Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Signing off

It's been nearly two years since I wrote in this blog. At the time I started it, my profile was
I'm just child of the eighties weaned on a constant stream of TV, trying to establish a healthier relationship with video-based entertainment. I'd been wanting to quit watching TV and start writing more for some time and this blog seemed like a good way to combine both goals. I started this blog on January 5, 2008, the day I decided to quit watching TV at home. I do still watch shows, but I do so online and on DVD. Lately, I've become hooked on exploring new online video sites and discovering new content creators, so I've essentially traded one addiction for another, but hey, at least I'm writing.

But there was one more thing I became addicted to--writing this blog. It kept me from keeping the house neat, cooking, working out, and socializing--all those things I thought quitting TV would give me time to do.

So I stopped. But I'm back to do an update before I close this blog off for good.

-This blog has served it's purpose. I still don't watch" TV." We watch the occasional football game, but for the most part, everything I watch is now on Hulu or iTunes, or Downton Abbey on PBS (who'd have thought PBS would have a hit show?).
-It's become much more common to "cut the cord" according to the media, but I still don't know anyone else who has given up cable.
-Our TV is now my external monitor for my computer when I work from home.
-I got an iPhone for work, and my husband got an iPad, which is a fantastic player for iTunes.
-I now have a toddler. We try to keep him away from "screens" but it's hard with the aforementioned devices. However, my husband can't resist showing him videos of other children and some ebook apps.
-I no longer follow all these content creators I've blogged about (except Felicia Day, but straight to the internet has really come into its own as a viable model. Most of the people I've blogged about have continued to have success.
-I still, sadly, don't really read books, just news and online magazines (See note about toddler), but if I did I would do so on my husband's Kindle, which he has abandoned for the iPad.
-The house is neater and I am cooking a lot more (again, see above note about toddler).
-I have lost about 10 pounds, though I credit the toddler for running me around, not the lack of TV.
-Instead of blogging, if I'm on the computer at home, I'm on Facebook, though it's usually accessed via my iPhone, which is the ideal device for a one-handed mom. I guess that would be yet another addiction, but as far as keeping in touch with friends and family, it's been fantastic.

And yet, to come full circle, I'm thinking of starting a blog that encapsulates my work interests (educational technology) and/or joining Google Plus so I can communicate and share links with people who are also interested in this (I don't friend colleagues on Facebook). But I think that means that this blog will also be tied to my real identity, not just a pseudonym. I don't think I've written anything too embarrassing, but this blog ranges from highfalutin posts about the changing media landscape, to thoughts about network TV shows and random viral videos, to personal reflections on life and what's important to me. So if you do see this and you know who I am, forgive me the occasional run-on sentence, admission that I can get sucked into reality TV, and showing off my useless knowledge of celebrity trivia.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back to the Future

In my last post, I wrote that I was worried about the reintroduction of a television set into our home. I needn't have worried--without the cable, I may do a maximum of four laps around the dial before it sinks in that there is nothing on (I'm a slow learner). And there is no one spot that we can set the antenna where we could get all the channels, which also reduces the surfing. It really only makes sense to watch appointment TV.

So now, occasionally, instead of watching The Office, Community, 30 Rock, Chuck, Lost, or Survivor on Hulu, if I happen to be around the day of broadcast, I'll actually tune in live. It's been 10 years since we did that (about the time we bought our now obsolete TiVo). I feel so retro. I actually use commercial breaks to go to the bathroom again. I try to get the laundry started or the kitchen cleaned before 8 PM.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Uh Oh

We bought a flat screen this afternoon. After watching nothing but streaming video and iTunes on our 15" laptops for two years, we are now watching basic network TV and Hulu on four times the area.

So why now? My parents are visiting next week for Thanksgiving and for months I have been saying that I thought my dad would go stir crazy without one. Then yesterday I read an article on Black Friday specials that confirmed the rumor of a $250 32" LCD at Target, which is about 40% off the normal price. That had my hubby sold but I reminded him that my parents were arriving the week before Thanksgiving and would be leaving on Black Friday.

Nonetheless, we were in Target today and I see him walking toward me with a 32" LCD in the cart. "It was the last one," he said. Although it was $299, he said paying an extra $50 was worth having it here in time for my parents.

Of course when we plugged it in it didn't catch any channels on it's own, so it was off to Best Buy for an $40 antenna. That seemed to work. While he went to get an S-cable, I watched a travel show on Hawaii broadcast in HD by a local NBC station. It looked so good! I was being seduced.

When he got back, we hooked up his laptop to the TV. I was worried the streaming video wouldn't look so good on a large screen, but Fringe looked crisp and smooth.

So I have invited TV back into my life--am I worried about getting hooked on it again? A little. There is something about the size of this thing that makes the experience so much more immersive than watching it on a tiny laptop. But then again, without the basic cable content ofVH1, MTV, Food Network or HGTV, I don't think it will have much power to suck me into marathon viewings. Pray for me nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Last Word on TV and Cooking

Michael Pollan thinks deeper and harder about food and our relationship to it than anyone I know. By personally engaging in four different forms of eating (manufactured, big organic, sustainable farming, and living of the land) in The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan completely transformed the way I thought about the economics and ecology of our American eating habits. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find myself engrossed in a mini-opus in the New York Times called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch," and finding out Pollan had authored it. It is a lengthy exploration of the evolution of cooking on TV and the paradox that we now spend more time watching shows about food than actually cooking it.

