Friday, April 28, 2006

Still Green

It's very chilly in the mornings now, but our lawn is still green. Come to think of it, I think it;s one of those lawns that stay green all year. One of the few in the street. Some trees are skeletal, not a single leaf, others are partly cloudy and yellow, still others are fully fledged in green garb. What's going on?

Who would have thought global warming would have such an impact on our roads. Potholes everywhere. Might not be global warming but fat cats slumbering around here. Or both.

Cycled 50km yesterday on a beautifully calm sunny April day. About 8 of us.

Just swum 2km now with Vic and Ben.

Best 3:29
+ kicking and sprints

Weight: 81.5kg
Good to see it has come down a bit.

Met a Korean girl in the mall just before I left Noordstad. Interesting chat.

Going to shop now for some decent shoes and long pants (I never have any long pants except tracksuit pants). First going to eat at Red Pepper. At 6pm going to do a short run with Ben and Katia, and then we're gonna watch a movie at 8pm.

Tomorrow at 10am going to cycle 100km.

Will have the DVD finished by tonight. Just need to save it to a WMP format. Not to feast...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bird on a Tap

Interesting day. Moved into my own classroom after test driving...let's see...three other classrooms. Nice to be a bit more settled. Have already written one cheeky brat up for detention and have already sent about 20 students into total out of the classroom. My Department Head has said one class in particular should be shown no mercy. They are apparently incredibly destructive and disobedient. She also said she was amazed yesterday that - as a new teacher - I seemed to already have a lot of classes under my control. Nice to hear.

Not so nice to hear is that I may not wear a beanie or sports shoes to school. . I'm going to have a headache this whole winter. An icecream headache anyway. Maybe I should grow my hair? Had to stay for two hours after school to discuss the mechanisms of the curriculum etc. Got home and unpacked some clothes, sorted out the apartment, hung up one of the blinds. Bought some plastic wire ties to hang them better but really need to screw them in closer to the ceiling. Also through out a box of trash and unpacked my new cutlery.

Driaan, Fransa's brother has called me a few times because he wants to give me another carpet today. I wish he was able to see what the last week of my life has been like. I am so tired and now have to drive back to the hostel to install a carpet. Very kind gesture but wrong day. I'd give a lot just to take it easy for an hour, maybe go for a swim or a cycle. I hate having my time (and life) stripped away by the details of life. I guess that's what having a job is all about. The good thing about teaching is the long periods, several weeks, that one doesn't work. I guess one can recover lost lifeblood there.

I also called Dylan from GQ and we had a pleasant conversation. He says he has been in Italy and has only just got back. Still haven't received an email from him.
Am interviewing Kate Roberts (who went to the Commonwealth Games) and Riette Spannenberg (SA biathlon champ and model) for Runner's World. Should be interesting.

Got an interesting...stimulating email from Allan. Someone also came to visit me as I was about to leave for varsity - who is now married and second child on the way. Quickly took a picture of her baby sleeping in the bucket seat of her car. The light just looked so soft.
Quickly met Charl and gave him his Africa Lonely Planet and Bok's diary.

On the way to the lab I saw another stunning photo. A little bird sitting on a tap in beautiful golden light. The water was shining silver around it. Wasn't armed with my camera but chances are, if I'd tried to snap it the bird would have flown away. Still, good to know I still have my eye for pictures despite fatigue and sleep deprivation.

School tomorrow and then a little holiday (very deserved) until Tuesday. Want to watch a movie called Hostel, get some writing done and most important, get some training done.

Also drove behind a slow Kia Picanto today. Quite a cute car.

Got class a student...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'Perfect cyclone' bears down on Australian city

SYDNEY (AFP) - A hugely destructive cyclone described as a "perfect" storm is bearing down on the isolated northern Australian city of Darwin, devastated by a killer cyclone in 1974.

Packing winds of up to 350 kilometres (218 miles) an hour, Tropical Cyclone Monica was moving relentlessly towards Darwin as it turned towards the coast from the Arafura Sea, the government's weather bureau said.

"It's probably the best developed cyclone I have seen in many, many years," said David Alexander, a senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology.

"It's got a perfect circular eye, it's right at the top of a category five range, so it's a very, very severe cyclone."

The Importance of Being Earnest

English 212 Drama

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Trivia and Fiction in the Real World

Wilde’s play is often a parody on the melodramatic sentimentality of popular 19th century literature. It could be argued that with the current facination for all manner of soap operas, from 7de Laan to Bold and the Beautiful, Wilde’s play does well even today, to draw us to reflect on the absurdity of our conventions.

In The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde makes many references to ‘truth’. This is done both directly and implicitly. And it is interesting that in the very last line, Wilde concludes with Algernon stating: “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”

Stepford Wives

Wilde is an expert at using the satirical device. He employs it by contrasting the appearance of things, of his characters, with reality. Gwendolen points out that “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”
While we might find some of Wilde’s material humorous, like all good satire, it has an interesting edge of seriousness to it.
18 year old Cecily also refers to the “shallow mask of manners”. She thinks of Ernest as a dangerous, fascinating hero. It is these fanciful notions and conventions that young well to do daughters and good housewives (like the Stepford wives) hold sacred, and yet are essentially meaningless. Not in terms of their value for society, but intrinsically, in terms of actual sense and sensibility.

Virtual Worlds

The scenes in the play alternate between the urban and rural environments of London and Hertfordshire. Ernest is wayward, and beautiful Cecily has an imaginary relationship with him. Yes, it’s true. Ernest is entirely fictional – or at least fictional in terms of fact, but quite real in the imaginings, in the self propelling fantasies of their instigators.
Wilde likes to make use of patterns and there is a sustained paralellism in Earnest. Creating parallel tracks, creates a sense of tension, a need for resolution, which Wilde finally, generously produces, in an intelligent flourish at the end, when Cecily suddenly becomes a very suitable partner (based on her wealth) and the deadlock is finally broken through the discovery of Jack’s orginins. It ends with the harmonic pairing of lovers.


Algernon though, complicates the action by turning up, often in the guise of various identities. There is an ironic juxtaposing of Algernon’s appearance as Ernest and Jack’s appearance. Jack kills Ernest off, to disentangle the muddle. And so, in all these details we become aware that everything serious is treated in a trivial way.
Cecily and Gwendolen need flattery to restore their egos. This despite the fact that Gwendolen is sophisticated in some ways. But we soon learn that she is more pretentious, fashionable and short sighted than she is intellectually complicated – that is, having inner depths that she actually uses. Cecily calls a spade a spade and Gwendolen responds: “Well, I’ve never even seen a spade.” And, she says, she does not eat cake with tea as it is not fashionable. Gwendolen makes sweeping statements and then totally defies the logic she has just espoused: ‘I like you more than I can ever say/From the moment I saw you aI distrusted you’. Cecily is less pretentious than Gwendolen, but more frivolous. Their both being engaged to fictional Ernest gives one a sense of just how absurd they are, and how ridiculous life can be for those who are this shallow.

Playing with light and the appearance of things

There are a number of logical inversions in the play. These are the absurdities that make us laugh, or at least smile inwardly. The double life is revealed especially through Prism. She has mislaid a child – in theory an unimaginable disaster.


