Thank you Google


While visiting my cousins in Toronto back in 1995, they informed me that while they thought they had the best government in the world, they did not like the fact that their socialist democratic leaders had so much (collected) information on their citizens.

I remember thinking at the time that this was a good problem to have if your government was well, good. I actually did not see or experience anything during my lengthy stay there, which gave me any indication that the Canadian government was anything but good.

Fast forward 20 years, this is a kind of problem very few people in South Africa would like to have, considering that our current government is nowhere near good. In fact they’re leaning toward despotism. But I digress…

Google released their latest Transparency Report recently which shows that the South African government requested user data from them on 18 different occasions over a one and a half-year period, and they (Google) refused every single one. The requests also include the removal of content (presumably of a politically embarrassing or compromising nature) uploaded by users (citizens), from Google platforms.

Google 1, South African Government 0, Citizens WIN.

It’s extremely reassuring that Google upholds the values of freedom of speech, but whenever this government gets shown the finger, I find it personally satisfying.

So there you go, you prying kleptocratic fucks. I hope Google continues to give you what you deserve. Nothing!

Howzit my China!

As I was walking out of a supermarket this afternoon, a White dude coming towards me remarked “Howzit my China!” [A South Africanism which loosely translates into “Hello friend.”]

It took me more than ten seconds to respond with a “Hi.” And that was it. He went on his way into the supermarket and I back to my car, reflecting on my delayed response with an element of shame.

Why did it take me ten seconds to respond?

In that ten seconds, one of the first thought that came to mind was “Okay, what the fuck does he want?” And this is not the first time that I had felt that way, when greeted by a total stranger. But this is the first time I actually contemplated my reluctance to answer.

In South Africa, when greeted by someone familiar, the response is automatic, instinctual and prompt, but why when it’s someone you don’t know, there is hesitance and mistrust?

I remember being equally surprised while visiting Toronto in the 90’s and shopping with my uncle. While standing at the checkout line, I noticed how the cashier just got into spontaneous dialogue with what were obviously total strangers. This kind of thing hardly ever happened back home; I was more acquainted with just getting surly looks from cashiers.

I noticed the same thing on the street and the bus. People in Canada either knew everyone personally, or were quite comfortable with greeting and getting into conversations with total strangers. When I asked my uncle about it, and he answered that it was quite natural in Canada. And I suspected that it could well be quite natural in other first world countries too.

So why is it unnatural in South Africa? I really don’t know the scientific answer, but if I have to hazard a guess, it must have something to do with the harsh South African environment we live in where distrust of strangers is natural.

I recall a study conducted in the USA recently which indicates that people are increasingly becoming mistrustful (or was distrustful) of each other, or something to that effect. I suspect that if the study were to be conducted elsewhere in the world, there would be similar results. Again, it must have something to do with the parlous social, economic and political state of the world at the moment. One can just never be too careful.

But is this a good thing? In the short term, maybe it can save your life, but in the long term it is most certainly not a good place for the world to be in. How is it ever going to change?

Hell, if I knew the answer to that…

Death of a politician…

A politician died today.

Saw it on a Facebook status update. Jack Layton of Toronto, Canada, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party.

I off course didn’t know all this when I saw the status which just read “Rest in peace Jack Layton. You will be missed.” For a South African such as myself, accustomed to an entire lifetime of sleazy, self-serving, arrogant, thieving scumbags who pass for politicians, the thought that a politician could actually be missed, is both alien and repulsive.

It’s no wonder then that I commented “It’s a politician….good riddance I say…”

That’s when the status owner, my cousin replied that he was “…a man for the people.”

A man for the people? Yet again, it’s a concept that’s hard to accede to. Do such men (politicians) really exist? Well, if my cousin from Canada is to be believed or trusted, maybe. Either Jack has done some astounding work convincing Canadians, some at least, that he’s a good guy, or Jack is (was) really a good guy.

Unfortunately though, my South African – no my Continental – experience which feeds my cynicism, will not allow me to slip my guard, and allow one of these reprehensible cretins who create misery and suffering all over Africa, to get a foot in the door of my favour.

