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American TV, what happened to you?

American TV, what happened to you?

I’ve now been in the USA for two weeks. People may go on about the greatness of American television, but based on my limited sampling experiences so far, it’s not exactly a fabulous thing to watch. For instance:

– they think nothing of putting heavy-taxing dramas like House or CSI: SVU on at 9am. And really, my brain does not want to be processing the implications of a 16-year-old pregnant girl trapped with a ranting religious nutcase at 9am on a Tuesday morning.
– they showed Casino Royale (the testicle-crushing version) at 10am
– Fox News’s morning show is called Fox And Friends. And features two staidly white men in suits and a blonde woman sitting in the middle, wearing a short skirt and a top that looks like she stumbled out of a New York nightclub three hours ago. And it makes no pretensions about its’ core viewership – it endlessly goes on about the potential Republican frontrunners for a Presidential election that’s 18 months away
– the Disney Channel has an endlessly perky computer-animated Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that has all the subtlety of a brick hitting a television
– Reality TV has truly gone mad here, with a speciality in watching privileged women act like they’re still in school, and accuse each other of ‘dissing’ each other, before burying the hatchet and being best buddies again. Usually in 45 minutes.
– MTV and VH1 seem to have just become entertainment channels – VH1 has reality shows instead of music
– Comedy Central dearly needs to break out of stand-up comedy specials from 5 years ago, and repeats of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report
– the one time I was in a house that had BBC America, it was showing …. Blade Runner. Very British.

And the commercials. Oy vey, the commercials. It’s an endless cycle of relentless plugging of fast food and buffets, which will probably deteriorate your body to the point when it needs a wonder drug. Luckily, the next ad is for said wonder drug that may cause side effects “including heart attacks which may lead to death”. Then up next is an ad for a hospital that promises the very best in health care. (And a part of me wonders how can a hospital that has to spend money in advertising be really promising the very best in health care?)

Of course, I could just be missing Dave and their endless re-runs of comedy panel shows and Top Gear… but darn it, it suited me down to the ground!

Why America needed health reform…

Why America needed health reform…

So finally, at long last, America has joined the rest of the world in offering near-universal healthcare to its’ citizens, instead of relying on a hodgepodge of private health insurance coverage. And about bloody time too, if my brief peek into the world of American healthcare was anything to go by.

HyperHam and I were having breakfast with her mother, when she started having a mild cough. By the time we’d left the restaurant, it had become a coughing fit and by the time we were in the car, it had pretty much developed into a full-on coughing attack, and HyperHam starting to panic. So we rushed to the hospital’s “emergency ward”, only to be confronted with a counter that had nurses deep into administrative paperwork, and one elderly volunteer sweetly asking how she could help. So I blurted out “She’s choking!”, only to be told “Oh dear… I’ll see what I can do” before the elderly volunteer shuffled off trying to attract the attention of one of the admin nurses.

Somehow, a wheelchair arrived and I vaguely remember being told to go this way please – at which point, I wheeled that wheelchair to wherever the nurse was amiably ambling. (With HyperHam inside – I’m not that stupid). We arrived at some kind of place where there were machines that go ping, where they stuck a probe on her. Frowning at the number, we were then directed to an emergency cubicle where HyperHam was wired up to a bunch of more machines that go ping, and a couple of nurses fussed over her while we all anxiously looked on.

At one point there was a bit of an almighty flap when the machines that go ping started to go ping-ping-ping-ping, there was a bit more frenetic activity and HyperHam looked close to panic. Fortunately, the machines managed to settle themselves down – but while we were recovering from all this, the hospital administrator decided to wheel herself (and her laptop trolley) in and ask us a bunch of questions. Not useful stuff like her medical history, but things like her name, and WHO HER INSURANCE COMPANY WAS – ie who was going to pay for all this. I’m surprised she didn’t just point-blankly ask for my credit card.

