Saturday, March 22, 2008

YouTube awards best videos of 2007

If you are reading this post outside of my blog you may not be able to view the video clips, click here to go to InsideSouthAfrica.

A favourite online resource for South African news,, featured the inclusion of a Kruger Park wildlife video, shot by American tourists on 'safari', in YouTube's collection of what its users voted the best videos of 2007. More special and some not-so-special clips complete the selection of 12 video clips - each in its own category. My pick from amongst the winners follow below. To view all 12 the videos, click this post's heading above.

Eyewitness Category

(If the video above doesn't show, it may have been removed by copyright holders..., you can view it here.)

The Kruger video, winner in the 'Eyewitness' category is indeed very special. It clearly shows what remarkable sightings await visitors to South African wilderness destinations. Obviously very few people get to see sightings quite as remarkable as that portrayed in the video. However, having said that, what makes the video special to me is that it was shot from a safari vehicle not in an exclusive private game park, but in the gem of South Africa's (public) national parks - The Kruger National Park. In the video you catch glimpses of private vehicles whose occupants clearly had the wonderful opportunity to take in exactly the same spectacle. While you are more likely to see incredible wildlife sightings up close in one of the much more expensive private reserves, those on a tighter budget are not locked-out from experiencing the wilderness and its wildlife at its most special.

Adorable Category

I'm sure this video had a lot of parents of young babies and toddlers, a group that includes me, voting for it (although I did not partake in the voting). The scene is so familiar in showing how a young baby develops a very basic and strange sense of humour. What a special moment when you first get to connect with your child in this kind of way.

Short Film Category

This video is put together very cleverly and professionally. As a short film it is obviously a challenge to deal with sometimes difficult and complex topics in the space of a few minutes. The producer succeeds in this very well. He also hides the topic of the video and trusts that his viewers will be intelligent enough to figure it out for themselves. He doesn't lecture, but creates empathy and insight through the short film. I will not give away the topic which he is dealing with - have a look for yourself. Below follows his 'director's commentary' video in which he discusses his winning entry.

The background on the video, how it was put together and with what equipment. Very interesting.

Creative Category

Human Tetris. If you've ever played the game or been hooked on it, as I was at some point in the past, you have to watch this. It won in the 'Creative' section and deservedly so. Very enjoyable.

Inspirational Category - nominee

This is a very thought provoking video. It touches on how outdated modern teaching environments and methods are, as well as how technology both enhances and blocks the acquisition of knowledge. It includes some interesting statistics and perspectives. The website flashed at the end of the video, a collaborative blog by Kansas State University students and faculty, is worth a visit for those interested in technology - especially the internet => 'Digital Ethnography'. On completing the paragraph I realised that this video was actually a nominee in the 'inspirational' category and not a winner, but I thought it deserved a mention anyway!

Politics Category

The winner in the 'politics' section. Produced by a political activism website it is a poignant reminder of what unites different world cultures and religions, as opposed to what drives them apart. It especially focuses on the need for real efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. It points out that public opinion has the power to force political leaders to change course. In some respects the video is idealistic. But that is probably a necessary element in political or social activism - the believe that change is possible. The movement behind the video is based at

Instructional Category

The Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 but entered pop culture in the early 80's. I must have been ±13 when it took South Africa by storm as well. I remember fondly how we challenged each other to see who could solve the puzzle in the shortest possible time. Somehow I've lost the urge in the 25 years since. A younger mind is much more prone to taking up such a challenge. Having watched the video above may just have given me enough inspiration to give it another go. I don't remember really worrying about 'algorithms' 25 years ago - but it's probably because one stops thinking about those once you reach the point of solving the puzzle in seconds rather than minutes... I can't really remember. I'll have to see whether we threw away all our Rubik's Cubes...

The video is very well put together, systematic in its approach and has a vibe that only a twenty-something (or younger?) presenter could generate :-).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barack Obama impresses with bold speech addressing racism

Barack Obama made a speech on Tuesday which should reverberate around South Africa, although most in the country is probably unaware of the drama playing itself out.

The eloquent speech on racism, with well balanced arguments was a tour de force in dealing with an issue which is as important in South Africa as it is in America. He very effectively addressed the fears and frustrations of peoples of various race groups. Obama managed to put forward arguments for addressing these by focusing on common problems rather than race, while at the same time acknowledging injustices of the past and present. His message is a unifying one, rather than the polarising style that has at times been a hallmark of our own President Mbeki, when dealing with issues of race.

It's a pity that more South Africans don't follow the American Presidential Election primaries. It is an impressive show of democracy in action. While it is most definitely prone to politics of personality rather than substance, its thoroughness eventually forces the latter to emerge. Although I still can't explain how such a system could lead to the election, and especially re-election of the current incumbent...

  • For a New York Times video with transcript of the speech scrolling next to it go here.
  • For a New York Times' editorial praising the speech go here.
  • For Maureen Dowd's opinion go here.
  • For Mhambi's take go here.
  • For an interesting note on the potentially changed perception of Obama see Attie Heunis' blog post here.