Trevor Noah's Book Is a Beautiful Memoir

I finished reading Trevor Noah's memoir - "Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood". Simply put, Trevor's mum is a riot. No woman should go through her version of hell. And not many women have the doggedness that makes her the most admirable and pitiful character in the book. In a way, she reminds me of Frank McCourt's long-suffering mum in his epic memoir - "Angela's Ashes", only differing in her charming rebellion. She's introduced as unruly with a modicum of extreme piety, which makes her a good comic material for her narrating son. She risks herself in an apartheid South Africa to get pregnant for a white man and challenges everything that threatens to muffle her freedom. The biggest irony however is left for the ending pages where the once untamable lady resigns into a life of enduring domestic violence from Trevor's alcoholic step-father. The way he handles this aspect of his mum, one gets the sense that Trevor wrestles with the mystery of how women stay in abusive relationships.

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Trevor finds her Christian piety funny. Some of the funniest passages are those where he argues with his mum about the role of Jesus in their lives. The mischievous child once poo-poos in the living room and the stench produces a community-wide panic that made his mum and grand mum suspect a demon. He finds the whole panic funny. It's easy to theorize that families like his are fertile triggers for a creative existence. Whereas his mum deploys Jesus, Bible and the Church as survival tools to navigate a crazy world, Trevor considers these Christian elements nothing more than placebos.

Dude has a healthy cynicism about the whole Christian enterprise. Again, one may theorize that he is like those kids whose extreme pious upbringing, spiced with enough liberal tension, prepare them for an adult life marked by cynicism or creativity - or in the extreme - Unbelief.

There are more thematic concerns in the book, including racial dynamics in South Africa, the struggles for love, etc. but I'm mostly fascinated by his profiling of his mum.

It's sheer brilliance how he blends the realities of ghetto, with his coming-of-age struggles, with his innocent love-life, with his family drama, against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa, all with his characteristic humor.

Charming Ads Promoting a Bookstore

The charm is in the text - "A Good Night Starts With a Good Story", and how it features characters from classics.

Kinokuniya in Dubai is the biggest bookstore I've ever entered. Since it's located within a big mall, I had to warn myself never to enter the bookstore if I planned to check other stores. The few times I forgot this warning, I ended up not visiting somewhere else. I was literally lost in it.

"Charles Dickens"

"Charles Dickens"

"Williams Shakespeare"

"Williams Shakespeare"

"Jane Austen"

"Jane Austen"

My Family's Slave: An Epic Story

For a few days now, this article has been making the rounds on the internet. Some of my friends have read it and asked if I have too. Some shared excerpts on their social media accounts, which only heightened my restlessness. I figured it was a long piece so I shelved it for the weekend. I've just finished reading it. It's a depressing account of a reality that seems familiar but, as written, becomes more dispiriting in ways that tug at a fragile human capacity to absorb another's unfortunate misfortune. I couldn't finish it at a single read. No way. I needed breaks. Same way I read more miserable accounts - my favourite non-fictions nod to this type of narrative - Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" fucked with my mind but the humour and the dazzling narration was enough to tame any possible melancholy that the book sought to evoke. Same as Dave Egger's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius". I recovered from the misery of the books.

But this.

It's a long personal essay that exposes a family's treatment of a nanny, against the backdrop of America's promise of individual freedom and prosperity. It feels very familiar. Everyone can relate to the mistreatment of houseboy, housegirl, omo odo, house-help, house-maids, nanny, or whatever fancy name they are given these days. There's something inhumane and unforgiving about an economic and social arrangement that elects some people into domestic servitude, in ways that strip them of their humanity, that turns them into second-class, third-class citizens. This happens everywhere. They are the unreported victims of the darkest forms of domestic violence. Not those celebrities mining their domestic woes for showbiz attention. Not those attention seekers skewing details of their private frapapa or emotional imbalances to earn social media points.

I don't like the writer for how he held the narrative. It at once seemed unpretentious especially with the rather reader-friendly narration but you keep reading and then you realize that you're not being entertained. This is gloom. This is tales-by-moonlight with horror toppings.

