Thursday, November 17, 2011

Idler, Friday, November 18, 2011

No room to swing a cat

CCTV catches everything these days. The inhabitants of Ramsgate, Kent, in England, are outraged by footage that has emerged of a mystery man running past the Camden Arms pub, swinging a cat by its tail.

The landlord sent the footage – caught on the pub's cameras – to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who gave it to the police.

The cat, identified as being named Mowgli and belonging to a woman who lives at the pub, is distressed but otherwise unharmed . But feelings are running high. Lynch law could take hold. The Brits are keen on their cats and don't like people who whirl them by the tail.

So much so that a man has already been to the police protesting his innocence, saying his neighbours have falsely accused him of being the culprit.

In Kent you don't mess with moggies. In the Camden Arms they're already discussing how, when they catch him, they're going to swing the culprit about in the high street. Delicacy forbids further detail.


Old question

IT'S AN OLD question: Why did the chicken cross the road?  Tom Dennen sends in a few alternatives:

·        Kindergarten teacher - To get to the other side..

·         Plato - For the greater good.

·        Policeman - Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll know why.

·        Aristotle -   It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

·        Captain James T Kirk - To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

·        Martin Luther King jnr - I envision a world where all chickens will be free
to cross roads without having their motives being called into question.

·        Machiavelli - The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares
why? The end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

·        Freud - The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed
the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

·         George W Bush -  We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.
We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The
chicken is either with us or it is against us. There is no middle ground

·        Darwin - Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally
selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross

·        Einstein -  Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath
the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

·        Thabo Mbeki -  We need to establish if really there is a connection between
the chicken and the road.

·        Isaac Newton -  Any chicken in the universe shall always cross a road
perpendicularly to the side of the road, and in an infinitely long straight
line at uniform speed, unless the chicken stops due to an unbalanced
reactive force in the opposite direction of the chicken's motion .


Gridiron blonde


AMERICAN football news. This fellow took his blonde girlfriend to watch her first game. Afterwards he asdked how she enjoyed it.

"Oh, I really liked it,especially the tight pants and all the big muscles, but I just couldn't understand why they were killing each other over 25 cents."

 "What do you mean?"

"Well, they flipped a coin, one team got it and then for the rest of the game, all they kept screaming was: 'Get the quarterback! Get the quarterback!'.  I'm like ... Hello-o-o-o-o-o? It's only 25 cents."






A TEACHER asks the children in her class to make rhymes with their names.

Dan: "I'm Dan. When I grow up to be a man, I want to go to India and Japan , If I can, If I can, If I can."
 Sally: "My name is Sally, When I grow up to be a lady, I want to have a baby, If I can, if I can, if I can."

Sam: "My name is Sam, When I grow up to be a man, never mind India and Japan , I'm gonna help Sally with her plan, I know I can!"



Last word

No one can have a higher opinion of him than I have, and I think he's a dirty little beast.

W S Gilbert

The Idler Thursday, November 17, 2011

They fall like ninepins

IN EUROPE the prime ministers have been falling like ninepins in the financial crisis. Now senior Tory MP Patrick Mercer has predicted that Britain's David Cameron will be "sacked" next spring.

It came at a party at a London art gallery where Mr Mercer, a former army officer, described Cameron as "the most despicable creature, without any redeeming features."

He went on to describe his prime minister as - let's use the slightly more polite American version – "an ass" and added, lest there be any misunderstanding: "I loathe him."

Asked where Mr Cameron had gone wrong, Mr Mercer said: "Well, he was born."

He also said: "I've never come across anyone less suited to the job in my life. I would take a beggar off the streets and put him in that position rather than have Cameron."

Mr Mercer now says it was all meant in a light-hearted way and points out that "this was a party where people had been drinking."

Yes, quite. But Labour have now seized on the remarks as clear evidence of Cameron's growing unpopularity among his own MPs.

With Mr Mercer, they could be on to something.


The full Monti

MEANWHILE, one of the ninepins to have fallen is Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Readers of Private Eye magazine will miss the regular revues of Italian opera, focused on the Robber Baron and his escapades in his headquarters, Villa Fornicazione.

His successor, Mario Monti, is a respected economist and protagonist of the Euro as a currency, who is putting together a cabinet of technocrats to lift Italy out of the chasm.

He is no doubt exactly what Italy needs right now. But – sigh! – no more bunga-bunga.

