A Week in Africa with Obama

…I’m not there, of course!

But Ari Shapiro,В NPR’s White House correspondent, is. And he’s documenting the trip on his fabulous Tumblr, “Ari in Africa.”В It’s a fascinating (and often funny) behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to travel in the presidential press corps. As Shapiro puts it:

Traveling in the presidential bubble is not exactly tourism. Exotic cities whiz by on streets that have been cleared of traffic. Hours that a tourist might spend wandering museum halls instead tick by in “press filing centers,” which tend to be windowless hotel ballrooms.

Days are booked from early in the morning until late at night. But if they’re lucky, reporters manage to break away from all that and get a “15-minute vacation”—a real taste of local culture via a meal in a neighborhood joint that hasn’t been prearranged for them, a quick walk on the beach, etc. (As someone who’s been on numerous press tours, I can certainly attest to how precious those moments are—they really make the whole trip worth it!)

Shapiro’s Tumblr has funny insights about reporting from the corps, interesting factoids about Africa, great snapshots of ObamaВ and gorgeous photos from when he can find those “15-minute vacations”—like the one below.

senegal sunset

Definitely check it out, while he—and Obama—are still there.

(Photo by Ari Shapiro via Ari in Africa)

What’s the Soundtrack of Your Life?

Last week, I stumbled upon an interesting project via NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog: The Guardian‘s “Six Songs of Me” initiative seeks to understand why music is so intertwined to human culture and why we love the songs we do.

To get to the root of these (and other) questions, they’re asking people to name songs that best answer these questions:

  • What was the first song you ever bought?
  • What song always gets you dancing?
  • What song takes you back to your childhood?
  • What is your perfect love song?
  • What song would you want at your funeral?
  • Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.

You can submit your answers here and browse and listen to others’ responses. The Guardian‘s “Six Songs of Me” blog also spotlights answers from music bloggers and famous musicians. While I don’t quite understand how they’re going to make sense of all the data they collect, the responses are a lot of fun to read. (What’s especially nice is that almost all the answers are well-known pop songs and not pretentious, obscure tracks!)

Of course, I had to answer the questions, too. Here are my responses:

  • What was the first song you ever bought? Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill”–I think that was the first album I actually purchased with my own money. I was 11 or 12 years old and I cringe at what I was unknowingly singing about.
  • What song always gets you dancing?В Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”–it reminds me of dancing at my sister’s wedding!
  • What song takes you back to your childhood? Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” brings me back to the jazz dance classes I took as a kid!
  • What is your perfect love song? John Lennon’s “Woman.” Seriously, find me one woman who wouldn’t want to hear those words from the person they love.
  • What song would you want at your funeral?В Israel Kamakawiwo’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Pretty, uplifting and optimistic for a bleak occasion I don’t even want to think about it!
  • Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you. “Call Me Maybe.” Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Um, just look at this blog–every other post is about much I love my hometown. No other explanation needed. 😉

What would be your songs?

(Image fromВ audioklassiks viaВ bippityboppityboo)