Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

From elevator farts to pinnoccio to pie charts: leftover signs posted

August 15, 2012

Sometimes life makes no sense. This week, I’m having a new version of an old dream at night. I’ve had it so often I’m often lucid in it at this point, but still unable to control the emptiness I feel no matter how I force it to end. So in that state of restless randomnity, I WANT to write, but I have nothing. Nothing in particular to say after wandering through my own day like a ghost.

I don’t remember who facebooked this, but I knew instantly that it belonged on this blog. What better way to introduce a post about nothing in particulars? I guess it would be time to stop looking and start living.

Pinnoccio is one of my favourite characters. So favorite that I have dated him and even married him over the years. Usually by the time he becomes a real boy, he’s someone else’s though.

The result of your actions will be an equal and opposite re-action. But this is my beef with Karma: it doesn’t seem to strike the person responsible. So for example, the people who voted for apartheid are mostly in Australia whining about SA to anyone who’ll listen. The people suffering its bad karma are in South Africa, suffering. This makes no sense, and frankly, is proof that if god does exist, he desperately needs a secretary.

Zuma is part of the bad karma. He’s not the worst president in the world, but he is ineffective, sexist, nepotistic, unable to form a coherent voice from the multitudes of voices within the ANC, and prone to obvious stupidity. This makes him not unlike Mao / Stalin, the obvious references in this satirical artpiece. I’m reading about Mao at the moment in the form of an amazing Biography/Autobiography, “Wild Swans” – the story of three generations of exceptional Chinese women. That book’s probably half the reason I’m so down on humanity at the moment.

And here’s what I miss about home. Stuff like this. This sign picture, taken by Nick Aldridge, who I hope won’t mind me using it in low res. here, was snapped at the Red Hill Shebeen. Red Hill’s a beachside community. Each of these little holiday towns has a little township next door (yeah, not much has changed since apartheid days out there) that supplies the holiday-makers with cheap labor and so on… I’ve been to a lot of them because I had this fairly dangerous habit of getting drunk and deciding to visit on the pretext of buying something. My poor, poor boyfriends…

Taken by screenwriter Leslie Rann, in the elevator of her LA apartment complex. Hilarious, how they explain the exact science of the smell moving around. It should really say “Please do not remove head from ass while in elevator. We prefer all your holes to be plugged while in public places.”

Summarizes how most people feel about pie charts. Although I’m not that into pie, here. Americans like them sweet. I miss the little individual ones you get at gas stations in South Africa. My favorite: Mutton Curry. One of those and an appeltiser the morning after a late night and you’re ready for a day at the office!

Right. Now I can finally delete all that shit from my desktop. Thanks for listening.

Smokers need to clean up their act – or die faster

July 20, 2012

Sometimes it takes going to a different place to clear your head of all the bad things to which you’ve simply become habituated. Like waste, and inconsiderate, dirty cigarette smokers. A recent trip to Busan, South Korea, opened my eyes to what proper enforcement and government action can achieve.

Busan is a surprisingly clean city. Surprisingly because it’s not like a US city where there are rules about EVERYTHING from the height and spacing of stairs, to where you may and may not smoke. The air is clean despite the huge condensed population thanks to great public transport. And although Koreans smoke about as much as South Africans, smoking is not permitted everywhere: Not in public parks, not on beaches, not in restaurants (but in bars and Karaoke places it’s okay).

A beautiful beach. Reminded me of beaches in KwaZulu-Natal except for something important: It was perfectly clean. No glass. Clear water. Very safe – even though there were few bathers for some reason there were life guards all along it. I wonder if they stop people tossing cigarette buts? If only our fearless leader would have let us swim…

Do the drains run to the sea as they do in California? I hope not, because people do toss their cigarettes there. Not the way USA smokers do – as if it’s a gesture that represents freedom and democracy or something – but pretty regularly. Still the reminders not to smoke are more than just signs. They’re huge and unmistakeable.

I got it! But give me a few drinks and I might forget once a month.

