Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sonata For a Good Man

There has only been one book that I remember, whose last page I turned and thought, 'I will read this book again'. The book was Atlas Shrugged. As I was reading it, I was folding pages to keep track of paragraphs that I had read and re-read, but wanted to come back to.

I read user comments about it on amazon later on. People either found it depressing or inspiring. In both cases, most people loved the book. I am in the depressing-book camp - it paints a very grim picture of society without much sense of hope. I wish, really wish I had found it inspiring.

I wonder what psychologists have to say about the discongruent congruency of readers' opinions.

Every so often I've paid my dues as a movie junkie - good ones and bad ones. Unless due to extenuating circumstances, I always finish watching them. Tonight's movie is the only one I can recall that I finished and couldn't wait to see it again. It's called Lives of Others.

Funny. It views like 'Our Lives'. I could almost hear the movie in Amharic, eventhough I was too young at the peak of Dergue and Dehnenet. If I spoke the language, I could hear the movie in Mandarin too. And Polish. And Bulgarian, and Russian ... and all those other languages in which people were too afriad to admit that they were afriad.

Georg Dreyman reminded me of Abe Gubegna. And Bealu Girma. I can't find the exact quote now Nelson Mandela is quoted to have said, 'If you don't have something to die for, then you've no reason to live'. How few those who lived for a reason. How extraordinarily rare those who who lived to say they lived for a reason.

HGW XX/7 reminded me of a conversation I recently had. It was one of those nothing-really-matters-distress topics. The question was if, as we grow older, we are giving up on our dreams and our sense of purpose, or desire to look for a purpose to replace them by "maturity" - a state of resignation and apathy. How many generations of dinner parties have discussed that exact topic? Perhaps the saying, 'if you're not a liberal at 25, you've no heart. if you're not a conservative at 40, you've no brain' is telling. Years pass, ideals break, responsibilities rise, children grow, time crawls onto the next cylce. But not to despair - somebody pulled an Oprah line, that you don't have to impact a whole nation or half the world - you can make a difference in the life of one person . We laughed it off, saying that that is one of the worst and most common excuses for having children.

Except now it doesn't seem so funny.

I thought the 'Good morning, sun' joke was very funny.

Talking of Abe Gubegna:

Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better be running.

Abe Gubegna
Ethiopia, circa 1974

As recited to me by a cab driver in Washington DC

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Kicked out", "kicked off" ....?

At 10:40pm my friend set me a txt msg asking, 'Did Beyonce just get kicked out of Ethiopia?' 10 minutes later I was on my laptop and on the phone with her trying to figure out where she got that from. We couldn't confirm that she was kicked out, but it seems she wowed the 5000 people in Addis that could afford her show.

Meh. Not my kinda gig. Each to his own, but of the story, this made me cringe

Beyonce's opening act, rapper Ludacris, also got a lukewarm reception Saturday.

"Rap music doesn't suit Ethiopia," said local music promoter Michael Melake. "Ethiopians need a melody.

"Rap music is all about the message and we don't identify with that," he said. "It's all about the black American experience, and we don't relate to that."


Beterefe gin I wonder if Anita Powell has ever been to Ethiopia, or how much time she's spent in Ethiopia.
Some 5,000 adoring fans in Ethiopia — a country normally unimpressed by Western music — turned out to see Beyonce. In this country, even teens tend to be loyal to music in the national language, Amharic.
In a country of 70 million people, surely it can't be that hard to come up with 5000 molqaqa, Ethiopian raised, English-only-speaking (or pretending) fans ... if not people who appreciate a balance of world music. If you round up all the kids from the private and international schools inkuan, you can beat that number.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two Things On My Mind

There've been a lot more than two of them but I've not had much time to pause and think ... or whatever it is that i do with things on my mind.

Lemn Sissay. For starters, shall I say, what an interesting name. 'Why a blessing?' ... unless it is 'beg for a blessing', which is less likely, but equally odd. If you dig around deep enough you'll find that his background has many twists and turns. And I can almost understand why they called him 'lemin sisay' ... but I couldn't find the bit where he said his mother named him that. But still, why would she name him that?

He was adopted by English parents until he was 11, apparently against his mother's will. But his adoptive parents turned him to foster care at 11 and I'm not quite sure how he grew up after that. He is, however, against cross-cultural adoption ... which is how I found out about him. No, I'm not against cross-cultural adoption, his position just caught my eye.

His blog and one of his poems :


If there was ever one
Whom when you were sleeping
Would wipe your tears
When in dreams you were weeping;
Who would offer you time
When others demand;
Whose love lay more infinite
Than grains of sand.

If there was ever one
To whom you could cry;
Who would gather each tear
And blow it dry;
Who would offer help
On the mountains of time;
Who would stop to let each sunset
Soothe the jaded mind.

