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Seems the world is still going nuts, in the last month we've had serial snipers in the US, a serial rapist in the UK and a serial bomber in South Africa. The really funny thing is the responses - in the States they've caught the guys. Now they're bickering over where to prosecute them so they have the best chance of killing both of them. In South Africa, we conveniently enough have a bomber on the loose right when parliament is trying to push through a new explosives bill. Coincidence? Who doesn't wonder about the influence of politics on News?
The Washington snipers seemingly would never have been caught if it weren't for their own vanity. Or did they want to be captured? If they had carried on merrily shooting people without leaving notes or phoning the cops, they would probably still be free. Perhaps if the police had let the press publish more of the information they were sitting on, someone in the public would have recognized some detail and the snipers might have been apprehended sooner. In the game between cop and criminal it's a wonder that anybody is ever caught. Perhaps it is just for our entertainment.
Is the news media just another form of entertainment? Have we become so bored with our own imaginations that we need a constant view into what other people are doing? We have become like children who always need to know other peoples' business. The proliferation of live news channels and people with video cameras means we can watch practically anything as it happens - take September the 11th. On the flip side, we are becoming like Jim Carey in the Truman Show - our entire lives are on camera. We seem to have lost the right and need for privacy.
The proliferation of reality TV is another example of our passion to look into the private lives of others. We have Survivor, Big Brother and so on. Each of these allows us a further and more mundane glimpse of how "real" people live. The funny thing is that even though it can be as boring as watching paint dry, anyone who has watched Big Brother knows how addictive it can be - what are they going to do next, who is going to get naked? We become fixated on the day-to-day affairs of other people. Is this killing our imaginations?
On TV we see how other people live, what they do, but we can never really see what goes on inside their heads. Why did the snipers shoot 13 strangers? Why do contestants on Big Brother crap in the garden? The more we watch the less we understand. We drown in the all "facts". Only in our imaginations can we can begin to see the truth. In "Silent Terror" James Ellroy writes from the mind view of a serial killer. We don't sit and watch the results of his actions. We are mental accomplices. Watching, we observe; reading, we become.
When we immerse ourselves in a book, we become intimately involved with the characters. Notice how you identify with first character you meet in a book, even if they're not the most likeable, you almost can't help but take an interest in their welfare. Lawrence Block writes about an assassin called Keller, even he was surprised at the response this character received, how could a cold blooded killer be so popular? As Block himself says: "...people really seemed to take to Keller---I don't know what this says about him, and I'm afraid to think what it says about you"
The characters an author creates tell one something about the author, but equally speaking, the reaction of readers to the characters tells one about the readers. Why are certain genres of fiction so popular? The ever-popular Stephen King has made millions of dollars writing about his worst nightmares. Do people just enjoy being scared, or do they like to see characters in awful situations? Perhaps it is just that we like to see how ordinary people deal with extraordinary situations? Seeing order made out of chaos, humanity triumph over monsters, aliens, etc. Confronting our fear of the unknown through fiction.
Human beings have been telling stories as long as there have been campfires and probably even longer. Stories range from what happened to the neighbour's dog to the origin of man, creation to just about anything. Sometimes fiction is used to explain things that are not understood, other times just to imagine what could be. Look at Science Fiction - how many of the things only imagined in the 60's and 70's are reality today? Our imaginations allow us to conceive of the possibility of things that we know shouldn't be possible. Once imagined these very things suddenly become possible.
Missed a day!
Walking on the beach today, I was struck by all the jetsam washed up on the beach. Well not literally struck, but it occurred to me that everything spewed up on the beach had come from somewhere else. From there my mind wandered to messages in bottles. Often I have wanted to put a message in a bottle and throw it into the sea, but could never think of anything profound enough. What could be worse than finding a mysterious looking bottle washed up on the beach, only to find the message in it says, "hi, my name is Joe?"
A few years ago I went sailing and took a lovely blue bottle of Chenin Blanc along, for the very reason of putting a message into it and throwing it into the Atlantic Ocean. Alas this was not to be, as I left the yacht without drinking it. For all I know the bottle of wine is still in the yacht I left it on. Or it might be lying empty on the bottom of the sea. Perhaps it got tossed on a Caribbean island. One thing I do know is that it had more sailing adventures than I did.
