Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Books Of 2014


I wish for every reader of this blog a prosperous 2015, may all your wishes become realities, and may you be careful what you wish for. Amen!
So, this time last year, I briefly reviewed a few books that I had read during that year. I will do the same this year, today. I read a lot of books this year, most of them were fiction a few were not. Unlike last year, I think this year, I read more foreign books than Nigerian ones. For the purpose of this, I would review just the ones that were fiction. 
     
The Fault in Our Stars
I will say this every time I get the chance, every single time I get the chance: Until another book comes along and takes its place, The Fault in Our Stars is THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. It was written by John Green, a man who has managed to steal my heart and become my favourite author in the space of less than 365 days – believe me; it is HARD to steal my heart, harder to do it in less than one year.
The story is about a couple of teenagers – Hazel-Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters – who both had cancer and were in love with each other. They met at a cancer support group inside ‘The Literal Heart of Jesus’ that was where they became friends, fell in love. The author built this incredible, realistic world that had this amazing ability to be both dark with the stupidity that illness is and bright with the comedy that two extra-ordinarily intelligent lovebirds were. The book, I swear, will make you laugh now and cry in two minutes – no kidding, no hype. Be prepared to laugh, to cry, to cry when you laugh and vice versa. What makes this book more amazing is that there was also a book inside it, like, most of the story was based towards another fictional story within the book titled An Imperial Affliction. Hazel was reading this book for most of the book because she loved how real it was, how true it was. Eventually she… I’m not doing this. BuyThe Fault in Our Stars and read it. You will be absolutely glad you did. Thank you, John Green, Thank you.

Americanah
Americanah was written by one of my favourite Nigerian writers, interestingly, she has also become one of my favourite Nigerian celebrities, Chimamanda Adichie. Should writers be celebrities? Not my circus, not my monkeys. Americanah is not the best Chimamanda Adichie book I have read, in fact, I have read five thousand (5,000) word stories by Adichie that could give Americanah a run for its money. Wait. In fact, I have read Adichie articles that could give Americanah a run for its money. I’m just saying it how I see it, no beef. As far as I am concerned, the book did not live up to its hype. After she wrote ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ – a fantastic book that I reviewed last year – my thoughts were that her next book would be fire. Americanah was not fire; Americanah was an extinguisher, unfortunately.
It was a story of a Nigerian girl, Ifemelu, who fell in love with a Nigerian boy, Obinze, while they were in secondary school. Then, it was the story of a girl who went to America from Nigeria. Then a story of a girl who after suffering for a while and even giving a white man a hand job one time, became this successful blogger who had on an afro and blogged about race and hair. Then it was the story of a girl who came to Nigeria after years in America and got a job with a popular magazine or something. Finally, it was a story of Obinze cheating on his wife with Ifemelu. Buy and read Americanah.

            To Kill A Mockingbird
I know. How the hell have I not read this utterly prolific book before 2014? I have not the slightest clue myself, to be honest. To Kill a Mockingbird was written by Lee Harper and till today (She’s about eighty five [85] now), she has not written any other book. I think that says everything to say about this book. I was having a discussion with a friend some time ago on Whatsapp; I told her how some books are so unprecedented that the author just has to rest his/her pen after writing them because there is nothing further to say, there’s nothing further to write. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those kinds of books.
It is the story of a man called Atticus Finch, a model of a man, a man who we all ought to want to be like. There’s nobody I would rather be in the world than Atticus. The book challenges our morals. It challenges our standards for defining right, for defining wrong. It asks questions, important, salient questions and that is the singular assignment for fiction: ask the questions that everyone else is either too busy or too freaking afraid to ask. Take a look at the titular quote and think deeply about it: ‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.Buy and read To Kill a Mockingbird; because Mockingbirds don’t do one thing for us but sing their hearts out.
  
           The Road
The end of the world as we know it is bound to make for a fascinating story and an even more fascinating read, that’s what Cormac McCarthy got right in his wonderful book, The Road. He is of course one of the greatest writers ever to put pen to paper. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t just write on paper, he inscribes his crazy thoughts in people’s minds, and that is something. Once, he said that death is the major issue in the world and writers who do not address death are unserious writers. Lol! Whatever.
The Road is a story set after Armageddon and the world had become the gray of used charcoal, and mostly dead. The best thing about the book is that almost 75% of it had just the two characters: the father and his son. The first three sentences read: ‘When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.’ and ‘Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.’ and ‘Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.’ His sentences were mostly short. His sentences are mostly short. The Road is a fascinating read, I swear, you would not want it to end, you would also not want to be alive when the world would end because of the way Cormac McCarthy paints this utterly colourless picture of life at the end: the only colours outside dreams are gray and blood. Buy and read The Road.
 
