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Day 60 – Asian TV

May 2, 2010

Dateline: Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Sunday, May 2, 2010

I’m not in Ho Chi Minh. I’m not in Vietnam. I’m in Phnom Penh. Today was all about fixing my problem. Lots of editing boot.ini files and tracking down sys programs. Boring, tedious, frustrating as hell. I’ll spare you the details and skip to the part where I’ve ironed everything out with a little help from my editor. But it took all day.

Not surprisingly, I decided not to take any pictures of me sitting in the internet café cursing at myself while swapping a USB drive in and out of mine and the café’s machine. That would have been a little too real for the purposes of this travel writing project. I have my dignified image to maintain after all.

I’m not, however, at a loss for words. That’s because between bouts with my machine I took breaks by watching local TV. And I learned something.

The world watches a lot of soccer and motorsports. Not “more than the U.S” a lot. A lot as in “more than any interesting human being should ever be allowed to ingest” a lot. The quantity is not relatively large, it’s absolutely large.

I knew about the world’s fascination with soccer. I was not as aware of the world’s fascination with motorsport. This is a sampling of motorsports aired today: one moto GP (125cc) race, one other moto GP (some larger cc), two touring car races, one open wheel race, and even one go kart race. Seriously. Go karts. Little mini-cars racing around one of those tracks you see next to the mini-golf spots by the side of the freeway. It’s like if ESPN decided to show pee wee football in the U.S. Is this kind of programming necessary? Is it even legal? No wonder Top Gear is one of the most watched TV programs in the world. Watching TV here it felt like almost everything was petrol related.

That and soccer were about the only things they were showing on the sports channels. They actually showed each game or race over and over again. Once live, then at least one re-air, sometimes two.

I actually had to flip away and watch parts of old movies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (decent despite its age and the presence of a weak female lead) and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (awful, despite the presence of Emmanuelle Chriqui’s everything).

In other TV news, the channels here also show a lot of crappy American TV. Stuff like Grey’s Anatomy, the CSIs, The King of Queens, and old episodes of cancelled U.S. shows (is Trauma even still on the air?). There were ads for Glee and The Amazing Race, which are the opposite of crappy so I guess the world’s impression of American entertainment doesn’t totally suck.

One thing they don’t show is NBA playoff basketball. I should know. I stayed up until 3 a.m. writing with the TV on hoping to find Game 1 of the Lakers-Jazz series. Even though I’d seen ads for the NBA playoffs on ESPN, I had no luck. Instead, I suffered through the end of a Yankees blowout of the White Sox, a rebroadcast of a motorcycle race, and X Games Asia (speed rock climbing, won by a Russian). There’s a perfectly good basketball game going on live and ESPN Asia decides that speed rock climbing is a better programming call. Gaw. I don’t care what the NBA says—basketball is not as worldwide as it claims to be.

Tomorrow, no more television. The writing machine is back up. That means I leave on another early bus (6:45 a.m.) for Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam, here I come.

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