Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Shhh dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam; I love it!

People are so touchy when it comes to spam. Spammers are often spoken about in tones usually reserved for child pornographers and Taliban insurgents. Is it annoying to see dozens of daily e-mail teasers from insurance companies, dating services and pharmaceutical suppliers in your daily inbox? Of course it is. But it's way down on my list of annoyances and pet peeves.

Speaking of pet peeves, honey containers are rubbish aren't they? Actually, honey itself is rubbish too. God bless the bees and hives and the whole notion of it being nature's sweetener and all that. Just don't ask me to eat the bloody stuff. As my granddad used to say when remarking upon foods he didn't like, "Ugh, it gets in your mouth."

I actually quite like the taste of tea, so I wouldn't dream of putting any kind of sweetener in mine (natural or otherwise), but my wife insists on using honey in hers every morning, and since I'm generally the tea boy, I also have the chore of squeezing honey out of a bottle and into her mug. As many of you no doubt know, honey is deplorably sticky and and feels so grotesque on your fingers that you have to immediately run to the sink in a blind panic, soap up and wash your hands. I do this on a daily basis.

What I can't for the life of me figure out, is how the hell the honey always manages to repeatedly get on the outside of the container. It can be a freshly opened bottle, but by the next morning the whole exterior will be tacky to the touch. Even if you take it to the sink, lather it up with specially formulated anti-bacterial honey-eating soap and then dry it off completely, by the next morning the bottle will be honey-coated again. How can this be? Does it ooze its way through the plastic to spite us as we sleep? I ponder this on a daily basis. Seeing a spam-filled inbox pales in comparison, I can tell you.

Anyway, yes spam is decidedly tasteless, lowbrow and unnecessary, but then so is most of our reality TV-fueled celebrity worship culture. We don't hit the delete button enough on that, in my opinion. Quite the contrary really. They keep selling gossipy garbage to us because we keep buying it. Not only that, we actually go in search of it with our TV remote controls.

So, while it can get tedious sifting through your e-mail messages, not all junk mail and spam is useless. Oh no. Just today I discovered that just by mailing a cashier's check to a Mr Codogo in Namibia, I can stake my rightful claim on a sizable inheritance. Can't get that from the latest episode of Baby You Can Drive My Kardashian can you?

If that weren't enough, there's always the good old anti-impotence drug offers. You know, the ones that they even advertise on TV now, complete with outrageous and embarrassing disclaimers that you try to cough over when your children are within earshot. For a while there, they were showing an ad featuring a couple holding hands while sitting in separate bathtubs. On a cliff. I always thought this was the most barmy ad I'd ever seen. Thankfully, I haven't seen it for a while. Perhaps the drug company realised how bizarre it all was and surmised that if you and your wife are in the recreational habit of dragging bathtubs up onto a cliff, impotence might just be the least of your problems.

No, give me spam e-mails over Unreal Housewives and Celebrity Chef Food Fights any day. They're at least good for the occasional giggle. Why just this very afternoon, I was informed by way of a demographically targeted message that mature single ladies wanted to meet me. Not that funny by itself, but the next e-mail up was from a self-described cougar dating site, and I found the juxtaposition quite amusing. Who are they trying to set me up with? Betty White?

Now, that's entertainment.

Friday, August 03, 2012

NBC: Nicely Butchered Coverage

Yes, it's that time again: time for NBC to show us how inept they are at covering the Olympic Games.

This is not a rant against the usual jingoistic, flag-waving (stars and stripes only, please), USA-centric coverage of the games themselves; I'm used to that by now. I know that the average NBC Olympics viewer could be forgiven for not knowing that other countries also have national anthems, or that there are actually events other than gymnastics, swimming, and the Kerri Walsh-Jennings & Misty May-Treanor swimsuit parade in the Olympic line up.

