Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It's Noice, It's Diffrent

I've never been much of a soap opera fan. I just can't get interested in the petty psychodramas of those cardboard characters' lives. That goes double for Australian soaps- the twangy accent is simply too much to bear.

But sitcoms- yippee!! Another dish of dog food altogether. The British have always been the best at sitcoms, in my humble opinion: The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, The Office, and now The Robinsons, with their near-perfect blend of satire, slapstick, and swearing.

Cue the entree of the best Aussie TV alternative to Neighbours since The Crocodile Hunter; and guess what else, it's a sitcom. Kath and Kim's the name, and the first episode just aired last Thursday evening on BBC2.

UK TV nerds will know that it's not the first time the two ladies have appeared on British airwaves. They've been showing on Living TV for a while now. However it is the first time (in my doggy memory anyway) that an Australian sitcom has appeared on British free-to-air telly. Yippee!!

Kath and Kim are a mother and daughter duo living in Australian lower-aspirational-suburban-class hell, surrounded by a motley crew of family and friends such as Kath's boyfriend, Kel Knight, whom she eventually marries to become Kath Day-Knight (geddit?). Or Sharon, Kim's second-best-friend, who sublimates her intense sexual frustration into an obsession with team sports.

They flatter themselves on their sophistication by putting on faux-cosmopolitan airs ("I'm not a butcher" says Kel, "I'm a purveyor of fine meats"), but are impeded by the large gaps in their vocabulary ("I wanna be effluent, mum" Kim whinges, bemoaning her husband's inability to provide).

It's not a sitcom for everybody. I've heard that it cuts all too close to the bone for some (I'm purebred, don't look at me). But in essence, it exposes the vanity and pretence in all of us- rich or poor, city dwellers or country bumpkins. We laugh knowingly at Kim's fluffy gumnut dangly earrings, but here's a thought- Kath and Kim were doubtless living in Ugg boots a decade before SJP or Coleen McLoughlin even got their hooves into a pair.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

B-b-bad To The Bone Pt. 2

The parcel arrived at lunchtime and I waited at the window until I saw the deliveryman get into his car and drive off before going outside to collect the parcel. Tomoko was sunning herself on the window ledge with eyes half closed, and pretended not to notice what I was doing.

With Tomoko's challenge still smarting my ears, I pulled off the wrapping and took the lid off the box inside. Somewhere within the crumpled sheets of newspaper lining the box, I heard a groggy growl. My paws were sweating.

Suddenly a head appeared from amongst the newspaper. My mouth went dry. "Arrrwoo?" he said, blinking becomingly and shaking his ears about. I stared at this doppelganger toydog, unable to think of anything to say. I began to wonder if this was all a big mistake.

The new dog did look very similar to me, not to mention much cleaner and fluffier. Sitting in the storage facility in the Chinese factory, I had of course hung out with hundreds of my identical brothers and sisters, but back then I hadn't realised how exactly identical we were, if you know what I mean.

"Arwooo?" the new dog said again, craning his neck out to sniff me. I suppressed a grimace. "Ummm," said the dog, "you, friend?"
"Huh?" I said.
"Me, friend. You, friend?"
I stared at him. "Yeah, yeah sure, friends".

The dog looked at me for a few seconds, as if to make up in his mind the validity of our friendship. He scratched behind his ears, emitted a small squeaky fart, and said "Me, Dog".

I was fairly confident that Mistress would be able to tell the difference between this philistine and me, but I was going to go ahead and prove it empirically to Tomoko anyway. I got Dog out of his box and sat him in amongst the pillows on Mistress' bed, where he settled contentedly and played with his crotch for the rest of the afternoon.

When Mistress came home from work that evening, Tomoko and I hid in her chest of drawers, a good vantage point for spying on the bed. Mistress came in, and straightaway saw Dog sitting on her bed. A big smile came over her face, and she picked Dog up for a cuddle.

