Activisim, Social Media, Technology

The challenge with Twitter is us, not the youth.

It’s been ten days since the Federal Government suspended Twitter. As I suspected, my life has not come to a cataclysmic end. Yup, I’m still here. And so is my mind. A luxury these days.

Now, it is not that I do not care for Twitter or support the government’s brutish machismo. I like Jack Dorsey and don’t mind his little blue bird nesting on my phone. The problem is, I’m not a bird lover. I don’t bird-watch. And I don’t like ceaseless chirping. Which is why I don’t have notification enabled for Twitter. When I get notifications, I want it to be of something really important. Like a 200km-wide-asteroid-is-hurtling-towards-Earth important. Or Man-United-just-signedJandon-Sancho-Rafael-Varane-Marco-Veratti-and-Erling-Haaland important. Besides, I’m wary of social media addiction. I’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix. Scared the bejesus out of me.

Where do I stand on the ban? Well, last time I checked, our demonym is still ‘Nigerian’. Not Chinese, North Korean or Iranian. That being the case, I have come to expect a great measure of free speech and liberty to tweet as a Nigerian. So, while I only check Twitter once or twice a day, I am yet filled with a righteous, if hypocritical, rage at this denial of my right to use Twitter.

Mr. Dorsey’s algorithm hasn’t done him much favours though. It should have picked up the IPOB tweets that so clearly violated the much-vaunted Twitter’s Rules. It didn’t. I can therefore understand how the government can accuse Twitter of double standards. I’d be miffed too.

And spare me the drivel that the government should have reported the IPOB tweets to Twitter. OK, yea, maybe messers Lai Mohammed and Tolu Ogunlesi should have reported the IPOB tweets. But so what they didn’t? Social media companies owe society a duty of care to protect us from seeing evil and hearing evil. The burden of spotting violative posts is on them and not on us. The algos have to do better.

But enough of my faux adjudication. What has got under my skin is the role my demography is playing in the ban. I have come across many forty-something-year-olds glorying in the Twitter ban. They cite the ‘disrespectful’ and ‘uncouth youths’ that inhabit the platform as desert. The so-called ‘children of anger.’

‘Children of anger’? For speaking up? For developing allergies to bunkum, tosh and codswallop?

Shame on you lot!

When the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) terrorized the country, it was the youth that bore the brunt of the oppression and malfeasance. Not we the forty-something-year-olds. When that yoke of police brutality was heavy on our necks, it was the youth that mobilised. Not we, the forty-something-year-olds. And thanks to them, we were rid of SARS. We are not the ones struggling to find jobs. They are. We are not the ones who have hardly tasted the good of the land. It is they. It is, therefore, to be expected that they would be the most uninhibited and vehement segment of society.

But how quickly we forget the past. We, the forty-something-year-olds, were once these ‘children of anger.’

We were the ‘disrespectful’ youth that marched when our mandate was annulled in the June 12 1993 elections. The ‘children of rage’ that stormed the streets when the acclaimed winner of that election died in prison in 1998. A few decades earlier, it was the youths that marched against the military power in 1978 in the Ali Must Go nationwide protest. How quickly we forget we once wore this badge with pride.

The only difference between us and today’s youths is that back in the day, we didn’t have social media to amplify our grievances and mobilise. Today’s young bloods do and are using it in very effective ways. We may not always agree with their tactics or language but when has the old and the young seen eye to eye? It’s the circle of life. Hakuna whatever.

I get it though. We the forty-something-year-olds are risk-averse. Age does that. We’ve become the old and lazy cats we railed against when we were younger. The scared lot afraid and tired of speaking the truth to power. I suppose it’s understandable. We have a lot more to lose than these young Turks. Family, security, position, power. Best let sleeping dogs lie. Since it’s a kennel of feral Dobermans, Rottweilers and Pitt Bulls.

So, here is the obvious: the youths are going nowhere. With or without Twitter, you can’t gag them. And they are coming. Over 70 million of them. Oh, they are coming!

It was once our time. It is now their time. Best get with the program.

 

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Career, Talent

The duck, the rabbit, the squirrel and the eagle.

Once upon a time, the animals got together and started a school. The influential animals decided what the best measure of intelligence and ability was. It was running, climbing, swimming and flying. All the animals must score an A in the four subjects. 

The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, better than his instructor, the kangaroo. But he made poor grades in flying and was pathetic at running. Everyone laughed at him when he tried to run. So he dropped swimming and stayed after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn so that he became average in swimming. He was happy as a duck in Arizona, frustrated he couldn’t be good at swimming and running at the same time. 

The rabbit started at the top of his class in running. Everyone had a hard time catching up with him. His instructor reprimanded him for not being a team player and quick to dash off. So he slowed down and focused on the other subjects. Sadly, he developed muscle spasms in his legs because of many make-up classes in swimming and climbing. It affected his ability to run. Now the snail mocks his speed. 

The squirrel was excellent in climbing. But he encountered constant frustration in flying and swimming classes. He was instructed to understudy the duck and the eagle. He didn’t like the instruction. His fur would get wet and he would be cold. And besides, doesn’t eagles like to eat furry little treats like him? The instruction drove him nuts. He would scurry up a tree and seethe. 

The eagle beat all the others in flying classes. In fact, one time he climbed to 15,000 ft in 40 seconds. Soaring came natural to him. And he loved to stay up. But he was often threatened with expulsion for having his heads in the clouds. He needed to stop being a show-off and be grounded. So he comes down and joins the others on the ground. His teacher asked him to befriend the rabbit if he wanted to pass the running class. Soon his feathers began to come off because he was getting caught in the thicket following the rabbit. 

Well, yea, I added my own colourful spin to the story. But the central idea remains – don’t try to be like everyone else.

Be who God created you to be. Someone with specific skills and abilities.  

If you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid that “you can be anything you want to be”, put that sugary baloney down right now. No, you can’t be anything you want to be. Bet you can’t multiply 7089 by 9681 in your mind in 10 seconds. Or have an uncanny way with words. Or is exceedingly great at influencing people. 

You can only be anything you want to be in the area God has gifted you in. You can win the Nobel Prize for Physics or head NASA if science turns your crank. You can sell more books than J.K. Rowling if you have exceptional imagination and love to write. You can be these even if you are from the backwaters of Africa. All you have to do is stay in your lane. In your area of giftedness. 

Come to terms with the fact that you can’t be as good as others in certain endeavours. I’ve come to terms with that in my career. I’ve stopped focusing on the things I’m not very good at but rather honing my strengths and skills.

You can be King Kong in your sphere. The mistake Godzilla made was fighting Kong on land.

Know your ability. Develop it.

“Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
Proverbs 22:29
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European Super League, Football, Soccer, Sports, UEFA

The ESL. Culture always eats strategy for breakfast. Heartily.

Bahram Arjmandnia

On Sunday, Manchester United’s home match against Liverpool was cancelled due to fan protests against the Glazer ownership.

I was pained the match was cancelled. United is in such fine fettle. Sunday was an opportunity to drive kryptonite-tipped and plutonium-coated nails into Liverpool’s ‘Top-4’ coffin. Condemn them to wallow in the Europa muck with Outer Mongolia FC and Borat Kazakhstan. They dodged a bullet. But the bullet has their name. It’ll home.

We have a lot to be aggrieved about. The greedy Glazer family for one. These geezers see Manchester United only as a nest egg. When they bought the club in 2005, the club had zero debt. Fast forward to 2021 and we are in a debt of £526m. This is after paying over £500m in interest. These blokes haven’t put a nickel of their money in the club. All they do is take. Recently, they paid out £122m as dividends to their apparently penurious selves.

Look, I get it. The Glazers bought United as a business, not as a football club. Trophies mean diddly squat to them.

The problem is, United was an attractive acquisition for them in the first place because of the ginormous brand equity and successes of the club. We had and still have a huge (and monetizable) global following. Our consistent success on the pitch led sponsors to beat a path to Old Trafford. We have the biggest club stadium in the country. In essence, United minted money. This inevitably became our undoing because the glitter attracted marauders from outer space. But I don’t understand it. The Glazers are plundering and killing the golden goose. It’s either they are incredibly dumb, or they are secret agents of Liverpool.

Billionaires can’t be dumb, can they? So, that only leaves Liverpool.

And there is Ed and his cohorts. Commercially savvy, Ed Woodward. The bloke can sniff out a penny faster than a bloodhound. But that’s all Ed cares about. The business side of things. He probably can’t tell the difference between a left and right-back. “Remind me again, Ole. Why can’t Maguire be a striker?”

We are also aggrieved because of the gradual but visible descent of Manchester United into mediocrity. The last time we won the league was 2013. The last time we were in the semi-final of the Champions League was 2011. Worse, we were alive to witness Liverpool win the Champions League again in 2019 and finally win the league in 2020. Now, Manchester City is a dreaded adversary and is boasting more trophies than the devil has sinners. It’s pathetic.

You might ask what gives. Why the cudgel against the Glazers now? Didn’t they buy United all the way back in 2005? Since then, hasn’t United won significant trophies? Five league titles. One Champions League. Four FA Cups. Six EFL Cups. One Europa Cup. And one Club World Cup?

Well, let’s just say we like to hug the brownie. We’ve lived so long on Olympus, we’ve forgotten what it is like to be afflicted with human frailties.

However, the real fodder for Sunday’s protest was, of course, the club’s membership in the doomed European Super League (ESL). The Glazers were supposed prime architects.

The ESL!

What an implosion!

Even Mr. Bean could not have orchestrated a more resplendent disintegration.

Heineken joined in the derision.

The idea behind the ESL was more prosperity for a few elite clubs, the twelve ‘Founding Clubs.’

Founding Clubs.

Founding Fathers.

Considering that the owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are Americans, I can see how the notion of ‘Founding Clubs’ can appeal to them.

But I digress.

The idea behind the ESL was lucre. The big clubs complain UEFA isn’t rewarding them enough. Yet those clubs pull in the global viewership and money UEFA clutches. No offence to my homeboys in Armenia but nobody watches Real Madrid vs Ararat-Armenia because of Ararat-Armenia. They watch the match because of Real Madrid. Yet Real Madrid does not get appropriate compensation from UEFA.

And because UEFA is steeped in European social-democratic philosophy, it shares the proceeds of the TV rights with football administrations across the continent. So, when Man City plays Real Madrid in the finals of the Champions League, the Faroe Island, Malta and Armenia FAs partake in the TV proceeds. One for all, all for one.

Capitalist America cannot understand this. What? Is Bernie Sanders running UEFA? Servants upon horses while princes walk as servants upon the earth? Look here, boy, he who does not work, neither shall he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

So, they got together and came up with a brilliant idea.

How about we start our own league? A big-boys-only league. Playing each other weekly. It would be eye candy. Broadcasters and sponsors will fall over themselves for rights. It’ll be guaranteed riches for the founding clubs. Money to buy elite players and build infrastructures. Think about it; the money to buy Haaland, Mbappe and Pogba in one season. Sure, we’ll throw in bottom feeders like Arsenal for a semblance of inclusion…

So JP Morgan committed over £4bn to the project. Each of the ‘Founding Club’ would receive about €350m to join the ESL. Then as the competition enters its third year, that sum would be tripled.

Say what, JP? €350m? Here, hold my beer, where do I sign?

And so, on 18 April 2021, the ESL was announced with twelve founding members. Six English clubs, three Spanish clubs and three Italian clubs. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. Bayern Munich and PSG declined to join.

The backlash across Europe was fierce. Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA’s President, called Ed Woodward a ‘snake’ for joining the ESL despite assurances that United would not.

The hostile response was fiercest in England. Fans besieged their grounds. The English FA, pundits, players and the press denounced the new-fangled league. Boris Johnson said the government would “look at everything that we can do with football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.” France President Emmanuel Macron welcomed French clubs’ refusal to join the ESL.

So fierce was the backlash that by 21 April, all the six English clubs had withdrawn their participation in the ESL and apologized to their fans.

Tail tucked beneath its hind, the ESL scurried away to announce the ‘suspension’ of the competition.

72 hours was all it took for the house of cards to come tumbling down.

But what happened? How and why did the ESL collapse so spectacularly?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because football is not only a business.

It is a people’s way of life.

It is profit + fans + tradition + emotions, all jostling for prominence.

It is culture.

And culture will eat £4bn JP Morgan-breakfast all day.

You’d hear many people say that football is a business and money must rule the gamut.

That’s a load of bunkum from a constipated bull.

Football is not like other businesses. In most businesses, if the line manager has a fallout with a subordinate, the subordinate is toast. In football, a coach is toast if he falls out with Messi, Ronaldo or Pogba.

Football also buck common sense economics. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Borussia Dortmund insisted on €120m for Jadon Sancho to transfer to Manchester United in the close season. Ed Woodward brought out his micro-economic charts and economic-outlook decks. But Dortmund didn’t budge. €120m is the price. Erling Haaland will probably cost upwards of €170m if he moved this season.

It’s madness. But it’s football.

Remember Assem Allam, owner of Hull City? In 2013, the man had Hull City registered as Hull City Tigers. The next year, he planned to register them as ‘Hull Tigers.’

Hull Tigers. How sweet. How about Hull Chihuahua?

Of course, fans marched against the name change. “City till we die” their placards proclaimed.  The FA sensibly rejected the name change. The club is still known and registered as Hull City.

In football, the fact that you own a club does not mean you can do with it as you please. You may be the largest shareholder but you are not the only stakeholder.

Grounds, jerseys and names mean something in football. They are artefacts of history and emotions. I’ve travelled from Nigeria to watch Man United a couple of times. Not because Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium but because it is the Theatre of Dreams. I travelled to see the statues of George Best, Dennis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. I travelled to experience the atmosphere at the Stretford End.

It’s probably what JP Morgan and the American owners of United, Liverpool and Arsenal missed. Football is not a spectacle like the NFL or Major League Baseball. In Europe and South America, football is steeped in rivalries, history and raw passion.

When Luis Figo did the unthinkable and moved from Barcelona to arch-rival Real Madrid in 2000, there was incredulity, rage and disappointment in Barcelona. On Figo’s El Classico debut, thousands of Barca fans waved white handkerchiefs in the air. It was a practice borrowed from bullfighting that meant the bull should be killed. A Barca fan threw the bloodied head of a pig onto the pitch where Figo was about to take a corner kick.

Fans commit suicide because of a match. Bill Shankly summed it up well: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Football is not just a sport. It is life.

I don’t delude myself that fan power solely aborted the ESL. Those behind the ESL didn’t become wealthy bowing to the demands of people or governments. Perhaps legal challenges from individual FAs, UEFA or FIFA were also strong factors.

And I do have a sneaky feeling we’ve not heard the last of a breakaway league. After all, Florentino Perez, Chairman of the ESL and President of Real Madrid merely said they were ‘suspending’ the ESL.

Whatever the case, I’m glad football won this round.

Somehow, ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Tottenham’ in the same sentence with ‘elite club’ doesn’t sound right.

 

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Influencer Marketing, Sponsorship, Talent

Only humility Nigerian artistes know is DJ Humility.

 

So, Burna Boy and Wizkid win Grammys and everyone is losing their mind. Not me. It is a tough time in Nigeriana right now. If you lose your mind, whoever finds it may not return it. Finders keepers. Or if your mind has a smidgen of value, you’ll have to ransom it. My mind is all I have. So, I’ll be keeping it very close.  

Young Turks have lost their marbles on the Burna-Wizkid-Grammy win. They are at each other’s throats on whose Grammy is more legit and who is the greater artiste. These bambinos need to get a life. Everyone knows Genevieve is the most talented singer in Nigeria…

Awards and praise-singing fuel the ego of artistes. It’s hard for it not to. You’ve become primus inter pares. A silverback. Earned the right to pound your chest and bare your canine. 

But Kong-sized ego and being prima donna make artistes lose out on lucrative sponsorships.  

When marketing teams make decisions on celebrity endorsers, we consider hard and soft attributes. Hard attributes are things like match with brand image, target consumer appeal, online followership, previous and current endorsements, cost and the like. Soft attributes are issues like reputation, character, and the ease of working with the celebrity. I’ve seen celebrities lose out of brand endorsement deals because of soft attributes. Painfully, these celebrities don’t even know they were being considered for the opportunities. 

Know this: a lot of important decisions about your career happen behind your back. You might not see them, but decision-makers are always watching. 

Most folks think managing artistes is easy and fun work. What heresy! Managing Nigerian artistes can be harder than landing men on the moon. I mean, how hard can it be strapping three men on a 2,800-tonne rocket requiring 203,400 gallons of kerosene and 318,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and traveling at 9,920km/h?  Compared to getting Eedris Abdulkareem and 50 Cents to fly together on the same jet, that’s easy peasy japanesey.  

Marketing teams don’t like artistes/celebrities that are difficult to work with, perceived or real. We don’t want a celebrity that’ll show up at 1 am for a 10 pm performance. Or a celebrity you’d pray and fast for before s/he shows up for a commercial shoot. It’s hard enough fighting Sales and Finance over pricing and SKUs. I don’t need to add some supercilious navel-gazers to my headaches. 

Let me regale you with some episodes. I’ll shield the artistes names to protect their faded reputation. 

When I was at Arik Air, I’d struck a deal with Viacom for the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards. Arik Air would fly Nigerian artistes and celebrities to Johannesburg for the awards. In return Viacom would give Arik Air advertising spots on its network. It was a good deal for both of us. Advertising spots are perishable inventory as are airline seats. Once the plane flies, an empty seat is a lost inventory. Our seat load factor on the LOS-JHB route was about 65-70% at the time. I might as well punt the unused seats for some advertising spots. 

A week to the event, we’d been ferrying MTV-designated personnel and celebrities to Johannesburg. The flight leaves Lagos at 1:30 pm to arrive Jozi at about 7:30 pm. 

On the day of the event, I got a call from a guy who introduced himself as the manager of two of Nigeria’s biggest hip-hop artistes of the time.

One of the artiste came on the phone. In a lordly voice, he introduced himself. He then proceeded to make the most outrageous request. He said they were running late and asked if the flight could be delayed for them! 

Yup. You heard right. We should hold the flight for them.

His Majesty impressed it upon me how important it was for them to be in Johannesburg for the event. 

If it was important for your butts to be in Jozi for the awards, you should have been on time for your flight!

Of course, I didn’t tell them that. I told them I would have loved to help but couldn’t due to protocols beyond the airline’s control. 

The second artiste then came on the line and reiterated the importance of their presence at the awards. Now I was going to lose it! But I managed to keep calm. I told them I would try my best. 

I didn’t. It was a no-brainer. It was not as if they were going to South Africa to fight apartheid. Would they have dared made a similar request of BA, Virgin or South African Airways?   

 But lucky geezers. The flight was delayed. So they made it. They won too.

I called the artistes’ manager to ask if they made it. He asked who I was. I introduced myself. He cut the phone. 

Right. Another one bites the dust from the list of future endorsers. 

Another episode.

Back in the days at Guinness, there was this budding artiste begging for support. He’ll give us his CD to listen and give feedback. We tried to support him as best we could. We’d collar event organisers to get him to perform at our events. Everyone needs a leg up, don’t they? Suffice to say this dude was most humble and beseeching.  

Then, he ‘blew.’ One of his songs became a sensation, gloryfying in internet scams. He was sought for every show. 

What do you know, this dude transformed like Optimus Prime. More like Megatron actually. We couldn’t talk to him. If he saw us at events and we wanted to say hi, he’ll rebuff the attempt. In other instances, he’ll avoid us or pretend he didn’t recognise us. 

Could be he didn’t recognise us in truth. I mean, those fellas smoke more marijuana than the devil has sinners. 

Talking about marijuana, there was this artiste that almost got us thrown out of our hotel in Benin City. 

We had taken him and a host of other artistes to Benin for a big event. We put them in the best hotel in Benin at the time. He was in a suite on the fourth floor with his crew. 

But once you got out of the elevator on his floor, the smell of marijuana wafted out from his suite and pervaded the whole floor. The haze of the igbo was so thick, you needed air traffic control to guide you to his room. That dude smoked more igbo than Fela and Shaba Ranks rolled into one. The din from his room was embarrassing. There were, of course, other guests in the hotel.  

But an artiste like Tu Face was and is marvelous to work with. Meeker than a lamb, that Tu-Baba. Even at short notice, he was accommodating. 

When he was the celebrity endorser for Guinness Extra Smooth, we’d taken him to an event in Enugu at Polo Park. I was in the same hotel with him. He made it a point of duty to come and ‘hail’ me as his ‘chairman.’ 

There was some fine chick I was ‘toasting’ in Enugu. She was hard to get. I managed to convince her to come to the hotel for lunch. 

When she came around, I told her I wanted her to meet someone. I took her to Tu Face’s suite. I knocked. The door opened. I ushered her into the room.

She froze. 

That was when I knew Tu Face was a megastar.

This chick who could talk the hind leg off a donkey just froze at the sight of Tu Face!  

