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Tatum: Surfing back to the library

Posted: February 24, 2015 9:06 a.m.
Updated: February 25, 2015 1:00 a.m.

“Seriously, moron?  How about just clean up the place already!”

My face flushes, my blood pressure spikes.

“Nouveau riche cretin! Why do you need a seven bedroom house when you don’t even have kids?”

Like John Kennedy Toole’s Ignatius J. Reilly delivering his bombastic screeds from the darkness of the movie theater, so my sense of theology and geometry bubbles forth, coprolaliacally, at the objects of my contempt as I yell contemptuously at the soulless dullards on my television screen.

My temper will seesaw this way until I hit this ridiculously depressing realization: I am watching total strangers on television buy a house.

What fresh hell is this?

The worst part is that I’m doing this voluntarily -- paid to do it -- to the tune of something like, well, that doesn’t matter. I should be gouging my eyes out with grapefruit spoons for spending even a dime on any of this.

The pod people win again.

I read somewhere that cable television may well be going the way of the Dodo. I would like to think this is happening because we as a society are finally getting a little smarter, but I suppose it depends on who you ask.

Cable and satellite companies will tell you they’re just fine and if you act now, you can bundle truly amazing deals in exchange for, you know, your immortal soul. I understand that such alternatives as Netflix and streaming video are giving pay TV serious headaches, and of course, by now we have a couple of generations of folks who demand everything but pay for nothing.

To me, it’s not so much that we pay stratospheric sums for something that used to be free -- although that does enter my taxonomy of things I hate today.

No, my real objection is this contradiction in terms for which we pay said stratospheric sums -- this plethora of offerings coupled with a profound lack of choices. Or to employ an ancient cliché, a 25-cent white elephant is only a bargain if you have a quarter and you need a white elephant.

When the cable company tells me they’re going to give me 250 channels for 50 bucks, or some such, including movies and premium entertainment, it does actually sound pretty good for a moment.

The problem is I don’t need most of those channels -- but I can’t dump the ones I don’t want. I don’t need 34 sports channels. I don’t need Spanish, channels, either; I speak English. I don’t need 25 fishing shows or five DIY stations. I sure as heck do not need home shopping networks, religious channels or MTV.  Yet thanks to the FCC, I have to buy a lot of things I don’t want or need to get the few things I do want.

My dad refused to get cable TV. He always said he only watched two things, the ball game and the weather report and he only needed one channel for that. He also had no use for trendiness, a character trait he passed on to me.

What chaps me is seeing the same shows on a dozen channels.  I get especially exercised when two or three channels that by title suggest they air different content -- say science fiction versus history -- yet they run the same lame shows, the same lame knock offs of the same lame shows, or some vapid combination thereof. Just how many times do I have to pay for these things anyway?

I’m even starting to see the same recycling on classic movie channels. Yes, I enjoy such vintage holiday staples as “It’s a Wonderful Life” -- seen it many times over the years -- but in July? Really?

On general principal I despise reality TV. It disturbs and offends me that a lot of people -- many of whom vote, drive, and own firearms -- care about the Kardashians or actually know what a Honey Boo Boo is.

Yet even I am not totally immune, as evidenced by the first paragraph of this column. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not so above it all that I don’t watch TV at all -- on the contrary, I spend way too much time doing just that.

It’s kind of funny, I always thought people who said things like, “I only watch educational television,” were arrogant, condescending and largely less-than-truthful nimrods. Yet I am, in fact, one of those people who prefer ETV to about anything else these days. I came by that particular quirk of geek-dom in high school, when on Saturday nights ETV would air such fantastic comedic treats as “The Goodies,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Fawlty Towers” and “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin,” to name a few.

I guess the one good thing this tsunami of broadcast pabulum has done is to get me back to the public library even more. In fact, I love the library here. I can find all manner of entertainment -- and it’s all for free -- or rather it’s tax money well spent.

Hmmm. Read a book. What a concept!

Seems to me a lot of folks out there should try it sometime -- even if it is a book about Honey Boo Boo.


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