On the not-worth-talking-about scale

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck South Africa today around lunch time. Originating in Orkney in the North West Province, the tremors were felt in large parts of the country and even in neighbouring Botswana and Mozambique.

I felt it in my office while on a conference call and just looked up at the ceiling. I’ll bet many others looked up at the ceiling too. Probably a normal reaction, that. It’s being reported as one of the biggest to hit South Africa. Seems there wasn’t too much damage, except for the unlucky guy who died after a wall apparently collapsed on him.

Up here on the Reef, we live directly above working mines and tremors from mining activity is quite normal. Sometimes in the dead of night, I can swear I hear the locomotives running deep underground in the mine tunnels. But this was a real quake, albeit not much worth talking about when compared to the recent disaster in China.

In other not worth talking about news, I discovered today that there’s a random dude from South Africa who’s following my blog. What’s not worth talking about though is his blog which spews the kind of bigotry I rant about here on my own blog. Seems he’s a homophobic, patriarchal, anti-feminist, religious ANC supporter.

Not sure I want his kind following my blog. Get thee gone bigot.

And finally, it’s being reported that the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) is losing its relevancy. That to me is not entirely correct. Presided over by Angie Motshekga, this woeful organization lost its relevancy a long time ago. They were merely going through the motions of being constituted, whereas all they were doing was supporting the puerile ambitions of power-hungry ANC men, and furthering the patriarchal agenda.

It is widely said that Motshekga single-handedly destroyed South Africa’s education system. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but she most certainly played a huge role in dumbing it down, and still does. And her feats of maladministration in the Education Ministry are now legendary.

The cremation of the ANCWL will not come soon enough, and hopefully we won’t have to suffer the presence of Angie in Education much longer too.

Shakuhachi

The best possible way to start a new work week is with calmness and serenity. However that’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, especially when having to face that dreaded Monday.

Music normally does the trick for me. I’m talking classy music here, not that dreadful pop variety that the young crowd fill their heads with these days. You know the “artists” I’m referring to. Usually guitar rhythms works a treat, but sometimes I need something more substantial.

And new age or world music fits the bill quite nicely. If it’s from another culture or ethnicity entirely different from my own, all the better. That’s where Shakuhachi comes in.

Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi are wind-blown instruments that produce a haunting melody. Originally introduced from China into Japan in the 8th century, they are traditionally made from the root end of bamboo plant.

One of my choice pieces featuring the Shakuhachi is by Uttara Kuru, titled Wings of the Eagle. Have a listen:

So here’s my proposal: when you want someone to calm the fuck down, just say Shakuhachi. And here’s hoping the rest of your week will be serene.

 

Curious beliefs

Black rhino

Black rhino

I dropped my car off for a service at the dealership today and got a ride back to work in one of their courtesy cars. Sitting upfront, I shared the ride with three ladies at the back who had also brought their cars in.

I listened silently, pondering my day ahead as two of the women got into a conversation. One began regaling the other about her recent holiday at a wildlife reserve, and the conversation somehow shifted to rhinos and the decimation of the species by poachers.

One quoted the death toll to be standing in the region of four hundred and something; I can’t remember the exact figure quoted. That’s more or less correct. The other mentioned that rhino horn tasted like fingernails – she knows because she got to taste it somewhere. That’s also true, more or less.

To my mild amusement the woman in the middle fumed that something’s got to be done about the Asians. Being an Indian I felt somehow complicit, but funnily did not feel insulted. In truth, the demand seems to stem mostly from Vietnam and China.

Then to my astonishment, the woman immediately behind me said that we have to protect the rhinos because God created the animals and humans and we were meant to share the earth equally – the other agreed that God put them here for a specific purpose. It was more than I could do to burst out laughing.

In case you’re wondering, I absolutely abhor the killing of rhinos to satisfy the sick beliefs of ignorant people, Asians or otherwise. But I’m appalled that anyone would think it’s wrong to kill an animal simply because God created them and that they were meant to share the earth with us equally.

I almost asked them if they would desist from squishing a mosquito or fly or cockroach when they become a nuisance, following their reasoning that they were also created by God. I sincerely think they would have no compunction trampling a bug, because it is all too easy to rationalize that bugs are purposeless, or worse, created by the Devil?

Surely we protect and preserve animals because it’s the right thing to do, rather than it being the judgement of some mythical being? This reasoning should apply to all things – we do it because it is good and decent, not because it is commanded.

In the end, I suppose I’m just being anal about the whole thing – these women are doing the right thing even if for the wrong reasons.

Conqueror by Conn Iggulden [Book 5 in the Conqueror Series]

This appears to be the final book in the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden. While it focuses on the life of Kublai Khan, arguably the greatest conqueror in  Mongol history since Genghis, Iggulden chose not to relate the complete (historical) tale of his (Kublai’s) final conquest of China.

Instead to Iggulden chose to end the book at the point where Kublai wins the civil war he had engaged in with his brother Arik-Boke to become Khan of the Mongol empire. He may well have had an idea to continue the tale in another book, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. For now it appears unlikely.

