Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When I’m big, I want to be like Salvador Dali: A conformist

Do you ever wonder......

• Who's an individual?

• Who's a free thinker?

• Who is unique?

• Who is challenging the 'norms' of society?

Have you ever heard this one?

"I don't follow organised religion. I'm an individual. I'm not a follower"

In Monty Python’sThe Life of Bryan”, there is a classic scene where, Bryan engages the masses (his followers) from his bedroom window:

Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!

The Crowd (in unison): Yes! We're all individuals!

Brian: You're all different!

The Crowd (in unison): Yes, we are all different!

Man in Crowd: I'm not.

Another Man: Shhh!

I should be upfront with my readers: My name is Uri and I am a follower.

I follow many laws of society. I also follow many strictures of my religion and community. I observe the Jewish Sabbath, I keep the Jewish dietary laws. And yet, as a semi-observant Jew, I hear people say things like:

“I don’t follow that because I’m not a follower” or “I’m an individual” or “I don’t believe in organized religion”

And, I wonder to myself: I am expressing my spirituality, and practicing my religion, along with a very small minority of people. And I think that is pretty unique. Why do people see me as a blind follower, incapable of free thought or free choice? Many people view me as a follower. They view me as a person with an inactive/faulty ability to choose freely

Here are some interesting statistics:

• Number of Manchester United supporters (WORLDWIDE): 330 Million

• Number of people with tattoos (USA ALONE): 50 million

• Number of people with body (non-ear) piercings (USA COLLEGE STUDENTS ALONE): 8 million

• Number of people who keep the Jewish Sabbath (WORLDWIDE): 1,8 million

With those kinds of figures, I am thinking to myself: “I am not that into organized society”

There are people in this world who are truly unique. They do not follow any strictures or constraints, whether physical, mental, social, spiritual or emotional.

And you can find these people

In an institution of some form or other

I love free-thinkers. I appreciate people who are unique.

But not the “I’m a serial-killer” or the “I was anally probed by aliens” kind of uniqueness.

I love Salvador Dali

(Although I don’t think I could eat a whole one)

Humour aside, I really do appreciate Salvador Dali. And I have, since I was first introduced to his work by an art teacher of mine, at the age of 11. And yet, with all his crazy artwork, wonderful ideas, creativity, free-thinking….. he is still ‘boxed’ into a category and cultural movement called: Surrealism

And the amazingly creative Salvador Dali conformed to all the ‘rules’ that define Surrealism

I do not believe there is anything wrong with following a calling, a community, a culture, a religion. That does not make you any less special or unique. What makes you special and unique is how you bring out your unique talents and contributions within that space.

We must stop accusing people of being blind followers, because we are all followers.

We need to create ourselves, within the framework (and rules) we choose to live by

We are all individuals

And we are all followers

Accept the paradox in yourself…….and appreciate it in others

So, you want to reject "conformist" religion, or “conformist” society? Would you prefer to be a sports fan, or get a tattoo or have a body piercing?

In these ways, you too can show you're an individual......

Along with everybody else that's doing it

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fart Marketing and Cellular Operator Collusion

We all have cellphones, don’t we? And we all love our cellphones, don’t we?

I have one. I love mine.

I love Vodacom

I pay the costs. And I still love my phone. I am not one of those people calling for a reduction in costs.

Although that would be nice

I also appreciate the cellphone adverts and brochures that detail different packages and what they offer. That kind of marketing and advertising empowers me as a consumer. It provides me with details that I can use to compare packages, options and phones.

What I hate is hot-air marketing. What I call ‘Fart Marketing’. Marketing that does not help me. Marketing that takes up thousands of billboards, hours of TV and radio time, billions of Rands in (at times, ridiculous) sponsorships and events

Fart Marketing does not empower me as a consumer. And yet, I know that most of my money that goes to my cellular provider, Vodacom, goes to Fart Marketing

There has been much press concerning high cellular costs, price-fixing and collusion. For example,  On October the 19th, 2009, The Times ran a report on the price-fixing probe. On the same day, Bloomberg reported on the collusion probe.

I was driving to (and from) OR Tambo airport yesterday. Within several kilometers, I saw approximately 14 MTN billboards. Photographic evidence attached, thanks to my cellphone camera.  I see cellular-operator billboards everywhere. I hear the jingle son the radio all the time. I see cute (and ridiculously stupid) meerkats dancing on my TV screen, too often. I see stadiums, facilities and events, sponsored and branded by cellular operators

These cellular operators are everywhere. Using their Fart Marketing to stink up every marketing channel available

I know some of my cellphone costs got to infrastructure development. I know that some of my cellphone costs go to the sponsoring of community development and social upliftment projects. I know that some of much of my cellphone costs go to huge salaries and corporate waste. And I know that most of my cellphone costs go to supporting Fart Marketing

Again, I must stress, I love my cellphone. I pay my bills. Vodacom does a great job.

I am not picketing and demonstrating for a reduction of cellphone bills

Although that would be nice

I am, however, disgusted with all the Fart Marketing that takes place. A whole lot of hot air, that tells me nothing more about a particular service, package or solution

Cellphone operators need to work together. I support collusion.

Viva collusion

I want cellphone companies to collude on the sponsoring of more Vodacom sponsored schools, MTN sponsored medical clinics, Cell C sponsored crime-fighting initiatives and Virgin Mobile sponsored feeding programs

Take my money. But please stop using my money to brand yet another stadium, put up yet another billboard or buy yet more SABC or DSTV airtime

Cellular operators, please start being responsible capitalists. Stop wasting our money on Fart Marketing. Start using consumer money for these socially responsible initiatives

Consumers, please start being responsible consumers. Stop falling for Fart Marketing, and start supporting organizations that use our money primarily for the social good, and not for more meerkat airtime

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Only an end to Occupation will bring an end to Suicide Bombers!

