Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Idler, Monday, January 20

Cable thieves

set up a

dogfight


SIGH! If it's not Eskom, it's the cable thieves. Stretched out upon the sheets the other dank and sweaty early morning, I was awakened by what appeared to be the sudden appearance of a Spitfire in my room.

The propellor was close by, screaming. But then the revolutions abated and I saw it was just my normal bedroom fan rotating the air, creating artificial breezes,  from where it stood on the floor.

Then suddenly it was screaming again, as if in combat with a flight of Stukas. The penny dropped. Voltages of different strengths were surging through the electric system.

These Eskom wags, I thought. They're not content with just pulling a lever to plunge us into darkness and misery, they're having fun playing off-and-on, off-and-on, pulling the lever back and forth, tantalising and tormenting us.

But it turns out this time it wasn't Eskom. It was cable thieves robbing a nearby sub-station. This caused 380 volts to flow through a 220-volt system. Electric plugs were popping, devices were burning out all over the building. Then the current was off and the entire suburb was suddenly back in the Stone Age. (So far I seem to have got off lightly, device-wise. Not so some of my neighbours). 

The cops must nail these blighters. Not just the thieves but also the dodgy non-ferrous metal dealers who are their paymasters and without whom there would be no thievery.

Let the punishment fit the crime. Let cables be attached to the appropriate tender portions of the anatomy and 380 volts run through them. As the French so succinctly put it, pour encourager les autres. (To encourage the others).


 

Xi lost in translation

AS READERS will know, this column shrinks from crudity in any form. But world news is world news and is not to be ignored. So here goes.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been on a visit to Myanmar (formerly Burma) where he has signed with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi dozens of infrastructure development agreements.

Suu Kyi has recorded it all on her Facebook page. But unfortunately, according to Reuters, where Burmese content is translated into English – using Facebook's ultra-sophisicated translation service – Xi Jingping's name appeared as "Mr Shithole".

So it went all over the world. And an English-language local newspaper in Irrawaddy ran a headline: "Dinner honours President Shithole". Oops! And oops again!

Facebook has apologised and says the problem has been fixed.

 

 

"We have fixed an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook and are working to identify the cause to ensure that it doesn't happen again. This issue is not a reflection of the way our products should work and we sincerely apologise for the offence this has caused."

Ah me, Face is everything in the Far East. I sincerely hope those infrastructure development programmes in Myanmar are not imperilled.

Finally, an apology to sensitive readers for inflicting on them this unsavoury item of barrack-room language. Facebook should be ashamed of themselves for even having that vile word in their vocabulary.

But, as I say, world news is world news. The yuan could plunge. Relationships in the Far East could descend into turmoil. We cannot shrink from it. We tell it as it is, there's no other way.

 

Tailpiece

So there's an Amazon River now? What's next? Lake Facebook? Mount Paypal?

 

 


Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Idler Friday, January 17, 2020

Trial by combat –

a precedent

being set?

 

AN AMERICAN man has asked a court to allow an issue between he and his ex-wife to be decided in a swordfight.

David Ostrom told the Shelby County District Court, in Iowa, that it has the power to allow the parties to "resolve our disputes on the field of battle, legally," according to Associated Press.

"Trial by combat has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States."

The Ostroms have been embroiled in disputes over custody and visitation issues and property tax payments.

Ostrom told the court his ex-wife could nominate her attorney, Matthew Hudson, to fight as her champion if she chose. He asked the court to remand the case for 12 weeks so he could procure Japanese samurai swords.

Hudson argued that because a duel could end in death, "such ramifications likely outweigh those of property tax and custody issues." He asked the judge to reject the request for trial by combat.

Judge Craig Dreismeier said he would not be issuing a decision any time soon, citing irregularities with both sides' motions and responses.

"Until the proper procedural steps to initiate a court proceeding are followed, this court will take no further action concerning any motion, objection or petition filed by either party at this time."

Hmmm. He didn't chuck it out either. Could we have a precedent developing here? Could it have a bearing on the impeachment process?

