Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learn how to play the Harmonium, then stop playing the harmonium

Once upon a time, there was a boy. The boy really loved music and musical instruments. You see this boy’s grandfather was a great musician and left quite an impression on his young developing mind. So the boy would occasionally sneak into his granddads bedroom, slowly pull the cover off one of the finely crafted wooden instrument therein, and quietly push, tap, shake and pluck away to his hearts content. All this, in an effort to expose the hidden treasure of notes, beats and tones trapped within the beautiful machines of music…

The boy grew up and somehow maintained his curiosity for music enough to say ‘yes’ one fateful school holiday when he was offered harmonium lessons with a small group of locals in his home town. “Amazing! I’ll finally be able to play a musical instrument!” thought the boy as he opened an ancient storage cupboard containing

his late grandfathers’ pride and joy. He blew off a dust layer before carefully placing the instrument onto the carpeted floor. The click that he hears as he releases the bellow catch instantly takes him back to when he sat next to his grandfather tapping his feet and clapping his hands in time to old, yet timeless and familiar songs. He can barely contain his excitement and his fingers shake with anticipation as he begins pumping air into the magnificent organ. Curiosity overcomes him and he gingerly tests a few keys.

A Harmonium (pump bellows at the back with one hand while playing keys with the other)

waa. wwaaa. wwwaaaaa. wwAAAA (umm yeah, you may have some trouble imagining the sound of this instrument if you’ve not heard one before…it’s kind of like a living bagpipe monster…being fed on a diet of chilies)

The sounds send goosebumps up his arms and the back of his neck. “Amazing!” he says to himself. That is, after all, the only way one can describe the sensation of music creeping from your ears into your body and limbs. The notes he chose didn’t hold a tune yet were powerful enough to have such an intense effect. The music bounced around inside him like particles under the effect of Brownian motion. He slowly pulls the cover back onto the bagpipe monster before setting off to bed in anticipation of the first lesson.

The first lesson: Enter Mr Colin Munsami, A name the boy would not forget in a hurry.

The sun rises on a fog covered little town in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. It’s glow wakes the boy from a night filled with musical dreams and ambition. He gets dressed gives his grandfathers harmonium a good dust and shine before packing it into the boot of his dads car. They drive slowly to the community center where dad meets Mr Munsami before saying to his son “Okay Ebrahim, I’ll pick you up in an hour. Have fun. Salaams”.

(Yes the boy was ME! SURPRISE! …switching to first person story mode NOW!)

So I stood there holding the heavy harmonium waiting for instructions from Mr Munsami. “Hi” he says “I’m Colin, let me introduce you to the other trainees…”. I smiled and introduced myself, all the while longing for the formalities to end so I could start my musical journey. Finally Colin dropped a bombshell

“Guys, I’m really sorry about all this but our bookings for a room inside the community center have not worked out. I’ve spoken to the priest at the temple next door and he won’t let us use one of their rooms either. On the plus side I have found a room we can use, please bear with me. This is only a temporary arrangement.”

So the group and I (around 7 people) follow Colin into a room around the back of the building. And when I say room, I mean a men’s room… We all just stood there in silence for a few minutes afraid to put our treasured instruments onto the floor. Colin thoughtfully opens all the windows and turns on all the lights before laying some blankets onto the floor and inviting us to sit down…

AAARGH! This was not what I had pictured in my dreams…

After a number of the other students sat down I reluctantly followed suite, surely the skills I’ll learn will outweigh having to practice the harmonium in a toilet. I’m sure my grandfather was turning in his grave after he saw me soil his beloved instrument by playing its oyster-shell keys and pearl inlays in the armpits of the devil.

So began my first harmonium lesson. I must admit trying to learn a new skill with a potty in the corner staring at you was quite difficult. So Colin, seeming quite unperturbed with our surroundings, commenced the lesson with yet another bombshell.

“Class, before you can learn to play you must learn to SING!”.

