Reeva, you were right. He’s got away with it.

Last weekend, the Telegraph published an article on the Oscar Pistorius verdict. The question was, “What if, instead, Reeva Steenkamp had shot Oscar Pistorius?” That is the wrong question. We should be asking “What if we’re too afraid to believe that a man at centre-stage would dare kill someone in front of us and brazenly demand that we let him get away with it?”

Narcissists are clever in a way we haven’t yet grasped. We have a tendency to ignore qualities that can’t be traded on the stock market, or packaged and mass-produced. Why aren’t we saying that Oscar Pistorius is a megalomaniac? Could it be we don’t want to call Oscar out for his evil ways because he’s physically challenged? We are undermining his capacity to develop into a mature adult if we fail do do so.

The worst thing you could do for someone with a God complex is give them a lot of disposable income, permission and unlimited access. I feel sorry for the journalists reporting the trial. Their stance at the outset, in 2013, was that Oscar’s an asshole. Near verdict time, they dialled back and said it is better for the justice system to decide Pistorius’ fate. To me, this is the collective hand washing of a situation that is their problem.

They nurtured this monster with conferences, interview questions, admiration, fantastic praise and high expectations. They’ve said, “Let’s sell him as the light of our generation. Let’s overlook his flaws as a person and focus on his achievements in sports.” It’s never that simple. Wasn’t it “sports” that afforded him a wealth of private and social engagements to enjoy? For example, he has access to SA’s most beautiful and visible personalities, and according to those who know him, he availed himself of their company as often as he pleased.

Oscar’s father left him as a boy. This does not mean he’s grown up to be a compassionate, humane man. He’s a pompous bastard who nearly shot a friend in the foot and then asked him to pretend it never happened. The shame he should have felt was most likely terror at the prospect of sleeping in a dirty jail cell surrounded by a cohort of his peers.

A few days ago, it was reported that cage fighter Nicolas Leaning had stabbed his pregnant ex girlfriend five times to kill her unborn child in order to prevent her doing a DNA test to confirm his paternity. I wish Reeva had been found pregnant because we would feel deep compassion for the unborn child. It would have been hard for Oscar to argue that he’d accidentally shot the mother of his unborn child. We would connect the dots fast. I do not believe her mother’s assertion that they hadn’t slept together. Is Oscar the kind of megalomaniac who would entertain the idea of a celibate coupling? If I had to venture a guess, I would say that she’s fulfilling her end of a deal: “If Oscar’s found not guilty of pre meditated murder, publicly deny they had a sexual relationship.”

How did he know the public would fall for his childish antics? It was as if we were waiting for him to sweat blood. (Symptoms of childish antics include perspiring, vomiting into a bucket, sobbing and squealing.) The child throws himself on the floor and thrashes around to distract us from what he’s actually done. You can’t discipline someone who’s already in extreme distress. “Calm down, Oscar,” they say. “Let’s attend to your needs.” No-one needs celebrity, much less a celebrity license to kill.

Ten months in jail don’t make sense. I feel bad for Reeva because she might have thought as she slipped away, “He’s going to get away with this.” Oscar’s had a full dress rehearsal on the biggest stage in the world. I do not want him to ever get out of jail. I’m scared he’ll kill another person. Goodness knows he’ll be better prepared for the fallout next time.

Twenty one

Miley Cyrus in a Tom Ford bondage dress, was right on the money.

Miley’s choices of designer and outfit for the amfAR charity gala were right on the money. People like to tell Miley she’s dressing immodestly, and I’m not sure why. I’m happy for her. She has access to Tom Ford, a genius designer and he wanted her to show off her body.

Twenty-one is the best time to really experiment with your presence, image and style. You have no inhibitions and you’re not as self-conscious as you will be in ten years. Your capacity to predict the future is limited. At 21, you don’t have any perspective and very little useful life experience. Everything you’re going to do is risky. A “mistake” could very well be the blaze that’s needed to light up a trail for your peers and those coming up behind you. Sometimes, you have to be the first one out the gate.

