Boob Tubing

Back in the 1950s, you were ultra cool if you owned a television set. Family, friends and neighbours would gather at your house, bring hot cheese puffs, tuna-potato chip casseroles and jello salads made with fruit and Kraft miniature marshmallows, and then you’d all sit around and watch Texaco Star Theatre.

Then in the 1960s, you were ultra cool if you owned a colour television set[1]. Family, friends and neighbours would gather at your house, bring Waldorf salad, Chicken a la King casserole and Tang, and then you’d all sit around and watch The Red Skelton Show  in “living colour.”

By the end of the 1970s, everyone had a colour television set (or two) and the whole TV thing was old hat and so it became cool not to own a TV, or to claim never to watch it if you did own one.

If you want to appear deep and intellectual these days you feign ignorance of everything related to TV. You toss around things like, “Oh! I haven’t watched television in yonks! I’m not even sure if I own one anymore, AK-chew-al-lee…” Then you give a dismissive little condescending laugh.

Now, call me an ignorant hillbilly, but I’m pretty sure everyone watches TV – even people who don’t own a TV. In fact, the people I know who are so proud of not owning a TV sit glued to my TV when they come to visit. They shush you when you try to talk to them during the commercials even.

I’m not saying that we all actually like watching TV, but we do it because it’s the easiest thing there is to do in our homes or even in our entire lives. Absolutely nothing is required of us except to sit and stare and maybe utter the odd disparaging remark about what’s being beamed into our eyes.

How could a person not take advantage of that every once in a while?

I don’t like much that’s on TV. I posted a status thingy on Facebook last week about Glee.   XUP Jr. made me watch the season opener because she promised it was the greatest thing ever to descend upon mankind since Jesus. (Those may not have been her exact words, but the meaning was clear). Later that day, my Facebook status thingy declared that I didn’t “get” the entire Glee thing. I thought everything about it, aside from maybe one or two songs, was terrible.

I also don’t get Lost. I watched the first two or three episodes and was too bored to ever tune in again. In general, I don’t like shows that force me to watch every week or I won’t understand anything anymore. The exception to that was Coronation Street,  which I watched/taped faithfully since I was a teenager, but which has gotten so ridiculous that I stopped watching it over the last year.

 I still like Law and Order  – the original and Criminal Intent – SVU not so much. I understand there’s a Los Angeles version coming out soon. Oy!

I like Criminal Minds, too. They have some interesting characters and story lines on that show.

In the less criminal area, I like Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, The Office, Old Christine and most British comedies or dramas when I can get them on my non-cable TV.

I also watch American Idol because the child has it on and I’m pretty much committed to sitting in my TV chair from 8:00 to 9:00 pm Monday to Thursday. American Idol is on every one of those days I think. Or maybe it just seems like it.

I think House has been on once in a while, during that tinme slot, too.  Maybe you have to watch House all the time to appreciate it,  because I don’t really understand what’s going on there. He’s a doctor who’s not actually allowed to treat patients but orders a bunch of other doctors around who spend all their time trying to figure out what really bizarre disease one patient has. Is that it? How does this hospital have the resources to dedicate half a dozen doctors to one patient or to keep  doctor on staff who doesn’t actually do anything? And why do they come up with about 10 diagnoses for the patient and treat him for whatever insane new diagnosis they come up with so that by the end he’s had 20 radically different treatments, has been brought to the very brink of death (or even beyond the brink) and then, when they finally get it right, he’s just fine and dandy and everyone has a good laugh?

Anyway, when American Idol/House season is over, other reality and or medical shows slide into that time slot. So You Think You Can Dance, I don’t mind so much. They’re at least very talented people. I could do without all the crazy side-drama, though. And I won’t watch other medical shows because I end up believing I have all the illnesses I see. At least House is completely unbelievable to begin with.

There are a few shows I’ve heard about that sound good though I’ve never seen them since I don’t have cable. The Wire is one that springs to mind.

Then there are a few shows I really miss. Like Twin Peaks. Damn, I loved that show. I think that was the single best thing ever to hit television, in my opinion.

I miss Seinfeld too, though it’s so dated now that it’s lost a lot of its original hilarity. And there are a bunch of comedies from way long ago that I still think are funny in a surreal, creepy kind of way: Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched (with either Darren) …

What do you watch regularly and/or what show(s) do you miss enough to wish they’d come back on the air?

[1] The first commercial colour TV was manufactured in 1954 and sold for $1,295 USD – the equivalent of $10,500 in today’s money

Gimme, Gimme Nevergets

One of my Scottish blogger friends (and about-to-be-published author), Misssy M, wrote a blog post the other day ranting about the humble thank-you card. She says, in part:

Personally when I give a gift that’s it for me. Had a baby? There’s something nice for him/her. The End. Getting married? Thanks for the invite to the wedding, here’s a little something to show I appreciate the invite and to help you set up house (or a better equipped one than the one you’ve both been living in together for years anyway). Do I give a stuff if I get a card? It wouldn’t even cross my mind to be bothered about such a thing. If you’re offering a card, I’ll take it. If you’re not, then nae bother, because I wouldn’t notice.

