Pakistani comedic class terms

Via Language Log I came across this delightful conversation on some whimsical slang terms Pakistanis use to express class and class affectation. It's a hilarious exchange in its own right, and as a bonus it makes me think of similar terms in Nigeria (although I'm over a decade dated in my Naija slang).

[Mr. Fradia]: ...mummy-daddy refers to someone who is not [independent] enough etc. Burger is used more for ppl who are stuck up and wanna-be western types.

There are many terms for both in naija slang, but it makes me think of the term (originally Lagosian, I think) aje-butter, which refers to someone who is a soft, namby-pamby, mama's boy as a result of having lived too much of the supposed good life in the US, UK, etc. I know too well: I was viciously set upon as an aje-butter when we moved from Florida to Enugu, then Owerri, Nigeria in 1980.

[Zakiii]: I can understand someone wanting to Black/Latino but why English/American?

[Mr. Fradia (responding]: i suppose they want to be preppie rather than ghetto [<grin>]

This exchange intrigued me. As far as I can tell these folks are all living in Pakistan. I have been getting the sense recently that if US and UK culture seem to be universally soluble, that lately it's been urban Hip-Hop or yardie culture that has been filling the aspirational role for youngsters in developing nations. I was early to Hip-Hop, and while others in my class wanted to be like Madonna (Travolta was never really that big there, as I recall), I was aspiring more toward The Furious Five and the Treacherous Three. It looks like that dissonance was a microcosm of the trend that has culminated in statements such as "I can understand someone wanting to Black/Latino but why English/American?"

But is that a good thing, when it so often involves a gross distortion of what it really means to be Black or Latino in the US? I suppose Madonna as picture of America is no less a distortion.

[Mr. Fradia]: what teh diff between soemone pretending he is james dean versus someone pretending he is anil kapoor (god knows there are tons of them in karachi..or were rather) except that the james dean wanna be probably does not smell as bad.

[ravage]: Those who ape Anil Kapoor are known as arsewipes in our circle. Dunno if its a generally accepted term though.

Ouch. I was rolling in the aisles at this point. You can't get laughs like this on your local corner.

[ravage]: Mummy Daddy is a catalyst for burgerness, but one may be mummy daddy without strictly belonging to the latter class. For instance I have come across mummy-daddy abcds, Mummy Daddy paindoos, and Mummy Daddy Nawab sahabs.

And so it goes on through "galli ka londa types", "pindi walay" and always back to "burgher".

[sadzzz]: The term Burgher was applied during the period of Dutch rule to European nationals living in Sri Lanka... ...the so called burghars of india are called "anglos" [Hum Sa Ho To Samne Aaye (responding)]: Hey in Peshawar we call these kinda people "tommy" [<big grin>]

Back in Language Log Hobson Jobson is quoted as characterizing the term "burgher" (or "burghar") as follows.

The Dutch admitted people of mixt descent to a kind of citizenship, and these people were distinguished by this name from pure natives. The word now indicates any persons who claim to be of partly European descent, and is used in the same sense as 'halfcaste' and 'Eurasian' in India Proper.

I suppose that the two nuances of "burgher" in this entire thread tend to converge on the Hindi term "firanghi" (originally from Arabic, as I recall). And while I'm on "firanghi", I'm sure I'm not the only language geek that finds it hard to suppress a smile whenever the "Ferengi" show up on Star Trek TNG. The show was always cited for being culturally avant-garde, but not so often recognized for being culturally subversive.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Onye ma Uche?

"The Mythology of Igbo Names", Uche Nworah

One of my many namesakes muses about the name, and other Igbo names. Interestingly enough, it seems that his name is really just "Uche". Mine is actually "Uchenna", and it's not very usual for one to be given the name "Uche"—. This bare form is much more common as a surname. "Uche" is an Igbo word that approximates English words such as "will", "desire", "plan", "counsel", "intelligence", "knowledge", etc. It's sort of sophia meets consilium meets in animo habere.