            
  
     The Perks of Being A Wallflower

I read this book last year but I read it again this year, four times. It’s small enough. It is one of the most personal books you would ever read. It was written by Stephen Chbosky, who, as far as I know has not written any other book after. Is it one of those books? Well, maybe. I read that he took five years to develop and publish the book creating the characters from his own memory; which is kind of interesting.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel about an introspective, shy, intelligent boy, he calls himself Charlie. He writes a series of letters to a boy who we do not know, who he refers to as ‘Dear Friend’. The first letter begins like this: ‘I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at the party even though you could have.’ There is this part on the first page that says: ‘I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.’ These excerpts should tell you a lot about the book and its main character, Charlie and him being a Wallflower and it should also help you understand why I said it is one of the most personal book you would ever read. Buy and read ThePerks of Being a Wallflower.
Perhaps from next year I would increase the books I review at the end of the year to ten.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

What is Abuja?


Is it the man, the senator, who has nine cars: a few Mercedes’, a few Ferraris, many more? Did he buy any of them when he last travelled officially or unofficially to the United States of America the month before last? Does he have four different chauffeurs, each with a car of specialty? Does the senator eat at least three times in a day? Does he eat things like a few salad sandwiches for breakfast, pounded yam and egusi soup with lots of meat and or fish in it for lunch, the best fried rice with the most decently fried fried chicken for supper? At the end of the night does he go to a bar? Does he order the most expensive wine, champagne? Does he order bottles of the most expensive beer? Does he eat more meat, fish? – Suya? Fish pepper soup? Beef pepper soup? Is he living the Abuja dream?
Is it the rich man who doesn’t work half as much as he earns? Who goes to work every morning, his office, freezing in the absurd exuberance of a fitted air-condition turned to its coolest temperature? Does the man feel he needs to make more money because somehow his salary is not enough for him? Does he think his family – his wife who has three cars of her own and has a chain of departmental stores all around the municipality, his two sons who are studying in the best universities in the United Kingdom – are not living comfortably enough? Does he add one more zero to the five million to be sent to the presidency for approval? Once the presidency approves the fifty million, does he remove his share – forty five million? Does he do this alone? Is he assisted by someone? – A secretary? Two secretaries? Does he give these people a share of the forty five million?
Is it the randy businessman whose wealth was handed to him on a platter by his late, hardworking father? Who considers it an insult for a beggar to stray towards his company? Does he harass these beggars? Does he arrest them? Does he consider himself too rich to have beggars hover around his company? – Hover around his home? Does he have three wives that fight nonstop about things bordering the ridiculous, then the supernatural? Does he still go to the club every night and dance with little girls that are so utterly dumb, they think their bodies are objects? Does he collect their phone numbers at the end of the night? Does he call them the next day? Does he call them the next night? Does he tell them to meet him at a certain hotel room at a certain time? Are these girls young enough to be his daughter? Are these girls underage? Does this man pay them for whatever services they render to him at the hotel room? Are these girls prostitutes? Is this man living the Abuja dream?
Is it the streets bordered by yellow and white coloured street lights or the fast, flashy cars that drive through the twenty four hours of the day on these streets? Is it the closes named after local governments or the streets named after the countries? Is it the Chinese restaurants? KungFu? Chopsticks? Or is it not?


Could it be the man who lives in a suburb next to the refuse dump of that suburb or the refuse dump of the whole city? Next to construction sites that billows dust into his nostrils and probably cancer into his throat? Is it the man that builds his house from aluminum roofing sheets because he knows a demolition is inevitable in the future?  When will this demolition happen? In three years? In two years? Three months? Next month? Tomorrow? Does this man have a family? Does he have kids? Is he living the Abuja dream? Can he live the Abuja dream? Does such nonsense even exist?
Is it the cab driver whose home is the backseat of his cab? Where does he take his baths, this cab driver? Does he take his baths? Does he make enough to afford to feed himself? Is his cab in good shape? Does he need to change the engine? Does he need to change the gear? Does he need to change the shaft? Does it make infuriating noises every time he changes to a higher gear? Will he love to have a new cab? – One with an automatic gearing system, perhaps? Does he make enough to change anything? Is he living the Abuja dream? Does such ridiculousness even exist?
Is it the little boys and the little girls, dressed in rags or completely undressed, that sing as the airplane flies through the sky over the refuse dump in front of their hut, ‘Aeroplane bye bye,’? Is this airplane a private jet? Is it the senator travelling to the United States again? Will he buy another car this time around? – A Lincoln? A Citro├źn? A Lamborghini with the fancy doors?
Is Abuja a farce? Is Abuja overrated? Does Abuja exude fakery? Is Abuja the rich men with the many cars and money, the rich streets that look like heaven or is it the backyard of the animal farm where animal dungs are buried, covered up by sand and pretty cotyledons, to hide it's dirtiness? It's shame? It's unprecedented levels of inequality?

