Sunday, July 09, 2006

More Television-Humans

I want people to know that this blog is scribbles and notes, not theory or something that is going to be published.

I made some generalizations in the earlier post, and I want to work on clarifying, specifying, and analyzing what it means to be Television-Human.

I said Television-Human and not Human-Television because they are more television than human.

What does is the purpose of the a television show?

The purpose of a television show is to sell products, like soap, cell phones, radios, cars, life-insurance.

a television show is different than a book.

A book does not have commercials. Hemingway is not trying to sell you soap.

A show's intention is keep people viewing long enough to see commercials to buy products.

Television is about purchasing products.

Today I was reading A Special Providence by Yates, one of the characters said, "Look what I bought."

That phrase, "Look what I bought."

Television-Humans are obsessed with buying shit. They love buying shit. Their whole lives involve the purchasing of shit. Of getting deals, getting things on special. Getting the new this and that. Owning an endless amount of crap.


Television is about ownership.

Television is about convincing humans that they should own certain things.


This is what happened:

My brother killed himself. Which means something. A human chose to die. Chose to no longer take part in reality. No longer to swim or eat or fuck again. Suicide also implies that the person who killed him or herself did not want to see anyone they knew again.

Death is pretty serious.

It implies that a human, a living person who lived on this planet, who did things, made impressions upon people, worked, suffered, smiled sometimes, is no longer around.

You cannot call a dead person on the phone.

You can no longer hang out with a person after they dead.

When a person dies, I personally think it means something.

It means a lot.

But when I was sitting there with my family it didn't seem to matter to them.

It felt like they were acting out parts on a sitcom or a bad Merrill Streep movie.

First the talked about getting a priest. My brother never talked about religion is his whole life. There wasn't an ounce of religion in him.

My mother cried endlessly saying to everybody who came over,"My son is dead, my son is dead." But she told him on the phone before he died that he would go to hell if he killed himself. She didn't bother to tell anyone that who came over to the house. And she always spoke of how she thought only cowards killed themselves. And when she was alone with my father, my republican brother and I, she said constantly, "I don't want all those people there. He killed himself." Basically implying that she was embarrassed by his suicide. That the funeral was for her, not my dead brother.

My mother basically viewed the situation as bad, not because of the death of my brother. But because it looked bad on her family. It was embarrassing.

My Republican brother came from another state and said something about Iraq and the people who died there. I told him to shut up.

One of my cousin's wives came over. She had never met my brother, she was crying hysterically. She never met him.

I told my family that he killed himself because he was schizophrenic, and he most inherented it from our my mother's mother who is schizophrenic. My mother responded, "Don't blame this on me." They also didn't tell anyone he was schizophrenic because that embarrassed them.

My mother wanted me to read that stupid poem IF by Kipling. I told her, "He isn't IFING anything, he's dead."

She reads it at every funeral.

My father mowed the grass, weed whacked. He felt guilty. He is one of those men who worked five days a week, showed up on time. He never made much money though. But he worked and showed up on time and always had a job. He watched action movies, 80s and 90s Gene Hackman crap movies. Movies with happy endings, where the characters aren't really like people, just strange caricatures, there is very dramatic music constantly played. But at the same time he watched Leone existential westerns, a lot of British romances, and liked the movie Clerks a lot.

He is not dumb, more afraid. He said some existential things to me, when I was like 13 he said to me, "People are like animals, you shoot at a deer it runs. You say a certain thing to another person, they react in a certain way." One time we were talking about death and he said, "There are no good deaths."

But he was afraid of being alone. So he stayed with my mother, he took part in racist conversations, but at the same time he had black friends. He is a man of the mob.

Gide wrote about this mentality in The Immoralist, "The laws of mimicry-I call them the laws of fear. People are afraid to find themselves alone, and don't find themselves at all. I hate all this moral agoraphobia-it's the worst kind of cowardice. You can't create something without being alone. But who's trying to create here? What seems different in your self: that's the one rare thing you possess, the one thing which gives each of us his worth; and that's just what we try to suppress. We imitate. And we claim to love life."

