Today's the day. If you live in one of the 2.8 million homes still reliant on a purely analog TV signal, you may be losing your signal right about now.
But maybe that's not such a disaster. Perhaps today's digital switchover is a good opportunity for all of us to reevaluate the role that TV plays in our lives.
I admit: I called for the coupon and bought the converter box. And I acknowledge that there is plenty of excellent TV out there. More channels has led to more choice and more innovation. I'm even willing to yield to Steven Johnson that some TV, in moderation, helps expand our brains.
Still, TV is pretty much a giant suction hose on our time and our brains. Very little good comes of it. I'm all for a daily dose of entertainment -- some escape, some silliness, a good heaping dose of belly laughter. But a little decent TV goes a very long way. We'd all be better off if we watched a lot less.
Remember: none of us are ever fixed in our intelligence or abilities. We are all works in progress. How we spend our time and attention matters.
It is possible to live without TV. People do it. I love the story of über-agent Ari Emanuel and his client Larry David in New Hampshire just before last year's big primary. Ari introduces his niece Gaby, a Dartmouth undergrad, to David. There is no glimmer of recognition.
"What do you do?" Gaby says.
Larry David says, "Well, I was the writer and creative force behind Seinfeld."
Gaby says, "And what was Seinfeld?"
Gaby's father, Zeke Emanuel, later told Washingtonian magazine that he’s never had a TV in his home. “It’s one of the greatest things I ever did,” he said.
Ten years ago, on an extended visit to Japan, my wife and I saw the future, and it was a very disturbing sight indeed. TV screens were everywhere -- jumbo screens all over Tokyo, large flatscreen TVs in shop windows and restaurants, tiny TV screens on phones, even TV goggles. Wim Wenders warned us all about "the disease of images" in his 1991 film Until the End of the World. Now it's actually happening. We are saturating our lives with moving video images.
For my next birthday, I want one of those TV-B-Gone remotes.