Monday, April 30, 2007

Baggage


I went to Jozi this weekend. It was very spur of the moment. One minute I was at home, half an hour later I was on the road. That's the joy of having a car, and even better, one that can sail up to 180km/h (getting you there in well under 4 hours).

When I arrived at Alex's mansion in Houghton, I couldn't believe that I had forgotten my bag (with helmet, cycling clothes, HRM, toothbrush etc). Having gone on a rampage against people making silly mistakes, here I was making a huge GOOF.

So the next day, we went to Suikerbosrand with Crofty and Helmut, and climbed about 1400m over 60km. Did all of it in Alex's gear, including long sleeved gloves, ear warmers, knee warmers etc. Even without a HRM I could feel my heart wasn't just beating out of relative strain, it had some of that windedness you only get from being a bit sick. Today is 2 days later, and now I am feeling behoorlik (thoroughly) sick. Nice fat headache, feeling generally irritible.

Suikerbosrand is awesome. It's a game reserve, roads are smooth and empty, and the scenery stunning. At one point a small herd of springbuck bounded over the road, some of them bokspringing acorss. Lots of climbing, fast descents, great to test skill and strength.

I did take my front Zipp wheel as I'd anticipated being a bit slower, but in the end the risk of a puncture seemed not worth taking. So I fell off some of the time, but since I descend quickly it wasn't a trainsmash.

At one point we saw a huge penguin fella with massive calves, hauling his massive belly over the hills. Bizarre.

We had an enormous brunch, fit for kings, in Rosebank, at a huge house on a large estate. Fruitsala, muffins, bacon and eggs, wors, fresh juice and joghurt. Was interesting to see how the top of the food chain live, on a daily basis. Hemlut and his wife are going to Mauritius this week. Alex is riding in the Tour de France, and Crofty doing the first stage in London. That costs around R25-30K right there.

We had an interesting discussion over Nando's that night about interpretting the Bible. I left Sunday morning after 9, and after taking it easy around all the speedcameras, picked up speed for the last 250km, making it home well before 1pm. Had a nice braai and watched the DVD, the Guardian.

Very very cold, but I am glad I went. After sukkeling for so long to get my mounted pictures and hearing they may not be put against the wall, I wasn't in the best mood to do anything or go anywhere, but glad I did. Think it would otherwise have been a fairly dull weekend. Might go on my own to Clarens next weekend, just to climb.

Work today has been busy and since I'm not feeling completely healthy, more of a drag than usual. Will probably take a out a DVD tonight and just keep warm.

I also noticed Mushy Peas on Vomit was interviewed in the Sunday Times magazine. I think the blogging community in SA is tiny, so when 10 people endorse one blog, it becomes 'celebrity', even if it is crap. The odd thing is that the celebrity then really believes they are celebrity, begin to act and dress like one and start to imagine a 'book deal' and probably even a 'movie deal' are on the cards.
Hollywood though is, by and large, a junk favtory, so making a flick on Vomit might actually prove to be viable (financially). That would still be a bit of a joke though, even if it was. The joke would be on us for consuming such drivel.

Tomorrow is a holiday, but I have plenty of issues to resolve re: the Exhibition. One is: How do you exhibit pictures if you may not attach them to a wall? Should be interesting...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Mountains



Hermanus - Villiersdorp - Paarl
Day 4


The Mountains
Day 4

My sleeping pad was once again wedged into a dark corner of the stage, and I had packed all my clothes and accoutrements on a long bench. I went to sleep faintly aware that the next day we’d be climbing up Franschoek Pass.

When we woke up in Hermanus, we were told that we should wear rain jackets because it was raining softly outside. In that moment you’re tempted to quickly flash through the whole day, and mine was dramatic: flashing of lighting, crashes, bloodied knees and rain soaked shivering cyclists. When I emerged into the dark, purpled dawn I could make out an isolated wet and fluffy cloud, but around it were lots of twinkling stars. False alarm.

My mood shifted immediately, and soon we did too. My bede (partner) for the day was Ize-Marie, and for me that was reason enough to be ebullient. As we emerged through the sparkling dawn traffic on the Kleinmond side of Hermanus, we reflected on last year (as we’d ridden together on Day 1). We were trying to decide if this tour was harder than the previous year and we decided it wasn’t. I cautioned that today would be probably the toughest day of all, and the days ahead would be against potentially exhausting headwinds. We spoke some more about both tours and then decided it was pointless making comparisons. It’s up to the individual to contribute to the group, but also for the individual to make the most of the overall situation. And certainly, we were flying along ambitious routes, swooping through vales of previously unseen South Africana.

It was as though Ize and I were in a sort of a dwaal for the first 10km. We sort of rode with the pack, drifting slowly forward through it. After the first watering point (at the Kleinmond turn off) we felt sort’ve stuck, so went to the front. I think we both wanted to be up front, but neither wanted to be too pushy about it. We intended to ride and just shield the riders behind us, but then they started falling back, so we just chatted and moved on at our own pace.



Then we turned onto the highway, and headed towards the giant rounded shoulders of a range of mountains. Each climb threw you off down the other side, so that immediately after a climb you had to do just one thing: repeat, repeat, repeat. And what made it worse was a very stiff wind, blasting us from the front. Ize and I worked together to summit the first long, steep upward haul. A few riders tucked in behind us, and then we rounded a long bend, and headed up a monster. It was at this point that Annetjie and Berdine, two seasoned cyclists, edged by us. It was also clear that probably most of the riders, especially the girls, would quit on this section (at about 25km). At the top I took a picture of Ize, her gel shining like so much sparking energy in her hand.

Then, in the following section, a small pack that included Andre, Jean, San Marie, PJ and probably Hannes (maybe JP), came through as well. All their partners had thrown in the towel. I wanted to stay with them, and we did for a few climbs, but it was tough staying in contact because of the wind and having to ride single file on some climbs as cars whizzed by. So then we were alone again, the roads growing narrower, big trucks filled with timber or carrying the space shuttle, or a recently stranded whale (aka hauling big, heavy freights) – these big trucks approached us from behind, bellowing as they climbed, and then roaring by. It was particularly spine wrenching when two trucks passed each other on these steep, narrow and curving roads at the same time, and we had maybe one or two inches of tar for our fragile wheels, the spokes feeling the vibrations of the quivering tar.

It was nice riding with Ize, because she’s strong and determined, and has this perpetual sunny attitude. I snapped a few photos on a saddle after the muscle wringing final climbs, and then we cruised towards Teewatersdam – the Franschoek mountains rising all the time, ominously, like a dark gray wave, into the sky.
Now we began to fly on the long downhill drags until we reached another watering point. Sally and Lize were there, and I think Bianca, offering us verbal support and few titbits – banana and chips – to munch. A little further on Ize complained of stomach cramps. But we were almost there. By the time we reached Villiers the sun was out in full force. We reached a bare, open patch of grass beside the road. Wow, I really needed somewhere to lie down and recover. I was horrified after all that climbing, that they expected us to eat a hotdog, and basically get going towards Franschoek in an hour. What was worse was I’d noticed my tyre had worn right through, and it had been a huge gamble to ride with it just during the morning’s stage. To go over Franschoek with a threadbare tyre was simply crazy.

I passed out on the lawn, next to Ize, for almost 2 minutes when we had to start getting ready for the next section. I ran barefeet to a nearby place to empty the bowels, and then walked like an octopus back over the gravel, arms flying, soft pink feet hurting, eyes squinting in the bright sun.
I gave my camera to Lizanne, or Gillian, and as the cyclists lined up, Sally handed me two new tyres. I called Andre, while I scooted about loading gu2O into my bottle. Andre did a sterling job, probably took him 3 minutes to deflate, remove the tyre, put a new one on and pump it up. That’s so fast it’s sizzling.
Meanwhile, before we were ready, the group went off. That meant Andre and I had to haul ass to reel them in. I took a quick time out to plug my iPod into my brain, and pressed ‘Play’. The music helped me to generate the energy out of an already depleted body to pursue the guys somewhere on the road in front of us. We did catch them after about 3 kilometres, but that’s also not the best way to start going up a mountain. I didn’t feel very happy that the guys just left us, so when my momentum carried me right by, and Andre followed me, I didn’t care. We just went right on going.

Meanwhile, one blue rider was way out in front. I thought it was Danie, who’d climbed well over the small pass near Barrydale. As we got to him he swung left to stop at a bakkie, and then it was obvious that it wasn’t Danie, it was Johan (one of the committee people). Great. I was sort of ready to sit up and relax from there to the start of the climb, but Andre wanted to keep up the pace. I already felt damn tired, the first stage with Ize still in my legs. I had mixed feelings now about it. On the one hand, it was awesome riding with her, she’s nice company, and we were the first pair to finish, but on the other hand, those whose partner’s had quit, like Andre, were much fresher for this. I could feel that my legs were already sapped of their freshness, and the climb still lay 2 km ahead.

Andre, wearing pink, began to move away from me, and I let him. I’d ridden this pass before and I had the feeling he was over-confident, and riding too hard. Although I had once quit on the ascent of this pass, on another day I had ridden from Theewatersdam, up the pass, down the other side, had some breakfast in Franschoek, and then rode up and down again, finishing where I started. So I had an idea how tough the climb was, and I thought Andre was underestimating the degree of difficulty.

