Microblogging, the experiment

Recently found out that while I was busy neglecting this blog, it sort of died - literally. The domain name expired and somehow I had been kicked off of blogger. So my apologies to those who were looking for the blog and could not find it.
In the meantime, I am trying out another social media platform - tumblr - with the hopes that shorter blog posts may translate to more frequent blogposts. I have not yet totally abandoned this one, but expect to find my thoughts penned at my tumblog, i.e. tumblr blog, pyoo wata, the microblog.
Thanks for your attention thus far.


First, let's start with the heart-warming

I absolutely love family photos...well not necessarily that of my own. Don't get me wrong, I adore my family, but we just never "got it." The youngest one would look mildly sedated, while another brother would stare off into the distance, contrived smiles or priceless expressions such as that of this young lad.

So when the family photos of the Johnathan family came out on ThisDay Style magazine (H/T Jide Salu), I couldn't help shelf my critical eye and let out an unnecessarily drawn out "Awwwwwwww...."

Let's not be naive here, family photos can be deceiving, but it was a long weekend, the weather was lovely, and a well-taken family photo makes me exceedingly happy.

I'll save my Obama wanna-be references for another post - you know, like this one. Oops, yeah, that one slipped.

And besides, I needed something to cheer me up after reading the disgraceful account of brutal domestic violence in the household of Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya, Dr. Chijioke Nwigwe. Warning, the pictures of his wife's bloodied face are graphic. I believe he is now being recalled from his post - but to me it is all a charade. Let's not be fooled, this was not the first time he battered his wife, and will not be the last. Some have claimed to have received his side of the story, in which the wife attacked him first and then in the process, fell down the stairs. Really? Do batterers and abusive parents have some sort of worldwide convention and make a list of alternative scenarios to be distributed to their card carrying members? The fell-down-the-stairs excuse has to be the oldest in the book.

Upon seeing the pictures, the first questions that came to bear - and mind, you, these were immediate visceral reactions - what would possess a man to attack someone's grandmother to that extent and what would keep an educated woman in such a situation? Like seriously, unu abuo kwesiri kwanyere onwe unu ugwu. I choro igwa m na unu ka na-akpa agwa nzuzu n'agadi?* But, on further introspection I knew that the first question was inappropriate - because I believe that her status as grandmother, mother, saint or devil really has no bearing on his brutality. And if one were to trot down that road further, as we are wont to do in our culture, we find ourselves on the slippery slopes of justifying situations amenable to physical punishment of an adult or ranking the deserved-ness (there must be another word for that) of one's respect on the basis on how active one's womb is/has been. And simply put, I hate that.

The second question, I danced around a bit on a previous post from several years ago in which I made remarks on a study on Igbo women's attitudes towards domestic violence - which yielded results that at first glance, may seem atypical, but track well with some of my personal experiences. The couple at the center of this tragedy, the Nwigwe's, are well-heeled, educated and the wife possesses dual British-Nigerian citizenship. I have witnessed a number of married women stay in emotionally and physically abusive relationships, despite lives that on the outside, seem relatively put together - in fact, envious.

*you two need to respect yourselves...you want to tell me that you still behave foolishly in old age?


No more menthols

I hate cigarettes and the tobacco industry as much as the next non-smoker - however, I am concerned about recent talks to urge the FDA to ban mentholated cigarettes exclusively. (The link is a year old, but for some reason, a number of articles have come out from American Journal of Public Health this month and last about menthols)

African Americans are most likely to consume mentholated cigarettes and a ban would affect 90% of black smokers. If I could wave a magic wand, I would like to get rid of cigarettes, but sadly, reality is not so convenient. I still wish to look more into this topic, but I made some other preliminary comments elsewhere (link also presents related articles to the ban of menthols - seriously, haven't seen lazier public health/policy papers in quite a while).

...the fact that the majority of menthol smokers, if facing a ban, will turn to regular cigarettes presents another problem. It promotes the erroneous message that non-mentholated cigarettes, consumed by non-Blacks, are inherently safer than menthols – which is not true when you look at long-term outcomes – like lung cancer and even short-term outcomes like various biomarker loads...
But more importantly, a conversation about banning menthol cigarettes without a discussion on the inadvertent consequences of such a ban on minority communities, who are disproportionately harshly penalized by America's war against illicit drugs is a reckless one. LinkSee Warehousing of African Americans in prisons due to crack cocaine (and not the more affluent powder cocaine).


Camping and Kanazawa

Yes, this used to be an unpublished half-post. Decided to run with it an publish it anyway before it gets too irrelevant. Urgghh, everything's moving too fast.

