Movie night

Tonight on the increasingly aptly-renamed Syfy channel, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus:

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Idiot box

Numbing; stupifying; disorienting; what’s the word I’m looking for?

  • From Acedia and Me, by Kathleen Norris:

    Advertisements direct our attention to automobiles; medications to combat high blood pressure, hemorrhoids, and insomnia; the Red Cross; a new household cleanser. When the “news” returns, there are appalling segues, such as one I witnessed recently, the screen going from “Child Sex Offender Search” to “Gas Prices Rise.” It all comes at us on the same level, and an innocent from another would might assume that we consider these matters to be of equal value and importance. We may want to believe that we are still concerned, as out eyes drift from a news anchor announcing the latest atrocity to the NBA scores and stock market quotes streaming across the bottom of the screen.

  • From Anathem, by Neal Stephenson:

    …there were speelies all over the place. They were mounted to the ceiling, angled down toward the tables. All of them ran the same feed in lockstep. At the moment we walked in the door, this showed a house burning down at night. It was surrounded by emergency workers. A close-up showed a woman leaning out of an upper-story window that was vomiting black smoke. She had a towel wrapped around her face. She dropped a baby. I kept watching to see what happened next, but instead the speely cycled back and showed the baby drop two more times in slow motion. Then that scene vanished and was replaced by images of a ball player making a clever play. But then it showed the same ball player breaking his leg later in the game. This too was repeated several times in slow motion so that you could see the leg bending at the site of the break. By the time we reached out table, the speelies were showing an extraordinarily beautiful man in expensive clothes being arrested by police.

  • I know – the word I’m looking for is “news.”

When tv was less frenzied

Of C-Span:

“The pace is slower. You don’t have a new visual image to process every 3.5 seconds, and people watch and apparently listen and then go back and watch again. So I’m very encouraged by that. It may be that there are limits to how much the human psyche can take of this fast-moving imagery that has been a characteristic of American television for many years. The Nielsen people tell us that television is on about close to eight hours a day in the average American household, so maybe there are limits to how much imagery people can process.” — Neil Postman, 30 August, 1992

There’s a limit to how much fast-moving imagery I can watch – the onset of nausea; and not in some airy existential sense. Is there a limit to how much humans can take? Maybe. But Postman said that in 1992. Today there is more blinking, flashing screen-trash than ever, and now TV includes pop-ups, pop-unders, pictures within pictures bracketed by scrolling text, all in gigantic high-definition. A noisy bar with a disco ball seems charmingly old-fashioned.