This past week has been a busy week for suicide bombers. They have struck in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran.


I’m no medical or forensic expert, but I assume that it has not been the same group of suicide bombers

I suppose, that is the downside of being a suicide bomber.

Ask Achmed The Dead Terrorist and Former Suicide Bomber

The Occupation must end!

Whenever a suicide bombing, or other attack, on Israeli civilians, soldiers or facilities takes place, the sympathy of the world lies with the perpetrators. And the justification for these attacks: The Occupation

And I one hundred percent agree

The Occupation must end!

It’s the same story, the world over. Whether it’s the USA’s 9/11/2001 or the UK’s 7 July 2005, or India’s 26 November 2008, or Afghanistan’s 17 January 2009, or Iraq’s 13 February 2009, or Pakistan’s 15 October 2009, or Iran’s 11/19/2009 or 29 Dec 2008, or Egypt’s 23 July 2005

The Occupation must end!

Why are extremists blowing themselves up in Iraqi Mosques and in market places? Why are they killing fellow Muslims? What kind of desperation leads a woman to be a suicide bomber, killing Muslims on pilgrimage?

Is it due to poverty and desperation? (like the Western, wealthy UK)

Is it due to a foreign powers ruling their lands? (Like the independent Iran and Egypt and Pakistan)

If poverty and hardship leads to suicide bombing, then why aren’t the poor and desperate residents of Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, blowing themselves up in opulent Sandton City (5 minutes away) to further their cause

If being ‘dispossessed’ of land leads to suicide bombing. Then why aren’t the Freedom Front and the AWB and every proud Afrikaner blowing themselves up outside the parliament buildings in Cape Town

The Occupation must end!

Extremists must stop Occupying their time with hatred, racism, bigotry. They must stop Occupying their resources in the pursuit of death, destruction and evil

Do you want to know THE ONE thing that causes suicide bombing?

Suicide bombers

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gravy-Train Revolutions

“South Africa's cabinet ministers are by law entitled to the jet-set lifestyle of the filthy rich” (The Times, Oct 17, 2009)

Why are these stories appearing so frequently? Should we panic? Should we be concerned?

At some point the ones with the power try to protect 'society', 'the State', 'the kingdom', 'the kingship', 'the elite', ‘the religion', 'communism'. Civil liberties slowly get eroded. The average human’s mind gets slowly undermined. The ‘we-know-better-than-you’ people with the power, start to ‘protect’ The Thing. (The Thing can be society/State/kingdom/elite/rich/greedy capitalists/religion/monarchy/Communism)

Gravy Trains replace the Ideal

Gravy Trains happened in ancient Egypt. They existed in Ancient Rome. They happened in Jewish Temple times and even in Stalinist Russia. Revolutions followed. Revolutions took place all through history. One happened in the United States in 2008. Another in Honduras in 2009.

At some point, the people/serfs/masses/poor/humans mobilise. And revolt. For justice. For freedom. For the public good. For the greater good. For the ideal. An ideal that got replaced by an elite, who’s goal is to protect themselves, or The Thing. At some point, people realize that they too have brains/souls/minds/requirements, and that these are not being met or realised. They realise that maintianing The Thing has replaced striving for The Ideal.

There will always be Gravy Trains. And there will always be Revolutions. Some revolutions are peaceful. Some are not. Jacob Zuma, as president, signals a start of the South African revolution. He, and his (we-understand-the-masses) cabinet, replaced former like-minded people, who subsequently became Gravy Train passengers.

And, as we see in the press, cabinet ministers and other Drivers of Liberty, are now becoming Gravy Train Passengers. And countries/states/organised religions/cultures need to recognise that they are all at some point in the Gravy Train cycle. Leadership needs to recognize this in themselves, and in others. Countries and cultures fight one another over being either too focused on civil-liberties or too focused on authoritarian control.

People, and societies, need to keep questioning themselves, their values, and, most importantly, their leadership. And this is indeed happening in South Africa. The mere fact that Gravy Trains are being exposed, is great for the country. It means we can hold people accountable. It means, we still have an ideal and a goal that we are trying to achieve.

It means that neither the public, nor the politicians, are able to claim ignorance.

Plausible deniability is impossible.

The ‘we-know-better-than-you’ people with the power, will fight to protect themselves. These are the rich/elite/king/State/Empire/politicians/landowners/bankers/religous leadership/capitalists/communists. And, they continue to tell us that they are fighting in/for our best interests. And, we believe them.After all, we need them. We are not as clever, humane, wise and Godly as they are, are we?

There will be a revolution in South Africa. Everybody knows what's going on. Society's capitalist greed, politically sponsored theft and white-collar crime, are all being exposed. We are all aware of these issues. Many of us contribute to these issues

All societies and cultures are in Gravy-Train cycles. South Africa's Gravy-Train Revolution will come. And when it comes, it will be mostly peaceful.

If we let it be

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breaking news: Vote on UN report of human rights abuses in....

There was a vote in Geneva today. Here is the background:

A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Somalia, released his findings.

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Sudan, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Afghanistan, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Burma, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in North Korea, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Syria, released his findings

Correction: A leading Judge, appointed to investigate human rights abuses in Lybia, released his findings

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some laws/wars make absolutely no sense........imilla

Some facts are interesting. An example:

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was first isolated by Raphael Mechoulam, Yechiel Gaoni, and Habib Edery from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel in 1964

Some statistics are interesting. Some examples:

Annual Causes of Death in the United States

Tobacco 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000
Alcohol 85,000
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
Marijuana 0

To view all source data and details regarding the research, visit www.drugwarfacts.org

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Please don’t hang the DJ…..A lesson in appreciation

The Smiths have a great song, Panic. A wonderful song with a very interesting background, linked to the Chernobyl disaster.