As Uche Nworah says:

There is uchenna, uchechukwu, and uchechi which a man or woman can bear.

Yes, and there's also "Uchendu" ("thinking about life"/"will for life", etc.), "Ucheoma" ("good will", "sound mind", etc.), and rare cases "Ucheji" ("will for yam", metonymic for "will for wealth") and "Uchegbum" ("Worries won't be the death of me"). Note: if you're wondering how Igbo packs so much meaning into such small packages, it's largely because of the tonality of the language. So for example, the way the "e" is pronounced in "Uchegbum" actually serves two purposes, one of which is to express the negative sense of the phrase.

"Uchenna" in my experience is by far the most common "Uche" name. I've probably known a hundred or more with that name. I'd say they're three quarters male. This makes it interesting that Nworah finds that people he encounters associate "Uche" with girls rather than boys.

Igbo names like most other names (non-Igbo) have symbolic meanings. These different versions of uche all mean the wishes or heart of God, As some people may think, uchenna does not mean the wishes or heart of the father of the child, Nna in this sense means God Almighty, if it meant the former, then feminists would argue and demand for the naming of children uchenne (the wishes of the mother). While there is no reason not to, I am yet to encounter nor hear of anybody bearing it, a task for modernists and feminists then, you may say.

It is always dangerous to make such generalizations about Igbo names. They are almost always loose formulations upon which a range of meanings can be attached, depending on circumstance. My own name is a counter- example to Nworah's assumption, with "Uchenna" literally meaning the will of my father, Dr. Ogbuji. My mother wanted me to be a girl, my father wanted me to be a boy, it turned out as my father wished, so I was named "Uchenna". Simple as that. I think the fact that you don't see "Uchenne" as a name has more to do with arbitrary convention than any specific code attached to "nna". After all, the name "Uchenna" predates the import of Christianity's single, male god into Igbo culture. The narrow meaning Nworah cites for "Uchenna" is often translated into the English name "Godswill", which feels very alien to me as a translation of my name.

Nworah later on mention "Obiageli" and "Ifeoma" (also "Iheoma") as names reserved for girls, even though there is nothing in their meaning thet has to do with female sex . Other such examples are "Nkechi" ("god's very own", "my spirit's own"), "Uloma" ("good house") and "Nkiruka" ("the future is bright", "the best is yet to come"). There are numerous examples the other way as well.

The rest of Nworah's article is interesting, but I wouldn't swallow it all whole. There is a great deal of generalization in it, and I think in many cases it papers over the huge complexity of Igbo culture whether in pre-colonial or modern times. He also laments a lack of Igbo scholarship over naming in our culture, which I think is very surprising. There is a metric tonne of scholarship on Igbo naming (as with every other aspect of Igbo culture, it seems). I often feel as if we have the most analyzed names on the planet, looking only at modern study. Just a casual poke at Google reveals a lot of material on Igbo names, and I've seen four or five books on the topic.

BTW, the title of this piece means "Who knows Uche?".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Africa and business on Talk of the Nation

Good show on Talk of the Nation Monday: "Seeking Good News in Africa". First of all, I want to say that ToTN is one of my favorite NPR/PRI shows (I also love The World and Marketplace, and Terry Gross is usually good on Fresh Air). Neil Conan is probably the most patient and likable call-in show host in my limited experience of talk radio.

The blurb for this program segment is:

The next G8 summit in July will focus on poverty in Africa along with war, famine and drought. But some are calling for a broader view of Africa, citing its many qualities that go beyond famine and tragedy. We discuss how to balance the bad news with the good from a continent in need.

It is nice to hear more than just the usual famine/jungle/war/safari image of sub-Saharan Africa in mainstream media (with nude children as the inexplicable universal extras). It was a good discussion, and I highly recommend it. Some of my own reaction...

