Friday, November 30, 2007
Win 4 copies of Mark Gevisser's acclaimed biography of Thabo Mbeki, The Dream Deferred
The Times is giving away four copies of Mark Gevisser's profound study of President Thabo Mbeki. Eight years in the writing Gevisser's book is being hailed as a tour de force, a gripping and highly readable account of Thabo Mbeki's life and his rule over South Africa since emerging out of the shadow of Nelson Mandela. Published by Jonathan Ball, The Dream Deferred hit the bestseller list when it launched and has remained on it since.
To enter, go here.
Sadad al-Huseini: Well, every indication is that the increasing prices that we've been seeing are part of a trend, and the factors that caused the prices to rise are unlikely to go away. So, we're going to have a sustained price increase as long as the factors that drive prices persist.
DS: How much do you think prices are going to go up over the next few years?
SAH: Well, you can't put a control on the ceiling because the ceiling is a function of political events and other factors: emotional, speculation, etc. But you can predict that the floor on oil prices, and based on what we've seen so far, I would guess, in the next four to five years, the floor will keep rising at twelve - maybe a little bit more - dollars per barrel per year.
DS: So, where would you see prices in 2010, say?
SAH: 2010, we may well be - the floor on prices - may well be above $100. That's three years times twelve - thirty-six - plus where we are, $70 - $106 - as a floor.
DS: So, where is the technical floor, now, as you see it?
SAH: Now, the technical floor should have been around $70/$72. But, of course, the global hedging related to the dollar being soft - and commodities, and so on - has driven prices higher - but that's not because of the basic structural elements of the industry, it's because of the financial markets.
DS: So, what you're saying really is that in 2010, it's unlikely - rather unlikely - that oil prices will be less than $110 a barrel?
SAH: Absolutely. That's the whole point - that if your persist the way we do with demand as it is, the economy, globally, growing as it is, and the supplies being as constrained as they are - no question the dollar value - current dollar value - of oil would be well above $100.
DS: And where do you think it could be - in terms of its maximum? I know you say you can't put a constraint on that - but what's your guess?
SAH: We've seen fluctuations - it's a volatile market - and we've seen fluctuations of plus or minus maybe 20% - so it could be as high as $120/$125.
DS: Isn't there a counter argument here, though. Traditional economics would tell you that if the price of oil goes up - and goes up strongly - then it would either bring on additional supplies and/or depress demand. And, either way, mightn't that rather suggest that the oil price is going to head south, rather than going further north?
SAH: Yes. I mean, the point that you're making is that you would have demand destruction, and demand destruction would result in excess capacity, and, therefore, prices would come down. But, the reality is, what we've seen is there's a momentum to demand. This momentum is basically GDP. Unless you have a global recession that actually brings GDP down to zero, you're always going to have some incremental demand. And what we're seeing is there's no spare capacity of any significance, and, therefore, the factors that are driving prices up will persist.
Now, the only way for reversing this is a introduction of alternative energies - in very short order - which is unrealistic; as I said, a global recession which we don't see materializing; or alternative fuels, which again, are a problem to deliver in the short term. Based on all of that, we can only expect prices to go up. Now, there's also the question of who's going to buy the oil? There are economies in the world that can afford it, and so they will bid the price up, and there are countries and economies that cannot afford it, and they will unfortunately be hurt by this price trend.
DS: But the other side of the traditional economics equation would suggest also that additional supplies would come on stream if the price goes strongly upwards. Isn't that going to happen?
SAH: What we've seen is that although the price of oil has almost quadrupled - or more - in the last few years, the supply has not. The non-OPEC, non-former Soviet Union countries - and that includes countries like Mexico, North Sea, and others - have, in fact, gone down, even though the prices have increased four-fold or five-fold. We're also seeing that OPEC and non-OPEC former Soviet Union are levelling off. So, the normal economic theory is not working in this case, and that's because of course there's - there are ceilings in the industry that don't allow the normal equation to work.
DS: What are those ceilings - are they geopolitical, resource nationalism, or are we rubbing up, do you think, against some fairly fundamental geological constraints?
SAH: I think it's the latter. There's no question that there are giant fields left in the world, and there are major reserves left in the world, but they are all maturing oil fields - large fields, but maturing. The additional discoveries that are happening are very complex fields - smaller, less durable, less sustainable. The demand on resources, both human and equipment, is increasing to the point where their isn't any additional resource - human or mechanical. All these factors put together have created a structural ceiling - it's not politics, it's not a negative strategy by OPEC or any of the major produces - these are the realities of the industry.
DS: Is it peak oil?
SAH: I don't call it peak because I believe that with increasing prices you will be able to sustain some demand. But it's maybe more appropriately a plateau, a ceiling that is very hard to go above. It's sustainable. My guess is for another ten to fifteen years. Now, beyond that it's pretty hard to predict. But, certainly, the resources will be very severely depleted by then.
DS: So, from what you say, you seem to think that we are on this plateau already?
SAH: The evidence is that in spite of the increases - very large increases - in oil prices over the last four years, we haven't been able to match that with increasing capacity. So, essentially, we are on a plateau.
DS: And this point - fifteen years from now - is when you foresee production actually starting to fall?
SAH: In my own modelling of the resources, I cannot see additional reserves coming online fast enough to sustain the plateau - but as far as I can see with any clarity. Now, there may be other solutions. The Department of Energy in the U.S., the IEA, both believe that there will be some additional fuels, perhaps unconventional fuels, extra-heavy crudes, Gas to Liquids - perhaps - but as far as the conventional oil resources, I can't see that they would be sustainable beyond that time frame.
DS: And, in your own mind, do you think that those non-conventional - slightly non-conventional - sources of fuel like the Gas to Liquids and the oil sands, and so forth - can you see them making up the decline of conventional crude?
SAH: By 2030, with my model, they would have to be producing something like 24 million barrels a day to meet the demand, and also increase capacity to the levels as are anticipated by some of these international agencies. That's a very substantial volume, and it requires a very early start in investments, which we still don't see.
DS: So, do you think it's credible that they could provide 24 million barrels a day by 2030?
SAH: It's a stretch. You need to see a lot more activity on a international level to believe in that.
DS: You've talked about the maturity of the giant fields - which, of course, are the mainstay of global production. There's - in the outside world - obviously an intense debate about Ghawar, and Saudi production, more generally - an intense debate as to whether Ghawar has already gone into decline, and whether or not the Saudi cutbacks over the last couple of years - at least - were voluntary or involuntary. It's fair to say, I think, that everybody in the outside world is working pretty much in the dark about this - can you shed any light on it?
SAH: Well, Saudi Arabia has a large number of very giant fields, and its policy has always been to be very prudent in how they're managed, and to sustain their capacity over the long haul. I don't have a concern about Saudi Arabia's production. I think the confusion is that many of these international organizations have assumed that Saudi Arabia will double - or more - its capacity; in other words, produce 20/20 plus million barrels a day. That's the unrealistic aspect of these forecasts. But, as far as Saudi Arabia sustaining its capacity, it's doing very well, and can sustain its capacity. The problem is nobody else seems to be doing anything, whether in the Gulf region or internationally - whether it's Russia or Mexico or any of the others - so it's a bit of an unfair burden to assume that Saudi Arabia will pull everybody's chestnuts out of the fire.
