Clippings: You are what you TiVo; press 'play'

They say we only use 10 percent of our brain, but if you are like me you only use 10 percent of your TiVo. You know TiVo. It’s the digital video recorder that allows you to pause and rewind shows you are watching on your television and, more importantly, record shows that you are unable to watch at the time of broadcast because you are too busy actually living a productive life. Or you are too busy watching another television show. Or you are asleep.

My TiVo holds hours and hours of programs and I use about 10 percent of its storage capacity to record and then watch my favorite Thursday night comedies when I am not home, “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night With David Letterman” when I am asleep and an occasional awards show or special event when it is too painful to sit through it in real time. The other 90 percent of my TiVo’s memory is crammed full of programs that I recorded over the last three years and that I will probably never, ever watch, just as 90 percent of my brain is crammed full of useless memories that I will never, ever need. And for some reason I cannot bring myself to erase all the shows and documentaries and movies that are backed up in my TiVo, just as I am unable to erase all the memories I have from my life that are backed up in that useless 90 percent of my brain.

Do I really need to remember with such excruciating detail that time in the third grade when my friend Bobby Boyd and I ate a whole can of Greek olives? Or how about the pet gerbil I had when I was seven years old? Its name was Pearl and it only lived for about two months, but for some reason I cannot erase from some of my precious brain space the memory of the cute way it used to clean its fur. There is no delete button for Bobby Boyd and Pearl, so in my brain they will remain. My TiVo, however, does have a delete button. I just can’t seem to push it. 

Here are a few things that are hanging out in my TiVo: “Annie Hall,” which I have probably seen a dozen times and already takes up memory space in my brain; “Asphalt Jungle,” starring the great, unsung actor Sterling Hayden; an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” with guest Alfred Hitchcock; a collection of at least a dozen cooking shows that are waiting to teach me how to make tunnel of fudge cake, empanadas, chicken pot pie, lemon pudding cake, raspberry/fig crostata, naan, croissants and Danish pastry; “Broad Street Bullies,” a documentary about players on the 1970s-era Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, many of whom stayed in the same hotel with me and my family one weekend when I was about 12; “Spectacle,” an interview show hosted by Elvis Costello, who wears one of the world’s greatest hats in most episodes; two documentaries about the Great Lakes (I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior); “Shadowing the Third Man,” a documentary about one of my top five movies of all time; three documentaries about photographers (for obvious reasons); all six parts of Ken Burns’ PBS series about the national parks, many of which I visited on a giant road trip when I was 17; and “The Great Race” a Tony Curtis movie from 1965 with great old cars, the great Jack Lemmon, and a great pie fight that I fondly remember watching on television with my dad when I was just a kid.

The list goes on and on, and my kids are getting a little annoyed that I can’t seem to let go of or even watch at least some of the shows. But looking at just this small sample of the many programs languishing in some tiny digital library hidden away in a black box above my television, I realize you are what you TiVo. Just like all my memories, all those shows have some kind of defining meaning for me. Now all I have to do is hit play.


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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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