"Jean" from the Cote d'Ivoire called in to advocate decentralization of power and local allocation of resources, which is precisely what we need, but he also admitted the down-side to this as over-simplified formula. Often encouragement of local policy leads to fractious forces that cause tension and can lead all the way to Civil war. Most African countries are unfortunate agglomerations of numerous rival ethnic groups, and a heavy-handed federalism can be the only way to ensure unity. On the other hand such centralization is a huge obstacle to developmental progress. Whoever can figure out a practical solution to this dilemma (besides the slow, assimilating force of time and demographics, which is what did the trick in old Europe) will have earned the Nobel Prize for peace as well as economics.

"James" from Ft. Lauderdale had an all-too-credible tale of attempting to do business in Nigeria, and being defrauded time and time again, and permanently swearing off any sort of commerce anywhere in the African continent (bit of an overreaction, perhaps, but can you really blame him?). This is the simple reality check. We have a long way to go (especially in Nigeria) in dealing with fraud and lawlessness. Right now there is no substitute for local (and wily) guidance if you want to do business in much of the continent.

The last caller was "Kehinde" (I think: he never himself said his name, so I had to go by Neil Conan's suspect pronunciation), also a Nigerian. He trotted out a line that's all too familiar: why are we, the huge African professional class in diaspora, just sitting here and complaining about the situation back home rather than going back, using our local knowledge to help grow business?

Sounds seductive, but I know I speak for many others when I point out that in 1980, I watched my parents go home on the wings of just such idealism. My Father was becoming an internationally recognized Materials Engineer at the time, and figured his calling was to raise more such high-quality Engineers in Nigerian Universities. Nigeria at that time was actually considered an emerging economic force, and the public order and standard of living back in '80 and '81 was very high. We could have been U.S. citizens, but my parents saw no reason to make such a move. There were no barriers to coming back to the U.S. anyway, and we were committed to a future in Nigeria. As experience grew with numerous political barriers, and as well-connected incompetents took over local and national affairs, my parents realized that there was no way to even make an honest difference without outside the oligarch network. I don't think they ever looked to get rich, but rather to live a decent middle-class existence, while making the sort of meager difference that brings about basic professional satisfaction.

They had more local knowledge than I ever will have (I did spent eight years in school in Nigeria), and I can't imagine that I would be able to accomplish more than they did. By the time my parents gave up (alongside numerous other highly talented professionals), and returned to the U.S. and Europe in the mid-to-late 80s the middle class was collapsing with the economy, and the desirable destination countries were already putting up barriers to immigration of Nigerian nationals, barriers through which we Ogbujis squeaked through (excepting my two brothers, who were born U.S. citizens). My father immediately got a job at NASA, where he could immediately feel that he was making a difference—just not in the way he as a native Nigerian would wish.

I do dearly want to find a way to make a difference back home, and I'm sure I shall in time, but I really resent being scolded glibly: "go back to Africa, you prodigal dispersed".

There was one subtle touch in the program that I just loved. They played a clip from the film Africa: Open for Business (Flash site). Sounds like an encouraging film, by the way:

The world does not see Africa as a business destination, but savvy investors know Africa offers the best return on direct investment in the world—yes, in the world.

In the ToTN clip you hear Adenike Ogunlesi, a fashion entrepreneur discuss her (happy) experience. She starts out with the gorgeous, British-inflected English that many of us had pounded into our head in school (and that I have largely lost to an American accent):

It was the first time that anyone had marketed children's clothes like that...actually using Nigerian children. The response...people actually wanting the "made in Nigeria" garments...

And then, at this point, she subtly switches to a bit of demotic Nigerian accent. Not the pidgin language, just the accent that goes with it. All of us in the hybrid Nigerian/foreign college-educated class adopt this affectation when expressing a quote from a supposed Nigerian man-on-the-street.

"Where is the label. I want the label outside. I want everyone to know I'm wearing 'Rough and Tumble'"

I wonder if non-Nigerians would even detect that she changed accent (I suspect that now that I point it out, they would). If you want to check, it's about 22m 30s into the program.

It's often the little things that make you homesick.