DS: A Saudi official said, recently, I think that Saudi capacity would rise to some 12 million barrels a day by 2012. Is that achievable, do you think?
SAH: Certainly, the investments are being made. The total capital program that has been announced since, say, 2003 through 2011, is over $80 billion. Something like $55 billion is into the oil capacity. So, certainly, the investments are being made. How the reservoirs will respond - some of these are new fields - will be determined as they start producing. But the investments are definitely being made. It's an achievable number.
DS: And what about beyond that? Because Saudi officials have also said, I think, that Saudi would have no trouble in producing some 15 million barrels a day for 50 years, or for decades. Is that credible, do you think?
SAH: I haven't heard that myself. What I have read and seen is that the capital program is intended to reach 12.5, and what I've read is that the government officials in Saudi Arabia and in the oil companies - Saudi Aramco - have said that they intend to wait and see - once they've reached that level - what to do next. So those numbers, I believe, are achievable. Beyond that, I haven't heard of an official strategy to go higher.
DS: As you say, the international agencies and the energy departments of the big consuming nations do assume in their forecasts that Saudi Arabia and the Middle East "Big Five" are going to continue to make good all the demand growth in the future, and you've cast doubt on that today. How safe are those assumptions, then? It's a rhetorical question, I guess, but how safe do you think those assumptions are?
SAH: Some of those assumptions, for example, assume that OPEC will go from about 30 million barrels a day - which is what it produces now - to well over 45 or 47 million barrels a day. Other companies - oil companies - have even shown a high of 60 million barrels a day. That's what I'm calling unrealistic. Staying at 30 million barrels a day is not a small feat - that's a lot of oil - that's half of the exported (sold) oil in the markets today, and to stay there requires a sustained investment program which is quite massive, and a lot of resources. I think that's realistic - staying at 30. But going to some of these numbers - 47, 48, 60 million barrels a day - I think that's quite unrealistic.
DS: So what risks do you think Western consuming nations run by sticking to those assumptions?
SAH: I think, perhaps, they're just not looking realistically at prices because the equation has three factors: supply, demand, and price. If you assume that you have a endless supply to meet demand, then price would stay reasonably low. If you assume supply is constrained - which is what I'm saying - and has a ceiling, then the only way to balance the equation is to assume that prices will increase significantly, and I think that's a more prudent and realistic outlook.
DS: Sadad al-Huseini, thank you very much for talking to me.
• The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is the male sperm.
• You use 200 muscles to take one step.
• The average woman is 5 inches shorter than the average man.
• Your big toes have two bones each while the rest have three. • A pair of human feet contain 250,000 sweat glands.
• A full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball.
• The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades.
• The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
• It takes the food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.
• The average human dream lasts 2-3 seconds.
• Men without hair on their chests are more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver than men with hair.
• At the moment of conception, you spent about half an hour as a single cell.
• There is about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
• Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.
• The enamel in your teeth is the hardest substance in your body.
• Your teeth start growing 6 months before you are born.
• When you are looking at someone you love, your pupils dilate; they do the same when you are looking at someone you hate.
• Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people.
• Your thumb is the same length of your nose.
"This has led to the grounding of aircraft," she said, adding: "We don't know where we stand at the moment." Thome said the airline had not been given a "solid reason" for the move.
Engine drama. It had not once been told it was linked to the drama at Cape Town International Airport on November 7 when an engine dropped off Nationwide flight CE723.
"We were cleared of that incident," said Thome.
The Johannesburg-bound Boeing 737 lost one of its two engines during take-off from Cape Town airport, yet managed to land safely half an hour later.
The airline said the engine had sucked in "an object" as the plane was taking off.
Following the incident, the CAA ordered a full inspection of all Boeing 737-200s.
Boeing 737-200s belonging to Comair and Kulula and SAA Cargo were later declared safe after engine mount inspections.
For the rest of this News24 article, go here.
NVDL: It may not be justified but even before this incident I had decided never to fly with Nationwide again. I'd had a cellphone stolen out of my bag and when I reported it, their attitude was: 'Ja, it happens all the time.' There was no sense of attempting to find the phone. Although this may be the case with other airlines, it's still a sorry set of standards. On the other hand, I think the service you get from Kulula.com is excellent. That's simply how it works: treat a customer with disdain and he or she will do the same to you.
Government faces R5bn suit after bribery scandal. Three condom suppliers, the South African Bureau of Standards, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel face a R5 billion class-action lawsuit over defective condoms the Health Department distributed earlier this year.
Mathibela James Ramahuma and 49 999 other unnamed plaintiffs are each demanding compensation of R100 000. The claims
have been served on the Health Department, the Finance Department and the SABS, said Gilford Malatji, the attorney bringing the action.
For the rest of this Sowetan Online article, go here.
NVDL: It's actually an incredibly serious F&$# Up. It means even if you have protected sex, you might contract a terminal disease, or impregnate someone and infect them, and worse, pass on the virus to the unwanted foetus you've conceived. It's a humongoid F&$# Up.
Lori Drew, admitted to police that she created a fake MySpace profile used to torment 13-year old Megan Meier into commiting suicide.
2. Don't Be Too Honest
The ‘gross misconduct’ of blogging
3. Be Nice
No More Mr. Nice Blog.
NVDL: Did I leave anything else out? Possibly just that what counts in the real world also counts in the virtual (on the internet). Be congruent in both.
The cars were recalled as the faulty fuel pipe could have caused cracks and corrosion, leading to a fuel leak. According to Toyota’s spokeswomen, 26,274 Lexus GS300, 5,429 Lexus IS250, and 2,640 Lexus !S350 have been recalled in the US, with the same models being recalled in Canada.
Although there have been no injuries, there have been 39 cases of trouble in Japan. It is not known if there are reports of problems elsewhere. This isn’t the first problem to have hit Toyota recently. Quality control problems have been the main concern for Toyota, who have promised to enhance quality checks.
The moment I step inside New York City's Roseland Ballroom I can feel the tension rising. Huge plasma screens hang from the ceiling of the cavernous space to provide spectators a view of the action. Shrouded in a hooded red satin robe, the reigning West Coast champ stands in a corner near the entrance taking questions from reporters. The entire arena is abuzz with competitive energy. I only hope I can channel it into my thumbs.
Today, Roseland is the scene of the National Texting Championship, and I can tell I'm out of my league. Although I'm only 25, my competition — forming a line more than 300 rivals long and extending out onto West 52nd Street — looks an average of five to 10 years younger. Most tap idly at their phones; some carry their devices in belt-clip holsters. Many clutch permission slips from their parents.
Looking around at the sea of cyberteens with keypad appendages, I try to psych myself up: Don't worry, you've got years of texting experience on these guys. Then I remember my acute disadvantage: Competition sponsor LG requires the use of one of its QWERTY-keyboarded phones, and I've had mine for only a day. Feeling uneasy, I turn to that West Coast champion, 21-year-old Eli Tirosh, who flew in from Los Angeles for the event.
