Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Wonders of the Armed Forces Network

So the ATKs have an AFN box and it is wonderful. AFN, for those of you who don't know, is the "Armed Forces Network." As the name implies, it is the network of the (American) armed forces, so that our boys (and girls) can see American programming while stationed abroad. Back when I lived and worked in Korea (back in aught 3), there was one AFN network and it was broadcast locally, so you could watch in on regular TV. It was there that I first became familiar with original recipe CSI as well as all the, um, high quality AFN commercials. For those who are not aware, AFN channels (which, we now have 12, though one is a guide and two are the same sports channel, as opposed to the one we had in Korea) do not show regular commercials. Instead, the armed forces make their own commercials, and these commercials... well, sometimes they make me concerned for the state of our armed forces.

Let me start by saying the commercials fall into several categories:

1. Quizzes. These quizzes are usually on world geography, U.S. geography, or military history. Those of you who know me, know I enjoy a good game of trivia. The format is usually three clues along with a corresponding picture, and then the answer, along with the capital city. I think I'm pretty good with the world geography, though sometimes the clues are a little vague ("They enjoy dancing in this country!" I mean, people enjoy dancing in most countries of the world. A better clue would be "They don't enjoy dancing!" in which case my guesses are either Saudi Arabia or that town from Footloose.) I could be better at U.S. geography, because I technically get many of the places wrong, but usually the cities are obscure and I often get the states right (sample answers include Davenport, Iowa, and Springfield, Massachusetts.)  The military history ones are hard. But I have learned that Lewis "Chesty" Puller is the most decorated marine in U.S. history and also the cousin of General Patton.

2. Field Trips and other fun events in which we cannot partake. Trip to Paris! Trip to... other European city! Little league is starting up in, I don't know, some place in Germany. Trip to see the NFL in London! We don't get to go on any of these trips. Obviously.

3. Well wishes. A panoply of sports stars, movie stars, ambassadors, and high ranking military personnel are often thanking "you" for your service. (The ambassadors and military people I feel usually just come on to wish "you" one of a variety of happy holidays.) I don't think they are talking to us when they say "Thank you for your service." 

4. Public Service Announcements. Oh. Em. Gee. So many PSAs. I guess really that is the main genre of commercial on AFN. Sometimes it makes me concerned about our troops. The first PSA I ever saw on AFN (back in '02) was advising soldiers not to fight with vending machines because they can fall on you and kill you. My roommate at the time, who was from New Zealand, wondered if the U.S. military had a significant problem of soldiers getting crushed by vending machines.

Currently, I would say most of the PSAs are for pretty banal things. Lift with your legs, not your back; wear your seat belt; recycle; don't be a shitty roommate; and things of that ilk. Of course, the commercials themselves can be pretty amusing/annoying even if their ultimate message is pretty boring. Examples:
  • In the commercial about lifting with your back, Mr. ATK always yells at the t.v. that the person doing the lifting in the commercial is a colonel and thus would never have to lift such a box. (Personally, I think he is just showing off his knowledge of military outfits and all the doohickeys that show what rank someone is. I do not have this knowledge.) 
  • In the seat belt commercial, one of the young women says, "I'll sit in the back so I don't have to wear a seat belt. I don't want to ruin my shirt." What? Is this a thing people say/think?
  • In the shitty roommate commercial, one lady is taking a bath and her roommate knocks on the door and asks if some friends can come over. Bath lady says sure. Roommate returns to say a few more people came over, hope that's okay. Bath lady says is fine "I guess." Then the roommate knocks on the door again and is like, "Yo, are you almost done. I need to use the bathroom." Bath lady gets exasperated. The message comes on to tell us to be good roommates. I am always left scratching my head wondering who the shitty roommate was: the lady hogging the bathroom, or the one who invited people over and basically ended up having a party. They both kinda suck in my eyes.
Then you've got your serious PSAs. The ones like, "Don't beat your wife;" "Sexual assault/harassment is bad," "Get help if you have depression (or an alcohol problem, or a gambling problem)," and "Don't contribute to the trafficking of people." I can't really make any jokes about that stuff.

I have also learned what "spice" is (long before Chandler Jones went crazy in New England and got traded to the Cardinals.) And also that you shouldn't drink energy drinks before working out.

But, over all, I really enjoy having AFN. I like the sports (first time I've ever watched a boxing match) and you usually get like 6 NFL games a week, not including the night games. I like the movies (on occasion). The timing for the t.v. shows is generally odd, because AFN is designed for Europe and East Asia and we are in between. So, you know, Jimmy Fallon is on at 6 pm instead of late at night, but so is, like, General Hospital or Dr. Phil.

I will say, not everyone likes it. One of the guys here (a former Marine*) asked what we did to watch sports and we were like, "Oh we just use AFN. Don't you have an AFN box?" He was like, "I refuse to support AFN. They talk to people like they're idiots." I guess he didn't appreciate being told to wear his seat belt.

Lastly, I was hoping to find some current AFN commercials to share with you all, but youtube doesn't seem to have any. So I'll just share this. The productions values are a bit better now, but it's basically the same stuff. You know, "Don't drive with your windshield covered in snow." Important advice like that.

* Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Once a marine always a marine. No one's a former marine.

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