column might aptly be titled: "The Menace of Television" or
"Conversation? What's That?"
I'm an old fuddy-duddy, a mere grain of sand on the flywheel of progress.
But honestly, the imminent approach of that day when every home has a video
receiver fills me with apprehension. Moribundincy has set in; the life we've
known and I've enjoyed has been sabotaged by technology. And it's made me
can foresee the typical library or living room of the not distant future,
its seats arranged like a miniature theatre. Family and guests will dash
from the dinner table (and dinner hour will be regulated by television
programs) to the video room, there to watch the latest manifestation of the
Miracle Century until favored programs end and visitors depart.
will happen to the art of conversation? Will there be no more reading, no
card playing, no airy banter? How can amateur cinematographers like me
compete, with our crude chronicles of family festivity, against the finished
product of the professionals giving forth from the telescreen? What will
happen to the genial conviviality of entertainment? How can a host be
expected to pry himself away from the show long enough to mix a round of
doesn't look good to me.
can the youngsters be expected to study, with Trigger putting Roy Rogers
through his paces downstairs? The radio is pretty stiff competition, but it
is possible to make a stab at homework with one ear cocked for the doings of
auditory reception needn't interfere too much with reading, either—or
bridge, or conversation pieces. But I defy anyone to rise and shine as a
brilliant conversationalist at a party in the face of video competition.
He'd be hissed into abashed silence.
Oscar Wilde never would have made his reputation had England had television
in the 19th century.
tongue eventually may become as useless as the bottom vertebra, a flatulent
flaccidity in ninety-nine mouths out of a hundred. Entertainers will be the
macaws of humankind, they alone retaining the power of articulation.
future generations will develop eyes like hootowls, able to penetrate
stygian darkness and locate television lenses, giving off sparks at the
discovery. Maybe they'll come equipped with geigers that will buzz wildly
when they come into contact with video screens.
will become as obsolete as drawing room repartee; toes will lose their
flexibility and the foot will be one big flabby heel. The buttock even more
so. It will become larded with layer over layer of cushiony fat, upholstered
for long hours of sitting, and even more than now will be the most
pronounced feature of the human anatomy. Spines will be curved at birth, the
head to lap forming a perfect c, two weak, spindly legs dangling like pipe
does imperturbable Nature, which learned aeons ago not to be amazed or
dismayed by anything done by mortals, make adjustments to meet changing
Television! Tettervision, that's what it
While I'm in this
irascible mood, let me unburden myself of another irritant. Not serious,
certainly not important, but in the eyes of this ardent exponent of
freedom-at-any-cost, impressment. I'm anti-regimentation.
The freshman class at
Moorestown Friends is the party-ingest class I've ever seen. Weekends find
our house either gaily, euphonically full of kids or drearily barren of
them; Bill Oaks drove me up from the Claridge last Sunday into an atmosphere
of silent solemnity: June was away at Joan Roberts', Bruce was at Pierre
Contenson's. Anyway, those kids live a full social life for fourteen-year-
olds, and I say more power to 'em, so long
as the fun and frolic is confined to weekends and doesn't interfere with
Apparently my view is the
minority view. There is a movement on foot now to curb the extra-curricular
activity of the youngsters. Parents are conspiring and conniving against the
unbridled partying of their gay offsprings. Telephones have been busy, there
has been correspondence back and forth, and, the inevitable development of
so serious a campaign, an Important Meeting has been called. The purpose: to
limit the number of parties to two a month!
Shades of Patrick Henry,
of Nathan Hale, of snow stained by bleeding feet at Valley Forge. Is this
what our fathers fought for? Are those precious Constitutional words ".
. . the pursuit of happiness" to become meaningless— hollow
high-sounding phrases? Has it come now to the rationing of pleasure, to the
institution of joy-control? Will we be queuing up to apply for Party
Permits? Will our paternalistic govern-ment step in and set up another
Two parties a month,
indeed! Why there are four Friday evenings and four Saturday evenings in a
month, sometimes five! What's a young lady and young gentleman to do with
their spare time, read a book? And with new formals, too.
Well, far be it for this
mere male parent to tilt a lance at the organized might and wisdom of the
Moralistic Order of Mothers. If the MOMS say two parties a month, two
parties it shall be. If they want to act like parents and flaunt their
authority, I suppose the kids have no standing in any juridical tribunal,
Constitutional congruence notwithstanding.
But if I know my
fourteen-year-olds, they have other weapons in their teen-age arsenal more
formidable and efficient than courts: their artful way of appearing artless,
their innate gift for beguiling cajolery, their demure, seemingly innocuous
sweetness, and, if needed as a last resort, a demulcent lachrymal treatment
guaranteed to soften the heart of the sternest parent.
Two parties a month? Why,
they have at least three next week alone, that I know about: Janet
Carslake's dinner dance, Diane Dingee's
caroling festival, and, Monday evening, they'll be at 600 Chester Avenue— for
the third time in six weeks!
Welcome, kids—have fun.