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FEATURE ‌ The Medium is the Massage

Last week was TV Turnoff Week. But one writer finds thatto rail against pop culture, she has to follow the dumb

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I just learned that it was "TV Turnoff Week" last week. Huh. Funny, but I didn't hear about that on TV...

Look, I work at home. I sit in front of a computer all day — writing, editing, webmastering — and the TV is on pretty much the whole time. Just in the background, some noise to keep me company during all those long lonely days when the only other human being I have any contact with is the UPS guy, who's starting to look really good in his little brown shorts. Typically I start out with CNN in the morning, until I want to strangle Soledad O'Brien, as if cutting off the oxygen to what passes for her brain would have any affect whatsoever; or until I want to strangle Miles O'Brien, who is so intriguing when he's talking about the geeky stuff like space or technology that he clearly is very passionate about, and so vapid when he's talking about anything else. Then maybe it's on to the two hours of ER reruns on TNT, cuz omigod, who doesn't want to have Dr. Kovac whispering in your ear, so to speak, while you're working? And did you know that, holy crap, the SciFi Channel runs six-hour blocks of awesome old SF shows most days? It's nice to look up once in a while from slaving away over the computer and see Agent Mulder's snarky grin. Okay, sure, some days on SciFi it's six hours of Knight Rider, which is unbearable, but there's always some cool old movie in TCM, or Law and Order 18 hours a day on 12 different cable channels, or you can always flip back to CNN until it makes you want to throw things at the screen and start a revolution.

And look: Of course I know TV sucks, but how would I know that if I didn't watch it all the time? If I'm gonna blog, yak, and commentate about how dumb pop culture is, I have to follow the dumb. And TV is where the dumb is. As well as some cool stuff, too. And anyway, it's not like I'm really watching all the inanity, just sorta monitoring it. Yeah, that's it. I'm like Batman looking down from my mansion on a hill: It's not that Bruce Wayne enjoys the fact that there's so much crime in Gotham City, it's not like he revels in it or anything, it's not like there's anything creepy in his brooding over the city from afar, but if people are gonna do crime and someone's gonna need to fight it, then that someone is gonna have to keep an eye on what the hell is going on.

Anyway, it's proof that I'm not really watching TV all the time that my brain has not exploded, which is what would absolutely happen if you plopped yourself on the couch with a bag of Cheez Doodles and actually devoted your entire attention to the crap that spews forth from the boob tube. Adbusters, the do-gooding progressive cranks (I use the term with the highest affection and respect — the world needs more intelligent cranks) who are among the sponsors of TV Turnoff Week each year, are 100-percent correct about the need to divest ourselves of the idiot box:

TV Turnoff Week is all about saying no to being inundated with unwelcome commercial messages. Saying no to unfettered media concentration. And challenging the heavily distorted reflection of the world that we see every day on the screen.

What I mean, of course, is that Adbusters is right when it comes to all the obese little kids who should be playing stickball in the gutter working off those unhealthy school lunches and all that corporate-sponsored in-school soda consumption and not vegging in the living room watching cartoons on a gorgeous day like this. And all the corporate drones who shuffle home from the cube farm to collapse in front of America's Next Top Model or Survivor instead of reading Jane Austen or playing the pianoforte for the gentlemen while they enjoy their after-dinner brandy and cigars.

But me? I'm smart enough to scoff at the THX-1138-ish messages to consume and throw out and consume more that TV ads throw at us, smart enough to limit the time during which I actually devote all my concentration to TV to the Good Stuff like House and Lost and Doctor Who. But turn off the TV altogether? How else could I keep up with the constant bread and circus that so enthralls the sheep? How else could I rail against it, if I didn't keep at least half an eye on it?

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