Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Movie Review: Easy A

So while I have much to do (packing, working, etc) and much to write (6k, come on!) I thought I would quickly write up one of those reviews that I promised. There are so many things that I want to review lately, since I have been reading awesome books, listening to awesome music and watching awesome movies and series, I figured that I should start with one that I watched awhile ago and work my way forward. So I figure that I will start with the movie that we watched at the last Ladies Night.

It was a difficult to choose a movie that none of us had seen, but there was one movie that ended up being agreed upon. Even though a couple of the people had watched it before, they said that it was well worth re-watching. And that movie was Easy A.

Now, you may think that Easy A is your typical Rom Com, and you wouldn't be completely wrong. It definitely is a comedy and there is a romantic aspect to it, but the romantic aspect is kind of drowned out by the comedy aspect, and to me it seemed like more of a Com than a Rom. The movie is set at a high school (typical) and follows a high school girl who is not particularly popular (typical) but becomes the talk of the school when she tells a friend that she slept with a college guy. Only, she was lying. And suddenly she finds herself getting a lot of attention from the boys and girls of the school, some good and some bad. The school is rather religious and Olive (Emma Stone) finds herself getting judged by the popular kids, all of whom are perfect Christian teens, led by Marianne (Amanda Bynes). Of course, she is not the only one being judged, and her gay best friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd), begs her to spread the rumour that she slept with him to avoid the mocking and judgement that he has been received for his sexual orientation. Quickly she becomes the go-to person for help in the sex department, even though she is still a virgin, and a chaotic but hilarious story ensues.

So, what makes this movie so great? Well, a good cast for one. Olive is spunky, intelligent and a good role model for young girls considering that she stands her own even when false rumours are being spread about her. It is all in the name of helping people out, and she does take it slightly overboard, but she is a good person overall and Emma Stone worked the role well. Her family are also really well cast with Stanley Tucci as the dad and Patricia Clarkson as the mom that every teenager wish they had. But the storyline is also just awesome in the way that it progresses into chaos, and the morals that make up the story are great ones - don't lie, don't be self-righteous and all actions (even made up ones) have consequences.

Overall, I think this is an awesome, hilarious movie that I would want my kid to see one day, and one that I think both men and women would enjoy. There is no explicit sex (though hints of sex are obviously mentioned throughout the movie) and no moments that will make you want to look away from the screen, unless you are the kind who gets embarrassed for the characters and cannot bear to watch them doing things that you know are just going to lead to trouble (hey, I used to be that person, okay!)

Watch Easy A. Male, female, young, old. Just watch it, okay?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Yesterday I was having a chat with a friend who has been job hunting recently. As you all know, I went through the process earlier this year and it is one of the most tiring, degrading, self-esteem- and soul-destroying processes that a person can go through. This is particularly the case in South Africa thanks to employment equity.

You see, when you apply for a job, whether it is advertised as an employment equity position or not, you will be asked whether you fit any of the following criteria:

Now I have more than a slight issue with these criteria. If they are going to be asking what race you are, surely they should have all races available rather than singling out four of them? Would it not be better to have a simple box where you can write in whether you are male or female rather than including it in a table? But the issue that specifically bugs me (and bugged my friend) is the “African” option.

Now, I may be Caucasian, but I was born in Africa, have been raised in Africa and have lived in Africa for 22 out of the 23 years of my life. My parents are African, both of them born in Zimbabwe, so I am, without a doubt in my mind, African. Not in the way that they are referring to, of course, but when it comes to a form like this, what is wrong with my indicating that I am both female and African? There is no option of Caucasian, and if there had been, perhaps I would have selected that I was a Caucasian African, but why should my race stop me from being a part of the country, a part of the continent that I was born and raised in? I am African, South African specifically, and it has always been something that I’m proud of.  And yet, when it comes to forms like this, being African is an exclusive criterion. And yes, I know that African refers to a race rather than a nationality, but should it? Why is it that only people with darker skin than Caucasian, Coloured, Chinese and Indian people can be referred to as African? I have the same issue with the term African-American, where people who may not have set foot in Africa in their life are described as being African merely due to the colour of their skin. Of course, I realise that there are people who are proud of their heritage and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. By all means, feel connected to Africa as the place of your origin if that’s what you want to feel. But, at the same time, not every dark-skinned person in America feels that way, I’m sure. And, at the same time, what gives them more right to take on the title of African than I have?

