posts tagged with 'television'
No camping report today, sorry: we spent all day watching the Olympics (except for when we were waiting at the RMV, exploring a playground in Wilmington, swimming in the pond, or out for a walk with friends). NBC streaming is useless to us since they check for a cable package, but never fear, the BBC is more generous—at least, when we trick them into thinking we're browsing from outside the US. So far we've sampled a great many sports, and spent serious time on sailing, cycling, equestrian cross-country, and swimming. As Leah says, "how can we be doing anything else when it's the most important moment in someone else's life?!"
As for Harvey, he just appreciates the opportunity to watch unlimited tv. Never mind being able to tell what's going on, though he did enjoy it when the horsies went through the water.
Yesterday I was at Luke's taking part in some communal beermaking and caught the end of the Red Sox game. Hey yeah, they're playing baseball now! I guess the Celtics are still doing their thing too, from what I here. But we have no direct experience of any of it, here in our media bubble. And thank goodness! Once you reach a certain threshold of awareness about these sorts of things you're actually obliged to start paying attention.
And it's not just sports; for the ladies, television programs (whether scripted or unscripted; I understand they're still making reality television these days) plays a similar role in cycling breathless expectation and vague disappointment. Actually, guys have to worry about both. Think how much time we once wasted on stupid shows like Heroes! But again, if you don't even know what programs are on, let alone what's popular, you have no chance of getting sucked into the vortex that is popular entertainment. In this case, ignorance truly is bliss.
Of course, it does mean we're pretty boring at social gatherings, but that was probably going to be the case anyways.
While I enjoyed last night's game—if not the final outcome—I can't say that, in retrospect, the complete experience was a positive one. Oh, it was great fun watching along with friends and observing Harvey take in his first Super Bowl, but the lateness of the hour really cast a pall over the whole thing. Even had the local 55 (58? whatever) pulled out the victory I would have felt pretty wrung-out on the drive home, and the loss just emphasized the futility of the whole thing. As I said at the time, if I knew the game was going to end like that I would have gone home at 9:00!
Besides being unused to staying up so late in social situations, I also found myself startlingly unaccustomed to television—the ads in particular, but really even the whole giant moving picture thing itself. The ads were especially bad since I felt responsible for exposing Harvey to such a sink of depravity and commercialism; it may have been my newly developing parenting bones speaking, but there sure seemed to be more naked people than I remember from previous Super Bowls. The whirl of imagery, together with the nachos and mac-and-cheese and coconut macaroons I was stuffing for the first three quarters, meant that my sleep was not as calm and refreshing as I might have hoped.
Not that I mean in any way to disparage the party. Harvey and I has a great time, and we much appreciate the invitation. Maybe next year, though, we can start the party around lunch time and then listen to the game on the radio on the way home (and subsequently in bed)? Or maybe just skip the football altogether and have a party without any excuse at all. Less stress that way, and no possibility of crushing disappointment. Unless, I guess, someone else snags the last macaroon.
Today the 3rd graders were asking me if I was going to watch the Patriots playoff game this weekend, and they were shocked and amazed when I told them that I wasn't because we don't have a tv. "What do you do?!" one of them asked incredulously. What indeed! I figure that at this stage of our life a tv wouldn't actually slow us down that much: it's pretty much caring for babies full time lately, and that can be accomplished just as well in front of some quality programing. But of course there's the moral component—how could we possibly raise good little hippies if we let them be exposed to mass culture?!
Another kid had a better question, wondering how under the circumstances I was so well-versed in the characters and settings of Phineas and Ferb. I told her we watched on the computer (not mentioning the questionable legality of the particular method), which of course led other perceptive children to wonder why I couldn't watch the game online. I told them to take it up with the NFL and the broadcast networks, but when I started trying to describe licensing and blackouts they got bored and wandered away.
I've been completely out of the loop this football season, but I did try and catch up with a few of the late-season games via bittorrent; I tell you, football games take a lot of time to watch, even with all the ads stripped out. But when you already know how it comes out and you can pause it indefinitely in the background, it's kind of nice to watch a game in five-minute intervals over the course of a couple weeks. It sure doesn't get in the way of your life like watching it on live tv does! So don't worry 3rd graders, we're doing alright.
