Wednesday, March 3, 2010

 

Boosting Productivity By Ditching the Boob Tube

Lately people have been asking me how I get "so much" done. This always strikes me as funny since, at any given time, I'm usually behind on several projects.

One obvious thing is that we have not had a TV in our house since we left Hillsdale. (And even then, we didn't have cable and were on a lake so we had bad reception.) That literally gives you an extra two hours a day at least to get work done. Even if you're not watching it, someone else probably is. Imagine if one class of comparable students taking a test had a TV on in the background, while another had peace and quiet. Which group would score better?

When I had a TV in grad school, I used to wind down by watching Seinfeld and other reruns late at night after the long train ride from NYU to my apartment in New Jersey. Asking me at the time to give that up would have been like making me become a vegetarian.

But once you go through withdrawal, you will be amazed at how ridiculous TV is. If you have had one all along, you probably haven't noticed just how ludicrous it has become. I only see it now when I visit someone's house or stay in a hotel, so I see it in short samples spread out over weeks.

I'm not saying this as a prude, just making an observation: Modern American cable television is literally pornographic. If you flip through the channels, you will see cleavage or a sexually suggestive scenario (like a crime show where the victim is a stripper or a prostitute or something) on about every 5th channel, depending on the time of day. Fueled by FOX, every news show has to have a really attractive person on the camera at all times if possible.

And don't get me started on what's happened to wrestling since my younger brother used to watch Macho Man Savage and the Undertaker.



Comments:
I gave it up about 20 years ago, and it was one of the best things I ever did. Some of the reasons:
1: It has an agenda, which is wicked.
2: It homogenizes the country, indeed even the world. People all think alike, at best, they conform to a subculture.
3:It desensitizes. Notice the number of killings, adulteries, divorces. Can people really watch that and care as much about others?
4: It's too rich. Not intellectually, you kidding? No, I mean in terms of how it's made. Crafted by professionals, the constantly changing camera angles, the lighting, the sound, the story lines. All that used to show car chase scenes, shootouts, man meets woman scenes. It's like a kid raised on soda pop, then one day you offer him some green tea with a mild amount of sugar. Think he'll like it? What if you were in someone's house, then right in the middle of a chase scene, you hop in front of the screen, and say:"Hey everyone! I have a swell idea! Let's shut this off, go outside, and do some blacksmithing, woodworking, or learn some hot bluegrass licks???" (Or go study Dr. Murphy's blog)
What sort of reception will that evoke? But the truth is, I'm interested in all those things, along with commercial art, computer graphics, web page building, religion, politics, and economics.
What's really relevant is that TV is a huge source of apathy. How can you change the country one mind at a time, when they're preoccupied with slick fiction?
 
You're just not watching the right television, Doctor. The TV format has allowed storytellers a level of depth impossible in motion pictures, and only recently have television writers been taking advantage of it. Granted, given the sheer volume of content - thousands of channels pumping 24 hours a day - only a small fraction of it is worthwhile (according to my own preferences, of course), but what's good is really good.

TV, just like books and film, has the ability to sway public opinion and challenge the audience's preconceptions. Quite a few libertarians point to the boob tube as a tool to brainwash "the sheeple." If it indeed has such power, it can easily be turned against the state and challenge conventional wisdom. Television landscape is plagued by cop worship, but has also given us shows like Deadwood and The Wire, as well as procedurals focused on PIs working around the state's ineptitude. Similarly, for every 20 sites praising the government or recommending policy, the Internet has a lewrockwell.com or mises.org. For my own part, I waste more time on the Internet than watching TV.

Of course, as someone striving to be a writer (and primarily writing for TV), I'm somewhat biased here. But I've also not had cable for several months.

And Jim D, I was raised on soda pop and, one day, tried green tea and have been drinking it ever since. Without sugar, too. Delicious stuff.
 
Very true. I'd have no problem ditching our TV.
My wife and kids, however, are a different story.
 
Why isn't there a libertarian business news channel? Fox Business and Bloomberg might have a libertarian on once in a blue moon (CNBC never does anymore).

That would be TV worth watching.
 