If there was ever one
To whom when you run
Will push back the clouds
So you are bathed in sun;
Who would open arms
If you would fall;
Who would show you everything
If you lost it all.

If there was ever one
Who when you achieve
Was there before the dream
And even then believed;
Who would clear the air
When it's full of loss;
Who would count love
Before the cost.

If there was ever one
Who when you are cold
Will summon warm air
For your hands to hold;
Who would make peace
In pouring pain,
Make laughter fall
In falling rain.

If there was ever one
Who can offer you this and more;
Who in keyless rooms
Can open doors;
Who in open doors
Can see open fields
And in open fields
See harvests yield.

Then see only my face
In the reflection of these tides
Through the clear water
Beyond the river side.
All I can send is love
In all that this is
A poem and a necklace
Of invisible kisses.

Another worthy read : why do we fucking swear? I've been told I put sailors to shame ... which is another odd thing, i think. Because I rarely swear when I'm angry ... or at work. Perhaps subconsciously I'm putting on a show? Who knows. Anyway, me likes article.

Hmm. Of poets and swearing, Kim Addonizio is one of my favorite poets ... alongside maybe Dorothy Parker. I'm not poetic, nor much of a poetry reader, but I've come to realize that what brings these two women together in my world is their 'vulgarity' and humor. Well, DP is unquestionably very funny ... and is even quoted in the article above.

Kim Addonizio ... I was working in Daytona, FL in the Summer of 2004. I was bored and roaming the hallways of the hotel I was staying at when I saw a pile of her books up for sale on a table. She was scheduled to speak that day. I picked up one of the books and opened to a random page to be faced by a poem called "Fuck". My thought exactly - what the fuck?! I read the poem. I bought the book, and went to the hall where the poet of that strange book I'd just acquired was speaking. She read a poem from the book about a dying brother, I think ... and yet made the reading sound so sexual. But then she also read about her cat and to me she was still sounding like she was on the same wavelength. Maybe I'm not receptive to nuances of histrionics. Anyway, no further comment 'bout that, but here's ...

There are people who will tell you
that using the word fuck in a poem
indicates a serious lapse
of taste, or imagination,

or both. It's vulgar,
indecorous, an obscenity
that crashes down like an anvil
falling through a skylight

to land on a restaurant table,
on the white linen, the cut-glass vase of lilacs.
But if you were sitting
over coffee when the metal

hit your saucer like a missile,
wouldn't that be the first thing
you'd say? Wouldn't you leap back
shouting, or at least thinking it,

over and over, bell-note riotously clanging
in the church of your brain
while the solicitous waiter
led you away, wouldn't you prop

your shaking elbows on the bar
and order your first drink in months,
telling yourself you were lucky
to be alive? And if you wouldn't

say anything but Mercy or Oh my
or Land sakes, well then
I don't want to know you anyway
and I don't give a fuck what you think

of my poem. The world is divided
into those whose opinions matter
and those who will never have
a clue, and if you knew

which one you were I could talk
to you, and tell you that sometimes
there's only one word that means
what you need it to mean, the way

there's only one person
when you first fall in love,
or one infant's cry that calls forth
the burning milk, one name

that you pray to when prayer
is what's left to you. I'm saying
in the beginning was the word
and it was good, it meant one human

entering another and it's still
what I love, the word made
flesh. Fuck me, I say to the one
whose lovely body I want close,

and as we fuck I know it's holy,
a psalm, a hymn, a hammer
ringing down on an anvil,
forging a whole new world.

~ Kim Addonizio
Everytime I read this poem, I'm surprised by how it starts, laugh in the middle, and surprised by its end.

I hate it when people swear in Amharic. Hate, hate, hate it. Yidfash, yisenTiqish, yiCHergidish is fine! It's the inat'shin and like crap that's repulsive.

I used to think you're not truly fluent in a language of a culture until you can understand the local humor. I now think you're not fluent until you can "appropriately" be offended by swearing.

So am I or am I not offended in English?


That was 3 things. At least.

p.s. It just occurred to me, his name can mean, 'Why, Sissay?'

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Net Rhytms

It took me almost a 3 weeks to get Internet at my new apartment. Partly because I was taking too long to pick up the phone to make an appointment, and partly because there's a waitlist for everything in NYC. Then it took me another 3 weeks to set up my router (does plug and play ever work with routers for other people? Every single time I set up my Linksys, it's been a painful multi-day exercise for me). So, it really is nice to know I finally have it. But the damage is already done - the one month residential internet free existence has broken my email and other web rhythms.

Anyway ...

A farewell scene from Joisy (no, it wasn't me!)

...and a welcoming scene from Central Park.