Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Not Funny

“And the more we fought, the more irritated I was by certain aspects of his behaviour and his appearance.”

“For example?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Little things; stupid things.” I thought she didn’t want to elaborate. Maybe it was too personal, or too painful. But after a while she resumed. “Like the smell of his piss on the toilet floor.”

“Most men tend to splash,” I said. “Especially those with a foreskin.”

“I know. It’s revolting. And he expected me to clean up after him, with my bare hands.”

“Filthy bastard,” I said. From the hard look she gave me, she probably thought I was being flippant, so I hurried on. “It ties in with what you said about him having no respect. And his appearance? What irritated you about his appearance?”

“Well, he’s overweight, isn’t he? I never used to imagine I’d be with someone who was fat.”

“Mmm,” I said.

“And there was something about the back of his head,” she said.

“The back of his head? What was wrong with the back of his head, for Christ’s sake?”

“It was kind of flat,” she said. “It made him look like a moron.” Anger and tears came to her eyes. “That fucking bitch mother of his must have caused it when he was a baby.”

“What? How could …?”

“Don’t you know how soft a baby’s skull is? If you neglect a baby and leave it lying on its back too much, it can affect the eventual shape of its head. Haven’t you heard about that? Damn you! You think what I’ve been going through is funny? I knew I couldn’t …”

“No, please! I’m not laughing at you. Really. It’s the situation that I find absurd, and you know how I relish black comedy and the way absurdity allows us to cope with the tragic by making it comic. Talking about the shape of his head made me think of the Phrenologists. Heard of Phrenology? You watched Django Unchained? Remember that scene where the plantation owner produces the skull of one of his Negro slaves and starts pointing out the characteristics that prove – in inverted commas – that Africans are predisposed to certain qualities. Like subservience. Which means it’s all right to have Negro slaves. Total bullshit, of course. But in the nineteenth century this pseudo science was used to explain and justify all sorts of dubious practices. Your linking of the shape of his head to his mental capacity just struck me as …well … absurdly phrenological.”

“I know it’s all ridiculous,” she said. “But it’s too soon for me to find it funny.” And she started crying again.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

God Again

I was sure he would be back and, lo and behold, there he was, shaking me out of slumber like he had no respect for my basic human right to a sound night’s sleep.

“Now listen good,” he said. “If you don’t get it this time, then fuck you, and you can live with the consequences, because this is your last chance. I’ve got better things to do with my time than …”

“Alright, alright,” I said. “You don’t have to shout. I’m awake and I’m sober. And I’ll write it down when you’ve finished.”

He then delivered a short lecture on story structure. I had heard it all before, from other sources, but I jotted down the main points anyway. We tell stories to find meaning and impose order on the world. (Yawn.) All good stories contain a protagonist, an antagonistic force, an inciting incident, a crisis, a climax and a resolution. (Formula for the Hollywood dreck cocktail, without the alcohol.) The universal narrative pattern consists of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Or flaw, challenge, resolution. (Ho-hum.) He prattled on about the basic elements of a good story.

“Where’s this going?” I said, interrupting him.

“Going? It’s probably going nowhere on account of your mulish nature,” he said. “Listen, Sonny-boy, I’m trying to advise you on how to write something that will actually sell.”

“I’ve got no problem with the formula,” I said. “Who says I’m trying to find a new formula?”

“Look,” he said, “I was about to tell you that although the formula is essential, there is more to it than that. A satisfactory story must also fit into a certain moral scheme.”

“Oh, like good triumphs over evil?” I said.

“Exactly,” he said. “But that needn’t confine you to happy-ever-after endings.”

“Huh!” I said. “Just so long as I put in some shit about the indomitable human spirit?”

“Right. People don’t want to be told they belong to a despicable species of animal and there is no purpose to their sordid existence. They want to be reassured that all will be well,” he said. “And they want to be entertained.”

“Ah, man!” I said. “Basically, what you’re telling me is that I should write what the vast majority of readers want, and that is genre kak.”

“And what’s wrong with genre kak?” he said. “If you’ve got a good plot, like I have just outlined, and you create interesting, three-dimensional characters, you can do a lot with genre kak. And it sells.”

“Okay,” I said, getting back into bed. “Thanks for the great advice, but now I must be getting my shut-eye. Please let yourself out the way you let yourself in.” And I turned over and went back to sleep.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Ever Heard Of An “Other Coloured’?

Fifteen years ago, there was no way you could have bought two prosthetic limbs for just R549.95. So it’s a bit misleading when I say I paid an arm and a leg for this book in 1998. But that is how it felt at the time, and I was afflicted by both guilt and resentment at shelling out all that moolah for a single volume. Yet I have never regretted the acquisition of A Dictionary Of South African English On Historical Principles. The price has turned out to be trifling, considering all the information I have gleaned from this book over the past decade and a half.

