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The Reader's Eye on Television

Journal Entry, April 17, 2005: I guess the story could start anytime. It could start when I lost my job. It could start the night before I lost my job when I bought the bottle of Jack Daniel's. I guess the story could start when Jenny Chinaski dumped me in the tenth grade. Or, I could go all the way back to how my brother would hold me down and spit in my face. But, the story really peaked last night. The story crested atop the mounting swell of all the previous events that built up to it.

Snap! The light in my bathroom makes a snapping sound when I cut it on, and the fluorescent bulb blinks erratically for a few seconds afterward. I stood in front of the mirror in the fluttering green light. My hair had thinned out up front and lay flat against my oily forehead. I searched for the old clippers my mom left me. Not in the junk drawer, not in the closet. In an old bin under my bed.

When I finished shaving my head I held the clippers, humming in my hand. When I moved them from side to side I could feel them stabilizing like a gyroscope. I realized that it is a beautiful machine. A link to the early 1960s, with a two-tone black and burgundy plastic body, small fins running the length of them, and shining chrome clipping teeth. I rotated them around with my wrist and felt the tiny gyro motor correct and progress.

The hot water of the shower carried the long wisps of hair from my shoulders and the folds of my shirt. The clippers buzzed and clanked in the sink while I stood in the shower. My jeans were turning the puddles beneath my feet a pale blue. I just stood there. In the shower. Holding my tiny TV against my saturated pantlegs.

I wanted to plug it in and turn it on and carry it into the shower with me. But I also wanted to hear the clippers run. Only one outlet in my bathroom. Soon I grew tired of holding the television and set it down. I left big sopping footprints through my bedroom as I collected my alarm clock and returned to the shower. The alarm clock was lighter than the TV, so I held it long after the water turned cold. When the alarm clock became unsatisfying I finally brought a small filing cabinet in and stacked it on the TV set and placed the clock radio on top of that.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

Thursday, April 21

Big Momma's House (2000)

FX, 3:30 p.m.

Two hours doesn't look like much on paper, until you realize you'll never get those two hours back. When you're on your deathbed, wishing you'd learned how to play a musical instrument, those two hours you spent with Big Momma will return and haunt you.

Cheerleading

FOX Sports, 3:00 p.m.

Here we go. I need cheerleading to brighten up an otherwise dull Thursday afternoon. What I need is my own cheering section for everyday life, but the annoyance would soon eclipse the novelty. I would hate to have a pack of wild Jennifers, Sarahs, and Staceys in my kitchen rooting me on while I make a second pot of tea.

Friday, April 22

Shooting USA

Outdoor Life Network, 5:00 p.m.

Jess and I were skipping school and decided to go out hunting near the lake. We were driving along when I spotted a forked-horn buck down a cliff and in the brush. Jess jumped out, leaned across the hood, and squeezed off a round. The buck looked at us and ran off. That's when we noticed the smoking hole in front of Jess's rifle that led from the hood of the pickup and exited through the passenger-side fender. In his haste to bag a deer, Jess had shot his truck, clean through.

Saturday, April 23

The Fly (1986)

WGN, 5:00 p.m.

I haven't been scared by a movie since I watched The Exorcist when I was 11 years old. Until, that is, last month, when I watched a movie called The Brood. The Brood is about these demon children who terrorize a family. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I jumped and screamed at one particularly shocking moment. David Cronenberg directed both The Fly and The Brood, in case you were looking for the link.

Sunday. April 24

Mind Games: The Mysterious World of Alain Nu

TLC, 8:00 p.m.

Barb called me, excited to show me something. "It's a magic trick, and nobody will ever be able to figure it out! I'm coming over." She had bought an instructional DVD and the necessary equipment to make small objects "hover" in front of her. "I saw a guy at the airport doing it, and there was no way I could figure it out. The first time I saw it, I thought it was real magic, like the guy had special powers. Nobody will ever know how I do it!"

"Isn't there just a string that you pull like this?" I motioned.

"Did you watch the DVD already?" Barb asked, incredulous. "How did you know?"

My roommate Renee walked in and said, "Hey, a magic trick. There must be a string back here that you pull." Barb's face twisted into pure horror as her world crumbled.

Monday, April 25

Medium

NBC, 10:00 p.m.

I got a magic necklace from a man in China. Of course, I don't believe in it. It represents hooey and superstition. But, there it is, around my neck, every day.

Tuesday, April 26

Designers' Challenge

HGTV, 3:30 p.m.

The other night I woke up to scratch an itch in the middle of my back. In under a minute I had kicked a table, tripped over a chair, and knocked a hanging lamp off my ceiling with a candleholder I was using as a back-scratcher. It wasn't my finest moment.

Wednesday, April 27

Stacked

XETV, 8:30 p.m.

This is terrible, just awful. The writing's hackneyed; the acting is stilted and wooden. It only serves as a vehicle to display Pam Anderson's giant, bolt-on rack. Of course, I watched every second.

Thursday, April 28

The Apprentice

NBC, 9:00 p.m.

If nothing else, this show fulfills a need for weekly schadenfreude. I behave like an enraged ape, throwing stuff at the TV and yelling, "Ha ha ha! You got fired! You suck!"

Blowin' Up: Fatty Koo

BET, 10:00 p.m.

There was a time when I knew what kids were saying; now there's this. I turn 29 next month. I'll be in my closet growing old with my Dolly Parton eight-tracks if anyone needs me.

