My absent-minded journey to Fargo

Did you see me on Fargo last night? Here’s the long path I took to get there.

My first serious acting gig was when I was eight or nine years old. I was to play the absent-minded professor, a major character in one of those end-of-year school productions where every grade had to put on a play.

Usually, school plays were a series of songs and badly arranged set pieces, with the goal of participation, as opposed to individual performances.

Shortly before it opened (a term I use loosely, since it was a one night only affair), I was kicked off the cast. I couldn’t remember my lines.

Ironically, over 30 years later, I still remember one of them, where I say, “And that’s why I always talk like this”.

During one of the dress rehearsals in front of the school, where I sat unceremoniously in the audience, I remember being able to talk along with my understudy enough lines to feel wronged by the teacher’s decision to kick me out.

As time went on, I really enjoyed the acting part, but not the dancing, and definitely not the learning of lines. In sixth grade (which we called Standard Four), my parents contributed a significant percentage of the script for my school play. A series of limericks would form the foundation of our production, with songs stuck in between. It was glorious. Since it was “my” play, I was given the opening limerick:

An intrepid inspector Hall Green
Could catch any man most mean
By ten to nine
He could stand in line
Several peaches and a dollop of cream

This isn’t particularly funny, and if the audience doesn’t know what to expect, it won’t get a big laugh. We used to have, on South African television, a crime watch show called Police File, presented by David Hall Green. It generally followed the 8pm news. Associated with the show was a captain of the South African Police, Fred Peach, whose most quoted line was “keep ’em peeled”.

Like I said, not that funny. I’d look at it now and say it was too clever for a primary school play.

After my opening limerick, Gary Jack, star cricketer even at our young age, would follow with:

And then there’s the epic called Dallas
With J.R., ever so callous
The bulk of his weight
Plus ten percent hate
Could treble the meaning of malice

Now that’s funny. Gary always got a bigger laugh. Even back then I wanted the laugh. I craved that attention.

I switched from theatre to music in high school. I joined the choir and was a tenor. We had some minor success. Then I left boarding school during my second year there and turned my back on performance for 14 years.

In what must have been tenth grade, my English teacher tried to get me to audition for the school production. It was a much bigger affair in high school, and they would bus in some girls from the local schools to perform with us.

I literally laughed in his face when he suggested I should audition.

Sorry, Mr van Niekerk, but I was worried I would get bullied even more, for doing gay stuff like acting and singing.

I finished school at the end of 1994, six months after my father died, and drifted for many years, always attracted to the limelight by that thrill that comes from people laughing at what I said.

One of the boys in my grade twelve class wrote about me in the school yearbook “[But] Potter was weird anyway”, as if this was a good way to be remembered. Weird. Different. Years later I was finally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which explained everything.

There was a brief moment in 1996, in the six months I attended Rhodes University, when I thought I might get back into dramatic arts. What I didn’t expect was the suicidal depression I experienced, mostly a delayed reaction to my father’s death, but also because I realized I was queer, which alienated me from a lot of friends. So I left.

I drifted, always attending plays, musicals, concerts, picturing myself up there on stage. Picturing myself on television.

My friend Gereth introduced me to Little Shop of Horrors, which is my second favourite musical behind Chicago. My mother introduced me to Rocky Horror. I discovered Chicago all on my own with the wonderful film adaptation starring Renée Zellweger. All the time that feeling that I could sing Richard Gere’s part. That could be me up there.

In 2005, I was living with Housemate Chris. We had lived for a few years in a commune previously, when I was still living with my first boyfriend, along with Dylan (a friend I met at Rhodes). At one stage I think there were five of us in the house and cottage, and only two were actually sleeping together.

Dylan and Chris were involved in a community theatre called Franklin Players, and I still don’t know why I felt compelled to audition for a show, but I did. Perhaps it was Chris, perhaps it was Dylan, but I ended up auditioning, and of course landed the lead role in a one-act play called Mac The Knife, a spoof of Shakespeare, centred around Act 3 of Macbeth, with bells on.

