Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Of all the cities to get a pounding from the gods, why New Orleans? One of the most beautiful cities on the planet, it just breaks the heart. Why not Crawford, Texas thus decisively and inconveniently interrupting the leader of the nation’s extended vacation/Sheehan siege?

When I traveled the US, I was struck by how much it looks just exactly like the movies, wherever you go you see snatches of images you’ve seen before in some movie or other. Driving around Missouri’s backroads, I kept thinking Deliverance, I could hear the freaking dueling banjo’s all the way through Potosi to the cabin overlooking the river, which we floated on tractor tubes keeping an eye out for guys with squinty eyes. Texas and Mexico pure spaghetti western territory, Dallas just like Dallas, and trundling through the bayous of Louisiana and Missisippi was a trip through the Big Easy, Angel Heart, Pretty Baby and SwampThing.

I fell in love with New Orleans instantly, it was so French it stirred my Hugenot blood, yet African too, loose and colourful and full of music and indulgence and yes, so damn easy. Falling into the rhythm took exactly 60 seconds and the first cocktail from a list on a blackboard behind the barman. After four or five parades and halfway down the cocktail list, I was ready to give up everything to live in New Orleans.

I do this with a few cities, fantasize about leaving beautiful Jozi for London or Amsterdam, but I really really wanted to move to New Orleans, New Orleans spoke to me in a profound way about good clean fun, it had street performers, mimes and musicians under every rock, wizards and ghouls and exotically painted creatures with feathers around their heads. Walking down the street was a guide to the wonder of jazz, dixie from a cosy wood-panelled pub, swing from a vast cavern next door, the slow mournful wail of the blues across the street. It was the sountrack to an assault on the senses that along with the alcohol might compel you, when taunted by a mob of strangers, to lift your shirt and show your tits.

It is imperative in New Orleans to be well hydrated, so after frequent stops to try another cocktail from the list, the jazz became sweeter still, the colours brighter, the witches scarier. I bought a cloth doll which had pin-points for voodoo printed on the fabric. I refused the cockroaches they call crawdads, and ordered deep fried calamari, expecting the conventional squid rings, what I got were miniature tiny baby squid, their legs outstretched in a terrifying rigor mortis as they were plunged into the boiling fat. I went for jambalaya instead, it only had one pink, innocent baby squid nestling on a bed of rice.

On our last day, we walked along the street after breakfast, wistful, pensive, sodden with a week’s debauchery, we reeked, we hummed, we vibrated with alcohol, garlic, calamari and saxophones. We were thinking along the lines of a nap before afternoon cocktails when we walked past a house, which was peculiar in that it sat on a block almost all by itself, everything around it had been demolished, it looked like the last holdout against some greedy developer wanting to build an ugly office block. It was a typical New Orleans house with a large balcony on the first floor, where three beautifully dressed women sat, drinking wine in the middle of a lush garden of pot plants. It was a snapshot image of style and elegance, and as we passed one of the woman got up, leaned over the balcony, said “here” and threw a necklace at me.

I was an ace Mardi Gras necklace catcher, I had loads of plastic multi-coloured beads from aggressive elbowing during parades, but something about this necklace was different, I caught it, said thanks and slipped it into my pocket. When I looked at it later, it was not a Mardi Gras necklace at all, but an old 50’s style necklace made out of opaque glass beads with an old-fashioned silver clasp. It’s a lovely piece of vintage jewelry and I’ve no idea why she gave it to me, maybe it belonged to someone she despised, maybe it was a voodoo thing.

Whoever she was, thanks for the necklace, I’m so sorry about your city, hope your lovely house is still there, hope I can come back soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Here’s a book to jolt the brain, Steven D Levitt uses the tools of the economist to wade through mountains of data on everyday life and the results often turn conventional wisdom on its head. Incentives, he believes are the cornerstone of modern life, they are the reason people cheat and they often clash with morality which “represents the way that people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work.”

The conventional wisdom is often wrong and dramatic effects ripple across distance. He uses the crime rate in the US as an example, there is compelling evidence that the drop in the crime rate in the United States from the early 1990’s was caused not by broken-window theory policing, a prosperous economy or the bursting of the “crack-bubble” but through a combination of factors not least being the legalisation of abortion. It’s a controversial thing to say, but the data suggests that crime dropped because those who might have become criminals were never born at all.

The media has made much of William Bratton the commissioner of police for New York City who introduced the broken-window theory, which meant prosecuting relatively trivial crimes so they don’t escalate. Since Bratton was only installed in 1994, when crime rates were already dropping, and because the crime rate dropped all over the country, innovative policing in New York had a marginal effect on the overall picture. Ditto with gun control. The collapse of the crack cocaine trade did have an impact, and the ageing of the population, but as abortion was legalized in 1973, 18 years later, crime began to drop because the potential pool of criminals had shrunk. As he says “when a woman does not want to have a child, she usually has a good reason”.

An analysis of incentives in the crack cocaine trade based on the work of sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh shows an industry that worked very much like McDonalds with franchises, foot soldiers and a central leadership called the board of directors. The collapse of the crack cocaine trade he puts down to the evaporation of profits as the price of cocaine fell leaving little incentive for foot soldiers to expose themselves to the risks.

He shows the similarities between the Ku Klux Klan and estate agents who use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda, and proves discrimination against Hispanics and the aged in TV quiz show The Weakest Link. He analyses the data of sumo wrestling competitions and deduces there has to be cheating. He relates an anecdote about an Israeli daycare center that levied a charge on parents who were late to pick up their children only to find the incidence of late collections rising instead of falling. He proves that a swimming pool is more dangerous than a gun, and separates out what aspects of parenting contribute to higher test scores from those that don’t. It’s not what you think.

