Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pretoria – a face brick heaven!

Pretoria used to give me the creeps! Pretoria was in my mind a white Boer place only, and a gust from the Apartheid past. I’m myself part of a mixed couple, and had quite a few incidents on my first trip to SA in 2000. Enough to become a racist myself… to the extent that I thought every single white person here was bastards from the Apartheid period. Now I’ve overcome that part (way over it, so don't worry!), and actually got some Boer friends, and thoroughly enjoy oxtail potjie. Pretoria still gives me the creeps though, and I’ve been wondering for a long time why?!

We have family in Pretoria, and had stopovers there on our once a year trips to South Africa. On these trips I have obviously developed an impression. I must stress though that this has nothing to do with our family in Pretoria (they are very nice and loving), and neither the area they live in (Waterkloof). Just the surrounding areas… I think?!

A couple of years ago though, I started to notice the extensive use of face brick in South Africa, and especially Pretoria. Face brick gives me an old fashion feeling… 70’s or thereabout I believe. I used to live in a face brick apartment block in Norway from the age of 4-8yo. They don’t make them there any more, coz it’s out of fashion. I guess my Norway trends are stuck in my head… and have a hard time adjusting to the building fashion here in SA.

I see all the vast fields with hundreds of identical houses. Small and basic low cost housing in some places, and fancier and more expensive in other places. All of them are in face brick though! It reminds me of the apartment blocks in Hungary. Our taxi driver from the airport pointed it out and said in a very dry tone of voice; “Russian Architects”! Russian architects and anything to do with Russia have a very low standing in Hungary and the other East Block countries. That was the communist regime inheritance in Eastern Europe. But hey, South Africa and ANC have got some solid communist roots too! Maybe the Russian architects came to SA also? Maybe some of the communist support from mother Soviet Union, or a major substantial part of it, was in fact building technique know-how?! Face brick experts!!

Why the hell did they have to make it all in face brick though?! South Africa must be extremely rich on resources needed for face brick production, never mind gold, platinum and diamonds! This is not a past phenomenon in South Africa. All over the place you see new complexes coming up in face brick. Not only low cost subsidized houses. In up market areas they also use face brick extensively?! ANC is still in power you see, and the communist engineers and face brick experts are not yet retired. The natural resources are far from exhausted either.

Reuben is a good friend and family member. A couple of years ago, I remember a property discussion with Reuben. A guy in the neighborhood had put up a massive big house, and the whole bloody thing was in face brick. About R2 a brick he said in complete awe. The number of face bricks was obviously a statement of wealth. Only I didn’t get it. The house belonged to an Indian fellow. That makes sense, as Indians are generally quite status oriented I’ve noticed. Their cars are usually styled up with everything available on the market… So a rich Indian guy’s house should of course be in face brick! Tons of face brick!!

I happened to mention my view on face brick for my wife some time ago. I think she saw my passion about it. Since I mentioned it though, she has also developed distaste for face brick. This is currently making things hard for us, as we are looking to find a place closer to her work in Hatfield, Pretoria. Except from the abundance of face brick, we don’t really know the area very well, so agents are taking us around for house viewings. By now we’ve seen a lot of Pretoria, only to confirm the vast use of face brick. We’ve actually been on the verge of ruling Pretoria out all together. Centurion is another place we’ve been trailing with agents. It’s closer than Fourways where we live at present. Centurion is yet another face brick heaven though!

Never mind my personal taste (coz I think it is damn ugly!!) but look at it fashion wise. Fashion comes and goes. It might not be as frequent fad as with clothes, but still. Face brick houses in South Africa, counting from the numbers, must have been built intensively since the 70’s at least. It never stopped though. It carried on and on, more and more face brick. If face brick was fashionable for a decade only (+/-), and gone in the mean time, then it would have been retro by now… and surly fashionable for some people yet again. But no – it’s been bloody 40 years of face brick only. Fashion doesn’t last that long, am I right?! 40 years of face bricks, that’s a hell of a lot if you put all of it in one pile. I wonder how long it took to build the pyramids in Egypt?! Those pyramids would be puny compared to the face brick mountain in this country. They should make the face brick towns in this country a new wonder. How sad that the voting for the 7 new wonders are over!! A wonder should be something positive though, so maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t carried away earlier.

I know that face brick is low maintenance, but it still doesn’t justify it for me. We have decided to move “closer”, or in the “direction” of Pretoria though. I reckon it’s about 99,5% probability that we move into a face brick house. When we eventually buy a house, hopefully within a year, I reckon it’s about 90% chance that will also be a face brick house. You just can’t escape it!

