Live fast, die young…

… but do it right. That’s the message I’m getting.

I noticed the somewhat unsympathetic response to the news that “troubled” singer Amy Winehouse spent a night in hospital following an “adverse reaction to medication” on a local forum and I couldn’t help but compare it with the reaction to news of the death of Heath “Keith” Ledger early in the year.
Of course, as I noted, Keith has been in the news again recently with the release of his final film, The Dark Knight, over which gushing and enthusiastic noises are being made by those who know about such things.

I have to believe that if 24-year old Amy popped her clogs tomorrow, the general reaction would probably not be one of sympathy, surprise, shock and sorrow like we saw and heard ad nauseum for 28-year-old Ledger.
Why? Because we (the public) are apparently fed up of hearing about Amy’s much publicised problems, while Ledger had the grief athletes eating out of his hand by OD’ing completely out of the blue (I hesitate to use the phrase “quick and clean”, because according to some reports he had lost control of his bowels when he was found).

Thankfully, I’m already too old to fall into the latter category of the “Live Fast, Die Young” club. But the message is clear and simple – if you are a celebrity contemplating suicide as a career move; if you want to be remembered just for the good things you did in life and to have the ugly bits forgotten, don’t bother us with your troubles before you top yourself. Just do it.

The Dark Hype

I’m not a big fan of films and the cinema. Even less so when the hype surrounding a particular film means that suddenly, “normal” people can talk of nothing else except the latest offering from Hollywood. Gone are the important discussions about important things – politics, football, money, work – replaced instead by pseudo-knowledgeable comment about the directing ability of some Russian bloke whose name sounds like a sexually transmitted infection (or whatever) and his “meaningful cinematography”.
Why? Because it’s “cool” to “know” about such things this week.

The Dark Knight has done this to people. And, in case there wasn’t enough off-screen publicity for the film with Aussie actor Keith Ledger having thrown a seven during filming; conveniently, the star of the piece has to (allegedly) beat up his mother and sister, just so we’re aware that he’s in a film which you can currently buy tickets for.
The net result of these actions is even more hype over the film. The Grief Athletes who suddenly emerged as previously-unheard-of Heath Ledger fans when he died are now calling for him to win an Oscar for his performance.

And the nominations for Best Actor are:
Heath Ledger for Being A Rather Ordinary Actor
Heath Ledger for Overdosing Druggie
Heath Ledger for Joker in The Dark Knight Because He’s Dead, and
Cristiano Ronaldo for My Ankle Is Broken, Even Though He Didn’t Touch Me

Utterly pathetic. Because it actually doesn’t matter whether the film or the performances are any good or not. Not that you’re going to hear anyone dare to say that they’re rubbish anyway, because it’s simply not acceptable to criticise a überhyped movie like this.
Although leading South African film critic Barry Ronge enjoyed the film, he did pass comment on the radio that “the length made my bottom a bit sore”. I presume he was talking about the chronological enormity of the movie, and that he hadn’t accidently slipped into a dodgy massage parlour next door to the cinema.

So no, I haven’t seen The Dark Knight. And I won’t, because I don’t want to. You can’t make me.
For me, the best films are those which don’t get hyped out of all proportion. The ones whose storylines you don’t know in every last detail before you even go near the cinema. The ones where you can be honest about the ropey bits without fear of being shouted down for not being trendy or called insensitive just because some junkie topped himself in a hotel room while they were making it.

Yes, I’m aware that I’ll get comments and emails telling me how great the film is and how wonderful the “meaningful cinematography” is and so on.
But then, the same people said that about Harry Potter and The Matrix Trilogy and the new Star Wars films. Have you considered that maybe you were brainwashed into being wrong about them too?
Don’t tell me how it’s broken box office records etc etc. Popular doesn’t necessarily mean good: lest we forget, The Teletubbies had a number one hit in the UK with Teletubbies say Eh-Oh in 1997.
Popular? Yes.
Good? No.

I wonder what we’ll be saying about The Dark Knight in 11 years time? 
Heath who?

Zuma “shocked and embarrassed”

Not by allegations that he showers to protect himself from HIV, nor by his pending corruption charges, but by white poverty in South Africa.