Pollan concludes that the loss of cooking has been bad not only for 1) our waistline 2) our humanity. (In a former life, my workaholic editor from a former life subsisted on cold cuts and carb-free drinks. He came into my office once and saw a photo in my Doisneau calendar of workmen in Paris gathered around a park bench for lunch--a jar of milk, a loaf of bread, some sardines maybe. It may not have been cooking but I'll never forget his wistful remark: "They look so happy.")

Back when I watched TV, I could spend hours watching Food Network, but truth be told, there was probably only one recipe I ever tried from watching it, pasta with pumpkin and sausage, (which I have made at least five times and is not as strange as it sounds). The network exec there was right when she said that food TV was less about preparing it than eating it, thus the oft-cited epithet of "food p*rn."

I'd like to say that I cooked more when I turned off the TV, but other things filled the void--mainly, surfing the internet. It's only been this last year that I actually have cooked more--probably at least three times a week--because I actively decided I wanted to (last 3 days--quinoa salad recipe from mom, a cauliflower recipe from Ubuntu, and a zucchini and egg pasta from Mark Bittman). In this economy, we can't go out to eat as much so the only way I'll have a freshly cooked meal is if I make it myself. I do feel more creative and connected to my food when I'm cooking but so far, no luck in the first part of Pollan's conjecture--we're only tightening our belts figuratively.

It's the End of TV as We Know It

Slate Magazine reports on Bob Garfield's book The Chaos Scenario with the headline "Is Television Over?" Apparently, the host of the radio show "On the Media" is arguing that the quality of network shows will get worse as audiences fracture, but they, and the advertising agency heavyweights that create TV ads, have yet to figure this out or what to do about it. The only shows that will maintain their quality will be on paid cable, while web videos will get better and better as they find their niche audiences.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

World's Youngest Food Critic?

Some middle schoolers want to go to Disneyland, others, Le Benardin
Even though this blog is about my ever-changing relationship to TV, I couldn't resist following up on something I heard while listening to an interview with food critic Ruth Reichl. An 11-year old girl stood up during the question and answer period and asked what she should be doing now to prepare to be a food writer, other than blogging about her dining experiences. "Do you cook?" Reichl ventured and the girl said yes. Reichl seemed suitably impressed--other than saying that she should travel (as much as her parents were willing, anyway), all she could muster was to say "Keep doing what you're doing! What's the name of your blog?"

So here's a plug for "sandysquirrel's" blog "I Am Not A Picky Eater." At the tender age of five, she recognized Jacques Torres on the street as easily as she would the Big Bird. She rattles off the names of judges and guests of Top Chef like the names of the Jonas Brothers. Barely into her second decade of life, Sandy has already made pilgrimages to Chez Panisse and has Eric Ripert's autograph in her journal. In other words, Sandy is a foodie.

She started her blog this January after a Christmas visit to New York (which she has been obsessed with since Serendipity's frozen hot chocolate scene and Top Chef season five) and has made eight posts, most of which were made while tagging along on her brother's college tours. The enthusiasm that comes through in her writing must be rubbing off on the staff of the restaurants; of Tabla, she writes, "While we waited to order dessert our waiter came over. She started saying “We thought you might want stretch out a little bit before you order (it had been a long meal). Would you like a tour of the kitchen? Well of course we said yes.”

The title of her blog is both dead-on and ironic, since she will try the most adventurous thing on the menu, but of course, would much prefer four-star dining to your average diner. While most kids Sandy's age would turn their noses up at anything more exotic than mozzarella and pepperoni, Sandy's not afraid to venture into uncharted regions. Case in point, her review of Bread Bar: "Chef Floyd gave us some suprise [sic] treats, which were a chickpea salad (with two kinds of chickpeas I had never heard of before) and a really unusual halibut with watermelon curry (Really. I’m not kidding.) The halibut had a yummy crunchy coating on top. Very cool textures."

I can't judge her palate, but her willingness to stretch her taste buds puts her far beyond most kids her age (or her brother's age for that matter). I can tell, however, that this preteen is an incredibly precocious blogger. Her best posts are the ones where she doesn't limit herself to star and dollar sign ratings but talks about the experience in context. She fairly drips with disappointment that they will not make their dinner reservation at Tabla:
"Our horrible transportation karma really came to a head on Friday. On our way from Kim’s house to Boston’s airport, we found out that our flight was cancelled. Delta had “thoughtfully” put us on the next flight, at 2:30. Well, the weather got really bad at LaGuardia, so our flight was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. We finally bailed at 5:30 and DROVE back to New York."
I wish Sandy luck as she continues to hone her writing skills and her palate. Her reviews may slow down when she goes back to school this fall and can't get out to NYC but fortunately, as near as I can tell, she lives in the other food mecca of the nation, the San Francisco Bay Area. Her reviews today are fairly sweet, since she's going to some of the most notable restaurants in the nation, but you can tell one day, the acid will seep through:
On her second visit to Flex Mussels: "New for us were the crowds and noise (thank you, NY Times review!). It was very loud this time, which was not as fun. "

On Donatella Arpaia's Kefi: "When we got their I noticed that the gal at the front of desk needed to button up her shirt. So we got to the table and everyone had a table setting but me."

And my favorite, on summer blockbusters: "My mom had lunch plans with a friend, so the rest of us went to see Transformers. It was only okay for me. My brother and dad probably thought Megan Fox deserved an Oscar for her AMAZING performance!"

Watch out Gael Greene (or Roger Ebert for that matter)!

Copyright 2008