Monday, June 30, 2008

At Last! African Music On Idols East Africa

For the first time we have seen Africans showcase the beauty of African Music on an African Music talent show. Such irony! The thing is Africans sound better singing African songs and this is what the contest should have been about right from the start. Proudly African. Never mind that yesterday they all sang South African songs. It was good to note too that some of the contestants tried to incorporate something African in their looks either in the clothes, headgear or jewelry. You can always trust Amarra to outdo them all. And at least the presenter did not have pink butterflies on his lapels this time.

I’d always thought that the departure of Cynthia would expose Adiona’s weak singing but it seems I have another think coming. This time round the girl performed like an already practicing musician. She gave her best performance ever since she began her journey on Idols. How African music can transform an African! It’s hard to imagine she’s the same one who murdered Beyonce’s song a few weeks ago! Yesterday she looked and sounded the part and maybe she should stick to this kind of music. All the judges loved her performance. Scar thought it had a beginning and then an end. Duuh! Of course it had a beginning and then an end Mr. Matlhabapiri.

My money is on Eric. The guy is a star performer and a brilliant entertainer as he continues to prove week after week. His song seemed like a serenade for Angie whom he sent into a prolonged blush. She blushed so much she could hardly critique the performance. The audience loved him so much too and got into an even more prolonged frenzy. Only Scar thought that the vocals were not well projected – but those are African vocals Scar! Mellow. If you give the contestants an African theme, are you still judging on the screeching notes that they’ve been aping all along? Scar was clearly not in an African mood anyway. What was raw African authenticity especially in Mukhuluki’s and Eric’s performances translated as bad vocals for this often temperamental judge. And he thought Nicollete’s performance was like kissing a giraffe. Simon Cowel is back.

TK was not impressed with Trina and Amarra’s vocals. He expected better from them judging from their past performances. But what they may have lacked vocally they made up for with the dance moves. These girls can gyrate! Whatever were they upto?!

The giraffe twist was fun to watch. What was that giraffe upto with Nicollete?

Does that independent judge add any value to the show?

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's A Guy Thing

Guys before you close this page at the sight of a correction stick please note that it’s for you. See there, Clinique Stick Correcteur for men. That’s a pocket size concealer pen that can go with you from the office to the pub. Apply it to hide the razor bump marks and other blemishes for an even toned skin. But the razor bumps may be non existent in the first place because you probably also use MenScience Shea Butter Intensive moisturizer.

There is nothing wrong with a guy looking after himself. Top designers like Clinique, Clarins and Lancome have long known that and are making a killing out of masculine skin care products. While the male cosmetic market is not as old and flourishing as female, it has grown very rapidly over the years and sales of male grooming products are leaping by the billions. That means there’s something there. The idea is, if you can spend money on cologne to smell good, why not spend money on products to look good.

When our grandfathers think of grooming, they think of soap. Tough gritty Dark Age soap that you showered with and then lathered the same to use as you would lotion. More recent generations of men can talk about Rexona, Imperial Leather and Old Spice among other products. They can go further and incorporate shower gel, shaving cream, aftershave and cologne. But of late there is also the man who is as much at home having facials, manicures and pedicures as he is having botox injections.

There are only so many ways you can sell three-step-cleansing kits and other beauty handsome products to men – high quality, macho packaging (no pink bubbles) and tough as nails names. No small time romances in the naming. It’s gruff and vaguely scientific names like Bath Bombs, Brute, Free Range Chicken Poop Lip Balm (Ok that’s not for men), Apothecary, Anthony Logistics Hair Treatment, Ultraceuticals Even Skintone Serum ………. you get the drift. And not so gentle on the instructions either. Don’t ask the guys to dab them gently and apply in circular motions. They need hard working moisturizers and lip exfoliators so tell them to slap them on rub hard.

Ladies whose guys have taken grooming to the next level are lucky they don’t have such a hard time manscaping. What’s more, you can compare notes with your man on whose eyebrow shaping and colouring came out better. It’s so much easier for you to gift shop for him. Over the years you have bought him enough wallets and belts. Now you can have a longer list of possibilities with gifts like microfine soothing facial scrub, Almond hand/nail cream or soothing lip exfoliator. But when your toner is finished do not attempt to go for his. What looks like a friendly bottle of bubbles could turn out to be a harsh wake up call. Macho products have some extra bite. It’s a guy thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

May I Take Your Order?

