Monday, November 23

Johnny Clegg at Kirstenbosch

Some may remember passing mentions of the individual known as Johnny Clegg. He plays World Music, particularly, a meld of Zulu traditions with European styles (like Celtic). He's a pretty sweet guy, making good music and pissing off the Apartheid regimes of the 80's by playing interracial music with an interracial band featuring lots of protest songs.

Every summer, the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch holds a series of sunset concerts. Clegg opened for this year's season. Clegg was the first musical act I was introduced to when I arrived, and I have quickly become a fan. I've been to Kirstenbosch before, and it is a picturesque garden to be sure. However, I've never been for a concert, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
fucking ass hell I fucking hate lawn concerts so fucking much
 Shit! I hate sit-down-picnic-lawn concerts. I despise them more than life itself.

Please allow me to have a brief bit of your time to expand this hatred into one of my traditional rants. Premise: lawn concerts suck. Why do I think lawn concerts suck? Oh, let me tell you.

Firstly, if you don't realize it is a lawn concert, you also do not realize that everyone gets there early and sets up their huge blankets, propped chairs, and braai, because that's the only way to maximize your ability to be a huge asshole and take up as much prime space as possible. By the time I arrived (an hour before the start) there was not a speck of green grass showing under the blankets.

Secondly, because they've gone to all the trouble noted above, everyone just sits there the whole concert. By the end, people finally got into things and stood up. I think that most of them would have rather been sitting, but enough people were standing and blocking the view that critical mass was achieved and the chain reaction carried them all from there. However, once they began to stand, there was nothing to do but dance awkwardly in place. No pit, no mingling, no sense of... togetherness. This seems sort of important for the style and meaning of Johnny Clegg's music. And sure, I'm a little spoiled from being raised on Flogging Molly concerts.

Thirdly, everyone is a cut-throat about their space. In a pit, people are cut-throat as well, but there is no personal space and everyone knows that. In a pit, its an aggressive type of cut-throat; on the lawn, it is passive-aggressive. Everyone has some agenda or explanation to act unfriendly, whether it be kids or age or just longtime fandom and devotion. They will excuse away everything in the most lighthearted fashions, whereas in a pit, the word choice sounds more like "No, now stop pushing us, asshole."

Luckily for me I have been to enough concerts and understand how to best channel my own rage, so I did fine for myself. I sat myself down by the sidewalk and leaned up against a comfortable post. In exchange for finding a little extra room next to me to fit a kind Italian couple, I was offered a pad to sit on, and a glass of wine. This was my view of the stage:
this was a damn good view (below 85% of the audience) when some jackass wasn't choosing directly in front of me to dance with his fucking kids
..and that's all the pictures you get to see because someone involved with this concert forbid us to take pictures of the stage while the band was playing.

Thus far into the post, the setting has unfortunately overshadowed the music. This is because wild condemnation is much more interesting than thoughtful praise. And, that is all I've got for Mr. Clegg, I'm afraid. The music was great. Clegg had a great stage presence during and between songs - maybe all the South Africans knew the gist of his stories, but to an outsider they were quite thrilling and enlightening. I especially liked the strong saxophone element. I don't care what those darn critics say - the 80's got that right.

Anyway, here are some sample videos of the band:

This last clip is from a special concert in rememberance Nelson Mandela's decades long imprisonment on Robben's Island. My own story of the Robben's Island prison is interesting... and I haven't even been there yet! The tale itself ought to wait for that...

So the music was great, and despite being a lawn concert, I think I made the most of it.

Finally, I'd like to note my... numb surprise at the composition of the audience. It was about the same as the Daisies festival. This was interracial fusion music, but it was a bit depressingly white. For me, the most interesting guy in the audience was one of the ushers, a diminutive black fellow, who I could see soundlessly singing along with the lyrics while moving back and forth, directing people and keeping a an eye out.


Monday, November 16

The Discovery of a Lifetime

Some time ago, my South African friend, Billie, told me about this sandwich concept called a "Gatsby," which is popular in the Cape Town region and not really anywhere else in the world. The idea is that its a big old sub type sandwich except the bread is wider and its loaded down with french fries on the actual sandwich. First the layer of fries then the meaty substance of choice, cover it with some sauce, and throw some vegetables over all of it. Close the bread over it all and you've got a Gatsby.

I was very excited by the prospect of slobbering over a decadent mass of bread and meat, so Billie and I went off to find a gatsby place on Friday. They aren't so easy to locate, since the sandwich is more the product of the colored and black populations than the whites. Most white South Africans couldn't tell us anything about where to find a place, if they even knew what the sandwich was. "You'd probably have to go to the townships," one girl told us. Uh huh.

However, once we realized we were barking up the wrong tree, it wasn't too hard to find a vendor. I ordered myself a steak gatsby, which apparently means delicious Indian beef curry. It looked like this:
its like a fucking foot and a half long and about half as wide and holy shit oh shit shit
The photo, of course, does not do justice. A smell is worth a thousand pictures.

Then Billie offered to take pictures of me stuffing the monster into my face.

It was really tasty. Though I predictably felt a bit sick afterwards. I've since decided that I am allowed one gatsby per month, tops.

By the way, I am going to find a way to bring this delicacy to the States and start a restaurant chain which will be awesome, of course.

Wednesday, November 11

The True Meaning of Multi-Ethnic

When the results of a collaborative project between MIT and Stellenbosch studying the population genetics of a unique South African racial group shows up on PubMed, I really have no choice but to give it some attention.

First set of background info: in South Africa, there is a group of people known as "Coloreds" who make up about 9% of the total population, but in Cape Town, Coloreds make up a whopping 48% of the population. They are by far the largest demographic group here - second place goes to Blacks with 31%, and third is won by Whites, with 19%. The Coloreds are the result of hundreds of years of interbreeding between the whites who lived here (mostly Afrikaners), their slaves, and other random Africans who just happened to be hanging around. During Apartheid, the Coloreds were given more rights than the Blacks, but their lives were still made to suck.

So you've got this odd ethnic group which has developed over the past half millennium. I already described which groups historians think contributed to the Colored ethnicity, but it isn't a very satisfactory explanation when one wishes to ask such question as to just how much each progenitor race contributed to the formation of the Colored ethnicity.

Since creating a new race is not a particularly common phenomenon, it is an interesting thing to study. Understanding the genetic breakdown of colored South African DNA would arguably be helpful for understanding their medical conditions. Also, I think its a great case study which will become more and more relevant as mixed race breeding grows.

This was a descriptive study, and I like those because unless they're just flat out wrong (unlikely) they're just observations about how things are that we didn't know yet. All around useful stuff. Now that we know that the main contributors to the Colored race are (very very likely) Europeans, South Asians, Indonesians, and IsiXhosa relatives, one can make use of this information for medical purposes, cultural investigations, further racial foundation analyzes; all kinds of stuff.

Unless the methodology is severely flawed, and I haven't taken the time or obtained the expertise to check, then this is a solid paper.

Thanks to Dienekes over at his own genetics and anthropology blog for the link on this one.