Donald Trump versus Nancy Pelosi with Samurai swords? It wouldn't be any more bizarre than what's going on now. A lot quicker and maybe even less messy.

 

 

 

Disappearing act

 

IT'S a curious one this about how Nissan Motors boss Carlos Ghosn slipped out of Japan to avoid financial fiddling charges (which he denies), apparently hidden in some sort of musical instrument case.

At first it was said he was carried out of his home in Tokyo in a double bass case and put on a plane for the Lebanon. Now it seems more likely he was in a large speaker box, too big to go through the scanner at Kansai airport in western Japan.

Whatever, musical instrument manufacturer Yamaha has now issued a warning against trying to squeeze into musical instrument cases, according to Huffington Post.

"A warning after any unfortunate accident would be too late, so we ask everyone not to try it."

I suppose a really skinny critter could try to get into a trombone case and travel the world.

 

 

Lexophilia

READER Nick Gray sends in a collection of those contorted sentence constructions that are known collectively as lexophilia:

·       When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

·       When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, UCLA.

·       A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

·       A boiled egg is hard to beat.

·       Police were called to a day care centre where a three-year-old was resisting a rest

·       He fell onto an upholstery machine. He's now fully recovered.

·       He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

·       When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she'd dye.

 

 

Tailpiece

"My ex-husband wants to marry me again."

"That's flattering."

"Not really. I think he's after the money I married him for."

 

Last word

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity. - Christopher Morley

The Idler, Friday, January 17, 2020

Trial by combat –

a precedent

being set?

 

AN AMERICAN man has asked a court to allow an issue between he and his ex-wife to be decided in a swordfight.

David Ostrom told the Shelby County District Court, in Iowa, that it has the power to allow the parties to "resolve our disputes on the field of battle, legally," according to Associated Press.

"Trial by combat has never been explicitly banned or restricted as a right in these United States."

The Ostroms have been embroiled in disputes over custody and visitation issues and property tax payments.

Ostrom told the court his ex-wife could nominate her attorney, Matthew Hudson, to fight as her champion if she chose. He asked the court to remand the case for 12 weeks so he could procure Japanese samurai swords.

Hudson argued that because a duel could end in death, "such ramifications likely outweigh those of property tax and custody issues." He asked the judge to reject the request for trial by combat.

Judge Craig Dreismeier said he would not be issuing a decision any time soon, citing irregularities with both sides' motions and responses.

"Until the proper procedural steps to initiate a court proceeding are followed, this court will take no further action concerning any motion, objection or petition filed by either party at this time."

Hmmm. He didn't chuck it out either. Could we have a precedent developing here? Could it have a bearing on the impeachment process?

Donald Trump versus Nancy Pelosi with Samurai swords? It wouldn't be any more bizarre than what's going on now. A lot quicker and maybe even less messy.

 

 

 

Disappearing act

 

IT'S a curious one this about how Nissan Motors boss Carlos Ghosn slipped out of Japan to avoid financial fiddling charges (which he denies), apparently hidden in some sort of musical instrument case.

At first it was said he was carried out of his home in Tokyo in a double bass case and put on a plane for the Lebanon. Now it seems more likely he was in a large speaker box, too big to go through the scanner at Kansai airport in western Japan.

Whatever, musical instrument manufacturer Yamaha has now issued a warning against trying to squeeze into musical instrument cases, according to Huffington Post.

"A warning after any unfortunate accident would be too late, so we ask everyone not to try it."

I suppose a really skinny critter could try to get into a trombone case and travel the world.

 

 

Lexophilia

READER Nick Gray sends in a collection of those contorted sentence constructions that are known collectively as lexophilia:

·       When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

·       When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, UCLA.

·       A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

·       A boiled egg is hard to beat.

·       Police were called to a day care centre where a three-year-old was resisting a rest

·       He fell onto an upholstery machine. He's now fully recovered.

·       He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

·       When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she'd dye.

 

 

Tailpiece

"My ex-husband wants to marry me again."

