Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Guinness Book Of Death?

Series or trends

One could be forgiven for thinking something sinister was going on, either a case of people getting fed up of life or people wishing to announce the same records in rapid succession.

If I were to do a longevity trail just as one would an audit trail, on August the 28th it was 116 and not till December the 12th another 116, then the 19th of January 115, the 24th of January 115, the 28th of January 114.

If this were not a series one wonders what is, as the world’s oldest people are falling dead like flies once a visit has been paid by those who herald the occasion with new and great aplomb, a trend most worrisome – with all the advances in medicine, health care and chemical embellishments for the body and soul, the longevity barometer seems to be shortening as the holders of the revered title seem to holding it for ever decreasing times.

New records for old records

Far be it for me to suggest that this title might change hands in a couple of days narrowing down to hours or minutes till a record is set for the shortest time ever the longest living person ever held the record of being the longest living person.

Only 5 days ago, I did want to write about the daughter of slaves – Emma Faust Tillman – having won through the dregs of human rottenness to become the great survivor and that is a story in itself; but now only held it just for 4 days, we have that on record and may her soul rest in peace.

Perhaps it is unsafe to be announced as the longest living person because the grim reaper might just be the presenter of the prize of death that for so long these people have been most unlucky not to win.

Let it not be said that they have entered the Guinness Book of Death; the excitement of the occasion might be too unhealthy to continue.

Hopefully, the new record holder has taken out insurance, just in case something happens and has lawyers ready to litigate for trying to speed up the inevitable.

Friday, 26 January 2007

I will tell your husband

The grip of memory

As I watch the repeat of a Hardtalk Extra interview with Gene Wilder, he recounts some experiences as caring for a sick mother, compulsive praying and other childhood things that I could identify with, humans live amazing lives even in stranger ways.

Introspectively, I have always been concerned if not fearful of the memories that I could retrieve and recount, one wonders if they should be left in the dust of time lifted out with the wry smile of what once was and where one is.

In some cases, I consider it merciful that I cannot remember the trauma of birth having escaped from the womb in a fit of claustrophobia at just under 27 weeks in a Macbethian wonder of survival.

I was told I fitted into the palm of my father’s hand, the lasting effects of that episode are relayed in the fact that I now use glasses, apparently, a lot of light is shone in the eyes of early babies, some doctors said my eyesight should improve with age but they did not notice the astigmatism that was developing till no one did anything about it.

However, I do have vivid memories from about 4 years old, I can faintly remember some earlier ones but they are not as striking though no less contributory to the framework to the framework that has become me.

Children have more than eyes

What I have found annoying in the culture in which I was brought up is the way our elders always felt we could be shielded from the activities going on around their lives by keeping us out of view.

It is as if they thought we only respond to the world visually and never develop mentally but only as errand kids and probably bookworms and suddenly at 9 or 10 we are supposed to be responsible people with extraordinary initiative, if only they knew what we knew then, arrested development in the midst of the overflow of life.

Was it a vision?

One good evening, I was a bit under the weather, I was just over 8 and my mum was nursing my kid brother in the adjacent room when this lady I knew so well entered my room through another door a and sat on me – the hairs on the back of my neck still stand on end as I remember the event – as I gasped for air, she was heavy, I said, “I will tell your husband”, which my mum heard next door and anxiously enquired what the matter was.

As I tried to tell her, she came into my room as the lady quickly left and my short term memory deserted me as to whom she was. It was probably another 10 years before I could remember that she was the wife of the veterinary doctor who was a family friend, however, that was my experience which some expert might explain away as hallucination, vision or poppycock.

Climb every mountain

That episode launch me into a new world, we climbed every mounted, sailed every sea and forded every river – excerpt from Sound of Music - seeking prayer men and their portals to God none of which prepared me for greater terrors I experienced from the age of 10 through 12. This may be written about in due course.

Parents are a wonder in the way they hold a protective shield over their children, their sacrifices, their prayers, their anxieties and pains just to make sure that our lives do not walk the paths of pain that they might have walked, it does however, bother me though that in some cases, they might also have inadvertently entered into covenants over which they have no control leading to unexpected consequences.

Surely, these things cannot be unique to African societies, and if I do still find the opportunity, I will tell her husband.

Lagos to Abuja on Icarus wings

Flying blind or by sight in the clouds

I do not know if I should say I am in shock or just utterly surprised about the news that night flights would commence between Lagos and Abuja, the commercial and administrative capitals of Nigeria respectively.

One must say though that new Aviation Minister despite his rottweiler tendencies in other ministerial positions is acquitting himself well in this tenure, grounding inefficient and incompetent services, lambasting poor customer relationships and raising hackles over the cost of travel between Nigeria and Europe are brownie points in my book despite the fact that many are both skeptical and cynical.

Learning that until now radar at these major airports only operated for 4 hours a day with a range of only 15km is enough to make one fill ones pants in terror, Icarus was a braver person, we are up for an improvement to a maximum of 65 nautical miles for 24 hours.

I suppose beyond that, it would be radio contact and nothing else after 70 miles of flight or just over 12 minutes of flight on a typical Boeing 737. There are more competent persons to offer the detail should they be persuaded to.

Progress this is no doubt, because I do remember when I lived near the International Airport in Lagos, there was hardly anything between us and the walled area 500 metres away and the radar gear was just within the walls with times when the gear was stationary rather than rotating – we all felt the political pulse of the country through noticing the numbers and kinds of planes flying in.

This is progress to be lauded, I wonder if it is enough for a country like Nigeria.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

In London this weekend

If perchance I can fit into your crowded agendas this weekend, I would be much obliged if any of my blog family can grant me an audience, in fact, it would be something more substantial, if possible.