 She feels that “A gift should not engender an obligation”.  I disagree.

I think we’re all under a certain amount of obligation to be polite, courteous and well mannered whenever we venture among our fellow human beings. Whether it’s surrendering your bus seat to an elderly woman or holding a door for a person laden with packages or saying please and thank you or eating things at a small dinner party that you don’t particularly like but will choke down anyway so as not to offend your hostess. These things are important.

Yes, manners and courtesy are a form of artifice. And, yes,  you might feel like calling that dozy, slow-moving cashier some choice names, but instead you smile politely and thank her for taking your money.

Thank-yous for gifts are also in that category of “the polite/courteous thing to do”. No one gives a gift only to get a thank you card. They give a gift because they hope you might enjoy it. And though it may not occur to you, sometimes a gift is given mainly out of obligation — because someone has had a baby or is getting married and it’s the polite/courteous thing to do.

It’s little enough to say thank you or to write a note to acknowledge the gift and to thank the person for it. Gifting is not, I think, a one-way thing. It never has been and never should be. It’s a mutual exchange. Part of the joy of giving a gift is knowing you’ve pleased someone. If the receiver of the gift does not acknowledge the gift with a polite thank-you, they are not fulfilling their part of the accepted gift-giving ritual.

I do agree with MisssyM that if you give the gift in person and have received a verbal thank you, that should suffice. No card or follow-up phone call is required.[1]

However, a while back I was invited to the wedding of the daughter of a good friend of mine. The invitation cards were very formal and high quality. The wedding was very formal. And it wasn’t a local wedding. So this meant traveling and staying overnight along with the usual new outfit expenses. I dropped the wedding gift on the big, designated gift table with all the other gifts and never heard another word about it. For all I know some other guest took it home.

MisssyM doesn’t understand why this should worry me. She feels that, “Thank you card sulks belong in the world of the petty.” So, I guess I’m petty, because I was a little miffed about never receiving a thank-you card. I think for some occasions – especially occasions when formal invitation cards were issued – I think a thank you card is the only proper way to express appreciation.

When I send my nephews a birthday gift, I don’t expect a thank you card, but it would be nice to get some sort of acknowledgement. Just a phone call to let me know the thing has arrived would suffice. Is that unreasonable?

Is it unreasonable for me to be irked when grown men push their way onto a bus ahead of older women or women with children? Is it unreasonable of me to expect a thank you when I hold a door for someone? Is it unreasonable of me to expect a thank you when I allow someone in line ahead of me? Is it too much to ask for one measly thanks when I feed a bunch of teenagers lounging around my place?

So, while these little courtesies may be old-fashioned and cumbersome and artificial, I think it elevates us just a teeny bit as civilized beings to hold on to them. 

[1] This very topic was once discussed on an episode of Seinfeld. Jerry had been given front row tickets for some ball game with a half-promise of more tickets for the following Friday. The Friday tickets never materialize and George claimed it was because Jerry did not follow-up with a thank-you phone call. Jerry feels that’s ridiculous since he thanked the guy several times in person already.

Traditional Airing of Grievances

Today, December 23rd, being the sacred day of Festivus, I am obliged by dictates of ritual to take part in the traditional Festivus Airing of Grievances. Orthodoxy states we must” lash out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year.”

This is going to be difficult because I haven’t really been disappointed by anyone or anything over the past 12 months. In fact, (and I almost don’t want to commit this to paper) I’ve had an exceptionally good year, personally. I will qualify that by saying that I don’t quite know how or why that should be so, since a good percentage of the people I know have had an exceptionally ungood year.

It never feels quite right to be enjoying good fortune or feeling happy when people close to you are suffering in some way. And yet, I know if someone else were writing this on their blog, I’d be the first to comment and tell them to savour the pleasant times because who knows what’s around the corner, carpe diem, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and other platitudinal stuff like that.

It’s interesting that when you’re miserable, people will try to cheer you up by telling you how lucky you are that something even worse didn’t happen to you. “Oh, you’ve been demoted from Managing Director to Mail Room Clerk? Well, you should thank your lucky stars that you still have a job.”


Nobody ever says, “Oh, you got promoted to Managing Director? Don’t be happy, just think how much happier Irwin is – he got promoted to CEO!”

