A Quick Guide to the Xbox One

by Lauren Veckranges and Shane Veckranges

Microsoft’s Xbox One was finally released in South Africa this September.

As with any new console release, it has spurred on an existential gamer crisis for many of us.

Is it worth upgrading from an Xbox 360? Should I finally succumb to playing Halo from the comfort of my home despite my unwavering PlayStation loyalty? I can’t answer these questions, but I can break down the Xbox One for you, with a little help from my brother Shane Veckranges.

Initial thoughts

This console is BIG. Like, taken aback and wondering if it will fit in your TV cabinet big. The dashboard is similar to the 360, with the added flexibility of having your favourite apps on the dashboard with your game options, á la Windows 8

How cool this feature is ultimately depends on whether or not Microsoft plans to release this feature to the Xbox 360 via a software update in the upcoming months.

The Controller

As a tiny girl with even tinier hands, I personally found the controller a bit awkward at first. I could easily see my hands cramping after a long stint of Fable. Disappointingly, the stereo jack is an optional extra that makes the controller unnecessarily bulky and seem primitive when compared to the PlayStation 4 controller, which has this feature built in.

That said however, both Shane and I love the new controller. The battery is still replaceable with the battery finally being concealed behind the cover. The trigger buttons are broader which make it far more comfortable than its predecessor.

A big point of excitement for the game-addict that is Shane Veckranges is the improved battery life. The Xbox One maximises your controller’s battery life by utilising the Kinect to monitor usage. In other words, when you put your controller down Kinect notices and puts your controller on what effectively is “standby” mode.

Voice Control and Kinect

It is evident that the Xbox One was built around the Kinect with the user interface reacting to most gestures and motions, but not reliably. That being said, it can scan vouchers and codes for downloadable content which is fast, convenient and negates the need for the dreaded onscreen keyboard.

The voice control picked up most of our commands, but we wouldn’t expect less in 2014. What does bother us is that browsing your library becomes tedious as the Xbox One expects full names, so that saying “Forza” instead of “Forza Horizon” will return nothing. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

The Bottom Line

The Xbox One is priced to compete directly with the PlayStation 4, setting you back R6 300 for a 500GB console. There is no noticeable difference between the graphics, and as much as it pains me to admit it – it can compete directly with the PlayStation 4.

PlayStation Fanboys will stick to the brand because of exclusive games like Uncharted, Infamous and the Last of Us. That being said, Xbox does is home to Fable, Halo and the much anticipated Sunset Overdrive. So it all comes down to the games.

About the Authors

Lauren is a diehard PlayStation fan who has owned nothing else since the Christmas of 1998.  Shane is gaming addict, with an equal appreciation of Steam, PlayStation and Xbox.

The Bechdel Test

When Brad Pitt’s wife in World War Z called him at the most inopportune moment possible, alerting the whole zombie world to Brad’s presence – even I, miss self-proclaimed feminist since primary school – found myself frustrated with this WOMAN for not being able to leave her man alone for like, 2 seconds, so he could save the world. Clingy much?!

This is why the Bechdel test is so important. The Bechdel test is a simple check to evaluate the representation of women in film. The Bechdel test sets the bar really low, and even then a large portion of films fail it.

For a film, book or the like to pass the Bechdel test, the following requirements must be met:
1. It features at least 2 women who have names
2. These women talk to each other
3. They talk to each other about something other than men

There are a few caveats to this, such as when the setting of the film doesn’t allow for the presence of strong female characters (Dead Poet’s Society) or when the strong female character is the only character (Gravity).

Think about whether or not some of your favourite movies pass the Bechdel test. I think you will find that a good portion of them don’t.

Why does the Bechdel test matter?

This simple, if not limited test highlights an important issue – the underrepresention of half the world’s population in media. The media is incredibly powerful in shaping our worlds. When we watch movies and read books which portray women solely in relation to men or as objects to be sexualised or saved, we rob women and men of the opportunity to see a female as a human being first. One that is able to speak about abstract ideas, feelings and heck – maybe even move the plot forward and save the day.

I often wonder about what message we are sending to little boys and girls when the dominant narrative is that boys are heroes that must be aggressive and do it on their own, and girls are objects to be sexualised or protected from the world. What message does it send to both genders when women in film are consistently side-lined and men are the aggressors or saviours?

In Britain, the leading cause of death in men under the age of 35 is suicide. In South Africa, violence against women and girls remain endemic. In the United States of America, every single mass shooting except for one has been committed by a man. The representation of women in film is not just a “woman’s issue” – its humanity’s issue, period.

The Bechdel test merely asks that 2 women who have names talk to each other about something other than men. That is something that happens every day. Men can be sensitive and nurturing, women can be leaders who are strong and athletic– and it’s about time we start expecting this from film and media.

