Toddler’s Ruin Your Youtube

As the father of a toddler my Youtube channel has now been shot to hell. Whereas once I was recommended episodes of TV panel shows from the UK, the latest music videos by my favourite bands and hilarious John Oliver clips, I am now directed towards various nursery rhyme sites, singalong songs, and rather bizarrely, highlights from Ru Paul’s Drag Race – what are other parents doing with their toddlers?

This is not strictly my fault. The algorithms on these sites are quick to latch onto any new behaviour, and my son just happens to be entirely fascinated with any object that might contain a game, TV show, or photo of himself. If he is around, I find it impossible to hold my phone anywhere in the house without triggering some kind of instant, exhaustive battle for ownership that makes WWE look like kittens snuggling. The second my phone is out my pocket, even to take a call, my son rushes me like I’m the ball carrier, and he is Francois Pienaar off the side of a scrum. All my photos are of him moving toward the camera to see what I am taking a photo of.

Thanks to Youtube I am already aware that parents who once watched the nursery rhymes I am watching with him were soon onto Paw Patrol (somehow I find I already know the theme tune), Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and episodes of In the Night Garden, a show set in a horror park, filled with sentient balloon people, a group of men who never wear trousers, a woman who lifts her skirts for anyone whose looking, and a man whose desperate loneliness leads to him going to bed each night with a stone. It’s a show adults universally describe as being, “Bizarre” and/or “Creepy”.

The prevalence with which this show is mentioned online makes my initiation into the cult seem inevitable. Am I really one day going to allow my child to become totally absorbed by poor miserable Makka Pakka, depressively stacking and washing stones, just so I can get five crucial minutes to take a shit? The answer is yes, and the reason is that I think what we had as kids was, if not worse, then at least just as inspired by hallucinogens.

Lets starts with the obvious. Bob is a sponge that lives in the sea. In a pineapple. The Flintstones have a Martian friend named “The Great Gazoo” and the main enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a brain who lived in the stomach of a nightclub bouncer.

The Teletubbies were amorphous blobs with TVs in their stomachs, who lived on custard and toast and talked to a baby sun. They also look like the last faces you’ll see before you’re strangled to death by bath salt addicts at a funfair. The only female smurf was constructed in a lab by an evildoer intent on leading the good Smurfs astray, Pokemon is about kids who keep magical animals in tiny cages, and then force them to fight each other, and The Carebears was about a gang of mystical cloud beings, who watched every single child, 24/7 looking for signs of unhappiness and then shot rainbows out of their stomachs to alter people’s moods. Henry the train gets bricked up alive into a tunnel in Thomas the Tank Engine, Johnny Bravo and Pepe Le Pew are sexual predators and Donald Duck frequently had roast birds for lunch.

Keeping it local Pumpkin Patch had a dancing dog, fruit that sang, and two puppet cousins so nightmarish they made you wish humans didn’t have hands, while Sarel Seemonster, Karel Kraai, Bennie Boekwurm and the other characters from Wielie Wielie Walie are proof that the Apartheid government wanted English kids to suffer too. No one knew what was happening in Liewe Heksie, Mina Moo was a talking cow who was trying to get you to drink her udder juices, and if Zet had ever come burbling into my room I likely would have kicked him down the stairs.

The truth is that children’s TV has always been weird. We don’t pay artists enough, and children’s entertainers even less. As a result it’s only shaggy drug addicts with no talent, and a penchant for child abuse, who dress up like wizards and prowl the grounds of Arts Festival. It is there they are promptly picked up to develop TV shows. This has worked for generations, not because the peyote gives these criminals any additional insight into a child’s mind, but because children are new. The whole world is a wonder to them. They can spend hours just hiding in a bush or throwing rocks at other rocks. The reason we remember the shows from our youth with nostalgia is that we saw them with a child’s brain. These shows appeared no more wonderful, or strange, than the rest of the world and it’s the memory of this feeling that triggers our nostalgia. Either that or the Xanax.

How To Lie To Children

The average person lies 3000 times a day. It’s a fact. Well okay, it’s not a fact, it’s a lie, but, like with real columnists, I wanted you to think of me as an expert on the subject. What’s true is that according to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without lying at least once, and that lying makes you appear at least 12% more interesting to members of the opposite sex. One of those two stats is also a lie.

The other day I told my 19 month old son a lie. I told him the lamps in the store were broken so we didn’t have to turn them on and off for the rest of the day, and so began my slide into the deluge of lies I will inevitably tell him over the course of his life. I am prepared for it. As a middle-aged man I have long ago grown comfortable with the fact that sometimes it’s better to tell a lie than to hurt someone’s feelings, or even just to perk up a boring conversation. I have also comforted myself with the fact that this is true because someone much smarter than me proved it is.

Immanuel Kant looked closely at society’s long-held moral principle that, “it is a duty to tell the truth” and suggested that it would, if taken unconditionally and singly, make any society impossible. To show this he created a scenario, in which he asks you, the reader, to imagine that you live in an isolated house in the woods. You are all alone, when you hear a loud knocking on the door one night, and you open the door. A terrified man (let’s call him Bakkies Botha) stumbles in, screaming that he is being chased by a murderer who is trying to kill him. “Hide me!” he sobs. So you do. You lock him in the basement and go back upstairs.

