As James Woods Warned Me Before Sticking A Gun in His New Hole

Technology allowing, I write a blog post a day, just another of life’s pointless experiments. Due to hurried nature of it, beware grouchy grammarians, spelling lovers and admirers of sense

As a child, I was a TV obsessive. As a youngish adult, I stared at it for too long when I should have been doing other things. In the morning, I would barely remember what I had watched the night before. Its impact was minimal, but it was there. Was it a fetish? Most days, my flatmate Ed and I would take our lunch of beans on toast with an episode of Neighbours. What were we thinking? Possibly nothing. These were those 20something years when you can spend time talking about what you are going to do without actually doing anything, a decade of possible plans, a map of action in an actionless life. There came a time when I no longer turned on the TV when I walked into the front room. Switching it on had been an unconscious action, and when I first began to avoid that, I was conscious of the deprivation. Then, letting the silence remain in the room became natural, I only wanted to let the jabber in if it was jabber I had interest in, not just jabber for the need of jabber.

At home, I watch very little television, a little Cbeebies and some Scooby Doo. When I am touring, I watch it post gig. At that time of night it invariably means that I switch on and see Jimmy Carr hosting or guesting on something. I miss the days when his make-up was heavier and he looked like a monochrome invader from a Hal Roach timeslip into a world of colour and buzzers. I flick through the channels wandering if I might find anything before I get to BBC4 and a documentary on aqueducts, the National Grid or Heaven 17. I sample the shows that I see eulogised by TV critics, columnists and praised in overheard conversations on public transport. My favourite is 24 Hours in A&E, compassionately made, I am enlightened and engrossed and emotionally manipulated by actions rather than a melancholy piano soundtrack that insists it knows just how I should be feeling.

I attempted Gogglebox, but failed to see the appeal. It is probably one of those events that people write of as meta and in being meta it holds up a mirror to society or the human condition or whatever. This is not staring, this is sociology, heavily disguised as staring. It doesn’t seem to be enough. It is too many mirrors eventually revealing nothing. I like Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth in my mirrors. It makes it all too easy, “don’t worry about looking at things, we’ll do all the looking for you and plop it right in front of you. You put your feet up, let your mind be still”. I like people watching. I travel so much that I find it hard not to be distracted by conversations and attitudes on trains and in bus stops. I want to do it all myself, I don’t want an editor and attitude to be thrust upon me beyond the attitudes caused by a life of nature and nurture. I want TV to stimulate me, to offer me something unavailable to me by other means. The lazy brain I take into my hotel room sometimes insists on watching The Wright Stuff. It allows me to find out what Christopher Biggins thinks about nuclear energy or corporal punishment. It tells me what former Hollyoaks actors think about the privacy or publicity of royal christenings. It offers me a conversation which I could make at home or work. Rather then Gogglebox, can’t we have Desmond Morris and Jane Goodall placed in a hide on the set of Jeremy Kyle to enlighten us on what the sexual fury and bellowed betrayal mean from a Bonobo perspective? Even our secretive eavesdropping in fast food shops is now turned into a TV show, must everything be viewed through a screen?

It’s back to that old “human interest angle”, a narrowing funnel where we want our lives portrayed constantly. We want to go to the chicken shop and then watch what happens when you go to the chicken shop. We can be happily inattentive of existence because someone will televise it for us, don’t open your eyes until you are safe on the sofa. The Revolution won’t be televised because we were too busy watching telly to revolt.

Place a bicycle in an art gallery and everyone stares at it, “but what does the bicycle mean?” EWalk out of the art gallery and the bike heavy railings opposite us mean nothing at all, “they’re just bicycles”.

I don’t hanker for the old days of television, much of my adoration is because I have forgotten the tedium of Seaside Specials, Saturday night westerns and That’s Life! I know I am missing many wonderful TV series and documentaries. I like to wait sometimes. What time I saved by not watching Lost or Heroes when they first came out. My patience paid off when the audience said, “oh no, these shows have cheated us”, by being tardy, I never needed to bother. All I am trying to do is live a life without television being a necessity, a constant companion that sucks out my desire to move or ponder beyond pondering television itself.

I am touring forever – coming soon to Braintree, Dorking, Edinburgh, Hull, Leeds and on and on http://www.robinince.com for details

Cosmic Genome science app with latest updates incl Brian Cox, Ben Goldacre, Richard Dawkins, Helen Czerski, Stewart Lee and Josie Long is here http://www.cosmicgenome.com

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2 Responses to As James Woods Warned Me Before Sticking A Gun in His New Hole

  1. Chris Harris says:

    People love staring at screens; over the past few years I’ve been struck by just how many people at gigs spend the vast proportion of the evening staring not at the stage, but at their phone’s image of the stage. Perhaps this is another aspect of giving something (like the bicycle in the art galley) added significance, because it has become a mediated experience? I’ve decided that people prefer it in preference to the real thing – they respond better to the version that’s been oversaturated, sharpened, enhanced, rendered down to a manageable size, compressed so that it’s not too overwhelming, and finally given the additional quality that it can be paused, rewound, and experienced again. It’s not too prevalent in live comedy yet, but go to a rock gig and the audience is a sea of pale blue rectangles. As I get older, I realise I prefer to focus on my experience of the moment on the tiny figure I can see on stage, rather than the expertly-shot video on the jumbotrons at each side of it. And here’s the paradox: the more realistic and high definition my televisual experience becomes, the less it engages me.

    Apart from BBC Four, of course.

  2. CELKali says:

    I watched Lost last April, in about five days. I skipped season 1 (read a recap), because I was more interested in the character of Ben Linus. Gotta say, it did pay off. He’s become one of my favorite characters of all time through TV, film, games, and books.
    I don’t like watching shows as they air. I like to have it all down in one sitting, because I tend to get extremely… invested in things. I usually find something I enjoy, and then obsess about it for two weeks to two months, barely leaving my room and getting absolutely nothing done. I usually make it through someone’s filmography in about a weekend or so. But at the same time, I’m devouring every little bit of information, every interview, every analysis, every single TV Trope and Wiki page, until I become an expert on the show. I can’t help it, I get sucked in and it’s all I can think about. It’s why I don’t get to sleep until 8 AM.
    I can’t just watch a show, I have to know everything about it; even inane things like Strangers With Candy where half the time the plot makes no sense and you’re just there to see Stephen Colbert gay it up. To have to wait and do it over again each week is exhausting.
    So… I sort of have to be careful with what and who I choose to watch.

    And yes, James Woods, and by proxy, Cronenberg, was one of the ‘things’ I became obsessed with. Videodrome and The Fly are favorites, but I loved Cronenberg’s acting as Decker in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. He’s a damn good creeper.

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