"I probably shouldn't be telling you this, being that you're the competition," she says, before advising me to "watch out for the shift and symbol keys. They're close to each other." I ask her which competitors pose the greatest threat, and without hesitation Tirosh answers: "The 15-year-olds."
When the games begin, I join a bracket with the four oldest-looking texters I can find — ages 19, 19, 23, and 28. As the moment of truth approaches, the almost thirtysomething asks if he can use his phone's T9 feature. Jeers and mockery rain down on the guy — clearly he's doomed. Our phones are on the table in front of us, our hands behind our backs, and our eyes fixed on a plasma screen, where a clock is counting down. When it reaches zero, the phrase "Faster than a speeding bullet..." appears. Everyone grabs their phone and tries to text the phrase fast and error-free before sending it to the judge. I'm quick, but not so accurate — I tap one comma instead of a period in the ellipses. I'm out. I join the other losers in the spectators' area.
As the rounds progress, the phrases become increasingly intricate, and the average age of the remaining participants drops. Eventually, the national title and $25,000 prize come down to two finalists: Tirosh and Morgan Pozgar, a junior high schooler from Claysburg, Pennsylvania. The crowd gasps when the last challenge flashes on the monitor — the first lines of the Mary Poppins classic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The finalists tap madly. Tirosh finishes first, but has misspelled fragilistic. Seconds later, Pozgar sends a flawless rendering, earning the texting crown. Tirosh stands to the side, stunned. She knew to be wary of the 15-year-olds but, like the rest of us, never saw the 13-year-old coming.
NVDL: If you haven't heard of MXIT, please don't start.
“If there are members of the ANC who nominate me for whatever position I have got to respect that,” he told South Africa’s SABC television.
“When the ANC elections commission comes and says ‘you have been nominated for president, are you available?’ I will respect that, I will say yes of course I am available,” Mbeki said.
For the rest of this article from Sowetan Online, go here.
NVDL: "I won't step back". But will our president step forward? Has he, on all of our countries urgent issues - AIDS, crime, Zimbabwe, The Bokke, Selebi, Manto, corruption in general?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The league’s secretary general Bathabile Dlamini said it was wrong for people to continue associating Zuma with rape and ignore the fact that a court of law had found him innocent.
“Those who feel the league should not have nominated him because of the rape case want us to be part of a kangaroo court. The case went to court and everybody knows the outcome,” she said.
For the rest of this article from Sowetan Online article, go here.
NVDL: Unfair? Interesting.
The US magazine People quoted the girl’s father as saying they met for two hours with Winfrey on Sunday at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and that it was the first meeting since they had withdrawn their child from the school after staff ignored her complaints.
For the rest of this article from Sowetan Online, go here.
NVDL: Will she return? Should she? I think she should.
LONDON - Just when tightening oil supplies across the world looked ready to experience some relief, with OPEC ministers to meet next week potentially to raise production, a pipeline explosion in the United States has cut critical supplies from Canada and sparked a jump in prices on Thursday.
Canadian company Enbridge (nyse: ENB - news - people ) has shut down four pipelines carrying crude oil to the United States after an explosion on Wednesday afternoon claimed the lives of two workers. The pipeline blast took place three miles from a terminal in Clearbrook, Minnesota, and the shutdown has effectively corked 1.7 million barrels' worth of oil per day.
The supply shock sparked a boost in oil futures. West Texas Intermediate for January delivery gained $3.63, or 4.0%, to $94.25 per barrel, while Brent crude for January delivery advanced $2.06, or 2.3%, to $91.87 per barrel, on the ICE futures exchange.
"This pipeline blast has caused a little bit of consternation simply because it is such an important pipeline," said Lawrence Poole, energy analyst with Global Insight. He said the affected lines contributed 20% of America's import requirement, adding: "In the short term, there is no doubt that it is going to add some pressure to oil futures."
Above story by Lionel Laurent,for more, go here.
To view the ad, go here.
I have just watched Jenna Jameson — trussed up in a minuscule white wife beater and a skimpy pair of shorts — take a paddle to a couple of animated men. Animated not because they are so titillated by their mistress of porn and her ministrations with the paddle, but rather because they are dressed to resemble small Japanese cartoons.
For more, go here.
NVDL: Don't blame the advertising; it's merely a reflection of what the market thinks and wants and what works at a particular point in a culture's timeline. MTV music videos are setting the trend, but maybe it all started online a few years ago, and all that intense focus is beginning to filter through.
Personally I think it's naive to be (or say that you are) surprised at the extent of the pornographisation of everything, softcore or not, from media to behaviour. What's surprising is people who say or do actually and empirically) buck this trend. It's patently obvious whether you're watching TV, walking around the mall or at work. Obviously the question of decency is another question altogether, and obviously porn is one of those factors eroding what was once The Nuclear Family and all it espoused after we left home.
Porn, the Porn Lifestyle and the Porn Mindset basically entail a shallow, meaningless, hedonistic approach to What I Want Now, as well as a culture of Something For Nothing. Getting rich and famous, for example, by being on a reality tv show. So even if you shop, if you consume, if you're into eye candy, you're a porn freak. To say otherwise or claim otherwise is to my mind being a hypocrite. The opposite of Porn is Deep, Meaningful, Penetrative...er...Dialogue, with oneself and others. In a word, Integrity. Which is how we start to develop connectedness. Porn engenders the opposite, and is thus insidiously and subtly destructive.
I used to be terrified of failure. Failure seemed to me to be a dead end. A desert. An empty hollow place surrounded by sterility. It’s not. Failure is actually an environment that can be filled with hope and opportunity. Because the moment we realize we have failed, in that moment of realization, is the beginning of something new, and something better, but if and only if we change.
What’s worse than failure is moving on the road to failure and not knowing it. Failure is useful when we see it as a meaningful message. A simple message saying: Don’t do that. Or: If you do that, this happens.
Two of my greatest failures, in my opinion, were the two Ironman triathlon races I trained for. They were failures especially in terms of the personal cost involved. Both times I overdid the training, I remember some 170km+ cycling days in extreme heat and humidity (in both years) that broke my body. I became sick with 2-3 weeks to go before race day two years in a row. That was after paying thousands of Rands for airfares, entry fees, and equipment. Far worse were the hours and energies invested – months and months – of training and toil in sometimes very stressful conditions.
But it was only after the second failure that I knew I needed to change my whole psychology, or not even try. I needed to wake up, and get a clear grasp on what I was doing. Not plan, put my head down and then emerge after all the hard work. I had to maintain concentration, attention, and focus on what I was doing it throughout the exhaustion, throughout the process.
Thus I approached my training with less obsessive dedication and more present minded enjoyment. Success for me was built into the training journey. I began to see that the training was its own reward – not only the race at the end of it. Guess what? I got sick again, but recovered quickly and kept an open mind, and when race day dawned, well, I felt like a million bucks. I’m not sure if that day would have happened had it not been for the two ‘failures’, the two stepping stones that went before.
