Promotional video of ‘The Impossible Five’

View the Youtube video of my latest book:

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News24 interview

Justin Fox interviewed on News24 by Nick Pawson about his latest book, “The Impossible Five”:

http://www.news24.com/Live/Travel/Seen-the-Big-Five-Now-try-the-Impossible-Five-20150514Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 4.53.24 PM

Captain Noah and the Love Boat (from Mahala)

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And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, with comely buttocks and nice tits. So they took wives of all which they chose, e’en some that looketh like the back end of a bus, there being no accounting for taste.

And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he also is flesh, and I hath other things to do with Mine spare time: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years, which maketh no sense, but anyway.

There were giants in the earth in those days (which we shall resist from calling dinosaurs so as not to upset the religious right); and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men for said sessions of how’s your Father, and they bared children unto them.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, especially in the hanky-panky department, and that the thoughts of their hearts was evil continually, with long hours of onanism while watching online porn and the like. And the Lord repented that he had made man on the earth, instead of on some barren planet like he did with the Little Prince, and it grieved him at his heart.

And the Lord said, I vill destroy man whom I haf created from ze face of ze earth using mine heavenly Blitzkrieg; both man, unt beast, unt ze creeping thing, and ze fowls of ze air; for it repenteth me zat I haf made zem. Especially ze creeping thing, votever ze fuck zat is.

But Noah found grace (Mugabe?) in the eyes of the Lord. Phew.

 

God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, and not just the Zumas and Guptas; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me (no more red meat, or chicken on Sundays, nor hamburgers neither); for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Make thee an ark of gopher wood, or just eucalyptus if that’s all ye can get hold of at short notice, but no indigenous trees, especially not yellowwoods; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, en suite with all the mod-cons, and thou shalt pitch it within and without with pitch, and provideth cans of air-freshener for each cabin in case the pitch doth stink.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. But if thou art looking for extra speed, narrow the breadth and create a flat bottom so the ark canst plane. Thou shalt buy thine engine from Volvo Penta as the Lord hath a special deal with the manufacturer and there shalt be lots of tenders available after the flood.

A window shalt thou make to the ark, and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof but not too near the waterline as the Lord doth not want another Titanic on His hands. With lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. These shalt be for each different class of passenger as ’tis wise not to have riffraff on the upper decks, especially not the monkeys and the supporters of Manchester United.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die; but obviously not the fish, nor the amphibians, nor the swimming reptiles or waterfowl. So, to be quite honest, only some things that are in the earth shall die.

But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives and the prettier of the girlfriends and mistresses with thee.

And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female, so that it might be an Love Boat of sorts and all the creatures shalt partake of each others’ flesh and make whoopee in their cabins, but not on the pool deck or dance floor.

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind and before his kind, and in between his kind; two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive, and come into each other so for to multiply, for multiplication can be mightily fun if thee get Mine drift.

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, but go easy on the dairy products as thine cholesterol is too high, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. So best thou doest a big shop at Pick n Pay and tryeth for an discount.

Thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he, he did, didn’t he?

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house (please dismantle first, and number the parts) into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation (apart from thine dalliance with Lola the amphora seller, which We shalt overlook for now).

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his sheila: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his sheila. Alternatively thou canst hose down the dirty ones and maketh them clean, in which case, them by sevens too.

Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the sheila; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. Not birdseed, mind, but rather seed in the Biblical sense, capice?

I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth, because I hath had enough of this shite.

And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.

And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And lo, he should have been in an old-age home in Sea Point enjoying his retirement rather than gadding about in boats.

And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives and ‘au pairs’ and ‘cleaning ladies’ and ‘laundry maids’ with him, into the ark because of the waters of the flood.

Of clean beasts, and of not so clean beasts, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark. And there was pandemonium at the departure terminal. And luggage was mislaid. And some of the beasts tossed their toys about most petulantly.

