Omens, visas and impossible life decisions

September 29, 2015

So, the world’s being weird to me. So weird it’s spooky.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Those who know me know I call myself an atheist. As in, I don’t believe in a godhead. The idea of a human figure running things is preposterous to me. Any spiritual force able to control and link all the world’s creatures is surely more ambiguous and more complicated than the dude in any of the books.

That doesn’t mean I don’t experience what other people call a spiritual life (I’ve seen a ghost), or enjoy religious rituals occasionally, particularly when it comes to the part where you eat and drink feel gratitude for the good things you have.

Being an atheist also doesn’t mean I don’t believe in forces beyond my control. Recently, I’ve been reminded that I have no choice but to do so, because I’ve felt like the world has been trying to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m at the mercy of “It”, whatever “It” is.

I don’t know. I’m probably a pretty shitty atheist.

See, while I was trying to depart the USA for South Africa via the UK, first my sandles broke. Odd, timing wise, but no biggie. Then my other sandles broke, too. Then my car broke. But I found my way to the airport.

LAX Departures International

So close, and yet so very far.

Then, they didn’t let me on the plane because I lacked a UK transit visa. And then, just coincidentally, the UK visa site was down, so I couldn’t apply for a transit visa.

As a young twasa and soon to be sangoma who approached me uninvited in a bar once told me, you ignore messages from the spirit world at your peril. Two days ago, I decided to listen to what I think the world is saying. I was going to get a new apartment in Cali, and see how that went for a year or so. If I didn’t, I feared that the next thing “It” would do is break my legs to keep me here.

Of course, I didn’t get the apartment because they don’t take freelancers and I don’t have six months rent to advance the landlord – not after everything I’ve had to deal with recently. That’s the one landlord that replied to me at all. Most just let me twist in the wind.

So I’m back to nowheresville, limboing from day to day, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now. The world and people around me seem unreal, and I’m never sure where I’m waking up until I open my eyes and look around me.

this shit is bananas

This Shit is Bananas. No kidding.


Life’s full of bumps. Yes. And oddly, all the images on this post were snapped in the last 48 hours – as if some all powerful force feels the need to state the bleeding obvious every time I round a street corner.

I know things could be worse, so I’m trying to stay grateful, but I feel physically tired and heavy and very afraid right now.

I wrote about UK Visas and Human Kindness  (hint: they’re opposing forces) in my News24 column this week.

Moving! Crazies! Love! Cats! I’m not strong enough…

September 11, 2015

I consider myself tough. Not tough like the 18-year-old who pushed his grandmother in her wheelchair from Afganistan. Not like Syrian refugees begging for anyone, anyone at all, to let them live a normal life.

See what someone wrote on the wall - the orange one? DON'T WORRY. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. I don't feel so sure, all the time.

See what someone wrote on the wall – the orange one? DON’T WORRY. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE AMAZING.

But I’m only middle-class honkey-tough. Being rootless for so long is taking its toll, and I only just moved out of my apartment, and into the place I’m cat-sitting. I’d say house-sitting, but it’s all about the cats, or there’d be no free accommodation. The house would be just fine without me. It’s a bachelor apartment in Sun Valley, which is like Voortrekker Road in Parow without the glam, but with communal swimming pools, thank god, because it’s 110 degrees most days. Most of the other units in the block of flats are occupied by entire families who’re unbelievably quiet after 9pm, considering they’re living six people to a room.

Seeing their bravery made me want to be a better person…

No… wait, that’s a lie. It made me want to gouge my eyes out with a medieval sword and then run blindly through the streets, screaming that the world is just. Too. Cruel. I want to pity myself. And you are dealing with so much more.

STILL in my own way, I’ve been having a really, really hard time dealing with everything. The Cat Lover who was kind enough to lend me his apartment told me that the cats “feed off my ‘energy'” and I have to say, that my “energy” has never been worse. Not only did I cancel my yoga classes to save money and simplify my driving needs, but I also am leaving a relationship that’s made me pretty happy for a year in my own weird way, and just discovered that the visa process will take three times as long as the worst case scenario I thought I was facing when I booked my non-refundable air ticket.

