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 128 : The Turn of the Screw

It started with Mary Poppins. Perfectly harmless, but the seed was sown. When I didn’t baulk at that, the bar was incrementally raised: Doctor Doolittle/The Jungle Book/Oliver/Bugsy Malone, even Camelot (which was really quite grown-up). Still I did not flinch. Then the heavy artillery: Cabaret/Grease/Jesus Christ Superstar/New York, New York/A Star is Born. I took umbrage at the latter, my tender sensibilities already affronted by the vulgarity of Hollywood pizzazz. But still they kept on coming: Evita/A Chorus Line/That’s Dancing. And then I knew. How could I continue to live this lie? The sleepless nights, the deception, those red velvet trousers I had always secretly despised? No, the time had come: I had to tell my mother I was straight:

Mother:  Oh, don’t be ridiculous!

Me:  Ma, I am. I think I always have been. I’m sorry.

Mother:  It’s probably just a phase, dear. Lots of boys your age go through it. Now, settle down and I’ll pop on some Barbara Streisand.

Me:  Please don’t. I’m serious about this.

Mother:  Of course you are. Let’s have a cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.

Me:  You’re not listening to me, Ma. I’m straight. And no amount of cups of tea or Barbara Streisand will change that.

Mother:  Yes yes yes! No need to shout. Now, I’ve been flicking through the papers and they’re showing West Side Story again at the Ritzy on Saturday. Thought we might…

Me:  You’re just not getting it, are you? I don’t want to see West Side Story, I don’t want to see The Sound of Music and, to be frank, I don’t want to see any more musicals. Ever. Again. Do you understand?

Mother:  I’ve seen you watching Cabaret alone in your room. And singing along.

Me:  Cabaret is different. The narrative is the driving force behind that film, and the music just so happens to be great as well. But without the former, they’re just songs looking for a vessel. The combination of the two is a heady mix. It’s the unsurpassed, bitter-sweet genius of Bob Fosse.

Mother:  See?

Me:  See what? Look, just because I like Cabaret does not make me gay, ok? You’re just going to have to get used to it.

Mother:  But…but what will I do?

Me:  I know it’s hard for you right now. But lots of straight men go on to lead happy, fulfilled lives and I’m determined to be one of them. I just want you to be happy for me. Do you think you can do that?

Mother:  Yes…I think so. But are you sure? I mean, have you actually tried it? You know…

Me:  Yes, I have.

Mother:  Oh God…(sobs)…I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!

Me:  Please don’t be, Ma. It’s ok, really. And I think, given time, you’ll come to love Echo & the Bunnymen as well. They’re super on stage, and you’ll die for the hairstyles.