 

It came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

In the six thousandth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broke open, and the windows of heaven were opened to let in some air as it had become a tad stuffy.

And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. ’Twas like an monsoon, or an average English summer.

In the self-same day entered Noah, and Shem, and Japheth, and Ham, and Chorizo, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, Mrs Noah, and the four wives of his sons with them, Sharon, Tracey, Elaine and Tinkerbelle and assorted babes, into the ark; they, and every beast after its kind.

And they that went in, two and two of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut them in. Then came lifeboat drill and the captain’s cocktail party, enjoyed by all, except the cocks, whose tails were pulled mercilessly by the compere and other letches.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased; and the ark went upon the face of the waters with much fanfare like an cruise liner.

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. And those under the half heaven were not. Until later. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered, even unto the Drakensberg.

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died, and also those with breath in their lungs and windpipe and mouth too. Except those enterprising folk who’d made their own arks.

And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days, which is a long time for a cruise so the on-board entertainment team hadst their work cut out for them.

And God remembered Noah, despite having plenty on His mind, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark, e’en the frisky heifers: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged, stilled by the pong.

The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, also the French doors, and the rain from heaven was restrained, even unto an order from the Sheriff.

And the ark rested in the seventh month upon the mountains of Ararat in an awkward part of Turkey where the Armenians were tetchy about mooring permissions and port duties. So they anchored instead.

 

And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month, when the tops of the mountains were seen, all of them peopled with other castaways drinking grog and toasting their lucky stars beneath swaying palms.

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the porthole of the ark: And he sent forth a dove called Martha, for whom he had an soft spot, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground.

But Martha found no rest for the sole of her foot, nor for the heel or toes, and she returned unto him into the ark; for the waters were still off their face on the whole earth. Then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark, but strictly in a paternal way.

And he stayed yet another seven days, by which time the passengers were growing rowdy and had found Noah’s secret stash of Captain Morgan rum. Again he sent forth the dove out of the ark.

And Martha came in to him in the evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. Which was wishful thinking, as Martha had found it floating in the sea.

And he stayed yet another seven days, and sent forth the dove, which returned not again unto him any more, having shacked up with a randy male dove who would hear nothing of her returning to a six-thousand-year-old codger with a penchant for petite birds.

And it came to pass that the waters were finally dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark with the help of two elephants, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry, although its hair was still a bit damp.

And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, at about twenty-three minutes past eleven GMT, was the earth dried.

And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth out of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives and all the ridiculously comely babes. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, that they may doeth it like they doeth it on the Discovery Channel, because they have much catching up to do since I massacred all the others. And Noah went forth out of the arc, having let his sons, his wife, and his sons’ hot babes go first, second and third.

And in between all the shagging, Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, after a good scrub and shampooing, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the Lord smelt the sweet savour of braai meat; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, especially when he watcheth too much porn: neither will I again smite any more every thing living, for I was admittedly a bit grumpy and overtired from having created the earth, for which thou canst blame Me not.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. Not, that is, until I am long in the grave, the Second Law of Thermodynamics hath kicked in and everyone on the planet hath frozen to death. Lucifer take the hindmost, not My bloody problem, tra-la-la!

 

 

Sebastian Faulks does Jeeves, a review in the style of Wodehouse

Jeeves

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

Review: Justin Fox

Thanks to this novelist chap Faulks, an all round good egg, Jeeves and Bertie are back. This latest pastiche, rendered in the voice of PG Wodehouse, is not half bad, what. The author explains that it’s intended as a tribute to good old PG and that he, Faulks S, understands what a minefield he’s walking into. He doesn’t want to ‘drift into parody’, only trying to ‘pay homage’ to the ‘peerless originals’, etc etc.

The plot turns around the fact that Bertie’s great chum Woody Beeching has fallen head over the proverbials in love with the daughter of Sir Henry Hackwood. Amelia is a sweet young thing who misinterprets a completely innocent gesture on Woody’s part and now the engagement’s gone the way of the Titanic. That is, unless Bertie and Jeeves can come up with a plan, hence a cunning roll swap where Jeeves plays the lord and Bertie his valet.

