Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sounding off about…

Personalizing Television

My addiction to tranquility all started off with baseball games on TV.   
It just had to.  They were just too noisy.
Because, unlike so many other faltering old folks, my hearing is still rather acute.  Maybe even exceptionally so.
So when watching baseball games, the extraneous noise emitted by overly raucous fans, especially those who beat drums or blow screechy whistles, added to the continuous drone of desultory commentary by presenters and their annoying, mostly dull, interviews with so-called knowledgeable guests — all these detracted from my following the action.  So, by using the mute button, baseball was watched in silence, unless umpires were discussing serious disputes.

Because television is nothing, if not primarily, a truly explicit visual medium.  Unlike radio which is a completely audio medium.
And though the two can be wonderfully combined on television and in film, oftentimes the audio part can become somewhat pointless. 
Like during weather forecasts where large eye-catching numbers, plainly depicting temperatures for various areas and cities, seemingly have to be accompanied by a human guide (with his or her bodily bulk awkwardly blocking from sight large portions of the weather map) needlessly pointing their finger to each number in turn while reciting orally the value displayed, almost as if it is really just an English lesson for teaching kindergarten children or newly arrived immigrants.

So like I said, my watching of television with the sound turned off all started with baseball games.
Then my habit progressed to instantly pressing the muting button upon seeing any stupid looking hairy lout clasping a guitar suddenly appearing on the screen.  Or whenever a vacant-looking pundit intruded with his or her presence.
Later it was when news announcers would breathlessly disclose that a politician had said such-and-such a thing, and then, as if to prove their point and veracity, having the screen immediately switch to a video recording of that very same politician mentioned actually saying that identical such-and-such a piece, exciting word for exciting word.

I also started silently watching segments of movies with the sound turned off leading me, I suppose, to mentally impose what each character was saying with words from my own imagination and which I fully and fondly imagined to be far more entertaining, hilarious, and apt, than those originally written by the Hollywood script writers.

So gradually my hours of watching television with the sound turned off increased in number and the variety of programs.  This was greatly helped by appreciating how often graphically super-imposed cut-lines, explanatory notes and identification titles were used on the screen.  These often provided most of the basic information required to gather the gist of the program in progress, and for rapid filtering of news reports for any items worthy of additional attention.
Self important union leaders, angrily slobbering their demands for their entitlements, would have their stupid blatherings muted in my presence, even as their priceless words left our earthly environment at dazzling speeds-of-light on their way in all directions to distant galaxies.
At other times in past years, for periods of several minutes, I would even watch Shania Twain singing away, but in complete silence — though admittedly fetchingly displayed and in full-action graphic form, yet quite undistracted by unnecessary audio.

An added bonus of silent baseball television, of course, is that it can be followed by all unilinguals, or even non-linguals, with equally enjoyable ease on either the English or French channels.  This also applies to many other TV programs on a variety of subjects.

Ultimately, I might also note that one may advance at times to sitting in front of a television enjoying both silence and a visually blank screen.  Having the power completely turned off can be a wonderfully soothing and thought provoking experience. 
Yep! Having no audio and no visuals can be very relaxing.
But visuals can be stimulating.  Especially, for instance, like looking through the oven window at a sizzling roast of beef.
Backed up of course with high definition ‘smellarama’.


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