Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The problem with (not only) Swaziland

In an ancient rabbinic text there's an interesting commentary that describes four kinds of person. The first kind says, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours." This, says the rabbis, is the ordinary person. The second kind of person says, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine." This is the fool. The third kind of person says, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is yours." This is the saint. The last kind, the fourth, says, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine." This is the thug. All this might seem pretty rudimentary, but here's the crunch: the rabbinic text then goes on to say that the first kind of person, the 'ordinary person', is a Sodomite, i.e., the kind of person who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain, the cities that were destroyed by God and have gone down in history as a byword for evil.
   Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain were not judged and found wanting because of their homosexuality-- homosexuality was only a symptom of what was wrong with them-- they were destroyed because they didn't pursue justice. You see, the attitude of "What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours" always maintains the status quo, ensuring that the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor. In fact, the cities of the plain refused hospitality to strangers, taking the "What's ours is ours" philosophy to the extreme-- no Good Samaritan story was ever taught in their schools. Jewish tradition says that workers were paid according to their status, so the rich were paid more than the poor even for doing the same work. Likewise, having possessions was seen as such a sign of success that things came to be valued above people, especially above poor people. During the building of the tower of Babel (the tower's builders were S&G's founders) a worker falling from the tower and dying of his injuries wouldn't cause much concern, but if a single brick fell to the ground, the authorities went out of their way to retrieve it. It doesn't take much to see that we're living in the same kind of world today, with R2 million churches side-by-side with 67% of the population living in dire poverty; it's not only politicians, bankers and lawyers who want long pointy shoes, tailored suits and big cars.
   It's worth remembering that Jesus began his ministry with an announcement of the Jubilee, and ended it with a stunning sermon told from the view of the dispossessed:  "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." This is the correct attitude expected of those who enter the eternal Kingdom. We came into this world with nothing; we'll leave this world with nothing; everything we have is always lent to us by God.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Webian OS: the future?

As you know, I like variety and also like trying out new operating systems, such as Jolicloud OS and Peppermint OS, both of which have been compared and reviewed on this blog before. My opinion was, and still is, that Jolicloud is perhaps the best bet for a netbook and Peppermint for an under-powered laptop. Well, now there's a proof-of-intent prototype, Webian OS, which is available as a live CD.

The live CD lets Webian piggy-back on top of your existing OS without modifying it, and also gives you the opportunity of doing a normal boot if you wish. What you get is a browser instead of a desktop-- i.e., your 'desktop' is now a full browser window: there are no icons, no menus, or anything else to click on.

Is it any good? Well, it's refreshingly different and it does force you to start thinking in a 'cloud' way. For me, that's a blessing since I'm not distracted by 'desktop' tasks while I'm doing 'cloud' stuff. It's also very fast (even running from a disc)-- it makes Joilcloud, for instance, seem like it's stuck in a jar of treacle or molasses.

But this is just an incomplete prototype at the moment, so it does lack necessary things. Just what is necessary is part of the reason for the shell being released right now-- the only add-on built into Webian at the moment is the ability to send feedback and suggestions to its creators. What is necessary for me is the ability to save bookmarks, the ability to save a page on the web (i.e., dropbox or Ubuntu One or 4shared etc), the ability to print a page or a document, and a proper exit from the shell rather than having to reboot to access the desktop (a logout perhaps).

