My funniest line

In 1993, I was in Grade 11 and a member of the Parktown Boys’ High School Public Speaking team. Our four members were as unlikely to be public speakers as you could find. Two were exceptional athletes in their respective disciplines, and stereotypically assumed to be intellectually dim (they weren’t), one was a class clown.

And then there was me, the autistic anti-athlete. During one physical education lesson at school, the teacher had yelled something about how his grandmother could run faster than me, and I’d shot back, “I’m not your grandmother”.

Our topic for one particular speech, in a competition between several schools, was “The Games People Play”.

It was particularly memorable because both my parents attended (my father died only a few months later).

During our rehearsal, our team had come up with a very similar topic, so our stress levels were low, we were in a good mood, and I believe we came second in the competition.

Just before my summation as the leader of the team, the class clown, André, handed back to me by saying “Randolph is what you’d get if Snow White slept with Dopey.”

Naturally this brought the house down, and I could see my parents laughing too. I remember finishing very lamely, and that was that.

After the event, people had congregated as they tend to do, and I noticed André talking to my parents. I also knew that they’d never met, and it was unlikely they had introduced themselves in the short while they’d been chatting.

I walked over, and the line came to me as I opened my mouth:

“Ah, André, I see you’ve met Snow White and Dopey.”

Clipboards, Rednex, and being German

I’ve had an interesting weekend.

On Friday night, we hosted nearly fifty people in our house, for the year-end function for some of the hospitalists in town. The hardwood floors took some damage.

On Saturday night, I performed at another private year-end function, for actual money.

My role in Friday night’s affair was to be affable and humorous, based on my real self. I think I succeeded.

My role in Saturday night’s affair was to be a German ski instructor, with flashbacks to the 1980s. I was one of four performers in total, and each of us had a character and had to arrange a dance for the attendees to perform.

I coloured my hair with chalk spray. There were three colours to choose from: blue, pink and green, so I chose all three.

I walked around with a clipboard, a measuring tape, and a giant pink pen. The clipboard had black letter writing on the front page, where I’d written the German word for “clipboard”. It looked menacing.

Klaus Wunderlift

When introducing myself to attendees, I wrote name tags for them with my giant pen, and a pad of yellow sticky notes. For some reason, these were a huge hit. I naturally didn’t use their real names, preferring to make them up as I went along. Some of the more popular names were Loud, Cute Smile, Tall, Awesome and Fab.

I had to call a square dance. Because I’ve never called a square dance in my life, I searched through (many) YouTube clips, and finally settled on a circle dance (as opposed to a square dance), set to the Rednex version of Cotton Eye Joe. Before the dance, I gave a dramatic reading of the chorus, which a friend had translated into “the original” German, about Baumwollaugen-Johannes*.

My German accent has been used in many performances, including as Hubert Gruber from the stage production of ‘Allo! ‘Allo!, to a rewrite of the stage play Night Call, where I play a socialist librarian. Most recently, I’ve been cast in a voice role as a German scientist for an independent game. I’d stop using it if people stopped wanting to hear it. If only I could do an American accent as convincingly.

One thing I’ve learned as a live performer (which includes teaching and presenting, for what it’s worth), is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing, as long as you can fake it or make it at least look like your ineptitude is intentional.


  • If you’re curious, this is how Cotton Eye Joe looks in German:

Wär’ Baumwollaugen-Johannes nicht gewesen,
wär’ ich schon lang verheiratet.
Wo bist du hergekommen?
Wo bist du hingegangen?
Wo bist du hergekommen, Baumwollaugen-Johannes?

Rudolph Potts (Baker)

My very favourite author died a week ago.

Sir Terry’s death was expected, though not this suddenly.

For the last week, I’ve been wondering how, or even whether, to address this loss on my website. So many greater words have been written.

I decided to relate a story, based on what my friend Brendon said on Twitter.


In 1996, I was a Journalism student at the notorious famous Rhodes University in Grahamstown. It was a very short six-month drinking holiday, sponsored entirely by my mother.

At the time, I was still going by my legal name, Randolph Potter.

So, I was there for six months. In that time, I met hundreds of people, many of whom still remember me, and as the stories go, I’m still friends with at least some of them, in spite of my self-importance.

When I was not in the Rhodes Music Radio (RMR) studio, producing radio shows, I was in the RMR studio doing talk shows with various co-hosts and guests. I was good at the former, and bad at the latter. I had exactly one good interview, and that was the first one, which I actually prepared for. Then I got lazy and tried to wing it. Yep, I had that much hubris that I thought I could do live community radio without any preparation, for an entire hour, on a Monday morning.

Some famous South African journalists of today used to do radio shows with me. This is why they are now famous South African journalists, and I am an IT consultant in Canada.

While not doing radio, I was often found at The Vic Main Bar (at the eponymous Victoria Hotel), or at another bar called Kolors, oddly located just outside The Vic.

