Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's Sunday and time for work.

A newsroom duty shift at this time of year is agonising if there's no big news story on the go.
It involves phoning the cops, emergency services and traffic authorities for news checks.
Monitoring other media in case they know about something you don't.
And checking the news wires for updates, news snippets and breaking news alerts. Generally the wire stories are one long scrolling lists of traffic wraps, weather updates at holiday destinations, the odd political announcement (e.g the Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilitieshas called on parents not to abandon their children during the festive season when they hit the shebeens over Christmas and New Year - as apparently is the custom in some places), the holiday road death toll and stuff like that.
And so a day in the newsroom, with glorious weather outside and virtually everyone you know enjoying a holiday, can be torturous. And oh so depressingly loooong.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flying and the Tiger flag.

Christmas travel plans for people flying on British Airways were turned upside down this morning. It seems their cabin crew staff all voted to strike over the busiest, most chaotic time of year when airfares are THE most expensive. Not a bad move for a crowd wanting to make some noise around the planet, but totally awful for travellers looking forward to Christmas and New Year with loved ones faraway.
It's all still in a maddening state of chaos as BA goes hammer and tongs at re-arranging their entire flight schedule. It took a full day of phoning travel agents, airlines, travel agent associations and tour operators to determine that nobody actually knows anything more than the bland "We don't know/can't say anything yet" statement posted up on the BA website and read out in soothing tones on a recorded voice message on their landline if your call is picked up by their computer.
It's a frustrating and worrying time for many people who have their holiday hopes pinned on Britain's national carrier.
And like most days in recent times, yet another Tiger Woods mistress emerged with a sob story about how, like the other 10 or 20 or whatever, had thought that his marriage was on the rocks and that she was the only "other woman".
Like Accenture, a couple of other companies who fly the Tiger flag distanced themselves from him and have scrapped his face from their product advertising.
His main backer Nike is standing firm in their support of the guy. I don't find this at all surprising. After all, he can hardly be accused of not living the brand of a company whose slogan is "Just do it"!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Clutching out....

Survived the second day in a row at the office today. While people are winding down and looking forward to their holidays, I have drawn the short straw in the form of two Sunday shifts in a row PLUS the December 16 public holiday. In this climate of low energy levels and not much on the news front compounded by a 6am start every morning, I may just as well shoot myself!
But I am hanging tough and being strong. Sort of. Yesterday a staircase collapsed on 70 people in church. Luckily nobody was killed or I would have felt REALLY bad about the awful office jokes about "no staircase to heaven" .
Today the juiciest story by far was the latest development in the woes of Tiger Woods who, in a single day, lost more money than I have earned in my entire life because Accenture dropped him as the face of their brand - something about feeling tetchy over the integrity issue or some such. And his growing list of skelms apparently now numbers 14 including a madam who's dishing out the goss on how much he spent on ladies of the night at her upmarket house of ill repute.
I spent ages going through an entire page of things to do over the holidays. And since I will have a couple of days off due to me after working all these grim shifts, I plan to undertake a few mom-and-daughter adventures with Little One. And there are awesome things out there: bum boarding on carpet slopes, drag racing round an indoor track, sand skiing down mine dumps. I am so stoked.
And then on top, I found Jozi's very own Boksburg-by-the-sea - the Wild Waters fun park. I phoned them to ask if they are snotty like Valley of the Waves at Sun City where they search you at the entrance in case you take so much as your own box of Smarties instead of paying their extortionate prices for whatever rubbish hamburgers and junk food they want to flog you.
"Skattie, you can bring whatever you want with you. Even some meat and have a braai. We just don't allow any glass bottles or alko-holl, and no music," said the delightful lady manning their phone.
Excellent! It sounds even more exciting than the fun balls for kids at Cedar Square. Little One is going to have a blast!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Surviving the silly shopping season...

Early this morning a gang of armed robbers hit Hyde Park. Soon after that another gang hit a Pick 'n Pay in Soweto. The silly season is well and truly upon us. I came up with the idea of writing a survival guide to Christmas shopping in Jozi. It's not like one you will find in London or Sydney or Hong Kong. I can't think of where else one would start a shopping guide with expert advice that says: if you hear screaming when you enter the mall assume there is a robbery in progress, look around for the nearest exit and leave when safe to do so.
Then it was hot wings and pizza for lunch. All courtesy of The*Editor who sprang for it as a gesture to mark a farewell to my colleague The Brat. She of the mini skirts, thigh boots, lingerie-style tops and long tresses. She is leaving us for a career in TV.
It's a loss to our newsroom. Sad to see her go.But as she says, we will still be able to see her on TV and maybe laugh our heads off at her as she learns the ropes.
Bye Brat!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

That time of year...

We're in the downward slide to the end of the year - that awful time when it takes effort and energy to blink, and everyone around seems to have cosmic fatique or whatever you call that lethargy pervading office spaces where people are hanging on and counting days til they go on leave.
It was in this state that I sat at my desk this morning and was asked to rush off to the Jozi High Court to assist my colleague in his efforts to interview the relatives and victims of Ananias Mathe - the slippery character who was sentenced to spend the next 54 years in jail for something like 79 counts of robbing, raping and pilaging. The judge was apparently not overly impressed with his claims that he became a damaged soul when he was turned into a child soldier at age 11.
So I rushed down to transport to get a drop-off. But there were no drivers. So I had to walk all the way across town, arriving just in time for nothing. Seems all the family and victims had stayed away from the sentencing procedures. So there was nothing for me to do but walk all the way back.
And continue working on the pile of stuff I am trying to get through.
Then a friend mailed me this little personal ad. I thought it was great:


To the Guy Who Tried to Mug Me Downtown night before last.

