The Practical Radical

K’naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher Steps up

July 5, 2010
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Most rappers would be considered a sell out if they let their song be used by Coke. Not K’naan.

“I have a lot of friends who are from either side, Mos Def and those guys who are in the conscious lane. I know other friends who are in the make-money lane. But for me, I see myself as someone who can speak to both audiences,” he said. “That to me is important, to never claim a position too smart for the listener. I think it’s important to reach everybody.” (read the complete CNN article Somali rapper bucks hip-hop code of violence). His interview with CNN as well demonstrates the basic humbleness of the guy.

I first got to know of K’naan when i was organizing the youth program for the World Urban Forum in 2006. What I learned was that he was both a principled artist and a pretty good businessman. He never did play at the WUF (unfortunate, as we had a great lineup and over 5000 people attending), but one of the EYAers organizing the WUF, Kevina Power, and a EYAer turned Hip Hop blogger/writer Tara Henley helped out on an amazing concert tour in Joburg and Soweto. (I don’t have many regrets in my life, but not attending this was one of them).

K'naan in Soweto, June 2005

I later was able to briefly connect with him at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (of all places) as part of my volunteer work on the media committee. Again, blown away by the guy and his amazing music and poetry.  This is a photo I took of him playing on the mainstage (with the mountains in background … surreal).

K'naan in Vancouver

What moved me about his Wavin Flag was the strong shout out (like my hip hop lingo?) to youth in Africa:

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day
It’s not far away, so for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back

So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say, love is the way
Love is the answer, that’s what they say,
But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

I love the in your face realism of his message – yes, we are proud; yes, we will move forward to a promised future; but damn the struggle is hard. Funny enough, this verse is not repeated in the official Coke song. I guess Coke isn’t THAT radical.

He has an earlier song (In the Beginning) that speaks to this message of the struggle – it is really beautiful and quite moving spoken word:

It’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark
In the eyes of the youth there are question marks
Like freedom
Freedom for the mind and soul
We don’t see them
See them for their worth at all
That’s why we lead them
Lead them to these wars and what is it we feed them
Feed them our impurities and who it is we treat them
Treat them like the enemy humanity will need them
Need them like the blood we spill and where freedom

Freedom for the hearts we fill
Mislead them
They hunger for the love we give
But we cheat them

The cops beat them when all he wants is his freedom
So they defeat them
Whatever spirit he’s got
Beat them

And they teach them that the rest of the world don’t need him
And he believes it’s a disease that he’s heathen
Put up your fists if all you want is freedom

You really have to listen to the song to get the full impact.

It is amazing to see that someone from such a background as his can hit it out of the park the way he has. Gives me some hope for the future.

ps. for those die-hards, here is Wavin Flag … one more time.

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Social Networking Gone Wrong

July 1, 2010
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Canada Day – Gone Fishing and Tired Out

July 1, 2010
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I don’t know about everyone else, but I am just pooped out. Tired. Its been a great and “interesting” ride the 8 months, but really, I do not have the energy to go out and celebrate Canada.

It’s not that I am not possibly more patriotic, but with the year being so far bookended by the Olympics and the G8; recovering from a global meltdown; a dysfunctional parliament; and, in Vancouver at least, rainy spring like weather … well … I just am too tired to party and play.

So, I am going to stick around home, surf the web, have lunch, hug the kids, put on a new batch of wine, and … chill.

Happy Canada Day.

* My favorite Gone Fishing song by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong


K’naan at World Cup

June 11, 2010
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Wish I was there!!

Some quotes left regarding the video:

CENTRAL AMERICA, AFRICA, & SOUTH AMERICA WAVE YOUR FLAGS with PRIDE!!!!we might be 3rd world countries but my god we are stronger then any wealthy nations

Respect and love to K’naan. Thank you for waving the somali flag. One day somalia will be the country we knew. Peaceful, best weather on earth and beatiful people like u

K’naan You’re the best ever and your song will be the best song world cup in Africa I’m very proud of you K’naan and thanks for the

woow k’naan well done man,,,, u really made me cry when i sow my flag woow i dont know what to say K’naan love u so much 

You know in a weird way this performance really moved me… just such a mix of cultures in the crowd, thousands of them coming together to sing a song about being proud of who you are and where you come from, and to have a man from somalia, a country thats been through so much to sing it, it was very powerful 🙂

For one month, the world is at peace, and the only battle that takes place is on the field. For a brief moment in time, EVERYONE is united. You can see that in this video


RIP Floppy – Thanks for the Memory!

