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Reality Check: April 25th 2006

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I am beginning to truly believe I belong to a totally different species than the majority of beings around me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I’m better than anybody else, just different.

Names of people that mean so much to so many others hold no fascination for me, and other names have no meaning whatsoever. Probably the key element in my disassociation is that for the past ten years, I have managed to survive without access to more than two television stations. These days, in fact, I’m down to one.

It’s not that our igloos up here in Canada don’t have cable, or even satellite dishes; hell you need a dish for talking on the phone in parts of the Artic. The two issues that have kept television and me pretty amicably separated for the past decade are lack of money and lack of interest.

When my wife and I first got together ten years ago, we didn’t have much money coming in. After drawing up a budget that would see us through a month, we decided we’d rather spend the money on other things each month rather than cable. We had each other for company at nights, so we decided we didn’t need to park our butts in front of a T.V. and we both had plenty of other interests anyway. That doesn’t mean we haven’t kept a television, because we have, but we use it solely for watching movies via either our VCR or our DVD player.

In the year prior to us living together, I had an apartment that had come with cable. To be honest, I had a difficult time making the transition to a television-free environment. One can become dependant on passive, spoon-fed entertainment just as easily as you can any soporific. But in a far shorter time than it took me to shake off the withdrawal from some other drugs, I was living without it quite contentedly. In those initial television-free days, I wasn’t aware of the chasm I was building between myself and others because the people I was around didn’t watch television either.

The job I had at the time had no co-employees requiring me to make small talk, so I had no one else’s life to serve as a contrast to mine. It wasn’t until I took a position at a small denture factory with about 30 co-workers that I understood the integral part that television plays in so many people’s lives as a focal point for conversation.

I started work there during the first episodes of Survivor and can still remember the bewilderment I felt when I overheard my first conversation about the show. I also still remember the looks the two women gave me when I asked what the show’s directors did with the other six days and twenty-three hours of video they shot if this was supposedly real.

The ensuing years haven’t made things easier. I like to think of myself as being informed as to what’s going on in the world and staying aware of things that I consider important. So I’m always taken by surprise when I see things that make no sense to me, but apparently most of the world understands.

Today I was scanning the pages of my online newspaper and on every page was either a large display ad or small sidebar box advertising “Donald Trump’s Carolyn Kepcher.” I haven’t been living in such a cave that I’m not aware of whom Donald Trump is, but who the hell is Carolyn Kepcher and what was this ad for?

It seems that Mrs. Kepcher achieved some semblance of fame by appearing on Mr. Trump’s television show The Apprentice. From what I can understand of this show premise, a group of hopeful corporate want-a-bes were gathered together to compete to see who could be the best business tycoon.

Mrs. Kepcher, who in real life runs a couple of Mr. Trump’s golf courses, served as some sort of advisor to both Mr. Trump and the competitors on the show. I also understand she had a say in which of the “apprentices” were allowed to continue on with the game. Her official title within Trump world is that of executive vice president of nothing in particular, but she has now become a television personality in the role of Donald Trump’s Carolyn Kecher.

Before I had found out any of the above information, I had given into curiosity and clicked on the ad, which took me to the Ticketmaster web page where you could purchase tickets to go hear Carolyn give forth on a variety of topics. For as little as $109.40, you can hear her talk about such earth shattering topics as how she honed her skills as a negotiator and dealmaker, conquered some of the some of the simplest yet toughest aspects of getting ahead and succeeding in professional life, developed the skill to lead by example, spot opportunities for advancement, and anticipate her next move.

Now maybe there are people out there willing to pay upwards of $128.70 to listen to a golf course manager talk about the secrets of her success, and whose claim to fame is that she appears on a television show run by her boss. But I couldn’t believe her name would be enough to attract people to dish out that kind of bread. Why else is this event being advertised as “Donald Trump’s Carolyn Kepcher”?

I was under the impression that you weren’t allowed to own people any more, so that can’t be the reason. Could it be that whoever is behind this figures people are only interested in this woman because of her association with Donald? But the advertising lists her as a “Celebrity.” She is treated with celebrity status on blogs and web sites.

After reading all that, I’m forced to believe this person has enough clout on her own to give a learned talk on topics any M.B.A. worth their salt already understands. But she has been on television, she is a “Celebrity”, and she knows Donald Trump, so she is something special and worth paying the big bucks her speaker’s fee demands as a ticket price.

