Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Gangster: A Movie Review

So I went to see American Gangster yesterday. I loved it. I've had some debates over this movie with a few people. Some thought great, others thought over-hyped, and another said he expected a bit more from it, given the story. What can I say. But my reasons for loving it are pretty simple. I thought the cast was stellar. Other than the big cahunas, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, I've long admired and followed the works of John Ortiz (villian of Miami Vice) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things and Naija brother) whom I've blogged about before. Given Denzel's versatile talent, I haven't, however, liked him in much lately. I didn't much enjoy Manchurian Candidate, I loathed Training Day, which he won an Oscar for, and I didn't bother to watch Deja Vu. But in this flick, I really do think he extended himself and was at his best here, portraying and humanizing the character of Frank Lucas. He trully made it his own. The other major thing that had me going was the lesson in economics, business strategy and supply chain management that I got from this movie. It fed my fascination for stories of enterprising and formidable individuals across different genres of life. Like Roger Ebert said in his review, if you take out the heroin element, this would otherwise have made a great business case for business school learning, entrepreneurs and business professionals alike. Brilliant I thought.
I think I've given enough spoilers to it. Saymama gives American Gangster 4 1/2 stars out of 5. I highly recommend. Go and watch it. It's out in London on November 16th and hopefully will hit the theatres in Lagos soon too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Remembering Dame Anita Roddick - R.I.P.

Anita Roddick lived the type of life I'm seeking to emulate in many ways; not just business-wise, but ethics-wise also. I can't believe she died just as I was beginning to plot how I'd meet her and make her my friend :-). I have looked up to her since my late teens, just as I was discovering and harnessing my love for all things scented, lotioned and potioned. I remember by first visit into The Body Shop. I felt like I was in heaven. I loved the Body Shop (and still do) and repeatedly over the last several years would go in and could stay in there, sniffing, smelling, spritzing and rubbing my hands with everything in there. I would come out smelling like I'd emptied the entire store on myself. Reading her story, she first inspired me to want to set up my own bath and body line and store, not just to mix and bottle divinely scented soaps and potions, but to do it with a conscience. Profit, but paying it forward at the same time, job creation in emerging communities, care about replenishing the environment, caring for the oppressed and destitute, but above all living life with a strong sense of purpose, each and every day. Without meeting or knowing her, this is the sort of energy that she radiated and I had always felt infected by it.
I do feel her loss painfully. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her when we finally would've met, pick her brain, have her mentor me.
I have no doubt that she's resting peacefully, with a big smile across her face, a life fulfilled and well lived. A wife, mother, entrepreneur, activist, environmentalist, human rights campaigner. A passionate lover of life, all rolled into one tiny woman.
October 23rd of last week would've been her 65th birthday. Click here to read her husband's moving tribute and here for her life's story. *Sigh*


The Facebook Epidemic! Madness!!!! Is this a new age cult movement or what. Why is "everybody" I know hooked on this thing (my humble self included)? People are facebooking at work, in elevators, while driving, from crackberries, i-phones, etc. What are they (we) doing on it exactly? Creeping on people's pages, gazing and critiquing their posted photos, looking out for who next will have a cool or funny 'status' update and the madness continues. Check out a computer near you, "anywhere", and chances are that someone's on facebook. Apparently, Facebook's been around for at least 4 years, but I and I know a million others, just caught on to it this year, with more people catching on by the hour! I find that I can't get through the day without logging on to it. And if I happen to be away from the internet for any significant amount of time, I find myslef going into withdrawal. Literally! And this is something I've witnessed all my 'friends' going through as well. What has this bloody thing ( and piece of joy) done to us? Taking up so much of our productive hours during the day? In the age of instant messaging, text messaging, real time emailing, "telephoning" even, I find that people have regressed to messaging via Facebook instead. I rarely get direct mails into my email box anymore. The messaging has now been diverted to my inbox on Facebook. People have gone off instant messaging and onto Facebook messaging instead, which is not as instant. It's crazy and I'm guilty of it too. What's the world coming to? It's comical but fascinating nonetheless.
Facebook, from what I understand was a social utility tool that was initially developed for college students. The demographics have changed vastly since then. The age groups on it vary from teeny-boppers to college students, to young working adults, to even slightly older adults (they even have a group on it called 'Agbayas on Facebook', which I found hilarious). The interaction communities also vary from deeply Nigerian social circles (or clicks), to southern African ones, to Kenyan ones, to Indian ones and so on. I check out my neice's page from time to time (she grew up in Sweden and no lives in France) and her circles are hugely Swedish and French also and activity is specifially in those languages!
I don't know what it is, but it's interesting and it's fun. Aside from contributing grossly to the rising unproductivity of individuals, I notice it serves also as an amazing networking and marketing tool at no cost. People are using it as a means of promoting their businesses and some are using it as faceless means of garnering attention to their otherwise shy selves. But you go everywhere and people are talking about Facebook, cackling over gist of what so and so is doing or what they said on someone else's page.
I was aware of other social utility forums, such as MySpace and Hi-Five etc, which I ignored and once thought to be silly things. But I was at a dinner party a month ago and it came up in conversation, i.e. Facebook vs. Hi-five (or whatever). I quickly chimed in and said Hi-5 is a fake Gucci bag and Facebook's the new Prada of social utility networks. And it's true!
I'm addicted..and happily so. I wonder, where was this stuff when I was in college? I probably would never have made it to class!!
Mark Zuckerberg, you're definitely on to something here. You've single-handedly redefined the whole concept of "friends" and "friendship"!

