Yearly Archives: 2011

“A Prayer for My Daughter” by Tina Fey

If, like me, you have a daughter, consider saying Amen along with Tina Fey when you get to the end of it.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


From Chris Blattman’s blog.

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3 Doctoral Scholarships on West Africa

Just got this in the mail:
Stipendium: 3 doctoral scholarships (Bonn)
in research project on land use and climate change adaptation/ West Africa

The three doctoral candidates will work on the following research subjects:

1. Historical relations between demography and land use in West Africa

2. Decision‐making within rural households in West Africa

3. The politics of adaptation to climate change in West Africa

The candidate will be expected to participate in the interdisciplinary and disciplinary
courses of the ZEF Doctoral Studies Program from 1st October 2011 ‐ February 2012.
He/she will develop an individual research proposal until February 2012. For data
collection, 10‐12 months of field research in West Africa will be required. During the
writing‐up period of the dissertation, the candidate will be based at ZEF in Bonn.
Duration of the doctoral studies:
Three years starting from August 2011 under conditional acceptance of the confirmation
by the funding agency. A scholarship awarded will cover living, research as well as travel

Requirements for the applicants:
• very good degree (Diploma, Master or Magister) in social anthropology, social
geography, political sciences or development sociology
• very good writing skills in English are required for the dissertation
• very good knowledge of French are required for research in a francophone
• good knowledge of field research methods is required
• experience in research is of advantage
• work experience in West Africa is of advantage

African candidates are highly encouraged to apply.

The eligible candidates are invited to send their application including
• a letter of motivation
• a concept note that addresses the research topic, problem statement, research
objectives and question, suggested methodology (2‐3 pages)
• Curriculum Vitae
• copies of academic certificates
• a letter of reference.

Please, send the hard copy of the application to:
Center for Development Research
Dr. Irit Eguavoen (ZEFa)
Walter‐Flex‐Str. 3
D‐ 53113 Bonn

Closing date for the application is the 20th June 2011. Short–listed candidates will be
contacted for an interview.
The scholarships start in August 2011. The calls for application are published on the project websites:

Weiterführende Links:,,


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Friday links

  • Islamic finance in Nigeria – BusinessDay
  • Why mobile money arrived in Africa before the UK – BBC
  • What DSK’s fall says about transatlantic differences in attitudes to sex, power and the law – The Economist
  • A new freight train route connects Antwerp in Belgium to the western Chinese city of Chongqing, 11,000 kilometers away – Duetsche Welle
  • Expulsion of Lars von Trier from Cannes – Der Spiegel
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Stephen Smith on Laurent Gbagbo

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, 2007

Image via Wikipedia

In London Review of Books:

Laurent Gbagbo was born in 1945 in the so-called ‘cocoa loop’ in the south-west. ‘When I went to school, rural Ivory Coast was still subdivided into military “circles” which were administered by French officers,’ he told me when I interviewed him in June 2009. ‘The economy was entirely in French hands: agriculture, trade, everything. Lawyers and even notaries were exclusively French. Throughout my secondary education, all but two of my teachers were French. It was against this overbearing reality that my generation rose in revolt. And yet it wouldn’t have occurred to me, once the time came to move on to college, to think of going to any place other than Paris. One of my daughters deliberately chose Germany and the other the United States. For me that would have been unthinkable. France was too much part of us.’ On the spur of the moment, the president started singing one of the hymns to France he’d learned in school. ‘La France est belle/ Ses destins sont bénis/Vivons pour elle/Vivons, vivons unis.’

He rounded it off with a burst of laughter and went on to talk about Charles Blé Goudé, the self-styled ‘general’ who’d been leading the pro-Gbagbo youth militia, the ‘young patriots’, since 2002. Blé Goudé, he explained, met his first white teacher when he went to study in England. ‘To England and not to France. It’s this generational shift that I call Africa’s quiet liberation. It’s natural, a gentle slope that will eventually set us free. As a politician I need to be in lockstep with the Ivorian youth because they’re the majority in our country. Nowadays, the better educated among them all learn English. Of course, they also speak French. But, to some extent, if I really want to be “in sync” with them, as they’d say, I need to forget a little of my French. Do you understand?’ It all made perfect sense. But in the summer of 2009, it was already clear that the gentle slope had become a sheer drop, and ‘the French’ a convenient excuse for the free fall of Gbagbo’s regime.


