Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Victoria Williams: 0162

After all the surrogate-father-figure-accusations, it was embarrassing to have to ask him for some money for lunch.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Spaza: 0004

Click on the photo to enlarge. 

A hallmark of township architecture is remixing. On the right, a basic apartheid-era council house. On the left, a remixed council house - now with a balcony and a spaza shop.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eva Jackson: 0008

time is precious

He replies to Nigerian princes, telling them if they are stranded, they should stop emailing strangers.
The best thing would be to contact the nearest embassy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Polis, The Arena

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Victoria Williams: 0161

Hey remember when I was drunk and you were interesting?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spaza: 0003

Click on photos to enlarge. 

The service window is flanked by date trees and one climbs up what resembles a bamboo staircase. The act of buying your bread and milk becomes a brief tropical holiday.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eva Jackson: 0007

Road Trip

The credits roll up
The deep voice starts
You have become the chirruping voice of darkness in me.

We visited the palm trees where they say the raffia vultures roost
You have become the chirruping voice of darkness in me
There were no vultures.

You tried to charm the innkeeper
(really it was the proprietor of a timeshare in Zinkwazi Beach)
You have become the chirruping voice of darkness in me.
And you succeeded. You did not succeed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New From Dye Hard Press: Meditations of a Non-White White by Allan Kolski Horwitz

Allan Kolski Horwitz’s latest collection of short fiction, Meditations of a Non-White White, scrapes away at superficial assumptions and brings to life a multitude of characters whose issues and concerns have dominated post-1994 South Africa but are in many respects timeless. The stories probe the limitations of middle-class norms and blinkered identities, and grapple with the diverse experiences of those living beyond privileged ghettos. 272 pages.

ISBN: 978-0-9870178-6-4

Estimated retail price is R160. If ordered directly from the publisher, the price is R130, including postage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Victoria Williams: 0160

Of all the silly ways of saying I don’t love you anymore, screaming why won’t you play badminton with me, at three in the morning, in your sleep, was the most profoundly hurtful. (All the things you say in your sleep cut deepest.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spaza: 0002

Click on photo to enlarge. 

The spaza muddies the line between the private and the public. Here the idea of the fence is subverted; instead of keeping out, it invites in.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eva Jackson: 0006

paper package

spending your morning
stuffing paper down the pants
of a mannequin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Victoria Williams: 0159

Alan’s creative writing seminar. Pretty much all he’s got is: ‘Keep a dream journal next to your bed.’ That’s it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Spaza: 0001

Click on photo to enlarge. 

Two spaza shops alongside each other - which is a bit unusual. Also interesting is the two categories of shops shown: 1. the shop that forms part of the house; 2. the shop that is an external structure. Spaza shops are called 'tuck shops' in some Durban areas. This is perhaps because in Durban slang the word 'spaza' oftentimes means 'cheap', 'lousy', or 'poor quality' - a connotation that shop owners understandably don't want to associate with.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eva Jackson: 0005


A noise in the bookcase
Fluttering and whiskered like Marquis’s Archie
Brushing on the walls of his prison
Scraping, like a sleeping intelligent bullet.
Be kind to the body
Wake it up slowly
First small turns of the wrist, and then
Deep breathing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spaza: Folk Entrepreneurship

Tearoom Books is pleased to announce a new series, Spaza, which will start next week. The spaza shop forms a crucial part of township life. Small and relatively easy to setup, they dot the township landscape and provide an essential service to the community.

Wikipedia defines a spaza shop as "an informal convenience shop business in South Africa, usually run from home. They also serve the purpose of supplementing household incomes of the owners, selling everyday small household items. These shops grew as a result of sprawling townships that made travel to formal shopping places more difficult or expensive."

The Free Dictionary entry:

spaza shop [ˈspɑːzə] 

(Business / Commerce) South African slang a small informal shop in a township, often run from a private house [from slang, dummy, camouflaged] 

Spaza shops also function as neighbourhood meeting points and often help disseminate information.

In this new series we will use GoogleEarth to feature spaza shops from the township of Chatsworth.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Victoria Williams: 0158

She puts the chest in Manchester. He took her home, heart-a-flutter, only to find that it was 1828 and she was dying of consumption.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Room – Wonderfully Bad

by Anton Krueger

After being tipped off by Tom Bissell’s excellent essay about this monumentally bad movie in Magic Hours (McSweeneys, 2012), I took the first opportunity of streaming it for myself.