As gaudy as the signs were, they seemed to work.

… and there’s a lot of beauty to protect.

At the entrance to the park, collections of garbage remind you not leave it lying around. Some garbage cans – trash bins – would be nice though. At the same location where vending machines sell drinks there are none. Sadly, this rocky outcrop, one of the most beautiful, is also the most littered with chip packets, cigarette butts and other debris of what we call “civilisation”.

Made me think back to a walk in a park in California with one of my favorite people in the world. We were having a great day, so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t say anything because I’m so used to the things smokers do, all of which I hate so much that it’s a physical effort not to shout at random strangers. But he kept tossing his cigarettes. And I didn’t know how to deal with it. I still think about it.

Dear Smokers: I hate it when smokers…

1. Sit right next to me on a bench and smoke, when they could walk away.
I’ma former smoker. Smoking right on top of me is like me putting just a dash of vodka in an alcoholic’s coke. Not very cool at all.

2. Leave a dirty tray of cigarette butt my house
I was nice enough to let you smoke on my balcony. So put it in the trash, ffs. It smells, and I don’t want to clean it up.

3. Toss your cigarettes all over the place
It’s shameful to pollute a beautiful place, or even a random street or apartment block with your but ends. How much more effort does it take to step on it, then pick it up? Yes we know they’re disgusting and you want it to get away from you as soon as you’ve satisfied your craving. But that doesn’t mean we should all have to clean up after you. It doesn’t mean we want your buts in the ocean next time we swim. It’s like pooping, okay. Put your toilet paper in the toilet after you wipe. Or, or if you’re in Korea, in the little basket next to the toilet. God, at least poop is bio-degradable.

That’s my rant for today.

Just because smokers are destined to die of cancer doesn’t mean the should get to annoy us all while they’re still alive. I used to smoke. I may not have been perfect, but I never tossed my but ends out on the street. That’s the bottom line.

Black in So-Cal, USA

June 8, 2012

I just went back to writing columns for News24, Africa’s biggest news website. While my rate of pay has dropped thanks to the ailing exchange rate, I’m glad to be back in the saddle after a much-needed break. I’ll now be writing twice a month. And here’s the lastest column: Black in So-Cal, USA – about the subtle but sure form of racism I encounter all the time here in Orange, California and surrounds.

South Africa’s apartheid history is well known. I feel sick at the thought of how little black, indian and colored kids must have felt seeing signs like this. Imagine not letting a child share the sea with your child?

But the USA, until very recently, had similar laws – google it. The friend I write about in the column remembers getting into trouble as a child while visiting his grandma in the South for using a drinking fountain that was whites-only. There may not have been a sign by then, but in the South, people knew their place… “Colored” has a very different, and offensive, meaning in the USA to what it does in South Africa of course.

Jou Ma Se Secrecy!

June 3, 2012

I’m missing home as I write this random post about a picture taken more than six months ago, at a protest against the ANC’s secrecy bill – a betrayal of everyone who supported and fought for freedom in South Africa. I found it via a facebook friend who has gone from a buddy at my workplace to an NGO mover and shaker. And who, best of all, seems to be happy!


Jou ma se secrecy is a reference to “jou ma se poes”, which I won’t translate unless you insist. Oh fine, it’s like, “jou ma se guava” but less polite. The bill is still news, and is being used in court, to stop people posting pictures of art that’s critical of the president. Stupid law.

Home is where the troublemakers are

May 22, 2012

Zuma’s dignity? What is that? Cause I’m not sure he has any left to lose.

I’ve been hearing a lot about my president lately. Mostly regarding his penis, which is causing controversy again. Not because he’s using it to impregnate another young girl, or have sex with an HIV positive employee who will later accuse him or rape, nor because it’s very big, nor because it’s very small. Just because someone did a naked picture of him, satarising him. The SA blogesphere has divided like [insert own smutty simile here ] over the issue.

