Friday, May 25, 2007

Las Vegas Memorial Day Weekend Escape

I got to Las Vegas, the ornate gambling, gaming, boxing, magic and fun capital of the world yesterday evening-11pm to be precise. Hurriedly escaping Houston lethargy this holiday weekend was a goal that must be fulfilled. I am savoring every bit and pieces that this city perched in the desert and set against gorgeous Nevada mountains has to offer. Las Vegas is an excess, an exaggeration of the classical & medieval. Vegas is a testament to man's ingenuity and creativity; it is a celebration of vanity, excess, greed and human weaknesses.

I woke up 4.30am local time today obviously still operating on Houston's time. Spent a couple of hours planning our way round town with my partner before we departed Harrahs in Mid strip where we lodged. Harrahs is a nice hotel- cheap and with good machines (I shall leave it there people- approco). We made it early enough for breakfast in Paris. Paris is gorgeous and like the real thing, will always make you come back. We took a ride up the Eiffel Tower replica and ol boy do you get the beauty of the strip when you are up there. I missed taking my camcorder with me, and I quickly went back to fetch it for use for the rest of the day.

We made it by leg (yes, it was one heck of a trip), first to Venetian- which perhaps rank only after Caesar's Palace in grandeur on this strip- in my opinion. We took the outdoor waterway cruise in this Vegas replica of Venice. From this point I hiked by newly built Wynn to Stratosphere where most of the fun was. Strats has some good machines too (keep on reading my friend, you are getting distracted). Over 108 stories in the sky, the sky view of the strip was spell bounding and the Hot Shot ride in the sky was a helluva experience. I had a caricature souvenir from the Strats too..That was grand. After making some money, I headed back to the Hotel for the last leg for the evening.

The Festival of Lights at the Bellagio was a site to is an hopeless romantic's dream come true- u can check out a clip I took here . Not that I am any, but it is highly recommended (take notes my friend). The statue skits & display at Caesar's Palace followed. No detailed description is more poignant than the video feed here- it is a free must see. The night ended with the Improv Comedy Show at Harrah where I am just coming from. As I lay down in bed-trying to write this & counting my cash(fine boy no cash my people) I am exactly where I left off in the morning plus twenty buck, after spending twice as much on food, entertainment and tickets for the day. Not bad for a first timer.

Second day was mostly spent animal watching @ MGM & Mirage. Check out this video of the animal trainer interacting with the Lioness @ MGM. The Dolphins, Tigers, panther & mountain lions featured in the Mirage- they put up great shows there. The road trip to Texas begins on Saturday..

Selected Pictures of Day 1 & 2 see here..

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Time To Kill- Notes & Updates

I have finally begun feeding off my reading list for the summer. Reading comes naturally to me but the discipline to finish a 500 plus page book is what I often lack- especially John Grisham. A little background on A Time To Kill (TTK)... this is one of ten Grisham I hold in my 110 fiction & non-fiction collection. However of these ten, I had gotten around to reading three of them, started but never finished another three and yet to get to the remaining four. It is my hope that TTK will be the fourth completed Grisham.

Grishams fascinate me because of their courtroom characters- judges, lawyers, criminals, prisoners, convicts, law enforcement officers and the jury. Lawyers of them all fascinate me the most. This is why The Firm will go down as my best Grisham till date. They are vain liars for the most part who can be ideological in one minute and be plain downright unethical the next. No wonder most politicians are failed lawyers or extremely successful ones! Of course, I love a good debate. Reading how a lawyer weave web of intricate lies in your face as facts and how an innocent detour in a cross examination can change the fate of a guilty defendant is lovable. No one does a better job of placing these characters in the right place and right circumstances than John Grisham. I love me some Jeffrey Archer (Best Among Equals & Fourth Estate deserve special mention) as well as some Tom Clancy, but no one does a better job of throwing light on the legal profession and its characters, human emotion, clash of interests & above all the strength of the law than John Grisham. Well, that is why Amazon got rich off me. Three years (I bought TTK on 4th April 2004) later, I am finally getting around to digesting this Grisham...and I am half way through.

