A few thousand pennies for my egg

27 08 09

So what’s the weirdest task you’ve been expected to fulfill at work? Something that was overtly asked of you when you signed on, or something that came up incidentally over the course of your tenure of employment?

Today my colleauge asked me to donate an ovum so that she could investigate the  in-vitro fertilisation process up close for an article she’s writing. She said I’d get R6000 apparently, which I’ll admit did sway me. She prefaced this by asking me to become involved next month with an investigative article she’s undertaking. Before the little egg request bombshell, I responded quite positively and thought it might be fun to see what it’s like to be an investigative journo. Then I remebered it usually means tons of fruitless and frustrating phonecalls, hours of meetings from which one garners very little of relevance, and opposition to the topic at hand.

Anyway, back to my egg. I declined to give one up, although not without a moment of consideration. Of course, I would like to see where my little ovum ends up. Would it be paired with a sperm from a smart, funny, sensitive, good looking individual? Or would I, years from now while shopping in Pick ‘n Pay, spot a little blighter with my nose and mouth, and Julius Malema’s eyes, and talent for woodwork and coherent comment?

Yeaaah, even though it seems that my ova are more likely than not to remain unfertilised for the foreseeable future, I’m happy to let them go. The risks of coming across my own resemblance in a child wearing a “I heart Kurt Darren” t-shirt far outweigh the cash.

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Representin’ Oirland

25 08 09

Last night, in an attempt to lessen the stupdendously huge amount of time each evening I spend reading challenging works of literature (the instructions on how to use my iron, my complex’s newsletter which hasn’t changed in 2.5 years), I watched the first series of Father Ted. After listening to my colleague R and Orange Poodle regularly quote a range of beautifully blasphemous statements from the show, I realised I would have to see it.

It did not disappoint. At the moment – one series in – I am greatly enjoying the number of times Father Ted gets smashed in the face for random reasons, and the ramblings of the insane Tom, who wears a t-shirt proclaiming  “I shot J.R.”

As amusing as actually watching the show is thinking about it, and I’ve found myself giggling over my chicken mayo and gherkin sandwich today, which is pretty disgusting if you think what partially masticated fowl and cucumber looks like in one’s laughing gob.

I find it fitting and hilarious that Dermot Morgon, who played Father Ted, died in 1998 from a heart attack he suffered during a celebratory party the day after filming the final episode.

So I say, feck Bono and The Corrs and Mary Robinson…Father Ted is the real Irish superstar.


Our girl Caster

24 08 09

I haven’t followed much of the weekend’s news and thus am not sure if there have been any developments regarding the gender furore about South African 800 metres women’s world champion, Caster Semenya. Her story has, however, continued to occupy my thoughts.

As the teenage sprinting star – and a large chunk of the world – now wait to find out if she is a woman or a man or one of dozens of possible genetic variations  of these incredibly complex concepts called gender and sex (explained simply here), much of the world’s media seem to have lost the plot when reporting on this story.

My contention is that by failing to address questions about Semenya’s sex prior to the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Athletics South Africa effectively threw her to the wolves. ASA tripped at the first hurdle, which would have been to act on the rumblings of gender questions which surfaced when she began breaking records a few months ago. It would have been awkward and embarrassing and potentially devastating, but genetic tests prior to the Berlin championships would have achieved two things: First, they could have spared devastating a young athlete quite so publicly and grotesquely, and second, would have given ASA credence as a professional sporting organisation, and not simply one that just hopes the world won’t notice when things may be questionable. But ASA did nothing, and offered their star athlete absolutely no protection in the face of questions about her essence.

Such action might have averted sensationalist journalism which focussed on comments by people who could not express themselves adequately in English (the language in which their quotes appeared in every report I’ve read). It might have prevented sloppy, unethical journalists and lazy editors from publishing some of the most morally offensive statements I’ve ever seen in print. We and Semenya might never have had to read the irrelevant tripe that an alleged friend of hers told a Times reporter, asserting that all through her school years Semenya had never liked boys. It is likely that neither Semenya nor the news-seeking public would have had to cringe as we heard her coach attempt a defence of his student by urging the reporters to ask those who’d seen Semenya naked in changeroom showers to confirm that she had women’s genitals. All this predictable tabloid shit might never have happened, and Semenya’s anguish – because she surely must be feeling more vulnerable, unhappy and alone than she ever has before – could have been hers to address as she wished.

This is really such a complicated issue, I believe, and I couldn’t even begin to talk about the aspects of femininity, sex, gender, race, socioeconomic circumstance and education this raises.

At the heart of it, Caster Semenya is a teenage woman who has behaved with dignity and self-respect well beyond her years, and with a grace that most of those closely involved in this saga will never achieve. She is a woman because she knows herself as such, and that is good enough for me.


Losing reading

21 08 09

I’ve broken a rule of my own making, which has led to the confusion and unhappiness I suspected would follow when I first committed myself, many moons ago, to this self-inflicted law.