The funny thing is, I sailed for about 3 months before I eventually left the yacht and in all that time I could think of nothing profound to write and put in the bottle. No flashes of brilliance in the clear moonlit nights. The pretty blue bottle would have been far more impressive than the contents. Even if I had thought of something profound enough to make a Spanish girl swoon, I had no return address, not even an e-mail address. I would have had to say: "to reply, insert note into bottle and throw back in the sea. Pray."
My sailing adventures began in Durban, South Africa. My friend Jason and I got to sail with an old guy called Archie. He had another crewmember called Norbert. We discovered 3 hours into our voyage that Archie was insane and Norbert had just been released from jail! By this time there was no turning back, our next stop was East London, 250 miles away. On the first night we were awakened by an almighty bang and a great deal of screaming. Upstairs we found Archie had managed to pull a Chinese gybe and had ripped the Main Sail in two.
Jason and I jumped ship the second we tied up at the dock on the Buffalo River in East London. Jason swore never to sail again and caught the first bus out of there. I was more hesitant. So when Bruce, another guy from Durban said he knew of a couple who needed crew to Cape Town, I thought "hey, why not!" This is when I met Lorraine, Alan and their friend Geoff. We set sail for Cape Town the next day. Between East London and Port Elizabeth Geoff caught a Tuna, which we braaied at the PE yacht club.
Port Elizabeth is one of my favourite towns. It has an area called Central, which is characterised by Victorian and Art Deco architecture. It was here that I voted in the first democratic elections in 1994. I had been staying in the Edward hotel, an old hotel just around the corner from the voting station. Over the road from the hotel is Donkin Park. This park is on a hill overlooking downtown PE and has a pyramid as a memorial to Elizabeth Donkin, after whom PE was named. I spent this visit wandering down memory lane, remembering those eventful days.
We left Port Elizabeth in high spirits. The sky was blue, the weather was perfect and the wind was in our favour. Sailing around Cape Recife was what sailing is shown to be in the travel brochures. The next night we passed Plettenberg Bay, where my Grandfather lives, I'd hoped we'd be able to anchor in the bay for a bit, but we pushed ahead. The Knysna Heads were next, but luckily the weather didn't force us to go through them to seek shelter. Bypassing Knysna, our next stop on land was Mossel Bay, somewhere I had not been before.
Mossel Bay on the Cape south coast is the site of the Post Office Tree. Sailors who first sailed around the southern tip of Africa to India used to leave letters in the tree for returning ships to take home. As such it was probably the first "post office" in South Africa. The village of Mossel Bay is old and quite quaint, but the discovery of natural gas off the coast has lead to significant modernization and industrialization. This has financial benefits for the local population, but does no good for the atmosphere of the town. Progress must go on!
Saw M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" last night. It started with tremendous promise, the opening credits looked and sounded like something straight out of the Hitchcock top drawer. The movie itself didn't quite live up to the expectation the credits had set. M. Night's first film "Sixth Sense" was sheer brilliance, "Unbreakable" was good although the ending disappointed. "Signs" is like an essay on destiny. If you don't know by the end of the film what destiny is, then you're a hamster short of a wheel. I hope with his next film he more closely follows Hitchcock and loses the schmaltz.
Leaving Mossel Bay, we set out for Cape Town, but some bad weather came up, so we took refuge in Struisbaai. This is a small fishing village just before Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. We anchored over night, but when the wind changed direction to a south-easter, we had to leave or be pushed onto the shore. The other guys were seasick, so I sailed pretty much by myself until Cape Point. The swell was relatively huge and when the boat went down between two swells it looked as if we were sailing in a bowl of water.
While sailing in these huge swells, white-chinned albatrosses skimmed over the waves "air surfing" the swells. As dawn approached, the swell lessened and Cape Point became visible ahead of us. The next thing we were surrounded by thousands of common dolphins. These are smallish dolphins with an hourglass pattern on their sides. I had noticed over the last few weeks that every time we passed a dangerous point, such as Cape Point, dolphins would surround the yacht, with more on the side of the danger than on the outside, almost as if they were warning us to keep our distance.
