Tickled to Death

My wife talks about “clearing the DVR” like it’s mowing the lawn.

Through a series of inter-company promotional deals, employee discounts, and whispers to Mephisto, we recently found ourselves getting every available cable channel for $35 and a hearty handshake. You name it, we got it. HBO4. Starz Hard-of-Hearing Latino. Weather Channel Classic. The Watching Other People Gaming Channel. I’ve been scrolling through the programming guide since the day we moved in; my sherpa and I hope to reach the 5000s by winter, assuming the provisions hold out.

When you get a setup like this, you quickly realize that the most seductive, insidious thing about it is that your cable can’t be stumped. Do a search for something you want to record: it’s in there. “Predator, Spider-Man 3, and Spies Like Us in HD? Now, that is range. Why would anyone be showing Spies Like Us on a summer afternoon in 2009?… Heh, what if I searched for, like, Howard the Duck or somethOh my God there it is it’s on Tuesday morning.”

(Not to go off on a tangent or anything, but rewatching the movie for the first time since I was eleven thoroughly, violently exorcised my recent obsession with Howard the Duck like a holy water firehose. “I don’t see why this movie has such a bad rep. It’s almost over, and so far it seems perfectly– what do you mean there’s an hour and fifteen minutes left?”)

A week into having this gift bestowed upon us, my wife had to quit her job so she could devote herself full-time to watching everything she had recorded. We reduced the Netflix queue by 40% in an afternoon and somehow increased our DVR queue 3000%. She now routinely says things to me like, “Okay. This weekend, I need to dust, vacuum, and clear the DVR. I’ve got two more movies and Glee to get through, and then the rest is your problem. We’re running out of hard drive space; I want to get this thing cleared by Monday.”

Just from a metaphorical standpoint, there’s something about the sentence “I’ve got to get through glee” that bears thinking about. It really sums up the whole problem.

The missus and I have once again reached that stage all of us ’round these parts seem to occasionally reach: we are drowning in fun. With her, it’s TV. With me, and almost certainly you, it’s stack after stack of comics. I don’t know what it is, but for the last couple of months I have just been pathologically unable to keep up with the weekly releases. I always seem to be at least two weeks behind, and every time it looks like I’m going to catch up…

…there is always another Wednesday. The unrelenting, heartless bastards always seem to keep pitilessly coming, immune to my pleas for mercy.

It’s not that I’m burnt out (this time). It’s not that I’m fed up with comics or anything. Because I’m a staffer and with great power comes great responsibility, I try to keep up with rating my books here at iFanboy as assiduously as possible, and faithful followers will see that I’ve been going crazy with the four star books recently. Four stars constitutes an “A” from me, and lately I feel like I’ve been throwing around stars like a jumpy ninja. I love everything I’m reading.

There’s a bunch o’ stuff I’m not reading, though, despite the fact that I keep buying it and Jenga-piling it on my coffee table. I realized this weekend that my remaining to-read pile was really more of a who-cares pile. What am I hoping to get out of the Skrull Kill Krew finale that the last four issues haven’t given me? Why did I get this Human Torch book or Starr the Slayer without even having the foggiest idea who wrote them? So I could go outside my comfort zone and feel well rounded the next time I talk to the zero people I know who read comics? The prospect of reading this stack feels like homework. It reminds me of when I used to tape Six Feet Under. The cassettes would pile up atop the VCR, and I’d look at them and think, “Oy, that show is like cauliflower on my plate. It’s probably good for me, but I would confess to anything to keep from watching it. But I might as well get caught up; I taped them all, and everyone says it’s great, and I got this far, and I already paid for it, and I might as well uuuuhghyeugh I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Even if I boil a pot of coffee and get caught up, I’m only doing it so I have time to devote to my other stack, the stack of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern trades I just bought and the ROMs I’ve accumulated and the DVDs of classic Marvel books that have been silently judging me from my shelf. There’s always another thing. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I guess that’s a good thing…?

I sometimes envy you trade-waiters, you season-DVD-Netflix-queuers. I’m always trying to keep up, knowing the next thing is coming right around the corner. There’s always another Wednesday coming, always another episode headed for the Tivo. You? You just passively wait until it’s all finished and let it wash up on your shores like a message in a bottle. A friend of mine just whipped through the entirety of Battlestar Galactica over a long weekend. Now, I have no idea who was taking care of her kid while this was happening, but I still have to hand it to her. Did you watch the show while it was airing, as I did? Remember gasping at the cliffhangers and seeing “To Be Continued in 2007. Or Maybe 2008. Let’s See Where The Days Take Us”? Hanging in there for weeks and months to see where it was all going, only to get that Pixie Stix-snorting bonkers ending? If they had broken out into a number from A Chorus Line, would it have surprised you? You waited years for that ending! There must be some kind of way outta here!

Then again, maybe the waiting (and the “live” viewing) makes it all more fun. We stayed BSG spoiler free and got to burn calories speculating amongst ourselves. Part of the reason I try valiantly to stay Wednesday-current with my comics, even though I’m rarely a podcast participant, is because I so enjoy being a party to the conversation that breaks out each week as the books are released. Maybe I should take a minute to occasionally remind myself that the currency and discussion are part of the fun. In this atmosphere, reading the book is only the beginning.

If Jim Mroczkowski had a band, he would lobby to make “Whispers to Mephisto” their debut album’s title, and then immediately get kicked out of that band. He’s on Twitter, so, yeah.


  1. I feel the same way about the DVR that your special lady friend does.  The only time I’m happy is when it’s got nothing on it.  Now, at the same time, when there’s nothing on it, I feel entirely empty inside, without purpose or direction.

  2. Man I need a DVR. 

  3. You watch all TV live? Good God man!

  4. This is what I’m saying. 

  5. Re-reading is your friend Ski. Buy less read more!

  6. I’ve gotten into a situation where I’m saving up for a major purchase and so I’m budgeting my entertainment dollars — for the first time in my adult life, including periods when I was unemployed and just charged everything to Uncle MasterCard.  It’s a pretty generous budget, so I still get my weekly comics and see a movie or two, so basically, what it amounts to is, "No buying new books because they seem cool at the time!"  This has led to me actually reading things that I bought in the last 2 or 3 years, because they looked cool at the time.  I finished ‘Preacher,’ I read that ‘Vision & the Scarlet Witch’ maxi-series I got from the  quarter bin, I read ‘The Jane Austen Book Club.’  This has all been fun; I can’t say that it’s actually made a dent in my stack, but it does remind me to be glad I have that stack.  Plus, I plan to be really excited in 6 months or so when the stuff I skipped buying in issues starts showing up in trade.  And then I’ll have a new stack.

    I don’t have a DVR, though.  This mostly just results in me forgetting to watch television.  Not sure that this makes me want one or not.

  7. I don’t own a TV. Nor do I have an internet connection at home.

  8. It’s such a first world problem, but I’m right there with you Jimski.  So much good entertainment, so little time to suck it all in.  I find that being mostly broke has really streamlined my entertainment, and for the most part, directed me to digest the things that I already own even more.  

    As for TV, I gave up on it a long time ago, and very rarely follow anything week to week.  If I hear something’s good, I’ll wait for the DVD.  If my DVR was full of stuff, it would drive me nuts, so I let my stack of unread comics and half beaten video games shame me instead. 

  9. I’ve never thought of it this way before, but I suppose I "wait for the trade" with my TV watching. I watch Lost "live", but most of my favourite shows like Dexter, I wait to rent the DVD boxset. I get more out of them that way. It does build up though, I’ve got a lot of seasons of things on my wait list. I’ll get through them eventually.

    I’m usually ok at keeping on top of comics and trades. I hide away Thursday night and get through most of them…I have a library of regular novels building up. I need a long beech holiday to get to the end of that pile.

    Like you say though, it’s better then being bored.

  10. I don’t have a DVR, but I feel the same way about the ‘Movies and TV’ file on my HDD.

    And I haven’t finished my stack before the following Monday in forever.

    I am a terrible person.

  11. Why would you wanna watch that much tv anyway?


  12. I used to think it was possible to one day get myself completely up to date.  You know, clear all those dvds (and now saved TV programmes), get 100 % up to date with my single issues, and even read all the TPBs and prose novels on the shelves.  Those were youthful, innocent and wholly naive times.  Why is it that I can’t help myself from constantly looking for that something new and cool, even when I’ve still got so much to plough through?

