Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transportainment: The Future of Fun

I think everyone can agree that putting televisions in moving vehicles is the best thing to happen to the medium since Everybody Loves Raymond was cancelled. The first time I fell in love (apart from an ill-considered marriage of convenience in preschool) was when I was 8 and had to take long flights from Hong Kong back to America every summer. I spent the flights playing with my personal entertainment system while my parents were asleep. I saw so many edited-for-airplane R-rated movies and I felt like a huge badbutt. Yippee-ki-yay, Kimosabe. Winners go home and date the prom queen.

I have a long history of loving these things, in other words. And still I hate the television screens in Guangzhou taxis, buses, and subway cars. I hate them because it’s impossible not to watch them when they’re always right in front of your face, and they mostly just play ads, and Chinese TV advertisements are unbelievably bad (worse than “CBS Eye on American”? Yes.), so unbelievably bad and poorly conceived and acted that after every ride I find myself wishing that I had something merely boring to watch on my way around the city.

One good thing about the TVs in the taxis is that you can use them to play a fun game, called “Describe what’s on Chinese television to the person in the passenger seat.” So you know how everyone in American likes Japanese game shows because they’re unintelligible and full of confusing images but still somehow fun? That’s exactly what Chinese Taxi TV is like, except not still somehow fun. I find the taxi TV impossible to understand because the sound is never on and the subtitles are way too fast for me to read, so if someone is up front I end up just saying things like, “ok, there’s a picture of a palace made of ice. And then b-roll of old Chinese men drinking tea. And here’s a shot of a tiger, and then a map with an arrow pointing to Taiwan. OK, there’s a list of tomorrow’s temperatures in major US cities.” Was it a weather report? A declaration of war? A lost David Lynch film? That’s for the person in the front seat to guess! Of course there’s no way to win, because even though I was watching the TV the whole time I still have no idea.

There is at least one good ad that I see on the subway on a fairly regular basis, which is for a brand of wine distributed in Guangzhou. This ad is good for two reasons. The first is that it has people of European descent in it, which is always funny because you know that they’re in the ad because they moved to Guangzhou to teach or retire or whatever and are using their Caucasoid features to make some extra cash. The second thing is that the wine that these people are shilling for is called Golden Butterfly Face. Let that brand name sit on your tongue for a few moments.

Golden Butterfly Face. Golden. Butterfly. Face. Golden Butterfly.


The name starts out on a bright, crisp, accessible note. It’s got a strong, sassy botanical body. The finish is a little Face-y for my taste. What does it even mean in this context? Is it talking about me? Am I the Golden Butterfly Face? Is the wine the face? Will the wine’s face become my face? Will we both turn into butterflies? What’s happening here? I think we should just make a rule that body parts don’t go in the names of wines. (Sorry, Uvula Grigio, that means you.)

(Aside: The Guangzhou Story’s best of wikipedia for today: List of films featuring independent body parts)

I love watching this ad because it contains a mystery. I tried to find a video of this online, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one: at the end of the ad, the aforementioned white people file into a ballroom wearing formal attire and taste a glass of Golden Butterfly Face, and the main guy takes a sip, looks surprised, and says something. The sound has never been on, so we can’t be sure, but Gus thinks he’s saying, “actually, it’s quite good.” Which is sort of funny to have in a commercial. Actually, not awful, this stuff! Waiter, bring us another bottle of Face!

For my money, the best TV is on buses because they usually just play music videos with the sound turned all the way down. So they play videos. I guess that’s what I’m saying. I saw a music video yesterday for a song called “Yes and No”, the chorus of which is

You say no no no no no
I say yes yes yes

Then there’s the bridge which goes like this.

How can I let you know how much I love you (How can I let you know)

Dude, she knows how much you love her. Lady said no, man. Several times. And don’t just tell her you love her, be a romantic! Buy her flowers, take her to dinner, open up an expensive bottle of Face wine and baby you got yourself a stew going.

OH and Gus and I saw this on the bus a few days ago. By far my favorite video to date. It was on for like 20 minutes and made sense for 0 minutes. All video artifacts you see were in the original.

Frankly, this probably about as much sense as my English lessons make. I mean seriously, a lesson about Lost? What was I thinking?