The Leader Austria wants. You?

Photo Credit: CNN

The winds of change in the world of 21st Century politics bring with it a younger vibe into the system.

A 39 year old French man married to a woman twice his age becomes president, and New Zealand is buzzing with the news that Jacinda Ardern is poised to become its new prime minister. In Austria, early results suggest that 31 year old Sebastian Kurtz is Austria’s next chancellor and back in 2015 we’d thought Justin Trudeau was young! In retrospect, the world probably has him to thank for the new trend of voting in young leaders. I recall when Trudeau became Prime Minister, we could not believe it. He was 43 years old and was already at the helm of Canada’s affairs. Barack Obama was 48 when he became president in 2009, years younger than George W Bush. Little did we know that his was only the beginning…

I can’t help but route all these developments home.

Nigeria.

On the 26th of July 2017, the Nigerian National Assembly passed into law a bill that proposes 35 as the minimum age for the office of the president. Hottest news of the day without a doubt. It trended on Social Media for days! Now however I , like many other Nigerian, am wondering if we dare hope that 2019 will bring with it Fresh blood. I have seen posters of people and I am googling to know more about them: some I’m impressed by and others have made my heart whisper, ‘ You too?’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased by the show of new faces but I’m also wondering what skills and changes they will bring to the table. A lot of manifestos are hinged on the candidate’s youth. But you see, it is not just youth we need. Even Chinua Achebe explained what is required for a youth to lead in any society. He said and I paraphrase, ‘When a child washes his hands well he can sit and eat with the elders.’

It’s about the manifesto and how much they commit to executing it once they get into power.

According to CNN, Sebastian is offering the people of Austria a crackdown on immigration and they want him for that. I can think of a number of things I want my future Nigerian President to focus on and trust me when I say it will not be a one point agenda!

Over the next few weeks I’ll write about the sort of person I will be casting my vote for. My vote is just one but it is very powerful. Just to be clear: I’m not voting for anyone who is above a certain age- we need fresh blood in our system but those coming in need to bring in the change Nigeria needs. What kind of leader do you want? Do tell!

Interview with Comedian, Simon Taylor

Have you watched a comedy skit or a stand-up performance and wondered why everyone around you was laughing because you did not find any bit of it funny? Well Simon Taylor’s performance is not one of those. His humour cuts across culture, age and geographical location; a firm reason why he is going on a worldwide tour.
He was the host on Australia’s Channel 31’s late night talk show Live on Bowen along with Beat Streets with Simon Taylor. He has written for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell on the ABC. These along with his stand-up routines have resulted in him wining several industry awards including The Hotel Barkly Comedian of The Year Award and The Imarginarium Comedian of The Year Award. He is currently writing a show for Netflix.
I caught up with Simon for a chat at a Café in New York’s East Village.


Amina: When and how did you get into comedy?

Simon: When I was 8-years-old I was on school camp. There was a talent competition and I wanted be a stand-up comedian. I didn’t get any laughs that night, except for one teacher. That was enough for me to get hooked and want to be a performer. So I blame that teacher for laughing that night and making me believe I could be a comedian.

Amina: Can you remember the first time you performed on stage; what was that like?

Simon: The very first time was when I was 5-years-old and I was doing an Elvis impersonation at school. I think I loved the attention. But eventually I realised I wasn’t a good singer, that’s probably why I moved to comedy.

Amina: And comedy turned out right. I have to say one of my favourite skits-the first I saw of you actually- was that one in which you were looking for a new place to live. I think one of the things I like is the fact that it is fresh material. So how do you come up with your material?

Simon: I just live my life and make mistakes. Usually my comedy comes dumb things I do or from trying too hard to be cool. So as long as I keep making mistakes and being an idiot I should always have material.

Amina: …but would you say being funny is something you are born with or something that can be learnt?

Simon: Some people have a natural aptitude for being funny, but it’s still learned like any other skill. It basically comes from trial and error. If you do something that gets a laugh, you keep doing it. If you don’t get a laugh, well then you’ve learned what’s not funny about you.

Amina: I think that’s a great formula for not just comedy. Note to self, ‘Trial and Error’ is good. Who inspires you the most and in what way?

Simon: The people I really like are the brainy writers. Mindy Kaling, who wrote and starred in The Office, has a brilliant comedy mind. Ali Wong’s last special inspired me a lot, just so many jokes thick and fast. I admire Sarah Silverman as a human being and as a comic who brings her heart on stage. She once drove me home from a show and I feel that she gave me more life advice in that thirty minutes than I’d gotten throughout college.

Amina: What are you most proud of and why?

