Saturday, November 21, 2015

Should One Believe in the Security of Barricaded Compounds Anymore?

Another week, another news of terrorism wrecking havoc.  This time the setting is a high-end hotel frequented by high-flying foreigners in Bamako, the capital of recently politically unstable Mali.  The gunmen shot past the armed guards and front barricades of the building, taking over the building and picking off more than a dozen of foreign guests before being killed in a counter-assault by Malian and French commandos.  With the world still so focused on the aftermath of the Paris attacks, comparatively less attention has been given to Bamako, but for this attack can be more significant.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terrorism Wins When Attention is Given

There is no doubt that the terrorist attacks in Paris is unfortunate, and it is perfectly justified that traditional media are filled with news of latest developments and social networks are filled with messages of condolences.  Killing of innocents are morally and legally wrong and deserve to be condemned.  But the label "terrorism," after years of its continued threat to the Western world, should be more or less learned by now.  The very purpose is to generate attention through fear, with collateral damage to innocents as a tool.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cinematic Resonance with the "Ordinary"

When mentioning Japanese films, those in the know often come up with a few titles of horror ("the Ring" being the most well-known to a Western audience), cheesy tales of lost love (the list of tear-jerkers in this category goes on and on), or gruesome social critiques that evokes thoughts through exaggerations ("the Suicide Club" is a highly suggested film in this genre).  In all three, the ability to use an effective script for storytelling, often with limited budgets common for Japan's relatively small domestic market, is a key for success.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

When the Rain Brings the Agricultural New Year

For someone that has lived for years in the tropics, the coming of the monsoon has become more of a signature for passing times than change of seasons.  And just as past years, the author getting his "start-of-rainy-season" diarrhea and fever (quite literally) as the first rains of the monsoon land in Iringa.  Even as he holds his stomach in pain on the bed for much of the day, he cannot forget the romanticism that he has come to witness every time this year as he retraces the memories of the first rains in tropical Southeast Asia.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Memories of Past Disunity as Precondition for Present Unity

Over the past few years, some international media outlets are starting to label Rwanda as "the Singapore of Africa."  On the surface, the idea is ridiculous.  The international commercial and financial depot that is Singapore is at least 60 times as wealthy as Rwanda in terms of per capita income, and the two economies share little in terms of economic structure and development history.  Rwanda's landlocked nature, and the fact that it is surrounded by neighbors with dismal infrastructure, means that strictly following the Singapore model will get Rwanda nowhere.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pride of the Local and the Prejudice of the NGO Professional

Upon arriving at the Kigali Airport on his three-day trip in Rwanda, the author was greeted at the arrival gate of the beautifully constructed and maintained building by a young, uniformed taxi driver.  "Where would you like to go, sir?" the young man respectfully half-bowed and politely asked in fluent English.  The author, usually doubtful of airport taxi solicitors (too many bad memories of getting ripped off in Asia), was initially a bit hesitant to disclose his destination, but quickly relented when shown the car in the impressively well-organized rank of uniform and clean blue taxis.