Ted's Tidbits

Zen TV Followup

Just a few notes and thoughts on changing the position of television in my life.

First, Megan and I spent some time talking about this last night, and one of the things we decided to do was to eat our meals at the kitchen table and not in front of the TV. We tried that tonight, and it was nice.

Second, I finished the experiment tonight. I actually sat down and watched the television for 30 minutes with it turned off. It was an interesting experience. At first, I focused on the TV itself. I noticed smudges and things stuck to the screen, that I hadn’t noticed before. Then, I started to realize that I was tired. My eyes began to blur. I had to concentrate to prevent that. Then, my mind began to wander. I noticed a set of dominoes on the shelf below the TV and wondered how long we had them. I thought of different ways the furniture in the room could be configured. I caught myself, and went back to the TV. I noticed the silence. I noticed the sounds of the house. Eventually the 30 minutes had passed.

Tonight I learned that my mind is actively focused and engaged while I’m watching TV because it doesn’t wander, my eyes stay focused, and I don’t feel tired. I also experienced wasting away 30 minutes and being acutely aware of every minute that I could have been doing something else.

Also, on a related note, what you see on TV is even more fake than you probably realize.

The Zen TV Experiment

If you watch television, you should take a look at this post. It’s a repost of an article that first appeared in Adbusters Magazine on the effects of television on individuals and society. It proposes four experiments to attempt at home. I did this, and I recommend you do it to.

1) Watch TV for 10 minutes and count the technical events.

What is a technical event? We've all seen TV cameras in banks and jewelry stores. A stationary video camera simply recording what's in front of it is what I will call "pure TV." Anything other than pure TV is a technical event: the camera zooms up, that's a technical event; you are watching someone's profile talking and suddenly you are switched to another person responding, that's a technical event; a car is driving down the road and you also hear music playing, that's a technical event. Simply count the number of times there is a cut, zoom, superimposition, voice-over, appearance of words on the screen, fade in/out, etc.
For this test, I watched the first 10 minutes of this episode of my namesake show. In that 10 minutes I counted 223 technical events, and then I realized I didn't count any audio effects!

2) Watch any TV show for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

For this, I simply muted the volume on the same show and watched the remainder.

3) Watch any news program for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

It took a while for me to find a recording of an actual news program online (I needed 15 contiguous minutes, and the news sites only offer clips) but I finally found this on Hulu.

4) Watch television for one half hour without turning it on.

I must admit that I haven't done this yet. I want to do the experiment, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to waste a half hour sitting in front of a turned off television.

So, What's the Point?

Well, the point is that television is messing with your mind. All the technical events that occur in a normal TV show make for a very disjointed set of scenes that we have trained our brains to assemble into a narrative.
Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes. The mind is never empty, the mind is filled. What's worse, it is filled with someone else's obsessive thoughts and images.

Watching the TV without the sound makes it more difficult to connect with the story and therefore easier to observe all the technical events occurring. Switching to a news program you realize that there are fewer technical events.

With fewer technical events the news show appears realistic relative to other shows in the TV environment. Further, it appears super-realistic relative to the commercial shows in this environment. As earlier, we witnessed the joining of technical events in a coherent narrative. Here, we witness the reduction of worldly events into a narrative.

I admit I haven’t yet stared at a blank TV for a half hour, but I imagine two things would occur to me. First, I would realize just exactly how long a half hour feels, and I would be bothered by the things I could be doing with that time. Second, I would see the TV for what it is, an object, instead of what it is not, a companion.

If one is alone in one's room and turns on the TV, one actually doesn't feel alone anymore. It's as if companionship is experienced, as if communication is two-way.

Again, So What?

This does make for an interesting, if not disturbing, academic discussion, but it is not fruitful unless a behavioral change occurs. I encourage you to make your own resolutions. As for me, I am making a deliberate effort to watch less TV. This is actually something I started doing a while back when we canceled our cable. There are still some shows I enjoy watching, and I will continue to watch them. I don’t think I’m going to start watching any new shows, and I’m definitely going to stop watching shows I find myself complaining about. To do otherwise would just be stupid. Tonight, for example, I elected to write this blog post instead of watching The Office or some other show.

