The Real Africa, My Africa . . .

Following on from my previous article I stumbled across this brilliant piece of writing. I’m not sure the source of its origin and I’m not sure of its author unfortunately – what I am sure of is how perfectly it describes our continent and how brilliant it illustrates why we are drawn to it so deeply, so passionately and why we long for its survival.

What I do know is sitting in a Shanghai office half a world away this is the first real time my heart aches that I cannot be there to withstand the pain and celebrate the victories.

I miss my home as the lump in my throat grows and my eyes fill with tears and this is without doubt the most perfect expression of why . . .

The real Africa is the one they never show you

The real Africa is hidden beneath veneer of poverty and hunger and death; a cancerous mass on the face of the earth that the rest of the world term homogenous “Africa.”

The real Africa is submerged underneath corruption and greed, underneath tyranny and an ostentatious elite, underneath the faces of the people they cannot feed.

The real Africa is buried beneath shanty towns rife with dirt and disease, where children are forced to grow up much too quickly to survive.

The real Africa is concealed under a no-man’s land of desert, bare and dry and unable to sustain green and healthy life. No, that’s not the real Africa.

The Africa I know.

The Africa that is reflected in the warm sunshine that you can feel burning inside you.

The Africa that shines from a warm, spontaneous smile.

The Africa that is at the heart of sky-high mountains and tropical jungle, of golden sand dunes and lush green grassland.

The Africa that is at the heart of different peoples, different languages, different cultures, different identities who all call this land their home.

The land where moyo multi unomera pauno; where roots take hold and don’t let go, solid as the baobab tree that has always been and will always be there, standing steady and solid against the menaces of time.

My Africa is where my heart resides even when I am long gone and far away, where my mind drifts to across the distance of a never-ending ocean.

The real Africa can be smelt the minute you step off a plane onto African soil and feel the air calling you, beckoning you home.

The real Africa is the chaos and the calm that exist side by side as honking cars zoom past on streets that run parallel to cows grazing peacefully in a field.

This is the real Africa, the one they never show. This is the place I call home.

If you a really brave, listen to this an read it again! I cant because I have a good few Chinese people coming into my office and asking if everything is ok? They wont get it even after much explanation!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g48_fqX7KJc&feature=related

The soul of a country is what gives me hope for South Africa . . .

I wrote a piece a while ago about how when you buy something it should be evaluated based on how it makes you feel rather than any other superficial reason.

I had the privilege of heading to Bali as the summer slowly slips away in my part of the world!  Firstly it is simply one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to, it sort of reminds me of Mozambique in a way, ‘frenzied picturesque magic’ is probably the way I would describe it. There is the combination of complete third world little towns in the interior and then just the most sensational spots as you get closer to the water.

I suppose being in a decent hotel helps but let’s move on.

Whenever I visit somewhere I get a feeling from it, I can be in the best hotel or the crappiest little motel (thankfully not in a while), doesn’t matter who I with or who not with and it doesn’t matter what we are doing, there is something about a place that speaks, it’s the soul of the place.

I can only imagine the hardships that go on in Bali, people are by generalization VERY poor and spend all their energy getting and keeping a job that is serving fat foreigners sunning themselves by the beach or pool (tourism accounts for a massive chunk of Balinese employment hence the dedicated tourism University). Because of this kind of situation in many places I’ve been to, this has somewhat stunted the emotion of these people and they sort of live in an existent state of perpetual emotionless-ness, but not the Balinese, through whatever adversity they somehow manage to exude only warmth, tranquility and peacefulness. I’m not one to get in the religion debate but somehow the two places I’ve felt this feeling most are India and Bali so far (both share deep ancient roots in Hinduism).

