Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Talking about Screen-love at Hopeful Parents

It's not the 10th of the month, it's the 12th. But I'm over at Hopeful Parents today. I may be a day late (well, 2 days actually), but at least I'm not a dollar short.

My post: No screen-free for me

All about how we were so NOT participating in screen free week over here. But I am working to accept that, for TV is what taught Jake to talk and for that I will always be grateful.

It has been some week - my Listen to Your Mother Show happening last Sunday, My NYT Motherlode Blog post appearing last Monday, and then an overnight road trip yesterday to see Philly's LTYM sister show. (I never go away overnight!) Whew.

Hopefully things will settle down a bit soon. Meanwhile, go read me over there today. OK? Thanks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Cube and I

I am sitting crosslegged on the sofa, ignoring the cat batting at me, attempting to wrest the Twinkie from my hand. She sprints to the living room’s windowed wall, fantasy-stalking the birds flitting about the feeder, newly filled by my mother.

Their hungry chirps an invitation to come outside and play before this winter afternoon’s blue light fades to black.

Though the huge nor’easter was two weeks past, there are still deep piles of snow out back, making odd, lumpen shapes out of our backyard’s buried furnishings: picnic table transformed into igloo palace.

But the pull of something else bears a stronger seduction: an ugly square box with golden antennae perched atop. Curved glass holding shifting ghosts of black and white.

It’s 4:30 PM. Sunday afternoon. I am watching TV.

And after today, February 23rd, 1969, my brain will never be the same again.

I am, as is common, alone; my parents busy, elsewhere…  Mom in the laundry room perhaps, Dad in the darkroom.

I turn on the TV set. Channel 4, NBC. OK, why not?

Something comes on. Something I have never seen before, and, for many years afterwards, am not sure I had actually seen then, not just hallucinated:

“The Cube.”  

I see this...

There is a man alone in a small white room.

Perfectly square.

A cube.

Each wall, floor, ceiling made up of a 4x4 grid of white squares, in turn.
The man is searching, questioning: What is going on? Why is he here?

People begin to enter the cube, interact with the man.

But no one gives him answers.

They only draw him into their own dramas.

The mystery deepens.

Existential angst engulfs.

People talk:

“None of us are real, he’s not real, we’re all projected.”

“Well, as I interpret what you’re doing here, this is all a very complex discussion of Reality versus Illusion. The perfect subject for the television medium!”

Reality shreds, hangs on by a thread, disappears completely, appears to return, and then? Poof, in a whiff of strawberry jam, it is gone…

What remains?

The Cube.

So yes, at age eight and a half, I had my already precocious mind completely blown by a bit of TV.

Produced for NBC Experiment in Television, directed & co-written by Jim Henson (yes, that one).

This will be hard for those born into the cable-TV-10,000-channels-that-must-be-filled-at-all-times years, but this aired exactly twice.

Once, the day I saw it, February 23, 1969, and once again in 1970.

Then it disappeared.

When I would describe it to friends, with a few rare exceptions, they would look at me as if I had three heads, shake their own heads and declare that nothing that strange had ever appeared on television; I must have made it up, so fantastic did it sound.

But oh, it was real. Very real.

If you have never seen it (and I am guessing this describes 99.9% of you) you must.


"The Cube" a tele-film by Jim Henson (& Jerry Juhl), 1969

Now imagine yourself a hyper-sensitive, highly intelligent not-yet-nine year old girl with an over-active imagination and a developing penchant for getting stuck in the revolving doors of her own mind, watching THAT alone on a long ago February afternoon...

Anybody have any questions as to when the seeds were planted for me to become a student of avant-garde filmmaking at an experimental college at 17? A hippie, lesbian, college-drop-out, bean-sprout farmer living in a primitive geodesic dome on a ridgetop in Northern California at age 20?

And then, at 33, a married, Manhattanite, globe-trotting corporate video producer with a closet full of suits?

I thought not.

This post was inspired by a prompt at The Red Dress Club. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a post about a TV show from your past. 
Please click on the button above, go to the link-up and read the other wonderful posts you'll find there.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

T is for Television

T is for Television.



Idiot box.

One eyed monster.

The lazy mom's babysitter.

My son Jacob's true love, language teacher, and best friend.

I have such a love/hate relationship with this beast.

