Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Kudos to the Labia (and tack too...)

Last night four of us went to see Låt den rätte komma in at Cape Town's favourite independent cinema, Labia. Although it was listed as "Let the right one in" we weren't worried, as using English titles are often used for foreign language films (think "Departures" or "3-Iron"). So big was the surprise when the movie was shown dubbed in English. Dubbed POORLY in English.

The movie was visually stunning, the music great, the acting good, but dammit, everytime someone started speaking it grated. And irritated. The accents were like An Attempt At An Interpretation Of What Swedish People Might Sound Like In English, But Only If The C-Grade Actors Surpressed The Actual Swedish Accent They Might Actually Have. There was no commitment by the voice-actors, or bond to what actually happened on screen.

Back home, I emailed the Labia and complained in the embarrasingly pompous way I reserve for record labels who don't want to / cannot make their music available to South Africans on eMusic due to antiquated distribution rights. In my email, I complained that nowhere did it say (on their website, emails, programme) that a dubbed version would be shown, and that it was the last thing I would expect from the Labia.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital for small town in South Africa

A story in the local newspaper of Heidelberg, Gauteng, caught my attention today:

"Traditional medicine, pharmaceutical plant to be included in new
Meiqui Hospital"

"Alternative healing hospital will boast pharmaceutical factory and
greenhouse plant for traditional herbs"

-- Heidelberg/Nigel Heraut, 20 Januarie 2010

The newspaper, the Heidelberg/Nigel Heraut reports the Lesedi Local Municipality was contacted by a Dr. Chia-Yuan (Richard) Yeh, who runs the Fishers Hill Clinic in Primrose (no website, but listed under "acupuncture").

His team proposed to build the hospital near Heidelberg. The hospital will "serve as a university hospital" for "nursing and medical staff". It will also include accommodation for "students", "a pharmaceutical factory and greenhouse plant where herbs they use will be grown".

Now this is great news for a small town like Heidelberg. Not only will the hospital use Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as acupuncture and herbal cures, but also traditional African methods.

Why am I concerned?

I'm asking myself how a small town like Heidelberg can support a six-story "university hospital" and I'm wondering which "university" this would be.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is quite controversial and although not as overtly bogus as homeopathy and Reiki, is widely believed to be mostly effective because of the placebo effect.

But I don't feel concerned because of the implication for medicine, as such. Something about this project just has my alarm bells ringing, and I hope the relevant authorities look closely at the licensing and regulatory implications of this.

The last thing South Africans, with our stupidly high incidence of HIV/AIDS and TB need is another quack-solution packaged as a "university hospital" right in the middle of an area where funeral homes outnumber clinics about four to one.

Looking at the photo in the newspaper, it looks like this "hospital", with its six floors, will be significantly larger than the two existing hospitals in Heidelberg combined. How does that work, from an economic point of view?

A few points in the story contribute to my scepticism:

  • Apparently Witbank, a small city east of Johannesburg, was considered, but "no suitable venue" could be found. What does Witbank know, that Heidelberg doesn't?

  • The local municipality is "excited that this project will create many job opportunities". Apart from the construction period, what opportunities will exist? Since they will "train staff and nurses" where will these students work in South Africa? They won't be qualified to work in conventional hospitals, surely? Where will the students come from? Where will their qualifications be accredited, outside of this "hospital"?

  • A little sentence in the report also saddened me: "Apparently quite a few national high-profile politicians attend Dr. Yeh's clinic." (The existing one in Primrose.) Is it there they learn about the value of post-coital showers?

  • There is no mention in the article of the value of the proposed development, but Mr Banzi Majola, Executive Manager of Development and Planning at the Lesedi Local Municipality said that they "believe in partnerships that benefit the community." Partnerships? How much of a partner is the LLM in this venture? Do they have a stake in the venture itself? We don't know yet.

  • Finally, the name of the "hospital" will be the Meiqui Hospital. I guess its based on the Wade-Giles romanisation used in Taiwan, because I can't think of a pinyin (the official mainland Chinese romanisation) character "qui". The nearest I can think is Meiqi, meaning (probably) "comfortable". That's all cool, but how will South Africans pronounce "Meiqui", I ask you. You got it: "Meidjie".

