What to Like, and for How Long

February 23, 2012

A perfect storm of questions hit me this weekend. It occurred to me that there’s not enough time or brain space to appreciate all the aesthetics that are out  there for you to experience, so what’s worth following and what’s not?  I’m not going to answer that question in the next paragraphs, I don’t have an answer.  But here’s some topics I’m mulling over:

There are “Experts” in Everything

This question hit me while listening to Freakonomics podcast about how wine snobs may not have any idea what they’re talking about.  And then my mind bounced right to the XKCD cartoon above — that if you follow anything intensely enough, you’ll eventually develop a more developed opinion of it.  So… what’s worth knowing, what’s worth discarding, what’s worth devoting time to?

The Lowest Common Denomenator Theory

I touched on this a little on A Dead Kid post a while ago, suggesting that the more obscure your passions, the less connected you are to the rest of the world.  I feel that a healthy understanding of popular culture, though potentially mind-numbing, is really important. I don’t want to be lost in dinner discussions about The Bachelor, or silent (verging on looking snobby) when the bar topic du jour is about Katy Perry’s relationship status.  Crap culture is the new Weather — everyone experiences it, you can’t avoid it, and everyone has an opinion about it so it’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up when you have absolutely nothing else to talk about.  Would you want to talk to someone who responded to your weather comment with, “Oh, yeah, I’m  not really into the weather.”

What’s  Worth Your Time?

How long does it take to watch a movie?  Eat a meal? Read a book?  I ask, because, in the last 10 years a new time-sucking phenomenon has appeared — the serial TV drama. Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons chatted a bit about this on Monday.  Long-form TV drama is  everywhere, and they take forever to get through.  There was a time when someone would ask, “Have you ever seen <movie>?”, and you would say “no”, and they would be like “I can’t BELIEVE you haven’t seen <movie>.”  You would then rent that movie (or borrow that CD or go to that restaurant) and experience it — that would take about  2 hours… even a book, which I would consider a real commitment, takes anywhere from a week to a month to complete.  Serial cable TV shows are the extreme of commitment.  They last for months; often years if they’re doing well.  They are recommended by others who have no real idea how they will eventually end.

People don’t recommend albums based on the first two tracks of an LP, restaurants based on appetizers, or books based on prologues, but they do this sort of thing all the time for serial dramas.  Every serial show is an insane commitment with no guaranteed satisfactory conclusion (hi Twin Peaks, Lost).  Everyone is probably guilty of recommending a show that you, yourself won’t know how good or bad it will wind up being.  I know I am.  I told my friend a decade ago to get into Desperate Housewives.  There are still people watching Grey’s Anatomy because, I can only imagine, that they’ve put too many hours into McDreamy to give up on it now.  Anyway.  I digress.  I just dread dedicating that much time to one thing and watching it just… suck.

Sensory Appreciation

My uncle once said he wouldn’t buy a good sound system because he doesn’t have the ear that could recognize the difference between an good sound system and an excellent one.  I could imagine the same goes for tastebuds, and any other sensory experience as well.  This is logical.  But it make me wonder who gets to appreciate the most things, and perhaps then determine what’s “the best” themselves —  those fortunate enough to experience the most?  Does a variety of experience from somone with no real taste trump the limited experience of someone who has incredible taste?

Art vs Necessity

Last section, I promise. This is the old form/function argument. I’ve read that if an art serves any real function, it ceases to be art.  My questions is then, what happens when a basic necessity is elevated to something greater?  When it comes to things like architecture, fashion, or cuisine — shelter, clothing, and food if we’re going Maslov here — are post-modern buildings,  high fashion, or molecular gastronomy the epitome of art because they’ve transcended their functions, or are they invalid because they are objects that fail to meet the requirement of their initial reason to exist?  Are foodies and fashionista’s kidding themselves, or are they following the most logical path?


This is What it Means to Be Brett Favre

February 2, 2010

Divisionaries' Brett Favre poster, comprised of kittens and puppies.