I didn’t think it was possible but my heart sank even lower than it already was. In fact, were it not for our location I may have requested to be excused to relieve the immense strain being contained within my bowels. Let me put things into perspective.







So I bit the bullet and went along. I can imagine the confused look on some poor member of the public on his way to the loo when he hears a terrible, loud and off-key singing emanating from his destination. Needless to say the first lesson ended without me even hearing the sound of a harmonium.

The second lesson:

I waved goodbye to my dad hoping and praying that Colin had booked a venue…he hadn’t (I’m guessing he saved some cash by not renting out a venue and just using the toilet for band prac…besides, it worked last week… the cheapness of some people never fails to amaze me). So we laid down some blankets in the loo (again) and bloody well started singing for 15 minutes before Colin said “I think we can move on to the next section”. Queue bombshell number 3…

“You must now learn to keep rhythm, you can only play after you know how to sing and keep rhythm.”


The next 45 minutes went by very slowly as we clapped and sang together to Colins playing …in a toilet. I went home a broken boy that day.

The third lesson:

I wore my old clothes in anticipation of sitting on the floor in the community center toilets for a third time. I almost didn’t even take my harmonium along. Luckily I did because Colin had finally decided to let us actually play today. Now we could finally sing, clap AND jam together…in the toilet. We started with basics and quickly realised that Colin was an AWFUL teacher.

The fourth lesson:

I had learned a bit and had practiced more than enough to know all the basics without having to look at crib sheets. Colin had a different look on his face today, we all knew something was going to be announced.

“Class, I want you all to accompany me for a junior harmonium concert in Pietermaritzburg”

(I’m being dead serious! That’s what he said…after FOUR lessons!).

“I assure you that you will all get trophies for your efforts”

(Is this guy kidding!!?? Trophies! Were we up against a bunch of farm animals with instruments?).

And that was all I could take. I told my dad that harmonium was just not for me and I wanted to give up the lessons.

Up yours Colin!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inappropriate phrases that never really caught on…

“Make like a fetus and swim in your own excrement for 9 months!”

“If you die now, who will we have to sit in your chair?”

“You can improve the flavour by eating your barf…”

“If Meat Loaf was a girl you would be pretty.”

“If I close one eye and blur the other, I can hardly tell you are suffering with 3rd degree burns…”

“You know what they say; sometimes a man is too quick for his own pants.”

“It smells better than gangrene…”

“Eating your own poo is a recognized illness. They can treat that…”

“Today’s special: Cow ears, udder and other random bits ground up and shoved into intestines to make a treat that looks about the same going in as it does coming out (R49.99 per kg).”

“Dental floss is Gods way of keeping Satan out of your mouth”

“You can easily replace the ones you’ve lost with a pair of unshelled walnuts”

“It can make you attractive or invisible, I forget which… take it anyway.”

“Do you want a super-sized paper cup filled with addictive, black, bubbling acid for an extra R1?”

“It’s the only pet that looks equally cute when turned inside out”

“Your flabby thighs complement that adorable smile”

(Use at your own risk...)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The joy of triangular food

Everyone knows that for some strange reason, triangular shaped food and food ‘with holes in’ kick arse. We have no idea why, but it’s true! (I bet if you want those stubborn kids to eat cabbage-liver paste, you could just rearrange the stuff into a triangle, tell them it is alien food and they’d go nuts for it).


Toblerone... mmmmm

Samoosas... mmmmm

Even the humble sandwich is made infinitely more appealing when cut into triangles


Stuff with holes in:
Cheese...mmmm get the picture yeah?

Just recently my unquestioning trust in triangular foods was betrayed by a samoosa (most divine of all deep-fried delicacies…mmmmm). Who doesn’t enjoy dipping a samoosa corner into sauce before having that first bite? I know I eat them that way 9 times out of 10… in any case one thing about samoosas is that it is impossible to guess the flavour till you have bitten into one. This is normally part of the fun and mystery of them, until you dip a sweet coconut and sugar flavour samoosa into chilli sauce… ‘nuf said. People should at least have the decency to separate savoury samoosas from sweet ones. I’m scarred now… FOR LIFE!!!

