Thursday, 25 June 2015

Letters to Life, Death and God: Things We Lost in the Fire

Dear Life, Death and God,

I hope you guys are well. I haven't written in a while. I've been busy living, dying and questioning everything. Here we are now, though, and I want to speak to you about loss. I love Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy as you know and I feel like a loser in the sense of Peter Quill's speech near the end of that movie. I am someone who has lost a lot of things. My friends and family are losers in this sense too.

Loss is a large part of the human experience. We lose things like keys and cellphones and that can be annoying. We lose friends and lovers and that can be heartbreaking. We lose people to you, Death and we succumb to grief for ourselves left behind and for them and whatever mysterious end or new beginning you offer. As humans we cannot avoid loss; it seems to be one of the prices we pay for the gift of Life.

Loss has been on my mind a lot lately. I look at my life up to this point and realise just how much I have lost and when I weigh it all up against everything I have gained I'm not sure how I feel. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for everything I have and my life is rather charmed in its own weird way. It seems that I've had to lose quite a great deal to get to where I am now. Life seems to be very much like a game of chess in which you sacrifice pieces to win the game. I have been thinking about those pieces lately, the things we lost in the fire as Bastille puts in their song. I miss my sacrificed chess pieces because I loved them and I'm a mildly OCD hoarder. Matter matters to me. I miss all my old books, video games and people.

My reference point in life is always stories, especially in the form of books and like any reader worth their salt (I prefer pepper though) I collect books and fill them as much with memories and emotions as they fill me with good stories, bad stories or just outright weird ones. I have lost many books on my journey. I left some of them with good people that I know will love and cherish them and I have left some of them with people I'm sure won't even care what happens to them. I don't know, I'm just feeling nostalgic and sad for my old things and friends.

To tell you the truth, guys, I'm really just scared of what the future holds for me. I'm almost 30 and have not even achieved half the things I dreamt about when I was 18. I live in limbo, I avoid my family as much as possible except now people are dying and I feel guilty about avoiding them and the girl I love lives on another continent. So, yeah, I'm a little scared moving forward. Life, your fire is hot and I don't know whether I will be consumed or refined by your flames.

Lots of people are doing so much better than me and I won't lie, I hate those people. Fuckin' hard working, intelligent, never-give-up-guts assholes! Lots of people are doing worse than me and I'm lucky that I have a job that I like (and seems to like me), my family still tolerates my shit, I have money for food and beer, I have a girl who loves me, I have friends that like me or at least are nice enough to pretend to like me (pretending goes a long way) and though I have moved a million times in the last two years I have a place to sort of call home. Still, fuck you guys a bit for being so demanding! Life with all your shit, Death with you crazy efficiency (you're probably German) and God for all your silence. Fuck me a bit too, though! You guys are not the biggest asshats to me. In fact I'm a huge asshat to myself in many instances.

Anyhoo, that's just what I'm thinking and feeling at the moment. I just feel like a loser right now and just wanted you guys to know and maybe get a hug. I like hugs.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

TheCITY and Tholakele

My original review on

I like cool things as much as the next person . . . okay maybe a little more than the next person and last week Thursday I got to go see a pretty cool thing. I was at The Waiting Room on Long Street to see two bands that I’d never heard of before but sounded interesting so I gathered my entourage (I have them just lying around) and with the promise of beer and good music we headed for The Waiting Room to see TheCITY and Tholakele. I’m glad to report back that my promise of beer and good music was fulfilled because both bands blew me away and I had a rocking good time. You should check both bands out some time.

The Waiting Room is the sort of grungy and intimate place that draws in cool and artsy people and the crowd consisted of these kinds of individuals. The setting was cosy with comfy chairs placed facing the small stage and there was some space for people to dance it up should the music move them. This was the sort of gig where people get to chatting with each other and the bands, making friends and just having a good time jamming to some cool sounds.

Tholakele were first to grace the stage with their African Jazzy sound. Bronwen Clacherty is the leading lady and vocalist of the band and her voice is just amazingly rich and with the band performing songs like Ngqo Ngqo Ngqo, Nozimama and Nyemamusasa they really are an act that is representative of South Africa’s linguistic and cultural diversity. Bronwen also showcased some remarkable usage of traditional instruments like bows and something that I’m 93.4% sure is a mbira in adding an African flavour to their music. Bronwen studied at The South African College of Music, University of Cape Town and explored musical areas such as Jazz Vibraphone, Classical Percussion, Cuban Percussion and African Instruments focusing on South African bows. You can catch some of the songs Tholakele performed on the night on her Facebook page. You can also catch her hanging out in the Twitter streets: @Bronwenclack.

