Thursday, 27 March 2008

Those handy cellphones

When I got a Swiss sim card for my cellphone, I sent Pim an SMS: "Ich habe ein handy."
His reply: "Das ist gut, oder handy."

Yes, 28 out of 32 of you knew the answer: a handy is a cellphone. Thanks for voting in the poll, or rather, answering the quiz question - I'll try to come up with a new one soonish.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Hair today, Proust tomorrow

Sometimes people think I am shallow. You'll agree or disagree depending on where, when and how you know me. A couple of random quotes to illustrate the "shallow" hypothesis:

Kim: "When did you become so shallow?" (2004)

Early Bird: "When Theresa first started working in magazines she was an intellectual hippie from Grahamstown, but look how shallow she´s become!" (2006)

In 2005 Mim gave me a hair-straightener for my birthday. I was delighted with the present, and had painstakingly straightened locks for a month or so; then I shaved all my hair off. I also demanded (and received) the box set of In Search of Lost Time for Christmas - to pacify my pseudo-intellectual side. My hair has since grown back. And I´m only halfway through The Guermantes Way. But reading this poem, first brought to my attention by Early Bird, makes me feel better.

Anyway, while I was in London, my dear friend Caramello gave me a very generous voucher for my birthday. And it's not all about hair and lipstick, so I was glad it was for Waterstone's rather than The Bodyshop. A list of my purchases follows.

1. Complicity
Iain Banks
GX and I have a running argument as to whether Iain Banks or Iain M Banks is the better writer. Considering I have read only the former, and GX only the later, it's never gonna be settled until one of us becomes less precious about our selection of reading material.
2. Odd Girl Out
Anne Bannon
The first lesbian pulp fiction novel. Despite the wimpy main character and surprising lack of sex scenes, it's still a classic.
3. The Road to Oxiana
Robert Byron
The original Bruce. Byron is the hero of my hero, which makes him a super hero.
4. The Princess Bride
William Goldman
An epic tale of "true love and high adventure". I never tire of it.
5. Atomised
Michel Houellebecq
I revelled in discovering Houellebecq. But honestly, there´s only so much of ageing Frenchmen fucking hot young things that one can take before it begins to pall.
6. Confessions of Zeno
Italo Svevo
Actually the book I bought was called Zeno's Conscience, but I prefer the translation above. I first came across this novel through William Kentridge's opera, and have spent years searching for my own copy after UCT library rudely demanded I return the one that belonged to them, as well as issuing me with a hefty library fine. The book sits by my bed for the day or night when I am inspired to give up smoking. Until such a time, I am a devotee of the last-cigarette ritual.

'To reduce its outlandish appearance, I even tried to give a philosophical content to the last-cigarete disease. Striking a beautiful attitude, one says: "Never again." But what becomes of that attitude if the promise is then kept? It´s possible to strike the attitude only when you are obliged to renew the vow.'

pp 13 to 14

Right, it's 1:.29am on 27.03.08, hardly an auspicious date to give up smoking. So I'm off for a "last cigarette" before bed.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Believe it, because it´s true!

Rumours may have reached you that I am a finalist in the SA Blog Awards (category: Best Overseas South African Blog). These rumours are indeed true, and you can vote for me by clicking on the widget (have to keep up with all the blogger jargon, you know) on the right of your screen. Voting closes on 19 March 2008.

A few thoughts on my nomination (since I don´t think I´ll be in a position to make a speech at the awards dinner, you´ll have to bear with me now):

1. Thanks must go to RK and The Raghunath. Without the former´s unerring focus, and the latter´s sartorial vicissitudes, I would never have become a blogger. The good news is, Mahendra´s Ties is also a finalist (category: Best Group Blog).
2. Thanks also to all of you who nominated me! Without my readers, I suspect I would´ve discontinued this blog long ago. Although I also suspect I would update it more frequently if larger numbers of you deigned to submit comments.
3. I´m really looking forward to checking out all the other blogs that made it to the finals, although will naturally be voting for myself, Mahendra, and Overtone in their respective categories - I´m a loyal, if biased, supporter of my friends.
4. No one in Liechtenstein knows what "overseas" means; they all say "abroad".
5. For me, writing this blog has been about updating my friends, rather than becoming part of the "blogging community". In fact, I don´t know how many of my friends read other blogs. I certainly don´t - except for those written by said friends (see loyalty, above). To this end, I created a group on Facebook that people can join if they want to find out when I update my blog. I suspect there might be a more simple way of achieving this (by installing something called RSS?) but I have no idea what this is exactly, although I intend to find out. What I find interesting, is that enough people from one platform (Facebook), voted for me to propel me into the finals of a contest on another platform (blogging). Perhaps it´s something to do with Web 2.0? (Note to self: must find out more about this as well).
6. I´d say the major flaw of my blog, although you´re welcome to differ in the comments section, is that I am still way behind real time - currently writing about October 2007. So until I catch up to the present, which will only happen in the future, I´m missing out on one of the best features of blogging: up-to-the-minute news and views. Laziness is probably the reason. But in my defence, I also didn´t want to force myself to churn out banal posts just for the sake of it: "Today was cold and boring in Liechtenstein, so I went shopping in Austria in the afternoon, and clubbing in Switzerland in the evening," etc. Although that´s hardly banal, is it?
7. Part of the idea of me coming here was to foster some sort of "cultural exchange" between Liech and SA. I´m co-teaching a course on SA history and culture at the Gymnasium. And I hope, by reading this blog, Saffers will gain more exposure to the principality, even if it´s only through my idiosynchratic eyes.

