Archive for the 'television' Category

News access

January 31, 2016

I haven’t really changed how I access news, but the ground has been shifting, with the result that what used to work for me doesn’t, at least reliably, anymore.

For example, I was able to watch the first minutes of the Democrats’ town hall meeting last week, and then the website insisted I input a password from my cable subscription to continue.  Since I don’t have a cable subscription, and the other watching options I read about online required at least some sort of paid subscription to some company, I forwent the rest of the event.

On the other hand, I do pay for two print newspaper subscriptions, The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and their delivery became unreliable about a month ago.  We are still sorting through that.  My Times delivery has not yet been assigned to a new permanent driver, so sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.  The new Globe delivery person has already inserted one of those envelopes for remunerative consideration.

Then there’s streaming news broadcasts online.  The one I try to watch can be missing in action altogether or begin somewhat late into the program.  When I try to find it on a TV broadcast, I am not always successful, either.

Whatever the contributing factors are to these various situations, the net result is that things ain’t what they used to be.  I assume that for people using different means of access, ways of getting the news have improved, that I’m just not in the right segment, using the means being catered to now.

With the primary races for the presidential nominations going on right now, analysts sometimes try to figure out how people become disaffected.  I would say that these sorts of impersonal business decisions by multiple organizations simultaneously can produce a sense in the consumer of being left by the side of the road.  I don’t know, maybe there are other things to do along the road’s shoulder, like watching some birds or observing cows grazing, listening to water running over rocks in a stream, imagining what the clouds in the sky might resemble.  Lord knows, I always have plenty of chores and paperwork to do, I could cut back on how much time I spend taking in the news and put that time to other use.  It’s a thought.



People as puppies

August 26, 2015

I was watching the PBS NewsHour last night on TV.  I couldn’t stream, because the box in the basement from the internet/phone service provider did not survive a neighborhood power outage and recovery, so I was watching the NewsHour on a TV screen (cum antenna) and it looked different.

(Side note:  apparently there is no longer a feeling of urgency to restore landline telephone connections, I guess because we are all presumed to have fully charged cell phones with sufficient minutes to use instead.  I was less surprised they would be pokey about restoring internet capability, but nowadays the two services are often bound together in the hardware, I think, through the same cable — no more copper wire for phones.  I see this is as a big vulnerability in the system.  They treated it as a routine service call in scheduling the appointment, did not seem concerned that I had no landline to access 911 if necessary from Saturday through Wednesday.)

At one point in the NewsHour opening there’s a horse, and I am thinking, “Boy, I am glad to see that horse among all those pictures of people!”  And I thought about why, and what came to me is that I love animals, and while I can and do love people, it’s easier for me to connect with the essence of the animal because there is much less nonsense to distract me from that essence and I don’t find myself tempted towards resentment and such with animals in the way I do with humans (on account of their behavior).  I accept a puppy’s limitations far more easily than a person’s, and while those limitations, to be sure, are different, I realized that there’s no real reason I can’t say to myself, “Oh, that person is just reflecting the limitations I know full well they have, expecting them to behave otherwise is on me, they are just being their usual ‘puppy’ self.”  Then I am free to problem-solve, if necessary, but I don’t get so bogged down with emotional reaction.

So I was glad to see an animal on screen, it made me relax and remember how easy it is to relate to an animal’s core and how at our cores we are actually not the petty difficult selves we may dress ourselves up as.  It gave me a sense of a way out from feeling I have no good way of relating to people behaving in ways I find difficult.

I made someone laugh as I was trying to explain this way of thinking about people as puppies earlier this evening, when I used customer service stonewalling as an example:  “Oh, that customer service rep is just being their usual [company name]-animal self, that’s just what they do, that’s how they behave.”  I repeated the sentence using the names of the other companies I have been struggling with lately.  As I said, the person I was telling this to laughed, I think at the phrasing that turned the companies into animal species.

I suspect I have written something in this vein before, so re-discovering it last night as if it’s something new indicates to me that I haven’t yet incorporated this point of view into my usual way of interacting.  I am sure I will have ample future opportunities to try implementing this approach again.

