Saturday, August 31, 2013

R NOT W...

The clip below is from the 1979 comedy/parody film  Monty Python's Life of Brian. Brian is part of an anti- Roman movement and has just been caught by the Roman guards and brought before Pontius Pilate. In this movie, Pilate has a speech impediment.Watch and laugh your sides out! 






Friday, August 30, 2013

TOUCHING STORIES


 One  genre of film I've always been a fan of are films based on a true story. Be they happy or sad- they always manage to move me and make me ponder on the subject(s) of the story. I came across this title by chance- about an African American man who served as a butler in the White House for 34 years;  witnessed Presidents come and go and the several changes in America. Loosely based on the real life White House butler Eugene Allen who died at age 90 in 2010; THE BUTLER stars Oscar Winner,  Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Cecil Gaines , Queen of Talk Show Oprah Winfrey as his wife Gloria, Robin Williams as President Dwight  Eisenhower, James Mardsen as President Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as President Lyndon Johnson, John Cusack as President Richard Nixon, British actor Alan Rickman as President Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as First Lady Nancy Regan and Orlando Eric Street as President Obama.
While I want to see the movie badly, I'm more interested in the man this film is based on, Eugene Allen. I keep picturing this unassuming yet professional  man who first started as a pantry boy in the White House and then  served 8 presidents during his 34 years of service. From what I researched, he was respected by each president he served, he got to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley;  was invited to a state dinner by the Reagans, given one of President  Kennedy's ties by Mrs. Kennedy.
 But what moved me the most was that Eugene lived to witness the first African American- Barack Obama- sworn in as President. I keep imagining how he must have felt that historical day, most probably tears filling his eyes and wishing his wife Helene had lived to see the day; especially since he received a special invitation to the swearing-in. For a man who endured segregation growing up,  it must have been absolutely wonderful seeing that and I keep thanking God amidst tears of my own  for His Mercy- for letting Eugene see it!God rest his soul.




The second must see is MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM- based on Nelson Mandela's autobiography; from his childhood and coming of age, 27 years in prison and eventual release. The previous film about his early days as President of South Africa was INVICTUS starring Morgan Freeman; this time British actor Idris Elba will play Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. Considering everything Mandela endured and fought against- it is a guaranteed tear jerker.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

THE ACT OF PREFERENCE & NECESSITY

Life in Nigeria is one big hustle. These days it's harsh in the job market; more and more graduates ambling about with their C.Vs looking for work and praying they would be successful. If they manage to get one,  usually it depends on what grade they have- like a first class- or level of education. Students go to universities to study for a degree in a course they are genuinely interested in, what they were advised to study or what they had no choice to  study because they made the cut off mark. But at the end of the day- they take on careers or jobs that have very little to so with the course studied.
One reason  is; the course related job taken on but not fulfilling hence they go ahead and 'follow their bliss'- doing something else that gives them a deeper feeling of achievement, and fetches good money of course. For example, the preschool/creche I worked last year is owned and run by a woman who studied Law and got called to the Bar. I know two women who studied Pharmacy yet one bakes cakes and deserts for large parties/special events and runs a Catering School; the other is a consultant at FITC (Financial Institute Training Center) here in Lagos. A friend studied Chemistry and works at Chevron yet her real calling is making organic cosmetics and aromatherapy oils.
Another reason is the scarcity of jobs in the job market (NO VACANCY) or not meeting the job requirements which drives them into doing something else to put food on the table. These days, graduates who studied Accountancy are in  classrooms teaching Mathematics because they can't get  work in Banks where they belong , Architecture grads teaching Fine Art, English Language & Creative Arts students in the Marketing Department of any company. Those who teach are known to sell stuff like handbags, shoes and clothes to earn more money.

And there's the most common reason; there are those who were unable to go to university or finish secondary school because of poverty and they are the real hustlers because they have to put their natural or learned skills to use or just go into a business based on demand. They are the vulcanizers at the side of most roads waiting to fix flat tires.
 Some are those who get a few desktop computers and a good internet service and run cybercafes; adding to the  business by also selling snacks, drinks and computer accessories to the customers who come to 'browse' the Net.





















 They are the market women who sell anything from tomatoes, pepper and onions to fried akara or run road side canteens. Some have even started selling home made dish washing soap- which is sweet smelling and very foamy and of course cheap (50 to 100 naira depending on the size of the bottle) and other stuff like seasoning, dried fish, fruits and bottles of kerosine.



Those who  mostly prefer to  use skills to make money  go about it in the following ways.

