Mhambi has been redeployed.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Does Rhodes's and the Afrikaners' dream end in the UK?

In a rather bleak article in the UK Observer "Cecil Rhodes's dream ends where it began - in Bishop's Stortford " Jason Cowley recently lamented the loss to Africa of its white population.

The article marks a break in the reporting of this center left paper group. It is the first time as far as I am aware that it or the Guardian has published an article talking of a violence induced white exodus from South Africa.

Originally uploaded by Paul Watson.
End of the road for whites?

Mr. Cowley however does not talk about Afrikaners, those other whites that arrived 100 to 200 years before Rhodes and who do not see Rhodes representing them as a group. Are they also leaving? There is no breakdown of the UK immigration figures that make a distinction between Afrikaans and English white South Africans.

In London however its clear that their are many Afrikaners in the UK. While Putney and Wimbledon has been predominantly English South African for some time, now Walthamstow and Leytonestone is South African as well, but predominantly Afrikaans.

Historically Afrikaners were less educated, poorer, and more patriotic. They have no family ties in Europe (People are often amazed to hear that there are no real cultural links between the Afrikaners and the Dutch). Their language is only spoken in Southern Africa and Namibia.

South Africa's borders were drawn by Afrikaners, while trekking for independence from the British and safety. Everywhere they went in numbers became South Africa. And ironically their Apartheid policy united disparate black tribes.

Are they now leaving? And if so, what will South Africa be like without them? If South Africa was created by the Afrikaner quest for safety and a better life, would it make a difference if they sought it elsewhere?

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why do lesbians dress so badly?

...and gay boys look so great? Mmmmm....?

I'm talking on average of course. And ok, the average gay man is not a paragon of good taste and creative couture either. Anybody that has been to a gay club recently can attest to a near uniform and monotonous sea of muscle Maries, decked out with the same close hair crops, jeans, white t-shirts or pectorals.

But boy, the high level of self imposed body fascism to get those washboard stomachs *aer* evident.

But my contention still is that gay men do tend to spend more time on their appearance than the average bloke. AND the average lesbian does tend to spend less time and effort on theirs, than her straight gender-sake.

What could explain this phenomena? Are gay men more female like and lesbians more manly? That's just too crude an explanation.

This is my theory. (It does not take into account things like hormones etc but rather the social manifestations of human behavior.)

My theory is that the answer is tied up in male and female sexuality, what we desire and importantly what we need to do to be desired.

Straight male sexuality is all about desiring the other, the so-called sex object. It is often stated that male sexuality is visual and rather shallow. And that straight female sexuality is about being desired. For females it is said it is more about personalities and the emotional feelings their partner conjures.

Now when we have two males, they still desire like males do, their mate is the sex object, but they too are in turn also being desired and the sex object. The result is that both tend to spend allot of time on their appearance.

With lesbians it works the other way around. Being female, they do not desire a sex object. As a result neither needs to look at their best to get some attention.

This simple theory explains allot of things. For instance why you often see well kept females as partners with burly badly dressed men. This is why straight females openly say they find other females attractive, but their partners will be reluctant to admit the same of a male.

It also could explain why in swinger circles sexual activity revolves around the females. The gals can have other gals, and guys. But the guys can't be seen to be involved with other guys.

This is not because men are not bi-curious like allot of females seem to be. (Many young straight boys had some sexual encounters with their pals when they were out camping).

It is because for females male on male action severely threatens the way they as females see themselves sexually. Most straight women just don't find two men having sex sexy. Men don't go in homo territory in conversations with their female partners or when swinging for fear of not being sexy.

On the other hand they will freely admit that they find the idea of two girls together very titillating, and their girlfriends might nod approvingly.

This desiring of shallow physical beauty and the response to it could also partially explain why gay men have such promiscuous sex lives and multiple short relationships.

And this theory could explain on the other hand why lesbians tend to have more stable long term relationships.

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Global warming: Adapt to a global solution or die

In today's UK Guardian Robert Macfarlane asserts that "Climate change is the most serious emergency the human race has faced".

It continues: "The consequences of a rise of 3C, described last week by the (UK) government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, as "likely", would be calamitous: a worldwide drop in cereal crops of between 20m and 400m tonnes, 400 million more people put at risk of hunger, and 3 billion people left at risk of flooding and without access to fresh water supplies."