Webian OS, I think, shows enough promise to excite.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Remixing the art

Remixing the art, as opposed to the art of remixing... Originally, vinyl singles had an A side & a B side, the B side being a different song usually written & recorded specifically for the single. Frequently these B sides were very good-- sometimes becoming bigger hits than the A sides. The Beatles' Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever single is just one example. Then came CD singles & our first experience of remixes rather than different tracks. Frequently these remixes were no good & we thought, 'What the heck? We're being cheated here!' But we didn't realise for a while that remixes have little to do with the original song. The remixes were often there to provide a better drug experience (think House, Rave, etc). Then the remix became the single itself to revive interest in the original single & album it was culled from (think commerce here). Nowadays of course the single is moribund, replaced by the video of the song. The record companies haven't realised this yet & so they are complaining about 'music piracy'. I think if they started selling albums in video single form, they would probably start making money again.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Net Generation (2)

The new generation, the Net generation, aren't up on national Cultural Literacy because traditional culture doesn't really interest them. If you ask them to name Swaziland's current Cabinet, for example, they mostly have no idea; nor do they know who signed the American Declaration of Independence or who Genghis Khan was. They know who Gaddafi is, but not because they know about Libya--most couldn't find the country even on a map. They know about Gaddafi because he's rich, famous, and in the headlines now. This generation truly lives in an electronic, networked, Global Village. They can complete an Eminem quote, but not one by Churchill; they know what Rihanna's latest hairstyle is but can't tell you about Renoir; they know Trump makes money but not how. They think connectedly, not individually; globally, not locally. But contrary to doomsaying opinion they haven't lost their way; they have a genuine sense of identity, but it's collective rather than individual; international, rather than national; it's immediate rather than considered-- connected via Facebook and Mxit and the Net rather than by landlines, PCs or snail mail. And the old conundrum expressed in Pilate's (who's he?) question, What is truth? is more pertinent than ever, for what now is the difference between gossip and information, between genuine and false? All of it is viral. Is it true because it's in a book? Or because it's on the web? Or simply because so many are saying it?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Swaziland has caught the flu

These days news is viral: Lady GaGa just needs to fart & the whole world knows within minutes. So, as soon as tweets said that the IMF wanted the lilangeni delinked from the Rand & people perceived that Swaziland was in crisis, then immediately SD <i>was</i> in crisis. Everybody began disinvesting in the country. Donne's 'no man is an island' now applies equally to nations & it hits like a hurricane.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, July 4, 2011

Peppermint 2 vs Jolicloud 2 (1.2)

My previous assessment (1 vs 1) was that Peppermint was the OS of choice for a laptop but that Jolicloud was pretty good on a netbook. Both OSs have seen changes since then so it's time again to go head-to-head.

Peppermint used to come in two flavours: One, built upon the Firefox browser; and Ice, built upon the Chromium browser. Jolicloud 1 was built upon Firefox. Now Peppermints One and Ice have become a single entity, Peppermint Two, built upon Chromium; and Jolicloud is now at version 1.2 and also built upon Chromium. For the last few weeks I've been alternating both OSs on the same i386 256 RAM laptop (a cheap Proline machine bought by the company I work for). 

What I've noticed so far is that Peppermint is amazingly fast on this limited hardware, attractive to look at and to use, and very open in its design. By contrast, Jolicloud is sluggish, obviously requiring more RAM than this laptop can deliver. Jolicloud's design is also compromised by the bigger-than-netbook screen and gives the feeling of being a more closed approach than Peppermint. This makes sense really, since Jolicloud is trying to give bigger devices a similar look and feel to mobiles.

I think therefore that Peppermint Two will remain on my laptop while Jolicloud relocates to my netbook, for which it is no doubt better suited... although I have  a sneaking suspicion that Peppermint Two will do better there as well. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Social Identities--a growing problem?

I think it was Neil Postman who first alerted me to the fact that although more people are texting and sms-ing and emailing than ever before, what they are writing about is becoming less and less. Or, to put it another way, as we move towards becoming a global village, we all start to live in that same village: that is, we live, breathe, and talk about the same things. If, for example, a political leader is shot in France, then wherever we live in the world that will be in our newspapers, on our radios and TVs, and in our Facebook statuses within a few hours.

This doesn't just mean that our personal identities are being swallowed up by our social identities; it means something even more serious. For media to become mass media, information must always be dumbed down; mass in this area means in practice the lowest common denominator. So more and more of us are learning less and less.