I am serious, though, about trying to use how I relate to animals as a template for how I might relate to human beings whose behavior I find difficult.  I think it’s a major challenge in my life to figure out ways of dealing with my disappointment and frustration (and sometimes hurt) with how many of my fellow human beings behave.  I am glad to have the template from how I relate to animals, just as I am glad to have a connection to the spiritual world to help me dilute the intensity of my human reactions — when I get a sense of how some people don’t seem to have these “escapes” from the emotional storminess, I wonder how they live with such an internally tumultuous environment.

The wisdom of Peaches

August 16, 2015

“Peaches” is capitalized in the title to this post because it refers to the nickname of a person who lived next door to me while we were growing up.  I referred to her in a news comment I made on the PBS NewsHour website, regarding the announced arrangements between HBO and Sesame Street.  She’s the person who told me that my family’s TV didn’t [receive the signal for] the Flintstones.  She wanted to discuss an episode she had recently seen, I hadn’t seen it, and my explanation that I just didn’t watch the show was not accepted.

I want to note that we were little kids at the time, I want to say 4 or 5 years old, we were washing our hands in my family’s upstairs bathroom sink at the time.  Part of why, I think, I remember the conversation so clearly was that I really puzzled over what she had said, because I considered that maybe she knew something I didn’t know, because her father worked for NBC.

This was in the 1960s, so Peaches’ explanation was factually incorrect.  My point in my news comment was what was then charmingly wrong might now actually be unfortunately true.

This post isn’t about Peaches’ remark being somehow prescient, though.

Thinking about the Flintstones remark reminded me of something else Peaches had once corrected me about.

We had been coloring, and I think we were using something other than our usual, and inexpensive, crayons.  It could have been cray-pas — I want to say it was magic markers, but I’m not sure they were common yet for kids to have.  As Peaches was using one of the colors to fill in the background to her picture, I mentioned something about not wasting the stick or marker, and Peaches replied, “It’s not wasting it unless you throw the picture out.”

I don’t think anyone in my family ever would have said that, and I really liked not only the specific idea but also the revelation that there were different points of view and that different families might subscribe to different perspectives.

(This sense of different family traditions was reinforced by the fact that her dad had a different method for teaching kids to tie shoes from what my family was using to try to teach me.  I had a terrible time trying to learn how to tie my shoes.  Mr. N. was so kindly, with his twinkly eyes.  He told me to make two rabbit ears out of the laces and then tie them together.  I didn’t know before that that was method for tying shoes, let alone a legitimate one.  I did know that my dad always tucked his shoelace bows into the side of his shoes and that my mother didn’t, so I was aware of some differences in technique, but both my parents used the loop, wrap around, and pull through method, which required some dexterity I apparently didn’t yet have.)

I liked the idea that one might actually use resources in the present and not just practice frugality, so long as one actually used them and did not just remove them from circulation without some sort of return on the use.  Having the right to enjoy something I think was an issue in our house, on account of the Holocaust, and frugality was also an issue, probably also on account of the Holocaust, as well as on account of having had to start over in this country as a result of it, and probably also on account of the general effect on my parents’ generation of the Depression.

I think Peaches’ remark also indicated to me that I as an individual might have a right to use a resource and not save it for someone else, which, again, I don’t think was an idea circulating in the air in my family’s home as I took it in.  And yet Peaches’ sense of the rules did not dispense with the idea of waste entirely, it just changed how it was conceptualized.  So I didn’t have to feel obliged to toss out her idea on the grounds it was a product of completely undisciplined thinking.

There used to be a popular book about how we learn all we need to know in kindergarten.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but we do learn a lot as young children.  I grew up with my family of origin, was exposed to the customs of other people’s families, and I suspect that being presented with differences between the two was helpful, not just because it gave me more resources from which to draw in life but because it showed me how contingent our ideas may be.  I think as a result I see it as a goal to try not to be too doctrinaire in general.  That may explain, in part, my eclectic approach to religion and spiritual matters, as well as to other more mundane matters.

Hearing what is needed

September 16, 2013

Here’s another example of what I was saying is a little like coming up with different answers to a game of Charades.

