In 2008 the BBC undertook, at taxpayers' expense, one of its great international surveys. After a great deal of time, expense and lager, it was finally able to release on an unsuspecting world the results of this great international analysis. Yes, undoubtedly, the worst invention of the twentieth century was the karaoke machine.
I beg your pardon. The karaoke machine? The machine around which an enormous Asian industry revolves. The technically superior piece of equipment that provides beauty, magic, pleasure and romance to millions all across Asia every night of the week; the worst invention of the last century? This requires further investigation.
An intrepid reporter was sent to check on the status of the great karaoke machine in England. Oh my goodness, the English apparently know about as much about fine singing as they do fine food. Their treatment of the much beloved karaoke machine is a little akin to taking a pickaxe to a French truffle. It is an unmitigated disaster.
The delightful purveyor of fine sounds can be found in England in pubs where it is used as an excuse by the English to participate in their favourite past-time - binge drinking. The vulnerable little apparatus is stranded upon a makeshift stage until some hulking slob appears, abuses its settings and suddenly bursts into … indescribable noise. Inside and outside the pub chaos reigns as cats, dogs, mice, rats and the odd illegally imported snake flee for cover. At the beginning of the evening he may even get applause for his efforts - any excuse to get him off the stage. Needless to say, as the evening progresses the noises produced by the perpetrators on the stage goes from hideous to abhorrently nauseating to worse. The enthralled crowd, tongues loosened by buckets of foul tasting excuses for beer, becomes progressively more honest in its appraisals of the performers. Eventually obscenities creep into the evaluations until, sooner or later, a vocabulary challenged performer, without a song sheet to follow, utters that most erudite of all English rebuttals - fuck you. Then the entire gathered throng begins to participate in England's second most popular past time, the pub brawl.
Contrast that, if you will, with the serene, sweet situation that the karaoke machine finds itself in Asia. First, Asians may be Buddhist by belief but they know a damn sight more about the Bible than the average Western Christian. When God plopped man on this planet he was not intended to sing solo. Check your Bible, book of Genesis. No where does it say that Adam broke into song before the arrival of Eve. Did he sing in the shower? No! Did he even hum a few bars as he was wandering around Eden, looking for apples and avoiding snakes. No! Not once in the book of Genesis is there any mention of Adam bursting into song before he had Eve at his side. Okay, he did not have a lot to sing about once she arrived and there is no mention of him crooning much after that but that is another story. The point is that God never intended for man to sing by himself.
Asians understand this and outside all karaoke clubs there are a bevy of young lovelies eagerly awaiting the opportunity to sing in combo with a handsome man. When the aforementioned handsome man appears there is some good natured competition among the young beauties to attract his attention. By the time he has made his choice he is cheered beyond belief at the clamour for his attention. His pick is also pleased that she has become the chosen one. The two of them embrace and head into the club. They can join the common throng if they so wish but a private booth is always available where their songs will seem so much more personal and intimate.
Once in the booth the gorgeous hostess will caress the knobs of the karaoke machine until all settings are perfect. She will then allow her male companion to sing his feelings and appreciation for her. She will join in appropriately and smile encouragement when necessary. At the end of his performance she will applaud enthusiastically and sometimes reward him for his efforts with a little kiss. He loves being appreciated and feels like a million dollars. She feels a lot richer than when she started. Both are having the times of their lives.
When the evening draws to a close the Asian couple are clutching each other tightly and walking on air while their English counterparts are dodging fists and bottles.
Please BBC, do not judge the karaoke machine by the way it is treated by a coarse uncultured people. The more refined people of Asia have made it a beautiful thing.