3.03.2009

Blonde Cable

I went to school in California, so forgive me if this is a little too "blonde." You can't do anything about where you're born, or from whom. I was pretty lucky in all aspects of my young influence but one: too much sun, too much good weather and happiness and success, and you become naive. You have no idea what life is like for the 99% of the rest of the world. You can easily become guilty of Californicating, of thinking everywhere should be just like home.

In Junior High, we were required to write papers concerning issues of the day. We chose a current events topic, clipped an original article, and wrote a couple of pages to show our convincing skills. We had to write lots of these, so I had lots of opportunity to write about the morality of euthanasia, pesticide use ethics and L.A. water rights allocation issues. That's what I wrote about, anyway. Being quiet, I didn't ask what other people wrote about. My colleagues in seventh grade were all full of sunshine and hormones. There were only a few who said anything interesting when they raised their hands in class.

At the time, there was a big debate about whether TV violence was making all us kids gun-crazy. We viewed violence on TV and, the theory went, acted it out without using the critical-thinking skills we were supposed to be getting from all this California education.

My paper argued that even us dumb blonde, sunny, naive California kids weren't that stupid. We saw really awful TV shows and bad sitcoms all day long, but we weren't dressing up in Batman outfits and jumping off buildings, or twitching our noses and thinking we were witches. If only it were so easy. Influence takes a lot more finesse, a lot more subtle roping in than that.

The blogs I love are those obsessed with saving money. I don't know why I love these so much: they don't tell me one new thing, ever. I live in a smaller home than all the authors, from what I've read. I unplug my appliances, use only cold water, don't even have the furnace connected, drive only one car about once every two weeks, recycle, reuse, do without. But these are "my people." These authors are thinking the same way I do. We have the same values. Some are slightly crazy, but that makes interesting reading.

One subject often makes the rounds on these blogs: TV. "Do You Still Have Cable?" is a popular topic. I could feel guilty, as yes, I do. I went without TV for a long time when I went without a house. Doing without some things just makes you feel poor. TV is one of them for me.

The anti-cable blog explained that basic cable is frivolous, as you can get all you need from hulu and online news. It's true. And if you don't want to look at news at all, if you want to stay inside your tiny bubble and pretend everything's sunny and fine, you are certainly entitled to do so.

But the people I know who don't have TV, the ones who brag about not subscribing to cable, these are the people who don't have any idea what people are talking about at their dinner parties. "What riot?" they'll say. "What bomb?" When someone starts to explain, to inform the ignorant non-subscribers, they interrupt, "We don't waste our time on TV." Maybe if they did, they wouldn't be asking what's going on so much.

Having a cable subscription doesn't automatically make you less ignorant. And, as I wrote in seventh grade, it doesn't automatically make you prone to violence. If it did, my History Channel-watching husband would be wearing a Civil War uniform, hiding behind trees looking for errant Confederates. It'd make Top Chef-obsessed me into someone who cooks something besides matzo-ball soup, oatmeal cookies and banana bread.

TV does, however, give you the opportunity to look outside your bubble if you choose. That's a benefit we can all use, regardless of our hair color.