December 31, 2008

Links

1.  White farmers in Zimbabwe are looking to the tribunal of African judges set up by the SADC for legal help in ongoing conflicts over land redistribution.  I've wondered if this could be an opening for the southern African nations to demonstrate their displeasure with Mugabe, but given the volatility of the issue across much of southern Africa maybe not.  Land tenure is messy, messy stuff.

2.  Paste has a piece on the newest addition to Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty label, The Welcome Wagon.  The group is a husband wife duo from Brooklyn, he's a presbyterian pastor (Aside: I like the simple clean look of their church website).  Sufjan, who produced, arranged and contributed, sums up their record, which I like, quite well:
It’s a Presbyterian ordained minister and his wife, playing religious songs. Take it or leave it.
3.  From Salon:  In defense of pie (a defense I am in whole hearted support of, though at my wedding we opted for cheese cake which is, I suppose, a sort of pie/cake hybrid compromise). 

4.  I'm still catching up so here is the Big Pictures year in photos part two and part three

5.  Amazon is selling their top 50 albums of the year in mp3 format for five dollars each.  My favorite album of 2008 is there if you don't have it yet as well as a few others that would be in my top 10ish:   Gnarls Barkley, Santogold, and Girl Talk.

6.  Happy New Year.

December 30, 2008

Real Life Superheroes

From Jesse Thorn over at the Maximum Fun Blog comes this great essay in Rolling Stone on Real Life Superheroes:
Like other real life super-heroes, Master Legend is not an orphan from a distant dying sun or the mutated product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. He is not an eccentric billionaire moonlighting as a crime fighter. He is, as he puts it, "just a man hellbent on battling evil." Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona.
The whole thing is well written and worth a read.  Also worth your time is a perusal of the World Superhero Registry, mentioned in the essay.  When you read this on the disclaimer page you know you have stumbled on to something special:
This website deals with the actual incorporation of the superhero archetype into daily life. As a consequence of the complex and ever-changing nature of the legal system and the diverse and unusual activities that may be involved in such alternative lifestyles, some of the activities described herein may be in conflict with local laws in some areas. None of the creators of this web page specifically condone any of the described activities or the possession of any of the equipment related to those activities. We are not legal experts and lack the expertise and resources to research the legality of any of the practices of our members, or visitors.
The entire site is wonderful, and I mean that, it is sincerely wonderful (if in need of an upgrade) but be sure and check out the registry page to see who might be patrolling in your area.

December 29, 2008

Conversion as a Bridge to Development?

Here's the title and byline from Matthew Parris's current piece in the Times Online:
As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset.
Aside: It's probably no fault of Parris, as titles and summaries are usually the provence of editors, but there is plenty to quibble with in those first thirty words or so before we even get to the article itself, something of an inauspicious beginning. Not the least of which is to bemoan yet another occurrence of run of the mill adult behavior somehow being deemed worthy of laudatory attention ("Cat says, 'Dogs not that bad, really!'"). The ability to see both sides of an issue and muster up the intellectual imagination necessary to conceive of how someone approaching said issue might arrive at a different conclusion, given their own unique starting point, was at some point in the past not a feat of staggering genius but a minor point of good manners. Alas, that and the hills requiring us to walk up them both ways in the snow appear to be no more and so matters of intellectual civility are reduced to little more than a writers conceit. Bah, bring me my lap blanket!

However, even though I appear to be on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to the matter of religious faith, I'm not sure that we are interpreting the cause and effect of religious involvement, in this case a decidedly Christian faith, in a similar fashion. Since I'm just re-entering the digital world after a bit of a holiday fast here are a couple of random, disjointed, very inside-baseball thoughts drawn from my own time working with faith based groups on the African continent:

1. Africa has "had God" for quite a while now. Depending on your reading of history the African church has been around since the first century, Mark the evangelist is traditionally thought to have founded the Coptic Church in Alexandria between 40-50 AD. So, either God's not doing that great a job or there is more going on across Africa than a dearth of missionaries (a point I'm sure Parris wouldn't argue). I'm actually a fan of the reading of history which gives the Christian faith a place of importance in the cultivation, development and spread of the best of our modern society (and admittedly a not infrequent tool used to decimate some of the worst) but it did so amidst the seedbed of more than a few other important factors, many of which Africa lacks. Faith, Africa has in spades.

Aside: If you're curious about the historical importance of Christian thought that has taken place on the African continent, Thomas Oden released a good book at the beginning of this year entitled How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.

2. I can't help but hear my neo-colonialism bells ringing when I read Parris's article - no accusation there, just my own reading. Admittedly, they are occasionally tuned a little too finely but when Parris recounts returning to his boyhood home after being away for 45 years and comes away impressed by the Africans who have thrown off the bondages of traditionalism, be they religious or communal, and embraced the well spoken niceties of western European conventions it is hard for me to hear him saying anything other than, "I like the Africans who are more like me and less like their uncles."

3. Parris attributes this escape from the "crushing passivity" of the African mindset to Christian conversion. Undoubtedly, there's some merit to that claim as exposure to the Christian faith has traditionally meant exposure to Europeans and Americans (Aside: this is increasingly not the case however, as the majority of Christian "evangelism" taking place on the African continent is now African to African.) and this exposure has brought along with it not only a new found faith but a variety of invaluable social capital that might push them ahead of their more traditional neighbors. The same thing happens to individuals in developing countries who find work with NGO's. Their English gets better, even if passively so they are more aware of both the hurdles and opportunities for bettering themselves and again, by association if nothing else, they are better equipped to avoid the former and embrace the latter. In a developing context where a weeks delay in the rainfall can be the difference between famine and plenty, how much more meaningful could a relationship with a wealthy, accommodating Westerner be in terms of incremental change?

4. Missionaries frequent the lobbies of expensive hotels quite a bit. Which is not to say that they do not live lives of spartan sacrifice in relation to what they may have left behind in their native lands and in service to their calling; but it is simply to acknowledge that they too attend conferences and discuss strategy, take the occasional vacation, entertain a donor here and there, and are no more ignorant of the exchange rate than their NGO counterparts.