Sailing around Cape Point, practically on my own, was an exhilarating experience. The other guys were sleeping down below, the dolphins were guiding me and Cape Point towered above. Here I was sailing where Prince Henry's navigators had sailed, seeing what Bartholomew Diaz and Vasco da Gama had seen. I was sailing round the Cape of Storms that had claimed many of the ancient seafarers. In my case it was more the "Cabo de Bon Esperance" or the Cape of Good Hope. My heart skimmed the crests of the waves with the albatrosses; I was living a dream come true.
Who says weather forecasters can't predict the weather? We were sailing up the Cape Peninsula when a gale warning came over the radio. Within seconds of decreasing the sail area we were struck by a 50-knot wind. If we had waited even a minute longer it would have knocked the boat over and torn the sail into rags. As it was we were sailing with a piece of cloth the size of a large hanky and making good speed. Luckily the sea was completely flat. So what could have been hazardous sailing, if the morning's swell had prevailed, became exhilarating.
Yachting gives one a sense of freedom like few other activities. The ability to travel great distances with your home strapped to your butt is very liberating. Apart from this, the very act of sailing frees you from the land. Suddenly you are being pushed by the wind; you are no longer dependent on your feet and legs to move you. No noisy engine is required. The invisible hand of the wind carries you on your way. All ties that bind you are cut, except those that keep you attached to your yacht. Your means of freedom becomes your comfort.
Tonight watching the sunset and looking for the green flash got me thinking about faith. You either believe in the green flash or you don't. We all know someone who has seen the green flash, but who has actually seen it? John D MacDonald wrote a book called "A Flash of Green" in it an old man says: "But people say they've seen it, the minute the sun disappears." His partner replies saying if you stare long enough at the sun, you're bound to see anything. The old man replies, "Well, I'd like to see it. Just once." That's faith.
Whale watching is becoming quite a pastime in South Africa. People no longer talk about the Big 5, but rather the Big 6. A few years ago whale season was from July to September and you were considered lucky if you spotted one. Now the whales are here from April to November. We see Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales and Bryde's Whales. The number of whales is increasing as well; apparently the Southern Right Whale population has increased by 30% since last year. It seems the whales appreciate that they are protected species and are flocking here for their holidays.
The news of Africa is not good today: guardian.co.uk reports that the Nigerians are killing each other because of Miss World. Why should people kill each other because of Miss World, I mean who really cares if a bunch of women want to parade around in their bikinis? Is this a valid reason to kill someone? I don't think so. Elsewhere, Pravda reports that Didymus Mutasa the administrative secretary of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe has declared the country will be better off with 6 million people dead. Of course these are all people who did not vote for Zanu-PF. I weep.
Next week brings a total eclipse of the sun with it. Apparently the northern part of South Africa will see a total eclipse, but here in Cape Town we will only see about 50%. The first time I saw an eclipse our grade 2 teacher took us all outside and made us look at the sun darkly through a piece of glass. The last time I saw an eclipse of the sun was sitting on the rocks at Boulder's beach with "mountain man" Rob. We used a Black Label bottle to view it. Neither was total, but evoked primitive emotions.
Eclipses have a powerful effect on the human psyche. Many myths and stories have been told to explain them, such as a snake eating the sun. When I was a child my father told me of how, when he was young, the chickens on the farm laid eggs twice on the day of the eclipse, in the morning and again after the eclipse. Unless I get to Limpopo province for next Wednesday's eclipse I'll have to wait 28 years to witness chickens laying eggs twice on the same day. That's the next total eclipse in our neck of the woods.
All this talk of eclipses takes me back to sailing. We were halfway between Cape Town and St. Helena on a still night when we witnessed a total eclipse of the moon. Sounds like a song title! There is something eerie being alone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean watching the Earth's shadow slide across the moon. The total lack of pollution and artificial lighting made it far clearer than is possible in any city. Speaking of cities, I saw the last lunar eclipse of the 20th century from the top of Lion's Head overlooking Cape Town. Truly amazing!
"Look he is beautiful and drunk" said the fridge poetry on Kate's refrigerator door. What does it mean? Every time I open the fridge I see it there, staring back at me. Who is beautiful and drunk? Was it a previous lover, someone I knew? Our relationship is new; I'm too shy to ask.
Seven months down the line, I think she loves me, perhaps I should ask.
I do: "who was beautiful and drunk?"
"Why silly, it's you! From the night you argued that Einstein was wrong and the speed of light is not constant!"
Thank goodness for Albert!
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