Saturday, May 9, 2009

Land of the Teletubbies

Irvine is the anti-Brooklyn. When I first got here I was describing it to a friend of mine. I talked about the sunny days, the bright colors, the sculpted green landscapes, the happy polite undergrads, and of course the bunnies hopping about everywhere.

Ir sounds like the teletubbies, she said.

What are teletubbies? I said.

[a capsule history for other uniformed souls]

The programme features four colorful characters: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, who live in a futuristic dome (the "Tubbytronic Superdome"), set in a landscape of rolling green hills. The environment is dotted with unusually talkative flowers and periscope-like "voice trumpets". The only natural fauna are rabbits (although birds are often heard, particularly blackcaps and wrens). The climate is always sunny and pleasant save for occasional inclement days, with rain and puddles, and snow at Christmas time. The Teletubbies are played by actors dressed in bulky costumes, although the sets are designed to give no sense of scale. The Teletubbies don't normally wear real clothes other than the colored suits they wear. They have metallic silver-azure rectangular "screens" adorning their abdomens. These screens are used to segue into short film sequences, which are generally repeated at least once. When the series is shown in different countries around the world, the film inserts can be tailored to suit local audiences, or default to the British ones.

They even had bunnies? I said.

They had bunnies, she said.

Thanks god I was too old to be subjected to that, I said.

Another more sinister way to think of the students here is as Eloi, wandering through a Brutalist landscape built by Morlocks (played by the U.C. Regents). Someday the Morlocks will devour the witless happy Eloi.

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