But that's an aside

And I appreciate the Smiths for inspiring this post's title

As per usual, I was standing outside shul/synagogue on Rosh Hashanah/New Years. I was chatting to some mates. A pregnant, young lady walked by and the guys wished her well, saying things like: “You’re preggies, that is wonderful. That is amazing”

And true, it is amazing, and wonderful….for her.

I would hate pregnancy. I would hate having a parasite living off me. Growing inside me. Squashing almost every organ. Making me feel ill, uncomfortable, queasy.

Sleepless nights

Peanut butter and pickles

Oy vey

Anyways, I thought about it. And realized that I would never want to be pregnant. Yet, thank God, I have my 2 amazing children

I also realized that there are people out there, that we should appreciate, yet we don’t. In fact, we usually treat people like s..t, or with pity, or shame, when in fact, they deserve our respect

And I then tried to apply that thinking to the smelly, dirty beggar at my car window. I usually try not to make “I” contact with the ‘subhuman’. Or I try and wave him off, trying to get rid of him as soon as possible. Or, I give him money, out of pity. Or out of shame.

And we should give them money/food/clothes. They need money /food/clothes.

But they don’t need us to treat them like animals. They don’t need our pity.

The need our respect

These people LIVE our worst nightmares. And seeing what their lives are like, partly drives us to have jobs, homes, security. These beggars help us (at least sub-consciously) realize that poverty is not a life we want for ourselves or for our families. Their existence, makes our ambition possible.

We should be respecting these people

I realize too that Terri went through something I would absolutely hate, in order to have our 2 amazing children.

And I appreciate the fact that she went through 2 pregnancies….….when I would refuse even one

And she has my absolute, eternal, respect and appreciation for that

So, here is a shout-out to Terri, and all moms out there

And, here is a shout-out to Terri and Alan

They are getting married on Thursday. And I got to see/photograph the beautiful dress

Terri and Alan: Enjoy the DJ. Enjoy the party

And, in the words of those great sages, the Black Eyed Peas….

Mazeltov. Lechaim

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why won’t Stephen Hawking just die?

I saw a movie recently, A short stay in Switzerland. It’s the story of Dr Anne Turner. She was a (retired) English doctor, living with supranuclear palsy, an incurable degenerative disease. In 2006, Dr Turner travelled to Zurich, Switzerland. With the help of Dignitas (a Swiss ‘assisted dying’ group), she decided to take her own life.

The film presented the argument for both sides. It showed the debates she had with her kids, the arguments she had with her friends and her rationalization for the decision.

The story is tragic. Her suffering was awful. Her right to die in peace, justified.

Dignitas, and the world-view that supports assisted suicide, is a very humane world-view. It is a world view that says that the suffering individual has the right to die, peacefully. It is a world-view that says that no-one should suffer. It is the world-view that values the individual

It is also a world-view that places a limited value on a person’s existence. A value that is limited to the physical. A value, or lack there-of, that is defined by suffering. A value that is defined by the individual.

As we, as a society, value people less, people feel less valued. People who suffer are seen as a burden to our society. People who suffer feel that they are a burden. Family and friends gather around and say sad/silly/selfish things like: “I can’t stand to see them suffer”. And the ones who are suffering believe it to be true. The old, and the aging, are viewed as weak physical bodies, with not much value to offer the world.

And it’s true. Suffering is hard to watch. Suffering is hard to go through. If the value of one’s existence is not being appreciated by the world, or by one’s self, then there is no point to live. Add to all that the fact that suffering/aging/disease is also associated with a monetary cost.

With that kind of societal view, there are many reasons to die.

Hey, with that kind of world view, there are many reasons to kill

Stephen Hawking is highly regarded in the areas of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, with an academic career spanning 40 years. He has received much acclaim and many awards. He has written many books and papers. He lectures around the world. His bestseller, A Brief History of Time, was on the British Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks

Stephen Hawking is also severely disabled. He has neuro muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He cannot speak (without a computer); he cannot breathe too well (a machine helps); he cannot eat (without assistance); he cannot bathe (without help); he cannot wipe his own backside. He lives a life of complete (physical) suffering, and unspeakable indignity.

Why won’t Stephen Hawking just die?

He his suffering. He is in emotional pain. He lives a life with no dignity. His life is an inconvenience to his family and friends. His medical bills are huge. His body is, in many ways, dead.

After all, he is really suffering. And with all those tubes, those pipes and the wheelchair, we can’t stand to watch him suffer.

We should let Steven Hawking die peacefully. We should let Dignitas help him with that.

That would be humane

Or maybe we should just kill him

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Random Richard Dawkins

“If you want to do evil, science provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to do so” Richard Dawkins

Extremist believers in religion will deny the value that science, modern medicine and the ‘enlightened’ western world, has brought to humankind. These religious-extremists will call science unnecessary. These extremists will blame western values and its focus on individual and scientific progress ,for all the evils in the world. These extremists will say that science and western values are not necessary, and these extremists will blow up supporters of the western, scientific world……in order to make sure that the evil followers of science and the western world do not oppose/undermine the authority/influence of God/Religion

Extremist believers in science deny the existence of God, as well the moral, family and societal values that religion has to offer the world. These science-extremists will call belief in God delusional. These extremists will blame religion for all the world’s wars and evils. These extremists will say religion is not necessary, and these extremists will kill millions of God believers….. in order to make sure that the evil followers of religion do not oppose/undermine the authority/influence of Progress/The State

Richard Dawkin’s, in his best-selling book (the cryptically titled) The God Delusion, argues, in short, that belief in God is delusional…. (did not see that one coming). He maintains that belief in God is deadly and that religion is the root of all evil

I argue that Richard Dawkins is an extremist.

