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Monthly Archives: June 2014

5 Essential FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 Reads

Today marks the beginning of the second week of the World Cup. And what a week it has been. Even though it’s only seven days into this tournament it’s already shaping up to be one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory.

Goals, red cards, penalties, upset, weird sprays, goal line technology and even more goals. That’s been The World Cup 2014 story so far.

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Croatia

 

Speaking of goals, during this World cup we have been spoilt rotten so far. They have been all kinds of goals. As of day 7 of this World Cup at least 50 goals had been scored. 5 of those coming in one thrilling encounter in which the defending champions Spain were totally annihilated by Spain. *chuckles*. The highlight of which was Robin Van Persie brilliant interpretation of The Flying Dutchman. I am pretty sure Robin Van Persie did it for the vine.

My other early contender for goal of the tournament is Tim Cahill’s sublime volley 70s after the Dutch had scored. The timing amnd the technique was perfect and it is a goal that is no doubt going straight into his career highlights reel. Tim Cahill, he from the land down under who has played in three world cups, the same as Ronaldo, Rooney and Messi and who has now got more World Cup goals than all three combined. Marinate on that.

But, the biggest story so far has to be the elimination of the once invincible La Roja, the Spanish national team. Who after only two matches of the World Cup are booking their flight home and leaving the World Cup trophy behind. It’s the end of an era. Come July 13th we will have a new World champion. Since circa 2008 the tika taka style of football synonymous with Spanish teams has reigned supreme. Many have tried and failed to combat it but it seems six years later the rest of the game has finally figured out how to neutralise its influence on the final result of games.

As an avid follower of the beautiful game I am not at all surprised at this. One thing I have learned is that the game is always evolving. There is no one way of winning football games. Spain have often been criticised for not having a plan B and they paid for it in the most humiliating of ways during this World Cup. Although I must hasten to add that I was completely blindsided by the manner in which things fell apart for the Spaniards. But hey, the game must go on.

Sidebar: My two dark horses for the tournament Chile and Belgium have impressed so far. Brazil my favourites are still on track and Ghana my African team despite being impressive in their game against USA are still to get going. So not not a bad tournament for me so far regarding my picks.

During the tournament I have hardly had time to get any writing done. If I am not watching the games I am voraciously reading any World Cup related articles I come across on the ‘internets’. And they are quite a few gems out there. I would like to share some of them today. The articles range from dealing with the racial complexities in Brazil to why some countries call it soccer and others football. The articles have helped me appreciate the world outside of the football pitch. In the process I have learned quite a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I hope by sharing these articles you too can also learn something new.

1. Neymar and The Disappearing Donkey – Africa is A Country

This is a fascinating and enlightening read on the complexities of race in Brazil. The article focuses on Neymar who like many Brazilians is mixed race and how issues of race in Brazil differ from the rest of the world. Make sure to read the comments section as well as they are even more insightful additions to this illuminating article.

You can read the full article here

2. The Burden of Being Messi – The New York Times

This articles looks at how despite dominating Eurpoean football and winning every club trophy and also being named World Player of the year a record four tImes, Lionel Messi arguably of the greatest players the world has ever seen is still not appreciated by his fellow Argentinians. The articles tries to answer the question Why? And the answers is summarised by this quote from a an Argentinian Taxi driver
“We’ve always liked how Messi plays,” the driver, Dario Torrisi, told me, “but we don’t know who he is.” Everybody throughout the Americas loves Diego Maradona, Torrisi said, but “it’s not the same for Messi.”

You can read the full article here

3. The Little Countries That Could – Foreign Policy

This article by Musa Okwonga looks at two countries regarded as dark horses for this World Cup in Belgium and Uruguay. Despite their relative small size and their history as geopolitical doormats they remain competitive on the footballing global stage. The author attributes much of their success not just to a passion for football but also to the inclusiveness of its culture. Uruguay for example had one a black player as their captain as far back in 1950.

You can read the full article here

4. Why Americans Call Soccer “Soccer”- The Atlantic

Looks at why different countries refer to the beautiful game as Soccer or Football respectively and the history the game was started.

You can read the full article here

5. Drogba Shows His Clout On and Off The Field – Al Jazeera

This articles looks at the role of athletes such Drogba and the legendary Brazilian Socrates as activists.