Then we spent the next few hours waiting in A&E while the nurses subjected her to a battery of slightly pointless tests – an X-Ray machine was wheeled in, an oxygen pump was brought in – “just in case”, or more likely as HyperHam remarked later, to bump up the amount they could charge back to the insurance company. While all this was happening, HyperHam’s mother tried to point out how nice American healthcare was, and how most people were covered anyway. Those who weren’t covered, she explained, were mostly illegal immigrants anyway. So that’s alright then.

To be fair, it could have been a lot worse – I suppose they could have refused to give us any help if we didn’t look like people who could afford to buy the healthcare or if we didn’t have the right insurance card – but in all the times I’ve spent in British hospitals, I don’t remember being asked to quote my NHS number verbatim, or to have to carry a card with my NHS number around. But it seems you have to do that in America, just in case.

The doctors and nurses were very nice, very efficient – as they would be. But to this day, we don’t know what happened or sparked off the attack.

Only in America…

Only in America…

would they want to charge overseas tourists $10 to register for the privilege of visiting America. So they can fund a travel tourism promotion group aimed at … getting overseas tourists to come to America. And explain to tourists why they have to be fingerprinted and give away lots of their personal details.

Nothing like being scanned for fingerprints and asked if I was involved in a Canadian drink-driving incident in 1994 to make one feel welcome when entering the land of liberty and freedom. Looks like I’ll have to pay an extra $10 for the privilege soon…

Eating in America…

Eating in America…

I’ve been in Ohio for ten days now, give or take, and aside from the aforementioned so-called Asian doughnuts, I have been introduced to such culinary delights as:

country fried steak for breakfast. This would be a pork steak covered in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried – for breakfast. Even the Scottish with their deep-fried Mars bars wouldn’t cover it in breadcrumbs first. In the interests of research, I had to try this as part of a three-plate breakfast buffet.

Of course, if only I hadn’t then had to go on a Easter egg hunt looking for candy-filled Easter eggs for kids (with a side-trip to Arbys for a roast beef sandwich and a malted milkshake), and then onto a sumptuous evening dinner with some wonderful potato concoction that turned out to be twice-baked potato or something…

– In the UK, it’s called a Welsh rarebit and often the butt of national jokes about Welsh cuisine. But in Ohio, melted cheese sandwiches are revered at Melts, a rather cool bar’n’grill where the menu comes on the back of old vinyl covers. Shame that a melted cheese sandwich apparently takes an hour from ordering to arrival.

– After that came a dessert course of hot fudge ice cream at Malleys. The Americans, they like their ice cream. Even at 1pm on a wet Wednesday afternoon.

However, there are side-effects that come from eating out in America.

What's in New York?

What's in New York?




Liberate your money!

Originally uploaded by almost witty

My siblings and I are basically looking at taking my parents to New York for a major celebration.

This is a great idea with the only flaw being that parents being parents, we’re not really sure of their hobbies and walking miles upon miles of city streets isn’t quite an option either. The main reason for taking them to New York is that they’ve never been to the United States before, and it’s a world-class city with major tourist attractions.

That said, the list of places we’re thinking we could take them mostly consist of:

Empire State Building
Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island
Central Park
Chinatown
Times Square

Can you think of touristy places in New York (or the surrounding area) that don’t require much brain or feet power?

btw, I’m flying through New York, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Phoenix in April if you’re interested in following my trip!

On this almost historic day…

On this almost historic day…

Secret Asian Man

(It does have to be pointed out that 20 years from now, we’ll think of today in the same way we think of the Moon landings. Cool, but let’s get back to reality…)

American mass debating…

American mass debating…

So I settled down to watch the American Presidential debating thing last night, and was wondering how long it would take for the first insult attempt to waft through the airwaves. It didn’t take long – McCain was barely out of the gate before the first volley appeared. They really ought to instigate a rule that you cannot bash the other candidate’s background or personality.

The British political parties keep resisting the idea of “American-style” TV debates, although I’m not too sure why. We’ve pretty much embraced the other parts of American political campaigning – the mass rally, snide political advertising… although from my memory of the last election, British political (non-TV ads) keep aimlessly bashing the other party. At least the American political TV ads over here give you reasons not to vote for Obama/McCain/section 6.

