Canadianizing – One Bite At A Time

So, for the first four years I’ve lived here, I have resisted every effort to Canadianize. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being Canadian. Well, except that they are too British and in denial; too non-American and too much uniquely hanging in between.

They love the Queen (more than the Brits) and won’t swap their parliamentary system for the presidential system – which kind of annoys the Americans. Then, they have reflected all the British horrors including their obsession with the Canadian weather. For a man coming from no public transportation to an organised and what is to me an effective public transportation system, they won’t stop complaining each time the bus is a minute late. Yes, the other day they were trying a Senator for some silly thing they call corruption. The media bores and annoys me each time it records the number of murders there have been in the capital which is usually lower than the number killed by ritualists in my home country Nigeria. Canadians annoy – like that!

I enjoy Canada. I don’t hate winter and whenever summer comes like a long-awaited bride I am careful not to be overjoyed. Truth is, the Canadian weather is more unreliable than its public transport but I realized how much I can do nothing about it. So I #REBT it if you know what I mean – the principle is – what cannot be helped must be endured!

I brought Africa with me and I carry it everywhere I go. I mean, I still enjoy my bowl of eba and okro soup as dinner no matter what my weight-watcher friends say. Yes, I have cut down a bit on the frequency, but I eat home food. I can’t stand the smell of cheese or its taste, but this is from my lactose intoleration than anything else. I am still waiting for someone to tell me what to do with maple leaf syrup in a land where sugar, honey, and aspartame coat our tastebuds.

And…yes, until recently, I do not drink coffee. I’d always believed that tea is to the English what chocolate was to the Aztecs. But lately, I’ve been expanding my circle of friends and tasting some forbidden fruits. The first time I tasted coffee again after twenty or so years, it tasted better than the last time I believed it gave me palpitation. I was expecting to spend the four hours I usually get in sleep starring at the ceiling and looking like a junkie in withdrawal the next morning after doing the expresso. Surprisingly I got my ration of sleep afterwards. So, like a junkie (yes most Canadians are coffee junkies), I went for a my fix and have been mixing my drinks since – oscillating between coffee and tea.

It’s been about two months now, and today I have found new passion in coffee. I have tasted the fairly expensive Starbucks and the fairly popular Tim Hortons. From thinking that Second Cup‘s fairly bourgeois atmosphere might make them top the lot in price, I am now a fairly regular there. In fact, I am writing this from a Second Cup franchise in Downtown Ottawa. Sometimes when my wallet allows, I even request an add-on – a grilled ham or chicken sandwich – without the cheese of course. And the indulgent cakes.

So, yes, here’s byebye to home-brewed tea although no-one has cured me of the addiction of buying more varieties of tea from the famous Ceylon through China’s Oolong to the now sought-after Green Tea – spiced with ginger root if made at home.

Whenever the time permits, I tend to enjoy sitting and pounding on my keyboard while starring at the traffic through the glass-panelled window. Sometimes a friendly bird perches on a chair beside me nibbling at a breadcrumb unmindful of my stare but careful to give me my berth.

Hellooo someone come and get me, …is this what it means Canadianizing?BayviewBayview in winter

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Don’t Follow Fashion – Just Function

It was a church sermon, and the preacher – Bishop David Abioye blurted in righteous indignation, “I don’t dress for fashion, I dress to function”. I can’t remember the year this was, but it ministered so deep to me  I did not forget the quote. It keeps me on the straight and narrow each time I’ve been pressed to spend more than desired on a fashion accessory.

Miss Zambia 2010 courtesy www.telegraph.co.uk

Pix: Miss Alice Musukwa, Miss Universe 2010 – courtesy The Telegraph, UK.

A dress is anything that covers your nakedness and makes you presentable. Its about whatever enhances your self-confidence first and appropriateness second. You don’t want to go for an interview in your nightgown, well, except you live in parts of the world where dresses are made to feel that way! But don’t do it to overkill. It gets to a level when you dressing becomes the centre of attention and your brain capacity is subsumed under it. Is that what you set out to do? If not, then cut it down.

