Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday Morning Saturday Morning Slow Jams

Good morning furry friendlings :).

(Well, it's still morning in Cape Town as I jot this down.)

It's Monday, it's cold and rainy. Needless to say I'd rather be home all sorts of curled up in bed with the last few pages of Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor before plunging back into my annual trip to Middle-earth.

Alas, it isn't so and work needs to be done. We are allowed to work with smiles on our faces though and that's what these Saturday Morning Slow Jams are bringing me on a Monday Morning.


That's a whopping five videos in one go! That's even cooler than Steve Sweat.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Throwing Our Storytelling Toys

I went to go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier some time ago and it was the best movie I saw thus far this year and that made me think about toys and storytelling. Sitting in that dark cinema watching a remarkably good comic book movie I realised that we are living in the best time in terms of seeing things that you could only imagine translated into visual stories.

Growing up reading fiction novels and comic books many people of my generation are at home living in their heads. All you needed to keep you busy for hours was a Lego set. Older generations can boast that they only needed a stick and a stone and that’s fine too. The point is that we were all happy mucking around with sticks or Lego blocks and building these vast landscapes in our minds where robots battled it out with monsters or whatever else. But then we grew up . . . We grew up and our toys were discarded and left to gather dust in a garage but we didn’t discard our imaginations.

Our movies, books, video games and even our toys are taken from the things we loved as children. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies may not have had good plots but I absolutely adore them for their visuals. Every single time I see an Autobot or Decepticon transform I smile. Those are the visuals that I had in my head as a child every time I played with a Transformers action figure or watched the cartoon. To this day I can’t get over how CGI took images I could only see in my head and plastered them onto screens. There’s a little magic about it. It’s like pizza, even if it’s bad it’s still nice to have.

Stories and how we tell them has always been very fascinating to me.  Movies are big business and Hollywood has gone back to your childhood to dig up all your old toys and is telling those stories on the big screen and it works for the most part. Marvel has successfully translated many of its comic franchises into film and they have many plans going forward. Guardians of the Galaxy is their next venture and they sure are being adventurous because the characters aren’t well known by general audiences. Marvel is good at taking their quirkier franchises and making good films though. When Iron Man came out lots of people didn’t know who he was.

DC is not having as good a time with their offerings failing more often than not but Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy sure did set the benchmark for gritty, realistic superhero movies. Everyone and their dog loves Batman but even as a kid reading the comics, watching the cartoons and playing with the action figures you know that the idea of a running around fighting crime dressed as a bat is ridiculous. Batman is probably my favourite comic book character but I’m the first to admit that he is the most ridiculous of the superheroes. You buy into though because it’s fun. Then Nolan sells it to you in a straight-up serious setting and it works. If you didn’t have a guy dressed as a bat the movies could simply be good action/thriller stories. Marvel did a great job with placing Captain America in a realistic setting in Winter Soldier as well. Take away the star spangled costume and Winter Soldier is just a really good spy flick. It’s an interesting dynamic, that, taking stories people think are for children and selling them to adults (and children still) as fun shoot-‘em-ups or taking them seriously as stories that could be entirely plausible.

Sad Batman is sad because he knows he is ridiculous.
No worries, we still love you, bro'.
It’s a great time to be alive and to see things you loved as a kid being reincarnated in ways that make you love them again or make you want to hire a squad of ninja pirates to assassinate everyone involved in ruining your favourite comic book (guys behind Green Lantern, I’m referring to you). You even get charming things like The Lego Movie! We’re throwing all our storytelling telling toys in the sandpit and having a great time playing with or just peeing on them. Life’s good.

Monday, 19 May 2014

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...

culturecrit: Democracy on a Cellphone: Social Media's Role in t...: How technology, social media and the internet intersect with democracy during voting season in South Africa.

When I'm not too busy jamming to my beloved Saturday Morning Slow Jams I'm over at Culturecrit thinking how cool thumbies are and what it is to be a voting citizen in a democratic country . . . well, democratic for the most part.

Head on over and give my article a read and share your thoughts if you have any.

Now I can go back to telling you about those Slow Jams.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chip 'n Dale Saturday Slow Jam

It's those lovable chipmunks, Chip 'n Dale's turn to feature in a slow jam and it's all good in the hood.

Enjoy :).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Duck Tales Saturday Morning Slow Jam

Saturday mornings are when I sleep in till late in the afternoon and then wake up to bacon and eggs. I love Saturday mornings and they've just become better with Saturday Morning Slow Jams. This is one of the best things on the interwebs for me right now!

These guys kick you right in the childhood.

Vibe out to some Duck Tales lovin':

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

SA launches Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day

SA launches Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day

Click to view

The wonderful people over at Nal'ibali are launching a Charter on Children's Literacy Rights on World Book Day, Wednesday April 23, 2014. Reading through it made me smile and think how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to grow up reading.

Growing up I was a tall, skinny and nerdy kid. In primary school I was the only black kid in an Afrikaans school just straight after South Africa's first democratic elections. This was, of course, a weird period for everyone. My family was (and still mainly is) poor and I didn't really know it until I was in high school and when I knew it I was so used to not feeling poor that it didn't bother me much.

My life is very similar to that of many black kids from the time but it's also very different. I fell in love with reading, you see. I fell in love with stories and I would get my hands on them by all means possible. I spent hours at the library reading. Getting my first library card was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. That library card gave me access to dragons and spaceships.

