Saturday, 3 May 2008

I Don't Understand A Word You're Saying But It Sounds Great!

I love randomly flicking over to SBS, you never know what's going to be on. Whether it be an opera that looks like it’s been relocated to the set of Red Dwarf where everyone is dancing around in a way that would probably get you nutted on a mining ship or some soft-core porn - also known as foreign cinema feature film - it’s usually fairly entertaining.
If you’ve got a bit of imagination and some equally easy to amuse friends you can entertain yourselves by muting the television and making up stories to go along with the faux industrial ballet or can just settle down for a nice drinking game where every time the roaming interviewer on Iron Chef says ‘fukusa!’* you all take a shot.
There are news services available in a range of languages throughout the day so depending on your cultural heritage and your willingness to get up at sparrow’s fart, turn up late for work or actually learn how to operate your VCR/HDTV recorder/magic picture box recording medium you can hear all about the world in your native tongue or try to pick up someone else’s native tongue.
Unfortunately something else you’re going to find now is ads.
SBS, the more internationally flavoured of Australia’s exciting government-funded free to air television channels has obviously fallen on hard times. It used to be that the only ads you’d get were in between the subtitled movies and documentaries and the like, all they were advertising were other upcoming exciting programs and there were never ad breaks during the actual programs. This was novel and strange to me when I was a kid and now at the venerable age of 25 I’m already explaining to my younger acquaintances how back in my day SBS was one of the only places you could go to watch something and not have anyone urging you to run out and buy a CD or a hamburger**. There are still less ads than on other channels but they have snuck in there and now every ten to fifteen minutes or so you will find your Scandinavian murder mystery interrupted for a quick capitalist inventory pimp and you can pop off to the toilet, instead of practising a bit of advanced bladder control that modern man seems completely incapable of these days.
Quick survey: Can anyone remember going to the cinema lately to watch a movie and not having about a third of the audience sneaking out to go to the bathroom at some point or another?
Apart from the natural progression through the digestive system of the inadvisably large drinks and food items that you are tempted to buy at the snack counter, people just seem to be completely unable to hold on for the one and a half hour duration of most movies.
I don’t know about you but I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave the cinema and miss part of a movie that I’d either have to shell out to see again or wait six months to borrow out to find what happened during my potty break. Because I will also nail my ear to my elbow before I become that person who leans over to the person next to me and hisses “what happened whilst I was gone?”***
Where was I…? Oh yes, SBS…
It is still however a much safer place to hang around if normal television advertising makes you twitch and start calculating exactly how many people you could take out with a hockey stick before anyone worked out it was not an amusing reality television stunt and tried to stop you.
There are no reminders to ring in and vote for any of the half dozen dancing/singing/living-in-a-box shows currently running, no flimsily clad ladies washing cars or each other later at night asking if you’d like a quick chat and none of those shitty new offers to download a ringtone for only $12 per second or to find out if your partner is cheating on you via the simple process of SMSing both your names to a magic oracle who can tell that the person is scum just by how many letters they have in their name… or however the hell it works.
SBS also has all sorts of exciting sports that don’t make it onto the more commercial channels because they are not AFL or cricket or rugby****. During the World Cup I spent a lot of time SBS-gazing and in between the football games/displays of extreme acting I also became very briefly well informed about current world events.
Another interesting point is that the fun nudie times movies seem to have been moved to an earlier time slot so we can all enjoy a bit of excitingly different plotting, non-Hollywood-style unromanticised bonking and never-going-to-make-the-Top-100-actually-good music and still be able to get to bed in time to get a good kip before work the next day. The later time slots have now been reserved for the truly worrying programming, anime.
I’m not quite sure if they just did the math and realised that more people wanted to watch world cinema than giant robots/breakdancing samurai/giant breakdancing robots but if you are amongst those that do you must either once again become technologically savvy or sit up late enough to make the start of your work day a two-cups-of-coffee-required occasion.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go watch some surprisingly well-developed teens in giant robots kick the shit out of some aliens. I’ve got the caffeine on standby.

*Or whatever the word actually is, I apologise for my phonetic attempt and the high probability of having either written gibberish or a terrible swear.
**And also, if you stayed up late enough, see some naked people!
*** I know there is a marvellous black market running in downtown cyberland but I am what the French call ‘too lazy’ to work out where the pirated movies library is located on the interwub.
**** Hence the hockey stick reference earlier… Also I have a lingering fondness for Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones from the 1990 TMNT movie…

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