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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Golden age redux

March 1st, 2006

BY GREG ROBERTS

What’s that you say — you don’t have TV? You think it’s a waste of time? Well, I can go you one better. I haven’t been in a goddamn library in six years. They are an even bigger waste. The time spent walking around the Sydney Sheldon novels, Deepak Chopra mind rot, and the ten-year-old Lonely Planet guides to Big Sur and Nepal can now be spent watching television and bettering oneself.

But you have to do TV right. The person who wastes every night watching bad movies is no better than the reader who burns through a hundred Perry Mason mysteries. They should both be sterilized before they spawn more of their ilk.

To do TV the right way you have to sign up for the big package: a hundred or more channels, including foreign languages, panel discussions, college lectures, string quartets, and nature shows about turtles nesting on the beaches of Costa Rica. The cost is ridiculously low, about seventy dollars a month. How many new books could you buy with that much money, two?

Here’s something sick: our city voted to spend seventy million dollars for a new library. A seventy-million-dollar building catering to geezers from the retirement center who come in and sit all day reading Family Circle and The Salem Statesman-Journal. Seventy million dollars spent so that mentally-ill street people can slump over in a comfortable chair and shit their pants. Seventy million. If you culled the good books from this behemoth of a building, you could store all of them in an old school bus and drive it to the readers’ front doors. Budget: $40,000 a year.

Or think of this: seventy million would buy one million months of satellite TV, and you could raze the new library and haul the concrete out into the Pacific to create an artificial reef for lingcod, China rockfish, and other desireable species. You could reclaim the natural library site by planting ferns and flowers. After all, this building occupies a biome that was home to a half-dozen species of lepidoptera on the verge of extinction. What do I think of building more libraries? The same as I do about shooting and stuffing rhinos and lions and placing them around a blue plaster watering hole in a diorama.

Back to the TV. We now get four channels in Spanish. Most of the programming is news and soap operas, but we also have HITV, featuring nature shows, good music, and history. What’s that worth? I think it is worth more than the arranged trips to Oaxaca to stay with a family and learn Spanish. Everyone I’ve met who bought into that scheme came home short a million pesos and with dang few palabras. I calculated they paid about fifty dollars a word. I did know one midlife-crisis hippie chick who screwed a twenty-five-year-old Mexican busboy in La Paz, and you could never get a thrill like that from a TV set (although I’m sure the virtual reality technicians are working on it), but the point is, TV can deliver more knowledge than travel does.

Example: You could travel through the jungles of Brazil for a year without seeing an ocelot. Then you turn on Animal Planet, and suddenly all the best sightings, accumulated by master trackers, are yours. And because you had the program automatically recorded by TIVO, you can skip the introduction, commercials, and credits. You can watch the hour show in forty minutes. Life is good.

TIVO saved me from Titanic. It let me skim through the thing in a few minutes. Like a doctor poking a plague patient, I took quick readings from the entire length of the movie and quickly diagnosed it as putrid through and through. Thank you, TIVO, for giving me back a couple of hours of this short, brutish life.

We are in the morning of a golden age. TV will keep evolving; it will keep giving us even more specialized channels until we get exactly what we want, like a magazine subscription to Coin World or Gleanings in Bee Keeping. When TV offers The Musée d’Orsay Channel and the Algonquin Round Table Channel — and someday it may — maybe the effect snobs will shut their tiresome traps.

Will all the best university lecturers someday have their own TV shows, eliminating the need for ninety percent of the present teaching staff? Why not? What a blessing that would be: to phase out all those second-rate jabberers who are now as anachronistic as a village letter-writer in Princeton. Eventually we could remove the universities themselves, their bricks and beams dumped onto that same marine reef we started with the library demolition.

As the oaks and conifers and native grasses begin to occupy the campus, we can look up from our TV screens and raise a toast to that crazy Mormon, Philo Farnsworth, who started it all. There is hope for Man. The planet is beginning to heal. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

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