The view from the couch.

There’s a scene in Hamlet I’ve referred to previously where Shakespeare wrote about when sorrows come, they come not in single spies but in battalions, or words to that effect. In my experience, that’s very true. When you think things are already at rock bottom, there’ll always come along another straw to try and break your back.

But delving even further back into much older classics, praemonitus, praemunitus – forewarned is forearmed. Having led a normal life and therefore been through that particular loop a few times, I’m usually expecting that straw and know from experience what you have to do in that situation, because there’s rarely anything else to be done. Dig in, hunker down and take it. It’ll either kill you or eventually pass on its way, and then things will return to normal albeit with a few memories you’d rather not have.

It’s like those kind of days every car driver knows. On what is your usual everyday boring drive almost on auto-pilot, suddenly you’re encountering one idiot after another determined to involve you in some sort of collision or accident. Your foot comes off the gas, and from experience recognising the type of day it is, your driving gets very deliberate, a little bit slowish and totally defensive. Panache gets parked in favour of prudence just to get to B without a major prang.

This is the boring ailments bit which you can skip if you want – I usually do when conversation turns to illnesses. We were two days out from celebrating our grandson’s second birthday, for which the whole family would be home and buzzing around the house, when I felt the first bone aches and pains of a bout of flu coming on. Buggeration, not bloody now. I didn’t sleep a wink that night because the ague also decided to do one of its periodic but timely swoop attacks when I was weakened. I read most of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister through the night before finally getting up before the dawn for a shower to wash the sweat off me before I stank the house out.

The day after, came the usual transition from autumn to winter breathing difficulties, so most of the battalion were by now present and correct and giving me the usual hell. The whole family were there on Friday, which was little Caesar’s birthday and a happy event for all. He really doesn’t know yet what a birthday is, but certainly knows it’s big playtime when he’s here surrounded by uncles and family all ready to chase him around the house endlessly and play with him non-stop.

Not wanting to throw a damper into that lot, I was always up first in the morning, which was easy as I hadn’t slept much anyway. By the time the sun came up, I’d have done the whole routine. Shit, shower, shave, get dressed, downstairs, two cups of coffee already in me before any of them had stirred. I tried to finish the usual article for the weekend, but it simply wasn’t up to snuff.

It was all fixable but would require more elbow grease than I had available out of the meagre store of energy I was trying to conserve for the weekend’s festivities. I was too drained to put the necessary work into it and recalled years ago saying that if I hadn’t anything useful to say, there’d be a break in blogging. That day had arrived. This weekend was going to be my first publication miss ever, but having made the decision, I could relax.

I took up a semi-permanent position in the living room on the dad chair, or at least my customary end of the long sofa where the dad chair used to be, and on which I’ve long ago established squatter’s rights. A small coffee table in front of me with my Kindle, a seemingly endless supply of bottled water they’d assured me would be better for me and the glass I’d insisted on. I’ll be damned if I’ll go back to sucking on a bottle at my age, especially as I’m already paying for perfectly good water coming out of the tap. It seems so infantile and regressive when done by anyone over age two and three-quarters.

The plus point was I wasn’t ever squirreled away in the study over the weekend and the evenings were mostly family socialising; eating, chatting, teasing, bickering, playing with the fine wee man (FWM) as I call him and watching a DVD after the usual arguments and compromises over which one to watch. Because they’d taken a day off before or after the weekend, it had a nice longish feel to it. Daytimes, they’d all be out and about with the FWM and I’d continue reading Chandler on my trusty Kindle, a king of what little I surveyed.

Then the straw arrived, my beloved Kindle died and went home to silicon heaven.

There were other entertainment options available, but out of ennui and depleted energy levels or just sheer damn laziness, I flicked on the TV and watched the freebie channels. In a macabre way, what ensued was thought provoking. One of my brothers was a great newspaper reader. He’d always buy two; one a medium highbrow broadsheet and the other a complete rag replete with libelous gossip, scandals and lurid photographs of augmented tits bursting out of string bikinis all the way through. Why do you do that? So I know what they’re all talking about at lunchtime. I began to see his point.