Looking at human foibles through cold hearted numbers is sometimes uncomfortable, especially his analysis of the names parents give their children, but he makes a convincing case for a dose of reality and that’s probably what we need.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Here’s a really good idea for the office from Chris Moerdyk , pisof means Promotion Involving Selective Offensive Factors it’s a marketing tool that uses the Michael Extraction factor to promote a company or a person by encouraging employees to make jokes about him. Whaaaa, I like this already. Apparently being ragged rotten by underlings and taking it with good grace makes the boss more likeable and accessible, and surprise surprise, it’s good for staff morale.

I like the idea of a corporate jester, because I think every office should have a comedian, like the fool in Shakespeare’s plays, the trickster, the joker, the one person who is allowed to cut to the heart of the matter and say it like it is. Instead of a mediator you’d bring in the fool, who will listen to both sides and make jokes about everybody including the latter day version of the king, the CEO.

It's not a new idea, British Airways had their own corporate jester, Paul Birch, whose job it was to ’swan around, stick your nose in and be a pain in the arse - as long as it’s all measurable’. He’s now doing the same for Lucent and the BBC. It’s lucrative too, Dick Steiner from Baltimore is paid $1500 an hour to make jokes at company parties.

Not only would a corporate jester liven things up all round by pricking the bubbles of dignity and ego that pervade the office, but save the company money by ridiculing the kind of foolish schemes that companies indulge in when they take themselves too seriously. In a medical sense, laughter reduces stress and has a desirable effect on workplace health, maybe Discovery can be persuaded that laughter is the best medicine and pay for it, would spice up boardroom life no end.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Michael "Destroyer" Heffels from Holland, (Holland) who tore up the stage at the 10th Annual World Air Guitar Championships held last night in Oulu Finland and walked away with a guitar an amplifier and worldwide fame and glory. My fave Giesela "Gizzy Guitar" Visser from New Zealand got pipped to the post by .2 of a point. Just heard she hosts a music show in Auckland called "Springbok Rock". The tenacious Dan Crane came eighth, and the fabulous rock chicks held their own in a strong field, Heidi Leitner was fifth, defending champion Miri Park seventh and Katherina Tomaschek from Germany twelfth.

You can see the full list here

That’s it for another year folks, but keep practicing, arrangements for next year are in full windmill arm mode.

Air guitar ideology

“All wars would end and every bad thing would disappear if all the people in the world played air guitar

A person playing air guitar cannot simultaneously be up to any mischief

After playing air guitar, mischief just does not seem like such a good idea anymore “

Friday 26 August


More finalists for tonight's World Air Guitar Championships, Tremelo Theun won the Netherlands leg of the championship and Johnny van Halen will represent the UAE (that’s right United Arab Emirates).

Here’s a cute picture from the Air Guitar Norway site, and you can look into France, Japan and Austria.

On Thursday night, wild card competitors battled it out for six spots at the final, one of the winners was Dan ”Björn Turoque” Crane, who was knocked out in the US round, but persisted all the way to Oulu to give it one last shot. You go broer, although I'm rooting for New Zealand's Visser, who is not only a rock chick which garners huge respect from me, but since a large proportion of South Africa lives in New Zealand, who knows, she might be the first sort of South African air guitar champion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


It’s never a good thing when an organism suffers such predation that its numbers dwindle to a fraction of what they were, it upsets the balance of nature and opportunists fill the gap. But then there’s the Parktown prawn, libanasidus vittatus, king of the crickets, scourge of the slipper, midnight invader, who adores the lush green gardens of the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and most especially the inside of your shoes. News reports suggest there are fewer of them around, and my own eyewitness reports confirm this, I’ve seen one or two dead ones in my garden being devoured by ants, but for the last two years I have not had a surprise lurking in my house or even in my bed.

My first encounter with a parkie was of the eyeball-to-eyeball variety on the pillow first thing on waking up in a house in Blairgowrie, which one would think was outside the prawn belt. I opened my eyes and there he was, two inches of russet, bristling fury, grinding his mandibles in an ominous way, antennae waving above implacable eyes. His tusks quivered as he dared me to move because he was so ready to jump straight at my mouth. I froze, tried not to breathe or make any sudden moves. If I flipped him off the pillow, he might shoot his black projectile faeces on me. I did the only thing I could do, I backed away slowly and as I did so, revulsion overcame resolve and my mouth opened in a blood curdling shriek. I leapt off the bed, flinging the pillow into the sky. The parkie flew through the air and landed on the carpet where in a deft movement with pot and piece of cardboard, I trapped the critter and took it outside and did the only thing I could do, the thing everyone in Joburg does … I tossed it into the neighbour’s yard.

They’re fascinating little creatures, completely inedible even with copious amounts of butter and garlic. They have ears on their legs and tusks, which they use for digging their burrows and when it rains, their burrows flood, so they move into your house until it dries out. Despite their scary looks they’re essentially harmless and very useful in the garden because they eat snails and cutworms. They’re almost indestructible which might have given rise to the myth that they came from outer space, or evolved in some weird mutation. There’s even a website for all things parkie and they’ve been featured in Time and The Economist , BBC and CNN news broadcasts.

The culprit in the parkie genocide is a creature that was once rarely seen in the city, but is now so commonplace and blasé they barely look up from spearing the ground with their beaks as you thunder past in your car, the hadeda ibis, a bird that looks like a duck and walks like a duck, but has a long curved beak and feathers the oily grey of an old leather jacket.

Hadedah have become so numerous because they’re flexible, they’re willing to eat whatever is available, so the sad demise of the prawn will have little effect on their numbers. Be prepared to come around the corner and find them pecking away at the Epol in your dog’s bowl or snitching fish out of your pond.