Alternative healing isn't necessarily a bad thing, I know, but by now most of the benefits of traditional Chinese medicines have been incorporated into conventional, scientifically developed medicines, that can be produced more effectively and used with more confidence because of the tight regulations imposed on the pharmaceutical industry in the West. As long as traditional medicine, Eastern or African, is subjected to the same, stringent regulations, there should be no problem.

At this stage I'd like to know much more about this project, and about Dr Richard Yeh and his plans for this "hospital". I'd like to know what "partnership" the LLM envisages here, and how it will benefit the sorely lagging local economy.

This could be a great thing, or another total failure of South African local administration.

And that's my theory.

Newsroom malaise

The good news is District 9 received 7 BAFTA nominations. The bad news is, the local sites are too lazy to find out for which categories.

Why is it that local news sites can never do that tiny extra bit to customise news agency articles? Are they not allowed to? I don't think so, I've seen the same article in shorter or longer versions. Why not in the article linked to, report on the other categories District 9 was also nominated for apart from Best Director, before just copying and pasting it into the feed? I know it's one google away for me too, if I wish to find out, but I am roaming on 3G thank you very much and wasting bandwidth by complaining here about it.

I've seen it happen with travel survey results as well, they are picked up due to the mention of Cape Town or South Africa or some restaurant being ranked highly, and the blurb or press release republished as is, without finding out the exact details. It would IMVVHO add to the quality and relevance of articles.

Pet hate of the day material, I know.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Do Chinese people eat babies?

The respected apologist website EastSouthWestNorth recently translated a blog post from a Chinese forum about Google's search recommendations. It's a fascinating insight into Chinese paranoia, and I'm afraid, yes, that's what I'll dismiss it as.

The gist of it is that if you start typing searches, Google presents a dropdown list based, ostensibly, on popular searches and available material run through some mysterious algorithm.

The forum poster discovered that if you type "Chinese" Google responds with a list of suggestions that look like this:

The poster then uses Google Trends, in China, to support a claim that Google itself rigs up these responses. Who knows? Read it for yourself, and try it out. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. I just want to point out that Google Trends in China might not be using the same history database as Google Trends in other countries, since news sources seem to be locally aggregated.

What I also want to point out is that the sacred Chinese are not alone. They might be happy to know Japanese people don't have souls, and are thought to have similar culinary habits.

The Irish are apparently inscrutable:

The English have nice smiles:

The Indians have noses, is what I think it means:

The Koreans are rude, insomniac pet eaters:

The president of America has a chain and great music:

Google itself is pretty threatening:

It's a total myth that Western people are scared of being dominated by China:

There's no such thing as a stupid question:

And, this one leaves no ambiguity:

I'm sorry, but I think what happens here is the same as what I did in the title of this post: People ask questions. That's what search engines tend to get quite often. Google collates the seperate words. This post will in the future add one to the "Chinese people eat babies" meme. And if you're wondering about it and go type: "Do Chinese people eat babies?" into Google, you'll add one. Also, if you type: "Why do ignorant imperialist running pigdog west think chinese people eat babies?" you'll add another one.
And pretty soon all your China's will type it, and their China's and their China's China's.
Finally: Google isn't being evil here. Search engines are descriptive: they demostrate people's stupidity.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I have an idea for a movie: Wit Tier 2010

Picture it: jungle, somewhere in Africa. A bunch of evil poachers are trying to threaten a peaceful village into revealing the whereabouts of the legendary Elephant graveyards of Quasi-Quasi. They are armed, vicious, barbaric and even cruel (yes, even that), but just when all hope is lost, when no-one can help, in their most dire moment of need, blah blah, help comes, in the form of a white man, dressed in leather and, I dunno, more leather. Bringing the village together he devises a cunning plan, involving a cunning deceit, cunningly convincing the poachers that they are surrounded by a whole platoon of heavily armed government soldiers intent on smokin’ them, or some such.

The poachers flee, vowing never to return, and eventually take up lawn bowling in New-Zealand where they get convicted of match-fixing years later. But this is not our concern.

Or concern is this “white man of the jungle” who moves like a tiger and thinks like a very, very smart tiger. The natives call him “The White Tiger” and there are rumours of him floating all over the jungles of Zaire (note to editor: verify jungles in Zaire, otherwise change to bush, veld, or savannah accordingly.)

