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Hagen Engler, Jason Bronkhorst

Where you taking us, boet?

by Hagen Engler, illustration Jason Bronkhorst / 18.06.2011

I don’t know about this place, hey. We been here a month and already I just want to get back to Joburg, to my friends. To people I can trust. I mean, my chick’s working here at the hospital, and you wanna support her and that, but fuck, that commute is killing me, and there some weird people here.

So last night we go out for a bit of a jol. To this club in town. You know mos how we dig a bit of a boogie.
So we go to this thing at this bar and you must check this place. Super… I dunno what you’d call it… Super unpretentious. It’s just a square room with tables and chairs, a couple of pool tables…
We checked the end of the Cheetahs game there.
And they got this little stage in the corner and this DJ oke comes and sets up his little PC set-up with some speakers and some CDs and shit. Bald oke with two big silver earrings like a pirate. And one of those flat caps and a little chin beard. You know what I mean?
So we have a couple of dops and they turn down the lights and this oke starts playing this music. Commercial dance and all this kak. Lady Gaga.
But my babe digs it and anyway, we have a coupla dops and get into it. The oke’s jolling Rihanna and Katy Perry and that, but then he jols that new one with Eminem and Dr Dre, which is okay. So it’s not too bad.

So we get a bit pissed and stick around for a bit. A couple of cats pull in, it’s quite a little community jol, you know. You know, like, in a small town there’s all kinds of okes. There’s… these guys that work in IT in Alberton, and school lighties in goth outfits, some couples… Those old okes that just sit at the end of the bar having a Windhoek and not saying fuckall to nobody…

We play some pool and that. Then the oke plays a bit of David Guetta – you know that one with, um, with the chick who was in Destiny’s Child… Not Beyonce. Ja, so he plays that one. When Love Takes Over! Ja, kief tune.
I check he’s drinking Peronis, so I bring him a Peroni and ask if he’s got that Black Eyed Peas song “Boom Boom Pow”.

And the next thing it’s late and there’s hardly anyone left and the oke starts playing this weird music. I don’t know if you know that, um, what do they call it? It’s like reggae, but it’s more like… not dub, it’s… Ja! Dubstep! He starts playing this dubstep shit.
You dig it? I don’t know, hey. Anyway, he starts playing this stuff, so I ask him about spliff. Does he have any zol?
You know how I normally get from Oscar, but now I’m here and I been missioning to get, so this ou schemes ja he’s got some and we go for a spliff outside with this oke.

Bra, I’m telling you. I’m sure this guy spiked us with tik or something. I’ve never been that fucked ever. Even now, I’m still like trembling. It just went on an on and on. From one mini-blader!
I’m sure there was some tik in this oke’s zol. Me and my babe, it just klapped us so hard! We get back in the place and I just feel, like, I dunno. You know when your skin suddenly feels all grimy? And I don’t know if I wanna pass out or dance or, like, have another twenty drinks or what, but the dubstep starts sounding a bit better, so we jol a bit more and have a few more Peronis or whatever.

But you know me, man. I’m not a lightweight, hey. I’m used to my proper zol, okay. But this shit was summing else. Fucked, hey! My chick’s been kotching…

And then the next thing the oke invites us to this “afterparty”. Ha! More like a personal afterparty! He tunes us he lives just round the corner, so we think ja, why not. So when the place closes, we follow this oke. Broe, he lives in, like, Sasolburg or something. And we rushing the whole time. I dunno if it was, maybe, cat or something.

After an hour of following this oke I flick him and I pull over. I tune him where you taking us, boet? He’s like no, it’s just round the corner. Just follow me. But now I’m getting serious misgivings about this. Something just doesn’t feel right. I scheme the okes were going to rob us, hey. He was probably taking us to his drug den, where they were gonna mug us and take the car, I scheme.

Or maybe I was just paranoid. I don’t know.

But in the end I just turned the car around and fucked off home. Just got the fuck out of there. I scheme we dodged a bullet there, maybe.

Only feeling kak now, though. Haven’t even managed to get out the house. But I’ll come up to Joburg next weekend, though. We must hook up. Go for a beer at the Brazen Head or something. Ja, somewhere safe!

