Monday, June 29, 2009

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

First off, I watched Transformers recently, and by the way, I also watched The Hangover. The Hangover is silly and funny, but at least it is somewhat realistic, and even if it is debauched, the message - somewhat tongue in cheek - is that shit can happen when you lose your head. There will be a lot to answer for the next morning. Warning. Laughter. Warning. More laughter. But Transformers is another demon altogether. And I think the incredible success of this flick - Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen - is a huge indictment of the youngsters today and the ADD-prone grownups who contrive these distractions.

It is a flick that is overly sexist (and stupid), it's warmongering, it's relentlessly violent and pointless. And kids love it.

Barry ronge writes:
This is a George Bush movie that strayed into the Obama regime: a brainless, over-muscled, war-mongering rant that revels in excess and destruction...The inescapable fact is that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is junk – glittering, complicated, shiny junk perhaps – but still junk.

Excess and destruction, and Junkotainment is the last thing we need to advertise to kids. There is also the point that two of the robotos are portrayed as uneducated Jar-Jar Binks like inner city blacks (via their accents and comments).

Sam Witwicky: Can you read this?
Skids: Read? Unh uh.
Mudflap: We don't - we don't really do much reading.

So racism is okay in the Michael Bay studio lot.
At this late stage of the game - and the game is human beings playing wreck-the-planet-while-we're-on-it we can't afford this level of nonsense. And this level of nonsense reportedly cost $200 million. We deserve to pay a hefty, hefty price for this sort of distraction, this sort of entertainment when we obviously seriously need to get with the program, and we know we do.

It was an interesting experience the past few days...going offline and getting engrossed in a bunch of real life stuff. Like carpentry. Banging nails into wood. And electrical engineering. Well, of the most basic kind - such as wiring and connecting up the innards of a Halogen bulb.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I was stumped in the fairly simple task. Essentially you have 3 wires, and so have a small possibility of getting them wrong (even though they are color coded). Hours and hours online doesn't translate at all to real world competence.

The same can be said for some of the grandiose and perhaps even somewhat realistic ideas we have of ourselves. Think you're a good writer? Good photographer? Good artist? Think you're good looking? Well how about going out and testing those theories in the real world as practically as you can?

Today I said that success [at the Rosebank Rooftop Market] would be if I managed to sell just one item. I didn't. Quite humbling, but then some other photographer's and painters were also not spectacularly successful today. Nevertheless it was a valuable exercise, and I have a clearer idea what people liked and remarked upon,and what not to do (bring fewer pictures).

Today was cold. It was good to experience the mixture of vigor, frustration and delight that is putting one's own wares on display.

Quite funny at one point:
I decided to call it a day on the early side (at about 15:30) about an hour before everyone starts packing up. So I started removing my work and leaving my stuff unattended (who will steal it if no one is buying it). On my way back I notice 2, 3, 4 young ladies walk into the stall area, and I mean right in. But since I'd opened up some space, they were able to touch the jerseys hanging up in the stall next door.

The Confederations Cup game between the USA and Spain demonstrated that the USA aren't a team to be sniffed at. Right now they are pummeling Brazil in the final, making the favorites look decidedly lacklustre. I found the game vibey and different and enjoyable. I was also holding quite tightly onto my camera. We arrived for the second half and left 5 minutes before the end. Football has few scoring moments. As a rugby spectator I find some games worth watching (the Brazil-Bafana semi-final was a cracker despite the low score). But rugby has far more action as yesterday's Lions game demonstrated, one which Ruan aka 'Ruin' Pienaar almost singlehandedly scuppered.

It is great to see soccer doing a similar unifying job as rugby, and of course, the better Bafana perform, the more interested all South Africans will be in the game. That said, I honestly expect 2010 to be conducted to near empty stadiums as swine flu burns through Sub-Saharan Africa. Because we don't like to think about it - and our other problems - doesn't make them go away, because what you resist, persists.

There were a few foreigners today at the market. British, Greek, American tourists. The trick at craft markets is to make and sell small items that have a strong pull-factor, and make one think of the country. The animals constructed with wire and beads are a hit, and one tourist can easily pick up haf a dozen to take home for friends. What is the likelihood they'll buy a canvas that they can't take onto the plane as hand luggage. So small can work.

Being a trader brought an interesting side-effect. The resources one goes through to sell are enormous, and the justification - to sell - is based on little more than:
- will people like this
- does it look good
- will I make money

I saw a beautiful light made of Jacaranda wood and asked the man who made it how he sourced the wood. He made an offhand remark, something like: "I'll chop down any tree I can find."

Whilst having my efforts for the most part ignored, and clutching myself to stay warm, a paged through a Bicycling magazine I had with me. It had about 3 articles dedicated to just one man (the present SHOOT banner character - see above). I found this interesting, this offhand remark about Lance:

When [Armstrong] asks his 37-year old self to respond, we may have yet another feeling that(in this new era of America's paranoia) the world hasn't felt for a long time: Sure, the end may be near, but in these last high mountains of hope, with perhaps the most ambiguous hero of our times at the helm, anything - even that maillot jeune he once worse so wantonly - may still be possible.

The paragraph, written by Michael Paterniti in an article titled Red, White and Armstrong, says a lot. The fact that it appears in a Bicycling magazine says to what extent the world has already changed in mid-2009. A few months ago, I doubt whether the editor would have felt such 'doom and gloom' was justified. Paterniti touches on these salient points:

- a sense of paranoia (that is entirely justified)
- a common, a conventional, an almost ordinary sense of fatalism ('the end is permanently near')
- heroes are no longer cardboard cutouts, like too-good-to-be-true Superman. They're grittier, they're darker, they're flawed as well as exceptional, and still worthy of respect, admiration and analysis
- we are in the last 'high mountains of hope'. We're suspended over our imminent despair, for perhaps a while longer
- anything is possible

This last point bears reading a few times. It is in that point where all our luck, all our hope, everything lies, as well as all our catastrophe, everything we have lacked the discernment, or were too distracted to entertain.

Michael Jackson's death provides an interesting contrast to Armstrong's legacy. Was he a hero? An inspiration? I remember watching a Beatles documentary and it occurred to me that if I met John Lennon I'd think he was a jerk. Based almost entirely on the fact that I don't smoke cannabis, and that anyone who becomes famous and smokes cannabis just has a lazy, hippie attitude to life which is fun, entertaining, but not enlightened, as much as IMAGINE would have us believe otherwise.

What about Michael Jackson. My initial response is incredible sadness. It is a tragedy that he died before he had a chance to...well, redeem himself I suppose...join the party and the participation of life...come back into the real world. Michael Jackson clearly had problems dealing with reality, including realities about himself. He has never admitted using skin whitening products. He doesn't have to. The face surgeries, the change in hair, the lifestyle, say it all. Black music was behind Michael's legend. And blacks have a lot to be proud of today, in Will Smith (the highest paid male actor), Barack Obama and Tiger Woods.

But we make a mistake when we insist on celebrating on Michael Jackson's legend, his inspirational music, without troubling ourselves to what was really happening to the person, and being interested in the real Michael Jackson (beyond the Michael Jackson he wanted you to think he was).

When we do that - when we accept the terms people give us for who they are, we run the risk of counterfeiting reality, and also, ultimately, counterfeiting ourselves. What happens in the real world when something is discovered to be counterfeit? It tends to be destroyed. And reality - the real thing - eventually catches up with every pretence, and when it doesn't, our secrets become our undoing, either at great cost to ourselves, or at great cost to others.

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