Richard Dawkins undermines every good thing that belief in God and organized religion has to offer. Dawkins clearly acknowledges that science has the ultimate weapons for good and evil. Well, religion does too. Extremists in either camp will use belief in science/God to justify its use for evil.

Richard Dawkins, in denying all the good that religion has to offer, is as extremist as a religious fanatic who denies all the good that the science and the western world has to offer

While The God Delusion is Dawkin’s most talked about book in recent years, he has written many other works. In The Blind Watchmaker, he writes about evolution and natural selection. In this book, Dawkins speaks of, among other things, "Randomness" coupled with cumulative selection

I realize that there is an argument for non-belief in God. I understand that people believe in evolutionary development that is based on natural selection. I know that Dawkins believes in the ‘accident of birth’.

I know that there are people that believe in “Randomness”

And then there are people like me

And I am one of those people, who, when I hug my kids as I put them to bed at night…….

I KNOW that I am not hugging ‘Randomness’

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The UGLY Eugene Terre Blanche......and a scam called the Human Rights Movement

Over the past few weeks, the AWB has been getting some press coverage. The man Julius Malema calls ‘an ugly man’, Eugene Terre Blanche, is trying to re-launch the AWB

The AWB, and many (what we usually call) right-wing Afrikaners, believe that their country has been stolen from them. And for those that wish to liberate the whole of South Africa, there are many more who simply wish to have an Afrikaner homeland, in some form. A homeland where this unique people ( a people with a common language, ideology and history) can live in peace. A land from which they can engage in the world as proud Afrikaners. A place to call home.

In political struggle terms, this is referred to as the right to ‘self determination’.

The AWB continues to be regarded as insane lunatics. Racists. Bigots. Anti-semites. Ugly
And they may very well be these things.

And so, as supporters and believers in ‘human rights’, we continue to condemn these lunatics, racists, bigots and anti-semites

And, the more left wing you are, the more you will support any ‘human rights’ movement


At a recent Ventersdorp gathering, Malema’s ugly Terre Blanche clearly stated that he (and his followers) want an Afrikaner homeland.

Terre Blanche also clearly stated that the re-launch of the AWB was not an armed struggle

The world, and every lefty, condemns the actions and beliefs of the right-wing Afrikaner movement. A movement based on a nation’s right to self-determination. And I use the word nation intentionally, because that is what they are. Afrikaners have a common language, history, ideology…..and land

And in the name of (holier-than-thou) ‘human rights’, the AWB is condemned. And for some of its beliefs, maybe it should be

Hold on a moment. Did Terre Blanche himself, not clearly state that their struggle is not an armed struggle?

Maybe, just maybe, if the AWB starts blowing up busses filled with children, or targets schools with bombs, or stabs policemen and soldiers…. all in the name of their struggle for self-determination…. then maybe they will be pitied by the rational, liberal human rights movement.

Maybe then they won’t be called murderers, bigots, racists and anti-semites. Maybe then, the human rights movement will start calling them ‘disenchanted’, ‘oppressed’, ‘dis-possessed’.

Maybe the Afrikaner movement should start blowing up busses. Maybe then the human rights movement, the ANC, and all their kind in the ‘modern, rational’ world will no longer refer to them as murderers, or racists, or anti-semites?

The AWB has clearly stated it will not embark on an armed struggle.

And they continue to be the laughing stock of the (so called) liberal-minded supporters of human rights

The rational world we live in condemns one (almost) peace loving movement for self-determination. In fact it calls that movement: ‘ugly’.

And another movement for self-determination, one that uses the murder of innocents as ‘legitimate’ means , is called oppressed. These means are clearly stated (by many of the movement’s leadership) as legitimate tools in the fight for liberation. Not only are they oppressed, they are lovers of peace (we are told). Not only are they lovers of peace, God help you if you accuse that movement of anti-semitism. They are only anti-Zionist, or anti-Israel (we are told.........as if those things are okay)

So, here’s to you, the liberal, enlightened world: Remember that according to your world view, blowing up of school busses filled with Jewish and/or Israeli children, is legitimate for the human rights cause called: Self-determination

You support murderers of innocents. You support the movement’s leadership, a leadership that clearly states its intentions to use such methods. You also claim that you offer this support in the name of human rights.

You also claim that you are not anti-semitic

Terre Blanche has clearly stated that he will not embark on an armed struggle for the purpose of a homeland and the right to self determination

The AWB has NEVER blown up a bus filled with innocent children.

And your world of human rights continues to call Eugene Terre Blanche’s world: Bigoted. Racist. Anti-semetic

And your world of human rights continues to support a movement that it is committed to, and commits, acts of violence and murder for the purpose of a homeland and the right to self determination

Now that’s, what I call….. UGLY

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why do bad things happen to snack lovers?

Note to reader/ignorer: This post is long. But in my opinion, worthwhile

It has 2 parts to it…..

As does everything in life……

Part 1: The fun side of life

I am sitting in the BA lounge at Cape Town International airport. I planned our arrival at the airport to the last minute, so that the car could be returned on time, our check would be on time, and our wait in the departure lounge would be minimal.

As we got into the check-in line, I read an email on my Nokia. An email from Kulula. An email informing us that the flight was delayed by 2 hours and 45 minutes

So much for my immaculate planning

The staff at the counter told me there was nothing they could do. I spoke to a supervisor and asked if we could use the executive lounge. I was told that due to the many flights they had going, the lounge was full, and they could not accommodate our request.

So, we joined the masses in the particularly dirty, and crowded, ‘normal’ departure lounge.

But I was not satisfied. I wanted the BA lounge. I had planned things so well, so as to minimize the impact on the kids and on me, and Kulula ruined - what we usually call – EVERYTHING.

