The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: July 2007

Fifty-three Points of Light

In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.
—Ryszard Kapuscinski

Nairobi—Looking at Africa from afar — the only view most of us have — is like gazing at a switchboard of fifty-three lights winking endlessly on and off. A bright spot appears in South Africa when Nelson Mandela emerges from prison, while another light signals the return of rain to Ethiopia; elsewhere, darker events run their course and night falls in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia. The Congo, having burned its fuse decades ago, seems permanently saddled with Joseph Conrad’s epithet, but soon a new glimmer appears to the west: Liberia’s Charles Taylor has wound up in the Hague. Blood diamonds are replaced by the Iron Lady, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who in 2006 becomes the country’s president and Africa’s first Big Woman. With peace comes electricity, both flooding the war-ravaged capital for the first time in fifteen years. At last! The streetlights are on in Monrovia. (more…)

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Posted in Notes From Vancouver  •  2 Comments

Black Magic

After a brief grey moment, a weekend to doubt and reflect, Conrad Black is back in the saddle, launching barbs, issuing challenges, regretting nothing. As it must be, his conviction on three counts of mail fraud and one of obstructing justice has become the staging ground for yet another bellicose assault. Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, have manufactured their own particular kind of celebrity and they must now fight to preserve it.

Black’s rekindled engagement in this “long war” (in which he will now “take the gloves off“) is a posture, a necessary stance, if not a necessary fiction. Some time long ago, Black ceased being a maverick businessman, a takeover specialist, a backroom deal-maker, and media baron; he became an icon, a man representative of a way of being, if not of an age or era. In many respects, I sensed, the Chicago trial bored him as much as shareholders’ rights annoyed him: Black had moved on, left the boardroom to write laudatory appraisals of US presidents, to cement his own place in history not as a tycoon but as a man of letters. While worthy in their own right, these biographies cannot escape the subtext of attempts by Black to assert himself within the presidential orbit and as a great man of his time. (more…)

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An Oven Launch in Oven Town

“It’s the biggest usable cavity in the field right now,” said Graham Sadtler, designer of the kitchen appliance we are admiring. We are at the launch of a new oven on what may be the hottest day of the summer so far in Toronto.

Sadtler, who wears a suit-friendly faux-hawk and tasteful rubber plugs in his earlobes, is explaining the four years of research and work that went into creating this new high-end oven (in the range—ha ha—of $5,000), made by Thermador, the North Carolina outfit who created the first in-wall oven—or, as it was known in the original 1955 literature, “a bilt-in range” (sic). Just as “bilt” seems a better-designed word, when you think about it, than the boxier, over-vowelled “built,” the oven we are looking at says “engineering” rather than “hearth” or “bread pudding.” It looks, in fact, like a cross between a smoky limousine window and a flat-screen TV. (more…)

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A self-confessed double agent for Saddam Hussein’s notorious intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, and Israel’s Mossad, has returned to Canada. How he engineered his escape, whether Canada delivered a man into torture, and whether Hussein Ali Sumaida has finally found sanctuary, are all part of a haunting, on-going, and disturbing tale.

Click here to read the Walrus Online Exclusive.

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