New country, new blog…

4 Aug

Hello, everyone!

Sincerest apologies for such a long absence… Just a note to let you know that I have moved on from this space and am now blogging at http://jozitosussex.wordpress.com/ :).

Hope to get in touch with you soon!

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When Casper goes kakie, don’t go

10 Sep

One of the unwritten rules of being regarded a proper Afrikaner is that you do not dare enjoy the comedy of Casper de Vries. It’s not hard to understand why – the guy’s material is not exactly classy. Sex, toilets, vaginas and new ways to use the word “f*k”. That’s what Casper’s all about.

Thus – me admitting right now that I liked the guy enough to spend good money on his latest show is embarrassing. I say “liked” because the show ruined him for me. And I’m admitting my status as a former fan so you don’t make the same mistake.

Attention: Fellow closeted toilet humour fans – don’t waste your time on the comedian’s first English show, Casper goes kakie.

Why? The second language thing makes for a second-rate performance – Casper goes kakie is nowhere near the blush-a-minute standard of his former work.

This is how you'll feel during the show

This is how you’ll feel during the show

Don’t buy a ticket unless:

• You want to hear the same old jokes – but badly translated. The birth video joke was unfunny to start with. Having to sit through it in stunted English is close to unbearable. (If you don’t know it, it’s all about a tannie stumbling upon her neighbours watching their daughter’s birth and mistaking the footage for Fear Factor. Like I said – Casper likes making fun of vaginas.)

• You would find a mini lecture on the world’s greatest atheists entertaining – Casper forgets that the audience is there to laugh, and spends a good 10 minutes giving us examples of inspirational atheists. Dude, we get that you have issues with your lack of faith – don’t take it out on paying fans.

• You think paying to watch someone demonstrate just how bad their English vocabulary is, is money well spent.

Casper goes kakie is disjointed.One gets the strong impression that the comedian is simply making things up as he goes along – telling random old jokes, showing less than entertaining childhood photos, literally losing his train of thought on several occasions and blaming it on the fact that he is continuously translating from Afrikaans.

During our show, at least 20 people got up and left in not-so-offensive parts – they left because they were bored.

If you were thinking of getting tickets, don’t bother.

The show would have been more aptly titled if the last two letters were omitted.

I never thought I’d say this, but Vikas Swarup’s latest book SUCKS

1 Jun

I don’t ever judge books by their covers. Instead, I judge them by their first pages. Whenever I find myself in a bookshop (which is probably more often than is healthy), I grab a couple of novels in the genre I fancy, skim the blurb, and read page 1. If the style doesn’t grab me, I move on. It’s a simple, efficient method that has worked for me with great success.

About two weeks ago, I broke my own rule. I bought a book without even opening it. Featuring a girl in ugly sweat pants running into a grey blur of traffic, what made this cover stand out was the name of the author. In larger-than-humble, bright and tacky purple capitals, a gleeful me was informed that VIKAS SWARUP had published another of his adventure stories.

I was elated. This dude is, after all, the writer who got me into all things Indian. His vivid portrayal of the country and its people was what led me to discover other literary favourites like Shantaram and The god of small things.

Vikas Swarup is the rare sort of writer who can use a completely unbelievable premise for a story and just weave such realness into in. Or at least, he used to be that sort of writer. Where Slumdog and Six Suspects were bloody brilliant – the type of books that cause a happy suspension of eating, sleeping and having sex – this new one, The Accidental Apprentice, may as well have been written by a 12 year old with average talent. It’s PATHETIC.

The worst book you'll read all year

The worst book you’ll read all year

Telling the story of Sapna Sinha (a not-too-pretty but heart-of-gold TV salesgirl), the book follows her through seven tests she has to perform in order to become the CEO of an eccentric gazillionaire’s multinational company. Yup, you read right – the story is about a shop assistant in a HiFi Corporation who gets picked to become the CEO of something like BHP Billiton. What utter shit…

Still – it has the makings of a good Vikas Swarup story.

1. Ridiculous premise – check!
2. Underdog main character – check!
3. Tests / quiz questions to base the chapters on – check!