Whether it’s that or the weather, because I don’t think it’s possible to be sad in a place that looks like this day after day, I’m not exactly sure but to be in a place where from the moment you step off the plane you know that things won’t work so well, you know that customs will take a few hours to get through and you know that you will wait in traffic a lot because there’s only one crumbling road from A to B, but you don’t care. The place somehow seems to grab hold of your insides and soothes them.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about South Africa lately. As someone who left recently (most likely not forever) I have some new views on it, perhaps slightly more critical views than ever before. I’m certainly not one of those ‘completely changed my loyalty, negative ex-SAns’ but when you are far away you see things differently. When you have moved out and realize the whole world is an opportunity and you can live anywhere you start to wonder why you should live in place that is in a perpetually-semi-functional-chaos?

The truth is it’s because of the soul of South Africa. Sure a lot of the time things don’t work, the governments steals, rapes and pillages, sure we have an extremist trying to brainwash the youth, sure the president is spending tax money to refurbish his palace in rural no where and the list goes on and on but somehow if you connect with a place, like I did in Bali, it grabs hold of your soul and makes you believe anything can be possible here. If you don’t believe me ask any foreigner who is standing at ORT airport ready to board their flight back to whatever country they came from, ask them what they thought and if they will come back. There is no doubt they will tell you two things every time, ‘Warm people’ and ‘Amazingly beautiful’. They wont tell you great food, nice hotels or stupid artificial things like that because this country goes deeper than the superficial, it reaches down your throat and grabs your heart and makes it beat a little faster! It breaths air into your lungs and inflates your soul because its messy, dirty, happy, magical Africa and its f$#@ing hard at times but we all slog along to make it work!

That may be why I have ever lasting hope for South Africa, I believe in its people and I believe at some point the magic of SA will help us to change it into a truly great nation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no magical cure for the very real problems South Africa has. In fact it certainly could fail (it has been and continues to be on a knife edge)  if left to its own devices but if we continue to believe and continue to WORK for its future I truly believe we can create a country to be proud of once again!

 

TONY STARK is back baby!

I’m not sure what it is about Tony Stark, maybe it’s the toys (probably most of it is), maybe it’s his unashamed fuck you attitude to the world (the one where he just knows he is sharper than everyone else) or maybe it’s the suit (I doubt it) but whatever it is I’m obsessed with the dude (one of my very close friends even gave me a framed poster that says ‘Live everyday as if you are Tony Stark! Which, inspires me daily!)

If there is one fictional character I wish I could be it would be him without doubt and lets be fair when they cast Robert Downey Jr to be him they hit the proverbial nail on the head! The man oozes Tony Stark je ne se qua!

 

Now you can only imagine how excited I get to be able to see this imagined character come to life for a few hours every two years or so. It’s probably the only movie I think I actually get excited for (well that and James Bond – see a pattern here?).

So for all of you on the same Iron Man crack-like addiction here is the first real trailer for the new movie! Very dark and very cool – ENJOY!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EjG-1U3wqA

A simple light bulb . . .

I really do love when people take something simple and tweak it ever so slightly to get something mindblowing! I’m not sure why but i think this is just far too cool . . .

The light bulb has been given a makeover by designer Barend Hemmes and the team at Suck UK to bring it into the 21st century.

It’s a bulb but not as you know it. Made from laser cut wood the Wooden Buld Lamp leaves a crisp burned edge which creates a waffle like glow within the room.  The bulb is a versatile light and can be laid on its side, hung from the ceiling or stood upright meaning it can work in many different spaces.  Adding a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour to the ‘usual’ lamp, the Wooden Bulb becomes a talking point in any room.

The contemporary light bulb with its unique and one off variations on this design can be produced by the designer in a variety of materials.

The Wooden Bulb is available from THESE GUYS! for a not unrealistic 100 quid 

If dentists could make the drill less “Guantanamo-like’ would you go more?

I’m not sure why THIS ARTICLE is only geared towards kids. If you are too lazy to go read it then let me explain.

You know when you go to the dentist (I see you painfully nodding) and he takes out the drill (I see you more painfully nodding) and while your jaw has been strapped open at 180 degrees with cotton stuffed in every place conceivable your dentist turns it on and all you hear is that zzzzzzzz zzzzzzz sound while your body goes cold and breaks into a sweat?

