Why I Hate Television


I grew up with parents who restricted my television viewing, and just like David Rakoff in last weeks ‘This American Life‘, I became unhealthily addicted. As the quiet bookish kid of two teachers, college educated parents on working class salaries, I spent my free time indoors, avoiding the neighbourhood kids’ impulsive violence and myopic obsession with soccer. Instead of participating, instead of being excluded, I watched television. First on our enormous, deathly old, black and white screen, a groaning bloated beast with knobs which had to manually be tweaked. Later on a tiny 14 inch colour unit donated from a relative, a device that was for a long time my only window into the world beyond 1980’s Ireland. Into that window I stared, watching anything and everything. My preference was for shows featuring quirky comedic characters and action packed sequences, the A-Team, Thundercats, Captain Scarlet. I hated Irish TV and gorged on grainy, weather dependent BBC and Channel 4, pirated from across the water.

My TV watching worried my parents, more for its content than it’s duration. As strict Catholics flirting with millenarianism, the culture depicted in then ‘violent’ and ‘salacious’ (though by modern standards kitch and wordy) popular television, terrified them, and I have vivid memories of their amateur attempts at censorship. At the merest suggestion of a passionate embrace ‘the Changer’, a thin, faceless rectangle with eleven well worn steel buttons, was wielded, suspending the program till my parents judged the danger passed. At other times, as I became glued to an over long show (they were always better in the evenings), titanic battles would take place over the off switch, and I’d be hauled from the couch, pale wee elbows locked around one wooden arm of the settee.

In secondary school, television was the primary topic of conversation. Last night’s X-Files, Friends, or Next Generation, kicked off endless reverential re-enactments. TV had entered a golden age of permissive irreverent comedy and drama, Channel four flirted with hard core pornography in late night ‘uncensored’ weekends, and the BBC imported the latest quirky American humour when it wasn’t concocting it’s own shows like Men Behaving Badly, Bottom or the Day Today.
It couldn’t last. As the console market, DVD rentals and the bizarre, thrillingly unfettered, world of the internet grew, television audiences receded. The BBC, losing its old guard of post war progressive programmers (try saying that with a mouth full of marbles), it’s funding under threat from a New Labour government, largely quit producing edgy comedy and documentaries as educational as they were spectacular, and to quote a cliché, ‘dumbed down’. Channel four had it’s wings clipped for exploring the world of banned cinema one too many times. BSkyB rose from the mud of satellite broadcasting, a pug mugged beast all cookery show arms and quiz show feet, purchasing endless low quality pap from the states, from conformity manuals like ‘Darma and Greg’, or ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, to vomitous anti intellectualism like ‘Charmed’ and ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’.
It’s easy to forget that when it launched, a key selling point of Sky was that you didn’t have to watch any ads. Today the sales between the shows make up, up to 12 minutes per hour, not including channel promotions. This means that if you’re watching sky, a quarter of the time- excluding product placement and implicit cultural indoctrination, you’re paying for your time, twice.
But what’s really killed television, both in the British Isles and the United States, is reality TV. Incredibly cheap to make, monstrously profitable and incomprehensibly addicting, reality TV is the daemon child of soap opera and ‘fly on the wall’ documentary. Typically, in a now classic format pioneered by ‘The Osborne’s’, a hapless former or Z-List celebrity is followed on their quest to obtain, retain, or regain notoriety. What japes.

The boob tube, the idiot box, the one eyed monster, TV has always incurred the wrath of moral panics, and endured the scorn of intellectual pretension, but for me, this time it’s really different. Modern television, from Lacuna Beach to My Super Sweet Sixteen, inculcates a numb passivity I simply cannot tolerate. Don’t try to enthral me with the thoroughly unoriginal ‘Heroes’, the directionless ‘Lost’, or heaven forbid, the thankfully cancelled ‘OC’. I’m rarely tempted by TIVO, Bittorrent, Joost or ala carte television. Something clicked in my mid twenties. I’m done with being a dummy. I’ve turned off the television.

Update: Oddly similar article was published a couple of days after this in Wired. Must be riding the same meme.

Better late than never


Just came across this article, via the swearing lady [subscription required]. Apparently Technolotics was mentioned in ye olde paper blog, The Irish Times.

If many young students are not yet using modern technology to express themselves, three have done so successfully. Technolotics.com is billed as an irreverent look at technology, politics and the media by three Irish students and for a year it stood as one of the few Irish videoblogs.

