{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

December 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Can Happen to Anyone

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A breast cancer awareness campaign was launched in Mozambique by DDB. It shows familiar superheroes giving themselves breast examinations. Breast examinations are a woman's best bet at finding cancer early enough to get treatment.

I love geeky things, so these comic-themed posters are right up my alley.

My concern, however, is that the advertisements may only appeal to a small percentage of women. I don't mean to generalise and assume that most women don't know of or enjoy comics, but isn't there a large proportion of women that may not even notice them?

My other concern is that sex is selling. Once again. Obviously the posters will be ideal wall décor for the average teenage boy - and adults too - but people will definitely notice them, so I suppose the campaign worked!

They still make my skin crawl a little though...

What do you think of them?

via Laughing Squid

December 11, 2011

Book Review || Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

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I'll admit that my first introduction to Girl With a Pearl Earring was through the movie based on the book starring Scarlet Johanssen. But the movie has nothing on the book.

Delft in the 1600s is described through the eyes of Griet, who is a tilemaker's daughter. She is forced to leave home and work for a wealthier family as a maid after her father loses his sight, and so his job as the family's breadwinner, during an accident at the tile factory. Her new life is tough, but revolves around her attraction to her new master, the artist Vermeer.

The novel is intense, and the descriptions are also rich, textured, and colourful - so much more so than the film. Chevalier's style is addictive - I usually fall asleep reading a book at night, unless it's really good, and I completed it without falling asleep (yay!)

Griet is also a compelling character - she is torn between the Griet who wears a cap to cover all her hair, and the Griet who is desperate to let herself go as wild as hair is.

I also think I liked this novel so much because of the allusions to paint and art. As an amateur painter, it would have been wonderful to be able to mix my paints myself. The descriptions of all the artwork are also beautiful. :)

The only thing that annoyed me? That I pictured Scarlet Johanssen as the character instead of the real girl in the portrait! :( Doh!

December 6, 2011

Book Review || The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

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I am known as an animal lover, and I enjoyed this book immensely, even to the point where I couldn't put it down, telling myself "Just one more chapter, just one more chapter".

The Elephant Whisperer is about Lawrence Anthony and his family, who own the game reserve Thula Thula in South Africa and who decided to accept a herd of elephants who faced certain death if they found no home. Though the reserve was not ready for a herd of elephant, let alone one called "rogue" by those determined to be rid of them, Lawrence made a home for them. Using a mix of logic and gut feeling, he helps the herd to feel accepted in their new home, and shows them how not all humans are as horrible as those they've met in the big leagues of the Kruger National Park.

Throughout the novel, Lawrence's life is touched by the herd in either its entirety or by one of its members. My favourite parts are when Lawrence tells us about the elephants' uncanny powers of perception. On his trips overseas or around the country, the herd would come to his home and say farewell, and they would be waiting for him when he arrived to give him a warm welcome. Once, they were spotted on their way to welcome him back, but once they 'felt' that his plane was delayed, stopped in their tracks and walked away, somehow knowing that he was not going to be there any more.

The elephants are such characters that I'm desperate to meet one now: they have always fascinated me because of their social structure and for the way they seem to be so wise and spiritual. But Anthony's closing chapter is about how he has distanced himself from the elephants because they are, after all, wild animals and not meant to interact with humans.

As was shown with the bull of the herd Mnumzane, human interaction - admittedly reduced to teasing - caused him to be unafraid of the reserve's vehicles and guests. The situation was to the detriment for Mnumzane - he was shot.

I would still love to meet an elephant, but do you think I shouldn't support such a practice?

November 2, 2011

Be Yourself

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Take this philosopher's advice on being yourself...

"The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself" ~ Lao-Tse

Image by Cephas

October 31, 2011

Video of the Week - Halloween

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Happy Halloween everyone! To those celebrating, have fun dressing up in random outfits to the delight of your peers. For those who aren't doing anything at all, enjoy this video about the origins of Halloween, via Discovery News.

October 28, 2011

Don't People Care?

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28 October 2011

I wrote about Occupy at work, but hardly anyone cared...

The Occupy Movement is one of the most talked-about news items in the international world, sparking trends and stories throughout social media. But here in South Africa it would seem that only a handful of people know about it, and even a smaller handful even care.

The movement is aimed at protesting against the inequality of the current monetary system. The 99% - which consist of the majority of people - are overshadowed by 1% of the population. This 1% holds the majority of the wealth of the world, and Occupy wants people to take notice.

I wrote a short article on the movement last week, as a protest was organised outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton. It was a relatively small protest in comparison to, say, the one Julius Malema's followers put on, and the smaller number of protesters certainly reflects the number of people in South Africa who know about what is going on in the world.

Every time I write an article about something important, I hope against hope that it will get some attention. But, it would seem that people are infinitely more concerned about the appearance of Libya dictator Muammar Gadhaffi's body and how sex is actually good for their health than they do about issues that could one day impact them beyond their imaginations. Perhaps they'll take note when the SA government decides to follow Europe and impose austerity measures that would not make the wealthiest bat a single pretty eyelid, or when one of our major tourist attractions is shut down because of protests.

Image attribution: By David Shankbone (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

October 27, 2011

Unexpected Charity

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27 October 2011

On my drive to work, I discovered something that made me smile...

Waking up late in the morning, rushing to get dressed, getting stuck behind a taxi and dealing with undeserved road rage are just some of the things that make me feel less eager to traipse to work every day. It's something about the selfishness of people on the roads that makes me sad.

