Monday, October 29, 2012

It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged that Clothing is Best when Shared

Speaking of Pride and Prejudice clothes (back in June), I had this absolutely wonderful Easter dress one year, made by Mommy, of course.  My Pride and Prejudice dress.  Empire waist, puff sleeves, a bit of sheer lace where Lydia certainly wouldn’t have had any, and a beautiful light-weight white fabric with soft pink roses on it.

It was one of those dresses that hardly fit when it was made.  - This was not Mommy’s fault.  1) Pattern envelope size guide measurements never seem to produce what they suggest; at 15 and about five and a half feet tall, the envelope said I was a girls size 7; and 2) My size fluctuates like an Irishman’s temper.  But it fit well-enough and I wore it for Easter that year with no problems.

me in pride and prejudice dressThen, a year or two later, my AP English teacher had some special class day where we could dress like our favorite characters or something like that.  I just had to be Elizabeth Bennet, so out came the beautiful Easter dress.  The only problem was, I’d grown a bit since the dress’s Easter, and not just vertically.

I have two mottos – well, at least had two mottos in high school.  One, anything you can do, I can do in heels. And two, never sacrifice fashion for comfort.  I was determined to get into that dress.  And I did. Thank you very much ducky tape.  The scars went away eventually.

Recently, scouring the closets at Hotel Mommy, I came across my beautiful Easter dress hanging in the back of the sewing room closet.  - And by back, I mean back.  That closet goes back about eight feet.  I was super excited.  “Hey Mommy!  Do you think this will fit again?” Many of my high school clothes fit me again these days thanks to the gym.

Instead of my trying it on, we tried it on Munchkinhead, who was a good sport despite the dress having pink on it.  I was both sad and delighted.  It fit her perfectly.  Well, except for the length, but that’s easy to fix.  I was sad because the dress fitting her meant there was no way it would fit me.  I was delighted because the dress fitting her meant the beautiful dress could be worn again!  Of course, that’s only if Munchkinhead gets over not being able to lift her arms over her head.  Ladies don’t need to do that; it’s not important.


Incidentally, we’re standing in almost exactly the same spot in the same room in our two pictures.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wait, What’s this Counterfeit doing Here?

Being engaged in the world of intellectual property in Africa, or at least trying to be engaged in it, I’m quite used to articles, signs and announcements warning people of the risks of counterfeit goods.  Trademark, patent and copyright infringements – make sure that product is the product you think it is, that it’s coming from the source you think it is, etc.  From faake medicines that don’t actually treat any illnesses to powdered milk that’s made partly with cement mix, many consumers in Africa are well aware of the dangers.  But I almost never hear or see any counterfeit warnings in the US.  Until now.

I was in Emeryville, the East Bay’s glitzy shopping district, transformed within the past decade from a run-down neighborhood of neglected warehouses to the home of stores so fancy I don’t even dare window-shop in them.  It’s also home to my closest Victoria’s Secret, and every few months I head down to redeem my “free in store, no purchase necessary” coupon.

Bounding down the stairs of the parking garage, my attention was grabbed by this sign:

counterfeit poster in Emeryville

“Don’t Get Burned,” “Counterfeits Hurt,” it proclaimed next to a picture of a sizzling outlet.

“What is this doing here?” was my first thought.  The United States, with its customs agents, well-enforced intellectual property laws, and tomes of safety regulations, is usually pretty good at keeping unsafe counterfeit products off the market.  Where’s the breakdown in that armor? What’s different about here and other places in the US where I have lived?  What’s similar between here and the other places I’ve seen these types of outreach ads?

Markets, public markets.  The kind with little stalls and people hawking all sorts of random odds and ends.  “A’s” and “Giants” hats, 2 for $10.  DVDs in clear plastic sleeves, 5 for $10.  The one in Berkeley even has fried plantains and chitenge cloth.  The Bay Area’s full of these markets, so is Africa.  Milwaukee, Nashville, not so much.  And these markets are a prime place for counterfeit goods.  Small time sellers, inventory stashes that would fit in a suitcase or two, little recourse for customers if something goes wrong; it’s prime for dangerous counterfeits.