So, I marched up to the BA lounge. I had a look inside, and saw that it was empty. Yes, empty. Well, there was the BA lounge staff

I explained our predicament. And they said they could not help me. I said:

“The supervisor informed me that we could not use the lounge, because, due to all the flights, and overbooking, it was full. But I see that it is not full at all. So, please, what can you do to help us”

I did use my puppy-dog eyes too.

Puppy dog-eyes, and the fact that I was with my two little kids

The kids are now enjoying the BA lounge toys, snacks and drinks. And I’m enjoying my newfound chutzpah…..and the bar. (Can you spot the fully stocked bar in the photo of my kids?)

And the kids (and adult) are enjoying the snacks and drinks

Anyways, that lesson is an aside. It’s not a story. It’s a lesson. It’s a lesson in identifying what the obstacle is, and getting around it.

More importantly, it’s a lesson to test the obstacle, to make sure it really exists

And out of the Kulula incident of October 2009, came some important lessons. Lessons in:

• Overcoming obstacles (being told ‘no’)

• Challenging assumptions (being told the lounge was ‘full’)

• Being bold (going to check for myself and ask again)

• Using resources (my eyes and my kids)

• Being polite

But, there was another lesson. And that lesson was, that out of the negativity of a delayed flight, came some inspirational lessons…..and lots of food, drinks and booze

And the kids (and adult) are enjoying the snacks and drinks

Part 2: The dark side of life

For me, Cape Town represents everything polar in my life. It represents life. And it represents death.

In terms of life, I have memories of the best holidays I have ever had. From our hotel room, I could see the Black Rock building in Three Anchor Bay (I have included photographic evidence to support my claim) It’s a block of flats where, in Dec 1996/Jan 1997, myself, and some mates, had, what is widely regarded as the best holiday experience. It was truly inspirational. And still is

Cape Town is also the place, where in 1991, my father was killed by a drunk driver. It is an event that is widely regarded, as the most traumatic holiday experience. It was truly devastating. And still is

Both experiences have altered my perception of Cape Town. Both experiences have impacted my view on life. Both experiences assisted me to bond with certain people, prioritise things, appreciate opportunities…..and a whole lot more

In short, both experiences have helped make me who I am. And I’m far from perfect….whatever ‘perfect’ is. But I am who I am. And who I am, is someone made up of a many experiences. Some, we call ‘good’ and some we call ‘bad’

My father’s death was tragic. But it was also something that has profoundly shaped my view on the world. It has profoundly impacted my priorities. And, for the past five and bit years, has deeply effected the way I parent, care for, treat, teach, relate to…. and love my children

Last night, my children met my (dad's) cousin Carol Felder and her husband Terrence. Carol is my father’s first cousin. When my father was killed, Carol and Terrence were there to assist. At the time, I was on holiday in Cape Town, staying with my mom and dad. Carol came right over to our hotel, when it was clear that my father had not returned from his (usual) morning run. My amazingly strong mother was, understandably, frantic. To say the least. Carol was there to support her. And Terrence started calling the hospitals. I had a flight to catch. Carol later took me to the airport

While I was on the flight with Shaun Laffer and David Pimstein, Terrence identified my father’s body in a Cape Town hospital

And while the kids and I met with Carol and Terrence last night, I explained to the kids the roles that Carol and Terrence played that day the music died

I will downplay current emotions and say……

And the kids (and adult) are enjoying the snacks and drinks

Anyways…..Today, as we were doing our last site-seeing activities of our Cape Town trip, I took my kids to the hotel in Bantry Bay. The hotel where I last saw my father. The hotel where my father had his last meal, his last drink, his last argument with me and where he gave me his last kiss and hug

I took my kids there to show them the hotel. To tell them about their zaida/grandfather Louis. To show them where some of his last moments were spent

And to teach them that any bit of good I do for them; Any bit of love I show them; Any bit of ‘what is right’ I try to instill in them; Any love of life I try to inspire in the……It all comes from the life, and death, of my father

So, is death ‘bad’?

Are 'bad' and 'good' not 2 sides of the same coin called LIFE

Is there such a thing as ‘bad’?

I’m not sure.

But, excuse me for now…… I’m gonna get some more snacks and drinks while I think about it

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The businessman’s guide to putting on lipstick

The Lipstick Building in Manhattan is famous for its architecture. It is a commercial office block which is now associated with capitalist greed, theft and lies. The history of the Lipstick Building is fascinating. I, however, have a new fascination with lipstick. Lipstick has given me a new insight into how to approach new business ventures.....as well as inter-personal relationships

My daughter, Noa Ariella, put on some lipstick, walked over to me, and asked:

'So, what do you think?’

With that kind of question, any man is bound to get into trouble with a lady. It's almost as risky a question to answer as the 'Do I look fat?' question.

But, in my continuing effort to be honest with my children, and teach them that there is good and bad in the world, ugly and beautiful in this world, good ideas and bad ideas in this world, I approached the lipstick idea the way we 'rational' thinkers usually approach things, when we want to be -what we usually call - ‘brutally honest’.

Brutal honesty is important. It should highlight pros and cons. It should be thought out. It should be mindful of whether something has potential, or not.

But, in most cases, ‘brutal honesty’ should be called ‘rational negativity’

I looked at her lips, with the lipstick, and I immediately had a view and an opinion on how the lipstick looked

I proceeded to say the following***:

“You can't be upset with what I'm gonna say about your lipstick. You asked for my opinion, and I'm gonna be honest regarding what I think about your lipstick. I have your best interests at heart, so you need to hear, what I believe, is right. And the truth may hurt. Being brutally honest means that you may have to go back to the bathroom and have a rethink about lipstick, your lips, and beauty. It means that you may still have lots of work do. It means you will have to challenge the underlying assumptions you have about lipstick and beauty. It means you must be willing to do a lot more work, and then, some re-work. So, do you really want me to be honest? Do you really want to know what I think about your lipstick?”