Public Works in Motion
Originally uploaded by SF buckaroo.

In the article it is made clear how difficult it would be for a Tory leader, whose party is wedded to choice, deregulation and a free market, to push through the tough policy measures needed. "A strong countervailing governmental force is needed to work both against the business state and individual self interest."

Climate change "demands nothing less than a total restructuring of the human relationship with nature. In these senses it, it represents at once the greatest threat that the modern world has known and the greatest opportunity."

This echoes the words of superstar sociologist Manuel Castells, who in the second volume of his trilogy The information age put forward the idea that Green imperatives could provide a comeback for communal politics.

Not only will the stark choices push government internal policies away from the hegemony of current laizzes faire ideologies, but it will also force governments to work together with other goverments. In short, the need for global regulation may provides the platform for the first truly global political movement and even, dare I say it, global government. Without it life could get very nasty indeed.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

His big white self: Nick Broomfield becomes thoroughly part of the story

Nick Broomfield might not be aware of it, but His big white self his documentary on South African Eugene Terre'blanche and his Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (AWB), follows a precedent established way back.

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In 1834 The Spectator bemoaned the "maltreatment of the aborigines" and according to it, this had no equal in history. The Afrikaner colonists had a very bad press, starting at the turn on the nineteenth century by an account of the British traveler John Barow, and a few years later in a book by John Philip, a compatriot.

This bad press, together with the capture of the Cape by the British from the Afrikaner colonists, the abolishment of slavery, and the replacement of their language with English in public life and eventually in schools, lead to severe discontent. This discontent reached such a level that they decided to abandon their farms and move inland.

In His big white self it's very easy to see why Afrikaners could be regarded with contempt. I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat as ultra racists candidly and casually reveal their shocking ideologies.

The hard uncompromising barrage of racist rhetoric (YouTube clip) and violence is at times hard to bear. Mercifully the film shifts gear every now and then to light hearted and even warm exchanges.

Made in Broomfield's now distinctive style putting himself firmly in the movie, it is full of warm interactions between him and these very same racists. One suspects that most audiences will feel some disquiet at the obvious close rapport between Broomfield and the driver (JP) and his wife (Anita). In fact New labour's ex spin mystro Alistair Campbell said as much during a BBC Radio 4 interview.

His big white self is the follow up on Broomfields The Leader, the Driver and the drivers Wife. That movie was recently voted in the 13th best documentary of all time in the UK.

In this movie, Broomfield goes back to South Africa after 14 years. News is that the fascist AWB leader Eugene Terre'blanche, who had been serving a 6 year sentence for assault and attempted murder, and has been released from prison. Allegedly Terre'blanche is a changed man, has found God and writes poetry.

Unlike The Leader movie, where Broomfield browbeats his subjects and pokes fun at them, he wanted to get closer to Terre'blanche and understand what makes him tick. The problem for Broomfield is that because of their previous tempestuous relationship, Terre'blanche repeatedly rebuffs Broomfield's attempts to see him.

Once again he ends up spending most of his time with JP and Anita, who has since divorced. Both of them struggle to come to terms with the new South Africa. JP is deeply disillusioned with Terre'blanche. He says that he "feels like a race horse, trained for a race" but it never came. The "race" he talks of being a full scale war, a revolution to bring about a white - presumably Afrikaner, but lets keep it simple - homeland. This has left JP a broken man.

JP - making a bomb is as easy as pie...

Anita however is doing more to come to terms with the new realities, she works as a nurse in a predominantly black hospital. (Chances are of course that Anita has always worked in black hospitals.) But lets not complicate matters. She has had no massive conversion from her racist views. But she is pragmatic, says she has no choice and tries to make the best of it. Like their former leader - and too many of their fellow countrymen mind you - both of them seem to have found their solace in religion and the promise of paradise hereafter.

The movie has many good moments, none less so when Broomfield finally tricks Terre'blanche with an English gent disguise and gets into his house. He even persuades Terre'blanche to read him some of his poetry. The camera work is - if not cinematic - good, and it's once again clear that Broomfield has an excellent intuitive relationship with the camera operator Jane Churchill, who happens to be Broomfield's ex-wife.

Throughout the movie he presents a large segment of expositional back-story. At the time (1990 - 1991) of Broomfield filming The Leader movie, South Africa had already started its decent into its most bloody period since the second Anglo-Boer War. The so-called township war. This is a history in which the AWB played more than just a bit part. And all he came back with was a very amusing portrait of AWB buffoonery and Terre'blanche's ego.

