Friday, April 28, 2006

"Flush with Cash"

As you do your numbers one and two, spare a thought a German pensioner who flushed money down the toilet. The poor man sent down £10,400 worth of Deutschmarks, believing they were no longer legal tender because of they now use Euros. Luckily some of it (which had blocked the sewage system) was recovered, and he exchanged it in at the bank. The recurring remark in all the news reports has been – you guessed it – “it wasn’t clear if he laundered the money before handing it in.” The pun writers had a field day with that one.

I once lost a large amount of money too - £160. You may scoff, but to me, that money could have been my pension, pocket money, emergency savings, and trust fund rolled into one.

The money arrived as £200 via the international banking network otherwise known as friends and family in transit. As a jobless nearly graduate £40 went to essentials, such as transport, food, and Ladbrokes. The importance of the money was never far from my mind, it would go towards paying off a university debt (probably library fines) so that I could graduate. It was always in a white envelope on the study desk in the living room. After a bit of procrastination, I would pay it into the university’s account.

However, my cousin inadvertently had other plans for the money. This was a council flat in glamorous Barking, east London, and he had to keep up appearances. So he did something never ever done by bachelors this side of the Thames, he tidied up. And in the throes of killing all known germs dead, and attacking evil dust particles with Flash, he chucked my mother’s hard earned 160 quid in the bin.

This tidying up took place while I was in church asking God for financial manna from heaven. I was hoping that my miracle would be on its way. Alas. The nest morning, I noticed the envelope had disappeared. “Oh, that white envelope? I chucked it in the bin yesterday,” said he. And the bin? Down the rubbish chute, 13 floors down.

I found the building caretaker (I never knew it had one) and convinced him to open the bin room at the back of the building. After giving me the spiel about health and safety, and authorisation, an offer of backshish did the trick. He opened the bin room. And something hit me, the smell. I smelled the bags before I even saw them, it appears that smell was travelling faster than light. I rolled up my sleeves, and dug in, a red ribbon bound BSc. Hons paper was at stake. The task was slightly easier than it could have been, since we were searching for a bag with a pizza carton bulge.

Still holding my nose with one hand, while looking for an angular bulge from any the bags, the caretaker made small talk. “Good thing they took the bins this morning, it could have been worse.” What? My bin wouldn’t even be among these ones. The local council had done a rare thing indeed, and picked up the bins on time. I left the rubbish, went upstairs, sulked for a bit, then went to the Ladbrokes. There’s got to be a winner at the 3.25 at Newmarket.

The moral of the story? Don’t live with a tidiness freak cousin in a borough council where the bin-men are efficient. I did graduate happily ever after.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I ain't scared of no ghost!

I had a real chuckle when I heard this story on the radio yesterday, and even now when I think about it, I smile. It's Barnsley in South Yorkshire, where Roger Froggat and his missus, Kathryn, are having a kip in t' bedroom, nae bother, when they hear summat. The Froggats live above the pub they run, (Low Valley Arms), so Mrs Froggat sends him to investigate (what a brave man), and perhaps swing a cricket bat if he can muster the courage. He gets to the pub, only to find that there are no balaclava'd men in dark tights and plimsols filling their bag of swag with reassuringly expensive Stella Artois bottles and Golden Wonder crisps.

Instead, what he saw alarmed him somewhat - all the television screens were on. Of course this is no reason to be alarmed, after all we don't all have satelite television. And with new episodes of Grey's Anatomy showing on Living TV, and Desperate Housewives showing on E4, I can see how one can break into a pub to watch cable. Why all the tellies? Surround sound, you should try it sometime.

But it didn't end there, what Roger saw next scared the freckles off his face. He went to the toilets, only to see a ghost of a woman in a flowing white gown - and get this - with half her face missing! So he did what any self-respecting man would do (regardless of even if he had to impress a wife waiting upstairs for a progress report), he called the police.

Operator: Hello, 999 emergency, ambulance, fire, or police?

Mr Froggat: Well, me heart is now in me mouth, so I need an ambulance. The fire service could probably trap her with that foam jobby, like in Ghostbusters, and a copper could arrest her for scaring me.

Operator: Calm down sir, what exactly happened.

Mr Froggat: I saw a ruddy ghost, with half her face missing, is what happened.