She said: “Yes”

I said………………. “I think your lipstick looks beautiful”

And I meant it

I could have used every rational argument to dismiss her good lipstick idea. I could have said:

“You asked my advice, and you may not like what I have to say. I think beauty-care and lipstick are good ideas. But, I have your best interests at heart. And because I care about you, I am going to be brutally honest with you. You should know, that using lipstick means you will get caught up in all the things that wearing lipstick and beauty-care require. And those things are tough to deal with. Those things are challenging. Those things are time consuming, require lots of energy…. and some money. So rather don’t wear lipstick.”

Following the lipstick encounter with this particular lady, I now prefer the approach:

“You asked my advice, and you may not like what I have to say. I think lipstick is a good idea. But, I have your best interests at heart. And beauty-care and lipstick are good ideas, but because I care about you, I am going to be brutally honest with you. You should know that using lipstick means you will get caught up in all the things that wearing lipstick and beauty-care require. And those things are tough to deal with. Those things are challenging. Those things are time consuming, require lots of energy…. and some money. So, on your path to beauty-care, be warned that there will be challenges. Beauty-care and lipstick are good ideas, and you have my full support in facing (intentional) those challenges”

***Not verbatim. Due to the fact that I am indeed a licensed poet, I used poetic license

Note to the person who read this far:

I still have no clue about lipstick or beauty-care.

But my daughter does

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I spotted Eternity in Cape Town

About a week and half ago, my daughter, Noa Ariella, who recently turned 5 years old, asked me:

“Abba (daddy), who made God?”

The brackets are mine

And, for about 20 minutes I praised her for asking such a deep philosophical question. A question many people ponder. People aged 5, people aged 50, or 80, or older.

And we got into a discussion about ‘who made God’ and what the question means to me.

The short answer was: God was not made. God has always been. God will always be. That’s what God believers believe. An attempt to think of God in human/earthly terms means that we think of God as created/made with an earthly end in death/breakage.

But, God believers believe that God always existed, and always will exist. God is infinite. And God believers want to tap into that ‘Infinite’. We want to tap into something that is outside of ourselves, outside of the constraints of creation and death, outside of the bounds or time, outside of the bounds of decay. Outside of the things that define our earthly, human, natural existence

Belief in God is belief in the infinite.

And to people who are not ‘believers’, these concepts sounds ridiculous. They sound irrational. They sound primitive.

Yet, the believer/irrational mind, and the non-believer/rational mind have the same goal. And that goal is to tap into something bigger than ourselves. Tap into something that lasts forever. Tap into something that is not bound by earthly, human, natural constraints.

Some people want to build a financial empire. Some attempt to create a lasting legacy. Some buy properties as a way of establishing a lasting presence in this world. Some people collect cash.

So, what’s the difference between the ‘spiritual’ believer who wishes to tap into the infinite, and the person involved in the ‘physical’ world wanting to create something bigger than themselves?

The difference: The latter uses finite tools. Tools that are intrinsically bound by the constraints of this world. And that works.

Well, that works until the money is squandered by a foolish descendent a few generations down the line….. or until the property is stolen by a lunatic regime….. or the body’s organs fail due to old age despite the external plastic surgery and appearance of ‘youth’…..or physical life ends, as the earthly rules dictate

But I prefer using infinite tools. The spiritual tools that I believe God gave me. And I want to tap into the infinite, by using, what I believe, is the infinite.

Same goal, different paths.

Some people focus on the spiritual, and miss out on some earthly, finite pleasures. And I find that sad. But what I find even sadder is that some people spend too much time on the physical, and ignore the infinite that is God

So, when I said that I spotted Eternity in Cape Town. I did. And for some, this is what it looks like

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

South Africa rocks

I am currently in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s almost 1am, Tuesday morning, and I am sitting in my hotel room, on the 19th floor of the Ritz hotel. I’m looking at the new Greenpoint stadium, and Cape Town city lights, and it’s all beautiful. I’ll be here for 4 days. The new Greenpoint stadium is one of the 2010, soccer stadiums/stadia. And the city is gearing up. There is construction and development. There are banners and billboards.

(Oy.... I hope I didn't breach any intellectual property laws by saying the words '2010', 'soccer' and 'stadium'.......... all in one week)

I flew down, with my kids, yesterday. The experience has been wonderful. The service at OR Tambo was efficient. The people we met, and who served us, were friendly. For example, as my son Caleb and I entered the men’s bathroom at OR Tambo, the cleaner stationed within the facilities said, in the most joyous of voices “Welcome to my office”. He had so much pride in his ‘crap’ job.

My kids, Noa Ariella and Caleb, were invited to help check in the luggage. Following their great work behind the counter, Kulula only had 7 complaints of lost luggage when we arrived in Cape Town* (see note at the end of this post).

We had a great airport experience followed by a wonderful flight. My kids, even got to do catch up on some in-flight work.

In Cape Town, the service has been equally great. And the hotel where I am staying, is packed with German, English, Japanese and Indian tourists. This hotel is also gearing up for 2010. It is going through a major refurbishment, and many signs display, proudly, that they will be providing official 2010 accomodation.

There are many international tourists staying here. They clearly see something special, unique, and enticing about South Africa

Why don’t we start doing the same thing?

South Africa has its issues. Crime, corrupt politicians, dodgy policemen.

So many ‘unique’ issues

Why can’t we have a ‘normal’ country? Why can’t we have a country where the president is not involved in unscrupulous sexual relations? Why can’t we be like America

Oh, in that sense, we are

Okay, why can’t we have a country where politicians are honourable, and conduct their financial dealings in an above-board manner? Why can’t we be like England

Oh, in that sense we are

Okay, why can’t we have a country where the police force is not dogged with corruption? Why can’t we be like Italy?

