Monday, 22 November 2004


I know why Trike's song - Luislang - is on Pollen's list - “Die wêreld is ’n luislang wat aanhou en aanhou druk.” [The world is a python that continues and continues with its squeezing]

Hmmmm... maybe that is why we are not posting - it's the bloody python we call work ethic ;-)

My favourite Trike song is of course called Skaamkoekie - "Mamma het ’n souttert in die louoond bewaar / dis dubbel die plesier van ’n kerkbasaar" - they *also* sing about other pleasures, the type that calls for the hose-pipe, but let's not go there ;-)

You can download the mp3 for Skaamkoekie from the following link (it is under Trike, obviously)

Saturday, 13 November 2004

playing with lists

for a blog with four members, we are pretty useless in posting. maybe because there is no use ranting about inevitables - we all knew the chimp would win and we all know what he will do. an intelligent outcome in the US elections joined my ha-ha list along with such stalwarts as world peace and equality for all: it ain't gonna happen.

enough deep stuff, let's get to the important bits. i condensed the 60 odd songs in my current favourite playlist into my 10 favourite songs to listen to... right now! the order of the 10 is not, however, a ranking.

Spiritual - Johnny Cash
Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) - The Arcade Fire
Shanty for the Arethusa - The Decemberists
I'm happy but you don't like me - Asobi Seksu
The Petrol Wife - Anita Lane
Broken and Blue - Fembots
Hiding all away - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Luislang - Trike
Song of Hasuike - Kokeshi Doll
24-hour Store - The Handsome Family

Monday, 25 October 2004

the real jacaranda city

so here we are in Joburg, me staying over at thespian's house, or... rather, the house we are graciously allowed to share with his cats. (i have one reading my screen at the moment, nodding sagely at that last bit.) are we partying? are we out on the town? sadly, no. although we did a kfc drive-through earlier. 500 meters from here...

thespian is wading through the biggest pile of papers i have ever seen, trying to read them all in a week as reference for the last chapter of his p.hd. it's seriously impressive and intimidating. dr. thespian. we must remember to change that next year. all i can do in return is wade through my virtual pile of songs on my iPod, play him snippets and wax philosophically about american gothic and the change in one's perception of music once everything is on one little device. each to his own as they say. who's they you might ask? and rightly so.

to be honest, i was also working until i started writing this. and i will be working again in 5 minutes time i guess. because this post's leading nowhere.

interesting tidbit for the day? in bloemfontein daylight is twice as bright as anywhere else in this world. i verified it with my own two eyes on the weekend.

have you seen "the bloodiest movie ever made"? dead alive by peter jackson (yes, peter LOTR jackson). it's very funny ("i kick arse for the lord!"), and very bloody ("party's over!").

if you see free time somewhere, please pass it on. much obliged.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

What is the matter with West Virginia?

I've always struggled to understand the George Bush popularity phenomenon.

What's the matter with West Virginia?

This article opened my eyes - "the smugness of those in the know is even more insufferable than the insolence of the rich" - you said it man!

Sunday, 17 October 2004


if you say so, taken in Windhoek. Posted by Hello

who's KPA was signage?

nice offices and everything on Independence Ave, Windhoek, but who forgot to order new Closed signs?Posted by Hello


i have never had an original thought in my life.
i am made for secondary research; secondary everything.
i am doomed to always identifying originality in retrospect.
an afterthought.
second best.
trapped by the unquestioned construct that is me.
this, of course, makes introspection quite painful.

Friday, 15 October 2004


I have tried to resist the temptation to write about my bike in my first post, but this morning I slapped my first mirror whilst filtering rush hour traffic.

One of the reasons why one rides a motorcycle is because it gives you the ability to filter through rush hour traffic by splitting lanes - occasional elements of automotive roulette notwithstanding. My bike is an Africa Twin - a huge traillie that is content to double as a (surprisingly good) commuter tool. It has lots of midrange power, a high riding position that makes it possible to see over rows of cars, AND (unlike race replica sports-bikes) the handlebars are higher than normal car mirrors - which means an extra foot of passing space.

The only exceptions are 4x4 and minibus taxi mirrors - they are *exactly* on the same height as the Africa Twin’s handguards. Fortunately one is rarely wedged between two of those during rush hour. This morning I found my rear tyre rolling over the cat's eyes on the broken line all the way from Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery stoplights, just outside town, right down to the Dorp Street intersection. Two fingers on the front brake and eyes searching for sideways movement from the rows of front wheels that would indicate a sudden lane change (indicators do not indicate intention).

Approaching the Dorp Street intersection, town planners squished double lanes into a space a metre or so too small. Right there, I find my way partially blocked by an Isuzu Trooper drifting from the lane to my left, towards a stationary Toyota Hi-Ace taxi in the lane to my right. What is the likelihood of a minibus taxi still having its left side-mirror? It was not my lucky day - the sole law-abiding taxi in South Africa (sporting *both* side-mirrors) was right next to me! Two quick dabs on the front brake to give the 4x4’s mirror a chance to move past the minibus' mirror, setting myself up for ducking the right-handguard under the taxi mirror and then a quick shift of weight to duck the left-handguard under the 4x4 mirror.

At this point I can see the Isuzu driver’s eyes in his (fast-approaching) side-mirror. I can see his eyes narrowing as he notices the enduro-style dual-headlights of my Africa Twin. His response is the instinctive one - he slams on the brakes - neatly stopping his side mirror flush with that of the minibus taxi... Hard on front brake, the nose of the Africa Twin dips, too late... *tuDUP-PLINK!!!* as my left indicator brushes bottom part of his mirror, followed by the handguard bending it over forwards and *CLACK* as the plastic back of the mirror slaps the Trooper’s bodywork. HONK!!!

A flip-up system helmet affords a civilised response, so I flipped up the visor and shouted, “Sorry!” over my shoulder. Trying to resolve the incident without road rage was greeted with “Hey!!! HEY!!! F#&K OFF!!!” Visor down, gear down, revs up, and I'm accelerating off between the rows of cars.

