Tramp Royale

Monday, 26 May 2014 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Stranger in a Strange Land)
I've been reading Robert Heinlein's books all over again, and they're still eminently readable. I'm not sure why they're so readable; I suspect it's because of the conversational devices he used.

One that I hadn't read before was "Tramp Royale". It was not science fiction; it was the account of the round-the-world trip that Heinlein and his wife Viginia (nicknamed "Tickey") took in 1953/54. The book itself was only published in 1992, four years after Heinlein's death (he died on my birthday in 1988).

Tickey had a fear of flights over water, so they booked a trip mainly via ship, travelling to South America, through many of the South American countries, across the Atlantic past  Tristan da Cunha to South Africa, through South Africa (Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Kruger Park, Durban), Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, before hopping over to Hawaii, then back to Colorado.

It's fascinating seeing a view of so many countries from 60 years ago, not long after World War II. Here's a quick summary:[personal profile] luthiea
  • They loved South America, finding everything very cheap, the people friendly and helpful, and accommodations comfortable and clean. One amusing anecdote Heinlein used in a book a few years later was getting the spelling of their surname of a South American women; the name was pronounced "Hone-ace", but it was spelled "j-o-n-e-s".Heinlein especially admired Uruguay. Even now, Uruguay has possibly the most down-to-earth leader in the world; José Mujica and his wife live on a small farm instead of the presidential palace, they have no staff, he drives an aged VW Beetle, and donates 90% of his small salary to charity.
  • South Africa: this was an interesting one. They loved the wildlife and scenery; however, even then, 6 years after the National Party was voted into power by only around 5% of the population, apartheid was in full swing. Heinlein commented on the terrible policies, and the effect on the black population, and he said he saw no solution for South Africa (thankfully, decades later, that was to change). He mentioned the beautiful houses in Johannesburg, hiding behind high walls and electric fences, owners nervous about being killed by their black staff. He and Tickey went to the Kruger Park, and had to deal with the terrible rail services (still bad), and the stupid bureaucracies of the government. He really, really didn't like Afrikaners, finding them unpleasant and difficult. One thing that came up several times was that people kept asking why the US wouldn't pay more for South Africa's gold.
  • The Heinleins found Jakarta dirty and unpleasant; they didn't stay long. By contrast, Singapore was clean, had excellent service, and some of the best accommodations they'd ever seen.
  • They caught a dirty ship to Australia, and found Australia riddled with bureaucracy. For example, on landing, they had to fill in income tax forms, and on leaving, had to get export permits for their money, including their own traveller's cheques, stamped in a couple of different places. They people, they found, tended to be friendly, but somewhat tactless. Hotels were awful, thanks to stupid regulations requiring bars to run hotels too and a condition of the licence.
  • Next was New Zealand. 
  •  could probably comment on how NZ has changed. Back then, the people the Heinleins encountered were dour, petty, and unhelpful. Hotels were the worst they'd encountered, to the extent that the best hotel they found in Auckland wouldn't have been as good as the average US backwater motel. Food was terrible; the New Zealanders kept the worst of their food for themselves, and destroyed it with their cooking; boiled beef, boiled lamb, boiled mutton, and for breakfast, boiled bacon. Petty bureaucracy was rife, right down to mealtimes; if your mealtime was 1PM to 2PM, you weren't allowed to be seated in the hotel dining room before 1PM, even if the place was empty, and you were obliged to be out by 2. Heinlein and Tickey saw only a bit of NZ's scenery, thanks to more ridiculous transport rules. At the time, NZ citizens weren't allowed to visit the US, and even if they got special dispensation, they weren't allowed to buy US dollars. The only highlight was a helpful zoo manager at the Auckland zoo.
  • NZ was so awful that Tickey was actually prepared to fly back to the US rather than  fight red tape to get a booking on a ship, so they flew (in sleeper berths on a DC-6!) to Hawaii, which they loved, and from the back to the US. 

Even though Tramp Royale was not published until decades later, Heinlein used bits and pieces from their trip in his fiction; one can see signs of his dislike for petty rules in almost all of his books, and bit and pieces obviously relating to Tramp Royale crop up here and there. 

