Genres Of Idiot

Image result“I’m An Idiot” — news release.
“He Is An Idiot” — review.
“We Are Idiots” — news analysis.
“You Are Idiots” — column.
“They Are Idiots” — investigative journalism.
“Now You Know, They’re Idiots!”Ambush journalism,  special report.
“No, YOU Are An Idiot” — commentary.
“Tell Me The Truth, Are You An Idiot?” — interview.
“Perhaps, He Is An Idiot” — opinion column.
“Among Idiots” — report.
“Life Of An Idiot” — biography.
“Being An Idiot” — an autobiography.
“Long Live The Idiot!” — a pamphlet.
“Naked Idiot!” — yellow journalism.
“This Idiot Is A Moron!” — Solutions journalism
“Everyone Is An Idiot” — essay.
“Sex With An Idiot” — celebrity journalism.
“An Idiot And I”— Social news.
“The Stupidest Of Idiots” — rating,  Sensationalism.
“Kim Jong-un Is An Idiot” — political article.
“The Idiot” — a novel.


Catch A Cockroach…


Cockroaches, fortunately, are not an everyday occurrence in my life. However, if in the same day you come across not one but three stories related to cockroaches, perhaps, it’s worth mentioning.

The first story comes from China: One million cockroaches escape from Chinese farm.
At least one million cockroaches have reportedly escaped a farm in China where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine.

Unidentified wildlife enthusiast — cockroach sympathizer? —  broke into the enclosed area where the insects were held and cracked the terrarium open. To this day, residents of a small town next to the farm remember the event and curse the guy back and forth: instead of running into the unknown wilderness, cockroaches smartly decided to resettle in the town’s warm and comfortable apartments.

Another one was reported in BBC News Magazine: How cockroaches could save lives.

“Cockroaches are often associated with dirty kitchens and grimy bathrooms — scuttling away as soon as you enter the room and turn on the light. But pest controllers aren’t the only people interested in them — these insects are inspiring research into antibiotics, robots and mechanical limbs,” writes Mary Colwell in the article.

And on a humorous note, from the Russian source, comes a newspaper article Fortune-telling using a cockroach.

гадание на таракане

A fortune-telling with a cockroach.

This is an image of an article in an unidentified Russian newspaper, appearing, appropriately, in the section UNKNOWN or, rather, UNBEKNOWNST. Wanted to learn everything about yourself but didn’t know how? Read translation below (loose translation is mine with a few comments.) To glean the most benefit from it, you need to catch yourself a cockroach.

Thus catch a cockroach, any random cockroach will do — it’ll be YOUR cockroach. Now observe and scrutinize it carefully.tarakan

    • Is it healthy and vigorous? If the answer is yes then your house is in order and your family life is satisfying. (Healthy and vigorous cockroaches, like happy and orderly households with untidy kitchens. VG)cartoon-cockroach-vector-illustration-34820119
    • Is it appear weakly and lethargic? Your wife/husband should feed you better. (Or feed a cockroach. Ordinarily, cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters. VG)
    • Is it red in color? A redheaded person is in love with you.
    • Is it green? Rejoice! Money is coming to you.t1
    • Is it constantly moving its whiskers? You are full of energy. (If you don’t quite feel energized — try multivitamins. VG)
    • Is it frozen in its tracks? You must be a philosopher. (Yes, you are, even if you don’t know it. Pick a subject and start philosophizing. VG)
    • Does it look startled? You feel under-appreciated.
    • Does your cockroach looks frightened? You are a person who can stand your ground.
    • Is it bright blue, horned and speaks fluent English? Congratulations, you have delirium tremens.таракан7

Now carefully measure your cockroach.t1

  • If the length of a cockroach is less than 1 centimeter — then you are a reliable family person;
  • If it’s length is more than 3 centimeters — then you are a seeker. (What is it exactly you seek isn’t specified. You must know better. VG)

What can cockroach whiskers tell us? t1

  • The spread of cockroach whiskers equal to the length of your nose: You are an inquisitive person. (This discovery is possible if you measure your nose for the sake of comparison. VG)
  • One whisker is shorter than the other: You haven’t quite realized your tremendous potential. (Now run along and realize it. Make your cockroach happy. VG)
  • The total length of the whiskers is equal to the length of its body, multiplied by the square root of the diameter of its belly, divided by the logarithm of the number of its legs: Well, this might mean that you are a scrupulous and meticulous person. (Some rudimentary knowledge of math is necessary to come to this conclusion. VG)

And now pay attention to the cockroach’s legs.

