Da Lowdown

As my virally-ravaged body continues to exude mucus at an alarming rate, I felt it was time to update the site once again. This is mainly because, although my symptoms have shown a mild improvement since yesterday, I’m still far from convinced that I’ll make it through to the end of the week.


I have already been forced to miss two football matches, one international rugby game and one father’s day, while the pharmacists of Cape Town now greet me happily by my first name and offer less then reasonable credit terms for the myriad of their products I have been utilising. At one point, I was taking 22 times my RDA of vitamin C. My kidneys were extremely unhappy about this and it seemingly made precisely bugger-all difference to my immune system. I cut down when my hastily calculated risk/benefit analysis on the back of a tissue box revealed that the vitamin C would allow me to live for approximately 3 more days than if I wasn’t taking it.
3 more days of snot, coughing and generally feeling like crap?
No, thank you.

So, aside from generating bucketloads of phlegm, what have I been up to?
On the technology front, I have discovered Audacity and have been playing around with that. Now all I need is a nice OpenSource video editor and I’m sorted. Anyone?
My music listening on the now infamous rattly iPod has been almost exclusively Send Away The Tigers by the Manic Street Preachers, which is dangerously happy by their somewhat melancholy standards, but with guitar work echoing back to Generation Terrorists and The Holy Bible (the Manics’ album not the book, which, although not an avid reader, I believe contains virtually no guitar work).


The public sector workers strike continues – just. A whole one bloke in the picket line outside the hospital this morning, which was rather amusing. He was toyi-toying, but mainly just to keep warm, I think. Note: solo toyi-toying is really funny to watch.
Anyway, according to the Allister Charles of the NEHAWU Union in this morning’s Cape Times:

Our demand is still at 10%, there’s no doubt about that. But the question nationally is: are we going to accept or should we fight until we reach 8%? That’s for you to decide.

Is it just me or does he have it all wrong? Isn’t he supposed to be fighting for a bigger percentage increase? Keep fighting, Allister and you’ll owe them money.
Once you’ve settled that little issue, we can chat about the R50 you owe me. What’s that, you say? You actually owe me R75? I thought it was R100. R125? Really? [continues until I’m a millionaire]…

One last bit of good news. While I may be slightly behind in updating my 2010 flickr pictures, South Africa is exceeding its obligations, as Sepp Blatter found out on his visit this week. Awesome stuff, even if he can’t pronounce Phumzile’s name. Lots of people struggle with that though.That’ll be all for now then – consider yourself informed.

Sport and Racism in South Africa…

I read with interest the Ruck & Maul column by Ashfak Mohamed in today’s Cape Times. Ashfak is a rugby fan who was at the SA v England game in Bloemfontein last Saturday.


Ashfak isn’t white. (There was a photo).


He described what we’ve all seen at rugby matches across South Africa, namely an almost complete absence of black and coloured fans in the crowd; an embarrassing and hostile silence through the first verse of the national anthem (which is sung in isiXhosa), followed by a bellowing of Die Stem (the Afrikaans verse which also used to be the national anthem of the “old” South Africa) and players of colour being racially abused for their mistakes on the pitch.
His citing of previous racism at matches in Bloemfontein for this overwhelming majority of white fans got me thinking. Also on Saturday was the ABSA Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Sundowns (that’s a soccer* game, folks). One wonders how many white fans were at that game? I would wager that it was fewer than blacks and coloureds in Bloem. But is that a problem? Well, obviously, it is a problem when racial abuse stops people from watching sport** – whatever their colour. But is that really the reason that these two games were attended by such completely different crowds?
I think it is only one part of the story.

According to southafrica.info, “Sport is the national religion. Transcending race, politics or language group, sport unites the country”

I laughed when I read that. Yes, this country could have gone down the road of civil war in 1994 and it didn’t, and for that everyone should be thankful. But saying that life is settled and the country is united in any form just because there’s no civil war is like saying that England did well at the rugby because they didn’t lose by, say, 100 points. Those claiming “racial harmony” are, to coin a cockney phrase, “having a larf”. This country is amongst the most divided in the world.

