html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Poor friendless Meg.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Poor friendless Meg.

My eleven year old brother pulled me aside for a talk this weekend. “Meggie,” he said, concerned and serious, “I think that if you want to have friends, you should get a TV.” “I should?” “Yes,” he said. “Then, when you meet people, you can say things like ‘Did you see CSI last night?” I was a trifle taken aback, since:

1. he knows and keeps current on many of my friends, and
2. I thought I had made significant progress, since I can now say things like “Ooh. We’re gonna need Artest to hold it together if we’re gonna have any hope at the playoffs.”, and
3. I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought of attending to all the new friends having a television would bring me. I’m already not as good to my friends as I would like to be, since I am not sending them mixed CD’s or writing them clever letters or even returning phone calls promptly. If I got a TV, how could I both watch it and spend time talking about it with new friends? There aren’t enough hours.

When my brother and I repeated our conversation to my old friend Teddy, who overlooks my television-less state out of the bigness of his heart, Teddy suggested that I didn’t want any old television-friends. No, I would want quality television friends, which requires TiVo, DTV and premium cable channels. Having friends is starting to sound expensive.

I’m not sure what my brother was thinking. I mostly think he was sincerely pointing out an option for me. It is possible though, that he was scheming to improve Camp Meggie this summer. He and my sister come up for a week or two at Camp Meggie some summers. It is something of a shock for them, since they go from a house with all the mod cons to my little, media-less, walking-everywhere house. So far I’ve appeased them with frequent trips to the ice cream parlor, Chris’ trampoline and the train museum. They’re getting too old for that (although I bet you aren’t). It’s good to know that if I get a TV, they’ll stay my friends.

For the record, because I know I sound sanctimonious about not having a TV, I don’t not-have a TV because I don’t like it (although when I see mediocre TV I don’t understand why anyone would invite morons into their house to shout at them), but because if I had a TV, I would watch it all the fucking time. I understand that good TV is now very good and I am severely backlogged. I would watch until I sank into catatonic filth and snap at anyone who interrupted me. I don’t have the self-discipline to live with a TV.


Blogger Megan said...

Also, after all these years without a TV, I have no tolerance for it whatsoever. If a TV is on anywhere in the room, I am mesmerized. I can’t look away or hold a conversation.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. You need a TV-Be-Gone; a handy little remote about the size of a car alarm fob which can turn off 99% of TVs in the US. You can get them at ThinkGeek. That way, when you're in a nice restaurant that insists on having TVs behind the bar, you can silence them. I've got one and it's pretty cool. It takes it a while sometimes because it scans thru the "off" signals one at a time. The signal is usually a toggle, so it turns on TVs too.

I have a TV, stereo, and a Netflix subscription and I don't watch it much. I think that it is a good compromise which doesn't make the TV too readily available. When my roommate had a big-screen TV, the top-o-the-line digital cable package, and a TiVo with 200+ hours of storage, it was all too easy to bring up good programming whenever I hit the couch.

Now, however, work, activities, and my fiancee take up so much of my time that I only sneak in the occasional Star Trek DS9 episode from Netflix.

I support your TV-less lifestyle, but it must be murder for your young siblings... :-D


12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, it's pretty astute for an eleven year old to realize that TV is a shared cultural experience that helps give people something to talk about. That was something I never even thought of until I met some people in college that had been raised TV-less and had no idea what my references to Giligan's Island or the Dukes of Hazzard meant...

Being TV-less is a slight social handicap, but only within a certain crowd. Most quality people are happy to overlook it.

-- Tim.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sometimes go through a relatively similar experience. While I like most sports well enough, I cannot stand the NFL. Not liking some lesser sport is no big deal, but not liking what's for all intents and purposes the world's most important sport can be quite the social drawback. When you're with a group of people chattering away about the upcoming Super Bowl, and about all you know are the names of the teams that are playing, well, it can be awkward. Remaining silent, except for an occasion "uh-huh," is actually easier when you're in the presence of die-hard sports nuts as opposed to casual fans, as the real sports nuts mainly want to hear themselves talk and aren't really interested in other peoples' opinions. The casual fan might say "Hey Peter, what do you think about the way the Colts' linebackers handle 3rd-and-long situations?", while the hardcore fan won't care what you think and therefore won't ask.

And let's not mention the fact that being an American male who doesn't like football marks one as, well, Not Quite Right. It's almost as if a man who's not an NFL fan might be a NAMBLA fan.

Iron Rails & Iron Weights

12:46 PM  
Blogger Capella said...

See, you think you would watch it all the time, but I bet you wouldn't. I know because I just got a whole bunch of fancy channels and after two months I am getting rid of them because they are boring. Sure, I will still have the networks, but there are only a couple of shows I watch. Which is how I think everyone is, and everyone has a different couple of shows. How do you know you wouldn't be bored stiff by shows like 24 and Lost?

12:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


...and my fiancee...

I figured I would hear something like that sometime soon! Congratulations!!! I'm thrilled for you!

