Friday, January 6, 2012

List One - 42" is something to think about

Before I began this blog, I decided that I wanted to use each Friday to publish a list. I can't really tell you exactly why; I just like lists. I'm not fond of 'to do' lists because they make me nervous and I often loose them, but I love other lists. I'm fascinated by them. I guess I am somewhat impressed by the organizational skills of the someone who creates the list, and lists seem neat and tidy. I'm always drawn to those books on the sale table at the big book stores, like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and 101 Cool Science Experiments You Can Do With Common Household Items and 4 Yoga Poses to Get You Through the Afternoon. When I was a kid, I lived for the weekly favorite, Casey Kasom's Top Forty on Q105 and I am completely energized by the list at the back of any travel guide with a name like, "25 Places only the locals know about."

Lists are cool. It doesn't get better than David Lettermen's Top Ten, and when I can't sleep I adore Jimmy Fallon's "Thank You" list. Grocery lists don't excite me much, but I love finding a list of items needed for a cool art project or a list of interesting scheduled events. When we go on long trips, I notice that the kids load up on those (easy-read) list books, like 13 Beauty Secrets all Pre-teens Know and The All-time Grossest Bodily Functions. Sometimes I'm even moved by lists - on All Saints' Day the church bell that tolls along with the list of loved ones lost is unlike anything else I know. Lists are good.

So, the list, you ask? Well, it's about television. You see, lately I've been thinking about television. Granddaddy got us a new tv this Christmas, much to the delight of my poor neglected children who had spent their whole lives with eyes upon a tv as wide from front to back as it is from top to bottom. It wasn't a big tv, and I thought it was funny when neighborhood kids came over, saw us watching it and asked, "Where is your REAL tv?" My children didn't think that was funny. I remember that I lived through a similar embarrassment, as my family was the last family (in the history of all of mankind of the whole world and even on other planets) to trade our Zenith black and white tv for a color set. I did live through it, though, and I have turned out all right. Chances are good that it built much of the character you see in me today.

Those who know me well may find television an unusual choice for me since I'm often upset by tv. I'm haunted by the television quote by E.B. White, "I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television — of that I am quite sure." I do know of some 'saving radiance in the sky' moments on air, but I stay aggravated about the 'unbearable disturbance of the general peace'. I really do; ask my children.

And so my list (divided into sections, not complete and in random order):

  • The things I love about tv - when we find something that the whole family watches together, hearing Molly laugh OUTLOUD at a show, happening upon a show that is touching and makes me laugh, just knowing that Tim watches everything from "Mother Angelica" to "Pimp my Ride", many things on The Travel Channel, and Jeopardy (I am in touch with my nerdness) and the very surprising fact that my father watches Dancing with the Stars.
  • The things I can't stand about tv - the ways that (I believe) it is making the children of the world more stupid by the moment, most of the shows targeted to preteens and teenagers, programs that have made the art of cooking into a contest where chefs have pathetic nervous breakdowns in front of the whole world, the way children begin to mouth breathe while they are watching, the housewives of anywhere, pretty much any use of the word "real", and newscasts where the anchor tells us how s/he feels about something, etc.
  • Things I miss on tv - the way it used to turn off slowly, slowly, slowly and you could watch until there was just that teensy dot in the center and hear a slight high-pitched squeak, Mary Tyler Moore, a "new" season and a "re-run" season, Carol Burnett pulling her ear, tv theme songs from the 70's and 80's, being nine and getting my hair washed in time to watch something incredible, The Electric Company and so on.

There's my list! What would you add? It's a tricky subject - good and bad all rolled up in one (42" flatscreen) black rectangle in our dens.

If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventer of television, we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners. - Johnny Carson

Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home. - David Frost

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