Needless to say, Jeeves impersonates a peer to perfection, while Bertie, never having made so much as a cup of tea in his life, makes a hash of things. He goes so far as to accidentally tip a bowl of gooseberry fool into the lap of Dame Judith Puxley (an expert on the cuneiform script who has the eyes of a rattlesnake that’s just spotted its lunch) … and then he tries to remove it with a Georgian tablespoon.

There’s a subplot, of course, which involves Bertie being rather smitten by Sir Henry’s ward, Georgiana Meadowes, a gorgeous creature he meets while on hols in the French Riviera. Georgiana is ‘a hazard to male shipping’ with ‘eyes about as deep as the Bermuda triangle’. Indeed, she has our Bertie quite discombobulated. When he’s in her presence, his heart beats the sort of rhythm you hear in the Congo before the missionary gets lobbed into the bouillon. She is unfortunately not v good in motor vehicles, as Bertie notes: ‘To say that she drove in the French fashion would be to cast a slur on that fine people. The pedestrians leapt like lemmings over the sea wall.’

Alas, Georgiana has got herself engaged to another chap. So it’s Jeeves to the rescue once again. The complex plot of switches and disguises is played out in Melbury Hall, a handsome country pile belonging to the cash-strapped Sir Henry (who owes his creditors a sum equivalent to the national debt of Bechuanaland). Many a hilarious subterfuge and ruse ensues, from staged break-ins to cricket matches, and an am-dram rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Bertie playing Bottom.

For those dear readers who enjoy Downton Abbey, we’re on familiar territory here. It’s just the sort of upstairs-downstairs scenario we’ve come to know and love. In fact, this reviewer has no doubt the writer has floated his boat on the Downton soufflé, as it were. And why ever not.

Faulks S says he ‘didn’t want to write too close an imitation’ and calls the book a ‘nostalgic variation’. For the most part, he sticks to the original cut and thrust of the Jeeves style and plot. However there are times when he takes liberties that might not sit too comfortably with Wodehouse cognoscenti.

The original Jeeves narratives take place in a make-believe world that is carefree and golden. Despite being written in a period of two world wars, we get no mention of such pesky conflicts. Although many damsels are pursued, the unions are never consummated. Sex and marriage, death and war are out of bounds. And yet Faulks S introduces both, with wedding bells a ringing and references to the Somme.

In addition, we get a degree of psychological depth unthinkable in Wodehouse. Characters are ‘in touch with their feelings’, whatever the deuce that may mean. The period is also pinned down to 1926, rather than the vague interwar neverland of the originals.

SF’s prose is not always as sharp as PG’s and his minor characters not as brilliantly drawn … but dash it all, these are small quibbles. We’re not talking about high lit or copybook re-enactment here, just playful pastiche – a loving tribute if you like – that makes for a dreamy, midsummer read.

Faulks’s additions to and modulations of the originals are for the most part happy ones, or at least not too distracting. And the book does bring us a little bit closer to understanding why Wodehouse was so darned good. Which is exactly what any good homage should do.

Suffice it to say that this reviewer found the novel v entertaining with many a moist eye had from bounteous hilarity and a warm, not entirely unwelcome, fuzzy feeling at the end. So sit back, relax with a half-bot of something fruitilly red and a wedge of ham pie that could jam open the west doors of Salisbury Cathedral … and enjoy. Pip pip.

Poets and Mountains (Wild magazine)

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Cote d’ Azur (in Getaway magazine)

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Olive Schreiner

Published by the English National Literary Museum

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Mercurial Istanbul

Senkron Travel offers great Istanbul tour options, such as Bosphorus cruising.

Senkron Travel offers great Istanbul tour options, such as Bosphorus cruising.

