Thursday, October 30, 2008

Define funny

I think there's something wrong with my sense of humour. This is not a new realisation. My concern actually started around the time that Jeremy Mansfield was first plumping his Laugh Out Loud show. I almost tried to watch a whole episode once, but I just couldn't do it. I don't get how embarrassing people, pretending to steal their car/wife/dog, making someone believe that Ferdi Ferdinand has flung himself out of a window, qualifies as funny.

Same goes for Ashton Kutcher's PUNKd. I can see why it makes good TV, dramatically inclined people acting out unwitting personal dramas leads to easy ratings, but funny? Not so much.

There's a regular show every evening in the Netherlands, called Trick or Treat. Similar premise. They humiliate/aggrevate/irritate unsuspecting members of the public, and then surprise them with a cheque of 10,000 euros. For example, pretending to be municipal officials, with a permit to dig up a happily retired couple's prize-winning garden (complete with threatening digging machine hanging over their shrubbery). The old lady was threatening to phone the police and the old man was just about having a heartattack when the pretty lady jumps out and goes, "surprise! we're just kidding! Here's your check." A nice price for not knowing you're on camera, but again... funny? Not so much for the old man who was still clutching his chest when the show ended. It's more thuggery with a smile in the name of 'good fun'.

Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross. Calling a grandpa and leaving abusive messages on his answering machine..? Why is this entertaining? I just don't get it.

An overweight chairman breaking his chair and disappearing from shot in a too-serious news show... Now THAT'S funny.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Interesting people

I have a confession. Sometimes I try to distance myself from South Africans. Like watching the Currie Cup final this weekend, at a local Irish pub. We were unfortunate enough to arrive after a group of young South African girls, who were already dominating the front tables at the big screen. Right from the start, it was obvious that it was going to be a long match to watch.

First, they were noisy. Very very noisy. They were a group of about 15 twenty-somethings I guess, who did not speak, or talk, but rather screeched and squawked. Mostly in Afrikaans, with a colourful vocab that made even my ears burn.

When you're in a pub with expats, a large number of whom who can speak Dutch and understand Afrikaans, this is extremely embarrassing. The Dutch think of Afrikaans as baby talk. Less developed and civilised. The kind of talk where you would pat the head of the person attempting to communicate and reward them with a patronising lollypop. When Afrikaans is used in this context, at this volume, it could seem to add weight to how uncivilised this little previous Dutch outpost still is.

We soon concluded that these girls weren't actually rugby fans. They certainly weren't there for the after-game discussion and contemplation of the Springbok squad. We gathered this because the girls SCREAMED every time the Shark/Bull logo was shown, every time the change room was shown and every time the spectators were shown, but oddly enough were not interested when the teams ran onto the field and the match actually began.

Instead, this was when these delicate wallflowers decided to out-support each other by screaming into each other's face, pulling zaps across the room and shouting SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! at each other. It was delightful. Other South Africans in the room cringed, while some non-South Africans went home - deciding they weren't that interested in the rugby to sit through a full 80 minutes of this torment.

One of the girls, with the same size and endearing charm of Kelly Osborne on drugs, took to screaming in the faces of random, unrelated supporters sitting behind her. Particularly shrieking (in a tone that set the neighbourhood dogs howling) at everyone in the pub to SHUT UUUUUUP! every time the Sharks were lining up for a penalty. The fact that everyone stared at her in stunned silence did not deter her from shouting this catchy refrain through the kick (missed or not). Kelly later ended her evening (a good effort at 7pm) by puking all over herself.

Truly charming. And so proudly South African too.

On the flip side, that same night I met a Swedish gentleman who did his nation proud by explaining to me that he was staunchly right-wing and did not believe in racial and class mingling. And that Nelson Mandela should still be on the recognised terrorist list. I asked him if he truly believed that a 90-year-old man, who can hardly stumble across a stage, was really a risk to world peace... but that was just as Kelly Osborne graced the pub with her gastro-technic skills so we never got to finish that conversation.

All types, eh?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lost in translation

Today I met a lady from the Philipines. Lovely lady, although her English and general knowledge needs a bit of work. She asked me where I was from and our conversation went like this:

Me: I'm from South Africa.
Her: I don't know where that is.
Me: It's south, in Africa.
Me continuing, thinking she might know parts of SA: Have you heard of Cape Town, or Table Mountain?
Her: No.
Me: Oh. Well, it's a pretty country.
Her [smiling enthusiastically]: Yes! You are pretty. You look like Barbie!
Me: Riiiight..

I decided not to get into the fact that my dark hair and flat chest have never made me an obvious contender for Barbie look-a-like talent, and also chose to ignore the point that she apparently thought I had said that I was pretty.