You can read the full article here

Bonus read: Soccer Fan’s Dream Job Has A Catch : No Peeking – The New York Times 

You can read the full article here

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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So You Think You Are Maradona? My Brazil World Cup 2014 Preview

Feel it. It’s here.

Football and arguably the world’s biggest sporting jamboree is finally upon us. The football World Cup starts in Sao Paulo, Brazil tonight. This marks the return of the World Cup to one of football’s grand sentimental heartlands. Brazil, the greatest footballing nation on the planet takes on Croatia at the spiritual home of Brazilian football, the imposing Maracana stadium. 64 years after Brazil lost the World Cup final at the same venue to Uruguay their quest for a record breaking 6th World Cup title begins. This will be the first of 64 games involving 32 countries over a month long period. For football aficionados everywhere this is as hedonistic as it gets.

This World Cup in Brazil is going to be the eighth World Cup to take place in my lifetime. The first was Mexico World Cup ’86. I wasa toddler. Whilst Diego’EL Diego’ Maradona was dribbling his way into football folklore on the pitches of Mexico in 1986, first with the infamous ‘hand of god’ and then with the most brilliant individual goal ever scored at a World Cup tournament, halfway across the world I was kicking my first ever football. My father a lifelong football fan had begun sowing the seeds of what was to grow into a lifelong passion and love for the beautiful game. Maradona went on to single handily win that World Cup for Argentina.

So You Think You Are Maradona? Your truly  learning to kick a football in 1986. I was two years old.

So You Think You Are Maradona? Your truly learning to kick a football in 1986. I was two years old.

Despite getting this early start I wasn’t exceptionally talented when it came to dancing with the ball around the ankles of other kids. I was no Maradona. Not by a long shot. But I loved the game. I followed the careers of my favourite players religiously. The fact that I wasn’t the most gifted kid on the playground did not diminish my appetite for the game. On the contrary it fuelled it. Mine became more and more of a vociferous involvement, albeit at a televisual distance. My limited talent gave me an even greater appreciation for all those great players who used the football pitch as the canvas on which they painted their masterpieces.

My second World Cup, Italia ’90 is one I vaguely remember. It is the World Cup in which a 38 year old Cameroonian, Roger Miller announced the arrival of African football on the World Cup stage by flamboyantly dancing around the corner flag every time he scored on his way to leading Cameroon to the Quarter finals, the furthest any African team had gone. Cameroon had also opened that tournament with a win against the defending champion’s Argentina. They would bow out controversially to England in the last eight. FIFA subsequently went on to offer African teams an extra place at the next World Cup. Italia ’90 was won by West Germany.

By the time USA ’94 came around I was 10 years old and had become psychotically absorbed by the beautiful game. I had fallen truly, madly and deeply in love with a certain Manchester United. This would become the vehicle which would drive my passion for the game for years to come. The ’94 World Cup is the first World Cup that I remember clearly. This is the tournament in which I was first captivated by the flare and free flowing Samba style of Brazilian football. I remember watching the likes of Captain Dunga and Romario as they dazzled in the butter yellow and royal blue colours of Brazil. I had never seen anything like it. It was like watching poetry in motion. It was love at first sight.

Brazil went on to win that World Cup. The first and only World Cup to date to be decided by penalties. A certain pony tailed Italian Roberto Baggio face down, arms akimbo; possibly reflecting on a glorious but doomed soliloquy as the Brazilian players celebrated wildly in the background is one of the lasting images of that World Cup. Despair and disbelief poignantly juxtaposed against unbridled joy and celebration.

When the France ’98 World Cup rolled around I was now a pimple faced teenager in my second year of high school. I was in boarding school at the time and the atmosphere in the TV room during the games is one of the most electrifying and intoxicating atmospheres I have ever experienced during a World Cup. It was as rowdy as it was jovial. Hundreds of teenage boys huddled around the TV, shouting, singing and dancing as they urged their heroes towards World Cup glory. It was like being in a stadium. Unfortunately for me the Brazilians lost that World Cup final to the mercurial Frenchman Zenidine Zidane’s Les Blues, the host nation. That final was also notable for the dismal performance of one Ronaldo who had in he build up to the final been Brazil’s star player. It is widely reported that the striker had suffered a seizure earlier in the day and this no doubt affected his performance in the final.

