Farewell Planet Green

I used to watch this channel since before they started showing Living with Ed (which used to be on HGTV), one of my favorites. The appeal of Living with Ed was of course Ed Begley Jr. himself (but not Rachelle Carson who I found annoying) and his quirky personality, simple nature and of course, his pursuit of sustainable living and environmentally friendly alternatives to everyday things.

It was an old High School friend that turned me on to Planet Green which lead me to my goal of sustainable living, which in turn made me think of living in a cabin one day. I’ve made changes in my lifestyle that I initially thought was pointless and/or impractical, but over time, just by living through the changes I’ve realized I’ve been wrong.

I also enjoyed watching all the radical homes they used to show (including a truly marvelous tree house… and I do mean a “house” built onto trees acting as stilts) and very practical ideas like growing trees that shed their leaves in the winter on the South side of the structure. Why? Because when the leaves shed in the colder months, it allows more sunlight to hit the structure, heating it up naturally and reducing the demand on heating power. When the leaves grow back in the warmer months, it’s the opposite effect by providing natural shade and reducing the demand for AC.

Thanks to Planet Green, I learned about alternatives like Foam Core Structural Panels, the resurgence of Post and Lintel with composite beams, solar panels that look just like roofing tile or shingles. Planet Green showed me things like small, quiet, wind generators that don’t produce annoying noises or are harmful to birds, affordable solar panels and taught me the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline ones. For the record, the former is better in terms of output per sq/foot than the latter and is much lighter.

Planet Green showed me that you can actually have water features in your yard that can dramatically reduce the ambient heat in your home by pumping the air through coils under the water (similar to a geo-thermal setup). I learned about tankless water heaters and how they can dramatically reduce the amount of energy your house uses.

I’ve made a lot of the choices I have thanks to the network.

Every light in my apartment is CFL (carried over from my old place) since I moved in. The only reason I didn’t go with LEDs was because of the initial cost and I’ve spent a lot on renovations. The flooring here doesn’t use harsh chemicals or produce off-gas. Even the new paint was environmentally friendly and my AC is also Energy Star compliant. And all of these options were brought to my attention thanks to Planet Green because before then, I had no clue about being environmentally friendly, other than tossing the aluminum, paper and glass into the recyclable bin.

The building I live in collect recyclable stuff separately in the trash room and, believe it or not, that even more than the location was one of the big reasons for choosing the apartment.

Planet Green used to be the go-to place for anything environment related and sustainable living and I’ve learned a lot.

Well, no more

It started going downhill pretty fast when shows like Living with Ed stopped airing (at least as far as I can see) and  shows like the G Word was on at 3 and 4 in the morning.

Within a year or so, daytime Planet Green became all but unwatchable.

I can’t really blame this on Discovery execs, though I’m sure a lot of them made mistakes. But let’s be honest, every network survives on ratings. If ratings for lifestyles in green living don’t draw the crowds, I guess freak shows will do as a desperate measure.

Now we’re faced with “Paranormal” Fridays? We went from sustainable and green living to Big Foot and UFOs. A pretty hard fall from grace.

If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that the Internet doesn’t survive so much on ratings as it does on visits. It doesn’t matter if you tune in to chime in or to admire or mock, it’s a lot easier to get attention and as long as someone is paying attention, content will continue to grow.

What the network left behind will be sorely missed, though. At least by me.

The flu is still on and my Benadryl is starting to wear off… Time for another dose and it’s off to bed.

Obsessed with River Monsters

Damn you, work! Why can’t you pay me to watch this show?! You know you’ve got a problem when you need to turn in work at 5:00AM, but can’t stop watching an overnight marathon.

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you’re familiar with the Animal Planet show River Monsters. This is the show in which host, Jeremy Wade, biologist, extreme angler and professional badass, risks his life and limb in some of the most dangerous fresh waters of the world. Why dangerous?

Here’s a small sample…

What the?!?!?

I wasn’t quite sure why I’m obsessed with this show because I hate fishing. I know for most people it’s relaxing, but to me it’s a chore and I hate having to touch bait or worse, the fish. Weird, freaky, slimy, toothy, disgusting things! But when he does it…

I guess what’s really fascinating isn’t the catch itself, since we have the internet to satiate our appetite for freaks, but it’s the process of the hunt that keeps me from going back to work. And I do mean the hunt. I.E. He travels the world and speaks to locals on the horrifying and often slightly exaggerated stories of creatures in the world’s rivers and lakes and narrows down the list of potential suspects that fit the bill. The thrill of catching suspects isn’t bad either.

And then of course, there’s the Monster catch itself.

Someone once said, conflict is basically long stretches of mind numbing boredom punctuated by sheer terror. Fishing, oddly, is just like conflict.

When I read Old Man and the Sea by Hemmingway as a kid, I admit, I didn’t totally grasp what the big fuss was about. I mean, it was a nice story of perseverance and nostalgia and all, but like most of Hemmingway’s works, I felt it was just a celebration of grit. But it turns out I missed the point entirely; the story wasn’t about the catch itself, it’s the experience of catching: The reflection on past catches, the struggle, the joy, the sense of loss, the fear, the delirium. The fish almost didn’t matter.

