Get the balance right

Actually, there’s more to this post than just quoting Depeche Mode songs, but…

Don’t take this way, don’t take that way
Straight down the middle until next Thursday
Push to the left, back to the right
Twist and turn til you’ve got it right.

Being the editor of a hugely popular international website brand isn’t all fun and games, you know. Aside from the hard work, trolls and begging letters (yes, I’m still writing them), there’s the constant heavy weight of responsibility resting upon my shoulders.
See, what I’ve found is that there are an awful lot of gullible people out there. I haven’t calculated exact numbers, but I’m guessing that we’re probably looking at about 95% of people who have access to the internet. All of which means that you can basically write what you want and people will actually believe it.

Incoming from Katie at brand42 last night, an email inviting me to “preview” (subtext: “please blog about”) their “exciting new site”, mysouthafrica.tv, which launches next Monday and  invites people to send in their images, videos and thoughts on SA – and which CHOWS bandwidth, so is completely rubbish for er… South African users. The small print indicates that this is a SA Tourism initiative. How patriotic of them to use a UK-based web design company. Hmm.

But I don’t mind SA Tourism promoting SA. In fact, I’d be rather annoyed and somewhat bewildered if they didn’t. After all, it is their job.
What I don’t like are sites which are blindly positive or negative about SA. I’ve always tried to strike a bit of a balance on 6000 miles…I’m not completely objective, because this is a personal blog and yes – I like here and I like living here. If I didn’t, I’d pack my son, a few kilos of biltong and a crate of Castle Milk Stout into a rucksack and head for the airport. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the bad things that happen here. Or that I ignore them. One only has to look at the coverage that I gave the recent xenophobic violence to see that.

Compare and contrast my attitude with homecomingrevolution.co.za or sagoodnews.co.za. Read them and you’d wonder how such a perfect Utopian society had previously gone unnoticed by the world. Which it hasn’t, because SA is far from Utopia. And which is why I don’t read them, because being blindly positive is misleading and ignoring the challenges which SA faces doesn’t help overcome those challenges. So really – what’s the point? You still go out of your front door and see the real SA every day.

But then compare that with the doom and gloom merchants like Daxk and his sort on [forum name censored]. They can turn any thread on there into a rant about how miserable life in SA is in about 2 minutes, despite the fact they don’t actually live in SA.
e.g.

Tourist sights in Cape Town
Hi, I’m coming to a conference in Cape Town and I have a spare morning for sightseeing. What should I see in my spare 4 hours?

1st Reply: If the weather’s good, you should try and get up Table Mountain – it’s a wonderful experience and the views are fantastic.
2nd Reply: Be careful with your bag in Cape Town. The armed robbers look for foreign targets with bags.
3rd Reply: I would think twice about attending the conference if I were you. There was a murder on a farm near Brakpan (fake photos attached) and all the black people in SA have AIDS and rape tourists. 
4th Reply: My mother’s old next-door neighbour’s sister’s boss was hijacked in Jo’burg last year.

And so on.
And that’s why I don’t go on there any more either. Because they are racist idiots.

So it really is a bit of a balancing act on here. Mainly because I think that as soon as a site gets so very subjective one way or the other, the value of the message it is trying to convey is lost. Mysouthafrica.tv could rapidly join the list if (as I suspect) the user generated content on there is heavily edited to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Seriously, you’re better off sticking here at 6000 miles… with me. Unbiased, reasoned social comment on South Africa and everything else besides, all for the cost of free. Consider yourself informed.

RIP Ernesto Nhamuave

As this morning’s Cape Times reports, Ernesto Nhamuave – the “burning man” whose image brought the horror of the xenophobic violence in Johannesburg sharply and sickeningly to the attention of the world – has been laid to rest in his village of Vuca in Mozambique.

Two weeks on from that violence and those images and the world has moved on to the next big news story. In one way, I suppose that we should be glad that things have settled down, but once again, it demonstrates just how fickle the world’s media are.

The UNHCR estimates that South Africa has 42,000 people in need of shelter (and a whole lot more besides) having been displaced by the xenophobic violence. People in Cape Town and other affected cities across South Africa have pulled together to provide shelter, clothing, food and service for the refugees displaced by the troubles of the last few weeks; in our case, this is despite the well-publicised, childish spat between the City Council and the Provincial Government that has reportedly delayed help getting to those who need it. Sometimes, politicians are utterly pathetic. This is an ugly and embarrassing display by both the City and the Province. But guess what? It’s always the other party’s fault.

Although we had a bright weekend, it came after a run of several days of cold, wet weather and there’s more on the way this week. And while there is still no shortage in the number of volunteers or those willing to give items to help, one has to wonder how long that will last once the refugees’ plight starts to slip from the news and therefore from the public eye. Just in time for winter.
Sadly, it’s only vivid images like that of Nhamuave and stories like that of Adam Degol, who has not seen or heard from his wife or 8-month old son since he was attacked in Lower Crossroads two weeks ago, which will keep this matter in the news for any length of time.

How you can help refugees in Cape Town.

The 6000 miles… James Blunt review

So we went, we saw, we listened and it actually wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had been fearing. And I’d been fearing a lot.
James Blunt came onto the stage a distinctly Capetonian 25 minutes late, to what I can only really term as “polite applause”, looking like a slightly rougher, scruffier version of my housemate.
My ex-housemate, that is. Not my current housemate. My current housemate is obviously my wife and she never lets her stubble get that long.

