brainwavez.org Gift Guide 2013

By: The brainwavez.org Team
Posted: 27 November 2013
Category: Shopping
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Once again, brainwavez.org very proudly presents its annual gift guide - a selection of covetable items that will delight geeks and non geeks alike. This year we have a bumper selection of items to pile under trees and stuff stockings of both the naughty and nice.

'Tis the season to buy the geekiest, coolest stuff in the world (not all seen here). The brainwavez.org team members have once again scoured the Web, and its unpublished archives of material, to select the items we love and which we would give to ourselves if we didn't already own most of them (so we're thinking of buying extras to give to other people).

Expect the usual assortment of LEGO, ninjas, Star Wars, and more, and if you like any of our suggestions, or have other items in mind at various stores, please considering clicking through using our links to help us earn some affiliate income via some of the suppliers. It helps to keep this site going - we work very hard all year round to bring you great content, all of which is free.

Now, on to the selection. As usual, most of what is listed here is actually stuff you should just buy for yourself - after all, you're worth it! - but if you have friends or family members with great taste, you'll find some suitable items for them, too. We've also tried to select gifts ideas that aren't too expensive because this is a practical gift guide we hope you can use, so there's no aspirational rubbish, such as cars that cost R1 million, wristwatches that cost more than come countries' GDPs, or celebrity cooking utensils that you'd have to sell your kitchen to afford.

Instead, expect a selection that's fun, occasionally enlightening, often for the kid in all of us, a little bit inspiring, and, every now and then, just a little bit silly - in all the best ways.

Happy shopping! (PS - there are still great ideas in the 2012, 2011, and 2010 gift guides too!)


Apocalypse Now Now By Charlie Human
Apocalypse Now Now By Charlie Human
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Speculative Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Baxter Zevcenko is the head of a porn-distribution syndicate that artfully operates neutrally out of Westridge High School in Cape Town in the midst of two gangs. When Baxter's girlfriend disappears he hires the services of a supernatural bounty hunter to help him track down the origin of the only clue he has - a very mysterious glowing artifact left at the scene. The quest sends him straight into the occult underbelly of the city, where even his worst nightmares would be too tame to find a home and where zombies, mind-controlling spiders, and herbal mojo are all the least of his problems.

(About a third of the way through you'll probably start mumbling "...this book is getting incredibly weird..." to yourself. That's ok. It's true.) -- MJW


The Cult Of LEGO By John Baichtal And Joe Meno
The Cult Of LEGO By John Baichtal And Joe Meno
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LEGO
The 304 pages of this impressive book are not just for the kid at heart in your life but for anyone who has ever felt the unforgettable plastic of a LEGO brick (which is just about everyone, or should be). Diving into the history of the company and the prominent culture of the popular toy, the authors bring to life nearly every aspect of the cult of LEGO, brilliantly displayed with captivating photos of minifigs, single bricks, and works of art. After flipping through a few pages, everyone will feel a tinge of nostalgia and the pull to create. -- JL


Undertow
Undertow
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Full of all the drama of a Mexican soap opera, this Peruvian film is subtle but packs an emotional punch that will inspire vivid fantasies of rollicking on a sandy beach and finishing your day with a bottle of tequila and painting nude figures. Miguel, played by Cristian Mercado, is elated for the arrival of his first-born son with his wife, but his life is complicated by his affair with the young painter Santiago, played by Manolo Cardona. After a passionate but heated rendezvous, something happens and Santiago dies, returning as a ghost that only Miguel can see. Finally, Miguel can be out in the open with the love of his life but Santiago asks him to find his body in the sea to give him a proper burial so he can rest in peace. It's meditative magical realism, and the acting is so good the subtitles are nearly perfunctory; just listen to the passion in the actor's voices and prepare to swoon. -- JL


The Unstealthiest Ninja: Flight School By DoOomcat
The Unstealthiest Ninja: Flight School By DoOomcat
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Ninjas
The beloved unstealthiest ninja, who has been a staple of the annual brainwavez.org Gift Guide, is once again making a mockery of the art of ninjaing, this time at flight school. (Previously he failed at stealth, camouflage, and swimming.) Why is he still allowed to attend ninja school? Who knows - but we get T-shirts out of it. -- MJW