I expected something like Slumdog – that the seven tests she is given are somehow informed by her life experience, each chapter telling the story of how she had come to possess the knowledge and skill to pass the given test.

I was wrong. The tests aren’t even tests, but instead random things that just happen to her. Plodding along slowly, we see Sapna pass “test” after “test”.

Each and every time, the same crap is repeated:

Step 1: Something unlikely happens. The language used to describe this something unlikely is painfully bad.

Step 2: Sweet, syrupy Sapna does “the right thing”. The language used to describe this right thing is painfully bad.

Step 3: The gazillionaire dude summons her and informs her that – boom! – she has passed yet another test. The language used to describe this is painfully bad.

Step 4: She is baffled by how he could have known about yet another good deed she did, and decides to go back to selling TVs. You guessed it – the language used to describe this is indeed painfully bad.

To illustrate:

The “Integrity Test”:

The lame-ass electronics store Sapna works for is visited by Bollywood’s biggest star. I’m talking Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston kind of big. The star thinks a TV shop is the perfect place to announce her engagement to the press. She somehow loses her boulder-sized diamond. Sapna finds it and returns it, even though the star was mean to her. Yay, Sapna!

The gazillionaire summons her. She has passed the test of integrity. She is baffled and goes back to selling TV’s.

(Plot-fail alert! Why the hell would the Cameron Diaz of Bollywood announce her engagement at a HiFi Corporation? In fact – why would she even BE there?? Everyone knows only D-grade losers like Kurt Darren do “public appearances” in local shops. LAME!)

The type of celebrity that visits Hifi Corporation

The type of celebrity that visits Hifi Corporation

The type that doesn't.

The type that doesn’t.

The “Courage Test”:

Sapna visits a small village to help them plug in their new TVs. (No. I’m not kidding). On the bus there, she sits next to the Ruda Landman of India – a hard-hitting journo on her way to expose how young girls are forced to marry men they don’t love. She shows Sapna how she uses her cellphone to stream live footage to their CNN-ey website.

Sapna gets to the village and shows them how to plug in their TVs. She meets a girl who will be forced to marry an old perv. She saves the girl by going into the toilet and switching on her phone’s video camera. The girl’s family miraculously calls off the wedding because dear, sweet Sapna recorded them slapping her around a bit, and managed to stream it live to her bus-buddy’s website. The whole world sees, and the girl is free! Yay, Sapna!

The gazillionaire summons her. She has passed the test of courage. She is baffled and goes back to selling TV’s.

(Plot-fail alert! Since when can members of the public simply record random videos and stream it live to news sites?
At best, Sapna would have had access to her own Twitter account. And given how bloody annoying she is, that would only have reached about 14 people.)

Let’s stop this dismal summary right here. The truth is, I couldn’t get further than halfway through the book. I only got as far as I did because I was reading at a hair salon that did not offer me any magazines. And I only bought it at all because I was stupid enough not to read the first page.

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair to condemn a book I didn’t even finish, but I don’t care.

Don’t. Buy. This. Book.

I’m back!

25 May

Before I write my next “real” blog, just a quick note to excuse my lengthy absence. To use the oldest one in the book – life’s just been “busy”.

Good-busy, to be fair.

First off, I got engaged! So, like a typical bride-to-be, I’ve been perving over dresses and venues in my spare time.

Our engagement!

Our engagement!

Also – happy dance! – I landed a job writing for an online women’s magazine. Which is crazy-amazing, and something that would not have happened without this blog and its readers. So thank you for visiting my page and thank you for giving me the confidence to apply for the job. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I feel like a real writer!

I feel like a real writer!

I spent some time in Europe as well, but wrote about it for the magazine. I couldn’t really make up any words or swear a bit like I usually do, but I like the pieces nonetheless. It’s quite an adjustment writing for someone else. Never before have phrases like “fun for the whole family!” been edited into my pieces, but I’m not complaining. The magazine has given me a platform to participate in something bigger than myself, and I feel incredibly blessed to have been given an opportunity like this.

If you’d like to indulge me and read some magazine pieces, my portfolio is at http://all4women.co.za/author/CaroE/.

I quite like my London piece – feel like that’s the first one in which I succeeded writing “like me”.

