Friday, March 04, 2011

Great migrations

Hey Gangstas!

So I'm migrating my blog to a new address:

I decided that I need a less lame blog address and that, as Leia pointed out, I will not remain in my 20's forever...alas...

So, if you're looking for me and can't find anything more recent than this, panic not! For I have not forsaken you! I have merely moved to another a manner of speaking...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A history of our own

Last night I was invited to attend the screening of a whole bunch of old 8mm home movies shot by my grandfather and grandmother of their family at various stages of their lives. It was an amazing opportunity to see what my father and his family were like, growing up, as teens, getting married etc. And it was AWESOME! And freaky at the same time...

It's hard to imagine that the people you've only ever known of as adults were once children and teens. I'd seen photos of them, but it's somehow difficult to imagine those still images of someone that you don't recognise as being of real people or even as the 'little' versions of the people you know now. One of the things that really struck me was seeing my father as a child, playing around on a beach. He looked just like in the photos, but he was alive, running around and obviously having a good time. And that kid, was my dad!

I realise how silly it sounds, but it's a difficult experience to put into words.

The other amazing thing was seeing how people's behaviour doesn't change over time! So many of the mannerisms of my fathers family in the films, as little kids, persist to this day! Small things like their posture or how they held their arms are identical and unchanged!

The other thing that I found very interesting was seeing how much my cousin looked like his father when they were both young! He and I were the only ones that agreed on this, but just because nobody else thinks so, doesn't make it not true!

Oh, and a lesson to all would-be home movie makers: When on holiday, don't bother filming the surroundings. In 50 years, nobody will care! Film the people! That's what we all want to see!

Some pictures from the night:

The 'cinema' complete with rows of seats and a screen! I'm not sure why my cousin looks so unimpressed...

Deciphering 50+ year old labels with obscure titles like 'Number 2'

A shot from the footage of my parent's wedding. Unfotunately phone camera's don't cope well with capturing the flickering images off 8mm film. You can just make out the shapes of some people in this one

Repairing the projector. This happened several times throughout the evening. Amazingly enough, none of the film burned out! I was under the impression that the 'burnout' was a common feature of screening such as this, and yet, not so much as a puff of smoke all evening! Our projectionist must have been a reel pro...(pun intended  )

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'll miss you SO much!

Given that I will be leaving my alma mater, Wits, in the not-too-distant future, I have been thinking a lot about how much it has meant to me to be part of it. The other day, while on the hunt for food, I was reminded of one of the more fun aspects of Wits' charm: The quirky promotions that seem to happen on campus on a regular basis. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to snap a few on my phone, before the promo broke up!

Where else in the world am I  likely to encounter giant walking fruit on my lunch break?!

I'm not entirely sure why the giant fruit were hiding under black sheets, especially seeing as it is the middle of summer in Johannesburg (usually around 30 degrees centigrade in the shade at this time of day...). The one on the left is a giant lichi, in case you're wondering...

Behold, the giant granadilla! You can also make out the giant mango behind him and what appears to be an orange too...what the other one is...I have no idea.

Even giant fruit get tired! Here they are, parking off on the grass for a well-deserved break.

This, amongst other things, I will really miss when I'm gone.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What's in a name...?

I don't understand it really. But it's just the way I am. I do all my best thinking either in the shower, or when brushing my teeth. When I say 'best thinking' I don't mean that I come up with solutions to food security or world peace, but rather that this is when my brain tends to really get it's hands dirty, regardless of the idea in question.

Last night, standing in front of my bathroom mirror still dripping and wrapped in a towel after a shower, the topic of choice was names. I began to think about all the people that I'd met in my life and how so many of them seemed to display traits that were common to all the other people I'd met with the same names. Take, for example, Tyron (or any variant thereof, such as Tyrone...).

To this day, I have never met a single individual by that name that was even vaguely pleasant. Parents, if you have a boy and you don't particularly want to spend a good part of your sons life in the principles office at school being read the riot act and waxing his growing list of misdemeanours, don't name your child Tyron! It's strange, but true. My mother was a nursery school teacher and my aunt, a primary school teacher, for many years and both confirmed for me that there is indeed a hex on that name; all who bear it are nothing but trouble.

