Further nuggets for the Toli Scrapbook…
This month’s zingers post covers a lot of ground. There has been a veritable effusiveness of jaundiced (and flowery – as my MIT-educated co-worker put it) prose from this joint on all sorts of topics. I hope these proverbial zingers provide a concise counterpoint to all of that.
A skewed outlook on life
He liked his women freshly jilted.
Martin Amis – Heavy Water and other Stories (2000)
On the advisability (or lack thereof) of sending out withering emails to one’s team
..like I just did this past week, and having to deal with the consequent fallout (consignment to the most menial system administration duties). Note to self: being right without being judicious is a fool’s paradise.
Words are like bullets. When you release them, you can’t call them back.
An insolent tongue is a bad weapon.
The tongue weighs practically nothing, but so few people can hold it.
It is a stupid dog that barks at an elephant.
On why I search
Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they are open.
A touch of quasi-religious optimism perhaps
The sun will shine on those who are standing before it shines on those who are sitting.
And perhaps a desire for no regrets
The stone that lies at the bottom of the riverbed, cannot complain about feeling cold.
This one from my mother who had a little too much cognac (Christmas day 2003)
On being careful
If you want to improve your memory, lend someone money.
When you are surrounded by vultures, try not to die.
Proverb from Cote D’Ivoire
On journalism in Africa
For after all our business is not only to discover wrongdoing, it is our business to expose lies, to expose smears. Not only the lies that public officials tell but the lies that are told about public officials. Much of the instability that has dogged Africa has its roots in the inability of the press to clearly tell the public which of the many rumours are true and which are not true. There is this idea that has taken root that getting access to the facts and making them public will hinder and undermine government, I have heard the argument that much of government is so complicated and so delicate that it is impossible to portray all the intricacies in a newspaper article or radio programme. In an area where democratic practices are yet to take root, I will suggest that it is in the interest of government that things are exposed.
There is a saying in my language that it is difficult for head lice to prosper on a bald man’s head. If one were to take the saying further, even though I acknowledge it is dangerous to try to improve upon the sayings of the elders, head lice prosper the most in thick grown hair. Or to coin another phrase, the mould grows where the sun rays don’t get to.
In the Public Eye (November 1998) – Thoughts on the difficulties faced by African journalists in obtaining public information
I like my satire savage. It should be vicious, biting and deeply heartfelt. The targets should feel a sharp wound.
The whimsical and comic artefacts of the best satirists are side-benefits; their purpose is really to serve as social barometers and canaries in the mineshafts of our communities.
On the prescience of the best satirists
With apologies to Michael Froomkin, this is what I meant…
Sir Edward cheered up… It was worth decanting a really good claret. Besides he had a theory to explain why Lady Thatcher was such a passionate advocate of arming the Bosnian Muslims. Her son was an arms dealer and by backing the Muslims so openly she was bound to help dear little Markie’s standing in Saudi Arabia. It was in the discovery of real motivation in politics that Sir Edward Gilmott-Gwyre found his greatest pleasure.
Tom Sharpe, The Midden (1996)
Sir Mark Thatcher has pleaded guilty in South Africa to being negligent in investing in an aircraft said to have been used by people allegedly plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea ‘coup plot’ (January 2005)
1. a radio. From the Ewe language of Ghana, literally rendered it means “The bird who sings” circa 1930s
2. a later sub-sense, circa 1960-63, in which the words from the radio should not be trusted; said new meaning arising when Kwame Nkrumah’s true colours were shown e.g. the propaganda of a one-party state
If you no for chop fufu before, you no sabi the sweeticity of life.
Self circa 2000 – my licence to practice pidgin was thereby revoked
Celebrating the beauty of the oral tradition and of the Griot
Il était devenu le Maître de la parole incontestable, non par décret de quelque autorité ou d’action culturelle (seuls lieux où l’on célèbre encore l’oral) mais par son goût du mot, du discours sans virgule. Il parlait voilà… S’il y rencontrait une commère folle a la langue, disponible et inutile, manman! quelle rafale de blabla…
Solibo parlait, il parlait sans arrêt, it parlait aux kermessess, it parlait aux maneges, et plus encore aux fêtes. Mail il n’était pas un évadé d’hôpital psychiatrique, de ces déréglés qui secouent la parole comme on se bat une douce…
On s’assemblait pour l’écouter … un silence accueillait l’ouverture de sa bouche: par ici, c’est cela qui signale et consacre le Maître.
