Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Otto von Toon

Whilst browsing hesitantly through my morning dose of Magpie News (news about Newcastle United Football Club, for those lesser mortals who don’t know what I’m referring to) – hesitantly because I don’t know how many times I’ve clicked on the link only to find out Michael Owen has suffered another setback in his injury recovery blablabla – I found this link.

As you may or may not know, Newcastle are manager-less after sacking misfiring Scot Graeme Souness after a run of injury-induced losses. One can argue whether Souness was totally at fault or just shit-out-of-luck, but the point still stands that the Magpies are a team with such potential there is no way they should be languishing in mid-table, having to settle for a looming season without European football. They are currently under the caretaker management of Glenn Roeder (the same gaffer who lent a helping hand in West Ham’s freefall out of the top flight) who has expressed that he has no interest in taking up the position permanently.

Obviously, with panache only the British media can exude, there have been rumours flying about surrounding Souness’ successor, with ex-Celtic man Martin O’Neill and Birmingham’s Steve Bruce being frontrunners. Well a section of the Toon Army (the nickname for Magpie supporters, for those same lesser mortals) have set up a petition website “Hitzfeld for the Toon” calling for the German mastermind Otto Hitzfeld to be the new coach.
His CV says it all: He led an ailing Borussia Dortmund to successful Bundesliga titles in the late 90s, followed it up with four more at Bayern Munich and has numerous cups won at a number of teams (including two Champions League titles) behind his name

Being a faithful and fanatical Magpie supporter for a number of years, I can see the logic in trying to tempt Chairman Freddy Shepherd and the boys to lure the enigmatic German to Newcastle. With thousands of fans having already signed the petition, it remains to be seen whether the management really have the passionate Toon Army nearest at heart or whether, as seems to be the case in the Barclays Premiership these days (hello Roman’s Chelski), big money talks while one manager after another walks.

Uncle Toon wants YOU.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Skinny putts and all

As I’m busy doing an internship at Compleat Golfer Magazine to earn some pocket money before I leave, I’ve also nurtured a new and quite intense interest in golf. I never knew so many people shared this passion; just searching the term “golf” on I came up with over 2 million hits. Anyways, anyone who watched the PLAYERS Championship, considered by many to be the “fifth Major”, would have noticed a few things.

Here’s my review: Stephen Ames, the third round leader and eventual winner by six strokes over Retief Goosen, played fantastically to hold his nerve on one of the hardest courses in blustery conditions I’ve seen in a while (think US Open: Whistling Straits). I think what got his head through at times when failure and success was balancing on a knife edge was the fact that his brother Robert was caddying for him. They kept a casual banter going that seemed to relax Ames – his only blemish was a double bogey at the 12th on an otherwise faultless round at the TPC Sawgrass.

Goosen played well, despite a see-saw round and erratic iron play, but his putting showed glimpses of the miracles he performed at Whistling Straits. These greens seemed like they were reading about 13 on the stimpmeter! It reminded me of the ESPN ad, where Jim “Octopus-swing” Furyk says, “It’s like putting down the windscreen of a car and making it stop on the bonnet.” Sort of something like this.

Fashionable Columbian rookie Camilo Villegas (“Vi-jay-gas” according to the American commentators) had a great round – one of only four sub-par rounds the day – and was unlucky to miss out on a place in the Masters by ending tied-third and 11th on the Money List (only the top 10 get exemption for the Masters through the Money List). But you never know, it’s been known to happen that the misogynist ou toppies at the Augusta issue special invites to foreign players (Shigeki Maruyama and Greg Norman having previously been honoured such), but this usually happens in December and not a week before the prestigious tournament is set to tee off. Nevertheless, Camilo is one to watch out for in the future and please let me know if you beg to differ.

Let’s keep it on a positive note; therefore I’m not going to discuss the Super 14 or SA cricket.

Going to Nam

Wow, what a weekend.

