Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the art of the possible

"Politics is the art of the possible."
-Otto von Bismark

If two years of Obama and a Dems majority got us Obamacare, which is f'ing great, imagine what could have been possible if the Teahad hadn't broke out.  A bunch of rich oligarchs flood the political scene with money and conduct a bait-and-switch on truth and sanity.

I got to imagining what the last 5 years could have been like if Obama had kept a majority in the House and Senate.  If he hadn't been shackled by the Tea Party ship of fools.  I had a real laugh that Sen. Ted Cruz, captain of said ship, signed up for Obamacare.

Imagine.

A big what-if, up there if President Gore had been in office the decade prior.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

travel travails

Vlugvoos (Afrikaans): to have been made spongy or rotten by jet lag.
25 hours of travel from Cape Town back across the pond will leave such a travel babalas.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israel, WTF?

Nice win, Bibi.  Your wonderfully racist, anti-democratic campaign won you an ugly victory.  I send you my congratulations from South Africa.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What's in a name?

"Good Morning, Mr. Rockower," the ticket agent said to this weary traveler, "Rockower, that is an interesting name."

"Thank you," I replied as I explained its various meanings, including "just passing through."

"It is a good name," she said, "It is a strong name"

I smiled.

"I will name one of my children it."

"Really?!?" I asked as my tired eyes lit up.  "What is your last name," I asked.

"Mrimba, which means 'peace,'" she replied.

So if you are ever in Uganda and meet a "Rockower Mrimba" you will know the interesting provenance of this child's unusual name.

Exit Stage Right

How mad and monstrous it all seemed! Could it be that written on his hand, in characters that he could not read himself, but that another could decipher, was some fearful secret of sin, some blood-red sign of crime? Was there no escape possible? Were we no better than chessmen, moved by an unseen power, vessels the potter fashions at his fancy, for honour or for shame? His reason revolted against it, and yet he felt that some tragedy was hanging over him, and that he had been suddenly called upon to bear an intolerable burden. 

Actors are so fortunate. They can choose whether they will appear in tragedy or in comedy, whether they will suffer or make merry, laugh or shed tears. But in real life it is different. Most men and women are forced to perform parts for which they have no qualifications. Our Guildensterns play Hamlet for us, and our Hamlets have to jest like Prince Hal. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
-Oscar Wilde, "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime"

Space & Time

h/t Russ

Lake Victoria

Lazy Sunday on Lake Victoria. Sipping Ginger Love (orange, pineapple, ginger & rum) and reading Conrad. Kurtz never had it this good.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

After the cultural diplomacy game "pet the mzungu's arm hair, beard and head," it was selfie time.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

Boda Boda

In terms of cities, Kampala is not going to win any awards.

It isn't the biggest, or most diverse.  It isn't especially cosmopolitan.  It doesn't have rugged scenery, jagged cliffs or meandering rivers.

But...it gets a hell of a lot more interesting when you traverse its dusty, choked streets on the back of a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) for a few thousand shilling.

"Where do you want to go, mzungu (white man)?"

"I don't care, just drive."

Truth lies in the journey, not the port.
-Eduardo Galeano

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Cape of Storms

At the junction of Sea Point
and Three Anchors Bay,
I suffered an unenviable bout
of existential melancholy.

So tired, in the throws 
of exhaustion's weary grip
yet so restless as to lack peace.

Neither in the lush Company Gardens,
where the Dutch East India Company
once planted provisions for ships
heading East to Batavia,
Nor in the florid botanical paradise
of Kirstenbosch
on the eastern edge of Table Mountain
was I able to find respite.

It was only in the day's passing into night,
in the sun setting resplendently
across the golden horizon,
as the clouds rolled over the Table's edge
and the white sea-capped waves crashed
into the craggy black rocks along
the concrete sea wall
could I finally find peace in stillness.


From Cape Sunsets

Monday, March 09, 2015

A Manifesto for Blue America

A great piece by Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast on why Obama's Selma speech is a manifesto for Blue America:

I wouldn’t blame you if you took a pass on President Obama’s speech in Selma on Saturday. It’s been a long time since he delivered a riveting one. I skipped it myself, and then someone wrote to say, hey, he knocked this one out of the park, so I looked, and boy, he did. It was the strongest statement about the liberal definition of patriotism I’ve ever heard a president deliver. It was also confrontational and challenging—an unapologetic manifesto for the values of blue America.
That’s something we don’t hear a lot about, the values of blue America. No, it isn’t because we don’t have them. It’s that we don’t parade them in the public square quite as much as conservatives do, while conservatives aren’t exactly shy about caricaturing in public their version of liberal values (we love sodomy and baby-killing and so on).
But there are liberal values. Some, we all know about—tolerance, diversity, etc. But another central one has to do with the way in which liberals love our country, and it goes like this: Yes, of course this is a great country. But it is change that has made it so. It’s a country that was founded on the highest ideals of the day, many of which are eternal, but it was also a country where ownership of human beings of a certain race was legal. So no, it wasn’t so great. It had to be made great. And by the way it’s not really as great as it should be yet. That’s a process that, the human condition being what it is, will never have an end.
This is exactly what Obama was talking about on Saturday, and it’s why the speech will be remembered. This wasn’t just another chorus of “Can’t we all just get along?” that you might expect to hear on such an occasion. This was an analysis of why we can’t—and a stirring defense of one vision of the country that was also an implicit and sometimes explicit critique of the other vision.