I was part of a flock of first-year students who called ourselves “The Twenty Rapists and Pillagers”. The motto was “Remember to rape before you pillage before you burn”. Three of us were called Claire, but one spelt it without the “i”. Lara and Kim were there too. I liked Lara’s hair. Kim eventually married Ryan, but she dated Howard while I was there. Bailey was still straight, dating Yoland, and I had a mad crush on him. Dan and Wayne were the epic duo and were both super smart (we all were). Wayne now directs films with Hollywood actors in them. Dylan was called Jesus because he was a Wiccan, had a beard and dressed in robes. Clinton was caught masturbating, from outside his dorm room window, because he had turned on the light and it was casting a shadow on the drawn curtains. I have a list of all the names on my computer, scanned from the original “manifesto” Bailey and I put together. I wish that friendship had never ended. It was about money, of course. Stupid.

During the afternoons and early evenings, I would be found on the Internet, in one of Rhodes University’s computer labs, mostly on IRC. I had a website (which is what you are reading today, though the content has matured a little), called Randolph’s Delusions of Grandeur, hosted on the RUCUS server. It was from that account, randolph@rucus.ru.ac.za (which no longer exists, Praise Be To Siv), that I sent an email to one Mister Terry Pratchett, in early 1996, to tell him that there was a grammatical error in one of his books.

You see, the unknighted Terry had written “two choices”, when of course he meant “two options”. As mentioned, I was in my Dick Phase, which lasted a good number of years, where I would act superior to everyone, including my favourite author of all time.

I was witty and clever in my email (or so I thought). And I never heard anything back from him.

After what amounted to delayed distress at my father’s death two years previously, I packed my trunk and trundled back to the concrete jungle of Johannesburg, before the university could kick me out. You see, I was not doing very well in my classes, mainly on account of not attending them, nor doing any work. Except Drama. And Philosophy. The lecturer for Philosophy was Marius and he was really smart. Drama was a fun thing to do because I hated Psychology. Turns out I want to be an actor now. Go figure.

So, because I was about to lose the privilege of attending the university due to lack of interest in studying, the post-traumatic stress could not have come at a better time….

I moped around for the rest of the year with my then-best friend Simon. Between episodes of mania and lows of deep darkness, I decided I would attend Damelin Computer School the following year (1997 if you are keeping up). Simon was doing the Software Support course there, with his classmate and new friend Mike. Now, Mike was coincidentally the brother of a woman Simon was spading flirting with, who also happened to work at the local veterinarian. So we all kind of moved in the same circles.

This is a convoluted way of telling you that the universe was making me go to Damelin and do this course and eventually become best friends with Mike, whose daughter is now my god-daughter. The main lecturer, Sharon, and I are still good friends too. Which reminds me: I need to upload a file for her this week.

One day, in 1997, a guy in my class who I shall call Kevin, because that is his name, came up to me and said “I couldn’t remember why your name sounded familiar, until I re-read this book last night, called Feet Of Clay. It’s by a guy called Terry Pratchett. Have you read it?”

I told him that, regretfully, I had not. My most recent book by Mister Pratchett (for he was not yet knighted), was the one in which I had read “two choices”, and hence written to the author to complain.

Kevin told me that, not only did I appear in Feet Of Clay, but that I died on page 55 of the UK paperback edition.

Naturally, I was fascinated by this. I confirmed that indeed, a “Rudolph Potts” appears in the book, and on page 55 of the UK paperback edition, his death is described briefly by one of the characters.

Could this be Terry Pratchett’s way of dealing with annoying fans who corrected his grammar? Killing them off in a book?

I never got the opportunity to ask him. I was in South Africa when he was not, and when he was, I could not make the time to see him.


Hopefully you enjoyed reading that as much as I did writing it.

I was reading The Long War, the second book in the Long Earth series that Sir Terry Pratchett co-authored with Stephen Baxter, in January of this year. His words still resound.

A person on the Internet wrote that he (or she) will not be reading Terry’s last book, in order to be safe in the knowledge that there is still one more book that Terry has written that he (or she) has not yet read.

I doubt this will be the case with me, because Tiffany Aching, but his death is a great loss to literature and social commentary, at a time where we need a mirror held up to us, to remind us how silly humans are. And to laugh at ourselves.

I am still a dick from time to time, but being Killed by a Famous Author in a Book was the start of my own journey to being less pompous and arrogant.

Thank you, Sir Terry, for apocryphally putting me in my place.

CSI: Cyber – Not Better Than Knight Rider

Tonight I watched the first episode of CSI: Cyber.

I live-posted the experience on App.net. Here are my comments, very lightly edited.


“Why are foreign voices coming out of the camera?”

CYBER ALL THE THINGS!

Oh gods, Dawson is in this. In, apparently, a hair-piece.