He kicked off with a few pseudo-uptempo efforts, which sounded like they were being played through treacle. Despite the fact that his voice sounds much better in person than on CD, my mind, which I’d fought hard to keep open, closed and I settled myself in for a couple of hours of frustration waiting in vain for something special.
And then, about 3 or 4 songs in, he did something remarkable. He put his guitar down (not in the veterinary sense) and headed pianoward. And there he sat and gave a 2 minute comedy routine about having an orgy with the audience, which left the two 14-year old girls next to us in fits of hopeful giggling, before launching into a jolly version of I’ll Take Everything (Blunt, not the girls).
From the ridiculous to the sublime though as he chucked the rest of the band off stage and weighed in with an unbelievably powerful, emotionally candid rendition of Goodbye, My Lover which gained a proper, old-fashioned, appreciative standing ovation and then moved onto No Bravery, with the backdrop showing footage of shallow graves, burnt out villages and distraught mothers in Kosovo. That shut us all up pretty quickly and it struck me that – like him or not – he’s actually rather good at those haunting, meaningful, heartfelt ballads.

Sadly, it never really reached those heady heights again as he ran through some of the more lively (but sadly, still really treacley) stuff off All The Lost Souls; the only exception being the finale – a pleasing, fresh version of 1973, which sent the audience off home abuzz.

All in all, a good evening’s entertainment with a couple of exceptional tracks, and although it didn’t come close to dislodging Muse from the top of my best live performances – much to my surprise – it would probably be close on the top ten, if only for that 8-minute spell in the middle where he had us all transfixed.

EDIT: Just to clarify – this post tells you why I was there last night.

Serves you right

Fresh from yesterday’s Cape Times and it’s sister paper, Pretoria News:

An agency that sold tickets for a Celine Dion concert in March and a cancelled Josh Groban concert in April has been placed under final liquidation.
An application for the liquidation of Ticket Connection (Pty) was yesterday brought before Judge P Burton-Fourie by the agency itself, which said it was unable to pay debts of R7 million.

Just as the Nuremberg Trials and the legal processes against Saddam Hussein and his henchmen brought to justice those who had inflicted pain, suffering and misery upon their nations, so Ticket Connection (Pty) must also atone for their crimes against humanity.

 

Gutted

Tuesday: Shower. Breakfast. Traffic. Work. Tea Break. Such is the life of a lab rat.

But with Tuesday tea break comes Ben Trovato’s column in the Cape Times. Today, I open the paper even more eagerly. How will someone with such obvious compassion for those around him and an incomparable understanding of South African cultures handle the recent xenophobic problems?

Surprisingly subtly, actually. But whatever, because then, halfway through the column – the bombshell:

And so, to matters more serious. It is with a heavy heart I inform you of circumstances necessitating that I relinquish this valuable piece of literary real estate with immediate effect.

I read it once. I read it again. And I was left numb. Seriously, Ben Trovato has kept me going through some difficult times since I moved over here. I have all his books and I agree with every sentiment therein – maybe even the bit when he called my car “gay”. I have lived vicariously through his words, possessing neither the bravery (foolishness?) to do the stuff he did nor the literary ability to describe the things I dared not do. And now he’s hanging up his pen.

At times like this, you can either mope, depressed in the knowledge that Tuesdays will never be the same again. Or you can celebrate the chance for a new columnist to fill his boots (something Ben Trovato has been doing for 5 years+).

Well sod your happy-clappy positivity. I’m in mourning.

RIP Ben Trovato. (Unless this is all a big hoax in which case I’m coming after you with a big stick.)
I know that you read me like I read you, so thanks. And all the best.
I hope I’m still going to be able to read you somewhere… sometime.
Otherwise, how will I know what to think?

In memory, I present to you his finest hour:

Why, in the name of God, won’t someone bring Jacob Zuma his machine gun? I can no longer stand by and watch the man suffer like this. Has he not been through enough?
There is an organisation called the Friends of Jacob Zuma, and yet not one of its members is willing to do as he asks. Some friends.

Jacob Zuma has anywhere between two and five wives. But what good is that if none will go the extra mile? Who brings him his pint of Ijuba after another exhausting live concert outside the Pietermartizburg High Court? As a proud Zulu man, he cannot be expected to fetch his own sorghum beer and automatic weapon.

Jacob Zuma is clearly someone who treasures his machine gun above all else. So what of it? He doesn’t ask for much. All he wants is his machine gun.

And maybe the presidency.

I don’t want to sound churlish, but it might help if he told us where he left the damn thing. It must be somewhere. He definitely started out with one, otherwise he would be singing, “bring me a machine gun”. By referring to his machine gun in the possessive, he is telling us that he already has one, but that he has either mislaid it or somebody has moved it from where he last saw it.

Perhaps his machine gun is at his mother-in-law’s house.
Maybe he can’t remember which mother-in-law.

EDIT: Incoming email from Ben Trovato himself suggests that I should look out for the Sunday Times on 8th June. Could it be that he is taking the place of thankfully-sacked columnist Bavid Dullard?
If so, sign me up, Mr Makhanya!!