Tu Face was effusive.

“Chai, my oga don bring him mata come greet us O,” he enthused. 

He asked his crew to make way for the chick to seat on the sofa. She looked at me as if she was dreaming. I shrugged smugly. That’s how I roll. 

Let’s just say afterward she didn’t think I was a short black ugly Yoruba boy.

Tu Face is something of a Neanderthal in the music industry now but enjoys immense goodwill and equity. Can’t say that of his contemporaries. 

So, my advice to Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Zlatan, Naira Marley and all other celebrities; be the celebrity everyone enjoys working with. 

It has a huge payoff. 

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Uncategorized

A parliament of owls? A wake of vultures? English, you beauty!

The last time I thought about collective nouns for animals was last year when my daughter was writing exams into secondary school (high school). She was impressed with my knowledge. Well, that’s what fathers do – know things. 

But my esteem was bruised a few days ago when I was writing a blogpost and needed to use the collective nouns for owls. Turns out the collective noun for owls is – wait for it – a parliament of owls. 

A parliament? 

Like owls voted by their peers to deliberate on avian matters? That’s crazy. Birds don’t vote. Then I made the connection. Owls are supposed to be wise! Parliamentarians are supposed to be owlish. And owls do have a solemn and brooding look about them. Best candidates for feathered parliamentarians. 

They probably do a better job than their human counterpart. 

Anyway, below are collective nouns for animals. Some you know. Many will knock your socks off. 

  1. A shrewdness of apes.
  2. A cete of badgers.
  3. A colony/cloud/camp of bats
  4. A sloth/sleuth of bears (like a private detective bear?)
  5. A swarm of bees.
  6. A gang/obstinacy of buffalo (bullies!)
  7. A caravan of camels. 
  8. A clowder/glaring of cats (what?!)
  9. A destruction of wild cats.
  10. A quiver of cobras.
  11. A bask of crocodiles.
  12. A murder of crows (yea, those ones look ominous). 
  13. A drove of donkeys. 
  14. A convocation of eagles (hope they graduate summa cum laude) 
  15. A parade of elephants. 
  16. A gang/herd of elks
  17. A cast of falcons. 
  18. A business of ferrets. 
  19. A school of fish (how come they aren’t smart)
  20. A stand of flamingos
  21. A skulk/leash of foxes
  22. An army of frogs
  23. A gaggle of geese (Listerine or Colgate?)
  24. A tower of giraffes (but of course!)
  25. A band of gorillas (G-Unit!)
  26. A bloat of hippopotami (perfect!)
  27. A cackle of hyenas ( I have a bone to pick with this one!)
  28. A shadow of jaguars.
  29. A smack of jellyfish.
  30. A troop/mob of kangaroos.
  31. A conspiracy of lemurs ( Never take lemurs into confidence then)
  32. A leap of leopards.
  33. A pride of lions.
  34. A labor of moles
  35. A barrel/troop of monkeys. 
  36. A pack of mules.
  37. A family of otters. 
  38. A team/yoke of oxen. 
  39. A parliament of owls.
  40. A claw of panthers (Wakanda forever!)
  41. A pandemonium of parrots (naturally!)
  42. An ostentation of peacocks (show off!)
  43. A drift/drove of pigs.
  44. A prickle of porcupines (of course!)
  45. A herd of rabbits.
  46. A colony of rats.
  47. An unkindness of ravens (What?They were kind to Elijah!)
  48. A crash of rhinoceroses. 
  49. A shiver of sharks. 
  50. A stench of skunks (expectedly)
  51. A nest of snakes. 
  52. A dray/scurry of squirrels
  53. A fever of stingrays (really?)
  54. A bevy/game of swans (if they are in flight: a wedge).
  55. An ambush/streak of tigers.
  56. A knot of toads. 
  57. A gang/rafter of turkeys.
  58. A bale/nest of turtles. 
  59. A colony/gang/pack of weasels (needed a more cretinous name)
  60. A pod/school/gam of whales.
  61. A pack of wolves. 
  62. A wake of vultures (absolutely brilliant!)
  63. A zeal of zebras. 

Then there are a couple of funny ones:

  1. A scandal of politicians.
  2. A fringe of lunatics.
  3. A gossip of mermaids.
  4. A blessing of unicorns. 

Naturally, those gave me ideas and I started coming up with mine: 

  1. A prostitution of whores/politicians.
  2. A sanctimony of priests.
  3. A merry of drunks.
  4. A vanity of celebrities
  5. A bent of criminals
  6. A mammon of bankers
  7. A scrubs of nurses
  8. A faraday of electricians
  9. An acrimony of side-chicks
  10. A fib of marketers
  11. A pity/shame of beggars.

What crazy collective nouns can you come up with? Rather enjoying this!

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Leadership, Loyalty, Soccer

Loyalty lessons from the Harry Maguire and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer duet.

Manchester Evening News

I apologise in advance that I’m drawing loyalty lessons from football. I know there might be many of you here who do not care for football. I get it. But frankly, I don’t know what you are doing with your life if you don’t love football. It is akin to hating bacon or pepperoni pizza. Your joy can’t be full.

I swear by Manchester United. The club is a special gift to mankind. Back in the days of the hunter-gatherer, life without United was nasty, brutish and short. But the Good Lord saw fit to lighten the sorrows of man and bestow on humanity Manchester United. For your enlightenment, Sirs Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson have had a far greater influence on history than William Wilberforce and Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill won one war. Fergie won a treble. And if Roy Keane had been Prime Minister, Brexit would not have happened. So, it is only fitting that I draw my treatise on loyalty from the admirable folks at Manchester United.

Right.

Harry Maguire is a center-back ( central defender) at Manchester United. He joined Hull City for £2.5 million in 2014. Then he joined Leicester City for £12 million in 2017. In August 2019, he joined Manchester United for £80 million, a world-record fee for a defender. In January 2020, manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made him club captain.

It’s a fairy tale. The type we pray for in our careers.

The problem is, Harry Maguire can’t lead a colony of ants to a sugar farm or motivate a parliament of owls to stare.

Maguire is spectacularly average. When I compare him to previous club captains like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic, I want to slit my wrist.

This season, under Maguire’s leadership, Manchester United has conceded 56 goals in all competitions. And Maguire has started in all but one match.

56 goals!

This is Manchester United for Pete’s sake!

I have no doubt that Harry Maguire is a good chap. He may even be a great bloke. Helpful, fun and great to hang out with. He is also a decent defender. He is in no way calamitous.

But he is no £80 million defender. More like a £35 million defender. That’s no fault of Harry though. He didn’t buy himself. The fault lies with Ed Woodward. For a top-rated commercial guy, Ed is worryingly susceptible to daylight mugging.

Most United fans would prefer Bruno Fernandez as captain. He’s a brilliant player. He is influential on the pitch. And he has passion.

But Harry Maguire is Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s ride-or-die partner. Ole is sticking by him as captain despite our displeasure. If he’s fit, he’ll play every match. Even with his public indiscretion in Greece last summer, he still retained the captain’s armband. Maguire will have to boot Ole’s dad in the groin and stab his mother in the eye before Ole strips him of the captain’s band.

That, my friend, is how loyalty plays out.

Loyalty isn’t necessarily about competence. It shakes out in three ways.

One, it is about saving face. If you made a bad hiring decision, you stick to that hire for as long as reasonably possible lest your judgment is questioned. No manager likes his judgment to be questioned. Especially when you’ve committed the business to a huge investment. Doubt about your decision-making will chip away at your respect and eventually, authority.

Two, loyalty is also about protecting a hire you brought in. I mean, you convinced the said employee to leave his current employment. He joined your company because of you. It is only fair that you don’t leave him high and dry when the storm rages.

The third element is chemistry. The hire may not be the most competent but senses what you want. He understands you. And hearkens to your instructions. He may have a different opinion, but he cedes authority and power to you. Doesn’t ruffle your feathers. Doesn’t bristle at your rebuke. Every manager likes that.

Here is a piece of career advice for you. If your new head of department or managing director brings in a hire that is struggling or not competent enough, be on the good side of the boss. Help and support the hire. Because the boss isn’t going to cut that fella. Nope. He is responsible for him. He’ll protect him at all costs for the three aforementioned reasons.

There’s a lot more at stake in loyalty than competence. Emotions play a significant role. People hire friends. They hire who they know and can trust. And there is also ego, authority and pride at stake.

So, best get with the programme. Ole is never going to ditch Harry Maguire. Not as long as he’s the manager at Manchester United.

Don’t fight with the boss’s hire. You may not lose but you’ll never win.

Except you’re Lionel Messi, of course.

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Advertising, Technology

Facebook vs Apple. Nobody likes a voyeur.

Picture this. You are on your bed in your boxers. The mood is right. Barry White’s deep sensuous voice comes up on the HomePod. Telling you this. Telling you that. Or maybe Joe is your thing. Or Ed Sheeran. The room is chilled by the air conditioner. The lights are dimmed. Your bonnie lass is in the bathroom. You can smell her fragrance. She comes into the bedroom in a towel. She drops the towel as she walks towards you. 

Then your eye catches something in the corner of the room. A silhouette. A male figure seated in the armchair with a glass in his hands. You jump up from the bed in panic and switch on the lights. It’s the landlord.

You are shocked and furious. You shout at him to get the hell out of your room. Out of your apartment. He smiles and says no can do. He has the right to be there. You agreed to his presence when you rented the house. It was in the fine prints. But you didn’t bother to read it. Like the last tenant. And the one before him. And the one before that. All tenants really. But if you are adamant he should leave the room, he will. You’ll only have to move out of the apartment and forfeit your rent. It’s in the contract. In the fine prints. 

He pours himself another drink and waits on your decision. He smiles at you the way I imagine a lecher would. 

The story above is, of course, a sordid metaphor. An over-dramatization of Facebook’s tracking activities. But you did grant Facebook a front-row seat to your private life when you installed the app on your phone. You didn’t know you did. But you did. 

So, here is how Facebook tracking works. 

When you use the Facebook app on your iOS or Android device, Facebook tracks what you do on the app. It collects a host of information ranging from device, OS, city, gender, age and many more. But this tracking is not limited to what you do on the Facebook app. Facebook also tracks you across other apps on your phone and websites you visit. It is not content to know what you do on its app; it also needs to know what you do on other apps and on the internet. Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Candy Crush, TikTok, Tinder, Bumble, PornHub. Name it.  

Now, why does Facebook track you across apps and websites? 

Why, to know you better, of course! 

You see, Facebook’s business is selling targeted advertising. That’s how it makes money. It makes some $86 billion annually selling these targeted ads. Targeted ads are personalized advertising delivered to you based on the data companies like Facebook and Google collect about you. They collect these troves of data about you so they can have a good picture of who you are. That picture is important to advertisers and data brokers who need to reach a specified audience. That, after all, is the vaunted advantage of digital media over traditional media.

These gems of personal bits are not all necessarily available on the Facebook app. There are a lot more things you do on your phone than just scroll through Facebook. You read the news. You play games. You window-shop. You buy stuff. You watch YouTube. You take pictures. You live for the ‘gram. By following you across apps and the internet, Facebook is able to piece together all these activities and paint your demographic and psychographic portrait. Ergo, nail you down to your needs and wants. If you’ve been checking out websites on how to emigrate to Canada, don’t be surprised if Facebook serves you ads on emigration services to Saskatchewan.

So, if you are playing with your side chick’s phone and you start seeing Facebook ads for baby food and diapers, congratulations homie! Facebook probably knows something you don’t. 

The depth of information Facebook collects about you may be disconcerting. But all ad-based tech companies track you across apps and websites. Google does it. So do Amazon, Instagram (Facebook Inc), Twitter or Yahoo. If they sell ads, they probably track you. That is the cost you pay for using the apps for free. Like many people, you didn’t read the Facebook privacy policy or terms. Nobody reads those. But that’s where the bodies are buried. Where you consented to be tracked.

So, what is the feud between Facebook and Apple all about? 

Starting with iOS 14.5, Apple will introduce a feature called App Tracking Transparency or ATT. ATT requires users (you) to give permissions to apps before they can track you across apps and websites. 

With ATT, when you launch any app for the first time, you will see a pop-up that informs you that an app wants to track you across platforms. The pop-up will explain what the tracker is and asks whether you want to approve or reject the tracking and sharing of your data. 

Which is awesome for privacy.

One of Apple’s brand promises is privacy. The iPhone is supposed to be iron-clad. So iron-clad that Apple itself claims it cannot unlock an iPhone encrypted by the user. The FBI found that out the hard way. Thus, from a consumer and marketing perspective, offering iPhone users ATT is keeping with a brand promise. It helps deepen loyalty. It is good for business.

But not for Markie’s business. Mark Zuckerberg is outraged about App Tracking Transparency. ATT threatens Facebook’s nest egg. When users opt out of being tracked, it means Facebook’s ability to paint a portrait of the user is affected. There’ll be gaps in the picture. A nose missing. One ear missing. Maybe three teeth lost. That is bad for targeted advertising. Bad for Facebook.

Facebook probably suspects that if users have the choice of turning off tracking, many would. I know I would. I don’t want some bot stalking me all over the internet. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. 

So Markie is pissed. So pissed he is calling Apple its biggest competitor. So pissed he is smearing Apple as an enemy of small businesses and the free internet in newspaper ads. He said Apple is using privacy as a justification to disadvantage Facebook. 

Said Markie, “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.” 

Tim Cook has never hidden his disdain for Facebook’s business model and flagrant abuse of users’ data. 

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform,” said Tim.

Whoa, those are some pretty strong words there, Tim!

However, Apple claims it is not asking Facebook and others not to track across apps and websites. It only requires them to asks permission from users before they do. 

Yea, right. 

That’s like telling a thief to ask for your permission before he steals your car.

You may well ask why Facebook is worried about Apple’s ATT. After all, iOS is only 27% of mobile operating systems. Android rules the gamut. 

Thing is, the bulk of Facebook’s $86 billion annual revenue comes from the US and Canada. iOS accounts for over 61% and 52% respectively of mobile operating systems in those two markets. Crucially, North America also happens to be the region with the highest Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for Facebook per the Statista data below. 

©Statista 2021

So, Facebook’s fight with Apple is a fight over ad revenue in the US and Canada. Europe is not an insignificant second. The rest of ya’ll go eat a donut. 

Is Apple sincere about privacy claims or only manoeuvring for advantage? Time will tell. We’ll be watching its future actions closely. But Facebook’s history of data abuse and measurement untruths may deprive it of sympathetic ears. At least not from iOS users. They’ll be on Apple’s side. We the iSheep.

And many will also remember the fiasco of Cambridge Analytica, US electioneering, and the upcoming data merger between Facebook and WhatsApp. Facebook always seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons

Social trust is proving to be a thing. 

 

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Uncategorized

Our ethnic fault line and the keg of gunpowder.

ERIC LAFFORGUE/ART IN ALL OF US

Ingratiating commentaries are profitable. I’m tempted to get on that gravy train. But sadly, it is not for me. By a cruel hand of fate, it turns out I am allergic to bull. I tend to serve my juice without sweeteners. And as everyone with a sweet tooth knows, juices without sugar taste anemic. Truth is vinegary. Bitter, in fact, in many circles. It is why you never see Alomo Bitters or Kasaprenko in State Houses. Only honeyed speeches to soothe itchy ears. 

But let me state, in case there is somebody out there willing to buy me a house on easy street; I do not detest being rich. I do not mind farting Chanel and sneezing Dior. I consider it not vanity to take my medicines with caviar and ease my gastric upset with lychee.  

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Uncategorized

Thin line between prostitution and side-chick.

Right. 

I crawled out from under my rock to hear the ruckus about a newfangled men association. Stingy Men Association of Nigeria. Quite unexpectedly, men have come to their senses and will no longer let their phalluses lead them to ruination. 

Phalluses, by their unique biology, pay no mind to bankruptcy and good sense.  Once in the presence of a nubile female, they demand the master login to the mobile app. Money, after all, is only a means to an end.

Women, of course, are not treating this illiberal fraternity lightly. It’s an affront and a denial of a fundamental woman right.

“How dare men! It is a woman’s right to be feted! It is a woman’s right to help herself to a man’s wallet. In the history of mendom, there has not been a single man in distress. It is always a damsel in distress. Why will men seek to redress the order of nature? But two can play. If the wallets won’t open, then the legs won’t open either. They shouldn’t worry. When a god starts acting out of line, we show it the wood it was carved from. Radarada. Jatijati.”

It’s all chucklesome.  

But let me get this out of the way. Unmarried people shouldn’t be bonking. It is a sin. Abba Father says not to do it. Yoruba people, ever the dramatists, have a frightful name for fornication – panságà. It sounds dastardly. If we can’t scare you with the consequence of the word, we’ll scare you with the sound of it. Pasángà sounds like you killed a hundred infants with a panga machete. 

Besides, sex is more than physical coitus. There is the intertwining of emotions, and dare I say, spirits.  I’d hate to see you bond with Zelda. 

You do remember Zelda, don’t you? From Terrahawks? 

I forgot; you lot are Generation Zilch.  

This is Zelda. 

Now, to you, my married friends engaged in cuckoldry. “Stolen water is sweet”, right? “Food eaten in secret is delicious”, ba? Well, here’s what the Good Book says to you: 

“Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

I didn’t make that up. Crack open Prov 6:27-29 and see for yourself. At any rate, I’m sure you don’t mind someone else bonking your wife or husband. Or do you?

Back to the Stingy Men Association of Nigeria. 

The farcical association is topical because of the prevailing poverty in the land. It has become normative that a boo bears the cost of living of a bae. It’s ridiculous. Dubious justifications are advanced. 

“A girl needs to look good for her guy.” 

“When a girl is happy, she is able to make her man happy too.”

“Providing for your girlfriend is a sign of responsibility.” 

It’s a heavy dollop of codswallop. 

Spare me the porky pie that you sweethearts buy expensive hair to impress the menfolk. No, you don’t. Because we the menfolk can’t tell the difference between a N300K and a N700K hair. You buy the hair to show off to yourselves.

Several years ago, the missus badgered me into buying her Brazilian hair. I didn’t understand the need. She is from Osun State, the ‘State of Virtue.’  Why does she want to naturalize to Brazilian? Is a Brazilian passport visa-free to the US?

Eventually, I bought the hair. It was a small fortune.

The day she made the hair, I didn’t notice. She tossed her head about like a teen so I’ll notice. But I didn’t. I knew she looked pretty but couldn’t place what was different about her.

She got angry and asked me what I thought of her new hair.

Oh, that was it! The hair!

I said ‘nice.’

She only forgave me five years ago.

So, if the girlfriend needs to wear the hair of fifty horses, by all means, do so darling. We only request you buy it with your own money. If you want to ‘glow’ and buy Beyonce-level cream, grow a large posterior, or slay more than David and Gideon, be our guest. All we ask of you is not to insist the expenses are for our spreadsheet. And why on earth would a bloke buy his girlfriend an iPhone 12 when he uses an Infinix? You think it was only Eve that loved Apple? 

Look, I’m not a Scrooge. I believe in gifting. Gifting stokes affection. It’s good for the boo to splurge on the bae now and then. But a dude is a finite being. He can’t be the source of infinite beneficence. The boo should give because he wants to, not because he must. 

Well, except the relationship is between a married dude and a side chick.

In such relationships, the side chick has my blessing to ransack, pillage and plunder the married boyfriend. Fleecing and gouging should come with the territory. After all, it is a waste of sin dating a broke married man. 

I saw that on a t-shirt.    

Any erotic relationship premised on ceaseless material and financial provision is faux love. You are paying for the ‘love’. The way you pay a prostitute for her favours. It’s only in movies that prostitutes develop genuine affection for their patrons. 

Most married-men-and-side-chick affairs are no more than prostitution by a more benign name. Or why is a single girl dating a married bloke? Because there are no wonderful single guys around? Because of true love’s kiss? Greed and lust, ladies and gentlemen, are at the heart of it. Those are not traits that will make Pete open the Pearly Gates to you.

Anyway, here’s a good joke for you: if you’re over 30 and still dating another woman’s man, you are a side hen, not a side chick!   

   

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Brand Identity, Branding, Marketing

Logos are never heroes.

So, Burger King changed its logo. Out with the new, in with the old. The new logo had a retro feel that is becoming the new order in recent brand identity revamps. 

As marketers are won’t to do, we have been engaged in arcane semiotics about logo revamps like a coven of philosophical witches. 

At the risk of being considered a Luddite – which I am not – I have to say I like the new BK logo better. Not because it is an awesome logo design but because it more clearly reminds me of what the company does. Burgers. The Whooper. 

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Uncategorized

Ladies, cats are not witches. Witches like blood not milk!

Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

Man, I like cats. 

Not terrifying and petrifying felines like Mufasa or Shere Khan. But cats like Garfield and Puss In Boots. Cute, sneaky, disloyal and manipulative beauties. I’m particularly drawn to black furry cats. I like the outcast and maligned.  

