Culture, Fun, KSCI, and Getting Fooled by The Man

When I moved to Los Angeles, I made a choice to get a Netflix subscription instead of cable television, with the idea being that I’d have more control over what I got to watch, and I’d avoid the inevitable of getting sucked into watching reruns and old movies when I needed to be working.
When I lived in Seattle and worked out of my home up there, I would have CNN or whatever on “to be informed” but found that I ended up losing a few hours a day to Law and Order reruns during the day. Determined to maintain some self-discipline, I opted for Netflix and by and large it’s worked out very well.
However, I don’t always have a disc to watch, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that when you have insomnia, and don’t have cable, your viewing options in LA are severely limited. But I’ve discovered that KSCI TV has an interesting lineup of programming, mostly Asian or Indian, and most with English subtitles, not unlike KTSF in the Bay Area.
My favorites tend to be the subtitled, ultra-melodramatic Japanese soap operas, since they really do seem to pack as much emotion into every line of dialogue and scene they can. I also like watching the Indian version of “Entertainment Tonight” in English as well – they always have such beautiful actresses on those programs. Oh, but I digress.
Just the other day, I caught a mini-documentary, again in Japanese with English subtitles that was a truly enjoyable piece of programming. The subject was a ramen chef in Japan, in a town (whose name I do not remember) that apparently is the world capital of ramen noodle shops. People line up for hours to try and get a spot at this guy’s restaurant, as he only serves about 200 people a day at this restaurant.
The entire documentary was a survey of this guy’s life, and his hardcore commitment to making the best ramen noodle dishes from scratch, starting with an early morning making the dough for the noodles, an exacting process that is very labor intensive.
Combined with his exacting specifications for every single aspect of creating the best ramen possible, way beyond the exacting preparation in Tampopo you realized really quickly that this was a rare insight into a true artisan who took real pride in his work. In a way, he kind of reminded me of the guy who runs Fiesta Brava near my home in Venice Beach.
It was also a nice story about the man himself, his commitment to his family, and about a way of life in general that made one feel pretty good. With all that is going on these days, it’s nice to watch something that is just nice, and doesn’t have anything to do with wars, elections, reality TV, or Yet Another Cop Show. It was one of those things you catch by mistake, and feel glad you caught it.
Towards the end of the documentary, they talked about his health, which was a cause of concern to his family since he was developing joint pain and RSI from all those years of noodle-making by hand, and the fact he was getting older in general. It was clear by the end that this family was a very close-knit bunch of folks and their concern seemed genuine.
All in all, a nice TV moment. Then I found out I’d been led astray. To say I was fooled would suggest that the subject matter was phony, but it wasn’t – there was too much there to suggest that it was all made up. But there was more to this little piece of programming than met the eye (at the beginning).
It seems that at the end, when the daughter discusses how she’s concerned about her dad’s health, comes up with a solution that has both helped her, and now helps him maintain strength and vitality. What was it? Why, Aojiru drink packets, of course!
I’d been sucked into watching an infomercial for a barley drink many people drink as a nutritional supplement. Now, I have no idea how good this stuff really is for you, or how good it tastes, but I can tell you it isn’t cheap – each little packet is a little more than a dollar, and they recommend you use at least 2-3 a day. That’s almost $100 per month!
The whole experience left me feeling a bit strange. For 25 minutes I’d been enjoying a serendipitous trip through the life and times of one of Japan’s best noodle-chefs, only to find out in the last 5 minutes, I was watching a nice long ad for some very expensive barely drink mix. I remember thinking to myself “Now what? Do I get angry for having wasted my time watching an informercial or what?”
In the end I realized that for 95% of the time spent watching it, the show had nothing to do with the product being sold, so as time wasters go, it really wasn’t that bad. And if nothing else, I did get some positive entertainment out of it. But I don’t know that I’ll be buying any Aojiru anytime soon. Not until they put a nice big disclaimer at the beginning of their 30 minute ad!
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

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