The characters have a fastidious sense of their own interests. They are precious and over refined. There is plenty of class prejudice. Victorian marriages had to be very class conscious. Lady Bracknell objects to Jack forming an alliance with her daughter Cecily. These contrivances underscore the artificiality of the world, where appearance is more valuable and meaningful than actual value, actual meaning.

Who is Earnest?

Ernest, we’re told, is sincere. But the men is this play are not earnest (in more ways than one!). Bunbury, like Ernest is also fictitious. The whole play revolves around illusions. These are generated in great abundance. So then, what are the implications? What is Wilde trying to communicate to us?

Is it so important what people think of us?

Wilde writes that ‘Life is a play scrutinised by a ring of eyes’. Wilde criticises the absurdity of conventions, but not aggressively. Gently. A few brisk pokes and jibes. He paints a cast who have just a superficial knowledge of each other – just as we see actors in the soaps. And at first glance it appears that it might be enough. Until we see just how absurd their behaviour comes, that actual people – the focus of feelings, affections, attention and action – don’t even exist. Thus, a disconcerting reflection of society is created. Wilde is able, through his comical verbal style, to disconcert us. We see ourselves, and though entertained, we’re somewhat troubled. Our egos, we begin to see, tend to define our reality more than they should. And we find ourselves so often at the mercy of our own self-esteem. Is it important what people think of us? Wilde suggests, I think, that it’s about as important as we make up our minds it is. It’s a subjective, conventional wisdom, and probably, usually, conventional foolishness because we still tend to attach too much meaning to appearances.

What is reality?

All of us, at one time or another, have placed more value in our illusions than in reality. Cecily represents this in terms of her fixation on someone that doesn’t exist. But many of us love people not for who they are, but for who they seem. Who they appear to us to be. Is that so different? Wilde is poking fun at this tendency, our avoidance of harsh reality.

Limited Truth

Virginia Woolf wrote that nothing exists until it has been written down. There is some truth in that, but it’s a limited truth. On the other hand, to say: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is ridiculous. One has to start somewhere, and what better place to start than by looking at the cover, reading the title. Appearance provides vital and essential information about a thing, and especially people. It’s been said that over 70% of what we communicate, when we’re talking, is nonverbal.* The characters in Earnest talk a lot of nonsense and don’t seem to do anything real, anything that matters.

What are conventions for?

Conventions serve to modulate society. To guide behaviour. To promote harmony and wellbeing, both for the individual and the community. How often do conventions shut out elements of the community who don’t look a certain way or fit in with our perceptions. Conventions are manners for the masses, but in many cases have been used to define patterns of exclusivity, of class consciousness, to be exclusive rather than inclusive. When conventions are slavishly followed, they become ridiculous. Conventional wisdom is suddenly anything but.

Self Fulfilling Prophesy

Cecily explains that it has always been her dream to marry someone whose name was Ernest. She says the name inspired absolute confidence. How we see the world is important. Our memories influence us. Cecily tells Prism that Memory usually records things that never happened. Our perceptions and paradigms determine how effectively we will operate in the world, both in terms of ourselves and others and the perception others will have of us. The self propogating effects of how beliefs bolster behaviour is interesting and sometimes disturbing, especially when fantasies become increasingly aberrant Failure to adhere to reality causes catastrophe in individuals, like Hitler – who in the final weeks and days of the war was commanding imaginary armies across a crumbling Germany.


Gwendolen’s comment on Jack’s attitude, his level of seriousness, explains a great deal about her own approach towards the importance of being serious. How serious should we be? It’s true that some serious things are dull, like duty and responsibility. But when the real reason emerges (why she dislikes German) we see her exposed as really very shallow indeed. She feels German makes her look plain. She is extremely superficial, and one wonders, dull witted?
Algernon is the absolute opposite of what Cervantes’ described in his novel about an earnest, passionate character. He is a hedonist, especially in terms of his stomach, and his attraction to Cecily. At one point Cecily, with the ring, forgives Algernon his ‘wicked life’ on the basis of his good sense of taste. In such a fickle world as hers, what can really matter?


Lady Bracknell is a snob, and unashamed of it. Her ego gratification comes out of her feeling superior to those around her. This is, of course, just another illusion.
People experience the same degree of stimulation from actual experience (reality, life) as they do from memories of it, or imagined reality, or memory. This is why television and movies work with human beings. We’re able to suspend reality long enough to live as voyeurs. Wilde generates numerous sets – numerous characters who connect to the world only on the most shallow level. They live as voyeurs. Commenting on life, criticising others, investing themselves in trivial objects and gestures, but never really doing anything useful or significant.


Although Earnest is about the implications of superficiality, it is not in itself trivial material. In the same way, then, that everyday life may be influenced by pretentious drama (televised or acted out by our contemporaries in the workplace or the home or elsewhere) it remains the choice of the individual to be captivated by this nonsense. If we are, we perpetuate it.

The Importance of Making an Appearance

It is not enough to ignore it. Much of the fabric of society is based, is built, on appearances. But not all of it. Thus the choice must be made in maintaining a balance, in choosing what is essential, and what must be discarded.

Weeding out and waking up

For the sanity of a society, and for its health and well being, hallucinations necessarily need to be weeded out. Currently there is a real delusion (?) that Hydrogen presents an alternative to Cheap (no longer) Oil. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once wrote about our attitudes towards death and following this process:
denial > bargaining > depression > acceptance
Our perceptions of value in society today are warped. Appearance is extremely important today – from the size of breasts (if small, they are enhanced artificially) to lips, from makeup to fingernails. Appearance today is far more important than manners. Manners have some semblance of mentality – some level of thinking and structure. Appearance is mere animalism. We are society today that are obsessed with Britney Spears, cargo pants and the mall, when where our focus really ought to be is real world cataclysm: oil prices that threaten to reverse globalisation and create contracting economies everwhere. A potential flu pandemic that threatens to wipe out millions. But even intelligent newspapers and magazines and TV airwaves dedicate most of their space to pretty presenters introducing even prettier personalities.

Laughter – the best medicene?

Wilde has created a number of characters, who then go on to gratify their own demands by inventing their own inventions. Perhaps the best way to address our illusions is to poke fun at it. In the end, when the world comes crashing down, it is no laughing matter.

The End of the Artifice

Being artificial in life may be profitable for a period. It may get the grand ship grandly out of the harbor. It may quickly win some friends and seem to influence some people. But at what cost? In the end, integrity is its own reward. Integrity, it seems to me, is the opposite of shallowness, of constant artifice. Integrity, after all, means the ability to withstand both the opposite of truth and structural damage from the outside. Integrity is what a ship like Titanic lacked. We ought to laugh and be merry, adapt and flex, but be consistent in holding on to our integrity. To have a teaspoon of seriousness that we carry with us through the great rooms, the great episodes of our lives. Take it all in. Sail far. Life, we know, is like an ocean full of icebergs. They bring us back to reality, from time to time, and when they do, we either sink or swim. Everything artificial helps us to drown. Our connection to the now is how we stay alive, breathing the fresh salty air.