Technolotics is cheap and cheerful and it proves an important point. Viewers don’t need RTE-grade production values to engage with new personalities. Technolotics found an audience.

Makes me happy and sad at the same time. At last a media mention from someone we hadn’t met personally, but unfortunately a little after the ship has sailed. Sadly it doesn’t look like a Trinity Digicast society is going to become a reality this year, but who knows, perhaps after this whole final year project ship has sailed, I’ll have the energy for another podcast or vidcast project. There are definitely more avenues to explore in this space than are currently getting attention, particularly in the sketch comedy area.

Kick the Kat 23.11.06

Trinity FM

Back on the air tonight..10pm to 12pm GMT, on Trinityfm – available online or on air on 97.3FM in Dublin city. Also I have a cold, so be prepared to enjoy a nasal whinny from time to time.

I’ll be playing a couple of tracks each from Joanna Newsom, Final Fantasy, John Darnielle and Tom Waits, then moving on to some electronic stuff (think Art of Noise, and Homogenic Bjork) and whatever else I can did out of our digital cupboards. Fingers crossed I’ll have a new (thus far unnamed) ‘oldtime’ country / Appalachian band in the studio doing their thing. Listen up.

Update: Well the show turned into a bit of a shambles, primarily due to some drunks turning up and stumbling about and not taking the hint to leave *cough*, but Fergus and Dearbhla were great, playing something across between Appalachian and Calypso, and they’ll be in The Blue Note Cafe on Caple St, next Wednesday from about eight thirty, at the first regular TFM Session. I also had an interesting time trying to tell samples of Irish and Klingon apart. Without further ado, here are the show notes for Thursday night.
Tracks and Notes

Frames – Unreleased – Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Gnarles Barkley – St Elsewhere – Necromancer

Dj Dangermouse – Grey Album – My first song

Final Fantasy – Has a Good Home – Please Please Please

Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds – He Poos Clouds

Electric Six – Senior Smoke – Jimmy Carter

Damien Dempsy – Songs from a room – Party On

Joan of Arse – Distant Hearts a little closer – Watching Films with the Sound Down

I’m From Barcelona – We’re from barcelona

Belle and Sebastian – The Life Persuit – Sukis asleep in the graveyard

Whipping Boy – Heart Worm – We don’t need nobody else

Joanna Newsom – Cosmia

Joanna Newsom – Peach Plum Pear

Josh Ritter – Bone of Song

David Bowie – Life Aquatic OSD – Queen Bitch

Travelling Wilburies – Handle Me with Care

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline – I threw it all away

Tom Waits – Small Change – Pasties and a G-string
*From Wait’s 1976 album, his biggest hit next to Mule Variations from 1999

Tom Waits – Mule Variations – What’s he builing in there

Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree – You or your memory
Extra Glens – Ultraviolet
* Two songs from song writer, composer, guitarist and vocalist John Darnielle who is also the editor of the last plane to jakarta webzine
* http://lastplanetojakarta.com John also has a rather new blog at http://www.johndarnielle.com/
* you can grab a collection of mountian goats mp3’s at http://www.themountaingoats.net/mp3/index.html
* Googling Darnielle earlier I can across an hillarious piece he’d written for Nerve, which asks now that scarlet johansen is mainstream
* who should indy guys have a crush on http://www.nerve.com/screeningroom/music/crushstory/
* Personally I can’t think of anyone better than joanna newsom

Art Of Noise – The Seduction of Claude Debussy – Il Pleure

Bjork – Homogenic – Bachellorette – 2 days ago birthday

Im from Barcellona – We’re from barcellona

Par-T-One – Single – Im So Crazy
* The only single from Italian electroclash band composed of House DJ’s Sergione Casu and Andrea Pareo

Buck 65 – Roses and Bluejays

Avenue Q – If you were gay

Daniel Johnston – True love will find you in the end

CoCoRosie – By your side

Cheated Hearts

Some friends and I recorded a video entry for the ‘Cheated Hearts’ contest run by NY punk band the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’. The contest aimed to put together a host of fan made videos, much in the style of Feeder’s classic ‘Just a Day‘. Well the final cut is out, and should be blanketing MTV right now, and (while the result is not quite as original or exciting as Feeders original) we made the cut. In the coming weeks I’ll chop together a full length version of our entry, and throw it up on Youtube. But for the moment you’ll have to be content with the official video! Check it out above.

Hint: The subtitle to our two seconds of fame is ‘Dublin Ireland’.

Credits: Fiona Doyle, Ronan O’Broin, Daniel O’Donovan, Gareth Stack.