Thursday, January 28, 2010

Of Wheelbarrows and Spades

Chores… the word strikes at the heart of every prepubescent in every household. Parents say that chores build character and yes, I agree 100%, but there are times when chores seem awfully close to child labour. And since, as a kid, I hardly ever got paid for doing chores it was even closer to child slavery!

Honestly, how many kids can say that their character and morals were built on a solid foundation of SLAVERY! Now THAT’S real character building. It didn’t just happen at home, it happened at school as well. When I think back, our little school out in the styx took just as much advantage of us than our parents did. Mr Terry, wielding a referees whistle while prancing around in his overly conspicuous short shorts would order us about. “Mow that grass!” “Rake them fields!” “Cut those brambles!” “Fill those potholes!” “Paint those lines!” we even built and mended the school picket fences in our so called ‘woodwork’ classes.

When we got home from school yet more chores awaited us. It didn’t matter that we had a domestic worker, we still had to mow the lawn, prune the trees, wash the cars, clean the house, cook some food, wash the dishes, wax and polish the floors, vacuum the carpets, do our homework… and my pet hate… Pick up the dog shit! Yes on top of the list of ‘crappiest chores’ was crap itself. It was wonderful having three Rhodesian Ridgebacks in our ample yard. Less wonderful, however, was having to clean up after them… my cousin or brother and I would have to do this chore as a team. One would brandish a spade whilst the other would follow closely with the old orange wheel barrow. It’s difficult to say which one I enjoyed doing more… or less to be honest (so so difficult to favour either shoveling excrement or carting excrement… nope, still can’t decide.

To add insult to injury, our dogs were fed the cheapest dog food on the market. Y’know the stuff that contains 95% bulk and 5% nutrition (we knew this then because it looked the same going in as did it coming out, had pretty much the same texture and I swear the same quantity). This was the dog food you could only buy in 50kg hessian sacks. I felt sorry for our dogs sometimes, the diet gave them a ton of gas. I can say with quite a large amount of confidence that these dogs farted more than they barked (and they barked at pretty much everything and everyone!).

In any case, I spotted one of our dogs taking a dump on our lawn today and it made me think about the ol’ wheelbarrow and spade routine. I thought to myself “EEbEE, you’re a scientist… think of something that could make that Satan spawn chore a bit easier”. Then it hit me, like a sack of… well you know…. The answer was so simple and so effective. I called it the “Poo Auger”. The doodle below illustrates my geniusness!!!

See!!! The poo just gets buried where it lies. Not only is it easier than shoveling and carting but you also end up fertilizing the lawn! You can even take your “Poo Auger™” camping so you can easily hide all evidence of that boskak you took after eating bad potjie. I will be taking bulk orders for the “Poo Auger™” order 10 or more and get a free 2ply camping toilet roll dispenser!

So back to the chores, I’d hate for everyone to think that I was tortured as a kid so I’m going to come clean. The chores didn’t actually take much of our leisure time or even effort come to think of it… it’s just that we HAD to complain bitterly when we got chores. This was purely to avoid being given more chores... I’m sure our parents would have piled on the work if we showed any signs of enjoyment while doing those things “EEbEE enjoys mowing the lawn, he should do it more often”.

All I can say is that when my own kids are growing up, they will each get a shovel and wheelbarrow set on their 6th birthdays (or should I make it 5th?).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My kingdom for a scooter

Ever looked up at the sky, seen birds gliding through the air and thought “I wish I could fly…” (of course you have!). Well readers I have some great news for you!

My story starts at my parents hardware store in Kranskop. You see I am filling in for my sister and her husband while they vacation at the beach for two weeks. I learned very quickly that to survive in this place you have to make your own fun. I have since kept my eyes peeled for and embraced any opportunity for obscure entertainment I could find. One such opportunity presented its self today in fact. I was ambling around looking for something to do when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A red scooter! Parked outside the main shop entrance.