* Language has its place, but even language when it attempts to represent (show again) reality, interprets reality, changes reality). Language is merely a symbol, whether verbalised or written. It is a representation of reality. A further distortion of reality is where language is made to distort reality, sometimes by accident (where sensory perceptions fail or err), and worse, by conscious manipulation. Using words to make us believe in something that isn’t true. Slander. Arguably, religion.
Shakespeare has demonstrated how divorced appearance and reality can result in tragedy. The Titanic is an example of the appearance of the impregnable ship, which proves to be as vulnerable as everything else to the ravages of the world. So too the great powerful beast, King Kong, who, despite the appearance of great strength, loses his heart and then his life to Beauty.

Kunstler: Tomorrowland

April 24, 2006
America commuted back into the unknown country of $3-plus gasoline and $75-plus oil (per barrel) last week, and President Bush revisted the Tomorrowland of hydrogen cars in the absence of any reality-based response to the global energy crunch that will change all the terms of America's "non-negotiable way of life."

Actually, we are negotiating, or bargaining, as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once put it in describing the sequence of emotional reactions of humans facing certain death:

denial > bargaining > depression > acceptance

Events seem to have dragged us kicking and screaming beyond the sheer denial stage, since this is now the second time in six months that oil and gasoline prices have ratcheted wildly up. Something is happening, Mr. Jones, and now we want to talk our way out of it.

The main thread in this bargaining stage is the desperate wish to keep our motoring fiesta going by other means than oil. This fantasy exerts its power across the whole political spectrum, and evinces a fascinating poverty of imagination in the public and its leaders in every field: politics, business, science and the media. The right wing thinks we can still drill our way out of this, if only the nature freaks would allow them to. The "green" folks thinks that we can devote crops to the production of gasoline substitutes, even though a scarcity of fossil fuel-based fertilizers will sharply cut crop yields for human food. Nobody, it seems, can imagine an American life not centered on cars.

This is perhaps understandable when you consider the monumental previous investment in the infrastructures and equipment for motoring, which includes the nation's car-dependent suburban housing stock -- which in turn represents the average adult's main repository of personal wealth. If motoring becomes unaffordable, then what will be the value of my house twenty-eight miles upwind of Dallas (Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, et cetera)? The anxiety is understandable.

But the problem is not going away. It's not five or ten years down the road -- it's here, now. We're in the zone. We're entering a world of hurt. The pain will ebb and flow, as the pain of a fatal illness ebbs and flows over the days. The price of oil and gasoline will ratchet up and down, but along a discernable upward trendline.

Can we bust out of this narrow tunnel of fantasy? Can we imagine living differently? Can we turn more fruitful imaginings into action before the American scene becomes a much more disorderly place? It would be nice to see President Bush really lead by taking a well-publicized ride on the Washington Metro, or dropping in to visit an organic farm, or signing a bill to increase incentives for small-scale hydro-electricity, or turning loose some federal prosectors on WalMart's human resources department.

It would be nice to see the Democrats put aside their preoccupations with gender confusion and racial grievance and start campaigning to restore the US railroad system. It would help to see the science and technology sector return from outer space. Corporate America and its leaders are probably hopeless, but so is the current scale and scope of their operations, and circumstances will decide what they get to do. T
he mainstream media, representing the nation's collective consciousness, remains in a coma. This morning's electronic edition of The New York Times displays not one home page headline about oil or gasoline prices, despite the trauma of the week just passed.

Busy Road Namibia.

I came home late last night and caught the end of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It's because of this movie that I viewed the East with such a positive sense of adventure and romance. I found myself with salty tears stinging down my cheeks in the near to last scene, when Li Mu Bai gives up his life.
Once again that sense of the failure of great strength, power and endurance in the face of arrogance, and beauty and coldness...that's the tragic reality I have
often seen and experienced in my life.

The tears were not so much for me (or were they) but for the sadness, the sorrow that is a well lived life wasted on those who don't seem to understand what they
are doing.

Yu Shu Lien: You were enlightened?
Li Mu Bai: No. I didn't feel the bliss of enlightenment. Instead...
I was surrounded by an endless sorrow.

Li Mu Bai: I've already wasted my whole life.
I want to tell you with my last breath that I have always loved you.
I would rather be a ghost, drifting by your side as a condemned soul,
than enter heaven without you. Because of your love,
I will never be a lonely spirit.

Li Mu Bai: The things we touch have no permanence.
My master would say: there is nothing we can hold onto in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real.

Li Mu Bai: Like many things, I am nothing.

Li Mu Bai: Real sharpness comes without effort.

Li Mu Bai: Sharpness is a state of mind.

Dreams of Oxford

Photos courtesy

Money Business

Brrr. TYhank goodness for an oil heater beside my bed this morning (left on all night). Without it I'm not sure if my body would have been able to move.
In the kitchen I noticed that even the ants were moving much slower than they usually do. Their little stick bodies are also affected by the cold it seems.

School today was good. Some exceptions of course. In the last week I have taught in 3 classrooms - three different venues. Tomorrow will be the 4th, and hopefully the last. It may be the best too, as it has been painted and looks and feels new. It's also a nice combination of being small, and brightly light. It has windows on two or three sides, so lots of morning sunshine. Nice. Am thinking of buying a notebook from Charles, a friend of Fransa's, and then throwing Powerpoint displays onscreen behind me using a projector. Michelle has already said a projector is available if I want to use it.

Brebner has already asked me to provide all my banking details, and they now have a signed contract from me. I actually get paid this week. I'm meant to be paid tomorrow, but because of internet delays, it will probably be the day after.

I am having so much fun with the DVD. Overlaid all the Longtom pass stuff with a Vanessa May (violin) piece. Brilliant. Gives me gooseflesh whenever I watch it.
Bumped into JP on my way here. He offered me some Pringles. Behind us, on the TV's hovering along Itakaleng Bridge (whatever it's called) there was footage of the London marathon. Wish I had run that instead of so much running after my girlfriend at the time.

Also saw Justus today and got Bok's diary. Did some banking too - paid Berendine and Dr. Fichardt. Now I have to quickly digest 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and churn out a quick assignment for tomorrow. Possible, of course, but I've been on my feet all day. In Raftery's class I felt myself nodding off. Interesting the contrast between university and school. We're so quiet you can hear the pencils scribbling. At Brebner it's just a loud din all day. Lots of voices jabbering, chewing your brains like ants, little piranhas trying to eat your brains and drive you mad.

Moving in to the hostel is happening very slowly. It's fine. It helps me feel like I am not always at school. Nice to have 108 to myself (really just for sleep and computer time in the afternoon - on my computer of course).

I also see since I last looked my 3 unit trusts have added another R1000 in value to the initial investment. Nice. It's nice when money works for you.

Now to get down to the business of studying...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

More Bush Stupidity: 'Hydrogen is the fuel of the future'

Photo courtesy Benediktus Kok
Saturday, April 22, 2006; Posted: 11:00 p.m. EDT (03:00 GMT)

With a hydrogen fuel cell car in the background, President Bush talks about reducing dependence on oil.

