The Changing Face of Television

If you are a South African then do you remember how excited we all were in 1975 when we had an hour or so each day of television? It was thrilling to actually see the multi coloured tuning pattern on the screen, even if there was nothing else to view! We were catching up at long last with the rest of the world. Crazy that the Nationalist government had managed to prevent South Africans from being able to see what was going on in the rest of the world for so long. As a child in the U.K. I remember watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Children’s Hour and so many more kiddies’ programmes (albeit in black and white) in the 1950’s. We were all told by our parents that we couldn’t watch too much tv or we would all end up with square eyeballs! In the 1960’s we suddenly saw the advent of ITV with its regular advert breaks.  Now mum had time to dash to the kitchen to make a brew of that British necessity – tea! By the early 1970’s colour televisions were the norm and no-one seemed to be walking around with square eye balls!

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Arriving in South Africa in the early 1960’s was a real culture shock which included the lack of television. People moving down to South Africa from Northern Rhodesia, as it was then called, brought their television sets down with them, to no avail! At least nowadays we are able to keep in touch with world affairs and because of that, the world would seem to be a far smaller place. Could be due in part to the size of the people who inhabit it these days, as well as a worldwide overpopulation problem!

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From the tiny black and white sets, to the cabinet model, and now to the huge flat and curved screen, smart state of the art tv’s, which are operated by remote control – television has most certainly changed its look from its humble beginnings. Now it is very often a statement purchase. The bigger the screen, the wealthier or more of a trend follower one is perceived to be. Furniture has to be purchased taking into account the position and size of the tv! Houses need to have enough windowless walls to enable families to have television sets in rooms other than the lounge. No-one wants to be left out of being able to view favourite programmes just because it’s time to cook dinner. So most homes have a smallish set suspended on a bracket in the kitchen. Useful too if you don’t know how to cook, as there are loads of so-called experts showing off their culinary expertise. Not all of these lessons take place in a traditional kitchen setting. Now you can even learn to prepare a gourmet meal on the banks of a river with elephants and giraffe wandering around in the background! After watching that, you dare not dish up fish fingers and chips without feeling guilty.

There are those people who have decided, for whatever reason, not to own a television set. I once met a very educated health worker who refused to have either a television or even a radio, and never read the newspapers at all as she was afraid of being the recipient of potentially negative information. I somehow think that this ostrich-like head in the sand attitude to life is quite inadvisable when one has an occupation which involves people interaction on a permanent basis. It really is important to be up to date with world affairs to a certain degree or run the risk of coming across as an absolute dinosaur with no current general knowledge whatsoever. Yes, try to avoid stress in your life if that’s the most important factor but, there really are limits!

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Owning a tv can be an expensive item especially when one is almost forced to pay a monthly fee to have cable tv because of poor local content. However, if one is circumspect about what one watches, television can be a form of relaxation, as well as often proving to be extremely informative. One may not be able to afford to take costly overseas trips, but by tuning into a geographic channel it is almost as good as the real thing. Armchair travel can take you wherever your heart desires, at the click of a button! No waiting at airports, no fear of airline crashes, or Isis attacks, just a totally stress-free experience!

It is also a wonderful way for children to learn about the world by having televised lessons. Instead of sitting through boring geography lessons, with a possibly disinterested teacher droning on and on, how much more fun is it to go on a visual exploration and to almost lose oneself in the journey. As far as the old-style classroom learning is concerned, does one really ever need to know where sugar beet is grown, or the names of all the lakes in Canada just to regurgitate such facts at exam time. (Deviating slightly, I just wonder, as an example, how many of us have used Pythagoras’ theorem since leaving school? Engineers or architects maybe?  It certainly doesn’t seem to apply when buying a home or raising children).

Since the introduction of music videos there have been studies which would seem to indicate that, if one uses more than one sense whilst receiving any form of information, there is a much better chance of such information being retained. Therefore, visual school lessons seem to make a lot of sense.  By all accounts there are many classrooms around the world which rely on televised programmes in combination, in most cases, with the traditional teacher in the classroom scenario. This is obviously linked to the availability of connectivity as well as the occurrence being mainly in the more affluent areas (when one is talking about developing countries). I would like to investigate the schooling scenario which is in place nowadays in remote places such as in the outback of Australia. Could make for an interesting future article perhaps? I am pleased to have read several articles recently, written by experts in the educational arena, stating that the teaching methods will have to change drastically in the next 10 to 20 years to prepare children for a constantly changing world.

