Friday, 30 June 2006

The Books are Go! (mate)

If you have never listened to music by The Books, do yourself a favour. The release of their first album, Thought for Food (2002) (followed by The Lemon of Pink (2003) and Lost and Safe (2005)), had reviewers agreeing on two points: it’s brilliant and it’s genre-defying. The Books construct strangely named songs from a mish-mash of sound bites recorded in public, stock recordings collected over years, their own music and increasingly, some mumbly singing. For example, I was amazed to read one day that the bizarre intro to Motherless Bastard was an actual recording made among families visiting an aquarium.

When I was in Japan and China, I was obsessed with my video camera in order to capture scenes that display the differences and visual cues of things I do not easily process or understand culturally. This was also because the languages spoken were foreign and could not provide additional insight into the lives of the people. In England, where I am now, I struggle to find great video footage, something that would be interesting to watch afterwards. There are amazing photo moments, all sadly lost, because they involve unique, scary or pathetic people and I don’t have the guts to whip out a 1971 Minolta SLR and shove it in their faces. But it is as if the key moments I need to capture to understand the people, culture and classes are the sounds - the conversations overheard, the announcements, the soapies and TV commentary.

I was in a second-hand music shop in a small country town yesterday and in the shop was a teenage boy with one hand in his track suit pocket fidgeting with his privates the whole time, while obsessing over the horror DVDs with his other hand, thumbing them, taking them out, putting them back. Every now and again, he would turn to the owner and say things like:

“Excuse me, do you have any more Chuckies?”
“Excuse me, any Freddy Kruegers?”

When he wanted to buy some gore splattered DVD, the owner asked him for his 18-ID, to which he was stumped and only managed to say: “What about a 15-ID?”

This was a perfect The Books moment. I did not need video or a photo of him against a grey wall, hand in pants, holding a horror movie. I needed that sound clip, his accent, the way “Chuckayys” was pronounced and I was poorly prepared for it.

Later in the afternoon, sitting in the Great Evil, McDonalds, a mother and daughter sat next to me. After saying grace for her Big Mac, the young one immediately started:

“Mum, do you know how old David Beckham is?”
“He’s 31.”
“Mum, do you know how old Ashley Cole is?”
“He’s 25.”

Here I have to stop, as I can’t remember whether she really said Cole is 25, but the conversation worked it’s way through virtually the whole English World Cup soccer team and the little girl knew the ages of them all. It was such a fabulous sound bite, it needs to be put to music. Again, I was ill-prepared.

The question now is, should I get a digital Dictaphone-type gadget, or does it make me a voyeuristic pervert? My opinion is, it’s like taking a photo, it’s an impression of a moment, and whereas a photo can be enhanced and manipulated, human voice is bare for all to hear. I might just.

PS – for fans of Chuck Palahniuk. I have started reading Haunted, and as usual, he does not give you any time to settle down in a nice, comfy narative. Brutal stuff.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Here we go

The Interstitial One and I are on our way to London tonight and this is a quick notice while we're waiting for the plane to board. The first week is still a Work Week for both of us, but thereafter we'll take a bit of a break, going to Estonia, Latvia and Germany. Well... hopefully going to the two Baltic states as we still don't have visas... a long long story involving Invitation Numbers and Non-Reponsive Help-lines and Consulates advising travellers to "Use Google".

But we've got tickets for Gogol Bordello and Sigur Rós so life is good... touch wood. Hopefully no syringe weilding people on the plane tonight. Watch this space, if I can, I'll blog about it.

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Burning taxi

We passed by this burning taxi in Cape Town yesterday - no idea how it happened, or whether there were people inside. It seems that it caught fire while the taxi was waiting to turn right at the Good Hope Centre corner on its way to the Station taxi rank. The police arrived from Caledon Square at that same moment.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Dr versus Dr

Last week's Mail&Guardian had a letter from the Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang arguing how South Africa is leading the war against HIV and Aids. Below are the opening two and ending paragraphs (to read the full letter, follow link and scroll down to the headline We were right all along):
Returning to New York last week for the review of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/Aids was gratifying. The Comprehensive Review and High-Level Meeting reflected how far the world has come to accept what President Thabo Mbeki sought to highlight as early as 2000.