Lastly – and not too excitingly – work’s been pretty demanding. But that’s no excuse not to write, as all we bloggers know.

Promise to be back again soon :).

Why Meredith Grey kicks Emily Thorne’s ass

3 Mar

I’m unashamed to admit that I enjoy trashy drama shows way too much. Anything with good-looking people living good-looking lives, and there’s me – schlomped in front of the laptop chomping down on microwaved Easter eggs and tea, tea, tea.

This year has been disappointing in the drama series department, though. It’s as if the shows I enjoy have reached their expiration dates, but are stubbornly hanging in there just for the sake of it. The one exception – thank the stars – is Grey’s Anatomy.

Wise as ever. Bless old Meredith's heart.

Wise as ever. Bless old Meredith’s heart.

The rest have kind of let themselves go. Like 40-something women wearing animal print and too much make-up, the shows are trying too hard to maintain something that just isn’t there anymore.

I’m talking specifically about Revenge and 90210. (Gossip Girl also ended pathetically – the big twist being that the title character had a penis all along – but at least it’s ended.)

The current seasons of Revenge and 90210 have succeeded in downgrading both shows to bad soapies. Such a shame.

I suppose 90210 never had much to work with in the first place – all it ever was, was good-looking richkids, their schemes, their clothes and their sex lives. It was inevitable that it became a stinker.

Eye candy. Only.

Bound to be a stinker

The bigger disappointment is Revenge.

Because damn – the first season was bloody brilliant.

My theory is that success is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a series based on a particular premise rather than on strong characters.

Look at Grey’s – very much a character-driven show, and getting even better as it goes along. You don’t care about what happens in Grey’s – you care about how it affects the people in Grey’s. And so the show is still as gripping in its current season as it was when I first watched it.

Now look at shows like Prison Break and Revenge. Absolutely, addictively brilliant first seasons, based not so much on a cast of characters but rather a well-developed plot. It was never about Michael Schofield or Emily Thorne, but rather about their plans.

Michael needed to break his bro out of jail; Emily wanted to screw over the Graysons. Good stuff.

Thing is, these ideas weren’t made to last longer than a single season. At the end of season one, it was pretty much “mission accomplished.”

Michael had pretty much run out of tattoos; Emily had pretty much run out of people to cross off that photo.

But no – of course it didn’t stop there. Instead, we have the TV equivalents of movies like Legally Blonde 2. Stuff so very average that it almost ruins the fun of the original. Where movies like that should go straight to DVD, series like the second season of Revenge (and the who-know-whateth season of Prison Break – Back in Prison, this time in South America!) belong under the label of SOAPIE.

We have people coming back from the dead, family fights about who gets to be CEO, and even corny green-screen sequences of characters racing along in motorboats to save their friends from an evil man in the middle of the ocean. Groan.

The meticulous and well-paced plot of the first season has given way to more of a day-to-day observation of characters, along with too many go-nowhere subplots.

You know something's wrong when your poster is more gripping than your plot

You know something’s wrong when your poster is better than your plot

Gripping enough for a Friday evening at home, but a disappointment as far as expectations went.

Plus, Daniel Grayson somehow became gross. He was hot stuff in season one. I think my little sister even went so far as to say that he was better than Chuck Bass. Not so in season two – there’s a poolside scene where he is topless and toneless as a middle-aged trucker. Eww.

Age old cliché for the screen writers involved? Quit while you’re ahead.

The Sunshine Dress

27 Feb

sunshine1Holly stood back and looked at her reflection. The bright yellow cotton smelled like mothballs now, but the dress fit perfectly. With the same light hair and slender figures, Amy and Holly looked almost like twins. Even now, it was as though her sister was smiling back at her.

She had never worn the garment, and hadn’t seen it since the day that Amy truly became dead to her. It was still the same ludicrous, exaggerated yellow – loud and happy, just like Amy.

The dress was the only memento she had kept. Guiltily tucked away in a box marked “old linen”, it was hidden in a place that Scott would never bother to look.

Now, on the weekend before their wedding, the old sadness had returned. Despite Scott, despite everything, she missed her sister and wanted to feel close to her. The dress was all she had.