Sadly, our football column, Divisionaries for Milwaukee’s Third Coast Digest will be concluding for the season soon and Rob wrote a great re-cap of Brett Favre’s most epic fail yet.  I did too, and I decided to post it here, now:

As the third team in as many years learned Sunday, you live by Brett Favre, and you die by Brett Favre.   In a season that saw both former Favre teams make the playoffs with “lesser” quarterbacks, the Packer faithful in  Milwaukee, Rhinelander, Superior, Madison, (and yes Rob, even Neenah),  said in unison, “Toldya soooo.”

Nothing should solidify Cheesehead faith in quarterback Aaron Rodgers more than watching Brett Favre (and his double-edged throwing arm) toss an ill-advised cross-field pass in the waning seconds of regular time to the opposing New Orleans Saints in an otherwise dominant Vikings performance.

Aside from “destiny”, all things were were going Minnesota’s way.

Worse-case scenario, the Vikes would set up a considerably long game-winning field goal. If missed, all things looked good in overtime for a Vikings team that owned every statistical category worth mentioning, aside from the one that decides games the most — turnovers.  In a Favrian effort, the Vikings looked unstoppable, save for their constant knack for fumbling the ball over.

It was sadistic. It hearkened back to the decade-plus reign of Favre in Wisconsin, when fans would tolerate the troughs (on and off the field), living for the exultant peaks of his game.  It was entertaining for Packer fans probably …  finally able to watch Favre as an informed spectator, observing the near-Greek Tragedy of highs and lows play out in a game that meant nothing (directly) to Green Bay faithful.

Thought assisted generously by questionable officiating the Saints assuredly marched towards an OT win while Favre, reminiscent of his last “Pick Heard ‘Round The World” against the NY Giants, watched from the sidelines after his most-recent (and perhaps last?) boneheaded interception.

Minnesotans finally bore the weight of what it is to have Brett as your quarterback.  As unwilling soothsayer Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said after Favre’s win against the 49ers earlier this year, “This is what it means to be Brett Favre. This is what it means to have Brett Favre. This is what it means to watch Brett Favre.”

Feel free to shoot me an email if you would like an extra-large poster of Puppy/Kitten Brett.  Price: Negotiable.


Mauritania Update

June 24, 2009

Adam is all well and good, and brewing wine, and killing goats.  And traveling lots.

here are some photos from my trip to bamako, mali and watching the soccer game against ghana. also, there are some of the bissap wine festival we held at my house in kiffa. we brewed our own wine and killed our own sheep to cook. note: there are some photos of this, so for those with weak stomachs, you might want to skip over the folder ‘winefest’

here is a link to more south africa photosrobben island, rugby game, etc. etc. enjoy. off to bamako, mali!

And look at this — our Alma Mater, Marquette, just ran a story on him.  Huzzah:

Fiebelkorn works at a health clinic in Kiffa, weighing babies and administering treatments to malnourished children. He’s also helping community leaders develop a campaign to distribute clean birthing kits to combat rural Mauritania’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate.

(Update 6/25)  To revise yesterday’s post about Adam, he’s wrote to say hi, and to let everyone know he’s okay.  Apparently there was an American killed in Nouakchott yesterday.

well, a quick update. i hope all of you have been enjoying some bamako and kiffa winefest photos. thus far, things are going well here in kiffa. my projects are moving along as scheduled and i have been enjoying life these last couple weeks even though it has been absurdley hot. but, as Mauritania often does, it may turn downhill quick. as of now, the incoming class of volunteers to come in behind us has been officially cancelled because the mauritanian government is refusing to issue visas. therefore, my class of 75 (there are 68 left) will be the only volunteers left in mauritania because the class before me are ending their service next week.  christmas and WAIST is about to get boring. no fresh blood to liven up the scene or show around the country. boo.  furthermore, and i don’t know how well people keep on top of the news, but there was an american killed in Nouakchott (the capital) yesterday and the North African Al-quaeda network is taking responsibility. ugh. so who knows, i may be home before you know it. i didn’t post a link but i am sure you can find it.

but! in better news! the USA soccer team did destroy the number one team in the world (spain) last night! this will setup a savory final against brazil who beat us 3-0 in the group stages! i hope all is well. don’t mean to be a downer but peace corps told us to keep friends and family ‘in the know.’ of course, no worries, peace corps prides themselves on security and i feel very safe within the community i live in. i will keep everyone updated. hope all is well.

