Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Idler, Friday, February 18, 2011

Strange and stirring times

TUNISIA, Egypt ... which will be the next domino to fall as protesters take to the streets in Algeria, Libya, the Yemen and Bahrain? Or might it perhaps be Silvio Berlusconi in Italy as women take to the streets in their thousands protesting against his sexual proclivities, including an alleged dalliance with an under-age prostitute.

Berlusconi has been cutting a colourful dash for years now with his escapades, including lavish parties at his home, to which all kinds of starlets and showgirls are invited. But the legal ramifications could now trip him up.

Will he go to the country, appeal to the machismo of the Italian male? The indications are that many Italians enjoy his antics. Opinion polls still place his party and its allies way ahead of the opposition who are so incensed by his behaviour. It could turn out embarrassing.

Strange and stirring times we live in.

Robber Baron

PRIVATE Eye, the British satirical magazine, has been running a series of Italian opera highlights featuring Berlusconi as the Robber Baron and set in his home, the Palazzo Fornicazzione.

"The Robber Baron is besieged by a chorus of dancing girls, courtesans and female members of the European Parliament, angrily accusing him of seducing their virtue in return for large sacks of gold.

"A trio of the fallen women, Signorinas Bunga Bunga, Rumpi Pumpi and Lotta Totti, sing the haunting aria, Mille et tre ("How on earth could he have sex with 1 003 of us in one night?")

"There is a clap of thunder and Pope Benedict appears on a throne above the stage. He issues an anathema on the Robber Baron, warning him that he will be dragged down to hell and eternal damnation unless he repents and changes his ways ...


"But the Baron is unafraid and laughs him to scorn. He sings Just One Pornetto and rings up for yet another agreeable 22-year-old companion to be delivered to the Palazzo Fornicazzione, this time dressed as a nurse in order to reflect Silvio's concern for the state of Italy's health services ..."


Lovely stuff!


Marathon kiss

A THAI couple have broken the world marathon kissing record with a smooch that lasted 34 hours and 50 minutes. It was a gruelling contest in the town of Pattaya, in which 14 couples originally entered.

The rules of engagement were strict. No break-off was permitted. The couples took liquid through straws in the corner of the mouth, the kiss continuing. It even continued when they had to answer a call of nature.

Just as well a dog didn't walk in. He'd have thrown a bucket of water over them.

Blitz cake

A WEDDING Cake that was baked 113 years ago has been presented to a museum in England. The four-tier cake was baked by Philpotts, a family bakery, in 1898 and stood in the display window. It developed a crack in one side from a bomb blast during World War II and was stored in an attic when the firm closed in 1964.

It was has now been donated to the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.

The icing has turned brown and a syringe test shows the fruit cake is still moist inside though not edible. I guess it won't make it to William and Kate's nuptials.

Nasty fall

NEWS from Oz. Surveillance cameras at a toyshop in Perth picked up a man slipping a laptop computer under his jacket. Confronted, he knocked down a shop assistant, pulled a knife and ran for the door.


Outside he ran into four troopers of the Australian Special Air Service who were collecting toys for charity. They grabbed him and overpowered him, but he managed to stab one of the troopers, inflicting a not very serious flesh wound.


The shoplifting suspect was taken to hospital by ambulance with two broken arms, a broken leg, broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken jaw and various lacerations.


He is believed to have tripped. Very clumsy these Australian shoplifters.






HUSBAND: "what would you do if I won the Lotto?"

Wife: "I'd take half, then leave you."

Husband: "Great! I won R12. Here's R6 - now get lost!"


Last word

I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later.

Mitch Hedberg



The Idler, Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paying Prince William's lobola

IT'S A NICE gesture by Kulula airline to pay Prince William's lobola. In keeping with cultural practices from this far-flung part of the Commonwealth, they have announced their intention to buy a herd of cattle and present them to Kate Middleton's parents as the bride price.

It would be wonderful if the gift could be in traditional Nguni cattle – those pretty little animals with creamy, dark-flecked coats, perfectly symmetrical horn formation and such soulful eyes – but there seem to be veterinary complications. Kulula will instead buy a small local herd in Britain.

