Thursday, February 23, 2006

Being A Journalist Has Its Perks

Today we drank Absolut Raspberri vodka in the office.

For research purposes, of course.

It was a good day.

(I can't mention the rest that went on. We were extra sarcastic and merry.)


Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Prancing Transvestites Want Your Money For A Reason

On some random morning* every mid-February, and this year it was today, students from the University of Cape Town dress up in the campiest outfits they can possibly concoct, often complete with sleek black stockings (and that's just the men), and take to the streets to flog a magazine called SAX Appeal, which is produced once every year, specifically for this event, with the purpose of raising money for a charity that the university runs. Each year a new team tackles the task, so the results, in terms of quality, vary.

This is always one of the most surreal days of the year in the city, and god help any conservative tourists who happen to touch down at Cape Town International airport on this morning, as they will probably think we are all a nation of transvestites.

Those who can avoid going to work on this morning usually do so, as the minute you get out onto the street in your car you are surrounded by the campy students all competing for your - this year, anyway - R15; nevermind the fact that R15 is a awkward amount to have at the ready, because, at the minimum, you need a R10 note and a R5 coin, which is hard to handle while you're trying to drive, so I'm sure most people are evil and just throw random change at the students, or pay too much and demand lots of change in return from a poor, inexperienced sucker whose trying to balance a stack of magazines and a change purse while he counts your money and tries to give you change, all in (sometimes) high heels.

Assuming you manage to go through this entire procedure and purchase a magazine before the robots[*] turn green, the immediate thing that you have to do is wedge the magazine between your windshield and dashboard. This action produces the following three very beneficial effects:

1) Any other campy students that approach to try to sell you a magazine can see that you have already bought one, and will then promptly leave you alone - some with a "You bought one! Yay!" smile and others with a "You bought one from someone else! Dammit!" frown. The reaction is always fun to gauge.
2) Anyone else driving or passing by your car will see that you have bought a magazine, and will immediately feel bad because they, instead, spent their time in traffic pretending to be unaware of the campy students prancing around their car, and didn't buy one.
3) You instantly form a unique Cape Town cultural connection with anyone else driving past who also has a magazine wedged between the windshield and the dashboard. It's just one of those great bonding moments.

The Cape Town public is notoriously fickle (and jaded), so it must be quite difficult to sell the magazine to us every year - hence the antics, which are, to some degree, a right of passage - and it was worsened in the last decade because the magazine's content, for a very long time, was, well, pretty crap. I don't know when it eventually got better, because I stopped reading it, but last year, encouraged by various efforts I had noticed by that magazine's editor to acquire better content, I bought a copy, and it was really, really good. With a lot of initiative and ingenuity last year's team managed to break the curse on the magazine, and I hope that it still holds true for this year (I haven't had time to read this year's issue yet, and will do so tonight).

Nevertheless, if you ever happen to be in the city in February, and a horde of transvestites corners you, this is why. Give them money, take the magazine, and feel good in the knowledge that you have, actually, helped the less fortunate.

*I'm sure there is a science to the date, but after all these years I still don't know what it is - probably something like the "third Thursday of February" - so to me it still seems like some random date.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Very Dramatic Story About The Spider In The Office

One of the magazines that I work for publishes DIY projects and yesterday one of the projects, which is a garden shed, was brought into the office (most of the projects are made outside of the office and then brought in once they are finished).

For heightened dramatic effect I shall now switch tenses.

Suddenly there's all this commotion in the hallways, and one of my co-workers comes to tell that there is a giant spider in the shed (and he's freaked out by spiders) and that if I want to do something about it (me being a bug-saving non-hypocrite (as much as possible) vegetarian) I need to be quick because people are amassing and are probably going to do something rather drastic (which I would find offensive). So off I go to find the shed, which had been lugged (or, rather, dragged, I'm sure) into a lift to be brought up to the 20th floor, and had then been left in the corridor outside the lifts.

My co-worker's wife, who also works in our division, but for another magazine, is also a bug-saving non-hypocrite (as much as possible) vegetarian. I turn the corner to find my co-worker's wife standing strategically (but at a safe, healthy distance) in front of the open door of the shed, while a bunch of our co-workers cower in corners nearby acting all freaked out.

So as I arrive (trumpet sounds! Whoo hoo! (I mean, in my head, of course, and actually only now while I'm writing this)), my co-worker's wife asks me if I'm afraid of spiders, so I say no (which is usually true, although large ones do actually freak me out a little (because they tend to like to you...for no reason...)), but I was being brave around these silly people in order to up my status of coolness). I could see that my co-worker's wife was also a bit freaked, but wanted to save the spider, so she was acting as this kind of nervous barrier between the spider and the evil people who may magically find bug spray and want to gas the living daylights out of the spider (she told me afterwards that there apparently is someone in her office who bug sprays everything, anywhere, at any time - even benevolent creatures such as geckos and lizards - with great glee).

Anyway, so my co-worker's wife is protecting the spider from a healthy distance from the cowering co-workers, and one of the food assistants from one of the magazines is running around trying to find a container into which we can stick the spider. I ask where the spider is, because I peered around the door but couldn't see it, as it was cowering near the bottom of the door under a strut-like piece of wood attached to the inside of door. So I bend down to look and, gawd. It's like 2cm (body) and 5cm (legs), which makes it one of the biggest spiders I've ever seen.