A Love Poem to No-One in Particular

A poem by Mark O’Brien, as seen in the motion picture The Surrogate

Let me touch you with my words
For my hands lie limp as empty

Let my words stroke your hair
Slide down your back
And tickle your belly
For my hands, light and free flying
As bricks
Ignore my wishes stubbornly
Refuse to carry out my quietist

Let my words enter your mind
Bearing torches
Admit them willingly into your being
So they may caress you gently

A trip down Morrison Street

Lauren Veckranges, Morrison Street, Durban, James Hu
Image courtesy of James Hu

Last weekend, I took a rather spontaneous trip to Durban and was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon the hidden gem that is 8 Morrison Street.

By its own account, The Morning Trade Market (there is a sign but no one calls it that) is inspired by Jozi’s own Arts on Main situated in the thriving Maboneng district. From the artisan coffee to the rustic warehouse feel, one can’t help but be reminded of the Johannesburg hotspot. The proud Jo’burg girl in me says anything that Jo’burg does no one can do better. But I am here to betray my people and tell you it’s much, MUCH better.

For one, it’s not crowded. You can walk from stall to stall without fear of being run over by a craft beer drinking youth, fighting the scourge of middle-class oppression.

Morrison Street, Durban, Market, Arts on Main, Neighbourgoods, Lauren Veckrangse
Ample space for cart wheeling and other Sunday morning activities

As a bonus, the market offers a wide variety of delicious food and fresh produce. The most exciting product on offer was undoubtedly the kale chips. You know who eats kale chips? Kourtney Kardashian, that’s who. Apparently the authentic food on offer including falafels, polish sausage and koeksisters are also pretty good – no word if this is supported by a Kardashian yet.

Frankie's ginger beer, 8 Morrison Street, market, beveragekale chips


And then there is the selection of sweet temptations. I have nothing to say here but: macaroons, ice cream, cupcakes, homemade marshmallows, toffee apples, diabetes.

macaroons, market, 8 morrison streettoffee apples, 8 Morrison Street


Head down to (you guessed it) 8 Morrison Street every Sunday between 8 – 2 to stuff your face and mess around in the photo booth.

Lauren Veckranges, photobooth, 8 Morrison Street#Durbanism, 8 Morrison Street, photobooth, Durban#Durbanism, 8 Morrison Street, photobooth, Durban#Durbanism, 8 Morrison Street, photobooth, Durban, James Hu, Lauren Veckranges

Because love is really all you need

I can be alone without Yoko, but I just have no wish to be. There’s no reason on earth why I should be alone without Yoko. There’s nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. And we dig being together all the time. Both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love for any whore or any friend or any business, because in the end you’re alone at night and neither of us want to be. And you can’t fill a bed with groupies. It doesn’t work. I don’t want to be a swinger. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than to have someone you love hold you.

– John Lennon

The problem with being UNEDUCATED

Frequently, I hear people dismissing opinions different from their own as “uneducated”. This trend was brought into sharp focus this year, when South Africa celebrated its 4th free and fair election.

When the election results rolled in, many of my friends dismissed the large support garnered by the ANC and the EFF as the as the result of the uneducated masses. Why else would someone vote for a radical such as Julius Malema, or a corrupt party like the ANC?

While I’m the first to admit that education in our country is in crisis, dismissing people’s opinions because they have a different kind education than your own is problematic for several reasons:

1. Being “uneducated” is not a real thing.

At least, not in this context. When does a person become educated enough for you to take their right to choose who runs the country seriously? When they can write their own name? When they have a degree? A PhD in Political Science? I think you’ll find, when you really think about the people in your lives, that as long as you don’t completely disagree with their choice in party, you don’t tend to dismiss their fundamental human right to choose.

 2. Just because a person has a different experience from you, it does not make their opinions any less valid.

As much as we’d all like to believe that we’re completely independent and logical creatures who hold our beliefs after due consideration, it is simply not true.

A white male growing up in the heart of Sandton is going to have a very different point of view than a black female growing up in a small village in the Northern Cape. But both of them are equally capable of forming their own opinions, and articulating them if asked.

Maybe you understand macroeconomics, but I can guarantee you that “uneducated youth” who voted for the EFF understands something you don’t.

None of us hold any special privilege, intellectual or otherwise, over the next person’s right to vote. And everyone deserves the dignity of having their opinions, and the experiences that have informed them taken seriously.

3.    When you other someone, you’re up to no good.

From Nazi Germany and the Jews, the Hutus and Tutsis, Black and White – no good can come from making someone different from you. If you choose not to see their point of view, to make another human being into a mass of something frightening and foreign, you make it that much easier to treat them a little less human.

