Monday, May 22, 2006

Check Your Local Programming

With its anonymity, formlessness, and deficit of fact checkers, the Internet can make liars out of us all, or at least it allows us to hide inconvenient truths about ourselves.

Some take the opposite tack, telling anything and all about themselves—that anonymity again—but not this cowboy. I'm more likely to embellish, like going into chatrooms as an 18-year-old blonde lesbian ready for some hot cyber action, likely with some other middle-aged guy who is pretending to be an 18-year-old blonde lesbian dying for hot cyber action.

Thus, it is with some hesitance that I reveal the following:

I have done air guitar and white man's overbite over the age of 40.

I truly believe that bowling represents the highest form of human existence.

And I am a TV addict.

I have not addressed this latter issue, the most evil, nefarious, awful threat to my writing career, because I steadfastly have believed it is not a problem, like a junkie saying he doesn't have a problem while shooting up, like a family member pretending Junior doesn't have a heroin problem, or like a drug dealer pretending that he's doing a public service.

Graphic evidence

I am addicted to television, but to be more truthful, I'm addicted to distraction. These days, most distractions are related to the computer: games, burning CDs, surfing. Or air guitar. But as grew up far before the Dawn of the Internet, television is my original, brain-wasting exercise and why I have not written more than I have, or that my writing isn't better.

(I guess I could say to myself, "Maybe my writing is not more voluminous or of a higher quality because I just have nothing to say and I have no talent," but that, as we all know, is simply an excuse to quit, and the coward's way out. I'd rather blame something else.)

As I grew up before there was e-mail and PlayStation, I wasted prodigious hours before our family's warm blue glow. Cartoons, game shows, dramas, comedies, pro wrestling, "Wide World of Sports," just about anything but soap operas. The "ABC Movie of the Week," I was there. "The Price Is Right," I was there with Bob Barker. "The Six-Million Dollar Man," "Star Trek," and hell, even "Barnaby Jones."

In a way, it's amazing that I ever became a writer, or am not illiterate.

My purpose is not to give those of us old enough to reminisce that we can rebuild Steve Austin—better, faster, stronger—but that television has rotted my brain from a very early age and can take up inordinate amounts of time if I let it.

I knew better. So worried was I that yours truly did not own a television until my mid-30s. I didn't get cable until 2002. Far from being a Luddite or a snob, I feared that once I got TV, I would never write again.

Wife and I got a set when we started playing house, and if it has not been fatal to my writing, it now plays the role of constant temptation.

Even though there's really very little to watch. Save for "The Sopranos," there isn't a show that I make a point of watching every week. But there's always Law & Order repeats, all the time. We're talking the regular show and two spinoffs, of course, but there's always a murder, rape, or robbery for New York's finest to solve.

Not to mention "Seinfeld" reruns, "South Park," "WWE Raw," and a whole panoply of fine family programming.

It’s odd how, when I'm stuck on a piece of fiction, feeling jumpy and unsure of myself, my inclination is to watch television, to park myself in front of that radiating box of ultimate acceptance—no TV set, star, or show ever rejected one of my stories.

Hello, my name is Bookfraud, and I'm a TV addict

A wise teacher of Wife's said that television had corroded a generation of writers, and that all of one's free time should be spent in a book. Sound advice, if followed. This older gentleman came of age long before cable, never mind the Internet, so it was easier for him to avoid the four channels of crap available back then, instead of the 500 channels of crap available to us now.

On several occasions, Wife has lauded my discipline, my ability to come home from work and launch right into composing the written word. But she also notes that I am not one to unwind, and this probably leaves me less productive, for about twenty minutes after setting off for my adventures in the Land of Fiction Writing, I feel the siren call of television.

Perhaps I should start a new book. Reading or writing one. Help me.