I say “of course”, not to sound flippant, but to say how unexpected this was. I was hoping for a small piece in one of the sketches, perhaps reading for the narrator, I just wanted to be involved at some level.

It turns out that I was still bad at learning lines. But Shakespeare is equally unforgiving and unforgettable. We changed one line of mine from the original script (yes, William Shakespeare’s script), and I wore leather pants and spoke with a lisp in my most flamboyant role ever. It was beyond words, and the audience laughed every time I made my entrance.

It has been twelve years since I rediscovered my love for theatre. In that time, before leaving for Canada, I stayed with the Franklin Players for four more years, coming back in early 2010 to help Chris co-direct a one act play.

In those four years I won some awards, but more importantly, I made friends, I created art, and I entertained audiences. I loved the work and loved the scene and realized that next to teaching, theatre is my favourite thing to do.

Canada was an interesting move. We ended up first in Lloydminster, and I joined the Vic Juba Community Players. In the first year, I played the Bishop of Lax in See How They Run, and then Ally in Hands Across The Sea.

When we moved to Calgary, I started going by Randolph West professionally, because I hate my legal surname. However, I had to wait to do anything in front of an audience, because I broke my foot just before the summer in 2013, so I missed out on the first year of acting opportunities.

Then in 2014 I auditioned for and got the lead in Move Over, Mrs. Markham, with Morpheus Theatre. Glorious. My co-star in that, Steve Gomori, had been in a few on-camera roles, so I asked him about the industry, agents, and all the rest of it.

In early 2015, I attended a weekend workshop called Audition Hell, with Peter Skagen, on the advice of another Mrs. Markham fellow cast member, Christopher Heatherington. There I met a number of people with whom I am still in contact, including Anna Mae, my associate in a small production company we have founded.

In 2015, through sheer grit and determination, we shot four episodes of a web series. What I didn’t realise then is that someone needs to edit them, and we’ve been busy. You know how you read about development hell? Postproduction is hell too, especially if you don’t have money.

Before the web series, though, before anything, Anna Mae invited me to take part in the Calgary 48-Hour Underground Film Festival. Her friend Shaun Pulsifer was spearheading their entry, and I had my on-camera debut in a supporting role in Unhappy Endings, a short film about a really bad cult.

Still in 2015, a Facebook audition notice caught my eye, and I acted (in a small role) in my first independent feature film, called Imitative Magic.

Before 2015 ended, though, Christopher Heatherington invited me to work with him on what turned into two short films about an Arizona radio station (I acted in the first one and directed the second), which has had some success on YouTube. The first, The Winner, was about a lottery winner, and the second, Sancha’s Cause (Is Coming To Town) was about a Mexican public relations guru who was running Donald Trump’s election campaign.

In between all of this, I had been part of the Calgary Men’s Chorus with my husband. In December 2013, I was invited to join because they were one performer down for a January concert, and I had booked my ticket to go with them and watch anyway. So that’s how two South Africans ended up singing in Carnegie Hall, with over 200 male voices, about the American Civil War.

The Calgary Men’s Chorus had a phenomenal artistic director, JL Bleau, but he stepped down in 2015 (the current artistic director is equally gifted), and I was getting tired and needed a rest from it. I decided to stick it out with them until they went to Denver in 2016 for the big GALA Festival, but left at the end of the season and haven’t returned.

The fact is, there was no way I could do as much theatre and on-camera work if I was also in the choir and doing voice acting.

Voice acting? I’ve been with the Voice Acting Power Squad for almost two years now, doing noises for independent video games. I’ve even been paid for some of them. I love voice acting so much. Growing up I had been a huge fan of the Looney Tunes and other cartoons, and discovered Rob Paulsen‘s podcast in 2010. He made me realise that I could be a voice actor, that I had the experience from my theatre days, and that acting is acting.

2016 was mostly preparation for Denver, though I did shoot a teaser for an independent film, where my character Malley is killed in the opening scene (Day Job), and then in the summer I landed a supporting role in another Morpheus Theatre production, as Detective Troughton in Run For Your Wife.

