Saturday, October 30, 2010

The real reason Disney bought Marvel revealed

The news earlier this year that Disney bought comic superhouse Marvel was met with shock but their intention has finally been revealed. Meet Iron - Lightyear!


Subsequent collaborations will see Mickey Mouse infused with an Adamantium skeleton and a sit com based (very) loosely on Beauty and the Beast with the Hulk shacking up with Cinderella. They are currently working with the title, " You no cook, Hulk smash!"

The Brothers Grimm made me do it!

A Florida woman, Alexandra Tobias, 22, admitted shaking her 3-month old baby to death after the little boy's crying distracted her form playing a wildly popular Facebook game. She confessed to police that she was playing Farmville and her baby Dylan wouldn't stop crying so she shook him, had a cigarette and then shook him again. She called paramedics when he stopped breathing and doctors later confirmed that he had died due to abusive head trauma.

It appears the media has this time decided to indirectly assign the blame for this on Farmville as opposed to a hard rock album she may have been listening to or a violent game wherein one is encouraged to perform acts of violence (admittedly I have never played Farmville and am therefore unsure of the violence content i.e are you allowed to rustle cattle from nearby farms or flog farm-hands who are not pulling their weight). It appears that whenever callous brutal crimes such as these are carried out, the media needs to blame something other than 'just plain psycho' for surely no human being could just do something like this without an external influence. By attaching the Farmville angle makes the story that much more viral because this kind of crime (shockingly) is more common than one would like to believe and the only reason we are hearing about it here in South Africa is because of the Farmville angle.

The story did get me thinking as to whether classic children stories were ever blamed for violent crimes that may have been perpetrated in history because the Brothers Grimm (an apt name) were responsible for the popularising of some shocking tales. Let us take for an example, the story of Hansel and Gretel which I had the unfortunate task of reading to my daughter a few weeks ago. I will quote an extract from the story below;

'We have not enough bread for the two of us,' he told his wife one night. 'What about the children?'

'Better off without them,' she said. 'Take them to the forest and leave them to get lost.'

'We can't do that,' said the woodcutter. 'They will be eaten by the wolves and bears.'

'Then you had best get our coffins ready now,' she said. 'We will all be done for soon enough.'

She nagged him and argued with him and in the end persuaded him, much against his will.

This was transcribed directly from a book called Classic Children's Stories and I am confident that there can be no copyright infringement because the Grimm's brothers themselves never wrote a fairy tale but merely saw a market, collated some folktales, and controversially some that were in print but authored by others, and published them as a collection of stories for children. The plots in these stories are morbid and distrurbing as shown clearly by the story of Hansel and Gretal above or the story of Snow White whose stepmother wanted her murdered because her skin was fairer. By far the worst has to be the original version of Sleeping Beauty which included rape, necrophilia, adultery, intended canabilism and murder. A group of fairies were also however integral to the plot!

I think it is about time that these fairy tales are benched and replaced by more wholesome ones as it is extremely difficult to read ahead whilst reading out loud and modify these stories on the fly all whilst trying to be entertaining to your little one. If not, then we should accept these potential movie adapted children's books in the near future. (I am trying to be satirical here and obviously do not which to see these movies made into children's books. It could make a funny adult satire though). These were done by Josh Cooley, an animation artist at Pixar.








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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Moses Mabhida Experience

I treated the staff in my department to a tour of our great stadium today to make up for not getting them cake on my birthday (It was very late, I know). The tour was awesome, so I wrote something for Durban Live (not sure if they are going to use it) and thought I'd share it here as well.

 
The Moses Mabhida Experience

I was extremely privileged to have attended two matches at the Moses Mabhida Stadium (Germany's thrashing of Australia in our cities opening game and the Round of 16 match, where Holland (or Netherlands, never sure which one is applicable) broke Slovakian hearts in their march towards the Final of the FIFA World Cup. So the prospect of attending the general tour of the stadium did not fill me with excitement because unlike the professional tour it did not include access to the VIP presidential suite or the state of the art change rooms. It was refreshing to see that, even a know-it-all like myself, can still be proven wrong.