I’ve decided that driver anger at a minor mirror slap must be part-envy. In future I shall keep the visor down and simply use the infuriating full-faced-helmet-wink before continuing my filtering through frustrated barely moving cage-driving commuters. As far as I am concerned car mirrors were designed to flip backwards to allow bikes safer lane splitting during rush hour. Imagine hitting a solid car mirror with a handguard whilst cruising in third gear down a four foot alley made up of slow-moving metal cages! PLINK, BANG, CRUSH!

Thursday, 30 September 2004

lounge blues 300904

i finally succumbed to the allure of familiarity last night. previously anonimity would have been sufficient. not in a mood for continuing my negotiations on how to be the white frontman of a black-owned security firm with the nightwatchman in Mellville ("because when you speak to your own people, you can ask for more money"), i opted instead for the safety and comfort of a Holiday Inn Garden Court close to the airport.

that was reason no. 1: close to the airport. (safety and comfort were mere filler words...there’s a technical term for words like that. ask Ponelis.)

reason no. 2, which turned into reason no. 3, was the proximity of a nice chinese-owned japanese restaurant in Croydon (go figure). it became no. 3 because it turned out the hotel had a Spur in the lobby. i am guilty. i opted for a no. 2, i am ashamed to say. i got served my Eeta Fajita by Lucky. me.

reason no. 4 was a decent chair to sit and work on, which tells you something about the other chairs in the other places. Rickety is not just a friend of Rupert en wat hard is is hard.

reason no. 5 was a parking lot. yes indeed, instead of an overgrown first-come-first-serve vine tunnel where you have to stay out latest to get out first in the morning, i could park anywhere for R7.

the rest are not reasons, they are bonuses. bonuses such as both movie magic channels, both showing crap (but at least). bonuses such as SIX pillows (actually this upset me. they surely inspect pillows in the morning for macassars or indents or residual drool and decide which covers to replace. maybe they missed one, the one with my head on.) and do everyone lie on the same bedspread as i do for the first 2 hours of the night, watching soapies, hoping for better times?

intermission: the other day i had to develop training guidelines for school-leavers entering the hospitality industry - it included how to change linen, keep bathrooms clean and dealing with disabled guests and their luggage. i was not good at it, but i learnt some interesting tidbits such as never let a bedspread lie on the ground. it's all good and well if the person cleaning the room does that, but a guest like me lies down on it, puts my suitcase on it, rips it off onto the floor and do general... bedspready things with it. and i'm sure i'm not the only one. so why bother when cleaning the room? did anyone from the qualifications authority bother to stay in a hotel? end of intermission

i like the way the bathrooms flood in all hotels. they all seem to have the pathetic little shower curtains which most people just keep hanging outside, because inside the taps are in the way and they form a huge gap right where the nozzle sprays and the water pools and pools and eventually spills from the edge of the bath. out of courtesy i wrap my earbuds in teepee as they are the only items i leave in the she-bin. and i always picture Vincent listening to the unfortunate bowel movements of airplane-food induced dispositions. because the airvents conduct sound. let me say this again. the airvents [next to the internal sewerage pipes in hotels] conduct sound [into the bathrooms]. kakofonie.

the only other comment i can make is that last night’s cupboards didn’t fit. they weren’t melamine or chipboard or whatnot. they were funny, bosveld-chic loggy type things, painted white (you know the bosveld lodges i’m talking about with the thick trea/pole/log furniture. those slatted kitchen cupboards go with them.) it was a funny throwback to ... something, possibly the corporate culture of Southern Sun, the previous brand to decorate the interior of the large and homogenic edifice i find so fascinating to describe.

i got three hours of sleep. after 2 hours 45 minutes Will Oldham woke me. a b-side to a Palace Brothers single. (oh, ahem, i sleep with my iPod plugged into my ears). it was the strangest, most interesting song when it woke me. seriously weird and catchy. so i listened to it again an hour later at 5AM on my 2km drive to the airport and it didn’t work anymore. still nice and everything, but not freakily strange. i need to make a playlist of songs i wake up to. they are usually pretty weird, at that moment, as if they break the natural harmony of someone (me) snoring half-sitting, half hanging from the bed, with laptop in... well, lap.

like now. they called me by name. i actually napped through that last sentence. i am late for my flight. ah, life...

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

Goin to School in China

What a functional title. The offspring started school on Monday. He'sgoing to Jichang Xiaoxue (Airport Primary School) in Western Xi'an,Shaanxi, PRC. That's gonna look strange on his Ed. Lab.

He's in san nian jie, san ban (third grade, class three), but I'mthinking of having him moved up to his actual fifth grade, becausewhat difference is it going to make anyway?, and then he'll be withkids his own age, if not his own size.

How's he taking it? He's not complaining. He's consenting to go. He'snot fighting, scratching or screaming. Hey, it's still school afterall, and he's never going to like it. But he's smiling when I go tofetch him, and he's making friends, and he's doing the homework, allby himself, without prompting.

He's noticed, I think, that the fun-factor of staying at home playinggames all day (3 out of 10) is slightly lower than going to schoolall day (4 out of 10), and that might be one of the most valuablelessons to learn in life, ever.

This is what it involves: get up at 6:30, scooter to school throughmorning rush, some 5 km from home. Down a last few hundred metersbetween narrow buildings and a tree-lined road, through a blue gateand into wonderland. Hundreds of grandparents, on bikes, scooters,tired old feet, dropping off kids by the bushel. There are 1800 kidsin this school. Milling of people and vendors selling stinky tofu andfresh crisp waffles, mud on the streets, autumn sun through clear,pre-pollution morning air and falling leaves. Dust kicked up, andstaying up. It is a lifetime in one day, every day. Some kind ofinterface, and Chinese culture becomes defined by the daily ritual ofschool and travel and lunch. Starts making sense.

Lunch is from 12:00 to 14:00. Today, Wednesday, I have to work from13:00, so I'll only eat with him, somewhere along the road at a smalldiner, and then he's going back to class where some loners hangaround, some sleeping, some running around being kids. From tommorrowhe'll probably go to one of the lunch-providers: people who live inthe area and take a few kids in over lunch, feed them, give them aplace to sleep...