She had no pictures, no sentimental childhood teddy bears, none of the books Amy had given her over 25 shared Christmases and birthdays.

Holly had gotten rid of everything exactly two years ago. Packed up all that was Amy’s, and took it far, far away. She only kept the dress.

Before that day, the flat they used to share was still theirs. Amy was still everywhere, and Holly liked it so. It was easy to pretend that her sister was still alive with her bed still unmade the way it was the morning of the accident, pillows on the floor and make-up strewn across the dresser. It was easy to pretend that nothing had changed.

Two years and one day ago, exactly, Scott asked Holly to marry him. Two years ago, exactly, Holly woke up to find that Scott was not next to her. She found him in Amy’s room, clutching the yellow dress and sobbing quietly. He did not see her, but she knew then that he was still in love with Amy. She was but the conciliation prize – the second best almost lookalike who reminded him of the woman he used to adore.

He did not say anything when he came back the next day and found Amy’s memory gone. Nor did he say anything when the thumbed and faded picture of her disappeared from its hiding place behind his credit card. He could still see the golden flecks of her green eyes when Holly looked up at him; he could still hear her giggle when he gave Holly a good tickle.

Holly would have to be enough. She was all he had left of Amy.

And he did love her. In his way, and perhaps for all the wrong reasons, he loved Amy’s little sister.

In the beginning, he loved her for not getting rid of Amy – for not leaving her in the little box of ashes that everyone had reduced her to. He loved her for pretending with him. For sitting in Amy’s room surrounded by Amy’s things and reading Amy’s book inscriptions out loud.

Mourning together had changed them both and brought them closer. They read those inscriptions as if Amy was talking to them.

Dear Holly,

I blame you for not getting a night of wild smooching last night. I had a gorgeous guy in our apartment and had to spend the time sifting flour.

But hey – tradition is tradition and I have never missed baking your birthday cake.

Sorry about the icing – I don’t think he’s ever iced a cake before.

Happy birthday, sis.

Love,

Amy

PS – You’re meeting Mr Cake Boss tonight. I invited him to join for drinks so he can see that I can be normal, too.

That was one of Scott’s favourites. He was the guy, of course. He remembered the day well. Amy was wearing the yellow dress. They had both attended a company fun day at Gold Reef City amusement park – ridiculous thing to arrange for a bunch of adults, but better than spending another day at the office. He saw her standing in line for the Anaconda rollercoaster, absentmindedly licking an oversized lollipop. It was a refreshing sight – the rest of the staff was buried in their smartphones; they brought the office with.

“If you can finish that lollipop before the ride starts, I’ll give you my car.”

It was a lame pick-up line, but he didn’t know what else to say.

She smiled. “Who says I’d want your car?”

“You’re right – it’s pretty crappy. I’d have to offer a better prize.”

“Be my date for the day? I’m new here, and no-one has even said hello. And here you are, offering me your car.”

That explained why he hadn’t seen her before – she was new.

By the end of the day, he no longer thought a fun day at an amusement park was ridiculous. It was one of the best days of his life. Amy had a childlike excitement about things that he had long forgotten in years of corporate drudgery. At first, she dragged him to the rides. Later, they were both running.

They were the last people allowed on the Big Wheel just as the sun was setting. Both out of breath and laughing hysterically, the ride attendant just smiled and let them on, making the wheel turn one more time than usual that day.

It was just the two of them and the burny orange of the Joburg skyline.

He noticed the golden flecks in her eyes then, and kissed her as they got to the top of the wheel.

He knew then. Knew that she was the girl he had been waiting for.

Amy in the sunshine dress, kissing him in the sunset.

“You want to help me bake a birthday cake tonight?”

Saying yes was the best decision he ever made.

Her death, three years later, nearly destroyed him. She had worn that same dress the day she drowned. She fell asleep wearing it on the boat. He had left her alone – she looked so peaceful. An hour later, screams were heard as a girl noticed her lifeless body in the water. He still did not understand how it could happen.

Holly was the only reason he was still alive; the only reason he could smile again. And for that, he did love her.

It was the weekend before the wedding now, and he had decided to go see Holly. He had to convince himself that he was doing the right thing. Knocking on the door – so many knocks on that door, so many memories – he heard her shuffling about inside.

