Except every time I close my book I can’t help thinking about some little girl out there who isn’t quite playing with a full deck.
Monday, Monday - not that you needed the reminder.
Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times column, it’s about mad vending machines. Did you know that in USA in the 70′s you could by a life insurance policy out of vending machines in airports. True story. I love it when The Man takes shameless advantage of paranoia.
Read on for more.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
You’ve got to love the breadth and depth of the human imagination. Did you know that in Japan there are vending machines that give out the telephone numbers of random women? Only in Japan, or rather, only in a vending machine. They’re so much more than just outlets for fizzy drinks, smokes, or bags of crisps.
They started out humbly enough, but future-trend spotters predict a rise in smart vending machines with wild innovations. They will be curious conveniences with retina display, touch screens, sensors and video analytics that will be able to tell your age, height, eye colour, gender, and even your fizzy drink preference, when you stand in front of it.
But first, back to the past. The earliest mention of a vending machine can be traced all the way back to the first century, to a machine that accepted a coin and dispensed holy water in exchange. Actually these still exist today, only now they’re called coffee machines.
Over the next bunch of decades vending machines became much more advanced, so much so that they even inspired the invention of modern day pinball and slot machines. And now there’s not much you won’t find in them. Particularly in Japan, where they’ve become an astonishingly profitable endeavour, worth billions annually. All those condoms, fizzy drinks and bouncy balls clearly add up. In 1999, an estimated 5.6 million coin-operated vending machines in Japan generated more than $53 billion in sales.
There’s one machine for every 23 people living there, and you’ll find everything from toilet paper to pornography, condoms, rhinoceros beetles (which they collect as pets), and even live bait for fishing (well, I hope it’s for fishing). You drop in your coin and out comes a handful of live worms or crickets. They’ve designed these machines so that the insects can live happily inside them. A small internal device simulates rain, while another feeds the creatures a nutrient solution.
But insects are far from the craziest thing you’ll find in a vending machine. Umbrellas, live lobsters, potted plants, all are commonplace vending machine contents in Japan. It’s even rumoured that you can get a random girl’s pair of already worn panties out of your local vending machine.
The West has had its share of wild contents too. In America, from around 1950 till 1970, you could buy life insurance policies out of vending machines at your local airport, to cover your death should your plane crash. And in areas of Australia you can still get gemstones out of vending machines.
But perhaps the Swap-O-Matic, located somewhere in New York City, is a sign of things to come in the wide world of vending. It’s a vending machine which allows customers to swap items they no longer want. There’s a statement about needless consumption and recycling in there somewhere, between an old pair of takkies, and a second-hand ipod.
It’s a simple concept. You provide your email address (for security purposes) and then you can choose to donate, swap, or receive any item from the on-screen menu. No money is involved. New users get three credits, and with every item you donate you receive a further credit, which you can exchange for any item. Each of which are housed in a small glass drawer within the machine. None of the items have assigned values, everything in the machine simply costs one credit, regardless of its perceived or market value. Hippie much?
Personally I can’t see much of a downside to this kind of shopping. Vending machines are open 24/7, you don’t have to deal with shop assistants or other shoppers, and it’s relatively safe – there have only ever been 16 reported cases of vending machine injuries. Which is quite remarkable considering how many there are out there. Three people have been crushed and twelve hospitalised with minor injuries when machines fell over on them. And one received a black eye and a divorce, when the number of the random woman he pulled out of the machine turned out to be his wife.
So I’d happily buy my staple bread, milk and cheese this way. And while we’re about it, why not appliances, computer equipment or furniture too? Although they’d have to make the hole the product falls out of slightly bigger to fit a couch.
Morning all, here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times column, hope you enjoy.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
THE ANTI-CLIMAX OF PORN
We’ve been humming and ha-ing about this for years now. But it may have finally reached a head. Top TV, a local pay satellite-TV station have had their application approved to broadcast three adult content channels in South Africa; Playboy TV, Desire TV and Private Spice.
This is one of those issues, like e-tolls, that has been bouncing around for ages, getting everyone all hot under the collar.
According to reports, if their application had been unsuccessful, TopTV‚ which filed for business rescue in October last year‚ would have had to close down, and more than 250 people would have lost their jobs. Fluffers need to eat too, you know.
It’s a well-known fact in the boardrooms of television networks around the world, that broadcasting adult content is a sure fire way to increase subscription figures substantially. It’s either that or broadcasting sport. I guess both are ball porn of sorts.
