September 8, 2010

A "Vast Wasteland"

The past couple of days, I was sick with one of those colds that just likes to hang on long enough to be most annoying.  I'm very fortunate in the fact that I can climb into bed if I want and not have to worry about calling in sick to work, which is good because I know I wouldn't have called in and it would've made for very long days.  So instead, I hunkered down and rode it out.

We have a TV in our bedroom, but it hadn't been used since Conan's untimely and unfortunate departure last January. I finally gave in and turned it on Sunday afternoon.  I figured I'd catch old reruns and watch them until I passed out on cough medicine.  No such luck!  I caught one rerun of "Frasier" and then the station began running infomercials.  I finally just left the TV on the Science Channel and let it lull me to sleep by showing me how to make a snare drum.

Like almost everyone who has cable, we have approximately 200 channels on our set-up. Brian and I certainly have our favorite shows, like Mad Men, 30 Rock, Project Runway, The Office, and a few others; but otherwise we don't watch TV. And we record everything with our DVR so that we can watch when we want. About the only shows that we watch live are Jeopardy after dinner and "The Daily Buzz" in the morning before Brian leaves for work (which I promptly turn off when he leaves). So to try and find shows that were interesting in the middle of the day was pretty difficult.

I know people that can watch TV for 10 hours a day; in fact, I used to be one of those people.  I'm not passing judgment - I'm saying that for me, I just can't do that anymore.  That's not to say that I don't waste time surfing Facebook or any other Web-related distractions, but at least I can choose what to read when I'm on the Internet.   With TV, you're stuck with what they choose to show.

When I did watch TV, about 10 years ago, I'd turn it on in the morning and leave it on all day.  I know that I worried more when I watched a lot of news.  I couldn't watch "Cops" because it used to make me paranoid that someone was going to break into the house.  I started to identify with the characters on "Northern Exposure".  I would freak out if one of my favorite shows was pre-empted; it would throw a wrench in my day.  I used to schedule other plans around my TV viewing, and get nervous if the two coincided.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  Yet somehow, I don't think I'm alone.  I don't know if I was so "blah" because I watched too much TV, or I watched too much TV because I was "blah".  But TV definitely factored into that time in my life.

I wonder sometimes if all of the divisiveness in our country is TV's fault.  Let's think about this:  before 24-hour news, most people watched Walter Cronkite and read Time magazine and their local newspaper to get their news.  There were a couple of Sunday morning political shows, but they consisted of highbrow commentators politely stating their case and discussing the matter at hand.  Now what do we have?  Five very different news channels with very different viewpoints.  It's gotten to the point where people can judge you based solely on whether you watch MSNBC or Fox News.  How sad is this?  And the SHOUTING!  Since when did this become acceptable?  I wonder sometimes what would happen if everyone just stopped watching "their" news for a week (and turned off the TV altogether!).  I think we'd all be less stressed!

I certainly have guilty pleasures when it comes to my TV viewing - the most obvious is probably "Project Runway".  Throw 17 designers together and you're going to have some bitchiness.  And I love watching.  So again, I'm not passing judgment, but are we really spending our time at night watching stuff like "Rock of Love: Tour Bus" and "Keeping up with the Kardashians"?  What are we really getting out of this?  And what could we be doing instead that may be a tad more edifying?  Reading?  Playing board games (no, video games don't count)?  Working on a hobby?

I am easily distracted, so I know that if I chose to spend my time watching TV during the day, I never would've accomplished all of the art that I've done this year.  My mind would've been somewhere else, and eventually I would've succumbed to the siren song of TV Land.  I know this to be true.  And I think it would've made me "blah" all over again.

So here's to turning off the TV every now and then!  I think you'll find that the world is a better place, with friendly people and a nice community.  Try it!  You may even lose your "blahs"!  :D

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