Really, what my issue boils down to is this: the classifications of race. If you look up the definition of Caucasian, you will find a number of definitions ranging from Of or relating to one of the traditional divisions of humankind, covering a broad group of peoples from Europe, western Asia, and parts of India and North Africa” to “Of or relating to a group of languages spoken in the region of the Caucasus, of which thirty-eight are known, many not committed to writing. The most widely spoken is Georgian, of the small South Caucasian family, not related to the three North Caucasian families.” Why is it that I should be referred to as Caucasian when I feel that none of these definitions fits me. Yes, my ancestors were Irish and British, but I do not associate myself as being Irish (well, I have an Irish passport, but it is not what I refer to myself as when asked) or British. I am South African. I am African, though my skin colour does not match the criterion. Why should a person be referred to as African if they have never set foot or associated themself with Africa? Why should a person be Indian or Chinese if they have not been to India or China and have no interest in going there? I understand that heritage is important, but is it important enough to allow for exclusion on the basis of no more than race? 

What if I had been born in India, fair skin and all. Could I not then have said that I was Indian? Could I have come to South Africa, applied for a job and ticked the box that indicates that I am Indian, or would I have received a phone call asking for clarification and, 15 minutes later, received a rejection letter on the grounds that I do not fit the criteria?

I am sorry if anyone is offended by this post. It really was not my intention to offend. It was just my time to vent and rant. It is over.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Life

So as many of you may have noticed, I have been quite quiet recently. This is because, as I suspected would happen, I have been crazy busy! But, there are a couple of aspects to this busyness that I had not expected.

So Lara, what have you been doing?
There have been three things taking up most of my time over the last month. The most obvious one is work, and the less obvious are writing and photography. I have stuck to my NaNoWriMo plans, and am 33240 words into my novel. I still have 8 days left to write, and I think that I can make it if I buck up and start writing a little more than 2000 words each day. Which is totally possible, considering that I got to 25k by the 10th of the month and have just been slacking since then.

In terms of photography, I have been participating in a mentorship programme as the mentee. My mentor is a Photography professor in the States, and I have been chatting with him over Skype 3 days of the week. I am given assignments to do and am learning how to use PhotoShop, and the experience has been great (Sausi, my tutor, is AWESOME), but it is also extremely tiring and leaves little time for other things, like writing.

Oh, and I have been packing. Not as much as I should be since I have had other things taking up my time on the weekends that I plan to pack (things like photo shoots or trips to PE or no packing tape being in the house). But there are a good number of boxes taking up the area under the stairs and we intend to move a lot of them to the new house this weekend. The move really is around the corner and it is uber-exciting, especially since I GET A PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO IN MY GARAGE! Plus, two giant gardens, plus a house-warming party where people bring gifts and things. Can you tell how excited I am? I don’t think you can. SQUEE!!!!!!!!!!

What have you been reading?
Oh yeah, I haven’t given up on reading completely. Though most of my books have, at this point, been packed into boxes, I left one out for my reading pleasure, and that one is the book that I recently received from Loot – “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ” by Jose Saramago. I first heard of the book when I was doing my post-grad diploma and have been intrigued and wanting to read it since then. Unfortunately, it is not the most popular of Saramago’s work and has proved difficult to come across. But I found it on Loot and ordered it a couple of weeks ago. It arrived last week and I have been reading it (slowly but surely) since. It is definitely interesting, but not the easiest read. I will let you know what I think of it when I’ve finished, which will not be this month considering everything else that is going on.

What have you been watching?
Not very much – one movie and a couple of series when I am going to bed at night. The movie that I watched was Easy A, which I LOVED and will be writing a review of later this week (probably). The series that I have been watching are Dollhouse (I didn’t get into it when it started, but am loving it now) Misfits (during my lunch breaks at work – another review around the corner) and Castle (uber-awesome!)