According to the regulator they are going to impose some very strict security features on the channel, and the station will only be able to flight their adult content between 8pm and 5am. While I’m not one who believes in censoring, this is somewhat of a relief, nobody wants to come across Debbie Doing Dallas while they’re eating their breakfast cornflakes.
Of course the crowds are going wild over the regulator’s decision. Some are rubbing their hairy palms together in delight, and cancelling all evening plans for the foreseeable future, while other people’s heads are exploding over it.
Personally, I wonder if it isn’t all a big fuss over nothing? There is no proof or hard evidence to suggest that pornography is in any way linked with gender-based violence. And mother grundies everywhere can rest easy, knowing that the channels will have age verifications systems and viewers will require double security pin codes, so that the kids won’t be able to stumble over these shows while they’re looking for Spongebob Squarepants. And if you’re still bothered by it, last I checked, if you don’t like what’s on the screen you can always either stop paying for it, or change the channel. Although you may not want to, there is way worse TV out there. Have you ever watched Honey Boo Boo, or Clash of the Choirs?
If we’re all taking the day off work to go boycott dodgy TV, I’ll get busy making my ‘Shut Down Tropika Island of Treasure!’ banner right now. Seriously, I really think we have bigger TV problems than a little bit of porn, playing out between 8pm and 5am, on a highly secure channel that requires a separate monthly subscription, which you’ll no doubt have to pay through the nose to receive.
In fact, maybe some of SA’s programes could learn a thing or two from the kinds of shows that will soon be airing on TopTV. I’m almost positive that a little nudity and maybe some light spanking would make Generations endlessly more watchable. And I’m sure ratings would soar on a show called Top-off Billing. And when it comes to the evening news, I’m willing to bet that a little bit of hanky panky would make it a whole lot less depressing. Although we should leave SA’s Got Talent out of it, especially in the earlier rounds – there are some people one really doesn’t want to see naked.
Where things are bound to get interesting is watching what’s going to happen with all the religious shows and channels currently hosted on Top TV. I wonder if they’ll storm off in a huff, or if it will simply settle down into religious-business as usual. Hey it may even be good for the religious show’s numbers – all those viewers who feel a little guilty about watching the naughty shows can just flick over to the next channel and repent.
At the end of the day, we’re all free to watch whatever we want, and isn’t that just as it should be? Except Clifton Shores, nobody should have to watch that!
I was writing this morning, and by writing I mean tidying my desk and my bookshelf, when I came across a pile of old magazines, and discovered this Cosmo from October 2003:
I lie again, I actually discovered three of them, which lead me to go exploring and discover an article inside it, that I’d written all those years ago. Using my powerful sleuthing skills, I figured out that it’s probably the first column I’d ever written (I haven’t been able to find any dated earlier, and let’s be honest, why else would I have bought three?)
Go easy on me, it’s ten years old:
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
It turns out there’s a lot of life left in death. Back in the olden days, when you died you were dead, people mourned, and that was that. Nowadays there are just so many more options.
Choosing what happens to you when you die has become a little like ordering eggs. How do you want them done? Fried, scrambled, poached, sunny side up, flipped or boiled?
Do you want to be buried, cremated or floated down a river?
There are more than a zillion options for your ashes if you go the cremation route. You can have them scattered, poured into bullets, added to fireworks, turned into diamonds, put into a snow globe, or shot into outer space. You can even have your cremains (cremated remains) turned into a pencil if you want. One dead body produces up to 240 pencils, so you could bequeath one to everyone you know.
If you want to go the burial route, there are also now more options than ever. A company in Ghana were the first to create designer customised coffins in the 1950s, and that’s still big business over there today. They’re called Abebuu Adekai, fantasy coffins, or ‘boxes with proverbs’. For enough money they’ll turn your final resting place into just about anything you desire – you could have a coffin built in the shape of an airplane, a Louis Vuitton handbag, a fish, a pig, an onion or even a guitar, cell phone, or surfboard, if that’s what you’re after for your afterlife.
An author-friend of mine’s hairdresser builds coffins as a hobby, I guess cross stitch and bowling were already taken. They currently only make the simple pine ones with rope handles, but they’re looking to expand soon and branch out into themed funerals.
Say for example you wanted a Wild West themed funeral; they would be more than happy to oblige. Your coffin could take on a cowboy design, and be transported to the funeral on the back of a wagon. And I’m sure the priest would throw on a pair of chaps and a sheriff’s badge, if you asked him nicely enough.