I was the guy wearing the black Burberry jacket that you demanded that I hand over, shortly after you pulled the knife on me and my girlfriend, threatening our lives. You also asked for my girlfriend's bag and earrings. I can only hope that you somehow come across this rather important message.
First, I'd like to apologize for your embarrassment; I didn't expect you to actually crap in your pants when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket. The evening was not that cold, and I was wearing the jacket for a reason.. My girlfriend had just bought me that Kimber Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol for my birthday, and we had picked up a shoulder holster for it that very evening. Obviously you agree that it is a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head ...... isn't it?!
I know it probably wasn't fun walking back to wherever you'd come from with that brown sludge in your pants. I'm sure it was even worse walking bare-footed since I made you leave your shoes, cell phone, and wallet with me. [That prevented you from calling or running to your buddies to come help mug us again].
After I called your mother, or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, I explained the entire episode of what you'd done. Then I went and filled up my tank as well as those of four other people in the petrol station, -- on your credit card. The guy with the big motor home took 150 gallons and was extremely grateful!
I gave your shoes to a homeless guy outside Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all the cash in your wallet. [That made his day!]
I then threw your wallet into the big pink "pimp mobile" that was parked at the curb ..... after I broke the windshield and side window and keyed the entire driver's side of the car.
Later, I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cell phone. The phone company just now shut down the line, although I only used the phone for a little over a day now, so what 's going on with that? Earlier, I managed to get in two threatening phone calls to the DA's office and one to the FBI, while mentioning President Obama as my possible target .
The FBI guy seemed really intense and we had a nice long chat (I guess while he traced your number etc.).
In a way, perhaps I should apologize for not killing you ... but I feel this type of retribution is a far more appropriate punishment for your threatened crime. I wish you well as you try to sort through some of these rather immediate pressing issues, and can only hope that you have the opportunity to reflect upon, and perhaps reconsider, the career path you've chosen to pursue in life. Remember, next time you might not be so lucky. Have a good day!
Thoughtfully yours,

Monday, December 7, 2009

The jerk and the arrest threat.

So I almost got arrested today.
I was sent to cover the launch of the festive season anti-crime campaign at Primedia House in Sandton. Off I went, directed by Gina, my Garmin, who decided the most direct route was the easiest. However, a Metro police officer had blocked off the bottom of Fredman Drive – to make life easier for all the diginitaries attending this event no doubt. For heaven’s sake!!! It’s only like one of THE busiest routes in Sandton.
So I did a quick u-turn and came back to ask the burly cop manning the slip road he had blocked with plastic cones if I could please go through.
“Hey! You! Don’t you see that I have blocked this road. Do you want me to arrest you?” he yelled at me, as I told him that I was a journalist for a large media house and desperately needed to get to the smart function he was obviously blockading off.
No joy.
“I want you to reverse and go out and around another way,” he yelled at me, menacingly.
So I stared back menacingly, unable to go anywhere because of the flow of cars behind me. So I pulled out my notebook and pen and made a big show of writing down the registration number of his traffic cop car parked arrogantly across Fredman. But I failed to intimidate him into letting me through.
Thanks to Gina I found another way around and got to the function in time to see our new police chief Bheki Cele, the deputy minister of safety and security and a whole bunch of other high ranking cops all standing for the national anthem.
Then almost two hours of speeches. All about how the cops are gonna take hands with the nation and shoot dead every criminal they come across.
Bheki reiterated his controversial policy: “I have never told my men to shoot to kill. I just said they must use deadly force.”
The talk was tough: the time for criminals to see their graves is nigh, the lucky ones will spend Christmas in orange overalls behind bars, mothers who know their sons are up to no good should now come forward and report them.
The talk was long. Then celebrities took to the podium. Apparently Lira has been a crime victim. And Hip Hop Pantsula as well, according to his ABC t-shirt (“affected by crime” ). And Kurt Darren has been robbed twice and attacked by six guys in his home who tied him up with cable ties.
Everybody was talking tough. Everybody’s had enough. I would be ecstatic if traffic cops were assigned to real work instead of threatening to arrest civilians who dare challenge the placement of their stupid plastic cones.
I hope that not too much blood will flow this Christmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How much did you spend, Mr Mayor?

Joburg's Executive Mayor Amos Masondo is a politician indeed.
Following some not-so-positive media reports about his recent trip to China, Vietnam, India and Russia he quickly called a press briefing to do a bit of damage control.
So off I headed to hear what he had to say. Not surprisingly, he revealed nothing more than was already known. That he had taken 15 people - three of which were "support staff" or aides with him to four countries on a "trade mission".
He lost no time in telling us what a punishing schedule they had. How he sympathised with his fellow travellers when their feet were swollen at the end of the day (perhaps the aides were taken along to massage the tender footsies at the end of the day). It was gruelling, but they did it for the people. The needs of the people were core to all of this.
All of us journalists wanted to know one main thing: exactly how much did this jaunt cost Jozi ratepayers?
First round of questions. First question: "How much did this whole exercise cost?"
Answer: One comma something million rands.
Second round of questions. First question: "Can you be more specific on the cost, please? Can you give an actual figure?"
Answer: When you are talking about these things, it doesn't matter if you spend R1 or R2. You need to weigh it up against the value of what you get at the end of the day, and that is what is important here. We spent something more than a million. It was more than a million, that's all we are saying.
Third round of questions. First question: "Please put an exact figure to the cost of this trip or tell us why you cannot make the cost known. And how do you measure the value, what measures or monitoring process do you have to quantify the value of the trip?"
Answer: You can never quantify these things. There is no way to measure them, but the value is inestimable and will come out in the long term. You see nothing in the short term. But the reports we write will not gather dust, I can assure you. The final cost will be detailed in a report that will be made public in due course".
How is that? The mayor takes 15 people with him to Vietnam, India, China and Russia and now refuses to divulge how much it all cost. Stuff ratepayers, public interest or any other argument we put forward.
He simply refused to say. And there was nothing we could do about it.
So once again the extra-mural activities of Tiger Woods made for the most interesting news of the day.
One of the subs sent me this spoofed Tiger on holiday pic. Classic!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Death on a treadmill

