Here it is . . . the blank page; just a rectangle of white, soon to be covered with words that may or may not strike a chord within you.
God, I can really write some shit when I put my mind to it, or take may mind off it; whatever it is. In this case there is no real it, which is why I’ve started with this meandering and vague stream of consciousness style opening. Stream of consciousness indeed, but you’d never catch Joyce or Woolf writing such feckless gibberish. In fact, you should read them rather than this, because the work of very good writers has the power to make you think more deeply, ponder things you’ve never considered, to move you in ways you couldn’t imagine or, as Hemingway eloquently put it, “make people feel something more than they understood”.
This is the main reason I favour reading a book to watching the television; it’s a much better and more worthwhile use of time. I will concede that in its best form television has a lot to offer. For instance, I would prefer to watch anything from David Attenborough’s oeuvre than to read a book on the same subject. However, these sorts of shows make up a minute percentage of the total programming. Much of the remainder, particularly on Sky, is just hundreds of channels of noise and colours, engineered to distract your mind and prevent your thoughts from bothering you while your life ebbs away quickly and painlessly. As a mind numbing device this ‘filler TV’ is very successful, in the same way that alcohol is, or any drug for that matter. Except that if you drink a pint of gin with your Weetabix, smoke weed all day, or intermittently shoot Heroin, people wont like it. They will call you an ‘addict’; they will shout at you and maybe cry as well, and if they really love you, they will do everything in their power to prevent you from continuing that behaviour. People don’t react the same way if you watch 6 or 7 hours lot of TV a day (that sounds a lot, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for any 9 to 5er) and how much of that is ‘worthy TV’? Less and less I feel, as production companies now seem to be actively embracing the mind numbing.
For instance, I put on the TV at lunchtime last week and there was a programme on called ‘For the Rest of Your Life’ (ITV1 12.30pm). It could loosely be defined as a gameshow, in the same way that ‘Deal or No Deal’ could be described as a gameshow, or that other one with Chris Tarrant that also involves coloured boxes and predetermined amounts of money. In this one though, rather than open boxes, the contestant must select rods imbedded in the floor that, when removed, either emit white light or red light. If the contestant picks lots of white ones they win increasing amounts of monthly income, if they get red ones they don’t. Apart from that it’s the same as Deal or No Deal or the Tarrant one. They all involve some irritatingly garrulous presenter prattling on in unintelligible nomenclature (For the Rest of your Life deals in: ‘Climbing the time ladder’, ‘Stick Downs’ and ‘5 more white sticks for 3 years’) to a moron from the general public, who nods knowingly as he carefully appraises his options of box or rod choice, before applying some baffling fabricated reasoning to the art of random selection in a vain attempt to make sense of complete chance. It’s unendurably pointless and leaves you with absolutely nothing. You gain no knowledge, you don’t laugh, you don’t cry, you don’t think, you don’t feel, you just watch and expend another hour of your life.
I admit that I’ve probably overstated the harm of TV by comparing the likes of Quiz Call to alcoholism or drug addiction, but I was trying to make a dramatic point and I do, nevertheless, stand by my belief that, like an addict, the average person squanders a large portion of their life, that they could have spent constructively, watching futile television shows.
John Lennon said that ‘life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans’. Maybe a more apt motto for our generation is ‘life is what happens to you while you’re watching television’.