That Zapiro cartoon

Ever since The Sunday Times published the “rape” cartoon that the entirety of South Africa is now talking about (that would be Sunday), I have been literally inundated with an email asking what 6000 miles… readers should say when asked about it, in order to remain “on message”.

This cartoon was removed at the
request of Zapiro’s legal team.

6000, September 2009

Exhibit A: the cartoon in question.

Looking around the SA interwebs, plenty of others have already had their say:

“While we accept that cartoonists have the licence to express controversial views, yesterday’s cartoon is in extremely bad taste and goes way beyond limits of acceptability”
“The cartoon rubbishes the collective integrity of the alliance and constitutes yet another continued violation of the rights and dignity of the ANC president.”
“In a country where we have a serious scourge of fighting violence against women and in particular, rape, we need to be very careful how we use the notion and the concept of rape loosely to demonstrate any form of perceived abuse.” [link]

and for the other side:

“Good for you dude. That cartoon is an absolutely accurate description of the state of affairs… so I’m doing my part to spread it around.” [link]
“There is a very, very pronounced tendency in this country towards exceptionalism, as if our politicians are more sacrosanct than politicians worldwide. That I take issue with.” [link]

For me, Zapiro (the pen name of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro) has taken things a step too far on this occasion. I have issues with his trivialisation of rape and his portrayal of abuse of women for political ends and also his imagery (again) linking Jacob Zuma with rape – 2 years on from JZ’s acquittal for that crime. It seems likely that Zuma will now sue for defamation – he may feel that he has a strong case, given Shapiro’s apparent vendetta against him.

Please don’t think that I am naive as to what Shapiro is trying to say – I wrote about the whole situation just last week. Disappointingly, the astute, amusing, politically savvy and downright insightful political spectator and commentator has let himself down with this particular piece of work. Many would say that in just stirring up this fuss, he has achieved his objective – to publicise the issue of JZ’s inevitable presidency versus his corruption trial and the difficulties that poses for this country. I think we were all aware of that issue anyway.

I just feel that it could have been done a whole lot more tastefully.

Brian and his failing neighbourhood

One of the few sites I unfailingly enjoy reading is Brian Micklethwait’s eponymous blog. It has a unique combination of a blend of subjects and topics that generally interest me, together with an endearing, informal, almost narrative writing style. It’s easy, interesting, pleasurable reading.

However, even by his usual high standards, I felt that Brian excelled himself earlier this week. And I would have written about this earlier had it not been for a combination of sick offspring, football matches in filthy weather and a rather garlicky farewell to Jonny Harvard. But since these things all contrived to delay me, I’m writing about it now.

I think that the main reason that I enjoyed Brian’s post about enjoying living in a failing neighbourhood so much was because I have been wanting to write about the same issues from a South African perspective for some time. I’m not sure that I live in a failing neighbourhood – I don’t think the same rules apply here as in the UK. But I can certainly agree that ignoring local electronic noises (burglar alarms) is a full-time occupation here. 

In failing neighbourhoods, nobody does anything about electronic noises except regret them, on their blogs if they have blogs, otherwise silently.  In “successful” neighbourhoods, the damn neighbours are all over you at the slightest excuse, borrowing sugar, wanting you to have their keys when they are away on holiday and feed their pets, telling you what their names are and what they do.
Now you may be asking: if I hate people in general so much, why do I live in a big city?  But that’s the whole point of big cities.  In big cities you can avoid getting to know nearly everybody, and still have lots of excellent friends, in the form of the 0.000001% or whatever it is of people who live there who make really nice friends for you. 

Much like Brian, I could never live in a rural location. I was born and brought up in a city, I studied and worked in a couple of cities and then I moved to Cape Town, which is a really big city. I love to hear the rumble of urban white noise: silence scares me. But equally, I find that living in an urban environment allows me to blend in, to be lazy and not make an effort to meet new people, but not to feel guilty about it. In fact, it’s even easier in South Africa – a country where we all hide behind big physical walls as well as the metaphorical ones we share with other nations.

