Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wisdom from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Remember the wonderful book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? Remember the Oompa Loompas, and their strange songs about the misbehaving children? I'm reading this book with my kids, and I wanted to share a part of the song in Chapter 27. To jog your memory, Mike Teavee - a little boy infatuated with the tube - disobeys Willy Wonka and jumps in front of a special television camera. He gets physically transported into a television set, and also shrunk in the process.

And the Oompa Loompas sing:
The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
them near your television set - 
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor).
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink -
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK - HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and
READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
to READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales...

...So please, oh please, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away,
and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks - 
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do, 
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start - oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
Dahl published his famous book in 1964. I wonder if this Oompa Loompa song reflected any of his true feelings about television, and what he'd think about our world today where television is only one "machine" that competes for our children's attention.

Of course, I found both some humor and some truth to the poem, and wanted to post part of it. My girls wanted to know if I was going to throw out the TV set. The answer: no. But sometimes I secretly wish that I could. I know some families don't have cable, for either financial or other reasons. I don't think it does anyone harm to go without.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Technology Cartoon

Funny cartoon by Liam Walsh. I need to get this gadget for a certain someone...