But then something happened. There we were, under the gold sunshine, as the great mountains rose into the sky in front of me. I felt a strange sort of abandon right then: for starters, Andre was starting to move away and I was just letting him. And the mountain was just about to start, this difficult piece, that forced you to climb, on and on and on, was now here. And right then a song (Superman, by Five For Fighting) came on my iPod:

“I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naïve
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

I’m more than a bird
I’m more than a plane
I’m more than a pretty face beside a train
And it’s not easy, to be me…”

I got all choked up, right there, listening to that.
And then, the road lifted, and so did my heartrate. The 37 C heat sizzled off the road. I pushed it to a maximum of 162, which is not high on a hard climb like this, but my legs were fatigued and saturated with lactate, so I had to make sure not to overdo it, especially not in the beginning. Meanwhile, Andre was flying up the mountain. About halfway up, PJ and San Marie – I’d never expect them to pair up – crept around a corner and slid past, PJ asking: ‘Where’s Andre?’
‘He’s quite a long way off,” I said.
I was so much in my own zone, I didn’t even think of connecting, and riding with them. I think I could have, but I don’t think I should have. Then after a few more turns, an even bigger surprise: JP pulled alongside, asking: ‘How much further is the top?’
I said: ‘1km, not more than 2km.’ In truth, I had gone over the top (both times, in heavy mist), but I didn’t know if the piece ahead was the top, or just a gap with the summit further off, and higher, to the right.

I think I should at least have hung with JP, based on knowing it wasn’t much further to climb. But I just stayed in my zone, surprised and shocked actually that these three people had caught me, but then aware that it probably made sense given the grueling exertions with Ize from Hermanus (980m of ascending).
When I went over the top I saw JP for a second and then he was gone.

For the first 2 thirds going down I was very careful. And conservative. I didn’t even see JP so there was no point in chasing. Then, with a third to go, I saw JP much lower down. Then I tucked in, and felt myself gaining speed, as though the Earth was just sucking me faster and faster and faster. And I really didn’t want to go that fast. I only hit 79.9km/h on that downhill, but flashed by JP in the last kilometre, which was a bonus for me, because I think I was so shocked to be caught in the first place, I didn’t try to lift my pace.

I think I was also way too intimidated by my earlier experiences of the climb, so rode, probably, too conservatively. If I had done it again, I think I would have ridden the last 1 or 2km much harder. Having said that, I still felt it was hard.

In Franschoek (after an ascent of 505m) Andre was feeling good, having flown up and down way ahead of everyone else. We sat at a roadside café and drank the most delicious water in the world. It was so soft and fresh. And sweet. Well, it probably wasn’t sweet, but it almost seemed to be. We kept ordering more jugs with ice and kept asking the waitress where the water came from, and she kept insisting: ‘Out of the tap.’
We ate lunch, then went to a beautiful lunch venue in a big whitewashed Cape Dutch building, for a delish lunch. I took a lot of photos there of the cyclists around their lunch tables.

And then there was the little piece back to Paarl. Christi joined us for this section, someone I rode with and knew from the previous year. She wasted no time asking: ‘Is Benedictus here?’
I followed behind the guy on the motorbike, and ended up arriving at Paarl a few minutes ahead of everyone. Got some satisfaction out of that, as I think I felt despondent about being passed on such a big climb.

I cycled with Christi the section into Paarl. Quite beautiful, and charming – Paarl I mean. Christi said something about knowing Werner, and Chantal. Arrived at the church in stinking heat, while the girls collected money. When I lay down on my bed, I felt really, really exhausted.

Showering took a while, I slept while some of the kids knocked on doors. But it was worth the wait; we went right out of town to a landbou skool. Felt amazing to be clean, and the sunset was lovely. We walked on a rugby field after we’d showered and…it was just nice having space, and a few people to share it with.

Had a nice chat on the busride back, and then after a so-so supper (a braai), and seeing Zors (last year’s kos ma) I got an incredible backrub from Yolande (my partner the previous day). It must have been the next day that she found out that I was 35, and not 27, because her houding changed completely.
Anyway, lekker massage, and I passed out while one of the worst movie I have ever half watched blared against a wall, close to where I was sleeping. The next day we’d be halfway. But the day would start with a climb over another Pass. I hoped I’d be healthier after today. Was that too much to hope for? I didn’t know, but even so, I slept like a baby that night.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Fill my fond heart with God alone



By Alexander Pope:

How often must it love, how often hate!
How often hope, despair, resent, regret,
Conceal, disdain — do all things but forget.
But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd;
Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd!
Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue,
Renounce my love, my life, myself — and you.
Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he
Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Green Is Your Valley?



Got up at the crack of dawn and went running...started off chilly. On top of Naval Hill saw two giraffe. Needed plenty cups of coffee later in the day to keep the engine turning over.

Today was busier, much less than I expected.

A horror movie is playing out on TV at the moment. At least South Africa are fighting back. I knew Gibbs would be our man. Now it's 83/5 At one point it was 27/5.

Picking up my prints tomorrow. Will write Sendingfietstoer Day 4 tonight and post it tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nigeria

It worked

Yesterday's rant lead to a huge jump in page visits. Over 60 (double the normaldaily quota). It just goes to show, bad news travels. No one is interested in hearing about what a nice day it is, or how nice the flowers look. They care about criticism and gossip and negativity.

DVD Review: Little Miss Sunshine


A life’s-like-that funny flick about a real but really dysfunctional family

Little Miss Sunshine is a provocative, thoughtful film. From the first scene, where seven year old Olive’s (Abigail Breslin) glasses fill up with TV reflected images of a beauty pageant, to the expert choreography around the dinner table, to Dwayne’s (Paul Dano) roadside breakdown, the sensitive attention to detail is striking.

Teenagers and action junkies won’t enjoy this film. Neither will movie buffs addicted to traditional over-the-top blockbusters. Others who heard that Little Miss Sunshine attracted Oscar’s approval might have overly high expectations. See, it’s a simple film, but elegant and subtly intelligent.

Michael Arndt’s screenplay is a masterpiece; his characters are exceptionally well developed. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct a star studded cast on a road trip from dysfunction, to breakdown, to…well, what can only be described as the triumphant coming together of a family from the verge of catastrophe.

There is plenty of irony in the film, and thanks to a subtle directing approach, the humor and the irony increasingly creep up on you. In the opening scenes the title, for example, is placed over the tragic mug of gay uncle Frank (Steve Carell from 40 Year Old Virgin), who has botched a recent suicide attempt (following his student lover falling in love with another professor). Head of the Hoover family is motivational speaker Richard (Greg Kinnear). The irony is that Richard’s entire livelihood now rests on his nine point strategy for success – which he is attempting (unsuccessfully) to market. This places tremendous strain on Richard, and so too his wife Sheryl (Toni Collette), and the effects obviously filter down to the others.

Sheryl attempts to keep things from falling apart, but she is worn out, and in private, argues vehemently with Richard. One scene in a hotel room, where they sit on opposite sides of the bed, backs facing each other after a marathon session of yelling, says it all.

Then there’s Dwayne, Olive’s older brother, who has taken a vow of silence because he ‘hates everyone’ and rejects almost everything about the world. This character is even more creepy given the recent headlines about the massacre at Virginia Tech. It is interesting to see how Dwayne repeatedly shuts himself off from the world, rejects it, and then reinforces this rejection by reading Nietzsche, and by wearing a yellow anti-Jesus t-shirt.

Each family member has an overly simplified definition of themselves, and what success is (or what it is they think they can do). Their personal obsessions divide them, making them a number of individuals that seem, at first, coincidentally to belong to the same family. In fact the directors, in their voice over dialogue (one of the special features of the DVD) admit that they opened the movie in a way that would not immediately demonstrate the relationship these people had towards each other. But this becomes clearer later. What is less clear is how each member, and the group as a unit, will graduate out of their individual and collective failures.

At one point Dwayne screams at his family: “Divorced! Bankrupt! Suicidal! I hate you!” These accusations are even more poignant and ironic because they’re hurled just after Dwayne has had a breakdown. (He realizes that becoming a pilot may be a lot more difficult than he first anticipated).

Meanwhile Richard sets an assertive, if kooky example to his family. He loudly chastises his own father for speaking his (somewhat vulgar) thoughts, but his father (wonderfully portrayed by Alan Arkin) basically ignores him. It’s impossible not to be amused by his advice to 15 year old Dwayne at one point in the bus. With the whole family (except Olive, who is listening to music on earphones) listening in, the heroin snorting grandfather espouses his wisdom to the young man: “I’m going to give you some advice. Sleep with a lotta women.”

Richard’s motivational mantras strike a hollow cord with his own family, who have heard it all over and over again. All this private angst is set in motion by a yellow VW bus on a three day journey to Redondo Beach California, where there will be a beauty pageant called Little Miss Sunshine.

The VW bus is also character all of its own. It’s dysfunctional, but basically works.