When you are alone, there is no one there to give you a line of bullshit. People always have friends like them, so the line of bullshit comes in terms of everyone saying the same mediocre shit. Everyone reminding each other at specified moments that they are better than some other specified group of people, either be race or class or gender.

When you are alone, you aren't safe. When you have friends, even if you don't actually like them, you have people to rely on. A man always goes to his friend when he breaks up with his lover. His friend will say, "That stupid bitch." Even though they are both conscious that the man beat and treated the woman badly. And that he deserved to be left. They will say things like, "All women are the same.", and, "I can't understand women." Even though they both understand that they don't like to be beat and treated badly themselves.

Friends work as a protective shell of lies. Each friend looks to the other friend as a way to hide. Mark lies to Tom, Tom lies Bill, Bill lies to Eric, and Eric lies to Mark.

Each friend must be depended upon to lie and tell the right lies in certain circumstances. There is a script that must be followed. If Mark says the phrase, "Women are stupid", Tom, Bill, and Eric cannot respond, "Mark, don't say that." No, they must respond, "Yeah, women are stupid."

The four men know that as long as they don't go outside of their group, they are safe.

Sartre, "This man is afraid of any kind of solitude, that of the genius as well as that of the murderer: he is the man of the mob: no matter how short he is, he still takes the precaution of stooping for fear of standing out from the herd and of finding himself face to face with himself."

My father is of the herd. He could not stand out of fear.

People that live by the rules of the mob are stubborn. They refuse to listen to any voice that differs from that of the mob rules they endorse. I call them rules and not beliefs, because they don't actually believe in it, they are following a mode of behaviors and a script, that is all.

Chekhov's My Life shows this perfectly. The story is that a young man decides to break from his father's life, he becomes poor and works for his living. He rejects bourgeoisie values.

He goes and sees his father, here is the part:

""And who is to blame for it? " cried my father. "It's your fault, you scoundrel!

"Well, suppose it is my fault?" I said. "I admit I have been to blame in many things, but why is it that this life of yours, which you think binding upon us, too -- why is it so dreary, so barren? How is it that in not one of these houses you have been building for the last thirty years has there been anyone from whom I might have learnt how to live, so as not to be to blame? There is not one honest man in the whole town! These houses of yours are nests of damnation, where mothers and daughters are made away with, where children are tortured. . . . My poor mother!" I went on in despair. "My poor sister! One has to stupefy oneself with vodka, with cards, with scandal; one must become a scoundrel, a hypocrite, or go on drawing plans for years and years, so as not to notice all the horrors that lie hidden in these houses. Our town has existed for hundreds of years, and all that time it has not produced one man of service to our country -- not one. You have stifled in the germ everything in the least living and bright. It's a town of shopkeepers, publicans, counting-house clerks, canting hypocrites; it's a useless, unnecessary town, which not one soul would regret if it suddenly sank through the earth."

"I don't want to listen to you, you scoundrel!" said my father, and he took up his ruler from the table. "You are drunk. Don't dare come and see your father in such a state! I tell you for the last time, and you can repeat it to your depraved sister, that you'll get nothing from me, either of you. I have torn my disobedient children out of my heart, and if they suffer for their disobedience and obstinacy I do not pity them. You can go whence you came. It has pleased God to chastise me with you, but I will bear the trial with resignation, and, like Job, I will find consolation in my sufferings and in unremitting labour. You must not cross my threshold till you have mended your ways. I am a just man, all I tell you is for your benefit, and if you desire your own good you ought to remember all your life what I say and have said to you. . . ."

I waved my hand in despair and went away. I don't remember what happened afterwards, that night and next day."

My brother and I got this from him. No response to what said.

If you aren't speaking in script, then they don't know what to do. They just don't respond, if they respond, it could to being alone. And a complete destruction of their structured identity.

