Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Cultural Expedition To Observe Celebrities In Their Natural Habitat

Warning: this post is picture intensive.

Earlier this month I was invited to attend the Cosmo Swimwear fashion show, which was held at a new establishment in the city, Wembley Square. It is supposedly the new "in" place in which to be seen if you' know...not me....


Above: 6:19pm: The VIP seats, and the altar of cocktails on the far right.

Upon arrival - and we were unintentionally early - we were presented with gift bags, which we all found rather odd as one is usually only handed such things after an event, and only if you've stayed at the event late enough to warrant receiving a gift. However, this turned out to be a bonus as they ran out of gift bags before all the guests had arrived and, later in the evening (while I was standing on a table, but more on that later), I noticed a number of women eyeing mine with great jealousy (and one woman even asked me where I had obtained mine), so I held it close at all times for fear of being a victim of fashionista pilfering.

We were greeted by a hostess and offered the option of a cosmopolitan or a maverick (Absolut vodka with granadilla juice; I mention "Absolut" because it was one of the sponsors, along with Wembley Square and Cosmopolitan, so now I've completed my brand-name dropping requirement for this report. Seriously, though, thank you Absolut vodka, you always make my day). My journalist friends, tossing their allegience to all things Cosmo out the window, opted for mavericks, while I had a cosmopolitan.


I swear, three seconds and it was gone. I was highly disappointed. And those cocktail glasses are deceptive, because they look as if they hold a lot. They really don't. I can state that with firm, confirmed conviction. If you inhale twice you'll empty them. Yet, miraculously, my friends all managed to make their drinks last much longer. I don't know how they did it. Cocktail flair, perhaps. I guess I should sip more and gulp less.

Since it was early in the evening and we had nothing better to do, we ended up at the bar, which turned out to be the smoking area, so that wasn't particularly pleasant for me. Within about an hour the venue went from busy to packed, and we became increasingly squished in the corner as rude people intruded on our space and forced us to retreat. We conversed idly and I met a couple of new employees from the Cosmo offices. The talk turned to rumours of which celebrities were supposed to be attending. We snacked on hors d'oeuvres doing the rounds. I couldn't identify most of the food, so I sampled a carrot stick.

And then the celebrity parade suddenly began.

Can you say "deluge"? Well, you don't have to, but it would be appropriate.

My digital camera doesn't take particularly good pictures in dim light unless I use the flash, which I didn't want to do as it's incredibly intrusive, so many of my shots are, unfortunately, a little blurry. And the rest are completely blurry.

In retrospect, it might have been a good way for me to get everybody out of my personal space, so I will keep that in mind for the future.


Above: 7:09pm: Mark Bayly, the host of Survivor SA, appeared at the bar right in front of me. I'm not particularly a fan of his - I find him wooden and boring, and think he would have been better utilised as a host for The Amazing Race, except we don't do that show (dammit!). One of the Cosmo staff members is a huge fan of his and we spent the next five minutes going: "Is it him? I think it's him.'s not him, it's just some guy who looks like him.... Wait, no, I think it is it?"


Above: 7:09pm: Mark Bayly's feet, for those with a shoe fetish, foot fetish, or size fetish. It occurred to me that no one else would be taking this photograph so it could be my exclusive. I hope it answers any questions you may have had. They never show his feet on TV so I presume it's been a topic of discussion among single (older) women all over the country.


Above: 7:12pm: This is Andrew Mac, the lead singer of the band Flat Stanley, at the bar. Unfortunately the picture is very blurry because I was so surprised that he actually paused to smile at me, while I was obtrusively shoving a camera in his face, that I couldn't hold it steady. By this time I had also had a second cosmopolitan so that may possibly have been a contributing factor. Nevetheless, thank you, Andrew, for being really cool.


Above: 7:13pm: Andrew Mac's feet (on the left). I thought I'd continue my research while I had the opportunity. And noooo, this is not creepy at all.


Above: 7:14pm: Sam Allerton from Survivor SA chats to Mark Bayly. They wouldn't keep still so this is as good as it gets.


Above: 7:16pm: Sam Allerton, near the bar, looking uncomfortable. Proof that it was him, in case you didn't believe me after seeing the previous photograph. I saw him a few weeks before this at YDE in Cavendish Square, so he and I are old friends (he just doesn't know it). Sam wasn't particularly keen on having his picture taken and tried his best to look away without being rude, while I was unsubtly snapping away with blogger glee. What I should have done was shout: "Do not move, I'm trying to take your photograph!" I'll remember that for next time.


