Poor show

I think when you watch a romcom and at the end, when the main guy and his true love find each other, you are sorry, then the movie is not a success.

I also think that Patrick Dempsey will never make the same seamless transition from heartbreak hospital doctor to Hollywood A-list leading man that George Clooney did. I suspect he has the wrong hair.

Made of Honour – eTV’s chick flick offering this evening – is a terrible film, so bad that I cannot spend a lot of time on it not even to slag it off. Director Paul Weiland honed his skills in TV comedy; according to the IMDb copious episodes of Mr Bean were what prepared him for this dull romance, and it shows.

Weiland nearly overcame his unfortunate professional beginnings when he directed Rosanna’s Grave, which was charming and well constructed and weighed down only by the bewildering variety of non-Italian Latin actors faking Italian accents. Ok.  I exaggerate. Only both the leads were non-Italian Latins. Whatever.

But MoH clunks along, cringe by cringe, to a predictably unlikely happy ending. I fantasised that Tom (Patrick) would just keep on going back to NYC, instead of grabbing a horse and racing along the shores of a Scottish loch to say those three little words to the woman about to marry Kevin McKidd (also a Grey’s Anatomy vet) in order to win her heart after being inspired by a sheep dog to do so. But of course he did not, and the film would be poorer for it if it was possible to be poorer than utterly destitute. In the city of cinema, Made of Honour can’t afford a trailer in the park, and grabs some shuteye on a bench in the early morning hours when its aching extremities and hunger pangs are eventually numbed by sheer exhaustion. Really.

“No!” I silently willed Hanna (Michelle Monaghan), taking another sip of Hartenberg chard. “Marry Colin (Kevin) instead!” (In my book he was all the yummier for being an actual Scot.)  Of course she didn’t, and I suspect that when she eventually said “I do” to McDreamy on a New York city rooftop, she was sorry.

Or not. Either way, it would have been easier, probably, to suspend disbelief in the tooth fairy. If one had to choose.

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Reality Bites

Ok. I am watching the Saturday night movie on a screen that lacks snow, floating lines and ghost vision – you know when you have double vision while watching TV and you have only been drinking tea all night. That kind of vision. Yes, I know, the period in which this is believable is the nineteen eighties. Still, I know for a fact that since then I spent at last one Saturday night drinking tea. But I am veering off track. I am grateful that I am not driving.

The short version is that since my last blog in (gasp!) early August, Lily sent Elias to slip notes under all the doors in Hampshire House advising occupants that people will come to install the DSTV cables. And so they did. The white cable edged unobtrusively on on top of the skirting, around the corner, behind the TV stand.  There the end was lassoed and tied. Ah good, I thought, when I get DSTV in the near or far future,  or even five years from now, I don’t have to do the whole dish thing.

But there was more. On a Saturday morning, some few days after the installation, I kissed darling goodbye outside the front door and there were guys busy with the new cables some way down the corridor. We waved good morning.  Darling went. Seconds later there was a knock on the door and a very short fellow appeared and asked if I had been “connected”. “You must really struggle to reach things on the top shelf,” I restrained myself from saying and let him in to connect me. I was not afraid. Although he had the lean, edgy and rugged good looks of a young Mel Gibson in a post-mullet universe, he must have stood no higher than 5’2” in his Cats. If the morning was going to turn into bad slasher flick, it was most likely going to be Defence of the 50 Foot Woman.

Anyway, I cleaned the house while he fiddled with the cable, and when he left, I had a perfect picture on my own TV, for the first time since I have owned one.

Ok.  So. See? Vaguely entertaining as that might be, it is neither interesting nor replete with universal truths, which is why I am not writing a lot on the blog.  I will look our for more interesting things to write about when I am not rolling the research-report roller-coaster of ecstasy and despair.

(The despair is mostly about the fact that I have discovered that for the report to be really good, I may to go back to the public-sphere theoretical framework, and that is very hard on the brain.)

And so on. Perhaps tomorrow morning’s papers will be fun.