This morning a man working out at the Southgate Virgin Active gym died on a treadmill.
One of the people working out there called the paper to say that this had happened. So I scooted off there with PixEditor, who was sure this was going to be one of those difficult situations.
And so it was.
We arrived at the gym and there, through the front windows, we did indeed see a body on the floor next to a treadmill. It had been covered with one of those silver space blanket jobs, and there was a mobile screen placed next to it - but even the very presence of death was not going to stop the fitness fanatics of the south from getting their morning workout. The rest of the treadmills were buzzing as the gym bunnies did their thing.
The cops were on hand going about investigations - photographing the body and talking to people.
So we entered the front door and encountered the general manager who explained, as one could so easily predict, that he could tell us nothing. They were checking with their lawyers, running their bland statement by a billion top managers for clearance and so we could expect a comment sometime later in the day.
We left. But then PixEd decided to turn back and shoot some images through the glass. This annoyed the gym staff highly and they came storming out, ready to kick butt. The confiscated the camera and stomped off back inside where they handed it to the cops.
PixEd was highy irate by this time, I was on the phone to the newsdesk and the newsdesk got hold of the lawyers. A whole bunch of intricate wranglings went on and the upshot was that PixEd was made to erase his pictures and leave without his R80 000 camera, now in the hands of the police.
We've had to make statements to our lawyers who now have to go the legal route to get the camera returned.
But it seems the story was popular. A mere half-an-hour after my short little news piece went online it had received 3000 hits.
Who would have thought?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The woman who did not want to wear black.

Not much action for me today. Another stint on the newsdesk, ordering everybody else around.
This was not the case for my colleague The Brat who had one very exciting day. Which made my day more exciting because it meant I had better stories to offer for the late edition of today's paper.
So poor Brat was out covering the Jackie Selebi trial. Government was arguing why some intelligence guy should not be allowed to testify when a woman in black decided to shake things up.
While court was in session she decided to demand attention for a case that had apparently gone unheeded. The judge walked out and security was called in.
The woman apparently remained adamant that someone listen to her story in the middle of the corruption trial of our former police chief, asking that she be killed if not allowed to talk.
True quote: "I am asking to be killed if my matter is not going to be addressed."
Security started dragging her out, so she tried to rip her clothes off.
They didn't listen to her. But I don't think they killed her either.
It's now back to boring business.
As I say - it made for a decent diary item for tomorrow's paper.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A bad day for a stressed guy at Standard Bank

A policeman overheard talk on police radio this morning about some or other drama unfolding at Standard Bank in town. He called a journalist colleague who phoned it in and so ChiefPhotographer and I were sent out to find out what was going on.
We arrived and found a group of people standing around at reception chatting - apparently barred from going up to their offices. We went to ask what was happening, and we were told to go and ask at security. Security said they couldn't help us - nobody was available to say anything.
Then three cops with rifles came storming in. They marched off and soon came storming out, jumped in their car and disappeared. Then two cops with dogs came in and then left in much the same way. Bank security came to tell us that they were aware of our presence, but weren't going to tell us anything.
We went back to the office and eventually received their formal explanation of what happened. Here it is, full and complete:
"A Standard Bank employee, who showed visible signs of distress, created security concerns at Standard Bank Centre, 5 Simmonds Street, Johannesburg, at 8am today. As a precautionary measure employees in the immediate area were evacuated. As a further precaution members of the SAPS were also engaged as well as Standard Bank’s professional counselling service. The staff member is currently receiving counselling and normal business has resumed."
So, just a case of a stressed out guy!
Then after lunch we got another call. Apparently more drama at Standard Bank.
Seems the same guy got stressed again. The second statement of the day:
"A Standard Bank employee, who showed visible signs of distress, created security concerns at Standard Bank Centre, Johannesburg, today. The staff member is currently receiving counselling.
As a further precautionary measure in order to check and secure our premises, all employees at Standard Bank buildings in Johannesburg (3 , 5, 6 Simmonds, 25 Sauer, 42 Fox Street) were asked to leave the buildings before 15h00. All our disaster recovery sites have been invoked and are fully operational. We do not expect any disruption to the business .
All Standard Bank employees were asked to go home and return to work in the morning. SAPS and emergency services are on site as a precautionary measure.
Further communications will follow should there be any further developments."
So a stressed out guy has a city bank invoking all its disaster recovery sites, calling in the cops and paramedics and sending everyone working at all their offices in the city home early? Seriously??
He must be having a really, really bad day!

Friday, November 27, 2009

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad...

