Take That, Cineaste!
For the record, my brother started it first.
I kid -- my brother and I were actually having an amiable lunchtime conversation about the assorted appliances we have hooked up to our televisions. As per usual, I was testifying about TiVo. My brother, on the other hand, favors the kind of home-theatre/surround-sound experience that makes THX engineers drop to their knees and beg for mercy. This is fine -- he is a professional bassoonist with a trained and finicky ear, and thus sound is important to him. I am a professional crank with a volatile temper, and thus being able to fast-forward or delete at will is important to me.
However, my live-and-let-live ethos disappeared when my brother commented that he'd never get TiVo because he doesn't want to be a couch potato like me. First of all, nobody insults the TiVo, not even indirectly. Second of all, I am not a couch potato. I said as much.
"You watch a lot of television," my brother asserted.
"I do not!" I protested. Then I mentally ran down the list of shows I do like: on hiatus, cancelled, cancelled, cancelled, on hiatus, coming back in March, ending in two weeks, cancelled, in reruns until summer, on hold until after the Olympics, in reruns until Cartoon Network bothers to cough up more...
I quickly realized that rattling off a list of shows I liked and why I was not watching them at any given moment would give my brother ammunition.
When he countered with, "You do too!" I settled for the classic "Do not!"
"You do watch a lot of television!"
"The average American watches three hours a night. I watch far less than that."
"I don't even watch television."
Which is a lie, given that this is the same person who spent an hour on the phone with me talking about Justice League over on Cartoon Network, who can sing nearly all the songs Brak has warbled on The Brak Show, and who can quote entire episodes of The Simpsons. But I was too nice to point that out in person. I'd rather note it passively-aggressively on a website somewhere.
Instead, I decided to take a different tack and point out that if I was a couch potato, so was my brother. "You watch movies."
I wasn't about to let my brother know that the television-versus-movies canard is a cultural sore point for me. It irks me that movie critics can achieve near-iconic status in journalism circles while television critics are largely ignored. I believe it's cultural snobbery based on the misguided belief that movies are capable of producing art while television is not.
Then again, my brother doesn't need any help discovering my peeves. He's got an unerring ability to suss them out unaided. This is why he was willing to assert that sitting on the sofa and watching "The Phantom Menace" was somehow more culturally uplifting than watching Six Feet Under -- which, incidentally, I am not watching right now because season 2 hasn't started yet -- because he knew it irritated me.
"How is it different?" I demanded.
"I don't have commercials."
"Neither do I."
"Television has commercials."
"Rented a video lately? They do too."
"I fast-forward through those," my brother smugly asserted.
"And I fast forward through commercials too!" I practically shouted. "That's why I have TiVo! So I never have to watch commercials! And I have HBO! Ha-ha!"
"You're still watching tee-veeeeee."
"Explain to me the qualitative difference of sitting on your ass for two hours and watching one movie, as opposed to sitting on your ass for two hours and watching three television shows thanks to TiVo."
"It's sitting on your ass is what it is! The only difference is that you're watching a finite narrative and I'm watching a serial one! We still retain control over the watching experience vis a vis technology! Commercials have nothing to do with whether or not one is a couch potato! Your sitting there and watching three movies a week is not all that different from me watching an equivalent amount of television!"
And after that outburst was over, I settled back, convinced I had won based on sheer verbiage. Then I registered my brother's smirk and realized he was convinced he had won, based on his unerring ability to goad me into a towering snit.
So I decided to open round two: "So, when you pop in that Phantom Menace DVD, does the director's commentary track consist solely of George Lucas apologizing for everything he inflicted on us in that movie?"
"Oh, don't even start," my brother snapped.
And we were off and running again. We never did settle the issue of what a couch potato was, much less whether or not we were couch potatoes. Potato, potahto -- the odds of working it out in this lifetime are pretty slim.
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