*Illustration © Jason Bronkhorst.

8   18
  1. kif says:


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  2. kzamats says:

    nice one!

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  3. unbehagen says:

    Why does mahala still let this doos post his kak on the site? Decoding his schtik into brekerspeak doesn’t make it any less dull.

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  4. Stitch says:

    shit happens bra.. paranoia beats regret

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  5. wankbank says:

    so ja, bra, like, not even, like you know, worth a kak

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  6. murzipan says:

    Did someone fall asleep on the “generic south african slang” generator by any chance? Just wondering.

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  7. really! says:

    Honestly, I found this piece the worst article on Mahala.

    So what?
    Is the only thought that I am left with.

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  8. Ayanda says:

    Hagen Engler is one of my favourite South African writers. Personally i like the perspective offered here, the raw slice of life, the conversational East Rand tone, the arb scenario and the overarching paranoia. Sounds like an average weekend in the greater Johannesburg region. Spot on. Engler’s been pursuing and refining the South African slang narrative (is that a genre?) since the late 90s when I first picked up his novel Greener Grass. I don’t understand all the hate? I for one, love the fact that Mahala is starting to publish fiction online.

    And I’m disappointed with the responses here. What is actually wrong with the writing? No one actually says, all the neg comments just seem to cite the slang.

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  9. Anti-Hagen says:

    What the hell is this guy doing?! I’m actually embarrassed for him. Gimmicky, off-target, banal. This is terrible. My vote for worst article ever on Mahala. The only one coming close was his other one, http://www.mahala.co.za/reality/eish-the-guy/

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  10. Anti-Hagen says:

    Although, that said, fantastic illustration.

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  11. Ayanda says:

    so can someone actually explain its badness to me, because as I said before, I enjoyed it. Anti-Hagen take it apart step by step.

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  12. Anti-Hagen says:

    Jesus Ayanda, I don’t have time to sit here and do a literary-critical analysis. I’ll just quote one damning sentence as to why this is a pile of piss:

    “You know mos how we dig a bit of a boogie.”

    Every reason as to why this article sucks is contained within the above sentence and the context of the piece. Decipher it yourself.

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  13. Andy says:

    No anti-Hagen that is not very constructive. In fact its pretty lame.
    “I don’t have time to sit here and do a literary-critical analysis” But you do have time to sling shit and say it’s kak. but when pushed for detail you back off. Not asking for depth here, just something a bit more substantive than finger-pointing and labeling.

    “You know mos how we dig a bit of a boogie.”

    There’s nothing wrong with that line. It’s entirely within the context of the piece. It bespeaks a milieu, a voice. It’s a fictional vignette for fucksake.

    You’re going to have to do a bit better to persuade me that this is shit writing. Because I really believe that it’s not. I published it after all. I mean have you ever read any of Hagen’s fiction? Did it even occur to you to question what he’s trying to achieve here?

    “invariably every act of criticism ends up saying more about the critic than the subject of his criticism”

    Seems to me that all this Hagen hate has nothing to do with the actual writing – but rather something else, like a knee-jerk reaction to FHM or someone with an axe to grind. And I say this because everyone just shouts “Slang – kak!” and no one actually engages with the text.

    So there. With no analysis, your opinion is about as useful as an unsubstantiated opinion can be. Like hearing someone say “fuck you” through a car window and speeding away while you’re left on the corner going “huh?”

    I’m here, waiting to engage. Come on, bring it.

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  14. Keenoh Cummys says:

    it kak, just fuckin’ accept it. you’re the toss who published it.

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  15. Clam Jam says:

    Time to delete mahala from my bookmarks again.

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  16. Ziggy says:

    Pointless. And the overuse of South African slang didn’t make it any more interesting nor amusing. And I quite like Hagen as a writer usually.

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  17. Anti-Hagen says:

    @ Andy

    1. I love the way you use the word “vignette” (you used it to defend his other piece as well), as if it somehow adds sophistication to the piece. It doesn’t. You can call this style of writing by whatever genre/style/form you want, it remains shit.

    2. I did consider what Hagen was trying to achieve. Did you consider that the reason there is Hagen hate on this board is because a) he failed what he was trying to achieve, b) what he was trying to achieve isn’t worth achieving in the first place, c) both of the above. I take stance “c”, myself.

