Monthly Archives: June 2010


This video really made my day. Talk about uplifting your spirits and putting a smile on your face (and the baby’s laugh is so infectious). Both enjoying the excitement of play and bonding.

Go, doggy, go!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized




Published: June 25, 2010

Fred Anderson, a tenor saxophonist who tied the bebop innovations of Charlie Parker to the explorations of later avant-garde musicians and who owned the Velvet Lounge, a South Side Chicago club known for fostering the careers of emerging players, died on Thursday. He was 81.

June 26, 2010    

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Fred Anderson, who helped emerging musicians, in 1999.


The Associated Press and The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Anderson’s sons, Michael and Eugene, confirmed the death but declined to give a cause. Mr. Anderson was admitted to a hospital in Evanston, Ill., on June 12 complaining of stomach pains. He suffered a heart attack on June 14 and afterward, Eugene Anderson told The Tribune, was comatose and unlikely to recover.

Fred Anderson Trio at the Velvet Lounge (

Though largely uncelebrated outside Chicago and the inner circles of the jazz world, Mr. Anderson was an accomplished musician with a robust and opulent sound, whose furious arpeggios reflected the early influence of Parker but whose dissonant, impulsively searching flights were born in the free-jazz heyday of the 1960s.

Over the past quarter-century he recorded more than two dozen albums, with musicians including the saxophonist Joseph Jarman and the trombonist George Lewis, and performed in Europe and in New York (where he had been scheduled to perform with the drummer Chad Taylor on Thursday night as part of the Vision Festival).

But he was best known in Chicago, where in 1965 he was a founder, with the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and others, of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a collective, still active, devoted to nurturing composers and players of modern music and widely credited with establishing Chicago as a center of experimental jazz.

In 1982 Mr. Anderson, who was earning a living with odd jobs, including bartending, took over a workingman’s bar at 2128 ½ South Indiana in Chicago and slowly began to transform it. At first he opened it on alternating Sunday nights for jam sessions for local musicians; eventually he turned it into a full-time music room where he led his own bands and booked others, especially experimental players who attracted the most serious of serious jazz aficionados.

He named it the Velvet Lounge after an audience member complimented him, possibly inaccurately, on his smooth and velvet sound. Particularly since the early 1990s, when he began charging a cover, many prominent musicians — including the flutist Nicole Mitchell and the saxophonist Ken Vandermark — have had their careers nurtured there.

“People don’t come to the Velvet to hang out,” Mr. Anderson said in an interview with NPR in 2005. “They come to listen to music. It’s a happy place to play.”

Mr. Anderson was born in 1929 — most sources list his birth date as March 22 — in Monroe, La., and as a boy he moved with his mother to Chicago. He started listening to jazz recordings in the early 1940s and was taken by the music of Parker.

“I just listened to him and I tried to figure out how he was doing certain things — not so much the notes that he was playing,” he said in a 2003 interview with “He had a unique way about placing things.”

Mr. Anderson’s marriage ended in divorce. Complete information about his survivors was not available on Friday, but The Tribune reported that in addition to his two sons, he had five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Anderson, who was known as a modest man, did not begin to perform publicly until he was in his 30s, and even after that he never had the temperament of a star performer. Still, he became a star, at least in his adopted hometown. When the building housing the Velvet Lounge was razed in 2006 to make room for condominiums, donors surfaced and local musicians played dozens of benefit performances to raise money to keep it going. The Velvet Lounge reopened nearby, at 67 East Cermak, just three months later.

Last August, when thousands of people attended a concert in honor of his 80th birthday, Mr. Anderson confessed that he was overwhelmed.

“I didn’t know that many people were checking out my music,” he said. “And people from all over.”





Published: June 25, 2010

Pete Quaife, a bassist who joined forces with two schoolmates to form the Kinks, one of the leading rock bands of the 1960s British Invasion, died on Wednesday in Herlev, Denmark. He was 66.

June 26, 2010    

Columbia TriStar, via Getty Images

Pete Quaife, second from left, with the Kinks’ original lineup, around 1964. From left, Mick Avory and Dave and Ray Davies.

The cause was kidney failure, a spokeswoman for the band said.

Born Peter Alexander Greenlaw Quaife on Dec. 31, 1943, he went to William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School in North London with Ray and Dave Davies, and the three began playing music together in 1961, with a succession of drummers. Ray was the frontman and Dave played lead guitar. They went through several names, including the Ravens, before settling on the Kinks in early 1964, with Mick Avory on drums. After two failed singles the band struck gold that August with “You Really Got Me.”

The song reached No. 1 in Britain and No. 7 in the United States, catapulting the young band to the fore of the British scene, and the abrasive guitar distortion on “You Really Got Me” and its follow-up, “All Day and All of the Night” — which Dave Davies made by slicing his amplifier with a razor — helped start a thousand garage bands. The Kinks were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

“Pete, Ray and me were the original band,” Dave Davies said in a statement on Friday. “We might never have done any of this without him.”

The band continued to score British hits throughout the 1960s, yet had only sporadic success in the United States, where a four-year dispute with the American Federation of Musicians prevented it from touring for most of the late 1960s.

Within the group, Mr. Quaife was sometimes called the ambassador for his ability to break up the Davies brothers’ regular brawls. But eventually the Kinks’ bickering and frustrations forced him out.

Mr. Quaife left the band for part of 1966 when he was injured in a car accident, but by 1969, after playing on the albums “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire),” he quit for good. He was replaced by John Dalton.

In interviews Mr. Quaife cited the group’s competitive volatility — one day in 1965, he said, a fistfight broke out among its members in a limousine after Mr. Quaife whistled a Beatles melody — for his departure, as well as the control that Ray Davies began to exert on the band.

“At the start I had some freedom with my bass lines,” he said in an interview with the British music magazine Mojo, “but as time went on, Ray treated us all more and more like session men.”

After leaving the Kinks, Mr. Quaife played briefly with another band, Mapleoak, and worked as a graphic artist in Denmark and Canada. He was found to have renal failure in 1998, and documented his experiences in cartoons collected in two volumes of books titled “The Lighter Side of Dialysis.”

He is survived by his fiancée, Elisabeth Bilbo, and a daughter.




Published: June 25, 2010
Bill Hudson, an Associated Press photographer whose powerful images of the civil rights era documented police brutality and helped galvanize the public, died Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 77.
June 27, 2010    

Associated Press

Associated Press staff photographers Horace Cort, left, of Atlanta, and Bill Hudson of Memphis pose in Birmingham, Ala, at the scene of a bombing which set off hours-long rioting in the city’s black neighborhoods.

June 26, 2010    

Bill Hudson/Associated Press

Bill Hudson’s searing images of the civil rights era documented police brutality and galvanized the public.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Patricia. He lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Mr. Hudson worked in photojournalism for more than three decades, beginning as an Army photographer in the Korean War. Covering the civil rights movement in the 1960s, he photographed protests in Birmingham and Selma, Ala., where the police turned dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators.

His most enduring photograph of the era, taken on May 3, 1963, shows an officer in dark sunglasses in Birmingham grabbing a young black man by his sweater and letting a police dog lunge at the man’s stomach. The man, Walter Gadsden, with his eyes lowered, has a passive look.

The photograph appeared across three columns at the top of the next day’s front page of The New York Times.

In “Carry Me Home,” a 2001 book about the civil rights era in Birmingham, Diane McWhorter wrote that the photograph helped move “international opinion to the side of the civil rights revolution.”

Mr. Hudson’s wife said he encountered a great deal of animosity from those who did not want him documenting the treatment of the protesters. “Sometimes people were throwing rocks and bricks at him,” she said.

