Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town - Elite Men

Impressive runs from #4 and #5.

The ascent (or is it descent) of Man?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 Cape Town ITU World Triathlon Series - Elite Women

Notice how the winner collapses on the mat, and the 2nd place finisher doesn't. That's why winners win, and second place finishers finish second.

Friday, April 25, 2014

And now my DAD has been published in TIME magazine!



Got this message from my dad yesterday:

I see the vd leeks are going places in the literary world!! Even me... TIME Magazine printed a letter I sent to them.
 
when I asked my dad what the letter was about, he said:

"The letter is a 'Green' letter regarding animals of course and eating meat in reply to an article published in TIME.a spur of the moment thing that took 5 minutes. Hav'nt actually read the published letter yet... just saw my name there before I hurried out this afternoon.Will read it sometime. .... Hope the letter helps the world. ..only TIME will tell!!"

Click on the image to enlarge and read.



Artscape Exhibition in Cape Town - 2 early reviews



Amazing opening night at Artscape, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ronnie Kasrils, Africa Melane from Cape Talk and other ordinary people. Treated visually by photographs from a couple of amateur and experienced photojournalists, depicting ordinary life in SA and celebrating 20 years of democracy and freedom. Closing my eyes and hearing Diana Ferrus recite her poem "I've come to take you home" (in honour of Sarah Baartman) so, so beautifully...

Opening address delivered by Minister Ivan Meyer was to the point and reminded us about Madiba reuniting all people - "your" culture, "my" culture, "our" heritage, always in this order. To illustrate this, he mentions one particular picture that has touched him. It is a photo of a man and a boy on a horse, the man looking ahead, into the future and the boy looking back, also into the future - "our heritage"! Congratulations, Nick van der Leek-Photo, it is a great photo. This is building the future, not brick by brick, but photo by photo.

- Sonja Hibbers
 Project Partnerships & Operations Manager at World Design Capital Cape Town 2014


I just came home from the Artscape, and it was awesome. Guys, if you do one thing on Freedom Day (or any other given day), go see the exhibit. Mucking Afazing. 

Eric, you did an awesome job in putting this exhibit together. Well done. *applauds*
- Miriam Mannak
Cape Town-based journalist and photographer

We have had a request from the SA Embassy in Congo/Kinshasa to ship the exhibition there for a showing in June.
- Eric Miller
Curator and well-known Cape-based photojournalist

Fucking Gorgeous Wave Photography [VIDEO]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If there is a soundtrack to Reeva Steenkamp's life it's this haunting but beautiful song: "My Blood, by Ellie Goulding" [Listen while reading the lyrics].




"My Blood"

That feeling that doesn't go away just did
And I walked a thousand miles to prove it
And I'm caught in the crossfire of my own thoughts
The color of my blood is all I see on the rocks
As you sail from me

Alarms will ring for eternity
The waves will break every chain on me
My bones will bleach
My flesh will flee
So help my lifeless frame to breathe

And God knows I'm not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it's the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

The lost dreams are buried in my sleep for him
And this was the ecstasy of a love forgotten
And I'm thrown in the gunfire of empty bullets
And my blood is all I see
As you steal my soul from me

Alarms will ring for eternity
The waves will break every chain on me

And God knows I'm not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it's the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

Ohhh, ohh oh [x6]

And God knows I'm not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it's the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

And God knows I'm not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it's the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oscar Trial - Speculations of what REALLY happened, a new contextual timeline and the best graphic yet of the crime scene



This is the best graphic I've seen thus far of the crime scene at Pistorius' Silver Woods Country Estate.

A few things that stand out:
1. Notice the television cabinet in relation to the passage to the bathroom.  Remember, in Pistorius' version Reeva slept on the left side.
2. Notice where her bag (fully packed) and shoes are lying (on the right side).
3. Notice where the jeans are lying.

A few statements I'd like to highlight from Pistorius' testimony:

1. When asked by Barry Roux if he consciously pulled the trigger, or not, he answered - somewhat cryptically - 'Not'.

2. Pistorius described the terror of not being able to defend himself, yet that's exactly what he did.  If there had been an intruder there, Pistorius would have succeeded - with flying colours - at defending himself.

3. Have you thought about how Reeva felt?  "I've thought about it (not Reeva) many times...in my own...answering of the question."  This is a wildly bizarre response to Nel's question!

4. When Nel specifically asks Pistorius whether Reeva wanted to leave he dodges the question.  He never answers it directly.