The head of South Africa’s governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, has said he is shocked and embarrassed about white poverty in the country.
Mr Zuma was speaking after visiting the Bethlehem township near the capital, Pretoria, where white families live without running water or electricity.
He said the high level of black poverty did not mean whites did not suffer too.

Yes, in this country famed for its haves and have-nots, traditionally divided among racial lines, there has been a blurring, with an estimated 131,000 white individuals classed as homeless. Of course, this number is tiny compared to the number of black people in the same situation, but that still doesn’t make it right or any easier for those who are struggling. In raising this “awkward” issue, JZ is once again making all the right noises and appealing to potential white voters with the election coming up next year.
Does he really care? Who can say?

I, for one, refuse to believe the ZumaRuma™ merchants who can see no good in the ANC President. While I sometimes feel that he is playing a clever political game – he’s talking a lot about issues that matter to South Africans, but actually promising very little – I don’t think that he is an evil, white-hating racist as some would have us believe. I think he is more grounded and in touch with the population than Thabo Mbeki is or ever has been – and that’s a good sign in someone who, it seems, will be the President of the Republic from next year.

He does have some baggage though, obviously. Primarily his corruption trial* which, despite a myriad of delays and stalling, will raise its ugly head again over the next few months (next thrilling installment August 4th).
However, rapidly moving up to become Zuma’s second biggest suitcase is ANCYL President Julius Malema. Just as soon as JZ pacifies the whities, his sycophantic lapdog Malema alienates them again by saying something daft or inflammatory. After his somewhat ill-advised “kill for Zuma” comments last month, he moved on in spectacularly idiotic style yesterday, suggesting that JZ could rule the country from prison

We can’t imagine the courts finding (Zuma) guilty because, if you arrest him, he will lead us from prison. We are not afraid to be led by a president in orange clothes.
If you want to save yourselves the embarrassment you must drop the charges, because arresting him will not stop him from being the president.
There is no other candidate.

Am I alone in thinking that Julius was surprised to get a laugh when he said that? What’s the betting that he was stone-cold serious? One wonders if, behind the scenes, he’s been working out how to get world leaders to come to Pollsmoor Prison to conduct their business and setting up a video link to the UN, “just in case”.

However, the tide is growing for the charges against Zuma to be dropped. Not just because Julius loves him and doesn’t think he did anything wrong, because they’re rubbish reasons, but for the more serious reason that it would almost certainly be catastrophic for the country and the economy if he were to be found guilty and then take office as President. Or take office as President and then be found guilty.

So perhaps Zuma should not run for President? Or is it a case of better the devil you know?
Because Malema the Suitcase actually got one thing spot on: There is no other candidate.

So where do we go from here?
I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit stuck on that one right now.

* Actually, to be precise, it’s a corruption, racketeering, money laundering and fraud trial.

SA crime – the moaning continues

Sadly, South Africa is known, amongst many other things, for its high crime rate. But there came some good news on that front today with the release of the latest crime figures, which show a marked decrease, especially in many of the more serious crimes: murder down 4.7% and robbery with aggravating circumstances down 7.4%, for example. Well, I think it’s good news, but others aren’t happy.
Once again, (I always have to clarify this bit before I talk about crime in SA), I do recognise that South Africa has a problem with crime and I do recognise that something needs to be done about it and that people have a right to expect the government to do something about it. 
However, with the murder rate down to its lowest level in six years and a overall decrease in crime, I think that it is obvious that the initiatives and efforts which are being put in place to combat crime are beginning to work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are very few people who seem to recognise this, though.   

A lot of the negative comments I have read on various SA websites and forums on this subject fall broadly into four categories, which can overlap Venn diagram style, to allow maximum pessimism.
Firstly, there’s the Mugabe reaction: these people have read and heard that crime has decreased, but they are simply ignoring the news and pretending it hasn’t happened. That way, they continue to have something to moan about and a reason to live.
Secondly, the negative optimist approach – and no, that’s not an oxymoron. These people note that crime has fallen, but are not happy that there is still crime happening. In the negative optimists’ world, there is no murder, no robbery, no vandalism and everyone obeys the speed limits. These people should have listened to Safety and Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, as he was presenting the report this morning: 

He told media in Pretoria during the presentation of the annual crime report that even though the statistics indicated a steady decline, crime levels were still very high and “unacceptably so: Government wanted to see a more drastic decline.”

