Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chocolate and women

You know, I try hard not to be sexist but sometimes it’s hard. Last week two young reps from Lindt chocolate popped into The Herald office to deliver a full to bursting two boxes of individually wrapped chocolate treats.
Although I was really tempted to take them home, very quietly, my conscience did win out and so the boxes were trawled around the office, stretching from editorial to the library, marketing department and even the switchboard ladies on the top floor.
The reaction to free chocolate was such an eye opener ... every single female said yes, thanks, and mostly with a glint in their eye and an outstretched palm. It was like offering Viagra to Hugh Hefner.
By comparison, the guys were so abstemious, you would have thought they did not actually like chocolate. Most men only wanted one piece, not more, and one or two even turned down the offer.
TURNED IT DOWN! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Very weird. Perhaps I hit a frivolous yet universal truth in my profile.
We are not talking crummy chocolate here ... Lindt chocolate is the 500-thread count of chocolates. Once you have tasted Lindt, you don’t really want Cadbury’s, and Beacon, pish-pah, goodness gracious, you may as well keep that for cooking.
These guys are the same species as the creatures we sleep next to at night and whom we trust with the fatherhood of our children ... they say men don’t understand women, but, truth be told, I think I don’t understand men.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What do you fill your life with?

Generally I enjoy Wednesdays, because it's when La Femme hits the streets and we catch our breath before plunging into the next edition. Sometimes, though Wednesday hits me with a sickening thud (like today) and that's when I really need to find something positive to focus on.
The story of the mayonnaise jar below does the trick. I can't claim it's mine, or that it is new, and it has been sent to me on more than one occasion so I may even have used it in La Femme as a Femme Point ... anyway, it goes like this:
A professor stands before his philosophy class and, wordlessly, picks up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls. He then asks his students if the jar is full. They agree it is.
The professor then picks up a box of pebbles and pours them into the jar. He shakes the jar lightly and the pebbles roll into the open areas between the golf balls. He asks again if the jar is full. The students agree it is.
The professor next picks up a box of sand and pours this into the jar. Of course, the sand fills up everything else. He asks once more if the jar is full. The students respond with an unanimous “yes”.
The professor then produces two cups of coffee from under the table and pours the contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laugh.
“Now,” explains the professor, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favourite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.
“If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you so pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
“Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house. Take care of the golf balls first. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raises her hand and inquires what the coffee represents. The professor smiles.
“I’m glad you asked. I added that to show you that no matter how full your life may seem there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire a winner

I love February in Port Elizabeth as all the cinema complexes show the Oscar contenders that normally blow right through the Windy City. Those that do stay only lurk for a week normally so if you snooze, you lose.
However, when a film wins an Academy Award, they usually stay for a bit longer and I am so looking forward to seeing the film version of Q&A, which won South Africa’s Boeke prize in 2007. This quirky paperback about a destitute street-kid in Mumbai certainly was one of my favourite books from that year.
The Indian author, Vikas Swarup, who is his country’s deputy high commissioner to South Africa, went on to write Six Suspects and he still is living here.
“I wanted to show that knowledge is not the preserve of the educated elite and that even a 'street-kid' can possess the wisdom to win a quiz show,” said Swarup in an interview about what inspired him to write Q&A.
That is just so relevant in South Africa, where we also have so many street kids and a huge divide between rich and poor.
The photos I’ve posted are of Rubiana Ali, the actress who portrayed young "Latika" and Freida Pinto, who plays her as an adult. Funnily enough, none of the cast won an Academy Award.
The second photograph is of Rubiana’s neighbours in Mumbai shown celebrating after they heard of the film’s Oscar success.
The novel had its detractors who called it contrived and unrealistic. I found it funny, though, tender and tragic and a thoroughly engrossing read. Now with eight Oscars, I can hardly wait to see Slumdog Millionaire ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What do our pets do all day?

I discovered that I was not alone in wondering what our pets get up to when we are not at home, (see Cooper the camera cat )
Jeanne commented: 'Can there be a cat owner alive who hasn't at some point wondered "where the hell do you go all day, Tiddles?" ' and now someone else has e-mailed me this video clip.
I am not sure where it comes from but apparently, whenever the owners of this house, which you can see has a swimming pool, came home, they found puddles of water all around.
They believed that the neighbours’ kids waited till they went out to take a dip so they installed a camera and this is what they saw:

Mystery solved ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cooper the camera-cat

