“am i pretty or ugly?”

The following videos are posted by very young teenage girls looking for validation from strangers online in the face of negative comments about their appearance… There are MANY, MANY videos like this on Youtube – it’s become a strange sort of meme.

The exact motives for making these movies are mixed, but if you read the comments under the videos, you’ll see how mean people can be under the cloak of anonymity – meaner, probably, than the unkindness at school that the girls are hoping to drown out with the “objective” opinions of strangers online, for this is what all the videos have in common.

I don’t think I will ever understand how hurting someone else, even if it is because you yourself are hurting, could help you feel better at all… which I guess is what always made me an easy target for bullies myself. I don’t retaliate because it doesn’t make sense to me to do so. That’s lethal bully-bait when coupled with the conviction to stand up for oneself, to speak back. I hit people teasing me a few times when I was a kid, mainly to get them out of my face. It made me feel sick to do that, and it didn’t help. Mostly I would just try to shout them down.

My mom’s mantra, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” roared uselessly.

It took me years and years to figure out how futile and dangerous it is to try to shout, to speak, to whisper back, to appeal to sense and truth, to reason with cruelty. It doesn’t work, because cruelty isn’t rational. It is senseless. Cruelty is fed by any and every reaction. These girls won’t realise until the damage is already done and they have lost their voices completely. It hurts to watch them exposing themselves to so much pain.

“I feel like I could just go away and never come back. I feel like I’ve been standing all these years and keep getting torn down… Deep down inside, all girls know that other people’s opinions don’t matter, but we still go to other people for help because we don’t believe what people say.”
~ Faye (13). More on her story HERE.

helge janssen on the psychology of bullies

“Bullying represents a negative form of seeking attention. The bully is an excessively damaged person asking for help in a devastating way. While compassion is a fantastic quality, our society does not have the tools to deal effectively with this scourge. As a victim of bullying throughout my educational career (including, though less frequent, at college) I had absolutely no support from anybody. People thought bullying was ‘funny’. The bully has no control of his bullying and is not going to stop because he is shown ‘compassion’.

“The bully seeks power from the very person most likely to let him have it! It is a very weird psychology. However society does not have any mechanism (certainly not in schools, although there are pockets of greater awareness) to check this hurtful and harmful behaviour because the bully will find a way outside of school environment.

“Usually, the only thing the bully will listen to is if he is challenged directly. Sadly this challenge may come at a time when the VICTIM has lost rationale and has become desperate. Domestic violence is another form of bullying. Once a victim is forced into silent suffering the results become tragic.

“Being bullied taught me how to become INVISIBLE and it took about 10 years of my life AS AN ADULT to work my way out of this ‘death’. This was my only defence. In hind sight this has given me an invaluable tool: I am now an eternal REBEL.”

~ Helge Janssen

Written in response to THIS OPINION PIECE on bullying, published today on the Daily Maverick website.

john stevens on the dynamic which underlies bullying

“Bullying is about rejection and belonging. It stems from the need for a place in the world and the feeling that one has been denied that need. When young people feel properly welcomed in the world, when they feel their gifts being led out, they do not feel the need to claim their place through violence or meanness. When a person bullies, or shoots his bully, it shows us that we did not provide that young person the opportunity to grow his or her gifts.

“Instead of recognising this, our emotional reaction is often to try to reclaim control, to clamp down. It is a reaction that feeds and deepens the roots of alienation in young people – roots that grab in the belly and grow through the heart until they bloom red in schools. In the United States, where I am from, we have experienced school violence at heretofore unknown levels. We have often responded in all the wrong ways and have managed to turn many of our schools into places that more closely resemble prisons than places in which the inherent gifts of each individual person are ushered into the world.”

Read the rest of this opinion piece HERE.

amanda todd (15)

“I’m struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I’d rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don’t hate, although I’m sure I’ll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here aren’t I ?”
~  Amanda Todd (on making the above video, posted in September 2012)

RIP Amanda Todd: November 27, 1996 – October 10, 2012

Video posted four hours before her suicide.

alice (jan svankmajer, 1988)

In Alice, a little girl follows a white rabbit into a world where nothing is quite what it seems. Where Czech surrealist Švankmajer’s Alice differs from other adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is that it explores the book’s darker side as well, thereby remaining faithful to the tone of uneasy confusion that pervades the original story. A live-action Alice (Kristyna Kohoutova) inhabits a Wonderland that teems with threatening stop-motion characters. Švankmajer’s visual canniness and piercing psychological insight permeate the film with a menacing dream-logic. Curiouser and curiouser.

