But first this message:
If you'd like to "do something" about the Charlie Hebdo blowback, one way would be to help my friend Esther of the Eden Foundation rebuild the library that was burned Friday in Zinder, Niger, where her family has worked with farmers for the past 30 years, re-introducing native plants that grow better in the area than the cash crops introduced in modern times
They also work to educate the local kids, and the loss of the only library in town was a blow to that effort. Paypal is an easy way to help. Details in the posting below today's.
Elsewhere in North Africa
I've been seeing a lot of "But what about Boko Haram?" cartoons and commentary, and much of it is long on outrage and short on perspective. A good time to turn to Africartoons, where I found this Brandon Reynolds cartoon on the topic.
Despite the fact that South Africa is a different country and about 2500 miles from the scene, being on the same continent allows for sharper focus on the topic and his view appears to align with this analysis by On the Media, which is well worth a listen, even if you only listen to the first short segment.
Granted, two guys climbing a cliff in California is far more important than a few thousand deaths in Nigeria, but, aside from the commercial media's need for clicks and ratings, there are other reasons the most recent attacks got scarce coverage.
As explained in that podcast and commented on by Reynolds, it begins with a desultory response by Goodluck Jonathan's government in Lagos, and is not aided by a shortage of international journalists in the area and the ongoing, seemingly unsolveable nature of the conflict.
Still, I knew it was going on.
Let's not mistake "lack of coverage" for "lack of trending." If you only see the news that gets boosted up on social media, well, you're gonna know a lot more about Kim Kardashian than about Boko Haram.
Don't celebrate the freedom of life without gatekeepers unless you're willing to poke a little deeper than previous generations had to.
And, before we leave the topic, just as lack of coverage isn't necessarily the result of conspiracy, differences in what gets censored isn't always the result of simple hypocrisy: This New Yorker article explains why Charlie Hebdo's cartoons were "free speech" in France, while a stand-up there faced charges for his remarks on the same topic.
I didn't say it "justified" it, but it does "explain" it.
I personally prefer "Freedom of Religion" to "Freedom from Religion," but chacun à son goût.
A promised update
Heard back from the Saranac Lake Winter Festival and their website is now working. The best way to get a button or poster drawn by that local kid is to go up there and have some chilly fun, but you can also get them by mail.
Collect the whole set!
The new Norm 4.0 struck me more than I suspect Michael Jantze intended, because my friend Charley, whom I mentioned the other day asking about Pikes Peak, commented once that the difference between men and women of our era was that (this being after we were in our mid-30s) the men all wanted to live out in the country with long-haired women, while the women all wanted to cut their hair and move to the city.
I blame Van and Janet.
Charley, who is now 12 years gone, was the voice of my conscience, because he did all the things the rest of us seemed content to dream of doing, including (but certainly not limited to) hitchhiking to whatever place suddenly sounded interesting to him.
He wasn't overly impressed with the sort of pre-packaged over-the-counter-culture media versions of such things, and wrote a song in which he didn't bother to take on Paul Simon except to the extent of calling it "We Couldn't Afford the Greyhound." (You may want to right-click and choose "open in new tab" since I can't preset music files to do that.)
After meeting him in 1969 at the coffeehouse on campus and exchanging some thoughts on archy, my dad sketched Charley. They became good friends and Dad was right: Charley and archy had a lot in common.
Shortly thereafter, Charley took off hitchhiking around the world with his own incarnation of Janet Planet, on one of those trips where the road was longer than the romance.
Still, they went. And they made it all the way through Europe and Africa and nearly all of Asia before they hit the rocks in Japan.
Most of us never quite make it out of the house.
Meanwhile, back in Niger, the people Esther works with on a daily basis are farmers, but nomads pass through from time to time, usually in their everyday working clothes, which are considerably less ornate than this.
They make me think of Charley and of all the roads untaken, which is probably why I support her work.