Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lord of the Rings: Behind the Make-up (The Chemistry that made Monsters believable)

“Frodo Baggins, a true and noble hobbit, is the bearer of the One Ring. It falls to him to do what no one else can: destroy the evil artifact by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. This burden lies heavy on the little hobbit, as he struggles against the might of the Ring, the single greatest peril in a world full of dangers. As he treads the perilous path to Mordor from whence the Ring first came, he is accompanied by eight companions who form the fellowship of the Ring: the hobbits Merry, Pippin and Sam, the wizard Gandalf, the elf Legolas, the dwarf Gimli and the humans Aaragorn and Boromir. The quest to Mount Doom is fraught with danger as the forces of darkness close in on the little hobbit and his friends. Evil Orcs, Uruk-hai, Trolls and Ringwraiths stalk Frodo and the fellowship as they edge ever close to the fires of Mount Doom.

Recreating the journey to Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” (based on the book written by English author J.R.R Tolkein) required nothing less than a bit of modern magic. The iconic looks, weaponry and armoury of the vast array of races and cultures were convincingly created using portions of latex rubber, silicone, gelatin and polyurethanes.”  ~ Excerpt from the Chemistry and Industry Journal, Issue 24, 15 December 2003

I recently moved house and while going through old stuffs, I came across this Chemistry journal (where the above excerpt was taken from) which I had kept. I was fascinated again with the story of the wonders of Chemistry utilized in the film ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and wanted to share some of the information to my friends.  The diversity and outlook of the various beings depicted in the film is quite wonderful. And to think that all those devilish and out-of-this-world looks were achieved using rubber latex (from the rubber tree which was one of Nigeria’s major economic commodities some years back) is even more magical (yes, magical!). Familiar products of rubber are gloves, sandals and rubber bands. Foam latex (used in mattresses) was used to create special effects and illusions which captivated the viewers and kept them in awe (I was awed when I watched the film. Did you watch it too? It's such a long time now). Large round ears and big hairy feet of the hobbits were made from this product with some yak hair. Human actors wore prosthetic faces to depict the other creatures. Also used was a compound called alginate which is derived from seaweed and used as a thickener in food. And silicone helped to create the translucent skin look which is almost passable for the movement of the real skin.

It is interesting to note that for all the foam suits and props made for this film, three foam ovens were on 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three and a half years. (hmmm)

The more I reread stuffs like these, the more the words in the scripture that says ‘ye are gods’ resonate through my soul and affirm my belief in the power of the human mind. These scientific technologies did not fall down from the sky; they were rather painstakingly researched and developed upon (and will continue to be). A scientist is a curious being who doesn’t allow difficulties and rejections stop their quest but find ways to solve the problems thereby giving something to the world which wasn’t there before. And just check out children around you, they are natural scientists but the environment of their growth limits some of them and stunts the inquisitiveness of the nature which is all around them (Africa in mind). Coupled with the early indoctrination of some religious beliefs, the child then caps some thoughts as she has been taught they are ungodly and devilish. But one wonders how the child is able to express her creativities in a world so vast and endless? The thought is the world. Change the thought and see the world change (positively or negatively).

“YOU ARE AN ARTIST OF THE SPIRIT - Find yourself and express yourself in your own particular way. Express your love openly. Life is nothing but a dream, and if you create your life with love, your dream becomes a masterpiece of art.” ― Miguel Ruiz

Friday, January 25, 2013

Questions for my christian friends

A colleague of mine expressed a frustration during one of our office chats saying many Christians are happy that churches (the ‘the church is expanding and marching on’) are taking over warehouses scattered all over the country (Lagos in particular). The topic of discussion centered on the unfavoruable environment Nigeria has become to individuals and manufacturing companies – mostly the textile, tyre companies. Many of these companies now find some solace in Ghana’s providence of uninterrupted power supply (no, I don’t mean UPS but power from the transmission grid) amongst other things.

