Nigerian Scams

August 13, 2013

Enterprising chaps, the Nigerians. It seems that they have the monopoly on the informal pharmacology trade in South Africa; but it is the 419 scamsters of whom I wish to speak today. Some of them have moved their base of operations to other countries, and are operating local versions of scams in those countries.
nigerian-scammers
I get these invitations to be fleeced via email all the time. Now they’re coming to my phone via SMS.

ATT!You cell number won you R950,000 in the NELSON MANDELA FUND/RICA 2013 Mobile Grant with ref/no SA0319. Send an email to ricasa@live.co.za
Info +27110518021

Presumably the people who go to the trouble to send these messages must do their sums and come to the conclusion that it is worth while to go to the expense of sending out ‘x’ messages with the expectation of receiving ‘y’ replies, and at least some of those replying will be gullible enough to be fleeced of the contents of their bank accounts. I have no idea what the scamsters costs are; but I assume that there must be some. Cellphone networks charge something, however minimal to transmit SMS messages; and I suppose that those folk who operate spambots do not do it from altruistic motives.
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Rodriguez Robbed

January 17, 2013

Crooked children, yellow chalk
writing on the concrete walk
Their King died
Drinking from a Judas cup
looking down but seeing up
Sweet red wine
‘Cos Papa don’t allow no new ideas here
And now you hear the music
but the words don’t sound too clear

–Sixto Rodríguez, Inner City Blues

I owned four vinyl copies of Cold Fact, Rodríguez’s first album, replacing each one as it became worn out from almost constant play. The CD version now has pride of place in my collection.
program
We watched the documentary about Rodríguez last night, Searching for Sugar Man. The film explored the possible reasons why Rodríguez was so popular in South Africa, but bombed in his own country—the U.S.A.—and almost everywhere else. In South Africa he was more popular than Elvis Presley (who he?) and the Doors, but in the U.S.A. no one had heard of him. Perhaps, as the film suggests, his subversive lyrics found resonance amongst a repressed population in a police state (this doesn’t explain why he was also successful in Australia); or perhaps his music just ‘went viral’ here—at first it was only available on bootleg casettes before being picked up and marketed by A&M records.

A point only tangentially covered in the film was the issue of royalties. Mr Rodríguez was not aware that his album had gone platinum in South Africa and Australia. He was working in Detroit as a casual labourer on construction sites when he was ‘discovered’ in 1997 by South African journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom and fan Steven “Sugar” Segerman. It had been thought that he had committed suicide years before.

The question is: who trousered his money? Why did he not receive a penny of the royalties that were due to him? He has been described by film critic Roger Ebert as a “secular saint”, a man who doesn’t seem to care about money at all, but that does not absolve the record company executives who cynically robbed him. Even though he won’t initiate it himself, I hope some law enforcement agency takes the trouble to investigate this crime, and make an example of the perpetrators.

The priest is preaching from a shallow grave
He counts his money, then he paints you saved
Talking to the young folks
Young folks share the same jokes
But they meet in older places
So don’t tell me about your success
Nor your recipes for my happiness
Smoke in bed
I never could digest
Those illusions you claim to have going

–Sixto Rodríguez, Rich Folks Hoax

Update: Record sales have taken off following the Oscar win. It seems Mr Rodriguez is going to pursue his royalties.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.


Great Green Con

February 2, 2012

I’ve just returned home from my holiday at Knysna on the Garden Route. In our bathroom was a notice informing us that the Garden Route was suffering its worst drought in 130 years and to therefore use water sparingly. Whether or not this drought is an effect of climate change I am not qualified to say, but it did lead me to think about our concern for the environment, and what we are being encouraged to do about it.

The messages the public gets seem to fall into two distinct classes, the first of which contains the general exhortations to be conscious of our impact on the environment, minimising our carbon footprints and so on; and the specific, commercial messages as corporations attempt to cash in on the new environmental awareness. It is with this second class of message that I have a problem.
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A Mountainous Scam

November 11, 2011

Hey, I’ve got this wonderful idea to make a lot of money. It goes like this: I’m going to get people to vote by premium SMS for, oh, anything really. What about for the “prettiest city”, or “most fashionable football strip”? No, let’s make it “the new 7 wonders of the world”. Almost everyone thinks their country contains something pretty wonderful, so lots of people will vote. And we can let them vote as many times as they like, so we get more money. Oh, alright then, we’ll set up a website and let them vote there, too, but we’ll still make money on clickthroughs.

Table Mountain


We could also sell broadcast rights to the final awards ceremony where we’ll hand over the cheesy certificates to the winners, and we can charge the winners to use our logo on their advertising materials. And when the whole thing is over, we start again with a new competition. We could even register ourselves as a non-profit organization to make everything look above board; we don’t make a profit, we just pay ourselves mountainous salaries and investment bankeresque bonuses at the end of the day.
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More Prostate Palaver

November 3, 2011

Health is important. In fact, it’s a matter of life and death. It should–if you value your life at all–be of the gravest concern, yet there are those who spend more time selecting their brand of toothpaste than the providers of their health services. When my doctor prescribes medication for me I head to the internet to find out as much as I possibly can about it–side-effects, interactions and so on that may have a bearing on my particular circumstances and that my doctor may have missed–before I take it. But a lot of people will take anything recommended by some quack or other without devoting a single particle of thought to it. They see something like the following and rush out in their ovine flocks to enrich the person who penned the following:

Don’t let your prostate problems get the better of you…
Reclaim your sexual freedom
and endurance…
And I PROMISE
your wife will be begging for more!
Dear Friend,
Your doctor says it’s inevitable….

It’s the awkward part of getting older.

Your sexual vigour and desire drops… Your hair turns grey… Wrinkles form… Your eyes get weaker…

Your bones get brittle.

That’s just how it is, right?

Wrong!!!

Remember when you first met your wife?

When you simply could not keep your hands off each other. Every flat surface was an invitation you couldn’t resist and you had enough stamina for days.

Your wife might’ve had a lot to complain about at the time but it certainly wasn’t in that department… Do you remember how that felt?

The truth is that sex is an awesome, exciting, exhilarating and fun part of life. And as men it’s a big part of our identity.

And we’re supposed to just give that up? Who made these rules anyway???

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Out, Damned Spot

September 9, 2011

There’s a sucker born every minute.
–David Hannum


“Convergence” has been a buzzword in technology circles for a while now. Well, smartphones converged with pustular adolescent skins when two companies independently started to market smartphone apps that claimed to be able to cure acne. AcnePwner (“Kill ACNE with this simple, yet powerful tool!) attracted 3,300 downloads at 99c a pop, and AcneApp sold 11,600 at $1.99. Read the rest of this entry »


If It Walks Like a Duck…

August 11, 2011

Remember Dr Jonathan V Wright of stomach acid fame? This should jog your memory:

When Theresa’s husband started leaving his socks in the fridge…

She was merely worried. But when he came back from a fishing trip minus the fish, his boat and his dog, they both decide to see Dr Wright. Vincent thought he was “losing it”, but it turned out he was actually missing the stomach acid he needed to break down his food. And without it, his brain cells weren’t being “fed” the nutrients they depend on. He’s sharp as a razor now!

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