I’m in the middle stages of planning everything for my Vietnam trip. I don’t think I’ve blogged about it, but my ex-flatmate and I are on our way (if everything goes according to the complex plan in my head) to go teach English in Vietnam and travel the East a bit. I’ll set up another blog especially dedicated to the mission once I actually arrive in Nam.

Anyways, we went and bought our tickets and sent our visa applications away. It seems the 5th of April is going to be a looong day. We booked our ticket on Kulula from Cape Town to Joburg at 06:30 the morning, where we then get on a flight courtesy of Kenya Airlines at 09:30.

We fly four hours to Nairobi, crossover, and fly another 9 hours to Bangkok, where we’ll arrive the morning of the 6th. We’re going to stay in Thailand for the weekend (South Africans supposedly don’t need Thai visas because they supposedly don’t think we would like to stay in their country forever – sounds nearly as ignorant as the Aussies when they issued visas for half of Africa for the Commonwealth Games).

We finally arrive, courtesy of Thai Air or Lufthansa, in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) on the Sunday. It’s guaranteed to be fun, but it shouldn’t be that scary because, after all, Vietnam won the war. At least it can’t be as scary as the lady we bought our tickets from: She looked like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show’s identical twin, with a smudge more green and blue make-up around the eyes.

This week we’re doing a “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” (TEFL) course after hours here in Cape Town, starting tonight. Then it’s a bit of a waiting game. My kindly father was cool (and brave) enough to buy my ticket whilst I try and sell my car before we leave. So anyone interested in buying a white, 1993 Golf (with a brand new engine and gear box), feel free to make me an offer in the R12 000 category! Now I’m in the stage of what you could call the ulcer forming, stress induced waiting game, with a fair amount of holding thumbs and biting nails for good measure.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The writing is on the wall

English graffiti artist Banksy wrote a thought-provoking article on the implications that the whitewashing of Melbourne has for graffiti. He writes that Melbourne is Australia’s social hotpot due to a variety of reasons (read the article in the Guardian here), but because of the Commonwealth Games, the city has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the wall art and wiped out the social heritage that the artists had achieved over a number of years, despite other, more viable suggestions such as “graffiti zones”, or incorporating the artists into state projects and putting them on the payroll; something that has been tried in Cape Town, but which many purists still consider “selling out”.

Graffiti in my view as average Joe Blog (excuse the pun) on the street, is that it has long evolved from it’s hip-hop background movement started in New York in the 70s, with rapping being the spoken word, breakdancing the word in action and graffiti being the written word. Like the music genre, it has changed into a more global, hybrid social commentary whilst still maintaining its locality and commenting on issues which are important to the people of the area where it is practised. Graffiti has also moved onto the internet –thus, long after it is destroyed/painted over, it will live on online, but this is just a bad replication of the original, as with any painting or artwork. In this sense it is no different to many other “effects” (a very tangent and subjective word at best) of globalisation e.g. glocalisation in line with Thomas Friedman’s “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”, but that, my friends is a story for another time.

What I’m trying to get at is that the authorities, be they the national government or local municipality don’t always (hardly ever) seem to grasp the fact that graffiti is a social reflection as I mentioned, at times aesthetically astute and, at worst a reminder of the baseness of humankind. It must be noted that when I write about graffiti, I don’t mean tagging, which in my books is like coming over to your house and, in thick permanent marker, scribbling my name all over your walls, i.e. selfish and vile narcissism. I have slowly grown to be appreciative of stencilling, although it cuts down the chances of a run-in with the authorities because you can just “stencil and get out”, it has its merits.

But now I’m beating around the bush. In Banksy’s words, “Modern street art is the product of a generation tired of growing up with a relentless barrage of logos and images being thrown at their head every day, and much of it is an attempt to pick up these visual rocks and throw them back.” Just whitewashing over these artworks, through the eyes of this generation who, one cannot forget, are the future, is like bulldozing national heritage sites to make way for a new McDonalds. Authorities tend to want to give the impression that they are acting for the good of society, but as always, it seems as though big money and conservative thinking still rules the roost.

