Rainy Day Tidbits

It’s been raining hard in Hawaii the past week, with heavy flooding on the island of Kauai and rare thunderstorms here on Oahu. Say what you will about climate change, but the weather has become more severe and unpredictable these past few years. My wife and I laughed when my folks gave us emergency lanterns as Christmas gifts, but damn, those battery-powered lights sure come in handy when the power goes off. Old people don’t get old by being foolish. They think ahead and plan for the worst.

I suppose I inherited some of my parents’ tendencies to anticipate problems, which is why I’m constantly thinking about Plan B scenarios or squirreling away things for “just in case” situations. I even do that with my blogs and TV show, jotting down tidbits, saving articles, in the event I don’t have any real news to impart. Today is one of those days since I’m in limbo on scripts and pitches I’ve been sending out, and just handed off a new screenplay I started to my co-writer. I don’t collaborate often, but I’m enjoying this project because it’s a big budget sci-fi action spec and we’ve been coming up with good stuff during the outlining phase.

Anyhow, back to the tidbits I had saved up for a rainy day blog post: more Australia notes! Before we went on our trip, a friend told me we should get Tim Tams, a chocolate-covered cookie that is popular Down Under. So I bought a box and thought they were good, but it wasn’t until I had a couple more that I got hooked. My wife really started to like them too. Next thing I know, we’re hunting them down in supermarkets where they have a dozen varieties of Tim Tams — my favorite being the dark chocolate mint version. Before our return home, we bought six boxes to give as gifts. One by one, however, the Tim Tams packages disappeared from the gift bag and wound up in our snack cabinet.

In a way, the Tim Tams remind me of reality TV series. You try one and think, eh, it’s okay… I can take it or leave it. But you keep watching, even though you know the shows are just empty calories. Like those insipid “Real Housewives” series on Bravo, which I hate… yet now and then I tune in, then find myself mesmerized by the sheer superficiality of these people, acting out their little personal dramas in front of cameras and pretending this is real life.

When we travel though, I want authentic experiences. I like to watch local news or read the papers, even if I can’t understand the language. It gives me a sense of what their “reality” is as compared to our manufactured American version of Real Housewives type life. I’m always curious to see what passes for big news in other countries. While we were in Sydney, the tabloid front page headlines were about the Wiggles breaking up. I vaguely recalled hearing about them being a music group that did concerts for young children… but in Australia they were huge, stars on the level of the Beatles, or so it seemed. Weird.

But the big hype on TV was for a new reality TV series called “Please Marry My Boy.” The premise was intriguing. Single bachelors who were still living at home would go on speed dates with women — while their respective moms sat in on the dates. The mothers then choose three girls who would live in their house for a few days. After about a week of seeing the commercials, I couldn’t resist tuning in for the premiere. It was pretty funny. The women didn’t know the moms were going to be present for the dates, and also choose the prospective mates for their sons. As you might guess, the sons weren’t always attracted to the same attributes of the ladies as their mothers were.

Coincidentally, while we were visiting the Old Gaol (Jail) in Melbourne, we happened to be there while TV crews were filming what appeared to be couples competing in “The Amazing Race.” The staff weren’t permitted to confirm what show was being shot, but after I got home and mentioned it in my Honolulu Star-Advertiser blog, I was contacted via Facebook by a person in Norway who said it sounded like I saw the Norwegian edition. It turned out they had a network of “spies” all over the world who were tracking the contestants and scouring the internet for sightings such as mine.

That got me to thinking about special edition ideas for Survivor. This year the twist is they started out by pitting women against men. Eh, battle of the sexes. But my recent travels made me wonder if people in different countries react the same way to certain situations. For instance, in Australia when the bus or tram is out of service, the sign in front says: “SORRY! NOT IN SERVICE.” By contrast, you’d never see that sign on a New York City subway train or bus. It would be more like, TOUGH LUCK. The Aussies we met, by and large, really exhibited a “No worries!” attitude whenever there was a problem or complaint.

We happened to be there during the Chinese Lunar New Year weekend, so we also got to see what it’s like being around 16,000 Chinese travelers in one place at one time. They are nothing like the quiet, reserved Japanese tourists we’re accustomed to seeing in Hawaii.  The Chinese were very loud, and in the words of some Australians who had to deal with the tour groups, “pushy.” Not all,  of course, but clearly they have a different temperament than Japanese travelers… or Aussies… or Americans. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if Survivor pitted groups from different countries against each other? Would they reinforce the image we have of certain people or break down ethnic stereotypes?

All I know is if you put the Real Housewives on Survivor, they’d probably all quit after three days of bitching and back-stabbing.

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