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Friday, 11 February 2011 12:00
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Wednesday, 3 November 2010 12:00
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claidheamhmor: (Mackintosh)
I loved this article...

South African Vuvuzela Philharmonic Angered By Soccer Games Breaking Out During Concerts

June 17, 2010 | ISSUE 46•24

JOHANNESBURG—Members of the South Africa Vuvuzela Philharmonic Orchestra, widely considered to be among the best large-scale monotonic wind instrument ensembles in the world, told reporters Friday they were furious over the recent outbreaks of international soccer matches during their traditional outdoor concerts.

"I cannot imagine what is getting into these football teams that they would suddenly begin full-scale international competition just when we are beginning our 2010 concert series," said Dr. Stefan Coetzee, the Philharmonic's program and concert director. "It is disrespectful to the performers, it is disrespectful to the music itself, and by extension, it is disrespectful to the great nation of South Africa."

Spontaneous high-caliber soccer games have thus far plagued every orchestral vuvuzela performance of the season, which opened June 11 at Cape Town Stadium. As musicians took their places in the stands and began warming up for the evening's performance of lighter pieces by post-minimalist composers, they noticed the audience was not sitting in its traditional place in the stadium's central area.

As the Philharmonic learned later, its only spectators were the national football sides of France and Uruguay, who played to a 0-0 tie as the frustrated vuvuzela virtuosi played a full program of concerti written for the distinctive straight plastic horn.

"A virtually empty house is highly unusual in a vuvuzela-mad nation such as South Africa," said first-chair vuvuzela player Moses Mtegume, who is known as the "Father of the Vuvuzela" and considered a national treasure. "And because concerts are held in the round—the better to appreciate the sonorous tonality of the massed instruments—a performer gets a sense of the crowd early."

"It doesn't even seem like these football players are paying attention to us," Mtegume added. "In fact, I would go so far as to say they are trying to ignore us."

The following days, during which a string of large-scale vuvuzela performances were held, saw the unusual events repeat in Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth as audience after audience was driven away by FIFA national football teams. As a result, the South Africa Vuvuzela Philharmonic, which is supported solely by money from ticket sales, has suffered staggering losses financially. And the musicians, many of whom trained for years and underwent a harrowing audition process to earn one of the orchestra's 50,000 seats, said the biggest blow was to their professional pride.

"Do you know how difficult it is to get everyone situated, tuned, and focused for a vuvuzela concert?" said Juilliard-trained vuvuzelist Donald Frederick Gordon, a noted soloist and renowned performer whose boyhood dream of playing vuvuzela in every stadium in South Africa is now at risk. "These brash, inconsiderate outbursts of impromptu athletics have made us a laughingstock of the international music community. We have already had cancellations from the Vienna Boy's Choir and guest director Seiji Ozawa, who no doubt fear for their reputation should the Philharmonic continue to be mocked by these incongruous sportsmen."

In order to save its concert season, the orchestra has scheduled a special benefit concert for July 11 at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium. The orchestra will be accompanied by 8,000 special guest vuvuzela players from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and the concert program will include the debut of new single-tone compositions by Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and vuvuzela fan Mark Mothersbaugh.

The musicians said they are thrilled to be performing in the nation's most prominent stadium, which is capable of holding up to 12,500 standing concertgoers in its grassy central section.

"This will be a vuvuzela tour de force the likes of which the world has never seen," Dr. Coetzee said. "We are very close to an agreement with Placido Domingo, who we're confident will show us how the greatest living tenor sings the B-flat-below-middle-C that makes the vuvuzela so magical. It will truly be a night for the ages, with, we hope, no sign of football rivals battling it out for global supremacy where the audience should be."

"We've already sold a couple dozen tickets to people in Brazil and Argentina," Dr. Coetzee added. "Mark my words, on July 11, the eyes and ears of the world will be on South Africa."

Source: The Onion
claidheamhmor: (Witch King EE)
Anyone who knows me knows I have about zero interest in sport, and that I'm terribly cynical about patriotism.

