Zap tally


For my new book Things I Learned From Watching TV After Midnight, I stayed up one night and spent 90 minutes zapping through 79 TV channels between 00:35 and 02:05 hrs, taking notes of everything I encountered. It was an interesting, if at times somewhat absurd experience. I'm still trying to make sense of some of the scenes, which, written down as notes, seem to make even less sense than when I was watching them. Take for example this bit, which I saw between 01:08 and 01:10 hrs:

A peculiar spiral-like form is turning against a white background. A man is leaning against a black wall. He begins to scream. A different man is lying on the tiled floor, not moving. A woman is smiling, saying: "Now I know what love is."

I'm seriously mystified.

I also made a kind of tally, enumerating some of the things that I saw. Considering that I zapped through the channels rather quickly, usually spending no more than 20-60 seconds on each channel, it is probably significant that I still became witness to two murders while they were being committed (actually there were four, but a fisherman killing a fish and a spider killing an ant don't traditionally count as "murder". Anyway, two people were killed while I was zapping around, and I saw five dead bodies of people that had been killed before I zapped in.

In other statistics, I encountered at least 21 policemen (there may have been more, but the 21 were instantly identifiable), at least 13 thugs, 12 weapons of some sort (of which six were handguns). Considering the fact that night time television is commonly considered the haven of soft porn, it seems interesting to note that I saw only 9 pairs of breasts.

Dinge die ich vom Nachtfernsehen gelernt habe (Things I Learned from Watching TV After Midnight) will be available in bookshops and online booksellers (e.g. in late July.


Good news that your book is finished. Is it in both English and German, or just German?

Considering that I have over 2000 channels of satellite TV comprising several hundred channels broadcasting permanent commercials for sex hotlines (showing only stills and audio of women crying out "call me" at the hight of their excitment), your sample might have been somewhat biased ;-)

Btw. what fascinated me most while I suppressed one channel after the other for the benefit of my children was the fact that about half of those channels seem to have been in Arabic.

As to your quote: "mean" in "A mean is leaning against..." is a typo, right?

The thought of 2000 different channels boggles my mind! Why would anyone need so many choices and aren’t many of the channels the same (I mean showing the same reruns) or very similar? – (something one could conclude from what dieter said.) Thinking about this prompted me to recall an article in the New York Times a few years ago in which research was cited that showed that people are happier when they have fewer choices, a tendency I have long been aware of in myself. The article was about two groups of people told to select two Godiva chocolates, one group from a selection of six and the other group from a selection or thirty.

"In theory, the group with more chocolate options should enjoy their chocolates more, since everybody could choose their favorite kind of chocolate.
....."But all the different options didn't help. In fact, they made things much worse. Students only given six chocolates to choose from were happier with their choices than students offered thirty different choices. They thought their chocolates were much tastier. They were also four times as likely to choose a box of chocolates instead of cash at the end of the experiment. Less choice resulted in more post-choice satisfaction."

I couldn’t find the NY Times article, but the above quotations are from here:

@Jann, you are totally right. Having more than 2000 channels to choose from was never my intention. The intention was to have TV without having to pay a monthly fee. The hope was that at best ten of those channels would offer decent entertainment in English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese - and not be encrypted. From that point of view, the investment has been quite a failure, and it was extremely tedious work to block out all the channels I definitely did not want to choose from.

@horst and soccer World Cup. Being notoriously not into football, several matches were forced on me by my wife and son. So, I tried to roughly follow the events, and I think that whilst some of the referees seem to have been pretty bad (and I seem to remember that the same thing has been said about every two years), the essence of the problem is that they have total camera surveillance and FIFA refuses to use it. No wonder everybody else is wiser than the referee in the aftermath.

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