5. I don't think "tribal value systems" should be beyond critique either but neither do I think that the Christian gospel is inherently destructive to traditional cultures. There is no denying that in the hands of the over zealous it has often been so, as they introduced not only the gospel message but their own culturally conditioned interpretation of the gospel as being both singular and normative, but at its heart the gospel is a message of redemption and reconciliation for both individuals and cultures.

Aside: One valid critique of Christianity in Africa by Christian African academics is that its failure to move beyond superficial transformation in many African cultures is a result of its failure to adapt itself to what Parris bemoans as the "rural-traditional mindset" (or rather re-adapt, since it is hard to read the biblical narrative as anything other than speaking to and out of a "rural-traditional mindset"). They claim that an individualistic, community eschewing faith (which it pains me to say has been the most prevalently espoused Western interpretation) is not what Africa needs, but a faith that redeems the strength of community and enables the community to move beyond the corrupt, monopolies of individuals who have learned to manipulate the strengths of community against itself.

6. A final quibble:
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Since Parris is a self-professed atheist he can be excused for the over simplification, but that isn't Christianity, it's not the gospel, or at least it's not all of it. As I mentioned above, the heart of the gospel is redemption and reconciliation but it's not simply a restoration of the link between God and humanity - it is certainly that, but it is also the reconciliation of humanity to others, to creation and to itself. Christianity does not call us out of the tribe, out of community, but it calls us into "true" community. The faith described by Parris above will certainly position Africa to be a continent of independent, self-interested, potential consumer-capitalists but I don't think it will make them overly Christian or developed.

The bulk of Parris's article is interesting if problematic in places - though if taken to its logical conclusion I fear it would be bad for both religion and development on the African continent. I tend to agree with the overall gist of his premise - that there is something both good and necessary, both affecting and effective, inherent in the faith based work that takes place across the developing world, and the African continent in particular. As I've said before, (here, here and here for starters) I think that religion can (and must) be one of the key bridges to continued development success when operating in cultures as intrinsically religious as those found throughout much of Africa. To ignore religion is to do more than fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room it is to fail to arrive at the house all together. More could be said but this has gone on far too long already, apologies.

December 23, 2008

Best of 2008: Blog Post Titles

A late entry, but a clear winner:

Honey Bees On Cocaine Dance More, Changing Ideas About The Insect Brain.

Even better, the whole thing is interesting, not just the title.

December 17, 2008

Best of 2008: Seasons

Fall.

Inaugural Roster

Looks like Rick Warren will be delivering the invocation at Obama's inauguration.  Interesting choice.  Despite accusations otherwise from both ends of the spectrum Warren occupies a center right position in the American religious landscape, or at least the closest thing there is to a center right position, which means he's not "all that" far from the center left position at which Obama seems to be positioning most of his administration.  I'd be curious as to who else made the short list for the invocation and benediction spots.  

Of equal (greater?) interest is this bit as well:
John Williams, the composer whose music was heard at Mr. Obama’s victory party on election night in Grant Park, will compose a new piece to be played for the incoming president.

His new piece will be played by Mr. Perlman on violin, Mr. Ma on cello, Gabriela Montero on piano and Anthony McGill on clarinet. (Usually at this juncture in previous inaugurations an operatic soloist performs.)
Not too shabby.

PS - A previous bit on Warren.

Year In Photos

Good stuff as always from The Big Picture: the year in photographs, part 1 of 3.

Hallelujah Redux

PRI's The World covered the story of the dueling Hallelujah's today.  The jist: "Music fans are using the internet as a battleground to campaign for their favorite cover version of Leonard Cohen's 1984 love song 'Hallelujah'" - this particular battle pits the winner of Britain's X-Factor (a UK American Idol I am told) against hardcore Jeff Buckley fans who despair of the sacrilege of a version other than Buckley's topping the charts, all of this is made more "exciting" as the coveted Christmas #1 spot is at stake here .  (Cohen fans are apparently content knowing that Leonard is cashing fat royalty checks.)

Those playing along at home will remember that a similar phenomenon occurred during this years American Idol here in the states, which I (among others) noticed and mentioned previously here.

Here's Burke's live version from X-Factor ("official" studio version is here with embed disabled):


Here's Buckley's live version (the "official" studio version is here with embed disabled):


The money is on Burke at the moment but Buckley isn't far behind and I like the look of this dark horse who has quite a following.

December 16, 2008

Best of 2008: Music

There weren't that many albums that bowled me over this year, but here are two worth a look.

I've mentioned Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago before and I'm still listening to it.  A lot.  Here's the band on Letterman a few days ago:


The other album worth mentioning is Human Highway's Moody Motorcycle.  


Honorable mention:  Mike Relm's Spectacle. and Jayber Crow's Two Short Stories.

PS - Two to look for in early January:  Andrew Bird's Noble Beast and Bon Iver's EP Blood Bank.

December 14, 2008

Links Addendum

6b.

Update: Video. Good reflexes and a great line from the Pres.



8. More on the global auto industry and the southern U.S., or why you've heard so many southern law makers speaking out against the Detroit bailout.  (Previously)

Links

1.  Stories to watch:  Faith based charities, funding and Obama.  I'd be a bit surprised if anything changes here and even more so if anything changed any time soon, given the current plight of the economy.  Anecdotal:  almost 70% of the organizations in our metro area providing short and long term hunger relief are faith-based.

2.  Waxy points to this flaying of Swoopo by Jeff Atwood. (and from what I can remember after looking around the site several weeks back it's pretty accurate).

3.   My food sensibilities run moderately counter-cultural so for reasons that are becoming more relevant by the day I appreciated this account of what to do when your child wants to try Dunkin' Donuts. 

4.  Who gets U.S. foreign aid, in Parade of all places.

5.  Kanye on SNL last night (worth clicking the link for full screen).  I've heard most of the new album now and I like it a lot more than I thought I would.  No vocal (or mixing) awards are going to be handed out for this performance but the whole package is pretty mesmerizing.  No one, in any field, is taking advantage of the multiplicity of ways in which technology and popular culture are intersecting like Kanye and you get the sense that his self-perception is that of an artist who creates (thus the vanities?), not simply a performer.  (via)


6.  Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush during press conference.  I'm not a Bush apologist but I can't help feeling sorry for the guy occasionally and thinking that on some level (like Palin) he is a victim of circumstance.  

Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after a person dies. Rather, the skin dries and shrinks away from the bases of hairs and nails, giving the appearance of growth.

December 11, 2008

McSweeney's: Bon Jovi's Preconcert Prayer Circle

I find almost everything Dan Kennedy writes hilarious and this piece for McSweeney's is no exception (your tendency to laugh will greatly increase if you have a rudimentary knowledge of Bon Jovi as a result of coming of age in their heyday and an intimate knowledge of prayer circles as a result of much of the aforementioned coming of age taking place in the milieu of church youth groups):
Dear God, thank you for this opportunity to be together tonight and to bring people together with our music. Thank you for surrounding us with each other. You really gave us an awesome guitarist, God. We appreciate you taking the time to do that back in 1983, when you had so much stuff on your desk. I remember that the musical Annie was closing on Broadway that year; it was in basically every single newspaper in the city every day, it seemed like. And I remember thinking that maybe the only prayers about arts and entertainment that you would be listening to would be that cast's prayer circles before they went on each night, but you tuned them out and instead focused on steering this man named Richie Sambora toward me here on Earth because you knew it was more important that I get a rippin' guitar player early on so I could form this band and we could start making our way to the top. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed that year, too, so I know you had tons of stuff going on and were really busy, so I'm just sayin' I appreciate your making kick-ass lead guitar a priority in '83. You didn't have to do that, but you did. 
. . . . .

Give us the strength to deliver to the fans out there in the seats tonight. I know there's a lot of stuff going wrong in the world again. Guess what, though: there's always going to be stuff going wrong in the world. I need you focused on the Bon Jovi show at the Wachovia Center in Philadephia, Pennsylvania, USA, Earth. I need you focused on our set list, and I need you focused on making sure the couple of hiccups we had in sound check today don't become issues onstage tonight. Again, I know the stuff's really hitting the fan down here and you're probably getting slammed with more prayers than ever, but for the next 75 nights we've got shows and I'm asking you to put tuning in to our preshow prayer circle at the top of your list. That's why we're doubling up our power and signal by being in a circle like this and by holding hands to basically make one giant person beaming one huge consolidated prayer up to you—we'll do what we have to do to get heard and to cut through the clutter of individual prayers.

December 7, 2008

Links Addendum

8.  Forgot this one, of interest to my father if no one else:  G.M.’s Pension Fund Stays Afloat, Against the Odds (registration required at the moment, username: skcusger, password: regsucks, if you need it).

Links

1.  Ebert's top films of 2008.  Two thoughts while looking over the list:  the symbiosis of life/art seems to have held true this year as there's not a lot of cheer or humor in the mix (WALL-E may be as close as it gets and if you've seen it you know that while the ending is optimistic it's a backhanded optimism at best); you're going to have to search hard for a lot of these if you're outside a decent sized metropolitan area - a fact Ebert acknowledges with this bit at the end: 
Looking back over the list, I think most moviegoers will have heard of only about 11, because distribution has reached such a dismal state. I wrote to a reader about "Shotgun Stories," "I don't know if it will play in your town." She wrote back, "How about my state?" This is a time when home video, Netflix and the good movie channels come to the rescue. My theory that you should see a movie on a big screen is sound, but utopian.
2.  America's other auto industry here in the deep south - we'll be driving home for the holiday's in a few weeks and pass by three of these plants.

3.  Oven stoves and heat walls: long, interesting article with wonderful pictures. 

4.  SitOrSquat - use your phone's GPS to find the nearest public bathroom (also coming soon to a comedy plot line near you.) (via)


6.  I didn't know that Graham Linehan has a blog.  Poking around, this entry from the archives is a good discussion of the difficulty of putting together a comedy sitcom on either side of the pond and why I so vastly prefer those in the British tradition - I like my comedy with a healthy dose of the absurd.  If you haven't seen Linehan's IT Crowd do yourself a favor and hunt around for it.  Oh, and I also found this:



7.  When Pomeroy and I were kids one of our favorite pranks was to use the phone at his parent's office to dial two random numbers and conference them as they both picked up the phone.  You'd be surprised at how amusing an argument between two strangers over who had called whom could be to twelve year old boys.  However, we certainly never imagined that our calls might precipitate a nuclear war.  Suddenly this seems much more plausible.  My favorite line from the article:
"It was a little alarming, to say the least."
(via)

December 5, 2008

Note to Self

. . . and to those who have ears to hear.  

When setting up your utilities make sure to have both you and your significant other authorized to manage the account.  Otherwise, on some cold rainy day in early December you too may find yourself snarling over the phone at some poor innocent woman, "How long has your company blatantly refused to recognize the institution of marriage?!"  And you know what you'll feel after you hang up?  Shame.  Shame, my friends.  

Knowledge for life.

December 4, 2008

Links

1.  "A British doctor volunteering in DR Congo used text message instructions from a colleague to perform a life-saving amputation on a boy." Yeah, that's right, Médecins SMS Frontières my friends (too punny?).

2.  America's 200 largest charities.  The top ten:
1. United Way
2. Salvation Army
3. American Cancer Society
4. Food for the Poor
5. YMCA of the USA
6. Feed the Children
7. AmeriCares Foundation
8. Catholic Charities USA
9. Gifts in Kind International
10. World Vision
3.  Tis the season so we've been eating a lot of apples and have made two trips up the road to "apple country," so poking around for some apple info I found this interesting piece from October on the University of Minnesota's breeding of the infamous Honeycrisp and their search for the next big thing in apples now that the patent is about to expire. 