I was struck by this phenomenon recently when I heard high school students singing the lyrics of Rihanna's S&M single. The students also had watched the S&M video countless times. But, when asked, they didn't know what S&M meant. And they certainly hadn't heard of the Marquis De Sade or Masoch.

If you don't know where it's from, how can you know where it's going?

Yes, we're all becoming citizens of the global village; but in the process we're all losing our individual roots. If you don't know about De Sade and Masoch, then presumably you'll think S&M is perfectly normal adult behaviour: and before too long it probably will be. Without roots, everything is on the surface, superficial, without depth, and ephemeral. There is no context because there is no history; and without context there is ultimately no point of comparison; and without comparison there is no ethical basis on which to build.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

morning moaning

morning moaning

I was awoken this morning
by a low moaning;
it was coming from the bathroom.

My toothbrush was crying
because it was lonely
without your toothbrush beside it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Facebook threat to Mxit

I've noticed a new trend among Facebook users that in time could reduce Mxit's dominance in the message market. Many users are now using Facebook's email facility as a replacement for regular sms. The reasons I think are twofold: 1, almost everyone is on Facebook now, so no need to organise a Mxit account; & 2, using o.facebook means that a Facebook message is now only around 1cent in cost - ie, as inexpensive as Mxit.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, May 2, 2011

The rain falls

The rain falls on mosque & church alike. This is important to understand, for politics & religion are both nasty products of human culture but the fear of the lord is truly the beginning of wisdom. Why? Because it is obvious that we humans did not create the cosmos we were born into, & therefore to be aware of a power or energy greater than ourselves is normal, right, proper, & keeps us in the correct perspective: we are not gods, nor should we imagine ourselves so.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter 2011

Music represents the aspirations of a people. Bach, Handel, Telemann, Corelli, Vivaldi, Mozart: proof that the human race was worth saving. Their music was to reflect the glory of God. But now? Easter 2011? Jadakiss? Hip hop, rap, kwaito? Goth? Music that reflects the condition of fallen man. Romans 1, my friends, Romans 1.

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worth saving?

Bach, Handel, Telemann, Corelli, Vivaldi, Mozart: proof that the human race was worth saving. But now? Hip hop, rap, kwaito? Goth?

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


My lips are naked
without yours to cover them;
my bones like ice
without your fire to warm them,
my soul shabby and shapeless
in the wardrobe of these days.

But in the places where your tongue
danced and played,
memories still remain;
my heart dresses itself in those memories
again and again and again.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cool Reading

cool reading
I never thought I'd say it, but I'm starting to prefer epubs to books. Why? Because epubs are extremely portable, so small that I can carry hundreds of them in my pocket, and now intensely readable even on a cellphone. Pdfs are horrible on a phone (too big in too many ways) but epubs seem to me to be the future of publishing (in exciting avenues of ways). As an author and reader I'm ready to roll with the new wave.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Firefox 4 ppa

Firefox 4 ppa

Firefox Animated Gif

I've been using the Firefox 4 beta for a while now and like it a lot--it's fast and a great improvement on Fox 3xxx although I won't say it's better than Chromium. It's now out of beta, so if you want to add the ppa to your system, fire up a terminal and type in the following:
   sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/firefox-stable
   sudo apt-get update
   sudo apt-get install firefox ubufox

and you'll be in business.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Does contemporary r&b promote racist stereotypes?

Does contemporary r&b promote racist stereotypes?