adam


Best Albums of the last 12 months or so… Flight of the Conchords

May 18, 2009

Nearly June.  The year is 5/12ths over. Here’s one of 12 I enjoyed over the last 12 or some months…

Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

(#5 of 12 in no particular order)

Like David Brent playing a pretty good acoustic guitar — there’s something intimidating about musicians that have chops but then choose to make fun of what they do.  Performing as a comedian/musician is a fickle thing… play original work and people may not know you’re joking, play too close to something else and you’re written off as a parody artist, or even worse, an impressionist.  FotC somehow manage to walk the funnyrope.

Songs that were rawer (but still hilarious) on their HBO show take on a new life on the LP — they clean up nice.  Specifically, you have to love the spotless production and prominent funk bass that now comes through beautifully on both “Ladies of the World,” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)”.


Lost: A New Testament

May 18, 2009

Wow.  What an ender.  The season overall was a bit iffy but you have to expect a little fall-out from Season 5’s incredibleness.  I wanted to think this out a bit longer but since someone has taken my photo and posted it on their blog, I guess I’ll post this while it’s still getting hits, yes? Okay.

This finale has certainly made it worth following the series to its end next year.

What happened?  Well.  Plenty.  But the first scene was BY FAR the most interesting and pivotal scene of the year.  The rest of the episode could have been Vincent the Dog sniffing people and it would still be worth the hour-long program.

Here’s that first scene:

Wow.  Right?  So.  To recap.  Guy in white; Jac0b, guy in black; who the hell knows but he has a beard too.

So we finally see Jacob.  He’s a cool dude.  He’s blonde with stubble and could be part of the band The National with no one the wiser.  He’s got sandals, he seems fond of the ancient Mesopotamian art of weaving, and apparently,  the dude knows how to make a mean salmon lettuce wrap.  We also learn later he is fond of female short story writers. (Wiki pointed me towards the title “Everything Rises Must Converge” might be a nod to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — a Jesuit who had keen interest in spirituality,  human paleontology as well as the fabric of the cosmos.)

I digress.  So, Jacob’s on the beach — could that be the Black Rock in the distance?  Yup.  It’s gotta be, and no doubt it’s carrying a young Ricardo (aka pre-ageless Richard Alpert).

Then, who’s this coming to the beach, a dude, unnamed, wearing a black tunic (as opposed to Jacob’s white tunic).

A quick except c/o the worth-reading Los Angeles Times blog:

“They come, they fight, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” Black says bitterly. “It always ends the same.”

“It only ends once,” says White serenely. “Anything that happens before that — it’s just progress.”

“Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?”

“Yes.”

“One of these days, sooner or later, I’ll find a final loophole, my friend.”

“Well, when you do I’ll be right here.”

“Always nice talking to you, Jacob.”

Yup.  This all brings us back to backgammon.  I know, right?

So, rather then go into details about this, I’ll just do bullet points because they’re fun to do:

  • (TOP) The opening scene of Lost Season 6 Finale with Jacob and other discussing the end of things, loopholes, and the violent tendencies of human nature.
  • (BOTTOM) John Locke  talks to Walt about the worlds oldest game — two players, one dark, one light, played with dice made of human bone.
  • I like this parallel (not only visually), but the fact that “the world’s oldest game” is played by a dark and light character,  with humanity as the dice — the unpredictable, unreliable variable (if you want to push this analogy waaaay overboard).

Plenty more to talk about but I’d like you to get to know the biblical Jacob and his older twin, Esau.  Oh, and Jacob’s 12th son — Ben.  All of the below text was copied, prettymuch en masse, from Wikipedia on Friday 5/15.