The Following (Season One)
The Following (Season One)
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Although hardly Christmas fare, The Following is a gripping police thriller with a twist. When former English-literature-professor-slash-serial-killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes from death row and embarks on a new killing spree, the FBI calls in former special agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), a psychologically scarred veteran who captured Carroll nine years earlier. Often chafing at the rules imposed by the FBI's Byzantine bureaucracy, Hardy soon discovers that he is facing not one but an entire cult of serial killers intent on causing as much mayhem as possible while Carroll writes a real-life Edgar Allen Poe-inspired novel with Hardy as his protagonist. With a good supporting cast, numerous plot twists and excellent characterisation, The Following will especially appeal to fans of 24. While it is most definitely not for the faint hearted - the violence (albeit infrequent) is often spectacularly gory - it is worth watching simply for Purefoy's mesmerising performance as the utterly charming and equally psychopathic Joe Carroll. -- PP


For Now I Am Winter By Olafur Arnalds
For Now I Am Winter By Ólafur Arnalds
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A lot of great music has been coming out of Iceland recently, and Ólafur Arnalds brings a fresh sound from the far north. This music is meditative and full of looped piano and soaring string arrangements that are subtle but expansive. It belongs in a film score but is also suited to a quiet evening at home or a relaxing morning reading the local paper. Someone who likes classical or leans towards gentle electronic will find this album inventive but not pretentious. -- JL


Window By The Shook Twins
Window By The Shook Twins
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These identical twin sisters have built a modest cult following along the West Coast in the US for their lively, often unpredictable shows. Their newest album is slated to come out in April 2014 but Window is the perfect introduction to these multi-instrumentalists and their fiery passion to perform and impress. The music is bluegrass, country, pop, and even soul wrapped into a family-friendly feast for the ears. -- JL


SkySafari 3
SkySafari 3
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Feature: The Sun In 3D
Available in three different versions, the entry-level SkySafari 3 has a database of 46 000 stars, plus 220 of the best-known star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. It displays the Solar System's major planets and moons using NASA spacecraft imagery; includes the best-known 150 or so asteroids, comets, and satellites; and accurately shows you the sky from anywhere on Earth, at any time up to 100 years in the past or future. You can also identify stars, planets, and constellations with your iDevice's GPS, compass and/or gyroscope - tapping on any object in the planetarium view will identify it by name or designation, while then tapping the Info icon will reveal its alternate designations, celestial coordinates, visual magnitude, distance, and physical characteristics. At the other end of the scale is SkySafari 3 Pro, which boasts a database containing (amongst others) 2.5 million stars, over 15.3 million stars from the Hubble Guide Star catalogue, over 740 000 galaxies down to 18th magnitude, and over 580 000 solar-system objects - including every comet and asteroid ever discovered - and a Moon map based on NASA's latest data. SkySafari 3 is great for both amateur stargazers and professional astronomers and boasts features that rival - if not surpass - far more expensive desktop equivalents. -- PP


Upside Down
Upside Down
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Speculative Fiction
Plot devices and borderline over-the-top dramatic acting aside, this is an inventive, visual love story that doesn't involve any glittering vampires or sacrificial children warriors. Somewhere presumably far away are two planets with opposing gravitational pulls that are so close to each other residents can speak to and interact with their respective neighbors. Things go the way of Shakespeare when Adam, played by Jim Sturgess and hailing from the wrong side of the gravity tracks, falls in love with the beautiful Eden, played by Kirsten Dunst. The two attempt a romance, there's some amnesia and illegal activity, but mostly there's incredible and impressive art direction, set design, and camera work to keep most people entertained and enthralled. -- JL


I'm A Time Traveler, Too! by walmazan
I'm A Time Traveler, Too! By walmazan
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Speculative Fiction
Some of us are special... and some of us are just average... but all of us are time travellers. (Something to be proud of, and to exclaim, proudly, on a T-shirt.) We all live in the future - because the future is now. It's also not now, because it's the future, but that's philosophy and this is science fiction becoming fact because it's about time travel and we are all time travellers. Even now. In the future. -- MJW


Dredd
Dredd
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Speculative Fiction
It unfortunately came and went on circuit largely unnoticed last year but Dredd, starring Karl Urban, was a surprisingly good film adaptation of the 2000 AD Judge Dredd comics series. It features Lena Headey as the antagonist Ma-Ma Madrigal, the leader of a prominent gang that deals in drugs in Mega-City One, and Cape Town's very own Joe Vaz (see below) in a fun minor role as a bad guy. The film was shot in primarily in South Africa (look for the exterior of Artscape, which was masterfully transformed into the interior of the Peach Trees tower block) and features some of the best 3D work in cinema in scenes that depict hallucinatory drug experiences - if you or your friends have a 3D TV consider getting the Blu-ray disc, which includes a 3D version of the film, to experience the magnificent production design of these moments. For once it's not a gimmick. Whether or not you have 3D, however, this is the Judge Dredd movie that we waited for - for a very long time. -- MJW


