Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Not a type of stereo

On Monday morning, the Airbus A319 I was sitting in at Cape Town airport couldn't start its taxi for take-off because the only tug (the flat big wheel thingie that pulls the aircract back) converted for A319's was broken. So the ground crew deliberated and debated and discussed and talked about it, all of course under the watchful eye of this bourgeois frequent flyer from his prebooked window seat.

Then suddenly, a flash of inspiration! Let's all push the aircraft back!. If your average Iron Man can pull a plane, a bunch of guys with walkie talkies can surely push one back. Reinforcements were requested and those already present moved into position. Just as they started to push, the reinforcements arrived, a Condor with six people. One...yes, only one... jumped out and started pushing as well. Obviously I couldn't see this bit, but I imagine the small group below huffed and puffed and swore and grunted and managed to get the plane back far enough for it to slowly make a forward left turn to start its taxi.

The reinforcements were so intrigued and so fascinated by the event unfolding in front of their
Condor that one of the pushers had to knock on the vehicle's window to get the driver to reverse a safe distance as the plane started moving.

And this is what bothered me. Here you have a group of people of different races. Some pushed. Some sat in their car and watched. And who did what panned out very well along nice, crisp racial lines. It pisses me off when people start acting out racial stereotypes, as if they're deliberately confirming them for all to see.

I've always been intrigued by the question "when does a stereotype become the truth?" Is there a critical mass of people believing in it required? Is it dependent on the majority view? And the majority view of whom? Those doing the typing or those being typed? South Africans, I feel, sometimes try their best to entrench stereotypes, as if they deliberately act in a certain way.

And just to show you how powerful these views of people are, you must ask yourself how you pictured the scenario above in your mind. Which groups did you picture pushing and which groups did you picture watching? Why did you think that?

Don't ask me. I'm not telling and its all already in your head anyway.

Wednesday, 9 February 2005

Sumo Kitty

This was a great photo opportunity in Toyland, Tokyo, which you appreciate most when back at home. Thanks to the Interstitial One for the picture. Posted by Hello

Monday, 7 February 2005

Year of the Male Chicken

You might think, as I did, that you could never grow tired of fireworks. Remember those quaint little light shows at some lake that your parents took you to see where they played Beethoven's 9th and blew up exactly 36 pretty little crackers, and you wished they were bigger and they'd go on for ever.

Perhaps it was just me. (They had some kind of musical fountain too, but I was sour because they didn't want to buy the Meccano set, so I didn't pay attention.)

Well, the year of the rooster (I refuse to capitalize some things on humanitarian grounds) kicks off on 9 Feb. That's 5 days away. As I write this there's enough ordnance in the sky to blow 7 shuttles into orbit, and probably light my cigarette as well. They do tag-team demolition: when one volley dies down another takes over, further down the street within less than a minute.

It's been going on for three nights, and you'd think they'd start to disable their car alarms after a while. Gangs of wild children roam freely in the streets, armed with BB guns and a few kilo's of high-explosives. People sneak onto rooftops for a guilty little pop. Everywhere in the streets little tables have sprung up, laden with fireworks that would make Gandalf's eyes water.

Outside it is simply war. Every foreigner for himself. It sounds like Saving Private Ryan, from dusk till dawn.

Tomorrow I am retaliating.

Brilliant lot, these zhongguoren. Google is rigged like this: there's this long list of words you are not allowed to search for, from adult oriented (15%) to freedom-related and names of dissidents, as well as absurdities like "hypermart" and "incest". (For S: that means when you marry your sister - eeeuw.)

When you search for these you get 404'd immediately, but the clever bit is: Google shuts down on that one PC for exactly 1 minute. Timed it today. How'd they do that? Ok, I know how, but can that affect my email? What if there's a perfectly innocent Afrikaans word that contains bits of a banned word? Could this explain the general trouble I have with getting online?

Oh, the most dangerous word here is "falungong", and if you can't see it please let me know. Also, see if they have a recent web-page. I want to print it out and stick it in people's mailboxes. Maybe I'll be deported for free.

Going on holiday 7 to 14 Feb to Lanzhou, Xining and Qinhai-hu, north-west China. Minus 10 average. Going to rough it: yup, hitchhiking from Lanzhou to Xining. Only 400km, but in winter. Sky is blue up there. Hopefully the Chinese all go south.

Btw, if you register a domain name in the Cook Islands, you get

Year of the Rooster indeed.

Au voir.

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

Tsunami with a capital T

I saw today that the Asian Tsunami deathtoll is almost up to 300,000. In the last two weeks that means an additional 70,000 bodies were found/ identified, more than a month after it happened. What a grim task.

One of the petty things that bothers me about the tsunami incident is the way it is referred to: "the tsunami"

If I am not mistaken, this was not the first one and will certainly not be the last one. What is needed is a reference point in the name: the 2004 Asian tsunami. Otherwise it's like saying "what happened to the earthquake victims?" Which earthquake? Or which drought? Or which flood? The word tsunami is the Japanese term for these waves and accepted as much as coup d'etat as an international description.

There's been no flashy 9/11's or Watergate II or other cute names for it, maybe because it didn't directly affect the US, apart from giving them a PR opportunity as their two most recent Secretaries of State put it.

If there are ten more coming, we better start naming them right.