Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Monday, 24 September 2012

Below my feet

Today is Heritage Day. Or Braai (= barbecue) Day, if you'd rather remember what is being advertised. I hope we share a greater heritage than just knowing how to stand around a fire and grill meat. I really don't get the appeal of braaing all the time. The drinking and sitting around and getting together with friends, yes, sure. But standing around in smoke and having to cater to everyone's desires regarding how they want their steal done and not burning anything? No. Thanks. No no. My cousin showed me once, and once was enough. Here is one situation where I'll gladly accept the stereotypical female role and make salads in the kitchen. With a cocktail, away from the smoke and heat.

I don't know what my heritage is. Celebrating Christmas on the 24th and not on the 25th? Knowing how to make Spätzle (well, knowing to find the cookbook) and melktert (again, the Kook en Geniet)? Is it burning in the sun today because I have the same skin as ancestors that got off some boat 300 years ago? Well, the other ancestry arrived here in the 1950s, so I'm guessing both genetic halves did not adapt well to an African sun. Or I should just learn to wear sunscreen, as Mary Schmich suggested. Wear it like a damn dress.

If one's heritage is connected to where one comes from, what has it become in an age where culture is simultaneously global and local? Maybe the desire to be a puzzle piece that fits rather than the one lost somewhere along the way is stupid. Maybe having different strands mixed is better than having specific roots.
Over the past 48hours I have read too much about web kids and Generation Net and our displacement and how we are everywhere and nowhere and how the Internet has made us dumber and how the sky is vanishing. I'm not sure where it is disappearing to, but apparently it is.

During our walk today it pretty much stayed where it was. Bright blue, above us. A perfect surface for the sun to cast its skin-burning rays from.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Think of all the stories that we could have told

Sometimes a phone call from a friend is all one needs.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Run this town

One would not think so, but I don't like confrontation. I don't like fighting because people always seem to fight about silly things that in the end are meaningless. But the end of the year is nearing, everyone is busy and I've been feeling as though I have been spreading myself too thin. I think everyone is just slightly exhausted and waiting for December to come. New year, new start and what what. 

But, well, this past week, I've just been itching for someone to start a fight. Mister car guard? No, I assume he'd have a knife and no way in hell can I outrun him. I mean, my grandmother runs at a greater pace than I do, and she's had a hip replacement. So on Saturday I somehow managed to create a scene of pissed-off-ness within minutes of arriving at my friend's birthday. But the night was not ruined entirely and life moves on and all that. No fight. My knuckle rings stayed in my bag.  

But then, ahhh Monday rolled around. Monday was group presentation day. At 17.30. After a long day, you know, no one wants to stay longer than necessary. Everyone is slightly nervous and just wants to get this done. As luck would have it, this chick with constant verbal diarrhoea was in Group 1. Yay. Her butterfly-fluttering-arms looked like a strange epileptic dance. Not the cool choreographed Thom Yorke version in Lotus Flower, no no. The irritating, I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-face-to-make-it-stop-version. 

Her speech was slowed down to each word being drawn out, as though some invisible force had to go search for each sound before it can be pronounced. My eye started twitching. But all of this is was not yet really a problem. Not saying anything relevant to the topic, rambling on about how "the world looks to Japan for all the new trends, it is a fact" and essentially not answering any question pissed me off. And she'd been pissing everyone off all semester with the meaningless, irrelevant waffling that spews out of her. Also, they were four people in the group, not just her little stickfigure. Look, I am also guilty of detesting the group assignment. Mostly I'd just like to do it all on my own and must admit to imposing my ideas. But in the end it is a compromise, and everyone can contribute positively to a project. 

Not this enormous praying mantis though. Wasting our time. No no no. Something had to be done. Something had to be said. I wanted to go home. Everyone did. She would be my victim. In the middle of her ramblings my verbal fight rings came out, and I rudely interrupted her to say her arguments were not relevant to the topic, and that there were three other members in her team that had not spoken. She stopped speaking and folded her arms across her chest. Maybe she would consume her mate later on out of anger. 

