Off At A Tangent

Friday, 7th March 2008

I have the kind of nondescript face that makes perfect strangers ask me directions – or open their hearts to me when I would have only just met them. But then I have to admit that I like listening and people-watching, anyway.

The lady with the pink parasol, for instance, caught my eye as soon as I turned the last corner on my way home. She was one of those age-less Asian ladies, and, with her Irish-looking husband, they were staring at one of the many cats which live in our general area.

She smiled at me, and asked me what the name of the street was; and for a moment, I was stumped. Then I remembered – and of course she wanted to know what the word “Kukkanja” means.

I explained the bit about the local version of the Neapolitan Cockaigne tradition and the colloquial “hell of a time” and “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” meanings, and her face lit up. She told me that her sister lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they have a similar activity, which takes place after the Seine Boat races. This takes place 200 feet off Pavilion Beach, on the weekend nearest Feast Day of St. Peter (June 29)… of course.

The world was a village long before the internet made it an oyster.

These days, no one could cook up a tale such as the one in which Penelope would – and could have the patience to – wait twenty years for her Odysseus to return to Ithaca from the Trojan War.

She would have simply sent him an SMS and told him dinner was getting cold. Besides, she would have been able to worm her way out of the silly excuse of weaving the shroud of Laertes. How many modern women, for that matter, know how to weave – or even knit, crochet, or sew? And even if they did, would they not purchase a motorised loom? Hanging on to a project for three years, in today’s world of instant coffee, and txt msg, is just not on.

But communications are not all they are made out to be. Apart from being the mother of all alleged Bermuda Triangle vortices, today’s means of communication are likely to create as many problems as they purport to solve.

And sometimes, the backward somersaults that producers do in order to garner an audience would be risible if they were not pathetic. Was it the nadir of political incorrectness if feather boa-wearing Eva Gabor’s Hungarian accent, when she played Lisa in Green Acres, was milked for laughs? Her husband, Oliver Wendell Douglass (Eddie Albert), it must be remembered, had been a successful lawyer in New York – but his American Dream had always been to become a farmer. yet he always understood what she said, or at least, what she meant.

Which is more than can be said for the coherence of today’s media.



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