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Thursday, September 9, 2010

shana tova and happy new year

Several months ago I stopped watching television. It’s kind of funny, because several months ago I actually bought a big flat-screen television set and placed it in my bedroom, so my daughter would not be tempted to glue herself to the big screen and become brain dead by the time she turns sixteen.

Anyway, for several months I enjoyed watching Rachel Maddow on my big flat-screen tv until one day my cable provider turned her into snowflakes and white noise once he (yes, a cable provider must be a ‘he’ unless it's Meg Whitman) discovered I was able to see Maddow without paying for the more expensive cable package that offers MSNBC. So out of nowhere my two favorite channels disappeared and I was left with the networks, which you pretty much have to put a gun to my head if you want me to watch them. I mourned Maddow's loss for two days and then I decided that I would not be sucked into the cable provider's scheme to woo me into buying a satellite dish or whatever other option is available, no matter what - and if I ever felt a terrible urge to watch Ms. Maddow’s smile as she poked fun at the Koran burning crazies, I would turn to my wireless and watch her online.

What I am trying to share with you here is that I experienced a life transforming event and I barely even noticed it. And now I realize that even though I am not watching television, I still know enough to function in this world. Well, almost. I know most of what I need to know.

True, there are many things I don’t know. I know nothing about American Idol and Dancing with the Stars and Big Man or Mad man, and I know nothing about Weeds. Just name a program that received an Emmy recently and I assure you, I don’t know anything about it. Oh, I never watched the Sopranos, either. I also don’t know anything about Survivor or Lost or the Orange County Wives or whichever hugely popular drama series that's been playing on television for the last 5 years (or 15? I lost count). And, yet, I can converse with people and appear to be pretty well informed and acculturated in all the nuances of whatever culture that is floating out there, around me and my fellow human beings.

Let me be clear, as Obama likes to say - I didn’t give up television because I am a hippie or because I try to be a high-brow elitist or rebel against the mediocre programs tv executives are shoving down our throats and into our eye balls. I gave up television because I am cheap!

Now I get to do what people who don't watch a lot of tv get to do - I read books, really interesting books written by very interesting, articulate, creative thinkers. I learn more about the world. And my attention span is not getting smacked in the head every time I actually find myself really getting into something and sinking my teeth into it.

Don't be alarmed. I am not going to preach to anyone to give up their television. I just hope that the future of television will be similar to the future of the New York Times print edition. One day it will simply go away, and the familiar blue light that one can see shimmering through living room windows will disappear and a new light will start shining in our homes. In that brighter future, no one will need to pay for 900 channels that offer brain-numbing crap or syndicated reruns and stupid reality shows. One will be able to choose exactly what she wants to watch and have the wireless provider bill her on a monthly basis for her daily consumption of television programs.

That’s my wish for the Jewish New Year. Shanah Tova!

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