As for my neighbourhood, its a pleasant enough place: mature, leafy, decent, quiet. Perhaps too quiet. 
I do know my neighbours’ names. I do smile and say hello. I do look after their house while they’re away. Why? Because they are nice people and it’s no trouble really. But equally, deep down, maybe because of the scare stories you hear and read all the time, perhaps you feel that you never know when you might need a friend. Thus, if I hear their alarm sounding during the night, I will call the next morning to check everything is alright. OK, it might be a bit late to help out if there was an incident, but then this is SA, where a friendly bloke with a gun hurries to your doorstep to chase away the bad guys if your alarm sounds anyway.

But one problem with living in such a quiet area is that there is always an alarm going off somewhere and because it is a such a quiet area, you can always hear it. Sometimes just a single woowoo, but more often for hours at a time, punctuated every three minutes or so by a gap just long enough to make you think it’s stopped, before it dives back in to your ears, invading your headspace again. And you know that it’s a false alarm and that there’s no-one home, and that the friendly bloke with the gun can only ring the bell at the gate and shrug and walk away when there’s no response.

If the idea of this noise is to alert me to something wicked going on (or having gone on when the noise began) to the point of me actually doing something about it, it is failing.  When it stops, I will forget about it.  Until it stops, all I will do is sit here wanting it to.

Interestingly, most of these alarms seem to sound on sunny weekend afternoons in the summer, when all one wants to do is braai and crack open a cold beer or nine by the pool. Or maybe that’s just when I hear and hate them the most.

All in all, I think city life gives me the best of both worlds. I can hide away just enough to make life bearable without inconveniencing myself. I can happily play my part in the symbiotic relationship with the people next door. I can smile at passers-by while I wash my car in the driveway, safe in the knowledge that it will go no further than a good morning. And the annoying electronic noises are no intrusion when compared to living under the microscope in a rural environment where you get concerned villagers enquiring about your bowel habits if you hit a spot of mild constipation.

To borrow and adapt a phrase I recently read: Non-Capetonians often complain that most people in Cape Town are unfriendly.  That’s pretty much the point of the place.  That’s exactly what’s so great about it.
(That and the mountain.)

Sick of poor decisions

“Where are you?” queried the emails.
“What’s going on?”
“What must we do?”

Such is the awesome and addictive power of 6000 miles…that when I was struck down – pretty heavily struck down, too – by a particularly nasty illness this last week, desperation set in for some readers.

But it’s ok. I’m back. And I’ve got lots that I want to write about. Although I haven’t been able to get near a computer to actually document my thoughts, I’ve been having plenty of them. Some of the more interesting ones were sadly only accessible while my temperature was in the low 40’s.
Thus, I can only remember odd bits of them. Bits that involve parrots.
I told you they were odd.

While I was away on my journey to Virusville,  South Africa beat England in a unusually interesting Test match in Birmingham. Through glazed eyes (via the disappointingly weak interweb surfing capabilities of my aging cellphone), I read and agreed with Brian Micklethwait’s take on Michael Vaughan’s resignation as England captain following that game.

How thin are the threads that these things hang by!  In England’s second innings the day before yesterday, Vaughan was looking good, until he got himself out with a silly shot.  And yesterday, South Africa’s captain Smith would have been given out, caught off the glove off Panesar, if “Hotspot” the latest analytical gizmo – it shows where balls strike by photoing heat rather than light), had been helping the umpires instead of only helping the commentators to make idiots of the umpires.  Smith was then on about 70.  He went on to make 150 not out and win the game for his team.  England might well have won if that decision gone their way, and if England had won, Vaughan would not now be stepping down.  He might have made some runs in the final test against South Africa, and gone on to lead England in the Ashes next summer. As it is…

Yet another dodgy decision with massive implications. And yes, I know that referees and umpires are only human and these things happen, but with professional sport being what it is these days, isn’t it time that the technology which is available is applied so that careers aren’t ended and millions of pounds aren’t lost simply because of the actions of of an inept official?

So now we have a South African with a South African name captaining the England cricket team and a South African with an English name captaining the South African cricket team. And, if the papers are to be believed, they hate each other. Ooh – the drama.


A couple of tossers with a coin

I like this photo from the BBC News website. Pietersen looks like he’s missing a pint pot and is looking in completely the wrong direction. Smith looks like he’s missing a brain and is looking directly at the money.
Which sums them both up nicely, I think.

EDIT: more (slightly surprising) opinion and a nice pic of Newlands here.

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?