Solibo Magnifique, by Patrick Chamoiseau
For the french and creole-challenged, here’s the english version, slightly less musical to my ears…
He had become a Master-of-the-unanswerable-Word, not by decree of some folkloric institute (the only place where they still celebrate the oral tradition), but by his tast for the word, for speech without commas. He talked, voila… He talked to everyone, to a woman tattling tongue-crazy, available and useless, oh mama! what a gust of blah-blah..
Solibo talked, he talked ceaselessly, he talked at fairs, talked by the ridges, and even more at parties. But he was not some runaway form a psychiatric ward, one of those loons who jerk out words as casually as they put their feet up.
We gathered to listen to him… a silence welcomed the opening of his mouth; around here it is this that signals and anoints a Master.
Solibo Magnificent, by Patrick Chamoiseau as translated by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov (with an adaptation by me: ward rather than hospital)
A Manifesto of sorts
We people who are darker than blue
Are we gonna stand around this town
and let what others say come true:
we’re just good for nothing they all figure,
a boyish, grown-up, shiftless jigger.
Now we can’t hardly stand for that
Or is that really where it’s at?
Curtis Mayfield – We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue – Curtis 1970
Coalition of the Willing
Le recensement de la coalition censée accompagner les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne a atteint, dans le discours que M. Bush a prononcé à Tampa, le nombre de 48 pays, dont les archipels doublement pacifiques de la Micronésie, des îles Marshall et de Palau, qui n’ont pas d’armée.
Again for the french challenged… Le Monde’s 2003 survey of the members of the Coalition of the Willing that embarked on the Iraq escapade simply noted that prominent members, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands for example, actually don’t have armies.
From The Wire
“Damn Calvin! You know I got the bingo tomorrow!” – Caroline
“Nigga is you taking notes in the middle of a f—- criminal conspiracy!?!”
– Stringer Bell (wonderfully played by Idris Elba)
“Bring me a Shrek2 slushie an’ some Krispy Kreme!”
“Shine that up and put $7.50 on it… Shame to let a good toaster go to waste over a frayed cord”
– Proposition Joe
See also On The Wire a blogospheric parable of sorts…
How to get a feature deferred in the software world
The state of the art is passive-agressive equivocation. I have only reached for those heights once.
B and I discussed/brainstormed what we thought were the issues that the current approach that we have started working on needed to address. As to the issue of cost of some of these issues, I think others with greater experience in the Freelance architecture would be better qualified to say.
On the other hand, with some measure of handwaving, we are reasonably confident to be able to get the feature to at least “demo quality” in a timeframe close to our current feature freeze date.
I have listed below the new areas of code we need to write, the issues that we need to address and, if relevant, how our approach would deal with it. I also point out some of the potential risk. In essence this is the incremental cost that is incurred with going from a text-only approach … to the current proposed scheme.
From a missive to co-workers circa 1997.
See also: sharp-elbowed bureaucratic maneuvering.
A look at the psyche of a people under stress, the Nigerians, as they took baby steps to emerge from 30 years of military rule – a life of depradations by Unknown Soldiers and the Coffins for Head of State they leave in their wake:
Powered by Sidelines
Whatever happened then, I thought to the central Nigerian belief in CAN DO.
The exploits of various preacher men and the extraordinary hold they seem to exercise on the lives of people was to amaze me throughout the three months or so that I spent travelling around the country. I am therefore not too surprised now that the whole of Nigeria has been seized by the “predictions” of another of these preacher men, who has pronounced that the hand over of power from the military to the elected government on May 29th will not take place. According to this particular Pastor, a certain Tunde Bakore of the Latter Rain Assembly, God had spoken to him that not only is General Olusegun Obasanjo the elected president, not Nigeria’s Messiah, “he is a ram being kept for slaughter”. This prophet speaks in particularly gory details about his vision. According to him, the axe will come down on Obasanjo’s head and he will be hewed into pieces, right before our eyes. Two weeks ago, rumours swept the country that the General had died/been killed under strange circumstances.
There were riots in Lagos, property was destroyed and many people were injured when youths took the streets because according to them, “they” have done it again… Who are the “they”? The same “they” that killed Chief Moshood Abiola had done it again. General Obasanjo had to go on television to assure the country that he was still very much alive. In the meantime, it appears the General is not taking any chances, he has gone on a fast and a prayer for good health and success in the job he is about to take on. The General who is said to have become a born-again Christian during his incarceration for alleged coup plotting under the late unlamented General Sani Abacha has not treated all these reports of visions about his impending death with the nonchalance one suspects he would have done some twenty years ago. For the past two months his farm has been the site of constant praying by various groups trying to neutralise Pastor Tunde Akore’s vision.
Everybody appears to be a believer. The difficulty comes when you try to pin down exactly what it is that people actually believe in.
See also: Tradition and Modernity