Monday, December 16, 2013

Lala kahle,Tata Madiba: now let us all Boo for Zuma

Grief ... and relief, for his release.
Now, after you've revisited , let us all Boo for Zuma.
Won’t someone please make a bumper-sticker? I'll buy a hundred of those, please!
- Kaartman, the Day After

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Red October Day, or Notes for a Novel #4: The Elephant

Mrs Kaartman and I moved to Plumfoot in 1977, more or less on the 60th anniversary of Red October Day [October 17th 1917], which in the light of recent events makes this an appropriate moment to winkle out the Elephant in the Room, the one hiding in the dusty shadows in that corner over there, behind the easy chair and wedged in between the sideboard and the broom cupboard, in my rather disjointed tale of Plumfoot.
There are two reasons for this, but the most important is that the rural child is still struggling to climb through the muddy footprints and the monumental turds that that great grey beast has left behind. Perhaps the less important reason is the denial, the frequent denial that the Elephant even existed at all or, if it did exist, it was really a rather benign uncle intent on good things but occasionally squashing something under its great feet, usually by mistake.
Ex-pres FW de Klerk recently found himself in trouble for daring to suggest that apartheid was not all bad. Our Xhosa-speaking one-day-a-week char looked at me in the eye after a recent spate of Khayelitsha stone-throwing and even more horrible things and said, “We need de Klerk back, things were much better then.” Every day on the Redi Tlabi or the John Maytham shows I hear someone calling in and saying, “Can’t we move one? Isn’t it time to stop blaming everything on apartheid and to address the future instead?”
Sadly, no. In this I find myself astonishingly enough in full agreement with that repository of corruption, hedonism and incompetence, that political pigsty, that South African disaster, the African National Congress. No, we cannot stop blaming apartheid any more than the world can forgive Nazism, and I have outlined my reasons below. First, however, we cannot simply let the ANC go scotfree, either.
In 1945 the world was confronted with the full horror, the destruction, the mass inhumanity of Nazism. I am not saying that Nazism was a greater Crime against Humanity than apartheid – can there be degrees of such a crime? – but it was certainly much more physically destructive and infinitely more murderous. Yet eighteen years on from 1945 (we are, as I write, supposedly eighteen years on from the death of apartheid) Germany in 1963 – both its Eastern and Western halves – had pretty much overcome the effects of Nazism. Not the memories, not the tragedies, not the irreplaceable loss of life, but there were few if no contemporary Germans still living under the yoke, the oppressive psychosis of Nazism in the 60s. Germany’s reconstructive success story highlights the ultimate failure of the ANC – for even though there have been great successes in the fields of housing, black economic advancement for some, etc etc etc, there has been a complete failure to address and overcome the fact that millions of South Africans, including especially the rural woman and child, live lives that are no better than they were before. The psychosis and the effects of apartheid loom everywhere large and pretty much unchanged.
“You can’t undo the legacy of hundreds of years of oppressive colonialism in two decades,” froth the ANC’s prime idiots as they hop into their luxury cars and bee-baa off to another function. What crap. Two millennia of anti-Semitism evaporated very fast in central Europe ...
One last matter to address before looking at some factual stuff. It’s often said that after WWII there were no more Nazis, just as after 1994 there were no more apartheid believers. So consider this: in 1981 82% of the voting White electorate voted for the National Party or parties to the right of it. That means that if every Afrikaner voted for apartheid (not proven), more that 50% of white English speakers voted that way too. Lots of those voters were between 18 and, say, 44 years old in 1981. Those are people who are 50 to 75 years old today. Are you telling me they’ve all died, emigrated or flown away? Yes, many if not most have had their own private Damascus Roads and do acknowledge how terribly wrong that all was – but nevertheless, there are few real innocents in this tale!
So, for the apartheid denialists, here are the facts about Plumfoot. I have taken Plumfoot as it was in 1983, on the eve of the tricameral constitution, an immoral mishmash that PW Botha tried to impose to entrench apartheid as a permanent feature of our country’s landscape. These are facts and you’re welcome to quote them next time one of those 50 to 75s suggests that apartheid was not all bad, or that it has gone away.

1. In 1983 the area of Plumfoot available for residential purposes was about 112 hectares in extent; the total permanent population was about 2450 persons. The White group area comprised 103 hectares and the permanent pop was approx 1100 persons. The Coloured (mixed race) group area was 9 hectares in size and housed approx 1350 persons. It’s worth noting that in that year the area allocated to Coloured persons had been increased from 6 to 9 hectares, and before 1994 it would be increased to approx 15 hectares. At best the Whites had about 0.1ha per person to live on – that’s about 1000 square metres, while the Coloureds had about a tenth of that – about 100 square metres and shrinking as their mainly-young population was growing rapidly.