I am in London this weekend from Friday night until Tuesday afternoon.

Chxta, give thought to the fact that, I might be wearing an African Shirt visiting notable places for Cultural Miscellany.

The summons have been served.

If only I had an iGadget I liked

Managing MP3s

I am hardly a gadget freak, most probably a technophobe of sorts. I find that I only get gadgets that particularly suit a purpose I have and sometimes no one has been thinking along those lines.

Years ago, I had a number of speech and sermon files which were fragments of talks that needed to be kept in a particular order and played back in that same order to make sense of what was being said.

At first, I put the MP3s on CD but that could only take so much, I needed a device that could handle gigabytes of information, read MP3 tags, allow album arrangement and sequencing by track number.

There were so many MP3 CD players and hardly any hard-disk based portable players that offered all that functionality until I found the Creative DAP (Europe) or Nomad II that appeared to do everything I wanted then – this was before the iPod days and before long 6GB of disk space was insufficient for my needs.

I never got a new MP3 player, but a good friend gave me a 20GB player soon after, I have not asked for a bigger one, but it met my requirements. The market is now filled with entry-level 512 MB MP3 players, that would never have fulfilled my requirements 7 years ago.

Eventually, I found out about the SLiMP3 which allowed you to manage your MP3 files on a server over a network which then linked into your amplifier, there has been much evolution but no revolution.

A phone that works

Everyone who has a mobile phone probably has all their numbers on that device and hardly a backup of that information on some other storage medium be it a computer or on paper.

Indeed, I have not been satisfied with the snail’s pace of development in the home phone; you have integrated answering machine, remote access, possible Short Message Service (SMS) and hands-free functionality.

I have just over 200 numbers on my mobile phone, but there is probably only one phone on the market that allows you to transfer the information from your mobile phone to your home phone.

You either spend six Saturdays clicking each number into the home and all you need is a few names with letters that require a multi-press and FOILS is a matter of clicking 16 times and then an 11 digit number with all the OKs, each entry is the development of repetitive strain fatigue.

It makes you wonder why more devices do not exist to backup you mobile phone data to your PC and a USB cable can used to upload the information to your home phone, in fact, the date should be in your computer address book where it can be corrected, uploaded to your mobile phone and transmitted to your hands free home phone by infra-red, blue tooth or some other wireless means.

The iPhone is a revolution

I have been with Orange for just over 4 years, in the first 3, I had a contract, but now, I have a rolling renewal which is more-or-less a monthly contract.

This is because, I cannot find a decent phone to do what I want because mobile telephony companies prefer to maximize their profits than provide services that are beneficial to their customers.

There are very few phones that take advantage of WiFi connectivity, and where they exist, they are inflexible dud systems, the sophisticated devices cannot be found on the vendors’ shelves.

For instance, I want a phone that serves as a fully functional portable PDA and it does not have to be a BlackBerry where charges for having that kind of device for personal use are prohibitive.

Customer service rating - 0

When I did find a phone I could tolerate, it was running a Dutch operating system, now, Orange is at least a European company and I could not persuade anyone I contacted in that company to one phone configured in English even if it involved shipping it from the UK. There is a lack of initiative that pervades that company.

Worse still is when the latest version of one phone is available in one country and not available in another even though it is the same company and Orange has been a culprit in that matter many times.

In fact, mobile phone companies are going the way of the record and film companies, their inability to innovate and capture the essence of changing demands even provide groundbreaking devices means that outsiders would capture that market and change the face of it before they catch out that they have lost what used to be their niche.

I probably would never get an iPhone, just as I do not have an iMac, iPod or iGadget, but if this amazing innovation gets Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola to make useful products like HTC is introducing to the market and then take on ideas like iPhone such that I should never have to click the 7-key four times to start to say Sorry, we would have come a long way.

Extortionate prices

I am also seriously irked by the fact that with Orange in the Netherlands, France and the UK, I still end up paying prohibitive rates for making and taking calls when I am not in my home country.

These companies are dragging their feet on what should have the European Commission really laying down the law for competitive change on roaming charges. I cannot even tell you that WiFi connections in hotels average €22.00 for 24 hours with Vodafone being the most expensive at €29.50 when I am in Germany – it is utterly extortionate that one has to pay these prices in Europe for rotten phones and un-integrated infrastructure.

The sooner iPhone rocks this cosy boat, the better it would be for customers, now, iPhone does still have its issues, but the goal posts have moved and there is now a new paradigm in mobile communications coming to you in June.

More so, Apple struck a deal with Cingular in the United States where Cingular had to modify their services to accommodate additional features like the voice mail system, the whole methodology needs to change and thanks to Apple, we would yet see change in this rather tired market.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The Fate of the Union Address - 2007

The gambler and his cards

If I confessed to once loving the music of Kenny Rogers, I cannot imagine where the yo-yo of my ‘street-cred’ would rest with readers – as if I do really care.

Now every gambler knows that the secret to surviving

Is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.

Cause very hands a winner and every hands a loser,

And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.[1]

As George W. Bush delivers the Fate of the Union Address, he might have at the back of his mind what he has thrown away of opportunity and goodwill as president and what he has kept in what would no doubt be his legacy and an enduring record of history.

We are told we are not to expect any new initiatives with regards to Iraq apart from the well worn mantras of freedom, democracy, liberty and choice. If anyone had worn those statements as shoes, that person would now have the extremities of their legs at the knee.

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run.

You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table.

There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.[1]

The gambler and his debts

The gambling tendencies that George W. Bush has might eventually pay off, but on the eve of his Fate of the Union speech the 2-I-C of Al-Qaeda was back in the media taunting him – We are here, you are there and you can’t get us anywhere.