Bead Making: This line of business is quite competitive as beads are in fashion these days and they sell fast usually because of the pattern/design or the particular stones or beads used; the best kind are necklaces made with semi precious stones and they fetch very good prices.
 



Selling Recharge Cards/ Phone Operation: Very competitive since everyday people need to reload their phone credit so demand for recharge cards is very high. If you don't have a cell phone, you can pay to make a call. You can find recharge card vendors and phone operators' kiosks  just about anywhere; it's only a few who offer other wares besides cards and calls; some sell candy, snacks or new cell phones and Sim cards to anyone who can afford them.  A friend of mine (who was unable to follow her dream of studying Nursing) sells recharge cards and bakes meat pies, doughnuts for sale. Not only that,  she also makes popcorn and  Jollof rice, Fried rice topped with fried turkey and turkey gizzard- fetching her more money to live on.

 


Dressmaking:



Also competitive and takes a lot of skill. Tailors usually prefer to attract customers by sewing clothes of original design and sell them first before taking commissioned work by them. Location of their shops is also important.











Hairdressing: Nigerian women always have to look their best hair wise so there are unlimited hair stylists more than ready to do the job- from shops, near car parks and via home services.










Catering: As far as I know, the most competitive line of business in this country as there several companies offering this service and lots of exotic food besides the traditional on the menu- Chinese, Italian and even casual finger food as well.

In short, everyone just tries their hand on anything they can think of (legit of course) to earn an income. Be it in the form of preference or necessity- they always manage to keep head above water. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 YEARS AGO... A MAN SPOKE OF HIS DREAM



I was but  a little child when I first saw the video of Dr. King's memorable speech and that was several years after his assassination. I saw how my father was moved by that speech; he wasn't living in America then but in England and he knew all about racial discrimination and segregation. This man was a man who didn't want racial supremacy but racial equality and a time when black people were regarded by their personalities, their strength of character and what they could achieve in life, not by their race or the colour of their skin. He spoke  not only of civil rights,  equality and integration  of his longing for a time when America and the rest of the world would finally embrace universal brotherhood and get along with one another, regardless of race.
That speech and the march for civil rights  was 50 years old today and that match wasn't only participated by blacks but by those who believed in the end of segregation and the fight for civil rights- the soldiers of change.  Even though a lot has changed over the years; no more 'for whites only' establishments and an African American man as the American President  currently serving his second term; there is still some things left to be achieved. Here and there, there are still displays of racial inequality especially in forms  of racial and ethnic profiling and God knows what else. How does America and the world in general expect to actually make the world a place of Universal brotherhood if they keep judging people by the colour of their skin. Thanks be to God for those who still remember Dr. King's speech, those who are still fighting for change and improvement - 'The Soldiers of Change' as I call them- those who are still following Dr. King's stand on non violence and love. I speak as a person who is a firm believer of  universal brotherhood and equality and hope to be an American citizen some day.
Dr. King's speech should sink inside of the minds of those who need enlightening about racial discrimination and its evils. To all  those who marched that day and took this good man's speech to heart; and still remember it today; determined to emulate every word- I salute you.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

BEN AFFLECK AS BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT'S MANY FACES



I don't know why there's some negativity  here and there about Ben Affleck being selected as the next Bat Man even if Christian Bale will be greatly missed. Why shouldn't he be chosen- he's  a good actor besides having the blessing of being very, very yummy (be still my beating heart). And since his alter ego Bruce Wayne is usually decked out in dark suits- I would say that this very handsome actor is definitely the right
choice. Let's not forget he played Marvel's Daredevil/ blind lawyer Jack Murdock in 2003; alongside the lovely  lady who is now his wife,  Jennifer Garner- who played Elektra Natchios in the film and its spinoff  Elektra.
When I told my brother about Affleck's new role, he said, 'No... he's too well known, why can't they pick an unknown?'
 I pointed out that his predecessors, the ones we Nigerian fans know of, weren't exactly unknowns- Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney. He snorted and said 'Clooney was dry as Batman, in BATMAN  & ROBIN he tried to be funny.'  Like Batman ever tried to be funny!
Any how... this upcoming movie is not a new addition to the Dark Knight franchise but a sequel to the still much talked about MAN OF STEEL starring Henry Cavill. Another actor that gives me  flutters in my stomach and  I'm not ashamed to say that my favourite scene in that movie was the sight of him shirtless;
 Oh My God, wow!. This is a very interesting development since the Superman/Batman movies that exist so far are animated ones- SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES( adapted from the story arc World's Finest and where Lex Lutor actually framed Superman for murder of all things), SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE (where Superman met his cousin Kara Zor-el a.k.a Supergirl) and of course there is the animated series JUSTICE LEAGUE. This new movie is to be directed by the same director who did MAN OF STEEL Zack Snyder; the title is yet to be known. I for one can't wait to see it!

