Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday, July 18, 2018




On this day


YESTERDAY'S "On This Day" feature in The Mercury fairly bristled with noteworthy entries.


It recorded Nelson Mandela's birth at Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, a full century ago in 1918 (as did another five pages in the newspaper).


In 1925, Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which is today banned in Germany. The original title was the catchy Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. But some publisher talked Der Fuhrer out of it.

In 1938, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan arrived in Ireland after a 28-hour flight – he'd left New York flying for California.

It's not known what became of "One Way" Corrigan subsequently. Perhaps he's still on his way back to New York.

The entry for 1926 is intriguing. Author and journalist Herman Charles Bosman (Herman Malan), shot and killed his stepbrother, David Russell, during a quarrel.

That tragic incident has never been fully explained, that I know of. But it did lead to one of South Africa's major literary works.

Cold Stone Jug records Bosman's being sentenced to death for the shooting. The grim humour of being on Death Row where one evening he and a fellow Death Row prisoner were kicking up a racket to keep their spirits up, and the chief warder arrived and warned that if they didn't stop they would be in "serious trouble".

Bosman's death sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment, then gradually whittled down by various across the board prisoner amnesties until eventually he was released on parole.

Cold Stone Jug captures the grimness of prison life, laced with dark humour. It also fully captures the ghastliness of the regular hangings.

And if Bosman's original sentence had been carried out, we would not have had his glorious subsequent output of humorous/tragic short stories, set in the Marico district of what was then the Western Transvaal, where he had been a schoolmaster.

Mafeking Road, A Cask of Jeripigo, Jacaranda in the Night, Unto Dust – the stories are beautifully crafted, capturing the tragedy – yet still laced with humour – of the Boer War and the hiccups that followed it such as the 1914 Rebellion and the later mineworkers' disaffection on the Witwatersrand.

Bosman wrote in English but in the Afrikaans idiom – it was most effective. The English departments of our universities were always a little sniffy about him, but for my money he's the equal of F Scott Fitzgerald, O Henry, Damon Runyan and the other American exponents of the short story with a twist in the tail.

And if he hadn't dodged the hangman, we'd have got none of it. Makes ya think.



What the Helsinki?

PRESIDENT Donald Trump has been taking a lot of stick at home for his haranguing of his European allies, followed by a love-fest with President Putin of Russia.

He'd better stay away from Howick. Rob Nicolai, the town's resident theoretical physicist, is also gobsmacked.

"President Trump must be exhausted from an unprecedented bout of kow-towing, boot-licking and schmoozing up to Russian President Putin in Finland.

"What the Helsinki went on there? Trump was even noticed trying to lower his height so as to make the shorter Putin seem more important.

"After insulting trusted Nato allies and the UK, German and French leaders, he heaps praise on Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who wants to re-establish the Soviet empire."


Dishy prez


DISHY Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic looked great in her team's red-checked football shirt for the World Cup Final in Moscow. But as the rain teemed down at the end, she was wringing wet.

Ian Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, notes that Russian President Vladimir Putin had an umbrella while she did not.


Does Putin deserve the dog box,

Or some time in the stocks?

For he kept his umbrella,

The unchivalrous fella!

As Kolinda got wet to her socks.




THIS fellow makes a booking by e-mail at a beachfront hotel and asks for directions on how to find it.

"It's a stone's throw from North Beach," comes the reply.

"But how will I recognise it?"

"It's the one with the broken windows."


Last word


I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.

Rita Rudner


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Idler, Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pussy Riot pitch invasion

IT WOULD have been easy to miss the Pussy Riot pitch invasion during Sunday's Football World Cup final in Moscow. For an instant there was a diminutive figure in some kind of uniform, in among the players. Then the camera switched away and nothing more was seen of the incident on TV.

What actually happened was that three Pussy Riot gals and one man ran onto the field in police uniform, in protest at the lack of civil rights and political freedoms in Russia. They were pounced on by the real cops and whisked off to be charged with violation of spectators' rights and the wearing of police insignia.

Watching from the grandstand were President Vladimir Putin, President Emmanuel…. Macron, of France, and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, of Croatia.

Pussy Riot have form. Three of its members went to jail for disturbing a service in Moscow's main cathedral with a raucous song against President Putin.

