Friday, April 17, 2009

Nanyuki Special

The bustling megalopolis* of the Laikipia district, Nanyuki, has 1 paved road, about 100 green grocers and hardware stores, one place that sells fried camel hump, and a population of 30,000, 29,000 of whom are curio merchants who want me to buy more of their ebony** carved animals and bootleg DVDs. There is also an awesome ragamuffin*** puppeteer with a hat that looks like he stuck his head up a teddy bear who can sing "Coward of the County" and "Billie Jean" surprisingly well. They sell sandals made from old tires (I got my pair in Baringo, but Josephine bought a pair in Nanyuki. I think the ones from Baringo are superior, but what can you do?) and delicious fresh mangoes for 20 /= (about a quarter).
I've gotten so many gifts and souvenirs in Nanyuki that I am probably going to need another suitcase****. However, the best purchase I made in Nanyuki was a fantastic DVD from Dubai that has The Watchmen, Frost/Nixon, Valkyrie in several languages, and Dragonball Evolution. I was approached by the DVD salesman while I was purposely sitting in the car refusing to get out and look around because I had already spent the last of my Kenyan currency on some final presents, and then a bunch of other stuff that I got pressured into buying. But I've wanted to watch Watchmen since last year, and when I saw it in his big pile of DVD collections (which also include one DVD with every Jim Carrey movie ever made, and biopic called "Life of Bama") I couldn't resist. I had actually spent all of the money I had on hand, but I managed to get the movie in exchange for a Pilot pen and a semi-functioning watch that Sam had given***** me at the beginning of the semester. So now Sam and I are proud co-owners of our very own Nanyuki Special. And that thing is pure gold. Not because of the quality of the in-theater cinematography, or the fact that if you insert the DVD into many computers, it generates a dialog box that has no text, just a bunch of question marks. No, the Nanyuki Watchmen DVD is great because of the subtitles. The movie is in English, most of the time, but inexplicably cuts to Russian about 3/4 through. This is when we turned on the English subtitles. They simply stated (Russian) at the bottom of the screen. About 5 minutes later it cut back to English, and so did the subtitles. Except, only sort of. It was more like the sort of narration you might expect from a half-deaf guy who speaks English about as well as I speak Spanish******. All of the names were given wrong. Not just maybe-their-translation-had-different-names wrong. Totally, utterly wrong. At one point they called Lorie "Jasmine." They referred to Rorschach as "Roll sha" once, which was about as close as it got. Most of the dialog was absurdly summarized, but occasionally they would throw in a hilarious mistranslation: when one character is not impressed with another's "schoolboy heroics," the subtitles boldly declare "You think you a primary school. Not." Then there are points where the subtitles outright lie. They construct relationships between characters that have no logical or contextual basis. They falsify motives, misread actions, and sometimes just put the opposite of what is said. All in all, it is a masterpiece of Engrish, and a horrendous disservice to Alan Moore, Zack Snyder, and anyone who enjoys movies, really. I hope to show it to anyone who has any interest in it.

*the auto-correct feature of blogger says that is a word. Apple dictionary agrees. Me, I'm not so sure, but I'll throw it in there.
**acacia wood and shoe polish
***probably homeless and addicted to stuff
****yes, I got you something. I assure you, if you read this blog, I got you something.
*****ahem, lent.
******If you've heard me sing "Song of the Cucumber" before, you know what I mean

Sunday, April 5, 2009


ed. note-- written during Dan's course, while staying at Sweetwaters-Ol Pejeta ranch which is in the same (large-scale) neighborhood as Mpala
I have a tendency to anthropomorphize most of the animals that I see or study. I empathize with ants, nature's successful communists*, and lizards, who live the life I want to lead when I am 90, but it is particularly easy with mammals, because they really are like humans. According to other mammals, at least, mammalia includes some of the most intelligent species, like dolphins and elephants. Whenever we run across a herd of elephants, a certain train of thought automatically runs through my mind: How many steps away from civilization are these creatures? Do they need any new parts, or can they make do with their trunks and all they need is a bright new idea? If they had already established civilization, would we know about it?
So, I was really excited to see the chimp sanctuary at Ol Pejeta, because in my mind, chimps are basically humans that don't get it yet. They have just about everything we have, anatomically, albeit their pelvis needs some adjustment for permanent bipedalism. They even have tools and all that. Seeing the chimps would be like going back in time and seeing wild humans. And of course, that idea leads to all sorts of crazy fantasies about learning to work with chimps and holding workshops to show them how to farm and how to build houses for themselves and how to manage theater productions.
Unfortunately, given the time constraints and the barrier of a giant electric fence, none of those workshops got off the ground. Also, actually seeing them blew my notion of chimps, or at least these chimps, being receptive proto-people. Apart from the two males who did a team-effort rock siege of our Land Rover, the chimps we saw didn't seem to have much ambition. A few of them were lying on the ground, and would turn over occasionally, and quite a few were picking leaves off of acacias and eating them. One was sitting on the ground hugging itself and rocking back and forth, in typical crazy-person fashion, which gave the impression less of this as a blossoming community of chimp creativity and progress, but more of an outdoor asylum for those animals not fit to be members of society. To be fair, though, if you looked in on a group of people stuck in a cage in the middle of the woods, they would probably be doing just about the same things. And, really, when you think about it, trying to get chimps to be more like humans would probably be bad for humans and chimps.

*from whose example we can conclude that communism would have worked if only everyone was related, and female, and only one member of the nation reproduced

Friday, April 3, 2009

Internet... more like out-ternet. Or something clever.

The line I've been fed about our internet connection here is that when it rains in Turino, Italy, we lose our internet connection. If this is the case, someone over in Turino had better go looking for some Gopherwood and build an ark. But, after a few days of constantly hitting refresh on my inbox to see if the fickle minor deity in charge of turning on the internet for Africa had gotten out of bed yet, it finally worked! And I did a little victory dance in front of a few Masters' students from Leeds that I had never met before. So now I am able to email my funding application, which is due in three hours and I should have done ages ago, and write to you, internet.
So, we sort of finished MAE 436 today, insofar as now the course is over. We still have homework and projects to turn in, though. Funny the way that happens. And you know what that means... 1 more course! And it is going to be wonderful for a whole host of reasons:
  1. It is being taught by Kelly Caylor and Trenton something, who I want to be best friends with forever because they are awesome ( I haven't run this by them yet... we'll just let things run their course and we'll be making friendship bracelets for each other in no time)
  2. Kelly and Trenton have tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of really cool measuring equipment that they're letting us play with! Like a Laikor, which measures the photosynthesis rate of leaves while they are still on the plant. And a tiny laser that measures isotope ratios in the air. And a Unicorn Machine, where you point it at any ungulate and it becomes a unicorned version of that animal!
  3. It is called Ecohydrology, which sounds cool
  4. It's about plants, which means that we can go over and touch all of the things that we are studying, and they won't run away or burn our retinas like the bloody tin foil reflectors for our solar ovens
  5. Did I mention how cool Kelly and Trenton are?
  6. We get to go home afterwards
Anyway, it's Josephine's birthday so I'm going to go watch Monster's Inc projected on a bedsheet and maybe have a Tusker.