Five weeks ago today exactly I was in Austria as one of the journalists invited on the BMW EuroStyle 2009 tour. At about this time I was standing in one of the theatres in the Salzburg Festival grounds. We had eaten a splendid lunch of Wiener schnitzel and had visited the flat in which Mozart's widow had lived. A music professor had handed out whistles, triangles, wooden clackers, drums and an assortment of noise-generating implements and had, as he sat before a piano, had played conductor and guided us along in an unexpectedly charming mini symphony. It was glorious!
And so it was that, five Friday afternoons ago, I came to be standing in the arena where they filmed the end scenes of The Sound of Music - one of my all-time favourite movies when I was a kid. Right then an SMS message came through from home. "Are you going out to the family murder scene in Orange Farm?"

At that very moment it hit me how far away I was from my ordinary life in every sense possible. No, I was not rushing off to some blood-stained crime scene in Jozi. I was absorbing the delights of a different existence. As we walked on to join some of the festival staff in a room overlooking the Salzburg scene as we drank Champagne and ate Mozart chocolates I felt a sense of joy bubbling inside me.
Today was back to real life. I spent the morning at the Newlands Regional Court where a man was supposed to be sentenced for shooting a four-year-old child in the head. It was one of those unintentional accidents. His own son had been mugged and had his cellphone stolen, so he had gone running after the muggers. He fired at them, the bullet ricocheted into a creche and struck another man's son and killed him.
It seems not even four-year-olds at play school are safe in Joburg.
It chills my heart and makes me long to be where the hills are alive...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A mascot for evil.

Oh the stress, the stress!
One would have thought that judgement on killer Donovan Moodley's appeal hearing would be a straightforward affair this morning. But that was SO not the case.
The media arrived in court en masse this morning, ready to write about Donovan's every move as well as all the details of Judge Joop Labuschagne's judgement. But first the small matter of getting permission for photographers in court. Fortunately Judge Joop is a pleasant guy, seemingly understanding of the challenges the media face in reporting on court matters and so he cheerfully granted permission for cameras to come in providing no pictures were taken while court was in session.
So I quickly called ChiefPhotographer waiting outside to tell him the good news and then put my phone on silent as judgement began. It started ringing immediately - again and again. As did the phones of my colleagues. Security downstairs had decided to block all photographers and cameramen from entering the courthouse. But we were stuck scribbling away, unable to help or even answer their frantic calls.
In less than half-an-hour the judge had dashed Moodley's hopes that the court would overlook the fact that he was four years late and then grant him his appeal. Quick discussions with the clerk of the court, a call to security downstairs and the photographers were allowed in.
Unfortunately my sidekick ChiefPhotographer got picked out and made to put all his equipment through the x-ray machines while all the other shooters sprinted into courtroom 2B. Not one to be outdone, ChiefPhotographer outdid himself. Like the pro that he is, he headed to the back of the courtroom while the others all mobbed to the front. He bounded across the room, headed down the other side, charged in front of the dock, rammed his camera up in front of Moodley's face and popped off this image. Bam!

As Moodley was led down the stairs he handed a letter to SweetYoungThing from another daily paper. She grabbed it and put it in her bag, causing a massive outcry as the Matthews family yelled at her that she was wrong to take it.
"I'm not giving this to anyone," she cried as several people demanded that she hand the letter over.
Eventually the document was taken by a security official who then handed it over to Piet Byleveld the investigating officer. He checked it out, determined that it was Moodley's own little press statement and let everyone who wanted have copies.
And therein, written in his very own psychopathic script, he posed the question:
"A country sickened by crime must choose an official face for crime and a mascot for evil. Is that me?"
Okay, so all together now: "YES IT IS!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Semi Finalist Mrs South Africa and her Golf Day for Jesus

The stuff that people send through to the paper I work for, the press releases and information they think is newsworthy and destined to make it into print, amazes me. For sure most of the PR companies and such are just taking a chance, hoping that something about their client will be deemed worth a story. But then there are the others who believe that their particular little event/charity day/ school sports/ Chrismas party function for sick kiddies are truly national news and obviously worth not only a full story, but a picture as well.
Today's perplexing wadge of press material was sent in by a woman whose title is Semi Finalist Mrs South Africa. She is 30 years old, has four children - one of them adopted, works for the cops' union and also runs a beauty salon from home called Simple Dimples. She does community work for a youth organisation "whereby I were the Secretary".
Semi Finalist Mrs South Africa is now organising a Golf Day for Jesus. The inspiration for this: "There is every year thousands of babies dumped al over our country and found by the community or police". The aim: To raise funds for victims of crime. The big attraction: celebrities in attendance including Melt Sieberhagen who acted in the movie "Poena is Koning", Dalen Lance and Marisa Bosman (I asked around but nobody in the news room could tell me who these people are). The request: To give massive coverage to this event. Pictures supplied. Eight of them. All of Semi Finalist Mrs South Africa.
I am not sure if, where or how this will be used in the paper.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who's stuffing around with McBride's brakes?

