ZIP Beep #7

Cameras, videocassette recorders, cars, and now computers are coming under the influence of Taiwanese English.

Taiwanese English is that dialect with the ability to obscure or add a second meaning to product instructions, usually in a humorous manner.

Taiwanese writers are not responsible for all Taiwanese English. Some of the best examples come from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, as well as non-oriental sources like Germany, Scandanavia and Latin America.

You've probably chuckled over your share of Taiwanese English phrases. Use the CorkBoard to tell us about them. For now, here are a few memorable examples to jar your memory.

A plastic "Magic Spider" that slowly crawls down walls came from Taiwan with these instructions: "Throw the SPIDER against the glass of window or every smooth area of wall, it will crawl down. PLEASE WASH WITH WATER OR SOAP IN CASE OF GETTING DIRTY." A "CREEPY CRAWLY SCORPION" of the same variety had these instructions: "Throw him to a window-glass. He will stick on the glass and he will squiggle down the window slowly with funny movements. If he does not stick well, wash him with mild soap. Hold under running rap then pat dry with cloth, before use."

A handbag advertising a feminine hygene product in Puerto Rico's International Airport proudly stated that the product made women feel "only a little safer!"

A JVC turntable came with a tag on a screw used to stablize the platten during transport. The tag said: "Remove this screw without any fail!"

Taiwan was also responsible for the "Super-Speed MICRO ZOOMERS" race car set. The cars contained mainsprings that could be wound up by rolling the car back and forth before letting it loose. The instructions said: "1. THE WAY OF ASSEMBLING TRACKS" (followed by an illustration), "2. THE WAY OF OPERATING CARS: PRESS THE CAR ON TRACK, MOVING IT FORTH AND BACK UP TO HEARING "KUH KUH", THEN LOOSE. THE CAR WILL RUN IN HIGH SPEED ON TRACK." This was also followed by an illustration, as was: "3.CAUTION Because the plastic bands with static electricity absorb dust on wheels and tracks, you will find out the wheels running with lower speed. If so, please clean the dust as per the following way: Please wipe the wheels with clean dry cloth. Please wipe the tracks with clean dry cloth."

And just to show that there is a version of Taiwanese English that is native to the USA, the company that made "Big John" sandwich spread a few years back were interested in marketing it to the French-speaking population of Montreal. When they renamed the product "Gros Jacques," they didn't know it had a secondary meaning that was a rather crude synonym for Large Mammary Glands. Interestingly enough, the Grand Teton mountains were named after the same subject by a Frenchman who was aware of the visual pun. This is not an example of Taiwanese English. But your knowledge of this fact might impress your geography teacher ....

ZIP Beep #7
reported by Steve Anderson

In an unprecedented move Geraldine Ferraro has agreed in principle to appear in a cage match at the St. Paul Civic Center early this April. Although no opponent has been announced, word has leaked out that it would be a "Jean Kirkpatrick type". This rumor has been fueled by Kirkpatrick's recent resignation from her post in the Reagan administration, as well as the natural match between a feisty youngster on the way up and a hardboiled veteran on the way out.

Ferraro followers cite the former Congresswoman's insatiable thirst for the limelight as reason for her questionable new venture. Others insist that it was pop singing star Cindi Lauper who urged Ferraro to enter the squared circle as a forum for her political views and as a springboard for future campaigns. Undoubtedly Ms. Ferraro will be well prepared for the rough and tumble action of the cage after coming from the Bronx and being handled by "Honest" John Zaccaro.

Oddsmakers have installed the "Bronx Bombshell" as early favorite but this is an early line designed to pull in some right wing money. When contacted at his exclusive North Oaks estate, Walter Mondale wasted no time in lauding Ferraro's latest maneuver as an historic one but quashed any notion of possible tag-team involvement. "Once is enough," he told reporters.