Oh, in that sense we are

Why can’t we have honest bankers? Why can’t we have moral business leaders? Why can’t we be like Germany, Switzerland or France

Oh, in that sense we are

Why can’t Johannesburg be a safe city? Why can’t we be safe, like the citizens of Los Angeles?

Oh, in that sense we are

Do I really need to go on to prove my point?

South Africa has so many issues. And so does everywhere else.

And South Africa has so much good. As does anywhere else

Let’s focus on all the good that this country has and gives us, in the same way we choose to focus on the good things that other countries possess.

We are too eager to ignore the crap that every other ‘great’ country has. Let’s also start ignoring our own crap for change

South Africa rocks

* For all you bitter South Africans……….that was only a joke. Relax Max

Monday, October 5, 2009

Judge Goldstone, I salute you

I'm a Jew. A proud and partly-practicing Jew. I support the State of Israel. Proudly. My goals, as per my religious beliefs, are to better myself, relate kindly to people and contribute positively to society and the world around me. These are in accordance with just some of the Godly laws I follow.

Judge Richard Goldstone recently authored the UN Human Rights Council's report on the Israel/Gaza conlict. This report has been 'somewhat' controversial

Judge Goldstone, your life work, life goals, and achievements are aimed at fighting injustice and contributing to the betterment of society. These are noble humanitarian goals, based in humanitarian (and Godly) laws.

Judge Goldstone, our goals are similar, if not identical, most of the time.

Our paths differ

Judge Goldstone, you are no extremist. You do not agree to the murder of innocents. You are not a serial killer who ignores societal/humanitarian laws. Humanitarian laws that are aimed at promoting individual and social development. You are not a man who ignores westernized, societal laws which are aimed at the betterment of the world. Your laws say the murder of innocents, or the abuse of the helpless, is cruel, and you are obviously not an extremist of your world. You are not a murderer. Murderers in your world don’t abide by the laws that most people in your world abide by. Murderers in your world are extremists. As are thieves and rapists. They don’t live by the laws of your society. Laws that most of ‘your’ people live by. Laws that contribute to the betterment of society.

I am semi-religious, practicing Jew. And I support the State of Israel. I am not a religious extremist. I am not an abuser, or war criminal, who ignores God's laws. Godly laws that are aimed at promoting individual and social development. I am not a man who ignores God’s laws which are aimed at the betterment of the world. My laws say that the murder of innocents, or the abuse of the helpless, is evil. I am not an extremist in my world. I am not a terrorist. Terrorists in my God-fearing world, don’t abide by the laws that most people in my world abide by. Terrorists are extremists. As are those who molest children, or deal in human kidneys. They don’t live by the laws of my society. Laws that most of ‘my’ people live by. Laws that contribute to the betterment of society.

Judge Goldstone, you are doing, what I would call, Godly work. It’s aimed at the betterment of humankind. And I, as a God fearing semi-religious, proudly Zionist Jew am trying to do the same thing. I respect your ideal. I admire your goals.

I don’t follow your path. I have my path.

There are extremists who disobey the common-good laws (whether human inspired or God given). And we have to deal with those. Secular extremists, and religious extremists ignore the laws that most secular and most religious people believe in. We need to support moderates in each other's camps and deal with the extremists in our own camps

Goldstone is 'Cain', or any similar talk, is ridiculous and extremist. Judge Goldstone is someone who holds dear to his heart every ideal that I do. His path differs from mine. And there are billions of other God fearing people who follow God’s laws. And there are extremists who do not follow these laws. Moslems who blow up busses, Christians who molest children and Jews who deal in kidneys. They are extremists, not the norm. Don’t use them to accuse me of having a flawed system or path.

You follow a different path, aimed achieving humanitarian, Godly goals. And that is great. You're the kind of moderate that should be supported in this world.

I too, am trying to do good in this world. The State of Israel is trying to do good in this world. Please don’t ignore the good that forms a basis of my goals. Please don’t ignore the good that forms the basis of Israel’s goals.

That’s what the extremists do. That’s what the terrorist do. They just don’t want to acknowledge the good that I do, that my people do, that the State of Israel does.

I am not going to let the path become the goal. That’s what extremists do. An extremist will kill me for the way I approach God (path), as opposed to work with me because I too acknowledge God (goal). Focusing on the path is a waste of energy. Focusing on the common goal is where our energies should be focused. We’ll all be a lot more successful and productive. Do we honestly live for our goals, or have we let the path become our goal? Are we extremists?

Please, Judge Goldstone et al, do not use extremism, or flaws in the ‘God’ camp to negate what we have to offer. And I will not use extremism, or flaws, to negate what the ‘humanitarian’ camp has to offer. Let us work together where goals converge, and not fight where paths differ. If you are not respecting and acknowledging someone else’s contribution to the betterment of themselves or the world around them, you are an extremist. Because that’s exactly what extremists do. That is what terrorists do. They refuse to acknowledge the good work Jewish people do, or the amazing work the State of Israel does. They have focused their destructive energies on our 'differences in paths', and have ignored our common goals.

Let’s not be extremists, who ignore the positive contributions others are making to this world. Let’s use or common goals as a source for construction

Judge Goldstone, I'm a practicing Jew, lover of God, and supporter and the State of Israel. I'm not an apologist. I have a path that I follow, in order to achieve certain goals. I don’t follow your path, but I acknowledge, respect and admire the Godly, humanitarian work that you do. And I ask that you do the same for me.

In conflict with what was reported in the Sunday Times article, I am not “disenchanted” with you, Judge Goldstone. Your goals are Godly. I cannot ignore the Godly good you are trying to do for the world.

Please don’t ignore the same Godly good, I (or Israel) am trying to achieve

Let’s not be destructive extremists, focusing on our differing paths.

