Friday, December 26, 2008

The coolest advert on the internet

One day when I grow up I want to be as cool as the people who came up with advert. To hell with search engine optimizing and all the other numbers games that the internet has become obsessed with. What we need is more absurd humour and hidden sub-sub-references. Go to asofterworld, click on the advert, buy things, give funny people money.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How not to get from Buenos Aires to Montevideo

Most people write home about their holiday experiences in a glossed over idealistic haze. I think I do the opposite. I would far rather write home about the experiences that at the time may not have been all together pleasant, but were in some way unexpected. That being said, I find pleasant unexpected experiences equally interesting. I just wanted to say that and at the same time assure everyone that I am having a great time, despite the strange aesthetic of my blog posts. So here is the story of how not to travel from Buenos Aires to Florianopolis. There are a few do's thrown in there amoung the don'ts though.

1) DON'T drink until sunrise in Buenos Aires the moring before you have to leave and then get convinced that going out for beer and bacon is a good idea when you have to leave the hostel in about 3 hours.
2) DON'T arrive at the bus station 1 hour before the bus you want to catch into another country and expect there to still be seats, there won't be, there will only be free seats in 3 days time. That will be too much of a wait for you.
3) DON'T decide that going anywhere north will be OK, and book tickets to Montevideo (which must be a cool place, its the capital of a Uruguay right, it'll be fun). The fact that you will have to kill 12 hours before the bus comes, with your stuff locked in a bus station locker and about enough money to buy 2 hotdogs (SUPER PANCHOS) should put you off this plan, but it won't. Once in tthis position there are a few do's though.
4) DO go to the Cemeteria del la Recoletta. Visit Evita's grave (It's not as big as you think it would be). Realise that these graves (Mausoleums really) are bigger than most apartments in New York. After a while start imagining the necropolis as full of zombies, maybe get a bit too involved in the fantasy. The night before is starting to kick in on your consciousness. Maybe it is time to leave.
5) DO find a park bench, first check that there are enough people around to protect you from pick pockets, see a police cop and decide that its safe enought o fall asleep.
6) DO fall asleep and kill 3 hours in a beautiful argentinian breeze.
7) DON'T wake up really hungry, it's super pancho time. Start your way back to the station.
8) DO catch the bus to Montevideo. DO Notice the moon. The moon seems unusually low for this time of the night. Its altitude leaves it with a strong red hue as the light refracts through the thick atmosphere. Looking out the bus window, the rising red gibbous orb is the sole feature on the flat plains of Argentina. There is a palpable feeling of calm over landscape, a quiet reflectiveness comming from my mind and washing over everything you see. The calm seems at odds with what should be a vaguely menacing red glow from the moon. Instead the red bleeds into the mind's pallette, finding its place amoung the other sensations, never jarring, simply complementing.
9) DON'T think that you are lucky to be sitting next to a pretty Argentinian girl who speaks english and is offering to let you stay at her flat in Uruguay. Argentinian women are tricky and are not to be trusted. Espcecially ones that are flexible looking yoga teachers.
10) DO fall asleep for as long as possible, wake up at the border post.
11) DON'T get pissed off that the border police are ruffling through your stuff and crumpling your newly cleaned and folded clothes. They work for minimum wage and will have not compunction about making you life hell.
12) DON'T go to Montevideo, this is pretty overriding, especially don't have to wait another 12 hours there. again with your stuff locked in a bus station locker and having my Uruguan Pesos.
13) DON'T get confused between US Dollar prices and Uruguan Peso prices, The locals will not find it funny when you try pay for 1/20'th of the price for a beer.
14) DO Go to the Gaucho museum, Gauchos (The south american version of a cowboy) are awesome, in my next life I want to be one. They have guns, knives (big knives), whips, bolas, lasoos and cool hats.
15) DON'T got to the national history museum, its really bad and boring, basically it's just a bunch of photo's.
16) DON'T assume that because the cops in Argentina didn't mind you sleeping on park benches the cops in Uruguay will be fine with it, but try anyway. You will get a good hour or so of sleep before getting poked with a baton and told to move off. Realise that you now look like a dirty homeless gringo, you look like what you are. Buy a beer so you can use the dirty bars dirty bathroom.
17) DO at last get on the 18 hour bus ride to Florianopolis. DO realise again how loud people from the US are. They talk so much. How do the interact around just themselves? Do they just constantly talk at each other trying to be the loudest.
18) DON'T Finish both your books and have the batteries on your Ipod and EEE PC go flat. Start having wierd bus dreams. Bus dreams are bizzarre, they last for hours at a time with you in a semi-lucid state. Your body has become so used to in action and your mind is so starved for stimulus that whole alternative realities are brewed from the dank depths of your psyche. Some of the things you dream will stick with you when you wake up, they will worry you, they will make you ask questions. Are more questions what you really need at this stage of your life?
19) DO Sleep almost all the way to Florianopolis.
20) DON'T expect all the ATM's to work with your credit card. Swear under you breath, walk across the road and try there. Contemplate robbing as stupider looking tourist, realise that tourist may be you. Finally find an ATM that works, breath a sigh of relief.
21) DON'T get off the second urbanbut at the wrong stop.
22) DO get some cigarettes from fellow travellers and give them to the slightly menacing teenagers hasnging around the very vunerable looking tourist herd. Make some friends, cigarettes work wonders everywhere.
23) DO wait another hour for the next bus, which is packed and is really unhappy about having to take you with your backpack. but at least they tell you right stop to get off.
24) DO get to an awesome backpackers, have a beer, go out for a pizza buffet, drink, sleep, go to the beach, eat about 30 prawns for almost nothing, sit out at the hostel bar and look at the view (Below, but less overexposed) while writing this.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Strikes in Buenos Aires, a good time all round