While Conqueror felt like the most bloody and violent book in the whole series, Kublai was by far the most merciful of all the Mongol Khans since Genghis. From almost the beginning, right until the last bloody pages, the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are expended, and for the most part described in gory detail.

The Plot

Mongke Khan, elder brother to Kublai, succeeds Guyuk Khan as the leader of the Mongol nation. Guyuk was a particularly ruthless Khan and was not worthy of the title. Kublai who had until that point spent most of his life in scholarly pursuit is dispatched East into China by Mongke in an effort to “toughen” him up. The other brothers Hulegu and Arik-Boke are sent West and into the Mongol homelands respectively, to rule land already conquered there.

In his quest to bring the Sung Dynasty to heel in China, Kublai undergoes a fascinating transformation from scholar to master tactician and leader of an army outnumbered by far. However in complete contrast to the tactics employed by his grandfather Genghis, Kublai chose not to burn entire cities to the ground, nor butcher the inhabitants. This tactic probably won him more favour with the Chinese and led to cities surrendering much quicker.

Mongke dies (en route to join forces with Kublai to defeat the Sung), and Kublai’s younger brother Arik-Boke declares himself Khan. When Kublai, learns of this he is angered and decides to wage war with his brother to reclaim the title which he feels rightfully belongs to him. He calls off his triumphant march onto the Sung Capital to return home to Karakorum to fight for his right to the title of Khan.

With the help of his “orlok” general Uriang-Khadai, Kublai eventually wins the civil war against his brother and declares himself Khan. Iggulden decided to end the book at this point and does not continue the historic tale of how Kublai eventually went on to found the Yuan Dynasty in China. It would have made for fascinating reading, so let’s hope he does produce a 6th book in the series.

Note on Historical Accuracy

Although Iggulden once again takes quite a few liberties in terms of historical accuracy, it does not detract from the sense of wonder one feels at the accomplishments of Kublai Khan, who ruled over an empire larger than that of both Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. In fact, the book entices one to make an effort to seek out the historical facts about this fascinating era.

The biggest laugh in South African politics this year…

Forget the chuckles we had over that Zuma painting saga. Forget the loud guffaws that followed the falling out with Julius Malema, (former) head of the ANC Youth League, and erstwhile bum-chum of Zuma.

Forget every hilarious (albeit tragic) incident involving Jacob Zuma and his bumbling quest to govern South Africa, this year. They all pale in comparison to the latest incident of utter absurdity surrounding the President.

Jacob Zuma, who’s widely known to have had no formal education, has been conferred with an Honorary Professor of International Relations degree by Peking University in China.

Although it’s just a worthless title, the guy is totally undeserving of such an “honour.” He has not achieved anything of significance, both locally and abroad. It’s patently clear that it’s just an astute move on the part of the Chinese to stroke Zuma’s ego, in their pursuit of economic ties with South Africa, which no doubt will be more favorable to them.

The whole affair further sullies the academic world, which is increasingly awarding useless degrees to all sorts of questionable people. However, in the South African context it is a monstrous travesty, considering the Zuma government’s dismal performance in the delivery of Education to the country.

The insult to all the children of South Africa who have been negatively affected by the incompetence of Zuma’s Education Ministry is made all the more unpalatable by this comment by him at his acceptance speech in Beijing:

We are inspired by the value attached to education in the analects of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, who stressed the importance of education and study as being fundamental to human progress.

There are now many in the country who are absolutely convinced that the only progress, Zuma and his ANC cohorts are interested in, is to do with their own self-interest.

One wonders how long it will be before Minister of Education Angie Motshekga, is invited to China to receive her Honorary Doctorate in International Educational Relations

Lords Of The Bow by Conn Iggulden [Book 2 in the Conqueror Series]

Conn Iggulden continues the epic life story of Temugen, now known by the name of Genghis Khan, in this second book in the Conqueror series. The legend of Genghis continues at a pace not as relentless as in the first book Wolf of the Plains, but not quite sedate either.

Genghis having united the warring Mongolian tribes into one nation under his supreme leadership, realises that the mammoth task requires him to cement his authority by means that would necessitate being both ruthless and fearless.

To this end Genghis decides to penetrate the land of the Xi Xia, Jin and Chin [China], take on this long-time enemy in their own terrain and bring them into submission. The journey South across a harsh Gobi desert, into Chin lands right up to the walls of the fortress-like cities had never been attempted before by any of the Mongolian tribes, in such vast numbers. Having had initial success crossing through the Great Wall into Chinese lands and securing his first great win in battle against the Xi Xia, Genghis realises that attacking the walled cities would require a little more thought and help from the inside.

He dispatches two of his brothers to infiltrate a walled city to learn the secrets of how they were built and how to destroy them. Having gained this knowledge, Genghis returns to sack and destroy the Chin cities one by one. In his quest to dominate the Chinese empire, he takes on the mighty Imperial army and wins a colossal battle at a mountain pass leading to the great walled city of Yenking [later Peking, now Beijing].

The vanquished Chinese general flees the scene o battle and returns to the city where he murders the young Chinese Emperor and assumes power by appointing himself Regent to the official heir to the throne who was a very young boy at this time.