Friday, 07 March 2008

Axel from Belgium

As you already know from Daniel in Vaduz, I am not the only resident of the Hotel Schlössle who´s been writing a blog. Another student, Axel from Belgium, who was here for the winter semester, also has his perspective on living in Liechtenstein. You can read about it here.

I didn´t get to know Axel well while he was Vaduz, other than a brief conversation in Afrikaans / Flemish at one of the first parties. But it was fascinating to read his blog - you´ll particularly enjoy it if you have an interest in architecture; he also has some great photos of Liechtenstein.

Wednesday, 05 March 2008

How to be a perfect host

For my time in London, I stayed with my saucy HP cousins, and their kitty cat, Muffin Pants. They are definitely top contenders for the Consummate Host 2007 Awards. Here´s what they did right:

1. Gave me a room and their spare key.
2. Did not comment on my comings and goings in the early hours of the morning.
3. Went away on holiday for a large part of my stay.
4. Lived their own lives, and let me live mine.

It´s simple really. All too often, when you´re staying with friends or family, both parties end up bending over backwards to accommodate each other, and end up with a compromise that leaves everyone feeling disgruntled. HP just continued about their daily lives, and assumed I´d look after myself.

Perfect, and no feelings of catholic guilt to haunt me. Sure the evenings when we all managed to be home at the same time were few and far between, but this made them even more special. It´s a rare gift indeed to give you guests the space they need... Perhaps it´s because HP are cat people?

Tuesday, 04 March 2008

Birthday V2.1

I´d already had a pre-party, a party, and an after party with my new friends in Liech. Why stop now?

I rounded up my friends in London for another celebration. The very lovely Leti suggested Candid Cafe as a venue - reminiscent of ATOM sans copious alcohol consumption, sexy waiters, surly barman, and infamous bathroom shenanigans.

But hey, I´m not complaining - it was definitely the closest I´ve found to Obscurvitory in London. It was fabulous (dahling!) to catch up with friends from Cape Town and Grahamstown days in a setting that felt a just a little bit like home.

Another poll

This will be the last, for now, in the "German-English" series of polls. There are only 14 days to vote before the result, so don´t miss your chance! If, like me, you lack peripheral vision, the poll itself is to the right of your screen.

Monday, 03 March 2008


I found the following video on the interweb. Seems to have been an "innovative" viral-marketing campaign commissioned by the publishers of The Gum Thief. Since I read the book before I saw the clip(s), it´s hard for me to tell if they work or not. I mean, they´re funny, in a The Office / ´50s camp / teenage angst kinda way.

But do they stand alone, if you haven´t yet read the book? Do they make you want to rush out and buy it? Readers, please share your thoughts. Personally, I´d rather read the book before I see the movie, but maybe I´m just old skool.

Meeting Mr Generation X

As we were all milling around in the foyer of the Bloomsbury Theatre, I spotted someone I knew - not a common phenomenon for me in London. By "knew", I mean I thought this person might be the brother of an ex-housemate. I´d only met him once before, years ago - the brother, not the ex-housemate - but like, we are "friends" too, on the interweb. And the person across the room from me, did bear a striking resemblance to the profile pic of my "friend", TX.

I was at a book reading by Douglas Coupland. Would TX go to a Douglas Coupland reading, I wondered idly? Based upon my limited knowledge of his personality, I reflected that he very well might. Would a Douglas Coupland reading be the kind of gathering where it was likely I would bump into someone I only knew vaguely through the interweb? For sure!

I ended up sitting a row in front of the person whom may or may not have been TX, and finally said hello and inquired as to his identity. It was indeed TX, and there was just enough time to check out some pictures of his cutie-pie progeny before Coupland took the stage.

He was reading from his latest novel, The Gum Thief. At first, I was disappointed. I mean, this guy looked older than my parents (for the record, he isn´t). And he read in a soothing monotone, with the emphasis on "monotone" rather than "soothing". But gradually I began to realise this style suited the sterile and pre-packaged world his characters inhabit.

I read two-thirds of the book while I was sitting in the queue to have it signed (for the record, I read the rest in the tube on my way home). And what I do love about reading Coupland, is that almost every line is a fridge quote. But part of me can´t help feeling, at least in his latest offering, that´s all there is to it: an assortment of sentences and phrases that would make me laugh out loud each morning if I had bothered to copy them down and stick them on my fridge. But I didn´t, and now I can´t remember a single line, and I don´t really care.

Typically of Coupland, The Gum Thief contains characters who struggle to break free of their McJobs; sadly, this results in little more than fast-food literature. Don´t get me wrong - I loved reading the novel. But there weren´t any new flavours; only reprocessed ideas and characters that left me, if not exactly unsatisfied, then certainly unaffected. Perhaps this is the point?

Literary groupie that I am, it was still fun to have my book signed. And Douglas Coupland called me "glamorous", even though I was only dressed in jeans and I had been unable to reapply my lipstick for fear of losing my place in the queue. But then he ruined any advantage gained through his flattery by drawing a sparkly heart in my book, which was a trifle disturbing.

Sunday, 02 March 2008

Latest poll results

In German-English, what does "beamer" mean?

Well 14 out of 24 of you guessed correctly: the answer is "a data projector". But my heart is with the maverick who said it was "a large grin" ;)

Thanks for all your votes, and keep reading: I´ll post another poll in the next couple of days.