We are a week into a major home reconstruction project that has about 2/3 of our living space sealed off against dust. Bedroom, study, kitchen, and bath are available. Internet too, since I carried the modem down to this end of the house. A little cramped at times, but overall, just fine for a short period of time.
What surprises me is how little I miss TV. More than that, it’s refreshing in many ways not to have it. The sound was on at one of the TV’s at the gym and I found it so irritating I moved away.
It hasn’t been a completely video-less week. One day we ventured out to the cineplex to watch Frozen. Another evening we viewed an Agatha Christie mystery on youTube (the 13″ screen of my mac was ample). On Friday, I watched a 20 minute Newshour segment on pbs.org. And last night, we clambered through the dust curtains, out to the living room where the furniture is clumped, to watch the finale of Downton Abbey.
I’m not going to waste any time with polemics against television. I enjoy several shows and of course, Turner Classic Movies. I expect to watch those when the house is back to normal. But a cautionary story came to mind as I looked for images for this post.
It’s possible some readers may not remember analog TV and the pre-404 no-signal pattern called “snow.”
This always reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s visionary novel, Snow Crash. Published in 1992, Stephenson envisioned a post-nation state world in which people lived as citizens of corporate territories. The former United States still excelled at two things, computer micro-code and high speed pizza delivery, the latter because the mafia had taken over the business.
In 1992, the year I first got a windows computer, an 8K modem, and an AOL membership, Stephenson imagined virtual worlds where people created avatars to jack in and interact. Then someone launched a virus that messed with people’s brains. Anyone who opened this malware saw a pattern based on ancient glyphs that led to the Tower of Babel. Viewing these symbols scrambled their neurons, in essence, turning their minds to snow.
What struck me this past week were the parallels to our current media world. I can’t help thinking of all the ways that commercials, local news, political debates, and most of what passes for entertainment scramble our neurons, though much more slowly and in ways that leave us perfectly able to buy stuff.
I could say more, but this is enough – something to think about.