As blogged by Artist Brett Murry’s really done it this time. The picture sold to an overseas buyer but is currently at home in Cape Town, causing huge amounts of kak.

This would never happen in America right now (pity, Obama’s hot), because dignity is something that, as a public figure, you earn, and President Obama is nothing if not dignified in his personal life. Now Clinton? That’s a different story as we all know. You get what you ask for when you whip it out and pop it in someone’s mouth. But that’s just what I think. Not everybody agrees.

Blogger Tia Mysoa lists Zuma’s many sexual disgressions, sarcastically, I think, denying that they’re the inspiration for the artwork. Another blogger, Without The R censors the Zuma art and says it’s a personal attack, and not justified, given that he’s the president and stuff. He even compares it to necklacing… which is weird, because I don’t remember necklacing victims rising from the dead to use government funds to sue artists. I couldn’t agree less, but that’s what the free press is for – airing our differences. Let’s hope our President doesn’t manage to silence any of us. That, I would find impossible to er… swallow.

Meanwhile, my favourite cartoonist in the whole world, Zapiro, makes his own point using his favorite cultural weapon: humor. The shower is reference to Prez Zuma’s statement that he wasn’t worried about catching Aids from the HIV positive woman who accused him of rape a few years back, because he took a shower afterwards. Nice work! Since then, every time Zuma screws up, a shower starts growing out of his head in Zapiro’s cartoons. This time, Zapiro moved it to between his legs. Which totally rocks.

I’m not a fan of subtle political cartoons. I like hard propaganda. I think it’s braver. More like this at, or just google image search Zuma Zapiro Shower.

In my opinion, nobody has a RIGHT to dignity – specially those who live with absolutely none, and exploit the people who trust them with the ultimate responsibility, and who have been systematically betrayed. There’s nothing dignified about living in a shack while your president adds wife after wife to your tax bill, protects corrupt chronies, takes bribes to buy useless arms we can’t use, and stifles the press.

All this uproar is making me homesick – but not that homesick. Although I’m sometimes accused (usually by Republicans who don’t know Egypt from Nigeria) of being “anti-american” on this blog, what I love about America is that it’s just as crazy as South Africa. Also, I’m beginning, bit by bit, one by one, to find open-minded friends who actually think about the world. Those people are rare anywhere, but they’re also everywhere. Thank God for them, for those people most of the world calls “troublemakers” and that I call “sanity”.

And remember this? @comradesipho reminded me, by RTing this post.

Ayanda Mabulu’s painting, quite a bit of nudity. A deadly satire of the Last Supper, depicting the desecration of Madiba’s legacy. Now I think there are two reasons why its less contraversial. 1. Mabulu is black. 2. It includes apartheid in its targets (the pig with the old flag), and is aimed less at just one target.


The ANC put together a protest march against the gallery today – Tuesday in South Africa, Monday night in America. Here’s what the Goodman Gallery had up in the window as the marchers passed. Via Twitter.

Ya. Respect is where it’s at, as City Press editor Ferial Haffajee proved when she removed the picture of Zuma and peen from her website. I’m not sure she should have. I’m not sure the people she’s respecting respect respect, if you know what I mean…

A Democratic Party rep also tweeted pics of street kids sleeping across the street. Opportunistic stuff when coming from a very capitalist party who would probably just remove them, but nevertheless, pertinent.

Small Brain? Help is at hand, as new solve-it-all “doctor” scam hits Twitter

May 11, 2012

I thought I’d seen it all – or I mean, seen it all before, and again, and repeatedly. You know those doctors who advertise to desperate people who’ve run out of all logical options? “Here, drink this vinegar and your lover will return!” Actually that probably worked once, since vinegar is known to help cure yeast infections. But I digress.

Move aside “DR MORRIS”…


Upside down on the roof of a train in Cape Town. I had to flip and rotate it… and unfortunately it’s blurred.


DR. BUJJAGALI MUHINDO is here to solve all your problems. On twitter – @bujjagali!


