The “Scrotumgate” Affair

29 01 09



The aspiring cellists among you can breathe a sigh of relief, and can rush out to the local musical instrument shop and purchase a cello.

Yes, the good news is that the condition publicised by the British Journal of Medicine in 1974 called ‘Cello Scrotum’, does not actually exist. It was, in fact, invented by Baroness Murphy and her then hubby John, as a prank. They sent a letter complaining of the condition to the journal, which then published it and apparently rumours of the condition have endured.

Baroness Murphy is a mental health expert in the U.K, and is “active on mental health and ageing issues in the House of Lords.” John Murphy is the chairman of a brewery.

It is important for all musicians, and those who appreciate music, to be aware of a number of afflictions facing them today. The following conditions, which may or may not have been reported in leading medical journals during the past 30 or so years, may or may not exist:

 – Violin Chin: decreased hair on the patch of beard coming into contact with the instrument (note: hirsute female violinists actively desire this condition)

Oboe Lip: inflammation of the lips due to blowing.


Triangle Wrist: a need to propose toasts every time one spies a glass, cup, mug or anything that will clang when a teaspoon is used to tap it.

Harp Hair:  entanglement of one’s hair in the instrument’s strings, causing shrieks from the harpist, and generally ruining the mood.

Bag Pipes Nausea: a violent compulsion to vomit upon hearing the bag pipes. Incidence: frequent.


Electric Guitar Hip Dysplasia: pain in the pelvic area of the body owing to violet hip thrusting resulting from wishing to hear that geeeeetar sing. Incidence: frequent among teenage males and Nickleback. Treatment: death (by beheading).

You have been warned.




Julius’s Month

27 01 09

As the month of Extember nears its loathsome, abhorrent end, let’s see what ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, has been up to at the start of 2009.

In the middle of this month, Julius’s hero Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC, was told by the Supreme Court of Appeals that he’d have to face fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges. Julius was aggrieved. He told us that the National Prosecuting Authority must ‘save the country’ by dropping the charges against our future president.

 “We are not retreating from our call that the NPA must drop charges because there are no winnable charges against the president of the ANC,” said Malema.

Then, a couple of days ago, Cope and the DA Youth lodged a complaint against Julius for his comments on Saturday about the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of rape. The Daily News quoted Julius as follows:

“When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money. In the morning, that lady requested breakfast and taxi money. You can’t ask for money from somebody who raped you.

The Human Rights Commission will now investigate Julius’s comments.

Finally, it seems Julius’s month of Extember will end on a high note: apparently, he appears prominently on the ANC’s list of candidates for the upcoming election, despite holding a full-time position within the Youth League. We should know by tomorrow for certain if he’s going to be on the list.

Overall, Julius has had a busy month. He’s told us that the president of our country, assuming that will be Jacob Zuma, is above the law. He’s also defined rape according to the time at which a woman leaves the home of her rapist, whether or not she’s hungry after intercourse, and whether or not she requests cab fare.

All these statements prove one thing to me: he is a marvellous individual to put forward to serve in an intelligent and fair government. If only elections were tomorrow… 

Interminable Extember

22 01 09

Extember 2009, otherwise known as ‘January’, has been a shitting long and awful month.  The never-ending month has been full of nothing. I’ve had neither impetus nor means to do anything of substance.

Instead, I have found myself doing a lot of wallowing and wondering, which we all know never leads to any good. Coupled with that, I’ve done far too little exercise unless one counts showering and folding washing as exerting oneself.

The world seems to be getting on with it, which makes me even more depressed, jealous and vengeful. Barack Obama became an American president; Graham Smith and team won a cricket test series against the seemingly invincible Australians; Jim Carey got to kiss Ewan McGregor, and Mars sextiled Uranus today.

Fucken’ planets.

The Neighbours Have Arrived

20 01 09

My neighbour and friend H has just informed me that our new neighbours are students. Male students.

So much for the slightly geeky, hot, quiet guy I was expecting. Or even the serial killer who made no noise and just kept to himself. Either would have been great – certainly better than noisy varsity-goers.

Really a pity. I’ve gotten used to walking through my house in states of semi nudity, and now I have to either close the blind in the kitchen that overlooks their balcony, or actually get dressed. Or, I could embrace the nudist in me buried deep down.

Curse them!

Ridiculous Studies

19 01 09

Chappies bubble gum wrappers always had a bunch of factoids on the inside of the paper, asking the question ‘Did You Know?’

In that vein…Did You Know?

  • That a study shows that people who sleep fewer hours are more prone to colds?
  • That a study shows that teenagers share risky behaviour on MySpace?
  • That a study shows that one in 200 American teenagers is vegetarian?
  • That a study shows that there is a relationship between emotional stress and cardiac dysfunction?
  • That a study shows that the wealthier a man is, the more frequently his female partner has orgasms?
  • That moderate drinking benefits only healthy patients?
  • That a chill wind increases blood pressure in older age?




  • That headbanging is hazardous to one’s health?  


I think the real question here is, WHY would we want to know any of this, and DO we actually care? Is it really fascinating and groudbreaking to learn that drinking alcohol if you are sick isn’t going to help your health all that much? Or that flinging your neck around like you have a moth in your ear  – even if you are the only vegetarian in your class of 200 people –  might actually cause some bodily damage? Is it remarkable and worth knowing that grandpa shouldn’t walk in an icy gale if he wants to live to see his granddaughter get neck ache and lose brain cells from headbanging?

