Thursday, June 23, 2011


I first encountered what I have now come to dub an 'Israeli scam booth' at Westfield Mall, London last year January. A charming, excellently groomed young man by the name of David stopped me as I strolled past Selfridge's and offered to treat my hair to a fantastic new hair iron hot on the market. Indeed I was quite taken by his sumptuous accent, quick compliments and glistening set of spirit-leveled teeth. I said a jolly no to the life-changing hair iron, because at 20 pounds and the threat of taking up a substantial portion of my bursting suitcase it was just not a sensible buy. I thanked him and went on my way.

The next time I encountered one of these smooth operators was back home in Cape Town, one Saturday when my friend and I were out shopping. He stopped us in our tracks, asking us how many boyfriends we each had. I said I had four. Or maybe five. I wasn't in much of a mood for salespeak. But once Mark, the silky-smooth Israeli salesman, brandished his primary weapon there was no turning back. A small rectangular nail buffer would have us sighing in doe-eyed awe as we watched our dull digits transformed into shining, manicured jewels. After what seemed like hours of coercion, he finally managed to get my friend to produce her debit card. I felt a little ill as he nimbly settled the sale. But I brushed this feeling aside and congratulated her on her purchase.

Turns out the promised two-year guarantee was little more than a sleazy pitch. Our snakeskin salesman had lied to us. There was no warranty for replacement products at all. Just the pathetic little buffer, a bit of nail cream and a lousy tube of oil supposedly made using dead sea salts. For all we know these products could contain more chemicals than drain cleaner

Phantom product: Avoid any salesman trying to sell you one of these nail kits from a mall kiosk.

Beware of these chancing mall predators. They're more than just professionals. They move in syndicates all over the world, using aggressive sales tactics and guilt-trips to reel in unsuspecting shoppers, who only really came to the mall to buy a bath robe or a tube of Johnson's from Dis-Chem.

Needless to say, Public Relations at the mall where these tricksters operated on our confidence have been well-informed. I made sure of that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Worth A Hundreds Yards of This?

As soon as my fingers skimmed over the Egyptian cottom duvet and pillow set in a luxury department store yesterday afternoon, I realised that such fineries can only be afforded once you've endured many nights' sleep under the fibrous folds of polycotton.

At first I imagined what I could be, who I could become if I owned some of that beautiful stuff.  Famous people sleep in sheets of Egyptian cotton, which  is also Egypt's prize export. Perhaps I could pretend I was famous too. Once I can proudly say that I sleep on sheets of sheer heaven every night, I thought to myself, I will surely be somebody of note and worth taking seriously.

Yes, with a sting in my heart I ignored the first impulses of desire coursing through my body as I gazed upon the luxurious fabric - and its cringeworthy price-tag. Such comfort and quality, I realised with dismay, comes only to those who can afford to buy it. The rest of us, well - we'll have to stick to 35% cotton textiles and a thread-counting budget.

My conclusion: most of us will never own sheets of Egyptian cotton in our lifetimes. In fact, many in the world today don't have a bed at all, let alone a sheet with which to cover it. It's dog-eat-dog out there, children. You'll either end up warm and comforted in sheets of Egyptian cotton, or you'll end up harvesting it so the lucky ones can.

What'll it be?

Thursday, June 9, 2011



the approximate number of days it takes to complete a lunar month.
the number of days in February during a leap year.
a song from the Tom Waits album, Blue Valentine.
the number of letters in the Swedish alphabet


the age at which one can join the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom
the minimum age of consent in many jurisdictions
the number of pieces per player in a game of chess.


the number of years in the 'Twenty Year Curse' cycle of US Presidents entering and subsequently dying in office.
a village in Lincolnshire
the 1997 album by Lynard Skynard


the number of members that made up The Fellowship of the Ring
a degree to which one can be dressed, typically glamorously.
a major avenue in Manhattan
the period of human gestation in months.
the number of balls in a game of billiards.

Put all of these numbers together on one LottoPlus ticket and you have a winner! (Of approximately R162.00, that is. Still, I'm that much richer.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Apple A Day Can't Make Gravity Go Away.

One of the most famous anecdotes in the history of science birthed the definition of our Universe's fundamental truism -that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Basically, gravity is the force which forms an attraction between two objects with mass.

Head and shoulders portrait of man in black with shoulder-length gray hair, a large sharp nose, and an abstracted gaze

So, was the apple really the core of Newton's revolutionary findings? Or was it but a seed from which his knowledge and insights grew?

The apple analogy is indeed a precious anecdote in physical science, perhaps bringing a hint of poetic licence to the otherwise highly rational discipline. However, the apple story has been tweaked. There is no written account by Newton himself crediting his findings to a bump on the head by a falling fruit.