  • If the legs are evenly distributed along its body:  You might need an appointment with psychiatrist. (Tell him/her everything. Show him/her your cockroach. You’ll feel better immediately. VG)
  • If the length and width of its legs are equal: This insect might as well be a bedbug. (And those little critters are bad news, unless you don’t know it already. VG)

Now set the cockroach free and let it run along as it pleases.hohmodrom_Tarakan

  • If the cockroach runs straight forward: The best part of your life is still ahead of you. (Good news if you ever doubted. VG)
  • If it runs to the left: Look forward to a heartbreaking encounter. (Might as well you’ll be hit over the head with a wet sack as you turn the corner of the house to your left. VG)
  • If it runs to the right: Be careful in your professional life — a backstabbing coworker sits to the right of you.
  • If it runs toward you: You are an intriguing person. (The person you intrigue the most might be found in every which direction. VG)
  • If it flops on its back legs up: It is dead. (Catch yourself another cockroach. VG)


Nowadays one can take pictures from unbelievable distances!omg1And rogue paparazzi use it today as if there is no tomorrow! omg2One cannot be left alone! Privacy is practically extinct! Cameras are everywhere! In your face… from miles away!omg3They zoom in! Oh, no!omg4Closer yet! OMG!omg5Please, leave us alone! Shit!
Dire warning: Do NOT watch if you are under 16! Click away immediately! This major debauchery isn’t for minors!omg6Now what? Should I smile and wave? All right then. Hello there!

Writing On Your Face

K. Somov. A Kiss. (1908)

K. Somov. A Kiss. (1908)

Beauty marks are moles with a color, shape, and size that is considered attractive. Well, we know what they are whther or not we have them.

At various times, moles were considered either ugly or attractive, desirable one century — intolerable the next.  In the Middle Ages, a mole on the woman’s face could very well be interpreted as a “mark of the devil”,  a woman easily declared a witch and sent to the stake. To this day, there are places on the planet earth where a child may be shunned or killed for a birthmark interpreted as the sign of evil.

At the 18th century French court, luxury, elaborate clothing and erotic games reigned supreme. Beauty marks — mouche, French for fly — became fashionable attribute on both male and female faces. In the absence of real ones, artificial beauty spots were routinely crafted. These small circles cut out of black velvet, taffeta or paper had a tremendous advantage over the real ones — they could be pasted anywhere at any time and for any purpose: on faces, bare chests or shoulders.

галантный век

Strategically positioned in a strictly prescribed manner, they were an absolute must. The “language of the moles” became a code of seduction. The location, size and shape of each beauty mark eloquently communicated if a lady was ready to start a love game. Should the mood of the lady change during the day, or she did not want to mislead the wrong gentleman, it was enough to move or remove a particular beauty mark or add new one.

Not surprising that the ladies of the court carried a bunch of these little black circles with then at any time of the day. Always at hand, they were carefully arranged in a tiny boxes made of ivory, silver, tortoiseshell or even gold.

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According to ancient believes still prevalent here, there and elsewhere, the nature and the character traits might be clearly written on human faces in the “language of moles”, if any beauty marks are present. No artificial ones count — painted, tattooed or pasted.

If several moles form a shape, and this shape is a cross — it’s most unfortunate. Square and stars aren’t any good either. Sorry.  Moles forming a triangle on a person’s face, however, is a sign of good fortune.

So there. And more. Have beauty marks on your face? Read your dial.  And smile.