I think that’s probably my earliest memory because it was at that point that I thought I knew what it felt like to be in a POW torture camp. That noise is probably the single biggest trigger for cold sweats I’ve ever had!

Well now, one brilliantly compassionate dentist (yes I realise that’s an oxymoron!)  has decided to take this weapon of mass pain and give it a little tweaking (I think no one has done it until now because this may well be the best part of dentists jobs, watching you squirm in fear!). He has added a speaker that is amplified inside your mouth with flashing toys and MP3’s (you can choose your playlist of course) to distract your kids from the sounds of horror that have haunted children for generations!

I say give this man some kind of Nobel prize – if he can stop that despicable noise from penetrating my brain every time I even think about booking a dentist appointment I think he will increase the number of dentist goings by 50% at least!

Here is the ‘friendlier’ version of this interrogation tool at work!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw2weovQd9U

If this is the first draft of this thing and it catches on I can only think that in a year or two we will have something that may not make you picture scenes from Saw or Hostel every time you hear it!

Is this the new age of digital sex?

I can’t work out if this is the greatest invention I’ve even seen or if it is just the gateway to the new world of bizarre modern sex?

Yes I sound like a f$#@ing old person now but let’s be real for a second here. We know that every kid old enough to touch themselves is at best sexting the F$#@ out of anything that will listen, at worst they are doing it without cellphones. This probably is going to be the next evolution of that I would guess which makes me a little nervous.

So what exactly is it?

They call it TELEDILDONICS (don’t worry you wont have to pronounce it to buy one!). Its pretty damn smart/kinky, as all of the best toys are, it is his and hers sex toys that are operated via Bluetooth and connected to your phone. What’s so genius is the two (the toys that is) actually talk to each other so both partners relative movements, clenching and thrusting are translated into the toy for the partner on the other side! All of this while you can have video and speakerphone live chat to complete the experience!

This really does kick the living shit out of Skype sex now doesn’t it!

I guess there is far more good to come out of this than bad and if you think that they come with a customized serial number then it does make a really good toy for the couples that spend a lot of time apart (I can already see a few US soldiers licking their lips at this one!)

One word of warning to you parents out there (thankfully I really don’t have to worry about this kind of crap) DO NOT leave this thing lying around for one of your experimental pubescent kids to find – nothing quite as disgusting as having a mother / son combo paired up unwittingly!

From the brilliant GIZMODO!!

Finally I can overcome my fear and hangout in the water!

Due to an early terrifying and scaring event with sharks (and by this I mean my brothers let me watch it from my crib at age 3, and to make it even more of a #1stworldproblem we were here at the time!) I do not go in the water! Ever! So I like to find myself rooms like these ones, to stay in . . .

. . . that overlook the ocean (cause yes its pretty) and have a nice small fresh water swimming pool to paddle around in! The truth is I do wish I could wallow around with all the cool kids in the lakes and etc. and finally it is possible!

I thought initially this would be my savior . . .

But actually we all know from the pool lilos that if you manage to climb on this thing without capsizing it then you have to lie dead still, never taking a drag of your smoke or having a sip of your Champaz (The woman – YES, the float-able deck chairs – NO & for the cost of $4500 DEFINITELY Not! But if you are interested though – HERE YOU GO! – CLUE: Dont answer yet!)

So onto bigger and better things . . .

This magnificent beauty is a TUG BOAT HOT TUB! It come complete with all the things a tiny boat needs (except you have to bring your own of these & of these). This brilliant invention does cost a little at around $22 000 but to be fair by this photo you can see how many of these you can fit in it!

The family is for demo purposes – we would fill it up with a few more interesting creatures :)

You can place your orders with these guys (or even rent it for a while!) If you want just go check out the pics of this thing (full or not – but if its empty its just a slow crappy boat really?!)

Everybody was Foie Gras fightiiiiinnggg . . .

So as you know I’m thoroughly into the tasting menu scenario, blah blah blah. Now if you are a reader you will know there is this magical place in Shanghai called Ecole Restaurant Ecole Paul Bocuse that trains both European and Chinese Chefs in everything culinary.