The hero of this essay - there's really no way to describe her, was robbed of everything. I wanted to believe this is fiction but I realize that similar reality obtains. Growing up, I knew a family where the mother was so horrible I couldn't stand her even as her children and my siblings were acquainted. The way she treated those on her domestic salary roll was the stuff of Patience Ozokwor's witch characters, raised to power nuclear bipolar. She knew I didn't like her. But I still ate her food and played in her fine apartment.

Until there's a social arrangement that respects and protects domestic staff, I will never like the idea of house-helps. Maybe I'm just a silly empath.

I Agree: Political Satire is the Antidote to Trumpism (and Everything Else)

Despite the characteristic embarrassment and chaos of his presidency, some credits for Trump for ushering in an unprecedented wave of satire. And comedians are having a free cake. It’s a common refrain in discussions around creativity that creativity loves chaos. Trump provides comedians a dose of chaotic materials to work with.

We need Nigerian comedians to step up. It's my fantasy that comedians will be taken "seriously" here when they start probing fault lines, challenging social protocols and causing discomforts, of course, within reasonable boundaries. (Alibaba used to attempt political provocations during Obasanjo's era. Whatever happened to him. I think my favourite and smartest African comedian, Basketmouth, mellowed down on his materials after the supposed offensive rape joke. I had my reservations about the hoopla but I shelved it seeing the daggers aimed at him. But now, dude seems overly commercialized that I wonder if he hasn't compromised on the purity of his wit. Or maybe he's given in to the typical Nigerian quality of political and religious and tribal correctness).

I believe it's the finest comedian’s job, like the finest polemists - Christopher Hitchens, Adebayo Williams, Hunter S. Thompson, Abati (pre-Goodluck), Okey Ndibe, Gimba Kankada, etc., to challenge mediocrity, to discomfort the orthodoxy, to deliberately cross lines with the aim of pushing the society forward.

(I noticed a new show by Linda Ikeji, of a guy in a Late Night-type studio, making social commentaries. It looks cool, so far. I hope they can furnish their materials beyond the typical trope of yabbis humour. Provoke, people! Cross the line, people! The society would be better off. Or I should stop fantasizing).

That said, John Oliver and Trevor Noah are currently my favourite Trumpian satirists.

A Shoemaker’s Steps Into Entrepreneurship

(This is about my friend who makes shoes. His journey in entrepreneurship, as far as I’m privy to, is representative of the early stages of entrepreneurship. And I decided to write about the stages. And with an image of me wearing one of his designs).

Horny Phase: This is when an idea hits you and you start to masturbate over it. "Shoemaking. Yes, shoemaking!". Like the prospect of sex, the idea begins to sound promising, exotic, romantic and sometimes fantastical. Your brain is on overdrive. Your body twitches. It's love at first thought. But it's a delicate phase; it can extinguish quickly.

Passion Petrol Phase: "I am about to revolutionize shoemaking in Nigeria". This sustains the Horny Phase. You're now completely on steroids. Nothing in this world can stop you. You start to build biases to protect the idea. In fact, everything around you exists to confirm your biases. You associate the fervency of your passion to a divine conviction. Everyone starts to get a vibe from you. You're either weird to them or they're in awe of you. You can't stop yourself.

Quotation Phase: "Just do it!", "Just do the fucking shoes!". This is the most ridiculous stage. Familiar quotes take a new quality - "A journey of a thousand steps start with a fucking giant shoe". Same as spiritual quotes. You imagine yourself as an incarnate of a great entrepreneur. (Steve Jobs is everyone's usual suspect. Seth Godin is second. Yours will include the wealthy uncle that locks down the village during Christmas). You start saying smart and nice-sounding stuff. In order words, it's the phase of heightened psychosis. Everything motivates you. If a mere road sign says, "Speed Bump Ahead", you take it as a metaphor for your new business. You're just mad!

