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Reality check

By Daniel Kahn

Section: Arts

March 16, 2007

Im sorry.

Now, I realize it may not be the journalistic norm to begin a column with an apology, but in this case I feel it is a necessary first step. See, I know Ive been a bad columnist for not having written at all since the new year, but Im going to need your forgiveness before I drop this bomb on you.

While you, my adoring, loving readers (or just my Nana) have been waiting for me to share my musings on the latest trends and events in the world of TV, an important relationship of mine has been going down the tubes, causing me much stress and confusion. Thats right, friends, TV and I are having problems.

Before you get too upset and dial that Brandeis hotline thing for people who get too upset, hear me out, because if Im going to get through thisI mean we, TV and me, that iswere going to need your help and support. So first, heres the back-story on how, to put it in terms everyone can understand (read: in terms of a Facebook relationship status), it has become complicated between me and my TV.

It all started on January 2. While most people were still getting over their New Years Day hangovers in the comfort of their own homes, I was doing so in a less ideal placea 12-hour flight from New York to Israel. I really had no expectations that my Birthright trip would be anything more than a free vacation where Id see new places and make a few new friends. I was absolutely not prepared for what it turned out to be, and especially for the consequences it would soon wreak on the only stable relationship Ive maintained for the greater part of my life. (Do I have issues? Obviously. Moving on)

I was nervous about Israel for a number of reasons. The one you may be thinking of before anything elsebeing blown up by a suicide bomberwas strangely not one of them. No, I was more concerned with the fact that, for whatever deluded reason, I chose to go on a hiking/community service trip. If you know me at all, you know that Im neither a hiker nor someone prone to doing good deeds without the promise of immediate personal gain;

you may find my choice of Birthright group surprising. But, again, if you know me, you wouldnt be surprised to find out that I didnt so much choose this group as much as I had a friend (hi Blair!) ask me to go with her, and because it was easier to just say OK and sign up without doing any research of my own. There I was.

The beginning of the trip was filled with mixed emotions. I was having a great time but was skeptical about my fellow Jews and Jewesses. The people you would imagine on this particular trip were all there: Hiking enthusiasts? Check. Vegetarians? Check. Pescetarians? Check. (Tangent Alert! Before the trip, everyone was sending out introductory e-mails saying a little bit about themselves, and one person mentioned being a pescetarian. Upon reading this, I couldnt believe there were going to be Christians on a Birthright trip! I was even outraged! And having just watched Borat, I was especially nervous because he had gone to that pescetarian church and did that whole healing-seizure-speaking-in-tongues bit, and I didnt want that to have any part in my Israeli experience. As it turns out, those people are called Pentecostals. A pescetarian is just a vegetarian who eats fish. Whoops. My bad!) Basically, I felt like my whole TV-obsessed persona was not going to mesh well with all these do-gooder herbivores.

However, after a few days of getting to know everyone and seeing more and more of Israel, these worries started slipping away. And by the end of the experience, I wasnt even thinking about what I was missing on TV that night, thoughts of which plagued my first few nights worse than any jetlag or hummus-induced intestinal problems my cohorts were facing.

This might sound alarming, but nowhere near as alarming as it felt. Who am I if Im not watching TV and constantly obsessing over it? Who will I love if not the characters that enter my life for 30-60 minutes a week? (A real human being, maybe, you freak! Yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge.)

Little did I expect to have such a powerful emotional/physical/religious experience while in the Jewish homeland (nor did I expect to have so much hummus! Seriously, they were shoving that stuff down our throats even more than their agenda to make us all have Jewish babies!), but that is exactly what happened. And I can already hear you all groaning, because the last thing Brandeis needs is a Jew to become even Jew-ier, but thats what happened and now theres no turning back.

Returning to the States and not feeling the same way about TV was a strange experience for me. No longer did it take up so much meaning in my life. I didnt feel that urge to pick up my remotesomething that, before, was as much a reflex as breathing. What kind of person was I going to be now that I wasn't enslaved to the shining screen that had enraptured me for so long?

Turns out that my viewing habits have not changed much at all. I quickly reverted back to my old waysplanning out my weekly TV schedule two weeks in advance;

taping shows while watching others;

ignoring social and academic responsibilities to stare into the televisional abyss.

What was different was the way it made me feel. Television used to fill me up with so much joy and happiness, but now those feelings quickly dissipate into a hollow emptiness (which I then fill with food, and so goes my cycle of sloth). It was easy to revert to the way it was before, but easy isn't always right (as the growing number of people getting chlamydia from your mom would attest! Ha!).

I cant say Ill watch less television…. Lying would only inflict deeper wounds. From here on out, you can expect to hear from me about TV, because our story is far from over. Just don't expect it to be pretty (Continue, though, to expect me to be pretty. Because I cant help it, so stop being jealous.).

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