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Below are the 9 most recent journal entries recorded in Thinking about television's LiveJournal:

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
5:30 pm
What Happy People Don't Do

“We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities more — visiting others, going to church, all those things — were more happy,” Dr. Robinson said. “TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did it less.”

But the researchers could not tell whether unhappy people watch more television or whether being glued to the set is what makes people unhappy.

It took some digging around to find the paper. What do happy people do more than unhappy people?

Basically, they socialize more with (relatives, neighbors, friends), go to religious services, have sex, read the newspaper and the Internet, and work.
Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
5:48 pm
Telly is my life...
Made a telly shirt over at my site if anyone's interested...


Sunday, April 8th, 2007
7:42 pm
WIRED magazine thinks about TV
I ran across an article this week called The TV is Dead. Long Live the TV.

It's a good, well-written article like most of WIRED's stuff. I'm not sure of its premise though... I don't think that a TV show distributed via the web, or delivered to mobile phones, is still really a TV show in the sense that it provides the same experience that television usually does. Can all audiovisual art be considered TV? Of course not.

Important aspects of TV that are not replicated on, for example, YouTube or iTunes:
  • Inability to search for desired input (in a faster-than-linear fashion, that is... click click click click...)
  • Inability to interact by leaving comments
  • Unavoidable breaks for advertisements (that's right, I'm not sure a TiVo'ed show is TV anymore either; it's more like a short film IMO)
  • Constant advertisement for whatever's on NEXT, trying to hold the viewer for longer than the length of the current offering
  • The fact that on TV, money is made on advertising, not on the show content itself; when people download from iTunes they pay for the show.

That last one is a huge, changes-everything type shift! One that I applaud, as it happens, but definitely one that matters. It's weird that WIRED doesn't talk about it.

Current Mood: complacent
Monday, September 26th, 2005
10:20 pm
TV in your mirror, anyone?
This is odd -- a TV that hides in your mirror. I guess it might be good for catching the morning news, but at the same time it seems awfully invasive.

Thursday, August 18th, 2005
6:50 pm
From the back of the TV-B-Gone package
"Disclaimer: This product is sold for the exclusive private use of the buyer on their own equipment. Use under adult supervision. For external use only. Side effects may include decreased anxiety, increased social skills, increased cognitive ability, increased sense of well being. The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Effective personal choices are the sole responsibilityof each individual user of this device."

Ha. :)

Current Mood: amused
Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
9:21 pm
confessions of a TV addict
I admit it. I am addicted to television. I love the background noise. I love the familiar hum of voices. I have come to hate and even sometimes fear the silence in my house, especially when my husband isn't home.

But I am working on it. Like apfelsingail, I have discovered the wonder of Netflix. It lets me indulge in my anime interest very cheaply and I also get to watch television series on DVD but be choosy about it. I have gotten to see most of "Six Feet Under" that way, for example, and I feel that the quality of writing in that show is far above the dreck that is on.

While there are many well-meaning shows and networks on tv, with 200+ digital cable channels to plow through, I have discovered that I can only watch "I Love the 80's" so many times no matter how much I laughed the first time. I also am very disappointed with the "educational" and documentary networks. Many of them have caved in to hyping-up their programming to the point of making it inane. Animal Planet (which I used to love) has all those "extreme" shows, everybody is CGI'ing some speculative thing be it a battle or a dinosaur, and so much of the "science" is speculative though so far they are careful to still use the word "might" in choice places. All in all, I have seen very little in a documentary that I didn't already know as a well-read person of wide interests. The only documentary in the past year I've learned anything from is the old PBS "Civil War" series -- and I borrowed that from someone.

So, it is time to kick my addiction. Clearly, there's more going on with me than the television -- I'm drowning something out with it, and it's my job to figure out what. But I can and am starting to remove the thing as a crutch. We cancelled the digital cable and have been without it for two days now. I must say I am doing well. I can't believe how much I've read. My husband and I have found a compromise: we are getting satellite instead so that we can get a (free) Tivo. We record anything actually good that we want to see and if we don't watch it right away, it's deleted and gone -- instead of just turning on the television for the noise and as a mental opiate. So we can actually catch South Park and the Daily Show (on too late for us) and all the fun shit on Adult Swim and the good things that PBS does put on.

There are some good, funny, smart, entertaining shows out there. But all things in moderation, as I am learning.
Monday, August 15th, 2005
11:40 am
I have split objections to TV. One is to the medium, and the other is to the content.

My objections to the medium are that I find it un-ignorable. I have difficulty concentrating on other things (studying, reading, conversing, cooking... etc) when there's a TV on. For some reason, my attention is drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Yesterday, I chuckled at a joke on TV in the middle of a conversation. Not only did I have to explain the joke I was chuckling about, thus admitting that I had not really been listening to my counterpart, but I had to ask the person to repeat what they had said. If I were them, I would think I was an asshole.

As for the content, I feel like that is analogous to food. Most, but not all, is pretty non-nutritious. Much like walking down the aisle of a supermarket, you can quickly see that the majority of the content is crap, and America is happily gobbling it up. Of course, I indulge from time to time, and there are those little morsels that are just too good to pass up (for me, that's family guy, south park, & the daily show... because I find their humor to be fairly original, some of it even intelligent). But a steady diet of WB, UPN, and FOX is just numbing.