You can only begin to feel pity for the President and records are getting broken with the number of deaths in Iraq, Iran starts testing its fireworks, China has done some fireworks, Lebanon is on fire, the President of Israel is being charged for a peccadillo – these must be interesting times.

I am of the mind that what the President should get for giving his speech is a copy of The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, because, it seems he has broken every gambling rule; spent all his money and he is still sitting at the table about to gamble away everything and possibly dignity in the hope that he might win something back.

At which point, the best that everyone might hope for when it is all so dire is to die in one’s sleep.

By 2009, when the new president delivers the Condensate of the Union, what would be left for us to scrape of what has been plundered in the last 8 years?

References

[1] The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

The Gambler Returns

Looking for smart cookies

Foolish me smartens up

I have been foolish and I have been smart, I would prefer that when I am foolish I realise that in private and lick my wounds in private, learn my lessons and move on. I have learnt not to condemn myself in the things I have allowed.

One is however, not averse to earning praise and accolades for being smart, either in private or in the public eye one learns to receive with humility and give with generosity.

When Albert Einstein died, his brain was removed and studied in 1955 by Dr. Thomas Harvey who then said there was nothing so different about the distinguished mass of gray matter; however, one can understand the interest in trying to find out why Einstein was so smart, a genius. Later studies did however, find out some unique if not distinguishing factors with his brain but that is beside the point.

A specialist neurosurgeon who was recently in the news being a public figure by reason of some high profile positions his wife once held, would have been a perfect candidate to study the brain of Albert Einstein and as a result, produce useful scientific fact about what made the Nobel Laureate a genius.

In what has been become a contrasting of extremes, the Big Brother episode which I wrote about in my last two blogs, the principal there might have been very foolish, if not stupid being illiterate and pig-ignorant but considering what she has made for herself, she has been smart.

Without prejudice, the neurosurgeon that happens to have a doctorate in neurosurgery – what he does not know about brains is probably not worth knowing – is learned, erudite, respected and knowledgeable, but definitely has not been smart, having allowed himself, if true, to be blackmailed many times for making his marital vows a bit trivial.

It begs the question, what does it take to be smart, and when you have been foolish how do you smartly keep that out of view?

Monday, 22 January 2007

Could have danced in a dress

When Reality is Good

There are aspects of Reality TV that have served as entertainment, for instance, Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC had me looking for my dancing spirit as my body twitched as I imagined myself twisting hips for the Rumba and all that footwork for the fox trot.

I would not have minded being in a coat and tails or some regal dress – don’t get ideas – doing one of those many moves, it was good clean fun and the judges were not mean-spirited humourless know-it-alls, it is unlikely that a complaint was ever registered for that show.

Not really me at all

I watched a few episodes of the UK version of The Apprentice, but I could not identify with that naked ambition and the Jekyll & Hyde nature of teaming up at one time and back-stabbing later on – I expect better of humanity in all walks of life, which is me being naïve.

The US version of The Apprentice was a complete turn-off, if The Donald does not have an honest friend or employee to tell him to get rid of that comb-over then, they are either so fearful of him or he is completely intolerant of basic truths – I cannot work in such an environment.

I have been through a lot less for better paying jobs that would not carry that much stress and would be just as challenging.

Another reality wreck

However, it would appear Channel 4 reaches for the underbelly of what is all too rotten in human expression; Celebrity Big Brother would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg of revelations that might soon reach your screens in the expected episode of Shipwrecked.

In Shipwrecked, groups of people are supposed to be marooned on islands and through survival skills and other activities get voted off till the team with the largest number wins the prize. There was a similar genre episode that plumbs the depths of bad history when the teams were separated by race and pitched against each other.

If we could, the future, see

However, from the snippets we have seen on television of the one to be aired, an 18-year old gap year student – the gap being where her brain should be – has been schooled in the vitriol of race supremacy when she says things like, “When I look out at what Britain is, it's just a complete mess. I don't appreciate how people come into our country and take over our country. Britain's really not Britain anymore. My mind is completely open to different cultures, but I don't think they should bring them to Britain.”

Well, I have news for that girl, I do not like what Britain has become either, such unschooled, pig-ignorant, brainless kids being born into my country by irresponsible parents without an iota of societal responsibility or any gumption to bring up their kids properly, animals in the zoo present themselves in better light.

Neuter them all

And I have been a Briton for at least 22 years before that oaf was born, I am utterly distraught, if we could see into the future, no greater service could have been done for the memory of the British Empire than for her parents to be sterilised.

Then she goes on to say, “I'm for the British Empire and things. I'm for slavery, but that's never going to come back.” Well, I wonder what history book she has been reading and since it is possible she has been reading history backwards, I’ll give a version that sits well with me, I will bring back the old times, I am also for slavery and I’ll have her for a slave, not for a nickel, not for a dime, not for a farthing but for a shovel of guano and I would have paid too much.

We are told she was redeemed during the show as her views changed after she was challenged by other contestants, I wonder if that is good or it is better she had never been born.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

I wish Big Brother was about racism

Understanding Big Brother

I have convinced myself that I do need to wade into this Big Brother saga because I have not seen much that addresses the fundamental problem that has been blanketed by racism and in doing so absolved us from identifying what is really wrong.

It is quite interesting to note that we rarely see creative talent on television working on dramas, documentaries or education all energies are diverted to participatory television or what is known as Reality TV where some everyday thing or event is repackaged and the public assess and react to occurrences through telephony or the Internet in a form of opinion polling.

