Brain invasion

Sharing yam wedges and tamarind aioli with a friend the other day, I became aware that I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. The reason was the two big TV screens hanging over his left shoulder. It’s hard to have a thoughtful conversation when there is constant distraction from something big and loud and fast-moving in one’s field of vision.

I thought that was bad enough, but the programming on the left-most screen appeared to be all news — and the more violent the better.

The first image was of a burning tanker truck, overturned on a highway. There were leaping flames and a plume of black smoke. The second was of a woman’s face, with a transcript of the 911 conversation in which she tells the operator she has killed her children running across the screen below. The third was of men wearing dusty army fatigues and carrying machine guns kicking in a door. I felt my brain had been invaded by disturbing images that I hadn’t been prepared to watch .

It was HLN, which I later discovered to be CNN Headline News. The format is the ultra-condensed version of the news, the television equivalent of the USA Today newspaper.

Due to the network’s tradition of rolling news coverage, the network has become popular with people who may not have time to watch lengthy news reports, in addition to places where a high demand for “get to the point” news exists, such as airports, bars, and many other places.

I read newspapers with a modest amount of in-depth content and I occasionally check breaking news online, but that’s initiated by me. Having news and entertainment pushed at me is a reason why I tend to stay away from certain kinds of bars and restaurants. I yearn for the old-style British neighbourhood pub, where you could sit in a corner with friends, drink real beer, and set the world to rights through talking about it.


2 thoughts on “Brain invasion

  1. I used to notice this thing of TVs everywhere in American airports. Now it seems to be everywhere (including British pubs, no doubt). Vancouver establishments invested heavily in TVs for the Olympics, and now we are stuck with them forever. And isn’t it demoralizing how difficult it is, despite one’s best resolve, NOT to allow oneself to be distracted from the dining partner’s fascinating conversation?

  2. Through an odd coincidence, I also found myself sharing yam wedges and tamarind aioli with a friend the other day. Fortunately my companion had allowed me to sit facing away from the ubiquitous TV screens, which allowed me to gaze over my friend’s shoulder and out the window: rain clouds drifting east, the towers of the city dimly visible towards the west. Despite these distractions I hung raptly on my companion’s every word… 🙂

    TV screens also blight one of the nicest places to sit on the newer BC Ferries. There’s a wall-mounted TV in the lounge at one end of the vessel — I refer not to the elitist Seawest Lounge @ $10 a pop, but to the more democratic version, with seats at right-angles to the windows, and cappuccino etc available nearby. The TV screen there is permanently on, permanently showing sports highlights, permanently audible from most of the nearby seats. I discovered that, even if you try to turn the sound off at the set, it is hard-wired through the overhead speakers. A visit to the purser’s office is required to have the sound extinguished completely (a request which is likely to be greeted with suspicion and granted grudgingly…)

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