But there is something that always make me smile.

There is a homeless man who sleeps in the same place every night. I don't know how he manages to keep his meagre possessions around him, but he is surrounded by what normal people would assume is just rubbish. Sometimes you won't even tell that he's there because he is still sleeping, huddled beneath the plastic canvas that serves as his protection against the elements.

I marvel that he can live on so little, but I marvel even more at his charity because, though he appears to have so little, he shares his bread with the pigeons. He breaks up his bread and spreads it around outside his tent, watching the birds as they nibble on the shared breakfast.

How many of us are unwilling to even share a smile during the day, and this man shares all he has with the birds? Should we go out and smell the bluegums? I say, 'yes!'

Image attribution: By Yves6 (Own work) GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

October 26, 2011

Stars in small places

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October 26, 2011

Some of the most complicated things would never have been done without the help of the silent few.

You would think that everything related to man's most advanced accomplishment would be just as advanced as it, but this is not true. Going out into space took decades to perfect, with a race between the world's two most powerful nations defining a clear winner in the arena. There are, of course, theories that the United States was not the first to make it to the moon.

Certainly when thinking about outer space and its technology, the word "handmade" would not feature in your vocabulary at all.

But this is exactly what the astronaut's suits were, according to this Etsy article.

Seamstresses who usually worked on Playtex bras were the ladies responsible for putting the specialised military suits together. These poor ladies were completely overlooked in their efforts for the state. How many other people go unthanked for their work that has changed lives?

Image attribution: Causa83 at it.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

October 25, 2011

Beautiful Macro Photo

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This is such a beautiful macro photo...

Sawfly larva

October 24, 2011

The War on Women

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October 24, 2011

Is America's 'war on women' just the start?

I read an article on AlterNet recently about one of the latest bills intended to be passed in the United States. It has been called the "Let Women Die" bill, and comes after a string of legislation aiming to control the numbers of abortions in the country.

Although - if thinking with a very open mind - you might see the sense behind the fight against abortion, the fact is that women should have the final say in what happens to their bodies. I can understand the need to curb irresponsible abortions, such as using the service as a means of contraception, but making all abortions illegal, I think, is not the solution.

The latest piece of legislation - which strangely has the support of the Catholic Church (which, by the way, is ruled by males) - has been called the "Let Women Die" bill because it will remove abortion coverage in medical insurance. It will also allow hospitals to be completely blameless when a woman dies because of complications during a birth - even if it was known early in the pregnancy that the woman herself would be at risk of dying if she went through with the birth.

For centuries, women have been sidelined in favour of the stronger sex, and though we've steadily been given more and more power and control over our own lives, these very things we were fighting for decades ago are now being taken away from us through the use of religion and law. I believe that we should be concerned. If a woman no longer has control over her most intimate bodily functions, what is the next step? Controlling the gender women give birth to? Controlling who women marry and decide to partner with? Where would it stop?

Image attribution: By Twp (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

October 8, 2011

Book Review || Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

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Purple Hibiscus is one of the most touching African novels I've read. Although The Heart of Redness and Johnny Mad Dog have inscribed their stories onto my mind and heart, this novel has reached to my soul.

Chimamanda's writing is rich and fluent, and it is the combination of characters and story that has affected me so deeply. Her descriptions are so true and realistic that I can smell the rain in Kambili's bath water in Nsukka; feel her terror of her father; see the play of shadows thrown around by the kerosene lamp on her grandfather Papa-Nnukwa's body on the verandah as he prays early in the morning.

Another reason I sincerely appreciate this book is for its representation of the difference between faith and religion: Kambili and her family practice religion in their measured actions, their oppressive silences, their tightly-managed lives. Though her father is a rich man and attempts to prove his love for God by giving back to the community, his treatment of his family shows that he has failed to reach that level of spirituality that the truly faithful emit.

Other characters, such as Papa-Nnukwa and Father Amadi, represent faith because, in my opinion, faith is about having hope and believing with love instead of believing with terror. The family's trip to Aokpe to see the vision of the Blessed Virgin presents a beautiful scene, and, whatever was happening, it was hope and belief and faith that made it magical.

This is what I believe makes Purple Hibiscus magical: the sense of hope that remains when you finally - sadly - close the pages of the book, and the smile that turns up the corners of your mouth as you feel true faith envelop you.

September 27, 2011

Near-Death Experiences

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27 September 2011

I am slightly upset with myself for not purchasing that book about Victorian investigations into the afterlife, now that I've read this...

The book was nestled on a shelf in the history section, along with South African experiences and a biography on Queen Victoria. I decided that it was one book that I didn't have to have on my shelf at home, so left it. But this article reminded me of it.

Apparently near-death experiences occur quite easily. Although many people believe in an afterlife, there has not been any solid proof of this aside from faith and spiritual experiences. But scientists have found that a near-death experience is not paranormal at all, but it is connected to brain functions.

In many cases, it seems, that near-death experiences are reported by people who are not actually in any danger of dying. However, the perception that one is dying is enough to cause the experience, which includes euphoric feelings and travels towards white lights.

This might not be what religious or spiritual people would like to hear, but I would like to know what you think?

September 26, 2011


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26 September 2011

In South Africa, it is bee swarming season, but please don’t kill the bees!

Swarming is when honey bee colonies reproduce. It happens when the original queen bee leaves the hive with about 60% of her workers. The swarm that remains will see a virgin queen take over. Sometimes the swarm can consist of tens of thousands of bees, and there are even small occurrences of afterswarms with their very own virgin queens, if the original colony was large enough.

