The sordid defilement of addiction

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"Hobbies: watching TV."

Writing about meeting people online brought that those sad and frightening words to mind. Short of "Straightacting 2 u better b 2" there wasn't anything more disheartening to see in someone's Yahoo or AOL profile.

Not that I didn't feel a little uncomfortable in describing my hobbies as reading, listen to music and riding my bike. The first two are meaningless without out the nuances. It could be that I was listening to Michael Bolton and reading Danielle Steele (or Anne Coulter).

Anyone who describes watching television as a hobby probably has no hobbies. They've opted to spend their free time in passive consumption of entertainment product. It is distraction instead of diversion.

Since I watch television this isn't a rabid condemnation of the act. But (key exception coming) I watch only things that involve me, usually the programs and movies that make me laugh. Mostly I don't have an argument with people who make a hobby out of select programs, collecting memorabilia or writing slash. I'll have to admit the former are often scratching the national consumerist itch. The latter - perhaps only at its best - are recreating the program in their own terms.(I do wish Word wouldn't bitch at me about reflexive pronouns, sometimes the software is like a nagging schoolmarm.)

Obsession with a TV program can get ugly: the couple that recreated the Enterprise bridge, had everyone wear Star Trek uniforms and used a United Federation of Planets marriage ceremony. Now that is strongly icky.

And there are programs I won't forgive anyone for watching. When a man told me that he was addicted to Touched By An Angel I told him to never email me again (he persisted for a time).

One of the first web pages I wrote trying to explain myself to people I might eventually meet said that the world can be divided between people who get most of their entertainment and knowledge of the world from TV and those who don't. The intervening growth in infotainment programming - say, Fox News - has made the separation sharper than ever.

People who brag that they don't own a TV irk me as well. Unless you are devoting your time to something interesting or distinctive there's no virtue in merely avoiding television. Or you get "I only watch PBS." I really don't know what PBS is showing nowadays but it was often a 10th rate equivalent to a book on the topic.

I mentioned a key exception to my selectivity in my TV viewing. Charles has slipped into an equally disgusting and disturbing television addiction. He turns the goddamnednoisybox when he gets up or comes home from work and watches it until he passes out. I hide from the TV much of the time but will relent and watch horrifyingly inane sitcoms.

Back in Savannah I grew to loathe my parents' nightly TV watching (to be fair, my momma's, daddy would retire to read his Bible). The faint sound of, say, Medical Center would leak through the walls and annoy me to no end while I was trying to read.

My parents gave me a small portable TV when I left home. It quickly died and wasn't missed. For many years I didn't own one. Eventually we bought a TV in San Francisco to watch a small set of reruns on. Mostly it remained dark and silent.

The last time I saw my mother she gave me her old color TV. Gordon and I got cable and a VCR. Thanks to Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film my love of old horror and science fiction revived. A couple of nights a week we'd watch weird trash ranging from Dwayne Esper's Maniac to the most recent slasher movie. But most of the time the TV was off.

To see Charles spending hours and hours in front of the TV wounds and appalls me. It equally saddens and revolts me to watch him frantically trying to find the least boring program on TV. TV has become my symbol of everything that isn't working in our life together. And TV may be the thing that finally sends us on our separate ways.

[Listening to: Tear Fool - Jimmy Somerville - (5:40)]

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Thanks,
Richard

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