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December 16 in South Africa used to be Voortrekker Day, celebrating the pioneering spirit of those settlers who pulled their wagons into the unknown interior of their great country, meeting strange tribes and offending them. This culminated in the Battle of Blood River, on this day in 1838, when a few dozen Voortrekkers took on about 4000 Zulus, next to a river. They had guns, the Zulus didn’t, which explains how the river got its new name. It looked the normal colour when I was taken in the late 70’s, but I don’t think they celebrate the Battle of Blood River in the New South Africa any more, actually.

When I tried looking up a little more info on Blood River, one of the first links took me to what appeared to be a simple description of the preparations for the battle. It soon turned into a bluntly racist screed on how the Battle of Blood River represented a victory of honest, God-fearing White folk over the Black hordes of darkness. It didn’t stop there, going on to attack the modern South Africa, accusing a notional Jewish Liberal movement of selling out to the same hordes of darkness, featuring blatant anti-Semitism at its worst. Sample: “Dr. Shapiro (Jewess) said …” Enough about that, then: you bigots aren’t going to get the “good old days” of 1838 back, are you? Deal with it.

Silly Movie of the Week: Drop Dead Gorgeous, which tries to do for beauty pageants what This Is Spinal Tap did for rock bands, and mostly succeeds. A documentary crew follows a group of small-town teenagers taking part in a beauty pageant “sponsored” by a make-up company, with Kirstie Alley as the local pageant organizer. Her equally-competitive daughter, played by Denise Richards, enjoys firing a variety of weapons and dancing on stage with a crucified dummy, before winning the pageant, then going up in smoke after her parade float’s fuel tank leaks. Woof!

Other highlights include Kirsten Dunst practicing her tap steps while making up the corpses in the local funeral home; her mother lands up in hospital after her trailer is mysteriously blown up, needing surgery to remove the beer can welded to her hand. A neighbour (Alison Janney of The West Wing fame) helps out, flirts with the film crew, and gets all the best lines. After getting to the national finals, by virtue of being the only one not to eat poisoned shellfish, Dunst joins the other 49 contestants at the sponsor’s headquarters, to find the doors padlocked and IRS seizure signs on the doors. Oh well; back to Minnesota.

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Written by brian t

December 16, 2004 at 9:10 pm

Posted in culture

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