Friday, November 21, 2008

Sociology 101

Pen-slinger is often accused of indulging in inane and pointless humor when all around us blue-chip stocks are performing graceful, swooning dives from historical highs, and billionaires are looking worriedly at their last billion and muttering darkly about socialist revolutions, not to mentions smaller fries like you and me who are thinking nostalgically of those good ol’ days when there were those things called ‘jobs’ and ‘paychecks’. Not to mention those TGIF parties (remember those?), where the boss got drunk and did things he regretted the next day.

Anyway, recognizing that sobriety and seriousness are the watchwords in these difficult times, we revive our serious and educative 101 series.

This time we gravely turn our attention to sociology, and examine the socio-ethnic dynamics in the multi-racial South African community.

Please carefully study the following instructive and educational news item which appeared in major newspapers around the world a few weeks ago, and then answer the questions below. Evaluate what you read. Try to read between the lines, and find the ‘story behind the story’. We are developing analytical skills here.


Indians in SA kill three over ‘Manhood’ size

(Times of India, 14th September 2008)
Durban: Three men were shot dead and two injured after an argument between a group of Indian and white visitors to a bar here, allegedly over the size of their genitals.
Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu of the South African police confirmed that five people were arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning in connection with the shootings, which erupted after a confrontation between white and Indian patrons of the bar on Wednesday evening. Two of them were in possession of firearms believed to have been used in the killings.
A worker at the bar, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said a customer of Indian origin had remarked to a white customer while they were both at the urinal in the bar that his manhood was bigger than that of the white customer. “After both men returned to their friends, the two groups began swearing at each other before the group of five Indian men left the scene and all returned with firearms. They opened fire and three guys died on the spot. The other two were rushed to St Augustine’s Hospital, where I am told they are critical.”
Mngomezulu said the argument is believed to have been racially motivated, although he could not confirm the incident at the urinal. Durban is home to two-thirds of South Africa’s 1.2 million Indians, with the unique Indian accent there often being the butt of jokes by comedians and arguments sometimes erupting over it. AGENCIES

Also view:


Q1-What do you understand by ‘Manhood’, as used in the text?
a. Umm…do you think it is what I think it is?
b. It’s a euphemism.
c. It is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.
d. You don’t wanna know

Q2 - So, whose manhood really IS bigger? White South Africans or brown South Africans?
a. Are you asking my opinion?
b. The text does not make it clear
c. It depends
d. White South Africans
e. Brown South Africans

Q3 – What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?
a. They are cordial
b. They are hostile
c. They are competitively healthy
d. They revolve largely around ‘Manhood’ issues

Q4. – Do women have similar arguments about the size of their ‘Womanhood’- whatever that may be?
a. Yes, of course. What did you imagine?
b. No, of course not. Only the primitive male brain is capable of such things
c. Yes and No. Yes they argue, but the arguments are usually about the size of their handbags.
d. Womanhood is an abstract, philosophical religo-cultural concept, with deep socio-psychological ramifications and extensive hagiography.

Q5. – Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?

a. He da’ man in manhood
b. High priest of an underground cabbalistic sect in Durban
c. The bartender of the restaurant where the incident took place
d. Superintendent of the South African police


Q1- (What is Manhood?) Let us examine each option one by one.
a. I don’t know. What do you think it is? This is a humor blog, not Clairvoyants Inc.
b. What is a euphemism? We don’t DO big words in this blog. Next you’ll say euphemism is a euphemism for euphemism. Where does it end?
c. Huh?
d. Correct Answer! You don’t wanna know. Really you don’t.

Q2- (Whose Manhood really is bigger?) What did you answer?
a. No.
b. So what do you expect? Do you have to be spoon-fed each answer? We’re learning to analyze and read between the lines, remember?
c. What kind of wishy-washy answer is that?
d. Maybe.
e. Perhaps

Correct Answer: Irrelevant.
What do you imagine we are doing here? This is Sociology, not Comparative Biology.

Q3 – (What does this incident tell us about race relations in South Africa?)

This is a tough one, with no obviously correct answers. Let us examine the facts: A white man and a brown man are in a restaurant together: obviously segregation in restaurants no longer exists. They go to the toilet together: obviously segregation in restaurant toilets no longer exists. They take a good long look at each others manhoods: obviously, segregation of urinals no longer exists. The South Africans have done away that last artificial barrier between man and man – the urinal partition.