People who go to support group meetings may talk about hearing what they need when they attend such a meeting, whether it is read from a text or is a bit of sharing from another member.  They may even attribute it to forces greater than themselves.   It, I think, is taken as an indication that they are open to finding the advice and tools they need to feel and function better.

Then there’s the phenomenon of people believing they are receiving special messages directed at them through television broadcasts.  That is categorized as a symptom of disease.

One difference between the two cases, I think, is the posture of the ego.  In the first case, the person is less focused on being special and more focused on finding help.  In the second, I think, from what I’ve read, it’s more about gathering feedback to further a drama in which they are in the lead role.

(Of course, there are self-help television broadcasts intended for members in the audience to, with their conscious selves, feel addressed as part of a general audience.)

So I can see the “hearing a message” motif in both contexts.  Outsiders may believe that in both cases, selective hearing and peculiar processing is going on, I don’t know.  (I’ve heard that some people think Al-Anon is a cult.)  But people in the first context actually find they feel and function better as the result of applying these “messages” to their lives.  They may say, “I heard what I needed to hear” — which maybe captures the point:  they did hear something, and regardless of why they heard it, it was helpful.  Therein may lie the grace, if one is inclined to see grace, but not see it in “messaging.”

Unfortunately, people who hear TV broadcasts directed at them personally tend to be distressed and not functioning well.  (At least that seems to be true of the ones who are written up.)  But I submit that they are in a way just “misunderstanding” a technique that is not inherently unhealthful, that they are like someone guessing incorrectly in a game of Charades.  Perhaps some damage to their ego structure is resulting in their misperception.


April 26, 2013

I was mildly curious to hear about the claim that the Boston Marathon bombers had planned to bomb Times Square subsequently.  I had seen some headlines, hadn’t read much, and thought I’d catch it on the evening news.

I turned on the PBS NewsHour at six p.m., and just as it was getting started, Gita telephoned.  By the time we were done, it was almost 6:30, so I figured I’d try the network evening news casts, I tune into one, and then my furnace decides to kick on (it heats the hot water, as well as providing room heat).  This is a process that can take a long time as we near the time for the furnace’s annual tune-up.  While the furnace is in that ignition process, it apparently draws enough electricity to interfere with something in the process through which I get my television signal.   (I have a funky electrical system, which I don’t think is unusual for an old house, and the lights dim a bit too during the furnace ignition process.)   So again, no news for me on this lead story.

Maybe I don’t need to hear this news?

Olympic coverage

August 1, 2012

I don’t like the skewing of Olympic coverage towards individuals and dramatic stories.  I like the aesthetics of the high-caliber performance of a sport, and I like when the commentary explains to me the details of what contributes to that — even just calling attention to techniques that separate a good performance from an excellent one.

Further complicating the actual coverage is how our media seem to have decided before the events even began which individuals to pay their most attention to.  It’s not like the evening news where bias is overtly frowned upon, but it seems, for my taste, too much like boosterism even in the context of sports nonetheless.

The other frustration I wanted to express is something I may have picked up years ago from my college roommate who introduced me to the finer points of gymnastics (she was a gymnast, her brother was a gymnast, their mother a coach, and I became women’s team manager).  I like the balletic aspect of gymnastics, the flow that some gymnasts have on balance beam, the gracefulness of their limb extension, for examples.  The coverage does mention some of this, but our cultural orientation seems not only to focus more on muscular difficult tumbling but not to even wish for a gymnast who can do both, the difficult tumbling within a graceful presentation.

And one of my smaller frustrations: the live streaming online is only available to customers who pay for their TV reception.  I’ve lived without WGBH (the local PBS station in Boston) for months while they fix their antenna in Needham, I can live without more extensive Olympics coverage, but it bothers me to feel left behind by the mainstream media because I don’t make paying for TV a priority in my household budget.

Ubiquity of ice hockey

April 22, 2012

I would attribute this to my living in the Boston area and the Boston Bruins’ being in the playoffs right now, but both times I turned on the TV today, there it was, ice hockey.

The first time, it was on a national show (Meet the Press), and I surely didn’t expect the show to cover hockey.  I did enjoy seeing one of those equivalents of the Secret Service for the Stanley Cup, gloved hands and all, especially given my previous confusion on the subject.  I am grateful to have become better educated on the subject now.  Perhaps there is a lesson somewhere in there about patience, or at least about varied, even improving, reiteration of patterns.