I have to prefix the following observations by saying I’m not a TV snob. Like everyone else, there are programs I liked or couldn’t stand and it’s undeniable that sometimes after a long hard day at work hacking out a buck at some coal face, it’s sometimes nice to slump, disengage brain and watch some absolute rubbish while the batteries inside your head recharge. But I stopped watching it years ago because in the end the only thing I turned it on for was the news. After a while, watching the type of news being forked out to the cud-chewing cannon fodder the media were obviously aiming for became too much for me.

The days of everything in my father’s house stopping so dad could “catch the news” at six O clock are long gone. I don’t watch terrestrial free TV and my sons don’t appear to ever watch any TV at all. Netflix, HBO etc the pay channels may get watched, the rest are suffering a lingering death supported only by government money, which is to say taxes extracted from people who never watch those channels anyway. We’re all Internet enabled now and won’t be coming back.

The news itself seemed to be a mixture of things, all of which were the wrong things. Some items I realised weren’t news, they were either product placement efforts or blatant plugs for films or shows. If I want to see a promo or trailer, I go to the website, not tune into what’s supposed to be a nation news broadcaster.

They went on about celebrity culture people I’d never bloody heard of. Good old whatsis name (smirk) was caught yet again playing away with his latest infidelity what’s her name (quick cutaway shot of some bra less slag with one tit hanging out of a plunging neckline dress with some fresh sick all down the front of it as she was assisted drunk as a skunk by security with one shoe already lost out of a nightclub and into a waiting limo) much to the consternation of ‘er at ‘ome (an udder cut away but this time to some benighted but coutier clad footballer’s wife accompanied by her two young children already single diamond earinged and sporting their first tasteful tattoo). Jesus Christ help those poor kids, because by God their parents won’t.

Most of the rest of it was just repeating fake news items already debunked by the Internet days before, but the thinking seemed to be if everyone repeated it enough times and all around the world, it therefore must be true. Churchill’s saying about a lie traveling half way around the world before the truth had even got out of bed and put its trousers on seemed more than prescient in this age of global communications.

The bias leftwards was blatant, apparently so systemic it was therefore self-evidently unquestionable, and all of it delivered by a mini-UN assortment of racially tokenised individuals and positively discriminated minorities that it actually at points became amusing. Trying to understand a word from a correspondent on the scene who had a severe lisp and a very broad Newcastle accent became one of my challenges for the afternoon. Since she looked young enough to still be popping zits and covering the resultant manholes over with blusher, I’m sure my missing her insights into the situation being reported on with such grim earnestness will not be to my loss.

Having had what can only be called a bracing experience watching the news offerings, I settled into a bit of afternoon TV. A guy who reported to me years ago came down with some ailment and the vet signed him off for a week. He was back at work by Wednesday, a bit wobbly but doing his job. On his end of week report he wrote “driven back to work by daytime TV”. Not much has changed since that Jurassic period of the Mesazoic era. I don’t mind a bit of trailer trash TV, but this was just watching the dregs of society being pitted against each other and goaded on by some grinning ringmeister of some latter day but equally cruel circus Maximus.

On reflection, calling them the dregs is unfair. Mostly, they were all functional but of borderline sub-normal intelligence who in the face of a larger society they had learned they simply hadn’t a chance of competing in, had huddled together to make their own little communities of lesser beings.

What is really unfair, is ripping them out of those habitats to serve as creatures of entertainment and curiosity and derision, all in exchange for the carrot of being on TV for their 15 minutes of fame, but in reality for the amusement of their betters.

I found it surprisingly upsetting and had to quickly channel surf away.

Even when I’m scared shitless, I always stand my ground because I’ve always been afraid that if I ever once broke, I’ll never stop running. Even to this day, it’s the only fear I have of myself. That’s not John Wayne talking, it’s your average scaredy bloke who’s still more afraid of losing that backbone image of themselves as being a man. Once that’s lost, there’s nothing else left.

I thought it over through the long marches of the night and a forgotten memory came fluttering back unbidden through the deep mists of the years left behind me, like a bat momentarily outlined against the moon by a chance opening in the grey scudding clouds. It all came back in an instant, complete with the metallic taste of blood in my mouth and an adolescent boy’s rage to hurt back.

It was coming upon my youngest brother and a group of older boys. He was mentally handicapped and being verbally abused by them though he didn’t realise it. He thought they were trying to make friends with him and he was sickeningly grateful to them for it, but all they were doing was sniggering at the retard at a level he couldn’t really understand.