WEST SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- President Bush had an Earth Day message for drivers worried about soaring gasoline prices: The nation must move more quickly toward widespread use of hydrogen-powered cars.

Running vehicles on hydrogen fuel cells would help reduce oil consumption, as the technology does not require gasoline, and lower pollution, as water is the only emission. But the technology is far from being a reality in the marketplace: The cells are prohibitively expensive and require a new distribution system to replace today's gas stations.

Bush is proposing to spend additional federal research dollars to help speed that process, but it still would be many years off. (Watch as Bush says Americans need to invest in new technologies -- 2:19)

"I strongly believe hydrogen is the fuel of the future. That's what we're talking about," he said. "It has the potential --a vast potential to dramatically cut our dependence on foreign oil. Hydrogen is clean, hydrogen is domestically produced, and hydrogen is the way of the future."

The president spoke on a visit to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a collection of 31 organizations such as car makers, energy providers, government agencies and fuel cell companies that promotes the commercialization of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Bush, who was met by handful of protesters, checked out several fuel cell vehicles and a hydrogen fueling station.

"It's important what we're doing here because we got a real problem when it comes to oil," he said.

With gas prices on the rise just months before crucial fall congressional elections, Bush can do little but express sympathy for families and businesses. The energy plan he wants Congress to pass, which would also boost federal research into batteries for hybrid and electric cars and renewable fuels, does not include any measures that would reduce pump costs in the short term.

"I understand the folks here, as well as in other parts of the country are paying high gas prices," Bush said. "We're going to have a tough summer."

In a rash of statements, Democrats have sought to capitalize on public anxiety about gasoline costs -- which is dampening confidence in the rebounding economy.

In the Democratic response to Bush's weekly radio address, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida warned of "economic havoc" if a terrorist attack sinks a super-tanker or a hurricane shuts down oil refineries in the Gulf Coast.

"Whatever the cause, the crisis is coming," he said.

Nelson said the administration must stop being influenced by the powerful oil industry and start promoting production of synthetic fuel from coal, broader use of alternative sources such as ethanol and a significant increase in the mileage standards for all passenger vehicles.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the party's House campaign arm, criticized Bush and the congressional GOP leadership for subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies.

"The Republican Congress can't stop taking oil money and cant stop sending billion dollar giveaways to their friends in the oil industry," he said.

Note by the author of this blog: Hydrogen is a common example of collective delusion. There is not a quick or easy solution to Cheap Energy (Oil). And it's unlikely we'll find a cheap alternative. There are alternatives, but most are not cheap. Nuclear is one of our best hopes. But it's hardly the answer to fuelling our cars.
And Hydrogen is not an energy source. The amount of energy needed to make hydrogen (separate it from water) means that it is a net energy loser. The fact that the president of the US is making this speech, this late in the game, is extremely, extremely worrying. If the world leader is so stupid, the world is in for some terrible surprises.

Scenes from a school...

Mr Taylor, the principal, in the orange shirt and red tie. He's sometimes strict, but he needs to be. Je uttered his first immortal words to me when I arrived about 2 minutes late on Friday. "07:15 Mr van der Leek."

Michelle (who interviewed me) and Johan Prinsloo - ex Grey Guy, matriculated in 1987. He teaches Biology, and knows CJ from Virgin Active. He coaches hockey and often goes to gym. Will try to catch a lift with them when they go.

Friday was dedicated to Kwaito. A relief to some of the staff and kids I'm sure.

There are a number of Asian students at Brebner. Most are very quiet and shy. Cindy, 2nd from right, is from Taiwan. Very sweet.

Elbe, who stays at the hostel. She also coaches hockey.

Third World Schools
SA Schools are Technologically Backward
by Nick van der Leek

Like Neanderthals, we still write on walls with pieces of rock. Yes, it's true. There are still schools in this country where chalkboards are still being used. Only chalkboards. One might think that's okay, except, when better technology exists, we'd be wiser to make use of it.

I am teaching at a high school in Bloemfontein, but even in the university, there's a lack of state of the art of equipment. That means lessons are more boring than they need to be. Even an overhead projector makes classes a little brighter, a tad more stimulating.

If you have technology, why not use it? Why waste time with a pair of tin cans and string when you could use a cellphone? If you have a TV, why listen to the radio?

As an educator, the trick is to hold the attention of your students, communicate effectively, and importantly, quickly.

The problem with a black/greenboard is that you necessarily have to keep turning your back on students. The writing is not always clear. It's messy. Writing on a white metal board with a magic marker is much cleaner and quicker. Even better is throwing a prepped Powerpoint presentation onscreen. It's easier to wow students with computers than with chalk.

In South Korea, in public schools that I visited, each teacher had their own computer embedded into their desks, and could, from their desks, launch a display from the screen onto a silver screen behind them. We ought to aim for this sort of thing.

Schools ought to look for funds by getting sponsors to advertise on their fields, in their classrooms, or find some other solution. Complacency is not the answer. Governing bodies ought to look into this too.

The goal should be effective education. Effective teachers allow more and more students to perform according to their potential. It starts in the classroom, and we ought to make some investments there if we intend to ever graduate beyond the Third World.

Forecasters say oil price will reach $90

by David Smith, Economics Editor

OIL prices are set to rise further this year, beating last week’s record levels, according to analysts. Some believe the price will hit $90 a barrel.
A survey of analysts by, a financial research company, shows a general belief that the peak for prices has not yet been reached. The median expectation for this year’s high in Brent crude was $85.50, within a range of expectations running from $77.50 to $90.

Petrol prices rose to an average of more than 95p a litre on Friday, close to the record of 96p for unleaded.

A further rise in crude prices would make forecourt prices of more than £1 a litre the norm.

Brent crude hit an all-time high of $74.22 a barrel on Thursday, amid renewed concerns about supply disruptions. Iran’s decision to press ahead with nuclear enrichment and the threat of US action have produced the latest outbreak of market jitters.

In New York on Friday the price of US crude for June delivery hit a record of over $75 a barrel. The final trade on Friday of more than $75 hit American share prices.

The price surge has preoccupied the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Washington this weekend. While high oil prices have yet to slow the global economy, which is achieving its best growth performance since the early 1970s, the fear is it could fuel higher inflation via so-called second-round effects on pay.

(Photo courtesy Benediktus Kok)

Cold Snap

It's been a bizarre weekend. And an eye opener. It's pure luck that my father has left for Madagascar, meaning I am a little more mobile, aka less stressed. Having the bakkie means I can do the remaining trips to move stuff. So far I just need to sandpaper, paint and move the computer desk, move in the TV and TV table, computer chair, and...a few other odds and ends.

After my last post, which was decidedly blue, the sun came out, and yellowed things out a bit. For starters, despite being co-ordinator for a mini Fietstoer reunion, I really just wanted to go home and not even turn up. I went though and mellowed out a lot. The company was good, and the alcohol helped. Was also nice being out with Fransa again. She's a lot of fun and can talk (nonsense he he) to anyone.

I felt like a corpse on death row the next morning, but the omens were good to me. At school Mr Taylor revealed 'the big surprise'. For the whole school day the kids were treated to Kwaito music - a concert on the main hockey field.