And two hypotheticals:

1. In the reality of Pistorius' version, having just fired 4 shots and after screaming, why would Pistorius expect to find Reeva lying in bed.  After shooting through the door he says he retreated to the bed, and she wasn't there.  By why would she be.  If you hear an intruder and gunshots in your house, will you simply lie inert in bed?

Here's a quoted comment (off a news story) referencing the same idea:

He walks backwards to the bedroom on his stumps still in darkness, and only when he doesn't feel her in the bed, that's the FIRST time it crosses his mind that it could have been her in the toilet! Really?? I would argue that this is the LEAST possible time I would expect to find her in bed. He just fired 4 shots a few meters away from the bed she was supposedly sleeping in! He expected her to still be fast asleep or sitting in bed? 

2. In the reality of Pistorius' version, wouldn't the easiest and quickest way to open the locked door be to shoot the lock? By firing from the opposite angle, at an angle close to parallel with the wall,  you'd minimise harm to the occupant. Perhaps not, perhaps there's a danger of a ricochet both to the shooter and the occupant.  At face value though, it does seem a little odd to fire four rounds through a door and then to try to open the door with a wooden bat.

A Timeline of Circumstantial Evidence:

Wednesday 14:45.  Reeva meets her management team at Capacity Relations in Woodmead, Sandton. Simphiwe Majola, her manager says she was excited about upcoming projects.

Capacity Relations has already admitted that they did not consider a public relationship with Pistorius beneficial to Reeva's brand.  

Reeva also said in her messages to Pistorius that she wanted to give her career precedence in terms of their relationship.  In terms of her/their decision to stall Heat magazine's expose about their relationship (Heat wanted the couple in a Valentine's Day splash) this would confirm a specific strategy aimed at trying to protect her brand.
She leaves the offices at around 15:40.


It's likely that immediately after this meeting, on the way to Pistorius' house, Reeva called her mother.

According to June Steenkamp, Reeva's mother: On the night she died, when she was on her way to Oscar's house, we talked about her sending us money to pay our cable television bill.

At 16:45 : Reeva emails Nimue Skin Technology SA. She is an ambassador for them and apologises that she won't be attending the announcement of a new jewellary line.  Reeva's email reads: “I would like to wish Sarah all the best for her launch later today if you could please pass on my blessings! Reeves.”

Reeva's last tweet: “I’m there like a ­bear!!! Yayyyy!!!! X” after an invitation from Candy McKenna (general manager at Mini's Sandton-branch) to have cupcakes at Sandton Mini Cooper on Thursday (Valentine's Day).

Now considers Reeva's mindspace:

1. She's hard at work managing her brand
2. Her ex-boyfriend, though putting on a brave face, is still insecure and still not over her.
3. Her parents are struggling financially and she is trying her utmost to assist them.
4. She's had encouraging news from her management company of upcoming projects.  It's likely that they've reinforced the notion that her relationship with Pistorius must be placed on the 'backburner', and somewhat out of the public eye.  Given that neither Reeva nor Pistorius publically say they are spending Valentine's Day together, or even publically interact on twitter or facebook, this may have irked Pistorius.  Extremely aware of his personal brand, it's likely he saw Reeva as someone who could help his brand, leverage his celebrity.  For her to request that they keep their brands separate, and worse, refuse to publically mention him was tantamount to sabotage.  It was her not endorsing his global brand and it was not helping, and it's likely this came up over dinner.
"So how did your meeting go with Capacity Relations?"

Now, given the facts above, let's draw a few inferences. Let's speculate, let's imagine, let's intuit what could conceivably have happened given the information we have.

1. According to Pistorius they had dinner at 7pm and were done after about 20 minutes.  It's unfortunate that Nel didn't ask Pistorius to talk about what he and Reeva discussed over dinner.  That said, Pistorius probably would have said "I don't remember." It's possible though that an argument may have started at this point in the evening, which led to Reeva not eating or not finishing her dinner (hence she was still hungry a few hours later).

When asked to explain Saayman's (the pathologist's) assessment, Pistorius admitted that he couldn't.

Gert Saayman said Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death, around the time a neighbour heard an argument at the house. Pistorius, who claimed they were both asleep at that time, admitted: “I don't have an explanation for it.” 

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/oscar-pistorius/53387/oscar-pistorius-trial-reeva-had-no-time-scream#ixzz2zQZz4REo


Since Pistorius was helping Reeva with her contracts, he would have known exactly what was happening in her career, and crucially, how that affected him, and his brand.

