Good morning, true believers.
Thank you for the support and kind words and so on.
Lẹ́bẹ́ is a 3-part monthly series dropping in March, a crime-noir pulp magazine type publication. It will be available online at Okadabooks.com and Amazon.com. To buy on Okadabooks, you need an account.
If you have one, fine. If you don’t, please click here.
I used to be very angry.
Yup. I was a very passionate young man with unlimited energy. I wanted to fix everything I considered wrong with the world. I’m sure if I was in a country where procuring guns is as easy as walking into a store, I’d have become a vigilante.
My world view was very much like Rorschach’s – black and white. No middle ground.
And, very much like Rorschach, my refusal to compromise would have gotten me killed. Undoubtedly.
Or worse – I’d have ended up in a padded room.
But because for the most part I meant well, I was forced to learn more. And the more I learned, the more I realized – there’s a lot more to life than one-dimensional perspectives. And the more I realized, the calmer I became. And the calmer I became…
Well. I’m still here.
Choose your battles wisely; the saying goes. What do you hold onto? What are you holding on to? Anger at issues that really have no consequence for you or your way of life? Irritation with people who have never done anything to you? Even anger at people who offended you is not worth it sometimes. Bare your chest – let it go.
I still have boundless energy – the people closest to me know this. But I manage it with wisdom and stuff. I would hate to have spent all my time on worthless things – and then, something that really matters comes along but I’m too spent to do anything about it.
Kinda like relationships.
Conserve your energy. Save yourself. Find something worth dying for.
And then, live for it.
Do ‘New Beginnings’ Exist?
How much of the past do you leave behind?
An innocent man is pardoned by a General after nine years in jail for a crime he did not commit. He goes to work for the General as a companion for his cripple son, who has other plans for the ex-convict; save-the-streets-hero-type plans. Lẹ́bẹ́ examines the transition a street level amateur boxer has to make from tout to local hero.
Lẹ́bẹ́ is a three-part series that will be released monthly via OkadaBooks starting from March 2017.
These days I find myself cooking more often than is usual. I don’t know; maybe eyaf reach time for someone to make an honest man of me.
Today sha, feeling adventurous, I decide to make Catfish Peppersoup. I go to the market, buy stuff and get to work. Roughly two hours later, house smelling like curry leaves, I open the pot to look at my handiwork.
Sure, there’s ‘catfish’, there’s ‘pepper’ and ‘soup’, but the way I just separated them in writing is how they are separate in the pot. I sigh – and then, start to laugh.
I laugh because I remember something that happened years ago. I used to love moi moi a lot, so one day my mother decided to teach me how to make it. She started me from the beginning of the process; she gave me my own beans to grind – even though the whole house was having moi moi that morning. I brought it back home, mixed it, added all the other supplements and portioned it into leaves – myself.
And then, I set it on the fire.
About thirty minutes or so later, she opened her larger pot so I opened mine. Where hers was a happily boiling pot filled with moi mois resplendent in heat, mine was a boiling pot of ‘a mess of beans and water’. I hadn’t wrapped the leaves tightly enough so they’d opened mid-cooking.
I sat there feeling miserable. I must have thought that was my breakfast floating around in hot water – or maybe I was sad because I missed a chance to impress my mother. Whatever the case, I sha sat in the kitchen, pot before me, feeling sorry for myself.
My mom noticed and came to sit with me. I cannot remember her exact words, but it was something to the effect of; “You tried, right? Right now, you know more about moi moi than you knew last night. The next attempt will definitely be better than this one.”
I remember asking; “What if it isn’t? What if I make a mistake again?”
She said, “Wa je egba ni yen!” meaning “You’ll be flogged, then!”
But she smiled at me and kissed my forehead.
And I think about that now and realize; while my mother’s reference in that moment may have been moi moi, she was actually talking about life. And how sometimes, things don’t work out the way we intend them to, how sometimes we blame ourselves for our failures and shortcomings – and forget to tell ourselves; ‘At least you tried’.