We seem to go through life taught to avoid mistakes, but you know, if you rush into life, if you engage as much as you can, you quickly learn how to be effective, you quickly learn what works, you learn what you are capable of, what the limits are, what you can do well and what you can’t. We waste so much time agonizing over small details, living our scenarios in our minds instead of living them out in reality.
Steve Jobs dropped out of university, but while he was there he took a course in calligraphy. Yes, one could say Jobs’ university career was a failure. But Jobs was the first to apply various fonts (learned in calligraphy classes) to his word-processing software on his Apple computers.
Everywhere we go we are learning new skills, but only if we see it that way. The tragedy is when we cast away the vital information imbedded in the University of Failure. There are so many life skills there, and we tend to dismiss them or forget about them because they make us feel bad, they hurt our fragile egos.
If you’re unwilling to allow yourself to make mistakes, then you’re not going to experience much growth or vitality in your life. This applies to all sorts of everyday scenarios in life, from meeting people, to experimenting with ideas, and especially to taking risks. Taking a risk means doing anything you’re afraid to do, and it’s those things you are most afraid to do that you know you must do. Risks with the opposite sex (and I mean healthy risks, for example calling someone you like, or getting married orbreaking up when you know you must), and risks associated with investing our energies in something challenging, like sport, or adventure or making partner (or saving your first R100 000) in 5 years.
When I failed to race in the second Ironman I’d entered, I was very nearly defeated by that. It just seemed too much to have to commit all those energies and expenses all over again. I had to find a way to my real motives, and not force myself to adopt a goal just because I knew I should. There were a few days when I felt I just couldn’t come up with the good a third time, and I lived with that ambivalence for a while, not judging it, just going: okay, so what if I don’t do that, is that something I’m prepared to live with?
I took some time out and asked: “Why is this important to me?” Once I’d found real reasons why I wanted to be out there doing, I had to make sure I avoided the same mistakes. So I asked myself: How did you fail?
I went over my training logs and I found the exact dates and workouts and stressful encounters that caused the breakdown. I saw that even though I could identify these single events, they were preceded by long periods of strain. And I also saw that I often compressed heavy workloads into short periods. All these training habits had to be avoided if I was going to be third time successful (as opposed to merely lucky).
To avoid failure focus on the following: How can you do things differently (to the things you and others have done in the past, things that have not worked), and find different levels of success than a dual paradigm. A deeper, wider paradigm. For my Ironman goal it meant going deeper than simply: racing/finishing = success, not racing/not finishing = failure.
I built into my plan a failure clause. What to do when things unravel. How to feel if I had a puncture. I did get sick. I even got sick with a tummy bug the morning before the race. There were plenty of excuses I could have used to pull out of the competition at the last moment. A close friend decided to get married on that day and many of my friends and family would be there. But I stuck to the plan and didn’t let the obviousness of the scenario defeat me. I asked: what really counts here? And the answer was: how you feel on the day of the race, and you can only quit when you give yourself permission to quit.
Failure is an opportunity to grow. Quitting isn’t. Quitting is what losers do. Winners fail, and then bounce back stronger, better and faster. If you believe that then anything is possible.
*Marva Collins, quoted from Hal Urban’s “Life’s Greatest Lesson”
Fire shuts key Canada-U.S. pipeline, oil leaps $3
We're going to see this trend a lot over the near term. There's going to be this incredible demand for good news (on the energy theme), and each and every time there will be bad news to counter it. This is inevitable in the Peak Oil era, where supply is on an unassailable downward curve. It is a feature of delusion that you wish for something other than the inevitable, but it is still very human. It's the same thing believing there is life after death. Sure, we wish it were true, but wishing and wanting doesn't make dreams come true.
Oil Prices Rebound in Asian Trading
At the very least, we'll soon see a world with more bicycles, or at least, I hope we will.
Thunderstorms in these areas may become severe, with a risk of large hail and damaging winds.
MAN GONE DOWN
By Michael Thomas. Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.
OUT STEALING HORSES
By Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. Graywolf Press, $22.
THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES
By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.
By Nick van der Leek. Bloomsbury, $31.
THEN WE CAME TO THE END
By Joshua Ferris. Little, Brown & Company, $23.99.
TREE OF SMOKE
By Denis Johnson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.
IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95; Vintage, paper, $14.95.
LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression.By Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Bantam Books, $22.
THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.
By Jeffrey Toobin. Doubleday, $27.95.
THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History.
By Linda Colley. Pantheon Books, $27.50.
THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century.
By Alex Ross. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.
I hesitated in the dark. Half dressed. Then I made the crucial decision, and I have to say, a bad one. I got back into bed. The Phedra Cut did its work, accelarating my metablolism, meaning I couldn't sleep for the next 4 hours.
After a day at the office we went in a bus to the Joburg CBD. Honestly at times I felt like I was in a European city, travelling back in time. So many beautiful sandstone edifices. This is the part of the city that was the original city, when gold was coming out of the Earth, and the eye of the British Empire was fixed on this glowing part of the world.
The venue for the function was the Rand Club, one of the beautiful edifices, but in a pretty grotty part of town. The inside is lavish - membership is R5000 a year. There are big paintings of the queen inside, and a generally Victorian Colonial Ethos, you've seen it in Out of Africa: England in Africa.
The dress code was black and silver. I fitted in perfectly with my camo pants and khaki top. I didn't bother to take my own camera, or to be a social butterfly. Did meet a funny fella called Temba though, who worked in sales. Felt a bit more loosey goosey after a double whiskey. But since discretion is the better part of virtue, I'm not going to describe the good, the bad or the ugly. Suffice it to say there were generous dollops of each of these. I will put up the odd photograph through the course of the day-to-day ;-)
Got home around 11pm and slept like a baba. Today is another grey day with alas, no partying this evening, but perhaps a drink with L.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Holiday is a weird piece of writing.
NVDL: You mean sexy weird, or weird as in Marilyn Manson + Whacko Jacko.
Initially I was struck by the idea that this was a kind of apocalyptic version of The Beach.
NVDL: Pity you weren’t struck by a bolt of lightning.
This idea was built on the first few pages of this manuscript where I could detect something of Alex Garland in the author’s style, but, perhaps more than that, in his choice of setting for this novel.
NVDL: Are you a detective? So you’re saying because this story is set in the Far East, in the Philippines, it’s interchangeable with the only other novel you have ever read, set in Thailand? Do you ever get out of the house? My guess is you wouldn’t detect a fly even if it flew straight into your eye.
Garland has written quite extensively about Southeast Asia-
NVDL: Did he write anything beyond The Beach that was set in Southeast Asia?
-but in essence this work boils down to a succession of sweaty, run down hotel rooms with fans that don’t work properly.
NVDL: It’s a nice bunch of words to string together, but actually that’s not even close to what HOLIDAY is about. It’s about Climate Change. That’s the backdrop. Interesting that you didn’t detect that, but instead focused on interior decorations. Probably reflects the extent to which you remain indoors, contemplating your own dismal surrounds, and finding yourself utterly bored beyond belief and unable to produce anything of merit yourself.