Apparently Strikes have become an almost weekly event is Buenos Aires, but we didn't know this when we got there. This week Friday had 4 simultaneous demonstrations, that pretty much blocked up the entire city center. The bulk of it was a subway workers strike, but there were also bankers banging drums, street vendors protesting against the Mayor and a group celebrating 25 years of freedom from military rule.

The overarching quasi-communist revolutionary aesthetic (Complete with huge pictures of Che Guevara, communist pamphlets and books, rousing and angry Spanish Speeches and a Balaclava clad security details with massive sticks) gave the entire event an edgy feel, but at the same time the constant drumming, colorful flags, and large amount of families gave it a festive feel.

It all reached a head in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential palace. Its a location famous for being used by Evita Peron to rally the masses to free her husband (and soon to be president) Juan from prison. For me at least I found the whole thing hell of a novel, really quite an event. So if you are ever in Buenos Aires, try catch a strike or protest movement, if you are here for more than a week you are pretty certain to catch one.
Some protesters protesting something

So this is how the other half lives

When you're backpacking around, and come from a third world country with a third world currency, you don't normally have allot of money to spend. So you end up eating in the cheap places, getting the cheap seats on the bus and sleeping in places that resemble an army barracks. This gives you a pretty skewed picture of the place your visiting and up until now this is exactly the experience we've been having. But yesterday we got to see a whole different side of Brazil, or less euphemistically, a whole different class of Brazil.

We've been staying with Eduardo, a friend of Warren's, in Vitoria. Vitoria is the capital of the state of Espirito Santo and is about a 8 hour bus trip north of Rio. Eduardo recently graduated as an environmental engineer. Each year there is a party for all the engineers in the state of Espirito Santo, and fortunately for us it happened to be on the weekend that we came. So we got all dressed up, shaved, borrowed leather shoes and put on our best shirt (our only non T-shirts) I think the phrase that best explains the evening was "Enigineer's Heaven". To all the guys that studied engineering to make money and get a pretty wife, you should have been studying in Brazil. I have never seen so many beautiful women in one room in my life, and half of them were the engineers, not the partners. I have to admit I was shocked into complete ineptitude.

It was in a huge waterfront club (club as in country club, not night club), with waiters constantly bringing around more beer, wine, cocktails and food. There was a big Italian dance demonstration (Yes I know, we're watching Italian dances in Brazil, but apparently there are allot of people of Italian descent in this part of Brazil) and later in the night a live band played Forro.

