It’s Lonely Here

I believe it’s a very wise sage person who said that insomnia is a bitch. If not, I say it now. It has been few cups of coffee down the line. The writer’s cups of coffee which sometimes are more destructive than helpful. It’s four in the morning and my eyes cannot even blink, let alone close for some sleep.

I open my windows 8 music app. It does not have any playlist and it displays “it’s lonely here”. The statement can’t be truer. It’s lonely here. It has been said that this has been the hottest month Nairobi has ever got. Temperatures averaging at 28 degrees and sometimes shooting to 32. Then just when we are getting used to the heat they plummet to 14. This is not what normally happens, actually it doesn’t happen.

We have been busy chasing politics looking forward to the elections. Maybe we haven’t noticed yet but these are effects of global warming. Jokes have been going round the social media that we need a president who will equalise the heat in Nairobi with the cold at the top of Mt. Kenya and create an equilibrium. Or maybe the sun has moved an inch closer to the earth and some other light remarks. The jokes will always be there, but will the heat always be ‘just enough’? Will it always see us to the end of the day and just when we get used to it we have freezing temperatures?

Earth is our home, until curiosity makes sure that mars can support life. Until we can travel through space at light speed (warp) and go past our solar system to find other class M planets and galaxies. We will not be here when that happens, if it ever happens. But there will be humans who will still exist. Will they be living in bunkers underground because the surface can no longer support life? Nobody seems to realise that this might actually happen. Not the politically charged governments or you, the individual.

When I was growing up our playground used to be the road adjacent to our home. The road was always muddy with small springs producing water all year round. The ditches on the sides where always full of water. Clean, unpolluted water which nobody had a use for. The nearby stream never did dry up all the year round and in the rainy season the only way to cross it was by a group of people holding hands to create a credible mass. An individual would be easily swept away. I have been there recently. The road is really dry and dusty. As dry as it can be. The small springs on the side are a forgotten story. They are not there even during the rainy season. The stream running from the hills is pathetic. The only thing which signifies that sometimes there is water there is the sandy, dug out river bed and rocks on the sides. It is actually a man-made gully due to sand harvesting. A few years to come there will be nothing because the occasional rains will be forever gone due deforestation.

Are we creating deserts for the future generations? This is sadly true although you might make a difference. Begin by reducing your carbon footprint as we urge the governments to do so too. That way we might change the future which right now looks bleak.


Applied Theories of Expanding Minds – Review

I bumped in to this film at African Digital Art. Intrigued by the title. I decided to give it a go. It’s an experimental science film set in a Kenya which has just freed itself from the Chinese domination.

A group, or a tribe living in the outside of Nairobi has decided to break apart from the norm, and write new customs. They will organise themselves from the rules set by earth’s magnetic field changes.

The makers have not given the timeframe of when this happens but a general assumption is that it’s in the future. That is when you wonder why post China controlled Africa still has PIL plastic bags, Fresh Fry cooking oil, Coca-Cola etc. The buildings, the surroundings also look to ordinary. The open air market apart from having Chinese music playing in the background looks like what you would find in Toi market.

The tribes listen/observe the rituals nearly everywhere. You can notice a church like building with plastic chairs where they sit in silence and listen. And they listen for a tad bit too long. You get a feeling though it’s a short film, the scenes are overstretched. Repetition is also a factor which is evident in some scenes.

This tribe makes patterns, beautiful patterns from the sounds as they listen and interpret them. The make patterns from their clothes and display them. In the house, on the streets, on the large hollow somehow lifeless stadiums where the sky looks dull and ominous.

If you are a fan of experimental film this is a recommended watch.

Applied Theories of Expanding Minds from Crystal Beacon on Vimeo.

Silicone Savannah, A midsummer’s dream?

An artist with a paint brush gives a canvas a breath of life. Minds, great and not so great have chosen the barren land that is Konza for glory. A visit there at the moment will reveal a land which is still somehow a virgin. It has undergone a wide variety of changes since time immemorial but it has never been defiled. Disregarding the monster that is the climate change.

Crickets are chirping. The sounds, though monotonous, are happy.  An antelope will run on the plains as the sun comes out from the east. A beautiful sight. Press the fast forward button. Soles tap on the concrete with the nearly monotonous click-clack. Making their way to the offices. A city borne in the savannah. Built by infrastructure. Not people.

Grand, post-modern offices overlooking an artificial lake. How cool is that. They are shining, glowing in the morning sun rising from the east. Ultra-modern skyscrapers nearly overshadowing the ever blue sky. The city has its head in the clouds, literally. Welcome to the city of the future. Nearly resembling a scene out of a science fiction movie. Electric cars produce and audible hum. The technology is getting even better. The once hypothetical hover-cars from Volkswagen are now a reality, and what’s a better place to test them but in an all tech city?