Luckily for the hadedah, their numbers can only go up because they don’t taste good to anybody.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Unless you'd rather have carrot cake

In some parts of the world, and parts of South Africa too, if a child doesn’t like what mother makes for dinner, he doesn’t have to eat it. Mother will get to her aching feet and make his majesty whatever he wants to eat no matter that it’s the nutritional equivalent of spam for breakfast, spam for lunch, spam for dinner. Apparently just getting something down the kid’s throat is enough for mother to feel her job is done, never mind the fact that the cherub looks like a stick insect or a mini Buddha sitting slack jawed in front of the TV.

A study by The Journal of the American Dietetic Association* claims that among children aged 19 to 24 months, one-third didn’t eat any fruit servings on a given day, and 18 percent didn’t eat any vegetables at all. Since chips and tomato sauce are now considered to be vegetables, faced with a humble spud or a tomato, your modern kid is going to say “Like what’s that?” The article says children are getting their nutrition from fruit juice and presumably their dentists are laughing all the way to the bank.

Apparently the tendency to be picky is something evolution gave us, kids foraged on their own 10 000 years ago and a preference for bland foods prevented them from eating anything toxic. Allow the average kid to forage for his own food in the supermarket is asking for a trolley-full of chips, Coke and Twinkies.

What happened? Choice happened, choice and manipulation of parental units is what happened, and the vast snack-food fast-food complex that churns out food with all the nutrition of wood shavings. Since parents want to be their children’s buddies, they don’t dare refuse them anything, let alone the giant economy size pack of Cheetos.

My mother had a simple answer to five children’s judgment on her cooking skills “If you don’t like it you can eat bread”. That’s a good one, try it on the kids of today, starve them until they eat what you put in front of them and they’ll like as not sue you for child abuse.

But here’s the answer right here, it seems that a child will willingly eat broccoli as long as it doesn’t look like broccoli, but is cunningly secreted into something else. Oh yes, The Art of Hiding Vegetables, by Karen Bali and Sally Child explains just how to do it. The objective is to never let on that they’re actually eating vegetables and some of it is quite ingenious, like stirring blended prunes into chocolate milk and grating vegetables into everything. Start slow, they advise, and stick to similar colours, so you can forget about hiding the beetroot in the mashed potatoes. If all else fails you can buy veggie ice cream in the flavours of red cabbage; apple and sultana; minty pea; and broccoli and apple from these people .

I once went out with a guy who had three children, and I cooked dinner for them. They took one look at my steamed highly nutritious chicken kebabs and crunchy fresh, gaily coloured vegetables and their faces took on expressions of pure panic. He gave them a bowl each of salt and vinegar chips and their Ritalin pills and they toddled off happily.

He didn’t seem to have any bread in the house.

*(New York Times 21 June) unfortunately they want money for it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Just days to go until the World Air Guitar Championships to be held in Finland and the competition is hotting up. It’s been a breakthrough year for female finalists, from Germany comes Tomaschek, aka Leni Krawitzkowsky, and New Zealand’s champ is Giesela “Gizzy Guitar” Visser. They’re up against joint 2004 winners, Tarquin “The Tarkness” Keys from New Zealand and yet another fabulous rock chick Miri "Sonyk-Rok" Park from the US, scroll down for a pic of Sonyk doing her thing here.

In the US, the winner is Fatima Rockness Monster Hoang, who played Marilyn Mason’s “The Beautiful People” and got an unprecented perfect score at the recent American championships. Here’s a blow by blow description of the event in which Chicago finalist William Ocean took to the stage with firecrackers coming out of his shoes.

Dan Crane aka Björn Turok, was pipped to the post for another year, here’s his take on representing New York in the championships. He’s full of fantastic advice for the would-be air guitarist, such as “perch yourself on the monitor and flutter your tongue”. Here’s his blogspot, for news on aireoke. Oh yes, karaoke is history.

Australian champion is Darrin ‘Jimmy Dangles’ Smith from Wollongong NSW, LIZ represents the UK, and too late for this year, but there will soon be the first China Air Guitar Championships to be held in ShangHai on 3rd September, 2005. No sign of a South African air guitar champion, which is outrageous considering the length and breadth of talent we have in this country, but there you are.

On the air guitar book front, there’s Turok’s book To Air is Human, How to Play Air Guitar and Air Guitar, by Dave Hickey is available on Amazon, it’s called Essays in Art and Democracy, so don’t expect to find moves and plectrums or useful hints on essential air guitar amps and speakers For a personal view you can read The True Life and Daggy Times of a Lounge Room Rock Star.

Aargh, shock horror, I’ve just found out that Tom Cruise’s turn in “Risky Business” was the first instance of air guitar playing in the movies. He played a poker in his underpants and so in a sense he is the one who brought the notion that air-guitar playing was sexy into the global consciousness. This makes him the icon of air-guitar playing.

Hmph, probably hasn’t touched an air guitar since 1983.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Last week a billboard appeared for Business Day suggesting that President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was about to be rolled up in a bundle and wrapped in wire by the President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. The actual headline read “Crunch talks on Mugabe bale-out”. It refers to the idea of lending a great wodge of our money to that good for nothing wastrel that hangs around the local shops wheedling money for a bottle of Crackling with that wobbly smile on his face, but that’s not the point when it comes to the Spelling Police. It's bail, geddit, so irate Business Day readers inundated the newspaper’s offices, eliciting this response (verbatim) from Rehana Rousseau:

“SEVERAL readers called or e-mailed to point out that last Thursday's Business Day poster - Crunch talks on Mugabe bale-out - was misspelt. Alas, The Insider must humbly disagree. In Business Day's style, informed by the Collins dictionary, "bail-out", readers' suggested alternative, is used to refer to removing water from a boat, or to as a reference to bail, money paid as a guarantee that a released prisoner will return to face trial. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's parliament has not passed any laws allowing for the prosecution of dictators with silly moustaches, so SA's possible loan to Harare remains a bale-out.”

