Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
It's a perfect afternoon: cobalt sky, no sound but that of lazy afternoon birdsong and a dog barking far away, confirmation via sms that my three day road trip is on this coming long weekend, anticipation of dinner with a great friend this evening at Stone Circle Bistro...and, most importantly, a sense of perfect contentness within (not only that everything is exactly as it should be, but also my utter acceptance of the status quo).
I'm salivating about an almost confirmed road trip this coming long weekend to Groot Marico with Louis. In my mind's eye I'm envisaging great bushveld sunsets, higher temperatures than here, mampoer, red wine and Herman Charles Bosman.
I was last in that area in 1983 - on a week-long trip to the Martha Glathaar (spelling? And watch how you pronounce that!) veld school. Although I was imediately SOLD I've not been back since. Now's my chance.
On a separate note, I promised myself that I'd step out of my comfort zone going forward from this year (it was a prayer answered for fire in my spirit), so I've decided I'm going to learn how to horse ride. Woop, woop, woop...so ride 'em cowboy! Ha-ha!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A sense of change courses through my veins...I'm thriving on a subtle change in vibration, waiting childishly expectant for what is to come, especially as I believe in and expect only good...in fact the very best.
Monday, April 20, 2009
INSECTS have been conscripted as weapons of war, tools of terrorism and instruments of torture for thousands of years. So should we be surprised by the news that the C.I.A. considered using these creatures to instill fear in Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist suspect? Yes, and here's why.
The earliest hypothesized uses of insects in human conflicts involved bees and wasps. During the Upper Paleolithic period, nests of stinging insects — evidently contained within baskets or pottery — were heaved into rocky caves or thorny stockades to drive an enemy into the open. Employing insects to destroy crops or transmit disease would not develop until modern times (unless we include Yahweh's assaults on Pharaoh in Exodus). However, entomological torture continued to play a role throughout history.
The ancient Persians developed a gruesome practice called scaphism, which involved force-feeding a person milk and honey, lashing him to a boat or hollow tree trunk, and then allowing flies to infest the victim's anus and increasingly gangrenous flesh. Siberian tribes simply tied a naked prisoner to a tree and allowed mosquitoes and other biting flies to deliver as many as 9,000 bites per minute — a rate sufficient to drain a person's blood by half in about two hours. And the stories of Apaches staking captives on anthills to ensure lingering and painful deaths are not merely the stuff of Hollywood westerns.
The epitome of insectan torture was developed by a 19th-century emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. He threw political enemies into a bug pit, a deep hole covered with an iron grille and stocked with sheep ticks and assassin bugs. The bite of the latter has been compared to being pierced with a hot needle, and the injected saliva digested the victims' tissues until, in the words of the emir's jailer, "masses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones."
So what's surprising about the United States exploiting a prisoner's entomophobia? This appears to be the first case in which insects would have been used to inflict psychological terror. Solzhenitsyn described the use of bedbug-infested boxes in the Soviet gulags, but it seems that these were intended to cause physical suffering — and the Central Intelligence Agency operatives evidently planned to use a physically harmless insect. (A caterpillar was mentioned.)
After having seemingly exhausted the nefarious uses of insects as unwitting agents in human conflict, the United States managed to find a new way — 100,000 or so years after humans first inflicted pain on one another with bees and wasps — to exploit the natural world as a means of creating suffering.
There are many arguments against torture. One is practical: If we torture others, they might torture us. This applies to psychological torture, too.
What if a terrorist group announced that their operatives had introduced Rift Valley fever into the United States? This mosquito-borne disease would make West Nile virus look like a case of the sniffles. Given that virtually every corner of America has a native species of mosquito capable of transmitting the virus, Rift Valley fever could spread across the nation. Hundreds of thousands of people could be sickened, with thousands dying and many more falling blind. The livestock industry could lose billions of dollars as animals aborted their fetuses and succumbed to bloody diarrhea. Imagine the fear if every mosquito bite this summer could be the precursor of a disease that would cause your brain to become inflamed or your internal organs to hemorrhage?
The chances of this happening are slim. The terrorists might even be bluffing. But terrorism — and torture — can be psychological.
Jeffrey A. Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming, is the author of "Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War."