TheCITY closed off the night on a very high note with their heart pumping Future Afro style. The band is made up of Bonj Mpanza on vocals and her voice is powerful and downright haunting. Clement Carr works magic on the keys, Ryan McArthur rocks out on bass and Ruby Crowie drives the truck on drums. I was looking forward to this performance after I had their song, Long for You stuck in my head from listening to it the previous evening on These guys are the epitome of cool and every single song they played had me singing along, tapping my feet and bobbing my head along to the music. My favourite three were Long for You, Nguwe and Something Sweet. You can download their EP on iTunes and it’s pretty damn amazing! 

TheCITY and Tholakele are two rocking bands and my entourage and I had a great time at their gig. As I’d said before, if you have time and they are in the area it’s well worth your while to pop in and listen to some good music.

TEDx Table Mountain

My original piece on

Africa is the continent that gave birth to the human race, it is a place of abundant natural wealth and it is a place of great beauty. By rights Africa should be the Eden of our planet but, alas, it is not. When the rest of the world thinks of Africa they think of war, poverty, laziness and people who are late for appointments. The rest of the world either looks down on us or sees us as some sort of charity case. South Africa, like many African states is a place of vast wealth and crippling poverty all in one place. TEDxTableMountain, like all TEDx events all over the globe, is an independently organised event that looks to get people together in the spirit of nurturing ideas worth spreading. TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading good ideas. It started as a four-day conference in California some 26 years ago and has since spread to the rest of the word, even darkest Africa. The idea is that thinkers and doers are asked to give a talk in 18 minutes that will share a great idea. Independent events are organised under the TEDx name with support from TED. So although Africa has many problems there are many individuals working hard and working smart to address our problems. TEDx TableMountain hosted their second event on Monday night, 25 May and the theme was: Journeys of Excellence. 25 May is also Africa Day so what better way to celebrate the continent than listening to a great line-up of speakers explore ideas that can help ease some of our problems or at least start a conversation that will pave the way to solutions.

This year’s TEDx TableMountain event took place at the Artscape Theatre and curator, Candice Pelser (@CandicePelser) and her team did a great job organising the event. I’m a super nerd for any event where people share ideas and dragged my ever suffering girlfriend with me to the event. We were welcomed with a ‘passport’ to the talks each and some other cute freebies and it was all rather cool. The crowd was massive and everyone looked excited to be there as they stood around chatting. We had to wait a bit longer than expected to be seated because the previous Africa Day event ran a bit longer than anticipated. Once everyone was inside the theatre and seated we were ready to go. Some important and somewhat familiar looking people could be seen in the front rows, the most recognizable being Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille. I made a mental note to take a selfie with her later.

Our Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening was the beautiful, delightful and super enthusiastic Chi Mhende (@chi_mhende). The evening saw some powerful performances by the Ikapa Youth Dance Theatre (, Derek Gripper (@derekgripper) translating great African composers whose music is passed down for generations but never written down and the group, Whispers of Wisdom (@Whisperzofwiz) delivering a performance that inspires Africans, especially the youth, to dream bigger than is expected of them. The overarching theme on the evening was that even though South Africa and the rest of Africa are facing serious and very large problems Africans can step up to the plate and through individual and collaborative journeys of excellence we can rise above those problems.

The speakers were made up of Dr Gubela Mji who spoke about her experience working as a researcher collecting data about how to improve the lives of disabled people but then seeing that research just being stored up in shelves and never being used for anything. She formed a network with other researchers and like-minded individuals to take all the data just sitting around and started exploring ways to make the date accessible enough so as to actually be useful in improving the lives of disable people. Paul Mesarcik (@paulmesarcik) showed a device that he and his team created to detect shack fires before they spread and leave many people homeless. The device is called Lumkani, which loosely translates from Xhosa to English as everyone beware. Dr Llewellyn Padayachy, a paediatric neurosurgeon spoke about his research into non-invasive techniques to diagnose and guide the treatment of critical conditions affecting the brain, especially in poor communities in which many people can’t afford expensive surgeries for diagnosing such conditions. Dr Tindile Booi is a qualified medical doctor and now works in a psychiatric context and helps children from difficult backgrounds and teenagers affected by HIV cope with their situations and helps them believe that life is worth living. One of the ways she does this is interactive storytelling. Dr Tindile Booi’s talk/performance was my favourite of the evening and her way of telling stories, singing and dancing is a thing of beauty to behold.

