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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No TV in the Parlor

I’m sitting in our “parlor”—we don’t call it that, of course, but that would’ve been its name a hundred years ago. (Today people would call it a “living room,” but we do most of our living in the family room one level down.)

This room is deliberately missing something. Since the first home we owned over twenty years ago, we have never put a television in the living room. As a result, it seems that the furnishings and details keep going further and further back in time. It’s become a parlor—not 100% Victorian yet—but the doily-count far exceeds the number of things that plug in (8 to 4).

I would describe the décor as “early Edison,” that era between the Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin D.) when there were still touches of “Victorian” décor under the modern additions that slowly became a part of American homes through the Twenties, Great Depression and WWII. Early Edison is a middle-class look of frugal elegance—built on a foundation of old things too good to pitch mixed with new things “saved up for.” Not until the post-war prosperity was the transition to modern décor complete. The capstone of the new era was a square piece of furniture called the television.

If you ever doubt that TV changed the parlor to a living room, watch Avalon, a generational family story built around the recurrence of two American holidays (Thanksgiving and July 4th). One of that film's themes shows how the advent of television replaced “family stories” with a more general scheduled narrative of news and nonsense that changed the way we eat, think, and interact with those around us. While we became more connected nationally, we became less familiar at home. Television started out as a something that brought the family together (primarily because there was only one in the house and you all had to agree on what to watch), but Avalon illustrates how it ultimately isolates (as seen in the nursing home scene near the end of the film). I like that movie. It has created a catch phrase for my siblings. Whenever one of is late for a gathering, he says, "You cut da Toikey?" (Now you'll have to rent it to see why.)

I guess that’s why this room is a TV-free zone. It’s a place for visiting, reading, and writing. (I do nearly all my writing here—especially family narratives.) It’s a quiet room with a few pleasant exceptions: There is a large Victorian aviary in the corner where a finch sings a pleasant tune. It’s when the keys of my laptop sound like sleet on a winter window that he sings.
There is another exception to the quiet. I’ll write about that this evening (in the post above this one).

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