In retrospect:

Since publishing this article I have tried not to think too much about face brick. On Saturday though, we were driving to Centurion... and had a relapse on the face brick subject. Somebody pointed out to me; "See Jonny, they're building a face brick house". I was pretty unaffected - really! A few seconds later though, when we passed another two towering face brick developments, I could feel the blood pressure rise again. What strikes me is that you don't have to look very hard to find a face brick house... or a new face brick construction site. It's right there in your face all the time!! Maybe that's how the inventor of face brick was visualizing it too?! He had a clear vision of making "the brick" that would replace everything else on the market and become the Coca Cola or Microsoft (in lack of a good enough example!) of construction. Vast areas with face brick houses as far as you can see... reminding you no matter where you turn. In your face all the time basically - and thus FACE brick!! I must admit that it's brilliant. Never mind Bill Gates and Donald Trump. I expect that this yet unnamed face brick king will top the richest man rankings any time soon!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Zulu traditions!

You know that famous quote from Caesar; “You too, Brutus my son?”, as he gets assassinated in Rome! The Romans thought they were smart when they invented the republic. The republic could never save Caesar though. It actually became his certain death! He should have killed the whole senate to stay safe... much like the zulu's!

The Zulu history is very interesting in that respect. They seemed to have found a solution to this problem. As a Zulu chief died, it was usually a big havoc and fighting amongst his legitimate and illegitimate children to take over the throne. The way to do it was of course to kill all your brothers. Nobody else could then inherit the throne, and nobody would dare question you. This worked remarkably well!

Shaka Zulu is considered the great Zulu Warrior King of all times. He was not very consistent with the Zulu traditions though. Out of his own choice it’s said that he never had children, as they could turn against you at any time. He had a point there, looking at what happened to Caesar. Historians claim this was rather a cover up of the fact that he was either gay or impotent (or both). He did kill his brother Sugujana to claim the throne in line with the tradition… just not his half brothers Dingaan and Mhlangana. The two brothers eventually stabbed Shaka Zulu to death, and Dingaan became the new king! Dingaan was very consistent with the Zulu tradition though. He killed not only his half brother, but anyone whose loyalties were in question!

At present, Goodwill Zwelithini is king of the Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal. Apparently he has not wiped out all disloyal underlings in his kingdom in line with the tradition. Recently no less than 11 family members and chiefs have personally attacked Zwelithini (verbally only yet) and applied to be declared kings like Zwelithini. These 11 new candidates are loyal to Mangosuthu Buthelezi which is in opposition to the king. Buthelezi is also the king’s cousin, or “uncle” in Zulu kinship reckoning. How can this be possible in Zululand?! Where are all the assegais and knobkerries?! Can’t they just settle the matter in the old fashioned ways on some open field? Without strong Zulu traditions… what’s left really?!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Update on the RDA project!

"It is safer to believe in God, even if there is no definitive proof that God exists!"; Pascal's Wager!

Choice of religion must not be taken lightly… The spiritual market is vast and hard to get an overview of. Imagine if you go through your whole life praying, chanting and going to services… then as you exit this life you realize that your religion and your god is not there for you the way you expected… It was actually another god… or another religion that could have helped you out much better! How sad… Or, imagine if there is only one god… and you sent all your prayers to the wrong address through all your life… to a fake god that can do f**k all! You see my point? Life… and especially religion is a gamble, so you should make damn sure you have all the pros and cons presented to you… and that’s where my one pager summary comes in.

Obviously if a religion stands out as SO much better than all the rest, then there is reason for suspicion, right?! As my RDA-tool develops I will of course come up with a way to filter out the fraudulent religions and cheaters. I’m thinking about a kind of lie detector test… The problem is that these instruments work well on people… It is highly possible also those members of a religion are so completely brainwashed that they truly believe… and thus cannot be taken for a liar and a cheat. The real crooks are of course the founders. Religions are ancient stuff though, and none of the founders are still alive I believe… Left are only the practitioners that are more or less fanatic… and none of them are testing material. There are only believers left – some believe in the right thing and the rest of the lot waste their time and efforts.

Isn’t that the ultimate betrayal? As you are floating between life and death you realize (a bit late) that your door to Heaven or Nirvana or whatever is not there! Your whole life has been in vain… actually worse than in vain if Hinduism should happen to be the right one. As you have worshipped the wrong god(s) your whole life, your karma can not be very great after your last lap of heresy. The top lawyer is reborn as a pig because he gambled on the wrong religion for instance… Ok, bad example maybe, since there could be a number of other reasons for a lawyer’s bad karma and downgrade.