Sunday's incident – the instant swivelling away of the camera lenses – recalls SABC policy at a time there was a craze of streakers invading the rugby pitch. Radio commentators would ignore it. TV cameras swivelled away – as in Moscow last weekend – and their commentators also ignored it.

Then came that needle Currie Cup match between in Bloemfontein between Free State and Western Province. Province needed to win to get into the semi-finals. A streaker ran onto the field – not entirely naked because he was still wearing anklet socks.

The SABC ignored it. And then drama. Province were going for the Free State line. It looked a certain try. And suddenly a radio commentator on the Afrikaans service broke standing policy on ignoring streakers. He had no option. Suddenly listeners all over the country, in dorp and on platteland, heard the astonishing words: "En hy word deur die kaal man gevat …" (And he's tackled by the naked man …).

Yes, the streaker tackled the would-be try scorer into touch. It kept Western Province out of the Currie Cup semi-final. Had Free State Stadium ever known drama like this? The streaker's wife was quoted in the newspapers saying she recognised him by his socks. The streaker got hauled before court for public indecency (I don't think he was charged with keeping Western Province out of the Currie Cup semi-final) and a Free State beak observed strict impartiality in dispensing justice.

What will happen to those Pussy Riot gals and their male companion? Maybe the Russians need to second a Free State beak to ensure strict impartiality.

Political storm


WOW! What a foreign sortie this has been for President Donald Trump. Aggro at the Nato summit; a virtual firebombing in Britain  of his host, Theresa May's, Brexit manouevrings; and then a billing and cooing in Helsinki with President Putin, simultaneously repudiating his own security establishment.


Huge anger back in the US, John Brennan, former head of the CIA, describing Trump's conduct as "treasonous".

And it's not just from the expected quarters. Captain America – the hooded hero of the films based on the old Marvell Comics  - calls Trump  a "moron, puppet and coward". Well, that's Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America. His full Twitter post:" This moron, puppet, coward sided with Putin over our own intelligence agencies! On a world stage!! BASED ON NOTHING MORE THAN PUTIN'S WORD! Why?? Can ANYONE answer that?? What the hell is happening?





Then The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger): "You stood there like a little wet noodle. Like a little fan boy".

Also a rebuke from Newt Gingrich, a leading Republican and former Speaker of the House of Representatives: "President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately."

This is what you call a political storm. But Captain America and The Terminator? It's getting ugly.


A WOMAN in Harrow, London, heard strange noises downstairs in her house late one night. Terrified, she dialled 999 and told them she was being burgled.

The cops got there fast, according to Huffington Post. But all they found was a squirrel that had somehow got in.

No charges.



WHAT has eight guns and terrorises the ocean?

Billy the Squid.

Last word

If living conditions don't stop improving in this country, we're going to run out of humble beginnings for our great men.

Russell P Askue





The Idler, Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Weird sense of déjà vu

THERE was a weird dense of déjà vu about President Donald Trump's official visit to Britain last week. On such a visit all kinds of diplomatic niceties are usually observed.

Yet Trump gave a wide-ranging interview to the Sun newspaper in which he trashed the Brexit formula that his host, Prime Minister Theresa May, is struggling to get through parliament. He also had warm words for Boris Johnson – who had just resigned as foreign secretary, in protest as May's formula – and said he would make a great prime minister.

Trump also said May's Brexit formula would kill any chance of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

It would be difficult to imagine anything more incendiary. Trump of course described the Sun interview as "fake news", but it was tape recorded and his words were broadcast on TV. The Sun's political editor, who conducted the interview, himself appeared on Sky News, saying he was shocked by what Trump had to say.

Has anything like this ever happened before? Well, perhaps in Canada back in 1967.

General Charles de Gaulle, president of France, was on an official visit. It was at a time there were stirrings in French-speaking Quebec for secession from Canada.

De Gaulle addressed a crowd in Montreal, ending with the words:"Vive Quebec libre!" (Long live free Quebec!)

The crowd went wild. The Canadian federal government described De Gaulle's words as "unacceptable". Federal Prime Minister Lester Pearson went on TV saying: "The people of Canada are free. Every province in Canada is free. Canadians do not need to be liberated. Indeed, many thousands of Canadians gave their lives in two world wars in the liberation of France and other European countries."

De Gaulle was supposed to travel on to Ottawa to meet Pearson. Instead he flew home in a French military jet.

