Sunday, August 5, 2012


By Arthur H. Gunther III

It’s a very hot day and the AC isn’t working well. Time for a very cold German ale and a home improvement show, of which there are many on cable TV in the Year of our Lord 2012. As a journeyman handyman, I enjoy “This Old House” or “Renovation Realities” or “Disaster DIY” or whatever new combination of power tool, tool belt and tool person is repackaged to capture the craze of home remodeling, its foibles, its success, oh, its very humanity.
Ever since the do-it-yourself movement took hold with returning servicemen post-World War II, and then with women joining in as the decades have evolved, there has been money to be made, and advertisers to court and books to write and magazines to publish and TV shows to create.
So, here I am, barely in clothes on a hot day with the AC not working well, very cold ale in hand, perhaps in pose for the stereotype of the weekend male, ready to tune in to a “Crashers” show in which the host corrals homeowners in a home improvement store, promises them a cucina or some other redo in three days and then descends en masse at the suburban tract abode with a horde of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, designers, all shouting “hoo-rah” as off-camera directors cheer them on. If this were the Roman Coliseum, they would be calling for gladiator blood. On the Crashers show, whether it’s about a kitchen, a yard or a bathroom, the cheering section, including the homeowner, yell “Demolish” as sledge hammers and reciprocating saws are rough-handled to make waste of the old in non-OSHA-approved ways. 
Then, as reconstruction begins, din is replaced by banter between host and homeowner, including the usual flirtatious scenes between female in house and male as carpenter, etc.
The banter is OK, despite the silliness of flirtation, because you actually see reconstruction, and that’s fun if you are a relaxing handyman like me with a very cold ale at hand. Good enough, almost good enough to forget that the premise of a crash show is seemingly to demolish without forethought and to rebuild so quickly that one’s mother-in-law or the family cat might be left behind the new wall. But, it’s free, right?
So, I can take the banter and some mild voiceover. The debris hits the fan, however, when the producers fill in every quiet second between banter, voiceover and commercial with a new gimmick, which I call “noiseover.” That is “music,” usually loud instrumental,  which drives you nuts. Who can think with that din? I want to digest the banter, maybe even reflect on the work being done, because, as I write, I am a journeyman handyman. And the very cold ale in my hand makes me mellow.
But not mellow enough to want to pull at my non-existent hair when the noiseover intrudes. What happened to the benefits of solitude? Isn’t humankind’s best work done in contemplation, focus to task?  Maybe I am out of tune, literally. I hear that some young people study these days with music blaring. I favor anyone studying in any way possible -- I had enough trouble myself -- but self-awareness, and general awareness actually, come only from the quiet.
Why, I wonder, do handyman show producers add the din?
Ah, well, I haven’t had the very cold ale yet. Prost!

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