The opinion polls seem to show a rise in Obama’s standing – although naturally I can’t trust opinion polls. Especially after the British elections of 1992 which consistently reported people saying they were going to vote Labour, but they voted Tory in the end. Essentially, people were too ashamed of wanting to vote for the Tory party that promised tax cuts at the expense of the economy. I can’t help feeling in a gut instinct way that this is being mirrored in the opinion polls in the US – especially when the only election graffiti I’ve seen was in a toilet at Detroit airport with a crude rude caricature of Obama.

And was it just me, or did McCain walk around as if he was a puppet? Very stiff, Frankenstein-like. And the only person he tried to ‘physically connect’ to was a soldier. Does he do that to every soldier he meets? It makes it seem like joining the military is the biggest country golf club in the world. (Then again, Obama didn’t touch anyone at all if memory serves)

The British elections are going to be so tediously dull. If only because for Labour to win would take a miracle at this point, I fear.

One image to represent America…

One image to represent America…

Imagine you’re quintessential Englishman Stephen Fry – who, naturally, is a geek of Jewish Hungarian stock. He’s spent the last few months travelling the land of the United States, and naturally, has written a book and TV programme about it.

Now you have to publicise said book in a book launch. What’s the one image of America you need to sell the book to a British press? Find out.

This – no doubt hilarious – book joins other ones on the shelves dedicated to explaining America to a European readership. Although given the huge amount of press coverage the American elections get in the UK, I’m not sure anything needs explaining.

Bloody Americans and their optimistic outlook…

Bloody Americans and their optimistic outlook…

I’ve only been back in the States for a week, and despite my failure to indulge in things that I normally do in America (Best Buy and buffets), I get the feeling that their infectious sense of optimism has started to hit me. Which is amazing, given half of America is panicing over rising gas prices, a credit crunch – oh and global warming.

One of the guys in the place I’m currently staying at asked what I do for a living. I made the fatal mistake of revealing that I build websites – which isn’t technically true, but usually does for civilians. He immediately started pitching me a website idea he had – don’t they all, but despite my constant “No, but ….” refrains – mostly around small little things like financing, selling and the current state of the advertising market – he kept persisting with the idea. Even though the website part of it was an important part of the whole idea, there was so much more work to do with it than just building a website and having them come.

Then the conversation did a left-turn and became about ways of getting his brother into an American university. Now I thought it all came down to how much you could afford to pay for tuition, but apparently it’s also about finding the right person, and badgering him/her to get you a teaching assistant position or something. I’d assume, in my “No, but … ” British way that such places would be overfilled to bursting with applicants, but apparently it’s actually a very viable prospect of getting in in some areas.

Consequentally, this afternoon has been mostly spent mentally going over my old ideas, and wondering just how feasible they are to do or not do. Sure, they’re not going to be Facebook v3, but is it better to spend ages trying to craft an idea and watch it fail in terms of commercial success, or decide that the idea is not going to work, and go back to working for Da Man? (just when I find a job too!)

Two random moments from American television…

Two random moments from American television…

Taken by Midnight Digital Last night, we were at a sports bar grabbing a bite to eat. A sports bar with about sixty thousand LCD screens showing various moments from American TV – including coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championships – which just about has to be the most homoerotic thing to be screened on American television.

Well, how else would you describe something which mostly seems to involve one muscular topless man sitting or squatting on another, grunting and generally thrusting various bits of his body on the other, while the other one lies there helpless or is grunting and thrusting away himself? All while the male observers in the sports bar were whooping and hollering, encouraging every movement – and then trying to chat up the young nubile college students nearby?

Then this morning, I was flicking through the various TV stations, and came across some kind of US equivalent of This Morning, where the hosts were comparing water options to go with your food. And the caption that ran along the bottom of the screen said:

Tap Water: Good for hydration

I shall never complain about British daytime TV again.

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