Mr. Hudson was born Aug. 20, 1932, in Detroit and began his career in the Army in 1949. He later took photographs for The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., and The Chattanooga Times in Tennessee before joining The Associated Press in Memphis in 1962. He left The A.P. in 1974, joining United Press International.

Besides his wife, Mr. Hudson is survived by a sister, Sharon Garrison of Laguna Beach, Calif.





Published: June 23, 2010

June 24, 2010    

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life PIctures—Getty Images

The Life magazine photo of a sailor and a nurse in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II on V-J Day.

Teddy Blackburn/Reuters

Edith Shain in 2005.

Her death was announced by her family.

On the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, in 2005, the Times Square Alliance welcomed Mrs. Shain to its commemoration of that frenzied August day in 1945, when strangers were hugging and kissing everywhere in the throngs that came to Times Square to celebrate the war’s end.

Wearing sneakers and a nurse’s uniform, Mrs. Shain re-enacted the moment captured by Life’s renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. Many men have claimed to be the sailor who bestowed the kiss.

“The happiness was indescribable,” Mrs. Shain said of the original V-J Day celebration. “It was a very long kiss.”

Mrs. Shain was back in New York in 2008, that time as grand marshal for the city’s Veterans Day Parade.

When Mr. Eisenstaedt took his photograph, he did not get the names of the embracing sailor and the nurse, and their faces were largely obscured. A Navy photographer, Lt. Victor Jorgensen, also photographed the pair, but he, too, did not obtain their identities.

Thirty-five years later, Mrs. Shain, who was teaching kindergarten in Los Angeles after having been a nurse at Doctors Hospital in New York during the war, wrote to Mr. Eisenstaedt, saying “now that I’m 60 it’s fun to admit that I’m the nurse in your famous shot.” (She was 27 when it was taken). She asked him for a print.

Mr. Eisenstaedt visited Mrs. Shain, and Life reproduced her letter to him in its August 1980 issue, along with pictures he took of her with her family and her students. Mrs. Shain said she had recognized herself in the photo but had kept silent over all those years. “I didn’t think it was dignified, but times have changed,” she told Life.

Two months later, Life published photos of 10 men who had come forward to say they were the sailor in that photo, and a picture of yet another man, no longer alive, whose family had put in a claim. It also ran pictures of two other women who said they were the nurse.

“We received claims from a few nurses and dozens of sailors but we could never prove that any of them were the actual people, and Eisenstaedt himself just said he didn’t know,” Bobbi Baker Burrows, an editor at Life, told The Associated Press in 2008.

Edith Shain was born in Tarrytown, N.Y., on July 29, 1918. She graduated from New York University and moved to Los Angeles a few years after the war ended.

She is survived by her sons Robert and Michael Shain and Justin Decker, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

When Mrs. Shain arrived in New York in 2008 for the city’s Veterans Day Parade, she spoke of what the V-J Day photo meant to her.

“It says so many things,” she told The Associated Press. “Hope, love, peace and tomorrow.”





Published: June 23, 2010

June 24, 2010    

Jose R. Lopez/The New York Times

Charles Ensley, the social workers’ union head, in 1996.

The cause was lung cancer, his wife, Annette, said.

As president of Social Service Employees Union Local 371, which represents 15,000 social workers, Mr. Ensley was independent, outspoken and often irascible, clashing with other union leaders as well as mayors of both major parties.

He ran unsuccessfully in 2003 and 2007 to become executive director of District Council 37, the umbrella group representing 125,000 New York City municipal workers, the nation’s largest union of municipal employees. The council’s delegate assembly elected his opponent, Lillian Roberts, over him, partly because he had alienated some delegates by repeatedly denouncing a culture of corruption among some of the union’s leaders.

When 20 officials from District Council 37 were convicted of either embezzlement or vote fraud in the late 1990s, Mr. Ensley helped lead efforts to right the embattled district council. The presidents of the council’s largest two locals were convicted of stealing more than $1 million each.

“I’m very proud I wasn’t a team player,” Mr. Ensley said in 2003. “If I had been a team player, I probably would have been in jail with the rest of them.”

When council officials announced in 1996 that the rank and file had ratified a five-year contract that included a two-year pay freeze, Mr. Ensley was the first official to complain to the parent union in Washington, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that he suspected vote fraud. The parent union dismissed his concerns, but four years later the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, won convictions of several council officials for widespread vote fraud.

Charles Stephen Ensley was born on May 27, 1941, in Birmingham, Ala. Family members said he learned to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden when his father, who worked at The Birmingham News, fought for equal pay for the newspaper’s black employees.

Mr. Ensley graduated from Howard University in 1962, having majored in political science.

He married in 1964 and moved to Brooklyn, where he became a caseworker for the Bureau of Child Welfare, working in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section. The couple later moved to Manhattan. Besides his wife, he is survived by his sister, Barbara Jean Ensley of Manhattan.

In 1982, he won the presidency of Local 371 with 70 percent of the vote, later bringing unity to its historically fractious membership.

In 1993, he clashed with Mayor David N. Dinkins and his commissioner of human resources, Barbara Sabol, when she sought to bypass the civil service promotion list. Mr. Ensley said she had called it “too male and too white.” Even though most of his local’s members were black, Hispanic and female, Mr. Ensley objected, saying promotions should be based on “merit and fitness.”

He later battled with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani over his push for a two-year wage freeze and for replacing annual raises with merit-based increases.

In recent years Mr. Ensley championed greater union democracy.

“We’re the only major union in the city that doesn’t have direct elections,” he said in 2005. “It’s just an embarrassment. One of the best ways to re-energize labor is to have the rank and file more involved in day-to-day operations, and direct elections will certainly assure that.”





Published: June 22, 2010

June 23, 2010    

David Brewster/Star Tribune

Judge Gerald W. Heaney

His son, Bill, confirmed the death.

In the estimation of former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a friend and fellow Minnesotan, Judge Heaney “should have been on the Supreme Court.”

“Many judges have told me he was one of the most influential members of the bench,” Mr. Mondale said in an interview. “He issued a range of decisions trying to get at the evil of racial discrimination, and often his circuit court dissents became majority opinions when they got up to the Supreme Court.”

In his first major opinion, Judge Heaney, a stalwart liberal, wrote the 1967 ruling that reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss complaints of racial discrimination in the Altheimer, Ark., schools. His opinion, tracing a history of segregation, prompted the district to adopt an integration plan. It was one of eight desegregation cases in which he played a key role.

For 18 years, starting in 1981, Judge Heaney oversaw the integration of schools in St. Louis, writing 27 opinions that outlined strategies to bring students together from all over the city. In 1990, he was a member of a three-judge panel that allowed more than a fourth of black students in Kansas City, Mo., to transfer to predominantly white schools in the suburbs at the state’s expense.

The rights of suspects and defendants were of keen interest to Judge Heaney. In 1967, he wrote a dissent from the court’s ruling that a confidential informant’s tip, without further evidence, could be the basis for an arrest warrant. Two years later, the United States Supreme Court agreed with Judge Heaney’s position. That decision, however, was reversed by the Supreme Court in a similar case in 1983.

A majority decision written by Judge Heaney in 1976 held it unconstitutional for a police officer to use deadly force against a fleeing felony suspect who had not been violent or threatened other people. That ruling provoked a scathing dissent from the court’s chief judge, Floyd R. Gibson, who said, “The state is not required to adopt a policy which might encourage the fleet of foot.”

