Idle Eye 145 : The Guinea Pig Bridge

Last week, my friend Philippa sent me an internet link all the way from Australia. It led me to a short YouTube clip, showcasing a bunch of guinea pigs running with glee across a roughly-hewn wooden flyover towards an unknown bunker somewhere inside the Nagasaki Bio Park in Japan. And all to an impossibly infectious soundtrack penned by American pet songsmith maestro, Parry Gripp. Sample lyric:

Guinea Pig Bridge…
Guinea Pig Bridge…
Transporting guinea pigs
From Point A to Point B,
Utilising the latest
Guinea Pig Bridge technology,
Conveniently and safely

When I say sample, I do actually mean the whole shooting match. It is so astonishingly brief, it demands at least another watch (or in my case, a fiftieth). But let us examine this in detail:

At the outset, Gripp infers that the bridge in question is responsible for the conveyance of said critters to their port of call. However, on closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent they are doing the bulk of the work themselves, the bridge being a mere conduit, implemented in order to achieve their travel objective. Given the paucity of time Gripp has available to get his message across, it does seem somewhat duplicitous to throw in what is tantamount to a lie in the first twenty seconds, but fortunately any such misgivings are short-lived: All is beautifully resolved in the second half.

In one of the most succinct circumnavigations of Building Control ever to grace popular song, Gripp signs off his work with a disclaimer: If the powers that be have any issues at all as to potential occupational transit hazards, engineering/architectural standards or a practical yet compliant end user experience, they are conclusively put to bed in just three lines. The absurd suggestion that outmoded guinea pig bridge technology could possibly be employed here is tackled head on, leaving no room whatsoever for manoeuvre. It is a triumph, and Gripp knows it. And with that it’s all over, leaving us with the keyboard hook as outro and a gentle fade on a brown furry bottom, heading majestically towards the horizon in true Hollywood Western stylee. It is quite unlike anything I have ever seen.

Remember that 1990s ad for Tango? When the pop drinker was repeatedly slapped in the face by an imaginary orange buddha, hinting that a massive taste explosion could only be properly enjoyed if you were up for having another look in slo-mo? Well, this is the latter-day equivalent. You simply can’t not watch it again, if for nothing else than to try and figure out what’s going on. And thereby lies the genius: In our post-MTV, attention-bereft times, the money shot has to be spent and out of the building before we’ve taken our first breath. So we click back to the start and give it a second go, and before you know it, Gripp is the new Hitchcock. And that’s as it should be.

Idle Eye 144 : The Kanye Conspiracy

Remember last year? Me neither, which is the predominant reason I churn out this self-indulgent effluent every week. So that, in a quiet moment of the day when the wine fog has lifted, I can claw back clues as to my activities over the last three and a half years, and make out I have near-perfect recall. Yes, like that bloke out of Neighbours (what was his name?) in Memento. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered I had attended the Glastonbury festival. Quite willingly, apparently. Can that be right? And why on earth would I have agreed to such a thing, being as I am rather ancient and unsuitably constructed for the al fresco activities of youth?

I dug a little deeper, only to find out that, to my horror, I am going again in June. And that I have already shelled out perfectly good moolah for the privilege. What fresh hell is this? If ever there was a deterrent to the perils of Pinot… Anyway, my fate being sealed thus, I thought it prudent to at least find out exactly who I shall be forced to watch, and in narratively convenient fashion, the organisers announced yesterday that someone called Kanye West will be headlining on the big stage. Kanye West? Who the shoo is she? I thought it was a holiday destination for wealthy folk, somewhere near the Keys in Florida. And whilst I realise I no longer fit the festival demographic, you’d think they could at least meet me half way: The Bay City Rollers still have a bit of spunk left, and young people can mock them on the Twitter if they get bored.

Seeing as I already had my detective hat on, I discreetly asked my niece to get me up to speed, ignorance being no excuse in these matters:

Poppy:  Are you for real?

Me:  Yes, I think so.

Poppy:  No, I mean you’ve never heard of Kanye West???

Me:  I haven’t. Does that make me a bad person?

Poppy:  He’s only the biggest rapper in the world!

Me:  Rapper, you say?

Poppy:  Yes, rapper! And he’s married to Kim Kardashian. Keep up!

Me:  Kim who?

Poppy:  Oh for God’s sake! Kardashian! With the massive arse.

(long pause)

Poppy:  You really don’t know, do you?

Me:  I’m afraid not.

Poppy:  Have you been living under a rock for the last ten years?

Me:  Of course not. But wasn’t she at Glastonbury last year with her band?

Poppy:  That was Kasabian!

Me:  Is there a difference?

Poppy:  I’ve got to go now…

So, none the wiser then. But at least I’ve gleaned that this Kanye chap has a wife with a big bottom, which will surely hold me in good stead when I’m standing in a Somerset field, knee-deep in mud and surrounded by children who know who he is. What was it again? Kim something? I wonder if she’s from North Korea.

Idle Eye 143 : The Vox Machina

Is it just me, or does every superstore these days feel the need to talk to us customers as if we have successfully navigated a maiden voyage to the lavatory without sullying the floor, or caking ourselves in our own oomska? If you’re not sure what I’m on about here, pop over to your nearest supermarket of choice when you’ve read this. I can guarantee that within five minutes of entering the building, an intrusive announcement, broadcast to all by a Robson Green clone imitating Mick Jagger, will suggest you make a small diversion to the bakery isle, where freshly-made, three-for-two doughnuts will help you live well. For less.

It’s not the content that bothers me particularly though. It’s the delivery. That sudden plunge, from innocuous mid-range to deeply offensive baritone, has been cynically calculated to recall in every shopper the halcyon days of their childhood, when mummy would almost come if you managed to down a forkful of fish finger. This then triggers a rush of serotonin to the brain, and has us scurrying like insects towards whichever wretched product is currently on promotion, in order to keep the high going.

And it doesn’t stop there. Why not punish yourselves further by putting in a quick call to your broadband provider? Just for the sheer hell of it. If and when you manage to get past the teenage cheerleader and her plethora of unfathomable options, you can enjoy Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at tinnitus-inducing volume, until she starts banging on about the hash key should you fancy a few more. Has anyone ever done this? Actually opted for more options? The only reason to do so I can muster is because you have been lured, as if by sirens, into a perpetual loop of doom, seduced by the prospect of discovering the magic key that will end your purgatory once and for all. At a premium call rate, naturally.

I know this makes me seem like a terrible Luddite. Or one of those Grumpy Old Men you see on the telly who have already become versions of their own disdain. But hold up! If technology really is as smart as they make out, why can’t we get to choose the voice of whichever organisation is preaching at us? Based on preferences stored up there in the Cloud and fully configurable to suit our mood? All of a sudden, that dreaded Sunday excursion to Ikea doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Just as you begin to glaze over in the BILLY bookcase department, Mariella Frostrup virtually detects your loss of will to live, and purrs something suggestive about meatballs into the headphones provided. And before you know it, you’re making a beeline for the restaurant as your family struggles to keep up.

Not bad, eh? Maybe Apple should consider something along these lines when that watch of theirs comes out next month. And maybe then I’ll consider a third doughnut.

Idle Eye 142 : The English Straitjacket

Sometimes being English is just plain awful. The absolute pits. Yes, yes, I know we’re all terribly polite and good at pop music, being ironic and making the most of our crappy weather, but when it comes to saying what we actually mean, we are lamentably backward. How often have you apologised for someone else’s rudeness? For being in the way when you never were? Or pretended things are just fine when your internal tolerance needle has just tipped into the red?

I do it frequently. At the end of pretty much every cold-call received, over which I weakly feign surprise at that accident I never had, or the very specific amount the banks owe me for insurance I never took out, I hear myself thanking a computerised voice for its time and, on occasion, wishing it a pleasant day. Which only serves to fill mine with self-loathing and misanthropy. And, cliché though it may be, I constantly find myself drawn to queues, quite often for something I have no interest in whatsoever. Why? Why?

Because it reaffirms the quintessence of our Englishness, and that Englishness breeds deep inside us all, gnawing away at more vulgar attributes such as anger or self-confidence, until all that is left is the quivering bag of neuroses we move around inside every day. It is a curious evolutionary quirk, for if shifted over to the animal kingdom, your average Brit would be mercilessly and fatally mauled before he/she had finished blinking. Probably by something French or Polish, whose very means of survival hinges on the exact opposite.

Speaking of France, here’s another example: When I was fifteen, I was placed at a school in Toulouse for a short while. There, I came across a delightful young lady called Catherine Voisinet, who blushed when I was around and clearly wanted me to make the first move. My French was adequate enough to facilitate this, and I was not yet marred by a forthcoming volcano of acne. But did I? Of course I didn’t. I just sat around, blushing back at her in English until she got bored and started dating a Neanderthal rugby player with grazed knuckles. Who thought I was ‘un con.’  And he was probably right.

I’d love to be able to tell you that it’ll all turn out ok. That being a bit Hugh Grant isn’t such a bad thing, and that more bullish nations will sneakingly admire you for all that pent-up emotion. But I fear that would be a lie. It is and they don’t, despite what you may have been lead to believe from the inexplicable overseas success of Downton Abbey and the like. They’re just collecting ammo for the next way to shaft us rotten, based on information we willingly throw at them. Then they’ll steal our ideas, market our booze, buy up our housing stock etc… and repackage it all as their own. And we’ll probably thank them for it.