They produce meals like this (click for the full one) . . .

Now they are not quite the level of our friend Raymond Blanc at Le Maoir but lets be fair they are students and he is a master!

So when this months tasting menu was announced as a Foie Gras cook off between two teams, you can imagine the excitement!

Without anymore drivel – here is the menu . . .

. . and here are the dishes (for fear of retributional violence I didn’t shoot a few courses)!

 TEAM 1: Starter – Foie Gras Terrine cooked with white chocolate, seas salt and rhubarb

TEAM 2: Starter – Foie Gras poached in mulled wine with a beetroot, kiwi & pear salad

TEAM 1: Main – Scallops stuffed with Foie Gras & green asparagus

Team 2: Main – Deconstructed tenderloin burger, tomato compression, foie gras terrine and black truffle gravy

Of course in the spirit of culinary arts there were a few combined desert but by the time most of them cam I was too stuffed (and drunk) to take a pic! This one I did manage – Black currant mousse, passion fruit jelly and cheese cake ice cream :)

Needless to say the restaurant was rather a harsh bunch of bastard but team one turned out to be the victors with an average score of 7.1 / 10, Team two got murdered at 5.8/10!

You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain . . .

It’s funny, this quote from Batman: The Dark Knight may have been made up by some script writer somewhere and you may have brushed it off as a nice little piece that added to the demise of Harvey Dent in the movie, but, when I read this article about Michael Schumacher retiring I started to think about it a little more.

I don’t think Schumi could ever be described as a villain per se but if you look at his legacy it may be fairly apt. I mean he built one of the greatest sporting legacies of all times really and when he came back to the sport, certainly for me, he ended up partially destroying it.

More recently you can take the example of Lance Armstrong. He certainly could have died (albeit not as too much of a hero at that stage) but has ne not lived long enough to see himself become a villain? He has to be the best example of what I’m trying to say here sadly and while I wish it were not the case it is now certainly fact. Once thought to be (by me especially) one of the world’s greatest heroes he now stands in a long dark shadow of shame!

There are countless other examples. People like, one of my all time (and still) heroes, Ryan Giggs who was for a long time thought to be the model of what a professional sportsman and gentleman should be. Then they found out he was, well sharing more than just DNA with his brother. Image shattered and villain status approved. Then there’s dear Tiger Woods who again was the picture perfect poster boys for all things good and right in the sporting world only to be found out as a sex addict (great excuse by the way TW).

I won’t even delve into the world of Hollywood, they are probably villains from the very start but there are plenty of examples there as well. Needless to say I’m not entirely sure how they work their ‘villain scale’ over there but I’m pretty sure its a little more warped than my other characters!

Sadly when taking a look around the world, maybe it’s the day and age we are in that people just are more villainous, more than they used to be. Perhaps now there is such a big spotlight shining on everyone famous all the time that their indiscretions are exposed more easily and then in an instant transported around the world. Regardless of the reason I somehow am starting to believe the mantra that it’s not possible to have both the long career and then the eternal legacy that goes with it.

Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson is my last hope :)

 

bi•zarre / bi?zär/ (Adj) Very strange or unusual.

I’ve been using the word BIZARRE a lot lately, I suppose when you live in a place like Shanghai you get to use it a lot (there is some seriously amusing shit that happens here). But, In light of recent events I fear I’m not justified in using it here – in fact the stuff that happens here (no matter how strange) has nothing on whats happening at home!

You see I’ve been watching the US elections closely, I love the soap opera of it all, I think it’s the best reality show on TV. Anyway the point is, I love the way that every comment, every step, every dollar and every single decision each candidate has ever made or not made is put under a microscope and abused by the media, the public and the opposition.

It’s a brilliant system to test each potential American president (sure it’s not perfect – GW Bush got in twice) but at least it gives the people a fair indication of what they are voting for! It forces any mistake each candidate has made into the spotlight and generally the cheating lying bastards get whittled down (again I confess it’s not perfect)

So when I read an article that says our President JZ is planning to spend R200m upgrade to his compoung (not house – COMPUND!), the word bizarre immediately enters my head. Not only that but another R300 – R600m is going to spent on roads around his home. Even more bizarre. In fact so fucking bizarre that I’m almost inclined to join JuJu to insight some violence among the striking miners!!