First Execution Phase: "We've launched a website that will change how shoes are made and sold in Nigeria". Actually, if you could, you may extend the claim to the world because, why not? This is world domination! And you'd believe your own silliness. Yes, the website is up and you've announced to friends, family, church members and exes. You won't talk about the hell you took web developers through in the making of the website. Your worry is now full-blown, and even more complicated by an anxiety over revenue. No, not anxiety. It's paranoia. How to make money becomes the bane of your existence!

OCD Phase: "Our logo must carry shoe element so it can become iconic". Actually, OCD runs through almost all the stages. But special mention to the compulsive and unnecessary drag over the choice of color, logo and the friggin' website design. (You'll contact some creative pretenders like Chris Ogunlowo via BBM, WhatsApp and everywhere and ask about their intelligent take on your logo, and he will feign intelligence simply to make you get off his back. But, deep down, he wondered if there aren't things that are more important to obsess about). You'll start googling the meanings of colours and, maybe, find spiritual connotations of logo elements and names!

Vanity Phase: "Journalists and bloggers will kill themselves to feature our shoes." This one is a curse. And you're careful. You know all those media things are at best veiled narcissism. The key currency here is to separate vanity from substance. You know well that not all media mentions are the same, some are the devil's way of distracting you from what matters. You don't chase interviews, PR, photo-ops and magazine front covers. You have things that are more important about your business to worry about. There's a wife to take care of, there's a future Harvard school fees to pay for the lil’ ones, and salaries to pay.

Lachrymal Phase: "Yaaaay, our shoes are selling. We have unique customers and we've hit our first profit." Insert tears here. Insert joy here. Insert multiple orgasms too. You’ve been waiting for this confirmation. You needed it to confirm you know what you're doing and you're doing it right. A milestone brings tears to your eyes. But, but... but your work has just begun.

Customers-Are-Kings-But-Some-Are-Fools Phase: "Don't fucking compare my shoes with roadside shoes". All along, you've been encountering customers at every point and you've been dealing with them with your church-mind. But it feels like a wayward prank when it seems like customers are behind you, scheming your downfall with unrealistic requests. You're holding yourself back from screaming on the phone or slapping the ones in front of you! But it is what it; you've got to deal with. Customers make or break businesses; you now know how to deal with them.

Customers-Breed-Customers Phase: "O'boy, I supplied shoes to my guy at that bank, now all their staff order shoes from me". Hey, you've gotta chill on the excitement. Your good work attracts more customers. Mediocrity doesn't duplicate excellence. Your Lagos domination has just begun. Keep at it. And be humble.

Bad-Customers-Pretending-To-Be-Friends Phase: "Chris, when are you going to order shoes from us, or, are you maaaad?" Some friends are in your business to ruin your business. Dealing with them requires an act of the divine. They won't order shoes. They won't invest in your business. They won't even visit your snazzy, elegant, on fleek website. But they'll write long ass Medium posts so you can give them free shoes or borrow them to rock them to owambe parties."

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Check out his website for the coolest and unbelievably handmade and quality shoes https://trybelifestyle.com/

When I Hosted Foreign Guests at The African Shrine

Since our dearly beloved president has been away, someone has to take up the duty of hosting foreign guests. I took it upon myself to host 2 Kenyans and an Italian because, really, ask not what your president can do, in his absence, ask what you can do for your president, in his absence.

One of our foreign guests has been a friend for some time and I had looked forward to her visit. Being quite wanderlust and bohemia, she asked to see the Nigerian default destination for mavericks, free-spirits, arty-party heads - The African Shrine. (And she kinda looks like a cross of Erica Badu with Janelle Monáe).

Femi Kuti will be performing. She knows some Femi's songs. I don't know many of his songs. (Just play me some sax or guitar solos and Beng Beng Beng and with some grade-A-mama-Africa-twerking, and I'm fine). Of the conversations that lend to subtle comparing of Nigeria and Kenya - including electricity outages and traffic and call girls, none was about how a Kenyan knows more Femi songs than a Nigerian. But we joked about the Kenyan that won the Lagos marathon. She yelled, "Who invites a Kenyan to a race?", in which I figured the State's governor needs to get his priorities right instead of throwing dollars at foreigners at the expense of a tourists-hosting Lagosian who is on a marathon against brokenness.