Bode Agusto

Yes, I know, this is old news. But it still bugs me. I was and am still infuriated over the fact that his ministerial nomination for the Finance portfolio was dropped by the 'powers that be'. I'm seriously biased, but in a good way. I know Mr. Agusto quite well and have had the opportunity to work for him in years past. He is undoubtably one of the most brilliant minds to come out of Nigeria and in my view would have been the ideal candidate for the position as well as the ideal person to continue the reversal of decay that has plagued the finance ministry for decades. Bode is also frugal, to a fault perhaps. And as his reputation may have preceeded him before he met with the senators on the floor of the House of Reps who had a big axe to grind, because they know that he won't give anybody the opportunity to chop and unscrupulously 'reallocate' funds as they please. Nigerian politics at its best.
I still regard this as a huge loss personally and to the Nigerian economy. Does this mean regression is imminent, or am I over-reacting?

To brush up on this issue, here are some of the editorials about it: The Sun News and on Janada's blog.

More TED...

Another insightful talk @ TED by Ethiopian-born economist, Eleni Gabre-Madhin (click to watch). She talks about the new Ethiopian Commodity Exchange that she founded, the first commodities market in Ethiopia intended to benefit small farmers, create wealth and further tackling the issue of aid for trade. This further testifies to the ongoing brain gain taking place across the continent and people applying their skills to ambitious projects within their respective countries. It's still a long road, but it's an exciting time to be African (and female). I'm loving me some TED! It's inspiring to have legitimate platforms dedicated to thinkers translating their thoughts into action. Time for the disturbing images of Africa to be translated to healthy radiant ones. Watch this space!

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala @ TED

Feeding further into my passion for gender empowerment and entrepreneurship, and the fact that I believe that African women are the key to Africa’s future, I recently came across this talk that Ngozi Iweala gave at the TED conference that took place in Arusha, Tanzania, early in the summer of this year. In a project I developed and presented on for an old employer that I interned with in New York, many moons ago, I was trying to make a solid case for why I thought they should set up offices in Africa and do business there. I remember calling my father in Nigeria trying to get some help and input into it from him regarding Africa and the issue with aid and trying to get him to explain some of the long-standing relationships that a lot of the older corporations such as Coca Cola, Peugeot, etc, had had with Africa and why newer companies were so resistant to setting up businesses there in spite of the seeming success that those other ones had made. He was the one who said to me all those years ago that replacing aid for trade is the more realistic way to combat a lot of Africa’s core economic issues as well as embracing the risk with open arms. That was over 7 years ago and I remember seeing the look of light bulbs going off in the room full of American executives when I said this while concluding my presentation. To be honest, as a junior in college, I don’t know how much sense it made to me then, but I really did feel like I was on to something. So did they as well.
Fast forward to now. This talk by Mrs. Iweala puts a very interesting spin on the issue of aid and trade. Brilliant actually. Check it out here.

Cassava Republic

This is a fairly new publishing company in Nigeria owned by good friends Jeremy and his wife. They publish both new writers and reproduce works of existing Nigerian writers in the diaspora. I love the fact that in quite a (not so) small but significant way, they are helping to revive the formally vibrant publishing industry in Nigeria. The books are made locally available and a lot of book clubs and literary social circles are springing up all over the place in Nigeria, from Lagos to Jos and perhaps beyond. As a result, there's a refreshing reading culture taking place and Nigerians at home and abroad are loving the fact that they are able to read great books from indigenous writers that tackle issues of personal interest and relevance.
So check out their latest newsletter below; and also check out their website. Oh, and did I mention how much I love the name, "Cassava Republic"?

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Dear reader
Welcome to our November newsletter. As the Damina season slowly turns into Harmattan, what better way to avoid the dusty Sahara wind than to stay at home with a good book. This coming month, we're publishing an array of wonderful titles that we are sure you'll enjoy, or buy as Christmas presents.
As well as the new books, prize-winning author Helon Habila tours the following cities in November: 17th Lagos - NuMetro Silverbird Galleria; 21st Abuja NuMetro - Ceddi Plaza; 21st Keffi - Nasawara State University; 22nd, Jos - University of Jos, 23rd Gombe Gombe State University. We'll shortly be sending you more details about the tour.
Happy reading!
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf
New Fiction

