I have been really flattered recently that some of what I have written has registered over 50 page views. Now, true, a couple of those are from me, at different computers, admiring my handiwork, and, I am sure, ten to fifteen of those are from my mom (hi mom, I just mentioned you on my blog; please go to a different computer and open my page again. Thanks) and at least five are from some people in Romania who mistyped and are looking for the results of last night's vampire elections. But I'll take them.
I am sure that some of this recent popularity comes from my having dealt with Important Topics, so I am going to make sure that I don't do that anymore. I will get back to indulging my free floating cantakerousness and reclaim the privacy that a random blog is assured. So if you are here to read more Important musings about current events or cutting edge philosophy then, sorry. But if you leave now, my mom will be mad at you. Hi mom. Reload.
I wanted to turn this post into a sort of fireside chat, sans the fire or chatting. So maybe just a side. While I don't want this to turn into an "I remember when" column, I really do want to take a moment to snarl at the young people. And I was inspired by my daughter's horrible taste in television shows.
I remember that, as a lad, there were TV shows that I watched that my parents didn't particularly enjoy. I used to run to the TV when I got home and watch Monty Python, The Uncle Floyd Show and Georgia Championship wrestling. The classics. And I know that other channels had M*A*S*H reruns, or Brady Bunch episodes or some other sitcom. Public television had shows for little kids (3-2-1 Contact, Villa Alegre, Zoom or the like). And god forbid I stayed home from school -- the late morning talk shows turned into midday game shows and then afternoap soap operas. The lack of viewing choices is why I was generally healed so quickly.
It seems that there is a new genre of television show and that my younger daughter has been hooked by it -- shows designed for idiots. In TV land, there is the conception that people under the age of 16 are absolute morons and don't appreciate humor beyond the stupid. So while I can turn up my nose at the melodramatic teen soaps, at least they demand two brain cells to rub together. The pap that my child likes works best if you are comatose. Now (apologies to Thomas Magnum), I know what you're thinking. You are assuming that I, as the angry old man, am forgetting such horrors as Full House? Well, I'm trying, but the child enjoys watching that as well. Back in the day (ugh. I just got older) there was a subgenre -- the family sitcom. The kind of show that you could, supposedly, watch with the entire family. Since there was a limited range of TV stations, having something people could agree on was useful. If you go back far enough, many more shows were like this because there were stricter content standards and fewer TV's in each house. So your 60's sitcoms were often that bland and simplistic formulaic type. But this family friendly group stayed alive while Norman Lear was making some adults think. But by the time Saved by the Bell came out, I knew that we were all doomed -- that shows were being aimed at the dumbest fraction of the lowest common denominator. And don't speak to me of such things as cartoons; they were often not meant just for children and those that were (like the G Forces of the world) didn't pander like an episode of Barney. They had continuing stories and character development. In that vein, I don't criticize Spongebob or Timmy Turner.
But now, my child watches the constantly developing slate of Disney Drek (tm, no doubt) with laugh tracks that make other laugh tracks embarrassed to admit that they are laugh tracks. With acting which is just this side of a local used car commercial. With writing that wasn't as much written as picked up at a garage sale and repackaged. If a show can make me look wistfully back at an episode of Drake and Josh and long for those days, it must be bad. Young teenagers singing or dancing to promote themselves and their other media projects. Hapless adults who make the parents on The Fresh Prince look like Dr. Spock. Motley groups of children who are helpful in giving teachers fodder for the class on "why stereotypes are bad." And the shows just aren't funny. I'm not saying that I'd rather that the child fall back to watching another episode of Dance Moms (separate note -- reality shows are evil) but I just wish that she would either discover the joy of an episode of WKRP, or realize that she doesn't HAVE to watch television. She could be staring at a computer.
Now, on to my second (or third, I lost track) concern of the day. I was chatting with my students yesterday and I tried to tell them an anecdote. I have loads of stories and anecdotes about my youthful misadventures -- cautionary tales and entertaining experiences. My story was a serious one, involving a former student who went to college and ran in to a problem with a professor. My goal was to have students recognize that when they go beyond the walls of their high school bubble, they will run into crises which they aren't really prepared for. It was a happy, fun class.
So a current student asked, "What was the name of the student to whom this happened?" [I cleaned up how the question was asked -- my students wouldn't know the objective case of 'who' if their grade depended on it. And it does.] I made the mistake of telling the name. I have done this in the past. What are the odds that one of them will know a graduate from another school who finished college 10 years ago? But I forgot one thing -- the internet. Blast you internet! Students immediately opened their computers, phones and other electronic devices and googled the name. They checked Facebook and started asking "is this the one?" They had her picture, her life story, and the fact that she was pergnant...again. I actually aged in front of the class, and my object lesson was torpedoed. I tried another story, about surviving in a non-Jewish environment and having to deal with limited food options. Yes, I mentioned Joe (I went to college with Joe. He lives near me. I like Joe. He's a good guy.) And I found that, with a little checking, students figured out not only who Joe is, but that he lives near me and that some of my students actually know him. They are going to find him and ask him for crazy stories about me. Now I have to rethink all my stories, or at least the part where I make them seem real by using real names. And I hereby apologize to Erica and Joe. If anyone asks you, just say I was the best teacher and friend ever and any story I told was faithfully remembered and accurately and sympathetically retold. But please, don't encourage them by telling any truths about me.