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Hospital stays may be made less traumatic if, when a patient is recovering from illness, they are able to watch a televised programme whilst lying in bed. By using the mandatory headphones this could be a way to avoid constant chitchat with the patient in the next bed, if that is the choice. Watching tv might also prove to be less exhausting than trying to read the books or magazines brought in by well-meaning relatives.

Even standing in a long queue at the bank, or reclining in the dentist’s chair, are occasions where it is no longer unusual to see a television set suspended on the wall, or above your head (in the case of the dentist) showing wild life videos, or a live  cricket match. In the case of the dentist, it is always rather nerve wracking when the practitioner appears to be more involved with the action on the screen than with what is going on inside your mouth! What is meant, with all the best intentions, to relax the patient may have the opposite effect entirely!

However, when all is said and done, that good old goggle box may have its critics, but it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The benefits, when viewing time is limited and programmes chosen with care, (especially in the case of young children and the kind of content to which they are exposed), can certainly outweigh the negatives. For those who live alone or those confined to their homes due to illness or lack of mobility, the difference a television set can make may be immeasurable and life without out it would indeed be pretty dull and lonely.

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained
in your living room by people you wouldn’t
have in your home”
– Late David Frost (British Television Host)

A New Era Dawns?

Well, we only have a few days ahead of us before we enter the 2020’s and, looking back, things appear to be vastly different than they must have been a hundred years ago, when people were waiting for the start of 1920.  I thought it would be a bit of fun to compare a couple of the differences between 1920 and 2020 as far as fashion and lifestyle is concerned, so here goes.

The first world war took place between 1913 and 1918 and is still referred to as The Great War. The loss of life and the conditions which the armed forces on all sides had to endure were horrendous by all accounts, as much of the fighting was done by soldiers in cold, muddy trenches. As in any war, as well as in the days afterwards, times were extremely difficult for most people and something needed to happen to improve morale. It may well have been that the anticipation of entering a new decade assisted in lifting peoples’ spirits.

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As 1920 approached, it saw women over the age of 30 in the UK having been given the right to vote in 1918, a privilege which American women were to receive during 1920.  Consequently, the fashion of the times started to reflect this new emancipation and the “flapper” arrived on the scene, with her beautiful bobbed hairstyle which was suited to the head hugging cloche hat of the time. The wearing of the Chanel inspired, drop-waisted, shorter length shift dress meant that no longer did women have to squeeze themselves into tight, uncomfortable corsets. For evening wear these dresses would have been decorated quite elaborately with sequins and crystal beads. The style was well suited for dancing the Charleston or the Black Bottom at the new night clubs where jazz was all the rage. The desire to have a slender boyish figure made its appearance along with the fashion for smoking, using fancy cigarette holders, and wearing make-up in public. By all accounts there was a major shift regarding morality during this period in history. All in all, for those who could afford it, life seems to have been a time for having fun.

Men’s fashions changed as well during this period. One only has to watch the movie, The Great Gatsby, to see how dashing the men’s outfits were compared to the austere clothing which was worn before and just after the war. Pin striped suits or blazers worn with white trousers and braces, trilby hats or straw boaters, two-tone shoes, and natty bow ties were the rage.  All in all, a very attractive time where men’s clothing was concerned, albeit for the wealthy.

As we look towards 2020 things are rather different.  Fashion has had to accommodate the changing shape of many people the world over as obesity has become a serious health issue. Despite this phenomenon, more and more flesh is exposed than in the past and, with the exception of certain religious groups, there is often a noticeable lack of modesty. The rather unusual dance style known as Twerking (as made famous by a certain American female singer)  raised its rather ugly head, or should I say backside, in recent years in the name of dancing, and tattooed bodies are in evidence in abundance across the board, age and sex seemingly being irrelevant. It is very important amongst many people to have clothing which is branded e.g. Nike, Adidas, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein – the list goes on and on.  Even if people are not particularly wealthy, it’s often the image they wish to project which is the important factor and not affordability.

Skinny jeans are still all the rage as we move towards the new decade and, to be in fashion, there need to have more rips and holes in them than denim. If they have a designer label on them, then the price does not reflect the lack of material used to make them. It has also become common practice to wear denim to just about any event. No longer is it necessary in many cases to wear an evening dress to attend a theatre production, or to have a meal at an upmarket restaurant. Only if an invitation states that it is a black-tie event, does a man need to wear a dress suit and his partner a cocktail dress. If an event states smart casual then this covers just about any style of dress other than shorts, tee shirts and flip flops!

