The notes of an apparent Luddite in Sin City


Two centuries ago a bunch of English workers defied a new technology; they rioted and destroyed the machines they feared.  Now, I don’t really see myself as being quite that unwilling to accept change or as a dull, uneducated, but highly emotional textile worker who is afraid of all machines.  However a man without a television, kindle or cell phone in 2013 could certainly be called a Luddite without anyone arguing very much.  This week I was in Las Vegas to attend a series of meetings; I flew to Vegas, took cabs from one place to another and even viewed several power-point presentations, so I am not completely out of contact with technology.  In fact, I even watched, as I always do when staying in a hotel, some television in the evenings.   Now, it has only been a few months since the last time I was in a hotel, so I know that I have watched some television recently – not much but some.  It did not feel like.

I felt like I had encountered a whole new medium, one completely unknown to me previously.   In particular two things occurred to me; actually startled, struck and frightened me might be more  appropriate ways to characterize my reaction.  Both of those things came packaged in a format I thought I knew – news and regularly aired fiction programs.  First thing-one, the news; it wasn’t the goodness or the badness of the news that bothered me; it was the presentation.  The presenters all held extreme views; each seemed to have an axe to grind, an agenda.  And they hated those with different points of view, or at least they demonized them.  But worse they shouted out their opinions as if they had no microphones to amplify their voices.  They were angry and loud, there was no news just opinions.  What happened to the Walter Cronkites of television news?

Thing-two, the other thing I observed was in the fictional programs;  the sitcoms that are the nightly fodder of commercial television. They are all inane, asinine and insipid;  filled with simple minded, unnatural, metro-sexual people in contrived and silly situations.  By silly I do not mean funny; I mean silly as in weak of intellect and foolish.  I know there are better programs than what I saw, I have read about them and heard people talk about them.  I know millions of people watch and enjoy them – however, those better programs were not on in my hotel room.  On the bright side, the commercials can be entertaining; they are generally short and filled with delightful images to please the eye.  For the most part, I hardly saw any that were offensive, annoying maybe, but not terribly offensive.

As commercial television fights to maintain its place in the marketplace, it would seem the decision makers are moving down the food chain looking for the lower for a common denominator.  I did not watch any of the reality shows, so it could have been worse.  Actually I have never seen one.  I have read about them, but it is difficult to believe they really exist. Is it true, does Bruce Jenner, once a gold medalist and a symbol of athletic prowess, really let cameras follow him around?  Bruce, his step-daughters and their mother with cameras and microphones recording their lives and their conversations?  Those simpletons in England are one thing, but Bruce Jenner?  Tell me it isn’t so!  Is that the future for Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan?   And what is with the family with the nicknames, baby this and baby that?  What is that about?

When television was first introduced we were told of all of the marvelous things it could and would do for us – what happened to those noble ideas?  Somehow them appear to have been lost in translation.  So, I turned off the television and like a true Luddite read a book instead.  An old fashioned book, made of paper with pages that must be turned – can you image that in 2013?  no kindle!

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