Monthly Archives: January 2012

Time Zones

I”m currently eight hours behind my usual time zone. Although, as I sit here in my hotel room, too early to eat dinner, but yet still long past my bedtime, I count my lucky stars that I’m in a country with only one time zone. New York is 3 hours ahead of San Jose, which is kind of annoying for organising communication but not terrible. The real difficulty comes in with television.

I think one of the reasons why US television is so insipidly sanitised must have something to do with the multiple-time-zone problem. After all, the concept of a watershed is completely missing for a US national network broadcaster. Say I have a gritty new show, exploring adult themes and with enough fucks and bastards to satisfy even the most inbred of rural aristrocracy. Then I can’t put it on at 9pm Eastern Time, as that’s 6pm Pacific. I can’t wait until 9pm Pacific because then it airs midnight in the East. So I just have to put it out on cable, or remove my swears and adult themes.

I hear a network once tried to make a US version without of The Thick Of It. Only without swearing or any serious satireof politics.

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Filed under Personal, Travel

California

So I touched down in San Jose last night for a work trip. It’s my second trip to the US in the last month, and the thing that’s struck me most is the fact that America is at once so foreign and so familiar. I’ll post over the next few days with some of my views on the US (including on the adverts, they’re fascinating), but today I’d like to talk about the issues which surround a country this size.

I mentioned this is my second trip to the US recently, and the first trip was to Alabama in the deep south. Maybe these two locations are a good opportunity to consider the dual-natured American culture, as San Jose is in one of the most liberal areas in the country, and Alabama is Alabama. In one, I as a non-driver was trapped in my hotel, in the other I can use pavements (or sidewalks) and public transport. In one, all I could find to eat was various kinds of things which were fried, in the other I can eat almost any cuisine I like.

But of the two, it’s Alabama which felt less foreign. Maybe it’s the flora – lots of evergreen trees and British-y plants as opposed to palms and faux-mexican architecture – but I really feel like Alabama is closer to the UK than California. A rural, somewhat conservative UK, but close nonetheless.

It’s almost a cliche to say that the UK and US are a country separated by a common language, but the same is almost more true of these two states. There is almost nothing else they have in common with one another – culture, ethnic diversity, and food are all so different. Maybe if I saw the more of the poor in both areas I’d would see more in common (travellers rarely see anything but the products of the rich) as, in England at least, commonality of culture is usually found among the working-class.

More to come.

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Advertism

I’m getting more and more annoyed by adverts. Hopefully, I’ll start talking about adverts in more detail over time, but for now I think I’ll stick to just one example and preface it with my feelings about adverts in general.

I have one of those intensely analytical minds. I don’t really mean that in an arrogant or even a positive way. I analyse everything around me to an insane degree, to the point where my girlfriend won’t let me get started on rants anymore.

Adverts are one such target of my limitless ire. I understand that adverts are there to sell to products to people, and that there’s going to be an element of coercion inherent in a lot of them. That’s okay. In fact, if adverts weren’t being pushy and trying to make me buy a product, then they wouldn’t be doing their job.

Come to think about it, that’s exactly half of the reason why many adverts annoy me – they just aren’t any good. To gain a competitive advantage over your competitors, your advert has to either be better than theirs or you have to hope they don’t bother to advertise at all. So why does every single price comparison site create a single annoying mascot and then reuse and reuse and reuse them until the only thing left to contemplate is whether these site compare prices for assassins?

Then comes the second reason, and it’s one which happens less often but gets me far more annoyed when it does: pushing traditional lifestyle roles on people to try to tell them how they should act (and what they should buy). Often this comes in the form of gender roles – when was the last time you saw a man worried about whether his carpets smelled stale in an advert? Nope, it’s only women, and of course according to the advertisers any self respecting woman is absurdly houseproud, and couldn’t live without regularly giving her soft furnishings a good dose of Febreeze.

The problem here is that ‘traditional’ gender roles are a holdover from a past rampant with misogyny, where women stayed at home, cleaned and looked after their two god-fearing children while the man went out and won some bread while simultaneously slaying a bear. Every call back to this absurd idea that ‘men’ are in charge and women are essentially faithful house cleaners raises the hackles of inner feminist. Still, it could be worse. I could have Sky Sports.

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