They must surely go for Chillingham Whites, those wild cattle found in Northumberland, similar in ways to our Ngunis – except they have terrible tempers. They're not much bigger than Shetland ponies but full of vim. They will charge on sight from 500m and have the interloper scrambling over a fence with his trousers torn – if he's lucky. Those are the cows. The bulls are more irascible.

It will be a wonderfully practical gift to the Middleton parents. They live in the wilds of Surrey or Sussex, or some such place, and they are bound to have swarms of loathsome paparazzi poking their lenses over garden walls and creeping about in the shrubbery.

There's nothing better calculated to discourage paparazzi than the horns of a Chillingham White exploring the groin region of their denims. A splendidly practical gift indeed.


Nguni precedent

THERE are precedents. A few years ago when the Commonwealth Conference was held in Durban the then premier, Dr Frank Mdlalose, presented the Queen with a magnificent Nguni bull in a ceremony outside the city hall.

I don't think HM and the Duke took him (the bull, not Dr Frank) back with them on the royal yacht Britannia – probably those veterinary regulations again. As far as I recall, HM presented him in turn to a veterinary research institution. But the thing was highly significant in terms of Zulu culture and tradition.

It's an expression of mutual regard that Kulula does well to keep up.


Stag party

MEANWHILE, the search is on for a local gal to leap out of the cake at William's stag party. Why should KwaZulu-Natal not build on its connections with the British monarchy?

A cultural organisation with which I am associated is seeking sponsorship for the event and very soon we will be holding cake-jumping auditions at a venue to be announced.

We need to assert ourselves within the Commonwealth, punch above our weight. Watch this space!

Royal comic

A ROYAL wedding spawns such things as commemorative coins and tea towels. This one has produced a comic book which traces the romance of William and Kate. Titled Kate and William: A Very Public Love Story, it is written by novelist Rich Johnston and illustrated by Welsh artist Mike Collins and Scottish artist Gary Erskine.

It is very respectful and in good taste. In spite of that, I predict it will outsell the tea towels.


Oriental wisdom


SOME Confucianisms:



·        Man who want pretty nurse must be patient.


·        Lady who go camping must beware of evil intent.


·        Man who leap off cliff jump to conclusion.


·        Man who run in front of car get tired; man who run behind car get exhausted.


·        Man who eat prunes get good run for money.


·        War not determine who is right, it determine who is left.


·        Man who fight with wife all day get no piece at night.


·        Man who drive like hell bound to get there.


·        Man who stand on toilet high on pot.


·        Man who live in glass house should change in basement.


·        A lion not cheat on wife, but Tiger Wood!

Clerical errors


A READER reflects on the apparent current woes of our city manager.


A crafty old town clerk named Mike

Finds his fortunes have taken a hike.

His arrogant ways

Have numbered his days

And soon he'll be off on his bike!


"Town clerk"? That's a backhander for you. The title comes from those benighted days when Durban was debt-free, the traffic lights worked, the bus service ran and ... and ... and ...




THE TWO cheerleaders got married. They met by chants.


Last word


How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?
Albert Einstein



The Idler, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Political punch-ups

THE VENEZUELANS have found a way to bring parliamentary proceedings directly to the people, make it real. When fist fights break out between MPs, they put it on national television.

It began when Socialist MP Henry Ventura tried to forcibly remove opposition MP Alfonso Marquina from the speaker's podium. They were joined by several other MPs and officials of parliament, who punched and pushed each other for several minutes.

It went out live on all Venezuela's television and radio stations via an obligatory link-up used by the president to broadcast his speeches to the nation.

I recall one punch-up in our National Assembly, but I don't think it was televised.

What would Venezuelan voters rather have? A televised brawl or a speech by the president? What would our voters rather have?

I suspect that the entertainment factor would be decisive.

Headless monk

A WATER ride at a theme park near Thorpe, in Surrey, England, has had to be relocated because of ghostly goings-on. Construction staff say they have encountered strange phenomena, including the apparition of a headless monk.

They have also felt that something is watching over their shoulder; objects have been strangely moved and they experience sudden bouts of icy cold.

A paranormal detection agency has carried out tests and says an ancient burial ground or settlement could have been disturbed. A forensic geophysicist says deep ground radar suggests a burial ground or building – possibly ancient.