Don’t go bankrupt just to impress people, be yourself. Buy because you need to, not because you want to make a fashion statement. Most people I know are cutely attired, but their dresses do not necessarily cost an arm and a leg. Your fashion icons are dressed that way because that is the way they roll. Lady Gaga can afford to wear those eye-popping or is it headline-catching dresses because she is Lady Gaga. The name is the brand. There can only be one Lady Gaga in the world of showbiz and every copycat is that – copycat!

If you’ve been around long enough, you will find out that fashion is not necessarily something new. It goes round and comes round. Yes, I know that designers are making dresses out of anything that catches their fancy, from gourds fashioned out as bras to paper dresses working to enter the Guinness Book of World Records. But if you keep your wardrobe for long enough (without hoarding of course) you will find out that fashion would come back to make it relevance.

It’s true that we address people the way they are dressed. Whether that is right or wrong is subjective. With time, people tend to judge people either by the content of their characters or the manifestation of their intellect. It’s so low to be lovingly attired but intellectually shallow. Your dress will never compensate for your intellect.

Cleanliness is the second attribute of a good dress sense. Make sure that what you have is clean and well-ironed if that is what it requires. Even at a job interview, people may have given you a minus for what you could afford, but if you have what it takes, they would soon forget your dress and covet your brain.

Bottomline – don’t dress only for fashion except you’re going for the Oscars, dress to function. And if you have too many, donate to charity. Remember one man’s rag is another man’s best.

How Lousy Service Kills Good Canadian Businesses

A few hours ago, I drove into a Costco gas station. Well, some of you know why we do Costco – it’s supposed to be cheaper! My Toyota Sienna looks like something from a mud car race. In winter when the combination of slush and snow obliterates every mark on a car, what you need most is a clean windscreen. But if you are watching your wallet like I do, buying a can of low-temperature windshield wiper every day could eat into your grocery budget.

The garage that protects our car from the elements have been faulty for a few weeks. We have applied to have it fixed, but we all know that the wheels of bureaucracy grinds very slowly. So we park outside – like everyone else. I jokingly tell my wife that its God’s training for us to learn to live our size.
So, after pushing and pulling in the appropriate cards, I was now happily feeding the hungry tank when I saw a Costco staff dressed in winter gear. I am very dark skinned and one way of ensuring that people notice me is to smile. So, I flashed my tooth and thanked his management for providing us cheaper gas. Then I chipped in that Costco customers would appreciate complimentary windshield wipers like other fuel stations. Without as much as returning my smile,

he retorted that it had nothing to do with him and that if I had any suggestions, I should make to ‘the guys at the office.’

All this while, he was walking away to his destination.

Was I shocked? Absolutely not. I guess I am used to crude service by front end staff even though I am looking forward to that place where I would be truly treated not as king in the era of democracy, but as a human being. Truth is, service here sucks and pardon my French.
I spent a year of my consultancy time training front-office staff on the true meaning of service excellence. Front office staff are the best PR managers of their organisations. The model for that training was the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

I expected to find the model all over America, but sorry guys, it’s not here. Just weeks after arriving in Ottawa, I had to cancel my first appointment with a family doctor near my house because his secretary was anything but friendly. When her boss came out to see the commotion she had caused, he took her side. He told me it would not be in my best interest to register with him as my family doctor since I could not get along with his secretary. I have followed their progress since then, and I‘ve heard several other patients dread confronting that same lady.

Front-end staff are the best brand ambassadors of any successful organisation. If they buy into the brand with their courtesy and friendliness, the message quickly goes round. If they flunk it, all the advert money wouldn’t do the trick. It is sad to see famous brands hit town and fold up within months. Target has suffered that fate here. Could it have something to do with courtesy?

Big corporations spend billions on marketing every year, but it takes the insouciance of one front-end staff to plunge all that into the drain. Bad reputation is the best spoiler of good business. In an article justifying big advertisement bucks in Business Insider, writer Patricia Laya writes about General Motors’ mantra – “we all fall down”.

When businesses fail, it is not just the salaries of the employees that’s casualty, it is the chain of other businesses and lives who draw their livelihood from it. It beats me silly why a consumer shop which sells only to registered customers have sentries at their entrance checking membership cards! You cannot take a pin out without that card even if you have enough to buy the shop. So, why have unfriendly and often tired-looking people cherry-picking who they think wants in without cards?

I don’t know what they teach these days at sales school, but it is evident here that sales people hardly value their customers. Some shop clerks even redirect customers to where the goods sell cheaper rather than make an effort to sell their own brand! If I employed such people, they wouldn’t last a day. They are not brand ambassadors.

Employees must understand that the survival of the business is linked to their own survival.

If you kill the job with your snobbishness, you are not just a brand murderer but a vicarious murderer too.

Yes, CEO’s go undercover, but they need to spend some of that marketing and advertisement cash on training their staff on courtesy and friendliness. Courtesy and friendliness are the best advertisement needed for the survival of any enterprise.

tundeasaju@yahoo.co.uk

How Social Media Affects My Writing

I have scooped myself twice on social media this year alone. What? Yes, I write an opinion for Daily Trust (www.dailytrust.com.ng) every Wednesday and another one (Wakaman) on Sundays(www.sundaytrust.com.ng/wakaman). Writing two 800-word essays every week is not cheesecake. While it is arduous to do sometimes, at other times two columns is not enough in the face of urgent news requiring an opinion.

Social media has made the immediacy of comment very imperative. News breaks first on social media before mainstream media has the capacity to authenticate them. On social media, everybody is a writer, editor and publisher rolled in one. There are more people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else is out there than there are people trolling through mainstream media at any given time. In today’s world, we are all inwardly narcissistic.

Social-Media-Buttons

We are on social media for different reasons. Some just can’t wait to be the first to like the tweeted picture of their idols; others are paid to feed propaganda, while some are paid to counter it. The rest of social media residents, have to follow our rogue governments from the diaspora and to monitor the perspective of people on breaking news. The last category of social media could be spurred to respond to a debate or policy to counter hype or to stop a lie in its tracks.

Winston Churchill, the man whose 50th passage we have just celebrated could have lived in 2015. He cautioned that a lie might have travelled a thousand miles before the truth starts to wear its pyjamas. That is proving to be true with social media. Somebody decides to create a fib and publish it, because computers tend to imbue in people a boldness that they naturally lack and pronto- it’s gone viral. By the time the maligned tries to repair the damage, it’s too late.

Because of inappropriate tagging culture, I was forced to write an essay on tags. There are people out there who tag even when they change their own profile picture. It was called my no-tag policy, mainly addresses decency and decorum. But while a few friends were sharing, the government in Nigeria decided to postpone an election that had taken four years to prepare for. I couldn’t wait to write another piece. In the past, each of this could have passed for my regular column. But then, they just couldn’t wait!

If you have anything on how social media affects your writing and want to share, please do so.

Syria: Time for Review?

I don’t know about you, but the world I live in is not safer than it was post 9/11. The war in Iraq got rid of a dictator, Saddam Hussein; but it left a vacuum which together with foreign back-pedalling on Syria has created the evil ISIS/ISIL. The independent group Iraq Body Count believes over 150,000 have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

With global help, Libya took care of the megalomaniac Muammar Gadaffi. But it failed to secure the arms that sustained him for 42 odd years. That ‘mistake’ created a fiefdom of uncontrollable militia across Libya. Experts see a link between the collapse of the Libyan state and the war that nearly finished Mali. It is believed that Libyan bands travelled across the desert into the hands of Boko Haram and that the mercenaries who failed in Timbuktu are fighting on Boko Haram’s side in Nigeria.

So what went wrong with Syria? How did the chubby relationship between the west and Bashar al-Assad get sour? How did the reformist prince who would open his country’s doors to the enchanting arms of democracy suddenly become such a repulsive foe? Who among the tribal warlords is the trusted democrat to make Syria the model America of the Arab world?

