Monday, November 29, 2010

TiVo and the Internet

I'm an avid baseball fan. I know: you thought all gay guys hated sports. Not this one; I can't get enough of it. But this is a recent phenomenon for me, and for good reason -- baseball was unwatchable until a few, short years ago. The thing that made it palatable was the advent of TiVo.

Have you ever watched a baseball game? There are commercials built into the commercials, which often break for commercials. Even when the game is on, the sports announcers can't tell you anything without first saying "this bit of info is brought to you by . . . (whomever)." It's one big, boring, endless commercial. Enter TiVo.

Armed with TiVo's weapons, I can watch baseball and enjoy it! I just shoot through the commercials and the boring nonsense that constantly spews from the announcers' mouths -- I'm talkin' to you, McCarver -- and go directly to the next pitch, the next pitch, the next pitch, etc. It's seamless and only requires that I press a few buttons.

TiVo did a lot more than this for viewers. It lit up the entire field of TV programming. With TiVo, we can see not just a momentary snapshot of what's on but the whole picture. Suddenly we can call up two full weeks of TV programming and review this block of information at our leisure. This changed TV permanently. Once you've TiVo'd, you cannot go back.

But there is a price to pay. When you can see absolutely everything that TV has to offer, you understand how bleak your TV prospects really are. Before, we only suspected that TV offered little that was entertaining or educational. Now we know for sure that it's a vast wasteland.

The internet did a similar thing for our lives. Before it existed, we only saw bits and pieces of reality -- a story in a newspaper, maybe another one on an evening newscast, or perhaps we were lucky enough to catch ten minutes of a radio news show in our car on the way home from work. But no matter what we did, our view was scattered and piecemeal.

But then the internet opened the window wide and let everything in. Reality itself is now laid out for us in convenient panels so that we can browse it at our leisure. The internet TiVo'd reality for us. It's all there now, every little thing. 

But again there is a price to pay. The panoramic view shows us that American life is even shallower than we believed. Look around the American internet and you learn that we are a mad consumerist society with little regard for others and nothing much in the way of personal values. Oh, we talk about values a lot but it's obvious from our actions and inactions that this is just noise. Nothing truly matters to Americans except their convenience -- and never mind if someone else suffers in the process. That's fine as long as we end up with the best of everything.

Yes, these days it's all out there on the internet. Reality is viewable (if you spend the time looking for it) and we can finally see our world clearly. And it's all me, me, me -- or its about politics, which these days is merely a grab for power, and never mind what for.

I think it's us that we see on the internet. The internet is us. It's a mirror. And I don't know about you but what I see reflected there is frightening. I see a world without intellect, a world without judgment, a world of gullible, greedy, ignorant gits. The internet alarm is ringing loudly. It's saying, "Look at yourselves! Are you satisfied with what you are?" At least, that's the message I see there.

In a similar sense I want my books to be mirrors. I want readers to see themselves from a fresh new angle -- and I want them to ask, "What am I?" I don't think we know the answer to this question and until we do, we won't understand anything -- not the world around us, not our place within the grand structure of reality, and certainly not the value of our fellow man.

Maybe that's too big a job and I'll have to narrow my goals, but it alarms me that we're so terribly off-base. Most Americans believe in both torture and angels; we have a big, big problem on our hands. Can a work of fiction fix this? I doubt it. But when we read a book or see a movie, we open ourselves up to new ideas. I want to sneak some in before our brains shut down forever.

I have grand dreams to share with my readers -- hopeful, possible dreams. I want to wake the world up -- and I want to show them a good time along the way. That's why I write.