Whatever is happening in your life, has to be the most important thing to you. Wallow in it. Let yourself feel miserable if it’s something crappy and, for this moment, to hell with all the zillions of people in the world who are worse off than you. And if you’re happy, by jiminy make the most of it. You can share your good fortune, which will only make you happier, but don’t pretend it doesn’t exist because that benefits no one.

So all this is totally not in keeping with the spirit of Festivus. And although I’m generally content at the moment, I do have some overall grievances that deserve some airing. I’ve probably mentioned these somewhere along the line before, but for the record, here they are:

  1. Customer Service. Yes, the whole damn concept. I get that work sucks and that working with the public must suck squared, or even cubed, because the public sucks. However, this is where you’ve chosen to work and/or have been obligated to work, so why not make the most of it. It costs you nothing to smile and treat people like human beings and will probably make your day a little better because a few people might smile back. And business owners – why not put a little effort into keeping your staff sweet? Give them some training, a few perks, maybe a livable salary and you’ll be surprised how your profits suddenly and magically increase.
  2. Motor Vehicle Operators who believe they are the center of the universe. Okay, you have a car and pay through the nose for it and for the insurance and maintenance and you think you pay too much for fuel although the rest of the world pays 5 times as much. Unfortunately, all that money you’ve forked out only buys you the vehicle – not the entire world and all those in it. You still have to share the roads with all us lame-assed pedestrians (and cyclists and motorcycles). And we’re going to slow you down and insist on crossing streets and not getting run over. Also, would it kill you to take one minute extra on your commute and not cut us off as we’re trying to negotiate a cross-walk during a blizzard? It means the difference between hypothermia and no hypothermia to us, FYI. Also, could you not park your car in the crosswalk, please? The light won’t get green any faster just because you’ve positioned yourself to bask in its glow. I really hate it when you do that and one day I might walk right across the hood of your car. (Or “bonnet” if I’m in the UK)
  3. Keep Moving People. If you’ve decided to live in and/or visit a city there are a few things you need to know. First, there are a lot of people in a city. When they’re out and about it’s because they need to get places. They haven’t come out to stand and chat on the sidewalk. They haven’t come out to stand and chat in grocery aisles. They haven’t come out to stand in doorways and chat. And they sure as hell have not come out to ride mall elevators. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – they’re stairs, ya’ll. But don’t listen to me. Rick Mercer says it so much better:

 Happy Festivus Every One!

There Must Be 50 Ways

A friend of mine, Liz, got divorced around three years ago after an almost 20 year marriage. She started dating again after a decent interval and has been seeing a man we’ll call Rick, for about 8 months.

The other day she broke up with Rick because a couple of weeks ago they ran into Rick’s ex-wife and Liz couldn’t get past the fact that the ex-wife was very, very not good-looking. Liz feels a little stupid about this as a reason for breaking up with someone with whom she’d been having a good relationship.

I pointed out that Jerry Seinfeld broke up with tons of women for much stupider reasons:

  •  One had “man” hands
  • One ate her peas one at a time
  • One wore the same dress on every date
  • One was exactly like Jerry and he couldn’t handle it
  • And then there was the one who had once dated Newman. The similarities are obvious.

Did my pointing this out make Liz feel any better? I doubt it. She really misses Rick, but is repelled by the idea that he was once ‘with” this Newmanesque wife – and for a long, long time.

Anyway, we ended up trying to think of other reasons we might dump somebody that wouldn’t ordinarily be considered deal-breakers. We eliminated stuff like criminal activity and the top five reasons people usually break up:

  • One person finds someone else/is unfaithful
  • The relationship becomes toxic because of substance abuse or physical abuse
  • They just get bored of each other/fall out of love
  • They want different things from life and no longer have a future together
  • There is a breach of trust that cannot be mended because of lies/secrets, etc.

I once broke up with someone I’d been seeing a short while because he told a completely inappropriate joke at a party – not once, but several times even after I and other friends told him the joke wasn’t the least bit funny and was, in fact, highly offensive. He didn’t get what we were getting all upset about, even when we talked about it the next day.

I’d break up with someone if they started smoking or doing something else that was stupid and reckless like driving drunk.

Speaking of eating peas one at a time, XUP Jr.’s boyfriend eats his meal one item at a time. First he takes a piece of whatever the protein part of the meal is. Puts it on his plate and slowly eats it. When it’s all gone, he takes (for instance) one piece of potato. Puts it on his plate and slowly eats it. Only when it’s all gone, does he take a spoonful of carrots and puts them on his plate and slowly eats them.

Anyway, Liz dumped a guy on their first date because he was almost half an hour late to meet her and had no excuse except “time got a way from him”. And he only said that after she pointed out that he was late. She left the restaurant before they’d even ordered.

What might be a deal-breaker for you that doesn’t fall under one of the usual five categories? Or, what’s the most Seinfeldy reason you’ve ever dumped someone or had someone dump you?