Jacob, Esau, and Ben – (wiki)

  • The mother of Jacob & Esau, Rebecca received the prophecy that twins were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, and after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that the older would serve the younger; its statement “one people will be stronger than the other” has been taken to mean that the two nations would never gain power simultaneously: when one fell, the other would rise, and vice versa.
  • When the time came for Rebecca to give birth, the first to come out [was] named … עשו, Esau (`Esav or `Esaw, meaning either “rough”, “sensibly felt”, “handled”, from Hebrew: עשה‎, `asah, “do” or “make”;[4] or “completely developed”, from Hebrew: עשוי‎, `assui[citation needed]).
  • The second is named יעקב, Jacob (Ya`aqob or Ya`aqov, meaning “heel-catcher”, “supplanter”, “leg-puller”, “he who follows upon the heels of one”, from Hebrew: עקב‎, `aqab or `aqav, “seize by the heel”, “circumvent”, “restrain”, a wordplay upon Hebrew: עקבה‎, `iqqebah or `iqqbah, “heel”).[5]
  • As youths, Jacob tricks Esau into giving up his birthright for a bowl of stew… lentils that Esau referred to as “that red stuff”… Esau’s lack of appreciation for the long-term value of such an intangible right when he was more interested in fulfilling his immediate needs
  • The Bible depicts Esau as a hunter who prefers the outdoor life, qualities that distinguished him from his brother, who was a shy or simple man, depending on the translation of the Hebrew word “Tam” (which also means “relatively perfect man”).[1]
  • According to the Bible, Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites.[1] In the Book of Genesis, Esau is frequently shown being supplanted by his younger twin Jacob.
  • Jacob’ had a dream about a ladder that went to heaven, and “heard” God telling him that the land he was standing on was his… “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Jacob
  • Jacob, at some point, also wrestled with an angel, and then demanded a blessing. Declar[ing] that from then on, Jacob would be called יִשְׂרָאֵל, Israel (Yisra`el, meaning “one that struggled with the divine angel”…
  • Jacob/Israel’s wife, Rachel, went into labor and died giving birth to Benjamin (Jacob’s twelfth son).
  • Benoni, the original name of Benjamin, since Benoni was an allusion to Rachel dying just after she had given birth, as it means son of my pain


Indie Fantasy

March 26, 2009

With Fantasy Football a long ways away, and with Fantasy everything else sucking, we have created the obvious next step in “fantasy gaming”…. Fantasy Indie Rock.

Is there any better way to monitor the commodity that has become “indie” than by drafting artists as properties and tallying points?  I don’t think so.  It’s a simple formula:  Their name gets mentioned on Pitchfork or Stereogum news, you get a point. Simple as that.

So me, Curran, Kenny, Matt and Rob sat down and did our inaugural “Indie Rock Draft” this week, and began tallying points.  The scoreboard is on a Google cloud spreadsheet so everyone can make changes and update their rosters as need be.

I’ll keep you updated on it’s progress, but for your enjoyment (and so I can tag the shit out of this post), here’s how the draft went (please note, Matt came late):

Round 1

  1. Curran    Kanye West
  2. Kenny    Wilco
  3. Rob    Animal Collective
  4. Brian    Colin Meloy

Round 2

  1. Brian    M.I.A.
  2. Rob    Lily Allen
  3. Kenny    Radiohead
  4. Curran    The Decemberists

Round 3

  1. Curran    Neko Case
  2. Kenny    U2
  3. Kroll    Conor Oberst
  4. Rob    Girltalk
  5. Brian    Death Cab For Cutie

Round 4

  1. Brian    Peter, Bjorn & John
  2. Rob    Sigur Ros
  3. Kroll    Ladyhawke
  4. Kenny    Andrew Bird
  5. Curran    Grizzly Bear

Round 5

  1. Curran    Jane’s Addiction
  2. Kenny    Bruce Springsteen
  3. Matt   Jesus Lizard
  4. Rob    Dangermouse
  5. Brian    No Age

Supplemental Draft

  1. Matt    Crystal Stilts
  2. Matt    Pains of Being Pure At Heart

The strategies were interesting… do you draft small-time bands with their SXSW stock rising, do you try to take a big guess on who’s going to be announced at Lollapalooza (or the billion of other festivals doing press releases),  do you risk taking the frontman of a band in the hopes you can double-up on points for their solo AND group material, or pick-up a producer who has his hands in a LOT of recordings but sometimes isn’t mentioned in shorter news articles.  Ohhhh, strategery.

