Sunday, May 31, 2009

Relieved









"Don't think the Los Angeles Lakers will make it. With Yao Ming out and the way they've been struggling with the Houston Rockets, I mean, think about it."

"Think about what? You mean if Yao Ming had not been injured that it would have been an easy victory for the Rockets?"

"Oh, yeah! Can't you tell from the way Rockets are playing, giving the Lakers a run for their money?"

"Well, I think the Lakers are the best in the NBA, and I do not care about what you think on how they play. Look, man, this is Hollywood. It's not easy combining both together. Don't you see Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Stephen Spielberg, Ron Howard, Jammie Foxx, and all the heavyweights in da hood cheering for a Lakers victory?"

"Really?"

"Yep!"

That's how it flowed even though I have not been paying much attention to the NBA Finals. Every now and then, I tend to check it out even when I'm making some noise tweeting with my fellow tweeters out there who've got nothing else to do but tweet, tell the whole world about their problems and brag about it all day, and then talk about Hollywood driving Angelenos nuts. No biggie!

Yes, Lakers is tweeting and tweeting is Lakers. They tweet about Kobe Bryant for not carrying the game on his shoulders. They tweet about Derek Fisher being worn out ... "couldn't do a damn thing to save the Lakers," even when Andrew Bynum had problems defending Denver Nugget's Nene. Lakers have raised their fans' blood pressure since the semi-finals of the Western Conference. Mine has been going up and down, reason why I've not been watching the games as I'm suppose to. Sometimes I make calls to ask "what's the score?" If Lakers happen to be behind, I won't even bother turning on the television, that is, if I'm home.

I had called my brother and talked about the Lakers. This was Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals between Lakers and the Houston Rockets. My brother had predicted Lakers will be beaten by the Denver Nuggets, that is, if they clear the Rockets hurdle. I had called my childhood buddy, Teddy, and we spoke about it. He wasn't sure. I had called my friend and partner in crime, Basil Nwonwu, and he had persistently said "it's Lakers all the way. This is their year and no team can stop them." I stopped going to pubs where Lakers had been the subject-matter even though I still had faith my Lakers will come out smoking, eventually.

But somehow, I got sickened of the dream Kobe Bryant-Lebron James showdown. The sensationalized media had blown everything out of proportion. The hype had been overwhelmingly disturbing it became obvious a deal had been struck. Those Bryant-James inflated commercials. It's a set up.

No, it wasn't. It's the magic of Orlando Magics. Call it what you want. It's magic not darkness. It's the magic of power play. It's the magic of outplaying and outscoring the Cavaliers. The magic that has befallen Madison Avenue. The magic that dethroned the overrated king. It's the magic of Dwight Howard. The magic of Mickael Pietrus. The magic of Rashard Lewis and the standing ovations of Tiger Woods and Tim Teblow of the Florida Gators quarterback that did it.

King james, another season gone by; no ring, it's winding down.

I'm relieved.

I had wondered if Lakers will ever make it. The struggle. The injuries. The inconsistencies. The uncertainties. Denver Nuggets: Chauncey Billups. Carmello Anthony. Lakers made it.

I'm relieved.

There's been talks about the powerful kingdom. James Kingdom. The Cleveland Cavaliers and King James Castle in Ohio. The best record in the NBA. The team to beat. And there was magic not kingdom. And the magic worked. And the king was toppled.

I'm relieved.

I had diverted my attention regarding the NBA Playoffs. The Lakers had caused me a "heart attack." It's not fair. They had done it to me deliberately, and I had wondered why they would do that. I'd rather watch other sports than the Lakers. They have made my heart bleed. It's not fair and I'm losing my mind. How could that be?

I had gone to the Irish Pub in Santa Monica to watch the European Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United just to erase the Lakers from my memory. Yes, I watched Lionel Messi and his Barcelonaian boys whoop the robust playing Manchester United in a duel three Barcelona fans were slain in Nigeria, immediately upon Man. U defeat. I had gunned for Barcelona. Messi is my man. He's fast. He's taken soccer to another level. Now, Man. U. beer on tap drinking fans wants me dead for following Messi. Again, it's not fair. But who cares. I'm only worried about my Lakers and the showdown. They have the Magics not the Kingdom.

I'm relieved.

