My North Hollywood practice space is basically a two-room lockout. The first room is wall-to-wall with the 37 drums of my full solo kit. Heaven, people. The second room has a smaller kit (for working on specific exercises), a practice pad, sofa, and a full stereo system/satellite TV rig with TiVo, studio monitors and a rumbling sub. This rig is mainly for the longer practice pad sessions when I’m working on the never-ending hand exercises, and I need some outside stimuli to distract me from the monotony of said never-ending exercises.
When I first had satellite piped in, I was only watching cool shit on TV while practicing; documentaries, thought provoking films, PBS, etc. But at some point, I started surfing through mainstream TV just to see what was going on in the world, and inevitably, I encountered a slew of these various reality TV programs. I would generally only watch partial episodes, and I initially found myself in judgment of many of these shows. “Are you fucking kidding me? There is a TV show based around this? What possible allure would this have to the public?” And so forth.
Of course, reality TV, as a genre, encompasses many types of shows, and I don’t mean to lump them all into one category, per se. I’m sure if you’re into certain subjects – like cooking, fashion, real estate, or entrepreneurship – there are shows that could give you a pretty decent behind-the-scenes education. Still, so much of it seems to be about pointing a camera at everyday people while they do everyday shit. Literally, everyday people: housewives, pawnshop owners, junk resellers, pregnant teens, brides-to-be, amateur musicians, even fucking insect exterminators!
Then there’s another faction of reality TV programming that seems to focus on folks whose lives are probably better left private. Example: There’s a show about drug addicts who are tricked into thinking the cameras are there to document their addiction… only to learn that their entire family has arranged to ambush them into getting treatment through an intervention. Hey, I recognize that interventions are probably the necessary “final straw” for many folks to get it together. But to spend an hour watching someone destroy brain cells on liquor, crack or inhalants, only to discover (in some cases) that their rehab program didn’t stick? Misery.
Another one is all about folks who store an ungodly amount of shit in their house and live amongst unimaginable clutter and filth. Concerned family members are interviewed, along with the featured hoarder of each episode. Okay, so something happened to this person along the way, they snapped a bit, and now they need some hands-on assistance. Fine. But is eavesdropping on these folks as they trudge their way through the roach-invested piles of garbage and knick-knacks around their home really entertainment? Misery.
Still another series of shows is all about prisoners, profiled like celebrities, and shown going about their daily activities. Seriously – we watch the tattooed fucking convict being led around in handcuffs, or taken out into “the yard” for a little recreation time, then ultimately involved in a skirmish of some sort. Then we get the benefit of an exclusive interview with the tattooed fucking convict, as he eloquently expresses how he was wronged, once again, by a guard, or the system, or a fellow inmate. Now, don’t get me wrong; I wish the tattooed fucking convict well, and I hope his rehabilitation time is ultimately successful. But goddamn it! Is this really a show? Is this really the best use of 60 minutes of national airtime? Misery.
From the standpoint of an artist/entertainer/creative person who values any kind of platform for their work, it can be difficult to see this amount of valuable airtime allotted for such viewing… which is why I was initially put off by the sheer volume of these kind of shows. There I was, in the practice room, metronome clicking, shaking my head in both amusement and despair with these programs, as I blazed through an endless array of rudimental hand exercises like I’ve been doing for nearly 40 years.
How could this be? What is the attraction? Shouldn’t television be the place to engage the fantastic… to see and experience shit you can’t see and experience elsewhere? Anyone can watch these pedestrian, reality TV kind of things play out in everyday life. Why would we then want to sit on our collective asses and watch more of it play out on TV? I did not understand it.
Well… once I got past my initial reaction, I’ve been able to occasionally observe these shows without judgment or emotional charge of any sort. Why? Because I finally came to terms with the practical function of reality TV: in general, it’s kind of like fast food for the brain. It’s quick, easy, familiar, enjoyable, even addictive. You don’t have to think much to watch. It’s easily assimilated and entertaining enough. It can also provide some much-needed escapism from the day’s toils. I get it.
I also wonder what happens to our brains from repeated exposure to this material. If we liken a lot of this kind of viewing to junk food, I don’t think there’s much harm in enjoying some vegan ice cream, cookies or dark chocolate, in moderation, and in the context of an otherwise stellar nutritional regimen. But what would happen if you only ate the treats and snacks… if there wasn’t a sound nutritional foundation in place to ensure that your body was well fed? Your body would atrophy. Same thing here, I’m afraid. I would think if you’re only inundating your mind with this schlock– and there’s not much of substance finding its way in – it, too, will experience some degree of atrophy.
Simple formula: If we eat a bunch of junk, our body will falter. If we watch a bunch of junk, our mind will falter.
Which brings us to…
The Leonardo Factor
Leonardo da Vinci remains one of the more interesting characters in our history for a number of reasons. First, his work has left an immortal imprint. It’s 500+ years later, and we’re still captivated by his work and fascinated with his genius. Second, his radically diverse areas of expertise in both art and science represent human potential to a staggering extent, making him a great example of what’s possible when a human being develops mind, body and spirit to such a crazy degree. In essence, he’s a reminder of what’s possible for us all… an ongoing wake-up call to hold our own potential to the light for some real evaluation.
So where does Leonardo da Vinci fit into the mix here? Well, presuming we have an interest in the expansion, evolution and expression of our own “genius” life purpose, I sometimes wonder what all a brilliant mind like da Vinci’s was exposed to everyday, back in the day. I’m sure he had his recreational downtime. But what, in general, fed his mind, muse and imagination each day?
And if he suddenly reappeared today, what would he think about all of this kind of mainstream viewing? Certainly, we all know there’s lots of quality stuff out there, as well. But if Leonardo were to sit down and scope shows based solely on highest Neilson ratings, what would he think? And what would happen to that infamous mind if he were forced to watch several hours a day of this shit… eyelids propped open ala “A Clockwork Orange”? (Food for thought, so to speak.)
Fortunately, we’ll never have to find out. Instead, we can enjoy his legacy and be inspired to hit our own potential, in our own way. And in case your TiVo is a little too backed up to view anything else at the moment, here’s a quick little 4-minute tidbit on our boy that reminds us of what’s possible.
Let’s not forget.