2. In 1983 there were approx 1700 homes in the White group area; these included the part-time homes of holiday makers. All these homes had electricity and running water with flush toilets, at that time mostly using the septic tank and soak-away methods. Plot sizes varied from a small 300 sqm to acre-sized lots. About 95% of the streets were tarred. In the Coloured area, three streets out of twelve were tarred, two of the 212 houses had electricity, and eighty had flush toilets and running water. 210 houses had no electricity and 132 were on the bucket-toilet [night soil] system, with water available from a standpipe in the street.

3. Forty-eight White children attended the Plumfoot Junior School, which was situated on six hectares of land and included two playing fields and a school hall, and with a staff of five teachers [1:10 teacher/pupil ratio]. Four hundred and fifty Coloured children attended the Plumfoot Primary School, situated on four hectares of land with no playing field or hall, with a staff of nine teachers [1:50 teacher/pupil ratio]. In 1982 the PPS formally applied to the School Board of the PJS for permission to use one of their playing fields for a school athletics event. A vacant piece of land formerly used by the PPS had been built upon and so was not available. Councillor J.J. Roux [yes, I’ll name him, but I can’t shame him, he’s dead now] formally replied for the PJS that “the Coloured community have their own sports facilities” ... which was a blatant, bare-faced lie.

4. Although the Municipality provided health services to the whole community, the Municipal clinic was situated in the White area, five kilometres from the Coloured area where hardly anyone in that community owned a car. The clinic building provided separate but equal space for the two communities, which meant that the Coloured clinic was always slam-jam full of people and the White clinic was almost empty.

5. The Municipal Library was for the exclusive use of White persons and the Municipal Hall would only be hired to Coloured persons provided that only Coloured persons could attend the planned function, and no alcohol would be served.

6. Geography provided Plumfoot with two river estuaries and two beaches. All of these, including all Municipal camping and picnicking facilities within them, were reserved for the exclusive use of White persons ...

One could go on, but what’s the point? Apartheid wasn’t all bad, President de Klerk? Apartheid, sir, was nauseating, hateful, disgusting, dehumanizing, degrading, deplorable and a monstrous Crime against Humanity. And that’s a fact.

Kaartman, nearly Red October Day [the real one], 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mad Scientists

Watched a programme about Albert Einstein on DSTV the other day. The presenter was Brian May and, with the help of some rather overcooked cartoons, he gave a pretty sympathetic presentation. He did his best to explain e=mc², too, but it was a bit late into the evening and a good glass of red for that.
But May ever-so-nearly spoiled it all when near the end of his bit he dipped into quantum physics and, with barely-concealed glee, announced that Einstein was WRONG!
Now, May admitted that he himself didn’t understand a damn thing about quantum physics (nor do I, by the way), so he wasn’t really able to give us dummies a convincing reason why hairy Albert was in error, but that’s not the point, it’s his glee that concerns me.
Why does society at large take such pleasure out of trashing scientists (and hence by extension, science)? 
The answer might be that it’s because science whittles away at our most bullshitty perceptions, like the earth is flat or bad smells carry disease or all frogs are poisonous or Zuma is a great man or there are fairies at the bottom of your garden. We all like to live in a comfortable space where we don’t have to think about such things; in some instances we have made intellectual idleness, lassitude and pure sloth into such a collective virtue that we even call it Faith.
This is taken to such a level that even one of our favourite talk show radio presenters (I’ll just call him John) regularly takes great pride in the fact that he knows nothing about nor understands anything of science and scientific endeavours. He’s just one contributor to the mass dumbing down of our population, whose children have already shown in international surveys that we are almost the worst country in the world in our understanding of science.
At another level a majority of the population of what is reputed to be the richest and most advanced country in the world are apparently religious fundamentalists who regard science as something fairly close to Satanism. Oy vey, wither humankind?
What this enormous mass of clods don’t understand is that good scientists – I mean really good scientists, the kind who become Fellows of Royal Societies or Members of Advanced Academies – are the first to take delight in being proved wrong, because that is what science is really all about: it’s a quest for knowledge, a quest that will never end, only become (hopefully) better and better refined. New discoveries mean new knowledge, new ways of thinking, of putting bits together.
It’s always interesting to me that John the Presenter, the huddled masses of American evangelism, even the hirsute, turbaned cavemen in distant desert countries who plot the destruction of the Evil West, use cell phones, drive modern cars, fly in aeroplanes, wear artificial fabrics, imbibe medication, swipe tablets, hit keyboards, tarum tarum tarum, without a murmur, even though all these things are the direct products of science ... things invented by, and using principles worked out by, and using materials developed by, the descendants of the very same outjies who punted the unflat earth, the Earth rotating around the sun, evolution, e=mc² and, dare I say it, quantum physics ...

