11 January 2010

All those channels

A Facebook friend had a question: "Does anyone get this cable channel? We don't and we hear we're on TV."

Sorry, can't help, I replied. No cable. We keep a TV downstairs, mostly for movies. I usually have one show I'm interested in at any given time, sometimes two. Now they are "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Glee," which I made a feeble attempt at watching religiously. They have since fallen off my schedule and I rarely remember they're on at the right times.

The Mister of the house likes to say, "We don't get TV," which isn't strictly true, as he's carefully edited our setup to get the most out of the new digital broadcast signal. But even with the new, improved picture quality and channel selection, there's still hardly anything on broadcast TV.

We haven't had cable in about 20 years -- it was still on for a while after we moved into our little cottage on the hill in San Francisco, but after it finally got turned off, after three months or so, we just never opted in. This fact was remarkable if you consider the sheer number of mailings from the cable company we received over the years (I can't count the number of times I thought, "Oh, this looks like a pretty good deal"). Plus I spent some of my formative teen years with a parent who thought cable was a necessity, and there is always the allure of the premium channels on our friends' TVs and on vacations.

But the deal was never good enough to tip it toward entering into a contract. Because like sex, there was no going back. I knew that much. Once we had cable, we'd deem it a necessity everafter.

I recently read that Bobby and Danette Stuckey of Frasca fame don't have a TV, so couldn't watch Bobby's "Today Show" appearance or Lachlan's "Top Chef" episode at home. Is it a trend? Or three parallel anecdotes?

If I had cable I'd be less likely to update this blog. I'd be less likely to make progress on any of my novels. I would be less likely to read as many books, which might just mean I'd be that much less interested in writing one. But lately I've been reading good ones that make me want to tell stories that are this enriching and enlightening: Lorrie Moore's Gate at the Stairs, Michelle Huneven's Blame and Michael Ruhlman's middle book of his Chef trilogy, The Soul of a Chef, plus the usual Michael Connellys and Anne Perrys and such liberally mixed in.

I always wonder when I see those surveys saying the average amount of time people in the US watch television is more than four hours a day, who has that kind of time for TV-watching? I guess if you watch it for an hour in the morning as you ready for your day, and then you have it on in the background and then watch a little prime-time, a news show, and some of the late show, you're there. But that's a lot of noise in your life!

I've learned a few things from television (a topic for a future blog post), but in the balance the box gives back so little of the time I invest in it, relative to everything else in my life. Now that I've written today (earlier I started Book Two, or Chapter 51, of my novel, Time to read--about Fat? Milk? Kenny Shropsin? Best Friends Forever? Heidi Julavits? Haruki Murakami writing nonfiction? Ahh, choices, choices.

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