posts tagged with 'television'

just like our woods

I may not watch television or follow baseball any more, but I do more than my share of staring at sports on screens—mostly cycling on youtube or Redbull TV. Downhill mountain biking is my favorite, and I've been enjoying it for two seasons now. Shortened seasons, though, since naturally the pandemic made things hard for the organizers of the UCI Downhill World Cup series. And as it happens all of the races last season and the first four this summer were in Europe, so I got used to seeing the action taking place in the picturesque Alps. But this week the last two races of the season are taking place in West Virginia, and this afternoon was the first practice runs. And it looks just like the woods where we ride! I hadn't registered how different the high-altitude forests of Austria, Italy, and Switzerland are to the ones I'm used to: that's just what mountain bike courses on TV looked like. But now they're going to be riding the deciduous forest of the Eastern US, just like I do! I can't wait to watch the race action.

watching sports

A long time ago (so long I can't be bothered to track it down in the blog archives) I declared that I was done with watching sports on television. Which before long meant I was done with following them altogether, because after we got rid of our tv 11 years ago now we discovered that without a cable subscription you can't stream sports without paying for them. Which of course I would never do. It mostly improves my life: paying attention to sports takes a lot of time and emotional energy. I'm much healthier now that I don't have any idea what the Red Sox are doing (really! Until I wrote this sentence it hadn't even occurred to me that baseball might be being played this summer!). But over the past few months sports awareness has been creeping back in.

The first thing I payed attention to a little bit was the America's Cup. Fortunately, they wanted hundreds of dollars to stream it, so I was saved from watching live and only took in the action via highlights on YouTube. SailGP, on the other hand, is live on Youtube, so that's taken up a couple weekends lately. Most recently my attention has been drawn to cycling. Downhill is the most fun; I got the Red Bull TV ap for my phone to watch it, but an even better way to get absorbed in the excitement of World Cup downhill events is all the different folks putting out content on Youtube. From newsy outfits like Pinkbike and Vital MTB, to teams like The Syndicate, to individuals like Wyn Masters and—my favorite—Bernard Kerr. With all those different ways to watch I really feel like I get a complete view of the event... super fun!

Then of course there's also this road race going on in France. I wouldn't have been aware of it but for Youtube's recommendation engine, but now I am. NBC won't let me watch livestreams or even full race replays, but that's probably good because I don't have five hours a day to devote to following the action (I haven't since that time when Harvey was a baby). Even the half-hour extended recaps are more time that I should be devoting to broadcast entertainment, given everthing else that I should be working on. But it's nice to be able to talk about a sports thing with friends, as I did on Tuesday evening. Plus an MTB boy is in the Yellow Jersey now!


something I'm watching

In my advanced age, I tend not to like watching things on screens. I never liked movies much, and I gave up on tv shows a decade ago. I stuck with sports a little longer, but not that much. There are exceptions: I'd watch the heck out of some competitive Pokemon, but of course it's all cancelled. So mostly when I want to stare mindlessly at a screen I have to find some words to stare at. But while I was staring at words sometime last week I was alerted to a series of videos—a "vlog", if you will—made by a pair of homesteaders in Sweden: Off Grid Life, the Talasbuan Vlog. And I like it!

a screenshot of the vlog

they've got some photography at their homestead

The appeal to me is two-fold. Two and a half-fold actually. The content speaks to me, obviously. I totally feel wanting to do as much as you can yourself, and I enjoy watching other people learning—one episode they make pickles for the first time—and demonstrating mastery of tasks that I aspire to—like woodworking with traditional tools and techniques. And the pacing is just my speed, no pun intended. There's plenty of long shots of animals and scenery and people preparing food, and very little drama. The creators seem to be both very calm and understated people, so even real drama gets downplayed. I like that. And then, I appreciate the photography too! It's beautifully shot and edited, not just to tell the story but also—even more!—to share the beauty and delight of their homestead. As I'm learning my way around video I'm especially interested in seeing how they do it. You can expect some farm film from me soon.

As I watch, I can't help but think about the last internet family we were interested in following; their story didn't turn out so well (it actually got worse after Leah wrote that post; very sad). But so far in my viewing there are no signs of mental breakdown and tragedy, so I'm going to keep watching and enjoying!


we tune in to the olympics

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.


I don't follow

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.


the super bowl is so much nicer on the west coast

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.


out of the box

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.


on programming for children and programming children

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.


hatin on TV

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!


how do they find the time?!

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!]