'… a single, menacing question surrounds public articulations of Black sexual desire: How, given the ways that racism and racist oppression manifest in sexual violation, can Black people speak of the erotic? What many [ ] authors and editors repeatedly foreground is the undeniable relationship between the erotic and racist oppression. This connection does not mean that one must take pleasure from acts of racist and sexual abuse, but that Black erotica is concerned with and shaped by Black peoples’ memories, experiences, and narratives of racism. Because sexual violence historically has been a key mode through which bodies are racially marked and subjugated, then the realms of sexual intimacy, bodily pleasure, and love are important places where the struggles over recognition and affirmation
emerge .' Felice Blake , University of California, Santa Barbara , in From Margin to Centerfold: The (Mis)Recognition of Pleasure and Danger in Contemporary Black Erotic Fiction , page 3


Does the portrayed connection between sex and violence prevalent throughout contemporary hip-hop, rap, and even much r'n'b derive from a history of racism, and is this connection actually encoded into the core myth of the Middle Passage? Or, to express it differently, is historical racism so much a part of African-American models of identity that it has shaped what is seen as 'normal' black sexuality?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reading books on a cellphone

Have you ever tried reading a pdf book on a cellphone? It's truly an off-putting and frustrating experience: you are always trying to adjust the size of the text, scrolling from side-to-side and so on. Yet I have persisted; one of the things I want to do is read books on a cellphone-- there are often situations when I am waiting for someone or something or even when I'm so into a book that I 'can't put it down'.

Well, one of my cellphones is an android phone and, although pdf's are still a pain, I have discovered epub files and some really cool readers for them (one is even called Cool Reader). The problem is that most books are in pdf format. Enter Calibre, a linux program that does a good job of converting from pdf to epub format! I downloaded and installed Calibre via synaptic and have been converting my pdf books and reading them comfortably on my phone since then. Pretty cool.

Peppermint-One Jan 2011 respin is the biz!

Yes, this post is slightly late... well, I was actually looking for a torrent of the latest Peppermint Ice respin (March 2011) but couldn't find one, so I tried the latest Peppermint-One edition instead. I was happily surprised.

My preference for Ice over One was simply related to the underlying browser-base of each of the distros; the Mozilla-Prism combo of One was often slow and unwieldy because Firefox had itself become bloated. So I preferred Peppermint Ice since it was built on a Chromium-Ice combination. Now, ironically, I find that Chromium has begun to show signs of bloat, and that the new Peppermint-One uses the sleeker and much faster Firefox 4.0 (Beta 9).

In other words, get your copy of Peppermint-One's 01042011 iso, burn it to disc, and install it today! You won't be disappointed. It's fast, efficient, and a real pleasure to use, even with limited RAM. Well done to the Peppermint team.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Valentine R.I.P.

Valentine R.I.P.

I don't know if you've yet seen the new Rihanna video, S&M, but it's already done its promo job by stirring debate and controversy across the blogosphere. Coming hard on the heels of 2010's massive singles Eminem's Love the Way You Lie and Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, its bondage/men as dogs/scenes with bananas and dolls etc effectively means that kids growing up today will come to accept obsessive behaviour and domestic violence as the norm for what were once seen as romantic relationships. Cupid is still a fat boy, but his arrows are now valued for their pain rather than for warm fuzzy feelings of love.
   Love the Way You Lie was of course classic s&m: the ending especially, when the rapper warns, 'If you try to leave me, I'll tie you to the bed and set the house on fire.' Rihanna explains: "You'll stand there and watch me burn. That's all right cos' I like the way it hurts. You'll just stand there and watch me cry. That's all right cos I love the way you lie." Eminem as the sadist; Rihanna as the masochist.
   On Rihanna's latest, the chorus is
"'Cause I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it/Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones,/But chains and whips excite me."
   Yes, it's clear from the video that she's responding to her critics, putting a finger in the air to especially the media, but still the other elements disturb. Even if the video is banned worldwide (it already has been banned in some places) it is obviously going to influence teens and others. In time, nothing in this video will be considered shocking or even abnormal. Don't get me wrong: I actually appreciate Rihanna's style and talent; but February 2011 surely marks the death of romance and a quick farewell to that old gentleman once known as Mr Valentine. 

Sakhile Live in Swaziland

https://www.mixcloud.com/ken-rowley/african-jazz-7-sakhile-live-in-swaziland-december-1987/ For me the best South African band of al...