Under normal circumstances, I’ll have heard of speakers who are appearing in specialty lecture series commanding large ticket prices. Even if they are rather obscure scientists or economists, they’ll still have come under my radar screen. But as soon as things move into the area of popular culture, I’m lost.

I don’t know who half the people are that people consider pundits from the left or the right when they are mentioned in blogs. I understand very few references to television shows, with the exception perhaps being Lost because a friend has been taping the episodes for me. (Although I’ve had all the early episodes on tape for this year for about two months and not had the desire to watch any of them.) Nine times out of ten, I won’t know the name of the band that comes up in conversation either, but then again, I don’t have MTV.

The thing is, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything either. I know I’m intelligent; I’m aware of what’s going on in the world, (sometimes too aware and it depresses the crap out of me and leaves me stressed to the maximum), and have opinions on those events that I try to form using my intelligence and not my emotions or based totally on my ideology.

But I couldn’t tell you which series of Survivor was playing, who the contestants are in either American or Canadian Idol, what people are being apprenticed for on Apprentice, whose dancing with whom on Dancing With The Stars, the guest list on Oprah (or her current weight), or the plot twists on any of the variations of hunt-the-terrorist-by-their-hair-follicles-and-sweat-samples now playing on television.

I could if I wanted to, without even ever watching one episode of these shows, because there is certainly enough written about them everywhere you turn, but I’m not interested. In fact it’s gotten to the point where I can’t even understand the interest in these topics or people. Which of course brings me back to where I started from, feeling like I’m a different sub species of human: homo sapiens non-televisionist or something along those lines.

There are other things that make me feel different or perhaps just don’t understand — the need to play your music so loud in your car that your car is in the body shop more than on the road, gunning the engine of a vehicle to speed a block to get to a stop sign, wearing your pants around your knees, wanting to impose your way of life on others, not understanding that when you stand outside someone else’s apartment window and shout you might disturb them, cutting down healthy trees because it blocks the sun from hitting your lawn, not understanding that every single life form on this planet plays a role in its survival, and not respecting someone enough to let them have a different opinion than yours without insulting them or diminishing it through slights.

I could go on and on; in fact I already have, haven’t I? I don’t remember making any sort of conscious decision to be different, or to be confused; it just seems to have happened this way. For a while as a teenager I even made the effort to fit in, but it didn’t work out. I seemed to have the habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and this would cause most people to look at me strangely.

In those days of course it was crushing; all teenagers want to be accepted. But eventually, I was able to find a place where my eccentricities were accepted. Even there, I felt at odds with people because most of them were just trying to be different as a means of either rebellion against their parents or from boredom.

Running into them years later, they’d wonder at the fact that I hadn’t changed and I would smile and nod and feel sort of sad, but not for me. I don’t mean that to be condescending, and I don’t mean to insult anyone or hurt their feelings by anything I’ve said in this post, so please don’t take it that way. This has just been my awkward attempt to explain my confusion and the origin of what must appear to most you as my bizarre way of thinking. Hope this helped.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://www.alistreview.com Diane Ensey

    Different is good, very good. I watch a little tv – mostly Discovery and History Channels, but I’m with you on the Survivor series. Also, TV desensitizes you to real life. Just like sugar – eating lots of sugar means you stop tasting all but the most intense flavors. I cut way back on sugar and now can taste the sweetness of carrots and bell pepper as well as the inherent nuttiness and sweetness in a bowl of plain rice.

  • http://www.crowscry.com John Spivey

    Maybe it’s just easier to say we are aliens and leave it at that. Saves a lot of fuss and bother, wear and tear.

    js

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    I’m with you on a lot of this, Richard–though I do have cable complete with movie channels, the movies they play suck so I wind up watching true crime and fictional (Law and Order) almost exclusively, plus CNN and FOX if I want to experience despair at the state of the “real world.” I seem to studiously eschew any show that is immensely popular most of the time.

    I also hear you on the “celebrity” thing. There’s a guy, John Basedow, who advertises a series of tapes called “Fitness Made Simple” on TV, and the voiceover refers to him as a “fitness celebrity.” I’d never heard of him, but now thanks to his incessant commercials he’s doing guest appearances and probably is indeed a celeb now if he wasn’t before. Funny little world we live in….