Operator: Sir, I hope you haven't wasted our time and possibly endangered the lives of people in genuine distress trying to get through to the emergencies services. This is 999, we don't do exorcisms. Call your parish priest for that. Sir.

Mr Froggat: I'm right scared, I am. Honest.

Operator: Okay, out of the goodness Her Majesty's constabulary, we'll send a squad car round.

So the policemen arrive at the pub and go to the toilets to seek out Barnsley's very own Carlotta Valdes. And lo, what do they see? Pub toilets flushing of their own accord. Nobody tugging at the flush chains, no lager louts (on the odd occasion that they remember to flush) kicking the cubicle in frustration, just pub toilets peaceably flushing. That in itself is worth ten apparitions. The coppers were obviously scared, but didn't see any immediate threat, and didn't call for back-up. Independently flushing toilets? They'd never live it down back at the nick.

I'm sure the story was actually reported because there were upstanding members of the community to witness the dodgy happenings. If the pub landlord had mentioned it to any of his regulars, he would have been laughed out of his own pub, or even sectioned for being one G&T short of a distillery. But there were witnesses, and these ones were credible witnesses. I know what you're thinking, coppers fiddle evidence all the time. But even a copper as bent as a coat hanger wouldn't make this story up.

It's all rather confusing. I'm thinking, on the one hand, of course ghosts exists you silly bottoms. What do you think we Africans have been saying for centuries? Serves you right for not listening to us. On the other hand, I don't believe in ghosts, so it's just very funny for its silliness. Très amusant.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Carmen with clicks

The South African film industry has another critical hit on its hands with U-Carmen eKhayelitsha. Hot on heels of Oscar winning Tsotsi, U-Carmen is a Xhosa language film based on Bizet's opera Carmen, and it won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival last year. I heard a sample on the radio, and was blown away. The clicks (which are synonymous with the Xhosa language), in a rather strange way, sounds beautiful over Bizet's score. Looking at the trailer (below), you can see that the film is well shot. It has a red City of God dustiness, the ordre du jour for modern depictions of poverty stricken inner cities. The music also sounds glorious, borrowing from the deep well of SA choral singing talent.

What amazes me is how vibrant the SA film industry is. Tsotsi and U-Carmen have been praised no end in the international media, and Mark Dornford-May (director of U-Carmen) appears to have permanently set up camp there. Hotel Rwanda was also shot in SA. Apparently, SA used to be a popular destination for the filming of advertisements, and I can imagine that the old Land Rover Freelander adverts were shot there. And possibly the popular Guiness Man adverts.

But the rand strengthened and it became too expensive to shoot them there, so the industry reverted to making homegrown films for homegrown audiences. This way, it could sustain itself and if a film did well abroad, recoup some money. But the important thing is making the films for local consumption with local identities, but with universal appeal. That is the attaraction of the Tsotsis and U-Carmens of this world. Both local and international at once.

The SA government also deserves credit for funding filmmaking. I'm sure no other Anglophone African government does that. The Francophone countries make very good films, and the film festival Fespaco (which is for all of Africa) is consistently dominated by Francophone films. This is probably because of the exchange of ideas which has remained between France and her former colonies since independence. France has never really let go, and constant cultural exchange has taken place for decades. Which is why people such as filmmaker Ousmane Sembène and singer Youssou N'dour are legends in France, but relative unknowns in the English speaking world.

The main difference between Nollywood and SA is that SA has genuine expertise, rather Nollywood's one man band running around with a camcorder filming his friends putting on ridiculous American accents, and making up the script as they go along. Genuine filmmaking knowledge would mean that international film houses can come to Nigeria to shoot films. Nigeria has a vast and varied landscape, from desert in the north to equatorial savannah in the south - who wouldn't want to film there? However, it seems Nigeria's all land and no knowledge with which to use the land. Nollywood, watch and learn.