Forro (pronounced for-hor) is a type of "romantic samba". Apparently the name comes from the originator who when speaking in English claimed that this was a a type of dancing for all people. So the name is a Brazilianisation of "For-all". Apparently though I am not a apart of the "ALL" that can dance to it, even though even I could figure out that this should be the easiest dance in the history of moving feet. At its simplest you only really need to learn one step, a really easy one, but even that proved to difficult for a slightly drunk and uncoordinated James. Well win some you lose some.

I think I came away from the whole experience with 2 things. Firstly that being wealthy in Brazil is awesome, as is being wealthy everywhere else. Eduardo is on to a good wicket. Secondly is something which I have obviously suspected this for a long time but have never seen such stark empirical evidence. Beauty follows money, or maybe money creates beauty. I'm sure that the beauty genes slowly aggregate in the wealthy classes, for obvious reasons. I think if there is any good reason to get rich it is so you can enter parties with these sorts of women.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quatro Horas em Rio Rodovario (4 Hours in the Rio bus station)

Get off the metro bus. Run to the ticket office. Look at the clock. Realise you are two minutes late. Swear under your breath at the traffic in Rio. Realise that some words are pretty universally understood. Look slightly sheepish. Run to next bus company. Realise you also missed their bus. Buy a ticket for the next bus, it leaves in 4 hours. Wonder around looking for the public telephone. Phone Eduardo to tell him we'll be delayed. Get one of his relatives on the phone, they can't speak English. Use broken Portuguese to try ask for Eduardo. He isn't there. Buy a coke. Find an Internet cafe. Use sign language to get onto a computer. Email Eduardo, hope he reads his email this afternoon. Go down to the overpriced Via Rio cafe. Buy a something, you can't really tell what it is. Eat it, it's not that bad. Try stay awake in chair. It's not working. Strap your back pack on and clutch onto your day pack. Sit down by the wall. Fall asleep. Get woken up by a street kid. Check you still have wallet and passport. Relief overcomes you. Still waking up trying to figure out what the kid wants. Take out R$2 and give it to him. You are now amigos. Stand up, look around. 2 hours still to go. Lady next to you offers you some biscuits, you decline, she insists. Try to explain to her that you are allergic. Horribly mispronounce "alergico", may have said something insulting by mistake. Women looks very confused. Go buy another coke to break the tension. Sit down, try find the city you are going to in the Rough Guide. It's not there. Go look at the magazine stand, realise that the only magazine you could possibly understand is the playboy. Contemplate that for a few seconds, decide against the playboy. Read about Argentina in the rough guide. Try work out how much money you have spent. Sit. Wait. One hour to go. Write this down. Wait. Think about buying a beer. Think about how awesome it is that you can buy a beer anywhere. Decide not to buy a beer. Realise you have bought neither beer or porn. Question your masculinity. Decide to go to the bathroom to help break the monotony. They charge R$1 for the use of the sanitario. Fumble around for money. Go to the bathroom. Come out. About time for the bus to leave. Find the platform. Try to fill in little traveling form. Can't understand what all the fields require. Lend someone your pen, in return they fill in your travel form. Get on the bus.

Monday, December 1, 2008

3 Things that are everywhere in Brazil

There are 3 things you find everywhere in Brazil that you don't see everywhere in South Africa. Between them they give an interesting picture of Brazil.

1) Beer
Wherever something is being sold it, it is being sold with beer. Any place, at any hour you can buy beer. The idea of a liquor store is completely foreign here. Why would you need a special store when you can just sell it anywhere? Beer is generally sold in big bottles, 600ml. When you get a a beer you get a small glass to drink it with. You don't get big beer mugs, like when you get a draught is RSA. It's a bit hard to feel manly when you're sipping beer out of a child's glass. But when the beach vendors are walking along shouting "Agua, Cerveja" (Water, Beer), I think thats pretty cool.

2) Tattoos and Graffiti
Everyone has ink. Every single Brazilian has a tattoo, and most have a couple. Everywhere is also graffiti'd. It's like the tattoo's don't stop on the skin, instead they've spread over the whole city.