So we're leaving story time at the library today, and Harvey is hanging onto a video cassette of Thomas the Tank Engine saying "Gamma house? Ollie house?" And I'm all, "Yes, at someone else's house you can ask them to watch that show. But we're not gonna bring it home."
Upon which the librarian snorts to herself and says, "Just you wait until mama's baby is born!"
Because then, naturally, I will lose all will power to resist the incursion of Thomas into my home.
In her defense, she is the bitchy librarian.
Look, I have a philosophical stance on TV. I hate it. I think it makes adults bored and kids sarcastic. I also realize that parenting an introverted but emotionally needy child lovingly and patiently for 14 hours every day is very close to impossible without a crutch. And since that child can't read yet, the crutch is often TV.
In previous months my modus operandi was to try to get Harvey to function with as little TV as possible. That meant a string of 3 or 4 days with no screen time and followed by one sick day with an hour and a half. Even the days with no TV were stressful, though, because I was constantly trying to think one step ahead to an awesomely engaging activity we could do in case he started asking. We baked so many bagels I couldn't stand on my feet anymore. So now I have a new plan, which is to plan for a half hour of TV every afternoon, right after Rascal's walk. This way I know that when we come in from walking and I am in the most pain I'll be in all day that we can all have a quiet sit and Harvey will be happy. Also, if he asks earlier in the day I'll say "After we walk Rascal" and then I have a good answer, just like "Ask Grandma about Thomas, don't ask me."
Which brings me to the topic I wanted to write about, which Dan alluded to in his previous post: kids programming. We watch exactly two TV shows in this house: Phineus & Ferb, and Shaun the Sheep. I find Phineus & Ferb pretty awesomely entertaining, and Shaun the Sheep is entertaining enough to not be annoying. Also, Shaun the Sheep has the benefit of no dialogue, so it's not distracting to other people talking in the room and therefore the perfect thing to put on if I want a child to sit quietly through a midwife appointment. Aside from these two shows I haven't found any children's programming that doesn't annoy me. Dan likes Between the Lions but I find that excruciatingly slow.
But it's not just an evaluation scale of entertaining to grating that leads me to pick my kids shows this way. On a philosophical level I have something against Thomas, Elmo, and Disney everything. They may be good, but they're merchandised up the wazoo. Just exposing your child to any one of these "brands" means 5 years of telling him "No, we're not buying Elmo toothpaste, or Thomas coloring books, or Princess fruit snacks." It's like the TV turns your kid into a sleeper cell of consumption.
Which is either merely annoying or the end of the universe, depending on how hippy militant you want to be.
Look, everyone has something they wish their kids would never learn about, whether it be television or toy guns or McDonalds or alcohol or playboy. I love McDonalds and I wish they sold beer there. I have no problem with guns, and I think pornography serves a valuable purpose. But I hate television and I think it's the tool of the devil. Other people probably roll their eyes at this. That's okay; we all pick our own issues. I have plenty of friends who try to cook without sugar and I lovingly think they're nuts. One way or another, all our children manage to survive childhood.
Still, I get a little offended by remarks like that of the bitchy librarian which underline a collective belief of "this is the way the world is, so don't bother trying anything different." Um, have you never met a hippy before, lady? I believe there are actually several who currently reside in this town. I've been emailing them about town policies on backyard livestock.
After ripping another blogger a new one yesterday, I thought I'd take a moment to pick on my own hypocrisies today. The topic is television.
We canceled our TV service a little over a year ago because Dan and I both agreed that we didn't want to be a household focused on television. Not to say that every household that owns a TV also orbits its family life around it, but some do. Mine did growing up. So it's a danger we wanted to avoid, and we went cold turkey and canceled our subscription.
Theoretically, all would be lovely and unplugged in our house, except for a little thing called THE INTERNET.
I don't know if you know this? But on the internet you can WATCH TELEVISION. So in our less innovative more exhausted moments of parenting Harvey was introduced to Phineus & Ferb and also Shaun the Sheep. And that's all it took - one tiny taste of the drug in his system - to make him whine for television CONSTANTLY. When he wakes up in the morning, when he wakes up form his nap, whenever he sees a laptop. Constantly.