Despite being a supporting role, I still had 200 lines in that play, so when the creator of Imitative Magic, Blaise Kolodychuk, invited me to work with him again in 2016 on what turned into my second feature film, Night of the Shadow People, I admittedly was reading some of my film lines off cue cards.

If that’s not channelling Marlon Brando, I don’t know what is!

2017 got off to a slow start. I wasn’t in choir, I wasn’t in any theatre productions, so I helped produce a Morpheus play called Skin Flick, directed by Alice Nelson. It was a great little play and I am happy with how it turned out. My co-producer and I got on very well together and we may co-produce in future.

I did have to turn down a directing gig for Morpheus in 2018, because my husband and I are travelling at the same time, which is unfortunate, but those are the breaks.

Then something weird happened. My agent (I have an agent!) kept sending me audition notices and I was travelling a lot, so I couldn’t make them. I went up for a commercial in late 2016, but nothing came of it. There was another commercial early this year that fell through too, but because work has me busy right now, I wasn’t too bothered.

My husband and I were supposed to attend the new Star Trek exhibit in Calgary, where the Enterprise bridge from the original series has been reproduced and you can interact with it. And on the Sunday before the week of this event, my agent texted me and said there was a non-speaking role for Fargo Season 3 (in other words, a dead body), and would I be interested?

I said that I had plans for the Thursday when it was shooting, so I would have to decline. I texted my husband and let him know that I’d turned it down, and that was that. Family first.

On Monday, he texted me back and said I could do the show if it was still available, and after some back and forth, I suggested I might still be able to make the Star Trek event. I texted my agent and asked if she was still prepared to submit me. She said yes, and five minutes later I had sent her my serious-face headshot (I have three headshots that I choose from).

Later that evening, she said it was between me and one other person. Because it was a non-speaking role, I was being auditioned from my headshot. On Tuesday she let me know that I’d been selected. That meant that Wednesday would be the wardrobe fitting, and Thursday was the shoot. All my meetings for work had to be moved around, and off I went.

Working on my little slice of a major television series was an experience that may one day get its own blog post, but for now I’m just letting it all sink in.

On my Twitter account in January, I wrote:

I left South Africa and moved to Canada in 2010. Every day I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me in this great country.

All of that is true. My life leading up to emigrating was valuable. I am who I am today because of the experiences I went through, even though some of them really sucked. I am extremely grateful for where I am now, and I always tell people I’m the luckiest person I know.

Even if my career in the dramatic arts ends after last night’s short scene in Fargo, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’m a queer autistic immigrant who made it on to international television with a million people watching, and how many people can say that?

14 August

Two vastly different reasons for remembering the date today, and both have resonance.

14 August 1989:

The resignation of PW Botha
The resignation of PW Botha

(Picture credit: Alex Jay on Twitter, but I’m not sure where he got it from, because it’s a photo of a frame from a public television broadcast.)

State President PW Botha, the second-last apartheid-era leader of South Africa, the cause of economic sanctions against the country due to his defiance of majority rule (South Africans of European descent only counted around 11% of the population), and a pretty scummy dude, but less scummy than the previous ones. His successor, FW de Klerk, dismantled apartheid and made way for majority rule, in a bloodless transition of power, with the help of Nelson Mandela.

Anyone longing for the old days need only remember that this guy here was a fascist. His actions caused the torture and death of many innocent people in the name of white supremacy. He never apologised for what he did.

14 August 2005:

I met my future husband on this day after a play rehearsal. I wrote this on Facebook:

A love story.

Eleven years ago today, I was deep into rehearsals for my debut as Macbeth, in a one-act comedy called Mac The Knife. All my lines were straight (!) from the original Shakespearean script, and I still remember them. Originally directed by Dylan, John took over from him. Leather pants were involved, as was a highland dance-off against my arch-nemesis Macduff, played by Julia. After the rehearsal on Sunday 14 August, I went on a date. My last one ever, because the ones following were just making sure. I knew that night, and Chris will vouch for it, that Marinus was the one. We will be celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary in two weeks. Marinus is going to be a theatre widow for the next two months again as I play Officer Troughton in Run For Your Wife (Morpheus Theatre), but I won’t be wearing leather pants.

