Thursday, November 20, 2008

Especial documental Destinos Clandestinos

Here is a documentary, and subsequent interview with the filmmaker and one of the fellow passengers, screened on Spanish television, about the quest of countless Africans to arrive (after risking life and limb on the high seas) on Spanish soil. Dominique Mollard went undercover for a period of years in order to tell and reveal the more human face behind the almost-daily reports of illegal immigration into Spain.
It is well worth watching, even if you don´t understand Spanish.

From the rtve web site:

11-11-2008 Documental único, obra del francés Dominique Mollard, quien, tras 26 meses de trabajo, logró embarcarse en un cayuco para retratar como nunca antes se había hecho -el combate a vida o muerte- al que se enfrentan miles de africanos que buscan una vida mejor más allá de nuestras costas. Pepa Bueno, entrevista al propio Mollard y a una de las pasajeras del cayuco.
And the video.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

voices of africa

I´ve been trying to get a sense of Obamania in South Africa as I sit perched here at a distance in the UK, but scanning the daily SA papers online, the reporting (those that I could gain unpaid access to) always seemed to me rather low-key. I also saw the odd congratulatory facebook status message whizz by (if that´s any useful indication) from a handful of South African friends, but not many. And this seeming lack of enthusiasm (don´t know what else to call it) seemed all the more odd, as in contrast, I´d seen reporting not only on Kenyans taking to the streets celebrating Barack Obama´s win (with even an official day of holiday thrown in for good measure), but also earlier today I´d read an article in the El País reporting on how excited Africa was about the Obama win (not forgetting that the story only profiled, in very brief paragraphs, about six or seven countries in toto, all sub-saharan).

That said, moments ago I´d stumbled across the following series of stories published by the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, titled "Voices of Africa". The series seems to me a splendid idea. Here (below) is how it describes its aims and remit. About half of the current submissions (at the time of writing this post) report on the country-specific responses to Barack Obama.
One criticism: I do think that "Voices of Africa" could include North African voices in their offering too.

The blurb:

About Voices of Africa
Life in Africa: a one-dimensional struggle to survive war, poverty, corruption and disease; an ongoing saga of famine and failure. Recognise the story?

It's the one most often presented to newspaper readers and other media consumers. We know it's not the whole story. We know these are not the only stories.

Voices of Africa is an ambitious new publishing venture by the Mail & Guardian, which aims to show how we live in Africa, not how we die; how we thrive as multifaceted humans, not merely as survivors. It is an ongoing series of lively articles written by Africans about life in "their" Africa -- ordinary people getting on with their own lives, often in the face of adversity.

Where and how we live might partly determine our behaviour and attitudes. But there are universal joys and tribulations that bind us: we fall in love, we have families, we get older, we watch TV, play, gossip, fight with our bosses, laugh with our friends, shop, worry about our health, our children, our budgets … We publish a selection of exclusively commissioned stories that give us glimpses across the fence into the daily lives, loves and frustrations of our neighbours -- beyond the usual headlines. Voices of Africa is a dynamic series-in-progress and today we take our first "baby steps".

In the next months we will continue to scout for fresh, original voices from a growing number of countries, bringing our readers weekly insights into the experiences of the people who call some small corner of this continent home.

As Voices of Africa grows, we will also launch a more complete online version of the series, about which we'll keep readers posted. To capture as rich and diverse a range of voices that truly represents the continent, we will also commission and translate suitable articles written in French.

Though the nature of this exciting series excludes South African contributions, we hope our readers will help us to grow Voices of Africa into a unique and compelling series by spreading the word among their friends and acquaintances in other African countries.

Welcome to our Africa, explored as never before.

Click here for details about how to "audition" for Voices of Africa.

Contact us
Anglophone correspondence to Charlotte Bauer:
Francophone correspondence to Stephanie Wolters:
Tel: +27 11 250 7300

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

republish: 20 july 2002

Between January 2002 and November 2005, I blogged in simple html markup on my homepage. In November 2005 I finally switched to blogger when I thought that their design sense had caught up with their technical sense (I´d always seen a site´s design as integral to its message, and in the early blogging days, the blogging templates were just plain ugly.) Anyway, I´d compiled all those old posts into one document recently, and will, from time to time, republish some of them here I think. In those days (a mere six years ago, but a lifetime ago it feels) my blog postings were ordered by date, and had no titles. The posting below refers largely to Spain, but also makes reference to the then situation in Zimbabwe.
What strikes me about the posting is the sheer absence of hyperlinks (This (dodgy memory aside) I can only ascribe to that there was a time when access to the Spanish newspaper had been gated, so maybe hyperlinking then made no sense.) I´ve added in the links this time.
[Searching the Prisacom archives online (parent company of the El País) there is a surfeit of articles dated 19 July 2002, a number of them published in the El País of that day/date. Below I´ve linked to the article that seems the most likely source I had referred to then.]
The reference to Madrid is of my stay there in 2000.