    3. I haven’t read his other writing, and if it’s as gimmicky as this, I sure as hell won’t bother. I don’t believe I need to have read anything else by him to have an opinion on this particular piece of writing anyway.

    4. “t bespeaks a milieu, a voice.” That’s your line. Well, now, does it really? Or is it some half-assed attempt to hijack local vernacular as use it as a draw-card to make more appealing a very lame anecdote? Do you honestly think this piece of writing can be said to speak for a milieu? If that’s true, it comes across like condescending, arrogant “look at me doing my blackface interpretation of the natives” narrative.

    5. You can’t compare a work of fiction, a short creative “vignette” (to use your phrase), with standing on the corner having someone shout “fuck you” at you. You know what the context is here. You know what the rules of engagment are. So don’t try to create some equivalency, because you very example presupposes that Hagen’s done nothing wrong here – whereas in reality he is totally guilty of shit writing, gimmicks, reliance on colloquialism for cultural cachet etc.

    Now, don’t be a hypocrite. It’s your turn.

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  18. Andy says:

    Anti-Hagen you’re still not dealing with the words… regardless of your five points I still see only one argument – the use of slang = shit.

    1. Vignette is the right word for a short piece of fiction. Vignette (n) a short, usually descriptive literary sketch.

    2. All the Hagen hate comes from 3 IPs. Sorry had to check. Look at the end of the day it’s short fiction. I dig it. I like the description of the venue, the DJ, the music he plays. It sets it all up. I’ve been to a jol like this, I know these people. Then I like the way it all goes pear, the tik splif, the rising paranoia in the late hourse – all in a low key, arb, East Rand suburban kind of way. It just resonates for me. It’s someone writing about the here and now. So yes, I think he was trying to achieve something.

    3. You don’t have to read his other work but Greener Grass is awesome. And his columns are good too.

    4. Condescending, arrogant, gimmicky, blackface – jesus dude did we read the same piece? You’re still only focussing on the slang and your reaction to it. There’s a lot more going on. I can’t believe this writing elicited all those responses in you. But I guess we all have baggage. Unpack this a little bit for me. Try and really nail your point instead of just dredging up and throwing names at it. Use the text to unpack it. Quote, respond. So i can get exactly what you’re talking about. You don’t know Hagen, never read his other work, don’t know his background or social milieu, so how do you know that he’s being condescending? Or is that an assumption?

    5. I never compared this fiction to standing on a corner, etc. I compared your attempt at criticism to shouting “fuck you” out of a moving car window. again with the it’s shit because it’s shit – contextless criticism which is arbitrary, disconnected and invariably kind of useless.

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  19. unbehagen says:

    For the record, my dislike of this piece has been quite adequately encapsulated in Anti-Hagen’s responses. Check the kif/kak tally Andy, you’re losing this one.

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  20. Andy says:

    until someone can actually use the text to show me a cogent argument for why this is shit writing… I’m losing nothing but patience

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  21. wankbank says:

    “I don’t know about this place, hey. We been here a month and already I just want to get back to Joburg, to my friends. To people I can trust. ” – what mythical place is set in? Lack of any kind of setting makes this piece float around like a turd in one man’s imagination.

    “It’s just a square room with tables and chairs, a couple of pool tables…” – you call that a description? It conjures absolutely nothing.

    “Commercial dance and all this kak.” – clumsy tautology.

    “… it’s quite a little community jol, !!!you know. You know!!!, like, in a small…” – simply ugly as fuck.

    “I don’t know if you know that, um, what do they call it? It’s like reggae, but it’s more like… not dub, it’s… Ja! Dubstep! He starts playing this dubstep shit.
    You dig it? I don’t know, hey.” – way to show what a limited individual you are.

    “Even now, I’m still like trembling” – while your speech might be plagued with the parasitic ‘like’, but please do not offend us by putting everywhere and anywhere. I thought this was a website that in some way respected WRITING. R we gna c articlz in sms-spk? Supa kwl.

    “was summing else.” – summing? really? fucking summing????????

