Media Diet

If the surfeit of commercial real estate suddenly available throughout Sonoma is any indicator, I’d say the economic downturn has arrived in the valley. Clearly, I’m not an economist (if I hadn’t married an MBA, my accounts would drain the world’s supply of red ink), but the effect is like looking at a beautiful face whose smile is missing teeth. The shuttering of local businesses doesn’t seem to have stopped on the street. Pseudo-locales like post office boxes seem similarly effected. When I last went to retrieve my mail, I found the amount of vacant boxes staggering. How did I know they were vacant without committing a federal offense? Each was tagged with an invitation that read: “This Post Office box is available,” below boldly-printed propositions like “value,” “convenience,” “privacy” and “security.” If I didn’t know better, I would think the postmaster general was trying to sell me a condo.

To bolster my personal cash reserves, I’ve decided to tighten my belt and go on a “media diet.” Ironic, perhaps, coming from a media maker, but not unlike dining in when one’s a chef. What to cut: Giving up cable television is like the vegetarianism of media consumption. You miss it until the thought of it becomes repulsive (moreover, the product of Hollywood is like sausage – it’s better not knowing how it’s made). Other trims: Since the Wall Street Journal says little more than “your industry is tanking” when I peruse its otherwise informative Media & Marketing section, I canceled it. Ditto the New York Times, with which I once luxuriated, Sundays in bed, with a cup of shade-grown, fair-trade, French-pressed coffee. In recent weeks the Times has been nothing more than three pounds of pulpy guilt wrapped in blue plastic. I don’t have time for the Times, what with all the hustle I’ve got going in anticipation of the sprout. Likewise, I’ve nixed Netflix, which has used my checking account as an ATM every new moon. If I need a flick, I can support the local economy and rent from Movie Merchants – so there. Presently, I read the news online and stay tuned to NPR. I’d support the local affiliate (as I have in years past) if it would stop repeating “Prairie Home Companion” so goddamn often. Though I have the utmost respect for Garrison Keillor, et al, I one can only gorge on so much American pie before the bloat sets in.

So, how does one get the thrills and chills the human spirit seems to crave, Mr. Howell? Glad you asked, brilliant and sexy reader. I, for one, have seen a play – my first in years: Fred Curchack’s “Milarepa,” billed as a “fantastical tale of magic, murder and redemption,” admirably deployed at the Cinnabar Theater. I learned more about the human condition in 84 minutes of stage time than I could in a year of commercial television (and I’ve got no quarrel with commercial TV – back in L.A., it used to be, if not my “meal ticket,” at least a hearty “food stamp”).
I’ve become a voracious reader, albeit only of marketing and branding books, but I’m reading nonetheless. And when the words don’t twist themselves into anagrams, I can generally make sense of them. What makes the most sense, however, is requesting one’s desired tome online from the Sonoma Valley branch of the Sonoma County Library, which will alert you via email when your book or DVD is available and awaiting you. If there’s a tome one must simply have here and now, visit a local bookstore (there are more than you think) and pluck it from the shelf.
File the above activities under “use or lose it.” Sonoma is more than a pretty face, gappy smile notwithstanding.