Above: 7:30pm: Feeling claustrophobic, we drifted away from the bar and then met up with some more Cosmo staff members. I noticed Colin Moss on the other side of the room but this was the best picture that I could get. Honestly! Celebrities are completely unable to keep still.

Soon after this the battery symbol on my camera started to flash and I began to panic because the fashion show hadn't even started.

More waiters drifted by. We snacked. I decided I had to try a maverick (for research purposes), so I did. It lasted about as long as my cosmopolitans, so I was forced to have a second one a few minutes later.


Above: 7:51pm: Former Miss South Africa and TV host Jo-Ann Strauss at the bar. This is the very last photograph that I was able to take that evening, as my battery then proceeded to die*. Rather spectacularly, in fact: my camera lens got stuck in the protracted position and I couldn't get it to retract until I had a chance, hours later once home, to charge my battery. I'd rather not have that happen again.

Sometime around this point we decided to get closer to the action, as the fashion show was about to start. We, unfortunately, had been instructed not to sit in the seats around the runway, which had been reserved for the VIP guests, so we were stuck with the plebs behind a huge glass barricade. At least we were close to the bar.

Being of average height among tall people, I couldn't see much. A couple of people in a similar predicament decided to stand on the glass tables that were in this area and, as no one came by to dissuade them I also clambered up on a table and was glad I did, as I probably had one of the best views of the fashion show.

So there was I (having come straight from work), dressed like a combination of journalist, geek, and blogger (which, I'm sure you realise, is apt, if not - possibly - completely appropriate), surrounded by fashionistas, celebrities, and models, standing on a table, with a notebook and pencil, because I was actually doing work. (Blogging is work.)

Surreal things such as this happen to me all the time.

A reasonably accurate re-creation of the runway

Above: A reasonably accurate re-creation of the runway.

Since at this point I could no longer photograph celebrities, or the fashion show, I have had to draw a picture - with perfect perspective, since I was taught to do that in multimedia school** - of the models on the runway so that you have the complete picture. I am nothing if not a thorough journalist (except when I'm required to do unnecessary or complicated research, in which case I just make stuff up***).

All the models were tall and thin and did their modelling work in very high heels. I have trouble walking without falling over in sneakers and my smart flat shoes (and I'm talking about when I'm sober), so I have deep respect for this skill that they have had to master in order to be People Who Walk Professionally.

To be fair, though, models are just like normal people. Some of them suck and some of them are really warm, smart, interesting people with a sense of humour. You have to remember that modelling is actually an art form. Trust me, it can't be easy being a male model in nothing more than a Speedo with instructions to pause on an assigned spot on the runway, three feet from the crowd, crotch level with the mostly female (and occasional gay male) guests. It takes stones to do that - I mean, beyond those already visible, save for a thin veneer of stretched lycra.

I'm glad I was 10 metres away on a table.

A reasonably accurate re-creation of the models

Above: A reasonably accurate re-creation of the models.

The runway was shaped like a P and a camera was set up at the end of the longest section to project the action onto a large screen on the wall behind the runway. There was one male model in particular who I'm sure wanted his penis projected onto the big screen (presumably for obvious reasons) as he kept gyrating in front of the camera.

Smaller screens displayed pretaped promotional material of the brands as they appeared on the runway. Most of the clothing can be seen (if you happen to own it) in the November issue of Cosmo in the special swimwear section at the back of the magazine. The models wore swimwear and beachwear from Speedo, Sportscene, Woolworths, and JBS, among others, but the most interesting, and weird, brands were Tropitone and Bonaqua.

Tropitone is a range of sun-care products. How do you model sunblock? I'm still not sure, and I was there.

Bonaqua is a range of flavoured water. The models walked around the runway carrying their bottles of water. That was the extent of it. It was rather amusing. At the end of the Bonaqua segment, an enterprising model drenched herself in her bottle of water, to the delight of the audience.

Elana Afrika appeared on the runway with a microphone near the end of the show, but I was too far way to hear what she had to say, and my camera was dead so I couldn't take a picture, so I have nothing more to say about that.

After the show had ended and people were once again milling around, talking, and being served snacks, I saw etv's Nicky Greenwall (although I still find it hard to think of her as a celebrity as I know her from way back when before she was famous: high school - she was in the year after me, along with Louise Carver. I've now completed my "back in the day" name dropping requirement for this report, as well as my "celebrities that I have been in the same large, open-air area with" name-dropping requirement).