But why move the ride? People pay good money to go on the Ghost Train at the fairgrounds, where things leap out at you and shriek. Here they have the real thing.


Women's golf


HERE is a useful glossary of terms in women's golf.


·         Double Bogey: Casablanca followed by African Queen.

·         Iron: What guys need to learn to do their own shirts.

·         Good lie: The lady's weight as recorded on her driver's licence.

·         Greens: Lunch we eat when we'd rather have a cheeseburger.

·         Hole-in-one: Time to get new pantyhose.

·         Fairway: Splitting the bill when the girls go to lunch.

·         Shaft: You watch the kids while he goes golfing.

·         Slice: "No thanks, just a sliver."

·         Water hazard: Giving the kids too much to drink before a road trip.

·         Chipping time: When we get our nails done again.


High alert


THE world is gripped by tension. The following announcement on world alerts against terror attacks is attributed to John Cleese.


The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.

Terrorists have been recategorised from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the English issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588 when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Bluidy hell!" to "Let's get the Bastards!" They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used in the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries!" to "She'll be alright, Mate!" Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!"; "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend"; and "The barbie is cancelled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.



OLD-TIMER'S soliloquy:

"I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees and diabetes. I'm half blind, can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. I have bouts with dementia; poor circulation - hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. Can't remember if I'm 85 or 92. Have lost all my friends. But at least I still have my driver's licence."




A WOMAN is in an art gallery. One canvas consists of black paint with yellow blobs splattered all over it. The next is a murky grey with drips of purple streaked across. She spots the artist: "I don't understand your paintings," she says.


"I give expression to what's inside me."


"Have you tried immodium?"


Last word


Never give a party if you will be the most interesting person there.

Mickey Friedman


The Idler, Tuesday, February 15

Captain Ahab and the rest

THAR she blows! US marine archaeologists have found the sunken whaling ship belonging to the captain who inspired Herman Melville's classic 19th century novel, Moby Dick.

The remains of the vessel, Two Brothers, was found in shallow waters off Hawaii. Captain George Pollard was the skipper when the ship hit a coral reef and sank in 1823.

His previous ship, Essex, had been rammed by a whale and also sank, providing the narrative for Moby Dick.

The remains of the Two Brothers were found by researchers from America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 965 km north-west of Honolulu in the remote chain of islands and atolls.

The wooden vessel had disintegrated in the warm waters, but the researchers found harpoons, a hook for stripping whales of their blubber and cauldrons used to turn whale blubber into oil.

Days of romance

I'M SURE most of us today welcome the international ban on whaling, which threatened to exterminate these giant sea creatures, with all kinds of adverse knock-on effects on the environment.

Yet you cannot deny the romance and thrill of whaling in its day; the way it inspired literature like Moby Dick.

We had a large whaling station on the Bluff, its fleet skippered and manned by Norwegians, all of them hearty, colourful characters. Many a university student spent his vacation with the whaling fleet in the South Atlantic – a harsh, tough (but well-paid) life.

A few of Durban's old whaling characters are still around. One – a skipper – used to tell the story of a day at sea when he and the mate were having lunch in the wardroom.

Suddenly the engineer – an eccentric character with a terrible stutter – appeared in the doorway, jabbering incoherently.

"Go away, we're having lunch!" said the mate. But the engineer continued so the mate got up and shut him out, closing the door.

Next thing the engineer was back. "Th-th-th-th-the s-s-s-s-s-s …."

"Get out, you fool!" roared the skipper. "Can't you see we're having lunch?"

But then the engineer managed to get it out: "Th-th-th-th-the s-s-s-s-s-stokehold's on fire!"

Lunch adjourned promptly.



AND ON THIS theme of whaling, I recall a piece of graffiti in a gents' in London: "Moby Dick is NOT a venereal disease."

Pack ice time


IT'S NOT THE South Atlantic, yet we scan the horizon for icebergs. A reader who calls himself A Nony Mouse points out that last Friday's Angling Notes said the temperature of the seawater off our coast had at times dropped to -17⁰C.


"Bearing in mind that elsewhere in the world water freezes at 0⁰C, (and seawater slightly lower) I would have expected that we should be seeing some icebergs floating by along our seafront. I don't get down to the beach much these days, but I'm sure somebody would have noticed.