This morning driving out I felt like a Chinese. My kid behind me,half asleep on a scooter, his blood red patriotic little backpackflapping in the rear view mirror, and busses trying to kill me.
Here's a nicely packaged thought: the Chinese assume instantfamiliarity with each other. I've seen it in other (slightly moreAfrican) cultures, too. There is no word for please in Chinese. Iknow the dictionary will say it is Qing, but qing doesn't do whatplease does, and you only hear it in the announcements on busses.Qing mai piao (Please buy a ticket.) But qing is more like: Iinsist... not so much a way of pretending politeness, as a way ofinsisting something is done. You don't refuse a Qing.

Anything less than familiarity is treated as an affront. When Chinesepeople meet for the first time a fairly intimate and even heateddiscussion could follow seconds later. To stand on ceremony displaysthe desire to keep the other person at a distance, a rather rudething to do. God help you if you say thank you to your friends.You'll have to be rude for weeks to make up for it.

Perhaps a model of equality? We might get something out of it.Corresponds to something Dick Diver says in "Tender is the night":There's too much manners going around, sparing each others' feelings,as if we're all frail, fragile and hopeless. Perhaps we need to havemore respect for each other, by being more honest. Perhaps.

I love breaking out at last behind a taxi, when the motherless demonspawn eventually gives way, and yelling "Jou ma se fokken hare!" intohis window. I respect the wretched fuckwit enough to assume he'llsurvive that. Always makes me happy. QED.

Am I allowed to swear here?

What are puncreas?

domestic flyer, will sleep against windows

there must be something profound to say when writing a blog post 27,000 feet in the air. the dizziness of halfmoon-shaped veldfires and the setting sun glowing ominously against a turboprop cone must inspire something worthy of typing.

don’t be fooled.

just like the picture of my half-eaten chicken sausage roll yesterday, or those of joburg’s empty highways at 4:30 this morning don’t actually add up to much; industrial behemoths like the one down under, spewing smoke over rural bleak south africa, suddenly doesn’t seem inspiring anymore

i am travelling again this week. duh. and god forbid something exciting happens to me. fly drive work drive work fly work drive fly. notice that sleep is not listed. the only valid ommission is nando's. warren ellis’s blog shows how to travel and say interesting stuff and take interesting photos about the most boring crap in the world, so go read that if this is not doing anything for you yet.

anyway, as a next paragraph, here i go again, like someone that’s not used to something. the best thing about being up in the air like this, surrounded by unlikeable strangers is having my music blasted strait into my skull through my iPod earphones. being used to the cringes and stares and mumblings and shuffling movements of people when i put on music, this is like having a captive audience and they don’t seem to matter, because it’s so LOUD.

out of boredom i will list below an excerpt from an idea i once had. a short story about the most evil of evil persons: a punmeister. and today’s excerpt will be a sample from the punmeisters puny little book of punilinguism.
see. flying in airplanes make you grasp for backups.

puny – a little, or small pun.
punnet – a collection of various puns in a sentence
puntang – a sexy or lascivious pun (replaced punnilingus)
punlet – not really a pun, but funny anyhow
bun – a dumb pun
punter – person delivering a pun, in most cultures viewed as a sort of lower class member of the human race
punch – totally inappropriate pun delivered out of the blue
punctilious – unobtrusive pun slipped into earnest conversation and no indications by the punter that it was deliberate
pundit – a fanatic punster, prone to continuously quote statistics of the aforegoing conversation’s puntential
punctual – the timely delivery of a pun in an awkward social conversation to make everybody present groan inwardly and excuse themselves, all the while relieved that they can get away
puncture – an insensitive pun, mocking a persons present’s situation, physical appearance etc. - popular in tv and movie comedies
pungent – a pun involving bodily functions – very common, but sometimes confused to mean a pun delivered by a man
punitive – a pun intended to frustrate a person who is known to be adverse to puns but cannot extricate him/herself from company
punish – similar to the above
punk – a over-the-top use of puns just for shock-value
puntet – a set of rhyming puns

Friday, 3 September 2004

brief van my vakansie

PS: (Pre-scriptum?) Post jy ook fotos op yahoo. Ek kan niks hier sien nie.


(To my shame this is an email that I've slightly edited to work in
this group-context... I know it sounds exotic being in China, and my
excuses sound lame, but writing email is somehow quite hard here.
There's a lethargy-virus going around, I think.)

I watched a DVD I brought along from home the other day (showing off
to someone foreign) called "Clowns", made in Cape Town by a guy I
vaguely want to claim to know. Well, the story still sucked, but it's
a good demo for what the local industry has to offer, and it was
surprisingly nostalgic to see the mountain and the streets and the
infantile sense of dramatic development so intrinsically South
African. Nice music, too. (This apropos a big film shooting
apparently happening in Cape Town, featuring Nicolas Cage and mobile
suburbs called motorhomes.)

E-Tv is apparently showing Bond-movies, again...
Of course, here I can get the entire Bond series in one go, if I just
didn't feel so damned lethargic. The atmosphere here must do
something to a person's mind. I have all this free time, but no
desire to do much at all.

Monday and Tuesday we went to a holiday-resort/hotel just outside
Xi'an as a sort of team-building/end-of-term function. They have a
heated pool, and bumper cars, bowling, ostriches, camels, little boat
thingies, and GOKARTING on a full sized racing track. So naturally I
opted for the bowling, which proved much more technical than I (a
card-carrying bowling virgin) would have expected.

No, I obvisouly spent more time go-karting: could easily reach a
hundred kph. Terribly hard-core. Simon wanted to go to, and they gave
him a smaller, slower one and I had to loose the bowling to restore
his confidence after that race.

It was great, and it felt like being in civilization again for a
while, except that chinese business acumen still ruled: you had to
pay R20 just to SIT in the foyer, and with a token at that. so you
have to go to an obscure little room, buy tokens, take the receipt to
the reception desk to get it stamped and then take that back to get
your token, which you then immediately give to the same women in
exchange for your seat. nothing is easy here.

Last Saturday me and Simon went to a concert with four really famous
Hong Kong and Taiwan bands (the "province" of Taiwan, you
understand...) and that also showed up some spectacular anality, if
that's even a real word.

Have a look here:

Cowboy Dick. Hehehe. Jacky chan was in town, but rumours of him
taking part in the concert were greatly exagerated.

