Break Your Sets; Be Free

28 01 2010

There is a television program in Australia called Top Gear. On this program, from what I am given to understand, a live audience gathers to congratulate an individual who spends his/her life driving around a circuit with the intention of breaking speed records. I know this because, while I have never turned our television on (I have, incidentally, turned it off more times than I can count), I have in the past sat before it and joined my two flatmates for some “quality time”. On one such occasion, I was priveleged to see an individual get congratulated for having survived a collision at something that approximated 200km/h. Congratulated! This man is an Australian hero and I was roundly condemned by my two open-minded flatmates when I casually suggested that it was a shame he didn’t die. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that anybody (nor anything, for that matter) deserves to have its life brought to a premature conclusion. My point was merely that if his survival means that he is now a hero, elevated on a pixellated pedestal for people to admire and emulate, then there is a tragic element behind his otherwise good fortune. In fact, I find it amazing that (some) people spend their time debating whether or not we can use stem cells for medical research when here is a fully grown adult male, evidently eager to be recycled.

Television boggles me. I don’t understand why human beings subject themselves to the meaningless drivel that it serves up hour after hour. In fact, my only complaint about going to the local gym is that while running on the treadmill I am forced to face a row of television screens, each one of which is showing something more insulting than the last. I am not insulted by the stupidity of the people they find to perform in front of the camera, and I am not offended by the fact that the producers and the camera crew are evidently as retarded as these individuals that they film. I am, however, truly insulted by the suggestion, inherent in their production of this material, that the average Australian is as lamentably uneducated – as irredeemably stupid! – as they.

While running today, I was subjected to “Fox 8”. Wikipedia informs me that this is an Australian channel, owned by the FOX broadcasting corporation in the United States. North America, by virtue of its population, can be proud of the fact that their bottom 2% (which is the market to whom daytime television must be geared) contains some 4.3million more people than does our bottom 2%, and it would be reasonable to assume that it is correspondingly that much more banal. Instead of watching some poor fool, liberated of his brain and sense of self, being congratulated for the very activity that deprived him of these things (which, I am desperately hoping, is as low as Australian television sinks), Fox 8 went so far as to display actual footage of people who deserved nothing more than what was coming to them, actually having it come to them. Whether it was a man breaking car windows with his head, a boy having darts (darts!) thrown at his naked body, a fellow who free-climbed a large statue and had to be rushed to hospital after falling off it, or a young man who leapt down a long flight of stairs and broke his arm: every single one of these ridiculous idiots, whose exploits were considered by FOX to constitute harmless entertainment, met with the same tragic ending. They all survived. And one day, they’ll probably breed.

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5 responses

30 01 2010
Jen

While I don’t watch TV and don’t own a TV, I take your comments with a rock or two of salt – you ARE the man who likes neither live theatre, nor live performance of music. Expressionally challenged?

22 03 2010
john

hi there

i’m writing to you about Matthew 10:34 that reads in english:
Matthew 10:34 – Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Matthew 10:34 – לא תסברון דאתית דארמא שׁינא בארעא לא אתית דארמא שׁינא אלא חרבא
Matthew 10:34 – ܠܐ ܬܤܒܪܘܢ ܕܐܬܝܬ ܕܐܪܡܐ ܫܝܢܐ ܒܐܪܥܐ ܠܐ ܐܬܝܬ ܕܐܪܡܐ ܫܝܢܐ ܐܠܐ ܚܪܒܐ ܀
the last word of this sentence is translated as ‘sword’. yet in sureth the last word means ܚܪܒܐ bad or rotten depending on the context. any though on what it actually mean? many thanks

22 03 2010
john

but there is word in sureth which is Ḥēṯ Rēš Pē ’Ālap̄ ie
khrpa which means sharp, does it mean they misspelled them? so why is it spelled with Bēṯ and not Pē to indicate something sharp like knife?

24 03 2010
Daniel

What has happened to Ben Abuya – has it become Bin Absentia?

5 04 2010
Simon Holloway

Thanks for the question, John. I’m not sure that it belongs on this post, but I’m also not sure this post belongs on my blog, so I’m happy to have you sidetrack it! Several of your characters failed to display on my monitor, and I’m guessing that they were the Syriac characters from which you transliterated into the square Aramaic script. If that is the case, I’m afraid that I don’t know what you mean when you suggest that the final word (חרבא) might mean “bad” or “rotten”. Are you not thinking of באיש? I have checked my version of the Peshitta, and חרבא is what they have. So far as I am aware (and so far as Payne-Smith’s lexicon relates) this noun always means “sword”. As a verb, it means “to lay waste”.

I’d never considered an etymology that related it to √חרפ – that’s an interesting thought! It turns out that חרפא also means “sword” in Syriac Aramaic, but there’s no reason to amend the reading that we have.

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