We took some obligatory photos at the entrance and made way into the hall. Femi had started performing. As drinks were ordered, I prepared to see curious gazes thrown my way as I mention that I don't drink alcohol. It's a well-known fact that teetotalers are passively persecuted in social settings. I’m used to the awkwardness. Star Lager beer for the foreign guys. Orijin for the curious foreign girl. Give me malt.

It's not the typical African Shrine crowd, of revelers jumping everywhere and with whiffs from weed colluding with belches from peppersoup and smoked croaker fish. Most people here are seated around chairs and their orders. Only a few - I think I saw Yeni Kuti too, are on the dance floor. We soon joined them. I seem touristy too with dance steps named after nothing.

Femi soon launched into a monologue about the Nigerian condition. He made remarks about the protests in the country and stressed that the type of protest Nigeria deserves is the type that grounds a nation to its knees, one that mutes social activities, not merely brandishing posters and posing for photo-ops. Femi, I believe, like his dad, nurtures revolutionary fantasies.

Two cages at the sides of the stage distracted me. Two ladies are in them. I wondered what artistic decision brought about caged girls, dancing and doing Afrobeat twerking. It disgusts me like the sight of caged birds.

More dances. More ethanol. Dale, who looks like Ziggy Marley, enjoys himself. Pierandrea, full of energy, soaks in everything Naija like a sponge. Anita, I believe, is a Nigerian at heart.

Femi leaves the stage.

After more pictures and souvenir purchases, we left too.

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Obama and Liberal Hypocrisy

(via huffington post)

(via huffington post)

Folks may say it's probably not the "ideal" time to charge at the other side of Obama's achievement. He's currently being lauded and idolized by his fans. I am one too. But, if we excuse ourselves for a second and aim our minds at some corners of the Middle East where Obama expanded his drone programme, we'll be look at his achievements with skepticism. This is why I like the pithy and unpopular post by Kola Tubosun. He says:

"It is liberal hypocrisy to overlook the devastation of Obama's drone wars around the Middle East as part of his legacy to his successor. We tolerated that, because it was a Democratic president, and that's a shame."

I agreed and attempted a psychoanalysis of the Obama phenomenon:

There must be a term for a type of cognitive bias and tendency to ignore the evil of that which we love, because such doesn't validate our perception, and we subconsciously filter ourselves from seeing those evils, or if we do, we handle them with leniency. It will remain the stuff of genius how Obama's drone credentials haven't drawn as much mainstream indignation. Teju Cole was vehement about this. Same as Cornel West in his farewell appraisal of Obama. Same as Chomsky on some occasions.

Your opinion nudges at the domain of psychology. This gentleman represents the most successful example of a well-branded political product. Critically observed, he imitates the qualities of the most successful brands/celebrities with the most favourable public disposition; you can sometimes scorn them but you can't love them enough. They may hurt you but, somehow, their sins are ignorable or easily forgivable (except for extreme exceptions where they go too far. O. J. Simpson, anyone?). In the unconscious transactions of engaging with them, we've given up our rights to critical appraisal. And that’s because we can't stand that they can be anything but nice. They must remain our best projections of ourselves, in the most idealistic way possible. You talk about liberal hypocrisy, I'd add liberal echo chamber too - a vacuum and machine with a good representation of people and institutions that are programmed for political correctness.

The media (excluding FOX, of course) deified him. The world is strung on hero worship, we are armed with masturbatory technologies that allow us to see only the gloss, and we can't imagine our heroes as mere humans capable of despicable acts. It's the triumph of his handlers and liberal insularity (and hypocrisy). You may be surprised that somewhere someone has read your post and is disgusted by its timing.

It's the reason the Trump phenomenon is jarring to their senses. If - sorry, not if - when Trump starts to use drones, watch out for the liberal outcry. Even if he doesn't expand the drone programme and kill as many civilians, wait for the hoopla that will follow the news because, yeah, Trump validates that evil perception. He doesn't have as much goodwill as Obama who, on records, used drones way more than Bush.

Liberals, very insular bunch. Obama, very lovable human being.