Thursday, August 30, 2012

Curb your TV (so you don’t have to kill it)

Quick, name the household appliance that carries the biggest, fattest baggage – think of hard-shell American Tourister baggage, with wheels.

No, it’s not the refrigerator. Or the stove. It’s not even in the kitchen – at least, it shouldn’t be.

It’s the television.

Perhaps you forgot it was an appliance.

Television is our bête noire. We blame it for everything we can think of that’s going wrong with our world, from alienation to obesity, from family breakdown to loneliness, from ignorance to inattention - as if none of these existed before television’s exponential growth after World War II. Pundits give verbal whacks to television, and we nod our heads gravely, knowingly.

We still can’t tear our eyes away from it.

Ever since we were small children, when our parents dropped us in front of the tube to keep us quiet (and then dangled it like a carrot for the rest of our childhood), we’ve been hooked.

We turn it on in the morning and keep it on all day, even though we’re not enjoying what we’re watching. (How much pure childhood joy did you get out of watching the Saturday morning cartoons? Did anyone like Scooby-Doo that much?) When it appears in the waiting room or the checkout line or the gas pump, we have to look even though the output at these venues makes Happy Days look like Omnibus. When we’re at our friends’ homes, our heads crane toward the television instead of our friends’ faces.

Television is hypnotic. It’s got powerful juju. It’s the appliance with WOOOOOO.

It’s still an APPLIANCE.

Think of it like a knife. Or an electric mixer. A knife can slice avocados into thin slices for a salad, or it can deprive you of beloved digits. An electric mixer can turn flour, sugar and eggs into cake batter, or transmogrify your hair into an uncombable mess.

Television is a tool. You use it. It doesn’t use you. (Can’t you feel that WOOOOOO slithering away?)

I can think of three worthwhile things to do with television:

a. Exercise with a workout video.
b. Rent a film from Netflix (or, if you are super-duper-triple lucky, from an offbeat video store in your neighborhood, such as Vidiots on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica) that is not for the megaplex.
c. Paint a picture of a forest with a trail that wiggles toward the horizon on the glass. (Or a portrait of your pet. Content isn’t relevant here.)

Three is my limit. It should be yours, too.

The television can waste your time. Or it can bless your time. It all depends on how You. Use. It. (In that exact order. Feel your thumb wiggling toward the OFF button on your remote control.)

You don’t need to kill your television. Just train it.

Sit, television. Good television!

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