Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Idler, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Graffiti artist fingered

"DING Jinhao was here!" Is Ding Jinhao the oriental equivalent of the ubiquitous Kilroy, whose trademark "Kilroy was here" - along with the caricature of a fellow putting his snout over a garden wall - has been popping up as graffiti all over the western world for generations now?

The "Ding Jinhao was here" signature appeared on some priceless Ancient Egyptian artwork at a temple complex at Luxor, Egypt – though in Chinese characters.

A photograph of the graffiti appeared on the internet. From that, outraged Chinese internet users were somehow able to trace the graffiti back to a Chinese teenager, whose parents have now apologised.

They never did catch Kilroy.

First here

THE ABOVE recalls some graffiti in London:

I clap my hands,

I jump for joy,

For I got here

Before Kilroy!


MEANWHILE, in Germany they're planning to use mini-drones against the graffiti artists on the railways. Deutsche Bahn plans to start testing drones with four helicopter-style rotors and thermal imaging cameras that will shoot pictures for use in prosecutions.

Deutsche Bahn says that last year it suffered damage of  more than €7 million (54 million) from people spray-painting its carriages.

I klep mein hands,

I haf no moans,

For I got here

Before ze drones.

Car chase

A BRAZILIAN motorist claims he was being chased by another vehicle after crashing his car at high speed through the show window of a pharmacy late at night in the town of Chapeco.

The unnamed 20-year-old was fortunate to drive through a the window, narrowly missing brickwork either side.

Police breathalyser tests showed he was not  under the influence of alcohol, but they're doubtful about his story of being chased.. 

I don't know, these things happen. I had a farmer friend who crashed into the bridge over the river just outside Matatiele, in East Griqualand, late one night. He told the police: "A drunk horse fell out of a willow tree onto me."

They didn't believe him either.


Up and away!

DAVID Gonzalez, of Minnesota, in the US, was ripping out insulation from his garage when he discovered a Superman comic from 1938, mixed in with some old newspapers.

He did some research, put it on auction (bids close next month) and the best offer so far is $137 000 (R1.2 million) – about 10 times the value of the home he is renovating. The cover price of the comic was 10 cents.

The danger now is that the people of Minnesota will start tearing their houses apart.


AN AMERICAN World War II veteran has been reunited with his dogtag almost 70 years after he lost it in a field in France.

Irving Mann, 88, received a letter from a French woman, saying it has turned up in her barley field. He was a little sceptical but inquiries by his daughter revealed that Sophie La Follie did indeed have his tag – the identification every soldier wears about his neck. It had turned up in a field that had been ploughed and reploughed countless times since the war.

Mann had been serving in the 90th Infantry Division in German-occupied France in 1944 and suffered a leg wound crossing the River Saar. He can't think how he lost the dogtag – it was probably while digging foxholes with a bayonet.

All he needs now is a bill from the local hostelry for the round he ordered before the Luftwaffe bombed the place.



OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-40s: "My friends say I'm gullible but they'll think twice now that I've won the Nigerian state lottery."




NKANDLA twins with the town of Sancho Panza, in Spain. The mayor of Nkandla pays an official visit and is astounded at the opulence of the mayoral parlour.

"I will let you in on a little secret," says the mayor of Sancho Panza. "You see that road bridge over there?"


"The European Union funded it – a double highway bridge. But if you look, it's only single lane." He winks. "It's the EU game."

The mayor of Sancho Panza pays a return visit. He's astounded at the overwhelming opulence of the Nkandla mayor's parlour – Persian carpets, gilt-framed portraits of No 1, silken drapes, gold taps in the bathrooms. He's impressed.

Says the mayor of Nkandla: "You see that bridge over there?"


A wink. "The service delivery game."



Last word


Nothing you can't spell will ever work.

Will Rogers


The Idler, Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Name-dropping is no more

PRESIDENT Zuma has spoken. Name-dropping is now verboten. The ruling threatens to cause chaos in our day-to-day existence.

How do you jump the queue in the supermarket if you can't let it drop that you go 10-pin bowling every weekend with the Ethekwini city manager?