Interestingly, this film is not about success or winning. It is how people individually and as a family deal with failure. It is how different people cope with adversity, and importantly, how people deal with each other’s failures. It turns out that through failure a family can finally learn how to operate as one.

Cho Rising


According to the New York Times, Ross Alameddine*, a 20 year old Virginia Tech student, was most proud of his car - a Pontiac Grand Am. He'd won it in a raffle. Ross referred to the teal-colored car as the car "I got for a dollar."

Alameddine had taken pains in a recent class to support and encourage Seiung-hui Cho to participate and contribute. Alameddine sat near him, and he was Cho's first victim.
Meanwhile, it is easy to make sweeping generalisations about Cho, or about the students at Virginia Tech, even about South Korea (as I have).

We can blame Cho (as most are doing), and dismiss him as mad. We can blame the students, and say they were insensitive. We can find fault with the systems on campus. In the end it's a combination of these and other factors.

I think it is a mistake to look too singlemindedly at one thing. I have noticed for example, that Cho was not as nasty and evil as most would have us believe. He was, perhaps, a pretty unpleasant fellow in his final hours, but as a schoolboy he has been described as basically polite, doing well at school and quietly harmless.

Meanwhile, though some of the students at Virginia Tech were undoubtedly mean, others certainly reached out on numerous occasions. The question can be asked: did Cho experience more meanness or more reaching out? Of course, in fairness the same question could be posed to Cho about his own behaviour.

I have done extensive reading on various sites, including the accounts and interviews of other citizen reporters. One that impressed me was an interview between a South Korean citizen journalist and Jennifer Chapman, who went to school with Seiung-hui Cho.
Chapman also describes him as "so quiet, shy and awkward and didn't want to talk to others. But I think it wasn't a mean, hatred type of silence. I felt like he was hurting, not hating someone. This tragedy is a huge loss for the community. I feel very sorry that we didn't realise that he was so troubled."

Chapman goes on to sketch an entirely different picture of the schoolboy: "His silence reminds me of his school days, but other details such as violent writings and stalking women are inconsistent with the high school student I knew. He was quiet. He would never have stalked a girl or talked to a girl."

What's also interesting is Cho's victims included young and old, Western and Asian students - like Henry Lee, a 20-year-old ethnic Chinese studying Computer Engineeering.
It's possible that Cho's habit, of withdrawing into his shell, which may have paid off at school, did not work beyond school, but he found himself ill-equipped to deal with emotionally developed individuals around him.

The reservoir of pain that had been steadily filling up, even at school level, had probably rapidly filled to overflowing at university, where there were so many more issues at state, including the unspoken mission of each student at university: find yourself and find a definition for yourself.
Cho possibly found that either he couldn't, or that he was unable to verbalise it. This disability first manifested in a failure to engage the opposite sex, or in fact, engage with anyone, including, to an extent one supposes, his own family (an aunt describes him as "cold" and having "difficulty communicating", which worried his mother).

On the other hand, it's likely that Cho was the victim of his chosen course of action. He probably heard plenty of snide remarks behind his back.

It's logical then that as these pressures, and as his loneliness, built up, Cho struggled under the load of stress and started to think and act irrationally. He sought solace, it seems, in movies and on his computer, and it is now obvious, in violent entertainment.

This is a vital clue. That internally he was raging, and his rage was based on the intense frustration of not belonging, not being part, not fitting in. Exacerbating this condition was his own grandiose idea of himself, as a sort of a Christ-like martyr. In his rant he mentions John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe, and one supposes, he attempts to put himself in the same Hall of Fame.

In fact, his attempt to engage with NBC with a carefully constructed (if half-sensical) diatribe does prove that he had something to say, and meant to make himself visible.
I think the burden, the list of imagined transgressions he'd built up in his mind had become so ponderous, he didn't know how or where to start to begin to address it. Then his loneliness and fixations with people (who possibly interpreted his reaching out as creepy or "stalking") amplified the pain he was already feeling.

I am certain he felt betrayed by people he perhaps liked or wanted to engage with, who then turned him in to the police. Then again, in a community where everyone identifies an individual as "that creepy guy", there is very little opportunity for that stereotype to be corrected or altered, either by the individual himself, or by individuals in that community. And so the cycle of disconnection gets reinforced.
Meanwhile, Henry Lee, one of Cho's victims mentioned above, spoke at a formal rewards ceremony about the difficulties he had coming to America and sitting in a classroom, not knowing how to speak English.**

And Lee spoke about the reality of having immigrant parents and being one of many children.
Lee said: "Imagine sitting in class not knowing the language; now I am number two in my class."**

The best or worst is always possible from an individual around us. Family murders happen every day, where a grief-stricken parent takes the lives of a partner and children, people they once loved and cared for.

The responsibility rests on each person to take care of others, to notice and respect those around us, for in that, we take care of those we love, and also ourselves.
(*http://topics.nytimes.com**http://topics.nytimes.com)

And from:
http://www.crimelibrary.com/news/original/0407/1801_stalker_profile.html
Was Cho Seung-Hui a Stalker?

April 18, 2007
BLACKSBURG, Va. (Crime Library) —While there was talk earlier that the V-Tech rampage was sparked by a fight with a girlfriend, nineteen-year-old Emily Hilscher, those who knew the girl vehemently deny she had a relationship with Cho. Yet others say there was certainly an argument, which drew a dorm counselor, Ryan Clark, to come to settle the disturbance (perhaps after Emily had already been shot). Clark, 22, became one of the first two victims, along with Emily.

What's the truth behind these notions? Given what we've heard about Cho from roommates and students in class with him, he was a loner with no real friends. His expression rarely changed, no one ever visited him, and he tended to get ideas about girls — to the point where other boys viewed him as a stalker. In fact, during a rare night out with roommates, they reported, Cho revealed that he had an "invisible girlfriend" who was a "supermodel." He and she even had pet names for each other. So, clearly Cho thought about and desired a girlfriend.

[Yes, and so does just about every other heterosexual male on the planet - Nick]

He also had a vivid fantasy life. And he was controlling and moralistic — all signs of a seriously disturbed person who, under certain circumstances, could become a stalker.

While some people say that Emily, a popular and pretty girl with many friends, knew Cho but had a boyfriend, it doesn't take much to engage the unwanted attention of a stalker. A person can be married and a mother, yet still inspire a stalker. A glance, a smile to be friendly, a kind word — even just crossing his path without noticing him - have all been ingredients in other incidents for the roiling delusions of stalkers. Sometimes a stalker merely sees an image of the target person and soon absorbs that person into a fantasy of control. In his mind, that person is now a pawn in his game and must act as he dictates. But when reality crashes in and the person does not conform to the fantasy, anger can boil over.
Cho Seung-Hui (Virginia State Police)

So, Emily might have known Cho from a class or study group. They might have spoken. Then he could have developed his own ideas about what she meant to him, as well as how she ought to behave. In that case, he could have gone to her dorm on April 16 to confront her about behavior he disliked — especially if he considered it promiscuous (which he despised). The very same thing happened to Rebecca Schaeffer, 21, star of My Sister Sam, when a fan, Robert Bardo, decided she had taken a role in a film that he found morally repugnant. So, in 1989 he went to where she lived and shot her to death.

Cho shot Emily repeatedly before going off to write a rambling note of blame and disapproval, and then shooting 30 other students in another building. Whether or not she had a relationship with him, a friendship, or just a passing acquaintance, he seemed to have ideas about her that provoked rage.

In November and in December of 2005, two separate women complained to police that Cho had been sending them unwanted text messages. In the first instance, the woman declined to press charges and the matter was referred to the Virginia Tech disciplinary board. Results of the disciplinary board are protected by law.

The second instance in December of 2005 came about the same time as concern from a roomate that Cho seemed suicidal. The cumulative effect of the three contacts with the police and the school administration was that Cho on Dec. 15 sent to Access, an independent mental health facility for evaluation. Cho's mental health records were not shared with the police.

Neither of the women who complained about Cho's behavior were victims of the shooting rampage and there were no similar complaints filed about Cho since the incidents in late 2005.

Police still do not know why Cho went to the dormitory and murdered Emily and Ryan, nor do they know why he targeted the Norris building. Specialists are going through his computer and all of his writings looking for clues to why his rage was directed at Emily and Ryan and the individuals attending class in the Norris building.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Commitment


Iron Triangle 2004


Wouldn't mind being back in this sort of shape

(Cheorwon, demilitarised zone, South Korea)

Dog eared


But not dead tired. Ran 48 minutes, a hilly, lopsided figure of 8 route. Quite enjoyed it.

Watched Little Miss Sunshine on DVD. Have since felt a resurgence of energy, and enthusiasm and happiness.

Meanwhile the 27th is Freedom Day. I have no plans but feel I should go hiking, or do some sort of communing with nature. Perhaps go fishing at the farm. Spiderman 3 is also showing. If I hadn't been to the Berg recently I probably would be going now. Sally is going to J-Bay.