1. The famous “third eye” — the eye of Shiva. The one who has it is blessed with infinite intuition, bright mind and thirst for knowledge. Also has an inclination to mysticism.
2. Passionate, jealous and easily irritable person — the one with a “short fuse”.
3. Romantic nature, tendency to intellectual pursuits and creativity.
4. This birthmark is an evidence of fidelity, sensuality and generosity.
5. Volatile, temperamental character, tendency for short-lived romances.
6. Imaginative and creative person with passion for adventure, discovery and travel.
7. Jealous, egotistic and and self-centered character.
8. Extremely sensual. Love life is endless experimenting.
9. Tendency to pick fights, quarrelsome character. When in love — displays a tendency to feeling of guilt.
10. Excellent memory, diplomacy, earthiness.
11. Thrives on complications in relationships and everything forbidden.
12. Tangled love relationships, gives it all to passion.
13. Tendency to frequent quarrels and quick reconciliations. Carnal love prevails over platonic.
14. Exalted, poetic nature, mystically inclined with a sense of universal love. Often blessed (or cursed) with quite an extraordinary fate.
15. Independent, free-spirited nature. Loves of life’s pleasures and world travel.
16. Generosity, faithfulness, longing and desire to be a parent. Makes an excellent parent when becomes one.
17.Extraordinary seducer/seductress with propensity to shocking or scandalous behavior. Loves change and variety, however, rarely compromises his/her marriage.
18. Imagination, sensuality and originality are the reigning character traits.
19. Inclination to jealousy, desire to find and hold on to one and only great love.
20. Not an easy person to be around, prone to depression.
21. Love for variety in intellectual and romantic areas. Tangled love affairs and life in general.
22. Heightened eroticism, sexuality and tendency to infidelity.
23. Punctual, precise and orderly mind. The willingness to grow both spirit and wealth.
24. Fragile psyche and health. Worrisome and insecure nature.
25. Sweet, balanced person with a penchant for conservative views and desire to have a quiet life and a strong, traditional “family values.”

Don’t take any of it seriously, particularly if you aren’t blessed with favorable alignment of beauty marks on your face.



Sapiosexuality is a recently constructed word (neologism) that has come into common usage, particularly on social networking sites where people are self-identifying as sapiosexual. It is a concatenation of the Latin root sapio — from sapiens, meaning wise or intelligent and the Latin root sexualis, pertaining to sexual preferences.

Wolfieboy of LiveJournal (Darren Stalder) claims to have invented the word in 1998.

“Me? I don’t care too much about the plumbing. I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay. I want someone who sometimes makes me go ouch due to their wit and evil sense of humor. I want someone that I can reach out and touch randomly. I want someone I can cuddle with. I decided all that means that I am sapiosexual.”Wolfieboy

Some tongue-in-cheek signs of sapiosexuality are the following:

1. Your heart races at the sight of a man/woman with a 700 page book. Librarians look particularly irresistible.


2. You get a serious pleasure while reading, and not just erotica.


3. You tend to say something along these lines:

“Have you ever conceptualized Arthur Schopenhauer?”

“I don’t especially enjoy sex with you — we hardly connect on intellectual level.”

“It’s your brilliant mind I admire most.”


4. It’s not the sight of your partner’s lips but the sound of the words coming out of them that turn you on.


M. Pivovarov. The writer.

5. You are elated when your partner goes out to get, say, a rhinoceros but returns carrying a book or five.

Oleg Nizovtsev

Oleg Nizovtsev

6. The bigger is your partner’s library — the more sexually attracted to him/her you are.s-ANTON-EGO-large300

7. You like it when your partner looks nerdy and talks smartly, rather than dresses smartly and talks dirty.  мужик с телефоном

It’s great if, say, a fellow with abundance of sapio in his head happens to be sapiosexual or sapiophile  — these terms often used interchangeably. Sadly, however, this is not always the case. Take, for instance, professor Frampton, featured in 2 previous posts. Professor cared less about Denise Milani’s sapio and never discussed Schopenhauer with her. After all, she had plenty of other attractive assets… Ah, well, it takes all kinds…

Meanwhile, the term sapiosexuality gains acceptance, widely discussed and appears on many dating sites.

Ig Noble 2014

IgThe 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, September 18th,  at the 24th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. The ceremony was webcast live.