Just when you thought it could not get any worse

I still use bunny ears – or an equivalent – to tune into the public broadcaster and eTV.  I have had brief fantasies about the perfect picture that a satellite dish and an exorbitant monthly subscription (I think R600-ish a month to watch Masterchef Australia once a week and Super Rugby/Tri-nations once a year is more than a little steep) would bring, but not many.  If I watch without my glasses I don’t really notice the speckle and the fuzzy edges and anyway my expectations of the channel offerings are not high. Anything worth watching is usually scheduled after my bedtime, although it was my intention to break to the rules tonight to catch the new (sic) CSI New York at ten.

Considering all of the above, I was a little puzzled at my dismay when I switched on SABC3 shortly after eight. At first I thought I was watching a choir competition. The fellows sported brown shwe-shwe dashikis and crooned what I thought was something religious. I am accustomed to the fact that its economic woes meant that the SABC has had to rerun 20-year-old Afrikaans drama series to avoid hours of black screen, but the old TV2 and TV3 Sunday afternoon faire, I thought, was a new low.

But when the performance faded to a melodious halt, the man who dashed onto the stage to do the continuity presenting had a funny accent and soon lapsed into some French, which I thought made the whole affair a little more current. This, and the absolutely great suit he was wearing. While I was trying to Google the night’s TV schedule, a full symphony orchestra erupted in the early, delicate notes of Ravel’s Bolero and some ballerinas teetered into the frame.

Hmm. A variety show? As my computer booted up a male dance group joined the swaying swans. The guys were wearing plain white shirts and black pants and they were doing that very old Michael Jackson Thriller-type dancing, except that they were barely synchronised. And then some girl dancers came on with red costumes that were sort of Indian, and they immediately converged on centre stage to do the goddess Durga-lookalike thing when they crouch at various levels behind each other and stick their hands out and flutter them. Hmm. Cross-cultural, crossed purposes and generally pedestrian. I managed to open Chrome and typed in “what’s on SABC3 tonight”. At which stage everything was explained, if not clarified.

SABC3 was going to “cross live to the IOC opening ceremony in Durban”. JZ was going to speak. The Ravel persisted relentlessly, as it does, increasingly urgent and loud. Sanitised gumboot dancers came on to add to the symbolic cultural diversity. I looked at my watch. They were supposed to cross to Top Billing at 8.30, according to the announcement, and it was already 8.38. I wondered if JZ was still going to speak. But then the music terminated and the continuity announcer was back, this time with a sidekick. More English and French, and then more dancers, this time with flags. I knew what I was looking at, but not sure why. I was not sure why the show took the form it did. The orchestra indicated there was lots of money thrown at it – the size of the cast. But who in this day and age designed a variety show with such a budget? I imagined that even Mbongeni Ngema could do better in an afternoon.

I recognised the flag of South Korea. Well, I knew it was one of the two (Google again). Now there is something we could call an actual legacy of the 2010 WC. More South Africans now know more international flags than ever before.

SABC3 cut to Top Billing. Seeing Ursula Stapelfeldt sparkle in an overdesigned house was almost a relief.

Well, maybe

I have always been a great fan of the saying, “if you keep too much of an open mind, your brain will fall out”. I do not have many principles, but this aphorism has been useful and encouraging for at least a decade (I cannot remember when I first read it, but it feels like a decade ago) at the grindstone, so I have embraced it as such. Still, now, with age and other wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, another thought, or question, keeps niggling at me. How much is too much? How open is too open?

The question is not the result of idle speculation. I am not a philosopher, even though I sometimes wonder if my true love was that guy who thought I knew a lot about Nietzsche when I did not twenty years ago.  Of course I am not calling the demanding, even gruelling academic discipline of philosophy “idle speculation”. I have tried to read Thus Spoke Zarathustra a number of times since that first bunch of actual roses on Valentine’s Day, but have not managed, to this day, to live up to the expectations I created by randomly quoting cool-sounding adages. I think you know what I mean.

Anyway. I honestly believe that we get smarter as we get older. This is, of course, assuming that we were smart to start off with. Without some initial smarts, this theory is just a theory.

When I think of myself at seventeen I don’t feel a great fondness for a braver, more innocent and more energetic version of myself. There are glimpses of the bull-headed naiveté that made it possible for a small-town girl to make a 30-minute fiction film in a big city when she knew virtually nobody, but just thought it was possible to do so. There is no nostalgia in the act of looking back, only small moments of horror. It’s no sentimental journey, no sir, just trip to Cringeville: the details are too harrowing to go into here.