Ronaldo would however get a chance to redeem himself and cement his legacy at the next World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002. In the final against the Germans he would score both goals in helping Brazil win their fifth World Cup title. The most by any nation. And Brazil’s last World Cup win.The was also the last World Cup I would watch in boarding school.

Fast forward to the World Cup hosted by Germany in 2006. I am now in my early twenties and studying down under, my love for the beautiful game as strong as ever. My memories of that tournament are of having to get up between 2am and 4am just to watch the games. My Singaporean housemate and I would make our way to our Italian football coach’s houses in the wee hours of the morning and watch the games with some of our other teammates. It wasn’t quite the same atmosphere as the two World Cups during my high school days but we did just share the same passion for the beautiful game. Italy went on to win that tournament. Our coach made sure we never forgot that.

When the World Cup came to the Motherland for the first time in 2010 I had since graduated and was by now working in Melbourne. Unfortunately because of circumstances outside my control I would not make it to South Africa 2010 as had been the plan all along. I consoled myself with the purchase of a big flat plasma screen HD TV and a state of the art home theatre system. This was the first World Cup I watched in high definition. It was only the loneliest World Cup experience Ihave had to date. For most of the games which again were in wee hours of the morning it was just me and my TV. My saving grace was Facebook which provided a platform for me to engage in some banter with my football loving friends. But it just wasn’t the same. And that is why South Africa 2010 is not high up on my list of the most memorable World Cup tournaments. Spain went on to win that tournament whilst the Brazilians unfortunately were a pale shadow of their former glorious selves.

This brings me to Brazil 2014 World Cup, my eighth world cup. I have since left my twenties behind, earlier this year. This is my first World Cup as an adult that I will get to experience with my father, the man who fostered the love of the beautiful game in me. In many ways it feels like I have come full circle and I intend on Indulging myself to fullest on this year’s football fiesta in Brazil.

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My World Cup Picks for Brazil 2014

Brazil are my favourites to lift the World Cup trophy come the 13th of July. They play the beautiful game just the way I like it. With panache. They are also playing in their own backyard which I believe will give an added advantage, not that they really need it. This Brazilian squad is a young but experienced one but with Neymar Jnr a thrillingly nimble footed inside forward with gossamer touch, a conjurer’s skills to beat a man and, best of all, an air of being entirely unfazed by the rapt attention of the Brazilian populace as their talisman they have a good a chance as anyone to go all the way. Defending Champions Spain on paper are the best team at the tournament and on their best day there are virtually unplayable. The usual suspects, Germany, Italy and Holland should also be in with a chance. If both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have decent tournaments for their respective teams then expect Portugal and Argentina to also be in with a shout.

A mural depicting Brazil's Neymar, Fred and Hulk near São Paulo, where the World Cup begins on Thursday. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

A mural depicting Brazil’s Neymar, Fred and Hulk near São Paulo, where the World Cup begins on Thursday. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

The team that my heart wants to win the tournament is Ghana. Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah was one of the first African countries to gain independence in the early sixties. Their first president Kwame Nkrumah was one of the early pioneers of Pan Africanism. It would make a for a beautiful story if Ghana went on to become the first African country to win the World Cup. The odds though are heavily stacked against the ‘Black Stars’ after being drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside European powerhouse Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and the USA. But hey, if you want to be the best you have got to beat the best. Also after coming a penalty kick away from reaching the semi finals in South Africa four years ago I believe they are due more than just a date with Lady Luck this time around.

Belgium are my dark horse to win the tournament. They had undefeated run to this year’s World Cup finals and boast one of the most talented albeit inexperienced squads at the World Cup. This is definitely Belgium’s golden generation.The neutral in me would to see them win the World Cup. Chile if things go their way are another dark horse. They play a free flowing and dynamic style of football that is a pure joy to watch. A win for Chile would be a win for beautiful football.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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My Top 5 Brazil World Cup 2014 Commercials

1. Nike Soccer – The Last Game

Of all the world cup ads I’ve watched this is the only one that’s in animation. And it’s awesome. It stars the original Ronaldo as Nick Fury. That alone is worth watching the ad for. The ad also features animated versions of Christiano Ronaldo,Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Ribery among others taking on evil clones to restore the unpredictability in football.