This last week, however, has been amazing. Like many South Africans, I had my doubts about SA being able to deliver the Soccer World Cup, even though I had some information about preparations a couple of years ago.

Friday showed the world, though.

On Wednesday, we had a national demonstration of support for Bafana Bafana, our team. My company's building was done up in flags and banners, as were many other companies, and people came onto the streets in their thousands to support the team and the tournament. It was great to look out on all that, and see the crowds. Up till then, we'd seen a lot of support anyway; many people have South African and other flags on their cars - hell, even I have one!

Cut for images )

Then, on Friday, it all came together. The SWC started, and everything worked. All the stadiums were ready. Most of the new freeways were done. The Gautrain was rolling (ahead of schedule!). Everything looked amazing.

And South Africa scored the very first SWC goal on African soil. I was in a shopping centre at the time, and all the staff were clustered around a TV, cheering, and I was there with them, grinning like an idiot.

I watched part of the US-England game on Saturday, and that was great too; the spirit is amazing.

I'm really proud that South Africa can deliver a world-class global sports tournament, the biggest in the world. SA has hosted more global sports events than any other country over the last 15 years, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, but the Soccer World Cup is on a completely different scale.

For the next few weeks, the national language is "soccer", and people are forgetting their racial and language divisions. I love it.
claidheamhmor: (Broadsword-blue)
Found on the net somewhere...

Understanding South Africans
What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be invited to when you visit South Africa . A braai is a backyard barbecue and it will take place whatever the weather. So you will have to go even if it's raining like mad. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance known as mieliepap.

This one of the most useful South African words. Pronounced like the "ach" in the German "achtung", it can be used to start a reply when you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don't know." Or a sense of resignation:"Ag OK, I'll have some more mieliepap then." It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation.

A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans "donder" (thunder). Pronounced "dorner", it means "beat up." A team member in your rugby team can get donnered in a game, or your wife can donner you if you come back from a braai at three in the morning.

Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the Afrikaans, means "ouch." Pronounced "aynah". You can say it in sympathy when you see your friend the day after he got donnered by his wife.

Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the importance of what has just been said, as in "You're only going to get donnered if you come in late again, hey?" It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can always say: "Hey?"

This is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you something at a braai. For instance, if someone would say: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership." It is quite appropriate to respond by saying: "Izit?"

Ja well no fine
This is another conversation fallback. Derived from the four words: "yes", "well", "no" and fine", it roughly means "OK". If your bank manager tells you your account is overdrawn, you can, with confidence, say: "Jawelnofine."

Pronounced "klup" - an Afrikaans word meaning smack, whack or spank. If you spend too much time in front of the TV during exam time, you could end up getting a "klap" from your mother. In America , that is called child abuse. In South Africa , it is called promoting education. But to get "lekker geklap" is to get motherlessly drunk.

An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language groups to express approval. If you enjoyed a braai thoroughly, you can say: "Now that was lekk-errrrrrr!" while drawing out the last syllable.

These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is also used to describe automobile or truck tyres. "Fat tackies" are really wide tyres, as in: "You've got lekker fat tackies on your Vôlla, hey?"

This word has two basic meanings, one good and one bad. First the good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a sundowner, a noggin. When invited for a dop, be careful! It could be one sedate drink or a blast, depending on the company. Now the bad: To dop is to fail. If you "dopped" standard two (Grade 4) more than once, you probably won't be reading this.

This is a sandwich. For generations, school- children have traded "saamies" during lunch breaks. In South Africa you don't send your kid to school with liver-polony saamies. They are impossible to trade.

This word is pronounced "bucky" and can refer to a small truck or pick-up. If a young man takes his "girl" (date) in a bakkie it could be considered as a not so "lekker" form of transport because the seats can't recline.

This is a universal South African greeting, and you will hear this word throughout the country. It is often accompanied with the word "Yes!" as in: "Yes, howzit?". In which case you answer "No, fine."

Now now
In much of the outside world, this is a comforting phrase: "Now now, it's really not so bad." But in South Africa , this phrase is used in the following manner: "Just wait, I'll be there now now." It means "a little after now".