But I should not be so hard on myself, or in fact, young people in general. I turned out OK, you can take me anywhere, for sure, and just because I could read and write full sentences in two languages by the time I finished school, it does not make me better than the average high school graduate in a post-apartheid South Africa.

But back to the open mind. How open is too open? One of my other favourite quotes that I hesitate to use since the disappointing Nietzsche incident is by Albert Einstein: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. Although it is tempting for an exceedingly smart person to believe that the world is wrong and she is right (as a rule) eventually she must be overwhelmed by the volume and duration of idiocy she will be confronted during her lifetime, and she must see the sense in capitulation as a practical alternative to shuffling off the mortal coil in sheer exasperation. I exaggerate of course.

It will be hard to embrace the idea that in spite of knowing how the world should be, I should try to live in it as it is. That is – for me – incredibly open-minded. It may sound like a step in the the right direction, but even so, as I go, I think I will be holding my head. Just in case.

You don’t say

Again, no really, cell phones are a potential cancer risk. How is this news? Etv reported tonight that the WHO is considering classifying cell phones as potentially carcinogenic. Are you kidding me? Have they lost tonight’s bulletin and read the 1 June, 2001 bulletin by mistake?

Growing children whose brains are allegedly still developing are at greater risk – still. Greater than what, one would ask. Greater than an irritated adult in a movie theatre threatening to drag the kid outside and phone her parents if she did not stop Mxit-ing during Pirates of the Caribbean? Again, as they say, The Research is still inconclusive. For many years now, I believe.

One can only hope that that The Research will be able to prove, soon, that cell phone use in excess of ten (fifteen?) minutes a day really does cause cancer, and we may all be saved from the offense of individuals in restaurants, in queues and apparently, soon next to you on Kulula, who believe that being out of reach for even a second will have terrible consequences for the very fabric of space and time. I am an imaginative human being, and I cannot possibly imagine what those consequences would be, especially since I am no longer in TV production and have never been in advertising. If it is vital to be in contact with your co-workers or your mother, stay in the office or at home; don’t go out to lunch or shopping in Hyde Park.

I would celebrate such proof, personally. Conclusive evidence of cell phones’ cancer-causing properties must surely put in motion government efforts to ban their use in public. And if that takes as long as it takes the phone companies to blow ten years’ legal fees, popular culture and the modern inclination of parents to combat every single potential health risk to their offspring would surely lead to a reduction in the scourge forthwith.

Some would persist in unmitigated use, of course. We have known that cigarettes cause cancer for years and still, outside the steep inclines of 25 Owl Street, hundreds of call centre operators still suck deeply on their nicotine fix a couple of times a day – even when the temperature outside has dropped to zero and the wind cuts through glass.

No, they don’t call it Crackberry for nothing.

So, in the same vein, one would be able ask one’s guests not to take phone calls in one’s house – not that they do in mine, for some reason. But more importantly, when you don’t want to take someone’s call or must cut a terminally dull conversation short, you could legitimately claim that you have, or are about to, exceed your cancer-free allowance for the day. I think it would be fantastic. Even without an incentive to reduce my cell-phone use by ten per cent, in the winter, or at any other time, I could cut it down by ninety per cent to a total of ten seconds per day and be the happier for it. If others managed to do the same, I may quite possibly up my private-to-friend-time ratio.  I would actually consider having more friends than I do now. But that is a different blog and possibly a reason to seek professional help.

Back to tonight’s news. The real reason why I started blogging tonight was the headline that Cosatu was threatening to take legal action at Constitutional Court in the face of the imminent Protection of Information Bill.

I guess I just got side tracked. I wanted to say roughly the same thing about the PIB and its big mate, the MAT (Media Appeals Tribunal) than I did about the staggering cell-phone-cancer revelations but to say it about the PIB requires less ranting and more referencing. So that will have to wait until tomorrow. No, really.

Shocking, really

Jill Greenberg "The Truth"


So according to News24, the ANC feels that acting judge Leon Halgryn “appears to have misunderstood the nature of the relief which was sought by the ANC.” On Monday in the South Gauteng High Court the judge said that “the publication and chanting of the words ‘dubula ibhunu’, prima facie (should that be “prima facie-ly”?) satisfies the crime of incitement to murder”, and refused the ANC leave to appeal, so now they are “perturbed and shocked”.