Watch the rest of the film here!

alice in wonderland (hepworth/stow, 1903)

Directed by two of the founders of British cinema, Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, its original running time of twelve minutes made the first cinematic adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s literary classic the longest running British film to date.The one remaining print has been restored by the BFI, and here it is, courtesy of Youtube.

Alice in Wonderland was clearly made for cinema goers who had already read the book, hence describing this version of Alice in Wonderland as a literary adaptation in the modern understanding of the term may be misleading (without prior knowledge of the books, deciphering the events of the film would be quite difficult). Given the film’s length, it would be better to describe it as a series of vignettes from the book. It is perhaps this aspect of the film’s organisation that gives it a peculiar and slightly disjointed feel.

It is memorable for its use of special effects, clearly inspired by the likes of Georges Méliès and the Lumière Brothers.

Despite the BFI’s best efforts, the original reel of Alice in Wonderland was damaged to such an extent that the deterioration is quite clearly visible on the restored print. This however, only heightens the dreamlike atmosphere of the film. Combined with the fact that the film is not a ‘conventional narrative’, Alice in Wonderland can be seen as a forerunner for the works of surrealist filmmakers such as René Clair, Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau.

Read more about the film HERE.

nadine shah – are you with me?

“Shah is a singer-songwriter of Norwegian and Pakistani parentage from a small coastal village in the north-east of England, but she could just as easily be the result of a steamy union in the capital some time in the early-90s between Polly Harvey and Nick Cave. That’s the lineage to which her dark tales of lust and loss, revenge and regret belong, although she also cites as influences everyone from Philip Larkin and Frida Kahlo to Interpol and Arthur Russell (something in the tremulousness of her voice bears the latter out) as well as the religious Sufi songs that her father would play during car rides and the ghazals he sang in Urdu around the house… There is romance in her backstory, even if it’s not of the troubled variety. Shah grew up on a rocky cliff overlooking the North Sea. Her mum was a sea captain’s daughter, and her dad was the exotic stranger who stole her heart. Her debut album will be called Love From Dum And Mad, its title capturing the intriguing split in Shah’s character between loving family girl and avenging banshee.”

– Paul Lester, The Guardian

The Aching Bones EP was released on 19 November 2012 by Label Fandango. More from Nadine Shah HERE.

music for its own sake

“Life is like music for its own sake. We are living in an eternal now, and when we listen to music, we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.”

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

~ Alan Watts

to go on

“To go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.”

~ Samuel Beckett,  from The Unnamable

“unbound” tonight at greatmore studios’ 2012 showcase

Fleurmach highly recommends that you check out Greatmore Studios‘ Showcase 2012, particularly tonight’s live improvisational performance, entitled ‘Unbound’. Don’t miss this once-off collaboration, involving sound by musicians Alex Bozas, Garth Erasmus and Niklas Zimmer, dance by Jacki Job and photography of the performance projected live by Noncedo Gxekwa.

When? Wednesday 28 November (TONIGHT!). Doors open 18h00. Live performance commences 18h30.
Where? 47-49 Greatmore St, Woodstock, Cape Town. Map HERE.

The live performance will accompany an extensive exhibition by resident artists, visiting artists and guests, which promises to be really worthwhile. More info HERE.

Greatmore Studios is an artist-run initiative based in Cape Town. It revolves around a pool of permanent artists, an international visiting-artists-in-residency programme and a range of workshops and other activities. This initiative forms part of the Triangle Arts Trust, a United Kingdom-based organisation that facilitates an international network of artist-led workshops and residencies. This association affords artists access to information and opportunities to exchange ideas and skills with other artists around the world.

flats, fredie, fascists and franswa

It’s reassuring to know that there are areas of South Africa, only half an hour from Pretoria, which are not only out of cellphone range but are also, incredibly, not on Google maps either.
My tiny adventure happened on the Lord’s day of the week, which meant I was beyond help, because nothing is open on Sundays in rural areas; obviously, nothing untoward is supposed to happen then.
All that actually happened was that the back tyre on my motorbike went flat.

I was in Tweedespruit, north of Cullinan, visiting a beautiful valley where an elderly German couple reside. Rolf was busy sharpening his fishhooks in anticipation of catching bass when I arrived late in the morning.
He told me how he was trying to get some sort of communication going with the outside world, as there are no landlines and cellphone reception is practically non-existent. Without contact with the outside world, he cannot book clients to come and camp or hike on his pristine property, Frogs. But to establish an internet and phone connection he has to pay R15 000, quite a lot of cash … a bit of a Catch-22 situation.
I went down to the river after drinking some home-made, delicious ginger beer made by his wife, sat by the stream, smoked a small joint, played with a stunning dog that came to join me, swam, and then meditated a tad.