4.  My reasons are anecdotal but I hope he gets the nod.

5.  Interesting new study on how bacterial speck disease disables the tomato plant's intruder alert systems.

December 1, 2008

Straight Outa' Batesville

How can you not like Soulja Boy?  Example one, social networking genius: 
How does one go from being a 16-year-old making videos and songs in your bedroom to being a Grammy-nominated cultural phenomenon in one year?
I found out about the Website SoundClick. You’d post MP3s and people would rate on your music and you’d get put on charts. I had this song called “Doo Doo Head.” It was this stupid comedic song — and after a few weeks, it went No. 1 on the charts and everyone started coming to my page looking for new music. Then I found MySpace, made my first page, and linked the MySpace page from SoundClick. Really all my MySpace views came from SoundClick and my YouTube clicks came from MySpace; they fed off each other.
Example two, insightful market analyst: 
You have another new video out called “Turn My Swag On.” What is swag, and how can it be turned on?
I think swag is very important to rappers. It’s the overall appearance and style of an artist — these blue shorts and this blue hat and this $80,000 chain, this jewelry and all these tattoos, that’s swag. Swag defines an artist, period. Lil Wayne has his super-tattooed pierces and dreads swag. Jay-Z has his New York, grown man, Beyoncé and 40/40 Club swag. Soulja Boy is on his dance, down south, young, 18-year-old, comedic swag. It’s really just each person’s personality; if every rapper had the same swag, it would be kind of boring.
If Gladwell doesn't have a chapter on this guy then he's crazy.

Guess the State

I currently have "messages" from the following four people on my answering machine (listed in order of phone voice, best to worst):

Michelle Obama
Mitt Romney
Barack Obama
Sarah Palin

November 27, 2008

Greatest Rickroll Ever?

We had the Macy's parade on in the background sans volume as we were busy in the kitchen today and thus missed the Cartoon Network rickroll the parade and by extension the world (too much?):


It's a strange world out there folks.  (via Waxy)

November 24, 2008

Links

1.  From Science Daily: "hybrid plants, like corn, grow bigger and better than their parents because many of their genes for photosynthesis and starch metabolism are more active during the day," explaining in part their hybrid vigor.

2.  Update on "the broken windows theory" from the Economist.  This was my favorite bit:
As in all of their experiments, the researchers created two conditions: one of order and the other of disorder. In the former, the walls of the alley were freshly painted; in the latter, they were tagged with graffiti (but not elaborately, to avoid the perception that it might be art).

4.   Help real people in developing countries by sticking a fake beard on your real face.  Go ahead, just try to resist following that link.  


6.  Kottke has an interesting post up on beekeeping in New York City, an apparently illegal activity.  I will attest to the truth of this bit Kottke quotes from an old NYT piece: 
All right, but why beekeeping? "After you do it, everything else in life is calm," said Mr. Solomon, the investment banker. "Let me tell you, 40,000 bees will teach you the power of concentration and patience."
Though contra Kottke, I would recommend you go with these guys for your mail order bee needs.  Picking up a package of live, gently buzzing bees from the post office is a singular experience that everyone should experience at least once in their lives - if nothing else the PO staff will forever ask how your bees are doing whenever you stop by for stamps.  Here's a time lapse video a friend put together of our last honey harvest: 

The Nicholas Brothers

I caught a couple of minutes of the Nicholas Brothers on a PBS feature this weekend and finally remembered to track down some YouTube video*.  This number from Stormy Weather was famously (apparently) described by Fred Astaire as the greatest musical sequence ever filmed, Fred's word carries a bit more weight than mine here but I'll just say that if it was filmed today you would think it was CGI:  


There is something, however, in this clip of them when they were kids which I like even more: 



Oh yeah, here with Michael Jackson:


*Yes, my wife was out of town.

Gleaning

From NPR: a Colorado farmer opens his farm for folks to pick vegetables after his fall harvest, expecting 4-5,000 he ended up with around 40,000 people who collected almost 600,000 pounds of food.  More, including video from local CBS affiliate.

/

November 20, 2008

Funny 'cause it's true

/

From Indexed, of course.

November 18, 2008

Food Security as a 59-Page Report

The USDA just released its annual report on household food security.  The U.S. Food Policy blog has some thoughts.  Good analysis and key points from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  The Washington Post points out that the USDA has turned away from naming the condition formerly known as hunger: 
The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience "very low food security."

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.

Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey." Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, "We don't have a measure of that condition."
From the previously mentioned New Yorker food issue, James Surowiecki on food security:  
The old emphasis on food security was undoubtedly costly, and often wasteful. But the redundancies it created also had tremendous value when things went wrong. And one sure thing about a system as complex as agriculture is that things will go wrong, often with devastating consequences. If the just-in-time system for producing cars runs into a hitch and the supply of cars shrinks for a while, people can easily adapt. When the same happens with food, people go hungry or even starve. That doesn’t mean that we need to embrace price controls or collective farms, and there are sensible market reforms, like doing away with import tariffs, that would make developing-country consumers better off. But a few weeks ago Bill Clinton, no enemy of market reform, got it right when he said that we should help countries achieve “maximum agricultural self-sufficiency.” Instead of a more efficient system, we should be trying to build a more reliable one.
The also previously mentioned Japanese take on food security.

New Yorker Food Issue

Most of The New Yorker's food issue seems to be online now.  

75 Comics Being Made Into Films

I would assume that "made" is used very broadly here, but even still, that's a lot of movies for my adolescent self to anticipate.

Hodgman

I'm dragging my wife along to see John Hodgman at a book reading tomorrow.  Unfortunately neither his ukulele nor Jonathan Coulton are expected to make an appearance.  


November 17, 2008

JT Bringin' Turkey Back

This one man synopsis of Justin Timberlake's cancelled SNL hosting gig is at least 40% more entertaining than the actual show would have been:

November 16, 2008

Hoop Dreams Update

You don't have to be a fan of basketball to be a fan of Hoop Dreams.  It routinely makes it into the upper echelons of everyone's "best documentaries of all time" lists, and not infrequently it's in the top spot of such lists.  It's a great film and probably my favorite documentary as well, for all kinds of reasons.  Fifteen years in, The Chicago Tribune has a short update on the stars of the film and the divergent paths their lives have taken post-documentary:
For more than a decade, the pair have been bound by unexpected fame. The two Chicago high school basketball players were featured in the 1994 hit documentary "Hoop Dreams." Now in their mid-30s, their contrasting fates may surprise the many people who saw the movie.

