Thursday, December 22, 2011

Faida Hamdi: Madame Butterfly

The "Butterfly Effect" refers to the hypothetical situation where a butterfly flapping its wings in, say Mexico, could set off a chain of minor atmospheric events that (when amplified) can lead to a tornado in, say Texas.  Exactly one year ago, the actions of a female municipal police-officer from Tunisia, Faida Hamdi, set off a chain-reaction of events that ultimately led to the Arab Spring -- a series of revolutions that toppled long-term rulers from Tunisia to Egypt.

This obscure woman, Faida Hamdi, is alleged to have slapped and spat on a street-vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, and if that was not humiliating enough, she confiscated his cart of goods. Humiliated, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and the rest, as they say, is history. After all has been said and done, Faida Hamdi deserves a footnote in history.

Steve Jobs: Picking His Brain

Folks:  about three weeks ago I went to see a movie about Steve Jobs, called "Steve Jobs - The Lost Interview".  It wasn't a movie at all, but an interview done by a British team, around the time after Steve Jobs had been kicked out of Apple -- the company he had co-founded -- in 1985. For me, this was a great chance to pick his brain. I recorded much of his statements on my smartphone and I've reproduced some of his insights below. This man was a genius, and his musings need to be carefully noted. Some of the interview footage also appeared in the '96 PBS documentary, "The Triumph  of The Nerds".

Steve Jobs ~ "I think everyone should learn how to write [computer] code, because it teaches you how to think."

Steve Jobs ~ "We at Apple brought a Liberal Arts atmosphere to computer science by seeking out the best in all fields."

Steve Jobs ~ "I'll have to say, I'm a hippie and not a nerd!"

Steve Jobs [himself quoting Picasso] ~ "Great artists copy; great artists steal!"

Steve Jobs ~ "Human beings are toolbuilders and we can build tools that amplify our innate capabilities."

Steve Jobs ~ "The way to ratchet up the species is to take the best of everything [from everyone] and spread it as widely as possible."

Steve Jobs ~ "The problem with Microsoft is that they have absolutely no taste! And their products have no spirit to them."

Steve Jobs [commenting on ex-Apple CEO, John Scully] ~ "He got onto a rocket-ship that was about to take off, began to believe that he had designed the rocket-ship himself, and then changed its trajectory, causing it to crash!"

Steve Jobs ~ "In software, the difference between average and best is 50-1, as opposed to 2-1 in other fields."

Steve Jobs ~ "Xerox [the printer-company responsible for many earlier computing breakthroughs] could have owned the computer-industry, had the product-people been in charge and not the salesmen and marketeers."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Socrates, Cesaria Evora, Christopher Hitchens ~ Bidding Adieu

In the past fortnight, three people whom I admire greatly, departed this Earth to join the ancestors. It's in times like these that you have to think of your own mortality. I grew up watching the football wizardry of Socrates; in College, I was lulled to sleep poring over the commentaries of Christopher Hitchens; and later on, I became mesmerised by the music of Cesaria Evora, the Cape Verdean "barefoot diva". Now, they've all left us, and in quick succession too. It is indeed true: only God knows what lies in store for us; we can never really be the total masters of our destinies. Those who think otherwise are deluding themselves.
Socrates ~ the death of the great Brazilians midfielder of the 80s came as a total shock. That he died from complications from cirrhosis of the liver was even more shocking. If you've never seen the Brazilian football team from the 80s, then you've never lived! Zico, Cerezo, Falcao, Alemao, Junior and the majestic Socrates himself, orchestrating the play in midfield. Pure magic! In my opinion, this was the best football team ever to be assembled.

They turned the game of football -- the beautiful game (jogo bonito) as Brazilians call it -- into an art-form, a living opera. And then there was Socrates: a tall, lanky midfielder; a creative genius; and somewhat of an intellectual to boot. On top of that, he was a trained doctor, who had a chain-smoking habit! What a player! What a character! May his soul forever rest in peace. 
Christopher Hitchens ~ His death was not unexpected, but it still saddens me to see him go.  He was probably the best rhetorician the Western World has seen since the time of the Ancient Greeks. In any verbal spar he was unbeatable. Like a lion stalking an impala, he would seize upon  his "prey", set them up, and then destroy them to pieces with facts and iron-clad logic. A terrific genius! It will be a millennium before the Western World sees the emergence of such a great verbal practitioner like him.
Cesaria Evora ~ I woke up on Sat morning and read of her tragic death. I instantly collapsed into a heap on my living-room couch. I just couldn't believe it! Her music was pure magic. She truly did capture the spirit of the Cape Verdean people (and it's large diaspora).

 Like most people, I wasn't aware of her music until about the early 90s. Once I had heard her haunting voice, I was addicted! "Angola", "Petit Pays" and her duet with Salif Keita, "Yamore" are my favourite songs. A great musician, she shall be sorely missed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

When Gaddafi Met Mengistu In Harare.