Contrary to what popular myth suggests, Newton didn't have an epiphany the instant the apple supposedly struck him on the cranium. His work was the product of many years' scholarly correspondance and painstaking research.

Of course, generations of shining, polishing and sensationalism have cleaned up the story of Newton's apple, which has been described by Stephen Hawking in his record-breaking bestseller, A Brief History of Time as 'almost certainly apocryphal.'

The memoirs of William Stukely, a younger contemporary of Newton, quoted the illustrious Cambridge University representative with the following:

Why sh[oul]d that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself; occasion'd by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood.

But was it really a rogue apple accelerating to the ground that inspired Newton's ground-breaking research on gravity?

If so, I'll bet that apple would be worth almost as much as the one Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But I guess that was a couple of generations back. Perhaps gravity was yet to be created.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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Buckingham Palace’s Newest Addition Has No Use for Ladies-in-Waiting

As royal consort to the future King of England Kate Middleton, 29, sheds her middle-class maiden name for something a little nobler. Britain’s modern princess, previously dubbed ‘Waity Katie’ by the hound-dog tabloid press, proves she has no desire to be waited on.

Louise Dyamond

Somehow, it seems far too proper to refer to her as Catherine, let alone the Duchess of Cambridge. Not that Britain deems her unworthy of the title - Kate be counted on for her spotless mannerisms and crease-free turnouts as much as any blood-born aristocrat. Yet lofty titles, royal entourages and courtesies-on-cue just aren’t typically Kate. 
While few intimate details are known about Buckingham Palace’s newest addition to the Royal Firm, Kate’s relationship with the press in recent years has been a less-than-stately affair. Despite endless media speculation (which only worsened once her relationship with William was made public), the ever-stylish Kate has managed – on most occasions- to escape the persistent bloodhound noses of photographers hungry for a snap of an unflattering facial expression or rift between the knees when emerging from the backseat of a car.
Media photographs have been our only glimpse of Kate, her airy disposition captured only in split-second stills and published in glossies for public consumption. We’ve been acquainted with her as companion to the Prince, always dressed in tailored designer outfits and never without a fascinator perched on her head of immaculately groomed brunette locks. Until recently, Kate has refused to give any official interviews, and the impatient readers of British tabloids waited, salivating in suspense, for big news on this relatively little known Art History graduate from Berkshire.

In an exclusive interview with Tom Bradby for ITV in the couple’s first onscreen appearance since their engagement was announced in November last year, Kate revealed that the proposal was ‘a total shock.’  She smiles, perhaps a little self-consciously, as if well-aware that audiences in all reaches of the English-speaking world are no longer viewing her as the ‘Waity Katie’ of past tabloid christening.
Instead, the public gaze is diverted to the dazzling sapphire engagement ring that now glitters on her left hand. Followers of the Royal Family nearly two decades earlier would have no difficulty recognizing the ring as the one presented to Diana by Prince Charles in 1981. While bearing the memory of her husband’s celebrated mother on her ring finger, Kate is also left with the burden of comparison.
“I hope, very much, that people don’t try and compare her to the Princess of Wales,’ said Lady Elizabeth Anson, cousin to the Queen and Royal Party Organiser. ‘She’s a person in her own right and it’d be very unfair to do that.’

Joanne Fowler, senior writer for People, offers her opinion as to why Kate is by no means the late Princess of Wales, taking special care to tell the two apart.
"She's a very modern English woman. She's not like Diana, who was from an aristocratic family. (Middleton) is smart. She's athletic; she's very much of the moment. Everything about her is well thought out. She's handled her time in the limelight with incredible grace and dignity, not making a mess of anything."
As the daughter of British Airways flight attendant stock, the newly titled Duchess of Cambridge will undoubtedly be hounded by dogged publications determined make sure she doesn’t forget her ‘commoner’ origins. In reality, this somewhat archaic label couldn’t be a more inaccurate description of the regal St. Andrew’s graduate and future Queen of England.
Her birthplace, the small village of Bucklebury in the heart of Berkshire, marks the beginning of her ascension from middle-class to monarchy. Kate’s childhood home is one of many similarly picturesque cottages on Chapel Row, the local civil parish and quintessence of provincial life.

Kevin Allford, Kate’s former school teacher at St. Andrews Preparatory, noticed Kate’s sunny personality and diligence even at twelve years old.
"[Kate was] well organised, you could rely on her and she was very responsible even at 12 or 13,” said Allford in a BBC interview. “She always had a smile on her face but took everything seriously."
Before she became the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate operated on a nine-to-five routine, working as a buyer for the fashion retailer Jigsaw, as well as helping to manage her parents’ online party business, Party Pieces. However, her attempt at the normal working life familiar to the majority of Britain’s population was a brief stint. Soon, the paparazzi sniffed out her daily routine, and adjusted their schedules (and hiding places) accordingly.
Splashes on the front pages of Britain’s ruthless tabloids and ambushes on the way to work at eight-fifteen every morning were the crowning glories of media harassment for the very private Kate. When enough became enough, the royal family pleaded with the media to give the girl some space, finally threatening legal action.