For a mere R20 (Children – R15 and kids under 6 free) for a 40 minute highly entertaining tour of one of our cities most distinctive landmarks, seriously, do I need to further convince anyone. You are encouraged to take pictures or even videotape the entire tour but no video could replicate the feeling you get walking into the stadium proper. Even if you had been to on of the World Cup matches, that view still takes your breath away. We did however also take numerous pictures; running on the pitch, emerging from the tunnel, sitting in the dug-out. The tour guide was immensely funny and highly informative and appeared to genuinely enjoy his job and that made the experience all the more better.

Everything today is all about the money but it honestly feels like the people involved with the management of the stadium are sincerely interested in sharing this experience with as many people as possible. School tours are free and if combined with a visit to Mitchell Park, even rural schoolchildren could get an amazing school excursion for only the cost of the transport to get there. I can only imagine what the view from the viewing platform atop the stadium is like, but I will not be imagining long because I suspect that I will be taking my family back there soon. A trip to the viewing platform with the skycar costs R50 (kids – R25 and kids under 6 free). Admittedly, the only thing that is a tough sell for me is the “Adventure Walk” where you pay R80 for the privilege of walking the 550 steps to the viewing platform before walking back down again.

The public have free access to the perimeter of the stadium with free performances scheduled to start soon at the amphitheatre and with The Keg and Spear, Nino's, Subway and Cuba Lounge it is safe to assume that most tastes will be catered to. Every resident of Durban should visit our Stadium. All visitors to our city should visit our stadium. In fact, all tourists to our country should take the time to visit our Stadium, because it is without doubt the best in the country and because of it, I believe we finally have a realistic chance of hosting the Olympic Games.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A awesome reply to Gareth Cliff's letter to Government

I have really wanted to write a response to the Gareth Cliff letter to government but Justin Foxton hit the nail on the head with his response.

Justin Foxton's reply to the Gareth Cliff letter

An encounter with Judge Chris Nicholson


 One day a band of robbers attack a bank and the robber goes up to the teller and says, “Give me all the money or you are geography!”

The slightly puzzled, but still very afraid teller asks, “Don't you mean history?”

The robber points his gun in the face of the teller and replies, “Don't try and change the subject”


This was not a joke I overheard from a work-mate at the water-cooler or at an open mike show on a Thursday night (just putting the idea out there cos a regular open mike show in Durban would be awesome). This was the joke that the Honourable Judge Chris Nicholson used to break the ice before delivering his address at the 2010 AGM for Child Welfare – Durban and Districts. It was a sign of great things to come and when he finished, I can assure you that I was not alone in wishing that he could go on as he had succeeded in delivering a very entertaining, thought provoking and informative address.

The only allowable excuse for not knowing who Judge Nicholson is, if:

> You are currently less than 5 years old
> Not a South African, or
> Live with the mole-people in the sewers of Ladysmith.

He is most famous for his crafty spin bowling, excellent sense of humour and a little matter regarding the case of bribery and corruption against former friend of Schabir Schaik, Mr Jacob Zuma. Judge Nicholson in his judgement ruled that the case against Mr Zuma was procedurally flawed and went so far as to state that there was strong evidence to suggest a political motivation for the laying of these charges. His decision was then overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal who sanctioned him for making these allegations. The NPA then did not re-charge Jacob Zuma when evidence emerged that there was in fact a political conspiracy. Enough of that saga as it is a moot point anyways and was rarely mentioned by Judge Nicholson who it appears has a lot more benificial knowledge to offer society.

“What went wrong with homo sapiens?” This was the title of his speech and he effectively began by outlining some statistics as to how us as a species are inferior to even animals when it comes to the care of our fellow human beings and children in particular. He then discussed the evolution of man and during this part of his talk I noticed a lot of uncomfortable shuffling and muttering. The topic of evolution never goes down well with the religious or the elderly. His entire argument was however stunning, entertaining and logical (to me, anyways) but would be too lengthy to try and describe here but the key point was this; We need to free the right side of our brain from the tyrannical left side in order to evolve into a more sympathetic and caring society. Suffice to say, if there is ever a TED event in Durban, he should definitely be invited to speak. He should actually, now that he is in retirement give a lot more talks or if he prefers the quite life start a regular column in one of our papers giving us his insight on current events. He should actually just start a Blog.