Would the petrol jockeys treat you with quite the promptness and attention they do, were it not made known that you're going huntin' and fishin' next month with action man Vladimir Putin, of Russia?.

Would you get the same courtesy and attention in the public libraries if you were to fail to let it be known that you're in a regular poker school with the Archbishop of Canterbury?

What's the point of speaking regularly on Skype to Barack Obama if it doesn't automatically get you the best tickets at the Playhouse?

No, JZ must think again. In this life it's not what you know, it's who you know.


SPOT the consistency. President Zuma waxed eloquent on the evils of name-dropping.

One name he did not drop was … Gupta.



The Food Stamp Programme, administered by the US Department of Agriculture, last year distributed the greatest number of free meals and food stamps ever - to 46 million people.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the US Department of the Interior, asks: "Please do not feed the animals." The reason is that "the animals will grow dependent on hand-outs and will not learn to take care of themselves".

This ends today's lesson in irony.

Pythons, bears

A BURMESE python measuring 5.7m – the largest yet recorded – has been killed in the American state of Florida.

It happened in Miami-Dade County where a group of youngsters driving by spotted it disappearing into bush, caught it and killed it with a knife after a fierce struggle.

Burmese pythons are an invasive species that are threatening indigenous wildlife in Florida. The authorities have mounted an extermination campaign against them.

Meanwhile, also in Florida, wildlife officials had to dart and tranquilise a black bear that had climbed a tree in a suburban garden.

It was probably just trying to get away from the pythons.

Service award

OVERHEARD at the Street Shelter for the Over-40s: "After 10 years with the firm, I was at last handed the keys to the executive bathrooms. Then after I'd given them a good clean, I handed them back."

Linguistic pitfalls

A READER sends in the classic lament by American comedian/satirist/philosopher George Carlin on the pitfalls of the English language. It's worth another squint:

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes;
One fowl is a goose but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese;
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth ?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose;
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Yep. But that's what you get when you mix languages like Saxon, Danish and Norman-French and allow dialects to grow all over the place. Vive la mengelmoes!


THE WISDOM of Confucius: "Eagles may soar but weasel not sucked into jet engine."


"ARE those flowers for your wife?"

"Yes, I need to mend fences. Last night as I climbed into the new bed I bought for us, she snarled and turned away. I think she's jealous that I got the top bunk."

Last word

Men are generally idle, and ready to satisfy themselves, and intimidate the industry of others, by calling that impossible which is only difficult.

Samuel Johnson


The Idler, onday, May 24, 2013

Hands across the sea

THEY came from far and wide for the Maritzburg College 150th anniversary celebrations at the weekend; from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, you name it. About 1 200 people sat down to dinner in the Alan Paton hall and the traditional Latin grace was said by the chairman of the New Zealand old boys' association, said to be one of the largest and strongest in the world. You got a strong sense of diaspora.

But then the new headmaster, Chris Luman, is himself from New Zealand (though with origins in South Africa) so perhaps we can say optimistically that there's an internationalisation of schooling of this type; and of the careers that flow from it.

The Kiwi influence was especially strong. At a ceremony in the Victoria Hall, descendants of Errol Lammond – a legendary College master of yesteryear – were there from New Zealand to witness the unveiling of a plaque to him by his surviving daughter, Professor Nelida Lammond (who herself still lives in Maritzburg).

Lammond was educated at Maritzburg College then became one of the first graduates of the University of Natal, which in those days was on the College premises.

Then he became a teacher at the school and served there for the rest of his career, ending up deputy headmaster. He and headmaster Septimus Pape used to converse in Latin.

Then, after he retired, Lammond would still ride his bicycle to school virtually every day, pottering about the place and chatting to people. He would stop a boy, ask his name and then – if he turned out to be second generation College – reel off all kinds of information about his father's career. He had an amazing memory and never forgot a pupil.

Prof Lammond became emotional as she described how her father was distracted as he pedalled home one day by a jibe against Maritzburg College from somebody on the pavement. He was delivering a riposte when he was struck by a car.

