Category: Culture

Grateful Dead lyricist, digital civil rights icon John Perry Barlow dies

John Perry Barlow, who wrote several Grateful Dead tunes with guitarist Bob Weir and formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 1990 to try to shield online civil rights from government intrusion, died last Wednesday in his sleep. He was 70.

Throughout his life, Barlow was prolific in his writing; he was a frequent collaborator for Wired, the New York Times, and much more. He documented his cyber-spatial journey to Africa in his renowned Wired piece titled, Africa Rising: Everything You Know About Africa is Wrong.

“I am a pig for Africa. I want more. I can hardly wait to get back for a few more cracks at describing the Indescribable Continent, where darkness and light dance so beautifully. While there are, of course, plenty of reasons for caution and even despair in Africa, my giddy theories about the continent’s 21st-century info-economic potential seem so true now I can’t state them strongly enough,” wrote Barlow at the time.

It is no small feat that due to his courageous efforts, the care of the EFF alongside the anti-apartheid movement, that South Africans ended up with an Internet Friendly Constitution, several articles specifically relate to online communications freedom, were included in our foundation document during 1995, as cyberactivists canvassed government Ministers such as Jay Naidoo and Pallo Jordan shortly after the first democratic elections.

The author of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, John was a familiar and reassuring presence on the Internet. He last communicated on Tuesday evening and died after the Elon Musk event. Even though his postings and feed was coming less and less following his near death experience when he went into cardiac arrest for 8 minutes in 2015.

I first encountered John Perry Barlow in San Francisco, where he gave a talk at the Parallel University, later attending a book launch event hosted by ‘the Zippies’, his was a warm magnanimous spirit, and we maintained contact. In 2010 John retweeted my response to the Anonymous DDos attack against Mastercard. “Freedom of Expression is priceless, for everything else there is Mastercard” and “Freedom of Expression is priceless, for everything else there is error 401 timeout.”

Although EFF were critical of the 1994 Intervasion ‘Net Riot’, and world first DDos Event, of which I played an organisational role, we became chums. A rabble-rouser, raconteur, womaniser, activist and raver, I felt honoured to have him as a ‘friend and father’.

Sean Ono Lennon, 42, a singer-songwriter and the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, also counted Barlow among his friends says: “John Perry Barlow was a master of all trades and jack of none. He was a wordsmith a songsmith, a tech wizard party maniac car mechanic and bona fide lady magnet of incomparable intellect. He was an angel and double agent, a prophet and pioneer of digital divination, a Master Mason, a Burning Man patron, an internet architect, and political maven, a psychedelic shaman, a counter culture statesman and a hero to great men. In the end he was still a Wyoming cowboy to the core, and above all else, he was a family man because to him nothing mattered more. John Perry Barlow, he set the bar high, with big boots to follow, and many will try, but no one will ever come close to the guy, for this grateful and graceful guru was one of a kind.”

Songs borne out of Barlows collaboration with ​Grateful Dead’s ​Weir include: “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues,” “Black-Throated Wind,” and many more until the Dead disbanded in 1995.

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Demi-Leigh: Look how far we’ve come South Africa

IN 1978 Margaret Gardener won the Miss Universe beauty pageant. The event held in Acapulco was not without controversy. John Vorster was president of a white minority regime. Apartheid was in full sway. Nelson Mandela was in jail. The Miss South Africa competition was an all-white affair. I was in kindergarten. I still remember the fuss about Gardener’s black swimsuit, my first “sexual awakening”, and the many Scope covers and feature stories which followed, all written next to articles promoting the SADF, Rhodesia, and South Africa’s control of South West Africa.

On 26 November 2017 to our surprise, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters, a bubbly girl from Sedgefield, a small coastal town on South Africa’s east coast, won the Miss Universe for the second time in nearly four decades. Democracy is in full sway. Jacob Zuma is president. The crooks, not the democrats are all in jail. At least some of them are. If only our collective future looked as bright as Demi-Leigh.

