Credit where it’s due (but only where it’s due)

I’m not South African, but I like to think of myself as an honorary Saffa. I do my bit for the country, I pay my taxes, I’m optimistic in a realistic sort of way and I try to buy South African goods and products as well as punting them on my blog if they’re any good.

I’ve said before that there’s no point in painting a wholly rosy picture of South Africa and ignoring the negative things that plague us. Not only is that completely misleading, but also it doesn’t bring those negative issues to the fore and therefore does nothing to sort them out. I think Jacques Rousseau made a similar point yesterday regarding the recent Kuli Roberts column debacle.

So having established that there’s no point in ignoring the negatives, please can we agree that equally, there’s no point in blindly praising everything just because it’s South African? This sort of behaviour is also completely misleading, unnecessarily raises expectations of products far too high and encourages disappointment in the real world (the world without rainbow nation-tinted specs). I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is no such thing as something being great, just because it’s South African.

Take, for example, the Kreepy-Krauly. The Kreepy-Krauly is an automated suction-side driven swimming pool cleaner: a hoover for your pool. And ask anyone round these parts for an interesting fact about the Kreepy-Krauly and they will tell you – pride oozing from every orifice – that it was invented in South Africa.

And they’d be right:

The first swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier in South Africa

Nice work, Ferdinand. Or was it? Because in actual fact, the Kreepy-Krauly is rubbish. Rather than: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to move forward along the floor and walls of the pool picking up dirt and debris as it moves” as you’ll read in the brochure, something along the lines of: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to repeatedly get stuck in one corner of the pool, leaving the dirt and debris everywhere else” is probably more accurate. So the description of a Kreepy-Krauly as “automated” is a bit of a misnomer, since once you’ve shelled out the exorbitant cost of buying one, you will constantly have to assist it in its work by untangling it and freeing it from the step of your pool. And then cleaning up the dirt and debris yourself.
So yes, the Kreepy-Krauly is South African-invented, but that’s nothing to be proud of.

The same goes for music. I’m all for 5fm and the like having a SA music quota on their playlist, but really, some of the stuff they then end up subjecting us to is utter bilge.

Durban-based band The Arrows, for example. They recently gave us the rather watery but catchy Lovesick which made it onto said playlist. And that was “ok”, because the track was “ok” – not amazing – but “ok”. And then they release No Robots, the chorus of which sounds like the lead singer has grabbed an electric fence and is struggling to let it go. Seriously, they’ve been banned from playing it live at several venues as the local ambulance service (and sometimes the local SPCA as well) get calls from the 15 people in the crowd requesting urgent medical assistance “because something’s in pain”. And yet, because it’s South African, it gets airplay.

I’ve singled out The Arrows for a bit of criticism and that’s not fair, because there are other bands out there who are doing the same and getting away with it thanks to the apparent quota system. “We’ll endorse anything” band, The Parlotones (and I’m sure lead singer Khan Morbee won’t mind me telling you this *cough*) have been churning out rubbish from the pisspoor Stardust Galaxies album for well over a year now, but it gets played. Goldfish have somehow fooled the hipsters into thinking that they have released lots of different singles, whereas if you listen carefully, it’s just the same song on repeat. And still they get played.

Why does this happen? Is it because the music industry in SA is so small and fragile, they feel they need to give it this ill-thought support? Or is it merely a matter of national pride? Whatever, the powers that be need to think again on how they judge these things. Base your decisions on quality, not nationality, because much like endorsing the South African Kreepy-Krauly, supporting average local music devalues the good work that bands like Ashtray Electric, Zebra & Giraffe and Goodluck are doing and doesn’t contribute to raising the standard at all (not that I am suggesting that if/when they give us a duff single it should be played either). Is it really any wonder that there are so few local bands making it internationally when mediocrity is encouraged in this way?

Much as I don’t think we should be papering over the cracks as far as crime and corruption are concerned, neither do I think we should be telling people that all South African products and music are great when they patently are not.

All I’m asking for is a bit of honesty.

Away days

We’re spending the weekend “moving in” here, so I’m not actually here, I’m here:

It would be nice to have some better weather than when this picture was taken, although as you can see, the kids enjoy the place even when the weather isn’t all that it could be.

And, as I mentioned here, there is no internet and no cellphone signal where we’re going, so I will be mercifully quiet. Enjoy the silence.

Christchurch Earthquake – Google Person Finder

After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in the early hours of this morning (SA time), Google have launched a Google Person Finder to help track those missing or to let people know that they’re ok.

Thanks to those of you on twitter who have sent me a link to this app, knowing that my parents are in NZ at the moment. Fortunately, they are a few hundred kms away from Christchurch (although they’re due there next week).
Although I haven’t been able to make contact with them, that’s more likely to be because they’re out exploring the wilderness rather than anything earthquake related.
UPDATE: As I suspected – they’re fine – although they were to be staying just 300m from the cathedral in Christchurch when they get there next week. I suspect their plans may have to change.

Alternatives to Ubertwitter for BlackBerry users

Get an Android phone.

Er… that’s about it.

Next project

Since I’m not in the mood (nor will I ever be) to go and watch some overrated Irish pensioners prancing around on a oversized stage and making shedloads of money from the brainwashed masses in front of them, I’m happily ensconced at home, post braai and I’m planning my next project. It is to be beer related.

But no ordinary beer. Homemade real ginger beer. Not the local carbonated equivalent, Stoney, which doesn’t actually contain any ginger at all.
No, I will be attempting to raise a SCOBY. That is, a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast and then feeding said organism with sugar, water and the all-important not-so-secret ingredient, ginger, creating a Ginger Beer Plant.
Wikipedia:

Ginger beer plant (GBP) is not what is usually considered a plant, but a composite organism consisting of a fungus, the yeast Saccharomyces florentinus (formerly Saccharomyces pyriformis) and the bacterium Lactobacillus hilgardii (formerly Brevibacterium vermiforme), which form a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It forms a gelatinous substance that allows it to be easily transferred from one fermenting substrate to the next, much like kefir grains, kombucha, and tibicos.
The GBP was first described by Harry Marshall Ward in 1892, from samples he received in 1887. Original ginger beer is made by leaving water, sugar, ginger, and GBP to ferment. GBP may be obtained from several commercial sources or from yeast banks. Much of the “ginger beer plant” obtainable from commercial sources is not the true GBP as described here, but instead is yeast alone. This is not legally false advertising because there is no regulation defining GBP.

I’m planning on importing the necessary (and genuine) ingredients from this place, but in the meantime, I’m going to warm up with a solely yeast based version, as described here, which I will be bottling in swingtop Grolsch bottles.

I will let you know how I get along.