Friday, June 30, 2006

In praise of European entertainment

With the arrival of the World Cup, many in North America have expressed boredom. Without the context of soccer hooliganism or photos of David Beckham wearing nothing but a sarong, the excitement has been lost on those who did not grow up with "the beautiful game".

I am one of those people who grew up with very little exposure to European football, even though my father was a football fan in exile. But I have found myself enjoying the games because it is the opposite of most North American entertainment, which tends to feature blaring music, pumped up commentators, and manic camera action.

When I watch a World Cup game, I find myself lulled by the combination of constant action and a leisurely atmosphere. The smooth, melodious tones of the British commentator act like a nice audio massage. I mentally tune in when something exciting happens on the field but otherwise, I find myself thinking about my day, writing up a shopping list, or even daydreaming. All in all, I enjoy myself immensely.

My World Cup experience is similar to how I feel when I watch the Tour de France, which I have been a fan of since before Lance Armstrong. During the three hours of broadcast on an average day, I watch the cyclists weave through the scenic French country side, listen to the constant genteel banter of the British commentators, and think about my exercise schedule for the week. When someone makes a break from the pelaton or sprints for the finish line, I come to attention. All in all, I enjoy myself immensely.

My European entertainment spectatorship is not limited to sports. A History of Britain, a documentary series presented by Simon Schama, has the same appeal. As I watch 13 hours of Britannia, lulled by Mr. Schama's voice and endearing physical quirks, I think about doing the laundry and what to eat for dinner. Then I am jostled from my thoughts by Mr. Schama's tale of one mad British king's painful death after a red hot iron poker is shoved up his anus. It goes without saying that I enjoyed myself immensely.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My co-worker and Ann Coulter

Things have been getting increasingly tense at my workplace as the business spirals into the financial toilet and my co-worker's small-minded, petty ways become less and less charming.

Shortly after her latest rude one-liner today, I started fantasizing about ways to smack her without getting in trouble. I thought of 'tripping' on the carpet before 'accidentally' flinging a can of beans at her head. Variations on this fantasy simply involved different objects to chuck in her direction.

To make the depth of my dislike for my co-worker understandable to a wider audience, I would like to compare her to a celebrity who provokes the same gag reflex in me: Ann Coulter.

While Ann and my co-worker share little in common besides the ability to make shockingly insensitive remarks without irony and a moral compass guided by personal gain, the flood of vitriol they provoke from me is pretty much equal in quantity.

The natural reaction I have towards Ann is a combination of distaste and pity. I did not understand this reaction until I realized that Ann reminds me of that prototypical shit-disturber of a classmate that noone liked back in grade school. You know: the nerdy girl who was clearly starved for attention and always out to prove her mental superiority over you.

Present day Ann is the natural progression of that one track classmate. Somewhere along the way, she learned that she could prolong the attention she got if she was more attractive. Unfortunately, Ann resorted to the cheat sheet as opposed to actually developing any true style: the mall haircut that stresses length, the bottle blond, and ill-fitting black dresses all betray the fashion sense of a frat boy.

To comment on Ann's writing and politics is like laughing when a child swears; it's cute now but you'll regret encouraging that sort of behaviour later. And who can really take Ann seriously when her website comes across less like a source of political thought and more like an online dating profile?

I feel better already. So, thank you, Ann Coulter. Between enema Ann and my co-worker, it turns out that two wrongs do make a right.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Your father wants to tell you something

Father's Day is coming up and the retail stores are stumbling over themselves with gift suggestions. Unfortunately, noone has any original ideas.

Golf, ties and beer have become the shorthand for father appreciation the same way flowers, perfume and badly made crafts are equated with mother's day. Luckily, I was never under the delusion that those gifts would suffice for my parents. Early on (aged 5), my dad made it clear that he didn't want me wasting his money on things he didn't need because the thought, especially if it was thoughtless, does not count. And my mom did not keep any subpar finger painting around for long ("Can I throw this out now, dear? It's been here long enough.").

It may all sound harsh but my mother and father are just expressing what more subtle parents have been thinking for years. Dad would not be caught dead in that Bugs Bunny tie and he never used that hand painted 'Best Dad' mug for fear of lead poisoning. Mom dry heaves when she smells your perfume and the apron only confirms her fear that she is becoming her mother.

Mom and Dad were individuals with personalities and interests once upon a time. If you care, take them out to dinner and get to know them. Then next year, you won't make the mistake of getting them a mass produced product that simply acknowledges their ability to procreate successfully.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More chit chat fodder

As the days get warmer and the nights get shorter, the glow of the monitor fails to keep my attention. In the meantime, here's some more interesting facts, courtesy of my former customs broker, because knowing is half the battle:

In Britain, surfing the Internet is now more popular than TV. On average, adults in Britain spend more time online, 41.5 days a year, than in front of the TV. Government figures show they now spend just 37.5 days a year watching television. Londoners spend the most time on line, 183 minutes a day, but it is the high-tech Scotland that is second with an average of 181 minutes each day.

