Tourists not eaten by sharks

Three tourists who drowned when the shark-cage diving boat they were on capsized off Gansbaai were not eaten by sharks, much to the disappointment of the South African media. This unfortunate lack of an incident turned this potentially sensational and tourism-damaging crowd-puller into no more than a run-of-the-mill tragic accident story

Chairperson of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation, Mariette Hopley, said the shark-cage diving boat had anchored just before a freak wave capsized the boat around 10:00 on Sunday.

One of the people swept off the boat was caught underneath the boat and had to be retrieved by divers. The divers took the man to the mainland where paramedics managed to get a faint pulse, but were unable to revive him. He was certified dead.
The other two men were found drowned at sea and their bodies were retrieved.

A spokesperson for the South African Independent Press Association* stated:

This is a terrible and upsetting incident for all concerned – especially our photographers, who have really missed out on this one. Here is a story which could have boosted website hits, viewer and reader numbers across our country’s media and due to a complete lack of shark activity, we’ve just got a few drownings.
And this in the self-proclaimed “Great White Capital of The World”
How are we supposed to sell that? It’s a disaster.

It’s sad that firstly I feel so ambivalent about these 3 tourists dying; secondly, I’m more concerned about the potential damage it may do to the country’s tourism than what it means to their friends and families; and thirdly that I have so little trust in the South African press.

Maybe I’m more South African than I thought.

Too many times I have seen speculation reported as fact and actually quite dull news stories blown out of all proportion in order to sell newspapers or gain a few extra website visitors. Because of course, thanks to that wonderful thing called human nature, the gorier the story (especially when you can get pictures too), the more people want to read it. We humans are nice like that. And the press know it and they use it.

So forgive my cynicism when it comes to those reporters rushing to sleepy Gansbaai yesterday lunchtime, but I really don’t believe that they got what they were hoping for.

Ag, shame.

* An organisation which I just made up

You’re Encouraging Alcoholism!

Each Thursday, genial local radio host John Maytham presents his wine review on Cape Talk, Cape Town’s medium wave news and talk station. (Yes, medium wave is still alive and well in Cape Town, readers!)

Here’s this week’s offering, fresh from the web:

Agama Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Price: R65.95
Fine example of a cool climate sauvignon blanc – grapes grown on six different Elgin farms. Brisk acidity, strong capsicum qualities, and enough complexity and length to suggest ageing potential.

Klein Steenberg Cabernet 2006
Price: R49.95
Entry label from this excellent Constantia producer. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, ripe berry fruit on nose carrying through to palate. Very good value.  

Cellarhand Backchat Blend 2006
Price: R19.95
Cheerful concoction of seven different varietals, blended together in a very drinkable christmas cake confection. Excellent value.

Sir Lambert Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Price: R78.95
A very impressive debut wine from the Lamberts Bay region. Good asparagus and gooseberry flavour associations, but most impressive is the minerality and the poise that this young wine already shows.

Now I’m no expert on wine, but Maytham is – he knows about “tannin structures” and talks about “restrained oaking” and “black pepper and spice and savoury charcuterie on the nose”.
I, on the other hand know about “colour” and talk about “red” and “white”. And I’m nearly always correct once it’s out of that confusing green bottle.

But all is not well with the Maytham wine review. As he revealed this evening, each time he does his review, he is hit with a whole plethora* of correspondence accusing him of promoting and encouraging alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Are they serious?!? Well yes, apparently, they are. And Maytham addresses their concerns by describing his review as promoting the responsible enjoyment of an alcoholic drink, in a responsible manner; as a legal and informative review of local produce.

And, of course, he’s completely right.

What these correspondents don’t seem to realise is that if John Maytham was doing a wine review in order to encourage alcoholics and promote alcohol abuse, it would be much more like this:

Agama Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Price: R65.95
White wine. Good on cereal at breakfast time. Tastes like grapes. Bloody expensive and only 12%.

Klein Steenberg Cabernet 2006
Price: R49.95
This one is red. Tasted bloody awful with my morning biscuits. Second bottle was better. 15% alcohol. That’s almost like a sherry. Yeah baby!

Cellarhand Backchat Blend 2006
Price: R19.95
Less than R20! Love it! Don’t think it tastes great, so best to down it in one. Thish ish an everyday wine and I like to drink it every day. Ish lovely.

