Blame It On The Box

by Rob Valet | 5/11/01 5:00am

As I write this it is 5 AM, and I have just finished another long night of typing away on my thesis. The sky is starting to get light, and in another half hour or so dawn should break (after seeing enough of these sunrises I have gotten the timing pretty much figured out).

There's always something nice about staying up long enough to usher in the new day -- especially getting to listen to the wonderful, little birds singing outside my window as they begin to wake up. They're so cheerful and happy, without a care in the world. Too bad I don't have a BB gun. I'll teach them to gloat about being carefree and well-rested and cheery in my presence!

Indeed, trying to finish off my thesis on time has definitely been quite a race. Not that I haven't enjoyed it -- after all the time and work it has become my baby. Somehow, though, I never imagined labor would be quite so difficult or painful. I have been trying to make the thesis just pop out in finished form for the past couple of days, but I don't seem to have had any luck thus far.

Indeed, I am still not sure why it is taking me quite so long to write 50 pages in English. I mean, I speak this language. And I am writing about biology, so in terms of prose, I am not really asking for Hamlet at this point -- which is good, since if it would take infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters an infinite amount of time to come up with that, I imagine I will get correspondingly less out of one tired monkey sitting in front of a Mac listening to the damn birds gloat about how cheerful they are that the sun is rising. I will buy that BB gun one of these days, so God help me.

Actually, I do have a very good explanation for why it is taking me so long to finish off my thesis, which is simply that my brain is already clogged with all the useless stuff I have picked up over the years, and there is simply no room left to think about the genetics of the control of flowering in Arabidopsis plants.

Primarily I blame the box known as television for my brain's overload. Over dinner the other day, my friends and I were singing theme songs and reciting lines from episodes of He-Man, Thundercats, Duck Tales, and so on. This is clearly brain space that could be put to much better use. I am quite convinced that humanity would at the very least have already cured cancer or something if our collective consciousness were not clogged with random cultural detritus like the McDonald's menu song ("Big Mac, McDLT, a quarter pounder with some cheese ").

And the worst part of it is that our ability to remember things is directly proportional to how entirely worthless they are ("... big Big Breakfast, egg McMuffin, hot Hotcakes and sausage "). My parents tried their hardest to subject my sister and me to PBS, the arts and other culturally enlightening things during our more formative years. God help me if I can remember anything from any of the concerts or plays I was dragged to, but until the day I die I will probably be able to tell you that if you want salad, the three options available are "chef or garden, or a Chicken Salad Oriental."

Short of putting me in a cardboard box until I turned 18, I don't think there was much my parents could have done to prevent my brain from reaching Worthless Shit Critical Mass this spring, such that one or two more good TV jingles will probably be all it takes before I am utterly unable to process any new information.

So hopefully I will manage to get my thesis written, and more importantly, avoid any contact with pop culture until after the thesis defense. Otherwise, someone will ask me an important question about my work, and I will try my hardest to answer. My face will assume a thoughtful look as I ponder the question, and then all I will be able to reply is "A soft serve cone, three kinds of shakes, and choc-laty-chip cookies." It won't be pretty.