We, as viewers of this cinematic work are convinced of some kind of mid-sixties Tarzan scenario: white man lost in bush, wearing leather bits, being all phantom and legend.

Until a BBC camera crew arrives and hunts down the man and reveals to him that it is now in fact 2010 (or 2020… movies take a long time to develop) and his South African army unit has been sent home for decades now, the Angolan bush war is over and he can go home to Pretoria to live in the new non-racial South Africa ruled by what was at the time of his disappearance an evil terrorist organization, etc. etc.

Hilarity ensues: Crocodile Dundee meets Goodbye Lenin, and if I’m directing a little Debbie does Dallas thrown in.

Modern life is a challenge for our White Tiger, who has, obviously, fallen in love with the BBC journalist (played by Megan Fox, or Judie Densch, I’m not sure yet). He tries to contact his family: his wife’s remarried a black guy called Sipho, and his son is gay and his sister is a drug addicted prostitute living in Saudi-Arabia.

Yet, he tries to fit into this world. Remember, he was living in the jungle, protecting a bunch of black villagers from evildoers, so he’s not racist at heart, just a little at kidney possibly. He tries his damndest, and finds, through many misadventures involving the interwebs, microwave ovens, DVDs and other relatively new things, that his biggest problem is with the whites, the Afrikaners, the Volk he has literally dedicated his life to defending, who have all turned into nansypansy pinko liberal commies who sold out to the demons of money and that other demon whose name I forget.

He finds they were not worth defending: they rolled over and died, giving up their principles and their traditional humourous photo books without as much as a whimper.

But the point should be clear: he’s not pissed off because they accepted black governance. No. I mean, NO! He’s pissed because they’re not helping. They’re just bitter whenwes intent on undermining the immense goodwill shown to them by some 45 million people who should by rights hate their guts.

The plot gets sketchy around here: Hollywood demands romance, so for some chick related reason… I expect he (wrongly) comes to the conclusion he cannot fit into the BBC chick’s world, and decides to pack it up and disappear back to his jungle.

Oh. My. God. What does he find there?

You guessed it: lawn-bowling has lost its timeless allure for the poachers, and they’re back, meaner and murderouser than ever, wielding bigger guns, shorter skirts and possibly Afrikaans music with which to terrorise the locals once again.

Now, armed with a hairpin and a Sunday Times crossword puzzle our hero devises a heroic defence for the villagers, and in the process reveals himself to them as a human, not the supernatural mythical figure he used to be. They realise now he was one of them white South Africans, and it takes some expertly directed montages to have them accept his help again. Also, desperation plays a role.

At the height of the battle, in such a way as to possibly undo the whole effort, who should appear suddenly and dramatically? If you’re thinking “romantic love interest” you’re exactly right. That’s how formulaic I want this to be.

The girl pitches up, possibly parachuting out of a plane, leaping off a passing train or ... oh, oh! thrown off the back of a bad guy’s truck since he actually went and kidnapped her somewhere. Suddenly links are made: the bad guys are evil white property developers from South Africa (mayhap funded by a Hong Kong triad bankrolled by the Beijing government). They want to buy up the jungle to build a golf course/soccer stadium/presidential palace/mall/recording studio.
And the BBC crew being sent in was a ruse by the evildoers to capture and remove the White Tiger.

In a touching scene round about now the White Tiger learns that the villagers have never given a shit about his skin colour, and has accepted him as something fundamentally African. That’s because he’d become a story, and “a story can only be told by the drums”. I don’t know what that means either, but boy, is it profound.

So, the final, desperate showdown begins: Tiger, chick and villagers pitted against poachers with guns.

[Insert smart bit written by smart person to explain how they win, but it’s smart.]

They win: many, many stuntmen later.

The jungle is saved, the title deeds are secured in a Swiss Bank.

The country that rejected the White Tiger suddenly sees in him a hero, a cash cow. So he goes ahead and flips them off, deciding to stay in the jungle where he is now revered as a revered person.

Except, change that last bit not to be too much like Avatar. If there is a remote possibility to include half-naked blue alien girls, that’s okay, though.

Soundtrack by Christophe Beck and Yo La Tengo. Special effects by WETA.

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring some guy who doesn’t have a mullet.

I only hope whoever writes the screenplay is a little wit tier than me.