Among other significant cases, Judge Heaney wrote a decision that granted First Amendment protection to high school newspapers (the Supreme Court reversed that decision), and voted to reverse a lower court ruling that a person could be denied citizenship for refusing to take an oath to bear arms for the United States if that refusal was based on sincere opposition to all killing of human beings. The woman who brought that case was granted citizenship.

The judge’s liberal bent was shaped by his father.

Gerald William Heaney was born on Jan. 29, 1918, in the small farming town of Goodhue, Minn., a son of William J. and Johanna R. Heaney. His father owned a butcher shop.

“He saw the hardships of the Depression,” said Robert Hennessey, a former law clerk for Judge Heaney, “and he always told me it came from his father, who during those days would provide food for people in need.”

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Judge Heaney received his law degree there in 1941. A year later he enlisted in the Army. As a first lieutenant, he led his men ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, earning a Silver Star.

After the war, he married Eleanor Schmitt and moved to Duluth to practice law. Besides his wife and his son, Bill, he is survived by a daughter, Carol McPherson-Heaney; a sister, Elizabeth Majerus; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Drawn into local politics, Judge Heaney rose through the ranks of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which had been formed in a 1944 merger. He became a confidant of Gov. Orville L. Freeman of Minnesota and two future vice presidents, Hubert H. Humphrey and Mr. Mondale.

Nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, Judge Heaney sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas until 2006. A year later, President George W. Bush signed a law renaming the federal building in Duluth after him.

Nowhere was Judge Heaney’s concern for what he considered injustice more apparent than in his dissent from a 2003 ruling allowing Arkansas officials to force a convicted murderer to take drugs that would make him sane enough to be executed — a ruling the Supreme Court let stand.

Judge Heaney wrote, “I believe that to execute a man who is severely deranged without treatment, and arguably incompetent when treated, is the pinnacle of what Justice Marshall called ‘the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.’ ”





Published: June 22, 2010

Wendell Logan, a composer of jazz and concert music who more than two decades ago founded the jazz department at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, long a bastion of high-level classical training, died on June 15 in Cleveland. He was 69 and lived in Oberlin, Ohio.

June 23, 2010    

Courtesy of Oberlin College

Wendell Logan

Professor Logan died after a short illness, Marci Janas, a conservatory spokeswoman, said. At his death he was chairman of the jazz studies department and professor of African-American music at the conservatory, which is part of Oberlin College.

Though Oberlin had been turning out world-caliber classical soloists, conductors and orchestral performers for generations, jazz there had long been an extracurricular subject at best.

Professor Logan, who played soprano saxophone and trumpet, joined the faculty in 1973 and began offering jazz classes soon afterward. But it was not until 1989 that he was able to make jazz studies a full-fledged major, in which students can earn a bachelor of music.

Besides composing many jazz works, Professor Logan wrote concert music, a discipline that black composers have historically been discouraged from pursuing. His compositional style integrated elements of Modernism, European classicism and African-American musical traditions like jazz, blues and gospel into a seamless whole.

Among his best-known concert works are “Doxology Opera: The Doxy Canticles” (2001), a gritty sung drama of race and morality with a libretto by Paul Carter Harrison, and “Runagate, Runagate” (1989), a setting of Robert E. Hayden’s poem about a fugitive slave.

In 1990 “Runagate, Runagate,” sung by the tenor William Brown, was featured in a program by the Black Music Repertory Ensemble, a Chicago group, at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Allan Kozinn wrote, “Mr. Logan’s music — a volatile mixture of angularity, harmonic haziness and expressive dissonance tempered with openly tonal sections — adds a palpable dramatic dimension to the narrative.”

Professor Logan’s jazz compositions include “Remembrances.” Reviewing a performance of that work by piano, bass and drums for The Times last year, Ben Ratliff called it “a stylish and mysterious ballad.”

Wendell Morris Logan was born on Nov. 24, 1940, in Thomson, Ga. His first musical studies were with his father, an amateur alto saxophonist.

He attended Florida A&M University, a historically black institution, on a football scholarship, graduating in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in music. He earned a master’s in music from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1964 and a Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Iowa in 1968.

Before joining the Oberlin faculty, Professor Logan taught at Florida A&M, Ball State and Western Illinois Universities. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991; his music has been recorded by Orion and other labels.

Professor Logan is survived by his wife, the former Bettye Reese, whom he married in 1962; two children, Wendell M. Jr. and Felicia Logan; two brothers, Alvin and Howard; and four grandchildren.

In interviews over the years, Professor Logan made clear that for him and his colleagues, the rubric “black composer” was a decidedly mixed blessing.

“I’m not particularly in favor of it,” he told The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, as the paper was then known, in 1994. “I think our music should be evaluated and played alongside everything else, and programmed with Beethoven and other contemporary composers. No one is asking for a special day: ‘Here’s the day for black American composers.’ That’s kind of demeaning. But it’s better than nothing.”





Published: June 24, 2010

The cause was a heart attack, according to a statement by the African National Congress, the South African political party with which he worked closely.

Dr. Smith “sacrificed his well-being and forsook his privileged white status,” the statement said, “to join hands and lead the struggle for the emancipation of black people.”

From 1985 to 1989, some of the most climactic years of the struggle, Dr. Smith and his wife, Ellen, lived in Mamelodi, the main black township outside Pretoria. They were the only South African whites for hundreds of miles to have received official permission to breach a pillar of apartheid called the Group Areas Act, which determined residential areas by race. Dr. Smith had begun preaching in Mamelodi in 1982 as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, a breakaway denomination of the segregationist Dutch Reformed Church.

While a minister there, he regularly demanded inquiries into the killings of anti-apartheid activists. In 1988, he helped organize an effort aimed at racial reconciliation in which, for four days, 170 whites moved in with black families in Mamelodi and 35 blacks lived in the homes of whites in the suburbs of Pretoria.

Despite visits by the police, the families prayed together and shared meals, joining for a barbecue at which — at Dr. Smith’s urging — they sang “Nkosi Sikelele Afrika” (“God Bless Africa”), an anthem of the movement.

The Smiths moved back to a white neighborhood in 1989. After apartheid was dismantled in the early 1990s, Dr. Smith helped build a multiracial congregation in Pretoria.

Nico Smith was born in the rural reaches of the Orange Free State, which had been an independent Boer republic during the 19th century and joined South Africa in 1910. His father was the principal of a school for the children of white farmers.

He was 4 years old, Dr. Smith told The New York Times in 1985, when his mother gave him his first lesson in apartheid: Talk to blacks only when you have an order to give to them. Back then, he said, “blacks were not considered as people, they were just implements.”

After studying in Pretoria, Dr. Smith was ordained by the Dutch Reformed Church, which found scriptural justification for apartheid. He was a member of the elite, secretive Afrikaner fellowship called the Broederbond and taught theology at the University of Stellenbosch.

But in 1963 Dr. Smith met Karl Barth, a renowned German-Swiss theologian, who confronted his racist thinking.

“He said to me, ‘Will you be free to preach the Gospel even if the government in your country tells you that you are preaching against the whole system’ ” of apartheid? Dr. Smith said in the Times article. “That made a deep impression on me.”

By 1981, Dr. Smith had withdrawn from the Broederbond, resigned his professorship and left the Dutch Reformed Church. That year, he protested the plight of 120 black women in Cape Town’s Crossroads squatter camp whose homes were bulldozed in midwinter.

“I knew I had to make a choice,” he said. “I would have to decide to teach my theology but not apply it, or apply it and take the consequences.”





Published: June 21, 2010

Carlos Monsiváis, the Mexican writer and cultural critic whose trenchant literary chronicles laid bare the foibles of political power brokers and gave everyday Mexican life a surreal majesty, died Saturday in Mexico City. He was 72. 

