Of mice and remotes

There’s a public TV special on variety programs—Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett and the like—and near the conclusion a very elderly Sid Caesar argues that variety shows ended because of the TV remote. With the remote, audiences lost patience and variety shows depended on patience between acts and from one kind of act to another.

I don’t know whether or not Caesar is correct about variety shows. What interests me is that a simple tool like a TV remote could make such a difference in our lives and character. Have we all become impatient? Probably so.

One of the staples of comedy and cartoons is the missing remote. A lost remote can turn a TV viewer into a helpless, muttering and very impatient fool.

The mouse is a close cousin to the remote. I always click twice on my mouse in an effort to hurry it along. I will harass any computer when it’s slow to respond. It’s a habit that could have begun with the remote since the TV remote undoubtedly prepared us for the mouse.

We live in an age where all we have to do is press a button and our demands for the weather, for our mail, for directions to our local 7-11, even for a medical diagnosis, are met. Sounds like impatience to me.

 We all expect our environment to be immediately gratifying. Like MacDonald’s. I like to think that the slow food movement might be one of the first phenomena to try and bring us back to reality. Other people, who are almost never that accommodating, are another healthy alternative to the technology that’s taken us over. Gardening is still one more corrective. It requires a lot of waiting.

 So, while I will probably keep punching mice and remotes, I hope also to keep immersing myself in another older world of waiting, and even quiet frustration. As for art, it seems to me it can be slow or fast. It can be selfish or generous, patient or impatient. It will always be interesting.

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