My view on scooters for the majority of my life was that these machines were feminine excuses for motorcycles. I usually made fun of them, laughing at their pitiful riders and the way they looked like they were sitting on the loo while manouvering. ALL UNTIL…


For those not familiar with FLCL: It’s a Japanese anime series that revolutionized the anime genre with unique and novel animation and a completely mindblowing storyline (funny as hell too). From what I understand the show famously blew an entire seasons budget on the first few episodes before the creators were forced to fit the remaining 16 or so episodes and the season finale into just two half hour slots to prevent investors from crucifying them. The results were (and still are) astounding! In any case, I’m drifting here… one of the shows main characters is a crazy alien chicky that rides around on…

…well this

Don’t let the looks fool you, this little Vespa is insanely fast and full of the bad-ass attitude us guys shamelessly fall to pieces for. Image by D_Nikolaos (photobucket).

So basically, scooters have been cool in my books since FLCL. So much so that I will, one day, own a little yellow “P!” scooter just like the one pictured here. I even want to start a bad-ass scooter gang “Hells Chihuahuas” we’ll call ourselves. Riding through the streets with our little 50 cc engines screaming away as we struggle to do 40 up the hills. We’ll raid the local bakeries of all their cheese bagels then storm the park to eat them (with gherkins… mmmmm) atop our fancy scooters...

Oh yeah, so there was this red scooter parked outside the shop. I went in, looked for the owner (a tall guy from India or Pakistan I guess), asked him if I could take it for a spin. He looked at me once in jest, then again with a slightly worried expression “Wait, this guy is serious…” I imagine he thought. After seeing the look I explained that I wanted to try it out and I know how to ride a motorcycle. He shrugged before leading me to the scooter, starting it and pointing to one of the handles “This is the brakes” he says in a heavy Middle Eastern accent. He turned around and went back into the store.

I had it all to myself! I didn’t think twice before taking off for a quick spin around the premises. At this point in time my cheeks started aching. Why was that??? Well, it so happened that I was grinning so widely and for so long that my face actually started hurting with the prolonged strain. I imagine that I could have eaten a whole banana with that grin…


… you pervert!!!

It mattered not that the thing felt so unsteady under me and that it was so slow and rickety and noisy and ugly and was structurally sound thanks to some strategically positioned tape… I was having a blast! Now I know why people ride these things!

They make you happy!

You want to fly?

Get a scooter…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Section 19

A place of luxury, joy and happiness? I think not. After all, playgrounds of the rich and famous usually have names like paradise-, or –hills, even names of birds, flowers and falls. No, no, 19 is the name of a place not entirely devoid of smiles, but nevertheless not worthy of a fancy name (like Paradisebird’flowerhillfalls…). 19 it seems, is an adequate name for a squatter camp (informal settlement) on the fringes of a one street town.

19 streches along the edge of the Kranskop industrial area. It is around 400m long and 100m wide

Surprised was I when I first found out that even small towns like Kranskop have room for large scale poverty. Sure, its neighbouring Zulu tribes are probably as close to the original culture as you are likely to find anywhere. “These people should be wearing skins, herding cows and harvesting maize, cane and yam crops out there in the beautiful Tugela river valley…” I thought to myself. It’s a traditional lifestyle that many hippies would be envious of. To be free and independent of the system, no taxes, no crime, no endless bills and no sense of helplessness whenever there is a power failure. Why do these people choose a life of poverty living in a 3m squared shack made of a mixture of other humans discarded bits of metal, tin, cardboard and naturally occurring mud, grass and irregular rocks excavated from the hillsides? Why do they leave the tribes and migrate to the cities? Money, no, the probability of acquiring money, perhaps, the search for a modern “better” lifestyle, overcrowding back home, better education…? I’ve pondered about this for quite some time and still can’t quite figure out what these people look to gain from leaving their tribes and moving to the cities, towns and villages.

I imagine a young man filled with hope, bathed cleaned and donning his best clothes. “I’m leaving now mum, going to the city to make some money. I promise I’ll come back with riches. Goodbye!” Alas he does not realise that the moment he waved and smiled to his mum when he left was the last time he felt levels of hope and confidence that satisfied his soul. He jumps into a taxi which takes him one way, to Kranskop. There he spends 3 or 4 days looking for a job and living off some tiny bit of saved up cash from local trade. By day 5 the money has dried up and the young man, still jobless, too embarrassed to go back home, succumbs to 19.