That Big Brother is a Dutch idea is instructive, in that, the concept of Dutch privacy is in minding your own business rather than concealing your activities. In other cultures, we would put up curtains, here, it would be viewed as you have something to hide and hence rouse suspicion.

So, when this trait ingrained in the Dutch psyche was repackaged for a reality television staple, it negated the concept of ignoring others whilst you do your own thing – for a while over the last few decades, Dutch norms and values have been undergoing a process of deconstruction as we shift from a Calvinist outlook to something we really cannot define anymore, such that the extreme right and extreme left have captured the political and social drift of the nation.

Stupid Brother, why bother?

Big Brother in other cultures is a different thing; the lascivious and uninhibited compete for prize by offering themselves as objects of entertainment (chimeras or caricatures) to a frenzied audience of voyeurs who in contrasting their average lives with the wretched lives of the participants make value judgments by calling a premium number that accumulates votes and swells the purses of phone companies and bumps up ratings of television companies.

The 24-hour round-the-clock observation is usually edited for transmission concentrating on the bizarre, the conflicts, and the despicable and downright nasty, the audience are almost inured to the rottenness of society as the gutter becomes the high-water mark for Machiavellian schemes that keep people in the house or get them kicked out.

I would leave the more serious academic analysis and psychology of Big Brother antics to the professionals, but the introduction is just to provide a general perspective.

A revelation of low expectations

The incidents in Big Brother UK 2007 revealed a number of serious issues about Britain and racism has all too convenient sufficed for a deeper analysis.

When Jade Goody did not try to get Shilpa Shetty’s name right, it was simply a case of her not trying hard enough, the syllables in Shilpa’s name are hardly foreign to English language one can offer a phonetic guide of “She’ll per Shirty” and that is close enough, if she tried.

The tax payers money is squandered on an educational system that eliminates competition, where resources are geared towards egalitarian sameness rather than the meritocracy of acknowledging achievement, curiosity attracts sanctions of awkwardness and the horizon of expectations is about getting by rather than making a difference.

Academics of genius quality, industrialists of innovative prowess or leaders of exemplary vision are no more the kind of role models we see, rather, it is entertainers and sports personalities that seem to focus the attention of society on how to gain publicity and probably make a fortune.

Celebrity for the sake of it

Jade Goody, who before she became the exemplification of celebrity for the sake of celebrity without substance, was a dental assistant, a job that probably just required the steady hand of keeping the suction tube in the patient’s mouth, one would be concerned if the dentist ever asked her to pass the drill.

The Big Brother genre however propelled this ignoramus into stardom and celebrity and her life has been hopping from one celebrity show to another earning her a fortune but in no way improving her poor intellect, rather it has become a consummate channel for her ignorance, the kind of ignorance that is part of many a school curricula.

Furthermore, only last year, she launched a fragrance and I have no space on my body on which to smear celebrity piss-water, it hopped off the shelves such that it became the No.3 perfume in the UK.

This means, a whole load of impressionable people had gone for the essence of Jade Goody and this can only be because many identify with her, her background, her mien, her ignorance and her lack of social graces – that is the problem, making Jade Goody a scapegoat of a more general societal malaise would not address the epidemic of ignorance that allows plain television appearances to become an aspiration or an ambitious goal.

Education is still the key

Other media outlets have addressed other matters of her plain lack of useful education, education is what would deal with racism and other rotten anti-social issues when people learn about other cultures, learn about civility, learn about how to interact and learn how to accommodate differences if highlighted.

That is where politicians and leaders of society should focus their strengths and it is the more difficult work to be done, so, as always, racism becomes the all too convenient shield against our failure to address serious educational deficiencies all around the world, but in Britain especially.

Jade Goody admitted that much, she is not racist but she could have done better to learn about other cultures too.

Papering over the cracks

In the light of all this, Warphone Carehouse (War, because it could be nasty and Care, because some are in need of psychiatric analysis) withdrew sponsorship of the disdainful programme concerned about their brand name, the shops withdrew her fragrance from the shelves, the politicians have to answer inane questions, the Mayor of London squeals with delight at her eviction from the Big Brother house.

Jade Goody herself made up with Shilpa Shetty and she would donate her fee to a charity that both of them select.

Now, we are all satisfied that some sort of retributive justice has been done as we continue to watch the spectacle of chimeras than remain in the house and the producers hoping another scene develops to swell the ratings and bring more money into their coffers.

The cracks however, are still there, the inability for us to accept what our society is becoming around us. That is the message of Big Brother and any Agony Aunt will say, stop watching, stop calling and start learning about yourself, your community and your world, doing something to make a difference and achieving worthy goals.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Probably time to ditch the Nigerian Pledge

Nigerians defined

There have been a number of blogs lately on the matter of Nigerians, the Nigerian identity, the Nigerians in Diaspora and our view or outlook about the country.

Nilla’s Spin on this involved trying to identify who is a Nigerian through appellation, ancestry, appearance, affinity or association to varying degrees.

Indeed, the comments that come out about Nigeria range from positive views and experiences offered by Jeremy on NaijaBlog with the title Positives, many others highlight problems, issues and complaints, all a mix of what makes a society tick.

Ayoke in Exodus took another view of those of us who have settled outside the country and wondered about the willingness of many to return to help build Nigeria instead of trying to barely get by in foreign lands.

These are all valid perspectives, indeed, it is unlikely that anyone who has any relationship with Nigeria would completely obliterate that association even if they have citizenship of one country that requires the one of another country be forfeited.

We hope for Nigeria

In many cases, we try to identify with the positive things in Nigeria and sometimes the complaints are more about the frustration that things should and could be better but for the deficit of leadership that has plagued the country for years.

