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.