As I started to read HOLIDAY I was struck by a certain kind of kinship with this kind of post-Apocalypse Now vision.
NVDL: Jeepers. Are you able to stick to the actual work at hand, or is something always a reflection of something else? Can you see something for what it is, or does it have to be judged in comparison to a hierarchy of your own selected works. Doesn’t say much already for your ability to think fresh thoughts.
However, as I read further this kindship rapidly dimished until there was little if anything of it left.
NVDL: That’s because HOLIDAY is initially and intentionally set in a reality that you might be able to identify with, i.e. one that is familiar. From there it takes you into an environment you’re not familiar with. Quite a few stories work this way, but you probably wouldn’t know that.
This is, in my opinion, due to the nature of the story that the author is trying to tell in this manuscript.
NVDL: Ya think?
The story is one of global catastrophe and this of course overrides any other stories to do with human relationships or hotel rooms, sweaty or otherwise.
NVDL: You got the a third of your information right in that sentence. You’re saying stories about global catastrophe somehow earn a license to break away from other formulaic stories? You’re really stuck on formula aren’t you? Possibly, you’re on anti-depressants and any departure from what you perceive in your microcosm of existence petrifies you.
So, an Alex Garland-esque disaster thriller, what more could we ask for? Well, quite a lot actually.
NVDL: This should be good.
As I mentioned above this manuscript fragments after its initial impact and ‘fragmented’ is a good general description for this manuscript.
NVDL: That’s sort of what happens when the world comes to an end. The centre cannot hold and things fall apart. You don’t tell a story about breakdown from a vantage point of complete access to information, and physical integrity. I’ve considered asking printers to approximate burnt pages, oil smears and water drops mixing with ink, to further promote this idea of disintegration. The point is, you appear too STOOOOPID to see that this fragmenting of the story is a metaphor for the story itself. KOO KOOOO!
There are great general descriptions of the Philippines and some good plot development, but the novel doesn’t hold together and the reason it doesn’t hold together is because it lacks the emotional investment and imaginative creativity necessary to make it work as a piece of fiction.
NVDL: So you initially criticize this for being too creative for a formula you had in mind, now it’s not creative enough? It lacks emotional investment? Have you heard of understatement as a technique to elicit emotion? The whole idea is to present a gray area and not have the characters solve the problems for the reader. The reader is faced with these problems, and is asked to consider a solution. So the lack of investment appears to come from your brain, and I’d diagnose a certain amount of schizophrenia here, disguised as ‘academia’.
There is no doubt in my mind that this author can write (and his covering letter shows that he has been published in various magazines), but writing fiction requires emotional intelligence that journalism does not.
NVDL: This is priceless! Now I’m accused of being a journalist. And you imply I am an author already? I think I need to pass on Human & Rousseau altogether if this is the sort of mindrotted moron you employ to do your reading.
This is what is lacking from this manuscript and this is why it will continue not to work. I would suggest that the author revisit the work that made him want to become a novelist and learn all he can from it.
NVDL: Thanks guy. If you don’t mind, I am now going to bin your letter. My suggestion is that you do a treatise on Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh. Start off by giving all the reasons you wouldn’t publish it, thereby echoing the hollow, mindless clatter that so many unimaginative, uninspired souls have produced over the ages. Join the throng of the wrong. And then ask yourself how much those reasons you hold so dear, how much do they really matter. What does matter? An imaginative story; a fresh approach.
Unfortunately, I see a rather old human being, if not in years, then in the sense of too little butter spread over too much bread. I see someone pretending to have a sensible view, when all they really know is the inside of a library, the bottom of a whiskey glass, the feeling of a cigarette butt between their fingertips. You’re unable to know anything for what it is, probably because you are not an identifiable being yourself, but someone who drifts, who voyeurs on the hopes and dreams and musings of others. As such, having learnt nothing from life (or even how to think about it), do yourself and everyone around you a favor: get busy living, or shut the hell up.
Belief systems start up SNAP – just like that!
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – Arthur C. Clarke.
If you sometimes wonder how God came into being, it’s really quite simple. When a primitive culture encounters a more advanced culture (and not necessarily of a different species), engendering godlike status is a natural, if illogical reaction.
Cargo cults have been around for as long as 200 years, and as recently as 30 years ago. Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion writes: “It seems that in every case the islanders were bowled over by the wondrous possessions of the white immigrants [coming] to their islands, including administrators, soldiers and missionaries.”
Rituals that seem at first to be incomprehensible, later make perfect sense. They’re intended ‘to persuade the gods to send cargo.’ Richard Dawkins explores this interesting aberration in human beings from page 202 of his book. He notes that several cargo cults sprang up during the same period all over the world. David Attenborough indicates cults springing up in New Caledonia, Fiji, the Solomon islands, the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and ‘over fifty [cults] in New Guinea’.
Attenborough writes: ‘The majority of these religions claim that one particular messiah will bring the cargo when the day of apocalypse arrives.’
Dawkins ponders whether so many similar cults indicate ‘unifying features of human psychology’. The legend of John Frum, which we’ll examine here in greater detail, is a fascinating example. Whether or not Frum existed as a real man is not known for certain, but in Vanuatu he was treated as a savior, as a figure of messianic significance. Dawkins points out that although this cult is a fairly recent one (dating back to 1940), and although official government records show some (inconclusive) evidence that he existed, it is by no means certain that he did.
Remember that the primitive people who encountered white sailors noticed they never seemed to make anything. If something was needed these ‘gods’ went away and came back with exactly what they needed. Obviously, if you have an ‘island’ psychology, meaning if your world and perception of the world (and the universe) is confined to your and a few neighboring islands, then it simply doesn’t occur to you that these boats are sailing unimaginably long distances into a completely different environment, with vast cities, where sophisticated cultures and economies have developed.
So the natives viewed the cargo as supernatural. After all, the gods seemed to spend all their time in rituals, and none in conventional practice (such as hunting, fishing, or planting crops). Dawkins suggests that shuffling papers behind a desk, to a primitive, might appear to be ‘a kind of religious devotion’.
It’s important to remember that the pattern for cargo cults doesn’t vary. There’s a single blueprint. If you’d like to verify for yourself (something one should always do), refer to David Attenborough’s book Quest in Paradise.
Now, the primitives put together an idea how to procure ‘cargo’. Bear in mind that for them, cargo is a source of magic. Cargo is not merely treasure, it is life enhancing, life transforming. So how do you ‘get’ cargo? What rituals need to be performed? Dawkins writes: ‘Build masts with wires… listen to small boxes that glow with light and emit noises…persuade the locals to dress up in identical clothes and march around…’
The legend goes that a small white haired man with a bird-like voice would come again, wearing a shiny coat glittering with buttons. Frum was something of a revolutionary, prophesying and turning the locals against the visiting missionaries. According to the cult, Frum went to his ancestors (which must mean he was killed), but promised to return, and his return would bring abundance to the people (in the form of cargo). Frum’s prophesies were about cataclysms and natural disasters, his return would heal the sick, and bring youth to the old and infirm. Everyone would have as much cargo as they wanted. Interestingly, Frum also prophesied that on his return he’d bring a new currency, coins with coconuts on them, which led to the local inhabitants spending all their money in 1941. Despite serious damage to the local economy, and numerous arrests, the cult continued.