Why do I like cats? Cats live life on their own terms. They know they don’t have nine lives so don’t waste their time trying to please you. You are the one who wanted a pet, not them. 

Also, cats don’t care about titles. Dogs can continue to be ‘Man’s Best Friend’. Cats don’t give a hoot. They understand that titles come with responsibilities. Responsibilities are for humans. So, you are not going to trick them into it with some title. They might chase down a mouse. But understand that it is because they want to do it and not because you expect them to. Back in the day, in the village, my grandma had three cats who never chase mice. These beauties just love to eat fufu and efo-riro and chill. 

Can’t blame them. Egbado (Yewa) people make the best fufu in the galaxy. And my grandma’s efo-riro could make Netanyahu kiss Hassan Rouhani.     

But I don’t have a cat. That is because I love to have a wife more than I love being divorced. My wife hates cats. For her, you can’t trust cats. Cats are gossips. They listen to your deepest secrets and spill them to the neighbours. And they are agents of witches and wizards. They expose your home to fiendish influences. 

It’s all baloney, of course. Cats are no more capable of witchery than cockroaches are capable of holiness. But arguing that with cat haters is like arguing the merits of sobriety with a tippler. 

We have a small white wolf in our home. Spin doctors call it a dog – an American Eskimo. But I didn’t start eating bony fish yesterday. It is a wolf. Only it is smaller and cutesy. Wanders from room to room. It’s pampered like William and takes a piss like Harry. My wife and daughters dote on this canine. They feed it before they feed me. Cuddle it more than they cuddle me. He enjoys the attention and then sneers at me.  

I am going to poison the mutt one day.

Do you old geezers remember the horror movie, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell? A German Shepherd bred by Satanists. The dog grew up to colossal devilry. Killed the maid in a fire. Possessed the minds of its owner. In the last scene, the frightful demon in the dog came out to perish the soul of the ‘actor’. The symbol of a crucifix seared onto the man’s palm saved the man. Dog bursts into flame and is imprisoned in hell for 1,000 years. That movie spooked me into my early teens. 

The title of the movie is instructive. It was Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, not Devil Cat: The Feline of Hell.

Anyway, I outgrew my fear of dogs. I realise that devil-dog movie was all phoney-baloney. Now, I love dogs. I am going to get me a big hairy doggo soon. Probably a Leonberger or a Giant Schnauzer. If only to scare the bejesus out of the frisky wolf in my house. 

See how easy it is for people to change? I went from dog-indifferent to dog-liker. So, why can’t people outgrow their abhorrence of cats? What does a cat have to do to get some love from Nigerian women? Buy them hair? Help them lose belly fat?  

The sad part is the missus has infected my daughters with cat-hate. They started out loving cats. I’d take them to a friend’s house and we’d go with tinned sardines and milk to feed the queen and her kittens. My girls loved feeding the pusses. They gave them names and were always eager to visit. 

Once the missus discovered what we do in said friend’s house, she set about cooking our goose. Of course, it didn’t help that we purloined her sardines and milk for the visits. But as a good Christian wife, she ought to remember that love keeps no records of wrong. But cats make Nigerian women forget the Scriptures. 

Or remember it. 

The missus proceeded to indoctrinate my kids on the vileness of cats. And once a mother abuses a mind, it is tough disabusing it. 

Once at a bar – beer parlour – I came across some despicable fellows who loved to eat cats. 

Eat cats!

Folks, I don’t care what you believe: if you can eat a cat, you can eat a human.

One of these repugnant fellows went ahead to describe how scrumptious a cat was in egusi soup. He particularly relished the paw. The cat’s paws grip the egusi and you pry them open and lick the egusi balls trapped beneath and around the pads. He said it was quite a heavenly experience. 

I stopped going to that beer parlour. 

By the way, do you know how they kill cats for food? They put it in a sack and smash the sack repeatedly against a wall till the cat dies. At other times, they tie off the sack and proceed to batter the poor thing to death. They argue it’s the only safe way to kill a cat. 

Murder most foul. Only Bayern Munich is capable of such wickedness. 

So, what myths and ideologies are holding you back? What are the long-held beliefs you are going to disabuse from your mind in 2021? 

While you ponder on it, check out the two beauties below. A black Maine Coon and a Siamese. Aren’t they gorgeous!

Maine Coon

 

Siamese

 

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Uncategorized

Paternity fraud. What makes a child yours?

 

Your Wife and I. 

Nigerians have the cruelest humour. We banter and satirize like no other. Pity such creativity seldom shows in our advertising. 

In the last couple of days, Twitterverse has been awash with the alleged indiscretion of a bank MD. As expected of senior management, this good sir had spotted promise in a married employee. Since where a man works is also where he ‘chops’, an amorous relationship soon ensued. If we believe the blogosphere, this good sir had even sired two strapping kids from said adulterous relationship. Kids the husband of the unfaithful wife thought were his. Sadly, the good husband has deprived us of his side of the story, having succumbed to a heart attack. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” said my homeboy Jeremy.

That is Jeremiah to you.

But how Nigeriana seethed! You’d have thought we were a pious lot. Men wielded pitchforks. Women got on their brooms. The MD has blood on his hands. He has coveted Bathsheba and killed her husband. We want his head on a pike. 

I am angry myself. The story rings home. A close friend was in a similar spot several years ago. 

But I have a solemn question: what makes a child yours? 

We’ll get to that in a bit. First the story about my friend.

We were in our second year at the university and the philandering of my homeboy had come home to roost. He’d knock up a girlfriend. We’ll call her Two-Time. 

Naturally, my homeboy, whom we shall call Marvin, denied responsibility. One, he learned he was going to be a pappy six months into the pregnancy. Two, the maths didn’t tally. He knew when last he was with Two-Time. Third, he didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He was so po, he couldn’t afford the other two letters. 

So, yea, no way we were going to be a daddy. 

But Two-Time swore with her life that the child was Marvin’s. She hadn’t been with any other.

She had allies in Marvin’s mum and aunts.  

“What do you mean ‘it is not your child’? You two have been fornicating wantonly before Gomorrah. She is always cooped up in your room like a hen hiding from a hawk. I don’t think you two were studying Efficient Markets Hypothesis in there! And what do you mean the math doesn’t figure? What are you now, an obstetrician? You now know how God works? These things happen, son. Don’t deny your child. Don’t let your child suffer. We have your back. We will all raise the child together.”

Mothers and aunts. They talk a better game than snake oil salesmen. 

But to assuage any doubts, Marvin’s mother went to enquire of some prophet. The verdict: the baby was Marvin’s.

Armed with such incontrovertible evidence, the family pressurised Marvin into accepting paternity.

In the end, he did. But he would not see the child until three months after her birth. The child was born in Jos and Marvin lived in Lagos. 

Oh, she was a cute she-Marvin. His spitting image. Same ears, same face, same complexion. An angel. We’ll call her Munchkin. 

Munchkin lived with Marvin and his mother at their face-me-I-face-you apartment in Lagos. All the fellas hung out in that house. So we contributed to raising Munchkin. The money we should have used to buy second-hand Timbolo (Timberland boots) and fake Ralph Lauren shirts. But she was our child. Marvin took on odd jobs to raise extra cash. 

And Munchkin was coming along mighty fine. She was precocious. She called the boys by our nicknames. I was Jydo Weere(Jide The Mad One). Another friend was Junkie. Marvin was Elemu (Drunkard). 

In the year 2000, when Munchkin was 7 years old, Two-Time came to pick her for the holidays. Nothing unusual about that. She did that often during the holidays. Only on this occasion, she did not return Munchkin even when the school had resumed. There was no GSM in those days so Two-Time could not be reached by phone. 

Marvin stomped to her house. 

She had moved.

Along with her mother with whom she lived.  

The neighbours didn’t know where they’d moved to. 

Houston, we have a problem.

Most of the boys had started working by now. Marvin worked in a bank. So Saturdays and Sundays were the only days available to search for Two-Time.

After a few weeks, Marvin got hold of the address of a Two-Time aunt. He constituted himself into a proper irritation to this woman. He’d show up at her house every Saturday morning at 6 am. He claims he only went there to ask the whereabouts of Two Time but I suspect he crouched beneath the woman’s window and sang Saheed Osupa and Dauda Epo Kinkin. Drove the woman mad. The aunt eventually spilled the beans and told Marvin where Two-Time was. 

Marvin stormed the address and found Two-Time. But Munchkin was not with her. 

She was with her real father. 

Say what now? 

Two-Time told Marvin Munchkin was not his child. 

You two-timing, lecherous and treacherous wench! 

And she wasn’t going to tell Marvin where Munchkin was. 

Over the course of several days, Marvin became suppliant. He apologised for his sins and the sins of his ancestors. He promised to marry her and be the love of her life. He’ll change. They even shagged. 

So, Two-Time fessed up. She told him Munchkin was with her real father in Jos. She had got pregnant for the bloke but he’d rejected paternity. She told her mother who then asked her to explore the possibility of foisting the paternity on Marvin. So, she’d turned to Marvin.

We had all been suckers.

All you lot whose mothers go to enquire of some prophet which of your suitors to marry, best tell them to stop. Those prophets don’t see squat!

It all felt like some B-rate Nollywood movie.

Only it wasn’t.

This drama was playing out before our eyes and we were part of the cast.

Now, at the same time Marvin was schmoozing Two-Time to know Munchkin’s exact location, Marvin’s mother had swung into action. 

You see, Marvin’s mother, whom we shall call G-Mama, was gangsta. On her own, she had tracked down where Munchkin was. How she did that is still a mystery. She discovered that Munchkin was not in Jos but was in fact in Lagos with an aunt of Two-Time. 

Hell hath no fury like a grandma pissed. She barrelled to that address. 

She saw Munchkin. 

She.Gave.Them.Hell. 

She invoked Sango, Ogun, federal law, state law, Thor, Fadeyi Oloro, MC Oluomo, Voldemort, Osama Bin Laden, the Host of Heaven, Roy Keane, and just about any other peril that came to her mind.

The aunt simply handed Munchkin over without an argument.

There. We have our Munchkin back.

Marvin took Munchkin for a DNA test. The test confirmed what we’d all feared. Munchkin was not Marvin’s child. 

G-Mama didn’t want to give her up though. “How could she not be ours? She looks like Marvin! The test must be wrong. Something must be wrong. We’ll fight for her! Lai-lai, I no gree!”

But the emotional toll on Marvin was too great. His life was spiraling out of control. He wanted the drama over with. After a few weeks of struggle, he drove Munchkin to Two-Time and handed her over.

This is the part where you cry.

Then Munchkin’s real father showed up. 

Same ear, same nose, same forehead, same complexion. 

Munchkin looked more like him than she looked like Marvin!

What witchery is this!

Folks, don’t ever believe that because a child looks like you, s/he is your child! Biology can be cruel!

Munchkin’s father came with his family to apologise to Marvin and to offer compensation. The guy was a good dude, only caught in the web of some jiggery-pokery. Marvin turned down the offer of compensation and told them he was OK releasing Munchkin to them. Only they’d better come good in her life.

Man, I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when Two-Time went back to charm Munchkin’s father. 

“Hey darling, guess what? Remember that your spermatozoa that hit home run? It is now a beautiful 7-year-old daughter in Lagos. I was going to tell you but on my way a meteor hit me and I lost my memory. We are dying to come to you and be one happy family.”

Oh, I forgot. Flies don’t have ears. And even if they do and I heard everything she said, nobody will listen to me. Nobody listens to a fly.

Bugger.

But one thing is for certain; she must have spun a good yarn. I mean, it’s not every day you wake up and realise you have a 7-year-old kid in Kathmandu. 

Anyway, the bloke didn’t marry Two-Time. Bummer. He accepted Munchkin but married someone else. Munchkin lived with the bloke’s aunt and grandma. On Munchkin’s account, her stepmom didn’t take to her. She had a torrid time living with family.

Marvin also didn’t marry Two Time. Double bummer. He married someone else and has his own kid now. ‘Own’ kid because he did a DNA test. He passed.

Munchkin is now in her mid-twenties and in Canada. She relocated with her father over a decade ago. Marvin had also moved to the US in the early 2000s. She and Marvin keep in touch.

But she’s pretty messed up. She has a host of psychological problems and is on some serious medication. She’s dropped out of four colleges and amassed huge debt. She now lives in a shelter. 

Our Munchkin.

I was with Marvin at his home in the US recently. He showed me a recent convo between himself and Munchkin. A line brought tears to my eyes. She told him: “you’re also still my dad….” 

Which answers the question I posed earlier: what makes a child yours?

It is not your blood coursing through the child’s vein or you share DNA. Neither is it likeness in looks or mannerism.

It is belief. 

The belief that the child is from your loins. For s/he may well not be. After all, you didn’t do any paternity test, did you? 

It is all mind over matter. Your child is your child only because you believe s/he is your child. Blood and DNA are secondary. 

So, should you do a DNA test? Only if you don’t trust your wife or you’ve been sowing your wild oats in dubious farmlands.

But what if you do the test and it confirms the child(ren) to be yours? How will your wife feel? Trust is shattered. And when trust is gone in a marriage, everything else is gone. 

I guess the question then is: what is trust worth to you? 

“For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” – Ecclesiastes 1:18

 

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Creative Writing, Netflix

The Queen’s Gambit. I smoked weed. I didn’t become a genius.

Absolute bee’s knees, The Queen’s Gambit. Fictitious yet compelling. The brilliance of the scripting was you didn’t have to know how to play chess to enjoy the series. It was about chess but not only about chess.
 
Because I played a little chess as an undergraduate, I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit more. Playing chess made me look smart. And when you looked like a gangster, looking smart helped.
 
The bloke who taught me how to play always rhapsodised about ‘grandmasters’ and ‘gambits.’ He knew more about Bobby Fischer, Capablanca, Karpov and Gary Kasparov than he knew his Fortran. Heck, I knew the Sicilian Defence long before I knew Al Capone.

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Netflix, TV

The Crown. Hold off on your loathing, folks.

Picture shows: Prince Charles (Josh O Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin)

I love movies and the big screen. I don’t mind sequels but don’t have the patience for series. I never saw an episode of Prison Break. Nor know jack about Jack Bauer. Same for House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Empire, Game of Thrones or Money Heist.
Yea, I’m that guy.
 
But two friends persuaded me to watch The Crown. Pleaded. If I enjoy British flicks and visiting good old Inglaterra, I must like The Crown, they argued.
 
Well, true. I do like fish and chips and bad weather. But dare I say some prolonged series about a musty institution was not my cuppa. I decided to give it a try nonetheless. One episode only. If it turns out to be a waste of my time, there’ll be blood and feathers.
 
So, Season 1, Episode 1.
 
Well, Season 4 couldn’t come soon enough!
 
Over several weeks I watched all three seasons. 30 episodes, I think.
 
Revealing.
 
Riveting.
 
Resplendent.
 
The picture is glorious and the attention to detail obsessive. The casting and acting are ridiculously excellent.
 
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment I am at the top of the Hills of Laughter and in the next scene, I’m plunged into the Valley of Despair. I loved the monarchy. Then disrelished them. Then sympathised with them. Then got mad at them again. Then loved them again.
 
Sigh. This is why I do not watch series. My feelings are fragile, easily yoyo-ed.
 
I am not a royal-watcher and hence not knowledgeable about the monarchy. All I know about them was that Diana died, William married Kate and Megan ferreted Harry away. End of. So I found The Crown illuminating.
 
And that is the problem. It is, in large parts, fiction. Critics have accused Netflix of traducing the royals with damning fabricated history. Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, wants Netflix to make clear the series is fiction.
 
“I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” he said. “Netflix’s beautifully produced work of fiction should be very clear at the beginning it is just that”.
 
Of course, Netflix has said, no guv’nor, we can’t add a disclaimer to a drama, now, can we?
 
Says them: ” We have always presented The Crown as a drama – and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.”
 
It’s easy to understand the outrage of monarchists and royal historians. All you have to do is watch Season 4. Chagrin galore. The treatment and disregard of Margaret Thatcher by the royals. The brood’s loathing of Diana. Prince Charle’s serial adulterous relationship with Camilla. Diana’s bulimia. Oh, you’d detest the monarchy I assure you. 
 
Yet it is all fiction. Not until I came across opinion pieces on the show did I realise that.
 
It is reasonable to believe only a few viewers of The Crown know this. That it is “an act of creative imagination” with a “constant push-pull” between fact and fiction, according to creator Peter Morgan.
 
And that shows the huge propagandising power of movies and cinema. The lines between truth and fiction become blurred. China and Russia are always villains. Brazil is all favelas. And Africa is one country and we all look and speak alike. A lie travels around the world in seconds before the truth has laced its boots.
 
What is true, what is fiction?
 
Damn if I’ll be trusting the TV or social media to tell me.
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Advertising

Difference between comparative advertising and advertising puffery.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a piece on the absence of comparative advertising in Nigeria. You can read the piece here.
 
A debate ensured on a WhatsApp group on the subject. Several people believe brands in Nigeria do in fact run comparative advertising. The advertising below was cited as an example.
Well, intelligent people of WhatsAppville, hear me. Hear me. That is not an example of comparative advertising. Here is why.
 
A comparative ad makes an objective claim against a named or unnamed competitor who is meeting the same need.
 
The operative word here is objective. The claim cannot be subjective or ambiguous. It must be verifiable and testable.
 
For instance, if Ariel runs an ad that claims 20g of its detergent washes 50 white shirts cleaner than 50g of Sunlight would, that would be comparative advertising. The ad mentions a competitor and makes an empirically verifiable claim.
 
Or if Honda claims that its 2.0L 4-cylinder Accord is 25% more fuel-efficient than Toyota’s 2.0L 4-cylinder Camry. That would also be comparative advertising.
 
False advertising occurs when a false or misleading statement is used to promote a product.
 
This is different from advertising puffery, although a fine line runs through both. Advertising puffery uses ‘puffed up’ or exaggerated language to promote a product. The claim is subjective and a matter of opinion.
 
Study.com defines advertising puffery as advertising or promotional material that makes broad exaggerated or boastful statements about a product or service that are subjective (or a matter of opinion), rather than objective (something that is measurable), and that which no reasonable person would presume to be literally true.
 
In this understanding, puffery does not give any express warranty or guarantee to the consumer.
 
So, when Glo says it is ‘Grand Master of Data’, that is advertising puffery. ‘Grand Master’ in what regard? Speed? Coverage? Market share? Glo doesn’t say. So, no reasonable person is expected to believe that claim. Glo can’t be accused of false advertising because it is merely making a ‘puffed up’ claim.
 
It is the same for the Budweiser advertising above. Budweiser is displaying puffery. No one will literally believe Budweiser is ‘king’ over Heineken. ‘King’ in terms of what? Taste? Sales? Ingredients? The claim in this particular instance is a matter of opinion.
 
Enter the perennial Virgin knee-in-the-groin on British Airways. The ad below was from Nigeria. Virgin Atlantic was introducing Upper Class Suite on the Lagos-London route. The defining feature was the length of the bed. It was some few inches longer than the bed in the British Airways First Class cabin on the same route. But saying its bed is 10 inches longer will be unimaginative. So it ran the ‘We are better in bed’ ad. Very Branson.
One of my best instance of advertising puffery is the war of attrition between Mercedes Benz and BMW. Boy, do those two love each other!
 
In the advertising below, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes Benz was retiring. He says his final goodbyes to employees. He drives home. Then kaboom! A secret side of Dieter is revealed.

So, good people of Nigeria, I hope I have been able to convince you and not confuse you that comparative advertising is different from advertising puffery.
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Advertising, Branding, Creativity

Brittle country. Brittle advertising.

So, it is that time of the year and I was rummaging on the Tesco website for some Christmas feasting ideas. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of eating jollof rice and fried rice at Christmas. The birthday of my Lord and Saviour is too important for such trite fare. Oyinbo people know how to throw a proper Christmas feast. And they are precisely the folks I’ll be looking to for inspiration. So, to ‘Every little helps.’ 

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Uncategorized

#EndSARS. We are all guilty of profiling

What is it about a hairstyle, torn jeans and youth that makes a dude delinquent, a crook or a con?

 I’ll tell you what it is. It is because we distrust people who are different from us. People who don’t dress as we do, talk like we do or incline their ears to our wisdom.

It is not a problem only the Nigerian Police has. It is a problem of the Nigerian society. Sometimes it is subtle. Sometimes it spits in your face and insults your father. I’ll share three personal stories.

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Culture, Faith, Lifestyle

Gen Y, Gen Z and general degeneracy.

“What is called Western Civilization is in an advanced state of decomposition, and another Dark Ages will soon be upon us, if, indeed, it has not already begun. With the Media, especially television, governing all our lives, as they indubitably do, it is easily imaginable that this might happen without our noticing…by accustoming us to the gradual deterioration of our values.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

 

Watch African American stand-up comedy for only a few minutes and you’ll realise it’s not what you watch with kids around. There is no two-minute period without the copious use of expletives. Communication is impossible in that genre without profanity.