    “He was probably taking us to his drug den, where they were gonna mug us and take the car, I scheme.” – you scheme like totes right, my china, but why the fuck are you making us read a whole article about something that comes down to common sense?

    “But I’ll come up to Joburg next weekend, though. We must hook up. Go for a beer at the Brazen Head or something. Ja, somewhere safe!’ – you address us, the readers, as your friends, which we are certainly not, so the ending fails just as bad as the whole story.

    All in all, the South-African-Bukowski angle is weak. Fail all around.

    Kisses, i just want to see better stuff on this website which sometimes (but lately with diminishing frequency) produces outstanding pieces.

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  22. unbehagen says:

    Andy, stop making excuses and wake the fuck up. This writing sucks and mahala’s loyal readership knows it.

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  23. Andy says:

    Does wankbank fight all your battles for you?

    I think the comment thread here is not really indicative of the quality of Hagen’s writing, nor the attitude of the “mahala faithful” as much indicative of some sour grapes from other writers who just don’t dig Hagen, or have some limelight envy or some shit like that. Just a feeling, it has, after all, generated quite a lot of noise for a Sunday.

    At least wankbank says why he doesn’t like the writing. I’d counter most of that by saying Hagen’s writing in a voice here… and that’s how the character speaks. I still like the themes and the setting, the low brow description of an arb weekend, the voyeurism of stumbling across someone’s email or something. I get it. Sorry you don’t. Doesn’t mean there’s no space for it on Mahala…

    good night y’all got a print mag to proof read.

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  24. Anti-Hagen says:

    Yeah, ’cause writing for Mahala is really cause for “limelight envy”. And there can’t possibly be anything wrong with this article, so this must be proof of “sour grapes”. And yeah, if we don’t like then we don’t “get it”, implying we’re missing something or our understanding is incomplete.

    This article is too shit to continue wasting time on.

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  25. wankbank says:

    Andy, you wanted critique of the text, you got it. I’m afraid it is now you who is defending this drivel with the simple ” it’s a voice ” argument. Themes? Themes??? What themes? Setting? What setting? The dude vomited out some rubbish, without ANY thought or effort put into. That I believe is the reason people don’t like this. Sure, some of them might be writers and cynical writers at that, but they sure as fuck put a little more consideration for their readers into their work. I have never seen a Mahala writer attack another writer ‘just because’, if anything, they are defending the quality of the publication they write for.

    But as Anti-Hagen put it – it’s too shit to waste time on. But your zeal, Andy, in the pointless defense of this is alarming.

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  26. wankbank says:

    and actually, one last thing, this sentence – “as much indicative of some sour grapes from other writers who just don’t dig Hagen, or have some limelight envy or some shit like that” is highly telling of how much you value the people that work for you.

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  27. Andy says:

    settle down Beavis…

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  28. Jason says:

    I dunno hey, I read this piece imagining the writer pressing record on his dictaphone.

    I reckon ous who don’t make out the vibe here are probably all from Cape Town’s uppity burbs. Go to any pub/braai/kids’ sports event and you hear this kind of talk. As far as I remember Engler’s from PE – where I did some quality time too – and slang is as pervasive there as it is on the West Rand mining towns. Some surprise going to the likes of Boksburg too – lank heavy on the schweets and the what-what, boet. I know people like this. I hear these kinds of stories in these very words at the pub up the drag.
    Do the commenters here wish to believe that everyone speaks the King’s Own taal? Come on – you’re either a really bored troll or appallingly naive.

    Why not whinge on the Paris Review comment boards if you really wanna (really!) get pissy.

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  29. Anti-Hagen says:

    Does anyone here actually think that the “slang” is done well here, though? I think that,

    a) the vocals, the whole draw card here, are lacking by virtue of it being written down
    b) that the writer hasn’t made a significant attempt to fully vernacularise his spelling and grammar
    c) the anecdote he tells is mundane

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  30. dudie says:

    whatever, let it go. stop nitpicking – all of you are pedantic cunts, just read something else then.

