Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dear Readers

Dear Readers,

May I crave your momentary indulgence.  That wasn’t really a question.  Just read.  Please.
I don’t, as a rule, do the self-referential, but I realized that my latest incoherent rant about Jerry Brown and the Republican Party, nearly one year since I started California Mwananchi from my sickbed in Nairobi (sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?—it wasn’t), put me at over 100,000 words (though that might include the “Share to Facebook” buttons, of which you should feel free to make liberal use).  I can just hear what my advisor would say to the 100,000-word mark—“Why couldn’t you apply some of this to your work!?  You might actually finish on time!  You might get a job when you finish!”

I’d long resisted The Blog as one of these newfangled inventions like televisions, light-switches, cars (though not BART), and automatic staplers: if the dinosaurs did without them, so could I! 

But of course I couldn’t resist the allure of being able to volubly proclaim those things I was accustomed to muttering under my breath or mentally rehashing while on a run.  The upside is that since I write more things down I mutter less, and look less crazy (though more out of place in Berkeley).  The downside is that if an idea occurs to me I have to try really hard to remember it, feeling obligated to write about it, and end up muttering anyway. 

I’ve found that when you’re writing for a blog, the little man who normally stands at the tip of your tongue and clubs bad ideas to death before they come out and embarrass you doesn’t do much good.  Looking back on some posts, I find myself thinking, “How crass, how confident, how prescient!  And you spelled ‘were’ as ‘wee’”. 

There have been more political posts than I initially planned (and they have, I suspect, got longer and longer and longer), but that just speaks to what a politically charged environment—globally and locally—we all live in, and how much is at stake in the events that go reported every day but too-often un-debated by those of us who should practise democracy more often and with greater vigour—we citizens .  I’ve been labelled a “union troll”, a “Democrat”, a “Liberal, a “Fascist” and a “Socialist” (the last two by the same person, who I think was a trifle confused about something). 

Unless I start getting death-threats (unlikely, on the face of it), the politically-minded posts won’t go away, or decrease in number.  But I’m reading a lot of fiction this summer, so maybe there will be more book-review style posts.  And the coming year includes some travel, which means that I will be able to report from time to time on the most cringe worthy of spectacles—me attempting to negotiate that most daunting of places called “the world outside of California”. 

There are posts that are still floating around in the back of my mind that might get written someday—on PTSD in the military, on the global arms trade, another post on the inept leadership of Berkeley’s International House, etc.  I’d welcome suggestions. 

The knowledge that any event is a potential post has made me take a notepad (and sometimes a camera) with me more often, and sometimes even stay out past my bedtime (Shock!  Horror!) to see something first-hand: Wheeler Hall, occupied by students who had climbed to a soaring balcony to protest the wrongs done them by university leadership; downtown Oakland, picketed by workers increasingly under pressure from the Republican Party; all three nights of the wonderful production of The Great Game at the Berkeley Rep.

I appreciate knowing that it’s not just my parents (who long after they learned that the Internet was not a town located near Crawford, Texas thought that a blog was something you took for intestinal disorders) and my dog reading the blog.  Some of the other five of you undoubtedly read it out of a misplaced sense of obligation, for the entertainment value my deluded rantings might afford, or because, let’s face it, anything’s more interesting than cricket.  (That’s right.  I said it.)  The reading is appreciated because, as all those English teachers said, it’s always best to write to be read. 

Before last summer, it had been a long time since I’d written with anything like regularity, or on non-academic topics.  It’s amazing how pleasant a process it is: you can write about anything you like; there are no deadlines; there are no length requirements; nobody can talk back to you; there is an outlet for all of your frustration with (insert as applicable) /The Republican Party/Mark Yudof/Obama/Jerry Brown/the politics of wildlife in east and central Africa ca. 1890-1975/.

And if you’re a waverer—is blogging selling out to the twenty-first century? will it go to my head? do I have to write all the time? (yes, yes, no)—all I can say is to try it. 

You might like it. 

And even if you don’t, you will mutter less.


But now back to the unmatchable view from the top of Bancroft Avenue, down to the water, the Golden Gate, the Marin headlands, the Pacific. 

I remain,

An ‘umble California Mwananchi. 


  1. You should do a post on Cricket. It will improve your life just as blogging undoubtedly has. :)

    Congratulations on the 100,000 words...

  2. You write with prolific regularity and it motivates/inspires me to do the same. Thanks, always, for your insight. (I do miss our head turning dinners at Mesa Commons when we actually were using your Political Science degrees.)

  3. Make that 6 (readers)!
    Please do let me know if you are close to Amsterdam the next year.

  4. Congratulations on the 100,000 words! I dutifully read every blog that appears on my newsfeed.

    You might be interested in reading and reviewing Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. It's a novel in the tradition of Tolstoy, Austin, George Elliot &c that attempts a panoramic portrait of the culture, in this case American culture in the first decade of the 21st century. The impending environmental crisis takes center stage. Even cricket gets mentioned once or twice. And, for whatever it's worth, Obama enjoyed it.

    Looking forward to the next 100,000 words.

  5. @Kartikeya: Thanks! Perhaps I'll mosey on down to Lords someday and write about the only 'sport' that requires more effort on the part of spectators than players...into the lion's den, as they say. It was your suggestion that prompted this blog, which has indeed been a rewarding experience!

    @Billy: I'm always looking forward to your next post, and someday maybe I'll work up the courage to share some fiction, as you have.

    @Isolde: Thanks, and I certainly will. Let me know if you find yourself near the UK.

    @Is that Hanif?: Thanks for reading! I read Freedom a couple of months back, so it mightn't be fresh enough in my mind. I enjoyed the first 100-200 pages, but it felt overly forced after that. I could see that it was going for portraiture, but it didn't quite make it for me. I'd be very curious to hear what you thought of it.