Now, I don’t have a brittle spirit. Nor am I pharisaical. I just hate having to explain what ‘coochie’ is to a 10-year-old. I assure you it is no laughing matter. 

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Branding, Faith, Marketing

The iSheep and the heroined grass.

Here I am again thinking about an iPhone. The iPhone 12. I thought I was off that Apple grass. My last iPhone was the 6S. I used it till mid-2018 when I switched to the Samsung S9. Not too shabby, the S9. Good form and function. It’s my only phone at the moment.

But I didn’t switch to the S9 because I love Samsung phones. I switched because I was trying to prove to myself that I can stop being an iSheep.

Sometime in early 2017, I told myself I was capable of not lapping up every grass from the Apple stable. Why? Because an apple screwed up the universe, that’s why. We would still be in Eden kissing king cobras and swimming backstrokes with crocs if not for an apple. But here I am again thinking of inviting Apple to have another rummage in my pockets.

I have never not been an iFaithful. I’ve owned every iPhone from the first one to the 6S. I’ve owned four MacBooks, bought three iPads, and have an Apple Watch and Apple Pencil 2. Back in 2007, I even subscribed to the now-perished MobileMe, the precursor to the iCloud. I loved Apple. Loved Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. I was in London when news of Steve’s death broke. I joined hundreds of Apple fans to leave bitten apples in front of the Apple store on Regent Street.

But it’s a love-hate relationship. I love the company but hate that it had an irresistible pull on me.

When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, I swore to my wife and friends that it was a pointless product. “I’ve got an iPhone and a Macbook”, said I. “What do I need the iPad for?”

I have bought three iPads since those days of ignorance.

Similarly, when Apple introduced the Apple Watch, I knew it was not a device for me. A fitness watch? No, thank you. I run a hundred meters in ten minutes without breaking a sweat. Why would I need a $400-watch to tell me I have an irregular heartbeat? My bank balance does that just fine.

That you can now spot an Apple Watch Series 4 on my wrist is a befuddling mystery. I woke up one morning and found the watch on my wrist. A most paranormal activity. We are in the end times, people.

But I am determined to have some shame. The degree of the common sense of a bloke is directly proportional to the age of the bloke. The older I become, the more I realize that it is infantile to change your phone or gadgets every other year. Mr. Dell does not change his personal laptop every year, does he? If he did, he won’t be, er, Mr. Dell, would he?

So, how did I start thinking about the iPhone again?

It all began the way most great bankruptcy stories begin: with a woman.

It was the missus’ birthday. She would love a new phone. One of her two phones was evidently made in hell. She claims to see gremlins come out of it. So, I decided to get her the iPhone 11 Pro. Go big or go home.

She liked the gift. She asked me to do the honours and set it up for her.

It was a big mistake.

The moment I held the phone, I knew, Houston, we have a problem.

The sleekness. The feel in the hand. The ease of use and intuitive UI.

The memories came flooding back. Of what I had loved. Of what I am now missing.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”

The lust of the eye.

Folks, let me remind you of the advice from my big bro Paulo: flee from all appearances of evil!

Not strut. Not jog.

Flee.

Scram. Scat. Skedaddle.

Don’t stop to chit chat with a snake. I mean, it’s a snake, not your boyfriend.

Well yea, I know I am being actorly. A phone is hardly the delectable Mrs. Bathsheba or foxy Mrs. Potiphar. But Apple and I have a history. It’s complicated. One side gives. The other side takes.

It’s not working, Tim. Can’t we just be friends?

When I held the missus’s 11 Pro, I suddenly realized I have had the S9 for two looong years. Could have been eons. And is that a crack I see on the screen? Only a small crack you say? Nonsense. There’s no such thing as an innocent baby viper. It’ll grow big and spread venom.

That’s it. The universe has spoken. I’m changing my phone!

And what better phone than the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro. It’s absolute bee’s knees. Radical new design. Stainless steel. Bezel-less. 5G antenna. Midnight blue. Awesome iPhoneography.

Shut up and take my money, Tim!

Sorry, what was that? Learn wisdom from the ant? What ant? Ant Man? That dude is a loser. Sneaked into The Avengers via a backdoor.

The lesson for you, my good folks, is that just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. For with great power comes great electricity bill.

You say, “ I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)

I have offed my mic now.

 

 

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Advertising, Consumer Insight

How my wife got me to quit smoking.

There are those who swear that the greatest human invention is writing.

That is nonsense.

It is tobacco.

So I believed when I smoked.

I’ve been clean nine years now. But I smoked for seventeen years before quitting. I know that is scarcely deserving of any recognition considering a friend’s grandpa smoked till his nineties. He died on his bed with a big smile on his face and a half-smoked cigarette by his side. He was our hero.

I smoked at least five cigarettes every day of those seventeen years. Between 2006 and 2011, I smoked at least twenty cigarettes a day. A result of rising income and common sense; it was cheaper to buy packs than sticks. And as every smoker knows, the more cigarette you have on you, the more you smoke.

My lungs — brave things — were the worse for wear. A medical check I did at the height of my powers reported I had the lungs of a seventy-year-old. I was in my mid-thirties.

Hmm. Lungs of a seventy-year-old. That must explain why I was full of wisdom for my age.

The worst times of my life were when I had to get on a plane for more than one hour. Six hours on a plane without a cigarette was a torturous experience. It is next to waterboarding. I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty.

So, I developed a love for lay-over flights. I have been known to fly from Lagos to London through Schiphol rather than fly directly to Heathrow. So I could stop over and smoke.

You might well sneer: “But it takes roughly the same hours to fly from Lagos to London as it does Lagos to Amsterdam Schiphol. What’s the logic?”

You simple creatures!

Yes, it does take about the same amount of time. But waiting at passport control takes anywhere between forty to fifty agonising minutes. Emphasis on “agonising”. For your education, it takes five minutes of oxygen deprivation for the human brain to die. I assert that it takes the same amount of time for a chain-smoker’s brain to die without nicotine. It’s only by a colossal miracle that said smoker’s brain is still alive six hours after such lengthy privation. So, I never push my luck. Every minute snatched from privation is an extra minute to live.

By the way, Heathrow is the worst airport ever built. No place to smoke until you leave the terminal building. Thoughtless piece of architecture. Bless your hearts Schiphol, Changi and DXB!

Next to being stranded on a plane without nicotine is waking up in the middle of the night to no cigarette. Situations like that makes people do crazy things.

On one such occasion, I’d got up from bed beside the missus. It was about three in the morning. I needed to smoke. But I had no cigarette in the house. So I got into the car and drove out of the house. 24-hour stores in Lagos were and are still non-existent. Except for a few mallams — lone, owner-run, informal and tiny retail shops that dot the city.

I found one of these mallams open. Different strands of humanity milled around the stall smoking cigarette and cigarette’s elder brother (if you expect me to spell out cigarette’s elder brother as marijuana, you must take me for a snitch).

But there is a camaraderie among smokers that only robbers share. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. Once you light a cigarette, trust and solidarity ensues. I and my strange bed-fellows nodded acknowledgment of one another’s presence. We smoked in silence and understanding.

I returned home with my spirit in high spirits.

My beauteous wife, of course, hated that I smoked. I reminded her that love conquers all. Once she resorted to threats and vowed there would be no kissing me anytime I smoked. If I smoked and wanted a kiss, I’d have to brush my teeth first.

What? Didn’t dentists say we only need to brush twice a day? Besides, we’d be spending too much money on toothpaste!

Then one evening.

We were curled up against each other on the sofa watching Father of The Bride. The movie got to the part where Steve Martin handed over his daughter to her heartthrob. It was an emotional affair. My wife casually said:

“You know, if you continue smoking, you may not be around to give Nimi (our daughter) away on her wedding day.”

Kaboom!

In those seconds, I teleported to my daughter’s wedding day. Some guy was walking her down the aisle. He was not me. He was more handsome. Richer too. And everybody seemed to like him. He handed my daughter over to the love of her life. My daughter mouthed ‘I love you, dad’. The bloke returned to sit beside my wife. He kissed her on the lips. My picture was nowhere in sight.

I gave up smoking a few months later. On my daughter’s first birthday.

The right message.

The right moment.

Lessons for advertising creatives, planners and media buyers.

Many marketing campaigns are vanilla because they lack a deep penetrating insight. An understanding of motivations. The desire to create iconic campaigns should be first a desire to ferret a piercing truth. It’s painstaking and grunt work. But it has a solid gold payoff.

I’d seen loads of gruesome tobacco ads. They were water of a duck’s back. In my part of the world, with regards to death, you’d usually hear hedonists say “something is always going to get you”. In my case I was content for that something to be tobacco.

But my wife discovered what turned my crank. She knew I loved my daughter. Knew I’d want the best for her and be there at the important moments in her life. She tapped into it. It triggered a flow of emotion. She got the desired result.

Motivations and insights are often understated and creative work overstated. We glory more in the the craft and cleverness of the creative execution. Those elements are obviously just as important as the insight. But what is the beauty of the Aventador if the engine is a Kia?

No disrespect, Kia. Just that, you know, you are Kia.

Right.

Oh, have I told you how I also quit drinking?

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Black Lives Matter, Ethnicity, Racism

George Floyd: African immigrant vs African American perspective on racism in America.

Paul Childs | Reuters

Derek Chauvin is likely the most popular cop in the world. He will consider himself unlucky. He was not the first white cop to kill an unarmed black man. Yet his name is the one on everyone’s lips. The reason why the country is ablaze. He will curse Gregory and Travis McMichael for killing Ahmaud Arbery. He will swear at Amy Cooper for lying and threatening to call the cops on an innocent black man. He will curse the Corona virus that has everyone strung out and killed more African Americans than any other ethnic group. These four incidences formed a perfect storm that conspired to ruin his life. You could feel some sympathy for the man. No one man deserves to be hated by all the black people in the world.

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Faith, Religion, The Future, Uncategorized

Psst…aliens are here. Attracted by 5G

nypost

“Psst…have you heard? 5G tech caused Covid-19! It’s a ploy by the New World Order to get us chipped. Remember 666? The mark of the beast? That’s the end game!”

 “Psst…the 2004 tsunami was caused by a secret underwater nuclear test by India.  US and Israel scientists were involved.  

“Psst…Diana was killed by the MI6 on instruction of Her Majesty so Diana won’t have an Arab child for Dodi Fayed. Imagine Williams and Harry having an Arab sibling!

“Psst…Malaysia flight MH370 was shot down over the Indian Ocean to prevent top secret information exchanging hands. There was a spy onboard carrying sensitive information.”

How I enjoy a good conspiracy theory!

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Advertising, Branding, Marketing

Brands. Stoking vanity since 1888

Lust of the eye. Pride of life. Instant gratification. A marketer’s best friend. We love that you have them. We tell you it’s OK to have them. To sate them. After all, you only live once. Humans have had those predispositions since Mrs Adams bit on that fruit. I imagine how the serpent hustled her.

Serpent: Yo sweetness, let me holla at you real quick.

Eve: I don’t know you!

Serpent: But I know you. You are smart and the finest chick on the planet. But you aren’t all you can be. You haven’t been getting all you deserve.

Eve: How’s that?

Serpent: Look, you and Adam are the first bae and boo on the planet. The very first. That’s a very important position.

Eve: I’m listening…

Serpent: But what do you have to show for it? Eating mangoes and cuddling tarantulas all day.

Eve: I love tarantulas. They are cute.

Serpent (exasperated): That’s the point. You need to wake up! You might think the Old Man has entrusted a lot to you. That he’s given you authority and power over all this place. But he’s keeping the most important thing from you.

Eve: What’s that?

Serpent: Information. Knowledge. Knowing what’s up. That’s why he told you not to eat that fruit because he knows that when you do, you’ll be just like him. Gods in your own right. Master of your fate and captain of your soul.

Eve: Hmmn

Serpent: And personally, I think you guys will make really cool gods. You rock. You are the mom and pop of all humanity.

Eve: Mom and pop of all creation. That’s what’s up!

Serpent: Yea, sweetheart. That’s what’s up. So, you just go over to that tree and have yourself a snack.Be as wise as God.

Eve: WOW! Thanks, Serp! Yo, Damzi! Where you at? Let me holla at you real quick…

You get the point.

If we don’t have affectations, there won’t be luxury goods.

I recently bought the LG C9 OLED TV. It’s absolute bee’s knees. If you died and wanted your life played back, you’d want it played back on the C9. Glorious picture. Especially with 4K and 1080 content. It was voted the best TV of 2019 by almost all the gadget review websites.

But here’s the rub; 90% of the content I’ll watch on it are in Standard Definition or 720p. DVD quality. That’s what most of DSTV’s content are broadcast in. They’ve got some HD or ‘1080p’ channels but these are few. But no 4K content whatsoever. Yet I bought an expensive 4K ‘UHD’ TV. True, I’ve got some 4K content on Apple TV and on Netflix and have a slew of Blu ray discs. But did I really need an expensive 4K TV knowing it will be underutilized?

Features and aesthetics aside, I bought the C9 because I loved the way it made me feel. I feel discerning when I reel off what it can do to my mates.

It’s not about what you make. It’s about what you make people feel.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of advertising and brand touchpoints. Stimulate interest and desire. Encourage instant gratification.

Another instance.

On a recent visit to the US, a friend asked for my help in picking a ‘designer’ shoe for some government guy in Lagos he was prospecting for contracts. The chap was on the up and up. Someone to court. It was important for my friend not to come across as a cheapskate. So he was going to buy the guy a really nice shoe. Nothing over the top but something nice and with a name. I would help in delivering the shoes in Lagos.

So we hit an outlet mall. Wandered from store to store. We went into the Hugo Boss store. I instantly saw something I liked. A chocolate leather sneakers. Chic but simple. It oozed class. $300. And that was with 25% off.

I’m no seven-dollar-gary. I like good stuff. But pony up $375 for a pair of sneakers? What am I, Kanye?

 

My homeboy decided the fella was worth it. And the price was within budget. As I was the same shoe size as the guy, I tried the sneakers on to get the size right. Jeez, it felt nice. Maybe I am Kanye after all.

I came back to Lagos with the shoes. I would find time to go deliver to the chap.

A few days later, on my birthday, my wife came into the room and presented the shoes to me as my birthday present. It didn’t sink in. I’d just woken up. I looked at the shoe. Then looked at her. Then looked at the shoe again. Then looked at her. She had a conniving and sly smile on her face. Then slowly it sank. I’d come home with my own birthday present! Picked by no other person but me!

After God, fear women!

She’d reached out to my friend while I was out on the city. She’d got his cell number from another friend. Told him she wanted to buy me a nice shoe for my birthday. Said I was a sucker for big-name brands. She’d given a budget and wired the money. So they hatched the plan together.

My mind went back to the day. How my friend was always on the phone while we were in the stores. He was giving her updates. He’d been longer on the phone at the Boss store. He’d leave my side to make or receive calls. If she was spending $300 on a pair of sneakers, she needed to be sure I liked it. I was never the wiser.

In truth, I like big-name brands. They signify consistent quality, are better value on the long run and they minimize buying risk. You know what you get. But there’s a thin line between liking big brands for their perceived value and engaging in ‘conspicuous consumption’, or doting on Veblen goods.

Conspicuous consumption is the practice of spending money on luxury items and services to publicly display wealth.  When you and your boys are “up in the club popping mo-weezy”, that’s conspicuous consumption. At a party when your head is swelling and you are spraying bales of mulla? That’s conspicuous consumption.

A fallout of conspicuous consumption is love for Veblen goods. Luxury goods and services whose demand increase as the price increase. In fact, if their price were to fall, their demand would taper off. That’s in obvious contradiction to the law of demand. With most sapiens like you and I, the higher the price, the faster we bolt. Not with Veblen goods. The fact that most people can’t afford them is their attraction. They are unashamedly status symbols. You know them; a Birkin handbag, a Patek Philippe watch, certain types of wines, diamonds, yachts.

By the way, do you know the top fashion houses burn or destroy unsold clothes in order to preserve their exclusivity? They can’t risk the unsold items making their way to the grey market and sold off at equity-destroying discounts. Burberry was at the center of such storm a few years back.

That is why advertising is incredibly powerful in influencing not only beliefs about a brand but also belief about yourself. Never underestimate advertising. It can be both a tool for good and bad. It’s why you need to, as we say, “shine your eye” or “borrow yourself brain.”

No one needs to affirm you. Your self-worth is not in what you have. It’s in who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

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Faith, Religion

When your time comes…

 

Oh, for goodness sake, here comes this retard talking about death in January! We’ve just danced, sang and wined into a new year and this Dufus has to remind everyone we’ll check into the wooden Waldorf one day. Idiot! I shall not die but live to testify of the goodness of the Lord!

Well, I can’t help myself, can I? It must be the harmattan. Besides, what type of friend will I be if I don’t remind you that you will expire one day? I hope that day is a thousand years away, when you are full of years, wizened and lost all appetite to curse me.

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Creative Writing, Photography, Travel

Memories of New Orleans.

After leaving New York, I visited Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. I have homeboys in those cities and looked forward to some R&R. My base on the trip was Houston. I had planned on visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston, it being the 50th anniversary of mankind’s visit to the moon. But I was sidetracked by a few Naija owambes. On one instance, we drove four hours to Dallas to attend a wedding. Truth be told, it was nice to eat some Naija food after weeks of oyinbo food. But photography-wise none of those three cities were particularly interesting to me.

But NOLA? That’s a different proposition entirely!

What’s is great about New Orleans you ask? You mean what is great about a place nicknamed the “Big Easy” and “NOLA”? About cuisine that is a melting pot of French, African, Spanish and American culture? Vibrant live music, carnivals and costumed parades? Touristy cemeteries and slave plantations? You had to ask that question?

 “If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom.”Chris Rose

“In New Orleans, we celebrate everything. It’s probably the only place you’ll see people dancing in a funeral home.”Trombone Shorty

New Orleans was the highlight of my trip to the US. I had a homeboy who worked in the city. We both thought it was a good idea for me to visit since I had never been to the Deep South.

I ended up going by bus. I had botched my outbound flight. Somehow, I forgot to book the ticket. To do so on the day of travel was going to set me back some $350. If I hit Ross with $350, I’d dress up my village. So I decided to go by bus, the fare being a benign $40. Seven hours the journey would take. I could live with that. I’d been on the road for about three weeks and got used to keeping myself company. I consoled myself that I would see more of the country. I would fly back to Houston.

It was a great mistake, going by bus. I’ll explain.

See, the eminent state of Louisiana is bordered on the east by the state of Mississippi. Think Mississippi, think ridiculously humongous river. And then the state is bordered in the south by the Gulf of Mexico, ergo the Atlantic Ocean pretending not to be the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, the state has lots of water; massive deltas, swamps and marshland. Huge ridiculous things.

It also turns out that the state has three of the world’s longest bridges over water. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest at 24 miles – 38km. It is closely followed by the Manchac Swamp Bridge at 22.8miles – 36.7km. Third is the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge at 18.2mile – 29.2km.

Only when was I well on my way did I come across the information that we would go through one of these mammy water bridges to get to New Orleans. That the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge was the shortest of the those three bridges was no consolation. It’s 29km long!

Look, I’m no Aquaman. I am unnerved by long bridges over water. I am that driver that hugs the divider on Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. I never drive close to the water. I fear that one of my wheels may come off or someone would rear-end me and I would be, er, swimming with the fishes. Yet, the Third Mainland Bridge is a mere 11.8km. The Atchafalaya Basin Bridge is close to three times that length! Over foreboding waters, vexed cottonmouths and hungry gators!

Why would anyone build such a ridiculously long bridge? It’s not as if New Orleanians would curl up and die if no one came visiting. They have jazz, jambalayas, gumbos and Huge Ass Beers. They don’t need anyone else to have a great time. We must learn to respect people’s right to isolation.

The bus was a double decker. Ignorant of what lay ahead, I had selected a seat on the upper deck, in the front of the bus. The ride over the Atchafalaya Basin bridge was pure torment. The consequence of my high perch in the bus was vertigo and the feeling that the bus was tottering and would fall into the water. My prickliness towards the driver at the bus station in Houston would come back to haunt me as the geezer only drove a few centimeters from the edge of the bridge. I could have sworn the bloke was suicidal.  

 

Lake Ponchartrain Causeway – 23.875 miles (38.442 km) . Picture not mine.

Manchac Swamp Bridge : 22.8 miles (36.7 km). Picture not mine.

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge : 18.2miles (29.2km).

Took this shot from my high perch on the upper deck of the bus.

Check this. There is an 8-mile stretch on the Pontchartrain Causeway where you completely lose sight of land in all directions. Drivers have been known to freeze up during this stretch, suddenly feeling trapped and frightened. I gather it is a common enough occurrence that police patrols are stationed on the bridge to escort those frightened drivers back off the bridge.

