TV Tuesday: Less is more

You have to admit, television is pretty awesome in this day and age.  If, like me, you grew up watching threee stations (plus PBS, which did count as a real station because they didn’t have any commercials), the current array of tv shows available through cable and satellite providers is astonishing.

It seems as thought there is literally something for anyone and everyone.  Take fish for example: Do you like to fish? cook fish? look at fish? buy fish? save fish? There is at least one show for each of these piscesine (that might be a made-up word) interests.  When I search my cable provider’s guide to find soccer matches, I can see all the soccer-related programming on offer.  Interestingly, quite a few adult channels come up in this search, each featuring some clearly quite naughty soccer moms.

Maybe my early experiences with such limited television selection has affected my response to the current glut.  When I have decided to watch tv, I just don’t seem to be very good at discriminating what is watchable from what is unwatchable.  Having lived through a famine, I seem to have become a glutton. I am too susceptible to the butt-numbing, soul-killing, intellect-stunting shows that fill the schedule.

It would be good if my cable provider would stop being an enabler, though. I can  recognize when I’m watching something awful; I just need an easy way to stop watching it and never watch it again.  My tv needs to show me some tough love. Maybe a “dislike” button on my remote would help.  Once I “dislike” a show, it would be banned for life from my tv. I would never get sucked into a Toddlers and Tiaras marathon ever again.

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Olga decided to buy the ring, confident that her fellow peasants wouldn't know that it was made of diamondoids rather than diamonds.

My brother has a subtle, sardonic sense of humor.  I think it was in that spirit that he bought and wears an “energy band”.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t buy into the dubious claims of these allegedly magical bracelets, but he does seem to enjoy re-enacting the mall -based demonstration of the strength and balance it is meant to impart.

When he demonstrated the power of the band for my sister after our Thanksgiving dinner, I started thinking about some other potential functional jewelry that could be sold  from mall kiosks.  One of the things I think people really need is self-awareness.  More specifically, we need a piece of jewelry that will sound an alarm when we are on the cusp of learning something important about ourselves.

An example: A year or so ago in a closely contested tennis match, my partner called me over for some whispered instructions.  He didn’t tell me to serve out wide or rush the net.  He just mentioned that he had a particular dislike for one of our opponents.  In response, I raised my level of play, and we won the match.  After the match, I learned that my partner did not dislike our opponent (in fact, he claims not to dislike anyone). Later, much later actually, I realized that I’d learned something important about myself and my motivations.  Both are kind of petty.

It seems I can be counted on to perform best when animosity is involved, even vicarious animosity, apparently. I am driven by spite.  Once I had this revelation, I could see that there had been a pattern I hadn’t been paying attention to.  That’s where the the self-awareness bracelet comes in.  With the bracelet, you’d get a signal whenever you happen to do something that deserves a little attention and reflection. It would be a small reminder to stop and think about what you could learn in that brief moment. The signal could be as subtle as a beep or as significant as an electrical shock, depending on how spiteful I’m feeling.

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Library Science

Given their strict penalties on overdue books, it probably wasn't wise of Reginald to conduct time travel experiments with library materials.

I had a remarkable revelation last week.  I realized that I want every place to be like the library.  In particular, I want them to be the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

I always hated going to Blockbuster because I thought it should be like the library.  I mean, browsing for books and browsing for videos are very similar activities, right? So the loud movie trailers playing on multiple tv screens and the persistent cries of, “Have you seen…. It’s awesome!” across the store always seemed out of place to me.

Where else but the library do you have so many people engaged in so many different activities so quietly.  It’s magical. But it’s not just the quiet that makes the main branch of the library so great. It’s also the fact that you can see almost any kind of human you want to there.  Young people, old people, people with homes, people without, etc., etc.  Then of course, there is the fact that the library is full of information.  I suppose every place is full of information these days, but there is something about print information that appeals to me.

So that’s what I want every place to be like: quiet, diverse and full of books, magazines and newspapers. I also like those big tables.  Of course every place can’t be like that, but there are some that could, like airports, bookstores, my office, bus stops, buses, restaurants, bars.  That would be a good start.

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TV Tuesdays: We can’t live without it

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, the only one who is noticing how crappy things are.  But then you meet someone or see something that lets you know that you are not alone.  That maybe, just maybe, there is hope.

I got some hope last week end when I discovered the TV Be Gone.  It is a small tv remote controller with one mission: turn off the tv!  Have you ever tried to find a quiet spot in an airport to do some work or maybe a little reading?  Regardless of how many people are in a gate area, even if it’s empty, there is probably a tv on.  Interestingly, very few people seem to be actually interested in the unavoidable broadcasts.  And yet no one seems disturbed by the incessant yammer, either. What would happen if someone did turn it off?

