Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tempest in a television teacup

Looks like I put my foot in it. I commented on DeAnn's blog about the perils of television addiction, and seem to have stirred a bit of a hornet's nest. Her original posting outlined how she uses a spreadsheet to keep track of the shows that she watches. My thoughts on the matter were simple: if you're using a spreadsheet to track the status of your television-watching, perhaps this is a sign of overuse of the medium.

I did so as the agent provocateur, writer-type that I am. Sometimes, I find myself stirring the nest knowing full well what will happen after a few well-placed literary pokes.

Read the posting that started it all here.
Read my comment here.
Read the response here.

What I said was:
I think we all need to cancel cable (or satellite, or whatever else we subscribe to) and get outside so we can stare at the sky. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by television, some downtime always seems to set me straight. TV Tuneout Month at my children's school is the greatest thing going!
(Sorry to be a party pooper...TV's killing the planet.)
I'll remain defiantly cynical of the belief that watching double-digit hours of television every week helps most people lead richer lives. When you need a spreadsheet to keep track of which shows you watch, what you've taped or saved on Tivo, and what you've yet to hunt down, maybe it's time to step away from the box and interact with the real world a little more. Some television is good, healthy, and educational. Too much television is decidedly not.

The bottom line is quite simple: Healthy debate is a good thing. I am not offended by the response. Nor do I regret stating my opposition to overuse of television - or, for that matter, any one medium. Life's all about variety, and as my Mom used to say, too much of anything is no good.

It's so grand being a cranky writer. It sure gives me lots of column ideas.


Krista said...

personally..it sounds like WAY too much t.v.
but thats just my opinion.
maybe its a job she has...where dhe has to report on what she watches...ya....that makes sense. sorta. ok well maybe not.

DeAnn said...

I'm absolutely positive that it WOULD BE too much TV for most people, probably including you both, Carmi, and Krista.

However, I get off work at 11:30 p.m. Is that really a time to be out hiking or spending time with other people? I wish, but most people in my life are fast asleep by then. That doesn't stop me, though. If people are up, they are always my first priority. ALWAYS. You can ask anyone in my life: I never put TV before people or other options (hence, the being so far behind on watching).

That all said, I stay up until between 2 and 4 in the morning (occasionally I go to bed "early," which is around 1 or 1:30, but that's very rare) -- sometimes I spend that time reading novels (believe it or not, I'm in two book clubs and I read other books on the side) or reading blogs or watching TV or all of the above. And I still get up by 10 a.m. every morning and get plenty of normal things in before I have to be at work again at 3:30 p.m.

So, I do appreciate the concern you guys have for me simply because I use a spreadsheet (FYI, I am an obsessive organizer; I also put all clean dishes UNDER the dishes already in the cupboard when unloading the dishwasher and put the freshly washed T-shirts under the ones already in my closet because I need them all to be worn/eaten off of in order. AND I have to have bath prodcuts facing forward in my shower. In other words, if anything is unhealthy here it's my overzealous and compulsive organizational skills -- including the spreadheet, which I don't even use very often because my TV schedule is not too difficult to memorize -- not the amount of TV I watch per day or per week, which can very from 0 hours quite often to 16 hours -- although less because I don't watch commercials -- if I watch every show that is included in my spreadsheet, which I rarely do. And, to be honest, they're rarely all on in a given week.)

Anyway, I didn't really lay out my own story over at my blog, although maybe I should have. I just don't judge people based on my own choices, and I didn't expect to be judged for mine. Of course our lives are totally different. That's what's great about the world, isn't it?

I'm sure I spend as much or more time with the people in my life as anyone you know, and I still manage to read books and watch TV and read blogs and watch movies and read and write e-mail and go for walks and talk on the phone and volunteer and clean my house and many other things. I probably have lunch or dinner or coffee with about five friends each week. And that's not even counting the time I spend with my live-in boyfriend. Or my family. I just don't sleep a lot. Five to six hours a night is it for me. If all people slept that much, they could fit in all of the things I do, too. And I really don't relax very often. My therapist once told me that she would think it were abnormal to watch as much movies and TV as I do if it weren't the only thing in my life that I do to relax. She said, because I'm always going, going, going, she thinks it's actually healthy for me to take that time to do something relaxing. So, see? It's even good for my mental health.

By the way, I'm glad you posted the comment, too, Carmi, because it's certainly generated some discussion -- even over here!!

Wheelson said...

Wow...what a day filled with synchronicity. First recent political thoughts lined up very closely with what PBWriter has on her blog. I commented on the blog she linked to and started thinking about how "nice" is it to state a contradictory opinion on someone's blog who maybe didn't ask to hear my opinion.

From just that experience about 10 blog topic ideas sprouted. Now this has planted even more seeds!

Seems to me that people have yet to figure out how to discuss differing opinions. Any practice we get and learning how to do that is good. As I've been preaching lately during some of my online debates...initial discussion or debate shouldn't have the goal of changing someone's mind...it's about understanding. Once there is understanding then we can discuss the merits an opinion is based on.