BTW, for a superlative source for information about practical commerce in sub-Saharan Africa, see Emeka Okafor's blog "Timbuktu Chronicles".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


One of the great practical uses of the literary disciplines, of course, is to resist glibness—to slow language down and make it thoughtful. This accounts, particularly, for the influence of verse, in its formal aspect, within the dynamics of the growth of language: verse checks the merely impulsive flow of speech, subjects it to another pulse, to measure, to extralinguistic consideration; by inducing the hesitations of difficulty, it admits into language the influence of the Muse and of musing.

Wendell BerryStanding By Words

via David Graham, on the New Poetry mailing list

No sooner have I returned from Amsterdam (more on all that later) than juicy morsel falls straight in my lap for the neglected Quotīdiē. Wendell Berry is not the most interesting poet to me. I find him much like our current Poet Laureate Ted Kooser—Intelligently stated, but with nothing particularly compelling to offer for theme or diction. Not all bucolics have to be as majestic, as, say Vergil's, but I think more of our poets should look to (to give a parallel example) Horace for an example of how to personalize bucolics while still keeping them interesting.

But the quote is not from Berry's poetry, but from his prose, and it compels me to seek out more of Berry's philosophical essays. Many commentators have noted the role of poetry in presenting ideas in a form that requires such care to digest that they become more clearly communicated to the reader. This is so even if, paradoxically, obscurity is one of these tools of clear communication. Obscurity slows things down in the reader's apprehension in order not to lose the nuances. A perfect antonym of poetry from this viewpoint is the sound bite, and I think this comparison is also a good argument as to why poetry is as important today as it has ever been.

Poetry for new media culture

The problem has always been how to make the reader accept the braking effect of poetry on the digestion of information. I don't think it's engaging in too much Luddite hand wringing to say that these days people prefer their information in easily (and indeed trivially) digestible form. This is in part a natural reaction to high volume ("information overload" in the jargon). Most people, even among the trendiest of techies, are quick to praise the resource that presents a topic in both depth and breadth, and in coherent form. They find such treatment a necessary check on the dissociating effects of the contemporary knowledge feed—rapidly evolving blips of high sugar information. They accept a slow-down of perception and carefully read such resources, but only when advised by their peers to do so. They slow down because the "buzz factor" has compelled them to do so.

Poetry serves the same end, and buzz can certainly be important for leading people to poetry, but what really makes it compelling enough for the reader to accept the slow-down in apprehension is concentrated beauty of language. If the musical force of the words is strong enough, the intelligent reader will be obliged to dig more deeply. The reader will have gained a superficial aesthetic reward from the piece, in the sound, and such a reward as they never receive from their more quotidian resources. This reward is very satisfying, even if superficial, and it promises of richer reward, in the matter, once one has taken the time to consider the piece more carefully, most likely through multiple readings, and discussion with peers. And with the best poetry, we learn that the reward in the sound is not really superficial at all, but is the key to better memory of the idea as well as greater enjoyment in its presentation.

This is all well and good, of course, but the question is exactly where will the mastery come from to work new media concerns into compelling poetry? Is any such venture doomed by popular stereotype of poetry, especially its association with the mid-20th century cadre of slovenly, mentally unstable, kvetching pop art beatniks? From what I've heard and read of Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn, she opens up a useful discussion along these lines (yet another book on my really-should-read-soon list). I must also say that the same discussion leads me to question whether she has the critical acumen to help direct the class of potential poets who can serve the world in this time of great need.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


I was born in Calabar and my first musical impression comes from there. I listen to the Efik inhabitants. and lgbo settlers there. And of course you know, in that area they play a lot of drum.

—Bayo Martins—biographical interview by Wolfgang Bender of The Music Foundation, Nigeria

That's our heritage here on Copia. Through our father, Linus Ogbuji, we're from Umunakanu, near Owerri (Igbo area). Through our mother, Margaret Ogbuji, we're from Ikot Ana (Umon area), about 50km from Calabar (Efik area) with which our family has strong ties (I, Uche, was born there). The strong ties between Calabar area peoples and Igbo peoples are just as Mr. Martins describes, and in music it's a very interesting combination, as shown by the Igbo/Efik grounding of the late Prince Nico Mbarga, one of Africa's greatest musicians (despite the tragedy of his early death). Prince Nico is best known for Sweet Mother, the biggest African hit ever, and still one of the best-known songs throughout the continent.

Mom and Dad (Mom especially) introduced us to Prince Nico's music even while we were living in the US, before returning to Nigeria, where we found ourselves amazed at the diversity of musical styles from Nigeria alone, never mind all the imports from the rest of Africa (and the inevitable pop hits from the US and Europe). Prince Nico's music is highlife, which is a Ghanaian style that merged with Zaïrean style (which informs Zap Mama) and found a very warm home in Eastern Nigerian. The predominance of that Eastern Nigerian musical tradition were very strong everywhere, despite the combination of political concerns and musical experimental that brought about a rapid growth in regional styles. It's important to note that the third point on that triangle was Lagos, which despite all its problems has always been an amazing furnace of cosmopolitan energy. This is where the Eastern musicians joined their Western colleagues in legendary jam sessions to hammer out styles that are now world famous (not always through direct appreciation of the specific musicians, but always through their influence on music worldwide).

[Becker, asking about the attendance at the launching of the Zeal Onyias Band (started by Martins and friends) at the Ambassador Hotel Yaba, Lagos]: Were they all Yoruba?

[Martins]: No, it was mixed: Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Nigerians. It was a big scene, a crosscultural gathering. Apart from the English language, popular music was another great rallying point for all Nigerians. Like we say Highlife was the melting pot of the various ethnic musics. In fact it is for me the first Nigerian culture that evolved. Before then if one was from another ethnic group it was difficult to understand or to dance or even appreciate the music of another ethnic group. But with Highlife every Nigerian could dance: Be they Yoruba, lgbo, Hausa or whatever, Highlife was one thing that crossed beyond the traditional specialized mould. It was something every Nigerian could identify with because it was 'detribalized' and de- ethnicalized. And then we did not only play Highlife, we played classical ballroom music too, waltz, tango, foxtrott, blues etc.

(Throughout the excerpts I've corrected typos that look like the result of OCR applied to scanned originals, leaving other typos as they are).

Mr. Martins describes his journey from Calabar through Lagos, Enugu (Igbo country), and then the leap to Accra and Kumasi in Ghana, and the further leap to London, and later on, to Germany. The following is from his very entertaining description of some of the hazards of the journey from Lagos to Accra.

Few months after that we had to go to Accra because Bobby had a six month contract there. From Lagos to Accra in those days unlike today was rough and we had too many bridges to cross and two or to three rivers upon which the car is ferried across. Like from Lagos to Idiroko. On getting to Togo there was a place called "Grand Popo". l am not sure if it exists anymore. l think its been swept away by the sea. There was a tug boat used to ferry the trucks and passengers from one end to the other before one could drive into Togo. And after Togo there was another crossing on the Volta-River before getting to Accra where we disembark and get into the pontoon to be ferried across. Sometimes, we slept in the middle of nowhere in the bush. Nothing around us but us. The car parked, we made camp fire besides the car and everyone climbs to the top to sleep. That was on our own risk. It was fun and we enjoyed doing it.

This is a good example of Martins' plain and matter-of-fact style. He writes mostly about the '50s, which is a time when West Africa was vastly different in so many ways. He doesn't shrink from the awful memories as well as the precious ones (his story about cleaning up overflowed sewage is sickening in an understated way). By the time I returned to Nigeria in 1980, things had changed greatly, some for better, some for worse (mostly for the better in that case). By the time I left Nigeria again eight years later things had changed greatly again, some for better, some for worse (mostly for the worse that time). The stories of all these changes are important for us to keep, especially from the personal viewpoint of sharp observers such as Martins. He talks about playing for some of the names whom all Nigerians will recognize as having been crucial players in these changes.

