Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's pretty much a "24-7" world, ain 't it?
Whatever you want, it's 'all-this' or 'all-that', all of the time!

I don't mean to sound like I'm getting old, but I'm getting old. I remember a time when grocery stores closed at 9PM; there were no all-night convenience stores, so if you didn't pick up that quart of milk before then, you were pretty much out of luck. I remember when radio stations signed off at 11pm, and all the news you saw on TV was on the evening news hich came on around dinnertime (5pm or thereabouts) and the late-night news which came on at 11pm. So I could say I came from a time when 11pm was known as "late". I remember a time when a "computer" filled up an entire ROOM. And you had to program it with punch-cards. Yep, the antiquated "Fortran" program. So I'd been thinking about various things that take up space in our lives. The other day, while driving, I had been listening to the oldies station, which pumps out classic rock and roll 24-7. I then tuned in to the sports station, because I knew a Mariners' game was supposed to be on relatively soon. The sports station, of course, pumps out nothing but sports 24-7. Elsewhere on the dial, you can get heavy metal 24-7, country/western 24-7, business reports 24-7, light rock 24-7, or if you want a little variety, you can change radio stations 24-7. That's because most all radio stations are 'one thing' 24-7; they're 'all this' or 'all that' as they pump out their particular formats 24-7. I remember when radio stations played Englebert Humperdinck in the same program they'd play Jimi Hendrix; you sure won't see that today!

Used to be, the only TV news you got in any sort of depth, other than nightly general newscasts, was on Sunday mornings; "Meet The Press" and similar shows have been on forever. I remember when "60 Minutes" was the first "in-depth" nightly news show; it was probably the first of its kind, and was always a winner in its time slot. Television back then was ABC, NBC and CBS, and that was IT unless you were able to dial in a public TV station. Three channels plus a little more. Several years ago, Bruce Springsteen sang, "57 Channels and Nothin' On"; presently, I can get close to 80 channels! And most of 'em don't have anything on. I couldn't care less about Home and Garden TV, the Game Show network, Great American Country TV, the Soap Opera channel, various Shopping channels, the Food channel and other specialized channels; out of the 80-odd channels I get, I probably only watch 4 or 5 of them with any regularity. The TV Cable people have us where they want us, however, because I've been told that if consumers could one day pay only for the channels they use, that costs would rise, because everyone would have different channels blocked off, depending on what they did or didn't watch.

We all are inundated 24-7 by TV's and Radios blasting out all kinds of stuff for mass public consumption. It used to be, TV and Radio regulated itself, by ending the broadcast day and giving us all a breather until the next day's programming began yet again to saturate the airwaves. So, it's up to each of us to limit our exposure to all of this stuff spewing out of the nearest watching or listening device. But, 'easier said than done'... and, I'm as bad as you might be, maybe worse. Sometimes silence makes me uncomfortable. Maybe there's an underlying psychological thing involved in the need to be "connected" all of the time. We've all seen people taking cellphones wherever they go because they want to make sure they can respond to everything that comes their way, right NOW; others are attached by an umbilical sort of wire to a little tiny thing called an Ipod which holds thousands upon thousands of songs, more than the average person can listen to in a YEAR. Still others cultivate a ball-and-chain relationship with their laptop computers, looking for the nearest wi-fi oasis where they can plug in and be 'connected' yet again.

Now, there are things out there like "Go To My PC", which hooks you up to your office computer from home sweet home. So, if your boss wants all kinds of three-dimensional specifications on the innovative new widget that you were put in charge of, you can drop everything you were doing on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, so you can get all the information together to send it off to your boss. And by the time that's done, you try to resume your Sunday afternoon nap and find that you can't get back to sleep, and, to swipe a phrase from The Beatles, your work week becomes "Eight Days A Week." Computers everywhere, even inside of your phone; endless text-messaging, wi-fi computer locations all around you, cellphones everywhere as well as those weird-looking little clips that fasten the cellphone to your ear so you, if you're a doctor, you can consult about someone's spinal cord problems (or compare golf scores) while performing brain surgery on someone else. It's "all stuff", "all of the time!" One of the fast-food chains that are OPEN ALL NIGHT, say in their ads that their food is just the thing to consume between dinner and the next day's breakfast! In other words, three square meals a day ain't we're up to four!

So, maybe I can throw down the gauntlet (whatever a 'gauntlet' is), and issue a challenge: This week, go somewhere without an Ipod. Or a laptop computer. Or a cellphone. Go out and listen to the world around you. Listen to the wind, listen to the air, listen to the birds singing, listen to the waves on a nearby body of water...and for heavens' sake, don't have a fourth meal between dinner and the next day's've gotta sleep SOMETIME, after all. Sometimes I think this world is getting too brazen, too fast, too neurotic, too manufactured and too HARSH. Every now and then, I hit a saturation level where I just have to shut everything OFF. I know I need to do that more often. Because I don't do it enough.

I've edited this post several times after proofreading it; I don't know if I've repeated parts of other posts in this one, and I'm not even sure if this post is all that good, but I can't begin to enumerate the many times all-night TV or my little laptop computer has become impossible for me to tear myself away from them. And I know I need to get better at that.


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