The paparazzi clampdown after her twenty-fifth birthday afforded Kate some much-needed privacy, but public interest in the Prince’s long-term girlfriend remained rife.

“She’d been on the front pages for so long, yet no one had ever heard her speak,” said Tom Bradby after his ITV interview with the couple.

Kate and her new husband are scheduled to visit Canada and California in the summer on their first official tour as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As a testament to the couple’s ‘no frills’ policy, Kate has opted to travel without the attendance of a lady-in-waiting. A source has described the outwardly posh Kate as ‘very low maintenance.’

“She did her own wedding-day make-up and is confident in doing her make-up for the cameras,” said the source.
Kate’s understated charm has been praised by royal commentators and personal friends alike. She remains poised in the surge of flashbulb attention. With flawless ease, she smiles with a film-star quality that surpasses her small-town origins. Her effortless laugh infects those she greets at public appearances, while her manners reflect her personal sincerity.
“Her natural personality is discretion,” said Claudia Joseph of Kate, who wrote the Duchess’ first biography entitled Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting. “She’s similar in personality to William – she’s not going to upstage him.”

The lack of scandal surrounding the Duchess of Cambridge is bound to be a collective exhale for the Royal Family’s inner circle. Media hype may have exploited the enigma of Kate in the past, but it is unquestionably her quiet dignity that silences the ever-watchful press and keeps the pages of gossip columns bare of incriminating print.
The real Kate Middleton is somewhat of a mystery, garnered by royal titles, imperial fly-byes and jubilating crowds. Her public image is subject to speculation, but for some reason it is not difficult to feel that one knows her.  Insiders certainly agree:

“She’s just one of the people – perfect royal material, because she’s not got much of a past,” one insider commented. “She’s patient, she’s got beautiful manners and the fact that’s she’s not very exciting has only got to be in her favour because she’s not going to make any mistakes that way.”

At Etretat.

Etretat, commune of Seine-Maritime department, Haute-Normandie, France.

A place of many muses, it has been home and inspiration to artists such as Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin and Gustave Courbet centuries over. Etretat's famous cliffs, sublime and naturally formed, have also featured in literature. Others have come to the scenic village in search of subject matter - art collectors, historians, philosophers and novelists alike have sought solace and contemplation in the rugged landscape and pebbly beaches of the enigmatic seaside town.

The cries of gulls, forlorning in the chilly winter air, resonate over the sheer cliffs. The town is empty in winter, when its thriving tourism trade has quietened, and holidaymakers have resided to the city, awaiting the summer so that they may return to Etretat. The waves ursurp the pebbles on the beach, and large seabirds wade in the Northern waters in search of something to fill their wintry bellies.

I need something to warm me up. We find a quiet tavern in the village. I cradle my chocolat chaud in my chilled hands.

I imagine Monet's painting as I gaze upon the cliffs. The very same cliffs, I think to myself, that inspired such beauty at the hands of artists decades before me. They haven't changed. We have.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Die Antwoord Opening Act Finally Succumbs to Progeria

Die Antwoord collaborator and the world's oldest documented progeria survivor Leon Botha passed away Sunday, 5 June after complications arose from the rare disease. His death followed his 26th birthday, which he had celebrated just a day before.

The floods of condolences posted on his Facebook page remember Botha as 'inspirational, with a zest for life.'

Die Antwoord Collaborator Leon Botha Dies at 26

Botha's celebrity went global after the viral release of  the Enter the Ninja video, which catapulted the zef electro-rappers into the international spotlight. He was known also for his visual art projects and solo DJ sets at the openings of Die Antwoord's live shows.

"...a highly gifted individual, who in the space of two gallery rooms proved to me that however rare in this age of hedonistic obsessions so rife with nihilistic materialism, he possesses the courage to individuate." - Gavin Du Plessis

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Macarooni and Cheese

I'd just like to say that I am feeling a little hostile about this macaroon adoration trend that seems to be sweeping the blogosphere.

I had my first macaroon back in 2009, and I'll admit I had no idea what they were before then. Also, I had a real macaroon, at a real macaroon shop in France. I had to see it to believe it,  because with my limited French and a broken English attempt at explaining 'ze leetle colour candies' filled with creamy mousse, one had to taste it to believe it.

Since then macaroons have been popularised by Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, who eats them when she's feeling bratty. And of course, every female blogger from here to Seoul seems to have developed a penchant for these delightful meringue confections, and blogs about them too.

Friday, June 3, 2011

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