This was the period that the modern elites those who were to become permanent secretaries, solicitors general, prime ministers and presidents were returning home from Britain and the United States, and congregated in Lagos. The night-club, apart from the billiard tables and tennis courts, was a social outlet where they freely integrated and interacted with others. Dancing was a favourite past time of most them. And what marvellous dancers most of them were! l still remember a few like Bayo Braithwaite (the insurance and assurance magnet), Sunny Adewale (Chief, lawyer)'the boy is good', T.OJ:). Benson (Chief, lawyer, former federal minister of information in the first Republic), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe ( first President of independent Nigeria), Fani Kayode (Chief, lawyer former deputy premier of the now defunct Western Region), Freddy Benson ( 'Baba Kayode', an automobile engineer of Benson Transport Service ), Bode Thomas (Chief, lawyer and nationalist). Shola Macauley (business man) amd Tommy Rose (our taylor) among others. Chief Awolowo was the one man who hardly danced and betrayed emotions at such gatherings he attended in which l played with a band. l used to wonder often about that. So l was pleasantly surprised when he formed a band in 1979 for the Unity Party of Nigeria. However for the smart ones in the band to meet and talk with these eminent and distinguished men was a great privilege. Therefore the night- club for us was a great institution of learning and of assimilation: Ideas and knowledge floated freely from both black and white audiences.

It's fun to get the occasional etymology lesson

[B]: What about other expressions for prostitutes like waka-waka baby and ashewo?

[M]: Yes, waka waka baby like Rex Lawson termed it. Ashewo is the Yoruba word for prostitute. Waka waka is Pidgin English or coloquial for a women that goes from one setting to the other. She was a walk-about woman, thats what waka waka means in short.

[B]: And that expression in Yoruba could have other meanings or is it a traditional expression? Or is it a common place in Yoruba?

[M]: Well, ashewo itself means exchanger of money.

[B]: [It] doesn't mean more than that?

[M]: No, it implies that you exchange money for your body.

Straight rolled into a street sociology lesson

[B]: What women were these usually? What training did those women have? Where did they come from? From the city, from the country?

[M]: They belonged to various categories. Most of them had been married some time in their village to men they did not like or something like that. Some just wanted to experience life in the city and to get away from the villages. Others simply wanted good time. There were some fresh from the schools who didnt actually know what to do but throbbed with the music, the modern music and they loved it. They liked the socialization in the club. Then there were educated women who were ambitious and seeking opportunity to further enhance their lives. So it was a mixture of all these interests and backgrounds that one sees in the night-clubs. Not all of the women that one saw in the night club were dedicated prostitutes. Some were there just for the fun of it and satisfaction.

[B]: That reminds me of the argument that Highlife provided liberty or that kind of feeling to men and women in a way. Not to say that these women were prostitutes. Some of these were women breaking away from their traditional bondage and tyranny?

If you find these excerpts interesting, do read the entire interview. It's long, but very entertaining. Since the interviewer is German, Martins takes care to explain a lot of the phenomena that may be hard for a non-Nigerian to understand.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Reconsidering blogrolls (and what the heck are "folks", anyway?)

In Shelley Powers entries "Ms Pancake" and "Let’s keep the Blogroll and throw away the writing", I've learned that there is some controversy about blogrolls. When I threw together Copia I tossed in a blogroll, which was just a random list of blogs I read. I hardly worried that the list would grow too long because I have limited time for reading blogs.

Shelley's posts made me think about the matter more carefully. To draw the basic lesson out of the long and cantankerous points in her blog entries (and comments), a blog is about communication, and in most cases communication within a circle (if an open and, one hopes, expanding one). Based on that line of thinking, Chime and I had a discussion and thought it would be best if rather than having a "blogroll" list of blogs we read, we had a list of other Weblogs with which we have some more direct and reciprocal connection. This includes people with whom we've had personal and professional relationships, and also people who have taken the time to engage us here on Copia. There is still some arbitrariness to this approach, and there is some risk of turning such a listing into the manifestation of a mutual back-slapping club, but it does feel more rightly to me. We do plan to post an OPML as a link on the page template, so people can check out what feeds we read (if they care); this feels the right compromise to me.