Meanwhile these are my new cycling goals, am still coming up with the running ones (like the Knysna marathon):


1) Jock Cycle race:24 July - 150km with some serious climbing (Nelspruit)
2) Cycle to Sun City on the Fri (150km), race Cansa on Sat (103km) and do easy 60km on Sun, staying at Sun City (Usually get preferential rates for this weekend) - First weekend in Aug.
3) 21-24 Oct - Cycle down to Durban with Cycle 4 Kids Thurs to Sat and then do the Amashova on the Sun (you could join us)
4) OFM
5) 94.7

Then, I spoke to the dude at Lindsay Saker. He serves on the board of a local sports club. He says that he has been asked: to not accept my application to join their club. It's commendable that he said to me he felt that was unreasonable (I call that a spiteful request) and wasn't going to send someone away that wanted to join his club. He also said he felt the same as I did: that many officials locally put their interests ahead of the actual sportsmen. What that means is that cycling is less important, and cyclists are less important, than these people, and them having their say, and them demonstrating just how powerful (control freaky) and effective (paranoid) they are, is more important than people actually being able to get on bicycles and riding them.

It's also interesting in the first place that people contacted him, or spoke to him. I wonder how they knew it was my intention to join Lindsay Saker? Of course I mentioned it on my blog, and on that day my blog had nearly 100 hits (the average is around 20-30). So I seem to have some blog stalkers (The OFS English Department Part 2). If it's true it is ridiculous. Instead of talking to me, they're fishing, and sneaking.

It baffles me that there are people whose world is so small and filled with fear that they dedicate themselves to the control and surveillance of other individuals. You can't control other people, or, if you do, all you achieve is losing the focus you need to live your own life in a balanced way. That's a miserable state of affairs. If I'm correct in these assumptions, this particular post ought to circulate and there will be an attempt to get me into trouble. So let's conduct an experiment to prove the theory:

I just want to reiterate here, that I called up a woman, Mrs Tortius (see below)



who had been really rude to me at the road championships, and her response to everything/anything I said was a robotic: 'You must take that up through your local club.'
More than once I said, "I am a human being, talking to another human being, and that's your response? Can't you speak to me like a human being?"
'You must take that up with your local club.'
"Yes but I am talking to you."
'You must take that up with your local club.'

I'm sure this same woman, who had nothing to say other than her programmed code, had a lot to say in The Halls of Power, surrounded by learned colleagues, who nodded and scribbled notes. I call that hypocrisy. I call that cowardly. I also call it a failure to face someone who is holding you accountable for something, and fails to do so because of basically feeling so superior to them that it is lowering oneself even to respond to them. That's a disgusting attitude.

What really bothers me is that I can guarantee you that Mrs Tortius goes to church, and so do some of the other characters in this sad state of affairs. The contempt she displayed I think fits in with a basic sense of 'Being Right.' But being right in a sense that separates you from those you deem to be 'wrong'. 'Being right' is exactly how people rationalise being rude and eventually monstrous to others.

We're supposed to all be people, on the same page, and God is meant to decide who is right - or good. People who think they have God's blessing to do that (on his behalf) deserve a taai klap so they can wake up a bit. And these people who vip and stubbornly resist other people, ought to be stopped at the door of the churches they visit, because for all their good intentions, and all their self-love, they don't operate as conventional (aka kind, compassionate, intelligent) human beings when called upon to do so. That's my take on what a conventional person ought to be. Obviously it is not a view unanimously subscribed to. Which is a shame

How to sleep at night


From an Op Ed in the New York Times by A. Roger Ekirch:

“Until the modern age…people would retire between 9 and 10 o'clock only to stir past midnight to smoke a pipe, brew a tub of ale or even converse with a neighbor...Others remained in bed to pray or make love…

“Often, people might simply have lain in bed ruminating on the meaning of a fresh dream, thereby permitting the conscious mind a window onto the human psyche that remains shuttered for those in the modern day too quick to awake and arise.

“The principal explanation for this enigmatic pattern of slumber probably lies in the nocturnal darkness that enveloped pre-industrial households — in short, the absence of artificial lighting.”

Comment: In cold blood: Korean society scrutinised

By Lana Lemmer

Stereotypes and generalisations are dangerous

Nick, Nick, Nick... Why on earth would you republish those stereotypes about Koreans and those many generalisations you happen to have on hand?
I myself am an English major and an international student in Canada... Should people reading your article be wary of me because I share two things in common with the guy who shot a bunch of his school mates?

I know this is a little removed but a friend of a friend happens to be Korean and was beat up by some narrow minded imbecile because he was Korean just like the murderer. How can anyone justify this? It is absolutely ridiculous to punish other Koreans or put them down because this guy happened to be from there.
It is important to note that this killer was in fact mentally ill. He had been diagnosed by a psychologist as being an immediate danger to others and yet nothing was done. The fact that he killed a bunch of people was not because he was an English Major or a Korean.

Seriously this kind of stuff can be really dangerous.
It is called discrimination and as far as I was aware it really isn’t something that should be encouraged in any form.

But I guess that is just my opinion and you are free to yours.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Evil in our neighbors


For an excellent article on Seung-hui Co, click on the title of this post.

We are a generation without manners

‘These fish have manners’ – Tom Cruise as Jerry, in Jerry Maguire

People like Tony Robbins will tell you that if you do not anticipate, if you do not move forward fast enough, the world will leave you in its wake, eating dust, perhaps even ash. The message is clear: keep moving with the stream. Don’t get left behind. And move fast, there’s no time to think.
In a recent movie, Meet the Robinsons, similar worldly wisdom is dispensed: ‘Keep moving forward’. The point of opening with these dual epithets of what may be termed ‘conventional wisdom’, is that in a world without manners, in fact in a world that doesn’t make sense, the underlying framework, however sensible and apparently intelligent, will tend to fall apart.

I believe it was Noam Chomsky, the linguist (and the world’s foremost intellectual) who said the point of advertising is to have people (us) max out our credit cards, and not pay attention (to what’s important) in the world. The reason the middle class need to be controlled by the elites is that they need to do their thing (which is become more wealthy, and more powerful) without interference. So if you read cautionary articles such as this one, or the writings of Peak Oil alarmists like Jim Kunstler, and you wonder: ‘How come these are the only guys worrying/arguing?’ Well, the thought is a normal one, given the intention by the media in general (and advertisers – brand merchants – in particular) that people not think, but be herded into a system where they can be controlled as greedy, addicted consumers.

The best illustration for this ‘evil’ has to be firsthand, otherwise you could accuse me (just as I accuse advertisers) of spreading malicious code into the hearts and minds of entire populations. So here’s a firsthand scenario. In South Africa, it’s fair to say that the telecoms giant Telkom (also a state-run monopoly) is the most hated company in the nation. This is due to the strangehold the company has on all communication infrastructure, which is why South Africans pay more than just about any other country to make telephone calls, and to use the internet (which is slow). This strangehold continues into the cellular market, where Telkom is also a major stakeholder in Vodacom. Yes, even our cell fees are amongst the most expensive in the world. Thus, in South Africa, unlike elsewhere in the world, consumers – instead of calling teach other – prod at their keypads to send SMS’s.

Meanwhile, someone I know works for Telkom. Now it’s true that most people may dislike a company for what it represents, but do we dislike it enough to not work for this company, or to hold those accountable who do (and not just those in the upper echelons). This person I know is paid a huge salary. I’ve been told that employees found with pornography on their computers are dismissed, and their computer’s seized for formatting. The interesting thing is this person I know, and others high up in the company, first make copies of the pornography and distribute it amongst themselves, before formatting the computer. The evil part of this story is not that pornography is involved (well, it’s a much lesser evil at any rate), but that the management of this company are so duplicitous. And for as long as everyone consents to what is happening, it may not appear to be such a bad thing. Except, for the person who has lost his or her job, and the eagerness of those to expel more people (for their own pleasure) – these in combination contrive to become a society without manners, or conscience. This contract is what I describe as evil.

To use yet another contemporary example, it may be pointless to pontificate endlessly about Seung-hui Cho when no one really knew who he was. How could his roommate not know what Cho was studying, even after sharing space for 9 months? Obviously the roommate decided to just ‘keep moving forward’ (why get stuck talking to a difficult kid, and be associated with a loser and a dysfunctional). In that scenario, such a person (the roommate), given the diabolical result of the roommates months long preparations, loses the right to offer any comments or provide any insights, because not only do they know nothing, but worse, obviously made no attempt and basically did not follow up as any rational human being ought to have done. And because how could such a person have any insight, beyond wanting to justify themselves and offer excuses?
“So what are you studying?” I would have made that my first question, in the first 5 minutes, and if I had difficulty finding an answer, I probably would have noticed at some point textbooks or a schedule. Cho and many other people besides live an entirely disconnected life while they are right beside us.

A cartoon in yesterday’s newspaper said it best: It showed a reporter beginning with an introduction to ‘America’s worst killing spree’ by a ‘madman’, but behind her was an endless strip mall filled with gun merchants. They had names like ‘Gun’s Galore’, and ‘Gun Ark’and so on and so forth. Children were sitting on sidewalks with toy guns pretending to shoot each other, guns were flooding the streets. The details are less important than the basic premise: our words, our reactions to what happens in the world are entirely disconnected from the reality, which is a culture of violence, and the scenario of unintended reality that begins to be created around us as a result. And when the world and the world in people’s heads do not fit together, do not in fact overlap, you find yourself with a populace that has simply gone mad.