The Room was released in 2003 and bombed spectacularly at the box office. The Washington Post called it “A train wreck of almost incomprehensible proportions.” And yet, Tommy Wiseau (writer, director, producer and leading man) inexplicably kept paying the rent on a massive billboard of his inscrutably pockmarked face, which glowered from a Hollywood hill for a solid four years after the premier.

Somehow, Wiseau became the Florence Foster Jenkins of cinema and people are now packing houses across the world to see for themselves how bad this movie actually is. In the last few years it’s been shown as a cult classic at midnight showings all over America (and more recently in Europe and Australia) where fans dress up as their favourite character and partake in odd rituals like tossing bouquets of plastic spoons at the screen. The Onion has called The Room “the first true successor to the Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

In its new guise, the film is being pitched as a “black comedy”, but it’s really sui generis, a completely unfamiliar creature. It’s been accused of having terrible production values, but actually the sound and image aren’t too bad. What really sets this film apart is its heroically appalling script presented with acting of legendary feebleness and directing which could euphemistically be described as random. It ambles along, scene after scene, trying to imitate a good movie: the actors stand, sit and move about; but there seems to be no intelligent design behind it all. In every scene the principal cast seem surprised to see each other, and one of the catch phrases of the film has become the “Oh Hai” with which characters cheerily greet each other, irrespective of any given context.

“Oh Hai Mark” – On the rooftop

What sets this film apart from other films vying to be the worst movie ever made (like Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny) is that it takes itself seriously. There are any number of films trying to be quirky; but The Room isn’t trying. And because it was made sincerely, it manages to be unpretentiously awful, and it allows unfettered access to a very peculiar mind. Not since Robert Wilson made high end theatre with scripts by autistic kids have audiences been given such wholesale leeway to a clearly sub-normal mind.

Reading interviews with Wiseau, he sounds brain damaged or on drugs, comparing his film to Citizen Kane and his own acting to James Dean. One feels sorry for him, and yet, he’s clearly relishing the attention. The astonishing thing is that he refuses to be laughed at. When an interviewer asks him how he feels when people say that his film is “so bad, it’s good” it baffles him. He refuses to believe it.

Original marketing interview

Here are some of the oddities of this marvel: characters, themes and sub-plots unaccountably drift in and out of the story quite haphazardly. One character reveals that she has breast cancer, but it’s never brought up again. Later, a therapist trips while playing football in a tuxedo (don’t ask), and then disappears from the film altogether.

The manipulation of the author’s lazy hand is palpable throughout. When he wants to move everybody out of a room he simply has a character say “let’s all go outside to get some fresh air”, and the room clears with marine-like precision in a matter of seconds. When he needs them back in the room, she says “let’s all go inside for some cake”, and everybody returns. It seems that Wiseau is unfamiliar with real social interaction, and perhaps he imagines that this is what a real party might be like.

The Room uses standard Hollywood tropes: tossing about a football shows all-American camaraderie; candles and roses signify romance; a guy sporting a van dyke and a beanie is clearly a drug dealer. But these are used in such a ham fisted way that one realises the absurdity of the gestures themselves. The misalignment of the meme reveals how thin the formula is, and the film mixes up its clichés to such an extent that it becomes a joke about the industry itself.

Denny’s inexplicable drug trouble

Cult films are an odd phenomenon. What is it about a movie that makes people go for Klingon lessons and order white Russians? In many cases these films attract a following due to a desire for community. People are drawn to the idea of belonging to a counter culture (like in Withnail and I) or an alternative slacker society (as in The Big Lebowski) or to a mythical community (such as the Trekkies). There are few cult films, however, which explore a romantic relationship. Why have people never dressed up as Ethan Hawke and slept outside cinemas for screenings of Before Sunrise? Perhaps it’s because romance concerns the individual, whereas wars against aliens (or the status quo) demand a team effort.

Since The Room is ostensibly about a failed relationship, it makes it an unlikely candidate for a cult movie. So what keeps people coming back for more? Perhaps audiences are united in realising how badly its made, and their coming together is an expression of their knowledge of the norm. And yet, the fact that it’s so far off the mark also makes this film startlingly original. And very funny. We’re so used to market-driven, audience-tested scripts that to see something which looks like a movie and sounds like a movie, but which is utterly outlandish, is a refreshing experience.

Whatever the case may be, The Room has become so popular that fans have created a flash fiction game of it: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/547307. Wiseau claims to be adapting it as a novel and a play for Broadway, with a 3D version in the works. It’s unmissable. If you’ve got the bandwidth, there’s no excuse not to see it.

Hitler watches The Room