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.
'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.