On Saturday I went cycling on my own - Yvonne cancelled due to a cold anmd a wedding, Elzanne had violin practise, Bianca didn't get back to me (and I don't think she has a bike yet), Riette said she was tired, Berendine went spinning in the gym, Benedictus and PJ slept late or something.
So I went off and it was quite cold and windy. Appropriately so I think I should say. Suited my mood.
Cycled 50km, and found, at Radar Hill, my back tyre was almost completely flat. First puncture in about 2000km. Since I am so used to not getting punctures I didn't even pack in a spare tube (I usually do). I just slotted in a CO2 cartridge (first time I've ever used one, but once helped someone else use mine) and watched it supercool the valve - everything went a snowy white and wheel went rock hard.

I managed to cycle up to the Shell garage in Bayswater before it went completely flat again. Might mhave made it home if I didn't get an sms from Ben saying he was going to a party with Justus and Christie in Johannesburg and did I want to come. Crazy! So pumped it up at Shell and made it to Brebner just as the tyre gave its last gasp of air.

Yesterday I also installed the security door - much bashing. And met Lee, and chatted about the DVD and the tour. Nice guy, very straightforward - not pretentious at all. While at House of Coffees one of the Brener teachers approached us. Mrs Greyling, Prof. Greying (head of English Department's wife) chatted a bit - for some reason I felt quite nervous. Lee and I went to fetch San Marie's camera and met her horsie again.

I actually needed Ben to be in Bloem this weekend because I wanted to get cracking with all the images. Benedictus doesn't seem to know how to burn cd's or have photo editing software. I asked him to leave a cd in his postbox before he left for Jburg but he must have forgotten. So I've continued on with the DVD in the meantime, without the additional footage - I think Doc's and Porter's.

Then I quickly went to Veritas to watch the last bit of the Cairo to Cape Point DVD. Was interesting to see how that was done. Basic, but quite clean. Not much dialogue though. Also met Bok's sister who was on the cover of GQ UK. When I started talking to her the entire room went quiet. Quite scary. Guess people are very aware that I'm Mr. Casanova. Lock your daughters away!

After that I went to Framsa's brother to fetch the TV and eat yummy potjiekos. Went home for a frolick (since dad's away) - Madonna's latest album is awesome making out music.

This weekend I have been busy on the DVD (now at Day 9 - with 3 to go), and moving stuff. There just doesn't seem enough time in the day for everything.

Still haven't started on 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. And need to do prep before going to bed. And church. And gym. And sleep...

Friday, April 21, 2006


The winner was an excellent feature about the Sunday night gatherings at Mzoli’s Butchery in Gugulethu. Writer (and photographer) Max Thabiso Edkins captured the uniqueness of this weekly event: "Mzoli’s magic lies in its ability to attract virtually the whole community; it’s the place in the township to connect. The crowd ranges from wealth to rags."

The runner-up in this category was Bloemfontein writer Nick van der Leek’s feature on Understanding Africa - "how the colonialists carved up a continent".

Guess I am a bad loser...

Booby Traps

Is one of the symptoms of intelligence that one is more prone to illusions (loose translation - flights of fancy causing acts of stupidity?)
Or do illusions stem from a sort of emotional instability. And is this instability rooted in a rootless existence, a life of inconsistency. I wonder.

I've taken the step of sending Dylan Muhlenberg at GQ a link to Supertramps (renamed Blood and Dust) on this blog. I haven't heard from him since March, and I emailed him before I went on the Fietstoer. I've just emailed him a basic message asking him why I haven't heard from him in 3 weeks. I'll obviously approach Africa Traveller if GQ turns out to stand for Rude Boys. Disappointing.

My suspicion that I might win R1000 in the competition also proved to be false. Thus I am a lot less motivated to provide material, and why not, I am extremely sleep deprived and so far this week haven't even had time to train. Meanwhile my original offer (of employment by the school governing body) has been rescinded, or replaced by a Departmental offer. That means more money. Yummy.

Brebner is another example of shattered illusions. Well, not totally. We had hall today and it is so full (to overflowing) that the 42 or so staff members stand in the aisles, or outside. They've swung around the whole building, so that students fill up the bowels of the stage, and the back end is where the headmaster creeps in behind a small podium squashed against the wall. The podium is small, and behind it is a giant wooden cross - presumably to bolster whatever message emanates from the podium. I thought Mr Taylor spoke fairly and elegantly and bravely, but the back end of the message was loaded with...well, talk of retribution, expulsion, and general weariness of bad behaviour.

That's pretty much how my day went. Started strong, this time in the Economics class. But by midday sleep deprivation started clawing at my eyelids and my engine was barely turning in the final few minutes.

Meanwhile, no one is more disappointed than me to see oil inching towards $73. I would have liked to have been proved fantastically incorrect, that my arguments for peak oil somehow had a single but crucial flaw. But so far, it seems we are headed for austerity. I mean, the American driving season (which provides its own cyclical fluctuation - upwards - to the fuel price) isn't even upon us. Neither is hurricane season. Lord knows where the price of a barrel will be by the end of the year. Seems painfully far away.

Work is lousy. For most people, work is an unpleasant reality. Work is not fun. Work = Depression. The trick is, I guess, to find a way to make work as unlousy as possible. Find things to inspire you at work, find ways to thrive - like a cactus in a desert, or a seagull floating over endless ocean.

I am feeling the strain of speakling so much English and then Afrikaans. I am really tired of it. I'd like to just be speaking English... I think I am just tired.

Recently I've had some interesting flashbacks of fietstoer, including some retrospectives from some of the people on it. It's interesting looking at the photos (and experience) of some of the girls (oh, boys too). Everyone had a very different experience. I think why I enjoyed it so much is based largely on the cycling element, and the competitive element. In terms of the social aspect, I thought I had a good time, but I guess when it comes to the laws of attraction, people are not always reasonable. Words and behaviour do not always add up - even in a milieu of Christian love and kindness, and apparently integrity, and at a minimum the laws of attraction have the semblance of being impractical, and at maximum, of being spiteful.

I wonder how much growing up to do I still have? And how much of it is dealing with people who aren't grown up at all (and might never be).

How can I be more specific. How can I provide details without naming names and appearing indiscrete. It's at times like this that I wish this blog had a more private audience. Perhaps it does.

I suppose that long haul period with Samantha, where I know I was used - because I had a car, because I had some money, because I had passion and a plan, because I had cool friends - and she was just young and feels like that period of sacrifice, or waste...feels like I went there again. Just quickly. I think that period with Sam was really one sided for a very long time. I don't think it's any accident that I am so reluctant to commit, after being so committed once upon a time and seeing how wonderful and then terrible it can turn out. I'm not crying about unfairness - just that life does not always reward work, people don't always reward or respond to loyalty or other virtues. Often their attention is being directed by illusions, or worse, appetites...

It must be really difficult to be an unattractive girl. People must appear fantastically shallow.
I suppose I have seen the folly in second guessing one's intuition. When you get a glimpse of someone, in a moment of something they say or do, dwell on it for a moment extra. And if it happens again, beware. Beware how you invest your time. Invest it wisely, but don't wish you hadn't once you have - then it is a double waste of time, and a useless waste of present moment happiness. Rather spend that brooding time swimming, or playing computer games. But don't waste time going over other periods of wasted time, and life.