Thank you, Marinus, for helping me become a better person, and supporting my habit of pretending to be other people. I love you. Happy first date anniversary.

Every day holds good and bad memories. It’s on us to remember things for the right reasons, no matter where they fall on the goodness scale.

“Government is breaking the internet”

Please take some time to read this column by Ivo Vegter.

The Cybercrime Bill also criminalises investigative journalism and whistleblowing, by making it illegal to so much as receive government data classified as confidential or secret. Possession and transmission of such information will also be illegal. The way the bill defines cyber-terrorism is far too broad. It does not make provision for legitimate protest or advocacy, and includes even acts that cause no terror, but merely disclose commercial information “which could cause undue advantage or disadvantage to any person”. It completely removes the need for government IT systems to be secured, since even if an incompetent administrator left the stable doors wide open, any breach of any system owned by anyone who is even remotely connected to government is covered by the “computer-related terrorism” clause.

Ringing out from our blue heavens

M and I went to South Africa last week because his father died on Friday 6 September. We found flights on the same day and arrived on the Saturday.

As funerals go, it was fine, and the rest of the week involved a lot of admin and paperwork.

We returned to Canada yesterday, to give us barely enough time to recover before jetting off to China tomorrow.

The China trip was already planned, while the SA jaunt was an unfortunate but necessary thing. I feel like a jetsetter, just without the wealth and social activities.

And yes, I still refuse to go through the airport scanners.

I am a racist

My name is Randolph, and I am a racist.

I was brought up in a country that institutionalised racism at all levels of society, and even now is battling to recover. When Nelson Mandela was freed (I was only 13 years old at the time), many of my white friends and their families wanted to leave the country.

[Disclosure: I’m living in Canada now, but not because of Nelson Mandela.]

Over the 30-something years I’ve lived on this beautiful planet, I’ve been exposed to many different cultures. Some of this was self-imposed. I forced myself to spend time with people who looked different, who spoke funny languages, who even smelt different to me.

The net result is that I have friends from many cultural backgrounds. I can even swear in some of their languages. And yet, I catch myself, more often than I’d like, thinking discriminatory thoughts.

I joke publicly that I’m an intellectual snob, and I never can be friends with “stupid” people. But some of the friends and acquaintances with whom I grew up, or taught, would be considered mentally challenged, and I got on just fine with them.

So why try to justify it? Why frame it as something that it is not?

I was speaking to a female friend recently about the subject of racism. I admitted to her that I am a racist, and every day I try not to be. I tell myself that it’s wrong, that it was my upbringing that was wrong, and that I’m better than that. She acknowledged that in her culture, and even in her family, racism towards white people is a real thing too. What’s interesting though is how some of them frame it: whites did bad things to their people, so that justifies it.

It’s true, though. “My” people, through the British Empire, the Crusades before that, and everything in between, destroyed entire civilisations. Who wouldn’t be angry?

But it’s difficult. It’s a lazy way (for me, anyway) to react to people who are different. Group them under a familiar label: White, Black, Indian, Chinese. Once you label something, you react to that label. It seems pre-programmed. All X are Y, and Y is bad because Z.

And it’s wrong. We need to change the programming. Not all X are Y.

One of my friends is from the Eastern Cape. If you spoke to him over the phone, you would think he’s white. When I think of him, I don’t think of him as “black”. His label, in my head anyway, is his name. And that’s how I’m slowly changing my perspective.

That’s the challenge, I think: to stop labeling people under a catch-all title, and to start thinking of them, us, as individuals, with our own likes and dislikes. Our cultural heritage describes us, but doesn’t define us.

When I have these philosophical moments, I try to think of myself in someone else’s shoes. Theory of Mind is one of those things I struggle with daily, so it’s an excellent exercise to practice.

Let’s say you’re a black girl, growing up in a small village in a rural part of Ghana or the Ivory Coast. You live in a very simple house, with no running water or electricity. Your brother has tuberculosis, but he’s getting better because the MSF doctors are giving him medicine.

You go to school every weekday, where the entire school comprises twenty other kids of all ages, and you share a room, with one or no books. The teacher is unqualified, or at the very least can barely read.

