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Thought Leader

Pestilence, war and famine: relic of the Middle Ages?

We cannot afford to be swayed by rumour and fear-mongering as we were centuries ago. We must think carefully before we act, share emotional opinions, or start burning witches (or malls)

Soma is a-coming in

'I t was with a sense of grey despair that I read of a young father in England, being forbidden, by some politically constipated magistrate, either to live in his home or to see his son for six months. Daddy had -- in my opinion, quite rightly -- given his son a smart couple of smacks on his backside when the boy tried walking in front of a moving car.

A touchy subject

I find it impossible to comprehend how anyone could pay for sex. I'm not keen on the commodification of the body, its coarsening of sexual expression or the exploitative working conditions. But my difficulty is less a question of deeply held principles and more a matter of my reservations about paying to be touched by strangers.

Walk softly and carry a warhead

In 1983 Oliver Tambo declared that ''there is no force more powerful than the spirit of a people who have decided to endure torture, imprisonment, assassinations, hangings and massacres as the price of freedom, of liberation.'' This was very upsetting news for fans of Victor Hugo, who for years had lived by his observation that there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.


It seems the coffers of the Western Cape government haven't been entirely flattened by the publicly funded drol-spoeging contest between Premier Ebrahim Rasool and pretender to his throne, Mcebisi Skwatsha. No, there's just enough in the kitty to launch an ad campaign intended to make the world think differently about the province that launched the Great Trek, among other things.

New standard may help SABC fend off critics

Respected writer Mandla Langa seems set to leave the comparative quiet of heading the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and move over to the punchbag post of CEO at the public broadcaster, where he should look to a new international standard to settle the matter of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's independence.

Losing my libido

I lost my libido and didn't know where to find it. I know when I lost it and why. But the sad thing was that I didn't miss it. If my partner hadn't warned me that it was gone I wouldn't even have known. It's not that I made any conscious decision to be celibate or chaste nor did I choose an asexual existence.

Africa dressed up with no place to go

I have it on pretty good authority (and my sources seldom fail me -- since I am one of them myself) that the Senegalese capital of Dakar is giving Johannesburg and Durban a pretty good run for their money when it comes to staging international conferences with an African bent. The rise of the African conference city is now being called the New Nepad Nexus.

Why creativity is a bad idea

If you dedicated your waking life to books, forsaking your spouse for Lady Chatterly, ingesting the affairs of bishops and actresses with your meals, and saving particularly satisfying soliloquies for outhouse meditations, you would read about 5,7-trillion words before your bloodshot eyes shut for good. This figure translates, very roughly, into around 48 000 books.

Flashbacks MIA in the TV DMZ

Living in the information age is a marvellous thing. Our questions are answered at the click of a mouse. Or they would be if we had any questions. Fortunately, we have corporations and governments that have our best interests at heart -- and that provide us not only with the relevant questions, but with the answers too. It's a good time to be alive.

Ad nauseum

Apparently Wilfred Sheed, the critic with the laser-guided lexicon, doesn't care much for the nihilistic air-kissing that constitutes so much of contemporary literature. And who can blame him? Driven to the wall by an endless succession of front-brained meditations on the pointlessness of hope and endeavour, who wouldn't reach for the television remote, press it to a temple and end the examined life?

Cinema Purgatorio

Stephen Fry has perfected the persona of walking anachronism. In his enormous frame, the Englishman combines the ponderous authority and formally cavalier erudition that Anglophile myth insists formed the unshakeable foundations of the Empire; and so it seemed that if anyone had the pedigree to make a decent film of an Evelyn Waugh novel, it was he.

Lost property

The other day, while curing hides in the parking bay I rent, a fat woman in a purple dress suit approached me with a clipboard under her arm. She kept licking her lips, and her eyes had the slightly bulging aspect of someone from Johannesburg who is not yet accustomed to breathing genuine air, albeit air tinged with the saucy bouquet of the Sasol refinery.

Blurbing the lines

By the fourth paragraph it was clear that the novel had been produced by one of those writers who believe it is detrimental to their craft to read. It was prose that compelled you to move your lips, as the turgid, cringingly obvious lines plodded past like steel-mill workers heading out for the night shift. At once I knew who this book had been written for, who would buy it and spend half an hour explaining it to each other.

I’m lovin’ it

West Virginia is coal- mining country. Its hills are steep and identical, smothered in that species of tree, eternally half-dead and fraying, that Hollywood uses as a backdrop whenever an act of cannibalism or chainsaw-accompanied incest is taking place. In summer everything drips with condensation, and the faded pink asbestos flamingos outside the rows of mobile homes have a greasy look to them.

True to self

There is an episode of The Sopranos in which the wives decide they need some culture, and a film club is established. The gilt chandeliers are dimmed, the ladies settle on pink couches and kick off puce pumps into pastel shag-pile carpet, the television is turned on, and the bootleg DVD inserted. That evening's offering is Citizen Kane, and it is clear that Orson Welles's classic has left them floundering like a snitch in concrete slippers.

Beware of leaks bearing gifts

Once again my mole in high places has come through with some fascinating information; information that is being withheld from release to the public on the grounds that it might cause ''unnecessary panic''. In the spirit of fearless exposure for which this newspaper is so admired, I am publishing the information here. It has leaked from the Department of Celebrations, Festivities, Commemorations, Ceremonies and Revelry.

The real C-word

Ladies and gentlemen, a new sex manual has sauntered into town. Punning title, check; cover image of sliced fruit, check; sexologist author with PhD, check. So far, so standard, but Dr Ian Kerner's She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman is beginning to have an impact beyond the usual scope of a glossy paperback sex manual.

Trust fund baby

We, the ''original buppies'', got through high school, with my younger sister, Rirhandzu, and me attending the Deutsche Schule, first in Johannesburg and later in Pretoria. We had grown up in Germany and were highly sought after by the German school as they sought to deracialise it. Anyhow, growing up in Germany from the age of five (not in exile), I near lost my real mother tongue, but never my ear for a good story.