I experienced bullying in school and hid in the library with my stories till I learnt a little courage from the lives of bullied characters in books. I read about standing up for yourself and over time got around to doing it. I looked up to the kids in the Narnia books, Tolkien's brave little hobbits and drew strength from Harry Potter and his friends. Many books continue inspire me to have a little more courage.

I experienced racism (from white kids and coloured kids in school) and didn't understand why it was happening. I was different and I didn't know why and so I read about racism and prejudice. I read till I understood enough not to be angry but to try and reach out and build friendships with people who didn't know what to do with the only black kid in school. I ended up making some great friends from all backgrounds in South Africa and many other corners of the world. Racism (from all sides) is still a big issue in South Africa but we are learning to love and understand each other a little over time and we should not allow ourselves to slide back into hatred. Nelson Mandela's writing is a wonderful look at overcoming hatred based on fear of people different from you. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom he wrote:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

When I had no money to do the things that other kids did, I read books and those stories took me to places more interesting than what reality had to offer. I have nothing against reality but I learnt to escape into fantasy realms and space age futures that just have a little more to offer. I learnt how to navigate reality by navigating fantasy and sci-fi.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: 

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape? . . . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

This has been true for me. People thought I was weird and life would get hard because I was also a bit shy and awkward but I didn't mind because I had my books and the wonderful stories in them. I rarely got lonely because books kept me company. When given half a chance I did escape with as many people as I could. I talked about stories till people became sick of hearing about them and went and read them for themselves.

I spoke only Afrikaans and Xhosa as a child and learnt English by reading English. This did result in a lot of confusion with pronunciation and funny things tended to happen when I spoke English to native speakers. Now I speak English better than I do Afrikaans or Xhosa! So now I'm reading more in Afrikaans and Xhosa to balance it out.

I learnt more from books than I did from my family, friends and teachers.

I'm still a little shy and awkward. I'm still weird. But I have managed to convince some people that this is alright and so I have many more friends now than I had starting out. I have done more stuff now but I still love books and reading continues to be one of the most enjoyable and informative activities for me.

Books and the stories they contain are the best thing to have happened to me and every child in the world deserves a chance to discover and fall in love with that magic. This is not the case but we should always strive towards reaching that goal. I work in publishing now and work with children's and youth books and that is my way of trying to keep spreading the magic of stories.

Organisations like Nal'ibali, PUKU, WOW and IBBY (who have invited me to join their Executive Committee, which they don't realise is my first step to world dominance) are doing great things to make books easily accessible to children. Help these organisation if you can or just read to a random kid in the street. The latter suggestion could make for a creepy situation though.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Head in the Clouds: Embrace the Quiet

I like living in my head and I know you love living in your head. Society tends to makes us think that this is a silly thing to do and that exploring your inner life is not cool. Fuck that! Being an introvert's cool, yo. Ask Susan Cain, she totally agrees and she knows some stuff.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Winter is Coming!

"The Starks are always right, eventually. Winter is coming."

It is upon us, in fact.

The first episode of Season 4 aired last Sunday night in the US and we, here in sunny South Africa, will be getting it from the 18th of April. Needless to say that we are all very excited for new episodes of the show that has gotten many a fantasy hating soul into the genre. This could have something to do with fact that you see a lot of boobs in the show but the convoluted and fun plot does eventually win over boobs (not taking anything away from boobs, they are one of life's coolest things). It's also morbidly exciting to see which of your favourite characters will get killed off next because George R.R. Martin clearly takes the whole Valar morghulis business seriously.

Since winter actually is approaching here in SA I decided to spend as many of the precious sunny days we have left being a beach bum. I've been lying on the beach getting all kinds of excited about one of the best shows on TV right now and recapping on the previous three seasons when I get home. This is the one show I'm glad to see without having read the books beforehand. There are just so may unexpected deaths and surprises that it's nice to be genuinely surprised for once.

The best thing about the show is the grey morality. There are extremely good characters and extremely evil characters but most just hover in that grey area between good and evil. You spend a lot of time hating people for being such tools and then you find yourself liking them a few more episodes in. Everyone's out for vengeance or power and you spend a lot of time rooting for people and then switching sides because they are entirely stupid or they get killed. It's interesting to see how the story will unfold because there is so much happening in the fringes that no one seems to care about: dragons, wildlings; creepy, undead guys called White Walkers and even more creepy, and possibly undead, guys called the Others. Shit is real and everyone squabbling over a super uncomfortable throne made of sharp swords! By the time the story reaches a climax everyone might be dead.

I've met people who don't like the show because they don't like fantasy in general (which is fine) or they are hipsters and hate anything mainstream even if it's actually good. The haters seem to complain that the show is mainly about sex. This is not true. The show does have a lot of sex and but it's also rather violent. It still bothers me that people are cut up about sex but are fine with violence . . . The show is more than sex and violence though. The story takes elements like sex, violence, politics, magic and dubious morality and plays with them in interesting ways. This is why we like stories as a race, they let us experience things in ways which we normally would not.

Don't be an asshat and let your kids watch the show unless you're a super cool parent who actually teaches your kids about mature issues. You really can't blame GoT for the way your kids or pets turn out. Take some responsibility once in your life. If you hate the show that's fine, just don't watch it. Also, try and hide from all the fans because they will chew your ear off about it. The whole thing's like Breaking Bad all over again ;).

For everyone else, enjoy Season 4.   

Monday, 7 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If there is one thing you must do with your life today it's going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's lots of fun and you will love it.

Read my review for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Make it happen.

P.S. Some cool things you might not have noticed whilst watching the movie.