sensory alteration and
Smurf talk and
The low-grade buzz you get from watching lots of cable is well documented. It's a mental cottonmouth—a soothing, stupefying, half-drooling state you get from spending hours, Zenlike, fixated on Behind the Music, TRL, Haunted History,1 et al. But if you're looking for more serious sensory alteration—substance free, that is—you must, must, must stick it out with Univision.2
Sure, you think, "Pero . . . no hablo espa�" And so you blithely surf by after mere seconds of watching the grinning, yapping faces on !Despierta America! But not speaking Spanish is key to the Univision high: When you're watching TV regular, you can't help but parse all those pesky little words, and the actual meaning gets clouded by the intended meaning. But when television, especially inherently weird television, is stripped down to its barest architecture, when the words are replaced with what amounts to gibberish (and not lame, made-up gibberish, but an actual language), the word-processing parts of the brain are allowed to go off on a long, well-deserved smoke break.
Realize, too, that we're talking about a channel that's almost entirely insane. You've got grown men dancing around to 16th-time electronic mariachi music, wearing giant papier-m⣨預ep Boys heads, and then, five minutes later, you're watching a talk show hosted (hosted!) by a puppet with a headset and los eyebrows gigantes.3 And amidst all the sizzling dance numbers that are apparently integral to every program, you get steamy, silk-clad, shout-punctuated amor on Abrạme Muy Fuerte! (Hold Me Very Tightly!)4 In its most blissful stages, chronic Univision use is like a short vacation in a remote Smurf village (in which, as we all know, words mean whatever we want them to mean, e.g., "Hey, could you hand me a Smurf with which to Smurf my Smurf, Smurfy Smurf?").
1. The History Channel has broadened its programming slightly. Instead of merely presenting the History of Things Getting Blown Up (e.g., Suicide Missions, Military Blunders, Tales of the Gun), on Haunted History we now find out what happens after people get blown up.
2. Only the most popular Spanish-language channel on planet Earth, thank you very much. Like soccer, it continues to kick global ass unbeknownst to most white folk, with over 100 million viewers every day.
3. A puppet!
4. From the latest AMF Web-adaptation novella: "She surveyed the contour of his taut chest and upper-arm muscles, and her stomach knotted in response. Six feet of pure masculinity. 'Aydame Virgen,' she repeated to herself."
Paul Hughes, Contrib.