It is not an exaggeration to use the word ‘evil’ to describe the way people treat each other, when this treatment is disguised (made to look like) fraternity, and described as ‘right’. What we are not doing enough of is focusing on where we are. Instead, we keep moving forward, and in the spirit of moving forward, there is not much time, so we lay blame quickly and conveniently at what appears the quickest and easiest conclusion to draw. But reality is not fast food. It is not quick. And it is not convenient. And until we can own up to our own bad manners towards those around us, we’ll have evil served to us for breakfast. This is our daily bread until we learn how to treat each other, and ourselves, with more respect.

The Next French President

Itchy and Scratchy


Went into solitary confinement this weekend. Not entirely sure why. Probably because of how the weekend started (went to watch the movie Sunshine instead of joining colleagues for drinks. Also turned down a braai and a beauty pageant photo shoot, but then no one really called to ask where I was).

I thought I would focus on training this weekend, but instead, I just focussed on staying exactly where I was.

On the good side, I caught up on all the sleep I've ever missed in my entire life.
On the downside, my car has some gashes in the silver paintwork where some idiot tried to turn, and obviously underestimated his driving skill. Nice of him to drive away and leave me to figure out the damage. The irony is that one of the main reasons I moved was for the protection of my car!

This week I'd like to re-direct. Start getting into the routine of doing a hundred situps a day, and running, and basically prepping for the Jock, in July.

Meanwhile one of my cycling friends says this:

We have been disqualified in a race before for going over the white line and you know how difficult it is for a big bunch to stay on one side of the road and then on top of that they wanted to fine all of us $100 in accordance with the ICU laws for disobeying orders. It was a joke - also people that didn't even cycle themselves.

Watched a couple of DVD's this weekend. Was actually quite enjoyable. Saw Coen at Friendly with his pregnant soon-to-be-wife yesterday. Was invited to church but was actually glad I missed both - especially when I heard what had been discussed. Sometimes I think church can be quite interesting. Other times, most times, I think it is a bit of a bore.

Here's an article I wrote on the Roland Schoeman affair. Quite disgusting really.

Fraudsters on the Field
Why do we tolerate them?


Why do we tolerate those officious people who misrepresent sport? Let’s face it, when we say sport we think of: a sporting chance, being a good sport (a fair person, a gentleman), a healthy game meant to benefit one and all)

Why do we allow people who govern and officiate (I hate that word) to dictate unfair terms to exactly those people meant to be supported and assisted? There is the world of difference between being dictated to and being assisted, being told what to do and being asked: ‘how can we help?’. There is a world of difference between officiating and coaching. The Australians seem to me entirely passionate about sport, and their sportsmen; why aren’t other countries, especially ours, more like them?

It’s interesting that a country like Australia sees so much success in sport – and they’ve already held a superb Olympics – and yet South Africa, which likes to consider itself on par with Australia, isn’t nearly as successful; in fact we don’t come close. In all our sporting ventures, we struggle to produce a consistent champion. This is true in almost every area of sport:
- athletics, swimming, rugby, cricket, golf, football, tennis, cycling, triathlon

Readers are welcome to go and do the math. How often has South Africa produced a world champion (or just a champion) in any of the above sports, and then, importantly, been able to keep them there? Been able to kindle that talent, keep it alive, and support it? What we see happening instead is that champions emerge – like Zola and Elana, like Penny and Roland, like our rugby and cricket squads, like our Ernie Els’s and Wayne Ferreira’s, like Robert Hunter, David George and Raynard Tissink – but then the onus is entirely on them to survive and succeed. It’s impossible to compete for as long, and as well, as other teams with all their backup, when you have none of it. The stress dimension is just too much. Our athletes are given very little support or encouragement, principally because virtually no infrastructure (including sponsorship) is in place. Then, when the Olympics arrive (and South Africa have fancied themselves as Olympic hosts, what a joke!) South Africans are ready to see ‘their’ champions succeed.

The infrastructure here is in fact so decrepit, so under par, and the officials so officious and disconnected (when they exist at all), it’s little wonder that our best athletes spend large amounts of time attempting to train abroad. It’s not easy. And of course it’s up to the athlete to motivate him or herself. Remarkably, many of our athletes do. What is inexcusable then, are the attitudes these athletes have to deal with once the training has been done.
So, for example, when SA excludes its number one swimmer (and world number one, in fact the world’s fastest ever swimmer) from the SA Olympic Team, it makes sense to speak to the genius in whose wisdom this brilliant decision was contrived. This specimen happens to be the president of Swimming SA. It’s an auspicious title, a title one suspects leads to a crumb imagining it’s a slice of bread (and not what it really is).
A small, chubby cheeked and spectacled man, Jace Naidoo, is the president of Swimming South Africa. He is an interesting choice, I have to add, because in the 13 years that I swam at club level I don’t remember seeing that many Indians swimming competitively. It’s just an observation. I’m not taking a swipe. It just seems peculiar that the man who represents swimmers in South Africa appears not to be representative of the swimmers I swam with, and the swimmers I see today. Perhaps it is a good initial criticism, merely to suggest that the president of Swimming SA ought to have at least swum a little – no, make that a lot – once upon a time, in order to appreciate that training and other things he might not know about, are actually involved. So yes, I think the president of a body ought to be elected out of a community of swimmers, perhaps even better, by a community of swimmers. This cannot possibly be the case in our example because I don’t ever remember training beside a Naidoo or a Patel. It’s a name that we might associate with cricket, certainly. But this is swimming, and so I wonder what Mr. Naidoo’s personal interest, in fact his passion, might be, for a sport that he apparently has no history with. Why choose swimming Mr Naidoo? To have a job? Perhaps this is the moral of the story. Perhaps once upon a time he found himself wanting to swim in a swimming pool and things didn’t really work out according to his plan and now he wants to exact revenge on all swimmers, including (and perhaps especially) the world champion. This is not really in keeping with the above-mentioned ‘sporting protocols’.

In yesterday’s Sunday Times, Chris Barron fittingly asked questions about the decision.
CB: Do you sympathize with his (Roland Schoeman’s) explanation that he couldn’t afford to attend (National Swimming trials)?
JN: For swimmers based out of the country to come to South Africa blah blab blah…
(To summarize: No, Mr Naidoo does not sympathize – at all).
CB: By refusing to help with travel costs to attend the national events you make it very difficult for someone like Schoeman who is based in the US, don’t you?
JN: We’d like to be able to support him more but the moment we start paying for him there are a number of other swimmers who meet this criterion…
(A number of other world champions? Here it is obvious that the president is being pigheaded and tricky. Can intelligent people not think intelligently, creatively, without being bound by ‘what other people may say of us’? In any event, if SSA was concerned about popular opinion/criticism, they would be assisting Schoeman. His case is making national news. So no, you don’t care about public opinion, unless it is to get enough attention so that eventually you might be offered a bribe. But yes, you are making it very difficult. Why are you making it difficult? Because you can. To prove how important you are. To prove you are doing your job in a way that gets you attention and everyone notices you. And probably, to enrich yourself with a big fat bribe. Oh, have I mentioned that once already?).
JN: (Absolving his guilt): We haven’t excluded them. They chose not to participate (they could not, because they could not afford to, and they could not afford to because SSA did not support them).
CB: Schoeman says the first he heard about being suspended was in the newspapers. (A way of asking, are you at least communicating, clearly, with the world champion – Roland Schoeman – so he knows what is going on?)
JN: Criteria were sent to all the athletes blah blah blah… (Translates to: No.)

The country needs to get serious about what the Olympic spirit is, and in particular, the officious bunch of people everywhere, who do nothing but officiate without care or consideration. Where is a sense of common humanity? Of encouraging the pursuit of excellence? I am thoroughly sickened by the backstabbing and the politics of punishment in my own province (by the local cycling authorities), but it’s far more widespread than that. Athletes who are being stung by these people must root them out and put people in who can actually do their job in the service and spirit of sport.

One Life

One life, one chance to live
It is possible to die

Whatever may happen, whether human beings believe that there is an afterlife or not, everyone knows that there is just one life, the one we’re living (as we read these words, as I write them). I have an unsettled feeling a lot of the time – don’t you – that most, if not all of us, do not live as though we have just one life, this one chance, to live on Earth. We live as though life were filled with second chances, we live as though what we do had some meaningful long term significance, when, it’s obvious, our shopping and driving does not.

Not our relationships, not our possessions, not even ourselves, can bridge the divide of death. If you have ever had a loved one die, you will have realized the cruel reality of it. Nothing you say, or do, or think, will bring them back. There is nothing to comfort you. That person you knew is gone. Perhaps not forever, but certainly for the rest of your life. When someone dies there is a sudden ending, eclipsing, of all that that person was. All that remains, immediately after the end of their lives, is a place to put their body (in a coffin), or somewhere to leave their ashes. A stone or metal plague then bears testimony to a life. And of course when you stare at the stone, there are only letters that spell a name, words with some mantra, and dates, to account for a life. But none of this can account for the spirit of a person. It’s up to you to do that.

