Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: July 2010 (Page 1 of 3)

The next morning

The gods of scheduling have been particularly unkind with me. I ran an hour long improvisation workshop at 22.35 last night and I am presenting again at 0830 this morning! I am also sharing a room with a poor  woman who thinks I am mostly demented. I had to drag my stuff into the bathroom in the pitch dark to get dressed and out of there!

I am trying to acclimatise to 475 Jewish people all in the same place at the same time. Last night there was a communal Shabbat supper. I must confess that being there without a partner was quite hard, especially since my partner was at home, in his non-Jewishness. I don’t feel so much like these are my people. I ended up having a very passionate discussion with a gorgeous, totally proud and passionate Zionist, a woman who is deeply in love with Israel. Truly surprising, and hard for me to bite my tongue.

Then I went to an interesting chat called Women in South African Jewish History: Conformists and Rebels. It was a slice of life view of Bertha Marks, a typical Victorian Jewess in South Africa, the conformist, and then a same sex couple, Roza Van Gelderen and Hilda Purwitsky, who passionately and energetically pioneered education in Cape Town, amongst other things. Very interesting. Then it was my turn. I did an improvisation workshop. It was so late that I was worried nobody would come, but there were about thirty participants and it was amazing.

Update: It’s now 1520 and I have not only done (and loved) my other presentation, I have also been to two more, and AWOLed into Stellenbosch for real coffee! My head is full. Even the casual encounters with people are so intense and diverse. I have just been talking to Julian Gordon about death, and I’ll go and listen to his presentation Where Angels Fear to Tread, about the body and soul split, I think. After that it’s The Jewish Atheist – A Contradiction?

I heard Gerald Potash tell stories of Boerejoode this morning, and an amazing lecture by Gilad Stern called “”Why is a Gattis called a Gattis?” Words that make us laugh, wink or cringe.” I am too naive to spot the real left from the sort-of left, and right with politics so from now on I am just going to avoid those. There is so much on offer. And it is still weird for me. But interesting weird. And controversial weird. And uncomfortable weird. But, slowly slowly I see that I do in fact have a tiny voice here, and I can be heard if I want to. Now that is the next step I need to take. I don’t need these people’s approval; but do I want it? And if I do, do I want it enough? The jury is still totally out on this one.

Limmud – a really strange kettle of fish

I woke up this morning with Big Friendly‘s cold which only adds to my totally altered state of reality. It is 1800 and I am in Stellenbosch, at a hotel, with more than just a few hundred Jewish people for a 48 hour conference, 100 presenters and 170 sessions. All these people (except for the people who work here, and you should see their faces!) are either Jewish or will be talking about something Jewish related or for Jews to hear. Mind-bending. It really is a huge, huge mix; religious, non-religious, right-wing, left-wing, spiritual, academic, philosophical, cultural, general and obscure.

I am presenting an improvisation workshop late tonight, and a talk tomorrow called The Reluctant Jew. I have also set myself the task of attending as much as I possibly can.

I didn’t do myself any favours by attending my first presentation; about the Turkish Flotilla that made that attempt to get supplies to Gaza. It was a presentation by a totally right-wing, Israeli military expert Jonathan Fine, who managed, in a carefully constructed preamble about fundamental religious terrorism, to persuade the already half-way there audience that the Israelis behaved beautifully and were threatened and did what anyone else would have done in that situation. It was beyond hideous and I was so enraged I couldn’t even speak. The hilarious part of this whole thing is that he didn’t know how to work his DVD and I was the only moegoe who got up to press play and to do sound levels! For the most blatant piece of pro-Israeli military propaganda ever made!

Next up was a quirky look at Jews in Venice during Shakespeare’s time and the justification for Antonio from The Merchant of Venice to be a Merano, a Jew who has converted to Christianity. It was presented by Stephen Finn. It was really quite absorbing, and properly interesting. I am so deeply connected to the play and I know all the textual references so it was really exciting to see them being re-interpreted. A lot of strange statements that Shylock and Antonio make can be so much better justified if this were indeed the case.

I am not used to this many Jewish people all at once, and I still don’t feel very comfortable. I hope I will find some like-minded thinkers here; but I won’t hold my breath; my nose is blocked and I might choke and swallow my own post-nasal drip!

