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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Australia: A boring bunch of twats

So Australia's end of year TV ratings are in, and the list of top 15 shows for 2011 proves something I've long suspected: we're boring as fuck.

According to ratings agency OzTam, the most popular show of 2011 was Australia's Got Talent, with an average weekly audience of 1.936 million.

That's about two million people a week who willingly tuned in to watch Kyle Sandilands interact with people like this:


Yes, I know I used to do Australian Idol recaps. THAT'S DIFFERENT.


When we weren't watching twats watching other twats sing, we were watching twats renovate houses (The Block comes in at number 4 on the list) and other twats cooking stuff (Masterchef dominates the list at 5, 6, 8, 9 and 12, with My Kitchen Rules at 13).

Throw in a few instances of The X Factor (more twats singing) and Dancing with the Stars (twats spinning around awkwardly in sequinned pants) and you've got a top 15 list which is 80 per cent comprised of reality TV. And not even inventive, interesting reality TV. Just the kind of reality TV where twats cook, and sing and renovate houses.

Only three shows in the top 15 are dramas - Downton Abbey at number 2, Packed to the Rafters at 3 and Underbelly Razorat 10. No comedies made the list.

Now, I've made no secret of my love of trashy reality TV, but even I can see there's something wrong with this picture. What does this say about Australia's TV watching culture?

More importantly, what does it say about our TV producing culture?

I think it says we're going to be getting a hell of a lot more of this:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 best (& worst) New York Christmas windows 2011

Every November, retailers in New York get festive and decorate their shop windows for the coming Christmas season. But many go further than just putting up some tinsel and fake snow. Much, much further.

Window viewing is a holiday tradition in New York, and the best sights are undoubtedly on uber posh Fifth Avenue, home to the city's biggest and most luxurious department stores.

I took a sojourn up the strip, starting at the New York Public Library, to bring you my top five best and worst Fifth Avenue holiday windows. Let's start the countdown with...

THE WORST

5. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE



How the four friends laughed as Jennifer slipped in the snow and broke her leg.


Apart from the suggestion of major bodily injury, this is about as boring as one of those wood-boring insects that bores into things. I expected much more from this Fifth Avenue icon, which is why it makes the bottom five. Very disappointing.

4. H&M


Traditionally, Upper East Side women show festive cheer by sticking their arm out and looking to the left.


CELEBRATE THE SEASON. WEAR BLACK.

3. GUESS


Christmas menace.


An extra from Jersey Shore and a mugger in an anorak prepare to attack a severely under dressed drunk NYU student as she leaves a Christmas party. I think "the perfect gift" in this case would be a can of mace and a rape horn.

2. BOTTEGA VENETA


If you're wondering where someone would wear this ensemble at Christmas time, you're not rich enough to shop here.


I don't know where this bloke is, but it's certainly not New York at Christmas.

1. BANANA REPUBLIC

At first glance this looks like any other boring Christmas display - until you read the sticker on the window.


Pardon?


To quote Ferris Bueller's Day Off: So THAT'S how it is in their family.

Let's move on to....

THE BEST

5. SEPHORA

Simple, effective, beautiful - the makeup chain's window features an intricate cream and gold paper cut out of two girls in a forest full of snowflakes.




click pictures to launch gallery/enlarge

4. VAN CLEEF AND ARPELS

When I was little I had a fold-out, pop-up book that turned into an old-fashioned 19th century theatre, complete with ballerinas on a curtained stage and lavishly dressed people sitting in the balconies. Van Cleef and Arpels' five small windows remind me of that book, each one dressed to look like a miniature theatre with diamond necklaces and earrings dancing on the stage and silhouettes of fancily dressed people watching from the sidelines. Some played music and had moving parts for extra wow factor.

Watch the video of the Van Cleef and Arpels Christmas windows below:




3. HENRI BENDEL

One of the most original windows on the strip, the department store's delightfully mental display shows the Statue of Liberty come to life as a New York city party girl in high heels and a flowing robe made of jelly beans, walking her giant rein-dog up Fifth Avenue. Behind her is an apartment building, through the windows of which you can see tiny uptown girls drinking champagne and getting dressed to go out, all while Ella Fitzgerald sings Let's Take Manhattan.




click pictures to launch gallery/enlarge


2. TIFFANY

Just like their famed jewellery, Tiffany's windows prove small and intricate can be more interesting than big and bold. Framed by huge, brightly-coloured carousel pieces, each of the store's five windows contains a miniature diorama of various New York city scenes. There's a tiny spinning carousel - and also escaped carousel animals walking through Central Park - and a perfect winter streetscape of the shopfront itself.




click pictures to launch gallery/enlarge



Watch a video of Tiffany's Christmas windows below:




1. BERGDORF GOODMAN

The last store on Fifth Avenue before you reach the south eastern corner of Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman is famous for its holiday windows. And it's not hard to see why.

