Notes on a Friday morning

I saw Jozi last night.

It was everything that the reviewers said it was: charming, endearing, off-beat and left-of-centre amusing, but in the end, no great shakes. (Sorry Robbie.)

What people did not say was that the team had a fantastic and rare opportunity to make a really interesting, and funny, and GOOD movie about Johannesburg. They had some money, they had the time (from conception to completion about four years, I think I heard) they had big-time producers that backed them and WANTED to make a film with them and considerable talent, to boot.

And they produced something that is amusing, but not in any way  impressive, or even particular.  I would call it, really, our first decent TV movie? I feel a little disappointed. (And I really thought the art direction was below par. It looked a little like a student film, from that point of view.) But anyway.

More entertaining by far, unfortunately, is the world at large this morning!

I don’t know where I have been but apparently Beki Cele will now be called “General Cele”. According to the Times this morning, the decision was approved by Cabinet. I am not surprised that they make time to spend on these issues, as discussions about corruption, crime and service delivery must be boring the shit out of them. Upping the rankings of the more colourful panjandrums must be a welcome diversion.

In a letter to the paper Prof Kader Asmal asks,

“Has the Cabinet taken loss of their senses, especially as another proposal was to change the name of the service to ‘Force’ as the deputy minister of police [Fikile Mbalula] with his enormous knowledge of warfare, now desires a military force, which presumably has been discussed in all ANC structures.”

His point is the militarisation of the police services, but I think that by exposing such whimsy as the passing of “idiotic proposals”, he is finally calling a guava a guava.

Also interesting is Gwede Mantashe’s suggestion that Julius’ “kill the boer” invocation at UJ this week should be seen in a “historical context” and that as such, there was nothing wrong with that particular bit of hate speech. Perhaps he has come to the conclusion that Julius really can replace him single-handedly with Fikile Mbalula in 2012, and is hedging his bets.  If we were really perverse, we could argue that Fikile is already building an army (see above) to prop up a classic African military regime. I can just see him and Julius in their camouflage and cigars, tossing valueless currency from the windows of a black state-of-the-art 4×4 in the middle of a two hundred meter convoy.

I sit at my desk of our new offices. The Nelson Mandela bridge is two blocks from my chair. The mid-morning Friday traffic is unhurried and smooth.

Suspense of disbelief

I am sorry, but that Robertson’s Spice ad where the mama tucks her chicken under her arm, scales the highest mountains and sails the roughest seas to get the best spice for it, is just incredible. Like, not credible. Like no sane person can believe it. I watch her shuffle to the quaint little shop next to her house with the chicken, uncovered, I watch her in the row boat and later, climbing majestic mountains in, perhaps, China or somewhere, and all I can think of is… salmonella. I am ready to bet my bottom dollar that the agents of Satan came up with an idea that their client hated, and bullied them into buying said terrible idea for hundreds of thousands during a very slick casting session… or something. Either way, Robertson’s should fire its communications manager or whoever approved the “ends of the earth” pitch. No food product should be that intimately associated visually, for an entire 30 seconds, with possibly gazillions of air-borne- and other pathogens.

No, really. The optimal temperature for pathogens to double in number every 20 minutes is between 5°C and 65°C. I would guess that the chicken in the ad maintained an average temperature of about 26°C for roughly four weeks. (Obviously I don’t think for a second that she rowed ALL the way to China or somewhere.) But let’s move along.

The other thing that is harder to believe than yet another Hollywood ensemble romcom (I have a strong feeling that Valentine’s Day is going to be at least as nauseating as Love, Actually) is how JZ is handling the 20th child debacle. Or 19th child debacle, according to the M&G.

It’s ongoing, it’s still being debated fiercely by radio hosts, callers-in and media scholars alike, and the papers just don’t seem to tire of it. So JZ apologised on the weekend, but nobody seems to buy it. He has apologised, the feeling seems to be, too many times in the past. For frack’s sakes (OK, I confess, I had a little BSG lapse on the weekend) the nation isn’t simply a big happy Catholic church. You don’t get sent home with some Our Fathers and instructions not to sin again every time you leave the confessional.

I really think our prez should get his very own ad agency and an image coach. And if he suspends Julius’s security detail, it won’t even cost the tax payer a cent.