Jeremy IS Santiago — at 56, I don’t think he’d appreciate being compared to an old man — and every episode is a tiny reenactment of the book. And like I did with the Old Man, we think it’s all about the Monster but it really isn’t. The Monster is a fascinating exclamation point to a riveting sentence.

There’s another mini marathon of several episodes tonight. I have a ton of work to get done, but I have to watch it!

The infamous Goliath Tigerfish of the Congo river. I remember seeing a poster for River Monsters in the subway a while back and all I could think of was watching this show.

Cooking shows: A love story

There’s a TV channel in Asia called Star (not the same as Starz in the US) and when I was a kid in the early-mid 90’s, I accidentally came across it showing a very energetic looking Chinese man walking down the street of a town. Then he walked past a lake or river of some sort and then a market. He then came into a studio with a kitchen for a backdrop and an audience full of people. He made a funny introduction — which I don’t remember — and started turning lead into gold and water into wine.

This was obviously my first time seeing a cooking show and I never looked at rice the same way ever again though I’ve had it all my life. These was a sorcerer’s seeds that needed a special magical white cauldron that you had to plug-in… and walk away, giving you more time to tame dragons and tigers with the biggest knife in the kitchen.

He ended this enthralling magic with: “If Yan can cook, so can you!” I don’t remember what dishes he prepared that day, but I do remember that I wanted to see more being made.

Then there was an older woman called Julia (on a different channel perhaps) whose words I didn’t understand, but her voice, which reminded me of a melodica, conveyed a sense of assurance that at least she understood. Had no idea what she was making and it looked questionable, but I wanted to try it and the dish after that, if only because of the steam coming out of it gave a sense of “it may taste better than it looks”.

I then came across a chef whose name I don’t remember, but he was a tall man with neat hair and long sleeves (did he have a bow tie?) and the most striking thing about his kitchen… The stove had a glass top! This was the first time I’ve seen such witchcraft as I’ve been accustomed to the gas stove and wood-burning variety. But glass? Glass! Just when I thought this to be the biggest surprise of all, his show ended with bloopers. People making mistakes on TV? This, I didn’t think was possible and yet it was incredibly endearing.

And so began my fascination with cooking shows. An unusual fascination to say the least as, admittedly, I have one of the worst diets imaginable. Up until a few years ago, it consisted of 9 — yes, 9 — cups of coffee a day, no foods containing proteins or vitamins to speak of, some soda and “Ensure”. I’m still somehow alive. At least, unlike my programmer colleagues, it didn’t include a hefty dose of nicotine and tar.

I think what really drew me in was the theatrics and stories than the food itself. The food was just the tasty crust on a lovely crème brûlée.

This post was inspired by Kelly’s one About the Rice Cooker.


Thanks to Kelly, the tall chef with the bow tie was identified as Graham Kerr.  Always loved listening to him.


I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy TV before work crushed my soul and ate my, as of yet unborn, children.

Then I remembered that during the mid 2000’s, TV made a brief watchability comeback of sorts, though now I see that not only did we revert to square one, we’ve already packed away the pieces.

I started watching TV again… I mean really watching instead of leaving it on in the background while snorting emails and shaking my fist in delirium at the invisible code-monkey-demons hovering over my over-caffeinated head, secretly inserting bugs into my work. I finally thought about what it was that made me so irritated about TV and started paying attention to find the cause. This was only a slightly less traumatic and pointless experience than self-trepination.

Reality TV — otherwise known as a compendium of caustic, cacophonous, kaka — at first didn’t seem to be the boob tube equivalent of herpes that it has now become. Practically every channel short of the shopping channels and public/gov access have some variety of faux reality entertainment contracted, I imagine, due to the shuffling of execs from network to network and copycat behavior.

See kids? Always use a condom.

I couldn’t have had this realization about TV had I not been outside the country for a while, thereby completely extricating myself from loop. The damage we’re doing to ourselves by watching this drivel rarely makes itself obvious until you stop the unprotected channel to channel voyeuristic promiscuity and take a good hard look at yourself. And then it hits you :

Crap! Warts!!

What really grates me is not only the sheer breath and depth of damage done to sane entertainment by this invasive species, but the idea that blithering idiocy, conformity and mediocrity are now the food pyramid for the daily TV diet. We have actually been trained to expect entertainment in the same format over and over and over.

We have shows like Style TV’s (a channel I know painfully well thanks to my ex) How do I look; a show that, if you’re a viewer like me, would seem to declare in no uncertain terms that your uniqueness and individuality are verboten in civilized society with all the delicacy of a steel-toed boot to the testicles. I’m all for not looking like a freak in front of people, but there’s a limit to how much of a cookie-cutter-Barbie you can turn a women into.

Speaking of conformity (conspiracy hat on), I think the Barbies are eventually destined to be fed into the commercial machine to become money mills at some future date so the entertainment can continue. How else would we have a show like Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo exist? A show that makes me seriously consider whether I would really want to wake up next to some of the featured clients or rather have a steaming hot bowl of yak dung and vodka for breakfast.

