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.