Label Completely Blurred 2007
Price: R78.95
Eighty Randsh?!? Eighty?!? Thatsh jusht tooooo expeshive. I could get loadsh of voddy for that. Loadsh! Hey Boet! Hey there – are you looking at my girl? Nah – thatsh ok, you’re my besshtesht mate. I love you. I do.

At this point, there would be a clunk as his head hit the desk in front of him, followed the sound of loud, drunken snoring and the show would promptly end; the ensuing silence probably hastily filled in with some Josh Groban album or something. And I think we can all agree that promoting Josh Groban is clearly far more serious than promoting alcohol abuse.
So I think it’s to everyone’s advantage that Mr Maytham continues to do his weekly review in a responsible and adult manner. Keep up the good work, John.

* yes, a whole plethora. No half plethorae here.

To sleep, perchance to dream

I couldn’t sleep last night. It was a combination of things which prevented my slumbers.

The heat was the obvious one. Considering we’re supposed to be well into autumn now, with the leaves taking on a rusty hue and the evenings closing in, it was a bloody hot, still night last night. I blame Al Gore.
Those sort of evenings bring out the mozzies, whose delicate whine and constant movement keeps the mind fully occupied like a blindfolded Luke Skywalker with a light sabre, trying to eliminate them in the dark.
And then when you finally do get to sleep, it’s a fitful sleep, punctuated with dreams about Svetlana Boguinskaya’s floor exercise routine at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and getting the number 3 pencil coil replaced on your car the next morning. Until… all is finally peaceful both in and outside your mind.

And then the mosquitoes come back for dessert.

Anyway, while I was suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous insomnia, the results of the SA Blog Awards 2008 were being announced at the UCT Tennis Club, which – I presume, anyway – has air conditioning. And I didn’t win. Some have already suggested that the results were rigged like a Spanish galleon, but I couldn’t possibly agree with that sentiment*.

6000 miles… came:
5th in South African Weblog of the Year
4th in Best South African Personal Blog
2nd in Best Original Writing on a South African Blog and
2nd in Best Post on a South African Blog for The Big South African Crime Post.
(If you haven’t read this yet, why not?)

It’s a more than reasonable result when you consider that with 3 days of nominations still to go, there had been 4000+ nominations for 900+ blogs. And then in the voting, thanks to your support, 6000 miles… punched well above its weight against some really big guns in each of the categories it was nominated in.
I really appreciate your efforts.

Next year is my year. Possibly, anyway.

* …in public.

South Africa’s Electricity Crisis – Update

My South Africa’s Electricity Crisis post has turned out to be one of the more popular ones on this site, so with there being significant developments in the ongoing saga, I thought I’d update you, the 6000 miles… reading public, with the latest news.

As from Monday, we now have pre-emptive load shedding. Which means that now we are told in advance via schedules when our electricity will be cut and we can plan around it. We can pre-empt the pre-emptive load shedding, if you will. This makes things a whole lot easier. In fact, when you know that you’ll have no power for two hours at 10am on a Tuesday, you can work through almost seamlessly.
But it’s still not enough for some people.

The recent change in tactics comes simply because people in South Africa have not saved enough electricity to avoid mandatory power cuts. We were asked as electricity consumers to save 10%, we didn’t – it’s that straightforward.
It has polarised public opinion, according to the media. As a country, we are now split into two groups (something we’re rather used to here in SA) – the Savers and the Moaners.
This is actually not strictly accurate: there is the third group – quite a large group – which never had the luxury of electricity to begin with. I hesitate to call them the Dark People for obvious reasons. Anyway, they don’t count here, apparently.

The Savers (and I count myself among this group) cut down their electricity use. We installed energy saving CFL lightbulbs, we switched our geysers (water heaters) off for several hours each day, we stopped using standby on the TV etc etc.

The Moaners (quite rightly) blamed Eskom and the Government for the crisis and refused to do anything to help. Consequently, despite the best efforts of the Savers, we are back onto not having any power at certain times of the week.  And this time, it isn’t the fault of Eskom or Government, it’s the fault of the Moaners. Because you see, they had the opportunity to avoid this situation but they chose not to.
Instead, they keep working on their time machines in an effort to go back to 1998 and pre-empt the whole thing. Which obviously won’t work, because if they had managed it, we wouldn’t be having the problems now. Although there’s always the chance that they might stop their parents from ever meeting, which would be a welcome development (if you enjoyed Back to the Future trilogy, you’ll understand where I’m coming from).

