Vital Signs

A Week in the Life: A TV Diary

You are what you eat. Up to a point, I tend to believe that maxim. Because I am unwilling to apply it to my own life, I also tend to resent it. The food police are everywhere, and the harder they work, the less there is to eat. For instance, if you should eat an ordinary hot dog, you could be dead by morning. Foodwise, the concept of the aimless pleasure is all but extinct.

The body and the mind are one organism. I tend to believe that too. Which means that you are not only what you eat, you are also (oh, the responsibility) what you read, dance to, and watch on the tube. Garbage in, garbage out, right? The food police are matched in their zeal only by the cultural watchdogs, the folks who sample People magazine every week in order to report that yes, it's still full of empty calories. But critics save their loudest warnings and deepest disdain for television, the sludge of American entertainment, cholesterol for the mind. Beware: Television programming is low-level, inane, witless. Watch enough of it and you will clog your brain forever, never to have another meaningful thought.

What, you might ask, is the big deal? Most people work hard, and if they want to spend two hours in the evening eating potato chips and watching situation comedies, who's to say they should be spooning yogurt and viewing PBS documentaries instead? Until recently I had no personal answer to that question. While...

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