"I did not think the much vaunted climate change would hit us quite so soon, but maybe one of these days we might actually see some snow on the Bluff and, as an alternative to ice-hole fishing, we could go skiing instead."



Yes, the vagaries of the weather are indeed perplexing. Up here on the Berea it's a bit like the Congo but down at Vetch's we'll look out for icebergs all the same.



Witches' brew

WHILE tumultuous events in the Arab world hold our attention, a quiet tussle is going on in Romania as well. It's between the government and the sisterhood of witches.

Witchcraft is a big deal in Romania, which was the stomping ground of Count Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler.

No, witchcraft hasn't been banned. But parliament is discussing legislation to regulate it. Witches would need a permit. They could be judged on the accuracy of their predictions and disappointed customers could sue. Worst, they would have to pay income tax.

Hissing with fury, the witches have already cast spells on the president and the government. So if President Traian Basescu gets out of bed tomorrow in the form of a bullfrog, and his prime minister is suddenly a stoat – remember where you read it first!




She: "When we're married I'll share your worries and troubles and lighten your burden."

He: "I've got no worries and troubles. I've got no burden."

She: "We're not married yet."


Last word

Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so.

John Stuart Mill



The Idler, Monday, February 14

A night of romance

IT'S VALENTINE'S Day and the computers are in danger of crashing from the volume of damsels expressing love and hinting at the desirability of a romantic candle-lit dinner.

This follows last week's exposition of a variation on restaurateur Kenneth Kunene's penchant for dining on sushi off the bodies of near-naked lovelies. My alternative of biltong and onion ring sprinklings, complemented by a navel filled with Guinness, appears to have sent the ladies frantic with excitement.

However, I should point out that I am an inveterate romantic. This is Valentine's Day. Whoever the lucky lady should be tonight, I will sip champagne from her navel. The Guinness I will drink out of her shoe.

Be my Valentine!


GLENDA Slagg, renowned columnist in Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, gives her contribution to Valentine's Day:

"Here they are – Glenda's Valentine Valentinos!!!!

"Mohammed Al Baradei – Egypt's Mr Sex! There'll be no opposition from this gal when you come round for a nuclear inspection!!??

"King George VI – P-p-p-p-p-p-op over to m-m-m-m-my place and I'll give you a f-f-f-f-f-f-un evening (G-g-g-g-g-eddit?!?)"


KING Farouk of Egypt remarked sadly after his forced abdication in 1952 that soon there would be only five kings: the King of Diamonds, King of Hearts, King of Clubs, King of Spades and King of England.

It's difficult to construct a similar aphorism for the dictator presidents of the contemporary Arab world. But the construction of aphorisms is probably the last thing on the mind of the incumbents in Algeria, Libya and the Yemen.


The proposal that the state should operate a data base to match job seekers with job vacancies is an especially stupid idea, says financial analyst Dr James Greener in his latest grumpy newsletter.

"This news appeared alongside the stories that the same government is failing to deal timeously with work permits for a relative handful of applicants and also the project to combine various ratepayer databases in Joburg is not going well. Not only is there ample evidence that government is generally unable to manage this kind of project, the real foolishness lies in the believing that there are jobs to be matched with applicants. Any prospective or potential employer will tell you of the queues outside the gate and the reams of CVs in the in mail. The unemployed know far better than any bureaucrat where there might be a glimmer of hope."

On the house


A MEMBER of the medical fraternity sends in a tip on how to get a free check-up.


"If you can't afford a doctor, go to an airport - you'll get a free X-ray and a pat-down, and if you mention Al Qaeda you get a colonoscopy."



A LAWYER and a senior citizen are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer asks the senior if he would like to play a fun game.

The senior is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks.

But the lawyer persists . The game is a lot of fun, he says. "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me only R5. Then you ask me one, and if I don't know the answer, I pay you R500."

This catches the senior's attention. He agrees to play.

The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the Earth to the Moon?"

The senior doesn't say a word but reaches into his pocket, pulls out a R5 piece and hands it to the lawyer.

Now it's the senior's turn. He asks the lawyer: "What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?"