It’s so crazy it might just take off. After all, funerals are supposed to be the celebration of a life, much like a birthday party, and we don’t seem to have any problem theming those. Even weddings seem to have a theme these days, whether it’s intentional or not. You get trailer park weddings, shotgun weddings or meringue weddings.
I certainly don’t think that the party industry would need too much convincing to add it to their repertoire; they’re pretty much up for anything. Have you been into one of those party shops lately? There’s not much in there they don’t have, but be sure to take out a second mortgage before you go. You’re looking at R2,50 for just one balloon and that’s if you don’t want air in it (you’ll be pleased to hear that for your funeral they also come in black), air will inflate the price of the balloon up to R7,50.
I can see it now, first a funeral theme, then maybe a funeral cake, and what about funeral party packs, to thank the mourners for coming. It could contain some tissues, a small snack (some funerals do tend to drag on a bit), a mixed CD of some of the deceased’s favourite tracks, the number of a good proctologist (what better time to remind people that they need to get checked out regularly), and maybe even a couple of brochures from your local life insurance company.
Okay so maybe it feels a little too much like a six year old’s birthday party. This year when I die I want a dinosaur funeral, and next year I want a lazer-quest funeral. I tried to think what kind of theme I’d like for my funeral, but I can’t stop thinking about the possibility of being turned into pencils.
On the upside of death though, I guess we can all just be grateful that human taxidermy isn’t an option. Yet.
Can you smell that? It’s Monday.
Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column, but is it art? I dunno, you tell me.
It was edited a little, but this is the unedited version.
Have a good one folks.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
BUT IS IT ART?
Some weeks ago a famous painting went on auction in London. The Chinese Girl was painted by the late Vladimir Tretchikoff, a Russian émigré who settled in South Africa. I doubt that when Tretchi asked one of the ladies who worked at his launderette to pose for him in 1954, that he ever imagined the painting would go on the block for millions.
As I was in London at the time, I decided to go check out the auction. I sat through the whole thing on my hands, too terrified to twitch, for fear that even the smallest nose scratch would see me bidding my life, house, car and possibly a kidney, on a landscape. Not even the property itself, simply a picture of it.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, as painting after painting fetched more and more cash. I’m talking huge building-sized wodges of money. Enough to show Keith Richards and Donald Trump a good time, on the same night.
In the end, the Tretchi went for just short of a million quid, which works out to about fifteen million Rand. I can understand how it fetched that much, after all it’s one of the most reproduced paintings in the world. But here’s what I don’t get, a bunch of the other paintings on auction on the same day were really butt-ugly. Like murk on canvas, or blind-man-painting ugly. You know how people always say that a five year old could have done it; well there was one painting in particular that I could only really excuse if you told me that a five year old had in fact done it. And the bidding for that one surpassed five million in seconds.
Sitting there I couldn’t come to terms with what makes one painting worth millions and another only worth cents. Who gets to say what’s good art and what’s bad art, and why should we believe them? It’s certainly not based on what the work looks like. I guess one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. Literally.
Did you know there’s a Museum of Bad Art in America? In fact it’s so popular it has three branches. Most cities have a museum dedicated to the best art, so why not one dedicated to the worst of it too?
MOBA (Museum of Bad Art) began in 1994 when Scott Wilson, an antiques dealer, pulled a painting out of a rubbish bin on the street in Boston. Initially Wilson was only interested in the frame, but a friend convinced him to exhibit the painting. When it became popular, they asked friends to start looking out for more ‘bad art’, which they added to the collection piece by piece, never spending more than $6 on a piece. They now have over 500 artworks in the collection. All of which they say, are simply ‘too bad to be ignored’.
The trash that started it all is a visual atrocity entitled Lucy in the Field with Flowers. It depicts an old lady (well, by the title one assumes it’s a lady, but you can’t be sure simply by looking at it, it could also very easily be an old man) skipping through a field of what might flowers, but could also be big splotches of bird poop. But don’t just take my word for it, what do I know about art anyway? An American art critic describes it as: ‘an elderly woman dancing in a lush spring field, sagging breasts flopping willy-nilly, as she inexplicably seems to hold a red chair to her behind with one hand and a clutch of daisies in the other’. On closer inspection I see there is a chair, and the granny isn’t skipping but sitting. This kind of obscurity might be the beauty of this gorgeous mistake.
The MOBA curators have incredibly high, low standards. They’re not interested in kitsch works of art, like the famous ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ for example. They will only accept pieces by serious artists, who truly believed in what they’re doing, but simply weren’t able to pull it off. They’re interested in art that went horribly wrong at some point in their creation, either executionally or conceptually.