So there you have it. The list of "folks" on the left hand side, are people we feel to be in the Copia circle. We hope and expect it will expand.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Rant: The Infiltration of Hallmark Days

Okay, with the hope of inspiring more content from moi, I'm starting a 'rant series.' My topic today is Hallmark Days (which is the term I choose to refer to holidays with little to no significance other than to generate revenue for gift vendors). I was chastised today for missing a recent holiday and it sent me into a fury which quickly rendered me unable to express why I felt it was a bit unfair.

Perhaps it's just me, but I feel that anniversaries and holidays are supposed to be days that truely stand out from the others. They usually indicate a day delegated to celebrate a particular virtue, theme, or value or they mark the anniversary of an event of importance. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, anniversaries of historic importance, and religious holidays seem (for me) to fall into the catagory of days that have specific significance to the people who celebrate them.

However, at what point do we draw the line between days with obvious significance and days with a significance prescribed by people and entities with commercial interests in the buying and selling of gifts? Should such a line not be drawn for fear of seeming trite? I could name a few holidays that - in my opinion - only serve the purpose of feeding the spending machine that we have become (the color red comes to mind). However, I think the most constructive suggestion I could leave would be to consider the true importance of a holiday you wish to celebrate with loved ones. Ask yourself if it represents a value that deserves more than just a brief mention or if it only being remembered as a result of common ritual. In addition, ask yourself if you aren't better served in demonstrating your love for someone special in your life on a daily basis instead on just those marked on your calendar.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Need a picture? Got a picture.

CC licensed pictures on Flickr, via blog

Many Flickr users have chosen to protect their work with a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through photos under each type of license.

Yeah, f'real, as in 127,100 pictures available under attribution license alone. You can also use the search, so you could, say, find all pictures tagged with "snowboard" with the attribution license. OK. That's the bag of chips right there. I mean, sure you may have to wade through a lot of fill before you find that one perfect picture for your next school report, but that's not much downside.

And don't forget the mother-search: the CC search engine, where you can also find other sorts of media. Nice demo of RDF in action as well. See:

Thinking XML: The commonsof creativity, Uche Ogbuji, developerWorks, May 2003

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which has been given for you to understand.
The current standard is the equivalent of an adolescent restricted to the diet of an infant.
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional and deformative symptoms, and could not properly mature on a diet of apple sauce and crushed pears.
Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness.
The role of darkness is not to be seen as, or equated with...ignorance...but with the unknown, and the mysteries of the...unseen.

--Saul Williams--"Coded Language", Amethyst Rock Star

And this passage, of course (and the rest of the blistering start of "Coded Language"), is but a prelude to Saul Williams tearing into his famous and raucous invocation of pan-cultural men gods, heroes and muses (including a few tin wreath wearers) new and old. Like most snippets I feature on Quotidie, this poem/rap is to be heard, not just read.

Williams is one of my Hip-Hop heroes. He effortlessly crafts weaves into sharp assault that leaves you keen, rather than numbed. There is more poetry in one Saul Williams song than in most entire anthologies of middle 20th-century verse. It's not metrical, but then again, remember clause three of the Imagist manifesto:

As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Decades of poetasters didn't take those words literally enough, and as a result produced lukewarm prose chopped into lines, calling it poetry. I believe this clause has little practical use in criticism except in griot traditions of, which have only really come into the commonplace in the West with the emergence of hip-hop. Williams is skillful enough to use all the griot's kit, including allusion (not in the snippet above, but elsewhere in the song), vivid surrealism, personification (without pathetic fallacy), word play (the pun of "crushed pears" and "crushed peers" is especially neat), and contrapuntal caesura, as in the emphasis of "ignorance" and "unseen".

Some of this tradition informs the current world of "spoken word" performance, although most spoken word is weakened by lack of instrumental accompaniment. recently had a very interesting interview with Common (see an earlier Quotidie) and Saul Williams about this genre.