2. They could have argued over a range of topics, among them Capacity Relations strategy to keep Reeva's relationship with Pistorius under wraps.  Pistorius wouldn't have liked that.  Another possible issue: Reeva's meeting with ex-boyfriend Warren Lahoud 36 hours before she was shot to death.  During that meeting Pistorius called her twice in 20 minutes, prompting Lahoud to ask if everything was okay. Look carefully at Lahoud's last tweet before Reeva's death. It was on the same day of his meeting with her:

Sometimes, all you have to do is forget what you feel and remember what you deserve!

What does Lahoud tweet after he finds out she is dead? Miss you Reeves you didn't deserve this #ReevaSteenkamp. (so he was clearly referring to her in that post-coffee tweet.)

But consider the significance of these tweets by Lahoud:

“Do not chase people. Be you and do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you. And stay,” Lahoud wrote on Nov. 27, 2012.
“As long as there is a small flame the fire is never out!” he added on Dec. 2, just two months before Steenkamp’s death.

[Note: Incidentally but not insignificantly, Warren Lahoud's Twitter feed has since been protected.]
Reeva presents herself on social media, that afternoon and evening,  in a good mood.

On the 13th she tweets:

What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay

But she doesn't mention Pistorius and Pistorius doesn't mention her.

On the same day she retweets this message: WEAR BLACK THIS FRIDAY IN SUPPORT AGAINST #RAPE AND WOMAN ABUSE #BLACKFRIDAY

Her second to last tweet is to punt a ‘sneak peak’ of her appearance in the reality show, Tropika Islands of Treasure.

Previous whatsapp messages highlight Pistorius' insecurity about her trip to the island.  Her response is that she's not a 'ho'.  Her appearance on TV is a big breakthrough for her, while at the same time Pistorius' face is splashed across Johannesburg as part of a MNET 'Oscar' (as in Academy Awards) campaign.  Pistorius' last tweet on February 13 is a retweet about exactly that:

Tonight’s movie is The Town which is written, directed and stars Ben Affleck.

A further possibility for an argument may have come from her final message on facebook.  Which was to say ‘Thank you’.
Thank you Tim Tim Hulme-Photo and People Mag for an amazing shoot! Just in time for Valentines Day :)

This may have reminded Pistorius that instead of the couple appearing together on Valentine's Day, Reeva would be appearing on her own.  He may have resented this 'one-upmanship' in the media, and felt he wasn't 'getting the goods' he needed for his brand and image.

3. Now, did Reeva intend to spend the night of the 13th at Pistorius' home?  Given the clothing she was found in, hardly pajamas, this seems, on the face of it, unlikely. The short pants she was wearing, it has been established, were Pistorius'.  Recall she had an overnight bag with her, but she'd slept the previous night at his home, and possibly only intended cooking him dinner before going home.  If she did not intend to sleep over on the 13th, specifically to 'slow down' the relationship, it's possible she slept over on the 12th in order to ward off any possible resentment for not sleeping over on the 13th.  The fact that she had a meeting scheduled that same night may also have impacted her decision on whether to stay over, or not.  

In her final text message, Reeva SMS’s best friend Gina Myers and Cecil Myers (her 'Joburg dad') a man who thinks of Reeva as his own daughter. Her message reads: "Hi guys, I’m too tired. It’s too far to drive. I’m sleeping at Oscar’s tonight. See you tomorrow."

This SMS, if one compares it to the exuberance and exclamation marks of her tweets, seems subdued. By saying 'I'm too tired' there's a hint that she's explaining a change of plan.  She's saying in effect why she's not returning home as planned/arranged.  Gina could comment on this.  On the other hand, even if she had intended to stay all along, at that late stage of the evening Reeva may also have felt tired and drained from arguing.

It's possible that after an extended period of bickering and arguing going on through the night, Reeva changed her mind.  She wanted to leave, said so, and this caused Pistorius to snap.  A night he'd hoped would produce romance and intimacy besides dinner (rather than a discussion about her career, her TV appearances and her commitments) may have been a devastating and disappointing blow to him.  Had she had a change of heart?   Was Lahoud back in the picture? No, he wasn't interested in reading her card, or opening her gift.  Well, where was his gift to her?

Then it only escalated.  At one point, later in the evening, following her late night SMS, Reeva ate something. Possibly she felt trapped, wanting to leave, wanting to sleep, but Pistorius couldn't settle down, and wouldn't calm down. Possibly neither could sleep after the initial argument. Possibly she was in two minds about leaving, but he wouldn't stop arguing with her. She would have tried to avoid an argument, avoid confronting him.  When Reeva finally told him she wanted to go home, Pistorius may have shouted "Get the fuck out of my house."

