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Showing posts from July, 2013

My heartland in the vineyards of South Africa

My childhood consisted of blue mountains, green vineyards, sprayers that swish-swish lazy streams of water through heavy summer air, tractors pulling carts piled high with green Muscat d'Alexandrie,¹ straw baskets filled with plump Barlinka in my mother's pantry.

The area where I was raised and spent a large part of my adult life is officially called the Cape Winelands District Municipality. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was probably clutching a wine glass. My life started in a town called Worcester, which lies on the border between the fertile winelands of the Western Cape and a semi-desert area called the Karoo. It's defined by contrasts: it's bordered by the Stettyns Mountains, which has an annual (mostly winter) rainfall of 2000 mm, but it also hosts the famous Karoo National Botanical Garden, where you can see succulents and desert flowers.

Mid-summer temperatures hover in the low 40s,² in winter the mountains are covered in snow while …

Hi, Keanu! Here's the real story of the 47 rōnin.

Chūshingura(忠臣蔵). Is there anyone in Japan – nay, the world! – who doesn't know this story? It's been told in novels, kabuki, bunraku, films and TV shows, and now Keanu Reeves has tackled it in his movie 47 Rōnin.
When I first heard about the film, I was thrilled, but now that I've seen the trailer … uh-oh. It's a fantasy-adventure-martial arts mishmash that can't decide whether it's Star Wars, The Matrix or The Last Samurai; but perhaps the full-length feature is better than the trailer.

Everybody will be talking about it, though, so let's look at the real story of the 47 rōnin. It's based on historical facts. As briefly as possible this is what happened in 1701:
A country baron called Asano Naganori was appointed by the shōgun to receive the emperor's ambassadors. Since Asano was unfamiliar with court etiquette, a higher-ranking nobleman called Kira Yoshinaka was instructed to act as his mentor. Then disaster struck: Asano tried to assassinate Kira. …