TTK was the first of Grishams. This evidently so because it lacks the sophistication that later Grishams assumed. It was loosely based on a real life experience of the "wet in the ear" newly minted lawyer Grisham was when he ran across a case that made him agonizingly watch a young girl paint the picture of her own rape on the witness stand while envisioning how it feels like to be in her father's shoe. It is a story that precludes the elegance of the Firm, the heart stopping pulse of The Testament or the stomp that the Partner was strewn across the Amazonian jungle.

Will Update..
Update 1: The main characters in the plot is Jake the Ole Miss trained defense lawyer that inherits the practice of Lucien Willbanks, heir to a long line of legal luminary that was brilliant, eccentric and ultimately disbarred. The other main character is Carl Lee father of the girl assaulted by two rednecks whom he later disposed off with M16 he got from his war buddy from his Viet days. Set in Clanton Mississippi, the story has every touch of the south. Issues bothering on racism, the constant struggle to preserve peace & justice while not loosing the folksiness the back country is renowned for. The characters are utterly Southern- if there is any such expression; proud yet lacking in self confidence, warm yet suspicious of foreigners, ignorant yet common sensible, bigoted yet well meaning: these contradictions are best expressed in the way Grisham had them interact. They take the next man as serious as far as he could be kept. Certain lines stand out. The best for me was the one Jake (the lawyer) used when he was seeking loan from his banker & was asked for collateral; he said and I quote:
"My House is a landmark with landmark mortgages, and you've got lien on my car, remember? I'll give you the first mortgage on my daughter, but if you try to foreclose it I will kill you. Now what security do you have in mind?"
Now that is a wicked line. John sure has his ways with words...Page 335 & reading on.

Update 2: I just closed the last page of the book...the best was saved for the last. The courtroom drama was enthralling. Buckley could kiss a good solid case good bye the moment the amputated deputy took the stand. The psychiatrists testimony was perhaps the non-effective tie breaker. As ironic as it sounds, their testimonies amounted to nothing but wash technicalities. It all boiled down to few brave people- Mickey mouse (the klans man mole who paid with his life for snitching good), the jury foreman, and Wanda the girlfriend of the stubborn grand jury man-Mack Lloyd Cromwell(who was going to stall the trial at the grand jury) that somehow walked her way to the jury. How Buckley missed that shows the difference political ambition and raw talent can make. All fluff no action- in all Lucien was egoistic, Harry Rex was vain, & Carla Lee was a free man. Watsup with these southern double names? If you don't have stomach for the "n" word, then TTK is not a must read. In all, it shows the triumph of Southern common sense over legalisms.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ouch! 2: On Life, Death and Pain

I am about eight hours removed from my last dental visit. This time around I had to face my devil and remove the molars that had been degenerating faster than was expected. In fact, one of them had chipped two weeks ago causing me incredible pain that can be better described than imagined. Ultimately, I had to give in to the dockies advice to get them all removed at once. I had been managing the pain for over a week and was going to get it removed last week Wednesday only to be moved to yesterday because the surgeon found I had an extra molar. Which kain blessing be this? Na so I wise. Thank goodness, the extra one is not awkwardly located so it will be left alone. Doing so without upsetting the remaining set up is the deal that made me bear the pain of a chipped molar for an extra week. Trust me, I would have paid someone to pull the whole 36 out this last week- the eventual pain of extraction is not comparable: at least so I thought.

I had been advised to bring company since I was supposed to be on anesthetics. Na one of my paddy guys drive me go Clinic yesterday. Between man and God the last I remembered was entering my car in my house. How I got to the Clinic, checked in, did the procedure or got back is beyond my reasoning. Which brings me to the issue of death. I have no memory of what happened in that three hour window of my life. I remember slipping slowly into partial oblivion and that was it. Some others said it was an out of body experience for them..mine was a total switch off. For where? If man go, na so im for just go. No memories, no pain. That brings me to issue of death. When people die, we cry. Obviously, we cry for the pain of loss not for the dead. Because on crossing that thin line that separates life and death these consciousness are eternally lost. It does not matter those whom you leave behind, you are gone and gone to face your creator. My three hour window beyond the earthly yearnings of this world, is my triple play on Life, death and pain.