If you have a swarm hiding somewhere on your property, you can have them removed by a reputable hive removal service. But please don’t hire the service if they are going to kill the bees!

I’m certain that you’ve noticed – no matter where in the world you are – that there are fewer bees buzzing around. This is because our bee colonies are suffering from something called colony collapse disorder. The cause for the disappearance of the honey bees is not yet known, and is a debatable subject.

Many say that it is perhaps the result of the increased wireless communication capabilities throughout the world, which interfere with the bees’ inherent natural communication system. There are also theories that Earth’s magnetic field is shifting and this disturbs the bees’ navigation, while some suspect a virus wipes out the colony.

Whatever the real issue, the existence of bees is of the utmost importance; agricultural crops are dependent on being pollinated by the colonies, so if our bees disappear, we’ll have a serious food shortage problem.

Thus it is important that you don’t kill the bee swarm on your property. Remember also that if a bee removal company says they’ll remove the bees at night, they will kill the bees to remove them. An operation to remove a bee swarm will take only a few hours during the day, as it involves catching the queen and moving her. It is a very simple operation, and keeping the bees alive is well worth the small amount of time it will take to remove the swarm!

{Image by Mark Osgatharp, Wikimedia Commons}

September 25, 2011

How about a seastead?

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25 September 2011

How about living on a floating city?

Imagine if you could start over? No money, no possessions, no political agendas, no social construction - just living. You could wake up in the morning and peer out of your window at an endless ocean, climb out onto your porch into the crisp sea air and dive straight into the saltiness.

This is exactly the idea inspiring the Seasteading Institute, which has challenged architects and people dreaming of liberty to come up with the first independent "seastead" in the world by 2015. The aim is to house at least 50 full-time residents and be completely self-sufficient. It must also offer real estate on the stead to the open market, and is completely autonomous regarding politics.

Participants have to take heavy sea storms into consideration, while the cities must be completely modular and able to expand with the population.

I think this is a wonderful idea. Humankind needs a new way of living, because things are not working for people now.

What do you think of the idea?

September 20, 2011

Stand Up For Yourself

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20 September 2011

It appears that in the working world, women simply learn to put up with sexist, and might even find themselves complicit in it.

After reading an article on Care2 about how, though most women say they would confront someone who made sexist remarks and take them to task, many actually don't. A Forbes Woman article refers to a study done among women: the majority of respondents originally claimed they would not answer sexist questions in a job interview, while 28% of them said they would actually confront the person. However, when these respondents were interviewed and crunch-time came, every single one of the women answered the offensive question. No one confronted the interviewer either.

I am sort of embarrassed to admit that I have never once taken anyone to task about a sexist comment - aside from my hubby - and I'd like to blame that on the fact that I am shy and prefer no confrontations in general. My work life is the same and, even more embarrassingly, I find myself complicit in these remarks. I smile at them - and shake my head that there are still people who hold those beliefs - and though inwardly I'm enraged that people can even suggest that the receptionist we hire must wear a short skirt every day as a prerequisite or any other such sexist comment, I laugh it off and shrug. "Silly men", I think, but isn't it really me who is being silly?

If there is no one to stand up to these comments, then will they not prosper?

It might be heartening to know that the Forbes Woman article claims that another study, at Loyola University in Chicago, which found that men who are confronted on their sexist comments are nicer to their confronter, even to the point of liking them, while those who remained silent were not as well liked. The men also lessened their use of sexist language.

The problem I have with personally taking someone to task for their comment is that sometimes such a conversation leads nowhere. The person whom you are confronting needs to be someone who already shows you some respect - because otherwise they really don't care what you think. A debate such as this could also lead to an uncomfortable workplace, because we all know what office politics are like.< Do you have such an experience, and what do you think is the solution?

September 17, 2011

Sex and success

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17 September 2011

I consider whether women's use of sexual capital is not good for society ...
Before I hit puberty, I became intensely aware of my feminine body - I was an early bloomer, and concurrently I developed a self-esteem issue too early. I was aware of being observed - not by boys, yet - but by girls, and to this day I am undecided as to whether it was jealousy that inspired their observations or a desire to shame me. I am, however, today thankful for this scrutiny, for, although it created insecurity through most of my young life, it also brought with it shyness, and this meant that I never made use of my feminine wiles, as they say, to achieve anything.

Even today I am the little-noticed quiet type of the office, and I overdress every day - literally wearing pants and covering everything up. Yet, I'd like to regard myself as being relatively successful for my scant ambitions.

I have in the past shown concern for the manner in which the young children of today are being brainwashed to behave a certain way by the media, television, music and toys, and worry about my children growing up in a society that is so sexually-advanced that children as young as 10 are already sexually active at a time in their lives where I was still playing with toys.

Particularly in cases of young women, they are shown that being beautiful and sexy is the only way to gain respect in any way, and a new novel, called "Honey Money", is urging women to use their sexuality to their advantage. It states that women should use their "erotic capital" to improve their situations. Author Catherine Hakim adds that, although women and men both have erotic capital, the former can use their's more successfully merely because men have something called a "sexual deficit" - men's supposed weakness against the beauty of women and the sex that they offer.

I agree with The Good Men Project's Hugo Schwyzer. Hakim is not just insulting women by saying that the only way they can gain any respect in the business world or anywhere is by exploiting their sexual capital. She is also insulting men by perpetuating the myth that men are all panty-chasers ready to shed their clothes for the first bit of action offered up by any woman.