In all, there are few that have left Nigeria genuinely as refugees or asylum seekers, there are few that have left in the fear of persecution or taken flight into exile for some political, religious or demographic affiliation.

In most cases, people have left Nigeria in search of greater opportunity first and then seek to settle in some location where personal security and safety do not vie for any prominence in everyday issues.

There are many who have not been able to avail themselves of opportunities outside the country for the lack of resources or the bad reputation that some of those who left before have created in besmirching the good name of Nigeria, but things are changing and improving.

I am not an exile

As an Englishman of Nigerian parentage, I have strong links with Nigeria; I hope to strengthen them even if I have no immediate desire to return. I do not live in Europe as an exile, refugee or fugitive, rather, I am net contributor to my community and society and many Nigerians abroad are.

Sometimes, I wonder, apart from the individual connections we have to the great country of Nigeria, what national symbol, purpose, activity, creed or organisation conveys our Nigerian-ship?

If we are not performing well in sport, most especially football, what is our rallying point and focus?

Is there a passion for Nigeria beyond recognising a business opportunity which might evolve into something humanitarian? Do not get me wrong, there are people in Nigeria genuinely spearheading worthy non-profit initiatives for the betterment of their communities.

However, the question that needs to be answered that might change the perspective of Nigerians to a greater goal of nation-building is what makes me proud to be a Nigerian beyond the personal associations?

Ditch that pledge

Then we have to move on from paying lip-service to that Communist pledge to finding a leadership that really does believe the pledge, live the pledge and have a vision for a great Nigeria or maybe we should stop deceiving ourselves and discard both the pledge and superfluity of words that make up the National Anthem.

To build Nigeria into the country we aspire for, the work could be rooted in this, but who believes it now? It is a personal battle for a national identity - the soul of Nigeria that makes us one.

I pledge to Nigeria, my country,
To be faithful, loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honour and glory
So help me God

My bald head, a perch

Blowing out my plans

Amidst the misdirected inferences to racism that has consumed the headlines in the UK and India about the reality show Big Brother, I could not have been met with a more interesting situation as I travelled to Antwerp this afternoon.

I had in fact planned to travel to Cologne after booking a hotel and checking the Internet for travel information, I packed an overnight bag and set out.

I should give greater heed to my deepest premonitions because I decided to check the departure boards before buying my ticket from the vending machines, well, no trains were running to Germany, the country is still suffering from the after effects of the severe hurricane that blew through Northern Europe on Thursday.

What hurricane?

On reflection, I should have stayed home on Thursday too, as I stepped out of my apartment block the wind blew at me, I had to hold down my hat as the wind sought ways of undressing me by tugging at my overcoat, blow at my briefcase and wagging at my cane.

I braved it to the comfort of the tram and then the metro which at times strained at moving against the wind, little did I know that we were braving wind speeds of over 100 km/h, Schiphol Airport, just 10 kilometres away from my office recorded 130 km/h.

By the time, I left for home in the evening, I stepped out and almost got blown off my feet, that was really scary apart from the fact that one had to walk by trees that were in danger of shedding branches if not getting uprooted.

I got home safely and did I breathe a sigh a relief.

All change for grafitti

So, on learning that no trains were running, I did not feel like returning home, so I sought an Internet café, cancelled my hotel booking in Cologne and booked another in Antwerp and I was on the train 40 minutes later.

I usually choose a seat in the first class carriage with a power socket just in case I want to do some work, listen to music or watch a DVD.

It so happens that I chose one where the back of the seat in front had some graffiti, I think I have to come to the acceptance that travelling first class no more implies the person is well-mannered, good-natured, considerate and reasonable, apart from understanding that you do not deface or damage communal property.

The writing said F*ck U Africa & Islam, with Islam being scrawled out. I did not know if I should ignore it, be offended, walk away or report it – just then, one of the conductors walked by and I showed him the message. He sighed, said “People, people” and moved on.

I probably expected him to say, “I would arrange to have that cleaned up”, but then we are all probably inured to racist graffiti, to act might be seen as feeble, the episode ended their.

The writer probably knows nothing about the continent with 887 million people in 2005, however, scrawling out Islam might be as instructive as recalled slanted views of Islamic militancy and the probable dangers of crossing that religion.

My bald head, a perch

Just when I thought everything eventful had already happened on that trip, just as we left Rotterdam Central station, I wondered who was so familiar and well known to me that I had been seen and I was being startled by caressing my head.

Just as I turned to look, I realised a winged creature had by happenstance gotten on the train and was looking for ways to get off, perching on my head in the process. At least, it had the courtesy not to deposit anything on the reflector-attractor my head is when exposed after a clean shave.

It was not a pigeon, it looked like a robin but without a red breast, one only hopes it can get back home and for once a visitor in the first class cabin did gain attention and some help in finding directions home.

The hope in Hillary

It is official and no more an anticipation and with great elation, we receive the news, as the erstwhile first lady vies to make her husband first gentleman of America.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in the race to win it and I hope she gets all the support required to launch America into a new decade of great promise and dignified superpower leadership.

There is no doubt that she would be cleaning out an Aegean stable that contains the toxic guano of a divided America, a polarized war of civilizations, a decimated Middle-East and a world order that makes the Cold War an inconsequential passing chill.

All this, the legacy of the prodigal son of politics, who probably makes his father wonder and wonder and wonder, what might have been if Jeb had vied for the presidency instead of George W.

The contest would be interesting; the prospect of a first lady president or a first African-America president would make for a vibrant debate as the primaries unfold.

I for one, do not believe that Barrack Obama is ready-schooled for this office, at least not for another 4 to 8 years, in fact, most likely after a two terms of Mrs Clinton.