"That's flattering."

"Not really. I think he's after the money I married him for."

 

Last word

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity. - Christopher Morley

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Idler, Thursday, January16, 2020

Campaign

ads with

real effect

 

THE race hots up for the Democrat candidacy in this year's American presidential campaign. Late entrant Michael Bloomberg – multi-billionaire and former mayor of New York – has already spent a whopping $100 million (R1.4bn) on advertising.

This is a positive start for Bloomberg, according to the New Yorker. "A new poll indicates that an increasing number of Americans would vote for Michael Bloomberg if that would make him stop airing campaign ads.

"The poll found that 16% of those surveyed were 'somewhat likely' to vote for Bloomberg if that would convince him to stop airing ads; 21% were 'very likely' to do so for that reason; and a whopping 33% 'strongly agreed' with the statement

"'Seriously, I'll do whatever he wants—please, just make them stop right now'."

"In a new Bloomberg ad airing this week, the candidate addresses the viewer directly, stating: 'Hi, I'm Mike Bloomberg. Do you want to see more of these ads? The choice is yours,' before the screen abruptly goes black."

Yes, this is satirist Andy Borowitz again, having fun in the New Year.

 

 

Name change wanted

 

INFORMANTS tell me there's an agitation for the new CEO of Eskom to change his name.

He should no longer be Andre de Ruyter, he should become Andre da GeneRuyter.

 

 

Decider?

 

WILL this be the decider as South Africa and England walk out at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, today for the Third Test, the rubber squared. Will they produce the same absorbing, fluctuating and exciting cricket as in the first two Tests?

In recent years England have fared well at St George's. We've yet to beat them there since re-admission.

Only one thing can be predicted with certainty. The St George's brass band will be cacophonous,

 

 

Apun my word

 

A COW in Scotland held up rush hour rail traffic by wandering on to the line, at the same time unleashing a blizzard of awful punnery.

Sky News described "udder chaos" around Glasgow after the cow escaped from a nearby field and held up trains She refused to "moooooove".

But "cow-llision" was averted after she was enticed away with a bucket of food and she eventually "mooved" (Eek! One bad pun deserves a flogging. Twice merits the firing squad).

Glasgow City Council tweeted that it would work with rail staff to find the breach in the fence that led to the cow's "high-steaks" escape.

We wish them success. No more "pun-ishment", please!

 

.

 

 

Cogitations

 

MORE shower thoughts from Huffington Post, prompted during that interlude when one has stopped singing to ponder abstractions.

·       You don't hear much about the original Zealand.

·       Heist movies based on real heists make more money than the heists themselves.

·        The kids of the future probably won't make "brrrm brrrm". noises when playing with toy cars.

·       Hot-headed is bad but warm-hearted is good. Cool-headed is good but cold-hearted is bad.

·       It must have been significantly harder to feed a toddler before the invention of the aeroplane.

 

 

Dutch origin

 

THE original Zealand is, of course, the Dutch province of Zeeland. The place that now produces the All Blacks was named Nieuw Zeeland by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, in 1642.

The shower thinker is right. Present-day Zeeland is a small, thinly populated province of the Netherlands. You don't hear too much about it.

 

 

Tailpiece

 

THIS fellow is in a bookshop. Her approaches a woman counter assistant.

"Do you keep stationery?"

"No, usually I wriggle a bit."

 

 

Last word

 

Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. - Arthur C Clarke    

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Idler, Wednesday, January 15, 2010

Do we have

here a royal

parallel?

IS THERE a parallel between Prince Harry's startling announcement - that he and Meghan are going to stand down from royal duties in Britain and remove themselves to "North America" - and the abdication of King Edward VIII back in 1936?

Superficially at least, there seems to be. Both involved marriage to an American woman. Both have caused shock and even outrage.

Edward wanted to marry "the woman I love", Wallis Simpson, who was about to conclude her second divorce and was considered by the Establishment to be totally unsuitable

Harry has married his lady but it seems they want to fashion a life together that is totally removed from the traditional role.