3) Porn
There must be 5 different versions of playboy here. And They are all displayed in the front of all the shop windows. You will have the daily newspaper and right next to it will be 20 different porno mags. If you have a fetish, any fetish, there is something for you here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Embu-Centro

Let me write this all down before I forget it. So After waking up very hung over, in a less than dignified state, I went down to get the free breakfast (Free breakfast for the win) and met up with the protagonists of the previous night. Oliver left that morning, looking much more dignified than the previous night. The rest of us followed Lisa's cue and decided to try get to the beach. So we took the metro to the rodovario (Bus station) and went looking for a bus that went beachward. A R$31 bus fare put us off that plan. So we hit plan B, which was to visit Embu. Embu was a small village outside Sao Paulo, populated by artists, hippies and bohemians. But as Soa Paulo grew it became an outlying suburb, apparently still populated by artists, hippies and bohemians though. Having no idea how to get there, apart from some not too helpful lonely planet directions, we asked some one for help. I'm sure they were well meaning, everyone in brazil is very friendly, but they weren't well informed. So we got on what was meant to be an hour bus ride to Embu-centro, but turned out to be something completely different. Firstly let me say that Sao Paulo is massive, beyond any scales I know. The bus we ended up on only went vaguely close to were we wanted to go, but first it went through every other part of the city. I mean I ad the grand tour, all the way to the favellas (Slums), where much to our shock we were dropped off. Now the favellas in Sao Paulo are not a joke. But on the up side we had had a 4 hour bus ride all around Sao Paulo (As a side note, the graveyards (Necropole) here are amazing, they are packed with these huge and ornate family crypts, which really do make it look like a necropolis, a city of the dead). Some how we did manage to catch the right bus out and eventually get to Embu, which really was a quaint as it sounded. We also has a great R$6 steak meal, a big meal, which almost made it cheaper to travel all the way there than to eat at our hostel. Embu was cool, a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city, but after a bit of sight seeing, some antique shops and cafe we set off to try get back, which only took an hour, compared to the 4 it took to get there, and didn't go through and slums. It was a much better ride really.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

First night, meat, beer and caipirinhas.

Wow, right. First day/night in Brazil. So Sao Paulo is a big place, intimidatingly big when you're at the airport and need to find a random hostel in the middle of town you have no idea about. But 1 bus trip, 3 trains and a mile walk later Arun and I finally managed to find it. 1 Bus ride and 3 trains that I was really impressed with, I realise its actually the first time I've ever taken a proper subway, very cool,it makes me eagerly await the Gautrain. So we eventually got to the Casa Club Hostel Bar, much to my suprise. So far a cool place, clean safe but slightly pricey. The first night though (after 20 or so hours awake) was grand. We wound up in a room with an expat South African, a German who worked in South Africa and Dutch Girl, It was the last night for the German so we went to restaurant called Paulista's. Its a very special type of restaurant, though the proper Brazilian name escapes my hung over mind right now, which basically is an endless meet Buffet (with a capital 'B'). Well I hope I ate enough for three nights cause thats what it cost. It was fantastic, the waiters float around with huge cuts of different meats, from espetada to roast beef, constantly filling your plate. Eventually once you are fully sated you have to put up a little sign to say so, I can see I will love these places. So any after a cheap but packed taxi ride we got back to the hostel. At this point we decided to go to the supper market, which are open till 12pm (Amazing, at last) and buy a case of beer. This eventually turned into a mission for the ingredients for caipirinha's, having decided thats more truly Brazilian. Of course the super market had everything we needed at 12pm, so we set off for a night of heavy drinking and bad jokes. A good night, a full tilt first night, I can see I'm going to enjoy this country. So now I sit here, still a bit drunk, very hung over, fantastically glad I still have my wallet, wondering what I'll do today.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tzu-Fan's Final Recital

A shameless plug for a friend. Tzu-Fan is playing his final recital for the university on the 13th November. Its sure so be a mixture of awesome and mindblowing, which I will dub awe-blowing. Anyway here's the poster with the details, I also did allot of the poster (though not the awesome font), so it's also a plug for me I guess.


Another beautiful day

Its a beautiful day today in Cape Town. Good enough for a good shot of the mountain. After a ridiculously long wet winter at last summer seems to be thinking about arriving. Capetonians love there mountain... I guess it is pretty cool. So here it is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My future company

I've designed the logo for my next company. I don't know what its gonna do yet, maybe sell ice cream or heavy weapons. Well who knows, but at least I have a name, and for allot of companies thats all you need. A brand and a CEO, I'm already the company of the future. Watch out soon you maybe working for, via an outsourced sweatshop franchise.