It is a $7 billion dollar project. The project will lead to creation of 200,000 jobs in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and in related I.T services and sectors. The ground breaking was held recently after being continuously postponed due to lack of interest from the private sector. A lot of cash has been spent on advertising and marketing it.

Is the project aimed at hoodwinking the public and making the government look good? Many, I included would like to think so. I do not think the main target group, the real stakeholders, the techies, were consulted when it was thought up. The government could have first provided high speed internet to the wanjiku. That could be a start. After the hullabaloo of the optic-fibre, unless I am in a good office I result to using an Internet dongle from a service provider who milks every cent in exchange for slow speeds. There are five tech hubs on Ngong road. They could really do with subsidized rent, high speed cheap internet and government support. That is getting in touch with the people. The people who can bring this mammoth city to life.

An artists’ impression of the city shows nearly all the logos of the big multi-national tech companies. Some which came out of Silicon Valley as startups. I don’t if this is just to make a point or those are the people they want there. I don’t have a problem with Apple or Microsoft setting up shop there. But what is government doing to ensure the startups coming up every day are not dead within a year and in the future they will create jobs there? I would be happy if  Shoppers Galore had a space there. But it died before it started due to the red tape existing in the country.

They have tried to paint a picture of the city. I do hope they are wrong though. If you are financially embarrassed with dreams of ground breaking innovation Konza may not be for you. The last time I checked most of the youth/techies fit the description. It seems the city is tailored for multi-nationals and any locals firms with lots of money.

Abyss Stares Back

’If you gaze for long in to an abyss, the abyss starts gazing at you’’ Mark Twain
When Joe Kipe died, he left behind a beautiful mansion. Three cats, four mongrels, an owl and a crazy parrot which hated the owl. Circumstances leading to his death were unclear and remain so to date. It was usually spoken in hushed tones, as if his silhouette might appear behind the shoulder of the speaker and grab any light available and subject him/her to untold torture. Up to date, no one dares shout the suspicions lest a tall skeleton walked besides and said hello as if this happens every day. My fingers hover over the keyboard as if unsure of what to do afraid some unseen force might snap them off.
I was ten years then, young and inquisitive like any other kid my age. Kipe was our neighbour who kept to himself. Every day morning you could see him strolling leisurely on his way to the shopping centre for a cup of hot coffee and catching the gossip of the past night in the process. This did not mean he was not able to have it in the comfort of his own home, but a rumour went around that nothing was cooked on his kitchen before noon. Whoever had come up with it I could not figure out but it was said in hushed tones lest he heard. A balcony was set on the west side of his mansion. This is where he sat in the evenings gazing at the setting sun drinking some weird stuff from a black coca cola like bottle. As far as everybody knew, coca cola did not make black bottles. East Africa breweries did but not in the shape Kipe used to hold. Another rumour still circulated about this. Kipe drunk blood like a vampire though he was human. This like all the others was unconfirmed. He could have been sipping water or amarula as far as I was concerned. His house was solar lighted, a major achievement in our part of country since electricity was decades away. It shined in dark nights and was noticeable from far. Though folks were wary of him, they were still proud to be neighbours of development. Still hearsay cropped up. The tall mango tree on the east side of his compound used to catch fire occasionally and never burned. It was comparable to Mosses’ burning bush. I never saw it and I have serious doubts if anybody did but in a sleepy village where nothing of significance happened, a meaningless rumour could grow viral.
The night he died was pin drop silent. Bright full moon was lighting our village and everybody was at peace with himself. A distant hoot of an owl was usually heard. Definitely the bird of Minerva was not the one belonging to Kipe. His was too near to sound distant. The raucous cry seemed to come in intervals of at most fifteen minutes if I am not mistaken. This was ominous sign according to my nearly senile grandmother. Many times I thought she had simply lost her marbles but she was damn serious about this. We huddled by the fire place and continued to listen to her tales which grew sweeter by day. Every time the hoot pierced the air, she would pause, look nervously around, mumble some incoherent words and spit on to fire place. She told us this was to appeasethe angry ancestors who were gearing up to snatch a soul from our small knit community. If she could do it in a satisfactory manner they would postpone it or avert it completely.
Kipe had an adopted son and had never married in his whole life which was rather uncanny especially in an African community like ours. Everybody his age already had grandchildren. The son was the same age as me and he attended a boarding school. I do not remember any instance I interacted with him before they took him in. Either Kipe did not let him out of the gate or he preferred to stay indoors. I only got glimpses of him when I stood by the fence and stared at kipe’s homestead. He was a mixed blood kid as far as I could tell. He had pitch black hair which grew in long strands unlike the kinky type popular with everybody and a chocolate complexion with a pointed nose. All in all, nobody thought there was something unusual with kipe’s son. It came as a big surprise when kipe’s body was found the next morning lying on his bed lifeless. His blood was spluttered all over the chest and nearly the whole of his face. A deep gash was evident on his chest on the heart’s exact spot. It was an extremely ghastly sight and I and any other small children just got a brief glimpse of it. It was the first time that I stepped on to Joe Kipe’s compound though he was the next door neighbour. As much as folks feared and loathed him, nobody could afford not to pity him when he had come to such a tragic demise. Ours was a small community where murders rarely happened and this was the first one since I took a gush of polluted air of this earth. What made it unique is that it was performed by his adopted son who was surprisingly ten years old. For him to accomplish such a feat left everybody in awe.
According to police report which I acquired recently, the kid sneaked up on him in the dead of the night. Using him a heavy sharpened object he gave him a hefty blow on the chest and he did not have a moment to let out a gasp before the soul escaped. These details were not available to a kid of my age at the time. They still do not know the reasons behind the kid’s brutality. Many conclusions based on rumours came up at the time of his death. Since he was associated with the dark side while he was alive, he had displeased the demons and they had decided to get done with him. Another one surfaced. The kid was a devil in human form. Since nobody knew the kids origin, it was easy to believe this one. Folks needed something to lay the blame on and talk about while gathered in the market centre. The unconfirmed conclusions increased the fear of kipe’s home which was left with no occupants after the police bundled the kid on their car. We never got to see him again. His funeral had multitudes of people who were there not because they loved Kipe but out of curiosity. And a curious funeral it was. Kipe apparently had no relatives other than his son. This served to rouse more suspicions and ignite more baseless rumours. I was perched on top of the mango tree which was claimed to light up sometimes. Here I got to experience a bird’s eye view of the proceedings on the ground. Perched there, I was apprehensive waiting for some action on the ground. Maybe the ground would open up and swallow a chunk of ‘mourners’ or Kipe would rise from the dead and chase everybody away. 
……………………………………….To be continued

