Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nollywood Babylon

While in Ethiopia, I spent quite a bit of time watching Nigerian films on a station called "African Magic". I also watched local Ethiopian films, but my Amharic is less than adequate. I could get the idea, but not the ins and outs. Nollywood films, on the other hand, were exciting, intense, hilarious, and, almost always, involving someone possessed. Tough to look away, I tell you.

I also saw an amazing paper at a conference in Durban, SA on the topic of spirit possession, feminism and Nigerian film by Adedayo Ladigbolu Abah of Washington and Lee University. The paper was called “One step forward, Two Steps Backwards: African Women in Nigerian Videofilm”. Speaking with Adedavo, she talked about just how much people in Nigeria and the Nigerian diaspora watch these films. The fellow in the trailer who says he watches three, five a day is not unrealistic. Heck, check out YouTube, and you can watch quite a few of 'em. And, yes, I can't deny that I wasn't happy when I saw the one titled Stone Love

Given the tremendous popularity of these movies, Adedavo said, we really should be taking a closer look at what they are saying and doing. This documentary might be a start--I'm dying to see it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

And while I'm blogging...

Here's the best song in the world today...

Reading Television

Everyone who knows me knows I love TV. I watch lots; I used to write about it. I also used to teach a course called "Television as Literature" where I'd get students to do stuff like compare Sherlock Holmes to House. It was awesome. Some of the best student writing I have ever read came from that class. Thing is, lots of people (mostly late at night at parties) have intimated that my obsession with analysing TV is a little much. Though I'm not that big on authorial intent, I was still particularly happy to read this entry from Douglas Rushkoff over at Boing Boing:

I just got this email from John Langley, the guy who made the uber-reality show Cops. I see it as an acknowledgement of all of us who tend to read more into TV programs and their creators' intent than they might suggest on the surface.

Dear Mr. Rushkoff:

It was refreshing to recently read "Media Virus" and your take on "Cops," which I happen to produce and for which I'm responsible as the guy who created it. I can't tell you how tiresome it is to read traditional criticism and critiques of "Cops" as an expression of this or that, usually far from the mark (or at least in terms of my intentions). As a kid of the '60s, I was more likely to name the show "Pigs" than "Cops," so it was indeed rewarding to read that you positioned the program more accurately in its existential realm of relativism. All I do is feebly hack away at trying -- emphasis on trying -- to capture some version of "reality" that will speak for itself, including the echolalia of the very media influence that filters it by the act of recording it. (Viva Heisenberg!) Anyone with half a brain should recognize the social, political and philosophic issues it sometimes reveals in the quotidian pursuit of law and order and the meaning of street crime.

In any case, keep up the good work! And apologies for getting to you so late in the day. Your book is no less valid for the delay.


John Langley
Executive Producer - "Cops"

Not only does an email like that make my month, but restores my faith in the notion that absolutely mainstream programs might still be intended to have a rehabilitative or even noxious effect on the overculture. The fact that Langley made Cops in the spirit that Albert Maysles made Salesman means that we can cut through the clutter and expose mass audiences to virulent memes - even in the darkest of times.

Check it and all the reader comments out here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big up Atwood!

How great is it that I just finished teaching (and rediscovering the greatness of) Wilderness Tips, and then this. Maggie rules. The best bit:

Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. “Ordinary people” pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for “the arts” in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. “The arts” are not a “niche interest.” They are part of being human.

Atwood killing it, seriously.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sings like Beres?

Ok, so I think Mavado is pretty terrific, but the complete lack of singing ability that is totally amazing (and absolutely hilarious) here is absolutely awful here. I wonder if Barack has heard the tune?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Usually drink, usually dance, usually babble

I am becoming more and more excited about this whole writing thing. But it's an odd excitement. I think that it took far too long for me to actually get down to things, but when I actually did, it wasn't as awful as I expected. I'm specifically discussing a paper that I picked apart and put back together. It still has all the stuff it had before, just in a different order and with new stuff added. I think I could probably add more, and I most certainly will for the bigger project, but for now the small battle has been won.

In addition, this is the best thing in the world today.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Interview Blues

I have been listening to hours of interviews and trying to figure out a good way to mark them up without necessarily transcribing the whole thing. I initially tried to write out the main ideas when the person talked, marking times when I could, but that seemed to fail as soon as I realized that my typing skill was not that of a court reporter.

Thing is, I have probably over 20 hours of this stuff. What was I thinking when I decided to base my dissertation on interviews (not to mention newspaper articles in a language I can barely read)? Argh.

This makes me a little happier.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

All is full of love

GorrilavsBear is sooo right. The cover of "All is full of love" found here is the best thing I've heard all day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It's been a while...

I went to Jamaica, Ethiopia and now I'm back with no plans to do much until next year. Well, that's a lie. My big plan is to write more and more often, hopefully toying around with dissertation-related ideas on this here blog. At the moment I am working up a presentation that I gave in Jamaica on the Ethiopian World Federation's water harvesting project in Shashemene, Ethiopia.

My argument is that, in the face of being denied access to citizenship, the EWF's project (and existence as an indigenous NGO within the country) acts as a means of engaging with citizenship in an alternate way. Granted, the irony being that acting as an NGO--a predominantly foreign position within Ethiopia--the EWF's project further integrates the Rastafari into the surrounding community. What is interesting to me is how there seems to be a growing understanding within Shashemene of the Rastafari as occupying a space that's not quite foreign and not quite Ethiopian. All this means that I get to use "liminality"--one of my favourite 25 cent words.