Is it bird, is it a plane, no it's a pandawhale.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Onus of the intelligent

A fiend of mine told me that "it is the onus of the intelligent to be disillusioned". I like that idea. I mean I hate it in the sense that it sucks, but there is cruel truth in it that seems attractive. I feel like I should post an abstract image to qualify my feelings about the subject. But I don't have one on hand.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Photos from the roof top

Some of my friends and I took trip onto the roof of my apartment block last Saturday night. It was probably the first clear night in ages. They had tripods and some fancy cameras, so we hit long exposure, took a panorama of the view and stitched the images together. It came out really well, we're probably gonna redo it at some point, to get the aperture constant between the photos, and maybe do a 2π radians (360 degree) shot. I had to reduce the image size to upload it, a pity.


I also really liked this shot we got of the intersection with Rafiki's in the background.I don't know why I like the image.


Anyway kudos to Wariner and Mr B for taking these.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the Batman I see

(Spoiler alert, If you haven't seen The Dark Knight don't read this)

The Dark Knight was awesome, there is no dispute about that. It was a perfect descent into unrelenting chaos. But it could have been even better (or at least to people who enjoy unrelenting chaos). Firstly the mass Cellphone conversion to a sonar array? Come on, don't insult us. That also goes for the bullet reconstruction. But OK, I admit it is a comic book movie and we have already accepted all of batmans other gadgets, so why not these, so I let them pass with a pained grimace. But really the only reason Batman got anywhere is cause he had really unbelievable gadgets, it was a bit thin.

The big change I would have made is at the ending. The people on the boat not blowing each other up? Thats ridiculous, of course they would have done it. But I would have changed it, we can still go through all the voting and stuff, but they pull the trigger, the trigger is connected to their own boat, so they blow themselves up. That way the big criminal dudes heroics are in complete vain, and the joker would have been proved right. He and batman would have seen it and his entire position would have been vindicated. That would have been awesome, an unrelenting end to an unrelenting  movie.

That said its obvious to me that my ending wouldn't have gone down as well, people want to feel happy when they leave a cinema. But really the movie should have been called The Joker. They could have done away with batman completely.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Minus

I Just found beautiful web comic strip "Minus". Apparently it's just ended, but there are 130 of them. The strips are hand drawn 'on a 15x20" piece of Illustration board.' The comic follows a young school girl with magical powers. At this point I tried to write a sentence explaining the ambiance of the strips, and I was going to use words like Surrealism and Post-Modernism, but then I realised I didn't really know what any of those words meant, so I declined to write that sentence. I get the feeling that the artist wouldn't like me boxing his work anyway. So I leave it up to you, my imaginary public, to decide for yourself.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

Flight 5

Flight Volume 5 is coming out, which is awesome. I can't wait. Someone I know has to preorder it. I would but, well anyway... uh ya. So there is a preview at http://www.newsarama.com/ and an interview with the editor Kazu Kibuishi .For those who don't know, Flight is the most awesome comic anthology ever created. Check it out.

The cover

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Evening Breeze

The gulf was made to be seen at night, you can say what you want about it during the day but the night hides many flaws and accentuates the city. The temperature on a summers night here is still in the high 30's, but after the heat of the day that seems pleasant.

Around 8:30 you can hear the start of the last prayers being announced from the minarets, the sounds engulfs the entire city. This time feels the most foreign, like you are really out of the West (where West includes South Africa) now.

On a clear night if you are in the right place the lights look fantastic, even on a dusty night they look good, though the effect is different. Lights are what makes the gulf look good at night, I don;t think anywhere else in the world does lights like they do it here.

There is an evening breeze tonight, it feels almost cool and calm tonight.