Spotlight shifts

THE CRISIS in Italy has momentarily shifted the spotlight onto President Giorgio Napolitano, a person who would otherwise have remained unknown to most of us. Napolitano played a pivotal role in negotiating Berlusconi's resignation to make way for Monti's cabinet of technocrats

Napolitano. It's an interesting name. Was he named after the pizza or was the pizza named after him?


Toot, toot!

DUTCH scientists claim to have built the world's smallest electric car – a microscopic thing made of a single, carefully designed molecule. It is described as a tour de force in nanotechnology.

The molecule has four branches that act as wheels, rotating when a tiny metal tip applies a small current to them.

But don't get too excited. It seems we have not quite achieved the paradigm shift that will free us from reliance on the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels. With 10 electric bursts, the car was made to move six billionths of a metre. And this was in a vacuum at a blisteringly cold minus 266 degrees centigrade.

Building up from single, designed molecules is another matter, says Tibor Kudernac, a chemist at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands. Applications of nanotechnology for molecular machines like the car are probably far in the future. But he remains confident of eventual success.

These scientists need to get out more.

Money markets

THEY say that in these up-and-down periods of the international markets, there's one sure way to attract the attention of your stockbroker. Just snap your fingers and call: "Waiter! Waiter!"

Swiss account

WHAT do they put on the gravestone of a Swiss banker? A long list of coded numbers.

Long wait

THOUGHT for the day: "I don't mind coming to work but this eight-hour wait before going home is just nonsense!"


A COUPLE are out shopping. In the liquor section the husband picks up a case of beers and puts it in their trolley.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"They're on special, only R30 for two dozen cans.".

"Put them back, it's a waste of money."

He puts them back and they carry on shopping. She picks up a R60 jar of face cream and puts it in the basket.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"It's my face cream. It makes me look beautiful."

"So do 24 cans of beer and they're half the price."

Voice over the store PA: "Urgent! Will the first aid emergency group please proceed immediately to Aisle Five, Cosmetics …"

Last word

Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.

Benjamin Franklin


The Idler, Wednesday, November 15, 2011

The economics of love

ALL AROUND us the laws of economics are inexorably at work. We need to be able to spot what is going on; spot it for what it is and know how it affects us. The labels used by economists can be very useful. For instance:

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say: "I'm very rich. Marry me!"

That's direct marketing.

You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl. One of your friends goes up to her and, pointing at you, says: "He's very rich. Marry him!"

That's word-of-mouth advertising.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day, you phone and say: "Hi, I'm very rich. Marry me!"

That's telemarketing.

You're at a party full ofr gorgeous girls. You get all their names and phone numbers from the host and send each of them a text message saying: "I'm very rich. If interested in marrying me, please respond."

That's mass mailing.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. You get up and straighten your tie, you walk up to her and pour her a drink, and you open the door of your car for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride and then say: "By the way, I'm rich. Will you marry me?"

That's public relations.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl. She walks right up to you and says: "You're very rich. Can you marry me?"

That's brand recognition.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say: "I'm very rich. Marry me!" She gives you a hard slap on the face.

That's customer feedback.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and say: "I'm very rich. Marry me!" And she introduces you to her husband.

That's a supply and demand gap.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and before you say anything, another person comes and tells her: "I'm rich. Will you marry me?" And she goes with him.

That's competition eating into your market share.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party. You go up to her and before you can say: "I'm rich, marry me!" your wife arrives.

That's restriction from expanding into new markets

Splash of colour

WHEN the authorities at Acapulco prison in Mexico made a surprise search, they found stashed away two peacocks, 100 fighting cocks, 19 prostitutes, two sacks of marijuana, several bottles of alcohol, several television sets and an assortment of knives. Also, six female prisoners were in the men's section of the jail.

Most of this you can understand. Time drags in prison. But the peacocks?

Perhaps they were also getting a little colour into the drabness of prison life.

No little green men

A SENIOR White House official says there is no credible evidence of any extraterrestial presence on earth. Space policy official Phil Larson says there are no aliens from outer space and there is absolutely no evidence that any extraterrestial being has contacted or engaged with any human being.

That's a squelcher on the pet beliefs of so many people; devastating for the conspiracy theorists who say governments are deliberately withholding information about contacts with extraterrestrials.

Mind you, this could all be part of the conspiracy. How does Larson explain some of the individuals who have been subject to disciplinary action in South Africa lately?

I'm out!

A READER writes in to say she's out of the health and fitness racket, she's adopted the tortoise way of life.