Measuring Time by Helon Habila
Measuring Time is the new novel by Helon Habila, a leading figure amongst the new generation of Post-Abacha Nigerian writers. This is an epic novel charting the turbulent recent history of Nigeria through the eyes of a single family. Twin brothers, Mamo and LaMamo grow up in a small Northern village, with a philandering and domineering father. With high hopes, they flee, but only LaMamo escapes. He joins a rebel group near the Chad border and meets Charles Taylor. Mamo, the sickly twin, gradually comes out of his father’s shadow and gains fame as a chronicler of his people.
Measuring Time has a cast of memorable characters: the devout Christian Aunt Mariana, the lustful widows, a blind witch and her dog, a drunken cousin, two unmarried daughters of a white American missionary, and Zara, Mamo’s bold and thoughtful lover. Read more

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila
Through seven interconnected narratives, Habila provides a strikingly cinematic and hallucinatory account of the difficulties of life under the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria. The central character, Lomba, a young journalist, languishes in prison as his world has slowly crumbled. While the guards sleep, he begins to write. His story spirals backwards in time, telling the tale of the residents of Poverty Street, Lagos. We hear of resistance leader Joshua, in love with a former pupil turned prostitute, of Nancy, who finds solace covering walls with graffiti, and of Janice, forced to marry a General. Read more
Visit Helon Habila’s website

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole
Every Day is for the Thief is a striking account of Nigeria in change. Through a series of portraits of everyday life in Lagos, Cole provides a fresh and captivating account of a young man revisiting the city of his childhood.
TV presenter Funmi Iyanda has this to say: “Not since Frank McCourt’s Angela's Ashes have I read stories that make you want to laugh and cry simultaneously written in simple, powerful discerningly honest prose. I read everyday without pausing for breath and emerged satiated that someone has written a book that accurately reflects the tragedy and triumphs of Lagos, a mean task if you know how complex this city is.” Read more
A Tale of Two Covers
We’ve just reprinted two of our books.
Even though the demand for them was high, due to printing errors, we had to pull the books out of the market. Now we’ve redesigned the covers – see below (don’t they look irresistible!) For the 3,000 of you with pre-paid orders, you’ll be getting your copies in the post shortly.

Kemi’s Journal – Abidemi Sanusi
Kemi’s Journal is a sassy first novel about a twenty-something high-flying born-again Christian advertising executive who must reconcile her faith with a demanding career, pleasing family, trying to get over her non-believing, but adorable ex-boyfriend Zack. Although her faith is sometimes strong and can resist temptations and other times God takes a back seat as the arms of Zack appears more alluring. This is a bold, page-turning novel that tackles the moral decisions many people have to make about crisis of faith, sex before marriage, unplanned pregnancy and career with openness and maturity. Read more

Zack’s Story – Abidemi Sanusi
Zack’s Story, is the sequel to Kemi’s Journal. Here, we get to hear Zack’s side of the story: he didn’t plan to be a father, but now that baby Yanis is on the scene, he is determined to take parenting seriously whilst dealing with some of the dark shadows of his past. As for being a husband, he’s wanted that for a long time – but the volatile Kemi he loves so much doesn’t make it easy. And neither does the office temptress, Maxine. Then there’s a career to be built as a big shot corporate lawyer. Read more
Visit Abidemi Sanusi’s website

26a by Diana Evans
Diana Evans’ lyrical, enchanting first novel tells the coming-of-age story of Bessi and Georgia, identical twins growing up in Neasden and Nigeria, and the story of their mixed race family. Read more
We hope that there's something that appeals to you on our currrent list. For information about where to find our books, please email us at
November is a busy month in the Nigerian Literary calendar. Why not check out the following events:
The 2nd Northern Zonal Book Fair, 29th October - 2nd November, Abuja at the National Centre for Women's Development, Opposite Central Bank of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa Way, Abuja. 9 - 5pm daily. This event is organised by the Nigerian Book Foundation. It will be attended by those involved in the book industry in the whole of the Northern region. There will be a series of talks, seminars, book signing and book exhibitions. For further information, call: 0803 379 4389.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) 26th International Convention, Owerri from 1st – 4th November, 2007. Contact Denja Abdullahi: 0805 786 8575
The Annual Lagos Book and Art Festival and the 3rd Lagos Comics and Cartoons Carnival.Date: November 9-11, 2007Venue: National Theatre, Iganmu, LagosClick here for more details.
Helon Habila Tours the following cities in November: Lagos 17th at NuMetro Silverbird Galleria; Abuja 21st NuMetro at Ceddi Plaza; 21st Nasawara State University in Lafia; 22nd, University of Jos, 23rd Gombe State University.
For further information:

Blogging Again!

I've been off the blogger circuit for a while now and happy to finally be back into it (blame it on Facebook!). I've had a lot that I've been meaning to blog about, lots of pieces that I began to write, meant to post, but never quite got around to it. Procastination is a disease I'm desperately seeking a cure from, so if any of you have any special potions out there to recommend, pls do!
Anyhow, please excuse the out-of-dateness of some of the posts you'll be reading, but since I had enough of an opinion to start to write about them in the first place, I'm going to go ahead and post them anyway! Some of them are issues that still bug me, a little :-)