Opportunity for Pravin

So the latest thing that has the DA (the hero on the white horse) frothing at the mouth is Julius Malema’s 24-hour security detail that has been approved by the police ministry as a result of actual death threats he has finally received.

I guess one should not be surprised. We know that Julius simply does not know when it is time to take his feet out of his mouth long enough to put a sock in it, and that eventually, the temptation to shut him up forever must become great. On the other hand, it is hard to believe that there is a person dumb enough to risk getting it up the bum in our correctional services facilities on that count.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu feels that the DA and ID’s objection to spending R300 000 a month on Julius is “outrageous and insensitive”.

The real problem with the cost is that Julius’ need for protection may outlive our capacity to run a fiscal deficit. I mean, can anybody really imagine a time in which somebody would NOT want to kill Julius Malema? It could turn out to be an expensive exercise.

This is, of course, a golden opportunity for Pravin to show us how he intends to root out wastage and corruption. Or is this what he meant by the “reprioritisation of public spending”? Is it?

You say you want a revolution

July was not Hayibo’s finest month, unfortunately, but they did write a vaguely amusing and completely necessary piece about the municipal workers having to pick up the rubbish they spread about the street when they go back to work the next day.

I have thought on more than one occasion that the party union should really have some effective disciplinary measures in place for the comrades striking municipal workers who just ignore the marshals’ hoarse reminders of the rules around not making more work for themselves in the morning. Like, a fine, for example. As Hayibo pointed out, these very messy affairs usually achieve an effective monthly salary increase of about R100, so if marchers actually had to pay for any damage they cause going down the road, they might not be so casual about mass destruction of property.

And the union itself should be fined. If they cannot discipline their members, and the members incur costs on behalf of the union (one could argue) then the union must pay. And I would imagine that such payment would come from the contributions made by its members. So again….

(The problem with our democracy, on all levels, I think, is the alarming lack on consequence as a result of any contravention of the law. Where does accountability start? Apparently not with Julius Malema, who has been quiet this week. Which must mean that he has not yet apologised to Sonke Gender Justice.)

I did a “what kind of communist are you” quiz on Facebook this morning and according to that, I am a “Trotskyist” (sic).  Complete crap, of course, as I do not believe in a dictatorship of the proletariat. (SA in particular; see above.) In fact, I fail to see how the idea of such a dictatorship developed in spite of Marx’s belief that the peasants were a sack of potatoes, and incapable of organising themselves. This MUST have been a bit of a stretch, even for the man himself. I think the quiz was designed by counter-revolutionary forces who want to discredit white single women.

I do believe in a permanent revolution, however, specifically in the areas of single womanhood and language. Language, particularly, is a site of struggle. Maybe it is time to rename the blog.

And that is all for Saturday morning, I am now going to bake a cake.

Things we cannot fix, it seems

So. Race divides us. But in a society where money can fix almost anything except death and a very unfortunate personality, it should be possible to remedy the primeval inclination to be suspicious, even dismissive, of people who are different from you. That is why yet another faction of life coaches makes a fortune out of teaching the people with unfortunate personalities how not to be rude to people of other races at work, or, generally, in public. Although one can get slapped with a hate-speech charge, the equivalent of community service in such a case could mean having to attend the type of workshop-seminar-course (WSC) as described above.

You sit in a circle and talk about your feelings… I think… I saw on TV once. It was in The Lab. Which could also mean that the director had no imagination and simply took his cue from the hundreds of Hollywood movies he has seen about alcoholics. Probably you get the point.

I suspect these don’t work. There are reasons why some people are racist, which are not only ingrained, but irrational, and which somehow serves that person’s unfortunate personality. Most probably they never really liked themselves, just like all the nice people they ever met. So in order not to be lonely, all they really have to offer a group of more than one, is a common hatred of other races. They would delude themselves either that they are somehow superior to these races, or that these races are somehow the very and direct cause of their misery, purely by virtue of having a skin colour different from their own. As I said, irrational.

But because their hatred somehow, in a very mysterious and frankly cheerless manner, serves them, and binds them to others, I believe it cannot be fixed. So. All they could really learn from said WSC is to, for fuck’s sake, shut it.

In theory, if the race tolerance classes could work, then sex tolerance classes should too, and be far more useful, I think. I am not talking about learning to accept your boyfriend’s proclivity for pornography or sex in public places. No, I am talking about Julius Malema.