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Journal Entry, April 17, 2005: I guess the story could start anytime. It could start when I lost my job. It could start the night before I lost my job when I bought the bottle of Jack Daniel's. I guess the story could start when Jenny Chinaski dumped me in the tenth grade. Or, I could go all the way back to how my brother would hold me down and spit in my face. But, the story really peaked last night. The story crested atop the mounting swell of all the previous events that built up to it.

Snap! The light in my bathroom makes a snapping sound when I cut it on, and the fluorescent bulb blinks erratically for a few seconds afterward. I stood in front of the mirror in the fluttering green light. My hair had thinned out up front and lay flat against my oily forehead. I searched for the old clippers my mom left me. Not in the junk drawer, not in the closet. In an old bin under my bed.

When I finished shaving my head I held the clippers, humming in my hand. When I moved them from side to side I could feel them stabilizing like a gyroscope. I realized that it is a beautiful machine. A link to the early 1960s, with a two-tone black and burgundy plastic body, small fins running the length of them, and shining chrome clipping teeth. I rotated them around with my wrist and felt the tiny gyro motor correct and progress.

The hot water of the shower carried the long wisps of hair from my shoulders and the folds of my shirt. The clippers buzzed and clanked in the sink while I stood in the shower. My jeans were turning the puddles beneath my feet a pale blue. I just stood there. In the shower. Holding my tiny TV against my saturated pantlegs.

I wanted to plug it in and turn it on and carry it into the shower with me. But I also wanted to hear the clippers run. Only one outlet in my bathroom. Soon I grew tired of holding the television and set it down. I left big sopping footprints through my bedroom as I collected my alarm clock and returned to the shower. The alarm clock was lighter than the TV, so I held it long after the water turned cold. When the alarm clock became unsatisfying I finally brought a small filing cabinet in and stacked it on the TV set and placed the clock radio on top of that.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

Thursday, April 21

Big Momma's House (2000)

FX, 3:30 p.m.

Two hours doesn't look like much on paper, until you realize you'll never get those two hours back. When you're on your deathbed, wishing you'd learned how to play a musical instrument, those two hours you spent with Big Momma will return and haunt you.

Cheerleading

FOX Sports, 3:00 p.m.

Here we go. I need cheerleading to brighten up an otherwise dull Thursday afternoon. What I need is my own cheering section for everyday life, but the annoyance would soon eclipse the novelty. I would hate to have a pack of wild Jennifers, Sarahs, and Staceys in my kitchen rooting me on while I make a second pot of tea.

Friday, April 22

Shooting USA

Outdoor Life Network, 5:00 p.m.

Jess and I were skipping school and decided to go out hunting near the lake. We were driving along when I spotted a forked-horn buck down a cliff and in the brush. Jess jumped out, leaned across the hood, and squeezed off a round. The buck looked at us and ran off. That's when we noticed the smoking hole in front of Jess's rifle that led from the hood of the pickup and exited through the passenger-side fender. In his haste to bag a deer, Jess had shot his truck, clean through.

Saturday, April 23

The Fly (1986)

WGN, 5:00 p.m.

I haven't been scared by a movie since I watched The Exorcist when I was 11 years old. Until, that is, last month, when I watched a movie called The Brood. The Brood is about these demon children who terrorize a family. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I jumped and screamed at one particularly shocking moment. David Cronenberg directed both The Fly and The Brood, in case you were looking for the link.

Sunday. April 24

Mind Games: The Mysterious World of Alain Nu

TLC, 8:00 p.m.

Barb called me, excited to show me something. "It's a magic trick, and nobody will ever be able to figure it out! I'm coming over." She had bought an instructional DVD and the necessary equipment to make small objects "hover" in front of her. "I saw a guy at the airport doing it, and there was no way I could figure it out. The first time I saw it, I thought it was real magic, like the guy had special powers. Nobody will ever know how I do it!"

"Isn't there just a string that you pull like this?" I motioned.

"Did you watch the DVD already?" Barb asked, incredulous. "How did you know?"

My roommate Renee walked in and said, "Hey, a magic trick. There must be a string back here that you pull." Barb's face twisted into pure horror as her world crumbled.

Monday, April 25

Medium

NBC, 10:00 p.m.

I got a magic necklace from a man in China. Of course, I don't believe in it. It represents hooey and superstition. But, there it is, around my neck, every day.

Tuesday, April 26

Designers' Challenge

HGTV, 3:30 p.m.

The other night I woke up to scratch an itch in the middle of my back. In under a minute I had kicked a table, tripped over a chair, and knocked a hanging lamp off my ceiling with a candleholder I was using as a back-scratcher. It wasn't my finest moment.

Wednesday, April 27

Stacked

XETV, 8:30 p.m.

This is terrible, just awful. The writing's hackneyed; the acting is stilted and wooden. It only serves as a vehicle to display Pam Anderson's giant, bolt-on rack. Of course, I watched every second.

Thursday, April 28

The Apprentice

NBC, 9:00 p.m.

If nothing else, this show fulfills a need for weekly schadenfreude. I behave like an enraged ape, throwing stuff at the TV and yelling, "Ha ha ha! You got fired! You suck!"

Blowin' Up: Fatty Koo

BET, 10:00 p.m.

There was a time when I knew what kids were saying; now there's this. I turn 29 next month. I'll be in my closet growing old with my Dolly Parton eight-tracks if anyone needs me.

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