“19 will take you in for free!”

“19 will hold you in her arms till you get on your feet again.”


“…home for those who have none.”

Surely it would be easier to admit defeat and go back home? The idea of returning to the place you were born, the place you had a purpose would stir restlessly around his mind for days, weeks and months… “No, things will get better, I must try harder” ...years. Why then does 19 visibly grow every month? Like some perpetual queuing system for those with broken dreams.

Children contributing to the household by fetching water from a local shop after the one faucet in 19 broke

I’m wrong of course, there is more to 19 than I, a neutral bystander with no concept of true poverty, can deduce from mere observations. While I’m here I want to learn about this place and it’s people. I want to alter my perceptions about squatter camp life in an effort to replace speculation with truth. I realise that helping these people would be nearly impossible in my current situation. Recent stats reveal that 1 in 4 South Africans (25% of our population!!!) earn less than R10 a day (about 1 Euro). Besides, what use have they for a scientist with an honours in zoology? I’d be more useful if I learned how to mend broken toilet seats for heavens sake. One thing I can do is spread awareness. I’m thinking about starting a new blog on this topic as I feel that my current one isn’t going to do any justice here.

The only question that remains is whether any human would be interested in reading and following a blog’cumentary of this nature (some feedback if you will faithful followers…)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Views on smelly emotions

I know it’s only natural to be attracted to certain smells (perfumes, food, coffee, baking…). It’s almost like some invisible force has lassoed you by the nose and has decided to reel you in. It can happen so quickly too. For example, I’ll be walking past a bakery without a thought of going in to buy anything before, “WHAM!” (fresh cheese bagel smell) first my eyes widen, then my head will turn toward the direction of the source and before I know it I’m walking out the place choking on drool while carrying a bag of goodies. I become like Gollum clutching onto the one ring after that. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if I subconsciously scowled at a few random innocent bystanders and stroked the bag on the way to my car (yes, I’m THAT helpless when it comes to fresh bread… don’t judge me).

(Ignore the ferret in that bagel... my Photoshop skills have some way to go.)

It all sort of makes sense when you think about it. There is often a nice reward associated with good smells… now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that a ladies nice perfume for example is positively linked to the size of her…eyes. I will concede, however, that most men (ones that don’t use moisturizer on their hands at least) are likely to turn their heads in the general direction of a lovely feminine scent to… look for potential; simply because if something smells pretty, it may just look pretty too.

(pauses to think)

Okay okay, rereading the last line of the previous paragraph, I realise how this point of view could be perceived as shallow and possibly lead readers to think that I’m some sort of fetish driven pervert. Before you jump to false conclusions about me please look at yourself and think about the last time a beautiful scent of perfume or cologne wafted past you in a corridor. Now nod in approval as you remember how helpless you were when you turned to look at the source of the fragrance. GUILTY I SAY!!! At this point you will find that you either turn back in shame (us modest lot do this…) or you look again to take in the details and fantasize about how that person would look drenched in vanilla custard.

(b.t.w. if you nodded for that second part then you are in fact a sick and freakish weirdo… go get help, it may not be too late).

My apologies if this post seemed a little rambly up to this point. I am in fact building up to the big question and slightly confusing situation I find myself in. You see I think smells help us to form a sort of emotional link to their respective sources. I think it has something to do with the familiarity and positive/negative feedback associated with a smell that makes it have so much control over a person.

This is exactly the reason I can’t understand what it is about the smell of pencil sharpenings (yes, good old fashioned wooden pencil shavings) that draws me to them?

There is something about that quite distinctive smell that I really REALLY like. If they ever sold essence of pencil sharpening or aerosol in the shops, I would totally go out there, buy the stuff and proceed to douse all of my stationery and office desk drawers with it. Heck I’d probably even eat a pencil sharpenings flavoured muffin!


I haven’t the slightest clue… this is where I was hoping my readers would be able to help me. Is it just me or is there anyone out there with a similar affection for a completely random smell. (Then again, maybe I do need help…).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WTF is Ayoba!?