I guess what is most extra-ordinary about his refusal to apologise, is that Julius is under the impression that HE is the one who decides what constitutes hate speech. There are hundreds of  white people who refer to black people as kaffirs, munts or brown-eyes, for example, and the majority of them will tell you that their use of such terms does mean that they are racist. These are just WORDS, they will insist, that they grew up with, and that is that. In the same way, men (black and white) will refer to women as chicks, birds, or bitches, and again, in their eyes, these are just words, these men don’t INTEND for these words to be offensive, and therefore they are not. The idea that we all have a right, by LAW, to dignity, and hence an obligation to respect said right of other people is really a concept beyond the reach of people who defend the use of racist and sexist terminology.

More than race, I think, sex divides us. And more than sex, stupidity does. Einstein (who supposedly also failed his final year in school so Julius is in good company), once said that “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

You cannot condemn a man for being an idiot. And since Julius is accusing Sonke Gender Justice Network’s Mbuyiselo Botha of being a white man who doesn’t like black leaders, it must be undisputed that Julius is as thick as two very short planks nailed together (nifty woodwork reference).

More alarming that this, however, is the failure of the ANC leadership, and particularly the almost 50% of women in that mix, to stand up and tell Julius to do the right thing. And for them to take him aside, and explain the terms “universal human rights”, “gender equality” and most of all, “respect”. They might insist that in the Julius Malema School of Politics, a course on universal platitudes must be compulsory (or they will tell the Chinese to take his funding away). For example, “it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all traces of doubt” would be excellent advice to anybody who ventures there, I am convinced.

Generally I find it all despicable; a grand display of a visionless, insensitive leadership. It is a failure to serve our democracy and to uphold the ideal of equality for all, regardless of race or sex.

…Ok… or creed, but I have my doubts about that one. It’s not something you are born with, and is easily changed or discarded. How can that possibly hold court with the other two?

But that is a story for another time. Now, having written something that has NOTHING to do with “the values of the brand”, back to the writing that makes you want to kill yourself, or drink a lot.

Sex, real custard and the counter-revolutionaries

Does everybody out there read Hayibo? Well everybody should, because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to take anything one reads in the newspapers these days seriously without taking to drink at the same time.

For example: there is a thing such as World Hypertension Day? What? You send cards and flowers to people with high blood pressure? You eat boring food in solidarity? If it is an awareness campaign, I would like to argue that the people who suffer from hypertension probably know it already, and I am not sure what the rest of us should do. We should certainly not cook the recipes on the Verve pages.

We know that hypertension can lead to heart trouble and kidney failure, and, quite possibly death and/or having to pee into a bag through a pipe for the rest of your life. So, it’s very serious. But I don’t know if I could work my way through Angela’s low sodium recipes even if I was a death’s door and just won the lotto. Cottage cheese with meringues and raspberries? No! I am sure you don’t save a single mg of sodium by not using cream. And custard… Angela makes “custard” with 15ml of custard powder, 15ml of castor sugar and 180ml skim milk. How horrifying. Everybody knows that skim milk tastes like half-milk-half-water, and I would be surprised if the decrease in sodium is even the size of Julius Malema’s brain. What is the point of low-fat custard? Eat a nice, fresh apple if going large in the custard department is not your scene. You need three egg yolks for every cup of half-milk-half-cream, or just leave it alone.

(The polenta triangles sound quite good. I always try not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But not being a baby person, I admit that I have failed in the past.)

Ruth’s ex, in spite of the good and even imagined reasons why we should have an aversion to both him and his memory, once said an interesting thing that I remember. He said (not verbatim, I am the writer here) that choosing to live sensibly by eating and drinking only healthy things, may not necessarily help you live longer, but it is certainly going to feel like that.

In the famed and ancient Washington Post Style Invitational that has been recycled in the SA blogosphere since at least 2006 as “THIS year’ neologism competition” (I have a very old post to prove how old it is) someone entered “decafalon” (entrants had to change, add or subtract one letter in a word and give it a new meaning), which is the “gruelling process of making it through the day consuming only things that are good for you.”

With her low-sodium proffering, Angela tried to condemn us to not only a long life, but clearly a miserable one. I am more a Dusty Springfield kind-of-a-girl: “being good isn’t always easy, no matter how hard I try” and a believer in the old adage that good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere.

Which brings me to Helen Zille. Ah.   Continue reading