Showing posts from 2011

Good night, Hitch

Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die.   Horace Mann

Atheism crept up on me.  It was always lurking, but never fully made its move until I reached adulthood.  Several public intellectuals nudged me along.  Some like, Jared Diamond, are the type who don’t really care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists – quiet intellectuals who simply enjoy showcasing the joy of reason.  Then there are the other guys.  The bareknuckle boxing atheists – duty bound to lambast the illogical.  The folks who wade knee deep into the religious mire and enjoy it.  Among these characters there is the holy trinity of the modern atheist: Dawkins, Harris and Hitch.  Big Hitch.  Brother Hitch.  Christopher Hitchens died on December 15, 2011.   
Hitch was a fearless writer, a tough-guy liberal.  No one and nothing were sacred – the guy took on Mother Theresa and Ayatollah Khomeini.  I didn’t always agree with his views, but I respected his bravery in following his c…

Sandwiches at the Gates of Hell

When you tell UN and NGO people that that you’re going to Dadaab the reaction is usually sympathetic:
“Really?” they commiserate,  “For how long?”
We were in and out.  I can’t say that I’m looking forward to returning.    
Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp.  It is Kenya’s third largest “city” and by far its most miserable.  The population of the camps is almost entirely Somali.  The first refugee camps in Dadaab opened in 1991, when Somali strongman Siad Barre was overthrown, triggering the first wave of chaos in the country.  With Ethiopia’s recent (re)incursion opening a third front in Somalia’s conflict, we can be assured that the refugee population of Dadaab will not be declining anytime soon.
It was dusk when we arrived.  On the way from the dirt airstrip to the UN / INGO compound we passed lots of unsmiling people and evil looking storks picking at piles of rubbish.  The sunsets are incredible in Kenya’s northeast, unspoilt by pollution or buildings.  But, you can only lo…

The Black Geek: Skateboarding and Hip-Hop

I remember buying my first issue of Thrasher magazine.  I placed it on the counter tentatively, halfway expecting the saleslady to shake her head, call me a fraud and instruct me to return it.  
Before I ever landed a kick-flip or dropped in a half pipe, I studied that Thrasher magazine.  I loved the counter-culture feel of it.  The magazine had pictures of impossible looking stunts and advertisements for things with stunningly irreverent (for an eleven year old) names.  I’d never heard a Butthole Surfers’ song but I wanted to.  I had no idea what one would use Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax for but I wanted some (or at least a t-shirt advertising the mysterious substance). 
Proper “professional” skateboards weren’t cheap and you bought them in pieces – the deck, the trucks, the wheels.  After some pretty consistent begging I convinced my parents to buy me a “professional” deck for my twelfth birthday.  It was a “Lance Mountain.”  What a cool name for a skateboarder.  Later in my short-lived skate…