Person Of Interest
Person Of Interest (Seasons 1 And 2)
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Set in New York City, with all of its multifaceted elements of justice (cops, criminals and corruption) enigmatic billionaire software genius Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and former Green Beret and CIA officer John Reese (James Caviezal) use the raw data collected by the United States' omnipresent intelligence and surveillance network - and subsequently collated by Finch's creation ("The Machine") - to race against time to save (or stop) someone who will be involved in an imminent crime. It sounds like a simple premise, and it is, but both leads as well as a solid supporting cast, excellent characterisation and solid production input by both Jonathan Nolan and JJ Abrams make this a cut above the usual cops-and-robbers fare as it engages the post-9/11 sense of paranoia in its viewers. Already in its third season in the USA, this pair of boxsets will please fans and newcomers alike, and are highly recommended. -- PP


The Kill List By Frederick Forsyth
The Kill List By Frederick Forsyth
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Master thriller writer Frederick Forsyth returns in fine form with The Kill List, in which former US Marine Colonel "Kit" Carson - nicknamed "The Tracker" - is ordered by the president of the United States to identify, locate and kill a secretive radical Islamic cleric - codenamed "The Preacher" - whose eloquent and especially ferocious online sermons inspire a series of brutal terrorist attacks in the West. While the manhunt theme is spiritually akin to some of Forsyth's earlier bestsellers such as The Day Of The Jackal and The Fourth Protocol, the days of Cold War-era dead-letter drops in Moscow and midnight spy swaps at Checkpoint Charlie are long gone, as The Kill List sketches the anatomy of a 21st-century manhunt that features everything from a brilliant hacker and Predator drones to a deep-cover MOSSAD agent, as The Tracker closes in on his prey. Written at a cracking pace that keeps the reader spellbound from the outset, The Kill List packs a very satisfying literary punch that Forsyth's fans have come to expect from him. It is the perfect gift for action-thriller fans this festive season. -- PP


The Outpost By Jake Tapper
The Outpost By Jake Tapper
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Every war produces a book that defines that very war, and it was inevitable that the post-9/11 "global war on terrorism" would produce its fair share. Jake Tapper's The Outpost is one of the best "on the ground" accounts of the war in Afghanistan, as it describes the (ultimately futile) attempts by the US Army to pacify part of Nuristan province by establishing a combat outpost at Kamdesh. It was situated in a valley surrounded by high mountains on three sides, all but impossible to resupply by road and under increasingly frequent attacks by Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militants. Attempts to win the hearts and minds of the locals soon floundered as the realities of counter-insurgency operations, tribalism, endemic corruption and a clash of cultures eroded any goodwill between the US military and Nuristanis. Tactically unfeasible from the start, it was finally decided to shut it down at the end of December 2009. However, fate intervened and on 3 October 2009 the base was attacked by over 300 Taliban insurgents. What followed was a 12-hour firefight as the Taliban overran most of the base. Forced into a tight perimeter, the surviving US troops ultimately prevailed but suffered eight dead and 27 wounded. Well researched, well written, meticulously detailed and praised by critics and veterans alike, Jake Tapper does a superb job of recounting a harrowing tale of courage and valour through the eyes of common rifle-wielding soldiers and battle hardened soldiers. -- PP


We, The Drowned By Carsten Jensen
We, The Drowned By Carsten Jensen
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The mammoth size of this novel may deter readers but the exciting tome follows the residents of Marstal, Denmark, and spans roughly a century of war and sailing the high seas majestically. Initially, the captivating story focuses on Laurids Madsen and his personal losses during a war. After the war, Laurids travels the earth on various ships to hide from the psychological traumas, while his young son Albert grows into a young man who eventually takes to the seas in search of his father, wearing the boots Laurids left him. Albert eventually returns to Marstal to settle into old age but inadvertently adopts a troubled boy. What follows is a gripping tale of mutinies and coming of age for men and for Denmark, ranging from tiny Marstal to Newfoundland and Samoa. -- JL


Left For Better By The Local Strangers
Left For Better By The Local Strangers
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When singer Aubrey Zoli belts out the final line of "Mr. Blackberry", a mere two minutes into this album, any music listener will pay attention. Her siren-like voice is powerful and blends perfectly with the crispness of her band mate Matt Hart's harmonies. The Local Strangers formed three years ago and has created this album and an EP of unforgettable songs with approachable acoustic leanings. The band is the antithesis of current top 40 repetitions - its music is genuine, affable, and humble, and after a recent show in Portland, Oregon, the band members were more than willing to hang out and get to know their growing fan base. -- JL


Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, And Lead By Brene Brown
Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, And Lead By Brené Brown
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Vulnerability and shame researcher Brené Brown brings to the world another book detailing her research and how it has changed her life, and how what she has learned from enormous amounts of data and qualitative interviews can transform everyone's lives. As a self-help book it is not pedantic or littered with practise exercises at the end of each chapter (does anyone actually do those?). Instead her points are illustrated by mildly embarrassing but humorous stories from her own life. As a native Texan, she walks the walk when it comes to shame resiliency and vulnerability, and her affability is as contagious as it is hilarious. -- JL


I Wonder By Marian Bantjes
I Wonder By Marian Bantjes
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This beautiful book by world-renowned illustrator and typographer Marian Bantjes is the perfect addition for a coffee table or a prominently displayed bookshelf, or for that special loved one who is constantly distracted by shiny things. The hardcover is stunning and each page is unique and lavishly embellished with beautiful patterns and fonts. Her artistic meanderings include photographs of famous jewels and one chapter showcases various forms of pasta that were arranged by hand. While her essays are mostly lucid, sometimes they are somewhat banal, but hours of the day can be lost marvelling at the intricate details and imagination in this impressive work.  -- JL


You Deserve Nothing By Alexander Maksik
You Deserve Nothing By Alexander Maksik
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Set in Paris, this simple but profound tale is told from the perspective of three characters. Will is the idealistic, energetic teacher at an elite international school who challenges his students intellectually. Gilad is a lonely outsider who has spent most of his life in a rich but abusive family in Dubai and Dakar who slowly comes to life and freedom because of Will's literature lectures. Finally, there's Marie, a troubled and insecure, rich popular girl who has an illicit affair with Will. Their lives tangle in expected and unexpected ways, providing a rich understanding of politics, class, and the Parisian elite. -- JL


Brave Confusion By Nakhane Toure
Brave Confusion By Nakhane Touré
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This debut album from a new South African voice effortlessly mixes pop, dance, and rock, with some clever heavier moments, into incredibly appealing tunes that ponder same-sex relationships, religion, faith, life, and purpose. There isn't a weak track on this album. The standout song is the opener, "Christopher", a love song of longing, confusion, and moving, but "In The Dark Room" has a killer two-line chorus that Nakhane belts out with such emotion it'll bring you to a standstill.

Light songs turn dark, dark songs become light, all with the catchiest beats, great guitar work, and an immense amount of soul. You'll want to play it loud - stuck on repeat. -- MJW


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Love And Life From Dear Sugar By Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Love And Life From Dear Sugar By Cheryl Strayed
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Falling into the realm of self help, this book is a great collection of essays from the Internet column Dear Sugar. They range in breadth and depth, from coming out stories to affairs to the eternal "what am I doing with my life?" question. The responses by Cheryl Strayed of Wild fame (and soon to be played by Reese Witherspoon), are empathetic, uproarious, and filled with her own tragic and thoughtful experiences. Give this to the millennial in your family, that friend who hasn't yet figured it out, or just buy it for yourself.  -- JL


Makin Bread
Makin' Bread By Ochopika
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Cats
Cats like to knead. Bread is made of dough that needs to be kneaded. Cats need to be needed even though they pretend they don't. Some also need to be kneaded. It's some sort of circle of life. (Sometimes with claws.) Or something. Whatever. It's cute and it's a T-shirt (and an apron). There's also Makin' Biscuits, which is part part two, part homage, although it's been pointed out by that guy that you don't knead biscuits. Okay, then. You can still wear it on a T-shirt or apron, though. -- MJW


The Heist By Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The Heist By Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
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Not everyone is a lover of rap but when the album is poignant, fun, and approachable, it's hard not to bring out a fan from the unlikeliest of sources. From the zany rhymes of the now infamous "Thrift Shop" to the wild beats of "Can't Hold Us", Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' album entertains and astounds. Though the radio hits are raucous and fun the rise to prominence is due in part to the duo's ability to push the genre boundary by rapping about same-sex marriage in "Same Love", and identity and capitalism in "Wing$". -- JL


Something Wicked Volume Two Edited By Joe Vaz And Vianne Venter
Something Wicked Volume Two Edited By Joe Vaz And Vianne Venter
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South AfricaSomething Wicked
South AfricaThe Book Lounge, Cape Town

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Horror, Speculative Fiction
The Something Wicked anthologies of speculative fiction, the reincarnation of the South African magazine of the same name that, for years, was the only magazine in the country that paid for horror short-story submissions, are always very special collections of stories expertly curated and edited by Joe Vaz (see Dredd, above) and Vianne Venter. This edition collects 27 stories, including many that have never been published before, from authors all over the world. A printed copy can be hard to track down but try your best - this is the gift to give to the speculative-fiction fan in your family. -- MJW