My argument in any debate about whether men have a genetic predisposition to sowing their wild oats any- and everywhere - which is one of the reasons more than one partner is so acceptable for men - is that, sure, we evolved from the ape, from a wild animal and so still have the genetic calling to procreate to save the species; but the entire point is that we have evolved. There is so much more to the human than there is to the ape - such as having a conscience and being able to surpass these primitive requirements to meet other requirements, such as companionship and partnership and love.

This promulgation of the line of thinking that men are just sex-hungry all the time is one of the most damaging of our time, I'd think - as damaging as telling your little girl that she's so pretty that she'll get to marry a rich man one day. It is one of the reasons, in my opinion, that people today are so unhappy, in general. Women are constantly told that they need to be beautiful for success, and men are constantly told that their sexual desire will get them anything they want. This has created a perpetual lack in our society - because no one can encounter success no matter what they do. Women will never look as beautiful as they want, and men are constantly trying to match up to the 007-life - women, women everywhere.

Where do you think we've gone wrong?

{[Image from Photostock; FreeDigitalPhotos}

September 6, 2011

Masses of animals dying

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6 September 2011

Have you noticed all the stories in the media about masses of animals dying?

There haven't been any recent articles - aside from the usual sad stories about animals threatened by extinction - but I've been reading articles of bees disappearing, then there was the #Aflockalypse at the beginning of the year when all those birds, fish and cows dropped dead...

A story that attracted my attention a while ago was the death of 10 000 bats in a cave in Durham. Certainly, the deaths are being attributed to a natural issue: White Nose Syndrome - an apparently mysterious disease that, I've read elsewhere, resembles a fungi - but how can something so damaging appear so suddenly?

The bats have hibernated in an abandoned mine for generations, but only a fraction of them survived.

What do you think is really going on?

Image from Velho, Wikimedia Commons

September 5, 2011

General Theory Correct

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September 5, 2011

So, it seems that Einstein's general theory of relativity is true, at least two parts of it.

NASA's Gravity Probe B's results have been in the making for years, and it finally confirmed two predictions, namely that of space-time warping and frame-dragging. The theory generally describes a theory of gravitation currently accepted in modern science, stating that gravity is the result of the properties of space and time. I don't really understand it, actually! :) But basically this means that Einstein's other theories, such as black holes, and other theories based on spacetime, such as time travel, could also be true.

This remains to be seen. I would personally like to see a teleportation device though. Personally, I cannot imagine how it is possible that we still don't have this kind of technology - if you can dream it you can do it - at least that's been true for most of the things that humans have so far achieved.

Star Trek's replicators would also be an excellent invention. Imagine the world's food problems solved within seconds...

September 3, 2011

Intensely close

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My parents came to visit again today. It was an odd visit: they were here for a shorter time than normal, and had less to say than normal. My mom in particular was very quiet, while my dad was equally silent - but this is normal for him now.

The silent moments were more strained, and I feel so guilty for not knowing how much they are going through.

After they left, I remembered how much they love each other. They've been together for 31 years - I've been with Shaun for four - I imagine that their love for each other is at least seven times more intense than my love for Shaun, and I love him pretty intensely.

I can't imagine how my mom feels knowing how close she is to losing him.

August 26, 2011

A real light sabre

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August 26, 2011

What would you do with a real light sabre?

Which of these four outcomes do you think you would be able to achieve?

I would have to agree with the majority here! :)

via GeeksAreSexy

August 25, 2011

Do I Smell Funny?

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25 August 2011

Is this because of the law of the wild? Or did he smell strange?

The law of the wild is supposedly that you should only kill when you are hungry. This rule seems to apply in the scenes alongside, which were captured by photographer Michel Denis-Huot during a safari in the Masai Mara.

It appears that three Cheetah brothers meet an impala and befriend it, since they're not hungry.

In the first image, it looks as though they pursue him with gusto, but give up for some reason.

Perhaps the clever little bokkie had a roll in something that smelt really bad!

What do you think?

August 23, 2011


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The challenges along your chosen path are only a ripple in your perfect stillness, they will come and go as ripples do, so do not dwell on them.

Allow your life to unfold as you desire, trust in the divine presence because you control it. Thank you for being you, you are amazing.

The hardest part of enlightenment is realizing that enlightenment isn't something you will reach in the future, it is in you NOW. All you have to do is TRUST & LOVE, the rest happens as you build your world with your emotions and beliefs.

- I'm not sure where I found this - it's been in my paperwork, and I thought I would share it!

July 27, 2011

We're all afraid...

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February 27, 2011

No one is upfront and honest with anyone anymore.

Case in point: a certain someone threatened another certain someone and the feelings about this situation never gained closure because the former did not treat the latter like a civilised human being. Thus, the latter forms some sort of subconscious vendetta against the former, and discovers that the former is actually a bit of a sneak, but the former is so sneaky that they make an unprecedented move that the latter did not foresee, but which actually just avoids the good-old-hand-shake-and-I'm-sorry way of doing things.

No, you're not really supposed to understand what I'm talking about, but the point is that people do not confront each other face to face anymore. If you have an issue with your neighbour, you'll run to your caretaker and complain about the noise instead of knocking on your neighbour's door and asking them to keep it down a little.

