Saturday, June 28, 2008

Here Comes Everybody

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Okay book, but I keep looking for him to acknowledge and work with the Joyce reference in the title ("Here Comes Everybody" is the "hero" of Finnegan's Wake), and / or acknowledge the McLuhan influences that show up everywhere. The curse of being an academic--I am interested in the connections!

He does a nice job with technological determinism: he points out that the printing press didn't initiate the renaissance, but it significantly furthered it. He does a nice job of explaining why he thinks people contribute to Wikipedia, and he shows through a couple of different examples that social media sites rely on a few people to do a lot of work and many people to do a little work--good reminder for me every time I try to initiate a social media project that gets minimal buy-in.

Hhmmm, maybe I am liking the book more than I realized! Better keep going.

View all my reviews.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ben Affleck reports on the Congo

Ben Affleck has made 3 trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the past year; footage and commentary from his trips aired last night on Nightline. Affleck was pretty careful in framing his report--called it fact finding, educating himself before acting, claimed no particular expertise. He provided some nice commentary about the people he met in a refugee camp: teachers, business owners, everyday people who were forced to flee their homes because of instability and violence. This point can't be stressed enough. Africa obviously has a lower standard of living than the rest of the world based on a variety of measures, but where there is peace, there are schools and clinics and food; people are generally happy. Where there is war, there is chaos, instability, starvation, disease.

Reasonably interesting posts in response. Not a lot of celebrity hating, a few "take care of America first," comments, lots of good rebuttals to those comments, a few insightful comments from Congolese.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Winnipeg

I haven't seen Guy Maddin's new film, My Winnipeg, yet, but I suspect:

1. It will be a rich MyStory for all Ulmerites out to check out.
2. It will be a intriguing probe of film-as-medium, in honor of one of Winnipeg's most famous citizens, Marshall McLuhan.
3. It will be seen by about 1,006 people, my seven blog subscribers pushing the total into 4 digits.

Good review with footage at the LA Times.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Map: Sudan Aid Projects

I've been working on a Google Map of aid projects in southern Sudan, attempting to illustrate where in Sudan various American foundations are building schools, clinics, orphan centers, and other aid projects. This map is by no means comprehensive, and would benefit from further additions and probably some refinement of the pin placement.

View Larger Map

Friday, June 20, 2008

World Refugee Day: Angelina Jolie Video

Angelina Jolie has become the highest profile spokesperson for the UNHCR, and her short video address for World Refugee Day surprised me. Her image is not the first image, and I did not recognize her voice, but I was immediately struck by the weightiness, the resonance, of her voice. She does make an appearance, as her image and star power are obviously important to the UNHCR's campaigns, but this video illustrated for me one of the ways in which voice is just as powerful as image.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

World Refugee Day Video: Photos from UN Camps

This video announces a photo exhibit opening in Brazil today, June 19th, in conjunction with World Refugee Day. Photos consist of images from a handful of UN campus in Africa, including Kakuma and Dadaab in Kenya, the two I am most familiar with. Next year, I hope there is an official World Refugee Day tag used on YouTube so all projects like this one, the one I posted, official UNHCR videos, etc., can be linked up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hands sheltering head: The 2008 sign for World Refugee Day

The UNHCR's photostream at Flickr has a number of photographs of refugees and UNHCR staff holding their hands above their head, with hands meeting to form the image of a roof. The World Refugee Day theme for 2008 is "Protection," and the UNHCR provides shelter for as many as 40 million refugees world wide on any given day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

World Refugee Day video from UNHCR

Another reminder of World Refugee Day, June 20th--EVERYWHERE.

Fargo's two events:
1. Lutheran Social Services Celebration: 1-5 pm.
2. ASAH Celebration, 6:30-8:00 pm at Zanbroz.