If walking and cycling is good for your health, the postman would be immortal. A whale swims all day, eats only plankton and drinks water. It's fat. A rabbit runs and hops and lives only 15 years.

A tortoise doesn't run and does nothing, yet it lives for a century and more.



"And you tell me to exercise? I don't think so. I'm retired. Go around me!"




Things are really bad. Nigerians are getting spam emails from Greek millionaires. 


Last word


Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Thomas A Edison



The Idler, Monday, November 14, 2011

A wonderful world

SOMETIMES we need to stop for a moment, disengage from our immediate concerns and take a look at what is going on in the wider world.

·        When his 38 calibre revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

·        The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine. He submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company sent out an assessor. He tried the machine and also lost a finger. The chef's claim was approved.

·        A man who had shovelled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. He shot her.

·        After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. The driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn't discovered for three days.

·        A man walked into a Louisiana shop, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and demanded all the cash in the register, which the clerk handed over. The man gunman took the cash fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The contents of the cash drawer: $15.

·        As a female shopper left a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. A shop assistant phoned 911. The police apprehended the snatcher and drove him back to the store. He was told to stand there for a positive ID, to which he replied: "Yes, officer, that's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from."

·        A man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan, flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The cashier said he couldn't open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the cashier said they weren't available. Frustrated, the gunman walked away.

·        When a man attempted to siphon petrol from a motor home parked on a Seattle street, he got more than he bargained for. Police found him curled up in the gutter retching. He'd plugged his siphon hose into the motor home's sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, saying the guy had given him his best laugh in years.

Yes, it's all happening out there.


Time to live

SOME Buddhist wisdom. The Dalai Lama, asked what surprised him most about humanity, replied: "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then he dies as if having never really lived."

Flying ants

DON'T get bugged by the flying ants, says Sally Bosch, of Kloof. The other night she turned her lights off for half an hour, the house cooled down and the little critters were gone.

Yeah, go with the flow, box clever.


Bluff turbines


IAN GIBSON, poet laureate of Hillcrest, gets in a few puffs on the controversial idea of wind turbines on the Bluff.


Wind turbines on the Bluff?

For birds and bats that's rough;

And a larney

Like Tony Carnie

Is sure to say, Enough is Enough!



A GENT is in his front garden trying to launch a kite. Every time he throws it in the air the wind catches it for a few seconds, then it comes crashing down.

His wife calls from the kitchen window: "You need a piece of tail."

"Make up your mind, will you? Last night you told me to go fly a kite!"

Last word

Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties.

Doug Larson


The Idler, Friday, November 11, 2011

THE Emperor's clothes

YOU CAN'T fool a German cleaning frau. The Ostwall Museum, in Dortmund, had on display an ultra-modernist bit of art by Martin Kippenberger, entitled When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling.

It consisted of a tower of wooden slats under which a rubber trough was placed, with a thin beige layer of paint representing dried rainwater. Lovely art.

But when the cleaning frau came on the scene, she took it for an unsightly mess. The least she could do was scrub clean the stain in the trough, which she did.

Horrors! Huge embarrassment! The work – valued at €800 000 – has been damaged beyond repair. It had been loaned to the museum by a private collector. And it's not the first time it's happened in Germany. In 1986 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf, a cleaner removed a "grease stain" by Joseph Beuys, valued at £346 000.

What does this remind us of? Of course, Hans Christian Anderson's story of the little boy who was the only one able to see that the Emperor had no clothes.

Strapless bra

HERE'S a lesson in simple basic economics.

The current financial markets are like a strapless bra ... half the people are wondering what's holding them up, whereas the other half are waiting for them to drop so they can grab the opportunity with both hands.

Yep, simple basic economics.

Hoot mon!

THE OTHER day we carried a Reuters photograph of a castle in Scotland, described as "Atholl Palace, in Pitlochry". We are sternly rebuked. It was in fact Blair Castle – 13 km from Pitlochry – which is the hereditary home of Clan Murray, headed by the Duke of Atholl – who just happens to live in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

The castle - originally just a fortress tower - dates from the mid-1200s. Over subsequent years it was extended and refashioned to suit the needs of the day. Most of the castle as it is seen today dates from the late 18th century.

The Dukes of Atholl are the only United Kingdom gentry still permitted by law to maintain a private army. The Atholl Highlanders are reviewed annually by either His Grace the Duke or his son, the Marquis of Tullibardine.