Thanks for reading this, if you read this. This writeup is an experiment, really - a series of questions that naturally answer themselves and tell a story.
You may want to read Donald Bathelme's Concerning the Bodyguard,  this. And Elnathan John's Politics, this. Great reads.
Till next time,, Keep dreaming!! 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Oblivion, Irrelevance and Other Things You May or May Not Fear


“There will come a time” I said, “when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought will be forgotten and all of this” – I gestured encompassingly – “will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that is what everyone else does.”

The above is a passage from the book I cannot shut up about – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It was the first thing Hazel-Grace (The MC) said to Augustus Waters (The other MC) (MC means Main Character.) It was at a cancer support group, and Augustus Waters was asked a question by Patrick (Patrick asks the questions.) The question, as far as I am concerned, is one of the most important questions in life: What are you fears?

Augustus Waters’ reply was that his fear was ‘Oblivion.’ To which Hazel-Grace gave him a piece of her mind which we saw in the first paragraph. Was she right? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
A whole lot of people fear oblivion, I am one of them but I do not fear oblivion as much as I fear irrelevance. I think what Augustus Waters meant by ‘Oblivion’ was dying without haven achieved anything, without leaving footprints on sand. Dying and not being missed except by one’s family and friends. It all hinges upon dying, as far as I know.
Irrelevance, however, is more or less the same thing but it does not hinge upon dying, it hinges upon living. Frankly, I don’t care what happens after I die, I don’t care if I am remembered or not. I care what happens while I live. I want to know that I have or I am touching a life, in one way or another. I fear irrelevance because irrelevance means you have wasted the time that God has given you here on earth; it means you have allowed yourself to flow like the waters in the river, uselessly. It means that at the end of the day, your whole existence was attached only to its immense pointlessness and nothing else. That the idea of your existence was only existent to you and your immediate family, nobody else was touched by your existence. We all need to fear irrelevance, to dread it even, if we do, perhaps the world will be a better place.

Hazel-Grace’s reply to Augustus was in some ways defeatist. Yes, we are all going to die, perhaps the sun will collapse eventually and its immense heat will seethe our skins and burn us all to our deaths. Maybe there will be no one left to remember Aristotle and Cleopatra, maybe all of this – gesturing encompassingly- will eventually be worth naught: all our buildings, all our writings, all our thoughts from all our beautifully designed minds. Perhaps there was time before organisms existed; perhaps there will be time after. But none of these mean that we should all fold our beautifully designed arms and wait for the sun to get bored of the sky and come to seethe us. We shouldn’t be afraid to live our lives because of the inevitability of doom. Is doom even inevitable? You want to be the judge of that? 

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Musings On A Harmattan Soaked Saturday

I take walks every night for several reasons. I don't know that these are good reasons, frankly, I don't know that good reasons exist. There's just reason, there's no good or bad. One of the reasons I take these walks is that some inexplicable strangeness occur during the day and gives me a sensation of having a clogged-brain. I don't know what a clogged-brain is even, but at any rate, I feel at night time, that my head isn't in shape. I like it when my head is in shape. It enables me think. I like to think. So I take walks every night to clear my head/brain, to rid it of all the day's ridiculousness; like, emptying a dustbin at a superior, central dustbin; DUSTBIN, to more aptly put it. Anyway, walking along the streets of Abuja late at night, taking in the yellow, blinding headlights of taxis hustling to make money for their drivers, buses, bashfully shouting their way through, does a fantastic job of un-clogging the clog that becomes of my brain at night. Though I live in the less fancy part of town, there's still this brilliance that the night gives: the streetlights that stopped working eons ago, the bus conductors that beg you to enter their buses even though you are walking the opposite direction from where they are headed, the blaring horns of overly excited drivers, the loud music from the barber shop, the loud music from the CD shop, the heavily Hausa accented Hausa (It's interesting how their Hausa accents reveal itself even while they speak Hausa)  from the suya seller conversing with the guy that sells air-freshners and screw-drivers and anti-mosquitoe creams and other hyphenated household materials that have nothing in common. If there's one thing I love about Abuja, it's the night life. The city simply does not sleep until you go into your apartment and lock your doors to it.
Another reason I take these walks is because I am a writer and I need to think of the world I have created or of the world I intend to create when I get back home. Like, last night for example, I got the idea for my next book, the book that would come after Dear Ella. I've had a vague idea of what the book would be about for a while, but last night, for the first time, it formed. Of course, it still isn't complete but you build a house by putting one block on another block on another block until you have these magnificent, utterly unprecedented collections of blocks placed over each other by the brilliance of men called 'bricklayers', so ya. For a long time I tried to run away from calling myself a writer because it takes a certain degree of confidence, guts to up and call one's self a writer, not confidence like: Okay, I'm confident that later today, my dearly beloved Arsenal will defeat Stoke City; confidence like: Okay, here I am calling myself the name that Cormac McCarthy calls himself, the name that Wole Soyinka calls himself, the name that John Green calls himself, that Lee Harper calls herself, that Suzanne Collins calls herself, and you, I mean you, the person reading this, can do absolutely nothing about it even if you wanted to. It's heavy. But yes, I am a writer because, to be honest, I am nothing else. There's nothing else I could call myself, there's nothing else I'm good at. 