I realised that the city of Joburg had once again filled my being with fear and tension, and prayed the valley would help to release it. A kingfisher came and went; I was drawn to the world of insects; once I noticed one, a large black and yellow bug, I saw many more.
Returning to my trusty steed, I noticed the back wheel was completely flat. This would normally not be a problem, but being in this remote valley, it quickly turned into a challenge of note – how to get back over 100km to Joburg, or how could I get the wheel temporarily repaired?
I returned to Rolf’s home on the bike, and was told that across the road from their tiny farmhouse lived the musician Fredie Nest, who owned a compressor which could fill my flat.
Alas, upon finding his home, the compressor was unable to fill the tyre, as the valve appeared to be truly fucked. But what a place! Ancient, incredible cars and boats stood in rows by a man-made lake, replete with a slowly revolving water wheel.

Fredie’s wife and his servant tried their best to help me, but to no avail. I was told to stand, first in the peach orchard, then next to the lake, to try and obtain cellphone reception, but my phone indicated there was not the slightest sign of contact with the outside world …
They also told me that, even if I did manage to phone someone, there was no way to give them GPS co-ordinates, as there were none for where they lived. I checked this when I got back to the online world, and true as Bob, that area of the map is just a blank: no roads, streams etc.
So I drove to Cullinan, to see if anyone there could help fix the tyre. The bike handled the flat tyre quite well, and though I braced myself for a fall at any moment, I was able to get up to about 60km/h once I hit the tar roads.
In Cullinan I was directed to a disheveled smallholding, but the tyre repair business there had closed, and there was not so much as a puncture repair kit left – just one patch, but no glue to hold it in place.
One of the guys who had gathered around my bike suggested I ride to Rayton, about 10km from Cullinan, and buy a puncture repair spray, which fills your tyre with a foam which is supposed to get you to get to your destination. This I dutifully did, along with a miniature crew of helpful petrol attendants, but the spray just blossomed out of the bottom of the valve onto the garage concrete and did no good at all. All the repair places were closed of course, it being Sunday.
So I rode to Pretoria, where a friend of ours stays, and from there I phoned my insurance company, who sent a roadside assistance crew to get me to Joburg. Retha, who had just got back from India, told me how she and her partner got stuck in Mumbai. Apparently the guy in charge died, and the whole city came to a standstill – even the ATMs closed.
Bal Thackeray had over two million people at his funeral, many of them weeping openly, yet he was a man who publicly proclaimed his admiration of Hitler and who had made statements like “Muslims are spreading like a cancer and should be operated on like a cancer”. I have never understood how fascists arouse such love from the general public. It’s like Zuma, he just can’t do any wrong, no matter how long the list of mistakes he makes gets.

Franswa – a man with a pronounced Malmsbury “brrrray” arrived with his wife and a trailer, and we set off for my home, with her sitting in the back of the tiny, stuttering bakkie, next to the tools and cans of petrol; Retha gave her a cushion to ease the trip.
Along the way Frrrranswa told me of his job – he gets R50 per job, while his boss, who owns the car, makes R300 minus costs – and has to be on standby 24 hours a day. He gets called out to Mamelodi township in the middle of the night. Big guys phone me because they are too lazy to fix a flat, he told me. Anyway, he said, this job is better than sitting at home just drinking beerrrr.
And he often gets tips. But, after sitting for half an hour on the freeway waiting for an accident to be cleared from the road, I was so tired and hungry after five hours of nursing my bike home, and so distracted by the paperwork I had to fill in for being towed, that I forgot to tip him.
I did however find a video by Fredie Nest, called Krummelpap. Check it out on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qwt4c4FnNQ!

Some things just never change in SA!

baloji with konono n°1 – karibu ya bintou (english subtitles)

From the album Kinshasa Succursale (Crammed Discs, 2011)
Video shot in the streets of Kinshasa.
Electric thumb piano (likembé) played by Konono N°1, the legendary Congolese band whose junkyard sonics and trademark “Congotronics” sound has had a major influence on the electronic and indie rock scenes.

Directors: Spike and Jones
DOP: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Producer: Annemie Decorte (Dr. Film)
Styling: Ann Lauwerys
Mask: Katrien Matthys

More info: