Television

Sep 25,2013

Well, kids, the TV crew were here today, and yours truly was offered two seconds of local fame. For all of you couch potatoes out there, good luck searching for it; I'm not going to advertise it outright.

The whole (ten-minute) experience was actually much less unpleasant than I expected, and I found the announcer and crew all quite nice. It's just the idea of television itself that disturbs me. It always has, from the moment I put an end to the only period in my life when I watched it regularly: the years from age ten, when my mother first condescended to install one in the house, to age fourteen, when I simply lost interest. I think I was saved by the absence of it during my formative years. That made it easier to stop watching. I remember the last program I watched was the Marsha Warfield Show. She became famous for a minor part in the sitcom Night Court, and was awarded her own talk show. Looking back on it now, I'm hard pressed to find a good reason for watching it when I was well aware of the quality and level of the programming, but I'm more confused now as to why people enjoy it enough to do it every day.

Jerry Mander observed in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television that as environmental stimuli are reduced in quantity and variety, animals, including humans, become increasingly dependent on the extant stimuli. I'm sure that TV takes on a whole different meaning for people who enjoy or are addicted to it.

The last time I tried to watch was at the suite where my wife and I stayed in Bangkok, just for the novelty of having television sets in two different rooms while the house we live in has none at all. BBC was available, and we sat through a moment of sports talk I didn't understand, but my wife reads the newspapers and understood they were trying to elect a new head of the Olympics committee. Then they started talking about the increasing number obese people on airlines as people in the developed world become fatter every year. 'Special seating needs' they called it, and they had interviews with morbidly obese people who suffered the indignity of those near them being asked to be reseated--and how unfair it was that fourteen-sandwich-a-day-eating behemoths should be asked to purchase two seat tickets. The report did acknowledge that additional weight causes planes to use more fuel, which makes it more expensive to fly, and the costs have to be borne by someone. But obviously it's not fair to charge the individuals responsible; it's more reasonable that the entire society should suffer equally because more and more of its members eat too much.

But I digress.

We had to shut it off after a few minutes because neither of us could keep up with the rate at which the screen changed.

For the younger generation, growing up watching TV and playing video games and plugged into the interactive whatever-it-is, life probably seems awfully static and uninteresting by comparision. Obviously if life were more interesting they'd shut off the lobotomy box and engage the real world.

Since coming to Japan I've been exposed to a much wider range of society than I was in the US, where I was more skilled and careful at choosing my acquaintances, and as a result I know a number of people who claim to never read. At all. Not even magazines, or silly blogs like this one. They just don't read words, and if they try they either get a headache or fall asleep. I like to hope such people are a minority, but on evidence I've observed I am persuaded that a good number of folks don't read much. Such people probably won't be able to concentrate on a verbose wall of text like this one, let alone absorb it. I'm not writing for them, obviously. But then, I'm not really writing for anyone, because no one really reads this thing at all anymore, really. Just doing my job.

So the crew are gone, no doubt onto more activities that will entertain, pacify, agitate and misinform the majority for another day. I was party to it for a moment, but I continue to encourage the world to avoid it.

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