Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Cultural Expedition To A Nearby Air Show

Warning: this post is picture intensive.

Over the weekend the Africa Aerospace And Defence 2006 expo and air show was held in Cape Town. Usually they forget to hold air shows in Cape Town, so everyone was very excited.

I prepared the night before by packing non-alcoholic drinks, and a few food supplies, in my bag, along with photographic equipment, my hat, and 11-year-old (ie: mature) factor-10 sunblock.

On the morning of the show I had to get up at some ridiculous hour, which I don't want to talk about. I wore my special (ie: many pockets, saved for special occasions) cargo pants for the event, which I hadn't worn since returning from my London vacation - I found my return-ticket stub in a pocket, along with a chocolate. I know most people are more likely to find money but, well, you read my blog. You know who you're dealing with.

Here are some of the highlights of the air show, taken with my digital camera. I took most of my more important shots with my Pentax film camera, but they haven't been developed yet, so this is a B-grade showcase.


Above: 8:40am: We wait in the queue to enter the airfield...


Above: 8:42am: you can see, we're not moving. At this point I'd already eaten my breakfast food stash, which I had actually been saving for later.


Above: 9:19am: The barricades prevented the men from manhandling their idols. Important.

Someone told me that this is a Gripen. What the hell do I know? Ask me about computer components and televisions. That's about as technologically geeky as I get.


Above: 9:32am: Proudly South African: Denel's Seeker II UAV Surveillance System. It's an unmanned craft (of course - where are you going to find a man small enough to fit in it*?). I think it's what Google uses to make its maps**.

9:35am: Overheard from passersby: son realises all the food sucks and tries to implement a plan:
Mother: "Where're you gonna find pancakes?"
Son: "Last time there were pancakes here!"


Above: 9:39am: Food tokens. Yeah, you read that right. You had to stand in a queue to buy tokens so that you could stand in a queue to buy drinks and then stand in another queue to buy food. The girly men I was with didn't plan well, like I did, and didn't have their own food stashes, so we had to stand in a queue to buy tokens, then stand in a queue to buy food, then stand in a queue to buy drinks, then stand in another queue to buy different food, and then stand and wait around while they made the food. By this time I had arbed[*] off to do something besides stand in a queue for food that wasn't for me (more on that in a minute).

At least standing in all those queues gave us time to understand the monetary system. I thought the reds meant R1, the greens R2, and the yellows R5, or even R10, but it turns out that the yellows meant R1, the greens mean R2, and the reds meant R5. It took us a while to figure this out as, although the amounts are printed on the tokens, it wasn't immediately apparent that this was the case. Everyone was arbing around in a daze trying to figure out the system, and randomly handing tokens to servers in the food booths hoping that they'd be kind and hand back the correct token change. The last time I played with fake money tokens I was in pre-school...

By the way, these days it's impossible to obtain bank bags from banks, so I'm impressed with the South African National Defence Force's powers of persuasion.


Above: 9:43am: Results from food queue one: this is a Twister. It's a potato that's been somehow concertina sliced and then shoved on a stick. It's boiled in oil until all flavour is removed and it tastes like oily, burnt cardboard. It's apparently a delicacy. You can improve the flavour (slightly) by adding flavourings (supplied at the ordering window), such as sour cream and chives, BBQ, peri-peri, "Aromatex", salt and vinegar, and salt.


Above: 9:48am: You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a cooldrink stand (circa 1984). It's actually a token booth. Not the token booth, just a token booth. We found this out the hard way. (Presumably, it's camouflaged to tie in with the occasion being an air show and defense showcase).


Above: 9:49am: The All Gold Taste Police. I don't really know what that means. After standing in food queue number two, then waiting, then finally obtaining your boerewors roll, you could go to the All Gold Taste Police to obtain free All Gold tomato sauce.

Ok, wait. I get it. The Taste Police were trying to make the food taste better. Where were they when we bought that Twister?


Above: 9:51am: This is where I went while everyone else was standing in food queues. This is the police helicopter. I think it had just returned from a pride parade because it was covered in ribbons.

Later in the day I walked right past it and noticed that the entire inside of the windshield was covered in condensation. I guess the helicopter leaks. I can sympathise. So does my car***.


Above: 10:38am: A tank. Elsewhere, children were allowed to clamber all over the display tanks and military vehicles, but this one is apparently special.