After Reeva packed her things she struggled with Pistorius, trying to get dressed.  At this point he may have wrestled with her or hit her. Then, realising she couldn't get away, Reeva fled to the toilet and locked herself in it.  At this stage he was in a vicious rage, and Reeva was terrified. She was screaming for help.  To cover himself (still very aware of his reputation, and a possible incident in the media) Pistorius went to the balcony and also shouted help.  But what could he do now?  How could he prevent this story from coming out?

What was worse, Reeva had her phone with her in the toilet and he had no way of knowing whether she was about to send a message that would mean the collapse of his celebrity house of cards.

This (Reeva with her phone behind a closed door, whilst arguing) may well have made Pistorius feel trapped and terrified. Reeva may even have said, "If you don't let me go, if you don't stop, I'm calling the police."  If Reeva were to tell the media (or anyone) about the catastrophic evening his brand would suffer a colossal blow.  He would have felt like he couldn't afford that. All his carefully co-ordinated efforts to craft his image would be undone.  Based on a quick assessment, the only way to silence her was to kill her and then cover it up somehow.  At least then his brand would have a chance, because there'd only be his story, and he could tailor it any way he wanted.  A calculated risk, and took it.

Reeva isn't going to help my brand anyway...as it is...he may have rationalized.
It's three o' clock in the morning, no one's going to be sure what they heard.
Half the plots of land around me are vacant, so no eye witnesses. 
I'll buy off the neighbours, gardeners, whoever I need to...The Hawks will help with that.

The fact that he shot her whilst on his stumps is interesting.  It suggests a spontaneous, impulsive act, but it's also possible with her behind the door, he had a chance to think, and when the intention formed to murder her, so did the idea of an intruder.  It's possible that he was on his prosthesis all along, but with her behind the door, he removed his prosthesis when he shot her, specifically to give merit to his I-was-a-helpless-victim-I-thought-she-was-a-burglar charade.

Of course the testimony of witnesses such as Ms Burger has been devastating to his case.

“I heard her voice just after the last shot,’’ Ms Burger said. “It faded away.’’

If it was intentional, once he discovered her body, still alive in the toilet, he would have to make sure she died before anyone arrived.  This meant he needed time, but at the time needed to appear to be trying to help her.  
It's possible that in that moment, seeing her bloodied body, he regretted his actions (personally I doubt it). Instead of calling the ambulance himself Pistorius calls the estate manager and tells him to call an ambulance. This buys him some time.  When security calls him he says, "Everything's fine."  For the same reason.
When the paramedics arrive, he has a last chance to run upstairs and change the scene the way he wants it to look.  This may include putting her bag on the chair, deleting phone messages etc.

Given Pistorius' behaviour since the incident (going to a party in April 2013), and hooking up with a new girlfriend by December, it's likely that he feels fully entitled to a chance to resume his celebrity lifestyle.  Judge Masipa may think differently.


Postscript: Has it been fully and finally established on which side of the bed the pistol was?  In this graphic it suggests the left side (Reeva's side), but other information (including photos) suggest the right.  Either way, Pistorius has a problem when explaining the retrieval of the weapon and why he failed to confirm where Reeva was (when she ought to have been within a metre of less of his head).

In his version he needs a scenario that allows the room to be completely dark with his back turned to the bed, so as to allow Reeva the possibility of getting to the toilet unsighted.  And thus this is the only version Pistorius could come up with to explain how that might have happened.  But it's clearly improbable.

Read More:
1. The Untold Story Surrounding Reeva Steenkamp
2. Oscar and Our Denial
3. Motive - is this why he did it?

David Goldblatt: The ultimate portrait

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Easter Statement Analysis of Oscar Pistorius - Additional Inconsistencies

by Nick van der Leek 

It’s Easter, a celebration of the March equinox. It’s that time of the year when day and night are of equal duration. It happens twice a year; the second equinox is in September. Easter, lest we forget celebrates death, fertility and resurrection.

The name itself derives from Ēostre, a dawn goddess from Germanic paganism. Even the pagans celebrated Easter; the beginning of spring, a time for planting crops, newborn lambs, the darling buds of May and a season of warmer weather. Of course in South Africa Easter heralds the opposite. The onset of winter here heralds a deadline. By now all crops ought to have been harvested, all stalks reaped. But not Oscar Pistorius.