My RDA project is a way for people to feel more secure, but the long time goal is of course to get the religion lie detector to work. That will be the Nirvana of the whole RDA project. Then we have eventually ruled out all the others and can all concentrate on the one and only religion. This is a futuristic project of course, and needs to measure more than just heartbeat, pulse and sweat… For this I have contacted NASA, Ghost Busters and a UFO-organization in the US. With our combined efforts I am sure we will get there in very short time!

"The world of poetry, mythology, and religion represents the world as a man would like to have it, while science represents the world as he gradually comes to discover it." (Joseph Wood Krutch)

I consider myself part of the science part here… and will hopefully exclude the religions that man conveniently made up. I have started an important piece scientific work!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Another Ape - another trek Out of Africa

I went to a party the other day. One guy stood out from the crowd as loud and outspoken; let’s call him “Pablo”. He seemed to have opinions about most things. He had some theories that I found amusing and very interesting, and just the kinda stuff I enjoy... If his theory happens to be correct, I’ll have to revise my own “Out of Africa” theory, but what the hell. So I’ll try to quote some of his theories… hope I get it right! I should also add that there are no racial motives behind this theory… I believe!

Apparently, there is a difference between the black people and the other races in this country. The blacks were here from the early morning, and bred right out of the cradle – The Cradle of Humankind that is. They have found tons of evidence to confirm this. Mrs. Ples, Lucy and Littlefoot and lots of other unnamed apes (John Doe’s) and humanoids. These monkeys are our prehistoric forefathers, earlier stages in evolution, before they developed into humans like you and me. As the general scientific theories go, they are the forefathers to people in all continents. They spread out from South Africa to all the continents – almost like today’s island hopping in Greece, and like my forefathers on their great trek (

Pablo’s theory though, reject that the same monkey made the great leap across the Mediterranean or the Suez Canal, and out of Africa. There was another ape that developed further north somewhere that crossed the rivers, ponds and lakes or whatever… and then spread out to inhabit the other continents. So, there was one monkey for Africa, and another one for the rest… So what? You’ve got two different monkeys to explain the nuances in skin colour?! The Stensby Ape’s trek was a bit shorter than earlier assumed (Coz I must assume that my ancestors was among Pablo’s lot), but still a lot more impressive than that of the voortrekkers. But there is more to it than that. When Jan Van Riebeck and the Dutch and later the Brits came to South Africa, they were technologically much more advanced than the native Africans that they met. A small difference could be random… but they were centuries apart in development! According to Pablo, there was no wheel even in Africa when the first colonizers started to nose about the African shores. How could this be if they were descendants of the same monkey?! So it’s proved then, that there was another monkey! Let’s just call it Pablo’s monkey to make things easy.

As Lucy, Mrs. Ples and Littlefoot grew up in abundance of food and resources, they were never pressured or challenged to find new ways. They were laid back and happy with things. Pablo’s monkey though developed further north. I can not remember exactly where… but whether it was Egypt, Middle East or Turkey… it was damn dry and far from the same abundance of flora and fauna. Why the hell did they end up there in the first place? My theory is that they were chased out by the other monkeys. Pablo’s monkey now had to be smart and creative to stay alive. Indeed it proved fit to survive also… so fit that the wheel was just around the corner. It’s like the Norwegian proverb: “Emergency teaches a naked woman to make clothes”! The significant difference back then was that Pablo’s monkey, unlike the laid back ones further south, developed the ability to plan from one day to the next. Pablo’s monkey also managed to overcome before insurmountable obstacles like crossing a river either by a raft or some kind of bridge. Mrs. Ples and Littlefoot were cut off by the Limpopo River, Zambezi and the Congo and thus stayed put, but did not care as they managed well in their abundance on this side. Not one single bridge, or a single structure like a log across the stream, has been found throughout Africa after the African monkeys. If it was really Mrs. Ples’s clan that chased Pablo’s monkey up north, then I owe her eternal gratitude. Then I will go to the Sterkfontein Caves once again to pay tribute. I guess I should not bear grudge against my forefathers either then ( I have to thank Pablo also, for putting my family’s evolution into a new and more favourable perspective. Now I can understand the reasons for ending up in the cold so far north. At the end of the day, I much prefer brains in the north to the alternative.

