Wednesday, 12 January 2011

TV is watching you.

When I was a miniature freaky little weirdo, we didn't have a TV. I was about six or seven before the first monochrome set appeared in our house, and aside from Watch With Mother and Dr. Who, it didn't do much of interest. I can't remember if it picked up ITV, I think so, so it would have had three channels. These were selected by turning a dial just like a radio and 'remote control' consisted of Dad ordering me to change the channel. Later, my younger brother was entrusted with that role, so I had remote control too.

VCR did not exist, nor did DVD. You watched it while it was transmitted or you missed it. Transmissions were not continuous. Sometimes there was a test card, sometimes just a little dot in the middle of the screen.

I don't recall any arguments about which channel to watch. They weren't always all transmitting and there wasn't a lot on them anyway. Besides, we had Dr. Who, Watch With Mother, and at that age there was nothing else of interest for we scrawny urchins. Nowadays families can indulge in full-on war over which of the hundreds of channels of crap to goggle at, and Watch With Mother isn't on any of them. I believe Dr. Who is on some, but watching a time-travel series out of sequence is just too bizarre.

(Incidentally, I was at University when my parents got hold of a remote-control TV. I was home for the weekend, they went out, and I could not for the life of me find out how to change the channels. There were no buttons or dials on the set and it just didn't occur to me to look for a separate box.)

Our parents did not have the option of sitting us in front of the goggle-box with a videotape of some politically correct simpering idiot showing us how to solve all world strife by making a suicide belt out of toilet rolls and tinfoil and the contents of Mum's cleaning cupboard. Television, mostly, was full of Terribly Serious Adult Things and no mention of lizard-catching techniques, pigtail-tugging finesse nor hole-digging lessons. We didn't watch much of it because there wasn't much to watch. To my mind, there still isn't.

A day or so ago, there was an article claiming that watching four hours of television a day can make your heart stop. I wouldn't worry, if you watch four hours of that stuff a day your brain will seize up long before your heart does and you probably won't notice either of them. It seems they forgot something because the article is back with most of the same words but now it includes four hours of computer time too. For those of us, presumably, who prefer this screen to the indoctrination screen.

Okay, if your job entails sitting down a lot and typing (as mine does) you're not going to reach Olympic fitness. None of your muscles will be anywhere near as strong as someone whose job is lifting brieze blocks and cement all day on a building site. Your heart will get fat and lazy and probably start claiming benefits without telling you.



'Hey, heart?'


'You stopped pumping.'

'I just pumped. Didn't you see me?'

'You need to do it again.'

'What, again? Oh, all right.' Pump.

'You stopped again'.

'I had to go and have a bit of a lie down. That was a big one. Besides, there's no hurry. All your other organs are outside, smoking, except for Liver who's passed out after throwing up on Spleen.'

'Yeah, but what about Brain?'

'Brain? You're talking to your internal organs, man, and hearing answers. Your brain is already screwed.'


So yes, the sedentary lifestyle doesn't exercise your heart or indeed anything else. Then again, if your heart doesn't have to get you to the top of Everest, does it need to be on the Charles Atlas dynamic tension programme? I don't have arms that can lift huge weights because my day-to-day life doesn't require moving huge weights around. I don't have a heart that can bear the strain of a marathon because if I have to travel 26 miles I'll get a bus. That's what buses are for.

What's interesting here is the 'four hours per day' thing. Where does that come from? I have a sneaking suspicion it comes from the same place as 'five-a-day' or 'units per week'. The Department of Made-Up Numbers.

Those who spend more than four hours a day in front of a ­computer screen or TV are 125 per cent more likely to suffer a major heart problem leading to hospitalisation or death than those who spend two hours or less, scientists say.

Well this is going to put the shits up practically every Government tax and database employee, including the ones who will be charged with recording how much time we all spend in front of computers and TV. Overtime? Oooo. No thanks.

I write reports on the work I do. I also write short stories and novels. What am I expected to do in response to these findings, type with one hand while lifting a dumbell with the other? Type extraordinarily fast and get it all done in two hours? A novel in two hours. It's going to be a Jeffrey Archer, isn't it? So do I change my lifestyle in order to live twice as long while taking ten times as long to get anything done?

Even exercise could not make up for the damage caused.

Nope. No point.

So far it's all just more ridiculous nonsense from people who have sat at computers for more than four hours a day analysing the results and hopefully scaring themselves to death. However, it takes the inevitable sinister turn -

TV watching should be a key target of public health ­interventions.

How? By broadcasting TV ads every four hours? 'Did you know that if this is the second time you've seen this ad today, you will die? Stop watching now. Ooops, too late.'

By monitoring IP connections? I routinely leave the computer running when I go out to the shops, or if I go anywhere that won't take more than an hour or so. It's left on while I shower and when I cook a meal or make a cup of tea. My IP connection time bears no relation at all to my computer sitting time and aside from the obsessive-compulsives who shut down every time they go for a pee, neither does anyone else's. Maybe they could watch us through our webcams but guess what? I don't have one. The one hard-wired into the lid of my laptop has tape over it. The only one it would photograph is me and I know what I look like, and it's not nice.

The only way to monitor TV watching is if there's a camera in the TV or in an attached device, such as a gaming machine. I don't have one of those either. Nobody would be so silly as to link a camera to their TV system... oh, wait.

Yet you must be monitored. It's not just for you. You might be passing on vile second-hand TV watching by discussing inanities and fiction you believe is reality. It must be done. For the cheeeeldren.

It's simple. Don't watch the bloody thing. It's all crap anyway apart from Dr. Who (available on DVD), Watch with Mother and maybe the original Star Trek (Ahh, we come in peace, shoot to kill) which is, in places, funnier than Red Dwarf. The spoofs can be absolute crackers. Stuff the Sky Plus that lets you record two channels at once so you can record twice as much as it's possible to ever watch. Want to watch a film? There are plenty of DVDs at bargain prices and you don't need a licence to watch them. You can get whole series and watch them at your leisure and when it suits you. No subscription, no licence.

On the other hand, there are those who love to sit in front of the TV after work and why would I care? Are they 'costing the NHS money'? It seems so, but that is, after all, what we are giving the NHS large amounts of money for. That part seems to have dropped by the wayside lately. Yes, we who do not live the Puritan life get sick sometimes and those who do live the Puritan life get sick too. We pay for the NHS and we expect them to actually do something for the money they receive. This, it seems, is wrong.

We pay them but cannot call on their services. There was a name for that. What was it again? Oh yes. Protection racket.

Just like every other Government 'service'.

It is not natural for humans to sit around in front of computers and TVs. Of course it's not. Even for writers there is a far more natural and normal state of being. But we live in a world where everything has to be run by computers. We don't want it but the government does. The same government who says 'pay your tax, phone, utility bills by computer and buy stuff online with credit cards you pay by computer' is now saying 'Computers? Oooo no, nasty'.

You are encouraged to pay bills online but discouraged from spending too much time online. Once you've done your bills and your shopping, you have few, if any, 'units per day' left.

I wonder why that would be.

Do you?


Anonymous said...

If you've ever been in a modern office nowadays, ever notice how smoking is frowned upon, even going outside, where it's banned within 25' anyhow - but at the same time, everyone can sit around all day in their cubicles and offices with the computer screens facing away from the nearest entry point - and sneak in close enough and you'll see 90% of the time someone who's supposed to be working is actually on the computer playing solitaire or else websurfing the latest gossip and shopping. We were better off and more productive when people just smoked. At least everyone was happy, thinking clearly and quickly and work was getting done at the same time. There must be a reason behind the new methods being employed.

JuliaM said...

"Stuff the Sky Plus that lets you record two channels at once so you can record twice as much as it's possible to ever watch."

I think I've deleted more stuff from that without watching it (because I saw the first episode & it was rubbish, but I'd set it to 'series link' and had it all anyway) than I have actually watched anyway...

Anonymous said...

Well, The Big Society can't happen with everyone stuck in front of screens. No siree, people should be out there organising themselves into chain gangs to repair the pot-holes caused by climate change, recapture the Spirit Of The Blitz when people pulled together...


smokervoter said...

"The Department of Made-Up Numbers."

yet another absolutely blue-ribbon phrase

BTW, I just found an old TV screen I must have forgotten about with one of those webcams attached, it was behind an old picture of St. Clements Church

PT Barnum said...

They are also on a mopping-up mission by encouraging the over 65s to sign up for computer courses because of all the wonderful things they can do online. Can we now call that conspiracy to murder?

Woodsy42 said...

It's so reassuring to know that I can sit all day and read a book with no risk. Can't I.......

radio geek said...

" The only way to monitor TV watching is if there's a camera in the TV or in an attached device, such as a gaming machine"

Afraid not. In pre digital times the tv vans monitored what you were watching by tuning in to the BFO ( beat frequency oscillator) of your tv . Each channel is on a seperate frequency. During the reciever process your UHF signal goes through a number of tuned circuits and is mixed with the bfo frequency in the mixer to reduce the frequency. Eventually reaching audio level. Your tv is actually a mini transmitter and the frequency output is related to the channel you're tuned to.
In the digital tvs there's no need for all that malarkey. Your tv 'handshakes' with the transmitter and the channel you're watching is available on a computer screen somewhere. It's why your tv has a unique code for the porn channels etc to identify you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no! I've just realised that I've been on the computer now for four hours and three minutes.

Farewell, cruel world .......!

Xen347 said...

As I've spent between 8 to 12 hours a day on computers for over 20 years, I've just realised that I died some time ago.

This is hell then?

That figures... it's full of lunatics who claim the sky is falling, that governments have your interests at heart and eating this and not smoking or drinking that will prolong your eternal damnation.

Wish I'd walked about a bit more now.

Northern Smoker said...

RadioGeek:Thanks for that!Is there anyway to mask a tvs presence?

When I was a kid,and school summer holidays stretched out into infinity,the day started with 2-3 hours of compulsory telly.Casey Jones,champion the wonder horse,robinson crusoe,white horses,belle & sebastian,banana splits,singing ringing tree,usually ending with whydontyouswitchoffyourtelivisionandgodosomethinglessboringinstead?
The last prog usually failed to keep my interest,and off I'd go,meeting up with my mates and vanishing deep into the local woods to damn the beck and relive the damnbusters raid.We wouldn't be seen again by boring adults till 7ish.No-one got hysterical over our disappearance,nothing got destroyed;there was one kiddy fiddler who approached us (one incedent in ten-ish years,but he was seen off with a volley of stones.Seems like a thousand years ago in a very different country.

radio geek said...


" Is there anyway to mask a tvs presence?"

If you're still recieving an analogue tv signal then you could put the tv in a metal box I suppose and screen the rf radiation from your tv from leaving the room. Not very aesthetic though ;)
But most of us have a Sky package or something similar these days so we'll be on an easily accessible database and our tv will have a unique identifier.

Maturecheese said...

Stuff the Sky Plus

I did just that a couple of years ago. Who needs sky, they are a rip off anyway. The BBC are just as bad but if I want a TV in the house I MUST pay them or else. In fact the BBC are worse than Sky because we actually have to pay them to be indoctrinated with left wing PC baloney which really does take the P***.

I spend very little time in front of a tv, maybe too much in front of the computer but hey I don't care and at least the computer gives me a balanced view on current affairs.

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