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Missing piece

Why is it that whenever you buy a jigsaw with a piece missing, it is always the last piece? Weird.

Shameful though it is to admit to watching most reality TV shows, I don’t mind acknowledging that Beauty and the Geek exhibits a certain heart and humour, that The Amazing Race offers a frenetically entertaining travelogue (albeit a highly carbon-unfriendly one) and catalogue of hilariously rank stupidity, and that Project Runway is good for, er, seeing people making clothes but mostly for the presence and charm of the estimable Tim Gunn.

Tim Gunn

One that puzzles and disturbs me, though, is I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here. Let’s be honest, for a start it stretches the definition of “celebrity” to its elastic limit: D-listers on their way down looking for a new injection of fame,  like botox for the career;  and Z-listers seeking face-time and a presentation job on a reality show of their own. Television will eat itself.

Speaking of eating, this is the part that puzzles me: I have little objection to these ‘celebrities’ being forced to consume wombat turds or chew on a kangaroo’s testicles, aside from mourning the latter marsupial’s demise or wondering at its new role as a leaping eunuch. That’s part of their Faustian deal.

When it comes to the involvement of live animals, though, I wonder where and how the producers draw the line. We are supposed feel sympathy for, or more usually laugh derisively at, these wannabes as they are forced  to lie in a coffin while rats are poured onto them, or wallow in a tank of water as snakes are dropped from on high, or wear a mask steadly filled with spiders, scorpions and spitting cochroaches. What high jinks!

But let’s look at it from the point of view of the unfortunate animals that are probably panicking at being hurled in their hundreds into the presence of some shrieking celeb. I don’t want to come over all PETA-like but what makes it acceptable for certain creatures with which we might feel uncomfortable to be treated thus? Rats might be disliked but they make delightful pets for some people, and are not unrelated to supposedly cuter rodents like guinea pigs.

So would the audience chuckle so wantonly if instead of rats our celebrity fools were rolling around in a box full of hamsters, or rather than snakes were squashing squirrels underfoot? Or the real test: showered by thousands of fluffy kittens and puppies?

I can imagine the squawks of protest from the hypocritical. But that would reality.

falling kittens

Fish

You may feed them, should it please you so to do.

Werk

Work

* Pronunciation: \ˈwərk\
* Etymology: Middle English werk, work, from Old English werc, weorc; akin to Old High German werc work, Greek ergon, Avestan varəzem activity

1 : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something: a : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result b : the labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood c : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity d: that which gets in the way of other things one enjoys doing.

Definition ‘d’ applies here.

Hope you are all well, and have been during the past five weeks. Quite the hiatus.

Here’s a job that would be a whole lot easier: I don’t know how the crass and ridiculous TV game show “Deal or No Deal” (or “Do Deal or Don’t Deal”, as I prefer to call it) works in other countries; but in the UK version a cash offer is made after about three boxes have been opened, with the usual faux drama and “dramatic” — although I would say ponderous — pauses. The offer is emphasised, though, by a satisfyingly solid and solitary beat of a bass drum.

I want to be that drummer.

red box

Inevitably, all sorts of superstitions, numerology and, let’s face it, stupidity have become attached to this show, with every contestant touchingly clinging to some “significant” set of numbers — birthdays, anniversaries, dog ages, that sort of thing — as if the universe, or even the producers, cared one jot.

Like the pandemic of an irritating but relatively harmless rash, this show has rapidly spread, and in various guises its boxes or briefcases now seem to be flapping open on-air in 192 countries around the world. This irrationality is common to all.

Here’s an example. Simon, keeper of Box 17, is asked by the contestant (Lori) if he has a “feeling” about what money his box contains. Instead of holding this question up to the ridcule it so richly deserves (“I haven’t got a bleedin’ clue, Lori; for I am invested neither with X-Ray vision nor clairvoyance. You credulous idiot”), he reponds thus:

Simon: “I don’t know if it’s a high number or a low one. It’s difficult to judge.”

Lori (nodding sagely): “Mmm. Yeah”.

Difficult to judge? Difficult to judge? Difficult to judge? It’s a sealed box, y’moron. Where does judgement come in precisely?