Short video from UNHCR embedded: lend a helping hand.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rem Koolhaas in Lagos, Nigeria

I watched Lagos: Wide / Close (2005) over the weekend. I'm not sure if I should call it a documentary, just a "film," an "interactive" film, although the interaction is limited, or an essay. It felt more like an essay, or even just an interview. Lagos consists of Koolhaas talking to a couple of different interviews about his research in Lagos Nigera, part of the the Harvard Project on the City. Koolhaas says he went to Lagos because demographic predictions say Lagos will be at 24 million people and the third largest city in the world by 2030. He wanted to to investigate how the city was dealing with the 12 million it has now: on first-glance, not well, but upon further research, Koolhaas noticed that the city's inhabitants were using Lagos' modernists design in creative and productive ways, even though the population far exceeds the infrastructure's capacity.

What really struck me was Koolhaas' comments on his reactions and his personal experiences; very similar to my experiences in Nairobi and Africa generally. He said that the dangers people raised prior to his going were incredibly exaggerated; he saw the expected poverty but he was not depressed by it. Instead, he was energized by the intelligence, creativity, and vision of the people he met. He also fell in love with the place; I wonder what drives this attraction--is it spectacle? is it exoticism?--because Lagos, Nairobi, and places like southern Sudan aren't the kinds of places one would expect to fall in love with.

Visually the piece was a bit like the Qatsi Trilogy: slow fly-overs and drive-throughs, although no speed-up or slow-down techniques used. A few interesting mirror-image shots that revealed interesting patterns. One brilliant shot a train pulling into a station, then pulling away, followed by the tracks almost instantly being covered over by the thousands and thousands of people moving in that market-transport area.

I found some Flickr photos of Lagos; check out the film (got it one Netflicks) if intrigued.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Peter Elbow via Tim Lindgren

This blog is called "Ten Minutes a Day," a reference to Peter Elbow's free-writing advice; Tim Lindgren, Fargo native and all-around great guy, posted a Peter Elbow inspired entry back in February that I just came across.

The Elbow material, via Tim, is:

1) No thinking without writing.

"Think of writing not as a way to transmit a message but as a way to grow and cook a message. Writing is a way to end up thinking something you couldn't have started out thinking. Writing is in fact a way to free yourself from what you presently think, feel, and perceive."

2) "You have to be a big spender. Not a tightass."

"I know perfectly well that the more I utter, the more I'll be able to utter and--other things being equal--the better I'll be able to utter. I know I can. Noam Chomsky knows I can. But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like the more I utter, especially the more I write, the more I'll use up my supply of meaningful utterances, and as the source dries up, they will get worse."

World Refugee Day Video: Protecting the Southern Sudanese

I put together a video in response to the World Refugee Day 2008 theme of "Protection." The video shows and explains some of the ways that the United Nations High Commission on Refugees has protected the southern Sudanese from 1988-2007, although I should clarify that the UNHCR continues to provide support and protection in 2008. Most of the original video comes from 2007, however.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Emergency Aid for Abyei's displaced citizens

My friends in are Winnipeg putting on a fundraiser for the displaced of Abyei, Sudan on June 14th.


For immediate release:
June 11, 2008

Winnipegger’s join in solidarity with City’s Sudanese to Raise
Funds for War-torn Abyei

WINNIPEG: An emergency Sudanese cultural event will take place on
Saturday, June 14th 2008 to raise money for the 12,000 families
affected by the current humanitarian and security crisis in Abyei,
Sudan. Beginning at 2 p.m., concerned Sudanese Canadians and citizens
of Winnipeg will assemble at the University of Winnipeg’s Bulman
Centre to collect donations for the estimated 50,000 civilians
internally displaced by the violent clash between Northern and Southern
troops along Sudan’s disputed border.

Fighting in the oil-rich area of Abyei which started May 13th 2008 has
been a point of contention since the signing of the CPA in 2005. “We
have decided to gather on Saturday to show solidarity with our people
that are suffering in Abyei, it may not solve the problems but at least
they will see that we have done what we can” says Biong Deng, acting
executive member of the LBGS (Lost Boys & Girls of Sudan) in Manitoba.

