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My Soapbox - Television


Anyone who is even a brief acquaintance, (and many of those who have never met me) know what a Pandora’s Box this topic is. Check back regularly to see how long my ramblings go on here. There are not so many items in today’s world that get me as spun up as what I view the television has become.

Some of my personal background

Television electronics

As a child, electronics fascinated me. Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the color television set was a shining example of high technology in the home. What a technological and manufacturing marvel! In the TV Week and Popular Science magazines were those great ads for correspondence courses for TV technician careers and the ultimate Heathkit, to build your own color television. Wow!

As a teen, I found the dumps and curbside garbage pickups to be great gold mines for picking up these discarded technological marvels, for free! I horded junk televisions and stereo equipment. I had wall to wall and floor to ceiling stacks of discarded electronics. I’d spend thousands of hours at the public libraries photocopying Howard Sams Photofacts, a common source of consumer electronic schematics. With no money for parts and only my time, energy, and skills, I’d piece together hundreds of working televisions from these discards and then sell them through the local free classifieds.

I was self-employed!

Televisions would be my primary income source from about 1982 through about 1995. The television service paid my living expenses until I could evolve those skills into my current engineering career.

Television viewing

Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I was part of a new generation that grew up with television. In a divorced household with my mother and siblings, it wasn’t uncommon to spend four hours a day minimum in front of the “boob tube”. I was part of a new culture that would accept the illusions portrayed on television as unquestionable fact. I’d grow up watching Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, Love American Style, Vietnam, and Apollo 11. As a child, I’d believe that there had to be U.S.S. Enterprise out there in orbit where the television series was filmed. I’d watch many of the shows about the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Devil’s Triangle and I’d accept all claims as unquestionable fact. After all, I saw it on television!

When I got “the boot” from my mother and was moved to my father’s home, all that changed! My father had no tolerance for television, unless it was news, sports, or public television. My father couldn’t be colder to my excitement regarding Captain Kirk! My father couldn’t be more critical of why young children were watching Love American Style. My “television viewing career” came to a screeching halt during my 4 ½ years of living with my father.

Thanks Dad!

Soapbox please...

Life without Television?

What to do with my life without television? This was a big question! As child, I gave my father the “I’m board”, cry more than a few times. I had to find something to fill in the void! But what?

Well, I started pencil sketches, lots of them! I bought paints and tried several painting media. I purchased film and darkroom supplies and developed an expertise in the art of photography! I spent thousands of hours OUTSIDE, getting exercise with my bicycle and with my camera. I sometimes just took quiet hikes through miles of woods, enjoying the solitude. I read novels, philosophy, trade magazines, history and technical manuals! I learned about 1970’s computer technology. I spent many hours with an electronics project kit, self-teaching a lifetime career skill. I dreamed, about a future career, future family, and a home to welcome my grandchildren to.

In due time, I found it difficult to schedule a time to come inside to watch an episode of Newton’s Apple or Nova on television. The void created by the lack of television, created a huge variety of skills, interests, and hobbies in my life. After a period of time, the question became, “Where do I find time for television?”


A second wave hit me during the post 911 events. With the incredible news on that morning, I also clutched on to the radio and television. With such a panic in the air, I also was a sponge out to soak up as much information as I could about the events, the history, the cultures, and the future. At that point, I still had a great trust in the CBS / WCCO news reports. Dan Rather and Don Shelby were people I trusted and the organizations that employed them. My trust was soon broken!

It sure didn’t take long before the entire media including my trusted WCCO developed new flashy, sexy logos, banners and “soundtracks” to sell their products. All at once the “Red White and Blue” was a cheap, fast, sure-fire way to sell product. Everyone had limited edition 911 products to sell!

What I saw were millions of devastated lives all cheapened to sell retail product and services. I felt a great deal of guilt to see the grieving families all used as part of a master marketing campaign to sell Beanie Babies, fast food hamburgers and the evening news. In due time, I overloaded and couldn’t handle the constant pounding of American flags, NYFD, airline security, al Qaeda, anthrax, and the hundreds of videos of senseless tortures and deaths, all for the purpose of increasing market shares! I had to turn the radios and television off! I needed to grieve in silence.

Personally, I found the post 911 events in this country quite revealing of the shallow capitalist society we live in, and the powerful tool television plays a part in it! After a great deal of silent reflection, I felt a great deal of empathy toward those outside the United States who view us as an evil empire. We are so fast to turn the most horrific events into opportunities for huge profits. The television has accelerated turning this country into a population of mindless, consumer drones. Capitalism at it’s “best”.

“Brave New World”

With years of freedom from the television “addiction”, I now view television as an outside observer. I find the constant hammering of commercials, the deafening noise of “canned laughter”, the shallowness of sitcoms, and the constant display of violence and unethical behavior on primetime unbearable! Rarely do I find the lost time from my hobbies and projects to be a worthwhile exchange of my life’s time to be sitting in a semiconscious trance in front of a television, for the sole purpose of programing me to purchase products and services.

I've taken the view that the television and all of it's programming is for one purpose, money! The NFL, the evening news, sitcoms, reality shows, are all designed to simply bait us into turning on our sets and turning off our conscious minds, all in preparation to flood us with the psychological tricks to change our behaviors and buy, buy, buy! Everything about the television programming feeds our addictive tendencies and turns us all into well conditioned, purchasing, lab rodents.

We've made the choice to turn on the television and turn off our minds.


"Is TV a Vast Wasteland? Absolutely!"

Suddenly Senior reader, Walter E. Patt, Jr. read the column, As Seen on TV, where we mentioned former FCC Chairman Newton Minow‘s famous condemnation of TV as a "vast wasteland."

Patt takes us back to "the day," comparing it to our current fare and finds Minows’ judgment still valid. "Besides the brain-numbing boredom, I am absolutely appalled at how low the quality of language has fallen," Patt claims. Read all about it here.

(Here's an excerpt of Minow's May 9, 1961 'Vast Wasteland' speach.)

Stay tuned for more...

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