Half the world missing from international TV news (The Funny Side)

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 05, 2013 08:20 hrs

I was watching the international TV news the other day when I realized something huge was missing: there was no mention of the Eastern half of the world, home of 60 percent of the world's population.

A Malaysian friend watching with me said she'd been at a meeting of members of The Meeja, a shadowy international group of data-dealers whose mission is to shine the Bright Light of Truth and Justice into dark areas, preferably if celebrity cleavage is located therein. At the time, a rainstorm had caused an ancient tower in China to tilt perilously over a school. Should the story be covered? Naah, it's in Asia. "And it lacked a cleavage angle," she said. Meeja professionals instead printed a news-in-brief paragraph and a tiny picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, thus leaving lots of room for really important items such as: "[Celebrity Name] Stuns Beachgoers By Regaining Pre-Baby Bikini Bod," a dramatic follow-up to the previous week's mega-scoop, which was "[Celebrity Name] Stuns Beachgoers By Failing to Regain Pre-Baby Bikini Bod."

Meanwhile at the wobbly tower, Chinese officials snapped into action to issue an announcement saying (this is not a joke) no immediate action could be taken because "several departments are involved". This is OfficialSpeak for: "It's not my job to catch falling buildings."

The following day, I heard music fans arguing over who was the industry's top producer. I suggested Johnny Kitagawa, producer of Japanese band Kis-My-Ft2. They looked blank. I showed them the Guinness Book of Records listing of Mr Kitagawa as the man responsible for 232 number one singles, some of which were almost, but not quite, listenable to by humans with functioning aural cavities.

Try it yourself. Sneak the term "world's greatest sea disaster" into the conversation and then count the seconds before a writer or consumer of The Meeja says the word "Titanic", a sinking in the Western hemisphere in which 1,500 people died. Most know nothing about worse accidents in the Eastern Hemisphere, such as the sinkings of the Donna Paz (4,000 dead) and the SS Kiangya (3,000 dead).

I once spent several months as a young reporter in an Asian suburb of London. I'd regularly call the big newspapers to sell them scoops. "Father-of-three dressed in drag gets foot stuck in bucket in girls' locker room," I would say. News editors would ask: "Does he have black hair?" Stories about Asians were automatically rejected.

Perhaps the most overlooked Asian tale of all is that of the original Leaning Tower of China, which nobody has heard of, possibly including people who live in it. Huzhu Pagoda in Tianma village near Shanghai is about 100 years older than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and leans at a much steeper angle (6.87 degrees off centre against Pisa's 3.97 degrees). And it is WAY more visually dramatic, having that "just about to crash and explode into a million pieces" look that Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan have in the early hours of Sunday mornings.

I urge the Chinese authorities to publicize this amazing structure. Yes, build a cleavage enhancement centre for female celebrities right under it, in the line of danger. It's Asia's only hope.


Big fat passengers are being made to pay more for air tickets than small skinny ones, a top airline official said last week. On Samoa Air, tickets are now priced at US$4.16 per kilo of traveler and baggage, said airline boss Chris Langton. Loads of airline chiefs have threatened this, but Chris has actually done it.

Families with children love the new system, since kids and their hello kitty satchels weigh nothing. If this spreads, I foresee difficulties now that many people book their air tickets online.

Airport official: "It says on your ticket you are a tiny anorexic midget weighing 45 kilos."

Huge man: "That's right. These baggy clothes are rather unflattering, aren't they?"

But there have been angry complaints. On a BBC web report about this, a reader who was six feet tall and weighed 90 kilos but isn't overweight asked why he should be penalized for having a high score "in the genetic lottery".

Because, my friend, we short people are penalized for our low score "in the genetic lottery" every day of our lives, statistically getting worse jobs, worse salary, uglier partners, etc. So it's only fair that just for once you should suffer for your high score.


A super-geek is spending his sixth straight year playing online games in an internet cafe. In 2007 he went into the cubicle cluster near Jilin University in China to check his email. He decided he liked it and has been there ever since. A Xinhua reporter who visited him found that he did not like talking face to face with humans, and revealed only that his name was Li Meng. Staff say he must earn money working via the computer, because he pays US$500 a month for the spot where he works, eats and sleeps. I am SO going to hide this article from my teenage son, since this is pretty much his dream come true.


The government of Nepal accidentally gave the entire population an extra day off recently. The official calendar listed an important Sherpa holiday so all offices and schools were closed, and President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattaarai extended their warm wishes to the Sherpa community, the Kathmandu Post reported. "Er, we already did that last month," the Sherpas replied. Amazingly, there were no complaints from school children or civil servants.


Hilariously out-of-control censors in China have added a new category to the list of items censored in China: "Censorship in China". Yes, acts of censorship are not censored. This became apparent last week when the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published a report saying: "Myanmar recently unblocked the popular social networking site Facebook, which means only four countries in the world still ban the website: North Korea, Cuba, Iran and another country." China itself was of course the other country, but they could not include this.

Censoring the existence of censorship is going to be tricky.

Censor: "You cannot read this book." Citizen: "Is it censored?" Censor: "I cannot tell you whether it is censored or not, because that fact ITSELF is censored." Citizen: "But by stopping me reading it, you've let me know that it is censored." Censor: "Oh no! Now I must sentence myself to five years in re-education camp." Citizen: "Wanna borrow my book?" Censor: "Thanks."


With the world's worst timing, my neighbors booked a holiday in Seoul on the same day that Kim Jong-Un of North Korea announced that he was going to nuke it. I raced to my laptop and looked up wouldisurviveanuke.com, a useful site which measures fall-out distances from any given location. I input an 18 kiloton (Nagasaki-size) nuke in the middle of Seoul. It revealed that most of Seoul would be destroyed EXCEPT for the outlying Gangnam suburb. There's no justice.


A man is making buildings earthquake proof using giant Band-Aids. Dr. Shunichi Igarashi wraps extra-long fabric strips around the central pillars of buildings in Japan's Sendai City and elsewhere to reinforce them, Nikkei Business Online reported last week. Remind me not to go to Japan for a while.


I was mulling over moving to Samoa when a news link was sent to me by Filipino reader Boy Cojuangco. It said President Begnino Aquino has just quashed a bill allowing short people to join the police.

That seemed like a nasty blow against us shorties, so I looked up the actual police requirements in that country. In the Philippines, "tall enough" to join the cops is defined as 5ft 4 ins (1.63m) for men or 5 ft 2 ins (1.58m) for women. At last, I am a giant!

(05.04.2013 - Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)

More from Sify: