I don't watch television. I dropped out of that scene sometime before our War in the Persian Gulf. I was determined at the time to do well in school and I guess that I was also inspired by all the bumper stickers of the day urging me to "kill your television". Drunk and particularly debaucherous one night, in fact, my friend Jan and I mustered the folly to actually heave a huge archaic walnut console model (I'll deny all of this in a court of law, by the way :) ) right into a swimming pool.
With glee. It's a habit I'm particularly proud of having kicked. It's not like I live in a bubble, though. Television is so pervasive in our culture that I probably absorb a great deal of it peripherally, like second-hand smoke, a contact high. It's ubiquitous: when I'm waiting in a waiting room, when I'm in an airport, when I dine out, and, quite honestly, in the homes of most of the people I know. I know people who never turn it off in their living room. I even know people who have some kind of set in every single room in their quite spacious home (including bathrooms and, although I can't confirm it, the pantry too - it's true). When I visit such friends, I try to behave pretty much as a good buddhist would if served a beef stew at a gathering of a friend who might not know that he is vegetarian. The good buddhist, being prone to not eat flesh, nevertheless does so in deference and respect and gratitude of his host's good intentions and hospitality. Which is to say that I accept that lemmings have a G*sh-given right to their cliff dive if they want, I guess.
My decision to drop out of TV culture coincided more or less with the emergence of this new communication medium, luckily (G*sh bless the internet and the twenti-first century). I stay informed through it, without censorship or partisan twists.
I was asked to keep an eye on my friend's pad while she was traveling in Mexico this week. I was interested in the Judge Alito confirmation hearings, so I switched on her t.v. set. Even managed to watch most of it.
Later that night I surfed around. On one particular comedy channel, I watched a couple of commercials that disturbed me, both were advertisements for the city of Las Vegas, and this is why I write this post. I'll try to paraphrase them:
An adolescent boy opens a hotel door and walks out, sporting a dishevelled head of hair and a proud boastful smirk which says he had a great time last night. He is surprised to see his dad coming home to the room next to his.
"Everything okay, son?"
Nervously incredulous, "Uh . . yeah, dad. Everything's fine."
Wearing a different kind of telling smirk, "Good . . . good." At which point dad enters his room and the caption which brings the commercial to a close is displayed:
"Las Vegas: What happens here . . . Stays here."
A woman is unpacking her suitcase. She is visibly anxious about something as she does so. Her husband comes in. She is obviously unnerved; she avoids his glance.
Sheepishly, meekly,"So . . .You girls went pretty wild in Las Vegas then, eh?"
Pauses penitently at her suitcase, then turns to him, doing her best to conceal her emotion, "Yeah," A forced smile, "we went pretty wild . . . y'know . . .. shopping and stuff".
She lists some expensive items that she purchased as some kind of decoy, knowing that he'll be distracted by the cost.
" You all had fun shopping, then."
Nervous shrug, "Yeah."
The caption comes on:
"Las Vegas: You can use the great shopping as your excuse".
These blew my mind. Not only are they selling infidelity and debauchery as recreational activites as they always have done unashamedly, but now they are also selling the guile and subterfuge that makes such activity easier to swallow. We've come a long way, baby.
Virginia may be for lovers, but Las Vegas is something else altogether.