So now he watches an average of one hour of TV a day. I hate this. Every time I turn on YouTube for him it makes me feel sick inside. I am failing as a parent. If only I could think of something else to play/cook/destroy with him, I wouldn't have to rot his brain away. If only I could make the laundry/dishwasher/rest-time more interesting, he'd gladly stick by me for that ten minutes instead of throwing his body on the floor in front of a live screen.
There are particular challenges to raising an Archibald child that we did not foresee in our idealistic planning. Harvey does very poorly with playing on his own. Some days he'll entertain himself for a whole ten minutes, some days zero. The rest of the time I have to be playing with him, one-on-one, constantly. Which, don't get me wrong, is lovely, but it makes even the bare minimum of household upkeep awfully difficult. Not to mention cooking. Or moving something from one room to another. And if I don't want him to watch a show, I'd better also give up on email forever (which, since I can't talk on the phone at all when Harvey's awake, also means I'd have to give up on all adult contact for about the next ten years.)
Also, I'm pregnant, so sometimes after I walk the dog for a mile while simultaneously carrying a 30 pound toddler on my back and a 30 pound belly on my front IN THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM I need to fucking sit down. (Yeah, I know that sounds dramatic - I get very worked up about the needs of the dog these snowstormy days.) Anyway, that means computer time for Harvey post-walk while mama lies down and tries to regain the will to move. That usually takes about a half hour, which when added to the few minutes in the morning when I have to take out the trash or clean up from breakfast plus the few minutes in the evening when I simply can't answer one more friggin request that starts with "mama get - " adds up to about an hour of TV.
So there's a heaping pile of justification for you. That's how a hippy non-TV family ends up with a one-and-a-half year old getting a full hour of TV a day. Hypocrisy and piles of justification.
One hour. God. I really do feel like a monster.
Of course, I could be guilty of the same misplaced grief for which I admonished Meghan and her husband yesterday. Like stuff, TV is not evil incarnate. It's got its good points and its bad. It makes you feel okay about doing nothing, and then later when it's not on it makes you feel worse about doing nothing. Kind of like pot, which even thought I don't partake, I can't raise a solid argument against. So it's not like I'm going to hell for turning on the Disney channel (or stealing it over You Tube for that matter)... I'm only suffering cognitive dissonance for not being able to live out the distraction-free life of which I dream. The life where every moment is exciting or educational or productive. The life where no one needs to take a break and no one needs to be shut up.
Meanwhile, Harvey's nap is dangerously close to over and I still need to cook him noodles. You know what would open up a lot of time in my schedule? Not blogging!
One of the things I like to be smug about, along with shopping at farmers markets and commuting by bicycle, is the fact that we don't have a tv. Well, we have one, but as of some ten months ago it isn't connected to any sort of device that would allow it to show a picture. Not watching any tv at all, except an undisclosed amount on the internet, lets me be even more shocked and disgusted to hear that the average American now watches an average of five hours of television a day.
Actually, I'm not really shocked or disgusted. I knew some people watch a crap-load of tv, because I get to hear about so much of it at the lunchroom at work. But the cold hard figures—or rather, the interpretation of the figures presented by the LA Times, because reading that article is as far as I delved into this subject—really brings home to me the immensity of folks' television habit. I just don't understand how they find room to fit all that screen time into their day!
Me, I get home at around 4:00—earlier than a lot of people, I would imagine. As soon as I get home Harvey is ready to play with me for a while and mama is ready for a rest; sometimes the dog needs a walk as well. That takes us up until it's time to start dinner: we usually eat around 5:30. Then we have to get Harvey ready for bed. If he's getting a bath that's mama's job so I get a few minutes to catch up on my RSS reading, otherwise I first get him tired out by romping with Rascal and then read him books to calm him down, before we put him in bed around 7:00 or so. Cleaning the kitchen and baking bread or cookies as necessary takes another hour or so, and then it's time to write a blog post before bed. Where on earth could I ever find the time to squeeze in five hours of television?!
Obviously, that average has to be padded out a little by heavy weekend viewing, but I'm still only home for six hours before I'm dead tired at 10:00; and I go to bed at 9:00 or before when I can. Could I sit in front of the box for four of those hours? Then again, there is a little missing time in my reconstruction of my schedule... a little bit of reading books, perhaps, or stupid things on the internet, or even talking to my wife. That's where I could make up some quality tv time, by skipping those particular pastimes. That's if I even had a tv, of course!