[Saul Williams]: Poetry has a much longer oral tradition that it does a written tradition. So that's one of the ways that Hip-Hop is very connected to the history of poetry; in that poetry was always recited since before people even knew how to write. In Europe, Asia, Africa, you name it; poetry was recited before it was written. So in many ways, it helps not to have the formal training in poetry because the formal is often misinformed.

The best training is not being lectured and brow-beaten by bureaucrats in workshops, but deciding for yourself what you like to hear and working like a slave to imitate it. Clearly this has worked for Williams. I'm grateful not to have ever taken a single course in literature or criticism. Instead I've read widely and practiced strenuously.

But thinking about the potential of the movement artists like Saul Williams and Common represent is a matter of pondering two simple questions:

1) What will Poetry do for Hip-Hop?

[]: The influences of Hip-Hop, The Last Poets, and the Black Arts movement also helped to shape the 90s' spoken word or "slam poetry" movement. After shining for years at poetry clubs like the Nuyorican Poet's Café, the style has now reached new heights of fame through Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam franchise. Arguably this is the form that has done more than anything to bring a new generation back to poetry.

A lot of slam poetry is just plain loud, sloppy whingeing, but to Simmons' defence, he's done a good job of picking the best for his show. Lori and I enjoy it immensely. I think of it as not so much poetry, and not so much music. It's a very energetic form of dramatic monologue that takes rhetoric from poetry and form from music. Artists attuned to this genre have formed the backbone of the camp that has been quietly preserving real Hip-Hop from the decadence of the bling/bitches/hoes era, and who are slowly emerging from the underground into the mainstream in the form of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, MF Doom and more.

2) What will Hip-Hop do for Poetry?

[Williams]: I think [the poetry establishment are] slowly opening up to [Hip-Hop]. It'll take a few more ventures from us onto the written page for them to really embrace it. Once we find a balance between the stage and the page, the academics will realize the importance of what's happening right now. Because we are definitely the ones who have brought poetry back to life.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Frères humains qui après nous vivez
N'ayez les coeurs contre nous endurciz,
Car, ce pitié de nous pauvres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous merciz.
Vous nous voyez ci, attachés cinq, six
Quant de la chair, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est piéca devorée et pourrie,
Et nous les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'en rie:
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

François Villon--"L'Épitaph (Ballade des pendus)"

It's Tuesday again: French day. As usual I spent a good portion of my pre-matinal regime in French reading and revision to get ready for conversational practice this evening. I was feeling particularly fresh, so I wrote a poem based on the first two stanzas of Villon's (I ran out of time for finishing the third stanza and envoi). It's a near translation, and you can get much of Villon's basic sense from it, but I purposefully make some departures. If you want a closer translation, try Swinburne's "Epitaph in the Form of a Ballade", from Poems and Ballads. I shall say that Villon is almost impossible to translate faithfully. He was an incomparable craftsman, and used every resource of his native tongue. It's actually fairly easy French to follow (especially, for me, after Les Symbolistes), so if you paid attention at all in high school, give the original a try (you must read it aloud).

Anyway, the first half of my modest effort:

Brother souls who live beyond our days,
Don't turn towards us hearts of hollow stone,
For if you pity us, such wretched strays,
Goddess redeem indulgence you'll have shown.
You see a hand or so of us thus strown:
Bodies once well fed of ill-got gain
Now ravened by rot and beasts upon the plain
We, the bones who speak, turn dust and ash.
None should deign to laugh upon our pain,
But wish all ghosts kind Fortune's calabash.

--Uche Ogbuji--from "Epitaph (après Villon, maître)", 3 May 2005

The only real thematic change is from the European gallows to the "evil bush" of Igbo custom, reserved for criminals who have committed abominations.

I've been working on and off on getting Cara Musis, my literary site, back in shape, so I can publish some of my work. I think I'll have to make that a priority this weekend. «Aaaaïïïïïe, nooooon!», do I hear you say? Ah, hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère... Va t'en.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia