Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dar Noir Movie Review (kind of).

This is a fun movie. Don't take your Mom to see it, though. 

Some guy who is entirely too familiar with the darkest parts of cinema (cough: life) made a Noir about Dar. Now, I thought I knew Noir but this bro was throwing in movie tropes that don't even exist  even in the impolite world of African cinema (unless you are the kind of awesome freak who watches actual independent African cinema). Somewhere between nearly quitting because the anti-hero's beard was crusted in puke and wondering why a heroin head would try to get a blowjob, I had an epiphany.

This is exactly the kind of movie that upsets folk because folk need some upsetting. Hallelujah. And it was beautiful too, which only adds insult to injury. The peeps who made it clearly love cinema. There was a frisky, dangerous dame, and there was a complicated wreck of a charming guy and there was some urban crime and there was some resultant violence. And there was some laughter, but most of the time the comedic elements were under-appreciated. 

Is this movie good? Sure, I'd rather watch it again than most 99% of what comes out of the big studios. Was it that good? No, it could be better. Like, seriously I Love Old Hollywood better. Did I dig it? You bet. You should watch it, it gives you that sweet feeling of when people were young and daring and they told visual stories and they didn't have enough money and sometimes they didn't have enough skill but that's how they took you on an adventure made it real people fun. Remember when the movies were fun? I do. 

That's why you should watch this. Seriously, though: don't take your Mom to the premier. Fake a terrible illness if you have to. 

*bonus: The general shows up in it, pouchy eyes and dubious moral fiber and all. He's got a nice line in minimal dialogue. Also, the old-school Mercedes Benz was a right tight touch as a character. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Free Speech, I Think...

You ever fall into a deeply metaphorical mood? When connections between disparate things somehow make sense and then you want to explore them and then you write an article and hit send and then you realize that maybe it was a bit (a lot) weird and why can't you just be normal for goodness sakes? Yeah? No? 

Guys, even I am not entirely sure this one worked. But it was the one that wanted to come out, so. 
"I learned a valuable lesson from Donald Trump recently, a lesson about freedom of speech. It was a complex one, based on contradiction. There is footage online shot by the alternative news channel Young Turks of him at one of his rallies, spouting the most chilling hate-speech towards his detractors. He spends quite a bit of time whipping up a mob frenzy to the point where journalists and various people get evicted from the premises with increasing use of force. He uses the terms 'they' and 'us' with a dangerous recklessness.
There he stands waving his arms and I realized that one day in a class about totalitarianism, this footage will come up. He might be crazier than a geriatric african despot, but he has the right to share that insanity with his fellow Americans, because one of the fundamental things that make this illogical man possible in America in 2016 is their reverence for freedom of speech.

It is a distinct pleasure to be able to welcome The EastAfrican back to Tanzania in her physical form after an absence of one year. Regimes have changed and so have ministers et cetera so there is no need to revisit old grievances. However this triumph has been somewhat dimmed by the concurrent banning of another newspaper, Mawio, over charges of seditious content. Here we go again with the contradictions."  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Racism, Immigration and Other Light Topics.

Oh, it's not that Tanzanians aren't racist: we are. Flamingly so. It's just that we let the simmering resentments bubble up slowly in Kiswahili where nobody can hear them until they are ready to scald everyone. Yet somehow we manage to take the lid off the pot before the house burns down. 

"We have, on the state broadcaster no less, a program dedicated to interviewing Tanzanians who have migrated legally or illegally to greener economic pastures. It is a great show, no holds barred, with folks talking about how to stow-away on ships to South Africa and such. Hint: teach your children how to swim, Tanzanian parents, you never know if they're going to need it. We all know who pipelines the opiates from Asia to the continent and beyond. It's a little ridiculous for us to claim moral authority on the issue of migration: forced, legal or otherwise."

I can't imagine Dar without her Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese restaurants. Her mexican-indian food and her pilaus and octopus curries. If anyone even attempts to get in the way of the benefits that migration has conferred upon my palate, I get a little cranky. 

Speaking of cranky, just a quick note: So Kenyans are constantly getting in touch about my apparent anti-Kenyan sentiments and I just want to say two things: nobody disses the hell out of the ones they don't love, so appreciate the backhanded compliment for the stinging endorsement that it is and leave my gmail alone. And I do love Kenya. Specifically, the rugby team. Who are welcome to Dar anytime, guys, anytime. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vema.

This has been a long post coming, composed in my heart sometime in 2012 and never to be shared until the time came.

My old man passed away last November. He had been ailing for a couple years before, and his rental in the ancestor parking lot was in no way unexpected. Dude got to live to 85 years and see some grandkiddies along the way. He was happy. He let us know that he was happy. And that he'd just like to take a goddamn nap already if we would just let him. We didn't. He still managed to walk through the veil with slick dignity. His independent spirit, like his suits, were crisp and never chosen for him by anyone.

When I started writing I was a kid, you know. Valentine was one of the few people who never gave me stress about it, because it was no big deal. It was cool to be quiet in his presence- some people just have that aura. It was restful.

My old man always greeted any achievement with a lazy eye and an afterthought of a statement. "Vema" was his greatest praise. He always took competence for granted. He raised the bar, and then he raised it higher and then he threw the goddamn bar somewhere you would actually have to work to find it. Talk about an extreme form of fetch. Because he was a mean motherfucker when he wanted to be, he gave me all the confidence in the world to be myself.

Anyone can be coddled and shrifted by some well-meaning folk. Earning Valentine's respect in an intellectual way, tho? There is no comparison. Just, you know, none. We fought and we had some healthy fights. We disagreed with a thick and informed vigor. We disappointed each other, sometimes terribly. And then we came back the next day to read each other's recommended books. Laugh about life. Agree to disagree (most times). And not be scared of being.

When I started writing and stuff for outside consumption, I always wrote with him in mind. People would ask: aren't you intimidated, and where do you find the balls to say what you do about Tanzania in The Eastafrican? I never bothered to tell them. Why would I? Point of having a superpower is having a secret weapon, neh? Because Valentine was such a tough customer- and I loved that- it has been hard to find other folks intimidating. I certainly am in awe of some writers to the point of fawning, but that's it.

My old man's greatest form of praise arrived in a single word. "Vema." He would say this whether you had won the Concours D'Orthographe's trip to New York or burned the hell out of a well-meaning pot of mashed potatoes. His assumption that his children could just man up and live according to their own imperfections and achievements was... well. More than a little rock and roll. It was liberating.

So when he started reading the stuff that I put out there, I was nervous. He was himself, reticent about giving feedback. But one day he looked me in the eye and gave the world's best compliment: 'Vema." With Valentine, 'vema' meant you were so good you weren't even worth the bother of flattery, coddling, correction, apology, protection or anything else. So long as you just stood on your own two feet, he was cool with that.

It was a point of pride for his family to bury Valentine right. We did it, thankfully. But I never got to say to him some things, like thanks for the seriously wicked sense of humor and the ear for music. The sneakiness and the deeply buried kindness and the excellently curated taste-buds. The shyness and the courage and the language. The language. The language. All the forms of expression.

Vema.


A little birdie told me...

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