posts tagged with 'television'

olympic review

We're done with the Olympics. Even if the events aren't done themselves, we need to cancel our free trial of television over the internet tomorrow morning. I'm definitely glad we could watch for the couple weeks we did, but I'm also glad we don't have TV most of the time. The unskippable commercials are unbearable! And when I can watch TV, it's hard not to sometimes when I'm tired. Now without that temptation I'll have lots more time to surf the internet!

We spent the most time watching curling, since it's fascinating and always on. I think the hockey was my favorite, but hockey games are really too long to fit into my life and I never had any real sense of how the tournament was going. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed snowboard cross and ski cross—I guess seven heats of two minute races for an event is about how long my attention span can handle! And we wished we were able to watch more short track speed skating and cross country. But man were there a lot of options. And now there are fewer in our house, and I think that's a good thing.

a winter sport or three

My first notice of the Winter Olympics came when someone asked me if I was boycotting because of China's horrible civil rights record and the muzzling of athletes who wanted to talk about it. Since I had no concept of how I could watch any of it even if I wanted to, I said that I supposed I was. But with the idea planted in my brain, I couldn't stop thinking of the seductive appeal of speedskating, freestyle skiing, and curling... even biathalon! So when, in a conversation with Leah, she suggested that it wouldn't be a big deal if we weren't able to find a way to watch it, I... didn't didn't immediately express robust agreement. And then, being amazing at finding out how to do things, she got us hooked up with a free trial of Youtube TV.

So now we can watch all the winter sports we want to, which is of course very exciting. So exciting, in fact, that it beat out Saturday's adventure in all three boys' Monday morning journal writing. I remember my parents borrowing (renting?) a TV in 1988 so we could watch the Summer Olympics in Seoul, and how at 11 I was quite interested in being connected to the world of international sporting competition (though I don't know how much of the sports I actually watch; all I really recall is the opening ceremony). It'll be interesting to see how long, in 2022, our interest will last: there's a lot of kind of boring down time in the broadcasts, and ever so many hours of sports still to come. But for now, even though we deplore China's oppression of minorities and lots of other things, we're on board with watching! But don't worry, we won't give Youtube, or NBC, or anybody else any money for it.

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.