This is not to say that I believe that Tyrons the world over are evil. Far from it! I just have yet to meet one that wasn't.

This all got me thinking about how no matter what the name in question is, it is forever associated with that first person that we met who had it. Another example: I remember in primary school (elementary school for our American readers) having a girl in my class by the name of Angelique. While a tad on the naughty side, what really set her apart from the rest of us was that she had been born with a physical impairment. Her left leg had not fully developed and thus was permanently about 15cm shorter than her right leg. She wore a prosthetic leg extension all the time except for when we had to do PE (physical education - an excuse for teachers to park off and bark orders at children already burnt out from a hard day's work in the classroom).

The truly amazing thing about this girl was not her leg, but rather her approach to life. Angelique was, in spite of all that her biology had thrown at her, unstoppable! I remember that she was always very friendly, but took no nonsense from anyone. She always stood up for the underdog (with the added advantage that few people would argue with a metal reinforced plasticised leg extension...) and even when doing PE, she strove as hard as, if not harder than, all the other kids to do well. As such, this name has a number of connotations for me: scallywag, virtuous and unbeatable.

Another example from primary school was a girl by the name of Catherine. Actually, more than one by that name. And, true to form, both Catherines had equally unpleasant personalities. The first left our school shortly after entering the second grade, much to our unanimous relief. This child, in hindsight probably a deeply troubled individual, would frequently erupt into fully fledged temper tantrums in the classroom. I remember one in particular when she trashed the reading corner, tossing books willy-nilly and overturning the bookshelf, a feat I at the time marvelled at, unable to budge the bookshelf under my own strength. Obviously, rage provided a fuel unmatched by any amount of sugar and tartrezine.

The second Catherine was with us for longer than the first. But, while physical violence wasn't her thing, her skill lay in her unmatched ability to be very unpleasant. She was one of those kids that just never had anything nice to say about or to anyone. Somehow she had friends, but I certainly didn't count myself in their number. In both cases, I learned very quickly that the one thing common to the name was the tactic you used when dealing with them: don't! Just avoid them completely!

So prospective parents, think long and hard about the names that haunt and colour your past. Consult with others about the names that shaped them and give much consideration to the idea, before frivolously applying a label to your offspring!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Calling all the Faithful

I am certain that a vast number of my readers will be almost entirely unable to connect with this post. It's one of the hazards of being one of those odd people that actually like listening to electronic music outside of Holland (sue me! I'm hooked!). However, I'm using this blog to chronicle my life and it's highs (and lows) so this is definitely material that deserves to go on here.

Saturday was the day I've been waiting for for months now. I first heard about their visit to Johannesburg through a friend on Facebook who somehow had come across this information prematurely and, knowing that I was a fan, decided to share it with me. Indeed, with a little internet effort, I confirmed; Faithless were coming to South Africa!

I remember the last time they were here. I think I was 17 at the time. It was my first big live performance event. I remember being so excited and nervous at not knowing what to expect. I remember that my cousin and her then boyfriend drove us there and acted as general chaperons for the evening while I, and my two mates chattered away excitedly, awestruck by the whole experience. I remember the opening act was a horrific South African group called 'TK-Zee' who would do best to be forgotten entirely. The crowd came very close to booing them off stage, but luckily for the performers, their performance 'playlist' waned before the crowd got upset enough. Then they came on...

This time round we were due to be entertained by the Cape Town based dance duo 'Goldfish' as the entrée before THE band blew our minds with their performance. However, the gods of music got together with the gods of lets-think-of-something-that'll-just-irritate-the-crap-outa-them and through poor organisation on the part of the hosts, nobody other than the Golden Circle ticket holders actually got to see Goldfish (i.e. we plebs were forced to miss them because the organisers failed to let normal ticket holders into the venue before Goldfish were finished; a gripe for another day).

However, once inside, everything would change! Once Faithless came on stage, things elevated to a level of experience yet unmatched. I cannot put into words what an amazing experience it was, but I'll try.