Kaartman, 9/11, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I’m not one for conspiracy theories; most of them represent some sort of denial of reality, like being an AIDS denialist, or a global warming / holocaust / man-on-the-moon one, that kinda stuff. 
But I listened when a very prominent former ANC-enthusiast (not surprising how all the really good people are becoming former ANC-enthusiasts these days) set out her thoughts upon Madiba and his present condition, a few days ago.
I’m not claiming that this is true, nor am I saying that I believe it or support it, either. I am merely the messenger here.
The downtrodden masses, the poorestofthepoor, those who rise up in daily service- delivery protests somewhere in our fair land, continue to vote for the government that has so woefully failed them for one simple reason, she said.
It’s not because they have voted for the ANC. It’s because they voted for Madiba.
This places the ANC in a quandary. There is an election in 2014, and as we all know our 96-year old Madiba has shown all the signs of fading fast.
So my former-ANC-enthusiast’s theory goes like this. Prize no. 1 in Elections 2014 is Madiba still alive and, well, not so well. Prize no. 2 is a massive State funeral and outpourings of National Grief as close to the elections as possible.
Any time after October 2013 will serve prize no. 2, she reckons.
I guess she should be considered a cynic. But then, show me a politician who is not a cynic, and self-serving one at that. Especially that fat-assed, conniving sex maniac gloating over his considerable spoils in the photo above.
Should one be surprised that Madiba is staring away, as grimly and as hard as he can, from that grossly-bloated pile?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Adspeak blow-off

There was an item on CapeTalk the other day, about how ghastly it would be if travellers on the Mango airline were forced to listen to ads on the aeroplane’s loudspeaker system. The talkshow host pointed out that you can mute your radio, but you can’t shut up the loudspeakers on a plane.
However, he then presented the usual limp-wristed response to listeners’ complaints about the truly idiotic ads carried by his station:
1. You can go listen to another station [what kind of argument is that, if you have a real interest in the stuff on his station?];
or 2. It’s our living, it’s what keeps the station going [which if you think about it is something of a contradiction of 1.].
What this man and his colleagues cannot, apparently, understand is how insulting it is to have to listen to the same crap ever half-hour for five years or more. There’s an ad for Timbercaw [that’s ‘caw’ with a ‘a’, gushes the half-witted lady who has apparently been desperately seeking T-caw all her life]. Can’t you persuade the cheapskates at Timbercaw to commission a new ad, CapeTalk?
But that’s not all. Lately there has been a rush of ads that are either so untrue or scripted in such bad English that they – and the station that carries them – deserve high censure.
First, their own ad. They recently ran one trying to persuade us to rush to False Bay to photograph killer whales [I kid you not – no, I don’t know what the hell for either!]. This ad carries the line “killer whales ... members of the orca family”. CapeTalk, killer whales are orcas. Your line means the same as saying [idiotically], “men ... members of the human family.”
Recently there was an ad for some snake-oil called Bimbosym D, or somesuch. “Our modern lifestyles are killing us,” pronounces a man who with demonstrable lack of candour claims to be a medical doctor. Of course they are, fool – everyone’s lifestyle is killing them. However, our modern lifestyles have ensured that we live one hell of a lot longer than we used to!
Then there is an ad for endangered ghost frogs [I think ... but who cares?]. It contains the winning injunction, “Animate life!” 
   CapeTalk, please. How do you animate the animate? And we thought your English was so good.
There is another that claims that “used printer cartridges are destroying our planet!” Have you ever heard such utter sh*te? If that is not an insult to our collective intelligence, then what is.
There is one for envelopes [envelopes? Why?] that contains the line, “So much for those  ‘Think before you print’ messages.” I challenge anyone in the entire media industry to explain what the hell that line has to do with the advertised product! It’s just pure idiocy!
Talk about dumbing down the population with verbal rubbish. Whatever happened to ‘Lead SA’?