I thought we were getting free tickets. Not so, we were being
smuggled in by an off-duty policeman with more ID cards than is
healthy. This meant everywhere we went, trailing behind this
demunitive dwarf, we were met by hostile security cards demanding our
immediate removal from the premises, and of course demanding this
from me since I looked like the only adult person in the groups. Then
this little man had to produce cards from various places and flash
them around and gradually, but grudgingly we would be waved through
to the next checkpoint. Getting into this concert was hell on my
nerves, because I felt like I was shielding the offspring from all
this aggression every step of the way, but he found it interesting.
When we eventually sat down (after climbing a million stairs 100%
occupied by sitting people who refused to budge) everyone broke into
smiles as if nothing had happened. Everyone assured me everything was
absolutely okay.

The concert itself: well, imagine the likes of the Backstreet Boys
and Britney Spears, only you have some kind of aphasia which means
you cannot understand a single word at all... (probably a stroke of
mercy) amazing how absolutely blank and bland something so huge and
busy can be. Like watching a slide show of someone's holiday in erm

Many many policemen, as well. And no standing... the field was packed
with neat rows of chairs, and about a thousand cops had to run around
all the time getting people to sit. I mentioned this to my teaching
assistant, who was with us, and she said otherwise the people would
become too boisterous and it would be dangerous. When I told her that
in SA and elsewhere people all stood up in the front, and when you
get tired you move to the back to sit down, she didn't believe me. At
last she said that, well, Chinese people aren't so well behaved. In
my opinion everything that is now complete chaos in China, would sort
itself out if the police just backed off a little and give people the
respect they get elsewhere. They always assume the worst. That's the
condition on the roads as well: here people function in a state of
paranoia, where in the West we operate on assumptions. (Not very
clear, I know, but just a fleeting impression.)

Therefore queues are unknown here: every man, woman and child for
themselves. No respect. They expect constantly everyone is out to
beat them, get them, cheat them or run them over. It is tedious to
wait for your change to be returned, when they want to count it twice
and expect of you to stand there counting it in front of them again.
This to show their commitment to being honest, which I appreciate,
but one gets the feeling the lady doth protesteth too much.

Reading Haruki Murakami's Underground, about Japan, but chillingly
applicable. Also a terribly disturbing book, once it sinks in, for
all its subtelty... recommended.

Might go flying next week... Rick went out to test the 4 seater Yak
T18A he usually flies, and he said he couldn't even go the length of
the runway. Engine just would not get up to full power. so after
repairs this week we might try next week. He'll just have to test-fly
it alone first. I offered to take over this tedious chore, but he is
a fastidious guy and insists on taking all that terrible
responsibility upon himself, bless him.

Thursday, 2 September 2004

girls just wanna have fun

Posted by Hello
i was buying some chinese food for dinner tonight at Jay Lee and was confronted with this picture. the ladies probably had a whole group to cater for, because they already had some KFC with them. now that would have been a dinner party worth a picture...

the puppets know

some of the best things i have written have been while falling asleep. the hidden recess of my brain responsible for sending signals through to my fingers with or without awareness, managed to come up with this beauty in a business report tonight:

"In August, the team reflected critically on progress made, both with puppet movement, because."

not those damn puppets again. we've already seen what happens when they fall in the wrong hands.

Sunday, 29 August 2004

Saturday, 28 August 2004

shuffling out of life

the new york times published an article on the conspiracies and theories that abound over the shuffling algorithm used by the iPod - it seems that some people say it's not random enough and others insist their iPods display preferences. before i go ahead and debunk this, I must admit that mine seems to have a disproportionate predilection towards calexico, lambchop and einstürzende neubauten. and that proves my point... the one i'm still getting to.

i might not know many people, but i don't know any that have consistent, genre-defined cd-collections. ok. let me not talk about other peoples' music collections, because the bits i don't have in mine yet suck :-). my collection has the odd bad buy, the embarrassing 80's stuff, the mood-related music, things to play when the family visit, the stuff i really like, albums completing collections, cd's ripped from someone else because it's free, freebies with magazines, nostalgia ("this was my first cd!"), bargain bin cd's (because they were cheap), gifts, compilations and of course the core nick cave and extended family collection. and i'm not even talking genres yet (partly because i think they are evil and find "experimental" the most evil genre of all... but that's another story. or at least let me say music is experimental by nature and leave it at that.)

go shuffle 3000+ songs acquired over 15 years. of course it will sound strange and be inadequate most of the time. you wait excitedly every time a new song comes up, but in the end you don't really want to hear norwegian wood after feurio!. and if it's truly random (which some people tell you is not possible on a computer, too lazy to look for a link now), then there is always the probable scenario that one day all your albums will play in alphabetical, chronological and song order when you hit the shuffle button. but until that day, any seaming patternlike behaviour will be as a result of the human brain, your attitude towards the song, where it fits and should fit, your awareness of what's playing at the time.

so, having said all that, let me tell you what my brain picks up in iPod's supposed randomness: i have a theory that it selects songs in chronological blocks. if the whole drive is divided into 10 hypothetical equal blocks, then iPod according to me jumps around a bit in one block before it migrates to another block. might this be because it's a mechanical hard drive... or am i talking crap?

while i was writing this my iTunes library played a remarkably thoughtful selection of songs, all related by less than three degrees: johhny cash, the bedridden, nick cave, pj harvey, goldfrapp but what does that tell me? that my iPod is sentient or that I buy cd's by these people?

if you want to win the lottery, buy a ticket.

Thursday, 26 August 2004

boo radley

saw this morning burglars threw clyde rathbone's mom from her window.i watched the rugby last saturday, at 4 am in the morning mindyew, and i thought the boo's he got was particularly nasty and i feltquite satisfied when he redeemed himself eventually and set up thetry.
now, unfortunately, i doubt whether anyone can truly begrudgehim the move.


"In an interview for Fox TV, broadcast on Supersport and quoted inweekend newspapers, Clyde Rathbone said that among his reasons foremigrating was dealing with the stress of living with crime andviolence in South Africa.

"In Australia, he said, he did not have fears for the safety of hisfiancee, Carrie-Ann Leeson, while he was away from home. By contrastin South Africa, "wherever she's going or wherever my brothers or mymother or any part of my family are going, you are constantlyworried. That's the reality about living in certain parts of SouthAfrica".

"During the Tri-Nations final in Durban on Saturday Rathbone wasconstantly booed by the Springbok fans whenever he touched the ball."