Kobe has been compared to Michael Jordan, Dr. J and Bill Russell. It doesn't matter. We are talking about NBA Finals in the year of Our Lord 2009, and I want it over with before I suffer another "heart attack." I'm not saying Orlando Magic will be a walkover. It's the NBA Finals, remember? It's anybody's game, remember?

So Kobe, my Lakers, please, do not let me suffer another heart attack. I've had enough and I will be there on Thursday, in my neck of the woods, Staples Center, to cheer you up in Game 1 of a 2-3-2 series against the Orlando Magic. We are the victor and don't disappoint me and your million fans who've had a minor stroke ever since the playoffs began.

Thanks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Beautiful Holiday Weekend In Los Angeles









About a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine had talked me into going to the Bay area to watch Stephen Bishop perform at the Intramuros, South San Francisco, in a benefit concert. She had wanted to see the concert so bad. I had been preoccupied in Los Angeles. She wants to play a role in the concert for worthy causes. For the concert, and about our friendship, we are a study of compare and contrast.

She's into old-school -- the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong and Kenneth Gamble/Leon Huff composition-era. I'm into all vibes, a musicologist. She's a hardcore liberal; garrulous. I'm reserved, a somehow liberal conservative; a centrist. She's a fashion freak. I'm careless, fashionwise. She reads fiction and believes in the Zodiac signs. I'm the non-fiction reader kinda guy and have no faith in astrology. She's Libra. I'm Virgo. She cooks good. I'm a mixologist. She has shoulder length curly hair. I'm ishi nkwocha, shaved bald. She's Tonga, a Pacific Islander. I'm Igbo, an African. She's straight. I'm straight. She loves outdoors, and I do, too. She wears contact lenses. I wear prescription glasses; and both coasts are clear.

To make up for ditching Bishop's concert at the Intramuros, she brought up a set of rules on her own terms and whatever she said was going to be the rules. I said "Okay!" She got her way and ordered me around the house. That was cool!

Her set of rules was specifically for the Memorial Day weekend and that whenever it's all over I could take back my manly stuff and go ahead with my own set of rules she'd not have problems complying with. The rules were set as follows: There would be no driving and Friday which commences the holiday weekend would be set for eating out, perhaps a little bit of home cooking and checking out the movies. I knew it was going to be a hell of a fun since summer was just breezing around the corner.

School is over for some -- my daughter is back and it's going to be a long, beautiful summer, especially her tales of academia and life in the dorm. The weather's quite nice. Lots of sunshine. The beaches are full to capacity. Bikinis. Hot pants. Those fine, dark sunglasses. Beautiful faces sipping cocktails in the sun.

The volleyball tournaments: Hermosa Beach. Redondo Beach. Venice Beach. Rockweller Beach. Santa Monica Beach. The mark of summer.

The eateries and the random popped up in-house restaurants. The real deal and summer jams. Ceccone's on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Jane's House on Hollywood Blvd. The Standard in Downtown Los Angeles. The Mint on Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles. Club Tatou on Boylston Street in Los Angeles. O'Brien's Irish Pub and Restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica. The Amazon Hut Brazilian Juice Bar on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

The new arrivals on the bookshelves. "Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever," by Lisa Rinna on life's amazing journey. "Bad Mother: A Chronicle Of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, And Occasional Moments Of Grace," by Ayelet Waldman.

At the movies as the summer hits pops up in June. "Public Enemies," directed by Michael Mann and starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, the notorious Depression-era bank robber, and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the fedral agent who tailed Dillinger. "The Taking Of Pelham 123," starring Academy Award winner Denzel Washington as Walter Mathau, of a New York transit dispatcher and directed by Tony Scott. Here, John Travolta stars as leader of the gang. James Gandofini appears as Mayor of New York whom Travolta must fear. "Funny People," directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann and Seth Regan. The film is all comedy but Sandler's role as a dying middle-aged man might turn movie goers off.

"Taking Woodstock," directed by Ang Lee based on a true story of Elliot Tiber, an employee at a motel in the Castkills who inadvertantly made Woodstock happen. "Inglorious Bastards," -- another World War 2 story of Nazi occupied France written and directed by Quentin Terantino. The movie features Brad Pitt as the leader of the Jewish-American soldiers dispatched to perform targeted acts of retribution on German troops occupying France. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which opens in all theaters June 24. Michael Bay directed, starring Shia LeBeouf as Sam who becomes enmeshed in a battle between two extraterrestial clans "when he buys his first car and it turns out to be an alien robot in disguise." And, of course, there's Eddie Murphy's "Imagine That."