 See? He agrees with you. Crime is still unacceptably high. But it’s down.

Next up, my particular favourites: the nit-pickers. They will pick and choose the worst stats to illustrate just what difficult circumstances South Africa finds itself in: Yes, murder is down, rape is down, robbery is down, but what about truck high-jackings? Did you see that truck high-jackings were up?
Finally, the never-believers. They stand by the words of Mulder & Scully. Trust no-one. These stats are all made up by the Government to make us feel better, when really, crime has sky-rocketed. They cite the fact that these figures are only for reported crime. Which is absolutely correct. However, I defy any government, worldwide, to present accurate statistics on unreported crime, because, you see, it’s unreported.
However, in the unlikely event that the Government has completely fabricated the figures presented today, then I feel that they could have done a much better job on reducing truck high-jackings.

So, there you have it. Once again, I’m fed up with people moaning instead of doing something proactive, like joining their neighbourhood watch. I’m fed up with people only looking for the bad news instead of being happy that there’s actually some good news. I’m fed up with people having foolishly high expectations and feeling angry when they are unfulfilled. Bring forth your predictable and ill-thought-out comments.

One final thing – I’m also growing a little tired of Italians ruining my weekends. This time, the act was repeated by the utterly appalling one-sided refereeing of the Euro 2008 Final by Italian Roberto Rosetti.
Yes Roberto, handball and headbutting are against the rules in football.
German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann thinks the Euro 2008 final was fixed:

“The referee was a catastrophe and sometimes I think it is fixed when I see such a referee, who is biased and not correct in his decisions.”
For example, A Spanish player (David Silva) head-butted our player (Lukas Podolski) and the referee saw it and the linesman saw it.”

Now, I’m no fan of Lehmann’s, but I’m in full agreement that something weird was going on with the refereeing last night. One dodgy decision after another – all in Spain’s favour. How strange.

 

Are Italians naturally dull?

Having swum down to Newlands in miserable conditions on Saturday to watch the rugby, I was disappointed with the atmosphere, the standard of play and the complete lack of general excitement that usually surrounds an international test match. Sure, it could have had something to do with the weather, but being the scientific kind of person that I am, I then extended my research further the following day.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to watch the second bit of my experiment, because it was a Ferrari winning at the French Grand Prix. Formula One is only worth watching for the crashes, and what with all the new safety equipment and silly little rules from the FIA, even those are getting a bit few and far between and less exciting when they do happen. For the rest of the time, it’s just like a procession, with the fastest car starting in pole position and then going round and round the track with no-one able to catch it or overtake it. This fastest car is usually a Ferrari – and Ferrari is?
Yes – Italian. Exactly.

Incidentally, have you noticed how irritating it is when people think that they are “in the know” by referring to F1 drivers by their first names?

Ja, Kimi had a great race as he followed Filipe around the track for 79 laps…

Presumably, these are the same bores who refer to Star Wars films as “Empire” or “Phantom” and their favourite bands as “Jovi” or “Leppard”; their movie and musical tastes giving us further insight into their sad little lives.

Anyway, by now, a pattern was beginning to form: Italy + Sport = Dull.

A last chance to disprove my theory came with the eagerly-anticipated Spain v Italy Euro 2008 quarter final clash. And, dear Lord (even if you did vote ZANU-PF) – they went out of their way to hammer the point home. 90 minutes of the most excruciatingly dull viewing I have experienced since I last watched an F1 race. And then another 30 minutes of extra time as added punishment. What did I do to deserve that?

It seems to me that a country with such a proud military history (well, until about 100 AD, anyway), a wealth of national monuments and treasures, a pretty cool, bouncy, upbeat national anthem and moreover, a well known reputation for passion and excitement, can turn out such mind-numbingly boring sporting performances.

Has the true Italy come to the fore? Is this what Italians are really like, their genuine characters previously hidden under a thin veneer of heated, volcanic emotions?
I don’t want to believe it, but the evidence of late is pointing firmly in the direction of dull.
Convince me otherwise. Please.