June 22, 2010    

Miriam Berkley

Carlos Monsiváis in 1990. 

June 22, 2010    

Miguel Tovar/Associated Press

Mr. Monsiváis’s coffin was carried from the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on Sunday after a public viewing. 

Officials of the National Health Secretariat said he died of lung disease and had been hospitalized since April. 

Mr. Monsiváis was not well known outside Mexico, and he never achieved the literary fame or commercial success of such contemporaries as Octavio Paz or Carlos Fuentes. But within Mexico, in newspapers, magazines and books, his five decades of observations about politics, popular culture, liberalism, and the highs and lows of the Mexican character made his voice more recognizable than that of Mexican presidents. 

The current president, Felipe Calderón — with whom Mr. Monsiváis did not see eye to eye — paid tribute over the weekend. “His literary and journalistic work is a necessary reference for understanding the richness and cultural diversity of Mexico,” Mr. Calderón said in a statement. “He was a chronicler and witness for his era.” 

Mr. Monsiváis’s writings helped shape Mexico’s contemporary political and cultural life. With Mr. Fuentes and others he was an exponent of the Latin American “boom” of the 1960s, a flowering of literary expression that brought Latin American writers to the attention of the wider world. 

But while Mr. Fuentes and the others embraced universal themes, Mr. Monsiváis is best known for exploring the ordinary problems of common people to create extraordinarily moving sagas of the street. 

His writing was often laced with irony and sarcasm. In “Mexican Postcards” (Verso, 1997), one of his few books to be translated into English, he wrote of his homeland: “A decent society with noble sentiments loves the home as if it were the nation, and venerates the nation as if it were a mother: there is no such thing as virtue outside of official engagements, no true love outside marriage, and no civic pride that is far removed from the respectful laying of bouquets and wreaths.” 

Mr. Monsiváis wrote about some of the great social issues and political events of his time, often as a participant. He supported gay rights and embraced most leftist causes, starting with the 1968 student protests in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Plaza. Shortly before the start of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, scores of students were killed in a confrontation with security forces. The killings were a turning point for Mexico’s pro-democracy movement. 

In 1999, Mr. Monsiváis, along with the crusading Mexican journalist Julio Scherer García, returned to the Tlatelolco episode and published a book called “War Report.” In the book they revealed documents showing that the snipers who killed the students were plainclothes members of an elite army unit assigned to the president’s office, directly implicating Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Mexico’s president in 1968. 

Mr. Monsiváis also supported the Zapatista guerrilla uprising in 1994 and the 2006 presidential campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who narrowly lost to Mr. Calderón. He condemned the long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for more than seven decades. But when a member of the National Action Party finally won in 2000, Mr. Monsiváis criticized that party’s leaders and their conservative views. 

Mr. Monsiváis was beloved as much for his curmudgeonly image as for his wrinkled Everyman appearance. He was often pictured holding one of the many household cats he kept in his overstuffed apartment in Mexico City. 

He once referred to himself as a mix of Albert Camus and Ringo Starr, as a kind of fun-loving figure with the mind of a philosopher, and he was one of the few Mexican intellectuals who would be instantly recognized on the crowded streets of his city. 

At a public viewing in Mexico City over the weekend, thousands passed by his coffin, which was draped in the national flag, the flag of his alma mater, the National Autonomous University, and the gay rights rainbow flag. In a public tribute, the writer Elena Poniatowska said, “What are we going to do without you, Monsi?” using the nickname by which Mr. Monsiváis was universally known. 

Carlos Monsiváis (pronounced mohn-see-VICE) was born in Mexico City on May 4, 1938. After studying philosophy and literature at the national university, he began writing literary chronicles that have been compared to the novelistic New Journalism of the late 1960s practiced in the United States. 

Those articles have been gathered into a series of books, including “Days to Remember” (1970), “Scenes of Power and Frivolity” (1981) and “The Rituals of Chaos” (1995), that were hugely popular in Mexico. He won many literary awards, including Mexico’s National Journalism Award. His column, “For My Mother Bohemians,” ran in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada for many years. 

Mr. Monsiváis had cousins but left no immediate survivors. His ashes will be kept in Mexico City at the Estanquillo Museum, which is devoted to popular culture and which Mr. Monsiváis helped create in 2006, drawing from his own collection of objects from everyday life. 

Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting from Mexico City.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


#1 R&B Song 1981:  “Give It To Me Baby,” Rick James

Born:  Rosalie Allen (Julie Marlene Bedra), 1924


1953   Jackie Wilson made his recording debut with the Dominoes, cutting “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” ($100). Meanwhile, R&B standards  “Gee” by the Crows (#14 pop, #2 R&B, $400) and “I Cover the Waterfront” by the Orioles ($1,200) were released.

1960   Lonnie Johnson, an originator and founding father of modern guitar blues performed at the Playboy Club in Chicago. The innovative Johnson, who played with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington going back to the ’20s, was recently found working as a janitor in a Philadelphia hotel.

1964   The Valentinos charted with “It’s All Over Now,” reaching only #94 pop. The group was actually Bobby Womack and his brothers, who started out as the gospel group, the Womack Brothers. Bobby’s song, however, would gain immortality as an early hit for the Rolling Stones. (Singing in the background vocals is none other than the great Bill Withers).

1970   The Jackson 5 hit #1 with “The Love You Save,” thus becoming the first artists to reach the top spot with their first three charters.

1987   Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” hit #1, while her album Whitney became the first album by a female singer to debut on Billboard’s chart at #1.

1992   Michael Jackson began his latest world tour in support of the album Dangerous in Munich, West Germany. A European-only TV program was taped and included two of Michael’s performances live from the concert.

1996   The Fugees appeared at the free Hoodstock concert in New York. A man began firing a gun and numerous onlookers were hospitalized.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


KENYA:  (Named after Mount Kenya, from the Kĩkũyũ name Kere-Nyaga (“Mountain of Whiteness”).

Some facts I’d like to mention about Kenya:

Demonym:  Kenyans

Drive on the:  left 

HDI (2007) ▲ 0.521 (medium) (148th)

President:  Mwai Kibaki

Political parties:

Major parties
  • Party of National Unity  (Kenyan)
    • Democratic Party
    • Kenya African National Union
    • Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–Kenya
    • Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–People
    • Mazingira Green Party of Kenya
    • National Rainbow Coalition–Kenya
    • Safina
    • Shirikisho Party of Kenya
    • Sisi Kwa Sisi
  • Orange Democratic Movement
  • Orange Democratic Movement–Kenya
  • Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–Asili
  • National Alliance Party of Kenya
  • National Alliance Party of Kenya

Minor parties

  • Madaraka Party of Kenya
  • Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU Kenya)
  • Kenya African Democratic Development Union (KADDU)
  • People’s Party of Kenya (PPK)


  • Kenya African Democratic Union
  • Kenya People’s Union
  • Liberal Democratic Party


Coat of Arms:

File:Coat of arms of Kenya.svg



File:Kenyan woman 2.jpg
A woman in a traditional Kenyan outfit

Kenya is a diverse country, with many different cultures represented. Notable cultures include the Swahili on the coast, pastoralist communities in the north, and several different communities in the central and western regions. Today, the Maasai culture is well known, given its heavy exposure from tourism, however, Maasai make up a relatively minor percentage of the Kenyan population. The Maasai are known for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewelry.

Kenya has an extensive music, television and theatre scene.

Kenya has no one culture that identifies it. With such diverse regional peoples such as the Swahili along the coast, several pastoralist communities mainly in the North and the different communities in Central and Western regions, having a mutually acceptable cultural identification is difficult.