China is gearing up for the Beijing 2008 Olympics and needless to say there’s a lot of preparation to be done. Other than conducting a massive and shocking clean-up in parts of the country, the Chinese Government has asked local restaurants to translate their menus into English in preparation for the many English speaking visitors who will be attending the Olympics.

The naming of Chinese dishes is a very elaborate affair. It’s an artful combination of cultural, artistic, historical, geographical and political aspects. Some dishes derive their names from Chinese fairy and folk tales. For this reason many times only the people who know the culture well can understand the menus there. Translators are using cooking method, materials, taste and names of people and place as criteria for naming the foods. There’s a delicate balance to be maintained because they don’t want to lose their cultural backgrounds and yet they have to come up with Menus that their English speaking visitors can understand.

However, poor grasp of the English language and feeding Chinese dishes into a computer translator can combine to come up menu items like ‘Star fried Wikipedia’, ‘steamed eggs with Wikipedia’ or ‘husband and wife lung slices’ among other bizarre menu entries. Or does ‘braised pork balls in soy sauce’ sound better? Not my words! These are actual menu entries. Not to worry though. The waiters and waitresses are being trained to explain. And it seems they’ll have a lot of explaining to do.

Let’s for instance translate a dish that is listed in a Chinese menu as ‘chicken without a sexual life’. Chicken without a sexual life is actually what a translator with a more grace would call ‘virgin chicken’. On an English menu you may find the same dish gracefully named ‘Steamed Spring Chicken’. It’s that simple. And here are some more entries you might come across in a literally translated menu.

  • Eggplant prepared under mysterious circumstances
  • Shredded documents with Hoisin sauce
  • Vegetables with Tingling Horse Flavor
  • Domestic life beef immerses cabbage
  • Crispy fish with discarded needle
  • Cold Noodles in Sesame Waste
  • Aromatic Octopus on wheels
  • Sweet & Salmonella soup
  • Roast Pork Puppy Chow
  • Barbecued Bear Ribs
  • Squished Eel delight
  • Peking Daffy duck
  • Force Fed Shrimp

These are actual dishes on a Chinese menu. You don’t believe me? Check out some more here. Or here.

I’ve nothing against the Chinese as one would imagine after reading this and a previous article on this blog. Rather they fascinate me. They really fascinate me and make me laugh. I love them.

See also: We are what we watch.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Idols East Africa 2008 - Seven More To Go

After bidding farewell to Zimbabwe’s Samantha Tirivacho who many still did not deserve to leave the show, Idols East Africa is heating up by the week and all the contestants seem to have upped their game, including Cynthia Kuto. Yeah she’s still in the race. Here's a peek at yesterday's (June 22) show.

19 year old Zambian Trina Chisanga kicked off the show on a high note with Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. A very big song indeed. She left the audience and the judges visibly excited. TK thought she chose a clever song and Scar thought that she did the song justice. Her voice broke a little bit though somewhere in the high notes but that’s expected and the judges don't seem to have noticed.

20 year old Zimbabwean Adiona Maboreke gave a better performance this time compared to last week with Keisha White’s ‘The Weakness In Me’. She was accused last week of not feeling the song but this time she tried to change that. She put some more emotion in her performance and the judges thought she was spectacular and very confident. I’m not sure about spectacular but she sure has improved.

24 year old Cynthia Kuto whom Scar (real name Thabo Matlhabapiri) described as the Houdini of Idols is still very much in the race despite the fact that a lot of people, judges included, think she should go. I think Cynthia is there only because people are voting in favour of their countries and since she's the only one from Kenya, she gets a huge chunk of Kenya's votes. Zimbabwe on the other hand has to split her votes among 4 contestants. Otherwise as soon as they decrease, so will Cynthia’s chances. But at that rate it's not the most talented Idol that Africa is looking for but rather the one from the most populated country. Yesterday Cynthia admitted that musically she does better in groups than she does solo and I think that explains a lot. She has improved this week though but it’s clear she’s still not a singer. As Angela Angwenyi says, Cynthia's problem is that other contestants are growing much faster than Cynthia who seems to be on a platue.