The blasted thing refuses to embed, but here's the link to the trailer:

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I am not my hair

"I am not my hair" is the title of the new single by India Arie, featuring Akon. In the video, she's seen with a variety of hairstyles, while Akon sings about how his couldn't get a job until he cut his hair. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a topic close to my heart. I decided to grow my hair a few years ago, mainly because I was tired of cutting it, which I felt was a boring option. Ever since then, my friends have made noise about my hair. "When are you going to cut your hair?", "what are you trying to do with your hair?", or more commonly, "are you trying to be Gizmo Man (pictured) from the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon?" The answer to those questions are: no, I'm not cutting my hair anytime soon; I'm not particularly trying to do anything with my hair; and yes, I am trying to be Gizmo Man, who rescued his fellow Globetrotters by pulling out any and everything from his afro. If I had such superhero powers I would take out some ripe plantains, sunflower oil, free range chicken eggs, chrome finish Tefal deep fat fryer, and corned beef from an Aberdeen Angus cow, so that I can defeat that evil baddie called "Feelingus Peckishus."

I love hair. I just love hair. All you need to do is look at the floor in my room to see what I mean (I'm not molting, honest. Just little daily discharge). There have even been times when I've told friends, "oh my goodness, you should have seen the hair on this girl!" E.g. the picture on the right. Naturally, my love is for natural hair, and the inventiveness that goes with manipulating nappy African hair without having to douse it with whatever chemicals are used to tame the poor follicles. It is understandable if black women feel they have to tame the naps with weave-on, extensions or whatever. White people might have invented the phrase "bad hair day", but do they really know what it means? And if black women didn't go to work with tamed hair, there might civil unrest in the workplace.

But. The way we black people look at our hair is based on presumptions of what people expect of us. In school in Africa, we were made to comb out hair everyday with regimental discipline. Several boys even had combs in their pockets. However, as soon I moved to school in England, I could afford to not comb my hair. Four afro-haired boys (five at its peak) in a sea of over a thousand blond, brown and red haired white boys meant that teachers had little experience of afro hair, and didn't have any idea as to what was combed, and what was uncombed. So I stopped combing my hair everyday. Because just like cavemen discovered that striking two rocks together could give them flames, I discovered that when I didn't comb my hair, nobody said owt*. The black boys could also cut all their hair off i.e. go bald (which was banned) without anyone batting an eyelid. Of course there the little jibes such as, "your hair doesn't move", and "microphone head, testing, testing". Luckily, there was no baa baa black sheep, cos I might have decapitated some white boy.

As an adult though, there has been some unexplainable antipathy to me braiding my hair. Apparenty, it's "gangsta", a responsible man such as myself should not have corn rows, and, oh, it's un-African. Who ever said I was responsible, who says all gangstas use the same hairdresser, and what on earth does unAfrican** mean? The last time I went to Nigeria, I had this conversation with my mum, in the car on the way to church:

Mama: Nkemakonam, won't you comb your hair? This hair that you've refused cut.

Moi: (taking out my lock and hold gel) I'm not combing it today, Mama. I'm going to try something else.

Mama: We're going to church, this is not the time to try something else.

Moi: It's just twists, it's no big deal.

Mama: You boys in England, hmm? That's how I heard how D pierced his ears, nose, eyelids, and-

Moi: Mum, he only pierced his left ear, and like I said, this is just twists. It's perfectly reversible, no need to panic.

So I get the gel, put it in my hair, performed all the rituals. At this point, I was willing to deal with any objections she might have. It's just hair for crying out loud. When we got to church she said this to me:

Mama: (smiling) You look a little bit handsome, you know.

Moi: (smiling back) Do you think it's the hair?

Mama: (now grinning like schoolgirl) I'm not saying anything.

I got a similar reponse when I went the extra mile into parental disowning territory when I had corn rows for a family wedding. I sent the pictures to my mum through an aunt. A few days later I got a call from my mum, "I hear you've plaited your hair. I haven't seen the pictures yet, but apparently you look oddly handsome in them." People, especially parents, need to open their minds and let their kids be. I'm at the age where people expect me to go to work in a suit and tie (read noose), with closely cropped hair, shiny shoes, clean fingernails, braces, bowler hat, umbrella, and pocket watch attached to my lapel. Erm, I think not. Luckily I don't work in an industry that requires me to look "presentable". Actually, I don't work at all.

So, the people I'm hoping to liberate, are the ones stuck in corporate environments, where "dressing down" means being allowed to wear Homer Simpson socks. Do corn rows one weekend and take it in to work, I would bet my house if I owned one, that your performance won't deteriorate. Take out the extensions and let the hair breathe. Your boss sure as hell can't fire you for airing your hair.

