Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chinese Manners (or lack thereof)

Today on the ferry I heard the following: a woman in front of my burp; a man behind me burp and someone a few rows back clipping their toenails. Neither burp was a subdued, mouth-closed affair. They were both wide-open loud burps that most civilized people save for the privacy of their home. While I didn't check, I really pray that the toe nail clipper discarded said nails in the rubbish bin (it's not trash can here).

Sadly dirty looks don't work on these people since they don't think they're doing anything wrong.

I left the ride feeling very skeeved out.

That's all I care to say on this subject.

What they Call "Television"

With seven months under my belt I feel ready to give you my take on television here. It ain't pretty so settle in for a good read.

Commercials -- missing something I used to hate
There are no product commercials. None. While you think this would be a good thing -- who wouldn't give their right arm to not hear Billy Mays screaming about OxyClean?! -- it's actually quite tiring. Why, you ask? Because the channels play the same promos for their own shows during each commercial break. So during an hour-long show, you will watch the same promo for "Top Chef" five times. Vin and I can actually quote all the promos on the channels we watch. (This freaked Sal out when he stayed with us.) The only upside is that some shows don't take as many commercial breaks so the show will fade out to a commercial break and then come right back with the continuation of the show. This is especially funny on shows like Project Runway when Heidi says, "one of you will be the winner and one of you will be out" back to back.

Things seem to be changing, though. We've started seeing tourism ads (with tag lines like "Malaysia Truly Asia" and "Incredible India") on some of the channels and the Discovery Channels have started running product commercials for a camera (I forget which one!)

The Birardis' TV Guide
What shows do we watch?

Discovery (I think there are like 10 channels in all!) -- Jon and Kate Plus Eight, Take Home Chef, Project Runway, A Baby Story, Little People Big World, Jamie's Kitchen (Jamie Oliver is HUGE here)

Biography -- Lisa Williams, I Survived, Rescue Mediums, Sell This House, Flip This House and Biographies on all the big stars

Sony Entertainment Television -- Top Chef, Top Design, America's Next Top Model, Grey's Anatomy

Crime & Investigation Network -- The First 48, Medical Detectives, Cold Case Files, 48 Hours Mystery, Watching the Detectives

Star World -- 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Desperate Housewives (I don't watch this, but thought I should include it), Ellen DeGeneres Show, Two and a Half Men (another one I don't watch)

E! -- standard E! fare

News Channels -- 2 CNN channels, Fox News (it's on all the time; we just can't get enough of all the old crusty white guys -- HA!), Bloomberg, CNBC, BBC, etc.

Sports -- we have 15 channels

Sports you've never heard of
Speaking of sports, it's a wacky universe over here, one that a big sports nut like my husband has had to adjust to. First, there are like 8 channels dedicated to soccer, er I mean football -- British Premier League, Italian Serie A, all the Asian teams. If you miss a live game (because they're played here at like 2am), don't fret -- they will replay the game 110 times over the next year. The same goes for American sports. During the NFL play-offs in January we were so excited they showed the games over here. We're less excited 6 months later to find the same games on -- how many times can you watch the Eagles beat the Giants in the first round of the play-offs?!

On the other hand, it has been a HUGE comfort to be able to turn on live Yankees games on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Instead of beer and a hotdog, we watch Jeter and company over coffee and cereal. I hear this is what it's like for folks on the west coast. The best part is that we get YES coverage -- I never knew Michael Kay and Ken Singleton brought me so much happiness! I do feel bad for any Mets or Red Sox fans, though, as they ONLY play Yankees games. Well, I guess I don't feel that bad.

Coming from the land of basketball/football/baseball, it's been odd to turn on the TV and find professional ping pong and badminton competitions. I kid you not. There's also a lot of rugby and car racing, neither of which I find interesting at all.

Stuck in 2006
When I first arrived I was psyched to be able to catch Top Chef, a show I had always wanted to watch in the States but never got around to TiVoing. It felt like Christmas when I realized that they were showing the episodes not once a week, but once a day! This meant that I could watch an entire season in like 2 or 3 weeks (as long as I was home the same time each day, which, well, no surprise that with my new "career" I was!) When that first season ended, I couldn't wait for the next season to start. Except that it didn't start; they just played the same season over and over for like 5 months. I also later found out that this was only like the second season, whereas they were on like the fifth season in the States.

This is standard for most of the reality shows -- those on TV now are shows I have already seen in NYC like 2 years ago. For example, they just aired the Jon and Kate Plus Eight episode where they renew their vows in Hawaii. Um yeah. The only show that is shown live and current here is American Idol -- and people watch it just as religiously over here.

This one really pisses me off -- they censor movies and shows on HBO! We get like 5 or 6 different HBO channels and not one of them will show nudity or curse words. Most baffling is that one channel is called like the adult HBO and requires you to unlock it each time you want to get on there...only to find that everything is still censored. Try watching Entourage or The Sopranos censored. It sucks. In fact, we very rarely watch these channels because the censorship is too distracting.

On a completely different censorship tip, the E! channel gets positively butchered. For some reason, the powers that be have decided to bleep out any mentions of restaurants, fashion labels, stores and products from all E! shows. So here's how a typical E! News segment goes -- "Brad and Angelina were spotted eating dinner at BLEEP" or "You can find Cameron Diaz's hot jeans at BLEEP." I have NO IDEA why they do this but it's a pain in the ass for us viewers.

I'm starting to forget what normal TV is like. Rediscovering TV is officially on the "Reasons I can't wait to go back to the States" list. Is that bad?

Does this mean I'm adjusting?

I always used to make fun of the Asian tourists in NYC who walked around in sunny weather with their big ole umbrellas out. It seemed positively ludicrous to a sun worshiper like me to shield yourself from the sun, especially when you're just walking around the city. How much sun do you really get walking in and out of buildings anyway?! It's not like they're trekking across the Sahara.

Then I moved to Hong Kong, the land of 100 degree temperatures and 100% humidity. Suddenly those umbrellas (which are tenfold here) seem ingeneous. It's that hot here, folks. You walk outside and without walking a foot instantly start sweating.

Now I've taken my first step towards umbrellas in sunshine -- I walk exclusively in the shade. I will cross the sidewalk and street, adding extra time onto my trip, if it means staying in the shade. Because at the end of the day, more shade = less sweat = less showers = less washing of clothes = happy Jess.

It could be worse. I was on the ferry this week and saw a middle-aged, normal looking Asian man dressed in a business suit whip out an enormous, gold, RuPaul-worthy fan and start fanning himself. I guess he's anti-umbrella like me.