The Serendipitous Pleasure of Cable Television

So many of my friends have abandoned cable television (or satellite) for view-on-demand platforms like Netflix or Hulu (if you are lucky enough to live in the US). I admit to having enjoyed the convenience of Netflix (even if there offerings here in Canada are quite dated), I cannot argue with the pleasure of being able to watch an entire season of a favorite show in one sitting. But I don’t think I would ever want to completely convert my television viewing to an on-demand system. Besides the lack of options, if I am not set on a specific show or movie, I have a hard time figuring out what I want to watch when browsing through the menu. After spending hours on itunes looking to rent a movie or two for a recent 32 hour train trip (16 hours each way) I was hard pressed to find much even after a hundred recommendations from friends and colleagues, I settled on 4 titles that I admit to being happy with in the end. But that is not saying much in terms of the hundreds of options I had to choose from.

While it is nice to watch what you want when you want it, what I like most about cable television is the ability to simply flip through channels, pausing on something that catches your eye, watching for a few minutes, waiting to see if you get sucked in. I am the first to admit that more times than not, I am irritated at how much I pay for the channels that I have and so many times am disappointed that nothing is on when I want to watch television. But I would not trade my cable bill for the serendipitous moments of viewing bliss. Movies that I would never actively choose to watch (or pay for) playing on late night television end up being a lot better than I would have imagined (or perhaps it simply entertained me to the right degree for that moment in time….). For example, it was around midnight a few weeks back, and I was not tired, didn’t want to read or work, so I flipped through the channels and stumbled on the 1993 Tom Cruise film The Firm. I don’t much care for Tom Cruise, and I have never read a John Grisholm novel – needless to say – it was not a film I would have ever chosen to watch if I had to pick it out of a menu. But I must admit – I really enjoyed it. Or just the other night, everyone had gone to bed, and I turned the television on thinking I would watch some Home and Garden Television (my favorite channel along with the Food Network) for mindless background television, and I stumbled upon a new documentary on the Bones Brigade (skateboarding team from back when…). While I know that I would have chosen that one on my own – but stumbling upon it made it that much sweeter to watch.

Beyond the sense of serendipity I feel when I flip through and land on something I never thought I would enjoy watching, or stumble on a documentary I never knew existed, I also enjoy plotting out my work & life schedule around the time slots of my favorite shows. While it would be nice at times to be able to watch them all at once when I have a lazy Saturday ahead, I like that the shows are paced for me. I enjoy the anticipation you feel when you are forced to wait until next week to see what happens. I like to use them as rewards – knowing that my show comes on at 8pm, hustling to get my work done before then. Of course, I could do the same thing with on-demand viewing, but I am nowhere near as disciplined to wait – and not having a choice of when I can view it makes it feel that much more special (at least to me). Perhaps I am the odd one among my friends, but I still enjoy my cable television =)

[A nod to my friend Nikki Porter, PhD, and her poignant dissertation “Isn’t it about time? American television networks in the face of temporal and institutional challenges 1970-1985” ]

Looking to 2013

2013. Wow. My blog is 9 years old this month! Some years blogging more than others – but still here. One of my resolutions for this year is to blog more. So, here we go!

Another year, another bunch of resolutions … of course, the usual suspects are on the list; eat better, drink less, work out more… I have a 2013 East Coast season pass for the Spartan Races. Aiming to complete all three distances to earn my Trifecta medal… will let you know how that turns out (races are in May, June & July).

But I also want to feed my brain more in 2013. 2012 was great in that I got to spend the majority of it focusing on my research. Most of my intellectual energy went towards getting my own thoughts and ideas out of my head and articulated out on (the proverbial) paper. But I didn’t get to read much for my own intellectual curiosity. I have bought books over the last year that have been gathering dust. On the top of that pile:

  • How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis: N. Katherine Hayles. Just started this one a few days ago – loving it so far. Hayles is one of my favorite people to read. Her writing is very readable, and her ideas always thought provoking.
  • The Parallax View: Slavoj Zizek. Another one of my favorite thinkers, will read most anything he writes. But there are a few ideas in this one that has made me think about the concept of hybrid-identity… perhaps reading it through will help me articulate a few points that have been bugging me…(on a completely random note, I was so happy to hear that my daughter got to read Zizek in one first year last year [Foundation Year Programme] at University of King’s College – they had such a great reading list!!)
  • Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture: Lisa Gitelman. Haven’t read anything by her, but the write-up peaked my interest. I have been wanting to reopen the scope of my reading – the last year spent so focused on game studies and identity literature. I missed reading about the broader aspects of media, culture and technology that I loved so much in my undergrad years.

I have many many more books to read (thanks to a very great friend who donated a large portion of her game / media studies collection to me near the end of last year) – too many to list – but if I can read at least half of them, I would be happy. Besides reading, my goal is to blog about what I am reading – either synopsis’, thoughts they’ve provoked, etc. etc.

I also hope to play more. Videogames, board games, My video game playing has become all but non-existent over the last year or so. I hate to admit it – but not much on the mass market has been appealing to me. Might be time to dig a little deeper than triple A titles and “best of” lists… Any suggestions (ipad, Xbox 360, PS3 & PC) are more than welcome. I am not much of a FPS gal, but will give anything a go. I also want to play more board games. I miss having a group of people to play games from Scrabble to Ticket to Ride since most of my friends have moved away in the last year or two (darn academia!). I wanted to buy a game today, and put it back thinking to myself – who would I play with!? Regardless, games on my radar include

  • Cards Against Humanity and its more PC sibling Apples to Apples – got to play both games with a great bunch of people in the last few months; just have to wrangle ’em up again =)
  • Puerto Rico. Played this quite a few times with my good friend Tam (who sadly no longer lives near me). Again, would have to find a few people to lure over to my place to play, but it’s always great fun.

Of course, always open for suggestions too – perhaps it’s time I start getting out of my house and joining in on the board game night’s I’ve been invited to…

My last resolution is to work at least 2 hours a day on my research/work. I would like to submit a journal article or two, and write a book proposal based on my dissertation (but with all the tweaks and changes that have I’ve been pondering since June!). I want to attend a few conferences budget willing, and hopefully get my name out there a bit more. Oh, and find a job in my field that nurtures my brain.

Ultimately, I want to stop dwelling on what hasn’t happened and start focusing on what could happen with some focus and hard work. Here’s to a productive and happy 2013!