Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yet More Adventures In Asian Cable TV

Yes, another teaching trip to another rural provincial capital.  And another clean but unexciting little hotel, The Diamond Park Inn in Chiang Rai, 600 Baht (about seventeen dollars), special price for the itinerant professor. 

The image on the cable TV was nice and sharp, and there were lots of channels.  All but four channels were in Thai.  The four foreign channels were:  RT (Russia Today!  All in English); Deutsche Welle (a presentation of the German government, also all in English); TV5 Monde (all in French, but almost always with English subtitles); and an uninteresting Chinese station, not CCTV. 

RT has changed over the years.  In the past I have remarked that RT was light on the politics and long on the fair-minded entertainment and news.  Well those days have gone.  The present incarnation of RT is a wholly owned propaganda subsidiary of Vlad “The Impaler” Putin, Incorporated.  Ably assisted by a whole slew of American on air personalities.  Including Larry King!  Imagine! 

I’m sure that you were all wondering, as I was, what Larry King was up to, and if, indeed, he was still answering role call.  His RT show is called “PoliticKing.”  He’s still a good soldier.  I saw him do a station promo in which he delivered RT’s tag line, “question more.”  I actually saw an installment of the show.  They’re about twenty minutes long.  Larry “interviewed” Robert Reich.  I say interviewed with a sense of humor.  Larry was trying hard to stay awake while reading unconnected questions off of a handy list.  It’s a job, I guess.

There were quite a few opinion shows that were vaguely focused on politics or the news.  The wildest one that I saw was “The Keiser Report,” featuring Max Keiser.  Max is American, as are most of the on-air personalities.  He reminds one of Louis Black in many ways, the wild eyes, the skewed tie, his general appearance.  The tone of the show was typical for RT:  critical of the American government but sympathetic to the American people. 

After a day and a half I was wondering why there had been no mention of Mr. Putin.  Finally there was a snarky piece about his recent disappearance.  He’d been off the radar for two weeks at that point, unbeknownst to me.  They commented on the silliness of Western news speculating that Putin had been ousted, or was sick, or having a breakdown or something.  “He’s a busy man,” the reporter said cheerfully, “he’s always off doing something and he doesn’t have to check in with Western media.”  And that was that.  Thanks for letting us know who the boss is over there at RT. 

Deutsche Welle and TV5 Monde are heavy on the cultural programming, so I saw quite a few European music acts.  These always fascinate me.  In general, people in Europe do not seem to understand that in order to be considered a very entertaining music act you should be either a great singer, or a great musician, or very good looking, or very charismatic.  Some combination of these things is ideal.  Noto Bene, my European friends, the complete absence of all of the above qualifications should be a fatal shortcoming in the music business. 

Having said that, most of the musical acts on these European shows are just dead dull.  Including, but not limited to, the French.  I rather like the French, at least until they get sucked up into that tornado of self-importance that is where they live.  I watched a show called “La Fete de la Chanson,” not without being somewhat entertained.  (What is that?  The holiday of the singing women or something.)  At least the French seem to understand that being attractive, for a woman at least, is an advantage in the music business.  Amazingly, being positively unattractive seems to be a requirement for male singers.  Sad, awkward non-singing is well tolerated among the men.  As for the distaff side, the more attractive the women are, the worse they sing.  The songs are musically uninteresting in general. 

I’ll allow that it may all be more substantive if one understands French, which I do not.  But what must they think of us?  And are we any better?  Is American music so great these days?  Regarding the popular stuff, I’d hate to have that end of the debate.  There was a time, but I often wonder if that time has passed. 

The challenge to credulity presented by the Deutsche Welle is wondering how the Germans have gotten so dull all of a sudden.  Only kidding!  No, really!  It’s the Deutsche Welle that is dull, not the Germans.  I wouldn’t want all Americans to be judged by CSPAN. 

It was nice to get back to my (rented) condo and see some REAL cable TV.  (That’s a joke, son.)  

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