[And hey, readers, I know you're out there: how much tv do you think you average a day! Don't worry, I won't judge you (out loud) by your answers!]
Harvey was sick today so we cuddled on the couch and watch several episodes of my new favorite show, Phineas and Ferb. P&F is a cartoon made by Disney that is perhaps the funniest kids show in production today. I swear, every other line just about makes me laugh out loud. Check out a good example from this episode below:
Minute 1:45: "Happy passive aggressive relationship day? Is that today?"
"It's okaaay. You probably weren't going to get me anything anyway..."
Oh man, the whole thing is just so funny!
If you pressed play and were like, "what? why am I watching this?" then you're in good company. Dan doesn't see what I like about this show. He much prefers to watch Between the Lions during his Harvey cuddle time and get in some phonics training to boot. But does phonics training have cameos from punk bands and a platypus that fights a mad scientist? I think not!
Harvey is feeling much better this evening. I am diagnosing the days events as a toothache turned fever or a fluke 24-hour flu. Either way, we should be back to non-tv-related activities tomorrow.
World Cup action started today, and to my delight I find it's all being streamed very nicely on ESPN3, whatever that is. The World Cup is always exciting, and having it be in Africa for the first time makes it even more fun. So far at least the stream is better quality than we saw for the recent Winter Olympics, and there aren't any registration hoops to jump through which makes me very happy indeed. The only problem with the setup compared to watching on the tv is not having tivo; well, that and not being able to sit on the couch. But this office chair is awful comfy—perfect for me and Harvey—and the South African time zones are well suited to live viewing.
Well suited when I don't have to be at work, that is; today I managed to catch France-Uraguay (2:30 start) because both Leah and Harvey are feeling a little under the weather and called me home early to take care of them. My presence was clearly welcome, since within an hour or so of getting home I had them both tucked up in bed getting some wonderful restorative sleep and leaving me free to watch some world-class football. Harvey woke up in time to catch the last half hour, but Leah preferred to stay asleep.
I'm not yet sure who I'll be supporting as the tournament progresses; unfortunately a bunch of my favorites are bunched together in Group E, where they will eliminate each other and play games where I won't know who to root for! I'll be similarly conflicted for England-USA tomorrow: sure, patriotic fervor and all that, but England are so cute the way they always feel like this year they really have a chance. In the end, I think I'll probably end up behind whichever African team advances the farthest. It's only too bad that Senegal didn't make the tournament.
Action resumes tomorrow at 7:00am with South Korea-Greece, sure to be a thriller for the ages, so I'd better get myself to bed before it gets any later!
As Dan mentioned, we recently cancelled our subscription to television. This is not because we hate TV. On the contrary. I LOOOOVE tv. I love tv like a crack addict loves smokable cocaine. I love Hugh Heffner's girlfriends. I love befores and afters on plastic surgery. I love parents with a thousand million kids. And (this last one bordering on a sinful obsession) I love Joel McHale.
And I hate to admit it, but I love the commercials. Well, some commercials. I wrote about one here. And I think I also wrote about "bobo," my favorite commercial ever from Petsmart, but I can't find it because google search is broken for our archives. Ironic, because I'm about to talk about how much I love a google commercial I saw last night. (And Thank you Katie and Tim for sharing your ginormous television for the occasion!)
For those of you too busy to watch a 30-second spot (what are you doing reading our blog, anyway?) this ad is the story of a budding cross-cultural relationship told from the point of view of the young man's search strings. He studies abroad in Paris, he tries to impress a cute girl, things work out, and soon he's googling jobs in Paris. Then churches. Then the empty search box comes up, and there's a beat-long pause, and then he googles "How to assemble a crib."
Yes, I got misty-eyed. At a commercial. Something that hasn't happened since bobo.*
Okay, so I did get an MBA in marketing, so I can readily imagine the meeting between the brand managers and the ad agency. "Show them how Google enables your life. No! How Google IS your life! Google knows what you're thinking! Google's like God! You can't live without Google! We want people's DNA to shit Google!"
But I can't go down this road (even though I think it's completely hilarious to imagine someone saying "We want people's DNA to shit Google!") I simply love this ad. It sums up everything I love about the internet. That it's like real life but in the future. The future is awesome, people. It's awesome living in the future.
*Sniff! He got a new bobo!!!!