Since when have we all been afraid of confronting people? We are all people. Perhaps it's because we live such secluded lives. We cut ourselves off from everyone except those we deem worth our time, and this inevitably leads to us making enemies of our neighbours, or feeling bad because we never did take that fruit basket to them to welcome them to the neighbourhood. Do these feelings of guilt lead us to neglect civilisation? We feel bad, so don't want to confront the people personally, so we resort to whatever is the authority in our situation?

Why can we not simply take responsibility for what we do to and how we appear to others?

July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse vs 91 Dead

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24 July 2011

I cannot for the life of me understand why it is that our society is so bent on loving the celebrity culture that it alternately adores and loathes.

Why is it that people care whether or not Lindsay Lohan is in jail again for DUI, or whether Paris Hilton is wearing underwear or not? What is it about the celebrity that we think we need to praise - because, yes, even though we believe what they do is scandalous and embarrassing, we still display their antics for all to see on the front pages of our newspapers and online news sites.

The recent death of Amy Winehouse is such a situation: her death even made it to the Financial Times, and why, pray tell, should we care?

I know it sounds harsh, but she has what she wanted anyway.

Why is it that we are not as caring about the 91 people who were killed in Norway in mysterious right-wing attacks instead? Surely their deaths - which included the deaths of dozens of youngsters who were gunned down while innocently attending a summer camp.

But no...instead the mass of the media is focusing on the death of a woman who embarrassed herself in Germany and elsewhere by performing while horribly drunk; a woman who clearly had no interest in living.

Do you think I'm being too heartless?

July 10, 2011

Zombies Are Taking Over

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10 July 2011

Imagine slowly being taken over by something you didn't know was there?

That's exactly what happens to carpenter ants in Germany, and probably elsewhere.

What's worse is that scientists have found 48 million-year-old evidence that shows this has been happening to the poor carpenter ants for centuries.

Parasitic fungi latches onto the ants as they cross the forest floor. It grows on the inside of the ants and releases chemicals into their bloodstream that alter their behaviour, causing some ants to leave the colony and wander around on their own or they fall from their canopy homes onto the leaves.

Apparently this can happen in the masses, with mass graves of ants found lying between the forest floor and the canopy, clutching into the main vein before dying. This position between the two levels is exactly what the fungus needs.

The evidence showing that this has been happening for millions of years is the piles of fossilised leaves found with the marks made by their mandibles as they were forced into biting.

The fungus grows from the ant, consuming it the larger it gets.

{Photograph: David P Hughes from Guardian.co.uk}

June 29, 2011

Book Review || Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

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Coconut by Kopano Matlwa was a literary wonder - a debut novel about living in the new South Africa - that won a European Union Literary Award. I can't help but think it was just lucky timing...

The novel is about the struggle with identity among the young black people of South Africa. Following the tales of two girls - one who stays in a "white" suburb and another who has grown up in a township - Coconut takes a look at how these two girls struggle with their identities as black people not living as nor wanting to be black people. Divided into two parts, we first meet Ofilwe, who's family is known as "new money" and lives amongst the white people of Johannesburg, and then we meet Fikile, who grew up in the townships but is determined to make herself live like a white person - she even told her teacher when she was in school that when she grew up she wanted to be white.

This need to be superior is one of the main themes of the novel. While Ofilwe's superiority is a reflection of the new class in which her family belongs, Fikile's superiority is the result of a desire to be superior. However, in their quests to be superior to their black fellows, they have forgotten where they come from: they have lost their mother tongue; they wish to be excluded from family gatherings; and they hold their cultural traditions in disdain.

It is sadly one of the legacies of apartheid that the only version of superiority the lower classes see are white people, and this is why they aspire so to be like them. They are seen as happy and rich, while the poor are unhappy and struggling. They wish to absorb this white life, to become white, because this is the only version of success they know. But a result of this desire is being seen by your own people as having a misplaced sense of superiority, while the characters also seem to have a misplaced sense of the superiority of another race.

Although Coconut is a novel that tries to expose the issues of identity in the new South Africa, I found that it lacked a plot or a story, at least until the end when the two characters' worlds join together. Up until the moment when you recognise Ofilwe, there is no tension, and almost no story. It really seems like a bunch of haphazard thoughts and anecdotes handed to us in the hopes that we will make sense of it.

The novel won a literary award, and I have to wonder whether awards are now offered to novels for their subject matter rather than the style and writing talent.

June 25, 2011

Lightning eruptions

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The last volcanic eruptions have made headlines, and not just because of the ash clouds halting global flights.

The volcanic eruption in Chile, and the last two in Iceland, were outstanding because of the lightning. The lightning shows the full scale of the power of nature.

But geologists still aren't exactly certain what causes the lightning. There is an assumption that the lightning is caused by the same process that causes lightning in thunderstorms - something about volcanic dust particles colliding with each other and building up static charges.

However, there is the question of why only some volcanoes produce lightning and others don't. Can you imagine how much power there is in an explosion that it could inspire lightning crashes like these?

Images from MailOnline; AFP; Getty Images

June 22, 2011

Book Review || Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

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I've managed to crawl my way through University setwork Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, which is a work on the psychology of the man of colour.

Black Skin, White Masks is a dissertation of Fanon's psychoanalytical theory of the personality complexes created by colonialism in the colonialist populations. A lot of what Fanon makes sense, if you know the themes and subjects of psychoanalysis.

His major statement is that the white man has created in the black man an inferiority complex that determines all the ways that these two races interact with each other, even down to white people’s relationships with a person of colour of the opposite sex.