23 year old Zimbabwean Mkhululi Bhebhe was as charming as ever as he sang ‘Have I Told You Lately’ by Rod Stewart. He got really creative by giving a member of the audience a red rose although he almost butchered the song towards the end while trying to 'make it his own'. This smooth operator definitely did a better job than last week.

19 year old Amarra Brown from Zimbabwe dared to do George Michael’s ‘Careless Whispers’. It was good of her to challenge herself in that way but Scar warned her to watch out on the high notes. And once again he's right. If she's not careful she may sound too pitchy. This girl is meant for the stage though and even though she does not win, her path is already clear.

27 year old Eric Moyo also of Zimbabwe brought the late Luther Vandros on stage in his song ‘Here and now’. Eric seems to have listened to Scar advise last week about being too cocky and this time he did less song butchering. But all in all it was a very good performance that Angela thought would make Luther Vandros proud.

Finally 19 year old Nicollete Kiiga from Uganda but with ties in Zimbabwe (or is it vice versa) set a very high standard for herself with last week’s sterling performance but unfortunately this week she did not get there. Her attempt at Madona’s ‘Like A Prayer’ was a slight slip back and it seems she’s better off doing slower songs. But I’m sure she’ll bounce back. All the judges were in agreement that the vocals were not good this time.

May the most talented Idol win.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Anti-Jigger Campaign Bearing Fruit

When Ahadi Trust declared that they were dedicating their energies on an anti-jigger campaign, a lot of people put their efforts down to the many money making ventures posing as Non Profit Making Organizations. Miss World Kenya 2005 Cecilia Mwangi’s active involvement was taken as the Paris Hilton dumb blonde syndrome. Or the silly things that beauty queen hopefuls sometimes say they’ll do to change the world. But with the success of the anti-jigger campaigns, people realized that beauty and brains actually mix very well. This young lady has done more. She blends beauty, brains and guts – the ability to get out there and do something.

Few creatures on earth can cause as much torment and anguish for their size as the tiny jigger. These bugs are not only a nuisance but a health hazard too. Usually the female burrows into the skin, mostly feet and then lays it’s eggs there causing swelling, itching and pain. Severe infestation can cause deformity and there is the risk of secondary infections like tetanus or even gangrene. In some cases victims end up with deformed toes and loss of toe nails. In more extreme but rare cases, jiggers have been known to cause death. Thankfully, Ahadi are on the ground in the most affected areas providing counseling and surgical instruments to clinics and dispensaries. For these victims, even just a bottle of Dettol antiseptic is a big blessing.

Treatment is basically surgical extraction of the parasite and this unfortunately raises the scarier problem of spread of HIV through sharing of pins and needles by victims when trying to extract the bugs. People and especially children afflicted by these bugs are often stigmatized and end up with very low self esteem. They can hardly walk let alone play and as such their schooling is interfered with. Many end up dropping out of school and never finding decent jobs, hence spinning the poverty cycle even more.

Majority of Kenyans who grew up in urban areas have no idea what a jigger is. It’s a long forgotten pest that is wrecking havoc in some rural areas as has been exposed by Ahadi Trust. Although it affects many parts of the country, Murang’a District in Central Kenya seems to have borne the brunt of the jigger menace. And the leaders, some of whom probably had a jigger or two in their childhood, forgot about it too. When the topic came up for discussion on the floor of the house after awareness created partly by Ahadi and partly by the media, the Government had no data on jigger prevalence.

But now the word is spreading really well. Bloggers too, who by the way are becoming a very powerful medium in Kenya are also taking time to highlight the problem. It has also caught the attention of parliamentarians with Kalonzo Musyoka donating Kshs.100,000/- towards the campaign and Kenyans living in London pledging a similar amount. With enough dedication from the right quarters, there is every indication that the problem will soon be history.

See also: Soccer For All By 2030?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Misbehaving Dads Who Deserve No Celebration

Sunday 15th June the world celebrated father’s day. Quite a foreign term this part of the world but it’s good to celebrate fathers all the same. Millions of cards and gifts flew around the world as people showed their male parents some love and appreciation. There are millions of outstanding fathers out there. Kudos to those. But it’s a world teeming with misbehaving ones too and many sons and daughters have nothing to celebrate about their fathers.