When I realised that reading more than one book at a time negatively impacted my capacity for remaining coherent and lucid in thought, I vowed never to read more than one novel at a time.

I have failed.

I am currently ‘reading’ three books, if by ‘reading’ I really mean “allowing the books to gather dust while panicking nightly about the fact that I can’t seem to finish just one of them, let alone all three.”

Yes. That about sums up the ‘reading’ I’m currently doing. At the moment, The Corrections, Through the Looking-Glass and The Crying of Lot 49 have been shelved while I watch the British seasons of The Office, and The Mentalist.

Fairly soon I will have lost the discipline needed to set aside mandatory time to read properly, and after that I will forget how to read at all. I’ll start pushing at doors marked “pull”, and buying smooth instead of chunky cottage cheese. I’ll start picking up Playboy magazines just for the pictures. I’ll get colleagues to read me my email and will learn to disguise the blushing when I receive spam entitled “Grow your penis”.

On the upside, I’ll never again be able to read anything written by Jessie Duarte. Always a bright side!


When symbolism goes badly wrong

20 08 09

I attended a ceremony commemorating organ donors this morning, for work. It’s the second time I’ve been and it is pretty darn depressing. I know it’s never all that uplifting attending an event inspired by death, but it seems this one tried as much as possible to emphasise the life-giving aspect of donating one’s organs after death. I get that. It’s a cool thing to do, and it did spur me on to finally sign up to allow a lucky person to get my heart et al. after I’ve pegged. That way at least I’ll really be dead and there’ll be no chance of unfortunate reanimation once I’ve been shoved in a box in the ground…or wherever.

Owing to a somewhat unfortunate quirk of today windy, freezing Jo’burg weather, the finale of the event took a bizarre turn, which I found amusing (this obviously illustrates my warpedness). Those of us gathered at a memorial statue for the country’s organ donors were asked to each release a helium-filled balloon into the sky, to celebrate the generosity of those who’ve given life to hundreds of others.

As we released our balloons, shouts of “to the donors!” were heard, just before the wind came up and swept dozens of the bright yellow balloons into a nearby pine tree. Thus, the chorus of support for the departed donors was drowned out by a barrage of furious popping as the balloons became tangled up in the branches, and never made it out to the sky.

To summarise:

“To the donors!”

pop pop popopopopopopopopopopop.

Stare.


The child inside

18 08 09

After our usual Saturday morning walk, Green Border Collie and I usually pop into the nearby bakery for a pastry (to ruin whatever good we’ve accomplished during the aforementioned exercise) or a more healthy brunch. The past two such occasions have proved to be quite weird in that two little girls, around three and four years old, have struck up a conversation with us (on separate occasions) after staring at us for a short while. No doubt about it, we are kid magnets, which is quite odd considering my general distaste for the ankle biters.

After some conversation with the second child, Green Border Collie made the astute observation that the important concerns in her life – the life of an almost 30-year-old woman –  were really no different to those of a three-year old girl’s: G.B is also unimpressed that her nail polish comes off in the bath; that her mom says she doesn’t have money to buy her everything she wants; that she also enjoys going to her friends’ parties; and that poking people in the arm/back and then giggling is really good fun.

That G.B identified so strongly with the child was bloody amusing. There was a lot of my friend in that little girl, who was, dare I say it, quite enchanting as far as children go.

***********

Finally, for the open-plan office workers among us, read this and find out why your blood pressure might be raised.


I’m in da money

17 08 09

Today I was paid a refund of two month’s worth of unwarranted billing by a life insurer which chose not to cancel my policy when I asked it to. I did not receive the R680 I expected, dear friends. Nope, it seems whoever made the payment must have had a slippery finger and thus added an extra zero to the figure I was meant to receive. As a result, for the first time in nine months, my bank account looks healthy (or perhaps just not like a dying TB patient). I feel a deep urge to spend the extra R6000. And the following list contains the various items I would purchase and the reasons for doing so:

1)    A “Manto Rocks!!” t-shirt and “Dr Beetroot for Prez” cap for  Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs for his statement that herbs “surpasses antiretrovirals because your body gets used to them” and “arrests the spread of the viral load”.

2)    A dummy that Schabir Shaik can put in his bed, and a snoring machine (Ferris Beuller style), to fool authorities into believing that he’s really at home dying instead of gallivanting around Durban while out of jail on medical parole.

3)    A gilt-edged race card for Cape Judge President John Hlophe to flash at will as he keeps on embarrassing the South African judicial system.

4)    Sturdy foot straps nailed to the tables at Rose Boys, to help prevent drunken members of my family falling off said tables while ‘dancing’ on them.

5)    A chef to teach me how to make grilled haloumi as well as Plaka in Illovo does.

6)    A pair of Ed Hardy and Superga sneakers.

After that, I’ll squander what remains Chappies bubblegum and chocolate.