The presenter, Noel Edmonds (for it is he), chimes in:

Noel: “Are you going with Simon?”

Lori: “Yeah, Simon. Don’t let me down!”

Simon lifts his lid and reveals £250,000. Chagrin and unnecessary apologies all round. And a drum beat.

Lori, now looking for the 1p, turns to Des: “Des, you say you have it almost every three games…”

Des: “Yeah, that’s right”.

Because that’s how probabilities work, of course.

Just when I start to despair of humanity, I give up instead.

I torture myself unnecessarily with choosing prize-winners for my dopey contests; ‘unnecessarily’ because obviously it’s not the Man Booker Prize, the Acadamy Awards or the Nobel Peace Prize yet I appreciate immensely the thought, effort, wit and panache involved every time. So while I might set these things to play around with I might avoid placing myself in these excrutiating judgemental positions.

Having said that, I do at least owe a final podium for Bargain Basement Part I and Part II. The quality was as high and heroic as ever; and to be honest I can’t slip a cigarette paper between Simon and The Imaginary Reviewer … please accept my humble offer of a Big Fish each. And for consistent excellence both here and at Bored Neoclassical Guy, a long overdue Splendid Award for Eric.

big-fishabsolutely_splendid

Now, back to frivolity today.

Don’t ask me why but I was watching one of those fashion design competitions. The remit in this particular episode was to design an outfit for a model and a matching ensemble for a pet dog — not, of course, a Bull Mastiff, or an Elk Hound, or a Doberman Pinscher (something that still bears at least a passing resemblance to its lupine ancestry); but one of those pocket-sized numbers that fits in a handbag or bicycle basket or haversack. The sort of pooch that might even get squeezed into a bottle or a vase for all I know.

dog bag web

What struck me and intrigued me more than the fashion, though, was the interchangeability of the names of the models and the dogs.

There is a theory called ‘nominative determinism’ which states that one’s name can go some way to dictating one’s choice of career and so forth. Clearly it does not always work, or my surname — Davenport — would consign me to life as a useful desk or a comfy sofa.

The lavatory ballcock was invented by a gentleman called Thomas Crapper. It is widely believed that he invented the flushing toilet itself and that his name was the root of the word ‘crap’ and ‘crapper’; but in fact those highly useful words preceded him. So perhaps his future was prenatally and preternaturally written in, er, well, you know.

The same theory accounts for the late Keith Moon’s little-known secondary career as an astronomer, and Dorothy Parker’s as a garage valet.

So perhaps an exotic name (or at least a canine-sounding name, wierdly) at birth steers some people towards a modelling career. As long as they are also tall, I suppose.

So here’s a mixed-up list of the names of the models and the dogs from that show — all genuine, and an equal number of each. The game (not contest!) is to decide which is model and which is dog:

Lyndsay; Toni; Pepito; Molly; Danielle; Chanel; Camilla; Clarissa; Sparkle; Morgan; Nazri; Jia; Lil’A; Marilinda; Carly; Sophia; Javi; Patty Cake; Talulah; Katia; Katie; Flex.

modelorhound

Carly? Toni? Pepito? Flex? C’m’ere, girl!

Healthy death

A chucklesome comment from Sali Lamo, New Yorker cartoonist: “Not to be a downer or anything, but Michael Jackson’s dying is really going to hurt the credibility of the hyperbaric-oxygen-chamber industry.”

Which is an insightful and previously neglected thought; although I would say this:  people didn’t seem to be put off running when the health convert Jim Fixx, doyen of jogging, dropped dead from a heart attack at the age of 52.

joggers bw

Even now you can’t throw a plimsoll in Central Park, Hyde Park, Stanley Park or Albert Park without it bouncing off the cranium of somebody sweatily loping around its perimeter. And at times it seems that there are more people at any one time taking part in marathons around the world’s great cities than laying on the couch watching them.

Death can kindly stop for anyone, though, and slowly drive them off in his carriage. His  lifetime-sized hourglass currently hangs over Patrick Swayze; and he has previously transported away Syd Barrett, Luciano Pavarotti, Rene Magritte, Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Pausch and Bill Hicks in the glossy landau he calls ‘Pancreatic Cancer’.

death carriage

This coach usually draws up alongside octo- and septuagenarians but can also squeak to a halt alongside the young and healthy. Nobody really knows why. Pancreatic cancer is not genetic. Bill Hicks blamed it on his energetic smoking, which certainly cannot have helped; yet Keith Richards still somehow walks the earth, while Randy Pausch never let a cigarette pass his lips.