12,000 families are at immediate and critical risk of malnutrition,
starvation and disease in Abyei at the onset of the rainy season.
“It’s a precarious assumption to think that the suffering in
Abyei doesn’t concern us here in Canada…our national dignity is at
stake” says Tara O’Connor, Community Liaison Coordinator at the
University of Winnipeg’s Global College.

Performances by Mijok Lang aka Hot Dogg and Sudanese dance troupe

When: Saturday, June 14, 2008
Starts: 2 pm
Ends: 6 pm
Location: Bulman Centre @ the University of Winnipeg *Take the elevator
located by the Riddell Cafeteria and the Spence Street entrance to get
to the Bulman Center

Hosted by:
The Lost Boys & Girls of Sudan in Manitoba and the University of
Winnipeg’s Global College

For more information, contact:
Biong Deng (204) 218-7940

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mark Bixler's The Lost Boys of Sudan

Bixler's 2005 book follows a group of Sudanese refugees in the Atlanta area from their arrival to 2004. These stories of resettlement and adjustment are interesting, but Bixler's historical work on the origins of the north-south conflict is concise and lucid, his detailed account of how the US state department came up with the idea of resettling almost 4,000 unaccompanied Sudanese minors is an account I have not read before, and his analysis of how the September 11 attacks functioned as a catalyst for the 2005 CPA in Sudan is fascinating. Former President Carter, I learned, was frustrated with President Clinton's aggressive (i.e. bombing) approach to Sudan, and it was only with the arrival of President Bush in the White House that--upon President Carter's prompting--the US began to play an active role in brokering peace between north and south Sudan.

Also interesting to read about the Valentino Deng and Dave Egger collaboration being written about in a round-about, slightly skeptical way, not naming any names, way.

Lost of other little gems. One story about a boy trying to pass his GED was fascinating. He struggled with literary interpretation, but when asked to do a "composition" about a movie he had seen, he wrote about Achebe's Things Fall Apart because he had only seen one movie. He ended up scoring better in composition than any other subject. A slight nod to the fact that good composition isn't about one's "English," which I suspect was shaky at best in this case. He presumably wrote about the book with authority, with a deep understanding of the colonial African experience, in such a way that the readers of the exam ignored the fact that he didn't follow the prompt, and probably wrote in non-standard ways. Good work, readers!

Hermione's Family Jewel

I helped my son and his friend make their first stop-action video, Hermione's Family Jewel. The 2:00 minutes movie (2:00 minutes so they can enter it in the Fargo Film Festival's Two Minute Movie contest) is an homage to Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, with a really quick scream-out to The Simpsons. The boys pulled in all the allusions, I just helped them get it down to 2:00 minutes.

I discovered The Free Sound Project while helping the boys: a creative commons sound fx database. Sweet and impressive.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Students without borders

I am going to an alumni event at the U of Winnipeg on Monday the 9th; the presenters are talking about their work with Students without Borders. These alumni, working with students at a couple of different institutions, I think, raised $250,000 and took medical supplies to Senegal as part of a 17 day trip.

This got me thinking about a "Students without Borders" arrangement between NDSU and U of W; what if we could get students from both institutions, particularly a mix of Sudanese and North American students, to form a chapter, raise money, and bring aid to various villages in southern Sudan?

One project too many for me? I got thinking about this while working on a reconsideration of War and Peace in the Global Village; I find myself drawn to the computer metaphor of "work around." There is little I can do to stop the fighting in Sudan (I even heard a NPR story that pointed out it is illegal for US citizens to negotiate with foreign governments!), but I can work around the systemic approaches and systemic problems through micro-aid projects. Big change needs to be systemic, but maybe small change on the margins can drive big change in the center. That reversal of dynamics, reversal of base-superstructure, certainly seems to be one of the implications of the digital revolution.