I have nothing else to write except that I have been reading John Green's The Fault In Our Stars for like the fifteen thousandth time. The book still is the best thing I've ever read. I think every human being should read that book, not necessarily because it has some deep, metaphorical resonance at the end of  it, just for it's sheer phenomenal-ness and unprecedented-ness and extraordinary-ness and other words that have -ness at the end.
Oh Ya, and by the way, every human being on earth should also make it a point of duty to get Asa's new album, Bed of Stone. Think Of it as a duty you owe to earth for the continuance of this circular motion of utter jocosity that we call life. 

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Independent Publishing and the Nigerian Writer.

Hello, good morning or good afternoon or goodnight. Welcome! Remember how I said, over a year ago, that I was, at that moment, working on my debut novel? Well, yes! I still am and right now, there are a few things I can tell your about it.

Who will publish the book?
Well, I've tried to find good trads, and trads means 'traditional publishers' but I've failed. There were a few who were willing though, but these few just weren't good enough. I'd rather do self publishing than use a trad who's.publishing principles I disagree completely with. So my book, DEAR ELLA, will be self published.

When Will It Be Out? 
Earlier this year, I was confident that the book would come out before this year, 2014 runs out, right now, I am not sure. It could still make December 2014, but that is quite unlikely. I think it may be early 2015, but who knows? So fingers crossed for that.

What's The Book About?
Everyone I've told about this book, save for one or two, have asked this question. I will not say what exactly it's about here, but I'd say a few things.
i. There's a good guy who happens to be a medical doctor, and happens to be in dire need of money because his wife has been abducted and he needs to pay the ransom.
ii. There's a bad guy who just wants to be happy like everyone else. He happens to be the richest bastard in town, and he also happens to be friends with the doctor. He also happens to know that the child his wife is about to deliver will be born with a terminal condition. He happens to not want to raise this child.
iii. There's another man who happens to be poor who's wife also happens to be in labour at that same time.
Enough said. A lot happens on Fiction Street. Keep your fingers crossed.

Does/Can Self Publishing Work in Nigeria?
Of course it can, Nigeria is just like any other country but with Boko-haram and a lot of thieves that wear suits and Agbadas and drive Citroens. Self publishing can work here just as it can work anywhere else. One just needs to be hardworking and try to market properly so that the book will be everywhere the trads are and so that it becomes the readers responsibility to make a choice. Frankly, a Nigerian reader doesn't give a care who publishes a book or who has reviewed it or stuff like that, he just wants to read a good book. And that's the main reason self publishing can work and work well. A well self published book can stand on the same shelf as a trad and look more inviting. The problem is that a lot of Nigerian and even world writers who self publish do it because they are in a hurry to let their cat (book) out of the bag and so they end up doing a disgraceful job of it and the book ends up lacking quality, in and out. The covers are crap, the stories are crap. There are typos on every page and all those kinds of ridiculousness.

So there you have it. Fingers crossed.
Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Six

It's been over three months since I left camp and while I say all the time how fantastic an experience it was, I am not sure if giving the opportunity, I would choose to go through it again.
I've learnt, over the years, that there are mostly two kinds of experiences: Happy and Sad. The Happy experiences can be further divided into two: 1. Enjoyed during, Enjoyed after and 2. Endured during, Enjoyed after. Camp, for me, fell under the category where you Endure during and Enjoy after, mostly because I understood how enjoyable the whole ridiculousness of the place was only after I left there. And I think it works the same way for most people. We can only speak of the Orientation Camp's awesomeness after we get out of there. Trust me, nobody says 'This is the funnest place I've been in my entire life' while still in camp, after camp however, story changes. 
Today, I intend to discuss a little further about why I think the NYSC is still essential. This past week, for reasons unknown, a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook and even in real life (colleagues) went on and on and on about NYSC's uselessness. Here, I wrote about it's usefulness but I only wrote of it's immense unification purposes, nothing else and so now I feel it's incomplete.
There are millions of people that become graduates in Nigeria every year. The number is scary. One of the NYSC's purpose is providing a source of living, even just for one year, for these graduates. The monthly allowances paid into their accounts go a very long way. I cannot even imagine what their lives will be like without it, especially considering that without the scheme they'd probably be languishing in educated idleness anyway because it is more difficult to get a job in present Nigeria than for an elephant to walk through the eye of a needle. Yes they are going to be paid for just the one year, but that one year is enough for anyone to get a plan and know what happens next.
Another importance of the NYSC is that most graduates are posted to schools for their primary assignments, these are Nigerian schools and we know what Nigerian schools are like. There, teachers are not teachers, they are just people that read and give notes from textbooks or the internet to students who possibly know more than them. There is no longer a minimum requirement for teachers, in fact, I went to a school sometime ago where I met a teacher who couldn't even construct a simple sentence. It is that bad and a little worse. And we wonder why our students can no longer pass their Cert Exams. Sending graduates to teach in such schools greatly improve the prospects of these students. Yes there are also a few graduates that have difficulties in constructing simple sentences but these are the unserious ones and it's likely that even if they're posted to schools, they'd never show up there. 
Another advantage of the Youth Service Scheme is the work experience. Every employer in this century wants to hire an employee with experience, no matter how little and many times, no matter how insignificant. This year gives young people with aspirations of becoming employed by these employers the much needed experience, no matter how insignificant.
Finally, freedom. Now, for me, I see the concept of freedom like putting cheese inside a transparent glass container and allowing a rat try to collect it. It will try desperately no matter how many times it bangs it's head against the glass, it will try to collect the cheese. Freedom, in the real sense of the word, is a height that is never achievable, it's that thing that we look forward to so much, but it never comes. That said, there are several variations to pure freedom and one of those variations is offered to young people during their youth service. Young people experience this variation of freedom and see what life is and what it can be without the monitoring and even prying eyes of their parents. They make their own mistakes and learn to learn from it. This is why I don't understand people who opt to serve in their states of origin.