*owt - Northern term meaning anything
** A friend of mine found a book about hairstyles across pre-20th centuryAfrica pre. And guess what, African men braided their hair. UnAfrican my bottom.

ps Pandagon has an interesting blog on the politics of hair.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Food, bombs, and debts

The day started with a flurry of Nigerian news. Again. On the radio, there was a recap of the army barracks bombing. A worrying development because of what it means: 1) the militants have the expertise and training, 2)they have the funding, 3)they have the strength of belly. Then in the business section, they talked about Nigeria for a few minutes. "It's not everyday one talks about Nigeria and fiscal discipline in the same breath", said the silly woman. Nigeria is going to pay off its debts to the exploitative Paris Club money-lenders. If only they knew how much their citizens owed to Mr M Card and Ms A Express, they wouldn't have been so quick to give the Nigerian government those favourable payback conditions.

The assault continued as I opened the newspaper to see an article featuring London's finest, Obalende Suya. They even called it a restaurant, imagine that! All in all fairly positive stories. If this keeps happening, I might even have to excavate that green passport...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Little Derek

Hip-hop gets a bad rap at the best of times, and gets absolutely pummelled at the worst of times. Last year, French politicians apparently called for rappers to be prosecuted over the riots which set Parisian suburbs ablaze for weeks. I haven't followed the developments, but if they succeed it'll set an interesting precedent over the responsibility of artists for their music. Legally, it'll be in the same vein as journalists who were jailed for inciting genocide in Rwanda.

UK hip-hop doesn't get enough airplay or exposure, which is why selling a mere 20,000 copies of an album is considered successful. Shame that, because there are some very good artists out there, and Derek "
Sway" Safo is one of the very best. He won a MOBO last year, and was one of several Africans (he's Ghanaian) who did well in an awards show traditionally dominated by winners of Caribbean origin. Taken from the album This is my Demo, "Little Derek" is a song I listen to whenever I need to keep my head up. Just look at the way things are around you and think, actually, "Little 'insert name' is doign okay..." Lyrics courtesy of top-lyrics and video from solly4life. "Little Rachael" doesn't make it onto the video, but she's on the single, and I've included her lyrics if you're interested.

Little Derek's doing okay(yeah)
Little Derek's doing fine (fine)
Little Derek's doing cool (cool)
You know how we do

Stepped out my house I'm feelin fresh and brand new
Olu did the trimmery and I done the hairdo
And everything I wear's new
Maharishi Jacket, Puma top,
Box-fresh jeans and nike cam boots
Sprayed a little versace dream around me too
So every girl I pass is like oo-oooh
Police don't pull us over like woo-woo
Cuz their kids watch MTV and channel U

But life ain't always been fine like baby blue
Cuz when u do UK rap you're number two
Cuz the USA ain't giving us space to break through
So I'm on the grind trying to pioneer a breakthrough
Gotta keep the punters happy, to tango it takes two
And it seems like I'm the rapper the people take to
I've never had alot, with what I've got I've made do
And now I'm blowin up in this bitch like move-move-move

[Chorus x2]
Little Derek's okay(yeah)
Little Derek's doing fine (fine)
Little Derek's doing cool (cool)
You know how we do

Step out the ride I'm feeling nice and quite fly
I'm trying to reach the top I see the top is quite high
Steady on my grind, tryin to get my face up in the source
So I keep by faith up in the boss
Up in the bright white sky

Getting calls from these record label bosses like hi
Head up in inside their offices
And listen to their promises
But no-one's made me offers yet that I could not deny

And I been making profits of this my mix tapes raw
Life ain't always been pretty like nah
On the north side of the city where its gritty like pie
We did what we had to done to get by
Hoping not get caught up in no silly drive-by
Little derek wrote lyrics while the others got high
And he ended up in HMV instead of HMP
Cuz street life could only end one way
Your friend crying on the scene like why, why, why?