Dude. Hope the nerves are okay. Don't go the way of the shotgun.

That way lies fear, and hatred. Fear is the path to the dark side.Dare I say: we're all plotting our escape. I'm not too thrilled with A.'s situation at the moment, driving from town to town to meetappointments at different clinics.

I am beginning to build up aterribly strong resistance to opening my news-emails from SA. So badly want one day to go by without reading about a rape or a murder, usually both.

Cliché, innit?

Afrika wil ons nie hê nie.

burglar bar none

at least the iPod was a good idea. it meant i was one step ahead of the burglar who tonight tried to force his way into our flat via the spare room window. the modus operandi went something like this:
(a) choose a window on ground level big enough for a person to climb through
(b) wedge a crowbar or something similarly flat-pointed and sturdy between the window and the frame and apply enough force for the latch to break off
(c) lift the window open
(d) using the same implement, rest it on the window frame, wedge it underneath the burglar bars and vigorously start tugging and pushing in order to dislodge the screws fixing the bars to the wall
(e) do all this in plain view of the block of flats across the road, as nobody will notice or investigate such noises at 23h00
(f) underestimate the noise made and run away when the upstairs neighbour (bless her) pokes her head out of the window and shouts obscenities (i hope she did)

the missing section, that hopefully does not come to pass, is:
(g) wait until the police arrive to inform the neighbour that this is tonight's second break-in in the street
(h) observe them leave after making some empty promises based on their milling around for a while and saying hmmm and uhmm
(i) continue with the task at hand

hopefully it won't happen, because i want to catch some sleep. if it does, however, i would like to have a clean view of the intruding hand before i plunge my large and sharp kitchen knife into it.

Sunday, 22 August 2004

CAP[italism]S LOCK

Posted by Hello
alas! i joined the league of the great washed... (and groomed). my official excuse for buying an iPod is that it is a backup strategy for any more break-ins into my flat, because last time i was lucky no cd's were taken. i know i know, hahahaha.

whatever the reason, it's pretty amazing to carry ALL my music in my pocket, even the cd's i tried to flog because they're crap and which nobody wanted. perfect capitalism: the choice to buy and listen to shit.

people (like me) might tell you, ja'ag but it's about the music. well, i had a sobering experience when i was buying groceries and saw the Huisgenoot's front page, proclaiming very loudly something like : "10,000 liedjies in jou sak, nuwe tegno-treffer op die mark!"

mah sanctum.

i realised i didn't want them to put the story in there. i didn't want those people to know about a world market leader in mobile and online music trends, selling hundreds of thousands, probably millions of the thing. not them. and it struck me. (a) i've been duped into thinking it's something exclusive and (b) i am a trendoid.

save me.


a post from cerebus:

well, the summer session is winding to an end, which means the holidays are almost over and the kids are getting ready to go back to normal schools. worked out in class the other day they go to school about 43 hours per week compared to an average SA time of around 30hours. they have school on saturdays as well, and in their free time they go to lessons. maths, english, advanced computational arithmetic, that kinda thing. high school is even worse. no wonder, when polled, the most popular free time activity in china is sleeping.

the airconditioning is broken in the teachers room, and has been for a few days, which means sitting here feels like sitting in church on a sunday morning in summer in SA waiting, nay... praying, for the dominee to lift his hands and do that blessing thing... my hands feel strange.

we're listening to a compilation of western songs, possibly too loudly... at thew moment coldplay. sometimes when i walk out of here i get this sensation suddenly of: "oh right, i'm in china."

nothing new around here. earlier had to do a placement interview for a kid, to see which classes she should attend. in four seconds i knew where she should go: level 0. but then, to keep the capitalist system happy (i.e. the paying customer) i had to shoot the breeze with this kid for at least five minutes, during which i established that she knows exactly four english words and possibly a little bit of chinese too.

strange how the kids sometimes clam up in class. i wonder if that happens in normal school as well. you can ask them something (usually "read that bit...") and they'd do 4 words fine and get to one they've not seen before and they freeze up. they just stand therein complete sullen paralysis and not even when you say something to them in chinese do they respond. nada. it's like coaxing a kitten out of a tree.

running out of money, so the weekend will be quiet, with another little bike trip scheduled for monday. this time we plan to go west... see if we can reach the river. my brain is shrivelling from lack of decent reading material. i found "to kill a mockingbird" in the school but the offspring appropriated it. saw a murakami at the foreign languages bookstore.

i wonder how many "foreign language" things there are in xi'an. theFL institute, acadamy, university, school, committee, you name it, we've got it. but whether it has anything to do with actual foreign languages i seriously doubt. maybe it means they've heard of this whole foreign language concept and just want to let the world knowthey don't hold with it, thank you very much. because god knows theycan't speak none.

found a brilliant xinjiang restaurant yesterday, open-aired place, doing all kinds of muslim-meat dishes, mostly bbq-ed meat sticks and this thing they call a dumpling but which is really just a steak and kidney pie. they also have excellent ding ding chao mien, for the vegetarians out there. (lit. little bits of fried noodles... tastes italian.) walking distance from home, too.

okay, thats it. just saw the US is overtaking china in the medalsrace at the olympics. need a cigarette. (these two things are notentirely unrelated.)

au voir.

Thursday, 19 August 2004

chop chop

the reason i chose to cull the specific picture in the previous post from the mailinglist is it reminds me of Lambchop album covers

god's final message

god's final message to his creation after editing by the legal department. southern xian (gaoxin qu)
(posted by cerebus on surviving china) Posted by Hello

diversification! global reach!

due to the blocking of the blogspot domain in china and the frustrations experienced by cerebus, he has started a yahoo mailinglist, surviving china. membership is open, so go and join. the purpose is basically the same as this, it's a bit more push than pull, but importantly more accessible from behind the... hmmm, i don't know what curtain they have there (onthou asb. die manne op die grens en die mense in die hospitale)

we're not going to duplicate everything, but i will import some pictures and stuff from there every now and again.

Friday, 13 August 2004

bu hao yi si

Fair lot of reading to be done if you google "Oriental inscrutability". And the link below has some very fair points. Something remains though of the notion that this inscrutability, even as a characteristic of Westerners, DOES remain. And how to deal with it?

