How to Murder Your Television

by J. Christopher

Every once in a while, the hookah hose will be inadvertently allowed to drop from Taibbi’s lips, he’ll rise to a semi-conscious state, and, given his years of narcotics and alcohol abuse, amaze us all and write something cogent—even thoughtful.

So it was a year or so ago, when young Matthew wrote an inspired piece on how television had, slowly and insidiously, displaced literature as a form of rhetoric, culture and masturbatory iconography in his life.

Hmmm. Had the same fate befallen me?

Now I don’t want to go off on some kind of a Niman-esque rant here, having decided that television, the box that Harlan Ellison called The Glass Teat, the part of the EM spectrum that Marshall McLuwan called "The Vast Wasteland," and of which C. Wright Mills rightly said, "…it goes nowhere— for it has nowhere to go," is after all an inanimate object, and like the conspirators of the Bush-Cheney Junta, devoid of feelings. And if Niman thinks I’m giving up my Yamaha® 75 watts into 6 channel audio/video amp’ with Dolby® surround and DTS® sound-field processing, and my ‘Last Waltz© DVD®, he’s going to have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.

But it begged the question; had I, however inadvertently, become a TV junkie? A member of the "Great Unwashed?" perhaps even (egad!) a brand-conscious consumer?

I scanned my apartment for recent reading material. I found copies of The Nation I had borrowed from a friend nine months before that had still not been returned—or read. Chomski, Zinn, Vidal…books that I had started months ago lay abandoned on my carpet, and had, like Norman Bates’ mother, left indentations in the soft material below. Apparently I hadn’t vacuumed in a while, either.

I ran from the living room in panic— found NO LOGO underneath my bed, the bookmark stuck between pages 46 and 47. When had I last read this splendid work? When was the last time I had even stared ardently at Naomi Klein’s photograph on the back cover?

Confirmation came this past August during The Great Power Blackout of 2003, when a third of the Eastern US and all of Canada west of Alberta was without its usual steady supply of electrons. Buffalo, befitting its status as the weird capitol of the world, was not. I turned up the air conditioning, gloating that snowy Buffalo was having the last laugh. I turned on the TV. Thin programming, but extant. I cruised the dial. All of the Canadian channels I relied upon for relatively unspun news and entertainment were gone. Nothing; no CBC, no Global, no TVO. I tried the FM dial. Just local crap. I was adrift. I was angry. I was afraid.

"This," as Bush the First so nobly put it when his buddy Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait at his invitation, "...will not hold."

I needed a plan. I had given up addictive substances before and triumphed; I would do so again. Having just overcome my decade-long addiction to drug counseling through the judicious use of drugs, I felt steeled for the task.

I studied. I thought. I looked for a power greater than television in which to believe. I followed a program of my own device, a simple, easy to follow five-step plan, which appears below. It is my sincerest hope that you too can break the grip of the luminous eye-defiling demon known as TV. Please try, folks; that "I can quit any time I want" line is getting a little old.

The J. Christopher five-step plan to free your attention

Tell your friends that you’re giving up television for good. This way they can support you…and laugh at you once football season starts.

Ever so slowly, start covering the cold glass eye with post-it notes, blocking out more of the screen each day. If you’re into fabric, festive drapes can be a smart alternative.

Turn the set off when not in use. This can be a tough one for those of us who are unemployed or work-at-home or who are pathetically middle-aged and lonely. I began by lowering the volume, turning up my stereo and, if necessary, turning on the closed captioning. I got a cat, but he sleeps all day.

Start reading again— slowly! At first you’ll only be able to read simple things, like Artvoice. Despair not! Soon you’ll be back to Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, even fiction will be within your grasp! And Mother Jones! Eventually, with enough practice, you may find yourself able to read whole nonfiction books! It may sound crazy now, but just hold on, and leave a copy of Worse than Watergate by the toilet.

Stand fast. Remember those things you gave up for television: sex, conversations, eye contact, the ability to have children and see chamber orchestras. Soon they’ll all be yours again. Good luck, spiritually crippled viewers!


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© 2004 The Beast