I had the pleasure of conversing with him exclusively for almost 15 minutes after the meeting and it was arguably one of the most entertaining and inspiring discussions I had had in a very long time. In that short space of time, we discussed religion, cricket (we may have not agreed on everything but what would be the point in that), The Iraq War, mutual acquaintances (shocking, I know!), TED and his latest book ( he has already authored two other books) on the link between Wagner and Adolf Hitler.

I have already suggested to the communications team at my company that we consider inviting him to talk at one of our many functions and I urge anyone reading this to do the same. I suspect that he is likely to turn down the offer, but on the off chance that he agrees, you can be assured of a very insightful and thought provoking talk which would make the function immensely more attractive and beneficial.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Please save the American soldiers!

 

Today, WikiLeaks, the whistle blower website, released 400 000 'not so secret anymore' US files detailing every aspect of the war in Iraq. Speaking to reporters in Washington earlier today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she condemned "in the most clear terms the disclosure of any information by individuals and or organisation which puts the lives of United States and its partners' service members and civilians at risk". Admittedly she has a very valid point because something like this has the potential to disturb the relatively peaceful life normally associated with an invading army in a foreign land.

The files released today cover a period of six years – from January 1, 2004 to December 31 2009 – and shows that of the 109 000 people who died during this time, only 66 081 were civilians which emphasizes to what great lengths the coalition forces have gone to, to ensure that civilian casualties were minimised. The number of civilian deaths compares favourably to the 2,997 civilian deaths that occurred during the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11 because those were American lives, which in recent trade is valued much higher than everyone else's, and the second amendment of the United States Constitution gives American's the right to bear arms. The Iraqi policy makers have only themselves to blame for leaving this out of their constitution so the American forces in Iraq have every right to search and seize any weapons found in Iraq.

Sarcasm aside, who is genuinely shocked by these revelations of pregnant women being shot dead at checkpoints, priests being kidnapped and murdered and of Iraqi prison guards using electric drills to force their prisoners to confess (I am purposely being vague with the details here)? Reports of this nature have been surfacing throughout the conflict although this has considerable more credibility as the the US did not deny the reports but asked that they be kept secret so that their soldiers and civilians are safe and I agree with them ( I am being serious now). Each of those civilians killed belonged to a family. They were peoples mother's, brothers, sons or daughters and that family is understandably upset with the situation and the perpetrators of this situation. Confirmation that these atrocities are indeed true is going to now make the situation much worse because even the moderates can no longer defend the invasion.

The argument that this “war on terror” would get people to accept “The American way of life” and create worldwide peace in the process is as convincing an argument as the only nation with the courage to drop a nuclear bomb on civilians, asking other nations to disarm their nuclear stockpiles. There are basically three types of responses to this situation. Those against the war finally have the proof they needed to win staffroom/ online forum arguments, those for the war will claim that the reports are falsified (would you believe a person who looks like Julian Assange) or that this is normal during wartime, and those that still cannot believe that WikiPedia did not copyright the “Wiki” prefix!

P.S. For a great article on the history of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange read this article that appeared in the New Yorker Magazine in June this year after the release of video footage from an American Apache helicopter showing the killing of at least 18 people including two Reuters journalists.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ban the Cabbage! Viva Vuvuzela

The recent news that the PSL (of all organisations) is considering banning the vuvuzela from all future PSL games came as a shock especially after the vociferous support it received from SAFA and all “true” South African soccer supporters in the run-up to the World Cup. If one recalls, FIFA actually did ban these devices from the World Cup until SAFA made a presentation and suggested that you would not get a true South African football experience without the Vuvuzela's. Fans like Saddam Maake (you have to love his parents sense of humour), a famous Kaizer Chiefs supporter, was quoted as saying, 
 