I sent him a question on twitter. “@bujjagali Dear Dr. I have a small penis. I have had a small penis all my life. Please can you help me!”. Let’s see what he suggests.


Working with kids and dogs on a film set

January 25, 2012

My film school doesn’t allow students to work on school projects with kids or animals until thesis year. Which I consider ridiculous. Even as extras, they’re part of the fabric of society and as a director, if you don’t know the pitfalls from personal experience, you’re useless for most mainstream projects and many indie things. And why would you want to be learning this thing while making your final project – your industry calling card? Anyhow. I don’t need film school to make films, luckily. And I’ve been curious about childhood lately – not in a morbid way, but because there was some crazy innocence in me deciding to spend my retirement savings and everything else becoming a filmmaker. And actually, kids take direction really well, at least, Storm and Layla did.

After the final shot. Everybody was still hanging round because my mom, who was the most amazing host, was giving us all cake and getting everybody to sign her table cloth. Long story about the tablecloth that involves embroidery.

What surprised me, after the whole experience, was how great it was to work with kids – at least, the kids I got to work with. I had done it before – helping a summer school USC student as AD, and thought I just got lucky with that child. And I assumed I’d struggle. But Layla and Storm were twice as professional as the average over-40 prima-donna LA veteran. Storm (who knows his way around a set) even insisted on slating for us because he has this boundless energy. Layla (who has never done film before) was a natural storyteller, so I asked her to improv a lot of scenes. It’s just play. It has to be honest. That’s not different to directing adults. The biggest thing I struggled with was not swearing, cause I swear a lot.

Dogs? Well that’s a lot more difficult.

My amazing crew – most of whom were also new to film – seemed to get that this was our film, not mine. For that, I’m eternally grateful.

I’m glad I tried making a film in South Africa. It’s different in so many ways to the USA – from what equipment is called to what is expected of roles. To the fact that here, I have a community, and there, I’m nobody to most people. I am sure it’s the best thing I’d done. And when I say I, I mean we. My producer, Ashlin Simpson, was so determined and fought against all odds to get this done. When budget issues hit us, we needed to cut the parents and she suggested using Cow and Chicken POV, so crew members could step into the roles. A creative solution to a financial problem.

My Director of Photography shotlisted with me days in advance, walked the location, talked story, gave days of his time… and brought his experience and expertise to the set.

My Assistant Director Michael Klein noticed performance issues and pointed them out when I was distracted by random problems. He ran the show without shouting.

Yay, filmmaking. In South Africa. Yay, getting up at 4.30am. Yay making something that didn’t exist before.

Sea Point Promenade’s latest greatest things for me, and a touch of ennui.

January 8, 2012

In between my existential crisis, aka “when will America’s consulate allow me to get on with my life” and my attempt to make a short film while I’m still here – if that’s not forever – and my various visits to my past and my many reunions with loved ones, I squeezed in a walk on the Sea Point Promenade today. Isn’t it beautiful? One of my favourite places on earth.

Messages on the sea wall for Mandela's birthday in 2010.

The most beautiful park I've ever seen.

An outdoor gallery - this series of sculptures has lasted a year, despite some vandalism and weather damage.

It’s Cape Town’s Central Park, although most people in Cape Town don’t get the chance to live anywhere near it and have to drive or bus in. (I’m all for low cost housing in the area where I own property to solve that problem. Bring it on.)

The latest trends are public art and open air gyms.

It's a rocking horse...

... it's a rocking horse that talks out of its arse. And its mouth. Kids love this and have looooong conversations with each other through the mouth to ass telephones.

Here's how it works.

The outdoor public gym: Designed for adults, but mostly used as a jungle gym by kids in between swims in the sea.

The rules. No this, no that. I'm pretty sure someone's breaking them as I type this, and getting away with it. Ya South Africa.

