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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2006 / 19 Tishrei, 5767

Huckleberry TV

By Dan Neil

Dan Neil
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I've got to make this quick: I'm missing "The Big Joe Polka Show."


In the vastly weird and largely uncharted realm of 500-channel cable and satellite, there are huge swaths of programming that never reach beyond their narrowcast audience. I find I'm spending a lot of time lately exploring this borderline of what can only be called unpopular culture: the 24-hour knife show; unsparingly dull stretches of control-room coverage on NASA TV; "Xena: Warrior Princess," which plays at 6 a.m. on the Logo channel. It's a curious source of pleasure to have my morning coffee with 100,000 lesbians.


I am, I suppose, a programming voyeur, or lurker, loitering around shows that are clearly not aimed at me or mine. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how much I know about this year's points chase in professional tractor pulling. Vietnamese soap operas, University of Tennessee football. I've got to hand it to me: I'm eclectic.


My most recent discovery is RFD-TV, which bills itself without irony as "Rural America's Most Important Network." ("RFD," by the way, stands for "Rural Free Delivery.") Launched in 2000 on cable and satellite services, the Nashville-based RFD-TV is a 24-hour channel devoted to the "needs and interests of rural America and agriculture." And how.


Should you ever tire of the slickly packaged, compulsively hip and cynically commercial feel of televised entertainment, RFD-TV will feel like a corny oasis. With titles such as "I Love Toy Trains," "Little Britches Rodeo" and "Quilt in a Day," RFD-TV's lineup — much of it recycled from regional public television stations around the country — has the feel of chaste, checked-gingham separateness, a moral and mental landscape where Jesus is American, sex is confined to barnyard breeding, and temptation is a pie cooling in the window.


To get a sense of the refuge RFD-TV offers, just read the viewer mail, which the channel runs as bumpers between shows. "It's so clean and decent I can't believe my eyes," one viewer gushes, rather sadly. It's a reminder that, despite Christian novels to the contrary, godly people are the ones feeling left behind.


And yet, at times, I suspect the channel is pulling my cynical urban leg. The channel's program guide is running a "Name the Puppies" contest. Gee, I wonder what the winner gets? A puppy?


RFD-TV's pervasive innocence has its own aesthetic. Most of these programs are no-budget, one-camera productions, with minimal editing, sound or music. I watched "Dennis Reis Universal Horsemanship," in which the star — a riding instructor, naturally — taught his horse a complicated reverse maneuver in a dead-silent training ring. If there was an edit during all this, I didn't see it. Of course, I might have fallen asleep, so soporific is the effect. Technically, this is anti-TV.


"It's supposed to be simple," says Meredith Hodges, the host of "Training Mules and Donkeys," a show that itself wastes no cleverness in the title. "We want it to have an educational feel and not a commercial feel." Inevitably, on RFD-TV, "values" refers to "family" and not "production."


I called Hodges — the daughter of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz — because hers was the first show I happened to see on the channel. She was training a mule in dressage, which I thought was, you know, kind of funny. She saw no humor it. "Mules are stronger, smarter, quicker to learn, easier to train" than horses, she said sternly. I asked her if she had ever heard the phrase, "a mule in horse harness." She hadn't.


It's possible Hodges was feeling defensive. Rural America itself has been under siege for the last 50 years, a time of demographic transformation during which America went from a largely agrarian populace to an overwhelmingly urban citizenry. In the face of massive corporate consolidation of agriculture (now, properly, agribusiness) the small family farm as an economic entity is endangered. The irony is that, even as the rural culture has been mythologized and celebrated — in everything from "The Dukes of Hazzard" to NASCAR — the reality is, it's a dying civilization. To take but one troubling measure, the proportion of farmers age 55 and over rose from 37 percent in 1954 to 61 percent in 1997.


Knowing all that, RFD-TV plays like the poignant cultural echo of a previous America. Indeed, much of the channel's music programming dates back decades: "The Porter Wagoner Show," "The Wilburn Brothers Show," "Gospel Singing Jubilee," all shows that came out of Nashville in the 1960s and '70s.


RFD-TV fills me with one feeling most of all: envy. Like a lot of future-haunted urbanites, I'm wondering where I'll be when it all goes to hell. I would do just about anything to have a little ranch off the grid, with goats and a garden and a toy train in the barn. And that makes the guileless RFD-TV strangely hip, in a must-have, aspirational way.


I might even get me a dressage mule.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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Previously:

07/11/06: Scribbling rivalry
05/06/06: Fashion victim
03/01/06: TALK ABOUT A JOB!
02/21/06: Cowboy down
02/07/06: Superman, we need you now more than ever
01/11/06: All that sass
01/06/05: Is debonair even possible in 2006?
12/26/05: Be careful what you ask for
12/20/05: Monster's Ball: Reconsidering ‘Beowulf’



© 2006, Tribune Media Services, INC. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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