There are about 42 different ethnic groupings in Kenya – each of these with its own unique culture, but majority of them with intertwining cultural practices brought about by the close resemblance in the languages, the similar environment and physical proximity of the ethnic groups. The ethnic groups are grouped into larger sub-groups – based on their cultural and linguistic similarities. There are three major unifying categories of languages: the Bantu speaking people of the Coastal region, the Central Highlands and the Western Kenya Region, The Nilotes who are mainly found in the Great Rift Valley and the Lake Victoria Region and the Cushites who are mainly composed of pastoralists and nomads in the drier North Eastern part of the country. Of note is that these sub-groups span a vast area of not just Kenya, but the East, Central and Southern African Region as a whole.

The Maasai culture owes its widespread identification to the tourist industry which has exploited them for purely commercial purposes.

Historical and current politics of division practiced first by the colonizers and then by subsequent community leaders has led to a situation where Kenyans themselves barely know their own culture let alone that of their neighbours. The colonial administration in partnership with missionary activities and formal education wiped out most cultural practices leaving a gap that was filled by Western cultural attitudes and identification especially by the youth.

The recent attempts at coming up with a national dress testifies to the difficult nature of Kenyans’ cultural identity. The top-down formula employed rendered the entire process irrelevant as it only involved the urban areas hence the better educated and wealthier segments of society. The result was basically a restricted set of pre-approved national dresses and outfits with questionable aesthetic appeal to the majority of Kenyans.

-Famous Kenyans:


Jomo Kenyatta (Flaming Spear”)

Birth name:  Kamau Wa Muigai. As the leader of the independence movement (Mau Mau) and first president of Kenya after independence (1963), Kenyatta is no doubt the most influential Kenyan in the 20th century. As the leader of KANU (the political movement which led the struggle for independence), the British colonizers sent Kenyatta to 7 years of hard labour.

After independence, Kenyatta followed a course of reconciliation with the British and choose the side of the West in the Cold War. During his era Kenya built an international reputation for being one of the most stable African countries. Foreign investments flew in, Kenya was doing well economically and Kenyatta had influence throughout Africa. However, Kenyatta also started the deep rooted favouritism (if not outright corruption): he used the land reforms to give the best pieces of land to friends and relatives and he made himself the biggest landowner in the country

Richard Leakey

Richard Leakey (born 1944 in Nairobi) is a paleontologist, archaeologist and conservationist, and a larger-than-life public figure in Kenya. He was of British white descent but he was a true Kenyan: his grandparents already settled in Kenya as Christian missionaries. His parents were the famous archeologists Louis and Mary Leakey, who did groundbreaking research to the origin of humans in East Africa. Richard first set up a company in among others safaris as a teen, but later followed in his parents footsteps and made groundbreaking discoveries himself.

Richard Leakey was active in government and politics. From 1989 on, he stopped the slaughter of elephants by poachers as a head of the forerunner of the Kenya Wildlife Service. He authorized wildlife guards to shoot poachers on sight and made international headlines with the public burning of giant piles of ivory. In 1995 he founded a political party – Safina – to combat the rampant corruption in the country. He was harassed by the Moi regime, but in 1999 Moi had to appoint him as Cabinet Secretary and overall head of the civil service, under pressure of international donor institutions. In 2007, he became head of the Kenyan branch of Transparency International.

Daniel arap Moi

Daniel arap Moi was the second president of Kenya, from 1978 to 2002. He was born in 1924 as the son of poor parents. He worked himself up as vice president under Kenyatta, which was not easy as he was of the small Kalenjin tribe and politics was, and to a great extent still is, dominated by the Kikuyu. After Kenyatta’s death in 1978 he managed to become president. Moi was always impeccably dressed in dark suits with a trademark rose in his buttonhole, and carried a silver-topped ivory stick with him everywhere, a Swahili symbol of his power. 

Over the years he became more and more authoritarian. In 1982 he constitutionally outlawed all political parties except his own, and harassed and tortured political enemies. But as he continued and reinforced Kenya’s pro-Western course during the Cold War, international funds kept flowing in and the economy did relatively well. When the Cold War ended, Western governments suddenly discovered his authoritarian politics and the funds stopped. From 1990 on, Kenya entered a period of stagnation and crisis. Moi had to allow multi-party elections and in 2002 he lost power to the new president, Mwai Kibaki. 

Prof. Wangari Maathai

Prof. Wanagari Maathai (born 1940 in Nyere, Kenya) is a Kenyan environmental and women’s rights activist. In 2004 she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize “for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”. 

Maathai studied biology in Kansas and Pittsburg in the United States. She was the first East African woman to received a Ph.D. (in veterinary medicine from the University of Nairobi). In 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement, which planted 30 million trees in Kenya to combat soil erosion. During Daniel arap Moi’s regime she was put in prison several times for violent actions. In 2002, when Mwai Kibaki became president, she was voted into parliament and from 2003 to 2005 she was Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in Kibaki’s administration. She wrote an autobiography, “Unbowed: One Woman’s Story”. 

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born in 1938 as James Ngugi. He is Kenya’s most prominent author (novelist, playwright and essayist). He went to missionary school and was a devout Christian as a child, but later he became critical of everything Western. He rejected Christianity and embraced his native Kikuyu culture, changing his name to Ngugi wa Thiong’o. At the same time he became a fierce critic of colonialism and adopted Marxism. 

In 1964 he published the first novel in English by an East African author, “Weep not, child”. This book, as well as “A Grain of Wheat” (1967) and “Petals of Blood” (1977) have been translated into 30 languages, and were re-issued in 2002 as Penguin modern classics. Later he argued that literature written by a Kenyan in a colonial language (English) cannot really be Kenyan literature. He published his first book in Kikuyu, “Caitaani Muthara-Ini” (Devil on the Cross), in 1980. His work was banned by the government and he was detained in prison without trial. In 1985, he went into exile in London. Ngugi accepted a position as professor of literature at New York University in 1992. 

Paul Tergat

Paul Kibbi Tergat (born 1969) is considered as one of most successful long-distance runners of all time. He currently holds the world record in the marathon: in 2003 in Berlin he completed the marathon (traditionally 42 kilometers) in 2:04:55, which is an average speed of 12.6 miles per hour or 20.3 km/hour! During his career, he won a long list of gold, silver and bronze medals in running competitions around the world. His nickname is “The Gentleman”. 

Since 2004, Tergat is an ambassador for the UN World Food Program. This program provided Tergat with lunch at school, as his parents were too poor to send him to school with food. Tergat says he could not have finished school without this food program. In 2005, he also founded the Paul Tergat Foundation which supports disadvantaged sports people in Kenya. He also runs a sports PR and marketing firm. 

-Present day Education in Kenya:

The current 8-4-4 system was launched in January 1985. It put more emphasis on vocational subjects on the assumption that the new structure would enable school dropouts at all levels either to be self-employed or to secure employment in the informal sector.

In January 2003, the Government of Kenya announced the introduction of free primary education. As a result, primary school enrolment increased by about 70%. However, secondary and tertiary education enrollment has not increased proportionally because payment is still required for attendance.

In class eight of primary school the Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination (K.C.P.E.) is written. The result of this examination is needed for placement at secondary school. In form four of secondary schools the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (K.C.S.E.) is written. Students sit examinations in eight subjects.

