Saturday, November 15, 2014

The best they can do?

A Letter to Gwede

Mr Mantashe –

The ANC is supported by millions of South Africans. No one disputes that; the ANC won some 60% of the vote in the last elections. 
Nor can anyone dispute that within those millions there are probably at least a few murderers, a couple of rapists, some fraudsters, some thieves, some over-ambitious bigots, even some racists ... and people who could never be leaders in their own right.
And in the same way, none can dispute that within those many, many millions there are some born leaders, some people of enormous integrity, honesty and intellectual strength, some people disinterested in self-aggrandizement, people of exceptional moral stature, people with dignity and gravitas, people deeply concerned about their fellow-South Africans, who could work hard and selflessly for the common good without wishing for huge rewards for themselves. There might even be many thousands of such people in the ANC.

And yet you chose Jacob to lead you.

And your party is almost hysterical in its support of him.

Is he really the best you can do?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Afrika Day

Africa Day – the day that the old Organization of African Unity was founded, and from whence the dream of African Unity commenced. Lots of African leaders have endorsed that call, from that scumball Gaddafi to some quite honest people. But there’s a problem that no one in South Africa seems willing to address.
Given the ANC’s refusal to confront other African countries about their human rights abuses on the specious grounds that they cannot interfere in the internal affairs of another country, which of the following constitutional rights do you think South Africans will have to relinquish in order to see the continent united?
* gay rights [cf Uganda and many others]
* women’s rights [cf new legislation in Kenya]
* abolition of the death penalty [cf Botswana and most other African states]
* the right to form opposing political parties [cf Swaziland and several others]
* the right to religious freedom and freedom of belief [cf several North African states]
* the right to freedom of the media [cf Zimbabwe and lots of other states]
* the right to own land [cf several northern states]
Any answers, please? Or are we naively missing something?

Kaartman [ek is mos ook ’n Afrikaan, hay], Afrikadag 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hello Peter ... or why I stay in touch with a murderer

Back in the Dark Ages Mrs Kaartman and I faced a dilemma ... emigrate to escape the worst excesses of the National Party government and that finger-wagging fascist, PW Botha – or stay behind and do something, anything, to ease our white consciences and the lot of the dark skinned fellow citizens of our village, Plumfoot.
We chose the latter course and amongst other things helped to set up activities for kids, a reading room stocked with second hand books, clothing sales, school feeding, etc etc. It wasn’t much but we’re proud to think that we had a hand in some of the local success stories – kids who became senior building inspectors, curators of botanical gardens, senior scientists and horticulturalists. There’s an artist and a successful hiphop band in there too.
And a great number who just became ordinary local guys and girls, who married and had half as many kids as their parents had.
And a sprinkling who died of AIDS-related causes.
And some who became abalone poachers, drug runners and gangsters.
And murderers.
Randall – not his real name – appeared on our radar at about the age of seven. He was a mildly FAS child – foetal alcohol syndrome, to those who don’t know, a syndrome caused by excessive drinking during pregnancy that results in some arrested development, especially mental.
Randall’s small size and general shortage of grey matter were not his fault.
Randall had an older brother who had been spared the ravages of his mother’s frequent visits to the papsak store, a complex kid nonetheless who sheltered his klein boetie as much as he could from the vicissitudes of life.
Finally, Randall had a father who was shot dead by a gangster from Cape Town, who mistook Randall’s father for his real target. Dialled the wrong Number, so to speak.
Randall’s father’s death wasn’t Randall’s fault, either.
Things were not good at home and eventually Randall and his brother ran away. There weren’t many places to run to in Plumfoot, population 2013, so they ended up at Chez Kaartman on a dark and stormy night.
Waifs, we called them, and we must have dealt with about thirty over the years. We took Randall and Grootboet in, and sent a message to their mother. Hoping she was sober, of course. We also called the social worker, a useless piece of work who was only in it for the salary and the free GG car – I’ll call him Mr Blank, an apt shortening of his real name. They arrived more or less together at Chez K. Mr Blank tried to persuade R and G to go home, while Mama R n G screeched at them. Finally, she klapped Randall over the head with a broomstick, the clincher for the wavering Mr Blank. He took the brothers off to a Children’s Home in the Big City.
Randall’s unhappy home and placement in a Children’s Home were not his fault, either.
R n G did their statutory time in the Home, and then returned to Plumfoot to the tender care of Mama. They were a bit older now, even if Randall was none the wiser, and they’d learned a bit of street fighting by then, so they coped a bit better than they had before. Grootboet eventually got himself a steady job, married and had a coupla kids.
Not so Randall. Ill equipped to face life without the guidance of Grootboet, who now had other things on his mind, he drifted into petty crime. He wasn’t any more skilful at that than anything else and spent a lot of time in jail, and eventually he murdered someone.
‘Hello Peter,’ said the familiar voice on the phone. 
‘Ag Peter, man, ek is in die groot moeilikheid – I’m in trouble, big trouble. I got 20 years.’
I’ve never learned the circumstances of the case – I’ve not wanted to know. It was the next line that got me.
‘When I come out, will you give me a job?’
I was stunned – then laughed. ‘Of course,’ I said. “You can push me around in my wheelchair, I’ll be so old!’
There was silence, then he laughed, too. 
He wanted stamps, so he could write to his mother – and a few bucks for himself. He promised to try to do something good in prison – he’s in ‘maksimum’, he tells me.
What could I say? He has no past. He has no present. He has a tiny ray of future light, that won’t really shine until he’s 55 years old. He has few friends and absolutely no admirers. Very little is his fault, except for one single importunate act, probably committed when he’d dulled his damaged brain with drink or drugs.
But he’s a human being whom I remember as a tiny child. I owe him nothing but a memory and, when I hear that hesitant, croaky voice, ‘Hello, Peter’, my reply.