I did manage to make it to New Orleans alive. My homeboy was waiting for me downtown. We drove to my hotel and checked in. My survival at the hands of the Atchafalaya bridge was a victory that demanded an epicurean celebration. We drove to Cajun Seafood on Claiborne Avenue. I stilled my jangled nerves with gumbo, crab claws and crawfish.

I cannot come and kill myself.

Now, let me tell you about a food incidence that irked me greatly.

See, prior to going to New Orleans, I had read that a must-do for first timers in the city was to eat beignets at Café Du Monde. So I thought to myself that this beignet must be quite the treat. I therefore made it an expedient matter to locate this Cafe Du Monde and introduce myself to this beignet .

I found Cafe Du Monde. Opposite Jackson Square. It was full of tourists. I eagerly waited to be seated. It was recommended that one orders beignets with cafe au lait. But as I don’t drink coffee, I ordered mine with orange juice. I waited with bated breathe.

When the beignets were brought, they turned out to be…Puff-Puff!

Three pieces of Puff-Puff covered with powdered sugar.

Three Puff-Puffs for $7! In Lagos, ten Puff-Puffs is N100! That’s just about a quarter – 25 cents!

I am never accepting the recommendation of white folks on gastronomic matters.

Beignets.

Cafe Du Monde

The beignet affair aside, the food in New Orleans are simply wonderful; gumbo, jambalaya, po-boy, alligator meat, fried catfish, crabs, crawfish. My advise to you; don’t ever come to New Orleans if you are on a diet!

The ever popular and iconic New Orleans gumbo. Some broth with different sea creatures in which you pour some rice. Never the other way.

Fried alligator, gumbo and some cheese soup.

Crabmeat Cheesecake. 

“Catfish Pecan” – pecan-dusted local catfish, popcorn rice, spiced pecans, creole meuniere, farm vegetables

“Banana Foster” – ‘Fresh bananas sauteed tableside in brown sugar and cinnamon, flambeed with banana liqueur and rum, vanilla bean ice cream.’

 

My hotel was just off the popular Canal Street, a stroll from the quaint French Quarters and the carnal Bourbon Street. Only in New Orleans will you find the charming right next to the iniquitous.

Cue Bourbon Street. It is probably the most popular street in the whole of the Deep South. But whatever was historical about Bourbon Street is now, well, history. You don’t go to Bourbon Street to learn the street wasn’t named after bourbon. You go to Bourbon Street to hand over your brains to bourbon, whiskey, rum, vodka, Huge Ass Beers or any other O-be-joyful.

Hustling for customers on Bourbon Street. PS: If the sign doesn’t make sense to you, try watching the Bud Light TV spot below.

In one of the Bourbon Street bars, I ordered a Coke with ice. The sweet bartender asked me “what the hell I was doing in New Orleans if I didn’t drink alcohol”. 

But you will also find creativity abounding in and around Bourbon Street. There are numerous spots with bands playing and little known musicians serenading guests at bars and restaurants. I hear the street is quite a thing during Mardi Gras.

There is of course so much to New Orleans than Bourbon Street. There is the Civil War history (not Avengers!) There are the cemeteries and the plantations.

Let’s talk about about cemeteries.

I found it odd that one of the popular attractions of a city would be its cemeteries. But New Orleans has always had an interesting relationship with its dearly departed.

You see, burying the dead in a city below sea level was always going to be a big challenge. Dig a few feet in New Orleans and you will strike water. Early settlers found to their chagrin that coffins floated on streets during heavy rainstorms, unearthed by flood waters. They tried burying the dead with huge stones on the coffin to keep it down against flood. But that also proved useless. Coffins and limbs still bobbed around the city during floods.

The solution decided was to keep the graves above ground, in like manner of the Spanish custom of using vaults. Graves are not dug. The dead are simply put in coffins in tombs that are above ground.

Many of the tombs look like miniature houses, some with iron fences. These rows of tombs give the cemeteries the appearance of a city with streets. This is why New Orleans cemeteries are usually referred to as Cities of the Dead. They are historic as some of the cities well-known personalities are buried there. And well, they look archaeological too.

The tomb of Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the U.S. Capitol.

By far the most popular cemetery in New Orleans is the St Louis Cemetery No 1, close to the French Quarters. I took a guided tour of the cemetery. Before the start of the tour, the guide introduced us to the concept attachment.

See, people come to cemeteries and leave mementos at tombs of family members. We were admonished never to pick up any object we found interesting at tombs and within the cemetery. Lest we were visited by the otherworldly owner of the memento. We were told stories of people who had to traveled back to New Orleans to return objects they had taken from from the cemeteries. They supposedly had visitations and were haunted.

“Give back me compass, ye mortal! Lest I be wandering lost in the afterlife. Lest ye replace I in on the River Styx. 

Joke aside, New Orleans is the voodoo and superstition capital of America.

This is the tomb for Nicholas Cage. He bought the tomb in 2010. This is where he will be buried when he kicks the bucket. “Omnia Ab Uno“, is Latin for “Everything From One“.

The next day, I hit the plush Garden District area. I took the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world – the St. Charles Streetcar – to get there. That old timer has been rattling along since 1835 and is not about to toot its final horn soon. It was all so surreal, taking a streetcar that has been in operation since 1835 to a neighbourhood that is just as old.

That District Garden is some mighty fine neighbourhood. Quaint and ornate mansions along oak-lined streets. You could smell new and old money in the neighbourhood. It is the site of many movies and TV programmes.

On the third day, it was time to for some slave lessons and plantation visits.

There are many plantations in New Orleans. There is the Felicity Plantation where “12 Years A Slave” was shot, the Laura Plantation, the Whitney Plantation, the San Francisco Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation and many others. I chose a guided tour of the Oak Alley Plantation.

The Oak Alley Plantation is about 92 km from the New Orleans downtown. It took about 1hr:10m to get there. Again driving through swamps and on bridges.

Why NOLA, why?

Oak Alley was a sugarcane plantation. 1200 acres. Plantation economy depended on slavery. Slaves were brought to Louisiana from Africa and sold to planters (owners of plantations) until 1808, when importation was banned. After that, planters bought slaves from other planters, or from slave traders bringing slaves from the east coast.

The plantation had its customary “Big House” which was where the owner of the plantation and his family lived. In front of the “Big House” stood a row of majestic Virginia Live Oaks. 300 years old beauties. Dig this: the average age for a Live Oak is 600 years. That makes those oaks only middle aged! There were 28 trees, to match the 28 columns on the “Big House”. The property has been designated a US National Historic Landmark for its architecture and landscaping.

No matter the number of times I see slave or race-related movies, or visit sites of racism and human denigration, I can’t hold back the emotions. The pain, fear and anxiety of the slaves become mine and real. As the tour guide solemnly narrated the history of the plantation and the lives of the slaves, I became grateful for the timeline in history I happen to inhabit.

Hey, let me tell you a funny story.

When I was an undergraduate, on one of those days when the lads and I we were broke, hungry and sharing a stick of cigarette, a roommate had lamented about his penurious situation and the culpability of his ancestors for his famished state of affair. He maintained that he could have been Michael Jackson or any notable African American. We enquired as to why this was so and he proceeded to tell us an intriguing story.

His great great great granddad had been captured on the shores of Nigeria by slave traders. The poor bugger was beaten and thrown into a ship bound for America. After many weeks on the Atlantic, surviving typhus, measles and smallpox, he eventually arrived America. While at the port and being paraded to be sold, the man managed to slip his bonds and dived into the water. He began to frantically swim towards the open sea. He was shot at and even pelted with canon fire. But the chap kept swimming. He evaded great whites, hammer-heads, orcas and water spirits. He was repeatedly stung by box jellyfish yet he kept swimming. He even evaded other slave ships. He swam non-stop. He swam breaststroke. He swam butterfly stroke. He swam furiously. He swam until he arrived back at his village after 120 days. He was treated to a hero’s welcome and a feast declared in his honour. He was made a chief and married five wives. He lived ever happily after.

As far as my roommate was concerned, the man should have been eaten by a shark. Of what use was it that the man came back to Africa he vented.

“How could the bugger run away from America! To come back to this god-forsaken country and condemn me to be Nigerian! He made it to America, for Christ sake! The America! The Land of The Free. Screw his chains! I could have been Michael Jackson. I could have been Usher. But now I’m a broke Nigerian with uncertain future! Because of an idiotic ancestor! Abeg, pass me the ciga…” 

Just so you know, it was only cigarette we were smoking not marijuana.

The roommate talked about slavery glibly. But it is humour that many African American will not appreciate. Slavery and it consequent discrimination and segregation doesn’t get to us Africans as it does to our brothers in North America. We were never imports with bar codes. They were. They are constantly reminded of the colour of their skin and their inferior position. Which I must remind you all is a fallout of evolutionary biology beliefs. But don’t get me started on that again!

After such an emotional trip, my spirits needed some uplifting. It was upliftment I deemed only a jambalaya could provide.

On my tour bus were two fine African American sisters. Friends and colleagues. They worked in the academia. I’d struck up conversation with them on our way to the plantations. But they were going to the Whitney Plantation. The bus dropped them off at Whitney Plantation while I proceeded to Oak Alley. We picked them up on our way back, So, I invited them to lunch.

They recommended we eat at Dooky Chase restaurant for a proper Creole cuisine. I had never heard of Dooky Chase. Which was to my shame because ex-Presidents W. Bush Jr and Obama had. President Obama ate gumbo at the restaurant in 2008 and George W Bush Jr had Crab soup and shrimp Clemenceau when he  visited New Orleans post Katrina. Among the eminent people who had also dined at Dooky Chase was Thurgood Marshall, the first African American judge of the United States Supreme Court and Dr Martin Luther King.

Emmanuel Dunnand/AFP via Getty Images

Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The restaurant was run by Leah Chase, an icon of the civil rights movement and Creole chef extraordinaire. Her restaurant served as the meeting place for civil rights activists and entertainers. She would feed free both whites and blacks off the frontline of marches for equality. At the time, the restaurant was the only upscale black restaurant in a city with many Jim Crow laws. The restaurant was named after her husband, Edgar ‘Dooky’ Chase Jr., a jazz trumpeter and band leader. Mr. Chase died in 2016 at the age of 88. Leah Chase would later die in June 2019 at the age of 96. I visited the restaurant in July 2019. I never got to meet her. Rotten luck.

So, it was to this illustrious restaurant we were going for lunch. The prospect of dining in the same room as Nat King Cole made the food more appetizing.

But alas! There was no room at the inn! When we got there, there was a queue as long as the Nile. We didn’t have a reservation. The ladies cooed and cajoled but there just wasn’t space for us. Rotten luck raised to power ten.

So, we decided to try our luck at another popular New Orleans soul food restaurant; Willie Mae’s Scotch House. The Food Network and Travel Channel had named it best for “America’s Best Fried Chicken” In 2007. I’m no chicken fan, but if them sisters wanted fried chicken, then fried chicken it was.

Luckily, there was room at the inn. Out of respect for my guests, I pretended to enjoy the fried chicken. I regaled my guests with my jaunt through Europe. Turned out that they had also been to a concentration camp outside Berlin – the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. I told them about my encounter with racism in Poland. They seemed surprised that I was surprised at racist encounters in the world.

Dude, we are black. It goes with the colour of our skin, even in America,” one of the sisters said.

I disagreed and said perhaps black folks in America needed to do more than wanting to be rappers, basketballers and celebrities. I said I didn’t think African Americans were doing enough to rise above their challenges.

From there, the conversation went downhill very fast.

“How could you understand what black people face in America?  We don’t try hard enough? Really? Why would you expect a ‘yes’ when all you’ve ever been told is a ‘no?’ You don’t know our struggles. Your parents weren’t imports. Ours were. You didn’t have to deal with slavery and don’t have to live with racism.”

“You are just so typical of most Nigerians. Arrogant and disdainful of African Americans. You think we are lazy, you don’t want to associate with us. You call us names – akata. Oh, yea, we know you do that…”

 Boy, did I screw up or what! I touched a raw nerve. In retrospect, perhaps I spoke ignorantly. I didn’t mean to disrespect or disparage the challenges African Americans face in the US. But I should have been more thoughtful. Even if it is to have an enjoyable lunch. Lesson learnt.

They wanted to pay for their meal, but I insisted on paying. They humoured me and thanked me but I could tell they were still miffed.

All in all, I absolutely loved New Orleans. I’m coming back and spending more time. This time, I’ll come back with the missus. NOLA is too good to enjoy alone.

And yes, I flew back to Houston. No way was I going to subject my feeble heart to the torture of that bridge again.

I leave you with a few more pictures of NOLA.

They don’t make them like this anymore…

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Photography, Travel

Memories of New York.

So, right. To Uncle Sam.

After junketing through Europe, I flitted across the Atlantic to Gotham. The first city on my US jaunt.

Few cities are as iconic as New York. When you think of America, you might actually be thinking about New York. Yellow taxis. Lady Liberty. NYPD. Manhattan. Hustle. The American Dream. But New York is more than iconic places. New York is an attitude.

“Most cities are nouns. New York is a verb” – John F Kennedy.

You see, New York makes you feel little. And I’m not talking about skyscrapers. Your sense of belittlement comes from the realization that only you knows you are in New York. No one notices you. Sure, if you owe an NY loan shark, someone will know you are in New York. But other than for that lack of gumption, you’ll be just one in the 60 million that visit the city every year. An indistinguishable bee in a mammoth hive. But don’t take it personal. New York doesn’t hate or think little of you. It’s just too busy racking up $840bn in GDP. After all, it is the seat of American capitalism and that beast must be fed.

And New Yorkers? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? Everybody’s got things to do and places to be and if you get in their way, well, you’re gonna know about it. One time, my wife’s cousin, a Brooklynite, had visited us in Maryland. She couldn’t wait to get out of Maryland. She said everyone was too slow and she was losing her mind.

This was not my first visit to New York. I’d been here a couple of times. But I can never get enough of the city. In New York, interesting encounters can happen to you without warning. Once at Times Square, my wife and I ran into Beyonce a few years back. She’d stopped to watch same street performers we were watching. Some guys who were doing a Michael Jackson routine. We were no more than ten meters from her. I tried to record a video of her but one of her bodyguards was on to me like a broke cousin.

Slow down, Thanos!

I’d flown in through JFK. I’m ambivalent about JFK. It’s neither a great nor poor airport. It processes you out without a human touch. Very few smiles. Look, I’m not asking for hugs or kisses. Just some human touch. At least at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the airport personnel smile at you and cajole you for money. That’s human touch. Personal interaction. Even if your wallet is going to be a few notes lighter afterwards.

With some of my country folks, approaching a US Custom and Border Patrol officer calls for spiritual back up. Since a visa merely allows you to travel to a port of entry and then seek admittance from a border officer, and CBP officers known to deny entry to travelers (ATL, I’m looking at you ), many Naija travellers approach these officers with meekness. At that moment, we realise we do not wrestle against flesh and blood and must summon angelic assistance. So don’t be alarmed when you see us muttering under our breath or talking to ourselves. We are engaged in spiritual warfare you best stay out of.

The CBP officials who attended to me liked my camera backpack and National Geographic carry-on. I suppose they made me look like a serious and celebrated NatGeo photographer. When I later traveled to Atlanta, A TSA officer had also complimented me on the backpack and carry-on and thanked me for all the good stuff we bring to their screen on NatGeo. I smiled demurely.

There, all you haters! I’m a National Geographic photographer!

A few mundane questions and the CBP chaps welcomed me to the US.

Ah, New York City! It’s always good to be back!

I hailed a Uber to Brooklyn. My AirBnB was in Brooklyn.

Oh, I love it in Brooklyn!

You see, Brooklyn is kind and real and can be anything you want it to be. It can be upscale. It can be “hood”. It can be homely or it can be distant. Brooklyn doesn’t take sides. Everyone is right in Brooklyn and everyone is wrong in Brooklyn.

And Brooklyn is not a black borough. It is over 44% white and about 34% black. But you find most racial colorations in the borough. Arab Americans enclave, Jewish American enclave, Latin American enclave. Even Russian Americans. Little Russia and Little Odessa around Brighton Beach.

Fancy that. “Russian American.” I suppose there would be American Russians too.

Hey, anyone knows the number of American-North Koreans in the world?

But back to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is getting gentrified however. Richer folks and more middle-class people are moving into the borough making the prices of houses soar. Often beyond the reach of most Brooklynites, especially African Americans. It’s a source of constant angst and anger. But mostly, Brooklyn loves. I feel safe in Brooklyn.

A Brooklyn encounter from many years ago.

It was my first trip to the US. I’d traveled with the missus to New York. We’d just been married and I wanted to meet some of her cousins and other family members. There were only eighteen people at our wedding and not a few family members on either side were upset at the non-invitation. So the trip was a peace-making mission. We would stay with the uncle and cousins in Brooklyn.

On our way from the airport, I had espied a Dunkin’ Donut a few blocks  from the house. The next morning, I woke up early and like a good in-law proclaimed I was going out to get some breakfast for everyone at Dunkin.’ After all, America runs on Dunkin.’

Truth was I was aching sorely for a cigarette. I hadn’t smoked in over twenty four hours and  was dying slowly. I could feel my spirit bidding farewell to my mortal body. I needed nicotine and tar quickly.

Those days I chain-smoked. I was that guy that woke up at 2 am to smoke and jumped into the car to go buy a cigarette when he realised he was out of smokes. And that guy who opts for a stop-over flight instead of a direct one so he could stop over and smoke. I was that hopeless. Kicked the habit now. Nine years since I last lit a cigarette. Surprise, surprise, I haven’t died yet.

So I was saying…

I hurried out of the house with my pack of cigarette in pocket. I walked about three blocks to an intersection and lit a cigarette. I took deep joyful drags and exhaled slowly. It was like air after being waterboarded.

Then this black dude bounced up to me. Unkempt afro, dirty gold teeth, jeans hanging from his butt and fake bling around his neck.

“Hey man, can I have a cigarette?”

I was a little afraid. This was my first time in America and I had preconceived notions of Brooklyn and crime. I hesitated and processed what my action should be. But the dude didn’t sound or look threatening in any way.

“Just a stick, bruh. Help a brother out. You know I’m sayin?”

Yea, dawg. I know what you is sayin’.

I offered him my pack of Rothmans. He took out one stick. I encouraged him to take more.

“Fo real?!”

For real.

He took two more. He asked for a light. I gave him my lighter. He lit the cigarette and took rapid puffs. Happy, he gave me a vigorous bro hug that nearly dislocated my shoulders.

“You ain’t from around here, is you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Where you from?”

“I’m Nigerian.”

“Africa?”

“No, Nigerian.”

“Yea, Africa. I ain’t ever been to Africa. Adon’t like it in Africa.”

Of course, you don’t, you bonehead.

He gave me another bro hug and bounced off.

My first friend in Brooklyn. I’m really going to like it here.

And there is so much creative energy!

Fulton Street, Brooklyn

Saw this dude at the Broadway Junction station. Probably the first African American Sioux you’ll ever see!

Whereas my jaunt through Europe had been about history – an ignominious history at that- I was coming to America to eat, sleep and take pictures. It’s been nine months since I was bitten by a radioactive photo bug and I’ve been honing my photography powers. I’m seeing improvements. A lot of my compositions are still rushed and I’m still way behind with post processing/editing. But I’ll get there. You will hear of me!

Oh, wait. You already heard of me!

My US jaunt encompassed New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and the “Big Easy” – New Orleans. With the exception of New York, I was visiting the other cities for the first time. I was particularly looking forward to going to NOLA – New Orleans, Louisiana. The food! Lord, keep me safe till I get to NOLA!

So, what was there to eat in New York?

Let me tell you about people I have serious beef with.

I don’t care much for anyone who maligns food like pizza, burgers and hot dogs and label them junk food. How can food that gives joy be junk? How can two large lemonades be evil? I’ll tell you what is junk. It’s broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, lettuce and brussel sprouts. Those are the food responsible for most of the unhappiness in the world. Dig very deep and you’ll find those veggies caused WWII. No one who eats bacon, cheese and pepperoni wakes up to bomb another human being. Companies like Shake Shack and Joe’s Pizza are spreading as much joy around the world as the Salvation Army.

Needless to say my meals in New York were mostly those poor maligned food. They didn’t do my waistline any favours. But be reminded that calories don’t count in heaven.

I had not eaten ‘pepper’ since I left Nigeria two weeks earlier. So I sought to reacquaint my palate with the taste of home. Off I went to Festac Grill off Atlantic Avenue. White rice, ofada sauce with boiled eggs and dodo. Stiffed out of $20. But no point quarreling with food you already paid for. I enjoyed it grudgingly.

Let’s talk about the New York subway for a minute.

Let’s get this out of the way. No other subway in the Milky Way come close to the New York subway in entertainment and pleasant surprises. I haven’t been to Neptune yet, but I’m betting they won’t have Maroon 5 performing in their stations.