Then, a few years later, the local religious leaders promoted a new version of the Frum cult, informing the locals that Frum was the King of America, and would arrive out of the sky in an aeroplane. In order to lure him to land, the locals cleared forest and built dummy aeroplanes on the new airstrip. The airstrip even had a dummy tower and dummy air-traffic controllers (made of wood).
In the 1950’s Attenborough visited Vanuatu (specifically an island called Tanna), taking a cameraman with him. After finding evidence of the Frum religion, they finally found the high priest, a man called Nambas. The priest referred to Frum as ‘John’ and claimed to communicate constantly with him by ‘radio’. His exact words: ‘Radio belong John’.
The radio turned out to be a woman with a wire around her waist who would supposedly act as a conduit, and the priest was able to decipher her twaddle. Nambas also claimed to know in advance that Attenborough was coming, since John had told him.
Attenborough asked what Frum looked like.
Nambas: ‘’E look like you. ’E got white face. ‘E tall man…’
Apparently the legend continues to change and evolve, but one thing was certain. Frum would return on February 15 (though of course the exact year is unknown.) When Attenborough observed a ceremony to welcome John Frum on February the 15th, he asked one of the devotees, a fellow called Sam: ‘Isn’t 19 years a long time to wait?’ (It had been 19 years since the ‘real’ Frum had ‘promised’ to return with bountiful cargo).
Sam replied: ‘If you can wait 2000 years for Jesus Christ to come an ‘e no come, then I can wait more than 19 years for John.’
In 1974 Prince Philip visited these selfsame islands, and immediately became deified. Dawkins makes the excellent point that the details of a religion can change very quickly, and spring up suddenly, out of nothing.
And Dawkins provides the following 4 lessons from the above scenario, which are worth considering:
1) The speed at which beliefs come into existence
2) Speed at which the origination process covers its tracks
3) Human psychology is demonstrably susceptible to religion
4) Cargo cults are strikingly similar to other religions
Dawkins also points out that in the modern era charismatic celebrities like Princess Diana, Mother Theresa and Elvis Presley have all but been deified as well. There is also a need to declare people, who seemed particularly good to us, as saints. And people, especially Catholics, routinely pray to saints (as Saint Joan did).
After studying this subject over the past few weeks, I’ve personally had a few conversations on the forbidden subject of Religion, and I have to say, I don’t enjoy the topic at all. I constantly feel I am getting sucked into diseased or contagious thinking, and even when you offer a cogent statement you get a response that is frankly – well, it stops the conversation cold. It’s difficult to share one’s beliefs openly and honestly when one’s beliefs are prescribed as opposed to the natural result of experiencing reality.
But I understand how powerful beliefs are because I held certain beliefs (of faith) very strongly at one time, and regurgitated my responses (as I see so many doing) without having the presence of mind (note the meaning of those words: presence of mind) to reflect on whether these really are our conscious thoughts.
The Cargo Cult phenomenon posits the following: we wouldn’t believe in our beliefs if they weren’t so easy to believe. Sometimes what we believe makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t, but the point is, the belief itself is sticky and efficient, and it works for us in some way. Unfortunately, believing something doesn’t make it true. Belief isn’t a prerequisite for reality, but consciousness is. Being conscious is not in the same boat as having a belief, in fact it’s fair to suggest that beliefs prevent us from accessing the obvious reality in the present moment. Why, because our present paradigm has been overthrown by overarching programming. We are susceptible to throwing away what we know when faced with something that appears magical or simply hard to explain or even hard to imagine (like sophisticated devices, like the coming into being of the universe, like what happens after w edie). It’s fair, from a certain point of view, to intuit a God into a universe that seems to have clockwork beyond our imagination, but if that’s our response then we ought to humbly admit that God is merely our definition of the magic, mystery and majesty of the universe. Few people, including me, would find anything wrong with that.
NVDL: It's an amazing country in the heart of our own country, and yet as soon as you enter it, it feels distinctly different. The people have a dignity about themselves, they dress differently and of course, living in the mountains,
there is a cheerful resilience in the donkeys and men that you see beside the fenceless roads.
Ficksburg, 10:33. I’m ready for sun, sweat and soil. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m in a town that feels like a frontier sort of place. I won’t be surprised if I see a couple of cowboys walking down the street, heading for the OK Corral. I can already see what’s in store for me – very tall mountains, the Maloti’s – rising to an ominous blur of blue and purple. I’m traveling on my own through Eastern Lesotho. Well, not exactly. I’ve got something BIG, to get me across the Roof of Africa in a single day.
At the border post of Maputsoe, I get a taste of what’s to come. Nobody knows anything about my intended route. No one knows whether the roads are still impassable due to heavy rains, or how long my route might take. Somehow this distills my nerve, restores my wits. I’m heading into the unknown and there’s nothing else to it. I’m expecting to flash across the mountains in a blur of silver, and to emerge on the other side, at Sani, in the late, perhaps even early afternoon. Silly boy.
I’m taking an unusual route. It looks something like an upside down ‘5’. This means it’s a much longer road to the other side of The Roof. Instead of going via Oxbow, I’m turning off at Hlotse and heading past Katse Dam towards Thaba Tseka before turning sharply towards Mokhotlong, where my road meets the conventional one and passes right beside Southern Africa’s highest point. After that, I descend down a road too steep for most vehicles – the Sani Pass, with a gradient of 1:6. After only a few minutes, my cellphone loses it’s signal.
At Hlotse (a name reminiscent of Lhotse, the peak adjacent to Everest), I pass the turn off to Thaba Tseka. I could easily have gone on, but I turn my sleek vessel around, and head towards rougher country, and even rougher roads. Meanwhile, the scenery around me is changing. The first thing I notice is how different this landlocked country is to my own. Lesotho immediately feels different. There are no fences beside the strip of tar that shoots and swings across muscular green countryside. This already gives an impression of freedom, and vertigo, and exposure to the outdoors. Roofs are held down with large rocks. But more charming than anything, are the people. Children all over Lesotho shout, “GIVE ME MONEY!” as you pass by. I find a flock of blue frocked schoolgirls, weeding a vegetable garden. Then I encounter a shepherd boy with a painted face, dressed in vivid red. I find the same dress code repeated over and over: gum boots, a colorful blanket, a shepherd’s staff and a winter hat. This pattern is found across this mountain Kingdom, and it soon becomes clear why. My road suddenly flies steeply upward, along the dragon’s back.
Pitseng, 11:40. If I had any doubts about my road, they were eclipsed first by a pair of intrepid (and apparently very strong) cross-country cyclists. The pair – one from Canada and one from Holland – had cycled (and walked) the route I’d mapped out, in reverse. They said the rivers were coming down in spate, but were able to get themselves and their bicycles across the worst using a small ferry. They pulled out a map, warning me, “Don’t get lost!” and showed me a possible alternative 4x4 route I could take if the Senqu (one of the sources of the Orange) was still roaring over roads. More than anything, their confidence and joie de vivre fused into me. And second, when I was lifted high on the shoulders of the Mafika Lisiu Pass (3090m) knowing their travails had taken them over these self same roads, I was fully inspired to follow this road to its end.