These, and too many others we talked about. So as it happened, she's the one calling the shots. She wanted some African dish, and I was like, o yeah, again? She did not know what was running through my mind about her quest for African food. She's the one calling the shots, remember? I had to oblige since this great country of ours is a nation of rules, fact why it's organized.

For some reason, she figured I was not comfortable with the African restaurant kind of stuff she's been persistent asking for. We have all the time in the world to eat ofe olugbo, bitter leaf soup (dunno why it's my favorite) coupled with the okporoko, stockfish, eju, snail, dried fish and anu ewu, goat meat, as long as her weekend rules were upheld and respected.

However, on Friday, May 22, she decided we should go whole grain, vegetables and stuff like that. One spot was not too far from our location. We walked down about six blocks to this restaurant on the Westside. It was kind of regular and approximately a nice way to begin the long weekend. The restaurant, recently remodelled had a gracious and attentive service. We ordered some seafoods that was served with chunks of salmon, perfectly cooked shrimp with lotta veggies and other health-related fiber stuff. She loves wholesome sweetners such as honey, maple syrup, sorhum, sucanet and stevia.

A good looking evening, we hopped on the bus to the Archlight Cinema in Hollywood to see Ron Howard's "Angels & demons," starring Tom Hanks which to me should be Howard's last in that category. The movie's full of surprises.

On Saturday, May 23, the rules did not change. No driving, remember? After cleaning up and doing the normal around house work, we concluded it's Metro Line time. We arrived at the Wilshire/Vermont Blue Line Station and hopped on the train. Checking out from the Hollywood/Highland Station, we took the steps and bumped on tourists from all walks of life who took pictures of stars and the accomplished on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Walking further down where Hollywood Blvd. meets Vine Street, and on the south of Hollywood laid the plaque of Apollo 13 -- Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins -- the first American astronauts to visit the moon.

On the north sits the landmark Capitol Records Tower known to have either recorded or marketed from the 50s to date, Frank Sinatra, Nat king Cole, Duran Duran, Richard Marx, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Beastie Boys, Kenny Rogers, Yellow Card, George Clinton, Selena Quintalline, Poison, The Band, Ice Cube, Radiohead, Tina Turner, Billy Holliday, Miles Davis, Grand Funk Railroad, Pink Floyd, Peter Tosh, Steve Miller Band, Maze, Dave Koz, Freddie Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Grace Jones, Kim Carnes, Queen, Eddie Harris and many others.

In continuation of our excursion, we went underground and hopped back on the train to the North Hollywood Station. A girl sitting next to us was reading a book on Andrew Jackson, an indication President Barack Obama's "The New Dawn" is doing stuff for the "era of the common man" and Jacksonian democracy to have replicated in the age of internet. While the train was about to station, I called my friend, Pascal, that we were on our way to his apartment. We popped up at the 5400 block of fair Avenue at the luxury NoHo (North Hollywood) Commons Apartments. We had arrived on time to watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Dencer Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Three other guys and two gorgeous ladies were also visiting my friend, Pascal, and it seemed very much the guys were having a heart attack due to the uncertainties that had clouded Lakers' game during the series.

Our Lakers had pulled this one out to silence the cynics. Even Derek Fisher who had been written off, delivered and helped our Lakers pull a 103-97 victory over the Nuggets. Immediately after the game, we drove in two set of cars to The Echo on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. It's our kind of place. Time is telling. The place had a full bar, a dance floor and more than electric. It's a joint where the 70s and 80s pure funk would blow your mind. It was a blast and by the time it was over, we all realized Hollywood was a city of its own.

On Sunday, May 25, she had asked if I would be going to church. She's a practicing Catholic while I was born a Catholic. A difference. But I had shown her my new religious affiliation. The anonymously written book "I AM GOD: Here's My Message." I told her I would be ordering an additional copy as that might change her thinking on how religion has caused all the world's troubles. She prepared breakfast and we ate.