The bottom line is that it’s easy to dismiss people when their opinions are different from your own. Their point of view is so absurd, so nonsensical, that the only plausible explanation is that they’re uneducated, or stupid, or just plain silly. Their opinions don’t deserve a second of your consideration.

There is VALUE  to listening to the other side. The next time you find yourself accusing someone of being uneducated or stupid – don’t judge, don’t sway, don’t dismiss.

Ask. Ask why they believe what they believe. Ask because you genuinely want to listen. You don’t have to agree with them, and you don’t have to change their point of view.

I’ve found that when you ask someone why they voted for a certain party, the answer isn’t as simplistic as you might think. If there is one great gift that South Africa has left with us, it’s Ubuntu. We are who we are through our connection with others. Let’s not forget it.

Resolutions Worth Keeping

The first month of 2014 is almost over! (Cue various clichés about how the year is going by so fast).

Judging by the available parking spaces at my gym this morning, I think it’s safe to say that most people have fallen off the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. If you count yourself amongst the fallen – my condolences. Better to have resolved to change and failed than to watch the new year roll idly by, while you get hopelessly drunk on poorly mixed SoCo and lime.

But I digress. My reason for writing this post on the last day of January is to make a public appeal to make two resolutions that I think are worth keeping.

1.       Keep Toppers in your car

Jozi streets are filled with the hustle and bustle of hawkers, entertainers, window washers and beggars trying to get by in the city of endless possibilities and harsh realities. Many are opposed to handing money out, unsure of where it will go. But averaging less than R5 a pack, keeping these non-perishable and filling biscuits in your car is an effortless way to pay it forward.

2.       Be kind to yourself first

Too often, we are distracted by trying to please everyone around us. Be it working 50 hour weeks, harming your own emotional wellbeing in a bid to foster someone else’s, or sacrificing the activity that brings you calm and joy so you can fit in yet another social engagement; putting other people’s needs before your own can easily become habit.  Whatever challenges you face this year, remember to put yourself self. Treat yourself with the same kindness and consideration usually reserved for those around you. Do this, and everything else will fall into place. Promise.

TTFN January!

The Coloured Fallacy

Born out of the Apartheid regime’s desire to construct and classify racial paradigms into neat boxes, “coloured” became the catch-all phrase to describe those whose ambiguous features defied existing racial constructs.  Descendants of slaves and their masters, the khoisan, sailors, merchants, and islanders off the coast of Africa, – we were now the same. Nothing that came before; not our language, not our stories, not our history, mattered anymore.

Our own unique cultural heritage was no longer valid. We were coloured. We were told that this was what coloured people were like, this is how we should behave, and this is the language we should speak. And so a herd identity was constructed by our oppressors, and soon we forgot our individual stories. Our individual identities, our sense of self— were lost to the tide of our newfound colouredness.

Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, and that is what they become.

 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From a young age I have been confronted with issues of identity, and human nature’s distaste for anyone who does not fit into their preconceived idea of what you should be. Even now, I am often filled with shame when strangers and acquaintances ask bluntly – “What are you?”, seeking confirmation of my ethnic background so that they can attribute characteristics to me that are not my own.

And time and time again, I feel a little less equal, a little less human, as I provide an explanation of WHAT I am rather than WHO I am, replying gently and reluctantly that I am coloured, not believing in the idea of colouredness as the syllables leave my mouth. And neither do they. I don’t look coloured, I don’t speak like a coloured person should speak (according to who I can’t be sure). I don’t resemble a single coloured stereotype. And these strangers, these people who see me as nothing more than something peculiar, enquire – no, demand – an explanation about what I am mixed with, what percentage, how many generations back, what did my ancestors do? And the truth is I don’t know. I don’t why I look the way I look, why any of my family members look the way they look. I don’t know why we speak English and not Afrikaans, why we have all our teeth, why we are well-read despite our relative disadvantage. I don’t know WHAT I am. Does it even matter?

Because as much as it hurts for being judged because of the colour of your skin, your sexual orientation or your gender –  it is a unique, utterly isolating experience being judged because of who you are, when that “who” doesn’t actually exist.

The coloured community is at odds with itself. Never white enough, never black enough, never coloured enough – we want so badly to belong, to be in charge of our own image. We wage a constant battle within ourselves as we contend with our South Africaness in a time where being South African, just South African, is not good enough. So we try our best to live up to our colouredness, although it never feels too authentic. We mock each other for not having affected accents, we dismiss alcoholism and drug use as a “coloured” thing, and we speak of those family members who did make it to university as “play whites”. We try to live up to an image that isn’t our own, that was never our own, partly because we want to belong, and partly because we can’t remember who we were before we were told what we are.   

Being coloured is a fallacy. Popular images of colouredness isn’t real. We don’t all look the same, or even similar. Our accents are regional. We speak different languages. Our cultural heritage is as diverse as South Africa itself.

