Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
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Like my brownhouse:
Tuesday, April 8 2003

setting: Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa

After another bed and breakfast style breakfast, Gretchen and I set out on foot for Knysna's waterfront. We must have taken an unusual route, because it led through a district dominated by the booths of black vendors selling things like discount (non-namebrand) sneakers. Gretchen hit another African craft store and then we rented a canoe to do a some paddling around the lagoon. My cheap plastic kayak paddle broke in two different places before our seafaring concluded. I was, you see, a little overly-agressive when pushing against the bottom when we were trying to get out of the shallows. While we were out in the deeper water, we kept having to stop our progress to correctly orient ourselves for oncoming wakes from various fishing vessels and ferries, one of which had the decency to warn us in the limited vocabulary of its horn. Things we saw along the shores of the lagoon included a Japanese guy fishing off a pier, an abandoned "ghost ship" at anchor, dense flocks of a species of brown geese (or were they cormorants?) on an anchored raft, and a non-white crew of driftwood harvesters who had overloaded their barge and needed to wait for the return of high tide. Gretchen took advantage of the lagoon's isolation to sing various folks songs. It was beautiful, but I couldn't think of anything to suggest when she began taking requests.
We were solicited by several beggars, one of them white, as we walked back to the Yellowwood Lodge. Apparently we'd strayed from the main drag, which is kept free of the societal detritus that distracts from the critical business of tourism and commerce.

In the afternoon I drove us a little way beyond Plettenberg Bay (a high-end locale known to South Africans as "Plet") to a place called Monkeyland. Monkeyland is a special rehabilitation reserve for formerly-domesticated monkeys (as well as apes and lemurs). The idea is to re-educate them in the ways of wild monkeys so that some day, perhaps before the Rapture, releasing them into the wild.
By South African standards, the price of admission was sort of high, but we'd soon be seeing lots of monkeys, so we didn't much care.
Around the main building (which contained a restaurant and a gift shop), the monkeys seemed to have laid a low-grade state of siege. A couple of extremely overweight spider monkeys (a native of South America) were hanging out on an upstairs balcony, and one of the guides was telling a tour group their sad story. They'd belonged to some people in Johannesburg who had fed them McDonald's and abused them after they'd attacked their children (almost certainly for good reason!). The owners had beaten the male so badly that he'd suffered brain damage. Then they'd pulled out his front teeth so he could no longer bite, making it difficult for him to keep his tongue from protruding from his mouth. He was a sad, pathetic ruin of a monkey, yet more evidence that humanity is more of a diabolical facilitator of misery and entropy than, as some would prefer to believe, a lonely beacon of that thing we call conscience.
On our tour we saw lemurs, squirrel monkeys (from South America), lots of capuchins, a few amazingly agile gibbons (both from Asia), and cages of tiny monkeys too small to expose to the depredations of African birds of prey. Somewhere in our walk we crossed a suspension bridge that our guide claimed was "the longest single-span suspension bridge in the Southern Hemisphere." It was rickety thing and our guide made sure to divide our group into smaller subgroups before venturing across.
When the tour was over, we found ourselves strategically dumped into the gift shop. It was full of stuffed animals and other western notions of the cute memento, but it was devoid of African folk art. If they'd stocked monkey wire sculptures or welded tin monkeys, we might have bought something.
We had a light snack in the restaurant area, ordering a beer for me and a cheese and tomato sandwich for both of us. After an unexpectedly long delay, brought us a cheese sandwich containing ham. So of course we sent it back. This time only a minute passed and they brought it out again, sans ham. Gretchen knew that all they'd done was pluck out the ham, so she sent it back yet again. When it came out the third time, Gretchen was off somewhere and I was besieged by kleptomaniacal monkeys, so I started eating it all by myself.

On the way home we stopped in Plettenberg Bay to see the shoreline and sample one of the restaurants. Somehow, though, we got lost amid its unhelpful signs on its tangle of streets. Eventually we had to solicit directions from a native, a white woman. She was extremely friendly, perhaps because she detected that we were American. Interestingly, though, not all white South Africans were able to pinpoint our origins as American, despite their heavy exposure to American entertainment and our characteristic rear-of-the mouth enunciation, the reason God blesses us with victories against tin pot dictators worldwide.
We had our dinner at the Lookout, taking adventure of the deck overlooking the beach. Our white waiter seemed almost Australian with his informally self-effacing know-it-allism.
This evening, in and around yet another Scrabble game wherein I was defeated, I had Gretchen watch another episode of Survivor Thailand. As usual with reality shows that I evangelize, she liked it as much as I did.

See some photographs from the South Africa trip.

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