I will admit that it was at times a difficult novel to get through and to understand at times, as I found Fanon rambles on and makes use of obscure extended metaphors and images without any real coherence.

But the essence of the novel is important in that it shows that all humans have an effect on each other, where consciously or subconsciously. Though I believe he has oversimplified the issue, as in stating that the black man can only be defined as “not the Other”, there are some really interesting points, and I think that the thesis goes a long way in trying to ascertain the psychology of the coloniser.

Have you read the novel? What did you think?

June 17, 2011

So it's not about the feathers

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17 June 2011

Recent research has shown that the peacock's feathers are losing their power.

{Image from Wired}

The research flies in the face of years of belief that peahens, and by implication other female animals on this planet, are attracted to the male of the species who displays the most attractive plumage.

However, seven years of research has shown that the number of eyespots a peacock had did not improve a male's chances of garnering a mate - unless the number of eyespots fell below a certain threshold. In other words, most peacocks would mate often, except for the outright losers who had many less eyespots than the general population.

Well, our men will have to look for other ways of impressing us then...

June 7, 2011

Give me my clothes!

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I have wondered sometimes why it is that, while the Star Wars movie is apparently only for "geeks", Han Solo and all the other male characters don't notice that Leia is quite hot.

Well, it seems a "geek" out there noted this discrepancy:

Thanks, Geeks Are Sexy, again. :)

May 28, 2011

The Pigbutt Worm

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Well, I've officially seen it all.

Meet the pigbutt worm. It's a very newly-discovered creature, so Weirdimals reports that there isn't very much known about it. Well, aside from its resemblance to those items unreligiously thrown across television's Cow And Chicken show...

I would assume, in my humble opinion, that the butt part of the worm allows it to move from place to place. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine!

Otherwise, it certainly is a lovely derriere!:)

May 25, 2011

Book Review || No Surrender! by E. Werner

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No Surrender! is one of those novels that turn into a treasure when you've completed them.

elisabeth-wernerI've been reading a relatively unknown book called No Surrender! by one E. Werner. It was translated from the original German by Christina Tyrrell, and other than this information, it was at first difficult to come by any other details about the book or its author.

Upon some research, I found that E. Werner is Elisabeth Bürstenbinder's pen name - and this opened up all the other information I needed! :) The wonders of Google.

Elisabeth's Wikipedia biography page is, sadly, in German so it's a little difficult (for me) to find out what's what... (Maybe someone can help me out?)

From what I can make out, she was born in Berlin, and she was quite a lucrative writer. "No Surrender" is one of several of her books that have been scanned and are available from Project Gutenberg as ebooks.

Elisabeth looks like the stereotypical German lass, but her writing - and its translation - is truly beautiful. She has a spark for describing the landscape and nature with passion and precision, and I can still see the image of the village in the mountains that she conjured up for me in my head, as well as its different faces as it toiled through the seasons.

She also has a way of making the characters very real in your mind, and everyone from George Winterfeld and his lovely lady to the serious and brooding Arno von Raven are brilliantly rendered in all their flaws and merits.

Elisabeth is sure to take you on a journey of sights and emotions that will certainly make you want to read some more of her novels. I certainly do!

May 24, 2011

Favourites - May 12

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I know I said that this was a weekly endeavour, but life sometimes just doesn't turn out the way we'd like! :)

Here are some of my favourite findings from the last few weeks.

I love graffiti artists - and envy their ability to paint on a whim. These geeky paintings are also awesome! :)

I found We Heart Vintage a while ago - it features some really beautiful photos by some talented photographers and of some iconic people. Here is my favourite for the week:

I think it's because I like the black and white effect...

Then, I know it's a bit late since the Royal Wedding is over, and the fact that pictures of Princess Di's last moments are about to be broadcast, but I thought these photos were just freaky - Prince William and Kate share practically the exact same pose that Diana and Charles did upon their engagement.

This Gothic steampunk necklace from Miss Bohemia's blog is very cute. I wouldn't wear it because I love jewellery but never wear it. Except for my wedding ring, of course! :)
Freshly Found is one of the most inspiring blogs I know. They're launching their new website (which might be launched already...) and this is one of the new products they'll be selling.

I love the embroidery on the costume. The backstitching is also perfectly done. *jealous*
Indiespotting spotted these adorable little stuffed toys. These quirky little dolls are just so cute and fun. Looking at them makes me smile! :)

Finally, before I make you too sick and green with all this inspiration, GreenEyedMonster found these digital watercolour paintings.

They are so unique and fun, they'd make a perfect gift.Is that enough inspiration for you?

May 17, 2011

Wipe away bad memories?

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Would you opt to wipe your mind of bad memories?

Scientists have apparently found a link between a protein in the brain that is linked to recollections of bad memories, and by dampening it down, the memories could be quietened.

This is great for war veterans, or people suffering from post-traumatic stress, but what kind of memories would one be able to pick? And we've certainly learnt from the film industry that suppressed memories can cause some serious problems, such as psychosis. Anyway, I digress...

Would one be able to choose to forget one particular unhappy incident, or would it "erase" all unhappy incidents? I can understand if you'd want to forget killing people in the war, but an unhappy memory involving saying goodbye to a loved one, which you wouldn't actually want to forget - would it also be erased?

What are your thoughts?

May 11, 2011

Reasons for Road Rage

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I was driving to work this morning and was stunned by the lack of courtesy I see on the roads. Oh, I know it happens to me every day, but some days you're in just the right mood to notice it and be hurt by it.

