Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Sex and the City 2 - why you shouldn't waste nearly three hours of your life

Last night, I attended the South African premiere of Sex and the City 2, courtesy of HP, who are one of the sponsors of the movie. They and their co-sponsors did an awesome job of transforming Hyde Park into a New York vibe, although us plebs were decidedly miffed that only the fashionably fabulous folk got into the Moet lounge... but let's not be petty here, it was a free movie.

I'll maybe blog about the event itself later, but for now, here are my thoughts on the movie.

I've been a Sarah Jessica Parker fan since LA Story (which is still one of my favourite movies in the history of ever), and although I didn't watch every episode of the Sex and the City TV series, I really enjoyed the ones that I did see. The first movie was a chick flick of note, but it was still fun, and oh my word, that Vivienne Westwood dress...

But the second movie is proof that too much of a good thing is, well, really appalling. The movie drags on for close on two hours and 45 minutes - it might have been more bearable if they'd contained themselves to an hour and 20. But clearly Abu Dhabi threw billions at them to create a suitably glamourous ad for the emirate, so they needed to stretch it out. A lot. Every time I thought it might be heading for a wrap, it sashayed off into another extended orgy of self-indulgence... or should that be sponsor-indulgence?

The plot line was more diaphanous than Carrie's curious outfit that she wore to sing karaoke (yes, apparently karaoke is tired in New York, but it's alive and well in Abu Dhabi), but what was strong all the way through was the American disdain for cultures other than theirs. It's no wonder Islam has such a problem with our friends across the water - judging by the oohs and ahs from the young women in the audience, these careless ignorant creatures are role models for an impressionable audience.

The Samantha character is really longer in the tooth than anything I've ever seen, although to give the scriptwriters credit, they do point this out a few times. She really is everything that I aspire not to be in a woman, and then some. Describing her as a slut isn't strong enough, and I'm sure respectable whores are offended by her behaviour - so I think you get my meaning?

What the movie does excel at, is at providing a showcase for a vast array of fashion and fabulous shoes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the parts of the movie that weren't dragged out to show off Abu Dhabi, were dragged out purely to give the four friends more opportunities to wear different clothes - or the fashion houses more time to show off their wares. The fashions were interesting, colourful, exciting and intriguing, and there was probably a wardrobe full of clothes that I would happily embraced.

I totally get that this kind of movie is all about escapism, about seeing how the rich and (in)famous live. I get that fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that women need role models to follow, icons to inspire them.

However, Samantha is the furthest thing from a role model that there is, Charlotte is pathetic, Miranda is clearly only there to show off the clothes that no-one else will wear, and Carrie really should get it that she's onto a good thing with Big.

As an entertainment experience, it left me stone cold, and wishing there was enough light to read my new books from Exclusives Books that were huddling in sheer horror, under my chair.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

About tweetups, strangers, and making a difference: the #TBD

So a while ago I started following a prolific tweeter on Twitter: @MelanieMinnaar. She always has interesting things to say, or funny things, or really thought provoking things. One day, I'd really like to meet the person behind the avatar... and the Twitter Blanket Drive, or #TBD is just one of those reasons.

She started a Thing, it seems, in the #TBD - South Africa's first national tweet-up, which is all about the people in South Africa's twitterverse meeting up to chat, and to give something warm over to charity.

I know the logistics that go into organising a coffee date for a few people who you've known for years- so you can imagine the logistics that go into planning a nationwide event for a bunch of people you've never met... And one doesn't usually get media partners for a coffee date...

She's had some great help from all sorts of people - just another instance that makes me proud to be South African: when there's something good to be done, the good folks just get up and do it, and they make it happen. Big ups to all of you.

Anyway - the short and skinny of it is that the first #TBD national tweet-up is this Saturday, 29 May 2010. We're going away this weekend, to a fishing lodge thaaaaat side of Machadodorp, so I won't be attending (much to my disappointment), but if you're keen to participate, here is more information about the #TBD. And no, you don't have to be active on Twitter to participate - you just need to want to meet some interesting people, and to want to warm up someone less fortunate than you.

*For those not on Twitter - don't be alarmed at phrases like twitterverse and tweet-up. I too think they're corny, but in a pat-on-the-head-it-s-cute kind of way...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Ten things I've learned about corporate life

So, in this post, I had a lot of bad things to say about my decision to move jobs. I must be honest, there are still some things that I am completely pissed off about, but here are a few things I've learned in the last three weeks, that have tempered my anger. Just a little bit.

(For the record, I am not by nature an angry person. I'm usually one of those irritatingly glass-half-full people, even when there's no wine on the table to make the glass full, and not half-full).