Who Hillary would chose for a running mate would be seriously headline grabbing, I would for now suggest John Edwards, but these are early days as I book a ticket for the Presidential Inaugural of 2009 and get to kiss the lady.

Friday, 19 January 2007

The US does not torture

New rules to misrule

I would not know, but I would leave this to the great legal minds and dons that visit my blog, suppose that is a branch of legal jurisprudence that is called military law.

This is because outlawed outpost of Guantanamo Bay has presented a Military Commissions manual to be used for trying detainees in Camp Delta, the contents of which appear to satisfy elements of civil law and in others indicate a departure from standard and accepted legal practices where the threshold of evidence is as low as hear-say.

The evidence is awash with classified monikers that the patchwork of evidence the defence would have to work with would leave enough holds to make every trial unacceptably loaded against the accused bringing to close to just better than a kangaroo court.

Now, I am no legal expert, the views might differ, no so much by the letter of the law but by political persuasion where the right would contend that these provisions are the best that can be offered with regards to the sensitivity of the issues at hand and the left would contend that premise of innocence until tried and proven guilty is lost.

Some military lawyers already have misgivings about this manual which in the circumstances might have its progeny with the military junta of Myanmar, OK! That was a bit given to histrionics, my point is, and justice should not only be done, it should verifiably be seen to be done properly.

US does not torture

The other part of the evidence that would be most interesting to every civil and human rights activist is the implication that.

+ Some evidence might have been obtained under torture

+ Some evidence was obtained by coercion and is admissible as long as it was obtained before December 2005

The question then is, have these prisoners been tortured? They most certainly have, the spectacle of Abu Ghraib was an excerpt of the “Practical Guide to Obtaining Information” introduced by the commandant of Guantanamo Bay.

As for coercion, we can presume dunking which is the deliberate deprivation of air by pushing the full face into a liquid was not torture till at least December 2005 – avoiding gruesome detail – an activity that gets a full thumbs-up from vice-President Cheney, sorry, the less aggressive word is “water-boarding”, you would be forgiven for thinking it was as hip as skate-boarding.

Yes, “water-boarding” is a variant of dunking where rather than push the face into a liquid, facing upward and the body inclined with the head at the lower point, the gardener simulates a torrent of rain over the face that the gag-reflex creates a drowning sensation as the person almost enters the delirium of death.

However, we must hear the President out, “We do not torture”, he protests, they only use vital tools of elevated persuasion – I will not be good for politics, not with my mastery of semantics.

It would appear my concept of torture is hardly coercion in the eyes of those at the forefront of the war on terror in America. Judge for yourself, as we have been told, the US does not torture.

Planet Earth joins the Star Wars

More acronyms than nuclear weapons

When President Ronald Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) popularly known as Star Wars, many wondered about the militarisation of space and the consequences for peace.

We were still in the Cold War and though Russia and America were beginning to point less weapons at each other under the SALT treaties SALT I and SALT II which became START and then the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), one did wonder if the limitations in the use of nuclear weapons had not become a proliferation of multi-letter acronyms of the same agreements rehashed every few years to maintain the similitude of relevance to the world at large whilst others did their thing.

My gun is bigger

At least the impression people have had is that except in times of war, when any belligerent sovereignty wanted to flex their well-oiled Schwarzenegger muscles in some sophisticated arms, they had the common courtesy of informing their colleagues in this facile beauty contest of their intentions to test.

Greenpeace goes into overdrive, all the leftwing anti-nuclear groups excite their proxies in all political and news forums, some governments pronounce caution no condemnation, the UN does a bit of sabre-rattling coupled with an African rain dance and when enough publicity has been gained for the event, the test goes ahead as planned; condemnation follows displeasure, probably a boycott and sanctions in tow but nothing seriously binding.

The country proves its mettle and a tick goes into the acknowledgement register of all other countries that they are no more to be trifled with; such is the power of gun-boat diplomacy.

Get your gun, Xian

Little did we know that Star Wars did not have to cost that much and follow all that rigmarole of unnecessary protocols; simply find an ageing weather satellite and shoot it down, as China did.

China sent up an anti-satellite ballistic system to destroy the satellite; America, Australia and Canada have already criticised China for taking out the ageing man-made object which was put into orbit in 1999, others are supposed to follow suit very soon as news breaks across the globe.

As it transpired, “The US believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of co-operation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area”, if I read that right, it would appear someone forgot to put the agreement on paper, hence nothing about the letter of co-operation regarding conduct in the civil space area.

Next time you see a shooting star, just remember, the earth has now joined the Star Wars and it is China that did it first.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

I walked away

Gratitude

First of all, I want to thank everyone who placed a comment in my blog regarding My Sex Post, I appreciate that it is a difficult subject to broach and a harder issue to comprehend, but man is so capable of immeasurable good as much as unspeakable evil.

The sexual abuse of children lies in the deepest recesses of our communities, so dark that any incidental light on the matter has people either closing ranks or running amok in search of mob justice, all which is understandable.

I remember there is a verse in the Scriptures where it indicates that revealing these deeds allows them to be reproved but these deeds are almost too shameful to be countenanced - Ephesians 5:11-13 (King James Version).

However, I will not delve into that, rather, it is about how to edify and encourage those who still bear the scars of abuse and emasculation that concerns me.

Gathering oneself

There is no doubt that a great injustice has been done, but how does one gather the pieces of ones life as we grow from childhood into adulthood casting away the nightmares that cling to our memories making us prisoners of failure in companionships and relationships?

I have no answers, but these are the things I continually work with to keep my mind from dwelling on issues that could sap my self-assurance and self-esteem.

