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    anglosphere /

    Газета School English #17-18, 2003

    Free Time in America

    Mr. David Mark Reid Mr. David Mark Reid, a graduate of University of Chicago (M.A.) (USA), of Heidelberg University (Germany) (M. Sc.), worked in different educational establishments in Turkey, Belarus, Colombia, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Ivory Coast, Iran Germany, Zimbabwe, Australia He worked as a teacher of English as a foreign language at Samara Nayanova University. Now he is working in Spain.

        Despite all the opportunities, people in the US spend most of their free time watching television. This includes the latest gadgets. For example, $5000 for plasma TV - the new status symbol. So Americans are "couch potatoes" (someone sitting on the couch during long periods) watching the "tube"1. There is as much money and research done in the US (and Japan) on the form of the television emissions, as the content. The content is, by and large2, rubbish, but the form is a highly studied psychological tool. The effect of television was seen, for example, in the case in 1997, as 700 Japanese schoolchildren were rushed to the hospital, often suffering from optically stimulated epileptic seizures caused by viewing bright flashing lights in a Pokemon video game that was broadcast on Japanese TV. In the US, 10% call themselves TV addicts. Americans spend on the average 3 hours a day watching TV, half of their leisure time. 2 out of 5 adults and 7 out of 10 teenagers said they spent too much time in front of "the tube3". There is less mental stimulation during TV viewing than during reading. Heavy viewers are more likely to be obese, and lack sports activity.


        It is another screen that takes up a lot of time. Since so many homes have unlimited access, this is confined mostly to surfing4 for mild entertainment, rather than using the Internet's other capabilities.

        E-mail has become more important for many than face-to-face meetings. Lack of imagination even has led to people combining the Internet with their camcoms5 by putting the latter into their refrigerator, and anyone who wants can then click on a site to see what is inside. The quality of a camera attached to e-mail has not yet led to the uses in business that were once envisioned, but it is a favorite plaything.


        The most widespread sport in the world, which the Americans call soccer and the rest of the world call football, is so little known in the US that when part of the world cup took place there, few Americans knew about it. American football, a variation on English rugby, is the most popular sport.

        The big sport in other English-speaking countries, cricket, is practically unknown in the US. Its descendant, baseball, which used to be the favorite American sport, is still quite popular in the US. Very popular among outside festivities with mixes of male and female, weak and strong, young and old playing all together is its variation called softball (the same rules as baseball, but the ball is larger and softer). Basketball remains extremely popular. All other sports are then much further down in popularity, although boxing, bicycle, motorcycle, and car racing are popular enough to be big business. Ice hockey (largely Russians and Canadians in American teams) is less popular, but again, the money is there. Most other sports remain privately pursued. Volleyball, tennis, squash, billiards (classical and pool), bowling (not English bowls), ping pong (table tennis), horse racing, skiing (water and snow), swimming (mostly outdoors, summer), skydiving6, parachuting, paragliding7, private planes, etc. Then there are the "extreme sports" such as bungee jumping8. Skateboarding and roller blading9 are extremely popular among the young.

        Another British institution, croquet, is mildly popular.

        Martial arts are popular: judo, kung fu, karate, tae kwon do.

        Hiking, aerobics, dance, gardening, shooting, hunting, fishing, golf also are favorite pastimes. Cock-fighting is especially popular among Latinos. It is legal only in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico. In 27 states, it is a felony10. In Arkansas it is a misdemeanor, but two cockfighting magazines are based there. It is illegal to raise cocks to be transported across state boundaries to be used in cock-fighting.

    Other activities

        In the land of the automobile, just "driving around" takes up time.

        Among the very young and very old, board games (monopoly and innumerable variations) remain popular. Chess, however, are less popular.

        Overall, there is relatively little reading. They mostly read comic books, popular psychology, short novels, magazines, and newspapers. The old hobby of collecting sports cards has turned into collecting Pokemon cards. Other hobbies, such as photography, stamp and coin collecting, still exist, although are in decline.

        Do-it-yourself science is no longer popular - magazines and stores concerning this have stopped. Interest has gone down, and also it is no longer cheaper than off-the-shelf11. Ham radio12 was popular in the 1990's, but is starting to decrease. Many Silicon Valley innovators trace their career to such hobbies, but this is the past.

        Going to the huge shopping malls and just wandering around or window shopping remains popular.

        Among the middle and upper classes, cocktail parties remain popular. Between careers for women and the many activities out of the house available to women, there are fewer housewives staying at home, but this still happens. As these housewives tend to be bored, they often "pop"13 pills, usually amphetamines.

        Smoking tobacco has become less popular, while smoking marijuana, more. One in three adult Americans admits to having tried marijuana (including former president Clinton), but it is still illegal. 90% of those arrested ("busted") are charged only with possession, not the heavier crime of selling ("dealing"). Eleven states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, eight allow medicinal uses.

        Eating out remains popular, everything from MacDonald's to Howard Johnson's (a more traditional restaurant than MacDonald's, but not as chic as Maxim's). Cultural activities such as concerts are rare. Chatting (including on the phone) is still a big pastime. What do they talk about? First, NOT about each other's salaries. Politics and religion are topics to be avoided if the people are of greatly differing opinions. Literary and philosophical subjects are also avoided, as the average level of culture is very low. Otherwise, small talk is as everywhere else.

    1 tube - (амер. разг.) телевизор
    2 by and large - в основном
    3 (=TV in America, it does not mean "the metro" as in Britain)
    4 surf - пользоваться Интернетом
    5 camcom - цифровая сетевая видеокамера
    6 skydiving - затяжные прыжки с парашютом
    7 paragliding - парапланеризм
    8 bungee Jumping - прыжок (с моста, скалы и т.д. ) с помощью эластичного троса
    9 roller blading - катание на роликах (inline)
    10 felony - (юр.) уголовное преступление
    11 off-the-shelf - готовый (имеющийся в наличии на складе)
    12 ham radio - радиолюбительство
    13 pop - (сленг) принимать наркотик

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