[Chorus x2]
Little Derek's okay(yeah)
Little Derek's doing fine (fine)
Little Derek's doing cool (cool)
You know how we do

(Baby Blue)
Knowin real fame
That's what I used to dream about
That everyone would know my name
And they would scream it out
Knowing my song words and sing along too
And I would walk down the street and hear blue, blue, blue

My video's rotating
So I got these execs debating
About whether I'm taking
And these RnB guys is asking the same thing
Calling up my phone, wondering whether I'm dating

I turn my passion to career how could I lose out?
Quit my nine to five so I don't have to sell shoes now
My CDs are moving
That's the route that I'm choosing
So I got to make it through, through, through
Little Rachael used to look up to the sky too
Analyse the planets and wonder if I could shine too
So now they ask how I'm doing I say
Little Rachael's doing okay


[Chorus x2]
Little Derek's okay(yeah)
Little Derek's doing fine (fine)
Little Derek's doing cool (cool)
You know how we do

Not-so-little African Shirts is doing okay...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Jesucristo el Radical

In a spirit of Easter resurrection cheer, and in a rebuff to those who think I'm a heretical blasphemous anti-Christian propangandist, I dedicate this blog to the philosophy and politics of Jesucristo. Oh, and also pure pragmatism, as I'd like to have as many "favourable documents" as possible to show Saint Peter when I reach the Pearly Gates. "What do you mean you won't let me in? But I said He was a radical, surely that episode got me some Brownie points. No? You wait while I fetch my posse..."

The most common complaint that people make about Jesucristo is that He is irrelevant to modern times. They didn't have the internet in ancient Judea, nor did they have gas guzzling SUVs. WWJD - what would Jesus drive? Donkey, duh... However, good philosophy stays the distance and can be relevant to any epoch, ancient or modern. And as the Christian faith is being attacked from all angles by Da Vinci Code conspiracy theories, and Judas gospel (the scoundrel!) fantasists, all good men must stand up for the teachings of Jesucristo.

Now, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, so I cannot be wrong. Do not even attempt to contradict me, lest I strike thee down with the Lord's staff of wrath. Thank you for your submission, sorry, cooperation.

  1. European Working Time Directive, which seeks to restrict the working hours of employees all over Europe, so that they can live healthy lives, work-life balance, and all that good stuff. Would Jesucristo support it? Yes. He was all about chilling and relaxing. In fact I'd go as far as to say that he saw himself as a walking health spa. "Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28
  2. Jesucristo was in full support of women's rights, since after all, His father hadn't married His mother when she fell preggars, and people in Judea must have thought evil of his mother, "you dirty *insert expletives*". Also, the fact that He allowed that reformed slapper Mary Magdalene at His feet while He was on the cross. - Mark 15:40
  3. Jesucristo would have opposed "tescoisation/walmartisation" of the Christian faith. He would have railed against the BOGOF (buy one get one free) gospel, the half price on miracles this weekend, and the teachings of the Gospel according to Greenback. Otherwise, why would have kicked out the men in suits, ringing tills and holding calculators in the temple? - Matthew 21
  4. Alcohol. One of the more contentious of Christian doctrine. The popular argument in favour of copious consumption of alcohol is the fact that one of Jesucristo most popular miracles was turning water into wine in John 2. Even atheists would have such a man at their dinner party in a heartbeat. There's also Jesucristo, in Luke 22, giving his disciples wine at the Last Supper (even though the word "wine" isn't stated explicitly in the King James Version, but traditionally they would have had wine at the Passover). But the clincher is Mark 2:22 when He talks expertly about wine storage, "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles." If I didn't know any better, I'd have said Jesucristo was a wine distiller by trade and not a carpenter. Did he have a cellar full of 59BC Pinot Noirs? Sounds like it.
  5. Sex. What would Jesucristo have made of sex in today's highly sexualised world? I dunno, this is not sermon. Go somewhere else for that.
  6. The UN World Food Programme. With 8 million people in East Africa facing starvation, the WFP could do with Jesucristo's fish and bread multiplying skills right now, or just some money from the donors. In Matthew 14, his disciples said that they had only five loaves of bread and two fishes, but He fed five thousand people with that, and still had left-overs. Wastrels! Sad thing is, such a miracle done today would have been decried by the anti-GM lobby. Instant fish and bread, just add water!
  7. Global warming. Jesucristo would say it was our fault the world was heating up (which frankly I have no problem with, you should be here in winter). Why? Because we, as human beings, have control over the fate of our planet. If not, in Mark 4:35-41, He would not have told them to deal with the storm themselves. Back then he told them to rebuke the winds and command it to stop. This is obviously an indication of how much things have deteriorated. Back then, one could just talk to the weather and tell the silly thing to calm down. But now, one has to armed to the teeth with portable fans, umbrellas, arctic winter jackets, and blind faith in the weatherman's guesses.
  8. Vegetarians. Ah. Would Jesucristo have approved of vegetarianism? I fear he may have, and this is where me and the great man part ways . In Luke 7:28, Jesucristo said of John the Baptist, "Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist". And this of a man who, in Matthew 3:4, ate locusts and wild honey. Heaven forfend!