Goodbye Jack, perhaps I’ve been too harsh on you; but I’m hoping fervently that you’ll be welcoming many of Africa’s shitbag politicians to join you as soon as possible, starting with Muammar Gaddafi up North…

Hyperballad by Bjork

In 1995, on my first visit to Toronto, Canada I remember my cousin Anusha introducing me to an alternative rock band known as the Sugarcubes. By then, the band had already split up, but the lead singer sounded familiar; I had already heard that amazing voice before, on songs such as Venus as a Boy and Big Time Sensuality.

I believe Bjork’s incredible vocal abilities across multiple musical genres, became apparent when she went solo, and likewise, her gifted song-writing skills. Over the years Bjork has produced a string of hits and memorable songs; everyone seems to have their own personal favorite, but I think it would be damned hard for anyone to deny that my personal favorite, Hyperballad, features prominently among them.

Recently I came upon the song Hyperballad on YouTube which prompted me to find those hauntingly beautiful lyrics as well. I hope you’re as captivated as I am.


 We live on a mountain
Right at the top
There’s a beautiful view
From the top of the mountain
Every morning I walk towards the edge
And throw little things off
Like car-parts, bottles and cutlery
Or whatever I find lying around
It’s become a habit
A way to start the day

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

It’s real early morning
No-one is awake
I’m back at my cliff
Still throwing things off
I listen to the sounds they make
On their way down
I follow with my eyes ’til they crash
I wonder what my body would sound like
Slamming against those rocks
When it lands
Will my eyes
Be closed or open?

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you 

I’ve heard some versions of the song with the words “I imagine what my body would sound like,” instead of  “I wonder what my body would sound like” in the fourth verse.

And in other news, last night Bjork shared the Royal Swedish Academy of Music’s top music honour, the Polar Music Prize with composer Ennio Morricone, at a function in Sweden. At the event, pop artist Robyn, best known for the 90’s dance hit Show Me Love, bravely attempted a rendition of Hyperballad, which was not to everyone’s liking, but personally I think she did okay, considering the challenges that particular song poses. You can make up your own mind by accessing the YouTube post here.

The great sardine run, and a temple that glows in the dark

Now that I’ve recovered somewhat from my week-long sojourn down in Durban, it’s time to turn my attention to writing again with some things that caught my attention.

Kwa-Zulu Natal, on the east coast of South Africa, is famous for the annual sardine (alternatively known as a pilchard) run which usually occurs between June and July, but sometimes as early as May. In recent years however, the shoals which have beached in the past, have slowly dried up. There were huge catches in some odd years, but the general trend is that the “greatest shoal on Earth” is slowly becoming a no-show. This year was no different.

While sitting on a south coast beach, waiting with hundreds of other eager sardine-spotters, I pondered why the great sardine run is turning into the great sardine crawl in recent years. It’s really tempting to blame global warming, although how exactly, I have no idea. I overheard one guy on the shore say that the sardines are getting smarter. They’re learning how not to get caught. Who knows? He may be right. Evolution is supposed to be continuous after all. Well, I certainly hope they’re not getting smarter, because they sure make a tasty snack. And it won’t do, to hope it’s because of global warming either. That’s certainly not very smart.

On a slightly more significant note, well only just; last Friday evening while on my way to visit a cousin in my old hometown near Durban, I noticed some rather colourful, bright neon lights flashing up ahead on a hill. Thinking that it was some new club that had opened, I was rather taken aback to discover that they were in fact adorning a Hindu temple. Having followed the religion, many years ago before returning to Atheism, I’m used to Hinduism being rather conservative and dignified, well lacklustre really. This garish display of brightly flashing lights on top of a building that is revered by Hindus, is more reminiscent of a casino.

I actually burst out laughing at the time and afterwards remembered where I had seen such a phenomenon before: about two years ago I saw almost the same neon lighting display (although not in so many colours) on a modern building in Toronto, Canada, which could easily be identified as a church because of the large cross on the side of the building. Is this the way of the future? Religions trying to attract the noticeably dwindling flocks, with a casino-style lure? Or is it just a modern beacon for worshippers who have become lost? I wonder?