Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Behold Emeka, our office boy, against a classic Igboman backdrop. Posted by Hello

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The new boss man in Rome

Well, the smoke changed colour and Ratzinger appeared. Seems a strange choice by the Conclave from the outside; after appointing a Pole, they've moved West a bit to give a German the job, at a time when Catholicism is strongest in Latin America and Africa.

Ok so il pape didn't have any choice about being a member of Hitler Youth; but as leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Inquisition) the pedigree is confirmed. His views can be summed up as follows: pro-tradition, anti-gay, anti-condom (therefore pro-HIV Aids), anti-liberation theology, anti-women priests and pro-celibacy. Its not looking good for those who want Catholicism to engage with social issues in the next few years.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Nigerian feminism

Andreea Dworkin's death and surrounding commentary provokes thought on the status of contemporary feminism. The wife's sister (and friend) have been staying for the past few days. Young girls of 23, their sole ambition in life seems to be to find a husband. Any attempts to introduce ideas about seeing the world, meeting many different people and having different experiences and so on are met with mild incomprehension. Alternative worlds of possibility and the imagination have been drained away by social pressure. Feminism in Africa has died, for the moment.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Only in Nigeria

We haven't had running water for a week (even though the raining season's begun). But such issues are minor inconveniences that can easily be borne when you hear stories such as the following:

On NTA news last night there was a story from the Madugiri studio: 20 armed robbers had turned up at the local Emir's palace and declared the error of their ways and confessed their sins to Allah. The 'born again armed robbers' (as the newsreader described them) were duly rewarded with the princely package of 20,000N and a few metres of fabric each in a special ceremony put on by the Emir.

One wonders whether a dangerous precedent has been set for a new type of 419: the fake ex-armed robber...

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hives of activity

Dead busy this week. We have our IFEMIS (Integrated Financial and Economic Management Information System) Stakeholder Conference tomorrow, with bigwigs and press in attendance. The key thing I'm doing here in Ng is being the technical coordinator for the Federal Govt's Phase 1 Management Information System. If we get it right, we'll play our little role in making corruption that bit more difficult in naija. Eight months of hard work has rolled into a big ball and is bouncing down the hill. Exciting stuff.

Meanwhile, I have my Skype headset now and am playing my little part in destroying the telcoms industry as we know it. The UK is not quite so far away anymore..

Meanwhile #2, I had a great night's metaphysical conversation with my big buddha mate Tunji last night. I realised that I'm fundamentally into discontinuity and suspicious of the ontological status of narrative/story. I've been reading quite a few biogs and autobiogs recently, as well as writing my own memory-based discontinuous 'biog'. Ultimately, I think a linear model of time is contrived; a fiction. The thing is to realise that discontinuity/the time of the event/the haecceity (term buried within scholastic philosophy but worthy dusting off) is NOT prescribing to neo-atomism (every experience is separate, individual). Instead, haiku-discontinuity (uncovering the depth of the spatio-temporal event) reveals interconnectivity (or relationality) as its fundamental structure. Leibniz called this elemental relationality the Monad; Deleuze called it the Event. All very abstract terms for what is in fact the most concrete/primordial form of experience. The trick will be to write about this stuff without it sounding like gobbledygook.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

As usual I'm late to the party (still don't have an I-Pod, but the new 60G version is highly tempting). I've just registered with Skype. A headset is arriving next week so its free calls back home from now on. I love everything about Skype, but most of all the brand (read the gorgeously written copy on the site) and the usability of the interface. Skype is the death-knell of the telecoms industry as it is today.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Discombobulating memories of ghosts..