It was very entertaining and illuminating none the less, and since he interacted so successfully with the characters then, made for entertaining TV and gave a fascinating insight into Eugene's enormous ego. It was Broomfield at what he does best.

In this movie however Broomfield attempts to sketch a contextual grand narrative for which he should be congratulated. No documentary has yet tried to portray the tumultuous last days of Apartheid.

"It's interesting how quickly a generation forgets," says Broomfield. "People might not understand where the seeds of apartheid were, how it all came about." Broomfield told the UK Guardian.

But when seeing the film it immediately becomes clear why this bigger picture story telling can be such treacherous ground. This section of the movie is hardly about the seeds of apartheid.

Broomfield's seeds of apartheid starts off somewhere in the 50's but the flick really picks up with a history of the period after Broomfield left South Africa in 1991. It's the time just after he finished The Leader movie. It's a tightly edited, tense, action packed journey using news footage, focusing on Terre'blanche and his AWB in the run up to the first multi-racial elections, up until his release from prison in 2004.

It includes blonde journalist Jani Allen's I'll fated court case against The Leader movie, where Broomfield suggested she and Terre'blanche were having an affair. Because of the ensuing litigation Terre'blanche bedroom life was laid bare and he lost support with his conservative base. And so Broomfield becomes even more thoroughly part of the story.

If Broomfield was guilty of ignoring the danger of the AWB in his previous movie, in this narrative he swings in the other direction. He wildly over-states the AWB's importance. The average non South African viewer watching this could be forgiven for the impression that the battle during the depth throws of apartheid, was between only the AWB and on the one side and the ANC on the other. The Vryheids Front, Constant Viljoen and FW De Klerk only get a nod.

But the role of Buthelezi's IFP, the security forces, the co-called third force, and the Zulu-AWB alliance does not, never mind the PAC and the rest.

If you are inclined to believe like Alistair Sparks and others that the battle in South Africa was between the rival visions of Afrikaner and African nationalism and not just race, then you to will find it unfulfilling. If you are like me an Afrikaner, you might feel aggrieved that Broomfield suggests incorrectly that there was a half a million force of race-crazed AWB members like in this movie, ready to fight. The AWB at his height had little more than 20,000 members.

You might also find it more than a mere mild oversight that he keeps mum about the British historical role in this mater. To Broomfield the seeds of apartheid are those that don't slip through his facile TV friendly filter.

The irony of it all is that Broomfield really likes JP and Anita. He says – although not in the movie - that they are very loving and caring and that South Africans "on both sides" are very passionate people. He says, that he finds it amazing that the Afrikaners that had such control on all the leavers of state and power could give it up like they did – but that's not in the movie either.

When questioned by myself at the London premier of His big white self about this assertion of 500,000 race demons from hell, Broomfield reposts that he is not wrong; he meant Viljoen's Vryheids Front and the AWB forces combined. But there is no escaping though that the implication in the movie is that there were 500,000 extremely rabid Afrikaners out there, without showing that Viljoen and his supporters were of a different ilk, and probably made up more that 80% of the support of parties to the right of the National party.

In order to keep things succinct and ratchet up the dramatic tension all of this is understandable, it's makes for good TV. Film is an extrmely reductive medium and operates best at the emotional and visual level. Afrikaner trailer trash is garanteed to provide excellent fodder.

In his interview with the UK Guardian he says "it is the feeling that the incidental stuff can be much more revealing than the big questions".

True, but he does not achieved that in this movie. While it's admirable that Broomfield's work shows the contradictions and textures and of even those with the most objectionable views, it does not illustrate what kind of social forces shape a society that have these people hanging around its fringes. It is easy entertaining filmaking, but illuminates very little.

Taking the mickey of the Eugene and his AWB is of course fine, they invite it. But as soon as Broomfield makes a wider point, he has a duty to be fair. He may be genuinely perplexed by anyone questioning him why he does at least not mention the British racism towards Afrikaners, cultural imperialism, wars, and concentration camps in his movie. But the throwaway line in His big white self that the local white school is still Afrikaans language, and not English, shows - especially to Afrikaners – a disregard for history and them. (British colonial authorities banned the use of Afrikaans in schools a second time after the second Anglo-Boer War).