A view from the villa's roof

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bubbles, Sun and Dust

I kept on waking up at night thinking I was by the ocean, or really close to the highway. As I ascended back to consciousness my surroundings reminded me it was just the air-conditioner. Air-conditioning is ever present, a constant dull hum in the ear where ever you go. The bubble world is magnified, personified by the air-conditioning. I move from the bubble home, to the bubble car, to bubble work. I return via the bubble mall. There is only the bubble, there is no natural world, no connection with the land.
The Bubble Mall

I take a 15 minute break around lunch each day to make sure I get some idea of real Saudi summer. I sit outside in the raw sun where everything radiates heat. It's a type of heat that you feel you are swimming in, it's thick, viscous. Even at night it's too hot to stay outside for long and the cold water taps still run warm.
The Air-conditioners that keep our villa cool


Last night a dust storm came up, when we woke up the entire city was in a thick fog of dust. The sky looks white, blinding initially until your eyes adjust to the glare. You vision fades after about 20m in all directions. The dust gives the surroundings an surreal texture, like everything is slightly imaginary. The dust in your lungs reminds you of the opposite. Apparently last month the entire east coast was under a dust cloud for 3 weeks. At least it cools things down a bit. The sun can't reach through the dust. Even at mid day you can stare right at it, it looks like bright white disk, or a pearl. It doesn't seem to really shine, it's more the light is a property of the mist.

The view from the office after the dust storm

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GPS on a laptop linked to social media

Lots of social media-ish tools could gain allot by adding location information. E.g Blogging mashed up with google earth and blogspot or a location added to twitter. What if this were done automagically by taking gps coordinates from you laptop (requiring a built in GPS in your laptop, or a wimaxish triangulation System, I wonder if any laptops currently have this). This would be awesome for travel blogs and site surveyish stuff.

My first blender experience

I've tried to use blender before, but the interface always stumped me, so fifteen minutes later I would give up in frustration. But I have to do a project that requires some 3D work, so today I did the unthinkable and looked at tutorial on Blender(http://biorust.com/tutorials/detail/81/us/). It is a great tutorial, and I showed me how powerful and clever the blender interface really is (Big props to the blender designers). So here's my first attempt, it's not gonna win any prizes but I'm pretty proud of it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Alien Christ

So what if aliens do exist? Do they have the same God? Do they have the same savior and redeemer in Christ? Or do they have there own Christ, an Alien Christ. I present the Christ of the Martians, Alien Christ.
(Warning, this is a joke, if I have really offended you then I guess you should either forgive me out of friendship, or brood over my damnation or not read my blog)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The next books I want to read

The Next books I want to read are Philip K Dick's Books. I've been meaning to really get my teeth into him for years. I found out Screamers was based on a short story he wrote. Screamers is the only movie I remember ever really giving me nightmares.

One of the Screamers

Monday, March 31, 2008

Hundred years

I'm re-reading Hundred years of Solitude. last time I read it I was at a very interesting stage in my life, I think it gave me allot of missing perspective. I spend my summer days sitting in my office chair on my flat's balcony reading books instead of studying for exams. I feel I'm not missing out. I was asked once what book I would choose if I could only leave one book to a reborn humanity. I chose Hundred Years over Newton's Principia.

So this is my chair where I read. I sit in it and look over Cape Town and don't learn much about computers. My tan is probably better than my class mates though.
When I finally understand the last lines of the book, I think I'll get them tattooed onto my thigh. Above my shorts line.

Friday, March 28, 2008

My new flat in Cape Town

These are some pictures of the views from my new flat in Cape Town. The flat is really cool.

Night view from the balcony

Day view from the balcony


Night view from my bedroom

view of my bedroom



View from the Kitchen
Thats all for now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Back in Africa

The minute I got to breath non-Arabic air I could already feel how much happier I was going to be in this country. Just driving and walking around over the last few days I have been struck by how great this country is. Simple things I never noticed before, like how you can always smell the scent of plants in the air, really make a difference.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some sights in Khobar

In the interests of education we took a short phtographic expedition around the city of Khobar to try bring back some pictures that really capture the essence of the land. We did this early on a rainy friday morning (The authorities here don't seem to be too hot on people using camera's).