And there concludes the lesson on the philosophy of Jesús, hijo de Dios (son of God). I hope I have succeeded in painting him as a sandal wearing, lentil eating, Guardian reading, left-wing, feminist, eco-warrior, antiestablishment, anti-globalisation, flower child, radical. Peace be upon thee, dude.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"The people have spoken...

...but it will take a while to determine exactly what they said." Thus said Bill Clinton about the 2000 US elections when hanging and pregnant chads were determining who'd move their furniture into the White House. And in a way, the same thing has happened in Italy, where the cruise ship crooner, SilvioBerlusconi, and the professor, Romano Prodi are having a staring contest. Whoever dares to blink will lose the elections.

George Bush is apparently one of the few important leaders not have called Prodi to congratulate him. Most news reports put this down to Bush and Berlusconi love-in, leftist Prodi (and his merry band of communists) would be antithetical to any Bush doctrine. Bush is in tow with Big Business, while Berlusconi, as the 25th richest man in the world is Big Business. Bush went to Iraq, Berlusconi followed. I reckon the more realistic reason is pure pragmatism. Bush knows that it only needs a judge in a state governed by your brother to win an election, so he might be waiting for some of Italy's infamously corrupt judges to keep his friend in power.

Yesterday I spoke to a couple of Italian citizens in London; Italians abroad now vote in as many as 12 MPs, and six senators. My first question to them was: who did you vote for? I dispensed with the niceties of "how are you... I know it's terribly rude to ask one how they voted, but if you'd kindly indulge me..." Straight for the jugular. The first guy said he didn't vote because he liked neither of them. He said they were both "shitty". In hindsight, did he mean the adverb "shitty" or was it his Italian accent where he added "y" to the end of every word, in which case he meant the adjectival form? Hardly makes a difference, but clarity matters, ya dig? The second guy, Vincenzo (can one get a more typically Italian name than that?) said he voted for Berlusconi. So I grabbed him by the neck and headbutted him, before sticking his head in the toilet bowl and pushing the flush lever. Okay, I only did the grabbing by the neck bit, but in that restrained way when you want to strangle someone you love. Prodi, he reminded me, had presided over a faltering economy in his previous tenure as PM, and - his main beef - Prodi's union was filled with communists, practising and fallen. At which point I should have reminded him (I forgot) that Berlusconi's party is filled with fascists, practising and fallen, most famously, Il Duce's granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini (pictured above, in her Playboy days).

It seems that for a lot of elections and politics these days, it is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Since politics is "showbiz for ugly people", why not just make it a proper beauty contest. That way people can ignore political parties and policies, and vote for who they really like. Look at the pecks on that Tony Blair, phwoarh!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More media stuff

There's a funny scene in an episode of Series 2 of BBC's con artist programme Hustle. Con man Danny has so many different mobile phones, each one used for a different persona. It obviously helps, if one is running several cons simultaneously, to use a different individual persona for each con. He has labels on the back of each phone, so when it rang, he would look at the label, answer and say, "How are you, love? I have a haemorrhoidectomy to perform" - he's definitely a surgeon. Or he might say, "Sorry I haven't returned your calls, positively busy around here, old chap. I've been shooting peasants. Forgive me, did I say peasants? I meant pheasants. Don't get me wrong, we do shoot peasants as well, but only in winter when they try to steal grain from the silo"- landed gentry, methinks.