The concert started with a little known track, followed by one of their latest releases, 'Sun to Me' which was amazing. People were dancing, vigorously abandoning themselves to the music, worshipping the sound that buffeted their senses. I, somewhat reserved, danced along, relishing the moment. However, for me, things only got started with the next song.

As they began the intro to the song, I recognised it immediately. I watched as the music built up, a crescendo heralding the start of something awe-inspiring and bordering on spiritual. As the chorus broke, the crowd went berserk. What had been a black maw behind the stage emerged as a massive screen, a golden light drawing out the outline of a church behind the musicians as they desperately performed their hearts out for us. The song could not have been more apt: 'God is a DJ'

The evening progressed with inspiring performance after performance. Each time the screen behind displaying a colourful assortment of images, visualizations and patterns that accentuated the beauty of the music tearing through us. All around people were jumping, throwing themselves, fighting gravity and all their inhibitions. Involuntarily, I found myself doing the same, literally out of control, caught in an elated fit of sheer movement. We were all one writhing, joyous entity.

The evening ran away from us. Two hours turned into ten minutes. Before we knew we'd arrived, it was over. The lights dimmed, the band left the stage, and a truly unsatisfied audience. The crowd began to chant. Their appetite wasn't satiated. They wanted more. And once again, Faithless failed to disappoint.

The band reemerged, stepping out of the darkness to hit us one last time. Issuing instructions to the crowd, MaxiJazz began one of the most awesome musical experiences of my life. The final song that we would be privileged with would be one of their most profound: 'We Come One'. Reinvigorated, we began to move again, a giant rising. The tide grew, pulling any reluctant dancers under it's powerful tow. As the chorus hit, our tumultuous action reached it's peak. I was merely an element of a whole. Part of something bigger. An entity that reserved judgement, asked for nothing and offered elation in return. We truly had come one.

I will always remember that evening. Nothing parallels that feeling of amazing unity, bliss and excitement all in one. I suffered for it (head-banging isn't too great for your neck...). In fact, I continue to pay. I've been trying to work all day but I can think of nothing else! But it was well worth the price pay!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life-long To-do list Item 32: Check!

Before I begin, I must point out that I don't really have a Life-long To-do list. Not in the formal sense, anyway. I rather have a kinda space in my brain that holds all the stuff that looks cool to do and I'll get to later...

Avid followers of my blog will remember me once writing a post about my lifelong quest to partake of all the exotic fruit wonders that our world has to offer. Well, I am now one step closer to that goal! I have finally sampled the amazing flappy-purple-orb that is DRAGONFRUIT!

This is all thanks to my mother, who somehow managed to track down one at our local supermarket (not usually the place for edible rareties of nature...).

Behold! The amazing dragonfruit!

As you can see, my sister takes these things very seriously. Her carpophobia really got away with her... 

The innards of a dragonfruit: 

Giving the fruit a try: 

Look at the amazing colour!! Visually, a stunning piece of food: 

It's a very odd fruit. It doesn't really have much flavour. It's very delicate. It has a consistancy that lies somewhere between a persimon and a kiwi fruit. Very odd. The seeds are like those of a kiwi too. But the colour is amazing! It's really beautiful! It also stains your hands like beetroot does, which was kinda cool. I would totally recommend it for anyone to try!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Movies that changed the way I watch movies...and other stuff...

The idea for this post came to me after a rather unproductive day, watching a film off YouTube in little bits. It was the movie 'Airborne', a 1993 teen comedy (sorta). There I was, nostalgically remeniscing about the hours as a child spent watching the movie and wishing that I too could surf and have an earing and hair to make a wooly mammoth jealous. I then went off to take a bathroom break, and it occurred to me while washing my hands (hygene first!); What other movies have had this kind of impact on my life?

Thus I present a list of some of the movies that changed how I view the world (or at least movies, anyway...):

I remember watching this as a kid and being completely ignorant (and blissfully so) of the fact that the shark itself was clearly made of rubber-latex. Even today, this film still gets me. It is dated, promotes a message with disasterous ecological consequences and discourages recreational swimming, but has you on the edge of your seat to the very end! Well worth the watch. I actually liked the film so much I bought the book (not bad, actually!) from a second-hand book store! The film offers everything a growing boy needs: hot beach-goers, a menacing animal that cannot be stopped, loads of blood and a little something (read: fear) that lingers with you once the film has ended.

