Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Needle party

Now I've seen everything. Seen in Melville, Johannesburg, today on a Volla.

"Hi, can I have three Pepsi's and something ornate by William Blake please? Just ring the buzzer, I'll come down."

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Just plain lost

I watched Lost in La Mancha the other night, a documentary about Terry Gilliam's attempt to bring his version of Don Quixote's story to the big screen - in what was ultimately a very appropriately titled "The Man who killed Don Quixote." Gilliam does not endear himself to everyone, that's for sure, but it was sad to see something that held so much promise get gradually dismantled into a few carton boxes and insurance claims. I also learnt that the first assistant director is actually a project manager.

The South African movie distribution system is continuing to uphold the lofty standards we expect of it (sarcasm intended). There are so many instances of good movies that don't reach our screens apart from showing at the odd festivals, if at all (e.g. Oldboy and 3-Iron), or disappear, like Serenity which was pulled after big banners and posters trumpeted its release. I actually don't know whether to blame the distribution system for its lack of imagination or the viewing public for theirs. I also don't know whether seperating "art" movies from "blockbusters" is helpful - it is certainly not contributing to the cause of exposing people to a wider range of film making styles and more than three storylines. (Of course, showing them together won't mean they get watched.)

Anyway, the reason I am angry once again is it seems we will be missing out on Everything is Illuminated, a movie based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, directed by Liev Schreiber and featuring Gogol Bordello's own Eugene Hutz as the character who apparently steals the show from Elijah Wood's characterisation of Foer (read a Twitch review here). The soundtrack also looks like it should be excellent. The web sites of Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro are so unintuitive that I have given up trying to find out whether it will eventually be released. And speaking of Terry Gilliam, I wonder if we'll see Tideland around here. Oh, and what about Emir Kusturica's Life is a Miracle?

The best solution to these problems, apart from traveling to Xi'an and getting Cerebus to chaperone you around the local DVD shops and translate requests, is to resort to good old Buyoyo, in my view one of the web's best-kept secrets. The only down-side is that our Customs people tend to have trouble differentiating between US and Hong Kong dollars and have twice taxed me on the wrong currency and exchange rate when my package enters the country, which cannot be resolved at the post office. But that's another story. All I wanted to say really is that I enjoyed Lost in La Mancha... and look where that got me.

Thursday, 17 August 2006

The humdrum conundrum of race

Aah, race. What would we South Africans do without it? What will we get our respective Cardies satin boxers, Pep Stores panties and Woollies briefs tied in a knot about if we each couldn't be an expert on race? Four different things made me think about it today.

In an update on a previous story, IOL reported on how race-related remarks can get you in trouble at work in South Africa after the arbitration case of Mahas vs Smith Manufacturing was settled. The story is about how Mr Mahas, a South African Indian, made the comment at a staff meeting: "'n Boer maak 'n plan, but an Indian is born with a plan." After an offended staff member confronted him, he made a complete fudge of clarifying the comment and eventually got fired (he has now been reinstated).

On News24 there's and article on how the whole nation (ha!) is apparently still in a tizz about the comment made by Babalwa Mneno on the TV programme Strictly Come Dancing, when she said, after being voted off: "That should be a lesson to black people to vote only for each other." Sandy Ngema, who presented, concurred on air and has also been dragged into the debate. I must just add that if Mneno's response is accurately quoted, its the worst clarification of a statement ever, even beating the one Mahas managed. Check this out:
"I never meant it as racist in any way, that is not how I am or how I was brought up. I did not say that black people should vote only for other black people. I said black people must vote for one another because I feel they ought to support their own people better."
Also on IOL, an article identified Zayn Nabbi as one of Survivor South Africa's contestants. He recounted some reasons why he thinks he got selected by the panel, including:
"They asked me what pisses me off? And I said 'seeing six white people sitting on a panel and judging whether I go on to a show. Where is your transformation and demographic representivity?' I think they were all gobsmacked with a 23-year-old upstart telling them what to do."
The last thing was a chain-email I received today entitled Why Africans can't be Terrorists and, in obvious reference to the recent Heathrow scares, listed ten reasons like: "We are always late; we would have missed all 4 flights" and "Pretty girls on the plane would distract us" and "We would talk loudly and bring attention to ourselves."

This is where it all gets complicated. Are we, in defining our new social construct, saying it's OK to make self-referential, seemingly deprecating remarks about ourselves and our own racial groups or not? Are we allowed to joke with ourselves? In the case of Mahas, it all went horribly wrong. The "(ha!)" I inserted in the second story above actually meant: "probably more the white part of the nation" - it was a sarcastic comment, which would seem acceptable to do if I was white, but I'm not. It is probably interpreted as me saying: "well, we blacks back her."

Mneno actually made a stab at her race and got stung. Nabbi implied the ability of the panel to select good participants was compromised because of their homogenous racial profile and is in the article reflected as a telling-it-like-it-is conveyor of uncomfortable truths. The chain email is written as a self-parody and the copy I received was circulated among various black South Africans before it somewhere managed to jump the racial email barrier and begun its travels among white social networks, before it jumped back again (that's another interesting topic for another day - where are those connecting nodes?)