There are some whose biological functions never quite translated into parental responsibilities. Like this family I know for whom dad meant getting up at 3 am when he staggered home carrying some meat for dinner. Mum had to wake up and cook for him the meat and ugali. What’s more, all her 4 daughters had to wake up and stay with her in the smoke filled kitchen as she cooked. Including the 5 year old last born. By the time the female army were done cooking, dad would be fast asleep. Even if he was not asleep he would reject the ugali as too soft, too hard, or not well cooked. The army of girls would troop back to the kitchen to start afresh, the little one dozing on her sisters’ laps. Pure malice if you ask me. Maybe the tough dude should have bought his wife a gas cooker before making such demands. The poor lady had to light firewood in the dead of night.

Many are the days he’d come home from the city where he worked, ask for school report cards and if even one daughter had not performed will in any subject, he’d beat the whole lot of them. Including the mother but this time excluding the little one. Then one day the unthinkable happened. The first born daughter fell pregnant. She was a bright girl and the most promising academically. She was in form 2 and fees had already been paid for the whole year. The irate father ordered all his other daughters to be pulled out of school and taken for pregnancy tests. This time the little one was 10. She too had a date with the doctor for the test. But for the first time in her life, mum stood up for her little girl and she did not get tested along with her elder sisters, none of whom was pregnant thankfully.

His children grew up knowing him as this tyrannical monster. Luckily he worked and stayed in town so the horror of having dad home was only once in a while. His arrival would turn the whole house cold with dread. He later fell really sick and mellowed down a lot as he aged. That was the time he started trying to win his children’s love. But by that time they were all grown up, doing well for themselves and taking very good care of their mother. But most of them, having never forgiven their father, out rightly refused to be part of his medical care. Some said they did not have a father. As for the wife he beat up and mistreated for the better part of their marriage, she was there to take care of him in his hour of sickness and need. He died a sad man.

But this tyrant pales in comparison to some other fathers further afield. Would be preacher Joshua Mauldin felt an uncontrollable urge to place his two month old daughter in the safe, the refrigerator and finally into the microwave oven for 20 seconds. The little girl suffered second and third degree burns on her face and hands. Her left ear had to be amputated as a result of the burns. The 20 year old father was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

21 year old Derrick Hardy did the opposite. He crammed his girlfriend’s 10 month old baby into the freezer in 2006 apparently to cool a sudden fever. The mother came home only to find her baby in the freezer alongside ice cubes and bugger meat. The baby sustained first and second degree freezer burns on her head and torso. Now if he thought the baby got too cold, would this loony have placed her in the microwave too to heat her up a bit? Just a thought.

More recently there’s 73-year-old Austrian Josef Fritzl who imprisoned his daughter in a cellar and zero grazed on her for 24 years fathering 7 children with her. There are lots of sick minds out there but this one probably takes the trophy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Idols East Africa 2008 - The Story So Far

With just 8 contestants left in the Music Talent Show Idols East Africa, it’s is finally taking shape and Africa is proving to have such amazing talent. The contestants are getting better and better by the day. Gone are the circus days of the likes of Kevin Munyi who was there to change the world and Samuel Njuguna of the blond wig. I remember calling this same show a comedy in a past article. It was indeed a comedy then but now we have some real musical stars in the making.

Eric Moyo is a great singer by all standards. Other than having a great voice and a wide vocal range, he’s also a darling performer on the stage. But he’s getting too confident and he has been warned by Scar not to cross the thin like between confidence and cockiness. And Scar could be right. Eric tends to butcher his songs a lot by inserting one too many ‘come on’ calls to the audience in the middle of the song. Maybe he should just belt out and the audience will love him anyway.

Samantha Tirivacho has greatly improved and even though she does not win the competition, she’s a very powerful entertainer all the same and has the ability to build a musical career for herself. Her performance was quite impressive as compared to Adiona Maboreke whose lower register and overall performance as a whole was not up to scratch. Adiona’s performance was just blank with no emotion at all, something all the judges described as disappointing.

