Friday, August 15, 2008

Walden 2.0

If you ever wanted to know if you were really addicted to something all you have to do is ask yourself: what are the things you need automatically (aside from the whole shower, clothes routine) once you get up in the morning? Whatever that is, whether it be the bottle, the needle, the pipe, coffee, World of Warcraft, love, or potato chips; that is your addiction. In my case the first thing I usually reach for after getting my glasses on is the remote. I am fully aware that there is absolutely nothing worthwhile on or that whatever piece of possible morning news will be of little consequence in my usual daily schedule of doing nothing. However, from the moment I get up, I need the mindless chatter of Al Roker talking about diet tips or the opening guitar riffs of a Saved By the Bell rerun, or the optimistic pitch of a Body By Jake infomercial filling my room to truly start the day and make me feel right again.

Of course another good indicator of addiction is the five to eight hours or so a day I spend watching TV at home during the summer. You can also throw in the internet into that addiction checklist as well. It's a pretty substantial supplement to the TV watching and when I'm at school (where I have no personal TV) it basically acts as a total substitute. So yeah, my name is Victor and I'm a TV/Internet addict. Shocker! It could be a lot worse, I could be a heroin junkie or be obsessively into bodybuilding, or have an out of control addiction to inhaling computer dust remover.

Having just read this startling personal revelation of mine, try to imagine the sort of unspeakable red nightmare that I had just gone through in the past three plus days that my television and internet was out! That right, due to a freak thunderstorm early Monday morning the cable line to my house got damaged enough to completely cut me off until a repair crew could have been sent. Unfortunately the earliest the cable company could have sent someone was yesterday afternoon. These 72 or so hours I spent broken down on the side road of the information superhighway were just about the longest in recent memory. I have in the past gone just as long or even longer without access to both TV and the internet but usually I was distracted by vacation or camp or being four years old. This outage was during my prime summer weeks where I hardly do anything else but watch TV and go on the internet!

While this was a deeply scarring and traumatic ordeal for me, as with every trying crucible, one comes out of the fire with some hard earned personal insights and revelations. Fortunately my insights came in a convenient list form:

Insight 1: DVDs are as never as good as television. My attempts to while the hours away by seeking refuge in my DVD collection reaffirmed the old truth that a show or movie you catch on TV is always better than you putting that exact same show or movie's DVD in and watching it. There's a certain satisfaction of just casually running across an episode of Seinfeld that you've seen a million times over actually going to your shelf, picking that DVD and selecting it. Perhaps its the element of surprise, perhaps it's because that extraneous step of getting it all set up before watching it (like fumbling with a condom before sex) just ruins the mood by the time it starts, or the fact that you can skip to any part immediately makes it all too easy. There's just some unknown quality about it that makes everything taste a lot less sweet. When it comes to shows and movies I'm like a snake. I'll ignore the prepared, laid out dead mouse of the DVD and go for the chase of a real live mouse to the TV.

Insight 2: Microsoft Hearts is totally rigged. The loss of the internet was a particularly emasculating experience for my computer. This once wondrous gateway to wikipedia, sports scores, and pornography became basically just an elaborate word processor...and Solitaire/Hearts machine. I haven't this much Hearts since the first month we got Windows 95. I never really got down with he singular joy of challenging myself in Solitaire, when there was the opportunity for a tense, ruthless four way battle between East, North, West, and myself provided by Hearts. However after dozens of games of Hearts I've come to the conclusion that there must be some programed fail safe device that prevents anyone from winning more than 30% of their games. Whether it's hand after hand after hand of getting stuck with the Queen of Spades or the one side shooting the moon multiple times a game or losing by a single point in the final round; I am fairly convinced that there is some serious collusion going on between the other three sides.

Insight 3: Public libraries still have the crappiest computers around. Like Thoreau in Walden I was not technically cut off from all contact. I did manage to briefly check my emails one day at the local public library. It was like being teleported back to my middle school typing class. These seemingly ancient, glacier slow, sticky, computers with outdated software made for a frustrating half an hour of reserved time. I'm surprised it wasn't running on Prodigy internet and there wasn't a desktop shortcut to play "Sim Tower" (actually "Sim Tower" would have been pretty sweet). Of course in a perverse way these are actually the perfect computers for the overwhelming majority of the people that actually use them: old folks (and possibly tech savvy homeless people). A feature laden, modern computer with a complex interface and a lightening fast broadband connection would confuse and stupefy your average geriatric library patron as they try to sign into their AOL account to forward an amusing e-card to their grandchildren.

Insight 4: Life - (TV+Internet) = OMFG TOO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS!! As I said before, these three days were really the three longest days I could remember. You never realize how much of a prodigious time sink TV and the internet are until you have to fill in the hours of the day without them. I could easily burn through hours and hours watching the tube or surfing the net but it takes a Herculean display of will power on my part to just sit still for one whole minute (try it yourself, it's a lot more difficult then it seems). It's almost like being in a coma, you don't move and a huge chunk of time passes, and at the end you have nothing to show for it. I don't even know what I actually do online or watch on TV; it's like seemingly instant bridge from the morning to the night. It should fill me with an incredible sense of sadness at the countless hours of my youth spent just staring at screens if it weren't for...

Insight 5: Even if I cut down on TV and the internet, I still probably won't do anything productive. This is the big final insight I gleamed. I shouldn't feel any guilt or shame about spending my days dicking around on the internet or flipping channels for hours on end, because in the end I most likely would not have done anything more productive with that time. The copious amounts of free time that were the by product of my cable outage did not open up a whole new outlook for me nor finally cleared my life of the distractions that were holding me back from accomplishing life goals or whatever. I didn't paint a portrait or run a 10k or write a novel. A significant part of my time (aside from all the Hearts games) was just spend staring the walls or sleeping. At least with TV and the internet I'm passively picking up new information (albeit 99% trivial and useless) and writing an infrequently updated blog for all you fans out there.

Regrets? I'm too distracted to have them.

1 comment:

  1. Wow-I was so ready to give up drink and the almighty herb. I thought I might accomplish something. Now that I realize I never will and it is a futile effort, I feel like gas huffing might be the lifestyle for me...

    Though I gotta say that girl Allison has to get herself a coke dealer.