What about that uber-awesome cat of yours with the incredibly lame name?
Oy! No being mean to Puddims L He’ll totally kick your ass! He is a superhero after all! He has been saving me from 8-legged monsters left, right and centre, occasionally jumping on my head at 4am to do so and attempting to do the same to Grant (though I stopped him). He is also LOVING the boxes that are around the house and thinks that they are there just for him. I think he is not going to be such a happy kitty in 9 days time, however, when he finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings. But there will be boxes (and spiders I’m sure) to keep him company, so he will survive.

And so my life over the last few weeks has pretty much been explained. What’s going on in your lives?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief

I have grown up with stories about the Holocaust, so much so that I cannot remember a time when I did not know about it. I started going to Hebrew lessons when I was five (and usually went with my sister before then anyway) and the first book that I remember wanting to read was Anne Frank's Diary. It is possible and quite likely that Anne Frank was the reason for my wanting to become a journalist in the first place, though I cannot guarantee that. In any case, Anne was the beginning of my Holocaust reading, but she certainly was not the last.

When it came to middle and high school, books about the Holocaust were spread amongst our syllabus, and we were encouraged to read books about the Holocaust outside of the syllabus as well. The school library was filled with them. The most memorable of the books that I read was Night by Ellie Wiesel, and it was hauntingly beautiful, but absolutely nightmarish. Which makes complete sense. The Holocaust was absolutely nightmarish. Worse. It was no nightmare. However, I came across a book recently (advised by my friend Kath) that I thought would have proved a better tool for learning about the Holocaust in high school. It is a marvelous book called 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak.

There are a couple of things that make The Book Thief great as both a novel and a tool for teaching. The protagonist in the story is a young girl, only nine when the story starts and fourteen when it ends, someone that teenagers, and particularly teenagers between those ages, can relate to. But even as a twenty-three year old, I can relate to Liesel. She is every little girl. Another great aspect about the protagonist - she is a reader. Even before she learns to read, she knows the value of books, and values the ability to read, possibly because it was such a great challenge for her to wrap her head around. Liesel is an entirely relatable character on a number of levels, all of which make the book easy to read for young and old readers alike.

One of the main reasons that I think this is a great tool for learning, however, is that it shows the Holocaust from a number of perspectives. It shows it from the everyday life of a young German girl, from the viewpoint of a Jew in hiding, from the viewpoint of a proud German man, from the viewpoint of his patriotic son, from the viewpoint of a crippled boy and from the viewpoint of a perfectly normal boy next door who is just trying to fit in. It provides a wide scope from which to view the Holocaust and see how it affected the life of everyone in Germany, from the rich to the poor, from the young to the old.

And the thing that makes this book a great read for anyone, learning or not, is the manner in which it is written. First of all, the narrator is not your typical narrator. The narrator is death, but not as the hateful bastardly reaper that steals you away. Death is not a nightmare in this novel, but a dream. He is thoughtful, he is the saviour and he even has a slight sense of humour at times. Death is the hero of the novel in many ways. But it's not just the narrator, its also the tone. The novel is not depressing. It is beautiful! It will make you smile and cry at the same time, knowing as you do what the outcome of the story is likely to be. And yet, you cannot help but smile. I smile everytime I think of Liesel and her collection of books and cry every time I think of Rudi covering himself in black coal and pretending to be Jessie Owens.

This is a book that I think every teenager should read. I think it is the perfect introduction to the Holocaust. That is not to say that books like Night should be ignored in the syllabus. Not at all - they hold valuable lessons that people of every age need to face. But I certainly think that they should be taught alongside books like The Book Thief, which show the beauty of life mixed in with the horror of death, the good together with the bad, both sides of the coin for the people of Germany - the Jews, the Christians, the Atheists, the young and the old. As much as the lessons in Night are valuable for people of all ages, I think that the same came be said of The Book Thief.