Surely the money spent on such research would be better spent on a more worthy cause, such as…oh, I don’t know…figuring out what we’re going to do when earth’s water runs out?

Do you think I’m being unfair? Maybe there ARE subjects out there that deserve wads of cash thrown at them in the form of study grants. Perhaps it is a good idea to see if yo-yo’s improve hand-eye co-ordination? Or if cannibals prefer the taste of Singaporeans to South Africans? Maybe we have always wanted to know if people sing popular musical theatre numbers or heavy metal in the shower?

Who wants to sponsor my research? Anyone?

Rape as a Means of War

16 01 09


A Congolese gynaecologist has won the inaugural ‘African of the Year’ contest, organised and sponsored by Nigeria’s Daily Trust paper. Look, one of the competitors was S.A’s very own soon-to-be president, Jacob Zuma, but let us not allow that to detract from Dr Denis Mukwege’s extraordinary work. This amazing man runs a clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for rape survivors. He does everything from basic treatment of these women – including the high number who contract HIV as a result of the rapes –  to reconstructive surgery. He was awarded the Olof Palme prize recently, for outstanding achievement in promoting peace.

Despite having never been there myself, I feel justified in saying that the DRC is an unbearable place for women (and everyone else) to live. The DRC is at war, and as Dr Mukwege says, all sides have “declared women their common enemy.”

I came across research done by politics student Dara Cohen, at Stanford University in the U.S: Explaining Sexual Violence During Civil War: Evidence from the Sierra Leone War (1991-2002). Cohen cites sources which maintain that rape in the DRC’s conflict in 2006 was so violent that hospitals had entire wards devoted to the treatment of the resulting fistula injuries. She also wrote that this particular war (and other civil wars) is marked by high levels of sexual violence from all factions – the armed forces, the national police, the rebel forces and civilians.

This is why I find the awarding of this accolade – whatever weight it may or may not hold – to a man devoted to helping women who, without his assistance, could hope to live only shattered, half lives, remarkable and fitting. Dr Mukwege’s actions defiantly say that not all men in the DRC are savages during wartime. He is telling women that their fear is justified, but that help and care is available for a trauma that has become a foregone conclusion in that country. Women will be raped there, and most likely many, many times by people who are meant to either protect them, or at the very least, not harm them in this way.

What Dara Cohen wrote about why she believes rape is such a prevalent tool in civil war, strikes a chord:

I argue that the answer lies in the fact that rape, in addition to its well-documented value in terrorizing a population, is an unusually successful tool in facilitating bonding between new members of a combatant group. For certain types of combatant groups, the social benefits of committing acts of sexual violence outweigh the physical and emotional costs. That rape is part of a socialization process is clear when examining the details of how rape is committed -in particular, the fact that rape in civil war often is a public act of gang rape. In Sierra Leone, survey data show that 75% of the reported incidents of rape were committed by groups of people, as opposed to lone perpetrators. The ex-combatants themselves also report a strong social pressure to commit rape. In my interviews, they describe a subculture in which those who had raped many women obtained a sort of legendary status amongst their peers—one interviewee spoke with awe about a fellow combatant who had raped over 200 women – and those who refused to participate were ruthlessly mocked.

On receiving his award Dr Mukwege said, “I am pleased to accept this award if it will highlight the situation of women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” He says he’ll used the $20 000 prize money to fund a centre to help rape survivors rejoin society.


The BBC says his clinic receives an average of 10 new patients every day, so I am sure he can use all the help he can get.



Couple of Books

14 01 09

I’ve just read “The Karma Suture”, a novel by South African doctor Rosamund Kendel, and to my surprise it was a good read. Why this surprised me was because I did not expect much owing to the title’s rather corny pun, and a short review published on the cover insisting that the main character, Dr Sue Carey, was like Bridget Jones with a soul, or something like that. Not that I have anything against the Bridget Jones of the books by the same name, as opposed to the character Renee Zellweger brought to life. But Dr Sue Carey is not even vaguely like Bridget Jones, and is far more complex and interesting.

I enjoyed this novel because it gave the reader a real sense of what it must be like to be a doctor in the public health ‘system’ in South Africa. Granted, I am sure almost every politically aware South African is well aware of just how untenable government hospitals are, and the dire state of supplies and conditions there. What makes this book different is that Kendel – through the voice of Carey – relates the personal side of what it means to be a doctor in the state sector through the people she introduces, while keeping a solid storyline going. She never lapses into extreme soppiness or sentimentality, and this only heightens the emotion she hopes to convey – there were very moving passages about how often people become just a collection of illnesses in these understaffed facilities, and just how difficult – yet strangely simple – it is to see the person behind the HIV etc.

Prior to that I read “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr, which was fantastic. This was a murder mystery set in 1897 Manhattan, just when psychology was beginning to come into its own as a tool for analysing motives behind crime. Apparently, psychologists were called ‘alienists’ in those days, as they studied people who were ‘alienated’ from both themselves and society as a result of mental disorders. I am not sure when the term psychologist replaced that older one.

The novel centres on an investigation into a serial killer in New York at that time by a makeshift bunch of detectives: a reviled psychologist (because he refuses to accept that people act without being influenced by childhood events), a newspaper reporter, the first woman employed by the police department although not in the capacity of police officer; and two forensic medicine investigators who use finger printing, which was not accepted as valid at that time.

This story gave a great sense of New York at the turn of the 20th century – what a dive! I would thoroughly recommend both novels.