Still standing here, in what used to my home, I felt sad. I don’t really have a purpose here right now. I can’t get a sim card without my father showing up with his ID cause my apartment is rented out so I don’t have an address. I am all about work – it makes me who I am  and I have nothing much to DO, really. Limbo feels more limbo-like now that everybody I know has gone back to work and winter term has started without me, and I am still here, staring at the perfect sea view.

I know I sound ungrateful. But I can’t help it. Though it’s amazing here, there’s only so much great steak you can eat. Only so many times you can swim in a perfect blue ocean. Only so many times you can hug your friends before you wonder… when can I go back to the torture and pure hell of making movies?

This holiday needs to end. ASAP, hunnybunnies.

Oh but first, a quick #PSA.

Dear America. THIS is a hamburger. As the lolcat said "IF I KAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER CAN I HAZ ZIS ONE PLEEZ"?

A moment in the South African sun

January 6, 2012

6.30 am. I woke up and hit the snooze button. Then again at 6.40, 6.50 and 7am. Them I got up and made coffee and walked a few kilometres in the cool morning air to meet an old friend and take the train from Cape Town to Newlands to watch South Africa play test cricket against Sri Lanka.

Near the station ATMs in the underground mall walkway, theatre posters.

Recession comedy and puppets. Do I even want to know?

The Cape Town Station used to be a classic 70s place, with reminders of apartheid in the separate entrances and even separate ticket windows. I have this image of doves sitting in the high windows near the roofs. And usually there were a few skollies hanging around. Now it’s clean, shiny, policed and has digital boards. It’s still got 70s style but it’s more like a small modern airport airport than a station.

The trains are running on time.

Step out of the main terminus, and all is just as it always was from then on, except that first class and third class (there’s no second class) are indistinguishable except by price.

You can buy sweats, suckers, chips, and cool drinks from informal vendors here or on the train. The trains are covered in colourful graffiti - which is actually really pretty. My friend Chris says only tourists say stuff like that.

Step on the train, and it’s even more like stepping into 1995. The windows are frosted on many trains so you can’t see out. There’s no visible sign of security (I’m told they employ very large women, who sit in pairs in first class, avoiding the customers, and BBM).  And someone’s written welcome messages all over the train.

I know what that is!

CUNT. Oh, well I'm glad you finally learned how to write your name.

Ah, those yellow doors.

Something to do with satan. And tik, I assume.

More about the doors. This guy looks really uncertain as to what to do.


Since he put it up upside down, on the roof of the train, I'll read you the doctor's note... DR MORRIS can take care of... "Sexual problems for men and women. Including: Quick sperming, feelings of highness, bad smell in private parts, dryness, any financial problem, any desire you might have, any desire you might want not to have... ". Awesome.

I love the train. It’s sign blog heaven. Anyhow, moving on, we hopped off at Newlands and join the small queue before 9am. It’s not moving. At all. Turns out the ticketing booth is closed because the computers are down and by 10am there’s a line around the block. South Africans seem very patient. Everybody just waited. I was outraged, more by the complete lack of communication than by anything else.

This guy saw a crowd and started busking with his guitar. Made about R50 before the booth opened. We were also visited by an opportunistic motivational speaker. But for some reason the cool drink sellers didn't think to come by - they could have made a fortune.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck outside the stadium when you can hear the sounds of the game, an the crowd cheering, and smell the pig lip sausages cooking (that’s “hot dogs” to you, Americans). The fact that tickets were half price when the booth did finally open at 11.30am made up for it though.

Success. Minutes later I was eating a double hot dog with chili sauce and drinking a coke made with real cane sugar. Yay!

That's people holding up signs when Kallis hit another four. The sixes on the back are kinda funny.

Nearly naked people sit behind a woman in a full scarf and black dress. Here in South Africa, "clash" doesn't necessarily follow "culture".

At lunch time all the mini cricket players get to play on the big field. Very cute.

The way back. The trains are still running on time.

An amazing day, an amazing game.