Having taken a look, they enter into a polite discussion about comparative sizes: this indicates an open and frank attitude to a sensitive issue which most societies usually tend to suppress under a suffocating blanket of political correctness. The discussion turns increasingly frank and candid, with views put forth with vigor and supported by complex dialectical arguments, and a few assorted invectives are thrown in for enlivening the debate: this indicates a deep understanding and passion for the subject.

Finally, when the debate cannot be resolved through dialectics, the parties concerned resolve it in the time-honored male tradition of pulling out a gun and blowing each others heads off.

To me this indicates an open, warm and honest relationship. So I would say the correct answer is A- Cordial. What do you think?

Q4. – (Do women have similar arguments?)

Honestly, I don’t have the answer to this one. Perhaps female readers of this blog would care to enlighten us on this. Please leave your answers as comments on this blog.

Q5. – (Who is Muzi Mngomezulu?)

If you take the news clipping at face value, the obvious answer is D. – Superintendent of police in Durban.

But are things really so straightforward?

On whose authority do we have this information? Some nameless, faceless entity that goes under the alias of AGENCIES. Has anyone seen AGENCIES? Has anyone shared a cup of coffee with AGENCIES? Has anyone spoken to him, her or it?

Then again, study the text – the whole thing is based on the claims of this same Muzi Mngomezulu. There is no independent corroboration. How do we know he is telling the truth? How do we know this isn’t some sort of a cover-up for a right-wing conspiracy to suppress discussions about manhood? Who is Muzi Mngomezulu, really? If all parties concerned got their heads shot off, who told Mngomezulu all these things? The whole thing looks very suspicious.

Pen-slinger will not let it go so easily. We will delve further into this matter, investigating fearlessly until the whole ugly truth is revealed.

Watch this space.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Trini wins an essay competition

Finally….the world has recognized my genius!!!!

My diffident little effort just won the first prize at the French essay writing competition at the annual Lire en Fête at Alliance Française!!!!

Ok, Ok…it isn’t the Nobel Prize for literature. Gimmi a break guys, let me savor this moment without those rude abdominal noises. It’s the first thing I’ve won, since…since…since time began, I guess. The closest I came to winning anything at anything was when I came fifth in the egg-and-spoon race in primary school -only we used potatoes, not eggs. After which I was disqualified for using a hybrid potato.

What made the whole thing special was that the winning entry was personally selected by the well-known French authoress, Pierrette Fleutiaux, who happens to be touring India right now, and she - personally – with her own hands, mind you, not a robotic arm, handed the prize to me. And note this….she looked earnestly into my eyes, shook my hand, and said that….(dramatic drum roll)…. ‘she was really, really impressed’.

Note the two ‘really’s – not just one. And I'm not absolutely sure there weren't three. Ok, you’ll just say that was a senior author being gracious to a tyro, but what the heck. She looked sincere enough and I choose to believe she meant it. And it is the first time I ever shook hands with a genuine ‘successful author’ – a breed I know exists, going by media reports, but which I despaired of ever finding. Maybe some of that magic will rub off onto me and I’ll stop being the perennial ‘struggling author’…and I’ll stop getting all that helpful advice: ‘when will you stop acting the goat and get a normal job like everybody else?’

Here’s a pic of the charming Mme Fleutiaux in the Alliance Française gardens:

And another one of me with her after the prize giving. Too bad they weren’t clicking pics at the prize giving itself ;(( No record of that historical moment.

The topic was to basically look at the cover of this novel of Mme Fleutiaux’s,

and imagine what the little girl called Trini was seeing, weaving in the teaser text on the cover of the novel (‘ Ce que j’ai vu m’a copé la soufflé, c’était si inattendu, si fantastique…’ ‘What I saw took my breath away, it was so unexpected, so fantastic…’). I did some research on the novel, and found that Trini was a kind of French Nancy Drew , and it involved a girl getting kidnapped and a mysterious Barbie-Doll-obsessed kidnapper…so I decided to give my essay a Nancy-Drew, Barbie-Doll touch, and weave in bits of the current financial crisis for good effect.