Professor Pausch was a computer science lecturer and researcher at Carnegie Mellon whose ‘last words’ were an inspiring ‘Last Lecture‘. Which I’ll get around to watching and getting inspired by at some point. Before I die, let’s say.

The last words of Bill Hicks were a more pithy “I’ve said all I have to say” on Valentine’s Day 1994. And he was as good as his word, staying silent for his final twelve days on this world.

Bill Hicks

To come full circle, though, here are some of the great(est) comedian’s thoughts on the subject at hand:

“Does anyone remember this, when Yul Brynner died, and came out with that commercial after he was dead? ‘I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now.

What the fuck’s this guy selling? I’m all ears.

I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now, because I smoked cigarettes.’

Okay, pretty scary. But they coulda done that with anybody. They coulda done it with that Jim Fixx guy, too, just as easily. Remember that guy, that health nut who died while jogging? I don’t remember seeing his commercial. ‘I’m Jim Fixx and I’m dead now. And I don’t know what the fuck happened. I jogged every day, ate nothing but tofu, swam five hundred laps every morning, and I’m dead. Yul Brynner drank, smoke, and got laid every night of his life… he’s dead.

Shit.

Yul Brynner’s smokin’, drinkin’, girls are sitting on his cueball noggin every night of his life! I’m running around a dewy track at dawn. And we’re both fuckin’ dead. Goddammit.

Yul used to pass me on his way home in the morning, big long limousine, two girls blowing him, cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. “One day that life is going to get to you, Yul.” ‘

They’re both dead. Yeah, but what a healthy looking corpse you were, Jim. Look at the hamstrings on that corpse! Look at the sloppy grin on Yul’s corpse! Yul Brynner lived his life. Sure, he died a 78-pound stick figure, okay. There are certain drawbacks.”

“Does anyone remember this, when Yul Brynner died, and came out with that commercial after he was dead?
‘I’m Yul Brynner and I’m dead now.’
What the fuck’s this guy selling? I’m all ears.
‘I’m Yul Bryner and I’m dead now, because I smoked cigarettes.’
Okay, pretty scary. But they coulda done that with anyone. They coulda done it with that Jim Fixx guy, too, remember that guy, that health nut who died while jogging? I don’t remember seeing his commercial!
‘I’m Jim Fixx and I’m dead now. And I don’t know what the fuck happened. I jogged every day, ate nothing but tofu, swam five hundred laps every morning, and I’m dead. Yul Bryner drank, smoke, and got laid every night of his life… he’s dead. Shit! Yul Bryner’s smokin’, drinkin’, girls are sitting on his cueball noggin, every night of his life! I’m running around a dewy track at dawn. And we’re both fuckin’ dead. Yul used to pass me on his way home in the morning, big long limousine, two girls blowing him, cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. “One day that life is going to get to you, Yul.”‘
They’re both dead. Yeah, but what a healthy looking corpse you were, Jim. Look at the hamstrings on that corpse! Look at the sloppy grin on Yul’s corpse! Yul Bryner lived his life. Sure, he died a 78-pound stick figure, okay. There are certain drawbacks.”

OK, no announcement just yet on the last contest. Instead, let’s for now take the premise of the literature challenge and head a short distance downmarket, into the area of popular television — specifically, for our first example, American cop and detective shows. Imagine how much more cheaply these productions could have been made:

Shoplifting, She Wrote

CSI Peoria

McMillan and Friend

Cagney

The Streets of Shawnee, Kansas

Diagnosis: Mugging

Skirting Jordan

Juvie Break

Rhode Island Five-O

Veronica Moon

The Rockford Notebook

Trespassing: Life on the Street

Aluminumside

Peashooter, P.I.

Starsky

12

12

You might like to choose your own genre, such as, for instance:

Sci-Fi: Doctor When

Comedy: Acquaintances

Entertainment: Tasmania’s Got Talent

Go on; you know you want to.

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