  1. There's a lot to be said for bonding with your new team mates over a good lunch and a glass of wine. Well, a half glass. I seem to have become a cheap date. 
  2. There's a rather significant measure of satisfaction to be had from standing your ground in a verbal war with a very very big company... and winning. 
  3. Things are never as simple as they seem. I am learning a lot about the science behind fires. Not because we've had one, but because some of our products are sold on the basis that they limit the spreading of fires. 
  4. On the days that the freeway is uneventful, it's great. Last Thursday, it was vile. Completely, totally vile. I took an unplanned for, unasked for and unenjoyable trip through Buccleugh and various other suburbs, in a futile attempt to ratrun around the shmangle on the freeway. 
  5. I miss Dorothy and her regular supply of beverages. 
  6. It's really great having people around to chat to. 
  7. Not having to account for every hour actually means that I get more work done. Strange, I know - but the whole timesheet vibe just freaked me out totally. 
  8. The corporate vibe seems to be more about finding reasons why things can't be done, than why they can be. Especially if you work in the IT department, and you're STILL holding onto the excuse that bandwidth is the problem. No. It is the solution... 
  9. Working for a company that's big enough to create a vibe about an event like the World Cup is great. Working for a very small company in an area that doesn't allow signage on the road means that you don't get to commission any public displays of affection for your flag (we're doing a 30m one along the N1...) 
  10. When applying for and accepting a new job offer, don't let the lazy HR person fob you off with vagueness in any form. I have learned this the hard way (the same hard way that we bought our house, but that's a blogpost for another day), and will never fall for this one again. 

So, each day I hop onto the freeway, and look forward to the stuff I'm going to be doing that day. Because although I am angry about the way I've been treated on entering the company, I can see that there's great opportunity here for me to achieve some great stuff. Although I'm not even going to TRY and tackle the revolting IT department (their lords and masters are in Paris) about the ridiculousness of us using Office 2003...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

No more Mr Nice Guy

 I’m always the one who smiles sweetly, asks for things politely, and understands when people can’t make it for a meeting. I’m always the gentle one who smoothes things over, calms things down, and that blindly accepts that there are greater forces out there.

I don’t like swearing online, in case my mother reads this, but I’m going to say it: Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I am done with being a doormat.

If you arrange to meet with me, it is rude for you not to pitch. It is disrespectful of me, my time and the help I want to give you for you just not show your face at the time and place that we agree on, together. It is unacceptable for you not to send me a message of some sort that you will not be able to attend our meeting, if indeed you have been held up by a logistical nightmare.

By disrespecting my time, you are preventing me from doing my job. I don’t care who you are – we are both human beings, who should respect one another, and the time that we would like committed to our common cause.

It’s not for nothing that I have been given the Wooden Spoon award, even if it was in jest. I am happy, and committed now, to earning it in earnest.

Enough already. My years of practice at the DBS (see here) are now going to be put into good use. And yes, I’m not going to just blog about this. I am going to speak to the people (note, not person) who have shown this disrespect for me.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Corporate life so far

I left a small company to join an international corporate, and started here on 3 May. I left the Garden because I wanted/needed to earn more money, and the opportunity to do so in an international company that seems to be doing really well was appealing. 

So far, I must be honest, the experience has not been great – apart from the four half-days I worked last week. But that’s a bit of a mixed blessing, I guess.

Day 1 was induction, which was in Germiston, and lasted half a day. I wasn’t convinced – for a company that makes such a big noise about safety, the safety induction was laughable. The people that were there to answer questions couldn’t answer any of mine, but at least they could refer me to people that they thought could. Turns out, when I called them – they couldn’t.

Day 2 I reported to my site, to meet with my direct report, who informed me that she would be leaving at 12 to go on study leave for a week. She gave me a few bits and pieces to do, and set up a few meetings, but pretty much told me to do what I thought was best for the rest of the week. I thought it best to leave at 13h00 to go and jump through some more admin hoops set up by the Germiston crowd.

Day 3 was a bit of faffing here and there, reading up some stuff, and chasing my computer – the only device with which I can do anything in this company. No, you cannot connect your Macbook to our network they say, it’s not safe. WTF? Yes, we do understand that you can’t do your job, and if you try to, it will cost you your own money, but tuffies. Maybe you’ll be able to have a computer by next Wednesday, but you won’t be allowed to use it until we’ve trained you. No, we won’t set up training until you’ve got the computer, and then we’ll see…

Days 4 and 5 were a bit more interesting – spending time with the Technical team as they brainstormed Stuff. Full day on Thursday, and half day on Friday. Refer to lack of connectivity to anything, and I left at lunchtime to go home and replant my veggie garden.