A sexual violation attacks your person and personality, any damage needs to be fixed, I affirm to myself the fact that no one can ever live their lives the way I have lived mine, in that, I am unique. Any regrets I have are lessons to use to understand how to live today and catch the future and I would only be defined by principles, issues and events that I choose to identify with in goodness, happiness, ability, courage and determination.

Walking away

I walk away, yes; I walk away from it all and refuse to drag it along with me. Just over 2 years ago three Moroccans attacked me, kicked me to the ground and I was beaten up in a drug and drink fuelled frenzy.

When they finished, I got up, dusted away what I could, first lamented the event, then said, many do not get up from such an event, it lasted just 5 minutes, it had to become insignificant in my life despite the fact that I could have been beaten to death.

After treatment in hospital, the next day, I returned to the scene to expunge the demons of that event so that I could talk about it without being affected negatively by it.

I have noticed that many negative events that have happened in my life have either consciously or unconsciously received that treatment, give it a perspective, narrow its influence and walk away and that is also how I have dealt with the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.

God wills

One cannot deny that these things happened, but one can decide with all the help one can get, spiritual, psychological or within friends and family to ensure that these events do not become milestones, goal posts or walls.

That is what I have done to help me move on, I pray that you all find succour, comfort, strength and courage to regain your self-assured self-esteem and to realise the best of what you can ever be to yourself, to your companion and to your community.

We deserve it and will attain it, because God wills.

Peace, love, joy, happiness and Godspeed.

These are no men of peace

What could have been

If it is true that in 2003, Iran offered the United States a deal that today might have helped quell the problems we see in Iraq and it was rejected outright, then we do live in unfortunate times.

It also means that all measures should be taken to bring maximum oversight and analysis to the proposed plan to escalate the battlefront or troop “surge” in Iraq as presented by President George W. Bush.

It is beyond belief that the two heads of the regime in America who in their youth, by every sleight of hand avoided serving their country in the thick of war are now the purveyors of the ignition to what might possibly be World War III.

There is no doubt that the consequence of rejection is the meat-grinder that Iraq has become, it is the graveyard of some who have unlike their leaders offered to serve their country in a war that no one wanted, at least, not I. On reflection, what America is asking Iran for now, is what Iran offered then, only this time, Iran does not have to care about responding.

Hating Iran with a passion

Surely, there must be something about the complete recalcitrance of these men that they just cannot deign to open diplomatic channels to either Iran or Syria, seeing Iraq, the country they have occupied since 2003 already has diplomatic relations with both countries.

It does not augur well for world peace that we cannot find men in leadership who can temper their belligerence with a modicum of restraint in view of the sacrifices they have demanded of others, that they themselves declined.

The question becomes, what has Syria or Iran done to George W. Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney? Because every right-thinking person, would be left aghast at this new development.

Making up for the faults of youth

However, it may be that having been stung by the seeming “cowardice” reference most especially to Dick Cheney’s non-military record, or is it a record number of deferments from being drafted to Vietnam (for the record, none of the deferments were illegal), they now have to display a quality of bravado, braggadocio or worse still brigandage to make up for their follies of youth.

This chauvinism to military power and expedition leading to the plunder of life and peace in Iraq and its environs is of great concern, if indeed, this news is true, the personification of power corrupting absolutely has another two years in the White House.

Our war on terror would now be for the Congress to consider regime change.

When religion and sex collide

Introduction

This is a general write-up addressed to no one in particular, however, there are many who in their perfection and completeness forget the frailty of man and problems others face, because many of us are hardly within the standards of the kind of moral conduct that they would attend to, when it comes to offering help.

If the leader of one of the great religious movements chose his audience by those standards, the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes would be dancing into heaven through the wide gates, the mind boggles.

Doing good illegally?

He walked into this building and there was this woman who was bent over double with what in old-times was called an infirmity as the story goes, she had taken all sorts of treatment completely expended her fortune, it did not look like she was being aided by any of the officials in that building.

He looked upon her and having the solution to her problem gave her succour through healing and the officials railed in rage, about the fact that he had broken one of the cardinal rules, he was exasperated, this lady has been in that condition for 18 years, that did not matter. The rules had been broken.

Another day, a man with a withered hand (paralysed), literally, unsightly was told to stretch out his hand and in doing so his hand was healed, once again, the officials of the establishment were incensed, if not incandescent with rage, they planned to kill him for doing that good deed.

Another time, the officials themselves caught a woman in adultery, this time rather than follow the rules as they know how to, they brought this woman to the man, to see how he would deal with it. Their rush to condemnation and judgment contrasts with his slow and determined consideration to mercy and forgiveness.

The poison of religion

I am not going to be flipping Bible pages to buttress any of the points I raise here, rather the Bible scholars know where these stories are and they can very well quote chapter and verse of these stories and pontificate, I will not preach to the converted.

But, I have to raise this because it highlights issues that have plagued us for centuries, religiosity and fundamentalism that sacrifices men to traditions, cultures, rules, moral codes and ideologies when compassion, mercy, kindness, consideration and love are what matter.

In light of the kind of commentary that Overwhelmed Naija Babe got regarding her sex post, it is interesting to note how many of the pious, religious, Godly and loving custodians of the Word of God, protectors of societal morals had much to say about the person and her actions, contrast that with the absence of any encouragement, advice or ordinary comment when the issue of sexual child abuse came into focus.

Sabbath made for man

In the stories, I allude to at the beginning of this blog, in the first two cases, the officials; religious authority of the day, learned in all matters of religious service and decorum could took umbrage with Jesus Christ about healing people on the Sabbath.