 

2. Adidas – The Dream : all in or nothing ft music by Kanye West

This is a call to arms from the team at Adidas. ‘Destiny is not fate. You have a choice. Fear or be feared. Hunt or be hunted. Evolve or die. Now or never. It’s black or white. all in or nothing.’

Sidebar: Bastian Schweinsteiger has the coolest name in world football. If I was German and I was good that good at football my name would definitely be Bastian Schweinsteiger. Just feels awesome saying it. Bastian Schweinsteiger.


3. Beats by Dre – The Game Before The Game ft Neymar Jr, LeBron James, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rio Ferdinand, Serena Williams, and Thierry Henry.

This ad plays out like a trailer to a major Hollywood blockbuster. Narrated by Neymar da Silva Sr the ad looks at the behind the scenes preparations of the world’s most elite football players … ‘Before the goals, before the glory, there is an unseen game played in the locker room.’


4. MacDonald’s GOL! FIFA Brasil World Cup 2014

Despite fitness and McDonald’s not exactly being the best of friends, the fast food giants have come up with a very tricky ad involving some of the coolest moves ever performed with a football. Highlights include one man kicking a ball from a moving truck, over a bridge and into a bucket two metres in front of him.

 

5. Nike Soccer: Winner Stays ft Ronaldo, Neymar Jr, Wayne Rooney etc

A great ad that involves a bunch of kids having a game of football and imitating their idols before literally turning into their idols.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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For The Hip Hop Nerds: ‘Watch The Throne’, A Shakespearean Play By Lev Novak

I love Hip Hop. And I love Shakespeare. While on the surface these two art forms might seem incompatible at their core they are actually quite similar. It’s all in the wordplay. Both art forms appeal to the logophile in me. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to come across a Shakespeare inspired drama based on some of my favourite Hip Hop artists.
‘Watch The Throne’ is a Shakespearean drama written by Lev Novak wrote that deals with the power struggles in Hip Hop. The play features Kanye West, Pusha T, Ludacris, J. Cole, Kim Kardashian, 2 Chainz and the big homie Jay Z amongst others.

‘Watch The Throne’ A Shakespearean Drama By Lev Novak

Act I, Scene I

Kanye is sitting upon the throne of rap. His trusty lieutenant, Pusha T, stands beside him. On the other side is Kim Kardashian.

PUSHA T

My liege,
As Jay-Z hath ascended
Past this mortal realm
The throne has become watched by those that would seek it for themselves
The guilds of rap grow restless, my Lord.
MMG of the north waits patient,
and YMCMB rake their coals in darkness
Even the fiefdoms seek their claim;
A$APs require attention, Asap,
Taylor Gang and TDE watch us from afar,
And, though I hate to report it,
There is a whispering of evil within the very halls of G.O.O.D

(J.Cole enters, triumphant)

J.COLE

I have long said the same,
Oh Pusha.

PUSHA T

Yeuchh.

KANYE

Jermaine? Ah!
So good to see you!

(The two embrace as Pusha watches)

KANYE

Have you found success?

J.COLE

Indeed, Yeezy.
As befitting my princely status,
I have completed my first quest:
I have solidified our treaty with Kendrick of the West.

KANYE

Excellent!
The West, slumbering
May threaten West
Nevermore, without Kendrick’s flow.
But aligned,
The two might prosper.
You have done well Jermaine.

J.COLE

Thank you, Yeezy.
But I have taken a name unto myself: J.Cole

KANYE

Christened by Yeezus, I approve your nameship.
May pressure make you a diamond.
Like the Roc-a-fella’s before us.

(They look skyward)

J.COLE

Praised be J-Hova.

KANYE

Praised be he.

J.COLE

And yet…

KANYE

Yet what, Cole?
Speak.

J.COLE

It was odd;
As I left the palace gates,
I found myself without reinforcement.
Guest verses undelivered,
My album was assailed by critics.
I survived, and persevered but this;
(shows a scar on his face)
Is damage from Pitchfork.

PUSHA T

The fool Don Glover
Found his head upon one.
‘Tis but a scratch.

J.COLE

You shroud your meaning, Pusha,
And speak of my scratch
As though it were not upon my flesh,
But rather a mark upon your records,
And thus fully inconsequential.

PUSHA T

Though you say “Cole World”
You would be wise to be wary of heat;
heated words, of course.
Forgive the entendre.