At least I tried. And though it didn’t turn out like I expected it to, I’m better for the effort. I’ve learned one more way to not kiss a girl, to not write a book. To not create an ad, to not write music lyrics. To not treat a spouse/partner, to not talk to a friend.
And more importantly, how not to make Catfish Peppersoup.
So I’m in my workspace now, chewing catfish, munching pepper and drinking soup. And with a pure water sachet at hand, I drink a toast to Mrs. Josephine Iyabode Odukoya, the only woman in nine realms who could have raised me.
Mama Mia. Mi Amore Forever. La ‘mour ne pas nu frontier.
I’m at one bus stop in Lagos; along Ikorodu Road to be exact. The clock on my dashboard shows 6:09. There’s a spot of traffic, even though it’s so early. I resist the urge to slam a tired fist into the steering wheel and instead, look outside the window on the far side of the car.
It’s after six on a weekday morning after all; the streets are awake. All sorts of people bustle back and forth, most having left the warm comfort of their beds for the pre-sunlight cold morning, chasing the more-elusive-than-ever naira. My stare lingers on…and stops on a woman standing on the curb a few meters away from me.
In the light from several headlights she’s easy to see, but there’s something about her that makes her easy to watch. She’s light-skinned, petite, well-built, nothing excessive, comfortably round in the right places. She looks like Elsie before Elsie looked like Elsie.
The thing that makes me stare; however is her smile. It’s bright without being blinding; effusive without being superficial. She wears it with style, as naturally as armpits wear hair. It’s the kind of smile Beyonce smiles when she and Jay hug. The kind of smile J Lo had in those pictures with Drake. The kind the girls in pictures with Deoye always have on…
You know; that smile.
Her lips are moving; for a second it looks like she’s saying something to me (even though she isn’t looking at me). And then, I realize; she’s on the phone.
I lip-read to a small extent; snatches of her conversation come to me. Words like ‘tonight’ ‘eat out’ ‘later’ ‘stress’ ‘office palaver’ are beautifully formed by her mouth, she talks rapidly so it’s hard enough already. Ambient noise fades away, along with the honking of horns and humming of restrained vehicles. It’s almost too easy to imagine who’s on the other end of the phone; the husband on his way to his own point of commerce sharing an intimate moment with the wife he can’t seem to get enough of, the faraway boyfriend who goes to sleep when she goes to work, or maybe she’s sleeping with her sister’s husband –
My mind wanders into a few ‘darker’ possibilities; consciously I restrain and tell it to leave well enough alone. I like the idea of the faraway boyfriend best; I start to toy with –
Loud honking and yells alert me to the fact that vehicles are moving. Calmly, I take my foot off the brake and allow the car surge forward, waving my apologies to the danfo behind me. I drive away from that spot but her face – or rather, the look on her face stays with me. It’s a look I want to put on the face of the woman I love for the rest of her life, a look I want for everyone I care about. It’s a look that makes my chest full, and I have to sigh to relieve the pressure. It’s a look that makes me believe in something other than myself; a look I’m sure makes Sango sit on his fiery throne and call to the other gods; “Abeg una go fit help? Dis one pass me o.”
It’s a look that, for the moment takes my mind away from my cold and lonely bed in a grim, humorless apartment in a light-less neighborhood, off the 145 naira price of fuel – and makes me think; instead of the warmth another human being carries on the inside, a warmth that blesses you if you’re fortunate enough to find someone willing to share theirs with you. It’s a look that makes light of darkness and makes a joke of time, of death, of sickness and sadness.
It’s a look that tells me; as loudly as the thoughts in my head; “You are not alone.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
#WeInTheKitchen #WeStayChefing #SomethingWarmYourWayComes
How I Would Have Planned The DC Extended Universe.
I think it’s pretty much fair dinkum to say so far, the DC Cinematic/Extended Universe is barely batting averages. I mean, we could forgive the error that Man of Steel movie was – but since then, things have been pretty much downhill, with the critical failure Dawn of Justice is, the beautiful mess Suicide Squad is, and the obviously-rushed forthcoming Justice League movie intending to force us to root for characters we barely know or give a shit about.
Honestly, I don’t have a lot of hopes for Wonder Woman.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s a reason Marvel is doing so much better; they have fanboys at the helm of things. Jeph Loeb is executive producer. Joe Quesada is also pretty much high up there. How about Avi Arad, Stan Lee – and a number of others? When you put people who know their stuff in charge of stuff they have been working on for years, stuff they have grown to love, you can hardly go wrong.
Anyways, so here’s me in the DCU executive producer’s chair. In other words, if I began from Man of Steel, what would a DC Extended universe of my creation look like?
Check this out:
Man of Steel
I’m not particularly crazy about this one; there are a couple of things I would change (the ending, introduction of Lex Luthor/Bruce Wayne) but that’s fine. We can still make do.
A solo Batman movie would definitely be next. This would happen the same time as Man of Steel. Bats would hear about the arrival of an alien in Metropolis, but before he can investigate, Deathstroke arrives Gotham and is gunning for Batman. He leaves the alien issue and goes to battle the deadliest assassin he’s ever come across.
Tie In To Extended Universe: At the end, footage used as the excuse for the Batman vs Superman conflict will come into play here. Is Superman really out of control? What if he decides to take over the earth and blah blah blah – who’s to stop him? Superman takes objection to Bats M.O in Gotham. Battle lines are drawn. Luthor begins his plot to destroy Superman, and he gains an ally, somebody mysterious who points him to STARLABS. Cyborg cameo.
Pretty much a Captain America: The First Avenger rip-off, but that’s okay. Where do you think Civil War came from? This will remain pretty much as is; except that it takes place BEFORE Dawn of Justice.
Tie In To Extended Universe: Darkseid will be introduced here – as a shadowy, mystic entity who just noticed Earth and is wondering if it is ripe for conquering. Aquaman/Superman cameo.
Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice:
This will also remain pretty much as is; except for a much less convoluted plot, ridiculous elements and story-line, and a better defined bad guy. Doomsday is unleashed, he destroys half of Metropolis and kills Superman. Darkseid is revealed as Lex’s ally, he dispatches Steppenwolf on a mini-invasion of Earth.
The aftermath of a world without Superman. Amanda Waller recruits her squad – and in the process, falls prey to Joker who wants Harley back. We take away the Enchantress as the main villain (shudders) and make Joker the bad guy. He’s gotten his hands on some kind of weapon of mass destruction and he’s threatening to blow up an entire island, He has a gang of minions and the Royal Flush Gang at his beck and call. Will the Squad stop him or join him?
Tie In To Extended Universe: Batman and Flash cameos – just as in the original movie. Flash’s is a bit extended though, he’s in the beginning (extended sequence featuring the capture of Captain Boomerang – similar to the Batman/Deadshot sequence) and in the end (Batman AND Wonder Woman recruit him). Some strange activity is going on around Superman’s grave.
Green Lantern Corps I
The creation of the universe’s largest police force. Reckless pilot Hal Jordan and Vietnam vet John Stewart find employment with Danvers Flight Company. While on one of their test drives, the prototype fails and Jordan saves their lives with a dangerous maneuver. Suddenly, there’s a green flash of light and blah blah blah.
You know the story.
Tie In To Extended Universe: Darkseid’s activities have been stirring up some interplanetary energies and some Lanterns are sent to investigate. They engage with some straggling parademons – and then, John Stewart is dispatched to follow Steppenwolf’s forces. Meanwhile, Sinestro switches sides to Darkseid because of a promise of greater power. He’s the bad guy for this movie.
Justice League I
This will be the mashup to end all mashups. My Justice League will look pretty much like the one they have now – except I’ll have a Green Lantern, probably John Stewart in there as opposed to Cyborg. I know Snyder’s trying to remain true to the New 52 Justice League line-up – but let’s face it; Cyborg’s not much of a compelling character. He’s pretty much as useful as Hawkeye in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe – and that’s putting it highly. Cyborg was moved up from the original Teen-Titans roster, why that was done is beyond me. But anyways, This movie has the originals Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, John Stewart – and they are in a firefight. Steppenwolf’s forces have arrived and they are tearing the Earth apart. The Leaguers are in the fight of their lives. As they continue – a black-clad figure suddenly appears and turns the tide of the battle. It’s Superman back from the grave!
While the Justice League gathers around him – there’s a sudden flash of light.
Darkseid the conqueror has landed.
What do you think? Would you have done yours differently? Let us know in the comments!
“People build fences for two reasons; to keep people out, and to keep people in.”
Don’t get it confused; Troy Maxson, the lead character of the play/film Fences is a good man. Which; in human parlance (as I so often quoth) is another way of saying he’s deeply flawed. He drinks too much, spends too much time talking about how the white man doesn’t like to see a black man do good and spent way too much time (most of the film actually) building a simple fence his wife has been asking about for years.
But he’s a good man.
Fences is based on a 1983 play written by August Wilson. Original premiering on Broadway in 1987 and closing in 1988, the play featured James Earl Jones as Troy alongside others, and then, it was revived in 2010 featuring Denzel Washington in the titular role, which he carried over to the film.
August finished a screenplay for the critically acclaimed play since 2003, but couldn’t reach an agreement with the studio on choice of director. August wanted a black director because; ‘It’s not about the color of his skin, it’s about the culture’.
Denzel directs and stars in this masterpiece, his third behind the camera. He says ‘Scott Rudin brought the screenplay to me seven years ago, and when I heard it was a play I was doubly interested. ‘Can I do the play first?'”
Troy reeks of bitterness and gin. Every chance he gets, he complains about how his skin color kept him from making it into Major League Baseball; in spite of his excellence in Negro League Baseball, a fact echoed by his first son Lyon (Russell Hornsby) in the movie’s closing scenes;
“You gotta take the crooked with the straights’, that’s what papa used to say. He used to say that when he struck out. I seen him strike out three times in a row, and the next time up he hit the ball over the grandstand.”
Troy talked a lot; as men who drink as much usually do. In one scene he tells the story of a wrestling match he had with the devil, and how he fought the devil to a standstill. His listeners don’t argue with him, but the looks on their faces give the impression they’re used to his tale-telling. But, as we learn later in the movie, man knew what he was talking about.
Fences is a close-up, and sometimes uncomfortable look at a man and how he can’t get better than his circumstances, and the irony of how sometimes, those same circumstances are of his own making. In the opening scenes Troy is having a conversation with his long-time friend Bono played by Stephen McKinley Henderson. Troy, a garbage man asked his boss a simple, yet uncomfortable question for that time, 1950s Pittsburg;
“Went to Mr. Rand I asked him. Asked him ‘why’. ‘Why he got all the…white mens driving, and the colored lifting. Told him, ‘Whatsamatter; Don’t I count? Think only white folk got sense to drive a truck?’”
He’s told to take his complaint to the Union, probably thinking he was going to get fired. Turned out he’s complaint is valid, and he’s promoted. He becomes the first black garbage truck driver in Pittsburg at the time – and he didn’t have a driver’s license.
Troy feels guilty; the house he lives in with his family was bought with his brother Gabe’s disability fund after he got half his head blow away in war. Played by Mykelti Williamson, Gabe is the spiritual core of the film which is interesting; he’s brain damaged.
A lot of Troy’s strength comes from his wife Rose played with great intensity by the great Viola Davis. One thing that sobers me constantly in the movie is how Troy, anytime its payday comes home and surrenders his money to this woman without a fight. When his son Lyon comes over and asks to borrow ten dollars, Troy refuses to give him – but says nothing when Rose takes out the ten dollars from his pay and hands it over to Lyon. And when Lyon returns to pay back the loan and Troy refuses to take it, he hands it to Rose. He proclaims his love for Rose every chance he gets; but that doesn’t stop him from…
Fences is about choices and relationships – and really, about fences we build around ourselves for different reasons. My favorite scene comes in at 40:37, when Troy and Rose’s son Cory (Jevon Adepo) summons the courage to ask his father a bold question;
Cory: Can I ask you a question?