– Grumpy Old Kaartman, June 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013


One of the great things about satellite TV is that you can pay a monthly fortune to be able to watch old movies that you last saw many years ago on free “Welfare” TV.
Thus it was that Mrs Kaartman dug out and dusted off “Never Cry Wolf” on M-Net, an almost-cult movie from 1983 starring Charles Martin Smith as a researcher who is dumped into the Arctic wilderness ostensibly to find out whether too many wolves are eating too many caribou. It’s based on the 1963 book by Farley Mowat and is memorable for the toasted mouse sandwich and pretty fine scenery. Back in the day our home-village of Plumfoot could only receive one TV station; the reception was so bad that naturally-snowy films were particularly popular. We were very fond of the movie for other reasons, too.

There’s a great line in the flick that became a regular part of the Kaartman family lexicon. Charles is explaining what he’s up to, to a toothless young Inuit, Mike [played by Samson Jorah]; every explanation Charles offers is met with a finely-accented, “Good idea.”
Mrs K and I settled down in front of the box for the recent re-run, our faithful hounds fast asleep as usual at our feet. Charles wandered off into the snow-covered wastes and, sure enough, before long somewhere a wolf howled. Years ago the small Kaartmannetjies were watching a cartoon, “The Hound of Castle McDuck” I think it was. There was a large luminous dog-thing, with lots of red glowing eyeballs and much passionate howling. While one of the Kaartman kleintjies [he was only eight, hey, a sensitive soul] hid behind the couch the then-Kaartman doglet Lucy [long gone] sat back and howled every time her improbable Disney counterpart did the same.
This led me to expect a similar reaction from Daisy and/or her older companion, Ruby, but neither pooch turned a hair. It was much further on into the movie that a scene of rollicking wolf-cubs, complete with suitable Wolf-baby whimpers and squeaks, flashed onto the screen. Daisy sat up and peered myopically at the images. The scene shifted to a lone, white wolf running from left to right across the screen. Daisy’s eyes followed the wolf; then, as it disappeared into the wings off right, she jumped up and trotted around the wall, into the kitchen, clearly in search of the vanished Canis lupus arctos.
Daisy watched the rest of the movie, our first-ever TV-besotted dog. Whenever the white wolves appeared she pricked up her ears. The brown wolf made her growl. When Charles-the-actor came walking over a distant ridge, she barked at this stranger. She made several trips into the kitchen in search of the disappearing figures. She was entranced.
Good idea ... Loomin’ hoomins ...
Daisy liked this ... disliked this
Whether Daisy dreamed of wolves that night we do not know, but the next morning there were further surprises awaiting us. As usual Mrs K and I took the dogs to Muizenberg for their customary dawn walk on the beach. There is a collection of Familiar Others who do the same, and many of them greet and are greeted. One of them walks a slightly aggro-looking bull terrier and, presumably because his animal is not well socially-adjusted, he and his dog stay up in the low dunes that fringe the beach. 
There we were, a few hundred metres along the sands, when the bull-terrier man appeared in the dunes, as he has often done before but without any reaction from Daisy. This time was different. Daisy had been watching “Never Cry Wolf”, a terrifying film about strange large dogs and unknown men who loomed menacingly over the skyline. Suddenly a man loomed menacingly over the dune skyline – exactly as Charles had done the night before. With a wolf by his side, nogal.
Daisy freaked. She clamped her shaggy tail firmly between her legs and ran – all the way down the beach and into the water. Further along the beach she kept really close to us, with frequent glances over her shoulder and jumpy jumps every time anyone else moved anywhere on the beach.
The lesson from this story is that not all TV programmes are suitable for dogs; some contain disturbing scenes for sensitive viewers. Next time we’ll have to put Daisy to bed before we watch a film.
Daisy asleep in front of the TV,
enjoying one of her favourite smells
Oh – by the way, Daisy has had a reprieve. She still has most of her unmentionable bad habits, but her extraordinary personality has won the day – and now we love her.

Kaartman, Mothers Day 12 May 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Doubting Daisy