No one will stop vuvuzelas and they’re here to stay! I will be the first to be arrested with my vuvuzela if it gets banned from the World Cup games. We have been blowing this instrument for as long as we can remember and no one will tell us what to do.”
Ironically, it was the behaviour of hopefully some other Kaiser Chiefs supporters during the MTN 8 semi-final clash against Orlando Pirates at the FNB Stadium on September 26 that resulted in this threat being issued by PSL Prosecuter Zola Majuvu. The Amakhozi fans are accused of throwing 2 vuvuzela's and a cabbage onto the field and Kaizer Chiefs were thus fined R500 000 which was wholly suspended making it similar therefore to points on the Drew Carey Show i.e. it means nothing. It was great to however see that healthy eating during sporting events appears to be catching on because I have no other explanation as to why someone would come to the great Soweto Derby with a Cabbage! Somebody bringing a cabbage to a game should really be the issue here and raise a lot more eyebrows.
If I had the resources, time, money or creativity I would have done a Daily Show like montage of a politician first supporting the vuvuzela's 6 month's ago as part of his culture and tradition and now saying that there are grave health and safety concerns associated with the device and it should therefore be banned. I remember watching an English Premiership game a few years ago where Wayne Rooney (he of Shrek fame) was celebrating in front of the opposition supporters after scoring a goal and got a cellphone thrown at him. Admittedly our supporters are tame compared to the 'hooligans', but where will it stop. I suspect one person who wishes this kind of thing does not stop is Zola Majuvu because what does a PSL Prosecutor do when there is no one left to prosecute?
I have nothing against the vuvuzela (except when pointed directly at my head from an over eager fan sitting behind me) and in fact think it is a great example of how inventive and resourceful the Chinese are. For those of you unaware, it is reported that as much as 90 % of the Vuvuzela's sold here during the World Cup were made in China. In fact, Chenghai toy manufacturers were quoted as saying that factories were working overtime to meet World Cup demand. In a land were workers are often exploited at minimum wage , I hope SAFA appreciated the impact its' presentation to reverse the banning of the Vuvuzela had on these workers. For those of you still naive enough to believe it was  SAFA's presentation that reversed FIFA's decision on this matter and not the $20 Million trumpet market during the World Cup, I hope the blue pill did not taste as bitter as the red one did!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tinky Winky is gay!






A few years ago there was a huge controversy (as only the right wing evangelical lobby in America can create) that “outed” Tinky Winky (a character from teletubbies for the benefit of those without toddlers) as gay because he was a male that carried around a woman's handbag.The Christian right wing evangelist, Rev Jerry Falwell issued a warning to parents to shield their children from the corrupting influence from the character who is in fact a covert gay role model. I remember thinking at the time that it was hogwash and another example of people looking too deeply into simple things and seeing things that are not really there. Until yesterday, that is.

I overheard a conversation between my daughter (Siddiqa) and the maid and could tell immediately that the maid was in trouble. Siddiqa wanted to know why Tinky Winky carried a handbag if he was a boy. Siddiqa had obviouslly picked this up on her own because I cancelled all my subscriptions to right wing evangelical magazines around the time she was born. The maid, who was now watching the teletubbies for possibly the first time in her life (I hope she does not sue), tried to wrap her mind around what she was seeing and then tried answering. The ensuing conversation was hillarious and I let it go on for a while (cos I am a sadist at times) until I stepped in to resolve the issue. I have already been asked about god, death and what is wrong with people kissing on TV, if I am allowed to kiss her (I am still sidestepping that last one), so this would have been easy.

I explained that children can play with any toy when they are young i.e she plays with toy cars and some of her friends are boys who play with dolls and that there is nothing wrong with that. She accepted my answer but was still confused because Tinky Winky was not a child as he was big. I tried to argue that he is obviously a child which was easy to prove as he happened to be dancing an admittedly gay, child-like dance at the time. I asked her, “ Which grown up do you know that dances like that”, to which she immediately replied with a glint in her eye, 

“You!”.

I was speechless but my wife's laughter from the kitchen ensured that there was no uncomfortable silence. I am beginning to think that the good Reverend was right in warning us parents about the corrupting influence of this character.

Et tu, confused! Then onward performing arts.