Troy: What you gotta ask me? Mister DeWicker’s the one you got the questions for.
Cory: [pause] How come you ain’t never liked me?
Troy: Like you? Who the hell says I gotta like you? What law is there say’ I got to like you? Wanna stand up in front of my face and ask a damn fool ass question. Talking ‘bout likin’ somebody. Come here boy when I talk to you.
Cory walks up, Troy smacks him in the chest
Troy: Straighten up, goddamnit! Now, I asked you a question. What law, is there say’ I gotto like you?
Troy: All right then. Don’t you eat every day? Answer me when I talk to you! Don’t you eat every day?
Troy: Nigga, as long as you’re in my house you put a “Sir” on the end of it when you talk to me.
Cory: Yes, Sir.
Troy: You eat every day?
Cory: Yes, Sir.
Troy: You got a roof over you head?
Cory: Yes, Sir.
Troy: Got clothes on your back?
Cory: Yes, Sir.
Troy: Why you think that is?
Cory: ‘Cause of you?
Troy: [chuckles] Hell, I know it’s ’cause of me. But why do you think that is?
Cory: ‘Cause you like me?
Troy: Like you? I go outta here every morning; I bust my butt, putting up with them crackers every day ’cause I like you? You’re about the biggest fool I ever saw. It’s my job. It’s my responsibility. A man, is supposed to take care of his family. You live in my house, fill your belly with my food, put your behind on my bed because you’re my son. Not because I like you – ‘cos it’s my duty to take care of you, I owe a responsibility to you. Now let’s get this straight, right here and now before it go any further – I ain’t got to like you! Mr. Rand don’t give me my money, come pay day, ‘cos he like me. He give it to me ‘cos he owe me. Now, I done give you everything I got to give you! I gave you your life! Me and your Mama worked out between us and liking your black ass wasn’t part of the bargain! Now don’t you go through life worrying about whether somebody like you or not! You best be makin’ sure they’re doin’ right by you! You understand what I’m sayin’?
Cory: Yes sir.
Troy: Then get the hell out of my face, and get on down to that A&P!
Talk about intense.
The film does feel a little hemmed in; the entire movie you see a backyard, a living room/dining area, a bedroom and street in front of house maybe once or twice – but you’ll probably only notice that on your second or third viewing if you make it that far. Chances are you won’t notice; the dialogue fills the head and heart and doesn’t live space for much else.
At the end of the film, Rose talks to a reluctant Cory about his father and a little girl he brought home one day, and her closing line sums up Troy Maxson and really; what each and every one of us should aspire to do with our lives;
“And if the Lord see fit to keep up my strength, I’m gonna do her exactly how your daddy did you. I mah give her the best of what’s in me.”
Which is why I can say loudly; Troy was a good man. Or maybe he wasn’t, depending on your perspective. But he did the best of what he knew how – which really is all any of us can hope for.
We all are put on this earth to do the best we can; and maybe he could have been more; maybe his failure to get into the Major League had more to do with his age and less with his skin – maybe. But Troy and Rose gave their all to each other.
Troy: It’s not easy for me to admit that I’ve been standing in the same place for eighteen years!
Rose: Well, I’ve been standing with you! I’ve been right here with you Troy! I got a life too! I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot as you! Don’t you think I ever wanted other things?
Fences is about hope, love, fear, anger, pain, frustration, how those things can take you and turn you into a carcass of what you were supposed to be. And yet it’s hopeful, brave and fearless. It’s about determination, faith –
And how sometimes, the fences we build to protect us also keep us away from the ones who love us. Troy unconsciously built fences between him and his family – and that cost him a lot.
But still, he made good in the end. And really, that’s really what any of us can hope to do. Do the things that count while we can.
See Fences. And take down some of the ones you may have built around you. Who knows?
PS: Hypocrite Alert.