What is behind the new thinking that the entire world should democratize overnight? Why are the teachers of freedom and diversity so antagonistic of the diversity brought by traditionalists, communists, feudalists and whatever else exists out there? Why have can’t we see that our attempt at force-feeding the rest of humanity with the addictive diet of our version of may be creating the manure for the growth of extremism?

The extremist corridor created by the Syrian imbroglio is a magnet attracting young people fed on violent video lionising murder. Al-Assad continues to dig in even as his bloodthirsty enemies are sworn to eternal revenge.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has just failed at his second attempt at brokering peace. This is how he explained it to the beleaguered people of Syria “I apologise to them that in these two rounds we haven’t helped them very much.” That is an understatement. The refugee camps are as filled as the morgues. Time is a luxury the displaced do not have.

Would support for Assad stop the bleeding, recover lost ground and return our world to what it was before the madness began? That’s the question the world needs to answer before it reaches the point of no return.

How Trial by Media Negates Media Ethics

“They destroyed our lives. God rescued us.” These were the words of one of the 26 defendants in a celebrated sodomy case in Cairo, Egypt, Monday January 12. The speaker, along with 25 others were on December 7 pulled from a Cairo bathhouse in a police sting operation video-taped by a famous Cairo television presenter. The incident was later broadcast on national television. It turned out the sanctimonious reporter rated on the bathhouse claiming she had a “den of mass perversion spreading AIDS in Egypt.” The courts ruled that the men were not gay. According to BBC News monitored here in Ottawa, under medical examination, only one of the accused was discovered to have had recent sodomised penetration. The court ruled this may have happened after the raid.

The verdict was highly welcome by relatives, friends and observers within and outside of Egypt, rather than outrage a nation steeped in strong Islamic values that frowns against same-sex relationships. Egypt has no clear-cut sodomy laws. Apparently, the acquitted were family men who went to the bathhouse the same way women would have shown up at a sauna or a massage parlour. That a journalist was the source of their embarrassment is now causing a raging debate over the phenomenon known as ‘Trial by Media’.

News coverage has witnessed an unprecedented boom in the last decade. While it takes weeks for events to get reported by mainstream media, handheld devices and social media meant that news travel faster; news go viral in seconds. Reputation is everything. If you pardon the cliché, reputation is like virginity, one prick and it’s all gone. For the acquitted Egyptians, their ordeal has just begun. The broadcast of their half-naked butts is not the worst of their nightmares, it is how to fix their hard-earned image in a society where honour is the greatest of all values. It is how to protect their immediate and nuclear families from the opprobrium that follows such a publicised albeit wrongful charges. In developed climes, they would be contacting the best lawyers for compensation both from the police and the media that broadcast their case. It is unlikely that this happens in Egypt, it hardly happens in any part of Africa.

This has been the hiding place of many media organisations destroying people’s reputation. But in a globalized world, no umbrella is large enough to shield from class action suits. A British court recently ordered a multinational oil company responsible for oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger-Delta to pay huge compensations. Could such courts make pronouncements in the breaches of people’s reputation? That is the million dollar question. But it may be the surest way to remedy against news organisations that fail to put safeguards in place when broadcasting unverified reports.

When it comes to the quest to be the first to break the news, mainstream media practitioners are daily jettisoning the ethics of their profession to join the race to beat the news clock. What happened in Egypt is a clear violation of the harm limitation principle which asks journalists to be judicious about naming criminal suspects prior to the formal filing of charges.

Unfortunately, it is a recurring decimal in today’s news dissemination quest where journalists and content producers flagrantly show the faces of juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes before trial, and place no sanctity on the human person. We are grossly guilty of pandering to lurid curiosity and the salacious inclinations of our audience at the expense of the people we cover.

In most parts of North America and the developed world, a wrestling programme is preceded by warnings about the violence and caution for viewers not to attempt the stunts. Content containing flash photography known to affect people with certain medical conditions are also advertised prior to broadcast as well as clips depicting disturbing images.

In the annual ritual when humanitarian agencies exploit the appalling conditions of children in canvassing for funds the children’s faces and their appalling conditions are flagrantly shown. Broadcasting these images contribute to the perpetuation of notions of underdevelopment of certain races. It can be argued that the wide publication of these images could negatively affect the psyche of these children as they grow into adulthood but this fact is completely ignored.