The other theme through all this is a refusal to budge on the company pension fund. I already contribute a very significant amount of my earnings to an RA, but they are insisting that I contribute to the company’s provident fund. Not negotiable. If I stop or reduce my RA, I will literally lose millions in the long term. If I don’t reduce my RA, and contribute to it and to the company’s provident fund, I will be putting around 40% of my income into my retirement planning. Not a bad thing, in the long term, but the main reason I left the Garden was to take home more money.

Yes, I should have insisted on a dummy payslip a long time ago, but the HR lady kind of fobbed me off when I asked for one. And in all honesty, with the increase in my total package, I thought I would be more than covered.

Right now, it’s feeling like I made a significant mistake in leaving the Garden. Thankfully I left on very good terms. I must be honest, it is occurring to me more and more that I should phone the boss of the Garden and humbly ask if she’ll have me back. 

Thursday, 6 May 2010

In which I shamelessly wish to win a competition

So, I’m not the biggest fan of Montecasino, I must be honest. And it seems just a tad bizarre to enter a competition to win a weekend in a hotel in my very own city.
But then it is a Southern Sun hotel, and everything in the Montecasino precinct is pretty spectacular.

What’s most spectacular is that they’re celebrating their opening by giving away a weekend stay at the new hotel. All bloggers (any bloggers have to do is complete the six steps below, and they stand a chance to win.

Whatever I feel about Montecasino, I would feel spectacularly wonderfully outstanding if I won the weekend away – even if it is in my city…
Here’s how you can also stand a chance of winning:
1. Blog about the Southern Sun Montecasino opening, on your blog -
2. In the blog post mention that this competition is open to all bloggers.
3. Answer the six easy questions.
4. Send the blog post link to so she can count and verify all entries.

These are the six easy questions -
1.       What is the opening rate special?
2.       Where has the latest Southern Sun opened? (this would be the 24th April, just fyi)
3.       Who is the General Manager of the hotel?
4.       How many rooms are there in the new hotel?
5.       When is their room service available? [How many hours a day?]
6.       Which item would you most like to order off the Punchinello’s menu?
If you're wondering where to find the answers, I'm pretty sure that they'll all be here: 
On Friday 14th May, one blogger will be chosen to win a weekend stay at Southern Sun Montecasino for 2 adults sharing, bed and breakfast and dinner to the value of R200 each.
Terms & Conditions:
Subject to availability, not applicable during 2010 World Cup
Children under 18 sharing parents’ room stay and eat breakfast free
Valid for 6 months from date of issue
Winners need to make their own travel arrangements to the hotel.

PS You can tell I’ve been watching too much Charlie and Lola, can’t you?

Monday, 3 May 2010

Mrs Johnson’s daughter

My mom was a teacher, and she was one of those teachers that EVERYONE remembers. Some of them remembered her because she was determined to stay in control of her class, but most of them I suspect because she was a damn good teacher. I used to sit in her class after nursery school, and then I joined her school in Grade 1, for the rest of my primary school career. That combination stuck me with the label of ‘Mrs Johnson’s daughter’ for much longer than I would realise.

When I went to high school, and was dealing with the inelegance of Standard Six initiation, I had matrics asking me if I was Mrs Johnson’s daughter. It happened at university too – and when I moved to London for 18 months, it happened on tube station platforms, at a concert, and even at a braai at the neighbour’s house.

THAT’s how far my mother’s influence as a teacher reached. And I used to hate it, that I wasn’t Kerry, rather, I was Mrs Johnson’s daughter.

But you know what? Now that I have a little more wisdom and a lot more appreciation for what it takes to be a mother and a teacher, I couldn’t be more proud to be Mrs Johnson’s daughter.

There were times when I really was a horrible teenager, and even into my 20s, I made some really stupid mistakes and I spent too much time with some really wrong people. But she supported me through all that, confident that she had given me the tools to figure stuff out for myself. She stood her ground when I was being completely unreasonable, standing strong through my tears and one memorable (or forgettable!) night when I think she and my dad locked me in the house to stop me tearing out to visit my prove-my-point boyfriend. And when I felt that I had to persist in something really silly, she stood by and let me figure stuff out for myself. And I’ve never once heard her say “I told you so” when she turned out to be right. Which was most of the time. Well, all the time.

My mom is in her late 60s now, and lives in a lovely cottage in a retirement village, 10 minutes away from us. She has the most beautiful garden that I suspect would win a gardening competition hands-down. She adores my sons, and I know that they adore her. She plays the organ in her church every Sunday, and is very active in the church community. She supports my family and me in so many ways that I couldn’t possibly list them all here, and is available at the drop of a hat whenever we need her. She is strong and independent, and is never afraid to try new things. She has a wicked sense of humour, and a vibrant group of friends.

I love my mom, so much, and I must tell you, I am PROUD to be Mrs Johnson’s daughter. 

This also appeared on JoziKids