Gates, the reserved one, has become an authoritative force who leads a church in the Cabrini area. He is married with four kids. Agee, a spirited charmer, doesn't have a regular job but is launching a line of "Hoop Dreams" apparel. He has five kids by five different women.
After seeing the film for the first time I remember wondering about the "true" nature of the two's friendship, so in addition to reading that the two are still friends I liked reading this little tidbit:  
The teenagers knew each other casually before "Hoop Dreams" was made, but they grew extremely close over the five years of filming. They even had secret sleepovers at each others' homes, unbeknownst to the film crew.

"We were teenagers—we didn't want them knowing everything that we were doing," Gates said.
If you've never seen Hoop Dreams, do yourself a favor and watch it for free on Hulu.

November 13, 2008

The Organic Artisan Spelt Breadline Blues

It's no secret that the economic downturn has hurt the organic food industry and from my observation a lot of that surplus and unsold merchandise is showing up at food banks.  I'm doing a bit of work for a local food bank and walking through the warehouse it feels like your strolling down the aisle at Whole Foods.  Does this count as trickle down?

November 12, 2008

Mylar Bags in the White House?

The Beat, Publishers Weekly's comic blog (and incidentally one of the few comic blogs I'd say was worth following for the casual fan) pontificates on what I too thought was the most interesting tidbit in last week's "50 Facts You Might Not Know About Obama" in the Telegraph:  
Eight simple words that spell hope for the world:

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.

Note the use of the present tense. While it’s a well known fact that young Barack was an avid comic book reader, and certainly no stranger to superhero imagery on the campaign trail, this one verb would have us believe that he still keeps a long box, or perhaps some trendy graphic novels, in his reading pile. Something like, CONAN: BORN ON THE BATTLEFIELD by Kurt Busiek and Greg Ruth, maybe? Or maybe he’s more of a Bendis fan?

We’ll leave the parsing of this particular truth to others. What with administrative transitions, and global recession and nukes in Iran, he’s got a lot on his plate, and to expect him to weigh in on the Clone Saga is just a bit much. Frankly we found this factoid just as interesting.

He has read every Harry Potter book.

Maybe the president-elect is just, you know, kind of a nerd.

Developing?

The Pro-Hole Agenda


Food Security as Bento

Like seemingly everything the Japanese produce, this PSA on food security by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries comes out concise, compact, well designed, and colorful.  In a short four minutes of information packed visual design they touch on issues of food security, country of origin labeling, rural redevelopment, environmental concerns, and global connectivity, just to name a few.  As Waxy mentioned, it would be great to see a similar PSA adapted to the US context.

 

High resolution version here at the Ministry website.

November 11, 2008

Some Videos




Both from Jesse Thorn.  

And rappers apparently heart animation at the moment.




November 6, 2008

Gross, National Happiness

I had forgotten about Bhutan's quality of life index until it was mentioned on NPR this morning while discussing the coronation of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (the world's youngest ruler).  From Wikipedia
Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross National Product.
The term was coined by Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972 in response to criticism that his economy was growing poorly. It signaled his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Like many moral goals, it is somewhat easier to state than to define. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for the Five Year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.
While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.

November 3, 2008

Greensgrow

Nice little article on Greensgrow in the NYT.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll

Nice interview with Pete Seeger in Pitchfork.  This bit is great:
Seeger: I've been lucky to have good health most of my life. Except my brain is goin' now. I can't remember names. I confess I've never heard of Pitchfork. Is it sold in music stores?
Pitchfork: No, it's on the internet.
Seeger: An internet magazine! So you don't have to cut down trees. I'll be damned. I'm living in the past.
I confess to having a soft spot for "If I Had a Hammer."

November 2, 2008

Links

1.  Studs Terkel died on Friday.  I loved his interviews and coveted his love of people.  NPR has a page up with a lot of good links.  "This Train" is one of my favorites and you can listen to part of it here.  There is of course lots on You Tube.

2.  Plainview is a full-screen browser (actual full screen) for Mac's with a built in presentation mode.  PC user's may find this of little regard but it's a feature I've never been able to find for any Mac browser (no, not even Firefox) and there have been more than a few occasions in the past when I have needed it.  Oh, it's free.

The Turker’s Gospel is a new version of the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, reinterpreted from the King James Version of the Bible by workers at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Workers were assigned individual Bible verses and asked to rewrite them in their own words. No context was provided. The rewritten verses were reassembled for publication on this website.
4. Red Sex, Blue Sex: why do so many evangelical teenagers become pregnant.

October 26, 2008

The Perils of Civil Religion: #27

"Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils."  - G. K. Chesterton

October 25, 2008

Links: Addendum

Forgot these:


2.  Nice long story from NPR on the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, a public high school and a 72-acre working farm.

Links

1.  Map visualization of newspaper endorsements for the presidential race. (via)

2.  USDA issues proposed pasture regulations for organic livestock that ban CAFO's and require a minimum of 120 days on pasture.  Sounds like a rare "well done."

3.  My name:  

4.  Nitrous Oxide Emissions Respond Differently To No-till Depending On The Soil Type.


6.  Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' new record label, Acony Records, has released its first title - Swim from the The Whispertown 2000.  You can stream it here.  I like it.

October 24, 2008

NPR on Race and the Election

NPR's ongoing series entitled, The York Project: Race & The '08 Vote, continues to be extremely good.  To state the obvious, this is the type of reporting that they do so well and for which, as a medium, radio is particularly well suited.


Virtually True Crime

Fake marriage plus fake divorce plus fake murder (But it's also a suicide, right?  What do you call that?) equals real arrest.  

Note to self:  the Japanese take their avatars very seriously.