ZIP Beep #7

Minnesota? Oh, no. It's not Minnesota. It's the heart of the Silicon Prairie. Other regions are devoting their identities to the great glassy god. Some businesses in Omaha believe they operate out of the Silicon Cornfield. Houston thinks it's the Silicon Oilfield. A Fargo/Moorhead business says it's in the Silicon Wheatfield. And we all know where the Silicon Valley is. No doubt about it. Gotta have a Silicon name to get those high tech bucks into the area. In our never ending efforts to help, even when it's unnecessary, ZIP Beep suggests the following location names:

ST. JOSEPH, MO: The Silicon Stockyard

NEVADA: The Federal Silicon Reserve

NY CITY: The Silicon Jungle

VERMONT: The Silicon Maple Syrup Tree

FLORIDA: The Silicon Citrus Grove

ALASKA: The Silicon Ice Field

NEBRASKA: The Silicon Interstate

HAWAII: The Silicon Surf

MAUI: The Silicon Silly Land

DETROIT: The Silicon Breadline

ATLANTA: The Silicon Land of Almighty Turner


IDAHO: The Silicon Spudland

WEST VIRGINIA: The Silicon Illiteracy Zone

MILWAUKEE: The Silicon Brewery

WASHINGTON (STATE): The Silicon Ciderkeg

WASHINGTON, DC: The Silicon Gasbag

KANSAS: The Silicon Sunflower Field


PITTSBURG: The Silicon Steel Mill

QUEBEC: Silicon Frogland

MAINE: The Silicon Forest

OREGON: The Other Silicon Forest

NEW JERSEY: The Silicon Turnpike

HOLLYWOOD: The Celluloid Silicon Land

BEVERLY HILLS: The Silicone Valley

CAPE CANAVERAL: The Silicon Nosecone

ARKANSAS: The Silicon Hills

MONTANA: The Silicon Sky

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Silicon Lotusland

GUAM: The Silicon Outpost

FORT KNOX: The Silicon Goldmine

SALT LAKE CITY: The Silicon Theme Park

COLORADO: The Silicon Mountains

THE PHILLIPINES: The Silicon Puppet Theater

ZIP Beep #7

Dudley Riggs concludes his ZIP Beep interview with thoughts on some Brave New Workshop alumni, Cuba, and other matters. (Parts I and II can be found in ZIP Beep #5 and ZIP Beep #6.)

Z: So anyway, you're saying that it's just splitting hairs to say where any of this started.

D: Yeah, I had a talk with Bernie Sahlins at Second City, and all of a sudden they're at their 25th year this year. And it's a year or 2 behind when we said 25 years. But I don't know that it means a heck of a lot. We could certainly be the oldest and still not be as well known and, uh . . . well, it's sort of the wrong direction to push it. The other obvious suggestion is that if some of these things go on forever -- and I not sure that should be true -- the fact that we change as much as we do helps keep us from getting stale. I mean, there are some areas we don't change. But in terms of the content of the show, it's real easy to get involved doing 8 or 9 shows per week and not pay any attention to what's going on in a show. And after you do 15 weeks of a run, you know, and suddenly you're satirizing something that Doonesbury's doing a better job satirizing. Or maybe you're kicking a dead horse. My principal job is trying to keep the company away from doing lame ducks. You know, we have to justify the enemy every time. That's the hardest part.

Z: I've heard you say that Brave New Workshop seems to turn out writers more than actors.

D: Well, I think it could be that, for one thing, so much is done communally in terms of the development of material that you don't develop, and you don't have, that kind of a star system. You know, where somebody clearly is more important in the cast. Everyone in the cast is pretty balanced in their importance. And they contribute pretty equally. So, I think that serves as a kind of a built-in governor, if you will, on the runaway ego kinds of situations. Now, we still occasionally get somebody who reads a review that singles them out as just being wonderful. And they'll just tailspin right off. They'll lose their perspective easily. Suddenly they're getting very positive strokes, and some of them will buy it. Most of them don't. And that's one of the reasons why the people who leave the workshop and go to LA and are real successful are the ones who avoid Hollywood Brain. Because they were here long enough to pay their dues and really learn their business. The movies "Police Academy" and "Bachelor Party," both of which were aimed at a young audience last summer, were written by Pat Proft and Niel Israel. Pat Proft did 11 years with us. Now, you take someone like Proft. He has done those Sunday matenees when 10 people show up. Or less. And he has done the midnight show the night before. And he has done 10 shows per week. And he's gone touring on the off days. And he's gone months and months without getting time off and worked all those audiences. And those audiences are where you learn. So usually what happens is they know their stuff. Where a lot of the people who come more from the acting side hit Hollywood wanting to be actors and they bite the Hollywood Apple and stay that way. I think most of these guys who are the most successful now are really down-to-earth sensible guys who have tried mightily not to go crazy with "Gotta get a new pool! Gotta get a new sauna! Gotta get a new Mercedes." Where do we contribute to that? Well, one of the ways is that we're up in the sticks, essentially -- we're out of the mainstream of the casting agents. They don't come through here every Friday night like they do at the Improvisation in Los Angeles. So somebody can come here and work for a few weeks before they're discovered. A lot of people get discovered much too early. Somebody discovers them for some little small part of their talent and exploits that. And when that's all used up, there's nothing to fall back on.