They will leave behind a room, a bed, clothes and shoes, photographs and other personal possessions. They will leave behind all those things they used to do and say, the people that knew them, and they, for all their kindness or harshness – just like dead pets, or squashed insects - will never communicate or be seen again.
So in the husky words of Virginia Woolf (whose own sophisticated contemplations led to madness, and finally, suicide): “It is possible to die.”
Let’s try that again slowly, and for emphasis, let’s suspend it between paragraphs.

It is possible to die.

While 80% of South Africans profess to be Christians, probably most of that percentile takes comfort in the idea, from the belief, that when they die, they will go somewhere.
I remember as a very young child, my brother and I shared a room, and at night we contemplated concepts that fascinated us. Like the universe. And gravity. How can a person standing at the bottom of the world (as South Africa is invariably depicted on the average plastic globe) not fall off? How can we, knowing we are standing on a round, spinning object, and flying through space, not spin off, or at any second, disappear in a puff of smoke, or an erratic burst from the sun (or a belch from our own planet’s core). But what really got us going, as 6 and 8 year olds, was the idea, correction, the absolute certainty of death. Because how it works is if you are alive, you will one day, most certainly, die. And after that, no one really knows what happens to you, except that you start off by dying all by yourself. In short: despite the hype, it doesn’t look good.
And let’s face it, death is basically an extreme version of falling asleep. Death means that one no longer exists. Usually, I think it is fair to say, dying is associated with a large degree of discomfort, which is to say, dying is not pleasant – at least, not initially. It is probably also accurate to say that, depending on how lucky you are, death may in fact be the most unpleasant moment of your entire life. That’s saying a great deal. Perhaps read it again if it hasn’t sunken in. Not much is said about death though, because people tend not to be around to do justice to just how unpleasant it is (to drown, to die in a car wreck, to die of a heart attack). Survivors (say on the same doomed aeroplane) tend to have head injuries and cannot accurately report what their companions must have suffered, and when they can, they often choose not to.

I have been in a serious car accident, and it’s certainly not a series of events I like to visit every day, because it’s an unpleasant, spine shaking awareness. But, if you will indulge me, I remember the moment before the car collided as being so inevitably horrible, that my entire body went limp. I also remember the swarm of fire, very slowly, burning through me, as I realized in the aftermath – at the end of the brief skidding, that I was still alive. That fire was the fire of pain, and it was just insufficient to overwhelm me, so I remained conscious throughout.
Surviving a car accident is a useful lesson. It is just one situation where we may come to think of a simple machine, a car, as a deadly instrument. For about 1 month I was not comfortable being in one. Because, after all, being in one had nearly killed me. But I got over it, and now I can drive around in a car without dwelling on the fact that driving presents a daily opportunity to quickly and easily be killed, or to kill other people or animals close to the road.
Religion seems to make death into a metaphor. When we think of death we imagine angels, and heaven, and some or other benign city with paved roads. I remember after my mother died, I had a hard time imagining her in some sky city, because I knew for a fact where her body was. I also had a hard time imagining that one hour, five days, a year after her death, she was somewhere else, singing songs. At least in terms of those who temporarily survive – those left behind after those around us die – death is permanent. People will scoff and excavate fragments out of a newspaper, talking about a tunnel of light, but I have to say, when my knee was gutted to resemble a volcano in my car accident, I also felt a fire. It’s not an experience I would choose to repeat. I’d rather choose life.
Meanwhile, I wonder. If more human beings did not believe in the afterlife, would we not value our lives a great deal more, and live in a way that demonstrated an effort to savour each moment, to protect, celebrate and respect and love each other? I believe that the collective view of a ‘second life’ (supposedly better than this one, where we are rewarded by a King for all our sacrifices) means we waste our first life, and we rationalize not facing the issues we need to face, we rationalize our fears for not participating in something, based on the idea that we will be rewarded.

In High School some of the kids came up with this mantra: what if you die before you’ve had sex? The thinking went on that surely as soon as you’re capable of it; you should make the most of it, because soon you might be dead. It’s a simple statement, worth considering. What if you die before you’ve ________? Fill in the blank yourself.
In that question, a great deal of truth and meaning resides. We should not choose, as is the craze with suicide bombers, to die for something. We should live for something. And it is perhaps intelligent to be aware that maybe, just maybe, when we die, we sleep, never to awaken from our sleep. We are, just as we were before we were born: No more in the existence of things. The world continues without us, remembering us for a time, and then, we are no more, not even a memory. With these thoughts, be mindful of your beliefs and the doctrine they’re based on, and be mindful of each precious day that dawns for you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hannibal = Eurotrash

By Dana Stevens

Posted Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, at 6:36 PM ET
Hannibal Rising

Watching Hannibal Rising (MGM), the why-he-did-it prequel to the Hannibal Lecter mass-murder entertainment franchise, I experienced a surprising reaction. Not nausea, boredom, or uncontrollable eye-rolling; those happened, too, but they were predictable enough. No, what this nasty, brutish (but unfortunately not short) movie left me feeling was ashamed to be American. First of all: As a folk archetype, a supervillain for our times, this is the best we can come up with? A vaguely Eurotrash schoolboy who eats people's cheeks? And secondly, where do we get off using the trauma of the Second World War as an excuse for Hannibal's (that is, our) insatiable appetite for murder? If pop-culture fantasies really do serve as a psychological X-ray of our collective fears and desires, this is one sorry-ass session on the couch.

Hannibal Rising argues that young Lecter would have grown into a perfectly wholesome and, indeed, unusually filial Lithuanian aristocrat, if it hadn't been for that nasty war. When the Nazis marched into his previously idyllic existence—just Mama, Papa, Hannibal, and his sister Mischa in a lovely medieval castle—8-year-old Hannibal fell victim to T.T.S., or Televisual Trauma Syndrome, a condition in which one's repressed memories become accessible only via choppy, poorly lit flashbacks. But this much is clear: After the children's parents are killed in a bombing raid, they're taken prisoner by a wannabe Nazi, Grutas (Rhys Ifans), and his starving cohort. Whatever unspeakable thing takes place after that, it involves soup cauldrons … and Mischa's sudden disappearance … and close-ups of Grutas and company with bloody chins. If his first name hadn't already decided his destiny, this sister-chomping incident settles it: The seeds for Hannibal's adult food preferences have been planted.

After stopping off at a Stalinist orphanage just long enough to grow into the body of a 22-year-old actor with the convincingly evil-sounding name of Gaspard Ulliel, Hannibal treks off to France, where Gong Li is waiting for him in a gloomy château filled with samurai armor. Why? It seems she's Lady Murasaki, his only surviving relative, a widowed aunt by marriage who greets him with quasi-erotic reverence. There follows a Karate Kid samurai-training montage, with Gong Li as Pat Morita to Hannibal's Ralph Macchio. Lady M. is a bit of an enabler, as we discover when Hannibal makes his first kill—a French butcher who vulgarly insulted his aunt in the marketplace. When presented with the victim's head on her ancestral altar, she demurs with the mildest of reprisals: "You didn't need to do this for me." It's as if her nephew were presenting her with an inordinately nice tennis bracelet.

Then the doorbell rings and Detective McNulty from The Wire walks in. No, it's Dominic West, the guy who plays McNulty, but given that he's cast as a cop—Inspecteur Popil—it's impossible to see him as anything but the hard-drinking Baltimore detective avec un French accent. McNulty knows Hannibal killed the butcher but can't seem to pin the crime on the diabolically slippery lad. He can only watch as Hannibal tracks down his sister's killers one by one and dispatches them horribly. Occasionally the two of them meet up for an unsuccessful interrogation:

McNulty: His face had been eaten.
Hannibal: I would suspect the ravens.
McNulty: Ravens who make shishkabobs?

These excerpts of dialogue are making Hannibal Rising sound like campy fun, but believe me, it's not. The movie is trudgingly tedious—if you're in it for the violence, be advised that each action scene is separated from the next by at least 20 minutes of macabre vamping. Above all, the movie is shameless. It doesn't hesitate to avail itself of whatever historical boogeyman it needs to advance the plot, whether it's Klaus Barbie's exportation of French children to Auschwitz or the loss of one's entire family in Hiroshima (the back story that's tossed out in a vain bid to deepen Gong Li's character). For screenwriter Thomas Harris, who invented the Lecter character in his 1981 novel Red Dragon, and director Peter Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring), WWII serves as a convenient clearinghouse, a Wal-Mart of trauma. Getcher vast reserves of human suffering here! I ask you, who's cannibalizing whom?

Though there are things I admire about Demme's Silence of the Lambs (Anthony Hopkins' performance and the delicately scripted interplay between him and Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling), I've always detested its ending: that cute phone call Lecter makes to Starling from an undisclosed location in the tropics, where he's "having an old friend for dinner." The cheap pun, and the notion of Lecter as a charming rogue on the lam, seemed to undercut the horror of everything that came before, all in the name of setting up a sequel. Two movies later, Hannibal Rising ends on a similarly jokey note, raising the specter of an even greater horror: Slacker Hannibal: The Post-College Years.