But it did not matter. I had won the verbal throwdown. Hells yes. It was a knockout. We could go and present ours. And then, finally, we could go home.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Prisoner (begin again)

This is a letter Ted Hughes wrote to his 24-year-old son Nicholas, via Letters of Note.

Dear Nick, 

I hope things are clearing. It did cross my mind, last summer, that you were under strains of an odd sort. I expect, like many another, you'll spend your life oscillating between fierce relationships that become tunnel traps, and sudden escapes into wide freedom when the whole world seems to be just there for the taking. Nobody's solved it. You solve it as you get older, when you reach the point where you've tasted so much that you can somehow sacrifice certain things more easily, and you have a more tolerant view of things like possessiveness (your own) and a broader acceptance of the pains and the losses. I came to America, when I was 27, and lived there three years as if I were living inside a damart sock—I lived in there with your mother. We made hardly any friends, no close ones, and neither of us ever did anything the other didn't want wholeheartedly to do. (It meant, Nicholas, that meeting any female between 17 and 39 was out. Your mother banished all her old friends, girl friends, in case one of them set eyes on me—presumably. And if she saw me talking with a girl student, I was in court. Foolish of her, and foolish of me to encourage her to think her laws were reasonable. But most people are the same. I was quite happy to live like that, for some years.) Since the only thing we both wanted to do was write, our lives disappeared into the blank page. My three years in America disappeared like a Rip Van Winkle snooze. Why didn't I explore America then? I wanted to. I knew it was there. Ten years later we could have done it, because by then we would have learned, maybe, that one person cannot live within another's magic circle, as an enchanted prisoner.

So take this new opportunity to look about and fill your lungs with that fantastic land, while it and you are still there. That was a most curious and interesting remark you made about feeling, occasionally, very childish, in certain situations. Nicholas, don't you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child. To get beyond the age of about eight is not permitted to this primate—except in a very special way, which I'll try to explain. When I came to Lake Victoria, it was quite obvious to me that in some of the most important ways you are much more mature than I am. And your self-reliance, your Independence, your general boldness in exposing yourself to new and to-most-people-very-alarming situations, and your phenomenal ability to carry through your plans to the last practical detail (I know it probably doesn't feel like that to you, but that's how it looks to the rest of us, who simply look on in envy), is the sort of real maturity that not one in a thousand ever come near. As you know. But in many other ways obviously you are still childish—how could you not be, you alone among mankind? It's something people don't discuss, because it's something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we're likely to get a rough time, and to end up making 'no contact'. But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It's an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It's been protected by the efficient armour, it's never participated in life, it's never been exposed to living and to managing the person's affairs, it's never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it's never properly lived. That's how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced. Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person's childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It's their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can't understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That's the carrier of all the living qualities. It's the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn't come out of that creature isn't worth having, or it's worth having only as a tool—for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line—unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears. And yet that's the moment it wants. That's where it comes alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that's where it calls up its own resources—not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That's the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they're suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That's why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you've gone a few weeks and haven't felt that awful struggle of your childish self—struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence—you'll know you've gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you've gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. It was a saying about noble figures in old Irish poems—he would give his hawk to any man that asked for it, yet he loved his hawk better than men nowadays love their bride of tomorrow. He would mourn a dog with more grief than men nowadays mourn their fathers.

And that's how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy. End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Young Blood

Via postsecret
Today I am crossing the boundaries of decency a bit by over-sharing what goes on in my vagina (and that of basically every woman aged 13-60 (rough guess there)). Once a month women bleed. And although this has been a monthly experience for nearly 10 years, I feel like the girl in the Postsecret image : despite being 24 years old, it is still a surprise every time my blood seeps out of me. Maybe it is because I know it is coming but cannot pinpoint exactly when. It is always (haha, always. get it. like the pads.) as though my body is telling me that in reality, we are not one connected mind/body, but rather that it will do as it pleases and I have no real control over it.

I associate blood with being hurt, with the possibility of death, and with that disturbing tinny smell. In Germany they sell a blood sausage (Blutwurst) and it is disgusting. Blood is life, blood makes everything work and function and spreading thickly it on a slice of brown bread is not really appealing to me.

