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Saturday, July 16, 2011

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

It's now time for complete BS


Special to The Japan Times

Socrates said his wisdom flowed from knowing he knew nothing.

I can relate. Except in my case, I know almost nothing.

Yet I do have one area of expertise from which my own personal wisdom floweth. That being: I am an expert on BS.

I write BS. I talk BS. I breathe BS. If there is one thing I know inside out, it's BS. I am so full of BS that I myself doubt most of what I say.

So, of course, I am a devoted fan of Japanese BS television. It's all I watch.

I know it does not take a Bachelor of Science degree to understand that the acronym BS might have various applications. It can, in the case of Japanese TV, stand for "Broadcasting Satellite."

But with me such subtleties go out the window the very second the NHK news guy stares into my living room and solemnly announces . . .

"Now time for the BS News."

Or sometimes he says . . .

"Now for the BS headlines."

And he does this with a perfectly straight face. Never dreaming that his audience — meaning me — is rolling on the tatami.

Of course, there are some who claim that the term "NHK BS" is a redundancy. That the letters NHK alone constitute BS in the purest variety. That the national broadcaster is so gun shy of making goofs with public funding that it has to be struck with hard news right between the eyes before it will even blink. NHK is thus the champion of softball broadcasting.

Which often equals BS. Like . . .

On a June 21 evening not too many years ago, the lead NHK story on the 7 p.m. national news was that summer had officially begun. Now that's what I call a scoop.

Or . . .

In Hokkaido last year, I flipped on the NHK news. The top story? A local pool had just enjoyed its final day of the summer season. A hot news item that knocked me for a loop (which is pool spelled backward). Meanwhile, on the TV screen, little girls in water wings and fathers with spare tires splashed about for the camera.

Or . . .

Cultural outings such as a shrine blessing for the annual rice crop. Or a workshop on teaching teens how to weave slippers out of grass. Or an eel-catching contest for kids. Items that belong on an event calendar, not the news.

Or . . .

Those self-important NHK surveys. In which man-on-the-street answers to NHK questions somehow merit major news time. The survey question NHK really needs to ask? Who is watching this?

I mean, outside of me. For I am a BS junkie and — even though other Japanese broadcasters might also use the BS acronym — NHK is my dealer. Whenever I need a BS fix, I just reach for the remote and punch in NHK.

Which also once presented a regular program titled, "BS Daisuki." Which translates as: "I Love BS." Which, of course, I do.

Too bad it is no longer around, for "I Love BS" served to introduce all the BS goodies available on NHK channels. This enabled busy individuals to pick precisely what BS they wanted to see. Or -conversely — what BS they hoped to avoid. Or maybe it allowed those with weaker limits to intake their BS in a more measured dosage.

Sometimes I wonder what the NHK folk themselves think of "BS." Surely someone in their inner brain trust must realize what the term means to sophomoric intellects like me. And that the English-speaking world is bursting with such intellects.

Is it a case of NHK leaders thinking . . . "Nah. No one will ever imagine it means THAT!" Even though no English news agency would dare employ such a term.

For can you imagine the field day comics would have? If English news channels made statements like . . .

"Good evening and welcome to CNN BS." Or . . .

"Here are the headlines from BBC BS." Or. . .

"Now here's the latest from FOX BS" (another redundancy).

Maybe it's a case of one prankster within NHK who knows what it means, but prefers to keep the truth secret from his colleagues. So he sits there in board meetings, biting his knuckle and stifling giggles each time someone says something like, "We need to improve our BS ratings."

Or does NHK perhaps think that the tail can wag the dog? That NHK need not follow English slang; English slang must follow NHK. That if the letters BS are used loud and long enough everyone will forget they have another meaning.

News flash to NHK and any other BS station: No one forgets. They may tire of the joke and learn to ignore it. But in the back of every English listener's head remains the notion that it's a silly acronym.

Except for BS experts like me, who never tire of the joke and believe the acronym.



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