Insecurity, paranoia, resentment, retribution, disillusionment and distrust are plainly evident the way many South Africans live their daily lives. Those reading this will probably snort and dismiss this. “That’s not me.” they’ll say. I beg to differ.


The population here is divided into those who won’t openly admit to there being a problem, those who see the issues but don’t have a problem with them and the other 1% who want to sort things out but can’t overcome the apathy or engrained racist attitudes of the other 99%. Of course, 99% of the South Africans reading this think that they’re in that 1% – and that’s exactly the problem.

But back to sport.

Because of the unique history of this country, the lines of division run through every aspect of life. But perhaps the most public of these is sport. Well, that and politics, but no-one reads posts about politics. Sport is neatly divided in three in this country: Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. Of course, there are other sports played here, but those are the biggies. Rugby and cricket get the most press. They are the “white” sports. What distresses many of the rugby and cricket fans is that the official national sport of South Africa is… er… the other one. And that’s because the majority of the sporting population play football. Rugby and cricket come in very much second and third. How embarrassing.


And while there is a huge push to get more coloured and black players into the national teams for rugby and cricket to make the team more representative of the racial make-up of the country (often despite the fact that the players in question aren’t actually very good), there is no reciprocal push to get white players into the soccer team.

Ashfak suggests that beacuse the ANC is in power in the Free State, there must be a lot of black people living there and they should have been at the game. Nice big tarring brush you have there, sir.
But it seems to me that the major reason for the obvious racial divisions in South African sport is that for the vast majority of whites, soccer holds no interest and for the vast majority of blacks, rugby holds no interest. And as long as those few who want to watch and play a sport from “the other side” can, I don’t see a problem.


So Ashfak, while I agree with your comments regarding the Afrikaaners and their small-minded and right-wing attitudes, I think the major reason for the nearly all-white crowd last Saturday was really because they were the only ones actually interested.

*I hate this word. Obviously, I mean football, but that would just confuse everyone.
**or indeed doing anything.

Memories of 2003

While I’m reading papers detailing the genotypic make-up of quinolone resistant and hypersusceptible clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (it’s all in the DNA gyrase* genes, you know), I tend to listen to my rattly iPod. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

Today, I have been mostly listening to Radiohead, which has been bringing back amazing memories of their performance at Glastonbury in 2003. In fact, I’m pretty sure that you can actually see me on this YouTube offering of Karma Police (bottom of the screen at 1:34, next to the waving bloke with some red thing over his shoulder).

You can also hear me singing along later in the song, but I’m a little drowned out by several thousand others; which is sad after I’d made the effort.
Wow. As the song says: “For a minute there, I lost myself”. Lump in the throat, tears in the eyes, shivers down the spine, goosebumps all over. Well, nearly all over anyway.
That said, I thought the Manic Street Preachers were better, to the disbelief of my companions.
Dusk, the big raindrops falling from the moody, grey sky illuminated by the brilliant white lights and James Dean Bradfield giving it some welly on that big white guitar just a few metres away.

Ah yes – that’s completed the goosebump coverage nicely.And then it’s back to the here and now. And a particularly worrying story from the front page of today’s Cape Times:

The severe cold, wet and windy conditions expected to spread eastwards across the Western and Northern Cape provinces this weekend could be fatal for livestock and dangerous for humans, the Cape Town Weather Office warned yesterday.
Forecaster Carlton Fillis said rainfall of up to 50mm, combined with gale-force winds and temperatures of below 15C**, was especially dangerous for livestock such as goats. People should also be careful.

So there you have it. Conclusive proof that when it comes to South African livestock, your average goat is the least hardy species around.
Sheep? – sorted. Cows? – no problemo. But goats? – dead.
Carlton says so and who are we to question his judgement?

So tomorrow, it looks like I have have every excuse to cook a big pot of soup and hide under a duvet watching the football and the rugby while knocking back coffee and hot chocolate. And beer, obviously.

Enjoy your weekend. And take good care of your goats.

 

* It should be noted that DNA gyrase is an enzyme, not a dance.
** Er…yeah. That’s what they call cold here. Hmm.