Here it is: my ‘prize winning’ entry….in the original French

And here is an English translation….

Thanks a ton to my good friend Guillaume for taking time off from his PhD at the Univ of Chile to review my essay and point out the grammatical bloopers.

And dear Mme Fleutiaux, thank you for encouraging words and graciousness… it really means a lot to a ‘struggling author’.

Trini fait de nouvelles vagues

Le Directeur Général s'éclaircit la gorge bruyamment.
« Messieurs, comme vous le savez tous, nos ventes de poupées Barbie plongent d'une manière alarmante. Toutes nos stratégies de markéting ont échoué. Hasbro va peut-être bientôt devoir se retirer des affaires. Lors de notre dernière réunion, notre consultant a suggéré de sacrifier une jeune fille sur l'autel de Mammon… »
Le consultant fit un signe de la tête d'un air important
« Oui, c'est la nouvelle théorie de management de Peter Drucker.
- N'est-il pas mort ?
- Séance de spiritisme
- Quoi qu'il en soit, je sais, ça a l'air, comment dirais-je… peu orthodoxe, mais les temps sont désespérés, et les temps désespérés appellent des solutions innovantes. Monsieur le directeur des ressources humaines, on vous a confié la tâche d’obtenir une jeune fille pour le sacrifice. En avez-vous trouvé une?
- Oui, Patron !
- Présentez-la ! »
La petite Trini fut traînée dans la salle de conférence.
« Qu'est-ce que vous voulez faire de moi, démons ? cria Trini
- Nous allons te présenter une poupée Barbie, mon enfant, si tu fais exactement ce que nous disons.
- Vraiment ? C'est super-cool ! dit Trini, contente »
Trine fut attachée à la table de conférence.
Le DG frappa dans ses mains fortement en disant :
« Dévoilez l'idole de Mammon »
Le tableau blanc glissa de côté, révélant une idole géante de Mammon en fibre de verre. Elle ressemblait étrangement à une poupée Ken d'un certain âge prenant une cuite.
« Aiguisez la Barbie ! »
Le directeur commercial aiguisa une Barbie vaudou avec un aiguisoir portable, lui conférant une pointe meurtrière.
« Enfoncez la Barbie !
- Non ! cria Trini
- Tu ne veux plus la Barbie ? demanda le DG, étonné
- Si, mais pas dans mes intestins !
- Désolé, mais maintenant c'est trop tard
- Non !! à l'aide !! »
Le Consultant toussa sèchement
« Attendez ! Il faut que la victime le soit de son plein gré. Monsieur Drucker l'affirme explicitement »
Le DG implora Trini
« Mon enfant, pensez à toutes les jeunes filles dont les parents sont trop radins pour leur acheter des Barbies. Tu n'es pas prête à te sacrifier pour elles ?
- Non !! Qu'elles mangent de la brioche !
- Mais, tu ne te soucies pas des profits de troisième trimestre de Hasbro ?
- Non !! Que Hasbro mange de la brioche !
- Mais notre PDG, il ne lui reste plus que son dernier milliard !
- Qu'il mange de la brioche !
- Mais, c'est l'idée, précisément! Il n'a pas les moyens d'acheter de la brioche avec son dernier milliard
- Ça m'est bien égal. Qu'il mange des nouilles. »
Le DG fut agacé
« Quelle fille impertinente ! Sacrifions-la de toute façon. Peut-être que ça ne dérangera pas Mammon »
Trini cria, apeurée.
Mais, juste à ce moment là, Trini vit quelque chose.
Ce qu'elle vit lui coupa le souffle, ce fut si inattendu, si fantastique…
L'idole de Mammon bougea ! Elle fronça les sourcils ! Elle parla !
Mammon toussa poliment.
« Mais si, ça dérangera Mammon »
Il y eut de la consternation dans la salle.
« Euh…ça vous dérangerait ?
- Oui, ça me dérangerait. Non seulement je ne veux pas d'une victime à contrecœur, mais je ne veux pas non plus d'une jeune fille
- Non ? Le DG fut étonné
- Non.
- Mais…pourquoi ?
- Réfléchis, imbécile ! Les jeunes filles sont votre marché cible. Si vous commencez à les sacrifier une par une, qui va acheter vos poupées?
- C'est vrai…alors, vous voulez le sang d'un…
- D'un Directeur Général, oui.
- Non !! Cria le DG horrifié
- Si!
- Je refuse !
- Mais, tu ne te soucies pas des profits de troisième trimestre de Hasbro ?
- Non !! Que Hasbro mange de la brioche !
- Mais votre PDG, il ne lui reste plus que son dernier milliard.
- Qu'il mange du tofu ! »
Mammon soupira.
« Dommage. Sacrifiez-le de toute façon »
Les autres cadres commerciaux saisirent le DG. Le DG commença à brailler.
Le directeur des ressources humaines brandit la Barbie pointue.
Mammon lui dit encore:
« Attends… ne le tue pas. J'ai une meilleure idée »
Le directeur des ressources humaines regarda Mammon avec curiosité
« Licencie-le…. sans parachute doré ! »