So that's how it happened. I myself happened to be driving up Durban Road that day in 1970. I saw a crowd gathered, a mangled bicycle and an ambulance. Only next day did I read that Lammond had died. So sad.

Long march

WHO SHOULD I meet up with but my old bĂȘte noir, Wally Downs, head boy when I was a new boy - a terrifying figure. But he's since mellowed.

He recalled the occasion when, as OC of the school cadet detachment, he was drilling a squad on Barnes field who had been given extra parade. As they marched toward the edge of the field, he gave the command: "About turn!"

But they carried on marching, down a steep bank and on to Papes field below. Still marching, they crossed Papes and went down another steep bank on to Goldstones. Then another steep bank and across Snows field. Then they marched across the road and were stopped only by the Umsinduzi River.

When he asked what they meant by this insubordination, he was told: "You gave the command on the wrong foot".

Them were the days.


PROCEEDINGS were monitored throughout by a tiny remote control helicopter, apparently fitted with a camera. It came and went as it pleased.

The fellows decided it must be a heligupta.

Knickerbocker glory

GOLDSTONES was the scene of a re-enactment of the first rugby match ever played in the then colony of Natal – between Maritzburg College and Hermansburg. The sides were togged out in period knickerbockers and the colours of the day. The ref had a cap and striped blazer.

Scintillating stuff, a continuing rolling maul, all 30 players in the scrum. College won – totally unrehearsed.


THEN the pulsating finale - one of the most thrilling rugby matches I've ever watched. College played threequarters of the game with 14 men. Glenwood were just ahead. Then College scored what seemed like the clinching try. But there was still a minute on the clock. Glenwood snatched it. So close. But such are the fortunes of war.

All credit to Glenwood – but what an effort by College, one man short. Grit and guts. It makes you believe in the brotherhood.


She: "One more word and I'm going straight back to mother."

He: "Taxi!"

Last word

No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other.

Jascha Heifetz


The Idler, May 24, 2013

Housebreakers run rampant


DURBAN is under siege. Desperate criminals are entering suburban homes at will, taking whatever they want, terrorising the occupants. They are running amok through the traffic in the city centre. The authorities seem powerless to stop it. These vicious gangs have taken over entire neighbourhoods.


It's captured in a video clip titled Durban's Monkeys, taken originally from the BBC's Animal Planet.


Whatever you might think of vervet monkeys, this is great camera work. The clip shows how - far from being driven away by urbanisation - monkeys have simply adapted to the new habitat and taken advantage of new food resources such as bread bins, fruit delivery lorries and kitchen gardens. Clever little devils they are.


Their major predator, the crowned eagle, has also adapted to the new environment, whether suburban garden or skyscraper. There is some arresting footage of an eagle hunting down a baby vervet then feeding bits of it to its chick in a high-rise city nest. Yep, nature is red in tooth and claw.


Other urban primates are interviewed. Some splutter with rage at the depredations of the monkeys. Others find it hilarious. Yes, a very true reflection of Durban sentiment.


Somewhat unnerving though is that the clip was provided to me by one Nola Mitchell, who is a campanologist – one of a group who ring the church bells every Sunday at St Paul's and St Mary's, Greyville. Have they widened the scope of their recruitment?


Monkeys can be irritating enough. Spare us their being on the bellropes every Sunday morning.


Rugby High Noon

BACK the lads are from Down Under, with six points. You can look at that as the equivalent of a win and a draw. Not too bad, considering. But it should have been 14 points – three wins, two with full points. Eina!

But that's showbiz. Do we start the climb-back at King's Park tomorrow? It's fun living dangerously.

Unfortunately I cannot be there. I have a monster dinner in Maritzburg tonight to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Maritzburg College. It will no doubt be a sedate and decorous affair.

Then tomorrow the annual reunion lunch at the school, followed by rugby against Glenwood. It will be a tough afternoon.

Predictions? We'll moider da bums! That's Glenwood I mean. What the heck, the Bulls as well. We must have a couple of College boys in the Sharks side.

Diplomatic support

THE BRITISH Foreign Office last year handled more than 50 000 inquiries abroad from Brits who found themselves in difficulties. Among those difficulties:

·        How to silence a noisy rooster?