Later, I told my colleagues I was going to Schuytstraat, which is traditionally pronounced 'Shcout straat'. Being of foreign origins, I tend to make these things up and my pronounciation was closer to 'Shkate straat'. My Dutch colleagues' eyes watered as they tried not to laugh at my attempt.

Today I learnt that sh-kate (schijt-) means 'shit'. I told them that I was heading up Shit Street.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

TAR: Special Edition Part II

Finally, the much awaited, much anticipated sequel of The Amazing Race: Special Edition. Like all bad sequels, it doesn't have much plot and the starring actors weren't paid enough to learn their script.

Tuesday 7th October: Humming the tunes of Chicago, Mills and Koekie must cram the following attractions into their final full day in NYC: Wall Street, Ground Zero, Bull statue in financial district, Circle Line cruise around Manhattan, view Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, view Brooklyn Bridge, Natural History Museum and/or Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum. Without too much delay, Koekie and Mills successfully navigate the subway to the financial district, where Ground Zero dominates in its absense of height. Having found Wall Street easily enough (by following the panicked traders), Mills and Koekie lose points as they cannot find the notorious Bull Statue. They bypass this challenge and race up to Pier 16 to join the tourist crowds for a boat tour around Manhattan Island. Koekie shows general lack of geographical knowledge, by admitting that she didn't realise New York City was largely one little island. Having thoroughly sighted and documented the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Brooklyn Bridge, Koekie and Mills must squeeze in lunch at the original John's Pizzeria (where they learn that pizza PIE is in fact, a whole pizza) and then proceed to the Natural History Museum where they must visit as many exhibitions before being evicted at closing time. By evening they are able to squeeze in another visit to the Financial District (the Bull's bronzed balls must be located and groped... mission eventually accomplished), and dinner at Big Nick's New York Diner with a local SA acquaintance.

Wednesday 8th October: Koekie and Mills make up for lost time by making quick progress across Central Park to visit the Metropolitan Museum, severing underestimating the size and interest contained in this building. Whirring through the Asian, Greek and Egyption and other African exhibits, they must draw themselves away and along to the Guggenheim Museum. Here, they lose points for not realising that the Guggenheim is being renovated and therefore largely closed to the public. However, the pair recover quickly, taking one last stroll through Central Park (brisk pace, as Koekie is in need of a toilet again), and heading down to Times Square for a last minute shopping session, where they are lucky enough to glimpse a sighting of the well-known (and aging) Naked Cowboy. Koekie earns points for purchasing a pair track pants with "I *heart* NY" across the bum. Koekie and Mills are on the bus back up the Boston by 3pm.

Mills earns major extra points, when he reveals that he has arranged for the couple to be accommodated at the Boston Backbay Hilton for one night, in celebration of their 6 year anniversary. Big points. Huge.

Thursday 9th October: The cracks are starting to show on our starring couple, with neither wanting to concede that the other has any sense of direction (and neither do). With a few threats on each other's health, Koekie and Mills eventually find their way to their Bostonian hosts' abode and then begin the Boston sightseeing in earnest. First stop, Harvard Square and campus. Mills tries to up his intellect by purchasing Harvard clothing. Back into town, Koekie and Mills find themselves on a WWII amphibious Boston Duck Tour. Mills gains extra points by quacking with enthusiasm when instructed by Conducktor. The day is completed with the best seafood that has been had in a while, and a bit more baseball viewing (where Koekie is able to put her new found Fenway knowledge to conversational use, gaining points for application).

Friday 10th October: Mills and Koekie set of on a walking tour of The Freedom Trail around historical Boston. Sights include: Massachusetts State Houses (both present and original), Old Granary graveyard (where the founders and signers of the Declaration of Independence rest), Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere's original house, the USS Constitution, Boston Common, Boston Public Gardens and... the bar that inspired the Cheers series (okay, that's not really part of the historical tour). The final challenge for Boston sightseeing, is to find the Samual Adams Brewery. Koekie is not a team player in this event, as she feels that there are more interesting things to do than hunt down a hard-to-find tiny brewery in the middle of nowhere. After a wandering taxi trip, a directionless stomp and having to wait for 50 mins for the next tour, she feels justified. Her whining is dulled somewhat after the third free tasting an hour later.

Saturday 11th October: The Bostonian hosts organise an All-American sports day for the departing guests. Koekie and Mills must face a number of baseball pitches (slow - extra fast) in a batting cage, learn to throw and receive a football like a NFL star, and shoot hoops like Yao Ming. Koekie only braves slow and medium pitches, while Mills attempts (but doesn't get a whiff of) a few extra fast balls. On the basketball pitch, Koekie runs circles around Mills but soon loses interest and runs out of breath. On the football pitch, Koekie proves to be a very stupid receiver, but surprisingly accurate with her throws. Koekie sees a promising career as a quarterback. Nobody has signed her yet.