Trini fait de nouvelles vagues - English Tx

This is the English Transalation of my 'award winning' ;) French Humorous essay Trini fait de nouvelles vagues (see next post)

The General Manager cleared his throat
“Gentlemen, as you all know, our Barbie Doll sales figures are dipping alarmingly. All our marketing strategies have failed. Hasbro may soon go out of business. At our last meeting our consultant suggested we need to sacrifice a little girl on the altar of mammon.”
The consultant nodded importantly
“Yes, it is the latest management theory from Peter Drucker.”
“Isn’t he dead?”
“Anyway, I know that sounds a little, shall we say …unorthodox… but these are desperate times, and desperate times require innovative solutions.
HR Manager- you were given the task of procuring a little girl for the sacrifice. Have you got one?”
“Yes Boss”
“Produce her.”
Little Trini was dragged into the conference room, screaming.
“What do you want with me, you fiends?”
“We are going to present you with a Barbi doll, child, if you do exactly as we say”
Trini was pleased.
“Really? Cool!”
Trini was tied to the conference table. The GM clapped his hands loudly.
“Unveil the idol of mammon”
The whiteboard slid aside, to reveal a giant fiber-glass idol of mammon. It looked suspiciously like a middle-aged Ken doll after a drinking binge.
“Sharpen the Barbie!”
The HR Manager sharpened a Voodoo Barbie on a portable knife sharpener to a deadly point.
“Plunge it in!”
“No!” screamed Trini
The GM was surprised.
“Don’t you want a Barbie?”
“Yes, but not in my intestine!”
“Sorry, too late now.”
Trini screamed
The consultant coughed loudly.
“Wait! It has to be a willing victim. Mr. Drucker mentions this explicitly.”
The GM pleaded with Trini.
“Child, what about all the little girls whose stingy parents won’t buy them Barbie dolls? Aren’t you willing to be sacrificed for them?”
“No! Let them eat cake!”
“But don’t you care about Hasbro’s third quarter earnings?”
“Let Hasbro eat cake!”
“But our CEO is down to his last billion”
“Let your CEO eat cake”
“But that is the whole point. He can’t afford cake with his last billion”
“I don’t care. Let him eat noodles”
The GM was annoyed.
“What a spiteful little girl. Let’s sacrifice her anyway, maybe mammon won’t mind.”
Trini screamed with fear.
But just then she saw something, so amazing, so fantastic, it took her breath away.
The idol of mammon moved. It frowned. It spoke
Mammon coughed politely
“But mammon does mind”
There was consternation in room.
“Err… you mind?”
“Yes I mind. Not only do I not want an unwilling victim, I particularly do not want little girls.”
The GM was surprised.
“Think, idiot. Little girls are your target customers. If you start sacrificing them one by one, who will buy the dolls?”
“True. So you want the blood of…”
“A General Manager”
The GM screamed in horror
“I refuse!”
“But don’t you care about Hasbro’s third quarter earnings?”
“Let Hasbro eat cake!”
“But your CEO is down to his last billion”
“Let him eat tofu”
Mammon sighed
“Too bad. Sacrifice him anyway”
The other sales executives grabbed the GM. The HR manager raised the pointed Barbie.
The GM started bawling.
“Help! Please!”
Mammon spoke again
“Wait…Don’t kill him. I have a better idea”
The HR Manager looked at mammon inquiringly.
“Lay him off- without a golden parachute.”