I thought about the parcels of land which have been taken over by these religious bodies as camp (prayer) grounds, yet there is a prediction of famine in the land for 2013 and the years following. Oh I forgot that God sends manna from heaven and we can depend on that.  

For many years, the church has been operating in Nigeria and in the entire continent of Africa. The church uses products such as drum sets, speakers, projectors, computers, generators (the owners of Mikano must be thankful to this God for good business), curtains, energy-saving bulbs, water pumps but her adherents are not curious as to where these products come from. Perhaps Europe is heaven where all these manna dropped and are shipped to Africa whose children have been struck with the disease of religion and consumerism of which the epidemic is fast destroying the beautiful land and her children. Do you really think God is proud of consumers as children? And he would preserve a people who consume without thinking? As a result of our insatiable hunger to consume products, the country is plagued with waste it is incapable of managing so much that the country looks like a vast heap of thrash. Oh, I forgot that there will be a new heaven and a new earth and this earth (this country) as we know it shall pass away and life will begin afresh for those who believe. Can we stop for a moment to think about these issues? Y’know I have always asked this simple question “why would God give us a brain if he didn’t intend for us to use it?” but I haven’t gotten any satisfactory answers yet. I understand that thinking about issues in a questioning mode will open up some whole new insights to the average person. Many church girls and women adorn their heads with weave-ons, attachments, wigs and hair products without thinking for a moment why they use those products and where they come from. Many of the clothing we wear are also brought in from everywhere apart from Africa.

As a minimum, I would have expected the church scientists to have been able to produce microphones which for many decades have been essential parts of a church programme. Meanwhile, the church is ecstatic that the president of the largest black country has come to kneel (for the second time) before a popular pastor. One wonders whether the church has tasked the leader with basic provisions expected of any government. One wonders whether the church is concerned with the empty education that is being served at high costs in Nigeria even in the so-called private universities (owned mostly by church folks and body) and what she is doing about it. Is she bothered about education that churns out Engineers yearly who can’t make motors and scientists who can’t produce tiger batteries? These things don’t add up or maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me again.

It concerns me greatly that we have become a country of operators (or technicians). We can  operate any kind of device – we wield the latest designs of Blackberries, Iphones, Ipads and Android phones – We are quite fascinated with the flatness of TV these days  and anyone caught with a box is either old-school or poor. But our God is not a poor God.  Question is which products are being made in Nigeria and particularly by religious people?

I don’t cease to wonder at the skill and knowledge which goes into building of bridges and anytime I ply the third Mainland Bridge I wondered about the two-headed creatures of men who built it. Some (very solid) roads are being constructed in Lagos by Arab Contractors one is forced to ask “where are the civil engineers?” But there is a Ministry of Works in each state? Oh I forgot that they only have oversight and technician functions. And well, let the Arab and German Engineers do the dirty works, we are rich enough to pay them.

I know we will all agree it all boils down to leadership but then again what manner of leadership do we have in these religious organizations which approves of corrupt and incapable men into government? What manner of leadership is there in the church which looks on (and prays on) while the country goes down (literally)? What manner of leadership in the church which doesn’t encourage questioning amongst her folks? What manner of leadership in the church that thrives on the mess the entire country has become? Oh, I’m sorry I forgot those are signs of end-time which I suppose will happen only on the African continent and not the entire world.

