Jewish World Review April 10, 2001 / 17 Nissan, 5761
An ugly game you're destined never to win
HAVING had some wisdom teeth yanked recently,
and faced with a few days of painkiller-induced
fog, I decided to revisit the one game I have ever
invented: Find the Gun.
I hadn't played Find the Gun in quite a while,
because it had become too tedious: You always
find the gun. But with time on my hands and holes in my mouth, I vowed to
see if anything had changed.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Find the Gun -- either you didn't see
the column where I introduced it, or you drifted off to sleep before you
finished reading the riveting prose -- anyone can play, and it's absolutely free,
except for the fact that you have to have cable TV to participate.
Here's how it works:
Say you have 60 cable channels (although Find the Gun works regardless of
how many channels you have).
Turn your TV set on. Start at Channel 00 or Channel 01 -- whatever is the
lowest one your TV allows you to see.
Start zapping upward through the channels. Spend one second on each
channel before moving on to the next.
Find the gun.
That's it -- find the gun. Look at what is on your screen, and see if there's a
gun in the picture. If there is, the game is over.
The challenge is to get all the way through all the channels without seeing a
gun. If you are able to do that -- if you don't find a gun -- you win.
It's possible to win -- there are times when you can get all the way from 01 to
60 (or 80, or whatever your highest channel is), and not find a single gun.
But it doesn't happen often. And usually, if you have somehow not found a
gun and you replay the game immediately, starting at the beginning again, you
will find one.
I devised Find the Gun during a dreary weekend in Kansas one year, when I
had long hours to wait for the event I had come to write about. The weather
was lousy, I was supposed to stay by the phone, I didn't have a book with
me, so Find the Gun was invented.
Here's what Find the Gun tells you:
We are constantly being lectured about how violent our society is -- how
filled with gunfire and mayhem our world has become.
And that is true, in a sense. You can't pick up the newspaper on a given day
without reading terrible stories of people doing cruel things to each other.
But think about it: On a typical day, how many guns do you actually see?
Yesterday, for example -- how many guns did you see with your own eyes?
Perhaps none. In the real world, it is entirely possible, even likely, to get
through a day without setting eyes on a real gun.
But on TV -- which purports to show us our world -- guns are so common
that they might as well be table lamps.
They're a cheap way to get the audience's attention -- a garish and ugly
method to attract eyes. As commonplace as guns are in our society, they're
much more common on television and in the movies. And television is a
teacher -- television provides us with expectations about what life is.
Thus: Find the Gun.
It can be a pretty depressing game. Once you start to do it -- once you begin
to play Find the Gun and really pay attention to what's on your TV screen --
it can put you into a somewhat dismal mood. You can probably walk to the
corner mailbox right now, turn around, come back home, and you won't see
a gun. But play Find the Gun, and you most likely will.
To repeat: There are occasions when you will get through all the channels
without seeing a gun in someone's hand, a gun on a desk, a gun in a holster, a
gun on someone's hip, a gun being fired by a criminal or a police officer or a
soldier or an angry teenager. Your best bet if you want to give yourself an
edge at winning the game -- at making it through the channels without seeing a
gun -- is to play on a Sunday morning, traditionally the time for religious
programming. Although you will be surprised at how many guns you find even
on Sunday mornings.
The point of all this? The point is that, as unpleasant as the world we live in
can be, the world that television chooses to bring to us is so much more
unpleasant, on a constant basis. It has become almost visual background
music -- the guns that are always there. We stop noticing.
Anyway, Find the Gun is how I spent my time while the places where the
wisdom teeth used to be started to heal. The teeth are gone, but the guns are
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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