Can South Africa Find Consistency?

Can the Proteas keep up their good form against Australia?

After eclipsing England earlier in the week, South Africa travel to St Lucia to face their old foe, Australia, who are looking infallible.

The wicket in St Lucia will not suit the South Africans. It is similar to the wicket that led to their loss to New Zealand - low and slow.

If South Africa win though (and yes, it is a big 'if), they will face Sri Lanka or New Zealand on a pitch that will suit them a lot better.

Meanwhile, the South African bowling star, Gary Hall, has revealed his 'secret'. He says that reverse-swing is possible as long as a ball is not replaced, and so the South Africans have worked hard to keep the ball clean and in good condition. A new ball, Hall claims, may take as long as 10 overs to find that tricky but effective result: reverse-swing

Looking back, the Proteas have had a topsy turvy tournament. I good match against the West Indies, a terrible performance against Bangladesh, and two acceptable but not brilliant turns of play against the Netherlands and Scotland. Their match aginst Australia proved that South Africa may lack an essential self belief in themselves.

They fared better against New Zealand, although were guilty of numerous dropped catches: failures that are just unthinkable at this level of cricket, and from the erstwhile top ranked team.

But then, the last performance was South Africas' game against England. Naturally, this would have boosted the team's confidence enormously. One imagines the squad is now regrouping, and carefully planning how to face Australia again.

What they will aim for is something similar to their result against England, which was, in a word: Devastation. This happens when one team plays terribly (in this case England - who lost their last seven wickets for a meagre 43 runs) while their opponents not only rise to the occasion, but post excellent totals and some produce personal bests.

In the wake of England's defeat, English Coach Duncan Fletcher, has decided to quit.

England's Andrew Strauss (46), Paul Collingwood (30) and Ravi Bopara (27 not out) put in spirited performances, but in the end, it just wasn't nearly enough.

When all was said and done, England had managed a mediocre total of 154/10 (from 48.0 overs) at a run rate of just 3.21. South Africa responded by posting 157 runs in just 19.2 overs, at a run rate of 8.12. South Africa sailed to an easy 9 wicket victory.

But the match was won more likely than not by an excellent display of bowling by the South Africans, and lost by a dismal performance, for example by the English Captain. Vaughan made just 17 before being trapped leg before wicket by a fiery Nel.

Andre Nel (3-35) was the first to upset the apple cart. After Vaughan Nel struck against the possible nemisis of the South Africans, ex South African and in-form batsman Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen went into the game ranked as one of the best batsmen of the tournament, and certainly England's top batsman. He'd already put 341 runs on the board before the crucial outing against South Africa. Ironically, after a lacklustre and somewhat subdued performance, Pietersen was caught by his arch rival, the South African captain, Graeme Smith.

South Africa's victory not only meant England had to pack their bags, but ended the West Indies slim chance of making the semi-final (in terms of run rate).

South Africans back home were baying for blood, having heard that some members of the squad had been out drinking (and apparently quite sozzled) until the wee hours of the morning, having lost their match to New Zealand. Knowing their hides were on the line, the South Africans played as though their lives depended on it.

Gary Hall put in a career best performance (5-18 off 10 overs), and the SA captain came good with a brisk 13 fours in his 58-ball innings (to post a total of 89 not out).

The top four teams are now:

Australia
New Zealand
Sri Lanka
South Africa

South Africa face Australia on Wednesday the 25th in St Lucia, while New Zealand face Sri Lanka one day earlier, in Jamaica.

If South Africa manage to beat Australia (who have not lost a single match so far), they stand a good chance to win the World Cup. Their loss against New Zealand can arguably attributed to the toss, but then, some will say, 'that's cricket'.

The final is on Saturday, 28th of April.

For more information visit www.cricketworldcup.com

Jincha Pabo* + Interview

Stanton vowed to try to appear on as many news shows as possible.

"My focus now is getting on TV and taking time away from [Cho]," he said. "Every minute I can get on is one less minute he'll be on." (Read more about Herbstritt)

*Jincha = really
Pabo = stupid/dumb (in Korean)

From www.ohmynews.com:

Seung-Hui Cho Was My Classmate
Jennifer Chapman shares her memories of the quiet boy who became the Virginia Tech shooter

Jennifer Chapman (22) is a senior who attends James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is an alumnus of Ormond Stone Middle and Westfield High School where Seung-hui Cho, the shooter of the Virginia Tech massacre, graduated. I met her in the Carrier Library at JMU.


What do you think of the massacre at Virginia Tech?

Right away the idea of a shooter silently killing 33 people was scary to think about. I wondered how anyone could shoot so many people without saying a single word to his victims. But that strange detail made sense when I saw the pictures of Seung Cho on the television news. Seung went to the same high school as me.

How long have you known Cho?

We went to the same middle and high school. I had some classes with Cho in middle school. And in ninth grade we went to different high schools, but were in the same class again when Westfield High School opened in Chantilly the next year. He was shy and quiet. We knew him as Seung Cho.

What type of person was Cho?

He was very quiet and shy. He didn't say anything. He never had a friend that I knew about. I sometimes saw him riding a bike alone in my neighborhood in Centreville.

How was Cho in school?

He took honors classes, and did his work well. He didn't say anything to teachers or other students. To say he was quiet is an understatement. He didn't talk at all. If we had an oral presentation in Spanish class, he didn't have to do it. We never expected him to present in the class.

Do you think Cho was just being awkward?

We thought it was awkward, but it seemed like his choice. I don't think he was excluded, made fun of or taunted or anything like that. People tried to include him, but after a while they accepted that he didn't want to talk, so they gave up.

How about teachers? Did they take good care of him? Did they know he needed some mental, psychological or medical care?

They also tried to include him in class. However, he was quiet and shy, and they seemed to give up. They didn't understand that he needed psychological help. Everyone assumed his silence was sadness, not anger.

Did Cho show any signs of anger or resentment toward other students?

Never. He was very quiet. I still can't believe that he killed all those people. It sounds like a completely different person to the Cho I knew about. I don't know whether his personality changed.

Were there two Westfield High School graduates among the victims in the Virginia rampage?

Yes, but I don't think Cho would have known them.

There are media reports of Cho's silence, violent writings and stalking of women. He is described as having some psychological problems. What do you think of that?

His silence reminds me of his school days, but other details such as violent writings and stalking women are inconsistent with the high school student I knew. He was quiet. He would never have stalked a girl or talked to a girl.

Cho is said to have signed into a class at Tech using a question mark in place of his name.

I was very surprised to read the news. I also received an anonymous e-mail from someone who signed with a question mark. I now suspect it was Cho. The anonymous e-mail is the only sign that Cho ever tried to communicate with others.

Were you close enough to communicate with each other by email after graduation?

It was a message on facebook and I think it was sent to quite a few people from our high school. He never said it was him. It was just a riddle type message saying something like, "you don't know me but I know you."

Do you have anything more to say about Cho? What do you think of this tragedy?

He was so quiet, shy and awkward and didn't want to talk to others. But I think it wasn't a mean, hatred type of silence. I felt like he was hurting, not hating someone. This tragedy is a huge loss for the community. I feel very sorry that we didn't realize that he was so troubled.

Sparta


Cho Seung-hui

Yes, he said some bizarre things in his rant (about his children, how can you have children if you're dead?) but I think the temptation is there by people who want to talk and think about this to write it off as: bizarre, nuts, psycho.

On Sky and CNN this morning I saw some of the other students getting their 15 seconds of fame to make their comments. I don't think, even though they are there, they know what to say about Cho. Because obviously no one registered that he was there, unless it was for their amusement. The word loneliness comes up a helluva lot in descriptions of him. And loneliness is a mutual contract between the lonely and those who choose to exclude.

It's interesting how people will respond to this sort of thing. They'll say he (Cho) was mad, suffering mental disorders, they'll speculate about all those flaws that can be thrown together to say: 'he was bad'.
While I am not condoning his actions, I don't think it is fair to disconnect him from his environment and pretend that those around him had nothing to do with happened. If it took his roommate 9 months to figure out what he was studying, maybe it is fair to say:
how can a society live with itself when it is so disconnected?

When a community (in this case students) sees the suffering, unhappiness, disconnectedness of someone on a daily basis and reinforces it, ignores it etc. I think some responsibility rests on the good people (at V Tech and elsewhere) who did (and tend to do) nothing. People try to find somewhere to click, and are so busy fitting in and looking cool, they have no consciousness left for those left out. Even if someone is perpetually rude to you, and weird, if they have no friends and you do, you're always in the stronger position, and a smile and a few kind words can make all the difference. I know it sounds flowery, but to someone on the other side, in hell, it's a reprieve.

I also think one enormous positive that is emerging out of this is that people, including Westerners (Americans, Canadians etc) are taking a more serious look at Asians in the position of trying to hack it abroad. Not easy. And of course, Asians, especially South Koreans, will be taking a long overdue look at the enormous pressures they put on their children. I went out with a lawyer in Singapore who basically posponed her life (relationships, fun etc) just to get her degree and a job. An intelligent, attractive girl, by the time she was 27, she had still not been in a single relationship, and was still living with her folks (whom she owed for their sacrifice to put her through university).