Hygiene and cleanliness

As you can see here, allot of pride is taken in the cleanliness of the land. Most of Saudi looks like this. Trash strewn lots with arbitrarily placed buildings. Because the oil industry gave the country such a rapid injection of income the cities didn't grow and evolve like normal cities, so huge buildings get placed in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding area can be a desolate trash heap and and nobody cares.
Big Malls Everywhere

This is Khobar Mall, about 5 km away is the Mall of Dhahran. They're both huge. All malls everywhere in the world are the same (At least thats my theory) and somewhere there a rediculously rich italian that sold the fake marble florrs for all of them. Malls are the only thing here that borders on entertainment, except taht they don't have cinema's (To much like fun) but do have tons of womens clothing shops, and lots of mens clothing shops selling the exact same item of clothing.

Really Long Road Names


This is one of the major roads in Khobar. It's name after the King. Of course the couldn't just call it King Abdullah Rd (Previously Prince Abdullah Rd), the kings full title must be used when ever he is referenced ("Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz"), listening to news reports here is also funny, it takes almost the whole report to just say who its about. So when a king dies they have to rename all the streets named after the king and any of the princes whose status subtely changes. pretty much every road here is named after a memeber of the royal family. SO please don't complain about minor road renamnings in South Africa.

Driving


This is the sign for the "Khobar Model School for Car Driving". I don't think its a very successful educational institute. But if the sign were true it would be a great place, a school where they can teach Saudi's to STOP DRIVING!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Frame of reference

Yesterday at a tech support centre I saw a male employee helping and talking to a female customer. I thought, "Wow, that's really liberal". Your frame of reference changes fast here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Highlights of Dubai

Dubai is a strange place, thats much is obvious, I was only there for 8 hours (After having to rent a hotel room in-order to get a Visa) but these are the three pictures I thought were the most interesting. I could go one ad-nauseum about how ridiculous Dubai is, but it would bore me. But in a way it reminded me of the Dune books, I felt like at any moment a spice feighter was going to dock with the top of one of the buildings.

Burg-Dubia

This is the tallest Building in the world, twice the height of the empire state building. When it's finished it will stand around 820m high. You can pick it out from miles away when you're flying in, it makes the surrounding 50+ story buildings look flat and squat.

Burg Dubai from up close

In comparison to the surrounding city

Ski Dubai

The worlds first in door ski slope, why do you need a ski slope in the desert? No one cares, you don't need reasons for massive pointless investments here. This is from a restaurant over looking it. We tried to get a picture of it from the outside but couldn't get a clear shot.

Ski Dubai

Dusty in Khobar and Freezing in Riyadh

A Sand storm came through yesterday and washed the clean off all my plants. After the sand storm the air looks like a dirty fog and when you walk outside you can feel the dust when you breath. The dust gets everywhere, a room with a window left open will have a layer of dust over everything, like a prematurely aged ruin. The temperature dropped today, it's cold (2°C min - 12°C max). It will hit freezing in Riyadh tonight. I have an odd desert experience.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Clean Skies

The Saudi rainy season started yesterday. Rainfall was uncharacteristically high last year in this region, I suspect that will be repeated. The rains have cleared the air and stabilised the temperature. The sky is clear from dust for the first time in months, it's a beautiful light blue without a cloud in sight. Even the plants are green again, the rain washed away the coat of dust. I was beaten to the mark, damn.

With so little rain each year the government decided it was pointless to build any drainage into the countries infrastructure, so the rains turn the the streets into flowing slews of filth and litter. With no drainage these form cesspools that slowly ferment until the sun dries the roads out. Everywhere there is a more distinct stench of rot in the air. It's a pity because other wise it would be a beautiful day.

I spent my midday break (a short walk around in fresh air) looking at all the clean plants, no different from any plant back home, but they change the palette of the country. Suddenly I'm not surrounded by shades of dull beige and yellow, but bright blues and greens and surface level dark brown muck.

The slicked streets have caused havoc with the traffic. I saw a car mounted on top of the concrete barrier in the middle of the highway, Five lanes away on the other side was a delivery van on the brink of an explosion. No one here knows how to drive anyway, driving when it's raining is unsettling, you fear for your life.