Superman has been more of a favorite of mine than Batman as a child but Batman comes as a close second. Like Clark Kent's, Bruce Wayne's background story is fascinating, although more tragic and the adaptations gave way for actors to portray him on screen.        
                                                                          
 I'm not familiar with the very early actors to play the dark Knight - before I ever saw Michael Keaton in the 1989 adaptation; we saw Adam West in reruns of the  1960s version. My brothers took one look at him and, sorry to say,  burst out laughing. Having read the comics, I guess we expected to see someone more intimidating but we found the guy a bit too genial  to be Bruce Wayne/Batman and each episode rather campy; we weren't exactly impressed.







In an odd twist of fate, we saw BATMAN FOREVER before BATMAN and BATMAN  RETURNS and we loved Val Kilmer in the role. He was suave, aloof as Bruce Wayne and a commanding presence as Batman and his costume was far better than the one Adam West had- that one was just too ridiculous for us to take seriously and Chris O' Donnell was equally very good as Robin/Dick Grayson.














After seeing BATMAN FOREVER, we, well my brothers, said that Kilmer was the best Batman. But that all changed after we finally got to see Keaton as Batman in BATMAN RETURNS, the one we should have viewed first. We saw him in this scene when he gets up at the sight of the bat signal...








video


 and little brother exclaimed, 'No, this IS Batman, proper Batman! He has the chin, the face, everything!' I completely agreed with him; he was aloof too but stern, intimidating and yes... an even more commanding presence as Batman- far more than Kilmer though we remain impressed with his portrayal. But we can't ignore Keaton; he really nailed it hence he's our favorite Batman to date.

Clooney in the role, well... no; we weren't impressed. Maybe we were already used to Kilmer and Keaton or perhaps it was BATMAN & ROBIN'S story plot; it was completely wack and more comic than gothic like the others and to me, he was not intimidating enough as Batman. Sorry George if you happen to read this. 

Christian Bale, no question! He was super great in the role and every inch of Bob Kane's Dark Knight; it's almost a pity that he won't be in the upcoming movie movie. But I say The Dark Knight fans should give Affleck a chance- don't analyze until you've seen him in the role. Best of luck to him.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

DIGITAL ERA VS 'THE OLD DAYS' ERA


A friend came by the other day when I was in my room tidying up and on seeing my scattered tapes (most of them recorded movies)  asked how will I get rid of them. I said, 'I'm not; I have a VCR to watch them with.'  (pic of the model I'm currently using above)
 'Come on Amina, you still watch  video cassettes? You're so old school.' was her  reply. 'Nobody watches tapes these days.'
 Is that really true? 
 
The digital age has not only brought about radical changes in our gadgets and appliances but also the way we do things. I remember the times when I would buy blank audio tapes, record as many tracks as I could from my favorite radio station and listen to them for hours on my battery-run Walkman. Earlier memories of music listening are mostly listening to  my older brother's records on the turntable - New Edition, Michael Jackson, Kool & The Gang, Earth Wind & Fire, Atlantic Star etc. as well the ones my parents prefer-
King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and others... those were the days.












Along the line came CDs and CD Walkmans where one has the option of buying a CD of any artist or 'burn' a mixed one to listen at leisure and then was the introduction of the ipod and mp3 players which plays music files that are bought/found and  downloaded on the Internet and instead of bulky audio tape walkmans strapped to the belt or held in the hand, these little gadgets can be easily slipped into the pocket. Those who can't afford the luxury of ipods/mp3 players have the option of listening to them in their cell phones or their laptops if they wanted to just listen online.







