Monthly Archives: July 2010

Free Ice Cream

Store owner gives out free ice cream during blackout. Modified detail from an original photo by KC Cruz, GMA News TV.

News back home of power lines going down after being hit by strong winds from a passing typhoon.  Came quickly the dread of rising waters reminiscent of the terrifying floods from last year.  The number of fatalities continues to rise, 23 as of last count, among them a mother and child crushed by a falling tree and a man taken away by rushing river waters.  Darkness and the feeling of complete loss of power.

We also had a few hours of power failure last night, made us remember how terrible Cape winter can be for those who struggle outside without proper shelter, let alone heating.

Then this morning I chanced upon a photograph of a store owner back home who was giving away free ice cream.  It was no use keeping it when there was no electricity.  So he was giving it away.  The original photo is by KC Cruz, and it appears at the GMA News TV site.  Click the artsified image to get to it (if it is still there).

I think this small act of kindness is worth noticing.

Not the Fluffy Chair

Three Colours: Red

If my foggy memory serves me right, the title I use here comes from Monty Python.  Tell me if I’m wrong.  In one hilarious scene someone is being whisked away to be tortured to death, apparently.

The person shouting orders goes “Take him to the fluffy chair!”

The victim begs “No!  Not the fluffy chair!!!!”

Imagine the rest of the sequence for yourselves.

This morning I was asked by to sign a petiton to stop the stoning to death of a woman in Iran.  Here is part of the text:

Yesterday an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was saved by global protests from being stoned to death.

But she may still be hanged — and, meanwhile, execution by stoning continues. Right now fifteen more people are on death row awaiting stoning in which victims are buried up to their necks in the ground and then large rocks are thrown at their heads.


Back when I was still giving lectures to university students, the matter of the death penalty came up.  I think it was around the time it was being debated by lawmakers.  The government through the years had been pressured by various differing lobby groups to either abolish it or have it reinstated – a number of times, if I remember correctly – like it was a game of table tennis, with the rules changing as the game went on it seemed.

One of my students posted the question: what if you were the child of a person set to be killed by the state?  What would you feel towards the government?

In the film Three Colours: Red (the final part in the magnificent trilogy) by the late Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, one of the main characters is a former judge who monitors his neigbour’s secret conversations.  It asks us how much do we know the people around us, or the people we may encounter very briefly?  In the end, how do we, indeed, how can we judge another person to a certain fate?  By appearance, police records, media, religious stands?  Yes, all of us tend to weigh each person’s worth, each person’s relevance to our lives.  Often it is a matter of perspective.

Here is a leap.  Why feel horrified by a pile of stones reserved for a person buried in the ground up to the neck?  Is lethal injection or the electric chair a more humane option?  (bitter laughter please)  How about torture (yes, I see that as slow killing) in a secret detention centre – no, what about a known detention centre, say Guantanamo and others like it in other countries?  Would that be more palatable?

Let us not forget that it is not just the act of stoning someone (a mere head protruding from dry ground, apparently) that should be seen as disgusting, but the very notion of capital punishment (which, in historical and literal fact, means severing the head!).

If you sign the petition, keep these thoughts in mind.  And be surprised at this list of countries that continue to impose the death penalty.

Yes, I did sign the petition.

Now, can someone tell me what that Monty Python movie is called so I can get it out of the video shop?  Please?

Not on Holiday

I’ve been away from this place for over a month.  I have to blame the extended school holidays due to the FIFA World Cup here for my absence.  Tough to get anything done when the little ones you love think you’re nothing more than a rubberband whose only purpose was to be tested to snapping point.  Every single minute of the day.  Thanks to the now even more super rich guys at FIFA. (Yes, you, Sepp Blatter and company – should I say multinational corporations?)

Don’t get me wrong though.  I love soccer.  Or at least didn’t know I did until recently.  For many years the bad memories of high school bullies at the soccer field made me hate the game.  Watching great players (and not so great ones) on the field these past few weeks gave me a new perspective on the sport and if the government can keep the good work after the season’s been and gone, maybe we could see better things for this country.  Making the police department impress not just the welcome tourists but the local population as well would be a good start.

I still think Ghana deserved a goal considering Uruguay’s players decided to play volleyball instead.  At least now that things are winding down, perhaps after Sunday there’ll be fewer invisible giant swarms buzzing around.  One hopes.