Genghis Khan sets up camp with his victorious army outside the walled city of Yenking, and makes a few failed attempts to attack the city with trebuchets and other weapons. He decides to wait and let the city starve for many years before the General finally decides to surrender, first making a crafty deal using the services of the Mongolian Shaman Kokchu, to prevent the city from being burned to the ground.

In this second book, we get only brief glimpses of Genghis’ relationship with his growing sons. Of interest is his estranged relationship with his eldest son Jochi, who he suspects of being a bastard son by his first wife Borte who was raped in the first book by a Tartar warrior.

I’m sure there’s more about his developing relationship with his sons in the next book, Bones of the Hills, but I’ve only just started that one…

Listen up, you oriental berks, rhino horn does not cure cancer

Just over a year ago I wrote about how poachers were decimating South Africa’s rhino population, driving another species towards extinction.

At that time around 210 had been killed already, but the latest figures indicate that the total for 2010 reached a record 333. However, the figures for this year thus far is an alarming 341 animals killed, which works out at almost one a day.

A photo taken of Rhinoceros eating in a nation...

Image via Wikipedia

And it’s all for feeding the ignorant oriental belief that rhino horn cures cancer among other diseases.

The biggest culprits driving the killing of rhinos for their horns remain Vietnam and China. It appears that their respective governments could not be bothered in the least to implement measures to curb the trade in rhino horn. One wonders if the ageing Commie despots running these countries, are not indulging in rhino shavings themselves, to prolong their tenure in office, dealing more misery to their people.

It’s a scandal that a magnificent beast is giving up its life, not to sustain human life as livestock do, but to sustain a delusional belief system.

So listen up! Stop being yellow monkeys! If you’ve got cancer, go to a fucking doctor for treatment, or die with dignity. Don’t be grasping at horns. Let the beasts be…

Please stop killing our rhinos, hunt down our politicians instead

The poaching of rhinos for their horns is reaching alarming proportions; South Africa alone lost 210 thus far this year. The recent spate of arrests in connection with this nauseating decimation of our endangered rhino species, is probably just the tip of the iceberg, as the huge demand from especially China and Vietnam seems to indicate a vast network of low-life scumbags, being involved.

A friend of mine recently commented that the rhino horn is only useful if strapped on. This is a common fallacy, as the rhino horn is ironically in huge demand, not for its aphrodisiac properties, but for its perceived medicinal value, although, it was at one time coveted in Yemen to make ornamental knife handles.

Orientals who believe in the medicinal properties of rhino horn indulge in the same kind of rabid, superstitious, uncritical thinking as Westerners who spend billions on homeopathic remedies. The sooner everyone understands that this shit doesn’t work, and never will, the sooner mankind as a whole can progress to the next level of evolution.

Studies carried out as far back as 1983, have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal value, and is composed of keratin; the same stuff as your fingernails and hair. Scientists have concluded that you would get the same effect from rhino horns as chewing your own fingernails.

So if any of you oriental keratin-crazy fools simply cannot do without your dose of rhino horn shavings, allow me to propose an alternative: why not hunt down all of Africa’s megalomaniacal politicians, pull off their fingernails one by one, and then scalp them too for a tasty aftersnack of hair-balls. I have heard rumors that Robert Mugabe and some of South Africa’s own, have quite exquisite, well-manicured fingernails.

Please spare the rhino and spear the politico…

Public Announcement:Easter Cancelled in South Africa

In what has been described as another insane moment in South African politics, the government in line with its new policy of testing public tolerance to the limits, has refused to issue a Visa to the Easter Bunny who usually visits this time of year. Since Easter just wont be the same without the Easter Bunny, it has been decided to cancel Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday, for good measure.

Newly appointed government spokesman, Pu Forbranes (recently seconded by China to assist the SA government with the fallout created by the refusal to allow the Dalai Lama into the country) issued a statement late this afternoon that they did not want to draw attention away from the upcoming elections by allowing the Easter Bunny to visit. He was quoted as saying that “people with bunnies on their mind are liable to concentrate more on a certain other social activity, than on voting. For this reason it is imperative that we as government, keep any distractions away from the voters, until after we’ve secured their votes.”

Later, in a follow-up to the announcement, another ruling party bigwig was quoted as saying “…there should have been consultation…” It has thus been established that anyone who wishes to enter the country (also known as the government’s own little fiefdom) should first consult with the SA government, especially of it coincides with a big government sponsored or brokered event. The most probable pupose of the “consultation is to determine if you’re contributing materially to the government’s cause, or if you are a tin-pot dictator. If you’re not contibuting to government’s (personal) cause, you’re a detractor, a real obstacle to the ideals of bigotry which apparently, are worshipped in government circles. Alternatively if you’re an outright dictator, or even one with a questionable human-rights record, then you’re most welcome in South Africa.

This government is of the opinion that the population are all half-wits who need to be protected from “distractions.”  This government demands centre stage and efforts to divert attention away from their peculiar antics, will be frowned upon.  If you must enter the country at all costs, and don’t wish to be insulted by government interrogators, Home Affairs, Customs Officers, or the police, then please enter via Zimbabwe. It’s so much easier by road; ask the multitide of Zimabweans who are here already.