This is your life. How does it make you feel? If this is all you know, does it make it better or worse?

How about a so-called Coloured boy, growing up on the streets of Cape Town, in a gang when he’s not in school? How does he feel?

How does a black man feel, sitting in a prison cell for 27 years, for fighting against Apartheid?

What about the privileged, middle-class white girl who happens to be a drug addict?

What about a Chinese boy bullied for being gay?

[Disclosure: I am gay.]

The answer is obviously that I don’t know. I can never hope to know, because I’m Randolph. I’m so far removed from all these scenarios that even pretending to guess what it’s like would be patronising. Even putting a label on me (self-imposed or otherwise) is incredibly insulting. So why am I allowed to do it to others?

My grandmother taught me to read when I was four. I went to excellent schools. We only integrated with black kids in 1991, when I was in Grade 9, by which time it was already “too late”. I can really only relate to other white, middle-class, privileged English-speaking men aged 30 to 40, who grew up in Johannesburg.

Everything else, heck, ANYTHING else, is very difficult to relate to. My younger sister? No way. These Canadians I’ve met in the last two years? Nope. Sure, we have lots of things in common, and I can talk to and build amazing friendships with them, but we are all coming from a different place, and that brings with it preconceptions that are potentially damaging, even before trying to engage in a reasonable way. It’s “too late” for all of us.

At school, the English-speaking kids might keep away from the Afrikaners, or the Lebanese, or the Taiwanese, just like the smokers and the nerds avoided each other. Kids like being in cliques, and superficial labels make for an easy excuse.

My own husband has much in common with me, but he comes from a different background. You see, he’s Afrikaans. Just as my English heritage partially defines me, his Afrikaans heritage partially defines him. The added factor is that Afrikaners have embedded their culture in their language and vice versa. The two are inseparable. This means that, to become a real part of an Afrikaner’s circle, you need to learn the language as well as the customs.

What makes it interesting are the two Anglo-Boer Wars that took place around the turn of the last century. Some Afrikaners paint me with the same brush as my forebears, just because of the language I speak at home. Sounds a little unfair, wouldn’t you say? But I do it to them, and others.

And yet I’ve spoken more Afrikaans in Canada than I ever did in South Africa, because so many of the ex-pats here consider it a cultural aspect of being South African (plus many of them are Afrikaans). It’s yet again an example of belonging to a clique, but defined more broadly.

Whatever -ism you want to call it, we ALL do it. The journey involves meeting new people, learning about their heritage, reciprocating, and growing from it. Understand differences, work with them, and be open to new ideas, even be willing to change your own point of view. Learn a language, learn a culture. Define your clique more broadly.

And while my perspective may be extremely narrow, the one thing that struck me as an English first-language speaker, is this. No matter which other culture I’ve been exposed to, every single one of my friends and their families made the effort to talk to me in my mother tongue. The least I could do is return the favour.

It’s idealistic, I know, but hope springs eternal.

How things have changed

We just got back from a visit to South Africa. It’s my second trip back this year, but M’s first, since we left for Canada in March 2010.

The first thing we noticed was how much the price of food has gone up. Whether it’s Woolworths packaging fewer items for the same price, or restaurants all but doubling their prices, the difference is astounding.

I also managed to break a Tata Indica. To be fair, the rental car sounded like it had a dud gearbox from the moment I drove it, but it finally stopped changing gears, in the middle of a traffic circle, on our way to see friends. Fortunately Tempest Car Hire was able to send out a new car, along with a very helpful employee, and we were on the road again with an automatic transmission Chevrolet something-or-other, which felt a lot more stable on the road.

Speaking of the roads … we spent a lot of time driving to see people, as is the nature of visiting a country for a couple of weeks. South Africans, or more specifically, Johannesburg drivers, are terrible on the road. We witnessed several incidents where drivers seemed as though human life meant nothing to them. And it’s not just the taxis anymore. Seriously. I was petrified much of the time. This is one of those problems that can be fixed, by making an effort and driving responsibly. Just because everyone else drives like an idiot, does not mean that you must too. Change can start with you.

