Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saturn's rings!

Every 15 years, Saturn's beautiful evanescent rings tilt edge-on to the sun - and that's exactly what they did this week! These amazing pictures (a mosaic of images stitched together) were taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The dark line near the centre of the pic above is the shadow cast by Mimas, one of Saturn's moons.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I ♥ ♥ ♥ my Uggs!

I have succumbed …

You may not believe it but this Australian company’s goofy, slouchy, sheep-skin-dominated footwear is a hot commodity in this city of style, fashion and models. And since the cooler clime is heralding in a very swift changing of the seasons, I have to prepare myself for the frigid snap of winter air – and snow! (I can’t believe we’re coming full circle on our momentous move to the Big Apple.)

Gotcha, Queens Half!

Okay … so Queens’ meandering streets did hear the pitter-patter of my winged feet… H managed to haul me, kicking and screaming, onto the old-fashioned, egg-yolk yellow school bus to grind our way across the Robert F Kennedy bridge to Queens. That’s after a 3:30am wake-up call, mind you. And you know what? I had a good time. :)

It was a beautiful, cool, temperate day (except for the bitterly cold waves of air rising off the East River as we huddled darkly, together with a posse of other mad runners, in a park waiting for the sun to rise!).

Our route twisted and turned through the Queens borough’s neighbourhoods (and some grotty industrial pockets) – lots of red-brick and slatestone façades graduating to loftier, fussy double-storey homes with columns, porticoes and Spanish-style balustrades. An image that stays in my head is the haphazard muddle of telephone wires looped drunkenly from house to house.

A sleepy tousle-haired man hung (shirtless) out of an upstairs window wielding a camera; a little girl snuggled into her pyjamas and slippers on a chair outside her house, waving shyly as our feet drummed past. A stooping Chinese man with a lined face and, later, an ostentatious home with two Chinese lions guarding the front stairway hinted at the character of one particular street.

I remember hills. There were lots of hills, but nicely undulating. And after each rise was a relieving dip (tell that to my screaming quads today). The downside of running here is that a mile feels soooo much longer than a kay. So when the heart-warming 3-mile sign looms large, it takes a second to compute that to my 5km neighbourhood run … and the race feels looong all over again.
One mile to go just ain’t that Ikm last-minute push of old to the finish.

Oh, well, my time was a very pleasant surprise (I’m not telling, but it was a major improvement on my NY Half). So bring on fall, and that lovely crisp air.
Energy-sapping summer is so over.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The September Issue

I’ve developed a fascination for Anna Wintour, living as I do in the same city as the high priestess of Vogue. So it didn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to the movies for a voyeur’s peek into the behind-the-scenes action of Vogue’s hallowed offices. In The September Issue (about the making of the largest fall issue ever, in 2007), you get to see quite a bit of Anna in her inevitable dark sunglasses, sporting her severe blunt-cut bob and ruler-straight bangs (uh . . . that’s a fringe) – yet you never really get to know her.

She loves Starbucks coffee. She wears real fur and doesn’t apologise for it. And her thin-lipped smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She's also fragile and thin in the dessicated manner of those who breathe the refined air of upper class New York. It’s clear, though, that Anna is constantly aware of the intrusive camera tracking her every move, so you don’t get to see her being nuclear, frigid, an ice queen or a sacred monster – all words that have been used to describe her. (A staff member likened her to the Pope.) Okay, so she’s quick to diss a $50 000 shoot because it doesn’t move her. But she says more with her laser looks and tightened mouth than with her tightly controlled actions. And her curt, finite ‘Thank you’ is as brutally dismissive as Miranda Priestley’s ‘That’s all’ in The Devil Wears Prada. . .

It’s Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington with her flyaway pre-Raphaelite red hair (she’s 68), who steals the show, as New York magazine so rightly says. Grace, in contrast to Anna, uses the ever present camera as a confidante, not afraid to express her irritation, disappointment or anger when some of her stunningly styled fashion spreads are pulled by the Vogue editor. Grace is human, and real. She even persuades the cameraman to leap in the air with his camera on his shoulder for a fashion shoot, and the picture, boep and all, is photoshopped together with a leaping model. When Anna instructs the protruding stomach to be ‘fixed’, Grace is emphatic about keeping it in.

For me, too, it was exciting to watch Italian photographer Mario Testino in action. I remember, years ago at Struik New Holland, we were planning a Vogueish tome on fashion across the decades, and Mario absolutely refused to negotiate on his sky-high rates for the use of his photographs. Watching the master at work, I now understand…

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Six months down…

Thankfully, the soporific humidity of summer seems to have vanished. With air as thick as soup, the birds’ wings have been so weighed down with moisture, they’ve been battling to cut a flight path through it. Now, beautifully mild drier days with cooling breezes have helped me find my light running feet again. Not quite Mercury’s winged soles, but I’m getting there. Fallen leaves carpet the avenues and the Park, and the squirrels are gathering acorns more industriously than usual. The season is turning…

So, the thing is . . . I’ve found a hairdresser, homeopath, optometrist and a podiatrist (a big black toenail from the NY Half prompted visions in my head of gangrene…).
A dentist? I’m, um, caught in an arrested state of dread on that one.
The big question is, does this qualify me as a fully fledged New Yorker?
It’s been six months and I have no idea how many to go. But we’ve survived the first test.
So fall and winter, here’s lookin’ at ya!

storm in Central Park

Take heart, Capetonians! A couple of weeks ago NYC suffered a downpour worthy of the Western Cape’s wildest, most tempestuous storms. The night began with thundercracks of such ear-splitting intensity that H and I yelped involuntarily and leapt onto the couch, where we huddled together, wide-eyed and hapless. From there we watched fork-tongued bolts of lightning crackle horizontally across the sky – and vertically divide the heavens in two. Accompanying thunder, trapped between the high-rise apartments, echoed and reverberated like a percussion session at a rock concert. Needles of rain pounded our windows horizontally. It almost felt like we were back in our glass house in a stormy Cape Town.

The tempest was brief and deadly, and we had no idea of the damage it had wreaked until we saw the newspapers the following day. In half an hour, the northern section of Central Park, exactly in line with our apartment, was left battered and bruised, with hundreds of age-old stately trees uprooted, split asunder or their giant branches severed. Oak, linden, ash, hickory and horse chestnut trees were lost, as were London planes and American elms. The oldest to go was a 156-year-old turkey oak.
New Yorkers mourned as parks staff started a massive clean-up that is still ongoing as I write today. Not even Central Park is immune to the might of Nature. . .