I think the East-West relationship will be scrutinised more closely now, especially by Westerners in the East, and Asians working in the US and elsewhere.

The pressure on kids in Asia to study and perform at school and university (school more so) is staggering, even obscene. I often saw kids coming home at 10pm or midnight, having been attending extra classes all afternoon and evening. I have even taught kids in their apartments on Saturday's and Sundays.

Meanwhile, mention has been made that Cho was acting out his version of OLDBOY, a Korean blockbuster flick that shows a man who is locked up for 15 years who then goes on a rampage.
Our movies provide an interesting outlet for those individuals who can't cope. Movies become not just a place for escapsim, but obsession.


Home


Unlike my previous abode, this one has a garden and space. I don't mean to fill it up with books and magazines I have already read. Going to have a more spartan living space. Probably need to buy a bunch of huge pillows (just not poofs, please) for the lounge. Should be moved in and settled in by tomorrow.

Diary Card

Today I am heading to Dewetsdorp to shoot a beauty pageant. Mixed feelings. Feel I have so much other stuff to do. Wanted to go running this morning but way too tired. Maybe when I get back (what's the chance?).

Had lunch with Rone yesterday (who I met in Clocolan ages ago). Was a bit creepy for me saying grace in Cubana (a restaurant). When you sign your gratuity, I feel, is when you determine how grateful you are for your food.

Candice also called last night to say that Ane is pregnant. And Allan's Louise is pregnant too.

And Andre sms-ed me this morning to encourage me to do tomorrow's timetrial. He says: JY KAN WEN (You can win). Will go out and probably ride the Glen Route instead.

Guns, Bullets, Blood & Multimedia

from: the australian.news.com.au

Silent kid's sick tirade
A key to understanding the newest mass murderer in the US may lie partly in cultural alienation, writes Robert Lusetich
April 20, 2007

THE strange and tragic irony of Cho Seung-hui is that in life he barely uttered a word to anyone. In death you can't shut him up. Perhaps it is because Cho, who spent countless hours sitting with his only known friend, his laptop, is a child of the impersonal YouTube generation, part of a tribe whose members find it easier to talk into a camera than to converse with another human being.

BLUEPRINT OF A KILLER

Warning signs include obsession with violence, resentment, an urge to blame others, arrogance, contempt and isolation.
In three out of four school shootings in the US, the killer made no threats, but most engaged in behaviour that caused others concern.
Cho Seung-hui was a typical loner. He rarely took off his sunglasses and cap, presenting a barrier to contact with others.

He never spoke in class. His English teacher said he "exuded loneliness".
Cho was apparently infatuated with a beautiful student but his feelings were not returned, triggering feelings of rejection, loss and affront. She was among the first two people to be killed by Cho.
Most people suffer rejection during their lives but do not become killers. Psychologists say that certain people are predisposed to extreme behaviour if pushed.

People with a vulnerability to psychosis are at risk of developing mental illness as their stress levels increase. A strong, secure family can prevent a predisposed person from reaching a crisis.
Some psychologists say a contributing factor is social acceptance of macho violence in computer games and movies. This can desensitise vulnerable young men.

Mass killers and those reacting to rejection don't worry about being caught, unlike serial killers who try to avoid capture. But the 23-year-old South Korean native's desire to justify his diabolical deeds to the world at large is hardly unique.

Theodore Kaczynski, who spent 15 years sending bombs to universities and airlines - hence his FBI nom de guerre, Unabomber - as he retreated from a society he loathed, living like a hermit in the forest, produced a long and rambling manifesto, which he demanded The New York Times publish, and which led to his capture in 1996.

Cho's manifesto is suitably multimedia and his outlet of choice was the American network NBC, although considering the time and care he took in producing it - the video portion is broken up into 27 separate files - it wouldn't have been entirely surprising had he uploaded it on to a MySpace home page before going on to carry out the worst mass killing in modern American history.

Reports from South Korea - where Cho lived in relative poverty with his parents until he was eight, when the family immigrated to the US - suggest Cho had trouble communicating even at a young age.
His 81-year-old grandmother, who identified herself to journalists in Seoul only as Kim, says Cho "troubled his parents a lot when he was young because he couldn't speak well".
"But (he) was well-behaved," she says.

Well-behaved in the Korean culture means he was subservient; he didn't rock the boat, which is of great importance in a strict society where order and obedience, particularly to elders, are expected. For a young boy with communication problems and antisocial tendencies, arriving in the US without knowing a word of English could only have made the situation worse.

"Within the Korean culture, we are known as the 1.5s (one and a half generations)," says Andy Chong, who came to the US with his family when he was five and now lives in Los Angeles. "We're not Korean like the first generation, which is more strict, speaks Korean and has more traditional Korean values, and we're not like the second generation, which the first generation looks at as better because they speak English without an accent, they're more integrated, more advanced. We're sort of stuck in between: we don't speak Korean that well and a lot of us speak English with accents; we're sort of this lost generation, caught in between.

"Obviously, I don't know this guy but if I was going to guess about him, I'd think he was like some guys I've known, some 1.5s. Their parents work long hours, work really hard to make a good life for their kids, and he's the only son, so that's a lot of pressure just there.

"A lot is expected of you if you're the only son in a Korean family and this guy, it looks like he just couldn't handle it. To Koreans, it's a big deal about which colleges their kids go to. I see (Cho's) sister (who works for the US State Department, directing aid to Iraq) went to Princeton: that's Ivy League, that's very prestigious with Koreans. Everyone's impressed when they hear something like that.

"But he's going to Virginia Tech; not bad, but it's not Princeton. And then he's majoring in English, not business or accounting or law or medicine. If you look at the background and the pressure a guy like that is under to do well in life and to repay his parents for everything they've done for him, to carry on the family name, to be successful, to have everyone believe you're successful: if you're not a guy who can handle all of this, which it doesn't sound like he is, then, yeah, I can see him going postal."

Certainly, a portion of Cho's diatribe seems to indicate a hatred of the successful and wealthy: "You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats? Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs? Your trust fund wasn't enough?"

BIZARRE RANT
Selections of Cho Seung-hui's messages posted to NBC:

"You have vandalised my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenceless people."

"Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave?"
"Do you know what it feels like to have throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive?"


"Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?"
"You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfil your hedonistic needs. You had everything."Source: NBC News


Perhaps surprisingly, not many saw Cho "going postal", a popular shorthand expression for mass killings among Americans that was coined when post office workers began killing co-workers in the mid-'80s.

"Honestly, I never thought he was dangerous," one of Cho's university roommates, Karan Grewal, said in a television interview yesterday. "He didn't seem aggressive. He didn't seem like a guy with a death wish.
"He just seemed very lonely. I just thought he was really, really shy. At first I thought he just got (to the US) last year and didn't know English very well, so that's why he didn't talk. I mean it was pretty weird that he didn't talk. I never heard him talking to anyone: not on the phone, not even to his parents."

After nine months of living in close proximity to one another, Grewal said he did not even know what Cho was studying at the university.

All he could say about the country's newest mass murderer was that he spent hours typing on his laptop. Others say he liked to watch wrestling on TV and had recently started going to the gym to lift weights. "I just assume he was trying to get buff," Grewal says. "He was pretty skinny." He says he was shocked when he saw the video clips of Cho yesterday, principally because he looked up at the camera, whereas in real life always looked down when he was around other people, never looking anyone in the eyes.

The character sketch of the archetypal friendless loner is the same as far back as anyone has gone. Neighbours who remember him growing up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, say he was always by himself and if they approached, even if just to say hello, he would ignore them or leave. "He was just a very antisocial sort who was very quiet and never talked at all," says Joe Aust, who shared a bedroom with Cho at Virginia Tech.
"I tried to make conversation with him but he would give one-word answers. Other times he would just ignore me."

One of Cho's professors, Lucinda Roy, says Cho wore sunglasses even when he was indoors, pulled a baseball cap tight down on his forehead and rarely looked up during a class. He never said anything. She describes him as "the loneliest person I have ever met in my life".
But being lonely isn't a crime. Events took a darker turn for Cho in 2005, when he was caught photographing female students in a class from under his desk. He was also reported by two female students for stalking, which nearly led to him being committed to a mental institution.
Cho, who Aust confirms took anti-depressants - which can trigger homicidal or suicidal behaviour - began expressing a creepy rage and anger in his writing projects.
One of them, a short, quite unimpressive play titled Richard McBeef, is laden with violence and foul language, as well as occasional attempts at something vaguely resembling humour. "You committed a conspiracy, just like what the government has done to John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe," Cho has one of his characters say.

Cho's behaviour became so disturbing that many students in one of his writing classes would not attend if he was there.
Cho spent weeks, if not months, planning this week's massacre. He purchased the handguns - the first on February 9, the other on March 16 - and carefully filed away their serial numbers, began making his videos and taking photographs of himself in various Rambo-like poses, and prepared chains and padlocks to ensure no one could escape Norris Hall once he opened fire.

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," Cho says on the tape, "but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."