Until recently, trial by media was widely used in countries such as Nigeria where the police parades suspects they are investigating before they have been charged. This practice exposes the suspects, their children and relatives to ridicule, opprobrium and psychological trauma. The law proclaims everybody innocent until they have been tried and convicted by law.

There are other images from across the continent. One is the use of horrific images of the Baga massacre on social media. Others include horrendous images of victims of the seleka and anti-balaka crisis in Central African Republic or the bloody battles in Southern Sudan. The atrocious beheading of victims by Boko Haram in Nigeria get millions of views on social media, same for official decapitations in Saudi Arabia.

In the era of radicalisation, the onus lies on creators of content to be conscious of the dignity of the human person; they should forewarn consumers about images likely to shock them or steer clear of using them in the first place. Where this is inevitable, the camera should be kept away from the faces of subjects.

In interviews protecting the identity of eyewitnesses should be a priority when speaking to reformed members of terror groups exposing the modus operandi of their quondam friends. In most cases, some are so wracked by guilt that they often see confession as personal retribution; it is the responsibility of the professional to protect them against reprisal attacks.

Victims of sexual or other forms of violence in convalescence should have their identities shielded as well as the identity of facilities treating them. Victims of terror attacks whose assailants or possible sympathisers are still at large should be protected. Commercial interests should never override chastity, reputation and the sanctity of the human lifeThe_Shackles_of_Shame.Image courtesy http://www.debate.org

Charlie Hebdo and the bounds of decency

By now, we all know that freedom is not free. Freedom has a price. Very often those who run against the tide pay the supreme price for their daring. Many were burnt at the stakes for saying that the earth is round? It did it cost lives to achieve racial equality in most parts of the world and to put an end to slavery? To gain their rights to drive, women fought strong and hard. It took lots of agitation to accept women in the armed forces and even now, there still remains parts of our world where the things some people take for granted are not seen as inalienable rights.

Every reporter dreads that time when a friend has cause to fault their right to write a report. We all dread that rejoinder with a tinge of veracity in it. In the last year, hundreds of journalists were killed in the line of duty. But for every good reporter killed, there are ever more daring ones ready to step into their big shoes. For most reporters in conflict zones, every day is a unique blessing because they never know when they leave home and never return. In every corner of the globe, there is someone or groups of people doing something that they do not want exposed. Reporters go to great lengths to expose these things because they know that the world is better when hidden cupboards are flipped open, spilling its contents.

A lot has happened since the French satirist magazine, Charlie Hebdo became the subject of attack, first in 2011 and again this week. Debates have been held on whether or not the magazine’s editors have gone beyond the bounds of fair comment. There is no hard and fast rule to answering that question. The truth is that truth is bound to make someone uncomfortable. For instance, I wouldn’t walk a tightrope but that is what gives Charles Blondin his adrenaline rush.

While criticism, even fair comment is bound to rile someone somewhere, we must never stop pulling on the elasticity of freedom. The freedoms we take for granted today were distant dreams to those who walk our planet hundreds of years before us, so are the advances we have made. Through tenacity, men have universalized basic human rights, advanced in science and technology, gone to the moon and back and given itself incredible toys to occupy it. We must never stop advancing just because there are those who desire to kick our planet back to stone age. While we should not deliberately tease bullies, we should consciously engage until freedom flows on the surface of the earth without hindrance just as the waters flow into the sea.

The Charlie Hebdo four have paid the ultimate price for their daring. We should not judge them because they are pioneers of freedom of expression. The price they paid on January 7 may become a pillar of reference in another century where man is free to take on anything without fear of repercussion.

Charlie Hebdo Four - Courtesy, Daily Independent, UK

For those out there who believe that they are soldiers of a heavenly being, they should realise that if that being is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, then s(h)e does not need feeble man with all his inadequacies to fight any battle. It is demeaning for theists to believe that God needs them to avenge a slight if as scriptures say, that the omnipresent possesses all the powers to do and undo. They should realise that God can fight his own battle (if any) without human help.