Kaartman, Freedom Day, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

The unimportance of being Oscar

I have to thank Linda Martindale for this blog. I don’t know Linda, but her letter to the Cape Times – also read on air by Cape Talk’s John Maytham – put recent media stuff in proper perspective for me. If you ever see this blog please contact me, Linda - I’d like to thank you personally. Your letter follows – I’ve changed nothing but some punctuation that the Cape Times mangled.
– Kaartman, Maart 2014.

Call me Murder Mystery Grinch if you like, but I am already tired of the court case that is oozing into every channel of media known to me at present. I am not even going to mention its name. 
Not only am I weary of the case and all the information that goes with trying to prove a man guilty or innocent, but I am done with all the analysis of the case at issue, and yes ... I am even tired of the analysis of the analyses.
I do not want to follow what the victim had for supper – even though it may be relevant to the man’s demise. I don’t want to follow every word spoken in court. And I don’t want to get sucked into the sick voyeurism of watching a broken person face the distressing knowledge and consequences of his actions, regardless of what led him to them. 
I want to find out at the end of the trial what the verdict is and how they came to that conclusion. That a woman died that night does matter to me. But I don’t want a sensational, blow-by-blow account of the evening in question, or the trial.
What I do want to know more about is how a 6-year old South African citizen with his whole life ahead of him, died in a pit toilet when at school getting a start to his education. I want a blow-by-blow account of how that came to be.
I want to know how a child lost his life drowning in a slush of faeces and urine, and why only now the school will get flush toilets.
Well, if I am truly honest, my breaking heart would rather hear about neither – but if I have to face reality, which I do as an engaged, mature adult citizen and believer, then at least let me hear about the one that we can prevent in the future, that is more directly linked to our past, and that is an injustice on a level that is incomprehensible in a country with the kind of resources that we have.
I know I won’t get what I want in a classist world obsessed with fame and fortune, but I am going to put it out there anyway.
A young boy died the most traumatic and horrible death imaginable. And it has barely made the news – while I duck and dive the incessant talk of beautiful people’s tragedies so public and all consuming – my heart is broken for a mother who lost her son.
And for our country who lost a child – and does not really seem to notice enough to ask why? How?
Not only did we lose another innocent child, as we have recently in gang war crossfire and other traumatic cycles of violence, but we lost a child because of a makeshift faulty “toilet” at a school.
This is not as complicated or linked to complex cycles that are (or are not) being addressed – or mysterious circumstances hidden. No, this is perhaps a simpler one in a complex world of inequality. This should be where the minimum of care and development starts – at school and its sanitation.
This is the raw face of poverty and injustice ... and the disconnect and division that makes the media think, and probably rightly so, that we, the citizens, care more about a public murder tragedy than a child who spent hours trying to claw his way out of his classmates’ poo, before breathing his last breath.

