About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

22 November 2015

Movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The action packed finale to the Hunger Games series, delivers a fitting closure to the series. The movie is itself very close to the proceedings of the book; although the final scenes feel a bit less traumatic and jaded compared to the book. It has everything that one needs from a finale - great action scenes; death of a few important characters (but not the real heroes); a victorious hero and something of a conclusion.

18 November 2015

Movie: Crimson Peak

M loves horror movies, so she tries to drag me along as soon as there is something interesting.  Guillermo del Toro's latest offering is the model Gothic novel - period setting love story, with a cruel, mysterious underbelly. As a line in the book - this is not a ghost story; but rather a story with ghosts in it. The creepiness comes; not from the ghosts (although, in typical Guillermo del Toro style; they are fantastic creations) - but rather the dilapidated house and the general environment. 

Crimson Peak's plot is wooden and fairly predictable (but then it is an homage to a genre); the dialogue is rather mundane at times - but that can be all overlooked by the sumptuous set and colour contrasts - the bright red clay, seeping out on the white snow in the grey skies of England. Guillermo del Toro's offerings have a lot of style; and this is certainly one of them.

08 November 2015


Conrad Koch's new one man show was meant to finish off last night - but has been extended by a few shows at the Jo'burg Theatre. The theme is, as it has been for a while with Conrad Koch's shows, South African identity - and it is a lot more than just Chester Missing - although Chester (and his disguises) are definitely the highlights of the show. There is also a human ventriloquism piece at the end, where two audience members are asked to wear some masks and we get an absolutely amazing ventriloquist performance. 

Chester Missing's political commentary, is as ever, biting and current - and there were no boundaries for criticism - from the ANC and the South African government, to the DA, EFF and Agang - there was not much that was left out. Of the puppets, Ronnie the Monster was the weakest link; but a show definitely worth attending.

04 November 2015

Movie: The Martian

The Martian takes Robinson Crusoe to a new level; and the whole "last person left on the planet" bit too. But unlike Robinson Crusoe who has no communications back home; Matt Damon's Mark Whatney manages to rig up an old rover; and thus make his life a lot better and easier. So, instead of a showcase on the descent to madness; it becomes a tale of scientific ingenuity and off course the inevitable rescue mission to end all rescue missions. 

It is not as spectacular as gravity - but the individual performances are as good. The script and story is not as wild as Interstellar; but it's still as good. It was more practical; more feel good and something that highlighted both the dangers and need for space travel.

30 October 2015

JPO and KZNPO's Joint Concert

The newly formed collaboration between the the JPO and the KZNPO got off to a great start with a joint concert featuring both orchestras; in a fairly packed Linder Auditorium (and the stage was pretty packed also). After some short speeches, Junnan Sun, the principal clarinetist of the KZNPO, regaled the audience with a masterful performance of the Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. It was a pleasant change in concerto instruments (given that most performances usually showcase the violin or the piano); and it was a great showcase of collaboration.

After the break, the full orchestras were used to show case Mahler's Symphony No 5 - a symphony that would be otherwise quite difficult for either orchestra to perform on their own; and the sound of such a large orchestra was in itself amazing. I had not heard the symphony in its entirety before; and I absolutely loved the first 4 movements - each with its own emotion/tone; something akin to a tale being told. The famous 4th movement was amazing, and certainly a performance to remember. And after those movements, the final movement was disappointing - overly dramatic, and felt very different to the rest - but at least there was the 4th to savour over.

22 October 2015


I was quite shocked with a newspaper table that showed the annual fees of various universities. Shocked, because the fees for UCT were over 3 times that of what it was 15 years ago when I entered university. I can't think of any other good that has had such a large multiplier - in fact 15 years ago, my total costs (food, accommodation, tuition) was less than the current fees. 

Mass education is one of the only proven paths to achieving economic growth; and given South Africa's economic situation; it is a no-brainer to enable education for as many people as possible. Complaints of financial exclusion, high fees were prevalent 15 years ago - but it was a low rumble. The fact that the fees have shot up; and nothing has been addressed regarding fees says it all. In this respect, Floyd Shivambu's article on education funding is quite enlightening.

The favourite tactic with the university of non paying students is to deny graduation until the fees are settled. Thus, a graduate with perfectly usable skills is not allowed to actually make use of their degree, to earn the money, to pay their outstanding fees. It's a circle of stupidity.

And the exclusion and its impact is fairly easy to see. In my latter years at UCT, I taught in the SHAWCO community outreach programme. There, some of the brightest kids in Khayalitsha were given free extra lessons - in my case IT. From a base of about 3000 students, there were a total around 90 students that went through this program. Every one of the students I interacted with, expressed a love for maths and science; there was almost no truancy - they were eager to learn. Yet, based on student numbers I have seen since; almost none of them ever made it to university. I doubt that was because they were not good enough - it is highly likely they couldn't afford it. And it is not only the fees - there is food, lodging, transport and off course books and equipment. 

There is off course a digital revolution that is also sweeping through education. In the past 9 months; I have completed (or currently taking) courses in finance, astro-physics, law, philosophy, technology and culture via edX. I have paid for one of those course - but the rest have been free. And they have been from some of the top researchers (including a Nobel laureate) and universities  such as Harvard, MIT and Cambridge. 

Sure, I am not doing these courses for degrees - just because I am interested in the topics themselves. But maybe MOOCs are the platform to get the best teaching out to everyone. Raspberry Pi's make cheap computers; we now have ever improving communication technologies. Perhaps the answer to the fee crisis is to make education in South Africa more available through technology. Instead of bringing students to the campus; take the teaching to the communities. 

Perhaps what we really need is a completely different way of thinking on how to educate.

30 September 2015

Movie: Roger Walters The Wall

M absolutely loves "The Wall", so the one off movie screening of Roger Walters The Wall, was off course a must see event! It is primarily a concert movie - showcasing the concert performance of The Wall, toured by Roger Walters in the recent past. In between, there is a more personal travelogue of Roger Walters (sometimes with family and bandmates) visiting the graves of his grand-father (killed in WW1) and father (killed in WW2).

The concert itself is amazing - even if it was only for the absolutely amazing effects. A massive wall gets built over the course of the concert - until the entire performance ends up being behind the wall. Together with amazing video displays - this must have been an amazing spectacle live.

As an anti-war protest - I am not sure it really works. While the video displays showed various victims of war - from soldiers to freedom fighters to civilians (and all these without recent police killing victims or Syrian  refugees) - this is still a concert; so what you end up with is cheering and applause in the background. 

So, it feels like a massive disconnect. The travelogue is indulgent - but does not always make sense. And most of all, I don't know why it had to be a special screening event.