If you’re curious, here are the top-5 scorers as of yesterday, 3/25:

1. Animal Collective – 6
2. Dinosaur Jr – 5
3. Death Cab For Cutie (tie) – 4
3. Passion Pit (tie) – 4
5. *13 bands tied with 3 points each* Beach House, Billy Corrigan, Black Lips, Conor Oberst, Department of Eagles, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Jimmy Chamberlin, Kanye West, No Age, Soundgarden, Vivian Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs


Take My Stuff and Pay Me For It – Genesis (not the band)

February 23, 2009

I don’t like giving stuff away, even if it means getting money back in return.  This must change.

It seems I’m increasingly less impressed just by my collections of things, especially because I went about all such collections half-assedly. I also had to concede that, because most music is now bought and enjoyed digitally, having CD jewel cases on display not only seems like a waste of space, but also a somewhat dated (dare I say cliché?) male interior design choice.

Seriously – what’s the point of displaying jewel cases anymore – to prove that you go somewhere and buy proper albums instead of going online?  Is that a claim to fame nowadays?  It’s seems pitiable, and very nearly a failed attempt at elitism. Now, if I was a vinyl junky it would still be cool to have crates of that shit sorted in my apartment, Rob Gordon style, but I am not.  I never got into vinyl. I do not own a record player.  So it’s time to say “bye-bye” CDs and hello to whatever money a record store will give me.

I can’t get rid of ALL my albums at the same time though… they’re my most-prized, but still poorly maintained and disorganized collection. Baby steps.

I decided to start weeding out the ones I never listen to, or will feasibly never take out of their cases again.  Everything was fair game, so long as it is also stored on my external hardrive backup.  This logic only half makes sense. Apparently, I’m only comfortable giving up something I never use so long as I could feasibly use it sometime in the future.  However, this does explain why I have pairs of jeans in my closet that have never worn, never plan on wearing but can’t bring myself to give away.

“So”, I comforted myself, “you’re not really losing any of these albums, just the physical manifestation of them.”  Yes.  That’s still off-putting though, isn’t it?  What is it about saving things on a computer that makes you feel still slightly uneasy?  Why do we still print out important emails?  Why am I abstractly distrustful of Google’s “cloud computing”.  For me, I guess the physical presence of an item is a comfort — an increasingly wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary comfort.  (Just like most comforts!)

So, recalling some Buddhist-like advice (“It doesn’t matter where you start, only that you finish,”)  I grabbed my topmost CaseLogic that was topped by a fine layer of dust, and opened it up to the M-through-P discs.  I then sat my ass down in front of my cheap sleek Sweedish black-painted wood media center and got crackin’…

I’ll try to document my little adventure more later this week.


Quick! Someone Identify These People!

February 20, 2009

Which ones are writer Miranda July and which ones are musician Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent).  Good luck.


LOST: Now with bullet points!

February 12, 2009

SPOILER TIME!

  • Is anyone else sick of The Oceanic Six yet.  Seriously.  It feels like I’m watching Melrose Place or something. 

 

  • For all the hemming and hawing about it being an “impossible” task to get them all back on The Island, ALL OF THEM BUMMING AROUND LOS ANGELES! Even the Korean and the Scotsman.  I pray to God they get these bastards back on the island soon or it’s going to be a terrible, terrible season.

 

  • People that get the nose-bleeding disease fall into dangerous bad acting territory… first Fisher Stevens character (Minkus?) last year, and now Charlotte who starts looking a bit like a zombie, regresses to her childhood, and babbles something about chocoate before she passes away.  (Note:  I’m convinced Charlotte was channelling Claire’s Austrailian voice during one of her rants about “This place is death” etc.  My co-viewers were not as convinced).