With that in place, we both agreed it's time to relax our driving restrictions and check out Hollywood proper; where Santa Monica Blvd. meets Western Avenue on the sidewalks women of easy virtue and prostitutes hang out. On the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Wilcox, Dragonfly, the sensational pot-smoking and reggae jams on Thursday nights. Amoeba Music, for all your record albums in any music category, facing the CNN building on Cahuenga and Sunset. The same sex ridden hangouts in West Hollywood on Sunset and Roxbury. After touring Hollywood for a minute coupled with sightseeing we took off for another round at the movies. We saw "Terminator Salvation" at the Mann Theaters in Hollywood. Kind of strange, though, the movie, to me, wasn't anything spectacular. A sequel to the three respective "Terminator" movies. I could not read her feelings about the movie.

On Monday, May 25, the awaited Memorial Day, arrived, eventually. We had been up early. There was the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon which I had never been part of, but have gone to see it, anyway. On this particular day and since all roads had been blocked, we chanced parking around Miracle Mile on the Wilshire Corridor. We had treked about 11 blocks and had stationed on the corner of La Brea Avenue and 3rd Street in Hancock Park. The marathon stretched from da hood through the "Black Township" of the Crenshaw thoroughfare all the way to Hancock Park and finishing up in Koreatown.

We had been almost exhausted and it's time for the last jam to end the holiday weekend. The jam: 23rd Annual UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival on the playgrounds of the campus' Intramural Field in Westwood, California. The previous night, Day 1 of the festival, which we missed as a result of other engagements had Erykah Badu, People Under the Stairs, Leela James and De La Soul take center stage. Day 2 had been slated to run between 12 P.M. until 7 P.M. It went later than that and, as usual, too much of a jam. The line up: Mavado, a.k.a "The Gully God" who performed live for the first time in LA, took the show to another level with his new band. He was equal to the occasion. Other casts in the reggae jam and finale were Michael Montano, Assassin, The Dirty Heads and Morgan Heritage.

Like Woodstock of the hippie-era and a replicated Coachella event in Indio, I had been exhausted from the excursions and partying hard the preceding days, and had laid flat on the field while the ragamuffin vibes transmitted through my head. The stomping UCLA campers and the voices of roots reggae did go through my head, and it was all good.

PHOTOS clockwise from bottom left: (2009 Los Angeles Marathon courtesy of Ian Sephton; MTA Tap Machine; Metro Rail Line; Metro Bus Line 770, Leela James takes center stage and performs "let's Do It Again," courtesy of Singers Room; and the 2009 UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival banner courtesy of The Deli Magazine.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Reader, The Writer, The Informed and The Library

Ambrose Ehirim
May 17, 2009






I had held an open-minded discourse with a friend and colleague of mine, Austen Oghuma, on a variety of issues regarding books, library, reading and writing, and writing stands alone when it comes to the way most of us think. It all began from David Ejoor's biased and unintelligible interview that got internet crackpots outraged.

But I had reasoned Ejoor does not deserve the attention given him, so far, and I have kept my word that Ejoor is a midget in the history books of the Nigeria crisis and as far as I am concerned he has no place in that fabricated country's history. Well the point I am trying to make here is when I asked Oghuma where one can purchase Ejoor's "Reminiscence" he said probably in Nigeria but I doubt if the book is still around any shelf. Besides, most of the books in Nigeria are poorly produced and published.

We don't write and we don't keep archives which is why our history will one day vanish. On the other hand, it is absolutely why our democracy will keep to be fledgling until eternity and the following comments are vivid accounts why a democracy had thrived:

"A popular government without a popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

James Madison

Libraries are the wardrobes of literature, whence men, properly informed may bring forth something for ornament, much for curiosity, and more for use."

William Dyer (1636 -- 1696)

"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the Earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration."

Andrew Carnegie

"A democratic society depends upon informed and educated citizenry. Information is the currency of democracy."

Thomas Jefferson

"I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to change through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."

Isaac Asimov, New York: Doubleday, 1994

Democracy works if applied on the basis of the above comments and I strongly believe in letters, and I encourage that as we learn each day that we live. Now, let me hear from you, where, how and when you write and which is your favorite and why writing is a powerful weapon.