Edward married his lady and was made Duke of Windsor and Governor of the Bahamas, before retiring to France with her for the rest of his days.

Harry and Meghan? Only time will tell – but the odds are surely against his becoming Governor-General of the Bahamas then retiring to France.

 

 

Meteorology

Oh! We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave,
The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising,
She certainly can can-can.
She started a heatwave by letting her seat wave,
In such a way that the customers say
That she certainly can can-can …

MAYBE Irving Berlin was on to something. It bears an investigation of the Wonder Lounge and the other exotic dancing joints of Durban by the meteorological service.

It's the sort of investigation that has to be thorough and unstinting, probably lasting several weeks and with adequate numbers of personnel involved. We need to know exactly what's causing his tropical heatwave phenomenon in the sub-tropics.

Wow, its hot! What's it going to be like in February? A compilation comes this way:

You know it's hot in Durban when:

·       The best parking spot is determined by shade, not distance.

·       Hot water comes out of both taps.

·       You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.

·       You can get sunburn through your windscreen.

·       You develop a fear of metal door handles.

·       Your biggest bicycle accident fear is "What if I get knocked over and get cooked on the road?".

·       The trees are whistling for dogs.

·       You laugh because this list is so accurate.

 

I started this heatwave in such a way that
The customers say that I certainly can can-can …

Yes, Irving Berlin knew all there was to know about meteorology.

 

 

Horrid bombardment

 

VULTURES are not the most appealing birds in spite of their vital role in the balance of nature. To the people of Kingsville, a border point in Texas, "unappealing" doesn't get anywhere near it, according to Huffington Post.

They've taken over a US Customs and Border Protection radio tower and are using it as a roost. From there they regurgitate a reeking and corrosive vomit onto buildings below. They vary this bombardment with droppings and urine.

Vultures are not top of the pops in Kingsville, Texas. But they're protected by law.

Solution: the authorities are putting nets on the radio tower to keep them off it. They'll have to find another roost. Hey – why not in Mexico?

 

 

 

Tailpiece

JIMMY and Wullie, two Scots entertainers, have had dinner in a posh restaurant. The waiter approaches with the bill.

Says Jimmy: "Put away yer money, Wullie, this is on me."

Newspaper headline next day: "Scottish ventriloquist found strangled in back alley."

 

Last word

When a thing has been said and well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it. - Anatole France

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Idler, Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Incognito

guest in

Florida Road

 

THE red carpet was rolled out last weekend for Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, here on the first official visit to this country since it normalised 25 years ago and emerged from near-isolation.

But was this the first visit ever by an Ethiopian leader? No. In the 1940s, during World War II, Emperor Haile Selassie stayed in Durban with his family.

Selassie – full title: "His Imperial Majesty the King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God" – had been invaded by Mussolini's Italian Fascists. Our prime minister, General Jan Smuts, gave him sanctuary in South Africa.

Selassie and his family stayed in an Edwardian double-storey on Florida Road, which is today occupied by Jack Salmon's fish restaurant. The property in those days was secluded by a high furze hedge. Nobody except the government knew they were there.

One of the more striking photographs from South Africa's subsequent campaign to drive the Italians from Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was more generally known in those days) is of Haile Selassie striding victoriously in field marshal's uniform back into his capital, Addis Ababa, at the head of a column of South African troops.

Abyssinia/Ethiopia was the only part of Africa never to have been colonised (unless you count the brief Italian occupation). Its ruling dynasty traced its lineage back to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This is mirrored in the national honours bestowed on its notables: Chief Commander of the Order of the Star of Ethiopia; Grand Cordon of the Order of Solomon; Grand Collar of the Order of the Seal of Solomon; Grand Cordon of the Order of the Queen of Sheba; Grand Cordon of the Order of the Holy Trinity (Ethiopia); Grand Cordon of the Order of Menelik II.

Hey, pomp and circumstance. We restored it. One might have thought South Africa was well placed for a leading role in post-war Africa.

But, er, there was an election here which ended all that.