Maybe one day I’ll stop watching TV altogether (although I have no plans to cease watching the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how frustrating of an experience that may be). I don’t want to bind myself to a statement I won’t be able to live up to. At least for now, I feel encouraged to read more.

Blockbuster or Netflix

I’ve been a subscriber of Blockbuster Online for over two years now. At the start of this year, they raised their rate by $2 a month and limited the number of in store exchanges to 2 per month. What pushed me over the edge was the fact that they automatically published the movies I requested to my Facebook feed. I never authorized this, I never linked the accounts. In fact, I use different email addresses for those services, so they had to do some browser magic or something to accomplish this. To me, this is a violation.

So, the question is, do I switch to Netflix. Their plan for one at a time is $8.99, but there is obviously no in store rental. Instead they offer a selection of films that I can watch online. The problem is, that service is Windows only, and I’m on a Mac. (I’ve heard it does work in Parallels). Blockbuser offers a no store exchange plan at $8.99 as well.

Any thoughts? Any positive/negative experiences with either service?

Nigerian Dead Parrot


Soviet Russia, Comming to an America Near You

America… What a country! In America, you watch TV. In Soviet Russia, TV watches you!

The MPAA is trying to push a bill through Congress that would require anyone with a home theater to register with them. The home theater equipment will have devices that can determine information about the audience watching and report back to the KGB MPAA.

What makes a home theater? According to the MPAA, a home theater is any home with:

  • A television larger than 29” with stereo sound
  • At least 2 comfortable chairs or a couch or futon
Here’s the magic quote from the article:
“Just because you buy a DVD to watch at home doesn’t give you the right to invite friends over to watch it too. That’s a violation of copyright and denies us the revenue that would be generated from DVD sales to your friends,” said [MPAA head] Glickman. “Ideally we expect each viewer to have their own copy of the DVD, but we realize that isn’t always feasible. The registration fee is a fair compromise.
Pay attention to the government! They obviously don’t trust you, why should you trust them?

Source: http://www.bbspot.com/News/2006/11/home-theater-regulations.html [Mirror]

JibJab Presents: Do I Creep You Out?


Emmit Smith: Champion at Everything

He has 3 SuperBowl rings.

He holds the record for all-time rushing yards in the NFL.

Now he’s the new winner of Dancing With the Stars.

What can’t he do?

Big Tex Goes Up

3 more days! http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/VideoPlayer/videoPlayer.php?vidId=90498&catId=342

Fair Starts Friday

I’m so excited, I can hardly concentrate. The Fair starts in 4 days. They have tons of new food, new exhibits, and new shows. Just got to make it through 4 days of work.

White and Nerdy

Well, there was supposed to be a big world premiere event for this video on AOL today, but apparantly it was leaked on the internet early, so the premiere was canceled. [youtube=www.youtube.com/watch

Arrrrr you well read?

Waiting for me in my inbox this morning was an email from Amazon.com.

As someone who has purchased books about pirates, you might like to know about our featured booklist celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Well, they’ve got me pegged. Here’s the list.

Star Trekkin

Ok, so I’m in this weird Star Trek mood today. [youtube=www.youtube.com/watch

Matt Damon as Captain Kirk

What do you think? Could it work? Matt Damon - IMDB.com William Shatner - IMDB.com

Star Trek XI Site

Ok, so they got JJ Abrams to executive produce the next Star Trek Movie.  That’s exciting.  According to IMDB, Matt Damon is slated to play Captain Kirk.  I’m not sure what to think about that.  Last week, a teaser poster for the movie was released.  Looks cool.  It’s too bad the movie is 2 years off.  Here’s the official site for Star Trek XI info.

Rocky Balboa

He’s back!