Fairest Volume 2: The Hidden Kingdom By Lauren Beukes And Inaki Miranda
Fairest Volume 2: The Hidden Kingdom By Lauren Beukes And Inaki Miranda
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Feature: South African Comics Roundup #1
If you missed Lauren Beukes' story arc in Vertigo's Fairest grab this graphic novel collection of the entire story, which focusses on Rapunzel and her past in Japan and is set before the events of Bill Willingham's Fables. The art by Spanish artist Inaki Miranda is beautiful and full of background detail that you can spend hours looking at. The story, meanwhile, is fast paced and dark (unsurprisingly - it is, after all, written by Lauren Beukes) and expertly weaves Japanese mythology and yokai into a horror-themed action-adventure tale. This compilation also includes the bonus story Aldered States, by Bill Willingham, with art by Barry Kitson, but you'll really buy this for the yokai - and you'll stay for the bezoars. -- MJW


Le Herisson (The Hedgehog)
Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog)
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Loosely based on the touching novel The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, this French film meanders through the lives of an apartment concierge named Renée and a young Parisian elite teenager named Paloma, who is highly intelligent but has a bleak outlook on the absurdity of life. The two become friends because of their intelligence, love of art, and disdain for the social stratification of the world around them. If this sounds all too haughty, it is anything but. Your friendly Francophile will fall for the humility, and even those who detest reading subtitles will shed a tear of joy and laughter. -- JL


LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia By Hannah Dolan
LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia By Hannah Dolan
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Feature: The DK Army
Feature: Star Wars L'Expo: An Exhibition at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris, France
This Dorling Kindersley book is a treat for both LEGO and Star Wars fans. The book documents over 300 Star Wars minifigures, delves into some of the sets in which they appear, and highlights many of the details to be found on each figure such as small differences in the figure variants and the meanings of emblems. The photography is so close up that you can see imperfections in the decals and printing, artwork, and plastic, which is quite mesmerising. The book includes a special Han Solo minifigure wearing his celebratory medal for his participation in the Battle Of Yavin, in which the first Death Star was destroyed. You can't get it anywhere else, which is probably enough of a reason to buy this book, but you'll be glad you did, as it's a wonderful reference. -- MJW


Darth VadeGir By AtomicRocket
Darth VadeGir By AtomicRocket
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Feature: The Pop-Culture Guide To Invader Zim
Even if you're not familiar with Invader Zim (although you should be, because we posted a guide last week to get you up to speed!) you can still appreciate the humour in this mashup T-shirt design that features Star Wars' Darth Vader reinterpreted as GIR, the crazy broken robot, and Emperor Palpatine as Invader Zim the megalomaniac alien invader. -- MJW


Babel By Mumford & Sons
Babel By Mumford & Sons
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With enough religious/Christian references and international acclaim, this album is perfect for the Christmas season. (If that's your thing. If not, the music is still pretty good.) By now this British band is more or less a household name and its fame is much deserved. It's hard to tire of "I Will Wait For You" and "Hopeless Wanderer", which will give everyone a much-need respite from the cringe factor of another off-key Christmas carol.  -- JL


My Big Fat Gupta Wedding By Zapiro
My Big Fat Gupta Wedding By Zapiro
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Feature: A New Exhibition Explores The Legend Of Blue Mamba
Feature: The Shining Girls Charity Art Show Raises R100 000 For Rape Crisis
Feature: GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition
Feature: Comics: South African Roundup #3
Feature: Comics: South African Roundup #1
Feature: Photo Essay: Panel Discussions At The 2009 Cape Town Book Fair
Perennial brainwavez.org favourite Zapiro returns just in time for Christmas with his latest outing, My Big Fat Gupta Wedding, which mercilessly lampoons everyone from South African President Jacob Zuma to politicians Julius Malema and Helen Zille, as well as a host of other famous South African and international personalities such as Barack Obama, Lance Armstrong and Vladimir Putin. Often laugh-out-loud funny, Zapiro's cartoons also frequently pass an uncomfortably accurate comment on recent events such as the Marikana Mine Shooting, the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, "Guptagate", "Nkandlagate", South Africa's disastrous military adventure in the Central African Republic, Cape Town's "Poo Protests" and the ANC's interminable in-fighting. My Big Fat Gupta Wedding cements Zapiro's reputation as South Africa's favourite cartoonist and, if you want a humorous Yuletide reminder of the past year, you can do no better than this excellent collection. -- PP





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South African Comics
• All The Coverage: Reviews, art showcases, and news from the world of South African (and occasionally Southern African) comics.
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