I think that the language of the statement reveals the essence of The Ruling Party’s relationship with the universe of their planet. I someone disagrees with The Party, the person must be deficient: clearly the judge misunderstood the “nature of the relief” they “sought”. They sought legal sanction for acting like bombastic despots who can ransack the spirit of our constitution and plunder its intentions. And, in the predictable manner of a (very) rich spoilt brat who had a whim refused by its nanny, it is “shocked”. Poor baby. (I think it is safe to go with the nanny metaphor… I  like the idea of our justice system babysitting the ANC.)

Really. Their spin doctor should be fired.

Today I am going to work, and at five I am going  to vote.  [Note to self: must remember green ID book.]

Resuming the position

Don't be ridiculous. This is Ayn Rand.

So it is of course flattering when people say they miss your blog, and inquire why you have not been writing it. “Is jy besig meisie?” Giulietta asked me before the Lions game the other day – the one even before they were so thrashed by the Cheetahs – to which I could barely reply before she continued with, “Jy moet ophou naai, dissie goed vir jou nie.” Well there you have it. The reason I have been lax in my duties to my body of writing work is my one-year-old relationship. Instead of practicing the penpersonship that is going to have to keep poverty from the door once I am too old and too nasty to employ in the company of (or with) other people, I while away my non-income-earning hours in love-soaked delirium. Not.

It is because I go excessively to gym, just in case my love’s interest may really start to wander in the direction of two lithe and uncomplicated twenty-one-year olds I often suggest he might want to replace me with at some point. Not.

No. If the real reason had to stand up, it would be the one on the left called guilt. I did not finish my masters last year like I should have, and have re-registered this year so that I can complete my research report and collect a degree. However, since I have registered I have not done much toward it. Initially I was quite confident that I would make the six-month August deadline that would get me half my money back. Now I am almost sure that I am only going to hand it in at the end of the year. But things have started moving along for various reasons.

Leslie wrote on Basecamp that the university could no longer carry unfinished post graduate degrees, and when we had breakfast to talk about it, I understood why. It’s not the more than 20 unfinished masters’ research reports that are the problem, but the lack of potential supervisors to to supervise the writing of said reports. I guess I get that. In response to her suggestion that I then “book my place” asap, I assured her that I am good to go, and can deliver something as early as next week. Now I have to sit down and actually write something, and I thought the blog would be a good place to start. Although it is not the research report itself, it is ABOUT the report, and it is more constructive than cleaning the house again.

And after all, it was Giulietta who suggested that I blog about the report. I think she might have wanted to say, “for fuck’s sakes, WRITE SOMETHING,” and this suggestion popped out of her mouth instead, but look what it has achieved. Something on paper. I feel pretty good.

Imitating Art

I watched Jamie on TV last night: he was in Venice, trying to improve on carpaccio, Giuseppe Cipriani’s signature dish in perhaps the most famous and enduring Italian restaurant of all time – Harry’s Bar. Instead of the pale drizzle of mustard sauce which, in combination with the glistening red of the finely sliced beef inspired the name of the dish (the colours reminded Guiseppe of the work of Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio), Jamie heaped a pile of shaved zucchini, radicchio and mint on it and drizzled it with vinaigrette.

It looked very pretty, at least, but it’s probably not culinary art.

After that he tried to add melted chocolate to tiramisu. Of course you can add chocolate to coffee-soaked savoiardi, top it with an egg-mascarpone sabayon liberally laced with alcohol, and sprinkle cocoa on top. It would probably be delicious. It would just not be tiramisu. Jamie calls this concoction “my chocolatey tiramisu”. What is that? What would he do next? Add potatoes to the ossobuco and call it “ossobuco Dublin”? I really do appreciate cross-continental-(I know to the rest of us Britain is a small misty island, but the Brits still think they own half the world)-fusion-cook-anything-you-friggen-like-together-type cuisine, but let’s call a spade a spade.  Veal-shin-and-potato stew would not be ossobuco. Jamie’s probably delicious pud with eggs an’ a bit o’ “maascarpony” is not tiramisu. (I think.) Jamie cooks Italian just like he speaks it. He knows the words, but when he puts them together the result is not quite… Italian. And now I am going to stop using hyphenated compound adjectives.