It was nice to see the police and metro cops out, being visible, but it seems that drivers just don’t care anymore. Sad.

We were pulled over at one stage by the police, who seemed to be searching for guns, but my Alberta Operator’s License and Canadian International Driver’s Permit seemed to convince the policeman I spoke to that I wasn’t harbouring dangerous weapons in my Tata Indica.

Winter in South Africa is cold. Last December when I shovelled snow off my driveway in -22 degrees, I thought that was cold, but this year, in Johannesburg, I could barely cope with the cold indoors. I realised how lucky we are in Canada with our central heating, and what a dramatic difference it makes. I will no longer mock you if you say it’s cold at -2 degrees.

Our friends are not happy for the most part. There seems to be a pervasive sadness in South Africa, which you might all be used to and therefore don’t see it, but we noticed it. Whether it’s the economy, or bad drivers, or Julius Malema, or crime, or whatever, it’s almost tangible. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but while Canada has its own problems, I could not wait to come back here.

It was wonderful to see our families and friends again, and it’s a shame there is such a distance between us, but the Internet helps. We miss everyone, but I still think we made the right decision for us, to move here. As I said one paragraph ago, Canada has its problems. There is no greener grass, just different grass, on this side. Overall though, I feel happier. Again I can’t put my finger on it.

Perhaps we’ll visit SA next year again. I won’t mind at all. I’m sure our friends and families won’t mind either. But this distance and time apart has changed us: the ones that left, and the ones we left behind. It reminds me of leaving boarding school. I never graduated from that school, so there was always some longing that I’d missed out. Going back to my almer mater many years later, I realised that my decision to leave is what defined me, and so many things would have been different had I stayed behind, that I could not possibly be the same person I am today, nor necessarily be in the same relationship or even country, for that matter.

The same goes for South Africa. I was born there. I have millions of memories there. I have family and friends there. But my life is in Canada. My heart is in Canada. I want to become a citizen, a productive member of society here. At times it feels like I’m deserting SA, but I feel as though I have more to offer here. More to achieve. More to give back. More opportunity. And I have the blessing and good faith of my family and friends I’ve left behind, while I make friends and build my family in Canada.

What I learnt from Delta Airlines

What I learned on Delta Airlines, flying from Edmonton to Johannesburg via Minneapolis and Atlanta:

– I drove from Lloydminster to Edmonton. Halfway there, Marinus SMSed me to inform me that I’d left my SA phone at home. I was about to turn around and drive back, but he agreed to meet me at the halfway mark. I felt like a drug dealer during that trade.

– First flight was decent. I don’t remember any of it. I’d slept overnight in a moderately decent hotel, and made it to the airport with time to spare, preparing for the TSA o’ Doom’s “enhanced patdown”. I was surprised to find out that those random searches they do only apply (apparently) to Wil Wheaton and foreign-looking people. I was mildly disappointed that no ugly sweaty man wanted to fondle my genitalia in a sexual assault, like Wil Wheaton a week ago. I also didn’t even have to go through a machine (which I would have refused anyway).

– Second flight was decent. I barely remember any of it. There was free Twitter on the plane, so I sent a tweet into the cloud from the cloud. There were cookies, too.

Before the flight, I ate a hamburger from A&W, with extra cheese.

– Enter Atlanta, Georgia. The airport was hot, but clean (thankfully). I was even impressed (the bar is very low) by the cleanliness of the toilets. Randolph usually leaves them in a better condition than he found them, but this was unnecessary.

I ate a Big Mac Meal With Coke And Fries (compared to the other fatty foodstuffs on offer, this was healthy), and declined the upgrade to Supersize, much to the attendant’s dismay, but I was enamoured by the broad Southern accents.

There was even a pianist in the food hall, playing some decent music and singing along.

– Third flight … Fifteen and a half hours, the first 30 minutes on the ground waiting to put the luggage on the plane, despite the Boeing 777-200LR having been at the terminal for an hour before boarding.

