Missing “home”…

If there is one thing I miss about living in the UK more than any other, it is the music. While SA has it’s fair share of decent bands and artists (and I’ve mentioned them more than once or twice on here), the music scene just doesn’t compare to the UK. I love to find new bands by chance and then follow them up and listen to see if what I heard was a one off or a representative sample of their work. I can’t do that here.

Feeling particularly musically needy today, I did a bit of an update on a few of my favourite bands. This evening, having got my free download of The Escapist by The Streets, I flicked onto the Radio One homepage and took the opportunity to listen live to Zane Lowe‘s show for a short while. Not because I’m a huge fan of Zane Lowe, but because that was who was on when I was listening so it would have been difficult to listen live to anyone else. He was playing a song called CCTV by The Last Republic. A song which sums up exactly what I mean when I say that I’m missing out. Awesome stuff.

You won’t find TLR on iTunes. However, having looked them up on MySpace – and in one of those ironic moments that show that if there is a higher power, then he’s busy sticking his middle finger up at me – if you’re in Cardiff this evening, you will find them at Cardiff Barfly, supporting Saffa band, The Parlotones.

The only other bit of UK/SA news today was England winning the fourth test at The Oval. Have you noticed that I only mention the cricket when England win? This has had the effect of passively convincing all my american readers that England are the best cricket team in the world.

Which they are, obviously.

One World, One Dream

Yesterday, I watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony along with 2,999,999,999 others. Not all in my lounge, obviously; that would have been a squash and a squeeze.
Anyway, it was fairly impressive stuff. Lots of flashy lights, a myriad of people running about in unison, a few people in weird costumes, some people attached to wires which made it look a bit like they were flying if you ignored the wires and so on. Oh, and some fireworks.


Attention!

So obviously very different from every other opening ceremony for a big sporting event. Right.

What was different about Beijing 2008’s opening night was the fact that it cost (according to the SABC’s coverage, anyway) about $75m (US) to stage. Which made me wonder how exactly it adhered to the One World, One Dream motto of this particular Olympiad. Kevin Mitchell sums it up nicely:

This opening of the 29th Olympic Games was an orchestrated marriage of superstition and military precision on a scale only a one-party state could deliver with such confidence. It was a show not so much riveting because of its artistic merit (which was considerable) but the self-conscious reaching for grandeur that has become the Olympic movement’s parodic symbol of excess.

And the official Beijing 2008 site states:

“One World One Dream” fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit – Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind.

While I’m all for the Olympics and their ideals – though I recognise that they are very rarely seen outside the couple of weeks of competition every four years – I would imagine that a large chunk of the world’s population would probably have different universal values. Like Food, Shelter, Housing and Safety, for example. Ironically, I would also guess that most of this group were the ones who weren’t able to watch yesterday.
This “Other World” doesn’t fit for the Beijing Olympics though; it’s ugly and awkward to deal with while they’re splashing out millions on fancy fireworks and Sarah Brightman. And so, like so much else, it is being swept under the carpet and conveniently ignored for the next two weeks.

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.

Welcome back!

What with one thing and another, I haven’t been able to turn out for my football team – at least not in a playing capacity – for over three months. So, it was with some trepidation and a level of fitness one might expect of an average American teenager that I made my return in for the black and white wizzzzaaaaaaards in the shadow of the World Cup stadium in Green Point last night.

It was a beautiful evening; as I headed towards the hallowed turf I snapped a quick shot of the sun sinking into the South Atlantic – all was well with the world.

Sunset
Hellish scenes on the way to footy

Then I shook hands with the captain of the opposing team (made up of staff from a local Investment Management company) shared a joke with him and the ref and got on with the game.

It quickly became apparent that the current volatility in the world’s stock markets was causing the opposition no end of irritation. Since grievous bodily harm is generally frowned upon in the offices of such organisations, it was perhaps no surprise that they decided to take out their combined frustrations on the 7-a-side team of punchbags which had been set out in front of them. Within 90 seconds of the kick off, the same team captain who had been laughing and joking a moment earlier had mutated into the evil bastard son of Vinnie Jones and Beelzebub himself. As I fended him off at a corner, I found his studs high on my inner thigh, where they left an interesting and somewhat painful runic marking*.

Owch.
Studs up

I looked to the referee for some sign of action. To be honest, I’d expect to see more sympathy in the eyes of a suicide bomber. Fortunately, being from Yorkshire, I’m not one to fling myself Porra-style to the floor each time someone comes near me, which was just as well as I soon realised that the “Ass.” in “Investec Ass. Management” probably stood for “Assault”.

Meh – I survived. But I was hoping for a more gentle re-introduction to the beautiful game.
Next week, we face a team of lawyers. I can hardly wait.

* 24 hours on, these markings are outlined with a spectacular array of purple and deep blue. Beautiful. Magnificent. Bloody sore.

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.