I won't mention people or cars, because I'm not like that, but I did have the right of way and they did cross over a solid line. Perhaps I'm being petty, but I think that's why most drivers get angry - petty things.

So to remind myself that the person in question is human, I compiled a list of things that could explain why that person was so rude:

1. They were late for work, although, sorry, I don't really have sympathy with you for that - just get up earlier.

2. They were rushing to the death bed of a family member, or are still grieving for a lost family member.

3. Their indicator was malfunctioning.

4. They were given special permission.

5. Their car is bigger and faster than mine.

6. They were hungry - yes, hunger makes you batty.

7. Their pet cat ate their pet bird, or some other such catastrophe.

8. They forgot to have their first cup of coffee - we all know how cranky coffee-lovers get without their first fix.

9. Someone forgot their birthday.

10. Their Smart Phone broke and they're in a rush to get updated.

11. They have a horrible hangover and forgot their sunglasses at home.

12. They're really pariahs and are upset that they had to go replenish their food stocks.

13. They were abducted by aliens last night, and remembered everything.

I think I'll stop there - the reasons will just become more and more bizarre! :)

To close, I want to ask everyone to stop and smell the bluegums in the morning! It might not be bluegums, but there's always something worth getting up for.

Image by Graur Razvan Ionut from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

May 10, 2011

Things will never change

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10 May 2011

It's almost election time in South Africa, and I can't help but ponder, as a South African, what will happen and how bad it will get.

Politicians are mudslinging as much as they can. One of the DA's biggest mistakes was the whole unenclosed toilet fiasco in a Cape Town township, which has provided plenty of ammo for ANC spokespeople to call the DA "arrogant" and "racist". Now, the ANC is in the same situation after over 1 000 toilets in the Free State's Makhaza were also found to be unenclosed for eight years, leading to another investigation by the Human Rights Commission, which declared the DA fiasco to be a human rights violation.

Then there's apartheid-architect Hendrick Verwoerd's bust in Midvaal - something the ANC was certainly not pleased with. The bust has now been removed, but, as was warned previously, tensions have risen in the region as a result, with an ANC candidate being attacked and insulted in the town.

The race card continues to be drawn in a country where the majority are getting along just fine. Certainly we should be focusing on more important things, like providing better education and stopping crime and rape in the townships instead of breeding hatred and disappointment.

I wish there were some way that we could stop looking back at the past and look to the future together. But sadly, everyone still harbours resentments they've perhaps inherited from their parents.

There was an incident over the weekend at our residence, where two inhabitants decided to have a screaming match on their balcony: it sounded as though they were complaining about noise being made, but even though the worst insult I heard during the altercation was "You're a liar", my mother said afterwards that racism will never end. Sure, the people involved in the argument were different races, but they never mentioned race.

Onlookers did, and that is the problem. Our past resentments, sentiments and beliefs have a bearing on how we judge the world of today, and this means that things will never change. Not because the conditions are not there for change, but because we are not willing to change our personal perspectives.

What will it take?

May 9, 2011

How Music was Born

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I love this image! It is such an iconic idea! :)

via Geeks Are Sexy

May 3, 2011

Osama is dead. Long live Osama

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3 May 2011

When I heard about Osama Bin Laden being killed over the weekend, it wasn't as much of a shock to me as it seemed to be to everyone else. The amount of coverage he has received now has made him no more dead than Elvis.

Watching the news on Monday evening was annoying - we all know about the 9/11 tragedy, but do we really need to be constantly reminded of it? Nevermind the fallacy of the thousands of troops sent to the Middle East for the "war on terror", and many of those young men losing their lives for king and country, so to speak.

I understand though that Bin Laden's death gives these people who have suffered at his hands some kind of closure, but the fact is that just because he is dead doesn't mean there's not someone out there to take his place. There will always be a terrorist as long as there are weapons.

His killing has also, according to AlterNet writer Joshua Holland, exposed the "folly of pre-emptive war" against nations. All the nations that America has been waging war with since 9/11, all the nations who have lost mothers, fathers and children to the "war on terror", none of them were harbouring this terrorist. He was not anywhere near the war - he was one of those proverbial generals who start the war from the top of the hill and look over the massacre of his own troops.

Pakistan must have had a tough time trying to stay in America's good books without inspiring another pre-emptive war against innocent citizens.

On a lighter note, there was an amusing typo on this website's headline on the story: Obama bin Ladin was killed. I think it's quite funny that America's terrorist and president are only one letter different in their names. :)

April 22, 2011

The Struggle with Sexuality

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I read a post today on The Sexy Feminist about how women are struggling with their sexuality in a world that is dictating it for them. We are told how to be sexy in everything in society - television, books, magazines, even pornography is telling us - and the men we love - what it is that makes women attractive and sexy. 

This results in our men forming fantasies about us based on women they are attracted to in film and media, and, if they're brave enough, requesting us to fulfil their fantasies. Invariably, however, simply because the women in the media are not real, we actually feel rather uncomfortable walking around in Daisy Duke's shorts or without panties like in Basic Instinct, or in the sky-high stilettos the porn stars love to wear. I don't mean to generalise, because I know that some women do enjoy these things, but the vast majority of women really just want to be comfortable.

More importantly, they just want to be comfortable with themselves. They want to feel sexy just as they are - being skinnier is on practically every woman's to-do list. Why? Because the models in the media are not normal, and they are obviously more attractive, right? They are the women both men and women look to in order to find out what is attractive. But any woman will tell you that when their man looks at them with love in their eyes, it really doesn't matter how pretty or sexy you are in comparison to these other women. Love transcends that.