Mark Bayly reappeared near us and one of the Cosmo staff members, who knows his girlfriend, introduced him to a couple of his Cosmo fans. I stood back because I didn't have anything to say to him, so being there for no reason, hovering, gets a bit weird. At that moment one of the professional photographers happened to be passing by, so they asked him to take a photograph of them with Mark. It was at this point that I did something really, really stupid: instead of stepping into the photo, like any normal person would do, I stepped out of the way, because...I don't know. I wasn't thinking clearly. Must have been all those carrot sticks.

After that they said their goodbyes but it had become crowded again so Mark had to squeeze past me as he tried to get by and, as he did so, he apologised and smiled at me in such a sweet way that I was instantly won over.

A Note About Mark Bayly
Since I had a couple of close encounters, here's everything you need to know:
* He is much better looking in real life. I can't emphasise that enough.
* He is much smaller in real life. This may partly be due to the oversized Cape Union Mart shirts that he wore on Survivor SA.
* He was wearing a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt, jeans, and sandals.
* He is very unassuming but very charming.
I went away from this event liking him a lot and I regret stepping out of the photograph instead of into it. Honestly. What the hell was I thinking? Mark: do-over, please. One day. I'll wait. I mean, not in a desperate way, or anything. Or in a stalker way...seriously.

A Note About The Carrot Sticks
By the end of the evening I had consumed nine carrot sticks (as well as a mini smoothie provided by Crush).

Soon after this we went home, so you've now read pretty much everything I observed while observing and know as much as I do about celebrities.

*Because I forgot to charge it.
**I said "multimedia", not "remedial".
***I am joking, of course. I always check at least some of my facts; that's why everyone's names are spelt correctly.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Story About The Thing That I Really Didn't Want To Talk About But I'm Blogging About It Anyway

Towards the end of last week the desk phone of one of my colleagues suddenly stopped working, so she logged a support call and, a very long story later (as these always tend to be), we ended up with a tech guy in our office yesterday, who came to fix the phone.

I shall now, as I always do, switch to the present tense for heightened dramatic effect.

The tech guy, complete with cap, jeans, and large toolbox, appears in our office about five hours after we had been expecting him (that's part of the long story). He tries out the phone. He opens his toolbox. He does tech guy things. Eventually it becomes boring so we all go back to work.

He leaves, he returns. We continue working. My colleague leaves the office for some reason. I keep half an eye on the tech guy because there's something a little odd about him. My other colleagues in the room continue on with their work. It is deadline, after all, and no one's given us alcohol, so we're all in a bad mood.

So the tech guy is fiddling with his tools and then crouches down under the desk. As he does so I hear a sound that I really don't want to be hearing. In fact, I'm hoping that the zipperish sound is an actual zip, and not what I think it is.

About a minute later an odour wafts past my desk heading off towards the ether. Except the ether is on the other side of a wall of windows that can't be opened, leaving me trapped in a room with a smell that can't dissipate.

Naturally, I begin to feel nauseous.

The tech guy continues to play with his tools, trying very hard to pretend that he's not responsible for this ecological disaster. In fact, he does such a good job of it that I begin to suspect that perhaps he doesn't actually know that he is responsible. Or that it truly is a disaster.

It's lunch time. I am practically starving, but I can't eat my lunch because the thought of food makes me want to vomit. In fact, it takes about two hours - waaaay past lunch time - before I can stomach consuming my carefully prepared piece of stuffed butternut, but all the joy has been taken out of it. I am not amused by this.

Meanwhile, the tech guy disappears, but we hear hammering sounds from nearby for the next 40 minutes, so we presume he's fixing something.

The tech guy reappears at my colleague's desk and starts fiddling again. Even though he's a couple of metres away from me I am feeling so invaded, in terms of my personal space, that I am cringing. I try to focus on my work but can't, and glance his way. I notice that his jeans are rather worn out, which isn't a big deal because I am wearing similar jeans today, but I notice that his jeans aren't so much worn-out blue as worn-out blueish streaked with grimy brown. In other words, they've probably never been washed.

Not pleasant.