KCSE Grading System

Grade A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- E
Points 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The average grade is based on performance in the eight subjects. Where a candidate sits for more than eight subjects, the average grade is based on the best eight subjects. University matriculation is based on the best eight and performance in particular subjects relevant to degree courses. Example below:

Subject Group Grade Points
English 1 B+ 10
Kishwahili 1 A- 11
Mathematics 1 A 12
History & Government 3 B 9
Geography 3 A- 11
Physics 2 B+ 10
Chemistry 2 B- 8
Biology 2 A- 11

The total number of points is 81.

The average grade is 81 divided by 8, which equals 10.1 (approximately 10.0 points) which is Grade B+ according to the grading system. This student qualifies to join one of the Public Universities for his good score. Training institutions and faculties and departments determine their own minimum entry requirements.

Students who manage a grade of C+ qualify to do a degree course at the University. Owing to competition, and fewer places at the University, those with B and in a few cases B-, and above are taken for degree courses at the Public Universities and benefit by paying government-subsidised fees. The rest join private universities or middle-level colleges.

Interestingly, the number of students admitted to public universities through J.A.B depends on the total number of beds available in all the public universities. Nonetheless, those who miss out but attained the minimum university entry mark of C+ or C with a relevant diploma certificate are admitted through the parallel degree programmes (module II) if they can afford the full fees for the course.

This has been the subject of much discussion with people questioning the rationale and morality of locking out qualified students from public institutions yet still admitting those who come from financially able families.

-National food and drink: 

 There is no singular dish that represents all of Kenya. Different communities have their own native foods. Staples are maize and other cereals depending on the region including millet and sorghum eaten with various meats and vegetables. The foods that are universally eaten in Kenya are ugali, sukuma wiki, and nyama choma. Sukuma wiki, a Swahili phrase which literally means “to push the week,” is a simple dish made with greens similar to kale or collards that can also be made with cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, or pumpkin leaves. Its Swahili name comes from the fact that it is typically eaten to “get through the week” or “stretch the week.” Nyama choma is roasted meat – usually goat or sheep- roasted over an open fire. It is best eaten with ugali and kachumbari. Among the Luhyas residing in the western region of Kenya, ingokho (chicken) and ugali is a favourite meal. Other than these, they also eat tsisaka, miroo, managu etc. Also among the Kikuyu of Central Kenya, a lot of tubers, ngwaci (sweet potatoes), ndũma (taro root) known in Kenya as arrowroot, ikwa (yams), mianga (cassava) are eaten as well as legumes like beans and a Kikuyu bean known as njahi.

The following is a recipe for Sukuma Wiki. It is made using any leafy green vegetable, mainly collard or mustard greens, or kale. Sukuma wiki means ‘to push the week’ indicating that sukuma wiki is a basic food dish that is tides the family over through most of the week.

Sukuma Wiki (“to push the week”)

2 tablespoons fat (oil or shortening)
1 Onion
1 Tomato
A bunch of Sukuma (kale or collard greens), chopped

Melt fat in a pot and add the onions. Stir well and saute for a bit. Add tomato and saute. Add sukuma and saute for a short time. Add 1/2 cup water and the add salt to taste. Let the mixture simmer until the sukuma has reached a desired tenderness.

Serve with ugali or chapati.

2 servings



Bill – Hesabu
Bottle – Chupa
Bowl – Bakuli
Bread – Mkate
Butter – Siagi
Coffee – Kahawa
Cup – Kikombe
Egg – Yai
Fish – Samaki
Food – Chakula
Fork – Uma
Fruit – Matunda
Ice – Barafu
Knife – Kisu
Meat – Nyama
Milk – Maziwa
Pepper – Piripiri
Plate – Sahani
Salt – Chumvi
Spoon – Kijiko
Sugar – Sukari
Table – Meza
Tea – Chai
Vegetables – Mboga
Waiter – Ndugu/Bwana
Water – Maji

For those with more interest in learning Kenyan, here is a link to the online Kenyan dictionary:

-National pasttimes:  

Kenya is active in several sports, among them cricket, rallying, football (soccer), rugby union and boxing. But the country is known chiefly for its dominance in Middle-distance and long-distance athletics. Kenya has consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events, especially in 800 m, 1,500 m, 3,000 m steeplechase, 5,000 m, 10,000 m and the marathons. Kenyan athletes (particularly Kalenjin) continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy. Kenya’s best-known athletes included the four-time women’s Boston Marathon winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, former Marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat, and John Ngugi.

Kenya won several medals during the Beijing Olympics, 5 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze, making it Africa’s most successful Nation in the 2008 Olympics. New athletes gained attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women’s 800m gold medalist who went ahead to win the IAAF Golden League jackpot, and Samuel Wanjiru who won the men’s marathon.

Retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kipchoge Keino helped usher in Kenya’s ongoing distance dynasty 1970s and was followed by Commonwealth Champion Henry Rono‘s spectacular string of world record performances.

-National literature:  

Kenya has a long oral and written literary tradition, primarily in English and Swahili, the two official languages of the country.

One of the best known pieces of Kenyan literature is Utendi wa Tambuka, which translates to The Story of Tambuka. Written by a man named Mwengo at the court of the Sultan of Pate, the epic poem is one of the earliest known documents in Swahili, being written in the year 1141 of the Islamic calendar, or 1728 A.D.

-National dress:  

Apart from the national flag, Kenya is yet to have a national dress that cuts across its diverse ethnic divide. With each of the more than 42 ethnic communities in Kenya having its own traditional practices and symbols that make it unique, this is a task that has proved elusive in the past. However, several attempts have been made to design an outfit that can be worn to identify Kenyans, much like the Kente’ cloth of Ghana.

The most recent effort was the Unilever-sponsored “Sunlight quest for Kenya’s National Dress”. A design was chosen and though it was unveiled with much pomp at a ceremony in which public figures modelled the dress, the dress design never took hold with the ordinary people. Kitenge, a cotton fabric made into various colours and design through tie-and-dye and heavy embroidery, is generally accepted as the African dress. Though used in many African countries, Kitenge is yet to be accepted as an official dress as it is only worn during ceremonies and non-official functions. The Maasai wear dark red garments to symbolise their love for the earth and also their dependence on it. It also stands for courage and blood that is given to them by nature. The Kanga (Khanga, Lesso) is another cloth that is in common use in practically every Kenyan home. The Kanga is a piece of clothing about 1.5 m by 1 m, screen printed with beautiful sayings in Swahili (or English) and is largely worn by women around the waist and torso.


Woman in kanga from Siyu on the Pate Island in Kenya.  SOURCE

-Music of Kenya:  

Kenya is home to a diverse range of music styles, ranging from imported popular music, afro-fusion and benga music to traditional folk songs. The guitar is the most popular instrument in Kenyan music, and songs often feature intricate guitar rhythms. The most famous guitarist of the early 20th century was Fundi Konde.

The following are samples of Mr. Konde’s music.

Other notable musicians of the 60s era include Fadhili Williams (recognised by many as the author of the hit song “Malaika” that was later re-done by Miriam Makeba, Boney M and Daudi Kabaka.


Popular music in the 1980s and 90s in Kenya could be divided into two genres: the Swahili sound and the Congolese sound. There are varying regional styles, and some performers create tourist-oriented “hotel pop” that is similar to western music. Them Mushrooms, later renamed Uyoga, was one of the popular groups in this era.

In the recent past, newer varieties of modern popular music have arisen which are mostly local derivatives of western hip-hop. Two sub-genres have emerged: “Genge” and “Kapuka” beats. This has revolutionized popular Kenyan music and created an industry dominated by the youth. There is also underground Kenyan hip hop that gets less radio play than Kapuka or Genge due to the fact that it is less club oriented and more focussed on social commentary. Early pioneers include the late Poxi Presha, Kalamashaka, and K-South. In Nairobi, hip-hop is viewed as more of a style than as a musical culture. There is a great correlation between the youth who listen to rap music and their economical status in the country with the majority of them coming from wealthy economic backgrounds. Since hip-hop is portrayed through clothing, magazines, and CDs, all of which are expensive, only the wealthier individuals are able to enjoy these luxuries.

