Advice to Self…

Screen Time

Remember when “parental control” was a euphemism for discipline. We invoked it when we thought the kids were watching too much television. Now parental controls are built in to their devices. A much better idea – no nagging – way to manage their “screen time.” That’s great for parenting but we parents need to limit our own screen time. We’re are drowning in TMI, too much information. We need self-discipline to control the deluge.

John Lennon told us, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy.” And it isn’t. Look around. Watch people on the bus. Nobody’s talking. Everybody’s staring at their phones. They’re consumed. TMI. Look at all the morbidly obese people the next time you go to Starbucks. Too many Frappuccino’s. TMF. I probably shouldn’t wade in these waters, but too much political news is just as bad for your health as too many Frappuccino’s.  

Sometimes the effects are hard to grasp. I didn’t know how liberating it was to go without news until it wasn’t available. In 2011 M and I were living in Saigon where the only American TV we could get was American Idol, Glee, and Suzy Orman. No news is good news – no CNN, no MSNBC, no Fox News. It was liberating. 

That was in 2011 during the run-up to an earlier presidential election, and in that far off land without cable news our heads weren’t cluttered with polling data and other political detritus a year before the election date. Our days didn’t revolve around the daily squabbling between Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Mitt Romney. Remember them? Romney is still a player, but the rest are part of a long forgotten sideshow. Today, there’s a new cast of characters jockeying for position on the Democratic side. I doubt we’ll remember their names 8 years from now.

Back in the USSR, I mean USA, as another election year rolls around the media blitz is in full swing again, and as curious as I am about the impeachment drama, the Democratic death spiral, and what should be the slam dunk burial of Donald J. Trump, I’m determined to exert my inner parental controls.

A basketball coach friend once told me, after winning his first three games, “Jack, it’s a long season.” The same holds true in politics. What I learned in 2011 is that the American elections last too long and cost too much. I don’t want or need to know Nate Silver’s daily rankings of the primary candidates. The election is a still a year away.

M and I take two newspapers, four magazines, have two TVs, two computers, two smartphones, two e-readers, and two radios plus Sirius XM in the car. The day starts with Morning Joe and coffee and ends with a glass of wine and Colbert’s LateShow monologue. I know Clint Watts and Nicolle Wallace, George Conway and Maggie Haberman as if they were old friends and cringe when Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity– emissaries of an Evil Empire made of their own polyester hold forth. By the time I’m tucked in bed watching Colbert, I’m too exhausted to appreciate how brilliant he is.

Colbert Musing

Here’s my Advice to Self: 

  1. Get a life.
  2. Stop obsessing over Trump’s tax returns. Yes, he cheated.
  3. Tell Nancy Pelosi to cool her jets over impeachment. It’s a long season.
  4. Keep the faith. Big Macs may do the job for us.
  5. Limit screen time on Fox News and MSNBC.
  6. Go to the gym.
    1. Do Cross-Fit or MUV Training. You’ll be too tired to change channels.
  7. Binge watch The Crown or Chef’s Table
    1. Don’t cheat and look back at cable news.
  8. Plan Date Night with M. 
    1. Drink a martini…maybe two…on Date Night.
    2. Talk to the people at the next table. She does it anyway. 
    3. Don’t ask about their politics.
    4. Call Uber for a ride home.
  9. Plan a vacation. Foreign travel helps you reset.
  10. Go for a walk or get a dog. Both will get you outside.
  11. Go an independent bookstore. Buy a book.
  12. Sit down to drink your latte.
  13. Disregard… it’s an unlucky number.
  14. Spend more time with your kids and friends.

It’s hard for me to acknowledge Donald Trump’s feral genius, but he has us all wringing our hands and chasing our tails, and jabbering about him. I’m opting out. I don’t care whether he’s impeached or defeated at the polls. I want him gone one way or another. I hope it’s humiliating, but he’s so shameless it’s probably too much to hope for. Regardless, I’m going to get on with my life and hope the internal controls keep my media/screen time within bounds.

It’ll be hard to wean myself from Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline: White House, but truth be told I’d rather read an Alan Furst or David Ignatius novel anyway. I might catch Brian Williams’ 11thHour but hope it’s after an episode of The CrownChefs Table or The Kominsky Method

Lately, I’ve been watching Book TV.  It’s my guilty pleasure. Who else do you know who watches Nerd TV? I love it. It feeds the inner nerd who loves books and author talk – but please Lord save me from the Donald Trump Jr. Jackie Gingrich drivel. Some people’s children shouldn’t be allowed in print.

Bottom line:

Live your life as if CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News didn’t exist. You’ll feel better, sleep better, and live longer.


  1. Bravo. Welcome back. This current shit will pass. Then the next group of rabble will hold forth. I tuned out some time back. I don’t want to waste any of my remaining time, whatever the number may be.

  2. I have your answer. Come to Maui and rent a condo. No radio, no newspapers and it is friggin impossible to turn on the telly (even with the detailed instructions).
    Has Columbus reached America yet? Lemme know.

  3. Good advice! Our time on earth is limited. It’s important to seek what brings us joy and solace and to find the balance of how much information is really needed to be an informed citizen.

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