And the problem with cats is it never. fucking. ends. They poop everywhere. They don’t lick their buts enough, cause their buts kinda smell and are hairy, so they kinda smell. They kinda hate you even though they need you, like a dependent jealous wife in a 50s misogynist movie. And it’s all my fault.

in other news…

The cats just got in a little cat-spat. I wish they would stop feeding off my energy. They’re gonna need all nine lives.

Or maybe all they need is a common enemy, like uh… the USA and Iran… to fix their differences and find something better to do than to crap on my kitchen counters. Maybe tomorrow I’ll buy them a rat called ISIS and another called ISOL, you know, like one for each cat, gift wrap them in plastic bags tied up with computer cables they so love to chew, lock the door, and let them work together to unwrap them and kill them dead.


It might work. I don’t know. I’m like the US military – pretty much prepared to try anything except direct hand to hand combat.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll grow up, suck it up, and realise how lucky I really, actually, am. That’s the subject of this week’s column. Read it here.

Homelessness… could never happen to me?

August 28, 2015

(Scroll down if you just want to see the pictures)

The subject of a screenplay I’m writing said something in answer to an interview question: that before she went to America, she imagined it being this perfect world, this wonderland free of prejudice and poverty. Having seen the USA with her own eyes and worked there a month, she returned to South Africa with a new appreciation for her homeland.

This is the truth. South Africans visiting Europe tend not to encounter real life there. But, take the train a few miles out of Barcelona’s quaint center, and you’ll see where how most people really eke out a living, in high-rise apartments. Maybe it’s better than where they came from. Maybe it’s not, but they’re in love with the dream.

America is both worse than I ever imagined and better than I ever dreamed. And yes, I’m staying, on what’s charmingly called an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” visa. I must love it here, or I wouldn’t have gone through the trauma of the tough and bank-balance-erasing application process, just to complete a few projects!

But it’s no easy ride. Recently I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to fall off the wagon in America, and how hard it can be to get back on once you’re off.

You see people living under bridge and you think: “Well, that would never happen to me.

I work hard! I don’t suffer from PTSD. Any psychological conditions I suffer from (like radical liberalism) are manageable. I’ve got some sources of income to fall back on. I never sign up for new credit cards, no matter how many offers those snakes at American Express, Capital One, Chase and the other banks send me without my consent, to an address they shouldn’t have in the first place… “

But because I’m home to South Africa for a while, I had to give up my apartment. It’s rent controlled, which means it only cost me $800 a month when I moved in. I gave notice a month ago. Last week, I saw my apartment advertised at $1025 a month – because rent control only lasts until a new tenant moves in. I’m going to have to find about 20% more rent money when I return, to live in one of LA’s cheapest neighborhoods!

And that got me thinking: What if I went away to Iraq for two years to fight a war, came back damaged and with a missing leg, serious PTSD, and a drinking problem? How would I ever find my way back home, then?

The truth is, very few people do.

Hence this rather fiery NEWS24 COLUMN.

The tunnel. Is there any way out of this?

The tunnel. Is there any way out of this?

The resident. He kisses pigeons. His nickname is “Birdman”.

House, phase I

House, phase I. Just a drawing on a wall, with the owner sleeping in front. This is back in December 2014 – note the Christmas Tree and snowman.

homeless before

House, phase II, after a few weeks of habitation.

Current house, with “Stunning Mountain Views” courtesy Skidrobot.

Homeless people are everywhere in California. It's not the America you see on TV, that's for sure.

Homeless people are everywhere in California. It’s not the America you see on TV, that’s for sure.

Home is where… the… where exactly?

January 14, 2015

Festive season is over in LA, so charity is waning, the traffic is picking up, and winter is truly setting in, as much as it ever does in LA… kinda makes the city feel bearable for the relatively rich. I don’t EVEN earn minimum wage as in 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I muddle by on three-four days a week, maybe 12 hours a day… maybe not quite as bad as $9 an hour all the time.

But these guys, who live under the bridge on the way to my boyfriend’s house, they keep my grateful for the hours i do work, and my little apartment. And since I drive past there about three times a week, I see them all regularly, and I have a favorite.