More often than not, the fantasies are more about whether or not men can have what they want than because they really want it. They are, after all, told that it's what men want.

So what are we to do? I have to say that I think communication is one of the most important things in a relationship. You need to be able to talk to your partner about everything. Talk about fantasies, talk about comfort, talk about everything.

April 21, 2011

Book Review || Zenzele by J. Nozipo Maraire

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Zenzele - A Letter For My Daughter'is a novel that really makes your brain race around in circles.

The story is basically a letter written by a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter, who is leaving the safety of Zimbabwe for the international world. In it, she speaks of many things - love, religion, that sixth sense we all aim to have - but mostly it is about how Zenzele needs to remember her place as an African - more specifically, as an African who is not oppressed.

The reason the novel takes my brain in circles is because I am faced with a terrible dilemma whenever I read novels protesting against colonialism. This is because I am a white person living in a country that previously oppressed the majority of its population, but I share none of the stereotypical views expressed in these novels - they annoy me to tears sometimes - and yet I am faced with people every day who believe in those stereotypes.

It breaks my heart to read about the characters' experiences - the story about Zenzele's cousin Tinawo, who worked hard at school to earn a white dress with pink flowers, only to see her mother chased out of the shop by the white owner because they didn't serve black people, was particularly poignant, and made me feel embarrassed to top it off.

This is the sad legacy that the oppressors have not only left behind for the black Africans, but also for the white Africans of South Africa: those who had nothing to do with the colonialism are still viewed as the oppressor but slowly become more and more like that which we tried so hard to abolish decades ago - both sides will always accuse the other of racism - there will always be an assumption that one side is trying to oppress the other simply because of this joint history that we share in this country - there will always be this feeling of hatred and fear.

More than anything Zenzele has saddened me, because there are assumptions about both white people and black people that will never disappear, simply because they're right there - staring me, and all other readers, in the face every time we open the novel.

However, Zenzele does leave me with a sense of hope - the final chapter is all about love and how it brings people together. I truly hope that South Africans can become entwined together like the lovers' tree in the story so we can truly build a beautiful country together.

April 15, 2011

The aurora borealis

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April 15, 2011

One day I would love to see the aurora borealis.
It must be one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Apart from lightning and other weather phenomenon in showing us how powerful the earth and nature is, I would suppose that the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, would be one of the things that show you how beautiful nature is.

Nate Bolt was lucky enough to get a unique time lapse of the aurora - Bolt wasn't looking for it, which makes the video he made all the more unique and special.

Here it is:

April 14, 2011

President Pockets Pen

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14 April 2011

Czech President Vaclav Klaus was being torn apart by the media on Wednesday after a clip appeared of him pocketing a pen.

Although afterwards a spokesperson for the conference that was held in Chile said protocol allowed him to take the pen, as they are meant as souvenirs for presidents and other delegates, the President couldn't help looking like a naughty boy as the clip shows him first admiring the pen, and then pocketing it.

I'd like to know that if delegates are allowed to take pens, why did he feel the need to take it so discreetly? Made me giggle this.

April 13, 2011

Demure and stylish Barbie

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13 April 2011

I'm an advocate of Barbie being a bad role model for children.

Yes, despite growing up with at least five Barbie dolls myself. Including one that could be pregnant or not depending on whether it matched your imagined storyline or not.

I digress...

I'm an advocate of Barbie being a bad role model for children. But under the incorrect circumstances. That is, if there is a parent involved in the child's life ready to impart their approval on their child whether they look like Barbie or not, that's a good step.

And a Barbie like this would be great as well!

Barbie wearing Christian Dior's "New Look" is demure and classy without the extra long hair and Miami clothing; and without the Bratz-like inability to breathe through her nose. Her jewellery even matches ... right up to her earrings.

She's beautiful! What do you think?

Via We Heart Vintage

April 12, 2011

More colourfulness please!

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Once again, sorry for being so quiet! I have too much to do! ;)

Anyway, here's a quick look at some of my favourite blog posts from recent days (or weeks - as the case may be!)

I loved Miss Mustard Seed's Tissue Paper pom-poms - I'm in two minds about making strings and strings of them and filling the ceiling in our spare room with their colourfulness.

I saw a photograph this morning of a teen girl's bedroom, and it was so colourful and young, and I feel like I need to bring some of that brightness into my home!

Besides, the spare room is so bland...wonder if Shaun will mind too much!

The link above will take you to the tutorial.

Then this ring has my insides swirling at its prettiness. It seems I'm attracted to anything feminine and pretty lately - look out world! - and this is so perfect. I was going through all my jewellery over the weekend, of which I have *way* too much and wear *way* too little of.

Anyway, the ring is being given away by the lovely Luscious Lockets, so enter the competition now!

I love crafts, and there's nothing I love more than a folk craft. Here 'i do' it yourself shows you how to make papel picado, where designs are cut out of tissue paper and suspended.

Another possibility for my spare room's ceiling? Perhaps I should do them both! What say you?

Finally, something fun needs to be thrown into my mix!

Geeks are Sexy challenged readers to sculpt something...well, geeky, obviously...into fruit. The photo is one of the results. Click here for more.

They actually look a little disgusting; I suppose it's because they've sat for a while. And to think there are children out there who've never tasted a banana at all.

Oh, the spoilt lives we lead!