The Battle for Parsley Island. Spain vs. Morocco. Never knew 'perejil' = 'parsley'. I guess this would indicate that I never needed to order in parsley whilst in Madrid. One piece I read about this 'battle' quoted Jorge Luis Borges, saying that it was like two bald men fighting over a comb. I've read an opinion piece ayer in El Pais which claims that Spain is just as 'in the wrong' as Morocco. Kudos to the Spanish press.

This makes me think of anti-immigration sentiment which is on the rise, more pointedly in Western Europe, but I suppose elsewhere also. For instance, I recall the scare-mongering which took place at about the time when SA finally decided to raise an opinion about the goings-on in Zimbabwe. It was soon after the elections there earlier this year. SA made a dimplomatic about-turn and felt the need to assist. Before it was "we respect their sovereignty and cannot intervene", whilst so many were reportedly being hounded and intimidated, not to mention the violent land appropriations, and the constitution being tampered with by their President. And then finally, to save face it seems, we (as in SA) felt the need to assist, saying that 'the elections were over, we respect the result and to move forward we must assist our neighbour'. After all, food security is an issue for Southern Africa due to drought. Suddenly we must assist since 'if we don't they'll be knocking on our doorstep' (Pallo Jordan's words at an address at the University). Once upon a time it was the 'rooi gevaar'(communist threat), and the 'swart gevaar' (pan-Africanist threat), now it's the 'drought gevaar'...

Ah, lest I forget. Carlos Fuentes wrote a very good opinion piece in the El Pais of 12 July titled 'Migraciones impunes y castigadas' (Punished and unpunished migrations). He makes the point, highlighting various historic events between 1503 and 2002, that many societies have evolved to what they are today due to the mass migration of people. People who travelled without visas and work permits. For instance: Western Europe owes its development due to the exploitation of Latin America. He quotes a contemporary Spanish economist, Alonso de Carranza, who claims that 75% of the treasure brought to Spain in 1629 was re-dispersed in Protestant Europe. Fuentes adds that the exploitation of (Latin) America led to the decadent power of Spain and the rise of capitalism in Europe. All without visas and work permits.

I translate some more:

Massachusetts, 1620. English Puritans without visas nor work permits, establish New England. From there anglosaxon America expands from the Atlantic to the Pacific, wresting land from the Indians, importing African slaves and annexing half the Mexican territory.

Pennsylvania, 1753. The Humanist and scientist Benjamin Franklin, future chief protagonist of US Independence, complains bitterly about the immigration of Germans to Pennsylvania. "They will create..." says Franklin, "...great disorder among us...They will never learn English, which will mean that we will always require interpreters. They will surpass us in number... so much so that we will not be able to preserve our language and even our government will be under threat." Fuentes goes on to mention the colonization of India by Clive in 1757, Algeria in 1830 (Start of colonization of Africa (in earnest) by Europe), New York in 1910 (17 million Europeans immigrated to the USA between 1880 and 1910, among these Irish fleeing the potato famine), Europe in 1963 (700 000 Spanish, mostly male farm labourers, migrate across the Pyrennees. Sending their earnings back to Spain they boost the Spanish economy, preparing it for a modern post-Franco era), California 1994 (California produces 1/3 of the agricultural riches in the USA, and 3/4 of the latter is derived from Mexican migrant labour.), etc. The main points of Fuentes' article being that this mix of cultures occurred without visas and work permits, and that eventually the riches of the developed nations is in large part dependent on migrant labour. Now, in Western Europe it seems there is great fear and loathing due to the migrant workers who run from the Southern hemisphere to the North. But as Fuentes illustrates so well, the mass migration of people has always occurred, with the concomitant fear and loathing, but that this is how cultures evolve, and have evolved.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