Apparently nine out of ten pieces submitted aren’t nearly awful enough to make it into the collection. But I’m willing to bet that if nobody knew who they were by, a couple of those butt-ugly pieces from the big-time auction would make it through.
Another great piece currently exhibiting at MOBA is a painstakingly created pointillist piece called ‘Sunday on the Pot with George’ (acrylic on canvas, artist Unknown). Which appears to be a man wearing y-fronts or possibly a nappy, sitting on a toilet or chamber pot. The level of detail is astonishing, and one can only imagine that it must have taken many hours to complete.
And there’s an even stranger piece entitled ‘Juggling Dog in Hula Skirt’ (tempera and acrylic paint on canvas) which is another pointillist (or should that be pointless) work. It’s a dog in a hula skirt up on its hind paws, juggling bones. Hey I know, let’s slap a big name on it and put it under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London and see how much it fetches. I’m willing to bet if it’s alongside a Tretchi and we light it well, we’ll get ten million at least.
Morning brave Mondayers.
Here’s yesterday’s column, hope you enjoy.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
DATING A CAR GUARD
Do other countries have car guards too, or are they entirely unique to South Africa, like droe wors, Nik Naks, and Steve Hoffmeyer?
I seriously doubt that a guy in a luminous yellow vest would appear to guide you into an available parking space, in exchange for a couple of coins, if you pulled up outside Sainsbury’s in London, or nabbed a spot in front of The Guggenheim in New York City.
We’ve become so accustomed to them here, that we barely give them a second thought. Most of us even travel with a bit of spare change in our ashtrays, ready to hand out for services rendered.
But what are those services actually? These guys are mostly self-appointed so the job description is loose. It can be anything from finding you the perfect parking spot, to keeping an eye on the hood while you’re gone, or just appearing out of nowhere as you make your way back to your car and expecting a Purple Heart for their efforts.
I personally love it when you get painstakingly guided into a spot when there isn’t another car in sight for decades. The street can be lined with consecutive empty bays, in fact an army tank without power steering would be able to parallel park in its choice of spots, yet somehow car guard will make a big show of guiding you in. And then look at you like you’ve grown antennae on your head if you question why you owe him five bucks for his troubles. Who needs front and rear Park Assist when you have a car guard, who has probably never driven anything more than a hard bargain in his life.
But these guys aren’t just there for local colour, they’re part of South Africa’s huge informal economy, which provides work for about 2.1 million hangar salespeople, self-appointed windscreen washers, wire-trepreneurs and sunglasses or umbrella salesmen (depending on the weather) annually.
Most of them are friendly and helpful and many of them are highly educated, and might have once been accountants or presidents back where they come from. It’s not an ideal situation, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in right now. On the upside, the hours are negotiable, they get to be their own boss, work in a lively environment and meet lots of people, and of course its tax free.
A car guard in town asked me out on a date a few months ago. True story. He’s a regular fixture outside an office block I often visit for my day job, so he’s not just any random car guard I’d never set eyes on before. He’s always polite and friendly and over time we’ve gotten into the habit of greeting each other. He helps me find a parking spot, and then keeps an eye on my car in exchange for a couple of ronds.
Right up until the point where in a thick Nigerian-French accent he said; ‘Do you wanna get drink with me?’
I stuttered, entirely unprepared for the situation. In the minute or so it took me to find my tongue, I briefly considered it. Hey, he’s got a steady job and a friendly smile, that’s more than I can say for a lot of the dates I’ve been on recently.
I momentarily pictured introducing him to my friends and family down the line. ‘Friends and family,’ I would say, ‘I’d like you to meet my new boyfriend, Olumuyiwa Adebayo, he’s in the motor industry.’ But instead I politely declined due to urgent plans I had with my imaginary boyfriend.
As I waved him goodbye and drove off after my meeting, I couldn’t help wonder where he would have taken me? Where do parking guards go for drinks on first dates? And would he have worn the luminous vesty jacket? Also, wherever we ended up going, would I still have had to tip the car guard there, or do car guards have immunity from fellow car guards, as a professional courtesy of sorts.
Free parking must be a perk of dating a car guard. And I’m sure there are other perks too. I’m guessing he’d always make sure you had the best spot, and that nobody dings you, and he’d certainly be happy to wash your car for you too, on occasion. Which is a lot more than my current imaginary boyfriend does.