Later there’s another banging on the door. This time, when you open it, the murderer stands there with his weapon, angry and clearly intent on violence – for the sake of comedy, let’s assume he is beloved TV icon from the 80s, “Zet”. Zet describes Bakkies Botha in detail – Two metres tall, played for the Springboks, has the face of three day old road kill. “Do you know where that man is?” Zet asks. According to Kant, if we want to be truly moral, we have a duty to say “Yup, he’s in the basement”. You see Kant is arguing that in order for us to be good, decent people it is our duty to avoid moral ambiguity and to always tell the truth. Zet has the moral duty not to murder, and we are not responsible for what he does with the honest answer we give him. For Kant, lying really is black and white. Probably why they called him a Kant.

Since my son was born, I have thought about the concept of lying in some detail, and therefore feel no shame in the fact that I lied to a toddler simply to avoid switching a store lamp on and off, for hours on end, until the cashiers tossed us in the street. I have concluded that I am happy to use lying as a parental aid if it helps him to go through life a little less upset, or if it makes parenting fractionally easier.

It is, for instance, going to be much easier for me to say, “If you want to grow up big and strong, you have to eat your vegetables”, than what I really mean, which is, “your size is mostly genetically predetermined, as is much of your well-being. Eating your veggies is just one factor in a thousand unknowables that may affect health. The question of your mortality is highly arbitrary. You may never grow up at all, but eat your veggies because maybe they help, and they are a lot cheaper than the meat you like so much.”

When he catches me snacking, and asks what I am eating, I will always say, Brussel sprouts, Spur will only be open on his birthday, and “Barney the Dinosaur” definitely causes cancer.

I know that there are still parents out there determined to be totally honest with their children all of the time, never once deviating from the truth, and if they intend to be like that, I would urge them to remember some of these things:

“The dog went to go live on the farm” should be, “Bongo is dead and probably in a rubbish bin behind the vet”. “You are the most special, wonderful child in the world” is statistically unlikely. And instead of saying, “Mommy or daddy knows best”, just admit, “We haven’t a clue what we are doing, and don’t understand the long term consequences of most of what we say either”.

In the end I think it’s obvious that you too should lie to your kids. People who are lied to as children are more popular in the work environment when they grow up, earn more and live an average of 2.3 years longer. They don’t, or at least they might, but I have no proof for that, but then I think you get the point by now.

The One Thing Johannesburg Urgently Needs

After ten years of Jacob Zuma in charge and an economy that has decayed faster than the Protea’s one day batting skills, we finally have a new president. Cyril Ramaphosa is now tasked with not only undoing the damage of the predecessor, but also with setting the country on the right footing towards becoming a true global powerhouse. While his advisers have clearly got most aspects of this rejuvenation covered I would argue that there is one element he is totally forgetting – an abstract quality that defines every great country in the world, and one which South Africa finds itself sadly lacking in. While we as South Africans can happily state we are among the leaders of the world in political influence, resources, cuisine, history, culture and jaw dropping scenery, the one thing that this country has always been missing is a giant monster attack.

Anyone who pays attention to world history must know that all of the great countries have at some point, had their finest cities pillaged by some form of massive beast. New York was besieged by King Kong and The Beast from 20 000 fathoms. London has been beset by “Gorgo”. Tokyo has been ripped apart by “Godzilla” so many times, it has become a running joke. “Hong Kong” witnessed the fury of “The Peking Man” (Ironic now I know). “Ymir” destroyed Rome. Los Angeles, saw its end at the hands of “Them”. The documentaries “Colossal” and “The Host”, go into graphic detail on just two of the beasts that have curb-stomped Seoul. Bangkok got “Garuda” and even relatively insignificant Copenhagen was attacked by “Reptilicus”. To date the most horrifying movie monster this country has experienced is “Mr Bones“. How can Johannesburg call itself a “World Class African City” if it remains unscathed by massive beasts?

Johannesburg has two large problems when it comes to becoming a feast for a Kaiju. The first is that naturally it is lacking the skyline of those other more frequently attacked cities, while the second is its position as an in-land city. As such it has no easy monster spawning sites. Any monster that arises from the depths of an, as yet unknown, sea-trench would head straight for the easier, if totally unappetising snacks of Cape Town, Durban, or even, Port Elizabeth. Cape Town’s Clifton beach, Sea-point, and town centre, are begging to be ravaged, however the city provides nowhere at all for the beast to climb during the epic finale. It’s difficult enough to get a lost Spaniard off Table Mountain, let alone fight a 300 metre radioactive monster there.

Johannesburg does have the facilities. The glittering office towers of central Sandton provide a prime location for a monster of that magnitude, complete with taxi-drivers, who, for various reasons, are already running, and screaming in the streets. What more classic monster movie setting could we ask for, than for some mammoth beast to be clinging to the top of The Michaelangelo Tower swatting at a herd of social-media drones?

