I have this old TV set with a small screen and take-it-or-leave-it six Thai channels which I’ve studiously avoided watching all these years unless forced by the need to find out what goes on in times of trouble, so I’ve used it quite a lot in the past couple of months – a harrowing experience, with heavy doses of government propaganda in the guise of news, mostly vacuous round table talks, not to mention soaps and games that guarantee mass catatonia and are to some extent responsible for the pathetic current state of the nation.
Two days ago now, at 1:20pm on Thursday, there was an apparently massive power outage on this side of the river: how much of Thon Buri went blind and why I don’t know. Within minutes, my daughter was calling to say she was back from Central Pinklao and there was pandemonium in the streets as traffic lights were out ‘and no one wanted to give way’, her house three miles away was without electricity and how about mine? Sign of these paranoiac times, we speculated briefly on a general blackout allowing for a discreet cleanup at Redshirtland, the new state in town. Could that be going on?
I went out to talk with a neighbour, who welcomed the notion with trepidation: the poor soul lives under the round-the-clock sound torture of her uncouth fiddling next-door neighbour – a national celebrity and a shit who long tortured his dog by confining it to the back of his house – and actually warned me about dubious characters marauding in this lane of late. Well, yes, several townhouses are being refurbished…
Anyway, power returned after a couple of false starts about one hour later.
I turned on the TV.
Curiously, the colours had gone off: yellow was mostly missing. So I started to fiddle with the remote buttons and in no time managed to … erase three of the six channels. Gone, just like that!
That evening, luckily, my guardian angel came by to sort out my other electronic woes (viruses in the laptop, Internet Explorer defunct, a capricious gmail: I’ll have to back up everything and then wipe out Vista and graduate to Window 7 this weekend) and, with this sixth sense of things electronic I so badly lack, said guardian angel took less than ten minutes to raise the three channels from the dead.
But the colours are still badly off: all channels are greenish cum purplish; the monks all wear brown robes; the national flag, Benetton colours. Right when in real life the red shirts dress up, the yellow shirts are sort of back, and the Smarties all over the place. This is adding artistic insult to intellectual injury, and damn annoying.
Of course, I can still keep abreast through ‘the hopeless little screen’ of the daily number of dead and injured, of patients brought to and/or evacuated from hospitals, of the variety of munitions used day in day out, of silly PowerPoint government charts, of the stratification of jowls on Gen Chavalit’s mug (a much maligned man if you ask me) and sundry other drolleries of the times, but it all looks otherworldish. Shades of things to come?
The other option is to watch ASTV and PTV (and hundreds of other stations) on the brand-new, large-screen desktop or on the HIVed, hemiplegic laptop.
Did I say ASTV? Ah, that’s as perky as ever, give or take all too frequent technical snafus.
Did I say PTV? Ah, that’s supposed to be bad for us children, so it’s banned here in the Land of the Free – like hundreds and hundreds of allegedly wrong-thinking websites. This has turned into a cat-and-mouse game: for a while, a couple of savvy programs went around the month-old ICT ministry’s censorship. A few days ago, the I Can Turn-you-off ministry blocked those too. But never fear: yet another program allows you to watch People Channel, until, that is, the electronic Gestapo gets wise to it, so I won’t tell you what it is.
Trouble is, though, I have no stomach for the lies and enticements to hate that are being peddled by their pathetic leaders to the Ratchaprasong crowd (hello, Mor Weng, do you remember me?): they are even worse than the lies and enticements to peace that the Thai channels peddle in dreary unison.
So what to do?
Oh, I know. Get myself the latest widest-possible-screen, state-of-the-art television with what it takes in cables and dishes to watch Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City, and damn my current reading list.
Because, dare I say it, the awful truth is that, in switching between channels for over a month, I’ve become addicted, every Monday and Tuesday nights on Channel 3, to Nuea Mek (Beyond Comparison), the soapiest of Thai soaps of the moment with the best actors in town and deft camera work that looks like it will even outlast the redshirt sit-in. Shame on me.