Japan is revising a century-old law because of its people's honesty which has overwhelmed the police by swamping them with lost property. Over 10 million items were handed in to police in 2004. The figure, more than double that of 1964, reflects the law-abiding, yet forgetful nature of the Japanese. Unclaimed items become the property of the finder.

Turkey is the third-largest exporter of underwear in the world. Revenue from the industry, which employs close to one million Turks, reached US$4-billion in 2004 giving Turkey eight per cent of the world market for bras, panties and bathing suits, behind China and Hong Kong. Turkey's textile industry owes its success to good quality, low production costs, technology and proximity to Europe.

Recently, fishermen off the coast of Japan have often been pulling in giant jellyfish which can be over a metre across and weigh 150 kilos. Their arrival has been a disaster for many fishing communities, breaking nets and gear, crushing the fish catch or spoiling it with poisonous tentacles. The jellyfish spawn along the coast of the East China Sea and drift towards Japan.

At least one new disease is jumping the species barrier from animals to humans each year, exposing people to emerging germs at an unprecedented rate. The first work to catalogue the range of germs capable of infecting people has disclosed that 38 new human pathogens have emerged in the last 25 years of which three-quarters originated as animal diseases.

The European Court of Justice has ended a thirteen year dispute ruling that the name "feta" must be used only for white cheese soaked in brine and made in Greece. This was done under the same legislation that ensures champagne comes from Champagne, France and Parma ham must come from Parma, Italy. The ruling has caused chaos in the European feta industry. There are large-scale feta manufacturers in Denmark, Germany and France.

Japanese auto maker Mazda says it will pay employees who walk to the office, rather than commute by car, as part of an effort to improve their health and protect the environment. All the company's 20,000 workers at domestic plants are eligible.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Join the cult, buy Dove

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty advertisements have been going strong for a while now but with no signs of waning, I thought it would be worth a closer look.

For the most part, the Dove ad campaign has been lauded by the public for promoting a more positive body image for women. The marketers have cleverly crafted a cozy all-embracing collective that asks for public opinion, reports on trends in female self-esteem, and even sponsors photography exhibitions and beauty pageants featuring real women.

But I think Dove has failed to saturate the market. While Dove has effectively targeted the average woman's skin, hair, perspiration, cellulite and self-esteem concerns, what about other 'sharing and caring' sectors? Dove is missing key product lines like:

Dove Lard - It is a fact that nothing makes skin softer than a nice layer of body fat under that skin. Dove needs to continue expanding on their skin care line by encouraging their clientel to eat up. Encased in a pretty, translucent case, and carrying a pleasant vanilla scent and pastel food colouring, Dove Lard will deliver on the promise of soft skin "from the inside, out". Ramped up affirmative marketing will cushion the customer's shocking weight gain.

Dove Fight Club - The average skinny woman fails to show up in any of Dove's advertising but no market can be left unexplored. Meanwhile, Dove users will eventually tire of the love-in and need a chance to vent. Bring together the smug skinny girl with the frustrated, self-righteous Dove user in a dirt floor basement under a shady bar and watch the blood fly.

Dove Friend - Friends will grow tired of propping up low self-esteem while internet chat rooms are poor substitutes for really 'being there'. Dove Friend is the best female pal who will always be there for you, guaranteed or your money back. Gently push the button under her paunch and she'll reassure you with words like, "No, you're beautiful! ... No, really, you're more beautiful!" and "Men are scum. You are too good for him." and "You are perfect - just the way you are!" Additional snap-on accessories like Dove XXX will ensure that users need never worry themselves about the real world ever again.

As Dove says, please feel free to share your opinion.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Refreshing career opportunity

After trudging around the world with his trusty mule delivering coffee for 37 years, 'Juan Valdez' is retiring. Carlos Sanchez, the man who has played the Columbian coffee mascot for almost 40 years, has decided to call it quits at age 71.

Sanchez is only the second man to play Juan Valdez; the first being a Cuban named Jose Duval who took on the role in 1959 for a mere 10 years.

It is reported that Colombians are grateful to Juan Valdez for presenting a safely innocuous alternative to the evil drug lord stereotype. Hence, there has been much hoopla over the search for the new Juan Valdez.

In an age of cost-cutting strategies and multi-tasking workers, I propose we amalgamate corporate mascots. Hire one man, 5'9'', average build, brown hair, fair skin that tans easily for multiple ethnic looks, and turn him into:
  • Juan Valdez
  • Mr. Clean
  • the Glad Man
  • Ronald McDonald
  • The Maytag Repairman
  • Aunt Jemima
  • Colonel Sanders
  • resurrected from the grave, Wendy's Dave Thomas
  • Old Keebler Elf
  • Uncle Ben
  • the new Visa logo
  • ... the possibilites and savings are endless!
The new 'Juan Valdez' will be unveiled on June 30.