchand

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

South Sudan Well on the Way to Independence

At the beginning of polling there had been fears of voter intimidation and violence, but the vote for independence of south Sudan was largely "peaceful and credible", with 95% voter turnout and 96% supporting succession and, so it seems, with Khartoum and Bashir fully supporting the southern decision for independence. Though media attention has turned to the uprising and subsequent establishment of a new government in Tunisia, the Sudan issue is neither resolved nor by any means over; it is has merely reached a checkpoint.

While George Clooney and his minions spent the week in Juba monitoring the voting process in order to point out any possible genocides-in-action (despite the inherent futility in the endeavor - but that is the subject for a genocide post, coming soon!), the time for monitoring will be in July, when the referendum takes effect and the status of southerners in the north (and vice versa) becomes uncertain. Or when (and if) the oil-rich Abyei district votes for succession of independence. Or if Darfur rebels, recently expelled from southern Sudan in an attempt to appease Khartoum, will now view the south as much of an enemy as the north. Or is opposition leaders in the north continue to call for reform and are continually silenced through arrests.

And those are only external possibilities of violence: in the various articles covering the vote last week I read one in which southern Sudanese believe a independent South Sudan will better protect them from the Lord's Resistance Army. The LRA has used Sudan as a base of operations for years and since at least 2005 has perpetrated attacks on Sudanase living in the south. Khartoum stands accused of supporting the LRA, especially during the north-south civil war in Sudan (to effectively weaken the south.) The general belief is that with Khartoum no longer in control of the south, the new government will be better able to protect its citizens from invasions and raids.

My worry - and I am sure I not the only one, Western, African, Sudanese, what-have-you - is that a new South Sudan will not be able to immediately assuage the concerns of southern Sudanese. Al-Bashir himself, in a non-pedantic, honest assessment, pointed out that the initial stages of countryhood will be rough and uncertain for South Sudan. Being an American in the age of Obama, I know how fickle a population can be, especially when demands are not immediately answered. While I hope the government of the new South Sudan will diligently fulfill the hopes and allay the fears of its populace, I also hope that populace will be understanding during the grace period any new country needs. It remains to be seen, but as long as an independent South Sudan remains true to the southern Sudanese our hopes can remain positive.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What the F--k! Arizona?

I try not to be an emotional person but as I scrolled through the pictures of the shooting in Arizona yesterday (January 8th) I could not help myself. It is a tragedy on many different levels: a domestic terrorist attack resulting in the deaths of six people, including a 9-year-old girl; an attack on an elected official and member of the judiciary; and an indicator of the extreme hate and violence currently present in American politics. Tea Party supporters and those of the far right have been quick to state that the gunman (Jared Lee Loughner) was not a member of the Tea Party movement; that the Tea Party does not espouse violence; and that the left will blame the Tea Party and far right for the shooting in order to put politics first. Of course, when the Tea Party puts politics first it's a completely different matter:

“While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote. “Within the entire political spectrum, there are extremists, both on the left and the right. Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.” (from this article at The New York Times)

What needs to be remember now is that, yes, the Tea Party and far right do not officially condone violence or violent methods, but that does not mean they do hold responsibility for inciting violence. Sarah Palin's website included Gabrielle Gifford's (the congresswoman targeted and shot) district in a gun's cross hairs; Glenn Beck has warned that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid" and "the war is just beginning", or, even more darkly, "[we are reaching] a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out." Seriously, what the fuck? Regardless of whether Mr. Loughner was a member of the Tea Party movement or any other political faction is largely beside the point when violent rhetoric has become par for the course in American politics. It is not sufficient to claim innocence and hide behind the First Amendment: if you encourage and promote violent means to ends then you are indirectly responsible for the violence that may ensue. As my friend Foxy by Nature recently pointed out, the First Amendment does not protect against speech that causes harm to others. The Tea Party movement and far right may not have been directly involved in yesterday's shooting, but that does not absolve them from filling today's political climate with the "vitriol" that led to deadly violence. Until that responsibility is accepted, I do not think the violence is over.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sudan Prepared for Referendum Vote

Tomorrow balloting begins on the referendum for southern Sudan independence. The process is will take 7 days and 60% is the percentage of "yes" votes needed to determine whether or not southern Sudan will become its own country. There have been concerns over security and the willingness of Khartoum to accept a possible yes for independence, but President al-Bashir visited Juba on January 4 and pledged to honor the outcome of the ballot and to work closely with the south on post-referendum concerns, such as whether north or south will control the oil-rich district of Abyei.  In face, Abyei faces its own referendum to determine its boundaries and future status in Sudan - north, south or unified. Oil is Sudan's main export and main contributor to the country's GDP; which side will benefit from this wealth?

The coming week is sure to be tense, but Covering the Globe hopes and believes that the balloting will occur will relatively little violence; events following the vote, however, may not be. Will Sudan remain united yet face renewed conflict from detractors in the south? What will happen to Darfur rebels if southern Sudan splits, yet retain positive diplomatic relations with Khartoum? Darfur rebels were recently expelled from southern Sudan in order to appease the north - in what way will separation affect the ongoing conflict in Darfur?

This sounds horrible, but this event is damn exciting; literally, it's quite historic. I'll keep a close eye on the situation and keep you informed as to results. You can also check out allAfrica.com for up-to-date information.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year! and Goodbye Kuwait!

 It's only been 1 1/2 months since I've posted anything - nice consistency with covering the globe. The biggest news on 2011 (the five days we've had of it) is that Seth and I are leaving Kuwait, me in early February, Seth around the middle. At first both of us were worried and I was slightly panicked, but at this point we are both excited for a variety of reasons, including my mental health.

Seth has asked me if I am depressed and I have repeatedly answered "no" because I don't feel depressed, sad, lost - any of the "telltale" signs of depression - but if I take time to think about myself I suppose I have fallen into a certain state of melancholy. I sleep cat's hours, find it difficult to write my thoughts even on my personal blog (I have several half-sentences save over the last 6 weeks), hardly leave the apartment. I say to myself (and Seth) that I have become a better cook over the past few months yet if I am honest with myself I would say I use cooking as a crutch, as a reason to not leave the apartment to go for a walk; to not leave past four in the afternoon; to keep my mind focused on that one easy detail: what's for dinner. I began the Master Cleanse today yet am considering making broths for tomorrow and juicing my lemons early because I am accustomed to planning my day around food preparation.

I know it's my own fault, that another person may have written four novels and started two businesses by now, all while sculpting a nymph-like body; I end up, as my friend Kerry described, floating, which is probably why I haven't considered myself depressed. I am floating, no rising in exuberance or sinking in despair - just here. In 2009 I spent months trying to find work while possessing only a tourist visa and was overcome with rejection; I came back in 2010 and began the job search again but just didn't have the heart to give the search as much effort as I had before because nothing had changed except the year. So I floated. And then I turned 30. I never thought I would have a problem with turning 30, but leading up to my birthday and then on the actual day I was struck with the thought that I have peaked, that if I haven't accomplished anything significant with life by now then I have lost my chance. That may have caused me to sink a little.

Leaving Kuwait will be a needed change for me, so Seth, for our marriage - hell, for this blog. I completely abandoned my genocide series for no reason other than I lost the drive. Screw that: I can cover the globe from anywhere, including the eclectic land of Austin. Bring it, 2011.