(Also, my other friend has TV-Be-Gone and I loved it. And I am not ashamed to walk over an manually turn off a tv. Someone else can sack up and turn it back on if they want it.)


I don't know what shows I would be bored stiff by. I did catch a couple episodes of Sex and the City and they did nothing for me. I hated every second I saw of Seinfield. But I loved America's Next Top Model.

1:02 PM  
Blogger ScottM said...

I think you're right to fear the reintroduction of the TV. I was TVless for several years, but Jennifer was able to reintroduce it to my schedule pretty quickly.

I fear that you're very right about there being a lot of good shows on-- I think writers have finally created some formats that really work for me. (There are a lot of soap opera + mystery or sci-fi-- good characters, good interactions, engaging plots.)

They're quite dependent on Tivo and getting in from the beginning. No matter how many times I hear about lost (every Thursday+), I don't want to slog through the backlog to catch up, even though it sounds cool. I suspect the same is true for other people with BSG, Heroes, and the like. (Interestingly, I think this formula is the same one B5 pioneered in the 90s-- but without Tivo and netflixing reruns, people who missed the first season never got into it.)

[Amusingly: the password it tvouto... it's like the word verification is reading your post!)

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always had this problem. I've never watched the popular tv shows. I HATE watching other people play sports. I really can't think of a bigger waste of time than to watch someone else participate in something I could go do myself.

I really can't stand being around a group of people who have nothing better to talk about than what all of their favorite teams are doing. Their whole lives based off of what time the game comes on.

I have, at most, 2 nights a week where I'm home to watch movies or tv, it's generally only 1 night, my laundry night.

I like some shows, like the Simpsons, and family guy. But, I'd hate to be one of these people who are at home almost every night watching tv. Planning their lives around their favorite shows. I'd much rather be out doing something myself.


1:30 PM  
Blogger Capella said...

I think I don't watch TV constantly because (a) I don't have much interest in humor, especially insensitive humor, so I don't have any interest in reality shows or most sitcoms; (b) if I'm going to watch a show I want to see it from the beginning, so I generally don't watch anything I haven't been keeping up on; and (c) I get bored very easily; I generally have to be doing someone else if I want to pay attention to a TV show or else my mind wanders (and if the "something else" is more interesting than the TV show I forget I'm watching).

I avoid planning my life around television by (a) not having a life anyway, except work, and (b) setting my DVD-R to record the shows I want to see every week so I don't have to worry about leaving work in time to catch Gilmore Girls.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Will said...

I have a tv, but I do not have cable. I get constant slack for not having it.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You should try not having a cell phone. People will overlook not having cable if you don't have a cell phone. The grief you get for not having a cell phone is near-constant, though.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

About three years ago, decided that TV had taken control of my life. TiVo went too far. It didn't make me the "more efficient" television watcher I claimed it would. That little bastard KNEW what I'd like and recorded it for me. If, for some unknown reason, you had some night out and away from the couch the backlog was daunting. Miss two nights? You'll need a day off work. (Ok, it never got that bad. But it could have...)

I went cold turkey. The TV went in a box. When I cancelled my TiVo subscription the lady asked why I was ending my sub.

"It worked."

"Uh..I don't have a box for that answer, sir."

2:50 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey Jason!

You're posting during the day. Are you back from Australia? Is fire season over? Why is your blog all secret now?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

I grew up without a tv and never thought it was a problem then, and haven't since. First time I lived permanently in a house with a tv I was 24, and I watched it all the time - I think I'd never learnt any discernment. Skip forward about 4 years (during which I swapped a boyfriend for a different one and then got married and had a couple of kids) and by the time the 2 year old was turning the tv on herself and a soap opera was taking priority over her bedtime, we decided it should go.

We did get one again a couple of years later, but that break made me really fussy and now I hardly watch anything on scheduled tv. We watch a few downloaded US shows (atm - Heroes, Lost and Prison Break - I have even lost my impetus to watch ER, after however many years), and occasionally tv on DVD, and some films, but I cannot remember the last time I turned on the tv when the kids went to bed and watched it all evening.

And I have the odd conversation about Heroes, but it doesn't usually last longer than a couple of minutes. I'm not sure it's a great friend-getting mechanism, all due respect to your brother :) (I have had longer conversations about Sawyer from Lost, I do have to admit ;-) )

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Megan!

I haven't had a TV for long enough it's hard to remember (late 80's? early 90's?) when I did. This isn't done because I'm judgemental about it, but because I simply don't have the time, and I spend enough time looking at screens (more than enough).

I've also realized that the percentage of TV shows that actually worth watching is pretty miniscule and has almost complete overlap with stuff you can find on DVD or the internet. So if I ever feel the need to watch a show, I guess I can.

There is the socialization aspect, but really, how much time do you want to spend with people who can't have a conversation about other things....


4:12 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

You know what bugs me? When people have ONLY a cell phone and no land line. Cell phone quality is not good for lengthy/personal conversations.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cell phones are very useful. The less time you spend at home, the more useful they become.