Rest in peace Stephane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, Jean Cabu, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac and George Wolinski. May your exit never stop anyone from pursuing their passion, giving fair comment or following their passions.

Indeed, nous sommes tous Charlie Hebdo

The Changing Forms Of ‘Like’

Do you like or love me? That is the question you ask when you are in doubt. Its like that when the word Like shows up anywhere. As a noun Like compares things that are similar – There’s none like him.

In its verb form, Like takes on the form of agreement – Everybody likes Saturday night. It also expresses feeling – I like swimming in summer. It can also be used to distinguish preference – He likes swimming, not kayaking.

When Like takes on the form of an adjective it can mean any of four or five things according to the website – dictionary.com.

  • 1. of the same form, appearance, kind, character, amount, etc: I cannot remember a like instance.
    2. corresponding or agreeing in general or in some noticeable respect, similar; analogous: drawing, painting, and like arts.
    3. bearing resemblance – he looks like his father.
  • Check

    In the preposition form, the word – Like can have several other meanings. It could mean similar to, resembling; and can be used to characterise, predisposition.

    As a conjunction, Like could mean similarly and in our days, it is used to distinguish reported speech or a speech style. You probably have heard the expression – ‘as in’, while speaking to someone. He was talking to him, ‘as in, ear to ear.

    In its interjection form, Like works in a similar way in today’s speech, though grammarians may have a little trouble with it. Like, shut up for once girl.

    Like is also used in idiomatic form to express desperation – He wanted to look like his sister.

    So, next time you use the word – Like, ask yourself, what do I really mean. Before you block or delete your friend because they hit the Like button, check if they are not acting in line with today’s usage of the word in social media.

    10 Common Uses of the ‘Like’ Button on Social Media

    Are you confused about the real purpose or the appropriate use of the ‘Like’ button on social media? C’mon, don’t be shy, admit it. You have wondered why your best friend clicked ‘Like’ after you posted an obituary of a family member on your wall. You have shouted ‘Is s(h)e for real? Doesn’t s(h)e understand what grief means? Whoever rejoices at the death of another person?’

    Maybe you even went to the extreme to delete or block them from your wall. Sorry, you are wrong and before you delete me, hear me out.

    The word – Like – is one of the most misunderstood words in the English lexicon. I said word and not verb because it is at once a noun, an adjective, a preposition, an adverb, a conjunction, and an interjection. Beyond that, it is the defining structure of an idiom and a distinguishing feature of most similes. Here is one case of a simple four-letter-word packing an extremely confusing or sometimes devastating punch.

    On the evolution of the word ‘Like’ in the sociosphere; it is one of the youngest addition to a prominent feature called plugins. Plugins add features to your browsing experience. title=”Plugins”>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_(computing)

    Facebookadopted the orphan in April 2010 as a plugin to help you show interest in a particular content. You can forgive the ‘Like’ button for being misunderstood because it shares the same number of letters with other emotive words such as love and hate.

    It is one of the most favourite plugins on social media and feature in different ways from one social media to another. Social media websites loves it because it is an ambiguous way of saying many things. Here are ten favourite uses of the‘Like’ button on social media.

      1

    Simply put, I Like what you’ve posted.

      2

    I agree with your thought.

      3

    I have noticed this and I am thinking about it.

      4

    I empathise with this post, picture, video or meme.

      5

    I feel you.

      6

    I should have written something, but heh, don’t tell anybody, but my lexis and structure is so weak and I hate to embarrass myself before your erudite friends.

      7

    I am just doing a quick browsing. I don’t have the time to comment now, maybe later.

      8

    This is just to show that I’ve seen your posting but I am too busy right now to comment.

      9

    I am watching this thread.

      10

    I sympathise with you.

    Now that you have seen the ten common uses of the ‘Like’ button, let us hope you can forgive your friend who liked it when you announced the death of a family member for they know what they meant. Next week, we will attempt to see how like transforms from one part of speech to the other. If you have any comments, please put them here or on our Facebook page.

    Like Button

    Keep on liking – its legit!