inessential by Brent Simmons


This is TV Turn-off Week. I didn't turn off my TV.

Here's why.


America is more and more divided into groups based on interests, religious beliefs, ethnicity, addictions, sexual orientation, etc. (In some ways the Web accelerates this.)

While I think it's good that people find and form communities, I also can't stand that people have less and less in common with each other.

For better or worse, TV shows are one of the few things we have in common.

Okay, it's not great, but it's something. And something is far better than nothing in this case.

There's another side to this -- when I talk to a hypothetical relative on the phone, a relative who wouldn't describe himself as part of any intellectual elite, I absolutely refuse to look down on this person for enjoying Survivor. I enjoy Survivor too.

When people complain that intelligent discourse is becoming more and more rare in America, and that the minority who do enjoy such conversations are more and more marginalized, I say -- damn it, it's your fault. The "intellectual elite" or whatever isn't some victim here. It's years of snobbery and epater le bourgeoise at work.

I enjoy intelligent discourse also, but I work hard not to be a snob.


Speaking of working hard... I work hard at my job. Baseball gives me honest pleasure. I can relax and recharge.

My inner Protestant tells me there must be something wrong with it. But, you know, it's not fattening or immoral. Watching baseball doesn't hurt anyone else.

(It's also another thing I have in common with people around me. I can talk to strangers on the street about how the Mariners are doing.)

Sheila needs to relax and recharge too -- she works as least as hard as I do at a very difficult job. So we watch baseball together. We jump out of our chairs and high-five when Edgar hits a two-RBI double. When Sasaki throws the thang to strike out the last batter in the ninth we hoot and holler. It's fun. We pretend we're at the ballpark.

Honest uncomplicated pleasures are hard to come by in the year 2001. When you've found one, don't let go. Pleasure is a human need.

***The History channel

TV actually is educational. I especially enjoy the History channel, PBS, Animal Planet, and the Discovery channel.

The education isn't perhaps as in-depth as a book. But I wouldn't learn about many of these things otherwise.

For instance, I watched a series about Napoleon. I probably will never read a book about him, but I didn't mind spending a few hours watching TV about Napoleon. Does that make me bad or lazy? No way. I'm reading books about other things.

And TV has some advantages over books. If you want to hear what things sound like, see what they look like, TV shows you. For instance, I could read all the books I want about tigers, but until you see one you don't really know how they move or what their growl sounds like.

One of the benefits is the randomness of TV. For instance, I didn't realize how interesting wolves are until one day when flipping around we ran across a documentary about wolves being reintroduced to Yellowstone park. Later I got the book about it. But I might never have had this pleasure, this interest, if I hadn't seen it on TV.

So, hey, TV, hey, thanks for being there. I won't turn you off.