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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

my life was empty before high-def television

There’s nothing on TV. The writers are on strike and it’s the middle of a holiday season when programming execs know that everyone’s out shopping or partying or whatever and not sitting at home on the sofa. So there’s nothing on.

But I can’t stop watching. There’s nothing on and I’m glued to the set. Because I finally traded in my regular ol’ cable box for a high-def one. I’ve had my HDTV for six months, but I’ve been clearing off everything I’d recorded on the DVR built into the cable box. But I finally finished that chore and took the box down to the cable company and they gave me a brand-new box that looks exactly like old one. Except the pictures it brings into my TV are miraculous.
Look! You can see every bead of sweat on that basketball player’s forehead! Look! You can see every blade of grass on that football field! Look! You can see every tiny wavering cilia on that insect’s antennae!

I’m so ashamed of myself. You know how drunks desperate for a drink will guzzle mouthwash if they can’t get anything else? That’s me with the HDTV. I watched the 60s aquatic adventure show Flipper because the dolphin’s skin was so smooth and rubbery. I watched Spanish soccer because the grass was so damn green. I watched an auction of motorcycle parts because the metal was so impossibly shiny. I watched the Pillsbury Bake-Off because I could almost taste how delicious the Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Whatever was.

There’s a new window in my living room, and when I look out it, I see the space shuttle blasting off, gazelle bounding across the serengeti, and waves crashing along Hawaiian beaches. It’s amazing. How did I live without this?

Seriously, though: now I understand how people must have felt when TV itself was new, when suddenly the whole world and beyond — I’m waiting to see footage of the moon landing or the Mars rovers in HD — was at your fingertips. Maybe the arrival of color TV was the same … except I remember when my family got our first color TV in the 1970s, and I don’t remember it being as cool as this.

Gotta go: there’s people gardening on channel 728. Look how pretty all the flowers are!

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