"Cultural Mis-readings by American Reviewers" by Maxine Hong Kingston

Some others:
Applying science to the myth of Oriental inscrutability

And: Asian babes (aka yellow fever <--- that's nasty!)
There's something about Lucy

Do me a favour. Call the SABC and ask if they can send me a copy of a documentary they showed at the end of June about a Chinese family from SA who go back to China to their old home town...

I'll pay good RMB for it.


Thursday, 12 August 2004

view from a hotel: liberdade japanese district, sao paulo Posted by Hello

bow down

the new nick cave double album is almost upon us. go and view the new single video and listen to snippets at

i'm still chewing. and thinking.

parastatals we have to hate

a world without inefficiency would be a violent violent place. all the pent up frustration that we could take out abruptly and violently on each other in the early days of evolution, whether over food or mates or the sunny spot under the thorn tree, now need to be channelled towards bureaucracy and parastatals, or else we’ll go mad. luckily for us, these priests of the anti-excellence are playing along and giving us enough things to freak out about. the only problem is we can’t kick them in the teeth or balls, grab them by their neck hairs, dig our knuckles into their scalps, or shove them off a branch. because they sit in call centres and listen talk radio while answering our calls. and they do it because else they will freak out and go postal for every scripted “how can i be of excellent service to you today?” they have to utter.

no prizes for guessing who i’m writing about. you probably know by now which offending monopoly that so offends us in such an offending manner i’m referring to. the call centres reference did it, otherwise 50% of people might have chosen SAA. and i’m not yet part of the sentech-hating crowd that seems to spew forth everywhere these days like those little flying data bits on their tv-add (i still contend the image of those flying bits will scare off privacy-minded people). no, my radar is aimed at the archetype, the oldest and baddest piece of monopoly service that this country knows: telkom.

so, here follows the abridged version of my experience in applying for an ADSL line (it has come to the point where i suspect mweb is modelling its business approach on that of telkom):
- quite some time ago, i applied online to telkom for ADSL
- telkom phoned me to get my details, only to inform me right at the end of the conversation that i have owed them R115 since 1998 and i need to pay up first (why now?)
- so i left it at that and paid the 115
- i applied again online. nothing happened
- i phoned them: “sorry sir, no application was received”
- so i applied again while on the phone and they again asked me all the questions i completed online about my pc’s compatability. that’s ok, i can handle that. it’s cool, I say
- i got my reference number and waited for their promised fax which i have to sign to confirm the application
- the fax didn’t arrive initially so i whistled a ditty and eventually after three additional calls to the ADSL call centre, it arrived the next day two hours after the last call
- the “acceptance” form faxed to me turned out to be the exact same one i completed over the web, and the exact same one i gave information for over the phone: “how big is your harddrive? do you have usb?”
- i phoned again, saying HUH? loudly (actually it made me think of the way Seinfeld yells when he’s excited, sort of a high-pitched, yet monotone: BUT I ALREADY COMPLETED THE FORM OVER THE PHONE YESTERDAY! AND ON THE INTERNET TWICE! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?)
- i was informed yes ok maybe, but you have to complete it again.
- what about my reference number i asked? that should show i’ve provided that information already: “no sir, that’s for you to fill in on the form when you fax it back.”
- so i asked “fill it in where? there were it says For Office Use Only?”
- “yes sir”

maybe i should stop here. my eyes are getting watery and i’m searching the trees for the closest ape to bash and flash my shiny ass at. i’ve always been willing to entertain the notion that the bad name (some) parastatals have, are to an extent overinflated urban legendry. but i’ve now adjusted my point of view. i think the horror stories we hear are part of a leaked telkom strategic plan and those were the strategic objectives. so they're actually one of the best performing companies in the world – they’re attaining their vision: “frustrate the hell out of people. get them to bang their heads against walls and break their toes against table legs. because we guard the progress of evolution. without us, that anger will have no focus, will be unguided. if we don’t channel it into a deep deep pit of tinny panflute muzak, what will we end up with? a bunch of apes.”

some inspiration for this. and the amazon review. and another review. it's a good book.

Monday, 9 August 2004

blahg blahg blahg

yes, it is true, and it has been true for quite some time. it's a pity no-one thought of mentioning it... loudly and persistantly. or am i being naive? 'mention what?' you wonder. well, that's the point. you wouldn't know. because it's not there. it's not there, because it was mentioned, and when it's mentioned, it's not there anymore, or maybe never wasn't.

imagine living in china and you have no way of knowing what you're allowed to see, because you don't see it and nobody speaks about not seeing it, because they don't know.

ok, sorry. that was the paragraph intended to be the transition to the bit where i start making sense. it should've been clearer. but it wasn't, was it? how would you know? maybe it's not there anymore and you never saw it. because it's been removed - the paragraph i was talking about. and i decided to remove it. maybe there were two paragraphs, and somebody else removed the other one. i could tell you about it, but then maybe that would be removed too. so you would never know.

let's try again.

as you probably saw in cerebus's previous post, the 'technical difficulties' they were experiencing with the blog in... am i allowed to say it(?)... c-h-i-n-a ... wasn't as technical as we thought after all. (except for the odd bit of employing a few geeks to ensure the big fat data pipe swallows the thousands of websites that end with the chinese government has blocked content of all the big (international) blog portals - this means while bloggers in china can access and post to these blogs from the nuts and bolts/ administrator angle, the actual blog as you see it here is not accessible. at all. in the whole country. or any other blog related to blogspot et al. that's pretty scary.

but don't think this is a scoop. no breaking news - i'm just a new blogger. the blocking of blogging was apparently started in january 2003(!) and is common knowledge, if you can find it. while the odd blog or group might cry "sies!" every now and again, it is dealt with in much the same way most embarrasing issues on china (the trading partner of choice for almost everyone and probably a few martians too) are dealt with: the slightly perplexed white house dog look, the pursing of the mouth while shrugging shoulders and saying “eurgh.”

the sad thing is... that's what we do. and what i will probably do too. bitch about it a bit. yap yap yap, bring it into social conversations in some indignant tone. because... activism and all that stuff… it’s just so cold war. too much fingerpaint, no hot water, the chanting, ricoffy with skinheads. oh, of course, there's email chainletters, as if they have ever contributed to anything worthwhile.

and it’s china! for gods sakes, I want to go there at the end of the year to visit cerebus and simon and buy some cheap dvd’s and cheap knock-off's of branded goods. no use getting blacklisted over such trifle little things like access to information of 1.4 billion people, now is there? and did i mention: it’s china! where the hell do you start? who do you speak to? which windows do you throw the stones at? and i'll say it again: who cares?

if you're interested in further reading:
[a] the definitive article on blogs in china from Little Red Blogs. a few tidbits: 80 million internet users in china at december 2003, and… wait for it: 30,000 techies monitoring internet traffic! the article’s got… wossisname… perspective and context. and I do love context.

