Tuesday, April 7, 2009

From "Windows"

A woman with curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a wide smile appeared on the screen. This was the face of Shirley Winters, the host, and she appeared to be introducing her guest. Addie turned the volume back on.

"...in the large-scale landfills used for the disposal of television sets and other electronic devices which have been replaced in recent years by the availability of new media technologies. The chemicals used in the production of television sets, cellular phones, and other 20th Century technology found in these landfills has taken a powerful toll on the villagers' health. Despite this, they refuse to seek medical attention, stating that they want to show the world the real face of the modern human being.

"Thank you for joining us, Mr. Zeitgeist," she said, as the camera panned out to include Gabriel Zeitgeist on-screen, who looked disheveled and incredibly unhealthy. "Your group, the Televillagers, have been gaining a lot of media attention in the past few months and appears to be very well organized despite the... primitive lifestyle you're apparently practicing. I understand that in your village, despite being surrounded by non-functioning television sets, you don't actually have any working media outlets."

"Yes," he responded with some difficult coughing, "well, part of the concept of the group is that we are living in the technology, but not through them."

Winters did not respond immediately, but sat staring, for a moment, still awed by her guest's appearance despite having seen pictures of him on her windows at home and having met him before the show.

Zeitgeist's face was covered with lesions and chemical burns. His skin was leathery and wrinkled from the hazardous materials that made up his home and the stress put on his body from the damage they did to his health. He sat on the opposite side of a small black coffee table and his body constantly trembled, slightly, as if he was always cold.

The look on his face was like that of an impoverished elderly man, tortured with what looked like confusion even though he was clearly fully aware of where he was and what he was doing.

Catching herself quickly, she asked, "So, how is it that you're able to be so well organized without the aid of current technology?"

Struggling to speak clearly without coughing, Zeitgeist explained, "We, uh, we do maintain a small office in San Francisco. The Televillagers operate NetWorld, which is a media research organization."

"Y-you've said in previous interviews and speaking events that your political attitudes seem to put yourself at odds with even many of those media-focused groups and organizations on the left of the political spectrum, but you refuse to compromise your life's work in order to be more easily ameliorated into dysfunctional movements which either refuse or fail to recognize the source of their conflicts. Could you say more about that?"

Winters, more and more feeling she was out of her depth, was beginning to have visible difficulty maintaining her composure.

"There have been many social activist groups trying to work against the short-sighted trends of the mainstream in its relationship to the media, coming from many different perspectives. Some, similar my group, are opposed to the intrusion and proliferation of media outlets throughout public and private spaces; that is, the sort of interweaving of our lives with media technology. Others, the most famous of which right now are the nodes, look at these technologies as liberating if they're used correctly.

"What distinguishes the Televillagers from even those groups who are critical of media technology as a whole is our insistence that we need to actually step outside the media to critique it. All we see, that is, we, the Televillagers and our supporters see, are groups that are working to critique these trends from within the trends themselves. In other words, they use media to criticize the media. We don't believe this can work. However, we do need to keep attention on the media and associated technologies, without being consumed by them. This is why we say we live in the media, and not through them."

Shirley Winters shifted awkwardly in her seat and glanced at the index card in her hand with her notes to find the next subject. "I see... um..."

Winters shifted awkwardly in her seat, glancing first at the card in her hand, then sitting back in her chair, looking at the floor with her right hand covering her face. She appeared to have reached her limit. "I... I'm sorry..." she apologized as she got up from her chair suddenly and walked quickly off-camera. Gabriel Zeitgeist sat with his sad, confused face, unsure of what to do now. The image on the window switched to commercials.

Addie laughed out loud, "That was great! He's too much, really. Just fantastic. I should tell Ed and Fran to get in touch with him. That'd be great."