J.COLE

You are modest in your estimation.
I fear no weapon.
But am wary of he who wields them.

(J.Cole leaves, an eye to Pusha.)

KANYE

This is heavy news to ponder.
Pusha, I require my jester

PUSHA T

Yeuch.

(Pusha T summons 2 Chainz enters in his jester gear.)

KANYE

Two Chainz,
my head is weary, as though two chains,
each heavy,
hung around my neck.
Tell me, oh Jester,
Is ruling yet a fool’s errand?

2 CHAINZ

If it were, your majesty,
you’d have sent me in your stead.
(Ludacris enters, in all his finery.)

KANYE

Hear, oh wise Ludacris,
That you are welcome in my presence.
Oh, wise Luda, hear how Jay-Z hath ascended
And left me to follow in his wake.
It is I, now, who must watch the throne
From King Richard the Ross and of Weezy F. Baby,
The occult swamp-man who threatens to devour us all.

LUDACRIS

Ay, and you have asked for my partnership.
A wise decision, Kanye.
For indeed, my clan of DTP is mighty
In the southern realms of this land,
And together,
We can rule this land as brothers.
Though shrouded in irony, we may keep the peace.

KANYE

Nay, Ludacris;
I cannot split my rule of this kingdom.
I ask not for your partnership, but for your service.

LUDACRIS

A knee?
Nay!
Wise Luda, you have called me,
Yet you play me for the fool.
I serve standing, never hunched like your jester.
He used to be a rapper, a man amongst us,
Though he ran from my service only to find your favor?
An outrage!
He hath 2 Chainz, oh Yeezy,
But no honor.

2 CHAINZ

Aye, take me for a fool?
Perhaps, and that path be quite oft taken to my benefit.
They laugh, oh Luda, but I do so to the bank.
Why, for me to be forgotten or broke,
Why, that would be Ludacris.

LUDACRIS

Knave!

(Ludacris draws his sword)

KANYE

Luda!
There shall be no violence in this halls.

LUDACRIS

Hear, Yeezy, how I work alone.
But for respect to you, I swear an oath of separation.
I will not be disturbing the peace.
Keep your clan-mates with you, but be wary, O Yeezy,
Some watch the throne
When they should watch their court.

(Ludacris exits.)

KANYE

Pusha!
Oh, my trusted advisor!
How might I handle a foe, oh Pusha?

PUSHA T

My liege?

KANYE

A foe.
In glorious battle, with the colors of banners
And the roar of my warriors, the clashing of weapons and diss-tracks-
What a spectacle!
But tell me, Pusha, who radiates a glory near mine?

PUSHA T

None, my lord.

KANYE

Indeed, Pusha, and this worries me greatly.
Jigga, the king before me,
rests amongst the greats
Having defeated countless foes.
But who may I face?
Who can match my luster?

PUSHA T

One may exist.

KANYE

You are kind, Pusha
But I doubt that.
Still, as I pursue greatness.
Can I trust you,
Pusha,
To do what is necessary?

PUSHA T

By Biggie’s Ghost,
I pledge my loyalty, now and forever,
To the ‘Ye.

KANYE
I sense in you the truth.
I retire gladly, Pusha.
I leave to examine leather skirts.

(Kanye exits)

PUSHA T

For truth, I am loyal to the ‘Ye.
The yeyo, cocaine, sweet white.
Hard white, they call you,
though you be soft in my embrace.
Kilo’s, soft as pillows,
how I long for you in my bed.
Caine, oh Caine!
It is for you, my love,
that I will ascend the throne myself.
Forgive me, Pac! Forgive me, Biggie!
I betray for love, of the game and of the game.
As Cain killed Abel, I too am able for ‘Caine.
Yuch.
See how I have come to loath the man Yeezy
For now the throne is watched
Observed by paparazzi
Bloggers and more
Nerds, hovering over us
Casting a shadow over rhymes
This doth provoke in me a malice
And such as Malice is my brother
I find it inseparable from my motivation.
That I may avenge Clipse with clips
And take the throne I have earned.
(Offstage he hears the click of heels)
Yea, for the strumpet approaches
I must keep my plans disguised.
Yuch, I say, Yuch,
For the Kardashian comes quick.

KIM

Oh Pusha,
hath thou seen my husband?