Cynthia Kuto’s performance was simply dismal. There are no sugar coated words to mask it with. Even Angela Angwenyi who is always trying to be sweet had a tough time on this one. She advised her to give herself 1 year before trying to sing again. But Angie if she does not have the talent, where will she get it from even in 10 years? She’s just not a singer and as Scar advised, she should just quit singing. There’s a lot more she can do. Someone mentioned modeling for example. How did she even get to the top 10? Cynthia is surely on her way out and unfortunately with her goes Kenya’s representation in the show.

Mkhululi Bhebhe sang really well as usual but was noticeably lacking in his usual charisma at the beginning of the performance. The judges were not impressed with him either but Scar handed it to him for effortless delivery. He’s a natural. Mkhukuli has a good lovable personality and with the likes of Cynthia still in the competition, he’s safe and has time to improve on his performance.

Nicollete Kiiga’s somber performance which she delivered kneeling on the floor can only be described as smashing. She’s a very emotional singer who makes the listener really feel the song. The girl is already a star and her confidence and voice control shone through for her. Her voice wavered a little bit towards the end but that was easily masked by the beauty of the song. All the judges, the audience and I’m sure the viewers were really impressed. Scar thought she set the roof on fire. Way to go girl!

Amarra Brown – If I was asked to describe Amarra in one word, musically or not, I’d call her sizzling. This sister knows where she’s at and she’s very confident about it. And she’s quite eloquent too. She loves what she’s doing and it shows. She blew Scar’s and I’m sure other viewers’ socks off with a riveting performance of Celine Dion’s ‘I Surrender’. Yesterday was the first time this all rounder attempted a ballad if I’m not wrong. Angela said something like only Mariah Carey has ever hit a higher A note in musical history. Was she implying that Amarra did something that has only ever been done by Maria Carey? If so then the girl will go more places than even she can imagine.

Trina Chisanga – They say dynamite comes in small packages and Trina is living proof. In a performance that Angela Angwenyi described as out of this world, the singer delivered an emotional performance straight from the heart. Scar advised her to avoid the habit of screaming her performances to conserve energy in case she’s in concert and has many songs to do. But if her vocal cords are powerful enough to belt out like that and still have energy left for more performances then why not?

Idols East Africa is obviously heating up and I’m sure fans can hardly wait for next week. Overall it seems that although Scar may be mean and all, his advise is spot on. Just like Simon Cowel.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stealing From Plane Crash Victims?

The deaths of Kipkalya Kones, Lorna Laboso and others in a plane crash in Kajiado North came as a shock to many people. And also as a blow to their families, the government of Kenya and the ODM party in particular. Plane crashes are never a good thing and nobody wants to think of them because we still have to travel somehow. May I take this opportunity to express my condolences to the families of the bereaved.

I was more than shocked to read in the Daily Nation that some villagers of Konjong’a village where the plane crashed actually rummaged through the pockets of the dead and stole money and guns. I’m no expert in matters aviation but I know that most times bodies break apart on impact. The degree of disintegration depends on several factors which we shall leave to the physics experts. What we do know is that in some cases the impact of a crash can shatter ribs and other bones, making them sharp missiles that then pierce into vital organs and even through the skin to the outside. In other cases hitting the ground at high speed causes the major internal organs to be pushed against the spine and ribcage at a pressure they can not possibly withstand and they end up getting liquefied in the body. In short bodies at a plane crash sight must be nothing short of grotesque.

For someone to then sift through the debris, locate the bodies and go through their pockets? That must be a morbid thief extraordinaire. And let’s not even blame poverty or lack of education for such kinds of acts. A thief is a thief is a thief. The average human being is afraid of death, dying and the sight of dead bodies. But obviously some people have no such feelings. What happened to the days when young men used to actually work hard for a living? Now many of them sit back and expect free lunch, all the while blaming the government for their own laziness.

There’re many things one can do if they stumbled on a crash site but rummaging through the pockets must be the uncoolest of them all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eating the Health Digest

When my wife came home and announced that she had decided to start eating healthy, I was elated and more than willing to join the bandwagon. I had recently done an online health quiz which came this close to telling me that with the standards set by present day health industry, I’d have heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure at the tender age of 40. And I’m not alone in this. What with all the fries, burgers, Nando’s pizzas and refined fast foods that have flooded our lives. I already knew at the back of my mind that all those hangover-friendly foods I loved were not good for my health. I was going to start eating healthy some day. One of these fine days that never seems to come.