But now I'm committed (I mean to the task, not a mental hospital, although you may debate that endlessly in the comments section), so I ask my coworker's wife what she's going to do with the spider (because we're on the 20th floor in the middle of a concrete jungle, so where do you put such a thing? (This had been my wonder all along.)) so she says she'll take it to Tokai forest (which is on the other side of the peninsula (yay!) near to where they live) and release it. So I'm all "Ok!". So the food assistant meanwhile has found a larger container (the one they originally

had tried to use was too small), which has a hole in the corner so the spider can "breathe and stuff", so I grab it and coax the skittish spider (who by this time has realised something really weird is up) into the container (which went much better than, spiders are easier to catch than cockroaches!), and then realise that the hole in the container is rather big. Big enough, in fact, that the spider could probably squeeze through, and probably will try, so I quickly hand the container to my co-worker's wife with a piece of paper that the food assistant had given me, and tell her to block the hole and then Sellotape the hole or something, which she had already realised she needed to do. So then we parted ways with the cowering people cowering a little less, and now all interested in the container and slowly gathering to look. Because, you know, now they're safe.

As I headed off back to my office my co-worker's wife asked me not to tell my co-worker that she has the spider in the container and is taking it home with them to release it, otherwise he won't get into the car.

So I didn't mention it. But I really wanted to.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Random Office Thought Of The Day

It's never a good sign when you return to your desk and find a random bolt lying under your chair that wasn't there earlier...


Monday, February 06, 2006

The Natalie Becker Game

Yesterday at the Karen Zoid concert held at Kirstenbosch my friends and I held the inaugural "The Natalie Becker Game", as Natalie Becker was MCing the show. The game came about after three of us left the You Jazz show at this year's Suidoosterfees, which was held a few weeks ago, feeling utterley appalled and embarrassed at Natalie Becker's bad MCing. She consulted notes constantly while she was on stage, paced up and down a lot, and (blasphemy!) got well-known local jazz vocalist Tina Schouw's name wrong (confusing it with the name of another performer)...twice!

Not convinced that her MCing at Kirstenbosch would be any better, we meticulously studied her speech and mannerisms and began to assign points to judge her performance and set down a set of rules by which future performances may be judged, since it seems that everyone likes to hire her to host musical events and it's imperative that we know whether she's getting any better or whether there just is no hope.

The Natalie Becker Game: Karen Zoid At Kirstenbosch (05 February 2006)
-1: Being visible backstage consulting notes.
+1: Getting her name ("Natalie Becker") correct.
+1: Getting the performer's name ("Karen Zoid") correct, while being on stage with notes.
-2: Being on stage with notes that are consulted.
+1: Successfully (and correctly) using the phrase: "On my left...your right", while pointing out something to the right of the stage.
+1: Successfully (and correctly) using the phrase: "On my right...your left", while pointing out something to the left of the stage.
+1: Getting the name of the sponsor's new product ("Peartiser") correct.
-1: Getting the name of the sponsor's new product wrong ("Peachtiser") at a previous concert and then apologising for that at this concert.
+2: Pronouncing the four-syllable word "perimeter" correctly.
+3: Using the four-syllable word "perimeter" correctly in a sentence.
-1: Getting the name of a guy that was backstage holding a lost wallet wrong.
Total: +5

Other Negative Scoring Possibilities:
-1: Saying "okay" more than three times (minus one point for each subsequent use).
-1: Saying "Natalie Becker" more than twice (minus one point for each subsequent use).
-5: Getting a performer's name wrong (minus five points for each subsequent blunder).
-15: Getting a famous performer's name wrong (minus 15 points for each subsequent blunder).

Other Positive Scoring Possibilities:
+2: Getting a performer's name correct without consulting notes.
+2: Standing still for more than 30 seconds (award at your discretion). [Thanks Michelle!]

Shame Artifact (deduct two points from Natalie Becker's score): You may induce (in other words, call out: "Shame Artifact!") the Shame Artifact once per game. The Shame Artifact is a negative points bonus for when Natalie Becker incorrectly states a famous performer's name more than once during a show.

Usually only Natalie Becker can be awarded points in the The Natalie Becker Game, but Karen Zoid surprised us all on Sunday by managing to score points in the The Natalie Becker Game. This is a rare achievement, so I'm documenting it here.
+15: Mocking the announcement Natalie Becker had had to make to ask people not to get up and swarm the front of the stage as there were live electrical cables running along the ground at the front of the stage and it could be dangerous.
+5: Referring to Natalie Becker as "the lady" and not "Natalie Becker" (probably because she couldn't remember Natalie Becker's name) when she was mocking Natalie Becker's announcement that people must not get up and go to the front as there were live electrical cables that could be dangerous. Huzzah!
Total: +20

Please feel free to post your own encounters and scorecards in this post's comments section. We are also always looking for new rules, if anyone has any suggestions.

(Since Blogger broke my template you'll have to access
older/newer posts via the archive links in the sidebar.)