June 1969: Documenting a crime against humanity

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe


Thankfully, for the interest of posterity, the Igbo genocide, perpetrated by the Nigeria state, is one of the most documented crimes against humanity. Leading university and public libraries across Europe (particularly in Britain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden and Denmark) and North America have invaluable repositories of books, state papers (including, crucially, hitherto classified material now declassified as part of mandatory timeframe provisions and freedom-to-information legislations), church papers, human rights/anti-genocide/anti-war groups’ campaign papers, reports, photographs and interviews, Red Cross/other third sector papers, reports and photographs, newspaper/newsmagazine/radio/television/video archives and sole individual depositories, some of which are classified as “anonymous contributors”.

These data variously include extensive coverage of news and analyses of varying features of the genocide between May 1966 and January 1970 as well as still photographs and reels and reels of film footage of the devastating impact of the genocidist’s “starvation” weapon attack on Igbo children and older people, the genocidist air force’s carpet bombings of Igbo population centres (especially refugee establishments, churches, shrines, schools, hospitals, markets, homes, farmlands and playgrounds) and the haunting photographs and associated material that capture the sheer savagery of the slaughter of 100,000 Igbo in north Nigeria towns and villages during the first phase of the genocide in May to October 1966. A stream of these archival references has flowed steadily unto the youtube website as well as other internet outlets and much more material on the genocide will be available online in the months and years ahead. On the whole, these documentations are a treasure-trove for the conscientious scholar and researcher on the genocide. For the would be prosecutor of the perpetrators of this crime, they couldn’t have wished anything more for that crucial resource base to embark on their historic enterprise. A total of 3.1 million Igbo, or a quarter of the nation’s population at the time, were murdered in the genocide, the worst in Africa since the 19th century.

Not-“yaki”

Quite auspiciously, the genocidists’ own record on the genocide makes no pretences whatsoever about the goal of their dreadful mission – such was the maniacal insouciance and rabid Igbophobia that propelled the project. The principal language used in the prosecution of the genocide was Hausa. Appropriately, the words of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, published and broadcast on Kaduna radio and television throughout the duration of the crime, are in Hausa: Mu je mu kashe nyamiri/Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su/Mu chi mata su da yan mata su/Mu kwashe kaya su (translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property).

The Hausa word for war is “yaki”. Whilst Hausa speakers would employ this word to refer to the involvement/combat services of their grandfathers, fathers, relatives and friends in “Boma” (reference to World War II Burma [contemporary Myanmar] military campaigns/others in southeast Asia, fighting for the British against the Japanese) or even in the post-1960s Africa-based “peace-keeping” military engagements in Cameroon, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Sudan, they rarely use “yaki” to describe the May 1966-January 1970 mass murders of the Igbo people. In Hausaspeak, the latter is either referred to as lokochi mu kashe nyamiri (past tense: when we murdered the damned Igbo) or lokochi muna kashe nyamiri (past continuous tense: when we were murdering the damned Igbo). Pointedly, this “lokochi” (when, time) conflates the timeframes that encapsulate the two phases of the genocide (May 1966-October 1967 and July 1967-January 1970 – for detailed analysis, see Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Biafra Revisited, 2006), a reminder, if one is required, for those (especially currently in a projected conference on the subject in the United States) who bizarrely, if not mischievously, wish to break this organic link.

Elsewhere, genocidist documentation on this crime is equally malevolent and brazenly vulgar. A study of the genocide-time/“post”-genocide era interviews, comments, broadcasts and writings on the campaign by key genocidist commanders, commandants and other officials such as Adekunle, Danjuma, Gowon, Obasanjo, Katsina, Haruna, Rotimi, Awolowo, Enaharo and Ayida underscores the trend. A brief review of Obasanjo’s contribution (published in his My Command, 1980) that focuses on his May 1969 direct orders to his air force to destroy an international Red Cross aircraft carrying relief supplies to the encircled and blockaded Igbo is hugely illustrative.

Obasanjo had “challenged”, to quote his words, Captain Gbadomosi King (genocidist air force pilot), who he had known since 1966, to “produce results” in stopping further international relief flight deliveries to the Igbo. Within a week of his infamous challenge (5 June 1969), Obasanjo recalls nostalgically, King “redeemed his promise”. King had shot down a clearly marked, in coming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) DC-7 plane near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew.

Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this crime is chillingly revolting. He writes: “The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [the notorious unit Obasanjo, who subsequently becomes head of regime for 11 years, commanded] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division.” Yet, despite the huffing and puffing, the raving commanding brute is essentially a coward who lacks the courage to face up to a world totally outraged by his gruesome crime. Instead, Obasanjo, the quintessential Caliban, cringes into a stupor and beacons to his Prospero, British Premier Harold Wilson, to “sort out” the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC plane...

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (forthcoming, 2009)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Riverside



Just for the heck of it and after having exhausted all my options in the goings on around the City of Angels and all that Hollywood hype, I decided as it popped up to me to seek refuge elsewhere in the Southland, temporarily, I would guess, on an expedition. I had thought about which particular place or city would be convenient for my nerves as the crazy, Hollywood wannabes, road rage and same sex driven gay and lesbian community tend to change the Southland into something the biblical principles condemned, long time ago -- I don't know about Leviticus, though.

But as I made up my mind, I had thought about several other Los Angeles suburbs and cities around Southern California. After the hurdle of thinking about it, Riverside, California, popped up, just like that; and the reason it became my point of call was something I really did not know, and in a case of lottery where I had gambled, Riverside won as my fantastic trip.

Quite some drive from Downtown Los Angeles and taking the 10 Freeway East to the 60 Freeway East on to the 71 Freeway and the 91 Freeway when the traffic had normally been humble, I did not sweat to the City of Riverside and walking down all the streets through City Hall, the journey was worth telling.

I had gone to the historic court house and passing through the metal detectors with tight security hanging around, I walked pass the sheriffs and the troubled with the law for court dates and appearances.

These days of much talked about recession and economic meltdown, folks around town 'dunno' what would be next. Hagglers were all around trying to broker a deal on foreclosures. Yes, that's right, every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass by seems to be dipping his or her hands where money can possibly be made, especially these hard times making money looks like a mirage. The courts, these days, are calm and from my observation at the Riverside Court House, everything seemed pretty much the same in the Southland. The clerks, sheriffs, plaintiffs, defendants, prosecutors and judges have sensed the need for cordial and mutual relationships, never minding the rule of law, applying human nature, fairness and understanding the toll this recession has taken on every American. This is the time to stick together and rebuild America; and that's exactly what seems to be going on.

On Mission Inn Avenue and Main Street where I checked in to the historic Mission Inn Hotel, I felt like I had landed in one of those exotic resorts in Miami Beach. I had arrived to a place that was totally strange, another big city. A whole lot of eatery, plaques, engravings and statues of the accomplished. It is a famous hangout and has been patronized by presidents, Kings, Brahmins and movie stars.

There's Bella Trattoria Italian Bistro, the fine Italian cuisine in a posh atmosphere. There's Mission Inn Restaurant which offers Italian, Mexican, American and other ethnic dishes from around the world. There are three other restaurants housed by the elegantly structured Mission Inn Hotel

Mission Inn was the perfect place for me in my quest to stay away from the bumper-to-bumper amd hustle-me-crazy Hollywood. Hollywood seems to be hype compared to the little moment I shared with Riverside. And I had begun to thinking about retiring to smaller cities or if necessary the woods, before I lose the remainder of my hearing from the noisy, crazy dubs of Hollywood, especially the rock concerts that had almost made me hard of hearing. Riverside does not look like my place of retirement. It is a big city.

At Mario's Place, another fine cuisine on Mission Inn Avenue and while taking some shots (I am becoming one of the fine photo shooters, believe it or not), I encountered a curious minded tourist who had thought I was also a tourist like him. The tourist had asked of my origin and I told him "I belong to the City of Angels." I got him confused because he was expecting an answer he already had in mind. He wanted to know my country of origin and I told him "Biafra."

"No, no, I mean, what country are you from?" he asked again.

"Biafra," I told him and he still did not get it.

I gave him a hint about the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered; the Rwandan genocide in which over a million souls perished in 1994; the Armenian genocide in which millions were massacred and the pogrom in which over two million Igbos were murdered in the most brutal of circumstances and the pogrom being the most blood soaked event in the African continent. He got some history lessons and he loved it. I continued my journey.