Evolutionary psychologist, Santoshi Kanazawa has perhaps set himself to be the Harold Camping of Darwinism. Both men, in recent weeks, have single-handedly shamed their bases and have become the poster children of all that is wrong with "these" sorts of people.

Long after May 21st rapture deadline, we're all here, save for the unfortunate events occurring in the Midwest. Never mind his failed 1994 predictions of the end of the world, nor Christ stating, and I quote "no one knows neither the date nor the time," the fact that the proclamation was a surprise to many in Nigeria, a country which hosts perhaps some of the most zealous Christians on the planet, should have convinced everyone of where they'd be after the weekend. And another thing about that, the idea that rapture central was in some random community in Florida - or was it California - highlights the pervasiveness of the idea of 'American exceptionalism," not only in politics, but also in religion. But, I digress.

Sadly, many have used the eccentricities of this senile radio host to point out their views on fundamental flaws of religion. Somewhat of an over-reach considering that many, within Christiansdom, including myself, dismissed Camping and those of his ilk a long time ago. I would have rather, people pay attention to news such as this, which begs for a face-palm.

Yes, I let out a chuckle or two at the Savage Mind's dismissal of evolutionary psychology and Kanazawa's, Why Black Women are Ugly piece (H/T Loomnie). I can't really imagine who in science-dom would take the article seriously. Anyone who provides an argument stating someone has a "higher mutation load," deserves a serious side-eye. Really, Kanazawa - you could think of any other way to make that sound more science-y? I kid. While I am suspicious of some of the goals of evolutionary psychology, I am not in a hurry to dismiss the field, yet. It could use a bit of help with PR. Kanazawa represents its wacky extremes, who unfortunately, speak louder than its moderate majority and severely threaten the field's credibility. In the words of Sex and the City's Steve Brady, "there's some good stuff here."**

My understanding of Darwin is largely limited to a few undergraduate courses here and there (I must admit, my interest in science primarily centers on its application, i.e. not basic science), but it does not seem as if Darwin's intent was to birth a religion - that is to give meaning and a purpose to just about everything - to provide a unifying principle by which everything has its being (or perhaps, I tell myself this, in order to reconcile my faith and my science...my clinical background allows me to comfortably stay away from such debates). But some elements of evolutionary psychology have made the mistake of, as Savage Minds points out, of using basic biology to explain behavior - but, to the ignorance of other very real and tangible forces at play.

I’ve yet to come across an evolutionary psychological explanation that doesn’t have a corresponding – and often more plausible – cultural explanation; while the cultural explanation might not ultimately be right, if you’re going to build a science on the primacy of the biological over the cultural, you’re going to have to at least consider the cultural as an alternative hypothesis!

**I'd figure that to understand the above, you would have to be a dedicated follower of the TV series, of which, sadly, I am. Quote comes from some earlier episode where Steve Brady, Miranda's love interest, makes one of many pleas to save their relationship...


Four years later...

...Well, not quite, but couldn't think of alternative title for this post.

I believe I am among the 95% or so of bloggers who don't blog - meaning, bloggers who haven't touched their blog in ages. I am currently running about an average of less than one post a month...or perhaps every two months. Life likes to get in the way, but then there is also the convenience of Twitter and there was the time that I used to, from time to time, update my Facebook status. Used to. Way too many "Friends" who, at best, are mere acquaintances. Never thought I would say this, since I am not terribly private with my online identity, but Facebook is getting a bit too nose-y for my liking.

I've often found myself killing a blog post idea mid-thought because there just wasn't enough "there," to warrant a post and, unfortunately, 140 character Twitter limit just wouldn't do it justice. Yes, I am aware that there are avenues by which to defy the 140 character post limit, but I fancy myself a social media purist - if Twitter says 140 characters, I'll abide by 140 characters...if Facebook says, link up with old friends - I will...no posting of birthday presents, planting of flowers, nor indulging in anonymous "Ask Me Anything" apps. I guess, in the realm of blogging, I set out to adhere to certain rules - such as the idea that a blogpost must have a beginning, and end, and most importantly, a point - but it seems like such standards are more stifling then ever. My Blogger list of posts hosts a number of unpublished thoughts that didn't make it to daylight, because the post simply didn't have much of a point (much like this one) or didn't fit with the overall "theme" of the blog.

Well, I guess all this is to say, that, hopefully, in the future, I will slowly begin to tear myself away from these rules I created and thus imposed on myself. Pyoo wata is getting on in years - This November will make it four years. I am gradually coming to terms with the fact that after four years, there is still no unifying theme to this blog and perhaps will never be.