Z: Shall we make this the only interview you've done in quite a while where you were not asked to talk about Franken & Davis?

D: (Laughs) That's just fine.

Z: It's only because their tenure with Saturday Night Live made them the most visible Brave New Workshop alumni.

D: Yeah. Those guys are, uh, let's see, what can I say about those guys? Well . . . deep down, they're shallow.

Z: You want us to print that?

D: (Laughs) No, they're good friends.

Z: Well, we'll print that, too.

D: They're good friends. BUT -- deep down, they're shallow.

Z: Who are some of the other people ZIP Beep readers might recognize who have gone through the Brave New Workshop?

D: Well, Carl Lumbley on Cagney & Lacey, Annie Reirson on Private Benjamin. Those are people who are in front of the camera. All of these people like McManus, Proft, Tom Sherohman they all get work in front of the camera, too. It's just that their principle predictible earnings are coming from writing. To some extent, out of that whole Minnesota Mafia, just about everybody is making a living. Some are making very good livings. Some are getting wealthy. We don't have very many hardship cases out there. Some go east, including Tom and Al, of course, and Peter Tolens more recently. But for the most part the folks who leave here go west. Peter is more of a stage writer. But by the time many of the people leave here, they've taken a couple of film writing courses at Film In The Cities. Some of them will even have written a couple of little mini films for me. That's one of the side benefits of the workshop. If you want to do film, you can do little ideas within our little budget. So I think, for the most part, the fact that people are not highly visible in Minnesota tends to slow down their careers. But that might be beneficial to most of their careers. Because they don't go rushing headlong into that Vegematic.

Z: The company used to tour to some unusual places, like Cuba.

D: Yeah. Well, I didn't go to Cuba. I couldn't get security clearance (laughs). No, basically, our touring company isn't very active this year. They did Morocco one year, Cuba another year, and I think Caracas and some island states another time. They went to Alaska for the U. S. Government. They went to the Aleutian Island outpost somewhere out in the middle of the frozen wasteland. But that is kind of dormant for the moment. We discovered that everytime a touring company came back from an extended tour, the company would want to dissolve. Because the travel was pretty rough. A couple of our members joined the Peace Corps as a result.

Z: Did the company set out for Cuba thinking they would have to do things a little bit differently there?

D: No, the conditions were . . . well, obviously we were trusted by the State Department to not create an incident, but the comedy of that particular tour had a sketch called The History Of The United States In 5 Minutes. It was a physicialization, almost a rhythm poem, of the discovery of America right up to date. Each used the most Spartan symbols, so that a famous character would be established by his tone of voice and by something he said, but it would be only part of what he said. "Ask not what your." That's about as far as you have to go. So those things were very suitable. It's somewhat self-satirical of the United States. And at the same time, the show was pretty much down on war in general and was pretty much for all the good things. Virtually any audience will sit still for you doing all the good things. So unless you get to the point where you're trying to do as the Democrats were just trying to do with Reagan, well, obviously the audience didn't sit still for that because they voted for Reagan. But the thing is, if you overamplify, the audience will turn on you anyway. So the secret of making a good political satiric pitch is to go right to the edge of something and let them take the other step in their minds. When you have a language barrier, that's almost easier because you refine it down to very visual terms, and short phrases.

Z: What's running in the theaters now?

D: Well, we are just opening something which is called "Time Is On My Side, I'm Having It Removed." Basically, that show is about time and time travel, and attitudes about time. A lot of time travel, going both directions. That's playing at the Hennepin theater Tuesday through Saturday. At the Etc. we have something that's called "What's so funny about being female?" It's an all-woman show with a feminist perspective.

Z: And tickets are reasonably priced, I'm sure.

D: Yes they are.

Z: Any kid with a video game budget can get in.

D: Generally speaking, we have always tried to price tickets so they're slightly higher than a movie. For the most part, we were able to succeed in that when movies were $3 and we were $4. That worked out nice. But as it's slid along, inflation has caught up with us, but it's still half the expense of going to the Guthrie.

Z: Thanks very much for your time. If any ZIP Beep readers want more information on tickets and shows, they can leave a message on the Corkboard, Humor Catagory. Or they can call CBC during office hours.

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