There are many, many more advantages to the Youth Service Scheme, but I'm too tired to continue, perhaps I'd talk about this again. Thanks for reading.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!! 
      

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Photograph

She was so full of life. Her hands were stretched apart as if she was about to takeoff, as if she was a plane, a plane that you know would never crash no matter what kind of storm came against it. Her smile was magnificent, buoyant; more of a laugh paused at the middle, at the stage of laughter where it is impossible to just abruptly stop, than a smile. Her bare feet pressed against the sharp, brown sand of a beach, making its imprint, the sand, slightly swallowing her toenails. Her dark skin, so consistent, so beautiful, her haunting eyes, brown, like no other you have ever seen, its sheen, a well of hope.

He sat on a plastic chair and rested his arms on a squeaky plastic table, one leg shorter than the remaining three, in front of him. His left hand held the photograph of her – the one where she was so full of life. The room was almost completely dark except that there was a candle stick on top of an empty can of skimmed milk which sat on the table, its wax gushing away wastefully, forming moulds of white semi-solid rocks. He was holding in tears, trying to be a man, he was trying to convince himself that he did not love her enough to cry over her – he did.

They had met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and they had both been unlucky (or lucky) enough to show up at the exact time fixed for the party, meaning they were the first to get to the venue, not even the celebrant had shown up. They sat down opposite each other and stole glances, since he was shy, or introverted, as he would rather be referred; he prayed that she would break the ice. She did. She was not like him; she was neither shy nor introverted. The first thing she said however was unintelligible, jargon. At that point, the only thing he could think to say was, ‘yes. You are right.’
She smiled, ‘what?’
‘What did you say?’ He asked.
‘I was in my head.’
‘Oh okay. How does your head feel this evening?’ He asked.
She smiled and shook her head.
‘My name is Abdul. Hi.’ He said and stretched his palm.
‘Hello. I am Mirabel.’ She took his hand. Her palms were small and soft but still had a way of completely clutching his.

They did not stay for the party; they went to have lunch and from there took a long walk, taking in each other’s company and wondering how they had never met even though they had so much in common. He fell in love with her company first, then her.

The candlestick was dying away, the wax was still gushing out wastefully without a care, could it not see that he needed help? That he was broken? Breaking?
He found out that she was doing drugs one night, they had dinner planned and she did not show up, it was very unlike her. He started getting worried after, at his fifth attempt; she still did not pick up her phone and his call. He went to her place. Her door was locked from the inside, the lights were on and the fan was rolling and there was loud metal music playing in the background. Someone was inside.
He forced the door open, pried it with his shoulder – all the energy he could muster, inside the room, he found her. She was lying down on the green and yellow nylon carpet next to her bed. His first thought was that she fell into a deep sleep, a strange sleep, one where she could not move five centimeters left to her bed. Inching closer to her however, he found that she was not asleep; she was fully awake but stoned. Her eyes were wide open and glassy; there were heavy black bags of sleeplessness and inebriation just underneath them. Her face was heavy, stiff, and unmovable; he had never seen her like that. He was afraid. She smiled a smile that, as far as he was concerned, was more of a call for help. She wanted to stretch her hands towards him but she hardly had enough strength to keep breathing. That night marked the beginning of the end of their relationship.

‘Why drugs?’ He asked her photograph in the company of the dying candlestick. As if the photograph could answer such a question, as if the photograph was not just a useless piece of polaroid paper that exuberated in its immense fakery. She was a great sport when she was clean. She was a lady so full of life; she wanted to, she needed to give some of it out to the world. His eyes were fixed on her face, her smile that was the most contagious he had ever known. Where was this version of Mirabel? He thought to himself. Maybe she only existed in photographs; a mechanism that so easily aided pretence, it was scary. One’s life could be up in smokes but a photograph could capture that one having the time of his life; could there be a bigger hoax? He thought.

