La facture, s’il vous plaît

17 August, 2007

Doubtless the accommodations for the man in the iron mask on the Île Sainte Marguerite were not in the style of the Hôtel du Cap so near and yet so far just a few kilometres across the azure water to Cap Ferrat.

However his dungeon was free of charge.

Hôtel du Cap FerratEleven years in just a standard room at the Hôtel du Cap would have set him back €3,412,750 (A$5,808,748, US$4,567,965), not including food, beverages, laundry or tips.

And believe me, food, beverages, laundry and tips can well bring that close to double.

If he had chosen a suite or villa his bill would have cleared the national debt of many former French colonies.

It is worth noting that only fairly recently did this and many other luxury hotels in Cannes accept credit cards, previously requiring cash in settlement. They also imposed minimum stays (ten days during the film festival), charged a full booking for early departure, and demanded 50% of the reservation in advance — non-refundable. Naturellement!


You want brains with that?

17 August, 2007

TV commercial:

A guy is driving his date to a romantic mystery dinner.

She, in a knicker-twisting agony of romantic curiosity and atrocious over-acting: “Oh come on … where are we going?”

Turns out she gets a cardboard box of mangy chicken and cholesterol sides at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

Hey guy, if she is tasteless enough and dumb enough not to empty that crap into your pants and get a cab home then you deserve each other. Have nice fat, greasy chickens together.


Sin Tax

17 August, 2007

It doesn’t sound like a really funny word, but syntax is the key to much unintentional humour and miscommunication.

As a child I used to delight in Edward Lear’s nonsense rhymes, limericks and riddles — as had a century of children before me. Syntaxually-challenged classified ads were a childish favourite: “For sale: grand piano, hardly used, by elderly lady with carved ebony legs.”

Hey, I was four!

Journalists can do it, too, and most of them are older than four.

Sometimes this leads to humour of a darker shade. The BBC reported the disappearance of a man in Nepal saying “he was last seen being dragged from his home by soldiers wrapped in a blanket.”*

The most devastating effect of Australia’s current drought has not been to the trimmed, green lawns and herbaceous borders of the cities’ suburbia, but to those who provide the crops and herds to feed this and other countries.

So overwhelming have been the consequences of the drought on the many farmers and graziers that some have been driven to take their own lives.

A common slug line for this sad statistic was: “One farmer commits suicide every fours days.”

Australia does not in general celebrate Groundhog Day. If only the solution were as simple as finding this one farmer endlessly recycling himself and stopping him before he does himself a damage.

*Anyone who sends me an illustration inspired by the soldiers wrapped in a blanket may have it included here. Use the “contact me” form to reach my e-mail directly.

Heard on BBC World Service, 31 August 2007.


Advertisements for themselves

17 August, 2007

Station promos: don’t we love ‘em? In the first outing of Channel 10’s “there’s no better place to be” series of promos, stars of the station’s leading imports (House, NCIS, Numbers) performed stylish, minimalist, tongue-in-cheek snippets to camera. I am guessing here but the clips were shot in the US and the lines, apart from the obligatory tags, were largely ad-lib.

Then 10’s promo department clambered on the bandwagon using home-grown star-equivalents. Sadly they missed the boat, the wagon and the point.

No doubt, every attempt was made to match the look and understated wit of the originals but either they just didn’t get it, or just couldn’t do it.

In any case the result only highlights the difference in production values in general between (most) Australian TV and that of the USA; the home of the best worst television in the world.

Pathetic


Gargoyles at the gates

17 August, 2007

Was it inspiration or desperation that drove advertising agency creative genii to resort to grotesqueries?

More to the point, how, and with what conscience, do they persuade their clients to spend millions on detached slithering tongues, obscenely exaggerated erect male nipples and drenching underarm sweat to rival a car wash from hell.

Perhaps they missed the point that grotesque does not necessarily mean gross. Certainly it is the gross that the perpetrators of these abominations found irresistible.

In the hands of Goya, Bruegel or daVinci, grotesque exaggeration could be turned to artistic expression or satire. In the hands of these sad specimens only the vulgar and gross remain.


Bad weather

17 August, 2007

It seems a pretty fair bet that the word “drought” in a TV weather bulletin refers to a lack of rain — for time enough adversely to affect the environment.

So why does Channel 7’s David Brown insist that we have a “hydrological drought” — unless to distinguish it from a drought of intelligent weather commentary.

For the benefit of any other aspiring weather Barbies out there, hydrological merely refers to the study of water on earth and in the atmosphere. As in drought. Duh.


What’s in a name?

26 January, 2007

Perhaps the greatest danger of modern media is that it perpetuates errors by continually referencing itself rather than any original source — to the degree that the error eventually totally occludes the truth.

Eventually, the error becomes the truth.

The reasons are many: laziness, time pressure, lack of professional training or basic education, ignorance, stupidity, herd instinct. None of them noble and all have the same result.

Maria SharapovaA trivial but really annoying example: these days, a very large proportion of female tennis players have Russian names which sports commentators appear to have great difficulty pronouncing (along with many English words encountered above a grade three primer).

For their benefit the World Tennis Association has published a guide for broadcasters. Sadly, this has eight out of ten seriously wrong.

The WTA’s response to criticism has been that along the lines that “this is how most Americans would pronounce them and the players would go along with that”.

The prime example would be one of the world’s highest earning and most successful women players, Maria Sharapova. Russian speakers assure me that this is pronounced “sha-RAH-pa-vuh”, as do authorities overwhelmingly and, most significantly of all, the lady herself.

Now here is the kicker. I have read reports of prominent sport and news broadcasters knowingly using the popular but incorrect pronunciation for fear of being thought ignorant!

Truly, the inmates now run the asylum.

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