I rented Rogers' new PVR (personal video recorder) this month to see if it could put an end to my clicking.
I used to think I clicked because I was looking for a good TV show to watch. But then I realized - clicking is watching. And it's soothing. Take in TV in small homeopathic doses. Throw off the yoke of suspense and narrative. Click! I'm collaging. That's what I do.
Clicking has the power of refusal. It is serial non-cooperation with the crap machine. It is non-commitment at its very best. This is direct democracy. The remote is a ballot that instantly executes the mandate of the thumb.
Each of us an imperial aesthete giving our own culture the thumbs-down all day long. Any one of us in our little amphitheatre may, with a push of the digit, turn away the offerings great corporations have toiled to bring us.
Under my thumb, the squirming dogs of corporate poppycock panic for my favour. But clicking is a little like personal aromas - you can live with your own but you don't want to share in anybody else's. The people I live with were constantly flinching at each new flash of radiation. My clicking was anti-social.
Another downside is the fatigue factor. Never since the opposing thumb first had its mutant way with the original stone tool has the poor digit been so overworked. Especially if, like me, you're already working a lot with your hands - playing guitar, typing. Your whole arm can get sore.
The PVR should have ended all that. It's everything that the VCR wanted to be. There are no cassettes to locate, no flashing on-and-off 12 o'clock lights. You simply find the shows you want via the PVR's onscreen guide, press a couple of buttons, and they're all set to record onto the PVR's in-house hard drive.
At your leisure and in your own time you can watch up to 50 hours of good TV. If you can find any! And that's the problem with this system. At any given half-hour there are at least 170 channels' worth of stuff to wade through. But the little window the onscreen guide appears in only shows you the schedule for five channels at a time. So how do you check out what's on the other 165 channels? You click!
More than you ever have before. Sure, the guide has a few search features; you can get it to list all documentaries in any given day, for instance.
But there are hundreds of documentaries in any given day - and once again, you have to click through the list to suss them out. They don't even have a scroll function. It's like trying to get an overview of a house by looking through the mail slot.
Suddenly, the thumb-crumbling factor is a thousand times worse. I soon began to get carpal tunnel all the way up to my neck - and I had yet to find anything I wanted to record. The medium is the method. No wonder it's called a remote. It's not even remotely adequate.
But then I realized, Rogers is an Internet company. Surely it has an automated online TV listings site. After two hand-hurting days, and a call to head office, I was finally directed to what could be their best kept secret: zap2it. com, an online TV listings search engine. By that time I had managed to record enough documentaries to keep me off ObCNN and the elexecution in Iraq for a few hours.
The sad thing about it, though, is that I quickly found myself starting up one of the shows I'd recorded, watching a bit of it, checking it out to make sure it was good, and then starting up another one, watching a bit of it to make sure it was good, stopping it, starting up another.
Click! Click! Maybe I'm just a postmodern fragment junkie. Maybe I don't want the whole puzzle at all. Click! Just a little piece.