They broke up last night; she got knocked up on some crazy syrup and came around to his place. She said that their relationship had been a bad idea from the beginning. That she was a wild child and he was an angel. She used words like ‘eternally incompatible’ and ‘unfortunately unworkable’ to describe their relationship, she went on and on and when she was done, she left without letting him say a single word. She strode away and left a sour taste in his mouth and tears in his eyes.
The candlestick finally died leaving heaps of wax on the milk tin, but that was not all that died, he was sure, a part of him died, too, that part that fell in love with Mirabel.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Of Skin Bleaching and Bleached Minds

First and foremost, I find the ridiculousness of wanting to look white insulting, for obvious reasons. I'm black. What it means is, the person that bleaches her skin unfortunately, (ignorantly may be a better word, or stupidly, perhaps) believes her original skin is inferior, lower, nether to the white skin. Naturally, this should annoy anyone who is black and satisfied with his/her blackness, like me, but my anger and annoyance is at best inconsequential, s/he who wants to bleach, will bleach no matter what I think.

Sorry I started this post angrily. Hi. Today, I will talk a bit on skin bleaching, or as it is now more popularly regarded, Skin Lightening, perhaps it has this new name because the old one (bleaching) is quite harsh? But bleaching is bleaching, it doesn't matter what you call it. It is bleaching. You are bleaching.
It is the process of applying chemicals to the skin to lessen the concentration of melanin and so make the skin look like Hugh Grant's, these chemicals are mostly in form of creams and they have been proven time and time again to be very harmful in the long run. The popularity of these skin bleaching creams have steadily increased over the past few years, especially in Nigeria. In fact, researches show that 77% of Nigerian women use one variety of bleaching cream or another. This poses some serious questions, like: why?
It's important, most of the time, to understand the psychology of some of these things. Why would anyone want to be lighter than they came? What satisfaction does anyone derive from using chemicals on their skins? Chemicals that are going to harm them eventually? Does skin bleaching honestly improve a person's look? Honestly? I am not even in the mood to consider the religious and moral perspectives. 

We live in a society that is quite literally on it's head, the abnormal has become normal, vice versa. That's why societal expectations and peer pressure may one way or another be linked to skin bleaching, especially with the younger girls and, of course, the older ones that have vehemently refused to grow up. I understand the plight of young girls, I really do, especially teenage girls. I understand how, for example, on Facebook, you get likes proportionate to how much of your cleavage you expose. I understand how, in class, friends go on and on about crazy things like rainbow coloured pantyhose and violet fingernails and lavender toenails and all what naught. I understand how easily peer pressure can affect girls. It is a struggle to keep afloat. What I do not and cannot understand is how a person can argue that skin bleaching is fashionable. No. It is not. Jimmy Choo shoes are fashionable, Chanel bags are fashionable, Gucci shades are fashionable, blood red lipsticks are fashionable, bleaching your skin isn't.

I read somewhere that women feel more sexually attractive if their skin is lighter. I honestly do not think a man who prefers bleached women exist. And right now you're saying men can't tell the difference between a naturally light girl and an artificially light one. Wrong again. Most men know these things, most men can spot an artificial woman from a mile away. I have extra pair of eyes made of glass, just in case.
The thing is Attractiveness has nothing to do with color and everything to do with taste, if a man likes white women, he likes white women, not black ones trying desperately/futilely to be white.

The only thing skin bleaching does to a person is it exposes the person's incredibly low self esteem. Show me a person who bleaches their skin and I would show you the extreme insecurity, the self hate and loath, the misery in that person. Ultimately then, this has more to do with the mind. When the mind becomes adulterated with thoughts of inadequacy, the brain comes to it's rescue with flimsy ideas to help in compensating. You find, in that case, that people who do this to their skin are those trying to compensate for something, those who do not feel like they are good enough to live in their own bodies, those with bleached minds. 

Effects of overuse of skin bleaching creams may include skin cancer. So I'd stop it, if I were you. But I'm not you now, am I?       