At this point I'd choose a cell phone over a land line, if I had to choose, but I don't, so I still have both.

And, I've had no problems with quality of service on long calls.


4:31 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

It doesn't really matter if the call is short or long, the quality just becomes more annoying on a long call. On a land-line, it's like you're talking in the same room with the person. On a cell phone, it's like a transatlantic call. You have to wait until you're sure the other person is done making sounds before you make any sounds of your own, or else you cut their sounds off. So you can't make a sympathy coo or say "Oh my God."

6:04 PM  
Blogger Capella said...

Can you do that on a landline? I can't remember when the last time I used one was. Since I don't call anyone in my area code, having one would be a waste of money.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

I realized this as a little kid.

I used to feel so left out when the other kids were talking about Full House or Family MAtters and all i had to talk about was the book i read the night before.

I think i've finally figured out how to make conversations move even if you're not talking abotu the same things, its much ahrder tho.

Spungen: POHnes in general are terrible for conversations, since you can't see people's emotions properly or touch each other. Hideous things, they're only one step up from text conversations.

ANd yeah, i have only a mobile, no landline.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

And yeah, when TVs are on I can't pay attention to anything else.

A year ago i was in a club where they had a projector showing Willy Wonka, with no sound obviously. And despite all the dancing and hotness my eyes were on that damn screen most of the night.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't notice that problem with my cell phone spungen. I don't think it works like a walkie talkie, I think it is full duplex.

Anyway, despite what I said earlier, it looks like I'm home watching tv for the night, but only because the brakes on my car went out stranding me here, and the car rental place across the street closed before I got home.

So, it's all ice cream, tv, and cleaning up my snow camping mess for me tonight.


7:59 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Don't you track my IP? Still in Australia, but the season has wrapped up (in my area). I'll be visiting friends in Mt. Gambier and Melbourne for a bit. Surf fishing today if the wind lets up...

The blog wasn't supposed to go completely dark, but for some reason it did. I was feeling a little guilty about people visiting a static website. (You could probably de-link me until I've earned the right to take up space in your margin.)

Home in two weeks!

10:13 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I do see Australian IP addresses and wonder if they are you, but I didn't see one to correspond to your last comment. Glad you made it through the season. You're coming home to a dry year, though.

11:42 PM  
Blogger fasolamatt said...

No TV at our house (but we can turn the computer monitor into a VHF receiver during times of inclement weather, national crisis, or occasional lapses of hockey watching) and one prepaid cellphone (200 minutes a year for $80). Our three year old (as of today!) watches half an hour of Barney every week at the babysitter's. I have to Google the lyrics to figure out what he's singing when he gets home. Most of our friends don't think we're that unusual... or if they do, they hide it well.


8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The 'world' is a very small place.

Outside the US, and maybe Canada, no one has even heard of NFL. Gridiron football is a curiousity, with too many commercials.

Our former colonies play cricket, rugby, football (soccer). Yours don't even play gridiron.

Football is the real sport-- by which you would refer to soccer. But football has over 2 billion fans, worldwide. For the world cup, maybe 3 billion.

Baseball at least has appeal in places like Cuba and Japan.

Now it so happens I am not particularly interested in football. I prefer Rugby, which really is a minority sport, even in its home countries-- it's basically what the Celtic fringe of the world does in addition to soccer.

So I am a pariah here (England).

But shed the Americano-centric viewpoint. American football is an irrelevance.


2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Living without television is good. TV is actually a *very* slow way to absorb information-- before they inject the commercials. Try watching any documentary, vs. reading the transcript.

If you want to actually watch something, rent the DVD and watch it on the laptop. By this mechanism, we manage to see all the Miyazaki's brilliant Studio Ghibli animated films (catch 'the Cat Returns' for brilliant 'children's' film-making). And all the Tintin episodes.

The other good part of this is that, of course, you tend to only see what has survived, and is good. Because it doesn't reach DVD for a year or so.

As to cell phones-- more complicated.

I think this is partly a North American thing. It's almost impossible to live in Europe now without a mobile phone. Our penetration is over 90%, whereas I think the American one is stuck at 65% of the adult population.

There are no working payphones (and the callboxes are typically fully of things you would not want to encounter, public hygiene wise).

SMS is a key technology for personal communication. You can't, typically, receive an SMS on your home phone, or send one. I get maybe 2-3 calls a day, but at least 10-15 SMS, half from my partner. It's an essential part of coordinating busy lives.

It is also a key personal safety tool. In at least 4 cases (one the man had an angina attack in front of me), I've had to summon the Ambulance Service or the police because of something I've seen-- if I'd had to run and find a phone (as I did when I was once assaulted, in the days before), then it's completely hopeless, you lose precious minutes.

My partner's solution may be ideal. A mobile, my partner has. But it is always on silent. My partner never answers it, my partner merely calls the person back, if my partner feels like it.

Life is about interruption management-- it's why I don't use Instant Messaging, it's an intrusive medium.


2:29 AM  

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