Nothing of the kind happened in Britain this time. Trump and May tried to patch things up. How successfully only time will tell. But it's exceedingly weird, you couldn't make it up.

At time of writing, Trump would have been meeting Vladimir Putin, of Russia, in Helsinki, Finland. Hoo boy!

Great final

VIVE la France! And whatever the words are to say the same about Croatia!

This Football World Cup Final was a cracker, quite the most entertaining of the matches I managed to see, both sides going at it full tilt.

And the entire tournament was a feather in the cap of hosts, Russia.

Bad luck for Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon. The poor guy seemed exhausted by the strenuous run-up to the final.

But hey, he got there. More is nog 'n dag.


NEWS from India – Shridhar Chillal has cut his fingernails for the first time in 66 years. The fingernails on his left hand, that is. On his right hand, the fingernails have been in immaculate trim, regularly clipped.

Chillal, now 82, started growing the fingernails on his left hand when he was still at school, aged 14, according to Huffington Post. The Guinness Book of World Records didn't exist in those early days, but by 2014 it did and it recognised his world record status, the fingernails on his left hand having a combined length of 909 centimetres.

We're not told what length they had grown to by the time he flew to New York last week to have the nails removed by a doctor, to be deposited on display in Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium on Times Square.

"I was a little bit scared that my celebrity status would go now," Chillal said. "But today after coming here I realise that after this I have become a real celebrity. Now, forever my nails will be remembered and forever my nails will be seen by people from all over the world."

Yes, the Odditorium is the appropriate place. As Joseph Conrad put it: "The East, the East, the mysterious East …"


THE three bears go into their parlour.

Daddy bear: "I've no porridge. Who's been eating my porridge?"

Baby bear: "I've also got no porridge. Who's been eating my porridge."

Mummy bear: "Shut up, you two! I haven't made the damn porridge yet. Do we have to go through this every morning?"


Last word

The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools.

Doug Larson


Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Idler, Monday, July 16, 2018

Sharks surprise package

CHRISTCHURCH here we come! Crusaders are top of the log? Is it worth the trip? Pshaw! The Sharks are here to surprise us, as they've been doing all season.

A week ago they surprised us with a lack-lustre display against the Stormers. At Kings Park last Saturday they surprised us with a tacklefest that jolted and held in check the Jaguares' superbly silky backline, a flow of attack that at times seemed to go on forever, yet got tackled out of it in the end.

'Twas highly entertaining stuff, worth braving the freezing weather. And we had a couple of great and successful bursts at their line as well.

Somehow, in spite of the fits and starts and bad luck and disappointments over the season, here we are in the quarterfinals.

A surprise in store for the Crusaders? Ole, ole, ole!


Money match

INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener notes in his latest grumpy newsletter that there's a considerable match between the amount of government money misspent and misappropriated and the funds that are needed to rescue the national infrastructure and institutions.

"Absent dishonesty and greed and after selling off assets that should not be owned by the state, there is undoubtedly sufficient wealth to run the country sensibly."

He says joke of the week was the headline that SAA is seeking an "equity partner".

"A greater misuse of these last two words would be difficult to find. The word equity implies that there could be a return on an investment. And the word partner implies that the investor should participate in running the operation.

"Assuredly neither is going to happen. What SAA is actually looking for is a Fairy Godmother with a full purse and a poor memory. What SAA needs is rapid euthanasia and letters to all taxpayers and other creditors thanking us for our support and regretting that we won't be seeing our money back ever."

More grammar

WE'VE of late been discussing questions of grammar, including "dangling prepositions".

Reader Sally Stretch gives us the ultimate example. It concerns the young boy who was told by his mother to go to bed, and she would come up and read him a story. "He said: 'I don't want the one about Australia'.

"When mother came up she brought ... the one about Australia.

"He said: 'What did you bring the book I didn't want to be read to out of about Down Under up for?'"



IAN Gibson, poet laureate of Hillcrest, notes that Julius Malema has got a ticking off from Azapo for his fulminations.


Malema's giving blacks a bad name,

As he plays his populist game;

Turning land redistribution

Into vicious retribution,

He's happy to set the nation aflame!


Ian also tells me he's been on a trip to Corsica and Britain, using Ethiopian Airways, "a very good airline".