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Five: What You Really Need In Camp

This is going to be short because there is only one thing you REALLY need at the orientation camp. Your mind. Everything else you've read or heard everywhere else is unimportant, trivial.
You need to take yourself to camp. What I mean by taking yourself to camp is, You need to prepare yourself, your mind for the WORST. I really wish I was joking but I'm not. Prepare your mind to stand for eighteen hours at one stretch. Prepare your mind to get drenched in heavy, ridiculous bouts of downpour. Prepare your mind to get battered with a vengeance by the sun. Prepare to get a headache. Prepare to get a fever. Prepare to catch a cold. But then, prepare yourself for the ride. Prepare to enjoy every moment. Prepare to laugh, because you'd be laughing at the strangeness and general craziness of the whole thing, from start to finish. Prepare to meet all kinds of people: strange people, stupid people, serious people, crazy people, funny people, stingy people that will not help you to save their own lives..Lol!
Prepare to wake up at four in the morning, or if you're like me and would rather take a bath without the staring eyes of the general public, prepare to wake up at three in the morning for those twenty one days. It will not be that bad. Plus, you'd get to sleep forever when you're dead. Prepare, if you do not have so much money, to eat food rations that are just enough to keep you alive and going. Prepare to be insulted by potbellied military men. Prepare to be yelled at, screamed at for walking instead of running at 4.30 in the morning and then at every other time you can think of: you run to the parade ground, you run to the lecture halls, you run to platoon meetings, you run to your hostels, you run to take your meals, you run to take a piss, you run. You're Forrest Gump for those twenty one days in camp. Prepare for the useless parades where you get to understand that one can get tired of standing, Prepare for the stupid lectures where people talk for so long but end up saying absolutely nothing, there, you'll understand that one can get tired of sitting.
Prepare your mind, it's all in the mind. Good luck!
 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Residues of Kubwa Camp — Four: Reye

She had on red lipsticks over her already red lips; her gait, seamless, angelic maybe – steel legs of flesh. She wore tiny socks that stopped just above her ankles over which her white sneakers were still unblemished with red coloured dirt even at five in the evening. Usually, at five, white sneakers were no longer as white as they were in the morning due to the usual hustle, bustle and ridiculousness of the NYSC orientation camp.

Her complexion was dark, coffee dark, coffee with a tinge of skimmed milk. Her dark skin complexion was unique; it was the kind of dark skin complexion that made light people jealous of dark people.
‘My name is Reyé.’ She was saying, responding to your question.
You were hardly listening though. It was impossible to listen because your legs had started trembling under your knees. They had become wobbly, like noodles, noodles soaked in hot water.

You had seen her once before, you had had a blissful conversation. Well, you were having a blissful conversation until the men wearing camouflage shirts and black, baggy trousers tucked into black, extra-large, ugly boots came to disrupt things with their whistles and faded gold beagles. ‘Let’s go,let’s go. Move to the parade ground, Right now.’ They had shouted, their voices as loud as their beagles, louder maybe, and as thick as the bark of an orange tree. You often wondered how they never lost their voices in the twenty one days of camping. You lost yours twice and you hardly ever shouted, except when you were arguing with some of your forty something roommates about whose school was better or about what kind of music made more sense or about the current administrations efficiency or lack of it.

Everyone started running at the command of the men in uniform, ‘If you are walking, you are wrong.’ They had roared, almost in unison, almost as if they had practiced how to make everyone else’s life miserable. She ran, too, she ran very fast and before you knew it, she was far away from you. She had looked back and you had caught a glimpse of her but she hadn’t of you. That was the last you saw of her. Until now.

You tried to talk your legs into steadiness. ‘Don’t be stupid. Behave. For God’s sake, behave.’ You said to your legs under your breath, as if your legs had ears and would behave once you tell it to.
She was wearing glasses, Reyé. The last time you saw her, she had contact lenses on her haunting eyes.
You mumbled something in the lines of ‘What made you ditch your contacts for glasses?
'Someone got excited and hit my left eye while I was wearing them?’ She said.
Your legs were still wobbly, your arms had joined in, they seemed not to fit any longer by your side, and so you were moving them about like the confused leader of an orchestra. ‘Excited?’ you managed to say.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘On the parade ground, during the early morning prayers.'
'Oh. That’s cold.'
'It is. But I don’t like these glasses. I prefer yours.'
'I don’t like it either, dear.’ You said and she laughed, you laughed, too. That was when you stopped speaking, involuntarily, of course. So you stood there, next to her, like a statue with moving hands and wobbly legs.

They were boys playing soccer on the field, one platoon against another; you stopped following those games after your platoon was defeated very early on.
She was still standing next to you, pretending to enjoy the football match, as if it was the most captivating thing she had ever seen, pretending that she did not notice how strange you were acting, drawing eccentric circles around your body with your hands, your hands that vehemently refused to stay put by your sides. You had lots more to say to her just that your mouth was no longer interested in speaking and so before the football match ended and one team defeated the other on penalties, she said, 'Alright. I will go now.'
And you mumbled incoherently and watched her walk away. Your words came back after she had left but you had nothing to say to yourself so you kept on watching twenty two sets of boys on the field who you cared nothing about, kick about one round leather.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Of The Caine Prize, Plagiarists and 300K per Month