I wonder if there is any woman who likes having her period. Well, perhaps those that thought they were pregnant and did not want to be. I hate having my period. I hate seeing my own blood. But it is a natural process and I can understand the biological spiel involved. Hell, Grade 12 biology taught us everything in deeeeeeetail.

Look, I don't see the period as some week of suffering where the lady lies in bed and contemplates her fate. Sure, some women suffer more than others and get cramps and whatever, but it is not an illness. In No strings attached, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher have a friends-with-benefits situation going, and naturally they fall in love and bla bla bla. The point is that her character, A DOCTOR, at some point gets her period. The horror. So she spends her day curled up in bed, with her little flatmates prancing around her as though she has caught the bubonic plague. And then Ashton pitches with a period-mix, as in a CD with bloody songs on it. Because that is what happens, realistically. All bleeding women go into a state of distress and need a knight in shining armour to show up with some rocking playlist to make them forget about the suffffffering happening in their vaginas.

For shame, I say. Both to Natalie Portman acting in such a stupid movie and in their depiction of the period. And because I really wanted to say 'for shame' at some point.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Point me at lost islands

Words via Student Travel on FB today. 

The wife of some distant cousin of mine said that she had never really left the little town that she was from. She had studied close by, she works near her home town and well, now she got married there and is living there with her husband and two children. She added that there was some desire to leave and travel, but that ultimately, she was happy with remaining at home.

Until I was in Grade 4, we moved around a lot, so I think it is somehow embedded in me to want to leave a place after a few years. But is leaving the same as travelling? Has travelling not become some kind of spectator sport, where every sight/site is mediated through a camera lens, and then replayed on FB/Picasa/etc. for the audience of friends and family? When we travel, are we really interested in engaging with a different culture, or is it more about taking the picture to prove to others that you are a Weltenbummler. This is not accusatory, I mean, when we drive somewhere the cameras are always packed and charged and ready to be pointed at something. But most of the photographs are of nothing, and a memory would perhaps have been better than an image on a screen.

Perhaps one can be a tourist of a different kind and remain in the same place but travel nonetheless: if you see each of your friends as a country of their own, with its own cultures and religions and beliefs to be considered and respected, well, then you can do all kinds of travelling, without moving.

On a semi-related note, there was this rap song called Traumreise by Massive Töne back in the day, also about travelling sans going anywhere, really. Filmed in Cape Town.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

They came from 10 000 ft, on a possibility street

Slowly. In. Out.
Remember to breathe.
Remember that no fight has ever changed him.
Remember that you might need the demon's signature someday. Not him. Never him. Need left when the door closed behind him.

He does not notice that I am not listening, never listening, merely tolerating the "ja" at the end, the accounts of weekends spent, the undertone of "how long will you still be studying something useless".

This is the reason I do things for myself, not some underlying feminist association. We do it because there was no one to do it for us. I am not complaining about some hardship, some loss, some sense of abandon. Instead of feeling the need to be saved all the time, instead of wasting my time fighting you about the disappointment that you are, well, I'd rather be fighting for myself.

This is is not a "not waving, but drowning" situation. After all, I can freestyle pretty well.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


The xx have put their whole new album online. So cool. And on the site you can see how far it has been shared all over the world.

First in Pretoria I am guessing :)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I got the clouds but not the sky

I hate Tuesdays. On Tuesdays the cleaning lady and the gardener both come and invade our space. True, it is their job, but it makes me hide in my room out of guilt. You see, one of us always opens the door half asleep and still in our pyjamas. And then we normally head back to bed to sleep for another hour. It makes me feel guilty to be sleeping when someone else is mowing the lawn and washing the dishes. Even if I am working on my laptop, it doesn't seem to carry the same weight as physical labour.

In other news, this song is for my friend Sliv because in about a year I hope the two of us will be big in Japan.

Here's the link to a cover by Primus and Gogol Bordello.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lord Knows

as so often via Patron of the Arts
Confused by Confucious? Me too.
People should just spell correctly.