I remember when I was regularly dating 21 year olds, realising how dangerous I found them. Why? Indecisive. Unable to make up their minds. Certain, then uncertain. Unable even to explain to themselves their own feelings. Very whacky. Very shaky. Who wants to be used as a stepping stone, a crutch, a measuring shoe, a sock in a shoe shop, a ladder? The beauty and cruelty, and stupidity, of youth. So easily swayed. So powerfully passionate. So intransigent. So flippant. So fickle. So fine. And so easily trapped by the webs they weave for others.

I've made the mistake of making some comparisons - I guess in the touchy feely aspect of the Fietstoer - and it stings that some people are obviously more popular (aka attractive...physically beautiful) than others. Some other things too, but I'm not going to be specific.

I have to turn my mind back to what was meaningful to me. It was the roads. The landscapes. The sun on us. I found God, in two little birds, in one sweeping shot when I was alone in the hills. That was the best moment for me. And yes, the many young faces, the silliness, the magnanimous smiles.
If only our intentions could be pure. If only our lives could really be as honest as the grass on the fields. Life is an adventure, and if we were all pure, we'd all be clones, and there'd be nothing left to untangle, no tragedies to write, no romance, no heroism. Life is as good as it is, and to resist that reality, is always gonna be painful.

Now I have much to be grateful for.
I have a job, and since my writing career has recently hit a long and empty road, not a moment too soon.
I've got accomodation, and Fransa's family rose up like a army, attaching curtains, making the bed, they're even sending the maid tomorrow.
I'd made plenty of new friends. That has been a source of ongoing delight.

I think I need to sit down by myself, on some high place, or some dark place, or some quiet space, and just be quietly grateful. And happy. And unconcerned with the dark alleys and people sitting awake in them, whoever they are and whatever the reasons behind them being there...

Finally, I think about the next few months and in a global sense, I become aware of a growing austerity. Having been on this Fietstoer, I have a strange fear. I believe we will soon see the Great Saviour - religion - rising like a phoenix to save us in an increasingly grim domain. God is going to come back in full force again - God as the hero. God as the only solution. It's going to be a time when we most need to cast away our illusions. Religion, of course, is full of them. We're going to need to be spiritually strong, and our faith needs to be directed to the real God. That will depend on to what extent we lose our illusions about him, and about ourselves, I suppose.

I believe Bloemfontein is a place on Earth where the community is small enough to hold together, and isolated enough, to be left out of the tensions and flux in the world - I mean, when it is at an intense level.

Vomitty burp. Looking at the above paragraph one could swear I'm on a powerful course of antidepressents. I think I just need to get some sleep, and get out on the road and train.

Tomorrow is civvie and beanie day at school. Will get some pictures and probaby wear my resurrected Chamonix headgear. I need to rest. I hope when I return - having slept and perhaps dreamed - I will also have recovered a sense that most people are basically good, and basically decent. Not so sure at the moment.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Photo courtesy Tamas Dezso

Scenes from a Bicycle


The DVD is coming along nicely. I haven't been able to convert two Madonna songs which may be just as well (too worldly), but couldn't convert Michael W. Smith ( a Christian musician) either. I have plenty of music and so far everything is coming together in a good way.

Ben came round today to add more of his stock, and tonight at 9pm I'll have most of the other stuff (from Lizaan, Chrisna, Yvonne et al) and then I can really fill in all the gaps. Must say I am enjoying putting it together immensely.
Have a feeling they are going to love it.

Need a coach?

Golden Girl

At 4:10pm today, I went to see Riette at News Cafe - just one of a series of errands today (also paid my Physio bill - ouch). She's the number 1 biathlete in South Africa, and she wants me to coach her in triathlon. Basically the cycling and running bit. Should be good.

Here's the program (might be modified in future) so far:

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 4:30 Cycling (50km)/8:30pm Swim (timetrial) and short gym workout

Wednesday: 4:30 pm Running (trackwork/hills - 3-5km)

Thursday: Swim (Pulling and kicking) and gym

Friday: Brick session - 3-4pm Cycle 30-40km then Run 9km

Saturday: Race (Running or Cycling) or long slow distance (running alternating with cycling)

Sunday: Swim (distance)/ Gym and core

If you'd like to join us, sms or call 072 973 3929, and we'll confirm venue and route.

And Now For The Humdrum

The thought flickers across my mind that Mr Kunstler has possibly been bought by the Bushites. After all, who in their right mind finds reason to support war?
Then again, I can't help feeling the whole world - well, the Middle East area in particular - is going loony tunes. More I mean. More than usual. Can you feel the tension?

Now that oil is at $70 it's pretty difficult for me to realistically approach the idea of buying a car. And after driving the Renault Megane I feel like I've relapsed, I feel like a Christian who has backslid. Justus has provided me with two decent second hand options, both Toyota Conquests. So am gearing up for a test drive or two later this week.

Kunstler: Still Crazy After All These Years

April 17, 2006
Boy, did the "fuck you" letters come flying in last week after I said that strategic planning to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities wasn't such a bad idea.

So, what do you know -- Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke out again on Friday, saying Israel was a "constant threat" and predicted that it was on the verge of "being eliminated." Eliminated how? one is prompted to wonder. Well, President A-jad had been rather specific last year when he discussed "wiping Israel off the map." On Friday he referred to Israel as a "rotten, dried tree" that would collapse in "one storm." Interesting metaphor. Did he mean one atomic bomb? That would probably do the job to a nation about the size of Maryland, when you take into account the nuclear contamination, though a toxic smear could be carried downwind east as far as China, blowing back in Iran's face, so to speak.

Anyway, Mr. A-jad's remarks came during the same week that he publicly announced, with great fanfare, his government's success at enriching uranium into fissile material. It wasn't hard to put two and two together: wiping Israel off the map + how to.

The controversy over strategic planning of the harshest kind boiled over after Seymour Hersh's story "The Iran Plans" broke in the April 17th issue of The New Yorker. The agitated public and the news media (except for Terri Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" show) generally overlooked remarks in the article made by Robert Baer, former CIA agent in the Middle East and author of See No Evil and Sleeping With the Devil, who, among other things, had investigated the Iran-sponsored Hezbollah group's links to the 1983 US Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. Baer had followed President A-jad's career and connections for two decades, after Ahmadinejad had distinguished himself as a leader among the Revolutionary Guard "students" who captured the American Embassy in Teheran in 1979 and took 52 employees hostage.

Hersh writes:
"Baer told me. . . that Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues in the Iranian government 'are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it as Israel. They're apocalyptic Shiites. If you're sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they've got nukes and missiles -- you've got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there's no reason to back off.'"