When I spoke to my brother on the phone, I said, "You have an incredible ability to lie to yourself." he responded, "Do you still work in food service?"

I thought about, what is worse. To be told to shut up or to be ignored.

Bernice has a niece that is 10 years old. The child seems to get some gratification from getting told to shut up, but when she is ignored she screams and cries.

A couple of weeks ago in an a gmail chat with Tao I said, I would stop talking shit about Foer and Eggers if they wrote even an email or a little thing calling me an asshole.

It would make happy in some way of Foer wrote, "Noah Cicero is a fucking prick for writing that interview."

It hurts kind of, that he won't. It shows a sense of elitism. That I'm so much better than you, your negative comments about my book are irrelevant. Of course i don't know if Foer has ever seen some of the shit I've wrote.

But the point is, being ignored is worse than being told to shut up.

My brother had things to say, but he was ignored.

my brother's suicide symbolizes to me that a human can only take so much of being ignored.


People have ignored other people for years. Shown by the Chekhov story written in the late 1800s.

Some weird white trash dude who ran a small boarding house told me when I was 19, this is paraphrased "People must have their gods. You take the gods away, they will find new ones. There have their gods, they had kings, queens, and now they have rich people and celebrities."

Then I read existentialism which basically says, man is in anguish because he is condemned to choose. That every human from a poor homeless black man to a rich white new England white woman, are condemned to freedom. And that most decide to flee from it, to find a ready made control structure and force themselves to obey the laws of it. So they don't have to think.

God died, there are no more kings, mankind needed a substitute for its lost worldviews.

Television came.

Chapman said to me the other day, this is paraphrased, "What is better than television. You are living this tiring life of work, obligations, and bills. And this glowing box sits in your living room with all these pretty graphics and pretty people say nice pretty things to each other."

Eusebius, one of the founders of the Catholic Church back in the 400s, "How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a medicine and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived."

Humans have wanted to be deceived and to deceive themselves for a long time.

Self-deception is nothing new.

So here comes the television with all these nice shows about skinny happy people. They don't beat their kids, their kids don't scream for hours on end, they don't swear, they don't beat each other, if someone is a drug addict it is solved in one show, all the parents love their kids, all the kids love their parents, the husband and wife fight but it is resolved by the end of show.

Also the characters in television shows are always doctors, lawyers, detectives, exciting jobs.

Of course there will always be Good Times where poor people had a three bedroom apartment.

Also Roseane who had a two story, but they did have shitty furniture. But what made it dumb was that they kept buying businesses. They sent their daughter to art school. All their kids were skinny and Becky was hot as hell. Especially the second Becky.

Ever notice how the poor person on TV are always leather jackets? What the fuck is with that?

We should be talking about cable though:

Saw a show on the French Revolution, they omitted the fact that the peasants were poor because of the rich Marquiss. They blamed it on a drought.

When reporting the riots in France, they said it was because of mental illness.

Life Time movies, there is a rich woman living on a ranch. Her son gets kidnapped and killed. Then the whole movie is how IT HAPPENED TO HER.

New channels: Everyone is arguing constantly about stupid shit that doesn't matter. Over 2 million Americans are in prison, 40 million don't have health care, 40 percent of America only owns .2 percent of the wealth. LACI PETTERSON, RICH MORMON BITCH GETS KIDNAPPED, RICH PERSON KILLS WIFE FLEES TO ENGLAND, WIRE TAPS, TERRORISTS HAVE PUT NUCLEAR BOMBS IN YOUR BABIE'S ASSHOLE!

Friday night FOX news talked about if Terrorists were trying to destroy out economy.

There's a show on FUSE concerning tattoo stories. A whole show.

How many shows are dedicated to getting rich in America. The statistics show that rising a class in America is virtually impossible.