Tune grief
To be tuned grief is to be aggravated, harassed. For example, if you argue with somebody about a rugby game at a braai and the person had too much dop (is a little "geklap"), he might easily get aggravated and say.: "You're tuning me grief, hey!". To continue the argument after this could be unwise and result in major tuning of grief..

This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all language groups. Pronounced "boot" but shorter, as in "foot", it can be applied to a brother or any person of the male sex. For instance a father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used. But don't use it on someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronizing and could lead to you getting a "lekker klap".

From the Afrikaans phrase meaning "Watch Out!", this warning is used and heeded by all language groups. As in: "The boss hasn't had his coffee yet - so you better pasop boet" Sometimes just the word "pasop!" is enough without further explanation. Everyone knows it sets out a line in the sand not to be crossed.

Skop, Skiet en donner
Literally "kick, shoot and thunder", this phrase is used by many South African speakers to describe action movies. A Clint Eastwood movie is always a good choice if you're in the mood for of a lekker skop, skiet en donner flick.

Pronounced - "frot". A expressive word which means "rotten" or "putrid" in Afrikaans, it is used by all language groups to describe anything they really dislike. Most commonly intended to describe fruit or vegetables whose shelf lives have long expired, but a pair of old tackies (sneakers) worn a few years too long can be termed "vrot" by some unfortunate folk which find themselves in the same vicinity as the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important kicks or tackles
can be said to have played a vrot game - opposite to a "lekker" game (but not to his face). A movie was once reviewed with this headline: "Slick Flick, Vrot Plot."

Rock up
To rock up is to just, sort of arrive (called "gate crash" in other parts of the world). You don't make an appointment or tell anyone you are coming - you just rock up. Friends can do that but you have to be selective about it. For example, you can't just rock up for a job interview.

To scale something is to steal it. A person who is "scaly" has a doubtful character, is possibly a scumbag, and should rather be left off the invitation list to your next braai.

"Yes No" in English. Politics in South Africa has always been associated with family arguments and in some cases even with physical fights. It is believed that this expression originated with a family member who didn't want to get a klap or get donnerred, so he just every now and then muttered "ja-nee". Use it when you are required to respond, but would rather not choose to agree or disagree.
claidheamhmor: (Stranger in a Strange Land)
I see Jeremy Clarkson has written an amusing piece on the topic of Johannesburg:

I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies

It’s the least frightening place on earth, yet everyone speaks of how many times they’ve been killed that day

Jeremy Clarkson

Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in the tourists and the investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you think of New York, you think of shopping; and when you think of London – despite the best efforts of new Labour to steer you in the direction of Darcus Howe – you think of beefeaters and Mrs Queen.

Rome has its architecture. Sydney has its bridge. Venice has its sewage and Johannesburg has its crime. Yup, Jo’burg – the subject of this morning’s missive – is where you go if you want to be carjacked, shot, stabbed, killed and eaten.

You could tell your mother you were going on a package holiday to Kabul, with a stopover in Haiti and Detroit, and she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But tell her you’re going to Jo’burg and she’ll be absolutely convinced that you’ll come home with no wallet, no watch and no head.

Jo’burg has a fearsome global reputation for being utterly terrifying, a lawless Wild West frontier town paralysed by corruption and disease. But I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years and I can reveal that it’s all nonsense.

If crime is so bad then how come, the other day, the front-page lead in the city’s main newspaper concerned the theft of a computer from one of the local schools? I’m not joking.

The paper even ran a massive picture of the desk where the computer used to sit. It was the least interesting picture I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. But then it would be, because this was one of the least interesting crimes.

“Pah,” said the armed guard who’d been charged with escorting me each day from my hotel to the Coca-Cola dome where I was performing a stage version of Top Gear.

Quite why he was armed I have absolutely no idea, because all we passed was garden centres and shops selling tropical fish tanks. Now I’m sorry, but if it’s true that the streets are a war zone, and you run the risk of being shot every time you set foot outside your front door, then, yes, I can see you might risk a trip to the shops for some food. But a fish tank? An ornamental pot for your garden? It doesn’t ring true.