It seems Robert McBride has not yet exhausted every possible way to wangle his way out of a drunk driving conviction.
So far he has succeeded in having his trial stalled for years, with raging controversies along the way. This morning 702 began blasting forth with yet another new revelation: it now seems that the boss pranged his state car, not because he was driving it too fast after downing one too many at the office Christmas party in 2006 but because *shock, horror, gasp!* someone was trying to assasinate him.
Now McBride, who spent some time on death row before our laws changed and the new government decided it was better to give him the Ekhuruleni traffic chief job than hang him, is hardly your average victim. I once interviewed a death row warden who is still haunted by nightmares of the things he saw and did back then, and who was one of the guys who had to oversee McBride. He is a huge guy who played rugby and got his prison job based on his massively intimidating presence. When I asked him about McBride he clammed up and wept in terror. So this is seriously NOT the kind of man you annoy unnecessarily or accidentally don't do the job properly if you try and bump him off.
So anyway, according to 702's big investigation some idiot has been tooling around with the brakes on McBrides car. A few times apparently, without the having so much as accidentally smacked into his own garage door. Imagine!
It's yet another bend in the road to McBride's drunk driving trial set down for March next year. It's going to be an epic ride, people! If you think about it, so much has happened already.
First our esteemed traffic chief tried to claim that the crash happened because he was hypoglycaemic and his whacked out sugar levels made him do it. But the Scorpions (back in the day when they existed *sigh*) bust him and now the doctor who signed off that little report is wishing he hadn't.
Then the dudes who made up his clean-up team and were going to testify as to his innocence started fighting and so he fired them all and locked them out of theie offices.
Then there was a mysterious break in at the Joburg High Court, only one office was hit and dockets relating to the - surprise, surprise - McBride case were taken. Fortunately the guy whose office got robbed was a sussed character and had copies of everything.
Last month there was a strange fire at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court and then a day later a second one broke out in - yes, you got it - the courtroom where McBride was supposed to stand trial.
And now today - we have the sudden leaking of an "explosive" police report, complete with car service invoices to prove that the brake pads on McBrides car were changed, has made it clear that someone has all along been out to get McBride. Because he was investigating a dodgy property deal and they wanted him out of the picture.
There's also another arb statement by a guy they have located who witnessed the crash and says McBride did not roll his car without reason that night - a menacing yellow Mazda caused him to swerve and lose control. So who might this witness be? Ah, coincidence indeed - a traffic cop from McBride's office who happened to be passing by at that very moment on his way home from visiting mates in Harties. Only when he went to help the driver did he suddenly notice it was his traffic chief.
It remains clear as mud why all of this explosive stuff is only coming out now.
I cannot describe how difficult it was to write that story up objectively for print!!
I cracked up when John Robbie named the assassin on air: Johnny Walker!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Suntans and cupcakes

I was a complete zombie today.
Last night as I sat paralysed in front of junk TV after spending the last of my energy in Jonathan's 60-minute step class, the office called at about 8.45pm and asked if I could quickly please file a WHOLE new piece on Moodley. And not to worry, I could have until 11pm or so to finish it. This, when I was completely wrecked AND expected in at the office at 6am this morning. Oh yes - this is why I picked this glamorous career!!!
It was a battle to get through the day. My colleague Diva, who counts calories and gets hysterical about food, enlightened me on the latest overseas articles on the controversy surrounding skin shades in women of colour. I had never thought about it before actually.
" It's not a big deal with us black people here in Africa. If you have light skin and you get involved with a guy who is darker or lighter, it's not an issue. But with Indian girls - yo, yo, yo! Check it out when you go to the shopping malls. You will see that in Indian couples they both generally have the same skin tone as each other. A guy will never get involved with a girl who has darker skin that him, and if you see a guy with dark skin and a girl with light skin, then you must know that he is loaded," she said.
I have truly never noticed this.
She backed up her argument with a whole article published in the Daily Mail in London. Hectic stuff. Seems like that kind of thing is true. The global attitude is that lighter skin is classified as more attractive than darker.
Hey - they should have cocked my puce cheeks last week after I spent a few hours in the sun at the Randburg shootout. Why on earth would lily-white features, blotchy and freckled, rank over the glowing brilliance of Beyonce or the chocolaty sheen on Iman? Go figure.
Our spirits lifted when the cookery page editor brought in her latest load of goodies for everyone to devour after they's been photographed. Cupcakes! Disappointment set in when I picked up one pretty little white one with glitter sparkles dusted on top. It weighed as much as a small brick and the delicate icing was in fact marzipan. Yeugh. I put it on the cabinet next to my desk feeling to guilty to throw it away but unwilling to eat it.
My colleague The (diabetic) Brat arrived back from court, all pale and shaky because her sugar levels were out of whack.
"I'm starving," she said, eyeballing my cupcake.
"It's unlicensed confectionary. You may have it. Don't throw it at a car or you will dent it," I said.
She devoured it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Moodley has his day

Horribly, horribly gruelling day today was.
Killer Donovan Moodley got his little moment in the sun as he took up a bit of Joburg High Court time to try and wangle his way out of jail. When he arrived, I realised why he was trying every trick in the book to get his sorry ass out of Sun City's communal cell. The guy must have lost a third of his body weight. He looked like a schoolboy who borrowed his dad's suit. Even his teeth looked too big for him. Life in jail has not been kind to him since he got bust with a cellphone and lost his single cell and all privileges. Ah well.
So he wants the court to believe that although he planned the kidnapping of Leigh, and the extorting of money from her father, the murder bit at the end was not premeditated and happened simply because it dawned on him at that moment that she would be able to recognise him if he let her go. Obviously he had no option but to shoot her, and he just happened to have his gun with him, coincidentally loaded with killer dum-dum bullets.
And in an additional application, he wants the court to rule that the trial Judge made a grave error by not questioning him and getting more clarity on his full understanding of the words he used in his confession because he did not understand that sentences like "planned to kill her" meant that he thought about the murder before suddenly freaking out and pulling the trigger. He wants the court to consider this legal technicality and grant him a retrial.
The prosecutor on the other hand wants none of it. He argued that Donovan had filed his application about 1 500 days late after the 14 day deadline following his trial expired, that he had indicated in court that he fully understood his own confession and had signed it, and that he was out of his cotton-picking mind if he thought anybody would buy into his whole "I honestly never really planned to kill her, it just happened" story.
I tried to take a photo of him and he actually smiled for me, but my Blackberry was too slow to catch the moment. I only managed to get this sad image:

And so I finished of a dreadful day by joining Jonathan's 60-minute step class at the local gym. Bad move. Now I am emotionally drained, physically stuffed and even my hair feels like it hurts. Kind of in the state I imagine Donovan spends his evenings these days.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A butchering. A massacre...