PUSHA T

Kris Humphries is out,
m’lady.

KIM

Rouge! My husband, my love,
the famed and talented-

PUSHA T

Ray J?
KIM

Yeezy. Oh Pusha, push me not.
My plans move beyond you,
With rapid steps measured in weeks and years.
My wealth exceeds yours, as does my wit.
You pushed cocaine?
I too sold poison-
Myself!
Loved, loathed and consumed
By every fiend across this country.
Do not doubt me, Pusha.
Keeping up with the Kardashians is a fools errand.

PUSHA T

Such that your viewers are. I am inclined to agree.

KIM
You are an ass, Pusha
And one that rivals even my own.

(Kim moves beyond Pusha to the kingly chamber, her eyes at the mirror behind the throne)

You can read the rest of Act I, Scene 1 here, Act I, Scene II  ( ft Drake, Nikki Minaj, Lil Wayne & Tyga here

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Follow Friday: Teju Cole (Writer)

Blaise Pascal once wrote that writing succinctly can be hard. It’s something many of us aim for, yet few of us master. As awriter who is often guilty of rambling on and subsequently going off on tangents I couldn’t agree more. Writing succinctly is hard for me. My words are my babies. I want them all to shine on the blank page. After the first draft is done I find it difficult to edit out the unnecessary words. Brevity has never been my forte. Neither has been simplicity. But that is something that I continue to work on improving.

To be able to condense an idea into as few words as possible without compromising it requires clarity of thought and a ruthlessness with words that eludes me on most days. And that is one of the reasons I like Twitter and admire those who I regard as masters at tweeting. A tweet gives you only 140 characters to express yourself. It is the perfect training ground for writing succinctly in that regard. Especially for someone like me who needs the practice. But it’s not just having a platform to practice on that appeals to me. There is also the added bonus of getting an insight into the workings of the minds of other writers and ‘Creatives’, one tweet at a time. (Sidebar: I have never been a fan of people calling themselves ‘Creatives’. Doesn’t sound very ummm … creative. Intellectual property developer on the other hand…)

If there is one person who is brilliant at the art of writing succinctly it’s the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole. Teju Cole a published author of the 2011 bestselling book ‘Open City’ is a master of tweeting. He puts the wit in Twitter. He is able to play the most beautiful games with language using just 140 characters. 

This is not an easy feet by any means. I have tried. And failed. Dismally. I first became aware of Teju Cole a few years ago when he was doing his Small Fates project on Twitter. He would tell a story based on stories he read in the papers in just one tweet. He was somehow able to paint a complete picture while leaving out almost all the details. I was in awe. I still am.

“I don’t normally do this kind of thing”: 45 small fates (Tweets) by Teju Cole

Ever since his timeline has continued to be a both a source of inspiration and a reminder of the beauty of simplicity.

Teju Cole’s musings on Twitter provide a haven from the clutter of all too similar tweets about the latest breaking story. Unlike a lot of people on Twitter, Cole doesn’t spend much time regurgitating other people’s opinions.This makes him one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As these tweets suggest, Teju Cole can run the gamut of literary genres on Twitter: reportage, epigram, autobiography. But what I find most refreshing is how much they revel in their simplicity. And therein lays his genius.

You can follow him @tejucole

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Dambudzo Marechera – His Life and Work (In His Own Words)

Dambudzo

There’s an intimacy, a familiarity with writers and their readers unlike any other relationship. They allow us access to their lives. And not just their peripheral existences, but their deepest fears, their most uncomfortable memories, their subconscious motivations, their haven’t-yet-showered morning mirror reflections. They allow us to know them without us actually knowing them. They give us their lives. We give them our attention.

And, when a writer dies, they leave behind a dichotomous legacy that’s equal parts surreal and…tender. You mourn their death while appreciating the fact that their work — the thing that made them so vibrant, so kinetic, so alive — is immortal.

One of Zimbabwe’s and Africa’s greatest literary minds Dambudzo Marechera would have been 62 today. Dambudzo Marechera might have died years ago. But Dambudzo Marechera will always be here. He will continue to teach. He will continue to challenge. He will continue to inspire. He will continue to be. His legacy lives on.

Dambudzo Marechera, Cemetery of Mind. (In his own writing here.)

Dambudzo Marechera, Cemetery of Mind. (In his own writing here.)

