Now you, too, can escape the pernicious influence of television. Only one problem: You'll need a television set ot do it, and it has to have a 19-inch or 21-inch screen.
Yes, with amazing Channel One, you can defuse TV and live in peaceful, color-stroked bliss. No fuss, no muss. Just put the plastic-and-paper Channel One screen over your TV screen and watch it change all the color pictures into cute, orderly, ever-shifting little squares of color.
You're not supposed to sit there and stare at it; it's meant to function as a tranq-ish "mood synthesizer" that provides the meaningless, relaxing motion of an aquarium of fireplace. But you may find yourself staring at it just the same, because the simplest, dopiest programs turn into riots or stampedes of color. (It's recommended the sound by turned off so you don't get overly involved.)
At first you're inclined to peek under the screen to see what's causing whatever phantasmagoria is bubbling away. There's no real picture; the wildest color binge I observed turned out to be a schlocko ad for a discount store. Commercials are almost always more colorful than programs, although the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show" turns out to be a near-blast.
Sometimes the colors pulsate and change subtly, smoothly. Other times things go bananas and the color explodes all over. The most spectacular effects can occur when there's a technical foul-up at the sending end, because a simple twitching glitch can translate into apocalypse wow on the screen.
Does America need this? Oh, why not? Besides, it isn't being hawked just as a toy. The people who created it really think it leads to peace on hearth. A little booklet that comes with the screen calls it "the Transcendental Meditation of TV viewing" and chirps, "Color contemplation enhances lifes!"
This had to come from California. And it did; it was designed by a San Francisco PhD and is being marketed from there by Charles Wehrenberg, who has been a scientist, a professional writer and is now an art dealer. The Channel One screen, he says, provides "nice kinetic color warmth" in a room and is a "friendly" and "lighthearted" invention.
He does not mind it being compared to such American fads of the past as Pet Rocks. "The point is," he says, "the Pet Rock was not about people and their needs and loneliness and our society. Now that little booklet you get with Channel One, there is a lot of innuendo, but I want people to question what we're doing to ourselves with television."
Wehrenberg says TV influences you even if you turn it off, so you might as well leave it on and throw Channel One over it to mellow it out. He says we're constantly bombarded >See Air, C8, Col. 1> with wayward radio waves that romp through the atmosphere, and he's insulated his house so that it's a "radio-proof environment" that permits him to hide in an altered state "not impinged by a lot of media." Wehrenberg says the screen promotes "an appreciation of color and motion" and lets you watch TV without being "implanted with insipid or violent ideas."
When Wehrenberg launches into tech-talk and you ask him to simplify it just a tad, he says, "Let me try and make it a little more assimilatable is to say, "The television screen is a totally unique light bulb, a big flat filament, and the Channel One screen simply a defraction lens we put over it.
"It's like a prism on a big flat light source; it takes the light and averages it into little blocks of color." Also, it costs 20 bucks.
Wehrenberg has lots of other theories. He says that if you live near a TV transmitter and take Valium or Librium, you rish increases in your "dis-inhibition," meaning a greater tendency toward "violence, sexuality and shooting your mouth off." That could explain a great deal. Or, on second thought, it may explain nothing at all.
As for his own past, Wehrenberg says he was working on "life-detection systems" for NASA to use in excursions to other planets when he became disillusioned. "they took all my work and sold it to the Army to use for biological warfare," he claims. "I said, 'Man, I don't want anything to do with this,' and I left and I will never again work for the professional sciences. And I came to California and began building custom motorcycles." Ah yes -- the old story.
Lest all this sound too lofty, Wehrenberg says he doesn't mind if people laugh at Channel One or the booklet that comes with it. He still thinks it can have therapeutic effects. "It was meant to be fun and though-provoking in the way Clint Eastwood makes movies." he says.
"He makes movies that are very entertaining with one heavy line in them. There's no point in writing a book on something when you only need to tell somebody one sentence."