My informant: The Maclaine of Lochbuie, hereditary Chieftain of Clan Maclaine - who just happens to live in KwaZulu-Natal. Not only that, he's an executive of this newspaper, played cricket for many years for the Durban Press Club and is generally known as Drambuie.


Trashed by degrees

WE ARE DISMISSED by the Police of Leith; the Police of Leith dismisseth us. A formulation comes this way of the degrees of intoxication.

·         Things that are difficult to say when drunk – innovative; preliminary; proliferation; cinnamon.

·         Things that are very difficult to say when drunk – specificity; anti-constitutionalistically; passive-aggressive disorder; transubstantiate.

·         Things that are downright impossible to say when drunk – "No thanks, I'm married"; "Nope, no more booze for me!"; "Sorry, but you're not really my type"; "Kebab? No thanks, I'm not hungry"; "Good evening, officer. Isn't it lovely out tonight?"; "Oh, I couldn't! No one wants to hear me sing karaoke."; 'Thank you, but I won't make any attempt to dance, I have no co-ordination. I'd hate to look like a fool!"; "Where's the nearest bathroom? I refuse to widdle in this car park"; "I must be going home now, I have to work in the morning."

I really wouldn't know.


New entry


HERE comes a new dictionary definition:

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Yep. As is fashionable these days: In our lifetime!



Fifty-one years ago, Herman James, a North Carolina mountain man, was drafted by the US Army.
On his first day in basic training, the army issued him a comb. That afternoon the army barber sheared off all his hair.
Next day, the army issued Herman a toothbrush. That afternoon the army dentist yanked seven of his teeth.
The following day the army issued him a jockstrap. The army has now been looking for Herman for 51 years.
Last word

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

Oscar Wilde


The Idler, Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ordeal by Scrabble

THREE Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese ... no, it's not one of those jokes, nor did they walk into a bar. They stepped into a space capsule at a Moscow research centre and spent 520 days there – still on the ground – simulating a flight to Mars and back.

This seems a considerable advance on the fellow in Zambia in the 70s who trained his budding astronauts by rolling them down the hillside in 44-gallon drums, but it also appears to be not quite a quantum leap ahead. They were nowhere near Mars. They were still on the ground.

But it seems the idea was to simulate the confinement, stress and fatigue of interplanetary travel, not actually get there. They kept in touch with their families via the internet, which was deliberately delayed and interrupted to imitate the effects of distant space travel. They emerged in good spirits, all the same.

Three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese, confined together for 520 days and nights – that's going on  for two years. Imagine the arguments over the Scrabble board.


African thriller

STAND by for a Christmas thriller set in the turbulence of a decolonised Africa, a decomposed Soviet Union and all kinds of machinations – including deployment of nuclear weaponry - to restore the past. My contacts in the literary world tell me that The Darts of Deceit, published as an e-book by Rebel e-Publishers, will be out later this month or early in December.

It's written by none other than my old colleague, Wilf Nussey, once editor of the Argus Africa News Service, which had offices in Johannesburg, Salisbury (as it then was), Dar–es-Salaam, Nairobi, Luanda and Accra, as well as a network of correspondents across the whole continent.

If anyone knew what was going on in Africa, it was Wilf. A lanky figure known in the Portuguese territories as Senhor Stringbean, the world's senior foreign correspondents made a point of calling on him for a briefing before they entered the maelstrom of central and southern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Often they would have to wait a while because Wilf was no desk wallah; he would spend weeks at a time deep in the bush of Mozambique or Angola, analysing the guerrilla wars there, speaking late at night in the army messes, over the aguadente, to Portuguese officers.

He was one of the few to be unsurprised when General Antonio de Spinola deposed the Salazar dictatorship in a military coup in Lisbon in 1974, starting a process of decolonisation that became turmoil as the Soviets opportunistically intervened. (The coup also put we Africa Service hacks into orbit as we scrambled to cover it all).

Yes, if anyone is to write a novel set in the turbulence of decolonised Africa, Wilf is the man. He has had access to a wealth of material – an array of colourful characters: wheeler-dealers, chancers, womanisers, drunks. And that's just the foreign press corps. There are also the agents and spooks of the KGB, CIA and MI6; the international criminals and money launderers; the hangers-on and political pimps; the warlords and gunmen. And the actual drama of it all. It's a powerful mixture.

This should be a good 'un. I look forward to reading it.