I wonder what would happen if one were to stencil Pepsi, or Nike or Burger King stencils all over town. Social regeneration from the city planning side, as it stands, is in two-minds as to what it really wants to achieve and whom it serves. With the Olympics set for London, a virtual Louvre of the graffiti world, the Melbourne result seems inevitable. I hope by the time the World Cup hits South Africa in 2010 and Cape Town or Joburg (two other cornucopia’s of the graf world), authorities have taken their blinkers off and emptied their bulging, corrupted pockets, otherwise, and once again inevitably, it seem the writing is on the wall.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

You crazy fool

You know, you get some goddamn crazy people in this world, not even to mention old people. No wait, the worst is crazy old people.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why the Cape Town elections are like footy games

If Cape Town’s municipal election result could be compared to the world of football, I was thinking to myself this morning as I listened to the After 8 Debate and the views of all the listeners, one could easily draw comparison to what was on display last night.

On the one hand, there was a FA Cup 5th Round replay match between Aston Villa and Manchester City, both languishing in the middle of the log and desperately needing a win to inject some confidence in to what has been a mediocre season, and on the other hand a delayed Uefa Champions League Round of 16 match between historical powerhouses of European football Ajax Amsterdam and Inter Milan.

This may be a little far fetched, but this is how I perceive the situation to be. The FA Cup match represented the will of the people/public/civil society, whilst the Champions League game represented the political parties concerned with the municipality.

It was difficult to watch both footy games as they had started at exactly the same time, but through various evenings of channel/eye-training I managed to catch the gist of both games and quickly settled on the FA Cup match. The game had fury and passion expected of such a blue collar cup tie – two-footed lunge tackles, nudges, shirt pulling, a great pace and energy about the game, injuries (real ones, not that hangnail-drama you see in the Spanish and Italian leagues) and of course great goals, with the game going down to the wire. The keenness and desperation of both teams’ players and managers was evident.

On the other hand, the European tie was drab, although being tied 2-2 from the previous leg and victory for either team would mean so much more the English cup game, in terms of money, prestige etc. The game was played at a lacklustre pace, with Inter clearly the dominant force, prying open the Ajax defence on several occasions, but finally settling for a boring 1-0 score line to send them through to the quarters against Villarreal.

In the same way as the FA Cup, the people of the Cape are desperate for a result, urging parties to reach an agreement and coalition rule, wanting to know what the future holds. By listening to the voices and opinions of readers/listeners in the media, one almost gets the sense that they don’t really mind whether the ANC and DA form an alliance, or whether the ID decides to go with the ACDP and DA or shuns them both for an opportunity to rule with the ANC. The parties are like the Champions League game from last night however; stalwarts, powerful, stubborn, but boring and so politically paranoid they border on lethargic when it comes to making decisions – and what ends up as a boring, passionless affair.

Just get it done, the passion from the people is there, now step up to the plate and prove your mettle, damn it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Grubby Affair

So I was reading my daily morning dose of news and this story jumped out at me, or should I rather say wriggled into my consciousness. It’s about worms found in tap water in a local community in the North West Province of South Africa.

“The worms, which ranged from 1mm to 15mm in length, appeared in the "creamy white" water running from taps in homes on Monday morning.” Okay, if that’s not bad enough and the complaints about dismal service delivery in terms of basic sanitary health are not already justified, the authorities, in the form of the manager of the municipality, says the people who complained about them, have to live in this area and use this water for drinking water are “exaggerating”. He said “he and two other senior officers involved with water quality had received only three complaints about the worms on Monday”. What the hell is that about? Is that not bad enough?

ONLY a few wriggling, red worms, with no cause or origin found yet (not even to mention the fact that they don’t even know how harmful these worms could be) found their way into the tap water. Bloody hell, if the media hadn’t been made aware of this story it would probably never have seen the light of day because it happened in some rural area where things like this seem to be the norm. Just wait, until 15 mm long worms pop-up in some of Joburg’s more affluent neighbourhoods like Bryanston or Sandton, then we’ll see how fast they find the source of the problem.

One positive point, however, is that the department of water affairs has already stepped in to clarify the grubby matter.