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2002-01-22 - 11:16 a.m.

I think JohnnyBravo and I watch too much bad TV. In fact, I know we do. It's this vicious cycle - at 6:00 we turn on the news to see what the latest horror stories are, then sometimes the TV just kinda…stays on. Local news (this just in! rain!), Friends (oh, god), whatever unbelievable crap is on primetime, then JB usually catches up on some work on his laptop while I'm so mired in the whole brain-on-hold thing I channel surf until we turn in.

I mean, sometimes I just can't believe what we'll watch. Like last night on Fear Factor? Where they have to splash around in this tank of rotting squid? TV used to deliver gifts like Twin Peaks, which was a show that didn't make you feel like a bad person after you watched it. Unlike, say, The Real World. You know what's bad about The Real World, is that when I first started watching it I was about the age of the people on the show and therefore had a chance in hell to identify with them, which is most definitely not the case anymore. But their editing is like visual crack, if I happen across the show I am totally helpless until some retarded Mountain Dew commercial comes on and I can escape.

The worst thing I've seen lately is The Chamber. With the goofy Running Man aluminum mechanism that either scorches you or freezes you? I watched it the other night, they had this buff guy in there getting all blasted with ice water and stuff, going "Uh could you repeat the question?" cause he apparently can't hear very well in there, and his "Stress Level" is conveniently zooming over and under his Danger Zone or whatever, and I mean it's not like exciting in the least. It's totally anticlimactic when they stop the Chamber "for his health" and he's sitting there saying "No, I felt ok. I could have gone longer." The lizard-eyed host sleazes something about how it was for his protection, and sorry guy, and that's the show. BO-ring. At least on Fear Factor they don't take the moldy pig intestine away from you for your health, they just wait to see if you ralph it out your nose in front of everyone.

So I was all excited when JB and I signed up for this night class on conversational Mandarin. It made sense for JB's job, and I was thinking - hey! Something to do at night, should be interesting, more productive than the usual couch marathon. Maybe we'll get all scholarly and study together, murmur sweet chinese nothings in each other's ear, get all feng shui with the apartment and stuff.

Sadly, the class wasn't quite what I had hoped for. It's a wet wintertime evening, you're sitting in a dreary little classroom garishly lit by buzzing fluorescence and furnished with The Carpet of 16 Mysterious Stains, you want a motivational kind of teacher. Let's-All-Learn-Chinese-RAHTEAM! Instead, we had a papery little elderly man with a slow, creaking voice. The desks were set up in an awkward rectangle shape facing his desk, like the world's smallest (and lamest) fashion show or something. So for two hours Elderly Teacher creaked away, sometimes achieving 5 words a minute, while everyone in the class sort of all looked at each other.

We eventually learned: Mandarin has 4 tones, a flat, a rising, a dipping-then-rising, and a downward tone. Elderly Teacher led us in unison:

"Maah"
"Mahh?"
"Ma-ahh?"
"Ma."

We sounded like sheep, bleating to be let out from our fluorescent pen.

The next class came, and JB and I talked about dropping the class. We flipped a coin, and it came up heads - meaning we were committed to trying it one more time. On a whim, we checked out Elderly Teacher's website, where you can click on the various words to hear them spoken. I clicked one.

"Maah", creaked the .wav file.

Oh god, we said. It was like instant flashback and so we called and dropped the class.

For me to ponder: was having to listen to Elderly Teacher really any worse than watching someone struggle to keep down a cow brain? Discuss.

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