Channel-surfing after the opening game last night, I surfed right into a 1970’s Elvis movie, one of those pop-rock features about a concert tour, replete with back-stage pranks, awful studio sessions, and packed concert-hall audiences full of adoring women and enviously smiling men. It was so awful, I had to watch.
The worst, I think, were those moments where Elvis was desperately trying – or his producers were desperately trying – to show The King as just a good ole Southern boy. Moments in rehearsal, for instance when, surrounded by the braying sycophantic laughter of the band and backing singers, Elvis would cynically lower his voice and play up the swooning romance of a song, all the while looking around with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink leer, as if to say, don’t you just know how the suckers out there are gonna lap this up.
The really sad thing is, there were moments when the voice truly was moving; lush, rich, romantic. And Michael Jackson might have learned a thing or two from some of Elvis’s moves. But the thought that here I was, along with everyone else, being played for an idiot, kind of tainted the whole business somewhat.
One can’t say that for a moment, about the opening ceremony and match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup here in our very own South Africa yesterday. Here was the real, warm, vibrant, alive South Africa we love so deep down it hurts; the South Africa we had forgotten, until out it came, like the African sun itself. Even our imperfections were affectionately South African – for the first fifteen or so minutes of the opening ceremony, the sound was inaudible, and only the wall of vuvuzelas gave one a sense of what was going on. But then the sound was fixed – one imagines some sound technician in his Bafana Bafana teeshirt and veldskoens cursing under his breath: vok! wat gaan hier aan?! – and the show came alive. I loved the map of Africa, in a patchwork of cloth; the African mamas, big-hipped and swaying in their blankets and head-dresses; and the crowd! Even on TV, the passion, the joy, the sheer excitement, were totally infectious.
And Bafana, on the day, acquitted themselves well. The awful prospect of an opening match defeat was staved off; the brilliant opening goal of the tournament was all South Africa’s – and even that pulverizing moment, of sheer disbelief and dismay, when the winning goal bounced away off the post, seemed somehow truly, authentically, maddeningly South African.
In between all this, I was trying – without success – to submit my US visa application online. The vokken thing kept timing out before I could complete the process, casually binning all my laboriously-entered data so that I had to start all over again from the beginning. In case you don’t know, the online application is now mandatory – and it has to be made via the higher versions of Microsoft Explorer or Netscape, which is probably why, working on a Mac, I could not get the damn thing to cooperate. And I thought: what kind of arrogance and indifference does it take, to assume that everyone wanting to visit America has access to a computer and the internet and to the latest Microsoft browser? Not to mention the extraordinary questions – are you coming to the US to launder money, or for purposes of prostitution? I kid you not! The only purpose of such questions, I assume, is so that they can be used to further incriminate you, if you do happen to be picked up for some kind of misdemeanour. I mean, who is going to say, on their visa application, yes sir, I am here to procure a prostitute, with some laundered money?
US visa applications, I thought – brought to you by the folks who run Guantanamo Bay.
And yet, it was impossible to remain irritable and pissed off: the moment, the day, the grand event, transcended everything. Even US government bureaucracy; even Elvis.