 

According to information gathered from a series of audio interviews conducted in Marechera’s flat at 8 Sloane Court, Harare, Zimbabwe, by Alle Lansu in February 1986:

‘Dambudzo Marechera was born on June 4 1952 in Rusape, Zimbabwe and baptised Charles William Marechera. His father, Isaac, was a trucker and mortuary attendant, and his mother, Masvotwa Venezia was a nanny. However, Dambudzo won scholarships to St Augustine’s Secondary School, to the University of Zimbabwe and to New College, Oxford. He has the distinction of having been expelled from all three.

After his expulsion from Oxford, Marechera hitchhiked to London, and claimed to have lived in a riverside tent there while he wrote ‘The House of Hunger’ – a novella and some short stories. With a theme that questioned what had happened to his generation–that of the first politically conscious, educated Africans–the book caused a literary stir and won several impressive reviews when it was published by the esteemed Heinemann publishing house in 1978. It was championed by well-known writers, and earned the Guardian newspaper’s prize for debut fiction the following year.

House of Hunger was followed by four other novels, ‘Black Sunlight’ (1980),’The Black Insider’ (1990) and ‘Mindblast’ (1884). His poetry, collected together in ‘Cemetery of Mind’, was published posthumously in 1992.

After his departure from Oxford, he lived and wrote in London until his return to Zimbabwe in 1982. Dambudzo died an untimely and tragic death on August 18 1987, in Harare.

Marechera’s work, his ideas and his defiance, live on in Zimbabwe, particularly amongst the youth, who find inspiration in his willingness to be the lone outsider, challenging conventional and authoritarian views.’

Dambudzo Marechera; His Life and Work an Interview by Alle Lansu

Childhood

Here he offers some insight into what it was like growing up in Vengere Township in Rusape , in the then Rhodesia ( now Zimbabwe). He talks about how he got his first books from a rubbish dump in the white part of town.

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Escaping the House of Hunger

‘Getting out of the House of Hunger is easy if you know that there is a way out. It’s about education and ignoring the poverty around you. It’s very selfish. Reading is what taught me that there was another world out there and I wanted to break into it’.

He goes on to speak on how he became the first black African student to score 20 points (Straight A’s) for his A’ Level exams and that is how he won a full scholarship to study any university in the world. He chose the University of Zimbabwe because he ‘wanted to experience what it was like going at our highest education institution. I wanted to become part of our national struggle’. He was expelled from the University of Zimbabwe in 1973 and went on to attend Oxford University in the UK.

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Oxford and London

He talks about his bookish knowledge of the UK which he had picked from the authors he read and how the reality of being on British soil was so disappointing. He points out that by being a scholar at Oxford he became a member of the aristocracy by default. He couldn’t drink with other black people because they considered him other and he didn’t really fit in the student pubs either. ‘All the time I was in Oxford I didn’t belong anywhere. So I just read and drank and listened to my classical music. This showed him the ‘irrelevancy of being part of Oxford University.’ He goes on to say this experience ‘radicalized my mind in an international way’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

Back In Zimbabwe 

 

Here discusses his homelessness and run ins with the authorities upon his return to his homeland after his return to Zimbabwe in 1982. He also discusses his relationship with a German expatriate teacher who taught in Mutoko who would feed him and book a hotel room for both them when she was in Harare for weekends. During the week he would sleep in the streets. This was the period in which he wrote Mindblast. In is own words ‘I was having a normal life by installments. Each Sunday morning I would wake up and we would know that she is going back to school to teach and I am going back to the streets.’

 

On the Future of Zimbabwean Literature

‘If every writer is actually helped to not only discover his vision and talent but also to fashion it out in such a way that he re-evaluates himself and at the same time achieves both national and international recognition then there is a tremendous future for Zimbabwean literature.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

His Vision for African Literature

In this part of the interview he shares his thoughts on traditional and modern African Literature as well as his views on the works of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka , Ngugi wa Thiong’o etc as well as the concept of negritude. His speaks of Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o as the African writers who had the biggest influence on him as a writer. Ngugi wa Thiong’o ‘Weep Not Child’ was the first book by an African writer that he read. Up to this point he had never thought that blacks could be writers. In his own words he thought to himself ‘If another African can do it then I am going to do it.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Let Me Write and Drink My Beer

‘There is a disconnection between my profession as a writer and the needs of a developing country like Zimbabwe. People considered my writing as an indulgence. There is no tradition in Zimbabwe of writing as a profession. People thought of me as unemployed and merely as a vagabond who refusing to do any constructive … Just live me alone to write and drink my beer.’