Writing my life

I have been so caught up with writing other stuff that my blog has taken a bit of a back seat this last week. I have been busy with a couple of proposals, ideas for new things keep popping into my head (and I have to write them down, however obscure they are, in case they have some value or resonance later on) and I have been preparing a presentation that I am giving at the Limmud seminar this weekend.

The truth is, I love writing. I love words. I can’t always get them to do what they should, like Humpty Dumpy could by paying them at the end of the week, but I enjoy trying to get them to say how I feel and what I mean. I practice saying words and making up weird titles for things at gym on the stair master machine. I have taken to using my crappy cellphone as a dictaphone when I don’t have a pen and paper or Mac-a-tiny with me, like when I am walking the dogs. And I am practicing my writing. I think it’s good practice. But here is how Humpty Dumpty sees things. I will take my cue from him I think.

`I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

`But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

`Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice `what that means?`

`Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

`That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.’

`Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

`Ah, you should see `em come round me of a Saturday night,’ Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: `for to get their wages, you know.’

(Alice didn’t venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can’t tell you.)

Desperate Dog. Please help!

Does anybody out there know what I can do? Any and all advice will be put into action immediately. In the alleyway behind our house there is a dog. She is owned by a man in the street behind us and has been placed in the alley as a guard dog. Although she has shelter, food, water and shade she has no contact with people or animals. That is her life. And she cries all the time.

I have had the SPCA inspector out here on at least three occasions, but because there is no sign of abuse or neglect on the dog there is nothing that they can do. DARG, TEARS and pro-life animal rescue can’t help at all; they are by law not allowed to have inspectors working for them because of their pro-life policy. Everybody has suggested that I wait for the municipal bylaws to change and then I can complain about a noise disturbance to the police. That is hardly the point. I am also feeling desperate in my helplessness. I have no access to the dog since our back door into the alley is sealed shut and our walls are very high. All I hear is her constant, sad crying. It is unbearable and heartbreaking. Please tell me what to do.

Oh, I forgot to add that this man who owns her is an absolutely aggressive, mean, nasty piece of work and is totally unapproachable. Everybody is scared of him. He has a reputation for being a gangster and for taking revenge on those who complain.

Broken Embraces

I love Almodovar movies. I also think that Penelope Cruz is my favourite actress. Last night we went to see their latest movie Broken Embraces. It is very typical Almodovar; a complicated story about human relationships, altered by tragedy, brought to light by nostalgia, and filled with emotion. It is almost soapie, but it is redeemed from being that by the exquisite cinematography, amazing performances and totally hilarious moments.

While this film certainly doesn’t attain the high drama of Volver, which I adored, or Talk To Her, which was extraordinary, it still has that strange, seedy, sexy, real, heartbreaking feeling. Tiny moments are remembered. Strange dialogue accompanies very down to earth scenes. Emotion is released. Strange relationships are uncovered, discovered, and forged. And, I must confess, that after watching these movies all I want is to be in one of them, or write one just like it.


I was delighted when I heard one of the Cape Town tourism people talk about an ‘afterglow’ instead of a hangover that Cape Town was experiencing after the mafifa World Cup. I loved the idea; it sounded positive and sustainable. But it seems the afterglow has turned into a hangover.

The WC month was nothing short of miraculous in many ways. South Africans were on their best behaviour. We all listened when Zuma asked us to behave! There wasn’t a peep from Mal-enema, embarrassing us with his usual uncontrolable spewage. Our politicians, in general, kept a low profile and were mostly polite for a change. On the ground, people made a brilliant effort to be friendly, engaging, hospitable and patriotic. Our TV screens were filled with colour, music and feel-good stories. Vuvuzelas were a global hit. Our cities looked magnificent and our stadia were commented on in glowing terms. Special courts dealt with crimes, special traffic cops managed congestion and we all seemed to follow all the rules so much better.  We really put on a great, glamourous show while the world watched.

But now that the cameras are no longer on us we seem to be sliding into that murky, messy ‘nobody’s watching’ behaviour. We seem to be taking the WC out of the World Cup. The streets are grimy again. Taxis are driving in the yellow lane. Mal-enema is back. The DA is accusing, the foreigners are fleeing, civil servants are threatening to strike. You know; the usual. We are probably no different from most countries in the world.

But for that month…

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