Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sonnet: "Night Life;" Reality TV

Night Life

I’m trying to get the energy to sleep.
I must be upright if I brush my teeth.
My clothes are piled beside me in a heap.
If I don’t brush I’ll wake up with bad breath.
The television holds me in its grip
But not for long. That cauldron has no power
To glut my eyes with shit at this late hour.
I’ll turn it off as soon as I get up.
Get up. That is the problem. I must move
From this soft mattress to the icy squares
Of cheap linoleum, and I must prove
I’m mobile, conscious, present and aware
When all I want is to spoon my sleeping wife
And euthanize my pitiful night life.

Today’s story brings us to a cultural divide I had not crossed, for which I thank my brother, Clay Chaffin, for an introduction.

When “Survivor” came out in the late 90s I missed the boat. I instantly realized that “reality TV” was scripted so that spontaneous action could only occur between strict parameters, already established by the production company. And should the spontaneous action fall short of expectations, they could always re-shoot it. I became so contemptuous of the craze I found series like “Law and Order” more real than “The Apprentice.” Thus I didn’t watch a single reality show until I was visiting my brother and he insisted we watch “The Apprentice” one night, which mildly amused me for an hour, though I would have preferred to watch something else.

In my recent and ongoing depression Clay advised me to watch “Project Runway.” I was desperate enough to do anything, and so I did. And lo and behold, I loved it! It has been one of the few blessed things that can call me out of depression, however briefly. And why? Because Project Runway gave me the distance I needed to avoid emotional pain and still gain some entertainment.

When you’re deeply depressed you are sanded raw and you want to avoid overidentification with the feelings of others, whether real or imagined. You do not want to be seriously interested in a human drama, it is all too painful. Since I care nothing for fashion, I could enjoy Project Runway at a comfortable distance, observing the participants (whose lives are fashion) like bugs in a jar. Funny bugs. Entertaining bugs. Oh, I had minor preferences among the participants, but it didn’t really matter who won. It was all so comfortingly trivial, like having an ant farm.

As Homer Simpson said, “How can you not love television? It asks so little and it gives so much.” I’m with him on the “asking little” part. That’s what I want of life when I’m depressed. I don’t want to watch a good drama. I don’t want to read good literature. I want fluff, fodder, things that don’t engage me in any fundamental way. All else is suspect. Here’s to trivial reality shows as a help during depressions.

At 2.5 kilorats,



  1. Anonymous7:18 AM PDT


    I prefer this one to your 'Sonnet for Poets'. Your causual disdain for strict meter is very modern. Particularly with these sonnets one should read without the expectation of reading a sonnet. Announcing the form almost makes the reader go iamb-hunting.

    take care

  2. Even Shakespeare did not always obey the iamb.

    Iamb that Iamb is no sonnet god!

    Thanks for your expertise, Norm.


Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!