Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'm out...

...will be some updates to flickr on the last of the Kabul photos, and others.

Thanks again everyone.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Exit Rituals

Nearly there. A day and "a wakey," as some (yes, expats, and yes, the military background type) say around here.

There have been the usual rituals. Luckily, I've managed to wiggle out of most of the 'farewell dinner/events', except for one (my coworkers). And well, another, with the national staff on the project that has taken most of my time will be a simple kebab lunch. As many of my memorable days with them here (days stuck out at the power plant because of some issue) have included newspaper wrapped kebabs, I like that it's how i'll be exiting.

The other ritual today was a burning. Got to watch a year and a half go up in flames. OK, I'll stop with the melodramatic metaphors. So cleaned up my room/office and got rid of a lot of documents.

Other than that, it's been busy at work. Handing out "certificates" making it "official" that I've done my job and transitioned the work to the GoA. And to be fair, they are ready to do the work. Whether "ready" is enough to do the work is another question.

As for the blog, I'll soon stop posting here. I may continue a blog on Afghanistan, or push others to resurrect a group Afghanistan related blog, and ride their coattails (ahem, you all reading right now know who I'm talking about).

There may be a posting or two more, but as I travel home, and get home in a month, it'll be even less frequent posts.

Thank you all for reading. I hope this blog provided something of value to those who kept checking in. I wish you all the best.

Moreover, lets all wish this land and it's wonderful people all the best.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

(Make/A) Sense of Things, Part I

It’s been all about dispositions and moods and sentiments and atmospheres and getting a feel for things. That applies to more than just the weather, which has been completely up and down and all wonderful, but unsettled and unsettling. But finally the consensus (a really just a dire hope) is that winter has finally broken.

Though we all know what’s coming, and this past week, it really seems like it’s already come (see Pumukl’s round up, and Hamesha’ last post), my coworker, who has been in and out of the country since the fall of 2002, was finally saying that the mood has really shifted. It’s odd and disappointing to see how much he talks about how hopeful the mood was when he first came, and he was even still hopeful last year, even after the May riots, as he hoped that would be a wake up call. So far, it seems like it wasn’t.

As I’ve said before, the donor side talk/rhetoric seems to have been improving and seeming more realistic. But the reality of this place is catching up to them. And the mood of the common Afghans (from my very limited/skewed sampling) is shifting markedly more than it did in the past year, and in a different way. It’s like a worsening is a foregone conclusion and now people are just waiting for things to get worse before they can get better. It seems like the only question really is how worse that worse is. Our two cooks, who are brothers, were telling me, in a markedly melancholic and longing manner, about how peaceful their home village is in the summer, and wishing I could come see it.

What was obvious about the discussion, though me coming to see their village was a sincere desire on their part, is that it was really about the escapism to their old life there.

I’m surely conflating and projecting a lot of my own mood and feelings about leaving here on all that’s going on around me and the conversations I have. But there is a different sense of things going on here. I remember the conversations after the May riots, and the cooks and many others bemoaned the event and the reaction on the part of Afghans, calling them delinquents and looters and people just capitalizing on the event for their own ends and venting. But the riots in Jalalabad got no such treatment.

The only thing the younger cook/brother talked about was what happened. And the bombs dropped on the houses. And the people simply being exasperated by the whole situation. Hamesha had it right when he referenced a “Sophie’s Choice”. Much as when the Taliban first took Kabul, that was the situation I gather many Afghans felt themselves in. Though the choice may not be the same, nor the result, as I don’t think the Taliban will come any where close to capturing Kabul. It seems like the situation is the same, if not the sense of things on the part of many more Afghans I’ve talked to. The sense of hope and even fear seems to be gone. Just exasperation.

And with work, it’s been that way for me to. (How is that for a completely trivializing segue??...and by that, I mean trivializing the situation of my Afghan coworkers, in case anyone was confused.) But more things are being knocked out, and the new music I’ve gotten my hands on recently has helped.

(Make/A) Sense of Things, Part II

So back to the most reliably consistent (speaking of quantity, definitely not quality here, folks) topic of this blog: what I’ve been listening to.

Go get some Anousheh Kahlili [myspace page here]. Came across her randomly as I was looking for shows that I can go see at the Black Cat and 9:30 when I get home. Going to shows being high on the list of things I’ve missed over the past year and a half. Adding to that list though, I’ll miss her show, as it’s celebrating Nau-Roz, the Persian New Year (also celebrated here in Afghanistan).

So it was the name that struck me (Persian/muslim/asian not being too common on the BC roster), and I dug her up and the headliner of that show. Her stuff is all piano singer/songwriter. And though the lyrics are a bit much, almost pedantic and overly verbose with adjectives and adverbs, when she does hit an image, it hits well. And though her songs on her first album just leave me wishing she’ll sing more choruses and stick to some more traditional song structures, as it’s really about her voice and choice of words that shine. Her voice is wonderful, as she’s got range and dexterity, and most over, great phrasing. Though her lyrics are a bit overwhelming, if not simply a bit much, she’s a master at delivering and phrasing them. Though they’re still just a bit too expository and encumbering, for me at least. More imagery, at least stronger imagery and less exposition would seal the deal for me on her.

Her first album, “Let the Ground Know Who’s Standing on Him”, which came out in ’04 wavers a bit in consistency, but her voice carries the whole thing, again, it’s striking, robust and beautiful. It’s been on heavy morning rotation. Especially as she’s a masterful and delicate piano player, and I believe I read she’s been classically trained, which seems to be the case. Nonetheless, her piano playing matches her singing on many fronts. She has two new tracks from a forthcoming album, available here for free.

Side-note: I also just found out that she’s Deep Dish’s vocalist on their last album. Which was great, but I just never picked up, and never dug out the vocalist, assuming she was just a generic House/Electronica singer with a heavily pitch-shifted and processed voice (which she was on that stuff, I believe, maybe just slightly processed and reverbed). She was the lead on their main single “Say Hello” which actually turns out to be a “hook” (though she doesn’t really use it as one) on one of her earlier works, “Ten Lives”.

So go get her last album, and definitely her new/free stuff, as the new album seems to show progression (though one track has a distinctly Fiona feel to it). So she’ll be another Norah (Anousheh even has recently done a Millenium Stage Show, which may mean much given the 365 performances there per year, but it’s where I first heard Norah), especially if the song lyrics get a bit less cumbersome, or at least one song gets a chorus, except I don’t think she’ll ever put out ‘Sunday-brunch’/’do-a-crossword’ music. She’s got too much to say and when she gets better at imagery she’ll be a force. And go see her show at the Cat on March 20th.

And of course, there’s the new Modest Mouse. New tracks have been “leaked” and can be found on the obvious sites, such as HypeMachine. Then there is the new El-P. And Adult Swim put up a new Def Jux sampler for free, and watch the new El-P video, it’s brilliant. Then there is the new Ted Leo. And finally, there is my regret that I’m not going to be home on March 20th to get the new drops, and will end up buying them in iTunes, and then again when I get home.

Make sense of that.