Guest post.

Sometimes in my wanderings I get to meet cool people. People who may or may not think am cool too. I leave them with my blog address and some pass by, some do not. No hard feelings at all. There is that minority which passes by and comes back. They keep doing it until they stick. @esther_kariuki is one such person. I met her at some event I was covering last year in Safari Park. We talked a little about rock music and literature then parted after I gave her my blog address.  Later she tracked me and became a regular reader here. She writes too but she does not blog. I convinced her to do a guest post and here it is.


    For most of us book-lovers, correction, word-lovers, our first introduction to beautiful literature was the popular Fairy Tales. I can attribute my zealous passion for reading to my mother. It’s the same for most people.
    Since I discovered the truth about my most treasured stories (which was not long ago), I’ve grown to loathe them by the passing hour. I do not look back at the years I’ve fantasized about a ‘happily ever after’ ending of my life with nostalgia but rather with disgust. Memories of the Sunday mornings I’d extend my stay in bed painting mental pictures of blissful life I wish to blot out permanently. If erasing memories is an art to be mastered I’d eagerly sign up for classes.
    These modified tales that we’ve all at some point read all have a universal gospel that GOOD triumphs over EVIL. This teaching is not too different from what religion preaches, I believe. If were upto me children would never be exposed to such falsities. Life is not an apple pie. These books do not equip anyone for the wicked world we’re living in. They just go about making folks stupidly innocent and absurdly fantastical.
    You can’t blame one for living in their own Utopia only to be knocked back to reality by some unpleasant real world experience. You really can’t, not with the ideas drummed in from the kind of books they read. BUT if we were to read the original Fairy Tales we would have less naivety circumscribing us. Gruesome or not they depict how vile man can be. They’d awaken every nerve in a person and make them as never imagined.
    I was at first appalled by the tales but I realize now that they are not mere sick imaginations of authors. They hold so much truth if pondered critically.
    The original version of ‘The Little Red Riding Hood’ by Charles Perrault is an interesting one. In the first place, little red riding hood is a young lady and not a child as in the modified version. She heeds the advice of a wolf and ends up dead as the wolf eats her. The moral is clear, not to trust strangers.
    Hans Christian Andersan’s ‘Little Mermaid’ depicts a reality that most people shudder from facing. Ariel, the mermaid, falls in love with Erick but as is the case in real life, her love is not reciprocated. Erick instead marries a princess. The depressed Ariel commits suicide most probably out of depression. Some might argue that children should not be introduced to such strong ideas of death but I’d say a lesson might be learnt. Rejection is always a possibility and aware of this fact one will be better placed to face it.
    My favourite fairy tale is ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In the original version, when the wicked queen ordered the huntsman to murder poor Snow White, she demanded her lungs and liver. They were not only to serve as evidence of the killing but they’d also be served as dinner! Obviously she had to suffer for this, and her punishment? The queen was to dance to her death with red hot iron shoes on. I do not for a minute advocate for inhuman corporal punishment but it does go on.
    ‘Sleeping Beauty’s’ original version made me shed a tear but that’s life for you; A Fairy Tale, wicked.