June 10, 2010
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Oops ... wrong floppy

We'll miss you!

At the end of April, Sony announced they will stop manufacturing the 3.5 inch floppy disc, even though they sold 12 million in 2009. A sad parting to a revolutionary product.

I remember fondly moving from the 5 inch limp black floppies, to the crisp, firm multi-colored 3.5s. They made a comforting kachunk as they went into my computer. And they were durable … I still have a few around and an external drive. Though the CDs and then DVDs hold more, they did not shine a light to the protection that hard plastic covered disk gave.

Thanks for the memory!


Humor in Dark and Digital Times – A Video Mashup

June 9, 2010
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Dark or black humor has always been fascinating to me – finding something funny in dismal times clearly shows how resilient humanity can be.

My introduction to black humor was Monty Python, and more specifically the movie the Holy Grail. Two of my favorites are Black Knight and Bring out Your Dead.

With the digital age and youtube we now don’t have to wait for geniuses such as Python to write and produce videos and get them to TV, the movies or VHS. Now with little production time and no cost, videos reflect what is happening now, and can have direct and immediate impact.

One example of this real-time dark humor is in regards to the spill in the gulf. A great video was done by John Clarke and Brian Dawe of the 7.30 Report (Australia) which skewers the duplicity of BP.

On a different (musical) note demonstrating the use of humor in dark times, is a music video done by the Best Party from Reykjavik, Iceland to Tina Turners song “Simply the Best”.

The Best Party is like the Rhino Party and other spoof parties who are created as a protest to the traditional parties in the political system – this party was created due to the massive lack of confidence in government after the country went bankrupt. What is ironic is that in this case the Best Party,  whose comedian leader campaigned on clean politics, free towels in city swimming pools and a polar bear for the zoo, took over 30 percent of the vote and won six seats on the 15-seat city council. Humor in dark times trumps.

Dark humor is an effective tool, and yet in the end Python gets it right.


An ounce of humor prepares us for decades of pain … BP and Twitter #bpcares

May 26, 2010
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A fake British Petroleum twitter account gives us the best analysis of what is going on. Here are some example tweets …

Proud to announce that BP will be sponsoring the New Orleans Blues Festival this summer w/ special tribute to Muddy Waters.

Think about it this way, the ocean is like rootbeer and oil is like ice cream. We just made America a giant rootbeer float!

The good news: Mermaids are real. The bad news: They are now extinct.

The ocean looks just a bit slimmer today. Dressing it in black really did the trick!

remember … #bpcares


How Animals spend their tax refunds …

May 23, 2010
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And yet some more funny quantification of our animal brethren … for me the animal would be a one-celled protozoa with the option “return – too small to spend”.

Thanks again to pleated-jeans for the great posts.


Of Graffiti, Youth and Space #2 – Favela Painting

May 21, 2010
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Cross posted from Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network Blog

Favela Painting is a graffiti program initiated by artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. In 2005 they started a project focused on bringing works of art to unexpected places such as the slums of Rio. Their most current project entitled ‘O Morro’ (meaning ‘The Hill’), is in the central square in the community of Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro. The graffiti was all done by local painters who were trained by the artists.

This seems to bring together some of the best of Rio graffiti – it reflects that youthful feel, builds on local talent,  beautifies the community, and trains people to boot. Cudos to the artists, and lets hope that projects like this continue on to other communities.

Here are some more shots of the project:

Thanks to This. That. and the Other. blog for pointing out this project.


Pradical Blog: Donald Trump as Diversity Advocate

May 18, 2010
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I opened the paper this morning and there it was:

ARAB-AMERICAN WINS PAGEANT

Miss USA: Nod to diversity, or ‘affirmative action’?

Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant sure knows how to make headlines.


Go figure, nothing against the Donald, but he would not be the person I would think would be an advocate for affirmative action. Now, clearly, the Miss USA contest is kinda gross and sexist in itself, but from my perspective if you are going to go beyond the “progressives” talking to one another, Miss USA is a great place to start.

It is amazing/scary to watch the flash points in this rapidly changing world. This story has a lot of the ingredients. In a post 911 world in the US, an Arab woman winning an award, even Miss USA, is hailed as a victory by groups such as the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. This within the context of the post-Arizona immigration law world, where some “harsh critics” (read one of the most vocal bloggers) charged that the Oklahoma delegate she was up against might have got the boot because she supported the law.

So in the end pop culture meets political culture, in a place we didn’t expect it to be. Good on ya Donald!


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