Let's focus our constructive energies on achieving our common goals

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Pizza Shop Caper

Today, I was fortunate to join two old school friends for lunch. Lior and Marc. More correctly (respectfully) Lior, and Rabbi Sosnovik

I had chatted to Lior earlier in the day, and he told me he was meeting Marc (Rabbi S) for lunch. I decided to join them. I had not seen Lior for a couple of months. And I had not seen Marc/The Rabbi for a year or more.

We met at Next Door, In Norwood, Johannesburg. Lunch was great. The food was very yummy and the company was awesome. What more could I ask for.

And, to top it off, my brother Darin (who lives in Sydney, Australia) called to say ‘Hi”. I excused myself from the table to take the call, and chatted to my brother away from the main restaurant area. While I was chatting, I saw a Next Door employee, with boxes of little bottles. Little bottles filled with capers. (for those that don’t know, here is an explanation of capers, and how to use them )

Anyways…..What was this Next Door employee doing with the bottles of capers?

He was removing the standard labels with hot water and soap, and was replacing the labels with Next Door branded labels

It got me thinking:

Why would a Next Door employee be removing standard caper bottle labels, and replace them Next Door labels?

So, I had a chat to Anthony, the owner of Next Door. Anthony wants to start branding in-house products with Next Door branding (e.g. Next Door chilli sauce) as well as other products with Next Door Branding (e.g. company X’s capers). Anthony obviously wants to promote the Next Door brand. When you sit down to eat, he wants people to see Next Door branded sauces and condiments. If people buy products for their home, he wants them to have Next Door branded products. Great idea Anthony. After all, product recognition is pretty standard ideal that most companies strive for.

But wait a minute. Anthony’s strengths lie in running a restaurant, providing high-quality food along with superior service. Why would he want to brand capers, you may ask?

Brand recognition

I told you that already. Have you not been paying attention?

Back to the lesson. Anthony knows what his strengths are. He knows what he wants to achieve. To support that end, he wants Next Door branded products (even capers). But the branding of capers is not going to distract him from his core activities and goals.

Many businesses are faced with the caper-branding dilemma. Businesses ask: How can we brand capers? It would be great for our brand recognition, but it’s necessarily not core to me running, growing and improving my business?

And many businesses then embark on a thinking process that goes something like this:

1. Contact all ‘caper bottling’ companies so that we can enter into a branding agreement

2. Or think bigger and consider buying a ‘caper farm’ so that we can grow our own capers

3. No, a ‘caper farm’ is not our core business, so scrap that idea

4. Back to contacting the ‘caper bottling’ companies

5. Select the one that we can do business with

6. Negotiate a superb deal whereby the ‘caper bottler’ supplies us with bottles capers, displaying our brand

7. Get lawyers to draw up contracts between us and the ’caper bottler’

8. Negotiate a wholesale rate, whereby the ‘caper bottler’ supplies us with ‘capers’ at 10% lower than the standard retail rate

9. Arrange logistics details, including delivery, returns, payment, discounts, claims, returns etc

10. Stock, and sell, our branded ‘capers’ in our store, as a nice sideline, aimed at supporting our goal of brand recognition

(Again, keep notes. This non-exhaustive list above, will be referred to later. It’s called the ‘noise’ list)

Shew, so many steps in order to get branded capers. After so much effort, we got what we wanted: Our own branded capers

Well done.

Branding capers with your own brand is a great strategy. Brand recognition is important in today’s business environment. And it will only take 10 steps to get that. And it will only take 2 weeks of sourcing a caper supplier. And it will only take 2 months of negotiations and the finalization of a legal contract. And you too will then get 10% off the standard retail price. Wow. What a deal.

And then there is Anthony and Next Door. Anthony knows what he wants. He wants brand recognition. He wants branded capers. And his goal is to run a successful restaurant…and have a certain personal lifestyle. So, to that end:

1. He bought a whole lot of bottles of capers and probably got 5% off the standard retail price

2. He got an employee to spend 30 minutes taking off the labels and replace them with Next Door labels

What an amazing lesson. Anthony did not let the ‘branding of capers’ take him away from his primary focus: Running a successful restaurant.

To get branded capers, an employee spent 30 minutes taking off labels and replacing them:

• Anthony did not spend hours in meetings with caper suppliers

• He did not pay lots of money getting legal contracts drawn up

• He did not enter into lengthy negotiations over a perio of 2 months

• He did not attend time consuming meetings, with each session lasting 2 hours

He did, however, save 5%, buying wholesale. And he could have saved 10% following steps 1 to 10 above (the ‘noise’ list). So he lost out on 5% margin for the capers he bought off the wholesale shelf, and not from the factory direct

And he missed out on 5% margin on a product that is not core to his business activities

And he spent all the time he could have spent on 1 to 10 (the ‘noise’), on:

• Keeping an eye on his business

• Developing his staff

• Meeting with key customers and suppliers

• Lying on the couch, reading a book

Anthony got what he wanted: Branded capers.

It cost him more to buy them wholesale, rather than enter into an agreement with the caper bottler. But that is not his core business anyway. Anthony will make a lot more money than the potential 5% caper saving, by focusing on his business, employees, suppliers, customers and re-energising..... by lying on the couch, reading a book.

He could have been really, really busy. He could have met with caper bottlers. He could have met with lawyers. He could have had legal documents drawn up. He could have entered into agreements. He could have looked like a real-life, flesh and blood, busy businessman.

BUT….that ‘busy’, as with so many ‘busies’, was not key to the development of his business

The lesson for the capers: Focus on what you do best, on what you want to do and what you need to do (managing a restaurant when you need to and lying on a couch reading a book when you want to). Don’t create work for work’s sake, and make yourself feel better by thinking you are busy (negotiations and contracts in order to save 5% on your non-core branded capers)


Keep the goal in mind

And be clever in evaluating options that help you achieve your goals, without creating unnecessary noise