I am a child of the second great age of television, the 1960s.  My husband, seven years my senior, was a child of the first, the golden age, the 1950s.

We watched TV, we loved TV, but it was different. Inane kids programming wasn't available 24/7.  We watched family shows, as a family.

We watched the news, because that was on and our families were interested in the world and what was happening in it.  My family watched a lot of public television, and I learned a lot of science, culture, history there.

There was a downside. In the 1960s everybody on TV was white. Really, very few exceptions. They stood out. It was bizarre, a weird, completely un-true mirror of the world. I got to witness the sea change, the transformation across my lifetime. Although I skipped a few years.

Hard to believe, but it's true: from about 1978 through 1987, nearly a decade, I did not own a television. I would watch when I went home to visit my family, at friend's houses, in bars, Superbowl parties, Oscar nights.

But TV, in those years? Not a daily part of my life.

Hard to imagine, now, where barely an hour goes by that some screen doesn't come on.

My kids watch too much, are too enamored. I know that, but its hard to change.

Jacob, like many autistic kids, learns well through repetition. He really did learn much of his early language from the television, from videos that tied visuals to words, helped to make more abstract concepts (above, before, friend) visual, visceral. Computer programs helped him learn to read.

But the line between helpful and too much? Very fuzzy, a quite wavering line in the sand.

The other night the boys and I were watching the rather inane, yet somehow enjoyed by us, "Family Game Night" show on TV and I had a moment where the normality of TV dissolved away. (When words appear to lose their coherence and meaning it's called dereifying... I wonder what to call it for an object?)

And I was staring at this box of moving lights and pictures squatting on a low table in our living room. (Yeah, we still have a deep square box of a TV, circa 1995, wanna make something of it?)

A person appeared on it and I thought "How strange... here's this person I do not know, in my living room talking to me. This... box... delivers stories and entertainment, information, and so much more into my very living room."

And I thought about what a strange thing it is to live at this specific time in history where this is so, and for such a large part of humanity. More people in the USA have televisions than have indoor plumbing. No lie.

Think about it: a thousand channels and still crapping in the woods seems like an OK trade off to some folks.

And we have so many of these screens in our lives, I know my children will find it very hard to conceive of a time before; before these magic panels of information and entertainment... capable of enabling heretofore unprecedented levels of connectedness, or our isolation.

It made me wonder (constantly, as a former anthropology major like me wonders about, questions, ponders every presumably unquestionable cornerstone of my own culture) what someone from a completely pre- or post- modern civilization (or an alien visitor) would think if they wandered into an American living room and saw that object of frequent worship on the mantelpiece in all its glory.

I would love to explore from a fresh, clean slate perspective the role that TV has in our lives. But it's not easy to do, precisely because the first thing this glut, this overload of info does is to make a clean slate impossible.

It is very difficult to have my own thoughts and ideas on things when so many others are available in overwhelming, flooding proportion with the click of a key, the push of a button, the swipe of a finger.

And as I dive into all these other images/ideas? The first thing that comes to mind is this perspective...

My friend Todd Alcott, long before he was a hotshot LA screenwriter, when he was a not-quite-starving but always quite brilliant New York City playwright and performance artist / monologist, wrote a fabulous piece wherein he speaks in the voice of the Television, embodying the spirit of TV, as it were.

I have seen him perform this monologue, have a copy of it in a closet somewhere, in a cardboard box full of his early writings, solemnly handed to me to read once (for that is how writers seduce, with our words) in the five minutes, twenty plus years ago, when I was his girlfriend.

Someone recently created a video to go along with Todd reading his Television monologue.  And, because this is 2011 and anything created can now be found, uploaded, widely distributed... you can watch it here:

Television is a drug. by Todd Alcott.

Right now, I think I will let this stand, add nothing more; but this...

There is small part of my soul, luddite, that wonders what life would be like unplugged, and longs to experience that with my kids, for even a brief while, a vacation, perhaps.  Although they would enter that experiment howling and screaming, probably becoming completely unhinged.

But afterward?  The real world; unmediated, unfiltered, unveiled, unshrouded, un-predigested by the screens...  it beckons.

But, oh...? If I want to blog about it? I'll have to bring along at least one screen-like device. Oh, well.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And isn't it nice that "T" is also the letter and name of my favorite drink, tea?

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