 The case continues, and is likely to take us well into winter. Will we have a verdict by September? Probably. But as the trial unfolds, those Easter themes don't disappear. Yes, they aren’t going away. What were they again? Death. Fertility. Resurrection. Let’s examine them in reverse order.

Resurrection? 

On the 10th of April, Rebecca Davis wrote an analysis published in The Daily Maverick titled: WILL THE REAL OSCAR PISTORIUS PLEASE STAND UP. In her analysis Davis astutely highlights one aspect of particularly Christian import. In fact it was a specifically ‘Easter’ pledge. With Reeva bleeding to death in his arms, Oscar cried out (to an audience of at least three people) that he would dedicate his life (and Reeva’s) to God, if she would only live. Of this, Davis writes: “We can’t know the precision with which Stipp recalled Pistorius’ exact words, but there’s an intriguingly proprietary aspect in promising someone else’s life to God on their behalf.” Indeed.

In the same article Davis highlights something else worth noting. Oscar’s uncle Arnold, just two weeks into the trial, approached June Steenkamp and told her: “Like you we are trying to fight for a life and a life lost.” But think about that for a second. No really, take a second. What life are we talking about that is lost here? In Oscar’s own words: “I’ve taken responsibility, by not wanting to live my life but waiting for my time on the stand to tell my story.” Davis suggests that Oscar sees his year waiting for trial as ‘a form of sufficient penance’.

Of course we know during this time he had his bail conditions relaxed, he was seen in Mozambique, he resumed training and was spotted visiting the odd watering hole. In April last year, on the heels of an apology posted on his website, Oscar apparently flirted with women at a party at the Kitchen Bar restaurant. It was the party of tow-truck baron, Craig Lipschitz, a man who hit the headlines himself in 2008 for his involvement in a vicious brawl with an ex-bouncer in Sandton. Just prior to this appearance Pistorius’ spokesman said: "There is not a moment in the day that Oscar does not mourn for his girlfriend, and Reeva's family and all those who were close to her are in his thoughts constantly."

Yes it does seem as though he has thought a lot about her. And what was in it for her. And what happened to her. And what it must have felt like being dead for the past year. All this whilst entering into a new relationship with a brunette teenager.

Fertility? 

Make no mistake, celebrity is a form of idolatry. But this hero is a fake. And there is no end to it; the fakery, the theatre and the mockery goes on. The Pistorians (oddly enough all women) want to be clear that even a murderer is worthy of hugs, balloons and our love. Really?

More recently, Jani Allan has expressed the outrage that is so sorely missing from every discussion of this case. If there is outrage, it’s measured. It’s stoic, just as the Steenkamp family have been stoic, and even forgiving. But if our authentic feelings aren’t good enough, what is appropriate under these circumstances?

Here’s a shocker. It is not the public’s job to reserve judgement. We are not lawyers, we are society. We aren’t judges either, it is true, but we are (or should be) the arbiters in the end of our own culture, and standards. Our job is to care and to develop a public response. A social reaction. The question we're being asked is this: Is this world we live in the world we want? Are these the sort of people we admire? Do we want people like this to be an integral part of our social fabric? Should we aspire to this? Are these people of the sort we ought to accept? And is this who we are?

 Allan writes: “...the life you led was without spirit. It was a wasteland filled with expensive toys and recidivist acts. The sound of your delighted cackles as you shot at a watermelon – a zombie-stopper – I believe you called it, was so disparate from your whiny-girly mimsy court voice that it’s difficult not to burst out laughing while listening to you. Oscar, I look at you mewling and puking in the witness stand. You truly represent everything that the West loathes about white South Africans who live extravagant lives in their expensive laagers.”

In a word, Oscar represents entitlement. Entitlement is another word for privilege. What privileges do the rich enjoy? Is the life of another expendable to my own hearts desires? Can the life of a person be compared to sums of money hanging in the balance? If you can offer up someone’s life to God while they are dying (and on their behalf) to save yourself, you are suffering from narcissism of the highest order, and that's low. Underneath that narcissism, beneath the veneer of manicured suits, clipped fingernails, acting lessons and PR is something of incomparable ugliness.

 And now, without further ado, the inconsistencies 

1.Whilst on the stand, during cross-examination by the state prosecutor, Oscar made this slip. “The more famous I am the more money...” He started saying this and then corrected himself: “The more famous I am doesn't mean the more money I make”. Let's forget for the moment that this is in itself both untrue and disingenuous.