But still we have apprentice, shows where woman whore themselves out for a million dollars, game shows where you win a million, that show Cribs, Paris Hilton, a bunch of shit about becoming and being a millionaire.

But it all sounds very nice. It sounds terrific to some over-weight sad fuck working forty hours a week with only 1 or 2 weeks of vacation a year. A million dollars sounds nice.

Attractive Doctors running around a hospital saving lives and making out with other attractive upper class people sounds really great. One comment on that, out of all the doctor shows how come there aren't any Indian doctors. All the doctors in the Youngstown area are Indians. What I am saying, if you're going to make a show about Doctors, make it at least a little accurate by making the doctors Indian. It reminds me of the Rocky movies, when the little white guy would beat the black guy. It plays off some strange thing, like, "Look white and black still have good jobs in America."

And Lawyers are all over-weight. Never met a skinny lawyer in my life.


To get back on point:

Death means something.

But when my brother died it didn't seem to mean anything to the Television-Humans.

They acted like it was a movie or a sitcom.

Like everyone must assume a part.

Everyone picks a character and plays it out.

The death of the human didn't seem serious to them, what seemed serious was the character they portrayed.

The problem was, there was no music, and most everybody in the sitcom was ugly. And a human was actually dead.

People say life is a game.

That is true, the television script people talk in, is just a game.

You say this, I say this.

Just a language game.

But it doesn't mean anything.

No honesty takes place.

There is so much suffering when I think about all this shit:

There's the suffering of my schizophrenic brother driving around nuts, wanting to be loved, persisting to his last moments trying to get some kind of human response out of my parents.

There are my parents that are so terrified, so scared, they have willingly volunteered to be dumb. And that our culture actually gives positive reinforcement to the destruction of all that is good and worthwhile in them.

But you have to make a choice, I went with Chekhov's defiant son, "I waved my hand in despair and went away."


Quinn said...

A couple of excellent, hard-truth posts. Thank you.

chapman said...

your parents destroyed your brother. both your brothers. they were supposed to destroy you the same way.

instead, they created you as a writer. if you'd had a pretty life you might not be able to think as well.

it's a mystery. but you get to do what chekhov did about his world.

you can create something that wasn't in the world before. something that at least tries to be honest.

you get to put back a little of what your mother ruined. it's a kind of anti-television.

it isn't much. but reading this post, i feel like what you do is more than the despairing wave of the hand.

Anonymous said...

There ain't shit on cable, that's why I read. Everybody sux major balls. By the way, I asked you to be my friend on Myspace...I'm still at work, but I'm gonna buy both of your books through Amazon when I get home. Noah you better write a book that is going to kick everybody's ass in "American Letters".


David Miller said...


it seems hard to comment on this.


struggling with this shit my whole life.

always the hardest when it's your family.

always hardest when you know and can feel that there's other layers 'in there' they won't let free.

i found a 'puerto para vivir' through surfing, paddling, traveling, basically being somewhere far away where it's just you and waves or whatever and you feel very small and unimportant which to me is a good feeling.

something like gratitude.

actually this is how i always was, even as a 6 year old kid in georgia just feeling better in the creek beds and piedmont away from people and houses but not understanding why other people didn't 'see this'.

i've essentially followed this 'trajectory' my whole life.

have been lucky i think.

kept traveling then eventually i met a partner and we just stepped.

stepped away from the life and upbringing that i had and that she had.

for her it wasn't so much television people but more a s. american version of the mob.

less 'deadness' and more violence.

now we live and are raising our family in patagonia.

that's my 'waving hand.'

[and waving hand is right. sometimes running big drops or getting barreled you raise a fist. but that's only super temporary and best when nobody else is there.]

of course being down here only solves some things.

you still look at your daughter and think 'we came here because we couldn't raise you the way we wanted to alla...but aren't you still absorbing our own neuroses and stories and violence? how can we make it better?'

thanks for writing this noah.

somebody said...

























My Blog said...

I said Television-Human and not Human-Television because they are more television than human.