Shadreck Chirikure is Associate Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeological Materials Laboratory at the University of Cape Town and he addressed the negative view that people have of Africa as never having produced any technology. He explored some old findings to the contrary and showed that Africa has produced some advanced technology through its history. Continuing with the technological trend Prof Robert van Zyl showcased the CubeSat he worked on with his students. The CubeSat is a nanosatellite in the shape of a cube that can be sent into Space at relatively low cost. Joseph Wamicha, a young man after my own heart, spoke about how the idea of deeper space exploration and eventually colonisation is not just the stuff of science fiction but something we can work on right now. The Earth’s resources are finite, as we know very well here in Africa, but if we could look beyond the Earth and tap into the bountiful resources of the universe we could solve many conflicts here on Earth.

What I took away from the evening is that Africa is more than just a place of darkness and backward thinking. Yes, we have problems but Africans are more than capable of surmounting those problems with the wealth of resources we have. Not resources in terms of gold of silver but rather our human capital. Africans know hardship but this is also what makes us more resourceful and think outside of the box. Africans can be excellent and be a force of good change in the world. Events like TEDx TableMountain are very important because they provide us with the platform to get together and discuss our problems and our ideas for solving them.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Casual Vacancy TV Miniseries

I finished reading JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy earlier this year after avoiding it for a while but then Christmas happened and I got book vouchers as a gift and the book was on sale at the local bookstore. Christmas made me do it! I enjoyed the book though, it was lots of fun to read. Nothing like Harry Potter, of course. JK Rowling is allowed to write other things, you know ;). It was more like Game of Thrones lite with more normal seeming crazy people (they are all batshit certified).

The Casual Vacancy is the story of a small English town largely populated by petty adults and petty school children, all of them preoccupied or affected by petty small town politics in some way. Everyone in this story is downright crazy on some level. JK Rowling knows how to tell a good story, she's not popular for no good reason.

Anyhoo, I see that The Casual Vacancy made it onto TV in the form of a miniseries as a joint production by HBO and the BBC. The series consists of three 60-minute episodes and was aired from 15 February to 01 March this year. The series is directed by Jonny Campbell, who has directed a few episodes of Spooks, Doctor Who and the film, Alien Autopsy. The screenplay is by Sarah Phelps who writes for the soap opera, EastEnders.

Some of the names that comprise the cast are Rory Kinnear as Barry Fairbrother, Emily Bevan as Mary Fairbrother. Michael Gambon who played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies plays the rather sinister Howard Mollison in the series. Julia McKenzie plays his equally conniving wife, Shirley Mollison. Keeley Hawes plays Samantha Mollison. Lolita Chakrabarti portrays Parminder Jawanda and Silas Carson her husband, Vikram Jawanda.

From the two trailers I saw the show looks like it could be fun and I will be getting my mittens on it soon.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Tech Talk Cape Town: Drones & Drumloops

I was at Tech Talk Cape Town on Wednesday night and wrote a little something so you can go see what a great and informative time you missed out on. Shame on you!

Check it out and if you are in Cape Town keep an eye out and swing by for the next event.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Winter is Coming!

Winter is coming . . . Well, here in South Africa winter is actually coming but no one cares about that because the winter that really matters brings with it fear. To quote Old Nan: “Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.” That is winter, Game of Thrones style, my sweet summer child and we cannot wait.

There be dragons!
It seem that pirates with even more cunning than Salladhor Saan could not wait either and leaked the first four episodes of Season 5. Game of Thrones is already the most pirated show in the world and it looks like this is not about to change. This is a really harsh blow for HBO though as the pirates are now a whole four weeks ahead of everyone and it's likely that the interwebs will be overrun with spoilers in the next few weeks. If you are not a pirate and want to avoid spoilers I would suggest that you avoid going online in any way and just lock yourself in a dark room for the next few weeks. Another blow to HBO is that they timed the release of their standalone streaming service, HBO Go with the release of the new season. This meant that those without cable TV could watch the show at the same time as everyone else but now the pirates are way ahead. 

Season 5 is being aired simultaneously here in South Africa as it is in the US and kicks off tonight at 21:00 on HBO, which translates to 03:00 tomorrow morning here. Catch it on DStv's M-Net Edge, channel 102. If you are not a crazy fan person (seriously, you aren't?) you can catch the episodes on Thursday nights at 21:00 on M-Net Edge as well, starting off from 16 April.

Daenerys Targaryen, everyone's favourite Khaleesi

I feel rather bad for HBO with the whole piracy thing and I hope they have a clever response that won't leave viewers who aren't pirates out in the cold.