Sunday, November 8

Elephant Stone

I went up to Silvermine National Park so I could hike to the Elephant Eye on Constantiaberg. I took many pictures.
Africa: The Mighty Ducks
Silvermine is located "way up" in the mountains on the cape where the European plantations never reached, so the native fynbos has survived there. Fynbos is apparently a biome unique to this small region of the world - found nowhere but along the cape.
Africa: Revenge of the Fallen Africa: The Clone Wars
It isn't too far of a hike (but I don't remember the actual distance since it was in kilometers...) from parking lot across the rocks and slopes of the Silvermine ridge to reach the Elephant's Eye. One has to cross the top of the valley (seen below) just above the tree line. Then, one will reach the lookout.
Africa: The Legendary Journeys
In my travels thus far, the lookout provided the perfect panoramic view of the Southern Suburbs, winged by the Cape Flats and False Bay.
Africa: Warrior Princess?
 Africa: Indahouse
 Africa: A Space Odyssey
 Africa: Diaboromon Strikes Back
From the lookout, the Elephant Eye cave is a relatively short walk, though the slopes are sheer and the path is not so wide. Fortunately, one is protected from falling by barbed wire fences. It is as if everyone in South Africa wants to have normal fences but the fence-makers only know how to make barbed wire.
Africa: The X-Men United
 There's nothing particular special about the above picture, but for some reason the perspective looks unnaturally warped to me.
Anyway, that's the eye. Why an elephant you may ask? Well, if you squint and turn your head a bit, it looks more like an elephant. This angle is key, though. It can be seen from several miles around if you know what to look for, but then it just looks like cliff side hole. Here, you can see the dome of the big head and the center rib of rock running past the right edge of the socket, which strongly resembles the start of a trunk.
Africa: Taking it to the Streets
The inside is really more interesting. Plants surround and fill the small cavern. It doesn't go very far back, unfortunately. Its been a long time since I've gone spelunking in some quality American caverns. I rather miss it.
I'm rather proud of this one, since it manages to feature the fynbos shrub on the side of the cave outline, as well as a slanting transition from sea to beach to town to forest
... and that was the key photo of the trip. Within the cave is a great spot to relax in the comfort of shade and listen to the climax of Fire Upon the Deep.
 Africa: Red, White, and Blonde
 On the way back, I got a glimpse at the mini-highlands of Silvermine, featuring the reservoir, a popular local Braai site.
 Africa:The Undiscovered Country
It looks like I'll be afforded many opportunities to go hiking in this region in the near future. I've unfortunately forgotten my camera when I've gone to Kirstenbosch and Camps Bay, but I know I'll be returning to these spots, so I'll be sure to properly photograph them then.

Friday, November 6

Extra notice

I recently was checking my statistics and found that my writings has been noticed by a South African bloke who I had the pleasure of seeing perform recently. His name is Warren Robertson, and he is was one of the guys doing stand-up at the Daisies festival. He noticed what I wrote about the comedy parts of the festival, and since I didn't have the presence of mind to mention it in the original post, I'll do it here.

I stopped by to see most of the improv portion which Warren talks about in his own Daisies Festival summary. It was a real pleasure to watch. Now being able to put the name to the face, I can verify that he (and all of them, honestly) was on fire. During the "Famous Last Words" segment I almost felt bad for the other comics since Warren was nailing the lines one after another. Great stuff.

I think I'll diverge onto a tangent, briefly. To me, improv (if it really isn't planned like they say...) seems to be one of the most impressive forms of comedy. I have seen some amazing improv shows and when they go well, I can't help but be amazed. This is a big reason why I kept coming back for more of Roadkill Buffet but not so much Plush Daddy Fly.

Anyway, Comedia put on just such a stellar improv show at Daisies. Kudos to Warren and the rest. I hope I'll get a chance to catch one of his shows the next time he comes down to the Cape. But enough gushing.

Related links:

Thursday, November 5

Field Report

if I had a million dollars \ I would buy you a monkey \ ... haven't you always wanted a monKEY?

I found this at the local market the other day. No way I could not buy it. The question is if I can ever bring myself so eat it. The package at least is must-save material. I spoke to one South African acquaintance about it, but I was left with a particular nagging question.

Is the sauce made from monkey or is it made to be used on monkey?

Sorry about the continued lack of updates and fixes - life is keeping things very busy. That just means there will be more and better material when I am afforded the opportunity to write it.

Monday, November 2


Firstly, I've added a disclaimer to the top of the sidebar. Please read it.

Secondly, I've been somewhat unsatisfied with structure and photos in many of the posts, so I'm looking at better ways to do my thing. In the meantime, I've removed some stuff for revamping so you guys don't have to see me mucking about trying out new things. Rest assured, the content will return, and continue.

And welcome to any new visitors! I hope you enjoy my writings.