Indeed, there is a commandment that the Sabbath is a day of rest and many respect it as a day in which no work is done, but if that work is bringing healing to people who are suffering, the commandment is not invalidated, but a higher rule applies, Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath.

As in one situation, Jesus riles the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes about their attention to the detail of the law but no concern for the people and asked which of them would not deign to save their livestock if perchance any fell into a well on the Sabbath.

In the same vein, I remember when a protégé of mine was being coerced into a situation that was a marriage that was not working, I took that stance that whilst marriage is a sacrament and much should be done to help a marriage work; marriage was made for man and there is no reason to sacrifice man on the altar of marriage regardless of the strong views people had.

The gallows enthusiasts

However, as evidenced in my third story, these selfsame keepers of the rulebook who cannot countenance anyone being compassionately allowed favours of mercy on a day of rest are quick to bring to condemnation those caught in their frailty of sin, when in fact mercy and kindness is what is required.

Indeed, sometimes, one should count ones blessings and in the process, it is possible to see that things are better for you than the other man, but you do not gloat; in some cases, you have exercised more discretion, better judgment, exude the highest values and offer the most consideration in your comfort zones, it however does not give the position to sit in judgment over others except if you are a civil judge.

More so, what is most irksome is the busybody approach to these issues; none of these beautiful people can resist the urge to get involved in a negative way in the delusion that they are doing something good. Unfortunately, their contributions create discord, exacerbate conflict and magnify rancour, they can never observe the damage they are causing from their entrenched positions and it is definitely not proselytising.

Preaching to the despicable

I live in Amsterdam, legendary for its tolerance, of which the more holy crowd would call permissiveness; we have homosexuals, prostitutes and deviants a-plenty. A good few as kids were probably fervently religious, doing all the rules demand; however, their religious organisations could not help them when each of them discovered they had sexuality or morality issues.

Rather than engage and counsel, they were castigated and cast them out of the fold, a place to which none have returned because the pulpit rarely calls in the people who need help in those matters, rather, it is more convenient to bash from the pulpit the ills of society in order to consolidate those you have, than go out in the streets and spread the compassion of Jesus to those who by all means need succour.

Soft issues like homelessness and poverty are easy, how about those that make the preacher’s face contort into a hideous mask of disgust and disdain, can you really preach to the despicable by your standards and show enough compassion to bring the power of the Almighty to bear on those circumstances to rid people of drug problems, “so-called” sin-based diseases and so on?

Have you preached the gospel lately?

The people outside the fold are in a need of a message quite different from the one they are getting – convicting them of sin or condemning them for their actions is not part of the job description of any learned proselyte; that is the job of the Holy Ghost.

It says, preach the gospel and I have heard no gospel since this sex talk broke out, rather, I see Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Pastors, and Scholars of the Bible, purveyors of religion, the religion that kills.

Like Jesus said of some, they are mistaken, they know neither the Scripture nor the power of God, albeit appearances can really be deceptive as the complacency of the saints leaves their fellowman out the realm of the joys they presumably enjoy.

In the end, when religion and sex collide, humanity is sacrificed on the altar of rules, mercy is becomes intolerance and kindness becomes abuse. None of the participants end up the better for it; surely, that is not the gospel.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

My Sex Post

Enjoy first condemn after

When I first read about My Sex Post on African Shirts, I thought he was writing a Lady Chatterley’s Lover sequel, then Chxta exploded on the scene first to deal with the prude and the hypocrites who on reading the sexual exploits of Overwhelmed Naija Babe (ONB) could not resist the urge to vituperate after satisfying their voyeuristic propensity to ululate over the sexual proclivities of others and then pretend they are castrated eunuchs or blessed nuns.

I then commented in Chxta’s blog about how these selfsame holier-than-thou voyeurs would handle homosexual sex if they are all so square about heterosexual sex and the convictions that overcame them as they tried to ward that away by condemning ONB ever so strongly.

The unspoken misdeed

However, on reflection, I have a duty to address this matter because it belongs to the unspoken, where things untold have been done to the innocent, that those who should protect can never bring themselves to believe something so evil is happening.

Even tonight, there are some who fear the night with unmentionable terror, who pray for the day like their life depends on it, who scream for help till there is no voice in their throats, who are damaged by those from whom more is expected but the least that can be done to those villains is to have them hung, drawn and quartered.

Yes, some can speak about their first sexual experiences because they knew what was happening and enjoyed what was happening to them, there are many who cannot because we were being told what is happening is for our good and then we are threatened with menace, if word gets out about what is too despicable for words, polite society would swoon.

The betrayal

When it does get out, it is our word against the older person, especially in a culture where it is given that the word of the older person is more believable and truthful than that of us, the victims.

Now, there is a cover-up, word must not get out, it would heap shame on the family to find out that the worst kind of thing is being done to a child and no redress, justice or succour can be found to deal with the psychological damage, as we are branded liars and ostracised for being victims.

For some, our memories are lambasted as false memories and in despair others like us have brought their lives to an end because the pain is too much to bear and it is all about sex.

Too hard to recount

You say, I cannot be serious, no, you cannot be serious, and I am talking about the sexual abuse of children by people they know so well, thankfully, not by immediate family.

If there was any help, it came from the invisible, power that one can only be thankful for, to be spared from an evil worse than one can dare to recount.

Now, I start my sex post.

1.) How old were you, the first time? 7

I hope you do not want to know anymore about it.

If you can be of any help, support the NSPCC or some charity for the prevention of child cruelty in your locality.

Thanks!

PS: I am fine, I am one of the many who have survived and overcome, however, this is for those who as yet have no voice.