 

Some plot twists and plot follow-ups in the last two weeks…

  1. The British twerp is Charles Whidmore.
  2. The clapsed-jaw British-speaking female soldier on the island is Eloise Hawking (*wink* Stephen Hawking *nod*)
  3. Eloise Hawking is, indeed, also the creepy “Grandma Time”
  4. Eloise Hawking is, indeed, the mother of Daniel Farraday (*wink* Micheal Faraday *nod*).
  5. Charlotte has already been on the island.
  6. When english girls say “Dharma” it sounds like “Dahmer”.
  7. Jin is alive
  8. The “Smoke Monster” existed in the 80s
  9. Christian Shepherd is (or at least is manifested as) Jacob.
  10. The Wheel that makes the island flip through timespace is as cheesy looking as ever.

As is standard in all LOST revelations, answered questions will now lead us to MORE questions like…

  1. Why did Charles Whidmore leave the island?
  2. If Eloise is Faraday’s mother, is Whidmore his father? (Methinks yes.)
  3. Did they perhaps leave The Island together because Eloise got knocked-up?
  4. What was the falling out between Eloise and Charles now that Eloise is now working with Benjamin Linus?
  5. Whidmore funded Faraday ‘s research, but does Faraday know that Whidmore may be his father?
  6. Is Miles the son of Dr. Pierre Chang? (aka the guy from the Orientation videos?)

Escape, then Back to Reality

February 12, 2009

It has been a LONG time since I reported about our Peace Corps friend Adam, all is relatively well and he spent a lot of the “holiday” season outside of Kiffa, in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.  While it may not be 5-star living, apparently it’s much much nicer.

after living in squalor for the past 7 months you can imagine what bliss it was!!! paved roads, non-mud brick buildings and restaurants with pizza (and beer if you no where to look)!!!

To remind y’all, alcohol is not officially allowed in the country, but I’m assuming, like all other banned substances in all other countries — you can find it if you know who to talk to.

Speaking of drinking, Adam then headed to St. Louis, Senegal for New Years which he describes as a “run down version” of New Orleans’ French Quarter… ahhhh, that’s the only way I’d want to experience the French Quarter anyway, right?

Adam’s training in Nouakchott was then cut short when protests broke out in Mauritania over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

our plans were unfortunately upended by the breakout of the gaza war and the mass violent protests which ensued in Nouakchott for the remainder of our time there … while it was definitely an unnerving experience it was also one of being holed up in our hotels or stuck at the peace corps offices the majority of the time.  again, some pictures of the protests can be seen when i get around to post[ing] photos.

The riots in the heavily Muslim country were, apparently, sparked by the ongoing violence in Gaza — a conflict going on half a world away.  In response to Israel’s apparent aggression, Mauritania has closed its Isreal Embassy — a weighty decision considering they are “one of only three Arab League countries to have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.”

With that, perhaps it’s time to quickly update you to what’s going on in Mauritania

After the successful “bloodless” coup in which acting president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was removed and arrested, military leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has become the spokesperson for what the press has begun referring to as a junta.  Generally speaking, a “junta” is “a government ruled by committee,” but the word is also used to describe rule by military dictatorship.

From what is being reported, the interim government is in the process of reorganizing the state, and setting up a democratic election; promised for June 6th of 2009 (6 months after the coup to the day).  Junta leader Abdel Aziz has yet to confirm if he plans to run in this election.  In the meantime, there’s a lot of other things going on in the West African nation.  The African Union (AU) has decided to impose targeted sanctions on junta leaders as they view Mauritanian leadersship a “rebellious regime”.

The sanction includes enforcement of a travel ban on civilian and military members of the ruling council, freezes their bank funds but avoids restricting that aid that Mauritanians (and Adam?) surely need.   The official AU statement asked the military administration to “co-operate fully with the AU… to return to the constitutional regime and swiftly resolve the political crisis in the country.”  The Magharebia news site also notes that Ahmed Bemba Ould Baya, President of Mauritania’s ruling High Council of State, in turn “accused the AU of refusing to acknowledge the achievements of the military administration,” including the “organizing general forums for democracy, arranging elections within […]  six months, in addition to reducing prices in general”.

Relief Web is also reporting today that a Libyan delegation was in Nouakchott to mediate discussions between the ousted political party and the ruling junta.  Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, just elected the as the head of the 53-nation African Union, had recently imposed these new sanctions.