The most bizarre of all is the way the Pres defended this by saying the area should not be punished because it is his homestead?!

Here is what the compound looked like when JZ was merely the premier of KZN in 2009 (and the fucking biggest joke is that it was a ‘gift’ from an Indian business man at the time – how the fuck did we not see this all coming!)

Here’s what it looks like today (see any small improvements?) based on ‘gifts’, ‘donations’ and some ‘government spending’. How this dude has managed to escape fraud charges makes me think that JuJu is not only going to dodge his tax problems but probably end up with the tax man owing him!!

(Do yourself a little favour and compare the hill vs village ratio in the first pic and then the second! For the full size pics GO HERE)

Just for a moment imagine you are one of the people (and by one of the people I mean the 80%+ who live in poverty) surrounding King Zuma’s compound. Imagine everyday seeing your brothers, sisters and children starving, homeless and hopeless. All the while JZ keeps building bigger and fancier pieces of his presidential compound. I cannot believe they haven’t torched the place yet!

When I talk about bizarre there could not be a better example of the word than a president, using tax money to build himself, not a small house extension but a clinic, heli pad, boarding houses and palaces for fuck knows how many concubines, and yet the public does nothing! The public strikes about low wages and miners treated unfairly and yet we all allow the finger to be pointed somewhere else (mostly at apartheid still) every time. I would really like to do a calculation on how much we could increase the miners wages if we took the R800m that JZ is planning to spend in his backyard and give it to them?

What’s bizarre is not that our President is raping us blind while chuckling at us (PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND GO WATCH THE ZA NEWS VIDEOS ON THIS! THEY ARE BRILLIANTLY HYSTERICAL!) but that we just seem to sit back and take what’s given to us.

It seems once again Zapiro has managed to capture one of South Africa’s biggest problems in one simple cartoon!

 

It’s how it feels . . .

It’s funny where you learn things, very often it’s in the places you least expect.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean . . .

When you move to a place like China you have to partake in certain things like getting suits, jackets and pretty much everything else tailor made. The quality at the local markets is good and it’s outrageously cheap. Having a serious jacket fetish, I was naturally in my element! I got about ten made in the first week, all different cuts, linings, lapels etc.

So after a few months when I discovered an Italian tailor who had been working in China I was intrigued as to why his same fabric suits were 4 times the price (still half of what is costs to get a jacket made at home) so I decided to get one made as a trial. When he measured me up and we had selected cuts, lapels, pockets and about 40 other things I went to put on one of my ‘market tailor’ made jackets to ask him what he thought of it.

Expecting disdain and criticism I was astonished when he responded not with it looks okay or I think its pitiful mass market produced crap but rather “How does it make you feel?” It was the first time I had ever thought about it. It made me feel, nothing, absolutely nothing.

Two weeks later when he brought my new jacket I kept in mind his previous response when I slid his jacket over my shoulders, I could for the first time understand why it cost what it does. Its hard to explain really but it made me feel like I was designed to wear that jacket,  not because of the expense but for so many reasons that make the perfect suit (and I suppose you could get ones 100 times the price – I can only imagine the joy!!)

The point of the story is not the jacket, it’s about life. That when you buy something, you shouldn’t buy it just for the sake of it or for what others think of it or even because you feel like you should have it, but rather because it makes you FEEL a certain way. I’ve long said that if you spend a lot of money on a single purchase, if, every time you see it, it makes you smile then you have spent wisely, no matter what it cost.

The same applies here. Some people think certain things I buy or spend my money on seem extravagant but how many times in life can you buy a feeling? The answer is you can’t and so if a physical object, holiday, hotel, piece of art or a simply perfectly tailored jacket can do that, even if just for a moment, then I cannot think of anything in this world that is a better way to spend money.