13 November 2010

another post, not inherently interesting, but with feeling...

I have considered a number of topics, two topics, actually, in preparation for another post on my frequently neglected and largely unread blog. The postman has been delivering armloads of glossy Christmas catalogs, among them, two which struck me particularly for their gratuitous and puzzling use of animals as accessories to the unwearable and utterly beside the point items on view. This bothered me, a bit, as I'm proudly on the side of these poor beleaguered creatures set about posing with overstarched models or clambering atop upholstery. It seems wrong to me to coerce wild animals into doing things that they would simply not do. I don't know, perhaps the cat likes wearing a sweater, but given my extensive knowledge of the preferences of very many cats, average in nature and temperament, I doubt it.

It would not occur to me to harass my own felines in this way. Certainly, none of the cats I've had the pleasure of caring for would have tolerated such denigrating objectification. I know there is a culty sort of trend to put things on cats, and apparently, it still holds an attraction in a blog called Stuff On My Cat. But just look at the poor creatures, hostages all, sporting turbans or sweaters or laden with disposable and useless inanimate objects, refuse from our consumer culture, and all of them looking like they want to kick your ass as thanks for turning them into humiliating spectacles. If only they could. Maybe someday.

Then I thought I should post something with a broader social relevance. Gosh, Thanksgiving is coming up, busiest travel day of the year, millions of travelers heading home, or somewhere, many of them on airplanes. How is the Transportation Security Administration going to handle that with their controversial Advanced Imaging Technology scanners? A citizen's group has been formed to handle this probing question by nominating November 24, as "National Opt Out Day" , a day of passive resistance against what a majority of people deem to be
a crude affront to their privacy and an abuse of TSA power. So be it. One can resist the invasive and revealing body scan and be assaulted with even greater trespass via a "pat-down" or simply not fly at all. One can also vividly imagine the mayhem that may result as innocent citizens are frogmarched into the x-ray chambers and forced into shame-making submission. Look at where all this terror business has put us. Ingenious really, for terrorists, wherever they lurk, to get the United States government to do their job for them by promulgating alarming policies and carrying out rigorously enforced routines that provoke so much justifiable concern in its own citizens. Really clever that.

But then I thought, no, I really don't know enough about advertising or terror, not in any official capacity certainly, so I decided instead to stick closer to home, closer to the subjects I know at least something about which is why I am excitedly revealing my latest crush, Have I Got News For You, a British news quiz show seen in the U.S. on YouTube and a few other outlets. Where to start? My immediate concern is that nothing I say can do it justice.
The American NPR program, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, is modelled after this UK original, but cannot, even in its most amusing moments, approach the magic and brilliance of its older and wiser parent. How best to describe this gratifying display of British wit and intelligence?

The show is hosted by various guest personalities and there are two teams, one captained by Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, the other by comedian, Paul Merton. Two different guests appear each week and a series of questions are asked about relevant topical events. An hour's worth of material is recorded and edited down in order to fit a half hour format and cut out any potentially slanderous bits. The show starts with the host reading a trio of news related one-liners to laughter and applause. The main portion of the show involves several rounds of questioning on major news stories of that week. There was a Tabloid Headlines Round in which the contestants were quizzed on some of the more lurid aspects of the week's news, but this has been replaced with a sort of picture game which involves choosing the one picture that doesn't relate topically with the other three, or working out how the image presented is somehow otherwise relevant. There is also a Missing Words Round in which the contestants must fill in the blank space in a headline culled often from some amusing and obscure periodical.

There are a long list of running gags, punctuating comments with the word,"allegedly" is one of the more familiar.  When Member of Parliament Roy Hattersley failed to appear after two subsequent last minute cancellations, he was replaced by a tub of lard, carefully positioned before his empty seat and referred to throughout the program as the "Right Honorable Tub of Lard, MP".  It has to be seen, of course, to be appreciated, but HIGNFY is one of the things I most look forward to spending time with because it just really makes me laugh, and for that modest pleasure , I am deeply grateful.
Which brings me to a final observation about one of HIGNFY's more popular panelists and hosts, that mesmerizing and lively presence, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. His "Ping Pong" speech acknowledging the award to London of the 2012 Olympics is classic Boris in action and I share it with you here.

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