Gerrie Nel had just referenced Oscar’s message to Reeva: "Angel please don't say a thing to any one..." Asking to explain this message, Oscar (avoiding eye contact with Nel) said, "I didn't want [it]to be in the media.” Why wouldn’t he though? Because of the money that would be at stake. Oscar says as much when he uses the word “afford”. He can’t afford this to be in the media, he says, but he can. He’s wealthy. It’s not a positive story by any means, but it wouldn’t be the end of his world. Would it dent his image and perhaps curtail a bonus here or there, absolutely. What is important here is the admission. Because it points directly to avarice.

2. "No, My Lady, Reeva was never scared of me, My Lady.” This was Oscar’s response to Reeva’s whatsapp messages, with Nel putting it to Oscar that she was often afraid of him. The question is: Are we supposed to take this denial at face value? Bearing in mind Michelle Burger’s testimony of terrified screams, screams of a woman who knew her life was in danger, screams that were reaching a climax, screams like jackals that still haunt her a year later. Screams that reduced her to tears when Nel asked Burger to recollect them. Those same screams launched two husbands out of their beds and onto their balconies in the dead of the night. The critical slip of the tongue here? It’s in the word ‘never’.

 Has Oscar forgotten when Reeva phoned her mother whilst in Oscar’s car?  When Reeva told June Steenkamp he was scaring her by driving recklessly fast? June Steenkamp says this was the one and only time (until Reeva’s death) she spoke to Oscar, and what she said was: “I warned him that if he hurt my baby in any way I would wipe him out.”

Death?

But South African society seems to have adopted the same polite stoicism in the face of a man who not only hurt that baby (whom he called ‘baba’), but shot her to death. It’s difficult to overemphasise the violence of her death.

3.A pathologist recently described the bullet wound to her arm as the equivalent of “an instant amputation.” When Oscar describes it he uses the most benign euphemism possible. “Her arm was broken.”

4. When Oscar describes Reeva his descriptions are mute and constrained. But his descriptions of everyone else are in the finest details. “The officer had shorts on...they were casually dressed...” He even tells us where they were standing, what they say to him, their gestures and movements. About Stipp we even get a psychological assessment. “He seemed overwhelmed by the...the situation.” Stipp was a doctor, and what he discovered was basically a young woman who had been shot to death. If her injuries had not killed her, the loss of blood had. If there was nothing he could do to save her, this does not mean he was overwhelmed.

Oscar describes himself shouting and screaming, but would probably stop short at using his own word (overwhelmed) on himself.

 5. When Oscar describes finding Reeva in the bathroom, breathing again, he describes sitting on his ‘bum’. When he describes how she is sitting, in later testimony, he uses the word ‘buttock’.

Of the incident itself he says: “I perceived someone coming out of the toilet...” Perceived is another manufactured word. We don't speak like that. Imagined is better, but ‘I thought I saw’ (if it really happened) is the most authentic.

6.Speaking about her corpse, Oscar asks us to believe how sensitive he is:“When I saw Reeva I got sick.” Yet he was able to carry her body downstairs, and put his fingers in her mouth.

7.Consider the detail in Oscar describing where he stood when the medical team attended to her body. “I stood where the dining room and kitchen kind’ve meet...” He’s describing in detail his open plan house and uses a casual term like ‘kind’ve’ to describe the scene and context when Reeva was pronounced dead.

Conclusion 

Life is not fair. People get away with things all the time, from the lowest bottom dwellers to the highest pond scum. Politicians and pickpockets. Jilted lovers and the jobless. Absent parents and their ungrateful offspring. We care about accountability because accountability matters. Accountability is part of the Natural Order of Things. It’s a key tenet of every faith, but you don’t have to be a believer to know or appreciate the idea of responsibility. It is not enough for justice to be done, we need to see it being done, so that we have at least some confidence in society, in authority, in our fellow man and ourselves. We enjoy the freedoms we have exactly because we know others respect our personal rights, and we reciprocate. When this social contract breaks down it matters. It’s worthy of our attention.

 If anything good can be resurrected out of the interminable Easter-time of this trial,this movable feast, it is this: we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to recognise when others are not being honest with us. In our relationships, in our families, in our living and the sharing of our lives with others in this world. We must remember that justice and accountability are one and the same. When we self-examine ourselves, as this trial asks us to do, we become better people, and we make a better society. When we examine ourselves life becomes fairer. When we remember accountability integrity returns. When we’re honest, living becomes authentic and the people around us more genuine. More real. Isn’t that a result worth celebrating?