The Mafika Lisiu Pass gets you higher than Sani, and the road offers equally stupendous scenery. Forget using the aircon at this altitude, the air is fresh and cool enough, and will remain thus for much of the remainder of the journey. Now, I found very few huts or vehicles for miles and miles. When you turn off the engine your ears ring. You can hear the tyres of your vehicle crunching on rock, and your own feet crush the hard bristles of some hardy mountain grass. It’s very quiet. A single bird chirrups through crystal clear air - the sound rings like a bell. Every now and again you drive through a tongue of silver water that spills over a road. Stop there and listen to the gurgling song – it’s probably better than anything you’ve got on the radio. I offer two small boys 50 cents each, and they jump up in triumph in the cloud I leave behind. I see flecks tilling the fields way down in lush green valleys, and teenagers riding donkeys.
The next pass is Laitsoka, at 2650m, but I only reach it at 13:57. The tar road has long since fallen behind, and I get glimpses of the Katse Dam. I have a hitchhiker on board, a young shepherd wearing rags – looking like a lost Jedi or someone else out of Star Wars. Now the road becomes tough, and the scenery increasingly wild and beautiful. There are fewer and fewer people, and all that seems to live up here is grass and small birds. I reach Ha Seshote at 14:09 and Nkaobee Pass (2510m) at 14:18. I notice storm clouds moving in. I know if they open up I have a long drive back. I’m determined to stay ahead. At times I’m hitting 60km/h, but mostly I’m between 40 and 50. That means, literally 40 kilometres in an hour. It’s not much. The scenery swooping around me is rough and gorgeous. I reach Thaba Tseka at 15:55. I’ve been on the road for over 5 hours now. At times I feel like I’m sitting on a bucking bronco.
The fun but arduous drive takes me along ribbons of unfenced road, with chasms falling around me. I cross a huge river, which I take to be the Senqu (or Orange) River, and it’s already mighty, frothing and foaming, churning mud and pieces of mountain on its way down. The end of the bridge is underwater, but I am so high off the ground that I easily make it. I also spot two boats pulled up against the hill. I’m glad I’ve had a good night’s sleep, because now, with darkness descending, I need good reflexes. I am driving rapidly but not recklessly through the mountains that give birth to our mightiest river. In the gloom I notice a sign for a self catering guest house called St. James. I cross a steel bridge at 18:43 and get out the car to check my map. Have I gone through Mokhotlong, or Thabang? If so there wasn’t a sign to tell me. I haven’t seen a sign in a long time. Later I ask a local if I am on the right road to Sani. He points in the direction I’m going. The mountain is wearing different jerseys, and then clouds cover them and all I can see are the lights of the Isuzu probing the cold fog. It’s cold and lonely. I see a jackal slinking away from the road as I approach. Some parts feel like Seweweekspoort up here. There’s sandstone and the continuous chuckle of a stream over rounded rocks at high altitude. I can’t see it, but I know Thaba Ntleyana is looking down on me.
I see a sign – SANI PASS – in the gloom. And then a closed gate. The Sani Pass closed at 16:00, and it’s now 20:10. I’m at the Sani Top Chalet, the highest Pub in Africa, at 2874m. But I’m home, and what a cozy and comfortable place it is, after such a hard and uplifting day.
Highest Maximum 32.2 1969-11-03 34.3 2007-11-26 Cape Hermes
NVDL: Once again these records are not a .1 degree Celcius change. At Port Edward the record has been thrashed by almost 3 degrees celcius. We can expect a constant stream of these records.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The sky is a vivid blue, the clouds fluffy white. It's a beautiful warm day in Johannesburg today. It's one of those days, out on your lunch break, that you're tempted to make your way up to a luxury hotel's pool deck, order a few martini's (or whatever) and hang out in the company of sunshine, shadows, ice creams, lilo's, swimming pool matrixes and bikini's.
Today's exercise stats
HR ave: 141 (max 169)
Speed: 30km/h ave.
Bought 46664 concert tickets during lunch break. Came in early today so going home now.
For more, go here.
NVDL: And these missiles can also reach Europe. It's a bit of conundrum isn't it? I don't know which is worse - invading Iran, or not invading Iran.
JSE ALL SHARE is taking a tumble: 29213.320 (DOWN) 0.80%.
For background, read this:
Rand regains some lost ground
The automaker's approach is markedly different than the more familiar concept of
hydrogen-powered fuel cells, where energy is stored before it is converted into
electricity. By contrast, BMW's Hydrogen 7 is powered by pumping hydrogen into a
combustion engine and igniting it. The engine can burn both hydrogen and
gasoline, and switches between the two at the flick of a switch.
Burning hydrogen is more efficient than converting it into electricity, making it the more practical choice for hydrogen-fueled cars now, according to BMW.
One major challenge is how to keep the hydrogen cooled to minus 253 degrees Celsius (minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit) so it remains in liquid form without boiling off. Despite the double-walled, stainless-steel tank that stores the liquid in high-vacuum conditions with aluminum reflective foil, the liquid hydrogen in the 8-kilogram fuel tank begins to boil after 17 hours if the car remains parked. The tank empties completely after 10 to 12 days.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Will we reap the dragon as Beowulf did?
In order to transform not only what we do, but also our feelings about something (and thus, our motivations) we can start by changing our metaphors. The cinema version of the 7th century epic poem Beowulf departs in a number of crucial aspects from the original. I believe those changes are spot on, as they say a lot about our contemporary human condition.
The movie Beowulf provides an insightful look at what the human being is; a creature that is compelled by incredibly powerful forces – passions – that drive the fates of entire nations. The primary drivers are greed and lust, though neither are necessarily negative. Greed, tempered a little, can be healthy ambition. Lust, given more time, can soften and deepen to love. Beowulf succumbs initially to both of these positive effects. But when faced with the question: What does a powerful man seek? The answer is invariably the same: More power.
This is true of nations too. This lust for power, beyond what is healthy, beyond what is good, is represented in the cinema version through the introduction of the beautiful, seductive demon, essentially the first monster’s mother (rendered as Angelina Jolie). The demon promises Beowulf greater prosperity, in exchange for a small detail, one that is inevitably difficult to keep an eye on when one’s world and powerbase is expanding. And the consummation of the contract is a metaphor for man’s capacity to give in to the seductions, the trappings of excess.
Initially the dalliances seem harmless enough, but secrets and lies ultimately undermine relationships, causing Beowulf in this case to lose a sense of his own personal dignity (in itself, a redeeming quality, and a heroic trait). In the world, this can be compared to the massive corruption we see, both in corporations (for example the current scandal at VW Germany), and generally, in global politics.