That guy in the picture... I saw him in September. He had just painted a picture of house behind his mattress. He was kissing pigeons.

That guy in the picture… I saw him in September. He had just painted a picture of house behind his mattress. He was kissing pigeons.


The pictures he drew on the wall were removed in November, but he drew himself another house, this time with a Christmas tree, a snowman and a wood fireplace.

Ebola Panic – it’s enough to make you vomit blood

October 22, 2014

I met an ex saffer the other day – a nice person. Anyhow, she was planning to take her family to visit South Africa this holiday, because “they think I lived in the jungle” but canceled her trip because why? Ebola.

No really? Ebola. You got it.

I tried to discuss it with her. Despite admitting it was irrational and crazy (she blames her husband, who’s American), the trip remains canceled. And every day I get asked the incredibly stupid question by at least one American: Aren’t you worried about your family? You’re from Africa, right? I was even put in the isolation room for an hour when I went to go get a prescription refilled at my local people people’s health clinic run by religious do-gooders. Maybe they were worried, or maybe they just didn’t have another room. All I can say is: Thank goodness I brought my kindle with me.

2014-10-21 10.38.22

So in the interests of educational development of the “greatest nation on earth” (sic – their words, not mine), here is a map showing the Ebola risk. I made it myself. It took me all morning.


People who’re worried about ebola in the USA might also want to read some of these articles. They’re interesting not just because it’s clear that there’s been not one case in SA, but also because they mention the efforts of Cuban doctors in combatting Ebola. If the American press, including NPR, were to be believed, only the USA is heroically doing anything about the outbreaks.

And the truth is that the USA is only really doing anything about the outbreaks since the USA was affected. It’s almost, I hate to say this, lucky for West Africa that the Texas case happened. It seems to have ahem motivated a ahem race to get a cure or a vaccine tested and distributed asap. Nobody seemed to care at all when only third world people on another continent were threatened with the awful disease. Within weeks, we’re already done testing on monkeys.

A footnote: Good hygene is the first step in preventing disease, and America needs to learn what does work, and what doesn’t. Here’s a tip. Bits of paper don’t work, and that includes Waxies. Clean, non-porus surfaces do work, and that excludes gross toilet seats made out of plastic and foam.

Waxies don't work. Germs get through about 10 layers of the stuff. And please, learn to flush.

Waxies don’t work. Germs get through about 10 layers of the stuff. And please, learn to flush.

2014-10-21 10.20.35

This toilet is an outbreak waiting to happen. There’s even a shit stain on it – and it’s really hard to hover over because it’s so wide and soft. Ugh. In the bathroom of the same clinic.

Obama: He just can’t win because he’s…

August 30, 2014

Poor fucking President Barack Obama. The dude is easily the most intelligent American president I’ve come across, and he’s desperately trying to keep his election promises, but the GOP congress insists on treating him like he’s just being uppity all the time. And it’s clear to me that he’s not afforded the same respect as other presidents.

For instance, look at how nobody paid any attention to what he actually said about military strategy today and chose to focus, instead, on what he was wearing while he said it.


Yes, he’s hot. Damn, that man is hot. Specially in that suit. But try to concentrate okay?

And then there’s this garbage…


I mean, seriously… “Humiliates Prez”? I realize this is The Inquirer, but did they run these kinds of stories about Bush? I don’t know. Perhaps they did. Someone share them if they exist.

2014-08-07 16.44.51

This just in: Blinking is now considered sexual harassment. If you’re “Prez” Obama.

Every time he takes a day off, it's because he's a lazy you know what. The reality is, he's the hardest working president for a long, long time.

Every time he takes a day off, it’s because he’s a lazy you know what. The reality is, he’s the hardest working president for a long, long time.

I don’t get it. Except I do. The worst thing about American-brand racism is the denial.

Shots from a shoot

July 16, 2014

I worked background (as a film extra) last night, on a feature film shooting night for day in an LA coffeeshop. Now anyone who’s ever worked as cast on a film set knows you spend most of your time waiting to be called to set, and we were stationed on the sidewalk to make space for the shooting and setups inside. So I divided my energy between wandering around taking pictures of what I could find in a 30 foot radius, and reading a novel called Jamesland (pretty good, if you like stories about messed up women) on my kindle.