If you thought this was going to be just another pageant, then, I’m afraid you got it all wrong. Not only is Demi-Leigh a youth ambassador for the nation, but she totally axed it, and flawed her hosts on several New York talk shows with her confidence and personality, and a reign which looks set to be all about surprises.

Yes, to her critics, she does not represent the majority perception of beauty in Africa nor is she black like Miss Haiti, nor a superpower like Melania Trump. What she has, is the kind of sass that you find in every small town Afrikaner girl in South Africa, a nation still coming to grips with its past, at the same time that we are marking the fourth anniversary of the death of Mandela, with the neck and neck race for president of the ANC, and a democratic process which has seen the rise of a brand new political party under Makhosi Khosa.

Our self-perception, could do with a bit of confidence and what Demi Leigh represents is the kind of bubbling eruption of opportunity which marked South Africa’s return to the free world in 1994. The Marie Claire fuss about her tan (take it from me, the colour of her skin is real), has no place in a non-racial society. It has even less place in the wider world. The Miss Universe pageant is anything but an all-white affair as suggested by activist critics.

Janelle “Penny” Commissiong was the first black woman to hold the Miss Universe title. She won the title in 1977 at the Miss Universe pageant held in the Dominican Republic.

A list of “black” titleholders compiled by Afropedia include:

Leila Lopes (2011), Angola
Mpule Kwelagobe (1999), Botswana
Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998), Trinidad and Tobago
Chelsi Smith (1995), USA
Janelle Commissiong(1977), Trinidad and Tobago

Time to put aside racial stigma and celebrate.

South Africa gave the world, Steven Bantu Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Caster Semenya, Wayde van Niekerk, Elon Musk and Trevor Noah. Now is the right moment for Demi-Leigh Nel Peters.

Hellkom like no SOE ever scorned (Part 2)

My saga of moving my Telkom landline continued from part 1.

DAY 28 A bearded Telkom technician arrives with his assistant. They are unable to install the line because my apartment requires a cable to be installed via a conduit which can only happen with the landlords permission. I am inundated by SMS from Telkom requesting me to rate their service online. I get a call from my landlord’s company offering me a 10mps wireless connection. No Telkom. Apparently this would entail gaining the password to his router. I attempt to decline the offer.

DAY 35 Still no home Internet. I am forced to use Internet cafes to file my SARS tax return. Problem is, I can’t find a cafe that is compliant with SARS efiling demand that I use adobe flash player 11. Apparently everyone in the real world is operating with flash 23. I head over to SARS office in town. There is no public access terminal available to do the task. Speak to an inane SARS employee who keeps telling me to file the return online. I seem to be in a boot loop, explaining that even my bank has a self-service terminal and doesn’t rely upon its clients to have private Net access. Fail.

DAY 36. I get a phone call from my landlord inquiring about my letter explaining why I believe a ‘fibre and cable’ option, and separate ‘voice and data’ services would be far better for my needs than low power radio access to his router. He has sent an Internet access form for his &*(^ provider, detailing its wonderful contention ratios, its commercial quality bandwith, (but no voiceline) and patiently tries to solve my voice and data issues by explaining that Skype offer a Skype-out service where one can call local numbers, I don’t even try to explain why paying for local calls in Dollars or Euros  to  isn’t going to be worth my while (Surely a gap in the market?), and in my case a choice between having connectivity or health insurance. He appears to relent when I explain that in order to access his marvellous router for which I would be handing over precious cash, some R150 more than my current service via MWEB, and without a guarantee on latency, I would need to invest in a WIFI receiver. I feel like a hillbilly holding out for Grandma, because she has a landline.