 

 

 

Tired resignation

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener laments in his latest grumpy newsletter how easily we accept things like the Eskom debacle.

"It's alarming how our lives and language so swiftly and easily absorb words and concepts that were utterly unthinkable. Suddenly we are getting used to the idea of an electricity distribution 'war room' where wise men make informed and capable decisions about who should return to the Stone Age and for how long.

"It's worth reminding everyone that Eskom is managed by people most of whom don't know the difference between WhatsApp and Watt Amps. Remember the chairman explaining how a conveyor belt worked?

"And yet there's a tired resignation. Eskom are doing their best in trying circumstances. It's not their fault that a conveyor belt has parted, coal does get wet when it rains, the contractors have obviously left us with faulty systems and how were we to know? "We have a new boss now. He'll fix it. Just as soon as he arranges his departure package."

 

 

Tailpiece

 

Little boy: "Dad, what do they call that person who can bring you into contact with the spirit world?"

Dad: "A bartender."

 

Last word

The conception of two people living together for twenty-five years without having a cross word suggests a lack of spirit only to be admired in sheep. - Alan Patrick Herbert
  

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Idler, Monday, January 13, 2020

Eleven months

to renew

a passport

 

THE paralysing tentacles of South African officialdom reach a long way. In a blog, Tommy Bedford, former Natal and sometime Springbok rugby captain, tells how he waited 11 months for his passport to be renewed at the South African Consulate in London.

Tommy, who now lives in England, started in a long queue in the street outside the consulate, just off Trafalgar Square, on a cold and frosty mid-winter morning in January last year. He was to stand in that same queue another four times.

"By mid-March on my fourth, and I confidently thought final, visit to the consulate (as every possible document had been obtained and copied and every form filled in) I naturally contemplated that with the new South Africa 10 years further down the line in issuing passports, and now 25 years in the making, perhaps I might have a new passport by the time mine expired in April."

But no. The lady behind the glass at the consulate counter once again shuffled her way through his documents and said: :"Mr. Bedford, this application cannot be accepted. It will first have to be proved that you are South African. Complete the forms I will give you and return them to me. These will be sent to South Africa for checking and verification".

He already had a passport, he'd had five before that one and he had a 60-years-old ID document.

Another mid-winter and Tommy was back again. The papers and documents were again shuffled, found to be in order, each finger and both hands finger-printed and the £35 fee was paid.

"In this age of IT the quest simply to have a passport renewed should not be rocket science. It should be a very tiny part of running the country," says Tommy.

"What will it take, and how long will it take, and who will it take to fix the malfunctioning malaise of running South Africa?"

Dunno, Tommy. It took Natal 100 years to win the Currie Cup.

 

 

Back to normal

 

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties: "If a man appears sexy, caring and clever, give him a day or two. He'll soon be back to normal."

 

 

Far-spread clan

 

HEH-HEH I have to confess I was pulling your leg when I wrote last week about South African-born Aussie cricketer Marnus Labuschagne also playing rugby for Japan.

However, my old pal Gerry Robinson, of Howick, now tells me Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne, who plays rugby for Japan, is actually Marnus's brother.

The Labuschagne clan certainly spread their talents. At one time we had at least three of them playing for Natal, one also nicknamed "Lappies". And one of those Labuschagnes  – Dr Nick, who pronounces his name the French way – also played rugby for Oxford and England and went on to become president of the Natal Rugby Union.

These Labuschagnes get around.

 

 

State capture

 

IAN Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, lends his support to Bheki Ntshalintshali, of Cosatu, who has pleaded for the law enforcement agencies to bring to book all wrongdoers implicated during the Zondo commission of inquiry.

 

The nation's in shock over state capture,

Yes, trillions have made their departure;

And the matter's still fraught

For no-one's been caught,

Which would lead to nation-wide rapture.

 

 

Tailpiece

 

The proper way to use a stress ball is to throw it at people who stress you.

 

Last word

 

Someone's boring me. I think it's me. - Dylan Thomas