This week on twitter, Binyavanga Wainana lashes out at the Caine prize. Says we attach way too much importance to it and it's not as important as we say and we need to dilute it because we are Africans and we are writers and bla bla bla.
Well, I think he's wrong. I've never come close to having an entry sent in for the Caine prize, I don't know that I ever will, so I'm just writing this as a follower of the prize. I think it's fantastic. It's fantastic because I don't know of any other African prize that does so much not just monetarily but also in exposing to the world talented writers that would probably not have had a look in ordinarily. Take Noviolet Bulawayo and her short story 'Hitting Budapest' that won the Caine in 2011, I think; and subsequently, her book 'We Need New Names' that got nominated for the Man Booker Prize making her the first black African Woman to ever get nominated, for a good example. This is the importance of exposing African writing and writers to a wider audience which is what the Caine Prize tries to achieve most importantly. I am surprised that Binyavanga Wainana, who once was a beneficiary of this Caine Prize exposure says/is saying differently. Hardly will you find a writer from Africa who is doing well enough that has not benefited one way or another from the Caine Prize, either from being shortlisted or even winning it. His argument, I think (as it was difficult to follow his tweets) was that African writers wash up to the (foreign) Caine Prize, which isn't doing enough to deserve to be washed up to... My opinion is that there is no other literary Prize in Africa that does as well as the Caine Prize. When you set up your own literary award that does everything, then you can tell us to stop loving the Caine Prize. But for now, don't. That's it.

This week on twitter and the Nigerian blogosphere in general, plagiarism. It's kind of a long story and in order to understand this, you have to understand the long story. So I'll try and summarize and give links so you understand. Okay! It all started about a week ago when a man known simply and smartly only on twitter as @MrAyeDee accused Nigeria's number one gossip blogger (who, by the way, is one of my favourite cos she's smart and understands her readers) Linda Ikeji of stealing his intellectual property, simply put, Linda plagiarized his work, she did. Well, after AyeDee tried his utmost to call her out or gain her attention and failed severely probably because Linda was ignoring him or whatever, he decided to report the conundrum to Google, Google then decided to block/take down Linda's blog. And then Linda's fans hauled insults at AyeDee and AyeDee's fans hauled insults at Linda and it was fantastic and entertaining drama for the guys in the middle, like yours truly.
Crazy things happen at night, so at night apparently, Linda and AyeDee had a chat online, like they IMed each other or whatever. Anyway, it turns out that they actually had been friends for like, ever and they had been IMing since like, before God created Heaven and Earth and then suddenly Linda stopped returning AyeDee's IMs and according to Linda, here, AyeDee felt he wasn't getting enough attention from Linda and so sought to bring Linda down. This is my opinion, I like Linda Ikeji, but she plagiarized, that is a sin, a big sin. Google, for this, took down her blog, then they returned it to her. Why did they take it down in the first place then? Google ehn... sometimes they misbehave sef!

Finally, this week on twitter, a lady known sweetly(no pun intended) as @Sugabelly, who actually was one of Linda Ikeji's antagonist in chief, for good reasons, Linda also plagiarized her stuff one time - did I tell you that Linda has been a serial plagiarist? I digress. Anyway, Sugabelly tweeted here and I quote: "To be perfectly honest. You're poor if you make less than N300,000 per month. Not even joking." And then the floodgates of abuses and vitriolics opened. I think we are really fucked up in Nigeria, we abuse people too much and then we start abusing their parents and then we start calling them 'ashawo'. Lol! Anyway, I don't think she's right, or maybe she is slightly right. But then she went on to tweet that "If you make N70k and your potential husband or wife makes N80k, y'all should forget about getting married. Cos you can't raise kids."(rough quote) Okay, so for me, I don't really intend to get married, even if I get married, I don't intend to have kids, even if I have a kid, I don't intend to have more than one, even if I have more than one... and so on. So I'm speaking from a neutral point of view. Sugabelly's tweets maybe true but only for very few locations like the high brow areas in Abuja and in Lagos etc where the cost of school fees for a term is a million and the cost of eating a good meal at a restaurant is half a million. Abuja is a city that I generally consider to be for the rich but it doesn't work like that because poor people like myself also live there, and poorer people, too. So it's solely dependent on location. For instance, my parents didn't raise me while they made 300k per month, in fact, when I was little, going to school, their combined salaries wasn't even close to that and I don't think I turned out bad, or dull or stupid or not knowing how to cross the road or not knowing how to spell, did I? DID I? Yes, that was years ago and the value of money.then is not the value of money now yidiyada bla bla... The truth is, there are more poor people for whom N300,000 will make their whole year in Nigeria today, than rich people, for whom it's just change that they can blow on one dinner date or on champagne or on shawarma or on the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel... And Yes, I said 'blow.' I guess ultimately, it's a case of different strokes for different folks; but @Sugabelly generalized and that's probably what got people angry. For me, I just watched cos I do that a lot, and laughed at the people that had no lives and decided to start calling her names. Anyway, the lesson is this, Your 30thousand is someone else's 30million and your 30million is someone else's 30thousand, you see?
So there you have it. It's the first time I'm doing this 'week on twitter' thing. I'll probably do more if there are interesting weeks.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!