Gilding The Pearl of Africa

Descending into Entebbe, the sun was setting a resplendent gold film across the top of Lake Victoria.

Across the golden lake to the West was Rawanda; to the East, was Kenya; behind me lay Tanzania.

We descended over the shimmering gold lake and over the verdant green fields with a sky made hazy by white smoke from fires in the fields.

We touched down on the hot tarmac, and I walked off the plane.  There were buses heading to the airport, but not enough space so a few of us just walked to the terminal.

I stopped on the tarmac to watch the fiery orb's orange extinction, and chuckled that the TSA would be having kittens if a passenger walked from a plane to the terminal, and then stopped to watch the sunset.


The sun's decline was heralded across the sky and the tarmac with a burnt orange glow, as the fiery orb eclipsed into the horizon.



Kampaula

Raiding Entebbe!

Sunday, March 08, 2015

NL Zim Vids cont




15 honest questions the person you marry should be able to answer

50,000 Israelis showed up at the wrong protest

50,000 Israelis descended on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to say enough of Bibi.  What if they had marched on the Qalandia check point instead.

Even Quijotes get the blues

I think I suffer from existential-challenge disorder, or some other malady of la condition humaine. 

Existential Hyperactivity Disorder? Can EHD be a thing?

I think therefore I overthink?

I think therefore I suffer?

Cogito ergo patior

Hope and Change: Selma, and South Africa

Obama gave a great speech in Selma, perhaps one of the best of his presidency:
First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day's commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough. If Selma taught us anything, it's that our work is never done — the American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.
Selma teaches us, too, that action requires that we shed our cynicism. For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.
Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice's Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country. I understand the question, for the report's narrative was woefully familiar. It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing's changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it's no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing's changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes. We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character — requires admitting as much.
"We are capable of bearing a great burden," James Baldwin wrote, "once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is."

This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

You can read the full transcript here.

Ezra Klein has a great piece on how the speech was a response to those who question his love of America:

President Obama's supporters sometimes wonder where the inspirational candidate of 2008 has gone. The answer is to the White House. Obama's presidency is about smaller, less inspiring questions than his 2008 campaign.
Obama's presidency is bounded by the limits of the office and the demands of the moment. It is about what America needs to do right now — the next budget, the next bill, next year's taxes, the last war. Candidates can muse. Presidents must govern.
Obama's 2008 campaign was about what kind of country America is; how to read its past to best guide its future. His speech in Selma — which is really worth reading in its entirety — was among the best of his presidency precisely because it had almost nothing to do with his presidency; it was a return to the central topic of his campaign.
Historians who want to understand Obama will find few better summations than the two paragraphs at the core of this speech:
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing's changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes. We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character requires admitting as much.
Those 230 words are a precise distillation of Obama's view of America, and the role politics must play in it. 
The first paragraph is Obama's case for hope: America is improving; it has always been improving, and to deny that improvement is to steal from Americans a belief in their country that they have more than earned. "To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency," he said.
The second paragraph is Obama's case for change: America's sins are not vanquished; its hatreds remain real; its racism still breathes. "We know the march is not yet over,"
Obama said, "the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character requires admitting as much."
Hope and change. These are the two ideas that form the steady core of Obama's politics. But, more than that, they are the two ideas that define, for Obama, what kind of country America is — and what it means to serve it.
Obama's critics question his love for the country he governs. "I do not believe — and I know this is a horrible thing to say — but I do not believe that the president loves America," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in February. They look at Obama's steady belief that America is not yet good enough, not yet pure enough, not yet perfect enough, and they see a skeptic, not a patriot.
In this speech, Obama's answer to this criticism was direct:
Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We've endured war, and fashioned peace. We've seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they'd risk everything to realize its promise.
That's what it means to love America. That's what it means to believe in America. That's what it means when we say America is exceptional.
There is an implicit radicalism in what Obama is saying here. To believe America is good enough is to abandon the tradition of criticism and activism that has made America great.
Obama's answer to Giuliani is that Giuliani has mistaken uncritical adoration for the hard work required of true love. Patriotism is active, not passive. Those who love America prove it by working to perfect America. They continue marching.

Hope is sometimes the opposite of change.  Hope is broad and effusive, while change is more-often tiny and incremental.

I am writing this from another place that has been changing: South Africa.  I am back in South Africa after 8 years away, and there is some progress here as well.  I see slow strides towards broader integration: more young mixed-race families; more mixed groups in social settings.

Perhaps the Count of Monte Cristo said it best when he declared the two most important words are wait and hope.

