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.



The relationship between me and my 3G/HSDPA service provider can hardly be more strained. If we were a married couple and in a movie, the movie would be called The War of the Roses and I would be Kathleen Turner trying to poison Michael Douglas.

I called MWEB many, many times last year to complain about the fact I hardly ever get the 3G or HSDPA signal I am paying for, and that my internet life is a laborious one of waiting entire half-hours for my mail to download. Joys like the Onion are few and far between, and loading video clips onto my blog a harrowing experience. No, the little green light that indicates MTN EDGE is the only one that shines from the cute little modem.

Now that my contract is running out (OK, only in August, but time flies: for example, how the hell can February be over already?) MWEB has started to phone me, noting my complaints, wondering if I have been sorted out. Of course not, I say a little bemused, because my migration to ADSL in August is certain no matter what these callers do.

I have cried, screamed, cajoled, begged and pleaded for months. Of our two-year relationship I will remember only the terrible humiliation I suffered in vain attempts for a little attention and a little help. I cannot count the number of times that MWEB, my spouse in this matter, tried to convince me that there was not much they could do, as MTN were the folk who provide the signal.

And every time I reminded them that I do not have a contract with MTN, that I have a contract with MWEB, that is where my money goes every month, and will stop going very soon. I do not care how they fix my problem, or who they have to blow to do it.

The calls have become more frequent, with Carol from MWEB phoning twice in two days, once just to say that she will be phoning again. That was amusing, at least.

But then today, here I was, happily boiling a potato for lunch, when my doorbell started ringing like an insane fire alarm. I locked the flat and walked down the two flights of stairs to see who the hell wouldn’t take their finger off the button. It was a delivery guy, and I had to shout at him to stop because he was looking away from the door, did not see or hear me. He was aggressive, rude and unapologetic, saying that he could not hear the bell (surprise) and thought it was not working.

I said that I was going to complain and he said, “you do that mama, I don’t care.” It was absolutely infuriating. I so badly wanted to punch him on the nose, or at the very least call him a miserable cocksucker, but I didn’t, and I am still sorry about that.

He was delivering some contraption from MTN that I suspect is a signal booster. It looks like hard work to me, and I don’t think that I am going to be getting down on my knees any time soon to install it.

Enough is enough. I want a divorce. I am married to a liar, who sold me the supposed-to-be fastest internet connection on the market at the time, without telling me that it was only really fast when you were the ONLY one online. They can send all the signal boosters they like, but in another six months, they can kiss my ass goodbye.

Sunday morning coming down

I liked Wolverine quite a lot. When you fail, despite a determined effort, to spend an entire day in bed alone with books, papers, your modem and the laptop (I don’t know about “Jack”… I am thinking of another name), getting up to catch a quick movie is a great out.  I tried remaining horizontal again today, but had to take back my DVDs (nothing interesting, really, except maybe the first disk of the third series of The Closer, which I had already seen, and is wonderful) and get the papers. While I was doing that I also had to get a double shot tall cappuccino and a slice of  carrot cake at Seattle in Hyde Park, seeing that I was in there already. Obviously.

As I only managed the Independent with those two food items, I had to move onto Rosebank to read the Sunday Times and drink beer. The endorphins created by the consumption of carbohydrates (above) created enough of a feeling of well-being for me to need to increase this euphoria by the consumption of alcohol. Only in rare exceptions, I believe, does alcohol not actually increase whatever feeling of well-being one is already suffering from.

But let’s talk about the papers. They were particularly entertaining this week, with Ben Trovato’s pithy but acute take on swine flu (oops, H1N1) exploring many things I already had in my heart: the fact that Egypt nearly killed its entire pig population without a shred of evidence that 1) pigs actually spread the disease and 2) anybody was actually suffering from it in the whole country. It also added gravitas to this week’s “Irony of the Week”: fifty people die from swine flu and everybody wants to wear a mask. Millions die of AIDS and no one wants to wear a condom. Debra Orr’s piece in the Independent calls both the WHO’s and the media’s responses to swine flu “scare-mongering”, and exposes the panic these agencies caused as shameful.

Last week’s Weekender carried two columns with similar sentiments. Swine flu had been big news, what, with SAFA considering canning the Confederations Cup because of clear and present danger. Anyway. I feel a bit bad now having sported with Paris Hilton’s ignorance on the subject. She may well turn out to have the sanest take on the whole scenario: “I don’t eat that.”

My travels round the social hotspots of the northern suburbs this afternoon also prevented me from finishing the second part of the mental hara-kiri piece. It was taking a long time anyway, because a lot of it is about serious literature, which always takes a long time. It was when I got to AS Byatt’s Possession, but could not remember the author or the title  (I Googled “obsession novel literature” and found books by Jonathan Kellerman and various editions from the Mills and Boon umbrella with pictures of desperate women, often half naked, on the covers) that I became very tired. This meant that I immediately had to get up and drive to the video shop.

On the way I sms’d both Laurence and Ruth with “who wrote obsession?” and Laurence came back almost immediately with “as byatt”. I then sent “Of course. And I think it was actually called possession. Thank you.” And then I got a message saying “but I think you mean possession” and then he must have received my response in between his two because it was followed immediately by “I think sometimes its hard to tell the difference” and I said “I was just thinking that” and he said “I thought you might be PS have you read william boyd Any human heart” and I responded with “No. But have read Kafka on the shore.” He sms’d me last year saying he was reading it and it reminded him of me. I had it on my shelves from some Exclusive Book sale orgy and so I read it. And that was when my faith in modern fiction was restored. But I could not figure out what Laurence meant and did not care to pursue it.

