Thursday, May 19, 2022

Basic Cable

The channels you get from basic cable or basic satellite are toxic.

We stopped at a motel on the way back to Georgia.  As much as camping in the tent was fun, camping in the rain would not be fun, mostly because you'd have to put away wet things the next day.  The motel room had the de rigeur huge flat-screen tee-vee with "Dish" basic cable.  It was appalling to watch.

To begin with, there are like 900 channels to choose from, but many are repeats.  The same shows are shown on seven different channels - and I am not sure why.   Well over a dozen were "home shopping" type channels, with at least five or more selling coins.  There were another dozen of paid programming, selling adjustable beds, pillow toppers, and various quack cures.  Apparently, Americans have trouble sleeping - no doubt worried about their investments in collectible silver-tone coins.

But if a quack cure or essential oil won't do the trick, each "regular" channel has a plethrora of ads for some medication that can cure some minor inconvenience, at the expense of liver damage.  Oddly enough, one of the channels playing these ads was showing "The Fugative" whose plot revolves around a crooked doctor trying to suppress test results showing - get this - liver damage, in order to get a new profitable drug approved.   You'd think people would connect the dots here.

But if they don't, no worries!  Because another channel has ads for a law firm that is doing a class-action suit on behalf of people who took one of these miracle wonder drugs and now have cancer.  You see what I mean about television being toxic - I mean it literally.

The other ads were for takeout and delivery foods, particularly pizza.  Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!   Domino's, Pizza Hut, Little Caeser's and more - including a new company I never heard of.   Funny thing, when I was a kid, we never had pizza.  It wasn't until I was a teenager that Mom brought home frozen pizzas from the grocery store as they were "going out" and we kids had to fend for ourselves.  But delivery pizza?  Just not a thing at home - maybe on a college campus.  There was a Pizza Hut in a neighboring town - I went there once with a friend's family.  Today, it is a staple food item.

Interesting note, Domino's now offers "tips" of $3 if you pick up your own pizza.  When I worked there (40 years ago) they charged the same price whether you picked up the pie or had it delivered.  I am guessing the "labor shortage" is forcing them to re-think this policy and encourage people to DIY their delivery.

Of course, if you get grossly overweight from the pizza, the television has the fix for that - various quack diet plans and exercise plans or machines or gym memberships.  It is interesting how they cater to both ends of these compulsions and addictions.

It is also interesting how the focus seems to be on women viewers.  So many of the shows were about crime and how people are victimized by it.  You would think, watching this drivel, that you are about to be the victim of a crime at any given moment.   And now I understand why so many people I know are paranoid about crime.

It was weird to watch this stuff, and I felt like an alien from another planet watching it.  But of course, this was "basic" Dish service - there were literally 100 other channels devoted to sports that you have to pay extra to get, as well as Pay-Per-View movies.  You can spend an awful lot of money watching television, for sure!

Did I mention the Jesus channels - dozens of those as well, including one, on channel 01 no less, that was advertised as "Help Ukraine!" but appeared to be a pitch for helping Ukrainians find Jesus.

Watching all of this was depressing.  Even if we found a real program, like a movie or an old episode of "Seinfeld" (edited to accommodate more commercials!) it seemed that for every five minutes of program, you had to sit through five minutes of ads.  With movies, the frequency and duration of the ads seemed to increase frantically as the movie neared its climax - I guess they figured out you aren't going to give up.

I realized that a lot of people do watch this drivel, which is why they are so depressed, upset, angry, and feel manipulated.  The average American watched 4.5 hours of this sort of crap.  Children are raised on it.  It is pretty sick stuff - and I didn't even address the "news" channels with their scrolling text-of-doom and Tucker Carlson warning that America-as-we-know-it is about to vanish.

What is weirder is that people actually pay money for this.  It is like paying someone to smash your fingers with a hammer.  You have to be a real masochist to want to do something like that.

What is funny is that I find myself watching less and less of any kind of media.  Maybe it is part of getting older, but I no longer am interested in "the news" online, on the air, or in the paper, as so much of it seems pretty irrelevant or just sensationalism.  Music seems like noise and even the good stuff seems like a lot of marketing and posturing and manipulation.   Movies and television?  I just can't watch it so much.  Youtube is now full of intrusive ads, as so many of the channels seem, well, repetitive after a while.  For some reason Youtube recommends a channel of a guy going through a junkyard and talking about old rusted cars.  It was interesting up to a point, but like so many channels, you kind of lose interest after a while - even the creators seem to move on.

Streaming services?  Netflix has gotten kind of thin lately and since the "content" online is divided now into a dozen streaming services, it only takes a week or so to see whatever each "channel" has to offer.

But maybe this is a good thing - maybe consuming so much media isn't such a swell idea.  It is just passive consumption, not active living.   You don't accomplish anything sitting in front of a tee-vee.  And it isn't "entertainment" when every five minutes, a bevy of advertisements appears.

Maybe it is just better to unplug from all that crap.  It is funny, but these motels feel they need to provide this basic cable service - but who really watches it?  It was a poor advertisement for the service, to be sure.   After trying to watch it, I gave up.  And I certainly don't want to pay to have it at home.