/ Media /
The first time I saw a TV was in the 1940s, 1948 maybe. The father of a kid up the street was an engineer developing TV for some familiar company: RCA maybe. (No, he didn’t work at home; this, though identical to his work in Manhattan, was his private project, a hobby as it were.) (What that really meant I suspect was that he worked 24/7!) The semi-comprehensible part of the TV was the oscilloscope. It was about 2 square inches in surface. The rest of the TV was electronic guts sprawled over a work table. (No room for dining in that house: wires, tubes, connections, adaptors … No room for much of anything: all they rented was the narrow upstairs.) Mostly there was nothing but a hum on the TV system, then, for a moment, there’d be a pattern, a signal. Then, amazing: there’d be Bob Smith and Howdy Doody: only Howdy Doody wasn’t cute, freckled, and cuddly; Howdy Doody was skinny, menacing, a Pinocchio.
Then there’d be patterns, fractured signals, static, and a fragment of a baseball game. One weekend there was a bit of Milton Berle. I wasn’t close to this kid, I didn’t see much.
In the 1950s we got a TV of our own! But by that time I was TV-resistent, a non-believer. Oh, I did watch this and that movie, and bore myself silly, hypnotized by pitchmen with a genius for making us feel like Jews neglecting to be kosher, like a fat lady eating more cake. It was addictive, but I resisted the addiction, trying to keep my channels open for God to come in. Other kids watched cartoons; I resisted: but saw some anyway.
Nevertheless there was much I didn’t see. Skip a few decades, I’ll give you an example: Taxi was in x years of reruns before I ever saw a single episode: thereafter I watched every Taxi I could. (I still tout Andy Kaufman as one of the great comedians.)
Come at the same complex from a different angle:
I was a jazz nut: from 1947 or 1948. In the 1950s John Lambert sang about “taking Lucille Ball, and all them chicks, and lining them upside the wall …” But that was another area in which I’d proved to be an atheist: I simply never fell in love with Lucy.
Lucy rubbed me the wrong way. Fred and Ethyl rubbed me the wrong way, like the Pinocchio Howdy Doody. But what I really suspect it was was Desi Arnaz: I couldn’t stand him. I hate nasal Spanish, especially high-pitched nasal Spanish. Even as a teen I’d heard too many Cubans who sounded like a wheezy tea kettle. Maybe though what I hated was a Cuban with a band that wasn’t Machito, didn’t have Chano Pozo: had never teamed with Dizzy, recorded with Bird. Maybe what I hated was a famous blond thinking this Desi sleeze-ball was sexy.
Start the stitch again, from a different angle:
Similarly, then and since (till very recently), I resisted yellow journalism, from the tabloids (and from the NY Times): on the checkout line at the A&P I would studiously not read the National Inquirer headlines.
That remained true for the better part of seventy years: till the last couple. Now my.yahoo has addicted me to its celebrity fly traps. Once I didn’t know what Taxi was, then I was a total addict. Once I didn’t care if Burton bought Liz a diamond the size of a pervert’s prostate; now I follow every yahoo lure to Answers.com. I see the kind of a trap it is, but I go anyway. I just did it again, I just learned more than I’d never wanted to know about the I Love Lucy show. As with Taxi, I’m in love. I mourn how I wasted my life keeping my channels open for God: I could have been glued to I Love Lucy.
Here are a couple of precious tabloid-like things I didn’t know:
Fred and Ethyl, the actors, really hated each other! Gee! just like me!
Lucy was sponsored by Philip Morris. So Lucy had to smoke, all the time: to appear to smoke Philip Morris. But Lucy, the actual media mogul, smoked Chesterfields! (Gee, just like me!) (just like Drag Net!) So the staff had to empty the Philip Morris out of the Philip Morris pack and stuff the pack with Chesterfields!
Stupid me, I went to college, I went to grad school, I became a professor. I was one of the professors purged by the bomb-the-gooks US. I could have been watching Lucy!
I was busy keeping my channels open for God, but when God lit up those channels (late 1960s), spurring me to offer the world a nice anarchist internet, 1970: a non-coercive data base, a free marketplace, not just the US, the whole society, the grass roots morons, blocked God’s message with wall-to-wall mindless noise: and that was even before Phil Spector, fell Phil, numbed the world with his wall-of-sound.
my.yahoo offers to tell me which celebrities have the barest boobs. I bite. Knowing what I know, despite that, I bite. I’m whisked to answers.com. There’s the trap. I know the architecture. They show a celebrity with nearly bare boobs. Some blond I never heard of. Taylor Swift. I still have no idea who she is. (Why, I’d have to listen to popular music to know who she is: retch.) There are a half dozen right arrows to click. One will whisk me to an ad for a testosterone booster, another to advice on how to inflate my boobs. But I see them, I avoid them. I recognize, despite the confusion, the manipulated chaos, the correct, nearly hidden, NEXT button, which takes me, as promised, to the almost bare boobs of Pamela Anderson.
I’m so skilled, I was able to stay with Lucy scandals despite all the lures to inflate my boobs or get lost in testosterone.