Friday, April 28, 2006

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

I happen to listen to a Robert Smigel interview on NPR. He is the creator of the puppet character Triumph the insult comic dog. A few months back I had watched Triumph interviewing a bunch of Star War nerds, camping out on a freezing December morning, waiting to watch the new Start Wars movie. That was perhaps the funniest television snippet I have ever seen. The best part in that interview was when he asks a nerd who was exhibiting a fancy star wars gadget, “which of these buttons will call your parents to pick you up”. This outrageously funny video is a must see for anyone who loves a good laugh.
In the NPR interview, the crude, nasty and lecherous Triumph was asked “do you feel sexist and condescending in your attitude towards female dogs”. His reply was hilarious. “Do you ask the same question to Beethoven? Is this the satire that Beethoven does? I can’t imagine government is paying for this.”.Triumph, masquerading as a TV journalist, routinely covers major events with the only intend to ridicule and satirize. While 'on assignment' at the Michael Jackson trial, Triumph interviewed in a foreigner, in a flashy yellow outfit, rooting for the pop star. The guy said “the only victim is Michael” to which Triumph replied “he’s not the only fashion victim, I can see that” ! Robert Smigel and Triumph the insult comic dog will linger in our minds for years to come.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Tank Man

After the Chinese Army massacred thousands of its own citizens, an unknown rebel, by his lonely act of defiance, amazed the world. It is not known what became of him. But 17 years later, China succeeded in erasing this event from its history.

I saw the documentary “The Tank Man” on PBS yesterday. It opened with the narrative “…. Frontline investigates the identity of the tank man”. I was hoping to learn who this brave hero, who captured the imagination of people around the world, was. But as the film rolled on, I was macerated in the images of contemporary China, and the story of how the communist country became a Mecca for western investors.

I was also disturbed to hear stories from a divided China; the tale of the rich urban China and the poor peasant China. There is mass migration from rural areas to the big and specialized cities (There is a television city, a mattress city, a T-Shirt city, a leather city, and an underwear city). Young girls work 16 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for a meager 120 dollars a month, to produce cheap goods for Europe and America. Indigent helpless men work for just two meals a day in construction sites, with no pay or prospect. It was sad to watch the real face of the industrial china.

The documentary was also speckled with testimonies from eyewitnesses and journalists on what happened in Tiananmen Square and the Tank man. They recalled the moment, and it’s enduring symbolism. Of all, one story stood out. A journalist on a trip back to China recently showed the famous photo, of the unknown civilian standing alone before a line of tanks, to a group of students. I was equally stunned to see that none of the students recognized the picture.

In the last 15 years China has become the factory of the world. But how long will this last? The brave Tank Man was only a harbinger. Pressure is building, and it is only a matter of time before China explodes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Joke

'The Joke' comes almost as close to `The Lightness". Often times I woke up to realize that I was reading Kundera and not Kafka ! I envy Kundera's poetic narrative. He tells the story of an young communist by name ludvik who plays an innocent `joke' that ultimately changed his life.
As soon as Ludwig got to Prague, he pounced on his wife ( I call her his wife, but she actually was just another nineteen year old girl) and she admitted everything brazently (perhaps even eagerly);
He started beating her; she fought back; he started chocking her and smashed a bottle over her head; she fell to the floor and lay there motionless.He immediatly realised what he had done, panicked, and fled. Shomehow or other he found an empty summer cottage in the mountains and holed up there in terrified anticipation of being caught and hanged for murder. When they found him two months later, they put him on trial for desertion rather than murder.His wife, it turns out, has regained conciousness shortly after he ran out and had nothing to show for the adventure than a bump in the head. While he was serving his time, she divorced him and today he she the wife of a famous Prague actor. I go to his plays from time to time just to remind myself of Stanza and his unhappy end. After his term of service was up he stayed on in the mines; an accident cost him a leg, the amputation took his life.