After a weekend of the usual murder and mayhem, the 94.7 Cycle Challenge and all the rest, the most talked-about news event we early morning shift workers had to follow-up was the not-so-pleasant rendering of our national anthem at the rugby in France on Friday night.
It was a relatively unknown reggae singer, one Ras Dumisani, who has pulled a stunt that has him rocketed to fame in a Susan Boyle like manner, only for quite the opposite reasons.
At the start of the South Africa vs France rugby match in which our boys lost, the national anthems for both countries were played. There was a 37-piece orchestra for a stirring performance of La Marseillaise. And then Ras and two guys on bongo drums took the stage and massacred, mutilated and finally murdered Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika.
It was not in tune or remotely melodious. In fact some people are describing it as sabotage.
Check it out on YouTube:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A violent bloody day

A dead child, a shootout in a busy intersection, shattered victims, injured suspects - it all happened today and landed in my shift. This shift turned into one of those nightmare days that had me thinking that while it could make for a pretty good, if somewhat unbelievable fiction story.
Soon after arriving at the office I picked up a strange e-mail from paramedics about a call they'd responded to in Craighall Park where they entered a flat and found a man lying on his bed with a knife in his chest. His four-year-old daughter was found dead beside him.
So off I headed with ChiefPhotographer to the place where it all happened. We spoke to various people and pieced together the scenario: the dad was a friendly guy who often made food which he sold to people in the area and was often seen with his little girl. Last night the mom arrived home and found everything locked, the curtains all closed and nobody answering her calls. She found a groundsman who helped her climb a ladder and break a window to get in and found her child throttled and her husband lying with a knife in his chest.
This morning he was placed under police guard - seems he strangled the child and then attempted suicide. So he's probably going to go down for murder. If his life was bad before, it's about to get worse.
Before we were finished we got another call - a shooting at the intersection of Jan Smuts and Republic in Randburg. So off we went.
Crime scenes in the sun with no shop nearby have to rate as one of my least favourite places to be on a hot day. I get sunburnt, my face goes red and the smell of baking blood makes me gag after a bit. To top it all, our early arrival upset one stroppy little cop who screamed at us as we stood behind his cordons, pointing his finger at us and accusing us of destroying evidence. Truly an annoying character who did not even have a proper gun holster and kept pulling out his handgun and then sticking it back into the side of his pants. He did not look menacing or cool. He did look like an idiot.
Three armed robbers had hit a small business in the area and then caught a taxi. Their victims however, who they'd left tied up, managed to escape and followed them, and set the Metro cops on their tail. As they bounced off in their taxi they realised the cops were onto them and started shooting. The cop got hit in the stomach and fired back, hitting one of the suspects in the leg as the green taxi hit a wall and stopped. The two unhurt guys hightailed it off.
Spectators gathered at the scene and detectives would come and go. There were lights and sirens going. It was chaotic.
And so we waited for the official cop spokeswoman to arrive and give us the official line. During that time the cops managed to catch one of the fugitives and brought him back to where we were, lying him on the ground next to his injured buddy who had fallen asleep on a pillow, arms cuffed behind him with a drip feeding him from where it was hung inside the crashed taxi.
Suspect number two was badly damaged. He was bleeding from the head and hardly conscious. I thought he had been shot and checked this with the cop.
The response: "Um, no. He was running away from us and he fell."
Ja right!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Laugh It Off, Julius and the ultimate t-shirt

So the folks at Laugh It Off, creators of controversial t-shirts that regularly get them in a spot of bother, found themselves deep in the brown stuff this morning. And so I was tasked to write about it.
The team had come up with a new t-shirt design to poke fun at - wait for it - yes - you guessed it - everyone's favourite buffoon - Julius Malema. Only they did it a bit wrong. So the idea, as their man Ruan explained to me, was to highlight the fact the Julius had made some monumentally (aren't they all?) stupid remarks about hermaphrodites during the recent Caster Semenya gender testing debacle. So they took a painting of naked Saartjie Baartman, added a set of manly dangly bits to the crotch area and then posted Julius's smiling face on it. I have to say, it did not make for a pretty t-shirt.
Now, while I understand that the idea behind the design was not intended to offend, the end product was quite awful, and attracted howls of disapproval from all over. Deservedly so. Particularly from their own fans.
I called Julius to get his comment on the matter and find out what he thought about the t-shirt design. He did not pick up and his voice mail told me that his inbox was too full to take anymore messages. So I left a message with sidekick Floyd. They haven't come back to me.
But the guys at Laugh It Off seem to be a bunch of sports. They pulled down the offending image and put a new one up. Still with Julius's head on Saartjie's cropped-off body. Stubborn indeed.
Check this out:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

God. And stuff.