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  31. Anonymous says:

    Not having any prior context for this Hagen fella, aside from that other article, I would have ignored this and passed by if it’s quality hadn’t come into debate, and Andy didn’t jump to the contents defense.
    I’m not entirely sure what he would be defending?
    The fact that this guy is apparently able to write forced cliches based off of culturally distilled spoken word? To really pull this off it would need to be toned down to give it a better basis of reality, to start, and then also be critical of itself and the context of the observations, giving it depth of commentary. The very best I could take away from the intention in this piece was that some guy thought JHB was safe? Is the implication that JHB, being typically defined by it’s danger element, is still home for this ‘oke’ and he see’s it as his haven? That basic juxtaposition of diversity? I dont know, I got the impression the biggest challenge for this ‘author’ was systematically dissecting every line and putting any and every word he could into any substituted cliche that he could remember. And thats about it.
    Yeah, he summed up about 500 common SA cliches there in his little linguistic excersize.
    The fact that the biggest ‘appeal’ of this writing is knowing that it’s an attempt at subjectively inserting someone else into this role means you can never really connect with the characters, the stories will always seem imagined, it’ll always feel like a low budget theatre production. Knowing that, I would think the author would give himself the freedom of imagination, but he ties us down to more boredom and cliche, always keeping it too tame to make any impact aside frmo patting the guy on the head and saying, ‘Very good! That was a great impression!’
    But you know, stand up commedians do it too, make it funny, and you dont have to read it for best (and only) effect.
    \he transcribed a boring scene he pictured, in a forced narrative.
    Big fucking deal/

    What gets you off exactly, Andy? Sometimes I think you dont even know.

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  32. Hagen says:

    Shot for the hate, okes. Great to know you care! I like Jason’s take on it the best. If you think of it as non-fiction and direct speech, perhaps it’ll offend you less. If you’re still offended, then it’s probably personal and you should take it up with my mate Bees. He’s never going dopping in Vereeniging again.

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  33. jackson says:

    Great piece of writing. Life is too short for unconstructive hating. You sad sad sad people. Get a life. fokken naaiers.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    Andy, since you like to check ip’s so much, could you confirm for us if Jason IS Hagen?

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  35. YsterHart says:

    Anonymous, Jason is the illustrator, you blind twit. You know, you’ve ruined this site for anyone else who likes to lurk. Although, I guess I can always tell its you, and I have no access to IPs, by the desperate stench. Did Mahala reject a piece of yours or something?

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  36. LP says:

    This piece is written in the same vein of fictional snapshots that were popular in the late 90s (such as in LIO or some later Bitterkomix stuff). I always found those endearing and authentic.

    But the difference is this one is lazily executed and no matter how many times I read it, and I really did open myself to it, I can’t be convinced. Rather than creating an authentic cultural portrait, Engler slides meekly into crass stereotyping before even taking the time to contemplate his subject. He could have built a satire around the typical East Rander, but instead, he couldn’t quite decide which side of the tracks his protagonist is from. He seems to represent the East Rand or even a little bit of scummy Free State vibe, but doesn’t quite seem comfortable in the stereotypical East Rand/ FS dive.

    The whole thing is a big fat contradiction.

    It’s too obvious and in your face, and doesn’t even slightly consider any finer nuances. It also denies the reader any room to think or read into it deeper. It attempts to rehash the obvious external depictions and traits of the protagonist, attempting to convince itself that it has presented an original characterization, but it just doesn’t cut it. Sorry man – this one was quick and easy and not well thought out.

    The protagonist drifts in and out of familiarity – from unfamiliarity in the first line, in having to explain to the reader that he’s been there for a month and explaining why he is there, to this affinity that hints at a steady rapport in the final paragraph.

    He is at once oblivious and observant.
    From the attempt at perception in “you know, like, in a small town there’s all kinds of okes,” to the ignorance in “I don’t know if you know that, um, what do they call it? It’s like reggae, but it’s more like… not dub, it’s…”. So which is it?
    All I’m saying is, choose a persona and stick with it.

    Also, Oosrand speak has evolved a little past “kak” and “oke”. There are very many more interesting words you could use. And if you wanted to keep it as bland as you did, but at least show you were trying, why not include a few of these gems:
    China? Chomma? Bru? Laaitie? Lank? Chips? Izit? Siff? Stukkie? Swak? Pozzie?
    There are of course far more interesting choices, like “etter” “poesklap” “chop” “cuiter” or “naai”.