There are two experiences from my childhood which continue to disturb me and force me to question the limits of reality: both based around being haunted. With all my training and thinking and reading, I still have no idea how to explain what happened to me. This absence of any possible explanation pushes me to accept the paranormal. Allow me to recount what happened all those years ago:

We moved to the hamlet of Marston when I was 8. It was two miles from Wheaton Aston (where I had grown up until then) and consisted of nothing more than perhaps 10 houses scattered across perhaps half a square mile. Our house was down a small road from the hamlet – there were just two houses next to each other. We had a pond and maybe an acre of land. At night in the winter, I used to be haunted by a blood curdling breathing sound. I knew I would get haunted on a particular night whenever I heard footsteps going by outside. It used to come up the stairs and pause on the landing (my room was closest to the top of the stairs). There were two times when it really really scared me. Once, the sound appeared to be dragging a sack up the staircase. It would heave and something would move behind it. I hid under the duvet, holding my breath. Another time (the worst experience), the sound entered my room. Again, I hid under the covers. I heard the breathing noise slowly draw near to where I was lying. It then seemed to lie down on top of the duvet. It didn’t feel like a human shape – more like an even weight pressing down – like a very heavy duvet being laid across. The breathing noise was just inches from my head, a rasping, loud slow breathe. I nearly wet myself. Another time, the son of my mom’s friend came to stay. I heard the breathing and pinched him awake. He was irritated I’d woke him. “Did you hear the noise?” I whispered too him. I really wanted independent confirmation of my experience. “Shurrup” he muttered, and turned over and fell asleep again. To my annoyance and fear, it was only when I heard him soundly asleep that the noises began again. I also recall another night when I heard what I thought was a scream downstairs. This time, I was brave enough to go and investigate, instead of hide. I went down the stairs, down the passage and turned on the kitchen light. There was our cat in the middle of the kitchen floor, hair standing on end looking like it had had the fright of its life. The sound I’d heard was the hissing miaow of the cat. What it had seen or witnessed I have no idea.

These haunting experiences came after another event which took place in the first house I lived in, on School Road in Wheaton Aston. I remember waking up with the strange feeling that something else was in the room. I hid under the duvet and held my breath. The next morning, there were two strange marks on the ceiling, each consisting of three slightly converging sooty black lines about two feet long, with a perpendicular line crossing the three lines towards the end. I thought they were footprints of some kind, but now I think they were more like signs for something or other. I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old. I called my parents into the room the next day and my mom said – “Wes, are you trying to scare him?” My Dad had laughed and denied it. I told friends at school and they all laughed. So I dragged one of them to visit my room and see for himself: Jonathan Fox. He went quiet when he saw the marks (I wonder if he can remember this?)

Years passed and we moved out of the house in Marston and back to the village. I read up on ghost experiences, and found that one popular ‘scientific’ explanation is that children and adolescents often experience haunting and that it can be explained by hormonally-induced hallucinations. So I started to disbelieve what had happened and push it to the back of my mind. The preoccupations of adolescence took over and I forgot all about ghosts.

Then, when I was about 17, the family were sitting round at Sunday lunch at Church Farm (the house we moved to after Marston). Church Farm was also haunted – but with more of an intangible presence than a specific presence (this presence has been felt by others who have lived there). The topic came round to ghosts at the Marston house. I piped up, “Yes, I used to get haunted there and no one ever believed me.” The oddest thing was that my sister then said (and this was the first time I’d ever heard it), “Oh yes, I used to get haunted. It was a breathing noise that used to come down the corridor. I used to sit up in bed and try and work out what it was, but I could never see anything. But I could still hear the breathing.” I had to give it to her, Victoria was braver than I!

Now I am left with these odd experiences, and I am pushed to strange almost ridiculously x-filesy clich├ęd thoughts of hidden dimensions and alien visitations. And the project of complete rationality threatens to be undone by its very foundations, as Godel’s theorem writ large tends to show. Ultimately, all my philosophical enquiries are haunted by this spectre of foundational incompletion.

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Cinema in Jaipur Posted by Hello

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Elephant outside the Amber palace, nr Jaipur Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tafa Balogun in cuffs Posted by Hello

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Malaria.. and then the good news

Just found out I have malaria. No wonder I've been having headaches and been feeling hot. I think I know the scene of the crime: the toilet near the Taj Mahal, which was swarming with mozzies.

Meanwhile, the big news is the former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, appearing in the press in handcuffs (he's charged with pilfering 13billion naira of police funds). A strong symbol to the people that the mighty can fall.

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