Mainstream artists include Nameless, Redsan, Necessary Noize, Nonini, Juacali, Kleptomaniax, Longombas, Suzzanna Owiyo Achieng Abura, Eric Wainaina and others. Their sounds run the gamut from Reggae/Ragga, Pop, Afro-Fusion to Hip-Hop. Contemporary Kenyan music is becoming quite popular, with African based music channels such as Channel O and MTV Base, giving them a greater audience than previously before.

The following is a video of Ms. Owiyo.


Many Kenyan performers mix languages in any single song, usually English, Swahili, their tribal language or Sheng (a hybrid of Kenyan languages and English/Swahili).

The Kisima (the Swahili word for “well”) Music Awards, which recognize musical talent across East Africa, were founded and are currently based in Kenya. Every year numerous Kenyan artists take out categories in the scheme.

The African Children’s Choirfeatures children, many of whom are orphaned, from Kenya, as well as from other neighbouring African countries.


-Kenyan authors:  

The most well known Kenyan author is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Thiong’o’s first novel, Weep Not, Child, was the first novel in English to be published by an East African and is  an illustration of life in Kenya during the British occupation. This is a story about the effects of the Mau Mau on the lives of black Kenyans. Its combination of themes—colonialism, education, and love—helped to make it one of the best-known novels in Africa. His The River Between is currently on Kenya’s national secondary school syllabus. Undoubtedly, Thiong’o is best known for his novel, A Grain of Wheat.

M.G. Vassanji’s 2003 novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall won the Giller Prize in 2003. It is the fictional memoir of a Kenyan of Indian heritage and his family as they adjust to the changing political climates in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.

Since 2003, the literary journal Kwani? has been publishing Kenyan contemporary literature.

Other important Kenyan writers include Grace Ogot, Meja Mwangi, Margaret Ogola, and Binyavanga Wainaina.






Fast Facts

Nairobi; 2,818,000
580,367 square kilometers (224,081 square miles)
English, Kiswahili, numerous indigenous languages
Protestant, Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs, Muslim
Kenyan shilling
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,100
Literacy Percent:

Kenya Flag

File:Flag of Kenya.svg


Kenya Facts


Map: Kenya


The East African country of Kenya rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean to mountains and plateaus at its center. Most Kenyans live in the highlands, and Nairobi, the capital, is here at an altitude of 1,700 meters (5,500 feet). Even though Nairobi is near the Equator, its high elevation brings cooler air. To the west of Nairobi the land descends to the north-south running Great Rift Valley—the valley floor is at its lowest near Lake Turkana in the deserts of northern Kenya. Around Lake Turkana, scientists have discovered some of humankind’s earliest ancestors—a fossil known as Kenya Man was dated at 3.5 to 3.2 million years old.

Both free enterprise and a measure of political debate helped make Kenya one of Africa’s most stable nations after it achieved independence from Britain in 1963. But, more recently, corruption has been an undermining force, and the government—pressured for reform—moved to a multiparty system in the late 1990s. Barriers to progress are high population growth, electricity shortages, and inefficiency in key sectors.

Forty ethnic groups, including Kikuyu farmers and Maasai cattle herders, crowd the countryside, still home to three-quarters of Kenya’s people. Intense competition for arable land drives thousands to cities, where unemployment is high. In Nairobi, East Africa’s commercial hub, skyscrapers abruptly give way to slums. The government has stepped up efforts to stem poaching, particularly of the elephant and black rhino. Tourism is essential to the economy, and Kenya is one of Africa’s major safari destinations.


  • Industry: Small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture), agricultural products processing; oil refining
  • Agriculture: Tea, coffee, corn, wheat; dairy products
  • Exports: Tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish


Photo: Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve

Sunset falls on a Maasai boy on Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.

Photograph by Jen Eudy, My Shot

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition






Filed under Uncategorized


#1 Song 1961:  “Quarter to Three,” Gary “U.S.” Bonds

Born:  Blues singer “Big Bill” Broonzy (William Lee Conley), 1893; Billy Davis, Jr. (the Fifth Dimension), 1940


1893   “Big Bill” Broonzy—one of Chicago’s early blues guitar influences—was born today. Broonzy started recording in 1927 and had a hit with “Big Bill’s Blues.” By the ’50s he was billing himself as the “last blues singer.”

1954   One of the first singles by the Platters, “Tell the World ($200), was released.

1961   The Spinners’ debut single, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” charted, reaching #5 R&B and #27 pop. The quintet was discovered by the Moonglows leader/producer Harvey Fuqua at Detroit’s Make Way for Youth show, and it was Fuqua who sang the lead on this and their follow-up single, “Love (I’m So Glad) I Found You.”

1964   The Supremes, the Shirelles, the Crystals, and Major Lance, among others, performed at the Fairgrounds Grandstand in Allentown, PA, on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour.

1965   Wilson Picket’s “In the Midnight Hour” charted, reaching #1 R&B, #21 pop. It was the first of five #1s for “the wicked Pickett,” a nickname he earned at Atlantic records office for his affection for the label’s ladies.

1993   Stevie Wonder performed with prince at the Purple One’s Grand Slam Club in Los Angeles.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


News/Observing/This Week’s Sky at a Glance/Community

Two Wide Eyes on the Sky

June 24, 2010 | Astronomers are starting to make observations with the first Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii (seen here) and the LOFAR radio interferometer in the Netherlands. > read more

The Moon: Damp from Day One

June 21, 2010 | A new analysis of Apollo samples, using technology that didn’t exist 40 years ago, finds that water (just a bit of it) must be present inside the Moon. > read more 

A Cauldron of Newborn Stars

June 23, 2010 | The Hubble Space Telescope has returned its high-definition gaze to a spectacular bubble of glowing hydrogen known as N 11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. > read more 

S&T DVD Collection FAQ

June 24, 2010 | Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about The Complete Sky & Telescope: Seven Decade Collection on DVD-ROMs. > read more 



June 26th's lunar eclipse
Sky & Telescope illustration


Saturday’s Predawn Lunar Eclipse

June 22, 2010 | You’ll have to get up early — or party into the wee hours the night before — to see the Moon slide partly through Earth’s shadow before dawn on June 26th. > read more

Ceres in 2010

May 27, 2010 | Ceres, the largest main-belt asteroid, is well placed for observation in June through August 2010. > read more 

Tour June’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

May 28, 2010 | June’s nights are the shortest all year for northern skywatchers, but as a consolation you’ll find Venus, Mars, and Saturn in the evening sky. > read more 

See Pluto in 2010

March 24, 2010 | In 2010, Pluto passes in front of one of the densest star clouds in the sky, and also in front of a dark nebula that obscures almost all the background stars. > read more 

This Week’s Sky at a Glance


Twilight view, July 1

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

June 25, 2010 | Saturn, Mars, Regulus, and bright Venus form a diagonal line in the summer evening twilight. And the full Moon has a partial eclipse for the western U.S. before dawn on Saturday June 26th. > read more


Number of stars visible at different seasons

Hobby Q&A

June 23, 2010 | How far away can we detect exoplanets? How many stars are visible to the unaided eye? Read Hobby Q&A to find answers to these and other questions. > read more

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


BURUNDI  (From a local name meaning “land of the Kirundi-speakers.”)

