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Reality TV Night

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Just finished reality tv night. We watched one episode each of Intervention, The Moment of Truth and A Shot of Love With Tila Tequila. We watched them in that order. Lindsay came over to have dinner with us (I made spaghetti in tomato sauce with shrimp and scallops). Lindsay has just moved here from Montreal to work at the CBC. She’s also working with me on the Peep Culture CBC radio special. More on that as it develops. Anyway, Lindsay hadn’t seen any of these shows before so it was interesting to get her reaction.
The Intervention episode we watched featured a meth addict logger spiraling out of control as he struggled to deal with the death of his mother while his wife and kids looked on. It was pretty boring to start off, lots of interview testimonials about his background and problems. The wife had the best lines, stuff like: “His mind is a prison with many doors” and “Addiction is dragging this family into the grave.” But it doesn’t really pick up until we get right into it, with the logger and his wife fighting and the logger doing lines in his garage workshop and the kiddies crying. Every time logger snorted back another line of speed Lindsay and W would cringe. Eventually the Intervention happens and logger agrees to head off to a clinic for healing. Three months later he’s apparently all better and, as usual, there’s a quasi-happy ending. So why do we all feel so dirty?
The show I was most looking forward to was the one I hadn’t seen yet, the first episode of Moment of Truth, a new Fox venture. It’s eerily similar to a proposed ‘fake’ show I had suggested creating in various proposals for Peep Culture the book and documentary. My show was going to be called Your Deepest Secret and it was going to revolve around people’s willingness to confess secrets. The Fox show has a contestant and three guests – usually life partner, friend and family member. The contestant is asked personal questions and as they amass more money and move up levels, the questions get more and more pointed and personal. So it starts out with “Do you think you’re better looking than most guys your age?” and by level two it’s “Do you have something you don’t want your wife to know about.” The contestants have already been asked all these questions previously while hooked up to a lie detector test, so if they don’t answer the questions truthfully on TV a giant FALSE flashes above them and they lose. On the episode we watched a personal trainer who had already won $10,000 lost it all while his wife looked on when he denied sometimes touching his female clients more than necessary. FALSE!!! Wife cringed but you couldn’t tell if she was more upset about the money or about the revelations including one very amorphous admission that there were things he’d done he didn’t want his wife to know about.
Anyhooo…this show is the purest incarnation of the concept of Peep Culture I’d seen yet. There’s no claim of any kind of public benefit from watching this. It’s just pure peep. We’re just deriving entertainment from the normal everyday stuff of other people’s lives. Intervention at least claims to be showing people that they can and should overcome addiction. But Moment of Truth can’t really claim to be doing anything other than offering us 42 minutes of pure, delicious, squirmy, sleazy, supposed revelation.
For dessert we watched the final episode of A Shot of Love. We all knew she would pick the guy over the girl. Actually Lindsay kinda ruined it by revealing during dinner that her sister, a big fan, had already told her that she picks the guy and he dumps her a few months later. Still it was only the second episode I’d watched and the whole Springer-meets-Bachelor vibe of the show was momentarily compelling. At the end of the show Tila emerged to select the ‘winner’ wearing a frilly black party dress. W kept saying: she looks like a gremlin!

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On the Train to Kingston

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We’ve just passed Belleville, Ontario and I’m listening to the woman one row up shuffle through papers and talk loudly on her cell about how she needs help figuring out how to reboot her suddenly inoperative Blackberry. I don’t know who she’s talking to since it’s only 8:00 am. Anyway, it’s a fitting start to this blog. Am I peeping her or is she happily exposing herself to anyone who cares enough to listen? I’m not really peeping, because what else can I do but listen? On the other hand, I am doing more than listen – I’m paying attention and writing down what she’s saying.
This blog is about the rise of peep culture. Definition: a culture of mass voyeurism in which we get more and more of our kicks from peeping in on the entertaining foibles of the real lives of others; at the same time, we become more and more amenable to others peeping in on our lives.
So a bit of a peep into my morning: The train left at 7 am. I woke up at 6:10, five minutes or so before my cab was supposed to show up. Actually I didn’t wake up, W woke me up. Who knows when I would have gotten up if left to my own devices. I was counting on the kid to wake us both up at 6 am exactly, like she does every morning. Today, the little bugger decided to sleep in. So much to W’s annoyance I ended up waking them both up as I fumbled for something to wear and stumbled into the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Anyway, I grabbed my carefully packed bag, kissed everyone goodbye and jumped into the waiting cab. Five minutes later I realized I had forgotten my laptop, so we turned around. I ran back into the house past W and kid, and bounded up the stairs. W, who is the kind of person who has to get everywhere at least an hour early, shook her head in horror as I waved yet another frantic goodbye.
At this time in the morning it takes less than 10 minute to get from my house to the train station so I got there with fifteen minutes to spare – time to hit the bank machine and grab a coffee before the train pulled out. Stepping onto the train a few minutes before it left the station reminded me how annoying flying is and how great train travel is. High speed rail please!
I haven’t told you why I’m going to Kingston yet: On Monday, while compiling peep related links for this blog I dropped in on a site I’d been meaning to visit but hadn’t gotten around to yet. It was the website of the Surveillance Project , founded by sociologist David Lyon and located at Queen’s University in Kingston. I noticed that they had a talk scheduled on Thursday. A criminology prof from University of Montreal was coming to talk about public perception of CCTV surveillance cameras. Perfect material for an article I’m writing for The Walrus magazine and for the peep culture book I’m researching. So I called them up and asked if I could come visit the Surveillance Project and talk to David Lyon and the University of Montreal Prof. They set me up with 3 interviews – Lyon, the Prof and a grad student doing research on Facebook. That plus the talk seemed to make it more than worthwhile to spend a day in Kingston. I’ll be arriving in about ten minutes, so we’ll soon see if I’m right. (By the way, 2 more audible cell phone conversations took place on the train while I wrote this: One woman trying to coordinate a meeting and one woman just chatting about her life.)

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The Bloggist

Hey, I’m Hal Niedzviecki. I’m a writer/thinker who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my wife and daughter. Up till now I’ve always considered myself a private person. But at the same time I’m fascinated by people who effortlessly open themselves up to the whole world. So I’ve… more...

 

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