(a review of Jay Pather’s Qaphela Caesar)

My wife and I were recently in Cape Town and there where basically two big live shows on. Mama Mia (which we had watched already and I highly recommend) and Qaphela Caesar. Below is my review of the show. What I did not include is the weird encounter I had with an elderly gentleman in the men's toilet of Cape Town's City Hall. To read more about that, read to the end (subtle attempt at getting you to read the whole article. For this to be a success, it would be great if you could temporarily forget how to scroll straight to the bottom of the page. Thanks)

I readily admit to becoming a very late bloomer when it came to the appreciation of the works of William Shakespeare. I chalk it down to a school curriculum that robbed me of the joy of a Shakespearian comedy or the chance to act out a play rather than merely read it in class. At University, a combination of chance, adventure and the unrelenting pursuit to procrastinate all things relating to study found me at the open space theatre for a student production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream and I have been an ardent devotee ever since. I returned annually to the UKZN student’s production (which remains my personal favourite), watched professional productions at the Durban Playhouse and most recently watched a live broadcast (via Satellite) from London’s West End at Cinema Noveau. A description of Jay Pather’s, “Qaphela Caesar”, therefore served to heighten expectation and promised to be a Shakespearian experience never before experienced (by myself). The experience was truly memorable but perhaps not for the reasons I had expected.

The show can best be described as a combination between “The Dark Knight”, “Dancing with the Stars” and (insert your choice of a movie/ production that really confused you here). If lucky, one even caught extracts from Shakespeare’s great historical drama, Julius Caesar! The audience moved from room to room as scenes changed but with no explanation of the characters or the context of each scene, the entire experience felt like a dream as each scene was filled with imagery and performances that captivated the imagination yet eluded understanding. Often, as you began to realise the focus of the scene or the relevance of the imagery, you were ushered into the next room/ scene. I would therefore like to list the following. Don’t watch this show if,

  • You want to watch a contemporary version of Julius Caesar,
  • are more a fan of drama, rather than dance,
  • are elderly or unfit, as physical discomfort may distract from the experience,
  • lugging around a heavy knapsack/ handbag, or
  • wearing clothing that would prevent you from either sitting on the floor or walking on concrete stepping stones (true story).

Having said all that, once the viewer relinquishes any intent on watching a modern rendition of Julius Caesar, the performance becomes very powerful and impressive. The dance sequences were well choreographed and the experience of moving from scene to scene was unusual yet refreshing. The highlights of the show were my Cape Town acting debut, where I was briefly asked to read the part of Brutus (an excellent execution of audience participation) and Helen Zille’s unique rendition of that famous speech, “Friends, Romans, Countryman”. I later realised that the other audience members did not concur with my highlights, but perhaps they were tired and therefore unable to see the diamond in the rough.

Although Jay Pather’s vision in the telling of this epic tragedy may have overshot the Cuckoo’s nest, her ingenuity in scene transition, choreography and sheer bravery should not be overlooked. The cast were brilliant and came together perfectly in a compelling performance. The dancers were passionate, the vocalists hauntingly brilliant and the actress who read out critical passages from the play simply outstanding. Another actress who deserves mention is the lady who played the role of Portia, as she managed to be recognizable as a character in the play, even in the absence of dialogue. I would highly recommend the experience to all who are fit enough to undertake it but would recommend re-acquainting yourself with the play before attending.

Interview with a Ghost

Before the show, I went to the men's room and as I entered I saw this elderly european gentleman, who had a glass of wine and was about to sit on a sofa (It was that kind of men's room).

This is better than sex”, he said.

I immediately replied that he obviously had not had good sex in a while ( I still don't understand why I said this), to which he responded that it had been 8 years since the last time. I concluded my business and on my way out he told me,

Rush home now, the Police are coming.”
I smiled politely so that he would think I got his joke. He then repeated the warning, looking at me directly and intently. It was at this point when I made the obvious conclusion that this guy was a ghost ( Spooky building + old guy talking weird = ghost) and walked, very briskly, back to the crowd. During the performance, I saw his again with his wife and finally admitted the experience to my wife. Lesson learnt: Do not make conversation with strangers in the toilet of Cape Town City Hall

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Priorities

Currently watching the third season of 30 Rock and hence I have no time to write anything substantial for today's blog. This will be a common occurrence as I have no willpower when it comes to TV and if I were to compare my priorities to a game of paper, rock, scissors, then TV would have to be a Nuclear Bomb.

