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Black Lamb


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Perpetuum mobile

March 1st, 2006


It can’t be true. But we seem to be the only family that, when the baby arrived, instead of killing the television, went out and corralled a wide screen behemoth instead. A massive rectangular box enclosing a 42-inch (measured on the diagonal) screen hunches ponderously on its new built-in cabinet, with its own accent lighting above it in its very own freshly remodeled alcove or, should I say, grotto. See, we babyandtv.jpgnot only got the ostentatious evil eye, we tore out closets and some spineless shelving to refashion our library into a den of iniquitous couch-potatoing. Even got a snazzy red Ultrasuede™ couch/bed to potato in, in thrall to our Shrine to High Definition viewing of the requisite low- and middle-brow cable fare.

These things happen when an obscure relation mentions you in passing, in their will. I suppose the tidy lump of inheritance could’ve been the bedrock of a college trust for imminent Ada Rae, but, well, you know. We like TV. Like Winston Smith liked you-know-whom at the end. I have since vowed to help her develop, as soon as practicable, a cross-over dribble or killer spike or acey serve, something worthy of a scholarship. I mean, a parent’s job includes keeping the future in focus and all.

I suppose the remodeling would’ve happened regardless. We hated the library’s triptych of narrow closets, with the center one’s doors perpetually open to reveal the old cubic (and therefore patently inadequate) Trinitron on its center shelf. We needed to close off the library from the living room, so it could double as the guest room lost when Ada got her nursery. (Of course, we didn’t exactly need the custom-frosted glass and oil-rubbed metal pocket doors that glide, whisperingly, at a gentle touch, but them’s the breaks.) And Erin never did like the way my old couch looked — a sort of puffy catcher’s mitt of a sofa, like something Ty Cobb might’ve knocked loose from Gabby Hartnett, minus the blood. She sure liked curling up in it, nodding off to some routine late night palaver, night after night….

Damn, I miss that couch.

So yes, if you’re asking, there is television entertainment aimed like heavy ordnance directly at infants, mine included. I mean actual infants; even before they can sit themselves up, they have viewing to do, some of it that seems obligatory. Prop them up between pillows, or better yet, in the encompassing three-quarter crescent of our otherwise useless breastfeeding pillow, swaddled and lemur-eyed.

I am appalled. Except, you know, I am also in thrall. (Oh, the difference between enthralled and in thrall.)

We have a handful of Baby Einstein branded DVDs. You get the implication. Your superchild’s contingent cerebral development need no longer be at risk to the vagaries and exigencies of outrageous fortune, neighbor brats, and misbegotten multiculti PBS leftovers, thanks to the geniuses at Baby Einstein (now and forever a Disney franchise; appropriate gelt lavished on the founders and Einstein heirs, one assumes). And the infant-aimed ones are dazzling, a continual montage of colorful and highly contrasted rhythmic, gyroscopic patterning of things in motion, often shot in disorienting, abstracting close-up to accentuate the dynamism. All pulsing to certifiably genius quality (servicemark that phrase, quick!) music, soundtrack by the eternally precocious Mozart or somesuch.

Well, not exactly things in motion. More specifically, toys. Kinetic toys. For sale, on the Baby Einstein site, all major credit cards accepted. Not just the plasticky toys, but the wordlessly wry sock puppet interlocutors, too. Every item pictured can be yours, or rather your only precious child’s.

I distinctly remember the insanely grateful nonplussed glee on my exceedingly articulate two-year old cousin’s face — not just his face but his whole being, vibrating like a well-tempered tuning fork — that Christmas thirty years ago when I got a visiting adult cousin, flush with shoreleave cash, to buy him an Ernie Muppet™ at the dawn of the age of relentless merchandising of Sesame Street and everything else. Pure, unadulterated joy.

And we’ve gifted that to our daughter: pure commodified joy spinning them cash register wheels at ever higher RPMs, until we all come down with motion sickness. •

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


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