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Telkom cable hanging in the road

DAY 38 I am in a strange new world, in which the Tantalising Internet is both absent and present. (see The Curse of King Tantalus) For the vast majority, the Internet is whatever can be gleaned via occasional free wifi hot spots in cafes, (just buy a coffee). Or the traditional Internet Cafe (a dying breed) where you can hire a computer for a few rands per half-hour. Metro-rail still do not have wifi on their trains. It is like being the last person on earth after the flood. The problem of too many Android apps, competing for precious storage space, the insanity of every company pushing out its own app, at the same time as palming off services into the digital realm, the real beneficiaries are the mobile technology providers. For a brief time I marvel at how everyone must be doing, walking around with terabytes of ram on their phones and tablets, but sadly, like most people, I only have 4 gb on my phone, Android Lollypop takes up most of the space of the Vodacom unit and this version prevalent in the third world, doesn’t like SD cards, and won’t let me expand. I am forced to call a hotline to access my health insurance which relies on its app to service customers, miraculously, they provide the line as a free service and I don’t need to load airtime.

DAY 42 I receive an SMS alerting me to a bill in the amount of R456.11, not only is the inhuman Telkom system billing me for a non-existent service, but they also have the wrong call plan. Prior monthly average has been R310, and the last bill was a credit for R10.93. I call a helpline, log a dispute and am told “the extra fees are for ADSL”, it appears Telkom have taken over the ADSL portion of my service without my consent. Seems as if the beast is unable to accommodate real people with real-life problems, and is instead introducing new problems of its own. I also get the sneaking suspicion that Telkom bills are all just a thumbsuck with no real bearing on usage. Am forced to leech internet (keep those passwords!). Pickup a telephone directory from the Post Office (remember those?), just so I can call my data service provider MWEB, alas, they are not listed in the phone book. Then remember that I have an Mweb helpline listed as a memo in a notepad on my desktop. Call them on a “sharecall” to explain the situation. I must first log a fault, then seek a refund for the two months I am without service etc etc. I swear many service providers make money out of ‘sharecall’ services.

At first I speak to the accounts dept, then the technical dept, and finally the “moving dept”.

Apparently I should have called MWEB to begin with. Why didn’t Telkom bother to tell me what was required? The confusion is all the result of an ANC SOE policy whereby Telkom is the monopoly cable operator, (these days in name only) but where third parties offer data services, a complete fibre-to-the-home solution lurks on the horizon, great if you end up getting bundled voice and data. Why has the beast unilaterally taken over my ADSL “line” (read “account”)? To make matters worse, there has been no communication from MWEB alerting me to any of this, (they are also billing) nor from Telkom for that matter. The latest glitch of epic proportions has all occurred because of the mysterious power wielded by faceless operators sitting behind anonymous switchboards and cold cathode computer screens. In all likelihood there is no connection between my past service and the new, as yet unconnected one. R50 later and I am still not at the bottom of it all.

The woman behind the helpful MWEB “move desk” is cut off, another victim of Vodacom extortion. (Mobile rates priced as if Euros, Dollars and Sterling were all benchmarked by an accountant whose life depends upon getting lattes on executive flights to Mauritius). Again, those sharecalls seem like wishful thinking when it comes to using mobile phones, an excuse to ramp up consumer spend. I miss the Pacific Bell sales pitch from my days in California, Friends and Family Are Free. Before Telkom had even considered broadband, there was a big bang in the USA. It revolved around breaking up Ma Bell, the one-size fits-all national telco into baby bells, all competing with each other. The result was the Dot-Com explosion. In South Africa, we had quite the opposite, a National Telco Monopoly that went from Ma Telkom to GrandMa Telkom. A dinosaur currently in its death throws. RIP Public Telephones. Yes Telkom exists as a mobile phone company, but its life as a cable company is numbered, like the sales pitch at RSA web suggest, fibre is coming at lightening speed, and its not Telkom who are making the offering to connect, despite similar offerings from mobile operators. Despite the seeming progress, there are still plans afoot to calf a “National Internet Service provider” out of two separate units, broadband infraco and sentech ), a case of fiddling while Rome burns and quite the opposite of what happened in the US.

Thus in Pretoria the bureaucrats in the Zuma administration still dream of building a Kremlin large enough to get lost in, and thereby eliminate the need to work, while another dept, plots its journey to the Sun, no worries, we will travel at night! I contemplate how a system designed upon a talking drum backbone and witchcraft would work? Am ready to start sending Morse Code, or Ham Radio. Do I begin constructing my very own “Net”, this time, starting with node to CTWUG? All cost money, we so dependent upon the Net that we have become strangled by it.