I recorded the young hustlers below myself.

I’ve been on a couple of trains and trams in Europe. Boring affair. On the London Tube, everyone might as well be studying for an exam. In France, commuters are too polite to look you in the eye. Not in NY. Those trains may rattle along and be anachronistic, but there’s no knowing who might be sitting next to you. Captain America. Houdini. Keanu Reeves.

Ah yes, my pictures. What have I got to show for the camera slinging across the city? A few decent photographs. But a few people ooh and ahhed over a few of the pictures, though I suspect it was more to encourage me than appreciation. It’s a journey. I’ll get there.

Saw this spot as I walked on the Manhattan Bridge to the Brooklyn end of the bridge.

Colours of New York. Manhattan

Brooklyn Bridge 

    

The Oculus. Downtown Manhattan.

The Oculus.   

The towering skyscrapers of Manhattan banded together to whisper. They looked down at me as I looked up at them with my 18mm wide angle lens. Gotcha!

Brooklyn Bridge Park. 

 

DUMBO here is a must-have in the portfolio of any photographer who visits New York. It is always teeming with photographers. On this day, I had to wake up early to hopefully have DUMBO to myself. I got there at 6 am. I met three photographers! We were considerate to one another.

What I really enjoyed about my trip to New York this time was the fact that I was alone. Didn’t come with the family. No friends. So I was pretty much left to my own devices. Ate what I shouldn’t. Walked distances family wouldn’t and didn’t visit Saks Fifth Avenue. Freedom.

After four days, it was time to bid farewell to NY. Time to head to Atlanta to see friends. Nothing special about my visit to Atlanta though. Same with Houston and Dallas. Staying with friends. Visiting other friends. Shopping for the family. In essence, not blog-worthy visits. I did discover a wicked milk shake shop in Houston though. Right under my nose! I punished myself appropriately for not discovering it sooner by visiting it daily.

So on to New Orleans then.

 

 

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My Holocaust jaunt. How it all began.

Sometime in 2018, I watched CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interview Ronen Bergman on his book, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. In the interview, Bergman talked about how the Mossad, the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security organ) and AMAN (Israel’s military intelligence) went about aiding perceived enemies of Israel cash in their chips early. Bergman explained that Isreal’s strong hand on its perceived enemies was borne out of centuries of Jewish persecution, the Holocaust and the Talmudic mandate:

“The Talmud says: ‘If someone comes to kill you, rise and kill him first.’ This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA.”

Bergman talked about a particular incidence. On the instruction of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Air Force had scrambled two F-15s to blow up a chartered plane thought to be transporting the hated Yasser Arafat. The F-15s circled the plane waiting for final confirmation orders to shoot it down.

Turns out it was not Yasser Arafat on board but his brother, Fathi Arafat, a doctor. He was escorting thirty wounded Palestinian children to Cairo for treatment. The intel was wrong. The strike was called off.

It was a gripping expose.

I was filled with righteous indignation. But it turns out that on no less than five different occasions had F-15s and F-16s been scrambled on the instruction of Ariel Sharon to shoot down commercial airliners thought to be ferrying Yasser Arafat. Only internal sabotage by military officials — galled by the order and fearing war crime charges against Israel — ensured the missions failed.

By the way, when you pray for luck, pray for the the Yasser Arafat-type of luck. Given how badly Ariel Sharon had it in for the man, that he died of natural causes is nothing short of a miracle. As we Yorubas are wont to say, his mother wasn’t dozing in heaven.

I have always loved spooks stories. So after watching the interview, I went out and bought the book.

Two words: don’t be an existential threat to Israel.

OK, that’s seven words. What I meant to say was: mind blown.

How the Israeli government allowed the book to be published beggars belief. The book gave details of many of Israel’s covert operations and the names of principal actors and agents, many of whom are still alive!

Assassination through poisoned toothpaste. Assassination of enemy nuclear scientists. Car bombs. Letter bombs. Sidling into hostile and friendly countries to eliminate, abduct or blow up targets. All in a day’s work.

The book was a scintillating read. However, I doubt that families of the many dearly departed on account of Israeli bullets, knives or bombs would find it so. Not if you learned your beloved was dumped into the Mediterranean from 30,000 feet.

But the book sowed a seed in my heart. To understand a man you only need to understand his past and his fears. So, I thought to myself: what if I visited some of the historic sites of Jewish persecution in Europe? Understand what haunts Israel so badly?

It was a very entertaining thought. I already had a US vacation planned and was going to fly through Europe. Why not stop over for some gulag history and haunting memories on the way to divine cuisine in New Orleans? And since I had recently been smitten by a photography bug, I could take some interesting pictures.

Oh, I liked the sound of it. I liked it very much. So, I planned the trip and off I went.

Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Budapest and Krakow. Six European cities in 9 days. Then I skipped over the Atlantic for some R and R. New York, Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans.

You can’t be broke if you don’t check your bank account.

Since many human beings suffer from the grand delusion that people are dying to read whatever drivel they write, I am sharing memories of the trip in separate posts. The links are below. Maybe it might inspire you to have some sense and not travel, the consequence of which is some seriously expanded mind.

Hopefully, not from visiting coffee shops in Amsterdam.

Please click on the cities below for account of each trip.

Amsterdam. Berlin Munich Budapest Krakow New York waka. New Orleans waka

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My Holocaust jaunt. Amsterdam, I shall be back!

So, let’s talk about Amsterdam.

If you are reading this blogpost, chances are you probably read the earlier post that led to it. However, if you didn’t or haven’t, it might be a good idea to. The link is here.

Amsterdam was the first port of call on my European jaunt. I had never been to the city although I’d flown through Amsterdam Schiphol on several occasions. I’d heard a lot about Amsterdam. Its diversity. The Red Light District and legalised prostitution. Coffee Houses that sell no coffee. The canals. Rijksmuseum. Tulips. The Amsterdam Arena and Ajax football club. The ‘Venice of the North was the stuff of myths. I was therefore looking forward to seeing the city.

So, on the wings of the Flying Dutchman I flew into Amsterdam Schiphol. I have always loved Schiphol. It has an easy and laid-back feel I find pleasing. Either arriving in Amsterdam or transiting through Schiphol, you do not feel harried or anxious. Cool Runnings. By the way, do you know our own Murtala Muhammed International Airport was modeled after Amsterdam Schiphol? We only decided to stop at one terminal.

After arriving at Schiphol, I took the NS train to the city-center Amsterdam Centraal station, or “Centraal” as the natives call it. The Gothic-styled station is the biggest in Amsterdam and the second busiest in the Netherlands after Utrecht.

What’s remarkable about Amsterdam Centraal station? Why, the double-decker trains, of course! I have never seen one. So you would understand my excitement when one pulled to a stop in front of me. I jumped in. I couldn’t care less if the train was going to Fallujah. I had to get on a double-decker train. Upstairs seating would be fine, thank you.

The hostel I booked was across the River IJ and Centraal. I arrived in Amsterdam in the wee hours and supposedly would not be able to check into the hostel until 3 pm. Eager to make the most of my two-day stay in the city, I opted to take a shower in a facility at the station so I can hit the city immediately. €18 that luxury cost me. A mugging, especially since the hostel checked me into my room at 8:30 am.

No justice can be done to exploring a city in two days. Budget and my time constraints notwithstanding, there was no excuse for treating iconic Amsterdam with such levity. Apologies Amsterdamers, I shall be back!

But what were my first thoughts of Amsterdam?

Why, the bicycles of course!

The ubiquity!

There are close to 900,000 bicycles in the city. For a population of 1.1m people. It’s ridiculous.

And what dexterity too!

I am convinced Amsterdamers cycled right out of the womb and are born with wheels instead of legs. Folks around here probably ride a bicycle from the bedroom to the toilet.

I chose to walk. I will not embarrass my ancestors among such aces.

And what is Amsterdam without its canals? It’s the only reason it is called the Venice of the North. I must have walked by or gone over 50 canals but I understand the city has over 160 canals and over 1500 bridges. That’s preposterous! Amsterdam, you take liberality too far!

You can’t miss the diversity in Amsterdam too. It is pleasantly a multi-racial and diverse city. Only 49% of Amsterdamers are Dutch while 50% are of foreign ancestry. Folks of non-Western origin account for 35% of the city’s population and over 170 nationalities call the city home. Which was great because I loathe finding myself in a back street with ultra-nationalists. I am concerned about racism when I travel. But I needn’t worry. Black lives seemed to matter in Amsterdam.

If I was to describe Amsterdam in one short sentence it would be “a cosmopolitan city that still managed to remain a little town.” You get the feeling you could walk the whole city in a day.

So, why did I come to Amsterdam?

Amsterdam held a special interest to me for two reasons. One, its light-handed treatment of topical moral issues is fascinating. Prostitution is legal and unionised in the city. And so also is recreational marijuana use. The Dutch reckon that if people are going to pay for sex or smoke ‘weed,’ there’s little you can do to stop them. So why not allow and regulate the activity instead? The city is famed for its Red Light District and places that sell marijuana are euphemistically called Coffee Shops.

Coffee shops that sell no coffee. Quintessentially Dutch.

By the way, I never visited the Red Light District. See no evil, think no evil.

So yes, the Dutch believe morality should not be legislated. Live and let live. Which sounds all nice and dandy. But where do we draw the line? Next stop bestiality? Paedophilia? Incest?

The second reason Amsterdam held special interest to me was its long tradition of welcoming the persecuted. Catholics and Jews found respite in the city during very difficult times. The city welcomed Jews from all over Europe when everyone else was throwing them out. They gave them a home and put their business acumen to use building the city. It was also why the city was also referred to as the “Jerusalem of the North” on account of the big Jewish population in the city at a time.

Stories of Jewish persecution in Amsterdam will inevitably lead to the story of Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House. Which was one of the reasons why I was in Amsterdam.

That and food and photography.

Let’s talk about food, shall we?

Many white folks gush about the street food called herring.

“Oh, you must eat herring when you are in Amsterdam.”

“Herring is a Dutch institution. It is delicious and healthy.”

“You can’t go to Amsterdam and not eat herring”

Oh herring this. Oh herring that.

So I went looking for this herring and tried it.

My advice to you: never listen to white folks!

As a matter of fact, never listen to anyone who finds raw fish, pickles and onions tasty.

But I did like bitterballen (which is not bitter at all), stroopwafel and some of the Indonesian cuisine.

And cheese! What is Amsterdam without cheese?

I visited the Henri Willig cheese factory in Zaanse Schans outside the city. I have never seen such varieties of cheese! Baby Gouda, Goat Cheese, Sheep Cheese, Baby Goat, Baby Cheese, Herbs & Garlic, Pepper, Red Chilli Pepper, Fenugreek. My face lit up like a Nigerian politician at the sight of lucre.

And eat I did. I was shameless with the generous free tasting. Deride me all you want. He who brings cheese, brings life.

One of the pleasant cheese maids proceeded to teach us the right way to pronounce ‘Gouda’. It is pronounced ‘hak-ouda.’ You pronounced the ‘ha’ as if you were summoning phlegm from your gut.

OK ma’am. Just let me have the cheese, thank you.

And the weather!

In terms of the worst weather on the planet, London has kith and kin in Amsterdam. If your life depended on it not raining, you will die. Because it will rain in Amsterdam. In winter. In fall. In summer. In spring. I hated that about Amsterdam.

Right. To Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House. One of the reasons why I was in Amsterdam.

If you don’t know the story of Anne Frank, allow me to summarise.

Jewish girl Anne Frank was 11 years old when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940. Anne lived with her father, mother and sister in Amsterdam.

As Jewish people began to disappear all over Europe, killed by the Nazis, Anne’s father, Otto, began building a secret annex in his office to hide the family from the Nazis if things came to a head in Amsterdam.

It did. In 1942, when Anne was 13 years old, the family moved into the secret annex. They were joined by four other people. It was very cramped in the annex.

They lived there for two years until they were discovered in 1944. Rumour has it they were ratted out. The Nazis deported the family to the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland (Which I was to visit).

Anne and her sister, Margot, were later moved to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Condition at Bergen-Belsen was no less bad than at Auschwitz. The prisoners were overworked and many died from sheer exhaustion. Communicable diseases were also rife in the camp and Anne and  Margot contracted typhus to which they eventually succumbed.

It broke my heart that they died in February 1945. British forces liberated the camp in April 1945.

Sweethearts, if only you knew help was around the corner. If only you could have kept going for two more months. 

Peeps, no matter what, hold on. Persevere. Find a reason to hold on. Victory might be 24 hours away.

Anne’s father Otto was the only survivor from the secret annex. Anne’s mother had also died at Auschwitz.

But while Anne was in the secret chamber, she kept a diary. She wrote about life in the secret annex and her hopes and aspiration. She wanted to be a writer and a journalist and had intended to publish the story of life in the secret annex.

The diary somehow escaped the clutches of the Nazis. Otto Frank was moved by her daughter’s story. On encouragement, in 1947 he published the diary into the now popular novel, Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex). He hoped that readers of the diary would become aware of the inherent evil in discrimination and racism.

The book has since been translated into over 70 languages. The house in which Anne and her family hid is now a museum, the Anne Frank House. More than 1.2 million people visit the house every year.

That was some summary, wasn’t it? You really can’t summarise agony.

I had intended to visit the Anne Frank House. But due to the frazzling of cells in my brain for no apparent reason, I forgot to book the guided tour of the house.

You see, tickets to the Anne Frank House are sold out up to 2 months in advance, especially during summer. And this was summer. A limited amount of tickets are released online at 9 am every morning on each day of visit. But the queue of people waiting to snatch them up stretch from Amsterdam to Babylon. I am not especially endowed with patience.

I kicked myself over and over again. How could I have forgotten? How could I have been careless?

Well, I was in Amsterdam anyway and I might as well make the most of it. I set about taking pictures. I wandered around the city. The Joordan, De Pijp, Amsterdam-Noord. I visited the Rijksmuseum, Zaanse Schans, Inntel Hotel at Zaandam. I should fare better in Berlin, my next stop on the jaunt.

But it rained. My two days in Amsterdam were cold, wet and overcast.

1-0 Amsterdam. You win this tie. There will be a return leg. You will not get the better of me again!

Right. On to Berlin then.

Please click here for my Berlin account.

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My Holocaust jaunt. Berlin you beauty!

So, here I am. Berlin. The second city on my European jaunt. The first was Amsterdam. You can read about that here.

It feels ridiculous to wake up at 6:00 am to catch a train when you are on a vacation. But that’s what I needed to do if I was to catch my 7:00 am train to Berlin. On my tight European jaunt, every hour counts. I was going to be in Berlin for only two days. The earlier I hit the road, the more I could pack into a day.

From Amsterdam Centraal, I took the Deutsche Bahn IC to Hannover. There I changed unto the ultra-modern ICE Sprinter train to Berlin Hauptbanhof. Those Sprinter trains were mighty comfortable. And fleet! The whole journey was some minutes shy of seven hours. By far the longest train journey I’d been.

We crossed into Germany at the small town of Bad Bentheim. Sleepy me, I thought the town read ‘Bad Bethlehem’.

German immigration police came on board at Bad Bentheim to check passports and right to cross into Deutschland. Polite lot. We were soon on our way.

I arrived at Berlin Hauptbanhof at about 1:45 pm. ‘Hauptbanhof’ means ‘main rail station’. And what a station it is! A humongous glass and steel affair. A most spectacular modern architectural edifice. It spans five floors and is one of the busiest train stations in Europe. It sees over 110 million passengers a year.

I was promptly lost.

A question; why do many Germans pretend they don’t understand or speak English? Many I approached for direction said they spoke spattering English, when in fact they spoke sufficient English to give me directions? I’m not asking them to explain Lord of the Flies in English.

Fellas, please leave me out of your beef with England. I genuinely need help!

I took the S-Bahn (city rapid railway) to Berlin Friedrichstraße Station (pronounced Freedricht-‘strassa’). Friedrichstraße Station is a popular stop for tourists. I thought I might feel my way around the rail service in Berlin before I hit my hostel. I was after all a tourist.

On exiting the station, what should befall my eyes?

Currywurst!

Nestling against an exit of the station was an imbiss, a snack shop that sold street food. If Berlin is the city for street food, then currywurst is its mayor.

I quickly got in line and ordered a fare. Pork sausage (or Bratwurst), ketchup, curry powder, fried onions, mayo and fat fries.

60,000 calories of Berliner goodness!

Oh Berlin, could this be love?

Having wolfed down my currywurst, I was now in the right frame of mind to find the whereabouts of my hostel. I hailed a Uber. The day was sunny and beautiful.

Berlin, you and I are going to get along just fine!

So why am I in Berlin?

Easy. This was the capital of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The fall of Berlin signaled the end of Nazi Germany and its reign of terror in occupied Europe.

A brief explanation of Nazi ideology.

The basic elements of Hitler and Nazi ideology were hatred of democracy, communism, and Jews. This was combined with a belief that the German people were superior to all other races. This warped ideology proclaimed biological inequality and the right of the “superior” German nation to dominate and decide the fate of the “inferior” nations. The way Hitler saw it, Jews, Slavs, Roma (gypsies) and blacks were at the bottom of the food chain and must be rid of.

This ideology necessitated the invasion and occupation of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, which Herr Hitler regarded as German “living space” – lebensraum. He therefore proceeded on the liquidation of the “peoples of the East.” The liquidation entailed reducing fertility, increasing mortality and outright extermination.

There. A brief history of what plunged the world into WWII. But let’s pause for a moment here.

Do you see the parallel between Hitler’s depraved racial convictions and atheistic evolutionary theory?

Let me break it down for you like MC Hammer.

Evolutionary theory infers that we are all beings of inconsequential existence. A mass of chemicals and impulses accidentally spawned by a swirling mass of gas. There is no purpose to our existence. We arrived here by chance and ‘natural selection’. The stronger adapted to its environment and survived. The weak died. In fact, the stronger ‘superior race’ must of necessity eliminate the ‘weaker’ and ‘inferior race for a progressive march in the evolutionary journey. That gave birth to the field of German eugenics – the genetic engineering to isolate and ‘breed out’ the weak and inferior race so they would not contaminate the superior gene pool of the Germans.

Further, in the atheistic evolutionary theory, there is no room for morality. No room for moral absolutes. Right and wrong are relative. The possession of morality may well be a handicap that prevents a species from advancing. Human lives have no intrinsic value. No transcendental qualities.

But a human life does have intrinsic value. Endued to us by our Creator because we are Imago Dei – created in His image. It is why we condemn murder. Why we loathe cruelty, and why we have sympathy for the weak. When we accept evolutionary biology beliefs as true, we accept that, in essence, there is no difference between a man and a cow.

Which, when you think about it, may not be a ridiculous idea. After all, you have come across many cows that can play a concerto, write books or code in Python. I am beginning to suspect that all that Neil Armstrong “one-small-step-for-man-one- giant-leap-for-mankind” business may well have been a misattribution. Clearly, it was Matilda the Cow who first stepped on the moon and what she probably said was “one small step for a cow, one giant leap for all ungulates.”

Embedded in evolutionary beliefs are the roots of racial discrimination, subjugation and death. Thought you should know what you are signing up for when you gush over evolution.

OK, back to Berlin.

Of particular interest to me in Berlin was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the Topography of Terror, the Mauermuseum, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

Well, those places in addition to food and photography. I had only two days to spend in the city so my itinerary was cramped.

But what were my first impressions of Berlin?

Well, Berlin is open. And straight-talking. And cosmopolitan. And hip. And punk. And inexpensive. And artsy. And German. And Turkish. Indeed Berlin has the highest number of Turkish people outside Istanbul.

Which, pardon me, must inevitably lead to talks of the Doner Kebab.

I’m sure you can swear that you’ve eaten some wicked kebabs in your life. And you may very well have. But if you have not eaten Doner Kebabs in Berlin, well, you haven’t lived!

Take a look at the pictures below. Oh Berlin, you are so good to me!

At this point, you may think that this Jide bloke is besotted with food. I can’t tell you what to think. What I can tell you though is this: Only the living eat, people. Only the living.

But I digress again.

The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust – the Nazi mass execution of Jews, Roma, Slavs and other nationalities. It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs erected in a grid pattern on grounds that slope. The memorial looked like a cemetery to me although the designers of the memorial say it is not.

As the memorial is on a sloping field, once you go in, the concrete slabs begin to grow taller into pillars until they completely consume you. The memorial becomes one massive maze. The pillars become smaller as you approach the exit. Quite a design marvel.

But it was sobering in there. The memorial evoked a feeling of loneliness. Of being lost and nameless.

Next stop was the touristy Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Holocaust stories aside, I was still a tourist and touristy things are well in order. I wandered around the Mitte district a bit.

In the evening, it was time to look for…the Burgermeister.

In Germany, the chairman of the executive council or cabinet in many towns and cities is known as the ‘Burgermeister.’ But let me be clear, I was not in Berlin to meet politicians. The Burgermeister I was looking for is the Burgermeister. The famed burger joint in Berlin.