Look Jo’burg up on Wikipedia and it tells you it’s now one of the most violent cities in the world . . . but it adds in brackets “citation needed”. That’s like saying Gordon Brown is a two-eyed British genius (citation needed).

Honestly? Johannesburg is Milton Keynes with thunderstorms. You go out. You have a lovely ostrich. You drink some delicious wine and you walk back to your hotel, all warm and comfy. It’s the least frightening place on earth. So why does every single person there wrap themselves up in razor wire and fit their cars with flame-throwers and speak of how many times they’ve been killed that day? What are they trying to prove?

Next year South Africa will play host to the football World Cup. The opening and closing matches will be played in Jo’burg, and no one’s going to go if they think they will be stabbed.

The locals even seem to accept this, as at the new airport terminal only six passport booths have been set aside for non-South African residents.

At first it’s baffling. Why ruin the reputation of your city and risk the success of the footballing World Cup to fuel a story that plainly isn’t true? There is no litter and no graffiti. I’ve sauntered through Soweto on a number of occasions now, swinging a Nikon round my head, with no effect. You stand more chance of being mugged in Monte Carlo.

Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand – about £7. But when I said, “Okay, let’s go and get one”, no one had the first idea where to start looking. And they were even more clueless when I asked about bullets.

As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of the best and worst places to live and say: “Why do you keep banging on about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo’burg’s way better.”

Instead, however, I sat down and tried to work out why the locals paint their city as the eighth circle of hell. And I think I have an answer. It’s because they want to save the lions in the Kruger National Park.

I promise I am not making this up. Every night, people in Mozambique pack up their possessions and set off on foot through the Kruger for a new life in the quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets of Jo’burg. And very often these poor unfortunate souls are eaten by the big cats.

That, you may imagine, is bad news for the families of those who’ve been devoured. But actually it’s even worse for Johnny Lion. You see, a great many people in Mozambique have Aids, and the fact is this: if you can catch HIV from someone’s blood or saliva during a bout of tender love-making, you can be assured you will catch it if you wolf the person down whole. Even if you are called Clarence and you have a mane.

At present, it’s estimated that there are 2,000 lions in the Kruger National Park and studies suggest 90% have feline Aids. Some vets suggest the epidemic was started by lions eating the lungs of diseased buffalos. But there are growing claims from experts in the field that, actually, refugees are the biggest problem.

That’s clearly the answer, then. Johannesburgians are telling the world they live in a shit-hole to save their lions. That’s the sort of people they are. And so, if you are thinking about going to the World Cup next year, don’t hesitate.

The exchange rate’s good, the food is superb, the weather’s lovely and, thanks to some serious economic self-sacrifice, Kruger is still full of animals. The word, then, I’d choose to describe Jo’burg is “tranquil”.

Source: TimesOnline
claidheamhmor: (Witch King EE)
So there's been a lot of drama lately about our power shortages, load-shedding, and so forth. This week seems to be better, though that may be because the mines are at 90% power (not a good thing). Everyone's becoming more energy-conscious, and we're learning to survive without electricity.

It's certainly annoying, I must say, and government and Eskom have a bunch of people that really should be fired for their part in this debacle. It is somewhat ironic, though, that some of our power problems are due to the economic growth in the country outstripping government planning, and also because of a roll-out of electricity to places that never had it, like the old black townships. Twenty years ago, I could drive past the township of Alexandra at night, and it was a black pit choked with the smoke from coal and wood fires. Now, drive past it at night, and you see streetlights and homes with electricity.

We're doing our bit at home. I manually switch the geyser (that's a water heater, for you non-South Africans) off during the night, and we're trying to cut back on use of the aircon. I've also taken to hibernating my PC when I'm not using it.

On a related note, this article posted by [ profile] erudito was pretty interesting: The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn. In some ways, it looks like the chickens planted by the environmentalists in the 70s and 80s are coming home to roost. They campaigned against nuclear power; now we don't have many nuclear power stations, but we do have power problems worldwide, as well as coal and oil supply issues, and extensive pollution issues. Nice one, guys.


claidheamhmor: (Default)

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