Uh, I don’t think so, helping a buddy out of the great big steaming pile of shit he's gotten himself into is called bail, according to this and this and this.

Come to think of it, the thought of Bozo Bob (silly moustache or not) being bundled up in a heap and toted up the barge does have a certain appeal.

I was going to make a departure from my usual style of slagging off the rich and famous and give out praise to one Mick Jagger for his naughty song, but along came the news that the Stones, the arthritic bad boys of rock Rolling Stones, have got a contract to create "spots and intro’s" for American football. Let that sink in slowly. The last great rock band making music for a sport so white-bread it could only exist in one country on earth. How is this going to work, NBC Football, Mick Jagger, are they going to shoot him from the waist up like they did with Elvis?

About the song, it’s all just a big publicity stunt for their new album, but I like what Mick said in response to all the uproar : "It's not aimed, personally aimed, at President Bush. It wouldn't be called 'Sweet Neo Con' if it was."

There are the usual rumblings of a Dixie Chicking for the British lads, threats of mass CD bulldozing, and a boycott of their concerts. I kinda doubt this would ever work, how do you boycott The Stones? Virgil said “Fortune favours the bold” and let’s see how it works for the Pan god, either way, the only thing that matters is if the new album is good.

Mick’s got nothing to do with this, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is hitching himself to the Rolling Wagon that is the Stones and offering tickets to a fundraising event. Yes folks, for a cool $100,000, you can watch the Stones in concert in a luxury box with the Groperführer, now that’s what I call democracy.

Poor Katie Holmes, she still has a chance to run if she starts now, because doting future husband Tom has started choosing her movie roles. He’s decided she will not play Edie Sedgwick because it would be bad for her image. We all know the man’s an egg sandwich short of a picnic, but Edie Sedgwick, is a fabulous part, sixties It-Girl, Andy Warhol’s muse, Katie’s perfect for it, and we all know what she can do when she gets going. She ran up and down those stairs with that turkey in Pieces of April and got it cooked without Tom’s help, why does she need him now, unless she really is a fem-bot.

Apparently and this is true, each of Tom’s wives is 11 years younger than the last, so since Nicole had a 10 year contract and Katie has a 5 year contract, Britney’s fetus is going to have to stay married to Tom for a whole 20 minutes.

I’m disappointed to hear that George Clooney is one of those golf freaks, because I think he’s adorable, he’s got that full-on Cary Grant, chisel-chinned thing going on, but apparently he’s so obsessed with golf he organizes golfing holidays for a bunch of pals he calls the Boys. Oh George you do have to watch out, you haven’t had a girlfriend for a long time, those whispers are going to start if you and your buddies spend too much time running around in tight white pants thrashing a ball with a stick. All this male bonding is going to turn off your target demographic, why don’t you arm-wrestle Tom for the lovely Katie?

Here’s the best news I’ve heard for a long time, Johnny Depp is afraid to be typecast as whimsical and wants to do a porn movie. I would pay a huge sum of money to see Johnny Depp do porn, let’s all encourage this shall we?

Over sharer of the week is Victoria Beckham who volunteers that she has never read a book. The most she can manage in her hectic stressful life of shopping, tanning and beating David around the earhole every now and then, is to flip through Vogue.

I’ve always found religious fundamentalism puzzling, then I hear that Jessica Simpson and her sister Ashlee used to go to church in their bikinis? Their father is baffled by all the fuss, he says they have never worn many clothes.

“When we were in church work, they wore bikinis and short shorts. People in the church got mad at me then, but we believe that what’s in the heart is more important than what’s on the outside”.

Hmmm, that's his story and he's sticking to it.

Speaking of fem-bots, brace yourself Cape Town, you’re getting a visit from Paris Hilton, yes, her people are crawling all over the place checking out the scene, bodyguards are being lined up, are you guy's hot or what?

Wonder if she’ll go cage diving or adopt an orphan?

There’s a photograph of Ernest Hemingway on the cover of a book called Hemingway on Hunting. It’s an iconic image, the young Hemingway crouches, smiling over a magnificent dead lion, the very essence of manhood, the Great White Hunter, who sets out into the wild and pits his strength and courage against nature’s most ferocious creatures. It’s a romantic image that endures to this day, but it no longer exists except to support a huge industry of safari tour operators, private game lodges, taxidermists, professional hunters, breeders, import/export agencies and hunting clubs such as Safari Club International, dedicated to ensuring a steady stream of exotically shaped bodies. Hemingway is dead. His place is taken by Mark Scott Crossley, the man convicted of feeding one of his workers to the lions on his farm. Scott Crossley was photographed in the back of a police car during his trail, cigarette in mouth, holding up a two-fingered salute to the press. He does not look the slightest bit ashamed for using a human being as meat, he’s a breeder, everything's meat.

It’s an important case for South Africa’s animals because the long overdue enquiry into regulating the hunting industry began in Pretoria this week. It aims to examine all the issues surrounding hunting, canned safaris, place and take (confining an animal in a small space), hunting from the back of vehicles, wild animal mass breeding, and the practice called eco or green hunting, which involves shooting an animal with a dart and reviving it as many times as the animal can stand before it becomes psychotic.

There’s a perception that since the Cook Report on canned hunting was broadcast, the practice has been banned. Not so says the M&G.

The rot in the hunting industry begins with the breeders, who churn out wild animals like so many dachshund puppies, novelty animals such as lions with black manes for their beauty and the price they fetch as trophies. Scott Crossley’s enterprise bred white lions, which carry a premium in the hunting trade. All told there are 2,500 lions being raised in the Free State, Limpopo and North West province and exotic specimens such as puma and jaguar are imported and captive bred to be shot, stuffed and shipped.

Scott Crossley has been on his best behaviour this week as the judge considers evidence in mitigation of his sentence, he has offered “blood money” to the family of the dead man in an attempt to avoid being tossed to the lions himself. There’s a chilling connection between Scott Crossley and Gert van Rooyen, the pedophile who committed suicide with his lover Joey Haarhoff when cornered by the police after the disappearance of six young girls in 1988 and 89. His sister Tracey Lee was one of the young girls, their bodies have never been found.

I’m just thinking …

Thursday, August 11, 2005


This item comes from Thailand and much as we’ve become used to the two-headed-chicken and man-marries-goat stories that come from this part of the world, this is not only bizarre, but provides an opportunity to explore the whole sticky question of how much of gender is genetic, how much learned, and how much good old plain animal instinct.

On the full moon of June 21, Thin Sandar noticed her “thing” wasn’t as before, her clitoris had turned into a penis, and first thing she did was she “shouted out and showed it all to my mom and dad”. Just what anyone would do really.

It’s a peculiar story, because she’s really happy about the whole thing, whereas to me it sounds like the most exquisite sort of hell. The doctors say she’s a hermaphrodite, and her glee over the whole event is because she can now become a monk, which makes the whole penis thing rather futile.

Besides, how can a woman turn into a man overnight, does this mean she will stop asking for directions, develop an obsession with sports involving balls, snore like a bellows and monopolise the remote control. Will she still be interested in shopping, shoes, gossiping about soap opera characters and paging through bridal magazines?

Hordes of people are streaming to Thin’s village to look at the phenomenon for themselves, another 21-year-old housewife Thandar Win is quoted as saying "If I was not married, then I too would want to become a man!"

I think she’ll find that being a man is not as rosy as it looks, because Freud was totally wrong about the penis envy thing. Women are smaller, less muscular, our heads crack easily, our whole bodies are full of vulnerable spots. Men have one vulnerable spot, and if women acquired that we’d have to bring back the iron codpiece. Far better that men carry them around and protect them and encourage us to play with them as often as possible.

I feel terribly sorry for these Myanmar wanna-be men. Who needs something attached to their bodies that has a mind of its own, never mind how a man handles the joy of the monthly period? Is it really possible that after 21 years of being a woman, she will now be totally unable to operate the toilet roll holder? There’s also the question of whether the new penis will be able to rise to the occasion, if she’s hidden it for so long it can’t be over large. I believe women care less about penis size (beyond a certain minimum) than men do, which makes penis envy a man thing.

I foresee a host of problems for Mr. Sein (as he is now called), as he tries to engage a colleague in conversation about how bitchy those other monks are. I wonder if he’ll be happy with way the robe makes his bum look? At least hair products won't be a problem, also toenail painting.

I blame it on the media, but someone is taking all the good words and using them over and over again so they end up dried-out, devoid of meaning, and unable to rouse the feelings they once did. My best example is passion, it used to mean a particular type of overwhelming emotion that transcended all moral constraints. Then the recruitment industry got hold of it, and now it’s not good enough to have a killer CV and all the attributes for a particular job, you have to have passion as well, passion for excellence, a passion to succeed, a passion for, uh, lathe polishing. Not only do you have to show up for work come rain or shine, sit at your desk day after interminable day, feeling your sprit slowly being crushed out of existence, you now have to be passionate about client service as well.

A perfectly good word gets ruined, because everyone’s passionate about everything. Kelly, the giant temp agency are “passionate about their people”, Pan Communications are passionate about public relations and you can’t get more debased than that. Yes, you can Tom Cruise is “passionate about life”.

Millions of people are passionate about activities involving balls, sticks and gross physical pain and there’s Boomerang Passion and passion for plankton.

The original meaning of passion was agonising suffering, having nails hammered into your hands sort of pain (which does describe some jobs). It came to mean a rousing of the passions, anger, fear, grief, pain, wonder, and in the mid-Eighteenth century it was replaced with the word emotion, and passion came to be used for reckless, earth-shattering romantic love. Now it’s used in ads for Logistics Managers and as a pump-up tool for that strange being called a Life Coach.

Here’s another word that’s been ruined, magic. It has a kind of childish innocence about it, the suspension of disbelief, now it applies to middle-aged hippies running naked through the forest, schoolboy wizards in goggle glasses and pumpkins. People believe in magic even in this day and age, they really believe that if they drink a special slimming potion the fat will melt away, they really believe that they will win the Lotto and get the chance to shit on the boss’s desk, they really believe if they send an e-mail exactly eight times they will have great sex all year.

There are lots of buggered-up words and phrases and they’ve become that way through over-use, laziness, the tendency of people under pressure to reach for the cliché. The word stunning used to mean a sight that was liable to knock one stupefied, I saw an ad in a magazine for “stunning” cloth covered bibles (with velcro clasp). Synergy, Challenge, Extreme, Timeframe, Paradigm Shift, Branding, they used to brand cows, now they brand people.

Fortunately there are new words coming in all the time, bling, the sound of sunlight shining on gold jewellery in old time cartoons, potty-mouth, hoover up a burger, wear a pelmet, avoid a chugger especially that Bob Geldorf, and paint your house a shade of greige. Lots of choice new insults like clot, chump, chucklehead, muppet, plank, fribble, gink and ning-nong.

Here’s a funny thing, the wonderful word lush, meaning an ageing women who drinks like a fish, is still with us but it's turned into an adjective meaning splendid. What do they mean? That was a lush bottle of wine we just finished? Sounds so Cape Town.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Spring has sprung in God’s Own country, beautiful Johannesburg is drenched with the dizzy perfume of jasmine, the chirping of demented birds and great garish splashes of boungainvilliea twirling through the razor wire in a colour that can only be called peeeenk.

It feels good to breathe the sweet scent of burning boerewors, listen to the tsst of the sprinklers and smell the sulphuric whiff of compost laid over the kikuyu. Any minute now the whine of a weedeater will be heard because it might only be August, but spring is here, I know this because my neighbour has his shirt off and is cleaning his pool, totally impervious to my perving him in his little black shorts, taut stomach rippling, biceps and deltoids straining as he re-arranges the plastic garden chairs on his stoep.

Winter? What winter, we've hardly cracked out the jerseys.

In honour of Women’s Day happening in South Africa here’s a story that was widely reported in a variety of media so it has to be true, right? A survey by a women’s magazine found that two thirds of women would have plastic surgery to achieve the “perfect look”, 90% of them said their bodies made them feel “down” and more than half thought their careers would progress at a faster pace if they had a better body and were more attractive. I think I qualify as an expert on the dynamics of office life and there is nothing to be gained by being good looking, in fact, the very opposite. If you’re blonde, you will be patted on the head, if you’re pretty you’ll be sent to the filing room more often than necessary and if you have enormous surgically enhanced boobs, nobody will ever look you in the eye.

Top Sante magazine specializes in this sort of story, did you know that flirting at the office is good for you? Chirpy health advice is Top Sante’s stock in trade, and pop psychology quizzes their lure. Here’s another choice piece of doom and gloom

“Only a quarter of women feel they are living the life they thought they would be when growing up, while 84 percent say they are not fulfilling their potential. Two thirds of those questioned have full-time jobs, but 60 percent of them want to give up work.

More than half of the 2 000 women questioned are also unfulfilled in their sexual and social lives. Unsurprisingly, given this level of dissatisfaction, the emotion that women feel most on a daily basis is frustration.”

Apparently we’re all within an inch of blowing our brains out. Where are all these sad sacks? Most of the women I know go about their lives with a cheery laugh and have no desire for Melanie Griffith lips. Are they suggesting that beneath the serene exterior modern women are a roiling, uncontrollable mass of fear and loathing that can only be assuaged by liposuction? The women who buy the magazine and take the trouble to fill in the questionnaire and return it and are probably already prime cosmetic surgery fodder, so I can’t see how this can possibly apply to women in general. Do women really feel so bad about themselves?

But that’s not all, bang goes the myth of the female sisterhood, 58% of women are jealous of women their own age who look younger, four out of ten jealous of their friends and 36% envied all younger women in general. The good news is that half the women felt good about their hair and 73% are happy with their height.

Where will it end, what sort of super plastic beautiful person is going to emerge from this mayhem? Will looking unattractive become the new crime? Will plastic surgery one day become compulsory? Look at that nose, get into the doctor’s office instantly! Will the Beauty Police come around to your house to make sure you’re tight enough behind the ears before you go out in public?

Quote of the Day - “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, August 08, 2005


I don’t know what happened, a good mood must have hit me but I made the godawful mistake of opening an account at a large clothing chain. It must have been the cute young eager puppy behind the counter that made it all look so easy, plus I got R300 vouchers, what an irresistible deal. I had a weak moment I said alright so I’ve nobody else to blame for this but within a matter of weeks my postbox became stuffed with so many desperate attempts to fling money at me that the real post ended up on the post office floor. Worse yet, my cell number has been acquired by that evil List in the Sky and I get chirpy people informing me that I, the valued punter, have been pre-approved for one of their splendiferous credit cards.

If I took up all these offers I could spend weeks in Mauritius, own the car of my dreams and pay tuition ten times over for the kids I don’t have. I’m not ready to die yet so sending me a 6-page spiel about funeral plans is a waste of tree and I’m really not interested in gold coins even if they have Nelson Mandela’s face stamped into them.

Problem is I'm a good customer I’ve got one perfectly good Mr. Plastic in my bag and I treat him with the utmost respect, which makes me a bad customer and I pay up before they run my statement so the only thing they get out of me is the yearly fee. I like to pay in a bit extra over my balance because there’s something curiously satisfying about squeezing 6 cents in interest out of VISA. The fact that I'm a bad customer hasn’t filtered into the database which sells me as a good credit risk, therefore send me all those credit cards so I will lose my head and buy all those yachts. What should I do to get rid of them, become a bad customer? Skip payments for a month or two?

Once you’re on that List it’s tickets for you all your life belongs to them and even after you die you’ll still be getting meatworld spam, which you can’t delete like e-mails for penis enlargement or Powerpoint presentations about angels. There's no meatworld spam filter, there's nothing between you and endless inducements to own the life in easy monthly payments.

I can tell when I’m being schmoozed when a voice I don’t recognize on the phone asks me how I am. An icy hostility kicks in, I get shirty from years of getting rid of any number of people selling insurance, timeshare, bed linen and waterless cookware.

I must have been in a good mood or maybe it was the “gold” thing that triggered my inner snob because once I’d assured the young lady from the Barclays gold card division that I was well thank you, I let her launch into her script, which is always a fatal mistake. I was a bit curious about the Barclays thing because at that time, the Barclays ABSA takeover was far from being finalized and it seemed odd that they’d already bought The List and were shilling away for all they were worth. It became apparent to me just how shiny the Barclays gold card was when she told me anyone with an income over R5,000 could have one and was desperately astonished when I said no thanks.

The Standard Bank card lady, not so much, she fought back and I was in no mood. I try not to insult the poor person on the other end of the phone, their jobs are crap enough as it is, but the sign of a good experienced telesalesperson is they can take the abuse without flinching and if they’re superb at their jobs they will choke off the aggression with an instant apology. Not this cookie, she was highly insulted that I would turn down a genuine Standard Bank credit card and felt compelled to tell me off for being rude. She's new I can tell, she’s not going to last the week.