By the end of the online quiz, it was like, look here brother; your dietary lifestyle is a sure ticket to a slow painful early death. My case went further than dietary transgressions. The fact that I do not have a canine friend also increases my chances of meeting my maker earlier than I’d want to. Also once in a while I have a drink or two in town and I have to get home somehow. So add tipsy driving to my bad list although they prefer to call it drunken driving. And don’t even get me started on the tipple.

Much as I would like to live a long and healthy life, there are a few recommendations that are just beyond my reach. I can’t sleep for 8 hours a night. Who actually does? I wake up at 5 daily so that would mean sleeping at 9.00 pm – barely half an hour after dinner. And that compounds my dietary sins even further because they also recommended eating dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime. That makes the math a bit more complex. To crown my unhealthy habits, I’m completely unable to develop the clean habit of downing 8 glasses of water a day. I just can’t seem to go past the third glass.

Anyway, my wife came to the rescue with her grand healthy eating plan. But I was totally unprepared for the absolute horror that healthy eating has become of late. Welcome to the age when we drink vegetables. All those greens we grew up cooking and eating with maize meal? The spinach, kale, cabbage etc etc? Not any more. The current generation drinks them. Raw. And we don’t plant the seeds any more either. We dry them and eat them instead. Which raises the frightening possibility of some plants becoming extinct because mankind ate all the seeds. Scientists have recently discovered that we need live enzymes as a matter of life and death.

My good lady approached healthy eating from a very severe angle. She didn’t ease us into it, like carrot juice today, carrots and beets tomorrow, carrots, beets and spinach day 3… none of that. It was the whole deal on day one. And from then on she served me a loving glassful and a loving plateful of health at every opportunity. Health being weird vegetable muck, moong beans, DIY muesli, pulses and lentils among others. How healthy eating can change things. I used to salivate at the sight of my wife coming my way glass in hand. Now the same sight filled me with dread. No more mouthwatering aromas or a comforting spattering of noises from the kitchen.

Although it made me feel light and fresh, it was a punishing way to eat and difficult to keep up. By week two we both could not stand the sight of brown rice and the attendant healthy stews. We’ve since scaled down to just a normal healthy diet with a few sins every once in a while.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tattoos For Babies?

Did someone take his/her baby to the tattoo parlor? No, nobody would do that. But someone sure did take the baby's photo through some photoshop or something. Whichever way, whatever were they thinking?

And the cutie himself seems to have quite some attitude.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hats Off For Lorna Irungu

It’s hats off for one Lorna Irungu who must be the bravest girl on Kenyan soil. In a story she gave to the new look Drum East Africa, Lorna says that she believes in the possibility of only good things happening to her.

These are very brave words coming from a young woman who has had to grapple life threatening ailments for over ten years. Just this year in January she was admitted in hospital suffering from tuberculosis of the spine. I watched her on TV some time back explaining what she has to go through in terms of treatment. This left two of her vertebrae badly damaged. She spent much of January in a medically induced coma. Treatment of the TB left her kidneys and liver badly damaged and she now has to undergo dialysis treatment twice a week. To this end she has a permanent catheter on the upper right side of her chest onto which the dialysis machines are hooked when she goes for her sessions. And yet despite all this, Lorna has bounced back much to the surprise of some of the doctors who were treating her.

When we speak of her kidneys note that she has had two kidney transplants already, one in 1998 and another in 2001. Much earlier she was diagnosed with Lupus, which according to Wikipedia is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissue resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. It can affect any part of the body but most often harms the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys and nervous system. It seems in Lorna’s case it affected her kidneys.

Health issues aside, last year Lorna suffered another blow when her father died of HIV complications as she discloses here. Just how much can one girl take? And yet Lorna seems to be always charming and full of cheer. Quite a strong girl this one.

Before I read Lorna Irungu’s story I think I had started getting a little bit too comfortable. I had spent the afternoon in the office whining about silly stuff. The afternoon is dragging too long, the tea is not sweet enough, emails are not going through, some files are missing, oh it’s too hot………. and on and on. Then I bought the magazine on my way home and I thought you know what? We need to be grateful for everything we have.