The great thing about Beverly Blvd is it’s paradise for sign-bloggers. Stenciling has taken off, and is very hard to remove from pavements. Obscure alterations dot traffic signs. And there’s always someone with a lost dog or something weird to sell you or tell you.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he's peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he’s peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.


Stingers curled around a cool stencil saying “Publish Enemies”. It’s a viral (probably illegal, but I’d bet the fine is less than doing it legally) campaign for a comics / TV brand you can follow on Twitter as @publishenemies


“Sheep needs a facelift. Draw here.” I think personally, I’d rather be a live sheep than a dead crosswalk activist. But I’ve seen mothers using their kids and babies in strollers as human shields to jay-walk, so perhaps I’m just not as trendy as they are.



I am convinced this is a joke. But in Hollywood, you really never know. All I can say is that if this dog is “like their child” I hope we never have to watch the live birth video of its exit from the vaginal canal, because that would be gross.


Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later.

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later. He looks happy, but not like the type to wear pearls or care about cash.



Grumpy Cat says more money should go towards providing shelters for homeless animals, but Republican cats think this will only encourage more cats to be homeless. Snapped on La Brea on the way home from set at 6am.

As massive as LA is, as huge a hub as it is for the film business, I was struck by how small it was when I arrived on set to discover that half the crew (including the Cinematographer) were from Chapman too, and the producer was South African. You can always tell when a set is full of Chapman alumni because of the singing and friendliness that comes with the hard work and long hours. And despite any gripes I may have against the school, I say that with some pride in my former film school.

God’s wrath against dildos and porn and parking violations

June 27, 2014

I found this on Facebook, captioned “Haha! Here’s a pic of storm damage on I-75 near the Huntsville-Oneida exit.”

The storm is real. Look how green that grass is. All the dye in LA can't give a lawn the glow of real rain.

The storm is real. Look how green that grass is. All the poisonous lawn dye in LA can’t give a lawn the glow of real rain.

Oh, how I wish it weren’t Fake. This is a rare case of me being on the same page as Christians, but mostly because I think it’s so funny, and I love coincidences. But if you want REAL punishment from God, for accidental crimes, when you least expect it, check out how much this LA tow van looks like it’s hauling a crucifix, on which it will one day crucify your car.

Suffer and die, crappy car that can't afford a garage...

Suffer and die, crappy car that can’t afford a garage…

I got towed, recently. Cost me almost $600 – that’s about 10 days work at what I get paid at the moment, gone, just for being a few inches over a red line. And if you don’t pay your fines here, they put you in jail. For real. It’s kinda depressing, that you could go to jail just for being too poor to make mistakes everybody makes, while celebs can get wasted and drive into lamp posts and walk free the next day.

Hollywood Video. It’s for the birds.

June 23, 2014

Back in South Africa, you still get video rental places – and not just in the dodgy parts of town, and they don’t make most of their money from porn.

That’s because there’s no netflix, no Amazon Prime, no HBO Go, no Hulu, there. Just Video rental places, the tiny selection on DSTV’s on-demand, and piracy. Piracy offers a much better range, so it’s popular even though it’s slow and gives you cooties. And I’d forgotten, till I popped in with a friend on a hungover day after Christmas, how damn frustrating video stores are. Everything good is ALWAYS out on Thursday nights, everything else is hard to find, and it’s all so damn expensive.

I stopped for groceries at a late-night Ralphs near The Wiltern, and noticed that the Hollywood Video sign light wasn’t even on. It was still serving a purpose though. Pigeons nest there after a long, hot day of scavenging for food in Koreatown.

It must have been buzzing 20 years ago.

It must have been buzzing 20 years ago.


It’s for the birds, now. Literally. Like drive-ins, and if they keep making those disappointing, overpriced failed blockbusters, movie theaters soon, too.




Shut up please, I don’t care who you think you are in #palmsprings

June 19, 2014

It’s a film festival. Not a bar. But some people… you know how it is?

If you love short films, this is an amazing banquet of talent. If you love parties, there's one every single night. If you want to chat to your friends, maybe during another film's screening isn't the best time?