Linda Martindale,

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some People are more People than other People

The People’s Trail
Some years ago Kaartman wrote an article for the ‘Argus’ about the Muizenberg–St James Catwalk, one of the prettiest and most accessible-to-all walks in the whole of Cape Town. It wasn’t the article itself that got me into trouble, it was the title given by the Argus sub-editor, ‘The Trail for the People’ [see blog post at Maps for Afrika].
It turned out that the then-Head Honch of the Table Mountain National Park [hereinafter ‘HH’] had in his infinite wisdom opened the Orange Kloof–Disa Gorge path [it leads up the back table of Table Mountain] to a select group of people. Sorry, should be People, with a big P. He’d called his path the People’s Trail, and now here was that damned reactionary Kaartman misleading the public by referring to a very different path as the ‘Trail for the People’.
Don’t get me wrong. I have always supported, with every fibre of my being, the political change in my country that was sealed in 1994. I absolutely agree that the massive injustices of the past should be addressed – and certainly not fiddled with and exploited as the present governing party is doing. I agree with a level of affirmative action, and I think it was a great idea to open up a very specially-beautiful path so that groups of previously-disadvantaged South Africans could be introduced to Table Mountain, a natural Wonder of the World. The path was originally intended to be used exclusively for such people [the project has since largely collapsed], and HH, bossman of the Park, named it ‘The People’s Trail’.
Now I know that in his own favourite political party, the SA Communist Party, HH is considered to be a Stalinist. Perhaps that’s the reason why he adopted the false, misleading and cynically inappropriate language of his political heroes. We all know what the People’s Democratic Republic of this and the Democratic People’s Republic of that has meant for the real people, in modern history. Calling a trail designed for exclusive use by anyone ‘the People’s Trail’ is not just cynically and linguistically incorrect, it’s just plain stupid [and probably unconstitutional too!]
However, my three-map set of the Table Mountain National Park is officially approved by Sanparks, so doubtless HH thought he exercised some authority over me. I was duly summoned to his office at Westlake. 
I went like a lamb, thinking that the meeting was about an entirely different matter. I was completely unprepared for what followed. HH was tight-lipped as he offered me a seat. He then launched into a verbal attack the likes of which I have not had from anyone since I was a school boy [army sergeants used to shout at us National Servicemen, too, but that was merely funny]. Puce in the face and with spittle-flecked lips, HH demanded that I retract the article [recall an entire edition of the Argus?] and publish a public apology!
Well, I didn’t think I had to put up with this kind of bullying rant from an hysterical man who was half my age and who had plainly mislaid a lot of his marbles, so I turned my back and walked out. He was still shouting, in front of his whole staff, as I drove away.
I fully expected a childish form of revenge, like a retraction of approval for my maps, but events happily took a different turn. A few days later the Kaartmans were bidden to an event at which the Minister of Tourism was to be present.
Widely known as the Last Fat Nat, Marthinus van Schalkwyk was of course the previous bride-to-be who jilted the DA at the altar, anticipating Ramphele by some twelve years. He took his apartheid-party, the Nats, into the ANC instead, but most of his followers in fact preferred the DA; from that very day the ANC’s support has steadily waned, while the other guys have tended to increase theirs.
But I digress. Moments before the Minister wobbled onto the podium we were recognised by a lady who happened to be standing there next to – you guessed – the Head Honch of the Table Mountain National Park himself. Before his very eyes she, the wife of an old acquaintance of ours and the mother of a couple of Mrs Kaartman’s school pupils, swept off the stage, planted a large kiss on my cheek and proceeded to smother Mrs K with loving and super-friendly hugs n kisses.
HH recognized us too, of course, and he stood glued to the podium with glaring eyes, flinching at every hug. The lady, her affections duly disbursed, returned to the stage where to our surprise she stood firmly at HH’s side, her fingers unexpectedly entwined in his. As we later learned from two ex-colleagues of HH who were also in the crowd, it turned out that the lady and HH had both recently abandoned their respective husbands, wives and children and were now sharing the same sack, so to speak. In front of his very eyes HH had seen the reactionary bastard who had turned his back on him and walked out on his maniacal tirade, being kissed and cuddled by no less than his brand-new squeeze.
We never heard any more of the matter and, happily, HH has long since gone away to bully people somewhere else. Even more happily, the People’s Trail still leads from Muizenberg to St James, and it’s open to all people, both the big P’s and the little p’s.
The HH and his squeeze could also try it some time, if they’re still a number.
Or even if not. After all, it’s open to All the People, whatever lusts they might harbour. 

Kaartman, February 2014 [the ‘Month of Love’?]

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