Sony Trinitron TV set: Jan 2001-Jun 2009.

This ballpoint sketch of my TV also accurately shows the level of clutter in but one tiny corner of my crummy apartment… and so it is with the clutter inside of my mind. Not long ago, when television broadcasting here in the Bay Area switched from analog to all-digital, my old Sony Trinitron TV set, the constantly-chattering room mate that has shared my apartment since 2001, went silent. I do not plan to replace it.

my Sony Trinitron TV
Sony Trinitron TV set: Jan 2001-Jun 2009.

I love watching TV, and that can sometimes be a problem, for I can sit in front of bad television for hours with my mouth lolling open, a caveman staring at the flickering images in the fire pit… Lately I have been feeling that I do not have the time to waste. I would prefer to do other things altogether, ideally making media of my own to numb OTHER people’s minds with; Comics, drawings, short-stories and so forth. And when it comes time to relax and be a media consumer, I would rather be looking at stuff that I am actually interested in, and nothing else.

Last year, my pal Mike introduced me to the concept of a “cleanse”; a diet where the goal is not to lose weight (although that can be a by-product) but to clean out your body of a lifetime’s-worth of preservatives and junk food. So, in that spirit, I am trying the MEDIA equivalent and hope to clean out the insides of my head and cash in an extra-time dividend as well. Quite some time ago I gave up cable TV, now I don’t have broadcast TV or even radio in my apartment. Not only that, I have no home-internet either, for I have learned (the hard way) that there is no time suck worse than spending a day on Facebook.

As I have disconnected myself one-by-one from all of the nodes of the media matrix, my apartment has become something of a sensory-deprivation tank in terms of the audio visual media. Or more accurately, it is a sensory-selection tank, as I am not truly sensory-deprived at all; I am now exposed only to the media that I choose to take into my tiny life-pod with me, one morsel at a time.

Even though my old Sony Trinitron no longer functions as a TV-set it still serves me well as a monitor with which to watch rented DVDs. There is so much wonderful Television being made now but I find that my favourite way to view it all is to wait until each series comes out on DVD and watch several episodes in a row, free from commercials and the temptations of channel-surfing.

There have been earlier periods where I tried living without TV. Long ago, when I was living in Asia, I couldn’t understand what was being broadcast anyway, so I barely watched television. Well, apart from psychotic Japanese game shows and equally insane anime cartoons (two cases where non-comprehension was somehow enjoyable). For those several years I got out of the habit of watching TV. That trend continued when I moved to France, where I didn’t even go to the trouble of buying a TV set, and the first few years living here in the USA were also television-free.

I remember well how many conversations I was unable to participate in back then, simply because I had not seen the previous night’s episode of SEINFELD or the SIMPSONS. I got tired of hearing about those shows (though I found out years later that all the fuss was justified). I continued to live in my media-free bubble until someone gave me their TV to look after while they traveled abroad. While baby-sitting that lonely telly, I turned it on one day and was suddenly back where I had begun; a man without the strength of mind to shut off the flow even when all that pours out from the box is crap.

Even now, I was unable to get rid of the TV myself. I had to wait until my TV set died before I could finally shut it off. But I hope to make the most of this change. When not watching the cherry-picked best of the TV-show crop on DVDs, I hope to read more books (I have a pile of gifts that I have yet to read) and do more drawing, free of the distractions of telly-oggling. I know myself well enough by now to realise that it is only a matter of time before I am back chewing through media crud, but until then I hope to make the most of this quiet time.

Although, now that the handy dandy white-noise machine has fallen silent, I am much more able to hear the squabbling couples, flushing toilets and crying babies in the apartments around me, not to mention OTHER people’s TVs. Not exactly what I had in mind when I began this sensory deprivation idea, but there you go….

17 thoughts on “MY TV, RIP”

  1. Stew>>YES! Music still has to be a part of it all. I am not absolutely ditching anything, just being more selective is all.VINCE>> that was my feeling exactly. maybe with the extra Time I will take a page from your book and train for a half marathon

  2. Good going! I grew up without tv and video as a kid, and it wasn't easy. I found myself alienated from many conversations–even w/ the teachers! Today it's much easier to live w/o cable and still stay in touch. I absolutely could not live in a small town without internet at home. We don't have the luxury of wifi cafes and NYTimes boxes on every street corner.

  3. I call it 'media calories'- games, a little TV, a big TV, with or without cable, YouTube, all passive consumption of media calories. i like Facebook because i get to interact with my friends, tho. fyi, i have a big ol' dinosaur tube TV and got the digital tuner (free with the gov't coupon) et voila,30 channels! and i'm wasting too much time on TV again all of a sudden, thinking of getting rid of it altogether again…

    • When I was a kid living in Daly City in around 1968 or so, we kids were arguing and bitching with each other so badly over the tv that my mother ripped the cord out, picked it up, carried it out outside and pitched it off the back porch. My childhood memory is of her holding it aloft, straight armed, herculean, though in reality I'm sure she just barely hefted it up over the top rail. On the other hand she WAS really pissed! We didn't have a tv for about six years after that. We all became avid readers. Probably the best thing that could have happened.

  4. I really like the idea of controlling how much media is being allowed into your life. Our culture is just a media frenzy from morning until night. I think the difference is recognizing what is engaging your mind and what is not.

  5. the opening of SCTV was originally (as i recall) the announcement of the show followed by a bunch of clips of the fronts of faceless apt buildings with TV's flying out of every window! pretty funny.

    • SCTV! ha – what a hilarious show! You know, television was and is not always the WORST thing. I never would have seen "Duck Soup" or any of the Laurel and Hardy movies, Charlie Chaplin or Jerry Lewis movies, etc etc if it were not for a lonely channel that played them early on Sunday mornings. Even though I had nothing to do and was watching tv, I must say, those moments were filled with some excellent humor.My mom got something out of tv, too. I have vivid memories of my mom doing her calisthenic routine while watching "Love American Style" right on through "That Girl". I am convinced that her work out routine was motivated by Hollywood beauties. But, all in all, we barely ever watched it. And that is also a good thing, yes!

    • I have fond memories of watching TV with my family too, and would never have seen 'the greats' until i was in college without it. to me, TV boils down now to 'pretty people in ugly situations' on the drama side, innuendo and high-fives on the 'comedy' side, and gargoyle people on the 'reality' side. but we've never had cable, tho it mainly just seems worse when i've seen it.

  6. Having grown up w/o it in our house, I was desperately curious, so I finally bought a used 9" tv at age 14 w/ babysitting money. It didn't take long to figure out that a lot of it was just crappy reruns, but it also didn't take me long to find the good stuff. There was Channel 9 w/ it's late night videos w/ arty farty, new wave music program (pre MTV), and SCTV blew my mind. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

  7. I thought I’d gotten the TV monkey off my back when we gave up DirecTV (no regular service over here). Instead I’ve discovered HULU & – so, I’m still managing to lose several hours a day to the boob tube – just on my computer. Curse you technology!


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