TOKEN BLACK MAN!

What an ethnically-diverse team. None of which is the lead.

Ooh, cool scene transition. It’s so WarGames.

A BABY’S LIFE IS AT STAKE!

I think this is worse than the new Knight Rider was. I F**KING LOVE IT!

He’s a white hat hacker, folks.

This is so bad, it’s good.

“I know what it’s like to be violated.” Script written by theatre school dropouts.

IMPORTANT EXPOSITION TO EXPLAIN THE BLACK DUDE AND PATRONISE HIM AT THE SAME TIME.

Who’s the comedian? I guess it’s Dawson.

Nothing creepy at all about approaching a kid from outside his bedroom window.

CSI: Cyber. I’m ten minutes in and it’s SO BAD I just need to watch all of it.

These voices weren’t supposed to be there. CSI: Apple Event.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (etc). Oh my goodness.

I think this is subverting the CSI tropes intentionally.

FORESHADOWING.

The tech scene in James Bond was better.

“All I’ve got is green code here.” And then the malware shows up in red. So much for the computer security industry.

The guy who put in that SSH bug in Apple code? He wrote the malware in this code because { replicate } is … um … replicated.

My mood has improved immensely.

Slow motion action shot of Dawson kicking in the door.

THIS IS THE WRONG BABY! IT DOESN’T HAVE THE FRECKLE! Because all white babies look the same.

Dusting the diaper for prints. The one single sensible thing they’ve done. And then they send a photo of the print over iMessage or something.

“You can’t take that money. That’s our ticket out.”

Now the assassin is riding off on a dirt bike. Dawson put a cap in his ass.

It must be satire. There’s no other reasonable explanation.

Apparently SD cards have neon blue stuff inside.

tap tap tap

“There we go. All languages translated to English.”

Even the accents are retained! BRING ME THIS MAGIC!

It’s awesome because it made it through the entire production process, on to the screen, and it’s still this bad.

LET’S THROW IN SOME HACKER TERMINOLOGY TO LEGITIMISE THIS SHOW!

3D holographic model of surgery scars. This is so awesome.

FORESHADOWING IS COMING HOME TO ROOST!

Now the hackers have infiltrated the PlayStation network. This I can believe.

The Signal Strength indicator isn’t supposed to fluctuate like that.

Bad edit. Oh, the technique is intentional. Of all the reasons to stop watching, it’s motion sickness? Really? I’ll keep going.

WHEEL SPINNING SOUND EFFECT ON DIRT ROADS: check.

Dawson just shattered a door window with the butt of his gun underwater. I’m so wet right now.

THE BABY MANNEQUIN ISN’T BREATHING! Oh good, they replaced it at the last second with a real baby.

SUPER SLOW MOTION ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. They must have run short ten seconds.

Ho ho. Parents’ basement joke because HACKERS!

They didn’t use the word “orthogonal”. I think they’ll save it for the series finale.


My advice. Don’t watch it unless you have had only three hours of sleep.

A review of silly hats

My friend Aidan posted about the new Pope on Facebook, and how he doesn’t like silly hats as much as Vitamin B-16, prompting me to plumb the depths of DuckDuckGo Image Search.

For your reference, here’s Benedict Eks-vee-eye:

‘sup?

And now here’s Francis, with three excellent reasons why he doesn’t wear a silly hat in public.

iu-7

iu-8

iu-9

Of course, there’s lots of evidence that he does wear silly hats, like when he auditioned for the Village People:

iu-10

Or when he wanted to play Robin Hood:

iu-11

I don’t know what’s happening here:

Pope Francis

And finally, a reasonable, tasteful hat:

iu-13

Redirecting the Internet

I have no archive of my old websites. What you see here today is the result of many (many!) years of iteration and improvement.

Ten years ago, on 12 October 2003 I attempted to get the search engines of the world to link back here, by listing the old URLs where my website has lived. Also, my website has never been exciting enough to be saved by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

The downside is that I cannot really see how I have grown up online. This version, created by 36-year-old me, is very different from the first single-page, no-background, flat-HTML page I built on 15 October 1995 when I was just 18 years old.

However, as I mentioned way back in 2003, some of the wording is still the same, including the opening line on my About Me page: “Before we get much further, allow me to tell you about myself. (Close your eyes if you must)”.

So it was interesting to find, quite by accident, a reference to one of my old URLs (http://minnie.iafrica.com/~rbsp/stupid.html) in a publication called “Media & Folklore: Contemporary Folklore IV(Ed. Mare Kõiva, 2009).

I’m not sure which joke page it was referring to, because I’m old and don’t remember my naming convention back then. That website was moved shortly after I got my first job working at an ISP in December 1997, and it would have changed periodically since then.

Never one to miss an opportunity though, I invite you to look at the new, shiny, October 2013 version of my humour pages! Clickety at the top to browse through the list.