If you love short films, this is an amazing banquet of talent. If you love parties, there’s one every single night. If you want to network, there’s plenty of that too, but maybe during another film’s screening isn’t the best time?

Call me weird, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t go to the movies to listen to other people’s conversations. In fact I dislike listening to them so much that I almost never go with anyone to movies, in case they try to talk to me during the film.

So I am at the Palm Springs International Shortsfest. I decided to attend, to check out what made it in, since they are only 2 hours from LA and have swimming pools and really cheap hotels. And I’m glad I did. One of the best shorts I’ve seen is a really touching documentary called, Joanna, a Polish film directed by Aneta Kopacz , about a woman with cancer’s long farewell to her boy, and his to her. Sounds more depressing than it is – it’s actually very life affirming. I loved the film, but I kept getting taken out of it because, behind me, two old men were having an ongoing conversation.

I am guessing from the tone that their conversation wasn’t even about the movie. It seemed tedious. Maybe they were recommending each other golf courses, or plastic surgeons, or retirement villages. All I know is that they were ruining the film for everybody around them, and they didn’t care. In fact, they seemed to be having fun doing it.

You all know how it goes – there’s a hierarchy of ways to get people to shut the hell up during films. I and others tried them all.

Tactic 1 – Turn and look: This, they noticed, but completely ignored.

Tactic 2 – Turn and stare: This time, I did it for longer, and received a smirk in response. I wasn’t the only one, but they seemed to be enjoying the attention they got!

Tactic 3 – Turn, look and “Shhhht”!: This wasn’t me. The woman behind me cracked first. This caused them to laugh and keep talking.

Tactic 4 – Polite desperation: “Can you be quiet, please or go outside, guys?” This was me. The response was to first drop to a quieter voice, and gradually increase in volume until the end of the film.

As the titles rolled, I attempted tactic 5.

Tactic 5 – Public shaming part I: “Would you guys not start another conversation, please?” This really amused them, and a few people around me agreed with me. The old boys laughed mockingly, but shut up for the remainder of the screening.

Unfortunately, the best film had already been ruined. The others were mostly interesting – the best of the rest being the Lion’s Mouth Opens, which I’d already seen at Sundance. Only one film felt like it didn’t belong – a 17-minute-long schmooze-fest about a local celeb photographer called Michael Childers, who while worth honoring has to be the only reason they programmed the ‘radio with pictures’ documentary full of shots of the interviewer grinning at Childers and Childers talking about how famous he and his friends are. Local is lekker, as we say in South Africa.  But this film stood out by not fitting into the line-up except to get local bums on seats. I watched in silence, distracting myself by hoping that the two noisy old guys would leave before the Q&A so that I wouldn’t have to see their smug faces again.

And what do you know? Not only did they not have the sense to leave, but when the presenter asked, at the end of the screening, for all those involved in all the films and present to stand, the two old men who’d been talking through vastly superior films by fellow film-makers stood to celebrate their achievement in Michael Childers: Hollywood in the Desert Sky.  I don’t know what their role was. All I know is that I couldn’t believe they had the gonads to identify themselves.

So this was when I had to raise my hand and out them for their rudeness to the entire theater. Ordinary rich trash out for a bit of culture after too many mimosas at breakfast? No problem. Idiocy is expected. But going to a film festival as a filmmaker and then disrupting another artist’s screening to a paying audience has to be the most disrespectful, and amateurish thing you can do. This would have been a good time for them to apologize.

But their response to me and others who vocally supported me? A sarcastic comment: “Ooooh. Such a purist”.

I had to leave, because staying there would have driven me insane. Yes, I’m a purist. I love movies. I won’t apologize for this, and I paid #12 for my ticket and came all the way to Palm Springs. I don’t care who you think you are or if you’re famous in Palm Springs – you simply have no right to ruin another filmmaker’s screening for me.

I hoped for a chance to see Joanna again without them there, but sadly, it only screened once. Look out for it at other festivals. Even disruptive chatter didn’t prevent it moving me to tears and laughter and I know it’ll be showing all over the world this year.


Michael Childers: Hollywood Under a Desert Sky


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