In all fairness today was just a normal uneventful kind of day and I did not feel inspired to write about anything. 

P.S. I really hope that mentioning the word "bomb" on my blog does not put me on some terror list. Furthermore, I hope mentioning it twice now does not make me any more of a threat!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bloemfontein - Where childhood lives on



(N.B. I have no intention of making this a travel blog. It is purely co-incidental that I started the blog yesterday and travelled to Bloemfontein today)

For someone who is such a strong advocate of taking the time to fully appreciate the beauty of South Africa before going on international holiday, it is surprising that this is my first visit to Bloemfontein but having re-read the above sentence it comes as no surprise at all. A visit to Bloemfontein does not conjure up feelings of excitement or anticipation, a point proven by the fact that whenever I told someone of my planned trip, the first response was always, “Why?”.

I was already prejudiced against this city and knew before I had even arrived there that it was not an experience I was going to enjoy and I was going to return of stories of how closely it resembled the american midwest of the 1950's. I must admit when I am wrong for it was almost 2 whole hours before I saw my first farmer with a comb sticking out of his socks. This is not intended to be racist, but I just don't get it. Is it meant to be a fashion statement? Does it symbolise political affiliation? Do Khaki shorts not have pockets? Little did I realise that the arrival of “he whose hair shall never be out of place” was only a precursor of things to come.

Let me set the scene. I am an hour outside of Bloemfontein on a Friday morning, waiting at the shell garage to meet a contractor before proceeding to site. Suddenly traffic police arrive and begin making preparations to stop traffic. The police are followed by a convey of teachers, parents and kids with homemade boxcarts. There were 6 boys and 3 boxcarts. Amid much fanfare (by smalltown Free state standards), the boys line up there carts on a quickly constructed starting line (Think Fast and the Furious). After all the parents had taken their pictures (I took one as well in the event that people don't believe this actually happened), the race begun and the boys ran down the road at a tremendous pace often coming very close to crashing into each other. I expected the boys who were pushing to eventually jump on to the cart, but they never did. They just ran and pushed their pilot all the way to the end. Jokes aside, it was great to see kids being kids again. I'm sure that this is the kind of neighbourhood where there is a kite season, and a marble season etc. Never though I would get nostalgic after a visit to Petrusburg!



There were nice aspects to Bloemfontein. The waterfront (stop sniggering, if Randburg can have one, then why can't Bloem), is not one of them. The dead fish floating on the surface of the man made lake is a definite turn off and made me really regret having lunch at Ocean Basket. The airport was lovely though. It was cosy much in the same way you would expect a country B&B to be. There were never any lines, you did not feel pressured when getting all your belongings and laptop through the scanner, the staff were all friendly and courteous. The small Illy coffee stall after you check in also make one of the nicest espresso's I have ever tasted. I often consider it sacrilegious to have an espresso from a paper cup but I made an exception in this instance and was pleasantly rewarded.


P.S. I sat behind Andrew Hudson on the flight to Bloemfontein. I could have got his signature, but  honestly, what would be the point!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hatfield, New York

As mentioned in my Welcome, the decision to start a blog was made when discussing this article that I had written on my adventures one afternoon in Hatfield, Pretoria. It seems only fitting that I make this my first post (I'm sentimental like that)


It is with a sad clarity that I have come to accept the fact that I may never, visit New York City. The combination of global religious paranoia, my often public view on American foreign policy and even my very name ( a recent google search of my name revealed that I shared it not only with a famous Pakistani musician but also for a time one of the most wanted criminals in Pakistan) would destine any visa application to a folder labelled “For the consideration of Homeland Security”. Popular culture and the influence of friends have turned me into a New York junkie. I read the New York Times online, positively love the New Yorker magazine and tend to always enjoy TV series that glamorise New York. I am not na├»ve enough to assume that it is a utopic city full of arts, culture and culinary delights and understand that it too must have more than it's fair share of crime, poverty and poor service delivery but for now the New York of my imagination is as Alicia Keyes so concisely put it, “The concrete jungle where dreams are made of”. I was therefore awed recently when I discovered that my New York was not at all fictitious but very much alive in the Tswane suburb of Hatfield.