You can listen to this part of the interview below

 

Thank you Dambduzo. For the words. And the inspiration.

 
 

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Sam Smith: A Really Soulful Dude. I’m A Fan.

Unrequited love is a hell of a muse.

Just ask Adele. And Frank Ocean. And Sam Smith. Who? Sam Smith. Sam Smith is one of the latest in an impressive production line of soul singers that have come out of the UK in the last couple of years. Could it be all that tea and crumpets? Oh the fish and chips perhaps? Whatever it is I am just glad they are putting the soul back into our radios. Shouts to Emeli Sandé.

Personally I think Sam Smith owned the Queen of R&B herself Mary J Blige on ‘Stay With Me’ duet. I actually prefer his solo version to be honest.

 

Sam Smith’s voice is sublime. You feel it before you hear it. And that’s just about as soulful as it gets. When I found out he was a 22 year old white guy I was even more impressed by the soulful inflections in his voice because traditionally the most soulful singers have tended to be black. And Sam Smith is just as soulful as any other cats out there. Fact. His voice speaks for itself. Admittedly I only caught onto his music a few weeks ago. But as soon as I heard his beautifully soulful voice on the radio I fell in love with his music. At the time I had no idea who the artist was. Where is Shazam when you need it? Sigh. It would be a few days before I would finally found out that the man behind the voice was none other Sam Smith. And the song that had initially piqued my interest? His latest single ‘Leave Your Lover’ of his debut album the ‘‘In The Lonely Hour’.

 

Since then I have made it my mission to listen to this young soul impresario’s music. And as I embarked on this journey I become more and more of a fan. Songs like ‘Money On Mind’, ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Nirvana’ reminded of how of an old soul I actually am. That even in this increasingly digital world I am an analogue at heart. There is a certain warmth and humanity in Sam Smith’s voice that is so refreshing especially when juxtaposed against most of the mainstream vapid ‘music’. This is something that he addressed in a recent interview with The Fader magazine when he said;

‘I want to make the music that’s not there anymore. I’m so passionate about the singing voice. I genuinely feel like there’s a snobbery in the industry where people feel like playing an instrument makes you a better songwriter or musician. What I’m trying to do actually with my album is show that it’s my voice that’s leading. It’s my voice that’s the instrument. It’s hard, it’s difficult—I watch artists around me that have 200 fans waiting outside of hotels and venues for them and they can’t sing.’

Outside of his music I also dug a little into the story of the man behind the voice. And the first thing I picked up on was the parallels between some aspects of his story and that of Frank Ocean, another soulful singer whose music I absolutely adore. Like Frank Ocean before him the inspiration for Sam Smith’s Album ‘In The Lonely Hour’ was drawn from love gone wrong. Unrequited love to be specific. And for both artists the person who they loved was a man. It seems men are quite the muses when it comes to this thing called unrequited love. Shouts to Adele.

In some instances both Sam Smith and Frank Ocean’s music is confessional and serves as a platform for them to ‘come out’ per se. ‘Leave Your Lover’ is to Sam Smith what ‘Bad Religion’ was to Frank Ocean. As a listener whilst I have never been in love with a man, I have experienced unrequited love. I think everyone who has ever opened themselves up to love has at some point. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or charming you are. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. At some point we have all loved someone who hasn’t necessarily loved us back. Life.

And that’s the beauty of art. Our experiences don’t have to be identical. They just have to resonate. Therein lays the magic in Sam Smith’s music. It resonates. It tugs at your heartstrings. It moves you. And if you are lucky enough it makes you more appreciative of the love that you currently have in your life. In the same cover story for The Fader magazine Sam Smith had this to say about the inspiration behind his album.

‘In the Lonely Hour’ is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?

What’s a more powerful emotion; pain or happiness? That is a very good question. One that I will leave you to marinate on whilst I continue marinating on Sam Smith’s music.

 

You can read the full The Fader cover story on Sam Smith in which he opens up about his life and love here.

 
 

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