I like to say that my favourite position is on my back on the couch in front of the TV. I have others, I guess, but on a Friday night, this one is the undisputed champion. I have just witnessed the blossoming of yet another ugly duckling on Style by Jury (my personal version of Shabbat) and am engaging with e-tv’s Friday Action Night: Predator vs. Alien.

It has been a helluva week. I socialised like a teenager, going out no less than twice in the middle of the week. The District 9 premier on Wednesday night was probably the biggest social event I have been to since my (only ever) trip to the Loeries in 1995. (Shut up.) I loved the film without reservation, because I believe it has no pretence. It is a wonderfully constructed, wickedly witty and utterly irreverent. (I am tossing any resolutions I may have had about cutting down on the adjectives in the last few months and I am letting rip, just for tonight.) The Admiral (celebrity film critic of whom we are not worthy) was not impressed. He did not like the ending (for reasons which I thought were bullshit; for me the ending was faultless) and objected to the fact there were no good black role models in the film. I pointed out that there were no good white role models either, but he disagreed, suggesting that the hero was a “cool guy”.

I don’t think the Admiral really understands that to Afrikaners who feel that they that have not only survived their historical baggage but overcame it, a thick-moustache’d, thick-accented, racist white Afrikaner male, in charge of what amounts to the forced removal of another race to a location out of sight of the status quo, is not a cool guy. Sorry Admiral, but Wikus (played by Sharito Copely) the worst example of what J Krishnamurti calls a “dull” person. The fact that he hooks up with someone he persecuted does not redeem him and it does not save him, and it certainly does not make him cool. He pays. The irony of his waiting is as thick as peanut butter.

In theory, Wikus is at least as offensive to us (see above) as Kenneth Nkosi saying “Ja baas” to his white military commander is to, well, Carlo Matabane. Carlo was so incensed that he told everybody at the after party at the Rosebank Hotel that he can also do clichés and that he was going to make a film about black men raping white women.

In my mind’s eye I saw the headline “HOLLYWOOD BOX OFFICE HIT BOMBS WITH SA BLACKS”. And not only, actually. Old white lefties, left and right, all were upset and quite damning. There were accusations of it being “obvious” to which Ken Kaplan responded, well, Shakespeare is also quite obvious. To say that the film was riddled with clichés would be an understatement, but I think they were its modus operandi, and when it comes to suspension of disbelief, they are not per se offensive. There was the beginning of a parody-vs.-satire discussion at the bar, but I found it a waste of time for one in the morning. (In spite of the time and the consumption, I feel that I really nailed the definition of each when asked to.)

What part should have been written for the good black role model? I asked Mandy at an earlier stage between drinks. There were no good guys in the film, really. She thought the lead could have been black. Why? I asked. Why make the lead a black guy for the sake of being politically correct? Are we so guilty that nothing can be OK, or funny, or allowed to be original, without it having been PC’d?

There was much more, of course. The Apartheid parallels: the forced removals, the isolation in townships, the absurd discrimination based on fear and ignorance, the violence of people stripped of humanity and dignity… the images stopped short of people being covered in car tyres, doused with petrol and set alight. And then, the most chilling line of the film… “one prawn, one bullet”. One should perhaps not be surprised that it hit a nerve. Even so, the cliché was edgy and raw and I think it held up the mirror to everybody.

And let’s face it: is it not at the end of the day, in a country full of arseholes of all colours, the white man that is still short of redemption?

I don’t know. It is really possible to simply watch the film, be completely taken in by its utter South African-ness, the accents, the familiarity of the Johannesburg skyline, and be amazed that Americans bought it, lock, stock, and smoking AK47’s.

Anyway. Predator kicked alien ass, and the news proclaims that taxi drivers disrupting the BRT service on September 1 will be arrested and have their taxis confiscated. And the subject of Caster Semenya’s gender ambiguity will most certainly ruin her chances of retiring a running legend in ten-odd years’ time. Have you heard her telling her doubters to “go to hell” on the radio? She sounds like a guy. She looks like a guy. But tonight there are reports that racism might be the cause of the suspicion that she might be male. Caster’s teacher went on record on SABC3 to say, “White people don’t like it when black people win.” Only in this country would you actually see such a gross generalisation presented as legitimate opinion on the news. It is a little embarrassing, and does depress one a little.

I suppose history teaches us that we will never get over the race thing. So we can live with it or move to Spain. I bet Friday night on the couch will be at least as much fun over there.