We ditched our TV when we moved to Alaska, from Chicago, 20 months ago. I think we are more productive as a family because of the change. I must say, though, I've been watching a lot of YouTube and check regularly when Mises updates their channel after a conference.

"All Murphy, all the time"
 
I haven't completely ditched TV and don't plan to, but I do a few things differently.

I don't have cable or satellite and I also get bad reception. I do have a TV, but I can only watch DVDs and tapes on it. So any shows that I have the inclination to watch, I simply rent from Netflix or watch online. This eliminates one of the biggest vulnerabilities of TV-watching, which is the advertising. Another benefit is that my watching is conscious and intentional, rather than passive.
 
@stayoncue

My thinking is in line with yours. I believe that there is a lot of bad book writing out there. It's just easier to ignore when you walk into bookstore. Also, in magazines.

I would hate to think about the junk some people are reading.

Likewise, there are the few (very few) awesome television shows out there. I just set my Tivo and watch it all on Sunday nights.

BTW What shows are you writing for? If you don't want to mention them publicly, please email me.

Good luck.
 
Cable TV is very expensive to consumers. Such resources could easily be redirected to more fruitful pursuits.
 
Bob,

Do you still get residuals from your days on Seinfeld?

-#1 Costanza fan

(I couldn't resist, sorry!)
 
Seinfeld is awesome!
 
Lost
Arrested Development
Seinfeld
Simpsons
Futurama
Its Always Sunny
Firefly

these are less than 1% of shows out there, but they literally changed/effected my life in some way. The T.V. medium allows story telling and character progression in much more detail than movies (comarable to many books). For this reason, i love television. That being said, the way we recieve these shows sucks. I never watch "television" per se, but i do watch the shows that air on tv via hulu.com abc.com and torrent websites. I put all the shows on a hard drive so i never have to watch commercials, so i avoid the crud i dont want to see and get to experience these amazing shows.

p.s. Watching Lost a second time through with an anarchist/libertarian lens is fascinating.
 
But you missed Olympic curling--oh no!!!!!
 
Actually, a few weeks ago my wife and I were lamenting the fact that we just "don't have time" to do some things we'd like to do.

Then we realized that we watch a good 3-4 hours of TV on average. And we don't have cable. That's just DVDs and the handful of channels that we can get.

So, we no longer complain about how we don't have the time to do things. We just know that all that time is going to watching various "stuff" - some of it reasonably high quality, but still not as productive as, say, cleaning the living room every day.
 
Bob Roddis said
Cable TV is very expensive to consumers. Such resources could easily be redirected to more fruitful pursuits.

You could say that about any recreational activity. The point is that any activity which one is willing to exchange their labor for and which one can make a living providing is a "fruitful" pursuit.
 
What's more, Bob, if you understand Aquinas's definition of "pornographic" art, as that which prompts an emotional movement towards or away from its object, many programmes you might not initially think of as pornographic reveal themselves as being so -- that's why, say, Jim Henley is accurate in referring to many real estate shows as "housing porn" -- and we also have "eating porn" and "Fashion porn."
 
There's also "art porn", which is stuff that people revere and patronize merely because an elite group has decreed it to be art, but would otherwise never have regarded it as worthwhile without such a designation.

For example, "classic" plays that put normal people to sleep but which people pretend to like because it helps signal their status as part of the in-crowd.

Anyone here a victim to that?

***

Anyway, I've long given up watching TV, and every time I do see it I feel like I'm losing brain cells. For me, browsing the internet has by and large taken the place of it, where at least I learn something.
 
"But you missed Olympic"

Tribalism and extreme jingoism could only describe fervor surrounding that event.
 
Michael, good list. I'd like to add my own recommendation--The Wire. I have to add a warning about extreme violence, language, and sex, but it's a show any libertarian should love!
 
"classic" plays that put normal people to sleep

HEY! I resemble that remark!

I haven't had TV for about 25 years. I spend a fair amount of time reading those plays that you you find boring. I love them. One thing about reading classic works, or listening to them, is it make you a careful listener/reader and you are more aware of what is said and written. This will definately get you off the treadmill of thinking as everyone else.
 
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You guys are missing out on some awesome video games! :)
 
Libertarians are so... WHITE ;)

http://bit.ly/9F0SmG

;)
 
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