One of my pet hates of late is manipulative advertising. Without fail every summer vacation sees a torrent of crafty businessmen taking way too much advantage of the bonuses and savings people have worked so hard for. I’d imagine that the average Joe's thought process over the festive season would be something like this:

“Wow! This product is useless and doesn’t make sense at all, but it’s Christmas and I have bit of extra cash to throw around so what the hell…BUY BUY BUY”.

Staring ashamedly away from the screen aren’t you. Don’t feel bad, I’m guilty of thinking the exact same way, in fact I go so far as to save up and be über conservative over the duration of the year just so I can go extra AWOL over summer and spooge on random useless things I would never dream of buying at any other point in the year. For me December is the only period I don’t feel bad about buying Computer games and techy stuff like RAM, graphics cards and copper heat pipe cooling (yes, I am indeed a Nerdbob-geeky-pants). Why don’t I feel bad about it? Because of all the friggin manipulative advertising!!! Christmas special catalogs from every department store litter the streets and jam our postboxes to capacity. Bargains never seen before and NEVER TO BE REPEATED must be taken advantage off. Kids running through the streets shouting ‘Ayoba!’ on their way to the cellphone shops to literally spend their vacation allowances on discounted AIR!

What the hell is AYOBA in any case? I see and hear it everywhere but still don’t know what it is. As far as I can see it’s just some random word with an exclamation mark behind it. Vodacom just spent millions inventing a word then put it on all their adverts to enlighten the masses hoping to achieve…-BLANK- (this is the bit I can’t make sense of) … so more people buy their product. Have we, the most advanced species in the known universe, fallen so far that these brainless sheep tactics actually have an effect on us?


I’ll leave you with this advert as a classic example of what I mean.
Drink Moet, It’s your best chance to make jolly with Scarlet Johansson. PS: She may even touch your winky ;)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The problem with New Years

So here we are, the beginning of the year 2010. I just can’t believe that it has already been 10 years since this…

So all the crazy ‘end of the world’ folk have moved their apocalypse date to 2012 because some stupid Mayan (or was it Inca?) calendar carved out of stone by an ancient man (who also had a thing for throwing people off the edges of pyramids, putting large bones up his nose and castrating Portuguese explorers with blunt instruments…) who didn’t bother to carve dates beyond 2012 because his wrist got sore and nobody really cared back then in any case…

No, the end of the world is coming but not yet (we still have a good 200 years or so). Besides, with all the dosh being invested into finding another planet for us to colonise as opposed to, …I don’t know, FIXING THE ONE WE ALREADY HAVE! We are sure to be right as rain to simply pick up and leave when the shite hits the fan (HAH! FAGS! Who do they think they are fooling… honestly!?).

Enough ranting about the change of years... It really doesn’t mean a thing at all. Just another opportunity for people to celebrate… because people get bored with the olde ‘eat, work, shit and sleep’ schedule, they feel the need to do something different. Breaking the monotony of a working class life probably does wonders to maintaining ones sanity. New Years is a great way for the average person to recharge them batteries and be optimistic about the future. Make that resolution, strive to improve yourself and become what you always wanted to be.

It’s sad in a way, I get the impression that people only have this outlook on life on New Years eve and the 1st of Jan before it’s back to the old… ”screw it I’m happy with things the way they were” school of thought. People should treat every day as New Years day (no I don’t mean get pissed and stab someone with a broken bottle before being stopped by the cops and booked for being over the limit on your way home), they should wake up EVERY morning and make new resolutions, then stick to those resolutions because every day is just as important and filled with potential as the last. You can’t just lump 365 days together in a year then pretend as if one year was better or worse than the last! That’s like liquidizing an entire gourmet 5 course meal before eating it then saying it tasted like puke and asking for your money back (did that make sense just then…? Oh well, it did to me.).

My point remains nevertheless, anyone who looks forward to the benefits a new year can bring are observing life from the wrong scale. These people, in my opinion, are missing out on the finer details of day to day life by progressing annually rather than daily.

Happy New Year!!!

(and I should probably apologise for ruining it for everyone… NAH!)