Edible kitty litter, Viagra & Odourless cat's urine | Bangkok Post: learning

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Edible kitty litter, Viagra & Odourless cat's urine

Ads on American television are often more entertaining and interesting than the shows

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One of the first things I become expert at whenever I visit the United States is its television. I have no choice in the matter. Over here in the States I'm awake when I'm asleep in Bangkok, and jetlag thus hits me like a Northeastern truck driver on methamphetamines. 

PHOTO: PORNPROM SARTTARBHAYA, ILLUSTRATION: KANOKTHIP KHUNTEERAPRASERT

For the first five days, no matter what time I go to bed, I'm up again at 2.30am, wide-eyed, fidgety, with nothing to do but flick on the TV.

The first night that happened I ended up on the shopping channel. At three o'clock in the morning two mousey-looking ladies with 1980s hair styles, grey suits and sensible glasses came on my screen and proceeded to talk about an exciting new range of state-of-the-art sexual toys for men. With cold but friendly hand movements they turned one thing on and off, shoved batteries up something else, and stroked a plastic phallus as I shouted to the screen "Ladies, please!" Imagine two maiden aunts talking you through how to use a hand-held mixmaster; that's exactly what it looked like. How was I going to get back to sleep?

You don't have to sit up to 3am to watch bad TV. The cliche is true; with hundreds of channels available I can spend 10 minutes flicking through them all and realise the anticipation of a potentially interesting show on the next click far outweighs the interest factor of any single one of them.

There are only two shows I look forward to viewing when I come to the States; Jerry Springer, for irrefutable evidence supporting Darwin's theory that we are still evolving from the apes, and The Price Is Right, a game show where women contestants routinely teach you the rudiments of how to fake an orgasm without ever having sex. But it's not the TV shows that worry me most. I'm talking about the commercial breaks. I miss Thai TV. During ad breaks in Thailand you can go to the bathroom, or silence that half-eaten row of Tim Tams squealing at you from the fridge. Prime time TV ads in Thailand are usually no-brainers about new cars and skin whitening creams. I belong to neither demographic, since my Teana still smells new and I don't like to flaunt tank tops down at the remains of Siam Square.

If only the ads over here were that numbingly mindless.

Tonight, for instance, I was just about to bound out of my sofa into the kitchen (over here it's the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that squeal from the fridge) when a smiling elderly woman asked me out of the blue: "Are you getting the best deal with your catheters?"

My whats? Soon she was replaced by a man in a beard and white coat telling me some incredulous news. "Did you know your medical insurance pays for only four catheters a month?" he asked. I responded with a slow shake of the head. So that's what's wrong with the American health system ... who the hell can survive on just four catheters a month - one a week!!

Then the doctor drops the bombshell. Medical insurance may only give you four, but "we'll give you 200!"

I almost grabbed my cellphone and dialed 1-800-CATHETER immediately. I could have a party with 200 of the things! The old lady's back telling me about her peace of mind ever since using disposable catheters. But the doctor returns to sternly announce: "Don't use dirty catheters!" Thank goodness I wasn't eating. By this stage my senses are returning and I am thinking; what on earth would I do with 200 catheters? Despite my Facebook friend count, I don't even know 200 people, let alone ones who shove catheters up themselves on a weekly basis.

That ad was immediately replaced by a handsome young black man talking to himself in the mirror.

"Doctor, there's something I want to talk to you about," he rehearses as he fondles his limp tie. He tries saying it another way. Then another. The poor man clearly wants to tell his doctor something - but what?

"Erectile dysfunction is not something you should be ashamed of," booms the voice-over, as Mr Worry Wart massages his tie yet again - I'm not an idiot, I know it's a metaphor. This is an ad for Viagra, but as the man goes about his morning routine, tongue-tied and flaccid, I could only sit and ponder the voice-over's remarks.

Not something to be ashamed of? You mean we should be proud of erectile dysfunction? Is this voice-over guy the only man on the planet who isn't aware of the bottomless pit of shame felt by any man who's ever suffered from it? I'd be fiddling with my tie, too. Yet here's an ad telling me to stand up and be proud, but that's the problem doctor - it won't stand up!

In the ad the worrying man soon 'fesses up. "Actually, doctor, there is something I need to talk to you about," he tells a respectable GP, reminding those of us who live in Bangkok that the rest of the world gets their medication from doctors, as opposed to men smoking Krong Thips in the back alleys of Soi Patpong 2.

Catheters and erectile dysfunction. Could things possibly get any crazier?

Yes. An ad for kitty litter. I didn't even know they made ads for kitty litter - here in the states there's one on heavy rotation as we speak. But it's not just any ol' ordinary kitty litter. It's kitty litter you can eat.

As the woman behind the kitchen counter tells us, this kitty litter is made from roasted corn, and she and her male assistant, whom I suspect are more than just friends, start snacking on the kitty litter to prove it, after which they smile, raise their eyebrows and nod their heads. Thanks to years of watching Nigella Lawson and the Two Fat Ladies, I know that signifies the kitty litter is deliciously good. But unquestionably kinky.

Not only is the edible kitty litter tasty, but it reduces the odour of your cat's urine. And just to prove it, the woman and her clandestine lover shove glasses of cat's urine into the faces of pedestrians, asking them to sniff it. And they do!

When they're told it's cat's urine, not a single one of them asks if this is Candid Camera, or renders the young stud's nose a bloodied mess. Instead, the smiling pedestrians profess great surprise that indeed, it's cat urine. "I would never have guessed," announces one, as if smelling cat's urine in a glass is normal in her neighbourhood. Do you need any further evidence that the West is truly in decline?

These ads are all cute and quirky, but sometimes the quirk factor is replaced by something a lot more sinister. Tonight there was an ad for a birth control pill which, for 30 seconds, extolled the wonderful added benefit of this product. And what was that benefit?

"Buy this now, and you'll get no periods for 12 months!" the friendly woman's voice told us, as we watched happy women striding around while their ovaries slumbered blissfully. I found the entire ad perverse; buying a 12-month time of no periods?

If TV ads reflect the societies they broadcast to, then Thailand is a nation of light-skinned tweens driving brand new Toyotas. There's something refreshing and, well, attractive about that.

And America? Well, I know now not to use dirty catheters. And the next time I can't get it up, I can always take kitty litter. And did you know Viagra tastes nothing like cat urine? Or something like that.

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