Sunday, July 11, 2010

Remote Living

I have mentioned recently that I am doing my best to not let politics or religion get to me and ruin what might be my best frame of mind in months.  To that end I have cut my mass media consumption to a minimum.

It seems though, I cannot avoid the onslaught of messages designed to inflame the inner whacko who lurks just below my public surface. No matter what I do or where I am, "they" find me and another needle is stuck in.

Because it has been so damn hot this past week, staying hydrated has taken center stage.  I can ill afford the frothing foam it would take to tear off a decent rant of the theocratical or political kind.  So instead, today I will choose a less controversial bone to pick, but one that has stuck in my craw from the first day I saw or used one.

I saw  my first remote, oh, at some point in my early teens.  One of my more well to do buds dragged a few of us over to his house to see the new "Color TV" his dad had paid seriously too much money for.  The color images were shaky but the screen was way big.  Must have been at least 20" across.  What really caught my attention was the gizmo that sat on the coffee table.  About the size of a  paper back book, it shined with a golden hue.  I picked it up.

"What's this?"

Not one of my buds heard me.  They were too busy oohing and aahing over the faint colors that faded in and out as the signal fluctuated.  The better off dad had not figured out he would need a seriously just shy of an inner galactic antenna array on the roof to draw in a decent chunk of TV rays.

Getting no reply, I pushed the button on the top of this book sized futuristic object.  To my surprise, the TV went dead when the box emitted a loud click.

Oh shit.  What did I do?

All my friends turned to face me.

My better off friend said, "Mike what the Hell did you do?"

Standing there in a growing panic I collected my wits by looking down at the hefty metallic box in my hand and finally said, "Uh nothing.  Just pushed this button.  What the Hell is it?"

The better off friend's eyes grew large when he saw what I had in my hand.  "My dad is going to kill me.  That is the remote control.  He said to never touch it.  I'm in it deep now."

"Remote control?"  All of us were now totally awestruck over this new gee whiz example of American ingenuity.  Suddenly I felt unworthy hold even a small part  of it.  I gingerly set the golden remote back on the coffee table.

As it turned out, the remote did break.  Or something broke and it just happened to coincide with my ill fated clicking of the remote.  It cost my father some money.  My allowance dropped from the princely sum of $2.50/week to the less princely sum of $1.50/week for the next year.  I did not whine or complain either.  By that time of my life on the planet, I had learned well the lesson of personal responsibility even when it was accidental or not even my fault.  Learn to suck it up and move on.  And besides, Mom was always there to sneak me some extra cash when the situation warranted it.  A day at the local theater, or heading over to the first mall in Maryland to gawk at all that James Bond architecture.

Ever since that day I have not trusted any control that is not firmly implanted in the device it is intended to control.  I learned that day a higher price does not necessarily mean better quality.  Sometimes you pay big dollars just to be the first one to have the latest technological breakthrough on the block and stay ahead of all the other Jones' in the neighborhood.  I learned that day that the "Popular Science" and "Popular Mechanics" mags that sat so prominently near the toilet in their own little mag stand did not tell the truth and nothing but the truth.  New technology should never be trusted until it has passed from "new" to boring.  If it's boring, it probably has become dependable.

I could have lived my life just fine without the remote in my life.  Unfortunately I have no choice.  They seem to be a obligatory gadget that comes with almost anything that plugs into the wall.  There are remotes for everything.  Lights, TVs, stereos, fans, and even ones for car stereos.  That one really puzzles me.  But I guess if you are steering the car from the back seat, having a remote handy might be a good idea.

I could live with remotes better if the manufacturers included a duplicate set of buttons on the object being remotely controlled.  Unfortunate though, it seems that many of the electronic wonders coming out of Best Buy and Radio Shack will not work to their fullest potential without the remote.  It would appear the conspiracy of the overlords to turn us into meat puppets includes the notion that to bend us to their will, they need to keep us on the couch whenever possible. 

How to do that?  Well, give us a small box with more buttons than are really needed and then put no buttons on the TV.  That way they ensure maximum couch time and can be assured their subliminal messages of domination are being received in the perfect controlled environment. 

I can just imagine that somewhere out there in the galactic pucker, some low level overlord bureaucrat sits bored on his own couch.  Attempting to liven up his otherwise dreary existence running the Universe for his overlords, he pushes a button on his own remote and suddenly mine disappears or the batteries go dead.   And he chuckles.

Anyway, that's the way it is here on Sam Page Road today...........................


The Blog Fodder said...

Every electronic noise/picture maker you buy today comes with its own remote. A normal household must have about 10 of them to be any where up to date. I used to depend on my kids to do stuff like reset everything after I pushed too many buttons. Now I just don't go near anything that doesn't have a keyboard.
Tanya watches TV. She has two remotes - one to turn the TV on and off and one to change channels on the satellite dish. I don't touch them.

BBC said...

I suppose that I was in my 40's before I got a TV with a remote control. Never owned TV's most of the time when raising the kids.

Now the TV, VCR and DVD player get used maybe once or twice a year to watch a rented movie.

Cable TV? Bah, I'm not paying for that, the only thing the cable is hooked to is the computer.

BBC said...

I used the guts out a cheap model radio controlled airplane to make a remote control for my video camera, that's pretty cool.

muddleglum said...

Speaking of the mass media, I found this quote you would probably approve of...
"our public policies are driven and defined by a media increasingly addicted to slinging emotional narratives rather than reporting about rational discourse and engaging in principled analysis"

This was soon after reading a report on the early history of American education. What was then something one had to struggle for is now push buttonable, but no longer thought valuable.

Yes, that thought includes the news media quote, too -- we wade instead of swimming against the tide.

Randal Graves said...

Back in my day, when we wanted to change the cable channel, we had to get up, walk to the box on top of the TV and turn the dial and we liked it!

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Randal's right! Why did they have to change things? Dang it.

Back in the summer of 1988, when I spent three months in California living the illegal alien dream, I stayed with my uncle who had a strange and rather old "remote" to go with a TV in his den. The remote actually plugged into the TV and a couple of wires ran across the carpet to the coffee table, where the remote sat next to my uncle's pot bong. The remote was about the size of a typewriter with just about as many keys, and you punched them to change the channel and turn the set off and on.

The bong was damn big, too, as I remember.