[b] even a phrase search on google for "china bans blogs" returned results

[c] a Wired article on google, china and big business: Google vs. Evil

[d] the contribution of samizdata, a blog

Saturday, 7 August 2004

how can you not believe in death

I dreamt last night that I died. I had some kind of heart attack, and simply started falling, thinking that the next thing I'll see will be... the next thing... It was strangely comforting, and I woke up disappointed. But I had a realisation that I do not believe in death.

How can you not believe in death?

In the same way you don't believe in rascism. Ideologically. I don't believe -- in spite of any evidence to the contrary -- that we will experience death. We can not be conscious of NOT being conscious. That would be a simple contradiction. When did you start being conscious? Is there a specific time? No, of course not. There was a gradual realisation of your existence. So for all intents you could have been alive for an infinite time before you began building specific recolections of your existence.

Perhaps death might fucntion in a similar way: how can you ever be conscious of that moment AFTER WHICH you stop being conscious? There will never be anything to, ahem, cross over into -- no point at which you, yourself, will be able to say: now I've died.

What will happen to our consciousness at that moment, when -- for the rest of the world -- it looks like we've died. Our consciousness wouldn't be able to reach that point, and what scares me is that we would possibly have to stay there, in that moment of recolection before death, for what would seem like ourselves as an eternity. We might end up having our own, private little afterlife, actually conscious-wise caught in a static limbo before the last possible moment where we would not be conscious anymore. (Time stopped, or at least slowed fractally.) Simply because our awareness would have no-where else to go.

All deathed up, and nowhere to go.

Also, China plays Japan tonight in the Asian Cup final. I'm hoping for riots and blood.

Also also: support confirmed certain countries are blocking access to which is why I now post via the handy post-via-email option.

I asked a Chinese person today whether he is concerned that his government doesn't want him to see certain things on the internet. He said no, because it has nothing to do with him.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Gon. Posted by Hello

about the chips

i should explain about the chips packets. they're a symbol of something inherently flawed in china.

you know when you open a packet of chips you grab that little plastic flap on one side and pull on the other side. that's what the flap is for. it has a raisin detter. nespa? right. well, here it seems they saw the little flap on american packets and thought that's what a packet has to look like. but they never asked "why" or rather "wei shen me?" so they've got flaps, but you can't open chips packets without industrial strength garden shears, or possibly light explosives.

so, they've become symbolic. simply put: nothing here works. DVD's have a shelf life of 2 weeks. DVD players about 2 months. and one of the buttons on the remote won't ever work, usually the subtitles button. one in three DVD's you buy will simply stop working after 4.6 minutes. the shower will drip annoyingly. the gas from the cooker slowly dissipates. the water dispenser will a.) refuse to cool the water and b.) drip. The PS2... don't talk to me about the PS2.

i love china. i really do. i love the people, culture, history, sense of wreckless abandonment. all of it. but they deserve better. and they get shit because there's enough of them to buy shit if it's cheap enough. if you go into a shop and slap down your previously purchased merchandise and announce that you won't ever come back and tell your friends never to come back they will laugh for a second and sell your stuff to the next guy who comes in. consumer demand. hah.

it's a pity. perhaps it's better around the coast, shanghai, hong kong, etc. not here though. people frequently look you in the eye with that wounded look of "how can you possibly suggest this DVD might have been filmed in a cinema?" and then sell you a dvd that was filmed in the cinema and pretend it never happened once you come back. i know about testinbg the things, i'm just illustrating the annoyance. badly. badly illustrating it, that is. the annoyance.

and richard burns rally sucks. or perhaps my PS2 steering wheel sucks.

still. i chose to be here. i hope y'all can appreciate the possibility of this contradictory position: where i can critize and still choose to be here. is that allowed in the information age? or does the world demand absolute consistency? (don't answer that.) (the world's a hypocrite.)

zaijian a.

welcome simon

woohoo! a new contributor to the blog. welcome, simon - ahem... of course, we all know that's not your real name. once you guys sort out the technical issues, post us some pictures of xi'an.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

Yes, quite important to be able to open a pack of chips without having to use scissors.

Well what if you are trapped in a subway alone and with just a bag of chips,mmmmm?Well all i have got to say.

Oh and i can't open anyones "blog", just so you know

Sunday, 1 August 2004


bugger. i realised today my silver mt zion... punk-rock cd was in my laptop when it was stolen a month ago. i've been listening to the previous albums thinking it's here somewhere, until i remembered i copied it to the harddrive just before we left on holiday. fokjoumeneerinbreker.

there is of course the slight chance the burglar will just deposit it in a brown envelope in front of our door with a note saying "but where's the song breaks?"

... time passes

i just remembered. cerebus asked me one day when i tried to force the cd onto him "so are you into 50 cent now?" the cd had some white circular lines with writing on it, including something that made him make the comment. this is actually turning out to be funny. revenge by post-rock. put that in your cd player and watch it smoke meneer.