An unusual hastily arranged business trip recently found me spending the night in Tswane, and after consultation with my maps, itinerary and a strong urge to avoid peak Gauteng traffic, realised that it would be most convenient to spend the night in the suburb of Hatfield. I was delighted to find a brand new hotel, which I prefer on business trips to the homely, historical establishments that one would look for when on vacation. I won't go into detail describing the hotel because it was, like any 2 month old hotel is expected to be, immaculate. After my appointments that day, I made the trek north, trusting in the sometimes questionable ability of my GPS to get me to me desired destination. Upon arrival, I showered and decided to walk a bit and get something light to eat since I was meeting friends for a late supper.

The suburb of Hatfield is home to many foreign embassies and consulates and the University of Pretoria was located at the end of the street I was staying on. This must be what gave the place such a cosmopolitan vibe with even popular fast food chains like Chicken Licken and McDonalds having many tables on the pavement. In the late afternoon, most of these places were busy with students cahtting at the end of a long day, couples meeting for a bite to eat before going home, solitary readers sipping coffee whilst deeply absorbed in whatever it was they happened to be reading. Although there was a large assortment of eating establishments to choose from I was looking for a culinary experience to match the mood I was in. I settled on a Lebanese fast food place, Uncle Faouzi's, which appeared to have many patrons, a good indicator when choosing where to eat. I should have realised that what was really attracting me to this place was the all too familiar smell of a Hookah. Uncle Faouzi specialised in crazy deals and hookahs, hence the capture of a large portion of the campus crowd. I ordered a Chicken Burger special and started a conversation with two people from Kerala, India while I waited for my food.

Those of you who know me, know that these poor kids from Kerala did not have an option on whether to chat to me or not because I have the equivalent of a Death Star conversation tractor beam. Nobody is safe. I can strike up a conversation with anyone on any topic. My favourite victim, er, 'conversation buddy' are the people who have to sit next to me on a plane. After joining them at their table, we had a brief discussion on the University culture, life and the advancement of engineering at Indian tertiary institutions and how awesome Hatfield is, although they did not contribute as much to the last topic.

After my snack, I happened upon a bookstore that sold both new and used books. This was of course, no coincidence. If there is one thing that is certain,it is that I could locate a hookah, second hand bookstore or great value-for-money meal within a 5 km radius of wherever I happen to be.The Protea bookstore was not great, so far as bookstores went and was functional rather than inviting. Most of the second hand books were displayed in the exhibition window in the front which meant that everybody on the street got to see you rummaging through the books in cardboard boxes in search of a bargain/ hidden treasure. I suppose it is quite an effective theft deterrent but the attitude of the first assistant who I met in the store seemed to be sufficient for that purpose. Perhaps she did not work everyday. In any event, after rummaging through the books for a while, I made my way out of the display case, and proceeded to exit the shop when a much friendlier assistant asked if she could help me. I repeated to her, what I have repeated at countless other secondhand bookstores throughout the country.

“ Do you have 'The Killing of the Imam' by Barney Desai?”, I asked.

“No”, she replied, “I have not seen a copy of that in years. Is there anything else you were looking for?”, she asked assuming that I was a pretentious git who probably had a long list of out of print books that I was looking for. Not to let the lady down since she had been so helpful, I replied,

“What about 'Bury me at Wounded Knee'?”, I asked.

“I remember seeing a copy of that around here somewhere”, she said as she left me standing there dumbfounded and open mouthed. I eventually caught up with her in time to hear these awesome words, “Here it is”. She handed me the book and left me to decided whether I wanted to purchase it or not. She obviously had no clue for how long I had been searching for this book and that the purchase was a foregone conclusion. I often found second hand copies of the book at Amazon but felt that would have been cheating and searching for the book was a much better adventure. I was right. It was one of the most satisfying purchases, I can ever remember making and now I have this great story to tell my next 'conversation buddy'.

