Sunday, February 27, 2011

MY MOST POPULAR ESSAY EVER


Colin Firth as George Falconer has a bit of a tease with a GQ model style guy. Funny, I found an old article about Colin Firth online, from before he was famous, where the author suggested he was a GQ kind of looker. But you know, he can play a very unattractive man, as in the English Patient. All he has to do is gain 10 pounds or something. Male actors have to diet too. They criticized Hugh Grant latey for looking 'fat' in a movie, when, I'm guessing, he gained 5 pounds or so. But we are used to his lean look.

It's hard being a leading man.

Anyway, I'm posting another old article "the Appalling Truth" on this blog. It was written over 10 years ago, but has the same theme as The Winter of Our Disconnect, a book just recently published, about a mom who banned all media in her home, for a time, anyway.

This essay was often published in certain ESL texts, but then it got too 'old.' I mean, we had one tv in those days. But many students still look this article up on the web. Don't know why.

Now they talk about people stealing copyright, (I wonder if taking a picture of your TV is breaking copyright? Ridiculous if is.) I gave my essays to a small one-woman parenting website for FREE and she then sold it to a conglomerate (one of Canada's major media players) and they published my essays and apparently, I have no right to them. Talk about stealing from the poor to give the rich...


The Appalling Truth

Technology changes us. With the invention of the clock we lost the ability to live in the present. The telephone made us Pavlovian slaves to the sound of a ringing bell. And with the advent of television, we removed ourselves indoors, for the most part leaving the streets to marauding canines and fancily-attired exercise addicts.

As a mother and very serious media watcher, I am as troubled as anyone about the violent and sexist content on television. But were television wall-to-wall programming of the PBS caliber, and commercial-free, I would be just as concerned.

I just don't like what TV is doing to my family. It has become some kind of oracle -- never mind McCluhan's "electronic fireplace" -- that commands all of our attention. We don't listen to each other, husband to wife, mother to kids, kids to parents. It was with this in mind that I suggested to my husband that we ban the tube from the house, on an experimental basis, for, say, about a year.

"No way!" he said.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because, it would be hypocritical," he deftly answered. "We both work in TV."

"You work in TV. I don't."

"Well, you like to criticize TV. How can you criticize something you don't watch!" Good point.

"I just don't like what the thing is doing to our family," I continued. "It's noisy. It jangles the nerves. It's like a drug. It's addictive. We watch anything, anything, even programming aimed at adolescents. I mean, I used to read Dostoyevsky. Now I watch Steve Erkle."

"So you traded one idiot for another," my husband quips, but I am not amused.

"Well, you know what I mean. Besides, the stupid contraption keeps us from doing what human beings are really supposed to be doing."

"And what's that? Foraging for nuts and berries?"

My husband, the TV junkie, sees nothing wrong with the boob tube. "I grew up on it, " he answers, "and I'm no psycho."

If my husband had his way, there would be a TV in every room. And they'd all be tuned into Star Trek. And I must admit, there are times I felt the only interest we ever had in common was Star Trek, oh and the X-files, and way back when, Cheers. In the early months of my first pregnancy we'd cuddle together on the couch like two spoons and I'd fall asleep, my head cradled in his lap, before Sam Malone's first conquest. Togetherness.

But now we're like two channel-zapping zombies. "You know, they say that spending time together in front of the television does nothing to enhance a relationship," I tell my now bleary-eyed husband, trying to make him feel guilty. It's a war of attrition and it is working, sort of.

"Okay. Two weeks," my husband relents. "We'll try no TV for two weeks. That's all. But you tell the kids."

We have two boys, Andrew and Mark, 7 and 4. They kick up a huge fuss when I tell them that our tiny bungalow has been unilaterally declared a TV-free zone. Now it's their turn to try to make me feel guilty. They hang their pathetic little heads in genuine mourning as they watch their dad, the TV freak, reluctantly disconnect the enormous tangle of wires enabling the miracle of modern home theatre in our suburban castle. And am I feeling guilty? No way!

I stand tall and victorious in our living room, easy to do when you are five foot ten, a champion of my somewhat left-of-center family values, the protector of my children.

That evening, we read our children books, sing them songs and tuck them in for the night. I go to bed with that Margaret Drabble I've been using as a giant paper-weight for the past year and my husband snuggles up with Stephen King.

Two days pass. The kids have finally stopped complaining about The Terrible Loss. In fact, they don't appear to care at all any more. They have found other, more interesting, things to do. Myself, on the other hand, I'm suffering from a mean case of withdrawal. "It's Thursday Night. Must-See-TV. Do you think maybe you can bring the TV up for just one show?" I ask my husband, who happens to be down in his workroom drilling a hole into a six-foot piece of plywood for no apparent reason. "We'll keep the sound really low," I add, because kids can hear hypocrisy even in their sleep.

"Why don't your read, Ms. Literature Freak? You haven't exactly been burning up the library shelves," my husband sneers rather condescendingly as he stops to wipe some sawdust from his nose hairs.

"Well, that's because I only read the best, and my brain's too fried at the end of the day to read the best," I answer, convincing even myself. (That has been my pat excuse for my intellectual lethargy since becoming a mother.)

My husband rolls his eyes back into his head and puts down the drill. No further argument from him. He happily carries the TV upstairs and reconnects its myriad wires in no time. (A real pro, my husband.) We sit back and laugh at George and Kramer, Elaine and Jerry. "This show is just like real life!" I announce.

The problem is, we do the same for Murphy Brown a few days later. And for X-files, each night my husband clambering up the basement stairs with a twenty-inch Sony stuck to his face, and then stumbling down again thirty-something minutes later, trailing his wires behind him. Then the true test. Indeed, a real dilemma for us. A rerun of Star Trek: TNG is airing; but at 7:00, before the kids' bedtime. What to do? Clearly, no sleazy hypocritical way around this. "I can always get a tape and watch it at work," my husband, the news editor, smiles, taunting me once again. "You, on the other hand, will have to do without."

A real dilemma, and I am not alone, I know. I recall a friend, fortyish, married with two kids, unapologetically telling me that watching Star Trek reruns was the highlight of his day. "It's the only philosophical show on TV," he claimed.

And, certainly, here is Captain Picard, perhaps the wisest man in the universe, forcing me to face a very ugly personal truth: It isn't my kids; it isn't even my husband. I am the real TV addict in my household