Jesus on toastNEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.sleep2

REFERENCE: “Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits,” Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 55, no. 5, 2013, pp. 538-541.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat.

с кошками

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28.

REFERENCE: “Decreased level of psychobiological factor novelty seeking and lower intelligence in men latently infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii Dopamine, a missing link between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis?” Jaroslav Flegr, Marek Preiss, Jiřı́ Klose, Jan Havlı́ček, Martina Vitáková, and Petr Kodym, Biological Psychology, vol. 63, 2003, pp. 253–268.

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan


sobaka2BIOLOGY PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, GERMANY, ZAMBIA]: Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines.

REFERENCE: “Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field,” Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda, Frontiers in Zoology, 10:80, 27 December 27, 2013.

ART PRIZE [ITALY]: Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.people look at art

REFERENCE: “Aesthetic value of paintings affects pain thresholds,” Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea, Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 17, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1152-1162.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

Natalia Fabia. Hookers playing poker.

Natalia Fabia. Hookers playing poker.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010“, ISTAT, 2014.

REFERENCE: “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010),” Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013.

MEDICINE PRIZE [USA, INDIA]: Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, for treating “uncontrollable” nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.


REFERENCE: “Nasal Packing With Strips of Cured Pork as Treatment for Uncontrollable Epistaxis in a Patient with Glanzmann Thrombasthenia,” Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin, Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, vol. 120, no. 11, November 2011, pp. 732-36.

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE [NORWAY, GERMANY]: Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, for testing how reindeer react to

kostjum-belogo-medvedjaseeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.Reindeer TVOKM

REFERENCE: “Response Behaviors of Svalbard Reindeer towards Humans and Humans Disguised as Polar Bears on Edgeøya,” Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2012, pp. 483-9.


ребенок-не-какаетNUTRITION PRIZE [SPAIN]: Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, andfermented sausages Margarita Garriga, for their study titled “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.”

REFERENCE: “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages,” Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, Margarita Garriga, Food Microbiology, vol. 38, 2014, pp. 303-311.


If YOLO, then, WTF, ILY! JK!

Gerhard Glück

Mona Lisa: “STFU, asshloles!”

From ILY (I Love You) to WTF (What the F***), social speak “terminology” spills over from texting and other forms of social media communication into everyday writing and even speaking.

Using social listening tools, monitored trending terms used by Australians on Twitter from April 1 to June 30.

LOL, OMG and ILY top the list, with more than 2 million uses by Australians. LOL dominates the ranks,   used a total of 1,242,935 times.

‘We can see a range of clever to practical acronyms as people look for speed and limited thumb work — plus of course it feels good to be in the know, especially on more subversive terms,’ managing director Julian Ward said.

The cheat sheet below might be useful for PPL who FOMO on newest terms:

The 60 new abbreviations that are dominating social media speak: 

FYI, I know only the bare basics of this developing language. So, as a practice, I captioned several pictures (including the one above) by Gerhard Glück, a brilliant German caricaturist.  IDC if you like it or not. TTYL!

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Eat Your Kandinsky

Here they are, side by side, W. Kandinsky’s Painting Number 201 and its edible recreation for the sake of science. The edible Kandinsky is a proof that if it looks good, smells good and arranged artfully, it might even taste good. Or you’d choose to eat this rather than an artless pile of chopped veggies on your plate. Or, if you really into Kandinsky, then you’ll eat it anyway and cry with joy.

The article in Flavour states that after painstaking research (and, perhaps, eating a few celery stalks too many) the researchers came to a groundbreaking conclusion:

 These results support the idea that presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing manner can enhance the experience of a dish. In particular, the use of artistic (visual) influences can enhance a diner’s rating of the flavour of a dish.It’s hard to judge how well the challenge has been met, since we can only observe the images of the “artistic visual presentation of food”.

And here’s an excerpt from the article Make your mealtimes more tasteful by , BioMed Central Update:

We love a challenge, so when Flavour published a paper showing that arranging a salad in the shape of a Kandinsky painting improved its taste, we were keen to have a go at making our own artistic meals. The press release about the paper included these images, and the story was covered by the BBC and CBC. Several major UK newspapers covered the research, including The Independent and The Telegraph, and The Guardian covered it in a news piece as well as their food blog.

