Sunday, December 18, 2011


So, the holidays are upon us, and the stress levels can’t get any higher. Between final exams, Christmas shopping, bill paying, school plays, and holiday parties, my youngest daughter has decided that this is the perfect time to have a complete meltdown that forces me to think; I wonder how much a ten-year-old is going for on EBay. However, since that is highly frowned upon by Department of Social Services, I opted for her to lose television and computer privileges for an entire week.

Her response to that was another meltdown followed by tears and pleading. I stood my ground. Since things were out of control, she needed to be wrangled in. I think this will be good for her. It will give her time to get back in touch with her inner self and reflect on her poor behavior and the toys [that are on the line] for which she has begged for this Christmas.

For me, it is absolute heaven.

It gave me the opportunity to finish up an eight-page final essay a week early, and get my housework done with no other noise than the radio station that plays Christmas songs around the clock.

After a couple of days with no television, I found that she was able to focus on her homework, study for tests, practice her violin, and amazingly enough, the struggle with nightly routines was diminished. Why, do you ask? Because there is no arguing about missing her favorite shows. We have Netflix, and she can watch them next week.

Crisis averted!

Completely loving this new quiet way of living, I wondered how other people fared with this experiment. Not everyone can handle an entire week without television. After going to my handy dandy internet search engine, I found a link to the Coronado, California Patch online newspaper that ran a story about the town going "Screen Free". Tonia Accetta was asked if she was going to have her family partake in the “Screen-Free Week”.  Her response was, “The dates also coincide with the Easter break. It seems a bit mean to turn off TV when school is out. Plus we have to know who gets kicked off American Idol!” I can’t help but think; Heavens to Murgatroyd! God forbid Tonia is subjected to the daunting task of entertaining her children for the entire school break. Not to mention missing the next singer to get booted off American Idol. Anything but that!

Then there is a comment from Jan Spear on why there shouldn’t be a Screen-Free Week; “Screen-Free Week or National TV-Turnoff week impacts our escapism. Just a suggestion, how about limiting the amount of TV time per week, instead of totally tuning out? I wouldn't want to miss a Tsunami warning.”

Sarcasm wells up inside me.

Well, I can see how that’s justifiable, Jan. Tsunami warnings are so frequent in the United States these days we wouldn’t want to be caught off guard by a spontaneous Tsunami. Oh, and I can see how climbing into bed at night and escaping into a great book is completely out of the question.

Oy Vey, give me a break.

After being surprised and disappointed at the comments coming from highly educated adults on this subject, I decided to look elsewhere, hoping to find other information that I could use. I clicked on the next link to an article written by Charlene Lee, a fourteen-year-old girl from Los Angeles who challenged herself to an entire week of no television after she spent five hours straight watching the “Heroes” series.

What she discovered was surprising. After going through the withdrawal process, (aka the first couple of days with no television), she realized that she was able to be much more productive with her time. She found ways to fill her time with meaningful and important things like homework, studying for her SAT’s and submitting in her draft story for the LA Youth online newspaper early.

She began to not care about her favorite televisions shows and preferred to do something productive. However, by day five, she broke her own rules and went to the movies to catch the opening of Spiderman 3.

While sitting in the theater, she started thinking of other things she could be doing instead of wasting her time watching a movie. I find it pretty amazing for a fourteen-year-old to surmise how much television has impacted her life in a negative way just after five days.

Way to go Charlene!

I can only hope that after this weekend, my daughter will realize all the things she was able to do and that a week without television was not so bad after all.

Or at the very least will think twice before acting up.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing the new Muppet movie starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams as well as a new muppet character; Walter. I have three words for this movie; Waka waka waka! The Muppets come back strong after a hiatus that I feel was much too long. How could America forget about Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang? Apparently, they have and the Disney crew has had just about enough of it. On November 23rd, “The Muppets” movie was released nationwide, and along with it came great reviews. The premise of the film is that while on vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) discover the evil plot from oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to destroy the famous Muppet Theater and drill for oil that he discovered beneath the theater grounds. Walter helps Kermit reunite the old gang who has all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs in a Reno casino tribute band called, The Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing businessman. In order to save the theater, the gang comes together to put on a telethon show. All the old favorite characters were included in the film, the Swiss chef, the old men in the balcony, hippie chick, even the Latin shrimp made a cameo. This movie was in true Muppet fashion-laden with celebrity names like Alan Arkin, Zack Galifianakis Selena Gomez, Jack Black, Jason Segal, Amy Adams, and Sarah Silverman, just to name a few. The Muppets come up against some resistance from the ABC executive (Rashida Jones) who refuses to air the Muppets telethon because they are passed their prime and America is now interested in such shows like “Punching Teacher”. Throughout the movie, there are songs with inspirational and moral messages. “Life’s a Happy Song” explains how much better the world is when you are who you are meant to be and sharing it with the ones you love.

My friend had invited me and my daughter to see it with her family. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about going since the last one I saw was painfully boring (aka “Muppets in Space” circa 1999). When I got there, I was surprised to see pretty much the entire theater full on a Sunday matinee since it was the first weekend of the Christmas shopping rush. I was also surprised to find that it placed second for the highest movie tickets sold in the country. With America is still in love with Vampires, which took the number one spot, and I still don’t get, but I digress.

As I watched, I discovered that I just couldn’t resist enjoying the silliness, uplifting songs, and very cheeky jokes that are weaved heavily throughout this film (Fozzie Bear’s fart shoes went over huge with the audience). I actually found myself laughing out loud and was brought back to my childhood days of innocence and wonderment that the Muppets brought into my life each week. The movie also had jokes and parts that only adults would get. There were actually a couple of instances that I had to explain to my daughter because the jokes went over her head. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Muppet movie without the song “Rainbow Connection.” I was heart warmed to hear it and softly sang along, remembering every word. I was instantly twelve years old again. I looked over at my friend and saw her wiping the tears from her eyes. It has to mean something when a piece of felt with ping pong eyes sings a melody has the ability to move someone to tears.
 Simplicity at its best, I say.
So why is it that we as a society refuse such simplicity? We are so stressed; our comedies are dark, cynical, and hardly silly. Gone are the days of movies like “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” (admit it, seeing OJ Simpson getting pushed off a balcony in a wheelchair was hysterical). Sure there have been some satires relating to “scary movies”, however, one would have to be under the age of 21 and into horror flicks to get the jokes. The Muppets make it completely OK for society to indulge in this guilty pleasure of simplicity and silliness for an hour and 42 minutes. Seriously, what is funnier than fart shoes? Absolutely nothing.