I sought it. I found it. It was located under a subway in the artsy Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. In an old disused public toilet from the 1920s (how cool is that!).

It is said that Burgermeister makes the best burgers in the whole of Germany. Hundreds even vouch that its burgers are in the top three of the best burgers in Europe. Now that is some reputation that must be verified.

I quickly got in line (there is always a long line at the Burgermeister). I ordered the chili cheeseburger and fries.

I took a deep breath.

I lifted the burger towards my mouth.

I took a bite.

Oh Berlin, I have been an idiot for not coming to you sooner!

The next day, it was time to visit the East Side Gallery, the Mauermuseum and the Topography of Terror.

The East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery of frescoes painted directly on 1.3km-long remains of the Berlin Wall (you do know about the Berlin Wall, right? Right?!) It sees over 3 million visitors each year.

The Mauermuseum is just across Checkpoint Charlie (don’t tell me you don’t know about Checkpoint Charlie!). It gave insight into life in the Soviet-run ‘German Democratic Republic’ or East Germany. I saw exhibits of the dangerous and brave measures East Germans took to escape to a better life in Allied-run West Germany.

Escapees hid in the trunk of Volkswagen Beetles like this

This armour-plated car simply barreled through the border into the West amidst a hail of bullets. All occupants made it!

The Topography of Terror is both an outdoor and indoor Nazi Germany history museum. A very long segment of the Berlin Wall in its original state is also visible here.

In all, I had a very enjoyable stay in Berlin. I liked the place. I felt welcomed. I could have been Herr Alade from Roundtheblockdorf. Maybe if I stayed longer I would see the ugliness inherent in every city. But as far as this trip went, Berlin was aces. I will be coming back.

I’ll leave you with more pictures and memories of Berlin below.

Next stop, into the heart of Bavaria – Munich!

Please click here for Munich.

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My Holocaust jaunt. Imperious Munich.

Guard post at Dachau Concentration Camp.

So Munich was the third city I was visiting on my 9-day, 5-city Holocaust jaunt. You can read about my visit to Berlin here and the visit to Amsterdam here.

My chariot from Berlin to Munich was once again the ultra-fast ICE Sprinter service. Just like the train service from Amsterdam to Berlin, you simply get on the train without a check-in. You get to the train station, locate your train and get on the couch. No one checks your ticket or absence of it. Now, I believe you are not that guy nursing the idea of free travel at the Deutsche Bahn’s expense. I advise you to perish the thought now. At some point during the journey, the conductor will come round to check for tickets. If you are caught without a ticket, the train will be stopped, you’ll be tied on the tracks and then run over.

OK, just kidding. Don’t be a jerk. Pay for your travel.

But fly that train flew! I clocked it doing over 210km/hr at periods. It flew. Through meadows, valleys, farms and wind turbine installations. We got to Munich Hauptbanhof in just under four hours.

Munich. Beautiful architecture. Beer Halls. Lederhosen. BMW. Bayern Munich. Oktoberfest. The heart of Bavaria.

What were my first impressions?

Well, in Munich beer is food. You could have had five bottles of beer and not had a drink yet!

 Hahaha. The Dachau tour guide told us that.

There is some aloofness about Munich. An imperiousness. This is not an effusive and necessarily welcoming city like Berlin. You are well-advised not to expect warmth.

A curious incidence.

While waiting to catch the train to Dachau at Munich Hauptbanhof on my second day, I went to a Chinese food stall for some chow. I stood in front of the menu board unsure of what to order. Then along waltzes a smiling oriental attendant. He enthusiastically pointed me in the direction of fried chicken and boiled potatoes.

No, he didn’t just do that!

I was livid and barked my disgust at him. That caught him unawares.

I was surprised that he was surprised. So, I thought to myself; “Calm down, Jide. Maybe this dude doesn’t even understand the symbolism of black people and fried chicken. I mean, the dude could barely speak English. And you are not African American anyways. So, why the offense? Maybe fried chicken and boiled potatoes was all he’d seen most black people order.”

No matter. I still thought it was profiling and stereotyping.

I stilled my anger with a bowl of noodles and pork chops.

Why am I in Munich anyway?

Munich was “Hauptstadt der Bewegung” – “the Capital of the Movement.” The birthplace and spiritual home of the Nazi Party. This was where Hitler began making all his speeches and building the followership that resulted in the Third Reich.

Munich was also where the Nazis built the first concentration camp, at Dachau, just outside the city.

I had booked the Hitler and Third Reich Walking Tour. There were twelve of us on the tour. Our tour guide was a guy named Achim. Sarcastic and funny guy. He took us on a walking tour of historical Nazi sites in Munich. We learned about Hitler and the Nazi party. We walked over 6km in about 2hr 30m.

Achim

By the way, did you know that Hitler was a sir-fart-a-lot? Yep, he was a fat-bag. His farts were so horrendous they could put out an elephant.

He also thought he would die young, like his parents.

He died at 56.

40 would have been better.

Maybe 30.

Heck, maybe he should never have been born.

Day two of my stay in Munich was when I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp and the BMW Museum.

Arbeit macht frei.

That’s the dubious charge that greets you at the gate of the Dachau concentration camp and all concentration and extermination camps the Nazis built. It means “work sets you free.”

I could see the twisted humour in it. Inmates died from overwork and exhaustion. Their spirits left their bodies. You could therefore say work set their souls free.

My Dachau (pronounced ‘Dakau‘) was an older German chap who looked so much like Christoph Waltz. I liked him the moment he was introduced to us.

Dachau was opened in 1933 shortly after Hitler became Reich Chancellor. It was the prototype for all other Nazi concentration camps. It was initially designed to be a “school of correction” where political prisoners and criminals were sent for punishment and harsh re-education. It eventually evolved into a death camp where thousands of Jews and other “undesirables” died through malnutrition, overwork, disease or outright execution.

The “undesirables” were people Hitler considered unfit for the new Germany he conceived or people who opposed his racist Nazi ideology. These comprised artists, intellectuals, the physically and mentally handicapped, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of course, Jews. Some prisoners of war were also kept in Dachau; Poles, Soviets, French, Yugoslavs, Czechs.

Dig this. When the US Army’s 45th Infantry Division liberated Dachau in April 1945, they released all the prisoners of war. The Soviet POWs refused to go home. They argued that if they went back to Russia, Stalin would probably treat them far worse for having been caught by the Germans. At least 3 of them shot themselves dead rather than go back to Russia.

Beware any regime that extols atheism.

Anyway, back to Dachau.

At Dachau, detainees were also subject to brutal medical experiments. In the cause of the camp’s existence, over 34,000 people perished there.

You ask yourself how educated and enlightened people such as the Germans were could be complicit in the mass murder of millions of innocent people.

As you would expect after such a distressing tour, my spirit was a wee bitter. So I found myself a nice little confectioner and ordered nice Bavarian strudels. Two plates. Just to be certain the bitterness was fully dispelled.

And well, what do you know! The Doner Kebab chased me to Munich!

It is something of a consensus that Mustafa Gemuse Kebabs are about the best kebabs to be had in Germany. I’d had my fill of kebabs in Berlin and was not going to have any more in Munich. But what’s a man to do when Mustafa willfully erects a kebab shop in your path? I’m not one to spurn a man’s hustle.

Ah yes, the BMW Museum.

Sim Simma, who got the keys to my beemer?

Nothing better to take your mind off death and suffering than a beemer.

By the way, do you know the Quandt family owns about 49% stake in BMW? They are the richest family in Germany.

Not particularly interesting news. Until you realise that Gunther Quandt, their progenitor, built his vast empire aiding the Nazi war effort and using forced labour. At some point, the Quandt businesses used over 50,000 forced labourers from concentration camps.

If you don’t have to pay salaries and benefits to 50,000 employees, that saves a tidy penny, doesn’t it? Pennies that grow over time and that could, for instance, be useful in acquiring a certain troubled automobile company – BMW. Courtesy of the Nazi dispossessing Jews of their businesses, Gunther was also able to acquire many Jewish businesses for next to nothing.

But hey, it’s all water under the bridge now. Many of the companies we have grown to love today also profited from the Third Reich; Hugo Boss (he made those smart black uniforms the dreaded SS wore), Siemens, IBM (developed the numbering mechanics by which all Jews were identified and recorded in the camps), Coca-Cola (“Fanta” was specifically developed in Germany for Germans to bypass the trade embargo the Third Reich placed on Coke and American imports), Bayer (made the Zyklon B gas used to gas Jews) and many more. Many of those companies have officially acknowledged and apologized for their part in the Holocaust. They have contributed millions of dollars to funds set up for reparation and compensation.

Right across the road from the BMW Museum is BMW Welt. You can test drive a BMW and order one there. It will be delivered to you anywhere in Europe.

What was that sales pitch from BMW again, “it’s not about what you make. It’s about what you make people feel.”

Look, all I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.

Right.

Next stop, Budapest!

Please click here for my Budapest account

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Creative Writing, Travel

My Holocaust jaunt. Hello Buda and Pest!

So, on to Central Europe. To Budapest.

Just so you know, Hungarians hate it when you refer to Hungary as being in Eastern Europe. They are in C-E-N-T-R-A-L-E-U-R-O-P-E!

My train from Munich to Budapest was the Euronight sleeper train Kalman Imre. It leaves Munich Hbf at 23:00pm to arrive at Budapest Keleti station at about 8:00 am. I’d booked a berth in a 4-bed couchette for a comfy night’s sleep. A pleasant Swiss guy and I turned out to be the only occupants of the cabin. I was hoping on that. I’m in luck!

The train pulled out of Munich Hauptbahnhof. While the Kalman Imre was a clean train, it was not as modern as the Deutsche Bahn Sprinter trains I’ve come to love. The bunks in the cabins reminded me of my boarding school. Double bunks. Thin mattresses. Flat pillows. It was a cherished memory. The ride was smooth.

A few minutes into the journey, the portly conductor rolled to our cabin. He advised that we bolt our door throughout the journey. I found the advice unnerving. What did he mean bolt our door? I asked him if there was a possibility of theft or robbery. He shrugged and smiled.

Not good. Not good at all. My mind went to Murder on the Orient Express.

I bolted the door after him.

It was an uneventful journey. It was dark. We went through sleeping villages and towns. Nothing of interest. There was a full moon out and my mind entertained otherworldly thoughts. What if a lycan jumped on the train with Van Helsin in hot pursuit? After all, Transylvania was not far off. I thought I also saw Dracula perched on a church spire regarding our train with interest.

At some point during the journey, I woke up to the sound of loud conversations outside our door. It must have been around 2 am. Soon there was a loud knock on our door.

We didn’t open it.

I wasn’t going to open my door in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere when I’d been advised to bolt it.

After a few seconds, the knock was repeated. This time heavier.  It was accompanied by a deep-throated announcement of “border officer” or something to that effect. Only then did we open the door.

At the door were three well-built men in plain clothes. They were accompanied by the conductor. They were dressed in mufti but had police-type vests over their clothes. They had sidearms. One of them had some sort of scanning device in his hand.

They introduced themselves. There were Austrian border control officers. We had crossed into Austria. Big deal. It’s only Austria, not Asgard. They asked to see our passports. The guy with the scanner scanned my Schengen visa with the device. He got on a mobile phone and read something out on my visa. He wasn’t speaking English so I couldn’t tell what he was saying. Soon after he gave me back my passport and bade me goodnight. They were professional and courteous if stern-looking.

Alas, my Swiss mate took leave of me at Vienna. I now had the cabin to myself. There was still about three hours left till we arrive at Budapest.

After what seemed like a millenia, finally, Budapest.

The Budapest Keleti Station.

Courtesy seat61.com

Large, classic and dated. I’m certain it looked grand in 1884 when it was opened. To me, however, it looked like a train station in a Cold-War Eastern Europe. Russian and American spooks arriving in trench coats and umbrellas.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

I attracted some curious glances as I got down from the coach and headed out of the station. I took it Budapest didn’t see too many handsome black dudes. Well, here I am fellas! Free hugs for the first ten smiles!

Budapest. The Hungarian capital.

Cleft in two by the mighty Danube River. Hilly and imperial Buda to the west, and flat, buzzing and bourgeois Pest to the east. The two cities came together in 1873 to form Budapest.

Check this. One of the names for consideration for the city was Pestbuda? Luckily, the politicians didn’t have the final say.

So, why am I in Budapest?

You mean apart from the fact that the name sounds romantic?

Well, if there was a single country that experienced the double whammy of both Nazism and Communism within a short period, it was Hungary.

During WWII, the Nazi proxy party in Hungary – the Arrow Cross party – a fascist organisation, unleashed total terror on the people of Budapest. Thousands of Hungarian Jews were rounded up and deported to extermination camps all over Europe. Some were executed in the city and dumped into the Danube.

Then came the Soviets after Hitler lost the war. They imposed their own brand of terror on Hungary and Budapest. Citizens were reduced to subjects and killed for the flimsiest reason.

Consequently, I was in Budapest to learn more about Jewish subjugation and communist oppression. To that end, I was very keen to visit the Dohany Street Synagogue – the largest Jewish synagogue in Europe and the memorial it housed. I was also visiting Memento Park, with its giant sculptures venerating communism. On my hit list were also the Arrow Cross Party torture chamber – House of Terror and Shoes on the Danube Promenade memorial.

But first, what were my first impressions of Budapest?

At times, I thought it was a city suspicious of black people. I did not experience any overt racist incidence. But it’s all in the simple things. The stares. The looking-over-shoulders at me as I walked past. The deliberate attempt to avoid hand contact.

In Budapest, I was conscious that I was black. But I sensed no aggression or resentment. More like caution and indifference. I can live with that. I’m gonna be out of your lives in two days.

There is no Uber in Budapest, only Taxify (Bolt). I can’t explain it but I found all the Taxify drivers in Budapest the most amiable of purveyors. Almost all of them thought I was American. I wasn’t feigning a foreign accent. One of the drivers put on a hip-hop track as I got into the car. He was bobbing his head enthusiastically and smiling at me. I rated him 5 stars for effort.

Hungarian House of Parliament.

St Matthias Cathedral

Love on the Danube. St Matthias Cathedral across the river.

But it irks me at the supposition that any touristy black man in Europe is likely not African. Its part of the racist profiling of Africans. My wife and I had encountered this perception on earlier visits to Paris and Rome. Some white hucksters in those cities had tried to sell us on some over-priced memento taking us for gullible Americans. The one in Rome kept saying “American, buy. Only $40.” In Paris, the huckster was around the Louvre.  He accused me of denying being American because I did not want to buy from him. Only when I began to berate him in Yoruba did he leave me alone.

I had such a cramped itinerary so I wasted no time in getting started. I checked into my hostel, showered and hit the town. First stop, the Dohány Street Synagogue. I have never been inside a Jewish synagogue and I couldn’t be presented with a more fitting synagogue. The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest Jewish synagogue in Europe.

You have to go through serious security checks before you get in. Pat downs, body scanners and luggage scanners by eagle-eyed and steely-faced security personnel. One time, I put my camera backpack on the ground and took a few steps away from it to take pictures. Two security men were instantly on to me telling me to pick the bag up.

I am not going to fart in this place without clearance.

But once inside, the splendour and glitz are impressive. Seated in the pew, a rabbi talked us through Judaism, its different sects and the history of the synagogue.

With the Nazis penchant for confining Jews to a single location before transportation to concentration camps, the synagogue found itself within the borders of the Jewish Ghetto in Budapest created by the Nazis. The Nazis had similarly created such ghetto in Warsaw – the Warsaw Ghetto. The synagogue consequently housed several hundred Jews. Over two thousand Jews died within the ghetto from starvation and the cold. They were uncustomarily buried within the premises of the synagogue. The tombs remain to date. At the back of the synagogue is the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs, a metallic willow tree whose leaves bear names and tattoo numbers of the dead and those who had disappeared. I was moved to tears.

Done with the Dohaney Street Synagogue, I hailed a Taxify to St Matthias Cathedral and the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side. The latter is perhaps the most visited tourist attraction in Budapest on account of its panoramic view of the city.

In the evening, it was time for some chow. And what better place to eat than the Szazeves Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Budapest. A Taxify driver had recommended the restaurant for an authentic Hungarian experience. I checked the review online and knew I had to pay them a visit

Meet my dinner.

Magyaros gulyasleves or Goulash soup Hungarian style. And Belszingulyas galuskaval aka Sirloin goulash with dumplings. I tell you, people, a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.

I didn’t dream that up. Check Eccl 2:24.

The next day, it was time to hit the House of Terror and the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.

The House of Terror is a museum on the popular Andrassy Avenue in Budapest. The museum contained artifacts and exhibits related to the fascist and communist era in Hungary. Citizens were interrogated, tortured or killed in the building by both the Arrow Cross Party – and the AVH, the puppet but no less mean state security apparatus of the occupying Soviets.

An ominous soundtrack accompanies you as you walked throughout the house. It was dimly lit, adding to the sense of dread. The dungeons below were particularly unnerving. You feel someone might come out from nowhere and do you in. Painfully, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building.

Shoes on the Danube Promenade is the most touching and poignant reminder of the atrocities of the Nazis against Hungarian Jews in Budapest.

Installed along the bank of the Danube were 60 pairs of shoes, sculpted out of iron and true to life in size and detail. The shoes were in the fashion of the 40s. They are a memorial to the over 20,000 Jews shot on the bank of the Danube by the Arrow Cross Party.

Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and children were rounded up and lined up on the bank of the Danube. They were asked to remove their shoes and face their executioners (shoes were valuable during the war). They were then shot in cold blood, their bodies falling into the freezing Danube.

It was a haunting memory. I imagined children holding tight onto the hands of their parents cold and crying and being told by their parents that everything was going to be all right, when in fact they knew it wasn’t. 

The Shoes on the Danube Promenade was the highlight of my trip to Budapest. I tossed and turned in my bed that night. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions of the memorial.

Well, if I was this torn by the shoes, what emotions will I experience when I get to Auschwitz-Birkenau?

One day at a time, Jide. One day at a time.

Right. To my last European city – Krakow.

Please click here for my Krakow account.

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Creative Writing, Travel

My Holocaust jaunt. Krakow. Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On to the last leg of my Holocaust jaunt. To Krakow, Poland.

If this is the first post you are reading about my European jaunt, it might be worthwhile to read why I embarked on this 9-day, 5-city tour. You’ll find that here. You may then follow up with accounts of my trips to AmsterdamBerlinMunich and Budapest.

Done with Budapest, I chose to take a bus to Vienna. I would then take a sleeper train from the Wien Hauptbanhof to Krakow.

So, why did I choose to detour via Vienna?

Because I can! Stop asking silly questions!

But really, Budapest to Vienna is just three hours by bus. I thought I might hop over to have a look at the city. After all, this was the city of Mozart, Beethoven and Freud.

And the Käsekrainer.

 

That is a Käsekrainer.

It’s a large sausage filled with cheese. When grilled, the cheese melts deliciously and with it any resolve to shun cholesterol. It is It is usually served with bread, mustard and/or ketchup. It’s a favourite street food of Viennese.

Oh Käsekrainer! If I spend an extra day with you, I might not ever leave Vienna again.

Vienna or ‘Wien’ to Germans is so German. It is the second-largest German-speaking city after Berlin. The city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and in 2017 moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger, a list which included Timbuktu in Mali.

Vienna, you and I need to know each other better. How about a date? Dinner in 2020?

 

Shonbrunn Palace, Vienna.

Right. On to Krakow.

I Ubered from the city centre to the Wien Hauptbahnhof (see how German Vienna is!). It’s a very modern and cool station. Rail travel in Europe is just so interesting if you are coming from Nigeria or Africa. The stations, trains and coaches have different personalities. There was something aloof about Vienna and the Wien Hauptbahnhof. Self assured and cultivated.

My conveyance from Wien Hbf to the Krakow Glowny station was the Euronight sleeper train the Chopin.

Awesome. This is the closest I have ever been to a virtuoso pianist.

The train left Vienna at about 22:10pm. I’d book a two-bed deluxe cabin but this time I was lucky to have the whole cabin to myself. The cabin had its own wash basin, wardrobe, TV and complementary snacks and juices. My two-bunk Hilton.

There were no border patrol offers knocking on my door during the journey. However, the train conductor had also advised to bolt the door while I was in.

Sigh.

Just as with the journey from Munich to Budapest, it was dark and there was nothing of interest to see. In between reading A Forest of A Thousand Daemons and short snoozes, the time flew by quickly.

Soon it was dawn. The morning was covered with mist. The train rolled slowly through villages and farmsteads. Along the rail tracks were lone houses with dim lightbulbs. The mist gave the villages an ominous feel.

Sometime around 6:00am, we passed very close to a house. Upstairs, there was a woman by an open window. She was taking in the fresh morning air. I was peering out my cabin window too taking in the rustic scenery. When the woman saw me, she reeled back sharply from the window and closed it.