From audio cassettes to mp3 music files; the same changes came to videos. When films came to the world, there was the projector. After TV, came the VCR where people watched movies via VHS cassettes (which I still do) before the advent of VCDS and now the DVD; plus video files that can be watched online on popular sites like Youtube and other sites where you have to pay for a subscription.
But the question, are there people like me who prefer the old days? I love the digital era, no question but my friend was wrong about people not listening to tapes any more.VCRs still exist and still sold by electronic companies; these days VCRs come with DVD compartments


and movies/T.V series, especially  those  that aren't  on  DVD  sold in VHS cassettes.Most radios these days too have both tape and CD compartments so I guess audio tapes are still used too.
While I love the picture and sound quality of today's DVDs; I still love (and prefer) my tapes. DVDs gets scratched when handled badly and the image ruined. There's the argument about  video tapes developing fungus  after some years  and making the VCR's head dirty but these days, tapes are treated with anti fungus during manufacturing. Like DVDS, you can continue from where you left off and let's face it... they last better. So with that last fact, I'm not old school at all; I know very well what lasts better and what does not. And people have the right to hold on to their preferences in general. My older brother and a cousin still listen
to music on the turnable; I asked why and they simply said the music they love just doesn't sound right on CD. I don't know how many people still use typewriters but I know I prefer my old laptop to Ipads; I tried using a female cousin's when I was visiting and I found it far too awkward. Just like I hold on to my hardback and paperback books in my bookcases instead of thinking about saving money to buy a kindle; I have nothing against ebooks exactly but I would rather read and own something I can physically hold in my hand.
The digital era has been kind to the world in terms of media, communication; even education. But when one tends to go 'old school' once in a while it's not up to people to judge. Preference is a person's right and it does feel good to slip into 'the old days' now and then.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

CARBO FAN FICTION: Return Journey Chapter 22





Chapter 22
Daniel held his wife’s hand tightly as the ambulance conveyed them to the hospital. Under her abundant black hair, Darcy looked like death; her face ghostly pale and sweaty.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR "THE TALK"?

 




Sooner or later, children will discover sex; it's inevitable. In more developed countries like America; teenagers are enlightened about 'the birds and the bees' via Sex Education in their schools; which is actually a good idea but a double edged sword depending on how one sees it. On one hand, they are educated about what goes on between a man and a woman, how babies are conceived and the consequences of unsafe sexual practices-Unwanted/Unplanned Pregnancy, STD(Sexually Transmitted Diseases)  and the importance of abstinence until the right time. On the other hand, despite warnings and advice- some teenagers may indulge out of curiosity, defiance or just youthful exuberance/raging hormones. All the same, Sex Education covers all the bases. 

In a country like  Nigeria, no such luxury exists in the schools yet though there are now petitions from several notable bodies  demanding for the addition of Sex Education in the curriculum. Most Nigerian parents tend to be tight lipped and put  on a prudish attitude  when their teenagers ask the inevitable question 'Mum... Dad... what is Sex?' When that question is unanswered and they are given a reprimand instead, they(girls especially) end up asking the wrong person like maybe a male neighour, a male teacher or a male friend and if the person happens to be a horny irresponsible fellow; the girl could end up raped and then forced to carry an unplanned pregnancy or worse. Who is to be blamed then? 
Personally I never got 'the talk' from my parents; I found out on my own when I was a little girl of about 7 (shocking enough). Despite Mum's efforts, I somehow found myself watching romance films on T.V where I would be wondering why a man and woman held each other so close under the sheets. But my education really began when my older brother's friends came to visit one day and slotted in a tape in the VCR which turned out to be a porno film. To say I was shocked was an understatement; till today I can still remember what I saw and the first thought in my mind that afternoon, 'Oh... so that's what goes on under the bedsheets.' (Don't judge the guys too harshly, they had no idea I was in the room) Lurid Magazines, Mills & Boon and Biology covered the rest 7 years later.
 From my research among several female friends, I gathered that none of them got 'the talk' from their parents. Some found out on their own from different sources but not as early as I did; some  were reprimanded when they asked for sex to be explained to them and the others never thought about asking/parents never volunteered to enlighten them. I don't know how it was handled during my Mum's time; she went to Convent School where, according to her, the nuns were extremely strict (mere crossing of the legs when sitting down got them into trouble) but I strongly suspect that she and the other school girls were given the talk in the guise of a long, lengthy lecture about the sin of premarital sex; which probably gave them the shivers and caused them to maintain complete abstinence until the 'licence' (wedding ring) was on their finger.
Until Sex Education is added to the curriculum, parents have to play a huge part in enlightening their children about Sex in order to prevent them from discovering it the hard way and suffering the consequences. For the boys, Fathers' job; Girls, Mothers' job naturally and both parties should not even wait for them to ask! The time for 'the talk' is of course the time of Puberty, age 12-14 at the most; when their sons and daughters' bodies begin to change and hormones start acting funny. There is no room for prim and proper or prudish attitude; they should get on with it and the sooner the better  if they care about  safe guarding  their children's bright future and protect them from going astray. 
 So which way is the best way  for children to be enlightened about sex; Formal Sex Education or from the parents?