"What a chump. Your mistress can't even tell the difference" Tomoko sneered quietly as I watched in horror.
"Shut up!" I hissed.

After a few seconds though, a strange look came over Mistress' face and she held Dog out at arms' length. "You look different,' she murmured, "and you look fatter than this morning". She brought Dog closer to her face again, sniffed him, and looked utterly confused. Mistress put him back on the bed and walked out of the room, shaking her head.

"Just so you know, that didn't prove anything" Tomoko said, before I could open my mouth. "That dog is brand new and clean, of course she can tell the difference between you". Tomoko clambered snootily out of the drawers while I struggled to fight my tears.

Dog had finished playing with his crotch and looked over at the sound of the commotion we were causing. His eyes lit up when he saw Tomoko's petite little figure gliding along the carpet. Getting up and pawing his way across the bed, he caught up with her quickly.
"You, friend?" he grunted." Me, very friend!". Dog towered over little Tomoko. She gave him an icy stare but did seem just a bit frightened. "No, me NOT friend!" she squealed.
"Me very friend!" said Dog again, inching closer. Then, before any of us knew it, he had mounted Tomoko and was dry-humping her enthusiastically.

I saw Tomoko's face pinned helplessly underneath Dog. Tears of insecurity quickly turned to tears of mirth as I watched the spectacle. Not that I condone any sort of non-consensual sexual activity mind you, but that Tomoko really had it coming.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

B-b-bad To The Bone

I like to think of myself as a progressive pup, in tune with the greater issues of the day. I'm responsible and informed, and I have a social conscience. Or at least that's what I thought until this morning.

"Hachiko," Tomoko piped up as we were waiting for Mistress to wake up.
"Wot" I said gruffly.
"Do you realise that we're bad for the environment?" she said, her dark eyes shining up at me.

"Course we're not" I replied. "That's like saying cows are bad for the environment cos they fart. It's like saying weeds are bad cos they take over other plants. For goodness' sake, it's like saying Mistress was bad! They ARE the environment. I mean, we are the environment".

Tomoko shook her head "Well, that's not strictly true. You're right about the cows and the weeds and Mistress and-"
"She's not your mistress" I cut in. "She's mine".
"OK. Your mistress. They're all part of the natural environment. But you and me" she looked pointedly at the Made in China tag on my backside, "are most definitely polluting the environment."

I was outraged. "Polluting the environment? I don't produce any waste or make any rubbish, except maybe the odd Battenburg cake wrapper" I said. Tomoko looked at me. "Alright, and I use a bit of electricity when I'm on the computer, but that's definitely it".

"That much may be true, but you completely fail to take into account our origins" said Tomoko. "We're both made in China,"- she tilted so I could see the stamp on her base- "a country not exactly known for stringent environmental guidelines in its manufacturing industry. You're made of synthetic fabrics and I'm made of hard plastic, both of which are materials that create considerable pollutants as by-products. You and me individually wouldn't have created all that much pollution, but considering there's probably tens of thousands of us all over the planet, that's pretty bad".

"Bah, you don't know what you're talking about" I said. "And even if it were true, what do you want me to do about it? Should I ask the factories to stop making us?" I was obviously joking. What a silly dog.

"You jest, but think about it" said Tomoko. "It would be helping the environment, as well as making us, the existing toys, more valuable. We'd be practically an endangered species after this".

"But I'm already unique to Mistress" I protested. "She'd be able to tell the difference between me and any of my brethren in an instant. She loves me!" I tried to sound confident, but Tomoko had hit a nerve.

"Oh yeah?" she said "Then prove it to me".

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Nose Knows

Every so often when it blows really hard outside, the wind will carry down the scent of halal fried chicken from the shop up the road, causing my ears to prick up and my hunting dog instincts to rise to the surface. I'm normally a pacifist through and through (if I'd had a vote this week, it wouldn't have gone to Tony), but there's something about the smell of deep-fried meat that just makes my doggy hormones go all a-whizz.

