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!