Either TV’s are getting too smart, or my low self-esteem has reached toxic levels

I was cleaning house for a cultured client, with top-notch taste in music and art, who had the Music Choice classical channel on the TV. (It not only says something for Music Choice that he approved of their “hand-picked, no algorithms” playlist, but also for the endless onslaught of digital convenience, that he’s surrendered to it.) The music was accompanied by still photos and “Did You Know” facts about the composers’ and musicians’ lives.

What can be more inspiring than reading about the remarkable achievements of famous composers? Christ, just about anything, when you’re not feeling great about your life. Usually, they just give you the usual “Bartok played Bach before he could walk” stuff, which makes you wonder exactly what useful thing you’ve done with the decades of food and oxygen you’ve extracted from the planet. But on this day, they suddenly turned cruel—or crueler—with some extra comments.

On top of that, there’s scary fact of the cloud-connected TV knowing intimate and obscure details of my life. Or the alternative, which is that I’m hallucinating at work. I’m not sure which is worse.

Anyway, here are a few of the “Did You Know” spots I saw:

Yeah, I know my head is the problem. But do I ask my haberdasher for a tin-foil fedora, or my shrink for a rack of Zac?

5 Replies to “Either TV’s are getting too smart, or my low self-esteem has reached toxic levels”

  1. You’re out the gate, man. Bravo! Well-written exposition. Art. “Crea-Mo” number one.

    “Art is what we call…the thing an artist does.

    It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.

    Art is not in the …eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.”

    –– Seth Godin

    I like this quote. The gist of it would have been lost if paraphrased. Yeah, we pushed through some inner resistance, for whatever the reason, be it swift kick in the butt, personal drive, or desire to stay connected to someone or something important. Art was manifest, born from a deep inner essence and desire to create. Now, it’s there. It’s made. Even if it’s only a fleeting expression, and even it you click delete, it existed.

    Part of resistance is fear, and mostly likely fear of rejection at that. Some inner prehistoric primal brain instinct that if rejected and outcast from the clan, that it will mean certain death. The ultimate fear is death, for most. It remains a strong barrier, fear, to be faced like a young warrior in battle finding the courage to stand up, raise his sword and fight. Kill, or be killed. Publish, or die.

    But fear kills creativity. Damn, the fear, I say. I’ll choose the fearlessness, even if only for that moment when I walked up to you and ask your permission to capture your image. And, it’s all for art sake. Because there is something inside me that says f’n do it.

    Cheers! I raise my glass to the what’s-in-your-soul! And, I charge my glass to what makes you want to do it, too!

    We will continue to overcome, you and I. But alas, don’t wait for me.

    1. Thanks, Keith, I appreciate your comments, though I feel my weird little essay doesn’t quite earn your grand disquisiton on the nature of art, and fear.

      That said, you remind me of something the German poet Rilke said about judging art: “It is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgement of it: there is no other.” Which has always seemed both true and absurd to me. As someone who makes art-like things, I know that feeling of necessity, especially if I’m being brave and pushing my limits. My fear. That’s often where the best work comes from.

      On the other hand, where does that leave art criticism? If necessity is the only criterion, who judges necessity? What if the pioneering republican-punk band The Shaggs (click here) had shown a demonstrably greater need to create than, say, the Beatles? Does that make them better? It could get Monty Python-esque, with literary critics having to set up an obstacle course to see if a writer’s creative need is great enough to overcome barbed wire/piranhas/hot coals etc., in order to get to pen and paper.

      Anyway, about fear: my friend Peg Cheng held a workshop on fear and writing at a branch of the Seattle Public Library, and it was literally SRO–they had to turn people away. So now they’ve asked her to do it again, this time at the sexy and confusing Central Library downtown.

      Seattle Central Library. Exterior, Rem Koolhaus; Interior, M.C. Escher

      The point being, you’re probably right, fear seems to be the major block for writers/creators. (Of course, doing street photography, you get an extra dose up front, since you ask people for their permission.) Certainly, fear has an been an issue for me, though laziness runs neck-and-neck. So the deadline prod worked great for me. See you again at the end of the month!

      Meanwhile, I have to write to Dave, with whom I did the original Creamo [Creation-of -the-Month] project, and somehow explain that I’ve been Creamo’ing with another artist behind his back.

      (But hey…why not a polyamorous relationship with my many-bodied muse?)

  2. This post is hilarious! It made me laugh. But, can you imagine if the TV did display these very personalized messages to us while we watched? I think it’s not too far off in the future. It’s scary to think about it, even as I laugh at your examples. It’s not something I want any part of.

    Thanks so much for the shout-out about my Fear & Writing workshop! I had no idea the first one I taught would be SRO. That was a huge shock, and I was thrilled. This next one is on Saturday, March 10 from 2-4pm at the Central Library (such a freaky building!). Like the last one, it’s totally FREE. Find out more about it here: http://www.pegcheng.com/events/

    1. Thanks, Cubby, glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is scary; it would be the long-term consequence of all the short-term decisions we make to give up our data, or collectively, to not hold the companies that collect it to account. But that’s how it goes, we humans tend to act when things become crises.

      Sorry I’ve been away from the blog, and only now posted your comment. Anyway, glad the Central Library workshop went so well. (You can read about it on Peg’s blog.)

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