I often hear people say that once we are all mixed, people will stop being racist, because there won’t be black or white people anymore. Being coloured in the new South Africa is a great irony, isn’t it?

An Introduction to Red Flag Dating

A rite of passage in the dating game is having that “What was I thinking!?” relationship. You know the one – thoughts of him embarrass you, thoughts of you with him ranges from violent conniptions to flat out denial.

In the early stages of getting to know someone it’s easy to be swept off your feet and dismissive about certain behaviour. Are you really going to end things because he mentioned his ex on a date? So you ignore your intuition. Until one day when your suspicions from that first date is confirmed and you realise that yes; he is still hung-up on his ex.

But now it’s too late to walk away because you’re emotionally invested.

Ladies and Gents, welcome to Red Flag dating. Red means STOP AND GET OUT. No excuses. No benefits of the doubt. Learn what your own personal red flags are, and save yourself a screening of Love Actually and that tub ice cream. Diabetes is not cool, okay?

Common red flags include, but are not limited to:


Including disrespecting you (duh), women in general, your family, waiters and beggars. Just everyone okay?

Mentioning exes

…early on in the relationship. Except if you’re looking for a rebound, or a good serving of sex sorbet.

Saying I love you too soon

Love is far too serious a thing to be frivolous about. This is a “mean what I say, and say what I mean only” zone thank-you very much.

Pushing your boundaries

This is a biggie. We all have certain “hard boundaries” – things we are not willing to compromise on. This can include views on infidelity, sex, drugs, religion – whatever. Figure out what your hard boundaries are and when Prince Charming comes along don’t compromise on them. If he oversteps your boundaries (or attempts to repeatedly) he is obviously an icky frog.

But perhaps the most important red flag is feeling uncomfortable. If your spidey senses are flaring up – trust them. You don’t need to justify your feelings to anyone but yourself. Intuition is a real thing.

The Art of Letting Go After a Breakup

Because breaking up is really really hard to do, you guys.

Banksy’s Girl with Heart Balloon


Ajahn Brahm is pretty much my favourite person on Youtube. His videos are inspiring and accessible, and if you haven’t seen any of his videos yet I highly recommend them. I was recently watching his video about letting go. We all have our challenges, and being able to move on and let go of grudges and pain is important to living a happy and successful life. The one challenge I think everyone can attest to experiencing is letting go of love.

Getting over a breakup is hard. But with a little help from Ajahn Brahm and yours truly, I hope I can make the journey a little more bearable.

Ajahn Brahm’s 4 principles of letting go:

1. Throw things away

Quite literally, make the conscious decision to let go of your relationship. We all have our burdens to bear, but a failed relationship is not one you need to carry with you through life. Imagine yourself filling a balloon with all the hurt, pain, joy and love you felt in your relationship. Feel the good and bad memories of your love leaving your body and inflating your balloon. Then imagine you letting go of the balloon and watching it float up into the most beautiful sky you have ever seen, getting smaller and smaller until it vanishes into nothingness.

If you ever find yourself dwelling on the past – whether it be good or bad memories – inflate a new balloon.

2. Be Content

Understand and believe that where you are at this moment in time is exactly where you are meant to be. When you find yourself fixating on the could have, should have, and would have’s of your relationship, stop your thoughts and repeat, “I want to be here, wherever here happens to be”.

Remember that you broke up for a reason. Maybe you weren’t ready for a relationship. Maybe you wanted different things or shared different values. Whatever the reason, there is a reason. Take this time to grow as a person, and work on aligning who you want to be and who you are. Because when you like who you are, everything else has a funny way of falling into place.

3. Give without expecting anything in return

Demonstrate kindness and love towards your former partner without expecting anything in return and with having absolutely no expectations or demands from them. Think for moment what this means. If you’re tempted to call/text/tweet or even like their status, stop and think why you are doing this. More often than not, it is to benefit yourself. The best way to love them right now is to give them the space and time they need to heal.

Be generous with your time and love towards your family and friends. Work on building a better relationship with yourself, and be grateful for the gifts of life.

4. Have a Teflon mind

Like the non-stick frying pan, don’t allow criticism or compliments to stick in your mind, giving you an inflated or negative sense of self-worth. Be present in the moment and try not to think too much! Easier said than done, I know. I recommend visiting Headspace or the Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Johannesburg if you find yourself overwhelmed by your thoughts.

And my own tip: Love unconditionally.

This is not to say that you should love someone so obsessively that your own cup runs dry. But rather, love your own imperfect being so much that your cup spills over with joy and happiness, and then share that love with others around you. I cannot stress how important it is to love yourself. Take this time to look after your body and soul. This can mean going to the gym regularly, starting a new hobby or taking an active approach towards working on your self-esteem or commitment issues.