In spite of the alarming number of cookbooks I have, I do not have a single one by Jamie Oliver. I am not sure why. There is nothing new, exiting or particularly revealing about his books. They are average books for average cooks, and I guess that is their appeal. The only time that I felt vaguely wistful about anything Jamie Oliver did was when he drove an old camper van all over Italy and ventured to cook with the locals in every province. Now that, for me, is a dream. Even so, when the response to his cooking was “good, but not Italian”, I felt a little vindicated. When the Italian farmers made him kill the lamb he was going to cook, his tears irritated me. It irritates me when people who cook meat are squeamish about the truth of how it reaches the pot. Only vegetarians are allowed to cry.

Anyway. The reason I got to be irritated with Jamie the choir boy is that I had access to DSTV, on account of spending the night in a very nice hotel room in Woodstock, Cape Town. No, really – there are hotels in Woodstock. Or one, anyway, and it is surprisingly lovely. Amidst the factories, towards the Roodebloem-highway side of Woodstock, is this brand new hotel with decently sized rooms, crisp and thick cotton sheets, acceptable room-service food and DSTV.

I am here for the Impumelelo “Beyond Talk” skills workshop. Tomorrow I have to give, for the first time in my life, a PowerPoint presentation. Fortunately it will be short, and I have a video to show.

(I admit that I no longer remember what I was going to say about the rest of my holiday since my last holiday post, other than that it was wonderful and that I saw, for the first time, places everybody should see before they die: the Swartberg pass, Meiringspoort, the Langkloof, and  kilometres of deserted road in the vicinity of the South African coast during the summer holidays.)

Would be a shame

The blog is not for advertising stuff – I am against advertising in principle. But Big Fish still has some spaces left in their 2nd year drama and doccie courses – fully sponsored tuition – and it would be a shame not to fill them. The course is eight months, full time, and really for people who have some grounding in film already (proof of any writing, editing, camera or production work is required): absolute beginners are accepted into the entry-level programme and that one is bursting at the seams.

To get in you have to love movies.

The training is project-based (3-5 films in the year) and hands-on (industry professionals teach small classes).

Doccie course starts 15 Feb (2 places available) and the drama course on 22 March (6 places). Contact Connie Mosegedi on 011 482 5599 or email on mosegedic@bigfish.org.za.

…and a Happy New Year.

Quiver tree forest, Gannabos

I have not written for a long time, and it’s beginning to be a bit weird. But there is no use crying over spilt writing opportunities; today is the last day of the first month of the new year, and since January screamed past like it had a hot poker up its ass and it was looking for some water, there is no reason to believe that February might not do the same.

When I told Evan (best physiotherapist in the world, really) last week that I was going back to gym this year, he also pointed out that 2011 was well into its third week, and, like, so…? Well… I promptly went back to gym.

As a rule, I don’t look too far back when I have been lax in my updates here, because so much interesting stuff happens every day that is worth mentioning. Thinking about it now, it is a wonder that I have time for a relationship at all. Unlike the pivotal question of whether or not three bags of Rwandan Kivu from Bean There equal three bags of La Piramide from Switch, the blog and its take on the wonders of life has not been the cause of underlying tension a’tall. No, really.

But this time I am going to make an exception, mostly because I schlepped my laptop along on a 4000km, 16 day, 10-stop road trip (looking back, I recant everything I ever said about folk who had a wonderful time on a five-day-six-city-kontiki tour to Europe), and took the time to make notes for the blog whenever darling and I were not speaking to each other. When I opened the notes today they were a little more than 1500. It meant that although I had time to write, I did not have a lot of it. I thought of the mixed feelings jokes: a man hears his mother-in-law drove his new car into the river; a woman tells her husband, “darling, you really do have a bigger penis than your best friend”, and so on.

We really had a wonderful holiday, and we saw the most astonishing places. Here is the short-hand version.

Day 1: 19 December

Not much moves in Carnavon on a Sunday afternoon, other than a couple of chickens in a couple of chicken-wired yards, and the wind through the tops of the blue gums in the municipal caravan park, which makes it more than a little spooky.

The park was well sign-posted and easy to find, but its apparent desolation was a little depressing after a nine-hour drive. There were five or six cars from different parts of the country parked in front of what turned out to be the caretaker’s house, but no man or woman was in sight. What was clearly displayed on the gate, however, was an unambiguous picture of a dog with fearsome fangs, so when it turned out that the bell on the fence was connected only to a short piece of wire flapping in the wind, we decided not to go in and knock on the door.