My second day at this fine city was full of fun. It was on a Saturday and a whole lot of line ups had been scheduled by the Riverside Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

University Avenue, UC Riverside, academia and scholars. The Street Jam. Lake Alice Trading Company Saloon and Eatery; hamburgers, sandwiches, fingerlicking foods and a host of salad varieties on the menu at this spot on the flashy University Avenue. Mr T's Family Restaurant where actual potatoes and eggs exactly how you want them are served on Main Street. The Tamale Factory, the catering style Mexican grub hosts great service and terrific tamale tastes on Main Street. Templo Del Sol, the best wrapped flour totilla with a bunch of meat, cheese, beans and veggies on University Avenue.

Orange Street and the beautiful smiling faces even though they do not show the evils in them. The bikers and the smoke shops. Back to the Grind Coffee House; poetry, live music, jazz, reggae, blues, rock, bluegrass including the kind of blues rock invented by Steve Winwood when he was discovered in Birmingham by Jamaican born Brit Chris Blackwell who also found Bob Marley, Junior Murvin, U2 and the rest. Blackwell owned Island Records.

So on this georgeous Saturday, I am vacationing in the desert, there were better graded approaches as everything got me knocked off including the Downtown Street Jam on Orange and Ninth Street. The event was the real deal. For the first time, I knew of the rock group Inhale, the area's local band. Superbad was the local ensemble that thrilled me the most with its pure funk and mixtures of soul, jazz flavors and hard rock. It was loud all evening and the dancing and stomping was on the street.

And one thing I observed in Downtown Riverside was while walking you will notice the absence of big-time pimps, prostitutes, junkies, runaway teens and crack heads commonly seen in Hollywood -- I mean, the squatting in alleys and empty buildings -- like rats hanging out in some cage.

But in Riverside, I'm quite sure the city residents appreciate the way their tax dollar is being spent as merchants and visitors who trooped in to watch The Downtown Street Jam could obviously tell that the Riverside local groups, Inhale, Polite, Superbad, Micah Justice and Paging Beto came to entertain for real and free of charge on the goodwill of the City of Riverside and the Riverside Downtown Partnership.

Not forgetting the usual place I hibernate to stay away from the whistle blowing Los Angeles, I had the chance to check out the Riverside Public Library on Mission Inn Avenue just next to Mission Inn Hotel. For one who loves to read and since I was on a pleasure trip, I did not do much and as an out of area guy. The procedure was different. I read the Riverside local papers -- Inland Empire Weekly and Press Enterprise. I also stopped by the Renaissance Book Shop on Magnolia Avenue where European and Asian literature, history and philosophy graced the shelves. I walked through and went to the music section and picked up the greatest living saxophonist, Sonny Rollins' recorded concerts CD "Road Shows Vol 1" for my listening pleasure.

My Riverside experience was actually entwined with the city's history. The city is big. It is the 61st largest city in the United States and 12th largest in California. It is one of the best places to live. Drive down on Orange and University Avenue to the 900 block of University Avenue sits the campus of UC Riverside and the city is located in California's 44th Congressional district. The fun: Keep going to view dozens more of University Avenue lovely structures, and eateries, and grab a bite or whatever along the way.

Pictures: (From top: Riverside City Hall, Riverside County Court House, Mission Inn Hotel, UC Riverside and the local ensemble Paging Beto)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

That African Presidents Wives' Annual Health Summit In Beverly Hills



Not much was talked about it. Not much was known about it. Not even the mainstream media mentioned it. In fact, it was not a big deal, because, as usual, knowing what should be expected from such a gathering of the wives of inept and corrupt African presidents, the errand boys, the opportunistic organizers had to run the show their own way which is typical of deceit and fraud. We've seen this kind of stuff happen many times as it ends up being a picnic and a loophole for money laundering.

I was socializing with some friends when the event and its issues popped up. We were discussing about a retarded African continent, Nigeria in particular, and what should be done about it until one curious-minded fella among us brought up the topic, and stressed on how we lost it here in Diaspora as a collective and the failure to complete ourselves.

"Did any of you hear about the summit held in Beverly Hills? Can you imagine the wife of our president was here and nobody knew about it?" he asked sarcastically.

"Yes, I heard about it but it was nothing to talk about," I responded without feelings.