These days it seems I attack the church but no that’s not what I am doing. Rather, I am challenging us to truly come up higher knowing we were bequeathed this land to prosper it rather than impoverish it. In my opinion, we are fast becoming the third servant (ha, that word) in the parable of the talents who was given a single talent and who buried the talent in the ground to return it when the master returned. Sadly, we have more talents than the ones which had 5 and 10 respectively and we are not just returning a whole one when the master returns, we are returning -1 (minus one means we have borrowed and are in debt) cause we have consumed the talent than diligently trade (creatively, innovatively, sacrificially) with it. It is highly irresponsible of us to keep looking at the sky for manna to drop or for a saviour to come down and save us. We have been provided with the resources we need, let us be wise and use them. We can start by asking simple questions and not be afraid to ask them or answer them even when they make us uncomfortable. Or we can try to answer some of the questions posed here. We must also realize that in order for us to make any meaningful progress, we must drop individuality and embrace brotherhood.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pan-Africanism and the Identity Issue

Guest Post

By Temidayo Ahanmisi

From the way I see it any African who scoffs at Pan-Africanism is lost to me. We can never work together on anything that would move the black race forward...or even move this Nigerian pseudo-nation forward.

As far as I know ideas do not really die, good or bad.
If Nazism is not dead, why would Pan-Africanism deserve to die? If the US for instance can yet negotiate terms of engagement and survival with its Aryan Nation elements & their spin-off ideologies, why would a Nigerian like me want me to trample Pan-Africanism under foot and subscribe to his own philosophy of round-about motion-as-movement?

Truth is, Pan-Africanism threatens the status-quo. Pan-Africanism calls for a level of courage that we fear we are incapable of accessing. We have been laid back and unquestioning as our default definition of life abundant.
We have become vaunting ‘House Negroes’ as of old, who want to straddle the fence between our pathetic desire to lick the boots of those we erroneously view as our betters, while yet desiring to reap the fruits of the rewards from the labour of the ‘Field Negro’ whom we yet hold in disdain because his unabashed ‘blackness’, which is our shared identity shames and discomfits us.

The real truth laid bare is that we wish Pan-Africanism dead just and only just because it threatens imported religions like Christianity & Islam - the last bond with our colonial masters.
The ideals of Pan-Africanism threaten foreign religious thought by demanding rigorous reassessment and overhaul of such cultures, philosophies and the attendant lifestyles such philosophies birth and sustain.

We do not want to admit, like victims of abuse who yet live in denial that these religions and religious cultures are a yoke around our neck and that as long as we cling fast to them we cannot re-negotiate the terms of our shared humanity - slave to master.

These religions have become one of the biggest impediments to development in Africa today. Inasmuch as every single African does not share a common religious belief, then the only decent thing to do is to tear religion & its myriad influences away from the shared public space of every African nation state. This ripping out should be decisive & unequivocal.

Religions come with their accompanying Philosophies, Cultures & Ideologies - these are the concepts that make for a life in worthwhile...a healthy, self-conscious life. Now the cacophony between competing ideologies makes nonsense of every foreign religion's pretensions to the universal creed of peace without which no man can live with dignity and grace amongst all men.

The Muslims want peace on their own terms, likewise the Christians. The weak & marginalised sections of society have become the ‘grass that suffers’ as a fall-out of the war of attrition between these competing elephantine blocs of ideologies & their adherent ideologues.
Women's bodies, apparel & lives have become battle grounds for war & propagation of draconian ideals that are becoming increasingly stifling to the real development of this specie of humans.
The more endangered bloc is the children - the life blood of races & civilisations.

While other civilisations have made projections into a future in which their children will ascend to world dominance & subjugation of all forces - temporal, spiritual & elemental - so as to keep their racial pre-eminence, we Africans & of course Nigerians are expending our ever dwindling energy & other needful resources to raise slaves & cannon-fodder for the furtherance of the aspirations of these coming generations of masters. This is an outrage.

While we raise Christian boys & girls to become Christian men & women who will in turn push Christian ideals that are nothing in essence but European & Jewish ideals & cultures; while we raise Muslim boys & girls to become Muslim men & women who will in turn push Islamic ideals that are nothing in essence but Arabic & Asiatic ideals & cultures – other races are reinventing themselves, waking up to the one over-riding identity of what they are first and foremost – Human.

They realize that as human beings they have one obligation to themselves & to their universe – to live; to advance; to evolve…and by so doing ensure the propagation of their unique civilization into any foreseeable or even yet unimagined perpetuity.