"It reminded me that Ethiopia was never colonised. At the battle of Adwa in 1896 Menelik's barefooted warriors defeated the Italian army?

"Mussolini's retributive use of phosgene gas in 1935/36 remains one of history's horror stories."

Yes, and who came to the assistance of Emperor Haile Selassie, who claimed descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? Why, South Africa.

In Florida Road there's a gracious old double-storey that is today a restaurant. It used to have a high hedge around it.

Who lived behind that hedge during World War II? None other than Haile Selassie and his family. Smuts put them there after the Italians invaded Abyssinia (which is what they called Ethiopia in those days). No ordinary folk in Durban knew they were there.

Smuts also drove the Italians out of Abyssinia. One of the more striking photographs of World War II is of Haile Selassie marching triumphantly into Addis Ababa at the head of a column of South African troops.

We had a pretty good standing in Africa in those days. Such a pity the next lot blew it.




A FARMER is milking his cow in the barn. It's going well, he has the rhythm. A fly is buzzing about. Then it alights and goes into the cow's ear.

Next it squirts out again into the milk bucket.

It went in one ear and out the udder.


Last word


Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.

Mae West

The Idler, Friday, July 13, 2018

Immersed in the Balkans

ENGLAND had their chances - in fact, after that early goal from a beauty of a free kick, they led for most of normal time – but the Croatian pressure became relentless in the end.

For some of us it was an immersion in the language and culture of the Balkans. We watched on a magnificent big screen in this fellow's flat, served by an android system. But he'd only just taken delivery of the system and wasn't too familiar with the workings of it.

As a result, we got the commentary totally in Croatian. Or was it Russian? Polish maybe? It certainly wasn't French, German or Dutch, one would catch fragments. Of course, it's also possible the commentator was a Yorkshireman.

But no matter, it showed two things: the viewer is king and can make up his own mind; and the Football World Cup brings together the nations.

England did far better, in getting to the semis, than anyone had anticipated, but this was the ceiling. More is nog 'n dag, as they say in Hampshire.

As England gradually simmers down, the brewers can take it easy. Thirty million pints of beer were sold in England during the build-up to the semis, according to Sky News, as patriots gathered in pubs all over the country.

The British Beer and Pub Association predicted that an extra 10 million pints would be sold during the semi-final against Croatia. It's thought that the knockout stage alone may have boosted the British economy by as much as £30 million (R535m).

Beer and skittles, to get metaphorical. It makes the world go round.

Oval ball

AND now an interlude with the oval ball. Argentina, er the Jaguares, at Kings Park tomorrow. Will the yo-yo be in its upward tendency after last week's debacle against the Stormers?

Are the Sharks still in with any kind of sniff for the playoffs? I'm afraid I've lost my sliderule for the calculations needed. But let's at least end the home season with a flourish. We know they can give us that.

Ole, ole, ole!


ROB Nicolai, Howick;s resident theoretical physicist, is unimpressed by Scotland's plans to take a DNA sample from the Loch Ness Monster.

"It's beyond hokum," he says. "Nessie was first sighted in 1933. If he is still alive today, he is an exceptionally long-lived plesiosaur as few dinosaur carnivores lived past 30 years.

"This means Nessie has to be a breeding species and then there would be many different Nessies and surely they would have caught one by now?"

Rob suggests a study of Nessie sightings factoring in the Scottish whisky industry but says the laws of "exponential probability flaw analysis" are against such endeavours.

So there we are.


Tax haven

IF ANYONE is looking for an off-shore tax haven and investment opportunity, reader David Cartwright has found just the accounting and investment company to help.

They operate in the Cayman Islands and trade as Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.




POLISH TV viewers were engrossed in a very serious discussion of a crisis in the Supreme Court, between historian and political scientist Jerzey Targalski and journalist Rudy Bouma – when a cat stole the show.

Targalski's cat suddenly jumped on his head, curled up and went to sleep, according to Huffington Post.

Targalski continued the discussion, apparently not even noticing the cat. Viewers did though, and it might have distracted them somewhat from the cogent arguments being presented.

If a cat can stare at a king, it can certainly sleep on a historian and political scientist.

Travel tips

MORE from Rosemarie Jarski's Great British Wit. Topic: Travel.