Short cuts #1: good advice

# 1 Standard Wank

Earlier this afternoon I wished I had one of those T-shirts that Justin Nurse made, and which him made so unpopular with Standard Bank. I discovered today that they have been allowing an unknown person/entity (not MWeb, because I checked my account with them, and although they will also be losing my custom in the next 18 months or so, did not appear to be culpable here) to charge a monthly debit order against a credit card account that has been closed for more than two years. According to my statement I paid twice for my 3G/HSDPA contract this month.

I felt deeply injured, furious, in fact, and was determined to be satisfied, preferably in a duel to the death with someone from their customer service department. Weapons? Bare hands. I ranted on the phone, using terms and phrases such as “protection for the consumer inherent in the FICA regulations” and “ABSOLUTELY no proof of ANY such agreement between myself and the third party” and “isn’t there a banking ombud? There should be, because I have a story to tell him”. It was all at least as emotional as it sounds.

It took a perfectly reasonable woman called Venice (not like in Italy, but pronounced like Denise with a V), only a few hours of digging to discovered that MWeb had not been double-charging me. Since I knew that already, this nearly aggravated me even more. “This is absolutely certain,” Venice said, and it was hard not to throw down a glove. Turned out, however, that MWeb HAD been charging the old account and that “someone in the bank has been transferring the cost manually to the new account” but neglected to transfer a credit for the debited amount this month… or something like that.  Nothing is simple in banking. That’s why they drive their customers crazy. She sounded a little like that SABC journalist reporting from KZN during the ’94 elections who said, “somewhere, votes are being counted” after a couple of boxes went astray. Anyway. Venice also said she was going to credit my account, but will I phone MWeb and change the banking details? Which I did. All sorted out. So I had no beef with SB in the end, but I did get very worked up, which was exhausting.

# 2 Black dog

So after the extremely tiring event of sorting out my credit card statement, the black dog came, mainly because I actually had to look at said statement and realised that I was in quite a bit deeper than I thought. I must have suspected this all along, which would explain why I have been igorning it in the first place.  It was not only that, probably. I worked hard on my essay, I finished at 5.30 on Thursday morning, slept, woke up at one and proof-read it before I dropped it off. All good, one could argue. But it has been such a protracted and intensive event that I should have expected the Big Dip. I am going to make a new page and call it “Academe” and put that stuff there. Just so that you don’t think I am making all this shit up.

# 3 Europe’s funniest commercial

Unfortunately for the black dog Mandy sent me this… which cheered me up enough to pour myself a gin.

 # 4 Good advice to self

1. Check credit card statement every month. It is empowering and can save money.

2. Cancel party dates when it is cold and preferable to stay on the couch and watch the e-tv Friday night action flick.

3. Remebember never to have children. Be especially wary around folks who have very cute and well-behaved kids.  They can easily dupe you into thinking that all children are like that.

Too little too late

It is not a good thing when Friday inspires the kind of dread in you that is only matched by dreaming that you need to run away from terrible danger and you cannot feel your legs.

It is already after lunch, I am going for drinks at Giles at 4.30-ish, and I aim to squeeze in a session at the gym before I go (on account of the fact that I have become enormously fat since I turned 40 and alcohol consumption is simply one area of my diet where I cannot reduce my calorie intake because whisky makes me feel better than chocolate).

That leaves me 45 minutes in which to completely plan a two-day TV shoot next weekend, make a sizeable dent in the reading I have to do for my assignment due on the 9th, prepare for class next Thursday, write a blog and speak to Barbara about holding the fort while she goes away next week. Fortunately I read all the TV documentary treatments for the mentorship progamme this morning, or I really would have had a lot to do.

This is clearly ridiculous. What can anybody achieve in 45 minutes? Forty-five minutes cannot possibly claim to be AN ACTUAL amount of time, honestly. Nothing meaningful can be achieved in its duration. In fact, things you can do in 45 minutes should not make it into the history books and probably not even onto the list of things you will remember when you are old.

For example, it is barely enough time to have impromptu sex on the dining room table, if there was anybody around to have such sex with. I could call someone, but he is likely to promise to be “five.. six minutes”, and only arrive an hour later after continually swearing on the phone that he is “on his way” and “already in Parkhurst”.

I suspect that randomly available 45-minute instalments in the course of the average day is the reason why Continue reading