DAY 49 I receive the Telkom bill printed on chlorinated white bond. It affirms that Telkom have placed me on the wrong call plan and are double-billing for ADSL services already “supplied” by MWEB. I call MWEB, the technical dept agree with me, but a lady at the accounts dept wants to argue. I request to speak to a manager, instead she puts me on hold for so long, I eventually put down the phone and decide to write the manager a letter. Meanwhile USB stick is overwritten by a virus at a City Internet Cafe. Appears some Trojan posing as a Windows “driver” updater is merrily making copies of itself. After deleting all the .ink and cmd.exe files that propagated (and then reformatting), I inform the owner, who gratiously declines to accept payment. I relocate to the City Library, where there is at least a room filled with computers, and virus-free Linux. Better work conditions as a Micro-serf, means I get to attend an ISOC party.

DAY 52 Having penned three letters in the matter, and as many complaints, I finally receive a missed call from my landlord, I pay for the call to his golden mobile phone, to finally receive lordly permission for the wiring of the conduit to go ahead. Telkom technicians will be under supervision. I thank him profusely and also thank my lucky stars that at least I’m not a Telkom employee, — can’t live with them, can’t do without them. A light is at the end of the tunnel. People are singing the praises of the Digital Jehovah, the Internet Christ will Return.

DAY 58 An electrician from a frontline state arrives. Fairly decent fellow. According to him, it will take two days to pull the wire into the building. He appears to think the cable is simply two wires. I attempt to explain that the cable needs to be Telkom compliant and that my ethernet cable has six cores. I receive an email from MWEB technical dept complaining about my not informing their MOVE dept. (Oh, the fiction) I respond that Telkom are the ones providing the infrastructure and that I have simply relocated my MWEB router.

DAY 65 5 October I receive nasty email from MWEB claiming they are ‘merely a subscription company’ and thus not liable for any loss of service due to Telkom and them managing a non-existent line. Letter goes on to explain that they can’t refund me any money, even the “subscription” for the entire month of October (Read: We don’t care a damn about our customers as long as we getting their money!)

9 October SMS Dear Mr Lewis, a dispute has been created on your account ref: 28437870 we apologise for the inconvenience and will endeavour to resolve your dispute as soon as possible, Telkom.

SMS Telkom Technican: U can take it up with them cause the job from a technical point is done. Let them know that the line is on the premises but not in ur flat due to renovation. (So much for the guaranteed installation of a fixed point inside my home)

12 October SMS Good Morning Mr D Lewis, dear value customer, you have your Internet/DATA with another service provider however your ADSL Speed Facility is with Telkom SA. Please contact your service provider to contact Telkom SA so that they can port ADSL over to them. So in mere fact you pay DATA with them and ADSL with Telkom SA. Current account of R456.11 outstanding.

DAY 79 19 October still no connectivity. However a paralegal is attending to mediation with my landlord, and an attorney via legal insurance is apparently dealing with Telkom. There is no sign of the electrician from a frontline state. I meet one of my neighbours who is paying some R150 extra to Skype, just so that he can have an 021 number. I ask him if he gets free unlimited nation wide calls to RSA telephones, he appears to grimace, but I get invited for a braai.

DAY 81  I receive a bill from Telkom, this time I owed them R843.85 for a non-existent line where the telephone number has not yet been issued.

CONTINUED PART THREE

Banned People’s Culture festival returns

THIS YEAR marks 30 years since the banning of the ‘Towards the People’s Culture’ festival by the Botha government in 1986, with a festival event appropriately titled Marking the ’86 People’s Culture Festival

The original festival was meant to gather prominent artists in a collective response to the injustices of apartheid whilst deploying the arts as a tool for  social justice. Instead we all found ourselves on the wrong side of the law, as the de facto military junta behind the Botha government clamped down on student resistance to apartheid, unleashing strong-arm tactics that would result in the banning of artists and musicians.