It seems that God has been coming in for a bit of media attention of late. First we heard how Simon Mann and his gang were saved from all kinds of disgusting things in Equatorial Guinea. Apparently, they claim, by God and Jacob Zuma. Quite an unlikely team, I would have thought, but effective nonetheless.
It must have been this pairing up with Zuma by God that got the Western Cape leader of the ANC, Membathisi Mdladlana, all fired up and confident, crying out that God will now be judging all journalists who fail to give adequate coverage to the ANC.
How does one define "adequate coverage"?
New party Cope has taken exception to Preacher Mdladlana's brash assertions, claiming in their latest press release to be "tickled pink" .
"We were not aware that Mr Mdladlana had a direct line to God, and spoke on His behalf," the Congress of the People wrote.
"His assertion, however, is rather rich coming from an organisation whose stranglehold on the public broadcaster has seen a blackout on all neutral and positive news relating to COPE and other opposition parties. Perhaps Mr Mdladlana is used to this kind of monopoly over the airwaves given to the ANC by the SABC, so any form of equitable coverage would seem to be biased to him. It also perhaps accounts for his delusions of grandeur."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping condoms in fashion...

Today a press release arrived from the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union. They are planning to host a competition aimed at keeping condoms in fashion.
So the idea is for fashion design students to create garments using condoms.
They sent pictures too.
It's a bit weird for me. I find this stuff a bit icky.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Burnt buildings and that darn sex tape.

Day two after the fire.
The grand old Rissik Street Post Office building was a sad wreck today. Firefighters were still inside her blackened ruins, dousing down hot spots as the sun shone down on them while the pressed metal ceilings lay in rusty piles on the floor.
Layers on the walls show that the ground level was once painted bottle green, rooms on the first floor were chocolate brown and the top floor was a majestic royal blue and beige above the window levels. An angled line of pale triangles down the walls is all that's left of what must once have been a staircase.
It was a devastating sight.
Back at the office I found my colleague Diva hunched up scribbling down as Amor Vitone was giving her exclusive interview to Radio Backverandah. Poor Diva had interviewed scorned husband Joost van der Westhuizen about his admissions regarding his star role in that awkward sex tape.
So he suddenly decided to come clean and, in a "I sort of had sexual relations with that woman" declared what we all knew: that the guy in the dodgy undies snorting drugs and not having sex with a prostitute was not really his doppelganger, and that it was actually him. Up to no good.
This sudden confession was perfectly timed with the release of his book, so the next thing to do was to interview weepy Amor. And she was not going to talk to anyone, until presumably the price was right. And so she sobbed her heart out on radio as Diva took it all down.
"I still love my husband. The fact remains is that those people filmed him with the intention of trying to get some money out of him and that's a crime," she stated in a wobbly voice.
Well, Amor, last I heard, picking up prostitutes and snorting illegal substances hardly fall within the bounds of the law.
I am sure this is a story that is now going to run and run. And Joost and Amor will simply end up richer and higher ranked in the local celebrity stakes. All a bit of a yawn, eh?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Death to the old Post Office building...

Last night the old Rissik Street Post Office burnt down.
This was the big news needing following up this morning, as apparently last night while the grand old building went up in flames, few experts were available to comment.
And at 6am this morning this remained the case. But I gave it my best shot. And it turned out to be one of those hectic situations where people are happy to spout all kinds of information out "off the record", but not so happy to have their names associated with the whole debacle.
First off I got hold of the city's heritage expert. I felt so sorry for him because his absolute sadness at such loss was palpable, he couldn't spout his true opinion, I would imagine, without risking his job as a council employee.
And so I turned to property investors, city developers, architects and heritage site experts. At the same time my colleague Diva was sent back out to the fire site, tasked with tracking down witnesses.
I discovered that while the council owns the building, it has been left derelict for the past 10 years. Since then, enterprising thieves have managed to swipe the hands off the clock and make off with the bell out of the tower. This in itself was no mean feat considering that the bell was a replica of the smallest bell in Big Ben and weighed over 1000kg. And then apart from wooden balustrades, light fittings and switches, thieves also managed to take each one of the cast-iron columns from the building. These columns were apparently about 5-metres high and it would have taken about 20 strong men to shift it, not to mentions trucks and cranes to move them. But our city thieves did indeed manage to do this.
In the meantime several developers have had their offers to refurbish and fix up the old building go ignored. The council apparently commissioned architectural plans of the building for R3.5-million only have the drawings ruled unusable.
The estimated cost of restoring the building before the fire ruined it completely was about R45-million - an amount that was not approved for years. Today the council announced that it will host this year's Miss World pageant in Jozi - at a cost of R49-million.
Diva returned with her insights gleaned from squatters who confirmed that some people had managed to break their way into the old post office, and were living there. They had stolen copper from somewhere and were trying to melt it down when the fire got a bit out of control and they feared being caught and arrested. So they ran away.
And the whole building went up in flames.
Despite it being situated only a few blocks from the inner city fire station.
As one heritage architect put it: it's an unspeakable disgrace.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Boredom and high fashion

This week has been somewhat less than exciting. I think I am in a slump after last week's high on the BMW EuroStyle 2009 tour.
Today I found myself jotting down stuff during a diary planning meeting and paged over to discover one of Little One's random pieces of art that she likes to draw on the odd occasions she gets her hands on my things.
So I took a photo of it with my phone. And then mailed it to myself for fun. I have been driven to these lengths for little kicks where I can get them. And so I share it here with you:

In happier times - that would be last week when I was roaming Germany and Austria absorbing the style and culture that is the inspiration behind the BMW brand - my days were filled with glamorous and exciting events.
In fact on this exact day last week I got to visit the studio of Ute Ploier, an Austrian fashion designer who creates men's fashions and has had great success with her stuff on the Paris catwalks and all over. She's spectacularly talented and impressively successful. And to top it off - she's gorgeous:

I must say though, while her clothes look ultra glamorous in the glossy photos and hanging elegantly in her studio, I have to say that I cannot imagine them being snapped up in a hurry by South African men. I checked out a pair of tiny stylish cotton shorts that would sit super-toight on even the smallest of frames, and its matching manbag had me thinking that this outfit would be something one would get on the butts of our beer-swilling rugby watching menfolk only at gunpoint.
I could be wrong, but I think only our gay boys will be buying these creations:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cy's, sighs and more size.