Further Reading:
1. The Untold Story Surrounding Reeva Steenkamp
2. Speculations as to what REALLY happened.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Oscar: the mouse behind the mask

“I was more into her at times than she was into me.” This was one of Oscar Pistorius’ opening gambits on Day 18. Ironically, at that very moment the camera focused on Reeva’s blonde cousin, Kim Martin. Martin, seated beside Gina Myers (Reeva’s best friend), made a grim remark that looked like “No wonder”.

Stoic is the word being used to describe the Steenkamp camp. June Steenkamp’s stoicism is nothing short of remarkable. This is the vital clue to understanding the ‘unbalanced’ dynamic of Oscar and Reeva’s relationship. Reeva Steenkamp was the older, more secure and stoic of the two, Oscar had more of the power and authority, but also an immature obsessiveness and insecurity that even Reeva described to Oscar as frightening.

Stoic is the last word that comes to mind if we we’re describing Oscar right now. Increasingly there are whispers that Oscar’s weepy testimony, in fact his entire defence, is simply a perpetuation of his original narrative – which is playing to an audience all the time. Arguably, Oscar has been doing this since his school days. Because his sense of self is derived through the eyes of others (the world, the media, brands, women, friends and the able-bodied world) he absolutely cannot abandon his own ‘melodrama’. To do so is the equivalent of self-destruction. His ‘performance’ therefore is his supreme effort at self preservation.

This is a crazy case where Oscar is both the perpetrator and the victim. And because Oscar is the only person who really knows what happens, he is writing the script, and will write it as long as there is an audience to appreciate its veracity. The script, currently a work in progress, is reshaping the ‘I-am-the-bullet-in-the-gun’ narrative, the hyper masculine, confident, handsome champion into an inversion. Oscar now wants nothing to do with guns, is so terrified he hides in a cupboard like a child, speaks like a child, doesn’t even have the constitution to see pictures of blood or to hear about what he did on that fateful day. Instead of the virile victor who overcame enormous odds, we’re seeing a crying ‘boy-man’ carefully taking us through ‘smiley faces’ and counting the number of kisses.

The terms of endearment the couple used may seem cute, but using baby names after arguments is hardly the stuff of mature argument resolution. Rather, it appears to be one-dimensional appeasement. It has suggestions of passive-aggressive personality. This trial is nothing if not an enormous backward flip from aggressive to the point of overkill, back to passive to the point of a crybaby.

Worringly, we see Reeva trying to adapt to Oscar’s expectations. Both had made it their vocations to court public opinion, and so measuring themselves up to others opinions may have felt natural. Reeva herself admits the difficulties she was having in trying to sculpt her body down to the required 52kg. At the same time, Reeva was instinctively trying to play the nurturing and supportive role. She said, “I don’t want to make a spectacle out of us.” Did he? Following the 2012 Olympics, and his defeat, Oscar’s star was waning, and he desperately needed a new narrative. Reeva fitted the bill, something Oscar alludes to on numerous occasions (“I was bowled over by her.”) Reeva’s concessions to him may have achieved little more than enable his vanity, his possessiveness, his moodiness and his controlling behaviour.. Reeva, a well known personality in her own right, and a professional model, asked Oscar, for example, if she could wear a certain leopard print dress for a formal occasion. This concession alone ought to have indicated to her that their relationship lacked fundamental substance.

In terms of Oscar’s descriptions of his own actions at Tasha’s and driving from the Vaal, and his precise description of objects of furniture (but not what Reeva was saying or doing) on Valentine’s Day there is more than a mere suggestion that Oscar has a knack for whitewashing his narrative. Samantha Taylor, Oscar’s girlfriend before Reeva Steenkamp, immediately deleted this emotional tweet during Oscar’s testimony on Day 18: “Last lies you get to tell. You better make it worth your while.” Are Oscar’s versions of events accurate? Thus far he has contradicted close to a dozen witnesses, including going so far as to say he never fired the shot through the roof of the car.

What we do see plenty of is disassociation. This is illustrated by repeated head over hands, fingers in ears and he never really assumes accountability. We saw the same thing when he was beaten unexpectedly by the Brazilian in 2012, and immediately Pistorius – feeling himself invalidated, his ego bruised – publically lost his temper. During his testimony his evidence is whitewashed, describes Reeva's arm as 'broken' and that she is not 'breathing'. He can't remember fetching plastic bags but he remembers a policeman putting his hand on his shoulder. He describes being told by a paramedic that "Reeva has passed", and blames Stipp, saying "he seemed overwhelmed, didn't seem to know what he was doing." Interestingly, Stander and his daughter both seemed to be asking Pistorius to leave Reeva (or leave her body) alone, saying the ambulance was on its way. But Pistorius took total control of her body throughout.