·        Which is the best place to watch football on telly?

·        Translation of a phrase on a tattoo (Rome).

·        Poor quality football boots bought in China.

·        Information on the colour of a British passport, to settle a wager in Montreal, Canada.

·        Information as to the make of watch worn by Royal Navy sailors between 1942 and 1955.

Well, why else do you have a diplomatic service?


Free cartridges


REGULAR correspondent Granny Joan has a problem. The office where she works has always collected empty printer cartridges, which are given to a charity which presumably sells them on to a company for refilling and further resale.


But the staffer who organised all this has left and nobody can remember which charity it was that the cartridges went to.


"So we are now sitting with a big box full of empty cartridges. We would like a charity to have the benefit of them."


So, charities, here's your chance.



Clown force

THE CLOWNS are parachuting in again. Clowns Without Borders – an organisation that sends in the clowns wherever communities are downhearted – will be holding another gig from 5pm this evening in the Corner CafĂ©, Glenwood (on the corner of Brand and Cromwell Roads). Suggested donation in support of the Ubuntu Clown Fund: R50.



PADDY (frantically into the phone): "My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!"
Doctor: "Is this her first child?".
Paddy: "No, you fool! Dis is her husband!"

Last word

I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've travelled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down.

Mitch Hedberg


The Idler, Thursday May 23, 2013

It's haiku time


LOGARITHMS are pretty baffling things that most of us worked with uncomprehendingly, just to get through matric maths. But in fact they're much more than that, they're representative of voluptuous, curvaceous women.


Or so Chris de Beer says. That's why he places some of his artwork displays on pages torn from the logarithm books we remember. There has to be something to counterpoint the maleness of the jewellery he has created.


Jewellery is male? Yes, nothing is quite as it seems. Between the male and the female in anything there is a "littoral zone" – to use the phrase of Durban poet Douglas Livingstone – where things interact and interchange, and this zone is artistically highly productive.


I realise this might not be making a great deal of sense. It helps if the items on display are accompanied by a haiku, a Japanese free verse form which has 17 syllables strictly arranged in three lines – five, seven then five again - which is surely the most concise and densely expressive form of poetic emotion yet devised.


It was being conveyed this week at the St Clement's soiree where Chris and poet Mari Pete (they're staff colleagues at Durban University of Technology) presented Jewels of Haiku, in which Mari has provided the haikus for Chris's artwork display – and has put the whole lot on the internet (she's a computer whizz as well as a poet).


Mari's haikus are

So catchy that you find they're

What you want to do.


Chris and Mari are

The littoral zone and they

Produce splendidly.


But when Chris shows he's

Too male which he is then she

Gives him a good klap.


'Tis entertaining

And true this male and female



Help I'm locked in a

Haiku factory with a

Lewd logarithm.


Lost city

AMERICAN researchers believe they may have discovered an ancient city deep in the Honduran rainforest, which could be the legendary metropolis known as the City of Gold.

A three-dimensional mapping technique known as lidar has shown what appear to be ruins, including roads and building foundations, in the Mosquitia region.

It is in an area believed by some to be home to The White City which, according to legend, is a now-buried metropolis full of gold.

The Conquistadors searched for it in the 16th century and throughout the 20th century archaeologists documented mounds and other signs of ancient civilization in the region. However, so far the existence of the city has not been confirmed.

In the latest study, slow-flying planes travelled over the site, sending constant laser pulses towards the ground.

I hope they've got their co-ordinates right. This sounds very much like building work in progress at Nkandla (In which case the gold is for real).



NEWS from Australia. A couple had their car break down as they reached the parking lot at a supermarket in Brisbane, Queensland. Nothing the husband did could get it going again.


The wife took her shopping list into the supermarket to make her purchases while hubby sorted things out.


When she returned an hour or so later, a pair of hairy legs in black boxer shorts protruded from under the car. Bystanders were looking on with interest. Some were sniggering.


To her horror she saw that the black boxer shorts lacked the usual Y-fronts beneath. Everything was on display.