In other Mauritanian news, an Australian-based company, Baraka Petrolium, is looking for exclusive rights to build an oil pipeline throughout the countryOil & Gas Journal mentions Baraka’s interest in Taoudeni basin and Mauritanian oil  adjacent to the Mali.  The investment could also become “… a major source of employment and, […]  a catalyst for the exchange of technology and knowledge [and] a source of income through transit fees, royalties, and taxes … apart from revenue gained from the sale of oil and gas produced from the region.”

Now, consider yourself updated and here’s Adam’s full letter:

well, it has been some time since i have written so i figured i should let everyone know what i have been up to the last month.  this last month has been a lot of travelling…for the holidays! in mid december i headed off to the lovely capital of Nouakchott for xmas.

this was my first time in the capital and it is the most developed part of the country. therefore, after living in squalor for the past 7 months you can imagine what bliss it was!!! paved roads, non-mud brick buildings and restaurants with pizza (and beer if you no where to look)!!! but most of the time was spent at obie’s house (our country director) and boy what a house it is! there was plenty of food and drink for all and it was great to see our ‘classmates’ that we hadn’t seen since september.  after that, on the 26th, the volunteers went there separate ways for new years.  most, however, went to saint louis, senegal. i was included in this.

i will say this: after 7 months of mauritania, saint louis, senegal seemed like a dream! it is amazing what a difference merely crossing the river makes.  saint louis is similar to a more run down new orleans french quarter. but it is great. right on the pacific i spent 6 days here eating and drinking to my hearts content and basically doing as little as possible.  it was also a better way to work on my french since the french spoken there is much more ‘grammatically correct’ we shall say. nonetheless, i urge you to check out photos when i get around to posting them or try and check them out through some facebook friends of mine. it was absolutely relaxing.

new years was a blast too as most the volunteers converged on ‘the tavern’ a tiny crummy hole in the wall bar where we all counted down the new year.  afer that, it was, depressingly, back to nouakchott for another week for in-service training.  this should of been a fun experience and an opportunity to explore the city but our plans were unfortunately upended by the breakout of the gaza war and the mass violent protests which ensued in nouakchott for the remainder of our time there.

while it was definitely an unnerving experience it was also one of being holed up in our hotels or stuck at the peace corps offices the majority of the time.  again, some pictures of the protests can be seen when i get around to posted photos. aside from that, training went off without too many problems and afterward we all departed back to our sites until mid february when most of us will depart to dakar, senegal for WAIST (west african invitational softball tourn).

back at site, i am now concentrating on work again. i currently teach a myriad of health lessons at different locales both in english and french.  i do about 3 lessons a week usually at the regional hospital here in kiffa or in conjunction with my sitemates at the GMC (girls mentoring center) or the maison de gens (kind of like a YMCA).  these are on a wide range of topics like malaria prevention, AIDS prevention, malnutrition, etc.

in addition to my lessons on a weekly basis i am attempting to accomplish a secondary ‘larger scale’ project.  this involves the distribution of ‘clean birthing kits.’  while they are not too useful in kiffa itself, mauritania on the whole has a problem with infection rates at birth.  especially in rural sites where bad roads and distance make it impossible for women to get to hospitals or health posts with proper birthing equipment.  therefore, birth is done on the ground in the persons home.

i am trying to setup a region wide distribution and teaching ‘initiative’ where i go around and distribute these birth kits (which include a clean blanket, razor, saline, plastic to between the mother and the earth, etc.) to rural sites and then teach mothers or the local health representative how to use them.  these types of distributions have already gone on in places like zimbabwe and papua new guinea and have been shown to cut infection rates dramatically.   anyways, currently i am in talks with united nations family planning on donating me a bunch of the kits and then i will apply for funding to be able to ship them here (if all goes as planned!) but besides that, life goes on here the same as ever.

lots of tea and chebijin (rice and fish). the weather is winter weather. so it gets to the 50s at night and about high 80s or low 90s during the day. its great! but almost over and come may we will back in the 110s 120s…ugh. i will try and post photos as soon as possible. our internet connection is something to be desired but i will try and post soon. thanks for bearing with the disjointed and quick email. just wanted to give a brief synopsis of the last month. hope all is well!  adam