Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Andrew Girardin's Kenyan Komic Kollective

You might remember my moving and inspirational posts about Microfinance. Basically, I got my students to choose people for me to invest in via the micro-loan portal Some of the students really got into it and lent money themselves. This act of getting others to lend money to Kiva filled me with self-satisfied smugness, my favourite feeling, and I persuaded, bullied, teased, cajoled, and annoyed loads of others into joining.

There are currently 14 in my team and in its first five months we have lent $1800, which makes us collectively amazing. (Join us!)

Andrew Girardin's Lonely Hearts Loan Band - Total Amount Loaned
A couple of weeks after financing my fifth set of pig babies in Cambodia, I bumped into Karamel. Karamel is a young Swiss woman of rare loveliness who, disappointed at the waste and inefficiency of charities she had volunteered for, set up her own. 
They get most of their money from hand-painting and selling Christmas cards to large Swiss companies.

I casually mentioned my Microfinance exploits. It was in no way a calculated move and I hadn't spent a single second imagining a romantic trip to Africa digging wells together and shit. It didn't take her long to crush the dreams I didn't have. "I don't really like Microfinance," she said.

Annoyed, I demanded she read my blog posts and after she had, I took her to lunch.

"What's all this blab about you not liking Microfinance?" I asked.
"I don't think it's the best model for East Africa," said Karamel, delicately kissing the foam on her latte macchiato. "I dunno, maybe it's good for Asia or South America where they're more entreprenuerial and have a culture of saving and so on. But if you lend a guy in East Africa a thousand dollars, you'll never see him again. I've seen it happen many times. And even if you do help him increase his income from a dollar to two dollars a day, he'll just buy a mobile phone. He won't save the money."
Deflated, I sat there, stirring the dregs of my tea. "But I want to do something," I whined, attractively. "There must be a way."
"You can't do anything for them," said Karamel, "They have to do it themselves. I've been in this charity business for ages. The western world can't help. We should just let them get on with it. I'm serious."
I accepted this harsh truth and gave up on Kenya. In future, I'd focus my Microfinance efforts on Asia and South America.

I saw Karamel again later that day. I was a bit depressed. Clearly, if Kenya wants to improve its quality of life, Kenya needs to do most of the work. But still, it's hard to accept that there's zero contribution you can make.
"Aw," she said, pointing her exquisite face at me. "You look down."
"Yeah," I said, "I want to be able to do something for East Africa. Asking me to give up on a whole part of the world is like asking me to give up daydreaming about owning a bazooka."
She shook her head. "The only thing you can do is give them a job. Then they'd have income and self-respect and dignity and the chance to grow their skills and be an example for others in their community."
"But I'm not IBM or Shell," I pointed out, correctly. "I don't have no jobs for nobody."

But then I remembered. I do! I outsource my comics to artists and stuff! And then I remembered another thing - the Kenyan charity people paint Christmas cards and stuff! So they have artists there. Those Kenyan guys could do my comics! Karamel could connect me with her artist friends, and I'd send them my mad comic ideas, and they'd draw them, and I'd send them money. There would be enough work for a group of people. I'd modestly call it Andrew Girardin's Kenyan Comic Collective.

It was genius, and I was excited about Doing Good again. Karamel agreed that it was a genius concept that would really benefit Kenyan people, so she agreed to help me.

It was Karamel's turn to look sad. It had been a month since she'd written to the artist in Kenya. All he had to do was send me a sample of his work so we could get started. Every week she wrote to him reminding him. Every week he wrote back with some lame excuse for the delay.
She shook her head. "You just can't help some people," she said.
I knew she had been running her charity for so long that she was heartily sick of it. "You're sick of it, aren't you?" I said, saying the words that my brain had thought.
"Yes," she said. And the artist's failure to do a simple thing that could better his own life had depressed her.
But I was still positive. "Maybe I'll call it the Kenyan Komic Kollective," I said, "With three Ks. That'll be really controversial and we'll get media buzz. And then people will hear about it and we can get them more and more comic-making work. And design work, and more Christmas cards, and ...."
She smiled at me politely. She knew all about East Africa. My enthusiasm was cute - not cute enough for her to want to sleep with me - but misguided.
I hoped she was wrong.

Four months later, I realised the artist guy was never going to send me the sample. He literally couldn't be bothered scanning one of his pieces and emailing it to me.
I tried to find Kenyan artists on Deviant Art, the website for artists. I didn't find one.
So I spent the money I'd put aside for the KKK and spent it on beer. Those beer companies work hard to get my money and I'm happy to reward their effort.

I did make some loans to East Africa. Sometimes I choose people based on factors such as how much their photo or name makes me laugh. Thus I've made loans to Kenya, Tanzania, and whatever the one next to them is:

My Kiva loan map

I hope it does some good.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Last Sunday I put a name to one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and its name is BODYMINTON.

How do I get to name a sport? How fast is it growing? Here's the deal:

In conversation with a friend from football, I mentioned that I sometimes play badminton. He looked interested. "Badminton? I love badminton. Me and my friend used to play every week. I'd love a game."
Hold your horses, thought I. Not many people are compatible with my badminton playing style. Most people want to play for points, ensuring the game is stop-start and you don't get a sweat on. I prefer running around like a child trying to hit everything back over the net. I explained this to him.
He smiled. "Ah, that's how we played, too. It's not much fun playing for points. Although we did ... in a way. We tried to hit each other with the shuttle. You'd get one point for a limb, two for the body, four for the head."