Look, it’s not an ideal situation, but at least it’s an improvement on what we had before. What irritates me is that with a little more public buy-in, it could have been even better. We could have avoided having power cuts at all, but you people thought it was better to whinge than to actually do something about it. And guess what, judging by what I’ve heard on the TV and radio, you still think it’s better to whinge than to actually do something about it. Idiots.

Finally – “just” 800 days until the start of the 2010 World Cup and every one of our stadiums is on or ahead of schedule. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Wembley. 

The 6000 miles My CokeFest 2008 review

Snappy title, eh?

Once again, I was blown away by the differences between UK and South African concerts. People here are so conservative. To be honest, I’m glad I did things this way around. I’d be bloody terrified if I found myself down at the front at Glastonbury if I’d only ever done SA gigs before. There’d be other people around for starters. Within touching distance and everything.

So yes – things started a little quietly, despite the promised 100,000 watts of music power.

First up, local boys Shy Guevaras. Great start. If you’re looking for a good example of their work, try Little Suzie, which you can download for free – gratis! – here. And I advise that you do exactly that.

Next: Van Coke Kartel. Bloody dreadful. High point of their shouty, amateur performance was some pelicans flying overhead. Never seen that at a rock concert before.

Thankfully, Prime Circle reaffirmed our faith in South African bands. Given the honour of being to only SA band to perform at both MCF gigs, they did a tidy, if unspectacular, run through of all their favourites, finishing with a big performance of Live This Life.

And then the much vaunted international acts. Starting with Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars. Now here, I had a bit of an issue. I’m not a huge fan of the music and I am not a huge fan of the hype surrounding Mr Leto.
I so wanted to hate them.
But I was actually very impressed. Sickeningly impressed. Grr.

Without a doubt, 30STM (or more particularly, Jared) took the award for Best Showmanship of the Day. There were more F-words than in Chapter 6 of the Oxford English Dictionary, plenty of utterly outrageous posturing, heaps of repeated praise for “this beautiful country” and even a climb to the stage roof about 25 metres up.

30 Seconds to Mars      Up there! Stage left!
30 Seconds to Mars. Can you spot monkey boy in the second pic?

With my first unforeseen highlight still sinking in, on came Kaiser Chiefs. I was very concerned that they would bomb completely – when you look at the the line up, they stuck out like a pale face in Uganda.
But maybe the heavy rockers needed a break. A bit of fun. Some choons. Maybe their infectious energy spilled out over the crowd, still a little overwhelmed from being called “Mutha******s” eleven times in a single sentence. Whatever the reason, Ricky Wilson soon had them won over and, despite almost killing himself with an impromptu race around the Golden Circle, he came a close second to Leto for sheer audacity.

Ricky Wilson      Sing!
Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson having it large – ambidextrously

Look, I’m not going to lie to you here. We watched Good Charlotte and Chris Cornell from a distance. I was in need of food, the wife suddenly remembered that she was 5 months pregnant and needed a break and Good Charlotte are not only gruellingly commercial to listen to, but are also pretty unpleasant to look at as well. Especially if, like me, you have a mild aversion to tattoos.

Chris Cornell played at dusk and was all atmospheric, polite, steady and professional. He did his Bond theme, he did some Audioslave stuff, he did Black Hole Sun. There was a distinct lack of excitement though, but hey, the guy is 43 years old. Bless.

And then. Muse. Had I built them up too much?  I almost did that with REM. But no. They were everything I expected and a whole lot heavier on top. It was an hour long set and it went by in 5 minutes. That’s how good it was.
And the crowd went wild. For a band that get very limited airplay over here, they certainly have a big following.

Muse      Matt Bellamy 
Muse. Wow.

Musically, it was impressive too. I don’t want to come over all knowledgeable like some sort of sycophantic expert muso (geddit?!?) or anything, but jislaaik! Matt Bellamy knows what he’s doing with a guitar. And a piano. Awesome.

And then we left the gig with several thousand others (I did warn you that would happen) and listened to Korn from the house. Which was still a bit too close really.

All in all, a great experience. Some disappointing bits, but with 9 bands on the bill, you’re going to be lucky to like them all. 5/9 was a pretty acceptable result and the 5 in question were particularly impressive.

Photos are on flickr, as I hinted earlier and as several hundred people have already worked out. Enjoy.