I never did drugs, drank or smoke, but I did a lot of crazy, wild, bizarre, off-the-wall fashion and lifestyle related things at 21 that were not accepted at the time. I never factored into my choices what anyone thought of me, because it was never really important to the bottom line: graduate university and find a new, exciting path.

I appreciate Miley. She doesn’t live her life according to others’ expectations of her. You can only be mediocre if you do that. She’s working to find a definition of herself that she’s comfortable with, and I like that she’s ignoring everyone. She’s rich, talented, successful, confident and happy-go-lucky. She should absolutely treat her body as a canvas if she wants to.

Thus, a good deed is punished

Have you ever tried to do something nice, only to have the recipient of your consideration slap you in the face? Well, it happens to many of us all the time. Instead of saying “Thanks”, people question your integrity. Why do good deeds get punished? ArsTechnica has a probable explanation.

Some people, I’d concluded, cannot receive help. I had written the following fictional dialogue for the 2014 Bartleby Snopes 6th Annual Dialogue Only  Writing Contest. However, I don’t think they’ll read it, so instead of submitting it for rejection, I buried it. But today, I’m publishing it here. Good luck to all the contestants of the Bartleby Snopes Contest. The title is “Thus, a good deed is punished.”

Thus, a good deed is punished

Quince:
It’s too dark and spooky. Why aren’t there any windows in here?

South:
What are you saying? You already know why there are no windows on the ship.

Harvey:
Even a kindergartener knows the effects of cosmic radiation on the human body.

Quince:
I’m so excited. I don’t know if I can do drones later.

Harvey:
No-one here comes with hands on experience. It’s all theoretical.

South:
It’s kind of far to have hands on experience, don’t you think?

Quince:
What do you mean, “far”? Oh, okay…right.

South:
Is she always this oblivious to context?

Harvey:
Hmmm. Did you review the schematics for the robots and drones we’ll be operating today?

Quince:
What’s that?

South:
Did you use any of your ten days in physio to reread the manuals for any of the machines you’ll be operating?

Quince:
No… I didn’t look at that.

Harvey:
Them. Look at “them.”

South:
She’s talking really fast and seems agitated. Perhaps a bit of shock after decompression?

Harvey:
Have you got full medical clearance to work? Do you have memory loss?

South:
You might be dehydrated. Have you been taking a lot of fluids?

Quince:
Why, why? What do fluids have to do with that? Are you a medical doctor?

Captain:
Peeps, listen up, we deploy five two-ton transformer catchment tanks to Titan at oh five hundred hours. Remember your simulation training? All of that is utter shagging bullocks once we’re in the atmosphere…

Quince:
What?! I’m not going into the atmosphere.

South:
“Right,” said Fred.

Captain:
…so, use. Your. Head. Miss Quince, I would like to know why you’re shouting when I’m three feet away from you.

Quince:
They said we were using robots to go into the atmosphere.

South:
Miss Quince might be dehydrated.

Captain:
Miss Quince, did you rehydrate? Dehydration can cause disorientation.

Quince:
Yes, yes, yes. I don’t have any of that.

Captain:
Did you roll your eyes at me just now? Did she roll her eyes at me, Harvey?

Harvey:
I…

Captain:
Even then, you cannot have forgotten your basic training. You received 300 hours of simulator training so, don’t make pointless…

Quince:
No, it wasn’t 300 hours.

Captain:
…statements. Excuse me? It says that in your mission documents.

Quince:
Wha-what mission documents?

Captain:
I am talking about your curriculum vitae!

South:
The training requirement is at least 300 hours, which is in your …. I give up.

Harvey:
It was in your contract.

South:
Did you read your contract? Do you even know where you are right now?

Quince:
I know, I know.

Captain:
Fine. What did you mean by “minimum training”?

Quince:
I did a twenty hour video game course at Omni Signum Theme Park, and the drone operation thingy.

South:
You put a theme park gaming marathon on your resume as qualification for a mission to Saturn? This is better than I thought.

Captain:
Harvey?