Despite all this the cheerful girl still does not know how to be sad. Lorna’s words in verbatim, “you can decide to be a crier or a fighter, a person who rejoices. I do not know how to be sad.” Thank you Lorna for being so inspiring.

Parts of this story, ok most of this story is adopted from the new look Drum.

On a lighter note Lorna Irungu I think has a striking resemblance to equally beautiful celebrity Star Jones.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Piece of Safaricom

After the excitement and flurry of activity surrounding the largest IPO south of Sahara, Safaricom must surely now be the largest company too, with over 600,000 new shareholders being brought on board. It seems though, that the whole exercise was more of a fund raising effort by the government than a real investment opportunity for the multitudes even as Finance Minister Kimunya pretends that the oversubscription was unexpected. The anticipated massive turn-out may actually have informed the decision to split 25% of the government’s holding into tiny five-shilling shares for ease of drawing in money from the public. And true to the conspirators’ expectations, the pride of “owning a part of the most profitable company in East and Central Africa” was just too overwhelming.

Now that the “investor” hype has calmed down and allotments made, many of the subscribers must be sobering out of the stupor of pride to find that their investment goals have been diluted to such minuscule levels as to make tragicomedy of the whole exercise. Having attained his Ksh 50billion with ease, Minister Kimunya can now quietly slip away from the scene to leave Safaricom with an upcoming logistical nightmare in their hands, the NSE with what promises to be a highly volatile trading environment and thousands of proud, albeit anxious, shareholders.

Investment analysts will no doubt come out with an array of metrics to show that Safaricom is a worthwhile investment in the long run, assuming that Michael Joseph has a worthy succession plan in place incase he opts to leave, and hoping that the politics of several hundred shareholders does not over-run the company. But for the many unsophisticated investors, the important indicator will of course be how much money they will be making in the short-term speculative trading or the long-term return on their investment.

For many of these not-so-savvy speculators who borrowed loans from banks to finance their subscriptions, the coming few months will obviously be unpleasant. Repayments of the loans with interest will be due even as they trade their fraction allotments at the stock exchange which is expected to open trade at about Ksh 10 to Ksh 15 and then stabilize at around Ksh 7. A little arithmetic with these figures clearly suggests that no one will be “making a killing” in the short term apart from the banks and stock-brokers through interests and commissions. For instance, trading off the minimum allotment of 420 shares may earn one just about Ksh 4200. This is for the many that queued to pay Ksh 10000 for the minimum 2000 shares but were allotted only 420.

On the basis of this year’s company performance, such an investor could in one year earn the princely sum of Ksh 21 as dividends, a figure which can be expressed in various ways through analytical metrics to spruce it up as a smart return on investment. But in whichever way the returns are expressed, it is possible that the company’s bottom line and corporate image could appear rosy even as the benefits accruing to the 600000 shareholders stay incongruent. How the ingenious management of Safaricom intends to disburse such dividend sums of a few hundred shillings to thousands of shareholders remains to be seen (M-pesa?). And we may just witness the first AGM to be conducted by sms!

Unlike the typical public offers for shares by companies which are designed to raise funds for investment and growth, this was not the case for the safaricom IPO whose entire proceeds were taken up by government to finance unrelated programs. This brings to the fore the dubious value that the shareholders will be bringing to the business other than increase expenses which now have to cover the logistics of circulating company reports, managing AGMs and so on. Already there is talk by some people about “ganging up” and mobilizing shareholders to ferret out the ghosts of Mobitelea, an undertaking that is bound to be exciting, expensive and probably unproductive.

The enticement to jump onto the Safaricom IPO must have been a clever dupe to raise funds quickly for government, for whatever reason, under the guise of enabling the common man to invest. The magnitude of the dupe will become clearer in the coming year or two when the very same commoners will have been bought out by the “big boys” of the game. It is a shame that our own government should conspire to play on the pride of its own people and their desire to earn an honest shilling.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Obama's Life Journey In Photographs

Photographs of the man who could be the next president of the United States Barack Obama since his childhood to date, together with his father, wife and two girls.