A pivotal moment, I remember walking down Loop Street, Cape Town, having just received the news that the festival which included bands such as Smoking Brass and Raakwys, had been banned, and thinking, now the @#$& has really hit the fan. It came as a big shock, still in my debut first year at UCT, and merely a member of a Nusas sub-committee, (signed up upon orientation), assisting with the festival, we found to our horror, that the colour of ones skin was absolutely no protection from the ‘State of Emergency’.

If a bunch of white, privileged students, including Ivan Toms could get banned en masse, where would it ever end? If music was illegal, where was the humanity in the system we were opposing?

The suppression of the festival radicalised students, many of whom ended up participating in covert underground operations. It also lead to the creation of the Kagenna Project & Earthlife Africa, as the reality started of ad hoc bannings, the police invasion of campus, the very next year, and the eventual outright banning of the End Conscription Campaign two years later.

Not broken in spirit, there would still be many underground festivals, and secret arts venues where students for instance pretended to go to a Woman’s Rights or Gay Rights party, only for it to turn into a full-blown Anti-Apartheid Event, replete with appearances by banned & underground MK cadres.marking_webslide

Love affairs would occur across the barricades. Spies on campus would be uncovered.  A dirty tricks campaign would manifest itself. We would get regular visits from the special branch or stopped and searched by the apartheid military, those infamous conscripts in casspirs, as the State of Emergency made itself felt, even in leafy Atlantic garden suburbs.

This 10 December 2016 we will mark the banning through a series of events that include a market, musical performances, live installations and a symbolic lantern procession through the streets of Salt River.

Organisers  of the commemorative event, Cornerstone CEO, Noel Daniels, said on Friday, “This event will not only mark the banning of the festival, but will also comprise a symbolic unbanning.”

Acclaimed Cape Town songstress Tina Schouw will reflect on the halcyon period in the 80’s.

Another iconic 80’s band Raakwys ( featuring Valmont Layne, Andre Sampie and Aki Khan) will  perform songs that look back at just how far we’ve come along on the road to freedom.

Mthwakazi will ‘honour the sense of ceremony with her mesmerizing and haunting hybridized style of music’ which is apparently a crossover between Xhosa Indigenous Bow music and Opera.

Sylvestre Kabassidi will close the night with sounds from his native Ponte Noire, DRC.

The full programme is as follows:
16:00 Market opens
17:00 Performance by Tina Schouw
18:00 Raakwys
19:30 People’s Education participatory liberation songs intervention
20:00 Lantern procession through Salt River (lanterns available for purchase at the Market)
20:15 Performance by Mthwakazi
21:00 Performance by Sylvestre Kabassidi

Parking is available at 121 Cecil Road, Salt River for R10.

Media Enquiries: Ukhona Mlandu, 084 462 2237 or ukhonam@cornerstone.ac.za
General Enquiries: Hylton Bergh, 021 448 0050 or hyltonb@cornerstone.ac.za

 

Mama Goema

Mama Goema: The Cape Town Beat in Five Movements is a multinational documentary film by Ángela Ramirez (Colombia), Sara Gouveia (Portugal) and Calum MacNaughton (South Africa).

Cape Town musicians guide a journey to the beat at the heart of the Mother City and a primal rhythm named Goema. With indigenous Khoi-San roots, colonial influences and shaped by the city’s slave history, Goema’s blueprint lies in Cape Town’s carnival culture.

It is from these annual festivities that new and exciting variations have emerged. These include defiant Rock sounds from the 1980s that overcame barriers imposed by Apartheid as well as healing Jazz sounds in the wake of the country’s democratic rebirth.

Despite this, Goema has yet to fulfill its potential to unite a city and evoke collective pride. It remains a word that is misunderstood and in the process of discovering itself as the common denominator of a culture defined by diversity.

Mama Goema charts the evolution of Goema through composer Mac McKenzie and multi-instrumentalist Hilton Schilder. Having traced the course of Goema’s history, we see it take a bold step into the future.