The door opened.

Holly was wearing the dress. He gasped, but quickly regained composure. She knew, of course. She knew what that dress meant to him; how he still loved her sister even in death.

“Heya, Cake Boss! Amy will be out in a second.”

She hadn’t called him that since before Amy died.

“Why do you look like so confused, dude?”

Her voice sounded like it used to when it was still a little sister voice. Like it was before it became grave and serious in mourning. She shrugged her shoulders and turned back into the flat.

“A-myyyy! Hurry up! You know Scott and I have nothing to say to each other.”

He failed to see the joke. She did not seem drunk – it was only when very drunk, and only once, that she had ever dared to even allude to the fact that he still loved Amy.

He didn’t know what to say.

“Holly… I… Why are you doing this?”

She looked puzzled.

“Whatever, dude. Some beer?”

After Amy’s death, Holly had to help him stop drinking. Were it not for her, he would have killed himself doing it.

“Holly?”

She walked towards the kitchen, popping her head into Amy’s old room.

“I’m using your old sunshine dress tonight, o-kayyy?”

“Any dress but that one! Please, sis – you know I’m superstitious about it.”

It was Amy’s voice.

“Hey, Love.” She walked to the door kissed him casually on the cheek. “I’ll be ready in a minute. Come in!”

He didn’t know what was real. He would wake up. He would wake up and be back to his sorrowful reality.

Holly gave him an amused smile. Her sister was being ridiculous.

“I’m serious, Holly. When I fell asleep wearing it, I had a terribly realistic nightmare that I drowned and that you ended up marrying Scott. It was horrible. Just put it back in my closet, okay? It’s cursed. I don’t think we should wear it – that nightmare just felt too damn real.”

He remembered then.

They had visited the park’s so-called fortune teller that first day, both openly amused and struggling to look serious. The woman had a way of speaking in wannabe Shakespearean riddles, and was rumoured to be a witch. They thought her laughable. Amy was tugging at his arm to get to the big wheel on time.

The woman was visibly annoyed.

“Sleep in sunshine cloth and to hastened death they shall awaken.
Return once more to life – unchanged – when flesh of blood the cloth doth touch.”

Until Holly had put on the sunshine dress, releasing them, they were living in Amy’s nightmare.

Grumpy humour: A top 10

20 Feb

I’m a sucker for grumpy humour. Where most people stopped watching My Family when Nick disappeared, I happily carry on watching because of my favourite character – the universally disliked Ben Harper – is still there. A grumpy old dentist who basically hates his life and everything in it, he’s TV’s ultimate grumpy old man.

But this post is not about Ben Harper – it’s about a book that reads as if it was written by him: Is it just me, or is everything shit?

Ben Harper - the grumpiest, funniest bugger on TV

Ben Harper – the grumpiest, funniest bugger on TV

This book is not to be found on any current best seller list, and is probably not even easily available at the shops anymore. I found it at an Exclusive Books sale years ago, and rediscovered it this week.

Almost 300 pages of pure disgruntledness about, well, everything.It’s fabulous when you just hate the world and all its Polyannas. (It’s also the sort of thing the Erasmus and Snyman cousins find hilarious – so here’s to Carli, me, Iranda, Caroline and Lara. I’m not sure why we have such a sick sense of humour, but I love it.)

Allow me to share my personal Top 10 entries:

1. Unnecessary Greeting Cards

“For my wife…On Mother’s Day.” Such messages are presumably intended to carry the subtext “For my wife on Mother’s Day, because, as you know, I tend to think of you as my mother.”

“Congratulations on your divorce!” Presumably comes with the message: “Roses are red / Violets are blue / You didn’t get the house / But you did get the canoe!”

“Congratulations on your teeth whitening!”

2. The Markets’ Reaction

Whenever a new terrorist catastrophe hits a major Western city, the first thought on every citizen’s mind is: Hmm, I wonder how my shares are doing. Oh, that’s right, I don’t have any. Still, I wonder how other people’s shares are doing… This is why, after the 7/7 bombings, news networks speedily escorted viewers away from the sites of the atrocities and toward the City of London to discover how “the markets” might be affected. And what did our correspondents tell us? Stocks remained “resilient.” Thank G*d.

Rich douche

Rich douche

(As a personal side note – I’m writing this in a coffee shop in Johannesburg. Often work from here. Table next to me has 3 typical “big city” JHB idiots who probably DO consider the markets’ reaction before anything else. Don’t expect any less from people who spend coffee with friends bragging about their stock portfolios and bank balances. Groan.)

3. Paying off your mortgage in 2 years

Top tip to save money to do this: Kill yourself.

There’s no surer way to spend less than being dead. As a bonus, any insurance policies you hold will be paying out like a fruit machine with three triple bars on hold… Irony is free, so treat yourself to a highly poignant death by smashing your brains open against the window of your bank… Now, for insurance reasons, it needs to look like an accident. You’ll need a big run-up to get enough force to kill yourself, so start from the other side of the road while looking down the street and smiling and waving into the distance, as if you have just seen an old acquaintance and have become distracted. Just keep running until you hit the bank and hopefully die… Also remember, in the days leading up to killing yourself, that you can save money by not eating anything or turning on any lights.

4. Sex tips

Some people are so expert at sex that they become “sexperts”. Some of the most common sex tips include the following:

Breathe on each other. As one of you breathes in, the other breathes out, so you inhale each other’s breath. Breathing – it rocks!

Don’t underestimate the erotic power of the elbow. Find out what you can do with yours and before long your love buddy will be dragging you upstairs as soon as you walk in the door!

Sexy!

Sexy!

Lather up each other’s pubic regions with shampoo to make amusing shapes. Laughter is a great way of creating a sexy atmosphere!?!?

Stuff each other’s mouths full of cheese – then lick each other all over. You’ll be amazed at the new sensations you both experience!

5. Kitsch Knickknack shops

“Ooh”, people think, “a present shop. Maybe I can get a present in this shop for presents and thus satisfy my present-buying needs.” Then they go inside and remember it’s actually a festival of shit with price tags on. You can find:

George Bush fridge magnets – you can dress him up as either Shirley Temple or Wonder Woman

Numerous cards featuring a picture of a 1950s housewife and a rude slogan – something like, ON SUNDAYS, DOREEN ENJOYED NOTHING BETTER THAN A GOOD SPIT ROAST

1950's housewife

1950’s housewife

A monkey. With the head of a monkey.

Of course, no-one actually wants this crap. But they get it anyway…

6. Celebrity perfumes and product lines

Celebrity fragrances have rubbish names. There’s Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker; David Beckham’s Instinct; True Star Gold by Beyonce… Sean John’s scent is Unforgivable. By which we don’t mean that it’s unforgivable, although it probably is.

Pop sensation Usher has his own line of credit cards aimed at impressionable teenagers. Sort of like saying, “Hey kids, if you enjoyed my album Confessions, you’ll love a life of debt!”

7. Ads for credit cards

Your life is not exciting enough, quite simply, because you haven’t borrowed enough money. That much should be self-evident. Borrowing money may make you taller. You will have a nicer smile, and have read more books – while still finding time for that all-important Jet-skiing holiday.

8. Baby name books

Nobody has ever found a good name in a baby book because most of the entries are things like Hadrian, Dylis, Mortimer, and Binky. Oh yes, and Adolf.

The UK’s Collins Gem version genuinely point out that the name has never been popular and received a further setback with the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Setback? I’ll say.

9. Porsche SUV’s

Want an SUV so you can loom over other road users like the US Army? But also want something sporty to accelerate ludicrously away from the lights before suddenly braking at the next roundabout?

Then the Porsche Cayenne is the car for you: two utterly pointless vehicles in one. No-one likes you.

10. Yummy mommies

Don’t just lie there! It’s been two hours since you’ve given birth. Get on that treadmill now. Or you’re never going to “snap right back” by the end of the week. Society expects!

Naughty, naughty!

Naughty, naughty!


Also, if you don’t spend on your child in its first 3 months the same as a yearly wage, then your child will be ugly and stupid. And who wants that?

***

Absolutely loved this book – treat yourself and find it online. The authors are Steve Lowe, Alan McArthur and Brendan Hay.