So it would appear that the practical question is not so much what America might do but what Israel might do first. And that question puts everybody in the West in an uncomfortable position -- since a strike by Israel could 1.) ignite a major regional conflagration leading to even wider war, and 2.) shut down Middle East oil production (or even permanently cripple it). Baer seems to think that this is exactly what President A-jad wants. I think so, too. Crazy as it might seem, it is not crazier than waging war by suicide bombers. It's just kicking it up a notch, in the immortal words of Emeril Lagasse. It's jihad x-treme. And the reward, in Mr. A-jad's thinking might be that a large part of the Islamic world would survive, while Israel would be ganged up on and eliminated -- and the Shiites would get credit for it! (not to mention first-class tickets to heaven and all those waiting virgins).

Therefore one of the more remarkable elements of the story is Israel's restraint so far. By historical measure, the extremely belligerent remarks by Iran's president would have already invited an armed response by any sane nation. You wonder how many more times Mr. A-jad will spell it out before something has to happen.


Back to school was no walk in the park. Brebner, it soon turns out, is in a league of its own, and it's a big school, with over a thousand students. The staff contingent alone is at least 30 individuals...some fresh faced and some fairly withered looking. Overall, an engaging group.

Mr Taylor, the principal, introduced me shortly after welcoming everyone. He seems a fair and straightforward guy. Michelle was on hand to offer some guidance, and I also met Elbe, another Michelle, Johan (hockey coach and part time ceramics maker).

But the real stars are the students. There are a lot of kids in each class. Two kids that struck a chord were May and Cindy, from Manila and Taipei respectively. A kid called Brian referred to himself as Mr. Brian $%%#*$$ on his test paper. He told me his ambition was to become the president. After Zuma's antics, and more circus acts to follow, I'd give Brian a good shot at being South Africa's number one guy.

It's odd to be called 'Sir' after being called 'Nick Teacher' for 4 years. One thing that hasn't changed is that most students have unpronouncable and unmemorisable names.

It was my job today to take attendance and to hand out test papers. I tried to get to know them over the mayhem of fetching desks and their still fresh-from-the-holidays exuberance. Almost all the kids got below 50% in their end of term exams, and I told them I thought the standards were unacceptably low.
I was told a teacher would be with me in class for the first two days, but no one was with me for the first few minutes or any other time. I'm not complaining. I endured pretty shaky organisation in South Korea more often than I care to remember. I'm also being moved out (I'm in Mr. Harris' English class, who, despite being utterly devoted to his students, is now working in Saudi Arabia) to the Economics department. Kind've happy about that...

After school today any thoughts of going to gym (to swim) completely evaporated. In fairness, sleep deprivation made the day a lot longer and harder than it would otherwise have been.
At 14:30 I went to the hostel to take a peek at my new abode. A fairly humble setup, and unfurnished. Well, that's okay. I'll fill it with a few tasteful, but humble furnishings and accoutrements. I have a nice view from the second storey, which is a bonus. There are three prison style beds in one of the rooms which will probably have to go.

A friend called me to ask how my day went and she wasn't surprised when I said I felt a bit shattered and defeated. Depressed is another word. It's not going to be easy, it's a rigorous job just keeping the students in line (have I mentioned they're rowdy), but it's useful practical experience which may mean getting a PGCE next year will be a mere formality (since I'll already have some months of practical experience).

On the bright side I am being paid to stay at the hostel, and it's close to gym and a few friends in the area. This term is also really short, just 10 weeks, with plenty of long weekends, so it's a fairly easy start. I think part of the challenge is just becoming familiar with a new process, a new pattern, and integrating hundreds of new personalities into the mainframe. It's going to an interesting test of endurance and resolve, personal discipline and fortitude. Now balance becomes crucial as work starts to gnaw at the heart of vital energies. Exercise is going to be an important conduit towards stress relief, health and sanity.

I'll try to get to the pool heal newly formed scar tissue in the brain and smooth out the rough emotional patches. Breathe. Stretch. Swim. Smooth again...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gray and Rain

It's been raining virtually constantly for the last 24 hours. I'm still working on the DVD. Have some additional music to use as soundtracks, but Ben hasn't been able to give me any additional images. Will probably get them tomorrow.

Spent the first half of the morning composing 'Ad awards' for, and just before lunch took the Megane out for a little photo shoot. Nice.

Elmarie - a girl on the tour who I 'Spooked' for (sending and giving her gifts without her knowledge) was sitting beside me in the Lab when I arrived.

Need to get cracking on my two assignments. The third the lecturer graciously postponed by a week (only for me), so I have some additional leeway. I'm also going to be using the Megane tomorrow, which will make the first day of work slightly less stressful.

Feel bad about not getting round to work on the GQ article (Blood and Dust). Will give it my full attention as soon as I can focus on three dimensional objects again.

400 Tornadoes in Two Months
Incredibly, places across the United States, from the Plains states to the Midwest and South, have collectively suffered 400 tornadoes over the past two months.

Scenes from a Cycle Tour

Still don't have time to write much on the Sendingfietstoer. Will try to put something up by the end of the week.

The 3 photos attached are of: the view from God's Window (the spot where our 813km trip ended), a 18 metre high jump at Sabie and Yvonne, a student studying teaching at Free State University.

The Renault Megane

H5N1 is our fault – Experts

Experts believe H5N1 is caused by our bad habits
by Nick van der Leek

A few months ago I interviewed Professor Robert Bragg at the Free State University Microbiology Department. I asked him whether the demand for junk food – KFC for example – might be factor leading to unhealthy poultry farming. He said no, but we were thinking specifically of those indoor poultry factories. These are usually sealed units and infection from the outside in (or vice versa) is rare.

No, the real source of the H5N1 problem lies in the degree of environmental destruction and degradation caused by the hand of man. Loss of territory forces flocks of waterbirds to fly further to find suitable habitats. It also means these waterbirds come into closer contact with people and other animals than they otherwise would have.

Dr. David Rapport, a Canadian environmental expert also points to the mass production of poultry in open air markets in Asia. To maximize profits birds are tightly packed in cages, and cages are packed tightly in dense urban markets. This creates a template for diseases such as H5N1.

Dr. Robert Hebworth (an expert on migratory animals) has said that culling of infected animals is not a long term solution. Our focus ought to be on restoring thousands of damaged and diminishing wetlands.

5 countries in Africa have reported cases of bird flu: Burkina Faso, Egypt, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Recently large numbers of dead waterbirds were reported in Botswana’s northern Okavango region.

Fear has been expressed that Africa will not be able to afford the expensive process that is necessary to contain the virus wherever it emerges.

Ad awards: Rocks vs Rubbish (4)

This week’s look at what ads rock and what should be sent to the recycle bin

Advertising has to be entertaining, but not just entertaining. Advertising is effective when we’re given good reasons to buy what you’re selling.


The Sunsilk commercial is a gem. It features a cute blonde and appropriately dinky guy who find a gaping hole in the place of their bathroom wall (and mirror). Shock leads to curiosity, and in a snap, something seems to be developing between these two. Instead of a mere mirror, the two give advice on the other’s appearance, specifically hairstyles.
It’s a clever commercial, it’s fun and it’s rewatchable.