Some facts I’d like to mention about Burundi:

Demonym:  Burundian(s)

Drive on the:  right

HDI (2007) ▲ 0.394 (low) (174th)

-President:  Pierre Nkurunziza (Hutu)

-Political parties:  

Parties represented in one or both chambers of Parliament

  • National Council for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD) – Smaller faction of the former main Hutu rebel group led by Léonard Nyangoma
  • National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD-FDD) – Largest faction of the former main Hutu rebel group led by Pierre Nkurunziza.
  • Front for Democracy in Burundi (Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi, FRODEBU) – Predominantly Hutu party that won democratic elections in 1993. Jean Minani is president of the party.
  • Movement for the Rehabilitation of Citizens-Rurenzangemero (Mouvement pour la Réhabilitation du Citoyen-Rurenzangemero, MRC-Rurenzangemero) – Predominantly Tutsi party led by Epitace Bayaganakandi.
  • Party for National Recovery (Parti pour le redressement national, PARENA) – Predominantly Tutsi party led by former president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza
  • Union for National Progress (Union pour le Progrès national, UPRONA) – Predominantly Tutsi, former sole legal party. Led by Jean-Baptiste Manwangari

Coat of Arms:

File:Coat of arms of Burundi.svg


Most Burundians live in rural areas. Since the hilly landscape has hindered the development of villages, small clans live as extended families in hilltop compounds called rugos. These families usually farm the surrounding hills to avoid tsetse flies in the valleys. A large portion of the population lacks health care and even safe drinking water, which causes many people to seek traditional and herbal medicine to treat diseases. UNESCO and the Peace Corps have set up programs to help improve living conditions.

The majority of the population is Christian, though Islam and forms of animism are also present. Arranged marriages are not uncommon, with the groom’s family sometimes paying a bride price.

The two official languages of Burundi are French and Kirundi. Kirundi is the most widely spoken language, though French is used in most written or official documents. A smaller population of Burundians speaks a dialect of Swahili.

City residents often take a siesta, and most businesses will be closed in the early afternoon.

-Education and environment:  The central university for Burundi is the University of Burundi in Bujumbura. There are several museums in the cities, such as the Burundi Geological Museum in Bujumbura and the Burundi National Museum and the Burundi Museum of Life in Gitega.

There are several wildlife and nature preserves, and the southern town of Rutana contains a monument to the source of the Nile River.

-Famous Burundians:  Mwami Ntare I Rushatsi (c.1500), a warrior and astute administrator, succeeded in unifying the country under Tutsi rule. Mwambutsa IV (1913–78), the last mwami under the Belgian administration, was deposed in July 1966. Prince Louis Rwagasore (1930–61), the son of Mwambutsa, was the founder of UPRONA. Michel Micombero (1940–83) was president from 1966 until 1976, when he was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (b.1946). 

Read more: Famous burundians – Burundi

-National food and drink:  Burundian cuisine often contains red kidney beans, and is not usually accompanied by sweet foods or dessert. During celebrations and gatherings, Burundians drink homemade banana wine and beer, sometimes drinking through straws from a single large container.

In some areas, brochettes and frites are a popular remnant of the Belgian colonial period. A national brewery produces Primus and Amstel beers.

The national dish of Burundi is Uji Porridge (Melie Meal-Pap), which is a corn meal porridge. The following is the recipe for it, followed by Tomato Stew Chicken. Recipe and photo courtesy of MyHungryTum:


Uji Porridge (Mealie Meal-Pap)


4 tbsp Maize Meal

½ tsp Salt

¼ cup cold Water

2 ½ to 3 cups cold Water

Butter to serve


Blend the maize meal, salt & ¼ cup water together to form a smooth paste. Meanwhile, bring 2 ½ to 3 cups (depending on the size of your pot) of cold water to the boil. Once boiling, add the paste to it and stir to prevent lumps forming. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with a few small knobs of butter.

Tomato stew with Chicken


3 breast of Chicken cleaned and cut into 1” chunks before cooking

2- 14 oz cans of finely diced tomatoes

1 large slicing tomato diced

3-4 cups of Chicken Broth

Salt and Pepper

1 tbsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Coriander Powder

1 tsp Garlic Powder

4 cloves garlic sliced and crushed

4 shallots peeled and sliced

1 large white or yellow onion diced

2 tbsp vegetable oil


Season chicken cubes with salt and pepper.

In a Medium Pot, add oil and bring to medium high heat. 

Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes till they soften and become aromatic. 

Add the dry spices to the oil and sauté for an additional minute while rapidly stirring to avoid burning. 

Add the canned tomatoes and onion with 1-2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add the diced fresh tomato.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add remaining chicken stock and chicken.  Return to a boil and reduce to simmer for around 1 hour 15 minutes till the chicken is tender.  Serve hot over Mealie-Meal Pap.

Serves 6


 For another version of Uji Porridge, as a breakfast meal, add brown sugar, butter, and milk to serve.

-National pasttime: Football is a popular pastime throughout the country, as are mancala games. Many Burundians celebrate Christian holidays and Burundian Independence Day, though the largest celebration occurs on New Year’s Day with feasting and traditional drumming and dancing.

-National literature: strong literary and oral tradition, which relays history and life lessons through storytelling, poetry, and song. This is evident in kivivuga amazina, an improvisational poetry contest played by cattle herders, in which they boast their abilities or accomplishments.

-Music of Burundi:  Traditional drumming is an important part of Burundian cultural heritage, as indicated by the world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi. Traditional dance often accompanies the drumming, which is frequently seen in celebrations and family gatherings. Some Burundian artisans have special songs to accompany different stages of their work. 

Burundian-Belgian musicians like Éric Baranyanka from the Burundese royal family, Ciza Muhirwa and, especially, Khadja Nin, have more recently gained prominence. Since the music is from the mind and soul, it manily expresses what the people in Burundi feel and what they think when they beat the drums.

One feature of Burundian men’s folk songs is the inanga accompaniment. The following videos are Burundian music, folk, and contemporary.


-Bunrundi authors: 

  • Donatien Bihute (1940– )
  • Antoine Kaburahe (1965– )
  • Daniel Kabuto
  • Esther Kamatari (1951– )
  • Colette Samoya Kiruya (1952– )
  • Barbara Kururu Ndimurukundo (1950– )
  • David Niyonzima (1959– )
  • Marc Rwabahungu (1956– )
  • Richard Ndayizigamiye (1964 – )
  • Dieudonné Ntakarahera (1964 – )
  • Louis Kamatari


Culture of Burundi


Burundi Map

(Enlarged map)

Map: Burundi

Fast Facts

Bujumbura; 378,000
27,834 square kilometers (10,747 square miles)
Kirundi, French, Swahili
Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs, Muslim, Protestant
Burundi franc
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $500
Literacy Percent:


Burundi Flag


File:Flag of Burundi.svg




Map: Burundi

Small, poor, densely populated, and landlocked, Burundi lies just south of the Equator in central Africa. From the capital, Bujumbura, on Lake Tanganyika, a great escarpment rises to fertile highlands. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the people, with most being subsistence farmers. Since independence in 1962, Burundi has been plagued by ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus and the Tutsis, who tend to dominate the government and army—but are only 14 percent of the population. A 2003 cease-fire and new government offer hope for peace.


  • Industry: Light consumer goods (blankets, shoes, soap), assembly of imported components
  • Agriculture: Coffee, cotton, tea, corn; beef
  • Exports: Coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, hides


Photo: Burundi drummers performing a tribal ceremony

Burundi drummers perform during a tribal ceremony in Ninga.

Photograph by Bruno De Hogues/Getty Images

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition





Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized