I wasn’t allowed to have much sugar as a kid. Scratch that, I wasn’t allowed to have any sugar as a kid. We never had the saccharine cereals or the tasty peanut butter. And if we ever got pop, it was diet, caffeine-free PC Cola.
I also wasn’t exposed to much television growing up. I never got to watch Dukes of Hazzard or Transformers or any of the shows that depict what might be considered ‘violent content’ . But whenever I was invited to my neighbourhood friends S— and R—’s house, I entered sugar/cable heaven. There were jars of candy laying out everywhere and Dukes of Hazzard playing endlessly. This is where I began to equate sugar with cable.
And as I grew up, I went through the rituals of doing my own grocery shopping for the first time and buying all the crap I wanted. And paying my own bills and opting for the extended cable package. The amount of junk food and television I consumed during my undergraduate years was enough to kill a small animal, or at least turn it into a googly-eyed zombie. But, of course, my upbringing prevailed and I returned to a healthier lifestyle and lost interest in talk shows, crime shows, and sitcoms and sugar. I lost a taste for it once I could have as much as I wanted.
But recently I’ve found myself renting a small cottage at the beach while waiting to take possession of my house and the monthly cost includes free wifi and cable. No problem, I thought. I’ll be on the beach most of the time anyways, so there’ll be no time to watch television.
And then I moved in. And the rain came. And it came everyday for a month straight. So what did I do? Watched television and ate junk food. Sure I read a bit too, but I returned to my early twenties lifestyle like I never had before. I became addicted to cable because, well, it’s addictive. I had fifty channels to explore and I checked out every one on an endless loop and here’s what I’ve noticed:
- The TLC Channel, which I remember standing for The Learning Channel, is really only interested in having me learn about little people (midgets to be politically incorrect) and severely obese people (600 lbs). I’m not sure how much learning I’m getting but an hour goes by and I’m cheering for this little people in a big world and obese people in a skinny world
- Maid in Manhattan seems to always be playing
- CNN is more like crack cocaine than sugar. It is dangerously good at entertaining with it’s slick, well dressed hosts and good looking pundits arguing over every Trump tweet. It uses politics as its content, but I’m in awe of their ability to turn one minor event into 12 hours compelling viewing. I just can’t stop watching. It’s official – there is no distinction between politics and entertainment any more.
- Sports! Playoff hockey, playoff basketball, Jays, non-stop commentary, Tim and Sid, TSN, soccer Saturdays….I’m up to speed on every team’s salary cap space now and I’ve slowly watched the Jays sink below .500
- There’s always that one channel that’s ten times louder than the others and scares the shit out of me when I turn to it. It’s been channel 47 lately and it gives me a mild heart attack once an hour
- When did cooking become so intense? How is it possible to constantly out-cook someone else? Even kids are in on it. And why do these celebrity chefs have to be such Jimmies?
- What’s the fascination with the Amish all of a sudden?
- CMT plays Just for Laughs Gags more than anything ‘country’, which is just fine with me because JFLG’s is the funniest f—ing show ever made – my abs are gonna be ripped after this month from laughing so hard alone in my small cottage. If my neighbours could hear me, they might think I’ve gone loopy
- ten minutes can go by while I count the number of triangles in an image while a sexy woman keeps asking me to call in to win $200 and I’m extremely tempted, but really just like hearing how many people can get it wrong and how long she can keep me entertained by repeating the same phrase with different inflections – the answer: ten minutes
So, now that my month is up and I’m moving out of the cottage, the sun has decided to finally come out. I’m going back outside more and I’m getting busy moving into my new house. I’m weaning myself of my cable addiction. But I think I’m ready anyways. Just like when I was nineteen and buying groceries for the first time, I’ve become fascinated with filling up on junk, but it never lasts. My better sense kicks in and I realize that consuming that kind of stuff wears on me after awhile.
It’s difficult because sugar and fat taste good. We are wired to enjoy them. And we are innately drawn to sex and violence. We love storylines with conflict and pathos and tragedy. It’s easy to tune out of your life and tune into someone else’s. David Foster Wallace writes in Infinite Jest about a cartridge that is so entertaining, no one can look away. It becomes a weapon in the eyes of the government – it can paralyze people. He is, I believe, making on a comment about the human desire/flaw to be easily entertained by base things.
I can attest. If given the right circumstance: cable tv and rainy weather, I can be paralyzed in an ‘Infinite Jest’ myself and it sure does ‘taste’ good for awhile. But we all know too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. Maybe my parents were onto something.
Written by Jesse Wilkinson