Hope drives us, while wait (patience) sustains us until the slow-moving change inches along.

PS: A great piece by James Fallows in The Atlantic on why the speech resonates for so many of us

Saturday, March 07, 2015

One Life. Live it.

I was in a taxi on my way back from the lush botanical gardens of Kirstenbosch on the eastern side of Table Mountain. I spent the day wandering through verdant tree canopies and fields of blue and white flowers. Down avenues of ficas and camphor trees planted by one Cecil John Rhodes.

I was having a tough time getting comfortable in my own skin despite the beautiful surroundings. Mallards picked at the garden grass, while families picnicked on the lawn. I watched the clouds roll over Table Mountain's craggy top, but I could not find peace.

Finally, when I stopped and sit to admire the beauty and grace of my surroundings did I find a bit of respite. Over Cape White and Kudu Babobootie Samoosas, which is just as delicious as fun to write, I found a bit of calm as I took a moment of calm to watch the day pass.

I decided to head back in Cape Town. I had taken a cab out to Kirstenbosch, and it had been a tad expensive. I debated trying to hitch my way back. I got out to the main road, but when I realized I had no idea which direction I needed to go, I figured it best just to grab a cab. I decided I was old enough to suck it up and take a cab back rather than some haphazard adventure that could easily be avoided for a few extra rand.

As the cab sped through the city, we stopped at a robot (traffic light) and I spied a blue bukkie (truck) with a bumper sticker that said: One Life. Live It.

I smiled at such sentiments for a number of reasons. While I agree with the sentiment that we should live our life, I don't buy it.

For starters, I feel that I have already lived many lives in this one life. 

Moreover, I don't believe that we have only one life.

I feel too connected to too many places to think that this is my first encounter.

I could spin ideas and yarns of my previous days in Southern Africa as Portuguese sailor who foundered on the rocks of the Cape of Storms. Or perhaps an employee of the Dutch East India Company, setting up a refreshment stand for the shops and ships heading to Batavia. Or perhaps I was a Boer heading out from Cape Colony to cross the Orange River away from English colonial encroachments. Or maybe an Ndebele trekking north away from the the disruptions of the mfekane.

It isn't only Southern Africa where I feel such ties. India, when I was a sepoy mutinying. Or maybe I was a part of the British Raj.

Brazil feels too close for just one life.  So too the Netherlands.

And of course, France. Vive la vie!

One Life. Live it.

I don't think so.

Many lives; live them all?

Many lives; live each one?

One life by one life?

Bumper sticker wisdom is best kept pithy, and does not lend itself well to reflection.

So perhaps it is best to state: one life; live it long enough, and hope that we will do so well enough to figure out something more by the next life. 

Wild is Life; Vic Falls

More Zim pics up.

From Wild is Life



From ViC Falls

Tilting at the Cape of Good Hope

Hello Dear Readers! Remember me? It is your favorite Public Diplomacy Knight Errant, Don Pablo Quixote!

Yes, I know I have not been in-touch much these days. Tilting at windmills has been a time-consuming endeavor of late.

As previously noted, I am presently in Cape Town. I have been recharging after some crazy tilts. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon lounging in the Company Gardens—an old vegetable patch of the Dutch East India Company turned into lovely public gardens. I had the distinct pleasure of giving a statue of Cecil Rhodes the finger.

Frankly, I have been exhausted. Even Don Pablo Quixote can get the blues when he is plum beat. But this public diplomacy knight errant is rallying over the Cape breeze and Cape red.


And getting to head to the “Pearl of Africa,” the lovely Uganda. Never been to East Africa, so I am excited to begin a new adventure. The new adventure begins monday with a raid on Entebbe.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Kipled

 White as sand of Muizenberg
     Spun before the gale --
    Buy my heath and lilies
     And I'll tell you whence you hail!
Under hot Constantia broad the vineyards lie --
Throned and thorned the aching berg props the speckless sky --
Slow below the Wynberg firs trails the tilted wain --
Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!
-Rudyard Kipling, "The Flowers"


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Great Gatsby

Already diving into South African gastrodiplomacy over a gatsby--a Cape Town's special version of a hoagie.

I found Yusra's Kitchen, which served up a a Cape Malay curry steak hoagie loaded with "chips" that stained my fingers a curry-green.

I got a half, and could only eat half of a half before I was full.


Katchapouri

Is Georgian cuisine the next big thing? I hope so, it is delish.

A scientific explanation of what makes Indian food so delicious

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Priceless

You know you rocked the show when the audience throws hundreds of trillions of dollars at you! Thanks Harare, it's been epic.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wild is Life

I am a giraffe whisperer. And I got snuffleupagused by a baby elephant.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

NL Zim updates

More updates from Zim done in film





Kane also has a great blog update on the NL site.  

I wish I had time for such things....

Gastrojingoism

My friend and culinary diplomacy colleague Sam Chapple-Sokol has a great piece on the recent gastrojingoism controversy that France invented "le gastrodiplomatie."