That takes work and it takes time. It also takes humility...all the way around the table.

Your debate with DeAnn serves as an excellent lesson that "arguments" don't need to end in us hating each other and can help us understand our fellow planet mates.

DeAnn said...

I agree.

To be honest, I probably like Carmi more ever since he posted that comment (not that I didn't like him before). Most people would think that's weird, but I like friendly debate. And I don't think anything about this has been out-and-out unfriendly.

carmilevy said...

I'm right there with you both. Constructive, respectful discussion is the cornerstone of who I am. It is how others review my work, and it is how a group of content creators can combine to produce a better final result.

It is never disrespectful, personal, or spiteful. It is always done with the intent of highlighting additional perspectives on any given issue - perspectives which might have otherwise been missed had the discussion not been broadened in this manner.

This interaction was precisely that, and more. At no time did my blood pressure go up. It was likely the most professional, vibrant written conversation I've had in a while!

I look forward to future crossed electrons of this type. It's what makes this medium so alive, and those who participate in it so lucky. Thanks to you both for so ably recognizing its value!

Oz said...

Carmi, DeAnn is right on the money. Blanket statements like "TV is killing the planet" are just as bad as "newspapers are killing the planet." Think I can't make a case for that? Think again.

Maybe you don't like watching a lot of TV. Maybe she does. Who are you to judge her for that? Just like she has no right to judge you for your lack of watching television....or your religion, ethnicity, job, etc.

Krista said...

my comment was only meant in lighthearted humour. I in no way intend to disrespect anyones choices..thats the amazing thing about life...choice.

I do know one thing. These are two blogs that are becomming a regular for me from here on out.

Carmi - I love your writing!
And Deann...well a fellow compulsive person on this world. I relate to what you have repsponded on more then you know.

smiles to all! oh happy day!

Kate said...

Moderation in all things, sure.

I have to admit that at the start of the television season I also make a spreadsheet of shows that I watch from the last season and the ones I'd like to check out.

When I figure out what shows stay on the DVR the longest, then I know which ones to eliminate from the queue.

I read a lot too, so at least the brain rot's only partial.

I will say that watching some quality shows has really helped me to analyze storytelling better than before. Conflict, resolution, what happens right before the commercial break. It's fun, when it doesn't take up your entire life.

That said, I just watched about 30 hours of TV over the weekend to catch up from NaNoWriMo. I'm so, so pitiful.

carmilevy said...

> Blanket statements like "TV is killing the planet" are just as bad as "newspapers are killing the planet." Think I can't make a case for that? Think again.

Oz, I think you need to make some tea, sit back and take a moment. Not everything is intended to be taken at absolute face value. It was a deliberately provocative statement. Do I really think the idiot box is literally murdering the earth? Not quite.

> Maybe you don't like watching a lot of TV. Maybe she does. Who are you to judge her for that? Just like she has no right to judge you for your lack of watching television....or your religion, ethnicity, job, etc.

Did I judge? I suspect you're reading a lot more into my initial post than was actually there. I merely questioned the degree to which television has infiltrated our lives.

twenty something said...

Well here's my stance. I love TV and I love Carmi's writings. I guess everything's great in my neck of the woods, then!

DeAnn said...

Hey, I should probably tell you that I'm also a journalist. In case you wondered.

Oz said...

You're full of shit. Are you trying to tell me that the purpose of your comment on her blog and your post here was that, "Maybe, perhaps, I'm not sure, but could 10 hours of tv a week be too much? I just don't know what to think about it!" Give me a break! Your "maybe's" and "perhaps's" do nothing to cloud your definitive opinion that this woman--or anyone who watches "double-digit hours of television per week"--watches too much television. Your defense of yourself only serves to make you sound like a politician.

Then you write to me: "Oz, I think you need to make some tea, sit back and take a moment. Not everything is intended to be taken at absolute face value. It was a deliberately provocative statement." Uh, which is it? I should back and not react? Or you were trying to "deliberately [provoke]" me/your reader? Can't have it both ways.

I read some column or post you wrote about how you were judged negatively simply because you were a Jew, and how much that angered and offended you that someone who didn't know you or know anything about your life could make such statements about it. Clearly, you knew nothing about DeAnn's life. From what she's written, she's completely integrated in the so-called "real world"....and she likes to watch a few hours of tv a day.

The fact is that you made blanket statements (couched with ineffective "maybe's") that were then were found to be completely inaccurate in everything you hypothesized about this woman based on one fact: she watches "a lot" of television.

carmilevy said...

Thanks for being the first person to swear on my blog, Oz. I'm not a censorship kind of person, though, so I'll simply leave it in place.

I fail to understand why you seem to be burning at space shuttle re-entry temperatures on this issue long after everyone else - including the person you so vehemently claim I "judged" - has moved on. Someone clearly struck a nerve in you. If you can step away from your rant-fest for just a sec, I'm sure you'll appreciate that even this is a good thing.

Respectful debate is a good thing. Profanity, alas, is not.

Bee, looks like you found your bonnet.