March 02, 2007

Me and TV

My relationship with TV has been a little weird since my childhood. I was raised by a mom who had a few basic rules around our house, like most kids. And, like most kids, my little brother and I didn't really mess with them, because these were the hard core basics.

The thing, though, is that in most households these might include things like "Go to church every Sunday" or "No premarital sex" or "No raising your voice to your mother". But traditional rules weren't so much our mother's style. She was a badass with a wide hippie streak. Sex, foul language, religion and debauchery weren't so much her concern. What she DID concern herself with were such classics as "No soda in the house -- or anywhere near the property", "Lunchables might be 'cool', but if we didn't grow or kill it ourselves, it's not going in your sack lunch" and "No more than 30 minutes of television daily" and, worst of all: "Absolutely no cable TV".

These rules outraged my brother and I. Sure, we didn't have to go to church and we could dissappear into the woods from sunrise to sunset on a Saturday like a couple banchees and not get in trouble, but with all the wisdom of 7 and 12 year olds, we felt socially crippled.

Of course, we were crafty, and devised a sophisticated plan to beat the system: Every weekend, we tromped through the woods (yes, literally) to our neighbor's house.

The neighbors had two kids exactly our ages, and their parents kicked major ass. There, they had a television in every room, including the kitchen, they ate off wonderful things called "T.V. trays", they had four or five different tins in their pantry full of different varieties of junk food, and they almost neverhad to talk to each other or go outside, preferring instead to sit in front of cable television.

We were in heaven.

I knew it was wrong, even back then, but I just. couldn't. help. it. My brother and I spent hours of our precious youth on the floor in their living room, gorging ourselves on all the crap my mom wouldn't let near our house and stuffing our minds with garbage, from M.C. Hammer videos to Singled Out and The Simpsons. But we didn't passively watch -- we were, like, in the lean-forward position, the whole time. Picture a chubby kid with a candy bar when he sees his bully older brother approaching to snatch the treat away. You know how he suddenly starts cramming the thing in his mouth, trying to swallow it before it could be taken from him? That was us. We were transfixed, and my mom would've been pissed.

Reminders of those days remain with me, though now what really gets me are documentaries and infomercials. For a while there, when my hippie ways were still in their nascence, I banned T.V. from my home, recognizing my tendencies to fixate on the contraption and believing it would help keep me from spacing out, when I had time to do so. Later, I decided this wasn't financially prudent, as it caused me to have to go to theatres to watch movies, when with a TV you get basic channels and can use a DVD player to watch as many documentaries (and/or episodes of Sex and the City) as you like. And, when I find myself home alone, just me and the TV, I do.

To wit: I watched EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of Alone in the Wilderness when it aired on PBS, because the person I lived with at the time loved it. That's right, I skipped reading or socializing or excersizing and instead watched a very old man make a doorknob with his bare hands, with such riveting commentary as "Today, I built a doorknob. It took me fourteen hours with this here chisle and wood file." followed by, well, nearly fourteen hours of an ancient man whaling on a chunk of wood.


Last night, I found myself completely sucked into a documentary on morbidly obese people.

Have you seen this? It's the one with the two guys -- one's in Mexico and the other the US -- and they both tip the scales at something like a thousand pounds, but they're medical miracles. Their hearts are normal, their blood pressure, organs, everything is just ticking away in there, while these guys can't even get out of bed, much less their house.

Instead, they watch jazzercize videos from the 80s in bed and sorta wiggle along to the music. And run internet businesses. One of them sells designer jeans on Ebay to pay rent.

This was, of course, really sad. Also, a little hard to watch, with moments of complete hilarity. (I'm sorry, YOU try not to laugh at a 1000 lb man gleefully doing arm circles, naked in bed, to Madonna's "Holiday". It's priceless, people.)

And a couple weeks ago, I decided that what my kitchen really needed was a Magic Bullet, but before I could purchase the miracle salsa/sorbet/peanut butter maker, my friend snatched the phone out of my hand and clicked off the television, sucking me back into reality.

(Now if I could just figure out what to do with this juicer, food dehydrater and Bowflex System...)

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