The sum of a lifetime of small deceptions and duplicity is a fire breathing dragon capable of destroying everything that has been built, capable of ruining the castle; and destroying those closest to us. In the same way that Beowulf unwittingly fathers the dragon, there is something of ourselves in that awesomely destructive creature. In this sense, we begin to see the solution: we are connected to both the heroic, and the seeds of our doom. We cannot pretend to disown the dragon; it is simply the bearing out of Absolute Consequence.
Nevertheless, one remembers in the film rendering, that the mythical hero Beowulf seemed not to stand a chance against the amorphous golden ghost. She moved through his sword and turns it to quicksilver. Does this imply that it is inevitable that we succumb to our baser instincts? That we humans are still animal enough not to have the power to control our appetites? This is the question.
But as we move through the next millennium, it is very difficult to conceive of life on Earth 5 years from now, even less 10 years from now. But if we can begin to construct global metaphors, affirming mindsets, we can possibly do a lot to disarm our dark hearts. It is possible to shine a light into our collective aorta, and we do that by first of all seeing ourselves not succumbing to the great demon that we know deceives us. We start by rejecting its beauty as a false beauty. We know what that beauty is. It is the meretricious beauty of a world that does not exist – in movies, magazines, and Celebrity Land. That is not the real world, and if we aspire to live in that place, while neglecting far more urgent relationships – those with our siblings, our sisters, our brothers and neighbors – we bring about our own and worse, their doom.
Life, all life – not just a single person – is sacred. Life is a gift, one that is given to us, and one that we are asked to return to the world. To dwell in profanity – and we all know what those vulgarities are – and to turn the gift of life into a collection of things, is to engineer for ourselves a dragon. We are asked to be respecters of all living things, to share and give the gift of our lives. If we can do that, the world of men can be again heroic and good, and worth saving.
Monday, November 26, 2007
What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse: the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!
From producer Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) and director Rob VanAlkemade comes a serious docu-comedy about the commercialization of Christmas. Bill Talen (aka Reverend Billy) was a lost idealist who hitchhiked to New York City only to find that Times Square was becoming a mall. Spurred on by the loss of his neighborhood and inspired by the sidewalk preachers around him, Bill bought a collar to match his white caterer's jacket, bleached his hair and became the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Since 1999, Reverend Billy has gone from being a lone preacher with a portable pulpit preaching on subways, to the leader of a congregation and a movement whose numbers are well into the thousands.
For more, go here.
The great debate among those of us on the Economy Deathwatch seems to be whether the debacle we observe around us will resolve as a crash or a slow-motion financial train wreck. It seems to me that at every layer of the system, we're susceptible to both.... Some things are crashing as I write.
The dollar is losing about a cent every three weeks against other currencies. A penny doesn't seem like much, but keep that pace up for another year and the world's "reserve currency" becomes the world's reserve toilet paper....
Of course the government's consumer price inflation figures and employment numbers are dismissed broadly as lacking credence. But anybody who has bought a bag of onions and a jar of jam lately knows that things are way up in the supermarket aisles, and so many illegal Mexican migrants were employed in the Sunbelt housing boom, that their absence in the bust won't register on any chart.
...the very real realm of poor choices, fiscal and fiduciary irresponsibility, deliberately deceptive policy, criminal malfeasance, and the broad abandonment of standards in acceptable behavior by people in authority. A lot of observers attribute this to the Gordon Gecko ethos -- the discovery back in the 1980s that "greed is good," which was meant to trump a previous ethos that life is tragic.
... it is hard to imagine we will get through the month of December without some major trauma in the markets. In fact, I'd go so far as to predict a thousand-point drop (or more) in the Dow just in this week after Thanksgiving. Real wealth "out there" is evaporating like popsicles...
... My own hunch is that average Americans are so maxed out on debt that they don't know whether to shit or go blind. Perhaps lots of them are willing to take a last step into fatal insolvency in order to put a plasma TV screen under the Christmas tree and appear as heroes to their families. If that's the case, it would only imply a greater bloodbath in credit card default thundering through the system in February and March, which would only deepen the carnage in collateralized debt instruments further up the food chain.
...The rise in price is only the mildest symptom of growing instability for the system that allocates the world's most critical resource. Even in the face of "demand destruction," weird changes are occurring in the way that the oil producers do business. The decline in export rates and the new spirit of "oil nationalism" will take center stage now, even if the US economy seizes up. These phenomena will represent a new cycle in world affairs: the global contest for remaining fossil fuel resources.
Sooner rather than later, the next symptom will appear: spot shortages around the US and hoarding behavior. This is what will finally wake the American public out of its long sleepwalk (and Matthew Simmons said this first, by the way) -- when the lines form at the gas stations and the tempers flare and the handguns come out of the glove compartments.
NVDL: In a high level meeting between the Chinese oke who bought a massive stake in Standard Bank, question were put to a power broker from Goldman Sachs about the long term future of world energy. He was somewhat dismissive (others would say sensible) in saying: if the US and China can reach the levels of efficiency that Japan now has, no one is going to have a problem.
Simple. All the bankers Ja'd and went 'Amen'.
Problem is, Japan is one of the smallest countries in the world (in terms of landmass), China and the US are amongst the largest. Even if they start building train stations in backyards across the country, the pinch has already started. I'm going to give some very counterintuitive advice: Start Partying! Party like there is no tomorrow, 'cos guess, what, tomorrow ever after just got cancelled.
News24.com, the breaking news and information service in the 24.com network of sites, has recorded more than one million unique South African visitors in a month – the first South Africa website to do so. This is according to international statistics group Nielsen//NetRatings' list of the most visited local Internet sites for October 2007.
Elan Lohmann, News24 publisher, comments, “Online media is often regarded by marketers and traditional media executives as not yet on the map but our reach is continuing to grow in the local market. News24's achievement is a significant event for the entire industry. It shows that there are a mass of South Africans who require their news content online. More importantly perhaps, it shows that the local Internet market is coming of age as a viable mass communication medium.
“We believe that connectivity will continue to improve at an increasing rate in South Africa and that news websites will have the most to gain. Global giants like Facebook, Myspace, Google and Youtube may steal away local users to their services but nobody can do local news better than we can on home soil.”
Jannie Momberg, News24 editor, attributes the site's success to a strategy focused on breaking news and compelling content. “It has been our focus to ensure our readers are kept up-to-date with the fast-paced news cycles of the 21st century. News24's content is also available via mobile phone and on DStv channel 299, providing more South Africans with the opportunity to access news when they need it.”
“Furthermore, we have made the News24 experience more relevant to our users. MyNews24.com, where we publish stories written by our readers, has attracted over 80 000 users per month. This is a remarkable achievement when we consider that it was only launched in May this year and a clear indicator that South Africans are embracing the digital revolution of Web 2.0. The comments facilities that we have added has also stimulated fantastic activity and given a real voice to our users,” says Momberg.
Concludes Lohmann, “It is a privilege and a highlight of my career to be associated with such an Industry milestone and all credit goes to the dedicated News24 team.”
From Bizcommunity.comAlso: The Tipping Point for Mobile is Near
NVDL: I wonder if this really means that News48 has actually only reached 500 000 unique users ;-)