In any case, by using simple logic and maths I have come up with a most ingenious food. I call it…

EEbEE’s Wunder-Cookie (pronounced with a German accent i.e. “Voon’der-Kookie”)

Toblerone: Samoosa: Doughnuts: Sandwich: Cheese:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Was I meant to be born when I was born?

After having a short conversation about birthdays with the Raven-disciple (happy birthday for tomorrow btw…I’ll dedicate this post to you seeing as I’m too far away to give you a real present) I started wondering how appropriate historical events occurring on MY birthday are to my personality…

I mean, surely if everything happens for a reason, there would be some reason for my being birthed on the 24th of July. Who can argue with that logic…

So I did some research (a google search for “24th July”) to see what amazing stuff happened on the day I was born. I was expecting stuff like “peace treaty signed between two warring nations” or “breakthrough in modern hygiene”… geez even a famous birthday would have done the trick “Darwin was born on this day” for example. Instead, I found these…

1411 – Some Scotsmen with issues have a big fight and everyone dies.

1847 - 148 Mormon Pioneers establish Salt Lake City. (Mormons! Seriously!!!)

Various years – I found out that loads of ships sink and (for some strange reason) mudslides occur on my birthday drowning/killing hundreds of innocent people… (perhaps I should stay away from ocean cruises… …and mudslides!?)

1948 - Marvin the Martian makes first appearance on Looney Tunes (this could mean that either me and 1/365th of the worlds population are ALIENS or…well nothing)

Various years – loads of mediocre novelists, mediocre cricketers and mathematicians I know nothing about were born on 24th July too.

In terms of 24th July celebrities, I went through a list of around 200 and only recognized ONE name (I clearly don’t read enough Heat magazine)...

…and here she is!

Jennifer Lopez – I could claim that she is a double whammy, being both a singer and an actor, were it not for the fact that she can’t actually sing …or act. She isn’t even pretty (the famous ass is disproportionate and hilarious in my opinion (someone should tell her…)).

Okay in all fairness there were 2 useful things that happened on the 24th July. For instance:

1823 - Slavery was abolished in Chile (Score!)

1911 Machu Picchu rediscovered by …some dude (I have always wanted to visit this place).

The most amazing events in recorded history (I’m sure that there are millions) have a 1 in 365 chance of falling on the 24th of July. Yet all I got was some crazy Scotsmen having a drunken punch up and numerous insignificant disasters. Honestly who cares if California had a heat wave in 1935 on the 24th July… if THAT can merit its way onto the Wiki list they must be desperate!

I must change this! I need to bring honour to the day of my birth!

Watch this space.

(So what happened on your birthday? It can't suck as badly as 24th July I'll bet...)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Random inexplicable thoughts that never really materialized into posts

As a self proclaimed arbitrary blogger, I often toy with completely random pieces of ideas and develop them into longish posts. It is incredibly rare that I actually know what I'm going to blog about before I start typing. Ca. 90% of the time a blog post starts out with a statement or random passing thought. I scribble these down so I don't forget them. Also,I can easily go back and write arbitrarily on them at a later stage.

This post is a collection of my random thoughts that have not (not yet at least) made it onto the blog. It saddens me that most will probably never mature into the wonderfully confusing and "what the hell was I thinking" posts that currently grace my profile. As a form of consolation I have decided to put them all together to make a bits and pieces post which will hopefully conjure a smidgen of interest or perhaps even inspiration for someone else.

When mankind is obliterated only the humble Platyhelminth (flat worm) will show pity…

My students didn’t seem all that impressed when I told them they should all wear “Kill me NOW!” badges. Mondays are not for everyone it seems…

There must be a way to make admin fun. I will figure it out and change the world for the better using it (before I reach 30)!

EEbEE’s totally amazing inventions part 1: …(nada)…

Proof that Albert Einstein had a temper:
EEbEE “So Mr Einstein, apart from unraveling mysteries of the universe and altering human perceptions on space and time theory, is there anything USEFUL you have contributed towards mankind?”.

