{ Under The Bluegums }

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

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.