From The Scary Caterpillar by Jeffrey A. Lockwood in The New York Times of 19 April 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/opinion/19lockwood.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
Thursday, April 16, 2009
There's a suit-and-tied chap sitting on the deck outside, he's definitely not from around here. I'm watching him visibly relax and sink down into his chair with the setting of the sun. I'm glad I'm not him going back to his world...that I'm right here wham bam in my world, and perfectly content to be here.
And now to Seattle for a quick cafe mocha before heading home. (I'm wondering if Reinhardt will be getting me there afterall? Ha-ha!)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
It's a balmy late afternoon and autumn obviously hasn't shown her face here yet.
I'm expecting to be back down here in the second week of May for one of the world's great tourism & travel expos - INDABA 2009.
But right now I'm yearning to put my feet in the warm water and for a stroll along the beach at dusk.
I already know this is going to be a rambling email, a smattering of
thoughts as i try to capture everything going on in my head! My apologies in advance.
I was on the South Bank on Saturday and had a stunning lunch at a funky restuarant called Giraffe. i'm still going to get to the Tate Modern again later, the most wonderfully overwhelming art gallery I've EVER been to in my life, in the world.
I'm having such a dilemma about continuing to live in SA: I'm finding that i'm so overwhelmed - most horribly - by MY HORROR at the constant pressure of the crime there... And it's only when I'm here do i realise how it affects me, how it invisibly exerts pressure on everything that I do and think.
I'm seriously considering all sorts of options. Because to see women walking and jogging - alone - through Hyde Park - in the dark -and to watch an entire nation come to a halt over the murder of five prostitutes emphasises to me that life has value here... not to even mention the art & culture, the magazines & newspapers, the literature this nation is soaked in.
Right now I confess to being completely overwhelmed, disorientated and as a result sometimes quite tearful... not sure if this is just a reaction to an awfully pressured year? Or maybe this is the beginning of my existential mid-life crisis - ha-ha?
And, of course, I cannot stomach the thought of going back to my life as it is.
Since I was last here coffee has definitely come to London! What a relief! My favourite Starbucks coffee shop is in the Hampstead's high steet. This morning I sat there reading & writing & taking photographs from my table (the only one in the window!) of the passing world... a whole memory card full again. That was before losing myself in the adjacent Waterstone's book shop.
I'm busy reading a John Betjeman biography, Erich Fromm's 'To have or to Be' (you can see where my head is! ...even weighing up becoming a vegeterian! ..I really want to have as little impact on this world, this planet as possible - the guilt ha-ha! - and I'm finding consumerism / materialism appalling!) and - finally! - Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road':
"...in the bar I told Dean, 'Hell, man, I know very well you didn't come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do i really know about it except you've got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict." - p.9
And I love this excerpt...it's BRILLIANT!! And it makes me think of you... of us...:
"He told him of Roy Johnson, big Ed Dunkel, his boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines, adventures. They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes 'awww!'" - p.11
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
In this instance, as I type these words while driving, I know that I am an African.
I've just driven through Chrissiesmeer, it's the most beautiful I've ever seen it. There, to my right, is the Breyten turnoff, there's now 36 km to go to Ermelo.
It's a moody afternoon, I couldn't have wished for better. There's a coldfront coming from the south, even though it's still early to suffer the worst extremes of the storms heading north from Antarctica...they tend to peter out this early in the year, but huh, just wait for the middle of winter!
Tomorrow this time I should be in Hibberdene on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast basking in the Indian Ocean and a subtropical clime. Can't wait. But I've a lot of work to do on the book (a great opportunity to type up my notes etc.)... this is not going to be a holiday in the traditional sense. Nevertheless I'm ecstatic.
I mustn't forget to record ocean sounds for Reinhardt (for him to listen to while next to his pool in Pretoria) and to get him an oh-so-traditional 2 ltr Fanta bottle full of seawater. Ha-ha!
Tonight I'm looking forward to being in the company of Engela, Wynand and Serra. I believe we're having home-made traditional vegetable soup for supper....
Saturday, April 04, 2009
I lived in Africa for several years. I first went there in 1957. Then, over the next forty years, I returned whenever the opportunity arose. I travelled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high-level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah. Their life is endless toil, a torment they endure with astonishing patience and good humour.
This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there - about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say "Africa". In reality, except as a geographical apellation, Africa does not exist.