THE AMERICAN CIRCUS: Life Without the Boob Tube
It is true that I’m a writer, and one who is guilty of spilling my often controversial opinions about all kinds of things upon the innocent and unsuspecting public. And I must admit also that this offense of gab might be viewed as doubly irritating and problematic due to another relevant truth — which is that I don’t own a TV and haven’t owned one since the lovely early spring of 2012. And it may be of even a triple offense to admit that the last two television/cable episodes of anything that I can remember watching in their entirety was the 2017 Super Bowl and Election Night 2016 — both experiences, by the way, I subjected my readers to writing about.
How could it be possible be that a chronic and habitual non-watcher like me feel compelled to write about anything (particularly about public affairs) when I have chosen to forsake the boob tube except for extraordinary circumstances of my own choosing? Could it be that I’m just making all this stuff up? Is it possible that I am living in some kind of strange alternative universe?
Well, who knows? I’ve been accused of both things.
In defense of myself, let me tell you a few of the ways that I garner information and constantly expand my own knowledge even after breaking my own kneecaps (so to speak) by saying bye bye to Jimmy Jett and his TV set.
I read a great deal. Yep, I buy actual physical magazines and certain newspapers. For instance, the magazines I always consume are: The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Mother Earth News, Grit, Discover, Scientific American, National Geographic, The New Pioneer, Art News, Art in America, Plein Air, Ancient American, Cabin Living, Edible Baja, New Mexico, Arizona Highways, and Mother Jones.
I read the Sunday editions of the New York Times and the Arizona Republic. I read the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. I read several editions of Investor’s Daily during the week.
For most of my daily news, I access a myriad of media pieces from links on Drudge, RealClearPolitics, MSNBC, Breitbart, CNN, Arizona Central, Drudge Report, and certain sites in the U.K. that contain excellent writing.
If there are little snippets of visual media I wish to see — interviews, for example, are a big consumption item for me — I watch the pieces and aspects of them I want via website links.
This comprises the primary sources of my daily information about “facts” occuring in the world.
On the other level — I read widely in literary fiction, literary essays, American and World History, travel adventures, ancient archaeological literature, cooking literature, permaculture and growing literature, and some detective and science-fiction literature as the mood strikes me.
I also love to read historical speeches and oratories — particularly of 19th and 20th Century politicians and activists.
I also avidly seek out old interviews of interesting public figures or people of historical importance. For instance, I’ve particularly enjoyed the writer interviews over the years that may be accessed at the Paris Review website.
I particularly love letters written by historical figures of almost any field — always such a trove of information and insight. A true lost art.
I enjoy listening to a great variety of music (although not while I’m writing; while writing, I have to have it quiet as possible.) My music taste is wide-ranging, but probably 30 percent of the time, if I’m just looking for some relaxing background, I’ll put in duets by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, or Willie Nelson, or Elton John. I’ve always found much insight and flowing knowledge while listening to fantastic music. A few nights ago, I put in an album I hadn’t bothered to play in 25 years — it was a concert with Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. Brilliant. Unbelievable. I wiped off the dust and put it out on the rack to play some more. In fact, that discovery got me thinking about another old album I love that I haven’t played in years called The Ray which is Ray Charles in studio back before he was famous, back before the big hits with the vocals—one of his greatest albums ever, in my opinion. That’s pretty much how it works with me.
I remember being asked not so long ago in one of those ice-breaker routines that new managers try to put on for their employees — if you could choose one person (living or dead) to have lunch with, who would it be? When it came to my turn, I commented that it was a really tough question, because there’s thousands of people (mostly dead) that I’d love to have lunch with and talk to — and so I decided: Thomas Jefferson. I’ve thought about the enormity of that question of just picking one person since then, and through it all, I still say if it came down to that, Jefferson is who I’d choose.
So, for me, there are many events, sources, people, and art forms that inform my writing — even though I don’t watch the boob tube. I’ve found it personally beneficial to work towards living in the moment that I find myself in and writing outward from within that. My instinct tells me that there is much that we might all learn and benefit from in trying to consciously live, act, and create within the moment in which we find ourselves.
While I cannot speak for others, I can say that it is beneficial for me to try to consciously slow down my life and be more particular and discriminating in what I choose to allow as inputs into my life. I see and understand far more things and relationships between things in this life during times when I consciously slow down the inputs into my life — and I have often been gratified by the multitude of deeply meaningful things I’ve been able to garner and perceive that I know full well I would have totally missed if I allowed myself to remain at Type-A-personality speed — that insatiable consumption speed.
I’m not trying to pontificate to others in my writing, but rather to simply pass along my observations to my fellow man for the base purpose of perhaps getting them to think and make some connections of their own.
Such is the present reality of my own tiny American Circus.