Meanwhile, back on earth... Listen to this on PM, fast forward to 50 minutes into the programme. You can tell that 1) he had just woken up and was trying to figure out which of his numerous scams the call was about, and 2) he is so blatantly Nigerian.

In today's Guardian, philosopher Julian Baggini attempts to understand NFA secretary general Fanny Amun's (picture) endorsement of bribes. This reminds me of the first time I realised how much work had to be done to make Nigeria a "normal" country. The man sitting beside me in the plane was a software engineer, trained at a top Jesuit college in Bibleland, Texas, or was it Bibleopia, Virginia? I forget. He schooled me on the ethics of Nigerian day-to-day life. According to him, there was nothing wrong with accepting bribes. A bribe is - and these were his words - "an incentive" for one to do their job. Imagine that, an incentive to do something you're already paid to do. I know what you're thinking. Do they actually make people like this? Apparently so.

Tony Allen, Jude Dibia

Some Nigerians on the radio today, and not for a "I am the spawn of Abacha, and I have dodgy loot to remove from the country" type letter. These Nigerians are doing good things. Fela's former drummer, Tony Allen, was featured on Radio 4's flagship Today programme, with Brian Eno (music theorist par excellence) calling him, "probably the greatest drummer that ever lived". Praise indeed. Listen here.

On the BBC World Service, there was Jude Dibia (pictured) talking about his book Walking with Shadows - Nigeria's first gay novel. The obvious question: is he gay? I've done a teensy bit of research, and there's nothing to indicate that he is. If he is though, he'd be Nigeria's first gay public figure, at least as his stock rises. But even if he isn't gay, he should be applauded for writing about a taboo subject. Nigeria is the kind of place where someone will place a fatwa on his head for writing such. I look forward to reading the book when it comes out over here. I just hope it is simply a good book, and not one being hyped because Jolomi and Eze are doing the dirty in the boys' quarters. Nigeria's Sun has a small profile of him.

Tourist Attraction?

After reading Jackie Kay's nightmare account of meeting her father, I wished for some good news about Nigeria. And hey presto! I found one. Now, don't take Francis Gilbert's words seriously, he's a dodgy bloke. I heard him on Radio 4's Start the Week flogging his new book, during which he slagged off the Nigerian media. The man said our media was "underdeveloped" (listen to the clip from 40mins). The phrase comes to mind: he might be a sonofabitch, but he's our sonofabitch. Okay, he has a point, but what gives him the right to diss our sonofabitch? Anyhoo, rant over. He actually recommends Nigeria as a tourist destination. Pah! To quote Norman Kember, "foolhardy or rational", you'd have to be foolhardy to take his advice. Going by his account of watch Nigeria vs Gabon in Port Harcourt, he was in Nigeria in March 2005.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hotel Abuja

The Review supplement in Saturday's Guardian is a must-read for anyone interested in the arts. It looks at the arts through the prism of the written word - literature, essays, reviews etc. Nigerians have featured a fair bit in past editions, with people like Helon Habila, Helen Oyeyemi, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie popping up now and again. Imagine my excitement when I picked it up yesterday, and saw that the main article was about writer Jackie Kay's Abuja hotel reunion with her Nigerian father. My excitement was shortlived. As I read through the story, I cringed, and cowered. It was futile to hope that some thunder bolt would strike the paper before my eyes, to stop me reading it. I didn't want to continue reading it, but I had to. After all she was relaying a story about one of my kin, compatriot in nation and companion in spirit. Car crash reading.

Jackie, if you're reading this, I apologise. I'm not sure if I'm apologising for your father's Nigerianness or his Christianity. It seems you met with the very worst of both, and the combination is a very potent mix indeed. It's typically Nigerian to say, "You obviously have my genes. None of my children are dullards. Not one of them." And it is also overzealous self-regarding Christianity to make such a statement, "But if people were to know about you, they would lose their faith in God." What a load of claptrap. Jonathan has a high opinion of himself and the effect of his actions, thinking he's the arbiter of people's faith. I hope your experience hasn't put you off Nigeria forever. It is a (insert jingoistic adjective) country, and there are some sane Nigerians, and some sane Christians living in the country and elsehwhere. Honest. I'll introduce them to you - when I meeet them.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

China invents

China isn't satisfied with just being the world's next economic superpower, it wants to dominate in everything else. At the Atlanta Olympics in '96, China won the fourth highest number of medals behind USA, Russia, and Germany, by Athens in '04, it came second behind USA. I'm going to put £100 on China winning more gold medals than USA in Beijing 2008. Normally, the Chinese never figured in track and field, but people like Liu Xiang and Xing Huina changed that.