Folks: you know, in the Deep South of America there still are people who believe that Elvis Presley (The King) is still alive. They've never come to grips with his death. Indeed, sightings of "The King" have been recorded and noted from the bayous of Louisiana to the plains of Georgia. In the same vein, some people will never be convinced of the passing of Mu'mar Gaddafi. He's even been sighted working behind the counters of Arab-stores here in Oakland, California. Anyway, here's my short satirical piece about the hypothetical meeting of Gaddafi with Mengistu Haile Mariam in Harare, Zimbabwe. Bear in mind, that the two were rivals whilst in power of their respective countries, Ethiopia  and Libya.

Note well: the commentary in bold letters is also mine.

In a leafy suburb of Harare:

Mengistu: [in a bitingly sarcastic tone] Well, well, well, speak-of-the-devil! Who do we have here? Is that my learned friend, author of the esteemed Green-Book, Mu'amar Gaddafi?

Gaddafi: Hamdallahi! (praise-to-God). It is I! And is that my dear, brother leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam?

Mengistu: It is indeed! Trust that we would meet here in Harare, Zimbabwe! What brings our dear, brother leader to these neck of the woods?

Gaddafi: [taken aback somewhat] I am no longer the leader of the Libyan people! You know!

Mengistu: [acidly replies] Neither am I the leader of the Ethiopian People! Damn them! Fools, all of them! Habbesha people!

Gaddafi: That makes two of us!

Mengistu: I thought they shot you to death, in Sirte?

Gaddafi: That was a body-double! [to roars of laughter]. To think that I would fight to the death in such a God-forsaken place! That's the reason why I overthrew King Idris in '69; they had tried to post me back to Sirte, amongst the camel-jockeys, so I staged a coup and exiled the King instead!

Mengistu: Son-of-a-gun! I thought you had him overthrown for making sexual overtures to your tribal womenfolk?

Gaddafi: That too!

Mengistu: Son-of-a-gun! [to roars of laughter]. And speaking of guns: whatever happened to your golden gun?

Gaddafi: (a) the rebels captured it (b) it wasn't golden! It was only painted medium yellow!

Mengistu: son-of-a-gun! [to more roars of laughter].

Mengistu: you know, I'm immediately reminded of my own flight from Addis Ababa in 1990.

Gaddafi: 1990? I thought that was in 1991?

Mengistu: No, the man on the 1991 flight was a body-double! [to roars of laughter]. To think I would have risked my life amongst those goat-herders of the Amhara highlands! Phweeww! Furthermore, the Americans who had come to pick me up, would have taken me straight to the Hague!

Gaddafi: Can't trust them cowboys!

Mengistu: I don't trust my own brother! Why would I have entrusted  my life to the CIA!

Gaddafi: Speaking of Harare: what employment opportunities are there for someone like me?

Mengistu: Well, you're such a showman! You could set yourself up as a P.R man here in the leafy suburbs of Harare.

Gaddafi: I know the opposition leader (Tsvangirai) sure needs some P.R! And his spokesman, Tamborinyoka, leaves a lot to be desired too!

Mengistu: You're damn right! You can say that again!

Gaddafi: How can I worm my way into Tsvangirai's inner circle then; to get some much-needed P.R work?

Mengistu: Show up at his office with your bevy of female bodyguards! Works all the time! Our man Tsvangirai is said to have a "zipper problem"!

Gaddafi: Like Bill Clinton!

Mengistu: Yes, indeed, like Bill Clinton! [to roars of laughter].

Gaddafi: Thanks for the advice. We should meet again for some tea-and-crumpet. I've got some juicy, Libyan prison-tales to tell you.

Mengistu: That would be grand! I have a bunch of Ethiopian torture-tales to retell myself.

Gaddafi: Next week KwaMereki (a popular Harare eating-spot).

Mengistu: Sounds good. See you then.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Wives Of Morgan Tsvangirai (part 2).

Like a mosquito in a nudist camp, I just don't know where to start! This Tsvangirai marriage-story has more twists and turns than the Monaco Grand Prix race-track, I tell ya! It's after 1 in the morning (California time) and I can't sleep trying to digest all the ins-and-outs of our PM's (now aborted) betrothal to his paramour, Locadia Karimatsenga Tembo. OK, here are the facts: after initiating marriage-rites through traditional go-betweens, and paying lobola (dowry), it appears as if Morgan Tsvangirai has decided to end his betrothal to Mai Locadia Tembo. This, after the buxom Locadia had traveled all the way to bone-dry Buhera (Tsvangirai's home region) to perform the traditional rites that Shona brides go through when getting married, such as the ceremonial sweeping of the in-laws' front porch.

Now our ne'er-do-well Prime Minister claims in a written statement, that state-security agents had  wormed their way into the whole marriage process -- yes, in Shona culture, marriage is a process rather than an event -- and hijacked the marriage. Those were his own words; I didn't make them up. I had always suspected that something was amiss about this whole Tsvangirai marriage, and I wrote that you can never discount the intentions (and reach) of Zimbabwe's state-security agents. These guys are good; probably the best in Africa (and maybe the world!). I'm now convinced that this "marriage" was a Zanu-pf stitch-up with Tsvangirai as the unknowing victim, the dupe in American-speak. He literally was in the process of being dragged into bed with the same Zanu-pf  ruling-party that he opposes.

Those readers who might accuse me of having a vivid imagination, don't know the M.O of these fellows. They truly are the best in the business! After this sordid escapade, I'll doff my cap in appreciation of their crafty handiwork.