I would love to sit there surreptitiously eliminating this annoying noise pollution. I hope Santa sees fit to slip this item in my Christmas stocking.  The only thing better would be a universal mute that also works on bad piped-in music.

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A Small World

Emily couldn't wait to tweet about her father's lame attempt at "Gold Digger".

I don’t have any children. But I did have a childhood, so I am speaking from that authority.  Some would say that my childhood was fraught with upheaval and instability owing to my father’s military profession that necessitated our frequent moves.  I loved it.  I credit my adult tolerance* and sense of adventure to these early experiences.

Several months ago, I saw an article about the best places to raise children (in the US).  I didn’t necessarily have a problem with their choices for the best places (to be honest, I don’t think I had a clue about them).  It was their measurement I wasn’t too sure about.  Of course if you have or plan to have kids you want safe streets, good schools, and kid-friendly activities, like museums, zoos and the like. I guess it’s what was missing that bugged me a bit. What kind of environment does it take to raise kids who are empathetic, open-minded, artistic, and joyous?

Full disclosure: I love New Orleans and feel proud to live here. That said, if you could overlook the crime and education situation, I think it would be a great place to raise kids. Is there another US city with more free culture on the streets? more history? more joie de vivre? Too much poverty you say? I would argue that shielding our kids from poverty doesn’t make it go away and probably doesn’t help them to  understand it any better either. I’ve known a lot of young people that grew up in places like those best places. I’m sorry to say, I’m not sure they grew into the best grown-ups.

You often hear people say, “Kids don’t come with an instruction manual, you know!”  Well, the aisles of child-rearing advice available in any bookstore notwithstanding, I think that there is as much to be said for showing kids the world as much as protecting them from it.

*I am impatient, not intolerant.

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Lord Moncrief now regrets his hastily made friend request to young Sophie.

Just so you know, I haven’t given up on setting down my ideas to make the world a better place (in spite of itself). It’s just that I have been devoting all my excess mental energy to the molding of young minds.  The molding isn’t going so well, so I’m thinking about a more aggressive approach, like chiseling.

Although I have found it hard to focus on the important work of this blog, I was moved to write due to a disturbing trend I’ve noticed on Facebook.  I don’t tend to be a “fan” of much on Facebook (I mean this in several senses of the word), so this trend is being exhibited in the updates of someone that I know. Yes, in the Facebook parlance, this person would be known as a “friend,” but really, can we at least let go of that pretense?

This particular Facebook person seems to enjoy the medium and provides frequent updates that can be anything from dinner plans to positive affirmations.  To an alarming degree, however, nearly every update is followed by a comment from a certain other Facebook user.  I am assuming that the commenter is actually friend of the updater, but with the frequency and rapidity of the comments, he seems to have crossed a line to stalker.  Friendly and supportive stalker, but stalker nonetheless.  At what point should I start to worry about this situation? Is this some new kind of co-dependency? Is an internet intervention needed?

Surely this is none of my business. But neither are the dinner plans and positive affirmations.  Isn’t that the point of Facebook, to make everything everyone’s business? If Facebook and others of its ilk are giving us this unprecedented access to the souls and psyches of our fellow humans, it is only right that they should also give us the means to act according to what we read there.  Something more than a “like” button.  More like a, “Your co-dependent relationship with your Facebook ‘friends’ diminishes both of you and is sometimes a little disturbing” button.

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More for your money

The whales' craving for Mexican food led to an ill-advised "Run for the Border."

I accidentally bought an apple from New Zealand the other day.  I’ve got nothing against New Zealand or its apples, but I really don’t know if I need such well-traveled fruit.

Having lived for two years in a place with almost no food choice variety, I developed poor shopping habits.  I became somewhat indiscriminate while at the same time being a bit overwhelmed by the excessive choices available for most products.  As a result, I tend to pick up the first product I find that fits what I’m looking for rather than examining all the choices.  In this case, I took the first Gala apples I saw.

Now having discovered that I made a very carbon-y choice, I’m wondering what I can do.  I’d like for this apple to earn its carbon footprint by being a bit more than just an afternoon snack. Here’s my plan:

1) Eat half the apple.

2) Exhibit the slowly rotting other half in a free art installation about the transience of life or the insidious nature of social decay or something like that.

3) Photograph the installation for a science text book.

4) Save the seeds and plant them all (this will take some work since I will need to find the right environment and then ride my bike to it).

Looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Where’s my Fiji water?

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