I walk along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in my bare feet, a cool summer breeze blowing past me. About twenty paces ahead, I see a seagull walking away from me. I get too close, he flies a few feet further away. I slow down, and he waits patiently for me to catch up.

All in good time, my friend.

It’s times like this, away from the daily grind, that you really start to think about life. The universe. Everything. Dolphins, etc. That night, as I’m sitting in front of a fire on the beach, the Northern Lights peeking out from behind Whaleback Hill, my fiancee snuggling up to my side, I look up at the non-terrestrial portion of the galaxy and think to myself “What if gravity reversed, and I just drifted up into space right now? To die, essentially. What would I have to show for it?”.

Well. . . I have seen every episode of The Shield.

That’s the little tidbit that I would have for St. Peter. Or Anubis. Whoever.

Here’s why that is particularly saddening to me. I know a lot of people who really love The Shield. I’m not one of them. I think that it had some promise, which it squandered, and was really only entertaining for how ridiculous and over the top it was. I’m sure that someone could form an argument as to why they think that The Shield was the greatest show ever made, but that would be missing my point; I watched the entirety, all seven seasons, of a show that I didn’t even like that much.

Why?

Because it’s easy. Because I can come home from work, pop open a beer, and watched Vic Mackey’s brand of politically incorrect brutality. No muss, no fuss. “Muss” meaning “depth”, and “fuss” referring to “synapses firing”. I could just as easily watch one of several Criterion Collection movies available on Netflix Instant, such as “Cleo From 5 to 7″ or “Closely Watched Trains”, but my brain seems to command my hands to snatch up sugary sweets instead of nourishing meals.

Embarrassing, to say the least. Even worse, since the beginning of 2009 I’ve been keeping track of every movie I see, and at the end of last year I put the list up on facebook of the 250-odd films that I’d seen over the coarse of the year. Not to knock timekillers, but there was way too large of a percentage of them on there. 2010 seems to be shaping up in much the same fashion.

So, as part of my new Phil Diet, I say “No more empty calories!”. Everything I watch has to meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. It’s something that I could potentially enjoy, and not in an ironic way

2. It has some sort of cultural significance

3. It’s something out of my comfort zone (i.e. something that doesn’t involve guns and/or monsters)

I’m not knocking empty calories. I’m glad that people get enjoyment out of American Idol. Or Glee fills a hole in their lives. But for me, I need a break.

Flashing back to the fire, the fiancee, etc. . . I’m thinking about all the things I haven’t done. Now, I’m not an ambitious man, so I’m not talking about finding the cure for cancer here, or anything of the sort. No, I’m a hedonist, so I’m thinking about how I’ve never read Anna Karenina. How I pretty much know nothing about the history of music. Or painting. Or, hell, architecture even. And I’ve never seen Rules Of The Game.

Whew. There. I said it.

Long story short? Life is a short story. Don’t waste any more time on mediocrity.