That can’t be good, can it?

We arrived Krakow Glowny station at about 6:30am. Warsaw was 3 hours away.

Why am I in Krakow anyway?

 Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

Gate into camp. The Nazi motto “Arbeit Macht Frei” means “work sets you free.”

The largest extermination camp the Nazis built.

Close to 1 million Jews were gassed to death there in 3 years.

Mothers.

Children.

The elderly.

The weak.

Check out the BBC drone shot of Auschwitz-Birkenau to grasp the monstrosity of the this death camp:

Auschwitz was also where Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” conducted genetic experiments on inmates. Without regard for their safety, health, physical or emotional suffering.

Mengele was particularly fond of identical twins. Between 1943 and 1944, he performed experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of imprisoned twins at Auschwitz. Only 200 of those twins survived the experiments. Sometimes he would sew two twins together to see if he could create conjoined twins. Or he would inject different dyes into their eyes to see if the eyes would change colour.

That Josef Mengele was never caught and never faced trial is a travesty of justice. Bugger died in 1979 from a stroke while swimming in Brazil.

Swimming in Brazil?

He should have been swimming with the fishes!

Shame on you, Mossad!

If there was one Nazi you needed to catch, it was this guy!

What was that? You tried? You almost had him?

Yea, I almost married Halle Berry too.

Breathe, Jide. Breathe.

Anyway, what were my impressions of Krakow?

Simple, I didn’t get the feeling I was welcomed here. I’ll share three encounters.

When I disembarked from the train at Krakow Glowny, I hailed a Taxify to take me to my hostel. The driver would meet me at Car Park 5, on the fifth storey. At the elevator, there was a white older man also waiting for the lift. I reckon he would be in his early to mid 60s.

I greeted “good morning” with a big smile. The man looked me over and ignored me. Trust me, I didn’t look like a bum. I had a very chic camera backpack and a cool National Geographic carry-on. Every inch the tourist.

I greeted the man again with an even bigger smile. Maybe he didn’t hear me the first time. The man looked at me again and ignored me still.

I concede that perhaps the old chap doesn’t speak English.

But the look. Loathsome. Looks don’t lie. You know when someone abhors your presence.

In the second incidence, a few hours later at the same train station, I had approached a policeman for directions. The buses to Auschwitz were somewhere around the station and I needed directions. So I approached the cop.

The guy shooed me away without listening to what I had to say. He returned to fiddling with his phone. I told him I needed help with directions. He gestured to me to get lost.

This was a cop.

After the experience with the policeman, I told myself there was no way I was exploring this town after 7pm.

Which was a shame because Krakow is the intellectual and cultural heartbeat of Poland.

But I was spooked. Better be safe than sorry.

The third incidence was on the second day, my eagerly anticipated day of departure from Krakow. My flight from the Krakow-Balice International Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol was 7:30am. By 5:30 I was outside my hostel having hailed a Taxify.

Then along came this white dude. He was drunk somewhat. He walked past me and then walked back. He raised his hand and asked me to hi-five him. He was speaking Polish, or what I assume to be Polish. Could have been drunkenese.

I shook my head in the negative. I’m not hi-fiving you, mate. I mean, I don’t know the dude.

But he insisted and wouldn’t leave.

Where was this bloody Taxify!

As he stood there harassing me, a police patrol drove by. They parked on the other side of the road observing our exchange. Perplexed, I gestured to them that the dude was bothering me. Then two officers got down from the car and came to us.

They asked what the matter was. I explained to them what happened. They spoke to him in Polish and an argument ensued. They asked him to apologise to me but the fella refused (I suppose for my benefit, they spoke to him in faltering English). They then told him to be on his way but he was yet unyielding. They tried to shove him off but he was adamant. He kept talking to me.

One of the officers brought out a hand-cuff and was going to cuff him. Only then did the chap become sober and walked off. The police then got into their van and drove off.

Phew.

But I was still alone on the streets. Where is the bloody Taxify!

Now, was the guy simply drunk and under the influence?

Maybe.

Should I have hi-fived him?

Definitely not.

From what I saw in my less than 48-hour stay in Krakow, black people are as plenteous in the city as virgins are in a brothel. I was obviously an interesting sight to the guy. Not because he was drunk but because I was black.

But I forgive those lot.

Because of the Zupa Dnia and Pierogi.

“Zupa Dnia – Soup of the Day.” Warmed my spirit greatly. 

Pierogi z miesem – a sort of meat dumpling. Heavenly!

The food accepted me for what I was – a hopeless and hungry food lover. No discrimination.

While I’m reluctant to generalise that Poles are racist, it was precisely because of discrimination that places like Auschwitz happened. Hatred, spreading one person at a time.

I did go to Auschwitz -Birkenau. Boy, it rends your heart.

How did man descend to such ignominy? How did our soul become this seared?

All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, then we became the gravediggers.”

– Rod Serling. 

I’ll tell you how man descended into such evil.

It happens the moment we remove God from the affairs of man. The moment we think we are a product of time and chance. Masters of our fate and the fate of others. It happens the moment we subscribe to moral relativism.

Jews, Slavs, Romas and Russian prisoners of war were brought in from all over Europe in coaches like this. Like farm animals. The track leads straight to the gas chamber.

Auschwitz I – the barracks where inmates were housed.

The Nazis stripped inmates of their valuables on arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Boxes, prosthetics, brushes etc. Shoes were especially valuable during WWII

Seized cases with names of victims on them.

Prosthetics confiscated from inmates

Shaved hairs from inmates. 5400kg-worth. Hairs were shaved to prevent the Nazi guards from getting lice and typhus. Industrial use was also found for them: They were used to line the boots of German soldiers or spun into yarn to make socks for crews of U-boats (submarines).

 

Bunks where the prisoners slept. As many as 7 people could be on one bunk.

Empty canisters of Zyklon B gas – a pesticide – used to gas the inmates.

In late 1944 when the Nazis realised they would lose the the war, they began to erase traces of their atrocity at Auschwitz-Birkenau . They burnt records and blew up the gas chambers at Birkenau.

You never leave Auschwitz-Birkenau the same. The death camp vividly re-enacted all the Holocaust movies I had seen but not fully appreciated. The Pianist, The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas. Schindler’s List, Inglorious Basterds, Defiance and many more. You understand why the state of Israel is paranoid about the security of the Jewish state.

Never again.

Never again, you say? Maybe you want to explain what happened in the Rwandan genocide. 800,000 Tutsis killed in 100 days by the Hutus.”

Yet some people had the nerve to doubt if the Holocaust really happened. They ask how the world could have stood by and watched the annihilation of 6 million Jews. Scarily, the history is being forgotten.

Right.

This ends the account of my Holocaust jaunt. Thanks for journeying with me!

Off to the other side of the Atlantic. To Shake Shack burgers in NY and gumbo in The Big Easy!

New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans here I come! 

 

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Creativity, Innovation

Talent: if you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it.

Maths is a fraud. Centuries of exaltation and glorification are misplaced. Or why has a discipline that underpins all calculations been unable to come up with the formula for success? The equation to be oprah-rich? What’s the use of Chaos Theory, Euler’s Polyhedra Formula or the Fibonacci Sequence if it can’t tell you how to get some moolah into your pocket? We’ve been had by the likes of Archimedes, John Nash and señor Pythagoras. 

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Creativity, Photography

The amazing places passion takes you.

 

Bros for life. Farouk and Ibro.

Howdy good folks! Trust January hasn’t met you in penury.

Oh, I like the sound of that! ‘January and penury.’ “ Save ye for the days to come lest reproach come upon thee like penury in January.” It’s a corny rhyme but I don’t care. It came in the moment, a gift from the Muse. I expect the expression to start making the rounds around pulpits and podiums soon. Remember you heard it first from moi!

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Uncategorized

Sweethearts, if you keep your pants on, no one is going to be nicking them.

On my way home yesterday, I was listening to Classic FM. I heard, a rather preposterous report: an epidemic of female underpants theft in Nigeria. Grand theft of what we call pata or p-a-i-n-t in Yoruba.
 
Yup. Female pants are being purloined, shanghaied, abducted and misappropriated all over the land. This making away with underpants are sometimes surreptitious. At other times it is brazen and at gunpoint: “your pant or your life!”

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Uncategorized

Signs you may be difficult to work with.

Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the title character in Disney’s “Moana.” Credit: Disney

A while back, a friend who lived outside the country told me he had met someone who knew me and worked with me in some capacity. He told me this chap had remarked about me: “Jide was a brilliant guy. A good person. But he was sometimes difficult to work with.” 

Remember the movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past? Where the sins of your past douchebaggery come to haunt you? Well, I was nothing like the philandering and Class-A insensate that Mathew McConaughey was in the movie, but still, I knew there were times when my colleagues must have felt like feeding me to a T-Rex.

Maybe to three T-Rexes.

The irony of it was that I wasn’t aware that I was being difficult. I thought I was doing my job. Doing what the job required.

Which is why I’m doing this post. To help someone out there check if they are on their way to the Jerk Hall of Fame or already awarded. Hopefully, it will help you avoid being that guy or babe.

So here are a few pointers. You may be difficult to work with if:

1. You are combustible too often. Anger is an undeniable human emotion. It may even be helpful. But if you explode at your colleagues or anyone too often, whatever the reason, you may be a difficult person to work with.

The dangerous thing about being quick to anger is that it loosens the tongue (or the pen) to say things you shouldn’t have said or act in ways you might regret later. Anger is good. But wrath isn’t.

2. Impatient with colleagues. People assimilate information or ‘get it’ at different rates. It doesn’t mean they are a doofus. If you think you’re smart or brilliant, I assure you that there is someone smarter and more brilliant than you are in your field or company. I have a hard time understanding Quantum Physics and Astronomy, which I’m interested in. Some guy at NASA may think I’m a dolt but I’d like to sit and hear a presentation from them about making people buy what they really don’t need.

Be patient with people.

3. You think you are indispensable. The feeling of being ‘untouchable’ could lead you into giving subordinates and colleagues a hard time. Please get this into your head: NO ONE is indispensable. Steve Jobs died and Apple became a trillion-dollar company.

Try not to believe you are indispensable. It’ll make you more human and humane to colleagues.

4. People don’t want to come to you. If colleagues don’t want to come to you for help because you are often technically and practically unable to help, that’s understandable. But be wary if they don’t come to you because they think you are a jerk. It is the same if a guy was assigned to you and he weeps and calls his wife to tell her he loves her.

No matter what you may have heard, you need more friends than enemies in your life. Folks whom people tend to gravitate towards tend to be better managers and hence, assume leadership positions quicker and stay there longer.

I’m not saying you should try to please everyone. You can’t. But if you could be a little more pleasant, a little more helpful, a little less arrogant or a little more accessible, please do it.

5. You believe work should be impersonal. One of the Kool-Aid we have drunk and are still drinking is the belief that the workplace should be formal and impersonal.

Bunkum.

Until such a time when Betty the AI or George the Algo are your only workmates, you will have to deal with Chi-Chi the mother of three and Bassey the Pious.

When we believe work should be impersonal, we lose empathy and sensitivity. When people come to work, we don’t know what they may be facing in their personal lives.

There was once a colleague, mother of four, who often came late to work. She was often distracted. It affected her work. The people she worked with were unhappy with her performance. She was put on Performance Improvement Programme, a prelude to being fired if there was no noticeable change in a short period of time.

HR called her in for a chat. She burst into tears and spilt all that was happening in her life. Her husband beats her often. The fella was out of job but needed to show who was still the head of the house. There was little sunshine in her life. When we heard her story, many were remorseful, mea culpa, for the hard time we gave her.

People go through stuff in their lives. Sometimes, really hard stuff. Don’t add to it in the workplace. Before you are tempted to scream at them, be dismissive of them, write them a query or fire them, take a step back to consider maybe there’s something else going on behind the crisp shirt or slim skirt. Be a human. Screw the rule book.

As for me, I have long reformed. I realised that if I wanted to get to the very top, I could not be someone people found difficult to work with.

That and the fear of T-Rex.

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Pepsi’s ‘Naija All The Way’ spot. How I love a good marketing ambush!

The Pepsi Naija All The Way spot is the shiznit! Check it out below:

Neat, isn’t it? It’s trendy, bouncy and pumps you up. Makes you want to believe in Nigeria again. The spot reminded us of one of the reasons we are Nigerians: bagful of self-belief and swag.

Well, yea, the Naija spirit also sometimes turn into snakes and make away with money, and may even ask bribe from an archangel. But this spot is not about all that. The spot rather reps us in a positive way.  

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Advertising, Creativity

Nigerian advertising at the global stage – not all awards are born equal.

Recently, a few Nigerian advertising agencies won ‘big’ at the African Cristal Festival in Marrakech, Morocco. Nigeria’s Noah’s Ark won ‘Agency of The Year’. X3M Ideas, DDB Lagos and Insight Publicis all had a decent showing too. There have been a lot of congratulations and reportage across the media.

There have also been questions about the prestige and worth of the African Cristal Festival. Some folks have therefore asked me to shed light on this matter, and on the subject of Nigerian advertising at the global stage.

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Sports

In your face, City! In your face!

Ah! What indescribable joy to rain on Manchester City’s party yesterday. The cheek! Fixing to be crowned champions via a derby win. Not on your life, Pep! Even Liverpool dare not be that impudent!

Torturously, City will still win the league. Their third in seven seasons. A galling state of affair. I blame filthy lucre. It’s what happens when you give a Black Hawk to people used to warring with bows and arrows. No more justice in the world.

But there’s only one guv’nor in Manchester and he determines when a party holds. And it wasn’t going to be yesterday. Maybe they can have it against Spurs on 14 April. But there was not going to be any din in Manchester yesterday, except for anguish of broken City hearts.

Yea, that’s how far United has fallen from glory. Rejoicing at beating Man City. How the times have changed. But it is fitting that the only team to beat City this season at the Etihad is, you guessed it, Manchester United. The Manchester United.  

And Paul Labile Pogba! My! I always knew we got that lad cheap. Perfect riposte to all the haters. Gary, you there? You are slowly but surely delegendarizing yourself at United. What was that about Pogba’s hair? Watch it, Gary. Thin line between hate and hate. 

‘Blue half of Manchester’ my foot. There’s only one side in Manchester. And there’s the devil to pay for slights.

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Uncategorized

If there are no free lunches, how come we expect data privacy?

In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, I have thought about how much of my personal data is out there. Data waiting to be harvested by some sick psychologist or ethnographer and deployed to warping my mind. I like to think that I have an iron-clad mind. But at the rate I give in to pepperoni pizza, maybe having an ‘open mind’ is not such a bad thing after all.  

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Awards, Media Relations

The Oscars. What exactly makes a great movie?

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jimmy Kimmel in his opening monologue at the 90th Academy Awards remarked:

“…and thanks to Guillermo, we will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly women started dating fish.” 

He was, of course, referring to Guillermo del Toro and The Shape of Water. Guillermo later won the prestigious achievement in Directing for same movie which also went home with the coveted Best Picture.

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Artificial Intelligence, Technology, The Future

The doggone geekstitute called Boston Dynamics.

There’s only one reason man eats fish. We eat fish because we can. Fishes are dumb and we are smart. We are at the top of the food chain and we take whatever we want.

I therefore don’t take kindly to anyone who tries to rearrange this balance. Boston Dynamics may think it’s a cool company. But I’ll tell you what a cool company does; it doesn’t make robots that can open doors!

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Consumer Insight, Marketing

When Budweiser shows up on this patch…

 

Come June (or thereabouts), beer drinkers in Nigeria will have a new brewski to add to their repertoire:

“This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive Beechwood Aging produces a taste, a smoothness and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.”

Yes, “The King of Beers” will be competing with other suds in the land to help tipplers wet their whistles.

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Uncategorized

These ‘shithole’ outrage. Please, give me a break!

Aside from his use of an obscene term, I really do not understand the rage on the continent when President Trump referred to our beloved patch as ‘shithole countries.’

Emmanuel Macron yesterday said he shares the outrage of Africans on the disparagement by President Trump.

Oh please!

If by ‘shithole countries’ the man meant countries groaning under the weight of corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and disregard for rule of law, the social contract and the human condition, then he clearly wasn’t talking about the African continent. 

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Content Marketing, Creativity, Social Media Marketing

A letter to Dear Satan. Wait, a letter to who?!

You meant to send a “thank you” letter to Santa for the cheer he brings to kids but due to a typo send it to Satan. That’s right, to Lucifer. The Adversary.

No one could have predicted what happened next. Satan begins to develop warm feelings.

I say not a chance in hell!

Anomaly London created that dark humour in their latest Christmas video below.

Merry Christmas, people!

And do I need to remind you never to accept a gift from Satan?

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Branding, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Sponsorship

How to choose the right sponsorship and own it.

The Super Eagles have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia (Whoop, Whoop!) Already, the Nigeria Football Federation has four major partners: Aiteo, TGI Group, PayPorte.com and Zenith Bank.

TGI Group (owners of Chi Limited/Hollandia) will be the ‘Official Food Partner’ of the NFF, PayPorte is ‘Official Online Store Partner’ (exclusive e-commerce retailer of Super Eagles jerseys) and Zenith Bank is ‘Building and Youth Development Partner.’ Aiteo pays the salaries of the national team coaches and is main sponsor of the Aiteo Cup and CAF Awards.

But how does sponsorship help a brand’s agenda? How does a brand team select who to partner with and derive value from the sponsorship?

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Branding, Craft

To everyone honing ingot into Excalibur.

Not every brand has a story to tell. A story that is meaningful. That is powerful. That stirs something in us.

A story is hardly another word for advertising, op-ed, a post or ‘content.’ A story is more timeless. More enduring. It transcends the medium.

When our grandma tells us stories, the stories capture our imagination. Inspire us. Or expound a value. Sometimes they just entertain us. But what the stories never do is leave us disinterested.

That is why storytelling involves craft. Craft just as important as the story to be told.

That is why understanding the audience is important. Why she gauges our mood first. Why she always seems to know the stories to tell.

It’s also why she never uses big words.

That’s why not everyone can be a great storyteller.

Motivational speakers tell us we can be anything we want. I disagree. I’ve tried to be Bruce Wayne. But The Joker couldn’t stop laughing. I can’t ride a bicycle to get away from a snail. Some things are just gifts.

Sure, rough gift or talent can be honed. But there must first be the gift.

Maybe if every brand looked deeply, they could find a story to tell. But then, they’ll need a storyteller to spot it and tell it.

Here’s to all masters of their craft. To everyone up all night honing ingot into Excalibur.

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Advertising, Consumer Insight, Reputation

Lay off Dove! Some women want lighter skin.

Courtesy: photobucket

In case you just crawled out from under a rock, Dove’s done another clanger. It ran an ad on Facebook where a black woman removes her brown tees ( an allusion to skin colour?) to transform into a white woman. The interpretation by many is that the ad depicts white skin as being superior to dark skin. Dove has been accused of being tone deaf and the ad racist.

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Uncategorized

Robert Mugabe and Donald Trump. My two favourite personal brands.

Not so many folks like President Mugabe and President Trump. Not me. I’m their biggest fan. I’d give anything to be in the presence of their awesomeness. 

I like the two for different reasons though. For President Trump, I like that the office of POTUS hasn’t sobered him up.  After all, he was Donald John Trump first before he became President Trump. Man is determined to be Donald John Trump with or without Air Force One.

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Consumer Insight, Innovation, Marketing

iPhone 8 and iPhone X. This is exactly why 1984 is still like 1984.

I used to be an iSheep. When Farmer Jobs and Farmer Cook called, I’d bleat eagerly to the stable. I’d give my precious wool for a new patch of grass. But I’m done eating those grass. Done frolicking up and down at the news of shiny new toys from 1 Infinite Loop. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Apple. I’ve owned three MacBooks, one iPad and five iPhones. It’d take some meanness to forsake old friends. I’m not the type to walk away without looking back. It’s just that there are more important stuff in my life right now. Like Manchester United and pepperoni pizza. 

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Uncategorized

Shooting Nigerian commercials out of Nigeria. What is true? What is bunkum?

A few months ago, the Minister for Information & Culture announced the government was going to ban the production of Nigerian movies, music videos and reality TV programmes outside the country. Such ban was to help grow the creative industry in Nigeria and to create jobs.

Said the minister:

‘It is Nigerians that pay for the consumption of these products and therefore they must be allowed and encouraged to participate in their production.’

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Advertising, Creativity, Marketing

What I learnt from being both a client and an agency guy.

Credit: Campaign Asia

Is there something in the water on the ‘client side’? Something that turns good people into ogres? An agency guy crosses over to the client side and then haunts dreams and kills libido. What gives?

I have drunk from the water on both sides and I share my thoughts on why the relationship is often fraught. It might seem I’m taking a piss and desecrating otherwise torturous experiences. That’s the problem these days: everyone is too sensitive. Too little perspective.

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