Today was the last day at our office for my colleague Quintessential_Angel. The good part was that they laid on a spread in the Ops Room and we all got a free coke and some snacks after the speeches. The utterly, utterly sad part was bidding farewell to someone amazing and great. We've lost someone quintessentially good as she moves on to take up the helm at another title. I'm going to miss her!
So on to happier thoughts. This time last week I was living it up on BMW's EuroStyle 2009 tour in Vienna. At one of the art galleries we flitted through, we were afforded the opportunity to see the works of an artistic genius by the name of Cy (as in Sigh) Twombly. And I am sorry to admit this, but I totally, totally, totally didn't get it.
The guy's paintings look to me like kiddie art. More specifically, the scribblings of a toddler in one helluva bad mood. Our gallery tour guide tried his best to explain the ecstacies and intricacies of the canvases before us, while uniformed personnel stood watchful guard - I am assuming to make sure that we didn't touch any of the pieces.
I could not work out what made these particular scribbles any different to the ones that would attract a smart spanking for the artist that would attempt to draw them on any of my walls. I tried to picture the opulent home where these paintings would look good on display.
And then came the artistic sculptures by Cy. On these too, I missed the boat. Completely. These little displays of pieces of wood on little plinths looked to me like bits of scaffolding found on a building site and hammered together. On one of them Cy had written a message in chalk: "One day the wind will come and destroy my lemons". Um, ja. I swear. I checked with one of the other journalists that I read it correctly. I did. Lemons?? As I say. Cy's genius skipped me by.
I felt like I was missing out when I heard that each of his paintings was insured for 20-MILLION Euros. Truly. When I heard that one I was sure Leon Schuster or some such person was going to jump out and point at the camera aimed at my gormless, gobsmacked face and yell "Gotcha!".
But they never did.
It seems there are indeed real people, extremely wealthy ones at that, that roam this planet and fork out squillions of bucks for Cy Twombly artworks.
Do you guys get it? Can you explain the genius in these Cy Twombly's:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Donovan Moodley and moods

I am still feeling bleak about being back home after my awesome trip last week. I got up with the sparrows this morning and revved the heck out of the engine of my very small black car as I tried to do advanced driving on my way to work. And just got a strong smell of burning. Ah man! Oh to drive a BMW X5 M-power! I may have been one of the first on the planet to get to test one out, but unless I marry into huge money or find some enterprising way to make a fortune, it looks like I'm stuck with driving a car with a 1.4l engine (note the petrol head talk - I think the motoring people got to me).
So today I tracked down the application for an appeal against the life sentence handed down on one Donovan Moodley. He has now served four years for kidnapping Leigh Matthews, extorting R50 000 from her dad as ransom before shooting her dead, freezing her body and then dumping it in the veld.
It seems Donovan, who is having a hard time now that he has been removed from his cushy single cell after being bust with two cellphones on his person, wants the courts to believe that there is a very good reason why he should be allowed to go home sometime soon.
He reckons that while he planned the whole kidnapping and extortion gig down to the last T, he completely forgot to work out a way to release his victim safe and unharmed in such a way that she would not be able to identify him or lead the cops to him at some later stage. So, after following his plan and getting to the point where the deal he struck dictated that he now release Leigh, he suddenly found himself with absolutely no option other than to kill her. Any judge, other than the one who presided over his original trial, will be reasonable and see things his way he contends.
And the reason why he has taken four years to make this application is no fault of his own. His aunt, who he declines to name, would regularly pop up with offers to fund his legal case and then disappear off the face of the earth when it came down to the crunch. Several times. So the court must please just completely disregard this four-year lapse. Like it never happened. Apparently.
Sheesh. I read the whole affidavit and looked for a reason why he might be able to get himself off the hook, but I couldn't find one. Maybe the courts will understand him. Or maybe, as my colleague Boy Wonder hypothesised, Donovan was high when he formulated his affidavit.
I don't know.
I just know that this time last week I was in Munich, having spent the day visiting design houses and ate lunch at a delightful spot called Tantris that rates among the top 50 restaurants in the world.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back from styling it up in Europe...

One week away from the office and I return to a bleak start: 1 493 e-mails to sort through and a mass of voice mails to listen trawl through.
Ah but it was so worth it. My week away, now but a distant dream, was spent on the jackpot of all possible assignments. I landed myself a much-prized invite to BMW's Eurostyle 2009 tour. And this involved a few nights in boutique hotels, trips to design houses, galleries, architectural delights and the like. To sustain us through this ordeal, we of course made regular stop-offs at prestigious restaurants where top chefs had the honour of cooking for us.
And it all ended at the Salzburgring race track in Austria where I got to be one of the first in the world to drive one of BMW's new X5 and X6 models in their M-power range. YEs! I got to do what they call a controlled start which involves revving the engine til it roars like a plane and kicks you off into a powerful start that hurtles you from zero to 100 k's an hour in under five seconds. Yes, baby!
Sadly, it is all just a memory now.
As I said - my day was bleak!