Woolworths sent me a card. I didn’t ask for it or anything, it just floated out of the sky, nicely presented with a sweet little R25 gift voucher and all I have to do is take my ID book down to my local and fill ‘er up. I like Woolworths, I go in there every now and then, but I’m too scared to use the card. In fact, I’m just going to snip it into pieces now along with my Truworths card.

There, now I’m in a good mood.


Hey you wanking under the covers, watch out! It’s not just your mom who’s going to find out, King Goodwill Zwelethini is coming to get you.

In an attempt to be even-handed about the virginity testing ban recently passed in South Africa, the Zulu monarch says he is going to conduct virginity testing amongst boys too. While I'm against the whole notion of virginity testing at all, fair’s fair. For every girl that loses her virginity there’s a boy involved (or more commonly a man) but how exactly does one determine whether a boy is a virgin or not? In girls there’s the useful hymen and you’ve either got one or you don’t but I don’t think there’s any way to tell whether a boy is having full sex, playing around, or just beating the meat under the blanket.

Not so says Reggie Khumalo of Isivivane Sama Siko, a body promoting African traditional cultures - "Young boys also have a hymen - white lacy skin on the foreskin. If the foreskin on the penis slips away easily, it means the hymen is gone. If the foreskin is sore and hard to move, then it means he is still a virgin". Dark knees are another dead giveaway and there’s a also a vein on the penis that appears and disappears, so young men are advised to keep a diagrammatic record of what veins they have before the good King pays a visit.

Are you a virgin?

When I was a virgin back in the Dark Ages it was a well-known fact that you could lose your virginity through a couple of strenuous games of netball, no wonder competition for the first team was so hot at the high school in the industrial town where I grew up. Tampons could also cause rupture of the delicate hymen, and it’s no coincidence that young girls are enormously fond of horse riding.

How to tell if a girl was a virgin was easy, that brown-knee thing has been around for ages, everyone knew those who tasted the delights of carnal knowledge had the brown carpet-burn between femur and tibia. Oral sex was only invented in 1974, and before that, anything you did with your mouth fell in the category of heavy petting which made it sound like what the Standard 8’s of Pofadderspruit High got up to on their yearly school visits to the zoo.

And what’s the big hairy deal about virginity in this day and age anyway? Britney Spears scotched that one when she used the resurgence of the virginity cult to attract the mid-life-crisis male demographic and wrecked a good gig by appearing knocked up and in flip flops in public. What’s she going to do now? Let’s face it she might still have the box it came in but once the cherry’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Not exactly thanks to modern science, there are operations to restore your hymen, this from Belgium.

Immaculate deception

The fact that your hymen can be restored despite the fact that you’ve had sex, proves beyond a doubt that virginity is a state of mind not a piece of flesh. Since raping young girls is one of this country’s less savoury national sports, if a girl is raped can she be responsible for not being a virgin? Whose body is it anyway? According to Jacob Zuma, a girl’s virginity is a “family treasure”, which answers that one quite neatly.

As for the good king himself, this is a man who reportedly made a 17 year old pregnant, which seems to suggest that he and his followers have a less than healthy interest in what goes on between a young girl’s legs. Funny how those squawking loudest about traditional values drive in the non-traditional Beemers to their non-traditional townhouses with non-traditional solid gold tap fittings in their non-traditional indoor plumbed bathrooms all financed by the long suffering South African taxpayer.

Should a young girl or boy have to submit themselves to an intimate physical examination at a tender and vulnerable age? My feeling is no, but what do I know? Some of the virgins themselves pranced topless through Durban this week in support of the age old practice, which puts a whole new interesting wrinkle to the traditional South African toyi-toyi.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

CELEBRITY SCOFFING - Susan Sarandon of all people

Susan Sarandon how could you do it? How could you let yourself be filmed simpering in front of a mirror, all soft-focus and serene, stroking Wrinkle-be-Gone on your cheek. Sure there’s Julianne Moore sitting right next to you, but it’s different for her, she hasn’t made a brave stand as a liberal in a treacherous political arena. You and your delectable husband Tim Robbins got up on your soapboxes last year and nailed your colours to the gibbet when others (Madonna for instance) were kissing the conservative butt of middle America. You have credibility in spades, you have gravitas, you look great together, you could give Brad and Angelina a run for their money in the Mr.&Mrs. President stakes. Alas not anymore. When someone who claims to be an artist takes money to shill product, it’s tickets babe.

Ok, they’ve got to eat like everyone, but what makes it worse is that Susan was interviewed on her inner beauty, which apparently doesn’t preclude slapping on an overpriced (yet softly scented) combination of goop that’s meant to convince the ageing punter that the bits life has wrinkled can be ironed out again. What’s more, they filmed her in true girly-wirly tampon-ad style through a smoky gauze that makes her look all of, uh, fourteen. Make another movie Susan, at least you were good at that.

Beckham, it’s hard to scoff at this gorgeous man, which is why his wife takes such a beating from the press, but there he is in Heat magazine with shaved armpits! Enough of the metrosexual shit already, we want fine silky hair in the armpits of our men. It’s quite alright to wear your wife’s panties, shave your legs and wear an alice band, but there is no rhyme or reason that one of the sexiest men on the planet should appear in public looking like a freak.

Not when he’s in trouble on a number of fronts, look at the headlines he’s been getting, “Humiliated” and “Vodaphone boots Beckham”. Golden boy is obviously being eyed out by the bloodthirsty chickens of the press, especially since he managed to win a lawsuit against The People magazine who alleged he plagued his ex-nanny with hate calls. Silly thing for The People to say, when we all know the divine David is an SMS kind of a guy.

Speaking of nannies, Jude Law’s hired another one and he’s not taking any chances, this one’s fat and middle aged. If you ask me, these nannies are a bit more trouble than they’re worth. The pool table where Jude bonked the nanny is now for sale on e-Bay.