Baggage handlers

MORE from the latest grumpy newsletter of investment analyst Dr James Greener:

"Who knew that there was an organisation called the Airports Council International and that they have just held a 'gala dinner in Marrakesh'? At this no doubt glittering event, paid for by taxpayers and air travellers, both OR Tambo and King Shaka international airports were inducted onto the organisation's 'Roll of Excellence'. It is a pity that the report of this accolade appeared right next to one about how 75 percent of the baggage handlers at these places arrive at work intent on stealing stuff from the suitcases they are paid to load."



A WOMAN goes into a hardware shop. "I want an axe please. It's for my husband."

"Did he say what weight he wants?"

"Heck, no! He doesn't even know I'm gonna kill him!"

Last word


At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote.

Emo Phillips


The Idler, Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wall Street's Arab Spring?

IS THE WEST experiencing its own Arab Spring? Thousands of people try to "occupy" Wall Street in protest against the financial system that has served society so dismally in recent years. Thousands more camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, in the City of London, financial centre of Europe.

Are these the great unwashed, mindless anarchists who have found another issue on which to confront authority? Or is it something else?

We see wholesome-looking youngsters engaging in earnest debate with senior Anglican clerics outside St Paul's. The clerics themselves agree that they have a point; there is much that needs correcting. Even though the campaign is termed "anti-capitalist", nobody seems to offer Marxist alternatives.

Could this be a turning point? Will the financial/banking system be reformed? Can it be reformed? Was the meltdown caused by rotten apples or by systemic failure? As with the Arab Spring, there's the sense of a turning , but no indication of direction.

Meanwhile, the stand-off is being brilliantly parodied in America. Andy Borowitz writes on his satirical website, The Borowitz Report: "Millions of Americans cheered the news on Friday that arrests had finally been made on Wall Street, but were soon disappointed to learn that the wrong people had been taken into custody.

"'I was like, finally they're going to get those bastards,' said Tracy Klugian, 27, of Queens, New York, whose hopes were raised by an 'Arrests on Wall Street' graphic he saw on CNN. 'I guess it was too good to be true.'

"New York Police Department spokesman Frank Hannefy explained the controversial decision to arrest Occupy Wall Street protesters while leaving unmolested the people who had brought the nation's economy to the brink of Armageddon.

"'As far as soulless individuals pillaging the country for their personal gain, that's none of our business,' he said. 'But we'll be damned if we're going to let people march on newly seeded grass.'"

Borowitz quotes Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of banking giant Goldman Sachs, saying when he heard police sirens outside his building "I was sure they were finally coming for us." The Goldman chief said he started running up and down the halls "screaming at people to feed the document shredder like Chris Christie at a pie-eating contest." He felt "palpable relief" when he realised the police had come to arrest the protesters and were leaving the bankers at large.

"'That was a close one,' he said, chuckling. 'We're all going to have a good laugh about this next weekend in the Caymans.'"

Pub quiz stuff

FOR THOSE of us who are always stumped by anagrams in pub quizzes, Lylie Musgrave, of Durban, sends in some mental limbering up:

·         Presbyterian - Best in prayer.

·          Astronomer – Moon starer.

·         The eyes – They see.

·         The Morse Code – Here come dots.

·         Dormitory – Dirty room.

·         Slot machines – Cash lost in me.

·         Animosity – Is no amity.

·         Election results – Lies! Let's recount.

·         A decimal point – I'm a dot in place.

·         The earth quakes – That queer shake.

Boom and bust

IN HIS LATEST grumpy newsletter, investment analyst Dr James Greener questions the appropriateness of a Nobel Prize for economics. No amount of research and development has enabled to planet to avoid the savage cycles of boom and bust, he says.

"That said, I am obviously disappointed that the committee this year again failed to spot my contributions. I have never been to Stockholm.

"Another local contender must be the salesman who flogged 10 electric bicycles to the Durban Metro Police. This event was celebrated with a photo of the mayor on board one of these machines cruising along the (flat) beachfront boardwalk and an enthusiastic promise by him to ride to work at least once a week.

"The forthcoming Climate Conference to be held here in Durban is spawning limitless foolishness. The blurb trumpeted that battery bikes are 'eco-friendly' because recharging is achieved simply by plugging into a domestic power socket. Oh dear!

"Prizes should be offered to the first reporter who snaps His Worship pedalling uphill to his Pinetown home once the juice runs out."



YOU KNOW that your divorce proceedings are getting bitter and malicious when your lawyer no longer seems like a blood-sucking leech.


Last word

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe