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.