el mundo - juan josé millás

Some weeks ago I´d read the novel "El mundo" by Juan José Millás. Without a doubt it is one of the best novels I´ve read in recent years, not only for its simple (uncomplicated) prose, but more so for its absolute honesty. And I mean here the honesty of the narrator who is Millás telling us about his childhood, and about later encounters with one or two of those same childhood friends. For instance, he writes about his childhood notions of a "barrio de los difuntos" - a neighbourhood of the dead. This ghostly lustre of the neighbourhood has more to do with its opulence (so very unlike his own neighbourhood); a neighbourhood that he strays into one day as he makes an improvised tram journey away from home if only to disperse the (now shredded) evidence of the banknote he´d pilfered from his father´s jacket pocket. You´ll have to read the novel to find out why he was taking the money to start with... It is entirely endearing the way he narrates the logic and thinking of his childhood self; those pivotal friendships and moments as one grows up (He tells of being besotted with a girl, only for her to turn to him at some point saying "you´re not interesting to me". And he then toys with the sentence, inserting pauses and punctuation so as to give it a varied meaning, wondering at the same time which of his interpretations were the most accurate.) The moments he narrates are often hilarious and at times so very poignant.

In an interview (see video) he mentions that the novel is being translated into a number of languages, but it seems, unfortunately, English isn´t one of them. Not yet anyway. What a great pity, since it seems so universal, the essence of the story that he tells.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

musings: watching history unfold + voting

For all my previous musings on how history is written and of how one decides in the present on what is or will be historically significant, undoubtedly the electoral triumph of Barack Obama was one of those moments when you knew that history was unfolding before your very eyes. What a proud moment for US citizens, and heartfelt congratulations to them.

Watching them exercise their vote very much served to remind me of how I (and many fellow South Africans who will find themselves abroad when South Africa has its next national elections in 2009) will not be able to do the same since SA makes no provision for overseas voting. Knowing this leaves nothing less than a stabbing pain in my heart (no exaggeration), since I recognise that many men and women have died and suffered, so that I and others who had been deprived of the vote in apartheid SA, could have suffrage.

One of the ways in which SA´s democracy still needs to evolve, is to recognise that these days, it´s not only disaffected South Africans who find themselves abroad, and that the hard-won vote should not be so easily lost/forfeited due to geographical distance.

PS: Re the US elections, I hope Shirley Chisholm is smiling down from some heavenly cloud somewhere.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

internet energy consumption 2

This is a follow-up to my post of 29 October. After having watched the Newsnight programme I can only conclude that matters are still vague if not sketchy with regard to a "green Internet". The key terms (buzzwords / -phrases) are "cloud computing", "virtualisation", and "follow the moon". The first two you´ve probably heard about by now, since they have been bandied about for at least the past 18+ months.
Since I´ve always written my blog with a non-specialist audience in mind, that audience-notion now becomes muddled as I have the postings fed on over to the feed at the OII. But let me explain anyway, in a way that I might have done had I still been teaching undergraduate ICT courses.

  1. Recall the early mainframes-and-dumb-terminals computing model. Now transfer that notion to the Web, where we now have Web services (think Gmail, GoogleDocs, etc). Cloud computing differs from Web services (conceptually) in so far as the number and diversity of services that can be delivered from "the cloud".
  2. Virtualisation can be understood as the maximisation of computing resources (at the level of the platform, processing resources, and/or application) (think here "one box, delivering many and disparate services or functions).
  3. The term "follow the moon" can be understood as a way in which to distribute energy-hungry computer processing to areas of the planet where energy-demand is at its relative lowest e.g. if demand for computer processing is high, say in daytime London, let the energy needs for that processing be met from a spot anywhere on the planet where it is night-time. (Two additional methods not mentioned in the tv programme, were "follow the sun", and "follow the law". See more on this in Kevin Kelly´s post.)
  4. Another option proferred in the programme was the location of server farms on (very) cold spots on the planet e.g. Iceland, which does away with the need to manufacture cooling of these farms.
So can we imagine then a world where all of the above solutions were applied? And if so, would that lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions from the Internet industries and our collective computing activities? That still has to be demonstrated. For now, what is said is that already the CO2 emissions from our computing activities equal that of the car manufacturing industry, and are set to match those of the airline industry in 2020.

As an aside: Cloud computing is not uncontroversial. See, for instance, the piece "Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman (The Guardian newspaper)"

See also: Guide To Cloud Computing (InformationWeek) ; Virtualization (Wikipedia).

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