Kate Hudson has smelly feet. Why do we want to know this?

Over-sharer of the week : Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, who regaled us with her drug history, the fact that she pretended to have bulimia to cover her extreme weight loss and even attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings to cover up her alibi. She also confessed to chewing the skin on her hands and wrists. Give the girl a Prozac already.

Tragic Grotesquerie of the Week is Mike Tyson and this may be a hoax, because I can’t confirm this anywhere, but word is that he will be starring in porno movies with Jenna Jamieson. Not that I think this is a bad idea, I certainly wouldn’t mind having a peek at those two bonking in an artfully posed setting, but something about this man’s incredible trajectory from the world’s best boxer to whacked out porno-freak is too much for my stomach to take. According the court reports, his “member” is at least 14 inches long. Poor Jenna!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


It’s an absolute truism that the gods love slapstick, and here’s proof. According to researchers the environmental estrogens in water and other foods are increasing the size of breast tissue – uh, in men!

Plastic surgeons are happy but befuddled by an alarming increase in the number of men seeking surgical assistance to reduce the size of their breasts and scariest of all they report removing “mammary gland tissue usually found only in women”. What’s going on here? It’s a worrying trend because, let’s face it, man titties aren’t a pretty sight, there’s nothing sexy about hairy cleavage and who wants to be married to a man with bigger breasts than your own.

Environmental estogens are endocrine disruptors which mimic natural estrogen. In women they have been linked to some forms of breast cancer and some scientists believe they are responsible for girls reaching puberty at an earlier age. In men they have been blamed for lowered sperm count, undescended testicles and horror of horrors decreased penis size (in alligators).

Environmental estrogens are hard to avoid because they’re in almost everything, they occur naturally in plants, as well as plastic goods, household products, pesticides, industrial chemicals and the growth hormones used in factory farming which means they seep into the meat and dairy products we eat and the water we drink.

Take a look at what you need to throw out or run the risk of turning into Pamela Anderson when your name is Kevin - nail polish, Sta-Soft, condoms, copiers and printers (an excellent excuse for not going to work) and stay far far away from the clingwrap in the microwave. Foods that contain estrogen are soya (but not soy sauce), hops and barley (put down that beer), garlic and olive oil (take that Minister Manto).

What it does to animals is positively ghoulish, male alligators in Lake Apopka which is located adjacent to an EPA Superfund site contaminated with dicofol and DDT, have undersized penises. In Florida, female mosquito fish have male sex organs and try to mate with other females, ditto with hamsters. Take a look at the interesting shapes of these frogs.

Bearing in mind that there were 11.9 million cosmetic surgical procedures in the US in 2004, an increase of 44%, of which the most popular procedures were liposuction and breast augmentation, this suggests that the Western world really isn’t too fat, or at least there’s the right amount of TOTAL FAT in the world, it’s just unequally and unfairly distributed.

There’s an urban legend doing the rounds that is taken every bit as seriously as kidnapped girls with cancer and exploding cacti, it’s that spelling and precise grammatical expression are no longer necessary, the Internet has done away with all that and TV, SMS and IM have finished the job of dismantling a system that no longer serves a purpose but perpetuate a language elitism that excludes those who cannot or will not master it. Apparently nobody gives a shit or even notices if you write like a six year old schoolgirl on a double dose of Ritalin, nobody cares if you make cute little baby “i”s, or mix up two words that sound the same (aloud/allowed). This may hold true when you’re planning your weekend, but unless your daddy’s rich (and your mother’s looks are irrelevant), you’re going to have to come face to face with the modern office at some point in your life.

Here’s another myth, the paperless office, never in the history of the world has there been so much paper, every company operating in the world is awash with documents and emails, reports and presentations and somebody has to write them, and that person is you. Time was when there were “support staff” who could figure our your handwriting, check your spelling and fiddle with your grammar, not any more, you’re on your own now and if you can’t express yourself in a reasonably effective way or at least avoid embarrassing yourself, nobody is going to have a chance to notice your inner brilliance.

It’s all the fault of lawyers and politicians because everything has to be put in writing and printed and filed in case of lawsuits, audits or regulator enquiries, and because there’s an invention called a copier, several hundred copies must be made of everything, so your mistakes are distributed far and wide, your interesting use of English, your quaint spelling, your toe-curling typos are available to be seen and read and scoffed at by your colleagues for years to come. There’s also the dreaded Powerpoint presentation and if you make a Freudian slip-up here, your mistake is huge against the wall for a roomful of people to snicker at.

Another urban legend is that you can break all the rules and still make a zillion dollars, and while this might hold true for some things and some people, it does not hold true in the business world. Try to convince a CA MBA bean counter at a major bank to part with money for an interesting business idea, when your proposal is full of typos and ludicrous spelling. Attention to detail is not just a good thing, it’s an absolute requirement and it starts and ends with the way you write.

Not big words, mind you, or flowery language, the sole purpose of business communication is to get the point across in a way that is understood by the other party, and since we operate in a global context, if you’re writing to someone in another country, you have to communicate your meaning without ambiguity and simultaneously watch out for that horrible cross-cultural faux pas. Europeans especially are proud of their painfully acquired English and if you use the wrong word in the wrong context and if your e-mail is riddled with mistakes, you’re dead meat in a dog eat dog world.

I once got an e-mail from a group of Austrians who were due to arrive in South Africa asking me if I would be kind enough to organize a “brei” during their visit. I was wondering if this was some sort of Teutonic knitting circle when I realized they wanted the traditional South African activity of building a fire and burning bits of cow flesh. If you’re a native English speaker you have a huge advantage over those who learned ein zwei drei and if you can’t even write your own home language in a legible manner, you can look forward to long and satisfying career packing parcels at Checkers.