I met friends for dinner that night and did not walk around the streets when I got back, because they were still a lot of foreign nationals around, but these were of the seedier, car guard variety and although there were there earlier that afternoon when I was strolling around loving the city, I did not like the ratio of them to me and did not want to spoil my awesome experience with a mugging or a visit to the emergency room. I went to the isolated pool deck of the hotel and smoked a hookah while the city slept .

The next morning I went to McDonalds for breakfast as they were the only place opened and had breakfast with a lawyer from Umtata who was at the University for a 3 week course. It was too early in the morning for my conversation tractor beam but this guy was apparently my Karma. He joined me at my table for breakfast and we chatted and ate as the city came to life around us. Students coming in for morning lectures, people coming in to work and people, like us, looking for some breakfast. I had to leave for my morning meeting and we exchanged cards and promised to continue our discussion online. However, he was not the most amazing person I met in Hatfield. That honour would have to be besowed on the cashier at the bookstore.

When I went to pay for my book, the friendly cashier, an elegant lady in her late fourties, asked me if I wanted a plastic packet with my purchase. Eager to lighten my carbon footprint after flying to Johannesburg earlier that day( I enjoy the delusion of thinking one offsets the other), I replied in the negative and said that it would be my environmental good deed for the day. She then explained to me that she was currently reading towards her Masters degree in Environmental Science and in subsequent conversation I also discovered that she was a BSc graduate. We had a long chat about environmental policies and her studies and what we, as individuals can do to make a difference. As I work for one of the largest polluting companies in the world, I had a lot of guilt to unburden myself with. We chatted for about 15 minutes, stopping briefly whenever she needed to process a purchase. I was very intrigued by this cashier and had so many questions that I obviously did not ask, like why was she working at a bookstore when she had a BSc degree, and why study towards your Masters degree at this stage in her life? These questions would remain a mystery to me and to be honest, I think I prefer it that way.

These combined experiences has left me with a very soft spot in my heart for Hatfield. I suspect that the experience would not be the same for everyone. Everything described above happened over a period of about 14 hours and I never ventured more than 2 city blocks down the street from my hotel. However, I cannot remember the last time I walked down a street window shopping where there is crowd but you are not overcrowded. Where you felt safe and where the people were all friendly and nice, with the exception of assistant #1 at the bookstore. Where you stepped out into fresh air and sunlight as you moved from shop to shop. My perfect day in New York would be very similar in description to the one I had in Hatfield with the only exceptions being that I would have had breakfast at a New York deli and I would have went for a walk in Central Park after supper. I fear that suddenly New York has a lot to live up to!


 

Welcome

My decision to start a blog just kind of happened and the way I figure it, what do I have to lose by just giving this a chance. At the very least, I will make some great new friends, make some people laugh, confirm to some that I am delusional and if it does nt work out, I should be able to just delete the whole thing.

The truth is recently whenever I do stuff, like test drive a car or attend a show, I sit there wondering how best would I describe this in an article. Sometimes, I will come home and actually write out something, for no real purpose because who would be interested in my opinion. I can't exactly send a letter to the editor telling readers who much I enjoyed driving the new Honda CRZ. At a party, I was telling people about how much i had enjoyed a recent visit to Hatfield, Pretoria when somebody in the group asked if I had a blog and that if I did it would make for very interesting reading. I know what you are thinking? She was probably chatting me up, but considering I was rocking my 3 month old daughter to sleep, I doubt very much that that was her intention. In any case, I much prefer thinking that I am charismatic and entertaining rather than the alternative.

Since I had actually written about that experience in Pretoria,  I feel it would make sense to share that with you (will include it in my next post). I know that the page looks a bit bland but give me some time here to learn the ropes. I doubt I will post everyday and intend using this as a repository for all my writings which will range from restaurant reviews to political opinions to mere ramblings. I would love if this were interactive so please feel free to comment. If you wish to follow more daily thoughts then feel free to follow me on twitter ( http://twitter.com/#!/FayazKhan).

In any case, welcome to my blog. I hope you find the experience enriching and fun and I hope that I find it fun too!