Above: 10:39am: Proudly South African: Denel's SS77 General Purpose Machine Gun.


Above: 10:39am: Proudly South African: Denel's Acrobat 60mm Mortar System. I have one at home.


Above: 10:41am: Proudly South African: Denel's Archer Helmet Display System.


Above: 10:49am: Proudly South African: Imperial Armour is the one-stop company for personal protection. It's where I buy my armoured luggage and bulletproof camping equipment.


Above: 10:51am: Global Armour will outfit almost anything, including your attack dog and gay mannequins (the one with the skew helmet, in case you couldn't tell). Notice how he almost has a penis, but not quite? I don't think that's not so much subtle commentary on the military's feelings towards gay people as an attempt to shield the children.


Above: 10:52am: Check out the mannequin with the abs to the right, at the back. That's almost as impressive as the Woolworths mannequins with the pert nipples.


Above: 11:24am: It's the RedBull Academy flying whatever acrobatic team. I forget. They aren't doing any acrobatic manoeuvres here because they're on the ground.


Above: 11:45am: Drinks queue one (for the second time): this Coke can is an actual drinks booth, and not a token booth.

Illustrated is my personal moment of journalistic glory (and cultural disappointment). This shameful sign was posted all over all the booths, bar one near the air show's public viewing area, which actually accepted real money. The apostrophe is in the wrong place, which is disgraceful, and the word is wrong, anyway, because it should be "your".


Above: 2:03pm: Oh. I nearly forgot. There were planes and helicopters flying around all day. This is an Airbus A340.

* I am joking, of course. I know it's a model.
** Still joking.
*** Technically it's not my car, but that's a long story. I mean, longer than this story.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Morning In The Bowels Of Bureaucracy

Today I took the pleasant little jaunt that every licensed driver has to every five years - I went to the Traffic Department to get my licence renewed. (Or, perhaps more accurately, I should say that I went to the Traffic Department to start the process of getting my licence renewed.)

It actually wasn't as bad as I expected (especially after having recently read other-duke's experience at Home Affairs). I entered the establishment through the exit, since the entrance was barred (and, naturally, there were four dodgy guys standing right outside that I had to pass), became confounded by the cryptic signboard (in three languages!) that "explains" what queue you are supposed to join, complete with arrows that I later learnt meant either "go here, then here, then here" or "go here or here", depending on your particular needs.

I then walked around to try to understand the queue system and the window numbering, which goes something like 11, no number (but it's either 12 or 13), (another) 12, no number (another 12), no number (possibly another 12), no number (possibly another 12), no number (possibly another 12), no number (possibly a second 8), 8, 7 (enquiries, except it says "traffic fines"), and then you go around the corner and by then I'm lost.

5 (eye tests and fingerprints) is in another room (and it is a room, not a window), as are some other numbers, and then there are other numbers/windows across the main room on the opposite wall, dealing with things that were of no relevance to me (and I can only take in so much at one time). There's also a photographic station outside, which I could see from the fingerprint queue.

All over the place, and especially at windows, are little signs telling people they're probably in the wrong queue as the queue they're in is not for enquiries, and they should go to window 7 (enquiries) to find out where they should be.

Anyway, so I took it all in, joined the queue based on what the main signboard said (the one with all the arrows)...and about five minutes later realised that most (but not all) of the people in the queue had a green form. I didn't have a green form. Not that this was a big deal because the queue had hardly moved.

I asked the guy behind me, who had a form, and he began to tell me a complicated story that involved multiple windows, eye tests, photos, fingerprints and lots of queuing. I became confused by all the options so I decided to start at the beginning, with enquiries, window 7 (which is what the guy told me anyway).

There was no queue at window 7 (because everyone had already mistakenly joined the wrong queue, and not gone to enquiries). The friendly woman checked me out in the computer (I'm filed in the computer), gave me a green form, told me a long story that confused me, and sent me off to join the queue for eye testing. I asked about a pen, since I didn't have one, having forgotten it in the car, and was told to ask for one "around the corner".

I got around the corner but didn't see the pen window anywhere. All I saw was what looked like a queue, but I wasn't sure where it started. As it turned out, it wasn't the queue I was meant to join, but more on that later.