The less explanation the better - best just look at the photos.



click pictures to launch gallery/enlarge


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Fendi and Cartier, for dressing their entire buildings in a glittery belt and bow respectively:



click pictures to launch gallery/enlarge

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New York traffic: a symphony in F major

I once almost fell off the back of a tuk-tuk rattling through central Bangkok after it swerved to dodge a chicken.

Another time, I spent three hours watching the road through my fingers on Reunion Island after our minivan tried to avoid a traffic jam by driving in the opposite lane.

In Ho Chi Minh it took me days to learn that in order to cross the street you have to make like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade and take the leap of faith – just slowly step out into the traffic and trust that the never-ending flow of scooters and honking cars will part for you. It always does.

When it came to chaotic traffic, I always thought Vietnam won, hands down.


Yep, that wins.


But that was before I had to drive through New York's Lincoln Tunnel at 6pm on a Friday.

To clarify: I wasn't driving. No one was, really, given the entrance to the tunnel was backed up with hundreds of cars – a “parking lot”, as they would say here. My friend Kristin, a native New Yorker, was behind the wheel, taking me and my partner away for a weekend in the country.

About 120,000 drivers a day use the Lincoln Tunnel - a 2.5km stretch under the Hudson River - to commute between Manhattan and neighbouring New Jersey.

On this night it seemed like all 120,000 of them had turned up at once.

Surveying the scene ahead, Kristin started twitching. The twitching gave way to steering-wheel drumming. The drumming was joined by mumbling and intermittent swearing.

After 20 minutes of watching the lights turn green and back to red, her patience finally wore thin and she hit the horn. For about 30 seconds straight.

You know that famous scene in Midnight Cowboy where Dustin Hoffman is almost run over by a taxi and angrily shouts “I'm walkin' here!” in that quintessential “Noo Yawk” accent? Imagine him as a stressed-out female office worker, put him in a Honda trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel and replace the word “walkin'” with “drivin'” and you're getting close to recreating my view from the back seat that evening.

“YEAH YOU CAN STARE AT ME ALL YOU WANT BUDDY, I'M NOT STOPPIN',” she shouted at the driver next to us, hitting the horn again.


Kinda like this.


The lights changed back to green and Kristin kept honking, yelling out to other drivers to join her cause.

Soon there was a chorus of honks in time with the traffic lights, with Kristin as conductor. It could almost have been high art if the symphony hadn't been punctuated with so many F words.

We were amazed. Here in America, a country we thought was renowned for violent road rage, no one was batting an eyelid at this behaviour. Attempt the same in sleepy Adelaide and you'd likely get a crowbar through your windscreen.

Suddenly Kristin spotted a cyclist, and wound down the window.

“I WILL PAY YOU A HUNDRED BUCKS TO GO SLAP THAT TRAFFIC COP,” she yelled, pointing at the overwhelmed officer flapping his hands in the middle of the nearby intersection.

Unsurprisingly he refused, but that didn't deter her.

“Here, you drive,” she told my partner as she jumped out of the car and sprinted off to berate the policeman.

Two minutes later she returned. What had she told the guy? “I told him to do his f***in' job!”

Kristin's mobile rang. It was her husband.

“Honey I can't talk, I'm honkin' the horn,” she said before hanging up and rejoining the Symphony in F Major.

“Come on buddy let's f***in' MOVE! (HONK) Get your head out of your f***in' ass! (HONK) It's a f***in' ZIPPER MERGE people, get it done! (HONK) Do I have to teach you people how to f***in' drive? (HONK) ZIPPER MERGE, YOU F***IN' JERK!”

After an hour and a half the swearing stopped, the honking gave way to steering wheel drumming, the drumming to slight twitching, and then we were hurtling through New Jersey. With a sigh and a flick of her hair, Kristin exorcised the last of her road rage demons.

“I'm sorry you guys, I really wanted you to enjoy that commute,” she said.

Oh, we did.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail Sunday liftout on November 20, 2011.