three degrees of joseph kony

Remember that game, the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Where any actor can be linked to Bacon via his or her film roles?

Turns out you can play the same game with Joseph Kony. Observe:

Degrees of Joseph Kony: 0
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Degrees of Joseph Kony: 1
Okot Odhiambo, Kony's right-hand man and second-in-command of the Lord's Resistance Army. Odhiambo announced earlier this week that he plans to surrender, citing serious wounds received in a battle with the Ugandan military.

Degrees of Joseph Kony: 2
Ben Simon, the Agence France Presse reporter whom Odhiambo called to say he was turning himself in.

Degrees of Joseph Kony: 3
Me, the blogger who met Ben over Ethiopian food and later discussed the Aga Khan's role at the Daily Monitor with him.

Hat tip: Kristin Antin


history and hindsight

As part of a side project for a professor of mine, I've spent much of this week buried in New York University's Tamiment Library, combing through the archives of Picture Magazine, a leftist newspaper published daily in New York from 1940-1948.

Today I relived the entire Allied invasion of Europe, including the Italian surrender, the takeover of Rome, D-Day and the liberation of Paris. When I go back on Saturday, the Soviets will reach Auschwitz.

It's strange to read through these archives, day by day, already knowing what will happen: knowing that the first mention of "forced labor" in Poland in late 1941 will eventually lead to a 1944 photo essay that includes a picture of a pile of shoes discarded by Jewish gas chamber victims; anticipating American troops landing at Normandy. Reading brave articles that claim that the war will be over by the year's end — articles published in 1943 and in 1944. Knowing that Jews were proposing a Holocaust memorial before American newspapers were even reporting Rabbi Stephen Wise's first press conference on the genocide.

(According to some accounts, it took almost two years for reports of the Holocaust to be taken seriously, largely because they were difficult to corroborate. I wonder what things would have been like had Ushahidi existed?)

It's a lot of history to take in in seven hours, and my head is spinning with the thought that, with the help of microfilm, I condensed 60 million deaths into a day's work.

uganda blogger happy hour, redux

This month's (impromptu) Uganda Blogger Happy Hour was nothing short of perfect. It was the two-year anniversary of the first UBHH. Rev, who's been a lovable yet aggravating presence since the very beginning, was on his very best behavior (this unfortunately means I have very little to write about). And, proof that the blogren are continually growing, there were new faces. Like I said, perfect.

Nevender and Antipop have considerably more detailed round-ups, and Dee has photos. Before you head over there, though, I want to point you to Solomon, who has a list of Very Important Questions concerning this year's Uganda Best of Blog Awards. This year we're introducing prizes including free hosting, your very own domain name, and possibly pizza — go check it out and let us know what you think.

Last thing: earlier this month I wrote about why I blog about Africa. In my wave of Uganda-inspired love, I neglected to obey the rules of the meme and tag other bloggers. Here goes:


Gay Uganda

Mr. King

Rev — I know you just closed your blog, but surely there's room for one more post?


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ugandan bloglove

Voting opened yesterday for the 2009 Bloggies, the "Web's longest-running blog awards," and of the five blogs in the running for Best African Weblog, two originated in Uganda.

Appfrica has its finger on the pulse of African IT, including podcasts from last December's Facebook Dev Garage in Kampala and an interview with Blogren Superstar Benge Solomon King. It's also available in Luganda.

Scarlett Lion left Kampala last month to move to Liberia, but her site has been an integral part of the Ugandan blogging scene since 2007, and her archives hold a wealth of reflections and photography from all over the country.

Voting lasts until Monday, February 2, so head over soon and give your fellow blogren some love.


jackfruit of the week (01.21.09)

Jackfruit on Long Bien Bridge from Hanoi Mark on Flickr
I'm back in New York after a whirlwind trip to Kampala, where I communed with the blogren (more later) and waxed nostalgic. I got in last night and hit the ground running today with a lecture on Pareto efficiency, delivered by the son of a French-Argentine football player. I love New York.

The new semester is starting for lots of people, including my friend and former blogret* Josh Goldstein, who together with Patrick Meier is teaching a class on Digital Democracy at Tufts University. You can follow along with the course, which covers a blend of digital activism, political theory and media studies, on the Digital Democracy wiki or the @digidemocracy Twitter feed.

In other news, Barack Obama:

Courtesy of Ryan Schuette, whose affinity for Ugandan Mexican food and willingness to meet me anywhere in the city to drink out of cups made K'la City as much like home this time it was the last.

*blogren, singular, male.


jetlag and misconceptions

On a flight this morning from New York to Chicago, I was seated next to a couple heading to visit their son. It was snowing, and I mentioned that I hadn't yet seen snow in New York this winter because I'd been traveling so much. They asked where I was coming from, and when I told them I'd just been in Uganda, the man laughed and said, "You must be hungry."