Feminist and liberal writer, Olive Schreiner commented that for Afrikaners that left the Cape on their Great trek, the worst "was the cold indifference with which they were treated (by the English), that they were regarded as a subject and inferior race."

It is this perceived indifference to their plight that the violence and racism in this film is a most extreme result of. Not to allude to that at all and the notable efforts of Afrikaners that do not follow that route might be more succinct and easy, but is not only wrong, it makes the film part of the perceived onslaught on Afrikaners. Broomfield either did not do his research or did not care. Like salt to a snail, films like this encourages Afrikaners to pull back into their shell, oozing foam, all boorish but emminently filmable. This cycle is bound to repeat itself.


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Monday, April 10, 2006

The music industry moves towards more sensible licensing for Podcasts

The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society in the UK has recently launched a licensing scheme for music podcasters.

Waiting for engagement
Originally uploaded by philippe leroyer.
At last the law is waking up to the realities of a different world...

The license will allow podcasters to include music from over 10,000 artists to be included in their podcasts. They do this by granting both the writer and publisher permissions that is necessary. (Most songs have two sets of rights vested in them. The rights in creating or writing a song, as well as the actual performance).

"The royalty rate for the scheme will be the greater of 12 per cent of gross revenue or the minimum fee per track downloaded as part of the podcast: full-track 1.5p; half-track (less than 50 per cent by duration) 0.75p."

I take that to mean that if you charge £10 for your podcast you would have to pay £1.20 in royalties. Or if you had 20 full tracks in this podcast, it would be 30p (1.5p * 20). So in this instance the £1.20 still would apply. If it was free podcast you would have to pay 30p.

If the fee you charge is small, say £1 then this amountum amount you would pay in royalties would be 12p. This an equivalent of 8 full tracks if your podcast is free.

Thus free podcasts will be hit by a very small licensing fee.

Under the scheme, where podcasters do not use digital rights management technology on their podcasts, they will have to comply with certain conditions.

They will be required to:

* obscure at least 10 seconds at the beginning and end of each individual track played in a podcast with speech or a station ID;
An annoyance since some music editing software would be required.
* deliver podcasts only in their entirety, not individual tracks or portions of a podcast;
Again, podcasters would stitchto stich the casts together using editing software.
* ensure that music constitutes no more than 80 per cent of the total length of any programme;
Verbal diarrhea encouraged then. Hopefully podcasters will ad this to the beginning or end of their sets.
* ensure that the podcast is at least 15 minutes in length; and
* take all reasonable steps to ensure that individual tracks within a podcast are not capable of being ripped and that metadata or other information or data transmitted or downloaded by the podcaster is not used to identify recordings for download from unauthorised databases or sites.
I presume that if the podcast is saved as one long audiofile all the individual tracks meta data will be lost anyway.

So not quite the free digital utopia. But a huge step in the right direction none the less. There are more general conditions.

All Podcasters will also be obliged not to:

* produce podcasts that contain recordings from a single artist or that have more than 30 per cent of the musical works written by the same composer or writing partnership;
* play any individual track more than once in any single programme;
* provide an electronic guide to the podcast which contains tracks played and corresponding times;
This is very annoying and stupid to boot, I can understand them wanting the time ommited - it makes it easy for pirates to find tracks and rip them; BUT track listings are very useful, especially if you want to search to buy a track or album. I cant remember the number of times I have listened to the BBC's Blue Room, copied and pasted the song info into Amazon and ordered an album.
* insert any flags or other markers in the podcast which may directly indicate or which may be used to indirectly infer the start and end point of tracks or segments of copyright content;
* incorporate repertoire works into advertising; or
* use the repertoire in such a way as may be taken to imply that any goods or services are endorsed, advertised or associated with the repertoire or any artist whose performance is contained on the repertoire or any other party who owns rights in connection with the repertoire.

Further cover is provided for podcasts that generate low levels of revenue and usage, by incorporating the medium into an update of its Limited Online Exploitation Licence (LOEL) - due to be launched in the second quarter of 2006. Royalty rates begin from £50 a quarter.

Apparently non-music podcasts (e.g. predominantly speech with very little music) will be licensed under a new on-demand scheme for non-music services which is being prepared for launch at the end of April 2006.

Lets hope there will also follow more sensible online download and streaming licenses for Film producers (especially documentary makers) that include copyrighted archive footage into their work.

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