I was standing around, apparently looking confused, wondering where the queue was, and where I could get a pen, when a man in work overalls standing in a far corner beckoned to me. Naturally, I turned around to see who behind me he was beckoning, but there was no one there (everyone was in a queue), so I turned to look at him and he mouthed something to the effect of "yes, you" (meaning me). I went against all advice ever about beckoning strangers and went to ask him what he wanted.

Surprisingly, he didn't want anything (not even money for a fake charity in Khayelitsha or a fake gardening job at my house so he could check out my PlayStation 2), he just wanted to tell me what to fill in on the form (I was confused as I wasn't supposed to fill in most of it) and where to go - around the corner to queue 5. Wow! Pleased at this non-threatening turn of events I asked if he had a pen. He did. I think he keeps it in his inside overalls pocket just for people like me! In fact, I think all he does it direct lost people and lend them pens! Wow!

I moved off to fill in the form (with my new friend reminding me not to forget to return his pen), filled it in, returned the pen, and turned the corner (another corner) to find queue 5, for the room of eye tests and fingerprinting. While in queue 5 a guy who had been in front of me in the previous queue, also without green papers, joined the queue behind. Ha! I wasn't the only one confused.

The eye testing and fingerprinting went quite smoothly. It's a bit gross having to touch the eye machine with your forehead that every other person ever has touched with their forehead (with the operator only vaguely wiping it between each person), and it's a bit gross touching a fingerprint pad that everyone else ever (including real criminals, I'm sure) has touched, although I presume the ink kills germs, but the people, at least, were friendly, which was a surprise, considering their dismal jobs having to deal with pretty much everyone ever.

I skipped the photograph bit (because I brought my own, like I was supposed to) and returned to the main room. I joined the queue that I had originally joined, smug in the knowledge that things would be fine because I now had the green forms, my eyes had been tested, I'd been fingerprinted and my photos had been affixed to the form (that I "must not bend").

Things then went horribly wrong. While I watched in amusement as dramas unfolded at window 11 (card collections) and marvelled at the fact that I could almost understand some of the Xhosa in the many bilingual signs around the room, the three window 12s (and/or 13s) that were open (for my queue) slowly whittled down to one. And then the queue came to a standstill.

The highlight of this standstill was watching a guy in the queue for window 11 pick his nose. And by "pick" I mean dig deeply, for brain cells, from both sides.

Eventually I reached the window and handed over my form, various documents of identity, and the money (payment, not bribe). In return I received a receipt and was told that this meant my licence would be valid for three more months (while the card that takes about eight weeks to be processed and delivered takes about eight weeks to be processed and delivered). Nowhere on the receipt does it actually say this, though, so I just hope I don't end up in a situation in which I need to provide it as proof that I have a licence.

After that, I went to work (arriving late, as you can imagine).


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Good Vibrations

Please note that this post is not suitable for minors. Avert your eyes immediately!

Today a number of magazine editors (both male and female) in Cape Town received gifts from a fledgling publication looking for wider exposure (a poor choice of words, as you'll soon see). This is not unusual, of course, except that the magazine in question, intiem, is best described as a sex magazine for Afrikaans women (aged 25+), from a Christian perspective. So, in other words, it has a market of about three people.

Flower PowerOne of the magazines for which I do work is a gardening and décor (etc) magazine, and the editor of that magazine was one of the recipients of the gift, which came (another poor choice of words) with a co-marketing suggestion that we should offer a free issue of the magazine to any of our readers interested in receiving it. The gift in question, which was made in China, is, believe it or not, a vibrator disguised (or styled?) as a daisy. Apparently it's suitable for the "home, office, or in the car"*.

The packaging gave no clue as to how this thing might work, as the design (of both the device and the packaging) is a cross between something that would appeal to a gardener (and therefore, I guess, it would be appropriate for our magazine's market) and something that would appeal to a child, so we opened it up to uncover its mysteries.

It uses three button cell batteries (thoughtfully included, as are three spares so, presumably, you won't run out of power in some sort of emergency), and you switch it on and off by turning the yellow part of the daisy. Let's just say it vibrates (much like a cellular phone does), and leave it at that.

I expect my day to end in a manner similar to the following:
"What did you do at work today, Mandy?"
"I handed my boss the batteries for her new vibrator."

Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

*And, quite appropriately, one of the other recipients of the gift bag was the editor of a local-travel magazine.



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