Aside:  On the off chance that you are a Harper's subscriber and haven't read it before this is a great piece on internet addiction across Asia, but focusing on China. Well, I haven't been able to find it before but it looks like this person cut and pasted the whole thing here, worth a read.

Aside 2:  When did Yahoo start that annoying "Read full article" tab thingy? 

October 21, 2008

October 20, 2008

Links

1.  Good thoughts (as always) from Ethan Zuckerman on innovating from constraint in Africa.

2.  SEED Wayne gets some love from Ford.

3.  NPR's short story on the impact of the global financial crisis for the global poor.  If you've only been paying attention to how things are shaping up here in the states give it a listen.  Here is the Center for Global Development's blog.

4.  Biblioburro.  Too great for words.  Just read it.  (If you don't have a login and don't know already.) (via Chris Blattman)

/

5.  The October issue of Development Issues, the World Bank Institute's magazine, focuses on agriculture and is entitled, Making Agriculture a Development Priority.  I haven't had time to read it yet but it's sitting on the desktop.


7.  Seriously, I love this guy.  I'm reading between the lines but I'd be willing to wager that this particular musing has its roots in the political maelstrom we find ourselves in two weeks out from November 4th.  It's a good solid word for those who identify themselves as followers of Christ and a potentially interesting perspective for those who don't. 

8.  Sure, you might be able to game Intrade but the 7-Eleven coffee cup poll is gold baby.  

9.  Since the weather has turned chilly I've been giving Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago heavy rotation, solid autumn music my friends.




Ok, last one, I promise.

October 10, 2008

An Open Letter to the Farmer in Chief

I haven't even finished wading through the whole thing yet but Michael Pollan's centerpiece essay to the NYT Magazine's Food Issue out this weekend is already too good not to pass on.  No one gathers in seemingly disparate chords and ties them into beautiful intelligible little bows on complicated food related issues like Pollan and this essay doesn't disappoint.  I'll try to post a few excerpts later on but seriously, its worth your time.  In fact the whole issue looks really good, with a focus on actual food policy rather than the usual food porn that ends up in high profile mags like the NYT. Highly recommended.

October 6, 2008

The Penguin Swiftboats Batman*



* Alternate Title: What the Next 30 Days Will Sound Like

October 4, 2008

VP Debate Auto-tuned

Bipartisan?  Check.

Auto-tune?  Check.

Genius?  Double check.


(via Waxy)

Links

1.  Cost To Drive - it's a broad brush but it's a pretty fair guess-timate I suppose (only includes cars from 1999 and newer).

2.  Two pieces on the so-called prosperity gospel caught my eye this week.  Did God Want You to Get That Mortgage in Time, and this piece from Peter Berger which will resonate with anyone who has spent time around the burgeoning pentecostalism of sub-Saharan Africa. 

3.  Staying in the same ball park Elizabeth Pisani comments on something we encountered in Botswana as well - navigating the tricky waters of faith healing (or simply "faith" for that matter), traditional medicines and ARV treatment for HIV.   

4.  PrintWhatYouLike.com - handy.

5.  Here's a quick vegetable stock recipe from Mark Bittman for your reference as we move whole-heartedly into soup season.

6.  Branagh to direct Thor?  I think it could work.  Thor was my favorite comic growing up (I was a mythology geek) and I've been skeptical of the forthcoming movie as even the comic had trouble walking the line between cheesy gravitas and realism, but Branagh's strong stage and Shakespeare background could pull it off.


8.  Female birds apparently lay bright blue eggs as a signaling device, but do so at the expense of their own health:
The blue in many birds' eggs comes from the compound biliverdin, a breakdown product of the heme unit in haemoglobin, which circulates freely in the blood. But biliverdin is not just a pigment, it is also an antioxidant used by the body to prevent cellular damage.
Previous research has proven that when females lay vibrant blue eggs, their partners are more likely to stick around and help rear the young. So researchers speculated that because the blue comes from an antioxidant, it is a signal to males of the female's health status. Some scientists have argued that the female is making a dangerous trade-off, giving up resources needed to sustain her health to convince her partner that her offspring are worth looking after.

October 3, 2008

Chasing Rabbits: Bronson Pinchot

On two separate occasions today Perfect Strangers came up and it made me curious what Bronson Pinchot had been up to, from Wikipedia:
In December 2002, Pinchot became a Freemason.

Since approximately 1999, Pinchot has spent a great deal of time in the town of Harford, Pennsylvania restoring the circa 1839 mansion of former Pennsylvania Senator Edward Jones.  He has since purchased a number of properties in the small, rural town of 1,300 in an effort to return the town to its 1800s appearance. He purchased the town store and demolished it. He paid the volunteer fire company to move outside of town. He is currently in the process of suing the town's historical society for the rights to a small triangular island, one of the last pieces of the town center he does not yet own
Here's a strangely surreal article from a local paper on Pinchot's vision for the town.

October 2, 2008

Sometimes Good Enough . . .

is in fact good enough.  

I'm not watching the VP debate, again, its the ancillary that interests me when it comes to politics.  And so far Intrade thinks Palin is getting the job done as the odds for her to be withdrawn have dropped almost 2 points since the debate began and almost 3 on the day:

Price for Sarah Palin to be withdrawn as Republican VP nominee/candidate at intrade.com


Update:  One last glance at Intrade before turning in and Palin is down another point or two. Looks like she's done well enough to stop the Eagleton talk, good for her, but there doesn't appear to be any movement either way on the big board.

Quote of the Day

Tyler Cowen discussing the fate of the dollar:
The negative scenario for the dollar is where the Chinese economy collapses, not where the Chinese become too afraid to buy dollar-denominated assets.

Bush, Bernanke, Paulson -- we call them leaders. The Chinese think of them as the customer service department. I suspect the Chinese get straighter answers from them than we ever do.

October 1, 2008

Sheeran Letterman Video

Here's the video of WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran on Letterman last night for those who missed it.

September 30, 2008

Josette Sheeran on Letterman Tonight

Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN's World Food Program, will apparently be a guest on Letterman tonight.  Tomorrow kicks off the WFP's annual World Hunger Relief push so kudos to Dave for giving the issue of global hunger some airtime - in the midst of everything else that is going on at the moment such openings will probably be woefully few and far between.  I'll keep my eyes open for online video of the segment for those of you can't make it up that late.

Note to Sheeran:  Don't cancel last minute. 

(Hat-tip to my sister-in-law via the emails)

September 29, 2008

"Oh my God"

That's a direct quote from Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia (our new home state) in this short 3 minute piece on NPR this afternoon.  The interview took place prior to the announcement that the bill had failed and the stunned silence after the interviewer relates the news to Marshall mid conversation is palpable and a little scary.

Aside:  I'm amazed that they still haven't gotten this done.  It's hard not to chalk it up to a failure of leadership from both parties.  If the duly elected leaders of both parties (not to mention those vying for the presidency) feel like however bad the bailout is it still has to get done for the sake of the economic future of the nation and they can't twist, cajole and honey enough votes to do so . . . . it's hard to see exactly which part of our government is currently functioning.  

Word Picture of the Day

Sure the Dow is down 657 points at the moment, but even that couldn't keep me from laughing at this quote from CA Representative Darrell Issa explaining why he voted against the bailout plan:
Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican, said he was “resolute” in his opposition to the measure because it would betray party principles and amount to “a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan’s coffin.”
I have no idea what it means but "putting a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan's coffin" just entered my everyday vocabulary.  

Oops, looks like the Dow's down to 720, man, it feels like somebody put a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan's coffin around here.

September 27, 2008

Links

1.  Looks like South Africa's new President Motlanthe has removed South Africa's controversial health minister.  To put it kindly she had been, at the very least, an unfortunate distraction in the midst of a country with the highest number of HIV infections - often openly, and with little if any medical evidence, criticizing ARV's and instead advocating traditional supplements such as garlic and beet root.  Not surprisingly many of her critics suggested that these public declarations were an attempt to distract from her failures to disseminate ARV's more widely and effectively.  

2.  Some great technology innovation spotlights:  (via


3.  Bill Murray on board for Ghostbusters 3!

4.  Body 2.0: Creating a World that can Feed Itself panel discussion hosted by Google with Hugh Grant (no, not that one, the head of Monsanto one), Michael Pollan, Larry Brillant, and Sonal Shah: (via)


September 26, 2008

Graceful Exits?

Keep an eye on this as people begin to say things like this.  

(No Rick-Rolls I promise.)

Slow Food Nation Video: Wendell Berry

Video from the recent Slow Food Nation gathering is up (you can also download both video and audio) and it looks like there is a lot of good stuff, most of which I haven't seen yet but this bit from Wendell Berry has been running around in my head all day.  Jump ahead to about the 8:00 minute mark if you want (or click the tools icon and go to Ch. 2) and then listen for at least the next five minutes (the rest is good as well).  It's a far better description of my own personal educational, vocational, spiritual, and physical journey over the last four or five years than I could ever piece together.








"Once we identify something that is good and we begin to understand how that goodness ramifies a longer chain of causes, it really ultimately involves everything.  Then we begin to glimpse the possibility of entering an age in which things that have fallen apart come back together."  

And all the people said . . . . 

Markets In Everything: Wet Nurses

With apologies to MR, from the FP Passport:
Amid China's tainted-milk scandal (the subject of this week's photo essay), parents are frightened of buying milk and formula off the shelf for their children. A Chinese entrepreneur was bound to find a way to provide parents an alternative, and one owner of a domestic services company has: the milk nanny.

The entrepreneur, Lin Zhimin, put an ad on the Internet offering the service of milk nannies -- lactating women who get paid for giving away their milk. Calls started pouring in.

I Beseech Thee

Is this real?  (Emphasis mine.)
The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.

“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.

. . . . .

The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling news conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.

In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”
Am I reading that right?  Paulson was on his knees begging?  Please tell me he was just tying his shoe and it was misinterpreted.  I've been relatively calm about this whole thing but for some reason that freaks me out.  

I literally have no expectations for the government to ever do the "right" thing and even I thought they would pull it together and get this thing done . . . 

Is there any reason not to think that the whole thing went down the tubes as a result of McCain's decision to return to Washington?

Wow.

September 25, 2008

"The road to the White House runs right through me."

Never leave Letterman hangin'.

September 24, 2008

McCain to Suspend Campaign/Debate?

That's one way to stop the poll's from dropping . . . maybe?

Update:  Maybe not - Intrade (having called them into question today it only seems fair to reference them now) has Obama gaining almost three points today alone (most of it post campaign "suspension" I'm willing to bet) and now predicts an electoral win of 278 to 260 . . . 

If I was conspiratorial I would think one of two things re:McCain's strategy:  McCain's health is not good and he's not up for a Friday face the nation (seems unlikely if he's truly wading into the Senate debate over the bail out) or (and this seems more likely) the campaign really is that scared of putting Palin in front of an active audience.

Aya of Yop City

I mentioned the graphic novel Aya a while back and it's nice to see that Marguerite Abouet has penned another volume to be released by Drawn and Quarterly.  

Intrade Conspiracy Theories?

Speculative thoughts on what could be some suspicious betting going on at Intrade.

Buy Apple

Now's the time.

September 23, 2008

Ag Links

Some interesting stuff bubbling up in the agriculture world lately:

1.  The MacArthur "Genius Grants" were announced today and I was pleasantly surprised to see a farmer amongst this year's fellows:
Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations. In 1995, while assisting neighborhood children with a gardening project, Allen began developing the farming methods and educational programs that are now the hallmark of the non-profit organization Growing Power, which he directs and co-founded. Guiding all is his efforts is the recognition that the unhealthy diets of low-income, urban populations, and such related health problems as obesity and diabetes, largely are attributable to limited access to safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Rather than embracing the “back to the land” approach promoted by many within the sustainable agriculture movement, Allen’s holistic farming model incorporates both cultivating foodstuffs and designing food distribution networks in an urban setting. Through a novel synthesis of a variety of low-cost farming technologies – including use of raised beds, aquaculture, vermiculture, and heating greenhouses through composting – Growing Power produces vast amounts of food year-round at its main farming site, two acres of land located within Milwaukee’s city limits.
2.  Interesting findings on the development of agriculture.


4.  Moringa back in the news.  If you're in the states you can order seeds online through ECHO's bookstore.  If you're outside the US you can register with their Overseas Seed Network.

Links

1.  The CSM summarizes the Pew Internet and American Life Project report:
97 percent of teens play video games. There’s a slight gender divide: 99 percent of boys compared to 94 percent of girls.

50 percent of the teens in the report said they played a game “yesterday.”
2.  Staying with the CSM, their Patchwork Nation voter map is pretty (and) engrossing.


4.  The Center for Global Development has been churning out a great series of posts, with a variety of view points, reflecting on how the current financial crisis might affect all that emergency aid.

5.  Trailer for Ballast, shot in Mississippi using primarily local actors - I'm a sucker for sparse films like these: 

 

September 22, 2008

Collier on the MDGs

I went back to take a look at what exactly Collier did say regarding the Millennium Development Goals in The Bottom Billion (FYI: that is a great price for the paperback if you don't have a copy) and here is an excerpt:
The Millennium Development Goals were in one sense a big advance. Compare them with an earlier UN jamboree, the Copenhagen Social Summit of 1995. The Social Summit ended with a clarion call about how much should be spent on social priorities. The Millennium Development Goals encouraged people to shift their agenda from inputs to outcomes: halving poverty, getting children in school, and so forth. But despite this advance, the goals have two weaknesses, both involving a lack of focus.

The first critical lack of focus is that the MDGs tack the progress of five billion of the six billion people on our planet. It is of course politically easier for the United Nations to include almost everyone. Plus the aid agencies prefer a wide definition of the development challenge because that justifies a near-global role for their staff. The price we pay is that our efforts are spread too thin, and the strategies that are appropriate only for the countries at the bottom get lost in the general babble. It is time to redefine the development problem as being about the countries of the bottom billion, the ones that are stuck in poverty. When I give this message to audiences in aid agencies people shuffle uncomfortably in their seats. Some of them may be thinking, "But what about my career?" for it would no longer be in Rio but in Bangui. And when I give the message to an NGO audience they get uneasy for a different reason. Many of them do not want to believe that for the majority of the developing world global capitalism is working. They hate capitalism and they do not want it to work. The news that it is not working for the billion at the bottom is not good enough: they want to believe that it does not work anywhere. But we cannot go on sacrificing the bottom billion to either of these self-serving aspirations.

The other crucial lack of focus is on strategies to achieve the goals. Growth is not a cure-all, but the lack of growth is a kill-all. Over the past thirty years the bottom billion has missed out on global growth of unprecedented proportions. This failure of the growth process is the overwhelming problem that we have to crack. I have tried to show you how breaking the constraints upon growth will require a customized strategy. The same approach is not going to work everywhere, but neither is each country utterly distinctive. Governments in the countries of the bottom billion need to develop strategies appropriate for their circumstances. In principle, they do already--except that in practice their "strategies" are usually more like shopping lists presented to donors. This deformation of strategic thinking is in part a result of the overemphasis upon aid: the strategies turn into shopping lists because the objective is not growth but aid. The governments of the bottom billion need to become more ambitious. (pp. 189-190)

MDGs

With the UN convening in New York this week there is a lot of talk floating around (once again) about the Millennium Development Goals and how their midterm assessment will fare at the gathering of international leaders and policy makers.  Bono and Jeffrey Sachs will of course be there and you can follow along as "they" (by that I mean whichever one of their attendants drew the short straw) blog the proceedings for FT.  Paul Collier already weighed in with some thoughts in an op-ed for the NYT this morning which consists mainly of the back-handed compliments and suggestions that he gave concerning the MDGs in The Bottom Billion:
The Millennium Development Goals have been a major improvement on the unfocused agenda for poverty that preceded them, but the world has changed radically since they were announced in 2000. And the assumptions on which they are based need to be rethought.
The World Bank has just raised the bean count of global poverty to 1.4 billion people, from just under a billion. It had previously overestimated the level of Chinese and Indian per capita incomes, so the count now shows that the number of poor Chinese and Indians far exceeds the number of poor Africans. But this is misleading because Chinese and Indian incomes are rising far faster and more surely than African incomes. The big difference between a poor Asian household and an equally poor African one is hope, not necessarily for the present generation of adults but for their children.

Hope makes a difference in people’s ability to tolerate poverty; parents are willing to sacrifice as long as their children have a future. Our top priority should be to provide credible hope where it has been lacking. The African countries in the bottom billion have missed out on the prolonged period of global growth that the rest of the world has experienced. The United Nations’ goal should not be to help the poor in fast-growing and middle-income countries; it should do its utmost to help the bottom billion to catch up. Anti-poverty efforts should be focused on the 60 or so countries — most of them in Africa — that are both poor and persistently slow-growing.

A further weakness with the Millennium Development Goals is that they are devoid of strategy; their only remedy is more aid. I am not hostile to aid. I think we should increase it, though given the looming recession in Europe and North America, I doubt we will. But other policies on governance, agriculture, security and trade could be used to potent effect.
As many commentators will no doubt point out all of this talk of "international" development will be taking place a stone's throw away from the epicenter of a currently brewing global financial crisis.  It is that crisis, not the plight of "the bottom billion," which will attract the greatest media attention this week and which will inevitably make the work at the center of the MDGs that much more difficult to accomplish, at least in the short run.  The Center for Global Development has a good run down on just how all of this may play out for those who are already struggling on the global scene:
For many developing countries, the U.S. credit crisis will mean slower growth and rising inequality. The effects will be protracted, and not all will show up at the same time. And the nature and degree of impact will vary widely. Some countries, notably those with extensive foreign exchange reserves and strong fiscal positions, will be much better able to cope than others. But overall the crisis is very bad news for developing countries and especially for the poor.

September 20, 2008

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