P.S: As I sit down here thoroughly drugged with pain killers from the procedure, I am in good shape- thanks for the thought. I am still bleeding slightly- but men, na the hunger my people. My stomach no fit handle am. I never chop since 7am Wednesday to avoid throwing up during the procedure. Since I have lost the use of my mandibles for the next 24 hrs, na suffer head be dat. I was able to manage Ice Cream before going to bed yesterday. Pls don't suggest custard. Wetin dat thing go do for a six footer plus? I miss my Eba, Efo eguro and egusi soup I beg. Anyway God dey! Peace out, till we meet again.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Combating World Hunger

If poverty, hunger and diseases are mentioned chances are that we think people speak of developing Nations or some war stricken, poverty ridden third world country somewhere on Africa or Latin America. The truth however, is that a lot of people down your street in North America, Europe and indeed the developed world cannot afford a single meal a day. World Hunger is a reality and unlike competing interests like healthcare, education, and terrorism- it is hardly a mantra of the brain dead politicians. Everyone has enough to eat appears to be the assumption underlining the bogus discussions that political undertake everyday and the egg head journalists co-opt them to go on about. Neither in the Presidential Candidate debate in USA, is UK or France the need of the poorest of the poor ever raised. They are invisible- whose needs are the least of their concerns. Along with the "homeless", whom society have impugned some kind of horrendous label, the hungry is unseen, unheard and not catered for. All we hear about is the spoilt brat, entitlement flushed middle-class. It is very common to hear the left wingers go on preaching about the middle class squeeze, and the right-wingers sermonize on middle class tax cuts. The question is- what about the under/lower/poorest class?

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to be asked to devote a tiny piece of my time to the cause of feeding the hungry through the meals on wheels program- a crucial feed the hungry dive in Houston inner cities. The stark reality of poverty will not hit you until you see two loaves of bread, peanut jelly butter and a 30 oz pop(Kool-Aid), becoming the miracle of pre-K children who hitherto would have gone hungry without the innovative program of Meals on Wheel program. The sad part is that hunger is combatable and in a rich country like the USA and even the poorest ones, it is simply inhumane that we look the other way while it over takes the youngest and most susceptible amongst us. More often than not, it takes our time to feed poor more than our money. In Brazil, President Lula have made it a core thrust of his administration to combat hunger in his country and it is working. If poor Brazil can do it, why not the great US of A. Well, you and I know what the priorities are. Only those who make big campaign contributions or who vote get taken care of; that is exactly why dumping 1 billion dollar daily in the watering hole called Iraq is a greater priority than fixing the broken healthcare and education system here at home. We also know very well those corporations and smooth talking execs that are making good off the war anyway.

All these aside, you can be of help in combating world hunger in a number of ways. Visiting a local soup kitchen or shelter to volunteer your time in packing lunch will be a good start. Donating to UNICEF, who I believe is doing an honorable job in many developing nations where help for the middle class not to talk of the poor is non-existent, will also be a step in the right direction. You can be sure that for every minute you spent packing the lunch, you touched a child; for every child you touch you might have touched a soul; and every soul you touched could be the next driver for change in the world: A child that will find a cure to cancer, another that will take man to the moon once again and others that will sit in the oval office just like Bill Clinton- whose family once lived on those food stamps. No one knows the future, and it is immoral to starve the future. Feed the children of the world, and fight world hunger to a stand still.

Headed to Vegas
I think am ready to hit the road this month. I should be in the Sin City for Memorial Day. I intend to fly there and drive all the way back to Houston- a twenty two hours drive. I am actually more excited about the road trip that will crisscross five states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and of course Texas. Texas is a 12 hours stretch- a big state indeed. But the rustic country sides and beautiful view of the mountain, desert and grassland over a 22 hours lap is definitely worth the trouble. While everything that happens in Vegas should stay there, I promise to share pictures of the road trip.

I saw the Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond finally. They were both masterpieces. After these phony elections in naija, I wonder whether our continent will ever get it right. Bobby and the Queen are next on my Blockbuster list. My summer list is complete but one book...I shall share my progress in the next post.
Are Americans really stupid?


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