@JMCOETZEE #1955 / SUNDAY TIMES 26.11.2017

Have a look at these four selfies by JM Coetzee. For real. It’s him. Meet John Maxwell Coetzee, with his collar snapped up in tribute to his cricket idols, messing around with his camera in 1955 or 1956. He was 15 or 16, a schoolboy at St Joseph’s Marist College in Rondebosch, Cape Town, and he owned two cameras: a novelty “spy” camera and an Italian-made 35mm Wega, a copy of a Leica II. These pictures were taken with the Wega. 

Read More

ON THE PHYSICAL DEATH OF 'THE TIMES'

ABOUT two years ago, the circulation of The Times overtook that of The Star, which had been Joburg's biggest English-language newspaper for much of a century. For a paper less than a decade old, with a staff much smaller than the Star's, this was a spectacular feat.

Read More

THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND (Kickoff Magazine, April 2017)

THEY say the bad guys are all gone from Fifa's executive. Maybe, maybe not. One thing's for sure: quite a few stupid guys remain. The backward institutional culture of the game's ruling body hovers on like a supernatural fart; it will take a world-class sangoma to exorcise the stink of greed and folly implanted in Fifa's hierarchy by Sepp Blatter and his inner circle. Don't ask President Gianni Infantino to heal the soul of football: my sense is that Swiss people are not big players in the world of mystical healing. They tend to favour the world of the tangible: making watches and chocolate, mainly, plus a little bit of discreet money-laundering on the side. 

Read More

DON'T DIE IN YOUR AIRBNB (SUNDAY TIMES TRAVEL, 2 APRIL 2017)

IT was the cheapest AirBnB flat in Zurich. Hence it was murderously expensive, but the pictures showed a lovely, monkish attic bedroom, with winter light pouring between ancient slanting roof beams. When I arrived at the place, I discovered that it was less an attic than a miniature model of an attic made for a grasshopper. The host, a Serbian photographer, had a camera that lies like Sean Spicer. But that proved to be the least of my worries.

Read More

THE RETURN OF SAMTHING SOWETO (SUNDAY TIMES, MARCH 18 2017)

WHEN Samkelo Mdolomba was six years old, he stumbled on his power. "We were at school in Soweto, practising reading aloud from simple books," he recalls. "I didn't know how to read, but I had heard the first page so many times that I knew what it said. It was about a character called Mo the Monkey. And I got the idea to sing the words, improvising a melody. "One minute I was looking at the book, singing, and the next minute I stopped and looked up and got a fright, because there was a whole crowd around me. Fifth-graders, fourth-graders. And I screamed - and everyone screamed with me, screaming, 'AAAH! DON'T STOP!' "That's when I realised, OK, hmmm. Maybe I have the gift."

Read More

WHITE MONOPOLY CAPITAL: THE MYTHS AND THE MATHS (FINANCIAL MAIL, FEB 16 2017)

President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address promised to act against 'economic concentration' – a euphemism for 'white monopoly capital', the catchphrase beloved of many of his cronies and proxies. To this end, he promised to ramp up the Black Industrialists Programme, to open up the R7-trillion property sector to black players, and to lock in 30% black stakes for all large contracts with the state. As always with Zuma, these resolutions should be taken with a truckload of salt: the man never really does anything with his power except dole out patronage. If anything, his adoption of the 'white monopoly capital' narrative could rob it of its mass appeal. But this official policy turn toward 'radical economic transformation' may be used to step up the Zuma cabal's campaign against the obstacles to their dreams of industrial-scale kleptocracy – Gordhan and the banks, who they cast as agents of a nebulous conspiracy of pale greed, founded on apartheid theft.

Read More

PEP GOES PAP (KICKOFF MAGAZINE, FEBRUARY 2017)

PEP Guardiola is gatvol. And he's not just gatvol of England, or uppity City players, or ankle-biting journalists, or barbaric English referees who allow opposition strikers to torture poor Claudio Bravo by looking at him funny.  No. Pep is gatvol of the whole business, it seems. He's over his job. That's a puzzling development, because he remains the undisputed world leader in the murky science of building devastating and stylish football teams. If a Nobel football medal existed, Pep would have it stashed in his waistcoat. Plus he makes silly money, and brings elegant Spanish women to orgasm simply by walking past them. So what's not to like? 

Read More

FREEDOM IN MOTION (ECONOMIST 1843 MAGAZINE / SEPT 2016)

All over the world, gifted young dancers are giving up or wanting to. It's a calling that can feel like a screaming: professional dance is soaked in judgment and emotional risk. Its teachers often punish vulnerability while simultaneously demanding it as the fuel of authentic performance. But for many of South Africa's new generation of contemporary dancers, there is no escaping the screaming, because the alternative is much worse – desperation, addiction, crime, self-harm. These terrifying stakes seem to be propelling a wave of brilliance. Three of the country's rising dancers have claimed global prizes this year ... 

Read More

THE YEAR OF COMPETING DANGEROUSLY (MAIL & GUARDIAN, DECEMBER 2016)

Patriotism does to the brain what sugar does to the belly: it makes it happy, and it makes it soft. To invest a slice of your personal pride in your national identity is to embrace a fallacy akin to racism — the supposition that a bunch of wildly diverse human beings share a set of admirable qualities that other bunches implicitly lack. It’s inane, backward, parochial bollocks. But even if we see this in moments of clarity, we will never quite kick the cheap, sweet thrill of patriotic onanism. Sport is that drug’s most potent delivery mechanism — and for a South African sports fan, this year was laced with beautiful benders ... 

Read More