He disappears, reappears, disappears, the work goes on. Eventually he returns to the office, picks up the handset of the now-fixed phone and - I kid you not - phones a friend and shouts something to the effect of: "Whad-up dawg!! Is it working?" into the phone. I presume he was trying to impress me with his knowledge of Ebonics, or something. I don't know; I was still so nauseous that I couldn't laugh cynically at the absurdity of a South African white boy trying to sound like an African American hip-hop artist and was just willing him To Go. Away.

My colleague, who had left the room again, returns to her desk and the tech guy informs her that her phone is now working. She is pleased, and thanks him, and then demurely says "...and hopefully I won't have to call you again," which is a reference to the fact that she didn't have a working phone for days on end and wouldn't like to repeat that experience (or the experience of trying to get someone to fix it).

"That would be a pity," replies the tech guy, sheepishly, gaze roaming the carpet while he daydreams about their five kids, because he's far too attracted to her to look her in the eyes as he says it.

Ooh. Sparks igniting while my nausea grows. Go. Away.

Realising that the romance probably isn't going to go anywhere anytime soon the tech guy leaves, and my colleague picks up her phone to try it out, but then exclaims: "Yuck! It smells like cigarette smoke."

Of course, because how else would this story end?


Monday, November 27, 2006

Toy Run 2006

Yesterday was a busy day for Cape Town. The Proteas (our national cricket team) played (and won) the third one-day international against India at the Newlands Cricket Stadium in the southern suburbs, a concert was held in the city centre and was followed by the mayor switching on the Christmas lights in Adderley Street, and the annual Toy Run charity motorcyle ride was held in the suburbs.

Since the first two events required me to drive around for hours to find parking, I decided to watch the Toy Run. The event is organised by the Italian Motorcycle Owners Club and is held in Cape Town and, apparently, in other cities around the country, traditionally on the last Sunday of November. In Cape Town, the bikers congregate at the Pick 'n Pay Hypermarket in Ottery before riding north along the M5, on the N2 along Settlers Way, and then back down the peninsula along the M3 to Maynardville. This year an extra starting point was organised in Cape Town at Ratanga Junction - for bikers from the northern suburbs - who joined the route at Settlers Way. The bikers have to take a toy with them, which is collected at the end of the run and is donated to needy children in orphanages, group homes, and hospitals so that they will have at least one gift for Christmas.

The public tends to congregate along the route, often pulling over if they happen to be driving, to watch the spectacle, which lasts for about 20 minutes. It used to be more exciting as cars tended to avoid the route (or were possibly barred from using it) for the short period during which the Toy Run takes place, and the bikers used to ride more en masse and less staggered than they do nowadays, which I presume is due to a set of robots [*] that exists on the M5, but it's still fun to watch and I make a point of doing so each year.

So, to set the scene, imagine the following (only with motion and loud engine noises) for about 20 minutes and you pretty much get the gist of it:


Above: 11:26am: Bikes...


Above: 11:30am: ...bikes...


Above: 11:30am: ...bikes.

I filmed a short clip of the Toy Run and was intending to upload it to YouTube but there appears to be something wrong with my software because I can't export the sound (not that the sound is particularly thrilling...or, for that matter, the video...) so that little effort is still a project in progess. I'll post the link here if the video ever exports properly and I can upload it.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Sony Expo 2006

Just a quick note for those in Cape Town: the Sony Expo 2006 is being held at the Market Square (it's behind all the takeaway restaurants) at the V&A Waterfront until Sunday and it is open to the public. I attended the media and industry preview on Wednesday night and will be writing a more comprehensive article for my web site in the next few days but if you're in the area you should definitely go and have a look if you're into gadgets and home-theatre systems.

The expo is showcasing a large range of new and soon-to-be-released Sony products and includes playable PSPs (highlight: MotoGP) and PS2s (highlight: B-Boy, and Monster house for the kids), a dummy pink PlayStation 2 unit, Sony Handycams, 40-inch BRAVIA LCD TVs, Cyber-shot cameras and docking station, PictureStation photo printers, speakers, the new Walkman, VAIO notebooks, the new alpha digital SLR camera, and components from the Xplod Car Audio system installed in two cars.

The disappointment of the show is that there are no demo PlayStation 3 machines, only dummy models, so don't go expecting that to be your highlight for November. Unfortunately the demo units are only arriving in the country in a few days, so we will have to wait a bit longer. There is, however, a show reel running on a number of BRAVIA TVs with new gaming footage of about eight upcoming and in-development games for the PlayStation 3, including Afrika (working title), F1 06, Genji (a (visual) highlight), and Getaway.

(Find truly useful information about the expo here.)

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