Sunday 12th October: Koekie and Mills get home to find one half-dead fish and a very shtanky apartment.

The Amazing Race: Special Edition

Welcome to this special episode of The Amazing Race. Please note that this is a delayed recording, however it was enacted in front of a live American audience...

Thursday 2nd October: Mills and Koekie set out at 5am to make their early morning flight to London, then onto Boston. Surprisingly, Koekie is let through passport control without question or complaint. Mills and Koekie arrive in Boston, where they are asked by several different officials what they are carrying in their luggage and how much cash they have on them. Officials quickly lose interest when it is determined that Koekie and Mills have none of the 'good stuff' usually associated with travelers flying out of Amsterdam. Later, Koekie falls asleep during dinner due to jetlag issues.

Friday 3rd October: Mills and Koekie visit their first baseball stadium - in fact that oldest baseball stadium in the US: Fenway Park. Koekie learns a lot about the 86-year Curse of the Bambino and other Red Sox history. These statistics will be tested in knowledge challenges, later in the adventure. By the end of Friday, Koekie and Mills must find their way with local Bostonians up to Waterville Valley in the White Mountains (New Hampshire) to a quiet ski community.

Saturday 4th October: Koekie and Mills wake up to find themselves surrounded by world-renowned North American trees in fall. Most noticably sugar maples. Koekie's challenge of the day is to repeatedly exclaim the following phrase to anyone close enough to listen: "I'm sorry, I just can't get over these colours!" Koekie, Mills and Bostonian hosts set out on a short mountain climbing attempt, which takes longer than anticipated as the group is unable to complete their first task within an acceptable time limit: find your way out of the small village of no more than 300 residents. An hour later, after circumnavigating town centre thrice, they are onto Challenge Two: find your way up the Scauer Trail to take in breath-taking views over the ski slope region. Here, Koekie will find further opportunity to use her reward phrase: "I'm sorry, I just can't get over these colours!" On the way down, the group is faced by Challenge Three of the day: wade across frigid cold mountain spring at high water levels. Do not get clothes, shoes, or other equipment wet.

Sunday 5th October: Back on the road with an early start, the pair must get back to Boston in order to catch the pre-booked bus down to New York City. Their task successfully met, Mills and Koekie must use this 5-hour trip to plan their time on Manhattan Island to maximum capacity. This challenge is also combined with finding their hotel in Upper Westside (with shared facilities: one toilet and shower per 8 double rooms per floor... to be included in future challenges). End of day challenge is an easy one: find a grocery store open after 9pm on a Sunday in order to replenish fresh vitamin levels. Challenge quickly completed, with choice of which store to use. (It's actully harder to find a store that doesn't stay open 24/7.)

Monday 6th October: Up early, but not early enough to avoid toilet rush on shared facilities, Koekie and Mills must in one day complete the following visits: Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station, New York Public Library, Museum of Modern Art, Times Square, Broadway, Rockefella Centre and Central Park. Pressured for time, Mills and Koekie earn extra points by even managing to purchase half-price tickets to watch Chicago on Broadway that same evening. However, this ambitious move almost loses them points when they nearly do not get to the Ambassador Theatre on time. Supper is sacrificed due to time limits, but Koekie suggests that a dose of culture is just as nourishing as a hearty meal. Mills does not concur.

End of part one. Part two to follow shortly. Stay tuned folks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Crazy Dame Olga almost killed our fish. Literally. We got back to an overwhelming stench in our apartment and found Deaky trying to wade his way through his revolting brown water (filter properly clogged). Closer inspection showed a finger-think layer of fishfood at the bottom of the bowl. Understandably, Deaky showed great signs of distress as his scales were covered in a grey film and the veins in his nose had burst, developing into an angry red.

Not pretty.

Crazy Dame Olga had been politely asked to feed the fish ONCE in our absence. During this conversation, Crazy Dame Olga lectured me on how cruel we were to our pet because it is very unhappy and lonely and we should provide it with a bigger aquarium, play-things and more stimulation. I nodded patronisingly and ignored her. Crazy woman.

Apparently a fan of Killing Them with Love, she emptied the entire fish food container into the tank, blessing our poor, under-stimulated and lonely fish with food poisoning. She damn near killed our fish in 10 days - something I haven't been able to do in over a year. Hmmm, actually this might have a lot to say about why her children never come to visit her.

After a change of water and spending a few days in fishie quarantine, Deaky seems on the path to recovery as the grey film is lessening and the burst veins are less aggressive. Poor bugger.

In other news, the trip to the US was okay. Not much to talk about really.

...just kidding.

More to follow. All in good time.... All in good time...