Draw open your curtains in the Sultanahmet quarter and step onto the wrought-iron balcony. Beyond the cobbled street and tapestry of tiled roofs, lies the Bosphorus. The legendary strait is crammed with ships, waiting to pierce the narrow gap into the Black Sea. A muezzin calls from a nearby minaret and the sound is taken up across the rooftops. You’re standing in Europe; across the strait lies Asia. It’s a heady, beguiling sensation.

With a population of 14 million and located at the meeting point of East and West, Istanbul is one of the world’s great metropolises. With a long imperial legacy and countless cultural layers, it’s the perfect city for history buffs. However, the new Istanbul is shaking off its Ottoman mustiness and has become a hip and happening place with countless funky bars, restaurants, galleries and nightclubs.

GETTING YOUR BEARINGS

Saltanahmet is the city’s cultural heart. From here, Istanbul’s main sights are within easy walking distance. Wandering the narrow lanes you’ll pass hookah-pipe lounges, carpet shops, spice markets and ruins that hark back to Constantinople’s many golden ages. The rich scent of coffee and grilling kebabs hangs in the air.

A 48-hour stopover allows only a handful of essentials. First up, and probably the best way to get some perspective on this sprawling city, is a Bosphorus cruise (Senkron Travel offers some of the best options, http://www.bogazkeyfim.com). Float along as part of a great armada of water traffic beside lighthouses, forts and palaces, and along millionaire’s mile where houses sell for $100 million.

MUST SEES

Back on land, the Topkapi Palace, former seat of government and home of the Ottoman sultans, should be top of your list. Set in rolling gardens, it’s protected by battlements and overlooks both the Bosphorus and Golden Horn inlet. The complex was home to the sultan’s huge harem (once crammed with beauties imported from the Ukraine and Georgia), and today houses a porcelain museum and a treasury packed with gold, silver and jewellery. Pride of place goes to the emerald-studded Topkapi dagger.

Just outside the palace gates stand two edifices that are reason enough to visit Istanbul: Hagia Sophia (Church of the Divine Wisdom) and the Blue Mosque. The former is a basilica turned mosque turned museum that’s been in constant use for over 1500 years.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 its Christian iconography was replaced by that of Islam. The gold mosaics of Christ were plastered over and the altar shifted to face Mecca. Today it’s possible to trace a multitude of historical threads through the cavernous interior of this edifice that was, for a millennium, the largest enclosed space on the planet.

The Blue Mosque was built in the 17th century to outshine the Christian building that faces it across the square. This it didn’t quite achieve, for Hagia Sophia remains one of the architectural wonders of the world. But the Blue Mosque, with its six spindly minarets and an interior of blue and white İznik tiles, is nonetheless a beautiful creation in the classical Ottoman style.

SHOPPING ON STEROIDS

You’ll find it impossible to resist shopping in Istanbul, especially if you’re tempted by carpets, leather goods or jewellery. The biggest market of all is the Covered Bazaar, for which you’ll need stamina and the ability to say no. It’s a labyrinth of passages and streets that house more than 4000 shops. Their names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: carpet sellers’ lane, street of the skullcap makers, goldsmiths’ alley.

Owners will try anything to lure you in: ‘What’s your name, mister, where you from?’ Inevitably you’ll get drawn into a carpet shop and end up drinking apple tea, discussing world events and the various weaves. And you might even end up walking out with your very own magic carpet…

Lensman Raconteur

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Karoo: Long Time Passing

 

By Obie Oberholzer

 

 

Review: Justin Fox

 

 

Oberholzer’s latest book is a lavish celebration of the Karoo which showcases photographs from five recent journeys. It’s a travel memoir about wanderings and wonderings and gives a highly personal take on this parched land.

 

The book opens with an evocative image, crafted in words rather than photos. Oberholzer invites the reader to place a hand on a map of the Karoo and run the fingers over its scarred body, feeling the smooth dunes, rough dolerite outcrops and bristles of the scrubland. It’s an image he brings to pictorial life in the ensuing pages.