It was just children being cruel, but I sent him on his way home and then had a very emotional two-fisted conversation with his tormentors. I came in a bad second but made bloody sure to give a good account of myself. Given the numbers, that was always on the cards. They left him alone after that, which was the whole point. Bullies only go after easy targets with no trailing consequences, which would be me. Blood is blood, and he was a fine brother who bore his difficulties like a man.

The early evening programs seemed all to be about cooking. I can do a great morning fry up for large numbers of people lashing it out onto plates as they arrive, and a very tender poached egg on toast for my wife on those very special breakfast days, but after that I’m a pan cooked minced meat type who with a simple flick of the wrist and the appropriate spice, can turn it into spagbol courtesy of a tin of peeled tomatoes, curry after an infusion of the aforesaid spice or even Chill con Carne with the aid of some spice labeled Mexican and a tin of Heinz beans dumped in as an afterthought. Hot tip – never use any other beanz but Heinz.

My wife is the real expert in that area. She’s not a good cook, she’s a great one, who can put something together from nothing. I see our sons struggling to get recipes out of her but there’s a higher level of interaction happening between her, the ingredients, the clock and the diners which is always fraught. They want a simple algorithm to success, not understanding she’s left that stuff far behind years ago. For her, it’s about scary fun – recipes, safety are long gone John. She’s a cooking heuristic with every meal like a homecoming ship approaching a dangerous shore with treacherous and shifting approaches – always steering, correcting, tending but not following blindly any harbour pilot idiot across the reefs and shallows to get the ship safely docked at some haven.

I recognise that expertise. You start off following the recipe blindly, but after a few hundred times around the loop and the necessary changes which must be made, you introduce your own individual embellishments into the process one by one, and after a while the recipe slowly evaporates and there’s nothing left but the way you do things, your stamp, which by now has become impossible to explain to another human being, except by mapping back what you do onto some basic recipe they might understand, and yet you know it’ll always be a simplistic and inherently broken understanding of what you actually do.

They’re all better cooks than I’ll ever be and I’m suitably appreciative of their culinary triumphs because while I don’t have their skill, I do enjoy good food. They’re perhaps men better equipped for this twenty-first century, which is the end result it should be for any decent father preparing his sons for their new world. It’s your job to give them a secure childhood with lots of tickles, and chasing and catching and swinging around high in the air and gently bringing them to ground without harm. But it’s also your job to push them. It occasionally requires making a harsh decision you won’t be popular for.

They’re perhaps more fitted to these times than am I, but it still concerns me they’re more knowledgeable about the politics of gender and consider that more important than knowing how to hammer in a nail without bending it. Due to sustained parental pressure, neither I nor any of my siblings made a living with our hands, but we still knew how to hammer in a nail and not look down on a man who supports a family by doing so.

But the wheel of fortune always turns and one day when times aren’t so good, their woman will ask one of my sons to repair the broken toilet when there’s no money left in the kitty to afford a plumber. People who’ve studied nothing more than nuclear astro-physicist and biology are going to be on a whole new learning curve. Dad won’t be around, but I expect them to man up.

The later on evening programs are mostly soaps, action thingys and a scattering of documentaries. The latter are quite frankly quirky opinion pieces by some seriously media bubble enclosed people pretending to be making factual documentaries. It’s all usually doom and gloom crap by people untroubled by facts and without doing any of that soo yesterday fact-finding bollocks that it’s bordering on soap docudrama. Watch a few yourself, you’ll get the idea, but keep a barf bucket close to hand. Once you’re used to Internet meat, that sort of gruel pabulum being shoved down your throat invokes the involuntarily gag reflex.

The soaps haven’t changed since the nineteen-twenties I suspect. As a girl friend of mine, a friend who happened to be a girl, once explained to me, they’re fascinating because they’re the everyday lives of grownups who have an emotional age of twelve. Seen in that light, the mechanics of whatever plot there is to them make sense. All great madnesses have a coherent interior logic, you just have to find the self-defined framework it operates within.

The rest of the later on evening programming beyond the watershed struck me as amazingly men-free in terms of an intended audience and also in plotline. You get the action program. There’s a lot of explosions, bangs, shots fired, people running around and massive amounts of ordinance going off without seemingly a single person getting hurt. Not a blood spatter in sight, mostly shoulder hits on one of the ensemble cast members without the arm being blown off denote a valiant actor who’ll be Lazarus-like resurrected just in time for the next episode with their arm in a sling. Of course, there’ll be an episode in the future where he works through the trauma.