He said that we could not blame the challenge of HIV/Aids only on the virus, and should have a collection of interventions that addresses the correlation between the agent, the host and the environment.
We do not need political grandstanding to demonstrate our commitment and leadership. A sustained increase in resource allocation, and implementation of programmes that make a difference to the lives of the people on the ground, is what matters most to the government.
Anyway, a good friend (;-)) of this blog has submitted a letter to the M&G in reply, and a strongly-worded one at that. We don't know whether it's going to be published, but you read it here first.
I was amazed to read the minister of health's self-congratulatory piece of amnesic trash in the Letters section of 9 June ("We were right all along"). The gist of her drivel is that our head-of-state-cum-medical-officianado, Thabo Mbeki, was right in questioning the HIV-AIDS link six years ago. More accurately, the minister states that "[Mbeki] said that we could not blame the challenge of HIV/AIDS only on the virus...". In fact, minister, your government's selective science and counter-intellectual stance on AIDS has now reached new levels - no one has EVER doubted the link between AIDS and its surrounding socio-political environment. What the president did six years ago was to question the very link between HIV and AIDS. Don't you remember loose statements such as "a virus can't cause a syndrome" and other nonsense such as that? Don't justify past moronic behaviour now by attempting to change history. We won't fall for that either. If you can't be more constructive than cultivate and perpetuate a "told you so" narrative, get out of the way of people who actually want to implement good policies. Don't you think it's time for you to shut up and salvage what little credibility you might have left?
Dr Pieter Fourie
Eina! I might add, this is not some armchair-critic and this is why. Vat hulle, Pietsie!

PS I'm posting this from the house of the good Dr (you decide which one) - and I think I have permission to do so ;-)

Monday, 12 June 2006

credit to graffitoes everywhere

Pollen about my post title:
Hmmmm, I'm still thinking about the post title. I think I get it, but...
Dit sê lekker, though.

Well, the post title is not mine, I saw it as graffiti in Cape Town in 1992.
I was on "an adventure in citizenship" arranged by the Rotary Club of Cape Town. Basically it involved taking ignorant backvelder schoolkids (the way I used to be *grin*) to the big city and show them parliament, the court, the island, the townships, etc...

Well, then the Boipatong massacre took place and a lot of plattelandse kinders were stuck in Cape Town that has come to a complete halt with the largest rolling mass action marches the city has ever seen. By the time the toi-toiying masses departed, we had to go home to our small towns, without seeing half the things we were expecting - I think we spent most of the time in the company gardens and the planetarium (also, the planetarium is not that amazing if you come from the Karoo).

But from the walkway at the Golden Acre, I did see the entire street below as a river of bobbing heads. Oh and later making my way to the station, I saw scratched on one of the barriers: "Dere's a naartjie in SA sosatie"

It was such a cool comment - ranks right up there with the time the police dispersed the crowd with a water-cannon shooting purple dye and arresting the purple ones afterwards (can you remember that?) and the next day somebody wrote on the steps in purple paint: "The purple shall govern!"

I suspected the Arch'... ;-)

Friday, 9 June 2006

A naartjie in SA sosatie?

For a blog with four members we suck at posting... (no comments allowed to pick up on that)

My excuse for not posting is that I had a hectic time at work and socially. (Pollen's excuse is that he is trying to break into the ex-Soviet Union, not sure about Cerebus' schedule, and Thespian... well... I am sure Thespian has a very good reason... Jo'burg is probably too exciting).

I spent some time in Johannesburg, my best friend got married, I worked at a conference thingie in Cape Town, and afterward I played tour-guide for the cool people I worked with.

Reflecting on it afterwards, I realised that although South Africa is cool, we still live in a very strange society. You don't notice it while living here, but if you drive around with foreigners you see the "everyday" from a little more distance and suddenly it does not look so "everyday" anymore.

We are basically an immature society - naive, aggressive, self-important, over-ambitious, etc. It is not all bad -- in a weird way our country is probably much more free than most established democracies -- we have much less state and social surveillance and most of our laws are more like "guidelines". But the price is of course a little randomness in the domain of personal safety and a few other disasters.

There is a Hobbes' (Thomas, not the stuffed tiger) quote that will fit in here somewhere. Anyway, I thought I'd share this thought. Feel free to post comments about why you'd prefer living in Cape Town to London.