Gbagbo made more than one mistake. Having usurped a second five-year term (by failing to hold an election in 2005), he called the voters to the ballot boxes last November, when success seemed assured. By then, he had appointed a rebel leader as prime minister and was counting on state patronage to pave the way to victory. Nadiana Bamba, his second and far younger wife, was charged with winning over her home region in the north, but not only did ‘Nady’ fail to make inroads into Ouattara’s fiefdom, she spent more than a billion euros, two thirds of it unaccounted for. When the results of the first round came in, Gbagbo realised he couldn’t win the run-off, dismissed Nady, reinstated Simone with full conjugal and political rights, and signed an oil deal with Gunvor, a company controlled by the Russian Gennady Timchenko – the only trader who could raise a ‘pre-payment’ of $90 million. The state was already bankrupt, having tried to buy loyalties that were not for sale, and the money was destined for Gbagbo’s post-election war chest, and a fight to the death.

Thanks to Edoardo Totolo for the link.

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Schengen countries to reintroduce national border control

If you’ve ever crossed borders in most of Europe – at the airport, by ferry or by road – you know that you don’t get ‘controlled’ as you enter the next country. That is about to change. To blame, claim France and Italy, is the Arab Spring. So many people are fleeing North Africa to Europe that countries need to be able to control entry nationally, instead of as a region.

Denmark is the other story. They introduced border control unilaterally, even before Schengen countries reached the agreement on national border control. Their reason? Cross-border crime. But scratch the surface and you find the handiwork of the right-wing, populist Danish People’s Party, which is allied to the centre-right government. The party is the third largest in the parliament, meaning that it can push for tougher immigration laws, with the threat to block key legislation if they are not introduced. The remark of Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of the party after border control was reintroduced: “I have worked hard for this.”

As you probably know, right-wing, populist parties are on the rise in Europe. For more on them, see this BBC piece.

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A profile of Werner Herzog

In GQ:

Werner Herzog

To propose to his first wife, Herzog traveled on foot about a thousand miles, across the Alps. (Herzog, who had made several other such journeys, is insistent that this not be referred to as walking. “Traveling on foot,” he says. “Walking is something different.”) He went because he had something important to ask. When I press him to explain further, he says: “There are certain things out there that a manly man has to do in his life, at least once.”

Years ago Herzog declared that if he ever opened a film school, people should have to travel by foot from Madrid to Kiev before even being permitted to apply. In the past couple of years, he has finally created such a school—he calls it the Rogue Film School—which exists as occasional weekend seminars popping up around the globe. Though the actual application process is not as strident as he’d once anticipated—not quite—his policy hasn’t wavered in spirit. “Three months traveling on foot, let’s say, which would be something like 3,000 kilometers,” he declares, “would have more value than three years in film school.”

Point four of the school’s online rules forcibly clarifies this: “The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to filmmaking.” Other points illuminate aspects of Herzog’s aesthetic, attitude, and method. There are taboos (one of which will be already familiar): “Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.” There are compulsory and voluntary reading lists. (On the former, Virgil and Hemingway. On the latter, the Warren Commission Report into the JFK assassination: “A most fantastic crime story—a most conclusive, most intelligent thing that human mind can ever put together,” Herzog tells me. “It’s a fantastic piece of human ingenuity.” He declares that anyone who has actually read it has no doubt that Oswald did it, and did it alone. “Everybody raves and rants against it, and nobody has read it, including those like Oliver Stone who has made a film on the assassination. He has not read it. I know it because I asked him. Oh no, he is not reading this kind of crap. I said, ‘You’re wrong, and shame on you.’ “) There is also a list of applicable skills for would-be filmmakers. As well as traveling on foot, these include the art of lock-picking, the creation of your own shooting permit, and the neutralization of bureaucracy.

Another skill Herzog has advocated for filmmakers (and, I suspect, pretty much anyone else whom he considers truly worthy of respect) is the ability to milk a cow: “If an actor knows how to milk a cow, I always know it will not be difficult to be in business with him.” Herzog has also previously claimed that when he walks into a room, he can tell who in there has previously had hand to udder. Or, at the very least, would.

“I can tell from miles away, yes,” he confirms. “Woody Allen is not ever going to milk a cow.”

Via More Intelligent Life. You really should read the whole thing here.


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