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).

08 December 2016

Robin Williams and Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson has been off late night TV for a while - with his eclectic collection of puppets and some amazing interviews. The double header with Robin Williams is one of his best!

25 November 2016

Movie: Dr Strange

Strangely, the magical base of Dr Strange, is more realistic than most of Marvel's other long running series. I did not grow up reading comics, and my only exposure is through the various movie franchises. Dr Strange was one of the better movies - it still has the same formula; flawed character of great promise, who discovers something special, and then has to defend the world from destruction; but it was well paced, and fun - and a lot less America centric.

15 November 2016

Movie: Arrival

I have not seen a movie at the theatre for a while; and eventually we decided to just go and watch something that looked interesting; without necessarily knowing what it was about. Arrival was more than a pleasant surprise - no hype (as with Interstellar, The Martian or Gravity), the movie explores first contact with an alien species. 

And the aliens are strange - they make indecipherable noises, their space craft and environment looks out of the world, they have technology that we cannot currently fathom, and they are not green men with big heads - but are rather like giant squids. 

While the story is set around first contact - it is a lot more. It asks some deep philosophical questions - on how language and the nature of language influences thought and actions; on how mis-communication leads to bad decisions, on how humans will actually deal with the knowledge of an alien species, on how talking heads on TV can easily whip up misinformation into panic and the question for the ages: on the nature of choice and fate.

This is a stunning movie with an amazing lead performance by Amy Adams in the lead role. As far as random choices and selections go - this was hitting the jackpot!

14 November 2016

JPO's Japanese Night

A Japanese conductor (Yasuo Shinozaki), a Japanese violinist (Kyoko Takezawa), the Japanese ambassador in attendance and a Japanese sponsor for the week - the only item missing, sadly, was a Japanese piece on the programme for the final programme for the JPO in 2016. It was a difficult year, but one that ends with promise for a better future in 2017. The programme started with the lively Dvorak's Carnival Overture, followed by the ever popular Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1, before finishing off with Brahms' Symphony No 4. 

08 November 2016

Governance in Africa

The Economist Newspaper's podcast this week features an interview with Mo Ibrahim on governance in Africa. Given the past week's events in South Africa, there is understandably some specific focus on Jacob Zuma; but the interview as a whole brings forward some very interesting discussion points.

Firstly, there is the role of the liberation struggle parties. Across post colonial countries in general, and in Africa specifically, liberation parties have often gone on to erode the trust of the people they liberated; and in some respects become the new oppressor. Mo Ibrahim's critique centred around the recent events in South Africa; but also drew comparisons to other countries such as Zimbabwe that also failed to make transitions - and the transition was not necessarily to another party; but rather the liberation party transitioning to a proper political party that has to deliver and govern the country (and is therefore not dependent on its history of liberation).

The second related point was on institutions. South Africa can manage the discourse around state capture because there are strong institutions to support the rule of law - most other countries in Africa, do not have the luxury. He specifically noted his own homeland of Sudan (and South Sudan) as failed states amongst the many countries in Africa that is struggling.

The highlight for me however was the discussion on migration. The number of migrants that manage to even get to the European sea or land crossings are tiny in comparison to the internal displacement within Africa. He called out the xenophobia within Europe and that ultimately, without addressing the underlying problems of migration and the hypocrisy of Europe's attitude to migration; he does not see lasting development in Africa. 

The podcast is a rare occasion where the issue of migration has been tacked so eloquently and so directly. In addition, it highlights some of the real challenges to improving governance - and to paraphrase the beginning; good governance is not about democracy; it also includes whether citizens are safe, have good nutrition, have access to jobs, education and healthcare. Governance improvements in Africa has stagnated and there is a long way to go.

07 November 2016

JPO and KZNPO's 2nd Annual Joint Concert

The JPO has been quite inactive since last year's joint concert; and the 2nd Annual Joint Concert with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, was sort of a relaunch of the JPO. The recently retired Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Dikgang Moseneke was announced as the new chair of the board; and the occasion had a lot more buzz - with attendees including Herman Mashaba, the new Mayor of Johannesburg (who managed to tie inner city redevelopment to the need for culture and thus the JPO), former First Lady Zanele Mbeki and a few ambassadors. It was a packed audience also; and witnessed what I think was one of the finest solo piano concertos and one of the best concerts overall - certainly of those I have attended.

The concert started with the lively Overture to Euryanthe by Carl Maria von Weber; which I don't think has been performed by the JPO before. The musical score was mesmerising and was the perfect curtain raiser to the solo performance.

There have been a number of performances of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto; and this was in my mind, the finest, thoroughly deserving the standing ovation from the near full house. Pianist Valentina Lisitsa, described in the program as the first classical music YouTube star, was a late replacement; and she delivered an absolutely stunning performance. I am not sure what makes this performance stand out over previous ones - but something just made it special.

The concert finished off with Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. In a time of economic and political turmoil in South Africa; and given the JPO's own recent turbulent past, a symphony that celebrates the idea of "ultimate victory through strife" was rather appropriate.

30 October 2016