Just the other day I heard someone refer to a tortoise as a padloper. Ah, I thought to myself, I must look that one up when I get back. And I did indeed find an informative entry in the dictionary. However, on the way to P, my eye was distracted by something under O. Other Coloured? I had to stop and read it.

other coloured ppl adj. phr. and n. phr. Hist. Freq. with initial capitals. [See COLOURED.]
A. ppl adj. phr. Of or pertaining to a person who, during the apartheid era, was defined as ‘Other Coloured’ (see quot.1959) in the system of race classification. See also COLOURED ppl adj.
1959 Govt Gaz. Vol.195 No.6191, 11 Other Coloured Group: In the Other Coloured Group shall be included any person who is not included in the Cape Coloured Group, the Malay Group, the Griqua Group, the Chinese Group, the Indian Group or the Other Asiatic Group, and who is not a white person or a native as defined in section one of the Population Registration Act, 1950. 1971 [see CLASSIFICATION]. 1989 Frontline Apr. 32 In my family there were brothers classified ‘Cape Coloured’ and others classified ‘Other Coloured’, which caused a problem because the ‘Cape Coloureds’ were supposed to be the real thing. 1991 B. ROBERTSON in Sunday Times 14 July (Extra) 8 There were
many children of Oriental sailors and white prostitutes who were brought to welfare agencies ... The seamen were classified honorary whites and their offsprings were classified ‘Other Coloured’.
B. n. phr. One who, during the apartheid era, was classified as a member of the officially-defined ‘Other Coloured’ group, a sub-group of the ‘coloured’ group in terms of the POPULATION REGISTRATION ACT. See also COLOURED n.
1978 Drum June 79 The offspring of a coloured guy and a black girl would usually be classified as an ‘other coloured’. I say usually because there are some cases when the child is able to choose whether he wants to be classified as coloured or black.

One tends to forget what it was like living under apartheid, which is understandable but not wise. It is better to refresh the memory, now and again, by reading entries such as this one. It is then possible to keep within one’s grasp just how insane apartheid was, and how intellectually and morally deranged its architects and supporters were.

I am inclined to believe that by keeping an eye on human idiocy in the past one is better able to recognise lunacy that is endorsed or overlooked in the present. Like today’s
neoliberal economic dogma that condemns millions of people to unnecessary unemployment and poverty, while a small minority are able to amass excessive wealth for themselves and their families. As was apartheid, this too is a crazy system and one day it will be looked back on with disbelief.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Baboon Talk

It is widely known that the baboon is capable of speech. Naturally, people of European descent do not accept this as fact, and treat the claim with scorn. That no white person has ever been able to engage a baboon in conversation does not, however, prove that baboons are unable to speak. What it means is that baboons are unwilling to reveal their verbal capacity to non-Africans.  It was decided a long time ago that it would not be in the primates’ interest to learn to communicate with European settlers. But many baboons are fluent in at least one of the Bantu languages, depending on the geographical distribution of their troop.

To explain this selective reticence one must go back to the time when Europeans first set foot in Africa. Baboons were able to observe the interactions between the indigenous people and the new arrivals, and soon it became clear that the newcomers were intent on simultaneously enslaving the people and exterminating the animals of Africa. The baboons were faced with a dilemma. Should they reveal their true cognitive potential and make themselves useful to the settlers, thereby gaining some degree of protection, or should they continue to act dumb in order to avoid the degradation and humiliation being suffered by the blacks, and as a consequence face decimation?

It was a difficult choice to make, but the cruelty of the colonists in the way they subjugated the blacks, drove them off their land, and condemned them to a life of menial labour and poverty, convinced the baboons that the risk of annihilation was preferable to the ignominious fate imposed on the blacks. They vowed to conceal their speech faculty and successfully avoided being put to work by the whites.


The intention behind this fable is ambivalent, especially if read in the context of present day South Africa. Yes, the European is portrayed as an invader whose inhumanity is evident to all, even the animals. But there is a hint of self-deprecation here too. If the baboons were smart enough to dupe the colonists, why were the people of Africa,who are surely smarter than baboons, not able to resist foreign domination in the first instance, and, more disconcertingly, how is it that they have not been able to close the social and economic gap between the black majority and white minority? Even after nineteen years of liberation, democracy and political ascendancy? Maybe this story supports the suggestion that Africans continue to think like victims and remain hamstrung by a misplaced sense of inferiority.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Coming And Going

She came back a second time. By then we both had Chlymidia.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sexy Story

The bitch left me, came back to give me Chlamydia, and then fucked off again.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Gatekeeper Attacked

Most security work is fraught with danger, and gate keeping is no exception. On 17 April David Tyfield was brutally attacked while on duty at the entrance to the Genuine Poets Society. He had just turned away a rowdy crowd of rappers, street artists and performance poets led by Aryan Kaganof. After being knocked to the ground, Tyfield was severely beaten by his assailant, robbed of his credentials, and left for dead. His attacker, later identified as Andrew Miller, is still at large.
Speaking from his hospital bed, David said he was through with gate keeping. “I’ll probably look for a job as a car guard,” he told the press.

“Remembering Stephen Watson. A legacy at risk” David Tyfield SLIPNET
“Poetry matters (even when you don’t like it)” Andrew MillerDAILY MAVERICK