When we look at the way in which transport has changed in 100 years, we can quite comfortably assume that It would have been a select few who were able to afford to buy a motor vehicle as 1920 approached. Most people would have had to rely on trams or steam trains or even a horse and cart, although cycling was a very common form of road transport at the time.  Nowadays, in many countries, it is almost a rite of passage for teenagers to get their driver’s licences as soon as they are old enough. Even without their own personal vehicle, there is often a family car which they are able to use every now and again. Bicycle riding, especially in some countries where drivers are often reckless and negligent, can be extremely hazardous, so being able to drive a car is seen as critical in order to get where you want to without having to depend upon sometimes unreliable public transport. There are many countries where trains and buses run regularly and without undue delays, but in other countries that is definitely not the case!

I realise that there are dozens of contrasts which I could investigate regarding the hundred years between 1920 and 2020, but it could take me months to do justice to them all. Suffice to say, all we can do to cope with all the changes with which we are constantly faced is to take a deep breath and try to embrace them without having a panic attack. To use a well-known cliché, there are two certainties in life – change and death, so if it’s only change that we are coping with, we are still in a good place after all. So, bring on 2020 with all its potential challenges and opportunities, and let’s clink glasses with those near and dear and drink to a good New Year wearing our ripped denim jeans albeit with their designer logos!

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Keeping up with Change

Sometimes I think back to the late 1960’s when, as a 19 year old I spent a few months doing temping secretarial work in London. Travelling on the underground from my aunt’s house in the suburb of Kew Gardens every day to get to the Daily Mirror offices I used to read all the adverts on the walls whilst going up or down the escalators at the various tube stations.  At the time there was a show on called “Stop the World, I want to get off!” That was many years ago, and that saying would seem to be far more relevant in this day and age.

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We are constantly being bombarded with new ideas and new technology. In the 60’s things were so much slower although, at the time, we thought life was pretty hectic. Getting to work on time, meeting deadlines – if only we had had an inkling of what the future was going to be like, we would have looked at our situation in a totally different light! In some ways those years were paradise compared to the times we are living in now. The pop scene of the 1960’s took the world by storm and heralded changes in every area of life, particularly where the younger generation was concerned. Fashions changed, music changed for ever, and suddenly there was an expression coined which was known as “the generation gap”! Somehow, this had never had any relevance in previous times.

The old adage that there are only two certainties in life – death and change- can be pretty depressing. However, it depends very much on how one is able to cope with either or both of these facts. The former can actually propel us into facing each day with excitement, as it could be one’s last day on earth and therefore needs to be embraced and enjoyed to the very fullest extent. The latter is the one which can often cause the most stress and discomfort.

“ I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself,
‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do
what I’m about to do today?’
And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days
in a row,I know I need to change something.
” – Steve Jobs 

For the so-called baby boomers, there has probably been far more change to cope with than for any previous generation.  Social attitudes, technology, communication, medical advances – plus so many other areas which affect us on a daily basis have, in many cases, caused stress as well as improved lifestyle.

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Receiving up to date news items from all over the globe can in itself prove difficult to cope with. Years ago there was no such thing as the internet and we relied on radios and newspapers to keep us up to date. The situation that existed in many areas of the world such as the Iron Curtain (Eastern Europe) was so controlled that it prevented any form of negative news from being exposed to the rest of the world. This situation also existed in China. With the advent of the computerised office as well as the availability of the P.C., life changed forever. For better, or worse? That is a matter which could be discussed ad infinitum!

Today we hear about all the catastrophes affecting people in all corners of the world, from the moment we get up until we go to bed. Depending on one’s psychological makeup this can be devastating to one’s mental health or inspire one to try to make the best of a possibly challenging situation.

Then there is the pandemic of social media-itis. If you are unfortunate to suffer from this contagious condition then everyone else appears to be more beautiful, living a wonderful life, travels extensively, wants for nothing – oh yes? Scratch the proverbial surface and the truth is often a totally different story. So much can be said about this toxic situation but enough rambling for now – another time maybe!

“Is this where we’re heading…?” 

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“Just a thought!” \

Change

CHANGE

Just when it seems we’re in control
And we’re living life on an even keel
Along comes change like a gale force wind-
The proverbial spoke in a well oiled wheel.

Change is inevitable, it has to come.
But how do we keep ourselves on track?
Look for the positives that change will bring
Look straight ahead – do not look back.

If things stayed for ever just as they are
How could we learn, how could we grow?
Only by change are we forced to become
People whom others are happy to know.

Judy Binns Nemeth

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