 

The very first photograph draws together typical Oberholzer themes. A drunk man stands before a Loeriesfontein graveyard, his arms outstretched in a farcical crucifix pose. There’s the beauty of the flower-strewn landscape, the melancholy of the graves, humour in the man’s bathetic pose and the uneasy sadness of a lonely Karoo sunset. It’s vintage Obie.

 

Over the last 40 years, Oberholzer has undertaken countless African journeys and produced almost a dozen coffee-table books recording his adventures with passion and humour. His style is a kind of photographic plainspeak. What you see is what you get. Oberholzer has no time for the obfuscation of the art world. ‘My photos are just an extension of me, nothing more,’ he says. ‘I photograph what I love: they are the core of me and I don’t worry about the art.’

 

This may be so, but the weight of his learning, and decades of teaching photography, is evidenced in his skill. He claims that his photos are instinctual, that he listens to what his eyes say to his mind via the camera. But there is also deep observation here. Indeed, many of the set ups and perspectives speak of careful reflection and years of experimentation.

 

In Karoo, we have plenty of trademark Oberholzer scenes: rusting cars in the veld, bullet-holed signs, windmills and colourful characters. So too, his tried and tested methods, such as the slow-exposure, ‘torch painted’ image shot at dusk or after dark.

 

But there’s more landscape photography than usual in this book. Each chapter begins with a terrain sequence, devoid of people. Often it’s a series of overlapping hills or a long straight road. These become refrains, the essential elements to his odyssey, and he repeats them as a sort of visual mantra. ‘Maybe I’m getting older and don’t want to have to talk people into letting me take their pictures anymore,’ he says. ‘I’m finding great satisfaction in the landscape and still life.’

 

Indeed, there’s far more emphasis on texture and abstraction – his ‘still lifes’. Details of fruit packing cases, the shadows of lanterns or a close-up of lines on 82-year-old Katrina Mentoor’s face, lit and rendered as though a Karoo landscape. There’s poignancy and beauty in these pared-down works.

 

As always with Oberholzer, we get plenty of humour, either in the image itself or the captioned anecdote. In Willowmore, Kosie Swarts’ donkey cart is the Willow Limo; at Eensaam siding, Oberholzer ties his wife to the railway tracks because ‘she talks too much’. However he doesn’t shy away from the Karoo’s poverty and destitution either. We see the bleakness of RDP township living and the effects of chronic unemployment.

 

One of the book’s most powerful images is of a dirty Karoo boy in scruffy clothes standing on a highway barrier pretending to fly, a dark cloud arcing over his head. It’s humorous, poignant and sad in the same instant.

 

This brings up the old question of the moral responsibility of the photographer. Is taking a picture of someone’s hardship exploitative? In Oberholzer, the dilemma is mediated by a joyful interaction with his subjects. They appear to relish the engagement, the mutual act of telling their story. There’s a strangely empowering agency here, brought about by Oberholzer’s implicit empathy. It’s as though all three participants – subject, photographer and viewer – are charmed by the act. Exploitation? Of course, but a happy one, it seems.

 

Oberholzer has enjoyed the transition from film to digital. He often seeks the same effects he did with film, such as heightened colour and the stylised illumination of dark subjects. Where in the past he’d use flash and hunting spotlights, he now employs Photoshop to lighten shadows in a way that was impossible with film. Indeed, the blending of his old techniques with modern technology is for the most part successful.

 

At times, the viewer might feel there is too much manipulation of hue, especially where some elements of a scene are bled of colour and others cranked. This can feel gimmicky. In terms of subject matter, where Oberholzer presents ‘pure’ landscapes he is on well-trodden territory and does not bring much to the genre. It’s when he introduces his humour and quirkiness, his empathy with the sitter, that his work is at its most assured … when it’s unmistakeably Obie.

 

Mozambique: Quirimbas Islands

Article in Private Edition magazine, December 2013

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