  13. Let’s keep the judgement values on people’s chosen entertainment media to a minimum please.

  14. goddamn the price gouging on those GIT Corp. Marvel DVDs!

  15. ^that’s my way of saying I also have almost all of those judging me from my shelf as well.

  16. Oh! dit! din! git!

    ah forget it.

  17. Spies Like Us is a fantastic Film. If I had the channel it’s on, I’d be watching it.

  18. "Oh. Uh, will you hold my wallet for me while I take the test, please? There’s a thousand dollars in there… or maybe there isn’t. Know what I mean?"

    "Alright. Stop right there… and I’ll bring back the sun."

    "My objective? Well I object to taking a girl out, you know, and buying her dinner and then she won’t put out for you."

    "Dr. Imhaus: Doctor.
    Austin Millbarge: Doctor.
    Dr. Imhaus: Doctor.
    Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor.
    [Imhaus exits]
    Dr. Marston: Doctor.
    Austin Millbarge: Doctor.
    Dr. Marston: Doctor.
    Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor.
    [Marston exits]
    Karen Boyer: Doctor.
    Austin Millbarge: Doctor.
    Karen Boyer: Doctor.
    Emmett Fitz-Hume: [amorously] Doctor!
    [Boyer exits]
    Jerry Hadley: Doctor.
    Austin Millbarge: Doctor.
    Jerry Hadley: Doctor.
    Emmett Fitz-Hume: Doctor.
    [Hadley exits]
    Austin Millbarge: We’re not doctors!"

    SPIES LIKE US — one of the most underrated of the 80s comedies.

  19. I actually get a little sad when there’s nothing to watch on the DVR, but I know it’s better that way. I need to get caught up on Mad Men & True Blood tonight before I go out and karaoke.

  20. I got a bunch of DVDs piled up over the last few months because I have been reading so many damn comics!

  21. I’m so glad I don’t have cable.  I’m not saying I don’t miss it…I do.  Having some variety is better than sitting and watching Hannah Montanna Season 1 or the Cat in the Hat for the umpteenth time with my kids.   The worst part is….I  think I’m starting to enjoy them!!!!

    On second thought…I REALLY MISS CABLE!  Oh well.  That’s what the internet and DVD’s are for!

  22. Yea. A Tivo or DVR of soem sort is on my list of things I need to get.


  23. I love my DVR if for no other reason that by skipping commercials I can watch more TV in the same amount of time.  I stopped buying DVD’s other than movies for my kids because I can’t remember the last time I watched any of the hundreds I already own because I am watcing whatever came in the mail on the NetFlix or that I recorded on the DVR.  I started trade waiting because I couldn’t keep up with the weekly books I was getting from the shop.  Now I’m contemplating buying a Roku box which with the new TV season coming up seems insane.

  24. Some people have mentioned kids’ TV — here’s a thing I’ve noticed.  My sister has a bunch of kids’ shows on-demand, and other things she records with the DVR.  Therefore, my nieces have learned that whenever they want to watch a particular show, mom and dad can just make it appear.  This is aside from the 50 million DVDs they own.  Anyway, what I’ve noticed is that the kids *do not comprehend* that it is possible for television not to work this way.  So they’ll be at my parents’ house and say, "Spongebob now!" and simply not accept that there is no Spongebob available.  Kids grow up with this expectation; by the time they’re teenagers, the whole concept of how we used to think of television will be gone — regularly scheduled programs on a certain channel at a certain time?  What are you, a caveman?

  25. I just DVR the show COPS over and over and over again. I’m doing a test to see if I can watch every single episode of the series so I never have to watch it again.

    It’s been 6 months and I still haven’t gotten close to finishing this experiment…

  26. I have books from months ago sitting in my stack still. Read the first ish of the Unknown, but issues 2, 3, and 4 having been just sitting there.

  27. a DVR would help my life immensely get back on track…and make my grades go up

  28. I just got my DVR and I thought "Great now I can watch my shows whenever I want and save time." However, I stay up late to watch everything my DVR recorded.

  29. I don’t have a DVR, it would ruin my life.