No-Tech Interactive

by Gareth Branwyn

Why are you waiting for the Skinner Box version of interactivity (press button, get treat) that cable companies have been threatening us with for years? You know it's gonna be a big snore, QVC brought to you by an ATM machine. At our house, we've being "gettin' interactive" for years. Here are some fun games you can play with your television set.

Switching Soundtracks
You can create an alternative soundtrack by turning off the TV's sound and playing something else on your stereo. Example: Find a fire and brimstone preacher man on the radio and dial up Barney on the tube. Hilarity ensues.

Channel Splicing
Using your remote control, find two channels (preferable next to each other or programmed into your remote's "flashback" feature) that have two story lines you want to splice together. This works best if you can find two conversations to "A/B" between. With some practice, you can actually create bizarre alternative dialog. Do William Burroughs proud.

Editing on the Fly
Same as above, except here, you have a tape on record in your VCR and you're actually recording the audio/video mayhem you're splicing together. Watch lots of Emergency Broadcast Network videos (the band, not the public service announcement) for further instructions.

Mime Mode
Sometimes, just turning the sound off can make TV infinitely more entertaining. The absurdity of commercials really comes through sans audio. (Try watching that commercial of the talking faucet in mime mode while keeping a straight face).

MST3K: The Home Game
Why let that deadbeat janitor guy and his two loud-mouthed 'bots have all the fun (and steal all the good cynical commentary)? Find a particularly vacuous program (never a problem), then you and your friends add the witty commentary and snide asides. Recreating those embarrassingly-bad MST3K skits during the commercial breaks is NOT recommended.

Japanese Dub
Turn the sound off on a movie and do the narrative yourselves. It's especially fun if you already know the film and can attempt to closely match the mouth movements.

Everybody knows how sexually titillating TV commercials can be. It's almost as if they've figured out a way to simulate the act of sex (through fast edits of flesh and moaning soundtracks) without any outright nasty. There's plenty of ejaculation, though! Once you tune into it, it's amazing how many images you'll see of bottles of liquids spewing their tops, bananas plunging into milk, water hoses bubbling into eager mouths, and hard candies splashing into fruit juice ... OK, you get the idea. We like to play a game at our house (after hours, of course), called SPURT! The object is to be the first person to yell SPURT! when you see spewing liquid on the screen. Keep score. Declare the winner a big pervert.

Rant and Rave
TV makes us angry (or it should). It speaks down to us, it hustles us, and it takes advantage of our most base and prurient interests. It gobbles up our attention and sells it to the highest bidder. One small way you can fight the mesmerism is to yell back at your set. Get pissed! Rant. Rave. No, nobody will hear you, but you'll be venting your frustrations (good therapy), and you'll be talking over the jive on the tube.

Elvis Viewing
A more aggressive form of Rant and Rave, Elvis Viewing involves firearms. Shoot the damn thing, just like the King used to do! If you don't feel like destroying your set completely (which would mean missing the next episode of the X-Files), you can use a toy gun that shoots suction cup projectiles. It's really fun to try and hit characters as they move across the screen. Of course, you'll have to get up to retrieve your "bullets," so make sure you keep a lot of them close-by. And don't be a gun hog; have several guns on hand for guests.

Frat House Viewing
College students love to mix booze and TV (Hell, college kids like to mix booze with anything!). There are many variations on this game, but the basic form involves setting as a trigger some line of dialog or event on a TV show (say, "The Picard Manuever"—every time the shiny domed captain tugs on his uniform) and drinking shots whenever the line/event occurs. To compete, each person chooses a different line/event that's likely to recur (every time Data cocks his head, every time the Enterprise changes course, etc.).

Name My Neurosis
Here, the object is to switch back and forth between daytime talk shows with the sound off. Try to guess first the theme of the show and then, the reason each person is on the show (before that little identifying label pops up telling you: "Thinks wife dresses too sexy," "Revealing to boyfriend that she's a prostitute," "Used to be a man," etc). Try it. It's fun!    </end>

GARETH BRANWYN is the Senior Editor of bOING bOING and co-author of bOING bOING's Happy Mutant Handbook. He's currently writing a book about do-it-yourself/subversive media.

Crass images by Steve.

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