But forget about athletics, inventions is where its at. A while ago the Chinese said they invented pasta. Pasta? That most Italian of dishes wasn't invented in the land of Michelangelo, but in the far east. As if inventing pasta wasn't enough, they've now said they invented golf! What next will they say they invented? The wheel? Colin Montgomerie must be choking on his haggis and scotch. What amazes me about the Chinese is that they always appear to have evidence to back their claims.

That can't be said for Nigerians. Nigerians never claim to have invented anything, but always claim public figures. Nia Long is apparently Nigerian, Nike Alonge being her real name. She once acted in a film where she had to have a Nigerian accent, that of course must mean she's Nigerian. Rapper Nas is apparently Nigerian. His real name is Nasir Jones, and his father's name is Oludara. But the clincher is the Nasir, which must have been Nasiru, but dropped the "u" to yankify the name. Michael Jackson is apparenly Nigerian as well. Just look at the nose. Not the new nose that's falling off, or the one before that, or the one before that one, but the very first. That looked like a Benin nose to me.

What Nigerians need is a Nigerianness Verification Authority (NVA) who steal samples of suspected Nigerians' DNA. After acquiring the DNA sample, they test it for Nigerianness. They'd need things like saliva from Nasiru's mic after a performance, hair from Nike's brush in the make-up room of film set. Getting something from Michael Jackson's body that is authentic might be a bit difficult. The skin isn't his, the hair is implanted from India, the toenails are probably from a polar bear. The only way to get something authentic from him would be to engage in some shenanigans after drinking "Jesus juice". I wouldn't want to be the NVA officer to do that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rinsing off HIV

Former South African vice-president Jacob Zuma, has said the most ignorant thing ever said in relation to HIV. Jacob Zuma, said during his trial for rape, that he took a shower after having unprotected sex with a woman who was HIV-positive. He reckoned that showering would prevent him from contracting the virus. What dumbassness! A friend of Alayescoro quipped, "he probably ate it and then brushed his teeth, that would be alright." He also said that there were no condoms available, but he had to have sex with her - because when he was growing up, he was taught that it is wrong to arouse a woman and then leave her splayed on the bed without finishing the job. Spoken like a true man, "but she was aroused, honey. It would've have been a sin not to!"

On a more serious note, it is this kind of ignorance which perpetuates the spread of HIV. People raping infants in SA, because of local lore that sex with a virgin cures HIV. Or even some belief among men that they're immune from the virus. The Catholic Church preventing the use of contraception doesn't help either. The spread of HIV should not be as fast as it is today. If you look at figures from AVERT, one in five South African's are HIV-positive, five percent of Nigerians have the virus - that's over six million people. In Western Europe and North America on the other hand, HIV is more or less relegated to drug users sharing needles. The imbalance is too great, and public figure like Zuma spouting such nonsense doesn't help. What sub-Saharan Africa needs is a massive education campaign. Billboards in cities aren't enough, the message should be preached in churches, dramatised on radio and television, dissected in newspapers, permeated through the ether.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wardrobe malfunction in Mumbai

There's been a huge furore in India over Carol Gracias's wardrobe malfunction, which has seen the police coming in to investigate. In addition to more nudity in films, the malfunction supposedly demonstrates a trend of India becoming more Westernised (for worse), such public nudity being antithetical in Indian culture. I don't know about India, but it always baffles me when people bemoan "nudity" in Nigeria - people commenting on the way women dres, etcetera.

One could talk about women being topless in villages, the ease with which "commot their bobby" to breastfeed in public, or even some of the racier traditional dances we have. But I'm more interested the way some women get naked when they're fighting. The gele comes off the head and is tied round the waist, ready to do battle. I saw a few of these in my manor, Ebute Metta, yet nobody ever complained about the immorality of their nudity. "Un-Indian, "un-Nigerian", or even "un-African", is the silliest excuse anyone could give for opposing something.