Anyway. Our conversation ended with him offering to lend me the book and me saying “Thx”, and him going “Cool”. I have so much to reading to do at the moment that I might well get round to borrowing the book from him about two years from now.

(Note how we did not use SMS code. I find it idiotic really, especially when someone wants to get a bit sexy and they send messages like, “wot u werin”. No, I just made that up.)

Funny thing, the Independent today had a review of “her (Byatt’s) first full-length fiction in seven years” – there’s synchronicity for you.  There was a picture of her with the caption “As a general principle, I avoid myself,” says novelist AS Byatt.” She looks like somebody’s aunt and somebody’s grandmother. In spite of what I am going to say about what I remember of reading Possession in On writing #5, this endears her to me terribly, and now I am going to have to keep the article and read more of her books, including, possibly, finishing Possession. Shit.

I did not watch the inauguration yesterday, but the newspapers said nothing about heads of state attending from anywhere beyond Africa. Was this so? More than that, I was a little depressed by general reports of shockingly graceless behaviour by the team of our new president in various fora since winning the election. In the National Assembly on Wednesday, ANC chief whip Mathole Mtoshekga had to ask ANC MPs not to heckle and hiss at opposition party members as they were sworn in. They sang, apparently, “Shilowa is a fool”, and “mewed” at Linda Odendaal, Cope MP and second deputy president. Anele Mda “received sarcastic wedding-type ululations for her sweet, silky gown” Caiphus Kgosana wrote in the Independent. Is the National Assembly not a dignified gathering of the leaders of our nation? Is it so absurd to hope for grace in victory by sensible adults, and some realisation of the gravity of the task that lies ahead of them? Instead we have a catty, spiteful attitude to people, and inane attempts to humiliate them merely because they hold different political views. Look. See. The leadership of the ANC.

Similar insults were lobbed at Thabo Mbeki at the inauguration, as he was first booed and then hissed at. He is a cadre, (we had a funny discussion of how to pronounce “cadre” here and in the rest of the world at Giles on Friday night) and one of their own. How frightening. There is no pretense of or an attempt at unity in the ANC. The factions hate each other and are not afraid to make this public. In spite of JZ’s conciliatory speech, the divisions in his party, I think, will not give them a bigger majority in the next election, and will most certainly impede any service delivery he has dreamed of. He is in the centre of this break, and not strong enough to fix it. This is my honest opinion.

And then, finally, Baleka Mbete’s childish refusal to be sworn in as MP, the equivalent of publicly stamping her foot, when she understood that her comrades never REALLY intended for her to be deputy president ALL BY HERSELF. And I think, considering her response to this, they have made one of the rare great decisions that marked our political landscape in the past few weeks. How she still managed to get a R1.8 million annual salary out of the deal is stupefying.

It is all very fucking embarrassing.

I was going to write about the fun things that there were in the papers today as well, but now I just want to have a little lie down.

Happy birthday to me

So I had a birthday.

Seeing that I do not have a real job, after my mother called at 07h00, I could stay in bed. I had some tea, I finished reading a novel. Then I made some calls about work.

I paid most of my outstanding bills, I negotiated with Julian (my neighbour above whose plumbing problems are causing fungus to grow on my bathroom wall) and his plumber, did some  actual work, made headway on the rewrite and styled a beetroot ring so that my incredibly talented little brother could take some photographs of it.

That was fun.

Then we went for lunch: same as last year – fish cakes and a bottle of Graham Beck Brut at FSH. (I think their fishcakes are gradually less and less spectacular).

Later I watched The Bank Job on DVD (honestly, get it, it’s fantastic). And Ruth I went out for dinner at Ciro’s. We saw some lesbians, and had a lovely chat with them on the way out.

I really do like getting older.

Barrel of fun

 First of all, I have to say that the Captain Morgan ad with the guys resting their feet on imaginary barrels of rum irritates the bejesus out of me. (I think that’s how you spell bejesus.)

Then, about the movie Hanging Up with Meg Ryan and Diane Keaton and the very funny stupid one from Friends… it’s a pretty good comedy. Sometimes, being from the Hollywood factory, it cannot help itself from slipping into moronity, but there are hilarious moments. Walter Matthau as the malicious, spiteful father is great.

Not being a sentimental person, the end irritated me almost as much as the Captain Morgan ad. The nasty father dying peacefully in his sleep and the sisters loving each other and getting over the sibling rivalry is neither realistic nor attractive. And the long skirt look on Meg was a serious fashion faux pas, although the witty hair I think almost made up for that. Diane Keaton had fantastic legs.

There is a great moment in the film when the cover of Georgia’s (Diane) magazine is revealed and in the picture she is sucking on what looks like a Cohiba Splendido and the caption is “Is 40 the new 30?”. I don’t know about 40-being-the-new-30. On the one hand I think it is true. I certainly feel thirty. (Ahem.) And with the wrinkle iron I don’t look… my age, but I don’t want to BE thirty (or thirty-five), I swear. The thought of living one single year longer than destiny has written for me in the stars is completely exhausting.

I love the cigar in the picture. I have not had one in years, but I loved them. Smoking ages you, you know.