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THE TUBE : Channel-Surfing Safari

November 20, 1994|Bret Israel

You've memorized your Social Security number, payroll number, ATM access code, driver's license and the phone at your mom's new boyfriend's summer home. You carefully guard the shiny rectangles that contain your most pertinent credit numerology.

And now this: Your local cable company, driven by new federal regulations and the burgeoning market for obscure information services, decides without notice,to scramble the 70-odd channels that you have slowly and methodically assimilated over two years of pathetic but character-building idling.

Thus, my current L.A. entertainment nightmare:

--Channel 43. Used to be C-SPAN, dependably lively subcommitte committee hearings on international trade policy and the descent of the ruble. Now, Cafe Ole, and definitive recipes for coconut flan.

--Channel 66. Used to be Bravo; could count on dramatic huffing and puffing of attractive figures, artfully photographed in shadows, speaking deep thoughts in foreign tongues. Now, Family Entertainment; lots of cows, small dogs, pretty horses, noble sentiments.

--Channel 15. Used to be MTV. Always watched this for the complex rythmic innovations, melodic experimentation and the finer points of jump-cutting editing techniques. Now, the Weather Channel. Study the dramatic range of temperatures at LAX.

--Channel 40. Used to be Univision; tele-nuevos, political assasinations, funny wrestlers; now TV Tokyo , stock tables, variety shows and the weather in Yokahama.

--Channel 36. Used to be ESPN, now ESPN 2. Used to be Major League Baseball, hockey; but, hey, with no major leagues, lacrosse and hurling have their place.

Naturally, once your new mental map is complete, a new test looms on the horizon: memorizing your federal ID card number.

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