Of course, I’m just speculating on circumstantial evidence, but sometimes that’s not a bad way to go.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I’m Going to have my Heels and Wear them, too

“Why do you walk so heavy?”  It’s a complaint more than a question, one I’ve gotten frequently from my father, from Mr. Trizzle, from anyone else who isn’t afraid to say it like it is.  I always chalked it up to being such a wonderful bouncy, bubbly person.  - Ok, tongue slightly in cheek there.  But I do bounce a lot when I walk and just accepted that as part of my personality, as well as a decent excuse for occasionally tipping a bit sideways into walls.

Turns, out there’s probably a less subconscious reasons for the bounciness that results in extra impact on the floor, loud booming noises and a bit of rumbling.  A few months ago, I twittered upon this article about what you can learn from someone’s walk,  15 Things Your Walk Reveals About Your Health.  Take a look at #14, go on, I’ll wait right here.

Mommy as tall as me - one of the rare occassions where she has higher heelsThere it is, bouncing as a symptom of tight calf muscles.  I didn’t even have to read the bit about high heels causing tight calf muscles before the light bulb over my head was glowing.  I know I have tight calf muscles.  I’ve avoided flat shoes for years because they hurt my legs, causing my calves to remain stretched for far too long.  Even when I would occasionally wear them, I’d wind up walking as if I were wearing heels and I wouldn’t even realize it.  “Ba Nchimunya, ino kayi mwakwala so? – Nchimunya, why are you walking like that?”

At no time was it more apparent how tight my calves really were than the first time I attempted squats at the gym.  For most people who begin squats, the weight of the bar or their inability to balance cause problems.  My gym had light pre-set barbells so that wasn’t a problem.  And, thanks to Africa, I had no problems with the balance. 

For me, the biggest problem was that I couldn’t keep my feet flat on the ground and bend my knees into a squat. My calves just would not stretch that far.  It took months of stretching and partial squats before I could get my knees to bend as far as they needed to.

Two years after starting squats, I still have to give my calves an extra stretch, I’m still wearing my beautiful heels, and I still bounce when I walk.  I can’t completely cut that out of my personality. Winking smile

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: A Man of the People

I’ve read Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart.  I’ve even seen it performed live, in Nigeria, with people who actually know how to pronounce the Igbo.  I understand why it’s a classic-  I’m a bit annoyed that it’s the main example of Africa Literature taught in US Universities (why does everything have to focus on Westerners?) – but I never really enjoyed it.  A Man of the People was different.

A Nigerian gentleman I met in Mountain View highly recommended the book.  Written in the early days of Nigerian’s independence, A Man of the People perfectly predicted Nigeria’s political future, or so this gentleman claimed.  I have to say, I agree.

The book is marvelous in its perception, Delphic novel with an engaging story.  Of course, I know little of the Nigerian politics of 1967, so perhaps the novel is less prediction than observation, but it certainly seems to match the current times.

It’s sometimes hard to figure out which characters to like, if you’re supposed to like any of them.  They’re very real in this way.  There are few obvious villains and few obvious heroes.  Situations and circumstances play the biggest role.  Who you are is where you are and who’s around you. The book’s biggest impact is the probing questions it discretely sends to the reader, “what would you do in this situation? How can you judge; wouldn’t you do the same?”

I’d recommend this book, except for one minor detail.  If you’re going to read it, make sure you have a Nigerian friend within reach for translations.  I muddled through fairly well thanks to having spent a very short time in Nigeria, but I still had to send out the occasional “what does x mean” tweet.

Usually, when I’m reading a book that has people speaking in a different language than the one in which the book is written, there’s some built-in guide to help you out with the translations, footnotes, immediate translation, italics to at least alert you of the other language, something.  Not in A Man of the People.  At least, not in my edition.  It is called Pidgin English, so I suppose some might assume it’s close enough.  Sometimes it is; sometimes it’s not.  Taking an example from a random page, “Abi my head no correct?”  I’ll let you decide.