I suppose it's that old nature vs. nurture argument again, isn't it? Though I've been brought up indoors, surrounded only by human art and artifice (we did have an orchid plant in the flat once, but it died in less than a fortnight) I still have a wild element that occasionally makes me want to go and gnaw on Mistress' toes.

The philosophy du jour seems to be: the better we eat, the better we feel and behave. Behold Morgan Spurlock and Mr Oliver. Not that I'm dissing them by any means; I watched them both on the telly religiously when they were on recently and admire them very much. But on a macro level, do their theories really hold?

Think of the great nation states over the last couple of centuries. If food has a direct relationship to behaviour, as purported by formulae such as fresh plus natural equals calm and behaved, or fatty and stodgy equals, well, fatty and stodgy, then shouldn't certain other food-body equations be true as well? Should fiery and chilli equal fierce and violent, or bland and tasteless become boring and listless? History doesn't reflect this.

For example, how did Britain, a country that considers boiled cabbage soup an acceptable dish, manage to colonise India, home to some of the fiercest curries known to man? Or the French, who on a diet of heart-stopping cheeses and cassoulets, and sugary wines, come to seize control of Vietnam and its chilli-infused cuisine? Then there's Braveheart, possibly the scariest Scotsman that ever lived, fearlessly fighting tooth and nail on a diet of porridge, for goodness' sake.

Consider also Mistress, who slurps coffee by the litre and scarfs chocolate by the handful, yet the only thing I've ever seen her hit was a piece of sirloin she was trying to tenderise.

In the end, nature wins, paws down. I'm not just saying that to excuse my occasional bad behaviour; for instance I could have refrained from laddering Mistress' tights yesterday by using them as a bungy rope. I simply chose not to. But when confronted with extreme situations in life your instincts do take over. I mean, if you're really hungry and a nice, big, tasty-looking piece of meat is sitting right in front of you, you'd have to be completely coco-loco not to reach out and grab it, even if it's not the done thing. Just ask Sigfried and Roy's tigers. In my opinion, the only unbelievable thing is that they didn't do it sooner.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Force is Strong In This One

This time last week, I was really looking forward to enjoying my bank holiday weekend. Mistress was due to go to Normandy on an overnight ferry for three blissful days romping around D-Day beaches and viewing all the local sights, such as the Bayeux tapestry (which, I am told on good authority, contains numerous scenes depicting nudity and sex, ooh-er! And you thought it was all about war). I was to have the flat to myself, unsupervised, for a good 72 hours, during which I planned to play lots of loud music and re-read Ulysses in preparation for Bloomsday next month.

Alas, at the last minute she was struck down with a particularly virulent strain of facial rash (dustmites, moi?) which prevented her going on holiday; consequently I was forced to spend my long weekend shut up with her in the flat, slowly getting cabin fever. At least, she was getting cabin fever. I was merely annoyed that I had to wait for her to doze off from reading Kafka on the Shore before I could sneak into the kitchen for a cup of tea. I never did like that Murakami fellow- there's too many cats in his novels. Where have all the good, strong, canine protagonists gone?

I wonder, is it because we're seen as too one-dimensional that nobody has thought to make art inspired by us? Sure, there have been children's films with dogs in them, but Disney doesn't count. Besides, for every Lassie there's a Kimba the White Lion; there's no character differentiation at that level- we're all just cuddly animals that happen to also make cute Happy Meal toys. Is the reason that we seem too happy, too eager to please, too simple, or too content? I'll admit, dogs generally aren't complex or conceptual enough to feature in postmodern art (except for Yoshitomo Nara, of course). But honesty and passion of the doggy personality make them excellent protagonists for art that explores morality, like the Star Wars series (do you like my Emperor impression?- that's versatility for you!), the novels of Iris Murdoch, and the philosophy of the ancient Greeks. OK, so philosophy isn't an art, but it could be...if someone made a film about the ancient Greeks...talking about morality...

Doggies of the world- it's time to unite, and step up from your place as man's best friend!