Of mad men and birth certificates

My father once told me that someone who chases after a mad man will eventually look like him as well. So for the most part, I have tried to maintain a comfortable distance from the crazies on the Right, other than a chuckle here and there at Palin family antics. I was never taken to viewing the Birthers as a distinct subculture, but rather a group of individuals plagued by delusional thinking and fits of paranoia. That was until recently, when they found a vocal figurehead in the multimillionaire, Donald Trump. My problem wasn't with Donald Trump, in the same way I do not apportion blame to the mentally ill. I only felt sorry for him - and, pity, for the sane members of the Republican party whose names are brought in disrepute on account of these people. My beef, however, remains with the onlookers in the media who for the past couple of weeks have edged on Trump and others of his ilk to continue dancing naked in public.

The back and forth antics between Trump, birthers, and the remainder of American public culminated in Obama's public release of his birth certificate earlier this week, in a failed attempt to squelch this horse and pony show played by extreme factions of the right and ratings-starved members of the media. Hardly - that is the unfortunate nature of paranoia - continued suspicion despite clear evidence to the contrary. And the dance continues.

No relief has come from the release of the birth certificate, for me, only disappointment. Several have likened the release of Obama's records to the literary tests minorities once underwent in order to vote in this country. I have often tried to keep myself in check in regards to my hypersensitivity towards race relations, but there was no doubt in my mind that race is on the minds of Birthers and those who seek to "Take our Country Back." And yes, I, too, am of the opinion that racism is pathology. Kola also comments on this Sad Day in America and I couldn't help but share this video on my blog after hearing about it from @Saratu. Both put to words my anger and sorrow towards America's descent into this pit.


Igbo film - where art thou (olee ebe ị nọ)?

I know, my neglect of this blog ... or any blog in general, is almost criminal. I blame this on Twitter and my over-reliance on my Google Reader feed - so much easier to be a consumer of this new media than to produce it. Oh yeah, and life and school in general...

When chanced, stop by Saratu's post, Not Speaking Yoruba, which echos my sentiments on not speaking Igbo...well, at least the kind intelligible to others beyond myself and my forgiving parents.

Such brought up an interesting conversation on Twitter some weeks ago - see my timeline here...which later degenerated into a somewhat useless conversation about dialects and the inherent pleasantness of one over the other. Also, I wondered aloud (though not on Twitter, I don't think) as to why films are no longer produced in Igbo, but Nollywood films of other languages are thriving. I grew up happily struggling to understand the storylines of Igbo films, which despite their horrible acting, still presented some degree of authenticity basically non-existent in some modern-day English films. Somehow along the way, we went from films in entirely Igbo language films, to films in which perhaps the village scenes were in Igbo, to English films with Igbo chorus lines, to present-day overt English language films, even among all-Igbo speaking casts.

Onyeka Nwelue also laments the flight of Igbo language film here and realizes that "we don’t need a story to be told in English before we realize it is a good movie." A fairly obvious conclusion. In the comments section of the article, Niji Akanni, Yoruba screenwriter and director, sheds some light on our reticence to produce Igbo language films.

...I’d say the Igbo language film died because my Igbo brothers in the Nigerian film industry have simply forgotten (or neglected) who or what exactly their films speak to...I think my Igbo colleagues continue to work under the illusion that they can make films to appeal to ‘everybody’ – from the struggling pure water vendor on Eko Bridge, through the primary school teacher in Offiaoji to a native German professor who knows next to nothing about Nigeria as a whole or Igbo culture in particular. What comes across then are films that address everyone only by entertaining them but not speaking to anyone in particular.

...Then there is the issue of cultural authenticity. I suspect very strongly that most Igbo filmmakers are either grossly ignorant of their authentic cultural roots or simply too timid to explore those roots, knowing that their responses to such exploration will ultimately lead to questioning/interrogation of certain traditional assumptions...My prognosis is that the revival of Igbo-language film, if it ever happens, will only come from Diaspora filmmakers of Igbo origin: those who can listen with fresh (but not emptily nostalgic) ears to the authentic rhythms of the numerous Igbo dialects, who can look with untainted eyes at the various dissonances of their cultural heritage, and above all, can honestly and boldly address such dissonances, not just as an appendage to “all-about-entertainment” cinematic fares.
Yes, the Nollywood film market, is largely (perhaps entirely) driven by profit rather than art - which may explain the desire of Igbo filmmakers to capture a wider audience by producing English language films. However, I'm not terribly confident at his prediction that Diasporan filmmakers (wherever they may be), may offer a solution. From personal experience, I find that we either fall at one of two extremes (here in the States), on one hand, we seek to be more oyinbo than the original oyinbo or on the other, we tend to craft a vision of our fair homeland, that has very little basis in reality, producing a product that is unrecognizable to both Diasporan and indigene. Though, admittedly, and by some miracle, we were able to get it right in the arena of literature. But, like they say, lightening rarely strikes the same spot twice.