But where would this animal come from, and how would we lure it there in the first place? Certainly the few remaining mine-dumps, and their low level radiations, and poisons, do provide a birthing spot fit for a creature of that calibre, but the squat Tuscan-style complexes that surround the city like nervous policemen, aren’t exactly satisfying as monster fodder. What’s to stop our monster, who has spent aeons sleeping below the The Western Deep Level Mine, and finally burst to the surface, from simply turning around and going back into hibernation?

I think the mandate for Cyril and his team is clear: If we want our country to thrive, its most iconic city needs to do everything it can to lure a giant monster to the heart of Sandton, and capture that moment on film. What greater way could South Africa announce its presence on the world scene than by developing a series of glittering skyscrapers along all its major arterial routes, awakening some ancient horror and luring it to the business district, then letting it smash it all to pieces?

Apart from launching our country to the very head of the African economic table, this act would also have the added benefit of tearing down all the over-rated, terribly designed, glass monstrosities that are already in place in Sandton, and allow us to rebuild a CBD where neighbouring buildings take the appearance of the building next to them, and the lives of the people who live, and work in the city, into account. Right now Sandton looks like it was pieced together, by an angry, and uncaring ape with a CAD system, and a hammer, and I for one can think of no better way to fix this problem than to knock it all down.

Death and the Middle Ages

At 37 I would most likely have been dead had I been born in the Middle Ages. At the very least my teeth would have rotted out, and I would have been immobile, smelling quite bad under a fur rug in a dark hovel I still shared with my wife, nine children, their children, eight dogs (all unfathomably called Lucy) and a sack of last autumn’s wheat. These days that was just the age at which I had my first child. I am told 37 is not unaccountably ancient to be spawning, but I am still sure that this relatively late age will either keep me young or make me very old, incredibly fast.

As a result I am now more aware of my health than at any point before. If my child is as tardy as I have been, I will have to make it to 74 just to see my grandson, and a near impossible 148 if I want to drool in the face of my great-great-grandson. Despite this, finding the inspiration to drop a few kilograms has been hard. Seventy-four seems so far away, and no one is saying I am not going to make it there if, instead of exercising, I sit on the couch and eat a loaf of bread in the dark.

There is one thing that could help though. When my son was born we put up a photo of him fresh from the womb, and probably feeling more than a little put out, onto Facebook where we told the world the date of his birth, his length and crucially his weight. Every year we celebrate the increasing years, and grandma’s doorway will eventually attest to his increasing height, but nowhere do we record ongoing weight for posterity. Why bother writing down the weight in the first place, if you have zero intention of mapping just how fat a person was each year, and most importantly at the moment of death?

As someone whose deeds are highly unlikely to go down in history, a gravestone that captured beginning and end weight would possibly provide the inspiration I need to let myself go a little less. Either that or give a hint as to why I died so young. And as with babies, relatives could gather around your freshly deceased, and naked corpse to capture pictures, gather likes on Facebook, and compare the state of you, with the ruin your other relatives made of themselves in life. Maybe if we did this it would galvanise us into looking after ourselves a little better, but more likely it would only make the indignity of a smelly, immobile death under a rug, in a dark hovel seem appealing. At least you could eat bread under there.

I Am A Victim

Me at a function of some kind

Recently Social media took to mocking former Bafana Bafana stalwart Mark Fish after he shared a picture he thought was him with Hugh Masekela, and was instead Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse. Much hilarity ensued as the entire country briefly forgot the fact that Zuma is still president (and that the amazing Hugh Masekela had died) and shared pictures of random people who looked loosely like, or shared a characteristic with, another celebrity. #MarkFishChallenge

I was at University when I was first accused of being Hollywood actor William H Macy. Mr Macy had recently been absolutely killing it in the movies with roles in Fargo, and something in which he played a fake superhero The Shoveller, so his face was pretty well known and inevitably some wit at my student job declared me to be his doppelgänger. I was flabbergasted. Mr Macy is a great actor, but he is also about as attractive as Donald Trump bending down to take his pants off. I, a debonair sophisticate, beloved by men and women alike, couldn’t possibly share a passing resemblance with this man, who in another age may have earned his coppers being paraded from town to town in a cage for the peasants to gawp at.

Since then others have remarked at our similarity, terrifyingly more often as I get older – and probably look more like Frank, his character in Shameless. It’s something I would like to pretend I am used to, and so when Mark Fish made his monumental Twitter cock up, I posted a picture of myself claiming a likeness to a man I hadn’t previously noticed was in fact a Hollywood heartthrob. That tweet was largely ignored – and I had specifically chosen a photo in which I thought I looked particularly Macyesque (E-Macy-ated?). Perhaps I don’t look that much like him after all?

The thought was just as sad as discovering I had looked like him in the first place. I realised with a sinking feeling that my retirement plan had been to claim to be him to gain entrance to funerals, and weddings, before shovelling free buffet in my sack.

Anyway I guess what I am saying is that Hugh Masekela is dead, and before now nobody knew that I was the main victim of that.