The stage management of the Oscar Pistorius trial is also impossible to ignore now. While it may seem that Oscar’s lengthy testimony is all about providing relevant biographical details, the rehashing of innumerable lovey dovey whatsapp messages ad infinitum hardly addresses the heart of their relationship. In fact, his failure to get away from these endless whatsapp quotes suggests the exact opposite, that there wasn’t much substance to go on to begin with. The stage management by Oscar’s defence team can be ‘felt’ not only through the “I’m-a-poor-boy-from-a-poor-family” vibe via Oscar’s trembling voice, but also through the precision and co-ordination of the blocks of testimony fitted in between tea and other breaks. Oscar’s apology to June Steenkamp did not take place by accident. It was a calculated ploy to play to an audience when that audience would have been at its maximum. He had over a year to write a private apology, and if written words were not sufficient, were words in court and on camera any more so?

There are also some basic and fundamental questions that still need to be answered. One, where are Oscar’s next door neighbours? What happened to Oscar’s phone in the period between the killing and after he handed it in? Why did Oscar have his fingers in Reeva’s mouth at the bottom of the stairs if she had stopped breathing when he found her in the toilet? And what were Oscar’s real intentions at 03:16 on 14 February 2013. In a word, why? For more background and insight, go here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Barry Roux prepares Oscar for 'sympathy vote'

It's easy to imagine that when Oscar Pistorius testified on Monday, the 7th of April, following an expert witness, that this was 'spontaneous'.

 Of course the defense has been preparing Oscar Pistorius for over a year, and had a full week gifted to them prior to Monday thanks to illness of one of the assessors.

 Except the illness of the assessor now makes Oscar's testimony, in retrospect, somewhat less authentic.

 Here's why. First of all, the opening 3 acts of Oscar's testimony (all conducted in the first half hour)are as follows.

 1. A tearful apology, while at the same time making no concessions, and at the same time giving reasons why no apology was given sooner (I couldn't put it down in words, words would never be enough etc).
 2. A weepy admission by Oscar that he is on antidepressants, suffering from insomnia, weightloss and 'scared at night'.
 3. A trembling anecdote about him waking up terrified and hiding, and because he will never touch guns again, was so scared, he called his sister to babysit him. All these formed part of Roux's opening gambit, and all three were clearly calculated to solicit sympathy.

 None provide facts crucial to the case, or concessions of any importance, except for the first, where the timing of Oscar's apology could be argued as strategic, opportunistic and performance contrived for his first and biggest public declaration since killing Steenkamp in February 2013. The contrivance is even more credible given the timid 'baby voice' of Oscar Pistorius, apparently close to tears, even after the lunch break, close to an hour later, when testifying about his successes, and travelling abroad. Does this 'little boy' voice sound much like Oscar Pistorius does during his many recorded interviews?

 There was a further card played by the defense basically portraying Oscar as a 'good guy', a Christian from a Christian family who was only following his late mother's example in terms of his fondness for guns (she kept one under her pillow).

 More sympathy was solicited based on the focus of the circumstances of her death, and the pain and discomfort surrounding abrasions caused by having to wear his artificial legs (especially during long flights). The boating accident is painted in meticulous details, sights and smells, but Pistorius is vague about what object was hit in the water, and who was at fault, if anyone, and what was the actual cause of the accident.

 The point of this scenario is to say that it caused a 'turning point' in his life, which led to Oscar becoming very careful, and taking pains to look after himself and presumably, live more responsibly. (This added caution apparently did not encompass a love for deadly weapons, habitually driving well over the speed limit or any admission of anger problems). 

It will be interesting to see how Oscar Pistorius stands up to cross-examination from Nel. If it is a performance, perhaps his best strategy is to cry and have breakdowns throughout. If that is the case, the cross-examination is likely to last for the rest of the week, and even longer. But expect plenty of opportunities to 'feel sorry' for Oscar. This has been his defense from the beginning.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Irving Feffer's Gamebreaking Speech (from Along Came Polly)

Irving Feffer: It's not about what happened in the past, or what you think might happen in the future. It's about the ride, for Christ's sake. There is no point in going through all this crap, if your are not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what... when you least expect something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for.