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The joys of living without television

by Shawn Gainer

Staff writer

I recently moved to a new apartment, and in the process of unpacking, discovered that something was lost -- the television remote.

For most people, this would be an undesirable but surmountable inconvenience that would require getting off the couch to change channels. Not so with me. After a thorough examination of every square centimeter of the set, it became apparent the manufacturer, knowing the slothful nature of the late 20th-century American, had not bothered to install manual controls.

I hate to admit that at first, I was irritated. I double-checked and triple-checked the idiot box before resigning myself to the fact there would be no TV in my life without the purchase of a universal remote.

I work a lot. I travel a lot. Days, then weeks passed without pixel-images coming into my living room. I still haven't got a remote, and it's been great.

Instead of listing on the couch like a ship run aground, I play guitar, read or just stare at the ceiling. One might be inclined to see nothing constructive about staring at the ceiling, but it allows one to do something I believe you can't really do in front of the idiot box -- think.

You see, I've reached the conclusion that watching too much TV will cause the human brain to turn to cottage cheese.

An unknown Norse or Icelandic Skald wrote a verse preserved in the Poetic Edda that goes something like this:

Good it is not though

Good it is thought mead for the sons of me

The more that is drunk

The dimmer grows many a man's mind.

Mead is a very strong wine made primarily from honey, and it was a common vehicle of recreational brain-destruction in Dark Ages Europe. I think if you substitute 'TV' for 'mead' and 'watched' for 'drunk', you'll have a concise bit of down-to-earth advice. Besides, I've always wanted to sneak a skaldic stanza into one of my columns.

It's also relevant because TV is doubly destructive when combined with a brain-bashing substance like alcohol. I was at a Super Bowl party where a grown man, upon seeing a halftime commercial for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," jumped to his feet and screamed "Regis Philbin is the Antichrist!"

Also, T.V. is bad for people who have read distopias, which are the fancy name for novels like George Orwell's 1984. In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, human embryos are grown in hatcheries and manipulated for intelligence level and disposition in order to fit the needs of producers. This is reinforced by constant propaganda -- there's a passage where assembly line workers are exposed to an endlessly repeating mantra: produce, earn, consume.

When I watch TV, I can't shake the horrible, subliminal fear that the powers that be would be better off if rabble-rousing readers like me would simply sit at home in front of the idiot box and leave the house only to buy a bunch of the stuff advertisers are trying to convince me that I need. When I'm staring at the ceiling, my mind is my own.

Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.

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