Hastily she knelt down, reached into the boxer shorts and rearranged matters into something approaching decency. Then when she stood up again, she found herself looking across the bonnet into her husband's face.


The mechanic from the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland required three stitches to his forehead.


Bond watch

JAMES Bond's Geiger-counter wristwatch from the film Thunderball has turned up at a car boot sale in England, where it was bought for £25 (R350). Now it's expected to fetch £60 000 on auction at Christie's, in London.

The watch plays a key role in the film as Bond uses it to find two Nato bombs stolen by the evil organisation, Spectre. It had disappeared years ago.

Tick, tick, tick! Each tick worth a quid.

New coach


TOM DENNEN notes that the Real Madrid coach has resigned. "They're gonna stick with the cheap, fake one, right?"




"DOCTOR, doctor I've got this cricket ball lodged in my rectum."

"How's that?"

"Now don't you start!"


Last word


To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.

Albert Einstein


The Idler, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Over to the Bard


A READER who uses the nom-de-plume William Shakespeare sends in a little story:


Nelson Mandela's daughters Makaziwe and Zenani are suing their father for the rights to his art-works and control of his millions.


King Lear's daughters Goneril and Reagan barred their doors against him, thrust him out into the storm.


'You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,

As full of grief as age; wretched in both:

If it be you that stir these daughters' hearts

Against their father, fool me not so much

To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger.

O, let not women's weapons, water-drops,

Stain my man's cheeks …

O fool, I shall go mad!'


Customs confusion

KIDDY rock star Justin Bieber could be about to lose custody of his pet monkey. Mally, a 17-weeks-old Capuchin monkey, was seized by German customs officials at Munich airport when the Canadian singer arrived with the correct papers for his pet.

Bieber was held up for some time while the monkey was put into quarantine at the airport, then later sent to the Munich Animal Protection League animal shelter. But Bieber has failed to reclaim Mally within the specified time, meaning he could now be confiscated and become the property of Germany.

It's amazing what the consequences can be when customs official detain the wrong youthful primate.

Tourism push

CHINA is pushing for international tourism. The government has appealed to hotels and restaurants to pull out all the stops. A welcome letter from a hotel comes this way:

"Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The hotel bus runs along the lake and you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know the hotel is near, because you will go round the bend.

"As you come into the hotel, our beautiful manager will offer welcome drinks and then have intercourse with all new guests.
"This is a family hotel, so adultery and children are welcome.

"Guests are invited to mate in the bar and expose themselves to others. It is good to have intercourse with others and become fast friends.

"But please note that ladies are not allowed to have their babies in the bar. With our help they can be delivered in the baby centre.

"We organise social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with himself.
"Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity.
"All your needs are from room service. Please feel free to ring for the chambermaid and take advantage of her.
'When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will struggle to forget it."
 Not bad, but it does need a little work. Now who can say all this in Cantonese?

Roo attack

AN AUSTRALIAN politician was attacked by a kangaroo as he went for a morning jog in Canberra.

The 1.4m kangaroo lashed out with his hind legs, knocking Rattenbury to the pavement. He needed treatment in hospital for claw gashes.

Rattenbury is a member of the Green party. Right - that 'roo would have run a mile from Julia Guillard.

Straight news

SKY NEWS has a prolific correspondent in Italy. His despatches are absolutely straight up and down and to the point.

His name: Nick Pisa. Nothing slanted about his reporting.



PRESIDENT Barack Obama visits a Glasgow hospital. He enters a ward full of patients. He greets one, who replies:

Fair fa your honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin race,
Aboon them a ye take yer place,
Painch, tripe or thairm,
As langs my airm.

Obama grins and moves on. The next patient responds:

Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat an we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.

His grin now rictus-like, the president moves onto the next patient who begins to chant:

Wee sleekit, cowerin, timorous beasty,
O the panic in thy breasty,
Thou needna start awa sae hastie,
Wi bickering brattle …

Obama turns to the accompanying doctor and asks: "Is this a psychiatric ward?"

"No, it's the serious Burns unit."


Last word


Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
George Orwell