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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2002 / 29 Kislev, 5763

Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy
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Consumer Reports

TV by the book | Every night the conversation in our house goes something like this:

My husband: "What are you doing?"

Me (pointing to obvious book in my hand): "Reading."

My husband: "Then why's the TV on?"

Me: "Cause I'm watching it." (Rolling my eyes, which is the internationally recognized sign for the word, "Duh.")

This leads to the inevitable pseudo-argument about how I can possibly do these two things at once, but in the end, we always determine that I can (freak of life that I apparently am) and leave it at that.

I read while the TV is on for a number of reasons, the first being that I seem to focus better on reading and writing when there is noise in the background - even if it's just CNN.

The second being that I can rarely find anything worthy of watching for longer than five or 10 minutes at a stretch and having a book handy gets me through boring parts and endless commercials - the rare exception to this rule being a Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film; a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode; or anything with Harrison Ford in it (interviews included).

Because I do more listening to the television than actual watching of it, it was quite a shock to me one morning when I looked up to see that the bottom corner of the television had turned an interesting shade of green. I probably wouldn't have noticed (and apparently, my children tell me, had not for quite some time), except that there isn't a lot of green carpet on the Starship Enterprise.

A closer inspection revealed a dot approximately the size of a dime in the exact center of the picture, again, I hadn't noticed for a while, looking up on occasion thinking that Tom Brokaw merely had a blemish.

I looked at my tired TV - the same 19-inch model I have dragged over 2,000 miles and to probably at least 10 different apartments and houses (I counted once, the resulting number frightened me, so I stopped), the one that has never once failed to accept a new VCR or video game system no matter how nubile it is. The faux wood paneling, made of a stylish plastic veneer, still collects dust as if it were brand new - even if the front panel, don't faint, protecting the v-hold and color dials, was long gone.

The original remote disappeared about four remotes ago, but the television itself has outlasted three VCRs, two videotape rewinders, two TV antennas, Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo and now projects Nintendo 64. It's seen more Nickelodeon than my children have and I was reluctant to retire it.

After all, the shows that come through it aren't going to get any better with a new TV, right? News wouldn't suddenly become good and Jerry Springer wouldn't suddenly become a new age philosopher with a new set, would they?

But, on a recent outing to secure my first brand new washer and dryer set, my husband took me on a tour of the TV section and I have to admit I was impressed. There were flat screens and regular screens, high definition and high resolution with speakers on the side, on the top and underneath, even detachable speakers. Some had VCRs built-in; others had built-in DVDs or both. The screens were tall and wide and clear and I agreed that one of these would be better, and then I deferred to my husband to pick one out as I fantasized over a new couch, not because I don't feel able to make that kind of technical decision, but because I simply didn't care. My only stipulation? That it last, at least as long as the first one.

So, we lugged it home, along with a new DVD player to complete the high-resolution picture.

We were as excited as five year olds on Christmas morning, my husband and I. We unpacked it, hooked it all up and waited with breathless anticipation as our new, many-inch, sleek gray, stereo speakerfied TV hummed to life (I think the lights dimmed briefly).

We were mesmerized. We could see everything, including the news banner that runs along the bottom of many news channels (it used to be green on the old set and obscured by that faux wood paneling), clearly.

We flipped. We surfed. We programmed and then we flipped and surfed again. My husband tossed me the remote (one of several we now own) and went to the kitchen to start dinner. I switched to a channel I normally like and cuddled up on the sofa.

Walking back into the living room, my husband pointed to me and said: "What are you doing?"

Me (pointing to obvious book in my hand): "Reading."

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JWR contributor Michelle Kennedy, who reads and responds to all of her mail, is a reporter and columnist for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. Comment by clicking here.


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12/14/01: Confessions of a serial library fine payer
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© 2001, Michelle Kennedy