Simon: Writing for The Tonight Show was a big deal because it’s such a prestigious show. I’m proud of the jokes I wrote for that show, especially because I was so young and didn’t really know what I was doing. But I kept writing until I worked out what was funniest. I wrote thousands and thousands of jokes, so I’m happy with everything I learned while on that show.

Amina: The Tonight Show is huge. I liked it then with Leno and now Jimmy Fallon. What is the most difficult part of being a comedian?

Simon: Being on tour is fun, but I sometimes hate being away from my friends and family. I send them post cards a lot though. Turns out the postal service isn’t very reliable though.

Amina: No. Not always reliable! What are you currently working on?

Simon: I’m about to go on tour around Australia, so fly over if you want to see my set.

Simon’s Encore tour in Australia is a must see so check out the dates:

  • Sydney: November 17, 2017
  • Melbourne: November 18, 2017
  • Adelaide: November 23, 2017

You can follow can follow him @MrSimonTaylor on Twitter for updates on his shows in the US and Other Countries.

Copyright © Amina Maikori. All rights Reserved.

Here’s how Wonder girl and other Super heroes are fighting Child Cancer…

When California based stay at home mom, Fiona Marshall, got the devastating news that her daughter’s 6 year old friend had died from Cancer, she did what many would not think to do. Fiona teamed up with some likeminded people to bring awareness to a cause she found was now close to her heart. With a selection of child Cancer survivors, their parents and her JoinWondergirl team, Fiona dressed Child Cancer survivors up as Superheroes and together they started an awareness Campaign that’s currently taking the US by storm.

She says,

The parents of these kids are so inspiring and work really hard to bring awareness to a cause that is overlooked, not just in the US but around the world.

To have a better perspective on this project and how it’s cause affects us, you need to reflect on these few Cancer facts :

  • Three in 10 children will lose their battle with the disease.
  • Cancer is the number one killer disease in children
  • 250,000+ new cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20 worldwide.

See how important this fight is? I had a chat with Fiona about the Wonder Girl project to mark Child Cancer Awareness month.

***

Amina: Who exactly is Fiona Marshall?

Fiona: I am a mother of two kids age 9 and 6. I am a pretty typical stay at home mom shuttling the kids around and helping with homework. However I have been touched by Childhood Cancer. At the age of 6 my daughter’s friend Jennifer was diagnosed with DIPG – a terminal upon diagnosis brain cancer. When she died , just 3.5 months after diagnosis it changed my life. So while my non-profit/event skills were a little rusty I jumped right in to help bring awareness to the cause. Little did I know I would meet so many other moms whose lives changed the day their child was diagnosed with cancer. One of those mom’s is Gabi, whose daughter is Wondergirl. Giselle was diagnosed at just 3 years old. The parents of these kids are so inspiring and work really hard to bring awareness to a cause that is overlooked, not just in the US but around the world. It was a pretty easy decision to jump in and help where ever I could.

Amina: You make it sound pretty casual but I suspect it’s quite a lot to jump into. I mean I have baby sat kids so I know that being a full time mom is no easy task. What sacrifices have you had to make to put this together?

Fiona: Personally – well I suppose quite a bit. Lots of late night meetings, phone calls, babysitting for kids (and even the dog) when we had a long day ahead of us, asking Tim (my husband) to come home early. Both Gabi and I also put our own money into the project. Other projects I had/have going on for sure took a backseat as well. It’s a hard balance being a stay-at-home mom sometimes juggling the things that you need to do and want to do with the kids, but also showing my kids that just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean that I can’t work hard at something. Not to mention I hope my kids will learn about giving back to the community around them.

Amina: Wow! I see the need to give back to community and also to fight such a worthy cause. I am however impressed with how you’ve decided to create awareness around it. I just have to ask: What inspired the concept for this project?

Fiona: The project idea came about because of Giselle – who was named Wondergirl during treatment. After she finished her last dose of Chemo in Nov 2016 Gabi wanted to do a photo shoot of her as Wonder Woman. But why just do one kid when you can do many! So we started making a list of all the superheroes it would be fun to do (and of course there *may* be a movie coming out in November featuring a bunch of superheroes as well).

Amina: Movie sounds great. There is something about film that puts things in a more relatable manner. I for one got a better perspective on Autism when I watched the series, Parenthood so I really hope you guys push for the movie. So, our Wondergirl is Gisselle! Can you tell me a bit more about her and her experience?

Fiona: Giselle was 2 years old when she showed signs of being sick. After many trips to the doctor her mom, Gabi, didn’t listen to the doctor that told her it was just a virus and went for a second opinion at Stanford. Even though those doctors were fairly certain it was a virus as well they did run more tests. Sure enough she had leukaemia. The drugs that she took not only made her more sick but nearly killed her.