It is patently evil that as Africans, adults from their teens to their centenary years have to start from scratch to assert their inalienable right to above all exist – before they can even begin to contemplate racial survival & other accompanying ideals. It is evil…we inherited this evil from generations past who had one & only one legacy to their progeny – Slavery.

This slavery has been pushed on by the shackling of the minds of Africans through the decades & centuries even after physical slavery had been abolished. This slavery was propagated using models of identity which marked the slave children as properties of their respective masters first, before identifying them as the humans that they were supposed to be – a humanity that is a natural right of even just existing. The skins of these slaves could not be branded anymore & so their very minds & even their ‘’souls’’ their basic essence had to be branded.

Now we have ‘’Christian man/woman/youth/child; we have Muslim man/woman/youth/child…what we do not have are human beings…who happen to be Africans by birth.

This usurpation of the true hierarchy of creation & existence has led to deeply ingrained disconnect in basic reasoning & imaginings that the very world vision of these African humans are altered irredeemably from the very moment they can string a complete line of thought…their very consciousness is affected by imported thought patterns. They therefore cannot have belief systems that can sustain life in its very essence.

How can a creation which does not have right to free thought ever have true right to life and real freedom?...How can such ever be assured of true development & growth? Every pretension to advancement that this continent can ever lay claim to is a sham as long as organised religion remains in the public space and dominates even the private lives of Africans.
We have become ‘’church-states’’ where governments pay increasing patronage to religion to ensure the retardation of the citizenry. Now the citizens who are ‘’Christians’’ & Muslims’’ first before they are race, gender or any other individuation cannot take up arms psychologically against rapacious governments because they are called upon by virtue of their religious alliances to obey without wrangling those in authority over them…these of course being existent governments & authorities – religious as well as political.

Being so shackled & left with limited room for expression they turn their internal wars and agitations inwards and begin to oppress the weaker elements for sport. They cannot then agitate for better public governance, but would turn to celestial forces to plead their cases and shuffle around aimlessly, hoping that as they have been indoctrinated to believe, these forces would come to their aid and liquidate the oppressive elements remotely, so that they would have kept their religious moral consciences unsullied throughout. How pathetic! How so blind…and how so patently immoral!

How can responsible parents cage their children’s futures so?
How can a civilisation hold its evolution in abeyance this way?
How can a race to who even the very cosmic forces of creation have bestowed just about every benefit imaginable to creation make a travesty of its own existence so strenuously?

We the Africans, few as we are right now – to whom our basic identity as Humans is the foremost identity to which we hold any allegiance over any other – have decided to wake up and reclaim our right to be just what we should be…Human beings living with dignity and courage; Human beings advancing with grace and strength – exercising our right to thought, reason, identity, belief, survival and propagation right here on this material earth that we share with other human species.
We have resolved to advance into fields of Knowledge, Reason, Logic, Spirituality and Humanism that have hitherto been so convoluted and corrupted in essence and manifestation that only disorder, corruption, ignorance, fear and immorality could result hitherto and hence in turn unleashed unto the African consciousness.

Every African will have true freedom of thought…and therefore of independent belief.
We will remove the pollution of dependant religious life and subjective morality and thought from our public spaces – from our schools and other institutions of culture, education, governance and enlightenment.
Our laws will be laws infused with our independent intellectualism and shared cultural values. Organised religion will flourish in peace in its natural areas of influence – Church; Mosque; Shrine; Coven; Temple; Lodge; Home and relevant private communities as organized along common religious heritage and tributaries.

It is our aim to be Humans & Africans once more. No force can stop Pan-Afrikanism.
About Temidayo Ahanmisi
Temidayo Ahanmisi is a young, dynamic and passionate Nigerian. A liberated mind, she is an inspiration to the young generation who clamour for change within the black man's homeland. She lives in Nigeria