Tell better stories. This is for a car ad (Nissan I think), and in theory, a 4x4 ad with this message ought to work. My father often goes to Botswana and I think the all important moment is the hour or two after he arrives back when we hear about how close he was to a lion or elephant. So why on Earth are two brats in the ad? Are you supposed to buy a 4x4 to impress your kids? Really! Something tells me that the person who conceived the ad is not a parent. The most annoying thing about driving long distance (and especially in the bush) is having young kids with you. To remind potential buyers of this is just plain dumb. Come on guys; write ads that make a bit more sense.


I’ve seen two variations on the same theme. Basically we’re given the price of blood (or champagne) and then, relative to that we’re given the price of ink, and referred to a Nashua printer. Sorry, it doesn’t work. It’s too much of a leap. Blood and wine just don’t flow in the direction of a laser printer.

Good advertising requires at least a little bit of intelligence. People with money aren’t dumb, so take a little time before preaching to the converted.


Dusk falls on a little dorpie called Belfast

Serendipity: The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

The past 2 weeks have shot by like a pair of shooting stars across a brilliant night's sky. Have you ever seen shooting stars? If you blink, you'll miss them. Even if you don't, you might wonder if what you saw was real.

I feel a bit like that. I've had a lot of fun today after being stuck for hours yesterday with a crashing Windows Movie Maker. I finally found and terminated a conflicting codec. Being sleep deprived for much of Fietstoer (Cycle Tour) meant that it does sometimes feel like a dream. Fortunately there is a decent amount of photographic material, and even video to disprove that. I'm on Day 5 of the DVD I've called Lig/Light. Video brings a satisfying intimacy, a much greater immediacy to images...It's the combination of sounds, and moving images, that add the final, all important flourishes.

I wish I could lock myself in a room and play Spielberg for at least a week. Unfortunately, I have only one day left, and in it I have to squeeze in a lot.
This week I start teaching Economics and Business Studies to Std 8's at Brebner High School. My mom's side of the family were in Bloem recently to attend Brebner's 100th anniversary. My mom was Headgirl at a very different school. It's going to be weird teaching there after Korea, and after going to school at Grey. But, I think, also an interesting and positive experience.

Discipline is a factor at Brebner, I'm already well aware of that. I think they chose me because I'm a male teacher and because I toughed it out in Korea for 4 years. It's probably obvious that I have good mental endurance. Justus told me that his mom suggested being very tough with the kids for the first 2 weeks. And then being a little more friendly. Will do.

Emotionally it's been a real rollercoaster the last few weeks. So many new faces have come into my life, and also blasts from the past. Fransa and I have been through a rocky period, but we've come through so far with a much better understanding of each other and ourselves. So far she's rededicated herself to stop smoking. Tammy also made an appearance, and today I took her for a spin in the Megane. She showed me some pictures and we spoke quite seriously about where our lives were going. It's strange and bewildering to see her again at 23...when I last knew her, and lived with her, as a cheeky sister, a dark haired little girl. I also met some lovely people on the Ize Marie, Lizaan, Porter, PJ...too many really to mention. I'll try though, to post a diary of the 12 days over the course of the next 2-3 weeks.

I have quite a few ideas on how to apply my energies to the Brebner work experience. There's The Bugle, Brebner's newspaper, that I'd like to develop. I'd like to really educate the kids on how to use computers and the internet, especially in terms of researching homework. I'd like the Asian kids (I guess all of them) to correspond with other kids in Taiwan and/or Korea, and possibly work together on similar issues. Will speak to the teachers I know in those countries. I'd also like to make a DVD for the school, for each semester.
With enough practise (in film) I might use the next school vacation to do a road trip and interview guys like Colin McClelland and other guys at Eskom and Sasol and do a sort of Michael Moore cheapie/documentary on the Energy Situation in South Africa. And then write a book on it.

The GQ story is in stasis at the moment. Just don't have time to focus all my energies on it. Will have to email what I've already done, or block out a weekend and become a hermit so I can finish it.
Also bought WEG and GETAWAY with a view to sending them a pitch for Sendingfietstoer. I also think it will be wise to get the abbreviated Fietstoer story in the next issue of Heartland, because 6 months from now I am not sure if people will really care that much.

But first it's work at Brebner, moving out of 108 and into the hostel, and figuring out how to be a teacher and a student at the same time. On top of that I need to balance sport, and coaching, and try to maintain the guise of a - GASP - writer. My primary functionaility, as I see it, is to write. To communicate on the urgent matters - matters really of crisis - that we are faced with. I'm sure there's some good I can do as a teacher (but masquerading as a crusading journalist).

Many of the vital issues have become so cliched that people are unable to actually think about them. In the same way that the word God is an almost useless term (Being is better, in terms of being actually meaningful), so too, have the implications behind the empty banners of Climate Change, Peak Oil and H5N1 become decolorised and seemingly unimportant. In terms of Climate Change, I read a report indicating that there were 400 tornadoes in some or other American state...unusal both because of the number and for them being unseasonal. The tornadoes are only supposed to be due later this year. 400!

I worry that within weeks, the world we know will be forever changed. But disease, or war, or simply that the carrying capacity - which has already been far exceeded - starts to unravel. It really seems that we are in a multiple catastrophe (AIDS etc) and yet our behaviour is modulated by TV, easy motoring, the mall and sports. We ought, I sometimes imagine, to all run down the streets in unadulterated panic...knowing where we are in the world and what is about to be unleashed.

But I am happy that we can still celebrate life in the meantime. And I do, and I want to encourage others to do the same. Celebrate with your body. Run, swim, cycle, laugh, and dance. For tomorrow we may be dead.

And then there is the issue of buying a car. I'm thinking a Panda, for just under R100 000. But realistically, if I took the advice of Mr Kunstler, I ought to buy a beat up second hand mobile for less than R10 000. The emphasis should possibly not be on fuel efficiency, but on a car you almost never drive. The Panda purchase does not fit in with my views of consumption, or of congruency. The last thing we need, is another car on the road. And if anyone is aware of that, it's me. So what to do? I will buy a Raleigh Hybrid for the interim, and make up my mind further into the week about how committed I want to be to being another daily consumer of fossil fuels once more. Buying second hand seems a better bet too...

It's possible the world will ticker along for two or three more years before nature bites back in ways that we notice (lost pounds of flesh, bite wounds etc). It may be less, three or four months, or weeks. Gold clearly shows that the world is facing an imminent crisis.

Wisdom, as I see it, is to learn to begin to live lives congruent with reality. Living in sustainable ways.

The message of Easter is one of renewal. Rebirth. Revival. Let's turn towards the road ahead of us with happy hearts, and steely resolve. The road is long, but it doesn't need to be more difficult than it will be.

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The lines on a face...Car guard in Carolina Posted by Picasa

Country Feeling: bikes resting on the road to Bethlehem... Posted by Picasa

A Streetcar Named Desire

I've been driving around in a Renault Megane today. It becomes almost inevitable, driving such a beautiful car, that one attempts to forget or deny completely the realities beyond the window sheilds.

I'm looking to buy a car and am currently leaning towards a 4x2 Fiat Panda with awesome fuel efficiency (under 7), or a Kia Picanto (also under 7). Dhaihatsu, Ford Ka and a Golf Chico are also possible contenders.

The winner ought to be announced sometime this week... Posted by Picasa

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