Slowly slip into the routine, forget weekends and womens company.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A sunset from my office window


A sunset from my office window

Like in Johannesburg the sunsets here can look really good. Its all the dust and pollution in the air.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sexualizing Everything

Walking around the shopping center I see allot of women, all draped head to toe in black. At first they all look the same but I begin to notice differences. There is a range of black garments, some bhurkas which have thick veils, but the majority are a type of cloak with only eye-slits left free. Of these there are two types. The first has a separate head piece, which is tied close to the head by a mask that covers face. The second is a cloak that goes from over the head all the way to the ground as a single piece of fabric. The first type leaves the shape of the womens shoulders exposed, and with the tight head scarf it makes me think of an eastern ninja princess, I imagine a lithe warriors body beneath the black folds of the cloak. The second type reminds me of something that failed to evolve shoulders, a Neanderthalic protohuman. I stop and marvel at my ability to sexualize any situation. Part of me smirks. I can't decide how I should judge this.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Washing Plants

We have two Satellite TV networks in the villa and there's still nothing worth watching. I contemplate reading my book but can't really figure out who the characters are anymore. I do more work.

Today I considered getting a bucket of water and washing all the plants round the office. They would only stay clean for about an our before the dust turned there leaves a pale and white again, but in the long run all cleaning is futile anyway. I am still fascinated by the colours. Over here the whole palette is different, duller, paler. It is so at odds with the modern buildings you see. All over the gulf the favoured architectural style is the shining glass monolith, huge reflective towers. Glass has to be the worst building material imaginable here, it's impossible to keep it clean. All the windows are opaqued by the dust, leaving these theoretically gleaming monoliths fading into the desert like dirty wind screens. Everything fades away.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Back in the Kingdom

The view outside office window looks like a mixture of Iraq on during the Gulf War and Welkom. Everything is dull and light brown. Nothing escapes the dust. Even the sunset looks pale, like colour is only a faded memory here. At midday it go and sit on the steps outside to get some sun. Its a cold desert winter here and my fingers and eyes are beginning to hurt. The sun feels warm on my new jersey, the only clean piece of clothing I had for three days since the airline lost my suitcase. Some one starts riding down the wrong lane of the road in front of me, into oncoming traffic. No one stops they just hoot at each other and swear in Arabic. Its a country full of angry people.

The View From my office window

The Arabic restaurant that I used to eat at each day has closed. I cant understand why, last time I was there the place was constantly full, the had just bought big shiny new sign for there menu, when it came in I never had the heart to tell the proud owner the had misspelled description, spelling it "discription" instead. I see English everywhere, but know for a fact that most people can't read it. English on your sign raises the status of your shop, giving it a slick modern appeal.

With my old favourite eating house gone I am reduced to sandwiches for lunch and take out for supper. For take out I will go to one of the various Identically Huge malls that litter the city scape. Which ever Italian is selling marble flooring here must be a rich man. I try to have a different take out each night, its not a difficult task. Today I will have a subway sandwich, the polite Filipino at the counter will ask for my order, he will tell the Indian cook to prepare it, somewhere at the back a Bangaldeshi will be cleaning the floors. Everything will be conducted in a mangled dialect of English. I would like to say thank you in another language but cannot figure out what would be appropriate, I will retreat to English feeling sadly uneducated. I will walk through the massive marble interior of the mall slowly feeling more claustrophobic. I laugh to myself, the last time I remember when going to the mall was the only fun thing I had to do I was 12, I look around and see an ocean of veiled people that are still stuck in 12 year old me's idea of fun. Slowly a theory of about the arabic mall hysteria will formulate in my mind, When I think out my theory it will disturb me as being xenophobic and ill informed, but I wont be able to shake the feeling that I might be right.

Happy halloween. New years ticks by and I don't even notice, times and days have little relevance here unless you are trying to miss prayer when you go out to eat. Morning turns to midday turns to evening to night, work moves from the home to the office to the home. I think about starting an exercise routine, press ups in the morning and a run in the evening. I have delusions of coming back to South Africa sober,clean and healthy, primed to throw it away as quickly as I can.

Tomorrow I will investigate Saudi Arabia's second biggest industry. I will take an hour off in the evening and go try every type of date I can find. I don't even like dates. My grand father put me off them when he told me they were pressed by people squashing them under their armpits. On Friday we plan a clandestine operation to photograph the street signs of the city and maybe a few of the houses on millionaires row. we will have to wake up early, before the police. People here aren't big on cameras in public.