Albert “erm… well… SURELY…wait…hmmmmm… no not really. All my findings are incredibly interesting but quite pointless when considering things on a…mankind scale.”

EEbEE “Useless on a ‘mankind scale’ you say, on what scale would your findings be relevant otherwise?”

Albert “erm…well…F@#% off and leave me alone!”

The secret to a good smoothie: walnuts, honey and cream…ALSO, don’t ever use orange juice as a base...

Ten reasons I hate cover-versions.

How the Lord of the Rings movies ruined Cinema and the fantasy genre for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My underrated friend, Mr Curiosity

They say curiosity killed the cat. I disagree. In my younger years I lived my life following a path set out by Mr Curiosity himself. This is a post about a few of the situations I willingly put myself into as a pre-teen.

We are all guilty of the thought process “They told us not to…so we did” the first instance I recall fits into this category. I was around 7 years old and playing in the back yard of my dads’ store. There was a wild bee-hive back there then and I thought I could get some honey from it. I already knew that bees stung (thanks to a prank pulled by my older brother) but in my cocky state of mind thought I could kick the hive, leg it to safety, come back later and eat the delicious honey.

This is what actually happened.

I kicked the bee hive, ran as fast as my chubby legs could take me (…not faster than a bee…) towards the door getting stung several times on my face and ears on the way. I got to the door to find that it was closed, a few seconds delay to open the door cost me a few stings but I got inside slammed the door behind me and slumped onto the floor (heart rate ± 250 bpm) before the whole cry and run to dad procession. After all that I didn’t bother going back for the honey.

The next two situations I recollect are examples of how curiosity can have less than spectacular outcomes. Ever wondered what was inside a battery? How did that little cell make stuff move and light up? One quiet corner, an AA battery and bread knife was all it took for me to learn that the insides of batteries are indeed very boring. It was the same with deodorant. The can clearly stated:


So there I was, knife in one hand, empty deo-can in the other. I brought the two together repeatedly in a less than safe stabbing action at arms length whilst wincing and peering through as narrow a gap as my quivering eyelids would allow me to look between. My ass cheeks clenched and my body rebounded as I dropped the can after finally piercing through the metal. All that building up… and nothing happened, NADA! I was relieved and annoyed at the same time to be honest.

The last story is as a direct result of the following equation:

Firecrackers + x = (Curiosity)2

Where ‘x’ is basically anything, anywhere, anytime…

This equation is applicable to all boys between 6 and 15 years old and is often paired with the following reaction:

Firecrackers + x => y

Where ‘y’ entails having an extra pair of undies nearby and the probability of ‘y’ occurring is directly proportional to the length of the fuse…

Amongst the hundreds of crazy things I did with fireworks, this is the one that stood out most (I’ll have to post specifically on this topic at some point in time, so many stories…).

Do you remember tom thumbs?

These little crackers hardly even made a pop. They did have something going for them though. You see I figured out that there was always some residual gunpowder left in the case after a pop. You could light this and get a teeny weeny split second flash followed by a puff of smoke…. OR, you could save up all the dead tom-thumb cases till you have a tupperware full, empty all the powder onto the floor in a big heap with a line of narrow powder leading to the big heap to act as a fuse (like in Tom and Jerry…).

The plan was:

Light the trail fuse

Run inside the house

Look out the window

Observe spectacular display of pyrotechnics from safety

What happened:

Light the trail fuse

Realise that it’s WAY to short given the reaction speed

Close eyes


Extinguish eyebrows

Change undies

In the end I can honestly say that curiosity often landed up entertaining the cat, hurting the cat, boring the cat to death (figuratively speaking) and sometimes giving the cat an eye popping adrenalin rush. After all I’m still alive and in retrospect, curiosity induced situations from yesteryear have contributed more towards my life than my death. I’d still kill the cat for kicks though (or at most scare the number 2 out of it).