Am pretty sure those Voortrekker types that headed up this Kalahari way many years ago had plenty of WTF moments. Or WDF moments if they spoke Afrikaans. The terrain is harsh and the pass over the mountains pretty hectic, even in a car. They must have sweated a lot and been yelled at often by their wives for having been so stubborn as to put them all through the kak. And there was no Wimpy to stop off at and loll about.
Upington, and the road to it have a certain amount of appeal and many memories for me. Not least because I nearly died near here a few years ago, in this, on my way to set at Reimvasmaak, in this:
The SsangYong was not up to the challenge but seemed pretty comfortable rolling over a good few times.
The road thus far has been dreadful. Many, many pointless stop-and-go halts on the N7 added two hours to the trip up from Cape Town and didn’t do much for the mood. Especially as it rained hard for the first 200km’s and the mist hung about in the mountains for many kilometres. I finally made it to Calvinia. It’s a shithole; I fail to see what all the fuss is about, even if you listen to the stories and denials about that one drunken night in the local hotel. Calvinia also had the only operating butchery I have ever been into that was completely empty of any product – all the fridges on and nothing to display. Maybe it was just a Monday thing and the locals had hammered all the available wors over the weekend. The biker group heading north were also a bit confused by this and we had a bewildering conversation in pidgin English / German whilst staring into the fridge’s. At least the rain had stopped.
Most of the small towns on approach blur past and there is not usually a traffic light to slow you down. Kenhardt was the scene of a serious party many years ago when we were shooting a music video for a (then) well know local band. A bunch of groupies descended from Upington Tech and the ensuing opstomp had us all being sent on our way the following morning, without having filmed anything. The hangover lasted for days. The town is also close to the turnoff to Verneukpan, a vast open saltpan on which the land speed record was attempted many years ago. And was also where I came barrelling down a farm track in the Dakar winning Pajero that was on loan for a Jackie Chan movie and realised way too late that someone had closed the last farm gate. I managed to take this and the fence for around 100 meters across the opposite side of the road (and through that fence as well) before we managed to stop. There was some explaining to be done.
Brandvlei also featured in the movie when Jackie, in full wardrobe and makeup-up as a Samburu warrior took the wrong turn off, ended up many kilometres from our base and presented himself to the local hotel receptionist. Who didn’t speak much English, which was actually ok because neither did Jackie. Anyhow, phone calls were eventually made and we arrived after dark by helicopter to rescue him, after which I drew the short straw and had to drive his minibus back to our unit base in Kakamas. Which was also ok because flying the helicopter without Google would probably have been disastrous.
I found a really cool place to stay in Upington this time around, while they patched the Landy after yet another failure brought on by the repairs in Swakopmund last year – am starting to think the ‘Landy’ parts they fitted there were handmade by badly trained 6 year olds in rural China…. Maybe this will be the last time as they assure me the parts flying in from Jhb are genuine – if not one can only hope the graduate class assembled them. At least I have a Jacuzzi to sit in while I wait for DHL, although I also took the down time to have a roof top tent fitted in a last minute attempt to avoid being eaten by lions further up the road. And with my usual luck this could indeed happen. Hopefully they haven’t learnt to climb ladders and I will remember I am way off the ground when stepping out for the loo at 4am. If not I blame the yoga instructor and the onesie. But definitely not the beer.
© Bigskydaze 2014
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today marks the day when the song Try Again from R&B singer Aaliyah placed #1 on US singles chart in 2000 according to thisdayinmusic.com. This song was featured in the film Romeo Must Die. The film was Aaliyah’s debut on the big screen starring with actor Jet Li.
Try Again was a success. The song got noticed for some awards. According to songfacts.com this won MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video and Best Video For A Film. The site also mentions that the song was nominated for a Grammy in Best R&B Vocal Performance.
The R&B songbird was known for working with producer Timbaland. He teamed up with Stephen Garrett to put this song together states songfacts.com. This is not the only time these two worked together. The site also mentions that these two worked with Aaliyah on the song Are You That Somebody for the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.
The singer lost her life during the flight home from the Bahamas on August 25, 2001 when she was filming the music video Rock The Boat. She maybe gone, but her music still lives on. Below is the YouTube Video Try Again.
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Like its subjects, the movie western is a resilient thing. Its popularity wanes and surges, but it remains ever a part of American culture. Enter Shanghai Noon, a western that does not so much upend things as it does contribute further to American mythology. The pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson might be unusual, but it is still a movie about outsiders persevering against great odds. And it’s pretty damn funny.
Shanghai Noon avoids turning into a novelty act, though clichés abound. They are modified and used to the film’s advantage, both as a nod to westerns of yore and to establish itself within that genre. Chan as Chon Wang, which sounds suspiciously like John Wayne, is clearly a man on the margins. He is an imperial guard and not a particularly good one. When the princess is kidnapped and held for ransom in Carson City, the bravest guards are sent to rescue her; Chon goes as the imperial baggage handler. He is separated from the others shortly after arriving and tumbles into the vast American wilderness, alone, unaware, and very determined.
Meanwhile, Roy O’Bannon (Wilson) is something of a western misfit, and not just because Wilson looks like he’s on break from a surfing holiday. Roy is a genial outlaw, one who prefers a relaxing night in the company of women to the wild unpredictability of thievery. He would rather talk it out than shoot it out. When a train robbery turns deadly and one of his dim-witted bandits kills Chon’s uncle, Roy abandons his gang, which is too bloodthirsty for his taste. He finds himself also wandering great stretches of Nevada all on his lonesome.
Things don’t go well when the two meet again but hardship does a lot to bridge misunderstanding, even the cultural kind. After they break out of jail together, Roy teaches his new friend a few Wild West survival skills. Chon puts some of these tricks to good use when he demonstrates some of the best lassoing you’re bound to see and saves Roy from the corrupt Marshal Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley). It’s an appropriately twenty-first century friendship, one the writers humorously reinforce. Roy fancies himself a bit liberal in his cultural outlook. During an argument with Chon, he says as a testament to his character, “I had a chance to kill you but I chose not to because I’m not a barbarian!”
The barbarians, it turns out, come from both sides of the map. Van Cleef is in league with Lo Fong (Roger Yuan), a traitor who not only kidnapped the princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) but is also a slave driving foreman of the Chinese railroad workers. Pei Pei doesn’t do much and Liu’s character certainly doesn’t have the bark of some of her other roles, but she still fits the mold of a hearty frontier woman. She sneaks out of China to escape an arranged marriage, only to be betrayed and sent to the railroads to do manual labor like a commoner. Rather than hop the first boat back to China though, Pei Pei insists on staying in America where she can better help others and where, dammit, she’s free! That’s how you enculturate, folks.
The us-versus-them dynamic gets an update and in doing so expands the understanding of “us” and “them.” There is funny moment when Chon finds himself amongst a friendly tribe of American Indians. They don’t understand his language, so he naturally speaks louder and slower, because this has always helped. In the end, they find themselves instead bonding over a universal smoke and drink. The script allows for similarly humorous scenes but a lot of credit goes to Chan and Wilson whose chemistry brings about a slow cultural shift, if only for this film. They are united as friends and partners but also brought together by their failures and solitude. The actors are strongest when they are onscreen together; Wilson brings an affable, lazy charm that complements Chan’s tenacity and principle, and his killer fighting skills.
Prod: Jackie Chan, Gary Barber, Roger Bimbaum
Dir: Tom Dey
Writer: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Brandon Merrill, Walton Goggins, Henry O 區亨利, Yu Rongguang 于榮光
Time: 114 min
Lang: English, some Mandarin
Country: United States