Morning people who have come here on purpose, and people who were looking up weird stuff on Google and accidentally landed here (your secret’s safe with me). Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column, I hope you enjoy it.
A MILLION MILES FROM NORMAL – By Paige Nick
MORE MONEY THAN SENSE
Are rich people everywhere losing the plot? Imagine having such huge amounts of money that at some point you run out of normal things to spend your stash on and you have to start spending it on weird things. How else do you explain the kinds of stuff rich people are buying these days?
It seems like once they’ve bought every house, car, jacket, gadget, island, and pair of Tom Ford sunglasses they’ve ever wanted, all that’s left to blow their pocket money on is weird facials, odd enemas and cigars rolled on the thighs of virgins.
It makes you wonder whether too much money makes people moggy?
In America for example, for the price of a small family sedan, one can buy a facial that includes three hours of deep-pore cleansing, a diamond exfoliation (using real diamonds) and a caviar mask. It sounds more like lunch with a Russian Tzar than a spa treatment.
And for the even more revoltingly rich geezer, for around $425 you can pick up a little gold pill, which you swallow to make your poop come out flecked with pieces of real gold. I shit you not. It was created by an artist named Tobias Wong, whose aim was to literally ‘turn your innermost parts into chambers of wealth’.
Ah, so that’s how the queen does it.
Or you could just eat corn, otherwise known as poor man’s gold.
The whole idea of putting something valuable in one end and retrieving it from the other end at a later stage reminds me a bit of smuggling, less rich people have been doing it with cocaine for decades.
And for your playboy terra-billionnaire, now for a serious wodge of cash you can buy a single designer Louis Vuitton Condom. Nothing says ‘have balls, will travel’, quite like whipping one of these puppies out of your wallet. In fact, I would imagine that half the trick of landing a gold digger to help you spend the millions you find between your couch cushions, is to keep your Louis Vuitton condom in your Louis Vuitton wallet.
And while you’re spending that kind of dosh on looking, sounding and pooping rich, You may as well drink rich too. The most expensive coffee in the world is made from animal poop. (What is it with rich people and poop?) It turns out that the enzymes in the Asian Palm Civet’s stomach breaks down the coffee bean’s bitterness, leaving behind only the most delicious, pure, succulent beans. You have to wonder about the first poor sod who discovered that. Hey, at least it isn’t elephant dung they have to sift through.
The way it works is that people (who are no doubt much poorer than those ultimately buying and drinking this coffee) forage around in the jungles of Southeast Asia collecting civet poop, then they take it home, wash it lightly, roast it, grind it and sell it to the obscenely rich. Please nobody tell them what’s in rich people’s poop, because if they’re willing to sift through the civet’s business for mere beans, imagine what they’d be willing to do for flecks of gold.
Or if none of that floats your jewel encrusted 50-foot boat and you need to buy a gift for someone who really and truly does have everything, how about a 24 karat gold toilet for hundreds of thousands of greenbacks, a crocodile-skin umbrella for $50 000, or 50 gold staples for your stapler for just $175? Or there’s always perfectly round, hand-shaved balls of ice (cubes are just so square) for $40 each, or the world’s most expensive loo paper, coming in at $30 a roll. Perhaps this is where the term fools gold comes from?
Today was a three-shooter day! I think I might be turning into a Camino alcoholic.
Left Amenal this morning for my final trek into Santiago. It came in at around 16.5km, and the last 6 almost killed me. Seriously, around km 11 I started bequeathing my things. (Grant Reingold, you were getting my car.)
They say the Camino is a journey of self discovery, well I discovered that this self is perfectly capable of walking, swearing, and crying at the same time.
Stopped somewhere (really who cares about specifics at this stage) and forced the locals to drink myself pretty/happy with me. Needless to say their rubber arms didnt need much twisting.
Then onwards in the rain.
The end of the Camino felt a little flat to me (no pun intended). I mean I’m not sure what I was expecting, dancing girls or a banner or something, but then maybe that would be missing the point; that life is about the journey, not the destination. Did I get it? Is that it?
tonight Im staying in Santiago next to the church in a seriously old monastary that has been turned into a hotel. Does that make me a nun for the night? Hope not.
So much has felt unplanned but incredibly meant-to-be on this Camino of mine.
From meeting the Sparks family from Joburg on my first morning here, to stumbling across my hotel completely by accident yesterday after a grueling 7 hour walk, when I could have just as easily carried on walking and missed it. And by some magic unplanned trick of timing, finding myself finishing this pilgrimage on my birthday.
So here’s to the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one.