Tuesday, 24 February 2009

is it on...The List?

My brain is working so fast and so hard at the moment, that when I stop working, it can’t handle changing gear. I daren’t read a book, because I start racing through it for The Point and forget to actually read it (“yeah, all right, Winton, surfing surfing blah blah blah. Step it up already.”) I daren’t knit, because my brain in hard-and-fast gear isn’t up to method, or patience, or allowing a thing to unfold.

My brain needs absolutely off, now.

It’s a great pity, then, that what my brain needs isn’t available here in Canada.

What it needs is The Rich List.

You will not have seen the popular New Zealand tv show The Rich List. It hasn’t travelled.

Let me attempt to recreate for you a tiny piece of its magic, so you will understand.

On The Rich List, two sets of randomly-paired people who have never met sit in big oval transparent space-pods on either side of a Plexiglass Podium of Neon, upon which stands one Jason Gunn. The whole procedure kicks off when Jason Gunn announces to the pod people a Subject.

Jason’s Subjects are wide-ranging and bizarre. He knows when he has a good’un. You can tell by his face. He cannot wait to make known to us the level of sheer wackitude his researchers have risen to this week. The pod people busily discuss the Subject. For they will have to Name as many examples of it as they can possibly imagine.

After sustaining the tension for a couple of glacial ages, Jason Gunn asks them to decide how many Test Cricketers Of The Seventies Whose Mothers Were Named Mary they think they can name.

Next, with his Soundproofing Plunger of Doom, Jason Gunn masterfully soundproofs one or other of the Space Pods. The first team confides in Jason its number. Jason unPlunges the one pair, and Plunges the other, and then immediately blurts out the secret to the previously-soundproofed pod: the first pod thinks it can name three. The second pod, alight with its new auditory function, counters that it thinks, Jason, it could name four test cricketers.

There is then Plunging and unPlunging a-plenty, as the slowest bidding auction in the history of the earth goes on between the two sets of pod people and their interpreter. Finally, the will of one pod is broken, and the people fall to their knees, sobbing, “Jason, we ask the other pod to Name…The List.”

The camera swoops up close to Jason’s Illuminated Dais of Interlocution in a way that resembles the spaceship out of Flight of the Navigator, when its big spherical eye-on-a-hydraulic-arm whizzes up to the kid’s face and goes “COMPLIANCE!!”. Jason Gunn, having almost been toppled from his Mighty Throne of Plexiglass, straightens his giganta-knotted tie, and unPlunges the soundproofed pod for the final time. He announces to the pod people their fate: “They say…Name….The List!” and everyone applauds wildly.

So the pod people proceed to name ninety-four test cricketers of the seventies whose mothers were named Mary. Every time they suggest one, Jason has a handy factoid ready: ("Played for the West Indies in (any year) when they battered England; played for Australia in (any year) when they battered England...") and finishes up with "but is he on...The List???" And then he either is or he isn't, so the pod people either win or they don't.

It’s a dramatic best-of-three scenario. So once the pod people have got through the test cricketers, the whole business starts again with naming Yarn Colours in the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Range, or Australian Lakes That Contain More Than Five Million Litres Of Water, or Famous Percussionists Born in Whangarei.

This part of the competition determines who gets to go on and try to win Some Money. The prize for knocking out the other pod, is to (waaaait for iiiiit) do the exact same thing again. This time, though, it’s not just any old list, but…The Rich List. The procedure is identical, only for this one they can win literally pence for naming Julie Andrews’s Favourite Things.

The final thrilling climax of the whole event comes when the successful pair gets the opportunity to…are you sitting down?…go back to the Space Pod and Name some More Lists.

The whole thing takes an entire hour, all told, because of the swooping Flight of the Navigator camera and the Plunging and the unPlunging and the formula with which the pod people have been indoctrinated to speak (“We’d like to add ‘Raindrops on Roses’ to the List, please, Jason.”)

It is a programme that, if you were not doing something else at the same time – such as learning the bagpipes or drafting the federal budget – would inspire you to commit some violence upon yourself to relieve the agonising boredom.

It is exactly what I need for completely rewiring the settings and becoming half-normal again.

Can anyone suggest an equivalent band-aid, before my brain does itself an injury?

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