Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Foolish, Harmless Fun

I had an old tale to tell today, all prepared.  I mean I scanned old slides and cooked them up in Lightroom and Photoshop and was half ready with a narrative.  Then, last night, I watched t.v.  I've been watching too much t.v. lately.  I like to limit myself to one show a night, but recently for a variety of reasons, I've had no "go" in me, so I burry my head in this overly passive pastime.  I don't mind saying that I watch television.  Many years ago, I read a poll of authors, literary critics, and lit profs in which they reportedly said that they were reading less and watching television more.  In terms of time spent, it had become almost 50/50.  Part of this was that programming on networks like HBO, Amazon, and Netflix had targeted a more intellectual crowd.  High-brow, if you will.  Television programming had become an undeniable art form and university courses began to offer serious academic studies of them.  

Such it not the case so much now.  Those high-brow shows won accolades and awards, but they did not draw the big audiences that more mid- and lowbrow shows did.  That is. . . they didn't make much money.  If you want to make money, reality t.v. is the way to go.  "Naked and Afraid," and "My Six Hundred Pound Life," and "Dr. Pimple Popper" can make you a fortune.  If you want to make a fictional show, stick with the slapstick sit-coms.  

The latest "Golden Age of Television" has succumbed to the profit motive, and like all things of that ilk, have become watered down pablum.  

So this is my semi-shameful confession after writing yesterday that I hadn't a t.v. or a telephone for a decade and spent my time reading.  That is true.  I don't read as much as I used to.  

And now, mostly sad and in need of distraction, rather than call upon the great authors. . . .

It is not all sad news, of course.  I spend much of my t.v. time watching educational programs, lectures on art and literature and history, so it is not entirely wasted time.  I watched several interviews with Martin Amis yesterday, for instance.  That, however, I found to be an entire waste of time.  He was dull in conversation with little new or interesting to say, unlike his good friend Christopher Hitchens.  I'll not be spending any more time watching him.  

After that, I often turn to something along the lines of "Deadwood" or "Boardwalk Empire" or "Mad Men."  I've watched those, so not those, exactly, but of that ilk.  As I've mentioned, I've taken lately to rewatching "The Wire."

But my confession is this--I watched really stupid stuff, too.  And worse, it makes me feel silly good.  I never would have.  I disdained such things.  But when I was with Ili who was a smart girl who loved to laugh, she brought me to a ridiculous show called "Southern Charms" set in Charleston.  Oh my God, as the kids used to say. . . what a giggle.  We would snuggle up on the couch in the dim light of the t.v. room with drinks and let 'er roll.  It was stupid stupid, but I never had so much fun.  It was like riding something at the fair you wouldn't want your friends seeing you ride.  It was nothing to brag about, just a small, delicious secret between lovers.  Goodness. . . I never would have dreamed.  She found a fellow who wrote about the show in a local paper in Charleston, I think.  I just tried to find him, but holy smokes, it seems every major and minor publication in the world was writing about this show.  I wish I could remember his name, though, for he was a tremendously funny should-be-famous writer.  I hope he is.  

I think Ili had some ties to Charleston through a former beau, and maybe there was some thrill in subjecting me to a bit of her past, but I have never been one to want people to deny a former life, so I never took it as punishment.  Nope.  It was, by and large, a marvelous time.  

So. . . here comes my Big Confession.  I have been in the dumps, listless and enervated, and have wished only to sit on the big couch and watch television for weeks.  It is muggy now in the late afternoons and the summer showers have already begun, so sitting on the deck after mother's is either uncomfortable or impossible.  Where I would have cooked and taken my meal to the deck, I now sit in front of the television.  I try to be smart.  I start with some YouTube educational thing, but dinner done, after dinner drink poured, I turn on something else.  Last night, it was "The Wire."  When that was done, there was still daylight outside.  I broke from the television and prepared some photos for what was supposed to be today's story.  When that was done, however, it was back to the television.  

And OMG!  There is a stupid stupid show I have watched all on my own.  A secret show, so stupid it could only be shared with a loved one.  To sit in the darkened room on the big leather couch with my own true love and watch "Selling Sunset,". . . .  No, it's true.  I know you will shun me, that all estimates of my mental capacities, such as they are, will be nullified.  But yes, I've binged "Selling Sunset," and now, after years of nothing, it is back!  A glass of whiskey to help me with the stupidity and boom, I was ready to watch the first episode.  

It was truly, stupidly idiotic.  I wanted someone smart to sit on the couch and watch it with me, because on my own, I felt shame.  

It was really, horribly good.  

I know some of you have turned me off by now, you who like to take LSD and sit by the sea in Latin America or take ayahusca in the jungles of Peru.  That's o.k.  I don't think those things are any more profound than watching "Southern Charms."  Indeed, maybe less so.  

After watching the first episode, I wasn't sure what to do.  It was still early.  I will go to bed early--quite early some nights--but it was not late enough even for me.  I could not watch episode two, though.  I would draw out this idiotic madness as long as I could.  

After walking around the house, looking at books, cleaning the kitchen, pouring another drink, I came back to the couch.  I put on the latest episode of another pleasure that I will miss in a couple weeks when it ends.  "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."  

O.K. I'm stupid.  I'm an emotional wreck.  Kick me if you want.  There is nothing like kicking a man when he is down.  This is what I get for living the life I have lived.  This is how it turns out.  

I found myself overwhelmed with emotion several times.  Suddenly.  Uncontrollably.  You see, something is broken in me.  Something is terribly wrong.  As I sit here thinking about it now, though, I don't remember ever being overwhelmed to the point of tears, actual tears, when reading a book.  I find that incredibly curious thinking that now.  I've felt emotions, of course, some sadness, say, at the end of "Light Years," but I didn't actually weep.  But even a dumb show can bring on a physical, physiological reaction.  Yes, it is curious indeed.  There is a great power to a show, a film, the combination of things.  Technology used correctly. . . . 

Sometimes it is the music.  And at the end of "Maisel," over the closing credits, an old song played.  It was something I have trouble believing I never heard before.  I had to look it up.  

And I spent the remaining hours before bed listening to music.  I was up later than usual.  I am a sap.  I don't think we should let this be known beyond our little group here, though.  As I say, it is a confession, and if you are Catholic or have watched mobster movies, you know that the priest never tells.  I expect that you, too, will offer me a penance to absolve me of my idiocy.  

For truly, that is all it is.  I have committed nothing like a sin.  I'm just a mess.  And I just want to yuck it up, you know, with. . . . 

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