We have the friskiest, liveliest, cutest ginger tom cat in the world ... or so I thought until I heard about Cooper, an artistic three-year-old living in Seattle. Cooper not only does all the regular cat things that our boy does, like disappear for long stretches of time and then lie like a slug for even longer stretches, he also is a published artist and he even has his own blog.
Once a week his owners, filmmakers Michael and Deirdre Cross, fasten a lightweight digital camera to his collar, which snaps a new photo every two minutes. You can see from the photo that it isn't big, and they don't make him wear it all the time. They obviously wanted the answer to a question so many pet lovers have asked themselves: What do they do all day?
Now they know, and they have framed 16 of the answers and put them up on display at the Urban Light Studios in Seattle until the middle of March. This picture of a tabby cat turning the corner, for example, is one of Cooper's efforts.
"We never thought we'd have an artist that is an American shorthair cat," said Kevin Law, owner of the gallery and a professional photographer. "But after seeing his photos, I was immediately blown away. He has classical compositions right out of a photo textbook. There may be no intent behind them, but they're beautiful artwork."
Part of the proceeds from exhibition sales will benefit Paws, a progressive animal welfare society.
You can read about Cooper at his blog: Cooper-catphotographer.
I think I'll have to get Nacho to write a book ...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, Sister Ethel!

Love makes the world go round, and Sister Ethel Normoyle of Missionvale Care Centre spreads it far and wide. She will be on my own little love list tomorrow because I am definitely going to send her a Valentine's Day greeting.
A love letter to a celibate Irish nun in her 60s? That's not as odd as it sounds because Sister Ethel believes that any day that encourages us to love each other and treat each other better should be celebrated.
She makes me think of that line uttered by Jack Nicolson in As Good As It Gets, when he tells Helen Hunt,“You make me want to be a better man” (great date movie that, if you’re looking for something to take out of the DVD store tomorrow).
They say that the greatest gift a woman can give to a man is to make him want to be a better man – and Sister Ethel has that effect on a lot of folk. She makes us want to be better people.
She has seen her own community in Missionvale ravaged by Aids TB, poverty and crime, and many families torn apart by sexual and physical abuse, so she knows what she is talking about. To be sure, as a nun she is more likely to go for the AB of Aids prevention, not the full ABC (Abstain, Be faithful, Condomise), but how can you argue with someone who wants us all to love one another more?
Happy Valentine's Day, Sister Ethel!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cupboard Love

One of the perks of my job at La Femme is getting out and seeing interesting things and meeting new people and while I was out scouting for a good cup of coffee (which I found at Bocadillos) I also ventured down Clevedon Road in Mount Croix.
The Lavenders, the coffee shop there run by the Gunston family, now has a cutesy little addition at the back, in the form of a gift shop run by their daughter Carryn Scheepers.
She opened just before Christmas 2008 and has the admirable idea of promoting PE talent, and hence her five main suppliers are all from around here.
They include Beetle and Rhubarb (which we featured in La Femme before Christmas), Polka Dot's wire works, soaps by Ruby Soul from Plettenberg Bay, Soil skin products (well, only the agent is local there) and children's t-shirts, cement fondu shelves and crosses and a whack more by a most creative team called Gem & I.
Carryn loves birds so they fly all over the shop. It's a tiny wee place, tucked right at the back of the coffee shop, but worth a visit if you have small children to shop for or like quirky handmade goodies.

New Walmer coffee shop

If you love Vovo Telo and its outlet at the Warehouse, you’ll welcome Bocadillos, the newest Repton family sandwich and coffee bar in Main Road, Walmer.
This time mum Gill has teamed up with her daughter Kerry to decorate and start the little restaurant, which you can find where Cobblestone started off last year. They only opened last month, a brave move in a heavily traded market in a what everyone says will be a scary year but so far is doing really well.

It has Vovo style food - rye, ciabatta, croissants and more - and you also can order sandwiches to go. The coffee, though, is Lavazza, not Illy, but my cappuccino there today was just as delish and with the same creamy designer froth.
Matt had better watch out, he might have cornered the market in Central and Newton Park but the Walmer ladies who lunch are already flocking to his sister’s new spot.
The decor is cool and light and modern ... and I enjoyed the way the mirrors reflect the wallpaper on the back wall.
Lovely stuff!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is this the end of books? introduced the Kindle 2, a new version of its electronic book reader, yesterday, and it will go on sale later this month.
It can store 1,500 books from a library of 230,000 titles, yet it is only about as thick as a pencil, has a 15cm screen and weighs less than an average paperback book (about 280gm).
Since one entire wall in our lounge is filled to bursting with books I can definitely see the appeal of something this small.
The super-gadget uses 3G wireless technology and sells for about R3,500 but once you’ve bought it, that’s it, you have access to all those juicy books.
Whatever device is used, reading a book on an electronic screen no longer seems to be considered bizarre, even for older readers. When Oprah Winfrey showed hers off on TV last year and proclaimed it her "new favourite thing in the world," demand was such that Kindles sold out all over America.
Is this the end of books as we know them? Well, they said that when the first version of Kindle came out but I think it may take a while to filter through to the Eastern Cape.
In fact, a call to our own Fogarty’s Bookshop at Walmer Park met with blank responses “what’s that?” said two of the staff and even the erudite Theresa didn’t know anyone in PE who owns one. Do you know anyone who has one?
I can see the appeal, though ... except now no one will know how clever you are any more because you won’t have a single book in your house.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Women drivers

Just yesterday I posted a little piece on how hard it is to get that driver's licence and today a colleague of mine at The Herald sent out this video clip of women drivers. It goes against my feminist grain to publicise how terribly women can drive but it is so funny I couldn't resist.
What is so ironic is that my colleague, "M", shall remain nameless because she failed her own driving test several times. At one stage her daughter thought she would beat her to it but mum did eventually - late last year - crack it. "M" said she hasn't "yet" tried any of those parkings moves or stunts so the rest of us are still safe for now.
The women in this clip really give the rest of us female drivers a bad name. Maybe they bought their licence at the same place so many of our taxi drivers do.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More weird names

When you hear that the Berlin family of Missouri has three children, Lilian, Eve and Bosh, you might think, gosh, who would call their kid Bosh. Then you hear that they are all in a band called the Living Things … and that all three are boys. They do retro-punk kinda music, which I heard on 5fm this weekend and enjoyed.
I think musicians must be exempt from the mummy mafia rules which say “don’t give your baby an unusual name or they will be teased at school and never amount to anything in life”.
On the other hand, blandly named dads David, Frank and Michael gave their children the weird names of Zowie (Bowie), Moon Unit and Dweezil (Zappa) and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily (Hutchence) and do you ever hear from the kids? The old timers with the boring first name are even in 2009 the
famous dudes … Just a thought ... and remember my earlier post on how much readers hated Bronx Mowgli ?

If at first you don't succeed

If you are one of those South Africans who has sat and failed your driver’s licence more than once, then you will empathise with that South Korean grandmother who failed her driving test 771 times.
Yup, 771 times … sort of puts my friend Megan’s three times in the shade, and I know a couple of people who’ve sat and failed more often than that. I suspect that former Algoa FM presenter Buli G is one of them, but I never managed to winkle out of her exactly how long it took to get her licence. However, get it she did … unlike at least two of my acquaintances who are still trying.
What I find more interesting is the extremely small number of people who DO pass first time around. In the past five years, I’ve known a whole slew of folk trying to get their driver’s licence and only one has managed first time (congrats, Jessica G).
The granny in question, Mrs Cha, is 68 and says she is not going to give up so Test Number 772 here we come … that sort of puts it in perspective. So, Megan, here’s wishing you good luck for the fourth time!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

La Femme winners are winners

La Femme winners are winners: the Port Elizabeth couple who won the prize of a trip for two to the JB Met last weekend, Megan and Michael Holden, also came third in the most elegant couple competition (that's Megan in her turquoise chiffon mini with SABC TV presenter Claire Mawisa).
If you consider that the Kenilworth event was by invite only, and there were 50,000 people at the track, that was amazing - especially when you think that Megan had five days to design her outfit and have it made – plus she’s five months pregnant!
The prizes for the best dressed were great and well deserved, especially when I saw what their opposition was. The theme of “glitz and glam” did not necessarily bring out the most elegant impulses in racegoers ... Durban "designer" Kevin Ellis for example (that's him and partner in white Elvis outfits) spent R30,000 on five different outfits, but sadly, money can't buy you style. There were a few who thought that spray-painting their skin silver fitted the theme but still, at least this couple looked as if they were having fun.
Having never been before, I hadn’t realised how much the Met was about fashion. We were there from 11 in the morning until 10 at night and it was quite an effort to watch the races. It was so much easier to loll around in the VIP tent, which was utterly luxurious - as it should be with a budget in the region of R2,610 per person.
Even so, I am pretty sure that some of the horses were more stylish than some of the racegoers ... we'll carry more pics in next week's La Femme, so watch out for that.

Hilarious letter on airplane food

I was at the Met in Cape Town this past weekend (yes, believe it or not it was a work trip, sigh, what a hard life we journalists have!)
It was a fabulous weekend, travelling with lovely people who were the winners of a La Femme competition (more about them in another post later) and the hardest part probably was the dull food on the flight there and back. Nothing wrong with it, really, a standard domestic flight on SA Express but the two meals offered consisted of a pasta salad, hard bread roll and sponge-like dessert, both high on carbs and low on flavour, freshness or variety.
But thank goodness I wasn’t this anonymous gentleman, who suffered the traveller’s worst nightmare when he flew on Virgin in December last year. Click here to see the letter of complaint he addressed to Sir Richard. It must be one of the funniest moans ever.
Apparently, Paul Charles, Virgin’s Director of Corporate Communications, confirmed that Sir Richard Branson had telephoned the author of the letter and had thanked him for his “constructive if tongue-in-cheek” email.