Did the meaning of the email change the moment white South Africans started to distribute it, rather than black South Africans? We've been through all the tedious debates about what is an African, yet there is still no conclusive answer. Which 'Africans' are we talking about? Is it right for a black person to be offended if receiving the email from a white person , rather than from a black person? If a black person circulates the same email, but the formulations are changed from "We" to "They" would it be perceived differently - is it then offensive? If a white person then forwards it formulated as "They" can that be grounds for dismissal? Can sending it as it reads now be grounds for dismissal? Each situation carries different nuances and will carry different interpretations. I mean, looking at it from a black perspective, my view is bound to be different, right?

All of this white and black stuff is grey... or is it gray? I have more questions than answers. It's been only 12 years and our political discourse is still based on the severe division of races (two economies paradigm, BEE), and we all have preconceived ideas and racial stereotypes grafted into our psyches, so we still have a long way to go to define a new set of rules for how we interact with and define each other. I like the idea of introspection and joking with oneself, because I think we get overly excited about these things sometimes... and sometimes I get overly excited.

By the way, I'm not black, I'm white. Does it matter? Does your interpretation of what I wrote here and your response depend on which one I am? That's the problem.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Guess what, a post about music

When it comes to music, I'm always in a sharing mood, it's just a pity most people are such lousy receivers. I wonder what is happening on FM radio these days. I tuned in for 15 minutes daily in the shower a while ago when my radio-on-a-rope's batteries were still working. I listened to the 4 or 5 same songs that played everytime for a few weeks and decided I'll stick to my own playlists, which at least include a wider selection of songs, more variety and less groin grabbing. My favourite playlist while driving is to shuffle the 423 songs that I've awarded 5 stars on my iPod - that's 6.4% of the 6595 songs available, which I think sends out a decent enough message that 5 stars don't come easy. When driving a rental car in Gauteng, I listen to Radio Jacaranda or whatever it's called. The other stations take themselves and their coolness so seriously that the complete ignorance of Jacaranda and the way they can mix anything into an easy listening playlist is a breath of fresh air... or possibly a nosefull of dank roadkill stench which is why it's difficult to tune away from. Like Radio 99 in Namibia - the ultimate random music machine with a touch of artificially intelligent pathos.

Some good music I'm listening to that I would recommend if you're gatvol of the usual tripe:

Current 93: Black Ships At the Sky
This is an intense album which has been widely acclaimed as a definite pinnacle in the apocalyptic folk recordings of David Tibet, the most unlikely looking man that goths like to hug. I suspect many people will find themselves listening to the repeat renditions of Idumea on the album, rather than Tibet's own contributions, but the whole album is worth at least two listens. Some reviews here and here and here.

Soundtrack to Temenos: Sainkho Namtchylak, Shelley Hirsch, Catherine Bott
I'm listening to this because of my current obsession with Tuvan throat singing and because Sainkho Namtchylak (thanks again for the tip, Cerebus) features on it, but it's probably not the most exciting one to listen to. What makes this album interesting is the range of sounds that Sainkho can produce and even with the narration I find it good working music. Some reviews and information here and here. There is, of course, Yat-Kha, Huun-Huur-Tu and Shu-De to listen to as well once you've worked your way through these tuvan singing samples. I was laughed at in my face the other day when I excitedly described throat singing to some people. As punishment, I'm now compiling a mix-cd of Tuvan artists for them.

Kokeshi Doll: Self-Titled & Pirukorui
Of all the bands on the Benten Label, Kokeshi Doll remains my favourite and both the first two albums are excellent. This is not punk-by-numbers with Japanese girls singing in the hope that it will be enough of a novelty to sell records; this is good, aggressive and original music. I was starting to despair that the band broke up after reading no news, but was very excited to see a third album is out: Tantalus Rhythm. My copy is on its way, lying on a grey metal shelf in a postal depot somewhere close to the Indian Ocean, between embarrassing postcards, final notice invoices and letters of condolence.

I am also currently relistening Sigur Ròs, Gogol Bordello and Diesel Whores, all of whom I've seen live recently. With the live performances in memory, the albums become much more interesting and multi-faceted. Aag, and then there's the usual suspects I listen to, dilligently captured by Last.FM and reflected in the list on the left.

That's my sharing for the day. Please share alike.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

A flickr of life

I have started uploading some photos of our recent European trip to my Flickr profile.
So far there is a set of Tallinn, Estonia, to be followed soon by Riga, Berlin and possibly some oddities from Lisbon and England. Work calls, however. Not far-off, oh no, not carried by the wind. Close, close to my ear SCREAMING. I try and ignore it. I read articles on the web about the psychological reasons for procrastination. Still it screams. Still work calls. Alas!

Thursday, 10 August 2006

The lighter side of prohibition

A friend of mine from Oklahoma forwarded this link to me with the note that the picture of the accused is even better than the story ;-)