Thursday, January 14, 2010

no phone, no light, no motorcar...but we do have internet

So most of you who have been reading here for a while know that Casa Cornwell doesn't have a tv. We haven't had a tv for about 6 years. Whenever I say that I worry that I sound like I'm preaching. Like maybe I think it's some kind of badge of courage I'm showing off.

I assure you it is not and I am not. I'm merely stating fact, like: I have brown hair, or I have two dogs, I'm married, and I'm from Wisconsin originally. Truth be told, several of those statements I feel merit some kind of visible recognition much more than the tv thing, but let's not digress.

I worry about sounding preachy because, well, yeah ok because I don't want to presume to tell anyone that the way I live my life is the way others should live theirs blah blah. Yeah, ok, there's that reason blah blah. But the other reason I don't want people to hear condescension in my voice, the main reason? Because that would make me a big fat hypocritical liar. We don't have a tv, we've got something worse...high speed internet.

When you hear that someone doesn't own a tv, what do you immediately assume about their life? Come on, admit it. You have a mental picture of folks living without the idiot box, or idiot hd flat screen with dolby surround sound. You assume that they are DEEP people, complex people. They are good, clean, smart people. They have intellectual family discussions on religion and politics and art. They read The Economist. The novel by their bed is Tolstoy. They take walks in nature and bake bread. They recycle... voluntarily. You think they're weird.

I know you think that. For God's sake, I think that and I'm one of those people. Of course I mean that I think that about OTHER people who don't own a tv. But not us, because, well, you see, I happen to know the truth about us. And I can tell you it aint the afore painted picture. We do have some Tolstoy in the house but I don't know that either of us have read it and it certainly isn't by the bed. We are spotty recyclers, if I'm honest. And the periodical delivered to the house? Country Living. (I LOVE it! Yes, I am aware of the irony of reading a magazine about suburban women and gay men crafting their way through life and home to faux some "country" that doesn't even come CLOSE the "country" that is my living, but again...let's not digress.)

When I have had a tv in my life, I used it to veg out, to shut down, to stop. I turned it on at the end of the day to signify "I'm done thinking for today. My work for this day is over and now I want to be an inactive recipient." When I had a tv I had specific rules about how it was to be used, much like's ok to abuse it but not til all the work is done, or it's dark. Which ever comes first. (exception to this rule was Sundays in winter, come on, football, duh) Tv would never have been the source of morning news or entertainment in the way that a beer couldn't be the source of morning nutrient.

I rarely watched anything educational or informative on tv. Not even the news...if we can stretch to include the news in the educational/informative category. (I did, however watch all the Ken Burns documentaries when they came on. Those are just freakin awesome, even if you don't want to learn anything). On Tuesday nights I would feel good about myself because I religiously tuned into PBS tv. Public Broadcasting, how terrifically noble and intellectual is that?! Tuesdays was "Mystery" night so I could watch Poirot or Morse or Rumpole.

So now, here we are in Maberga, two deep and complex people who have replaced their tv for a computer. We read endless blogs, watch the Daily Show, we listen to radio comedy and drama, we surf YouTube, we skype and email and, yes, we Facebook (is that a verb?). Is some of this useful, or work? Sure but only a very small fraction. The rest? Vegging out.

And the worst part of it is, I haven't made up any arbitrary rules for myself about the internet. The internet is a tool, it's not a tv. Why would I limit my use of it? Well, let me tell you why... during dinner lately we've taken to putting on an episode of This American Life...during dinner! I NEVER watched tv during dinner. Why is listening to the radio different? David and I don't talk to each other while we're listening. We are totally inactive recipients. Aren't we? And after dinner? Two or three more radio episodes, a movie on the computer or ... are you ready.... a Poirot, Morse or Rumpole episode if the BBC is sharing.

I'm thinking that maybe we should get a tv and get rid of the internet. We'd probably read more and take more walks.

Moral of the story...if someone tells you in a braggy, I'm-better-than-you sort of way that they don't have a tv. Ask them how many hours a day they spend on their computer.

Ps. If any of you have a hankerin for a Gilligan's Island episode after hearing that theme song - turn off the tv and go here.


  1. Hmmm, maybe a computer is really just a smart 2-way TV. Electronic image displayed pixel by pixel along with sound. Entertainment, news and sports. Oh yea and a way to correspond with friends around the world. You can try to talk back to a TV but it never leaves the room, which can be a good thing sometimes.

  2. Lynn you are awesome. I love this post.

  3. Haha, fantastic post. We do have a TV but I certainly waste *a lot* more time on the computer than watching TV. TV gets boring; the internet offers endless possibilities for time wasting!