A tastefully small centre body mass hit that in reality would leave a grapefruit-sized exit wound out your back where your spine used to be, miraculously gives every character exiting the series just enough time to deliver a brief but eminently forgettable soliloquy. It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it’s still well below such classic TV as Boss Hawg and the Dukes of Hazzard. Most amazing of all, the central character is usually some diminutive girlie covered in plastered on makeup, dressed in full combat tiger stripes and beating the unarmed shit out of three or four 300 lb baddies while all the time wearing Prada high heels. Surfing across the channels, this has now become an acceptable medialand reality.

It’s a dangerous idea being drip drip inculcated into the female psyche. Despite what they’re showing, the average female up against the average man, even a relatively puny one, stands little or no chance of surviving, whether trained like a bloody ninja or not. Witness how many women have survived an encounter with a serial killer. Pretty much none, unless he was careless enough to assume they were dead after he was finished with them.

Screw medialand normality – survive. Hit, bite, scrape, or claw, most especially for the eyes or failing that the throat – make one bloody good vicious effort then run away like fucking hell, screaming blue murder at the top of your voice. That will be your one and only chance to live. If he’s got your arms pinned, use the sharp heels of your shoes on his shins. Rake him up and down them until he releases you and then run like fuck. Sorry, that’s Pointy the hubby and the brother of the seven sisters from Hell self-defense and bollocks-free rant for wimmen out of the way, but don’t you gals out there forget a word of it. Hit them vicious and then leg it screaming your bloody head off.

What men there are in these mini epics are like emasculated eunuchs forever lost in a fearful maze of self-doubt, one without language since the usage of the most innocent of words might cause deep and lasting offense to another one of the twelve year olds blundering around in it. It’s no wonder the demographic of young men who watch TV has fallen off a cliff. There’s nothing there for them unless they happen to be trans-gender, a drug addict or some sort of sexual deviant just there to drive the plot against some plucky little ninjaesque blonde with nothing but two holes in her face where her nose should be but world class dentition.

Even worse, there’s a pervasive feminist sense that men are somehow evil brutes that have to be brought to heel. All evil stems from them and us sistas are now in the ascendant and will reshape them to conform to medialand’s ideal. Delusional poppycock at best. So many men have given up on trying to form any lasting relationship that’s to be held to some impossible standard and just traded down for the cheapness of a regular uncomplicated buddy fuck. It’s no wonder there’s a growing plague of predatory women in their late stage thirties desperate to avoid the obituary label of spinster of the parish.

It’s not a me observation, but watching anything on TV is like watching Adolph Hitler ranting away atop the hundred feet high balcony at Nuremberg. There’s no pause button, you can’t stop it and say hang on a moment, I have a thought about what you’ve just said or the underlying assumption underpinning your whole argument. There’s no rewind. It’s brutal, you can’t stop it, can’t argue with it because by the time you’ve formulated a rational response, it has already rolled on to its next conflation of medialand reality and people’s mistaken aspirations to join it.

All the oft repeated phrases go past you so quickly, you barely have time to think NO. “Given that …” – no, it’s not a given at all. “Everybody knows that …” – no, they don’t. “Now that we live in as genderless society …” – no, we don’t. “People have a right to expect …” – no, they haven’t. “But isn’t it inevitable that …” – no, it isn’t. Add your own favourite conflation prefix and mix to taste. They’re all little trigger phrases supposed to elicit the approved Pavlovian responses of the couch potato audience.

In the end, I couldn’t stanz it no more as Popeye said. By finally turning it off, I felt like Clarisse’s parents in Fahrenheit 451, the only apartment in the whole block that doesn’t have that flickering hypnotic blue glow that strobescopically burns your critical faculties out like a lazer straight through the easy access points of your eyes and into your brain. I’d rather sit in grumpy silence contemplating my dead Kindle and the possibility of a silicon heaven.

It was a hugely promising medium which indeed had its golden age and still has the occasional gem, but now it’s time to put it down. It’s a shame, I’ve so many fond memories of it.


Related articles by Pointman:

Conflation, confusion and conditioning.

Thirty seconds.

It’s 2.45 in the am and I’m reflecting on a long night’s journey into day.