The second time I turned on the TV was this evening.  I was wondering if I could find some news, local or national, and instead I found the Bruins going into overtime (which I watched them win) in the sixth of their seven-game series with the Washington Capitals.

As a child I would purposely tune into hockey games on TV when I was looking for something safe to watch (that wouldn’t turn out to be a horror movie) when left alone while my parents went out.  This time it was sort of the opposite — I was looking for news or news analysis and got hockey.

Apparently hockey can be the answer, whether I’m looking for it or not.

Channel 44

April 11, 2012

As I noted before, I am getting no reception of the WGBH Channel 2 signal now that the transmitter is positioned lower and the signal is weaker and is covering a smaller geographic area.  My paper program guide told me the NewsHour would be on Channel 44 at 11.  What I didn’t figure out from the information there is that what I’m getting as Channel 44 is some other flavor of WGBH than the flavor whose offerings are being listed in the guide.  When I turned on the TV at 11, it wasn’t the NewsHour.  I think I’m getting WGBH World, and I think, from what I’ve found on line, the NewsHour is on that flavor at 10.  My point is that it takes ever more information and technology for me to find what I want, which is something fairly simple and something I used to be able to find before — there may be more options, more high tech fun stuff now, but there are higher transaction costs as result of all this complexity.  I preferred the simpler situation of before, even if it provided fewer options.

Maybe this is my (technological) version of political conservatives wanting to turn back the (social and economic) clock.

Low tech

April 11, 2012

Well, I seem to be reaping the fruit of not engaging enthusiastically in high technology.  My computer is overheating and I’m not getting reception to WGBH (the Boston PBS station) on my TV now.  Of course, my computer is probably six years old, I’m using a small TV from 2003 with one of those digital converter boxes to get the signal over the air, I live in a valley, and GBH has a reduced signal for now due to some broader issues with an antenna.  I can’t really say any of this is too surprising, since I guess I’ve been aware of living a sort of subsistence technological life.  I have already begun the process with my computer guy of replacing my current computer with a newer used computer, one of a more recent generation.  But I don’t want to pay for cable TV, especially since my telephone needs mean I can’t get one of my provider’s “bundle” discount packages, those same telephone needs require me to stick with that provider, too, (not to mention that my income has gone down while my basic expenses (like healthcare and oil) have gone up).  In the meantime, I can watch the PBS NewsHour 5 hours later on the other Massachusetts PBS affiliate.  In the longer run, I need to figure out whether this means embracing better technology or making some other change in the patterns, big or small, of my life.

Of soap operas and science fiction, “Dallas” and Klingons

August 27, 2011

I was thinking earlier about how encouraged or not I feel about where we are heading.  (This had something to do with Charles Blow’s column today and a comment I received in response to my comment on the column.)

I realized that I can see things in terms of a mash-up between a “Dallas” conceit and a Star Trek episode.  I’m thinking about that “it was all a dream” conceit on “Dallas” and the Star Trek (original series) episode in which the Federation folk on the Enterprise and one of their usual adversaries (maybe the Klingons, I can’t remember) have to band together and laugh together in order to dispel some other (negative) force being brought to bear on them (I’m remembering that the force, if  not disrupted, will result in the Federation and the Klingons’ complete destruction one another, or something like that).

I think we have wandered down an unfortunate and mistaken path (both at a national level and on the global level) but that there’s plenty of hope that we can and will reroute ourselves.  I think this will take the equivalent of holding hands with whomever we see as the Klingons in our lives and laughing together with them, whether at unseen negative forces or not, I don’t think it much matters.  But this conceptualization indicates that it is actually within our power to do it, to put ourselves on a more sustainable path and one that includes everyone in a more dignified manner, and I think the universe is rooting for us in the sense that we have enormous good will being made available for our support throughout this process.

We talk about American exceptionalism, and as human beings we seem to have a sense we are exceptional as well, and I don’t know that we really are exceptional in either sense, but I do think regardless of all that that we are worthy of decent lives in a decent world nonetheless.