Whilst the smart apes migrated to Europe and other places, the other apes carried on in Africa at a slower development pace. So the technological development took different paths already hundreds and thousands of years ago. In light of the monkey story, it’s not so strange after all that the technological development was a few centuries behind in Africa. It certainly explains a few things that have been on my mind lately as well. Black people, at least some of them, are so laid back (like the ancestor ape) that they can hardly get out of the road in time to avoid cars on the highway! The Brits also went all the way to India to find proper working capacity on the cane fields, instead of using the (laid back/lazy) African tribes that was already here.

How can the whole nation (SA) pull together as one?:
Pablo went to Europe and was very impressed by the well functioning socialist European societies… especially the Scandinavian ones. This makes me proud of course being a Norwegian. Now we already established that there was a different breed of monkeys behind the “out of Africa” societies, but there is another explanation behind the socialist systems also. Europe was the scene of the Second World War. After everything was bombed to pieces there was a feeling of solidarity among people and they wanted to rebuild their countries. People helped each other and shared whatever they had at hand. 60 years after the war was over, you find societies where wealth is distributed fairly even throughout the whole population. Just that could be a goal for South Africa and many of the African countries to reach for, right?!

So what about South Africa then? Wasn’t Apartheid South Africa’s answer to Europe’s World War 2? Sure, for some, but only for one part of the population – the blacks. It’s a fight to claim back something rather than pulling together… It is admirable of course that this country came out of Apartheid without a civil war. But is that for the better really, or is it more like prolonging the pain? Maybe they NEED a war to get a new start with clean sheets? A civil war would probably not be a good solution anyway though… so they should find somebody outside their own borders to fight against. Then blacks, whites and Indians could have a common task to fight for or against... or whatever. It would mean pulling together at least. The only likely candidate I can think of at the moment is Zimbabwe… or Bob I mean of course! But then again - Mugabe and Mbeki are far too good friends for anything like that to happen!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Happy (Veggie) Birthday!!

It’s my father in laws birthday today – on a monday. He is Indian and thus Hindu… at least to some extent. I never see much sign of Hinduism when I come there to visit, so they are pretty relaxed about the whole thing. One thing that shines through though, is the fasting! Indians or Hindu’s are fasting all the time. Maybe that’s why they are talking about what they ate here and there at all times?! …and for fun; they bake of course! On a regular basis they fast... not 24/7… but once a week at least. Some times they fast for a longer periode, and then you have the Kavady fasting. They probably have other fasting periods that I don’t know about also, as I have yet to experience the full 12 months patterns.

All Indians without exception do the once a week fasting! This day of fasting seems to be consistent on a Monday! It’s very tempting to believe that this is the original “blue Monday”! Fasting as I know it from Norway is when you can’t eat anything at all… only drink. No wonder Indians are so tiny with so much of fasting during the year! The tradition here though is different. Fasting means no meat – anything else you can eat. Still, with so much of fasting… that’s a hell of a lot of vegetables during a year! Five a day is no problem for a Hindu! A lot of Hindu’s are also vegetarians (what would be the difference really), especially in India where the major part of the Hindu’s live. On a rare occasion when they are allowed to eat meat they are not allowed to touch the cow either. It’s hard to be a Hindu in India!!

After migrating to South Africa though, they (the indentured labourers and sugar cane workers from India) give a damn about the cow and enjoy it thoroughly! I know my father in law well enough also to know that vegetarian food is not welcomed at any given time. He loves meat! More than once, have we made jokes about going to Steers for a proper sizzling burger on such occasion! We did not always stop with the joke either.

Today, on his own birthday though, I truly expected that the fasting could be postponed and moved to the following Tuesday. Actually, I could not imagine even in my wildest dreams that this once a year occurrence could be less important than the every week fasting?! It’s not every year even… coz only once every 7 years or so (leap years makes it confusing) does it fall on a Monday!

When I speak to him on the phone though, to wish him happy birthday, I can hear instantly that something is wrong! The normal polite conversation about the family, to make sure that everything is well, is out today. We cut to the point – it’s Monday and vegetable day! They made a lot of vegetable briyani though, but it’s still just vegetables, right. Tomorrow, when the two of them still have a ton of vegetables left, they can throw in some meat and have a well deserved birthday dinner… only one day too late! It is really sad!! I feel like driving all the 711 kilometres to their doorstep right now… and buy a burger or a steak on the way. Instead, this day will forever be remembered as the veggie birthday!