Friday, 30 July 2004

maestro mol majoor

catching up on pitchforkmedia on monday at the airport, i read this in the review of the pretty little lighting paw ep by thee silver mountain reveries (previously-known-as info and discography here):

Pretty Little Lightning Paw also profits from canning the aggressively off-key Choir who belted out discordant shapenote harmonies all over their previous LP, This is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing.

that's wrong. punk rock is officially my album of 2003, precisely because of that beautiful off-key choir. and then another review on pitchfork slated the new album by mùm because of some grudge against the singing... i was getting pissed off, but it was probably more to do with getting up at 4am.

the fence around your garden won't keep the ice from falling
(courtesy of the choir)

recoleta cemetery, buenos aires Posted by Hello

Thursday, 29 July 2004


which is what i ate last night. american bullfrog soup. not bad. like chicken. also had buckwheat noodles and fish scales, as well as red shrimps and roast duck. very good. my hosts were the parents of a student. we went to the hero restaurant. loosely translated. tightly translated it would be the hero restaurant. subtelties of language, wot?

nice meal though and cheap. god bless american bullfrogs. came home. opened bag. keys gone. longer story: at the same time i left for dinner, my offspring left to sleep over at a xiao pengyou. he had the keys.

so i did what every reasonable man in my situation would do. i got drunk. no, not really, but i did go to a nightclub. figured i'll pass some time there. i did. it's nightclub. god i hate nightclubs.  so i left and did what any reasonable man would have done next: paid for it.

it being a place to sleep. found a massage place and got the longest one. only killed about an hour, though, after which i wandered -- yes, wandered -- the wicked streets of xi'an. alone, in despair, not feeling sorry for myself one bit and pretty pissed off. watched the murk grow less murky. (somewhere else i might have said i watched the sun rise.)

now that you've had your laugh at my expense i would like to remind you that you are paying to be online to read this right now.

Sunday, 25 July 2004

thanks for all the fish

excuse the inanity. i'm trying this out for the first time. i'm in xi'an, in central china, teaching english (duh). also brought my ten year old son along and i'll try to chronicle our adventures here in a subjective, terribly biased and confused way. i'll start out by saying that i do not intend being offensive, but without a doubt i will be. if and when i am, please remember it is my aim to present my own reactions to events, and a specific viewpoint, which may differ from yours, and to which you are urged to respond, especially if you feel you are representative of the offendees (and these are not a tribe of indians).

first i'll tell you about last night. it starts out on an offensive note and manages to end on another note entirely. chinese treat people like cattle. go to beijing airport for proof of this. or, like we did, go to xi'an's most famous yang rou po mo restaurant... lausun's in da dong jie. three (or more) floors of tightly packed tables where you can order anything, as long as it is po mo (which is a mutton broth with little round flat breads broken up into tiny pieces, served with pickled garlic, chilli sauce and chopstix). you get ushered in at breakneck speeds, dumped at a table still crawling with the previous victim's debris, and screamed at for ten seconds until realisation dawns that you can in fact articulate your very simple order in chinese. which i did, and i included a modest request for coke. this brought about some more screaming (yes, the old rumour is alive that if they don't understand your language, adding some volume might magically force meaning into their heads). the screaming turned out to be an explanation that -- you sorry fool -- we don't sell coke in this fine establishment, nor anything else to drink neither and if you want some you have to haul ass downstairs and get it on the street, doncha know.

the atmosphere in the restaurant was one of mildly threatening apocalypse. until this couple from hebei came in, looking lost and scared, and since me and the offspring had two open chairs at our table we gestured and smiled and they sat down. see, then i realised that perhaps it's just xi'an, not all of china. these people were on holiday and wanted to try the local torture i mean cuisine and they too looked astounded and rattled by the cattle market happening around them. we had a nice conversation (leaving us all voiceless for the next hour) but it all ended pleasently. (i'm cutting this story short because of classes starting in 20 minutes)... but still.

the main idea here is that beaurocracy is so entrenched here that a.) the waiters in restaurants think they are civil servants that hold that special civil servant's lisence to be rude and unfriendly bastards, and b.) to a great extent the customers (in whichever establishment you find yourself, from beijing airport to the hui meat market) regard the attendents as a caste of untouchables who are there to be abused in order to fulfil the karma of their lives.

the weather is warm.


Saturday, 24 July 2004

santa catalina jesuit estancia, cordoba, argentina Posted by Hello

lesser profound observations of argentina

we recently returned from a vacation in argentina and brazil. both are excellent destinations for south africans looking for some value for money. the current exchange rates mean you basically save money by going there (at the time of writing of course - it is the rand i'm talking about).

i will share some observations from the trip which i thought might be interesting, if only because they are mundane and don't aspire to initiate a new post-capitalist global consensus.

observation number one
in argentine cities, the locals accept flyers handed out to them in the street. most argentines would then scan them and trash them, but they actually show interest. for a south african hard-wired to ignore any solicitation, pamphlet or person asking the time, this came as a revelation. of course, rebel that i am, it turned into a cautious experiment which quickly became a eager, wild-eyed grabbing of any flat, foldable object pointed in my general direction. i started building up collections, became interested in guitar lessons, gained insight into leatherware and almost bought a computer. the gay abandon stopped abrubtly when a man approached me, saying something as he held out a small laminated card with the picture of a saint. i grabbed hold of it, saying "graçias" in my best spanish, but he held on, mumbling, fear forming in his eyes as he realised this was a tourist, and not a spanish-speaking one at that. we tugged at the card a bit, eyes locking, him mumbling, until he started to repeat "uno peso uno peso."

well, of course i wasn't going to pay for my little piece of paper. so i let go. only later did i realise i was never offered all the pamphlets available on street. i missed out on discount medicines and tax assistance, but received all possible invitations to tango shows and asadas. there was a shrewd screening process going on, and my poor friend of earlier was possibly just new to the job.

ok, so maybe just one observation. for now.

happy birthday cerebus

the blog is up and running, after only two weeks of discussing it. this must rate as one of the most decisive moments of my life - any more decisions at such breakneck speed and my posts will become blurred as well.

cerebus will join soon, as soon as the weight of yet another birthday (july 23rd) wears off. for now, i'll have to quote him in his absence on this great occasion:

wo de shengri kuai le - happy birthday to me
around twelve noon i got this strange notion to check the date on my watch, and noticed, with horror, that i suddenly ceased being the youthful thirty-one year old i had grown accustomed to, and have instead metamorphosed into the unknown, greying figure of a matured and battle-scarred thirty-two year old. it would probably take me about a year to get to know this new person.
as i look back upon the ashes of my youth one thing in particular stands out amongst the smoking debris of this highway of hell: but with the state of my eyes i can't properly see what it is.

congrats cerebus and many happy returns. do you remember when you turned 14 and shared the day with prince andrew and sarah ferguson on their wedding day? i hope to that great expanse in the sky that you don't, i really do.