The long dark nights of the soul and using the dead.

A stay in hospital.

Click for a list of other articles.

9 Responses to “The view from the couch.”
  1. gary turner says:

    Oh, my.

    “… Chill[sic] con Carne with the aid of some spice labeled Mexican and a tin of Heinz beans dumped in as an afterthought. Hot tip – never use any other beanz but Heinz.”

    Puhleeze, never add beans in the chili. If you must have them, have it as a side dish. And, cook them up yourself; never canned.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Blackswan says:

    It took about 10 years for my TV viewing to finally dwindle to zero a few years back. I used to watch the News, but the SJW bias shrank it down to just the weather report until even that was aimed at 5 year olds. The weather App on my phone does a fine job of giving me information without all the clap-trap, so TV has now entirely disappeared from my home.

    Frankly, it just makes me extremely annoyed that some TV executive twerp insults my intelligence with such banal offerings. Get stuffed! I have better things to do with my time.

    You’ve said it all so well Pointy … from the blatant tokenism of race and gender casting, to the cruelty inflicted on ordinary people by snot-nosed TV producers whose sense of superiority and entitlement is palpable, yet the poor buggers can’t see it.

    Hope you’re feeling a little more chipper now P … and that you enjoyed your family weekend despite feeling under the weather. Good to see you back at the keyboard.


  3. Russ Wood says:

    As an amateur, experimental chef, I have my stories about dishes attempted and dumped into the dustbin. But I have to agree with you on Heinz Beanz, definitely the best! When I first came to South Africa, years ago, the Beanz were made just to the North, in Zimbabwe. Then for a few years, Zim was unable to produce a simple thing like tinned baked beans! I mean, it’s tomatoes, a bit of sugar and spice, and Presto! But under the so-called government of Mad Bob, the country couldn’t even make and sell beans. No wonder there are about 2-3 million Zimbabweans working (usually illegally) in South Africa – there’s no food, no work, and definitely no money in Zim.
    OK, SA now makes its own Beanz, but it’s symbolic of what can happen to a country if a dictator takes hold.


  4. Pointman says:

    They’re all abed now. I belong to family who shed blood and tears in the war to end all wars. It’s not forgotten.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. AndrewZ says:

    There’s a moderately famous TV play from 1968 called “The Year of the Sex Olympics” which depicts television as a tool of social control which is used to control the masses by inducing apathy. It’s now mainly remembered for predicting the concept of reality television, but it’s most important insights are in highlighting the power of television to act as a soporific and to promote a post-literate society dominated by images. It’s available on DVD from the British Film Institute and of course on YouTube as well. But it’s interesting that even in 1968 there were people working in television who could see its potential dangers.


  6. Jim Barker says:

    Just a thought on your dead Kindle. Try holding the power button in for 10 to 30 seconds and it may reboot itself. Mine has “died” a few times and it worked for me. Great post, too.


  7. John Crutchley says:

    My take on TV exactly. Everything is so metro centric, so North London dinner party, so unreal. I make myself very unpopular by pointing out the absurdities like a Tesco Christmas advert with no reference to Christianity. I have banned myself to the ‘computer room’.


  8. A compelling indictment of the mind numbing banality of our “Media” and especially TV. How I hate the left wing “Groupthink” (aka Political Correctness) that is being rammed down our throats around the clock.

    That said I want to pick on one of your minor points that resonates with my family:
    “The day after, came the usual transition from autumn to winter breathing difficulties, so most of the battalion were by now present and correct and giving me the usual hell. ”

    During the 17 years we lived in North Carolina the entire family suffered from coughs, colds and even ‘flu every autumn and spring which we put down to switching on the heating (autumn) or switching it off in the spring. We suffered no ill effects in July/August when the air conditioner was running.

    Then we moved to Florida for ten years which meant our air conditioner was running for the entire year less a few weeks in December or January. We suffered no “Breathing difficulties” of any kind except for a nasty ENT infection we picked up on an air flight from Texas. For the first five years we had a child in high school and for the second five years he was attending a local university, yet he brought no infections home.

    When our youngest graduated in May we moved back to North Carolina and have not suffered any problems………yet. Could this be due to the fact that we have no school age children to bring coughs and sneezes home? Our immunity to problems in July/August ten years ago may have resulted from the fact our kids were not attending school in those months.


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