Cape Town’s faded New Year’s day glory

January 1, 2012

I woke up this January 1st in Cape Town, South Africa, feeling pretty much human – I left the party in a taxi driven by a guy who smelled like solvents and didn’t know my name, how to follow directions, or how find his own way, but he did get me home by 2am, after a few arguments and near-death moments on the road. Or “by 2am, thank God” I thought when I woke up in the morning with my limbs still attached.

I have no idea what this is all about. There was a series of them on the pavement (that's what we call the "sidewalk" in South Africa).

I had lunch plans in the CBD with an old friend so I decided to walk the few miles down the hill to the city, and back. On the way I took photos of all the weird signs I saw.

PAIN in large rough letters on the street wall of the reservoir on Upper Orange street. Twice. I wonder who wrote it and if they're alright now.

I love new year’s day in the city. It’s a slightly sad scene. There’s the faded glory of New Year’s party posters, the darkened shop windows, the people, some still in party clothes, wandering home on a walk of no shame at all, or eating breakfast where they could find it. It’s like the whole city’s either saying “Jeez… is that it?” or “Shitsticks… what the fuck have I done?”

Lost Dog - found by New Year's or still wandering around without anyone to pick up his turds? I definitely saw a lot of turds on the sidewalk so I suspect he's still on the prowl.

There’s also evidence of altered states of mind of other kinds.

No clue what this graffitti is all about. I'd love to know. It's written on the downstairs boarded up garage of an apartment block I always wanted to live in... that has recently burned down.

An attempt to balance beauty and the need for security. Those ivy leaves on the pillar are made out of razor wire. I think they're borderline illegal, since it's not legal to harm intruders. All preventative measures are meant to be non-deadly.

Ahhh... The Lennox. Once the only hotel in town where "non-whites" could stay at the height of apartheid, and where I stayed with my family at some point when we first came to Cape Town, now a run down "bed and breakfast", where people live in what looks, at least from the outside, looks like squalor for all the wrong reasons. The curtains are filthy.

There were three garbage bags next to this sign, stuck on a wall outside the NG Kerk, and some man's clothes in the closest bin. Also, a coat hanger hanging from the tree inside the church security wall.

This button thingy for the pedestrian crossing is so old that it's still only in English and Afrikaans - not also Xhosa.

I walked down through the Company Gardens. They've been the same since forever, although they're less like a monument to colonialism now and more like a museum visited by all South Africans. People sleep on the grass in their lunchbreak, read books on the benches. In 1996, I once walked through at 4am and passed a guy, completely naked and red from the cold, furiously masturbating in public. True fact!

A dodgy dude. But we don't break down the statues here in South Africa like they did in Russia, and neither do we pretend they aren't dodgy like they do in the USA. We just build more. Behind, the gallery, which I must go check out while I'm in town.

Speaking of dodgy... The Great War. Wasn't so great for the dead guys whose names appear on the list up there.

Why is this written in cardboard? In ballpoint? At least have a magic marker, ffs. The sign refers to the outdoor cafe place in the gardens. Seems like the staff just decided to close early today. I don't blame them. I just think the way it's announced is pretty hilarious. And then someone decided it wasn't clear, came back with another ballpoint, and added (We mean the Cafe).

Oh, Telkom.

Nothing less partyish than the poster for last night's party in the window of a store that's closed. In South Africa, most people don't work on public holidays because they're, well, you know, public holidays and shit.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever masturbated over a shopfront mannequin. Is it wrong to? And what if you take a photo and then look at it at home, in private?

I have no idea what this is about, but I think it's beautiful. Someone tell me. Kinda looks like someone got all street-arty early in the morning on New Year's Day.

This is who I had lunch with. This is his tattoo. Yes, it's real. And yes, he means it. He very nearly had to be hospitalized due to starvation when the pizzas as Bardelli's on Kloof took over 90 minutes to arrive. I'm getting used to Cape Town time, because the food is so good when it finally arrives. I'm sure by the time I've adapted again it will be time to leave.

And that was my day. Here’s to 2012. May we all not die like in the movies. Specially those of us with shit written on our arms.