·       I have travelled extensively in Catford, Lewisham and Brockley SE26, but somehow never in Austria. – Spike Milligan

·       The Giant's Causeway: worth seeing, yes, but not worth going to see. – Samuel Johnson

·       Norway. What a dreadful place. Grieg and £3 for half a pint of lousy lager. You would have to be a millionaire to be an alcoholic there. – Jeffrey Bernard

·       The best way of seeing Alexandria is to wander aimlessly about. – EM Forster



WHY are married women heavier than single women?

Single women come home, see what's in the fridge and go to bed. Married women come home, see what's in bed and go to the fridge.

Last word

The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

Bruce Cockburn


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Idler, Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trade war latest

CHINA has slapped a 2 000% tariff on all tanning beds slated for export to the US, according to the New Yorker. This is described as the latest salvo in its escalating trade war with the US.

"By artificially hiking up the cost of its tanning beds, China succeeded in sending the price of tanning beds worldwide soaring in overnight markets.

"In what some experts regarded as a related move, China also placed a 4 000% tariff on all spray-tan products headed for the US, as well as instant-tanning lotions, make-up foundation, and several popular hues of orange paint, including butter rum and burnt sienna.

"The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, blasted China's tariffs on its full range of tanning products, calling the move an 'act of war.'"

But hold on. Aren't tariffs slapped on imports, not exports? Er, yes. But President Trump is widely believed to use a tanning bed – whiteness around the eyes suggests the wearing of goggles while tanning – and this New Yorker piece is written anyway by that rascally satirist Andy Borowitz.

So much of what happens about the White House reads like satire these days that it takes some ingenuity for a real satirist to stay ahead.


MEANWHILE, President Trump is in Brussels for the Nato summit. We hope it goes better than the G7. Soon he'll be in the UK for an "official" as opposed to a "state" visit.

But it will be a bit like visiting an overturned anthill -  lots of scurrying about by various people with their minds elsewhere in the wake of the Brexit row and resignations from the cabinet.

Who will there be to talk to? His chum Boris Johnson is no longer in place.

Huge anti-Trump protests are planned for London. But London is one place the president will not be visiting.

Yet he will have a presence of a sort. The "Stop Trump!" people have received permission to fly from Parliament Square Garden a huge blimp, 6m in height, depicting the US president as an angry-looking orange baby in a nappie. The Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and Baby Trump.

This protest itself seems rather infantile. And it will, of course, be like water off a duck's back, the US president taking it with his customary self-deprecatory good humour.


HOW amazing that rescue was of the Thai football kids and their coach from those flooded caves in Thailand. Close to miraculous. How uplifting the way cave diving experts from around the world rushed to achieve what looked to be impossible.

How sad also that a Thai diver should have lost his life in the rescue operation.

One small puzzlement. The kids and their coach are recovering in hospital. They are receiving all kinds of treatment and surveillance, according to reports, including rabies jabs.

Rabies? Were they bitten by bats down there?


AMERICAN motorcycle stuntman Travis Pastrana hero-worshipped his legendary predecessor, Evel Knievel. As a tribute to Knievel in Las Vegas last week, he attempted three of his motorcycle ramp jumps – and actually did better than Knievel did, according to Huffington post.

Wearing a red, white and blue jumpsuit similar to what Knievel wore in his heyday, Pastrana travelled 43m as he leaped over 52 crushed cars that were stacked three high. In 1973, Knievel travelled 36m when he jumped 50 crushed cars.

Next Pastrani jumped 16 Greyhound buses. Knievel had managed 14.

Pastrana's third jump was a recreation of Knievel's clearing of  the fountain at Caesar's Palace. Knievel wiped out on the landing and was hospitalised with multiple broken bones.

Pastrana soared over the fountain and landed well down the landing ramp. He celebrated by hopping into the fountain and was afterwards still full of praise for his legendary predecessor.





EVEL Knievel (real name Robert) adopted his stuntman name after sharing a police cell one night, after a motoring offence, with a man named Awful Knofel.

Over the course of his career, Knievel made more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and in 1974 he failed in an attempted jump across  the Snake River Canyon on his Skycycle X-2, a steam-powered rocket.

Strangely enough, he died in 2007 of natural causes.




THERE was this snobbish chef with an attitude problem. He had a French fried potato on his shoulder.

Last word

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

Andre Gide