We Hogabooms haven’t had a television in our home but once, a brief period in our first house rental when the former tenants’ service was still streaming in through the cable, unbilled. I don’t remember much about the programs I watched during this time except for small fragments: meeting the night-time needs of my baby daughter while watching some quirky or horrific indie bit on the IFC (or as I called it, the “Pretentious Male Frontal Nudity Channel”). I remember one night nursing my newborn daughter while absorbing the nineties indie drug/alcoholic/vampire/sex flick Habit. Breastfeeding a baby while watching a vampire film, kind of not recommended. Anyway, when Sophie got a bit older we noticed she would stop her floor-play and goggle at the screen. So we called the cable company and got rid of the (free) service then ditched the set entirely, using our computer when we want to watch something.
I know some people consider getting rid of television but can’t quite make the step, but if you’re giving me some kind of crunchy/granola credit for our choice, don’t. For me life without television programs feels normal. My family didn’t have television growing up (no-TV households were even more rare then than they are today) so there’s no part of me that remembers it as a fond routine or family activity. B-movies at night, on the couch with popcorn and my family comfortably movie-talking, my dad with a beer and my mom a glass (or four) of wine? Oh hells yes, we did that. Yes, back in the day when you had to rent the tape and the VCR itself, a big black suitcase-like object larger and boxier than Gordon Gekko’s cell phone.
Yet as everyone who could possibly be reading this blog would know, these days you can find television programs online. Being cinephiles (and computer geeks), we have a subscription to Netflix which allows the bonus of watching shows on the computer; very handy for my bouts of onset insomnia.
Our latest foray into nighttime watching has been the three seasons of “Survivorman”, a reality show whereby survivalist Les Stroud gets dropped off in some remote place on the planet with almost nothing except his cameras. His task? To survive a week by himself. I’ve learned lots of things from the show. Example: the entire planet is pretty much hostile (in varying ways) and I’d shit myself to death or starve within a few days of being deprived from technological convenience and social assistance. Secondly: vegetarianism is a lifestyle only modern life affords.
It’s a fun show and a really funny viewing with my husband and children. First, my husband always startles me with his acumen in predicting How Things Are Going To Play Out (he does this for another television show we enjoy now and then, “Mythbusters”); my children love Stroud as if he were someone they personally knew. They respect and study his prowess as if it has great relevancy to the lives they live today. (Last night Sophie said, “If I was one of those flounder I’d give up my life to feed Survivorman,” and Nels quickly attempted a oneupsmanship with, “If I was one of those stone fish I’d get rid of my poison so he wouldn’t accidentally step on me and get hurt.”)
On that note Sophie and I have speculated on the benefits to having Mr. Stroud in our family as mate, father, and provider. Now, I don’t like men with too many rugged outdoor qualities, but I’m in particular sure that a man who can demonstrate literally dozens of different ways to start fire in all sorts of situations, including focussed amounts of fine-tuned work and patience and persistence and a high degree of hand coordination? This kind of fellow would probably be able to bring it in the sack. I’m just saying.
On a potentially more accessible note, Stroud’s adventures more often afford us a sense of humility, respect, and awareness regarding human needs, the beauty and ferocity of our natural world, and the bounty many of us usually have handily at our disposal. He is almost always kept quite busy with the concerns of (in relative order) shelter, water, and food – and rarely gets to much of anything else (oftentimes not even nailing the primary goals to the comfort levels of most people) nor much sleep. My children, who do not eat seafood (let alone raw sea snails, cast-off fish carrion, scorpions or Witchety grubs) avidly root for Stroud’s efforts. From the comfort of their bed, snuggled together with their eyes bright and their faces beaky and avid, they are nearly as excited to see Les obtain his first meal of turtle on day four in the deep Southern swamp as the man himself. “Those look delicious, I want to try those!” both children clamor at the modest meal of roasted crawdaddies. Stroud’s earnest efforts towards and appreciation for any means of survival and his acquisition of small comforts (such as a hot tea, fire, or roasted cococut center) ring home with my children, engaged as they are in his valiant efforts.
Yesterday at the Thai restaurant Nels devoured his Chicken Satay saying he was Survivorman, and he’d just cooked the chicken over a fire. He bit into the food with relish. I want to live my life with that sense of joyful connection, not buying products from the store and assembling them so much as knowing where our food comes from, how our livelihood and loves sustain us. This stuff matters as much as anything else.