Thursday, October 13, 2005

Amboseli National Park (Not!)

Amboseli National Park, one of the largest and best-known wildlife habitats in Kenya, has been abruptly (and possibly illegally) downgraded to a "reserve" and handed over to the control of the local county council and the Maasai tribal community. Critics are saying this is a ploy on the part of President Mwai Kibaki to court Maasai support for the upcoming (and bitterly contested) referendum on Kenya's new constitution.

Whatever else it may be, it's an abrupt change, and one that conservationists are not happy about. Amboseli was under local control once before, from 1948 to 1974, when it was named a National Park in hopes of restoring it from years of mismanagement and corruption. Today Amboseli has one of Kenya's largest elephant populations, and is a popular ecotourism destination. This move means that the Kenya Wildlife Service (the folks moving all those elephants) will no longer be managing the park (reserve. Whatever), and that the national goverment is essentially washing its hands of it.

I'm reserving judgement at this point, because first of all I'm a student of Kenya at this point and not an expert, but also because of the fact of the Maasai. They benefit from tourism and aren't likely to make decisions which would impact it negatively. And while they will undoubtedly use some of the land for grazing cattle, in the past the Maasai herds and elephants were able to co-exist without much trouble thanks to a healthy mutual respect. At that time, however, the Maasai were not so sedentary as they are now (I mean sedentary in the sense of not being migratory), and eastern Africa was much less crowded with humans. So there is cause for vigilance, and possibly concern.

The tension is, as in most conservationist conflicts, between the local people who have to co-exist with the wildlife and the urban and/or foreign organizations who want to preserve and visit it. There is no win-win; the challenge is in balancing the interests of both sides. As romantic as the notion of wildlife roaming the savannahs free of human interference is--and I am as enchanted by it as anyone--protected land is land where food cannot be grown and herds cannot be supported. If the elephants are saved but the Maasai are lost, nobody wins. There is not much danger of that right now, but it is the side of the equation that is often forgotten, particularly when we look at countries other than our own.

There is a possibility that President Kibaki's move will be reversed, but that's not likely to happen before the November referendum. The Kenyan presidency is a position of immense power, and the new constitution does nothing to reduce it, thanks to revisions made upon the draft produced by Professor Yash Ghai, former "Chairperson of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission." I'll be watching the referendum with quite a bit of interest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Idiotic Hollywood Quote of the Week

"Paradise Lost represents the epitome of mythology in that it is the oldest myth with a capital M." - Vincent Newman, head of Vincent Newman Entertainment, the company spearheading the film adaptation of Milton's Paradise Lost.


For some reason the song "Highwayman"--the version sung by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and the Man in Black--had me nearly in tears as I walked to the train this morning:


I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride
With sword and pistol by my side
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade
Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade
The bastards hung me in the spring of twenty-five
But I am still alive.


I was a sailor.
I was born upon the tide
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow
And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed
But I am living still.


I was a dam builder across the river deep and wide
Where steel and water did collide
A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado
I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below
They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound
But I am still around . . .
I'll always be around . . . and around and around and around and around.


I fly a starship across the Universe divide
And when I reach the other side
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again . . .

Damn. I'm getting chills just reading it again right now.

I'm Not Like Other Guys . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Mary Joan Schwartz

Just sayin'--this is really a catch-all post, but it is my sister's birthday. I don't think anyone in my family reads my blog anyway, for which I should probably be grateful. But just in case, there you go, Mare. My little sister is turning 30! Freaky.

Also freaky is this video; footage from a car commercial shoot with a possible spirit capture. You'll need to watch closely to see it, though; I didn't get what the fuss was about until the third viewing.

Thirdly, Walter Mosley gives me another reason to love him: a giant-sized (seriously) tribute to the Fantastic Four:

Walter Mosley is a comic book geek. From the time he discovered The Fantastic Four, the groundbreaking 1961 super-hero comic book created for Marvel Comics by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Mosley has been fascinated by Kirby and Lee's art and storytelling, and how their historic collaboration not only stoked his own young imagination, but transformed the American super-hero comic book.

Now, more than four decades later, Mosley has teamed up with Marvel Comics to produce Maximum Fantastic Four, an oversized (8"×11 7/8") $50 hardcover re-creation of the first issue of The Fantastic Four that reprints that seminal issue with a powerful graphic twist. In the new book, due in November, each of Kirby's dynamic panels is enlarged and designed for an entire page—or several pages—turning the original 32-page pulp comic into a 224-page visual deconstruction of Kirby and Lee's pioneering creation. It is at once a tribute to the art of Jack Kirby, a visual analysis of his style and a work of art itself. (Via Publisher's Weekly, but they are meanies who require registration and subscription and stuff so it helps to have an agent who knows your obsessions well enough to email you this sort of thing.)


Speaking of the agent, it's always good news when she writes to tell you she read your new novel manuscript and loved it. Yay!

I know that there are terrible things going on in the world . . .

. . . and of course if you only have a little money to donate, you should give it to hurricane relief (for the victims of Stan as well) or earthquake relief or some kind of pain reliever for this elephant of a headache we've all got. (Overly coy political metaphor paired with pachyderm obsession -- check.) But if you have more than a little bit of money to donate, you should give some to Strange Horizons.

October is SH's Fall Fund Drive. They publish fiction by people like Hal Duncan, David Moles, Theodora Goss, Mark Rich, Doug Lain and many more names than I can list here. Fiction that's been nominated and reprinted all over the place. They publish poetry. Boy, do they publish poetry! They are certainly the best market for Speculative Poetry, and one of the best for poetry, period. They publish artist portfolios and serializations of comic art. Their revamped review section is on top of what's happening in all corners of the genre. And they bring it all to you free.

What's greater than all of that, from the creator's side of things, is that they pay professional rates. In other words, all of the above costs money. So please, donate via either Network for Good or PayPal. They deserve it.