Harvey:
Miss Quince told me she would complete the minimum training requirement when I hired her, and Professor Wong Ken …

Captain:
Nobel Prize for Physics, Board of Trustees Member Professor Wong Ken?

Harvey:
He signed off on her training before the  mission. I mean, she told me she was about to start her training under his supervision, but after she signed her contract, Miss Quince refused to communicate with me.

Captain:
What was she doing for Professor Wong Ken?

Quince:
I was…

Captain:
I’m talking to Harvey, Miss.

Harvey:
He said she was building his course for particle physics. So, when I asked the Professor to confirm that she had completed her training, he said that she had. As you know, the mission preparation was done in four different countries, so the oversight is disjointed.

Captain:
Harvey, you should have done your job more thoroughly. Liesel!

Lt. Liesel:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
We have a stowaway on board. She might have mad cow.

Quince:
I don’t have mad cow.

Captain:
You misled a prominent member of this organisation about your training and preparation. As its primary trustee, I am inclined to file criminal charges. When you return to Earth, you will give back your one million euro salary and then go to prison.

Quince:
I didn’t say I didn’t have minimum training.

Captain:
Three hundred hours of simulator training are what you agreed to when you signed a contract with us. Twenty hours of video games at a theme park is not enough for a mission like this. You travelled a billion miles from Earth without the proper training. You endanger your life and the life of every person on this vessel if you do not know what you’re doing.

South:
She just asked about windows.

Captain:
Exactly what I mean. You edited a textbook on physics and you don’t know that the EMR coming off those rings would fuse the cone cells in your retina?

Harvey:
By the time you finished taking pictures, you would be completely blind. By the time you uploaded them to your blog, you’d have Stage III brain cancer.

Captain:
As Miss Harvey has demonstrated, you’re not only irresponsible, but also irretractably dumb.

Quince:
And what are your qualifications?

South:
Oh, boy.

Captain:
You do realise, you insolent slagbag tartamundo, that I’m in charge of this operation? My brain had a child and from it you collected one million euros and a  prestigious assignment. You should already know my credentials, since I am your boss, you ignorant insufferable buttsore hag.

Harvey:
Ma’am? Please.

Captain:
Liesel, if she looks at me sideways, or attempts to speak again, eject her cremated remains from the cargo bay. To the left, you slagging shart gas.

Lt. Liesel:
Come with me, Miss.

Captain:
Did you hear what she just asked me, Harvey? You had one task, and that was to find me a replacement for Dr. Xi Bei. Can you believe she stood there asking me for my credentials after saying she committed fraud?

Harvey:
I accept full responsibility for this. I offered her the job because I felt sorry for her. She was n a student visa in Spain and everything she earned went home to pay bills. She was sleeping in a bunk bed in a youth hostel and living on breakfast cereal to save money.

Captain:
This is not a homeless shelter, Harvey.

South:
She has a custom-made sports car and a couture wardrobe.

Harvey:
I was of the firm opinion that we should have a representative from…

Captain:
Affirmative action does not apply to my six trillion euro space exploration project. This project is based in the Republic of France. We are the first humans, and the first all-woman crew to arrive, alive and well in the far reaches of our solar system. We have to work at a much higher standard than this. Also, why does someone with training in  physics know so little about … physics?

South:
Ma’am.

Harvey:
I apologise.

Captain:
Ultimately, it’s my responsibility. However, I do not want to have to say that we did not do our due diligence with crew selection.

Harvey:
I have a way to fix this.

Captain:
Speak.

Harvey:
We place her in a cryogenic coma, monitoring her vitals closely. I will adjust the registry so that she will not have awakened from her coma, effectively    indicating that she was immobilised for the entire trip.

South:
What about her blog? She is babbling about being a pioneer.