No, I'm still a little peeved about the botch-job that they made of covering the opening ceremonies.  I can sort of understand NBC delaying the broadcast until prime-time, for ratings bragging rights; I can almost get past the insane number of intrusive commercial breaks that continually halted the flow of the show, but what I can't fathom is why they saw fit to edit out an entire sequence.

The sequence in question was widely perceived as a tribute to victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London in 2005. These attacks occurred the very day after London was awarded the 2012 games, and the 52 victims were among those memorialized in a poignant dance sequence set to the strains of "Abide with Me" performed by Scottish singer Emile Sande.  By all accounts, it was quite moving, and one would think a rather important part of the ceremony. But for some reason, NBC honchos felt that their US audience would be better served by splicing in a taped and tepid interview with Michael Phelps instead.

What? We missed the most sensitive part of the proceedings to watch Michael Phelps squirm and shrug his shoulders at the same old tired, inane questions again? Surely we'd be seeing enough of that during the coming 17 days or so? I can't imagine what their reasoning was. Was it somehow politically motivated? Like NBC, I have no clue. It certainly wasn't to give the three nitwit NBC presenters something more to do; after all, they were already busy yammering incessantly over much of the broadcast.

Actually, when I think about it, the trigger-happy TV presenters might have been the real low point of the broadcast. Losing the memorial tribute section was, after all, achieved by way of a swift editorial scissor snip, and much of the US viewership was none the wiser. In contrast, the wince-inducing commentary from the boorish Bob Costas, the comfortably smug Matt Lauer and the completely batty Meredith Vieira cast a pall on the entire programme.

During the National Healthcare tribute segment, Vieira was heard to utter, "Quite frankly, none of these children look really sick to me," which although a bit of a head-scratcher, still wasn't the kind of wtf moment that occurred with her use of the term money shot while referring to the Queen. I know the editors were busy engineering the coverage to suit what they perceive to be American tastes, but you'd think that since this was a delayed broadcast, someone would have thought to put those censor's scissors to good use here.

I suppose you could forgive Ms.Vieira for not being familiar with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, although her eagerness to admit it just as he was being featured in the ceremony came across as a little cavalier ("If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either.") and certainly the irony of Matt Lauer's response, "Google him" is giggle-worthy, but the fact that she later saw fit to actually impose herself on the musical soundtrack by singing along with karaoke-like aplomb to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" for a few bars was painful, and well, unforgivable.

Not to be outdone, Lauer's schoolboy-insightful commentary included such zingers as, "Djibouti's name sounds funny!" and "Madagascar - for our younger viewers, a country associated with a few animated movies." Wow. Sounds like he really did his homework.

The unbearably glib and condescending Bob Costas, is of course, an Olympics veteran and should know better. Actually, when I think about it, he does know better -  he knows better than almost anyone how to routinely belittle and marginalize an entire nation with a smarmy, xenophobic quip. Political failings? Budgetary crises? Lack of international sporting success? It's all fair game for Bob. 

 He demonstrated this ably during the parade of nations part of the broadcast. As the athletes entered the stadium, his commentary veered between patronizing and mean-spirited, and made for uncomfortable viewing. Botswana, for example, simply merited a mention as a country whose basketball team was crushed by the US "Dream Team" in 1992 by over 40 points, while Egypt's political climate was referenced with a condescending comment about the country being in "a transition of some sort," adding, "From military dictatorship to Jeffersonian democracy? Not quite." 

His dismissive barb about Australia being "originally founded as a penal colony" was simply lazy and irkesome, but the dismissive "Not a country I would be visiting soon" comment aimed at the North Korean contingent was totally unnecessary, and by the time the Ugandan athletes entered the stadium and Costas actually saw fit to reference Idi Amin, the ex-Ugandan dictator/mass murderer, I broke out in cold sweat and had to throw in the towel. 

Oh well, looking on the bright side - we've got another 4 years before we have to endure the NBC's own broadcasting dream team treating us to assorted vapid factoids about Carnival, and (Brazilian bikini) waxing about life in the slums of Rio. Can't wait. 

NBC: No Bloody Clue.