A prior RBC movie recommendation, The Ruling Class, included this strange and strangely memorable passage

I stand outside myself,
watching myself watching myself.
I smile. I smile. I smile.

I thought of those lines at the post-modern self-referential moment in which I took this photo. I was sitting in the television studio staring into a camera from which a host was going to interview me, but I couldn’t see him. I could however see in the monitor what he was seeing through the camera feed, including the fake background that was installed behind me, so I snapped a photo of myself watching myself being watched.

It is sometimes said that being on television is the American dream. I have to say that I am not sure why. I talk to journalists a couple of times in a typical week, and when it’s print or radio it usually comes easily to me because they are media that traffic in words, and I love words and feel comfortable with them.

Television in contrast is about images, including images that tend to overwhelm words. In the photo above, I was sitting under the klieg lights for 10 minutes waiting for the feed to link up. The lights dried out my eyes, which are generally dry anyway. In the televised interview, I look like a Viet Nam War prisoner trying to pass a coded message via eye blink. It’s so distracting that I am not sure anyone heard what I said.

My normal procedure for trying to get good at something is to closely observe people who are more skilled than I am. But because I don’t watch or even own a TV, this is a useless plan for progress. Maybe someday I will pick up TV skills on the fly, but more likely natural selection will run its course and I will ultimately spend my media time entirely in the world of words.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.