The taste of food is impossible to judge by the look of it, but the result of the challenge is worthy of a look:


Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar and edible Dora Maar.

Rene Magritt’s Decalcomania and its scrumptious version.

Edgar Degas’ Danseuse en robe rose and Degas-inspired edible dancer in pink dress.

Mark Rothko’s painting and its meal version.

Oh, my! I’m sure Mark Rothko would’ve chosen beluga caviar for that all-black area of his masterpiece, not a string of what looks like olives. Honestly, caviar or not, I’d prefer edible Rothko to any inedible No 13 any meal of a day.

What can I say, some artists — many artists, actually — depicted food items on their canvasses. You don’t need to be an artist to recreate some of them for your next meal. Mention what inspired you to impress your dinner companions.

Dali's Basket of Bread is easy on ingredients, props and artistry. Substitute white bread for whole grain to give a contemporary touch. Remember, in 1926 whole grain bread was an involuntary choice of lower classes.

Dali’s Basket of Bread is easy on ingredients, props and artistry. Substitute white bread for whole grain to give a contemporary touch. Remember, in 1926 whole grain bread was an involuntary choice of lower classes.


Get your inspiration from Salvador Dali and serve lobster on a top of an old-fashioned telephone. Make sure it’s not a working phone, in case it rings and you’d be compelled to pick up a receiver.

Recreation of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s (1526 or 1527 – 1593) masterpieces from authentic edible ingredients could easily feed a wedding reception of 300 and, while your guests are chomping on Winter Portrait’s nose, they can get a free lesson in the 16th century Italian art.

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Suggestions for creative serving of eggs, courtesy of the great Salvador:




Dali. Public Outdoor Sculptures in Portlligat Village at Girona, Catalonia, Spain

As the Anna Perman’s article suggests, we all love a challenge. Here’s my take on artfully tasteful mealtime:

To the left, is Kazimir Malevich’s famous Black Suprematic Square (1915). To the right,  is my own highly imaginative Malevich-inspired recreation, Max Square Black Dinner Plate, entree. Serves up to 12 art lovers in one sitting (2014).

She, who’d dare to ask for something to eat, will be served yesterday’s borscht and forever deemed lacking in art appreciation. On the other hand, god knows, my yesterday borscht might as well be inspired by an artwork…


Abstract painting of unknown artist that inspires Ukrainian borscht.

Borscht  (also borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, borshch)

Borscht (also borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, borshch)

How To Write About…

kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina lives in Nairobi, Kenya. He is the founding editor of Kwani, a leading African literary magazine. Wainaina won the 2002 Caine Prize for African writing, and has written for Vanity Fair, Granta and the New York Times. He directs the Chinua Achebe Centre for African Writers and Artists at Bard College, NY.

I came across Wainaina’s article published in Granta 92. Below is a large chunk of it. In my usual manner, I couldn’t resist to illustrate the re-posting with images I found appropriate. Below is what I’ve excerpted from the original, or follow the link above, it’ll will take you to the article in its entirety, without pretty pictures.

How to Write About Africaafrika

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.


In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.583590_900

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

[…] Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.Чернокожие-земледельцы

Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with.

The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth.

The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.

image0017[…] Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction).KH_UNICEF_POLIO_CHAD002 (1)

[…] Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

nzDescribe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa’, and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. soroka-vorona_23They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla. Elephants may attack people’s property, destroy their crops, and even kill them. Always take the side of the elephant. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil).

After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask how much money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.bra9

Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical—Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces. When writing about the plight of flora and fauna, make sure you mention that Africa is overpopulated. When your main character is in a desert or jungle living with indigenous peoples (anybody short) it is okay to mention that Africa has been severely depopulated by AIDS and WAR (use caps).

You’ll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where mercenaries, evil nouveau riche Africans and prostitutes and guerrillas and expats hang out.

Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Binyavanga Wainaina

“A Kenyan Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . . . suffused by a love affair with language.”—Publishers Weekly, Top Ten Books of 2011