Harvey:
We can erase those entries right now. The system is on a delay and we have a lot of electromagnetic distortion this close to the rings, so they’re still buffering  in the cloud. We probably won’t start transmitting data back to Earth until we leave Saturn’s orbit fourteen days from now. She’ll need eighteen months of rehabilitation after re-entry. By the time she recovers, the press will be  uninterested in a person who slept through a fourteen year round trip to Saturn. Also,  we should change her status to junior research fellow, here to collect and analyse data, which she is already qualified to do. The breach of contract should be  a civil suit and not a criminal one.

Captain:
Not bad, Harvey. Go “write” your wrongs.

Harvey:
Ma’am.

Captain:
Barande!

Barande:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
We’re delaying the deployment of catchment tanks for forty-eight hours. Our log will say that one of our junior research fellows did not wake up from stasis and we’re putting her in cryostasis to reduce organ damage. Then, inform all robot and drone operators that starting at oh five hundred, there will be a  sixteen hour simulator test covering every single stinking minging part on every barfing machine we have on this rig. An eight-hour organic chemistry practical exam will follow immediately after that. Anyone who loses consciousness or passes with less than one hundred percent of the total marks will be  literally frozen out of the mission. I want the best of the best on this deployment, so everyone better buck up.

Barande:
Yes, Ma’am.

Captain:
Welcome to Titan, bitches.

Love versus Ambition

Models pose for Caribbean Fashion Week 2008

A woman in love might be her own worst enemy. An ambitious woman in love can waste a perfectly good opportunity to be a role model for girls who need to see how a solid work ethic, brains and beauty operate in reality, away from cameras, mics, tea parties and candlelit baths. Instead of speaking in general terms, let me throw my cousin under the bus. She’s a twenty-something black woman who runs her own high fashion empire. She’s talented, educated, articulate, a wife and mother, a stunning beauty.

My cousin’s company, a fashion brand, has a profile online. My cousin and her husband have their heads Photoshopped on the heads of US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama. It seems that President Obama’s achievement has provided fuel for a new generation of swashbucklers whose only talents are piracy and barbaric posturing. “I can do it,” without necessarily doing that which one can do, or for that matter nominating what “that” is. That is not to denigrate President Obama’s achievement in any way. A Global Superpower is a behemoth to run. But in all fairness, the personality of a narcissistic male is a behemoth to wrangle.

The only thing more destructive than a narcissist with a vision is one with no singular focus. I endured an unfortunate series of grey-hair inducing conversations with one black male who was, simultaneously, a globetrotter; author-to-be; linguist; law student; the reincarnation of Alexander the Great; standup comic; hedonist; King; and movie director.

A Jamaican model, Jeneil McKenzie, poses on the runway for the 2013 Caribbean Fashion Week

A narcissistic black male is doubly problematic if he has low self-worth, his self-esteem constantly challenged by his employers, colleagues, neighbors or media programming. If he attempts to overcome the onslaught of negative identifiers by aspiring (borrowing actually spoken words) to “be like white people,” then you’re just in time for a colossal Mongolian cluster fuck. Only a woman in love, with her hormonally tweaked ganglions fluttering hither and thither, would be caught off guard.

My cousin’s a fashion designer whose clothes I want to wear and show off to my colleagues and friends. I had been following her work and media presence since her wedding tweets and have read everything written about her over the past three years. How do I buy all of her frocks? That’s how I got to her online profile. I live way across the planet from her, so I was expecting to see a gorgeous storefront with her creations displayed on it.

Instead, I was disappointed to see a disempowering profile with her husband’s name above hers as “head of business operations.” Excuse me? My cousin did all the work of creating her brand. In comes her husband with a massive load of brand-conscious ambition and no shame whatsoever in touting his experience as a “bank teller” and “pastor-in-training-at-college” as qualifications to be the head of a (future) global brand. He makes sure to remind everyone whose name is on the masthead by walking the runway after his wife’s fashion shows.

Based on the glowing reviews I’ve read in the press, my cousin’s frocks simply do not exist without her technical training (cutting, sewing, pattern making) and countless, tiring hours of hands-on, hard work. So, her name definitely goes on top. Not to the side, and certainly not below her husband’s.

I encourage people to go the extra mile to share their aspirations and promote their work. But needlessly self-aggrandizing profiles are a turnoff. This one was particularly exasperating to read. I was mortified that my cousin, a woman in her twenties, who should be the embodiment of this 21st Century, this age of black women “doing it” engaged in such retrogressive behavior. I asked her to please consider an urgent update to her business profile. I did not want to purchase frocks from her if this was not, in fact, a woman-owned business.

Before diagnosing yourself with self esteem, make sure you're not surrounded by assholes, quote by William Gibson

She defended herself thus: “I put [him] at the top not as a sign of inferiority on my part but because he’s a true leader and he has taken what was my passion and made it an empire. We’ve just been slow in updating the info.” I waited a month but now my cousin’s profile has been updated to highlight that she is a “failed pediatrician” who had flunked science and had no choice but to learn dressmaking at a trade school for people who flunked high school. Ouch. According to this version of the profile, her husband’s presence, as the visionary hero trained by top business coaches, is therefore justified. He swings over, rescues idiot damsel of a cousin (who forgets she’s already famous in her own right) lands smoothly, struts, and shakes his tush on her catwalk.

In her reply to me, I could read two distinct voices. Hers, saying that her husband isn’t using her business to thrust himself into the spotlight. His, humming in the background informing me that “[He] has been coached by [a] Top business coach for [the] #1 Business coaching firm in the world. He really has a strong vision for the … brand.” If her husband had his way, my cousin says, “I would be making appearances everywhere, as he believes I embody what our brand is about.” Right, right, right, right, right. So, by that logic he is walking the runway after her shows because he’s a doting husband who lets his wife have her way. There was no point continuing the conversation and I dropped it right then.

The problem is that my cousin says she does not like cameras, public appearances or the attention that comes with it. But her husband clearly does. At the moment, his plan for her business is for them to “present … to the public as Super team, Power couple.”

 

I am afraid that she might at some point in the future be forced out of her company if she doesn’t keep pace with his ambition for global domination or if he finds another ambitious designer-model-wife to take over as sidekick. There, I’ve said it. Have I watched one too many episodes of American Greed or Dateline?

My cousin might be lucky. At least she isn’t lost, scattered, and trying vainly to reach a point of clarity in her relationship with her husband. At least she acknowledges that she is the sidekick, an elegantly rendered footnote to the story she should be writing herself.

One thing is clear about my cousin’s relationship: she has already created the domain and has given her husband power and control.

Let’s hope that my cousin and any woman of color who plans to run her own business will learn before it is too late why the situation I’ve described is disempowering to all women. The Golden Horde invades, overpowers, takes by force and then leaves its targets humiliated and destroyed from within. Given that my cousin’s husband has a super-inflated ego and all the power in their relationship, it is not difficult to imagine a sad conclusion to this saga of love.

Tape is the new mud

A couple of days ago I went to one of my favourite stationery stores to look at masking tape. I found shelves stacked floor to ceiling over space three times the size of my apartment. Took a while, but I managed to choose only four tapes. After seeing some of the papier mache objets d’art on display, I decided to mask a cardboard potato chips container. This is my first taping project, and I think it’s going to be a “thing” like Louis Litt’s mudding.

The original labeling is very loud, and it was a red box, so I wrapped the container with bright red box tape. The edge of the cover was then taped over with one long sheet. The key is to tear, paste and press until you get the look you’re after. The rough edges of the torn tapes make up part of the look. I could have used a tape cutter, but I like the ripped look.

After taping up the container, I still had lots of tape left, and as it turns out, they all fit inside, so my objet is now decorating my desk at work. To finalise the project, I should paint three coats of varnish glue so the tape doesn’t peel off. But I like the matte look and I’ll keep it as is.

Red box tape to cover at first.
Red box tape to cover at first.
The cover is all done.
The cover is all done.
The barrel is covered in a layer of tape.
The barrel is covered in several layers of torn up tape.
Several layers, later. We're done.
Many many layers later. It’s all done and I have a new container for my washi tapes.
Signature
This box does not expire.