Another oceanic story, but this time, of a much gentler kind. This film blew me away with its honest storytelling and characters that everyone could relate to. The tragedy of the story, the bleak beauty of the setting and the hauntingly memorable soundtrack left me yearning to make a movie like this one.

Steve did it again! Okay, on this one, I am completely biased, having been an avid dinosaur fan from age 3. However, even for those entirely clueless about dinosaurs, the suspense of this film is enthralling. To this day, I still feel my body ready itself for that innate flight response when Lex's leg is narrowly missed by a ravenous Velociraptor as she scrambles through the ceiling. A must see that, as with 'Jaws', provides everything a growing boy needs (although, minus the hotties...).

As an African, it is very difficult to not become ambivalent to the many civil disruptions that happen on our continent. Colonialism has left a bloody legacy which is so ubiquitous across our land that for most, it is really par for the course. However, this film told a story that made me sit up and think. This films heart-felt portrayal of the destructive process of revolution and genocide, and the bravery of one in light of certain death really hit home. It made me realise that regardless of ones genetic or cultural history, Africans, and indeed I suspect all peoples, are united by something unpalpable, but powerful.

On a substantially less deep note, this movie became a staple for me after watching the preview on MTV at age 14. The openning club scene of the movie is probably one of the most memorable scenes of all time, for me anyway. The amazing music and the mix of awe and horror as the fire system errupts with blood followed by a kick-ass fight scene made for a perfect hook. This film, released prior to 'The Matrix' featured a form of bullet-time (not of the same quality, but the idea was there!) which wowed me and the film was the epitome of what made the vampire genre awesome. And then...

This should have been titled 'How to ruin an entire genre, waste time and reduce your IQ in only 121 minutes', but I guess 'Twilight' was shorter and a little more catchy. This film taught me a very valuable lesson: Even when a movie appears to be a looming cultural phenomenon, be cautious (a lesson I should have learned from 'Brokeback Mountain'...)! Kirsten Stewart cannot act to save her life, females are apparently attracted to vampires that actually look like the walking dead (perhaps it's the sparkles? Every girl likes sparklies, right?) and that the tastes of 14-16 year old girls is not something to be trusted (No offense Tes!). So, in the likely event that Stephenie Meyer reads my blog post ('cause that'll totally happen!) I have one thing to say: The world would honestly be a better place had you followed your natural urges and given up on this story with that first twinge of writers block.

The first time I watched 'Lost In Translation', the only thing I liked about it was 'Alone in Kyoto', the Air song that was used at the end of the film. But somehow, absense made this heart grow fonder and I am now a fan! Bill Murray has to be one of my favourite actors, and the story told here was something that I could really connect to, having moved to a foreign country and tried to slot into a culture I didn't understand. And I really liked the song at the end...did I mention the song?

Another movie that had me hooked from the beginning, but this time, with music. The film itself deserved all the acclaim it recieved and more. The story was amazing, the acting superb and the music, unforgettable. I actually baught the soundtrack for only two of the tracks, both my Thomas Newman, a musical genius. His subsequent work on 'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events' just reinforced this for me.

The film itself was nothing worth bothering with. The shock-factor of the on-screen killing of live animals achieves what the director set out to; leaving the audience disturbed and queasy. However, it also served to completely undermine the message of the story. The lesson intended 'film-making should be ethical and truthful' means little when the story was made using the killing of live animals and the mutilation of an actual human cadaver, bought from a morgue, on screen.

My last addition to my list, although there are many more but I need to get some actual work done today, is Disney's 'Fantasia'. Growing up as a kid, whenever I or my siblings were sick and had to stay home from school, we would be entrusted to the care of my grandmother. Part of this process was that we were allowed to watch movies at her house (we didn't have a video machine) and this became a staple. From the dancing hippos to the dinosaurs (again, I'm a little biased, I confess) this film always delivered. The music was amazing and complimented the visuals perfectly. A fantastic effort on the part of all involved!