I didn't know how to tell him that I'd eaten better in Kampala than I do in New York — Greek salads, macaroni and cheese, malai kofta, apple pie. I didn't know how to erase this image of Africa he seemed to have, where people scramble for the few grains of rice that drop off a passing World Food Program truck or where babies bathe, if they bathe, in bracken water collected in a filthy ditch.

It's not that he's entirely wrong, which I think is why I have trouble describing Uganda to someone who's never been there. Parts of the country, those scarred by conflict or disease, provide perfect footage for World Vision's sponsor-a-child commercials: children sitting naked in the dust, huge families crammed into too-small huts, sons lost to war and daughters to malaria.

Kampala skyline, via peprice on Flickr

Homeless woman in New York, via dgphilli on Flickr
At the same time, Kampala is a bustling city, constantly under construction, where you can procure everything from a new Land Rover to a margarita. I am frustrated that people cannot seem to hold both these images in their minds, the same way that they somehow reconcile urban homelessness with Trump Towers and the Chrysler Building.

Even those who have seen both sides of Africa struggle with this, with how to present the realities of extreme poverty and shiny new Mexican restaurants without either feeding stereotypes or wrongly glossing over the problems that do exist. Life in much of Africa is still a struggle for existence, a struggle against hunger and sickness and violence. The same thing can be said of much of America: though civil wars may not regularly threaten our society, gang wars do (Rev told me this week that he's afraid I'll die in a drive-by shooting), as do food shortages and a lack of affordable medical care. In both cases, though, glittering skyscrapers and fancy hotels make up a regular part of the landscape. So why is one dichotomy so much more acceptable than they other?

I wish I had known how to explain this to this couple. I'm not sure how much good it would have done, though — as we were getting off the plane, they started harassing an elderly man who was having trouble getting out of his seat, blaming him for holding up the line. "Old people should stay home," the woman muttered to her husband. It is perhaps not the best sign of my character that, in my exhausted, jetlagged state, I seriously considered kicking both of them.

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why i blog about africa

Last November Abidjan-based blogger Théophile Kouamouo started the "Why I Blog About Africa" meme. Global Voices posted a round-up of responses from both Francophone and Anglophone bloggers, and now I've been tagged by Hash at White African. So, here goes:

I write about Africa because of the boda-boda driver I had earlier this week, who pleaded, "You add me 1000, you see I have no shoes!" and then told me I could come to Masaka with him and be his sister and his wife (exactly how this would work was unclear).

I write about Africa because two years ago, when I would come to Bubbles O'Leary's Irish Pub in Kololo to use the free wireless, it was full of muzungus. Now, of the seven people in here with laptops, I am the only white one.

Sometimes I write about Africa because it is the only thing I can do: when I am angry that the HIV infection rate is rising in conjunction with the failures of American foreign policy or when I am ashamed of how little I understand this world.

Sometimes I write about Africa because it is funny: when I am pursued by a love-stricken boda-boda driver or when the Aga Khan seems omnipresent.

But mostly, I write about Africa because I am afraid I will forget. I am afraid that if this blog is not constantly on my mind, even when I am not writing, then I will forget my neighbor Moses, who gave me groundnuts and did Tae-Bo with me on my porch, things that bound us together as friends. I am afraid I will forget a dying communist and heated conversations on a balcony far above the city and the taste of warm Pilsner in the darkness of a Gulu night.

It sounds, even now as I am sitting surrounded by the smell of Kampala, melodramatic and romanticized. Still, for me, blogging about Africa means that a part of me is eternally connected to that place: that even if I am thousands of miles away from the continent, part of me will always exist there, just as part of it will always exist with me.

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Impromptu BHH

Blogren: I'm back. I got in on Sunday and have been successfully avoiding ffene since.

I know happy hour usually takes place the last week of the month, but I'd love to see you all. Dee suggested that I call an impromptu, mid-month reunion. How does next Thursday, January 15 at 7:00pm sound? Mateo's?

Hope to see you there.


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In search of a few good journalists

I leave today for two weeks in Kampala, a trip I've been looking forward to since I left Uganda 15 months ago. While there, I'll be doing research for a professor at Columbia University as part of my master's program in Economic and Political Development.

Training session through BBC's Communicating Justice program
The research includes a survey of African journalists in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda who have received training in business/economic reporting. The goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the effect that journalism training has had on the media climate in these countries and on the careers of the journalists who did the training. We will share our work with the NGO and donor community, particularly the Revenue Watch Institute, to help them develop future journalism training programs and improve the ones they have.

I've contacted many of the blogren directly to ask if they know of anyone who has had substantial training in economics/business journalism (at least 4 weeks) from places like the Reuters Foundation, BBC Trust, Cardiff, IIJ or ICFJ who might be willing to be interviewed. I have a great list of names, but I wanted to throw out an open call:

If you or anyone you know is interested in participating, leave a comment below or e-mail me.

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