BTW… I was told by a number of people that Bravo, which is now officially reality TV central and caters a sizable gay demographic, has a reputation for “converting” straight people to homosexuality and I say that’s a load of BS. I was visiting a friend who’s an avid fan of the network and he had it on the entire time I was there. The only time it would have even remotely turned me gay was when I briefly wondered if hemlock suppositories existed and whether they would be a less painful alternative to the slow suicide I was experiencing at the time. The only watchable show on the network now is Inside the Actors Studio, and even that’s a stretch considering some of the guests as of late.

I could go on to the Real Housewives of XXX or Jerseylicious but I’d rather not risk dying yet from the inevitable aneurism.

Then there’s the self-help malarkey : I.E. Supernanny. Here’s the gist of the Supernanny guide (this is basically every episode and I’m not even kidding) :

  • Calm assertive authority
  • Be consistent
  • Instill discipline
  • Employ manners
  • Avoid laziness

If not for the last two, this show could have essentially been re-titled the Child Whisperer, but that would have been creepy. Besides, I imagine the term would have already been copyrighted by now for Hollywood to tell the Jerry Sandusky story.

Reality TV should technically only be palatable if you’re suffering from a legitimate condition such as depression or OCD or as comfort food for morons or just schadenfreude. But thanks to the never-ending marathon assault on our sense of taste by constant exposure, it looks like we’re being mutated into target demographics.

I think that should cover my brief examination of what’s killing TV and our sanity for now; also it’s 5:45 AM and it’s time for me to go to bed.

R.I.P Bravo TV (1980 – 2001)

Once what used to be the “film and arts network” turned into the “watch what happens” petty drama, I was truly dismayed.

Then again, I would tune into it to see if anything has changed. Nope…
Now they’re committed to giving the rest of the world the impression that gay people and women have the worst taste in television ever!*[see notes]

Why would you encourage “arts” or “film” or even “class” when you can entertain with non-entertainment.

Former class act... Bravo TV sucks!

Former class act...

Now I’m starting to spend more and more time on IFC which has also been seeing its share of hiccups, but I think it probably won’t end in the same fate. Considering it is owned by Rainbow Media, the original owers of Bravo, I’m more hopeful. In fact, I think IFC (though a bit rough around the edges) is what Bravo should have been today.

There is some reality TV and semi-reality TV out there (ones inspired by some predicted outcome that goes horribly awry resulting in entertaining moments I.E. Mythbusters) that are actually interesting beyond the same arguments and silly banter we’re already used to only relocated to more affluent settings.

“Project Runway”…
Reinforcing my belief that fashion designers have no sense in fashion. I’ve seen abstract art from the 60’s that seem more comfortable and functional wrapped around a person (I.E. a scene from What a Way to Go!  from 1964 is a classic example). What better way to give a great first impression than to dess like a freak.

Whatever happened to “usable fashion”. As in something you could wear on a daily basis without handing out free seizures to everyone on the street?

“Sheer Genius”…
And I don’t care about hair! If I didn’t have to cut it or comb it to step out of the house, I would forget that I even have any. I understand you need to present some sort of upkeep there, but if I could, I would place a restraining order between my hair and each and every contestant in that show.

“Millionaire Matchmaker” ?
Here’s a hint for the naïve… There’s no such thing as romance. You find someone who puts up with you, produce offspring, and then you die. End of story. If you want comedy between that, then consider stubbing your toe and your partner laughing at you as your personal highlight. Excitement? The time you pretended to enjoy the company of your significant other while menacing over another unsuspecting soul. Your options are only as good as your looks and the size of your wallet.

If you’re wealthy, then chances are, your wallet is the only reason your significant other puts up with you. And that person isn’t so significant to you either, if their looks start to fade.

Then there’s Kathy Griffin’s “My Life on the D-List”…
I’m not going to bring up her personal life and difficulties as that has no bearing here. I just don’t give a flying intercourse about celebrities, their idiosyncrasies or other gossip. And if you’re not living a sham of a life with your only source of entertainment coming from the misery and suffering of famous intellectual midgets, neither would you.

As Patton Oswalt once exclaimed, we’re spending all our time watching “***holes and ****wads at work”, only to come home and watch the same on TV. Why?

People with enough privilege to afford plenty of therapy and be motivated to stick their heads out of their shells to see a world of suffering are not looking to reality TV to boost their careers. Those that don’t are media whores.


*Apparently, the network primarily caters to a gay and female audience between the ages of 18-54. If the line-up is any hint, according to the Bravo execs, the folks in this range, who also happen to be gay or female, are tasteless, pretentious dimwits. I sincerely hope that’s not the case.

Considering Agnieszka Holland co-wrote and directed Europa Europa, Sarah Jacobson wrote and directed I Was A Teenage Serial Killer, and Kathryn Bigelow directed Point Break, I also can’t believe female writers and directors are all one trick ponies a la “Romance” & “Comedy”. I put quotes around them as I’m seeing a disturbing trend in films created by women, allegedly part of these genres, that failed to induce either sentiment.