Life without TV – an early weblog (2007)

Yep, so early it is even called a weblog. Written in late 2007 for Death Ray, just after we’d moved into our current house.

Life without TV, and everything else for that matter.

For six and a half years I lived in Bath, until I decided working for Games Workshop in Nottingham was a good idea. Three years later Matt opened Death Ray and back we came, fleeing post-industrial gun crime for the safety of familiar, NIMBY Georgian streets.

Sadly, steep property price rises since mean that me and the Queen of Narnia (Mrs. H comes from frozen Hyperborea, likes Turkish delight and can be a little imperious. It suits her.) had to buy a property in need of… Perhaps ‘improvement’ is a little weak. ‘Rebuilding’ fits better.

The short supply of qualified trades people and the need to attend to my job here at Death Ray means that we’ve been living out of boxes in plaster-dust coated misery for nine weeks. There’s no heating, we have no kitchen and our bathroom is served by a boiler it that would be generously described as temperamental.

None of this is to Mrs. H’s liking, especially now summer is done. Despite a childhood in Sweden, and a good amount of Lapp blood, she dislikes the cold. “We have triple glazing at home”, is her complaint.

Still, I got to demolish a redundant chimney stack with a massive lump hammer. That made me feel like a man.

For a long period we also had no telly. The house came with three aerial cables, only one of which works, and then badly, as our new lair is close in to the bottom of a hill. And as the walls aren’t finished, my plasma screen stands imprisoned in cardboard. But I’ve still been managing to get my fix of SF.

A small flatscreen with integrated DVD player for the bedroom helped save the day. With it we’ve managed to chug our way through a whole lot of TV and films on disc while up to our necks in duvet.

Here’s a list:

Rome series one and two – Not genre, but awesome. James Purefoy is a standout in an excellent cast. I can’t wait to see him as Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane, a role for which he has recently been chosen.

North and South – The high cheese US civil war drama from the 80s. Watchable, if overly blessed with sweeping shots of long driveways.

Battlestar Galactica Season 2 – Brilliant. Much better than season 1, my opinion on which you can read in an earlier blog. I’m going to write about series 2 later. Mrs. H loves it too. Season 3’s on order.

Fantastic Four Extended edition – I enjoyed it, though it’s frothy and lightweight. “Not another comic adaptation!” says Mrs. H (she can’t stomach them since The Phantom, her favourite comic, was ruined), and falls asleep.

Paprika – It’s great anime, but does that make it good in a broader sense? Beautiful visuals, catchy tune, otherwise incomprehensible.

Masters of Horror – I love short story TV and portmanteau films. This didn’t disappoint. I have Creepshow and From Beyond the Grave queued up.

Ghost Rider – Watched this last weekend. I had to lie to Mrs. H about its provenance. I wish I hadn’t. Awful! Nicolas Cage looks like a Lego caricature of himself. Plastic skin, frightening teeth and plug-in hair. The story makes hardly any sense. Pants, pants, pants.

There’ve been many more, most of which I’ve been reveiwing. In fact, I’m looking forward to receiving Sapphire and Steel, which I’ll be reviewing in Death Ray 8. It scared the hell out of me as a kid. I must be wary, if only because the harsh lighting scheme will make us feel even more cold – I’ll get another blanket out.

I’ve got Heroes season 1 ready to watch too. Though we now have a tuned in TV in our rubble-strewn living room, Heroes is most of the way through, so DVD is the way forward.

I’ve not had much time to read books other than the ones you’ll have read about in the magazine. But I have been reading Evolution by Stephen Baxter (2002). This I received in a goody bag at a party held by Gollancz in London. As I was boozed up, I missed my train, so cracked on with the book as I waited. Baxter integrates current science with some solid speculation, telling the story of mankind’s lineage as we evolve from little primates at the time of the dinosaurs, then devolve after a global catastrophe in the near future.

It’s a very Wellsian book in some respects, like The Time Machine without the time traveller (though one segment, somewhat a tribute to Wells’ story, does have a kind of time travel). It does not feature Wells’ metaphors for contemporary concerns, but it does the very Wellsian trick of putting human endeavour into a much wider context, making our current existence seem petty.

Evolution is not entirely successful, the book is essentially a series of shorts linked by a theme, and the mating rituals, tussles for dominance and spraying of pee of our ancestors can get repetitive. But it does makes you think. In one regard, it is a life-affirming book, presenting life as a twisting, ever-adapatable thing that is incredibly durable, perhaps even eternal. On the flipside, it does make one feel rather insignificant, with its depiction of human sapience as simply a phase. Even if humanity’s descent into animal darkness does not occur, it brings home the fact that nothing lasts, and its focus on the shortness of our species’ time only makes you dwell on the infinitely briefer flicker of your own life and works.

Crushing sense of mortality aside, Evolution highly recommended, and is available from Gollancz’ Future Classics range for £7.99. As a bonus, it has a strokeable, flock-velvet techno-ape on the front.

Now, if only I could evolve some fur, I might be a bit more comfortable… Mind you, the length of time it takes to get a plumber in, that might well happen.

  1. […] Life without TV – an early webblog (2007) […]

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