As it happened, most, if not all, among us never heard of Nigeria's First Lady visiting the Los Angeles area for a summit, except, probably, the organizers who were the opportunists. I am not sure why it was too much of an event from the errand boys who ran their mouth in praise of the First Ladies of Africa visit, and particularly, "our own" Turai Umaru Yar'Adua who sneaked in and the numerous Nigerian women's organization in the Los Angeles metropolis did not know or heard about it and did not do anything about it.

The health summit which was held at the Jewish Skirball Cultural Center was attended by Turai Umaru Yar'Adua (Nigeria); Queen Inkosikati Mbidiza (Swaziland); Ida Odinga (Kenya); Laraba Tandja (Niger); Penehupito Polamba (Namibia); Thandive Banda (Zambia); Maria da Lu Dai Guebuza (Mozambique); Mathato Sarah Mosisili (Lesotho); Sia Nyama Koromo (Sierra Leone); Adelcia Barreto Pires (Cape Verde); Chantal Bida (Cameroon) and Ana Paula Dos Santos (Angola).

After the summit at Skirball which eventually would produce no effective result for what the continent has been known for over three decades since the colonists of various European enclaves had left for the new rulers to figure things out. Nothing in the long run was figured out but widespread scandals of bribery and corruption, political and economic instability, and anarchy coupled with civilian and military staged coups.

The gist: The summit gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel was sponsored by US Doctors for Africa and ExxonMobil which is a clear indication that the organizers were up to something.

Who does not know ExxonMobil and other oil companies and how they destroyed the environment of the oil-producing countries in that ailing continent? Who does not know how the doctors in collaboration with the medical errand boys to save according to Amanda Peabody who reported the event for The Beverly Hills Courier the "critical issues of HIV/AIDS, infants and maternal health and girls education?" Who does not know how the US DOctors for Africa and the so-called medical mission and how they misused the priorities meant to carry out a sound, thorough and effective project that should have been in the obvious?

Unfortunately, it is pointblank. The motive is deceptive, unclear and fraudulent on the ground it is evident that all the money being poured in by charity organizations, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund, World Health Organization and several other independent caring institutions over the years for the projected developments, has not yielded any meaningful dividend save for misappropriation of funds and things like that. In most cases, these funds are wasted due to lack of accountability and transparency.

But the irony of this kind of disturbing propanganda is when well-intentioned people get involved by way of financial contributions and other voluntary works "to provide primary care, strategic planning, education and training first as aid and then to empower the people of Africa to respond to the health crisis they face" and later to find out something is not right somewhere; and that the whole project has become a cock and bull story.

Hollywood celebrities -- Sharon Stone, Kristin Davis, Danny Glover, Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell, Rosario Dawson and Chris Tucker -- who came to the gala and got excited about a comatose summit, had no idea what the entire event would lead to. Deadend, to be precise.

Has any of these celebrities who've been giving their moral and financial support ever asked why Africa remains toxic despite its enormous natural resources and abundant human capital? Has any asked why would such staggering amounts in the millions, if not in the billions, been invested in the continent annually yet there's nothing to show for it? Has any attempted to approaching the root cause of the problem dealing with it once and for all so the continent can march toward onward objectivity? Has any considered the importance of a radical step by way of an organized and timed political revolution to effect change? Has any thought of the normalcy of due process taking into account prosecuting to the limit of the law those that raped their country's public funds and caused all sorts of hardship to its people, as a result, and learning from the steps taken by Paul Kagame of Rwanda?

Today, Nigeria in particular, is on the list of the world's highest number of malnourished children and yet it is the one called the giant of Africa.

Until the thought of the above-mentioned necessary steps is taken, the African continent will continue to sink beyond imagination and like in a situation where no matter how many gallons of palm oil is used in preparing a dog's meal, its stool will not change; it will still be black. Since the event was a success as the organizers made us believe, the point here is, as the First Annual Health Summit by Africa's First Ladies, its too early to start applauding because from my observation it will end up like any other African summit where nothing gets done. Davis who was at the gala pointed it out clearly: "It's really amazing to have the First Ladies (in Beverly Hills) and hear what their countries are going through and what they need..."

Yes, everybody wants to help but the people in question are cocky and crooked. So why don't we weep for those shattered people and also for the poor and penniless who have been oppressed and crushed instead of applauding a sect that intends to rape the peoples fund.