Why has no one asked the obvious question?

The world news this week has been dominated by the shootings at Virginia Tech. I know most of you have now stopped reading already. You’re thinking (as you click onto something infinitely more exciting): “What can this intelligent, good-looking, informed and amusing writer tell us that we haven’t already heard?”
Well, only that everyone has missed the single most important question about this whole incident, that’s what.

Of course, “tragic” though they are, these sort of shootings are manna from heaven for the rolling news channels. Reporters are live from here, there, everywhere.
Every word of every press conference is replayed time and time again. Everything is analysed by so-called experts. Were there warning signs? Could this have been prevented? Was George W Bush to blame? What brand of soap did the killer use?
Thus far, I think it’s more than fair to say that the picture painted by the media and the authorities shows that Cho Seung-hui was an obviously disturbed individual.
I could have told them that three years ago – because no-one has asked the blindingly obvious question:

Why would any sane and rational person choose to study English in the USA?

Let’s be frank, that’s like studying capitalism in North Korea: “Sorry Mr Jong-il, how did you say the free market economy worked again?”.
The Americans have done more to bastardise the English language than any other nation.
Except maybe the Australians.
If they’re not talking about “Toe-May-Toes” and “sidewalks”, then it’s that dreadful ESPN football commentary where new words are invented at a rate of about three per sentence, leaving the typical English football fan who’s been following the beautiful game all his life, completely bewildered as to exactly what just happened.

A zip-two shutout for Meelan saw Bayern bested and team Italy elevated to four-left status at soccer’s Euro Tournament Wednesday. A Clarence Seedorf 40-yard speed-play upfielded for Filippo Inzaghi to put through the scorebag with a score-shot – equalling jubilation in the Meelan locker-room. Dida’s blanking left Bayern facing a negative score-stat scenario and brought Meelan to a 8-4-5 close-out on the road. Dida performed big when Bayern’s offensive hitman van Bommel had a net-shot opportunity late in the third quarter.

Hmm. I seem to have strayed from the point somewhat. How unusual.

I guess what I’m saying is that with everyone asking the same questions repeatedly, there’s not real opportunity for objective insight to events such as those at Virginia Tech.


Producers at BBC News 24, Fox, Sky News et al may wish to know that I am available to provide exclusive expert analysis on anything you care to throw at me, from school shootings through to the Iranian nuclear standoff (I can even pronounce Ahmadinejad correctly). My fees are very reasonable.

Childcare 101

While checking up on the news from back home in the Republic of South Yorkshire, I came across a story detailing how an 18-month old toddler had injured his mother by putting an aerosol under the grill.
The aerosol – somewhat predictably – then exploded in her face and she ended up with some (probably quite nasty) burns.
The toddler, bless his little cotton socks, was unharmed in the incident.

Reading this story will have divided the 6000 miles… readership.
A percentage of you, who do not have children, and who enjoy watching shows like Jackass and Dirty Sanchez are thinking: “Cool, dude… Exploding aerosol!”.
This percentage will then probably snigger like Beavis and Butthead.

A disappointingly large percentage of you aren’t really very bothered and haven’t even read this far.
You’re missing out. Really. And you smell.

The remainder of you are either mature, balanced individuals (like I used to be) or parents (like I am now).
You are probably wondering what on earth an 18 month old was doing with access to:
a) an aerosol can, and
b) a grill.

Back at Chateau 6k, the jury is still out on whether we are going to allow the “naughty” coffee table to stay around after it “attacked” little Alex twice in as many days*. It’s currently on a final warning, and with plans for a braai this weekend and a sudden hike in the price of Namibian Camelthorn, it had better watch its step.
As for Alex, I can’t imagine that he will enjoy the company of aerosols and grills for several years to come. I don’t think that’s being over-protective, I think that’s being responsible. When he’s old enough, I’ll be there to demonstrate the dangers of putting an egg in the microwave. And then we’ll try a 60W lightbulb.
And we’ll both sit back and snigger like Beavis and Butthead.

* Actually, the first time, he just fell over near the table. But we blamed it anyway.
I think the second time was merely its act of petty revenge.