But before sitting for half an hour past takeoff time, many passengers, myself included, found no room in the overhead bins for our luggage. I had to sit with mine under the seat in front of me, legs splayed at an odd angle. Thank goodness I’d had the presence of mind to change my middle-seat to an aisle-seat beforehand.

Only, I think that was a mistake. You see, my “in-seat entertainment system” didn’t entertain me at all. While some people had non-responsive touch screens, resulting in the cabin crew restarting the entire system twice, my screen showed the following:

RedBoot(tm) bootstrap and debug environment

And then a long list of attempts to load an image, plus complaints of a non-working network. Packets were being dropped, buffers were overflowing, and it kept resetting (Press ^C to cancel – sure, but you need a keyboard for that).

It reset itself every twenty to thirty seconds, each time the screen going to full dark before flashing on again. A conservative estimate puts that at 1800 times, being 15 hours and ten minutes of restarts (taking into account the full system reset the cabin crew did twice). While I did complain (it turns out the touch screen controls the overhead light and cabin crew assistance), nothing was done. Not one thing. I asked them to just turn it off because the constant restarts would affect my sleep. They did nothing to try fix it. Not one thing.

The dinner was crap too. They ran out of beef, so I had some dry chicken. Thankfully the Coke was in a can so that wasn’t so hard. And the fresh fruit tasted like fresh fruit, which was nice.

Then on several occasions, the plane threatened to fall out of the sky. I realise that there’s not a lot a pilot can do to avoid turbulence (except, I don’t know, fly over it?), but if you know it’s coming, surely you can warn everyone beforehand?

I did eventually fall asleep after turning my head just so, so that the constant flashing of the screen didn’t distract me, but we were at least eight hours into the flight by then.

The toilets on the plane were dirty. While I can thank my fellow humans for that more than Delta, surely a quick mop and wipe around the rim isn’t too much to ask, once in a while? Heck, I left it sparkling and I was only in there for two minutes.

So I’ve learnt from Delta that they only turn on air conditioning when the cabin crew complains. They don’t assist with finding room for carry-on luggage unless you make a scene. Some of their crew is too short to close the overhead bins properly. They don’t cater correctly. Their entertainment system is broken and they don’t care if it affects your sleep, and the pilot doesn’t seem to care if the plane flies through air pockets that rattle your teeth in their gums. And the toilets are dirty.

And for the idiot who sat behind me, it is called a “touch” screen for a reason. No need to tap it so hard. Especially. When. Playing. Solitaire.

Perhaps I’ll feel better about this once I’ve slept. But I doubt it.

District 9

I’m now throwing my two cents in.

M said it is recommended viewing for all South Africans, and I whole-heartedly agree. This movie can be analysed to death regarding its subtext, but I’ll just say this: it’s well-made. The special effects were hardly noticeable (and considering there was a ruddy great space ship hovering over Johannesburg in several key scenes, that’s quite a statement).

Thank you to Peter Jackson for financing this project, and to all the participants in the making of the film. It was refreshing to hear the accent on the big screen NOT coming out of Leon Schuster’s mouth.

I also smell Academy Awards for this one. It is currently rated on IMDB by over-zealous fans at #44 in the top 250 of all time. When the fuss dies down, it may drop in the rankings, but I am very impressed. Well done.


P.S. Regarding the violence and swearing in the film, I hardly noticed. It suited the mood of the story, and I know I can swear a lot too. Granted, I’m not ripping limbs off people, but give me twenty minutes with a taxi driver and a machete, I’d have to think about it.

The Selective Democracy


SA’s selective democracy
Chris Moerdyk

Almost exactly 15 years ago, Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as President of the Republic of South Africa and our country immediately became the world’s most shining example of a constitutional democracy at its best.

We smiled, walked tall and generally looked down our noses at far less perfect democracies like the USA, UK, and Europe.

Today, we are not the world’s best example of a constitutional democracy. If anything, the only sort of democracy we can lay claim to is a Selective Democracy, which is probably the worst kind of democracy there is.

Selective Democracy is so bad that it’s actually almost better to come right out and admit to being a one party dictatorship of a country in which the favourite national pass time is social one-upmanship.

You know you live in a Selective Democracy when:
Continue reading The Selective Democracy