One can choose more nutritious options like discovery (health), animal planet, history channel, learning channel, etc. and those are better than your more mainstream networks and often have useful information on topics to which you are otherwise unexposed. But even in these cases, the knowledge one gets from a 60 minute segment is completely inadequate compared to the the amount that one would get from actually studying the subject, that is, taking a more active role. I come away from these shows with only the shallowest knowledge, and then, it's time for the next shallow introduction. Watching these dosen't really give you any concrete knowledge of any subjects, it only exposes you. If you do nothing with that exposure... perhaps you'd have been better off watching Survivor.

I also can't help but get the nagging feeling like I'm being manipulated. The extensive editing, complete with background music carefully selected to properly convey the proper emotion, makes me feel like they are trying to persuade me (perhaps to join a cause... perhaps to just keep watching) more than they are trying to inform me. I realize that people won't watch if the presentation is too dry, so perhaps that is what I'm resenting, the sacrificing of additional content for presentation's sake... dumbing it down for the lowest common denominator.
Saturday, August 13th, 2005
11:24 pm
TV be gone!
flexagon wrote:

is it all right to go sniping with a TV-B-Gone, and if so what are the limits?

Here's my take on it.

First of all, I don't believe in telling others what to do (except of course, for example, to stop beating that child with a stick). So my views about whether or not it's a good idea to watch TV apply only to me. That's the first point.

Second of all, I don't think that TV is inherently bad, but people simply watch far too much of it. Once it's on, it requires a kind of passive attention which makes it difficult to switch off. Also, a lot of clever people spend a lot of time thinking of ways to get you to not switch off.

I watch shows via BitTorrent, which means I choose what to watch, and I can watch it at a time that suits me. I download a lot of high-quality documentaries and so on. I also get comedy shows and silly popcorn movies for when I want to shut down my brain cells and be mindlessly entertained. The point is that I make that choice, not the TV schedulers - and because I can stop a show and resume it at any time in the future, I do just that. I don't have to sit glued to the box for fear of missing something.

I like not having a TV, and I find I have a lot more time for things like reading, writing and interacting with real live humans instead of the phosphor-dot variety. That works well for me. I certainly wouldn't respond well to being made to watch a compulsory period of TV every day, and so I can imagine that other people don't like to be told not to watch TV if they want to - or to have it forcibly taken away, or switched off by something like the TV-B-Gone. I don't think that's the way to get people to watch less TV, if that's what you want.

Albert Schweitzer wrote that 'Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.'

The trouble is, of course, is that people are lazy and unobservant and disinclined to follow our good example. Schweitzer's point (and mine) is that they're even less likely to do the right thing if you just tell them. In fact, people have a natural mulishness which tends to influence them to the opposite of whatever they're being told. Anyone who's tried to get a child to go to bed knows what I'm talking about.

If your friends and associates start to wonder how it is that you have so much free time and read so many books and belong to so many clubs and societies and have mastered so many crafts and hobbies, they might start trying to emulate you, but you should probably keep quiet about not having a TV and make out like it's a big secret that only the inner circle are supposed to know. People go crazy for that type of thing.

As far as switching off TVs in public places goes, I don't think there's any serious argument to support that. Just vote with your wallet and go patronise another establishment that doesn't have a TV. It's none of our business whether a bunch of strangers choose to watch TV or not.

Which is not to say that I don't find such a device extremely tempting. I'd like one which also disables cellphones, jukeboxes, and SUVs.

Current Mood: cheerful
1:48 pm
A first post from your friendly mod...
Hello from your friendly mod! Wow, starting a community to discuss a decision I haven't thought about in years is a strange thing for me to be doing. I tend to forget about television for months at a time... I'm always surprised to remember just how many people have chosen to have them in their homes, and how strange most of those people think it is that I don't. In addition, once the topic is brought up people seem to want to talk about it, and not only with people who agree with them. Thus, this community.

For lack of a more inspired first topic, here are my reasons for not owning one:

  • After working and working out, I only have pathetically tiny scraps of time in which to have a life. Friends, creativity, all that jazz. I'm not sure when in there I'm supposed to have time to sit and watch.
  • I hate living rooms in which all the furniture points at the TV, so that people sit down and are not naturally looking at and involved with one another. No way -- my living room is for living. And I don't yet live in the mansion in which I would someday like to have a media room. :)
  • Intellectually I know it's pretty addictive, so having a TV too easily accessible would be a little bit like equipping the freezer with an endless supply of ice cream. That doesn't bother me so much, but it does bother my husband, who works at home and thinks he would watch it too much if we had one.
  • I don't like the emotionally overwrought tones of, gee, almost everyone shown on television. I have this problem with radio too. The emotions put me on edge -- and really, I don't want to become so desensitized that they don't. I think it's natural to react strongly when exposed to strong emotion.
  • It's fun to say you're TV-free. It rhymes! Tee... vee... free... Ohhh yeah.

In the spirit of full disclosure, every four years when the summer Olympics roll around I do invariably long for a TV. If I were smart I'd rent one, but I tend to forget and so I tend to miss all the gymnastics. Sigh.

What are your reasons for having, or not having, a TV? Is this a default choice or have you thought about it much?
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