Sadly that does happen with many kids as the drugs for adults and kids are essentially the same but nothing is really the same between adults and kids. She pulled through and two years and 64 days later she took her last chemo pill. While she no longer has cancer, she now has major kidney issues due to the treatment. However the photo shoot brought a smile to her face! And all the other kids as well. It was really inspiring watching these kids knowing what they have or are going through.

Amina: That is truly sad to hear. I really do hope she gets better. How were the kids for this project selected and how long did it take you to do the shoot?

Fiona: Many of the kids came through Jacob’s Heart which is a non-profit in the Bay Area that helps provide services to families. When Join Wondergirl decided that any donations to this campaign would go to SACC (Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer – a nutrition and wellness program under Jacob’s Heart) it made sense to ask children already benefiting from the services if they would like to be a part of the campaign. A few kids did come from personal contacts as well when we wanted to highlight a specific cancer.

Amina: The video on this project was very impressive. Who are the people you have worked on this project and what skills have they put in to make it a success?

Fiona: Well this list is pretty long! Jenny Chen drew up our first mock-ups of the costumes. We have Camile Falciola and Jessie Pridemore. Both are amazing and award winning costume designers/makers in Los Angeles who made the majority of the costumes the kids wore. We have Marc Mascot (of Marc Mascot Photography) who did not only our photography and editing but also sculpted the costume for Cyborg. We had Noah Todd as our lead video guru and helper Nolan Raynor who are both finishing up their film degrees at university.

Amina: Such a Stellar team! And what impact do you hope to have first, on the children and then people in general with this project?

Fiona: The main goal of this project is to bring awareness to Childhood Cancer. Overall childhood cancer gets about 4% of the budget across the board which is just not enough to do any research.

Treatments that have stayed the same for almost 40 years, and designed for adults, are still being used to try and treat children which not only can kill them in the process but creates lifelong health issues. While there is no doubt that trying to cure adult cancer is a good thing as well perhaps, as my friend Libby would say… “if we can Unravel childhood cancer, it would help adult cancer as well.”

Amina: Is it possible for people to help out or be part of this?

Fiona: Absolutely!! There are lots of ways to help advocate for Childhood Cancer. For us we would hope that they Join Wondergirl and if they can donate that would be great as well. We have set-up a donation page specifically for this superhero campaign. The link is on the website as well or they can go directly to the donation page. Donations for this campaign will go to Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer. In September, for National Childhood Cancer Month, there are lots of activities to “Go Gold” to take part in as well. Amazon even went gold with their prime boxes this year which is a huge plus for the childhood cancer community. People can hold a lemonade stand with Alex’s Lemonade stand or Flutter with Unravel. All in all we all have the same goal. To bring awareness and funds to battle childhood cancer as the government does not.

Amina: Any final words?

Fiona: We really wanted to get as many cancer types as we could and bring awareness that kids can get so many different types of cancer. It doesn’t matter about how much money you have, or what your family background is, childhood cancer can attack any kid, for (at least at the moment) no apparent reason.

Amina: Thanks for speaking with me, Fiona!

Fiona: It’s been great. Thanks Amina.

Copyright © Amina Maikori. All rights Reserved.

Five books I got from the Brooklyn Book Festival 

I’m currently reading about 4 books. I have at least 100 unread ones in my library. So a few weeks back I told my self. ‘Don’t buy any more till you’ve read all you have.’ After that pep talk, I thought me, myself, and I were in agreement but I guess I was wrong.
My mistake was attending the Brooklyn Book Festival at Borough Hall yesterday; I ended up leaving with a bag of books. I have good reason too. Check out the list of the top five books I got and you’ll not have the heart to blame me…

1. Arms from the Sea by Rich Shapero:

I got this beautiful hard cover book because it was handed out to me. ‘ Would you like an adventure novel?’ No thanks was my response. ‘ I’m giving you for free.’ Rain check. What sort of adventures are you talking about? I asked her. Truth be told, I don’t read adventure ( apart from the Famous Five I binged on before I became a teenager ) but there’s always a first time… I took the book but the Nigerian in me had to ask why it’s free. Nothing goes for nothing especially in this society. It’s part of our marketing strategy she explained. So I received it with thanks and so far have smelt it ( because new books smell great. Show of hands if you agree:)) , browsed through the pages and I’ve had a quick look the synopsis: The book is about a man Lyle- tired of life- who gulps down poison and ends up in a supernatural realm. Reminds me of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard…

2. French Women Don’t get fat is a second hand book that caught my eye while I was trying to leave the festival.

Story line: French girl visits  America and returns home to France, fat. A family doctor teaches her how to eat pastry, bread and all the good things a girl can eat. And not get fat. I’d like to read this bit. Besides I hear it’s hilarious and I love humour. All is well that ends well, basically.

3. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien ( part 1 ) was my get one free.

Two months back, my friend spent a significant amount of time talking about the book’s opening pages. I said I was finally going to watch the movie because I had Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms. How was I to live without dragons, several kings, wannabe queens and the constant reminder that ‘Winter is Coming?’ Another motion film product of a book that was reportedly similar to GOT author seemed like a plan. She told me to scratch that; the book was far better. I wouldn’t argue with that. I’d read somewhere once, ‘Read a good book before Hollywood destroys it.’ I’ll try but something tells me I’ll watch the movie before I finish the ‘Lord of the Rings’ novel.

4. I spent a little more money on the Bible Year book for Children: This is a small children’s Bible by Ernest Nister and it is vintage stuff.

Nister was a London based German publisher in the 19th Century. This book – like many he published back then- is well Calligraphed with lithographic pictures set in some select pages. If fact, I’m told that with a magnifying glass, I can actually see the stone markings. I bought it because they have well selected biblical verses that are great to Meditate on. But I own several bibles so I’ll have to share the primary truth: It is old and it would be great to own an antique.

5. The first edition of Life of the Lord by Charles Dickens: was published post humously .

The manuscript was apparently found a few years after dear Charles died. My latest acquisition has these words across the second page ,

 Written for his children during the years 1846-1849 by Charles Dickens and now first published 1934 Simon and Schuster.

This is the stuff world class libraries boast of. I’m pretty excited to have it; worth every penny spent. ‘It’s a rare find,’ the elderly man who sold it to me said. I agree with him.

I sat in for one of  many industry discussions but most of my time at the festival was spent visiting and talking with people at different book industry stands. I stopped by at the Paris Review stand and even got to pen down a quick story where the One Story crew was set up.

All in all, it was a good day.

YouTube’s clap back

Just last month Facebook announced Watch, an upgrade on its Video hosting platform. The perks were many: a platform that allows creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work.

You may recall I wrote it that was a move that could kick Facebook off its top spot as video King, adding and I quote:

For now Watch will be launched in the US alone, giving YouTube a little time to dash into its workshop and further up its game.

Well here is what’s happening:

YouTube as I suggested has been up in its lab ever since , tinkering at its award winning software. It’s been a about a month but their project upgrade? It’s alive!

Kurt Wilms , YouTube Live Product Lead, said on the company’s blog earlier this week:

Whether it’s solar eclipses,NBA superstars, the hottest music artists, pro gamers,creators donating to charity, or the world’s most famous giraffe, creators use live to connect with fans during the moments that matter.

Their upgrade includes:

  • Real-time interaction
  • New tools to make live chat moderation easier
  • Stream more easily from iPhone and iPad right to the main YouTube app

This is turning out to be as interesting as a game of table tennis. Will this continue or will someone eventually through in the towel? 

If you’re a creator who very interested in the nitti gritty of the new and improved YouTube,  click  here for more on this juicy news.

Fundraiser accounts and drop of Centres for flood Victims in Markurdi

This is Markurdi in Nigeria, not Texas

 
Today is the Beginning of my birthday month so I’m super excited. It’s not just because on the 24th I will be a year older( officially) but because on several Facebook posts, I see details on fundraising account details and drop off centres for Victims of the flood in Makurdi.
For close to two weeks the world has been agog with talks of the flood in Houston- Texas. Hashtags went up, ‘ pray for Texas’, Volunteers from Neighbouring cities dragged their boats and supplies to help victims : some had lost their lives, many their homes. Nigerians joined in: a hashtag, a word of encouragement. Then came low key reportage of a flood in Makurdi in Nigeria. Thousands had been displaced but news on it remained low key. 

Gradually, the posts started to come in: ‘ Why don’t we have a hashtag for Markurdi? This Facebook update did it for me:


It a good thing to stand in Solidarity with those facing disaster but when we have one of our own, we have to attend to them Wholly. It is good to pray but sometimes more is needed.

What Nigerians are learning from Texans

These are the thoughts I shared on my Facebook page yesterday:

One thing we can learn from Hurricane Harvey’s visit to Texas: when it affects one part of Nigeria, it affects all. We too need to set up distribution centres and fundraiser accounts for victims of the disasters we’ve seen in Makurdi👇🏾, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Lagos and any other part of the country i may have missed out on. We don’t always have to look to the government; this is one aspect we can control to an extent.

A friend posted account details by way of comment: 

Support Dr Kwen’s relief team

Kwen Daniel Terkumbur,GTBank 0116291920 Call: 08036651757,08099352687


Drop Off Centres

If you can, send a contribution through these accounts and drop off Centres. I will update other Centres as I find them.

Cheers to the weekend!