The lawyer uses his laptop and searches all references he can find on the internet. He sends e-mails to all his smart friends; all to no avail. After an hour of searching, he gives up.

He wakes the senior and hands him R500. The senior pockets the R500 and goes right back to sleep.
But the lawyer is going nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes the senior up and asks: "Well, what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?"

The senior reaches into his pocket, hands the lawyer R5 and goes back to sleep.

Last word

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. ~Albert Einstein


The Idler, Friday, February 11

The magic ingredient of success


AFTER last night's state of the nation speech, who can doubt that great things lie ahead? How many million more new jobs will be created? Will the government indeed take over the HR functions of the private sector?


I've had my ear to the ground for some time now. Big things are starting to roll. Yet there still are scoffers and doubters who say JZ cannot deliver the goods. To them I respond: Magic mushrooms!


I'm sure the President is going to overshoot his job-creation target by millions.


Magic mushrooms! Sprinkle them on your cornflakes!


I'm sure the Employment Services Bill, when it becomes law, will cause zillions to flow into the country as foreign investors are relieved by the government of the irksome responsibility to recruit and choose their own management and workforce.


Magic mushrooms! Put them in your pipe and smoke it!


I'm sure the complete and total elimination of corruption in government and the resuscitation of bankrupt municipal councils in various parts of the country - including our own capital - is imminent.


Magic mushrooms! Put them in your cookie mix!


In fact I know South Africa is about to win the Cricket World Cup, the Rugby World Cup and at least 20 gold medals at the next Olympics. National morale is set to soar.


Magic mushrooms! Grind them up and use them as snuff!


I hear objections from the curmudgeons among you that magic mushrooms are a hallucinatory drug. That they detach users from reality.


But what's reality? And how else are we supposed to get through the year?




Beryl Lakin, of Uvongo, points out that a recent Tailpiece misspelled the name of a Welsh village as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogoch.


"Two letters have been omitted," she says. "It should end 'gogogoch', meaning 'red cave'."


I am happy to correct this. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch it is.





Freeway signs


MASTER blogger Spyker Koekemoer (aka Pat Smythe) notes that the illuminated freeway signs carried a message of great import this week: "Freeways under camera surveillance."


"Good news," he says. "We can rest easy. That should stop those bastards who steal our freeways."


Hated figure


THE ALLEGED telephone hacking scandal by newspapers of Australian proprietor Rupert Murdoch's News International stable continues to make waves in Britain.


Satirical magazine Private Eye has Murdoch on the front cover saying: "I overhear what you're saying …"


Inside, an item under a masthead "Daily Cairograph" is headed: "Hated Dictator Clings To Power But For How Long?"


"As his empire crumbles around his ears the 80-year-old dictator Rupah Murdarok, who for over 30 years has ruled with an iron rod, is staring into the abyss.


"As even his loyal lieutenants begin to fall out, the man they call 'Al Diggah' is facing a popular uprising, with thousands of celebrities now insisting that his regime of secret surveillance and intimidation must end.


"Murdarok tried to appease his critics by suggesting a hand over of power to his equally hated son James but to no avail


"Said one celebrity: 'All we want is for Murdarok to go and take his ghastly family with him.'


"Murdarok is believe to have amassed an enormous fortune, much of it deposited in American banks. If he chose to flee he would still have many friends in America …"


Oh, lovely stuff!



Limerick (1)


ANOTHER trick limerick, sent in by Tim Dodson:


There was a young student of Caius

Who passed his exams with a squaius,

Ere dissecting at St Bartholomew's

Inward St Partholomews such as St Hartholomews

To discover the cause of disaius.


Standard pronunciation of Caius College: "Keys".

St Bartholomew's Hospital, London: known as "Bart's".


Limerick (2)


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, comments on Lydia Weight's eventual discovery of the lines to the limerick about the man on the flying trapeze.


The limerick researcher called Lydia,

Has found the lines that eluded her;

But her mediaeval rhymes

Don't chime with our times,

So we're back to square one, dear Lydia.



THE DIFFERENCE between a backpacker and a tramp: with the backpacker it's a vacation, with the tramp it's a vocation.


Last word


I have only one superstition. I touch all the bases when I hit a home run.

Babe Ruth