Coltan, the new blood diamond

A poorly written article about an interesting subject: Coltan in Congo.

http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/1018593–coltan-a-minefield-in-the-congo

Coltan: The mineral is composed of two elements, columbite and tantalite,It is the latter metal, tantalite — ductile, corrosion-resistant, heat-resistant — that has trumped aluminum in the manufacture of such critical electronic components as capacitors, which store a device’s electronic charge.

Tantalite is one of the “Ts” in the group of “3TG conflict minerals” named in recent American legislation, along with tin, tungsten and gold.

That’s really the most interesting part I gleaned from the article. Of course it does go on a long windy tour of the Congo’s troubles… it’s so blah to read .. like a 7th grader posing as a journalist. I would recommend looking elsewhere for further information. Like here: http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/resource-center/coltan.html

A mix bag of why I can’t stand this article…

It is a glorious day.  < — a sentence placed arbitrarily by itself at the beginning of the article. No, not the VERY beginning to set up the scene but spaced between a description of the of a senator and lush greenery, and a paragraph comparing the Congo to Rwanda or Vietnam.

K, quick note to writers.. often you make comparisons so that your audience can use what they know (have experienced first hand) to make a connection. Chances are your average reader in Toronto has not been to Congo, Rwanda and.. though it’s the most likely of the 3.. not been to Vietnam either. So, really.. you can compare it to that if it’s something we’ve seen in films but otherwise.. pointless. It also seems like you were grappling for this point when you realized ‘hrm.. Rwanda is a bit too similar to Congo.. maybe I should choose a place further away.. yea that’ll work’.

In Masisi the sweet peas are white, the lupines are purple, and the senator, in his straw hat and pink golf shirt, looks the part of the weekend farmer, which he is, crowing that he produces the finest Gouda cheese in all the Congo.

Ok, let’s look at it like this: In my pencil case the erasers are pink, the pens are blue and in his pink ballet tutu – looking like a little ballerina, which she is – Muffy the gerbil brags of her ability to weave baskets.

  … did that seem odd to you? Like.. how did she go from listing noun+adj noun +adj to something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.. where is the symmetry? There isn’t any. It’s not even a creative twist.. it’s just totally random. Not to mention the fact.. where aren’t sweet peas white? (yes I realize they can be pink.. but white ones are NOT only in Maisi) Where aren’t lupines purple? Again, no observation worth noting here.. not vivid picture out of the ordinary.. You could just say the man with a pastel pink shirt and straw hat fit right in amongst the sweet peas and purple stalks of lupine. But you didn’t.. you failed again. ugh.. and made this article jarring on the eyes. I hate bad writing (shut up.. spelling mistakes are different and could happen to anyone.. I’m talking about style here).

And for those of you thinking ‘well maybe she was just having an off day?’ Yea, okay, I’ll give you that.. but look how bloody long the article is.. you’d think it would have righted itself at some point.. if that were the case. ughh.. but no.

ARGH properly introduce abbreviations to your audience.

The act compels the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to put into effect regulations requiring companies to disclose minerals sourced from the DRC or an adjoining country,

DRC? Dr. Coaltrain? Damn Red Crows? oh oh.. if I went back to paragraph 2 (which was really the first ‘paragraph’) – before you the other 5 instances where you referred to the country solely as ‘Congo’  – I would see Democratic Republic of the Congo. It would have helped to keep me reading seamlessly to use the abbreviation shortly (within the paragraph or the next) after that .. but no..

Directly following a paragraph where you describe Canada’s stance on the control/trafficking of these ‘conflict materials’ as flaccid. Which is great cause it compares our policies to a phallus. I’d like to point out that actually.. in more than one language out there Canada is given the female gender (Polish, Czech for example.. feel free to write me with more). In which case ‘flaccid’ is not a surprising adjective at all. Naturally you flow to this:

The rich vista of Masisi demands a more romantic set-up than that. Tantalum. From Tantalus, the son of Zeus, he who robbed the gods of their ambrosia. How Tantalus was made to suffer for his sins! Water to slake his thirst flowed teasingly close, then ebbed away too quickly. Luscious fruit hung, pendulous and full, before it swayed just out of reach.

wtf? Not even.. omg.. did you just copy and paste that??? Totally changing writer’s perspective “he who robbed the gods of their…” Dost thou hath control over thy quill? Or does it go on autopilot sometimes?

Ohhh and LOVE THIS.. seriously, I’m not the one editing this together.. straight from the article:

The surrounding highlands beckon. Today they are adorned with beans and cassava and grazing lands for cows. Might they be fat with the rich, black mineral too?

The senator is a man of large appetites — “Where are the strawberries?” he suddenly asks one of his employees — and wounded sensibilities. “We come from trouble,” he affirms, speaking to the long-term “instability” in the eastern Congo.

I can hear some of your thoughts “did she just link big fat black beans to a senator of the Congo?” Yes, yes she did.. and it wasn’t me.. go and see for yourself, that is just as it appears in the article. You are not only a poor writer but an offensive one.. probably without even knowing it. Just like ‘mind the gap’, ‘beware the linkage’.

Next paragraph:

Now there’s a term that needs pumping up. The Congo, and especially the eastern provinces, has suffered horrific tragedies. Deaths in the millions. The systematic rape of women. Forced labour, child labour, child soldiers. The economy collapsed long ago. The country is an open wound.

What term? Oh.. you’re referring to the previous paragraph.. oh but there are two terms in quotations there.. so.. do you mean ‘trouble’ as stated by the man who is from that country and lives there? Or your own self assessed ‘instability’.. a label you’ve given it?

Either way, I’m not sure ‘pumping up’ is the most attuned way of saying it needs more attention. Pumping is associated with rapid gunfire and.. well you did mention rape.. so really, you’re just putting your audience off before you even feed them what they need to know. .. and I know this cause I do it too. haha

Another strap across the wrist for not knowing how to use a thesaurus:

The site’s diggers have been temporarily redeployed to the task of benching a cliff recently hit by a mudslide that has unleashed an avalanche of loamy, chocolate-brown soil. At midday the workers appear to deploy little energy toward this effort. A small crew of handymen toils at repairing a sluice box.

… redeployed and deploy.. I’m sure you thought no one would notice you couldn’t think of another word at this point in your meandering article but.. yeea. The obvious verb that often goes with energy (for future reference) is exert. If you don’t like that one here’s a handy reference since I assume you have access to the internet to upload your cruddy articles: http://www.thesaurus.com   Please use it.

Overall I find this article too painful to give more than a rough skim past that point.. and the ending.. blaaahhhh..

The diamond dealer says the country is full of mining lore. Sorcerers cast spells. They can, you know, take all the minerals away.

… you went from an article about Coltan to.. throwing in a bit of diamonds and rounding it off there. Oh, I’ll put in this mythicizer at the end and call it a day.

And to that I say; pens, pencils, crayons are all very easy to manipulate.. script, text and type – not so much.

No no no.. that’s far to sensible to match the content of this article.

May your quetzals fly long and tall.  … there, not I can call it a day.

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About yolandalenin

I talk a lot. ______________________________________________________________________ I write even more.
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