Anyhoo, another year and another season of our favourite show. Enjoy, everybody. Also, it seems Jon Snow still knows nothing even when he's invited to a dinner party.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marvel's Daredevil (The Man With No Fear)

Do you guys remember how Ben Affleck ruined Daredevil back in 2003? He was after all responsible for everything wrong in that movie: writing the script, directing the thing, playing Elektra. . . Just everything! Poor sap. The dude made a poor choice in accepting the role, for sure but let's let it go. . . Okay we can let it go after you watch Screen Junkies' hilarious Honest Trailer for Daredevil. Then we can all forgive Batfleck for his portrayal of Marvel's man with no fear as we wait to see him as DC's man with no fear in 2016.

In other news Marvel Studios sure know how to make good movies and their TV efforts are quite okay. They add Daredevil to their cinematic universe and it looks really great. Charlie Cox (The Theory of Everything) is our leading man this time around. All 13 episodes of Season 1 are available on Netflix as of today so prepare to binge-watch, you filthy little glutton, you. Netflix hates us a bit down here in sunny South Africa so let's see how it goes.

The Furious 7

The Furious 7

My Furious 7 review on This movie is just great. Go out and see it.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Uber Cool

You know how in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun orbited by an utterly insignificant little blue green planet at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles? And you know how the ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea? Well, being a member of those life forms I am sad to admit that I am always late to the party. I still think analogue watches are a pretty neat idea. Anyhoo, all I am saying is that I am behind when it comes to all the cool things. The current cool thing is the Uber taxi service that originated in the good ol’ US and has since been spreading in major cities around the world. I live in Cape Town and tried the service out yesterday and it was pretty freakin’ rockstar as all hell!

I live in Cape Town’s CBD and though the public transport is better than what you’d find in my home city, Johannesburg, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Living in the CBD it’s easiest for my housemates and I to get around using cab services, which are quite cheap in and around the city but are rarely on time and some of the companies have vehicles that are nowhere near roadworthy. Some of the companies provide great service though but the thing that really grinds my gears is when meter taxis refuse to use their meters! I hate having to haggle for a fair price every time I’m out and just want to get home. Then there are the overpriced meter at Waterfront that make me want to pull the little hair I have out. The driver tells you his meter charges R10.00 a km and 5 km later the meter is sitting on R100.00! These things make me very angry so I was pretty happy to give Uber a go.

Get to the UberCHOPPER! 

The whole service is quite seamless. You download the app and add your credit card details. Some people are a bit concerned about this part but I figure I buy stuff online on the regular and trust all those folks with my details so I’ll give this a go. It’s still early days though so if something shady does go down with my bank account I will let you know and we can go to Uber’s house together and beat them up. Once that’s done you’re ready to ride. I got my first ride free because of the whole referral thing they have going on. If you refer a friend to the service and they enter your promo code you both get R90.00 free credit. A friend referred me so that was pretty nice. I see they have an offer of R150.00 a referral for both parties now so support a Charlie boy and enter my promo code when you sign up: mnqxg. I love me some free stuff and I bet you do too.

Anyhoo, once you’re all signed up and want go out you simply request one of three types of rides: UberX, UberXL or UberBLACK. X is the normal one and you get something in the line of a TOYOTA COROLLA, HONDA BRIO AMAZE SEDAN or VOLKSWAGEN POLO picking you up and it’s charged at a base fee of R5.00, R0.70 per minute in addition to R7.00 a km. The minimum fare is R20.00. The XL is an SUV when you want to bring more of the gang along and is charged at the same rate as the XL but with a minimum fare of R30.00. The last option, the BLACK is the classy one where you get picked up in a BMW 3-SERIES, AUDI A4 or MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS. It’s R15.00 base fee, R1.10 per minute in addition to R11.00 per km if you feel like balling. If you feel the need to channel your inner Arnie and yell, "Get to the chopper!" Uber has you covered with their UberCHOPPER service. I'm not sure on the pricing for this one though.

The GPS in the app picks up where you are (you can adjust if it gets the location a little wrong) and then you can type your destination in and it shows you an estimate of the costs for the vehicle type you’d like to use. If you’re happy you just click to request a taxi and they send you the details and photo of the nearest driver. They even show you the driver’s location as they drive to you on the map. When the taxi arrives you get a text and are ready to be on your merry way. I took to UberX service and got picked up in the HONDA and it was very pleasant. The driver didn’t drive at breakneck speed, he asked if my partner and I would like the aircon on and it was just all very professional. The driver on the way back even had bottles of still water in cool holders in the car. When you jump out at your destination you don’t worry about paying and arguing over price. You get an email with a receipt of your trip and how much you were charged. In the app you get to rate the driver as well.

My first Uber experience was uber cool and I’d recommend it to the masses. Download the app and give it a bash. Enter my promo code and both of us get R150.00 credit: mnqxg.

Stay cool.