    And, no-one, I mean no-one, says “boogie”. Except my fabulous ginger brother who went on to be an air steward and date Mr. Face of Undies Australia 2009. They boogie lank baie chomma.

    All I’m saying is, we get that Engler is trying to pull a tongue-in-cheek look at SA zef, from whichever side of the fence to whichever side of the fence, and trying to endear it to readers with the language, and trying to shock a little, and trying to draw an analogy to the realities we face in taking drags from strangers and following them home in the night and commenting on the stupid things we do when we’re jolling and creating a kvetching yowl on the youth of today, but, jinne, you don’t.

    Please, please try harder. I so badly wanted this to be good.

    And Andy, I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but I’m going to because I really enjoy your wincing reactions. Your readers define you. You should listen a little, rather than defending to the death without much visible conviction other than obliged loyalty. Engage and encourage the debate going on here – it’s just about the only kind of criticism that people actually read these days. Don’t try and hose it down and run wheezing to the corner. It’s a good thing – people are showing that they care – don’t berate them for it like a prudish primary school teacher.

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  37. LP says:

    Oh, and, Ayanda, I like your use of the word “badness”. So avant-garde.

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  38. Andy says:

    LP – group hug! You’re right. Thanks for the detailed response. Please write the story about your fabulous ginger brother! Sounds like a goodie.

    with pieces like this, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Because I genuinely don’t believe it’s bad, and having read most of Hagen’s other work – much of which I think is excellent, I know the dude’s pedigree and I’m happy to have him writing for the site. even if this is not his strongest piece. And besides most of the criticism was, as jackson put it, “unconstructive hating”. SO it’s not disrespect for debate and criticism that the site attracts, it’s an exasperated reaction to unconstructive labelling which is not criticism.

    I also think a “fiction” button will help to locate and define these things better. We’ll do that ASAP



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  39. LP says:

    Ah hugs all round Andy! Despite all the hating around, I really think Mahala is the only place where people are able to engage in critical debate about the actual art itself, rather than just the face of it all and the artists themselves. No starfuckers here – just people who are trying to figure out our society and offer well-thought-out commentary. Thanks for giving us that. But yes – a fiction button would be great. But you would have to be a toad not to figure out it’s fiction after the first sentence. Those ppl calling it an ‘article’ pissed me off. Thanks again Mahala for giving me something to think about every now and then. I think someone should do their PHd on the Mahala commentary feed

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  40. Anonymous says:

    kak article. give us more stuff dissing the parlotones. this is confusing.

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  41. Billy says:

    Your writing makes me want to slap you. It’s not gimmicky, it’s shit. Al Lovejoy did the whole “breaker speak” 1000 times better because he actually writes about interesting shit. Given the level of of articles published on Mahala I’m disgusted they’d even consider putting this monstrosity up. I hope whatever Afrikaners crawling around that hole of a town you’re stuck in eat you.

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  42. Andy says:

    Al Lovejoy… Acid Alex… are you kidding me?

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  43. brandon edmonds says:

    “Your readers define you.” Great stuff @LP. Mahala t-shirt surely, Andy?

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  44. Anonymous says:

    Would the tshirt just read ‘assholes’ ?

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  45. billy says:

    Al Lovejoy is the greatest writer ever to walk the earth!

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  46. brandon edmonds says:

    “Assholes Anonymous”

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  47. Pascal says:

    These comments were very entertaining. I liked how it went back and forth, got nasty, the author got bummed, then a diplomat stepped in, there was a little conflict resolution going on, people made up, people tried to keep the argument going but couldn’t….. All in all a great way to kill a good chunk of ‘work-time’.

    Now to look up the word ‘milieu’ – stoked!

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  48. Piss artist. says:

    Oh my fuck!
    there’s a kak button on the top for those who dislike the piece.
    a kif for those who do.
    get a fucking life or go have a wank instead of bitching like a bunch of kids.

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  49. arnaud says:

    Next thing the critics will accuse Andy of is stealing their time and making them suffer.
    Where can I get one of those AA (Anonymous Arsehole) T-shirts ?

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