Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things come together

Achebe wins the US$300,000 2010 Gish Prize. Maybe, just maybe, a good omen for the big one this year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Officer and a Gentleman

There's a minor but memorable character in The Last King of Scotland: Idi Amin's health minister, Jonah Wasswa, played with subtlety and skill by the Ugandan actor Stephen Rwangyezi. Wasswa is an educated and decent man caught up in the maelstrom of Amin's madness. An intellectual dancing to the demented tune of a military man. This has been the usual fate of the gentleman in recent African history.

Can these two great archetypes, the officer and the gentleman, be perfectly blended in one man? (Or woman, I hasten to add.)

There's a major and very memorable character in Rwanda who provides a fascinating test case for this most ancient of questions: Paul Kagame.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stop all the clocks

In a new paper published in Science, NIST researchers show that, yet again, Einstein was dead right about time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Darker Domain

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid.
So far, so interesting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel

That's the title of the new book by Raymond Ackerman, the renowned South African entrepreneur, founder of Pick n Pay and champion of free markets.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meet or work

Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.
- From Chapter 2 ("Know Thy Time") of The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freedom of information and freedom of ideas

The temptation for governments to crush dissent on the alleged grounds of protecting national security is an ancient one. In 399 BC, Socrates was sentenced to death on charges of failing to pay due reverence to the gods of Athens and thereby corrupting the minds of Athenian youth. Socrates was condemned, in other words, for reasons of national security.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last 2,400 years. In Zambia, the ruling MMD has for a number of years now been pushing for statutory regulation of the media on the grounds of - you guessed it - national security. The Zambian media has, on the whole, displayed remarkable courage in strongly resisting such regulation. In South Africa, the ruling ANC is pushing for the establishment of a so-called Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) and the enactment of the Protection of Information (POI) bill. Both the MAT and the POI bill have attracted strong opposition from the media, intellectuals, the general public, and even from more unexpected quarters, such as elements within the ANC itself, as well as its Alliance partners.

Freedom of information and freedom of ideas are essential ingredients of a strong, sustainable human society. Their presence does not guarantee success, it only makes success a possibility. Their absence, however, guarantees ultimate failure, no matter how convincing temporary success may seem.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cool-Aid anyone?

According to The Right Honourable Tony Blair et al. in the Commission for Africa 2010 Report:
In that context, and in line with the recommendation of the 2005 report, the G20 should commit to increasing aid to Africa from 2010 onwards to a further $25 billion per annum by 2015.
Many Africans profoundly disagree. Just two examples:

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Twelve Caesars


The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics edition), originally written (c. AD 121) by Suetonius, translated (1957) by Robert Graves, and updated and annotated (2007) by James B. Rives.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sheer Khan

The Khan Academy demonstrates the power of individuals, ideas and innovation. Bill Gates likes it.