A man stepped out of the single caravan parked about a hundred metres from the house and started to fiddle with his mobile satellite dish. He did not look dangerous, so we went over to find out what was up, and he told us. He had sores on his legs. When I glanced at the open door I saw a dusty and lonely counter top piled with cables. Carl thought that he was a travelling contractor of sorts. He never unhooked the bakkie he was hitched to, and the next day we passed him twice on the way to Williston and Calvinia – twice because we stopped to take pictures of the corbelled houses. I think he may almost have been the only other car on the road in a landscape littered with tight piles of black rock. I fantasised that a huge, prehistoric antelope dumped all over the place – made bokdrolletjies – and that grass grew between the petrified excrements.

Oh yes. Camping space in Carnavon was R20 for the night – without electricity, which could be had for an extra R2,50.

Day 2 & 3: 20 & 21 December

We passed right through Calvinia, thinking that we would stop for supplies (head of lettuce, lamb chops, tomatoes, cheddar – hardly gourmet stuff) in Nieuwoudtville instead. “Well, there’s a decision you’ll live to regret,” the butcher said after telling us that her lamb chops had been sold out, as had any other chops one could care to mention. They had tongue, soutvleis, gammon and some beef and chicken sosaties that looked reasonably attractive. We hovered over the fridge, a little puzzled that in an area where the only animals you see in miles and miles of nothingness are sheep, the only butcher in a 70km radius has run out of lamb chops.

Two packs of sosaties later we arrived at the Cape Nature Conservation office to get a camping permit for the Oorlogskloof nature reserve . The young woman behind the desk was helpful, friendly and clueless about the site itself.

There was not much by the way of an actual camp site. There was a shaded parking lot, but no ablutions to speak off. There was a long drop but no washing area. Carl looked around hopefully, and walked and prodded a bit, and the longer he did that, the more I panicked. “But baby,” I wailed, “why do we have to stay here if it is completely horrible?” I would like to think that my personal distress prompted him to get in the car with me, but I know, in my heart, that it was the emptiness of the water bowser near the entrance that moved him. He is nothing if not a sensible camper. We crawled back to Nieuwoudtville, reclaimed our monies and set off in search of the municipal caravan park – seeing that our first experience (Carnavon) was not a disaster.

We never quite made it there, as the local estate agent has cunningly opened a caravan facility en route to the municipal one, and by mistake, we stopped there and inquired. It was pricey by comparison, R150 for the night, but he also immediately offered us the self-catering guest house on the property for R150 per person per night, and there was no contest, really. Nieuwoudtville completely redeemed itself.

We hiked the kloof the next day, in better spirits, carrying our own water, and later on we drove to the waterfall and the quiver tree forest.

Day 4 & 5:  22 & 23 December

Cederberg / Sanddrift camp site

“If there is a lonely road, we have travelled it,” darling said on the pass down from the Nieuwoudtville escarpment. The names in the map – Bokkeveld, Namakwaland, Hantam Karoo – rolled off the tongue with ease. We crossed the Droërivier.  I thought of other Afrikaner names that were either utterly functional or self-fulfilling prophesies: Ouboet, Tiny. You have a lot of time to think about stuff on a road in the Northern Cape.

We stopped in Clanwilliam. Carl was expecting some work e-mail, and sniffed about for a 3G signal, which he found on a bench in the street. He sat down and downloaded. He looked like an internet bergie.  Further down the road was the Yellow Allow Coffee Shop. They had decent apple pie, omelette and you could bring our own wine. I hauled the ½ bottle of GC Tortoise Hill out of the cooler box. It was not my shift behind the wheel, and I was in the mood. We sat on the stoep. Carl ordered “tap water”. “’Kraan water” the waitress corrected him, but he shook his head. “Kraan water,” he said in a thick English accent, “klink soos Valpre,” and the waitress laughed a lot.

She plugged in my computer for me, and I downloaded non-work e-mail and made notes.  I wished for a moment that I wrote what Giulietta calls “this crap” for a real magazine, so that I could tell people what great service-with-a-smile we got in Clanwilliam.

And so on to the Cederberg, and real magic.