Minnie, the thin Fat Dog, died not long ago. She’d been a great pup, but her time was up; our short-lived pets tend to teach us how to grieve – unless they’re parrots or giant tortoises or elephants, of course.
Minnie left Ruby behind, together with Dink the last of the Kaartman pets [see previous blog]. Rubes is a sawn-off rescue mutt who at times [when her hair is long] resembles a brillo pad. I acquired Ruby while Mrs Kaartman was overseas. On her return she studied Ruby, then famously asked, “Is that the best you could do?”
Is that the best you could do?
Minnie died and eight year old Ruby was left alone. She seized the day as street doglets will, and within a week had established herself as a sedate lapdog, moving swiftly from 5 to 7kg and hardly deigning to greet the postman any more. But we have always had two dogs, one older to teach the young ’un, one younger to jack up the older. To cut a long story short, it was not long before Daisy arrived.
Daisy is a rescue dog loosely described by the Authorities as a ‘boomer’, ie resembling something out of Dr Seuss. Hair, ears, feet, tongue, tail all over the place. She was lovely. Within a week she was thoroughly bonded, loved a cuddle, sat when ordered, completely house-trained, came when we called, chased a ball and always brought it straight back, got on with Ruby, barked correctly at the postman, sat up and begged for bones on demand.
But suddenly – in the last day or two – I am in doubt. Daisy has steadily dominated Ruby; now she chases her off the food bowl with violent snarls. She has attacked her over a bone, little harmless eight year old Rubes attacked by an eleven-month upstart. Daisy digs holes in the lawn. She swims in the vlei and comes home smelly ... but that’s not all.
She’s coprophagic .
Look it up. I can’t bear it, and I dunno how to stop it.
Suddenly Daisy has lost her sunny sheen. For me, anyway.
I am a dog owner in doubt. Daisy has been returned once before to the doghouse by a less-than-gruntled human. A second return means ... well, that she would probably be headed for the boneyard.
Do I owe her a life after just five weeks of pethood? Aren’t I more fond of deeply-cowed Ruby? Can I learn to live with coprophagia? What’s to be done?
I’ll have to think about it. Meanwhile, Daisy, be careful. Very, very careful.
As careful as a wild, feckless boomer can be.
Be careful, Daisy
Kaartman, Jan 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another Tortoise Tale

Amongst a plethora of dogs, snails, frogs, and hairy rain-spiders Chez Kaartman also hosts a tortoise, a small female rooipensie tortoise named Dink, aged about 28 years.
If Dink had a male tortoise he’d be called Humper. Humper and Dink could have been called Bert and Engel, but that subtlety escaped us when the naming occurred.
Like most tortoises Dink spends most of her day asleep in her bony house, emerging mornings and evenings for a cruise around eating mostly precious garden plants. Dink is something of a gastronome: the rarer and more difficult a plant is to grow, the more likely Dink is to eat it.
Not long ago Dink discovered that the Kaartmans enjoy summer breakfasts on the outside stoep. Summer is spaanspek time [spaanspek: a small, sweet melon. The name means “Spanish bacon”, alluding to the imagined breakfast diet of Iberians]. There is probably nothing as ravishingly delicious as a really good spaanspek, an opinion with which Dink clearly concurs. Roll out the spaanspek and she comes racing across the lawn, scrawny neck outstretched. At the edge of the stoep she fixes her black, beady eyes upon us and waits with chelonian patience for her bit.
Dink comes racing across the lawn
At a recent breakfast we offered Dink a slightly vrot nectarine instead. She attacked it with gusto, ripping the soft sweet flesh to bits with her sharp little beak, swallowing great gobs of it with peristaltic throaty heaves.
A slightly vrot nectarine
But a tortoise has a problem. Living in a bony box might be a good way of surviving falling objects, etc etc but it has certain restrictive effects. Like eating. You can’t gorge if you’re a tortoise. You can’t binge eat or bloat. You would literally pop, a messy way to go. Dink left the last bit of nectarine uneaten, pulled in her undercarriage and sank back in a sort of digestive daze.
It was at this point that we – some might say cruelly – pulled out the spaanspek, and offered a piece of its juicy skin to Dink.
Now, as you might know, rooipensie tortoises tend to live in dry climates where fresh water is hard to come by. Consequently they are able to store water in their bodies in a special bladder, and they have been known to live on this supply for up to a year without drinking. If you pick up a wild skillie it will wee all over you – it releases its water bladder to put you off and persuade you to leave it alone. Don’t pick them up – you may inadvertently kill them if they can’t replenish that water supply before they dehydrate.
Dink squared up to the spaanspek, but she was full. And that’s when a most extraordinary thing happened.
I have never read of this in any herpetological reference – please let me know if I am wrong in suggesting that Dink’s behaviour might be something of a new discovery!
Dink uttered a small, squeaky cry – the first sound from her that we have ever heard. Then she wee’d. Water simply poured out of her until she was sitting in a prodigious, smelly-ish puddle. She finished off with a pretty large defecation, too.
Space inside her box thus created, she consumed the spaanspek skin.
Sounds a bit like one of those Roman orgies, hay. The Romans made defensive “tortoises” out of interlocking shields – they called them “testudo” too [“tortoise”] – but whether a Roman testudo employed the same processes as Dink at orgies I cannot say.
I certainly hope not.

Kaartman Jan 2013