celebrating lint

Typo of the day: “I’m not Catholic but I am getting ready to celebrate Lint.”
Also, got some pretty good news today. At this point, it’s secret good news, but it’s still good.
(Addendum: For those of you who have called me excitedly, thinking the good news was something life-changing — “You’ve been named pope!” “You’re now managing editor of The Washington Post!” “Someone has decided to pay you $1 million to write a book about the meaning of national borders in contemporary society!” — I hate to disappoint. The good news is just good news, nothing that involves a major life dislocation.)

apple store opening

I haven’t seen this anywhere locally, but: A new Apple Store in Dallas is set to open its doors Saturday. It’s at NorthPark, 10 a.m.
I’ve never done the Apple-Store-opening thing, in which an overjoyed line of hundreds of Macheads forms hours before the doors open. I guess it’s always been that nagging thing called pride that’s stopped me. But Apple always gives away a lot of stuff at their openings, so I might show up.
The canonical Apple Store opening has always been the 2003 opening of its first store in Japan. Click that link if you want to see something amazing: the longest line I’ve ever seen. The first folks in line waited 28 hours in the rain for the privilege. The line, about 2,500 people long, stretched 10 city blocks.
I went to that store in October (hoping to score a new iPod for the flight back to the U.S.), and I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a space that packed. I ended up leaving iPodless because the line to get to the cash register was an hour’s wait.

similak child and canadian hip-hop radio

Had my iTunes library on random over the weekend when up came “Today,” by Jefferson Airplane. (MP3 here.) That piercing jazz-guitar lick a few secs in? It sure seemed familiar, so I went hip-hopping around my hip-hop collection and came across…”Similak Child” by Black Sheep, which samples it. (And ends up with a better song than the Airplane’s, which would only be enjoyable surrounded by a thick cloud of pot and patchouli.)
Anyway, further googling found someone called The Rap Nerd who had noticed the same song’s appearance, both in the Black Sheep track and a Pete Rock classic.
I also found what has to be the coolest radio show in all of Winnipeg: Born in the Breaks, where a DJ plays classic hip-hop and the original songs those hip-hop samples were taken from. They did a whole show on that Black Sheep album (a little-appreciated early ’90s classic), for instance. They seem to be into exactly the hip-hop I am. A whole show tracing Booker T. & the MGs samples! Multiple hours playing songs that use the drum break from a single Al Green song! I’m in hip-hop love! If only they had audio archives.
(And, for the record, this is two posts about small Canadian radio programs in less than a week. My canadaphilia is burning bright these days.)

austin readers?

A request to my Austin readers: Anyone want to give me a couch to sleep on during SXSW in a couple of weeks? (Specifically, we’re talking the nights of Friday, March 10 through Monday, March 13.)
I’d appreciate it greatly; my desire to pay for a hotel is vanishingly small. I promise (a) not to be a bother — you’ll barely notice I’m there, (b) not to drag some raucous PHP/MySQL coding party into your living room, and (c) access to the greatest kickball game of all time, if desired, and (d) to buy you the lunch or dinner of your choice.
My email’s jbenton at toast dot net.

how to write about africa

How to write about Africa, from Granta. As someone who has written a handful of stories from Africa, I can tell you it’s awful hard to open your eyes and step past the stereotypes. And I don’t mean racial stereotypes — I mean writerly stereotypes.
“In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.
“Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.
“Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.”
The African middle class gets horribly undercovered, and stories do tend to rob Africans of their individual agency. In Western stories, things always happen to Africans; Africans rarely do much worth mentioning. (It’s at least somewhat symbolic that the sine qua non of modern African heroes is Nelson Mandela, a man most famous in the West for sitting stoicly in prison for 27 years.) This happens with even the most well-meaning reporters; hell, it probably happens more with the most well-meaning reporters. My funeral story from Zambia probably falls in that category.
What’s strange is that these stereotypes don’t go back as far as you might imagine. The “beaten-down, pathetic” stereotype (better or worse than the old “savage” stereotype?) only became dominant in the ’70s or so, by my reading — after Biafra, after Idi Amin, and gaining speed with the Ethiopian famines and AIDS in the ’80s. Which is why it’s so bracing to read stuff from Africa in the early ’60s, with the sense of optimism that came with decolonialization and men like Nkrumah and Kenyatta and Nyerere and Kaunda. Africa didn’t seem helpless.
Getting past those stereotypes is, to me, what that “Cultivating Loneliness” essay I linked to a while back was all about: Having the courage to write what you see, not what the 20 people before you have seen.

sxsw bittorrent

Holy MP3! If you’ve got an iPod you’re looking to fill, this BitTorrent file will download 2.5 gigabytes of legit MP3s, from a healthy portion of the 1,400 bands playing at SXSW next month. It’s 713 songs in total, all legal.
I downloaded this last year, and I feel I should warn you: A really substantial chunk of these songs are crap. But there are also plenty of jewels to be picked, however surgically, from the stercus.
Addendum: Here’s another torrent with 229 more MP3s. Presumably from the bands who didn’t have their act sufficiently together to get their MP3s in on time.

macworld booboos

For dedicated Apple fanboys like myself, there’s little better than a Macworld keynote — the once-a-year event when Steve Jobs climbs on stage and unveils the latest Apple goodies. But even we can appreciate this compilation of screwups from past keynotes. The OpenGL bit by Phil Schiller — he’s the guy who looks like the third-base coach at AAA Shreveport — is particularly choice.

whit stillman interview

An interview with Whit Stillman. It’s a shame he’s disappeared from the scene; he’s produced nothing since The Last Days of Disco, which started my (not particularly long-lasting) obsession with Kate Beckinsale.
Strangely, reading that interview gives me two contradictory feelings: “Whit Stillman seems like a pretty cool, reasonable guy” and “Whit Stillman is probably secretly crazy — you can just tell.”