Revised Bodyminton Scoring

I was excited. "Oh. My. God. That is the most amazing thing I've ever heard. We're going to play this Sunday. Do you want to come?"

So I coined the name BODYMINTON and its player base went from two to five in a single day.

It was, as you can guess, massive fun for everyone except Cecile, who is the easiest to hit with the shuttle. We did have a couple of normal games of doubles (for points, but only one of us took it seriously and she's too inept to influence the outcome). In parallel we played Bodyminton, leading to statements like, 'So the score's 10-6 to us and 4-0 to you.'

Bodyminton - join the craze.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

And The Survey Says...

Recently, Cecile wrote an article on her blog about women, beauty, and self-confidence. Her conclusions were based on an anonymous internet survey she created. Sadly, the results were somewhat distorted because I filled in the survey four times, disguised as women.

Cecile's questions were thought-provoking beyond belief, and any feminist would have been proud of them:

From 1 to 10, how good-looking do you think you are?
How often do you wear high heels?
Would you like to lose weight?
Do you have any complexes?
Have you ever considered plastic surgery?

You may have guessed that I am being sarcastic. Anyway, I created some personas and started filling in her questionnaire.


Like most of my fictional characters, The Nine was more a collection of witty responses to prompts than anything resembling a realistic, coherent person.

Cecile started a chat with me an hour after I filled in the form. She was suspicious...

Cecile: I saw your survey thingy
            It was the only one where someone selected "9" to

            describe themselves

(This was surprising, since I knew Cecile herself had filled in the form, and she had once spent ten minutes trying to think of someone hotter than herself. She finally said, 'I dunno, maybe Helen of Troy.')

Me: huh?

Cécile: It has to be you.

Me: what are you on about?

Cécile: did you fill in my survey?
            and selected 9 to say how good looking you were?
            and then put jokes in it
            it can't be a real girl who did it

Me: why not?

Cécile: because
            I know it is you
            I'm reading it again
            you're sick!
            I got dood results

Me: that's dood

Cécile: I meant good!

            34 women and 1 man did it
            I'd like to get more results though
            maybe you could tell your students about it or smthg?

Me: 1 man? huh?
       what did he write?

Cécile: yes, YOU
            he or she wrote, in reply to:
           Why do you wear heels?
           "To make sex kinkier"

Me: That sounds reasonable

Cécile: Do you have any complexes?
            "I own a factory complex in Guangzhou"
            I'm still laughing!
            and on plastic surgery
            "I think about having my ears symmetricised"

Me: So she's American. A
 Brit would write 'made symmetrical'

Cécile: no
             an american would write

Damn! Busted by my innate Britishness. Well, she was on to me now. No need to be subtle any more.


Bald Dwarf slash Midget

Q: How much time per day do you spend doing your hair?
A: 0 Minutes.

Q: Do you have any complexes?
A: As a bald dwarf, life can be hard. I'm very aware of people staring at me. People tell me to get a wig but I'd prefer to feel good about myself the way I am. It's hard, though, because magazines and movies tell us we need to be tall and have hair to be attractive and happy.

Q: Have you ever seriously considered plastic surgery?
A: I guess if I won the lotto I'd have a leg extension op. It's painful, but being a couple of inches taller would improve my quality of life tremendously.

Email from Cecile:
You're insane! You're disturbed! You're obsessed with dwarves! You're fucking up my survey stats!


Conjoined Cecile

Q: How often do you wear high heels?
A: 3 times a week
Q: If you wear high heels, why do you wear them?
A: I don't want to, but my sister loves them, so I have to, otherwise we'd look stupid.

Q: Would you like to lose weight?
A: Yes.
Q: If you selected yes, are you on a diet?
A: Not a diet exactly, but I'd like to lose about 60 kilos. That's how much my sister weighs.

(I wish I'd been there to see the puzzled look on Cecile's face.)

Q: How much time per day do you spend choosing your outfit?
A: Longer than 30 mins.

Q: Do you have any complexes?
A: I have a complex about my sister. I think men prefer her. She's always been the pretty one. And we have fights all the time about what to wear, that's why it takes so long to choose our outfits. She wants to dress much sluttier than me.

Q: Have you ever seriously considered plastic surgery?
A: Yes. Surgical separation (to remove my sister).

CHARACTER FOUR: Siamese Twin 2

Q: Why do you wear high heels?
A: Partly it's to look good, and partly because my sister doesn't know how to walk in them. It makes her look clumsy and thus I seem more elegant.

Q: Do you have any complexes?
A: I think men think it's strange having sex with my sister watching. And she's ugly, so maybe they worry about her touching them while we're making love. Then again, some guys are really into it. For some, it's the closest they'll ever get to a threesome.

Q: Have you ever seriously considered plastic surgery? 
A: I'd have a surgical separation done if it were less dangerous. But it's not so bad having my sister by my side (excuse the pun) all the time. She makes me look good, and I like bossing her around.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share?
A: I'm highly confident and look down on insecure women such as my sister.


Ironically, although my fake answers were weird, illogical, and a cruel pastiche on female insecurity, the real results were little different. Go have a look and see for yourself. Click here.

Then click this link to see a diagram that explains how women's brains work. It's worth the half a calorie it will take, I promise! (The text at the top means 'The way women think has finally been modelled.')